October 5, 2011

Popular and Tighter: Snapshots (and Giveaway!)

Both of these books have mental health aspects, but I can't say too much about them for fear of majorly spoiling! So instead of the regular Psychtember review format, I'm going to use my quick "snapshot" instead.

Popular by Alissa Grosso

"Meet the clique that rules Fidelity High: Olivia, Zelda, Nordica, and Shelly, each one handpicked by über-popular Hamilton Best. You know you're "in" when you make the guest list for one of Hamilton's parties. And in the thralls of senior year, everyone wants to get noticed by Hamilton.

But Hamilton's elite entourage is coming apart at the seams. Olivia fantasizes about finally having a boyfriend, Zelda dreams of ditching high school, Nordica wants to be alone with her photography, and Shelly's plotting to dethrone Hamilton. Lies and secrets are ripping away the careful ties that have kept them together for years. But Hamilton has the biggest secret of all, one that only her boyfriend Alex knows. If the truth got out, it would shock everyone and destroy Hamilton's fragile world—and she'll do anything to protect her secret and keep her clique together.
" (from Goodreads)

The subject: a one-of-a-kind high school clique...trust me, you've never seen one quite like this before.

Shutter speed: pretty snappy, as the social scene is ripe with drama — although it does become repetitive after a little while, as Part 1 is drawn out a bit more than I thought was really necessary.

What's in the background? Alex, the apparently perfect boyfriend...but he comes more into the foreground in Part 2, and we get to see what's really going through his mind. Getting Alex's perspective adds such a necessary layer to what's going on.

Zoom in on: Jasmine, or really any outsider to the clique. I'd like to see a little more of what everyone else thinks of Hamilton.

Anything out of focus? I had some trouble remembering which perspective I was reading, since Part 1 flips between five.

The mental health issue is fascinating, and the way the storyline is crafted around it is stupendous. I had a few niggling questions about the accuracy of how a certain disorder is portrayed, but overall it's handled well.

Ready? Say... "Secrets!"

Click! 4.5 shooting stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher for review.

Tighter by Adele Griffin 

"When 17-year-old Jamie arrives on the idyllic New England island of Little Bly to work as a summer au pair, she is stunned to learn of the horror that precedes her. Seeking the truth surrounding a young couple's tragic deaths, Jamie discovers that she herself looks shockingly like the dead girl—and that she has a disturbing ability to sense the two ghosts. Why is Jamie's connection to the couple so intense? What really happened last summer at Little Bly? As the secrets of the house wrap tighter and tighter around her, Jamie must navigate the increasingly blurred divide between the worlds of the living and the dead." (from Goodreads) 
The subject: an au pair struggling to understand the clues she sees about the previous au pair's death...

The setting: the island of Little Bly, a seemingly perfect holiday spot

Shutter speed: fairly slow-moving, I thought. It's not showy in suspense or horror, but the mystery is confusing and keeps you guessing, distrusting everyone. Something about it made me feel uneasy and apprehensive as I read. And the final reveal is mind-boggling.

What's in the background? a cast of distinct, well-depicted characters that you can't quite pin down in terms of "good" or "bad." Sebastian's relationship with Jamie added an easy, sweet and stable element to her rocky existence on Little Bly. Plus, he was one of the few characters I actually liked (many of them aren't intended to be particularly sympathetic, I think...Jamie herself is not exactly likeable).

Zoom in on: Jamie's charge, Isa. Even when everything was revealed, I still had questions about that odd little girl.

Anything out of focus? I found the backstory of Jamie and her teacher to be a bit much. I know Tighter is based on The Turn of the Screw, which I have not read, so perhaps this goes back to the original...but in any case, I did not find the cause of Jamie's angst — being rejected by her teacher — to be very convincing.

In terms of the psychology, by and large it is done well, demonstrating several key facts about a particular issue. Overall I think one needs to suspend some disbelief; there are a few places I'm not so sure the explanation behind events is entirely plausible, but at any rate, it's a clever ending Adele Griffin presents the reader with.

Ready? Say... "Woah..."

Click! 4 shooting stars.

Take two? Yes. This is the kind of book that you'll want to re-read from the beginning once you reach the end, because the revelation is so spectacular it completely changes the meaning of the rest of the novel. 
And lucky for you guys, I'm giving away a copy of Popular!

The rules:

- US/Canada only
- Entrants must be 13 years or older.
- One entry per person.
- Following and tweeting are not required, but always much appreciated.
- Winner will be selected randomly and contacted by e-mail for their address.
- Ends Oct. 20 at 11:59 pm EST. 

To enter, please fill in THIS FORM. Comments, while wonderful, do NOT count as entries.


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