Book Review – ‘Perfect Ten’ by L. Philips

A cute contemporary, but ultimately didn’t hit the mark.

PerfectTen_BOM_2P.inddGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 352

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Who is Sam Raines’s Perfect Ten? 

It’s been two years since Sam broke up with the only other eligible gay guy in his high school, so to say he’s been going through a romantic drought is the understatement of the decade. But when Meg, his ex-Catholic-turned-Wiccan best friend, suggests performing a love spell, Sam is just desperate enough to try. He crafts a list of ten traits he wants in a boyfriend and burns it in a cemetery at midnight on Friday the 13th.

Enter three seemingly perfect guys, all in pursuit of Sam. There’s Gus, the suave French exchange student; Jamie, the sweet and shy artist; and Travis, the guitar-playing tattooed enigma. Even Sam’s ex-boyfriend Landon might want another chance.

But does a Perfect Ten even exist? Find out in this delectable coming-of-age romcom with just a touch of magic.

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This was a cute light romance. But it didn’t tick all the boxes for me. It did not feel like an authentic voice. Something about the position that Sam’s voice was coming from did not feel totally realistic for a young gay male. Yes, it was angsty and swoon-worthy, but there are subtle layers wrapped up in the identity that were not realised.

Additionally I just found Sam to be such a whiny privileged guy who was so thirsty for attention that he ‘threw his cat’ at any boy who paid him even the slightest amount of attention. For someone who was desperate for love, he acted in contradiction for the entire story.

The pacing is also slow.

This book feels like jamming as may experiences with boys in a PG setting as humanly possible to appeal to a tween audience. The dash of Wicca even further proved my point in baiting that demographic.

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The character arc and character development were pretty good though. Even if I found Sam to be one massive sigh and eyeroll away from wanting to throw up in my mouth. L. Philips even crafted a commendable ending, throwing a few red herrings out there… but ultimately for me even that felt undercooked and drawn out.

I did love her depictions of art and music. I can see she has a talent for writing, but maybe steer away from the M/M romances, she’s writing an interpretation of the gay experience and missing some of the major issues that gay youth struggle with internally and externally.

Sam would have had to have been medicated to behave the way he did – a lot of his reactions are so far from biologically male it was laughable.

I liked Meg, though again, she was so stereotypically the >insert derogatory term for female best friend of the gay lead< that I was praying that she would have something else going on for her storyline other than seeking relationship advice and validation. It’s obvious their friendship is more than that, but L. Philips neglects to explore any of that.

Landon just felt like a cautionary tale for engaging in sexual activity too young. And to act as an antagonist. In all honesty after finishing the novel I really felt like he was a plot device. Again there were so many missed opportunities to increase tension and pace that were missed.

All the characters were so ‘nice.’ It was a pleasurable enough read but felt like it lacked substance and authenticity. I would have rated it lower if not for L. Philips lovely writing, great dialogue, and a sense that there is a lot more to her than presented in ‘Perfect Ten.’

I’m not going to recommend this one, there are a lot more contemporaries in this genre which execute a story much better, like Bill Koinigsberg, Cale Deitrich, David Levithan, and Adam Silvera. I really wanted to love ‘Perfect Ten,’ but it disappointed me… though it does show a lot of promise for L. Philips as a writer.

Overall feeling: Undercooked and inauthentic.

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Sky is Everywhere’ by Jandy Nelson

I can see why this author gets all the hype.

The Sky is Everywhere Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 292

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Adrift after her sister Bailey’s sudden death, Lennie finds herself torn between quiet, seductive Toby—Bailey’s boyfriend who shares her grief—and Joe, the new boy in town who bursts with life and musical genius. Each offers Lennie something she desperately needs… though she knows if the two of them collide her whole world will explode.

Join Lennie on this heartbreaking and hilarious journey of profound sorrow and mad love, as she makes colossal mistakes and colossal discoveries, as she traipses through band rooms and forest bedrooms and ultimately right into your heart.

As much a celebration of love as a poignant portrait of loss, Lennie’s struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often uproarious, and absolutely unforgettable.

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I don’t think if I hadn’t lost someone close to me this novel would have resonated with me so much. Jandy Nelson’s writing style is beautiful and melodic. I was in serious writers envy at how she crafted a scene and created atmosphere. There were moments that my eyes stung a little, holding back tears – but I didn’t get to a point where I all-out cried. So while this was an emotional read, it didn’t knock me off my feet and leave me with a massive book hangover.

My personal opinion over protagonist Lennie and what happens in ‘The Sky is Everywhere’ is in dichotomy: one is intolerant of some of her behaviour, it’s inexcusable. But on the other hand, having lived through something similar, you really do act in uncharacteristic ways when dealing with grief. Besides that, Jandy Nelson has a divisive skill of picturing this unique artistic family in a way that I can relate to, endearingly, even though I know little about painting, poetry, or music. In other books broaching this topic I always find myself skipping parts, yet in ‘The Sky is Everywhere’ I read every single word. Gripped from cover to cover.

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The Sky is Everywhere’ is a lyrical, quick read I managed to complete in a day. And such an unusual read for me. I do like contemporaries, but this is not in the style I usually gravitate towards. But I’m really glad for the experience and already have ‘I’ll Give You the Sun’ on my nightstand to pick up soon to indulge in more of Jandy Nelson’s words.

The symbolism is picturesque. If you let the book sit with you, marinate on the words, you can see the layers. It was lovely.

With Lennie not knowing who she is anymore. Feeling untethered. I can strongly relate. Grief stays with your forever and you really do navigate the world feeling a little lost. It lessens over time, but it’s always there.

Though it has a romance, it wasn’t a novel that I really predicted. It’s a personal story of grief, overcoming the bitterness, the abruptness, of such events; so it was more of a personal journey for the protagonist rather than just a story of girl meets boy, girl gets boy.

I did feel like one of the love interests, Toby was a bit of a dick. Even though he is grieving too, he is older, and making the moves on a vulnerable young girl felt a bit skeevie.

I’d recommend this for the writing of Jandy Nelson alone. Can’t wait to see the film adaptation currently in pre-production. It was recently announced that actress Grace Kaufman will play the protagonist Lennie.

Overall feeling: Truly, deeply impressed.

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Always and Forever, Lara Jean’ (#3 To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) by Jenny Han

The challenges we face when high school comes to an end.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

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This was such a cute book! It did however, feel like a slight departure from the previous two novels. Mainly because ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ and ‘P.S. I Still Love You’ dealt with finding love, and the tone of ‘Always and Forever, Lara Jean’ was much more melancholy. Not only because it is the end of the trilogy, but also because Lara Jean is at the point in her life where she is leaving for college, her father is re-marrying, and so she is saying goodbye to her childhood, her home, her family. Given Lara Jeans, quiet nature and love of all things antique, change is hard for her – and thus we get a tale of how she deals with so much adjustment and growth out of a place where she felt safe and loved.

It also gives a lot of hope about the future that these changes initiate.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgLara Jean herself was still a cute naïve square with a homemakers flare. She kind of embodies everything I’m not. I related to the challenges she was facing with family, college, and her boyfriend Peter. But all the other girlie stuff left the book feeling a bit dry. I realised Lara Jean’s character hasn’t changed so much. I enjoyed how we didn’t get as much frou-frou (subjectively) as we did in the previous two books; and here dealing with upcoming nuptials, her nervous baking, and hand-making presents as farewell gifts to her friends… it got a little boring for me and dragged down the pace.

I found Lara’s love interest Peter, lovingly adorable, but also annoying with his quiet internalised tantrums. I had to keep reminding myself that he is still a teenager. For some reason I didn’t connect as strongly with him in ‘Always and Forever, Lara Jean’ as I did in the previous books.

Kitty, Lara Jeans younger sister was more mature here, but still had a few moments of her annoying and abrasive stubbornness – but it wouldn’t be Kitty if we didn’t have that. And I did not feel like throttling her at any given moment, so you really get a sense of how she is growing up. Plus the sister relationships and bonding of the Song girls was amazing to read. I’ve not had such a strong connection to family and identify from any other book that I’ve read so far. Han is a master at creating believable sister bonds and relaying a family unit.

I shed a few tears in several parts, Han’s writing still manages to touch me where it matters, so even with the issues I had with the story, I can still resolutely say that I adore ‘Always and Forever, Lara Jean.’

It was a massive guessing game as to how this would all end. And I was still unsure even right up to the end, so I can’t say it was all that predictable. With Lara Jean constantly changing her mind and weighing up her options, I was never really sure in which direction she would go. And it’s clear she had no idea either – and that made for wonderful tension right up to the very end.

Though not as strong as the first two novels, its tone is completely different, but I’d still recommend it. Plus fans of Han and Lara Jean will not be able to resist knowing what is in store for the middle Song girl in the future…

Overall feeling: Naaawh

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.