7 YA Mystery Book Recommendations

I’ve been obsessed with YA mystery/thrillers for a while… there’s something about the minimalist yet suspenseful writing style, plentiful plot twists, and shock endings. They’re just so readable, and I can’t get enough!

Without further ado, here are 7 great YA mysteries you should consider picking up!

YA Mystery Book Recommendations

I’ll be linking my full (and usually more eloquent) book reviews next to each book that I have specifically reviewed on my blog.

1) With Malice by Eileen Cook- 3/5 stars

This book could have been a 4-star if it weren’t for the ending… but I’m including it anyway because it had quite the intriguing plot.

The story follows our MC, Jill Charron, who finds herself in the hospital after the car crash that killed her best friend Simone during a school trip to Italy. And according to the authorities, it may not have been an accident at all. Jill knows she could never have hurt Simone… but she can’t remember anything about the trip or the crash. It’s up to Jill to find out what really happened that day– before it’s too late. Spoiler-free review here

2) All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban- 3/5 stars

Six students attend a prestigious scholarship dinner… only to discover it was all a ruse. They’re trapped in a locked, cell-service-less room with a ticking time bomb, a syringe of poison, and a note informing them that unless they pick someone to kill within the hour, it’s game over.

This book was very gripping and I’m pretty sure I read it in one sitting, but I was put off by the uber-YA-ness. Much of the plot required immense suspension of disbelief, too. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining and creative read that I would definitely recommend if you’re into suspense. Spoiler-free review here

3) One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus- 4/5 stars

Bronwyn– the student council, Yale-bound nerd, Addy – the homecoming court, shallow popular girl, Cooper– the baseball star jock headed for the minor leagues, Nate– the drug-dealing delinquent, and Simon– the outcast who runs the school’s notorious gossip app. Five students enter detention one afternoon. Only four leave with their lives. Someone poisoned Simon, and no one could have done it except for the four kids in the room with him. Everyone is a suspect, and someone has a great poker face.

I didn’t adore this book like so many other people because, well, I predicted the ending rather early-on. I also, again, wasn’t a fan of all the uber-YA fluff: boyfriends, high school drama, unnecessary romantic subplots (noooo)…. But don’t get me wrong, this is a great mystery. Check out my spoiler-free review!

4) Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus- 4/5 stars

This seems to be a very unpopular opinion, but… I prefer Karen McManus’ Two Can Keep a Secret to One of Us is Lying. I actually did NOT guess the murderer in this one, whereas I’d predicted the ending of One of Us is Lying by the time I hit the halfway point. Two Can Keep a Secret also has less stereotypical YA drama and more mystery.

The plot: our MC, Ellery, has just moved to the small, picturesque town of Echo Ridge with her twin brother. They’d prefer to stay under the radar, but it’s hard to hide in such a small town. Especially when you’re so connected to its dark past. 30 years ago, Ellery’s aunt disappeared on the night of homecoming. 5 years ago, another girl met the same fate. And this year, it looks like history is going to repeat itself.

5) Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson- 4/5 stars

My biggest gripe about Truly Devious is that… well, the mystery is dragged out over 3 books, and the first one ends with quite the unsatisfying cliffhanger. On the plus side, though, this format gave Johnson more room for plot substance, and consequently the characters in this series have time to develop more than characters in most YA mysteries.

Set in an atmospheric Vermont boarding school founded by the eccentric billionaire (minor trope alert!) Albert Ellingham, the plot revolves around the intersection between two mysteries: the first being the unsolved 1936 kidnapping of Ellingham’s family, and the second being the suspicious death of a student decades later. Our protagonist, true crime aficionado Stevie Bell, is determined to solve both mysteries– but she may be in for more than she bargained for.

6) When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – 5/5 stars

When You Reach Me is kind of an outlier on this list since it’s really MG and not YA, and I read it six years ago, but I just remembered its existence today and just had to mention it.

It’s about girl named Miranda who has been receiving strange messages from someone who seems to know everything about her and who seems to be able to predict the future. At first she ignores them, but with every note she comes closer to realizing that someone she loves is in danger. The plot of this book is just… incredible.

7) A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson – 5/5 stars

I loved this book so much when I first read it.

It follows a girl named Pip who decides to research the notorious unsolved murder that happened 5 years ago in her hometown. What starts out as an unassuming research project becomes much more dangerous when Pip begins to unveil sinister secrets about everyone involved in the previously-closed case. No one can be trusted… and someone wants Pip off their trail. For a better sense of the book, you can read my spoiler-free review here.

That’s all for today’s post! Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these books?

The 5 Steps to a 5-Star Book

It’s okay to be a picky reader. Not all books are created equal, and everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a 5-star read.

Though I don’t hand out 5-star book reviews very often, there are certain characteristics that will almost certainly boost my rating of a book.

Back in July, I published a post on my 5 biggest bookish pet peeves- These 5 Things Will Definitely Make Me Put Down a Book. Today, to change it up a little, I’m going to do exactly the opposite.

Without further ado, here are 5 things that will make me love a book.

1. The main character has interesting and unique hobbies- bonus points if they share one of mine.

I hate YA contemporaries in which the MC has no hobbies or personality traits apart from going to wild teenage parties and fulfilling whatever unnecessary romantic subplot the author has in mind. If, on the other hand, the MC has really interesting hobbies and a unique personality, my opinion of the book will undoubtably be boosted.

An example of this? Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott (We’re reaching deep into the archives for the FIRST book review I ever posted…) One of the main characters in this book is interested in computer science and working on publishing an app. Fun fact: I’m interested in computer science and I have published an app. This automatically made me love the book more than I ordinarily would, because when do you ever see that kind of hobby in a YA romance?

2. Plot twists, plot twists, plot twists!

I LOVE PLOT TWISTS. (If you haven’t discerned that already, well… I don’t know what to say).

One of the timeless debates of book Internet is the question of whether the characterization or the plot is more important to the quality of a novel. If I’m being honest with myself, I value plot over characters most of the time. I’ve heard the argument that if you don’t care about the characters, you won’t care enough to keep reading regardless of how brilliant the plot is. But I disagree: you could have the best characters ever, but if they just sit around and nothing happens, there’s no point to the book.

And one of my favorite parts of reading is being thrown off by plot twists. I can’t explain why I love them so much, but it’s for this reason that I’m so drawn to mysteries.

3. Witty sense of humor

Humor… it’s a tricky thing. I’d shamelessly admit that I think my blog is funny, but other people don’t seem to think so… in fact I’ve been told often that I don’t have a sense of humor. But I know I do. It’s just hard to describe what it is.

I tend to like witty/sarcastic/dry humor, and of course, if I think a book is sufficiently funny, I’m going to like it a lot more.

Example: I’m not yet finished it at the moment, but My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand is definitely one of the funniest books I have read this year.

4. The book teaches me something

I have recently been getting into nonfiction- I really need recommendations!- and I love reading interesting books that give me material to accost people with “did you know?”s in the future.

This doesn’t solely apply to nonfiction, though; much of what I know about history is from reading historical fiction, which is one of the reasons it’s my favorite genre.

Here are some of the most informative and interesting books I have read: A Night to Remember by Walter Lord, Quiet by Susan Cain, and Bomb by Steve Sheinkin.

5. I get that absorbed feeling

This is a very subjective category, but it’s such a defining factor in my enjoyment of a book that I have to include it on this list. I’m not sure if this phenomenon has anything to do with the book I’m reading or if it’s just dependent on my mood at the time, but often when I’m reading a great book, I will become completely absorbed in the book and unable to put it down. To pick it up again feels like stepping into a warm shower or crawling underneath the covers when you’ve been up for 20 hours straight.

Sometimes, I’ll be so absorbed that I won’t hear people trying to talk to me. It’s similar to the idea of “flow state” in productive work.

I don’t get this feeling for every book I read, but the ones for which I do almost always get 4.5-5 stars.

That’s all for today’s post! Do you agree with this list? What makes you give a book 5 stars?

What I’ve Been Up To|September and October 2020 Wrap-up and Goals

What a crazy few months! I absolutely cannot believe it’s already November. I haven’t been able to blog that much recently, but today I decided it’s finally time I posted a monthly- or in this case, bi-monthly- (bi-monthly? Encompassing two months) wrap-up.

It’s hard to feel the cozy fall vibes right now because where I live it’s very unseasonably warm today. But here’s a fall-themed picture anyway:

As per usual, I’m going to break this post up into three parts:

  • Reading
  • Blogging
  • Goals

Reading:

I am currently in the throes of a horrible reading slump. Maybe it’s because I’ve been so swamped with schoolwork, maybe it’s because I haven’t rated many books over 3 stars for the past few months… who knows. I don’t think I’ve ever given out so many one-stars in a row. But nevertheless, I still got a lot of reading done in September and October. I read 19 books in the two months combined!

I’m going to organize this post slightly differently today: since I read so many nonfiction books, I’m going to list the nonfiction books and the fiction books separately. I don’t think I can fairly compare the two groups.

Nonfiction:

Becoming by Michelle Obama- this was an interesting memoir; it was pretty cool to read about Michelle Obama’s life story and what it was like to be first lady.

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming- I love reading history books about random topics, so this was a very fascinating read for me.

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka – Storytime: I didn’t actually know this was a graphic novel until I opened on my Kindle and started reading it.

Stamped: Antiracism, Racism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds- this was recommended reading from my school

Fiction:

1-1.5 stars

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin– I feel like I owe the world an explanation for why I did not like this very popular long-time resident of my TBR. The plot was confusing, there was no suspense, and there were comma splices galore (I hate bad grammar)

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell– I was kind of grumpy when I read this book. There were fall vibes, sure, but the storyline was pointless and very predictable.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer– the combination of juvenile writing, complete disregard for science, and very poor characterization compelled me to give this book one star.

2-2.5 stars

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher– I read this book because of the CONTROVERSY. Overall, it wasn’t good but it also wasn’t awful. The writing left much to be desired and the subject matter could have been handled a lot better, but it wasn’t a horrible book.

Wildcard (Warcross #2) by Marie Lu– I liked the first book in this series (more on that later), but not the sequel.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo– I know, I know… how could I give two stars to what seems like everyone’s favorite book? I don’t know… I found the story rather confusing, disorganized, and slow-paced, and I wasn’t invested in the plot.

3-3.5 stars

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas – this was an okay YA mystery, but I wanted more from it. The plot was a little too predictable for my tastes

Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia my mini-reviews post

The Lovely War by Julie Berrymy mini-reviews post

4-4.5 stars

A List of Cages by Robin Roemy mini-reviews post

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky my mini-reviews post

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerrmy mini-reviews post

Little Monsters by Kara Thomas – This was a super creepy and Halloween-y read… and it was a good mystery too! If you’re looking for a dark YA mystery with some good twists, this is a good one. I did guess the ending, though.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John MandelStation Eleven was a very unique post-apocalyptic book… that just so happened to be about a pandemic that leads to the end of civilization.

Warcross (Warcross #1) by Marie Lu – UNPOPULAR OPINION: Warcross is a better version of Ready Player One

Blogging:

Time for unflinching honesty: I did not really focus on this blog during September and October. I have been posting only once a week and I missed a few? posting weeks in a row, but at the same time, I have been writing longer posts. That’s a positive. I also recently hit 300 followers!

I had been feeling really overwhelmed, but things are starting to settle down now and I have a bunch of post ideas. (Any requests?)

Here’s a list of my posts from the past two months:

In case you missed any.

