Cold Summer | Gwen Cole
Hardcover: 334 pages
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
“Today, he’s a high school dropout with no future.
Tomorrow, he’s a soldier in World War II.
Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past.
When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him…more”
Gwen Cole handles the concept of time travel well by simplifying the mechanics of it and reducing it to an easily understandable phenomena. She manages to tell a compelling story without resorting to theory or paradoxical claims and instead focuses mostly on the characters and how they are affected by Kale’s time traveling ways.
While I was not entirely convinced by Kale and Harper’s connection, I thought their relationship was sweet and fairly innocent. Still, I needed a few more flashbacks of their childhood together to make me believe in their closeness that carried through to their teenage years.
Also, I felt as if I didn’t know much about Harper. Her narrative wasn’t as interesting as Kale’s and I found the subplot concerning her estranged mother ineffective and under-developed. Also, both Harper and Kale sounded alike. Harper didn’t much stand out as an individual character with a specific and memorable personality. Kale, on the other hand, most certainly did.
Kale’s point of view was filled with anger and sadness and I could easily sympathize with him while he dealt with a multitude of issues including a forced need to time travel, PTSD, and familial tension between him and his father. Although, I wasn’t satisfied with how Kale’s father came to accept his time traveling, as it felt anticlimactic, and I thought the war scenes were brief, generic and not present enough.
Despite all these issues I had with the book, I sincerely enjoyed it for what it was!
By Your Side | Kasie West
Paperback: 352 pages
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
“When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.
Only he doesn’t come. No one does…more”
This was my first Kasie West book and I thought it was really cute! Not the best YA contemporary I’ve read lately, but still pretty entertaining.
I liked both Dax and Autumn and their romance was sweet with a side of fluff and hardship. They were an odd pair that perfectly balanced one another. Autumn’s playfulness and generally positive attitude made her a fun character to connect with. I also like how she suffered from social anxiety, though I wish her disorder were used less as a plot device and more an inseparable aspect of her personality and behavior.
Dax was an enigmatic and troubled introvert with much charm and intelligence. I admired how West touched on the foster system and I also like how Dax’s quietness wasn’t just a result of his situation or was a mask he wore to look cool, but was actually a part of his true self. Both Autumn and Dax’s issues weren’t fully fleshed out, but they were present and added a bit of diversity to the story.
I wasn’t a fan of Autumn’s friends, though Jeff is an exception. None of her friends were very memorable and the female friendships she had, though not harmful, were not all that powerful or helpful.
The library section was a bit too short and not all the characters were winners. Even so, this was a cute read that was both entertaining and meaningful.