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: Letters to Talia by Dov Indig

I was captivated when I read the back cover of Letters to Talia, since the concept of having an irreligious Jewish kibbutz girl writing corresponding letters to a soldier/ Yeshiva student about Judaism and learning more about her faith sounded almost too good to be true. But the book lived up to even the highest of standards I had set for it in my head. It’s an everlasting read that had me bouncing from one emotion to the next.

Dov Indig was killed on October 7, 1973, in a holding action on the Golan Heights in Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Letters to Talia, published in his memory by family and friends, contains excerpts from an extensive correspondence Dov maintained with Talia, a girl from an irreligious kibbutz in northern Israel , in 1972 and 73, the last two years of his life. At the time, Talia was a high-school student, and Dov was a student in the Hesder Yeshiva Kerem B Yavneh, which combines Torah study with military service.

Coming into this right after having had to tolerate the non-stop infidelities in This Is How You Lose Her was like a breath of fresh air. Not only does Dov Indig, an only child of Holocaust survivors, have practically the perfect answer on literally everything regarding God, Jews and our identity, people, and homeland. We’re left with lots of food for thought, and it was a real challenge trying not to write the whole book down into my notes so I wouldn’t forget even the tiniest thing uttered by him. There was this genuine fear inside me that I would forget a convincing argument of his, and it stemmed out of how utterly convincing his points were in their nature. Dov Indig kept on surprising me with his knowledge page by page. A real wunderkind. It is these kind of quiet stories that tell the moving account of someone’s words and actions that affect me the most.

I mean, there were times when Talia presented a case seemingly unfit to contradict (such as, the recruitment of Yeshiva students into the IDF, and civil marriage in Israel), but he always pulled through with pages and pages of wise words on the relevant topics and sources to support his statements. And not only that, but his responses came across as really balanced and well-thought-out. You could feel his calm and welcoming nature reverberate off the page when it came to answering questions about Judaism.

Usually, I would insert some quotes of his here to prove my statement, but since I read the Hebrew edition that option isn’t relevant at the time. But just know that there’s no denying the colossal wisdom and faithfulness behind Dov’s words. Knowing the end of his story, however, made every moment of his utterly melancholy and bittersweet. I’m thinking mainly about those parts when he got hopeful about what his future would entail as a believer. It’s impossible not to feel the weight of the words (and the world) in those pages.

Since this conversation is made up by two parts, I have to mention that I was displeased from the get-go with the way Talia handled the conversation. My annoyance stems from the fact that her personality relies heavily on not knowing really… anything. Talia tends to go for deep questions without inquiring first if what she’s asking is fact or something she heard from ear to ear, which leads to a lot of naïve and shortsighted comments on her side. Over the course of Letters to Talia it began to feel like one of those plot devices, where one side asks foolish questions just so that the hero can appear more educated. So it became difficult to enjoy the conversations circling Dov and Talia because I was dreading for her point of view to appear. I mean it’s pretty difficult to enjoy an educated conversation when one person isn’t adding anything remarkable to the table other than white noise.

The funny thing is that I then read this article that interviews Talia nowadays, and she seems to agree on her naïvety back in the day. So there was a tiny source of comfort knowing that she would somehow grow into her character over the years.

But luckily, Dov’s writing, that showcased just how well-read and enlightened he was, made up for the negatives of the other side. It was a true privilege to bask in the wisdom of his words through the letters shared in this book.

As a last side note, I do wish we would’ve gotten to see some pictures of the letters they sent one another just because I’m curious as to how his writing style looked like on paper. But overall Letters to Talia is a highly recommended story that I’m utterly grateful to have read.

5/5 stars

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

Review: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

“The only past you have a right to know about is your own.”

I was positutely ecstatic when I found out that Gabrielle Zevin was releasing a brand new fiction novel after The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, which had quickly become a favorite of mine earlier this year. And similar to the aforementioned, Young Jane Young had me enamored from the first page, which I’ve come to realize is the author’s specialty. Even though the setting is so different from her previous work, the characterizations feel so familiar. Zevin has a special knack for breathing life into her characters, making them flawed yet still likeable as hell.

“Once upon a time, I was easily touched and easily flapped.”
“What happened?” she said.
“I grew up,” I said.

Now I know that I can always count on the author for getting me swept up into her works from page one. It took absolutely zero effort for me to get familiarized within the pages of this book. It felt truly effortless, in particular, because of the combination of the many Jewish aspects and Yiddish phrases (farkakte, oy vey iz mir, alte cocker) that won over my heart in a beat.

Thanks to my incredible excitement for a new Zevin novel, I hadn’t even read the blurb or synopsis before starting, so I was in for a treat because everything that came at me I got to experience through fresh eyes. I’m also thankful because I probably wouldn’t have read this gem had I known that Young Jane Young‘s heroine is Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss‑‑who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married‑‑and blogging about it.

“They didn’t put a scarlet letter on her chest, but they didn’t need to. That’s what the Internet is for.”

Separated into five different parts with a different female narrator for each one, the aforementioned plot point is honestly not even a third of what this novel is about. We’re introduced to so many great, flawed, and achingly real female characters that support one another, in addition to many iconic feminist moments and sayings and t-shirts (“Women rights are human rights” and “Ask me about my feminist agenda”) in here. Speaking of which, the pure privilege of receiving the many sage feminist advice from Mrs. Morgan was worth it all. (Her side note to Ruby on the meaning behind ‘douchebag’ opened up my eyes.)

And further drove the point home by making this a female driven story. I love it more than I can put into words that the narrators were Jewish women, related to each other one way or another. Nothing is quite like what it seems, and I cherish the author for still managing to make each woman layered and just so fucking real. That’s all I could’ve asked for, really.

An added bonus: One of my favorites was Ruby Young, the most fully realized character, who’s only thirteen at the end of the book but trustworthy, neurotic, and strong for her age, to borrow her mother’s phrasing. When asked how she came to be so wise, her answer gives it all away:  “Books,” I said. “And I spend a lot of time with my mom.” Showing healthy children/parent relationships is the key to my heart.

It seems a difficult feat but I ended up liking each narrator and each generation more and more, thanks to Gabrielle Zevin’s effortless yet intricate writing style and characterization. The small details are what matter here. Like this next little moment that managed to capture such a specific feeling that it nearly made my head spin:

“I don’t know why I didn’t say no. In my defense, I was confused. I think it’s like when you’re on a cell phone call with someone and the reception goes bad and you continue to pretend as if you can hear for a bit, hoping that the cell phone reception will work itself out before the person catches on that you haven’t been hearing her for five minutes. Why don’t you immediately say, I can’t hear you? Why does it feel shameful.

And of course there were the many laugh out loud moments that I’ve grown accustomed to as the author’s signature style: “He was twenty-seven, and his handshake was too firm – what are you trying to prove, bro?” And using the most iconic of phrases: “You’re worse than a bra strap.”

This refreshing, short, and concise read with plenty of heart and more than a little humor has made a definite new fan out of me. I can’t wait for Gabrielle Zevin’s future works.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: August 22nd, 2017

5/5 stars

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