Frappes and Fiction is Changing…|August 2020 Wrap-up and September Goals

This is How I’m Resetting my Life for the School Year

I Need Your Help|Celebrating 250 Followers

The Currently Reading Book Tag

Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

Are We Wasting Our Lives?|Gen Z Perspective on Social Media

The Reread Book Tag

Important Announcement

Fall Book Haul!|Mini Book Reviews

It’s Fall Y’all!|Doing the Fall Book Tags I Procrastinated

Goals:

September/October Follow-up:

  1. Add variety to what I post– I think I did a pretty good job with this over the past two months, although I didn’t post very often.
  2. Don’t go on my phone right after I wake up– Sadly, I did not succeed with this goal…
  3. Focus on school– I definitely have been focusing on school, and now that I’m settled into the new school year, it has been much less stressful. We recently finished the first marking period and online school is way easier than regular school… that’s another positive

November Goals:

  1. Work on my French– I have always been fascinated with the fact that tons of people in the world know how to speak more than one language… it just seem like it would be impossible for me to ever understand anything but English. I really want to speak another language fluently, though, so I want to focus on practicing French every day, even when I don’t have school. (If anyone has language-learning tips, I really need some!)
  2. Don’t go on my phone right after I wake up– let’s just extend this one for now.
  3. Prioritize my mental health– I have been feeling very stressed/anxious since the beginning of September. Really since the begining of quarantine, but it has gotten worse during school. I just really, really hate staying home all day. That’s why in this coming month, I’m going to focus on getting more sleep, writing in my journal, etc.

By the way…

I have not been very active on WordPress recently. I have been trying to keep up on my WordPress reader, but if you are wondering where I am, it’s not that I have forgotten about your blog. I’m going to try to catch up later this weekend, and also to anyone reading this, if there’s a post you want to share/promote, feel free to leave a link in the comments!

*Note- I forgot to turn comments on AGAIN on my last post! I always do that! They’re back on now.

That’s all for today’s wrap-up! Thank you for stopping by my blog (even though I posted about an hour and a half late)

Like always, please:

You are following this blog (manage).

It’s Fall Y’All! |Doing the Fall Book Tags I Procrastinated

Today is a special day. First because it’s Halloween (free excuse to eat as much candy as I want) and second, and more relevantly, because I’m going to do be doing a double tag post.

*intensely ignores fact that this is because she didn’t blog for most of October and now needs to squeeze in the fall tags before they become unseasonal*

A huge thank-you to Abby @Beyond the Read, who tagged me for the Finally Fall book tag, and to The Reading Addict, who tagged me for the Fall Time, Cozy Time book tag.

Time to answer all these questions!

The Book Tag Questions

1) The Finally Fall Book Tag

In fall, the air is crisp and clear: Name a book with a vivid setting.

I’m reaching deep into the archives for this post, but I’m going to choose No Summit out of Sight: The Youngest Person to Climb the Seven Summits by Jordan Romero. I read this book two? three? four? years ago, but I still remember how vivid and exhilerating it was. It’s Jordan Romero’s memoir of how he climbed the seven summits (the highest point on each of the seven continents), completing the accomplishment in 2010 at age 15. He was also the youngest person ever to climb Mt. Everest when he did it at 13.

Nature is beautiful… but also dying: Name a book that is beautifully written, but also deals with a heavy topic like loss or grief.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This book is fresh on my mind because I just read it, but it perfectly fits this category.

“When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”

Fall is back-to-school season: Share a non-fiction book that taught you something new.

I have lots of nominees for this category, but I’m going to go with a book I have not talked about yet on this blog… The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming. (PSA: I read nonfiction books about the most random topics) This book is all about the Russian Revolution and the Romanovs, and I learned a ton of things; it’s both informative and very tragic. If you want to learn about the Russian Revolution, this is a great choice, although the writing style is a bit simple because it’s written for younger readers.

In order to keep warm, it’s good to spend some time with the people we love: Name a fictional family/household/friend-group that you’d like to be part of.

The Weasley family from Harry Potter! They are the best. (This is not the first time I’m going to mention Harry Potter in this tag)

The colorful leaves are piling up on the ground: Show us a pile of fall-colored spines!

this is the most random assortment of books I will probably ever post

Fall is the perfect time for some storytelling by the fireside: Share a book wherein someone is telling a story.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Again, this book is fresh on my mind because I recently finished reading it, but the epistolary format of the novel definitely fits this category.

The nights are getting darker: Share a dark, creepy read.

The Landlady by Roald Dahl– another one from deep in the archives! This is not a book; it’s a short story, but I’m still including it. We read this for our horror unit and seventh grade and… it made trick-or-treating a bit creepier afterward.

The days are getting colder: Name a short, heartwarming read that could warm up somebody’s cold and rainy day.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier– why am I picking so many books I read years ago? I don’t know! I feel like it. I read Smile in 2015, and it was just such a cute and fun book. It was my first time reading a graphic novel, too.

Fall returns every year: Name an old favourite that you’d like to return to soon.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling- I haven’t re-read Harry Potter for quite a while, so it may be time to return to my old obsession soon. My HP books are all falling apart, though.

Fall is the perfect time for cozy reading nights: Share your favorite cozy reading “accessories”!

Tea. Pretzels. Blankets. My dog.

2) The Fall Time, Cozy Time Book Tag

1. CRUNCHING LEAVES: The world is full of color! Choose a book with red/orange/yellow on the cover.

another niche-ish book

2. COZY SWEATER: It’s finally cool enough for warm cozy clothing! What book gives you the warm fuzzies?

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I read P&P back in January, and although it took me an entire month to finish (to be fair, that was when we were still in school), I enjoyed it. I also really like the one movie adaptation I have seen (the 2005 one). Fun fact: I have learned some of the songs on piano.

3. FALL STORM: The wind is howling & the rain is pounding. Choose a book that you like to read on a stormy day

Times I have mentioned this book count #?: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. Great creepy mystery book.

4. COOL CRISP AIR: makes you breathe freely~ Who’s the coolest character you’d want to trade places with?

There are so many characters I would love to trade places with, but today I’m going to go with Hermione Granger from Harry Potter! Fun fact: I dressed up as Hermione for Halloween for 6 years of my life. Originally because of my HP obsession, later because I was too lazy to think of a new costume. Hermione is still my favorite character, and I’ve been told I act like her. I’m taking that as a compliment.

5. HOT APPLE CIDER: warm autumn drink. What underhyped book do you want to see become the next biggest, hottest thing?

This is a super weird one, but for this category I’m going to choose The Real McCoys series by Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr. I tutor an elementary schooler for reading, and this is the series we’re reading together right now. It’s a younger middle grade series about a 4th grader named Moxie and her detective misadventures with her brother and her friend. I was extremely surprised to see how few ratings the books had on Amazon and Goodreads because they were GOOD books. Every page is full of illustrations and the writing is super clever, full of wordplay and quirky metaphors. The characterization is also great. I’m surprised the series isn’t more popular.

6. COAT, SCARVES, & MITTENS: the weather has turned cold & it’s time to cover up! What’s a book cover you don’t like?

The Selection series book covers (and that disappointingly stupid series in general)

7. PUMPKIN SPICE: time for some Starbucks! What’s your favorite fall comfort food?

Soup! Tea! Mac and cheese (even though I haven’t had it in forever)

I Tag…

Since I’m doing this post kind of late, and Halloween (at least in my worldview) marks the end of the fall-ish period of fall, I feel like it’s a bit late to tag people for these. Not that November isn’t fall-ish… it just seems more wintry to me, and it can take a while to write posts. What I’m trying to say is, I’m not going to specifically tag anyone, but if you’re reading this right now and want to do either of these tags, consider yourself nominated!

Conclusion

Thanks for checking out my blog today! Happy Halloween, if you celebrate it.

Have you read any of the books mentioned here? Do you agree with my choices? What’s your favorite season of the year?

Fall Book Haul!| Mini Book Reviews

Confession time: I’m addicted to spending all my money on books and coffee.

I finally returned from my slightly mysterious disappearance to post a fun little fall book haul!

The only thing is that, since I compulsively read when I’m stressed, I finished all of the books from this haul before even starting this post…

So instead, I’m going to be writing a little mini-review for each one. (Problem solved!)

*Says she’s going to write a mini-review for each book, then proceeds to write a 1500-word post*

Book Reviews:

1. Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Genre: YA, contemporary, romance, mental health

Premise: High school senior Eliza Mirk is a friendless loner… at least in real life. Online, though, she’s the creator of the famous Monstrous Sea webcomic, an internet phenomenon that is quickly becoming a part of pop culture. Eliza hasn’t told anyone her secret, and she doesn’t intend to. But when she meets Wallace Warland, her cultivated facade begins to crumble…

Rating: 3/5 stars

I had heard a lot of great things about this book, and although I enjoyed reading it, it fell flat for me. Eliza was supposed to be a sympathetic character, but…. something about her just bothered me. She was supposed to be socially awkward (something I definitely relate to) but… she wasn’t. She was just extremely weird- to the point where everyone at her school was scared of her, and she didn’t even try to make herself likable. I didn’t like her personality or her attitude, which tainted the entire storyline slightly, and said storyline wasn’t even that compelling.

2. A List of Cages by Robin Roe: 4.5/5 stars

Genre: YA, contemporary

Premise: Adam Blake is living his best life: it’s his senior year, which means he gets to spend school hanging out with his friends and aiding the school psychologist, a highly coveted elective that will essentially give him a free period. But things become less carefree when Adam is assigned to mentor Julian- a troubled freshman who just so happens to be the foster brother Adam hasn’t seen for years. At first, Adam is excited to reunite with Julian, but he soon realizes that Julian is not the same lighthearted kid Adam once knew. Something is wrong, and if Adam can’t figure out what it is, Julian could be in a lot more danger.

This one was really good- although, if you are easily upset by books, you might want to make sure you know what you’re getting into before reading it. The thing that stuck out to me the most about A List of Cages was Roe’s character development and verisimilitude. Both Adam and Julian felt very real; I could imagine them as real people with distinct personalities, and I actually had clear personas for them in my head, which is rare for me. (usually characters just conceptualize as amorphous blobs)

Adam is a smiley, friendly and popular “nice guy” who’s slightly impulsive. He’s probably tall with longish floppy hair. Julian is skinny, shy, timid, and awkward, and probably never smiles.

The book was also pretty suspenseful, and it wasn’t even the plot that generated the suspense; it was simply the pull of the character-driven story.

3. Lovely War by Julie Berry

Genre: YA, historical fantasy, romance

Premise: In the throes of the Second World War, Aphrodite and Ares are once again at odds. Shrouded in a New York hotel, the goddess of love recounts the story of Hazel and James: a concert pianist and a British soldier who fall hopelessly in love before James is sent to the trenches of France in 1917. Enter Aubrey- an African-American jazz musician-turned-soldier and Colette- a Belgian girl who lost her entire family during the German invasion, and you have a captivating romance overshadowed by the tragedy of WW1. Berry’s novel attempts to answer the eternal question: does love always triumph?

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I’m going to be honest: I liked this book, but not as much as I’d hoped to. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve probably realized I’m kind of lukewarm when it comes to romance. (some may prefer the term ‘cynical’). I’ve repeatedly said I hate when the plot of a (usually YA) book is mercilessly interrupted by an annoying romance. That didn’t happen here. So why didn’t I rate this a 4 or a 5? Because the romance was quite literally the only plot. (But Emily, you knew this was a romance!) Yes, but I thought there might be some sort of other plot. There definitely were side plots, but said side plots weren’t very detailed, and I felt like nothing happened for most of the story. That said, I loved all of the characters, especially Aubrey. I also thought the writing was really good, and although there was a ton of romance, it wasn’t cheesy and it didn’t make me roll my eyes. And it was clean! (thank you!)

There were also a lot of really interesting discussions in this book, and Berry didn’t shy away from the tough parts of history.

Overall Lovely War reminded me strongly of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, except set in a different time period and with a stronger romantic focus.

4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Genre: YA, contemporary classic

Premise: Charlie is the definition of a wallflower. Perpetually on the fringes of life, he has few friends and many problems. Starting high school only makes things more complicated: as Charlie enters the world of adolescence, his inner turmoil only increases. Chbosky’s epistolary novel explores Charlie’s coming of age and the universal struggles of high school. (Who’s liking my pseudo-literary synopses so far?)

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is essentially The Catcher in the Rye except edgier and set in the 90s. I finally got around to reading this after it sat in my TBR forever! And just in time for Banned Books Week, too. (Perks was the 14th most frequently banned book of the decade) Overall, I thought it was good; it was a very short read and I only took slightly over an hour to read it. As I said before, I got a very strong Holden Caulfield vibe, but I prefer The Catcher in the Rye (to which I gave 5/5 stars when I read it a year ago)

My main criticism of The Perks of Being a Wallflower is that it was kind of unrealistic. The plot revolves around Charlie- a freshman with little cognizance of social norms- befriending a group of seniors. This would definitely not happen in the real world (sad, but true). It’s a common theme in YA books that the depiction of high school is often inaccurate, but if you suspend your disbelief a little, it was a pretty good book. I’d say I wish I’d read this in freshman year, but I think 13-year-old me would have been scarred.

5. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: 4/5 stars

Genre: adult, historical fiction

Premise: Before the war, Marie-Laure Leblanc is a blind girl living in Paris with her father. Werner Pfennig is an orphan with an insatiable fascination with radios, math and mechanics. When Germany invades Paris, Marie-Laure and her father flee to the seaside city of Saint-Malo, carrying with them a rare and possibly cursed jewel. Werner is recruited by the Nazis for his mathmatical talents and roams the countryside of eastern Europe, tasked with killing any enemy of the state in possession of a radio. Meanwhile, a terminally ill Nazi official searches desperately for the Sea of Flames, the stone that supposedly grants immortality. The paths of these three fundamentally different people will cross eventually, revealing the common threads that connect them all.

All the Light We Cannot See is the kind of book you pick up when you want to feel sophisticated. I don’t think I’d ever read a book with such gorgeous writing; I’d also never came across an author who uses semicolons as often as I do.

I definitely enjoyed this book. It was really atmospheric and really deep, and as I said before, the writing was absolutely beautiful. The reason I didn’t rate it higher, though, is because I tend to prefer plot-driven novels, and this book just dragged on forever. It was pretty dense, and clocked in at over 500 pages (with a small font!). In my opinion, there just wasn’t enough plot to use up all that space, and it resulted in a ton of filler, particularly in the middle of the book. I’ve noticed this pattern in general whenever I read “adult” books: they usually have better writing but a lot more detail, a lot more filler, and a slower and more reflective plot. (By the way, should I do a post one day comparing and contrasting YA and Adult? Let me know in the comments)

That said, I felt like I was reading the makings of a modern classic while I was reading this book. It so well-written! I just wished it were a bit faster-paced.

Conclusion:

I hope you enjoyed these book reviews. Have you read any of the books on this list? If so, what did you think of them?

Thanks for reading!

*NOTE- for some reason, the WordPress reader has stopped showing the images for about half of my posts… it seems to only be happening on my laptop though, so I do not know what’s going on with that.

Little self-promo:

My June book haul

Important Announcement

I’m checking in to let you all know that, contrary to the state of my blog feed, I have not actually fallen off the face of the earth!

I’ve been really overwhelmed with school, work, dance and all of my other extracurriculars for the past few weeks, and unfortunately I do not have anything super interesting to post today.

However, I am not going to disappear; I’m not going to quit blogging or stop writing posts. I’ve been reading tons of books and I have so much to write about! I will try to put something up later this week.

Thank you so much for being a reader of my blog, and stay tuned!

The Reread Book Tag

How many people actually reread books?

I used to be someone who reread books all the time: if I ever felt bored or upset, I would grab one of my old favorites from my shelf and dive into the familar pages. Now I prefer to spend most of my time reading new books, although tags like this threaten to change my mind.

Thank you to Sweaters and Raindrops for nominating me for this tag! (back in July. I am almost three months late posting this… I’m sorry!) Go check out her book blog!

The Rules:

The Questions:

1. A childhood favorite you could read 100 times and still love

The Harry Potter series. I was hardcore obsessed with Harry Potter in elementary school. To put this in persepctive: my friends and I called ourselves the “Harry Potter Club”, played Harry Potter every single day at recess, and were the sworn enemies of the “Anti-Harry Potter Club.”

I read the series 10 times. I’m not kidding, I actually read all of the books 10 times (maybe more) In fifth grade I used to be able to name the chapters of each book in order from memory. In short, I was absolutely crazy. It was the pinnacle, fangirl-wise, of my life.

2. A book you DNF’d but would be willing to give a second chance to

As a general rule, I never DNF books. No matter how bad it is, I always power through. Which makes this kind of a tough question because the books I hate, I really hate. I guess, if I had to give one of my one-star books another chance, I would choose Stargirl by Jerry Spinneli. If you want a general idea of what this book is like, this quote from the synopsis will suffice: “After 15 years of home schooling, Stargirl bursts into tenth grade in an explosion of color and a clatter of ukulele music, enchanting the Mica student body.”

I believe I mentioned this book in one of my other posts recently. I read it in eighth grade and just found it terribly cringey, but maybe if I re-read it with a more open mind, I’ll better appreciate the perhaps unintentionally saccharine message.

*EDIT- yes I did mention this book in one of my recent posts… I chose this book for “a book you wish you hadn’t read” in the folklore book tag in August. Well, it looks I changed my mind.

3. A newer favorite you would reread

I’m breaking the rules and nominating more than one book for this. Forgive me as I once again mention the same books I always talk about. You know the drill:

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

4. A book you hated and never want to read again

Another foray into the one-star recesses of my Goodreads read list yields… The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. I read this book in seventh grade because it was nominated for a book award in my state. Though it was in the grades 4-6 category, I liked to read all of the nominees in all of the categories and assumed that it would be good even if it was meant for elementary schoolers.

The story is essentially about a robot who gets stranded on an island and then makes friends with all the animals and learns about its feelings. The robot’s feelings. The robot has feelings. And talks to animals. I know this was supposed to be cute, but it was… I was not a fan.

4. A classic you read in school but want to try again

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury– I don’t even remember why I rated this book 2 stars, but I suspect it had something to do with the copious busywork we were assigned along with it. I loved my freshman year English teacher and her class, but for some reason, this book didn’t get on my good side.

It might have also had something to do with the characteristic stuffiness of books written in the 1950s. Please tell me someone knows what I mean by that. It’s like the stereotypical 20th century American announcer voice- but in writing- and it has a very distinct feeling.

Seriously, though, I really should have liked Fahrenheit 451. It’s about books and it’s a dystopia and it’s frequently compared to 1984 (one of my favorite books!). I definitely need to read it again.

5. An author you would reread anything from

Ruta Sepetys. I only just discovered her books this year, but I’ve already read all of them.

6. A series you want to reread for the fun of it

The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I read The Hobbit when I was seven and LOTR when I was eight/nine. I thought The Hobbit was okay, and LOTR was extremely boring until Part 3 (Books 5-6). I am not really a fan of fantasy, but I want to reread these soon to see if I would like them more.

7. A series you want to reread for an adaption

Probably everyone is choosing this, but I’m going to have to go with The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin. I don’t even watch Netflix… I don’t think I’ve ever watched Netflix, actually, but I’m curious about the adaptation they are doing of this series.

EDIT- I just learned something brand new while I was answering this question: adaption and adaptation are two spellings of the SAME word. I never knew this.

8. A book you’ve read but want to listen to the audiobook

I recently found out, to my dismay, that my class will not be reading any books this year in English because of the time constraints of online school. (I’m taking AP English Language in the spring, so because of the way this year is set up, we just have to cram for the exam and there won’t be time for books…). We were supposed to read Hamlet this year, so I’m going to nominate it for this category. I have it downloaded on my Kindle, but plays are always better when you listen to/watch them!

Oh wait… this question says a book you have already read (Duh… this is the reread tag) In light of this development, I’ll choose Macbeth then because I read it last year and loved it.

I tag:

Your Paper Hearts

Writings From a Farm Girl

Reading on a Star

My Days in Montana

A Literary Latte

That’s it for today’s post! I was originally planning to post something today for Banned Books Week, but this morning I woke up earlier than I have woken up for the past seven months and spent five hours sitting in a stuffy room taking the SAT. Consequently, I’m really tired right now and I just didn’t have time to write a full-fledged article that would actually be of sufficient quality. (I will try to write one for next week or some time soon, though, because book banning is a topic I really want to blog about and I have so much to say on the subject!)

I am trying my best to keep writing blog posts once a week, but I have been feeling super overwhelmed. I have severely overcommitted myself this year, and that’s why I haven’t been very active on WordPress lately! I don’t even know how I am managing the sheer number of things on my plate because there are so many I can’t even think of all of them at once.

(Also, I am not doing a September wrap-up post just because it doesn’t make sense to post one with my new one-post-a-week schedule. I will probably do a combined wrap-up for September and October. )

Anyway, thanks for reading today’s post. Feel free to do this tag if you so desire!

Are We Wasting Our Lives?|Gen Z Perspective on Social Media

A few years ago, I wasn’t allowed on any form of social media, and the allure of something forbidden to me yet used by many of my peers caused me to spend almost all of middle school begging my mom to let me on Instagram. She finally relented when I turned 14.

Now, almost two years later, I’m starting to understand my mom’s reluctance. My generation is hopelessly addicted to the Internet- myself absolutely included- and I’m beginning to realize that social media is honestly overrated. And I don’t think I’m the only person who thinks so: the amount of people I know who have said they wish they didn’t have social media is, quite frankly, surprising. So why does everyone still use it religiously? Should we be cutting back? Is social media even that bad?

What Makes Social Media Addicting?

Well, for me…

  1. It alleviates boredom– My chronic social media addiction compounded severely during the spring and summer, for one reason in particular: I was bored. The hours I’d used to spend doing schoolwork or doing things outside of the house were easily replaced by my phone.
  2. It provides social validation– This is one of the most disturbingly strong pulls for me. I am decidedly not popular at school, or really anywhere for that matter, and I constantly feel pressure to post whenever I have a picture of me that doesn’t look bad, or if I have accomplished something interesting. This is bad. The more I think about it, the worse it seems, and I know I am not the only person who feels like this.
  3. It satisfies your nosiness and curiosity– What is really the point of social media if not an outlet for people to pry into other people’s business? But the question I ask myself is, why do I feel so compelled to check Instagram and see all the people from my school post their selfies? It doesn’t make me feel good about myself. So why do I always feel the need to do it? I went on an Instagram cleanse about a month ago, during which I unfollowed almost 150 people. No regrets.
  4. It has become a source for news and politics– This one is mostly specific to 2020… if you live in America, you’d know that we’re in the midst of a very heated presidential election race at the moment. And I mean VERY heated. As a result of this, social media is flooded with political posts. I can’t stop looking at social media to check out what people are posting about, and every time, I’m bound to see something that makes me angry or upset. Especially if I look on the explore page. Every time. There’s no avoiding it. And, perversely, that only makes me want to check more often.
  5. It’s designed to keep you coming back– my history teacher recommended the Netflix documentary “Social Dilemma”, which I haven’t yet watched because we don’t have Netflix. Or do we? I don’t know because I’ve never watched Netflix in my life. (Yes, I know, I’m so quirky). But I don’t have to watch that documentary to realize that social media companies benefit from your usage. I deleted Instagram for Lent in 2019 and in 2020, and both years, I was constantly bombarded with emails from Instagram begging me to come back and “check out what I’d missed”. And it’s so easy to get sucked into the infinite scrolling trap!

