Admission by Julie Buxbaum

GoodReads Summary:
It’s good to be Chloe Wynn Berringer. She’s headed off to the college of her dreams. She’s going to prom with the boy she’s had a crush on since middle school. Her best friend always has her back, and her mom, a B-list Hollywood celebrity, may finally be on her way to the B+ list. It’s good to be Chloe Wynn Berringer–at least, it was, until the FBI came knocking on her front door, guns at the ready, and her future went up in smoke. Now her mother is under arrest in a massive college admissions bribery scandal. Chloe, too, might be facing charges, and even time behind bars. The public is furious, the press is rabid, and the US attorney is out for blood.
As she loses everything she’s long taken for granted, Chloe must reckon not only with the truth of what happened, but also with the examination of her own guilt. Why did her parents think the only way for her to succeed was to cheat for her? What did she know, and when did she know it? And perhaps most importantly, what does it mean to be complicit?
I have really enjoyed all of Buxbaum’s books that’s I’ve read so far (I think there’s only one I haven’t picked up yet.) So, I was super excited when NetGalley emailed me saying I was approved for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I was really intrigued to see how the author was going to portray her own version of the college admissions scandal. First off, as an overall, I thought she did an incredible job making the reader feel things for these characters (whether those were positive or negative things, they were feelings either way.)
Chloe, our main character, was really complicated. We follow her story as the chapters flip back and forth between the before and the after of the scandal. I really liked her at first. I felt really bad for her. She’s a girl that grew up with privilege, but not entitlement. She knew she probably wouldn’t get into the colleges her parents want, but she was willing to make the effort they were asking to placate them. But as we learn her past leading up to her mother’s arrest we learn what she actually knew about the things her parents were doing. This made me like her less. I don’t want to go into too much detail about it because of spoilers, but the more the reader learns of her story the less likable she becomes. Though I think she really grew before the end of the book. I think she learned from the mistakes that she made and will continue to grow from them.
I think this book had some really important and thoughtful conversation about privilege and the different kinds of privilege, some that come with the color of your skin and some that come with having money. I’d like to see some own voices reviews to see their thoughts on these conversations, but I thought they were well done.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was gripping and interesting. I felt like I flew through the story and devoured it. Despite not always liking what I was reading, I was pulled into the story. Oh, I also totally loved the mentions of Hope and Other Punchlines & Tell Me Three Things, they were super cute.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum

GoodReads Summary:
Sometimes looking to the past helps you find your future.
Abbi Hope Goldstein is like every other teenager, with a few smallish exceptions: her famous alter ego, Baby Hope, is the subject of internet memes, she has asthma, and sometimes people spontaneously burst into tears when they recognize her. Abbi has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11. On that fateful day, she was captured in what became an iconic photograph: in the picture, Abbi (aka “Baby Hope”) wears a birthday crown and grasps a red balloon; just behind her, the South Tower of the World Trade Center is collapsing.
Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is desperate for anonymity and decides to spend the summer before her seventeenth birthday incognito as a counselor at Knights Day Camp two towns away. She’s psyched for eight weeks in the company of four-year-olds, none of whom have ever heard of Baby Hope.
Too bad Noah Stern, whose own world was irrevocably shattered on that terrible day, has a similar summer plan. Noah believes his meeting Baby Hope is fate. Abbi is sure it’s a disaster. Soon, though, the two team up to ask difficult questions about the history behind the Baby Hope photo. But is either of them ready to hear the answers?
Hope and Other PunchlinesReview:
Hope and Other Punchlines was a buddy read that I completed with Alana @ The Bookish Chick. We were both punched in the feels with this one. We follow two characters, Abbi and Noah. They go to school together but ‘meet’ when they learn they’re both camp counselors at a summer camp. They join together on a mission to find one of the people in the background of ‘the baby hope’ photo. Though Abbi doesn’t know all of this. I didn’t like how Noah handled the part where he got Abbi to help him with this. It was kind of gross and make me not feel good. But he does manage to redeem himself as the story goes along.
I loved Abbi. She puts a face on to be the Baby Hope when people need her to. Because so many see her as a symbol. But she is also a person, and just wants to be a teenage girl. She was very mature for her age and I really enjoyed that. I completely adored her family. They were so loving and funny and I loved all the scenes with them. I really loved that despite her mom and dad were divorced, they were still basically best friends. It was just really heartwarming and pure.
Noah’s family was a little more complex. But by the end of the book, I loved them too. Noah gains a new appreciation for his family after he learns some secrets and that was my favorite part of his story. I think that part was well done.
I also adored Noah’s best friend Jack. He and Noah take Abbi into their group and the three of them were pretty hilarious. I just overall, really enjoyed this story. Alana and I somehow didn’t realize that we were buddy reading it on the anniversary of 9/11 but I’m glad that we accidentally planned it this way. It gave me all the feels and absolutely made me cry in a few parts. It wasn’t a story that made light of 9/11 but rather showed a different aspect that most people probably wouldn’t even think about. Hope and Other Punchlines was well written and punched me in the feels. I definitely think it’s one that everyone should read.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – Hidden Gems

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each week we talk about our top ten with a different topic provided by Jana. This week’s topic is top ten – Hidden Gems books that haven’t been talked about as much or haven’t been marketed as strongly that I think deserve some recognition.
ttt1. Flamecaster (The Shattered Realms series) by Cinda Williams Chima – I love this series and this author. I just feel like I don’t really see her books advertised anywhere. I don’t see other bloggers talking about her books like I do. I definitely think she should be a more widely read author with the incredible worlds shes built full of diverse and loveable characters.
2. Bloodlines by Richelle Mead – This one I feel is always overlooked in favor of Vampire Academy. Because they’re part of the same world everyone turns to VA instead of talking about these books.
3. A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest – I found this series on my Kindle but it’s definitely one that I think more readers should try. The reviews vary but I think Forrest has built quite the reading adventure with this 50+ book series.
4. Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum – Buxbaum’s debut novel was so excellent. I thought I would hear more about it from my fellow bloggers. It makes me sad that I don’t hear more about it.
5. Sleeping Giants (Themis Files) by Sylvain Neuvel – I listened to this audiobook at the recommendation of a BookTuber (Thoughts on Tomes) but aside from the brief mention as one of her top audiobooks I haven’t hear others talk about this series. This is a mistake because Sleeping Giants was insane and amazing.
6. Moon Chosen (Tales of a New World) by P.C. Cast – I found this series outside of the blogging world. I haven’t heard a single blogger talk or write about this book/series. It’s a shame because they’re super interesting books with unique storylines and great character development. I can’t wait for the third to be released later this year.
7. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher – An older book, but still great. Creative and full of mystery. I don’t know why more people don’t talk about this story.
8. Talon by Julie Kagawa – While I see that her other series, The Iron Fey, get attention I never see bloggers reading this series.
9. The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa – See above comment.
10. Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Deborah Biancotti, and Margo Lanagan – With the superhero obsession that’s been going on the last few years I’m unsure how this series hasn’t made a bigger splash in the reading world.

What books do you love that you think deserve more attention?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Goodreads summary:
Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?
It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.
In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Okay, I totally loved this story. I borrowed this book as an audiobook from my library because I liked the look of the cover. Then I read the book summary and thought it could be something I would like. I had doubts at first because I was really annoyed listening to the narrator reading the email addresses over and over and I almost DNF’d the book about 20% in. But I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t.
I LOVED Jessie. She’s a girl who’s trying to find herself. Her mom died and she’s trying to figure out how to continue living without the one woman that’s supposed to be there for her whole life. On top of all of this her dad has married a new woman, a complete stranger, and totally changed her life by making her move across the country. So this poor girl is still trying to figure out how to keep on living without her mother and also going to a new school where she doesn’t know anyone, living in a new house that doesn’t feel like her own, trying to figure out how to accept all these changes and be happy. I admire the crap out of Jessie for the strength she shows because I would have lost my freaking mind trying to deal with all of that at sixteen.
Enter “Somebody, Nobody.” This mysterious person who starts emailing Jessie with the advice of who to befriend, who to avoid, and how to survive at this crazy new school. I loved the idea of SN keeping an eye out for Jessie and helping her navigate this new school. Though about halfway through the story I just wanted to yell at him to TELL JESSIE WHO HE IS ALREADY. (We sadly don’t find out who SN is until Jessie does.) We are left guessing at the identity of SN for most of the book. I liked this a little because I spent most of the book arguing in my head with Jessie about whom she thinks SN is. That’s all I will say about SN except that I totally knew who it was and I’m SO HAPPY that SN is who I thought they were.
I think the family dynamic was written really well. I come from a pretty dysfunctional family. I have step parents and siblings and know how hard it is to adjust to having a new family living in one house and learning how all the different people work together and around one another. The family dynamic was written and portrayed accurately and I really liked that. I feel like there aren’t enough books that have stepfamilies and crazy broken, makeshift families that are outside of the norm of a mom and a dad or a single parent home.
I ended up really loving this book way more than I thought I was going to. I thought I would like it well enough, but I definitely loved it. There really is nothing negative to say about it aside from the annoyingness of reading the email addresses, but that’s only because it’s an audiobook. I adored the characters. They all played their own parts very well and each added something to the story. I loved the message that the story gave. Jessie learned so much about herself, but she also learned so much about how she treats others and what she deserves from life. I think this is an excellent young adult story and should be read by anyone and everyone.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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