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Can't Look AwayFrom Goodreads: Donna Cooner establishes herself as our own Jodi Picoult in this timely tale of sisters, loss, and redemption.

Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey’s sister is killed in an accident — maybe because of Torrey and her videos — Torrey’s perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn’t know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey’s internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there’s Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El dio de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?

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This is an interesting read that depicts the life of a teen beauty vlogger, a wildly popular young woman who posts to YouTube, which I admit is a channel I personally rarely visit. My students are obsessed with youtube videos, so I definitely wanted to check out this novel and see if it brought on any insights, because truth be told, vlogs tend to drive me insane. I don’t think I’ve been able to watch very many straight through, because the spontaneity and bloopers of it all just isn’t for me. But, that’s exactly what Torrey does, or did, prior to the novel’s beginning, and as Torrey looks back on her past life, one where her little sister still existed, we begin to see just who Torrey Grey truly is, both now and then.

I definitely enjoyed this novel, and it did make me tear up a time of two, but I personally don’t follow why people are blaming Torrey for her sister’s death, or why they feel the need to write nasty comments on her vlogs. I get that trolls exist, and over the past three years as an online reviewer, I’ve seen some pretty nasty comments left on both author and blogger accounts alike, but I don’t quite understand the why behind it, and while I think this novel attempts to answer this question, it really doesn’t. Why are people so callous and rude? Torrey fought with her sister, just like all siblings do. She was mean, just like all siblings can be. But she didn’t push her sister into the street, and she certainly didn’t cause the accident, so I don’t see where anyone has the right to bully her, or why they would ever think to, in the first place. Of course, it seems that that is what humanity is good at doing; putting others down anonymously, and this happens to Torrey, though I have to say that I really felt like this was more the background story than the forefront, and I really wish this aspect of online life, with the trolls and wannabes, was dived into more deeply as it’s the main aspect I was more interested in.

Now, as I said, the story focuses on Torrey, and she’s definitely going through a hard time at the moment, and she struggles to pull herself together. Her attempt to piece her life back together, hanging with the popular crowd, is a farce, an attempt at healing—if only things could go back to the way they were, but unfortunately they never do, and Torrey has to learn this the hard way. I respected this about her, but she rubbed me the wrong way on some occasions, snubbing her true friends in order to make a name for herself… I think we’re all probably guilty of this in some way or other, but it did leave me a bit disappointed in Torrey, though she does eventually seem to get her head on straight.

I really liked Luis and enjoyed the Dia de los Muertes references and make-up tutorial (I’m so doing this), but again, never really understood why people were bashing on Torrey, or why the popular crowd at her new school disliked her so much. As I said, I liked the idea behind this novel overall, and the story is indeed well written, it’s just a little beyond me; I don’t really understand why anyone acted the way they did within the novel. Three and a half stars.

3.5 starsI received this novel from the publisher, via Netgalley, prior to its release today.

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The Break Up ArtistFrom Goodreads: Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash. Some work at the Gap. Becca Williamson breaks up couples. 



After watching her sister get left at the altar, Becca knows the true damage that comes when people utter the dreaded L-word. For just $100 via paypal, she can trick and manipulate any couple into smithereens. With relationship zombies overrunning her school, and treating single girls like second class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even her best friend Val has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.

One night, she receives a mysterious offer to break up the homecoming king and queen, the one zombie couple to rule them all: Steve and Huxley. They are a JFK and Jackie O in training, masters of sweeping faux-mantic gestures, but if Becca can split them up, then school will be safe again for singletons. To succeed, she’ll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date and wiggle her way back into her former BFF Huxley’s life – not to mention start a few rumors, sabotage some cell phones, break into a car, and fend off the inappropriate feelings she’s having about Val’s new boyfriend. All while avoiding a past victim out to expose her true identity.

No one said being the Break-Up Artist was easy.

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Admit it. There has always been that one relationship (or two) that you were dying to break-up. Whether it was because your best friend turned into someone different, or the couple was in so deep they couldn’t see how wrong they were for each other, or perhaps just because you were jealous—you’ve wished that someone would come along and break them up. Meet Becca. She’s your person.

I have to admit that I nearly didn’t pick up this novel. Readers just know going in that Becca is going to get caught, that the people in her school are going to make an example of her, and that it’s just not going to end well for her. And because that sounds very much like a bunch of teen movies I’ve seen, I nearly stopped myself before I even began reading. And I’m so glad that I didn’t listen to my inner monologue. The Break-Up Artist is actually a hilarious tale and, though we know how it’s going to end from the very beginning, Siegel makes this novel stand apart from all the teen angst movies and books out there, and I highly enjoyed nearly every minute of it.

Becca has seen how relationships can ruin a person, so she’s made it her job to break up relationships before they get to the stage where they ruin lives. Amazingly enough, well, perhaps not knowing human nature, there are tons of clients willing to pay the masked break-up artist if she can successfully break up the couple in question. And in the beginning, it seems harmless enough. She really is doing some people a favor by breaking them up, as seen by how self-absorbed and forgetful they become around their significant other. It’s true, people change around their beau, especially teens in relationships, and so it makes sense that Becca has found a calling in “helping” her peers return to their right sense of mind.

When Becca is asked to break up Huxley and Steve, she takes on the challenge, and hilarity ensues along the way, but so do some very real life lessons, like fate, friendship, and right from wrong. Becca has a lot to learn in the love department, and at one point even she is duped into the “relationship” throng, going against everything she’s ever preached, and learning that perhaps what she’s doing isn’t right at all. Constantly battling against herself and her desire for friendship, especially as she see’s her true friend, Huxley, return to her, Becca has a lot of growing up to do, and this is the perfect tale to tell it all. Though I didn’t agree with her when it came to her best-friend’s boyfriend—in fact I found her to be quite silly in her antics here—I get what she’s going through, and I just adored how the entire story unfolded. And there’s going to be a sequel of sorts—I can’t wait to see what’s next in store for Becca! Four stars.

4 stars

In exchange for an honest review, Harlequin Teen has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release today!

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12579262From Goodreads: Staying quiet will destroy her, but speaking up will destroy everyone.

Kate Franklin’s life changes for the better when her dad lands a job at Beacon Prep, an elite private school with one of the best basketball teams in the state. She begins to date a player on the team and quickly gets caught up in a world of idolatry and entitlement, learning that there are perks to being an athlete.

But those perks also come with a price. Another player takes his power too far and Kate is assaulted at a party. Although she knows she should speak out, her dad’s vehemently against it and so, like a canary sent into a mine to test toxicity levels and protect miners, Kate alone breathes the poisonous secrets to protect her dad and the team. The world that Kate was once welcomed into is now her worst enemy, and she must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes.

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Written through a mixture of prose and verse, this novel is unlike any I’ve ever read before. One aspect that really set it apart from others I’ve read is the online journal that begins every chapter. Kate is a blogger, albeit a private blogger, and she records her thoughts and feelings on the site www.allmytruths.com (seriously, go look at it!) from the very beginning, before she ever begins her year at Beacon. Each new entry has a “Today’s Truth” statement that sets the stage for the blog entry and the chapter, and I really enjoyed this, although I didn’t realize just how important these journal entries were until it really came down to it all.

The novel begins in August and ends in January, opening and closing with Kate’s initial and final words on the blog, and I found this extremely interesting and well-rounding, a great final touch for closure. This is also the portion of the novel that is written in both prose and verse, and while I’m not necessarily a verse guru (I shy away from verse as much as possible in my every day life), it was awesome to see Kate’s thoughts and feelings thrown on the page in such an unconventional way. It’s completely different and extremely powerful.

Alpine’s novel follows Kate as she moves to Beacon and finds instant popularity, something she’s never had before and, as we all know, popularity makes people do crazy things. Over the course of the story, Kate changes, as her brother Brett points out, and it’s not for the better. But what I really enjoyed was that, though blinded by her need to fit in and feel loved, she didn’t forget her family, and when her “friends” said rude and nasty things about her brother and his girlfriend, Kate stuck up for them. Now, while it’s true that that’s about all she did, it still shows that she hasn’t lost all her humanity trying to fit in with others.  Though the newest addition to the popular group, she told them how she felt and had no qualms standing up and walking away when the comments became increasingly rude concerning those not in the “popular crowd,” and I loved watching this strong will of hers because it foreshadows her will power that we’ll see later on in the novel.

Now, I know the synopsis says it, but I feel the need to point it out again: there is an assault, an attempted rape, in this novel. The good news is that it’s late in the novel, it’s not graphic, and Kate is able to fend off her attacker.  The bad news is that any type of assault leaves the victim wounded internally, regardless of physical pain. Now, the reason I wanted to draw potential reader attention to this is I tend to shy away from novels where I know that rape or sexual abuse will be portrayed, but I’m glad I didn’t with this novel, and I suggest you don’t let that stop you from picking it up, either. It’s a powerful story, and although Kate loses everything–her friends, popularity, even her father’s protection–she remains strong and ultimately must make a choice: to protect her father’s job and the basketball team who will probably continue to attempt and succeed in harming women, or to tell the truth, face the taunts of the school, and stand for what is right.  It’s powerful; a great story that I highly recommend. Four stars.

4 stars

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Canary releases on August 1, 2013.



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