Contemporary Reviews: Because reading this genre always goes so well for me

Whaddup whaddup. Happy Halloween!! I hope negative reviews are spooky enough for you.

Has it been too long since I’ve posted? Probably, right? It seems like a safe bet to assume I’m constantly going too long without posting. I’m really good with schedules and organization and efficiency and having my life together, you guys. Nothing is falling to total ruin around me as I pile more and more onto my plate, signing up for more and more things and handling none of them appropriately or anything like that. I didn’t skip a class this morning in order to sleep for four more hours or something.

Moving on.

The genre I read the most of is easily young adult contemporary. And the genre I abhor with the most consistency, you ask? Also contemporary. Everything I do is logical, guys. I am really running my own existence in a rational way that definitely has viability in the long term.

I AM THIS CLOSE TO AN EMOTIONAL BREAKDOWN. I KNOW I SAY THAT PRETTY OFTEN BUT I MEAN IT THIS TIME. CONSIDER THIS A WARNING SIGN ORGANIZE THE INTERVENTION RIGHT NOW I AM ON THE VERGE OF GOING INTO A COMA JUST FOR THE SWEET SWEET RELIEF.

Okay. I am on topic I am focused this is good.

Today I will be here posting the reviews of two contemporaries that both should have been good and were instead not, because life is just a series of disappointments.

They are What to Say Next and Radio Silence. Away we go.


WHAT TO SAY NEXT

Synopsis: Two struggling teenagers find an unexpected connection just when they need it most.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her. 

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

 

Review: 1.5/5

I am FURIOUS – DOYOUHEARMEFURIOUS – at how good this book could have been. I am shaking mad. This could have been a five star read. This could have been an all-time-favorite contemporary. It wasTHISFREAKINGCLOSE. But noooo. It just had to go and ruin itself.

Let me back up. (Picture me sighing for, like, four consecutive minutes or something really ridiculously and worryingly long like that.)

In this book, we follow Kit, a really popular girl whose dad died and then that made her, like, super deep, and David, who is amazing. David has high functioning autism (which a lot of people know as Asperger’s), or borderline has it. He’s extraordinarily smart and sweet and an almost-perfect character who gets dumped in the sh*ttiest possible narrative for himself.

He gets – picture me sighing for even longer this time, or perhaps screaming – She’s All That-ed.

When I say She’s All That-ed, I am referencing the 1999 romantic comedy starring Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook giving a truly pivotal performance. It’s an American classic. A must-watch. In fact you should probably just go watch it instead of reading this review.

But I’ll explain, for those of you who have no care for the incredible genre that is pre-21st century teen flicks.

In She’s All That, we follow Freddie Prinze, Jr. (read: Kit) a hot popular guy who needs a prom date for some reason I can’t recall. Rachael Leigh Cook (read: David) is an extraordinarily pretty art nerd, but nooooo oneeeee knows she’s a total hottie because she wears glasses and weird clothes and probably has paint smeared on her face or something.

Whatever. It’s dumb.

Anyway, Rachael Leigh Cook undergoes a makeover in order to become a suitable sex object for Freddie Prinze, Jr., she’s a total babe, it’s happily ever after. There’s a storyline about a bet involved; it’s all fun.

Here is the Thing about this exact thing being acted out in book form here: it is not only boring and #oldnews, but David has, as I have mentioned, high-functioning autism.

David, previous to being made over, wore outfits that made him feel comfortable because he is very susceptible to the feeling of fabric. Post-makeover, he wears “““cool””” clothes. He gets a socially acceptable haircut.

PREVIOUS TO MAKEOVER, David is bullied horrifyingly! His head was held underwater in a toilet that had sh*t in it! People ignore him or mock him or are offended by his very presence!

POST MAKEOVER EVERYONE WANTS TO F*CK HIM. INCLUDING KIT.

The only reason that David is a valid character in this book (and a valid sex object for Freddie Prinze, Jr. Kit) is because he becomes conventionally attractive. Which would be shallow and horrible in any book, but is especially poignant considering DAVID IS ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM.

Do you see what I mean about this book’s dashed potential.

There are other things about this book that make me want to smash my head against a wall. Although I kind of feel like that one would have been enough to warrant head-smashing anyway. But whatever, we’ll never know, there are more.

(And to clarify, I have not yet done any purposeful damage to my cranium.)

One thing is another GREAT thing that turns out Bad. Kit is, on the surface, a cool and important character to have in YA, because she is half Indian (ethnic diversity!) and curvy (body diversity!). These are things we don’t get that often.

HOWEVER , you may have forgotten that nothing is ever allowed to be good, and this will of course be ruined. The body diversity is kind of ruined, because Kit’s mom body-shames her all the time and even though Kit and her mom have drama and then make up and everything is hugs and kisses, this is never resolved. BUT WORSE, Kit’s grandparents (who are Indian) are described as being “racist.”

Against white people.

That’s not a thing.

That should be all I have to say about that. (Even though I will probably receive some sort of message or comment on this point. And I do not discourage that, honestly. If you are interested in receiving a polite explanation of why it is not possible to be racist against white people, my inbox is open.)

That’s Book-Ruiner Number Two.

Number Three is the return of a fan favorite. (“Fan favorite” is a phrase that here means “fan least favorite.”) It’s girl hate, baby!

Do you want examples? Because of course I brought examples. Far be it from me to make accusations without backing it up man!!!

One, “My tone reminds me of the kind of girl I’ve never been: needling, faux, cutesy, hyperflirty.” This is a particularly sh*tty example of the always sh*tty phrase “kind of girl.” I do not know why young adult authors have such a hard time grasping the idea that Girls Do Not Come In Kinds. And this is also such a damaging stereotype and I hate it.

Two, “I imagine […] I am the kind of girl who can rock a bikini and sunglasses and whose entire existence can be described by the wordfrolic.” This is just straight up no one. If there is a girl – scratch that,person (because if this bullsh*t writing tactic wasn’t sexist the phrase would be “kind of person”) – whose existence can be described by the world “frolic,” then she must be half horse. And living in a meadow. Alone. In a place untouched by humanity, or twenty-four hour news, or watermelon-flavored Oreos, or any other type of evil. And also I would like to become her.

This one kind of melds into Reason This Book Is An Injustice Against David Number Three.

Which is that, besides David, the entirety of this book has been DONE. It is all trope. It offers nothing new. It is, in other words, an unoriginal snoozefest.

Examples: Popular-girl-associating-with-nerd, nerd-becoming-popular, nerd-realizing-he-doesn’t-need-popularity-he-just-needs-HER. (Gasp. Revolutionary. Shocking. Profound. Not at all the plotline of the 1980s chick flick Can’t Buy Me Love starring a young and sexy Patrick Dempsey.) Successful fringe character goes to college, and, gasp, DOESN’T find effortless popularity. Bullies, bullies taking a notebook from a nerd. “Popular bitches” (that’s the actual phrase used in this book) who are incapable of understanding anything more profound than specifically prom. Mean jocks. Feeling superior to your friends. (Have I mentioned how cool Kit is?) (That was sarcasm. She sucks.) (Her friends are cooler than her and better characters and they deserve a better third in their trio.) (I volunteer as tribute.) Yet another instance of the truly revolutionary and tear-inducing concept of Cliques Being Bad.

I actually fell asleep while typing that paragraph. I sleep-sassed. I just woke up.

But the overlap in the Venn diagram of “girl hate in this book” and “this book is so bananas unoriginal” has a name: “the popular bitches.” The complete nonsensical-ness of their treatment can be summed up in one awkwardly excerpted and fairly long quote, inspired by one of these girls having the balls to pout, “though she doesn’t actually look upset. More like she’s posing for a selfie.” (Pause so I can comment on how boring and stupid and mean and offensive and DONE it is to mock teenage girls for selfie-related reasons. Unpause. Sorry.) “Do any of them have real human emotions? Why do I suddenly feel like I’m surrounded by actors cast as teenagers? Like I’m the only one with a real and messy life. I realize that can’t be true. I’ve heard that Abby goes to an outpatient eating-disorder clinic, and that Jessica has experimented with cutting, which suggests that despite their shiny exteriors, they’re also fighting their own demons. Willow, I’m not so sure. It’s entirely possible that she truly believes she’s starring in her own reality show.”

Um.

I don’t even know where to start on how messed up that quote is.

So I’m not going to.

Bottom line: David, David, David. Maybe you should kinda-sorta read this book just for him. BUT DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU ABOUT THE OTHER STUFF.


RADIO SILENCE

Synopsis: What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…

She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

 

Review: 2/5

What. Is. This. Book.

Like…how do I review a book if I don’t know my feelings on it? AND HOW DO I DECIDE WHAT MY FEELINGS ARE IF I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS?

Okay. Let me go with the old classics and start off by stating what I know: a synopsis and the few concrete opinions I have.

So in this book we follow Frances, a studying machine who is a huge fangirl of a podcast (for a podcast? What is the proper grammar for “fangirl”). She then finds out that a total dweeb named Aled is the one making it, and they become friends and whatnot and are wildly successful and drama ensues or whatever. Aled has a lot of family drama. Things go down.

That’s the story, morning glory.

Now let’s get to the real treat: my opinions. How exciting.

Most importantly, this book is SO EFFORTLESSLY DIVERSE. Frances is bisexual. Aled is asexual and gay. (This is technically something that is revealed later on in the story, but I don’t like treating sexuality like a spoiler generally. Ace representation especially is SO RARE and v important. So I’m not going to, like, hide that from you guys. It’s not even a huge reveal. It’s just character growth and recognition and whatnot.) Frances is also half-Ethiopian and has a single mother, as does Aled, I think. It’s all just very good. All YA should be as easily inclusive as this. It makes for a much richer story.

Wow. How…earnest. Shiver.

There’s also no romance in this book which is just…profoundly refreshing. But also kind of weird in this context? Because it seemsvery romancey at times. It just doesn’t end up that way. So I’d like more of this, please, but also less romancey even than this.

The last good thing is that I read it in a day.

FURTHERMORE.

I did not really love or very much even like this book.

I know. I don’t know how many reasons I have for it. This book and I just didn’t click. And even if there are things about it that are really very good, and even if generally I would recommend this book to those that are interested, I’m not going to make myself give this a rating that doesn’t feel true.

I didn’t love the writing style. And overall I guess it just felt really strange to me. I felt so odd about marking this as “contemporary” because it DOESN’T FEEL LIKE THAT AT ALL. It’s so unrealistic as to almost not take place in our world. The way the characters act, but also just the way that people act as a whole…it felt like fantasy or magical realism. I don’t know. The plot jumped around a lot which, you know, didn’t exactly help to GROUND me in the magical world of steampunk whimsy in which we find ourselves.

Plus reading about England is always slightly weird. It’s like America, but not! (Insert a million angry British people in the comments.)

And “Universe City,” the podcast Aled makes/Frances obsesses over, is really just a copy of Welcome to Night Vale. It says it’s inspired by, but it’s really the same thing. And Welcome to Night Vale is a lot cooler and more exciting and interesting.

This is so weird and choppy but I’m still REALLY TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHY I DIDN’T LIKE THIS. I’M SORRY.

Okay. I took a two week break to reflect. I vacationed, I sat on beaches, I looked out train windows onto rainy landscapes with my head resting on my hand, other tropes about thinking. And I think I know what it is.

It’s…the characters.

There’s a lot of insta-friendship, which always feels uncomfy. And everyone treats each other sh*ttily (I love making the word sh*t into an adverb) and do things that people would just like, never do. Everyone is flat, and if they’re not flat then they end up acting totally unrealistically and then that MAKES them flat and I don’t get it!!!!! I am so screaming into the void right now and even the void is like you’re not making any sense!!!!!!

This is the worst review I’ve ever written. AND STILL I DON’T LIKE THIS BOOK.

Bottom line: Yeah read this if you want to. Literally don’t listen to me at all. I’M DELETING MY BLOG BYE


 

So here we are. Two more non-great books under the ol’ belt. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, or whatever.

WOW this is reading as so much more emotional-crisis than my typical slightly-batty-but-mainly-hilarious brand. Time for me to go!!!!

14 thoughts on “Contemporary Reviews: Because reading this genre always goes so well for me

  1. Charlotte says:

    I really want to read Radio Silence after seeing a lot of people mention it. Did you really rate it 2 stars? That sucks, I thought it was supposed to be really good. I think I might still give it a chance, I’ve never read a book with an asexual character before.

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      yes, i really rated it 2 stars, hence why it says 2 stars

      def give it a try if you’re interested bc it’s unique and has good rep but it was not for me

      Like

  2. Bookthesimple says:

    I adore your reviews what the hell? Are you, like, ACTUALLY okay? Radio Silence kind of got to you? 😯
    I’ve never really read contemporaries (especially romances. shudder) because I’m emotionally unstable as it is so actual feelings aren’t really what I want..? But damn. At least there was diverse character rep!?

    Also WHAT, YOU EGG? BRITAIN IS AMAZING THANK YOU VERY MUCH!! HOW VERY DARE YOU!! 😡😂

    And how is racism against white people not a thing??

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      do you have a goodreads or something? b/c i’d be more than happy to talk about how racism against white people isn’t real, i just hate having long conversations via wordpress comments.

      & thanks b!!!! yes i had a Legitimate Emotional Crisis yesterday it was quite intense and threatened to bubble and overflow like a volcano while i wrote this, but i managed to hold it off and instead do the logical thing and experience intense turmoil in public!!!

      Like

      • Bookthesimple says:

        Of course I have a goodreads! I’m Phoebe @bookthesimple

        And wow! Legitimate Emotional Crisis all in capitals? That’s bad! Oh public turmoil is so much better than private. You can just FEEL the judgement… 😳😭

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Emma says:

    oof that first book sounds like an absolute shitshow but I’m crossing my fingers that I do end up liking radio silence?? I’ll read it for the bi and ace rep if nothing else honestly

    also I need to listen to more of welcome to night vale, that show is some of the coolest and weirdest shit my ears have ever encountered

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emma Goodwin says:

      SAME ON NEEDING TO LISTEN TO MORE OF WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE

      honestly idk what went wrong w me and radio silence, everyone else liked it and tbh they’re probably right

      Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      when i say “racist,” i’m using a definition that includes sociological, societal, and historical context. it’s not possible to be racist against white people in western society because white people are the dominant group. for example: a nonwhite person who dislikes white people is biased; a white person who dislikes a nonwhite population is acting as part of an existing system of dominance and oppression. i’m white, so i’m not a good source on this topic. i recommend the show Dear White People and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted talk on the dangers of a single story if you want more information.

      Like

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