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Blog Tour, Excerpt, Giveaway, and Review: Lost Girls

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Lost Girls, by Merrie Destefano
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

The only rule is: There are no rules.

Purchase Links:
Amazon.com  | B&N iBooks | Kobo
Amazon.com.au Amazon.com/uk | Amazon.ca 

Excerpt:

Chapter One

I remember last night perfectly.

I know what we ate for dinner. I know my little brother didn’t do his homework. I know Dad drove me to my ballet lessons, then waited for me in the Starbucks across the street.

I know that, later in the evening, I fell asleep when I was supposed to be studying geometry, my earbuds in while I listened to Taylor Swift’s latest album.

That was my yesterday.

The problem is, everyone, from my parents to my teachers to the police, says that stuff didn’t happen yesterday.

It happened last year.

I went to sleep with music playing, curled up on my bed, and wrapped in the afghan Grams knitted for me when she was on chemo.

I woke up in a ditch, half-buried in a pile of leaves. I was shivering and wet, a soft rain falling, icy drops hitting me in the face and running down my neck. Trees towered overhead, black branches scratching the sky, wind howling, and from somewhere nearby came the muted sounds of traffic.

I sat up, confused and scared, grogginess giving way to an intense adrenaline rush.

Then I screamed, louder than I thought I could. The sound ripped out of my lungs and wouldn’t stop; it went on and on until I thought I would collapse because I knew I couldn’t breathe and scream at the same time. And then—when I was sure I would fall forward, bent over at the waist, my lungs empty and spots dancing before my eyes—then I found some way to yell

again. At first my shouts were primal and there were no words, just terror and pain and a black pit in my stomach that wouldn’t allow me to have conscious thoughts.

I began to cry the same thing, over and over.

“Help! Somebody help me!”

I tried to stand, but the gully was so slanted that I kept falling back to my knees, every stumble forcing me to become aware of another injury—the raw skin on my wrists and ankles, covered with dried blood and stinging with each drop of rain; the muscles in my legs sore and weak, like I’d been running for days; the soles of my feet aching, my tennis shoes ripped and stained with mud.

I stretched out my arms, latching onto tree roots to gain my balance, and I pulled myself up the incline, foot by foot. Fingers now coated with mud, I perched on the edge of a highway, nearly blinded by headlights whenever a car sped past.

There I stood, waving my arms and screaming again, not knowing that my hair was matted or that there was blood and dirt on my clothes or that my photo had been on the news for the past two weeks.

Lost girl. Disappeared on her way home from school. Anyone with information, please contact the Santa Madre police department.

Two cars drove past, headlights splashing me with brilliant light. I hadn’t realized until now that the sun tipped on the edge of the world, ready to disappear, or that twilight shadows were already stretching across the horizon. Great pockets of violet darkness yawned between each pair of lights that hurtled toward me, greedy fingers of darkness that wanted me to tumble back into that gully and remain hidden.

Please, somebody stop and help me.

I was screaming again and some sort of weird survival panic took over.

I walked into the middle of the two-lane southbound road and stood there.

Go ahead, run me over. I dare you.

Wait, what was I doing?

Several cars spun to a stop, skidding sideways, tires squealing, metal crashing metal and rubber burning. The old me, the girl who fell asleep listening to Taylor sing about a broken heart, never would have done this. What was wrong with me?

My heart thundered in my chest, but I refused to move, even when the wreckage screeched closer and closer, fenders crunching, bumpers twisting, windshields shattering. I stared all the passengers in the eye, glancing from one face to the next, coolly noting that none of them were hurt—nothing beyond a bump or a bruise.

You. Will. Stop. And. Help. Me.

Still the wreckage surged forward. I merely lifted one hand, palm up, signaling for them to stop. Like I was a traffic cop or something.

Everything finally slid to a stop, a few feet away from me.

Tears coursed down my cheeks and I began to shake uncontrollably. I sank to my knees, truly myself again. Frightened and alone and lost.

“Help me,” I begged, then buried my face in my hands.

Car doors opened: a strange cacophony of voices tumbled out, some yelling, some speaking in hushed tones.

