Wandering Thoughts: 3 YA Heroines Who Are Passionate Readers of Harry Potter

Image: Kaboompics

Wandering Thoughts is where I let my mind stray, think and talk about non-routine things. This is an avenue for bookish personal stories, fun posts, musings and discussions.

As any Potterhead next to you knows by heart, today is the glorious birthday of The Boy Who Lived and his creator, Queen Jo. *virtual toast to all the witches and wizards around the world* Most authors in the scene nowadays belong to this wonderful fandom are Hogwarts alumna and have incorporated a bit of the Potterverse in their works. While others drew subtle inspirations such as those with “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell and “More Happy Than Not” by Adam Silvera, some have direct references to the beloved book series. As a sort of tribute post for this special day, I will share with you three YA books with heroines who have definitely read the Harry Potter series and are passionate about it.

  1. TELL ME THREE THINGS by Julie Buxbaum
    Jessie re-reads Harry Potter on Friday nights in honor of her dead mom.
    Read my review for Tell Me Three Things

  2. WHAT ABOUT TODAY by Dawn Lanuza
    Gemma inserts Harry Potter references to philosophical conversations.
    Read my review for What About Today.

  3. HOW HARD CAN LOVE BE? by Holly Bourne
    Amber has a lot of opinion when her alcoholic mother messed up the Hogwarts Houses.
    Read my review for How Hard Can Love Be?

Have you read any of the three books I listed? I don’t know about you but I am instantly drawn to characters who read the same books as I do. I often catch myself doing suppressed squeals of happy excitement whenever I find out that a character has read/is reading/planning to read Harry Potter. I need to meet more of them fictional Potterheads, so throw your recs to me. Which books do you know of have either subtle inspirations or direct references to the Potterverse? I’m sure there are tons of books that I missed mentioning above, share them with me in the comments!

Review: Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

Little Monsters
by Kara Thomas

For fans of Pretty Little Liars, Little Monsters is a new psychological thriller, from the author of The Darkest Corners, about appearances versus reality and the power of manipulation amongst teenage girls.

Kacey is the new girl in Broken Falls. When she moved in with her father, she stepped into a brand-new life. A life with a stepbrother, a stepmother, and strangest of all, an adoring younger half sister.

Kacey’s new life is eerily charming compared with the wild highs and lows of the old one she lived with her volatile mother. And everyone is so nice in Broken Falls—she’s even been welcomed into a tight new circle of friends. Bailey and Jade invite her to do everything with them.

Which is why it’s so odd when they start acting distant. And when they don’t invite her to the biggest party of the year, it doesn’t exactly feel like an accident.

But Kacey will never be able to ask, because Bailey never makes it home from that party. Suddenly, Broken Falls doesn’t seem so welcoming after all—especially once everyone starts looking to the new girl for answers.

Kacey is about to learn some very important lessons: Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes when you’re the new girl, you shouldn’t trust anyone.

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Expected Publication date:  July 25th 2017
Source/Format: eARC via Netgalley
Pre-order links: Amazon Barnes&Noble | Indiebound

My Thoughts:

“Little Monsters” is narrated by seventeen-year old Kacey Young. She transferred from the city to a small town in Wisconsin on her junior year in high school. She had since then been close with Bailey and Jade. In the beginning of the book, Kacey’s two friends are picking her up for their usual end-of-the-week night escapades. This time they are planning to perform a seancĂ© in an abandoned barn where a ghost called the Red Woman is said to be lurking around. Just when they are about to sneak out though, Kacey’s sweet younger half-sister Lauren saw them and tagged along. After that night of botched seancĂ©, Kacey thought that everything is still okay among the three of them. To her surprise though the two girls decided to ditch her for a party they all agreed on going to. And worse, Bailey went missing after she left that party and everyone in town starts eyeing Kacey for answers.

The book got me hooked a few pages in. It started with a paranormal vibe stemming from a small-town ghost story. I honestly got the chills in some parts that I did a quick check if I am reading a paranormal YA book. I thought that it’s interesting to have something spooky as a springboard for a mystery thriller. The idea is to have the creeps for the spirits of the dead wear off slowly and replace it with a shattering disbelief on how living little girls can become monsters. The appeal of the theory did not translate well in this book though. The transition from paranormal to mystery thriller is rather clunky.

I partially blame it on the choice of Kacey as a narrator. Do not get me wrong, I like her character just fine. I can relate to how easily she accepted the first offer of friendship that came her way as a transferee student. I can imagine how hard she had tried to reinvent her reputation in her new family and new school. I am beside her when all of those efforts seem pointless because after Bailey’s disappearance, everyone, even people who matter to her, starts becoming a stranger in her eyes. In the end, she will always feel that she’s an outsider. Kacey’s situations are worthy of sympathy from the reader but my problem with her is in the context of the book she is in. She does not possess the shade and nuance that is essential in being the main source of narration of a mystery thriller. Although she was called in the police station a number of times for questioning, she lacks the sinister of being a full-blown suspect. As for the paranormal stuff going on in the book, she does not believe any of it in the first place so eventually the reader will also not take it seriously.

The book’s soft jabs at being suspenseful are interspersed with hit punches in the form of Bailey’s journal entries. Through her writings scattered in-between some chapters, we discover bit by bit this obsession building up inside her. Her character is wrought with intriguing psyche that will send the littlest hair of the reader stand on its end. I would love more of these ominous feels from the book but they were few and far between. When the final reveal came, I did not feel anything. It sort of just passed by me and I thought the book did not quite earn that dark ending. (I love dark endings, BTW!) I guess what the reader eventually needs is more vantage points for all those monstrous things that happened to seep through. Maybe something that will flesh out the other characters as well. I would have liked to know more about Jade who obviously has the least dimension among the three friends. And Lauren’s view on things would be quite valuable too because of her naivety. Plus she seems to really believe in ghosts and evil spirits.

