Compare This! Breath Like Water vs. Coming Up For Air

OMG I BROUGHT IT BACK! I have been reading a crazy stupid amount of books lately and, since I’m getting through them so quickly right now, I started noticing similarities between them.

So this is my special “There should have been Olympics this month” edition of Compare This! involving two books about wannabe-Olympic swimmers.

Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab

VS.

Coming Up For Air by Miranda Kenneally

Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab

The Pros:

  • The story has a person of color (in this case, Hispanic) lead! The diversity, especially in a sport that seems to be predominantly white, is refreshing and much needed.
  • It shows the darker side of competing — the perfectionism, the lack of social time, the bullying that is supposed to be “motivating”. I liked that it wasn’t afraid to dive deep. (Ha, omg, this probably won’t be the last water pun, sorry.)
  • Every character that we see for more than 2 minutes has a realistic personality and realistic flaws. I mean, I’m not sure there was a two-dimensional character in the whole novel. Everyone had a side to them that you liked and a side you hated.
  • The romance felt genuine and sweet with its own struggles mixed in. Again, Jarzab is keeping it real here.

The Cons:

  • This book can get dark. Like, really dark. And I think, for certain people, it could trigger something. I was not expecting it to go the places that it did.
  • There’s a good portion of the plot that’s all “Harry [the male love interest] is hiding something from me” and maybe it’s just my age or something, but I was kind of over that. It just seemed drawn out and eye-roll inducing.
Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally

The Pros:

  • This book is funny. It’s awkward and hilarious because of it. Because really, I think most of us can remember a point in our lives where we had no idea what a physical relationship actually entailed.
  • Kenneally knows how to write cute characters that you like from the beginning and just want to continue to follow even after the book ends. It’s not hard to like the protagonists, Maggie and Levi.
  • The dedication and the drive to become Olympians is still here, but it’s a much healthier environment for our characters that Breath Like Water. So it was more fun to read about because everyone seemed to genuinely care about them and look out for their well being.
  • While the tone is much lighter, it still doesn’t shy away from the realities of relationships, especially how each relationship proceeds at its own pace and you shouldn’t judge what works for another couple just because it doesn’t work for you.

The Cons:

  • This is by far one of the raciest books I think Kenneally’s written, but maybe that’s just because I’ve forgotten the plots of some of the others? Anyway, this is probably not the best book to hand your 11-year-old cousin. It’s not…graphic…but it’s certainly more than a little explicit at times.
  • I’m not really a huge fan of the basic premise, which is Maggie wants to “learn to hook up” because that’s all anyone does in college. (Hint: it’s not. Like I said above, all relationship proceed at their own paces and hook ups may not be something you’re comfortable with and that’s fine.) So that just made me feel a little weird.

And the Winner Is… Breath Like Water!

Why? For starters, the writing is just pure genius. Right from the beginning, the writing pulled me in and didn’t let me go. I loved how I was just taken in by this competitive world I only knew of from the very polished view broadcast on the Olympics. The characters are also worth it because they were the most real people I have read about in a long time. Every. Single. Person. Is. Flawed. You can see characters in the story who are bad people trying to make good decisions but can’t get past their own egos. It’s just fascinating. And that goes back to fantastic writing.

Seriously. This was one of the best written books I’ve read all year.

Compare This! Beauty and the Beast (2017) vs. La Belle et La Bête (2014)

Hey guys!  So I was at the library the other day and I saw this movie on the shelf called Beauty and the Beast, but it was a version I’d never seen before.  When I looked at it closer, I realized it was a French movie and I thought to myself, “Hmm.  The fairy tale is originally French.  I wonder how it compares with our English/Disney versions.”

Look, I’m one of those literature/language/English nerds who loves seeing how stories evolve with each retelling.  Because every storyteller/generation is going to put their own spin on things.  And I absolutely adore seeing what those changes are.  This is just one of the first times I’m able to compare a comparable story not across the ages, but across the sea.

So this is my Compare This! Cultural edition.  I’m going to do this a little differently than usual because I’m just really going to assume that you’re familiar with either the 1991 and/or 2017 Disney versions of the same name.  So let’s go!

Beauty and the Beast vs. La Belle et La BêteImage result for beauty and the beast Image result for beauty and the beast french

Similarities:

  • At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, both heroines are named Belle.  (Hey, it’s not always that way!)  And both men are, well, beasts.
  • Both tales involve fantastical creatures/a healthy dose of magic beyond turning a man into a beast.
  • Both follow the general well-known story arc: Girl attempts to save her father, sacrifices herself to the Beast, girl and beast fall in love.
  • Belle’s personality is generally the same.  She’s well educated, independent, and stubborn.  Oh, and when her merchant father goes out of town, the only thing she requests is a rose.
  • Both stories created characters to fit their needs.  In Beauty, Gaston and LeFou are Disney creations to give Belle another suitor/villain.  In La Belle, the villain is named Perducas.  He’s a thief and has unquenchable greed, along with a suspicious, superstitious streak.

Differences:

  • La Belle is actually more in line with the original tale, even though there are still many many differences.  In La Belle, Belle is the youngest of six (two sisters, three brothers).  Her mother died while giving birth to her and, in some ways, her family holds that against her.  Also in line with the original tale, Belle’s father was a wealthy merchant who lost all of his money suddenly when his ships sank.
  • The Beasts are actually quite different in personalities.  In Beauty, the Beast becomes a beast because he’s vain and selfish.  In La Belle, it’s because he’s greedy and destroys an old magic for his own gain.  So whereas the Beast in Beauty comes to love Belle when he realizes he cares for someone more than himself, in La Belle, it happens when he covets Belle for himself, though he’s learned a bit from his last mistake.
  • The villain’s sidekick is a very different role in both.  We’re pretty familiar with Gaston and LeFou here, but Perducas’s sidekick is a fortuneteller named Astrid, who reads Tarot cards for him.  (Perducas trusts nothing if the cards don’t tell him it first.)  In a way, Astrid loves Perducas, even if he can’t truly love her back.  So it’s a different dynamic than Gaston and LeFou.
  • La Belle is definitely not a musical.  Unfortunately.
  • La Belle, for being French, was incredibly unromantic.  I mean, there was a dance scene but it was not at all like the sweeping dress, “tale as old as time” dance we’re used to.  It just happened out of the blue.  And their entire love story seemed to come out of nowhere.

Thoughts

I appreciated being able to see another version.  And in the beginning, I was totally into it.  I loved giving Belle siblings.  I loved that that made her more fierce because sacrificing herself to the Beast took on more meaning when it meant protecting her siblings as well.  It has some beautiful shots of the landscape, intricate designs, and nuanced characterization to make the siblings all feel different.

But once Belle got to the castle, it got weird.  The Beast was incredibly angry all the time and refused to let Belle look at him.  He would hover behind her shoulder and once he watched her sleep, which ranked really high on my Creepy! meter.  With his claws (and a scene where he kills and eats a pig raw), he’s actually incredibly dangerous as well.  He also came off to me as almost abusive at times in the ways he would treat Belle.  Not that he ever hit her or anything, but more like emotional abuse.  I’m not really sure what it was.  It just unsettled me watching it.

Which made the “I love you’s” really awkward because I didn’t see that coming at all from their previous interactions.

I did like the twist about how the Beast became a Beast, with how his greed blew up in his face.  And the ending had some really awesome action sequences.  But the context surrounding them was hard to understand if I was missing things through dubbing (I watched it in English) or if it was a cultural thing.

So while it was fun once, I think I’m good sticking to Disney.

Compare This! Shakespeare Retellings

Hey everyone!  Sorry I missed this one last week, but I thought I’d make it up to you by looking at a few books that try their hands at Shakespeare.  Of course, there were MANY to choose from, so I wanted to focus on those that stuck more to the Shakespearean stories rather than taking those same plots and modernizing them (you know, like the modern Romeo and Juliet stories set in high schools).

So yeah.  I wanted to stick more to the originals.  And there were a couple that I thought of immediately as some that I’ve really enjoyed, so I thought those would be the best to focus on.

If you’re a Shakespeare nerd like I am, you’re going to enjoy this!

Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub

VS.

Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein

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Still Star-Crossed

Blurb: Verona is in shambles.  With the deaths of Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, the city is supposed to be at peace.  But it’s not.  Instead, the violence is as strong as ever and the Prince is desperate for a new plan.  In their own ways, so are Benvolio Montague and Rosaline Capulet, who both have seen too much death in their families as of late.  But no matter how much anyone tries to come up with a plan, a force is at play to make sure that the Montagues and Capulets never make peace…

Pros:

  • I adored this take on Verona in the days following the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.  It’s the sequel I never knew I needed.
  • For real, though, it has just as complicated and intricate of a plot as any Shakespearean play.  Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, something changes everything.
  • Characters are phenomenal.  I always liked Benvolio in the original play because of his level-headed approach to attempting to calm Romeo and Mercutio from their actions.  This only played into everything I already thought of him.  And we get to really meet Rosaline, who is only mentioned by name in the play.  (Rosaline, if you recall, was the girl Romeo was in love with at the beginning and the whole reason they crashed the Capulet party, at which he saw Juliet for the first time.)
  • This was thrilling, in that the city is virtually burning around them.  Everyone’s out for blood to avenge this person or that.  It’s not safe for anyone, especially the Montagues and Capulets.  Putting these two families on a collision course again when they’re still in mourning, is like throwing gasoline on the flame.  And, in its own way, it’s beautiful.  I could not stop reading this.

Cons:

  • At times, it can play into cliches.  It can get a little predictable at certain moments when you least want it to.
  • Shonda Rimes turned this into a TV series about a year ago that I was super excited about…but it was kind of meh.  I think that’s given some people the impression that this book is like that show, but they changed so many things in the few episodes that I saw that I would venture to say they’re very different.  But that first impression…it’s hard to overcome that.

Image result for ophelia lisa klein

Ophelia

Blurb: Hamlet is Prince of Denmark, and Ophelia is no one.  Right?  Think again.  Growing up in Elsinore Castle, Ophelia has trained from a young age to be the queen’s lady-in-waiting.  She’s witty, smart, and beautiful.  When she catches the eye of Hamlet, they begin their romance in secret.  But as Hamlet’s world turns bloody and mad, Ophelia’s happiness is shattered.  Ultimately, Ophelia will have to choose between Hamlet and her life.  In desperation, she constructs a plan to escape Elsinore forever…with one very dangerous secret.

Pros:

  • I have always always always had a soft spot for Ophelia.  She is by far one of my favorite Shakespearean females.  Seeing this well-known story from her perspective was perfection.  I mean, she probably knew Hamlet better than anyone, so what would she think when he started changing?
  • I liked how Ophelia was portrayed, as a strong and independent woman surrounded by men who thought she was helpless.  She was able to allow them to see her as they wished while still being her own person.  There’s a certain amount of strength involved in that.
  • I enjoyed the portrayal of madness throughout this book.  Remember, in the play, both Hamlet and Ophelia are said to have gone mad, though scholars only really debate whether Hamlet was pretending.  Never Ophelia.  But perhaps she was?  Hmm.
  • In general, I really liked how the story was told.  I felt like I could hear Ophelia in my head.  Her voice seemed realistic and I totally got into it.  It’s always fun when you can get that into a story that you become the character.

Cons:

  • No matter how you slice it, sometimes it’s just hard to compare a remake to the original.  As much fun as it is to see it all from Ophelia’s point of view and as close as Klein attempts to stay to the original, there are differences.  It can’t exactly be helped.
  • It’s been like 8 years since I last read this (which means I haven’t reviewed it on here!  I must reread this soon and remedy that), but from what I remember, I do remember some parts being predictable and not because I read the play first.  There’s something that happens at the end that I’m pretty sure I called before it happened.

 

My Winner: Still Star-Crossed

Why?  I just can’t explain in words how much I enjoyed that book.  It was one of those where I just picked it up at the library with no prior knowledge about it, read the jacket and thought it interesting, and loved it.  Romeo and Juliet is probably by far the most well-known work of Shakespeare’s and this “sequel” of a sort stayed true to that world while showing us What Happens Next.  I already liked Benvolio so much and I fell for Rosaline not long after I started the book (especially as she tried to stand up to the men in her life who tried to bully her into following their wishes).  Both are headstrong and witty, but they’re also both in mourning over beloved cousins (Juliet and Tybalt for Rosaline; Romeo and Mercutio who is not actually a cousin but a friend for Benvolio) and this book walks both lines so well.  It’s phenomenal.

But I will say, I’ve gone back to reread Still Star-Crossed in the last year and it may have been a smidge less enjoyable the second time around, but not by much.

Now I need to go back and reread Ophelia.  She deserves some love too.

What are some of your favorite Shakespearean retellings?  Drop them in the comments because I’m ALWAYS looking for new ones!

Compare This! Mortal Instruments VS. Infernal Devices

Hey everyone!  Let’s not pretend you didn’t know this was coming, since I talked about Cassandra Clare on Tuesday.  I figured it was worth it to take a look at these two incredibly popular series.

The only hesitation that I had about doing this was that it’s been the better part of a decade since I’ve read either of these series.  I’m nervous about what I do/do not remember, but I enjoyed both of these series very much when I first read them.  They were the kind of books that I was waiting impatiently for the next book to be released.

So let’s get started, shall we?

The Mortal Instruments series

vs.

The Infernal Devices series

Image result for the mortal instruments

The Mortal Instruments

Synopsis (of City of Bones): When fifteen year old Clary Fray heads out to a New York club, the last thing she expects to see is a murder–much less one committed by teens covered in strange tattoos and the dead body disappearing literally into thin air.  It’s hard to call the police when everything is invisible.  This is Clary’s first run-in with Shadowhunters, a group of warriors tasked with ridding the world of demons.  Within 24 hours of meeting this group, her mother is kidnapped and Clary is attacked by a demon.  Why are they interested in Clary?  That’s what she’d like to know.

Pros:

  • This series is a great mix of so many genres.  It’s urban fantasy with romance with mystery and drama and humor, among others.  As long as you’re decently ok with urban fantasy, you can find something else to love about this series.
  • The books are utterly captivating.  You will have a hard time putting the books down.  It’s totally worth the hype.
  • The characters and plot are both delightfully complex.  You will have no idea where the story will go next, but you’ll also be drawn in by the well-written characters.  Even the most happy-go-lucky characters have a dark backstory and the most inane minor character still has personality.
  • Some of the quotes from this series are among my favorite, both for being words of wisdom and for being absolutely hysterically funny.

Cons:

  • I’m a bit upset by the fact that this was supposed to just be a trilogy and that it’s been extended into like 6 books.  (I haven’t read past the 3rd because I thought it was done.)
  • The plot can sometimes/often be so complex that it feels like a soap opera.  The longer you stick with the stories (here’s looking at you City of Glass), the more it feels really melodramatic.  There are some twists that eventually just feel weird.
  • Along with the previous point, sometimes I feel like there’s too much going on at one time.  It can be overwhelming to remember minor characters between all of the books, remember who’s supposed to be where and doing what, etc.  There’s A LOT.

Image result for the infernal devices

The Infernal Devices

Synopsis (of Clockwork Angel): It’s 1878 and Tessa Gray dives into the dark London supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother.  Soon, Tessa discovers that her only allies are Shadowhunters, including Will and Jem, two boys she’s drawn to.  Soon, they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a group of supernatural beings determined to take over the British Empire.  Tessa and her friends may be the only ones who can stop them.

Pros:

  • I loved that it combined all the elements of the Mortal Instruments genres (urban fantasy, romance, mystery, etc.) with historical fiction.  Historical fiction gave it a new edge that the previous series didn’t quite have.  This was also one of the earliest YA examples of steam punk, as far as I know.
  • Again, very complex plot and characters.  However, perhaps unlike TMI, the character development amps up the longer you read the series.  The plot is consistently complex the whole time.  And that’s not a bad thing.
  • This series nailed the ending.  Give it a 10 from the Russian judges, because that dismount was perfect.  It’s not often I say that a series wraps up well, and this totally did.

Cons:

  • I felt like the characters were more abrasive in this series.  Whereas in TMI, the characters were mysterious while being endearing, it takes a lot longer to reach that “endearing” point with a number of these characters.  Even the love interests are almost unlikable at times.
  • There’s a very…odd…love triangle.  I’m going to just leave it at that.
  • There’s a lot in this series that can bog down your reading.  There are multiple languages used (including Welsh, Chinese, and Latin) which slows down reading speeds.  But there’s also jumping narrators that can keep you from feeling invested in some of the characters because it all happens so rapidly.

 

My Winner: Ugh, do I really have to pick?  Fine.  The Infernal Devices

Why?  I’m not going to lie, at least a portion of this pick boils down to two things: 1) I remember it better than TMI because I’ve read it more recently and 2) I really really love historical fictions.  Tessa and Clary are fairly comparable when it comes to how much I like each of them, and while I liked the romance a smidgen better in TMI (it’s close), I just liked the way TID was crafted better.  I think since it was Clare’s second series, she’d learned from mistakes she’d made in the first series.  It reads better, even if it takes longer to get going at times.

As usual, that’s not to say TMI is not good.  It’s bloody fantastic.  I enjoyed the humor in that series much more than the humor in TID.  Jace is the king of sarcasm and I will never forget that.

Maybe one of these days, I’ll go back and reread these series.  Perhaps my picks will change then.

What do you think?  Which series is better?  Also, is it worth reading the other books in the Shadowhunters world?  Leave comments below!

Compare This! Hush, Hush vs. Unearthly

Hey everyone!  So it wasn’t too long ago on Twitter I discovered they were turning Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick into a movie (Yes, a MOVIE) and I thought it would be a good time to take a look through some angel series.  They’re kind of classic, in that they never quite go out of style because religion never really goes out of style.  And I don’t know about you, but I’m always drawn to every person’s interpretation of angels.  They’re all so different while still retaining certain elements.

So back in the hey-day of angel series, there were really two that I felt like everyone was talking about/reading.  I decided to stick with those for this, but I have more in mind for a later post.  (Hint: warrior angels…so cool)

Alright, let’s get this party started!  Tally-ho!

Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick

VS.

Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand

Image result for hush hush series

Hush, Hush

Premise: Nora Grey is fairly average, except maybe for the fact that she doesn’t have a whole lot of interest in the guys at school, especially the ones her best friend keeps throwing at her.  But when Nora meets Patch, she’s drawn to him, no matter how much she kind of knows she shouldn’t be.  When a series of terrifying events happen involving Patch, Nora doesn’t know if she should run from him or run to him.  He seems to know more about her than her best friend.  Either way, it’s too late.  Nora is caught in the middle of an ancient battle–and choosing the wrong side will cost her her life.

Pros:

  • I think the angel backstory in this is well done.  It’s a bit different, since it deals with fallen angels rather than angel-angels, but that means they’re that much more dangerous because they lack that fear.  So that was fun.
  • Near the end of each book, when the action really picks up, you’re going to have a hard time putting these books down and going to bed at a normal time.  Trust me.
  • There are some interesting twists in the story line, especially later in the series.  Let’s just say that the longer you stick with it, the more things get exciting.  More action, more plot twists, etc.
  • I was really into watching Nora grow as a person throughout the series.  She gets put through the ringer and she comes out so much stronger on the other end.  It was fascinating to watch that happen.

Cons:

  • Admittedly, the first book feels a lot like Twilight.  I mean, dangerous stranger she should stay away from, stranger rescues her from danger and pushes her away, etc.  Like, lots of similarities.  (But those similarities DO go away after about half of the first book and it becomes its own story.)
  • The Sequel Slump (where the second book feels incredibly melodramatic) is STRONG with this one.  It’s rare for me to start a book and not finish it, no matter how bad it is, and I did that with this one.  I put it aside, only to pick it up and finish it at a later date.
  • The plot can be overly convoluted at times.  There were times where a lot was thrown at us very quickly and I didn’t understand why even half of it mattered to the story.

Image result for unearthly series

Unearthly

Premise: Clara Gardner has recently learned she’s part angel.  Not only does that mean she’s stronger than humans, but she’s also given a purpose.  Her life has meaning.  The only problem is figuring out just what it is.  She has visions of a forest fire and a stranger standing in it.  These take her family to a new town and a new school, where she meets Christian, the boy from her dreams (literally).  At the same time, she’s drawn to a boy named Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.  In a world she no longer recognizes, Clara is faced with decisions she never thought she’d have to make and a choice between honesty and deceit.  When the fire finally ignites, will she be ready to face her destiny?

Pros:

  • I really enjoyed these characters.  Clara is funny and her struggle to discover what she’s supposed to do with her life was all too real.  Even if I’m not part angel.
  • The setting is interesting as well.  There aren’t a whole lot of books set in Wyoming, and I thought that was really creative, not to mention it opened the story up to a lot that I don’t normally get to read about.  (Horses, cowboys, huge forests and mountain ranges, etc.)
  • There are clever plot twists in the story and secrets revealed.  If I can’t see them coming, then they’re good.  And there were a few I certainly did not see.
  • I really liked that even though it is an angel series with like, actual angels (as opposed to fallen angels), it never felt like it was pushing religion on the audience.  It was part of Clara’s life, but even then it wasn’t like it was Everything.  (I have a problem with books that become preachy.)

Cons:

  • There’s a love triangle.  Sigh.  That’s the early 2010s for you.
  • From book to book, I had a hard time reconnecting with the characters.  You know how some books do a great job reminding you of who everyone is and things that happened in the previous books?  This is not that series.  So you either need to read them in close succession or just muddle your way through it.  Like I did.

 

My Winner: Unearthly

Why?  For whatever reason, I just got into this story more.  I think I related to Clara and Christian and Tucker more than I did Nora and Patch, perhaps in part because I think Clara is witty and funny.  Perhaps it was because the action felt more realistic to me and less like a soap opera.  Looking back through my previous notes and reviews, I had less to complain about with Unearthly and more notes about how quickly I got sucked into the story.  (Whereas Hush, Hush‘s notes were more along the line of, “I don’t get why…”)

As per usual, neither story is bad.  I finished each series and stuck with them for years.  But when put head-to-head, I felt like Unearthly had more to offer.

What are your thoughts?  Hush, Hush or Unearthly?  Let me know below!

Compare This! Before I Fall vs. If I Stay

Hey everyone!  Get your tissues ready because I like to call this one the Battle of the Tearjerkers.  Besides, everyone needs a good cry once in a while and these are awesome to have in your arsenal.

This week is also YA Week on Goodreads, so I wanted to pay tribute to two of the most moving books I could think of.  (Not to mention movies…y’all, If I Stay is my go-to bawl movie.  And it has awesome music.)

ANYWAY. let’s grab that box of tissues and sink into these choices-can-change-your-life reads!

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

vs. 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Image result for before i fall book

Before I Fall

Synopsis: For popular senior Samantha “Sam” Kingston, “Cupid Day” on February 12th at school is supposed to be amazing.  It’s a day for roses and love and after-school parties and the privileges of being at the top of the social ladder.  And it’s a great day…until she dies in an accident that night.  But then Sam wakes up the next morning.  Sam is reliving her last day over and over again.  Soon, Sam realizes that by making little changes, she has more power over her life than she ever thought she did.

