Category Archives: YA Fiction

See All the Stars

Finished See All the Stars by Kit Frick. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

It’s hard to find the truth beneath the lies you tell yourself.

THEN They were four—Bex, Jenni, Ellory, Ret. Electric, headstrong young women; Ellory’s whole solar system.

NOW Ellory is alone, her once inseparable group of friends torn apart by secrets, deception, and a shocking incident that changed their lives forever.

THEN Lazy summer days. A party. A beautiful boy. Ellory met Matthias and fell into the beginning of a spectacular, bright love.

NOW Ellory returns to Pine Brook to navigate senior year after a two-month suspension and summer away—no boyfriend, no friends. No going back. Tormented by some and sought out by others, troubled by a mysterious note-writer who won’t let Ellory forget, and consumed by guilt over her not entirely innocent role in everything and everyone she’s lost, Ellory finds that even in the present, the past is everywhere.

The path forward isn’t a straight line. And moving on will mean sorting the truth from the lies—the lies Ellory has been telling herself.”

This story is insanely compelling. We don’t know exactly what’s happened between the two timelines or how, over the course of a school year, Ellory went from having great friends and a boyfriend to being single and essentially shunned—not just by her former friends but by the school at large—but it was clearly pretty awful.

Kit Frick manages to keep that suspense going for the bulk of the novel, telling us everything we need to know so that when the reveal happens, it is both a surprise and completely obvious.

Try to not read any other reviews or synopses or even blurbs about this. Go in as fresh as you can. It’s a much better read that way.

Recommended.

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The Other Side of Lost

Finished The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Girl Online meets Wild in this emotionally charged story of girl who takes to the wilderness to rediscover herself and escape the superficial persona she created on social media.

Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.

With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.”

I’ve loved Jessi Kirby since I read her first novel, Moonglass. (Which I read when it first came out, thanks to Sarah Dessen’s recommendation.) I’ve loved every book she’s written but this one may be my new favorite.

Mari is completely relatable. She’s created the life she thinks she wants, but realizes (on her birthday) that it’s actually not what she wanted. And she sets off on this quest, doing something she and Bri were supposed to do together. It’s hard and more than kind of awful but she does it, one step at a time.

I’m drawn to stories about personal growth and especially ones where people do more than they think they can. This has both of those in spades. Mari also makes both seem really possible. (I’m tempted to try this too, but I know I would literally die. It’s a 211 mile hike!)

Highly recommended.

Heretics Anonymous

Finished Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Michael is an atheist. So as he walks through the doors at St. Clare’s—a strict Catholic school—sporting a plaid tie, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow nonbeliever at that. Only this girl, Lucy, is not just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.

But Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism. After an incident in theology class, Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies. When Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom, or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.”

I really enjoyed this. I mean obviously, yes, rebellious teens (or people in general) are my favorite, but every character here is three-dimensional. Yes, at first, we think we know who everyone is. There’s the sexist guy who’s awful to everyone less popular than he is; there’s the super obnoxious, really religious girl who’s basically Hilary Faye from Saved. But as we learn more about them, it becomes easy to identify and empathize with them. (Also, Connor is much better than we initially think. Theresa isn’t, but her life is so awful that it made me like her more anyway.)

This book is laugh out loud funny but there’s a lot more to it than that. People have hard home lives or feel like they don’t fit in. It’s something we can all relate to, and no one is a stereotype. Also, no one is portrayed as better or worse based on their religious beliefs (or lack thereof, in Michael’s case). He’s probably the biggest jerk about religion (with Theresa as a very close second) but he comes around. (He doesn’t become Christian but he stops treating people who are like they’re idiots.)

I absolutely love this book and can’t wait to see what Katie Henry does next.

#murdertrending

Finished #murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest 8/18 citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society’s most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0.

When eighteen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she’s about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn’t commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she’s innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman’s cast of executioners kill them off one by one?”

Holy crap, this book. It is insane in all the best ways. It’s sort of Hunger Games meets the Running Man, and it is both incredibly entertaining and also completely unsettling. (My friend Meredith and I were reading it the same day and we had identical reactions to the same page [page 289 and “HOLY CRAP”]. I think it will be everyone’s reaction. More sensitive readers may literally throw the book across the room, but we are horror movie fans and we aren’t squeamish. But if we were? Page 289 would’ve killed us.)

Gretchen McNeil’s books are always fun but this one may be her best yet.

And there is a sequel, although we have to wait forever (next August) to see what happens. Either way, I am here for it.

Recommended.

Finding Yvonne

Finished Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Since she was seven years old, Yvonne has had her trusted violin to keep her company, especially in those lonely days after her mother walked out on their family. But with graduation just around the corner, she is forced to face the hard truth that she just might not be good enough to attend a conservatory after high school.

Full of doubt about her future, and increasingly frustrated by her strained relationship with her successful but emotionally closed-off father, Yvonne meets a street musician and fellow violinist who understands her struggle. He’s mysterious, charming, and different from Warren, the familiar and reliable boy who has her heart. But when Yvonne becomes unexpectedly pregnant, she has to make the most difficult decision yet about her future.”

Brandy Colbert is easily one of the best authors writing today. Finding Yvonne is completely captivating and it’s so relatable.

The synopsis spoils the fact that Yvonne is pregnant, but we don’t learn that until almost 200 pages in (my ARC is 276 pages). Obviously she has to figure out what to do there, but the decision about her future is already complicated. Yvonne plays the violin. That’s what she does; that’s her identity. Except lately, it hasn’t been the joy it usually is. It sometimes feels like an obligation or something she does out of guilt or habit. But sometimes it doesn’t feel like anything. And when “playing the violin” has been her thing since she was little, it sends her into a bit of an identity crisis.

There is so much to discuss about this book, but really? You should just discover it for yourself. It’s a masterpiece and I don’t want to wreck it.

Highly recommended.

Lovely, Dark and Deep

Finished Lovely, Dark and Deep by Justina Chen. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

What would you do if the sun became your enemy?

That’s exactly what happens to Viola Li after she returns from a trip abroad and develops a sudden and extreme case of photosensitivity — an inexplicable allergy to sunlight. Thanks to her crisis-manager parents, she doesn’t just have to wear layers of clothes and a hat the size of a spaceship. She has to stay away from all hint of light. Say goodbye to windows and running outdoors. Even her phone becomes a threat when its screen burns her.

Viola is determined to maintain a normal life, particularly after she meets Josh. He’s a funny, talented Thor look-alike who carries his own mysterious grief. But the intensity of their romance makes her take more and more risks, and when a rebellion against her parents backfires dangerously, she must find her way to a life — and love — as deep and lovely as her dreams.”

I have been a fan of Justina Chen’s ever since I read North of Beautiful and every book since has only made me appreciate her more. I’ve loved every book of hers that I’ve read, and this one is no exception.

I think we’ve all heard of this condition, but it’s rare to see something about it in stories. (I’ve really only seen it in the movie The Others, which is probably not very comforting to people who actually have it.)

It’s scary to think about how quickly your life can completely change, and that’s really shown here. Viola goes from having the kind of life we all take for granted (being able to leave the house and do anything she wants, at any time, without thinking about it or taking precautions) to a life where she can only safely go outside at night, and even then not for very long. Even light through a screen can affect her. And I can’t even imagine having to sit in the dark and not even be able to be on my phone or computer, or even watch TV.  AND because this is so rare, they don’t even know what caused the sudden onset.

But there’s also a lot more to Viola than the sudden allergy to light. She’s in love with the show Firefly and she’s also hoping to be a foreign correspondent. She has so much passion for the world and trying to fix everything that’s wrong. She’s an inspiration and that’s why it hurts so much when she starts to lose the ability to do the things she loves most, and in a lot of very real ways, her future.

But, of course, she soon finds a plan to get it all back. (Which I also love, because this girl is in the empire business.)

I love this book so much, you guys. SO MUCH. And I hope I don’t have to wait long for another Justina Chen book.

Highly recommended.

 

The Cheerleaders

Finished The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.”

This book is so fun! I was so invested in the story and was very curious about if the three groups of deaths (two in a car accident, two murdered, one suicide) were more connected than they appeared to be. (And I felt awful for Monica’s sister, Jen…I can’t imagine losing my four best friends within only a few weeks.)

There are a lot of things to focus on, and a lot of potential suspects…or at least a lot of people who almost definitely know more than they’re saying.

I’ve read Kara Thomas’ second book as well, and I’m very excited to read her first book while I wait for her next novel. She’s quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Recommended.

