Monday, May 29, 2017

YA Review: Star-Crossed Series

Every now and then I like to do a review of a series when I have all of the books. It's fun - or at least it is for me.

Aries Rising by Bonnie Hearn Hill

Published: March 2nd, 2010 by Running Press Teens
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 278 plus some bonus stuff
Part of a series? Yes, this is the first of three in the Star-Crossed series.
Got via: The library.

Summary (from goodreads): Logan McRae is your average high school sophomore, trying her best juggle the chaos of friends, guys, school, and parents. So when she finds a magical book called Fearless Astrology, all she wants is to change her sucky life.

In order to get into the summer camp of her dreams, Logan needs the recommendation of her irritable English teacher Mr. Franklin. She also has her eye on Nathan, the hottest guy in class. And when the Gears, a group of unknown students, start causing trouble in school and out, she decides to identify them using her new found knowledge of astrology.

Her Goals: to impress Mr. Franklin, get a date with Nathan, and keep her column in the school newspaper.

Review: We're not off to a great start. I definitely did not love this. It's okay, but there were a lot of things that irked me to no end. The biggest thing to me is how very immature the book and its characters were. I would have bought the book more if the characters had been in the twelve to fourteen age range because they do act very, very young, and the voice is pretty young as well. At one point Logan and her friends use a dressform in costume to be a fake her and that is just - weird.

There's also a lot of mean girl/girl hate stuff that I wasn't a fan of. It seemed very unnecessary. And of course, there were very few characters who weren't white, one token less than able-bodied character who showed up for all of two seconds, no real fat characters, and absolutely nothing for character who weren't cis, allo, and straight. There was a point where I thought the book was going to surprise me by having a character turn out to be queer, but they went super predictable instead, and to be honest, I felt a little queerbaited. The book goes so far as to, when romance is brought up, call it "boy/girl stuff" as though those are the only options. I also thought the texting was incredibly unrealistic, even for 2010.

I want to say this was like a fun, fluffy read but it had a few too many frustrating moments. Let's hope the next books are better.

Taurus Eyes by Bonnie Hearn Hill

Published: May 4th, 2010 by Running Press Teens
Genre: Contemporary YA with some paranormal elements
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 265 plus some bonus material
Part of a series? This is the second Star-Crossed book. Obviously. It's not like I'm going to read them out of order :P
Got via: The library.

Summary (from goodreads): Logan McRae is spending her summer at the camp of her dream, thanks to her discovery of a special book called Fearless Astrology. Far away from home and her friends, she now finds herself faced with a new set of challenges.

In order to secure a coveted writing spot in the camp's anthology, Logan must impress her instructor, Henry Jaffa, a renowned journalist and one of Logan's heroes. She feels confident that she will shine with her brilliant astrological piece about Sun signs, but Jaffa throws a wrench in her carefully wrought plans when he switches everyone's topics.

Now Logan has to compete with camp cutie, Jeremy, who is much more interested in their shared topic about the ghost of an obscure dead singer. Logan has only the stars to guide her as she tries to win the respect of her idol, write a stellar essay, and capture the heart of her newfound crush.

Review: I'm still not a giant fan of this series. This one does feel slightly less shallow, but it still fell into a lot of the same traps as the first book. Logan's lack of motivation and independance really annoyed me this time around. So much of the plot isn't because of something she wants, but because of something the boy she likes wants. Also, book summary/back of the book? She's 90 minutes from home. People where I live go further than that to go grocery shopping. And she goes home for the weekend. And her friends come up to visit her. Honestly, I wish she had been further away because if she'd had to stand on her own two feet more.

The girl hate was super strong in this one, too. Literally on the second page it was obvious who Logan's rival was going to be. Two pages to designate a girl to hate, who Logan literally declared her "enemy". And half of the reason that Logan seemed to hate her was that she had boobs. So many of the comments about her are body shaming and gross.

On the plus side, while there are still no queer people, no disabled people, no fat people, there were a couple more POC in this one. Minor characters, but they were there.

Also the girl on this cover is in, like, all the things.

Gemini Night by Bonnie Hearn Hill

Published: October 12th, 2010 by Running Press Teens
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 229 plus bonus material
Part of a series? It's the final book in the trilogy.
Got via: It was sent to me for review consideration in November of 2010.*
Amazon / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Starting her junior year, Logan McRae is excited about her internship at "CRUSH" magazine. But she is not so excited about her new boyfriend Jeremy's travel abroad in Ireland. Logan's in over her head trying to balance school, love, and friends, while trying to solve an astrological mystery--the fate of a Gemini is "star-crossed."

Will Logan find out who is in danger before the "CRUSH" Halloween costume party? Can she prove to the publisher she deserves her own astrology column? And will her relationship with Jeremy survive the distance? Only time will tell as Logan continues to reach for the stars

Review: Oddly, I think I liked this one best. The setting of celebrities and a fashion magazine and all that stuff fits the more fluffy tone of the book way more than other things. Even with the drama/somewhat series mystery at the end, it seemed to fit better. It reminded me more of that book I read a while ago... Killer Cruise. I actually wish this had been more like that, and embraced the fluff a little more.

I honestly wish I had liked this more, because it had a lot of potentional. It's an interesting premise. But it frustrated me too much. There's just as much girl hate in this, and again, it's incredibly white, not queer, and basically not diverse at all.

Series wrap-up: The thing is, these are not overwhelmingly terrible books. They aren't. A few years ago, I probably would have thought they were really cute. But they are very much a product of their times, and I don't much like that time in books. The constant girl hate and slut shaming gets so old, the celebrity references kind of date it, and the complete lack of any form of diversity whatsoever besides a few token attempts is exhausting. They are so average that I was very frustrated, and the times when the books seemed unrealistic or not the best researched, only added to the frustration.

Last to address the astrology stuff - I know that some people believe very fiercely in astrology, and all the more power to them. But the way it's handled in the book did not really work for me. Logan reads two books about astrology and is suddenly an astrology expert, to the point of solving mysteries and it being considered that she would get an astrology column in a magazine. Every single person fits their astrological stuff so well that Logan can guess peoples' Star signs upon meeting them and she's always right. It is incredibly improbable.

Astrology in the book is almost borderline treated like magical - unless people are freaking out and treating it like Logan has started doing drugs. I think in real life people would treat it more like a strange hobby, not in the extreme ways they do in the book. I find it very odd. And there was a little too much of it. I started skimming heavily towards the end.

I think there is definitely an audience for this book. I just do not think I am that audience. How young the voice seemed compared to the actual age of the characters didn't work to me, and it did a lot of things I didn't love. I could break it down and give ratings to each of the books, and one might squeak out a little higher, but on average? I think two roses sums things up well enough.

*Yup. That is in fact six and half years ago. Avoid depression if you can, kids, I don't recommend it. Despite the fact that it's been a ridiculously long time, I still want to review things I agreed to, even if it's just a matter of personal pride. I gave away a couple that were sent to be unsolicited that I had no interest in, and I've dnf'ed a couple I just couldn't get into, but darn it I want to at least try so I feel better.

Other notes:

- Making toast makes you a foodie now? Is it supposed to be a joke when her dad says Logan inherited his "foodie genes" when she puts peanut butter on toast?

- Fun fact, since they live in California and the age of consent is eighteen, if any of them have sex, a bunch of these relationships are technically illegal. I did not have enough suspension of belief from enjoying these to ignore that I knew that.

- The first book accidentally implied a student/teacher relationship twice and I got so grossed out.

- There were some typoes, and I'm not sure if it's because I wasn't enjoying the books very much that I noticed them more, or if there were just more? One particularly bad example from the second book.

- Seriously, these covers confuse me so much. WHO are these girls? I literally have no idea. It's like random stock photos.

- Okay, I know 2010 was a while ago, but it was not impossible to find a record player then, was it?? In California. Near San Francisco. I THINK EVEN IN 2010 YOU COULD HAVE FOUND A HIPSTER WITH A RECORD PLAYER. Also they never actually played it so.

I think that's everything. I'm sorry this wasn't more positive!

Peace and cookies,

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