Amanda's Adventures · Everything & Anything · The Readers Favorites

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

GoodReads Summary:
After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.
Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.
As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.
Us Against You (Beartown, #2)Review:
This book is the sequel to Beartown, read my review for the first book here. I absolutely adored Beartown so when I saw there was a second one I knew I had to read it. It wasn’t as good as the first, but it was still very good. I only cried once as opposed to the several times I cried during the first book. Us Against You is just as important of a read as the first one, if not more. This book talks about many important and hard-hitting topics that are often talked around instead of about.

“Because sometimes hating one another is so easy it seems incomprehensible that we ever do anything else.”

There are many characters featured in these pages. Many from the first book and a few new ones. Theres no way for me to mention them all. Each character plays an important part in the story, whether they have positive or negative effects on the others. I think the mass number of players in Us Against You are a vital part of the messages that Backman is trying to get across.

“The truth about most people is as simple as it is unbearable: we rarely want what is best for everyone; we mostly want what’s best for ourselves.”

The book talks about so many things, but the most prevalent theme is violence. Violence is present in any society, in every person, but it takes action and hatred for violence to come to pass. I think it did an incredible job talking about all the different ways that people can become violent, that they can become full of hatred, that they can overcome these feelings. Another important topic discussed is family. There are several families we come to know and learn about. They’re all different, all going through their own problems. But in the face of real trauma and loss, they put aside their differences and feelings toward one another and help in whatever ways they can. I thought this story told of a really strong community brought together because of a shared love of hockey. With this shared love, they fight and cheer alongside one another despite personal issues. I really think Backman wrote an incredible story filled with so many important issues from surviving rape, sexuality, alcoholism, loss of a loved one, bullying, and surviving.

“Grief is a wild animal that drags us so far out into the darkness that we can’t imagine ever getting home again.”

The only complaint I have about Us Against You is that it’s kind of a long book to get through. It’s almost 500 pages filled with descriptions and explanations. There is a fair bit of telling, alongside the showing the story does have. It’s also filled with so many tough topics that it was harder to sit and binge read. The writing style is part of this, though I found myself enjoying the writing style. The author foreshadows, telling of things to come before they happen, while giving us hints of things that may happen in between and then actually telling us what happened. I thought this was a really creative way to tell the story and I think it added just that much more to the story. I definitely think Us Against You wouldn’t have been the same book had it been written differently.

“When guys are scared of the dark, they’re scared of ghosts and monsters, but when girls are scared of the dark, they’re scared of guys.”

Overall, I loved this book. There were a few parts that dragged, but I loved it anyway. It’s full of characters we love and characters we love to hate. We talk about hard hitting topics instead of shying away from them. It’ll make you laugh right before it breaks your heart. I definitely recommend these books to anyone that enjoyed reading about hard-hitting topics.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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Amanda's Adventures · Everything & Anything · The Readers Favorites

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Summary:
Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the cities dark and twisting streets—a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.
Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)Review:
I honestly don’t know how I’m supposed to express my love for this book with real words. Aside from writing ‘I loved this’ over and over again I’m not sure what you people want from me. I’m just kidding friends. First off, I still love the setting here. In Ketterdam it’s a whole different world from the familiar Ravka from the Shadow and Bone trilogy. I love the dirty and grittiness of the Barrel. I love the gang aspect with these characters. They’re supposed to be criminals, low lives, and good for nothing. But they show us that they’re so much more over and over again. These friends prove that they’re more than their assumptions time and time again. This friend group is probably the most appealing thing in the story. While the plot is interesting, the characters are really what I’m here for. From the irreparably damaged Kaz to the ever-noble Matthias. They all are just the perfect combination of sass and anger and unresolved issues. They each bring something unique but essential to the friend squad and I loved every second of it.

“What you want and what the world needs are not always in accord, Kaz. Praying and wishing are not the same thing.”

Nina is probably my favorite and I’m excited/nervous for her story to continue in King of Scars because people have said they just didn’t care about Nina’s chapters. I feel like Nina really got the worst out of everyone. Leigh Bardugo really did her dirty and she didn’t deserve it. Despite this, she made me laugh. Her love of cake and waffles and sweets was so relatable and just put a smile on my face.

“She was the Queen of Mourning, and in its depths, she would never drown.”

Matthias made laugh with his attempts at restraint and Nina always messing with him. I really admired his strength for trying to fight everything he’s been taught his whole life and everything he’s ever known. Trying to come to terms with the fact that he and his home country are wrong, he really shows growth and I loved it.

“You aren’t a flower, you’re every blossom in the wood blooming at once. You are a tidal wave. You’re a stampede. You are overwhelming.”

Jesper also had some great growth in this book and I’d love to see where he is now. I think he really comes to terms with who he is and the abilities and flaws that he has. I think he developed wonderfully after making some mistakes in the first book, he does anything and everything he can to make amends for the things he did. Despite him trying to make amends, he was full of jokes and sarcasm and sass and I loved it.

Mati en sheva yelu. This action will have no echo. It means we won’t repeat the same mistakes, that we won’t continue to do harm.”

Then there’s little Wylan. He’s probably not little, but the way that everyone talks to him I picture him as a small boy. He starts off as our designated soft boy but develops into so much more. I think Wylan is really just trying to prove himself and where his loyalties are. I think Wylan’s ending was the best. He really is the only one that got everything he wanted but I think he deserved it.

“You’re weak because you’re afraid of people seeing your weakness. You’re letting shame decide who you are.”

Our Wraith is next, the beloved Inej. She has a lot of inner conflict in these books and I really get it. It makes her relatable. She does what she needs to survive, even if those things don’t always sit well with her, even if those things don’t always align with her morals. I think she is the most interesting character because of this.

We learn to hold our heads as if we wear crowns. We learn to wring magic from the ordinary. That was how you survived when you weren’t chosen, when there was no royal blood in your veins. When the world owed you nothing, you demanded something of it anyway.”

Finally, our fearless leader, Kaz Brekker. The criminal mastermind bent on revenge. He’s incredibly smart and clever. He always seems to have a solution for everything and sometimes those solutions are so crazy they just might work. I found myself reading and thinking to myself, ‘Holy shit that was lucky’ and then ten pages later finding out that it was Kaz that planned it all along. There were parts that I thought there was no way Kaz has planned these things that everything is falling apart, but then it all works out exactly how Kaz wanted it to and it blows me away.

“I would come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”

Overall this book was incredible. It made me laugh. It made me cry. I loved seeing these characters working together and growing together. They have the most fun and craziest adventures. They just have an incredible dynamic and I loved it. I loved seeing the characters we met in the Shadow and Bone books. I loved seeing the world just come together. The only thing I didn’t like was the ending. It seemed a little lacking. There just wasn’t anything solid for any of the characters. It was so open-ended and I get that the books in this world aren’t over, so it makes sense. But it was just not a satisfying ending. Other than that, I loved everything about this book, even the heartbreak. I have to go read King of Scars now, bye.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Summary:
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.
Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Review:
I’ve been rereading so many of the books I’ve read and loved over the years, but don’t remember every detail about. Six of Crows is one of those. I haven’t read this duology since the second book came out in 2016. I thought now would be the perfect time to reread these books before I got my hands on King of Scars at the end of January.

“When everyone knows you’re a monster, you needn’t waste time doing every  monstrous thing.”

Rereading this book was exciting and wonderful. I loved being back inside this world with these characters. Ketterdam is one of my favorite fictional worlds. It’s. complex and dark, filled with corners you really should stay out of and all the scheming you could imagine. I love the world of Grisha. It has the ability to suck me in, chew me up, and spit me out at the final page. I was so engrossed in this story that I didn’t want to put it down. I spent several nights staying up later than I should to read more pages.

“The water hears and understands. The ice does not forgive.”

The characters were equally as good as the setting. They were complex and dark, each with their own story to tell. Kaz Brekker, our fearless leader, has such an interesting backstory. Dark and gritty, he does whatever he needs in order to reach his goals. Getting to learn his backstory definitely humanized him as the story went on. He wants everyone to think he’s the big bad, but he cares more than he’s willing to admit.

“Better terrible truths than kind lies.”

Inej, the Wraith, is another character that will do what she needs to as long as it brings her closer to her goals. Sold into slavery, then into the Dregs, she does what she must to survive while trying to keep her conscious clear, not always successfully. She sees the best in her friends even when they don’t deserve it. Nina is probably my favorite though. She’s sassy and fierce, loyal and caring. She doesn’t take anyone’s shit and she stands up for what she believes in. I’m so excited to see where Nina’s story goes in King of Scars.
Jesper was the comedic relief of the group. He turns everything into a joke because he can’t stop and take time to think about what his life has become. He is impulsive and it’s not always a good thing. Then there’s Wylan, sweet and soft Wylan. A merchant’s son, he joins the Dregs to escape a life that seems better than it is. He’s constantly trying to prove himself and that he is worthy to be a part of the team. I think he’s my favorite. I love a good soft boy. Then there’s Matthias, the opposite of a soft boy. He’s full of nothing but conflict and a need for revenge. I think Matthias has the best character arc and development. He’s fighting to decide between the girl he’s grown to care for and the things he’s always known and believed in.

