Monday, January 27, 2020

In a Nutshell Reviews: YA Edition


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

This Train is Being Held
Ismée Amiel Williams
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Amulet
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Family and class differences threaten the love of two teens in this contemporary YA romance

When private school student Isabelle Warren first meets Dominican-American Alex Rosario on the 1 train, she remembers his green eyes and gentlemanly behavior. He remembers her long ballet dancer’s legs and untroubled happiness, something he feels belongs to all rich kids. As the two grow closer in and out of the subway, Isabelle learns of Alex’s father, who is hell-bent on Alex being a contender for the major leagues despite Alex’s desire to go to college and become a poet. Alex learns about Isabelle’s Havana-born mother, Eliza, a woman with a prejudice against Latino men, who pressures her daughter to stay away from him. When Isabelle’s father loses his job and her older brother struggles with his mental health, her relationship with Alex falters. But fate—and the 1 train—throw them together when Isabelle needs him the most.
While rushing to ballet audition, a kind stranger, Alex, held the train door for Isa. Over the next few months, they continued to cross paths on this train line, which led to friendship and more.
  • Pro: The premise was fantastic! In a city of more than 8.6 million, these two kept bumping into each other. The universe was definitely trying to tell them something! I found it all terribly romantic, and also, so New York. 
  • Pro: The romance developed over quite a long period of time. There were gaps between each train encounter, and I liked having that time to get to know Alex and Isa separately before getting to know them as a couple. 
  • Pro/Con: My heart went out to Isa. She was dealing with a LOT of upheaval in her life, but I HATED the way she dealt with it, and I also HATED the way it affected Alex. Those were a few dark chapters for me, but...
  • Pro: I adored Alex. He made a few choices I was not super happy about, however I was such a fan of him as friend, a big brother, and a son. He was often quite sweet, and there were many times I swooned as he interacted with Isa. I loved that he was a jock and a poet, and I was really proud of some of the big decisions he made during this story. 
  • Pro: I WAS a fan of this romance. Despite Alex and Isa being from "two different New Yorks", they were beautiful together. 
  • Pro: Because I spent such a long period of time with this couple, their family, and their friends, I really grew to care about them all. The stupendous ending Williams wrote set my mind at ease about their futures, and I was happy she wrapped up so many of the characters' storylines. 
Overall: An emotional and heartfelt train ride, which I really enjoyed.



If You Only Knew
Prerna Pickett
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
A boy recently released from jail and the daughter of a prosecutor fall for each other against the odds in this YA novel.

Corey has just been released from jail, and all he wants is a new beginning. But when his former gang comes knocking, Corey agrees to vandalize the home of Kent Hopper, the prosecutor who put him away.

To erase the guilt she carries from getting away with a crime, Tessa spends most of her nights riding her motorcycle. When she catches Corey destroying her father’s car, she doesn’t see a criminal: She sees a way to finally right her own wrongs. So instead of turning Corey over to the police, she convinces her father to give Corey a second chance.

As Tessa and Corey spend more time with each other, it becomes difficult to ignore the pull between them. But they’re both keeping secrets, and when those secrets come to light, they’ll each have to face their demons in order to have a future together.
Corey had just finished serving his time for a crime he didn't commit, but he quickly fell back into old patterns. After vandalizing the home of the lawyer, who prosecuted his case, he found himself back in trouble. The prosecutor's daughter suggested giving Corey a second chance, an opportunity to redeem himself, as she herself was seeking redemption. Sparks inevitably flew, but would these two be able to overcome their past and forge a future together?
  • Pro: I had so much sympathy for Corey and his situation. He felt stuck in this life of gang violence, drugs, and Mr. X. He did what he had to, in order to protect his family. He deserved better, and I wanted better for him, because I could see there was so much more to him than the gang banger he was assumed to be. 
  • Pro: Corey and Tessa had great chemistry, but they also connected on a much deeper level. Both had pasts they needed to reconcile, and they needed to believe they could move forward despite their previous indiscretions. It wasn't easy, given their ties to certain people, but they stood a better chance together than apart. 
  • Pro: Both Corey and Tessa were being raised in single parent homes, and each was blessed with a wonderful parent. The love and support was there, and some of my favorite moments in this book featured Tessa's dad or Corey's mom. 
  • Pro: There were so many challenges, so many roadblocks, and a few surprise twists in this story. I have to say, well played Ms. Pickett. There were some things I saw coming, but there were also a few things that caught me off guard. 
  • Pro: This was a pretty gritty story, but it had these beautiful "soft" parts and some humor too, which put a stupid grin on my face. And, hooray for a very satisfying ending, as well. 
  • Pro: I loved the overall theme of family and second chances. Sometimes people are victims of their circumstances, and are not presented with many options, like Corey, but he had people who believed in him, and were willing to go that extra mile. It was beautiful to see.  
Overall: This was a gritty, but touching story of second chances and redemption, which was that much better with the addition of a romance between two characters, who I couldn't stop rooting for.

** ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

Has anything interesting ever happened to you on the train?
Let us know in the comments!

22 comments:

  1. If our trains run on time without breaking down a whole ton of Sydneysiders would be thrilled — but nothing as interesting as this happened to me. I did miss a stop bc I was reading lol i think Isabel and Alex and the universe trying to get them together sounds wonderful

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    1. I used the trains all the time growing up in Brooklyn, NY, and a lot of those on train interactions came across as pretty real for me. I never missed a stop, but I have gotten on the wrong train before.

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  2. Someone was talking to me about the train book at ALA and it sounded really wonderful. I'm really glad to hear that the book actually delivered. I'm sure I'll love the NYC setting and both of these characters with their individualities too!

    Damn! Corey's story sounds harsh. I had my eyes on this one because the author is South Asian and I have to pick it up! Fingers crossed it goes up on my Library's overdrive but it's pubbed by Macmillan so probably not??

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    1. I enjoyed both books, and each took on some serious issues as well as having cute romances, that I was able to get behind. I know my library is boycotting Macmillan. They made a whole announcement about it. I hope you get the chance to read Corey's story (he even makes some Indian food in the book with his mom)

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  3. Yay for both of these being good reads!! I will have to check them out. I've been telling myself I need to add more romance reads this year.

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    1. I feel like there are few full-on romances in YA, and these are more books with romance, as their characters have a lot to deal with outside of the their romantic encounters. Still, I always love the swoony bits the best.

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  4. Sounds like these both fall into the “from different worlds” genre. Isa’s life sounds like a mess - and like maybe she didn’t handle it well or make the best decisions. And Corey seems like he was trapped in a cycle going nowhere. I already feel for his situation. :(

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    1. I didn't realize it until now, but both heroes are from lower socioeconomic situations than the heroines. I couldn't help but feel for Isa, and I really needed Corey to get out of his situation. I will say, I was happy with the endings of both books.

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  5. I haven't read either of these, but they both look really good. I love the cover for This Train is Being Held.

    Ash @ JennReneeRead

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    1. I like the cover too, and it matched the vibe of the book for me

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  6. These are both new to me but they sound really good! Corey and Tessa sound like two characters that I would just adore and root for. And Isa sounds like she has been through so much and Alex sounds like he was good for her.

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    1. The heroes of these books were stellar. I really liked them so much, and found I had no trouble rooting for them

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  7. Glad you enjoyed both! I don't think I've heard of either.

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    1. Really had a good time getting to know all the characters, and cheering for them

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  8. Oh gosh, I really feel for Corey. I'm glad to see your comment about that book being about second chances because it sounds like he really needs one.

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    1. There's a huge thread about second chances in there, and I liked the way Pickett wove it into the story in multiple ways

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  9. This Train is Being Held sounds exactly like my type of read Sam. I'm a big fan of worlds colliding type romances and characters facing adversity. If You Only Knew sounds incredible as well, I love books that focus on family and flawed characters, they're so much more relatable. Wonderful reviews Sam, so glad you enjoyed these!

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    1. I think both sort of had that idea in common, of worlds colliding, and it's nice to see books highlighting how we can be different by the same.

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  10. This Train Is Being Held kind of sounds like The Sun is Also a Star to me, but then better because it takes over the span of a long period of time rather than a single day, which is something I would prefer, personally. A shame though that the main female character is not so good with handling her problems! I like the sound of If Only You Knew and it sounds like my kind of book. Dealing with the kind of lifestyle that is built to entrap you, and not let you go. And it seems like the home situation is very included too.

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    1. Chance didn't seem to be such a huge concept in Train as it was in TSiAaS, but there is the idea of fate bringing them together over and over again.

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