Review: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Release Date: April 7, 2015

Format: Hardcover

Source: Library Loan

Find it here: GoodReads

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. 

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things delivered so much more than I expected. To be honest, when this was released a few years ago it didn’t make much of a blip on my radar. It wasn’t until I saw a review by a trusted blogger friend (see Nicole's review at Feed Your Fiction Addiction) that it truly caught my attention and convinced me I had to read this one. And thank goodness I did because I was gifted with a warm, funny, heartfelt, and genuinely emotional story of a girl doing her very best to overcome a devastating past and become the best version of herself.

I'm so not enough. I can't be. I smile, and I act happy, and I pretend. I'm the queen of bright and shiny things, eternally looking for the positive and seeking a silver lining in the dark... the real me is horrible, and I wanted to leave her behind, along with the group home and the court-mandated therapy sessions. I want so bad to be normal, but I never can be. 

Sage came to live with her aunt three years ago and has spent that time cultivating an image of herself that she wishes were true. The carefree girl, the do-gooder girl, the girl that leaves encouraging notes on her classmates lockers. Internally, Sage struggles with guilt and an almost overwhelming anger that she must always keep contained. When a new guy arrives at school, Sage is instantly drawn to him. Shane is dealing with his own grief and guilt and seems determined to stay on the fringes and not engage.  As these two slowly form a friendship, and more, they find in each other a way to truly be themselves – and just maybe make peace with the past.

“I want to be the person who never lets you down.”

I fell in love with both Sage and Shane. These two people had already been through so much at such a young age and were dealing with it in the best way they could – although not always successfully. Sage’s evolution felt completely realistic and watching her slowly change and open herself up to wide variety of friends made me want to cheer her on. And her loyalty to those friends and her desire to help others made me wish she was my friend. Shane quickly won me over as well. This was a kid who was virtually on his own at the age of seventeen and, instead of feeling sorry for himself, he was simply doing what it took to get by. He truly didn’t know what to make of Sage and her eagerness to help at first and I loved how her persistence slowly chipped away at his aloofness. Neither of them seemed to know exactly how to navigate their budding relationship and it made for such a sweet and believable connection.

“I don't know how to be a boyfriend," he warns me.

I cock a brow at him, smiling. "That's too bad...since I have a PhD in girlfriendology from the University of So Many Feelings.”

As more of Sage’s background was revealed, and as Shane’s circumstances took a drastic change, the book took on a slightly darker tone and this was where my emotions were really put through the wringer. I definitely shed some tears for Sage and Shane. This is also where the relationships they had formed with others began to pay off and Sage’s aunt in particular was a shining example of love and support.

“God,” he whispers. “What am I supposed to do with you? Why do you care when nobody else does?”

Sage fought hard – both for herself and for Shane. I loved her determination and the lengths she was willing to go to for herself and for those she loved. Aguirre did an amazing job of developing both characters (as well as the cast of secondary characters) and had me totally invested. My heart may have broken a few times along the way, but it was totally worth the experience.

4.25/5 STARS

26 comments

  1. Aw yay, I am so glad that you enjoyed this one so much! I ummm *may* have asked Nicole to spoil me because I wanted to know what happened but didn't think I was ever actually going to read it haha. It's great that the characters were so well developed! Though- Did the Sage/Shane thing get confusing? They're kind of similar names! Awesome review :)

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    1. LOL You made Nicole spoil you... I love it. :) Y’know, at the start I thought the name thing might be an issue, too, but it wasn’t at all. This was just my kind of YA. Big thumbs up!

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  2. I have had this on my TBR for a long while, and now I hope I can get my hands on a copy in the second half of the year (where I will go hard on backlist). Grief, guilt, and tears -- I'm in!

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    1. Exactly, Sam! This one is custom made for you! :)

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  3. Sounds so emotional. I’d definfiely need some tissue! Great review.

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    1. Thanks Jenea. Yeah, emotional for sure. It definitely had me choked up more than once.

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  4. Sounds like a good one! And I don't mind emotional reads, so yay for that. I find sometimes it makes me care even more for the characters - and I'm glad to hear the author did really well developing all those characters.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. Thanks Lauren. I *definitely* cared for these characters and that's what helped it become such a great read. I was totally invested.

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  5. I read this when it came out but I can’t recall any of it now. I remember though that I enjoyed it. Glad you did too.

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    1. I wish I had paid more attention to this one when it first came out... I was definitely missing out!

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  6. I haven't heard of this one, looks really cute though.

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  7. I've been wanting to read this one ever since I read and enjoyed another of her books. It just sounds so moving. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it!

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    1. Thanks Suzanne. I read a couple of Aguirre's new adult titles a few years ago and really enjoyed them. So I guess it's no surprise how much I liked this contemporary YA.

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  8. been debating of picking this one up myself for a while, i am glad to see it pop up again :D and double glad to see that you loved the characters and their connection

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    1. This one is so worth reading, Lily! I hope you'll love it if you decide to pick it up.

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  9. Wow this sounds good! So glad it worked for you! It's a new one to me but I do like a good contemporary from time to time, and it sounds like Ann Aguirre really nailed the characters of Sage and Shane, and their relationship. Fabulous review!

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    1. Thanks Greg! I read less and less YA these days but I'm so glad I gave this one a try. So worth it.

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  10. Okay, so I feel like you in this situation because I really haven't paid attention to this book at all but you convinced me it needs to be on my tbr! It's actually exactly the type of book I like because I enjoy the slightly darker contemps that play with my emotions. I guess I assumed by the title this was more of a sweet and super cheery read. lol Thanks for the review!

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    1. Same here - I love a book that gets my emotions involved. In fact, it's a big strike against the book if I'm not emotionally invested. Or if I don't cry at some point. LOL The title of this one can be a little misleading. It's definitely a nod to what Sage strives to be - not necessarily who she really is all the time.

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  11. I've read some other books by Ann Aguirre in the past and enjoyed them when reading but they didn't leave much of an impression on me. This sounds like it has much more oomph and now I'm curious. Glad you enjoyed it!

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    1. I know what you mean. I've read books like that - good at the time, but ultimately forgettable. This one definitely made an impression, though. I was really sold on the characters.

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  12. I simply had to come and check out your full review after seeing it in your May Recap. AND WOW, THIS HONESTLY SOUNDS SO GOOD. The characters seem really layered and amazing, and the way you described their relationship makes me super-eager to dive into this.

    Fantastic review!

    Veronika @ The Regal Critiques

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  13. All these quotes are making me swoon!! I'm glad this blew you away!! Those books are my favorite!! <3 Lovely review!!!

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