“Greed may do your bidding, but death serves no man.”

These characters all together create the most interesting and conflicted squad, which makes for interesting times as they sail to another country to kidnap someone, a mission that is very likely to fail. All of the different personalities combining in the adventures they go on is guaranteed to be a good time full of laughs, danger, and maybe even a little death. This is still one of my favorite books. It’s just so good. Leigh Bardugo will forever be my Queen. If you haven’t read this book yet, what are you waiting for?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda's Adventures · Everything & Anything · The Readers Favorites

More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

Summary:
Rev has managed. to keep the demons of his past at bay…until he. gets a letter from the abusive father he hasn’t seen in years, and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.
Emma. has only one escape from her parents’ fighting: the computer game she built from scratch…until an online troll’s harassment causes her to fear for her safety.
When Rev and Emma cross paths one night, they’re both longing to confide in someone-to share the weight of their worries. They connect instantly and deeply, vowing to help each other no matter what. But soon Rev’s and Emma’s secrets threaten to crush them, and they’ll need more than a promise to find their way out. In an achingly beautiful story from the author of Letters to the Lost, two teens find the courage to lift the burden of their scars-old and new.
Review:
Brigid Kemmerer has done it again. I adored this story. Rev and Emma pulled me, chewed me up, and spit me out. Their wonderfully developed characters with interesting and complex stories.
Rev has a complicated past, and not in a good way. I knew I wanted to know more about him when I met him in Letters to the Lost. I’m so happy that he got his own book. We really learn about what goes on in Rev’s mind. We learn his fears and doubts and the things he does to try to combat them. I loved the relationships with his family. I thought it was really interesting to learn about Kristin and Geoff adopting Rev and all the other kids that they’ve fostered over the years. The love they have for Rev was so heartwarming and wonderful to read about. I also really enjoyed seeing more of Declan. I thought it was interesting to see the other side of their relationship. I thought Rev was a strong, courageous character that faced his demons down and stayed true to himself.
Emma was stubborn. Sometimes to the point of annoyance. She gets herself into trouble because of the typical ‘not sharing information’ trope where she could have solved all her problems by telling someone the truth. She was shitty to her friends and didn’t appreciate the things she had in her life. Despite all of this, I couldn’t help but like her. By the end of the book, she knew she’s been an ass and start making amends with those she’s treated poorly. She had great growth and I really appreciated that. I also liked that she’s a gamer. It’s not that common of a hobby for girls and the fact that she created her own game is just fascinating.
Overall, I loved this book. It was heartwarming and heart wrenching at the. same time. I’m so invested in these characters I’d die for another book. I have information from a little birdie that there is potential for Matthew (Rev’s foster brother) to get his own book and I would flip. Kemmerer is officially an auto-buy author for me and I cannot wait to read her newest book A Curse So Dark and Lonely.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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Sadie by Courtney Summers

Summary:
When popular radio personality West McCray receives a desperate phone call from a stranger imploring him to find nineteen-year-old runaway Sadie Hunter, he’s not convinced there’s a story there; girls go missing all the time. But as soon as West’s boss discovers Sadie fled home after the brutal murder of her little sister, Mattie, he sees the makings of something big and orders West to the small town of Cold Creek, Colorado, to uncover what happened.
Sadie has no idea that her story will soon become the subject of a blockbuster podcast. She just wants revenge. Armed with a switchblade, Sadie follows a meager set of clues hoping they’ll lead to the man who took Mattie’s life because she’s determined to make him pay for it with his own. But as West traces her journey to the darkest, most dangerous corners of big cities and small towns, a deeply unsettling mystery begins to unfold-one that’s bigger than them both. Can he find Sadie before it’s too late?
Alternating between Sadie’s unflinching voice as she hunts the killer and the podcast transcripts tracking the clues she’s left behind, Sadie, is a breathless thriller about the lengths we go to protect the ones we love and the high price we pay when we can’t. It will haunt you long after you reach the final page.
Review:
After hearing the endless hype for Sadie, I finally bought the book when it was on sale for black Friday. Shortly after buying it, my library informed me that they went ahead and bought the audiobook at my request. So, this led me to wait for the audiobook to be available instead of reading the physical book because I have heard nothing but good things about the audiobook. None of those things I heard were wrong. The audiobook and the story were so so much more than I ever expected.
This story follows two alternating perspectives. The first we follow is Sadie. We follow Sadie as she’s trying to deal with losing her sister, the one person she lived for. Sadie spent her life doing everything for Mattie. Taking care of her sister was her life’s purpose. I think I really related to Sadie because my own mother is one that struggles with addiction and wasn’t around for much of my life. So I know how Sadie feels toward her mother and I could understand those feelings. I cannot imagine what it wo0uld be like to lose a sibling like she did, in such a gruesome manner. I would be inconsolable and would likely attempt revenge, just like Sadie. Following Sadie on this mission was hard because it took Sadie to some dark places both physically and mentally. She had some dark thoughts, including but not limited to murder. I think that was one of the things I liked about this book. It was a mystery/thriller but the darker themes within it really made it just that much more exciting.
The second perspective we follow is West McCray who is a reporter, I think. I thought this was a very interesting way to tell this story. His chapters were so perfectly placed. Every time we switched away from Sadie it was always at the perfect place to just add that much more suspense. I really liked that we get to see into the process of West making the podcast instead of just the podcast episodes. I thought it was cool that we got to see how Sadie’s story was affecting West and the impact this project was having on him. I also really enjoyed the interview parts of the story that were included in the podcast. I feel like they really allowed the reader more insight into all the different pieces of the story.
I think my favorite part was the parallels in the storytelling. What I mean by this is that one chapter will be following Sadie going to a specific place or telling us about something and the next chapter will be the podcast where West is learning about the same things. I thought it was really interesting to see how Sadie saw or thought things and then seeing those same things from the perspective of another.
Finally, I have to mention the audiobook. It was freaking amazing. I absolutely adore audiobooks that are read by a cast of narrators. I think they make the story experience so much better and they’re my favorite kind of audiobooks. I actually waited to read this book despite owning the physical copy so that I could experience the audiobook because I’ve heard such good things. I was not disappointed in the least. I think this is even more important because the one thing I never see mentioned in the reviews I’ve seen is that Sadie has a serious stutter. I don’t know how that is portrayed in the book, but the audiobook you heard the stutter and felt the anxiety and anger that Sadie felt about it. I think the narrators for this story were absolutely incredible. They drew me into this book and spit me out in the last pages all used up and emotionally ruined.
If you haven’t read this book, you need to. If you’re not reading this book because of all the hype, don’t be silly.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

*Want to buy this book? Click on the book cover! It’s an affiliate link so we will make a small percentage from your purchase, feel free to support us!

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How She Died, How I Lived by Mary Crockett

Summary:
On a warm, listless summer afternoon, Kyle Paxson sent five texts to a few chosen classmates. None of the girls responded-except one. Jamie was the only girl nice enough to give Kyle the time. And that night, deliberately and brutally, he killed her.
On the eve of Kyle’s sentencing a year later, all the other “chosen ones” are coping in various ways. But our narrator is full of questions, stuck somewhere between the horrifying past and the unknown future as she tries to piece together why she gets to live, while Jamie is dead.
Now she finds herself drawn to Charlie, Jamie’s boyfriend-knowing all the while that their relationship will always be haunted by the what-ifs and why-nots. Is hope possible in the face of such violence? Is forgiveness? How do you go on living when you know it could have been you instead?
Review:
This was an impulse buy for me after my twinny, Alana, recommended it to me. She better keeps the recommendations coming because I gave five stars to the two books that I’ve read recently at her suggestion.

“But love and stupidity kind of go together, don’t they?”

How She Died, How I Lived was incredible. It was thought-provoking and hard-hitting and I just couldn’t put it down. This is a story that follows the main character as she’s dealing with survivors’ guilt and all of the feelings that come with knowing that she was almost the girl that got murdered. Being one of five girls that Kyle texted that day, it could have been any one of them that was killed. Our main character battles with the fact that she is still alive and Jamie is not. I really thought this was a powerful story because the things that she felt were so raw and real and parts of it were almost hard to read.

“You asked us to write about death. I want to write about love. They’re not the same, but the link us together in the same way. Death and love. They both wrap us up in their cords, and they don’t let go.”

I’m having a hard time thinking of what I want to say about this story aside from it being a good book because it was so much more than that. This story was thought-provoking with the idea that anyone can die at any time. It also really brings attention to justice and what that really means, specifically in regards to the death penalty. I was blown away by the final pages.

