Winter Town

Winter Town by Stephen EmondWinter Town by Stephen Emond
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Number of pages:  336
My copy: hardbound, ordered from Book Depository

Every winter, straight-laced, Ivy League bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood pal who moved away after her parent’s divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she’s changed. The former “girl next door” now has chopped dyed black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth, “Old Lucy” still exists, and he’s determined to find her… even if it means pissing her off.

Garden State meets Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist in this funny and poignant illustrated novel about opposites who fall in love.

* * *

Winter Town is one of my most anticipated reads of 2011, mostly because I loved Stephen Emond’s other novel, Happyface. It was one of my favorite contemporary novels in 2010, with drawings to boot! So I was really very excited when my copy finally arrived, and just in time for Christmas. Don’t you think the cover makes this book fitting for December?1

Evan and Lucy are childhood best friends. Evan is this straight-A, all-around good guy who has a seemingly perfect family even if his dad is pretty demanding and has too many high expectations with him. Lucy, on the other hand, is this confident girl who’s not afraid to say what she thinks and the brains behind all her and Evan’s crazy antics during their childhood. Lucy moves away one winter after her parents’ divorce, and they barely kept in touch, until Lucy tells Evan that he’s visiting. Evan’s world practically stops and he drops everything to be with Lucy, even with the risk of his dad’s wrath. But Lucy is not the same confident brown-haired girl that he’s known now. Lucy is now dressed as a Goth, is quiet, and swings from one mood to the other. Evan is confused, but he’s determined to make the Old Lucy come out, even if it means going to extreme measures. But the thing is, does New Lucy want Old Lucy back? Or maybe it’s all just Evan?

Winter Town is the kind of book that quietly creeps up on you because it’s so…normal. I mean, it is meant to be normal because it’s contemporary, but there are no too many flashy things about it save for the illustrations. There’s no love at first sight, or magic, or ya jock and an unpopular girl or a popular girl and a geek getting together. It’s just about…best friends. Who secretly pine for each other. But first they had to deal with the changes and issues between them that they do not want to deal with first in fear of rocking the boat. This story set in winter time in a New England town was just so shockingly normal that it feels like it’s a breath of fresh air.

If you’d allow me to digress a bit. In my Catholic community, I often heard people share about their life, and how God changed it. More often than not, the sharing usually comes from people whose life was in total disarray until they find God and then things start to get better because they get a different perspective. The people with more or less normal lives, the ones who do not come from as dark of a past as the others, often listen rather than share, because let’s face it: people who had to go through bigger things often have a bigger lesson to share compared to those whose lives are normal and okay. Reading Winter Town and getting to know the two main characters reminded me of that. The book is told in two perspectives, which I was pleasantly surprised to find out later in the book. On the normal side, there’s Evan — and when I say normal, I mean absolutely normal. Save for the fact that his dad gives him a bit too much pressure in school, and despite his grades, he has no idea where to go or what to do or what he wants to be in the future. He’s perfectly okay going with the flow because it’s easier than swimming against the current. And oh, how I related to Evan so much because I pretty much had the same life. Not that I’m complaining now, because I sort of know better now that I’m older, but my dear Evan, I know how it feels to be so lost in the normalcy. Lucy, on the other hand, is on the other side of the spectrum, at least when she shows up a year after she left. It’s been a bad year for Lucy and all she wants is to forget, but she makes a mistake of relying too much on the stability of her best friend so her own world would be stable. I couldn’t relate to Lucy but I wanted to hug her and tell her it will be better because she just seemed so sad. And when her problems were finally revealed, it really made me feel sorry for her, not because it was particularly earth shattering, but it’s just something that anyone should experience, especially with how I’ve gotten to know her with how Evan described Lucy. The differences of these two main characters make Winter Town easy to relate to, because I’m pretty sure we are all Evans and Lucys at some point in our lives (and maybe until now).

Like I said, the story was pretty normal but that doesn’t mean it’s too ordinary not to warrant enough attention. I liked how the author tackled some questions about being up front with your past and dealing with your problems rather than running away from them, finding out what you really want and going after them even if it means not doing what other people expects of you and of course, friendship and romance and the thin line between that. It’s about time someone deals with that, and I think Stephen Emond manages to do that quite realistically.

Winter Town chapter spread

But the real highlight of Winter Town is really the illustrations. I wouldn’t expect anything less from someone who made me a fan of his work with just one book (and someone who generously drew me a picture of myself with a sunflower and books — look up at the banner!). I had to admit, I was expecting the book to be a little like Happyface, you know, sort of like a scrapbook/journal type of thing, so I was kind of surprised to see that it’s a prose with illustrations on the side. Which isn’t bad, of course. The illustrations were amazing, as expected, and they were a good complement to the text, especially because there were some times when I felt a little bit disengaged with the story. I guess I was kind of expecting an atmospheric read, something that would make me really feel winter as I read it2, but sometimes it didn’t really feel that way. There were times when I felt a little bit disconnected with the text, like I wish there would be a bit more description of the things happening and the places and the events, but then the illustrations would pull me back into the story. It makes me wonder now how the reading experience with the book be if the illustrations were removed. While I think the story will still be able to stand on its own, I bet it wouldn’t be as entertaining. Then again, removing the illustrations is pointless because Winter Town was made to be with illustrations. So…maybe I should stop nitpicking and just need to read more novels with pictures.

Comics in between the chapters

But enough blather. Overall, I liked Winter Town. While I wasn’t really as enamored with this as I was with Happyface, I still think Winter Town was still a very good read. It kind of breaks the mold of contemporary YA by…not really breaking it, if you get what I mean. I think that everyone will be able to find something to relate to in this book, whether you’re an Evan or a Lucy. The lessons of the story were pretty solid, and I really liked the ending: sweet, hopeful and open ended — just the way I like it. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Forever Young Adult
Midnight Bloom Reads


  1. Of course, I forgot the book in the office during Christmas weekend, so I didn’t finish this until after Christmas. []
  2. Especially since it never snows here! []

Waiting on Wednesday: Wintertown by Steve Emond

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

It’s been very cold here in the Philippines lately because it’s the rainy season. I terribly, terribly miss the sun, but I also like the cold a bit. Anyway, what better way to appreciate the cold than with a winter-themed novel, right (one with a totally squee-worthy cover to boot)? :)

Wintertown by Steve EmondWintertown by Steve Emond
Release date: December 5, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Every winter, straight-laced, Ivy League bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood pal who moved away after her parent’s divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she’s changed. The former “girl next door” now has chopped dyed black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth, “Old Lucy” still exists, and he’s determined to find her… even if it means pissing her off.

Garden State meets Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist in this funny and poignant illustrated novel about opposites who fall in love.

I really don’t think I need to explain why I want this book. I love Happyface, and I think I’ve plugged that book so much that everyone I know relates it to me now (my copy is still with someone else, since I think it was the only copy available here!). And since I’m supposed to be the president of his fans club, it’s just right I feature this book here. So. Excited.

And I am absolutely envious of the people who got ARCs for this during BEA. If anyone has an extra copy of this, or if they are willing to part with their copy (why you’d do that, I really don’t know but I won’t complain :P), then care to send it over here? I would even pay for shipping. :D

Oh, and I am totally serious about that, too. Email me at hello[at]tinamats.com if you are willing to take me up on that :D I. Want. This. Book.

Belated Valentine’s

Hello everyone! I’m sorry for not being around for the weekend, especially yesterday! I meant to make a Valentine’s post, but I had such a full day yesterday that I was too tired to come up with a post last night. I apologize!

