Review: Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety by Ann Y. K. Choi

29218113*I received this book from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Kay’s Lucky Coin Vareity

Author: Ann Y. K. Choi

Publisher: Touchstone

Publication Date: May 2016

ISBN: 9781476748054

Kay's Lucky Coin Variety

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A bittersweet coming-of-age debut novel set in the Korean community in Toronto in the 1980s. This haunting coming-of-age story, told through the eyes of a rebellious young girl, vividly captures the struggles of families caught between two cultures in the 1980s. Family secrets, a lost sister, forbidden loves, domestic assaults—Mary discovers as she grows up that life is much more complicated than she had ever imagined. Her secret passion for her English teacher is filled with problems and with the arrival of a promising Korean suitor, Joon-Ho, events escalate in ways that she could never have imagined, catching the entire family in a web of deceit and violence. A unique and imaginative debut novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety evocatively portrays the life of a young Korean Canadian girl who will not give up on her dreams or her family.

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Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety is so wonderfully different to the many novels I’ve been reading lately. The story of a Korean family who immigrated to Canada and have worked with everything they’ve got to establish a life, parents to offer a better life for their children, and children to succeed and meet their family’s expectations in this new country. This story is tough and brutally honest. Choi doesn’t hold back when it comes to the struggles of Mary (Yu Rhee) and her family. From assault, sexual exploitation, death, unrealized dreams to forbidden love and familial expectations, Choi’s novel exposes the harsh reality of growing up in a country with an often startlingly different way of life while holding on to one’s own culture and values.

While I cannot directly relate to Mary’s experience growing up in Canada, as my own family has been born and raised in Canada for generations, this book was nevertheless heart-wrenching and eye opening. It is so wonderful to read about my home city in a story that is honest, real, and both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Choi brings us a true Canadian story and it’s a story that many Canadians, recent immigrants or readers settled here for generations, will relate to. It is Choi’s story is a commonly occuring story for many who live in this country and in this city. It’s fantastic to hear a fresh new voice telling such a captivating tale.

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Review: Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick

26245098*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Every Exquisite Thing

Author: Matthew Quick

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: May 31, 2016

ISBN: 9780316379595

Every Exquisite Thing

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Nanette O’Hare is an unassuming teen who has played the role of dutiful daughter, hardworking student, and star athlete for as long as she can remember. But when a beloved teacher gives her his worn copy of The Bugglegum Reaper–a mysterious, out-of-print cult classic–the rebel within Nanette awakens. As she befriends the reclusive author, falls in love with a young troubled poet, and attempts to insert her true self into the world with wild abandon, Nanette learns the hard way that rebellion sometimes comes at a high price.

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This unassuming cover contains a book that so honestly conveys the struggle with individuality vs. crowd mentality that teenagers face. Nanette O’Hare reads The Bubblegum Reaper, a cult classic that opens her eyes to rebellion and uniqueness, to being different and standing up for what one enjoys and believes in. She forms an intense bond with her first love, Alex, after reading this book, befriends the books author, and turns her whole life upside down as she begins to search for her true self. She quits the soccer team and abandons her hopes at getting into college on a scholarship. She loses her friends and begins to question everything.

This book is intelligent, witty, and tackles tough topics head on. Nanette winds up in therapy, her boyfriend in reform school. The story explores the discovery of individuality, and the price that uniqueness can sometimes pay. Rebellion, going against the grain, can sometimes go too far and can have disastrous results. But suppressing original thought can be equally as damaging. It’s about finding a balance between the two, knowing who you are and standing up for your own beliefs and interests, but not taking things to the extreme.

This book is full of hidden gems: strategic changes in person perspective, in depth introspection, unexpected twists. This is an excellent story of self-discovery, youth, and coming of age. A definitely must read!

Review: The Rose Society by Marie Lu

23846013Title: The Rose Society

Author: Marie Lu

Publisher: October 2015

Publication Date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 9780399167843

The Rose Society (The Young Elites, #2)

 

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Adelina Amouteru’s heart has suffered at the hands of both family and friends, turning her down the bitter path of revenge. Now known and feared as the White Wolf, she flees Kenettra with her sister to find other Young Elites in the hopes of building her own army of allies. Her goal: to strike down the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers who nearly killed her. But Adelina is no heroine. Her powers, fed only by fear and hate, have started to grow beyond her control. She does not trust her newfound Elite friends. Teren Santoro, leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead. And her former friends, Raffaele and the Dagger Society, want to stop her thirst for vengeance. Adelina struggles to cling to the good within her. But how can someone be good when her very existence depends on darkness?

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Marie Lu does it again with the second instalment in The Young Elites series. Lu is an accomplished story teller, creating worlds that are vivid, all encompassing, and sensory. Opening the cover of her series is like stepping into a brand new world. The Young Elites series is cut-throat, dark, deadly series. Allies become enemies in the blink of an eye and vice versa. There’s no way to know who will side with whom . Characters do what’s necessary to push their agendas and accomplish their goals. It’s intense and fast reading.

While Lu is a master story writer, I struggled with her choices with the main character, a now infamous antagonist, Adelina Amouteru. Adelina goes down a very dark path in this book and it’s tough to reconcile with. We know her story and how she’s struggled and been at the mercy of many terrible characters. We’ve rooted for her to succeed and we’ve admired her for her imperfections. Her inner darkness is what has made her a relatable character. She’s real because she has flaws and she doesn’t always make the right choices. She cannot always see clearly. This novel took her down a bleak spiral. There are no redeeming qualities although I found myself rooting for her the whole way, hoping she’d display some vulnerability.

Still, I’m hooked. This is a great series and I’m waiting with bated with the next instalment. I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t read it, as well as any other of Lu’s wonderful books. She’s got to be in my top 10 favourite authors.