Bruised- Tanya Boteju:
|Pub Date: 3-23-21|
YA - Contemporary
After surviving a car accident that killed her parents, Daya has spent every moment seeking pain as a way to feel something other than emptiness. Whether it's throwing herself into skateboarding or bashing her hand into her headboard, she uses her bruises as a way to feel alive but soon she finds that's not enough. When she discovers roller derby, Daya believes she's finally found something to keep her emotional turmoil at bay. Not the most social person, Daya is at first hesitant at the thought of being on a team, but the allure of all the hard-hitting contact is too great an opportunity to pass up. The more time she spends with the rest of the girls, not to mention a budding romance with the soft-spoken shy team manager, the more Daya starts to open up to a whole new world of emotions. The road to healing will be a long one, but for the first time, it's one that Daya is looking forward to skating down.
I didn't know much about this going into it, and while I can appreciate the topics it dealt with, this just wasn't for me. Daya was taught her whole life to be tough and that any sign of being emotional was to be taken as a weakness. This leads her to be very abrasive and hard-headed which made her came across as being very mean. I understand that she went through a lot and that she feels as if these cement walls she placed around herself are the only way to deal with her issues, but her actions made her feel unlikable. Everyone around her tries to help her and she just completely shuts them all out and instead turns to really unhealthy means of letting out her aggression. I did like watching her inevitably grow by the end, but I just wish it happened sooner. There were some bits I liked, namely all the representation throughout and the actual roller derby aspect. I don't know much about the sport besides the movie Whip It, so it was fun and exciting to learn more. Overall, this is a story about grief and healing from loss, and despite it not working for me, I still think it'd be an impactful read for someone else.
You Had Me at Hola- Alexis Daria:
|Pub Date: 8-4-20|
Adult - Contemporary
As a soap star, Jasmine Rodriguez is used to being hounded by paparazzi's, but after her recent break-up is splashed all over every tabloid cover, she decides she needs to re-evaluate her life. She comes up with a "Leading Lady Plan" which starts with her new role as the star of a bilingual rom-com for a big streaming service. The one thing Jasmine didn't factor into her plan? Her co-star, Ashton Suarez. When his character was killed off his telenovela, Ashton was worried his career would go with it, but he's hoping the opportunity to play a lead in an American show will prove he's got what it takes to make it big in Hollywood. After a disastrous first impression and with both their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to start rehearsing together off-screen. Running lines soon turn into more as Jasmine and her infectious personality start to tear down the walls Ashton has built around himself. As someone who shies away from the media, will Ashton be able to handle all the attention that comes along with Jasmine, or will their behind-the-scenes romance fizzle before it's ever really begun especially after a secret from Ashton's past is dug up?
This was fun and definitely had the telenovela vibe. Jasmine is so charismatic and bubbly, whereas Ashton was reserved and a bit mysterious. They each had their flaws-- Jasmine focuses too much on pleasing other people and Ashton is secretive to a fault--but Daria did a nice job of explaining just what caused them to be this way and they each grew and developed into better versions of themselves by the end. The chemistry between them wasn't as explosive as I was expecting, but I still enjoyed it. Aside from the relationship, I liked the family dynamic, especially Jasmine's two cousins, and how Daria incorporated the scenes from the show as they were filming them. I would've liked to have seen the ending developed a bit more because I felt like it all wrapped up fairly quickly, but other than that, I thought this was enjoyable.
It Only Happens in the Movies- Holly Bourne:
|Pub Date: 12-1-20|
YA - Contemporary
After dealing with the horrible fallout of her parent's divorce and a break-up of her own, Audrey has sworn off love. She believes nothing good can come of romance, and she's embraced her new cynical outlook on relationships. Then she meets Harry, her charming coworker at the local cinema. At first, she tries to put distance between them, but eventually, even her hardened heart can't help but melt under his touch, especially after she agrees to star in Harry's zombie film and the pair find themselves spending a lot of late nights together. Harry is determined to show Audrey that love can be like it is in the movies, but the two quickly learn that reality is way more complicated than fiction.
While I can appreciate how this had a more realistic ending than the typical HEA of most fluffy contemporaries, the majority of this I could take or leave. I thought Audrey and Harry were fine characters, but I liked them much more before they got together. I loved all their flirty banter in the beginning, but once they started dating, it just became far too dramatic. This whole book was just one big drama after another. If it's not something with her family, it's something with her friends, if it's not something with her friends, it's something with Harry, and it got to the point where my head was starting to spin. So much of the frustration could've been solved if the characters had just communicated with one another. My other big annoyance with this was that the book tells you how it's going to end, so it takes a lot of the satisfaction out since you know what's coming. I can see where the author was trying to go with this, but I just don't think it worked out.