graphic novel, LGBT, YA Contemporary Fiction, YA romance

My Review: Heartstopper: Volume 1 (Heartstopper #1): by Alice Oseman

Publish Date: February 7th, 2019
Number of Pages: 288 Pages
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Romance, LGBT+

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

Another fun, romantic, hilarious, real, personal graphic novel about friendship and the possibility of love. I had a lot of fun reading this story as it was recommended to me by fellow readers.

It’s an incredibly quick read that I easily finished in one sitting, and it’s an incredibly relatable story that really seemed to resonate with me and plenty of others who go through a similar journey of self discovery as the characters do in this graphic novel.

There’s queer representation, theres bullying, and theres an abusive relationship that really seem to stick with people, myself included, after finishing this first part of the two MC’s story. The author really excelled at showcasing her craft with her characters and made them feel distinct, engaging and so much fun to read about. She’s also pretty spot on about the bullying…at the time you have in High School, people will literally come up with ANYTHING to make fun of you about: whether you’re too thin, too fat, too smart, too stupid, too clingy, alone too much, too slutty, too prudish, etc. Anything that makes you stick out and become distinguishable, someone will make fun of you about it. It’s a sad reality for a lot of young people…it’s tragic to discover that life ain’t a Disney Channel Original Movie like they make you believe when you’re a kid.

Luckily, our characters don’t just sit back and let the abuse take over; through their personal growth in this GN, they learn to stick up for themselves and recognize their self worth! It’s a lot of fluff, it makes you go “Awwwwwwwwwe” a whole bunch of times, and positively warms reader’s hearts and believe in true love!

What It’s About:

Charlie Spring is a Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys, and is the only openly gay student. It hasn’t been an easy adjustment, especially at an all boys school, but he’s made the most of it over the year since it happened. In fact, he’s almost become more popular because of coming out of the closet, and even has a boyfriend…sort of.

Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and is the complete opposite of Charlie: he’s much more relaxed and easy-going and a star athlete on the school’s rugby team. He’d heard of the openly gay student on campus, but had never actually met the poor kid who’d been bullied for it. That all changes when they wind up in the same class and end up sitting next to each other.

They quickly become great friends and hang out all the time, but Charlie finds himself doing what no openly gay male should never do–falling for their straight best friend. He truly believes nothing will ever come of it, but sometimes life really throws a curveball at you, and things like love and fate work in unexpected ways.

Sometimes it’s better to take the plunge and go forth, because how will you truly know unless you try?

What I Liked:

  1. Charlie’s Hair! The boys hair is gorgeously drawn! I’m telling you, it’s some Disney Princess level hair, and Charlie himself is such a sweetheart/cinnamon roll who deserves the whole freakin’ world.
  2. Friendship Before Love! I’ve read it before that every great love story has a great friendship as a base, and I can definitely agree with that! I’m not about to get all sappy and dive deeper into this whole idea, but basically, it was sweet to see the relationship evolve with Charlie and Nick! It was amazing how supportive Nick was of Charlie as a friend and teammate, and how Charlie wasn’t about coming to terms with his sexuality, it was more about his growing feelings for Nick because he was already out and proud.
  3. Sexual Discovery! So mild spoiler alert (or maybe not to be completely honest), but Nick going through his whole “am I straight or am I actually gay?” storyline: I think every gay male back when they were questioning themselves can relate to that part of the graphic novel. I only wish this part went on a little longer because sometimes it takes longer for some to figure themselves like that.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Overall Art Style…It’s not that I hated it necessarily, but I felt like maybe it could’ve been cleaned up a bit more? I guess you could say the overall quality didn’t exactly meet up to other graphic novels I’ve read. Some people really enjoy it for its simplicity, but in my opinion, it felt like I looked through someone’s senior thesis project. I guess I’m comparing it to the other LGBT+ romance graphic novels I’ve read, the Fence saga by C.S. Pacat and Check, Please by Ngozi Ukazu. The artwork there is much more crisp, professional and even in color.


Another great comic for those who are looking for a sweet, sugar-infused m/m romance graphic novel. It’s also sports related, like, every other graphic novel that I enjoy reading! It’s an absolutely adorable story of two young men who meet and become friends, but what if there was room for more?

