Blog Collaboration Day 1: Caraval Audiobook Review

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HEY, EVERYONE!

Today let me introduce to you a 3-day collaboration post with my best friend, Bea @WhenCuriosityKilledTheCat.

You might be wondering why we’re doing this out of the blue, but we’ve both agreed that we need to break from our normal routine and post something other than pure reviews. We’ve planned on doing this earlier, but because of personal matters and other holdups, we kept pushing back our schedule. But now, finally, we can get this out of our systems.

(Note: We’re just using this alliance to share our fangirling over Caraval. XD)

For now, we’ll start with giving our own respective reviews of Caraval. I’ll share my thoughts about its audiobook while Bea gives hers on the paperback version. Visit her at When Curiosity Killed The Cat to know what she thinks!

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ALRIGHT…

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CARAVAL

Author: Stephanie Garber

Narrated by: Rebecca Soler

Format: audiobook

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Published: Jan. 31, 2017 by Flatiron Books

RATING: 5 stars (★★★★★)

Synopsis: 

Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

 

Listen to an excerpt here.

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***

 

Story-wise, Caraval has to be one of the most compelling plots I’ve ever come across. I was thrilled in a way I’ve never been, and to think I am not much of a fan of circuses and carnivals, this is really saying something indeed. Not only is it just a magical game, it’s an elaborate performance as well. My feelings got so easily tangled with its twists and turns. It feels as if I was being driven mad along with the main character Scarlett.

Aside from the game, it was also fun trying to figure out the other characters, especially Julian. He makes you suspicious one moment and trusting the next. Back and forth it goes, until you can no longer decide which is real and which isn’t. Same goes for the rest. Tella surprised me the most, but it was ultimately Legend who had me wondering most of the time. I waited for his appearance to come, and when it did, I was both disappointed and not. (You’ll know what I mean when you read the story.) And Scarlett – I love how far she would go for her sister. But sometimes she drives me nuts with the marriage thing and her obsession with finding her sister. I wanted her to have fun and be more adventurous. But from her point of view, I can totally understand how this may be a little difficult. Anyway, the whole cast of characters were fantastic and memorable. I love how Garber made each one of them shine – even the minor ones.

I also like the world Garber crafted for Caraval. Enchanting, magical, bizarre, whimsical and so utterly full of random surprises – it was a world that was so dizzyingly easy to lose yourself in. The descriptions were incredible to the point I can almost visualize them vividly. That’s how good Garber’s writing was.

And combine all that with Soler’s narration – you have got a masterpiece.

To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting Caraval to live up to its hype. I even tried to stay away from it like it’s a plague. Then one day, out of nowhere, I just decided to open its audiobook version and started listening. Ten seconds into the audiobook, I knew I had a winner.

I think what really gripped me first was the childhood, dream-like quality in Soler’s voice when she was emulating Scarlett, writing her first letters to Legend. That was the only trigger I needed to keep going. I was truly amazed and enthralled by Soler’s performance. There were times when her accents slip, but then she blows me away with her soulful delivery.

She made an already compelling story even more compelling; she captured the essence of each character and gave them the most suitable voice; she just —- she simply brought to life the magic of this story. As a listener, I couldn’t have asked for more.

If it weren’t for the audiobook, I never would’ve guessed how great Caraval is. Until now, even after weeks of finishing it, it still excites me to hear about anything Caraval-related. This book really made me want to grab a copy of the real thing. And to those of you who’ve already read Caraval, I urge you to listen to the audiobook as well if you want an amplified experience. 🙂

 

P.S. If you read and loved Caraval, you might also wanna try A Crown of Wishes by Rokshani Chokshi. It’s the sequel to The Star-Touched Queen but can still definitely pass as a standalone. It has a somewhat similar plot to Caraval. They both have a pair of characters participating in a magical game wherein the winner gets one impossible wish as a prize. But before you get any doubts, I assure you – these two books are totally unique and set apart from each other. If you still doubt me, you can go ahead and read both books and see for yourself. 😉

 

Thanks for reading this post, lovelies! We’ll be back tomorrow. 😉

 

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ARC Review: On The Spectrum by Jennifer Gold

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ON THE SPECTRUM

Author: Jennifer Gold

Release Date: September 12, 2017 (my birthday!!)

Publisher: Second Story Press

Date Started/Finished: June 6-7, 2017

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mental Health

Format: eARC

Source: Netgalley

RATING: 5 stars (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)

SYNOPSIS: (Goodreads)

Growing up in the shadow of a famous mother, Clara has never felt good about her body. Now, at sixteen, she has an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. After a social media disaster, she decides to escape for the summer to Paris to stay with her estranged dad and her six-year-old brother, Alastair, who is on the autism spectrum. Charged with his care, Clara and Alastair set out to explore the city. Paris teaches Clara about first love and gives her a new love of food. And Alastair teaches Clara about patience, trust and the beauty of loving without judgment. Continue reading

Blog Tour: The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestone

The Unlikelies

by Carrie Firestone

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Release Date: June 6th 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

RATING: 3 stars (⭐⭐⭐)

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Synopsis:
Five teens embark on a summer of vigilante good samaritanism in a novel that’s part The Breakfast Club, part The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and utterly captivating.
Rising high school senior Sadie is bracing herself for a long, lonely, and boring summer. But things take an unexpected turn when she steps in to help rescue a baby in distress and a video of her good deed goes viral.
Suddenly internet-famous, Sadie’s summer changes for the better when she’s introduced to other “hometown heroes.” These five very different teens form an unlikely alliance to secretly right local wrongs, but when they try to help a heroin-using friend, they get in over their heads and discover that there might be truth in the saying “no good deed goes unpunished.” Can Sadie and her new friends make it through the summer with their friendships–and anonymity–intact?
This rich and thought-provoking novel takes on timely issues and timeless experiences with a winning combination of romance, humor, and wisdom.

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Blog Tour: The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari


The Best Kind of Magic

by Crystal Cestari
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy

RATING: 4 stars 

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Synopsis:
Amber Sand isnot a witch. The Sand family Wicca gene somehow leapfrogged over her. But she did get one highly specific magical talent: she can see true love. As a matchmaker, Amber’s pretty far down the sorcery food chain (even birthday party magicians rank higher), but after five seconds of eye contact, she can envision anyone’s soul mate.

Amber works ather mother’s magic shop–Windy City Magic–in downtown Chicago, and she’s confident she’s seen every kind of happy ending there is: except for one–her own. (The Fates are tricky jerks that way.) So when Charlie Blitzman, the mayor’s son and most-desired boy in school, comes to her for help finding his father’s missing girlfriend, she’s distressed to find herself falling for him. Because while she can’t see her own match, she can see his–and it’s not Amber. How can she, an honest peddler of true love, pursue a boy she knows full well isn’t her match?

The Best Kind of Magic is set in urban Chicago and willappeal to readers who long for magic in the real world. With a sharp-witted and sassy heroine, a quirky cast of mystical beings, and a heady dose of adventure, this novel will have you laughing out loud and questioning your belief in happy endings.
 

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Book Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

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The School for Good and Evil

Author: Soman Chainani

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Publisher: Harper Collins

Date Published: May 14, 2013

Date Started: Jan. 1

Date Finished: Jan. 2

Rating: 2 stars (⭐⭐)

Synopsis: (Goodreads)

The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.


MY REVIEW:

Hi, Lovelies!

I’m back again for another review.

The School for Good and Evil is basically a tale of two girls, Sophie and Agatha, who gets kidnapped like all the other children before them and taken into the fabled school that trains kids to be heroes or villains. Every year, it’s always a pair that gets taken. One good and one evil. However, Sophie gets put into the School of Evil while Agatha is placed into the School of Good. They think it’s a mistake, but what if it wasn’t?

I first learned about this book from a friend of mine who only told me a little about it. The book is 488 pages long, written in multiple POVs. Has a deceptively charming cover, a fast-paced writing style, engaging dialogues and fairytale themes.

While the story is certainly promising, I wasn’t sold on the writing. There had been too many issues for me. One, I cannot keep up with the events in the story. There are times when the scenes change abruptly or too fast, and the author inserts plot twists that really don’t fit in, and you don’t know which character is saying which line anymore. It’s all very confusing. Add to that, the story is super LONG, so I would advise anyone attempting to read this book NOT to read it if you don’t have the patience.