“This world. This preposterously beautiful world. You’d think we could live in it without killing each other.”

The characters were great. I think my favorite part of this story was the relationship between the main character and her best friend, another girl that Kyle texted that day, Lindsey. I really liked that these two girls became friends and are helping one another deal with their feelings about their shared experiences. I loved that they held one another up when they needed it, but they also weren’t afraid to call the other out on their shit. Their friendship was one that reminded me of some of my friends and I really enjoyed it.

“Our grief is our signature, with everyone dotting the i in their own special way.”

The romance in this book was the one thing I wasn’t really sure about. It ended up growing on me, but I didn’t like it at first. The main character ends up involved with Charlie, the boyfriend of the girl that Kyle killed. I thought it was just a little weird because it had only been a year since Jamie was killed, along with the upcoming trial bringing up all the emotions once again. I still don’t think it’s a relationship that will last, but it definitely grew on me. By the end of the book, I was okay with it because they can hold each other up when they need it, but also because they did their fair share of arguing about different opinions. Their differing opinions is where most of the thought-provoking ideas were brought up because they seemed to have the opposite opinions on quite a few things that really just made you think.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Taylor continues. “It was written in the stars.”

Overall, I loved How She Died, How I Lived. I wanted to read it again from the beginning as soon as I finished it. I definitely think this is a story that needs more attention. So if you haven’t read it, please go do so now.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Summary:
Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can her beloved brother really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn’t help that things have been strained with her best friend and ex-girlfriend, Charlie.
As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits into her future and how to move forward.
Confronting difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault, Girl Made of Stars is a timely, emotionally gripping novel that shines a light on the story of a survivor with sensitivity and hope.
Review:
My wonderful twinny, Alana, got me this book for Christmas off my wish list. Its one that I’ve heard nothing but great things about and I’ve been super excited to get to it. With the start of Contemporary January, I knew this book was at the top of my list. This was my first read of 2019 and I’m so glad for that. I could not put it down one I started. I read 180 pages in my first sitting and then read the rest in the car while I was traveling the next day.

“It’s as though the stars are breaking apart in the sky, nothing but dark underneath.”

Girl Made of Stars was hard hitting but realistic. This wasn’t a story about how rape is a thing that happens, but those that do wrong get what they deserve. This was a story for all those that have had these experiences with no closure. And I loved it. I thought it was an excellent story with characters you can really feel for.

“Secrets are safe in here. It’s our own little world, just you and me.”

Mara, the main character, was someone I could really get behind. I tried to imagine how I would feel is my brother had done something like this, let alone to one of my best friends, and what I would do. It really made me relate and care for Mara. She’s not the one that did anything wrong here, but she’s still basically being punished for her brother’s wrong doing whether she sides with her brother or her best friend. I loved Mara. I loved that she stood up for what she knew to be right, even though it was hard. I really loved how she grew and changed.

“How can I believe either one of them? How can I not believe them?”

I loved all the supporting characters too. They were interesting and compelling and I cared about them, even Owen (the brother). We don’t just go into the story knowing he’s done something wrong. We see him and like him, and then are dumped on with this horrible thing he’s done. Alex was Owen’s best friend, but he and Mara grew closer with all of the events in the book and I thought that was a nice touch. The two people that were not actually involved, but were still affected by this coming together was a beautiful thing to me. A new friendship coming out of such a horrible thing. Hannah was just, ugh. I was so proud of Hannah. She was so strong and held her head high and didn’t let anyone bring her down. Even after everything she’s going through, she sticks by Mara. I really appreciated that. There was one instance with them, the first time Mara sees Hannah after it all happens that has me in complete tears. I cannot imagine being in either of their shoes and I just have so much respect for them both.

“Freedom. Release. A sort of falling apart that felt like letting go.”

Then there’s Charlie. I liked her because she was new to me. She’s complex and interesting. She tries to please everyone despite being sure about who she is. There were parts where I was very frustrated with Charlie and Mara. I just wanted them to get over their drama and be there for one another. The fact that they dated brought a really unique dynamic to their friendship. They are figuring out how to still be the best friends they always were while also trying to deal with their breakup. It was an intriguing addition to the story where they are both trying to deal with their own shit while also help one another and Hannah.

“Eventually, Sister Twin realized that she has to tell her story. Because that story was hers. Because she was worth the telling.”

Overall, I really loved this book. It made me cry again and again. This is such an important story and I think everyone needs to read it. It talks about something that people don’t want to talk about, but it needs to be.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.