Sunday, August 26, 2018

On Self-Reflection and SADIE

I grew up watching crime shows.

At my house, Thursday nights were reserved for another episode of Law & Order: SVU. Fridays, there was Dateline. Countless others played across my television screen over the years, but those two have always stuck out for me. The former, because I remember when I stopped watching it. I was just entering high school and every time I watched it, I started to feel uncomfortable. I began to realize how easily I could be one of the women in those stories. Dateline remains memorable because I still occasionally watch it, often relaying the shocking details in conversations later on, discussing all the terrible and horrific things that happened in the episode. Usually, these terrible and horrific things happen to women.

I've been wanting to read Sadie since before it had a title. I remember reading the rights announcement years ago and immediately texted my best friend about it. When I had the opportunity to read an early copy, thanks to a generous friend of mine, I jumped at the chance. I had waited all these years and I didn't want to wait a single moment longer.

Sadie isn't Dateline.

There are a number of reasons that Sadie doesn't fall into the same category as Dateline. But, one of the main difference, for me at least, was that in all my years of watching Dateline, it never once made me question my consumption of violence.

Sadie did that on page seven.

Sadie opens with West McCray on his podcast "The Girls" and we're introduced to Sadie's story, and that of her late sister Mattie's. As he is setting the scene of Mattie's death, West states that the "gruesome details...will not be a part of this show." I remember reaching that moment and pausing, thinking to myself "wait...they won't?" I had been bracing myself to read them, part of me anticipating just how horrible it was going to be. He continues, explaining that "its violence and brutality do not exist for your entertainment." It was like a slap in the face. Because wasn't that what I was just doing? Waiting for the violent death of a girl to be part of my entertainment. Anticipating its brutality in some sort of grim excitement?

It's hard to admit that you've been part of, and perpetuated, a system that uses violence against women as entertainment. 

I thought I knew better.

I didn't.

Sadie made me question my role in this commodification of violence in just one. single. line. That's the power of a novel like this. I don't know what it says about me that it took a fictional portrayal of violence for me to truly question my role in this commodification. Maybe it's because I've always been able to see myself, see the world, more clearly in books. Maybe it's because I looked externally at how others viewed violence as entertainment, and didn't turn the lens on myself. Maybe it's because I never really had to think about it. In the end, it doesn't matter. In the end, this book reminded me of how insidious our society's obsession with dead girls, with violence can be. Even though I have talked openly and repeatedly about this obsession, I can still be a part of the system that perpetuates it. It was a sobering reminder that my learning is never done.

After I read Sadie, it took me a full week to talk to anyone about it. It wasn't because of this internal revelation, but rather, because I felt my words were not enough. I still don't think they are. I feel lucky yo have been able to read Courtney Summers books for so many years. To grow with them as a reader and a person. To have had them there for me to learn from.

I want to say Sadie is one of the best books I've ever read (and it is) but it's more than that. Sadie is compelling. It is devastating. It is unforgettable. It is unforgettable.

Sade is in stores September 4th, and you can pre-order it at any of the fine retailers below. I hope you do.

I grew up watching crime shows. I still watch them. But, I'll look at them through a new lens now. And I have Sadie, and Courtney Summers, to thank for that.

- Ciara (at Midnight)


Don't forget to check out the podcast "The Girls: Find Sadie" wherever you listen to podcasts!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday (85): Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine in which bloggers talk about the books they are most eager for!

This Week's Pick: Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
Publisher: Soho Teen
Release Date: January 16th, 2018

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape--perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

Maya Aziz is torn between futures: the one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter (i.e.; staying nearby in Chicago and being matched with a "suitable" Muslim boy), and the one where she goes to film school in New York City--and maybe, just maybe, kisses a guy she's only known from afar. There's the also the fun stuff, like laughing with her best friend Violet, making on-the-spot documentaries, sneaking away for private swimming lessons at a secret pond in the woods. But her world is shattered when a suicide bomber strikes in the American heartland; by chance, he shares Maya's last name. What happens to the one Muslim family in town when their community is suddenly consumed with hatred and fear? (Summary from Goodreads)
This book has been getting a lot of buzz in the YA community, and not just cause it has a fantastic cover. I've only hear amazing things about this debut novel and I can't wait to get a copy for myself. It sounds intense but also fun and romantic and like it'll be a punch to the gut. Mark your calendars for this one! I know I have!

