Monday, May 25, 2020

#AmReading YA: Backlog Edition

Jellicoe Road
Melina Marchetta
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
"What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.

Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.

In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.

I have always heard so much about Melina Marchetta's books, and after loving Saving Francesca, I was ready for more. This is one of her books, that has been heaped with praise, so I thought it would be a great next book.

I must say, the book was a journey, for both me and the characters. Let me explain my experience with some gifs.

There was this beautiful story of connection, forgiveness, love, and friendship wrapped up in a mystery. Taylor had been abandoned on Jellicoe Road at age eleven, and more or less, cared for by Hannah, whose disappearance set the whole story in motion. In her search, Taylor found Hannah's manuscript, and though it seemed random at the time, she was soon able to draw parallels between the fictional lives of the characters and her own.

At the same time, Taylor was leading her team in the annual boundary battle between her school, the townies, and the cadets. Alliances formed, and grew into something quite wonderful. These unlikely friendships brought me so much happiness, and it meant a lot to me, that Taylor found her people.

As Taylor found more and more clues in her search for Hannah, I watched all the pieces fall into place, and then, all the feels were unleashed on me. Once it started, I couldn't stop the avalanche of emotions that began filling me up. There were lots of tears as it all became clearer, but there was a lot of joy in there too.

I had to be patient, and let Marchetta lay the foundation for this wonderful tale. And, let me tell you, I was rewarded ten-fold as all the seemingly separate threads began to weave themselves together. To quote The Dead, "what a long strange trip it's been", and it's one I don't regret taking.

The Book of Broken Hearts
Sarah Ockler
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
When all signs point to heartbreak, can love still be a rule of the road? A poignant and romantic novel from the author of Bittersweet and Twenty Boy Summer.

Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?

Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.
The synopsis for this book does this story no justice. Yes, there was the whole Vargas boys heartbreaker history in there, but for me, the real story was about Jude connecting with her father, coming to terms with his illness, and finding her voice.

It all started with Jude wanting to do something special for her father. She wanted to restore his beloved motorcycle hoping that it would help him hold on to some of the memories from his past. She wanted to do this for him, because his early onset Alzheimer's was progressing faster than they had anticipated. Emilio was the mechanic they found to help with the restoration, but he was also a Vargas, and therefore, off limits. However, Emilio was not simply their mechanic, he became a source of support for Jude, as her father's illness progressed, and a very important person in her life.

This book was such a beautiful combination of many different elements. First, there was a sweet and endearing romance between Jude and Emilio. They had chemistry, and could banter for days, but Emilio worked his way into my heart by not being scared off by Jude's dad's illness. When all her friends were avoiding her, he was showing up. He helped her, and was a wonder with her dad, when he was experiencing bad episodes.

I also loved seeing Jude and her dad together. Alzheimer's is such a brutal illness, and watching someone fade before your eyes has to be devastating. I felt both Jude's and her dad's pain. It was heartbreaking, but seeing them connect and make the most of the time they had together was worth all the tears I shed.

It was wonderful seeing Jude find her voice in the family. As the youngest, her sisters were often steering the boat. But, with all of them being out of the house, Jude took on a bigger role with her father. She began to assert herself more, make more choices, and her sisters began to see her in a different light.

The title eludes to broken hearts, but hearts aren't only broken due to romantic entanglements. Jude faced coming to terms with fading friends and her father's illness. Both these things broke her heart, in different ways, but also made her stronger.

Overall: I laughed and cried, and had to soothe my aching heart, but I loved every second of it.

Did you ever play any "war" games?
Let us know in the comments!

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