I’ve also noticed SO many weird social constructs and habits that I adhere to because everyone else does, and after a while, I’ve started to realize just how pointless some of them are.

Weird Social Constructs of my Generation

  1. Obsession with followers– My friend and I used to always compare how many followers we had on Instagram (“I have 315 now, how many do you have?”) which, taking a step back, is honestly concerning. This kind of conversation isn’t particularly harmful, but it demonstrates everyone’s preoccupation with social approval on Instagram. I used to get really offended if I noticed that someone unfollowed me, even if I barely knew them, because it made me feel like people didn’t care about me at all. I deleted Instagram for Lent this past year because I was just fed up with this kind of thinking
  2. Vapid comments– If you look at a girl’s post on Instagram, the comments will be FILLED with “so cute!” “so gorgeous!” “pretty girl!” “so pretty!” from all her friends. Everyone posts the exact same comments on everyone’s posts, and the weird thing is that they still feel validating. There’s nothing wrong with commenting nice things on people’s posts; I just find it disconcerting that these kinds of comments can become less of a compliment and more of a common social courtesy that you say to everyone. I always feel supremely fake as the tenth person to comment “so cute!” on someone’s post
  3. Judging people– I feel like everyone judges you on Instagram. I see people’s posts and I silently judge them. And I carefully curate my own posts to make my life seem more interesting than it actually is. Sometimes I find myself looking at someone else’s feed and feeling really bad about myself, because it looks like they have so many more friends than me, their life is so much more fun, they are so much more photogenic. That’s another reason I deleted Instagram for Lent; it’s not super great for my self-esteem.
  4. Obsessing over Snapchat streaks– I got Snapchat about a year ago, and I already barely use it anymore. In all honesty, I don’t understand how Snapchat is considered addictive… at all. When I first got the app, I tried to keep my streaks with everyone, but after a while I stopped caring. There’s only so many times you can send pictures of the ceiling to your friends before it dawns on you that Snapchat is kind of pointless… I mostly just watch people’s stories now. But it’s weird to me that people put so much effort into preserving their streaks.
  5. Fairy comments– Listen, I know fairy comments are supposed to be a joke but… some of them go WAY too far. I also just don’t like when people think “no *sparkle* *fairy* *nail polish* *heart*” is a legitimate argument rebuttal. Sorry! (I really don’t belong in Gen Z, do I…)

Are We Wasting Our Lives?

It’s time to answer the titular question of this article. Is social media wasting our lives?

Well, the answer isn’t a definitive yes or no.

Are there better things you could be doing with your life other than scrolling through your phone, wishing you were more like someone else, just trying to pass the time in quarantine? Yes, there are. But you could make that claim about almost any activity.

Does social media have some merits to it? Of course.

It can be informative and it can be fun. It can help you connect with people. The question is: have we crossed the line of dependency?

I know people who spend 14 HOURS on their phones every single day. That number has probably increased in quarantine, but even pre-corona, it was a rarity to see anyone at school not on their phone.

Would I be able to delete social media? Probably. Do I want to? Kind of.
But I don’t think the answer is necessarily to get rid of social media. Instead, I think we need to break our dependence on it. Like they always say, moderation is key.

What do you think about social media? Do you spend a lot of time on it? Let me know in the comments!

Please subscribe to my blog! I mostly blog about books and occassionally post long rants/discussion posts like this one.

*Note- I have been SO busy since school has started, so I haven’t had much free time to be active on WordPress. I’ve been trying to stay updated on my reader with other people’s posts as much as I can, but it has been a lot!*

Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

another random thematic picture

How do you write a review for a nonfiction book?

I’m not exactly sure. There’s no criticizable plot and I can’t exactly critique the characters, so this review is just going to be an amalgamation of everything I found interesting about this book.

Which, in this case, was a LOT of things.

About the Book:

Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Author: Susan Cain

Genre: nonfiction, psychology, self-help

Rating: 4.5/5 (but how do you rate a nonfiction book?)

Book Review:

Among the many topics that are so interesting I could think about them all day are personality types (I’m an INTP by the way)

This book is very interesting.

(“Interesting” is such a bland word, I know, but it just the perfect word to describe what I’m trying to describe. If you want to read this blog, you’ll have to get used to hearing me use the word “interesting” because I use it very frequently.)

Susan Cain’s main thesis is that society almost unfairly favors extroverts and qualities associated with extroversion- the “Extrovert Ideal”- and she seeks to explain why this is the case and to bring appreciation back to introverts.

She starts out by summarizing the rise of what she calls the “Extrovert Ideal” in America. According to this book, this societal change began with self-help schemes and advertisements that shifted the perception of the ideal personality from calm, reserved, and kind to outgoing, bold, and sociable. Ads began to paint the “attractive” personality as bold and charismatic, and told people that in order to be an admirable person, they had to command attention and stick out from the crowd.

Today, Cain points out, being extroverted often makes it a lot easier for you to be successful in life.

I definitely agree with this idea! I constantly have to pretend to be extroverted, even though I am definitely not. For example, I currently run a tutoring business with my friends. Meaning I have to go on Zoom and talk for an hour straight about algebra five times a week. I absolutely love tutoring, and now that I am more familiar with the kids I am much more comfortable, but when I first started I was intensely nervous for every single session.

I even have a leadership position in a couple clubs at my school, one of which was really scary because I had to run for it and give a speech and everything. There are benefits to doing these things, and I like going out of my comfort zone but…. it would be so much better if I weren’t so awkward! I constantly wish I had some semblence of charisma in any form.

It was so interesting to read a book that explained the reasons behind this societal preference. But Quiet isn’t a pity-party for introverts; on the contrary, it spends a lot of time exploring the merits of both types of people and identifies the good qualities introverts bring to the table.

Introverts, I learned, are usually more deliberative and cautious while extroverts are more like to be impulsive. Introverts are also more likely to be anxious and are also more likely to enjoy talking about deep subjects. They also have a harder time projecting positive emotions like enthusiasm (so relatable)

One thing I found particularly interesting was the claim that introverts tend to be more comfortable expressing themselves on the Internet as opposed to in real life. I can definitely relate to that, as this blog is essentially an outlet for my personality and my rants, and I’ve been told that my writing on here is more me-ish than actual in-person me.

Like much of the psychology things I have read about, though, there is no definitive law that determines how people act; therefore, different characteristics are present in different people regardless of their position on the introversion-extroversion scale. I could see myself in most of Cain’s description of introversion, but there were some things that didn’t exactly match. (ex: I talk a lot around people whom I know)

There are also a ton of really intriguing studies mentioned in this book, like one that suggested that peer pressure can directly impact your perception of things. Kind of scary, but super fascinating.

I also really liked the informative and engaging writing style, and the pleasant mix of anecdotes, history, statistics, and science.

Book Recommendation:

Overall, Quiet by Susan Cain was an extraordinarily interesting psychology book, and I had a difficult time putting it down (maybe that’s just me being a nerd, though). I’d recommend this to anyone who feels like reading something educational, absorbing, and potentially relatable.

That’s it for today’s book review. Thanks for stopping by my blog! Have you read Quiet by Susan Cain? Would you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert? Do you know your Myers-Briggs type? Let me know in the comments!

*Note- Last week, I forgot to turn my comments on and didn’t realize until three days later! If you wanted to reply to that post, I’m sorry, but I’ve turned my comments back on now. School has made me extremely scatterbrained!*

The Currently Reading Book Tag

a beautiful autumnal picture in honor of my FAVORITE season

I survived!

The first week of online school was definitely weird, but I actually didn’t hate it. I’ve heard lots of people complaining that being on their laptops all day gives them a headache, but… I’m on my laptop 24/7 anyway so I haven’t exactly noticed a difference.

I also finally started going back to some of my extracurriculars, and let’s just say I have appreciated the reminder that people besides my family actually exist in the world.

Today I am bringing you the Currently Reading Tag. Thank you to The Reading Addict for tagging me!

Let’s go ahead and get into the questions!

The Questions:

How many books do you usually read at once?

Usually just one, but sometimes I’ll read two or three at once if a) one of them is super tedious b) one of them is for a school assignment or sometimes c) they are vastly different genres or d) one of them is an audiobook

How do you decide when to switch between multiple reads?

I’ll switch between different reads depending on my mood. If I feel like reading something challenging, I’ll read the more tedious book. If I feel like reading something quick and exciting, I’ll read the fluffier book. If I feel like cleaning my room, I’ll put on the audiobook.

Do you ever switch bookmarks partway through a book?

I don’t usually use bookmarks. (uh oh, is that sacrilegious?) I normally use sticky notes or pieces of paper, and I honestly have no idea if I switch them out midway through books or not because I lose them all the time.

Sometimes I just try to remember the page number I was on instead of marking the page, but that usually makes it harder for me to concentrate on the book. I’ve also been mostly reading off my Kindle recently, which forgoes the use of bookmarks.

What time of day do you read the most?

During school, the answer to this would be at night before I go to bed. Right now, I would say between 3-7 PM. That’s usually the time frame in which I do my one-sitting reads. I still read a lot at night, though.

How long do you typically read in one session?

I have a very consistent attention span cutoff point at two hours. Even when I was in elementary school, I would always be able to read for two hours- and just two hours- before taking a break.

The same thing applies to studying and blogging and programming and anything else I concentrate on. It’s always two hours. I don’t know why.

Unfortunately, though, I think the typical time I spend reading has decreased recently because I keep getting distracted by my phone. I always go back to my book after checking my phone, though, so I don’t know if these short distractions really affect this question. I probably read for about an hour at a time, but it depends.

Do you read hardcovers with the dust jacket off?

I don’t like hardcovers for this reason. I usually keep them on, but they are so annoying that I end up taking them off after reading for a while.

What position do you mainly use to read?

Wow um… I’m not exactly sure. If I’m on my Kindle, I can read lying on my stomach, side or back. Pretty much any position, because it’s super easy to read on a Kindle. I also often read sitting at the table and eating. If I’m reading a physical book, I usually read lying on my back with my knees up to prop up the book. If I’m listening to an audiobook, I usually pace around the house if I’m energetic or lie down if I’m not.

Do you take your current read with you everywhere you go?

Now I don’t get to go anywhere… but I used to never leave the house without 1) my phone and 2) my book. This one time right before quarantine started, I went to the media center in the morning and ended up carrying six books around school for the rest of the day. I got a lot of stares from people, especially when the books kept falling out of my backpack during class.

How often do you update your Goodreads reading progress?

I’m not sure if this question is asking about reading progress as in location in a book or reading progress as in the number of books you have read in the year.

As for location in the book, I almost never update it on Goodreads until I mark the book as finished. One thing I do often is mark the book 99% finished when I reach the end, and add a little comment in my update about my opinion of the book. Then I’ll just mark it as finished.

As for keeping track of the number of books I read, I update my Goodreads religiously. It’s how I keep track of my reading. I joined Goodreads in 2017, and since then, updating my account has become a deeply ingrained habit. Almost all the “dates read” are accurate because as soon as I finish something, I automatically open Goodreads and mark it as finished. Plus, I like reading the reviews.

… well, that’s all of the questions! (I would give credit to the original creator of this tag, but I am not sure who started it)

I Tag:

A Book Owl’s Corner

Anna’s Book Nook

Beyond the Read

Reading Ladies

Paper Hearts

Thanks for visiting my blog today!

(And if you haven’t already, please subscribe:)

What are your reading habits? Do you have similar ones, or am I just ~quirky~?

*EDIT 3 days later- I JUST realized that I never turned on comments for this post… sorry…. whoops…