Hold Still by Nina LaCour

cover hold still by nina lacoeurRating: 6 out of 10

Caitlin and Ingrid have been best friends forever–the kind of best friends who are joined at the hip, tell each other all their secrets, and sort of live in their own little world.

After Ingrid’s unexpected suicide, Caitlin is left drifting.  When school starts, she has no drive for anything, not even her photography class, which used to be her favorite period in school. What’s worse, her photography teacher, Ms. Delani, who used to encourage Caitlin immensely in her artistic efforts, seems completely uninterested in anything Caitlin feels or has to say about the aftermath of Ingrid’s death.

Hold Still chronicles Caitlin’s reemergence over the school year. Slowly she comes out of her shell thanks to Dylan, a transfer student who is the first openly lesbian girl at Caitlin’s small town high school, and by reading Ingrid’s journal.

Ingrid’s journal, apparently purposefully left behind in Caitlin’s room, chronicles her descent into depression, problems with her medication, her heartbreak over boys, and her unwillingness to let anyone know how sad she was truly feeling.

I thought LaCour did a fairly good job creating a narrative around the issue of teenage suicide, and Caitlin’s reactions and her recovery seemed realistic and was paced well. I liked the pages of Ingrid’s journal placed throughout the novel, and the ending was good.

I didn’t think the relationship between Caitiln and her photography teacher Ms. Delani was at all realistic–and whenever Ms. Delani spoke her dialogue sounded like it had been straight lifted out of an art criticism review or a teaching manual. She wasn’t real to me, and didn’t make as much of an impact as I feel the author tried to have her be.

I know this novel is aimed towards younger (middle school) readers but it still seemed a little simplistic to me at times. It didn’t really engage me all that well, hence the lower rating and why it took me so long to finish.

Upcoming Reviews

I just received two Advance Readers Copies, both from Penguin Young Readers Group! Exciting. They are Hold Still by Nina LaCour, and The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.

Some summaries from the back covers:

HOLD STILL — That night Ingrid told Caitling, I’ll go wherever you go. But by dawn Ingrid, and her promise, were gone, and Caitlin was alone. Ingrid’s suicide immobilizes Caitlin, leaving her unsure of her place in a new life she hardly recognizes. A life without the art, the laughter, the music, the joy that she shared with her best friend.

But Ingrid left more than a memory behind. Devastating and hopeful, playful and hopeless. In words and drawings, Ingrid documented a painful farewell in her jounral–just for Caitlin. Journeying through Ingrid’s final days, Caitlin fights back through unspeakable loss to find renewed hope.

A breakthrough new voice in fiction, Nina LaCour brings the changing seasons of Caitlin’s first year without Ingrid to the page with indelible emotion and honesty.

THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE — When her fiery older sister Bailey dies abruptly, seventeen-year-old Lennie, bookworm and band geek, is catapulted to center stage of her own life–and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lenni’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Pairs whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.

Both of these novels seem to be sort of middle/junior high level books dealing with more serious subjects.

Reviews soon.

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

COVER twenty boy summer by sarah ocklerRating: 7 out of 10
Summary: “Don’t worry, Anna. I’ll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it.”
“Okay.”
“Promise me? Promise you won’t say anything?”
“Don’t worry.” I laughed. “It’s our secret, right?”

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in ZanzibarBay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there’s a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there’s something she hasn’t told Frankie—she’s already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

This debut novel by Sarah Ockler that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer.

Commentary: I ended up really enjoying this novel even though I didn’t have very high expectations in the beginning.

Good coming-of-age, young adult, dealing with grief story.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

COVER harry potter and the half blood prince j.k. rowlingRating: 8 out of 10
Summary: The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet…

As in all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate — and lose a few eyebrows in the process. The Weasley twins expand their business. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it’s the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here at Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort — and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.

My Thoughts: In preparation for the movie coming out July 15th, I’ve gone on a bit of a Potter binge this past week. I wanted to refresh my memory on what exactly happens in the 6th installment, and all I could recall was that I hadn’t really liked the 6th book… I think it’s because I rushed through it too quickly and somebody gave away the ending to me which upset me very much at the time.

Anyway, I read over it again with a fresh perspective and really enjoyed it. I really like the Harry Potter series, and am looking forward to the new movie as well.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

COVER the disreputable historyRating: 7 out of 10
Summary:

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “Bunny Rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Laundau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew is lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

My Thoughts: This book swung wildly between the highly believable and wildly improbable, but was mostly entertaining no matter what.