 

You May Now Kill the Bride

Finished You May Now Kill the Bride by RL Stine. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Two sisters, divided by time. Each with a terrible resentment she can barely contain.

Two Fear family weddings, decades apart… Each bride will find that the ancient curse that haunts the Fears LIVES ON. It feeds off the evil that courses through their blood. It takes its toll in unexpected ways, and allows dark history to repeat itself.

In this all-new Fear Street story, family ties bind sisters together—till DEATH do they part.”

This is the best Fear Street in ages, but that’s still a pretty low bar. The other recent Fear Street books (with a different publisher) are entertaining but this one is better. (Thank you, Harper Collins.)

Parts of this book are genuinely creepy, but on the whole, this book is good for basically anyone with any level of comfort with horror. (There’s YA content that would make it less appropriate for middlegrade readers, but by and large? This book really shouldn’t affect your sleep.)

If you loved the Fear Street books growing up, as I did, this is a good dose of nostalgia…but it’s by no means mandatory. Even so, there are two more books planned, and I’ll keep going. (I also love these retro covers. Thank you, Harper Collins!)

(Maybe what I actually want is for RL Stine to write horror for grownups and make it really, really scary.)

The Unfortunates

Finished The Unfortunates by Kim Liggett. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“When seventeen-year-old senator’s son Grant Tavish is involved in a fatal accident, all he wants to do is face the consequences of what he’s done, but the consequences never come, even if headlines of “affluenza” do. The truth soon becomes clear: Due to his father’s connections, not only will Grant not be held accountable for his actions, he’s going to get away with murder.

When a long Tavish tradition approaches, a cave excursion on the Appalachian trail, Grant seizes the opportunity to take justice into his own hands by staging an accident and never coming back. But before he has a chance to enact his plans, the cave system collapses, trapping him miles beneath the surface with four other teens from much less fortunate circumstances. As they struggle to survive, they share their innermost secrets and fears, and just when it seems they might be on track to finding a way out, they realize there’s something else down there.

And it’s hunting them.”

I am not a fan of nature and I’m very claustrophobic. I’m also not huge on heights and being in the dark in unfamiliar places. I mention that to say that The Unfortunates is basically every nightmare I have in one 220 page piece of absolute Kelly-hell.

Obviously I loved it.

(When I wasn’t completely freaking out and being terrified for Grant and the four teens he’s stuck in the cave with. Because guys, I didn’t know what was happening but I knew that I wanted no part of it and that I wanted all of them to survive.)

If every horror novel could be as intense as this one, I’d be a really happy Kelly. Highly recommended.

Blood Will Tell

Finished Blood Will Tell by April Henry. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

What happens when someone who’s only ever wanted to be a hero becomes a suspect?

When a woman’s body is found in a Portland park, suspicion falls on an awkward teen who lives only a few blocks away, owns several knives, loves first-person shooter video games, and doodles violent scenes in his school notebooks. Nick Walker goes from being a member of a Search and Rescue team to the prime suspect in a murder, his very interest in SAR seen as proof of his fascination with violence. How is this even possible? And can Alexis and Ruby find a way to help clear Nick’s name before it’s too late?”

This is technically the second book in a series, but it definitely works as a standalone. (I didn’t read the first book and I was fine reading this.)

This story is one of my worst nightmares. As someone who is a huge fan of horror movies and suspense novels, I get that I would look completely suspicious if people near me started ending up dead. (Maybe only mildly suspicious since women generally aren’t serial killers, but that isn’t very comforting.) The police shouldn’t take hobbies into account but I’m sure they do. They DEFINITELY did in Nick’s case. (And isn’t everyone who likes video games fond of the first person shooter ones? I mean, they’re really popular, aren’t they? [Genuine question. I don’t really do video games myself.])

At any rate, this book is completely engrossing. The reader knows almost immediately that Nick had nothing to do with it, but the real suspense comes from seeing if he’ll continue to be a suspect and just how far the police will go to prove that he did it.

I also want to go back and read the first one. All three main characters (Nick, Ruby and Alexis) are fantastic but I definitely want to spend more time with Ruby. She reminds me of a teenage version of Holly in Mr. Mercedes and its sequels. Ruby knows SO MUCH and is able to put things together so quickly.

If you’re in the mood for a fun thriller that won’t creep you out when it’s time to go to sleep, this is for you.