Book Review: The Afterlife of Holly Chase

The Afterlife of Holly ChaseHolly Chase
Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: October 24th, 2017
Genre, as told by Kibby: YA contemporary with a dash of weird magic/science-y realism
Rating: 5 Stars!
Synopsis: On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.
She didn’t.
And then she died.
Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.
Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable. But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

Let me start by saying that I DO NOT like YA contemporary novels. qG2h9G9NMRRE4I’ll read them only in the most exact of situations (The Charlotte Holmes novels, for instance), but this book was the selection for my Bookstagram Book Club (GO #TEAMKINGWHALE) and the synopsis had just enough vague magic-y/science-y weirdness to intrigue me.

But The Afterlife of Holly Chase melted even my cold, dead old lady heart.

The novel follows failed scrooge, Holly Chase, through…you guessed it: her afterlife. There is no heaven or hell for her, just the life as a sort of ghost/zombie vagueness that works for Project Scrooge. I felt like some of the intricacies of Project Scrooge could have been fleshed out more, but this novel is about the human aspect, not the technical. I can forgive it leaving out that part of world building.

I was worried that I would hate Holly Chase. There is nothing I hate more than a “poor rich girl” but Cynthia Hand deftly wrote Holly as flawed human that has depth and the ability to grow. I did dislike Holly at first, but very quickly I was drawn into her loneliness. Not the loneliness of her rich, teenage life, but the loneliness of her afterlife. I felt for her and found myself rooting for her to somehow get a happy ending (which is surprising since I’m usually a fan of tragic endings).

There was a fairly large supporting cast in this book and while some were not well explored, I felt I was able to get enough about them to work within the story. I think Boz and Stephanie were my favorite of the supporting cast. And while we got quite a bit of Stephanie’s backstory, I wish we’d gotten to know Boz a bit more. But at the same time, the unknown gives the novel the right feel.

I think what I liked most about the book was that even though I knew something was going to be all plot-twisty, I never could quite put my finger on it. It kept me invested and constantly wondering where this was all going. There were some bits that could be classified as clichéd but they were written in a way that I enjoyed and therefore didn’t care about the cliché.

And then there was the ending…

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I will not say any spoilers but I will say that I cried a lot because even though I try to hide it, I am a total sap. I called one thing about the ending, but not everything. And regardless, I loved everything that came to pass.

At the end of the day, this was not a perfect book. But it made me cry AND it made me happy, which is what I love in a book. So 5 stars on enjoyment alone, 4 stars if I was being critical about clichés and some lack of world building.

Book Review: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

PridePride
Author: Ibi Zoboi
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Goodreads Synopsis: Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.
Okay, I have to start this out by saying that I am NOT a contemporary reader. I just…always want to smack these teens upside the head and tell them they are being dumb. Teens in fantasy or sci-fi are just easier to stomach for me. But this was a Pride and Prejudice retelling, so I decided to overlook my aversion to contemporary for my love of Austen. That all being said, I mostly enjoyed this book.

Let’s start with what I liked: the setting and supporting cast. The author brings Bushwick, New York to life in a way that dropped me right into the streets inhabited by the Benitez family. You can hear it, you can smell it, you can taste it. I truly felt like I had experienced a piece of life in this neighborhood.

Then we have the supporting cast, who were all so perfectly characterized. Specifically, Carrie (Caroline Bingley) and Warren (Wickham). Carrie is snobby and uptight, but also has a likable side that her counterpart lacked in the original story. Warren on the other hand, is somehow more despicable than Wickham ever was. The updated version of his past discretions are so good, but in a way that just makes you sick. The Benitez family is also nicely updated and are just as wonderfully ridiculous.

My main problem lies in Zuri Benitez (Elizabeth Bennet) and Darius Darcy (Mr. Darcy). Darius, while aggravating at times because he is a teenage boy, was not that bad. He just lacked any smoldering or brooding or chemistry. He wasn’t a lovable grumpy rich guy, he was a teenage boy and nothing more. And then there is Zuri. I kinda hated her and it is really hard to like a book when you strongly dislike the main character. Zuri, at first glance, is smart, streetwise, and wants to take care of her family. But the moment the Darcy boys move in to the newly renovated Mini Mansion across the street, all that goodness goes out the window. Zuri is ridiculously rude, judgmental, and hypocritical, in ways that go beyond her original counterpart’s flaws. She gets all twisted about her sister, Janae (Jane), being happy with Ainsley (Mr. Bingley) and constantly complains about how she’ll have no time with her. But then once her sister is heartbroken, Zuri decides that trying to date two guys and spending NO TIME with her sister is what she wants to do. Um, excuse me? The more the story went on, the more I disliked Zuri and it just wore me down because I love the character of Elizabeth Bennet.

As I stated before, I mostly enjoyed this book. I think it is a smart and well-done update of Pride and Prejudice. It is not a carbon copy of the original story, but instead a timely retelling that tackles gentrification and classism. This book makes no apologies in how it portrays the lives of characters that are usually relegated to token ethnic characters and I know that we need more books like this. At the end of the day, I’ve decided to give this book a 3.5 star rating because while I thought the writing was phenomenal for the most part, I felt the two leads had zero chemistry and I didn’t like either of them.

I was blessed to have a reading buddy for this book, which helped immensely, and that buddy was Sabreena over at Books And Prosecco. You should 1000% check out her blog and #bookstagram.

Have you read Pride? What did you think?