The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

Overall Rating: 4/5

Quality of Prose: 4/5

Quality of Story: 4/5

Quality of Characters: 4/5

Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 4/5

How Long It Took Me to Finish: 5 days

A 1 Sentence Summary

Math nerd and high school senior Lex struggles to come to terms with her brother’s recent suicide.

My Favorite Quotes

“Forgiveness is tricky, Alexis, because in the end it’s more about you than it is about the person who’s being forgiven.”

“Everything changes, I think. That is the only constant. We all grow up.”

“Brave isn’t something you are. It’s something you do. It comes from action. I appreciate that.”

last time

What I Loved About It

This book is a serious book. When reading it, it doesn’t feel like you’re reading a young adult book at all; The Last Time We Say Goodbye feels like an adult book with a young adult protagonist. That is refreshing. It’s a nice change reading a book that feels more serious, that lacks many of the common young adult book tropes and cliches. This book isn’t centered on a romance (though there is one deep in the background) and isn’t a typical coming of age story (though the protagonist learns many lessons and prepares for college over the course of the book). Though centered on teen suicide (like many other popular YA books) and how the people left behind by suicide cope  (see I Was Here and All the Bright Places), this book lacks the compelling qualities of many other YA books (and YA books about suicide). And while that meant this book took me far longer to read than I Was Here or All the Bright Places did, it is, in many ways, a positive statement about the book.

I wasn’t drawn in to this book by a angst-filled romance or by a protagonist that is so relatable she basically is me. With this book, a couple times I had to take breaks from reading because it was a bit too heavy for me to read for hours at a time. With this book, I had to, at times, force myself to read.

Many young adult books these days (even ones that I absolutely LOVE like All the Bright Places) follow a YA formula, a formula that draws in the most teen readers and ensures a place on the Bestseller list. And while I obviously love the components of that formula (because I love many of those enticing YA books), sometimes it’s nice to read a book that doesn’t prescribe to that formula, that is a bit more original, a bit more fresh, and a bit more adult. And that’s what The Last Time We Say Goodbye is. It’s not a page turner. It’s not a steamy romance or an action-packed dystopian novel or a dark and angsty teen mystery. It’s an adult young adult book.

Hand also does a superb job with putting the reader in Lex’s guilt- and shock-ridden headspace (possibly because she herself lost her teen brother to suicide as a young person). My heart can’t handle many more teen suicide books. They tear me to pieces every time, and this book is definitely no exception.

What My Students Could Learn From It

I think it’s good for students to read more serious YA books. I also do not prescribe to the (unfortunately popular) idea that we shouldn’t discuss suicide with teens so as not to give them ideas. Suicide is something we need to discuss with our teens. To show them that it’s not the right choice, that it destroys many other people than just the one who committed suicide. And this book could certainly serve as a conversation starter.

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How to Love by Katie Cotugno

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Overall Rating: 4/5

Quality of Prose: 4/5

Quality of Story: 4/5

Quality of Characters: 4/5

Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 3/5

How Long It Took Me to Finish: 2 days

A 1 Sentence Summary

Three years after the love (or obsession) of Reena’s life, Sawyer LaGrande, abandoned her and left her pregnant and alone at 16, Sawyer returns to the town, girl, and family he left behind.

My Favorite Quotes

“I wasn’t shy, exactly…I just didn’t know how to do this, is all, the clang and chatter of high school. And, more than that, I didn’t particularly want to learn…I wasn’t unpopular, exactly. I was just…unequipped.”

“The hideous thing is this: I want to forgive him. Even after everything, I do. A baby before my 17th birthday and a future as lonely as the surface of the moon and still the sight of him feels like a homecoming, like a song I used to know but somehow forgot.”

“I am remembering so clearly how he looked when he was eight, when he was eleven, when he was seventeen. Sawyer and I were only together for a few months before he left, but he was my golden boy for so long before that he would have taken the guts of me with him even if we’d never been a couple at all.”

“My whole life a holding pattern, some variation on wait and see.”

how to love

What I Loved About It

I’m not gonna lie: I did not have very high expectations from this book. I got it for free at a book fair type thing at my school and had heard from a colleague that a lot of her students loved it. So I assumed it’d be one of those books teen girls who don’t like to read like but that lacks depth. I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong.

