I have barely gone to the movie theater in 2017, but there was one movie I saw the trailer for several months prior to its release, I just knew I wasn’t going to miss. Gifted starring Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, and also included Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer, and Lindsay Duncan in this incredible cast. I tend to go to the movies by myself, but this one I saw with my parents, and it was great to know I wasn’t the only one that went through several tissues during this drama. McKenna Grace plays Mary, a spunky, spirited, brilliant little girl being raised by her Uncle Frank (Chris Evans) in Florida. Frank unfortunately gets into a custody battle with his mother, but it’s not any usual custody battle – Evelyn wants Mary because she’s basically a child prodigy and she wants to exploit her abilities. Jenny Slate plays Bonnie, Mary’s teacher who recognizes her unmistakable talent, but also gets Frank’s desires for Mary to have as normal a childhood as possible. The film is just beautifully done. You can tell that the cast seriously bonded with one another, and the chemistry is so palpable, I forgot that all of these characters aren’t related to one another in real life. (Isn’t that the goal of a film – make the whole story undoubtedly real?) I really loved the message in this story too. Frank so badly wanted Mary to really get the chance to be a kid. I won’t ruin the story, but it explores plenty of themes – the value of family, finding balance in life, figuring out ways to acknowledge a gift but not make life ever be about only one thing. The soundtrack was amazing, the cast was astonishingly talented, the story was beautiful and it’s funny but some of the parts that made me sob in the theater weren’t even “sad” they were just so incredibly touching. I laughed, I cried, I got mad at characters, I thought about relationships and life, and the little things. I know I haven’t recommended a movie in a while, but if there’s one you’re going to add to your To Watch list, this should be it. The cast deserve some major awards for these performances!
In 99 Days we find out early on that Molly’s mom has done the unthinkable – used the love triangle of her own daughter’s (disastrous?) adventures in love – as the plot for her best-selling novel. Because who isn’t going to read about the sweet girl betraying the boy she grew up with, her first love Patrick, by getting together with his older brother Gabe? Dramatic, I know. So what does Molly do when this story lands itself on the cover of People magazine? Run off to boarding school out of state, of course. Even with a year hiatus from the town holding the secrets of her past, she can’t stay away forever. So, the summer before going off to college in Boston she finds herself back at her mom’s place. Of course, Molly does what any teenager practicing avoidance and any kind of social interaction would do – lays in bed eating Red Vines and watching Netflix documentaries. Not surprisingly, though that’s a comforting activity, it gets old fast. So, Molly unexpectedly finds herself with a new job to busy her self, (helping with the re-opening of a restaurant at the country club,) and slowly tries to mend the pieces of her broken friendships.
Cotugno tells Molly’s story of learning forgiveness (extending it to others, like her mom and looking for it with her friends by owning up to mistakes she’s made.) We all know I’m a sap, but I felt Molly’s struggle of trying to listen to her heart screaming to her about someone she knew like the back of her hand, and someone new who was fun and present and real, and seemed open. Cotugno also delved into the meaning of family – with Molly’s relationship with her mom but also her relationship with Patrick’s family – she used to be like one of their own.
While yes, this has a great pace for an indulgent read by the pool or at the beach – don’t dismiss it as a fluff read. 99 Days is heartfelt, emotional, funny at times, and it’s true to life. Maybe you see yourself in Molly, or one of her friends. It’s a refreshing take on coming into your own from the throws of teenage-hood, and growing up.
If you haven’t read this one yet, check it out!
I guess you could say I’ve taken a bit of a break from young adult novels in the past few weeks, (well, in terms of usual ratio,) but I saw the movie trailer for Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything, and thought to myself “why the heck haven’t I read this yet?” Too impatient to wait on the library’s hold list, I picked up a copy at Sam’s Club, and dove right in. Maybe I’m off my game, but I was thrown by the plot twist. And I LOVE that. I genuinely love when I’m surprised by the words on a page, and am so overwhelmed absorbing the information I didn’t expect to see, I have to pause. Everything Everything tells the story of teenager Madeline who has lived her whole life in the same house, breathing filtered air, with only in-person contact with her mom and her nurse (who takes her stats and vitals all day,) and a time or two a visit from a teacher – because she is allergic to everything. Can you imagine? Though, maybe it’s like some things in life – when you haven’t experienced them yet, you don’t know to miss them. You can’t miss the smell of the ocean, if the salty air has never wafted below your nose, and you can’t miss the taste of a steaming hot slice of pizza burning the roof of your mouth, if those ingredients have never touched your tongue. You probably won’t daydream all day about holding hands with a boy, if you haven’t interacted with one in real life. Maddy lives life vicariously through the pages of the books she devours, and is entertained by movie nights, and made-up board games with her mom. Life as Maddy knows it, changes when cute, mysterious, Olly and his family move in next door. How convenient their bedroom windows face one another. What starts with hand gestures, and condensation notes on window panes, leads to e-mails and the ole trusty instant messenger, and then opens to a whole other world of experiences beyond what Maddy could have imagined on her dreamiest days. Armed with a credit card, and a mischievous streak of braveness not to let her life pass her by, Maddy makes some huge decisions – taking her life and all of it’s possibilities into her own hands. Everything, Everything is a story of love and friendship, trust and betrayal, adventure and risk, and listening to your gut. I know I’m late to the game, but this was a fantastic read, and I found it refreshing. If you haven’t yet, check out this great novel. (I have to admit, I’m excited to see what they’ve done with the movie adaptation!)
It’s been a long time since I’ve found a book that was so absolutely addicting, I’ve spent an entire day lost in the pages. My friend Jackie had shared some of her to-read list and “Liane Moriary”‘s Big Little Lies was on the list. When I found out that HBO was going to have a show for the book, I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy before it airs. Just my luck the library had it, and although I didn’t give it top preference in my haul that day, when I unexpectedly had off Tuesday this week and it was dark and yucky out all day, I decided it was the perfect time to give it a try. Oh my goodness. I just could not put it down! Though Big Little Lies is about 460 pages, by the end of the day I only had about 50 pages to go. I decided I should probably sleep so I wouldn’t hate myself at work the next day, but I devoured the last few pages on the following day, and now I’m recommending this title to anyone who will listen. (Especially my girlfriends in book clubs).
The style of Big Little Lies reminds me of one of my favorite novels Where’d You Go Bernadette? There’s a sharp wit in the structure that seems near impossible to not be amused by. The story revolves around a group of kindergartner mothers living in Australia, their financial backgrounds, age, marital status, and looks are all varied and they each describe their experiences through these lenses. There’s a murder among this group, and there are hints throughout the story, but the victim isn’t known until close to the end. The snippets of dialogue from the investigation sprinkled throughout the chapters add to the comic relief of the novel, and are a nice transition between heavily emotional scenes.
The scenes are so intricately crafted that it’s really easy to envision while reading. From screaming matches in the parent pick up line, to boozy brunches at the local cafe, to intense heart to hearts between girlfriends. This story covers such a broad range of topics, from the unexpected adventures of parenting, learning to navigate relationships when divorcees each get remarried and try to maintain some sort of balance, domestic violence, bonds of friendship, and all the secrets that everyone is unknowingly carrying around from day to day.
This novel felt like the equivalent of a Netflix binge; you know when they prompt you “are you still watching?” OF COURSE I’M STILL WATCHING! Basically that’s the highest endorsement I can give this book in encouragement for you to check it out if you haven’t yet!
I remember the first time I picked up a Sarah Dessen book. Sixth grade, in my middle school library, I can even remember which shelf it was on. That Summer, with it’s yellow binding caught my attention immediately. The front cover had a drawn picture of a girl, and a punch buggy in the background. I fell in love with Dessen’s writing, at once. Then the Sunday, the day before the first day of college, bid day, I met one of my favorite friends in the whole world – Leah. Freshman year we quickly discovered our shared appreciation for the young adult lit world, but particularly Sarah Dessen. She let me borrow Lock and Key and The Truth About Forever. I devoured them in that little twin bed in the corner of my fifth floor dorm (I had a lot of time on my hands about the second week of school when I caught something terrible that left me sick and struggling to breathe in bed for days.) I say all of this because here I am, at 28 now, still devouring Dessen’s each freshly released novel. (And Leah and I still discuss them like we did ten years ago.) I always have this struggle with wanting to read books at exactly the right time. I figured it was fate that the library had an e-book of Dessen’s latest – Saint Anything right before my trip to Jersey. So, it was time to dust off the old Kindle, and from the Panama City, Atlanta, and Philadelphia airports and planes, and cozy lazy November mornings, Saint Anything was a great companion.
I’ll say, I think this is one of Sarah Dessen’s grittiest novels to date. Sydney has long lived in the shadow of her ever charming, popular, but at times wreckless older brother Peyton. The story begins in a court room at Peyton’s sentencing for an act that will shake the family’s lives, and beyond. His mistake has changed the path of an innocent teenager. Sydney is well aware of the consequences, and the story unfolds as she tries to live her life carrying the guilt of her brother’s actions. Sydney’s mom buries herself in the acts of trying to bring “normalcy” to her relationship with her son, as if he’s just received detention and not serving time. Sydney’s dad pours himself into his work, and when he is home, silently goes along with her mom. This is why, though scary, Sydney welcomes a change of scenery by switching to a new school (mostly because of the cost of her expensive school being too much to go along with all of the court costs.) Basically seeking an alternative from heading straight home after school to afternoons of binge watching Real Housewives, and trying to pass the lonely hours before dinner – she finds herself at a local pizza shop, Seaside. Here she meets a fabulous family, and soon, before she even realizes it – she’s started a friendship with siblings Mac and Layla. Sometimes, you meet people who just “get it.” And you don’t know why you’re revealing personal information, and trusting strangers with intimate details about your life – but you are. Perhaps a sense of safety or familiarity or comfort in their warmly chaotic lives, nudged Sydney in the right direction.
Sydney builds a new life for herself at Jackson High School. She finds herself in new friendships she can confide in. She doesn’t have to just be “Peyton’s little sister,” and she’s no longer invisible.
Saint Anything untangles some heavy truths. Having hard conversations, facing things that have been easier to avoid, taking the leap of trusting and investing in new friendships and relationships, and seeing how the good can grow.
I don’t want to spoil it by divulging anymore, but Saint Anything was a fun read and I think Sydney’s character matured throughout the novel. It feels like we can always count on Dessen to provide a story with characters that you want to be friends with, and advice you can take to heart. Long anticipated and not disappointing in the slightest – it made me excited to see what direction Dessen will go next. If you haven’t got your hands on a copy of Saint Anything yet, I highly recommend checking it out!
Also, watch this adorable book trailer: