Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: All Things New - Lauren Miller

All Things New
by Lauren Miller
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published: August 1, 2017

Jessa has always felt broken inside, but she’s gotten very good at hiding it. No one at school knows about the panic attacks, the therapy that didn't help, the meds that haven’t worked. But when a severe accident leaves her with a brain injury and visible scars, Jessa’s efforts to convince the world that she’s okay finally crumble—now she looks as shattered as she feels.

Fleeing from her old life in Los Angeles, Jessa moves to Colorado to live with her dad, where she meets Marshall, a boy whose kindness and generous heart slowly draw Jessa out of her walled-off shell and into the broken, beautiful, real world—a place where souls get hurt just as badly as bodies, and we all need each other to heal.

ALL THINGS NEW is a love story about perception and truth, physical and emotional pain, and the messy, complicated people we are behind the masks we put on for the world, perfect for fans of ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.

5 Stars
ARC provided via Netgalley

Jessa has managed to cover-up her panic and anxiety disorder with her beauty, fake smiles, and a handsome, popular boyfriend. When that all comes crashing down around her, changing Jessa's life for the worse and for the better. When a nearly-fatal car accident leaves Jessa's face scarred and her brain damaged her anxiety and panic become impossible to hide. Relocated to Colorado with her dad, Jessa finds that though she cannot stand the idea of seeing her face, others welcome her with open arms. There she discovers that no one's life is as easy or as good as they claim it is, that sometimes the outside isn't always reflective of the truth people hold inside.

"'I told you,' Wren says. 'It's complicated.'
'I know, I know. Barbie's unstable.'
The fire creeps down my neck, explodes inside my stomach, a furnace of humiliation that will swallow me whole."

Initially I was attracted to the cover of All Things New, because who doesn't love a good cover? Inside the book though, is a true-to-life novel with challenging situations and tough concepts that main character, Jessa, learns to embrace, accept, and face head on. I cannot tell you how many times I looked up from the pages to exclaim out loud, "this book is so good!" or how often I had to stop to grab tissue as tears streamed down my face. Lauren Miller's writing is excellent, it's emotive and descriptive, and made me so empathetic to Jessa's plight.

"Watching him I'm swept up in sadness. Why do we rip ourselves apart? My throat tightens, and again I feel myself disengaging from this moment, from its sharpness, its sting."

I loved the character development in this novel; Jessa is such a typical teen, but her experience and her natural aging made this novel really stand out for me. Her anger is believable and the way Lauren Miller writes about the anxiety, the scars, and the Aphantasia made me feel like I was experiencing it too. Additionally, there are some really stunning secondary characters in All Things New, with the award for most interesting and complex going to twins, Hannah and Marshall. Though their stories are secondary, their experiences with health issues help the progression of Jessa's story. Plus, both are interesting and bring a level of humanity to this story that wouldn't have been there had Jessa stayed the simple, "Barbie" girlfriend that she had been previously.

"I stare at the space and it seems to materialize. A wall, made of brick and mortar and fear. A wall I'm not ready to get rid of yet."

As far a young adult novels go, All Things New is going to be a love-it or hate-it type of book for readers. It is a character driven novel, but readers only read from the perspective of Jessa, a teen with an anxiety and panic disorder, which is very apparent in her thoughts and interactions. She's like many teens; she's angry at her family, she's angry about her situation, and on top of that she's dealing with a disorder that she's embarrassed of. I felt that the entire novel was very accurate, Lauren Miller makes you feel everything Jessa feels, but also includes true facts that allow us to understand her situation even more. Some readers will find that Jessa's thoughts regarding mental illnesses, modern medicine, angels, and God are something that should've been left out, but I think that many will also connect to those thoughts and the book shouldn't be rated negatively if one does not agree with her beliefs.

"But what if we could see them? How might a soul look if we could stare it in the face?"

All Things New is an original novel with thought-provoking writing, a hint of philosophy, and a very authentic story line. Young adult readers of any age will connect with Jessa, regardless of their own personal experiences with anxiety, because of Lauren Miller's story telling abilities. The novel is focused on Jessa's growth, with family, friendship, religion, and romance helping her to face her struggles, but not ruling the story. Jessa's healing makes for an addicting read that readers will find complex and realistic. It's humorous, but hopeful, with a strong message about acceptance.

"We play along, we act like we're all okay. But we're not okay. All the junk we're hiding is right there, right in front of us, right within us."

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