Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

About Jia

http://dearauthor.com/author/jia/

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

Posts by Jia :

REVIEW:  The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry

REVIEW: The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry

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Dear Ms. Perry,

While I’m past the point of “issue novels” in YA, I do like seeing some of those topics tackled within the context of other conflicts. In The Summer I Found You, we have a girl freshly diagnosed with diabetes and a young disabled veteran who meet and fall in love. I feel like this type of love story shouldn’t be fresh in YA and yet it is.

Kate would rather ignore her recent diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. She hates that everyone at school knows she has it. (An ambulance coming for you and taking you away would do that.) She hates that she has to watch every single thing she eats. Tracking carbs and timing her insulin shots with food intake is hard. Even though it’s ridiculous, a part of her believes that if she pretends it never happened, the disease will go away.

Then her longtime boyfriend dumps her. His explanation of them going to different colleges and being young would be more believable if he weren’t eying other girls while he was doing it. Seriously, lie better.

This sends Kate into a tailspin but then she meets her best friend’s cousin, Aidan. Aidan is a young soldier who lost his arm in Afghanistan. His plan had been to become a life soldier but that’s obviously gone awry. Now he has to figure out what he wants to do with his life while coping with residual PTSD and relearning how to do things with one arm, and his non-dominant one at that.

I see Kate and Aidan as kindred spirits. Both had their lives changed and have to learn to readjust. While I personally think Aidan’s readjustment is a bigger deal than diabetes, I can understand how learning to manage a disease can be hard for a teenager. Especially when it’s a disease that requires managing shots and food. So even though there were points where I wanted to shake Kate and tell her it wasn’t a big deal, I also know that sometimes things grow to these giant proportions in your head and it’s hard to break free of that.

As for Aidan, I really sympathized with him. His life has to go through a major readjustment. He has to sell his beloved car because he can no longer drive stick. He hates the therapist he’s supposed to see about his PTSD. He doesn’t like talking to the guys from his former unit. And he’s scared of seeing his friend’s widow. (Aidan lost his arm in an explosion when his friend stepped on a mine while they were on patrol. The friend did not survive.) This is all major stuff and I think that’s partially why Kate’s problems, which are not actually small problems all things considered, seem blown out of proportion.

This is a classic story of two people who began by using each other as a distraction from their respective life problems but end of becoming more. I found the conflicts that popped up over the course of their relationship to be very believable. While there is only a two year age difference between Kate and Aidan, it’s like a lifetime. Aidan served as a soldier in Afghanistan. Kate is in high school. Aidan doesn’t like high school drama. But Kate is the only person who doesn’t treat him with pity because he has one arm.

The ultimate conflict comes to a head in a way that is organic and natural to their relationship. It’s not a surprise but I won’t say it was disappointing. Of course Kate’s inability to manage her diabetes would going to blow up in her face. You could see that coming from page 1.

While this book is categorized as YA, it actually has a lot of traits that would appeal to NA readers. Kate is on the edge of adulthood, preparing for college. Aidan has a brand new life to plan. I enjoyed the portrayal of their relationship and the way in which a distraction became exactly what they need. B-

My regards,
Jia

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REVIEW:  Mafia Girl by Deborah Blumenthal

REVIEW: Mafia Girl by Deborah Blumenthal

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Dear Ms. Blumenthal,

I have a soft spot for fictional criminals, especially fictional criminal families. Look at my love of Ally Carter’s Heist Society books and Holly Black’s Curseworker trilogy. Your novel caught my eye right away. I don’t think I’ve ever read a YA novel told from the POV of a don’s daughter.

Gia, as the titular mafia girl, is the only daughter of the local mob boss. Thanks to her family’s money (no matter how ill-gained), she attends one of the most prestigious private schools in the city. Sure, because of her family’s background, she’s not the most popular girl at school but who cares?

Despite her family’s criminal background, she does have a dream. A secret one, known only by one other person: her father. It’s one that’ll take her beyond the mafia life. But then, one day, while skipping school with her BFF, she’s pulled over for drunk driving by the very hot Officer Michael Cross and her life begins to change.

So let’s get the ugly out of the way. This book was a mess. It’s not the most random book I’ve ever read, but that’s hardly a standard. It needed something more to tie all the various subplots together. Maybe it just needed a main plot. Is this the story of a mafia girl trying to go straight and become legit, to help the helpless and those who can’t help themselves? Is this the story of a girl with a scandalous background becoming a media darling? Is it the tale of an underdog running for president of her high school? Or is it the story of a girl who falls in love with the wrong guy? I have no idea. All of these things take place over the course of the book but I have no idea which one was the most important.

Gia is not the most likeable character. I’m fine with that. After all, I like the unlikeable female characters and considering her background, that personality trait is hardly surprising. What I struggled with was how shallow her characterization was. She was a walking stereotype of spoiled, rich girl. Considering what her dream ultimately turned out to be, I would have expected her character to show a more humanitarian side. The only time it really comes out is with the pit bull.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room. Mafia Girl Gia and Officer Michael. Gia is 17 years old. I’m not sure how old Michael is. I thought him to be in his early to mid-20s. I’m just not okay with this. I know this is maybe splitting hairs. I would have been okay with it if Gia were 18 and there certainly have been similar age differences in new adult novels. But I just could not get around the fact that Gia was underaged and Michael was her arresting officer. Michael is not a college boy. He’s a police officer. It made me feel gross.

What made it worse is that Gia pretty much stalks Michael. I think we’re supposed to read this behavior as cute and empowering because here’s an aggressive young woman going after the guy she wants. But that guy turned down her advances. Yes, he’s attracted to her but she comes from a criminal family and she’s underaged. He wants no part of that. He’s old enough to know that some things are bad for you and that there are lines you shouldn’t cross. I know we’re supposed to see this as a romance against all odds, between people from two different worlds, But I found nothing about this romantic. Not Gia’s refusal to accept Michael’s “no.” Not the way she finds out what bar he hangs out at after work and keeps going there to “run into” him. Not when she tracks down his home address. What do you call this?

The biggest disappointment was that lack of mafia shenanigans. With a hooky title like Mafia Girl, you’d expect there to be. But Gia is conveniently kept in the dark and knows nothing about her father’s shady underworld dealings. Mind you, a good chunk of that is willful ignorance in my opinion and deliberate naivete. Maybe mafia princesses aren’t supposed to know what their fathers do. But if you make a big deal about someone’s criminal family, I expect more firsthand criminal shenanigans to happen. As it was, Gia could have been a privileged socialite out of Gossip Girl.

In the end, my favorite parts were the domestic home life Gia had with her family. The awkward moments she had with her older brother who tries to comfort her in his gruff way. The mother who shows her love through food and cooking. These interactions were familiar and comforting. Even her father’s role as the patriarch who’s done with his daughter’s nonsense. In some ways, I think that made the lack of mafia shenanigans even more disappointing because I felt there was a missed opportunity for a more immediate contrast between Gia’s father the patriarch and Gia’s father the mafia don.

I can almost grasp what Mafia Girl was trying to accomplish. The story of a girl from a criminal family trying to find an identity and life outside of it. But the lack of focus and some unsavory elements just failed to bring it to life. D

My regards,
Jia

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