Tag Archives: mental health

Book Chat: When We Collided

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B1btH5LeZjzid3NHNGJmdFYxSDg

When We Collided by Emery Lord
When We Collided

Summary

Jonah is grieving the loss of his father, a larger-than-life presence and breadwinner in his large, close-knit family. His mother stays in her bedroom all the time, and Jonah feels the weight of his family’s security on his shoulders.

Then he meets Vivi – a light, fun, spunky girl who draws him out. Vivi immediately becomes part of Jonah’s family, and she and Jonah fall deeply in love. But Vivi has secrets and scars of her own. Will their love be able to face the seriousness of the situations they both find themselves in?
Jonah


Favorite Character

Jonah – His dedication to his family is incredible. He cares about his siblings and mother deeply, and is trying to hold everything together (even when he’s in way over his head). His sense of duty and responsibility to his family is admirable, even if it makes it harder for him to ask for help.

Favorite Line 

As we discuss in the podcast, one of our favorite parts of this book is the exploration of issues not often talked about (especially around depression and bipolar disorder). Here’s one of my favorite lines that speaks to that

“Why? Because you once told me you aren’t afraid of the dark places. I’m not, either, Vivi. You know that.” 

Fun Author Fact

I’m interested in Emery’s views on feminism and how they’ve evolved over time. In a 2014 interview on HelloGiggles, Emery Lord discussed her views on feminism in teen novels.

“My main goal is to write fully-formed, flawed girls. It’s hard for me to watch female characters who are struggling criticized as “whiny” or those who cry as “dramatic.” C’mon! They’re human. And in YA, they’re teens! So, I’m going to try to keep writing complicated girls as a means toward what I think is the most important thing: empathy.”

I think Vivi definitely lives up to this – while she’s definitely flawed, is very clear why she has the challenges that she does, and you really empathize with both her and Jonah throughout the book.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes! This book a “fun summer romance” with deeper meaning. We both really enjoyed this book and recommend it! 

Read These Next

For another story about teen romance with deeper meaning, check out My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga (our book chat here).  Aysel is certain about one thing: she is ready to die. She just needs to decide how. While looking through online forums, she finds FrozenRobot, another teen looking for a suicide partner. FrozenRobot is perfect – he’s local, her age, and ready to kill himself. But as Aysel and FrozenRobot start to spend time together, she starts to see another side of him. Suddenly, she’s not sure she’s making the right decision.

Post Author: Anisha

Anisha

Anisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Filed under Contemporary, Heavy Topics, High School, podcast, Romance

Book Discussion: Gena/Finn

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Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

Summary

Gena and Finn meet on the internet while bonding over their shared fandom – the Up Below show. They write fanfic and share theories about where the show is going. Slowly, their relationship turns into more than just discussions about the show and into full fledged friendship…or even more. As things progress, Finn’s boyfriend grows concerned with their close relationship. Gena’s transition to college does not go as well as hoped and a visit to a fan convention triggers some big life decisions…leading to an accident and Gena’s mental health taking a turn for the worse.

gena-finn

heartRomantic Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort

The romance was interesting, but unclear if it was in fact a romance or a very intense friendship. The characters don’t make the “is this or isn’t it” clear from their interactions with each other, but more from conversations with other characters. So, it was a little like we got a sense of how intense the feelings were from others’ reactions (ie. Charlie) rather than from anything actually done within Gena and Finn’s relationship. This is both a blessing and a curse – I believe this story is supposed to represent chracters on the quiltbag spectrum, but it skirts the line of actually showing it which means people can easily deny it if they want to. I’ve seen some reviews complaining about where Finn ends up, but I think that part feels natural considering where she started. Where Gena ends is a little less satisfactory.

However, if we were evaluating the romance of Charlie and Finn? Charlie might (eventually) be the most mature, understanding boyfriend ever.

RosieFeminist Score: Good Effort

So, if you read this as intense lady friendship, this is awesome because we get two supportive, amazing girls giving strength to each other. If you read this as non-platonic lady relationship, then this is also pretty cool because that’s something you don’t often see, but not awesome because it’s just on the edge of unclear.

