Mask of Shadows

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

There is a lot of negativity going around about this book, but I genuinely liked it.

A lot of different reviewers are going on and on about how this is The Hunger Games or it’s got the same plot as 5 million other books, but I didn’t necessarily see that. Sure, there are numbers involved (but they are numbers according to entrance to become an assassin – similar to Throne of Glass) but that doesn’t mean that it is just like the number districts in The Hunger Games. There are people competing to become an assassin, but it is not at all like it was in Throne of Glass. I’ll admit that I found it pretty boring towards the beginning, but similar to Divergent, I felt that the second half of the book was much quicker and better than the first. If you eliminate a large chunk of the descriptive nature you may get a much more entertaining book.

One of the great things going for this book is that there is gender fluidity! It actually took me forever to figure out whether or not Sal was a boy or girl until I realized that they wanted to be identified by what they were wearing – you don’t really see this very often in YA books, so it is really nice to see that. Do I think they could have done more than this? Absolutely yes.

There were a few problems with the book. With as much as you see the Left Hand, I still couldn’t remember who was who. There were some over-dramatized moments, especially with Elise, that bothered the crap out of me. And Sal is the most teary eyed character I’ve ever read about in my life. It also seems like you’re going to get a lot more magic or more of these “shadows” but you just don’t — though this definitely may occur in later books! Despite the flaws though, I still liked it – and even though it may have some common characteristics of half the other fantasy YA novels, you know what, I’d still continue to read the series.

I received this ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll openly admit that I’m mad at myself for not reading this sooner, because man, was it good! I rushed through it faster than I could have imagined (all before lunchtime at work — I know, I’m shocked myself).

The story opens very quickly with a conflict – a fellow student, Martin, has found one of Simon’s secret emails with “Blue”. The problem? Simon’s gay, and so is Blue – but neither of them have told anyone. Martin decides to blackmail Simon into helping him get with his friend Abby – if he doesn’t help him, Martin will tell everyone Simon’s secret, and potentially Blue’s (pen name) as well. As Simon and his relationship with Blue blossom, everything else around the two becomes a little bit more complicated as friendships/relationships, identities, and more are threatened.

So why did I like this so much? Well, I can’t identify with the whole “coming out” ideal, but the whole “falling in love before you’ve even met” part was essentially my teenage life. Simon and Blue click so well that they are afraid to meet because it could ruin what they have created. They’ve both become so comfortable with each other and are so able to be “themselves” that the thought of that going away is just terrifying. And Simon’s also so enraptured in this online person that he’s ignoring those around him who are interested: “I’ll probably never have a boyfriend. I’m too busy trying not to be in love with someone who isn’t real.” This hit me so closely because I too was terrified of every online relationship I ever had — when they finally met me, would they like me as much as they do now? Albertalli really does a great job at making the conversations and feelings so REAL. I think that’s part of the reason I went through this so quickly — I wanted that happy ending for those of us who were just as afraid as Simon and Blue.

The formatting of alternating between the email exchanges and actual life are also very entertaining – you get to be a part of their conversations and then see the aftermath.

And the relationships with friends and family when it comes to “coming out” are very well done – we have a situation where it was done according to plan, and another where it was not. The author does a good job at addressing the love and the anger and the hate that can come out as well.

I highly recommend this book to fans of YA, coming-of-age, and LGBTQ fiction.

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