I hate a lot of books. 2.7 average rating for 2017, 2.97 average overall rating on Goodreads, bla bla bla, you’ve heard it before. In addition to that fact, there is also the fact that I read a lot of popular YA books. Probably mostly popular YA books.
So. In conclusion, I read a lot of well-loved YA and I hate a lot of what I read. Bring those things together and you’ve got the formula for consistently unpopular opinions boi!!
But there’s another side to the unpopular opinion, and that is “Here is a book that people aren’t all that into that I loved a lot.” It is, in short, the more fun side. And here are three times that it happened to me!!!
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
Finally, I had an unpopular opinion…………but in the fun way!
Honestly, even though hating the books that everyone loves makes me feel #quirky and #unique and dare I say…not like other girls, it gets old. Hating the books your friends love = no fun.
Liking the books your friends hate, on the other hand: A BLAST.
All the shenanigans and special-snowflake-ness of an unpopular opinion with none of the pain and full-on suffering of reading a bad book! I should do this more often. Fingers crossed.
Now it’s time for the hard part of the review, when I have to explain why I liked the book. Which, in this case? Difficult.
Synopsis first. Let’s put the hard stuff off. Procrastination nation and all that!!!
Alice is a weirdo teenage girl who has been on the run with her mom, Ella, for her whole life. Not on the run from the law. As fun as that would be, this is EVEN MORE FUN: they are on the run from bad luck!!! Everywhere they go, bad luck follows them.
Then Alice’s grandmother dies. Ol’ Granny was the author of a cult-classic book of creeeepy fairytales. Alice has long been obsessed with her, but never met her – and never read the book, although she’s read all the information on it she can find. Once Grandmama dies, Alice’s mom, who she constantly calls by her first name like the lil rebel she is, is hype. She’s like, bad luck over! We’re moving to the Big Apple, baby.
And they do. Ella marries a reeeeaaaaally rich guy. Alice goes to a private school and works in an overpriced pretentious coffee shop. They’re living large.
Until Ella gets kidnapped, and Alice is forced to do exactly what she was told NOT to do: Team up with one of Grandmummy’s crazy fans (her semi-attractive classmate, Ellery Finch) and go to G-ma’s estate (The Hazel Wood).
I love fairytales, dark and creeeeepy ones most of all, so…pretty ideal for me. Yeah.
Now, good news or bad news first? Let’s do bad news.
Yes, the main character of this whole shindig. We do indeed spend the lion’s share of our time in her head. It’s not a buttered-popcorn-flavored jellybean level of unpleasant, but it’s not awesome.
Alice is very mean. Unnecessarily so. I am okay with a mean character sometimes, if they are also badass and/or smart, but Alice is not extremely either of those. It makes for a bumpy ride.
She is really obsessed with her mom, too. Like, actually the only relationship in her life is with her mom. It’s pretty toxic stuff. Never corrected, because of course not, but there are more books. Fingers crossed.
Alice sucks, and partner-in-crime extraordinaire Ellery Finch (who goes by his last name, as is the habit of the worst kinds of pretentious YA rich boys), is eh at best. So not off to a good start.
The other characters (Alice’s stepfather and stepsister; Ella; people who hop in and out of the narrative as is convenient) are not awesome either.
In most books, without-exception-sh*tty characters would be a dealbreaker. But not here, my dear boy! Au contraire, mon frère! They make up for it, almost, but not to the degree that I’d give it any more than 3.5 stars.
As mentioned, I love fairytales, and this feels very fairytaley. Which is extremely rare in YA, I think. It’s a particular feeling. It’s also really creepy! How cool is that! Also so rare! This book is atmospheric as hell and it full-on nails it.
I also lovelovelove the writing style. It is, as I literally just said, fairytaley/creepy/atmospheric. It is also beautiful, AND SO RICH IN DETAIL I COULD DIE OF HAPPINESS. I am obsessed with fun facts, but I don’t think those work super well outside of contemporary.
So it’s cool that this book did one better: it just entwined lots of details and allusions and names and places and objects and books and people and artists into the text, and made me Google. I LOVED IT. I Googled so many things and read so many Wikipedia pages in the course of this book. What more could you want?
It makes such a detailed, realistic world (v helpful for magical realism as bonkers as this) and is also just the best reading experience.
Also. Also also also: NO ROMANCE.
YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY.
