I’m linking up with Kristen and Rachel for Collaboreads to review the book Words and Their Meanings by Kate Bassett. This is my first time joining the link up but you all know how much I love to read, and this is definitely not my first book review!
Same first name. Pick an author who shares your first name.
This was tough because there are A LOT! I had to narrow it down based on what I was sure I could accomplish within a month and I’m always able to read a good YA novel in a short time, if not in one sitting. I also wanted to pick a book that wasn’t part of a series. I love a good series but I have way too many books on my “want to read” list/shelf right now to start a new series.
When Anna’s uncle, who was so close in age he was raised as her brother, passes away, she blames herself and retreats into a series of grief rituals that make her family crazy. We’re talking a haircut so awful most of the characters have to comment on it, writing Patti Smith lyrics on her arms every day and something she calls “coffin yoga” – basically tensing up her whole body and making her eyes bulge out for as long as she can stand it. She refuses to write, something that was once her greatest talent, and though she’s bounced around from counselor to counselor, even after a year she hasn’t really opened up to any of them. Throughout the course of the book, we watch to see if Anna will start to move on like she promises her mom or if she’ll spiral further and exactly what, or who, causes the reaction.
What part of the book could you NOT get enough of?
I loved the supporting characters in this book. It’s too easy in Young Adult fiction for parents to be conveniently absent or completely inept so I always love to see involved albeit imperfect parents in a story. The other characters felt very well crafted too, like I wanted to know more about them and their stories. Especially Anna’s best friend.
How did you relate to/care for the characters? What’s your thought on the plot line and twists and turns?
The main character in this book was hard to relate to, almost to the point of frustration. That felt very authentic given her mindset – she’s in mourning and honestly thinks she’s responsible for her brother/uncle’s death so she just can’t seem to move on no matter how many counselors she’s forced to visits or her parents threats of sending her to Hell (Michigan – yes, I rolled my eyes at that too). There are little pieces of the story that come out as you read that make it easier to see where she’s coming from given her emotional state, and some parts that could take your breath away even if you see them coming. For example, she finds out a few things about her brother/uncle that prove he’s not the perfect guy she remembers him to be which is painful, but very true to life.
There were a few things, like the Hell, MI reference and the whole “coffin yoga” thing, that were a little much, but teenagers in general can be a little much so I don’t think that ruins the book. The love interest story line is a little bit lacking too – Anna meets a gorgeous, talented, genuinely good guy who, despite being surrounded by adoring and super pretty girls, decides to look past all of them and decides he wants her before they even have a conversation (come. on. already.). For a good portion of the story it looks like he’s going to be the reason she starts moving on. I’m not a fan of the “now a boy likes me so I can be ___ ” trope (Please. Just. Stop.) and I was prepared to write this book off because of it, but there’s a significant plot turn and it turns out that there are many things that end up helping her start moving on, not just this guy. Unfortunately, I felt like a big piece of the love story resolution was missing from the end.
What other books are like this one? If none, did it remind you of a particular TV or movie with it’s themes and characters? Does it serendipitous-ly line-up with things going on in your life or the news right now?
Goodness, there have to be a lot of YA books that are about coping, or struggling, with the loss of a loved one. I think If I Stay and Thirteen Reasons Why are the two most recent that I’ve read that are along the same lines.
You know you judged this book by the cover. What did you think of it? How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages?
The cover has a literal element – the little scraps of paper are words and their meanings – but there’s also the silhouette of a paper crane which I didn’t recognize until I started reading. Paper cranes are a recurring element in the book so it seems natural that the silhouette is placed throughout. I read this on my kindle and felt it was very well done. Not all books are designed or reformatted for eReaders but this one was nice.
How many out of five do you give this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?
I gave this book 3.5 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fiction and is comfortable with teenage drama. If you share my opinion that no one does drama or obsession quite like a teenage girl (or maybe a teenage boy too, I’ve never been one so I don’t have a point of reference) then you might find this book as enjoyable as a book about grief can be.
That said, if you are mourning a loss of your own this book is not for you. You also won’t enjoy this book if you have to love and understand everything the main character of a book does, or even if you need to like the main character most of the time.
Collaboreads is a monthly link-up for book lovers hosted by Rachel and Kristin. Every month there is a new prompt or criteria for picking your book for the month. Then you read and review! I’d love to have you join us next month! In the meantime, tell me in the comments about the last book you read or hope to read soon? I’m always looking for recommendations!