In which I cut and paste my comments on Goodreads rather than writing full on reviews, because--oh I can't say that; it's not funny anymore, but it has to do with time and ain't nobody got and you know what I mean.
These books represent one let-down, one that lived up to my hopes, and one that exceeded my expectations.
No One Knows, by J. T. Ellison, was my very first Book of the Month Club book, meaning I actually CHOSE it from a list of six. It sounded like a fun, quick read. But here was my reaction to it:
When I read a thriller, I want to hit a point at the end where all the ambiguous, confusing pieces finally make sense, AND I suddenly see that elements I thought were straight-forward had hidden meanings.
What I don't want is to go, "Wait, what? This makes no sense." It was narrated in third person, so we were being TOLD the main character thought or felt certain things, but given the ending, she would not have been thinking or feeling those things. A first person narrator can lie, if it's handled well, but a third person narrator who lies is not "an unreliable narrator"--they are a failed narrator.
The bits that DID make sense relied on ridiculous, soap operatic coincidences.
A decent book spoiled by a frustrating ending.
Also--as an adoptive mom, I didn't like the heavy "bad seed" implications, and I never figured out the point of having Aubrey be adopted, then orphaned. Wouldn't one of those have been enough?
Since You've Been Gone, by Morgan Matson, came from my classroom library. Students requested that I buy it at the book fair, but nobody had actually picked it up and read it. I thought the premise sounded kind of fun, even if it was very reminiscent of Rebel Blue, another book I read because of student recommendations. Here's what I thought of this one:
I think a lot of introverted reader types will say this, but--I was definitely the Emily in my high school best friendship. So there's a lot in this book that I could relate to SO HARD.
As others have said, this book's strengths are in the portrayal of many different friendships and in the slow burn romance. It all felt tidy and predictable to me, but the ride was worth it.
I occasionally got annoyed about minor details. Everyone lives in mansions? Emily drops Frank off at his house without realizing it's beachfront property? Every single parent is conveniently distracted for months on end? The ice cream shop next to a popular pizza place gets no customers? Emily gets a job without an interview? But none of those things are enough to spoil the good time.
More annoyingly, half of the plot would be unnecessary if people just talked to each other. Willful miscommunication is always frustrating to read about.
Still, the writing and story pulled me in strongly. I laughed at the funny bits, my heart sped up at the romance, my throat got tight when Emily was heartbroken. I also love that the front and back cover illustrations were done by someone who read the freakin' book.
Every time I realize there's a new book in Neal Shusterman's Unwind series, I explode with happiness. Which is funny, because they're not particularly happy books. I saw UnBound at the library recently and grabbed it.
Yay! None of these stories are necessary for the Unwind series, but they connect a few dots, extend the thinking on some topics, give us some closure on side characters, AND are rip-roaring stories, each and every one.