Thursday, December 19, 2019

#AmReading YA

The Map from Here to There
Emery Lord
Series: The Start of Me and You, #2
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Rating:  5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Acclaimed author Emery Lord crafts a gorgeous story of friendship and identity, daring to ask: What happens after happily ever after?

It's senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing "the rest of her life," Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be--how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord's award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life's most important questions.
Paige felt she was ready to take on senior year after spending the previous year re-introducing herself to high school society and with an amazing summer under her belt. She was ready for anything, or so she thought. As senior year began to unfold, she was faced with major decisions, evolving relationships, and suddenly, her future didn't seem so clear cut any longer.

I will start by saying, this was not what I had anticipated. I just recently read The Start of Me and You, and had expected this book to focus more on Paige's romance with Max. It seems that Paige's journey wasn't finished, and I was perfectly ok with that, because this was utterly beautiful story of beginnings and endings and everything in-between.

Senior year can often be a crossroads year for many, and I think Lord captured that quite well. A big issue facing Paige was being separated from her loved ones, her family, her support system. All her friends seemed to be going in different directions for school, as well as her boyfriend, Max, and her interests were in universities on the coasts. Her struggle and anxiety with this was understandable and conveyed so well.

As much as I had hoped for this to be a gooey romance, I loved that Lord focused on friendship, especially the strong female friendship which existed between Paige and her three besties. Not only was Paige experiencing some reservations about her future plans, which were morphing, but so were those of her friends, and this caused a bit of a change in their dynamic, though, the friendship still remained strong. The conscience effort they made to nurture their relationship during this tumultuous time period gave me hope that they would be ok, should they be geographically separated.

We also saw the reemergence of Paige's anxiety. As with the previous book, Lord depicted mental health issues in a real and sensitive way. I spent many years in treatment for anxiety, and I always appreciate when it is handled well.

I don't know if I should be surprised or not, because Lord never fails to make me feel, but this book hit me harder than I thought it would. I am over here, tears running down my cheeks, as I write this review, because I just have so many emotions about this story. It wasn't tragic, but endings of any sort seem to evoke such a strong response from me. It's quite a testament to Lord's skills, that I am sitting here, reliving the emotions of this book, one week later, and still shedding tears.

Quick list of things I LOVED!

❤️ Friends bucket list
❤️ Life in the theatre
❤️ Paige's sappy dad
❤️ Max's Christmas gift
❤️ Honest and open discourse
❤️ Friendship!
❤️ Family time

Though I still have questions and wonder about what will happen next, I am very hopeful for Paige and everyone else I grew to love in this book. Paige's journey was not an easy one, but I do think it was well worth the trip.

Don't Read the Comments
Eric Smith
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.

Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.

At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…

And she isn’t going down without a fight.
Divya, a popular streaming gamer, and Aaron, a video game writer, accidentally meet on an uncharted planet...while playing Reclaim the Sun. A friendship began to grow between them, but as Divya battled online harassment, doxing, and real-life assaults, she began to rethink her life online.

This was not the first book I have read, that tackled issues surrounding online gaming, but I do feel like it was one of the more immersive experiences for me. I would be hard pressed to learn that Eric Smith was not a gaming enthusiast, because the passages, where I was in-game, had that world springing from the page. Those pieces were so descriptive and dynamic, and they captivated even a game-dabbler, such as myself.

Though there was a lot of focus on the ills of life online, I liked that Smith highlighted some of the positive parts too. The sexual harassment, racism, and classism associated with the gaming world is well known, and an unfortunate part of it all, but when you can find your people, it can make a world of difference. There were several A+ moments, where we saw Divya's Angst Armada go to bat for her, both online and in real life. I loved how those virtual alliances were able to manifest off-line. Rebekah was another fantastic online friend, who became a very important person in Divya's world. She was not only her streaming partner, she was her best friend, and they offered a great deal of support to each other, as well as other girl gamers.

My favorite relationship Divya made online was with Aaron. Aaron's family wanted him to become a doctor and take over the family business, but he aspired to write video games. His storyline gave a peek into what it takes to develop an online game, which I found really interesting, but honestly, I just simply adored him. Aaron was so sweet and kind. He was the exact opposite of the toxic males, who were making Divya's life miserable. I loved that Smith wrote him to be sensitive. He loved his little sister and had a healthy relationship with his parents (who were wonderful). He had discussions about his feelings and would even hug it out when necessary. And, his interactions with Divya were pretty special and smile inducing. They were fabulous together, and I was shipping them hard.

Overall: A fun, yet honest, look at the world of online gaming, featuring family, friendship, and a little bit of romance.

**ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

Are you a gamer?
Let us know in the comments!

26 comments:

  1. Don't Read the comments sticks out to me more I think -- because Divya is a gamer, and I want to know that world more. #Gamergate is still something that blows my mind because I realised just exactly what women in gaming went through.

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    1. Unfortunately, Divya's story is common in that world, but I liked the way Smith worked through it, and the resolution was great.

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  2. I didn't realize until just now that The Map from Here to There was a follow-on to one of Lord's previous works. I almost always enjoying revisiting characters.

    The gaming world is a complete unknown to me but Don't Read the Comments sounds interesting. (I actually had to Google doxing because I'd never heard the term before.) Seems like both Divya and Aaron are dealing with a lot in the personal lives.

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    1. Map is a sequel to her second book, so there has been several years between the books. I am glad she revisited Paige, though, there is one thing left up in the air that drove me bananas, and I know it really bothered other readers. I still felt the story was so good, overall.

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  3. I’m interested in Don’t Read The Comments because I was really into videogames as a teenager. I’m glad they were things I played alone in my bedroom instead of online with a ton of people watching.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. I was never into gaming to the extent that these kids are. It's a fascinating world and phenomena to me. Definitely safer, mentally and physically, when our gaming world was a little smaller

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  4. "Don't read the comments" truth lol

    I still haven't read anything by Emery Lord yet.

    Karen @ For What It's worth

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    1. Don't Read the Comments <-- good advice. I am usually appalled reading comments on articles I am not even involved in. People are vicious.

      I like Lord. She is on that list with West, Dessen, Matson, Smith, and Mills for me.

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  5. I just wrote my review for Lord's book this morning and agree with so much of what you said. I was expecting the read to be much fluffier than it was but I appreciated the emotional weight of what I got instead. I adored the friend group in the first book so I was really pleased that we got to see more of them this time around.

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    1. I wouldn't have been sad had we gotten a fluffier read, but, at the same time, I was not disappointed.

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  6. I like the sound of The Map from Here to There. We just went through my daughter's senior year so I think I would be able to relate to that one just a bit. I also like the sound of the gaming story since it is different than anything I have read before.

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    1. I feel like Lord tackled something that is commonplace for those in their last year of high school, while giving it some original touches.

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  7. Don't Read the Comments sounds like a really good commentary on gaming and internet harassment.

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    1. I liked it. It's a world I know a bit about, but am not that well informed about. So, that was interesting, but Smith also did a great job with the characters, which is probably the most important thing for me when I read a book

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  8. DON'T READ THE COMMENTS sounds a lot like SLAY. I liked SLAY because it brought up some interesting issues about gaming, racism, etc., but the in-game parts were the parts I was tempted to skip. Maybe I'm just too old for these kinds of books, but reading about someone playing a video game, to me, is like watching someone play a video game - BORING. I think I'll skip this one.

    THE MAP FROM HERE TO THERE sounds kind of like real life at my house. My daughter's a senior, trying to make a lot of big decisions. It's exciting and terrifying at the same time! Sounds like Lord gets the emotions of it right. I'll have to check this one out.

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    1. I have not read Slay, and am not sure how much time was dedicated to the gaming side. There are some early chapters in this book, which deep dive, and I felt it was a good way to set up the world these characters live in, but then it focused more on them and their lives.

      Map focused on issues that I believe, many seniors face. Lord always does a great job with the emotions, and she had me feeling all sorts of stuff, even though, I never was in that position.

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  9. I really appreciate books that tackle mental health issues in the right way. I think I might check The Map from Here to There. As for Don't Read the Comments, it sounds like something I wanna read too. Pursuing to do something you want (or love) instead of what others have been telling you? Sounds my kind of story.

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    1. Map is a sequel, so if you elect to read it, be sure to read The Start of Me and You. I feel like you need that backstory to fully appreciate the book. I liked the way Smith handled the parental pressure, because they were really lovely parents, and I didn't want them to be the villains, which they weren't.

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  10. I wish there had been more Paige and Max time. That shocked me, too. And not in a good way.

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    1. That was what I was expecting and really wanted, but I was still good with the story Lord gave us, though I can understand if anyone was disappointed.

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  11. It may have been different than you expected but I am glad you liked the Emery Lord book. It's always nice when you can have a book which focuses on friendship so much :) And I have read quite a few books about online gaming, a lot of them new adult. But the community can be great but also you have to be careful with it. I don't have any interest in gaming but in social media and online communities (as I am part of the bookish one) so it always intrigues me so much to read about them. Maybe I should read a YA take on the subject!

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    1. Most of the books I have read featuring online gaming have shown both sides of that world, and Smith also did that. I think the issues are similar to those people encounter on other social platforms, so it can be relatable on that level.

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