REVIEW: ONE PLUS ONE, BY JOJO MOYES

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Ed Nicholls finds himself in quite a pickle. He was just trying to break it off with an annoying and somewhat clingy girlfriend when he spouted off about a new software launch in his company. He certainly had no idea that he would live to regret it.

To say that Ed is clueless at times would be an understatement.

Meanwhile, Jess Thomas, a single mother with a daughter and a stepson to raise, is struggling and trying to make it against all the odds stacked against them. On the plus side, her daughter Tanzie is a maths genius; but the downside: she could benefit from a private school. Jess doesn’t have the money, since she cleans rental units at a resort, and works at a nearby pub in the evenings. A Maths Olympiad looks like a possible answer, as the prize money could turn things around. But they have no way to get there–it’s in Aberdeen, Scotland, and they are in England–so as a last resort, she decides to drive the old Rolls Royce that has not been driven in ages.

Meeting up with Ed was a side effect of her two jobs, but when he stops on the highway to help out when the police have pulled her over, neither of them could have imagined what would happen next. He is, after all, a stranger.

The road trip could not have been more uncomfortable, but along the way, something changes. And suddenly each of them has something to offer the other, and what might seem like a most unlikely pairing seems almost possible. But then something happens that tears them apart.

Will they manage to sort out their problems on their own? Can they mend the differences between them?

I thoroughly enjoyed One Plus One: A Novel, a story that reminded me of real people trying to connect with one another, despite their flaws and their mistakes. The characters were wonderful, especially Tanzie and Nicky, and the dialogue between them all on their amazing road trip made me smile, even the parts that revealed their quirky aspects, and most definitely when their flaws were most apparent. The story was also one with important themes of morality, bullying, societal differences, and all the messy details of family life. A definite 5 star read; another wonderful book from this author.

REVIEW: FALLING INTO PLACE, BY AMY ZHANG

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Enter the teen world in small town Meridian, where who your friends are can define you.

But sometimes, as our MC Liz Emerson discovers, that world can be stultifying and can turn you into the kind of person you hate. Hating herself, after years of being the popular, pretty one, Liz decides to crash her car, to kill herself in what looks like an accident.

You know what they say about best laid plans. Falling into Place weaves between the past and the present in a somewhat unpredictable fashion: Five months before the crash, # hours or days before the crash, etc. But as the story circles back and forth, we are offered a glimpse of who Liz was, who she has become, and what events in her life created her.

Yes, she was definitely an unlikeable character, as were most of her friends. Looking at their world, I was reminded of my own teen years, but back then, we had different challenges. Different obstacles. But the core of them is the same. We all long to be liked, we wish we could change the mistakes we’ve made, and we suffer in silence rather than share our feelings.

Sometimes I just wanted to be done with this story. It was sad, it was frustrating, and in so many ways, it reminded me of every other YA book I have read (not that many, to be sure). Troubled kids, bad choices, and mean streaks a mile long.

Bullying comes up, too, and then I realize that Liz’s moments of introspection have led her to believe there is no redemption for her. And now I begin to empathize with her. I realize that she feels helpless in the face of all she has done…and doesn’t believe that anything can change that for her.

An interesting twist: the story is narrated by an unknown someone.

In the end, we are left with questions: what will Liz do? Is there hope for her after all? Definitely a book that will leave me thinking about the big issues in life. 4.0 stars.