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Mystery/Thriller, YA Contemporary Fiction

My Review: Two Can Keep a Secret: by Karen McManus

Publish Date: January 8th, 2019
Number of Pages: 329 Pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre(s): YA Mystery, Suspense/Thriller

Total Star Rating: 2 Stars

Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Okay lesbehonest…who else is shook that the quote we hear so much now is actually missing someone from the original quote? Maybe one of them really is dead?…

One thing we do know is that secrets never fully stay buried for long, they always have a way of revealing themselves, whether or not we want them to be or not. Like insects, they like to find a way to sneak through the cracks and infest themselves…But I can’t lie; they sure do make things interesting…

When I’d read Karen McManus’s debut novel, One of Us is Lying (see my other book review by clicking the link in the text), I was kind of impressed that someone had stepped up to give YA readers something different, which was a Mystery/Thriller genre title. The section is filled to the brim on either Contemporary Romance or Fantasy (usually with romance too), and I’ve got to admit, they all are starting to bleed together…they’re just becoming spinoffs of each other, and less and less titles are beginning to feel original. One of Us is Lying felt different! It was something semi new to the table, and sure, it had the stereotypical characters that we’d all seen before…but that was only a base that she profusely deviated from in a fun and entertaining fashion! They developed and changed and completely turned around on their original expectations and it was enjoyable to grow with them as I read the mystery surrounding their story!

I’ve heard that while the debut novel of an author can be a huge success, it’s the sophomore novel that can be more of a challenge in terms of a good story or whether the author learned from their first and can keep up the momentum, but I admit that the former may be called into question because I regret to inform you guys that I wasn’t all that impressed with this title. The author’s craft continues to improve, there’s no doubt about that, but this book just wasn’t as much fun as her previous work for me. It was unpredictable and left me guessing who was behind it, but it never got me too excited or fully invested.

To sum it all up: it wasn’t terrible, but it was just an okay read.

It explores the idea of a seemingly pristine town that is riddled with a violent and mysterious history, and is infected with many dark secrets underneath the surface. It’s people on the outside appear darn-near perfect, but we all know things are never as they seem.

What It’s About:

When their mother is sent to rehab after a brutal car accident, Ellery and her twin Ezra are sent to live with their grandmother in the town that their mother grew up in but has the dark history of not one, but two missing girls were mysteriously murdered: Echo Ridge. The twins are used to not drawing too much attention to themselves along with taking care of each other with because of their troubled mother, but they learn the night they get into town that they’re connected to the towns troubled and murky history more than they’d ever expected.

Haunted by the past, their grandmother reveals to them one of the murdered girls was actually their mother’s twin sister, the aunt they never got to meet. Ellery becomes engrossed into what really happened all those years ago, and as a self-professed true crime aficionado, she’s up to the case and starts digging, despite not entirely sure she’ll like what she finds.

But like secrets, past events never stay fully buried, and the very night they arrive and learn the startling family reveal, a body is discovered in the road. A beloved teacher is found dead after a hit and run with no known suspect. More mysterious occurrences begin to happen, and threatening notes are found all over town, threatening the girls on the Homecoming Court and that they will all soon be dead. It’s exactly like what happened with the other girls many years prior, and the town is put into a terrified uproar over the past coming back to haunt them, history doomed to repeat itself.

To make matters worse, before anyone can do anything about it, a girl does go missing.

Ellery must work faster than ever to save a fellow classmate, and must work with local fellow high school student, Malcom (who’s family also has a bad history involved with the murders), in order to solve the mystery and rid the town of a possible killer on the loose.

What I liked:

  1. It’s Unpredictable! The author can really craft a great mystery, anyone who reads her novels I hope can see that! She expertly weaves red herrings, scapegoats, and other subplots together in order to keep you guessing and not have a clue as to who the killer could possibly be. I admit I had no idea who it was until the climactic final showdown.
  2. Great Minority Representation! The main character is Latina with a gay male twin, and there’s two asian side characters with one of them being bisexual! Instead of sticking with stereotypical characters as a basis for her main cast, Karen mixed it up and made the characters for this title much more diverse, which is a huge plus for the YA market. If not Game of Thrones-esque Fantasy, representation has been a huge selling point for contemporary titles, which is so great to see in recent years!
  3. The Final Line of the Book! The only thing that made me feel something was the very final line of the book as it left quite a chilling impression. It was a great way to end a suspense/mystery!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Title Sounds Like A Sequel…I feel like it’s confusing that this was titled Two Can Keep a Secret when her first novel was titled One of Us Is Lying, and yet they’re completely unrelated to each other. This isn’t the sequel even though the title suggests otherwise; it’s a complete standalone…Something about that feels disappointing to me.
  2. There’s Less Points of View…One aspect of One of Us Is Lying that I loved was how we heard from four different characters as you read that book. I love to get inside the minds of completely different characters and see how they operate with a different perspective, but we only got two characters for this title, much to my disappointment. I was also bummed that among the voices we heard the most of, none of the cast really stuck with me. They were fine, but nothing too special or memorable.
  3. This Was Too Character Driven…It sounds odd for a mystery, but a lot of the novel moves based off the characters and how they react to stuff that happens, which is what made this a slower read than I liked. I know it contradicts what I usually say about that style of story, but I think a murder mystery shouldn’t be so character driven. What’s also lacking is that the characters didn’t really develop or change all that much as time went on. They just learned more secrets and reacted to them.


It wasn’t a terrible book by any means, but I must say that for me, it was a lackluster sophomore murder mystery novel. Other readers, maybe younger and/or newer ones, can immensely enjoy this title. I blame the personal hype I gave this book from how much I did enjoy her first book, along with how many other books I’ve read which has raised my standards over the years. I recommend this title to anyone who’s a fan of teen thriller TV shows Riverdale and Pretty Little Liars (Karen can certainly write content better than both of those comparisons)!

Luckily, Karen has shared on her Twitter that she will have 2 books come out in 2020, including the actual sequel to OOUIL, One of Us is Next, which is expected to come out January 7th, 2020! I can say I’m still a fan of hers, so ya know I will check her other titles out and see what she comes up with next. Her craft can only go up from here!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Horror, Mystery/Thriller, YA Contemporary Fiction

My Review: Project 17: by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Publish Date: December 18th, 2007
Number of Pages: 248 Pages
Publisher: Hyperion
Genre(s): Young Adult, Paranormal, Mystery, Horror

Total Star Rating: 3.25 Stars

Who hasn’t had the urge to break into an old building that’s probably haunted? Imagine talking this over with your friends:

Let’s go film a movie, make some creepy scenes, put the hot girl right in the main shot to get views, and maybe ignore those footsteps we keep hearing, the shadows that keep moving, or maybe the bloody graffiti that spelled “GET OUT” back there…nothing can go wrong, right?

So I will be honest, I have not read this book in quite some time. In fact, the last time I ever opened the pages was probably 2009-2010, and even then it was purely for nostalgia, because this book holds a special place in my heart. As cheesy as it sounds, it was a key that opened up a time of my life that I look back on rather fondly. You’re really interested and want to hear the story???

I know you don’t, but screw it, here it goes:

It’s 8th grade, and me and my classmates get into groups for a big english project in making a short film. There’s groups of 5-6 students, and one of my partners, Shelby, introduced this book to our group when we were still figuring out what to do. None of us had ever read it, but it inspired us to make our own version of it, which was basically a cheap, god-awful Blair Witch Project knockoff with no plot other than random kids walking a dark hallway and things pop out and scare the crap out of them. I can say though, we got creative and ripped a doll’s head off, hung it by a string and shined a strobe light on with a creepy recording of a girl saying “Baby Debbie come to play, Baby Debbie come to DIE,” the last word going demonically low, which got quite a few laughs from the classmates that watched it.

The point of this story is what it did, which was surround me with a group of girls: Vy, Jenna, Melodi, Shelby and Rachel; it had us hang out a lot outside of school, and helped make some great memories that made me feel like I’d found a small group of actual friends for the first time in my life. Unfortunately, I lost contact with pretty much all of them thanks to high school and then moving away for college, but It was still one of the best parts of my life! Thanks girls! I doubt you’ll ever read this, but from the bottom of my heart and to quote Fall Out Boy, Thanks for the memories!

I apologize to everyone else; there was just a lot of backstory with this book as it’s got a lot of sentimental value to me, but now onto this actual book itself!

What It’s About:

This story is about Danvers State Hospital, an abandoned insane asylum atop Hathorne Hill just off the edge of Boston. It was rumored that the lobotomy was created there, and hundreds of unmarked graves littered the grounds of those that perished away within the cold, hard walls; their spirits haunting the dark and ominous halls. The building is about to be torn down, and all the memories and restless souls lost forever.

