Here's part two of my mini review series featuring titles I didn't get to review for a long time. Todays's post is dedicated to contemporary titles that deal with personal and familiar conflicts that affect our protagonists in IF I STAY, RETURN TO PARADISE and RICH AND MAD.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
In IF I STAY Gayle Forman confronts us with a precarious and more than difficult decision that has to be made. Leave this world forever or stay and try to rebuild the ruins of your life?
After the horrible car accident that led to the death of her family, Mia is in a coma. She is the girl in between. Told from her perspective, Mia’s constantly reflecting on the sequences that have defined her life so far and compares them to her current situation. There are moments with her family, simply eating breakfast, or her falling in love with her boyfriend Adam.
I had high hopes in the relationship between Mia and Adam. I imagined it to be romantic and epic, but I felt just slightly entertained by Mia’s retelling of some of their relationship highlights. Tough Adam was the person I liked most in IF I STAY. He is sweet, has inner strength and is willing to fight for Mia no matter what.
But unfortunately I just didn’t click with the other characters. Mia’s parents felt too alternative for my taste. Nonetheless I find it helpful and necessary that Gayle Forman includes moments of their lives and retells the most important stations to offer the reader a glimpse of what could be forever lost to our torn protagonist Mia.
And torn is exactly how I felt about Mia, too. On the one hand I totally got how she felt about this whole messed up situation. On the other hand I couldn’t really identify with her character. Her life- as her parents’ lives- is highly dominated by music. She’s so passionate about her violin and I admire her for that. People who are interested in music the same way Mia is should like this read a lot.
I might not have cared about the characters as much as I’d wanted to, but the overall discourse definitely affected me and made me think a lot about what I would have done if I had been in Mia's situation.
3,5/5 ***/* IF I STAY- A philosophical discourse about the safety of life and the security a family offers. Gayle Forman tells the story of Mia with the right amount of sensibility and beautiful piano notes contributing a soundtrack to the sad story.
Publisher: Random House UK
Publishing Date: May 13th 2010
Length: 232 pages
Keywords: YA, contemporary romance, car accident, coma, loss, music, love, friendship
Return To Paradise by Simone Elkeles
The sequel to LEAVING PARADISE circles around Maggie, Caleb and the accident…again. There might still be the need to talk about Maggie and Caleb’s feelings and the events of the past, but sometimes their conversations just felt like a revision of the LEAVING PARADISE talk.
Now Maggie and Caleb are forced to spend a four week trip together to talk about their experiences with drunk driving. Time to sort out their differences one could think, but to me it felt like Maggie and Caleb seem to be stuck in their old dialogues and actions. It’s not like in LEAVING PARADISE where they made progress by approaching the other. In RETURN TO PARADISE they are caught in a silly loop and unnecessary frictions, pushing the other away and letting him get close again.
New about this part of their story is that they join four other teens on their trip. They are Matt, Erin, Trish and Lenny. These teens have stories of their own, that are definitely worth hearing. Thanks to them and their refreshing personalities RETURN TO PARADISE doesn’t feel like a total dragging read. My favourite character in this novel might be Lenny with his ridiculously funny actions and jokes.
I didn’t really need a sequel after LEAVING PARADISE, but I’d already got it and so I made myself read it. There are some things that could have been solved faster. In the end I was content that the story came to a decent end.
3/5 *** RETURN TO PARADISE - A decent but unnecessary sequel. RETURN TO PARADISE promises more talk about the accident and its consequences, luckily with a few funny and fresh character cast additions.
Publishing Date: September 1st 2010
Length: 312 pages
Keywords: YA, contemporary romance, love, drunk driving, friendship
Rich and Mad by William Nicholson
Two teenagers falling in love for the very first time. Doesn’t that sound like a romantic and potentially overwhelming story? I imagined Mad- Maddy- to be independent and strong and Rich-Richard- to be that reckless and sexy young man. They both were nothing like that though. Maddy is so gullible and somehow doesn’t get what’s really happening around her. And then Richard is compulsively insecure and clumsy with all things concerning girls.
Rich and Mad’s families as their friends and crushes play a big role in the story aswell. How many illusional feelings and miserable thoughts can a young person bear and what does it take to take them away and replace them with self-confidence and happiness? That’s what RICH AND MAD is all about. I also liked that he involved the topic of sex and that he made clear that it can be a very dominant part of a teenager’s life.
But their love story simply wasn’t what I'd expected. I had been really looking forward to read RICH AND MAD, in the end it just wasn’t for me. There were too many issues and no clear line to follow. And I cannot believe the low self-esteem many characters showed so my connection to the characters was rather distant. Rich and Mad's romance didn’t convince me either since it felt forced and meagre most of the time.
Note that RICH AND MAD contains explicit content such as physical and psychical violence and sexual interactions. William Nichols provides the reader with vivid details. Those scenes would have felt a lot more meaningful though if the romance between them had been a part of the story from the beginning on and not just some kind of rational decision.
2/5 ** RICH AND MAD- Hormonal teenagers and a ton of personal, familial and social issues. That’s what William Nicholson’s RICH AND MAD has to offer. Unfortunately the story lacks the emotional depth I had wished for.
Publisher: Egmont UK Limited
Publishing Date: April 5th 2009
Length: 314 pages
Keywords: YA, contemporary romance, love, sex, family
Source: Book Fair