Tag Archives: roadtrip



I received a copy of the eBook from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Outspoken is a cute, contemporary coming-of-age story about 18 year old Penny Beck. She is a girl who always says yes when she means no. She is a people pleaser, and that has led to some disasters in her personal life. So she is going to change.

A grandpa with early stages of Alzheimers who needs someone to check in on him is the perfect excuse to leave home for the summer before college. Penny travels from Montana to the coast of South Carolina, practicing her new assertive self on all she meets.

Archer could be trouble, though. Penny cares what he thinks of her, and is in danger of losing her newfound independence.

This was a light, fun read. Lora Richardson successfully gets into the head of an 18 year old girl searching for independence. Her personal struggles were realistic; she fought with her parents about her decision to not go to college in the fall, she wanted space from her overbearing family, she wanted to make her own decisions. She was uncertain about her direction, and terrified to break the rules.

That said, I’m not sure I really liked Penny. She is friendly and willing to approach new people, and, to be honest, a bit boring. The disconnect I had with her character was simple: she thought of herself as a someone who couldn’t say no, she slept with a guy who had just dumped her, but then she had no problem telling someone she’d barely met and who thought he was doing something nice that he was rude and shouldn’t interfere. Speaking up for herself isn’t actually her problem. Timing and delivery, on the other hand, is definitely questionable.

Archer didn’t really appeal to me; he was intended as the bad-boy love interest, but I found him a bit boring as well.  That said, the development of their relationship was cute.

The plot wasn’t very fast paced  or exciting, mainly, I believe, because it dealt with issues of day to day life and growing up. For all that, Richardson portrayed a realistic life of an 18 year old on her own for the first time; we didn’t all have exciting lives at that time!

Because this novel is character driven, I had hoped for more development throughout the story. I think this is where it fell short. Penny did not really seem to change; I didn’t find that she really became more sure of herself. Perhaps her romance with Archer was more mature than her last one, developing at a realistic pace, but her basic character remained the same.

All in all, a nice romance from a debut author. It is a good read for a teenager, with nice themes about standing up for yourself, growing up, and when to ask for help. I don’t think it will appeal so much to those of us who already have figured it (mostly!) out.

Outspoken is published by Createspace.




After reading a few chapters of David Arnold’s Mosquitoland, my first thought was a negative “quirky, pretentious, and self indulgent”.  Wrong.  This book is authentic and gripping and I did not want it to end. I could not put it down.

Mary Iris Malone (Mim) is 17 and recently transplanted to Mississippi from Cleveland after the break down of her parents’ marriage.  Her dad and new stepmom move her for a fresh start, but she isn’t happy. She is an anomaly, different. After a chance eavesdropping in the principal’s office, she realizes her mom is very sick and hops a Greyhound to take the 987 mile trip to save her.

This is a road trip that turns everything on its head, literally.  The bus crash, the pinnacle of all Carls, a chance meeting with an elderly lady who smells like cookies and has pizzazz, the creepy Poncho Man, the search for Ahab, and the final sad truth about her mom.

Yet another book written in alternating voices, but this time, both are Mim’s.  She narrates the story, but also writes letters to someone named Iz, in the form of a journal, recording her memories and lessons learned and general thoughts on her existence to date. The journal provides an opportunity to tell of her life before the big break-up, giving insight into her family and state of mind, and allowing Arnold to seamlessly include information that would have been difficult to impart otherwise. Everything contributes to her character and the plot without feeling extraneous.

Arnold’s characters are beautiful. Mim is such a perfect, irresistible teenager; she is brilliant, vulnerable, observant, pretentious, FUNNY.  Her narration is so spot on, nothing wasted, that her voice remains with you long after you finish her story. Walt, a teen boy with Down Syndrome, Beck, the hot college boy from seat 17C, her evil stepmother, Kathy, her dad, who believes Mim has a mental illness, are all wonderfully scripted and add so much to Mim’s story.

And following the theme of “what the hell do I know?”, the ending was a complete and total surprise.  Every bit of it.  Everything I predicted would happen – wrong.  Every person I thought I knew – wrong.  It was worth reading this novel just for the ending.

Definitely a YA novel, not really for the younger crowd.  Anyone 14 and waaaaay up will love it.

Mosquitoland is published by Viking Children’s Press.

How to Be Bad


Looking for something fun, that brings back teenage memories?  E. Lockhart understands, and joins fellow YA authors Sarah Mlynowski and Lauren Myracle to offer you How to Be Bad.  In a word, FABULOUS.  But one word is never enough, is it?

Think road trip.  Think stealing your mom’s ancient deathtrap of a car. Think best friends and boyfriends and new friends and bad food and tourist traps and bad weather.  Then add fights and hugs and understanding and yelling and silence, both awkward and comfortable.  Alligators, dead and alive.  Dumping your boyfriend because you are lonely and afraid. Picking a fight with your best friend because you can’t face what could be coming your way.

Niceville, Florida, to Miami, with detours along the way.  Vicks is the take-no-prisoner, self-assured girl whose boyfriend hasn’t called since he left for college two weeks ago.  Jesse is the judgy, tightbottomed Christian who is lashing out and running away, instead of facing a scary future.  And Mel is the new girl, desperate for friends and always the odd one out.  Together, they embark on a trip to find out why Brady hasn’t called, visit some tourist spots, and get a lot more than they bargained for along the way.

The girls learn that it’s not about the destination, it is how you get there.  Yes, possibly one of the oldest cliches out there, but so applicable, and so right.

How to Be Bad is told from the three points of view of the girls, with alternating chapters, each one offering her take on the experiences along the road.  It is fun and well written, and all three change over the road trip, believably, given their backgrounds and circumstances.  There are a lot of subplots, and the reader has to pay close attention to follow the different mini-stories going on throughout.

It isn’t going to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, but three really good YA authors collaborated on a really good YA story, and I had a blast losing myself in it. It is an easy read, the characters are distinct, and the story provided a relaxing Saturday afternoon for me.

Any teen can read this.  Pretty sure the boys won’t be too interested, but the girls will dive right in.  Just don’t tell your daughter about the time(s) you did something similar.  She doesn’t need any ideas.

How to Be Bad is published by HarperTeen.