“What’s going on?”

“Is that the missing girl from the news?”

“9-1-1, we have an emergency here—”

“Honey, you’re gonna be okay, don’t worry—”

An elderly woman with white hair and bright, pink lipstick pulled me close and draped her coat over me. When I glanced up I saw blood on her forehead, but she didn’t seem worried about herself. She smiled down at me, her face a map of connected wrinkles.

“We’re gonna get you home to your parents,” she said. “Do you want to call them?” She handed me her cell phone, but my fingers were shaking too much to dial. I told her the number and she punched it in, waiting while it rang. When a voice answered on the other end, the white-haired woman said, “I have someone who wants to talk to you.” Then she handed me the phone.

“Hello? Who is this?” It was my mom, a frantic tone in her voice that brought fresh tears to my eyes.

My words came out shaky, with long pauses between.

“Mom?”

Neither one of us could talk, not for a long time, because we were both crying. Then she finally whispered my name, like it was a magical word that could change the world.

“Rachel? Rachel, baby, where are you?”

I looked around. “I don’t know.”

“You’re on the 39, just north of Azusa,” the white-haired woman told me.

Flashing lights spun in the distance and sirens blared. An ambulance and a fire truck and two police cars were headed toward us. I blinked at the brightness, shielding my eyes with one hand.

“Rachel? Are you still there?” It was my father’s voice now, calling me back to the cell phone.

I pressed it against my ear. “Daddy?”

“Honey, when the ambulance gets there, you get inside and you stay there. Do you hear me? Don’t get in a car with anyone else!”

“I will—I mean, I won’t. I’ll go with the paramedics.” My teeth were chattering and I was shivering so much I could hardly hold the phone. I think I may have started talking gibberish, half-sentences with little meaning. I remember saying something about my geometry test and worrying that I wouldn’t make it to class tomorrow and I may have mentioned something about my biology class, too, because Dad interrupted me.

“Rachel, are you talking about the class you took with Miss Wallace?”

“Yeah. She always gives exams on Wednesday.”

There was a long silence. I wondered if we had gotten cut off. Meanwhile, the ambulance doors opened and someone wheeled a stretcher toward me.

“Honey, you had geometry with Miss Wallace last year. When you were a sophomore.”

I frowned. “But I’m a sophomore now.”

“Baby girl, you’re a junior. Don’t worry about it. All this will get straightened out when you get home—”

I dropped the phone. My hands were shaking too much to hold it. I glanced down at my hands, at the chipped red nail polish. But I hadn’t been wearing nail polish last night and I never use this color. I turned my hands over and discovered a tattoo on my inner wrist.

A tattoo?

Always and forever. That’s what it said. But there was no redness or swelling. I didn’t get this tattoo anytime recently.

The paramedics helped me onto the stretcher, and then the world was rushing past me, rain falling on my face, people staring down at me as the stretcher wheeled by, the air thick with the smell of oil and gasoline and burned rubber. Then another smell came suddenly and violently—a memory.

A thick, cloying scent of pine and cedar.

My stomach lurched and I couldn’t stop.

I started screaming again.

Check out the TOUR SCHEDULE here!

Giveaway Information:

Blog Tour: All prizes listed below will be given to one prize winner.
Prizes listed are for a US winner only; if an International winner is chosen, the prize will be a $50 Amazon gift card.
• 1 – Kindle Fire Tablet, black: 7″ Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB, 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, with the Alexa cloud-based voice
service—just press and ask.
• 1 – digital Kindle copy of LOST GIRLS
• 1 – Pack of 14 vintage-style Swan Lake postcards
• 1 – pr. Black Swan earrings, handmade by author
• 1 – “Always” temporary tattoo

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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About the Author:

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CURRENTLY A FULL-TIME NOVELIST and magazine editor, Merrie Destefano’s next novel, LOST GIRLS, releases on January 3, 2017. Her other novels include AFTERLIFE and FEAST, both published by HarperCollins, and FATHOM, which was self-published. The editor of Victorian Homes magazine, she has also been the editor of American Farmhouse Style, Vintage Gardens, and Zombies magazine, and was the founding editor of Cottages & Bungalows magazine.