Gena has a relationship with a male classmate in the beginning and it often involves sex and there’s no judgment about that. Finn struggles with the possibility of marriage and is able to articulate why and talk through it and there’s no judgment about marrying or not marrying (when it pertains to the actual marriage, related to relationships with other people, there’s judgment).

This is feminist in its everyday-ness and in the celebration and appreciation of fandom. This allows girls and young women to love something and celebrate it and immerse themselves in it and fandom is given validity and power. That is rare.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: Good Effort

There’s a lot here and a lot of it is #ownvoices, which makes it extra exciting.

Gena is clearly stated to be Jewish, but there’s no physical description of the characters (that I remember) – the advantage of online friendships. I appreciated that it was left open, though that does mean the default reader will think “white.”

A huge part of this story is connected to mental health/illness. I don’t have much experience with this , so I’m not sure if it’s well done. I am 70% sure some aspects of this are also #ownvoices but I do NOT want to say that for sure. I think the openness and Gena’s discussion about – “it’s ok to say I see a doctor, but not ok to talk about why I see the doctor or how I feel day to day” was really important. If we don’t create the open space for conversations about mental health/illness as a WHOLE, we’ll never get rid of the stigma.

The beginning and end of the story feel a bit like two different narratives, demarcated by Gena’s medication abruptly stopping. I’m not sure how to talk about my reaction to the second half – coupled with the doctor’s opinion that a lower dosage of drugs would be ok and Gena’s resistance to this, I can’t tell if it’s trying to show that ableism includes thinking drugs are a crutch and that medical professionals should listen to the people with the illness or something else that I can’t put my finger on. Finn (and Charlie)’s behavior and support, though, are a great example of someone trying to be there, but not knowing exactly how to do so.

Also, I am a little worried that the thing from her childhood and then the thing that happened may lean a little on the “crazy” people are magical trope.

wow iconAwesome Factor: Good Effort

I generally don’t like books that are new/mixed media and stray from prose, but in this book I saw how it added to the story as a whole. I loved recognizing the pieces of a particular fandom that got pulled in and that fandom in general is given respect, too.

I found both Gena and Finn intriguing characters and I liked seeing their relationship grow. Gena’s parents are awful all around, but her aunt and uncle seem to be peripheral adults that actually have an understanding about what is happening. I wish that Finn was more willing to ask for help, or at least an explanation, from them. I was a little confused why she felt she had to do everything alone. One big hole: she is trying to understand how to pay bills but never considers the fact that Gena’s school was paid for somehow?

Overall, I wanted to know more about the girls and learn how things ended. I was a little surprised by how quickly things unraveled, but loved the exploration of the bond between them.


Favorite Character

Charlie – He shows great understanding for Finn as a college graduate confused about where her life should go, tries to learn about the things she is passionate about, and finds a way to love and respect her while also helping out someone despite the fact that he’s not entirely comfortable with where that friendship lies on the intimacy spectrum.

Favorite Line

I’m going back to my personal failure at collecting lines…

Fun Author Fact

I really suggest following Moskowitz on Twitter (@HannahMosk); she shares a lot of insightful stuff about diversity and her careful efforts to write all of her characters with research, love, and the care they deserve.

Is this worth a book hangover?

This is an intense read – the relationship builds and then the story takes a turn toward something very different from the beginning. I think this is a great story about fandom, friendship – and possibly more than friendship, and mental illness. Some readers will love this and others will probably feel it is not their cup of tea.

Read These Next

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz for very clear bisexual representation with an exploration of eating disorder recovery and intense friendships or As I Descended (out in September) by Robin Talley for a Macbeth retelling that also features a girl-girl relationship.

Post Author: Jess

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Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

She received her copy of Gena/Finn for free through NetGalley, in return she provided this honest review.

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Book Discussion: More Happy Than Not

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Summary:

Note: Try to read as little as possible about the book. Take my word for it, you want to read this with as little knowledge as possible about the actual plot so this post is as spoiler free as More Happy Than Notpossible.

