Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

     Annabel Greene is the girl who has everything. At least, that's what she portrays in her modeling shoots. But Annabel's life is far from perfect. Her friendship with Sophie ended bitterly, and her older sister's eating disorder is weighing down the entire family. Isolated and ostracized at school and at home, Annabel retreats into silent acceptance. Then she meets Owen - intense, music-obsessed, and determined to always tell the truth. And with his guidance, Annabel learns to just listen to herself and gains the courage to speak honestly. But will she be able to tell everyone what really happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends?
--Taken from the back cover

     Annabel's story of learning to be honest with herself is one that I think many people, teenagers and adults alike, would enjoy and relate to. Dessen's writing, as always, pulls the reader in and is as emotionally packed as real life.
     I can't help but love Annabel. She is not bold, but no overly shy either. She isn't cruel, or touchy. Annabel is the middle between her two very different sisters. She strives to keep the peace, even if that means fibbing about how her day went to her mom. I understand where she is coming from on so many points, and I love how strong she is.
     When Annabel and Owen meet, the book takes a new turn. Together, they learn from one another. Owen is more than what people see and what people say about him. He is sweet and unnervingly insightful.
     The friendship that blooms between the two is great to see, especially as Annabel slowly reveals all that has happened in the past year. Music is the original link that bonds them. As the book progresses though, and they learn about each other, they find they have more to discuss than just music.
     Sarah Dessen expertly weaves her story of truth, finding yourself, and learning what matters with beautiful words. One of my favorite passages comes from Annabel, who, despite the model stereotype, is very down to earth. I now leave you with these lovely words from Dessen's Annabel:
     "The past did affect the present and the future, in the ways you could see and a million ones you couldn't. Time wasn't a thing you could divide easily; there was no defined middle or beginning or end. I could pretend to leave the past behind, but it would not leave me."

Rating: 10

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Magic and the Healing by Nick O'Donohoe

     BJ Vaughan is in her last year of vet school - and in the first year of mourning her mother's suicide. Her grades have slipped, and she wonders if she can keep it together. She isn't even sure if she is really capable of working with animals after all. Then her mentor, Dr. Sugar Dobbs, asks if she will join a few other select students on a very unusual large animal rotation.
     Their rotation is in Crossroads, a world where the creatures of imagination live and breathe - and hurt. And where BJ, tending to centaurs and griffins and magical cats, will discover the joy of healing, and the wonder of magic.
--Taken from the back cover

     The Magic and the Healing was a pleasure to read. Though it took a few chapters to understand exactly what was going on and who the many characters were, once the team entered Crossroads it was hard for me to put the book down.
     In BJ the author constructs a very complex and lovable character. She is unsure of many things in her life as she attempts to finish vet school and come to terms with the loss of her mother. Crossroads really is just that for BJ, a point in her life where she has some serious questions to ask herself and decisions to make. The magical world gives her a chance to see her potential.
     The three other vet students that Dr. Dobbs chooses to accompany BJ and him on cases are as wildly different from one another as can be. Lee Anne lives beneath her country-girl stereotype, while Annie is very religious. Neither let these facts get in the way of what needs to be done in order to save their patients. Rather, they make these vet students all the more worthy of helping the animals in Crossroads. Dave, the last student, is known for his cockiness. Nothing can stop him from making a good joke. The time they spend together inevitably brings them closer, forming bonds between them, and creating a family they can depend on.
     Crossroads has the potential to rival Narnia. It is the kind of place that changes people, albeit discreetly. The vet students, and the people they encounter along the way, are immensely affected by Crossroads. BJ, Annie, Dave, and Lee Anne all learn a lot about themselves, as well as what it takes to save lives throughout their time in the world.
     O'Donohoe created a beautiful, fun story. The characters he wrote about were very real and interesting, as was the plot line. The way he was able to construct such a fantastic world full of imaginary creatures and parallel it to our own world was astounding. I can only hope that I'll be able to find the next installment soon.