What Annie Read: Everything, Everything Book Review

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Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything is a book that I’ve been looking forward to reading for a  long, long time.  I’ve heard a lot of hype about how absolutely wonderful Nicola Yoon‘s first novel is in addition to obsessively watching the movie trailer once or twice (more like seven times).  So when I picked up this book a few days ago and began my most recent read, I was expecting the literary equivalent of a firework show.

What I got was soft and slow at first.  Madeline Whittier, eighteen-year-old girl diagnosed with a horrible disease known as SCID: in short, Madeline is allergic to an immense amount of stimuli, so much so that she appears to be allergic to everything.  She met her first trigger when she was a baby in an episode that almost ended her short life and since then, she has not left her house per her mother’s orders.

Madeline is content with her condition and her life… until a handsome problem dressed in black moves into the house next door.  Even though they have never spoken due to Maddy’s unconditional house arrest, Olly Bright quickly takes an interest in Maddy, reaching out to her over IM and forming a friendship that quickly evolves into something that is friendlier than friendship (if you know what I mean).  Maddy and Olly’s conversations over IM and their first face-to-face interactions are sweet enough to give you cavities.  Given the circumstances, everything between our two young lovebirds seems to be going swimmingly.

But as we all know when it comes to love, we all want a mile even when we are given only an inch.  Fleeting glances and swift kisses are not enough for Maddy and Olly, so she throws caution to the wind and decides to pursue what fuels her happiness with unabashed determination.  Maddy leaves her hospital-grade filters and air-locked doors in the dust.  She books two tickets to Hawaii, rescues her prince from his abusive father, and flies off into the sunset.  Is it stupid?  Probably.  Is it romantic? Definitely.

If a girl is allergic to literally everything and has not been outside since she was an infant, you can probably imagine what happens next.  After their blissful yet short-lived escape ends in catastrophe, Madeline is zipped up into her airtight container and Olly’s family moves away.  The red curtain appears to close as violins play a sad song… but then something changes.

I won’t disclose the nature of this change because spoilers are mean, but I would recommend wearing a seatbelt when reading this INSANE plot twist.  It gets pretty gnarly.  There may have been tears shed.

Despite the seriously intense (and possibly cruel) twist of fate at the end, something magical happened as I read this book.  There’s something about the juxtaposition of the characters and the unwavering passion of young love that reminded me that some things are worth being stupid for.  Some things are beautiful and otherworldly and misunderstood and boxed in by the menial declarations that we make in regards to what is right and what is wrong.

Every once in a while, something so magnificent comes along that it can’t be comprehended in full from our current perspective.  Every once in a while, we have to break out of our own walls and capture beauty for beauty’s sake.  Every once in a while, we stumble upon a situation in which we must think with our hearts in lieu of our brains.  We all have one chance to see what our world looks like, so why not take the risk and see everything, everything?

XO, Annie

What Annie Read: Red Queen Book Review

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Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but I think that breaking this unwritten reading rule is certainly acceptable when it comes to Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.  As depicted above, the cover is relatively plain: a simple silver crown overturned, dripping with what appears to be blood.

The simplicity of the cover speaks to the nature of the book: Mare Barrow, protagonist, pickpocket, and peasant because of the red color of her blood.  Mare Barrow, living in a world divided between the Silver elite, named because their blood is colored silver, and the Red lower class.  Mare Barrow, whose life is capsized when she discovers a secret ability that is only found in those who have Silver blood even though hers is red.  You can imagine that this presents a few problems.

It’s a basic idea: teenage girl who has a semi-illegal job discovers that she is extraordinary in some way, shape, or form.  However, I’ve read a lot of peasant-turned-princess fiction lately and I think that this one brings something new to the table.  There is of course the supernatural abilities that everyone wants and no one has as well as the inevitable love triangle, but none of these aspects feel dated or overused.  Aveyard keeps the reader’s attention sharper than a razor by twisting the plot in directions that were unforeseeable and often unforgivable, but then she presents an entire new set of details that neutralize the pH and balance out the situation just long enough to make the reader comfortable… and then she throws something else at you.  The only constant is change.

