Book Reviews

Review | Radio Silence By Alice Oseman

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Published: February 25th 2016 by Harper Collins

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+

Synopsis: You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl.

I just wanted to say—we don’t.

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying. When she’s not studying, she’s up in her room making fan art for her favorite podcast, Universe City.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As. But no one knows he’s the creator of Universe City, who goes by the name Radio Silence.

When Frances gets a message from Radio Silence asking if she’ll collaborate with him, everything changes. Frances and Aled spend an entire summer working together and becoming best friends. They get each other when no one else does.

But when Aled’s identity as Radio Silence is revealed, Frances fears that the future of Universe City—and their friendship—is at risk. Aled helped her find her voice. Without him, will she have the courage to show the world who she really is? Or will she be met with radio silence?

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Spoiler Free Review:

My main incentive in reading this book is I heard there’s a character who identifies in the asexual spectrum as well as a friendship (nothing more) between a boy and girl. I did expect something remotely different from what I actually read but nonetheless, Radio Silence ending up being a very enjoyable read.

This book does take place in the U.K. and includes British lingo which is different than what this dumb American normally reads. The main character Frances Janvier is also half Ethiopian and half white as well as bisexual so A+ on representation, though I don’t believe all of it is own voices. The story line revolves around a famous podcast and the relationship between Aled and Frances. Despite the unique synopsis, it’s definitely far too long for what actually occurs in the novel. Many of the scenes were filler and could have easily been taken out or replaced.

However, I love how the podcast has an agender character and there are discussions on gender neutrality. It was refreshing to see two characters talk about clothes without placing gender stereotypes. Additionally, there’s an inclusion on the toxicity of fandom culture. Frances is a fan artist (which is also really cool) and there’s experiences of backlash and hate from the Universe City fandom. I’ve never read a book that depicts the bullying and invasions of privacy that take place in fandoms so it was refreshing to read about. There’s also characters who attend university which is rare in YA and much appreciated since I hate high school students (says the highschooler).

There is asexual representation, however it’s not a main focus of the story which normally I would love how ace rep. is weaved into the story. But I was expecting a little more from the asexual representation, not just a small mention of it. Overall, Radio Silence ended up being an entertaining and addicting story, though it did leave more to be desired. But if you’re looking for a diverse YA contemporary, I would definitely recommend reading Radio Silence. 

Rating: 3/5

 

 

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Book Reviews

Review | Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body By Roxane Gay

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Published: June 13th 2017 by HarperAudio

Source: Local Library & Libby/Overdrive Ebook & Audiobook App

Format: Audiobook Narrated By Roxane Gay

Genre: Adult, Nonfiction, Memoir

Synopsis: From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself

I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

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Spoiler Free Review: 

Reviewing this book to me is similar to how some feel about reviewing poetry, how some prose is so deeply personal I wouldn’t even know what to say. That’s how I feel about this story. It’s hard for me to review this book because I really don’t think I can write any comprehensive thoughts that will do this book justice.

Roxane Gay begins by discussing her childhood, how she began as a fairly thin child and her traumatic experience of being gang raped at age twelve changed her eating habits forever. Most people don’t connect a person’s need to consume food to any kind of trauma. People are just seen as fat because they just eat too much. Roxane Gay described how she had this never ending hunger, a need to consume food in order to protect herself from the dangers of the world, so no one could ever violate her body again. She went on to write about stigmas surrounding weight loss, the various reality t.v. shows, camps and exercises all striving to mold a person’s body into the norm. The rest of this book follows Gay into adulthood. From boarding school and college to being a college professor to becoming a writer.

Reading about her life and how her body was viewed and how her intelligence was demeaned went on to show how ignorant the world is to the lives of people who aren’t thin, white and straight. Her experience was harsh, there was no sugarcoating around it and that just made it all the more human. One of the best aspects to this story is how uncomfortable it made me feel. I would be listening to the audiobook and reading along and there would be times where I felt suffocated. I would have to pause for a while before I could continue. To me the best novels are one that evoke the most emotion out of me.

In general, Hunger is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s compelling and emotional and I personally think Roxane Gay’s best work. It’s not easy to open up about your body and self image and this book is proof of Roxane Gay’s strength. She is absolutely one of my favorite authors. No words I say will really do this book justice, so please try it out for yourself. What is written in this book is the painful truth, but what one that needed to be heard.

Rating: 5/5

Writing

Poetry|Volume I

So a few months ago, I told myself I would finally try to put my writing out into the world. I’ve always wanted to, but writing is something so deeply personal to me so it took me a while to finally get the urge to do it. It’s funny because I remember struggling to write a caption for an Instagram photo and I told myself I should put some of my writing into it. This burst of inspiration spread across these past few months and now I just have this hunger to write more. So here’s a few random pieces that I happened to write on a whim. I hope you enjoy.


Each chapter appears to bring something anew.

I see beyond these crinkling  pages

A nostalgic symphony of memories

Each stroke of the pen

Brought forth by intertwined ropes of emotion

My heart pattering in anticipation

knowing that my critical

mind may never be content

But the tumultuous roar in my ears

That jittering need to write

Is never ending

And that on its own

is enough for me.

– motivation


Hone in on:

A rustic window

A quill’s quiet plea

A writer’s need to appear

A soothing tempo

A flame painted in fervor

And

A writer’s attempt at imagery

– imagery


Welcome to this blessed day of choice and freedom

Where I store myself away

Into a realm of crisp pages and warm friends

They appear inanimate

But inside lay the greatest pieces of life

I’ve ever witnessed.

– life from reading


this hesitant human edges towards its match point.

a crushed insect lays on the sill,

wings crushed and body curled, its last attempts at a duck and hide.

from this a snapshot was created:

an overused candle, a worn book and withering flowers

all taken in

this somber like basement.

the decrepit fireplace sits nearby

a recurring melody at the cusp of its beginning.

the basement


affection is a fickle beast

the thrill of attraction

of first loves and butterflies

the taste of lighting

or is it electricity?

it’s an unfamiliar emotion

i see you

and you see me

and I feel nothing of the latter

this unfamiliar sense of desire

this invisible pressure to feel.

sometimes i doubt it. sometimes I think I can absorb this feeling and im no longer

whatever this undefinable thing is

i call myself ace.

a playing card drawn into these

laws of attraction.

asexuality

Book Reviews

Review|Bad Feminist By Roxane Gay

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Published: August 5th 2014 by Harper Perennial

Source: Local Library

Format: Adult, Nonfiction, Essays, Feminism

Synopsis: Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.

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Spoiler Free Review:

I feel like when most people look at the cover of this book, they might expect a misandrist piece of work about how men are trash and how women need to be put up on a pedestal and be recognized of their greatness and how they’ll soon takeover the planet, leaving men in the dust. How I wish that could be a reality. But I don’t think they actually took the time to really look at the title, Bad Feminist. What does Roxane Gay mean when she says bad? What Bad Feminist offers is a nuanced image of gender and what feminism means to her. Feminism means something different to each individual and it’s both a controversial and divided topic among people, feminist or otherwise. But what I think makes this piece of feminist lit different from the rest is in the title itself. It shows the many imperfections behind feminism and its true meaning.

Through a series of essays, Gay brings up a variety  of issues while bringing her personal story in to it as well. She talks about her as a college professor, at a weight loss camp, her own experience with sexual assault. There’s analyses on other works of feminist literature and literal book reviews. Some essays were sardonic, while others were painful to read. In particular, there was mentions of trigger warnings and how it represents people wanting to hide underneath a safety blanket and not face whatever fear they’re hiding from. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything Gay was discussing, it was interesting to get a perspective on trigger warnings I hadn’t realized before. Trigger warnings are meant to protect those who may have traumatic experience(s) attached to the topic until they feel ready to confront it if they want to. While I do understand the importance of trigger warnings and I do condone them, it was intriguing to get another point of view.

While reading these essays, some may seem completely unrelated to the main topic of feminism. However, feminism at it’s core is about equality and all of these deal with some form of inequality. In particular, I loved when Roxane Gay discussed how she was a bad feminist, her flaws and others flaws in feminism. How she doesn’t hate men and finds them quite interesting. How gender is much more gray than society realizes, just as gray as feminism itself. I think these are the kind of things I would love to see more of in feminism, the gray areas that no one seems to talk about.

To me, Bad Feminist is a staple in feminist literature because it represents what I love about feminist and what I’d love to see in feminism. Though I didn’t necessarily love every essay, it still definitely serves as learning material in exploring feminism, and even if you aren’t a feminist, I would still try reading it. Feminism isn’t the only thing explore in this book so I would recommend, feminist or otherwise. Trust me when I say Roxane Gay’s honest truth will not disappoint.

Rating: 4/5

Monthly Wrap Ups

November Wrap Up |2017

So we’re nearing the end of the year and I finally feel that I’m getting out of my reading rut and being able to balance reading and my somewhat (not really) busy life. Read some amazing, thought proving books this month so it was awesome, readingwise.

*Click on pictures of books for Goodreads links.

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Rankings (Least Favorite to Most Favorite):

Things Fall Apart By Chinua Achebe (Read for school)

Exit West By Mohsin Hamid (Audiobooked)

Crazy Rich Asians By Kevin Kwan (Audiobooked)

Dear Martin By Nic Stone

Hillbilly Elegy By J.D. Vance (Audiobooked)

Little Fires Everywhere By Celeste Ng

Bad Feminist By Roxane Gay

Reviews This Month:

Exit West By Mohsin Hamid

Bad Feminist By Roxane Gay

 

Book Reviews

Review|Exit West By Mohsin Hamid

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Published: March 7th 2017 by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group

Source: Overdrive Library

Format: Audiobook Narrated By Mohsin Hamid

Genre: Adult, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism

Synopsis: In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

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Spoiler Free Review:

The most accurate emotion I associate with this book is melancholy. It’s a story about two people ultimately trying to escape the brink of war and enter a safe refuge. There was something so beautifully sad about the arc of this story, the writing and characters as well as the narration of the audiobook.

The writing is strangely vibrant even with the ever-present gloomy tone of the story. Hamid’s narration isn’t overflowing withe emotion, but it fits the story. (of course, him being the author as well does make the narration that much better). The setting first takes place in an unnamed city which is inspired off of refugee cities in the Middle East. The story mainly revolves around Nadia and Saeed, the impending war in the city, the mysterious doors that transport to different places and their love story.

Throughout the story, there’s always this air of mystery about nearly every aspect of the plot. It seemed like the author was withholding a part of the plot from the reader and while it was fitting, it was a little too much mystery, in my opinion. There really isn’t any context behind this war, just that there’s a civil war and a military threat. The magical door was unexplained as well. How exactly did it come into view? It did remind me of the doorways in Every Heart A Doorway By Seanan McGuire. However, this is a character driven story so I can see why the plot wasn’t as prevalent in the story and some things are left unexplained.

I found Nadia and Saeed to both be very interesting characters. Nadia, in particular, represented the “modern, independent woman.” One thing I found interesting was how she wore a “black robe” which is clearly a jilbāb that Muslim women wear. When Saeed asked her why she wore it, she replied, “So men don’t fuck with me.” Although, it was amusing and I immediately liked her afterward, I’m pretty skeptical about it as well. Wearing a “black robe” doesn’t necessarily protect you from men which is proven in the amount of Muslim women who wear a jilbāb and are assaulted, sexually or otherwise. I did understand the sentiment behind it and the statement is later proven to be wrong. It also made me curious as to what religion was followed in the city they lived in. There were of course implications it was Islam, but then there were mentions of a priest as well. It was still intriguing to read about because it’s easy to tell the author drew inspirations from different practices.

The book ends somewhat tragically, though not the way you might be expecting. For an alternate universe, it felt quite realistic which I felt added a lot more to the scope of the story. Highlight for spoiler: In many books, there’s always the happy ending with a couple, they end up being together until the end of time which may be the case for some but not all. It was interesting to see two people fall in love and eventually fall out love which is far more realistic. Overall, a much more thought provoking story than what I was expecting. You might come out of it feeling quite pensive, but I would say the high praise for this book is well deserved.

Rating: 3.5/5

Monthly Wrap Ups

October Wrap Up|2017

As per usual, I’m posting this halfway into the month of November. This is a surprise to no one. October did end up being one of the more successful reading months this year and even with less than a month left, I feel somewhat accomplished in reading.

*Click on books for Goodreads links.

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Rankings (Least Favorite to Most Favorite):

Swimming Lessons By Claire Fuller

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue By Mackenzi Lee

Ramona Blue By Julie Murphy

They Both Die at the End By Adam Silvera

The Book of Unknown Americans By Cristina Henríquez

Reviews This Month:

Swimming Lessons By Claire Fuller

They Both Die at the End By Adam Silvera

Ramona Blue By Julie Murphy

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue By Mackenzi Lee

 

 

Book Reviews

Review |The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue By Mackenzi Lee

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Published: June 27th 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books

Source: Overdrive Library

Format: Audiobook Narrated By (young Voldemort himself) Chris Coulson

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ+, Romance

Synopsis: An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

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Spoiler Free Review: 

It’s rare to find historical fiction novels as charmingly hilarious as The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. While the plot may be quite conventional and the main character Monty is painfully privileged and ridiculous, the audiobook was incredibly done and it also brought up issues that I don’t normally see in historical fiction. It’s rare to find historical fiction that discusses LGBTQ+ and sexuality and the struggle of not being straight and white so ultimately this book was a success.

Young Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA Voldemort AKA Chris Coulsen perfectly captured all of the voices in the audiobook. The whiny, dramatic tone of Monty, soft, brave Percy and intelligent, demanding Felicity. The audio performance is definitely the best way to read this story, it makes it a 100 times better. As for the story, it mainly revolves around these three traveling Europe, initially for a grand tour which eventually turns into a chase. The plot is predictable and pretty convenient and the it isn’t the winning point of the story. However, what I loved was how Lee weaved discussions about mental health, sexuality and race in a YA historical fiction. There were several points where Monty’s privilege was brought up in the best ways possible. There’s a character who has epilepsy and the stigma around it was handled very well.

Monty kind of reminded me of the “whiter and younger version” of Magnus Bane from The Shadowhunter Chronicles By Cassandra Clare. He’s flamboyant and flirtatious, and like younger Magnus did, he always ends up in big trouble. Felicity was the equivalent of myself, we’re both the same age, a raging feminist with an older brother (though mine is a different type of annoying) and if I’m correct, we’re both asexual. I don’t know if I can say she’s my favorite because we’re so similar and it may seem narcissistic but I still love her.

Overall, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue was really fun and enjoyable and definitely worth the hype for me. The companion sounds even better, it follows Felicity and her nerdy, science girl group which I am all here for.

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Reviews

Review|Ramona Blue By Julie Murphy

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Published: May 9th 2017 by Balzer + Bray

Source: Overdrive Library

Format: Audiobook Narrated By Thérèse Plummer

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+

Synopsis: Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

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Spoiler Free Review: 

If you’re active in the book community, you might have heard of the controversy surrounding Ramona Blue before its release date. It seemed homophobic to many that a book about a girl who believed she was lesbian and was “made straight” by a boy. This is clearly not the case in this story and is actually based off of the author’s ownvoices experience. This story focuses on friendship, specifically the fluidity of sexuality and it ended up surprising me in the best possible way.

I ended up finishing the audiobook in a a day which never happens, especially for a 9 hour audiobook. The narrator fit the story perfectly, the soft Southern accent just fulfilled the atmosphere. Speaking of, the story does take place in a small town in Mississippi and most people would expect the story to be white and straight people. But I was happy to see that there were POC and non-straight characters who lived in the small town. Not ever small town is white and straight which is evident.

To me Ramona was reminiscent of Adam Parrish from The Raven Cycle By Maggie Stiefvater. Both “white trailer trash,” juggling work and school, though minus the abuse and horrible life Parrish led. Though Ramona had the support of family and friends and I think I like Parrish (I’m a sucker for clever, ambitions magician Parrish) better which isn’t a surprise. Ramona was actually similar to Grace in How to Make a Wish By Ashley Herring Blake so if you like Grace’s character, you might like Ramona as well.

A few people did say that they found Freddie, (the supposed love interest) to be bland and boring. I can definitely see why but I thought he was pretty charming. One of my favorite parts of the novel was when they talked about each other’s privilege. Freddie as a straight dude and Ramona as a white girl. Their relationship was one of the best apart of the story, the friendship was genuine and believable. However, there were still elements of age typical angst and drama that I thought could have been kept to the bare minimum.

Overall, Ramona Blue was a pleasant surprise for me. The audiobook really was it for me and one of the highlights of the story, I also found it to be relatable, specifically Ramona’s confusion about her sexuality and learning about the fluidity of sexuality. As someone who struggled with what label I “needed” to put on myself, this was refreshing, to say the least. Would definitely recommend especially if you enjoyed How to Make a Wish By Ashley Herring Blake.

Rating: 4/5

Book Reviews

Review|They Both Die At The End By Adam Silvera

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Published: September 5th 2017 by HarperTeen

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+

Synopsis: On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

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Spoiler Free Review:  

Adam Silvera never ceases to crush my heart. He loves to fill your soul with hope only to drop it all in one single sweep. But for some reason, I can’t stop reading his books. They Both Die At The End has the recurring morbid theme that you’ve seen before in Adam Silvera’s novels, though this one focuses more on living for once. It was heartbreakingly predictable but also unpredictable as well. There was this clear impending doom throughout the story, but the way it happened wasn’t actually what I was expecting.

The way They Both Die At The End is told is simalar to The Sun is Also a Star By Nicola Yoon where we get dual perspectives from Rufus and Mateo along with random strangers that they directly or indirectly encounter throughout the day. Though I did find the chapters from the strangers’ perspectives to be far more cohesive than TSIAAS. The whole concept of Death Cast was definitely interesting but I wish there was more of an exploration on it. I assumed it would be more of a “trick the system” story which it didn’t turn out to be. I would have loved to learn more about Death Cast and sci-fi behind it. It was however, interesting to see how it affected a person, not just the person who was supposed to die but the person who works for Death Cast and has the burden of delivering the message.

The story primarily focuses on the relationship between Mateo and Rufus and them living their lives to the fullest (as cheesy as it sounds) on their last day. They end up exploring New York City and I think at one point they end up going to Queens (my hometown! :D) which was nostalgic. All of Adam’s books have taken place in NYC and as as a fellow New Yorker who used to live there, the atmosphere alwaus makes me feel nostalgic. The relationship between Mateo and Rufus was done similarly to The Sun is Also a Star. Despite taking place over the course of one day, it felt authentic. There was a legitimate friendship and bond between the two of them.

Like I mentioned, there is a clear impending doom in this story so don’t expect a unexpected happy ending. But I think if you look past the title and what the synopsis is supposed to bring, you’ll see the actual message of the novel. Overall, another beautiful story delivered by Adam Silvera. Hopefully his next novel won’t be as heartbreaking as he promised so maybe I’ll be able to review some happiness.

Rating: 4.5/5