NOOOOOOOOO ROMANCE WHATSOEVER.
Okay, maybe traces. When you read “partnered up with semi-attractive boy of her own age,” or whatever equivalent phrase I wrote in my handy-dandy synopsis (yes, I am literally so lazy that I won’t scroll up in my own review, what of it) I’m sure you assumed “ah, there is the romance.”
Me too, baby blue. (Look at me making up expressions. It’s almost like this is the seventh review in a row I’m writing.) Anyway. There are romancey moments between Finch and Alice. Alice almost-but-not-quite feels something for him. It might be friendship.
Either way, they don’t end up together. (Spoiler?? I don’t know who cares! Does it count as a spoiler if it’s a good thing that should convince you to read the book?? Sorry if it does but also I disagree with you!) I don’t think they kiss either, unless I’ve forgotten a beautiful romantic moment between descriptions of pee-scented pillows.
And a YA fantasy without a romance is more refreshing than I can say.
Also, I want to read Tales from the Hinterland (Grandnanny’s book) so badly. If Melissa Albert is smart, or loves me or the world or both, she will write that spinoff.
Bottom line: I’ve never read a YA fantasy book like this!!! And it wasn’t perfect but I’m going to chase that feeling of uniqueness baby!!
Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.
Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.
That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.
Ahem. (Picture me gently clinking a knife on the side of a wine glass, or whatever that classy thing is people do before they give toasts at swanky dinner parties.)
Hello, everyone. If I could get your attention. I just want to say a few words.
So you all know Emily, yes? Emily Henry? The writer of this very book?
I only “met” Emily for the first time in June of last year, when I read her book A Million Junes. And as soon as I picked it up, I knew. It wasn’t just the pretty cover or the compelling synopsis – it was deeper than that. This was love.
But, you know, I thought I’d known before, so I waited it out. I finished the book before I made any announcements. And it was just as I had thought and hoped and dreamed it would be: a beautiful, truthful magical realism with wonderful, funny characters, strong female friendship, a happy family, a charming romance that didn’t take over the narrative, and above all, perhaps the loveliest writing style I’d ever encountered in YA. I was hooked.
Love at first sight turned out to be true love. ❤ ❤ ❤
Still, love is a bumpy road. So I waited six months to be sure before I picked up her first book. With a pretty low average rating, complaints of a slow plot and instalove, I knew this would be the ultimate test of my affections. I entered with trepidation.
From the start, I should have known I needn’t have worried. It was another gorgeous cover, another compelling synopsis. As I began reading, I discovered the same wonderful magical realism, sense of humor, full and lovable characters, friendships, and that irresistible writing that had made me fall in love in the first place.
The romance was a little much comparatively, it’s true, but who has time to be bothered by love being laid on a little thick when there’s time travel and parallel universes and Native American folklore and coming of age and the most nostalgic, caring depiction of the end of high school I’ve ever read?
I guess The Love That Split the World isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. Looks like it’s a question that split the world! I kid, I kid.
In short, Emily Henry, I loved your second, underrated-but-acclaimed book, and I loved your underloved debut. I love the brilliantly done magical realism, the banter, the characters, the friendships and family relationships that aren’t left by the wayside, the realness of the emotions, and above all, the gorgeous writing.
So…(picture me getting on one knee here, or something)…Emily, I have a very important question to ask you:
Will you be the only YA author on my all time favorite authors list?
(Here is either where I’ll insert a SHE SAID YES!!! Or just leave this parenthetical here in the event that she doesn’t respond. I have to be honest with myself and say it’s probably going to be the latter.)
Bottom line: Apparently this book isn’t for everyone. BUT DON’T YOU EVER COME INTO THIS HOUSE AND INSULT MY
WIFE FAVORITE YA AUTHOR.
Lottie Reeves has always struggled with anxiety, and when her beloved Aunt Helen dies, Lottie begins to fear that her own unexpected death might be waiting around every corner.
Aunt Helen wasn’t a typical aunt. She was the author of the best–selling Alvin Hatter series, about siblings who discover the elixir of immortality. Her writing inspired a generation of readers.
In her will, she leaves one last writing project—just for Lottie. It’s a series of letters, each containing mysterious instructions designed to push Lottie out of her comfort zone. Soon, Lottie’s trying some writing of her own, leaping off cliffs, and even falling for a boy she’s only just met. Then the letters reveal an extraordinary secret about the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series. Lottie finds herself faced with an impossible choice, one that will force her to confront her greatest fear once and for all.