With 20 years experience in publishing, she worked for a variety of publishing/broadcasting companies that include Focus on the Family, The Word For Today, and PJS Publications (now Primedia). Besides editing and writing, her background includes print buying, writing/producing radio promos, directing photo shoots, developing new products, writing jacket copy for books, creating sales media packets and organizing direct mail campaigns.

Born in the Midwest, she currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time.

Website |Twitter |Facebook | Tumblr | Instagram | Pinterest | Blog


5Penguins
Quick Reasons: life ruiner alert!; this book swept me up in a tidal wave of emotion, and refused to let go; awesome use of unreliable narrator; the mystery and intrigue was so beautifully-written and complex; this is a race head-first toward an explosive ending, and I adored every second of it; I need more of Merrie Destefano’s writing in my life

Huge thanks to Merrie Destefano, Entangled: Teen, Netgalley, and the crew at Chapter by Chapter for granting me free access to a digital ARC 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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After TWO MONTHS of no 5 Penguin reads…I’m closing out 2016 with a very high note. It’s New Years Eve for another hour, penguins (or at least, it is for another hour where I’m living now), and I’ve just closed the page on this read…and let me tell you, it was QUITE the whirlwind journey. I started this read this afternoon, thinking I’d get partway through it as this review goes live next week on my blog…and found myself instead finishing it off in one sitting. And OH, my heartstrings. This book? This book is life-ruiner material, and it RUINED me.

 

So let’s talk nitty gritty, yes? I promise, I’m going to do my VERY VERY best to stray away from the icky spoilers territory…hopefully I can manage to convey how much I enjoyed this book, and the reasons why, without dropping some huge spoiler bomb or other. Hopefully. So…characters first, yes? Rachel is possibly one of the BEST, most effectively-written characters suffering from memory loss I’ve encountered in books in recent years. While I know this is a bit of a cliche trope…Merrie Destefano handles it so beautifully and makes it SO realistic, you’ll find yourself racing toward the answers instead of feeling bogged down by what little you actually know.

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The focus on relationships throughout is also astounding and deliciously done. There’s a thin line between trust and paranoia that gets played on throughout this read, especially in Rachel’s case. She is, for all intents and purposes, the perfect unreliable narrator–and that makes it so easy for readers to both be enthralled by her, while also side-eyeing her. I give HUGE kudos to Merrie Destefano for managing this so beautifully; humans are complex and confusing creatures even on our best days, so adding in memory loss and internal conflicts only heightened such vast emotions.

 

I was blown away by the complexity of this read, penguins. Rachel–and her relationships with those around her–goes through so many shifts and changes, so many trials and tribulations, you’ll find yourself biting your nails, sitting on the edge of your seat, needing the answers as much as being scared of them. And the ending! The ending was just… I have to admit, I didn’t see where the plot was going until we were already on the downhill track and racing fast to the crashing point. This book surprised me–immensely. That’s not such an easy thing to do, in my world.

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I am just… Speechless, might be the closest way to explain how this book left me after the close. Merrie Destefano explored some heavy-handed, important subjects (which I won’t get into, because SPOOOOOILERS, people) and wrote a complex, beautifully engaging whirlwind of emotions and life-ruination. I definitely recommend this to lovers of contemporary novels with huge bite, strong-willed characters who know how to keep fighting, and life-ruining reads that will leave them thinking, “woah.” THIS is one book you don’t want to miss out on in 2017; pick it up, and let the fight for survival begin!

 

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3

A Review of In His Corner, by Vina Arno

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In His Corner

Goodreads Rating: 3.33 Stars
110 Pages
Kensington Publishing
Get a copy here!

WORK OUT

No sex for almost a year could kill a guy, but when you’re the boxer known as the Juggernaut, it’s the price you pay for turning pro. Tommy’s fully dedicated to his craft, until he meets the incredibly gorgeous Dr. Siena Carr. Now he’s looking forward to taking on this prim and proper lady in a wet and wild work-out…

KNOCK OUT

Siena has seen many patients come through the ER, but none as sexy as Tommy Raines. With a nasty cut over his eye, she knows he needs stiches, but after he takes off his shirt, she needs some air. With rock-hard abs and taut biceps, it’s clear this man takes care of his body. And all Siena can think about is letting him take care of hers…

– – – – –

3.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: intriguing, complex, entertaining characters; some interesting, bordering-on-humorous phrasing; the definition of “opposites attract”; I feel like maybe the characters were hooked on their differences, and not enough on finding a happy medium; Siena was headstrong…in a way I’m not sure I liked all the time

Huge thanks to Cindy Fazzi (writing under the pen name Vina Arno for this novel) and Kensington publishing for granting me access to this novel in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

He walked into the Emergency Department as if he owned it. Dr. Siena Carr was struck by his swagger—part gigolo and part caveman. Total alpha male. Even the automatic doors swooned at the sight of him, making a sighing sound as they closed behind.

This was my first foray into straight-up romance. Don’t get me wrong: I have read romances before. But these have been of the paranormal/supernatural OR new adult variety. You know…romance, with a little something extra on the side. Hopefully, no one holds this against me—I generally like a story to go with my sex, if you know what I mean.

Therefore, going into this read, I was nervous. I probably shouldn’t have been, but there you have it. And within the first few paragraphs…I found myself giggling. A LOT. The husband was immediately staring at me with eyebrows quirked, that look of “what is wrong with you?!” on his face. So of course…I read what I found so amusing out loud. And he shook his head and put his headphones back on. I guess he didn’t appreciate it the same way I did. Uh oh. Are romances supposed to be funny?! Cue nervousness all over again. What if I wasn’t supposed to be giggling about this? Were these things meant to be humorous, or sexy? I wasn’t sure.

It hadn’t worked. She had rejected him, only to become obsessed with him. By saying no to him, she’d been untrue to herself. The word “misdiagnosis” came to mind. She was the worst doctor of her own heart.

Of course, I finally settled in—and devoured!–the read. But there were some things that stood out to me as, perhaps, a bit…odd. First off: I didn’t really GET, from reading this, that these characters actually love each other. Specifically, Siena. The entire book, she complained about pretty much everything. She tried to change Tommy at practically every turn. He called her spoiled, or a snob, A LOT…and I couldn’t help but agree. She definitely comes off as snobbish, and I didn’t think she really even tried to get to know him beyond the physical. Perhaps this was the way Cindy Fazzi/Vina Arno intended her to come across, but…I don’t feel like these two characters connected in that important way I need characters to connect for romance novels. They sort of just…reacted? to each other, without trying to find that happy middle-ground, that nirvana I feel a true love really needs to work.

Secondly, there’s really no GROWTH happening. The characters get angry and yell at each other for being “too much” or “too little” such and such…but then turn around and say, “meh, don’t worry about it. It’s all good. It’s all forgiven.” which…totally contradicts the “we need to work this out” thing they kept pushing for in the first place. When things got rocky, I feel like they reacted one of two ways: yelling and dumping each other…or climbing into bed. I didn’t get to see them as an actual couple, outside the bedroom. They didn’t really react to or interact with each others’ social circles. I just… I don’t know if, in the end, I BUY the romance in this romance novel, I guess.

Why did guys behave like toddlers when they were asserting their masculine pride?

I did have a lot of fun reading this, though! While the prose is a bit unintentionally humorous in certain places, I think that was more me analyzing it more than needed. The characters were entertaining and engaging, despite the romance itself having some glaring flaws. I definitely recommend this read to lovers of romance novels, the “opposites attract” philosophy, and a LOT of dramatic soap-opera-esque moments. This was a wild ride, start to finish—and a great place to kick off my forray “straight romance” reads.

3

A Review of Trick, by Natalia Jaster

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There is a rule amongst his kind: A jester doesn’t lie.

In the kingdom of Whimtany, Poet is renowned. He’s young and pretty, a lover of men and women. He performs for the court, kisses like a scoundrel, and mocks with a silver tongue.

Yet allow him this: It’s only the most cunning, most manipulative soul who can play the fool. For Poet guards a secret. One the Crown would shackle him for. One that he’ll risk everything to protect.

Alas, it will take more than clever words to deceive Princess Briar. Convinced that he’s juggling lies as well as verse, this righteous nuisance of a girl is determined to expose him.

But not all falsehoods are fiendish. Poet’s secret is delicate, binding the jester to the princess in an unlikely alliance . . . and kindling a breathless attraction, as alluring as it is forbidden.

*Mature YA: sexual content and language. Intended for readers 17 and older*

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5 Stars
Quick Reasons: life ruiner; diverse read; the prose is poetic and gorgeous; endearing, adorable, snarky characters; this read tackles a heavy-handed, emotional subject with sensitivity and care; realistic romance, very human situations/reactions; this book breaks you apart and puts you back together again a different reader

2016, you are slaying me with the reads this year. The husband told me just this morning I need to step away from the emotional for a bit—read something with less bite. I laughed at him, because that’s just silly—the best books are those with teeth, right? And this read? Serious teeth. I’ll be bearing the scars with pride for a while to come.

One revolution: my read crown of braids and his tousled brown bangs.

Two: my ruby belt and his ribboned bracelets.

Three: dexterity and tension.

Four: a coil wound tight.

The prose for this is absolutely gorgeous. I love that it fits with the time period, that it’s well-researched, that Poet’s sections are (as they should be) the most poetic and beautiful of the two perspectives. I love how clear and engaging the two voices are: they stand apart, yet meld together in a beautiful blend of opposites that works to both individualize the characters and bring them together all the same.

The world-building is also gorgeous, well-considered, and described so concisely I could see everything that was happening or being described. The fantasy elements blend in beautifully with the historically accurate period setting. Any questions the reader might come up with in one chapter are thoughtfully and decisively answered further on; every possible outcome is considered and woven like threads across a loom.

I would concede: Sometimes the simplest words had the sharpest teeth.

The characters are polar opposites…and yet so beautiful together. I know, I keep using that word—I’ll try to tamp down the gushing, but I swear, these characters leeched out of the pages and inked themselves across my heart. There’s no getting them out anytime soon—they’ll be there, lurking, for probably the rest of forever. Their stories—both separate and as a whole—clash and clang into a molten, smoldering pile of emotions that caught me up and dragged me along for the ride.

This book isn’t all angst and first-love butterflies, though, so take care: there are more heart-wrenching, emotionally-draining, heavy-handed subjects being tackled. There is a reason this read is rated for 17+, mature readers—and I don’t think that’s just due to the romance and language, though that’s a major part of it. This book will make you think. It will make you angry. It will make you rage, and hate the world, and question everything. I recommend not reading, if you’re not ready for such emotional upheaval. If you are ready: I promise, this read is so so worth it.

Father used to say that change took time, but he was wrong. It did not take any time at all to change me. The glimpse of a famly. A beautiful tale. A child’s tears. A confession. A wound. An honest opinion. A friend’s betrayal. One parent’s death and another’s embrace. A touch—an instant slapping you with its light and jolting you back, shaken and blinking. Those quick moments were what changed people.

What took time was accepting the change.

I really enjoyed stepping a bit out of my comfort zone and stepping into Natalia Jaster’s world of beauty for the first time. I already have another book by her waiting on my Kindle; I’ll hopefully be picking it up within the next month or so, because I can’t wait for her to break my heart and piece me back together again. I definitely suggest lovers of sordid, forbidden loves, royal angst, and poetic reads pick up this book. You’ll come out a different reader at the end of these pages; I recommend you take the leap and let this world break your fall!

3

A Review of Firsts, by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

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Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

—–

Rating: 5/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: a sensitive, well-done examination of “slut-shaming” and the harm that comes with it; a deeper insight into the double-standard placed upon females compared to males of the same age; a realistic, caustic look into high school, sex, friendships, love, and personal growth; witty, snarky, intelligent prose; a main protagonist with a unique and individual voice and the power to both disarm and charm readers

I used to like my name. Mercedes. That is, until I figured out I was named after a car. The shiny red car that my dad loved more than anything—the one he waved from as he drove away. I remember liking that car, too. My dad used to let me sit in the front seat and pretend to steer. “You’re going to have a lead foot,” he would say over my childish vroom, vrooms. “Somebody’ll need to teach you how to slow down.” But he didn’t stick around long enough for that person to be him.

