Review: Save the Enemy by Arin Greenwood

Save the EnemyPublishing Date: November 12, 2013 by Soho Teen
Format: ARC paperback
Pages: 288

Everything has been downhill since Zoey Trask’s mother was murdered in a random mugging.  Her younger brother, Ben, is on the autistic spectrum and needs constant supervision.  It’s senior year, and she’s the new girl at a weird private school in Old Town Alexandria, VA, full of kids who seem too nice to be true – including a very cute boy named Pete.  Aside from half-forgotten martial arts and survivalist skills that her widowed father insisted on teaching her (because that is excellent for her social life), Zoey has nothing to offer Pete or anyone else.

Then Dad is kidnapped.  Zoey suddenly finds herself sole caretaker of a younger brother she barely understands.  Worse, Ben seems to hold the key to their father’s disappearance in his Dream Diary, a bizarre journal of names and places Ben claims that their mother shares from beyond the grave.  And as if Zoey didn’t have enough on her plate, there’s Pete, who stubbornly refuses to leave her side.

Relying on the skills she never wanted to learn – Dad might have had his reasons after all – Zoey is plunged into a lethal battle to rescue her father, protect her brother, and determine the identity of her family’s true enemy.

This book was really different from what I was expecting, but it was really fun. Zoey’s family is really interesting, unique, and I liked the way the Trask family was portrayed. I do think the reader needs to suspend a certain amount of disbelief throughout the story, though – Save the Enemy is definitely a bit over the top, but that’s what makes it such a fun read. Zoey felt authentic and I really liked that.

Another thing I really enjoyed is Zoey’s voice. She’s funny and very out there, which I liked a lot, and her interactions with the other characters in the book were fun to read. My only complaint in regards to her character was at times she seemed to put off moving the story forward, which was a bit frustrating because I wanted to know what was going to happen!

My only other major complaint is one I can’t include in the review due to spoilers, but overall this was a really fun, over-the-top read, so as long as you’re on board with that as a reader, this is a book you should enjoy. I am hoping that there might be another book written in the future!

I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads program and I am writing a review to say thank you. Thank you to Goodreads and to Soho Press!

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Review: Little Red Lies by Julie Johnson

Little Red LiesPublishing Date: September 10, 2013 by Tundra Books
Format: ARC paperback
Pages: 352

The war is over, but for thirteen-year-old Rachel, the battle has just begun.  Putting childhood behind her, she knows what she wants – to prove she has acting talent worthy of the school drama club, and what she doesn’t want – to romantically fall for someone completely inappropriate.  Worries about her veteran brother’s failing health and repugnance at her mother’s unexpected and unwanted pregnancy drive her to seek solace from a seemingly sympathetic but self-serving teacher.  The lies she tells herself hoping to reach solutions to the problems complicating her life merely function to make matters worse.  Ultimately, she finds a way to come to terms with life as it reaches an end and life as it begins.

This book appealed to me originally because of the beautiful cover, and then I read the summary on Goodreads and became intrigued and entered the giveaway.

Little Red Lies seemed to be following two storylines at once, that of Rachel, the main character, and Jamie, her brother. Unfortunately for the book, I thought her brother’s storyline was the more interesting one.

Rachel is also a bit of a difficult character, and I found myself wanting to know much more of her friends than I ever knew about her. While I know she’s just a kid, she seems completely oblivious to how selfish or rude she is being to her friends and family, while resenting those same people when they act that way to her. That kind of attitude is definitely something I’ve seen in other YA protagonists (and teenagers in general), but they at least seem to justify it to themselves/the reader, rather than just leaving it as it is. I couldn’t always understand why Rachel was acting out when she did, and it often felt like she was just acting out for the hell of it, rather than because it was actually a justified reaction to what was going on in her life.

Early on in the book especially, Rachel is very focused on being sophisticated and adult, which is frankly ridiculous from my POV as an adult reader, seeing that she’s thirteen years old, and I found her difficult to relate to for that reason as well. Her own storyline was also a bit difficult to follow, and certain things seemed (to me) to be unnecessary when compared to what I felt was the real story with her brother, which frustrated me a bit. I thought Rachel’s “little red lies” would become a part of the story more than they did, due to the title, and I was a bit disappointed on that front.

That said, I really enjoyed the core story Little Red Lies told, about a soldier returning home from war and attempting to reintegrate himself into society and back into his family and circle of friends. The family’s interaction in the book was definitely the high point of the book for me, and it was when the book was focused on the family’s interactions and relationships that it was the strongest for me.

The book was a quick read (while it took me about a week to read it due to other obligations, I essentially read it in 2-3 sittings). There is definitely a lot going on, which can feel like a bit much at times, but it all definitely kept me turning the pages. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a YA historical fiction read.

I received a copy of this book through Goodreads’ First Reads program. Thank you to Goodreads and Tundra Books!

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars