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Summary:  Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars.

What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending.

My Review: I had a hard time liking this book at first. Reshma is a very unlikable character. She is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her top spot in school, including cheating, plagiarizing, and even suing the school. It was difficult to connect to someone like this, but eventually, I began to be intrigued by someone so vastly different than I am. Reshma has no friends and has a very skewed opinion about her fellow students, her teachers, and schooling in general. Her parents are not much better. Her dad lets her do whatever she wants and while her mom disapproves, she doesn’t do anything to stop Reshma.

It was truly fascinating to see the lengths that Reshma is willing to go to get what she feels she deserves. She definitely thinks very well of herself, and though she is obnoxious and I didn’t like her, it was refreshing to read about a teenager so sure of themselves and what they want for themselves. Her friendship, for the lack of a better word, with Alex was very entertaining. Alex is a great characters and I would have liked to get in her brain more. The book is written almost like a diary in first person narration, so you only see the other characters as Reshma sees them. It’s a shame too, because I would love to know some of their stories as well, especially why Alex lets Reshma hang out with her.

Reshma changes slightly toward the middle and end of the book. There isn’t a reason given for why, even she can’t explain it. She backs off on a few things and it bothered me because it seemed very sudden. She didn’t gradually grow and change through the book, so her change of heart seemed too pat for me.

 

Rating: 3.5/5

Serpent King

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Summary: The son of a Pentecostal preacher faces his personal demons as he and his two outcast friends try to make it through their senior year of high school in rural Forrestville, Tennessee without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self.

My Review: This book is told by three characters: Dill, the outcast son of an incarcerated preacher, Lydia, the fashion blogger desperate to get out of their small town and into New York City, and Travis, a loner from an abusive family obsessed with a set of fantasy novel series.

Dill is the angry one of the three. Dill’s father has been in jail and he takes care of his mother while dealing with being an outcast in school. He is angry about what his father did, he is angry that his Mom has to work so hard, he is angry that he gets blamed for what his father did, and he is angry that he will be stuck in his hometown with no prospects of a future. He takes a lot of his anger out at Lydia who has a normal home life and can’t wait to leave. He lashes out at her because he wants her to stay.

Lydia is the most centered of the characters. Her parents are very much a part of her life and support her hopes and dreams. They seem a bit too perfect in my opinion, but her interactions with them are some of the more light hearted aspects of the novel. Her plan is to go to NYU. She has some connections due to her fashion blog and uses them to help her get out of her little home town.

Travis is my favorite. He is a loner who is highly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels. He wears a dragon pendant necklace and carries a staff with him in honor of the novels. He has re-read them many times and goes on online forums to discuss them for hours. He is very socially awkward, but he is able to make a connection with a girl through these forums. Dill and Lydia also do something for him that gave me this huge grin.

I liked this novel, but it had its issues. The language was a bit too wordy at times and I was unhappy with one of the major plot points of the novel. I don’t think it was a necessary plot point. I think the book would have been fine without it.

Rating: 3/5