Review: Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release date: February 27, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 352
Goodreads || Book Depository

Kate O’Brien has always been known as the scholarship kid, running away from a terrible past and overcoming obstacles, some more sinister than others. She’s determined to make a better life for herself. She deserves it. And at the elite Waverly school, Kate is willing to do whatever it takes to climb the social ladder and land her spot at Yale.

There’s one girl in particular that catches Kate’s eye. Olivia Michelle Sumner, all born blonde and rich and just messed up enough for Kate to latch on to. As for Olivia, she’s a damaged girl, looking to be mended. She finds something promising in Kate. A study buddy. A best friend. A sister she never had. But even a vulnerable girl like Olivia has her own dark past to contend with.

When the handsome and whip-smart Mark Redkin joins the Waverly administration, he manages to woo the whole student body, paying particular attention to Olivia – an affair she very much wants to keep to herself, especially from Kate. And as a man who knows just how to get what he wants, Kate realises that Mark poses a huge threat, in more ways than she is willing to admit.

MY THOUGHTS

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Teresa Toten’s The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B is one of my all-time favourite books and I was extremely excited to check out Beware That Girl, even though it falls in a genre that I don’t typically gravitate towards. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with Beware That Girl. I found it to be a bit confusing and wasn’t really what I expected.

The book starts off with two girls in hospital – one as patient and one as a visitor- and it’s unclear who is who or what happened. If it wasn’t for this mystery aspect of the book, I’m not sure that I would’ve stuck with it until the end. But it kept me intrigued as I pushed through the novel and I’m glad that I finished it but I do have to say that the ending felt a little bit unresolved for my liking. Beware That Girl is about Kate, a scholarship kid, social climber and master manipulator, who has zeroed in on Oliver Sumner as her new target to take her to the top of the social ladder and to her end goal of attending Yale. Olivia, who has battled with some demons and secrets in the past year, is happy to rely on Kate for friendship and company. But when an older man comes between them and becomes involved with Olivia, things turn dark and the two have to rely on their friendship and honesty to get out of trouble.

My main problem with the book was that for the majority of it, I didn’t really know where it was going. It wasn’t until I got past the 200 page mark that I was able to get into the book and stick with it until the end. The first two-thirds of the novel was a little bit boring and I felt like nothing was really happening. I expected a little bit more build up and suspense to keep me intrigued and invested in the story and it was kind of lacking for me. The plot itself was slightly predictable, in my opinion, and some of the things that happened in the novel made me feel quite uncomfortable. I did like that there was a focus on psychopathy, which is something that I personally don’t see a lot of in YA, and I found it to be quite accurately represented in the book. But as a whole, the narrative left me uncomfortable and disappointed.

The novel jumps between Kate and Olivia’s perspectives and I can’t say that I really enjoyed either of them at the start. I found Kate to be very manipulative and dislikable at the start of the novel and it took quite a while to get used to her character. I did start to enjoy her a little bit more as the book progressed and we got to learn about her past and who she is as a person. Olivia was a bit of an enigma throughout the novel and I felt like I still didn’t really know her by the time I reached the end. This might have been because her chapters were written in third person narration, instead of first person like Kate’s. It was just a bit hard to relate to her and understand where she was coming from. Overall, I felt like the characters in the novel were kind of stereotypical rich girls and I would’ve liked a bit more depth in their characters.

Beware That Girl wasn’t the thrilling and engaging story that I expected but there were some great mental health elements in the book. I just found the plot to be slightly confusing and uncomfortable to read and I couldn’t really latch on to the story or the characters.

Beware that Girl was released on 27th February, 2017 and is available at all Australian retailers for $19.99.

Wrap Up: June 2016

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I had the most wonderful reading month in June. I read 21 books this month and I’m ridiculously proud of myself for doing that. I’ve been feeling a bit slumpy for the past few months but I’m glad to have shaken it off now. I’m now 47 books ahead on my Goodreads challenge and can now almost touch my goal of 100 books. Only 4 books away!! I will probably increase it to 150 books once I do reach that goal. In addition to that, I also celebrated my 1 year blogoversary this month. Thank you to everyone to sent me beautiful messages and I hope you enjoyed my giveaways! Now on to my reading summary for the month.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Favourite Character Voices

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This week is freebie week for Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week I’m going to feature some books with strong character voices that I really connected with.

1. Adam (The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten)

I read this novel very recently and Adam’s character and his voice really made this book for me. He’s probably one of my favourite protagonists of all time and I couldn’t stop rooting for him.

2. Simon (Carry On by Rainbow Rowell)

Another one of my favourite characters, I mostly love Simon because of his voice. He’s so incredibly funny and adorable, and I sped through this 500 page book because Simon’s voice was so great. I also really loved Baz’s voice too!

3. Todd (Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness)

The thing that you notice immediately when you read the Chaos Walking trilogy is Todd’s voice and the unique writing in the book. It’s very distinctive and really shows who Todd is as a character.

4. Max (Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali)

The thing that made Max such a wonderful book for me was the main character, Max’s, voice. He’s arrogant and vocal about his opinions but that’s kind of why I love him. His character and personality really come through his voice and it was just so interesting to read from the perspective of a fetus and really young child.

5. Solomon (Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley)

Solomon is an agoraphobic who hasn’t left his house in over three years. But that doesn’t make him a boring character. He was such a funny and interesting person and that really came through in his voice. I thought the writing in this book was super strong.

6. Simon (Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli)

Simon is hilarious. He’s somebody that you automatically connect with from the very first chapter. He has a great personality and his voice is extremely relatable.

7. Audrey (Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella)

Audrey is a 14 year old girl who suffers from severe anxiety and depression but she doesn’t come across that way in the book because her voice is so unique and interesting. You can feel her anxiety and shyness but at the same time, you also can feel that she’s a sarcastic and fun-loving character.

8. Frankie (Frankie by Shivaun Plozza)

If you’re looking for a spunky character with lots of sass and attitude, Frankie is the girl for you. Her voice is feisty and sassy and makes her a character who you can’t turn away from.

9. Allyson (Just One Day by Gayle Forman)

Allyson can seem like a little bit of a bland character to some, but to me, she’s so full of life and her voice was completely relatable. I really connected with her character and I thought her voice was really, really strong.

10. Alice (The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard)

In this novel, Alice has been through a traumatic incident and now has trouble expressing herself verbally. So she writes poetry to express herself. This book was super interesting and had a great mix of prose and poetry. Alice’s voice and personality was so unique and strong in this book, and is the main reason why I loved it so much!


What are some of your favourite character voices?

Review: The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

the-unlikely-hero-of-room-13b

Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: March, 2015 (Originally August 27, 2013)
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 272
Goodreads || Book Depository

When Adam meets Robyn at a support group for kids coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder, he is drawn to her almost before he can take a breath. He’s determined to protect and defend her–to play Batman to her Robyn–whatever the cost. But when you’re fourteen and the everyday problems of dealing with divorced parents and step-siblings are supplemented by the challenges of OCD, it’s hard to imagine yourself falling in love. How can you have a “normal” relationship when your life is so fraught with problems? And that’s not even to mention the small matter of those threatening letters Adam’s mother has started to receive . . .

Teresa Toten sets some tough and topical issues against the backdrop of a traditional whodunit in this engaging new novel that readers will find hard to put down.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

Where do I even begin with these 270 pages of goodness? It was a harrowing look into OCD and the effect it has on not only those suffering from the disorder but those around them too. But even though it was an emotional book about serious issues, there’s an abundance of humour and wit that made it an absolute delight to read. This is my favourite book about OCD that I’ve read so far and I cannot recommend it more highly.

While the book ostensibly is about the romance, there was so much more to it. In fact, I think the romance was the least important aspect of the book. It’s really a book about OCD and the struggles that our main character, Adam, has to go through and the impact OCD has on his daily life. It’s about the friendships that he forges and the relationship he has with his family members. It was a truly beautiful book and a very honest and accurate depiction of OCD and the extent to which it can significantly affect a person’s daily life. I really loved that the novel really focused on this debilitating effect that compulsions can have on a person and their ability to go about their day to day activities. I feel as though most OCD books that I’ve read have focused on obsessions with cleanliness or perfection and haven’t really addressed how people suffering from OCD aren’t able to do a lot of things that others would consider normal because they spend so much time performing rituals to make themselves feel better. I thought The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B dealt with this exceptionally well, along with other ways OCD can manifest. If you want something that’s very impactful, while remaining genuine and realistic, you can’t go wrong this book’s depiction of OCD.

“I sweat terror, Robyn! I’m scared every single second about every singled goddamned thing. I worry obsessively about being buried under an avalanche of fear. Jesus, Robyn, I’m scared like only the truly crazy can be.”

“But that, you dope, is the definition of courage: you go on, despite the fear.”

But even more than the accurate portrayal of OCD, I loved the characters in this book. If you love a character-driven story, you will really enjoy this book. Adam is now one of my favourite protagonists of all time. He was so endearing and sweet and I loved him to bits. It’s just almost impossible not to love him and be swept into his life from the very first page. He was so relatable and, despite him having to deal with his crippling anxiety, he was supportive of others around him and took care of those who needed help. His voice was unique and wonderful to read from. I felt like I completely understood him and was with him every step of the way. I also absolutely loved the side characters. There was such an eclectic set of characters all with their own little quirks. Adam attends a weekly support group with other teenagers and young adults who suffer from OCD. Together, they take on superhero alter egos and it’s just so crazy adorable and funny. They take their alter egos so seriously as well, purchasing merchandise to wear and styling their hair to match. I just really enjoyed the group dynamic and how they really supported each other inside and outside of their support group. It was just so wonderful to see them develop friendships and look out for each other (I love Thor so much!). There was no judgment and only understanding between them and I really appreciated that they gave each other space to deal with their own issues. My heart was just swelling with love for those characters. If you’ve read this book, I think you’ll understand.

I also really loved seeing Adam’s family and the role they played in this book. They all have their own problems too and it’s not always the case that they’re supporting and caring for Adam; he does the same for them too. When his 5-year-old half-brother struggles with his own anxiety problems, Adam is always there to soothe him, take care of him and be his superhero. When his mother receives some terrifying and threatening letters from an unknown source, Adam is there to give her reassurance and act as a semblance of normality in their household. He’s there to help her with her own hoarding issues. I really loved all of the relationships in this book but it was the way that Adam and his family interacted that really had me emotional.

And of course, there was the romance between Adam and Robyn, which was simultaneously a massive part and a tiny part of what the book was about. From the very first page of the book, Adam is in love with Robyn. He thinks she’s perfection in every single way and wants nothing more than to marry her and be with her forever. He’d do anything for Robyn, including saving her from her OCD and fixing himself so that he can be the best person he can be for her. There were times when Robyn came across as a little bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl but I never ended up minding that she was portrayed that way. Sure, she was put on a bit of a pedestal but she had her own flaws and the way that her and Adam’s relationship unfolded was so realistic and genuine. Their relationship progressed at the perfect pace and it was just so, so adorable and sweet. I loved that they were really there for each other and that they were able to be honest with each other and push each other to be better.

I have so much more that I want to say about this book but this review is getting out of hand. Just know that I absolutely loved this book and will now recommend it to everyone for the rest of my life as one of my favourite books of all time. The plot was great. The characters were great. And the feels were so, so real.