Monday, June 24, 2013

Wild Awake

Author: Hilary T. Smith
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
Released: May 28, 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: No
Source: Library
Kiri Byrd is on her own while her parents are on a summer cruise. She'll be fine on her own, though her friend Lukas's mother doesn't think so. But Kiri is disciplined. She'll take care of the house, she'll practice her piano to audition for the Conservatory, she'll compete with Lukas in Battle of the Bands - and maybe she'll get Lukas to see her as more than a friend.

But all of that falls apart when a stranger calls to say he has her sister's stuff - her sister, who died five years ago. Against her better judgement, Kiri picks up the bag from this stranger. And there starts the descent into madness. Because suddenly Kiri sees the world differently, but no one except a random guy she met accidentally sees things her way.
I read this book in one sitting, my heart getting more and more constricted as I read it. Kiri is never diagnosed formally, but in an expert friend's opinion could be monomanic. She doesn't need sleep, she's hyper-focused on her projects, she acts recklessly and impulsively and she starts a deep relationship with a guy she knows nothing about. From a practical point of view, I was outraged at Kiri's parents for the way they treated her - always acting in her best interests, but stifling her to the point that she breaks down and succumbs to the illness hiding in the deep recesses of her mind.

But from an emotional standpoint, my heart just broke again and again, each time Kiri embarks on a new quest thinking that she discovered the secrets to the world but in fact is set on the path to her own destruction. I know a bit about mental illness, and Hilary T. Smith has said that she knows about mental illness personally, so I know that this book captures the thought processes of a mentally ill person so perfectly it made my heart ache.

By the way, ignore the blurb on the cover that says this book is about love. There's love, but it's so much more than that. While Kiri does fall in love with Skunk, even that relationship is about mental illness. This book is a brilliant look inside the mind gone wild, with all its exhilarating moments and devastating moments.

School Spirits

Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Released: May 14, 2013
Genre: YA Paranormal
Series: Hex Hall
Source: Publisher
Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures - and fifteen-year-old Izzy is the last of her line. But when her older sister vanishes without a trace, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break from the Brannicks' age-old calling.

As Izzy and her mom move on to Ideal, Mississippi, however, they discover the town is not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. First, her clothes are all wrong. Second, what are these things called "friends"? Third, there's a boy named Dex making her heart skip - but not in a bad, that's weird. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it feels strange to suddenly be the center of attention.

Izzy's training taught her to never get attached, but she doesn't know if she can solve the case alone. Can she trust her new friends to find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt?
I loved the Hex Hall series, its wit and sass and action and emotion, so of course I was eager to read School Spirits. And it doesn't disappoint! It's just as full of wit and sass, action and emotion, and Izzy is just as much a great character as Sophie is. I love the seemingly effortless tone, as if Izzy is just talking to us , telling the story to a circle of friends - now that she has friends. The way she has to integrate into school life after not having contact with kids her own age all her life is really great to watch. It affirms her strength of character, as she doesn't freak out about it, just observes what she has to change and does so. I'm not sure I liked that she had to change her all-black ensemble in order to fit in. If there was a reason she dressed all in black, maybe she could have joined the kids who had the same reason to dress in black? Unless, of course, the only reason is that she was raised as a monster-hunter and she really belongs in a different crowd. She makes friends quickly enough, but they're not the popular, bright and cheery students - they are witch-hunters, after all, as amateur as they are!

I love the romance with Dex, and all his purple, and everything that happens around it. That's all I'm saying. And Torin, for all his obnoxiousness, is a pretty great character too.

I can't find any info about the sequels, though there should be, considering the set-up for the mystery of Izzy's sister. But Rachel is meanwhile publishing another book, Rebel Belle, due out on April 14, 2014. And it sounds great, so be on the lookout for it!

The Last Academy

Author: Anne Applegate
Publisher: Point (Scholastic)
Released: April 30, 2013
Genre: YA Paranormal
Series: No
Source: Library
Camden Fisher arrives at boarding school haunted by a falling-out with her best friend back home. But the manicured grounds of Lethe Academy are like nothing Cam has ever known. There are gorgeous, preppy boys and circles of girls with secrets to spare. Cam finds herself tentatively trusting the other students, occasionally making mischief, and maybe falling in love.
Something is not quite right. One of Cam's new friends mysteriously disappears, but the teachers don't seem too concerned. Cam is suddenly plagued by odd memories, and senses there might be something dark and terrible brewing. But what?
The great part of this story is the part I can't really talk about without giving away the amazing plot twist. But I'll try! In dealing with the issues the book deals with, including the falling-out with Cam's friend back home, The Last Academy is brilliant. The name of the school should have given it away to me, but I somehow skipped over that at the beginning of the book! Anyway, it's as scary as this issue should be, but it has such tenderness and soothing elements as well. And lots of good crying spots!

Cam is wonderful - essentially a good girl who starts experimenting with mischief. I love the big scene when she breaks all the rules. There's a sense of terror as she thinks she'll be found out at any second, and then there's the utter exhilaration when she gets back to her room and realizes she got away with it - or thinks she has.

I'm not entirely sure what purpose the romance serves in the plot, but in any case it was a great relationship to follow. Starting with irrational infatuation over a guy she knows simply as hot, Mark moves to being a real, real person, with issues of his own to muddle through. His story does add a lot to the overall story and the understanding that Cam comes to eventually.