Category Archives: YA Fiction

The Authentics

Finished The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The Authentics is a fresh, funny, and insightful novel about culture, love, and family—the kind we are born into and the ones we create.

Daria Esfandyar is Iranian-American and proud of her heritage, unlike some of the “Nose Jobs” in the clique led by her former best friend, Heidi Javadi. Daria and her friends call themselves the Authentics, because they pride themselves on always keeping it real.

But in the course of researching a school project, Daria learns something shocking about her past, which launches her on a journey of self-discovery. It seems everyone is keeping secrets. And it’s getting harder to know who she even is any longer.

With infighting among the Authentics, her mother planning an over-the-top sweet sixteen party, and a romance that should be totally off limits, Daria doesn’t have time for this identity crisis. As everything in her life is spinning out of control—can she figure out how to stay true to herself?”

I wanted to love this book, and there are a lot of great things here.  I love Daria’s heritage and the way that she identifies herself proudly as part of that heritage.  I love her relationship with her parents (she and her dad get along so well; she and her mom have a more contentious relationship) and that she has a group of friends who feel more like family.  (I am less enamored of the fact that they call themselves “The Authentics,” as in they actually have named their group of friends and it is something they all say about themselves as a group and they say it OUT LOUD. But sure, fine.  I was probably super pretentious as a teenager, too.)

SPOILERS BELOW:

She learns that she’s adopted, which throws her life into complete upheaval.  It’s so interesting and it means that basically her entire life is not what she thought.  Her parents aren’t her parents and (really just as importantly) her culture isn’t her culture.  I would’ve loved a book that focused on these things.  That is important and real and messy and honest.

Here’s what the book focused on: her birth mom has a stepson and Daria and Enrique briefly date.

NOT EVERY BOOK HAS TO HAVE A LOVE STORY. (And also, speaking as an adopted person but not necessarily for every single adopted person, I call absolute shenanigans on the fact that, when she first meets Enrique, she tells him that his stepmom is her biological mom but barely talks to him about her. I will tell you now that if I had first met a member of my birth mom’s family before contacting her, I would’ve pumped them for information like nobody’s business but also never said exactly who I was and what my relationship was.  THAT IS HOW YOU RUIN LIVES AND MAKE SURE THE BIOLOGICAL FAMILY HATES YOU.)

This is not a horrible book at all but it was not for me.

The Secret History of Us

Finished The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby. I received a copy for review. 

Olivia almost died in a car accident; she was even in a coma for days. When she wakes up, she can’t remember what happened–which is normal. But she ALSO can’t remember the four years prior. Her whole high school experience is gone. So…was her life really as great as her family and friends say?

I loved this book. And, despite the last sentence, this isn’t really a sinister book. It’s not like someone is deliberately trying to hurt her. Olivia can trust everyone except herself, because she doesn’t really know who she is. (How would you be able to, if you couldn’t remember four years of your life?)

Everything Jessi Kirby writes is amazing, and this is no exception. Recommended. 

The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash

Finished The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger. I received a copy for review. 

As a couple (or even as friends), Birdie and Bash don’t make sense. She is incredibly intellectual, more of a thinker than anything else; he is much more of a feeler and prone to bad decisions. They meet at a party and sparks fly…and then they end up having more in common than they should (vague for spoiler reasons but it’s not like they’re related). 

It took a bit for me to love this book but oh, I do. (If, like me, you don’t exactly love Bash, Birdie’s chapters are better and will likely make you change your mind about him.)

Best of all? This book is incredibly clever. Birdie makes math jokes I still don’t get, but I feel smarter for reading a book with them. But it’s also full of lines I DID get and laugh at. 

This book is an absolute delight. Recommended. (NOTE: it will also make you cry.) Recommended anyway. 

Never Always Sometimes

Finished Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Never date your best friend.

Always be original.

Sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they’d never, ever do in high school.

Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never dye your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he’s broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It’s either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember.

Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they’ve actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.”

I love the concept behind this–the best friends who are determined to have an “original” high school experience and who then, right before graduation, decide to do all the things they didn’t want to do before.  This novel is funny and sweet in parts and would probably make a fantastic movie.

I think this would be a five star read except for the fact that I hate the main characters.  Especially Julia, who is actually a pretty awful person.  David is mostly OK except he’s pretty wishy-washy about things.  Julia, though–she is a snob and also just awful in general.  (I have hope that when she gets to college, she’ll evolve and become a decent person.)

I loved Let’s Get Lost so much but this one just fell flat for me.

Torn Away

Finished Torn Away by Jennifer Brown. I received a copy for review. 

When a tornado hits her small town, Jersey loses everything. Her house is destroyed, all her stuff is gone, her mom and sister are dead and her stepfather sends her to live with her grandparents (whom she has literally never met). 

This was written after the tornado that destroyed the town of Joplin. I’ve seen the pictures and heard interviews from the residents who survived, but I live in a place that doesn’t get tornadoes and so it was hard to really imagine it. On that level, this book is terrifying. 

It’s also realistic. Grieving doesn’t always make us better people, those who let go of small things and realize how precious life is. Jersey is devastated but she is also furious at basically everyone. She lashes out and honestly, I understand most of it. #TeamJersey

Jennifer Brown writes these amazing novels, ones where the reader becomes fully immersed in the characters’ lives. Jersey’s life isn’t a great place to be but I love her anyway. 

Recommended. 

Alex, Approximately

Finished Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.”

OK, so I am absolutely in love with this book.  It’s smart and sweet and fun and pretty hot in parts AND all about old movies.  And I love all those things! And I love the fact that while it’s a perfect summer read (see all the above), there’s also quite a bit of depth there.  Bailey and Porter have been through quite a bit, and they’ve both got some issues because of it.  (Not everybody gets a perfect, easy life, you know?)

One point of contention: this has been called YA You’ve Got Mail.  Um, since they’re fans of old movies, it’s “YA The Shop Around the Corner.” (C’mon, guys!)  But that is super minor and this book is amazing.  I’ve loved spending time with Bailey and Porter the past few days.

Highly recommended.

Geekerella

Finished Geekerella by Alex Poston. 

Elle’s life is awful: she lives with her stepmom and stepsisters and her entire life is chores and working in a vegan food truck. Except she does have one thing: Starfield, her favorite show. It’s about to be made into a movie, and she does NOT approve of the casting. Either way, she’s going to ExcelsiCon, win the cosplay contest and go to LA (the first prize). And she will never look back. 

I loved this book! Elle is amazing and I am kind of sad that Starfield isn’t a real thing. 

Yes, this is a Cinderella retelling, but it’s also super sweet and really fun. 

Recommended. 

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.