Short & Sweet Reviews: Everything You Want Me To Be

Short and Sweet Reviews is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I share short, one, two or three paragraph reviews of books I’ve recently read.

Title Everything You Want Me To Be
Author Mindy Mejia
Publication Date
Pages 352 Pages
Intended Target Audience Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Part of a Series? No
Source & Format Purchased, Paperback
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

No one knows who she really is…

Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good girlfriend. But Hattie wants something more, something bigger, and ultimately something that turns out to be exceedingly dangerous. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death, the tragedy rips right through the fabric of her small-town community.

It soon comes to light that Hattie was engaged in a highly compromising and potentially explosive secret online relationship. The question is: Did anyone else know? And to what lengths might they have gone to end it? Hattie’s boyfriend seems distraught over her death, but had he fallen so deeply in love with her that she had become an obsession? Or did Hattie’s impulsive, daredevil nature simply put her in the wrong place at the wrong time, leading her to a violent death at the hands of a stranger?

Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me To Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to death.

“Ordinary men commit extraordinary evil all the time. Trust me.”

Who is Henrietta ‘Hattie’ Hoffman? It’s this question that lies at the heart of Mindy Mejia’s Everything You Want Me To Be. A consummate actress, for seventeen years Hattie has dedicated her life to being all things to all people – the good daughter, the good friend, the good student, and the good girlfriend – taking on an infinitesimal number of roles in order to please everyone in her life, all without ever truly feeling any sort of affinity to or investment in those around her. Disconnected and apathetic, Hattie is counting the days until her high school graduation when she can leave her small hometown of Pine Valley, Minnesota behind for the bright lights of New York City and Broadway, until a new relationship alters the course of her life – and many of those around her – forever.

A gripping mystery and psychological thriller about the violent and untimely death of an eighteen-year-old girl, Everything You Want Me To Be is told from three alternating perspectives – Hattie Hoffman, the murder victim, Del Goodman, the sheriff tasked with investigating her murder, and Peter, Pine Valley’s newest resident and Hattie’s English teacher, a narrative choice that was beautifully executed to great effect in this particular instance and perfectly complimented the story being told. The characters themselves are complex and compelling, none more so than Hattie Hoffman herself. Hattie is far from perfect and is not what one might consider a traditionally ‘likeable’ character. She can be manipulative, reckless and selfish, even to the point of the destruction of herself and others. But Hattie is also fearless, ambitious, resilient and resourceful. Women are, unintentionally or otherwise, conditioned from birth to be kind and accommodating wherever possible, so there’s something incredibly liberating about reading about a female character who unapologetically prioritizes her own desires and needs above others. Hattie has dreams for her future that aren’t dictated by the expectations of others, and she has no qualms about what she’s willing to do to make her dreams a reality. The novel’s setting, Pine Valley, Minnesota, is very nearly a character in and of itself. Mindy Mejia’s descriptions of the area are powerful and evocative, creating an excellent sense of place and allowing the reader to understand Hattie and Peter’s respective claustrophobia and desperation to escape the small town that feels as though it holds them hostage.

While I can’t address this issue with too much specificity for fear of spoilers, my one disappointment with this otherwise phenomenal book lies in Del’s closing remarks about the murderer and their culpability (or lack-thereof). I was really uncomfortable and unhappy with the conclusions this character, and by extension the novel, came to about who (or what) was ultimately responsible for the murder of Hattie Hoffman. As it stands, Del’s passing remark seems to reinforce harmful and pervasive notions about toxic masculinity and entitlement. After an otherwise impressive and riveting reading experience, this final note left a bad taste in my mouth and soured my overall impression of the story. That said, this did not ruin my overall enjoyment of the story, nor would it prevent me from recommending Everything You Want Me To Be to others.

The Writing’s On The Wall: Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

The Writing’s On The Wall is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I create desktop wallpapers inspired by some of my favourite novels, authors, and literary quotes.

Title Wild Beauty
Author Anna-Marie McLemore
Pages 352 Pages
Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Magical Realism
Publication Date October 3rd 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Love grows such strange things.

Anna-Marie McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers garnered fabulous reviews and was a finalist for the prestigious YALSA Morris Award, and her second novel, When The Moon Was Ours, was longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Now, in Wild Beauty, McLemore introduces a spellbinding setting and two characters who are drawn together by fate ― and pulled apart by reality.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

1280×800 » 1440×900 » 1680×1050 » 1920×1200 » 2560×1400 » iPhone

I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Marusha Belle whose clipart I purchased, edited and used in the creation of this wallpaper!

New Kids On The Block 2019 with Lillian Clark

New Kids On The Block is a year-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader meant to welcome and celebrate new voices and debut authors in the literary community.

Are you a debut author whose book is being published in 2019? It’s not too late to sign-up! If you want to participate in New Kids On The Block this year, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! You can send a tweet or DM on Twitter to @Pop_Reader or email me at Jen@PopGoesTheReader.com. I would love to collaborate with you!


About Lillian Clark

Lillian Clark, a graduate of the University of Wyoming, grew up riding horses, climbing trees, hiking, and going on grand imaginary adventures in the small-town West. She’s worked as a lifeguard, a camp counselor, and a Zamboni driver, but found her eternal love working as a bookseller at an independent bookstore in historic downtown Laramie, WY. Now living with her husband, son, and two giant dogs in the Teton Valley of Idaho, she spends her snowy winters and sunny summers reading almost anything and writing books for teens.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads


A few times now, I’ve been asked how I want readers to feel when they finish reading my book, and I love this question! Especially because the short answer is, “good.”

The long answer starts with the fact that while Immoral Code is about a heist, beyond that — before, through, and after that — it’s about a group of five friends dealing with issues big and small:

Bellamy, an aspiring astrophysicist and astronaut, confronts the feelings of abandonment that go deeper than her disappointment and uncertainty when her trek to MIT, so surefooted and steady in the past, falters.

Nari, a white hat hacker and the crime’s instigator, comes up against the consequences of her arrogance and faces her own fallibility.

Keagan, Nari’s boyfriend, struggles with feeling aimless and average beside friends who are so driven and extraordinary.

Reese, a brilliant artist, deals with the emotional fallout of her parents’ divorce.

And Santiago, a championship diver with Olympic dreams, wonders, when support at home falters, if believing in himself will be enough.

Each one grapples not just with the moral quagmire of doing something objectively wrong for what they feel are the right reasons but with their own flaws and fears and hopes, all woven inextricably through that bog. And my favorite part, the part that, to me, is the most important and leads to that “good” feeling at the end, is that they face all of it together.

Because these five friends are utterly devoted to each other. They support and champion and love each other. They’ll do almost anything — felonies included, ha — for each other. Because they want to lift each other up, make each other feel good, feel welcome and wanted and possible. And I hope that if you pick up Immoral Code, you’ll leave the five of them feeling that way too.

Title Immoral Code
Author Lillian Clark
Pages 320 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre
Publication Date February 19th 2019 by Knopf Books For Young Readers
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Ocean’s 8 meets The Breakfast Club in this fast-paced, multi-perspective story about five teens determined to hack into one billionaire absentee father’s company to steal tuition money.

For Nari, aka Narioka Diane, aka hacker digital alter ego “d0l0s,” it’s college and then a career at “one of the big ones,” like Google or Apple. Keagan, her sweet, sensitive boyfriend, is happy to follow her wherever she may lead. Reese is an ace/aro visual artist with plans to travel the world. Santiago is off to Stanford on a diving scholarship, with very real Olympic hopes. And Bellamy? Physics genius Bellamy is admitted to MIT – but the funding she’d been counting on is denied when it turns out her estranged father – one Robert Foster – is loaded.

Nari isn’t about to let her friend’s dreams be squashed by a deadbeat billionaire, so she hatches a plan to steal just enough from Foster to allow Bellamy to achieve her goals. Fast-paced and banter-filled, Lillian Clark’s debut is a hilarious and thought-provoking Robin Hood story for the 21st century.

Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover Issue 103: Fantasy (Part 9)

Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I pay tribute to some of the best and brightest the publishing world has to offer in the way of book cover design. This feature is inspired by Katie’s feature Cover Love on her blog One Page At A Time. The idea is being used with her gracious permission.

Please Note: I’ve done my best to credit the designers and artists responsible for the beautiful covers below, but was unable to find this information for a number of those listed. If you know of an uncredited designer responsible for any of these book covers, please let me know and I would be happy to include proper attribution in this post. Their work is lovely and deserves to be credited.

01. Spin The Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (Cover design by Alison Impey, Cover art by Tran Nguyen)
02. The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson (Cover design by Nicole Hower, Cover art by Tran Nguyen)

03. The Fever King by Victoria Lee (Cover design by David Curtis)
04. We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal (Cover design by Elizabeth H. Clark, Cover art by Simon Prades, Cover typography by Erin Fitzsimmons and Ray Shappell)

05. Dead Moon Rising by Caitlin Sangster
06. These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling

07. Wicked Fox by Kat Cho (Cover art by Miranda Meeks)
08. Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

09. We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (Cover design by Molly Fehr, Cover art by Cristina Pagnoncelli)
10. All Of Us With Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil

11. Realm of Ruins by Hannah West (Cover design by Kerry Martin, Cover art by Daniel Burgess)
12. The Girl King by Mimi Yu (Cover art by Tommy Arnold)

13. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (Cover art by Charlie Bowater)
14. House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig (Cover design by Alison Impey, Cover art by Vault 49)

15. The Wise and The Wicked by Rebecca Podos (Cover design by Sarah Kaufman, Cover art by Gina Triplett)
16. The Clockwork Ghost by Laura Ruby

17. Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa
18. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

19. We Rule The Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett (Cover art by BILLELIS)
20. Kingsbane by Claire Legrand (Cover design by Nicole Hower, Cover art by David Curtis)

21. Vow of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson
22. Crown of Oblivion by Julie Eshbaugh (Cover design by Joel Tippie, Cover art by Jason Chan)

23. Ink In The Blood by Kim Smejkal (Cover art by Emilee Rudd)
24. The Candle and The Flame by Nafiza Azad (Cover design by Elizabeth Parisi, Cover art by Carlos Quevedo)

25. The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross
26. The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen (Cover design by Rich Deas)

Now it’s your turn! What are some of your favourite Fantasy and Magical Realism covers? Did I list one of your favourites here or is there one I forgot that just has to be included? Let me know in the comments!

WWW Wednesday – Issue 2

WWW Wednesday is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I highlight what I’m currently reading, what I recently finished reading, and what I plan to read next. This weekly event is hosted by Sam at Taking On A World Of Words.

Title The Black Coats
Author Colleen Oakes
Pages 400 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary
Publication Date February 12th 2019 by HarperTeen
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

Roses are red, violets are blue. If you hurt us, we’re coming for you.

Moxie meets Female of the Species in this powerful, thrilling, and deeply resonant novel about a secret society of girls who plot revenge on the men who hurt them.

The enigmatic Black Coats have been exacting vengeance on men who have hurt girls and women for years. The killer of Thea’s cousin went free, and Thea has just received an invitation to join the Black Coats’ balancings — acts of revenge meant to teach a lesson. Justice for Natalie has never felt so close.

But as the balancings escalate in brutality, Thea’s clear-cut mission begins to unravel and she must decide just how far she is willing to go for justice.

Because when the line between justice and revenge is paper thin, it’s hard not to get cut.

I’ve only literally just begun reading The Black Coats so I can’t speak specifically about it yet, but I am always ready to read a book about sisterhood and fighting back against misogyny and sexism. This is an incredibly timely book, and one I can’t wait to read more of!

Title The Radical Element
Author Dahlia Adler, Erin Bowman, Dhonielle Clayton, Sara Farizan, Mackenzi Lee, Stacey Lee, Anna-Marie McLemore, Meg Medina, Marieke Nijkamp, Megan Shepherd, Jessica Spotswood, Sarvenaz Tash
Pages 320 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Historical Fiction
Publication Date March 13th 2018 by Candlewick
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

In an anthology of revolution and resistance, a sisterhood of YA writers shines a light on a century and a half of heroines on the margins and in the intersections.

To respect yourself, to love yourself, should not have to be a radical decision. And yet it remains as challenging for an American girl to make today as it was in 1927 on the steps of the Supreme Court. It’s a decision that must be faced when you’re balancing on the tightrope of neurodivergence, finding your way as a second-generation immigrant, or facing down American racism even while loving America. And it’s the only decision when you’ve weighed society’s expectations and found them wanting. In The Radical Element, twelve of the most talented writers working in young adult literature today tell the stories of girls of all colors and creeds standing up for themselves and their beliefs — whether that means secretly learning Hebrew in early Savannah, using the family magic to pass as white in 1920s Hollywood, or singing in a feminist punk band in 1980s Boston. And they’re asking you to join them.

The Radical Element is the best and strongest anthology I’ve ever read, and one of my favourite young adult novels in recent memory. There’s not a single story in this collection I would change or remove, and readers of anthologies will know what an incredible feat this is to achieve! Inevitably, in most short story collections, there’s at least one or two that won’t speak to you as strongly or ones you’ll struggle to connect with, but this was definitely not the case with Jessica Spotswood’s latest anthology. The diversity of perspectives and voices offered in The Radical Element are exciting and beautiful and I’m so thankful I own this book in hardcover so I can read it again and again. While it would be a very big undertaking, I’d love to write a formal review post about this book in the future so I that I can speak more specifically about each of these stories in detail, but for now please believe me when I tell you this is one anthology you don’t want to miss!


Title The Dreamers
Author Karen Thompson Walker
Pages 320 Pages
Intended Target Audience Adult
Genre Speculative Fiction
Publication Date January 15th 2019 by Random House
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

A strange illness induces sleep and heightens dreams in an isolated college town, transforming the lives of ordinary people, in this mesmerizing novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Age of Miracles.

A college girl tells her friends that she’s feeling strangely tired. The next morning, when they find her in bed, she is still breathing – but she won’t wake up.

Within a few days, another student, down the hallway, won’t wake up.

As the sleeping sickness spreads, the town is turned upside down. We meet Ben and Annie, a young couple determined to keep their newborn baby safe; Sara and Libby, whose survivalist father has long prepared for disaster; Mei and Matthew, and other college students. A quarantine is established, the national guard is summoned. Yet, those who have fallen asleep are showing unusual patterns of brain activity. More than has ever been recorded in any brain – asleep or awake. They are dreaming – but of what?

With gorgeous prose and heart-stopping emotion, The Dreamers startles and provokes about the possibilities contained within a human life, when we are awake and, perhaps even more, when we are dreaming.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker was one of my most anticipated 2019 releases and a book I had pre-ordered several months prior to its release. Unfortunately, after a lacklustre experience with both her debut, The Age of Miracles, and a similar experience with The Dreamers, I’m beginning to think Walker’s writing simply isn’t the best fit for me. While I’m always really intrigued and excited by the concept of this author’s novels, the execution always leaves a little something to be desired. With both of Walker’s novels I felt disconnected from the characters and because I felt as though I was being kept at a distance, I was never truly able to invest in their desires or fate. I fell asleep while reading this novel on three separate occasions (the irony of this is not lost on me) which I think speaks to my level of engagement (or lack thereof) with The Dreamers as a whole. That said, please don’t let me dissuade you from reading this book if the synopsis intrigues you! Walker’s writing is leisurely, quiet and nebulous, and I’m sure The Dreamers will be a new favourite amongst many readers. Sadly, despite my best efforts to the contrary, I’m just not one of them.


Title The Becket List: A Blackberry Farm Story
Author Adele Griffin
Pages 208 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date April 2nd 2019 by Algonquin Young Readers
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Adventure and discover with the bold and intrepid Becket Branch when her family’s move from city to a country farm means big changes!

Everything is changing for Becket Branch. From subways to sidewalks to safety rules, Becket is a city kid born and raised. Now the Branch family is trading urban bustle for big green fields and moving to Gran’s farm, where Becket has to make sense of new routines from feeding animals to baling hay. And as much as Becket loves to yell “Beautiful Alert!” there’s a lot about the countryside that is just plain odd.

But Becket is ready to put her own spin on country life. Whether selling her mouth-puckering lemonade, feeding hostile hens, or trying to make a best friend of her new neighbor Frieda Franca, Becket is determined to use her city smarts to get a grip on farm living. Laugh and learn with Becket as she mucks through the messy, exuberant human experience of change she didn’t ask for, in a story that sparkles with quirky characters and lasting connections.

After struggling with The Dreamers, I searched my shelves for a light, effortless read that would be entirely different from its predecessor and I’m so thrilled I decided on Adele Griffin’s forthcoming April 2019 release, The Becket List! I won’t speak at length about this book now because I’n hoping to share a longer review either later this week or next, but suffice it to say The Becket List was an absolute delight and one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to younger readers.


Title If You’re Out There
Author Katy Loutzenhiser
Pages 320 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Mystery
Publication Date March 5th 2019 by Balzer + Bray
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

Part whip-smart suspense tale, part touching story of friendship, this is an extraordinary debut about a determined teen trying to solve a mystery no one else believes in.

After Zan’s best friend moves to California, she is baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya’s social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn’t sound like her at all.

Everyone tells Zan not to be an idiot: Let Priya do her reinvention thing and move on. But until Zan hears Priya say it, she won’t be able to admit that their friendship is finished.

It’s only when she meets Logan, the compelling new guy in Spanish class, that Zan begins to open up about her sadness, her insecurity, her sense of total betrayal. And he’s just as willing as she is to throw himself into the investigation when everyone else thinks her suspicions are crazy.

Then a clue hidden in Priya’s latest selfie introduces a new, deeply disturbing possibility:

Maybe Priya isn’t just not answering Zan’s emails.

Maybe she can’t.

I’ll be the first to admit this portion of the post is always difficult for me to write because I’m very much a mood reader so it’s hard for me to determine ahead of time what I’ll read next, but If You’re Out There is definitely at the top of that list. If You’re Out There is scheduled to be published relatively soon (March 9th 2019) and was recommended and sent to me by Donna Bray. Donna and Balzer + Bray have never let me down, and I’m so excited to get to the bottom of this contemporary mystery!