Monday, April 5, 2021

#AmReading YA

You Were Made for Me

Jenna Guillaume
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary-ish, Romance
Publisher: Peachtree Publishing
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
YA author Jenna Guillaume is back with a fun and modern feminist twist on the 1985 pop cult film Weird Science.

Sixteen-year-old Katie Camilleri can’t believe she’s accidentally created a teenage boy. A boy six-feet tall with floppy hair and eyes like the sky on a clear summer’s day. A boy whose lips taste like cookie dough and whose skin smells like springtime. A boy completely devoted to Katie. But silly musings and kitchen antics with her best friend, Libby, have definitely taken a whimsical twist into something bigger than Katie could have ever daydreamed. Turns out the consequences of fumbling a human being into existence are rather complicated. More importantly, does Guy, the golden Adonis Katie’s created, like her because he wants to, or because he has to? And will he be Katie’s very first kiss?

From the author of What I Like About Me comes a hilarious feminist twist on a classic narrative, loaded with laughs, mishaps, and plenty of 80s and 90s pop-culture callbacks. Jenna Guillaume’s entertaining romantic comedy novel features a humorous and relatable voice and will appeal to fans of Jenny Han.
Katie yearned for her first kiss, and she wanted to share it with a dreamy and dedicated boyfriend who adored her. Then one stormy night... it actually happened! Katie and her best friend Libby created a boy who was made just for her, but she soon began to question how this perfect boy fit into her life. 

After loving Guillame's previous release, What I Like About Me, I was eager to read her follow-up. Once again, I was treated to a fun and funny story which had a ton of heart. From its Weird Science beginnings to the many tropes it employed, the story read like a classic rom-com and delivered all the warm and fuzzy feels I was looking for. 

The bits with Guy, the perfect boyfriend, were laugh out loud funny, while they taught him how to navigate his new world, but it was the moments Katie shared with Theo which really owned my heart. Theo was her childhood best friend, and he was always there for Katie when she needed him. It delighted me to see these two renew their friendship, and it pleased me even more when it began to evolve. There were many meaningful exchanges between these two, where Guillame touched upon body image, loss of a parent, and mental health. I loved how seamlessly she wove these issues into this light and fluffy tale and gave the story just the right amount of weight. 

The format of the this book was great too. It's told as a recollection of that time they created the perfect boy. It was mostly via Katie's perspective, but there were also these exchanges between Katie and Libby injected in there that never failed to make me smile. Super cute and super fun, these story linking bits were quite charming, and a great way to illustrate the friendship between these two. 

Guillaume knows how to both make me laugh and warm my heart. This book was a lot of fun, but also had some substance. It reminded me to be careful what I wish for, that the grass is always greener on the other side, and to be aware of those wonderful things that are right in front of me.

Between the Bliss and Me

Lizzy Mason
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Soho Teen
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Acclaimed author Lizzy Mason delivers a moving contemporary YA novel about mental illness, young romance, and the impact of family history on one teen’s future, perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Robin Benway, and Kathleen Glasgow.

When eighteen-year-old Sydney Holman announces that she has decided to attend NYU, her overprotective mom is devastated. Her decision means she will be living in the Big City instead of commuting to nearby Rutgers like her mom had hoped. It also means she'll be close to off-limits but dreamy Grayson—a guitar prodigy who is going to Juilliard in the fall and very much isn't single.

But while she dreams of her new life, Sydney discovers a world-changing truth about her father, who left when she was little due to a drug addiction—that he has schizophrenia and is currently living on the streets of New York City. She seizes the opportunity to get to know him, to understand who he is and learn what may lie in store for her if she, too, is diagnosed.

Even as she continues to fall for Grayson, Sydney is faced with a difficult decision: Should she stay close to home so her mom can watch over her, or follow the desire to take risks and discover her true self?
Her mother had always been a bit overprotective, but when Sydney revealed her decision to attend NYU and live at school, she learned the truth about why her mother wanted to keep her close to home. Though Sydney had been aware of her estranged father's addictions issues, she never knew he was schizophrenic, and that she could inherit his illness. 

As with her previous book, The Art of Losing, Mason's new release walloped me in my feels. Once again, she took on mental health issues, which were explored from multiple angles in an honest and thoughtful way.

This was supposed to be an exciting summer for Sydney. She had graduated, gained entry to her dream school, and was gifted a large check from her grandparents, which alleviated some of her money woes. But it turned into a summer of pain, worry, and guilt. Learning her father was mentally ill and homeless was devastating for Sydney, and choosing NYU over Rutgers caused a rift between her and her mother. 

I can only imagine what a shock it would be to learn such things about a loved one, and then to have the possibility of the same thing happening to you hanging over your head would be terribly difficult. As expected, Sydney was shook. My heart went out to her as she struggled to come to terms with everything she learned, while also questioning her own mental health at times. There were some painful moments later in the story, but they felt necessary to illustrate how difficult it can be for the family of someone who is ill. It was that helplessness and hopelessness they have to deal with, when they are unable to help their loved ones. 

I appreciated that Mason tempered the story with a few subplots focusing on friendship, romance, and figuring out who you are. These plot lines worked well with the main focus of the story, and there were even some great connections in there. One overlap that stuck out to me was the comparison between different mental health issues and how some are deemed "more acceptable". 

The core of this story was mental illness, and Mason really delved into it and attacked the issue from multiple sides. She shined a light on the fact that a large percentage of the homeless population suffer from mental health issues, and the system is not well equipped to give them the help they need. She shared the history of the mental health care system in the US, and gave me glimpses of the many challenges the mentally ill face in the legal, prison, and health care systems. It's fantastic to see such an open discourse about mental health issues, and I welcomed it. 

Overall: Honest, thoughtful, and ultimately full of hope. 

**ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

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  1. I’m curious about You Were Made for Me given I’m old enough to have enjoying watching Weird Science as a teen

    1. They played up the Weird Science a bit during Guy's "creation". I wonder if the target audience would recognize it?

  2. A twist on Weird Science? What a fun premise!

  3. I'm excited to read You Were Made For Me. I loved her debut too and this sounds so quirky and wonderful. The characters sound great!

    1. I laughed a lot. I am a fan of the author's humor, and quirky would be a good word to describe this

  4. You have some great books lined up, I hope you love them all! Hope you are doing well!

  5. I like that the author included the history of mental health in the US. It's such a stigma. Nice reviews!

    1. I saw some people regard it as an "info dump", but it didn't feel that way to me, and I found it interesting.

  6. The Weird Science element of You Were Made for Me sounds like fun. :)

  7. I loved Weird Science back in the day so You Were Made for Me sounds like a lot of fun, especially with the feminist spin on it.

    1. It was fun and I expected that from Guillaume. Lots of humor and sweet moments too

  8. I just added You Were Made For Me to the TBR. I'm definitely attracted to the Weird Science beginning.

    1. It amused me so much. Have you read the author's previous book? It had that similar fun feel