Category Archives: YA Fiction

Cybils Reading Roundup, Part 2

Over the past few days, I’ve read What a Girl is Made Of (Elana K. Arnold), The Librarian of Auschwitz (Antonio Iturbe), In the Shadow of the Sun (Anne Sibley O’Brien) and City of Saints and Thieves (Natalie C. Anderson).

These books are all amazing, but they’re also all incredibly heavy.

What a Girl is Made Of is a feminist novel about a teenage girl who’s trying to figure out who she is.  Her relationships (with her boyfriend and with her mom, primarily, but really every relationship) aren’t great at all. It’s incredibly powerful, but I could’ve done without the description of what happens to dogs after they’re put down (it would’ve been awful any time, I think, but I’m still pretty raw after losing Sam a few months ago). I read that part on the light rail and basically sobbed in public. (Still, intense and great book.)

The Librarian of Auschwitz is based on a true story and features real people, but is a novel.  In Auschwitz, there was a tiny library of eight books.  Obviously, they were kept hidden and it was incredibly dangerous.  ALSO intense and ALSO great.

In the Shadow of the Sun is about a brother and sister who are on the run in North Korea after their dad was arrested by the government. This is the least intense of the books I read but it’s still really intense. (It’s about North Korea and what really goes on there, but most of the people seem very good…except the ones who aren’t really aren’t.)

City of Saints and Thieves is amazing and probably my favorite of this bunch. A girl is trying to avenge her mom’s murder and is close to taking down the man she believes is responsible—but is he?

Again, none of these books are light reading at all, but they’re all amazing.  You couldn’t go wrong with any of them.

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Cybils Roundup

Thanks to jury duty, I had plenty of time to read last week (I wasn’t put on a trial, thank goodness, but was there from 8-3:15 or so). 

I read Autoboyography by Christina Lauren (so cute and fun) and Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (just a really great book) and if you are also stuck at jury duty, I would recommend those books keep you company. 

The great thing about being a Cybils judge is that there are so many great books. The bad thing is that now blogging them is seeming like a pretty insurmountable task. 

Genuine Fraud

Finished Genuine Fraud by e. lockhart. 

This story is told in reverse; each chapter moves back in time. With the last chapter, we catch up to where the story began and then we learn everything (I think). You’ll be happier if you don’t know what it’s about going in. 

That was basically all I knew going in and that meant that all the book’s surprises were intact. (I also knew, from reading We Were Liars, that I should try and not make any assumptions about what I was told as the narrative progressed and that is a hard thing to do.)

e. lockhart continues to prove that she is masterful at YA thrillers, although I’m not sure it’s really fair to classify this as that. Although I also don’t know what else you’d call it. 

At any rate, while I try and parse out genre distinctions, you should just read this book before it DOES get spoiled for you. 

Little Monsters

Finished Little Monsters by Kara Thomas. 

Kacey, Bailey and Jade are best friends. Except now Bailey is missing and Jade and Kacey aren’t really talking…and Kacey keeps finding stuff (Bailey’s phone; a blood smear at the local haunted spot). Know who the police don’t trust? Teenage Jessica Fletcher. 

There is a lot more going on (sad backstory, local urban legend, way more) and this book is seriously amazing. It’s 322 pages, according to my Kindle, but I raced through it like it was a short story. 

Everything caught me off guard but also made perfect sense. Like, of COURSE that’s what happened. 

This book is insanely entertaining but there’s also a lot there. Recommended. 

Optimists Die First

Finished Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Life ahead: Proceed with caution.

Sixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde is anything but wild. A family tragedy has made her shut herself off from the world. Once a crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula now sees danger in everything, from airplanes to ground beef.

The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class. She has nothing in common with this small band of teenage misfits, except that they all carry their own burden of guilt.

When Jacob joins their ranks, he seems so normal and confident. Petula wants nothing to do with him, or his prosthetic arm. But when they’re forced to collaborate on a unique school project, she slowly opens up, and he inspires her to face her fears.

Until a hidden truth threatens to derail everything.”

I really enjoyed this story–it’s very short and is also very serious.  Yes, there are a ton of funny parts, but it also deals with a group of kids who all are dealing with things that they shouldn’t have to face until they’re older.  In a lot of ways, this book absolutely broke my heart.  (Although again, it’s also really funny.)

Even though this is really short, it never felt rushed…but I wish I had gotten to spend more time with these characters.

This is an excellent book, especially when you consider that it’s a debut novel.  Recommended.

Eliza and Her Monsters

Finished Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. I received a copy for review. 

In real life, Eliza is nothing special. She’s super quiet and her friends are all online. On the internet, though, she’s LadyConstellation. Her web comic has millions of fans (not an exaggeration) and she makes enough money to put herself through college. And then she meets Wallace. He writes fanfiction and is a huge fan of LadyConstellation’s. Eliza isn’t sure how to tell him who she actually is. 

This book is amazing! The premise is fantastic and the execution is even better. It deals with fandom, which I love, but also with mental illness (in a variety of ways). 

I also love the fact that it dealt with the ways it’s so easy to misunderstand people. Eliza feels misunderstood in a lot of ways (her family doesn’t really get what she does) but never really realizes she’s doing it back. When she DOES see how she ignores her brothers, it was one of the most powerful part of the book for me.

This is such an intense but also lovely novel. I hope you love it like I do. Recommended.  

Turtles All the Way Down

Finished Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. 

Aza is consumed by anxiety. There are the more rational fears, yes, but also irrational ones (she keeps becoming convinced she will die of this weird, super-rare bacterial infection). And then she meets this boy and gets involved with his father’s disappearance after defrauding the company he runs. It’s about so much more than that, of course, but those are the broadest strokes. 

I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for this book, and I have. (It’s been six years since The Fault in Our Stars.) It was worth the wait but it may kill me if I have to wait six more years for the next one. 

This book is seriously everything but what I want to say the most is this: Aza is seriously messed up and afraid of kind of ridiculous things but she is loved anyway. No one demands she change and when people are upset about the way she is, it’s because they see what it’s doing to her and it makes them sad. It’s hard to see things like that when you’re in the middle of your own spirals but it’s true for Aza and it’s true for me and it’s true for everyone. 

I think this may be my new favorite of his. Highly recommended. 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Finished The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. 

Henry Montague is…I guess you’d call him a scoundrel. He’s certainly not a gentleman and I guess he really is the teenage Rhett Butler. But he does love his best friend Percy—though he would deny it and also sucks at showing it. Henry, Percy and Henry’s sister Felicity are touring Europe when they get sucked into a mystery. Chaos ensues. 

I love this book and Henry and Percy. Honestly, though, Felicity is my favorite and I cannot wait for the sequel; it’s from her perspective. 

Everything about this book is fantastic though. It’s clever and sweet and wickedly funny. I couldn’t have lived during this time period; God only knows how Felicity didn’t go insane. 

Highly recommended. 

There’s Someone Inside Your House

Finished There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins. 

This is the book that’s been dubbed the YA version of Scream. It’s a little accurate but mostly not. 

Yes, this is YA and yes, as you’d expect from a Stephanie Perkins novel, it is fun and sweet and romantic. And there is a body count, which you would NOT expect. 

But it’s also not Scream. It’s not super graphic (although most of the deaths are “onscreen,” as are some of the super-gross things that happen after people are dead). But it’s not like we are told in excruciating detail what happens. It’s more like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, where we are told what happens but the details aren’t lingered over, if that makes sense. 

If you’re expecting a terrifying read, this isn’t that. But it’s very atmospheric and–since Halloween is coming–chances are great that this book could be your one good scare.