Review- Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau

Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band—if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom . . . that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.

Writer Kevin Panetta and artist Savanna Ganucheau concoct a delicious recipe of intricately illustrated baking scenes and blushing young love, in which the choices we make can have terrible consequences, but the people who love us can help us grow.

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Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau’s Bloom is a story as beautifully crafted as the breads that are sold in Ari’s family bakery. Ari’s journey to figuring out what he wants out of life is one that is incredibly familiar to most of us. It’s very rare for anyone to have it all figured out as an 18 year old but we still see that so often in YA.

Ari is a mess and desperately needs to figure himself out but he feels that he can’t do that if he is trapped, working for his dad at the bakery. Enter Hector: a young man on his own journey through grief with a deep love for baking. Ari immediately hires Hector on to be his replacement and things seems to start falling into place. The unlikely pair bond fairly quickly and become very important in each other’s lives.

A major theme that Panetta explores in the book is toxic friendships. This is something that I always want to see more of in YA because it is a very real and dangerous thing that so many of us go through but have no real weapons to fight against it with. Ari is clearly aware of how awful some of his friends are but still makes excuses and justifies their behavior because they are his only friends. His journey to standing up for himself to those friends is painful but poignant and one that I appreciate deeply.

This book lives and breathes in its own subtlety. There are scenes that are told less with dialogue and more with a look from across the room. Ganucheau’s ability to tell so much of the story with her illustrations is something that really helps this book soar to new heights. She and Panetta are a dream team and I really hope to see them work together again in the future.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a very beautiful love story but it made me so hungry. So so hungry. So, if Panetta and Ganuchea are out there listening by any chance, THANKS A LOT!

Review – Keep This To Yourself by Tom Ryan

It’s been a year since the Catalog Killer terrorized the sleepy seaside town of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace. 

Like everyone else in town, eighteen-year-old Mac Bell is trying to put that horrible summer behind him—easier said than done since Mac’s best friend Connor was the murderer’s final victim. But when he finds a cryptic message from Connor, he’s drawn back into the search for the killer—who might not have been a random drifter after all. Now nobody—friends, neighbors, or even the sexy stranger with his own connection to the case—is beyond suspicion. Sensing that someone is following his every move, Mac struggles to come to terms with his true feelings towards Connor while scrambling to uncover the truth.

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I had no idea what I was in for when I started this book. I’m usually all in for murder mysteries from the get-go because the ones I choose are usually trashy and easy to just melt into. There is nothing trashy about this book. As soon as I finished, I wanted to read it again. And again. And again. Hold on, I’ll make it a little bit more clear for y’all: I am head over heels in love with this novel.

For years, I have desperately searched for a book that captures the tone and spirit of my favorite 90s slasher film, I Know What You Did Last Summer,  and I’ve finally found it. From the creepy ocean town to the unlikely group of friends, this book hit all the marks I needed and was so nostalgic to me but still felt so modern and fresh.

The book begins by catching us up on what happened a year before when a serial killer claimed four victims then seemingly disappeared. We are introduced to the final victim’s four best friends, including our protagonist, Mac. After the introductory roll call, Mac discovers the note left behind by Connor and we are off to the races. The story never feels boring or slows down. Every moment is important and there is something about the way it is written that doesn’t let you tear your eyes away.

Grief is an ever-present theme within this novel and it could be said that it is the glue that holds the story together. Grief is such a strong emotion that we have in our lives and it can make us do things that are absolutely illogical. It can also be the thing that lights a fire under us and helps us prevail against whatever is trying to take us down. I love how Tom Ryan played with so many different shades of grief with nearly all of the characters. I think that grief is something that we should be able to talk about more openly and I love that this story takes a huge step in normalizing it.

Our hero, Mac, is such a layered and dynamic character. He is obsessive. He is flawed. He is kind. Sometimes he speaks before he thinks. He feels very three dimensional. Not only is he struggling with solving his best friend’s murder, he is also coming to terms with the fact that he had feelings for him as well. This journey is one that really highlights his growth from beginning to end. I love Mac dearly. He is the gay detective that we all deserve.

One thing that really stood out for me while reading this was the fact that it is such eerie storytelling. I spent most of the time reading this feeling very unsettled and tense. Almost every single person you meet throughout could be the killer and I was incredibly suspicious the entire time. There were also moments that genuinely scared me. Fear is an incredibly rare thing for me to feel while reading so I was totally shook to find myself gasping out loud.

As I read the book, I kept having moments of awe. The writing is just spectacular. Not only is the prose very fluid and comfortable, but the mystery itself is ridiculously solid. Every new piece of information that we learn is important and vital. The clues to the truth are hidden throughout the book but they are so finely woven that I didn’t have any idea what the truth was until it was actually revealed at the end. I can usually put a finger on who the culprit is but this one completely stumped me.

Tom Ryan’s Keep This To Yourself is a beautiful book. It’s packed with shocking twists and gory details but, more than that, it’s full of love. By the end, I cared so deeply for Mac and his friends that I was devastated to say goodbye to them. This is one book that I’ll be re-reading for years to come.

5/5 Stars

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Review – The Time Traveler’s Guide to Modern Romance by Madeline J. Reynolds.

A boy from the past. A boy from the present. An impossible future.

Elias Caldwell is out of place. In nineteenth-century England, he doesn’t feel he can truly be himself—whoever that may be. Then his grandfather gives him a pocket watch he claims can transport him to any place and time. Elias doesn’t believe it…until he’s whisked away to twenty-first-century America.

Tyler Forrester just wants to be a successful filmmaker after graduation and fall hopelessly in love. His dreams miraculously come true when a boy appears out of thin air. Not only did he get it all on camera, but as he helps Elias navigate a strange new world for him, Tyler discovers Elias is exactly who he was missing.

But their love has a time limit. Elias’s disappearance from the past has had devastating side effects. Now he must choose between going back or staying with the boy who helped him find his true self and happiness he never imagined he could have.

REVIEW

Going in to The Time Traveler’s Guide to Romance, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I don’t read a lot of romance or sci-if but I was pleasantly surprised.

The story of Elias and Tyler is sugary sweet and completely adorable. I really loved the author’s ability to craft an honest and relatable dialogue between these two characters. All of the best moments in this book are those where the characters are being vulnerable with each other. The story really soars when we get to take in the intricacies of falling in love with someone ripped from time.

The only issue I had with the book is essentially a non-issue. The central conflict begins very quickly. I only wish that I would have had more time to sit with the stakes of why Elias wanted to leave his present. I would’ve liked to have seen more of his interactions with his family and others in his time to really drive why he was so miserable. 

I really loved the dynamic of Tyler being the one to find Elias right as he enters modern society and how he becomes everything to this boy from the past. I loved all of the little moments of Elias experiencing future shock again and again. There is a scene where he is exposed to the sounds of David Bowie for the first time and it gave me all of the warm and fuzzies.

There are a couple of subplots later in the narrative that I didn’t think were handled as well as they should’ve been and that is fine. It didn’t hurt the book that much for me. Just mildly irksome. I don’t usually like conflicts to be resolved by tying them up all cute and perfect with a bow but that is just a personal preference.

On the whole, I really did enjoy this book for so many reasons. It was a very nice and quick read that just made me feel good and, honestly, sometimes that’s all you really need.