Book Review

Someplace Better

The Radius of Us: A NovelThe Radius of Us: A Novel by Marie Marquardt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, St. Martin’s Press, for sending me an ARC of this book (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward. —Steve Maraboli

The Radius of Us is one of the most meaningful and insightful books I’ve read this year. Unlike many YA contemporary novels, this book educates its readers about PTSD, the politics of immigration, as well as the lingering legacy of racism in American society. Essentially, The Radius of Us is anything but a typical love story.

Gretchen and Phoenix were very flawed yet authentic characters, in that they had serious personal issues to overcome. Although they had different problems, both of them struggled to let go of their traumatic experiences. Thankfully, they had loving parents and friends to help them in their respective journeys. Of course, these two lovebirds also had each other.

I do not intend to underestimate the gravity of Gretchen’s situation, but I was more invested in Phoenix’s character arc. As an “illegal” refugee from El Salvador, Phoenix constantly suffered under the threat of deportation. He also had to worry about his younger brother Ali, who was left behind in a juvenile detention center while their petition for asylum was being settled. In totality, Phoenix’s problems were more significant to me, and I was always excited to know if he would be given a happy ending.

Phoenix wasn’t the only colored/diverse character in the novel. His guardians, Amanda and Sally, were a queer couple. Also, Bree, Gretchen’s bff, was an African American. In retrospect, each of these characters were not ashamed of their identity. With that in mind, The Radius of Us is the perfect book for readers who love stories with much diversity.

I would have given this book 5 stars if Phoenix and Gretchen did not fall in love so quickly. I am sorry to say that their relationship is another example of instalove in YA literature. Moreover, Gretchen started to have feelings for Phoenix even though she already had a loyal boyfriend. In other words, I did not like how this book glossed over the consequences of cheating, as “valid” as it might be.

To sum up my thoughts and feels, I enjoyed the Radius of Us because of its relevant story and well-developed characters. I particularly appreciated how the author effectively conveyed her sympathy and support for the victims of gang violence. Setting aside my issues with the romance, this book is definitely worth your time.

*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)

Book Review

Better Than a Cursed Child

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original ScreenplayFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please don’t hurt my creatures—they are not dangerous. —Newt Scamander

I practiced the Book Before Movie Policy in my approach to this beautiful screenplay. Why? Because there’s just something about the feeling of seeing words come to life before your very eyes. Hopefully, I’ll still get to watch the movie before it’s pulled out of cinemas.

I’m so happy that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was tons better than Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This is probably because this screenplay was solely written by Lady Rowling. (No offense to Jack Thorne and Co.)

I had never really cared about the magical creatures in Harry Potter, so I’m glad to say that reading this screenplay made me have a paradigm shift. Although I haven’t seen them on screen, I already have my favorite fantastic beasts: the Niffler, the Swooping Evil, and the Thunderbird. I probably liked the Thunderbird the most because I was sorted (via Pottermore) into its own Ilvermorny House. I’m definitely coming from a Pokemon fan’s POV when I say that I would love to own a Thunderbird in real life. Hmm…it would logically be weak against rock or ice-type beasts. LOL.

In contrast to Cursed Child, Fantastic Beasts didn’t have any infuriating characters. I particularly found Newt to be very charming because of his careless, shrewd, and affectionate demeanor. As for Tina, I was quite annoyed with her at the beginning, but she eventually gained my respect. Er, I don’t want to talk about Jacob and Queenie because just thinking about their relationship makes me sad. Rest assured, I did like them a lot.

Plot-wise, Fantastic Beasts was highly refreshing and entertaining. It actually contained two/three plot twists, which made me very happy. The ending was bittersweet, but I loved it nonetheless. It’s a good thing I have four more screenplays to look forward to. I admit that the franchise somehow reeks of capitalism. However, I really don’t care because the Wizarding World never gets old!

Overall, I am very delighted to have read this screenplay. I have nothing but positive things to say about it. Trust me. I ain’t biased. I’m just a satisfied Potterhead. 😉

Book Review

That Paradox Called Selfish Love

The Edge of EverythingThe Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, for sending me an ARC of this book (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

If I do not return, it is only because not one but two worlds conspired to stop me. —X

The Edge of Everything was one of the most emotionally shocking novels I’ve read this year. It was like reading Heartless and It Ends with Us all over again. Trust me, booknerds; Please do not let the cute and fluffy cover fool you. I heartily applaud Jeff Giles (and the publisher) for thinking of such a deceptive cover.

I approached this novel thinking that it was going to be a typical YA contemporary, so my expectations were low at worst and realistic at best. Now that I’ve finally finished it, I feel utterly foolish. In contrast to its light and beautiful cover, The Edge of Everything features a very dark, fantastical story. In fact, it could even be described as a thriller because it is one of those books that keep you on the edge of your seat as you constantly worry about the safety of the characters.

From the get-go, I want you to know that The Edge of Everything has a love story reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. Most of the plot revolves around how Zoe and X desperately struggle to be together. However, their story is actually unique because X happens to be a paranormal bounty hunter, which in this context is tantamount to our modern Grim Reaper. X comes from a hellish place called the Lowlands, and he is tasked to collect the souls of unpunished criminals. For years, X has been resigned to his fate as a “killer,” but everything changes when he falls in love with Zoe. Sadly, the melody of their relationship is anything but perfect because it has a harmony of deadly repercussions. In totality, I enjoyed the plot of this book because it was delightfully suspenseful.

I found The Edge of Everything to be very intriguing because its characters were almost deliberately flawed. For instance, Zoe and X were aware of the dangers of their relationship, but they were too stubborn and selfish to break up. Also, both of them had a distinct distaste for obeying figures of authority. I felt so bad for Zoe’s mother and brother, whose lives were shattered as collateral damage. Gleaning upon this, there were both character development and “character reduction” in this book. Zoe and X’s romance made them braver and compassionate, but it simultaneously made them more apathetic towards the needs of others. Consequently, I did not have any favorite character in this book.

Nevertheless, I must say that I admired Zoe’s relationship with her brother Jonah, who had ADHD. Jonah had a very eccentric, naughty, and clingy personality, and I liked how Zoe was openly affectionate with him. She was usually sensitive to his needs, doing her best to meet them although it required her to go out of her comfort zone. I especially loved how she endearingly called him “bug.” Overall, I am glad that Jeff Giles was able to delicately explore such a unique connection between siblings.

The second issue/problem I had with this book was the instalove. Ugh, I honestly could not fathom the speed of Zoe and X’s relationship. Or better yet, I cannot comprehend the idea of love at first sight. Even though it was eventually explained why Zoe and X fell for each other, I could not help but feel skeptical and disappointed. I lack experience in romance, yet I certainly would not immediately fall in love with someone who saved my life or made me realize my personal worth.

In the end, I assure you that The Edge of Everything is thankfully not overhyped. I’m excited for others to read it next year because I desperately need someone with whom I could share my feels. This book was mildly heartbreaking. I actually expected it to be a stand-alone novel, but the cliffhanger of an ending suggests otherwise. Also, an article on Entertainment Weekly says that Jeff Giles sold his work as a series. Thus, I am a very happy fanboy. ^_^

*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)