Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

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In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on.

I got this ARC at Book Con 2019.

I am a bit torn about my feelings for this book. I really liked the message it sent to teens and young adults to educate yourself and take responsibility when it comes to sex and HIV. Simone takes her condition seriously and asks her doctors questions. And that is a really good example to set.

The novel did have some flaws that I will address with spoiler tags.

Well this one is not much of a spoiler but something that Camryn Garrett can learn not to do. The teens roll their eyes way too much. It felt like it happened on every page and it would irate me to no end. There are many different ways to express a teenager being annoyed. The side eye, the stink eye, the squint eye; as well as verbal sounds: “Ugh,” “Ew,” and “Pfft,” just to name a few.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

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A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck

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Matt Wainwright is constantly sabotaged by the overdramatic movie director in his head. He can’t tell his best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her. He implodes on the basketball court, even though no one cares about the JV team. And the only place he feels normal is in Mr. Ellis’s English class, discussing the greatest fart scenes in literature and writing poems about cantankerous candy-cane lumberjacks.

If this were a movie, everything would work out perfectly. Tabby would discover that Matt’s madly in love with her, be overcome with emotion, and fall into his arms. Maybe in the rain.

But that’s not how it works. Matt watches Tabby get swept away by senior basketball star and all-around great guy Liam Branson. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough, but screwing up and losing her as a friend is even worse.

After a tragic accident, Matt finds himself left on the sidelines, spiraling out of control and in danger of losing everything that matters to him. From debut author Jared Reck comes a fiercely funny and heart-wrenching novel about love, longing, and what happens when life as you know it changes in an instant.

Even though this book came out in September 2017, the copy I read was an ARC I had on my TBR pile since Book Con 2017.

I was so surprised by how much I really loved it. I thought it would just be another YA novel about unrequited love and it would get put in the donate pile when I was done.

At first I thought it was ok, and the basketball lingo went over my head, but I really grew to like the characters. Especially Tabby, Matt’s mom and his grandpa. Oh, and I love that Matt, his dad and Tabby love Star Wars.

Jared Reck is an 8th grade teacher and that really helped with setting the tone of what teenagers are like. I felt like I was thrown back into high school.

The book takes a dramatic turn and I found myself unexpectedly bawling my eyes out. But the story ends with hope and I really liked the message.

So, I am not going to put this in the donate pile. It’s book with a lot of heart, some humor, and it’s got short chapters (which was a relief after the last book I read). It’s a quick 2-3 day read.

5 out of 5 Nerds.

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

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Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

I loved this book so much. During the epilogue I was reading through tears. I felt the outcome of events was very plausible and a good balance to the fateful events that took place throughout the book.

I didn’t cry the entire time, just during the epilogue. It was also really funny too, like when Times Square was compared to hell. I feel the same way. As a native New Yorker the setting was another favorite thing of mine. It really made the story come alive. I could picture everything about it.

I connected with both Natasha and Daniel. Like Daniel I believe in fate. I think coincidences are very, very rare and it’s most likely something “meant to be”, that events are lining up to all connect together.
I also believe there are infinate multiverses. For each choice we make somewhere out there is a version of us that made a different choice.

I love the short chapters (makes for a fast read), and the different points of view from the older generation that immigrated to the U.S., the kids who grew up in the U.S., and the strangers who effect and are affected by the main characters. It really made it complete and balanced.

At the end of the month the film adaptation of Nicola’s other book, Everything, Everything, is coming to theaters. I hope it’s a good adaptation and does well at the box office so that this book can also be adapted into a film.

5 out of 5 Suns that are also stars.

The Valiant (The Valiant, #1) by Lesley Livingston

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Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

I picked up this ARC at NYCC 2016.

I have some mixed feelings about The Valiant. I’ll start with the critiques.

The story and plot twists were predictable. I guessed nearly everything that was going to happen.

At lot of the story is also spoon fed to us, but I feel that is because the book is meant for a young reader. The book jacket does say grades 7 (ages 12) and up.

Yet, I found myself enjoying it. I liked the sisterhood between the characters.
While the romance was a bit underdeveloped it wasn’t annoying and overly mushy.

The pacing was a bit slow at times, but I really like the setting of the Roman Empire The Cleopatra and Caesar cameos were fun.

While it wasn’t the greatest story, I am curious about the sequel. Although, I do feel the end could have gone another way and left this as a standalone novel. But I do like that it offers a story for young adults with strong female characters who are not damsels in distress.

3 out of 5 female gladiators.