I think that this ideal sums up the book as a whole.  Mare is ripped from her world because of her abilities, forced to leave behind the family that she loved and the impoverished town that she grew to appreciate.  She is taken from a world where any movement is groundbreaking to a palace where you can either hunt or be hunted and “cutthroat” is everyone’s favorite word.

Mare’s reaction to change is what drives the plot.  When Aveyard skillfully adds a new facet to the situation, Mare copes or flees or sometimes does a little bit of both.  She is representative of what we would do in these situations, what we would do for the people back home watching on their televisions and wishing us luck.  She represents the ties that we always have to the places from where we came, the places and the people that forced us to grow roots out of necessity or out of desire.  Mare teaches us that we are no more than an accumulation of our experiences and, no matter what the world tries to turn us into, we simply are who we are.

XO, Annie

Why I Write Unapologetically

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am a full-fledged Pinterest addict.  Pinterest is such a useful resource as a writer and I always find new thoughts or images that spur my creativity and induce inspiration.  (You can follow my personal Pinterest here  and my writing Pinterest here).  I never know what I will find on this fabulous website and that it the beauty of it.

One such quote that I found about a month ago really stuck with me: “You own everything that happened to you.  Tell your stories.  If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.” -unknown.

I was surprised that this quote in particular intrigued me as much as it did.  As a person, I want to please everyone and never throw anyone under the bus even if they deserve it.  I believed for a long time that I needed to write about what made people good and draw positive inspiration from my surroundings, but after finding this quote, I started to consider that maybe I didn’t have to always be nice to my characters.

We live in a world where people are good and bad and have every moral standing in between.  There is a richness about the living characters who breathe the same air and bask under the same sun as we do; the world’s greatest are sitting right next to us in class or driving behind us on the highway and their greatness comes from their weaknesses.  Some people are horrible and some people are saints and we should draw inspiration from both.

Writing is a case study in the finest sense because writing is based in observation.  We must know what the living characters next to us are like before we can create fictional characters on paper.  Look the to people who surround you for they will always be your greatest muse and be unapologetic in your portrayal of them.  If they wanted to be the heroes of the story, then they should’ve behaved better.

XO, Annie

My Favorite Snow Day Reads

There’s something beautiful about frolicking through a field of gleaming white snow… until your nose gets cold, and then it’s time to come inside for a cup of cocoa and a good book.  Here are some of my favorites to put you in a wintry mood or, if you don’t enjoy snow in your socks, transport you to a sunny place.

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If I Stay by Gayle Foreman

There’s nothing like a snow day to tug on the heartstrings and this book knows that better than anything.  If I Stay is the story of Mia and her decision following the fatal accident that ripped apart her family: should she stay or should she go?  This is a read that will remind you how important family is and pairs well with a warm cup of tea and a fuzzy blanket.

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It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

This is one of my favorites YA lit books and a fabulous snow day read.  It’s Kind of a Funny Story is about Craig Gilner, whose drive and determination slowly eat away at his life until Craig nearly kills himself.  Craig’s suicidal episode lands him in a mental hospital for five days and this book focuses on Craig’s road to recovery.  Trust me when I say that you’ll want to draw mind maps, like the one featured on the cover, after reading this book.

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A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

If you’re not into the whole “winter wonderland” thing, check out A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams.  Set in 1938, Lily Dane navigates the tense and treacherous social scene of Seaview, Rhode Island’s elite.  This book is a no-snow-allowed instant escape route to sun in between your toes and saltwater in your hair.

Happy reading!

XO, Annie

My Writing Playlist

As any writer knows, the muse is a tricky thing to pin down at the right time.  As I’ve developed as a writer over the past few years, I’ve learned that music is an easy way to get my creative juices flowing.

Here is a list of my favorite songs to listen to while writing.

1901-Birdy

A Lesson from Mr. Gray-The Paper Kites

American Beauty-Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors

Barcelona-George Ezra

Bloodstream-Ed Sheeran

Budapest-George Ezra

Cecelia And The Satellite-Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

Clairvoyant-The Story So Far

Dark Paradise-Lana Del Rey

Drag-Day Wave

Farewell, December-Matt Nathanson

For Those Below-Mumford & Sons

FourFiveSeconds-Rihanna

Give Me Love-Ed Sheeran

Hero-Family of the Year

Hide and Seek-Imogen Heap

Hold Back The River-James Bay

Homecoming Heroes– The Head and the Heart

How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep-Bombay Bicycle Club

I See Fire-Ed Sheeran

In Reverie-The Paper Kites

Last Days of Summer in San Francisco-Matt Nathanson

Medicine-The 1975

Meet Virginia-Train

Out of the Woods-Ryan Adams

Prayer in C – Robin Schulz Radio Edit-Lilly Wood and The Prick

Renegades-X Ambassadors

Shake-The Head and the Heart

She Wants-Sunset Sons

Shirtsleeves-Ed Sheeran

Stars-Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

Tapestry-Carole King

Wasting Water-Conor Zwetsch

White Blank Page-Mumford & Sons

Wicked Game – Live at Killkenny Arts Festival, Ireland/2011-James Vincent McMorrow

Winter Winds-Mumford & Sons

I hope that you enjoy these songs!

XO, Annie

What I Read in 2016

A year makes a big difference.  366 days ago, I was starting my second semester as a high school junior and I was looking with deer-in-the-headlight eyes into the year to come.  2016 was the year that I would start my last year of high school, the year I would start writing my first novel as part of my independent study, the year I would apply to college and, with any scrap of luck, get into the school of my dreams.  2016 was loaded with opportunities and all I wanted to do was take advantage of them.

And now, 366 days later, I am not at all the person I thought I would be, but I think that that’s for the better.  I accomplished my goals, checked off the boxes, but the changes I’ve experienced over the past year cannot be defined by a checklist.  I’ve grown as a reader and a writer, a student and a person, and I owe most of this change to the amazing literature that I encountered in 2016.

Listed below are just a few of my favorites.  There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to talk about all the fabulous books I read this year, but these three left a definitive mark on my relationship with reading and writing.  So, without further ado, let’s take a trip down memory lane and reminisce on what reminded me why I love words.

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The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
Words cannot describe how much I loved this book—I’m honestly getting chills just thinking about it. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan, which was published posthumously after her tragic death in 2012, is a collection of nine essays and nine short stories that capture and encompass snippets of human life in it rawest form. Keegan picks us up and drops us in the war-torn Middle East, the passenger seat on an exterminator’s truck, a hometown Christmas pageant, and makes each seem unique and worthwhile. I have a sneaking suspicion that The Opposite of Loneliness will continue to be one of my favorites for a long, long time.

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The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
I’ve never been much of a nonfiction gal, but boy did I enjoy this book. The Devil in the White City is the story of Dr. H. H. Holmes, womanizer and con artist, and Daniel Burnham, renowned Chicagoan architect and the man in charge of building the World’s Columbian Fair in 1893. Erik Larson allows the stories of two very different men to unfold almost like plotted fiction, twisting the reader’s perceptions until you can’t help but be on the edge of your seat. If all nonfiction books were like this one, then I certainly wouldn’t mind crossing over to the dark side again.

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The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

My final favorite of 2016 was a required read for my AP Literature class.  In the past, I have found great distaste in required reads, but this book was an extreme exception to the norm.  The History of Love documents the stories of Holocaust survivor Leo Gursky, witty teenager Alma Singer, and late obituary writer Zvi Litvinoff, and the ways in which their stories intertwine.  It is impossible to read this book without simultaneously smiling and crying at its poetic beauty and tragedy.  Krauss weaves a story so intricate that the reader finds something new every time he cracks it open.  My only advice is this: The History of Love does not pair well with mascara, but enjoying this literary masterpiece is well worth the runny makeup.

XO, Annie