Monday, June 15, 2020

#AmReading YA

You Say It First

Katie Cotugno
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Meg has her entire life set up perfectly: her boyfriend Mason is sweet and supportive, she and her best friend Emily plan to head to Cornell together in the fall, and she even finds time to clock shifts phonebanking at a voter registration call center in her Philadelphia suburb. But everything changes when one of those calls connects her to a stranger from small-town Ohio, who gets under her skin from the moment he picks up the phone.

Colby is stuck in a rut, reeling from a family tragedy and working a dead-end job—unsure what his future holds, or if he even cares. The last thing he has time for is some privileged rich girl preaching the sanctity of the political process. So he says the worst thing he can think of and hangs up.

But things don’t end there.…

That night on the phone winds up being the first in a series of candid, sometimes heated, always surprising conversations that lead to a long-distance friendship and then—slowly—to something more. Across state lines and phone lines, Meg and Colby form a once-in-a-lifetime connection. But in the end, are they just too different to make it work?

You Say It First is a propulsive, layered novel about how sometimes the person who has the least in common with us can be the one who changes us most.
Meg was passionate about being part of the political process, and put her money where her mouth was by dedicating her time and effort to many causes she was believed in. One such cause was voter registration, but she never thought her phonebanking would lead to an unlikely friendship and so much more. 

I always lament being a lonely moderate in this VERY politically polarized environment. So, I will admit, I approached this book with trepidation. However, it was a pleasant surprise, and not what I was expecting at all. I should have just trusted Katie Cotugno. 

I definitely knew where Meg stood, politically, but Colby didn't seem to have too much conviction either way. He seemed more fed up with or disappointed in the political process, while Meg was a firm believer, that change was possible via this avenue. I thought the idea of being part of the process was such an important one, and I also liked that Meg spotlighted local politics. The federal government does not make all the rules, and I, therefore, appreciated the focus on getting involved locally. 

For me, the beauty of the relationship, that blossomed between Colby and Meg, was how they challenged each other. Things were great at school for Meg, where everyone agreed with all her views, but along came Colby, and he had her questioning multiple aspects of her life. Meg also pushed Colby, and she dared him to see more possibilities, to believe that change could happen. They debated, they discussed, and they forced each other to see things from a different point of view. It was that change in perspective, which resulted in a lot of personal growth for them both. 

I found myself fully absorbed in this story. I sped right through it, and overall, was pleased with what I read. I was a bit conflicted about the ending, though. I found it symbolically beautiful, but would have loved to have seen beyond that point. I will say, that I knew enough about the direction in which the characters were heading. However, I was somewhat excited about these developments, and greedy me wanted the story to go a wee bit longer, so I could see how it all worked out.

Overall: I throughly enjoyed this blend of romance, personal drama, and politics. It was about embracing differences, and seeing them as a way to refine and examine our own beliefs.     

**ARC received in exchange for an honest review.

My Eyes Are Up Here

Laura Zimmerman
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Dutton Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Insightful, frank, and funny, My Eyes Are Up Here is a razor-sharp debut about a teenage girl struggling to rediscover her sense of self in the year after her body decided to change all the rules.

A "monomial" is a simple algebraic expression consisting of a single term. 30H, for example. Fifteen-year-old Greer Walsh hasn't been fazed by basic algebra since fifth grade, but for the last year, 30H has felt like an unsolvable equation - one that's made her world a very small, very lonely place. 30H is her bra size - or it was the last time anyone checked. She stopped letting people get that close to her with a tape measure a while ago.

Ever since everything changed the summer before ninth grade, Greer has felt out of control. She can't control her first impressions, the whispers that follow, or the stares that linger after. The best she can do is put on her faithful XXL sweatshirt and let her posture - and her expectations for other people - slump.

But people - strangers and friends - seem strangely determined to remind her that life is not supposed to be this way. Despite carefully avoiding physical contact and anything tighter than a puffy coat, Greer finds an unexpected community on the volleyball squad, the team that hugs between every point and wears a uniform "so tight it can squeeze out tears." And then there's Jackson Oates, newly arrived at her school and maybe actually more interested in her banter than her breasts.

Laura Zimmermann's debut is both laugh-out-loud funny and beautifully blunt, vulnerable and witty, heartbreaking and hopeful. And it will invite listeners to look carefully at a girl who just wants to be seen for all she is.
Greer wanted to be noticed for her passion for mathematics, but all everyone seemed to notice were Maude and Mavis, her right and left breasts. The constant scrutiny of her body, from friends, family, and even strangers, made it hard for her to be comfortable in her own skin, but in this story, I got to cheer for Greer as she began breaking her own self-imposed rules regarding her body. 

I won't lie. Greer's story was quite heartbreaking at times, and though I never dealt with her exact issue, I did grapple with body issues. I remember my sister battling with her growing chest as a young teen. She employed many of the same tactics as Greer. She wore large, oversized clothing, and hunched her shoulders in an effort to make herself look smaller. How sad, that someone is made to feel like that. I felt Greer's pain throughout this book, and there were so many times I wanted to hug her, or encourage her to talk to someone. 

I appreciated that Zimmermann took us through all the difficulties people with large breasts encounter. How their top may be a way different size from their bottom. How finding a good support garment is difficult and extremely expensive, and lack of such garments is a barrier to enjoying certain activities. I have heard about the physical pain large breasted people experience, but how many other people have? Zimmermann took on the topic with a touch of humor, but there were many very real moments shared with us.  

That was why it felt so good to see Greer become part of the volleyball team. She had avoided athletics in the past, because of the physical difficulties she experienced as she played. With the help of good sports bra, and an awesome home ec teacher, who was able to modify her uniform top, Greer was able to be part of a team for the first time. She was able to seen for her skill on the court, and she found a lot of support from some of her teammates as well. Jessa, the captain of the team, was especially wonderful, as she embraced her own body for its strength and what it could do, never dwelling on her size. She also spoke honestly about her body, and this was such a big thing for Greer, who always felt ashamed, and wanted to avoid anything that pertained to how she looked. 

In a nutshell, this was a humorous and honest story about learning to love yourself. It was about not letting other people determine what your body can or cannot do, and wanting to be seen as a whole person, which is something everyone deserves. 

**ARC won via a publisher giveaway. 

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

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