Two Book Tuesday

I had some trouble with one of these reviews. You know when you enjoy a book, but something about it rubbed you the wrong way? That was me.

44648676._SX318_Title: Smash It!
Author: Francina Simone
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: September 22th, 2020
Ratings: ♥♥♥.5

Goodreads Summary:

Refreshingly authentic and bold… Don’t miss this smashing #ownvoices novel from Francina Simone! Filled with heart, humor and a heroine to root for, Smash It! is a perfect read for fans of Julie Murphy, Ibi Zoboi and Ashley Poston.

Olivia “Liv” James is done with letting her insecurities get the best of her. So she does what any self-respecting hot mess of a girl who wants to SMASH junior year does…

After Liv shows up to a Halloween party in khaki shorts—why, God, why?—she decides to set aside her wack AF ways. She makes a list—a F*ck-It list.

1. Be bold—do the thing that scares me.

2. Learn to take a compliment.

3. Stand out instead of back.

She kicks it off by trying out for the school musical, saying yes to a date and making new friends. Life is great when you stop punking yourself! However, with change comes a lot of missteps, and being bold means following her heart. So what happens when Liv’s heart is interested in three different guys—and two of them are her best friends? What is she supposed to do when she gets dumped by a guy she’s not even dating? How does one Smash It! after the humiliation of being friend-zoned?

In Liv’s own words, “F*ck it. What’s the worst that can happen?”

A lot, apparently.

#SMASHIT

I struggled with how I felt about this OwnVoices novel. I really did enjoy so much about it, especially the racial and sexual diversity. Despite being very entertaining, something rubbed me the wrong way.

Olivia questions everything she does, holding herself back from what she really wants to do and who she loves. She decides to make the leap and auditions for the school musical, with her two best friends—Eli and Dre by her side. As rehearsals begin Liv finally has girlfriends, but finds herself in a messy love square. She’s always been in love with Eli and she thinks he feels the same way, but then why all of a sudden is she having weird feels for Dre? And who is this senior in the musical that makes her feel beautiful?

I really did enjoy the messiness of the love square but it almost went too dramatic. There were a lot of times when I just wanted to shake Liv for her to stand up for herself more. I wanted to read more about the play rehearsals and performances. I’m really having trouble putting in to words what bothered me about this book because I really did like it.

It was great to see a curvy POC grace the cover of the book. There were some great discussions on sex and women owning their sexuality. The racial diversity was something that was rarely commented on—meaning it wasn’t a plot point that needed to be acknowledged constantly. It was how their part of Orlando looked.

ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

81JY1n9ZlELTitle: Finding Balance
Author: Kati Gardner
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: September 29th, 2020
Ratings: ♥♥♥♥

Goodreads Summary:

Jase Ellison doesn’t remember having Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia when he was three years old. His cancer diagnosis only enters his mind twice a year. Once at his yearly checkup at the oncology clinic and when he attends Camp Chemo in the summer. No one in his “real” life knows about his past, especially his friends at Atlanta West Prep.

Mari Manos has never been able to hide her cancer survivorship. She wakes every morning, grabs her pink forearm clip crutches, and starts her day. Mari loves Camp Chemo—where she’s developed a healthy crush on fellow camper Jase. At Camp, she knows that she’ll never get “the look” or have to explain her amputation to anyone.

Jase wants to move on, to never reveal his past. But when Mari transfers to his school, he knows she could blow his cover. That’s the last thing he wants, but he also cannot ignore his attraction to her. For Mari, she only wants to be looked at like a girl, a person, and not only known for her disability. But how do you move on from cancer when the world won’t let you?

There are endless cancer stories in the YA community, so many that they can all start to sound the same. What was different about this story was that not only was this all about being a survivor, but it also features a character who straight doesn’t identify as being a cancer kid. Jason Ellison was only three-years-old when he had leukemia and doesn’t remember much about the three years he spent with the disease. If it wasn’t for his yearly check-ups and his annual week at Camp Chemo, You wouldn’t even know he was a survivor. And that’s exactly how he wants it to stay. Mari Manos couldn’t hide her bout with cancer even if she tried, as it landed her with only one leg. However that doesn’t bother her—she owns who she is. It wasn’t until she transferred to Jason’s school did she start to question how she dealt with her survivor plan. Because despite being great fans at camp—maybe even something more—once she sees Jason at school, he pretends not to know her.

I really enjoyed this, which was surprising because I wasn’t a fan of the first book in this sort-of series. Because of that, I went into reading this companion piece with very low expectations that were definitely exceeded. I loved how confident Mari was—she took all her struggles and hardships in stride, even when she did get her feelings hurt. Despite understanding and seeing the struggle Jason was going through with owning his past, I still have a hard time with Mari accepting his apologies. He said some really nasty stuff to her, things that if it was me, I would have never accepted. I guess Mari is just a better person than I am.

ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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