Monday, September 9, 2019

In a Nutshell Reviews: YA Edition


In a Nutshell Reviews are my version of mini-reviews, because sometimes, you just want the highlights.



The Silence Between Us
Alison Gervais
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Blink
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Moving halfway across the country to Colorado right before senior year isn’t Maya’s idea of a good time. Leaving behind Pratt School for the Deaf where she’s been a student for years only to attend a hearing school is even worse. Maya has dreams of breaking into the medical field and is determined to get the grades and a college degree to match, and she’s never considered being Deaf a disability. But her teachers and classmates at Engelmann High don’t seem to share her optimism.

And then there’s Beau Watson, Engelmann’s student body president and overachiever. Maya suspects Beau’s got a hidden agenda when he starts learning ASL to converse with her, but she also can’t deny it’s nice to sign with someone amongst all the lip reading she has to do with her hearing teachers and classmates. Maya has always been told that Deaf/hearing relationships never work, and yet she can’t help but be drawn to Beau as they spend more and more time together.

But as much Maya and Beau genuinely start to feel for one another, there are unmistakable differences in their worlds. When Maya passes up a chance to receive a cochlear implant, Beau doesn’t understand why Maya wouldn’t want to hear again. Maya is hurt Beau would want her to be anything but who she is—she’s always been proud to be Deaf, something Beau won’t ever be able to understand. Maya has to figure out whether bridging that gap between the Deaf and hearing worlds will be worth it, or if staying true to herself matters more.
Maya lost her hearing after an illness at age 13. She found herself cut off from the world she knew, but thanks to the amazing Deaf community at her school, she was flourishing. However, her mother's new job forced the family to move across the country, where she had to attend a hearing school. Once again, she was pushed into isolation, but things improved, when she opened herself up to some new friends and some new possibilities.
  • Pro: This was an #OwnVoices novel, and I really appreciated the way Gervais elected to write the dialog parts. I have always known that the syntax for ASL was not the same as English, but this was the first time I have seen the actual syntax used in a book. I also liked the way she dropped words out of the dialog, when Maya was lipreading. I am amazed by anyone, who can lipread, and by writing it this way, Gervais shows us how challenging it can be. 
  • Pro: Maya was sort of angsty at the beginning of the book, but I couldn't blame her. She had start from square one, when she lost her hearing, and now she was thrust into a situation, where she was the only Deaf person, and had to start over once again. But, she blossomed, and not only became part of this hearing world, but also used the opportunity to educate others about issues in the Deaf community and misconceptions about those who are deaf. 
  • Pro: They always say if you make one good friend, you're lucky. Well, Maya was twice as lucky, because she found two fabulous new friends. Both Beau and Nina were very welcoming and made an extra effort to learn how to communicate effectively with Maya. 
  • Pro: I loved that Maya never saw herself as unable to accomplish things. Yes, she needed a few accommodations, but she was just as bright and able as her peers. I liked that she never acted helpless, and that she knew her rights, and pushed to have the services she was entitled to by law. 
  • Pro: The romance was so sweet, but I worried a few times about these two, however, in the end, they were fantastic together.  
  • Pro: The ending was so good!!! It left me in like the best mood ever. 
Overall: It was so satisfying seeing Maya successfully navigate both the hearing and Deaf worlds, and that she never saw her disability as something that would keep her from achieving her dreams. I am truly happy to have had the opportunity to meet Maya and get a glimpse into her world.



The Liars of Mariposa Island
Jennifer Mathieu
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Family Drama
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
From the author of Moxie comes a stunning novel told in three voices about the lies families tell to survive.

Every year, summer begins when the Callahans arrive on Mariposa Island. That’s when Elena Finney gets to escape her unstable, controlling mother by babysitting for their two children. And the summer of 1986 promises to be extra special when she meets J.C., the new boy in town, whose kisses make Elena feel like she’s been transported to a new world.

Joaquin Finney can’t imagine why anyone would want to come to Mariposa Island. He just graduated from high school and dreams about going to California to find his father and escape his mother’s manipulation.

The Liars of Mariposa Island follows siblings Elena and Joaquin, with flashbacks to their mother's experience as a teenage refugee fleeing the Cuban revolution.

Jennifer Mathieu’s multilayered novel explores the nature of secrets, lies, and fierce, destructive love.
This was a story filled with lies - some they told to others, but many, they told to themselves. The whole time, I wondered, if this family would be able to untangle all the lies and face their realities before it was too late.
  • Pro: I adore Mathieu's writing, and once again, she has treated me to a beautifully written story, which was sort of sad, but deeply moving. 
  • Pro: Three points of view were used to tell this story, and I thought Mathieu used them in an engaging way. It was really important for me to have the mother's flashbacks, because they helped me understand her a little more, and allowed me develop a bit of empathy for her. 
  • Pro: I have actually been reading a different series, which also features the Cuban Revolution, but this book offered the story of what happened to the children. It was interesting to see how Caridad (the mother) was affected by being a part of Operation Pedro Pan
  • Con: This was a sad portrait of a dysfunctional family led by an alcoholic mother, who was so stuck in her past, that she could not move forward. Though the ending had a glimmer of hope, I could have used a little more, because I did feel invested in Elena and Joaquin's lives, and I wanted MORE for them.  
  • Pro: I was well aware of all the little lies the characters told during the course of the story, but there were two B I G lies, with one that really surprised me. Well played. 
  • Pro: Though both Joaquin and Elena had to constantly tread lightly around their mother, they did manage to find some joy. They both found some romance, and they always had each other. 
Overall: A beautifully told, but heartbreaking portrait of a family stuck in a life filled with lies and dysfunction.

** ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

Have you read any of these books?
Let us know in the comments!

34 comments:

  1. I just received a copy of The Liars of Mariposa Island but here it's being published as The Liars. Really excited to give it a read as I've enjoyed her books in the past. The Cuban revolution is an aspect that really intrigues me, it sounds like the family might be suffering from generational trauma as a result. Great reviews Sam, really enjoyed them.

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    1. I did see the name change for international editions. It's very appropriate, because this book is chuck full of lies. This was sort of a sadder book for me, though there were some glimmers of hope, but it was a very compelling read. I hope you enjoy it.

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  2. I like the sound (no pun intended) of The Silence Between Us. Maya sounds like a strong girl (stronger than I would be, I think) and very adaptable. And the different syntax for ASL has me intrigued. I guess I never realized that.

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    1. I always like reading about protagonists, who are different from me, and Gervais brought a perspective to this story, that would have been different had it not be OwnVoices.

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  3. I just finished The Silence Between Us and I really loved it too! I'm now very interested in learning more ASL. Great characters and very realistic YA. Lovely review!

    Afoma | afomaumesi.com/blog

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    1. When I was growing up, I had a friend whose parents were deaf, and I always wanted to learn more ASL.

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  4. Oh man! Losing your hearing must be so tough, especially at that age when you're already dealing with a million other changes. It sounds like a thoughtfully written story. I'm curious why you were worried about the romance though!

    And a book about lies? Sounds amazing! I've never read a book from Matthieu, but I've heard nothing but praise for her titles!

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    1. After being immersed in the Deaf community, Maya was pretty resistant to mixing with the hearing students, so the friendships and romance were off to a rocky start.

      I love Mathieu. She finds some interesting topics to tackle, and I am a fan of her writing style. My favorite is probably Moxie. You just can't help feel empowered after reading it, but all were great reads for me.

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  5. Love that you had two great stories in a row! These book look really good.

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    1. I was happy these both delivered in the way I hoped they would

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  6. Love the "In a Nutshell" review style!

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    1. Thanks! I personally like shorter reviews, that get to the point

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  7. I just added both of these to my TBR! You're always feeding my TBR Monster, haha. I love it! I also adore books that leave you feeling happy and just AHHH! It's crazy how books are able to impact our emotional state. Thanks for putting these on my radar! <3

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

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    1. I have read all Mathieu's books, and this was the first one, that lacked that hopefulness she normally builds into her stories. I guess there was a little, but it was kind of sad, but still interesting and well written. Silence left me all sorts of happy at the end though. I hope you get a chance to check these out.

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  8. Glad you liked the Jennifer Mathieu book!! I really loved one of her early books and have been wanting to read more by her.

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    1. I have yet to be disappointed by her. This was a little bleaker, than her past books, but I couldn't stop reading it.

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  9. The Silence Between Us sounds like such a great read, and Maya sounds like a character I would really like.

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    1. I enjoyed Maya's story, and I am always game to learn about someone different from me.

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  10. I do like a good story filled with lies (that sounds awful actually) lol so The Liars of Mariposa Island sounds good to me. Almost reminds me of We were Liars by E. Lockhart even though I'm sure they're quite different.

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    1. I would say it's not quite as shocking as We Were Liars, but I was surprised by a few reveals.

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  11. I've never read a book with a deaf main character - how interesting!

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    1. I think this is my 3rd or 4th, but I like that this is OwnVoices, and you can see the subtle differences

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  12. I really cannot WAIT to read The Liars (speaking of, have you seen the UK cover? It's called just "The Liars" and it's GORGEOUS, but I digress), so I think I need to bump it up a little. I love her books, and it's probably a fairly quick read. I have been seeing The Silence Between Us *everywhere* these days (by which I mean your blog, Nicole's blog, and I guess you are the only people who matter 😂) and it does sound quite good! I will have to keep it on my radar for when I am not drowning in review books. Lovely reviews as always!

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    1. You love UK covers the way I love UK bands. =) I have seen it. It fascinates me, that different covers are necessary, but that's a whole other discussion. Liars is not a fluffy read, but I was engrossed in the story of this broken family.

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  13. The Silence Between Us sounds just wonderful! They both do!

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    1. It was. I really enjoyed getting to be a part of Maya's journey, and it's always interesting to learn about people, who are different from me.

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  14. The Silence Between Us sounds like something that would make me cry. I have such a soft spot for this kind of story and knowing the ending left you in such a mood is enough to convince me.

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    1. Silence wasn't too heavy. I think that's because Maya was so determined.

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  15. I love Jennifer Mathieu, so I'm incredibly excited for The Liars of Mariposa Island. It sounds incredible, and I'm especially looking forward to the big lies you mentioned, I love to be surprised by books. Fantastic review, Sam!

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    1. Liars was a quiet book, and at times, I felt like I was watching a train wreck and I couldn't look away. Just a really interesting look at this broken family.

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  16. OMG, I want to read The Silence Between Us so much, it sounds amazing! It is really cool that it's written to really show the differences felt by someone from the Deaf community experiences when in a hearing world.

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    1. It was interesting, that the author chose to stay in syntax and drop out portions of the conversation. It's one fo the first times I have seen that in a book featuring a deaf protagonist.

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  17. The Silence Between Us is a book I really want to read. I am always looking for more deaf representation. I think I am also going to appreciate the use of the official syntax and that this is going to be a ownvoices read for me! Great review x

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    1. I thought the author approached all the communication in the book in a really honest and real way. That's the nuance you get, when you read an OwnVoices book.

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