“Little Monsters” is not entirely bad. I enjoyed a few things but also found a few things lacking. The characters are believable but some could use more spotlight. When measured up with the recent popular works of mystery thrillers, the book came a bit underwhelming. Okay just for context, this opinion is coming from someone who was amazed by “Gone Girl” and “The Girl on the Train”. Although the target readers/main characters for those are adults, I see no reason why I cannot compare it with something for young adults. Without the scrutiny of that comparison however, I think this book decently showcased how people are effortlessly manipulated and threatened because of our fear of being friendless and alone. Read this if you seek a chilling thrill on the lengths that young girls will agree to do just to gain approval from their peers.

Diversity Watch:
Kacey, Bailey and Jade are all white.

Kacey’s stepbrother, Andrew, is half-Korean.

Mr. White, an art teacher wears dreadlocks and has brown eyes.

The characters in the periphery are pretty much diverse. One of the two nameless men mentioned talking about Bailey’s case is black. Other (I am also assuming this based on their surnames) characters who might be Asian are Mike Lin, one of Kacey’s classmates in art class and Mrs. Lao, an elderly neighbor.

A social worker named Dawn is lesbian and has a girlfriend.

My Rating:

PH Blog Tour: What To Say Next by Julie Buxbaum (Review)

Hello and thanks for joining me on my stop for the PH Blog Tour of WHAT TO SAY NEXT by Julie Buxbaum, hosted by Fay of Bibliophile Soprano. Click the banner above to follow the tour along. We have an ongoing giveaway for three finished copies of the book, open to PH readers, so make sure to keep an eye for that, too.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes a charming and poignant story about two struggling teenagers who find an unexpected connection just when they need it most. For fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Niven, and Rainbow Rowell.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her. 

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date:  July 11th 2017
Source/Format: eARC via Netgalley
Purchase links: Amazon Barnes&Noble | Kobo | Book Depository

My Thoughts:

I whizzed through the pages of “What to Say Next” and that’s a rare feat for a slow and easily distracted reader as myself. There is only one explanation for this: Julie Buxbaum has done it again. And by “it”, what I mean is that this author has conjured and charmed a yet another great contemporary YA worthy of praises and accolades as her debut, “Tell Me Three Things”. (Maybe Julie is a witch, a good witch.) Not only has she shown her mastery of exploring the intricate dimensions of grief from losing a parent at a young age, she also has a way of creating unforgettable characters.

David is a beautiful boy with a beautiful mind. Although he is diagnosed with high-functioning autism, he resists to confine himself inside the lines drawn by any label. He gets confused with the “normal” world and gets into trouble in lots of situations though, so he keeps this special social navigation notebook with him at all times. It has an index of names of his classmates with extensive descriptions (because he easily forgets faces), a Trust and Don’t Trust List, a Rules section (Do not engage with people on the DNT list.), a list of idioms, etc. He is funny in a pure and candid way but people do not understand him so he always sits alone at lunch.

That’s until Kit decided to ditch her usual lunch table crowd and sit with David. On that fateful day, Kit cannot be bothered to be her old cheerful self. Her world just imploded with the sudden death of his dad from a car accident. People have been tiptoeing on eggshells around her saying incomprehensible death babble like “everything happens for a reason”. She figured that David does not talk much and is the best company for sitting tight and silent. But David talked and said the exact same thing that she is thinking: her dad’s death is really unfair.

So one day of sitting together at lunch became two, then three, and more. Soon they became each other’s sort of confidant. A wonderful friendship blossomed between them.

And the readers are treated with the pleasures of an adorably awkward connection.

But David has to deal with some people in the Do Not Trust List, a.k.a. the meanie bullies.

And Kit has some unresolved issues with her mom. Issues that came crashing after her dad’s car accident.

Will Kit stand by David’s side against the DNT List people even if some of them were in her social circle? Can David help Kit get over her angsty grief or will he mess things up because of his lacking social skills?

These questions are answered best if you will read them yourself. Let me give you a hint, though. I have this face upon reaching the last page of the book.

I had fun meeting both David and Kit and I cannot wait to get the chance to re-read the book again. I guess the core magic of Julie Buxbaum’s books is that they compel you to reading them repeatedly with her effortlessly lovable characters. They have this light and easy air for such characters dealing with deep and heavy stuff, but no, these characters are not cartoonish. What these characters have is balance and believability. They felt real and they invoked feelings from me. In “What to Say Next” David and Kit made me feel that although friendships and relationships are hard, they are not that complicated. Conversations can be easy. You don’t have to impress and overthink what to say next. Just listen to what the other person is saying and be your honest self with your replies.

Diversity Watch:

Kit’s dad is white and her mom is first generation Indian American. Her grandparents moved back in Delhi and they visit them every other year. Though American-born, Kit’s mom raised her so she will not forget her Indian roots.

David’s guitar tutor, Trey, is a quarter Chinese, a quarter Indian, and half African American.

Kit’s mom, who is an advertising executive, spearheaded a campaign ad featuring biracial gay dads.

One girl from the Academic League decathlon team, Chloe, whom David described as may be the second prettiest girl in school is in wheelchair.

Another student from the decathlon team is Asian.

My Rating: