Category Archives: YA Fiction

Deacon Locke Went to Prom

Finished Deacon Locke Went to Prom by Brian Katcher. I received a copy for review. 

Deacon Locke is not comfortable in a world of promposals. When his crush gets asked to prom before he can do it, he is about to give up on the idea altogether…and then he gets an idea. His grandmother (and best friend) didn’t get to go to her own prom; his grandfather had already been sent to Vietnam and she didn’t feel like going. So why not take her? 

I really enjoyed this sweet story! But you should know going in that, while this really IS a delightful story about a guy who loves his grandmother, there’s also a lot going on, too. 

This book deals with the realities of getting older. Jean (Deacon’s grandma) is initially a little forgetful and it intensifies. 

It also focuses on the nature of fame. A video of Deacon and Jean at prom goes viral and he becomes hometown-famous, then it spreads. He mostly stays level-headed but it does change him a little. 

Meanwhile, he falls for a girl during this time and she happens to be Muslim. You can guess how kind the internet is to her. So this novel has many layers. 

Deacon’s inner voice is fantastic. He’s incredibly sarcastic but it’s mostly aimed at himself, which I find refreshing. He’s a hero you won’t soon forget.

Recommended. 

Ramona Blue

Finished Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. I received a copy for review. 

Ramona has been out for basically ever, and she is proud of who she is. Except then she meets (or, technically, re-meets) Freddie. They instantly become best friends…and then more. 

This book is incredibly controversial, and for good reason: lesbian meets “the right” boy and falls in love. (Mike Pence would approve, right?) I would have avoided this book at all costs, except for the fact that it was written by Julie Murphy. Read Dumplin’ and tell me that she doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. 

As someone who is ALSO an out lesbian and who has received plenty of “maybe you just haven’t met the right boy yet” comments, you may expect me to hate this. Nope–I loved it. 

I loved Ramona’s family and the love story was almost the least interesting part. See, Ramona’s family is poor. Like, “she has multiple jobs” poor. And as a result, even when her friends are discussing their post-high school lives, she has no thought for the future beyond more jobs and helping her sister raise her soon-to-be-born baby. And slowly, her plans start to get a little bigger. 

This book could’ve been an insensitive trainwreck. Instead, it’s absolutely amazing and one of the best books I’ve read this year. 

That Thing We Call a Heart

Finished That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim. I received a copy for review. 

Shabnam is maybe not the best person. She and her best friend are fighting, kind of, because Farah started wearing the hijab and Shabnam is hurt that she wasn’t informed beforehand. She’s Muslim, nominally (she doesn’t wear hijab, which is fine; that’s their choice—but she also doesn’t really do much of anything connected to their faith) but she’s also embarrassed by her extremely pious great-uncle when he visits. Anyway, then she meets and falls for Jamie, a very charming guy who gives her a job at his aunt’s pie shop…

I think this is a book that’s very hard to feel neutral about. If you need to love a main character to enjoy a book, this is not for you. I actively disliked her for most of the book (but grudgingly admit she redeemed herself somewhat at the end). I loved her former best friend Farah, though. She’s unapologetically herself and, though she wears a hijab, she also makes it a part of her unique style. I would’ve liked this more from her perspective, I think. 

Even so, this is an interesting story and I would definitely read more from the author. 

Girl Out of Water

Finished Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman. I received a copy for review. 

Anise’s plans for the summer (surf, hang out with friends, become more than friends with Eric) have just changed after her aunt breaks both her legs in a car accident. Now she and her dad are headed to Nebraska to take care of her aunt and three cousins. This would be completely awful except that she meets this guy, Lincoln…

I love this book. It’s so sweet on the one hand (light and full of surfing and skateboarding–which Anise learns to do in Nebraska, thanks to Lincoln) and also surprisingly deep and thought-provoking on another. Anise’s mom is gone (she left when she was two and has mostly been gone, except for some cameo appearances randomly throughout her life); Lincoln is adopted and only has one arm; Anise’s uncle is dead and so she and her cousins are essentially half-orphans. 

This is a story about family and friends and love–not even just relationships but also the fact that Anise really defines herself as a surfer and so she’s kind of shaken without that aspect of herself. I understand it, of course; we’d all feel lost without access to our top hobby, right?

Highly recommended. 

Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Finished Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han. 

This is the third Lara Jean book and it’s supposed to be the last. I hope Jenny Han changes her mind because I need more Lara Jean and Peter and especially more of the Song girls. (Kitty needs her own series, too.)

Everything about this book and series is perfect. This isn’t surprising, because I am a huge Jenny Han fangirl and everything she writes is amazing. But this series feels different and I love it. 

These book made me feel a little nostalgic for the summer before college. It’s a little sad (things will be different and it’s hard leaving your high school friends behind) and a lot exciting (your life is about to start!) and also a little scary. This book completely encapsulates that. 

Highly recommended. 

The Scattering

Finished The Scattering by Kimberly McCreight. 

This is the second book in the Outliers trilogy. I’m going to skip the synopsis this time because you’re probably only reading this if you’ve read the first one. 

This started off fairly slow for me, but it didn’t take long before I was caught up in it (maybe 30 pages?) and once that happened, I couldn’t stop reading. I think that’s one of Kimberly McCreight’s strengths: these amazing books that are so insanely readable that you’ll be late to work or up all night because you need to read one more chapter which, of course, turns into ALL THE CHAPTERS. 

This ends on a major cliffhanger (of course) so be prepared to need book three, like, IMMEDIATELY. 

Highly recommended. 

Dreamfall

Finished Dreamfall by Amy Plum. I received a copy for review. 

Seven teens agreed to participate in a sleep study/treatment that will, in theory, cure their respective disorders (insomnia and night terrors, mostly). Something goes wrong and they are now trapped in their nightmares. The good news: they’re together. The bad news: in the best horror movie tradition, if you die in the dream, you die for real. 

This is so creepy, guys. Some of the nightmares are seriously terrifying. And pretty much no matter what you’re afraid of, there’s something here that will prey on said fear. Of course, there are clowns…but that wasn’t the worst one. 

Also, it ends on a cliffhanger so be prepared to want the sequel immediately. (Unfortunately, we all have to wait.) 

Recommended. 

How to Make a Wish

Finished How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake. I received a copy for review. 

Ever since she can remember, it’s been Grace’s job to take care of her mother, Maggie. Maggie is fragile and her mood can change at any given second. She’ll seem OK but then start dating a jerk. When it ends (and it always does), she’ll start drinking and then Grace has to save her. She doesn’t like this at all bit Maggie is all she has. And then she meets Eva, another girl who’s essentially an orphan. She doesn’t want to fall for Eva, because that would mean involving her in Grace’s messy life. And yet…

This book broke my heart. Teens with absent parents is a common trope (and complaint) in YA novels and it really works in this one. Maggie is everywhere in this book, and yet it’s because of her inability to parent. Even when she’s physically present, she’s not really there. And that has defined Grace’s entire life. 

Even when her mom disappoints her, Grace loves her and feels almost doomed to repeat her mistakes. After all, even with all Maggie’s faults, it’s Maggie and Grace, together forever. 

This book is intense but so worth it. 

Lucky Girl

Finished Lucky Girl by Amanda Maciel. I received a copy for review. 

Rosie and Maddie have been best friends for basically ever. Rosie is the pretty one and Maddie is the smart (and kind) one. Except since Maddie got back from spending the summer in Spain, she’s gorgeous. And honestly? Rosie is super jealous. So she flirts with Maddie’s crush. It doesn’t mean anything…except then he sexually assaults her at a party. Maddie thinks she sees them making out and doesn’t register what actually happens. 

I think the best part of this book is the fact that Rosie is a pretty horrible friend. It would be easy to feel awful for her if she was sweet and selfless and genuinely excited for Maddie. (And she is! She wants Maddie to get the guy she’s wanted for ages…she just wants to feel pretty and wanted, too.) 

And yet, what happens to Rosie is just as awful. She is just as blameless and her “no” is no less important. 

There’s a lot more to this book than that aspect. Rosie has family issues and there’s a new boy at school. But what I love best is the fact that she’s an imperfect (and frankly, kind of unlikable, at least at times) heroine. Because who hasn’t, in their smallest moments, been jealous of the people they love most? Maybe we’re not conflicted over their newfound attractiveness, but I would be willing to bet that, no matter how much we love our friends, we’ve all had at least one “Why couldn’t that happen to ME?” bitter thoughts. 

So read this and think about it and share it. It’s important. 

Looking For Group

Finished Looking For Group by Rory Harrison. I received a copy for review. 

Dylan is a medical miracle. He had cancer and was given months to live. Instead, his cancer went into spontaneous remission. He doesn’t fully trust it, though, and one day he goes on a road trip to visit his best friend Arden. (They know each other from the internet.) She has her own issues and the two take off in search of a mythical pirate ship in the desert. (Long story.)

It’s so much better than I’m making it sound; it’s not unlike The Princess Bride–there’s friendship and true love and a quest (but no fencing, torture or ROUSes). 

It’s a delightful story that will break your heart a few different times. (It’s worth it.)