Monday, February 11, 2019

YA Review: If You're Out There

If You're Out There by Katy Loutzenheiser

Published: March 5th, 2019 by Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA Mystery
Binding: eARC
Page Count: Goodreads says 320
Part of a series? Standalone
Got via: Edelweiss
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): After Zan’s best friend moves to California, she is baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya’s social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn’t sound like her at all.

Everyone tells Zan not to be an idiot: Let Priya do her reinvention thing and move on. But until Zan hears Priya say it, she won’t be able to admit that their friendship is finished.

It’s only when she meets Logan, the compelling new guy in Spanish class, that Zan begins to open up about her sadness, her insecurity, her sense of total betrayal. And he’s just as willing as she is to throw himself into the investigation when everyone else thinks her suspicions are crazy.

Then a clue hidden in Priya’s latest selfie introduces a new, deeply disturbing possibility:

Maybe Priya isn’t just not answering Zan’s emails.

Maybe she can’t.

Review: Well, this was fun. I really liked the voice in this. It's got just enough of a sense of humour to really contrast with the serious moments, and considering how angsty those things could have gotten, it's rather more enjoyable that most of it keeps the balance of not too heavy. It's also nice to see a book give such weight to how a friend break-up can affect someone. There's a romance, and it's cute, but the friendship is more important and that's not treated as weird or juvenile or anything.

Plot Talk: This has some pretty good suspense. I'm really glad that it never went the flashback route. I liked much better that it stayed in the present day with only a few times where Zan would remember something from the past, versus alternating past and present timelines, for instance. I think that would have ruined the tension. There was even a moment where I actually kind of gasped because something happened that surprised and startled me so much - in a good, suspenseful way!

However, there was something that did kind of ruin the tension for me, but since it's a little bit of a spoiler, I'll go into it in my complaints section.

Characters: Zan is cool. She's kind of floundering when the book starts, not entirely sure who she is if she isn't part of "Priya and Zan", and honestly she's wallowing a little. Understandably! I think how Zan feels is exactly how anyone who has ever had a friendship end by the other person ghosting feels, and it's very relateable. Even though the "maybe something bad is happening" isn't what most people are going to experience, it's kind of cathartic to read anyways. What happens with Priya may not be what happened to your friend, but it feels good to read anyways.

Or at least that's how I felt.

Also, props to Logan in general. He was a cool dude character. Kind of that stereotypical thing where there's rumours/a thing in his past that sounds scary or bad, but actually he's really a good guy, but also I kinda don't mind it in his case? Mostly because in his case the rumours were mostly untrue and the thing that did happen was something I could see a lot of teenagers doing. It doesn't ping my pet peeve radar so much.

I think a lot of that was a combination of two things, too. One, Zan and Logan have really good chemistry and they interact in ways that are really fun. There's a point where Logan says he's doing something "for feminism" and it felt cute and funny, not mean-spirited or insulting. Two, he respects her so much. He believes her no matter what, even when no one else does, even when she's not sure she should believe herself. How much he respects her and how well he treats her - even when she's kind of mean to him! - really makes the romance work.

This book is really great at characters. Zan is surrounded by a lot of very supportive people from her parents to her boss to her other friends. While she's not as close to her other friends as she was to Priya, they still express concern about her and she realizes she should make more of an effort to hang out with them because they're still important. I kinda adored her boss at the restaurant - he worried that she wasn't spending enough time with her friends, and just worried about her a lot in general.

Her parents are cool, too. I particularly liked that her mom has a new girlfriend, versus a new boyfriend, as that's not something you see as much in YA. It was nice that it wasn't a huge deal, just new and a little different. They were still all getting used to each other and especially getting used to living together, but it's just normal growing pains of a newly blended family. The book also handles Zan's complicated relationship with her father well.

PG-13 stuff: There's a little language I believe, and some violence/scary situations, but nothing I would say that's over the top or that would scare a younger reader. Little bit of talk about addiction/drugs.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I had some minor nitpicks about language that I felt was unnecessary (cracks about a doll's body being "an advertisement for bulimia" or something along those lines) and especially the whole thing about Zan's "chronic boylessness" (good god, some people just don't want to date - that's fine!) but I mainly had one big complaint.

And it's a spoiler so skip to the cover if you don't want to read it, but it bothered me - about two thirds into the book, it suddenly starts having entries from Priya's journal. It ruins the suspense of not knowing what's happening to her, and I thought it was entirely unnecessary. Very meh.

Cover comments: Not my favourite cover in the world, but it gets the job done.

Conclusion: While I had a few complaints in this, it's pretty good nonetheless and I did have a really fun time reading it. It's one of those books you can relax a little while reading and just enjoy the ride. It's not too serious of a read, and that's enjoyable sometimes. Three and a half out of four roses.



Other notes:

- How do you all feel about the only cop in the book being Black? Not my lane, but I found it interesting.

- Random, but I liked that Logan had long hair. Not everyone has to have the same style in YA.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

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