About Payton L.

My name is Payton. I live in Scotts Valley with my mom, dad, younger (but taller) sister, and two cats. I love reading fiction and dystopian books like The Maze Runner by James Dashner, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. I also love everything by John Green. My favorite book is probably Looking for Alaska by John Green. I also love Maureen Johnson, Rainbow Rowell, and Sarah Dessen.

Cruella: Hello, Cruel Heart by Maureen Johnson

The book Cruella Hello, Cruel Heart by Maureen Johnson is a fascinating explanation into Cruella De Vil’s life before she became Cruella De Vil. The book is about Estella, a poor teenage girl, just trying to survive with her friends Horace and Jasper. They live in an abandoned building that was bombed during the war and was never rebuilt. Estella, an aspiring fashion icon, pickpockets to get money or things she can sell to survive. Everything is fine for her and her friends, until she meets Magda and Richard, who are filthy rich and obsessed with Estella’s clothes. After being introduced to a life of luxury, wanting for nothing, Estella finally feels like she can make something of herself in the fashion world. She even meets Peter, the brains behind a hugely successful band, and finds something in him she didn’t know she needed. After deserting Horace and Jasper, Estella quickly finds out that her rich “friends” may not actually care, and the luxury may not be all that luxurious. This abrupt realization is one of the key points that leads Estella to become Cruella. 

I really liked Horace and Jasper because even after Estella was horrible to them and basically abandoned them, they still welcomed her back when she was having a hard time. They forgave her for leaving them and were not mad at her for it. That shows how loyal they are to Estella and how they’re a family, and rely on each other. I would recommend this book to any fan of 101 Dalmatians, the origins of villains, or just villains in general. 

*see our other review here

Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson

The book “Sing Me Forgotten” by Jessica S. Olson is a heart wrenching, gender swapped story based on “The Phantom of the Opera”. I am not familiar with “The Phantom of the Opera” myself so I don’t know how they compare, but I really enjoyed this book. It is about a girl, Isda, who is a gravior who lives in the dungeons of an opera house. Her mother tried to kill Idsa when she was born because graviors are believed to be dangerous due to their powers. When a person sings, Idsa can look into their memories and manipulate their emotions. The only reason Isda is still alive is because of Cyril who saved her from the well when her mother tried to kill her. Cyril is the owner of the opera house and lets Idsa live there since she can change how people feel about the performance which assures that the opera house stays in business. Isda is okay living in the opera house and experiencing the outside world through the memories of other people until she meets Emeric, who dreams of becoming a singer. When Emeric and Isda accidentally meet one night, Idsa offers to give him vocal lessons secretly. Isda sees this as a chance to look into Emeric’s past and learn new ways to use her powers, and to ensure that he stays at the opera house forever. The forbidden friendship between them quickly becomes more as together they discover the pure hatred society shoves toward things they fear. 
I really liked Isda’s character development throughout the story. She starts out as an outcast who’s too afraid to stand up for herself because she’s afraid she will become a monster. After she meets Emeric and starts giving him lessons, she starts to grow out of that fear and is more bold when talking to Cyril. When she finds out about Emeric’s sister she is brave enough to sneak into Cyril’s office and steal his book about graviors, which allows her to learn more about her powers. During the masquerade ball when her mask is taken off and her true identity is revealed she fights for her life and starts to care less about becoming a monster. At the end of the book when she saves Emeric from Cyril, she stops caring about trying to prove that graviors aren’t monsters and becomes one herself. I just like how she goes from actively making a point to not become what society thinks she is, to then realising that her only option is to do just that. For that reason, my favorite character is probably Isda, however I also really liked Emeric. He’s really sweet and cares a lot about Isda and his sister and just is an all-around nice person. I would recommend this book to any fan of “The Phantom of the Opera” since this book is based on that. I would also recommend this book to anyone who likes romance or slow-burn stories. 

Coral by Sarah Ella

The book Coral, by Sarah Ella, is an emotionally heart-wrenching story about a girl, a boy, and a mermaid. The girl, Brook, has extreme depression and anxiety. She is put in a facility to help her cope with it, though she doesn’t think it will help. She isn’t planning on staying long anyway, she wants to kill herself. The boy, Merrick, has a hard time with his father, the owner of a very successful company in San Francisco. His father is controlling and is too hard on Merrick and mean to his little sister, Amaya, and his mother. When Amaya tries to kill herself, Merrick feels it’s his father’s fault. He feels like he isn’t in control of his own life. The mermaid, Coral, is different than everyone else around her because she has the Disease. The Disease is emotions. Mermaids are supposed to be soulless creatures who kill sailors. She stands out in a society where blending in is vital. She feels even more alone when her oldest sister, the only one who really understands her, is at risk of being taken away by the Red Tide. When all three meet, they must save each other in order to truly understand themselves. Merrick must talk Brooke off the ledge. Brooke must help Coral see that she is not alone in the world. Coral must help Merrick understand that his father might not be the problem.

I really liked this book a lot. I thought the view that the author took on mental illness was really interesting and made it easier to understand. There was a quote in the book that I couldn’t find but it was along the lines of; you wouldn’t tell a cancer patient to just get over it, so why do people tell this to people with mental illnesses? I have firsthand experience with this because I have anxiety and depression and I have been told to “get over it”. It really helps to have a good support system of family and friends who you can rely on to be there for you and help you through the hard stuff. Brooke feels very alone until she meets Hope who helps her by reminding her that “You are not nothing, and neither am I”.

Coral, by Sarah Ella, is magnificent and definitely tear-inducing. I would recommend this book to anyone who has a mental illness or wants to learn more about what it’s like to live with mental illness every day. I would also recommend this book to anyone who likes an emotional love story, and mermaids.

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

The book Patron Saints of Nothing by by Randy Ribay is about a boy Jay, whose cousin, Jun who lives in the Philippines, is killed by the police for, supposedly, dealing drugs. His family did nothing to acknowledge Jun’s death because he had ran away from home four years earlier. Unable to accept that Jun was a dealer, Jay goes to the Philippines to talk to his family and try to find the truth about what happened to his cousin. He makes friends with a girl, Mia, who decides to help him find out what really happened to Jun. While he is there, his uncle, Jun’s father gets really mad when Jay tries to talk about Jun and sends him to his aunt’s house a day early. His aunt tells him that Jun lived with them for a year after he ran away and, unlike his uncle, actually talks to Jay about Jun. While Jay is there he learns a lot about Jun, both good and bad. He learns the truth while getting his family to let themselves grieve too.
I really enjoyed this book. Though it’s about a heavy topic, it manages to still be a fairly light and easy read. I really like Grace’s character. In the beginning she seems like everyone else in the family, but by the end she admits that she really misses her brother and is upset about it. She is important too because she’s the one pulling the strings, not her father who was suspected.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes mystery or is dealing with a loss. It’s surprising when it ends and is very unexpected. If someone just lost a family member or friend, I would recommend this book because it can help them understand that you can’t act as if nothing happened, it’s not healthy. You have to let yourself grieve. Also just know that you are not the only one who lost someone. Talking to someone about the person who died can make you feel better.

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

When something bad happens to you, how do you cope with it? Do you dwell in the bad, or take charge to try to help and make a change? A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti is about a teenage girl, Annabelle, recovers from a trauma by running 2,700 miles across the country. She is torn between extreme sadness, anxiety, and depression throughout the book as she also tries to fight for what she thinks is right. When Annabelle starts running, she is just trying to get away from everything, but when she finishes, she is moved and inspired to continue fighting for what she believes is important. She won’t let herself think about what happened, but it slowly forces her to relive the memories and come to terms with her pain. When Annabelle tells her mother and brother what she plans to do, her mother doesn’t want her to go, she wants her to finish school. From the start, her brother, Malcom, takes charge to fund raise money for Annabelle. He even gets her friends to contribute to campaigning for her. Her grandfather meets her at a hotel and follows her in his RV while she runs across the country. As Annabelle is remembering what happened, her grandfather is always there to comfort her and cheer her up. This is an amazing story full of love, understanding, and family.
I recommend this book to people who have experienced traumatic events, especially girls. It doesn’t matter who you are, you shouldn’t have to go through hard times alone. You need a good support crew to help you get through. This book can help you understand that, even though you are going through hard times, you have face your pain and accept it, in order to move on and continue living your life.