Books: The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry

*A free copy of this book was provided to me by Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.*

The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry
The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry

The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry is now available from Amazon

Olivia Reinhart is an emancipated teenager who survived a gruesome event when she was but a toddler.  She spent most of her life believing that her father killed her mother, abandoned her, and ran away to save his own skin. But the book opens with Olivia discovering that her father has also been found dead, in the same are as her mother was killed, and is now believed to be a victim of the crime himself.  Olivia remembers nothing of the event, even though she was present.

We then travel with Olivia to the town she was from when she was Ariel Benson, before she ended up in foster care and was adopted only to be returned to foster care. We follow along with her as she tries to discover the truth of what happens with her parents.  She meets townspeople who all knew her, but she doesn’t remember them.  They also don’t seem to recognize her, except for one young guy, who was apparently best friends with her when they were young.  He ends up being a romantic lead in the story, as you might imagine, though Olivia’s relationship with him, and indeed every character she meets, is tainted by her wondering fi they could have been involved in her parents murder.  As she meets people, and seeks to find out who is responsible for the murder of her parents, memories of that time slowly begin to return to her.

The book builds up a great deal of suspense, and I was following along gladly, intrigued by who-mighta-done-it and interested enough in the characters.  Then, before I was ready, it about faces and drives to a fast, mostly satisfying, conclusion.  I felt the introduction and resolution of who the killer actually was was a bit too pat, for my taste, and happened in a manner I couldn’t quite believe.  Still, it was a quick, pleasurable, and captivating read, and I would recommend this read for anyone interested in murder mysteries, and YA. But I do wish the book had taken a little more time to draw out the web of characters it introduced, and driven down to a better paced and thought out conclusion.

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Up to this Pointe by Jennifer Longo: A YA Book both Ethereal and Earthy

Up to this Pointe by Jennifer Longo is now available on Amazon and everywhere books are sold.

Up to this Pointe begins like many ballet books do, but it doesn’t stay that way.  Up to this Pointe opens with Harper, our heroine, preparing to dance “Snow” in The Nutcracker.  She slips and falls, and this, essentially, is what the book is about.  While Harper does have food issues, even though her father is a baker and there are more taunting description of cinnamon rolls in this book than one would expect of a ballet book, none of the cattiness typical of most books about ballet is present in this book.  Essentially, though, this book isn’t about a ballerina but a failed ballerina.  A ballerina who worked so hard and was so utterly convinced that she would BE a ballerina that when she fails to get past even barre work at auditions she is sent into a tail spin.  A tail spin that causes her to run, literally, to the farthest corner of the world.

Because Harper is distantly related to Robert Falcom Scott, one of the explorers of the South Pole, she is able to secure a spot during Winter Over at McMurdo station on Antartica. Perhaps a bit implausible, but Longo does an amazing job of making that very implausibility work with Harper’s character.  During Winter Over, people are isolated from the rest of the world because the harsh conditions prevent any planes from taking off or landing.  This makes an excellent and highly unusual setting.  It feels almost as if Harper is on another planet, and indeed it is not much different.

The beginning of the book alternates between scenes at McMurdo and scenes back in San Francisco, and introduces two male love interests, Austin, on McMurdo Station, and Owen, the supportive friend of her brother back home in San Francisco.  It does a excellent job of slowly unraveling the story of how she came to the realization that she was never going to dance for a major company.  An it does a good job of describing life inside McMurdo station, and the scary, raw, beautiful, and isolated icy scenery of Antarctica.  Longo makes it seem both otherworldly and alien, and very, very real.

Longo also has an easy hand with Harper’s voice.  Her dialogue is excellently done, which perhaps comes from her background as a playwright.  Indeed, I can see much of the playwright here, in her well crafted scenes, and smooth plotting.  While you sympathize with Harper for her plight, you also clearly see a solution for her problems.  It takes Harper time to get there, and for once, I don’t mind going along for the ride.  The ending is satisfying and rather elegantly done.  I recommend this book for anyone who likes character driven YA, ballet, or has an interest in Antartica.  I will definitely be reading this author’s first book, and watching out for anything she does in the future.