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Good afternoon fellow book lovers! I'm so very pleased to be wrapping up the Us Kids Blog Tour Today! Special thanks to Penguin Teen and Razorbill books for sending me an advance reader copy for an unbiased and honest review! You all rock!

Title: Us Kids Know
Author: JJ Strong
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction-Contemporary. 
Rating: 3/ 5 stars


We all knew about Cullen Hickson.

              Siblings Bri and Ray O'Dell are lost. Anxious. Restless. Ray—bullied at his Catholic school for being small and timid—wants to be someone people respect or, even better, someone people fear. Meanwhile, Bri knows that something is off about her friendship with the shiny, happy, sophisticated blond girls on her field hockey team. They don't really understand Bri, and if Bri is being totally honest, she doesn't really understand them either.

              When storied delinquent Cullen Hickson enters the orbit of the O'Dell siblings, though, everything changes. Bri and Ray find an alluring, addictive outlet in Cullen, who opens their eyes to a world they didn't know existed. For Ray, that means experiencing the singular thrill of crime—from breaking and entering to grand theft auto—while Bri quickly dives into an all-consuming romance with the enigmatic upperclassman.
              As Bri and Ray become more and more entwined with Cullen's antics, and their once-thrilling experiences grow increasingly dangerous, a series of life-changing events threatens to lead the teens down a dark path—one that could forever alter the course of their lives.

*Before going into further depth of this book, I want readers to know this is going to be a spoiler-free review but I also want to put a TW: Suicide that comes up with this book* 

My Thoughts:

        I was intrigued by the prospect on reading this book because it seemed to be an alluring combination of rebellious kids, such as the young ones in stranger things, and a flare of the classic I The Outsiders novel by S.E. Hinton. It was a debut by J.J. Strong who has a flare of really personifying human relationships and life's most challenging moments.

        Throughout reading this novel I was under the impression this was a group of three teenagers doing small rebellious acts as outcast. Which in lighter terms I guess it was. However, this book has some serious underlying tones of how people deal with depression, trauma, and mental illness. 

        I'm going to start of by talking about what I liked about this book. I loved each character's personalities and the interactions they had with one an other. I thinks it very important for people to understand the complexities of being a young adult and how hard it can be some time. And I do think that J.J. Strong shed light on that part of being a teenager, with flaws and all. When people go into this book they are going to expect just a bunch of fun-loving rebellious teenagers...and that is just not the case. 

   It brings to that one line...chaos breeds chaos. 

          Ray and Bri's home life is not the best situation and that is what I believed to be the ultimate catalyst while reading this novel! These teenagers reactions and behaviors seemed almost desperate and untamed.  I think that Ray's character has some serious mental issues that needed to be addressed. He was so lost and broken with rawness that brought a tear to my eyes as I read. He was a troubled teen without guidance and that was what made all of his motives for his actions somewhat understandable while reading the book. Cullen's character seemed to be an absolute toxic person to be around.  Cullen and Ray's relationship was a cry for help from both parts of the party. During certain points in the novel I swear I had to shut the book because these kids did not seem like thrill seekers. They were simply criminals. Cullen and Ray's relationships seemed to be a borderline comparison to that of the joker and his reign through Gotham. They were not characters I'd want to be be friends with because of how dangerous and reckless their actions were throughout the novel. With Bri, I connected with her underlying wish to be accepted and loved. She was probably the only character that kept me reading the book because her character seemed so real and honest. Her relationship with Cullen, while at its best seemed strained, was so instantaneous that it was not believable. I felt as though their relationship brought out the worst and harsh side of Bri. However, I felt like that is what the story called for and I wish her character had gotten a better, more developed ending. Overall, I felt more confused about this novel than anything. The plot seemed to go from subtle to drastic throughout my reading. The characters were such dynamic and intense human beings that has many serious issues that I wanted to see not only developed but resolved. These characters have a lot to deal with that may take one a while to unpack while reading this novel. And I honestly didn't hate this book because of how it dealt with human relationships and struggles. It was a very bold move on J.J. Strong's part to tack such serious issues with a debut novel. I just wish some of the parts were explained more and developed.

Author Bio:

JJ Strong received a creative writing degree from the University of Southern California, and a B.A. in English from Georgetown University. His writing has appeared in Fifth Wednesday, the Santa Monica Review, and LA Weekly. He taught for many years in the undergraduate writing program at USC, before moving to the Washington, D.C. area with his wife and son.


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