I am truly between a rock and a hard place here.
In September, I read this book. I loved it so much that I gave it five stars, which I straight up never do.
Now, it is January. It is well past write-this-review o’clock. But there is a Problem.
I do not remember this book at all.
I know. I KNOW! There is no way on god’s great green earth that a five-star read would be so forgettable it would be utterly lost in the cold dusty halls of my brain within 100 days, or whatever. But that’s where we’re at right now.
Let’s talk synopsis. I will be basing the following information on what’s been made available on Goodreads, and not on my own memory, because GUESS WHAT, I HAVE NONE. This is the most tragic thing that has ever happened to me. Ever.
Okay, so. We follow Lottie, whose favorite aunt/person, Helen, just died. Helen was mega-rich because she wrote Harry Potter. Fine, not Harry Potter, but a sprawling children’s fantasy series about magical kids that sold hundreds of millions of copies.
So Harry Potter.
Helen left Lottie a bunch o’letters containing dares in an attempt to push Lottie out of her comfort zone. Because Lottie has anxiety. (Yay, mental health rep!)
I don’t know what else I can tell you without #SPOILERS, but a lil magical realism comes into play at the end. Yes you read that right!!! Magical realism, my dear boy!!!
Some of you may know
since I say it all the goddamn time that magical realism is pretty much my favorite genre – when it’s done right. Which, like, rare. And when it isn’t done right, it’s garbage, I’m furious, I hate it.
But good news! This is the coveted Good Kind. Probably mainly because the magical realism only comes in at the veryyyy end and has straight up no time to be explained, let alone an explanation. It’s just kind of left there. No time to mess it up! There are plus sides to abrupt endings with absolutely no closure!!!
Let’s talk about the other good things of this book.
One, FAMILYYYYY. There is such a loving great wonderful supportive fun family at the core of this book, and I goddamn LOVE IT. Because orphans and dead/abusive/mean parents and fighting siblings and twins that hate each other can get a tad, uh, old. (Subtweet to the entirety of the young adult genre.)
It is très nice and refreshing to read about parents that give a sh*t and siblings who like each other, you know? (Once again subtweeting to all young adult authors in case you missed the last one. PLEASE NOTE THIS. My poor, semi-nonexistent heart can’t take much more of this trope of familial suffering.)
Also, there are adventures in this book. ADVENTURES! Usually I have to outsource my adventure to middle grade, but here we are!!! Mini road trips and cool settings and a whole lot of ocean. It is, dare I say, pretty f*cking rad. It makes me want to go to the Pacific Northwest, which I can’t say I had an inclination to do before. (Sidenote, is this book set in the Pacific Northwest? I feel like it is, right? I mean I might be wrong because I REMEMBER F*CK-ALL ABOUT THIS BOOK, but like…it’s completely the Pacific Northwest.)
Oh goddamn I just Googled a cool real life setting from this book that I actually vaguely recollected (astounding) and it’s in Connecticut. Oh my god. This book is set in Connecticut. Catch me hysterically laughing @ myself for being one hundred percent convinced that this was set in the Pacific Northwest. WHY. Do I associate cold spray-y oceans and harbor towns with Washington State THAT HARD? To a place I have NEVER EVEN BEEN?
I am full-on losing it. If I ever even had it in the first place.
There’s also good female friendship in here (rad) and it’s pretty diverse (also rad). This is the sh*t of which I am a faaaaan.
The romance is mediocre at best
and totally creepy at worst but it doesn’t really matter because it’s not overwhelming. (Cough cough, young adult authors I subtweeted earlier. You up? Take note again.) (Cough.)
But even though all this stuff is cool as hell and you should totally read this book TOMORROW, if you are for some reason unable to travel back in time and have your past self read it so you’ve already read it by now…I can’t really give it five stars. Because I straight up forgot it.
Still, though. Read it. And take it from me: Do not wait three-plus months to review it. It will be a true lesson in futility and the pointlessness of evading responsibility.
And not in a fun way.
Bottom line: VERY GOOD. IN THE HIGHEST RANKS OF CONTEMPORARY. READ IT IMMEDIATELY AND THEN REVIEW IT RIGHT AFTER THAT AND LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES OVERALL.