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Book Tour (Review), Excerpt, and Giveaway: Sticks & Stones

Sticks & Stones

Sticks & Stones

A feel-good middle grade debut with just a hint of magic about a girl who has a rare disorder that makes the words other people say about her appear on her body.

Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just “cute” and “adorable,” but as she’s gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like “loser” and “pathetic” appear, and those words bubble up and itch. And then there are words like “interesting,” which she’s not really sure how to feel about. Now, at age twelve, she’s starting middle school, and just when her friends who used to accept and protect her are drifting away, she receives an anonymous note saying “I know who you are, and I know what you’re dealing with. I want to help.” As Elyse works to solve the mystery of who is sending her these notes, she also finds new ways to accept who she is and to become her best self.


Excerpt:

WORDS

Some people don’t think that one word can make a difference.

They’re wrong.

Sure, some words need to be around other words to make sense. They need to hang out together in a book or a song or a text message, or else you’re stuck wrinkling your nose like HUH? That doesn’t make any sense.

But some words don’t need others. They have big-time serious meaning all by themselves.

I knew that better than anyone.

Like when it came to talking about me going to middle school this year. Mom said it would be different. Dr. Patel said it would be challenging. Dad said it would be fine.

They just needed one word each to sum up what they thought a whole year would be like … and, so far, they were right.

One word nobody used, though? Mysterious.

And right now, that was the most important word of all.

I reached into my pocket and dug around until I found the folded blue paper again. Maybe it was a letter from a secret admirer or a gift certificate to Soup Palace, otherwise known as the Best Place on Earth.

Maybe it was nothing at all.

But it had to be something. It had my name on the front, after all, and was taped to my locker. I was dying to open it, but even if I found a way to read it sneakily, Ms. Sigafiss would probably see me and read it to everyone or rip it up or something. And that was if she was in a good mood.

I looked around the room, thinking about words.

Different.

Challenging.

Fine.

Mysterious.

They were just words, but they could change my whole life.

In fact, they already had.

 

Text copyright © 2016 by Abby Cooper

GIVEAWAY

Prize: Win (1) of (10) finished copies of STICKS & STONES by Abby Cooper (US Only)–Click the Image!

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5Penguins
Quick Reasons: oh. my. penguins!; topics covered in this book: chronic illness, different family dynamics, bullying, friendship, growth and changes, self-acceptance, self-love, depression (in a more subtle way); this is mid-grade, but something I feel EVERYONE should read; snarky, sassy, stubbornly awesome character; reading from Elyse’s POV was like finding my way into myself

Huge thanks, first off, to Abby Cooper; Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Publishing; and The Fantastic Flying Book Club for granting me early access to this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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And let me just say, guys, in the words of Elyse herself–HOLY HIGH HEELS, this book is so freaking great! First off, our MC: Elyse is so snarky, and darkly-humorous, and just in general a fantastic character. I had a TON of fun reading from her point of view, mostly because it was a bit like stepping into myself–from the outside. I was granted a glimpse into who I imagine a lot of people see when looking at ME…and it was hilarious, endearing, and sort of enlightening all at the same time. I stepped outside of myself for almost 300 pages…and had several things I learned the hard way, years ago, reaffirmed.

 

This book is SO super important, especially in regards to chronic illness. There were SO many moments I stopped and thought, “Yes. YES, exactly that!” Elyse does not just find a way to manage her disease at the end of this book–she takes it by the stubborn horns and takes charge of it. There are just so many wonderful, powerful messages in this book that I feel a large audience can empathize with and relate to–and most especially those who, like me, have had to reconfigure and rediscover themselves in the face of a chronic illness. But also, people who perhaps are not as close to this as we are every day–they, too, will be reshaped from this read, and will (hopefully!) think of the world in a much different way. Elyse’s chronic illness is not, perhaps, as “life-threatening” as others out there…but it’s just as stressful, just as disheartening, just as much a factor in her day-to-day.

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Of course, a book is not a successful book without some pretty awesome side characters tagging along–and Abby Cooper wrote some EPIC personalities to match, keep up with, and challenge Elyse throughout her journey. Every character is written to come off one way…and then rediscovered in the flash of inspiration, rewritten in an instant (or, at least, poised in an entirely different way). This might be mid-grade, but there is so much more going on than whining and complaining (though that does happen, too).

 

I think, though, it’s the morals that really made this book for me. There are some pretty tough subjects brought up: bullying; self-acceptance; friendship; self-love. Depression, though not as strongly done, also makes an appearance. Readers are reminded, through a series of complex events, that in some way, we’re all wearing masks while in public. Readers are reminded that sometimes, the surface is ONLY that–the surface. Readers are asked to remember to always, ALWAYS look deeper–the truth isn’t always as easily revealed as the pulling up of a sleeve.

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This book is, in my opinion, so super important–both for younger and older readers alike. The humor is sharp, poignant, and at times surprisingly dark. Elyse is a character both enlightening and entertaining, who brings a ton of morals and growth to herself AND her readers. I definitely recommend this read to lovers of mid-grade, contemporary, and self-discovery. This is a one-sitting read, guys–why don’t you pick it up and dive in? You’re bound to find something to love.

8

Just a Few Inches: BIG Physical Shrinkage, HUGE Personal Growth

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Just a Few Inches

Goodreads Rating: 3.98 Stars
306 Pages
Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date: May 31st, 2015

Get a copy here!

All Carrie Roberts wants is to be a little bit smaller.

To fit into the perfect dress for the Valentine’s Day Dance. To look beautiful for her boyfriend, the school’s star basketball player. To keep his jealous ex-girlfriend, a rival cheerleader, away from him. And to be noticed by her classmates.

Exercising and dieting don’t work, but an advertisement for weight loss pills promises a quicker solution to her problem. As time runs out, she takes more than the recommended dose until she’s just a few inches slimmer. Heads turn when she arrives at the dance, and the wonderful night with her boyfriend is beyond what she dreamed it would be.

Days later, Carrie discovers that her body is changing in ways that should be impossible. While her doctor searches for a cure, she desperately turns to her friends and family for support. Everyone is noticing her now whether she likes it or not, and even the media is intrigued by her incredible story. Getting everything she once wanted has created new problems—problems that are growing more terrifying every day.

Because Carrie Roberts is shrinking.

– – – – –

“Just a Few Inches” is a Young Adult novel that deals with issues of body image, self-esteem, and teenage relationships. It is intended for readers age 13 and up.

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: penguins, this book is SO important!; the morals in this read, the character growth (in the midst of shrinking), all of it comes together into a stunning blend of horrifying and mind-altering; there were some odd grammar things at the beginning, but TRUST ME—keep reading!; this book will change your perspective if you let it

Huge thanks go out to Tara St. Pierre and Createspace Independent Publishing Platform for sending me a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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When I first started reading, I was worried—there were some weird grammar issues at the beginning that I had trouble overlooking at first. The tense of sentences sometimes shifted and changed without warning—often in the same sentence. Long story short, for the first 10% or so, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book. But I pushed through…and I am SO SO glad that I did.

 

This book is so important, guys. You have NO idea. This is the second book in as many months I’ve read with a “tiny” character… Except in this book, she doesn’t START already tiny. She becomes so, over the course of seven months and a huge amount of character growth/perspective shifting. It was this journey, and Carrie’s reactions to the changes and the world around her, that MADE this book.

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Trust me when I say: Carrie Roberts was NOT my ideal character at the beginning of this read. In fact, I got super annoyed with her pretty early on—she was always comparing herself to another girl (the ex of her boyfriend, in fact); she was consistently catty and bordering on immature. She was, without a DOUBT, not the sort of character I could easily identify with—or want to know. BUT. BUT. There is such an immense, satisfying amount of growth in this book. Carrie Roberts may shrink physically, but she grows in so many other important ways. She very quickly became a character I could look up to.

 

The other characters, as well, bring some important messages to readers. The reactions, interactions, and interpretations of the events in this book were both wildly entertaining at times…and heartbreakingly realistic in others. Even the youngest characters are portrayed in ways that teach, that bring perspective, that terrify… This entire read is SO well-crafted, it’s bound to stick with me a long time into the future.

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I am SO glad that I picked this read up, and that Tara St. Pierre reached out to me to begin with for this review. This book is super important—and so perspective-changing. Carrie shrinks…but she grows so much in all the ways that really matter. I definitely recommend to lovers of mind-altering reads, contemporary books with a hint of science fiction thrown in, and characters with immense amounts of growth. Pick this book up, guys—trust me when I say it’s bound to change your world!

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Teaser Review: Wrecked, by Maria Padian

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Wrecked

Goodreads Rating: 4.50 Stars
368 Pages
Algonquin Young Readers Publishing
Preorder a copy here!

Everyone has heard a different version of what happened that night at MacCallum College. Haley was already in bed when her roommate, Jenny, arrived home shell-shocked from the wild Conundrum House party. Richard heard his housemate Jordan brag about the cute freshman he hooked up with. When Jenny formally accuses Jordan of rape, Haley and Richard find themselves pushed onto opposite sides of the school’s investigation. But conflicting interests fueling conflicting versions of the story may make bringing the truth to light nearly impossible–especially when reputations, relationships, and whole futures are riding on the verdict.

Maria Padian offers a kaleidoscopic view of a sexual assault on a college campus. Wrecked will leave readers thinking about how memory and identity, what’s at stake, and who sits in judgment shape what we all decide to believe about the truth.

– – – – –

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: like the title suggests, this book WRECKED me; comfort zone? what even is that? I don’t think I know anymore; there’s an interesting play on “unreliable narrators” and “omniscient narrators” going on throughout this book that made this both frustrating, and intriguing; I don’t know what to feel right now; this book will shatter every perspective you think you have…and piece it back together in a different way

Huge thanks go to Maria Padian, Algonquin Young Readers publishing, and Netgalley for granting me early access to this title in exchange for an honest review. This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

Unfortunately, Netgalley rules rule my life—this is all the review you get from me until September!  Until then, there’s one thing about this book you should know-

6

A Review of Symptoms of Being Human, by Jeff Garvin

Symptoms of Being Human

Goodreads Rating: 4.12 Stars
352 pages
Published February 2nd, 2016 by Balzer + Bray
Get it here!

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is . . . Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender-fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

– – – – –

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: good god this book!; realistic, endearing, believable characters; lots of angst, drama, and confusion; delicious ambiguity; yet another book that will change your view of the world; this novel is SO IMPORTANT; well-written, sensitive, and amazing

Anyway, it’s not that simple. The world isn’t binary. Everything isn’t black or white, yes or no. Sometimes it’s not a switch, it’s a dial. And it’s not even a dial you can get your hands on; it turns without your permission or approval.

So first off: there is bullying in this book, both real life and online. There are some cruel words flung around, especially toward the main character. There is emotional abuse…and a physical assault. Suicide is brought up, talked about, and plays a part in this story. If any of these things are triggers for you, please be careful reading this book (if you decide to).

That being said—the ambiguity in this book about Riley is real and poignant, and I absolutely adore the way Jeff Garvin handled this. There are hints and moments that will have you tilting your head, wondering if that was supposed to be a “reveal”…only to have you read further along, and find a different moment that makes you think the opposite. Riley’s gender—the one given at birth—is never once divulged, and while a huge portion of this book is people wondering…I feel as if I was given the chance to get to know Riley in different, more heart-touching ways. If you’re the sort of reader who thinks you need to know EVERY answer about your characters, though, this book might frustrate you. Just a warning.

It takes me a moment to react; I’m honestly surprised. It’s one thing to whisper about me to her friends, or to laugh when her boyfriend taunts me—but I didn’t expect Sierra to be openly aggressive.

Slowly, I turn and look her in the eye. “That’s none of your business,” I say. “And, while I’m flattered by your interest, you’re really not my type.”

Riley’s snark and attitude are also on point. The narrative is interspersed with snippets from blog posts, from messages sent to and by the MC…all of this leads up to several climaxes and revelations. Throughout, Riley manages a sense of strength and poise that I am envious of. On top of this, I will probably never look at the world the same way twice, especially in regards to gender—this book helped to further strengthen the realization that gender (or looks, or attitude, or clothes, or musical tastes, or….) should never be the most important thing about somebody. We’re all human, we’re all important. We all should feel comfortable in, and validated by, ourselves as whole—because we all ARE whole. None of the characters fall flat in this read—even those who go out of their way to bully or abuse Riley are portrayed in realistic, human ways, and are given chances to be redeemable.

This is the sort of read that breaks all the rules…and comes out on top of the world for it. This is a ground-breaking, heart-stopping, realistic examination of and discussion on not only gender fluidity, but the entire LGBTQIA community. This is, I feel, the type of read that could easily move mountains—it is so, so important, and so powerfully done.

“So, first, I want you to know that everybody experiences some level of anxiety. It’s a normal human response to stress. It’s like your body’s smoke alarm. If there’s a fire, you want to know so you can put it out or call 9-1-1, right?”

I shrug. “I guess. But it feels like my alarm is going off all the time.”

Doctor Ann nods. “Some people’s systems are more sensitive than others’. For you, maybe all it takes is burning a piece of toast, and your alarm thinks the house is on fire.”

This is a life-changer, guys. I recommend lovers of all types of literature pick this up, because it will shake you up and spit you out a different person. The writing is poignant, filled with morals, and always pushing readers to think. There’s a subtle, breathless sense of wisdom in the way Jeff Garvin went about writing Riley and this story… I promise you won’t be disappointed in the journey, if you’re open to letting it sweep you away.