Flash Reviews: The Hard Issues Edition

*Three flash reviews for you today!  I have so many books backlogged for review lately, and with Splash into Summer almost upon us, I know I won't get a lot of these books featured before late July or August, so I'm going to throw together some Flash Reviews to get more books on your radar in a fast manner!

Author: Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Release Date: Out now (Apr. 24, 2012)
Publisher: Bloomsbury / Walker
Received: Borrowed

Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a horrible car accident—including her memory of the event. As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember because doing so means delving into what she’s kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship.

When the police reopen the investigation, it casts suspicion on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around town. Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free? Debut writer Jennifer Shaw Wolf takes readers on an emotional ride through the murky waters of love, shame, and, ultimately, forgiveness.
There was a lot of mystery and intrigue surrounding this title.  As human beings, I think we all have a morbid curiosity regarding accidents and what really happened, and I'm no exception!  Something happened the night Allie and her boyfriend were in a car accident.  Trip died, and while his death was determined an accident, his parents think foul play was involved and hire an investigator.  Allie is suffering from memory loss and doesn't want to remember what happened that night because she's afraid of the answers.

This book is really hard to talk about without giving away major plot points, so a Flash Review fits perfectly.  It's really easy to sympathize with Allie as her fellow classmates and former friends cast suspicion on her and the life she's trying to re-build for herself after the accident, especially when she starts hanging out with her former best friend Blake so soon after her boyfriend's death.  The novel also takes a closer look at abusive relationships and the havoc they cause, which is important in teen novels right now.  Too many relationships form out of insta-love and the boyfriend is often an abusive, domineering jerk, yet so many teens are swooning over this "romantic, misunderstood guy."  It's nice to see a book where abusive tendencies aren't romanticized, but given a stark, hard look, and for that, I applaud Jennifer Shaw Wolf and publisher Bloomsbury.


This cover is what made me first notice the book.  It's obviously the scene of an accident, and the way the red high heels are lying haphazardly on each side of the guardrail grabbed my attention.  I also love that ocean in the background!

Author: Susane Colasanti
Release Date: Out now (May 31, 2012)
Publisher: Penguin / Viking
Received: e-ARC

A romantic and empowering book about bullying.

Noelle's life is all about survival. Even her best friend doesn't know how much she gets bullied, or the ways her mom neglects her. Noelle's kept so much about her life a secret for so long that when her longtime crush Julian Porter starts paying attention to her, she's terrified. Surely it's safer to stay hidden than to risk the pain of a broken heart. But when the antagonism of her classmates takes a dramatic turn, Noelle realizes it's time to stand up for herself--and for the love that keeps her holding on.
This was my first time reading a book by Susane Colasanti.  I keep hearing that she's a contemporary staple, but as longtime bookworms know, I'm not a huge reader of teen contemporary.  The ones I read/own/enjoy tend to deal with harder issues rather than fluffy ones (unless you count Stephanie Perkins, and if you do, I eat those words because she is one contemporary author I'm enamored with).  When I saw that KEEP HOLDING ON dealt with bullying, I knew this was the Colasanti book to read.

Everyone's experiences with bullying vary, and Noelle is no exception.  At first, it didn't seem as though she was overly bullied, but as the story progressed, the bullying at school worsens.  Noelle can't even escape at home, because her mother got knocked up as a teenager and blames her daughter for the way her life went wrong.  Noelle's home life is horrible, and I wished she could have escaped at school, but she can't then, either, in large part because of the way her home life has made her different from her classmates.  Noelle's life is in such upheaval that she's contemplated suicide in the past, and when a classmate kills herself, Noelle is forced to re-evaluate her life and take control once and for all.

KEEP HOLDING ON is an important book to get into the hands of at-risk students, as well as the ones who bully.  It shows the emotional impact of bullying, the way bullying destroys, and the way victims survive.  It helps show students in similar situations that they're not alone and that suicide isn't the only way out.  There's also an excellent list of resources at the back of the book for anyone looking to seek help.


I personally wouldn't pick this up on the cover alone, but that's because it's too contemporary for me.  As a teen, I probably would have a completely different opinion of it.  I also think the models look too happy for a book dealing with such hard topics.  I do, however, LOVE the purple converse and the way the author information is pulled from this color.

Also, is it just me, or does anyone else wonder if Colasanti listened to Avril Lavigne's "Keep Holding On" (or the GLEE cover) on repeat when writing this book?

Author: Siobhan Vivian
Release Date: Out now (Apr. 01, 2012)
Publisher: Scholastic / Push
Received: Borrowed

An intense look at the rules of high school attraction -- and the price that's paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn't matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, "pretty" and "ugly." And it's also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.
Labels run rampant in school, from designer jeans to the cliques students run in.  What makes some "the popular girl" and someone else "that geeky nerd?"  Is it just genes, or one's personality, or something more?  Middle and high school are the worst when it comes to attempting to fit in.  There's a herd mentality and kids think that if they put someone else down, they'll fit in better and feel better about themselves.  THE LIST looks at both sides of the coin.  Told in alternating POVs, it focuses on a high school where a list is put out that lists the "prettiest" and "ugliest" girl in each grade.  While I had to keep checking the beginning of the book to see what list the character whose POV was on because there were eight girls to keep track of, I also found myself bookmarking my nook with passages I connected with emotionally, so I was able to overlook the fact that I hate multiple POVs.  

Despite what you might think, being named the "prettiest" isn't necessarily all its cracked up to be.  While everyone covets the title, it's a lot to live up to.  If you complain about your flaws, all the other girls hate you even more, for example.  One girl on the list who had been struggling to control her weight feels even more pressure after being named "prettiest" now that she's thinner and begins spiraling out of control as a result.  Think it's hard being pretty?  It's even harder if you're named "ugliest."  The word ugly packs such a psychological impact, and while some girls make light of the situation, one going so far as to write UGLY on her forehead in permanent marker and begin a social experiment, others are more harshly treated, losing support from people they care about most in the process.

THE LIST looks at the social norm from eight different angles, showing that no one's experience is the same even if they make the same list.  Even that pretty girl you love to hate isn't perfect, and being pretty is just as hard as being ugly.  This book will resonate with anyone who has ever been in or is going through a similar situation.


This cover tells a story, which is always the best type of cover.  Something on the piece of paper the girl is holding has rocked her world.  She's on the floor and looks incredibly vulnerable.  Three girls stand around her, and you can't see their faces, so you don't know if they're sympathetic friends (like the one on the left could be) or bullies (like the one on the right with her arms crossed seems to be).  I really like this cover, and it's one reason I even know this book exists.


  1. Some of these books might work for Psychtember! I keep hearing good things about Breaking Beautiful so perhaps I should check that one out. And although there have been a lot of YA books done about bullying, it sounds like Noelle's situation is particularly bad since she has a difficult home life as well as at school :(

  2. i've been hearing some good things about THE LIST.


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