Category: Young Adult Fiction

Book Review: The Sea is Salt and So Am I by Cassandra Hartt

I just finished reading “The Sea is Salt and So Am I”, and was completely STUNNED to learn that this is Ms. Hartt’s debut novel. I’m very much looking forward to following her career, and seeing what she comes up with next!

The author includes a trigger warning at the beginning, and I’ll do the same here: This book deals with teen depression, suicidal thoughts, and a suicide attempt. If these topics are triggers for you, you should probably look elsewhere for reading material.

That being said…the author handles these intense topics in a way that is simultaneously realistic, beautiful, and heartbreaking. Her main characters and their experiences are completely believable, and I had trouble putting the book down without seeing what happened to them next. I adored Tommy, liked Harlow, and was mostly mildly annoyed by Ellis, but all three of them captivated me. I am already mentally working out what comes next for them, as I can’t stand not knowing how their lives turn out after the end of this story.

The book is set in the fictional town of West Finch, Maine. The town is almost a separate character, and reading about it, the local problems, the wildlife, and the weather added another layer to this already incredibly nuanced novel.

Finally, I appreciated Ms. Hartt’s candor in the Author’s Note at the end. I will happily read anything else she writes, even if it’s just a to-do list. Seriously, readers of the world: Take note! This is an up-and-coming literary talent worth watching!

Five out of five super-sized chunks of the best sharp cheddar money can buy!

Book Review: Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

I have so many good things to say about “Mary Jane” by Jessica Anya Blau. This book was my introduction to the author, and I’ve already ordered some of her other work based on how much I enjoyed this story.

This is the story of Mary Jane, a young teenager who has lived a sheltered, fairly simple life. She is hired as the summer nanny for a neighboring family, and finds her life stretched and changed in many ways as she gets to know new and different types of people.

While I loved everything about the story, my absolute favorite was the way the characters were written. All the major ones were portrayed with such depth and sincerity that I felt like I was actually meeting them. I don’t mean that they were realistically written….they were, but I say that about lots of books. I mean that they felt real to me in a personal way. As I was introduced to Jimmy and Sheba, I really felt like I had been introduced to these famous people in real life. I felt like I spent the summer with them, and really knew them, and looked forward to keeping in touch. I had to remind myself that they were fictional characters. To me, that’s the sign of a truly phenomenal character writer!

The story was also excellent, and kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next to my new book friends as the summer progressed. I loved seeing the ups and downs, the highlights and low points, and the day-to-day life of 1970s Baltimore (and Dewey Beach). I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but I appreciated the ending, both the parts that were wrapped up, and the parts that were left for the reader to imagine. It left me feeling the perfect amount of closure and hope for the characters’ futures.

One important lesson I took away from this book: People need to feel appreciated and valued. If someone in your life matters to you, please take a moment to make sure they know it.

I received a review copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaways program, and am thankful to have been selected.

Five out of five slices of perfect Provolone!

Book Review: Incubation

Laura DiSilverio has, in the past, primarily been a cozy mystery author. Incubation marks her debut in a new genre, and it is a very impressive one! This is Book One in an anticipated trilogy (Book Two, Incineration, came out in June of 2016, and Book Three can’t be published soon enough for me).

Incubation centers around the life and adventures of Everly Jax, a young woman who discovers that her future lies in leaving the only life she’s ever known to enter the dangerous outside world. Luckily, she is accompanied by two close friends, and the trio set out to achieve their different (but mostly complementary) goals.

All of the primary characters are very well realized, and come across as genuine and individualized. Even some of the more minor characters are portrayed with enough care and detail that the reader is curious to learn more about their backstories. The interactions between the young people ring true, and the dialog sounds very much the way I imagine the similarly-aged youth in my life would talk if they found themselves in this story.

The plot is action-packed and well paced. Everything that happens makes sense, and occurs in a logical progression. Of note, the main characters do not instantly morph into junior McGuyvers, able to perform incredible feats easily. They undergo some training, and learn some new helpful skills, but they’re not portrayed as being magically able to handle everything that comes their way, and they sometimes (as teens may do) make bad decisions and mistakes. Another noteworthy bit: when the main character (Everly) has to do something she considers bad or wrong, she thinks and worries about it afterwards.  I find this adds realism to the plot, as well as likability to the character. After all, how many teens who’ve led a fairly sheltered life would transition easily and without moral dilemma to a new life involving some level of hurting others?

The world of the story is well thought-out and makes sense. A critical element for dystopian fiction is that the brave new world of the story is clear to the reader. DiSilverio does a wonderful job of making sure that the reader understands the environment through which the characters are moving, even as the characters themselves learn more about the realities of their world. The fact that she does so without coming across as overly descriptive or boring adds to the overall enjoyment of this book.

Although it goes without saying, I really, really loved reading Incubation, and congratulate the author on succeeding so very well with her foray into this new genre.

Five out of five delectable wedges of Cherokee Rose (a fabulous creamy cheese made in Georgia, US)