Monday, September 30, 2019

DNF&Y [21]

DNF&Y is used to explain why I gave up on certain books, and what about them just didn't work for me. What I disliked about a book might be something you love, so it helps to share your thoughts even when they're negative! If you would like additional information, please click on the DNF&Y tab at the top. If you want to join, you can link up at the bottom!

Six Goodbyes We Never Said
by Candace Ganger
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Two teens meet after tragedy and learn about love, loss, and letting go.

Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her.

Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It's causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects.

Candace Ganger's Six Goodbyes We Never Said is no love story. If you ask Naima, it’s not even a like story. But it is a story about love and fear and how sometimes you need a little help to be brave enough to say goodbye.

DNF at 45%

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I understand that Naima is grieving, but that doesn't excuse her behavior. Her OCD and GAD (as mentioned in the synopsis) are aspects of her life that she struggles with, but her treatment of Nell was inexcusable. Nell has been in her life for nearly a decade, obviously trying to make a family with her stepdaughter, and Naima was intentionally hurtful and unaccepting. I know there are children that behave similarly in real life, but it was very frustrating to read about. Nell made an effort to learn Naima's quirks and preferences, trying to be there for her however she could, but Naima was cold and indifferent. I really disliked this aspect of the story, and the portrayal of their relationship.

"...or why I use sarcasm and blatant disgust for her as a means of coping with all the things I hate about myself. It has nothing to do with her. I decide this is the first thing I like about her—how she ignores the very real fact that I do, in fact, like her (but don’t you dare tell her)."

Naima's attitude in general left a lot to be desired. She was easily annoyed by others, and only ever thought about herself and what she wanted. She was intentionally cruel and hurtful, which made me unsympathetic to her feelings. I'm not sure why Dew was so fascinated by this grumpy girl that only cared about her own miseries, but he was determined to befriend her despite the snarls and cutting comments. Dew was endlessly kind and thoughtful, and he always managed to put himself in other people's shoes. He imagined how they must be feeling in this or that scenario, and he reacted accordingly. He was patient with Faith (his new sister), understanding that she needed to be shown love despite her outbursts. He noticed fear and pain where others saw anger and aggression. I thought Dew was a remarkable character, and enjoyed his relationship with his adoptive family. His mental flashbacks and remembered sayings really made him a unique and memorable character.

I was a little confused by Naima's family and their dynamics. Her dad would stay with his parents while she lived with Nell and Christian (her stepmother and stepbrother)? Did he just stay with them briefly before deployments? Occasionally when Naima talked about him, it was like he lived separately from her, even when he wasn't deployed. Maybe I misread something, or the ARC was missing a detail or two, but I often found myself wondering where everyone was when the past was reflected on or mentioned.

Even Naima's grandparents kept Nell at a distance. They were polite and civil when she was around, but it was clear everyone wanted her to leave so they could reform their "unit" without her. Nell was married to their son for seven years. She has gone above and beyond for Naima, yet she's still treated like an outsider. Naima's father is also to blame, since he purposefully kept Nell out of the loop, or secretly confessed to his daughter that his wife and stepson "wouldn't understand" something. He perpetuated the problem.

Hiccup (the dog) had cataracts and was deaf in one year, but he was also violent. He attacked people's legs and bit until he pierced the skin. This is not okay. It's really not okay when the dog is around children. Naima's grandparents should have been more responsible with the dog, but he's aggressive with others on multiple occasions.

I really liked that the author chose to tackle mental health and the realities of living with a mind that's not entirely your own. I don't know what it's like to feel compelled to do things a certain way, or a specific number of times, and I've never experienced social anxiety, or an inability to breathe in large crowds. I thought those aspects of the story were wonderfully written and explained; however, Naima was a difficult character to like. She's mean because she can get away with it, and people let her because it's easier than the alternative.


Frankly in Love by David Yoon
Synopsis (find this book on Goodreads): Frank Li has two names. There's Frank Li, his American name. Then there's Sung-Min Li, his Korean name, which no one uses, not even his parents. Frank barely speaks any Korean. He was born and raised in Southern California.

Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl--which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit...who is white.

As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he's forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don't leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to his family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he's found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he's left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love--or himself--at all.

In this moving novel, debut author David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable.

*I originally reviewed this book on September 10, 2019.

DNF at 39%
"I try to eat my lower lip. Then I remember the first Rule of Being a Person: no auto-cannibalism."
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I was really excited about starting Frankly in Love by David Yoon, but it really missed the mark for me. Additionally, this is a DNF, which I usually save for my DNF&Y post at the end of the month, but I had too many thoughts that I wanted to share right now. I know the book is being released today, so I though it would be a good opportunity for discussion. Frankly in Love has been promoted and hyped like crazy, but I'm just not feeling the love for Frank Li.

Let's start with the language... do teenagers really talk like this nowadays?

"'Jesus christ almighty hang gliding up in heaven,' I say to Q."

"Dear lord Flying Spaghetti Monster in Pastafarian heaven. I think Brit Means in flirting with me."

"'Jesus,' I say. 'You scared the poop out of my butthole.'"

"What in God's hipster beard is Joy Song doing here?"

I think this book tried too hard to be funny. None of these statements made me laugh, but they were distracting. They felt thrown in at random and forced into conversations or thoughts.

Next, let's talk about love. Frank and Brit's relationship escalated way too quickly. They have calculus together, so they're acquainted, but then an assignment has them working together after school. This entire encounter was weird --from her parents and their matching everything, to how Brit encroached on Frank's personal space without warning. After that afternoon of studying together, the start sucking face at school. A few days later, they're on the beach and Brit is saying she loves him! He doesn't know if he loves her, but he says is back since he doesn't have a better idea. Whaaat??

"Love demands you do stupid things like post goofy selfies, but if that's what love takes, then I can be stupid all day... Wait. Is Brit saying she loves me?"

"'I love you. I love saying I love you. It's like I learned a new word today.'"

"'I love you,' she murmurs, like she's falling asleep. 'It feels so good just to be able to say it finally. I love you.'"

All of this happens in the same chapter, but you get the idea. Instalove, too much too fast -- whatever you want to call it. They barely know each other! They've been on one date and kissed a handful of times. That's not love! Affection? Yes.

Also, Brit is a bully. She flirted with Frank and involved him in some minor theft (and whatever else you want to call what she was doing), and she essentially forced herself into his bubble whenever they were together. Frank could have said no, but he honestly seemed overwhelmed by the attention and desires of his new girlfriend. "'Come on, one selfie,' she says, laughing. 'Let's brag about us. Let's make everyone feel like shit compared with us.'" Was that really necessary? Why do they need to make anyone else feel bad? Why couldn't they just post a selfie because they were happy with each other?

Frank is a douche canoe. Why couldn't he have been honest about his feelings from the start? If he isn't sure about what he's feeling, he should say that. He should not say whatever he thinks someone else wants to here. I also don't think he pushed back enough when his parents made racist comments.

The racist comments. The author mentions the racism at the start of the book, but I still cringed every time Frank's parents said something insensitive or simply ridiculous. They hardcore stereotyped people by the color of their skin, and they were unashamed of their words and feelings. Honestly, it was hard to read. It was even harder to watch Frank and the other Limbos let the comments slide because it was easier than confrontation. They assumed their parents were stuck in their "old ways," which is bullshit. I'm not even going to bother quoting all the awful shit that was said throughout this book.

"We both get serious for a moment. In this particular moment, right here. Sucking cocoa from a girl's hair is weird. Who does that sort of thing? And who lets them? But Brit is letting me. She wants me to. I am extremely proud to be the only person who has ever sucked Brit Means's hair."

No. Just... no. Kids, don't try this at home. I don't think I need to explain myself here. I believe the words and actions speak for themselves.

I liked Q, but his friendship with Frank slipped once Frank started "dating" Brit. He bailed on the things he used to do with is friends just to spend time with her, and he was constantly on his phone talking to her while physically with his friends. Q was understanding and Frank was apologetic, but ugh.

I officially gave up on this one at 39%, but did skim the rest of the book for the highlights. It doesn't seem like Frank Li starts to make better choices. In fact, I believe his decisions get worse as the story progresses. Honestly, I could keep talking about the things that bothered me about this book. Like, "She smelled exhausted." How does that smell, Frank? What does exhausted smell like?? However, I'm going to leave you with a passage that I really enjoyed from this book. A lot of people seem to be raving about Frankly in Love, so I would suggest getting a second opinion before making any final decisions.

"Let me tell you something. I live to make people laugh. Parents, siblings, friends, lovers, doesn't matter. I just have to. If you for some reason don't know how to make someone laugh, then learn. Study that shit like it's the SAT. If you are so unfortunate as to have no one in your life who can make you laugh, drop everything and find one. Cross the desert if you must. Because laughter isn't just about the funny. Laughter is the music of the deep cosmos connecting all human beings that says all the things mere words cannot."


Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Once upon a time, back at Darrow-Harker School, Beatrice Hartley and her five best friends were the cool kids, the beautiful ones. Then the shocking death of Jim - their creative genius and Beatrice's boyfriend - changed everything.

One year after graduation, Beatrice is returning to Wincroft - the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing secrets, crushes, plans to change the world - hoping she'll get to the bottom of the dark questions gnawing at her about Jim's death.

But as the night plays out in a haze of stilted jokes and unfathomable silence, Beatrice senses she's never going to know what really happened.

Then a mysterious man knocks on the door. Blithely, he announces the impossible: time for them has become stuck, snagged on a splinter that can only be removed if the former friends make the harshest of decisions.

Now Beatrice has one last shot at answers... and at life.

And so begins the Neverworld Wake.

DNF at 33%

First of all, I disliked all of the characters. They were selfish and surprisingly violent. Like, I understand you're repeating the same day over and over again, but that doesn't mean you get to murder people for shits and giggles. Actions still have consequences, even if they're not immediate. Killing someone with your hands is likely going to have a lasting impact on your emotional state. However, these kids didn't seem to care about life or death, actions or consequences. They've given up on ever figuring out the Neverworld Wake, and it was disappointing. 

There's some random guy that's always around, and he seems to know what's going on but isn't forthcoming with answers. They're supposed to vote, but again... stupid and selfish characters do not make great decisions. So they're living in an endless loop of sameness that's literally driving them insane. The mystery gets swallowed up by the character's self-pity, and I honestly forgot someone from their past had died mysteriously. I'm sure his death is connected to all of them in some way, but it wasn't enough to make me keep reading.

Also, certain aspects of the Neverworld Wake didn't make sense. The weird guy that knows everything says he's an accumulation of all of their individual experiences. They are stuck where they are knowing what they know, so they shouldn't be able to change their circumstances, right? However, Martha spends a lot of her wakes talking to people and researching time loops, and blah blah blah. She keeps a notebook with her, and takes copious notes, but that should reset every time they start a new wake. How is she filling a notebook with research if everything starts over after a certain amount of time? And if their particular wake is just their combined experiences, how are they able to learn anything new to begin with?? There were so many plot inconsistencies, and keeping track of how the world worked gave me a headache. 

The pacing was slow, the story was repetitive, and the characters were toxic and generally garbage human beings. I think the story had potential, but it was poorly executed. 

34 comments:

  1. Quote: "She's mean because she can get away with it, and people let her because it's easier than the alternative."
    Uh...nope.
    I suppose there would have been a character development of sort (well...it should at least) if you had trudged on, but I completely get why you couldn't.

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    1. I was nearly halfway through the book and saw no signs of character growth, but it's possible it happens later on. Naima has apparently been this way her entire life, and simply doesn't care how her words and actions affect others. She cares about herself and what she wants, and doesn't even make an attempt at kindness.

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    2. It's also a pity about the last book. The idea behind it sounds awesome!

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    3. I didn't realize only one review posted this morning, haha. I fixed it shortly after waking up and taking the kid to school, but a few people had already commented. ;)

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    4. I guessed that. I mean, when I came back to read your reply and comment again, I saw the other books and did a double take. It was either that, or thinking that I was going senile (though I can't guarantee it's not happening for real at 53 haha).

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  2. I passed on this book, because I saw a lot of DNFs. I am not sure if that behavior would have caused me to DNF, since most YA books have the character growing over the course of the book. It's one I was considering trying in audio after it came out.

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    1. I was looking for character growth as I read, or some small reason to continue the story, but Naima was super frustrating. Even when we flashback to something that happened before her dad died, she was rotten person. Dew is also struggling in this book, and Naima just makes everything worse because she refuses to even try to be nice to others. I understand that now she's hurting, and sometimes her brain reacts to things without her consent, but she was mean before that. It's just worse now, because her father isn't around to temper her behavior. Maybe it'll work for you! You'll have to let me know. :)

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  3. I understand that everyone grieves in their own way, but I think even the synopsis would have turned me off from the book. Naima sounds really difficult, and it's so hard to read about people being so cruel to others and then justifying it through their grief.

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    1. Naima was awful even before her dad died. She never wanted a relationship with her stepmom, despite the many efforts Nell made over the years. She and her dad would keep secrets from Nell and Christian, and I think her father set a bad example for her. When she didn't get what she wanted, she was impossible to talk to, because she literally wouldn't talk to you. She used her mental health as an excuse to be mean, and I hated that.

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  4. Yeah, I totally get why this didn't work for you. I need to be able to understand a character's motivation if they are as mean as this character, and it doesn't sound like you get much of that. Sorry this was let down for you though. :(

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    1. I don't want to forgive her actions just because she struggles with mental health issues and grief. Yes, those things definitely play a role in how people interact with others, but she was purposefully cruel, and that's not as forgivable. She wanted what she wanted, and she di didn't really care how that impacted others. I don't know if she grows as the book progresses, but she only got worse halfway through. :/

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  5. I love Marisha Pessl’s adult books and wondered how her writing would translate to YA. I was actually pleasantly surprised. I can totally see how a reader could not click with it but I did like it!

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    1. I still want to read her adult books, but Neverworld Wake wasn't a good fit for me. I thought the rules of the Neverworld Wake were confusing, and didn't really understand how they were able to do certain things. I also disliked EVERYONE, which makes it hard for me to connect with a book. I'm happy it worked for you! :)

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  6. The quotes for Frankly in Love are so cringe worthy to me.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. A lot of the language in this book made me cringe! It felt very childish and unrealistic. A lot of people are really loving this one though, so who knows?

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  7. And I like your little skeleton hand in your graphic!

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  8. That's a shame about Naima in that first one since it sounds like the story had a lot of potential otherwise. Characters though sometimes just don't work for us! Bummer about the DNF's. :(

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    1. I have connect with the characters or at least really understand why they are the way they are. I can really like a villain and not connect with them, if they have a good backstory. Naima was mean! She's apparently always been mean, and people just let her get away with it.

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  9. So the first two do sound utterly horrible. I don't think I could tolerate that weird language in Frankly in Love. I have to admit I read Neverwake World and didn't mind it too much but yep, all the characters in it were extremely unlikable too.

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    1. The language in Frankly in Love was so distracting! It would completely kick my mind out of the story, and I'd have to reset. Books should flow and feel authentic. Ugh, the characters in Neverworld Wake were the worst! Maybe if I'd cared about them, I would have cared more about their predicament.

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  10. I can understand why you didn't finish these.

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    1. Sometimes a book doesn't work! Life goes on... and there are so many more books! :)

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  11. Everyone has been saying how they're so excited to finally read Frankly In Love, but they never say anything else about it. I personally wasn't going to read it because of all the hype, but yikes it sounds like Q was the only good character!

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    1. Frankly in Love was getting soooo much hype, it was a little intimidating. I received a review copy in the mail, so I thought I'd give it a go, but damn. It was not what I expected, and I felt like the entire book was over-hyped for promotional purposes.

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  12. There was so much advance hype for Frankly in Love but the reviews I've been seeing have been decidedly mixed. The dialogue and humor just seem so forced. Like, Yoon was trying way too hard to cool and relatable and funny. And it failed big time. Plus, neither brit nor Frankie sound like characters I actually want to read about.

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    1. Why was there so much hype for Frankly in Love? It is because the author is married to Nicola Yoon? I know her books have done really well, so maybe they thought his would too? There are people that've enjoyed this one, but I've seen a lot of varying opinions. The dialogue was really distracting, and I just cannot see teenagers communicating like that.

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    2. I imagine everyone got caught up in the “OMG it’s a husband/wife writing duo and they both write super cute YA contemporaries” thing. But that dialogue is a huge turnoff because it is so obviously unrealistic. If I ever heard my nephews use those phrases I would think they were on something. LOL

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    3. Right?? I know I haven't been a teenager for two decades now, but the language still felt forced and unrealistic.

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  13. Oh, dear lord... the Frankly in Love book sounds like a disaster area. 😛 And, yes, what is it with YA authors doing all that cornball dialogue lately? I have read so many Contemporary YA books with that sort of thing over the last year. Teens do not talk like that. There have been times where I have been listening to ARCs on text-to-speech and if my son is in the general area he will always make a remark about it and laugh. 😏

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    1. Jennifer L. Armentrout does it too! "Christ on a cracker" or some such nonsense. It drives me insane! It always disrupts the flow of the story, and it takes me a minute to find my reading groove again. It's not cute or funny to me... I love that your son laughs about it!

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  14. Hm, I was looking forward to reading FRANKLY IN LOVE, but it sounds as if it's a little too ... weird for me. I would agree that the author's trying too hard to be funny and teenagery. I have three teenagers and none of them or their friends have ever said anything even remotely similar to the quotes you shared. Sounds like the author is trying to give the character a "thing" to make him memorable, but if his "thing" is unrealistic and distracting then that's NOT a good thing!

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    1. Yes! I feel like the author was trying to give Frank a "thing" and it didn't work out. The language kept throwing off the rhythm of the book, and it kept me from enjoying other aspects of the story.

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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless