Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Review Source: eARC for review through Raincoast Books
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.
Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.
But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…
For a writer who has predominantly made her career in the SF/F category, Ann Aguirre sure knows how to pack a punch in the contemporary genre. I've loved her New Adult stories, and this first contemporary YA offering impressed me just as much. Two things all of Ann's books have in common, regardless of genre, are a well developed protagonist and strong, interesting relationships between characters.
The Queen.. is so many things. It's a fun book, a sweet book, a sad book, a borderline angsty book. It encompasses all of those strong emotions that go hand in hand with being a teenager. Sage is someone who has had an incredibly rough past (things are hinted at, but you don't get a completely clear picture of her past until close to the end), and she's determine to be The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things: someone who is known for being nice and showing kindness to others. She's genuinely a good person, but she's always scared of going back to the scared and angry person she was, so she hides the "bad" parts of herself.
A big part of this book is the relationship between Sage and Shane, and I absolutely adored them. Shane is a little bit damaged from his own less than ideal past, but he's also very sweet and hungry for affection. I think both Sage and Shane are desperate for someone to love them, which could turn out badly, but instead they come together in a very healthy way, becoming a couple who support each other and build each other up. There are so many cute moments between these two, and so many realistic little fights that (shocker for the romance genre) they resolve quickly, using the experience to learn about each other and how to communicate and interact.
Of course this book is also about Sage as a person, learning about herself through this romantic relationship and through new friendships. I especially loved her friendship with Lila and how supportive they were of one another. Sage also has a great relationship with her Aunt Gabby, who she lives with, and what she learns about herself and her environment make this bond even stronger.
I highly recommend The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things to all contemporary YA fans. It's a book which I fell for right in the first couple of pages, and that connection never let go. I mean, I actually burst into tears and got goosebumps at one of the parts close to the end of the book (minor spoiler: the scene when Sage gets the post-it's from everyone else /end minor spoiler), I was so overwhelmed with emotion. Bottom line: this is an incredibly well-written book filled with realistic teenage characters. At this point I think Ann Aguirre could write anything and I would love it.
GORGEOUS!! I absolutely adore it.
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Ann Aguirre is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author and RITA winner with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, and various pets. Ann likes books, emo music, action movies, and she writes all kinds of genre fiction for adults and teens, published with Harlequin, Macmillan, and Penguin, among others.
Where to find Ann:
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Excerpt from The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things:
When I walk past the music room, I hear something that stills me in my tracks. People push past; I've become a rock in the middle of a rushing stream, but I can't move. Then someone shoves me from behind, not on purpose, but the result is the same. I slam into the lockers past the classroom and bounce. The underclassmen who were wrestling don't even notice that my brain has stopped firing.
Shane Cavendish plays like it's his reason for living.
I don't write that on the Post-it, of course. That would just get him beaten up even harder. Instead I scrawl, You’re awesome on the guitar, because the jocks might think that’s cool and leave him the hell alone. It's a long shot, as I don't have any particular cred with their crew, but being a musician is pretty spectacular. I can't breathe for how good—how remarkably talented—he is. And I suspect that if he found out anyone was paying attention, he'd stop playing.
Backtracking to his locker will make me late for class, but it's worth it. I stick the note just below the vents, as I always do, but this time it feels weightier, more somehow, like this is a turning point. Shaking off the odd sensation, I dodge into Econ with a mumbled excuse. Sadly, it holds no weight with Mrs. Palmer. Unlike the male teachers, she isn't impressed with talk of 'female problems', so I get my first detention of the year, only the second I've ever had.
Since tomorrow is Friday and I have standing plans with Ryan, I ask, “Can I just get it over with tonight?”
I calculate; school lets out at 2:45. An hour of sitting in silence, and I’m supposed to be at work at four. If I hurry, I can still make my shift at the Curly Q. Which sounds like a diner, but it's actually a hair salon. I'm not qualified to do anything but wash hair, sweep up, and answer the phone, but it's better than fast food. I work two afternoons a week from four to eight, which earns me spending money for the week. Since I'm under eighteen, I get paid fifty cents an hour less than an adult; that makes me a bargain. After detention ends, I’ll just need to ride hard to keep Mildred from yelling at me.
Mrs. Palmer glances up from scribbling down my doom. “Can you get a ride home?”
I’ve always got my bike out front, and the town is small enough that I can ride anywhere I need to go from school. This is the one positive aspect of living in a tiny berg like this, especially given my opinion of privately-owned fossil fuel burning vehicles, which covers nicely for my lingering fear.