Saturday, May 12, 2012

WEM XIV: Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) and Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski

Another week, another Week-End's Mini!! Thank you very much to everyone who has voted :) This week, you made my life easy because there was a clear winner: Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski! This is actually pretty cool because it suits my mood perfectly. I've been reading a lot of YA these past two weeks :) And I guess it shows when I look at the books I've reviewed in the past week LOL. There are many more YA books reviews coming up, but I'll try to throw in some romance reviews to balance it all out :)

In the meantime, I've also decided to throw in a bonus: Gimme a Call by the same author. I read Gimme a Call back last December, but never got around to reviewing it. This seemed like the best opportunity :) So enjoy it all!

Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski
published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (Random House) in April 2010
A new life is just a phone call away!

Devi's life isn't turning out at all like she wanted. She wasted the past three years going out with Bryan—cute, adorable, break-your-heart Bryan. Devi let her friendships fade, blew off studying, didn't join any clubs... and now that Bryan has broken up with her, she has nothing left.

Not even her stupid cell phone—she dropped it in the mall fountain. Now it only calls one number... hers. At age fourteen, three years ago!

Once Devi gets over the shock—and convinces her younger self that she isn't some wacko—she realizes that she's been given an awesome gift. She can tell herself all the right things to do ... because she's already done all the wrong ones! Who better to take advice from than your future self?

Except... what if getting what you think you want changes everything?
Genre: YA, contemporary
Series: None

What do you need to know? The blurb is pretty accurate. Gimme a Call opens with our heroine, Devorah Banks aka Devi, at the mall, heart-broken. While Bryan, her boyfriend, has not broken up with her, for all intent and purpose, their relationship is over... And that's when Devi realizes that for the last three years, her life revolved solely around Bryan. She now finds herself alone with no friends, no hobby nor extra-curriculum activities, her prospects for college look bleak and the situation at home is less than ideal.

If Devi could go back in time, the most important thing she would do is warned her 14 years old self not to fall for Bryan... And that's exactly what she does when she realizes that after dropping her cell phone, it's working wonky and the only person she can reach is... herself, 3 years ago! Devi also decides to change her life around and sets the younger Devi on the right path: keep in touch with her friends, study hard, etc. But while Devi wants the best for herself, she can't help but be inexorably attracted to Bryan. Would going out with him really be that bad? And what happens when she tries too hard to change the future?

Why this book? I read this book for a couple of reasons. First, Ames really enjoyed Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Ms Mlynowski, so she was on my radar of author to read. Then, there was this cute cover (yes, I can be shallow at time) and I liked the concept of this one :) I don't exactly enjoy time travel, but I like the idea the future is not set in stone and can be changed. So I decided to give Gimme a Call a go :)

What I liked? I really, really enjoyed Gimme a Call. I pretty much enjoyed everything about it and it kept me engrossed till the end. I thought both the younger and older Devi were likable characters :) Yes, the older Devi was a bit pushy and selfish at times, but when you have the opportunity to change your future for the best, you take it... And it didn't only benefit her, it benefited the younger Devi as well. What I liked in this "relationship" is that the younger Devi wasn't just a drone and did what she was told. She questioned her older self, took risks - some with better results than others - and at the end of the day, was the wiser of the two :)

One thing that I thought was very well-done by Ms Mlynowski is that she managed to not reveal to the readers and younger Devi the cause of the break-up for the majority of the book. That added a little suspense and also insured that the reason behind it was not typical. I also liked the message about how important a balance life is that Gimme a Call imparted with the readership. Devi got lucky because she had a second chance, but no matter how much you are in love, you cannot lose sight of your future and friends as Devi did. Especially given how crucial those high school years; they're really the springboard to adulthood and the rest of your life for most people. I also really liked how Devi realized that friendship was important... And I think that the overall problem Devi was facing, getting caught up with their other half and as a result, letting their friendships fade, doesn't only happen when you're in high school, but also when you're in your 20s, 30s, 40s... So I personally felt I could relate to it - although I've never gone out with anyone steady.

