Review: Breakout

breakoutBook: Breakout (2018)
Author: Kate Messner
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: Nora, Lizzie, and Elidee all live in a small town that houses a large prison. Their world is interrupted when two inmates escape and the entire town goes into lock-down mode. While Nora is determined to get the scoop, both Lizzie and Elidee have their own troubles. And then there’s the mad mile, an annual tradition that keeps getting cancelled because the grownups are freaking out about the escaped prisoners…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I enjoyed the format, which ranges from letters (for a time capsule) to text messages to newspaper articles. It’s nice to see the different perspectives of the different people in the story. Lizzie’s parody news segments are pretty amusing.

2) Nora and Lizzie have a great friendship. I liked the arc for the new girl, Elidee, and how she eventually fits into the story.

3) The manhunt is pretty exciting stuff. And, of course, it’s fun to know that our main characters [MINOR SPOILER] have a hand in the capture. But don’t worry. It’s actually quite realistic. And it’s based on history! And I love history… [END SPOILER]

4) I like the running sub-plot about the mad mile. I like books about running, so what can I say?

5) Love the cover of this book!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) It’s really quite a long book at 448 pages. Now, this is just my personal opinion, but I would have removed all the Hamilton references and the hip-hop battles and poetry. First, I’m not a huge fan of poetry. And second, I just don’t get why that musical is so popular. (I’ve heard the music, and I’m not impressed. I feel like my grandmother!) Okay, let’s just say that this wasn’t my favourite part of the book, I tended to skim those sections anyway. (I would have been more interested if Elidee was reading more about space/planets.) I think Messner could have cut it completely and saved a few trees in the process.

2) Why did Elidee and her mother move upstate about two weeks before school gets out? This just didn’t make sense. Especially since there was no super good reason for this to happen. Two weeks would not make a difference. And if absolutely necessary, I really think Elidee’s mom would have let her continue at her old school in New York City for a few more weeks (since she could have stayed with her aunt and cousins for that time.) So, my complaint here is that Elidee’s arrival felt like an obvious plot device.

3) I felt that the racial issues dealt with in the book were not really necessary to the actual story. It’s like Messner was trying to fit it in, and those parts came across as forced and preachy. (Not that you couldn’t have a book about these issues, but I think they’d deserve their own story. It just got lost in this story.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I found this book enjoyable for the most part. The girls were fun to read about, and the manhunt was quite suspenseful.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Advertisements

Review: Sunny

Book: Sunny (2018)
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

sunnyBasic Plot: Sunny runs the mile. Except, now he doesn’t want to anymore. So, he just stops running. He was only running to please his father and to fulfill his dead mother’s dream of running. But with his birthday looming, Sunny only feels guilt over the fact that he “killed” his mother (she died the day he was born). His home-school teacher, Aurelia, decides to teach Sunny dancing and that’s when he realizes that he’d rather dance than run. He tells Coach, who decides that maybe Sunny should give the discus a shot. Because, it’s as close to dancing as track and field gets.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) This is a continuation of the series with Ghost and Patina. This one focuses on Sunny. Obviously. He’s an interesting character, with a love of rhythm that permeates his whole being, and translates well to his writing style. (This book is written in diary-format.)

2) I like the arc for the relationship of Sunny and Darryl (his father). The scene in the dad’s bedroom is quite touching. I love how Sunny describes his father as having a stone face, and how this changes and morphs during this section of the book.

3) We get another track meet at the end of the book. This time, it’s not a race, but the discus throw. And yes, as in all the other books, we don’t actually find out how it turns out. (But I’m sure we will in the next book… which I’m assuming will be about Lu.)

4) I do like how Ghost, Patty, and Lu are really good friends to Sunny. (Although, at one point, he tells them he doesn’t go to school—he’s home-schooled—and they’re all shocked. But I’m pretty sure they knew this already from the last book. Unfortunately, I don’t have that book with me, so I can’t check. If you’ve read this book and can correct me, please let me know in the comments.)

5) I really enjoyed the fact that Sunny was home-schooled, and Aurelia sounds like an awesome teacher.  I also like how Aurelia’s story merges with Sunny’s.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I mentioned earlier that I like the supportiveness of the newbies (aka Ghost, Patty, and Lu). This is also a BIT of a problem. It means there is very little conflict happening between these characters. And stories need conflict. Since these characters don’t present any conflict, they end up being not so relevant to the actual story. I wish they could be more central to the plot. But really, they’re just side characters that almost don’t matter. 😦

2) Note to Jason Reynolds: Please don’t mention that awful scene in the Chinese Restaurant from the first book. Argh! That brought back bad memories for me! Okay, I’m slightly kidding, but slightly serious as well. I didn’t find the scene (in this book) as cathartic as I think it was supposed to be. I felt like it was slightly unnecessary. Now maybe this is because of the call-back to the secrets scene in the first book (meaning I was distracted). But I think it may be because this scene just came AFTER a very similar scene (the one in the dad’s bedroom).

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – I didn’t like this book as much as I liked Patina, but that is probably because I understand and relate to Patty better than I do to Sunny. I also really like track (running). But in this book, we veer over to the field part of track and field. Let’s just say that the field part of track and field has never truly excited me. Still, Sunny is a wonderful character and I did enjoy reading about him.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Review: Patina

Book: Patina (2017)
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

patinaBasic Plot: Patty hates losing a race. Or even coming in second. She also has a to-do list longer than your arm. She’s starting to find it hard to juggle her sister, her mom, her mother/aunt, school, and, of course, track. When Coach puts her on the relay team, she comes nose-to-nose with some unhappy teammates. Couple that with a group project where Patty is doing all the work while her partners take it easy. And then comes a family emergency that Patty never even anticipated. Something that might just threaten to keep her off the track for awhile.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) This is a continuation of the series with Ghost. In this book, Ghost is only a minor character. The MC is his newbie teammate: Patty (Patina). (And yes, we do find out in this one what happened in the race at the end of the first book!)

2) I was nervous about reading this book. Partly because Patty had the potential to be a Mary-Sue character. In the previous book, she doesn’t seem to have any flaws. But that worry melted away immediately. Maybe she was perfect in Ghost’s eyes, but once Patty starts telling her story, we get to see her faults… just enough to make her a human being we can relate to.

3) I loved the relationship between Patty and her little sister, Maddie. Actually, I love her whole family. Her ma, who no longer has her legs due to diabetes. And her uncle and aunt (Momly) who have legal custody of her. I enjoyed getting to know them.

4) The Coach was awesome yet again. He’s not in the book as much as he was in the last. But he has some great moments. I love the part where Coach Whit is teaching the girls to dance and Ghost and Lu? are laughing at them… along with Coach. Then, what Coach does next is priceless.

5) Jason Reynolds has talent for capturing voice. Patty’s voice in this book is unique to Patty, just as Ghost’s voice is unique to Ghost. (And I’ve already started reading the next book: Sunny. Ditto.)

6) The story of the dad is good. I like the cupcakes. And I like the scene near the end with the uncle and the cupcakes.

7) Another race at the end, but Reynolds does things a little differently this time. But I won’t spoil it.

8) Whoever does those book covers… I’m liking them. I like how each one is geared to each character. (Although, Patty really should have a baton in her hand.)

9) Finally, I like that you don’t technically have to read Ghost to enjoy this book. It really is Patty’s story and a stand-alone.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I don’t get why Momly thinks it’s okay to serve turkey wings every night for supper. Don’t they get sick of them?

2) The Momly-janitor story was a little odd. Not sure exactly if this backstory was needed.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I liked this book better than Ghost and I’m trying to figure out why. Premise-wise, I think Ghost is a stronger story, but the pacing was off. (Ghost could have been a 5-star book, which is saying something.) Patina’s story is good, and the pacing and emotional beats are right on. I’m glad I gave it a chance!


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Review: Ghost

ghostBook: Ghost (2016)
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: Ghost is good at running, ever since that night when he and his mom had to run away from his dad. So, when he joins a track team, he’s good, but not as good as he thinks. It isn’t long before Ghost realizes that part of his problem is that he doesn’t have the right tools to be the best on the track. And in the world of track, the right tools means the right kind of running shoes.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I love running stories, so this one was right up my alley! I liked the scene where Ghost first comes across the track team. And I enjoyed the peek into the subsequent training sessions.

2) The friendship that develops with the track newbies was great. I loved Patty and Sunny. Lu was a little weird, but I kind of liked him as well.

3) The Coach was just awesome. I like how he drives a taxi… I like how he connects with the kids. How he’s tough on them, and yet obviously enjoys what he’s doing.

4) I absolutely love Ghost’s voice in this story. It comes through beautifully and made me want to root for him.

5) Kudos to the person who designed the cover of this book. I love how Ghost is running so fast, that he’s running off the page. And we don’t even get to see his face!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The secrets they tell at the restaurant… Man! These kids hardly know each other and they’re spilling their deepest, darkest secrets. All of them. And then when they challenge their coach to tell his secret? I was like… what? That’s not even a secret. You let these kids reveal things (in fact, you even encouraged these kids) to tell you a secret and you pretend that your secret is on par with theirs? (Not that I think the coach should have revealed a deep, dark secret to these kids. Actually, I’m just a little ticked off at the author for making these revelations come with little to no work. It makes the secrets almost trivial. Where’s the subtext? Where’s the drama? Where are the set-ups and pay-offs?Why aren’t you saving to reveal true secrets for later on?)

2) The climax of the story seems to be the one with the shoes. [SPOILER] It’s a good idea for a climax. But I feel it was mishandled. This is where revelations needed to happen. This is where Ghost needed to be afraid that he had lost Coach’s respect forever. Then take that angst and drama and bring it to the track. [END SPOILER] Unfortunately, this is not quite how it plays out. Which is a pity.

3) At the end of the story… [SPOILER] Ghost is about to run his first race when he meets his arch-nemesis at the track. (This is in the FINAL pages of the book.) Here’s how Ghost puts it: “No way. No Freakin’. Way. He ran? He ran? By now you know who I’m talking about. Brandon Simmons.” Actually, Ghost, I had no idea that name was going to pop up here. I had no idea, whatsoever. [END SPOILER] This reveal just wasn’t set up. It just came out of nowhere!!

4) The ending was weird. [Possible SPOILER] There’s a big lead-up to the race at the end of the book. And just as we get to the starting line, BAM, it’s over. Not that I needed to know who wins the race. Actually that part didn’t bother me. I felt confused over what led up to that moment. In other words: the climax. It’s like it was all mixed up. Reynolds re-introduces the main bullies within paragraphs of the final sentence, and nothing comes of it! (See Spoiler above.) Like, what happened there? I want to know. [END SPOILER] Perhaps it was too short a book. I felt like it could have benefited from another chapter or two.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – This book started out as a 5-star book. I was loving it. Then it went down to a 4-star near the middle, for some minor plot points. By the end, we were down to 3 stars. Frankly, the end was a disappointment. It’s like Reynolds lost the thread of his story. I felt this book could have gone through another edit, to be honest. Perhaps several more edits. I love, love, love the premise. I loved the characters. I know there are some sequels. I’m not sure if I will give them a shot. Maybe one more shot?


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Don’t you just love that book cover? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!