- Ciara (at Midnight) 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday (83): Busted by Gina Ciocca

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine in which bloggers talk about the books they are most eager for!

This Week's Pick: Busted by Gina Ciocca
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: January 2nd, 2018

Marisa wasn’t planning to be a snoop for hire—until she accidentally caught her best friend’s boyfriend making out with another girl. Now her reputation for sniffing out cheaters has spread all over school, and Marisa finds herself the reluctant queen of busting two-timing boys.

But when ex-frenemy Kendall asks her to spy on her boyfriend, TJ, Marisa quickly discovers the girl TJ might be falling for is Marisa herself. And worse yet? The feelings are quickly becoming mutual. Now, she’s stuck spying on a “mystery girl” and the spoken-for guy who just might be the love of her life… (Summary from Goodreads)

Okay, isn't that cover just so great? It's simple but striking and the colour scheme is on point. I just find it completely eye-catching, and I can't wait to see what it looks like printed.

I adored Gina Ciocca's debut Last Year's Mistake and I've been eagerly anticipating her sophomore release. Busted sounds like such a fun read. One of those books you just don't want to stop reading and wish for more when it's over. I dread January but at least I'll have this little gem to look forward to.

What are you waiting on this week?

- Ciara (at Midnight)

Monday, October 2, 2017

Review: The End of Our Story by Meg Haston

Title: The End of Our Story
Author: Meg Haston
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: April 4th
Source: ARC received from my employer, Indigo Books & Music, Inc., in exchange for an honest review

My Rating: 3.5/5

Meg Haston's romantic and thrilling new YA novel explores a star-crossed high school relationship in a tale rife with deeply buried secrets and shocking revelations.

Bridge and Wil have been entangled in each other’s lives for years. Under the white-hot Florida sun, they went from kids daring each other to swim past the breakers to teenagers stealing kisses between classes. But when Bridge betrayed Wil during their junior year, she shattered his heart and their relationship along with it.

Then Wil’s family suffers a violent loss, and Bridge rushes back to Wil’s side. As they struggle to heal old wounds and start falling for each other all over again, Bridge and Wil discover just how much has changed in the past year. As the fierce current of tragedy threatens to pull them under, they must learn how to swim on their own—or risk drowning together. (Summary from Goodreads)
The first time I heard about The End of Our Story was at the HCC Frenzy Preview. The cover instantly caught my eye, but it was the plot that hooked me. The story of a couple’s break-up, told through flashbacks and present trauma. It sounded right up my alley. When I was offered an ARC through the Teen ARC program at my work, I immediately requested a copy.

I dived head first into this book. I was emotionally invested in the characters from page one. Watching their relationship blossom, deteriorate, and rekindle (slowly, tentatively, and hesitantly) was engrossing. Most books I’ve read start when a relationship is beginning, but The End of Our Story focused on how relationships can break, and the aftermath of that devestation. I loved how thoughtfully this book was plotted. The back and forth between Wil and Bridge, between the present and the past kept me engaged and aching for more.

The writing itself was poignant, beautiful prose. Small sentences would stick out, the smart and heartfelt way Meg Haston would phrase things made it all the more captivating. It was a story where I wanted to read every word on the page, where I wanted to take my time to let myself soak in the prose. It wasn’t flowery or overly descriptive language, but simple direct ways of making the most ordinary phrases into something a little more moving.

I’m going to avoid directly addressing the plot, because I don’t want to spoil it. I still feel, months later, that I’m processing just what happened. I think the problem for me was that I was not anticipating the novel to take such a dark turn. I am usually able to prepare myself, so when the big plot point happened in The End of Our Story (near the beginning of the novel, no less) I was shocked. It took me awhile to process just what was happening, which did pull me out of the story sometimes. It was the characters though, the passionate Bridge and the incredible Wil, that had me sucked back in. Their relationship truly made this novel for me.

