Bite-Sized Reviews

Sometimes I read a book that leaves a more subtle impression– i.e., one that doesn’t require 500-600 words (which is the usual length of one of my reviews; a professional editor I worked with a while back told me that 500 words is the most in-depth you can get without boring someone). I feel kind of silly making a blog post review that is shorter than that, but I discovered a solution: put a bunch of bite-sized reviews together in one post! So here you go, reviews of What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang, Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon, and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

Each book was received at Book Expo America 2012.

What’s Left of Me (Sept. 18, 2012 by HarperTeen): The plot is really unique — basically, each human that’s born naturally holds two souls, and one of them (the recessive soul) is expected to fade away in childhood so the dominant soul can live on alone. Fifteen year old Eva is the recessive soul, and she tells she and ‘sister’ Ava’s story in a beautifully understated, heartbreaking way. Unlike many novels, the romance here is sweet and unobtrusive. The ending is satisfying enough to standalone, which is important, but reading the rest of the series isn’t a requirement for me. Recommended for dystopian fans. 3/5 stars

Don’t Turn Around (Aug. 28, 2012 by HarperCollins): I was extremely disappointed with this novel. The blurb pegs it as a ‘tense thriller’ but the book completely lacks tension or thrills. There was no point while reading where I felt even the slightest bit invested in the storyline or the characters despite the gravity of the situation and the stakes involved. The author had a tendency to include large chunks of exposition right in the middle of pivotal scenes, making the pacing sputter. I did end up ‘finishing’ the novel… if you count skimming, that is. 1/5 stars. 

Codename Verity ( May 15, 2012 by Hyperion): This book filled me with equal parts rage and sorrow. Although I knew (vaguely) that this book dealt with young female spies before I started reading, I had no clue that the setting was World War II, and so I wasn’t prepared for the devastation and depravity of the Nazi’s Gestapo. The story is told in exhaustive detail with impeccable research of the times, but the author’s effort was somewhat lost on me – I’m not familiar with earlier twentieth century weapons, planes, or British landscapes, so even with everything that was described I still couldn’t quite visualize it. Nevertheless, this is a beautiful, heart wrenching tale that paints a shocking picture of how far we’ve come… but also of how easily we could fall again. This will make you cry, but it’s worth it. 4/5 Stars.

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