Tag Archives: Susin Nielsen

Optimists Die First — Susin Nielsen

9 Aug

 

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Released: Feb 21st, 2017
Genre: Young adult contemp
Source: Arc from publisher

 

 

Life ahead: Proceed with caution.

Sixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde is anything but wild. A family tragedy has made her shut herself off from the world. Once a crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula now sees danger in everything, from airplanes to ground beef.

The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class. She has nothing in common with this small band of teenage misfits, except that they all carry their own burden of guilt.

When Jacob joins their ranks, he seems so normal and confident. Petula wants nothing to do with him, or his prosthetic arm. But when they’re forced to collaborate on a unique school project, she slowly opens up, and he inspires her to face her fears.

Until a hidden truth threatens to derail everything.

From Goodreads

It’s no secret that I worship the ground Susin Nielsen writes on. She is one of my top five favourite authors and her books never disappoint. Optimists Die First continues that trend. This is a heartfelt and honestly written book.

I read this book at the perfect time. I was having a hard time dealing with my depression and anxiety. So despite the fact that I am way older that Petula, I could really identify with her. And I think a lot of readers will. For me Nielsen is the queen of writing about important topics without hitting readers over the head with it. She really gets into the psyche of her characters and shows rather than tells the readers what’s going on.

I’m a sucker for stories about people who don’t 100% fit in. Those who are on the edge of society, either doing their own thing or trying to fit in. Petula and Jacob are perfect examples of this.

I really can’t recommend this book enough. Or any of her other books.

Waiting on Wednesday — Optimists Die First

16 Nov

new-wow

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

It’s no big secret that I worship the ground Susin Nielsen writes on. I fall in love with everything that she puts out and I even got the chance to work with her when she wrote the foreword for a book that my former company published. So when I found out recently that she has another book coming out in February of next year, I did a bit of a fangirl dance. (Actually a BIG fangirl dance. There may have been specific Susin Nielsen dance moves created.)

north-american-optimists-cover-199x300

Optimists Die First sounds like an AWESOME book. And the cover is GORGEOUS. I’m hoping to be able to snag a review copy, but if not I’ll be at my bookstore first thing February 21st to buy a copy.

We Are All Made of Molecules — Susin Nielsen

19 Jan

molecules

Publisher:Wendy Lamb Books
Released: May 12th, 2015
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Paperback review copy from publisher

 

 

Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless.

Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink.

Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder.

They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules.

From Goodreads

It’s no secret that I am deeply in love with everything that Susin Nielsen has written. I mean completely smitten. Her books make me feel ALL THE FEELS: happy, excited, giddy, sad, heart-broken and just amazed at the story and the way she strings together words and thoughts and feeling so perfectly.

We Are All Made of Molecules is no different. This book was amazing and wonderful and just AHHHHHH. Susin once again writes imperfect characters perfectly. I love how real each and everyone of them are. Awkward and unsure and doing their best to manoeuvre through life. And the relationships are bumpy and weird and cringe-worthy and so much like real life it sometimes took my breath away.

I’m not sure what else I can say about this book. I know this is a short review but I feel that my gushing will just get annoying after a bit.

Basically, just read this book. And all of Susin’s other books.  Then, after you are finished, put them on your bookshelf and every once in a while, take them out and hug them. And reread them. And then hug them some more.

That’s what I do, anyway.

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen – Susin Nielsen

18 Sep

Publisher: Tundra Books
Released: Sept 11th, 2012
Genre: YA contemp
Review copy from publisher

Thirteen-year-old Henry’s happy, ordinary life comes to an abrupt halt when his older brother, Jesse, picks up their father’s hunting rifle and leaves the house one morning. What follows shatters Henry’s family, who are forced to resume their lives in a new city, where no one knows their past. When Henry’s therapist suggests he keep a journal, at first he is resistant. But soon he confides in it at all hours of the day and night.

In spite of Henry’s desire to “fly under the radar,” he eventually befriends a number of oddball characters, both at school and in his modest apartment building. And even though they know nothing about his past – at least, not yet – they help him navigate the waters of life after “IT.”

From Susin Nielsen’s website.

It’s no secret that I absolutely fell in love with Susin Nielsen’s writing in Word Nerd and that love just grew with Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom. Despite the fact that The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is darker and deals with a more serious subject matter than the first two books, I absolutely, positively LOVED IT. I devoured it in one sitting and when I was finished, I just felt like a better person for having read it.

OMG this book broke my heart. Just smashed it to little pieces. But it also made my heart swell with love at places. I wanted to jump through the pages and give Henry a big hug and buy him an ice cream. He was such a sweet, awkward, lovable character that I just wanted to do something to make his pain stop. Nielsen wrote him in such a caring yet straightforward manner that he never felt pathetic or whiny to me. He just seemed like a kid who was going through some serious crap and trying to handle it the best way that he could.

I’m not going to say a whole lot about “IT” except that her telling of what happened, the way she presented it, was just amazing. It’s hard to take a situation like that and write about it in a way that doesn’t come across as sensational or crude. But through Henry, Nielsen explains what happened in a way that was both heartbreaking and understated. Perfection.

As always, there’s a slew of wonderfully weird secondary characters in The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen. I loved them all so much that it would be impossible to pick my favorite.  And even thought they were secondary, they each had a huge part in helping Henry to deal with what happened.

I loved this book so much that I could probably go on and on and on about all the wonderful things that sucked me in and made me sad when I got to the last page. But about all, I loved Henry’s voice. Nielsen wrote him so honestly that it hurt my soul at times, to witness how he was feeling and what he was going through.

Henry’s is a tough story to read and I can only imagine how hard it was to write it. But it’s one that really needs to be heard. And honestly, I couldn’t have pictured anyone but Nielsen telling it.

Review: Dear George Clooney Please Marry My Mom by Susin Nielsen

19 Oct

Publisher: Tundra Books
Released: August, 2010
Genre: MG/YA contemp
One sentence summary: Quirky characters + a quest for George Clooney = one hilarious, lovable book.
Review copy from publisher.

Violet’s TV-director dad has traded a job in Vancouver for one in Los Angeles, their run-down house for a sleek ranch-style home complete with a pool, and, worst of all, Violet’s mother for a trophy wife, a blonde actress named Jennica. Violet’s younger sister reacts by bed-wetting, and her mother ping-pongs from one loser to another, searching for love. As for Violet, she gets angry in ways that are by turns infuriating, shocking, and hilarious.

When her mother takes up with the unfortunately named Dudley Wiener, Violet and her friend Phoebe decide that they need to take control. If Violet’s mom can’t pick a decent man herself, they will help her snag George Clooney.

From Tundra Books website.

 

Let me just pause for a moment and worship the awesomeness that is Susin Nielsen. Seriously. I love her writing so much I’m thinking of setting up a shrine.  I’ll call it The Queen of the Quirky Character and it will include a scrabble board, stocking hat, and season 1 DVD of ER. Each day before I sit down to start writing, I’ll pray to The Queen of the Quirky Character to guide me and let me create characters half as interesting as hers.

So, yeah, I kinda fell in love with this book. I mean, the title alone would make anyone wanna give it a read. In a sea of one and two worded titles, it sticks out like a sore thumb. A glorious, wonderful, inspired sore thumb.  And the innards of the book match the awesomeness of the title, for sure.

Violet isn’t always a nice kid and that’s cool. I mean, in the opening scene she does something so horrible, so gross, so funny that I was shaking my head in awe of Nielsen. It takes a lot of guts to start a book off the way she did. I won’t say anything else, but trust me, it’s horrifically cringe-worthy stuff.

In fact, the whole book is filled with cringe-worthy stuff, and that’s what I love so much about Nielsen’s writing. This isn’t a book filled with gorgeous, perfect characters who always say and do gorgeous, perfect things. Oh, no. Violet, her family and their friends are awkward, imperfect and so realistic. She’s a kid who acts like a kid. Kinda refreshing, no?

I also love that we see the characters from Nielsen’s Word Nerd, too, although it took my slow brain until almost the end of the book to realize this. I think it’s awesome that her books are kinda, sorta companion books, but not really.

Dear George Clooney Please Marry My Mom made me happy. It put a smile on my face and made me sigh blissfully. And the George Clooney parts made me snort, for real. Funny stuff. Hell, the whole book was filled with funny stuff, another reason why I love it so freaking much.

Review: Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen

11 May

Tundra Books, 2010

Twelve-year-old Ambrose is a glass-half-full kind of guy. A self-described “friendless nerd,” he moves from place to place every couple of years with his overprotective mother, Irene. When some bullies at his new school almost kill him by slipping a peanut into his sandwich — even though they know he has a deathly allergy — Ambrose is philosophical. Irene, however, is not and decides that Ambrose will be home-schooled.

Alone in the evenings when Irene goes to work, Ambrose pesters Cosmo, the twenty-five-year-old son of the Greek landlords who live upstairs. Cosmo has just been released from jail for breaking and entering to support a drug habit. Quite by accident, Ambrose discovers that they share a love of Scrabble and coerces Cosmo into taking him to the West Side Scrabble Club, where Cosmo falls for Amanda, the club director. Posing as Ambrose’s Big Brother to impress her, Cosmo is motivated to take Ambrose to the weekly meetings and to give him lessons in self-defense. Cosmo, Amanda, and Ambrose soon form an unlikely alliance and, for the first time in his life, Ambrose blossoms. The characters at the Scrabble Club come to embrace Ambrose for who he is and for their shared love of words. There’s only one problem: Irene has no idea what Ambrose is up to.

From Tundra Books website

 

Man, don’t you love when you pick up a book to read and about three sentence in you’re like, “This rocks!”.  Yeah, that’s how it was for me and Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen. 

Ambrose, and all of the characters, are wonderfully quirky, but not so much that they aren’t believable. All of us, regardless of our age, know or have known an Ambrose (some of us have been an Ambrose). Awkward, geeky, no social skills yet blissfully unaware most of the time. He was just such a great character to read about and get to know, from his scrabble loving ways to his purple pants and hand made hat.

The friendship that blossoms between Ambrose and Cosmo is so unlikely, yet makes perfect sense at the same time. Kinda like when someone dares you to eat some food combination that should be gross but is totally delicious.

Nielsen has written episodes of the popular Canadian TV series Degrassi Junior High and also four Degrassi books (there are Degrassi books? MUST FIND!), so she is well versed and well practiced in writing about youngsters. And it shows in her writing. Everything described, no matter how weird, is believable.

There are messages in Word Nerd but they don’t seem forced. From family love, to getting over our fears after losing someone, to realizing that no matter how weird you are, there’s a place where you fit in, this is just a warm and funny and fuzzy book. And I can’t wait to read more from this author.