April 16, 2015

REVIEW: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things, by Ann Aguirre
Published April 7, 2015
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Format: ARC, provided by the publisher
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.

Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.

But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…

YA contemporary doesn't always do it for me. But, when I received THE QUEEN OF BRIGHT AND SHINY THINGS from the awesome folks at Mac Kids, and noticed that it was Ann Aguirre's newest book, I knew I had to give it a go. And, I am so happy I did. I was so impressed by the characters in this book and what they stood for and HOW they stood for it. Only 50 pages in, I was wishing I could get high schoolers in my district to read this book. They need to read this. Book. 

"You're the one who makes me whole. When I'm broken in my soul. The queen of bright and shiny things. Not designer clothes or diamond rings."

Sage is looking for a second chance. She has one, living with her quirky aunt, but it feels like it could fall apart at any minute. So, Sage resolves to be the best, most helpful, most perfect girl so that no one wants to let her go. Shane thinks he's out of chances and is just hoping to coast by unnoticed until graduation. But, Sage notices everyone, and she won't let him fade into the shadows. Together, they help each other face their fears and learn to really live  

I loved the dichotomy that was Sage Czinsky. She is a girl living in fear every day. She's afraid her aunt will send her back to the dangerous and brutal group home that she was in after her mother died. She's afraid of her feelings for Shane. She's afraid of the anger that still lives within her. And, yet, in school, when she sees an injustice or an unhappy person, she is not afraid to do something about it. 

High school is hell and I'm trundling around passing out ice water. Maybe it doesn't end the torment, but if the nice balances out some of the crap, then I feel like it was worth my while. 

Let's face it - a lot of times, being singled out in high school isn't a good thing. Most definitely, a person who ran around with pink Post-its and a purple glitter pen who wrote positive affirmations and left them stuck on people's lockers would garner a lot of gossip. Not all of it would be good. In Sage's world, that's exactly what happens, and yet, she does it day after day after day. That is such a brave thing. 

The notes are only one thing that Sage does to try and offset the darkness inside of her left over from her first 13 very hard years of life. Sage is also on a mission to save the planet. She recycles, cleans up her neighborhood, and refuses to ever ride in or drive a car because of their enormous carbon footprint. Sage's persistence in all things sparks something in her peers. All they needed was a leader, and that came in the form of a scared brave girl with a checkered past. One who didn't think she was worthy of any of their love or attention.

I'm so not enough. I can't be. I smile, and I act happy, and I pretend. I'm the queen of bright and shiny things, eternally looking for the positive and seeking a silver lining in the dark... the real me is horrible, and I wanted to leave her behind, along with the group home and the court-mandated therapy sessions. I want so bad to be normal, but I never can be.

As it turns out, she was just what was needed to spark something in Shane Cavendish, too. This poor boy just lost his mother and his father is too busy to take care of him. He's completely on his own and perfectly content with things that way. Except is IS only 17, and has no car or job, which means, none of the basics like food. In addition to saving the planet, Sage makes it her mission to save Shane as well, from the moment she first put a note on his locker, telling him he played his guitar beautifully. 

"I wish I could have all your firsts, because you're getting all of mine."

When Sage wasn't looking, Shane ended up saving her too. When someone stands up for another person, no matter what the cost, it changes something in you. It caused Sage to see that she wasn't doing any favors to the people who loved her when she was always thinking the worst about them. And Shane caused her to realize that sometimes harnessing that anger leftover from her experiences to make someone else's situation isn't a bad thing. 

"I want to be the one person who never lets you down."

Sage's and Shane's relationship was incredibly sweet and inspiring. I also loved Sage's friendship with Lila and how it started. Sage's friendship with Ryan was a bit frustrating at times. Ryan was like Sage's safety blanket, and I felt like she treated him unfairly at times, which was out of character for what I knew of Sage. 

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things is a book about love and forgiveness and seeing the good in everyone. It's about seeing what happens when one random act of kindness comes back around. It brought me to tears and then gave me the warm fuzzies. I'm so glad I read it.

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