On a positive note, I did like the absurdity and humor of this book. You can’t help but laugh along at Sophie’s notions of being ‘good’, Agatha’s exasperation, the silliness of their classes, and other ridiculous things that should annoy you but would entertain you instead. It was also interesting to see how Agatha and Sophie’s friendship would turn out, seeing as how different they are and the schools they were put in. Their friendship is mainly one of the reasons I continued reading and haven’t DNF’ed the book.

Overall, The School for Good and Evil makes a really entertaining read if not for the writing issues and unreasonable plot twists that I mentioned above. In fact, the whole time I was reading, it felt like I was watching a CARTOON instead of reading an actual book. At least this book IS really meant for children though I highly doubt that it actually sends the right message, since the girls here highly depend on boys and the concept ‘good and evil’ was taken too pettily.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my review! 

(I think I’ll be doing a book tag next time soon ’cause I miss doing ’em. 😉 Anyone care to recommend some?)

Later, lovelies!

ARC Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

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NOTEWORTHY

Author: Riley Redgate

Genre: Young Adult, LGBT, Contemporary

Date Started: April 15, 2017

Date Finished: April 16, 2017

Rating: 4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

SYNOPSIS: (Goodreads)

It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight.

Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped … revered … all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

 

Blogger’s Note: Special thanks to Netgalley and Amulet Books for providing me an eARC of Noteworthy to review.

 

MY REVIEW: 

Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of Riley Redgate’s Seven Ways We Lie. So knowing about her latest upcoming novel Noteworthy, I didn’t hesitate to give it a try.

Basically, the story revolves around Chinese-American Jordan Sun who crossdresses her way into the school’s elite all-male a capella group The Sharpshooters. Yes, you heard that right. There is crossdressing involved. But not to worry since it’s actually the most fun part. Desperate move it might be, after being constantly rejected to play in musicals, Jordan is eager to prove herself worthy. When she joined the Sharpshooters, she never intended to get close with any of their members. But little by little, she gets to know each of them personally and becomes close to them anyway. On the other hand, pretending to be Julian Zhang had its consequences. As Jordan finds her place within the group, she also unravels a lot of things about herself that she never paused to consider before, things she liked and things she wanted the most.

It pleases me that despite the cross-dressing and LGBT aspect, I didn’t cringe. The cross-dressing bit is tricky so I was doubtful that the author could actually pull this part off, but again – Riley Redgate proved me wrong – it was handled pretty well. Plus, I also found Jordan’s slip-ups freaking hilarious.

As for the LGBT facet, it was hands-down amazing – one of the best LGBT books I’ve ever read in my life. A few characters in the story are either gay or bisexual, and some of them were actually my favorites. I’m not telling you which ones are which, but it’s safe to tell you at least that Jordan is one of them, though she hasn’t realized this until the middle part of the story.

I really felt for Jordan because in some ways I can relate to her. I think every girl (or guy) has at some point questioned their own sexual preferences. Even me. I admit that I’ve experienced girl-crushes before, but not to the point where I actually wanted to go out with one. Anyway, I really do appreciate the fact that the author portrayed Jordan’s bisexuality without being gross since most of the LGBT books I’ve encountered before were either very lewd or over-the-top inappropriate.

Aside from gays and bisexuals, this book has plenty of other diverse characters. Take The Sharpshooters members for example. We have the overly serious musical director Trav, the happy-go-lucky president Isaac, funny fat Mama whose real name is Theodore, the attractive but dyslexic Jon Cox, egalitarian Marcus and socially awkward Erik. Each character had their own issues and unique personality, but all together, they make a pretty great and fun team.

Also, the way the author explored the issues in this book? It was clear how much research Redgate put into this book, while at the same time managing to retain respect for her chosen genre.

Noteworthy truly did not disappoint. It’s highly fun, exciting, and recommended especially for lovers of Pitch Perfect, a capella and just music in general. If you’re looking for a good book with lots of diversity, music, assorted characters, multiple sexualities and just really great humor, then Noteworthy is the one for you.

P.S. Noteworthy is going to be released on May 2, which is only a week away from now, so fans need not wait any much longer! 🙂

Thank you for reading my review and see you lovelies ’til next time! ❤

Blog Tour: Seasons Within by Lele Iturrioz (Review + Giveaway)

Seasons Within
Lele Iturrioz
(Acorn Publishing)
Publication date: December 15th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Most teenage girls know their name, where they came from, who they are. Not G, a beautiful redhead with unusual markings on her wrist. She gets her name from a silver locket she keeps around her neck, unaware the engraved letter “G” on its front holds the secret to her past.

