Hi there! Today I’m reviewing a contemporary YA romance hot off the press! Released yesterday, Ann Aguirre’s THE QUEEN OF BRIGHT AND SHINY THINGS is a well-paced story about how a person’s kindness can change your world, and life, for the better.
About the book:
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…
How about a little taste?
I have forty seconds to spare when I burst through the doors of the Curly-Q. Mildred gives me the side-eye, but since I’m not technically late, she just says, “Get your smock on, girl. There’s cleaning to be done.”
Though it’s not strictly legal or sanitary, I’m pretty sure they save the hair for hours. The stylists just sweep it away from the chairs and pile it out of the way. So by the time I arrive, there’s a small Sasquatch on the floor. It takes me an hour to get the shop pristine. Customers come and go, mostly walk-in haircuts. Around six, it slows down, and Grace beckons me to the chair.
“When are you gonna let me give you some highlights?” She asks this often.
This time, however, I say, “Tonight, if you have time.”
Grace gets excited. “Mildred, get the camera. I’ll do it free if you let me take a picture for the Before and After wall.”
I eye the wall, not sure I want to be immortalized up there, along with all the 80s hair and prom refugees, but eventually I shrug. “Why not?”
My hair is a dark blond, mousy and forgettable. I mean, it’s decent hair, neither straight, nor curly. Left to its own devices, it falls in messy waves. That’s why I wear a lot of ponytails and braids. Aunt Gabby has similar problems, only she gets it lightened and highlighted so it looks bright and flirty, and she spends forty-five minutes a day straightening hers, so it’s sleek and smooth by the time she goes to the shop. UPS Joe seems to like the results anyway.
Grace fastens me into the plastic smock, then snaps a Polaroid. I still don’t care that much how I look; I mean, it’s so superficial, but a small part of me would like to be prettier, at least maximize what I’m working with. I tell myself this is more of a social experiment, and I can evaluate how people react to the new me. But that’s not it.
I’m totally doing this to see if Shane notices. Sometimes I hate being a girl.
Sage is 16 and an orphan living with her father’s half-sister. She strives to be a model teen, getting involved in activities and keeping good grades. She’s been abused and placed in foster care before and never wants to return. Her tiny Illinois farm town is a tight community, and Sage has fit in by being the sidekick/best friend of Ryan, a gangly boy who is just beginning to pull off the ‘hipster’ look he’s adopted. They’ve been inseparable besties for the past three years, and Sage often wonders why Ryan isn’t interested romantically…still Sage looks on the bright side, always, and performs daily acts of kindness–like leaving post-it note affirmations on the lockers of kids when she sees they are having bad times.
A new guy moves into town, Shane Cavendish, and his worn clothes and general scruffiness are catnip to the bullies, headed by star athlete Dylan. Sage can’t bear to see this kid shoved around, and decides to step in. For his part, Shane wants nothing to do with anyone. He’s stunned that anyone takes any interest in him at all, and Sage’s interest is really intense. She can see that he’s had a rough life, perhaps rivaling her own, and wants to help, to show him that he is not alone.
They develop a tenuous friendship, which puts Ryan into Protector mode, but, beyond that, Sage starts to see the secrets behind her friendships, and Ryan’s got some big-time explaining. Not that Sage is an open book. No, her shiny veneer hides a darkness that shouldn’t see the light of a high school hallway. Unfortunately, she makes an enemy of Dylan who threatens to ruin her for her interference.
Thing is, the more Dylan threatens, the more friends Sage makes, and her acts of kindness do not go unnoticed. Plus, for the first time ever, it seems that a boy she likes actually reciprocates. Shane is in need of connection, and Sage is a force to be reckoned with in that regard. He is drawn into her knot of friendships and they explore dating in a quiet way, much to Ryan’s chagrin.
I did enjoy the slow reveal of Sage’s backstory. I adored her ‘do-goodiness;’ how she searched daily for someone she could cheer up with a kind note. I loved her relationship with her aunt, and how she refused to ride in a car because her dad died in a wreck. She is strong, and principled, and kind. She isn’t nasty or mean, but can be fierce when pushed.
Shane is….*shakes head* such a GREAT love interest. He is kind and compassionate and loving and all the things that Sage deserves. And she works very hard to get him, and to keep him, even when it means revealing more about herself than she ever planned to do.
This is an age-appropriate teen read with humor, heart and a relentless force for good leading the charge against bullies, pollution and neglect.
Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win on of 5 signed copies of THE QUEEN OF BRIGHT AND SHINY THINGS.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the author:
Ann Aguirre is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author and RITA winner with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, and various pets. Ann likes books, emo music, action movies, and she writes all kinds of genre fiction for adults and teens, published with Harlequin, Macmillan, and Penguin, among others.