Category Archives: YA Fiction

Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

Finished Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A contemporary novel about two best friends who must make tough decisions about their futures–and the TV show they host–in their senior year of high school.

Every Friday night, best friends Delia and Josie become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, hosts of the campy creature feature show Midnite Matinee on the local cable station TV Six.

But with the end of senior year quickly approaching, the girls face tough decisions about their futures. Josie has been dreading graduation, as she tries to decide whether to leave for a big university and chase her dream career in mainstream TV. And Lawson, one of the show’s guest performers, a talented MMA fighter with weaknesses for pancakes, fantasy novels, and Josie, is making her tough decision even harder.

Scary movies are the last connection Delia has to her dad, who abandoned the family years ago. If Midnite Matinee becomes a hit, maybe he’ll see it and want to be a part of her life again. And maybe Josie will stay with the show instead of leaving her behind, too.

As the tug-of-war between growing up and growing apart tests the bonds of their friendship, Josie and Delia start to realize that an uncertain future can be both monstrous…and momentous.”

I was so excited because I thought for sure that this would be a lot lighter than Jeff Zentner’s first two books. Well, joke’s on me, because it’s about a girl who loves horror movies because she watched them with her dad and he’s no longer part of her life. Which, hello, it me. (And for the record, my dad just died; he wasn’t a jerk like Delia’s dad.) Either way, it hit me right in the feelings and there were a lot of tears.

But there’s also a lot in this book that made me laugh. I loved everything about it, and it probably is my favorite of his novels. (The others are tied for second place.)

I loved Josie and Delia and I loved their show. It makes me want to start watching public access or even start my own goofy show. (I won’t do it; I do not at all have the nerve.)

Everything about this book is sweet and lovely, even the parts that made me ugly cry. Highly recommended.

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The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried

Finished The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A good friend will bury your body, a best friend will dig you back up.

Dino doesn’t mind spending time with the dead. His parents own a funeral home, and death is literally the family business. He’s just not used to them talking back. Until Dino’s ex-best friend July dies suddenly—and then comes back to life. Except not exactly. Somehow July is not quite alive, and not quite dead.

As Dino and July attempt to figure out what’s happening, they must also confront why and how their friendship ended so badly, and what they have left to understand about themselves, each other, and all those grand mysteries of life.”

I love Shaun David Hutchinson’s books so much! They’ve all got an aspect of the paranormal to them, but they’re also very much contemporary YA. They deal with breakups and friendships ending; they remind me of my beloved Buffy with the way that aliens and zombies work as almost metaphors for the more mundane monsters we deal with every day.

This one is my favorite, I think; I love Dino and July’s friendship. Even though they’re definitely not close anymore, they’ve still got this shorthand and they’re still very much connected, even though they haven’t been friends in a while.

That also broke my heart—I can’t imagine losing my best friend and I also can’t imagine us not talking all the time.

I love everything about this book. I cried a little but I also laughed a lot (there is humor and it is dark). I cannot recommend this strongly enough.

The Art of Losing

Finished The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“On one terrible night, 17-year-old Harley Langston’s life changes forever. At a party she discovers her younger sister, Audrey, hooking up with her boyfriend, Mike—and she abandons them both in a rage. When Mike drunkenly attempts to drive Audrey home, he crashes and Audrey ends up in a coma. Now Harley is left with guilt, grief, pain and the undeniable truth that her ex-boyfriend (who is relatively unscathed) has a drinking problem. So it’s a surprise that she finds herself reconnecting with Raf, a neighbor and childhood friend who’s recently out of rehab and still wrestling with his own demons. At first Harley doesn’t want to get too close to him. But as Audrey awakens and slowly recovers, Raf starts to show Harley a path forward that she never would have believed possible—one guided by honesty, forgiveness, and redemption.”

This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019 (I’ve heard nothing but great things!) and I wasn’t disappointed.

I loved Harley so much and I felt so awful for her—she loves her younger sister and they’ve always been really close, but the night of Audrey’s near-fatal accident, she also made out with Harley’s boyfriend. She (a) nearly died and (b) didn’t remember any of it, so Harley knew it wasn’t fair to still be angry about it (and most of her anger was aimed at Mike, anyway). But even though it wasn’t fair, it’s very, very human and I think anyone could understand why she did still carry a fair bit of resentment toward her sister.

And oh wow, I loved Raf so much. He’s a total sweetheart and he’s so young to be fighting a battle like addiction. He and Harley are so good for each other, even though it’s really the absolute worst time for them to be together.

Everything about this book is amazing. It’s hard to believe that Lizzy Mason is a debut author, but she’s off to a great start. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Highly recommended.

Two Can Keep a Secret

Finished Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.

The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone’s declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.

Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous–and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.”

This book is basically perfect for me. Its main character (Ellery) is a true crime junkie and is drawn into an actual mystery that may or may not be connected to herself and to her family. There are plenty of sketchy characters and a lot of red herrings. It’s one of the most fun books ever.

And like with her first book, One of Us is Lying, it is nearly impossible to stop reading once you start.

This is a completely fun experience and, even if you call some twists, you won’t get them all. If you need something to distract you or keep you company on a plane ride, this is for you.

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Finished The Love & Lies of Rokhsana Ali by Sabina Khan.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?”

I’d heard so many great things about this book from friends, so I was very excited to read it but it ended up being even better than I was expecting.

I loved Rukhsana and her relationship with her brother; I loved how she genuinely didn’t want to hurt or disappoint her parents, even as they were being unreasonable. I also loved her friends and girlfriend, even though I also got very mad because they were almost gaslighting her about how her parents would react; they were sure that she was exaggerating about how horrified they would be if they learned she was gay.