I also experienced some nostalgia while reading this book. For make-ups and break-ups. For moving on and growing up. Although Bridge and Wil, their town, their school, their lives overall did not resemble mine, there was something there that reminded me of the past. This is a novel I will look back on with fondness. I’ve only read one book of hers, but Meg Haston will be an author I watch out for.

If you like emotional, character-driven, thoughtful novels, put The End of Our Story on your TBR. You won’t regret it.

- Ciara (at Midnight)

Find This Book: | Indigo | Goodreads | HarperCollins | Meg Haston 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Title: Genuine Fraud
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: September 5th, 2017
Source: ARC Received through my employer, Indigo Books and Music, Inc., in exchange for an honest review

My Rating: 2/5

The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was. (Summary from Goodreads)

I wish more than anything that I was writing about how intriguing, exciting, and mind-blowing this book was. I wish I could sing it's praises. But, I can't. In fact, the longer I sit thinking about this book, the more frustrated with it I became. Because there was so much potential in this story. Or, should I say, retelling. And I think this is where the frustration begins. If Genuine Fraud had been marketed as a gender-swapped retelling of a certain famous book/movie and actually did something different with it's execution, I could have been behind it. If it had used this story line as a jumping off point to discuss gender, female friendships, and the perception of women, I would have been all about it. But, it wasn't. Anyways, I'm getting ahead of myself.

I want to start by saying: this wasn’t a terrible book. I know I rated it pretty low, but it wasn’t because of the writing, or the overall feel of the book. I definitely did find the pacing to be off at points, but my interest was definitely piqued at the start. That is, until this book started following a path I had already seen before. 

In an effort not to spoil, I won’t say what book/movie Genuine Fraud mimicked. There’s lots of reviews on Goodreads that will tell you. Honestly, it felt like this book was just [redacted] with different characters, different cities, and told as a nonlinear narrative. As soon as I realized the comparison, the suspense immediately dropped off. I knew exactly how it would all play out, which completely took away the thrill. I hoped, even though I knew the plot, that there would be some deeper exploration at work. This book is gender-swapped (in terms of it's original premise) and E. Lockhart is a pretty feminist writer. I was hoping that this would be what it's all about: how women can treat each other, how society views and mistreats women, the psychological effects of obsessive female friendships. Sometimes I read lines that seemed to be going down that path but they were never followed up. Which made me sad about what this book could have been.

The thing is, if you haven’t read or seen [redacted] this book was good. An interesting unreliable narrator, the stirrings of obsessive friendship, and a mystery that unravels slowly all blended together to make for an intriguing read. Although I was frustrated, I definitely wanted to see how it would all played out. I’m not the type of reader that needs a definitive ending. I love an exploration of character, a slice of life with no beginning or end. But, it needs a little bit more in the middle, more depth for me to appreciate it. I feel like the focus on the plot, a plot I’d personally already seen, lost me. I just kept wishing for a bit more from this book. 

On the positive side: I love nonlinear narratives, and I think Genuine Fraud did a good job using nonlinear narrative to its fullest potential. Each step back in time led to new revelations. Sometimes the revelations were small, sometimes much much larger, but they kept me itching to see what would be revealed next. Jule was interesting because you could never quite trust what she was saying. At the beginning of the novel, I was hanging on her every word, intrigued to see behind her mask. I liked pulling on the strings of the mystery, waiting to see what would come next. There were small details and lines that lit up light bulbs in my brain. Even though I knew the plot and that lessened the suspense, I was definitely intrigued to see how it would all unravel.

I adore E. Lockhart. My disappointment in this book is not going to stop me reading her books. She is a smart, talented writer. She often explores gender dynamics, which is why I was sad I didn’t see it more in this book. And, I wouldn’t say to skip Genuine Fraud. It wasn’t a book for me, in the end, but it was captivating at points. I know lots of people are going to enjoy it. I, unfortunately, just didn’t end up being one of them.

 P.S. If you haven’t read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks yet, honestly get on that it is twenty shades of brilliant.