ARC Review: Dry by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman

Title: Dry
Author: Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman
Pages: 352 pages
Release Date: October 2nd, 2018
Source: ARC from the publisher
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Rating: 5/5 stars
When the California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, one teen is forced to make life and death decisions for her family in this harrowing story of survival from New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman.

The drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers.
Until the taps run dry.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive.

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A book about the harrowing effects of climate change? Fuck yeah. Finally, even modern Young Adult literature is calling attention to the most important environmental issue of our decade that won't just affect one certain group of people. Oh no, climate change is coming for us all. Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman's all-too-real portrayal of the amplified effects of climate change is horrifying and upsetting. You will feel mad. You will feel sad. But most importantly you will feel so helpless while reading this book because you realize how much we as humans have no control of a situation that we are responsible for causing. You will also come to realize how some forces, such as water, have power over humans.

While reading this book, I realized how small I was in this whole wide world. You want to believe that when things go downhill, the government will be looking out for you. But yet, how can they help you when they can't even help themselves. The authors expose this startling fact in the most brutal way possible- by following the POV of a group of teens who must fend for themselves in a world without water.
"The only difference is that we're the victims now, rather than the ones sitting comfortably in our homes, sending five bucks on a charity app and patting ourselves on the back because we're so goddamn generous."

- from an uncorrected galley of Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman 
I went into this book with the knowledge of Neal Shusterman's world-building mastery. He can create worlds with such a complex and well-developed foundation, and it feels like the world actually exists. In this case, he didn't really create a new world but it's like he created a new reality in our world. A reality in which our environment has been devastated by climate change and the resources that we thought would be around forever have been completely exhausted. It is a world in which we cannot comprehend right now, but one that is in our near future if we continue on this path. He has essentially predicted the near future in such great detail and precision, thinking of every single thing. If I were you, the world-building alone is a reason to pick up this book.

What I loved most about this book was how it was written. It is written in multiple points of views, however, these characters' perspectives are often interrupted with what the authors call 'snapshots'. These snapshots, ranging from about a page to two pages in length, were glimpses into the lives of other people who were also being affected by the Tap-Out. I think this was an ingenious idea on the authors' part because when you're writing a story like this that has such an incredible impact and call to action, it's important to illustrate the stories and testimonies of as many people as you can.

Reading this book was like living through the apocalypse, which is something I hope and pray I'll never have to experience in this lifetime. Dry has to be one of the most terrifying books I've ever read. None of the horror books I've read compare to the amount of dread you'll feel while reading this book (and I've read multiple Stephen King books .-.). For me personally, the idea of living without water, a basic necessity, scares me more than any zombie apocalypse.
"Sometimes it's the monsters who survive. And now I am the monster."

- from an uncorrected galley of Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman
This title is very relevant to what's been happening around the world. Because of the subject matter and the authors' ability to tell this story, Dry will be one of the most memorable books you read this year. I implore you to read this not because I am an environmentalist, and I strongly want to share my fear of climate change with you but because I think that this is what the world needs right now in order to make a change. Sometimes people need a scare to push them in the right direction. If you've read Scythe and enjoyed it, I am positive you will enjoy this one too. Please check out my page on Instagram (@thebooksbuzz) because I will be giving away a copy of this wonderful book!

BLOG TOUR | Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson + My Undead Girl Gang

Title: Undead Girl Gang
Author: Lily Anderson
Pages: 272 pages
Release Date: May 8th, 2018
Source: ARC from Penguin Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery
Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have always been inseparable. There's not much excitement in their small town of Cross Creek, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley's favorite activity: amateur witchcraft.

So when Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone's explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.

Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders, but they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer...before the killer strikes again.

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Lily Anderson's newest novel follows a story of friendship, mystery and... the undead? Yep, that's right. The main character Mila Flores brings her friends back from the dead to uncover the truth behind their murders. This got me thinking: Who would I bring back from the dead if I had a mystery in need of solving? In today's post, you're going to be reading about the three women from history that I would bring back from the dead to be apart of my Undead Girl Gang. I took this opportunity not only to choose women that I thought would be successful to this mission, but I also chose women from history that I admire.


Rachel Carson is one of my favorite women in history. I've done extensive research on her and have even written a scholarship essay about her. Carson has always been one of my inspirations for pursuing a field of research and the reason for why I am so dedicated to helping the environment. In her days, the world was relatively unaware of the consequences certain chemicals had on the environment. She exposed the harmful effects of a very popular pesticide back in the early 70s, which led to a ban on the harmful substance. To be honest, I don't know how helpful Rachel Carson would be on my mission to uncover a murder mystery, but I'd sure as hell bring her back from the dead just to have a conversation over a nice cup of coffee. Plus, she's a scientist so she definitely has a scientific way of thinking. 
I'm sure we've all read about Helen Keller when we were in elementary school. She truly is a notable woman in history. Keller has a different perception of our world, as she became deaf and blind when she was young. She became the first deaf-blind person to attain a bachelor's degree and was an influential social activist for political and disability issues. Of course, I'd love to meet her! But besides that point, I'd love to have her apart of my undead girl gang because her optimism and perseverance would most likely contribute a lot to the mission.  

Mildred Benson, better known as Carolyn Keene, was the original author of the Nancy Drew mystery stories. Those were some of the best mystery stories I had ever read when I was a young adolescent girl who craved adventure. Nancy Drew is such an iconic teenage detective, and I'm sure if she was real I'd bring her back to join my girl gang. But the creator of Nancy Drew, Mildred Benson, is the next best thing. I think her extensive background in writing mystery and crime novels could be the greatest contribution to our undead girl gang alliance. 

