Tailgates & Heartaches is the second book in the wonderful The Locals series by Haley Rhoades and it sure lives up to its title. Oh, how my heart aches for Madison!
This series follow a group of friends from their High School graduation in small town Athens as they are about to start their lives for real, and in this second book, Madison’s past affects every part of her future. She has left her friends and the love of her life, Hamilton, to keep a BIG secret, but the weight of the secret grows heavier with every passing day. Madison is such a brave, kind and unselfish person and that sacrifice she does is remarkable. I don’t agree with her decision to keep the secret, but I can understand her reasoning for it. I just hope that she will change her mind in the next book in the series…
I really liked the way Madison and her friends were growing up and dealing with their new lives. There were some great character developments in this book, Madison of course, but also Bethany and Troy after the hardship they go through. I also liked the way Haley Rhoades described Madison’s struggle to come to terms with the way her life has changed. She who always wanted nothing but to leave Athens behind, now comes to realize how much her home town and friends means to her and how she wishes to come back, but her secret makes it impossible. Haley Rhoades describes this so beautiful in this quote:
“It’s the whole “opposites attract” saying coming to life. From middle school to high school, Athens and I were south-pole magnets; we repelled one another. In high school, my only goal was to leave town after graduation and never return. One year has now passed since my graduation, and I’m not the south-pole magnet I thought I was.”
All in all, this is an enchanting, sweet story about a lovely group of friends and I cannot wait to continue the series to find out what will happen to them all, and if Madison and Hamilton will get their happily ever after and become a family in the end.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Haley Rhoades
I loved, loved, loved Becky Albertalli’s book Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda to pieces and had such high expectations when starting to read this book. It seemed like a dream team with Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera co-writing it and the plot seemed to be right up my ally; two teenage boys meet-cute at the post office in NYC and their efforts of finding each other again because maybe “life really isn’t like a Broadway play? But what if it is?”. Unfortunately, What If It’s Us didn’t quite meet my high expectations, but still, it was a very cute, fast-paced read, with a lot of enjoyable New York scenery and pop culture and Broadway references.
The story is told from different POV:s, alternating between Ben and Arthur. Normally, I like this set-up, but here I found a bit unnecessary. I think the main reason why this book was a 4 star and not a 5+ star read for me was that I didn’t fully connect with the characters. Arthur was a bit over the top and Ben was always talking himself and Arthur down and reflecting on how Arthur was too short and not being chill, which after a while got a bit annoying. I also missed a bit of chemistry between them too; it wasn’t Broadway magic between them, which I had hoped for. I also have to say that I found the ending thoroughly dissatisfying. I just really, really wanted to love this so much more than I did. But that’s got more to do with my extremely high expectations than the book, and if I hadn’t read anything by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera before, I’m sure I would have loved it without objections. Because, besides these objections, this really is a lovely book.
What If It’s Us is a bit softer and sweeter, more quiet somehow, than most YA books, which I liked. It was about Ben and Arthur and their little part of the world, which was enough. I really, really enjoyed the descriptions of the dates all over New York and the pop culture and fanfiction references. And the representation is great, the main characters are a gay Puerto Rican and a gay Jewish with ADHD who is obsessed with the musical Hamilton, yay to that! And even though I would have liked some more swoon-worthy magic between Ben and Arthur, the authors did a great job in describing the insecurity you feel about doing things for the first time (first date, first kiss etc.) in such a realistic and adorable way that it made your heart ache. I also adored the side characters, especially Ben’s friend Dylan and his hilarious, awkward “future-wife”-way of jumping way ahead in a relationship. I think Dylan was my favorite character in the book.
Overall, this was a cute and sweet book that is definitely recommend, even if it wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for.
Find out more about the book and the authors here: What If It’s Us
I read this book in Swedish when it first was released in 2016 and loved it! After seeing the Netflix series, I wanted to re-read it in English, to share with y’all. I’m so happy I did and that I loved it just as much the second time around as well.
Quicksand is a book about a mass shooting that has taken place at a prep school in Stockholm’s wealthiest suburb. But, unlike most crime novels, this isn’t really a story that focuses on the actual crime. When the book starts, we already know that the shooting has happened and that eighteen-year-old Maja Norberg is charged for her involvement in the massacre that left her boyfriend and her best friend dead. So, the premises of the book are quite different. But the fact that we know that the crime has been committed, and even how, does not in any way make it any less intense.
In fact, it’s breathtakingly exciting! And so gripping. Instead of the crime, the story focuses on Maja and how she, a popular and privileged top student, came to be accused of murder. I was completely blown away by the way Malin Persson Giolito keeps the suspense even though the premise of the story is clear already from the start, the emotional depths of the characters and how she made me question my own instincts as to whether Maja was guilty or innocent.
Through flashbacks and Maja’s talks with her lawyer and the prison guards, the inescapable slow, dark, twisted way to perdition is revealed layer by layer. This is such a sad, gripping, story about broken kids, abuse and drugs. Money does not make you happy, that’s for sure.
This book was the winner of Sweden’s Best Crime Novel 2016 and I completely understand why. It’s a brilliant, breathtaking and insightful masterpiece! It’s written with fury and it tells a story about society at large and the consequences when teenagers are let down by the adults around them. When rich teenagers are left drifting, with only their peers to turn to. When fear of being left out of the circle of so called friends, make them sacrifice anything to belong. When wealth shadows all problems and the cry for help. When you have sunk too deep into the quicksand to get out, and what happens when you are so broken that you there is no point of return. Eventually, Malin Persson Giolito leaves us to draw our own conclusions about who is truly guilty of a crime. The truth of what really happened is hard to grip, it’s a different truth for all involved and in the end it comes down to interpretations and grey zones.
It’s a book that makes you question your own beliefs and that will stay with you for a long time. It’s upsetting in the best possible way, and I recommend it with all my heart!
We Were Never Here by Jennifer Gilmore is a bittersweet, honest and emotional story about recovery and healing, and a about the romance between a hospitalized girl and a troubled boy.
The story is about teenager Lizzie, whose life changes drastically when she gets sick and finds out that she’s suffering from an inflamed colon. This is probably one of the most embarrassing illnesses for a teenage girl, having a bag attached to you doesn’t really make teenage life and the idea of being intimate with anyone easier… Understandably, Lizzie is mortified and has a lot of self-pity, pushing her friends and family away. But eventually, she meets Connor, who appears to be this sweet golden boy who visits the hospital patients with his dog and who can help Lizzie get her confidence and hope back, as he sees more to her than her sickness. Soon though, it becomes clear that Connor has his own demons and although he doesn’t have scars to show for them, his wounds might be harder to heal.
I have some mixed feelings about this book. I absolutely loved some parts of it, but some parts didn’t work quite as well. I loved that the heroine, Lizzie, was so true about the pain and struggle to handle her disease and her humor dealing with it, but still there were so many parts of her and her way of reacting to other people that I really didn’t like at all. It’s understandable that having to deal with a lifelong illness, and such an awkward one, was a struggle and that she had a right to be upset and acting out, but there were moments when she was just unreasonably mean and rude to her friends and people who were interested in her wellbeing. I definitely felt for Lizzie, but I wasn’t really able to connect with her. And then strawberry-golden boy Connor, who was such a cliché at first, but who grew on you when it turned out that he wasn’t that perfect after all, only to act so badly that I ended up not liking him very much in the end after all. I also didn’t really feel any chemistry between Connor and Lizzie. Their love story was sweet, but it didn’t move mountains.
The character I loved most in the book was Stella, Lizzie’s new friend. I loved how she changed Lizzie for the better. And the dogs! They must be some of the best written dog-characters ever. They really added to the story and are a part of the book that I liked the most.
Overall, I enjoyed this story and Lizzie’s character development. It’s a very real, thought-provoking and meaningful story about an unusual illness that emphasizes how important it is to see beneath the obvious. Mental illness isn’t always visible and it’s not always the person in the hospital that suffers the most. It wasn’t the greatest love story, but it was honest and emotional, and I definitely recommend it.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Jennifer Gilmore
Eight friends in small town Athens are getting ready to start their lives after High School. Two of them want nothing but to leave Athens behind (Madison even has a list of 4,247 reasons for leaving), the other six are happy to stay and build a life amongst friends and family where everything feels safe and familiar.
I love the premise of this book, that we follow a group of friends during that time when life shapes and small decisions can have such major impacts on the whole future. The description of small town life is absolutely on point, you can tell that Haley Rhoades knows from experience, growing up herself in a small Missouri town.
In this book the story is told from Madison’s perspective, but it’s also focusing a lot on Adrian. In the next books in the series I believe focus will be on the other friends in the group.
I really love Madison and my heart aches for her dealing with her alcoholic mother and chaotic home situation. I also love her friendship with Hamilton and the way it evolves after one of those seemingly small decisions that will change life forever. Madison is such a brave, kind and unselfish person and that sacrifice she does is remarkable. The other part of the story focusing on Adrian does not engage as much. Adrian’s bossiness and her sex talk was not my cup of tea and I couldn’t connect to her at all. But all in all, this is an enchanting, sweet story about a lovely group of friends and I cannot wait to continue the series to find out what will happen to them all.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Haley Rhoades