YA DEBUT & MORE CONTEMPORARY READS: January Mini Reviews

It’s no surprise that contemporary marked the ending of my 2019 reading and the start of my 2020 reading!

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

44281034Phil Stamper’s YA debut novel, The Gravity of Us, was the first 2020 release and first completed book in my new reading year. The book’s unique premise really caught my attention back at Book Expo 2019. The Gravity of Us is narrated by Cal, a Brooklyn-based social media star whose life is upended when his dad is chosen for NASA’s mission to Mars. Cal’s family moves to Texas and lives with this other astronauts’ families, which includes the quiet and attractive Leon. Cal deals with a reality TV show about the space mission, his future living under his dad’s dream, and his mutual attraction to Leon.

The premise of The Gravity of Us really delivered. The whole NASA/Mars mission was very well-done and as somewhat unexpected, the setting was very different than other YA contemporary books. I really liked when Phil Stamper delved into some NASA or space history facts, as Cal’s neighborhood in Texas is a replica of the 1960s and 70s astro-family communities. Much of this has to do with StarWatch, a reality TV show tracking the mission and the lives of the astronauts and their families. I’m still not sure how I feel about the reality TV element. On the one hand, it added another layer of tension, as Cal sees right through the reality show, but on the other hand, it added a lot of unnecessary tension. While I loved reading about the NASA narrative, there was a lot in the StarWatch vs. NASA battle that was hard to follow. The other main element that I unfortunately was not the biggest fan of was Leon and Cal’s chemistry. Cal admires Leon from afar in the beginning, it’s hinted by Leon’s sister that Leon finds Cal attractive too, and all of a sudden, they’re flirting and then they’re somewhat dating??

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Overall, I enjoyed the premise of The Gravity of Us and its space-centric plot that actually had a lot of family development, as Cal and his parents contend with their different dreams and aspirations for their family. Yet, I was not a fan of the book’s writing style and romantic relationship development.

The Gravity of Us comes out on February 4, 2020.

This review is based on an advance uncorrected proof. By no means did receiving this review copy affect my thoughts or opinions.

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

megjoIn honor of the new Little Women film, I dove back into the world of one of my favorite classics with Virginia Kantra’s Meg & Jo. Meg & Jo is a modern retelling of the classic, following Jo’s life living as a struggling professional writer and successful food blogger in New York City and Meg’s life being married and raising two children while feeling like she must take care of anything and everything. When the March sisters’ mother becomes ill over the holidays, the four March girls return home for the holidays. Having read this book in December, I loved Meg and Jo’s holiday spirit. This is the perfect kind of holiday reads for readers who may not be looking for books that scream Christmas, but still involve a festive atmospheric or stories where the backdrop is Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Overall, I really enjoyed Virgina Kantra’s take on Little Women. I liked the aspects that did stick to Little Women, mostly the girls’ personalities and their interests, as well as the parts where it were it parted from, such as the further exploration of the girls’ relationship with their father. I equally enjoyed Jo and Meg’s perspective. They were both quite cheery and optimistic, despite Jo having no idea where her life and career will take her and their mother’s illness. The whole idea that Meg feels that she must take care of everything as a stay-at-home mother and being the sister closest to the family farm grew tired after a while, but I did enjoy her story arc. I definitely plan on picking up the next and unreleased book in this Little Women retelling series, Beth and Amy

You’re Not You by Michelle Wildgen 

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

167350One of my mini reading goals for 2020 is to get to books on my physical TBR, otherwise known as the books that have been sitting on my physical bookshelves for too long. I picked up a copy of Michelle Wildgen’s You’re Not You at a publishing event two summers ago and decided to take it with me on my recent trip to Ireland for the plane ride home. You’re Not You initially caught my interest for featuring a college-age protagonist and that it was adapted into a film in 2014.

You’re Not You follows college sophomore Bec, who is quite lackluster about her major and knows she probably shouldn’t be a having an affair with a college professor. Unsure of her next steps in general, Bec applies for and accepts a job caring for a woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Caring for Kate is certainly not easy, but as Bec’s nerves die down and as she begins to pick up Kate’s routine, the two form a close-knit relationship that allows Bec to view her life a lot differently. I really enjoyed Michelle Wildgen’s writing style. Well-written, it was a very nice balance between plot and insight on Bec and the other characters. The book is definitely hard-hitting in a few places, as Kate’s health declines over the course of the story and her ‘perfect’ marriage begins to detiorate. As a witness to all of this, Bec really grows as a character. Her personality and own life decisions evolve as she spends time with Kate and experiences a new viewpoint on life. Cooking is one of Bec’s favorite things to do with Kate, so I loved all of the food and baking scenes.

Overall, I recommend picking up You’re Not Youif you’re looking for a well-written read that deals with some mature and emotional subject matter. I always enjoy watching the film adaptation after finishing the book, so I’m hoping to borrow a DVD of You’re Not You from my library somewhat soon. I’ve watched the trailer for the film, but I’m already not a fan of the depiction of Bec. Yes, her life is a bit all over the place in the book, but she seems more ‘put-together’ and more prepared to take care of Kate. I’m also interested in checking out Michelle Wildgen’s other writing.

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Have you read any of the books above? What books have you read so far in 2020? Share in the comments! 

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