Thursday, November 5, 2009

YA Reviews: Ash and Going Too Far

For a kinder and gentler young adult reading experience, I recommend Malinda Lo’s Ash, which has an interesting spin on the Cinderella fairy tale. Malinda combines fantasy and magic with a subtle love story. The twist with this tale is who the heroine Aisling has her happily ever after with.

Aisling, whose nickname is Ash, lives in a small village of Rook Hill with her mother and father. Her mother falls ill and dies. Ash believes that the fairies took her mother away because of all the tales her mother told about the fairies in the woods. Ash is a very curious girl and wants to see these fairies even though she has been warned that they would kill her because she’s human. Ash’s father is devastated and goes to the Royal City where the king lives. When he returns to Rook Hill, he brings with him a new wife, Lady Isobel Quinn and her two daughters, Ana, who is twelve, and Clara who is ten. Ash is heartbroken that her father would marry so quickly after her mother’s death.

Soon after Ash’s father also falls ill and dies. Because he left a great deal of debt, Isobel tells Ash she must work it off and will become a servant in their household. Isobel thinks Ash is a silly pathetic girl because of her love of fairy tales. Ash is treated horribly, even worse than a dog. And because Isobel can’t stand the rustic life, she moves them to the Royal City.

Years go by and Ash dreams of a way to escape her life and her evil stepmother. Ash is able to go off into the woods that surround the city when her stepmother and sisters go away to other towns for fun and to find Ana a husband. Ash does a very dangerous thing because she meets Sidhean, a male fairy who wants to kill her but can’t for some reason. There is something about Ash that makes him merciful. They form a tentative friendship and whenever Ash asks for a wish, he gives it to her, but for a price. Ash also meets the King’s Huntress, Kaisa. Ash and Kaisa also become friends but the way Ash feels for Kaisa is very different from the way she feels for Sidhean. Sidhean is very seductive and manipulative; Kaisa treats Ash with respect. Ash has a hard decision to make because every time she asks Sidhean for more, she is pulled further into his world, where he will claim her as his. Nothing is really holding Ash to the human world, except for Kaisa. Ash has a tough choice to make that could change her life forever.

Ash is perfect for those who adore fairy tales. This fairy tale has a wonderful twist that was written in such a lovely way. Instead of Ash having a fairy godmother, she has Sidhean who expects a great deal from her. He wants her soul because she is a special human girl that can break through his defenses. But the main reason I really enjoyed this story was because of Ash’s relationship with Kaisa. It was beautiful, tender and so right. These two clicked in such a wonderful way.

Malinda Lo’s Ash is a fast read and one that is very poignant. I also loved the sense of entitlement the female characters are given as well as the way they are portrayed, especially with Kaisa. This is one fairy tale with a happily ever after that has been way overdue and I applaud Little Brown and Company for publishing this book. (Little Brown and Company)

Grade: B+

Because the majority of young adult books I’ve been reading are mainly paranormal or fantasy, it was a nice change to read a contemporary young adult with Jennifer Echols’ Going Too Far. This coming of age novel really hits on a great deal of issues and after you finish reading Meg’s journey and why she acts the way she does, you will have a big smile on your face. Meg may act like a rebel, but she is still very much a little girl scared and alone, not sure where she’s going or what her plans are. She has dreams and thinks she knows what they are, but all it takes is one person to show her that sometimes a person’s future can be found right in their backyard and with those they call their friends.

We are given quite an introduction to Meg who is the only teenager in Shelby County, Alabama with blue hair. Meg hates her backwater hometown. She just can’t wait for June to arrive to she can move to Birmingham for college. Meg acts out and gets into trouble. It should come as a surprise that she was able to get into college at all because she drinks, smokes pot and hangs out with older boys in college; especially certain bad boys. Her latest bad boy, or rather booty call, Eric, takes Meg and a few friends up on a bridge where a few years ago some teens who were just as stupid were killed by a train. Meg and Eric are about to engage in a little fun on the bridge when they are caught by the cops.

The cop who catches them reminds Meg of a forty something guy probably with a wife and a few kids. Meg gives him major attitude and thinks she will get out of this with no problems and go off to Miami for Spring Break. Meg is mistaken and the punishment for her crime is that she must ride in a police car on the overnight shift during the week of her Spring Break. Meg is not too happy about this, even more so, because the cop she will be with is the one who almost arrested her, Officer John After.

The officer with the funny last name is not anywhere near forty, but nineteen, only two years older than Meg and even went to her high school and was in her Spanish class at one point. John decided not to go to college even though he could have gotten a track scholarship. Meg really doesn’t understand why John would want to be a cop in this town where nothing exciting happens.

John has a few choice opinions about Meg, just as she does about him. She thinks he is goody goody. A muscular and cute one, but all the same she thinks he is lame. John thinks Meg is on a path to destruction. For the next few days, as they ride side by side, they learn about one another and from that their opinions about each other change. Meg wouldn’t mind getting into John After’s pants, because she suddenly finds herself attracted to him and the way he treats her is unlike the other boys she hangs around with. Meg wants John to loosen up so he can confront his own issues. She wants to break down the walls he has placed around himself. John, in turn, picks away at Meg where he questions her reasoning for things. Why does she want to run away from everything she knows? What is her real reason for lashing out?

Both have deep seated issues and when John and Meg talk about what they’re hiding and what they’re afraid of, it’s explosive and will open their eyes to things they didn’t see before, where they will come to depend on one another and from that love will form between them.

Going Too Far is a great story about opposites attracting. John and Meg will have you in stitches because they are so funny and cute together. Meg has some major issues and acts out because of something horrible that has happened. When you find out what it is, you will be more understanding to her way of thinking. The reason she lives life on her own terms and acts as if each day is her last is because of a trauma she went through. At first I thought that this trauma wasn’t really needed to move the story along, but then it all made sense. John is Meg’s counterpart, the complete opposite of her in the way she thinks and looks at life. John is everything a young girl rebels against. He holds up a mirror to her, where he shows Meg in simple terms that bigger and better is not always the case.

I adored John. He is a wonderfully written young man who deals with life in a very mature way. I loved how he took Meg in hand and together they became a great unit. These two may seem so wrong for one another but Jennifer Echols’s skill as a writer makes the reader believe in these two.

Going Too Far has an innocent feel but the subject matter is very much what teens must deal with from sex, drinking and even death. I really loved how John handles his attraction to Meg. He respects her and doesn’t want to rush into things. It was also a nice change for Meg to be more the aggressor in their relationship.

This was the first book I ever read by Jennifer Echols and it certainly won’t be my last, Going Too Far is a much recommended read. And if Jennifer decides to write a sequel showing us how John and Meg are doing together, I wouldn’t mind that at all. (Pocket Books)

Final Grade: B+



Mollie said...

I really enjoyed Going Too Far too however there was ONE thing that kind of annoyed me about it. I talked about it in my Goodreads review...
*possible spoiler
The only thing that bothered me about this book was that John was all about following rules and not doing anything illegal, yet he is 19 and Meg is 17 and they have sex. Technically....that's statutory rape. Even though it says in the book they're only a year and a half a part, John makes such a big deal that 19 is WAY different than 17. So it really irked me that after him making a Big Deal about being NINETEEN and being Mr. Law Abiding Citizen, that he would be sleeping with Meg before she was 18. That was the only thing that bothered me. It just didn't seem to jive with everything we know about John up to that point.

I mean clearly there was no rape, whatsoever everything was consensual but in the eyes of the law she's still a MINOR right?

Nit-picky? Maybe, but I still really enjoyed the book overall but that one thing kind of bothered me in light of John's overall character.

Mollie said...


Ok after all that...I THEN looked up the age of consensual sex in Alabama (that's where they were right?) its 16 so I guess its legit...

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

I never even thought about the difference in age with Meg and John and him being legal and her not. But again John was trying very hard not to give in because of his role as an officer and I think because of Meg's age.

Wouldn't the same rules apply with Eric? Eric was such a jerk. As for John After... *swoon*

Mandi said...

Ash sounds very cute, but I really want to read Going to Far. I have read the best reviews of it..yours included :) The relationship between John and Meg seems very special.

Mollie said...

Yea Eric was a douche. I def loved John and all his Studly Dudley Do Right yummines.. :)

Ana said...

GREAT reviews dude! I completely agree - in fact both books are on my top 10! (It is amazing the amount of YA that are making my top 10 this year - and a bit scary too)

heidenkind said...

Going Too Far sounds like a good read. I do love my cop heroes. :)

Carolyn Crane said...

Ash sounds like the perfect book for my niece! Thanks for these reviews!

Janicu said...

Ack. I want to read both of these now. DAMN YOUUUU. *shakes fist*.

Smokinhotbooks said...

Why katiebabs, why do I keep stopping by *cries*? My poor credit card needs a break - I want these books now dammit!

PS I also want an eyebrow ring, you don't think I'd look weird right? I think it'll totally mesh with my professional corporate work attire.

SarahT said...

I received my copy of 'Going Too Far' on Tuesday. I'm hoping to read it over the weekend. I also loved 'Major Crush' by Jennifer Echols. It's a sweet, funny YA romance. She actually manages to make a school band sexy - and not in an 'American Pie' kind of way!

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Mandi: Ash was a very nice read. Sweet and tender all rolled into one. Ah, John and Meg! Love those two.

Mollie: I would have pushed Eric off the bridge.

Ana: Great minds think alike ;) Wait till I review Hush Hush. heh heh.

Heidenkind: John is a wonderful co hero. So adorable,

CJ: Ash is a very nice read, perfect for a teen girl.

Janicu: I love being an evil book pimp.

Smokinhot: You could always get a tongue ring instead.

orannia said...

I have Going Too Far on my TBR list, but after your review of Ash I'm adding that as well. I just *heart fairy stories*

Kris said...

I really enjoyed Going Too Far and LOVED the relationship between Mag and John.

The YA coming out is amazing at the moment. I'm loving it.

Michelle said...

I read Ash several months ago and have to admit it wasn't one of my favorites. Mainly because I felt like there was so much going on. It really could have been two different stories. Add to that, that I liked the fairy tale part more than the love story (which I never really felt like it was more than BFF-dom anyway) and I was left feeling a bit disapointed.

I agree that Little Brown did a great thing putting this story out and it was definitely beautifully written.

Keira of LoveRomancePassion said...

Put Ash on hold at the library! Love Cinderella YA fiction. My favorite for so long is Ella Enchanted.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Orannia: Ash is a true heart fairy story.

Kris: I am on a YA binge.

Michelle: I have to say I was impressed by the way Lo handled the relationship BFF love feel to Ash. I wondered if she went a bit darker, what the book would have been like than? Kaisa could have saved Ash from Sidhean. Shown off her huntress skills!

Keira: have you ever seen Ever After? *sigh*

SonomaLass said...

I love books based on fairy tales. My all-time favorite is Robin McKinley's Deerskin, although her others are all pretty good, too. I loved Ash. It made me wish one of my daughters was still young enough to read it aloud a chapter at time, as we did with so many books.

Have to admit, when I saw the title of your review, I was scared that you thought Ash "went too far." LOL!

Grain de Beaute said...

Nice review! :)

I'm going to add these two books to my TBR list.I'm on a YA roll for these past few weeks and these books are great addition to my YA reading list.

Thank you!