New Release & Review:
Learning to Live by Kira Adams
BookCrushin is happy to announce that we have brought in a new guest reviewer! Welcome Sara Meadows! She will be reviewing books for us and her full bio is below. Learning to Live by Kira Adams is going to kick-off its release with 5 FREE days. Pick up your free copy 1/15-1/19!
Learning to Live (Infinite Love #1) by Kira Adams
Category: Young Adult, Mature, Contemporary Romance
Publication: January 11th, 2015
Ciera Nelson wants what any other outcast wants, invisibility. If she can just make it through the rest of her year with minor incidents and a head held low she will be able to put the hell hole they call school in her rearview. Unfortunately, life has different plans for her.
Topher Carlson is one of the biggest jocks on campus. All the guys want to be him, all the girls want to claim him. When secrets are uncovered, Topher’s life spins wildly out of control.
They are far from friends when the school year begins, but each will impact the other’s life in ways they never dreamed possible. Can Ciera help Topher realize that popularity and status mean nothing in the real world? Can Topher help Ciera learn the true meaning of living?
Sometimes you have to let go to really live. Sometimes being alive means taking risks.
Review by Sara Meadows:[book rating=4.0/5.0]
This review contains spoilers!
I’m going to warn you right now: Learning to Live is a tearjerker, and there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I broke out the tissues about a quarter of a way in and actually had to put the book down for a bit.
The book centers on Ciera and Topher, two high school seniors from completely different stratospheres. Topher Carlson is the stereotypical rich jock: he plays football, dates the head cheerleader, drives fast, expensive cars, and bullies those of perceived lesser social strata for no obvious reason other than it passes the time. Ciera Nelson is the recipient of Topher’s bullying (although, it is usually Topher’s BFF Joe who instigates the torment; Topher is more of a mindless accomplice); a smart, kind girl, she keeps her head down and her eyes on the floor in the hopes of avoiding the attention and ire of Topher and Joes’ group of friends, which Ciera and Mack call “The A-Team.”
Outside of school, Ciera and her family (her mother and her younger brother and sister) are barely surviving in a one-bedroom apartment. Her mom is overworked, there is never enough money for anything (Ciera wears secondhand clothing and doesn’t own a cell phone, which is even more fodder for the bullies at school because, why show compassion?), and, on yeah, Ciera has terminal cancer. This poor girl. My heart just breaks for her.
The beginning of the book is painful; Ciera is bullied in ways that I can’t pretend to realize. I was bullied relentlessly for years but in all that time, I was never physically touched. I can’t imagine someone spitting gum into my hair or dumping coffee on me, or pushing me down and clawing my face, without adult intervention, but it happens constantly in real life and in this story. I wanted to grab these imaginary characters and shake them, and ask them what the hell was so wrong in their lives that they had to be so callous and downright mean. Ciera receives the bullying quietly until, one morning after a particularly nasty altercation in the bathroom, Madalynne, another member of “The A-Team,” walks into the bathroom and shows Ciera some much-needed kindness. She encourages Ciera to stand up for herself and realize her worth. She also takes Ciera for a haircut and a new dress, and this new look is what catches the eye of Topher.
Despite the fact that Topher has been dating Queen Bee Sophia for four years, he is both bored with and irritated by her selfish behavior, though he isn’t necessarily sure why; he knows that people expect them to be together, and he is self-aware enough to realize he enjoys the popularity, but he is frustrated and uninspired. The book opens with a pretty blunt sex scene, which is actually a refreshing and realistic change for YA books. During another sexual encounter between Topher and Sophia, this time under the bleachers before a football game, Topher sees Ciera and does a double take. A series of events (a party debacle, a hallway catfight, shared detention, etc.) eventually bring Topher and Ciera together as wary friends and, ultimately, much more.
The majority of Learning to Live focuses on the bullying and the relationship between Ciera and Topher before she reveals to him that she has cancer. Once that revelation occurs, the plot moves quickly toward the inevitable ending and the tears return. The idea of being a teenager with cancer is unfathomable to me, and Ciera handles it with grace and dignity, choosing to cross off as many items from her bucket list as possible instead of succumbing to her fear and anger. One particular line was gut-wrenching, sucking the breath out of me, and I know that’s because I’m a mother: “I’m never going to be able to carry my own child.”
Kira Adams’ writing style is simple, straightforward, and realistic. The characters were likable and hate-able, accordingly, and the scenarios were true-to-life, at least to me, particularly involving the bullying.
I only have two things that I would change about the book: I would flesh out the supporting characters a little bit more, mostly because I like Ciera and wanted to see her have more happy experiences in her life than she already had – this girl deserved some happiness! Additionally, I wanted more detail on the experiences that she and Topher shared together from her bucket list. Both of these “wants” would require more pages to the book and, again, I only want these because I really liked the characters, which is a testament to Ms. Adams’ talents. I’d also love to see a follow up story about Topher that occurs maybe four years in the future. How is he coping? Did he get into college? Has he remained in contact with Ciera’s family?
What do you think, Ms. Adams? Will we see Topher again?
I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Guest Reviewer: Sara Meadows
Sara Meadows is a busy mom who, when not hanging out with her family, loves reading, scrapbooking, watching anything to do with superheroes, and correcting other people’s grammar as politely as possible. Originally from Pennsylvania, Sara lives in Virginia with her husband, three children, and three animals. She reads all types of fiction, and couldn’t possibly choose a favorite book if her life depended upon it.