Category Archives: YA Fiction

The Unlikelies

Finished The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestone. I received a copy from the publisher for review. 

Sadie’s friends are all graduating but she has a year left. She’s not sure what to do, beyond her summer job at a farmstand. Then she saves a baby (long story) and gets invited to a sort of Hero Teens award ceremony. She quickly bonds with them and they ultimately dub themselves The Unlikelies and set out to improve the world (also a long story). 

I love the concept of this–the idea that you and some friends could do good in the world with very little effort. 

The execution felt a little flat for me, though. I didn’t really love any of the characters and, although they talked about kindness and preventing bullying, they were all pretty judge-y (especially Sadie). 

I enjoyed this, but not as much as I hoped to. 

Once and For All (mini-review)

Finished Once and For All by Sarah Dessen. 

Louna’s mom is a wedding planner (one of the best, actually; certainly the best in the town). She’s helped out for basically ever, even though she’s become rather cynical about the whole thing (not as cynical as her mom and godfather are, though). And then she meets Ambrose. 

There is a lot going on that I didn’t mention. Those few lines don’t even begin to really summarize this novel. 

What you should know: it’s as good as anything Sarah Dessen has ever written and Louna may be my favorite heroine of hers. 

Recommended. 

Saints & Misfits

Finished Saints & Misfits by SK Ali. I received a copy for review. 

Janna is Muslim and wears a hijab. She’s potentially disobeying a tenet of Islam by having a major crush on a non-Muslim boy (and yet…) but the bigger story is that a pious boy at her mosque also tried to rape her. It doesn’t affect her faith but it does affect a lot of her day-to-day life (he’s always around and everyone acts like he’s so awesome). 

And I love Janna and this feminist story (there are plenty of great guys, yes, but there are also a lot of awesome women. Not all of them, but many of them are kickass ladies). I love that she’s so proud of her faith and that she never questions it, even as the jerk who assaulted her is held up as a pillar of Islam. I love her people, who (when they find out) believe her automatically. 

And I love that this is a really positive portrayal of Islam (and I’ve learned a lot about that from this book). 

This book is a sheer delight and you should all read it. Highly recommended. 

Antisocial

Finished Antisocial by Jillian Blake. I received a copy for review. 

Anna is just trying to get through her senior year. Her boyfriend broke up with her and her friends are still mad that she ditched them for her boyfriend. And then a hacking scandal starts—someone is sharing all of her fellow students’ secrets. 

This was fun but very superficial. It was compared to Pretty Little Liars, and it does have that vibe. But while those books were over the top and incredibly entertaining, this one took itself a little too seriously. That’s not a bad thing at all, but if you’re going to compare yourself to those books, you need insane happenings. 

I also didn’t really connect with the characters. You don’t need a sense of who they are to feel awful for them (no one wants their texts or Google search history broadcast, right?) but seriously. I should have wanted to cry at some of what happened. 

It sounds like I hated it, right? I didn’t. It was a perfectly entertaining novel. I just hoped for more. 

Tash Hearts Tolstoy

Finished Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee. I received a copy for review. 

Tash and her best friend Jack have created a web series called Unhappy Families. It’s an updated version of Anna Karenina. (As you may have guessed from the title, Tash is a fan.) The series ends up going viral and she has to deal with newfound popularity. 

Here’s all the awesome stuff that isn’t in that synopsis: the book is about friendship and family and all the various types of love. Because Tash is asexual and it’s not the most interesting thing about her. She likes guys and can appreciate them but she doesn’t want to have sex. She likes romance ok but that is as far as she’s interested in going; she doesn’t want to have sex with anyone, ever. And her friends are confused but supportive because they are awesome. 

And I love Tash’s family. Her parents are great and her sister is moody but great, and this book feels like real life but better. 

All I want is for Kathryn Ormsbee to write a billion more books and release them in a James Patterson-style way. I want new books every month and yes that is unreasonable but her books are awesome and I love them. 

Highly recommended. 

The Names They Gave Us

Finished The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord. I received a copy for review. 

Lucy’s life is perfect: she loves her parents, her faith is rock solid and her boyfriend is amazing. Except when her mom’s cancer comes back, it all falls apart. Lukas wants to put things “on pause,” and she’s angry at God. And when she gets a summer job at a camp for troubled kids, she even loses her parents (physically; their relationship is still good). 

This book is Emery Lord’s best yet and that’s saying something. Lucy is the most realistic girl I’ve met in ages. I completely understood her anger and the way she struggled to still believe in God. 

The camp is one of my favorite settings ever. I love the other counselors and the campers. I would like a book about any of them, please. 

I especially love the relationship between Lucy and her parents, who are just really excellent people. Having involved parents is starting to become more common in YA novels, and that makes me happy. And Lucy’s parents are amazing. 

I adored every page of this novel. Highly recommended. 

It’s Not Like It’s a Secret

Finished It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sigiura. I received a copy for review. 

Sana and her parents have left the Midwest for California, thanks to her dad’s job. Even though she’s in high school, Sana quickly sees the benefits of her life change: better weather and more Asian kids (as opposed to being the only one) and…Jamie. Jamie is the most beautiful girl she’s ever seen. 

I really liked this novel! There’s a lot to unpack, too, so this would be a great pick for book clubs. It deals with gay relationships, obviously, but also racism (especially racism between minorities, which I haven’t read much about before) and immigrant parents and cultural differences. Everything about it was fascinating. 

Poetry also plays a major part so be prepared to want to look up everything (which, yay, the author makes really simple, thanks to post-book sections). 

Recommended. 

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.