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…
I realize it’s only early April, but I have no doubt this will go down as one of my top ten favorite books of 2015, and possibly in the top five of my favorite young adult books of the year. It’s definitely my favorite so far in any genre. Everything from the plot, to the writing, the the characters is flawless. The story centers around sixteen-year-old Sage, who has more quirks than all of the squinterns from Bones combined, and newcomer Shane, who tries hard to fly under the radar. They each have a dark past and secrets they would rather to keep buried, convinced the other would reject them if their true selves were ever revealed.
The two begin an unlikely friendship that evolves into something more, but there is no easy path to happiness. Between their broken pasts and their uncertain futures, there is a lot standing in their way. Not the least of which is school bully, Dylan, with a reputation to protect, one Sage has threatened.
While on the surface this sounds like a typical teen romance with flawed characters, it’s so more than that. The characters are what really makes this story shine. Every character from Sage and Shane, to Dylan, Shane’s father, Sage’s aunt, and even Dylan’s mom, are fully developed, deep, intriguing characters that transcend every stereotype. There’s so much to love in this book though, I don’t want to say it’s all about the characters, because it’s not. The writing is amazing and the plot is solid. This is the first book I’ve read in awhile, where I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen next. This is also my first Ann Aguirre novel, but now I feel as if I need to go buy and read everything she’s ever written.
The plotting is impeccable. The main story centers around Sage and Shane’s relationship, but there is strong subplotting involving Sage’s relationship with her best friend, Ryan, her relationship with her Aunt Gabby, her developing friendships with a broader student population, Sage’s backstory, Shane’s backstory, the Shane/Sage/Dylan dynamic, and more. Although that sounds like a lot, Ann Aguirre weaves it all together seamlessly, driving the main plot.
Small town middle America is well represented in The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things. I’m sure the town was named, but it doesn’t stick with me, and I don’t think it matters. It could be any midwest farm town. The settings come alive through Sage’s eyes in fluid form.
The characters are simply amazing. They are three-dimensional in every sense. I can not only picture what they look like, I understand them. They’re living, breathing figments of the author’s imagination, but she allows us to really know them. Sage is complex. She has a bright and shiny exterior, affixing Post-It notes on the lockers of fellow classmates who need an encouraging word (as an employee of 3M, I really love the use of Post-It Notes BTW). As a member of the Green club at school devoted to perfecting the environment, her refusal to ride in a personal vehicle is so endearing. Not many teens (or adults for that matter) would stick by that conviction when convenience is only a car ride away.
Shane is deep, wounded, sweet, caring, loyal, everything a book boyfriend should be. The fact that he’s also beautiful is irrelevant in this case. It wouldn’t matter if his eyes weren’t as blue as a summer sky, because his heart is as big as the midwest plains.
I love that Ryan, the best friend and potential love interest, isn’t the bad guy. Sure he screwed up royally, but I didn’t hate him. There was always a part of me pulling for him to find his own happiness. It’s even hard to truly hate Dylan, the antagonist, once I understood his motivations. There is some seriously messed up stuff going on with that boy, and I hope we learn more about him in a future novel.
Top Five Things I Loved About The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things
1. Post-It Notes. Yeah, I know, my retirement is in part tied up in 3M stock, but even so, just the idea of someone writing words of encouragement on a 3×3 scrap of paper and sticking to a locker is amazing.
2. Aunt Gabby. She’s everything an aunt and a parent should be.
3. Reflector Tape. I love that Sage does what it takes to give her aunt peace of mind, even if she knows she looks ridiculous doing it.
4. Sage’s Tenaciousness. Man, she’s like my dog when he’s got the end of rope. She just won’t let go. She growls, and pulls harder, never giving up, even when it appears there is no way to win.
5. Shane. There is so much to love about him. The way he gets Sage, the way he appreciates her, sacrifices for her, loves her. He’s pretty much the perfect book boyfriend.
My favorite book so far of 2015, and definitely one of my top ten of all time young adult reads.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book
Title: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things
Author: Ann Aguirre
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Category: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | BAM | IndieBoun
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.
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