The weather is warming up (or stifling, if you’re in the South), swimsuits are being dug out from under flannel pajamas, pools are opening for business, and ice cream is being reinstated as a major food group. What does all of this mean? It’s Summer! This also means I’ve officially gone into turbo bookworm mode, trying to read as many great books as I can this summer. So, I thought it might be fun to post reviews of some of the great stuff I’m reading, in case you’re looking to add to your Summer To-Read list (because you have to have one of those!).
Periodically throughout the summer, I’ll post an honest review of something I’ve read, giving you the details on why the book earned a spot on the list, along with why I recommend the book. I’m calling it Book Splash (picture a nice, cool pool somewhere tropical…) To see a preview of other titles coming up for review, check out my Goodreads shelf on the right sidebar. If you have read/are reading one of these books, tell me your thoughts in the comments section! Also, got any recommendations of good books to dive into? Let me know!
Okay, on with the review before I get too caught up in the whole swimming pool metaphor thing…
The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, by Stephanie Morrill
If you’ve read any of my posts on writing, you’ve most likely seen me mention Stephanie Morrill’s name. In fact, I interviewed her recently, which you can click here to read. She mentors young writers over at Go Teen Writers – where I’ve learned countless things about writing and the publishing business (and good news: they don’t kick you out when you leave your teen years!). It’s only fitting that her book is first in the Book Splash series. I’ve also reads her other series, The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt, several times, so her newest release was highly anticipated (her bio is at the bottom of the page). And, oh, was it worth it! Read on for my review…
Don’t just get even – write a novel.
Ellie Sweet is a lot of things—good girl, novelist, silent adorer of the new boy at school, Palmer. But when “outcast” gets added to the list, she decides it’s time to take reality into her own hands … and tweak it as needed.
In the pages of her book, she’s Lady Gabrielle, favorite of the medieval Italian court. Her once-friends are reduced to catty ladies-in-waiting, and the too-charming Palmer—who in real life never spares her a second word—gets to be nothing more than a rake wracked by unrequited love for her. She even has a perfect real-life villain in the brooding Chase, who hails from the wrong side of town.
But just when she’s getting along great in her fictional world, the real one throws her a few curves. With Chase pursuing her, Palmer wanting to date her—but in secret—and the details of her manuscript going public, Ellie suddenly receives more attention than she ever really wanted. And when her former-friends discover what she’s been writing, they’re determined to teach Ellie a lesson about the severe consequences of using her pen as her sword.
Ellie’s philosophy: When life gives you lemons for friends, use them as ingredients for a Sweet story.
The story is told from the perspective of Ellie Sweet, a sixteen-year-old dealing with all of the drama, angst, emotions, insecurities, and other fun stuff that come with high school. She’s known for her good-girl, rule-following image. That’s why she’d rather spend her Friday nights at home, secretly working on a novel, than getting involved in the kinds of things her friends call entertainment. But before long, she’s sick of being seen as “Saint Ellie,” and wants to find her place in the world. Here come the adventures.
My Favorite Parts:
First of all, I should mention that I read this book in one evening. I only stopped reading long enough to wash my car before dark and fix a bowl of fruit salad. The story pulled me in and refused to let me go until I’d read all the way through. It moves at a great pace, and there’s always something to keep you turning the pages.
Ellis Sweet is every bit as witty and snarky as she is intelligent and deep-thinking. Stephanie Morrill completely gets the whole teenage voice. There are several moments that made me laugh out loud, along with multiple times I wanted to stand up and cheer for Ellie. There are even scenes in which I found my heart hurting for her. She’s just so relatable. At several points throughout the story, I stopped reading and thought, “Wow. I completely get that.” And we won’t even go into how eerily similar our hair issues are…
Ellie is a writer, which is really cool for me, because I understand all of the fears and doubts she has about her writing. I also understand how she absolutely needs to write, and how she pays attention to the little details in life that she can add into her books.
But even if you don’t know a WIP from an MC, the writing aspect won’t isolate you from the story. You’ll just have the added advantage of being able to read without stopping, rereading, and saying, “I should totally be hating this guy right now, but I want him to be okay. How did the author do that?? I need to go work on my novel’s character development.”
Also, Ellie is a Christian. This doesn’t color every aspect of the book, but it does give us a glimpse into Ellie’s faith as she gains boldness to say what she believes, even if other people don’t agree, and to learn the only thing you can do with some situations is entrust them to God.
My Least Favorite Parts:
The book ended.
Oh, that one was obvious? Okay…
Ellie knows she needs help to survive the messes she gets herself into, and she knows God’s right there with her. But I would’ve loved to have seen her stop, pray, and seek God’s will more. She kind of does a couple of times, but she still tries to handle things on her own (she’s really good at coming up with on-the-spot lies, for one thing). She doesn’t have a strict no-dating-nonbelievers policy for herself, which can (and does) get her into trouble.
But would I like to see her character act differently? I don’t know. See, Ellie isn’t perfect; she’s not always level-headed. She’s human, and she has to learn to let go, just like the rest of us. She doesn’t get struck by a spiritual lightening bolt and suddenly know how to act in every situation. Her shortcomings make her all the more real. They also leave a lot more room for growth, which I can’t wait to read about in the next book in the series.
This is definitely a fun summer read. It’s light and humorous, yet thought-provoking and full of meaning. It explores some good themes like forgiveness, acceptance, and consequences for our actions, while keeping you laughing at the zany situations Ellie finds herself in. I love the characters because they’re so real: they’re flawed and they make wrong choices. Yes, the characters find themselves in some bad, real-life situations (which is why I recommend this book for older teens), but even still, there isn’t any language or squirm-inducing content in the book. That’s definitely refreshing in YA books.
I have the ebook version, but I’ll be buying the paperback when it becomes available because there are so many quotable moments in this book that I want to read over and over. Even if you’re not a young adult, and you don’t often read YA books, check this one out. Even with all of the pre-release hype, I wasn’t disappointed with this book, and I know I’ll definitely re-read it soon.
Buy the Book:
Click hereto read the first chapter for FREE!
About the Author: Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since.
Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog, www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrill.com