Any Issues? I really liked the concept of Gimme a Call and I think Ms Mlynowski did a good job writing it. Younger Devi would do something and Older Devi would feel the effects of it right away, she could see the changes in her life... and not all of them, positive. What bothered me however is that it seemed Older Devi did not have any memories of the past three years. The only recollection she had was her own - going out with Bryan, finding herself alone. All she had to prove the changes were pictures and the results (like her college acceptance letters), not the progress... And I find that somewhat sad :( But this is really a minor issue and has more to do with my personal taste than the actual book.

My Grade? B+. I originally gave Gimme a Call a B... However, as I read more YA and have more books under the belt for comparison, I really think Gimme a Call is one of the better ones :)

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski
published by HarperTeen (Harpercollins Publisher) in May 2011
2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house - parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn't have.

If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn't jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe "opportunity" isn't the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: "Lied to Our Parents"). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up "Skipping School" (#3), "Throwing a Crazy Party" (#8), "Buying a Hot Tub" (#4), and, um, "Harboring a Fugitive" (#7) at all is kind of a mystery
to them.

In this hilarious and bittersweet tale, Sarah Mlynowski mines the heart and mind of a girl on her own for the first time. To get through the year, April will have to juggle a love triangle, learn to do her own laundry, and accept that her carefully constructed world just might be falling apart... one thing-she-shouldn't-have-done at a time.
Genre: YA, contemporary
Series: None

What do you need to know? April's parents are divorced and April has seen first hand what her mother's betrayal did. So when her mother moved to France to marry her lover, April chose to live with her father in her hometown of Westport, Connecticut. So when her father announces that they are moving to Cleveland because he found a new job in the middle of her junior year, it doesn't go over well with April. She's not about to start in a new school in the middle of the year! Plus, her life - and boyfriend - is in Westport! She comes up with the perfect solution: she'll stay at Vi's, one of her best friends, house and finish the year... The only hiccup in the plan is that Vi's mother will not be there at all. So a small subterfuge starts... but it works and April gets to stay!

Once April starts to live with Vi, she realizes that being independent and responsible is not as easy she thought... and that life has many surprises in store for her.

Why this book? Having had a taste of Ms Mlynowski's writing with Gimme a Call, I was more open to give this book a try :) Plus, remember, Ames enjoyed this one a lot! Otherwise, based on the blurb, I have to admit I'd probably have skipped ^_^;

What I liked? Surprisingly, I ended up liking Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have). When I first start the book, I felt that April was not responsible... mainly because she lied to her father and that made me uncomfortable. See, the book opens with the end and the story is basically a long flashback of what happened to get there. So the beginning makes April looks quite bad... However, after you've read her journey, it all makes sense and it's no longer that bad :P Actually, you realize those months she lived on her own with Vi, she did her best... Yes, there were some errors of judgement, but overall, she didn't do badly and definitively gained in maturity :)

What I liked the most about Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) was the realistic feel of the book. Okay, some parts were a bit unrealistic like April and Vi's subterfuge of setting up two email accounts and pretending to be each other's parents to reassure them that everything was okay... And buying the hot tub - really? However, April's feelings and the stuff she goes through during this time - that felt really real. I also liked that Ms Mlynowski addressed April and her boyfriend's first time. How she got on the pill, etc. And how later on, there was talk about the pressure of the first time and how it caused him to cheat.

Seriously, I have to give credit to Ms Mlynowski because it's her writing and style that made the book. She doesn't beat around the bush and doesn't sugarcoat reality: her characters have sex, they drink, they stay out late and hang out... They act as normal teenagers do and it's something that I feel a lot of adults don't acknowledge. Oh you always hear about parents complaining about the adolescent years, but that has more to do with their moodiness and rebellious attitude towards authority. When it comes to sex, alcohol and swearing, they prefer to idealize their teens. The reality is that a lot of teenagers - not all of them, but a lot - have heard and use swear words such as damn, shit and the f-bomb. A lot of them become sexually active during those years and they might not be able to buy their own booze, but it doesn't stop them from finding ways to get some. So I really appreciated Ms Mlynowski's candor and in my opinion, it made Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) refreshing and a nice change of pace for a contemporary YA.

Any Issues? I don't know have any real big issues with the book itself... However, I simply didn't enjoy the story as much as I did Gimme a Call. I liked that Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) was very realistic, but I find I didn't connect as much with April and what happened to her.

My Grade? B-Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) is a good contemporary YA, but probably better suited to a more matured audience. I'm glad that I have found another YA author to look out for :)