BRIGID KEMMERER is the author of LETTERS TO THE LOST (Bloomsbury; April 4, 2017), a dark, contemporary Young Adult romance; THICKER THAN WATER (Kensington, December 29, 2015), a New Adult paranormal mystery with elements of romance; and the YALSA-nominated Elemental series of five Young Adult novels and three e-novellas which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” She lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons.

Review: CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT by Brigid Kemmerer

Review:  CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT by Brigid KemmererCall It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer
Also by this author: More Than We Can Tell
four-half-stars
Published by Bloomsbury YA on June 25, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT Review

Call It What You Want is officially my new favorite novel from Brigid Kemmerer.  Kemmerer is a master of creating engaging stories filled with wonderful characters that will tug at your heartstrings, and she really captured my heart with this one.

Call It What You Want follows Rob and Maegan, two teens who have been ostracized by their classmates.  Rob’s father got caught embezzling funds from half the town, including the parents of many of his classmates.  Many people have wrongly assumed Rob knew exactly what his father was up to and so he has gone from being a popular star athlete at the top of the social food chain down to the bottom rung.  Maegan is an academic overachiever but we learn in the opening pages that she has cracked under the pressure of trying to be the best and cheated on her SATs.  Not only has Maegan potentially tanked her own chances at college, but she also caused the scores for dozens of her classmates to be invalidated as well.  Maegan is no one’s favorite person right now.

When the story opens, Rob and Maegan are both just in survival mode, each trying to lay low and get through the school year drawing as little attention to themselves as possible.  When Rob and Maegan get paired up on a project in Calculus class, however, everything changes.

The friendship that blossoms between Rob and Maegan is one of my favorite things about Call It What You Want.   I love the way Kemmerer writes unlikely friendships like theirs.  She portrays that initial awkwardness of the relationship and then the slow opening up to one another so authentically and so beautifully.  I could read books like this from Kemmerer all day every day and never get tired of them.

Another gem of a friendship that appears in the book is between Rob and Owen.  Owen is a loner and he’s also poor, so poor that he can’t even afford to buy lunch at school.  Owen’s struggles are, in part, due to what Rob’s father did, so a friendship between Owen and Rob seems nearly impossible and yet Kemmerer works her magic and creates yet another amazing friendship for me to smile about.  I actually adored Owen’s character so much that I’d love to see him with a book of his own at some point.

Aside from making me smile at the wonderful relationships being forged throughout the story, Kemmerer also puts them into situations that tugged at my heartstrings so hard.  I felt tremendous sympathy for Maegan and the mess she has gotten herself into.  It felt like one of those situations that any one of us could have found ourselves in back in school.  Even more heart-wrenching than Maegan’s situation though is Rob’s.  Not only did he not have any idea what his father was up to, but Rob and his mother are stuck dealing with all of the fallout, including taking care of his father, who botched a suicide attempt and is now brain damaged and mostly paralyzed.  Rob is also being bullied by his former best friend, so every day is pretty much a living hell for him.

Finally, what makes Call It What You Want my new favorite book from Kemmerer is the fact that she really had me thinking about some tough topics, especially as they pertain to Rob. Rob is desperate to try to fix what his father did and contemplates crossing into morally gray territory to make it happen.  It really got me thinking about right and wrong.  Can you ever really make something right by committing a wrong?  I love a book that can engage me with such important and thought-provoking topics.

Wow, I actually had no intention of writing so much, but the book is just that good! Call It What You Want is a heartfelt and beautifully written story about friendship, overcoming adversity, and making amends.  I know Kemmerer’s fans are going to love it, but I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a moving read.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?

four-half-stars

About Brigid Kemmerer

BRIGID KEMMERER is the author of LETTERS TO THE LOST (Bloomsbury; April 4, 2017), a dark, contemporary Young Adult romance; THICKER THAN WATER (Kensington, December 29, 2015), a New Adult paranormal mystery with elements of romance; and the YALSA-nominated Elemental series of five Young Adult novels and three e-novellas which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” She lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons.

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for LETTERS TO THE LOST and LOVE & GELATO

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for LETTERS TO THE LOST and  LOVE & GELATOLetters to the Lost (Letters to the Lost, #1) by Brigid Kemmerer
Also by this author: More Than We Can Tell
five-stars
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on April 4, 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

Review:

Brigid Kemmerer’s Letters to the Lost is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.  What really hooked me from the beginning is its exploration of loss and the grieving process through the use of anonymous letters.  Juliet and Declan have both lost loved ones and are struggling to move through their grief and both feel alone because no one seems to understand what they’re going through.  Juliet tries to work through her grief by writing letters to her dead mom and leaving them in the cemetery where Declan works.  When Declan sees and reads one of the letters, he relates to the sense of loss in the letter so much that he replies to it.  Declan and Juliet begin writing to each other anonymously and immediately form a deeper connection than either of them could have imagined because they are able to say things to each other that they’ve not been able to say to anyone else.  I thought this aspect of the story was just so beautifully done.  The letters themselves were so raw and emotional, like reading someone’s diary and peering down deep into their souls, and they had me in tears on more than one occasion while reading.

In addition to the powerful exploration of grief, Letters to the Lost was also a wonderfully engaging read for me because of all the relationships.  And not just Declan and Juliet’s either.  They both have two of the most amazing best friends a person could ask for.  I had already met Declan’s best friend, Rev, and knew how precious he was because I read Kemmerer’s More Than We Can Tell first and fell in love with him there, but Juliet’s best friend Rowan is equally amazing.  Plus, there are also several adults (parents, teachers, and work supervisors) trying to be as supportive and non-judgmental as possible, which was just lovely to see, especially since a secondary theme of the book is about how wrong and unfair it is to judge people without ever bothering to get to know them first.

After reading and falling in love with both Letters to the Lost and More Than We Can Tell, Brigid Kemmerer has become an auto-buy author for me.  Her writing is exquisite, and her stories are filled with such incredibly realistic characters that you won’t be able to stop yourself from becoming fully invested in their lives.  If you’re looking for a read that will tug at your heart strings, I would highly recommend something from Kemmerer. 5 STARS

 

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for LETTERS TO THE LOST and  LOVE & GELATOLove & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
four-stars
Published by Simon Pulse on May 3, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 389
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

Review:

Jenna Evans Welch’s  Love & Gelato follows American teen Lina, who is sent to live in Florence, Italy after her mother passes away.  Lina’s mother had cancer and knew she was dying, so she made arrangements for Lina to go to Italy and get to know her father, whom she has never even met.  Although Lina doesn’t want to leave her friends and move to Italy, she feels like she has to respect her mother’s dying wish and at least visit.  Upon her arrival, she is handed an old journal that belonged to her mother that dates back to her own experiences living in Florence as a student.  It’s this old journal that takes Lina on a journey that she never expected to – one that leads her to discover never-before-known truths about both herself and her parents.

Although she was a bit stubborn and irritable at first, I found Lina to be a very likeable and relatable character overall.  It was easy to understand her attitude, given that she was being separated from everything she has ever known and sent off to live with strangers.  At the same time, I liked that once she was in Florence, she became determined to make the best of the situation.  I especially enjoyed reading along with her as she pored over her mother’s journal.  Her mother adored Florence and so it was fun to watch Lina slowly but surely discover a similar love for the city.  It was also fascinating to follow along as Lina learned more and more details about her mother’s life that had previously eluded her.  In many ways, it felt like we were both just getting to know Lina’s mother for the first time.

While Lina’s journey is mostly about discovering truths about her family, she also meets some wonderful friends while in Italy.  Ren, in particular, was just such a charming young man and I liked the friendship that developed between him and Lina, with its promise of becoming something more if Lina were to decide to stay in Florence.

My absolute favorite part of Love & Gelato though was that the author did such a magnificent job of capturing the essence of Florence and why it’s such an easy city to fall in love with.  I’ve visited Florence once and, after reading this book, I’m dying to go back!  4 STARS

 

five-stars

About Brigid Kemmerer

BRIGID KEMMERER is the author of LETTERS TO THE LOST (Bloomsbury; April 4, 2017), a dark, contemporary Young Adult romance; THICKER THAN WATER (Kensington, December 29, 2015), a New Adult paranormal mystery with elements of romance; and the YALSA-nominated Elemental series of five Young Adult novels and three e-novellas which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” She lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons.

About Jenna Evans Welch

Jenna Evans Welch was the kind of insatiable child reader who had no choice but to grow up to become a writer. She is the New York Times Bestselling author of LOVE & GELATO and the upcoming LOVE & LUCK. When she isn’t writing girl abroad stories, Jenna can be found chasing her children or making elaborate messes in the kitchen. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and two young children.

Review: MORE THAN WE CAN TELL by Brigid Kemmerer

Review:  MORE THAN WE CAN TELL by Brigid KemmererMore Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer
Also by this author: Letters to the Lost (Letters to the Lost, #1)
four-half-stars
Published by Bloomsbury Children's on March 6th 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 416
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

MY REVIEW:

Although set in the same universe as her popular book Letters to the Lost, Brigid Kemmerer’s latest novel More Than We Can Tell is a standalone story that follows two teens who are each carrying around a heavy burden of secrets.  Eighteen-year-old Rev Fletcher was raised by an abusive father until he was removed from his home at age 7 and placed with foster parents who eventually adopted him as their own.  Even though he now lives in a loving and supportive environment, Rev is still occasionally haunted by the horrors of his past and by the fear that he will somehow grow up to be like his father.  Rev lives a normal life and gets by most days without dwelling on his fears too much, but when an unexpected letter arrives from his father, all of those fears rise to the surface and threaten to pull Rev under.  He doesn’t know what to do and doesn’t want to upset his adoptive parents, so he keeps the letter a secret even though it is eating him up inside that his father has somehow managed to find him after all these years.