This story is about six teenagers who make one last appearance before the building is demolished, and they all have their own reasons for being there:

Derik is the popular guy with the less-than-stellar reputation when it comes to girls, and has been an underachiever because he knows he’s pretty much trapped into taking over the family diner unless he makes something of himself past graduation. He falls upon a film competition with prize money; it may be his last chance at a better life.

Liza is the smart, gorgeous, unattainable overachiever who has perfect grades, her transcripts for college all spick and spam, shiny and perfect except for one thing…she never really did any extracurriculars. Colleges look to see how students get involved; it’s not just about good grades and test scores anymore; maybe a student film being made is her chance to beef up her resumé?

Mimi is a rebel, an outsider, someone who doesn’t belong, and has people look at her funny because she wears all black and has lots of makeup and piercings on her face. She tries to hide it, but she has a personal reason for wanting to get into Danvers before it’s demolition, and despite the company, she volunteers to join Derik’s project.

Chet is the class clown, can’t take anything seriously, and usually makes just about everything into a sexual innuendo, but if he has to go back to that house where his father hits him almost every night, he might just hit his breaking point…whats another night out of that house and away from his drunken father’s fists?

Greta and Tony are the theater nerds who don’t know the boundaries of PDA…They are looking for any chance to get their made-up crowns onscreen in some way, and this project that Derik has started may or may not be their ticket to fame…

They all come from different social circles, but they all come together and break into the abandoned hospital on the eve of its demolition and film their adventures. Maybe they’ll get a few souvenirs to bring home, make a fun movie, but things quickly take on a darker, twisted and more ominous tone as strange occurrences keep happening: cold spots in the basement, film and audio equipment malfunctioning, doors locking on themselves, and the feeling that they may not be alone…

Soon, they find themselves trapped in a deadly scavenger hunt as they unravel some of the terrible secrets this hospital had kept locked and hidden until now, and a mystery that surrounds a specific inmate and the importance of the number 17 that keeps showing up all over the place. Together, they will work together to try and help one lost soul hopefully find their way, and have the night change them all forever…

What I Liked:

  1. The Research Done About Danvers! So fun fact, but Danvers was actually a real place! It was an insane asylum that was fully constructed in 1874, opened in 1878, then eventually closed down in 1992. It was actually demolished like they talk about in the story, and was also the setting in the horror flick, Session 9, which filmed on the actual ruins of the building. I never watched it, and I hear it’s much more gruesome than this novel, but remains of the very few visual pieces that showcases the actual site of the hospital. The author really seemed to have done her research on the building and its tragic history, including its well…questionable methods of therapy, and implemented it incredibly well into her story. She touches on the horrific past of malpractice of the patients that were admitted to places like Danvers and plenty of others back in the day.
  2. “The Breakfast Club” Trope! Some could argue that it’s played out, boring, and overdone, but I always appreciate books that have a cast of characters that normally don’t interact with each other, but are somehow forced together by some sort of force or plot point, whether it be in after-school detention, or you know…illegally breaking into an abandoned asylum to make a short student film. The cast of characters are nothing original (The popular jock, the theater nerds, the clown, the princess, etc.) but they make for reading the book to be enjoyable while touching on the issues of rumors and reputation while trying to survive high school in a more modern setting than a John Hughes’ 80’s teen classic.
  3. The Mystery Around Christine! So while they explore the hospital (collecting files, souvenirs, graffiti from over the years, gathering footage, and even discover a bathtub with bars enclosed over the top), they discover the diary of one of the patients from many years ago, a young girl named Christine. Through the diary, the dark secrets of Danvers comes to light and the teens find themselves on a hunt through the whole hospital of finding out what happened to her and if they can possibly put her spirit to rest.
  4. It’s A Quick Read! This book is lighter in volume, so it’s a good choice for more beginner level readers, or someone who just needs a quick, fast read that’s somewhat entertaining. For the speedier readers, you may even be able to finish this book in one setting! The ending is also quite satisfying and ties everything together quite well, especially for Mimi.
Danvers State Hospital, circa 1893, image credit to owner

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. It’s Not Creepy Enough…If you’re looking for something to really scare the crap out of you, make you afraid to walk into any dark room or make you need to leave the light on while you sleep, this book is not for you…It’s pretty basic and safe in terms of violence, gore or any other sort of horror aspects. There are some creepy moments, sure, but nothing that really seems too shocking for someone who’d consider themselves a veteran of the horror genre.
  2. Too Much Plot Convenience…While I can excuse the cliché characters, one thing that irked me was how easy and convenient it was for the characters to find patient’s files, equipment, props, etc. especially when it was integral to the plot. Like, it felt so choreographed that important documents just happened to be lying around on the floor, conveniently waiting to be discovered by them when they popped into the room, and it had classified information towards the malpractice of the doctors and nurses… The building’s been closed for quite some time by the time they get there, shouldn’t the place be leached out by then? Or the Documents have been shredded or something?


While it’s pretty basic in terms of horror and creepiness, it’s still a quick and fun read for someone who’s looking for something along the lines of creepy, paranormal fiction. The characters are nothing new or original, but they make for a familiar and funny little escape for those that’d open the pages and give this book a try. It’s a good starting point for those that hate to read, but still need something to read for whatever reason, like an easy book report. It’s not deep and meaningful, it’s just fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

LGBT, YA Contemporary Fiction

My Review: The Foxhole Court (All For the Game #1): by Nora Sakavic

Publish Date: March 31st 2016
Number of Pages: 251 Pages
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing
Genre(s): YA, Contemporary, Sports

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

Upon my epic quest to find more LGBTQ literature, particularly of the Male-Male variety, I saw this trilogy pop up on several lists I’d seen on Tumblr that implied that it would be a great addition to that line of fiction. It’s a lesser known, self-published set of books that has indeed gotten some small hype for being an LGBTQ centric YA fiction, but with it being a top 10 seller on Amazon, that makes it pretty hard to ignore.

What It’s About:

The Story Revolves around Neil Josten as he gets hand-selected by the Head Coach of (fictional) Palmetto State University to play on their Division 1 “Exy” team. Exy is a fictional sport the author created that looks like a kit-bashed version of Lacrosse and Soccer with the same level of aggression as Hockey or Football. Anyways, it’s an opportunity that others would kill for, but for someone like Neal who’s on the run because of his father being a murderous Mob Boss nicknamed “The Butcher,” he has his reservations about the exposure it’d bring.

Of course, he does eventually go to Palmetto and meets the rest of the team who are basically a college sports team version of the Suicide Squad. They are a bunch of rejects and junkies; I mean seriously, they are some pretty shady people, and they are all allowed to play a contact sport against other teams. Andrew Minyard in particular is a real piece of work, and Neal doesn’t get along with him at all. While they try to not come to blows, Neal also has to be careful around another teammate and star athlete, Kevin Day. Neal remembers him from his past, and worries that if Kevin recognizes him that his cover would be blown and he’d have to once again run away and start over somewhere far from there. Neal quickly begins to learn that he’s not the only one keeping secrets, it’s just pretty stressful when those secrets could get out and get him killed…

What I Liked:

  1. Neal As The Protagonist! He is an incredibly withdrawn, anti-social and distrusting person, and with good reason. Having a mobster as a father, he’s experienced some pretty messed up things that no kid should ever have to, and has the physical and emotional scars to prove it. It was really endearing to read how weary he became of others when they tried to help him or offer him stuff like money or clothes. There was a particular scene at the end of the book when he does something that no one saw coming, but it gained him a lot of respect from his teammates was probably when I knew I liked him and am no rooting for him.
  2. The Extra-ness Of It All! Much like a certain guilty pleasure of mine, the CW’s Riverdale, this book is over the top, overdramatic; it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in certain aspects, and just becomes super trashy…but I’m low-key here for it. Like, I know it’s trash, but I can’t help it but be entertained by it at the same time? Don’t ask me to explain why…but there are some pretty outrageous things that happen that can cause you to be like “What the hell am I reading?” A couple examples are how underclassmen are ushered into nightclubs, The NCAA allows a violence-prone student be able to play under the condition of being stoned on antipsychotics, being able to drive a long distance while dealing with a stab wound, or a player having knives on his person during an actual sanctioned game. That’s only a few of what goes down, and there’s still plenty more.
  3. The Raw Subject Matter! So, this book has a lot of problematic behavior that is probably not suitable for sensitive or easily triggered readers: the word retard is used multiple times, there is definitely assault and violence, toxic relationships, drugs and alcohol, someone is drugged without their knowledge, and then kissed/groped while drugged without giving consent. The author wasn’t afraid to touch on these darker themes, at least not condoning them. I know certain readers would be turned off by all of that within the story, but I personally like the grittiness that it added. First of all, it’s a work of fiction, and I can differentiate between that and the real world. Second, that stuff actually happens in real life too, whether we like it or not. Boycotting it or having it “cancelled” isn’t going to make it go away anytime soon, plus I’m about to be real straight with y’all… boys at the age these characters are (18-24) actually do some of these things…not all of them, but it isn’t that far fetched, at least from my perspective.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Aimless Midpoint…It’s a mainly character driven story for this first book in the trilogy, and while I normally love those kinds of novels, for this one I felt like it really limited the plot. From what I’ve read, a whole lot more happens in the next two books. Unfortunately, this one seemed to drag for certain parts; I mean, the plot seemed to be Neal just getting to know his teammates and learning how to act and react to them in order to stay under the radar. The book doesn’t really pick up until the very end, and while I’m interested enough to keep going along, I can see a lot of other readers turned off to this along with the problematic subject matter listed above.
  2. Underwhelming LGBTQ Representation…While there is certainly some representation shown in the book, especially with the character Nicky being way into Neal…that was about it. It felt like Neal could possibly be Ace, since he mentioned early on that he doesn’t really date or act on anything. Again, a lot more will probably happen in the next books, but why have readers have to wait until then? Why not give a little more right off the bat? It’s a fragile line to go down; a gamble that could result in losing reader’s interest that way…
  3. Andrew’s Psych…Andrew Mulyard is absolutely psychotic, and is in a situation where he breaks his parole if he’s sober…as in he needs to be high on his ‘chill’ pills in order to stay a regular member of society, and even participate in Exy games. Everyone treats him like he’s this powerful, intimidating boss-like character, like “Andrew gets what he wants, and no one ever crosses him.” He’s actually pretty awful, and I can say he does a lot of the problematic actions mentioned above. His drug plan doesn’t seem to make any sense at all, nor does how his personality changes from either being on his drugs or off, and the withdrawals…it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, and seems like the author didn’t plan it out that well, its mainly used as a plot device in order to make him seem like some unhinged, lunatic antagonist for Neal.


Overall, it’s not too bad of a first book for an interesting premise of a trilogy. While there is an openly gay character, it was disappointing to see a lack of the representation there, especially since it’s advertised as a LGBTQ repped series. It mainly sets the scene for the world that the story takes place in, with some VERY interesting scenes to end on a high note and revive my interest in the whole story. This book was alright, but I’m hoping the next books are great.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Contemporary Fiction

My Book Review: Party: by Tom Leveen

Publish Date: April 1st 2010
Number of Pages: 240 Pages
Publisher: Random House BFYR
Genre(s): YA Fiction

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

This title is probably what I consider to be one of the most underrated titles out there, whether within the YA genre or fiction in general.

What It’s About:

It has a simple premise: it revolves around the intertwining lives of high school students as they go to a party on a friday night in Santa Barbara, California. It’s a contemporary novel with an astounding 11 different perspectives of a single night! You don’t see that very often in any fictional story, and as you dives into the book, you get inside the heads of all these different characters and learn what they’re really thinking as the night escalates.

Basically, everyone has a reason to be there, and some are more meaningful than others: to say “screw you” to their parents, to hook up, to forget, to find the girl, to make friends, to support someone in need, or to say goodbye…

Everyone has a reason to be there that night.

What I liked:

  1. The Multiple Perspectives! I have found that I love storylines with multiple narrators and tells what’s happening from their perspectives. Some have their own preconceived notions of what occurred or what rumors are flying around about someone, and in another chapter the reader gets the truth. For the most part, I liked all of the characters, some more than others, even if some of them didn’t really add much to the story. Below is a summary and my opinion of all the characters:

Beckett: Easily the most likeable of the characters and has one of the more tragic background storylines of the story without it being too over the top. I could relate to her personality as one who’s more closed off to others, but she does seem lost in her own world, and is unable to see anyone else’s issues going on.

Morrigan: The typical mean, pretty, and bitchy girl. Of course, she’s not all that likeable, in fact she’s annoying as hell, but she does grow on you as the story develops. Her parents are actually the worst, and I’m glad mine were never like that, and it makes the reader gain some sympathy towards her.

Anthony: He’s a very complex character for me. Without giving too much away, he’s involved with a racism storyline, and it turns out making him look like the big mean jock who’s a bully. The reader is supposed to hate him until they read his chapter and then the terrible situation with Azize makes sense, and it becomes more complex. Both sides become understandable.

Azize: I felt so bad for poor little Azize. He just wanted to go to the party to try and make a friend, and he’s an extremely nice guy. His issue was dealing with racism in a post-9/11 world, and has a big scene with Anthony as the climax. For that scene, I’ll just say perspective is a powerful thing.

Tommy: He’s an extremely minor character in the overall story, his chapter didn’t do much besides set up Josh’s storyline. He goes with all of his buds in support of Josh who was dealing with a bad breakup with Morrigan.

Brent: To tag along with his best bud, Max, in order to possibly help him find the girl with the weird hat and finally ask her out, and why not rub shoulders with the top of the social food chain? He’s another minor character, kind of an elitist douche trying to climb the social ladder, he pretty much only set up bigger storylines.

Daniel: Another minor character, served as an outside perspective towards bigger storylines, so there’s not much of an opinion on him.

Ryan: He was a reluctant character to like. At first, his reputation is that he’s a total player, a man-whore, you name it. What’s different is that he changes when you read his chapter (again, the power of perspective). His main story arc was to hook up with whatever random hot girl caught his eye that night, but only because that’s what everyone expects from him, and part of him is sick and tired of having to live up to reputation that others dumped onto him. He likes to think he’s more than just what others think of him as, but can’t seem to be able to shake it.

Josh: Josh gets dragged out to the party while dealing with a bad breakup because of his religious views. I felt bad for him and found him relatable: a decent guy who feels like he constantly gets berated for doing the noble and right thing but the whole world is out to get him; the nice guy who finishes last.

Max: I liked him a lot. He simply wants to seek out that mysterious girl with the weird hat and finally try to ask her out, so he goes to the party with his friend, Brent, with the unlikely chance that she will be there too. His chapter was incredibly sweet. Why can’t there be more guys like him out there?

Ashley: Her purpose was to be the supportive best friend, but loses her cool when her ex best friend, Beckett, shows up to the party unexpectedly. She’s popular, but not with the queen-B status. She’s friends with just about everyone, and everyone likes her, and she even has a few unknown suitors that are after her affections. She’s also the mediator of pretty much every conflict in the story and helps resolve a lot of them. She’s like the mom of the group; she stays back, shakes her head at everyone’s mistakes, but will swoop in to help clean up the mess every time, because that’s just what a good friend did.

What I didn’t Like:

  1. Lack of Depth…There definitely is deep subject matter within the story, but the way its initially presented appears shallow and just full of teen angst. The author tries to talk like a teenager, so there are additions of stuff like “and stuff,” “um…,” “and something” and other little speech quirks like that to try and make it feel genuine and almost like reading a diary entry, but it just makes the story feel more juvenile.
  2. It’s So Short…This is an easy book to fly through, and its very short in terms of page numbers, so the reader could easily complete this book in one sitting if they get into it. Personally, I wish it was longer! I wanted so much more to happen, like for each characters to show their resolutions go further and feel more complete. Quite a bit can feel like it’s left up in the air, and there’s a sort of mysterious beauty to that, but I still wish we had more to go on to see how things will change for more of the characters past the party and all that happened during it.


Overall, an enjoyable read that revolves around a simple setting: a high school house party. I think this book is so amazing and so underrated, but it’s a mostly unheard of title that’s never been on the bestseller list, but that shouldn’t detract anyone from reading it! Personally, I think this story can relate to just about anyone in any way, shape, or form so long as they give it a chance.

The important message to take away from this title is the power of perspective, and similar to Jay Asher’s bestseller 13 Reasons Why, we truly don’t know what is going on in other people’s lives and how important one simple little interaction can affect those around us. We all have our own stories, struggles, and baggage that weigh us down on a daily level, but sometimes if we take a second to try and look at everything from the view of someone else, things are not just black and white, and how complex even a total strangers life can be, even as they pass us by in a single moment of time.

I think Party by Tom Leveen is a great title that can really teach people that things are never as they appear in a non-magic, totally contemporary way, and that there multiple sides to everything, so we shouldn’t just jump to conclusions. It’s been an inspiration for many projects I’ve worked on over the years; a perfect example is my senior thesis project at college, which can be found in my Writing tab up on the main menu! The title is “TGIF!”

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell