mini reviews: The Rules for Disappearing, One + One = Blue, Black Helicopters

May 24, 2013 2013, 4 star books, ashley sleson, blythe woolston, mature themes, middle grade, mj auch, realistic fiction, Wendy 68

Today’s mini reviews are an eclectic mix! All three books are very different, but I enjoyed them all, and would definitely read all these authors again.

Title: The Rules for Disappearing
Author: Ashley Elston  
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion 
Age Group: YA
Source: gifted ARC

This is the type of book that usually never works for me in YA, but The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston totally did. “Meg” has been in the witness protection program for almost a year, and the worst part is, her father won’t tell her why her family’s been uprooted over and over.

I really liked Meg, and I thought the story was well plotted, well paced, had good character development, and contained just the right amount of suspense to keep things interesting. Plus there was good dialogue and a cute relationship to top it all off! Sure, I guessed the secrets ahead of time, and if you dissect it there will be some “hmm, really?” moments, but honestly I liked the voice/characters enough that that didn’t even matter. It wraps up nicely, while still leaving enough room for the story to continue in the sequel.

Title: One + One = Blue
Author: M.J. Auch
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Henry Holt
Age Group: MG
Source: ARC from publisher

The blurb for One + One = Blue by M.J. Auch is a little misleading. The focus appears to be on 12-year-old Basil’s synesthesia, but that turns out to be just one part of the story–the first half of the book is about his awkwardness in school, as well as the defensive, reluctant friendship he forms with the pushy new girl named Tenzie. I loved how Basil’s world felt comfortable and lived in in the way that Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary’s books did, and where the trials and tribulations of friendship and school seemed enormous. Basil is such an awesome kid–filled with quirky humor and flashes of thoughtfulness and resentment all at the same time, and I really liked the sheer boy-ness of being in his head. And his home with his grandmother, especially with that crazy-wonderful art studio, sounds like a place I’d want to visit.

Synthesthesia, while not a cornerstone of the story, is also described in a way that seems almost magical. I still can’t really process how it works, but I enjoyed the author’s description of how words and numbers appeared to both Basil and Tenzie.

I was less enthused after Basil’s deadbeat mom showed up, because the plot shifts to a much less interesting and dynamic relationship. She’s a flighty whirlwind who upends Basil’s life, and she upends the plot as well, especially since the two kids get up to all kinds of machinations to keep up with her. I appreciate the fact that things aren’t wrapped up in a neat bow relationship-wise at the end, but still–I really wish the fun and grounded warm fuzzies I felt for the first half had been sustained.

Title: Black Helicopters
Author: Blythe Woolston
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Age Group: Mature YA
Source: finished copy from publisher

I would venture to guess that a lot of readers are going to find Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston a very difficult book. It feels bleak, it feels hopeless, the language and structure are tricky, and it doesn’t care at all if you like it. But man, is this short and devastating literary thriller packed with powerful emotion.

15-year-old Valkyrie knows only this: the Others can’t be trusted, and only Da knows how to keep her and her brother safe. Miles away from civilization, they’ve carved out a strange and violent life for themselves, one that seems threatened on a daily basis.

The plotting is taut in this slim volume, and you realize pretty quickly that you may have an unreliable narrator on your hands. Valykyrie’s words tumble out with rough fury, and there’s a sense of jittery paranoia that you just can’t shake, even as your brain races to make sense of the changing puzzle pieces laid out before you.

If The Reapers Are the Angels had been written by Nova Ren Suma, this is the sort of book that might have come to pass. You won’t get all the answers you’re looking for, and you may come out of it feeling battered and lost. But you won’t ever be able to forget the raw energy and darkness of this story. This is a book that feels like an apocalyptic one–but the scary thing is, it’s not.

These reviews also appear on GoodReads. Review copies were provided as indicated.

68 Responses to “mini reviews: The Rules for Disappearing, One + One = Blue, Black Helicopters”

  1. clipping path

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  2. Alexa Y.

    I’m pretty curious about The Rules for Disappearing, as it sounds like a fairly solid YA read. I’m definitely going to have to check it out!

    I’m also now curious about the last book you’ve mentioned – Black Helicopters. It does sound dark, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

  3. sshah605

    I haven’t been able to get my hands on ‘ The Rules for Disappearing’ yet. I have heard so much about it in the blog world. Definitely gonna read it !! Thanks for the mini reviews!

  4. librarymom

    I read The Rules for Disappearing a few weeks ago and I was really happy with how much I enjoyed it. I could see some of the plot points coming but there were still enough twists to keep me off balance. I also really liked the character development and the relationships that developed throughout the story.

  5. Ashley @ Book Labyrinth

    To be honest it still amazes me how different people can read the same thing and have such different opinions. It’s awesome, of course, but I still can’t wrap my head around it, even after 3 years of blogging and following blogs for longer than that (FYI I’m referring to The Rules for Disappearing which I just didn’t really care for very much. So glad you did like it, though!).

    • Wendy Darling

      Exactly. :) And this has pretty believable relationship dynamics, a cute romance, and a good narrative voice.

  6. thebookfairyhaven

    Oh, and I must admit, even though you had a few issues with the second book, you actually had me sold on the Synthesthesia aspect of it. You don’t see that explored very often in fiction – or if it is, then it often tends to be one of those hidden gems that is drowned out by the more commercial fiction out there.

    • Wendy Darling

      I really did like ONE + ONE, and would have rated it a strong 4 stars if the story with the mother hadn’t made things go off the rails. The way synesthesia is described is fascinating, though. I’ve only read three books with it so far, and I feel like every time, I get a glimpse of something new/different/unusual.

  7. thebookfairyhaven

    Oh I just received a of Black Helicopters to review. I think it definitely sounds like something I’d enjoy. :) I love books that don’t always give you all the answers you’re looking for and it seems as if this is one of those kind of reads. I’m also very keen on exploring the bleak and violent landscape Val finds herself in. The Rules for Disappearing is definitely a book I’m also interested in reading. I’d be keen on hearing your thoughts about the cover – do you think it truly captures the book?

    • Wendy Darling

      AWESOME. I’m so glad you got a copy of that, Tammy–I think it could use a little bit of attention, and I think you’re just the type of reader who’d appreciate the story and writing.

      As far as the RULES cover–yes, I think it does capture the mood of the book, actually. I like the “she’s disappearing” vibe, and it’s not actually a grim/serious thriller, so the photo really does strike the right note.

  8. Jenni @ Alluring Reads

    I really want to get my hands on Black Helicopters, I love how you describe it as bleak and not caring if you like it. That’s a kick ass description!

    I had longed for more about synethesia in 1+1, I was sad that the focus of the story shifted so far away from it and didn’t delve into it. I agree that it was annoying once the mom showed up, ugh I wanted to slap that woman!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh yeah, BH doesn’t give a shit about making its characters/story likeable or relatable–and I admire it tremendously for that.

      And yesss, more synethesia would have been interesting. I could have lived without at least 50 pages of the mother story altogether, she totally derailed a charming story.

  9. Princess Ash

    I hadn’t really paid attention to THE RULES but it definitely sounds exciting enough that I might just give it a try, at least purely out of curiosity. One + One just hasn’t really CAUGHT me, and I don’t think I’ll be picking it up. I’m not inspired to. The one I find most intriguing is BLACK HELICOPTERS.

    “But you won’t ever be able to forget the raw energy and darkness of this story. “

    I hate to love these kinds of stories, but love them I do nonetheless. If it can make me feel, even after I’ve discovered myself barren of hope, THEN I WANT IT.

    • Wendy Darling

      Well, Black Helicopters falls into the “mature YA” category, so I’m very curious to see what other readers think of it. It’s really written more like an adult book, but I can totally see this as an interesting discussion novel for a high school classroom as well. It has a lot of interesting themes and SECRETS.

  10. A Canadian Girl

    One + One = Blue sounds like an interesting read. I love reading books that deal with psychological themes so I can see myself giving that one a try. Thanks for the recommendation, Wendy.

  11. Kim (YA Asylum)

    I’ve been intrigued by The Rules of Disappearing, but that type of thing usually ends up disappointing me. So hearing that you liked it — and that it has a cute relationship and good dialogue — makes me happy. I’ll be able to read it without worry. I’ll just have to try not to dissect it too much. This is the first review I’ve read on One + One = Blue and Black Helicopter. One + One doesn’t sound like something for me but, oh my books, just reading “If The Reapers Are the Angels had been written by Nova Ren Suma” made my head spin. I’ll admit the Reapers Are the Angels took a while for me to get into it, but I absolutely love Nova Ren Suma. Hopeless, bleak stories are always of interest to me.

    Great mini reviews!

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m often disappointed by YA thrillers (that aren’t psychological thrillers) too, Kim, but I really liked RULES. The tone of it probably helped, it wasn’t all grim and serious, though it wasn’t all cheeky like Deadly Cool either.

      And yessss, please give Black Helicopters a chance. It’s a book that deserves and audience, and it’s not one most people would typically pick up. But if you like those references, I have a feeling you’d connect with the book.

  12. Danielle

    I hadn’t heard of any of these books – so thank you! ‘The Rules for Disappearing’ has me most intrigued …

    Awesome minis, Wendy :)

  13. Melliane

    oh it sounds like some nice books. I really like the cover of One + One = Blue, it’s fun! thanks for all the 3 reviews!

  14. Book Whales

    Rules of Disappearing sounds lovely. I also love seeing your mini-reviews too. Maybe I’ll make my own mini reviews soon :D Wonderful review, Wendy.

    -Dannielle

    • Wendy Darling

      Thanks Danielle! I think you’d like RULES. And I highly recommend the mini-reviews, it took me a long time to do it, but I find them really satisfying to do.

  15. Bookworm1858

    I hadn’t heard of One + One = Blue but I like the sound of it although I wish it had maintained the same tone from the first half throughout. I really loved Ultraviolet by RJ Andersen featuring a character with synesthesia and I’d love to read another with the same condition.

    • Wendy Darling

      That was the first book I read with synesthesia in it, too. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar (Aussie YA author) also features a character with the condition.

  16. Sam

    I’ve always been aware of synthesthesia, though I don’t think it really caught my interest until I read Ultraviolet. I’m looking forward to seeing how it is approached in One+One=Blue, even if it is just a small part of the story.

    The Rules for Disappearing is one that I definitely plan to read! I never really considered it at first (I think the cover put me off), but the positive reviews of late have been more than convincing.

    Lovely mini-reviews, Wendy. I’ve secretly been wishing I could mini-review everything. They’re so much easier to write in most cases. ;)

    • Wendy Darling

      I had never heard of synethesia until ULTRAVIOLET, Sam–it’s a fascinating subject. I wouldn’t say it’s a small part of the story in One + One, but it ended up being less of the focus than I expected, if that makes sense. Which I didn’t mind since I did enjoy the first half of the story.

      I think you’d really enjoy RULES. :) It surprised me, in a very good way.

      And yeah, the mini reviews are such a help when reviews pile up. The challenge is always to condense thoughts into such a short amount of space, while still giving people a sense of what the book is about + reaction.

  17. Bookphilia

    I used to think I had synthesthesia when I read about what it was. Turns out I remember things better when I associate them with colour and pictures though. Extremely visual learner apparently. Definitely will be checking that book out! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, interesting–very much a visual learner, then. I’m glad to hear you’re going to check out One + One! The way Tenzie’s thought processes are explained is fascinating, as are the coping mechanisms she used to work through her math problems at school. I’m not sure I really understand it still, but I do find it such an interesting way of experiencing the world.

  18. Rachel

    So happy to see you enjoyed The Rules for Disappearing too, Wendy! I thought it was a fun mystery with a dash of romance.

    I’ve never heard of the next two books, but Black Helicopter sounds like it may be a little dark for me. One+One=Blue is probably more to my liking but the mother sounds like a drag. I think we need better parents in YA!

    Wonderful reviews, Wendy! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Exactly! RULES was just a fun book, and the romance was pretty cute. Romances in those situations rarely seem to make much of an impression on me, but I liked this one.

      And oh yeah…the mom is a twit, and I was just as annoyed with her as Basil was, hah.

  19. Amy

    Great reviews Wendy. The Rules for Disappearing sounds good. I liked One + One = Blue, but I agree with you about his mom entering the story and kind of dragging it down. I also would have liked more about their condition too. It was kind of just hovering in the story and not a central point. I had not heard of Black Helicopters, but it sounds like something I would love.

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah, there was way too much time spent with the mom–and I really didn’t care for the bus ride and subsequent drama over that, either. I’m glad you liked it too, overall, Amy–it’s always good that MG books get attention, and I did like the author’s voice a lot. And agreed, I liked the way the synesthesia was described, but I would loved to have seen more as well.

  20. Melanie

    Rules of Disappearing is a book that I’ve been eyeing for a long time now, I’m glad to see that you enjoyed it as well! I’m always picky about characters and all so this book sounds like it’ll work for me.

    As for One + One, it’s a shame it mislead you. When I get mislead, the book usually gets a poor rating as I’d probably set the expectation far too high. *sigh* At least it wasn’t too mis-guiding.

    Brilliant reviews, Wendy! <33

    • Wendy Darling

      I thought RULES was a lot of fun–I wasn’t rolling my eyes or impatient at all, which is how a lot of similarly-themed YA mysteries tend to leave me. I think most of my friends have liked it as well.

      Honestly, I usually feel the same way about being misled with blurbs, but in this case my disappointment really had more to do with the change in the story direction after the mom showed up. I just wanted to make sure people knew it wasn’t all focused on synethesia (maybe I was wrong for thinking so), and I actually really enjoyed the parts focused on Basil’s friendships and other difficulties at school.

  21. Tanja - Tanychy

    Of this three I’ve only heard of The Rules of Disappearing and that one is on my to read list. I’m so happy that you’ve enjoyed it too :) I haven’t heard of the other two but Black Helicopters sounds like something different and I love different! :) Great reviews Wendy :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Rules is the most prominent book of the three for sure, so I tried to include a couple of lesser known ones in this mini review round as well. ;) I hope you like the books when you get around to them!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, I think you’d enjoy Rules for Disappearing, Andrea! It’s a lot of fun, and the romance is pretty cute, too. And believably done, even within the framework of a less common scenario.

  22. Keertana

    One + One = Blue seems like such a unique story, but I just know it’s not for me unfortunately. The Rules, however, seems to be getting a LOT of positive reviews, so I think I’ll have to see if I can squeeze that in this summer. I haven’t heard of the last book you mentioned and while I’m not sure I’ll like it, I’m curious enough to give it a try if I have the time. Fantastic reviews, Wendy! I envy your succinctness! ;)

    • Wendy Darling

      I think if you go into knowing it may be a bit on the “I KNEW IT” side, you’ll have fun with Rules, Keertana. It’s a very readable book. :)

  23. Candace

    I’m glad you enjoyed The Rules! I have heard some mixed things about the middle book and I hadn’t even heard of the third book but it sounds very intriguing…

  24. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I’ve heard good things about THE RULES — I do enjoy a good mystery, even if they are easily figured out. One+One=Blue doesn’t really sound like my thing but Black Helicopters sounds really intriguing!

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah, I usually figure out most YA mysteries, Mary, but this one was such a fun read it didn’t matter to me. :)

      Black Helicopters is definitely not for everybody, but if you decide to read it, I hope you find it as compelling as I did!

    • Wendy Darling

      Rules is very fun, Juhina–and I actually sort of understand why the story was hard for the publisher to describe in One + One, because it really does take off in a way I didn’t expect.

    • Wendy Darling

      It’s so funny how the book I think is the most difficult is the one people are commenting on most, hah. I’m glad you’re interested in reading it, Scott!

  25. starryeyedjen

    Not gonna lie, telling me that most readers will find a book difficult almost ensures that I’ll want to read it. Also, unreliable narrators are the best…they’re the only ones that keep me guessing. *sigh* I have a love/hate relationship with your mini reviews…you give me just enough to taunt me. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Hee, I’m glad you are up to the challenge! I ADORE unreliable narrators, I had no idea you did, too. I will have to remember this about you, Jen.

      The challenge with mini reviews is trying to keep them short and sweeet, while giving people a short description and whetting their appetites as well. Also, trying to restrain the urge to come back and add more detail, hah.

  26. Bonnie R

    You officially have me intrigued by Black Helicopter! And hey! Another book on synesthesia… those sure seem to be popping up more and more. Great reviews as always, Miss Wendy. :)

    Bonnie @ Sweet Tidbits

    • Wendy Darling

      I think you are one of the few people I know who might like Black Helicopters, Bonnie.

      And yeah, synesthesia is fascinating to me, and I really enjoyed the way it’s described in this book, and how it’s integrated into the story in the first half. All the things I liked sort of vanished in the second half, though. :/

    • Wendy Darling

      It doesn’t get much more bleak than that, Kate. I’m very curious to see what you’ll think of it–don’t say I didn’t warn you!