Category Archives: YA Fiction

Little Do We Know

Finished Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Next-door neighbors and ex-best friends Hannah and Emory haven’t spoken in months. Not since the fight—the one where they said things they couldn’t take back.

Now, Emory is fine-tuning her UCLA performing arts application and trying to make the most of the months she has left with her boyfriend, Luke, before they head off to separate colleges. Meanwhile, Hannah’s strong faith is shaken when her family’s financial problems come to light, and she finds herself turning to unexpected places—and people—for answers to the difficult questions she’s suddenly facing.

No matter how much Hannah and Emory desperately want to bridge the thirty-six steps between their bedroom windows, they can’t. Not anymore.

Until their paths cross unexpectedly when, one night, Hannah finds Luke doubled over in his car outside her house. In the aftermath of the accident, all three struggle to understand what happened in their own ways. But when a devastating secret about Hannah and Emory’s argument ultimately comes to light, they must all reexamine the things they hold true.

In alternating chapters, a skeptic and a believer piece together the story of their complex relationship and the boy caught somewhere in the middle. New York Times best-selling author Tamara Ireland Stone deftly crafts a moving portrait of faith, love, and friendship.”

Books about faith and friendship are my jam and it’s very rare to get both. It’s also rare to have an exploration of faith and doubt that doesn’t feel like either (a) the religion is bad or weird or (b) the person having the doubts is bad or weird.

And I love the relationship Emory and Luke have. They are actual relationship goals and I love them so much. They’re so sweet together and they clearly do love each other.

My actual favorite aspect of the novel, though? Emory and Hannah’s friendship. For most of the book, it’s basically imploded and we only have a very hazy idea of why. Even so, it’s so obvious that they still love each other so much and just can’t figure out how to salvage the friendship.

I absolutely adore this book (no surprise; Tamara Ireland Stone is AMAZING) and I hope you read it, too. Highly recommended.

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Dear Rachel Maddow

Finished Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Adrienne Kisner’s Dear Rachel Maddow, a high school girl deals with school politics and life after her brother’s death by drafting emails to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow in this funny and heartfelt YA debut.

Brynn Haper’s life has one steadying force–Rachel Maddow.

She watches her daily, and after writing to Rachel for a school project–and actually getting a response–Brynn starts drafting e-mails to Rachel but never sending them. Brynn tells Rachel about breaking up with her first serious girlfriend, about her brother Nick’s death, about her passive mother and even worse stepfather, about how she’s stuck in remedial courses at school and is considering dropping out.

Then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. One student representative will be allowed to have a voice among the administration in the selection of a new school superintendent. Brynn’s archnemesis, Adam, and ex-girlfriend, Sarah, believe only Honors students are worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. When she runs for the position, the knives are out. So she begins to ask herself: What Would Rachel Maddow Do?”

This is a fantastic and timely story. There’s a lot going on here (Brynn’s home life isn’t great, her brother has died, her girlfriend broke up with her, she doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere) and it’s all told via email. (Mostly from Brynn to Rachel Maddow.)

Seeing Brynn start to care and try about things is easily the best part of the novel for me. I also enjoyed watching her start to take an interest in politics (nationally but also as part of her school) and start to run campaigns.

This felt completely realistic and I read the bulk of it in one sitting. I can’t wait to see what Adrienne Kisner writes next.

Monday’s Not Coming

Finished Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?”

This is an absolute gut punch of a novel. It’s so good but also so sad. (And so terrifying—how can you vanish for months without anyone noticing? And yes, Claudia notices Monday’s absence but no one else does. And when she talks to adults, they’re like, “No, it’s fine.”)

It’s hard to discuss this without spoilers, so suffice it to say that you’ll probably realize long before the adults do that there is a very real problem with Monday’s disappearance and that her mom and older sister are lying. You’ll probably have theories about what happened. (No, I won’t say whether you’re probably right about it.)

Tiffany Jackson is one of the best authors writing now, and she’s still relatively new. Start reading her now, and thank me later. (I’ll provide the tissues.)

