Thursday, January 30, 2020

#AmReading YA


I am thinking of calling this the "difficult to properly express my thoughts" edition. Everyone knows sequels are tricky to review, but the standalone was no walk in the park either. I have to be a little vague, because I cannot bring myself to spoil it! So, this is me, apologizing in advance, if I seem a little evasive in the reviews below. 

Scammed
Kristen Simmons
Series: Vale Hall, #2
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Thriller/Suspense
Publisher: Tor Teen
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Brynn Hilder is living a life she never dreamed possible: She lives in a mansion, getting a top-rate education at Vale Hall. She has friends and an almost-boyfriend. Anything she wants, she can have.

The only catch? To stay in this life, she has to help the director of Vale Hall take down the bad guys of Sikawa City by collecting secrets and running cons.

Getting everything she wants and fighting evil doesn’t seem like such a bad deal. The thing is, she’s not so convinced anymore that Dr. Odin is really going after bad people after all. And the friends and almost-boyfriend that have made her life so different are all liars and con artists—so can she trust that any of it is real?

The stakes are higher. The cons are riskier. And nothing is what you think it is.
Brynn felt fortunate to have the opportunity to attend Vale Hall, even if it came at a cost, and she was determined to maintain her place there. When complications arose from her previous assignment, she found herself unable to determine, who she could and could not trust, when picking the wrong allies could result in some serious consequences.

I have to commend Simmons on the name of this book. It was quite appropriate, as just about every character got scammed at some point. The lines between good and evil, as well as alliances, were blurred, and this really strained relations at Vale Hall.

It's difficult to review sequels, and especially this book, without giving too much away, but I will say there were several things that stood out for me.
  1. I felt like I got to know the other students at Vale Hall on a more personal level. I knew things about them from the first book, but the time I spent with them this time, seemed to reveal different layers of their lives to me, and I felt move invested in all of them because of that. 
  2. The group really seemed to grow even closer together at one point, and I had those warm and fuzzy found family vibes going on, especially when things got really complicated. 
  3. Holy twists and turns! I was caught very much off guard by a few of the reveals, and I have to say, the story took a turn, that has me chomping at the bit for the next book. 
I was glad that some things still carried over from the last book, The Deceivers. For instance, I still adored Caleb, I was still fascinated by the world of Vale Hall, and I was still undecided about whether Dr. O was good or bad.  

This book was addictive, and hard to put down. Simmons really shook the foundation of that school! I was so invested and drawn into this world, and the ending! That ending left me with all sorts of emotions, as well as a million questions. I can only sit back, and impatiently await my next thrilling ride with the denizens of Vale Hall. 


What Kind of Girl
Alyssa Sheinmel
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Girl In Pieces meets Moxie in this unflinching exploration of the many forms of abuse society inflicts upon women, and the strength it takes to rise above it all to claim your worth.

The girls at North Bay Academy are taking sides. It all started when Mike Parker's girlfriend showed up with a bruise on her face. Or, more specifically, when she walked into the principal's office and said Mike hit her. But the students have questions. Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Why did she stay so long if he was hurting her? Obviously, if it's true, Mike should be expelled. But is it true?

Some girls want to rally for his expulsion—and some want to rally around Mike. The only thing that the entire student body can agree on? Someone is lying. And the truth has to come out.
When resident golden boy, Mike, was accused of hitting his girlfriend, everyone was forced to choose sides. Did they believe him or did they believe her? And, if they believed her, what kind of girl would stay with a boy like that?

There's quite a bit to unpack with respect to the myriad of issues Sheinmel tackled in this book, but I think she did a rather good job. This is a story, that focuses on the challenges faced by females every day. Domestic violence, body image, and mental health take center stage in this novel, and they are attacked head on.

I have seen some reviewers comment on the narrative structure, but here I am, declaring that it was brilliant! In part one, I was presented with all these different points of view on the domestic abuse issue. I heard from the stoner, the bulimic, the popular girl, as well as many others, and it was an interesting way to deliver so many varied opinions and thoughts on the issue, but I recognized the genius in part two of the book. All I can say is - be patient. For me, the payoff due to the structure was pretty big, because I thought it made a HUGE statement, which I would love to elaborate on, but I feel like it's spoilery, and seriously! This was one of my favorite things about the book.

Aside from the rather innovative structure, there were many other elements I appreciated in this story. I loved the focus on friendship, the idea of women supporting women, the honest discussions that eventually occurred between the girls and their parents, the idea of being true to yourself and standing up for what's right - there were so many fantastic things woven into this tale.

This was quite an emotional and thought provoking look into the lives of young women, which was honest, raw, and unflinching. I appreciated the candor and the honesty with which Sheinmel approached each issue, and thought there was a lot of valuable messaging in there as well.

**ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

Have you read any books that 
were structured in an interesting way?
Let us know in the comments!

26 comments:

  1. Both sound great, thanks for sharing your thoughts

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  2. Both do sound good. I don't know what it is about books set at a school or academy or whatever. They're like catnip!

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  3. I enjoyed The Deceivers so I need to give Scammed a read as well. I'm glad to hear that it delivers. I didn't realize there was going to be another book in the series though. Is this an ending I'll survive??

    What Kind of Girl sounds very intense, but an important story. I'm happy it worked for you.

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    1. I thought Scammed upped the ante, and I like the direction Simmons took the story

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  4. they both sound good. great reviews
    sherry @ fundinmental

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    1. They were very different, but great in their own way

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  5. They both sound pretty intense but in totally different ways.

    Karen @ For What It's worth

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    1. Scammed had that suspense thing going on, while Girl was more emotional

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  6. Scammed sounds pretty good! I haven't read anything by that author but the series sounds like one I might enjoy!

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    1. Simmons has written a few SFF books - The Glass Arrow, Metaltown, Pacifica. I have not read them, but I remember reading favorable reviews for them. This was more my speed, because it's set in our world, but still its own little part of it, with its own rules.

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  7. Some books are just hard to review. I might have to check out What Kind of Girl. I tend to like books that are told in an interesting manner.

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    1. At first I wasn't sure about what she was doing, but when I made the connection, I really appreciated the way Sheinmel wrote parts 1 and 2 of the book

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  8. Scammed sounds great! I love that the title is so fitting, and books with twists and turns are always so much fun to read! What Kind of Girl sounds like a great story as well. I enjoy an emotional read, and I love when the author is able to deliver thought provoking read which can provoke discussion. You have me so curious about the structure in the second half of the story. Wonderful Reviews Sam :)

    Lindy@ A Bookish Escape

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    1. Scammed was an extremely satisfying followup to a book I enjoyed, so that was great, and it has me looking forward to the finale.

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  9. Scammed sounds like a great sequel! I haven't read the first book, but now I want to pick it up! You did a great job of selling the sequel to me without giving away the plot.

    What Kind of Girl also sounds like a great read. I love that it provides different points of view on the issue of domestic abuse. It sounds like it'd generate great discussion.

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    1. Girl took on domestic abuse, but it also tackled many other issues young women face today. It was interesting and thoughtful and I definitely was left reflecting on some things.

      Whew! Glad I didn't give too much away in the review for Scammed. That's my worst nightmare.

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  10. I just discovered What Kind of Girl today and it sounds amazing and complex -- and your review just made me want it more.

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    1. Girl was largely a character study, and I liked that Sheinmel took an interesting approach

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  11. Great reviews! I've heard of the Vale Hall books, but this is the first time I've seen a review for them. I will definitely check them out. For some reason I tend to look over Tor Teen-- I know I shouldn't; I'd probably love all of these books.

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    1. It's supposed to be loosely based on Norse mythology, and you can see it, if you're looking for it, but I liked it for the characters and suspense elements

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  12. Is The Deceivers and Scammed a tv series or film or something? It looks like a tv adapted cover, and I remember that of Deceivers being quite different. I am glad you could enjoy the continuation! And What Kind of Girl sounds like it has a lot to discuss and break down with a topic like that, but like the author handles it well... I really like the structure of getting everyone's perspectives. I have a few favourite books like that.

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    1. I don't believe they are TV series, but the series would make a great adaptation. I think they redid the cover of the Deceivers to have real people on it as well.

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  13. I hadn't heard of Scammed, but it sounds like a fantastic series. I'll definitely have to check it out!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. I hadn't read any of Simmons SFF books, but I am really enjoying this series. The characters are great, the story is great, and I can't wait to see what these kids get up to in the next book.

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