I’d be blogging more about Valentine’s Day in my personal blog, but I thought I’d blog about this one here, since it involved someone from the book world and all. I posted my Valentine’s wish list last Sunday on my personal blog (because you know, wish lists aren’t only for Christmas and birthdays), just for kicks, and in case there’s anyone around who needs some help not just in making my day brighter but for other people, too. I wasn’t expecting much yesterday (because the real thing about Valentine’s Day is to not expect) but imagine my surprise when I saw an email in my inbox from none other than Mr. Steverino/Emo Boy/Lemons/Happyface/soon-t0-be-released Winter Town, Stephen Emond.

Hi Tina, hope this will do for your valentine’s flower. Happy Valentine’s Day! :~)

~Steve

I saw this email while we were having our lunch out and the wifi in the restaurant was terribly slow so I couldn’t load the image. I was so excited to see the attachment that I tried it multiple times with my phone and my iPod but alas, it made me wait. When I got back to the office, I immediately opened my email, downloaded the attachment and I saw this:

OMG SO CUTE. It’s so me! Squeeing over sunflowers and books! :) I love it, I love it, I love it! This is definitely one of the best presents I got yesterday. Thank you so much, Steve!

You guys, this is a really good reason for you to get Happyface (which I really, really loved), follow him on Twitter, like his Facebook page, say hi on his website and follow his Tumblr. He’s awesome, yo. :)

10 for 2010: Favorite Reads

And here is the final 10 for 2010 list for this year, and the hardest one at that. There has just been too many good books in this year that it’s so hard to pick just ten. But I have to choose ten…but that doesn’t mean I can’t have runner ups and honorable mentions. ;) It’s my list, I can do anything I want to. :P

So, the last 10 for 2010, here are 10 of my Favorite Reads in no particular order…and then some. :)

1. Persuasion by Jane Austen – How much do I love this book? I am very glad that I chose this book as my first classic read for this year. I love Anne Elliot, and I want to be her. I don’t have much point of comparison over other Austen books, but this one is really, really good, even better than P&P. :) I cannot recommend this one enough. :)

2. Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews – I fell in love with the Kate Daniels series this year (thanks again to Chachic and Michelle for pushing!), but among the four books out in the series, Magic Strikes is the best one so far. It’s got action, tension and all the yummy hotness of Kate and Curran in all of it. Plus the ending had me all smiling and giggly and that is always very, very good. :)

2. Feed by Mira Grant – This book wasn’t the one that got me started on zombies this year, but it was the zombie book I loved the most. :) This book had me from the cover, and then with the story. I loved how geeky this book is and how emotional it is at the end. I loved the characters, and I loved the theme of the story…and I just really loved every bit of this book! This is one of the books that I got in Kindle, then got in print because I want to have my own copy. I gave a copy away, then I gave one as a gift, and now I’m (sort of) giving this away, too. I love this book that much.

3. Happyface by Stephen Emond – This is one of the impulse buys that I never regretted. I wasn’t a fan of hardcovers, but I am glad I got this one the moment I saw it because there are no copies of this one here. This is one of my favorite contemporary YA reads of the year. Happyface is such a darling character, and you just can’t help but fall in love with him. The plot is simple, but it’s very surprising and heartwarming at the end. I wish there were more copies of Happyface here so more people can read it…but that’s why I’m giving one away, right? ;) Oh, and I still think I look like Gretchen. ;)

4. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley – This was another impulse buy, but I’ve been seeing this one way before I got it. I am glad I got it, too, because it has such a beautiful story. The story may sound a bit cheesy with all the beauty talk, but it doesn’t only just talk about inner beauty and self-esteem, but also complications of a family and dreams that never came true. Terra’s transformation was very inspiring, and the ending left me feeling very good about myself, and very beautiful. :) Truly a gem.

6. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver – I wasn’t planning to read this, and I stopped reading the start for a couple of times, but after I finished the first chapter, I got hooked. Before I Fall is a surprisingly good and powerful novel about life, death, friendship and the choices we make and how they affect people. I finished this book with a wistful smile on my face and tears in my eyes, thankful that I finally gave in and read it.

7. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – This is one of the book that I know I would love, only because the people whose book tastes I trust loved this one, too. After reeling from The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, I needed more dystopia to keep the high going, so I finally read this one. And I loved every bit of it. I know it gets better with the next two books, and I am very excited to read them. :D Soon.

8. Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John – This book wouldn’t have made the list if I didn’t read it on time. If I read it in 2011, this would probably have made it in my 2011 list. :P I love the cover, and the story is just as good as the book. It’s not often you read a YA novel about a band, and it’s even rarer that you read a heroine who was deaf. It’s got diverse characters, a great story and a very rocking ending. :) A book that makes me reconsider my Top 10 is a book that deserves more attention. :D

9. Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra – You know you really love a book when you re-read it and it still gives you the same feeling it did on the first read. You know you love a book when you actually re-read it in the first place, and within the same year, to boot! I re-read Fairy Tale Fail after I finished reading The Maze Runner, and I really needed a pick-me-up after. It definitely picked me up, and it made me wish to have my own Lucas all over again. :)

10. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – And like every Best of 2010 books out there, I must not forget about Anna and the French Kiss! This book was an absolutely fun read. After a series of not-so-stellar books, this one just kind of blew my mind. :) I realized a lot of things in this book, particularly: I still love contemporary YA the best, and you can tell a completely ordinary story in an extraordinary way. This is also one of the books that I got on Kindle first, then the hardcover when I found out it’s already available here. That much love, people. That much love. :)

Runners-Up:

  • Paper Towns by John Green – I finished the John Green trifecta this year, and out of all books, I have decided that I liked Paper Towns best. While An Abundance of Katherines was the funniest and happiest, I thought Paper Towns had the better plot and would fare better for a re-read. :) Plus Radar + Ben and the road trip? Priceless.
  • Tall Story by Candy Gourlay – I wouldn’t have heard of this one if not for Pao and Chachic, and I am glad I got this one. Tall Story is a charming story about siblings, Filipino folklore and magic. This is a very heartwarming story, and I am glad this book is available internationally so more people can read it. If you haven’t read it, do include it in your 2011 reading list. You won’t regret it. :)
  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman – I wouldn’t have picked this book up if I hadn’t heard good things about it from my Goodreads friends. Perhaps my reaction to this was a bit similar to The Knife of Never Letting Go – I plunged into it ready to love it, and I did. It’s not a very cheerful book being dystopia, but it’s very good and it has a lot of potential for a re-read. :)
  • Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr – I read two of Sara Zarr’s books last year and I loved them, so when I saw she had a new book, I knew I had to read it. Once Was Lost was just as beautiful as her other books, but I think I like this one more because it tackled faith. I loved how simple Zarr’s prose was, and how she tackled sensitive issues with grace. If I may quote my review: “Once Was Lost makes you think, makes you ask, and in the end, makes you believe that no matter what the tragedy is, no matter how hard things are, there will always, always be hope.
  • Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan – I read this one fairly recently, and I really liked it. I don’t know if my moods influenced how much I liked it though…but like I said before: any book that has me smiling like an idiot at the last page deserves a recognition. :)

Honorable Mentions:

See, I told you it was too hard. I’m sorry if I overwhelmed you with too many books in this list! It’s just very, very hard to choose. Maybe next year I’ll be more critical, but I’m glad I read so many good books this year. Looking forward to what 2011 had to offer. :)

Now it’s your turn. What’s your top reads in 2010? :)

Check out my other 10 for 2010 posts!
10 Favorite Male Characters
10 Favorite Female Characters
10 Favorite Couples
10 Favorite Authors
10 Most Anticipated for 2011
10 Blogging and Reading Highlights

I’m giving away some of my favorite books in 2010 in my Anniversary Giveaway! Get to know the awesomeness that is Feed by Mira Grant, the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy! Every comment you leave is one entry — the more comments you leave, the more entries you get! :) Click the image for the mechanics and the list of prizes!

10 for 2010: Most Anticipated for 2011

The best thing about being a book blogger this year is I get to find out about all the new titles coming out in the next few months and years. Before, I’d just rely on bookstore releases and sometimes I find out about them late! Thanks to the great blogging community and social networks, I find out about future releases so early! So early that sometimes the waiting time is unbearable. :P

So presenting today’s 10 for 2010: Most Anticipated Books for 2011.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

1. What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (May 2011) – If you’ve known me for a while now, you’ll know that Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite contemporary YA authors ever. Just Listen got me started on the contemporary YA genre, and I’ve devoured all her books ever since I read that. When I found out that she’s releasing a new book in 2011, I squeed. I absolutely cannot wait for this next novel — in fact, I am already planning a Dessen marathon to prepare myself for this new release. :)

2. Deadline by Mira Grant (May 2011) – Feed was one of my favorite books for this year, and the one year wait for its sequel is already long enough, don’t you think? More zombies, more politics and more blogging must be in Deadline…and maybe even a radio thing? I don’t know. But I am definitely looking forward to this one.

3. Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal (March 2011) – Two words: Sweet. Valley. Need I say more?

4. Bumped by Megan McCafferty (April 2011) – I loved the Jessica Darling series, and I like Megan McCafferty. This dystopian sounds really awesome, and I’ve seen very good reviews about this, too. :)

5. The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan (March 2011) – While there are other zombie books that I liked more than Carrie Ryan’s series, I am still in love with her writing. After I’ve read The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves, I cannot miss the third one. I hope more questions will be answered by then. :)

One of Our Thursdays is Missing6. One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde (March 2011) – Just like Sarah Dessen, Jasper Fforde is on my auto-buy list. Thursday Next is one of my favorite heroines, so it’s imperative I get a copy of the sixth book. And maybe refresh myself with the series, too.

7. Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews (May 2011) – I think I’ve professed my love for the Kate Daniels series enough this year? :) If not, I must say it again: I love this series. And like all the other fans I know, I cannot wait o get my hands on the next installment in the series. :)

A Monster Calls8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (May 2011) – Okay, so I’ve only really read one book and a novella from him, but I like him already. While I wait for his new book, I will finish the two other books in the Chaos Walking series. Yes, I will.

9. Winter Town by Stephen Emond (Fall 2011) – Happyface is undoubtedly one of my most favorite books in 2010, so knowing that Stephen Emond will release a new book is just exciting. I love the premise too: “…told from two perspectives and accompanied by scrapbook entries and comics, childhood friends grow up, grow apart, and eventually fall in love.” Being the president of his fans club, it is my responsibility to get a copy of this as soon as its released. :P

10. Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee (Summer 2011) – This is my most anticipated collaboration for 2011. Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, two of the big names in Christian fiction — this is going to be good, I can tell. :)

Runners Up:

  • Allison Hewitt is TrappedAllison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeleine Roux (January 2011) – I saw this book on The Book Smugglers and I loved how it started out as a blog, too. Blogging and zombies again – one of my favorite combination. Must get this one.
  • Sweetly by Jackson Pearce (August 2011) – I love the cover, and I love the Hansel and Gretel retelling idea. I enjoyed Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red, so I am excited to get my hands on this one, too.
  • Where She Went by Gayle Forman (April 2011) – I loved If I Stay, and the idea of the sequel is just…well, awesome. I can’t wait to know what happened after Mia’s ordeal.

Check out my other 10 for 2010 posts!
10 Favorite Male Characters
10 Favorite Female Characters
10 Favorite Couples
10 Favorite Authors

I’m giving away some of my favorite books in 2010 in my Anniversary Giveaway! Know why Patrick Ness is one of my auto-buy authors now through The Knife of Never Letting Go! Every comment you leave is one entry — the more comments you leave, the more entries you get! :) Click the image for the mechanics and the list of prizes!