G’s life before the age of six has been a mystery to her. Each night for the last twelve years she’s been haunted by the same nightmare—a war. Horrendous beasts, warriors able to wield the four elements, and a boy who saves her by means of blue fire taunt her memory. But on her eighteenth birthday, G’s life begins to unravel. When she meets her new Chemistry professor, a man with an uncanny resemblance to the boy who saves her, she knows there must be more to her dreams.

It’s dangerous not knowing who you are, what you’re capable of, and what future awaits you. Especially when the darkness that slaughtered your entire world, just found you.

Goodreads / Amazon


REVIEW

THIS – I JUST GOT TO HAVE THIS.

What can I say? Lele Iturrioz’s debut novel was just GREAT. It was entertaining, magical, imaginative and above all, it has an awesome set of characters.

I also found the cover very attractive, but what REALLY lured me in was this book’s sense of humor. I cannot count how many times one of the characters or scenarios made me laugh, both silently & out loud.

What I also love about this book is the camaraderie among G’s guardians. They’re the kind of people you want to hang out with. No formalities at all. The type that reminds me of Rhysand’s Inner Circle, the bonds between Fairy Tail members – all of them are just super amazing people even without the magical abilities.

G as the main character of the whole story was mediocre.However, she SHONE because of the presence of the other characters around her and her interactions with them. I enjoyed their banters, their relationships – everything. I also appreciate the fact that not everyone is pleased with her either, even thought they’re supposed to be her allies. It somehow creates a balance between the two.

I’m also fond of the romance here. G and Edan make a great pairing since they always clash against each other. But then there’s also Veter and Shui – personally, I think they’re more of my favorite than team Gaidan. But that’s only because I find Veter’s gestures so sweet and cute to the point that I was almost jealous of Shui. Really, these guys just make me want to sigh. Anyways, I’m glad that I have another couple to add to my list of favorite OTPs ever.

I should also special mention Priyam – G’s forever sarcastic and witty best friend. But besides the fun and liveliness she brings into the group, I just love her friendship with G. Theirs felt like one of the most genuine fictional friendships I’ve ever encountered.

And the writing? Spot-on! The pacing is just right, and the mood and the tone of the story kept me hooked right to the end.

I had been looking for a fantasy book that makes me feel all warm and gooey inside and Lele Itturioz’s Seasons Within was just perfect. Cured me of my ongoing two-week reading slump, even.

I just have two main issues with this book: 1) minor errors with the grammar and wording (though that didn’t prevent me from enjoying the entire book) and 2) I wasn’t intimidated enough by the antagonists in the story. However, there was something in the ending that made the main villain more interesting and piqued my curiosity.

Overall, Seasons Within was a very interesting and well-done story that gave me so much good vibes until the very end. I seriously can’t wait to read the next book and I just hope that the author never loses her knack for humor in the coming sequel. Highly recommended, I wish this book gains more popularity and appreciation with time.

Bonus: So this is what sugar gliders look like huh, now I know. But still… do they eat sugar cubes? (Note: Only those who’ve read the book will get it. 😂)

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RATING

5 stars (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Author Bio:

Major geek by day, hermit writer by night! Love books, sugar gliders and everything that comes in a delicious taco.

I’m the author of the YA fantasy series, Seasons Within

I spend my time writing, planning on writing, reading, drinking coffee like there was no tomorrow, MMA and chilling with my friends and loved ones.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


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Black Moon by Romina Russell || Stunned, Drowned, and Slayed

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B L A C K   M O O N

A u t h o r : Romina Russell

O r d e r : Book #3 in the Zodiac Series

P u b l i c a t i o n : December 6th 2016 by Razorbill

G e n r e : Sci-fi, Fantasy, Romance, YA

S y n o p s i s : Book 3 in the breathtaking sci-fi space saga inspired by astrology that will stun fans of the Illuminae Files and Starbound series.

One final secret stands between Rho and the enemy. But will the devastating truth be enough to destroy her first?

Rho, the courageous visionary from House Cancer, lost nearly everything when she exposed and fought against the Marad, a mysterious terrorist group bent on destroying balance in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now, the Marad has disappeared without a trace, and an uneasy peace has been declared.

But Rho is suspicious. She believes the Master is still out there in some other form. And looming over all are the eerie visions of her mother, who died many years ago, but is now appearing to Rho in the stars.

When news of a stylish new political party supported by her best friend, Nishi, sends Rho on another journey across the galaxy, she uses it as an opportunity to hunt the hidden master and seek out information about her mother. And what she uncovers sheds light on the truth–but casts darkness upon the entire Zodiac world.

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The Best Possible Answer by E. Katherine Kottaras || Life is But A Multiple Choice

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T H E   B E S T   P O S S I B L E   A N S W E R

A u t h o r :  E. Katherine Kottaras

P u b l i c a t i o n : November 1st 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin

G e n r e : YA, Contemporary, Romance

F o r m a t : eARC

S y n o p s i s : 

AP exams—check
SAT test—check
College application—check
Date the wrong guy and ruin everything you’ve spent your whole life working for—check

Super-achiever Viviana Rabinovich-Lowe has never had room to be anything less than perfect. But her quest for perfection is derailed when her boyfriend leaks a private picture of her to the entire school—a picture only he was supposed to see. Making matters worse, her parents are getting divorced and now her perfect family is falling apart. For the first time, Vivi feels like a complete and utter failure.

Then she gets a job working at the community pool, where she meets a new group of friends who know nothing about her past. That includes Evan, a gorgeous guy who makes her want to do something she never thought she’d do again: trust. For the first time in her life, Vivi realizes she can finally be whoever she wants. But who is that? While she tries to figure it out, she learns something they never covered in her AP courses: that it’s okay to be less than perfect, because it’s our imperfections that make us who we are.

(Special thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me an e-copy of The Best Possible Answer in exchange for an honest review.)


R E V I E W

You pick up a YA contemporary book on a whim, breeze through the pages in a span of three hours, and sit there looking at empty space. What are you thinking? And which of the following statements is true?

a. If you can’t get into the college you want, find a job at the pool.

b. When in doubt, ask your mentally-ill professor/neighbor.

c.  If you got a shitty family, be shitty in turn.

d. Go for the guy your best friend likes.

e.  Never ever trust a guy to keep your nude pics to himself.

f. This book is boring.

g.  All of the above.

***

The Best Possible Answer is the first book I’ve read of Kottaras’s. The cover and synopsis gave me a good feeling, but it turns out, my expectations turned into ashes the deeper I got into the book.

At first, I was lured in by the humor. Vivianna Rabinovich-Lowe struck me as a funny character, but when problems start to unfold, she loses all her sparkling wit and the readers are bombarded instead with her endless drama and pitiful internal monologues. I can’t find it in me to sympathize with her, even though I could relate to her need for perfection and over-achievingness.

She annoyed me so much, especially when the boy Evan came into the picture. I mean, seriously? You would fight with your best friend over some guy you just met? Sure, she kept her feelings from the start to give way to her friend, but I couldn’t accept that either. It just strikes me wrong. She and Sammie were said to be friends since long ago, so doesn’t that mean they have a certain degree of trust towards each other? Why would you keep pretending you’ve no interest in your friend’s crush? To me, that just sounds completely plastic.

Also, why did she have to cover up her father’s secret from her mother and sister too? I just can’t believe it’s for their own sake. Because if Vivi truly cared for her family, she wouldn’t have let her father’s charades go on for too long. Honestly, she is so frustrating. I think the only thing I love about Vivianna is her name.

My point is Vivianna is totally off-character. And she has almost all the problems a teenager could have – leaked nude photos, parents getting divorce, love triangles, failed college plans, etc. I would’ve appreciated it if the author elaborated on each issue more, but *sighs* she only managed to scrape the surface of it. I couldn’t care for the characters, and I certainly didn’t feel anything for the story.

But for all its flaws and complications, I still got the message that the book is trying to deliver us. In every situation, there is no perfect solution – no perfect answer. We just have to take the best possible course of action.

All in all, I can’t highly recommend The Best Possible Answer to everyone. It’s less fun and more on drama. But I could certainly see how it would appeal to our younger readers, hence the YA. It’s a short, quick read too, but I likely won’t read it ever again.


R A T I N G

Poor (☆☆☆)


Have you guys read this book yet? Do you agree with me or not? Let me know your thoughts below! 🙂