Monday, October 19, 2020

In a Nutshell Reviews: YA Edition

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

Dante Medema
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, In Verse
Publisher: Quill Tree
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Seventeen-year-old Cordelia Koenig was sure of many things going into her last year of high school. For one, she wasn’t going to stress over the senior project all her peers were dreading—she’d just use the same find-your-roots genealogy idea that her older sister used for hers. Secondly, she’d put all that time spent not worrying about the project toward getting reacquainted with former best friend and longtime crush Kodiak Jones who, conveniently, gets assigned as Cordelia’s partner.

All she has to do is mail in her DNA sample, write about her ancestry results and breeze through the rest of senior year. Done, done and done.

But when Cordelia’s GeneQuest results reveal that her father is not the man she thought he was but a stranger who lives thousands of miles away, Cordelia realizes she isn’t sure of anything anymore—not the mother who lied, the life she was born into or the girl staring back at her in the mirror.

If your life began with a lie, how can you ever be sure of what’s true?
She had always felt like she didn't fit into her family, but when she received the results from her DNA test, Cordelia now had the proof of why. Discovering her father was not the man who raised her set Cordelia's world off balance and sent her searching for the truth. Of who he was, and also, who she was. 
  • Pro: My emotions! With the subject matter, there was no doubt I would feel something, but I felt so much as I read this story. It was a tsunami of feelings that washed over me, and it came from multiple sources. Delia was obviously a big source, but her mother also contributed quite a bit via her fear, regret, and shame. 
  • Pro: I loved the way Medema used a mixed format to tell the story. There were texts and emails accompanying the parts told in verse, and I found it to be very successful for me. 
  • Pro: Kodiak was such a great character. Cordelia's former childhood best friend and first crush, he re-entered her life at a very crucial moment. I thought, at first, he was simply there to be a love interest. However, as Kodiak's own story unfolded, I realized that there were some parallels one could draw between what he and Delia were experiencing.
  • Pro: Cordelia's struggle with this new information was heart wrenching and raw and realistic. She sort of went through the stages of grief, but her biggest battle was fought in her heart. I think it's difficult for all children to see their parents fall from grace, but it's also part of growing up, when they finally realize their parents are fallible beings. 
  • Pro: It was easy to see that Cordelia loved her father, and by the end of the book, he more than earned his title, regardless of his lack of biological ties to her. He was loving, supportive, sweet, and caring. She couldn't have asked for a better father. 
  • Pro: I was so engrossed in this story, that I was sneaking chapters in whenever I could. I was so determined to get all the answers to my questions and see how everything played out, that I started and finished this book in the same day. 
Overall:  This story wrapped its arms around me and never let go. It was a beautiful tale which explored family, friendship, forgiveness, and identity. It touched my heart and filled me with happiness. 

** ARC received in exchange for an honest review.

Finding Balance

Kati Gardner
Series: Brave Enough, #2
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Flux
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Jase Ellison doesn’t remember having Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia when he was three years old. His cancer diagnosis only enters his mind twice a year. Once at his yearly checkup at the oncology clinic and when he attends Camp Chemo in the summer. No one in his “real” life knows about his past, especially his friends at Atlanta West Prep.

Mari Manos has never been able to hide her cancer survivorship. She wakes every morning, grabs her pink forearm clip crutches, and starts her day. Mari loves Camp Chemo—where she’s developed a healthy crush on fellow camper Jase. At Camp, she knows that she’ll never get “the look” or have to explain her amputation to anyone.

Jase wants to move on, to never reveal his past. But when Mari transfers to his school, he knows she could blow his cover. That’s the last thing he wants, but he also cannot ignore his attraction to her. For Mari, she only wants to be looked at like a girl, a person, and not only known for her disability. But how do you move on from cancer when the world won’t let you?
Deemed a risk due to her refusal to utilize a prosthetic or other mobility aid, Mari was forced to enroll at another school. There, she was reunited with her Camp Chemo crush, but he was less than enthusiastic about her presence. 
  • Pro: I adored Mari in Brave Enough and was really happy she got her own book. She managed to make herself memorable in the last book, and it was fantastic getting to know her story. 
  • Pro: This is NOT a cancer book. This is a book about cancer survivors, and what it's like navigating the world after the diagnosis and treatments. This is the first of its kind for me, and I really appreciated the insights Gardner shared. 
  • Pro: It was interesting seeing the stark differences in what life-after was like for Jase versus Mari. Jase could pretend he never had cancer, while Mari couldn't hide it. Because her missing leg was evidence of her past illness, she had to contend with comments and judgements on a daily basis, while Jase didn't. 
  • Pro: Part of Mari's story that grabbed me was how inhospitable the world can be for an amputee at times. The beginning of the book made me furious and I wanted to lash out at the school administrators. Additionally, I have read other books, where the characters had prosthetics and appreciated learning more specifically related to those with little residual limb. 
  • Pro: This book had it all for me. There was lots of focus on friendship and family, with the added bonus of a little romance. It taught me some things, while also making me feel so much.  
  • Pro: As with the previous book, I found the community aspect of this book wonderful. The network Mari and Jase established at Camp Chemo was a strong and important one, and it was fantastic to see some familiar faces too.  
Overall: I loved getting this perspective of the "cancer kid". It was interesting, informative, as well as emotionally satisfying. It was easy to see how personal this story was to the author, and I am grateful she chose to share it with us. 

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

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