I read 99 Days, by Katie Cotugno, recently. If you’re interested, you can find my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…

Now, if you pay attention to books, you might realize these two reads share a common, heavy-handed, mature subject matter: what is otherwise known as “slut shaming,” though to be honest I really despise this phrase myself and refuse to use it if I don’t absolutely have to. I gave 99 Days four out of five stars.

When I discovered Firsts, by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, on netgalley… I LITERALLY could not stop myself from requesting it. The blurb was intriguing, the character seemed almost mythical in that “I know who I am and I don’t care if YOU know it, too” way… I HAD to read it. I HAD to read it, right then. So when I was approved, I knew I couldn’t wait to crack it open (on my kindle, obviously). Having devoured this read… I’m now wishing I’d read it before Katie Cotugno’s novel. Because while I enjoyed her writing and story… THIS book blew me away.

To start with—I had an almost instantaneous connection with Mercedes, our main character. Her voice is so unique, so different and confident at the start of this book. She knows who she is, she takes no shit from anybody, and she has—despite perhaps some moral ambiguity—at least a small sense of what she’s attempting to achieve (wrong as it seems when all is said and done). The prose is snarky, intelligent, and had me giggling to myself throughout. Basically, Mercedes took names and kicked ass in this book—and that really, really drew me to her. It made me WANT to know more about her, to know more about her life, to see the world more through her eyes. I haven’t had such an intimate connection with a book in… Well, it’s been a while now.

On top of this, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn approaches this subject from a DIFFERENT direction than I’ve seen recently—because Mercedes isn’t the prodigal daughter, the eternal goody-two-shoes, the girl who gets manipulated and used and tossed away to be trampled on. Mercedes is NOT the narrator I was expecting—and the story, when the climax builds and things start falling apart, became so much more heartbreaking for it. Somehow, seeing this new spin on the tried-and-true double standard made it MORE real to me as a reader.

There are so many things done RIGHT with this book, I don’t know that I should start listing them all out—we’d be here a while, and none of us have time for that these days. I loved—let me reiterate this, LOVED—almost all the characters (well…except a few slimey, snivelling bastards I wish I could kick like footballs). The fact that not everybody abandons Mercedes when shit gets real—that there are, just like in life, people who stick by her instead of shaming her with the rest of the world—was realistic and wrenching.

The relationships in this book—and this time, I do mean all of them, because despite the icky characters they did what they were meant to—were human, easy to relate to, and at times all too close for comfort. Laurie Elizabeth Flynn went out of her way to include as many different human interactions as she could; this is a melting pot of contemporary, the prose easy to read and get sucked into, the story both harsh where it needs to be and light-hearted enough to still HURT the way it should. Because this doesn’t ONLY explore the taboo; this is also a sort of quasi-coming of age. Mercedes’ character growth is brilliant and inspiring, the morals not just for girls in her situation but for girls everywhere: Acceptance of self. Confidence. The fact that this book breaks so many stereotypes, pushes the boundaries, strives to put acceptance ABOVE everything else… I just can’t explain the many ways this impacted me with a clear head.

I can control what happens in the chemistry lab. There’s a formula and an equation, and I know exactly what the reaction will be when I mix one thing with another. Life, not so much. Love, not at all. No matter what elements you combine, you really have no idea what happens next.

I should throw in some of this might be considered triggering to certain people. Please really consider reading this if you are uncomfortable with sex, rape, or sexually abusive relationships. I’d say this is more for “mature” readers.

This is probably my FAVORITE contemporary book ever. It’s caustic, it’s heavy-handed and so so difficult to read at times…and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It is SO, SO worth the read. If you’re seeking your next contemporary, and you’re not sure what you’re looking for, keep this one in mind! I’d recommend to lovers of Rainbow Rowell, Jay Asher, and Katie Cotugno.