Aaron is struggling to deal with his father’s suicide. His girlfriend does the best she can to bring him back toward happiness, but then she leaves for art camp and the distance between them pushes Aaron to spend more and more time with his new friend, Thomas. As their friendship grows, Aaron feels his old self returning, but his old group of friends does not approve of the new closeness between their buddy and the “new guy.” As things reach a tipping point, Aaron discovers that some things are inescapable no matter how many times you try to elude them.

heartRomance Score: Good Effort

There was SO MUCH good here. Aaron and Genevieve are adorable with their “remember when” game and their sweet, thoughtful dates and their joy and panic about their first time. The slow tension of growing close with Thomas and trying to understand what that means is also sweet in its own way. I’m taking points away because of things that happen in the last half of the book (including a rather emotionless repeated action in an alley).

RosieFeminist Score: You’re Trying

Aaron’s mom tried to put herself in between her husband and her kids, and that’s something no mother should ever need to worry about. But, I appreciated her strength, her dedication to her sons’ happiness, and her efforts to do her best. Again, a mother trying to do her best with very few good options.

At first, I was really excited by Genevieve and Aaron’s relationship – they are so sweet, he obviously cherishes her, and the physical moments involve a lot of consent. But once Genevieve heads to art camp, things kind of fall apart and it hurt my heart to see her making choices so that she ends up with less than she deserves. Yet, by the end, it seems like things are turning around for her.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: Good Effort

There’s a lot covered in this book – I got the sense reading that Aaron’s family was Hispanic (and double checked for the review – they’re Puerto Rican). In Aaron’s neighborhood there’s quite a bit of racial diversity – his boss has an “Arab accent” and his friends are varying skin tones. Everyone is lower income and I appreciated that this story incorporated details about that as part of the scenery and Aaron’s life without making it an “issue.” The biggest factor of the story, though, is with sexual orientation – Aaron slowly realizes what he thinks he likes may not be the true or only answer. The unfolding, unpuzzling of his feelings was sweet and painful and sad and joyful and made the story doubly poignant. With this it would seem that an A+ is in order, but events near the end made me dock a point. Yes, I know what happens reflects reality, but this book has just enough of a hint of the future that I had hope that maybe the end-of-book events could be excluded from Aaron’s experience.

wow iconAwesome Factor: A+ Success

I LOVED this book. All the characters came together perfectly. Before reading, I had only heard that the book was amazing and a must-read, I was totally shocked when things started to come together and, as much of a gut-punch as it was, I LOVED it. Aaron was a sweet character – as a boyfriend and as a confused, sad teen. I wanted to date him or comfort him – or both. His story is going to stick with me for a while as I think about my own life and the things I wish I could escape.


Favorite Character

Thomas – He has amazing date ideas that he’s not too miserly to share with a friend (rooftop planetarium? AMAZING) and highschool-me would totally want to date him. He also is an amazing friend to Aaron, being caring, honest, and gentle when Aaron opens his soul. I loved that he was comfortable enough to react the way he did and I’m so excited that teen readers will have him as an example of how to be a friend or ally.

Favorite Line

“Sometimes pain is so unmanageable that the idea of spending another day with it seems impossible. Other times pain acts as a compass to help you get through the messier tunnels of growing up. But the pain can only help you find happiness if…” (270)

Is this worth a book hangover?

ABSOLUTELY. I feel silly because I’ve been so enthusiastic about the books I’ve reviewed, but this is really an amazing book with great characters and an intense story. To prove it: it was a cool weekend in the middle of July and I stayed inside and read this book.

Fun Author Fact

Adam Silvera is really, really tall. Unfun fact: he struggles with depression. I mention this because I’m so thankful that authors are speaking up about these kinds of things and providing an opening for their (teen) readers to talk about them.

Read These Next

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli for a cute, secret boy crush story or Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley for a story about overcoming confusion and prejudice.

Post Author: Jess

1202112022

Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Filed under Contemporary, Heavy Topics