Review: I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn, Allison Raskin

I Hate Everyone But You chronicles a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

I’ll start off by saying that reading this book was probably the most FUN I’ve had in ages with fiction. I practically couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for the entirety of my reading experience. I Hate Everyone But You is perfect for fans of We Are OkayGena/ Finn, and Queens of Geek. That is to say: This book is an entirely character driven story, and like We Are Okay the premise is about two best friends in college, but we also have the shenanigans shared in Queens of Geek. I read through it in a whirlwind.

I will admit, however, that it took some time to get fully into the swing of things with the characters. But I was pretty sold once we had that one random scene at the beginning of the book where Gen tried cocaine in the bathroom with her new “friend.” It truly left me both baffled and in fits. Particularly when I recalled this fittingly iconic Christine Sydelko vine:

“Overall, I would give cocaine 2 stars.”

But once I was into it, I really was in… From clickbait-worthy titles for emails, relatable budding crushes (“I like him so much. I hope he can’t tell.”), mental health, weird therapists in training, exploring your sexuality and labels, growing into yourself, the complexity behind friendships, finding your friend’s crush online at the speed of light (I’m still laughing @chinatownjake98), and so much more that left me both reeling and feeling alive.

The dialogue (entertaining as hell, by the way) shared between Ava and Gen just began to flow so easily overtime, and I genuinely felt included on the fun and on the conversation, without actually having to experience any of the things they went through, which is low-key my heaven.

“Grow! Flourish! Experiment with things so I don’t have to.”

Also, the one-liners in here are something else. You would think that only one character would properly succeed at them, but that’s thankfully not the case with I Hate Everyone But You. On one side of the coin, we have screenwriter Ava Helmer who’s not afraid to tell it like it is:

“I just spent three hours gluing sparkle Greek letters to a poster board while twenty other girls gossiped about The Bachelorette like the contestants are real people and not robots hired by a massive corporation to fulfill their given duties and then disappear into minor Instagram fame.”

And then we also have journalist Genevieve Goldman, whom I admire for a plethora of reasons, but mainly because she’s impossible to define without using her own words one too many times:

“Where do I fall, you might ask? I don’t subscribe to labels. Unless I’m labeling other people.”

Their friendship, however, is the epitome of unconditional love. They can always count on one another to put everything in perspective. Plus, they never fail to be there on the other’s side when needed. It was inspiring to experience from the sidelines.

“Not everyone hits it off immediately. I fear that I’ve ruined you for other women. I am the best. We all know that. Sometimes you have to settle”

Whether it’s bringing Ava out of her spiralling mind by reminding her of how utterly incredible she is and how she don’t need no man, or by partying it up like a true college kid… Genevieve Goldman is a piece of art.

“Just remember: Jake is a typical college guy who barely knows how to take care of himself. Your self-worth should not hang in the balance of his New Balances.”

I feel like the only way I can visually show what their conversation left me like is through the one and only Jean-Ralphio:

“Quick question: Remember winter formal sophomore year when you told Chris R. to kiss me and then he did on our way home and I didn’t realize that you could breathe through your mouth while kissing and I suffocated? Does that have to count as my first kiss?”

Have I mentioned that I like Ava?

Also, on a more serious note, I cannot stop thinking about this next passage talking about Ava’s behavior with her caring parents:

“I hate that I am my worst self around the two people who are nicest to me. I’m unable to keep my barriers up when I’m around my parents, so all the ugly comes out. Even when I’m mad, I can feel the guilt spreading through my body, but the mad overrides it.

I always apologize once it’s passed, but that’s not good enough. I’m 18. I can’t freak out on my lovely, supportive parents anytime they say something I don’t like. I’ve put them through enough. She literally drove an hour to drive me 20 minutes and then sit in the waiting room while I went into another room and complained about her. I am a terrible person.”

These lines really just made me travel back in time to that exact emotion.

But on a more lighthearted note, the surprising fourth wall break dropped in the novel regarding Just Between Us made me shriek. Which pretty much sums up the entirety of my reading experience, thinking “Why can’t I stop smiling? What is this sorcery?”

And though the ending did feel a tiny bit rushed with so much left in flux at the last minute, I still seriously applaud the authors for making 352 pages fly by without me even looking up from the book.

Last but not least, I also listened to this next charming song during my reading time.

5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying I Hate Everyone But You, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

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Review: Thornhill by Pam Smy

“We are the voiceless ones.”

Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a girl unravels the mystery of the abandoned Thornhill Institute next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2017: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl and solidify the link between them, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.

Told in alternating, interwoven plotlines—Mary’s through intimate diary entries and Ella’s in bold, striking art—Pam Smy’s Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, filled with suspense.

This tale set in alternate times, one told in words and the other in drawings, sounded right up my alley when I discovered it back in May. In particular because it reminded me a lot of  Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck, which had a similar format of storytelling that I loved. Unlike that one, though, Thornhill is a creepy and disquieting ghost story. That is to say: I was racing to finish reading it before sunset because I’m not about to be scared out of leaving my bedroom… again, since ghosts are one of my greatest fears, thanks to watching the horrendous film called The Sixth Sense at night when I was just eight years old. (I thought at the time that I was brave and cool and that it wouldn’t be as eerie as the blurb made it seem.) (Oh, how wrong I was.)

“I like the noise of being surrounded by a group. It’s as though there are little stories whizzing around—dreams of pop groups and boyfriends, gossip about eyeliner and shoes and teachers. I don’t have to join in, but still I feel part of their gang—on the edges looking in, watching, listening, but happy to be included.”

Circling back to the book, a pleasant surprise came to me with the drawings, which wasn’t what I expected in terms of style before reading. I feel like ages have passed since I last sat down and enjoyed a proper book. But I was a bit disheartened to see that the art was on the lower side compared to the prose. Overtime, I actually came to look forward most to what the story would convey through these black and white drawings.

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But for now I’m definitely on the lookout for a more lighthearted read after the eeriness left by Thornhill. I mean, that ending surely raised the hair on the back of my neck. Shudders.

3/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Thornhill, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma

In A Life of Adventure and Delight, Sharma delivers eight masterful stories that focus on Indian protagonists at home and abroad and that plunge the reader into the unpredictable workings of the human heart.

I started this short story collection a bit skeptical, since it took me nearly the whole day to finish reading just the first tale because I wasn’t vibing with the characters, premise, or writing. A retired divorcé taking advice from Cosmopolitan to get into his neighbor’s pants, while chronicling their confusing yet utterly ordinary relationship didn’t grip me at all.

“He wondered if he was sadder than he knew.”

I went on with lowered expectations, thinking this would be a similar let down as Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her, but the minuted I opened up the second story titled “Surrounded by Sleep,” I was blown away from start to finish. What pulled me in particular was Ajay, the eleven-year-old protagonist at the heart of this tale. With his love for books, superhero comics, extreme superstitions and mind-expanding talks with God, it was as if the author knew exactly what to include to win me over. Also, the mother in the story was a sight to behold, especially when she used her devotion to “shame God into fixing” her oldest son.

“Are you going to tell me the story about Uncle Naveen again?” he asked.
“Why shouldn’t I? When I was sick, as a girl, your uncle walked seven times around the temple and asked God to let him fail his exams just as long as I got better.”
“If I failed the math test and told you that story, you’d slap me and ask what one has to do with the other.”
His mother turned to the altar.
“What sort of sons did you give me, God?” she asked. “One you drown, the other is this selfish fool.”
“I will fast today so that God puts some sense in me,” Ajay said, glancing away from the altar and up at his mother. He liked the drama of fasting.
“No, you are a growing boy.” His mother knelt down beside him and said to the altar, “He is stupid, but he has a good heart.”

Another point I unexpectedly came to cherish was Ajay’s character growth and how immense it seemed over the course of this swift tale, so much so that I nearly forgot that he was still eleven by the end of it all. Truly wise beyond his years.

“He was having difficulty talking. He didn’t know why. The only time he could talk easily was when he was with God. The explanation he gave himself for this was that, just as he couldn’t chew when there was too much in his mouth, he couldn’t talk when there were too many thoughts in his head.”

Needless to say, I was spellbound by how captivating “Surrounded by Sleep” was compared to the impression left by the first one. Consequently, my expectations were raised a tenfold for the remaining collection.

So I was then sad to see that the remaining pieces didn’t live up to what I’d so loved in the second story. Reading A Life of Adventure and Delight is probably the longest it has taken for me to complete a collection of short stories. I got stuck for days on end with a tale here and there, and in the end I just had to skip some pieces altogether to get the momentum back. I think my main problem was the fact that there wasn’t one theme or arc being explored, unlike in my favorite “Surrounded by Sleep”. Usually the tales started of in one way, only to end on a completely unrelated note, which of course led to numerous loose threads that left my mind spinning.

But I will say this: All the mothers in Akhil Sharma’s short story collection were a force to be reckoned with. The author can write dynamic mother figures like no one’s business, and I’m frankly jealous. So I was quite dismayed to see that A Life of Adventure and Delight didn’t live up to my overall expectations in the end. But I am eager to see what Sharma’s future works will entail.

3/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying A Life of Adventure and Delight, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!