Author Bio

Lily Anderson is a school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California. She is also the author of The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You and Now Now, Not Ever. She tweets at @ms_lilyanderson. 

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi | Mini Review + GIVEAWAY!

Title: Emergency Contact
Author: Mary H.K. Choi
Pages: 391 pages
Release Date: March 27th, 2018
Source: Hardcover from Simon Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Rating: 4/5 stars
For Penny Lee high school was a total nonaevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a cafĂ© and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

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Emergency Contact is a mature and adorable novel about two young people falling in love. Don't let the pink and light ambiance of the cover fool you. This book touches upon topics like alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual assault, and anxiety. I wasn't expecting it to be as hard hitting as it was, and it made every minute of reading this book completely worth it.

We usually read books to get off our cell phones and escape this age of mass texting and social media. Because people have become so consumed with their cell phones, communicating through text and social media has since received a bad rep. There has long been a debate over whether cell phones are doing more harm than good to users. Sure, it distracts students from schoolwork and diminishes the chances of face-to-face interaction. But it also brings communities of people together and connects long-distance relationships. Also, I'm not the first to admit that meeting people face to face can be daunting.

At the beginning of the book, Sam has a panic attack. As someone who has experienced what it's like to have a panic attack, it was incredibly hard to read. But after I made it through that part, I was grateful that Choi added it in the first place. It's an experience everyone should be familiar because it's incredibly hard to understand what someone goes through during a panic attack. And of course, Sam's experience will mirror everybody's, but it's a start to talking about mental health in young adult literature.

Emergency Contact is not your topical meet-cute contemporary novel. Penny's fear of confrontation and her awkwardness makes her such a relatable character in the story. The fact that this book also took place in a college setting was just the cherry on top. I feel like we don't get enough college YA's that actually have scenes where the character is in a class! If you're even in the slightest bit interested in picking this one up, consider entering my giveaway below!


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The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Title: The Astonishing Color of After
Author: Emily X.R. Pan
Pages: 480 pages
Release Date: March 20th, 2018
Source: ARC from publisher
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Rating: 5/5 stars
Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

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** I received an advanced readers copy from the publisher. All of the thoughts and opinions stated in this review are my own. **

Everyone deals with grief in their own way. When her mother commits suicide, Leigh Chen Sanders refuses to believe that she's really gone from the world. She's sure that when her mother died, she took the form of a crimson bird. When Leigh receives a mysterious package that leads her to travel to Taiwan to meet her grandparents, she discovers a whole other side of her mom's life she wasn't aware of and even learns a thing or two about herself.

The writing was descriptive and gorgeous without being too flowery. Trust me, I'm a picky person when it comes to writing style. It kind of reminded me of the writing in The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee, which you must know is a book I could talk your ear off about. Pan does something completely unique, which is use color to describe emotion. Whoosh. Absolutely mind blown. It came so naturally and it wasn't like someone intentionally finding colors to match their emotions with. Read it for yourself:
"... I was colorless, translucent. I was a jellyfish caught up in a tide, forced to go wherever the ocean willed."

- Emily X.R. Pan, The Astonishing Color of After 
The book followed a non-chronological sequence that was both entertaining and fulfilling. At first, it was a little disorienting to jump back two decades, but it's something you pick up quickly and the chapter titles make it even easier.

Before reading this book, I was convinced that magical realism was not my genre. The magical realism element was used as a coping mechanism for Leigh, so that she could remember her mother and learn how to live on with her life. There was symbolism that appeared in carefully constructed times throughout the story making it feel like an easter egg hunt. I don't think this book would have been what it was without that element, and I am grateful to this book for showing me a new side of this genre.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the exploration of mental illness and suicide. Some books stick to you years after you read it, and I can predict this being one of those titles. The author states in the author's note that her family previously lost one of their own to suicide. She partly wrote this book in homage to breaking the stigmas behind mental illness and suicide.

I don't mean to get personal, but there was once a time in my life when I felt like suicide was the only option. Just like it was hard for Leigh to understand why her mother was depressed, my friends and family would often ask me why I felt that way when I had such a good life. First of all, that doesn't help. Second, there doesn't have to be a reason to explain someone's depression. Leigh's mother, like so many people, fell victim to a terrible disease. Depression is different for everyone. When I noticed that this was a recurring theme in the novel, I appreciated it a billion times more. Yes, you probably would have guessed by now that I cried while reading this book.

In the story, Leigh struggles with blaming herself and the people around her for her mother's dead. I just wanted to crawl through the pages, enter the story and hug Leigh because she didn't deserve to be so hard on herself. Even though we follow Leigh as the narrator, we're not just simply following her actions through the story. We also get a glimpse of her motives and desires through her internal thoughts.
"Whose fault was it? That's the question on everyone's mind, isn't it? Nobody will ever say it out loud. It's a question people would call inappropriate. The kind of thing where everyone tells you, 'It's nobody's fault.'"

- Emily X.R. Pan, The Astonishing Color of After
Let it be known that I absolutely adored this book. It is everything I ever wanted in a Young Adult contemporary that not only entertains but teaches and promotes. Why read this book? It's hard to understand mental illness, depression, and suicide. Sometimes when we, as humans, don't understand something we automatically fear it. We need to promote books like this to end the stigma. Help people. Break the cycle.

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