Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Book Review & Excerpt - Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly

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Review by Suze
Crystal and her twin sister Amber have a plan. They want to graduate high school, find their own place and make something of their future. There's also baby Natalie to take care of and they want her to have a better life. Crystal and Amber are raising her together. The twins both have jobs, they go to school and they try to attend baby classes. They bring Natalie to daycare and they make sure they're keeping her safe.
Things are going all right until Crystal finds out her grades are good enough to get into college. She loves working on vintage cars and there's a perfect program for her. While she has every intention to stick to the plan she signs up anyway. If they'd approve her what would happen to the life she's so carefully mapped out with her sister? Can Crystal actually break her promises to have a shot at the future she always wanted?
Speed of Life is an interesting story. Crystal and Amber have a roof over their heads, but it isn't a decent one. Their parents aren't responsible and their mother had them when she was still a teenager. The same cycle seems to repeat itself in their family and Crystal wants to change that. She's studying hard, she's trying to motivate Amber to graduate, she works and earns her own money and she's always there when Natalie needs someone. That's a tough life with a lot of responsibilities for someone who's only eighteen years old, but there is no choice, it has to be done. It's this inevitability that makes the story so impressive. I admired Crystal's courage and her strength. The connection between Crystal and Amber is strong and they would do everything for each other. It was amazing to read about their bond and how far they would go for one another. I love stories about twins and Speed of Life grabbed me from the start.
J.M. Kelly's writing flows easily, which gives the reader the chance to focus entirely on the story. Crystal doesn't have the life most people her age have. She has tough choices to make and I couldn't wait to find out what they would be. She's controlled and strict at first, but later her emotions spiral out of control and that was heartbreaking to read about. I loved that there's a clear turning point and think that worked very well. J.M. Kelly has written a beautiful story about unconditional love, dreams and making mistakes. Crystal's passion for cars clearly defines her personality and it also gives the story a fabulous original angle. I enjoyed that a lot and think Speed of Life is an intense, chaotic and energetic story, it's a really great book.
About J.M. Kelly

Joëlle Anthony is a writer and sometimes-actress who currently lives on a tiny island in British Columbia with her musician husband, Victor Anthony, and cat, Marley. Her debut novel, Restoring Harmony, was long listed for the American Library Association’s Best New Young Adult Fiction 2010, and chosen as the Feature Title for Cincinnati’s Teen on the Same Page Festival 2012. Her latest release, The Right & the Real also made ALA’s Best YA Fiction list (2012), both from Putnam. She enjoys teaches writing workshops to writers of all ages. Visit her on the web at www.joelleanthony.com Follow her on Twitter @joellewrites

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“Miss Robbins?” The guidance counselor shuffles her papers some more. “You must have some dream. Something you love to do…”

I’m starting to think she’s never going to let me go back to class if I don’t come up with something, so I tell her, “I like cars.”

Her smile brightens and then immediately fades. “Cars?”

I figure this will get me off the hook. Girls aren’t supposed to like cars, so this will make her think I’m a lost cause. “You know,” I say, sure she has no idea. “Working on cars. Restoring them.”

“Like antiques?”

I shrug. “I wouldn’t mind doing an antique car sometime. But right now, I’m mostly interested in muscle cars."

She looks at me blankly.

“High-powered, two-door cars. Usually with a V8.”


I know she has no clue and probably isn't interested, but she’s got me going now and I can’t stop. “I’m restoring a Mustang for me and my sister.”

Her eyes light up. “You have a Mustang? My brother has one.”

“Really? What year?”

She scrunches up her forehead. “I’m not sure.”

“From the sixties?” I ask. "Or the seventies?"

“Oh, no, it's newer,” she says. “Maybe 2014?”

Big deal. I thought she meant a cool Mustang, not a cookie cutter one. I realize I've been talking too much. When we were freshman I discovered the best way to get through high school was with my head down and to keep quiet. I zip my lips.

She sits there, smiling, waiting for me to go on, but I don’t. She tries to revive the conversation by faking interest. “What year’s yours?”

I'm a sucker for any questions about my car. “Sixty-nine fastback. It’s pretty rough right now. I need to save some money to paint it. But I’ve overhauled the engine, and it’s a smooth ride.”

“You overhauled the engine?” she asks. “By yourself?”

“Well, I had help,” I admit. “I work at Jimmy’s Gas & Repair Shop. The owner helped me.”

“That’s very impressive."

“I can’t wait until I can do the interior," I say, while my head’s screaming at me, Shut up! My big mouth keeps going, though. “It doesn't look perfect yet, but it’s never been wrecked.”

"Is that important?"

"Well, yeah. If I ever want to sell it, it's worth a lot more then." Not that I would ever part with it.

“Well…that's…great.” Ms. Spellerman stacks her papers and moves a file with my name on it off to one side like she's not sure what to do with me. No one’s supposed to come into the guidance counselor’s office and say they don’t want to go to school because they're going to work on cars. And then she brightens. “I’m pretty sure the community colleges offer mechanic courses.”

I shrug noncommittally. It seems kind of stupid to fork out money for classes when Jimmy’s teaching me on the job and I’m getting paid. “I’ll probably keep working at the garage."

“They’d teach you all the latest technology.”

“Yeah, but I’m not interested in new cars. Only the old ones.”

Ms. Spellerman looks over my head at the clock. “Right. Okay. Well…”

“Can I go now?”

“Sure,” she says. “But, Miss Robbins, I really think you should consider a state school. It's in your range.”

I wonder if somewhere in my paperwork it says that I’m on free lunch. Doesn’t she know kids like me don’t have money for college? Not to mention we have Natalie to look out for.

About the Book

Title: Speed of Life
Author: J.M. Kelly
Pub. Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 352
Formats: Hardcover, eBook



Twins Crystal and Amber have the same goal: to be the first in their family to graduate high school and make something of their lives. When one gets pregnant during their junior year, they promise to raise the baby together. It’s not easy, but between their after-school jobs, they’re scraping by.

Crystal’s grades catch the attention of the new guidance counselor, who tells her about a college that offers a degree in automotive restoration, perfect for the car buff she is. When she secretly applies—and gets in—new opportunities threaten their once-certain plans, and Crystal must make a choice: follow her dreams or stay behind and honor the promise she made to her sister.

US only Giveaway

3 winners will receive a finished copy of Speed of Life.


  1. This book sounds like it has a lot of heart, great review, thanks for sharing!

  2. Love the cover. This book sounds fabulous. :)

  3. Love a story about families. Look forward to see how this one works itself out.

  4. The cover is amazing; it seems a bit vintage style to me. Plus I like where the story is going. Your review makes me want to try this book out :)

  5. This book sounds amazing. I need to read it. :)

  6. This sounds good. Lots of emotion and a different interest for Crystal's character.

  7. It's always interesting to read about the bonds between sisters, especially twins.

  8. I like how the cover illustration seems to meld the twins' minds or heads together. And I love the tagline, too: "Sometimes the detours are the best part of the journey."
    Sounds like an interesting read. It's nice to hear of a book in which the main characters are facing Real Life Challenges, as opposed to "Crystal has/had everything going for her..." or "Amber was [inherently flawed]."

  9. This book sounds great and it's about real struggles that people face.

  10. Ok. This sounds great! Thank you for posting :)