The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (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…
What I Liked:
Gosh, this book was sweet. Sweet in a good way. Sweet in a way that I needed to read, from Young Adult literature. We all know how much of a black-hole-mess my romantic life is at the moment. It's sweet books like these that give me hope - maybe I won't end up forever alone, the crazy book lady (I hate cats, so it's books instead).
Sage is known as the "Post-It Princess", because she writes nice things on Post-It notes and sticks them on people's lockers, when she sees that someone is having a bad day. Sage is sort of okay with this nickname, because it's better than everyone at her school knowing what she did before she came to the school/town three years ago. Now, it's someone else's turn to be new. Shane Cavendish is quiet and reserved, and doesn't want people to look at him or notice him. He wants to be invisible, play his guitar, go through the motions. But little by little, Sage wears him down with her Green World club promotion and her caring attitude when he doesn't come to school. It's not long before Sage learns about Shane's broken past, and Shane learns about hers. Neither of them expected the other, but both of them need each other more than they realize.
I have a lot of trouble with tough-issue contemporary novels, so I was wary of this one. But I love Aguirre's books, and so I decided to give this one a shot. The "tough issues" didn't overwhelm the story like I expected, but they were present and definitely an important part of the book. Both Shane and Sage have extremely crazy pasts. Both of them had to live in difficult situations (foster homes and whatnot), so it was hard NOT to sympathize. I wanted to hug them both.
I liked Sage. I'm a lot like her, minus the troubled past (okay, that's a HUGE difference, but still). We're both super organized, structured, contained - icy, almost. We both try to do nice things for random people (I don't do the Post-It thing, but I literally go up to people and TELL them nice things, like their shirt is cute or their hair looks nice). We differ in academics - Sage sucks at geometry and chemistry (basically the math/science worlds). We're both super into environmental health and living the green life. I could relate to Sage in many ways, and it made it easy for me to like her, to understand her decisions.
I liked Shane a lot, too. He's quiet and almost innocent, but he's got a fire and a temper. But mostly he's sweet and reserved. He doesn't like handouts or people helping him without him asking for it, which gets Sage into trouble a few times, because she always wants to help him, and sometimes, he gets irritated because he doesn't want her help (pride is a strange thing, people).
I love the two of them together. They make each other laugh, they understand each other, they have similar temperaments and attitudes. Shane will do just about anything to make Sage happy, and Sage will do just about anything to help Shane and make him happy. It's sweet.
The romance is so sweet. I thought there would be a love triangle, because Sage's best friend Ryan likes her (he didn't realize it at first, but he does). But Sage doesn't like him like that, and is only interested in Shane. So nothing ever happens between her and Ryan. And in the end, Ryan moves on, also in a sweet way. No insta-love for anyone, in my opinion.
The story is kind of sad and uplifting at the same time. Sage defends her new friend Lila, from Lila's ex-boyfriend Dylan. Dylan gets pissed, and he wants to retaliate. Sage is worried that Dylan will shell out her dark past - which he does. It's terrifying, having your life revealed to the whole school. You'll have to read the book to see what happens. I really felt for Sage - and Dylan, too. The ending has a bit of justice for everyone, and I love how this book ends. Aguirre hits on so many plots, and wraps them all together.
Overall, I'm really pleased with this book. The "tough issues" weren't so cliche and obnoxious that I was rolling my eyes or in danger of throwing the book. The romance wasn't insta-love-y or cliche either. I really liked this story. It was, as I said, sweet. I like sweet.
What I Did Not Like:
I don't necessarily have anything negative to say about the book. It's a four-star read though.
Would I Recommend It:
I liked this one a lot, so I would recommend it! In general, any of Aguirre's ten thousand books are good stuff. She writes adult, New Adult, Young Adult - and within those age levels, paranormal, contemporary, romance, etc. She's a very talented writer, and I've loved everything I've read by her!
4 stars. An excellent, heart-warming standalone! I don't always enjoy contemporary, but when I do, I usually LOVE them. I'm so glad this one worked for me! Now, I'll take my own guitar-playing cutie, pleaseee!
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