Each time I go to Goodwill, I end up leaving with a stack of books that live on my shelf indefinitely. I always plan to read them, yet somehow always end up with more that I don’t get around to. A few weeks ago, I found All the Bright Places sitting on my shelf and was drawn to it. I had heard some things about it, but was not at all expecting the emotional whirlwind it took me on. I devoured it in a day, then immediately watched the movie afterwards to compare—and I have some thoughts on the adaptation.
All the Bright Places tells the story of Finch and Violet, an unlikely pair that first meet on the top of the school’s bell tower. They are the only two who know the truth about who saved who as the story circulates the school. When they’re paired to do a school project together, they discover just how much they need each other. But as Violet heals, Finch begins to sink.
I fell in love with this book the second I finished it and I knew it had been made into a movie, so immediately after closing the book I pulled it up on Netflix. Generally, the movie did a good job bringing these characters to life. The casting is one place where they excelled. Elle Fanning is a perfect Violet—she’s exactly how I pictured her in my head. Justice Smith, as Finch, was excellently cast as well, which really aided in putting the story on the big screen.
Casting aside, there were a few changes made that I found a bit odd. For starters, in the novel Violet and Finch meet on the top of the bell tower and most of the school sees them up there, turning it into a whole ordeal. In the movie, however, Violet is on a bridge when Finch finds her. It seems like a minor change, yet in the novel a large part of the reason they’re thrown together is because of the news story that spirals from being caught up there. Ultimately, this didn’t make a huge difference to the overall feeling and message of the story, but I was surprised when at it.
A common flaw when translating a book to a movie is the timeline. I noticed while watching that it almost felt rushed, but I also think that is just a result of the medium. Generally speaking, the important moments were articulated well and the actors did a great job bringing this movie to life. I will almost always favor books to movies, and I definitely recommend reading the book first, but the movie does bring the story to life in a touching way.
If you haven’t read this book already, I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a new tearjerker. Niven touches on a lot of important, and often overlooked, issues, especially in literature, and for that I applaud her. I recommend both the novel and the film, but I suggest that you read the book first to get the full effect. You can purchase it here.
As an avid book reader, I’d never been able to pick a favorite book. It had always felt like this unimaginable, impossible choice, like a mother picking her favorite child. I’d had favorites, of course—books I more than enjoyed (rated five stars on Goodreads enjoyed), and books that were quick to come to mind when asked for recommendations. But ask me for my favorite, my top pick, myif-I-were-stuck-on-a-deserted-island-and could-only-have-one-book-to-readread…I’d have nothing. So, to say that Maggie Steifvater’s The Raven Boys snuck up on me would be an understatement.
I first discovered The Raven Boys through Tumblr in 2015. My dashboard had been full of bloggers reposting quotes and character art and fancasts, all for a series that I’d never even heard of before. With such a dedicated fanbase that had seemingly come from nowhere, I’d decided to give it a try and bought a copy…
And didn’t like it.
Which sounds crazy, I know, for a book I’m claiming to be my favorite book. Shouldn’t it have been love at first page? But it took a little longer than that for me to start feeling the magic that Maggie had been building up to in those beginning chapters. In all honesty, it took me until about halfway through the book (roughly 200 pages in) to decide that it was something worth continuing. Once I got there, though—once it clicked—I was all in, devouring books one through three in a little more than two weeks.
Looking back on it, what I considered to be slow pacing—my biggest issue with the beginning of the book— was actually careful building. There’s five characters that make up Blue and her Raven Boys: characters who’d been complete and utter strangers to one another in the beginning of the book. Characters that are so fundamentally different from one another, each with such different dynamics, personalities, backstories—if Maggie had simply thrown them together in the beginning, what would’ve been sacrificed were the moments that made them come to life before our very eyes. The moments that slowly but surely guaranteed that before you even realized it, you too had become part of the group (affectionately referred to by fans as the Gangsey).
More than Maggie’s ability to create such strong individuals, The Raven Boys truly does have something for everyone: romance, history, friendship, adventure, magic…but a different kind of magic than I’d ever felt before.
Other fantasy novels, such as Harry Potter, make magic feel like real life. Like at any given moment, we too could receive our Hogwarts letters and be whisked away to a world of patronuses and magic wands and talking sorting hats. But The Raven Boys makes real life feel like magic, and that’s not something you feel by picking just any book off a shelf. It wasn’t even a distinction I was aware could be made until I felt it for myself. Don’t let the small town setting fool you: there is magic to be found in Henrietta, Virginia. Just maybe not in the places you’d expect.
Twilight. Divergent. Matched. Pride and Prejudice. Romeo and Juliet. These stories are classics; known by readers everywhere for their intricate detail and swoon-worthy love interests. However, is it possible that these stories have ruined the young reader’s current perception of relationships?
I’ve thought a lot about the role of YA romance novels in the last couple years. I once praised the gooey-feel-good, yet often simplistic plot line of romantic comedies and the “bad boy/good girl” archetype I read throughout my tween and teen years. While these books are wonderful for many reasons, I couldn’t help but realize as I got older that the protagonists were much younger than myself, and yet they had their life easily figured out by the end of 300 pages. This led me waiting throughout my teen years to be older; but as I grew into my late teens, I found the end of high school didn’t mean the completion of my self development—and more importantly—no attractively mysterious love interest would randomly come into my life.
In a blog post about why they hate YA novels, Vivian DeRosa discusses two important points surrounding the typical themes within teen-romances: first, teenagers are inherently awkward, underdeveloped, and immature people; second, YA relationships are pure fiction. I don’t think there is a single person who looks back at their early teens and thinks they were at their peak. Being a teenager, even well into someone’s twenties, is awkward both physically and mentally; developing into who we are and finding who we want to be is a lifelong process that doesn’t conclude when one problem is solved. It is difficult for young adults to read these iconic stories and not receive the impression that they are supposed to be stunningly attractive and fully mentally developed, especially when Hollywood casts older actors to play these characters. It is impossible to think that 16-year-old Tris, while just beginning to understand her “Divergence,” could possibly build an actually sustainable relationship with Four. Or that 17-year old Bella not only found true love with a 104-year-old Vampire but gets married and fights in an ancient feud between the vampires and werewolves all while still in high school.
To this point, “YA tends to treat teenage relationships like they’re going to last forever. Many epilogues show the main character and their love interest happily married. But that’s not how most teen relationships shake out…” (DeRosa, 2017). Most teenagers are focused on typical high school and young adult things, and if they are in a relationship usually it doesn’t develop into a life-altering love story that will take precedence of their life and last forever. However, these stories have young readers believing that not only are relationships purely built on “finding the one,” but that there is no effort involved in finding, cultivating, and sustaining an actual romantic relationship. This thought process is detrimental to the perception of good relationships because it doesn’t offer the difficult perspective of how much work and time relationships actually take; it gives young readers a false foundation that life is just like these stories and all two people need is an attractive counterpart and one very passionate kiss.
Additionally, the perception of love through not just YA romance novels but all romance media is dangerous for all genders and sexualities. Because while Twilight, Divergent, and Romeo and Juliet are all coming of age stories where the protagonist’s journey takes the reader on one of self discovery as well, these mediums are often excluding the storylines of non-cis gendered, racially diverse, or gay protagonists. That a male protagonist without abs might fall in love with another male, female, or nonbinary peer who might have a diverse set of beliefs or culture is almost unheard of in YA romances, while today this is the reality of relationships. These stories, while considered classics, cater to a specific female fantasy—and without the diversity of representation, there is a whole population who may either lack a well-rounded understanding of relationships and/or see love as an unreachable fantasy.
This is not to say that these stories aren’t good. They are. There is a reason why Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is continuously taught and referenced through different mediums; why John Green’s “Okay? Okay.,” line reference has taken off with readers; and why the promotion of “sparkly, chiseled-abed vampires” has become a teen cliché. These stories are beautiful, incite strong emotions, and are oftentimes powerful. Despite having contradicting emotions about the genre, I still love and appreciate these stories. Don’t stop reading them, but don’t take them as a bible to your literary world. Teach each other that these books are not a guide for how to look, act, or love—and, most importantly, expand to local and diverse authors dedicated to telling the story that is not only special but realistic. In this way, we can indulge in the beauty and power of love, but remember that love is nothing without a relationship—which is often much more complicated than 300 pages would suggest.
As I’m sure many of you have already heard, Rick Riordan recently announced a Percy Jackson TV series coming to Disney+. This is a much-deserved reward for the loyal fans who have read and loved the books, only to be sorely disappointed by the film counterparts. Our patience has finally paid off—now, we’re getting a series comprised of one season for each book, produced by Riordan himself! In honor of the wonderful news and to help pass the time before it comes out, I have put together a personal ranking of the books in Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Bear in mind that this list does not include the books from the Heroes of Olympus or Trials of Apollo spin-off series. It also goes without saying that this list is rife with spoilers—read on at your own risk!
5. The Sea of Monsters. Starting things off at number five is The Sea of Monsters. Granted, this book has plenty of memorable moments: Annabeth listening to the sirens, the team’s fight with Polyphemus, and—of course—Tyson’s introduction as Percy’s cyclops half-brother. This book was also a beautiful ode to The Odyssey, and featured a host of callbacks, from the sorceress Circe to Polyphemus’s anger with being thwarted by Nobody. This book is last on my list, however, mainly because it largely focuses on setting the stage for the books that follow—aside from the few interactions with Luke’s assembled army, there is little development in regards to the war with Kronos and the Titans. Despite this, The Sea of Monsters has perhaps one of the best endings in the series, with Thalia being resurrected by the Golden Fleece, adding a twist to the Great Prophecy.
4. The Lightning Thief. Oh, The Lightning Thief. Where do I begin? When ranking a series, it’s worth mentioning that the readability of a series is largely dependent upon a captivating first book. If we didn’t like the first book, we wouldn’t want to read the rest. This book is singular in the series in that the reader is immersed in a world of modern-day Greek gods for the first time—from discovering Percy’s godly parent to learning that Mount Olympus now resides above the Empire State building, there is a certain level of novelty and whimsy that can’t be replicated in the other books. Overall, The Lightning Thief is a mostly-lighthearted introduction to life at Camp Half-Blood and the world of modern Greek mythology. It places fourth on the list only because I find the books get better as the plot thickens, which is why my top three picks are the last three books in the series.
3. The Battle of the Labyrinth. This book is centered around one of the coolest (and also creepiest) myths out there, which is why it is one of my favorites. Nearly everyone knows the story of Icarus and Daedalus, which means Riordan could spend less time on the backstory and fully focus on advancing the plot. This book was full of shocking twists—from the revelation that Quintus is actually Daedalus to Luke becoming the host for Kronos’s spirit, this book was certainly not lacking in action. The Battle of the Labyrinth itself was also a satisfying conclusion to the buildup of the preceding books regarding the two armies preparing for war. It was also refreshing to see Annabeth finally lead a quest of her own. The only aspect of this book that didn’t sit well with me was Rachel’s addition as a love interest for Percy—to me, this felt forced and unnecessary.
2. The Titan’s Curse. I truly can’t sing enough praises for this book. There are just too many wonderful things, where do I begin? We’re introduced to the hunters of Artemis, Thalia, and—of course—the di Angelo twins. We get to meet Nico and discover yet another child of the Big Three. Not to mention, there are some good dam jokes in this book. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.) The Titan’s Curse also serves as a bridge between the light-hearted books in the beginning of the series and the higher stakes characteristic of the later books. This is the first book featuring a major character death, and shows that war has casualties and nobody is safe.
1. The Last Olympian. I know, I know. Perhaps its cliché of me to choose the last book as the best, but come on. Finding out that Silena was Kronos’s spy at Camp Half-Blood still remains one of the greatest plot twists of all time. Percy taking on the Curse of Achilles was an amazing decision, and allowed for a much-needed exploration into Luke’s past. Plus, Percy and Annabeth’s relationship has such a beautiful progression throughout this book—Annabeth being Percy’s anchor to the mortal world? Percy turning down immortality for Annabeth? The underwater kiss? It was unbelievably satisfying to see these two finally get together. This book also has a wonderful redemption arc for Luke, and has a satisfying conclusion with Rachel’s status as the new oracle. It also sets the stage perfectly for the Heroes of Olympus with the next Great Prophecy.
So, there you have it! There’s definitely room for discussion regarding this list, but I hope you enjoyed this one reader’s thoughts. I’d love to hear your own ideas about the series, too! If you haven’t read these books, or are looking to reread them, you can find all of them at Changing Hands website here.
Publisher: Wednesday Books Genre: Contemporary, YA Fiction Pages: 384 Format: Paperback Buy Local My Rating: 4.95/5 stars
Written by well-known BookTuber Christine Riccio, Again, But Better is a story for anyone needing encouragement to find themselves and gain the confidence to live in the moment. The novel follows shy and awkward Shane, a 20-year-old pre-med major who decides to spend a semester in London on a limb. As Shane begins her semester abroad, she is determined to essentially re-do her college experience—this means not overthinking, being more outgoing, and having the confidence to go after her dream and her crush. However, as Shane begins to explore new experiences, she is constantly torn between her desire to be a writer and her parents’ expectations of medical school. When these two forces collide, Shane has a decision to make—but will she make the right one? Riccio frames the story so that we are not just reading about Shane’s development, but we begin to understand that everyone is just trying to find themselves. In the end, Riccio shows us that with some courage, faith, and strength we can live up to our personal expectations and desires, and that ultimately anything is possible.
I originally picked up this book because I strongly resonated with the description of Shane. I thought it was unique that a young adult novel focused on a 20-year-old rather than the typical 16–18-year-olds. Shane’s age, as well as the internal conflicts she deals with throughout the novel, is a subject that was close to my heart—Again, but Better is about a college student trying to find who they are and who they want to be, and I think this is something everyone can relate to, especially college students. The novel is great because the reader can feel the anxiety and struggle Shane experiences, but the struggles of the other characters are also evident. There is a beautiful balance in seeing not only how we can be consumed by our own worry, but also the great comfort of knowing everyone is sharing this experience.
One of the aspects which I greatly appreciated was how Riccio doesn’t sugarcoat the fantasy of having a crush or the fear associated with going outside your comfort zone. The initial interactions between the characters is awkward—especially as Shane describes not knowing how to stand in front of her crush, or not initially “clicking” with one of her roommates. The evident anxiety within Pilot (the male protagonist and Shane’s love interest) in making an incorrect decision is one which almost everyone can relate to, and Riccio doesn’t represent this agony as simple. People are oftentimes represented to us from what we outwardly see, but this book makes a good point in showing that what we outwardly express isn’t what we always are; it links the perception of who we are on the outside to who we want to be on the inside.
Above all else, I loved how the central idea of the novel wasn’t consumed with the notion that if Shane only finds “love,” she will inevitably find herself. The romance within the book adds exceptional flavor, but it is in no way the main course. Rather, Riccio chooses to emphasize Shane’s discovery of herself in a time separate from Pilot. It is a book that goes beyond the stereotypical “find love and find yourself” narrative, but really focuses on the development of the characters and the development of yourself as a reader. This concept is so refreshing in a young adult novel.
Again, But Better is a fast-paced and personal read for those who want something lighter, but still deeply meaningful. No matter who reads it, the themes and development of the characters is something that can resonate with everyone. We overthink, we get discouraged, and we let others expectations of ourself get in the way of what we really want. The second half of the book allows the reader to acknowledge Shane’s mistakes and see where we ourselves tend to slip up. We see her struggle, and the struggles of those around her, as we try to navigate the world in relation to others and ourselves.
If you enjoyed Again, But Better, author Christine Riccio created a Spotify playlist to accompany the novel that can be found here!
By now, most of us have at least heard of John Green, even if you haven’t read any of his books. His novels have won multiple awards and many have made it to #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. Almost all of them have been adapted into a movie or TV show, and for good reason—he has a way of writing that transports the reader into the novel immediately. I am quite the John Green fanatic (if you couldn’t tell), so I decided to create a ranking of his solo novels, ending with my all time favorite at number one. (Warning: spoilers ahead!)
5. Paper Towns. Starting the list at number five is Paper Towns. This novel is great, as all of Green’s are, but I find myself drawn to the others more. As vibrant as the characters are in this book, I always find the ending more anti-climactic than I expected. The novel takes you on such a wild ride to get there, though, that it is absolutely worth it, so I still highly recommend it!
4. An Abundance of Katherines. Next on the list is An Abundance of Katherines. This is Green’s second novel and one of his least well-known, but it is still a great book. My favorite thing about the comic novel is that the main character, Colin, isn’t immediately likable. When you open a book and start reading, there is a pressure to like the protagonist because they are who you’ll spend the book with, so I love that this particular novel breaks that expectation. As much as I love it though, the other three novels on this list have a special place in my heart.
3. Looking for Alaska. Coming in at number three is Looking for Alaska. This is Green’s first novel and the second I ever read. One of the best parts about this book is the characters—they are unbelievably vibrant and alive; you can’t help but feel for each and every one of them. It is a heartbreakingly real story and each time I read it I am moved in a different way. The story is raw, and I think that is what makes it such a page turner. I will always recommend this book. (T/W Suicide)
2. Turtles All the Way Down. Next on the list is Turtles All the Way Down. This is Green’s most recent novel, and naturally I picked it up as soon as it was released. I hold this novel close to my heart because it deals with mental illness, specifically anxiety and OCD. Both of these are hard to write about accurately because there are so many different ways they can affect someone’s life. In my opinion, he did this exceptionally well, creating a character that is relatable and eye-opening. I feel like there aren’t a ton of YA books that deal with these topics, and I am glad Green helped change that. This novel is definitely a must read!
1. The Fault in Our Stars. Rounding out the list at number one is my all time favorite novel, The Fault in Our Stars. This is most likely Green’s most popular novel, but there is good reason for that. At this point, I have probably read it around seven times, and I always end up crying. As I get older and continue to re-read it, I always find new passages that resonate with me. It is truly a timeless novel with beautifully written characters. I think Green tackled the topic of cancer well by showing how awful and ruthless it can truly be. I will always recommend this novel to anyone, just make sure you have your tissues ready!
As always, this list was difficult to make as I love each of his novels so much. However, I am drawn to some more than others and kept that in mind throughout. I did not include any novels Green has co-written either, but those are exceptional as well. Feel free to leave a comment with your ranking, we’d love to know what you think! If you’re interested in purchasing any of these novels, you can do so on Changing Hands website here.