Title: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things
Author: Ann Aguirre
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
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…
Until I picked up The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things, I had only read Ann Aguirre’s New Adult titles. Her YA books just hadn’t appealed to me until now. But The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things sounded like it had the potential to be a total “me” book. And I am more than happy to report that I was absolutely right.
Sage has spent the last three years trying to be as perfect as possible. She’s afraid that if she’s anything less, her aunt will send her back to state care and she’ll lose everything she’s worked so hard for. Being perfect also means people won’t look at her too closely, they won’t figure out that she has a past she wants to keep hidden. And Sage would have kept it up right until she graduated if Shane Cavendish hadn’t walked into her math class. Shane isn’t like the other boys at school and Sage immediately feels drawn to him. But Shane isn’t interested in a relationship. He just wants to keep his head down and play guitar. He just needs to keep it together until graduation. His expectations are low and he never expected Sage. Soon, Sage and Shane will learn that keeping it together and being perfect isn’t all that matters, and that sometimes imperfections are the best thing that can happen.
As I’ve already mentioned, until recently I had only read Ann Aguirre New Adult books and I really enjoyed them. But as far as her YA was concerned, I just wasn’t interested. The stories didn’t sound like something I would enjoy, and that was that. But then I heard that she was writing a YA contemporary story and it immediately got added to my TBR. And with good reason. When I found out more about The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things, it sounded like a book that had the potential to be a total “Emilie book.” So I started reading. And at first I started rethinking my assumptions. But then I got completely caught up in the story. I couldn’t put the book down. The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things was addicting, plain and simple. The romance was just how I like it. It put a smile on my face and warmed my heart, but it also wasn’t always warm and fuzzy. But that was just fine with me because it fit with the characters and what I knew about them. And really, as much as I loved the story and the romance, Sage and Shane were the real reason I loved this book as much as I did.
Sage confused me a little at first. And kind of annoyed me to be honest. But that’s because I didn’t know her and her whole story yet. The more I read, the more I started to understand her, to realize that the Sage she presented to the world wasn’t the real Sage, but instead the one she thought she needed to be. So once I started seeing who the real Sage was, I quickly changed my mind about her. She was flawed and I loved that about her. And I loved that in Shane she found someone who was just as flawed as her and wanted her and all her flaws. I won’t lie, I was totally expecting Shane to be your typical YA brooding bad boy. That’s the feeling I got when I read the book’s description. But that wasn’t who Shane was and I can’t say I’m exactly disappointed by that. I loved that Shane was actually a nice guy disguised as a bad boy. It made peeling back the layers of his personality that much more interesting. And it made me want to root for him and Sage so badly. Because they both deserved someone who would accept them, flaws and all, and would love them for it.
It should go without saying that I loved Ann Aguirre’s The Queen of Bright and Shiny Thing. This story ended up being so much more than I thought it was going to be. And from now on, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more contemporary stories from Ann Aguirre. Because I will read them all.
The sophomores can’t hear us down the table, as it’s loud in here, but I pitch my voice low just in case. “Basically, Ryan was never my boyfriend. He just let people think we were together. Because I’m an idiot, I didn’t guess why.” Those last words come out bitter.“So why did he do that?” I head all kinds of nuances in his voice, questions, doubts.Here’s where it gets tricky. “It’s complicated. He lied to me, though, and that’s what I can’t just get over. Maybe someday we’ll be friends again, but for now…” I shrug.“Friends?” He repeats.“Yeah. Friends.”“So he didn’t break your heart.” He sounds relieved.“Did you want him to?”“I was afraid he had. That maybe you were talking to me…” His eyes cut away from mine.“Because I was trying to make Ryan jealous? Not my style.”I want to say, OMG, Shane, you think I’m a dude magnet? I’ve been Ryan’s sidekick, his not-girlfriend so long, that I have no idea what this or what I’m doing. But I love it.“I’m not looking for drama,” Shane tells me.I understand the reason for the pronouncement immediately. Ryan’s watching us from across the cafeteria, but he won’t be shoving Shane into any doorjambs or cornering him in the boys toilet. In some ways, his silent, wounded eyes are worse. I can tell he feels horrible and that he misses me, but what am I supposed to do? After what I’ve learned, I don’t want to be his girlfriend, which is what he was shooting for when he made his big confession. I feel like I hardly know the guy, and that hurts most of all.“There won’t be any.”“I just…I can’t afford any trouble,” he says softly, not looking at me. “Any more, and I’m off to juvie until I’m eighteen.”Possibly he thinks this will scare me off. But I have my dark side, too. The staff at the group home pulled me off an emotional ledge years ago, so I know what it’s like to feel completely out of control, doing stuff you know deep down is a terrible idea and yet you cannot stop. I study the rigid line of his shoulders. “Did you put that post-it on my locker?” I ask.He’s dead silent, but his eyes answer where his lips do not. I see the yes written in aquamarine.In this moment, I want to kiss him so bad it hurts.