This reminds me of Relisha Rudd’s disappearance (she has been missing for four years now) although it’s not a perfect correlation. Both these stories have broken my heart.

Highly recommended.

The Art of French Kissing

Finished The Art of French Kissing by Brianna Shrum. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Seventeen-year-old Carter Lane has wanted to be a chef since she was old enough to ignore her mom’s warnings to stay away from the hot stove. And now she has the chance of a lifetime: a prestigious scholarship competition in Savannah, where students compete all summer in Chopped style challenges for a full-ride to one of the best culinary schools in the country. The only impossible challenge ingredient in her basket: Reid Yamada.

After Reid, her cute but unbearably cocky opponent, goes out of his way to screw her over on day one, Carter vows revenge, and soon they’re involved in a full-fledged culinary war. Just as the tension between them reaches its boiling point, Carter and Reid are forced to work together if they want to win, and Carter begins to wonder if Reid’s constant presence in her brain is about more than rivalry. And if maybe her desire to smack his mouth doesn’t necessarily cancel out her desire to kiss it.”

This book is absolutely charming. It’s incredibly sweet and fun, and just completely delightful. The feud between Reid and Carter is fantastic and their eventual friendship (which obviously leads to more) is incredibly endearing. It happens fast, but I feel like that actually does happen, especially when you’re a teenager and everything feels like The Most Important Thing Ever.

I especially adored Carter. She’s smart and funny and a really good chef. (This book also made cooking seem really fun and also fairly easy—neither of those things have been my experience thus far.)

This is just perfect for summer. Throw it in your beach bag and go.

Fat Girl on a Plane

Finished Fat Girl on a Plane by Kelly DeVos. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Don’t miss this unforgettable debut novel, told in two timelines, about smart fashion, pursuing your dreams, and loving yourself!

FAT.

High school senior Cookie Vonn’s post-graduation dreams include getting out of Phoenix, attending Parsons and becoming the next great fashion designer. But in the world of fashion, being fat is a cardinal sin. It doesn’t help that she’s constantly compared to her supermodel mother—and named after a dessert.

Thanks to her job at a fashion blog, Cookie scores a trip to New York to pitch her portfolio and appeal for a scholarship, but her plans are put on standby when she’s declared too fat to fly. Forced to turn to her BFF for cash, Cookie buys a second seat on the plane. She arrives in the city to find that she’s been replaced by the boss’s daughter, a girl who’s everything she’s not—ultrathin and superrich. Bowing to society’s pressure, she vows to lose weight, get out of the friend zone with her crush, and put her life on track.

SKINNY.

Cookie expected sunshine and rainbows, but nothing about her new life is turning out like she planned. When the fashion designer of the moment offers her what she’s always wanted—an opportunity to live and study in New York—she finds herself in a world full of people more interested in putting women down than dressing them up. Her designs make waves, but her real dream of creating great clothes for people of all sizes seems to grow more distant by the day.

Will she realize that she’s always had the power to make her own dreams come true?”

I enjoyed this story. Cookie is utterly fantastic and is awesome regardless of her weight. After the world’s most traumatic experience (she has to buy an extra seat because she’s fat and is then yelled at for it), she decides to lose weight. And she does—over 100 pounds. She becomes moderately famous (both because of that and because of her fashion blog and her fashion designs) but isn’t really all that much happier.

I think we’ve all been told that if we can manage to be whatever society considers beautiful, we’ll be happier and more successful. It’s true in Cookie’s case, but I think her happiness and success has more to do with her new confidence and less to do with her appearance.

This is a fun story with some problematic parts (basically everything to do with Gareth) but it probably won’t detract from your enjoyment.

ALA Wishlist

We’re almost to ALA (late next month) and I’ve been waiting impatiently for news about what will be there.

Here’s my top 10:

  1. Sadie by Courtney Summers
  2. People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins
  3. That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger
  4. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
  5. The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
  6. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak
  7. A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
  8. Someday by David Levithan
  9. Pulp by Robin Talley
  10. What if it’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli

All of This is True

Finished All of This is True by Lygia Day Penaflor. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.

Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.

Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined. . . .”

I was going to say that this is one of those books that you’ll either love or hate, but I don’t think that’s true. You could definitely hate it, but I haven’t seen any “OMG I loved this so much!” reviews.

I enjoyed it, but I can’t say I loved it. The format made it really easy to keep reading (texts and interviews, with the occasional excerpt from Fatima’s book about the girls’ lives), but the only mystery for me was whether or not Jonah would survive. The twist about Jonah’s past seemed pretty obviously telegraphed, and so the reveal was more like, “Well, OBVIOUSLY.”

This isn’t a bad book, and I’m not saying “Don’t read it.” The idea behind it is fantastic; wouldn’t we all want to become friends with our favorite author? Even if our lives became book fodder? (Honestly, I would not mind seeing myself as a character in a book; I don’t have super dark secrets and I know my flaws.*) The execution was a little lacking but not to the point where I’m sorry I spent the few hours reading it.

* = So if you see a hermit book nerd who laughs at her own jokes, it’s me. It’s totally me.

We’ll Fly Away

Finished We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Uniquely told through letters from death row and third-person narrative, Bryan Bliss’s hard-hitting third novel expertly unravels the string of events that landed a teenager in jail. Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling. Tense and emotional, this heartbreaking novel explores family, abuse, sex, love, friendship, and the lengths a person will go to protect the people they love. For fans of NPR’s Serial podcast, Jason Reynolds, and Matt de la Peña.”

Oh, guys. Guys. This book absolutely broke me. We know from the beginning that something bad happened. We don’t know what or why, but we know that Luke is writing letters from prison (and, even more than that, from Death Row) and we know he’s guilty of whatever sent him there.

The bulk of the book is a slow buildup of dread. The big reveal isn’t a surprise, per se, but it’s still absolutely heartbreaking. And even though we know what’s going to happen, I still spent the book hoping that maybe there’d be a different, happier ending.

This is definitely not for anyone.  There are happy moments, but the book is characterized by abuse (Toby’s life) and neglect (Luke’s). They plan to escape for college, but they’ve still got quite a ways to go before that happens. And then, of course, they each meet girls. It’s an inexorable march to the end and both are trapped in their own circumstances.

Still, this is an amazing and powerful story. I hope you read it.

Children of Blood and Bone

Finished Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.”

As a rule, I am not a huge fan of fantasy. I like things that are real and situations that could really happen. But more than that? I like great stories. And because of that, I am a huge, HUGE fan of this book.

And yes, obviously this is rooted in social justice. In the author’s note, Tomi Adeyemi asks us to care as much about Philando Castile’s death as we do about fictional characters’. This story is incredibly plausible because, while majii aren’t real, we see people killed by a system that’s theoretically in place to protect them on a regular basis. We don’t see discrimination rooted in hair color, but we see police called because “the wrong people” were barbecuing in a park.

This book is fantasy but it’s also a reality we see every day.

An Entertainment Weekly article said this is Black Panther with magic and compared Tomi Adeyemi to JK Rowling. These are bold statements, but they’re deserved. This is the kind of book that can shake the world.

I am in love with it and I cannot wait for the sequel. (Out just before my birthday next year.) You need this book; we all need this book.

Highly recommended.

The Way You Make Me Feel

Finished The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.”

I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t really like Clara at first. She’s the kind of person who doesn’t care about anything. (She likes her friends and her parents, but she basically lives to be as deadpan as possible.) And OK yes, to be fair, I skew towards this end of the spectrum, too. But I also care about things. And I care about things VERY LOUDLY.

And in the beginning, all Clara cared about was playing pranks and making people feel dumb for caring. And after she ruins prom, she has to spend the whole summer working for her dad’s food truck. With her nemesis, Rose. (Can I just say I feel really badly for Rose about that?)

But she grows so much. And even though she’s emotionally stunted, she becomes this amazing person.

I love Maurene Goo’s books and the way they make me so completely invested in just a few paragraphs. (I immediately loved Rose, even though she overreacts.) And I love the way that the parents are fantastic.

This book is completely charming. Recommended.