So Shelly by Ty Roth

Description from Goodreads:

Until now, high school junior, John Keats, has only tiptoed near the edges of the vortex that is schoolmate and literary prodigy, Gordon Byron. That is, until their mutual friend, Shelly, drowns in a sailing accident.

After stealing Shelly’s ashes from her wake at Trinity Catholic High School, the boys set a course for the small Lake Erie island where Shelly’s body had washed ashore and to where she wished to be returned. It would be one last “so Shelly” romantic quest. At least that’s what they think. As they navigate around the obstacles and resist temptations during their odyssey, Keats and Gordon glue together the shattered pieces of Shelly’s and their own pasts while attempting to make sense of her tragic and premature end.

I really wanted to like this book.  The premise sounds really interesting.  Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it.

Gordon drove me nuts.  Ya know those Dos Equis commercials about the Most Interesting Man in the World?  I HATE those commercials, but that is exactly what Gordon was.  Everything he did turned to gold.  Everyone loved him.  But really he was a complete asshole.  He was self centered and treated everyone around him like crap.  I had zero respect for him and was frustrated that the book was almost completely his story.  His sexual exploits grew pretty tiring after a while.

Shelly… part of me felt sorry for her and I did understand her more than the other characters.  I didn’t get why no one intervened when she was obviously depressed – John, or a teacher, or someone.

And finally John.  Sometimes I forgot that John was a character in the book and not just the narrator.  He was just there, but not really involved in the story.  The stuff about his family just seemed kind of random and unrelated to/unnecessary for the story.

Really, that’s another thing that bugged me about the book.  Some of the stories just seemed so random and not necessarily related to the story as a whole.  It kind of made the book feel disjointed.  After reading the information about the real poets at the end, I do understand that the author was trying to incorporate many aspects of their lives into this story, but I  don’t feel like it worked that well.

I did like that the writing wasn’t dumbed down just because it is a YA book.  The author wasn’t afraid to use “SAT words” and I really appreciated that.

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

The award-winning author of Finnikin of the Rock and Jellicoe Road pens a raw, compelling novel about a family’s hard-won healing on the other side of trauma.

Award-winning author Melina Marchetta reopens the story of the group of friends from her acclaimed novel Saving Francesca – but five years have passed, and now it’s Thomas Mackee who needs saving. After his favorite uncle was blown to bits on his way to work in a foreign city, Tom watched his family implode. He quit school and turned his back on his music and everyone that mattered, including the girl he can’t forget. Shooting for oblivion, he’s hit rock bottom, forced to live with his single, pregnant aunt, work at the Union pub with his former friends, and reckon with his grieving, alcoholic father. Tom’s in no shape to mend what’s broken. But what if no one else is either? An unflinching look at family, forgiveness, and the fierce inner workings of love and friendship, The Piper’s Son redefines what it means to go home again.

This book.  Wow.  I don’t even know where to begin.  It was so beautiful and so broken.  Just wonderful.  I’m totally gushing, but I can’t help it.  :)  It was just that good.  This is the story of a broken family and a broken boy.  Their story of healing is so real.  It isn’t trite.  There are no easy answers and everyone’s reactions (or non-reactions) are completely believable.  Other reviews I read described this as an emotional roller coaster and that is the best way to say it.  I laughed a lot and I cried at really inopportune times, like in the cafeteria at work and in the stands of a baseball game during a rain out.

Since Saving Francesca, Tom’s world has fallen apart.  His beloved uncle is dead, his father is an alcoholic that has disappeared, his mother has moved away with his sister, his tight knit extended family is estranged, he ruined his relationship with Tara Finke, and he has pushed away all his friends.  Tom has hit rock bottom, and there’s no where to go but up.  I love that he doesn’t make the decision to pull himself back together.  He actually kind of fights it, but it just happens to him slowly as the book progresses.  There were times I wanted to slap him and times I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him that everything will be okay eventually.  I loved that he started reconnecting with Frankie and Justine at the pub and slowly but surely the relationship he had with them in Saving Francesca began to creep back out.  Tom and Tara’s relationship was frustrating, but I loved that it moved slowly.  It was so realistic that they didn’t just come straight back together.  Brilliant.

This book really could have been just about Tom, but I loved that it was about his family and their road to healing from tragedy.  Aunt Georgie was amazing.  Not only was she dealing with the loss of her brother, but she was also dealing with her emotions with Sam.  I think the things that happened in the past with Sam helped her deal with Dominic and Tom.  She understands how  you can lose someone without losing them the way they lost Joe, and she doesn’t want that for Dominic and Tom.  She wants to push them back together, but knows that that isn’t the best thing to do, just like she and Sam have to work through the emotions to figure out what their relationship is.  The entire family is a mess with people not being honest with each other and skirting around the truth and not sharing their hurt.  I know I keep saying this, but it just felt so real.  I sometimes forgot I was reading about fictional characters. I liked that the end doesn’t just tie everything up in a bow.  The foundation is laid for everyone to be in a better place, but the end of the book isn’t the end of the family’s healing.

Overall, this book skirted the edge of YA.  It was a very adult book, but still one that I think young adults would understand.  This is also the first book in a while that has taken me a full week to read.  I usually fly through books, especially those I love, but I am glad my schedule this week made me slow down and savor this book.  I can’t wait to read the rest of Melina Marchetta’s books, though I think I will be sad when I reach the end of them!

Read as part of the Aussie YA Challenge and my Melina Marchetta challenge.

Weekly Recap 4/10/11

I didn’t get a lot of reading done this week because baseball season started back!  I went to three games this week (one of which included a post game concert by The Avett Brothers) and while it was awesome, I am wiped out!

Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney – This was okay.  I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love Finbar, so he drove me crazy.  But overall, it was cute and a funny idea for a book.

Plague (Gone, Bk 4) by Michael Grant – I really struggled through this.  Parts of the book were extremely disgusting. Overall, I felt like nothing was really happened and it was a filler book between the last book and the next one.  And a 500 page filler book is way too much.  I finally set a goal and decided that I was giving myself through today and then giving up.  I did end up finishing it, but it was a struggle.  I feel like this series started really strong and now the author is just trying to see what else he can throw in to keep selling books.

In My Mailbox 4/10/11

Books Received:

  • Plague (Gone, Bk 4) by Michael Grant
  • Winter Longing by Tricia Mills
  • The Lying Game by Sara Shepard
  • Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
  • The Unidentified by Rae Mariz
  • Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
  • 127 Hours by Aron Ralston

Books Mailed:

  • Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney
  • Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg
  • The Girl Who Was on Fire edited by Leah Wilson
  • Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi
  • Plague (Gone, Bk 4) by Michael Grant

Current TBR Stats

  • TBR 1/1/2011: 232
  • Current TBR: 233
  • Books Read: 53
  • Books Received from PBS FIFO: 26
  • Books Received from PBS Games: 17
  • Books Purchased: 16
  • Books Mailed: 59
  • Books Purged: 12

Weekly Recap 4/3/11

The YA Challenge is over!  YAY!!!!!  It was great.  I read a lot of books I’ve had sitting on my shelf that had never bubbled up to the top of my reading choices.  But I have a bunch of books I have wanted to read, but they weren’t worth a lot of points and Competitive Me would only read things that were worth a lot of points. Heh.  So now I have a few swap books to read, then I am wide open to read what I want!  Double YAY!!!!! :)

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell – This was okay.  It wasn’t terrible, but I didn’t love it.  I found Gen and most of the other kids at the camp really annoying, but I think that might have been partly because they were really young.  There were parts that didn’t make sense (like having a cell signal in the middle of nowhere).  I kept waiting for Gen’s family to get better at some part of camp life.

The White Cat (The Curse Workers, Bk 1) by Holly Black – I liked this.  I found the world pretty interesting, though occasionally confusing.  I liked Cassel and his school friends.  The book was interesting and different and I’m interested to see where it goes in the next book.

The Girl Who Was on Fire edited by Leah Wilson – I liked this overall.  A couple of the essays didn’t hold my attention, but most of them were interesting and thought provoking. The essay The Politics of Mockingjay should have been more about the politics of Mockingjay and less about the politics of George W. Bush and how super smart and special the author of that essay is.  Reading this made me want to reread the series!

In My Mailbox 4/3/11

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi over at The Story Siren. Click here to learn more about it.

This was another slow week in terms of receiving books, but I’m actually really okay with that.  Since I’ve actually been reading faster than I’m receiving books for the last few weeks, I’m back under my beginning of the year TBR total, which is absolutely fantastic!  I am determined to get that number down!

I’m really glad the YA Challenge I was in is over now.  I spent way too much on postage in March.  I think my mailing will slow for a little bit so I can use the credits I’ve accumulated on PaperBackSwap.

Books Received:

  • Wither by Lauren DeStefano
  • Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Books Mailed:

  • Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs
  • The House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
  • Devilish by Maureen Johnson
  • Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
  • The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephart
  • The Deathday Letter by Shaun David Hutchison
  • Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell
  • The White Cat by Holly Black

Current TBR Stats:

  • TBR 1/1/2011: 232
  • Current TBR: 231
  • Books Read: 51
  • Books Received from PBS FIFO: 26
  • Books Received from PBS Games: 16
  • Books Purchased: 13
  • Books Mailed: 55
  • Books Purged: 12