 Pros:

  • This hits you right in the feels.  I related to Sam very quickly (not because I was like her in school, but just because her situation was so real).
  • Character development.  I mean, if you have a character reliving the same day over and over, it’s very easy to see how they change because literally every different decision shows those changes.  And I’m a total sucker to character development.
  • The themes are really universal.  It’s about being a good person, about deciding what you want to do with the time you have on Earth, about determining who matters most to you.  And much like character development, I’m a sucker to good themes.  It’s part of being an English teacher.  We eat themes for breakfast.
  • I really liked that it’s a story of redemption, of opening your eyes and seeing more of the world around you.  Sam tends to be focused on herself (like most people, let alone teenagers), and seeing her realize what was happening in the lives of others was satisfying.

Cons:

  • Sam and her friends can be incredibly annoying, just because of who they are.  They’re the popular kids in school, the ones who make snide comments about those beneath them, the ones who bully.  And it can be really hard to read that, especially if you experienced things like that in school.  (I did not, but they annoyed the crap out of me.)
  • Let’s not lie.  Replaying the same day over and over can get repetitive, even with the small changes Sam makes.  I mean, it’s basically Groundhog Day.
  • There are A LOT of serious issues covered in this book.  At times, it could be overwhelming, depending on the reader.  (Death, suicide, sex, loss, bullying, etc.)

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If I Stay

Synopsis: Mia has been facing a lot of tough choices this year.  Should she pursue her love–her passion–for music, even if it means moving across the country away from her family and her boyfriend?  Can she handle being away from them, and possibly losing her boyfriend?  Then one February morning, everything changes in an instant.  Now there’s only one choice Mia has to make.  Should she stay?

Pros:

  • Mia’s story is raw.  It’s emotional.  It’s all too easy to put yourself in her shoes, trying to make the same decision she is trying to make.  Legitimately, have some tissues ready.  You’re gonna need them.
  • I quite liked the way the story was told, in a nonlinear timeline.  Things jump around.  As Mia starts thinking about something, we flash back in time to see what moment she’s thinking about.  It’s done really well, so it’s not distracting.  It’s more like the way our brains work.
  • I adore the characters, from Adam (Mia’s boyfriend) to her parents, her brother, and her grandparents.  (I especially love the grandfather.)  It’s really amazing to see how they all played such a large role in Mia’s life.
  • This book is highly quotable.  I have made many many notes of quotes from this book that I just adore.

Cons:

  • Occasionally the suspense can be a bit overbearing, to the point where you’re yelling at the pages and demanding that the action pick up and tell you what happens next.  Sometimes, you’re left with questions for a long time before you get answers.
  • There’s always something about books about music that just can’t quite grasp the power music has.  This certainly tries–and does much better than some.  You understand Mia’s passion for music, how it makes you feel.  But if you’re unfamiliar with the cello or classical music, I don’t feel like you’re truly experiencing Mia’s world.  A book just can’t quite do that.  (However, the movie does it well!)
  • The realness of this story can be overwhelming if you aren’t prepared for it.  We’re talking a nasty book hangover, questioning your life choices, etc.  This book can be brutal on the feels.

 

My Winner: If I Stay

Why?  I honestly didn’t realize this until I was doing this post, but I read If I Stay first, and I think because that made the initial impact on me, it’s sticking higher in my thoughts.  Also, as someone who thought one day she’d grow up and be a singer (ooooh noooo), I understand what music means to Mia.  I understand her better than I do Sam.  And Mia’s cast of characters is far more supportive than Sam’s, making this book hit the feels that much harder.

And I know I shouldn’t factor this into my decision, but I can’t fully exclude it either.  The movie for If I Stay is amazing.  It’s not 100% faithful to the book (what is?), but it is faithful in its intent.  It stays true to the characters and the plot and the themes.  I have mad respect for the movie.  (Not that Before I Fall‘s movie is bad.  I love Zoey Deutch as much as I do Chloe Grace Moretz, but I just love this movie more.)

Anyway, do you agree with my pick?  What are some other tear-jerkers I need to be looking into?