Catugno’s prose is exactly the kind I like, poignant and beautiful. Her prose (and really the entire book itself) reminded me of Sarah Dessen (who, as you probably already know, is one of my favorite YA coming of age/romance authors). Both of her lead characters in this book are interesting but flawed, and the romance between them is electric and sweet, and yet so dang full of angst. (Again, just how I like my YA romances.)

I think what also made me really love this book was how much I related to the protagonist, Reena. While I can’t really relate to the whole falling-in-dangerous-love-with-the-bad-boy thing (though my sixteen year old self would have really wanted to) or the pregnant-at-sixteen thing, I can certainly relate to her loneliness, her high school-related social ineptitude, and her great desire to escape. I thought Catugno, like Queen Sarah Dessen, did a really good job depicting that kind of character.

My main hang-up with this book though is the lack of importance Reena and Sawyer’s baby Hannah had in the story. After his return, Sawyer was completely focused on getting Reena back. There never once was a conversation about him wanting to know his child or him despairing about missing the first two years of her life. While Reena seems to be a decent mother off-the-page, the book doesn’t actually give any evidence that she is a good mother on-the-page. The book is a love story. It focuses on Reena’s feelings about her abandonment and how trapped she feels, how much she feels like her life is over. It’s a coming of age story, with a teen pregnancy thrown in for extra drama, not a story about a mother. While I liked the book this way, I also felt like something was missing because of this.

What My Students Could Learn From It

There aren’t a ton of lessons students could learn from this novel. I do think, however, that it’s a good chronicle of the coming-of-age experience. It shows teen readers that life doesn’t always go the way you planned, that your decisions have consequences, and that you should never forget yourself because of a boy (or a girl, for that matter). And, of course, it’s a book that could teach kids that reading can be fun. And that is one of the most important lessons I want students in my care to learn.

 

Reality Boy by A.S. King

Reality Boy by A.S. King

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Quality of Prose: 4/5

Quality of Story: 3/5

Quality of Characters: 3.5/5

Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 2.5/5

How Long It Took Me to Finish: 1 day

A 1 Sentence Summary

Gerald Faust, nicknamed “The Crapper,” struggles to manage his anger and to come to terms with his screwed up family life and his childhood as a reality TV star on a fake nanny show.

My Favorite Quotes

“Isn’t that what fame is, anyway? Being slaves to little people?”

“Do you think they liked watching me suffer because it made them happy to see a little boy suffering? Do you think it’s because it took attention away from their own suffering?”

“I’ll be just another human on a planet full of humans, but better equipped because I have demands. For my family. For my life. For the world. For myself.”

reality boy

What I Loved About It

Once again, A.S. King tells a very honest story in this novel and doesn’t shy away from the tough, disturbing, or just plain nasty aspects of life while telling it. (If you haven’t read my review of my favorite book of hers, Please Ignore Vera Dietz, it can be found here. Go read it. It’s an amazing book.) She has a very unique talent for making her audience cringe and cry and laugh all over the course of reading one small-ish book. While Reality Boy didn’t change me or move me the way Please Ignore Vera Dietz did, it’s still definitely a great book about the teenage experience.

King focuses in this novel on the dangers of reality television and what it’s like to have a psychopath as a member of your family, two things I’ve never really read about before. The romance between the protagonist, Gerald, and his love interest Hannah is extremely realistic and volatile (as most teen romances tend to be), and I enjoyed reading about it. I also thought that Gerald and Hannah’s journey to free themselves from their families and to make certain demands and to set goals for their own lives was an important journey to witness.

What My Students Could Learn From It

Though I don’t feel that there are many traditional lessons students could learn from reading this book (besides maybe not watching reality TV), it’s definitely a relatable book. The novel covers so many different things students can relate to–like bullying, reputation, family troubles, abuse, first love, feeling like you don’t belong, anger management, carving your own path for yourself and your future, etc. A.S. King explores all of these things with honesty and grace, and tells a very moving story about a young man choosing to take action to make his life and future better. My students could certainly benefit from seeing as many stories about teens successfully doing that as possible.

Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Quality of Prose: 4.5/5

Quality of Story: 4/5

Quality of Characters: 4/5

Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 4.5/5

How Long It Took Me to Finish: 1 day

A 1 Sentence Summary

When Gem’s absentee father returns and stashes a backpack full of drug money in the bedroom she shares with her sister, Dixie, Gem wants to take the money and run–finally escape the impoverished, neglected life she’s always led—but she finds it’s not so easy to leave her little sister behind.

My Favorite Quotes

“We lied to ourselves as much as anyone lied to us. You have to, when you’re a kid, if you want to get through it.”

“I wanted a home that felt like home should feel. Safe. A place you go when you know there won’t be any bad surprises and you can be even more who you are, not less.”

“I sensed something like that same freedom, a space opening up inside me where I’d only felt smallness before.”

“I don’t know how or why right then–but I saw. I could belong in the world. There was space for me.”

gem and dix

What I Loved About It

This book though.

I cried like 5 different times while reading it. (And I read the entire book on a plane so it was one of those embarrassing, public book cries.) And I didn’t cry because of some huge dramatic and sad death or loss or something like that. I cried at the real pictures of the human–and, more specifically, the teenaged–experience Zarr depicts in this book. The teenage characters and the trials and realizations and experiences they have in this book are so unbelievably real. And, as a high school teacher reading a book about neglected teen sister runaways, the realness of this book really effected me.

The relationship Zarr depicts between the two titular characters is particularly moving. Never before have I seen a more accurate portrayal of the bond between siblings; they love each other deeply and yet can hurt each other more than anyone else can. Zarr perfectly explained this bond when she wrote Gem saying about Dixie, “She’s the only one who knows…what it’s like to be us.” Shared childhood experiences–good or bad–bond siblings in a way nothing else can, and Zarr does such a good job depicting that.

She also does such a good job depicting Gem and Dixie’s neglectful parents. They are bad parents, involved far more in their own lives and the drugs and relationships they depend on than they are in their children’s lives. They don’t take care of their children. Gem has always taken care of Dixie, but no one has ever taken care of Gem. And even though their parents absolutely suck, there are some good memories Gem has with them.  They have some redeeming qualities; they are neither totally bad or totally good. They are not villains. In fact, there are no villains in this book. Dixie can be cruel at times, their parents can be uncaring and even hateful, but none of these characters are irredeemable. There’s no black or white in Gem & Dixie. Just real actual life. And that’s refreshing for a young adult book.

Another reason I loved this book was that Gem is such a relatable character for me. She is isolated and has been abandoned by everyone she’s ever loved. She is absolutely starved for love and attention. And she suffers from some serious social anxiety, which I (and many of my students) can wholeheartedly relate to. At one point Gem says, “I’d been in bed for an hour without falling asleep, going over my day and all the ways I had been weird at school.” Oh my goodness, no sentence has ever better explained my addled brain.

Despite all of the challenges Gem faces, she pushes through. She does what she needs to survive and to overcome and though all she wants is to flee from her own feelings of responsibility for her mom and sister, she postpones her plans to try and mend her broken relationship with her sister, to finally-even if only for one day-have that love and attention she’s always wanted. Man oh man the feels. So many feels.

What My Students Could Learn From It

Sara Zarr tells a heartbreaking story in Gem & Dixie. And yet it is—unfortunately—a commonplace one. As a teacher, this book especially moved me. How many of my students—how many of your students—have these same experiences? How many have neglectful parents? Parents who don’t make sure their kids have eaten? Who use them as pawns against their spouse or ex-spouse? Who have never taken them on a Ferris wheel or to the park? Who never buy them new clothes? Who don’t know where they are at any given time and who don’t ask? How many of my—and your—students don’t know how to ask for help? Don’t know who to ask for help? How many feel that their problems, their neglectful parents, aren’t bad enough to ask for help? How many feel they don’t deserve help? How many feel like they’re invisible—even to their own families? More than I, who came from a loving home with family vacations and rides on Ferris wheels and a home cooked meal every night, can ever imagine.

Clearly, this book is a must-read for teachers. But it’s also a must-read for our students. Many of my students could obviously relate to the plight of the main characters, and those that can’t could certainly learn a lot about problems that many less fortunate teens deal with.

Gem & Dixie has changed the way I view my students and will hopefully change the way I treat them and talk to them and teach them. And it’ll change you–and your students–too.

10 Fabulous Feminist Books to Read During Women’s History Month

10 Fabulous Feminist Books to Read During Women’s History Month

Hey guys!

I’m so sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted a review. To be honest, my two most recent reads (Someone to Love by Melissa de la Cruz and Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer) were so disappointing and hard to finish, I just felt no motivation to write a review for either of them. Both lacked compelling characters or plots and it took me a full week to read each (and this is solely because of lack of interest not length).

But fear not faithful readers: my good-book-drought is almost over! I’m currently reading a book I’m enjoying a lot. A review should be out within the next couple days.

In other news, you may not know this–because unfortunately it gets very little attention–but this month is Women’s History Month! Happy Girl Power Month™ to you all!

wonderwoman

In lieu of a review, I thought I’d take advantage of this month being Women’s History Month by posting a list of my favorite feminist novels or–for those who still fear the dreaded f word–novels that focus on strong female characters who overcome obstacles and gender expectations, fight against oppression, and just generally kick–metaphorical or literal–butt.

This list is comprised of both classics and young adult books, fiction and nonfiction. The books on this list focus on women of numerous different races, backgrounds, religions, and experiences–real and fictional. But every single one of the women in these books taught me something–or many things–and can teach our female–and male!–students a thing or two as well.

So without further ado and in no particular order, here are my top 10 favorite Girl Power™ books:

1. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

thousand splendid

This book centers on two very different women in Afghanistan who happen to be married to the same cruel, abusive man and who find strength and love in each other. Hosseini draws attention to the oppression of women in a Taliban-led Afghanistan and explores the mother/daughter relationship and the importance of education for women. It is my favorite book OF ALL TIME.

Favorite Feminist Quotes:

“A society has no chance at success if its women are uneducated.”

thousand suns quote

2. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

In the dystopian future, few women are fertile and the few that are left are forced to be handmaids–like Hagar was for Abraham and Sarah–and bear children on the knees of the wives of important government officials. Atwood explores the sexualization of women that led the world to that point in a truly striking way. If you’ve seen the meh Hulu show based on the novel, I beg you to read it too. It’s got plenty of insights the show leaves out and is just generally way better.

handmaids tale

Favorite Feminist Quotes:

“Falling in love, we said; I fell for him. We were falling women. We believed in it, this downward motion: so lovely, like flying, and yet at the same time so dire, so extreme, so unlikely. God is love, they once said, but we reversed that, and love, like heaven, was always just around the corner. The more difficult it was to love the particular man beside us, the more we believed in Love, abstract and total. We were waiting, always, for the incarnation. That word, made flesh.”

“I avoid looking down at my body, not so much because it’s shameful or immodest but because I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to look at something that determines me so completely.”

handmaid's tale

3. Kindred by Octavia Butler

An African-American woman living in the 1970s who inexplicably travels back in time to the Antebellum south to visit her ancestors–a white landowner and his black slave. This is technically sci-fi but it’s so much more than that. It raises so many important questions about race, gender, equality, freedom, and the nature of time. It’s a must read for any feminist.

kindred

Favorite Feminist Quotes:

“The ease. Us, the children… I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.”

“I was the worst possible guardian for him—a black to watch over him in a society that considered blacks subhuman, a woman to watch over him in a society that considered women perennial children.”

4. The Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

In feudal Japan, a girl survives an assassination attempt on her way to marry the prince. In true Mulan fashion, she disguises herself as a boy to discover who tried to kill her–and also to escape the marriage she never wanted. This one’s a really fun, action-packed, romantic, and well-written YA novel I’ve mentioned before. And it’s got a really great strong female main character.

flame in the mist

Favorite Feminist Quotes:

“I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”

“You are first and foremost a person. A reckless, foolish person, but a person nonetheless. If I ever say you are not permitted to do something, rest assured that the last reason I would ever say so would be because you are a girl.”

mulan gif

5. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

A woman in the 1800s, Tess, is raped (there’s debate amongst readers on whether it was rape but 100% yes it was) by her rich, important relative and the rest of her life and her reputation–the most important thing for a lady to have in that period–is ruined forever. I’m not sure this book was meant to be feminist when it was written, but Hardy sure does give us great insight into the treatment of women in time in which he lived. It’s a must read classic.

tess

Favorite Feminist Quotes:

“Did it never strike your mind that what every woman says, some women may feel?”

“Why didn’t you tell me there was danger? Why didn’t you warn me? Ladies know what to guard against, because they read novels that tell them of these tricks; but I never had the chance of discovering in that way; and you did not help me!”

6. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

This book tells the true story of sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimké, some of the first female abolitionists and suffragette pioneers. I had never even heard of them prior to reading this book, but reading their story truly moved me.

invention of wings

Favorite Feminist Quotes:

“Who am I to do this, a woman?”

“’God fills us with all sorts of yearnings that go against the grain of the world—but the fact those yearnings often come to nothing, well, I doubt that’s God’s doing.’ She cut her eyes at me and smiled. ‘I think we know that’s men’s doing.’”

7. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Grace Marks was the most famous murderess in Canada in the 1800s, and Margaret Atwood tells her story in the most fascinating way. She explores the unfairness of gender expectations at the time and feminine sexuality like no one else can. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, this has also been made into a series (on Netflix). The series is good, but reading the book is NECESSARY.

alias grace

Favorite Feminist Quotes:

“In his student days, he used to argue that if a woman has no other course open to her but starvation, prostitution, or throwing herself from a bridge, then surely the prostitute, who has shown the most tenacious instinct for self-preservation, should be considered stronger and saner than her frailer and no longer living sisters. One couldn’t have it both ways, he’d pointed out: if women are seduced and abandoned they’re supposed to go mad, but if they survive, and seduce in their turn, then they were mad to begin with.”

“He doesn’t understand yet that guilt comes to you not from the things you’ve done, but from the things that others have done to you.”

“They wouldn’t know mad when they saw it in any case, because a good portion of the women in the Asylum were no madder than the Queen of England. Many were sane enough when sober, as their madness came out of a bottle, which is a kind I knew very well. One of them was in there to get away from her husband, who beat her black and blue, he was the mad one but nobody would lock him up.”

alias grace gif

8. I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

My only nonfiction offering on the list, Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize Laureate ever, tells her story in this memoir. If you’ve been living under a rock for the last 6 years or so and don’t know who she is, Malala was shot in the face by the Taliban for being an activist for the education of women. And she’s just generally a boss.

i am malala

Favorite Feminist Quotes:

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”

“If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”

9. A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

I’ve reviewed this book before here. It, like A Thousand Splendid Suns, focuses on gender expectations in the Middle East and features a strong female lead.

girl like that

Favorite Feminist Quote:

“You are girls..you can’t get away with acting like boys.”

10. The Harry Potter Series

hp

Last but not least, I think this series requires no synopsis or explanation. Feminist QUEEN, J.K. Rowling provides so many strong female leads in this series, it’s kind of insane that the titular character is a (let’s all be real) clueless teenage boy.

Favorite Feminist Quotes:

Literally every time Hermione Granger or Professor McGonagall or Ginny or Molly Weasley or Lily Evans Potter or Luna Lovegood speak or are mentioned.

There you go guys! 10 great books to read (and to suggest to your students) during March AKA Women’s History Month AKA Girl Power Month AKA The Best Month of the Year!

Happy reading!

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Overall Rating: 3.75/5

Quality of Prose: 3.5/5

Quality of Story: 4/5

Quality of Characters: 4/5

Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 3.5/5

How Long It Took Me to Finish: 3 days

A 1 Sentence Summary

When found by a detective on a resort in Mexico, Jule’s (possible spy/possible super hero/possible murderer) story unfolds in reverse chronological order and her many secrets are revealed.

My Favorite Quotes

“To be a physically powerful woman–it was something. You could go anywhere, do anything, if you were difficult to hurt.”

“‘Shut up, little girl, you’ve said enough.’ ‘Stop, little girl, don’t hit, use your words’–and shut up at the same time. They squash you. They want you to be small and silent. Good was just another word for don’t fight back.”

“‘The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.’ –Charles Do Bos”

What I Loved About It

If you read my review of Lockhart’s other mystery/suspense/thriller We Were Liars, you’d know I was really really impressed by Lockhart’s prose and her GIGANTIC twists in that novel. Because of that, I was really really looking forward to reading Lockhart’s newest novel. I was ready for another twist, and I must say this book definitely delivered. The twist in this one is crazy and, while not completely unexpected, definitely blew me away.

Lockhart’s prose in this novel isn’t quite as impressive as that in We Were Liars, but it’s still really good and she has a really really unique talent in creating a protagonist who is, for all intents and purposes, (SPOILER ALERT) an evil, identity-less murderer and yet who the audience really sympathizes with.

The fact that the story is told in reverse chronological order is another testament to E. Lockhart’s literary genius and really makes the story a lot more suspenseful and intriguing. I can’t even imagine how hard it was to write a novel like that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: E. Lockhart. Is. The. Bomb.

I really did enjoy reading this book. However, I found myself being fairly confused when the book ended (which, to be fair, was probably Lockhart’s intent). The book ends rather abruptly and left me questioning A LOT of what happened throughout the book. To be fair, I could definitely see the structure and narrative of this novel being too confusing for many of my lower level readers and just complex enough for my more advanced readers.

What My Students Could Learn From It

The unique structure of the book would be great for teaching text structure and how a text’s structure affects the narrative itself. It’d also be a great book for teaching about the unreliability of narrators. Jule, the protagonist (IF THAT’S EVEN HER REAL NAME), is, after all, not the most trustworthy source for information and even by the end of the book, many of the mysterious details of her life and character are still not revealed or clarified.

The book also has a lot to say about gender roles and expectations , as well as identity, and could foster a really interesting conversation amongst students about those things.

And of course the violent, murder-y bits of the story would provide plenty of intrigue for the kids. They eat that stuff up.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Overall Rating: 4/5

Quality of Prose: 2.5/5

Quality of Story: 4/5

Quality of Characters: 4.5/5

Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 4/5

How Long It Took Me to Finish: 3 days

A 1 Sentence Summary

When Simon Kelleher, the writer of the school gossip blog, dies in detention, the other four students who were with him–all of which have secrets to protect–are the prime suspects.

My Favorite Quotes

“’The first seven years of the Joshua tree’s life, it’s just a vertical stem. No branches,’ she told me while we were hiking. ‘It takes years before it blossoms. And every branching stem stops growing after it blossoms, so you’ve got this complex system of dead areas and new growth.’ I used to think about that, sometimes, when I wondered what parts of her might still be alive.”

one of us is lying

What I Loved About It

I have to be honest, I have never gotten into murder mystery, suspense/thrillers. I typically stay away from genre fiction as a whole. I don’t read much sci-fi, I don’t read romance, I don’t read mysteries. But I heard from a friend that this book was great, and I wanted to try something new. And I was definitely not disappointed. I really enjoyed reading this book.

McManus is great at keeping her readers engaged. Each character has multiple secrets that are revealed throughout the novel at exactly the right moments to change your view on who killed Simon and to keep you reading. For this reason, it was hard to put this book down. She handles the suspense, the romance, and the character development (all four of the main characters really grow throughout the novel and that’s rare for a mystery novel with four protagonists.) really really well.

Though this book didn’t make me super emotional or stay with me for days after finishing or blow my mind, it was a fun read and it had more depth than I’d expect of a YA mystery/thriller. And I think my kids would really, really like it.

What My Students Could Learn From It

This book reminds me a lot of Thirteen Reasons Why because of its likability but also because of the clear cut lessons it teaches teens.

There are clear morals to be learned when reading One of Us Is Lying. Don’t make judgments about people. Don’t define yourself by the relationships you’re in. Be kind to people because you never know what they’re going through and how the things you say or do might affect them. Be honest with the world about who you are. Don’t cheat. Don’t gossip. Don’t lie. Don’t sell drugs. Though I typically prefer books with more ambiguity and depth, I definitely see the draw of a book like this as a teacher.

And like I said, my kids–and yours–would absolutely love One of Us Is Lying.