Saturday, May 14, 2016

Best Friends Never by Isabelle Drake

Be careful who you keep secrets with, especially in picture-perfect Cherry Grove, a place where average isn’t good enough, and nothing is what it seems.

Lexi Welks wants two things—respect and a college acceptance letter that’ll get her out of too-good-to-be-true Cherry Grove. The problem is that the nasty, life-ruining secret she shares with Monica Sanders is about to go public. If their ugly truth comes out, her plans for college—not happening. And that’s only the beginning of her end.

Monica is the kind of student teachers adore—well-behaved, hard-working and always following the rules. She’s the kind of friend other girls follow—well-dressed, popular and always knowing the right thing to do. If only they knew the truth about her. The truth Lexi found out the hard way, after spending the past summer letting Monica talk her into doing things she knew could come back to ruin her.

Now it’s the first week of school and one of the seniors is missing. Lexi knows a thing or two about the circumstances of his disappearance, but she’s not talking. Neither is Monica. But wicked truths have a way of crawling to the surface and tearing through the most careful plans.

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Book 1
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Finch  Books

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Isabelle Drake is not a new-to-me author, having read some of her racier titles many years ago, so I was surprised to find this young adult novel. The transition was done well.

The beginning flowed steadily, the middle dragged, and the ending was chaotically rushed, leaving me feeling off-kilter.

Best Friends Never is between two friends who were up to no good during the summer. With it now being fall, our narrator – Lexi – and her ex-friend Monica are butting heads. But from page one until the end, the reader never truly learns why.

I enjoyed Lexi for the most part, able to empathize with her and connect. A girl who lost her father at a young age, now has a step-father who comes and goes, hurting her mother time and time again as he pops in and out of their lives. When he comes back, Dale acts as if he is Lexi's real dad, only more overbearing and it feels like a betrayal to her because her mother won't stand up for her. Lexi's mom is the classic doormat.

Not wishing to ruin the plot with an overview or by giving details of what I did and didn't like, as this is a mystery/suspense young adult novel – a classmate is missing at the start of the novel, and then other bad things begin to happen throughout the book, with Lexi a central point.

To be blunt about why I could only give 3 stars, when I believe the intended audience would probably overlook inconsistencies and holes, by book's end, after reading several hundred pages, the reader is not rewarded with what happened, why it happened, or who did it. Not only are there no real answers, I have absolutely no idea what happened in the first place. For the sake of drawing it into another novel, this did the opposite of whet my appetite for the next. It totally turned me off not to get at least what happened. I didn't need to know who did it or even why, but the WHAT would have been nice to know. Yes, Lexi assumes by book's end the who, but even then she doesn't know. The reader should get some sort of a payoff for taking hours of their time to get some answers. I wasn't asking for all of them to be revealed, but something should have been expected.

I'm on the fence on whether or not I will read the next in this series. Recommended to young adults, as I believe most adults will have a similar reaction to the content of the book.

Young adult age-range: 14+ due to darker content.

Isabelle Drake got her start writing confession stories for pulp magazines like True Confessions and True Love. Since publishing those first few stories she has written in many genres, but tends to write about everyday people in extraordinary situations.

When away from her keyboard, she likes watching classic horror films, especially Hammer films such as the Karnstein Trilogy, and reading (of course). An avid traveler, she'll go just about anywhere—at least once—to meet people and get story ideas.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Best Friends Never (Cherry Grove #1) by Isabelle Drake to read and review.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Society by Jodie Andrefski

Welcome to Trinity Academy’s best-kept secret.

The Society.

You’ve been handpicked by the elite of the elite to become a member. But first you’ll have to prove your worth by making it through Hell Week.

Do you have what it takes?

It’s time to find out.

Samantha Evans knows she’d never get an invite to rush the Society—not after her dad went to jail for insider trading. But after years of relentless bullying at the hands of the Society’s queen bee, Jessica, she’s ready to take down Jessica and the Society one peg at a time from the inside out.

All it’ll take is a bit of computer hacking, a few fake invitations, some eager rushees…and Sam will get her revenge.

Let the games begin.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

As an adult reading The Society, I'd give it 4 solid stars. Thinking back to my reading tastes as a young adult, The Society would have hit all of my favorite notes: thrilling pacing, mild romantic triangle to keep me turning the pages, and friendship troubles. I believe most young adults would give the novel 5 stars.

I was hooked on page one with the introduction 3 years in the past as a 13-year-old girl deals with her father's trial, the loss of her best friend turned enemy, and the abandonment of her mother. This gave me the feels, and had me flipping the pages into the present time.

This was a very moral novel beneath the surface, showing both why good people do good and bad acts, and why bad people do both good and bad acts, and how there is a very thin line separating the two. Even justified in your actions, the results may be more than you bargained for, more for everyone involved.

Frustrating was the core feeling I had for Sam/Samantha while reading The Society. After not only losing her best friend, she has to suffer at the hands of the person who should have had her back after her life incinerated. Jessica not only bullied Sam, she turned the entire school away from her. In reality, this is realistic. Fed up, Sam seeks not vengeance but revenge, and there is a difference.

I won't give out details, as I feel that would do a disservice to readers. But there were a few points in the book that I would have liked addressed. The moral of the story was incredible, taking responsibility for your actions without using projection. (So & so did it too, but they didn't get in trouble so I shouldn't either. Yes, you should. But actions should be taken so the rest take responsibility as well.) BUT after three years of bullying, I would have liked to see some justice for Sam, some closure dealing with her father/Jessica/Trinity. Everyone failed Sam, including the school, Jeremy, and the aunt, with no one stepping in to STOP the bullying that was so prevalent. In fact, her bully was made out to be the victim. I understand taking responsibility for your actions, and not allowing someone to lower you to act as they do. Sam went from ignored victim to criminal, where all the victimizers were labeled and shown as innocent victims, all of whom had a major hand in changing who Sam was at her core.

Everyone knew it was happening, saw it was happening, but just told Sam to deal with it and wait to get to college. I would have liked to see some outrage in Sam toward those who were meant to protect her. The only life ever ruined on the pages of The Society was Sam, from start to finish, with only Sam ever taking responsibility for her actions. Even the BFF/love interest was cowardly by never telling Sam how he felt, leaving it to Sam to figure it out, while he flirted with others. To be fair, there was Ransom, but there would have never been a Ransom if Jeremy would have spoken up. Such as taking her to a party, where both were excited to be with one another again, only to leave her the entire night after going to get her a drink (he never did bring her that drink), completely forgetting about Sam. It was written Sam was Jeremy's focus, yet he lost focus too often for me to buy the epilogue.

Kudos to the author for showing Sam's empowerment even when at the lowest of the lows. I just wish someone in the cast of characters would have shown similar growth/responsibility/redemption/courage/protection/non-judgmental attitude/Self-reflection.

There is having Sam take responsibility for her actions, accepting how she contributed to her role, forgiving to not forget but move on, but empowering it is not to allow yourself to be a victim by not sticking up for yourself. In this, I mean, like how Sam spoke to her father. The author had to opportunity for Sam to do the same to her aunt, her mother, Jeremy, Jessica, her classmates, and the entire school administration. SOMEONE. By the end of the book, I just felt Sam was setup to be an apologist, with everyone just running right over her because her feelings weren't of value.

Tell someone when you're being bullied should have been another added moral in the story. If that person doesn't take action, they are as much at fault as Sam was for turning bully to protect herself.

I know where the author was headed, and I appreciate it, especially to show young adult the perils of bullying, but I feel it also gave the wrong message. The bullies won, don't protect yourself, and only you are to blame.

*I thoroughly enjoyed the quotes at the beginning of every chapter, and I hope it encourages young readers to give other works at try.

Recommended Young Adult Age-range: 12+ includes kissing & bullying.

Jodie Andrefski has been passionate about reading ever since she was a little girl, when she used to climb trees to escape with a favorite book. She lives and writes in a small town in Pennsylvania with her teenage daughter, and has an older son who is out and about on his own. Though still an avid reader, she now prefers a comfy chair over the crook of a tree. An unapologetic coffee fiend, she’s even happier if her java comes with pie.

Andrefski often draws on her background in education and mental health counseling to bring real world experience to her writing. She is a firm believer in the magic of a first kiss, and insists that you should never, ever give up on your dreams. #AlwaysKeepFighting

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Society by Jodie Andrefski to read and review.