Parts of this book were really hard to read but it was also amazing. I hope there is a sequel or a companion novel, because I’m not ready to say goodbye to this world yet.

Watch Us Rise

Finished Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Jasmine and Chelsea are sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post everything online—poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial macroaggressions she experiences—and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by online trolls. When things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices—and those of other young women—to be heard.”

I apologize in advance because I will not be able to discuss this book like a rational human being.

I love this book. It is the book I needed when I was in high school; it is the book I need now.

Chelsea and Jasmine are amazing. They’re smart and focused and fierce and funny and they are going to change the world, whether the people in their lives help or not. (I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that many people don’t but a not-small amount do.)

It’s unapologetically feminist and its feminism is intersectional. It focuses on people of color and also deals with issues that are typically ignored. I think everyone who reads this is going to learn something.

But this doesn’t feel like homework. It’s a fun read and it’s a book everyone I know will receive as presents this year. I love this book; I love its authors and it is the book we all need.

Highly recommended.

Here to Stay

Finished Here to Stay by Sara Farizan.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“For most of high school, Bijan Majidi has flown under the radar. He gets good grades, reads comics, hangs out with his best friend, Sean, and secretly crushes on Elle, one of the most popular girls in his school. When he’s called off the basketball team’s varsity bench and makes the winning basket in a playoff game, everything changes in an instant.

But not everyone is happy that Bijan is the man of the hour: an anonymous cyberbully sends the entire school a picture of Bijan photoshopped to look like a terrorist. His mother is horrified, and the school administration is outraged. They promise to find and punish the culprit. All Bijan wants is to pretend it never happened and move on, but the incident isn’t so easily erased. Though many of his classmates rally behind Bijan, some don’t want him or his type to be a part of their school. And Bijan’s finding out it’s not always easy to tell your enemies from your friends . . .”

This was such a fascinating book. It’s obviously very timely, as hate crimes are skyrocketing and people are more likely to take everything they see online as true…but the most interesting part for me is the fact that Bijan isn’t an activist. He just wants to play basketball and get through school. He’s not political and doesn’t seem to be particularly religious.

I immediately liked Bijan, but he also feels like a real person. He’s a jerk sometimes, and he can lash out when his feelings are hurt. He’s not perfect, and he definitely can make situations worse instead of better. Because of that, this novel never feels preachy or unrealistic.

I definitely want to read her two other novels and I’m excited to see what her next book is like.

Red, White & Royal Blue

Finished Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?”

This book is actual perfection and everything I needed. For starters, it’s got a president with politics I agree with (which, even without the amazing love story, is something I could really go for right now). It’s got great friendships and a lovely, supportive family. I would really like June and Nora to be my friends, please and thank you.

But…we’re really here for Alex and Henry, right? And this is a love story for the ages. It’s sweet and sexy and kind of adorable but also holy crap, so hot. So, so hot.

I couldn’t even estimate how many times I laughed but I also cried twice and laughed while crying once. This book is a complete delight and I need Casey McQuiston’s next book tomorrow, please.

This is going to be one of the best books of the year, but it’s also the one to beat for my personal favorite of 2019.

Highly recommended.

Fame, Fate and the First Kiss

Finished Fame, Fate and the First Kiss by Kasie West. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Lacey Barnes has dreamt of being in a movie for as long as she can remember. However, while her dream did include working alongside the hottest actor in Hollywood, it didn’t involve having to finish up her senior year of high school at the same time she was getting her big break. Although that is nothing compared to Donavan, the straight-laced student her father hires to tutor her, who is a full-on nightmare.

As Lacey struggles to juggle her burgeoning career, some on-set sabotage, and an off-screen romance with the unlikeliest of leading men, she quickly learns that sometimes the best stories happen when you go off script.”

Kasie West’s books are basically the literary equivalent of sunshine and this is no exception.

As you know, I’m a huge fan of movies and the idea of being famous is exciting (as long as I don’t actually think about what it would really mean—internet trolls, unflattering pictures, etc.). The most interesting thing here is that Lacey is really on the cusp of that. She’s done some TV and high school plays, but this is her first movie (and it’s a big deal). So everything is brand new for her.

I loved that aspect, and everything involving the romance. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sabotage subplot, but it did add some intrigue.

If you are in the mood for a fun escape, pick this one up.

On the Come Up

Finished On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.”

The Hate U Give was one of my favorite books when it came out a couple years ago, and I loved the movie adaptation last year. So it’s not at all an exaggeration to say that this is my most anticipated release of 2019.

On the Come Up is a lot different, but it’s also amazing. (It’s set in the same neighborhood and there are some references to the shooting at the heart of The Hate U Give, but it’s got very little to do with this book. Instead, we’re spending time with Bri and her family, who are just barely getting by. Each month is more of a struggle and the luck gets stretched increasingly thin.

Bri’s incredibly talented but her hip hop skills seem to keep playing into stereotypes, which may help her become successful but maybe not for the best reasons. This is the most fascinating part of the novel for me. It’s clear to everyone who knows Bri (and to the reader) what she means, but it also seems to play into other people’s perceptions both of her in particular and of black women in general. She’s justifiably angry, but it’s viewed as aggressive. It’s a narrative we see play out over and over again, and it’s perfectly showcased here.

On the Come Up proves that The Hate U Give was no fluke. I can’t wait to see what Angie Thomas does next, but I already know it will be amazing.

Highly recommended.