Book Review: Run by Kody Keplinger

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Title: Run
Author: Kody Keplinger
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Born with severely limited vision, Agnes Atwood is even more protected than most girls in her tiny Southern town. Her parents barely let her step out the front door without someone to watch over her, usually her best friend, who seems to be using their friendship for Christian brownie points. As Agnes gets closer to graduation, she feels like she'll never escape, that she'll be Poor Agnes the Blind Girl forever.

Then she meets Bo.

Bo Dickinson of the Dickinsons, the infamous hellraising family that every tiny town seems to have. Bo swears, drinks, smokes, and sleeps around. But she's also the best friend Agnes will ever have, because she knows exactly what it's like to feel trapped, to yearn for escape, and to fear that the chance will never come.

But when it does, will their friendship survive?

First Impressions: This was incredibly touching, although I feel like I want to chew on the ending for awhile.

Later On: This book is told from two alternating viewpoints - Bo's, in the present, and Agnes', looking backward over the path of their friendship. I generally enjoy this because it's interesting to see the different perspectives. However, I felt like I got more into Agnes' head than Bo's, maybe because I spent so much time trying to work out what was going on during the night of their escape. Also maybe because Agnes' half of the story is slower-paced, and Agnes herself is more given to introspection. But both girls are compelling, flawed, and extraordinary friends to each other and no matter who was telling it, I didn't want to put it down.

SPOILER - what I want to chew on about the ending is that Bo and Agnes part ways. Agnes goes back home and Bo stays where she ends up. You have the sense that their friendship will never again be what it was, but it's not handled in a tragic way or an angry way. Rather, it's a friendship that both girls badly needed at the time, and that forced them both to learn and grow - which is not something that this kind of ending usually declares. SPOILER

More: Disability in Kidlit: The Beautiful Tragedy The author talks about the "beautiful tragedy" disability narrative. That was something I appreciated about this book, is that Agnes is nobody's inspirational disability story, and in fact chafes against a former BFF who just seems to be using her for Christian brownie points.
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Book Review: Exit Pursued By a Bear by E.K. Johnston

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Title: Exit Pursued by a Bear
Author: E.K. Johnston
Published: 2016
Source: Local Library

Summary: Hermione is determined to make this the best year ever for her cheerleading squad. At camp, she aims to crush the competition. But it's Hermione who gets crushed - by a faceless attacker who drugged her drink at the camp dance and raped her in the dark, leaving her to be discovered at the edge of the lake in the morning.

With little chance that her attacker will ever be brought to justice, Hermione now has to reassemble herself, to be more than "that girl who got raped", to deal with the horrible choices that come on the heels of her assault - and to find the strength to handle the fact that she'll never be the same again.

First Impressions: What kills me about this book was that she had just about everything on her side - support system, good parents, access to services, sympathetic cops - and it was still dreadful to an unholy degree.

Later On: I've read criticism that this rape story is too "easy," too convenient. The cops believe her, her parents support her, all but a few classmates are on her side. She even (spoiler) figures out whodunit by the end and we are left with the impression that justice will be done. Is this the experience of every raped person? Of course not. But does any of this cancel out that she was violated, that the choice was taken from her, and that she'll never be the same? Again: of course not.

Even with all her sturdy support systems, Hermione is still the one to bear the terrible weight of what was done to her. That's something that remains the same in every story. When we start to say that one rape is more valid than another is when we start to discount the heinousness of the act itself.

More: Not Acting My Age
By Singing Light
Waking Brain Cells

First Impressions: Defending Taylor, The Scourge, And I Darken

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Title: Defending Taylor
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Kicked out of her ritzy private school, Taylor sees her mistakes splashed all over the front page just as her dad is running for re-election. Now she has to try to make her way in a new school, and try not to fall for her brother's friend Ezra, who has himself mysteriously dropped out of college.

First Impressions: While this was a valuable story about mistakes and working through them, I just kept thinking of how tremendously privileged these kids were. While they got a lot of flak from family for their screw-ups, they also kept getting second chances rarely provided to lower-class kids.

Title: The Scourge
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Ani and her best friend Weevil have been captured, tested positive for the dreaded Scourge, and sent to an island hospital colony. Even there, they're scorned for being River People, and given all the worst jobs.

But Ani is smart and savvy, and she knows something's not right. She's going to get herself and Weevil off this island and back home if it's the last thing she does.

First Impressions: So I saw (most) of the twists coming from a mile away, but that's because I know tropes. I think kids might get a little more shock out of it. And Ani was pretty awesome.

Title: And I Darken
Author: Kierstan White
Published: 2016
Source: NetGalley

Summary: In 15th century Transylvania, Lada and Radu are the scorned children of a brutal king - Lada for her gender, Radu for his gentleness. Sent away to the Ottoman Empire as hostages to their father's good behavior, they grow up alongside the captivating Mehmed, the crown prince. As they do, they both find their way into their own identities.

But they'll never stop trying to prove themselves - to their father, to each other, and to themselves.

First Impressions: Very sprawling and epic in scope but it slowed down hard toward the end. Although this is the first in a series, I don't think I'll keep reading it.