Rev is not the only one in More Than We Can Tell living under the burden of secrets and fears.  High school junior Emma Blue is also battling some demons of her own.  Emma is a gamer and a gifted coder, so gifted in fact, that she has designed an entire video game from scratch.  Coding and designing video games are what Emma wants to pursue as a career, but her father, who actually designs video games for a living, is never around to support her, while her mother, who is a doctor, thinks all of this gaming is just a waste of time.  Because she feels they don’t really support her, Emma works on her video game in secret and doesn’t even try to show her parents what she is doing or how good at it she really is.  Things get messy, however, when an online troll starts sending her threatening messages through her game.  The comments escalate to the point where Emma is basically being sexually harassed through the internet, but because Emma fears her parents will just tell her to delete the game she has worked so hard on, Emma decides to shoulder the burden of this harassment herself and doesn’t tell anyone what is going on even though she is actually afraid of the troll by this point.

Rev and Emma meet by chance one night while Emma is out walking her dog, and the two of them hit it off immediately and are able to open up to one another in ways that they don’t feel like they can with anyone else.  Will their new found friendship turn into something more?  Can they help each other deal with the secrets that are wearing them down?

 

Wow, where to even start with this book?  Honestly, I loved pretty much everything about it.  It’s filled with wonderfully complex characters, relevant themes, beautiful relationships, and so much more.  It made me laugh at times, and it also made me tear up a few times, and I’m a sucker for a book that grabs all of my emotions like that.

I fell in love with both Rev and Emma right away, for very different reasons.  Rev was just such a beautiful soul and it hurt my heart to watch him struggle with the memories of what his awful father did to him.  It especially got to me that he was so worried that he would turn out just like him, when everything about his personality screamed that he would be the exact opposite.  I hated the way his father kept getting into his head and dragging him down, but at the same time, I could easily understand how it kept happening.

I loved Emma because of her independence.  I didn’t necessarily agree with her keeping things from her parents, but at the same time, I admired her strength and her determination not to give up on her dream of designing games for a living.  My inner geek also loved that she was so passionate about STEM and that she was a pretty badass gamer as well.

The relationships in More Than We Can Tell were beautifully written as well.  Rev’s loving relationship with his adoptive parents, Geoff and Kristin, was especially moving to read about, knowing how awful his life had been prior to coming into their home.  I teared up several times just watching them love and support him even when he, at times, tried to push them away.  My love for this relationship also extended out to them all for inviting another troubled teen into their home.  Even though he wasn’t exactly central to the overall storyline, I loved the character of Matthew for many of the same reasons I loved Rev and so it was lovely to see him find a home, even if it’s only temporary, with a family as great as Rev’s  (On a side note:  I would love to see another book set in this universe that follows Matthew.)

The friendship between Declan and Rev was probably my favorite part of the entire book. I’ve actually not read Letters to the Lost yet, but I’ve heard this friendship plays a role in that book as well, so I fully intend to go back and read that.  These young men are about as close to brothers as they could possibly be.  I enjoyed the ease of their banter, which is just so funny at times, but most importantly, I loved that Declan always seems to just “get” Rev.  He’s tuned in to what Rev needs, even if Rev doesn’t know it himself.  There’s one scene where Rev loses it at school and throws a punch at Declan.  Instead of getting mad about it, Declan shows up at Rev’s house right after school and, to paraphrase, says “Come on.  If you need to punch it out, let’s go find you a better target than my face” and takes him to work through his frustrations on an actual punching bag.  That’s friendship right there.

The growing relationship between Emma and Rev is lovely too.  I loved their little meetups on the lawn outside the church and how easily their conversations flowed from the silly and casual to the more serious things that were on their minds.  Kemmerer does a beautiful job here of advancing their relationship from strangers to acquaintances to friends to maybe a little something more without it feeling like insta-love.

I could go on and on about all the things I adored about More Than We Can Tell but I’m going to close by saying that in addition to the beautifully drawn characters and relationships, what really pulled me into this story were all of its themes.  This is a story about love, family, friendship, forgiveness, and trust.  It also serves as an important reminder to give your family a chance to have your back and that you don’t always have to shoulder your own burdens.

 

I can’t think of a single issue I had with More Than We Can Tell. It’s just a wonderfully crafted story on every level.

 

Brigid Kemmer’s More Than We Can Tell is a beautifully written and moving story that will grab you by the emotions and won’t let go.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll fall in love with Rev and his family and friends.  I look forward to reading Letters to the Lost soon because I’m ready for more from the universe.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Rev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay…until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.

Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.

When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling.

four-half-stars

About Brigid Kemmerer

BRIGID KEMMERER is the author of LETTERS TO THE LOST (Bloomsbury; April 4, 2017), a dark, contemporary Young Adult romance; THICKER THAN WATER (Kensington, December 29, 2015), a New Adult paranormal mystery with elements of romance; and the YALSA-nominated Elemental series of five Young Adult novels and three e-novellas which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” She lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons.