Category Archives: YA Fiction

In the Woods

Finished In the Woods by Carrie Jones and Steven Wedel.

Summary (from Goodreads):

New York Times bestselling author Carrie Jones teams up with acclaimed cowriter Steven Wedel in this supernatural mystery

It should have been just another quiet night on the farm when Logan witnessed the attack, but it wasn’t.

Something is in the woods.
Something unexplainable.
Something deadly.

Hundreds of miles away, Chrystal’s plans for summer in Manhattan are abruptly upended when her dad reads tabloid coverage of some kind of grisly incident in Oklahoma. When they arrive to investigate, they find a witness: a surprisingly good-looking farm boy.

As townsfolk start disappearing and the attacks get ever closer, Logan and Chrystal will have to find out the truth about whatever’s hiding in the woods…before they become targets themselves.”

This story was INSANE, you guys. It started strong, stayed strong, ended strong AND was completely spooky throughout. I don’t want to ruin the mystery here, but it’s something I’m not used to seeing in books (so NOT a vampire, then) and it was a really fun change.

I love how the chapters alternated between Logan and Chrystal, and how Chrystal was basically taking the Sarah Connor hero evolution route. I love her so much (and also Logan) and this needs to be a movie as soon as possible.

This completely saved three commutes in a row (we have light rail to bus bridge in place right now and it’s making my commute long and kind of awful, but having more time to read this book? Kind of worth it!).

Highly recommended.

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Symptoms of a Heartbreak

Finished Symptoms of a Heartbreak by Sona Charaipotra.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“The youngest doctor in America, an Indian-American teen makes her rounds―and falls head over heels―in the contemporary romantic comedy Symptoms of a Heartbreak.

Fresh from med school, sixteen-year-old medical prodigy Saira arrives for her first day at her new job: treating children with cancer. She’s always had to balance family and friendships with her celebrity as the Girl Genius―but she’s never had to prove herself to skeptical adult co-workers while adjusting to real life-and-death stakes. And working in the same hospital as her mother certainly isn’t making things any easier.

But life gets complicated when Saira finds herself falling in love with a patient: a cute teen boy who’s been diagnosed with cancer. And when she risks her brand new career to try to improve his chances, it could cost her everything.

It turns out “heartbreak” is the one thing she still doesn’t know how to treat.

In her solo debut, Sona Charaipotra brings us a compelling #ownvoices protagonist who’s not afraid to chase what she wants. Symptoms of a Heartbreak goes from romantic comedy highs to tearjerker lows and is the ultimate cure-all for young adult readers needing an infusion of something heartfelt.”

This book was a bit of a slow burn for me. It took me a few chapters to really start to like Saira (she’s passionate about her work and incredibly smart but also such a jerk at times, especially to her actual bosses, and how does she not get fired like 100 different times?!) but once I did, I really did. (Because again, she’s so passionate about everything she loves. And while she does whatever she wants, basically, she does it for the right reasons. She desperately wants to help, whatever the personal cost. It’s not about looking good for her.)

I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance, but everything else here was a win for me.

I especially loved the aspect where Saira was trying to balance being an adult (with a career and major, major responsibilities) and being a teenager (trying to learn how to drive and also how to stay friends with people who are in drastically different life stages). It was so fascinating and something most people don’t have to deal with.

Sona Charaipotra is definitely an author to watch. Recommended.

Stay Sweet

Finished Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A summer read about first love, feminism, and ice cream.

Summer in Sand Lake isn’t complete without a trip to Meade Creamery—the local ice cream stand founded in 1944 by Molly Meade who started making ice cream to cheer up her lovesick girlfriends while all the boys were away at war. Since then, the stand has been owned and managed exclusively by local girls, who inevitably become the best of friends. Seventeen-year-old Amelia and her best friend Cate have worked at the stand every summer for the past three years, and Amelia is “Head Girl” at the stand this summer. When Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, Amelia isn’t sure that the stand can go on. That is, until Molly’s grandnephew Grady arrives and asks Amelia to stay on to help continue the business…but Grady’s got some changes in mind…”

You guys, this book. I’ve had it for ages and haven’t read it. Then my friend Julia and I went to the beach for the weekend and I thought, “Oh, this sounds like a good choice” and it was. (Except I opted not to get ice cream at the beach and spent the rest of the book regretting it, but it was my choice and a stupid one.)

I loved the ice cream stand and all its traditions. It sounds like an incredibly fun place to work, and I adored that aspect of the story. That said, my favorite? Molly Meade herself, though we mostly learn about her through diary entries. If there could be a companion novel set during World War II or after, as she’s building her ice cream business, I would be so happy. That was the best part of the book for me, and I wish there had been more of it. (Although the bulk of the narrative is set in the present with Amelia, and that was also fabulous.)

I was in a little bit of a reading slump, starting and putting down probably close to ten books. This was the exact perfect one for a vacation and for breaking that horrible streak.

Recommended.

 

Unpregnant

Finished Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Seventeen-year-old Veronica Clarke never thought she would wish she’d failed a test until she finds herself holding a thick piece of plastic in her hands and staring at two solid pink lines. Even the most consistent use of condoms won’t prevent pregnancy when your boyfriend secretly pokes holes in them to keep you from going out-of-state for college.

Veronica needs an abortion, but the closest place she can legally get one is over nine hundred miles away—and Veronica doesn’t have a car. Too ashamed to ask her friends or family for help, Veronica turns to the one person she believes won’t judge her: Bailey Butler, Jefferson High’s own little black cloud of anger and snark—and Veronica’s ex-best friend. Once on the road, Veronica quickly remembers nothing with Bailey is ever simple and that means two days of stolen cars, shotguns, crazed ex-boyfriends, truck stop strippers with pro-life agendas, and a limo driver named Bob. But the pain and betrayal of their broken friendship can’t be outrun. When their fighting leads to a brutal moment of truth, Bailey abandons Veronica. Now Veronica must risk everything in order to repair the hurt she’s caused.”

Veronica’s practically perfect and her life reflects that. She’s likely to be valedictorian and her boyfriend is sweet and attentive. And then she gets pregnant. This is NOT part of her five year plan (which includes Brown and which doesn’t at all include following in her sister’s footsteps of dropping out of college, marrying and having a baby). This means getting an abortion, which means driving for 1,000 miles each way, to the nearest clinic that will perform it without parental permission. And her companion on this trip? Her former best friend, Bailey.

If you’re in the mood for a laugh-out-loud road trip book, this is for you. Everything that can go wrong for Veronica and Bailey does, but it’s hysterically funny (because it’s not happening to you, and until you think about how they have to travel almost 2,000 miles round trip to get an abortion which, incidentally, IS LEGAL IN THE US. This is why I’ll never live anywhere south of where I currently live, btw).

Besides being a madcap comedy, though, it’s about friendship. I hope we all have at least one person who will make hard journeys with us. And I hope we all have at least one person who would do it even if we weren’t currently friends.

Highly recommended.

Redwood and Ponytail

Finished Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Told in verse in two voices, with a chorus of fellow students, this is a story of two girls, opposites in many ways, who are drawn to each other; Kate appears to be a stereotypical cheerleader with a sleek ponytail and a perfectly polished persona, Tam is tall, athletic and frequently mistaken for a boy, but their deepening friendship inevitably changes and reveals them in ways they did not anticipate.”

I snagged a copy of this at ALA as an impulse and I’m so glad I did. This book is amazing.

It’s told in verse from both girls’ viewpoints. Watching them become friends and then fall for each other is incredibly satisfying. Of course there are hurdles, but it’s still so sweet and swoon-worthy. The poetry adds an extra dimension to this, especially the parts where they’re thinking almost the same thing. It’s adorable, and

This is absolutely a book to watch out for (it’s out October 1), and I’ll be looking for K.A. Holt’s backlist. Recommended.

Maybe This Time

Finished Maybe This Time by Kasie West.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“One year. Nine events. Nine chances to . . . fall in love?

Weddings. Funerals. Barbecues. New Year’s Eve parties. Name the occasion, and Sophie Evans will be there. Well, she has to be there. Sophie works for the local florist, so she can be found at every big event in her small hometown, arranging bouquets and managing family dramas.

Enter Andrew Hart. The son of the fancy new chef in town, Andrew is suddenly required to attend all the same events as Sophie. Entitled, arrogant, preppy Andrew. Sophie just wants to get her job done and finish up her sketches so she can apply to design school. But every time she turns around, there is Andrew, getting in her way and making her life more complicated. Until one day she wonders if maybe complicated isn’t so bad after all . . .

Told over the course of one year and following Sophie from event to event, this delightful novel from master of romantic comedy Kasie West shows how love can blossom in unexpected places.”

Sophie and Andrew had whatever the exact opposite of a meet cute is. It could’ve had real potential except that he started by accidentally making fun of something she had done (the making fun was intentional; the accident was because he didn’t know she was responsible for it) and it basically spiraled out of control. (Sophie doesn’t really change her mind about people and Andrew didn’t try very hard to apologize.)

I’m pretty sure Kasie West’s books are the literary equivalent of sunshine and summer days at the beach (or the pool, as you prefer). They’re just guaranteed to make you smile. This one is basically the YA version of Four Weddings and a Funeral, and I loved everything about it. It’s smart and funny and I loved Sophie and her best friend Micah. (Andrew took some time, but he eventually got there.)

This book is just a pure delight (like all of her books) and if you need something to make you smile, grab this one.

Recommended.

American Royals

Finished American Royals by Katharine McGee. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

What if America had a royal family? If you can’t get enough of Harry and Meghan or Kate and William, meet American princesses Beatrice and Samantha.

Two princesses vying for the ultimate crown.
Two girls vying for the prince’s heart.
This is the story of the American royals.

When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. Like most royal families, the Washingtons have an heir and a spare. A future monarch and a backup battery. Each child knows exactly what is expected of them. But these aren’t just any royals. They’re American. And their country was born of rebellion.

As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America’s first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling. Nobody cares about the spare except when she’s breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn’t care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there’s Samantha’s twin, Prince Jefferson. If he’d been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.

The duty. The intrigue. The Crown. New York Times bestselling author Katharine McGee imagines an alternate version of the modern world, one where the glittering age of monarchies has not yet faded–and where love is still powerful enough to change the course of history.”

I loved everything about this book, but I think my favorite is how one major thing that’s changed (America being a monarchy) has changed a lot of other things about our history, too. It’s obvious that there would be ripple effects and that things would be different, but it’s so interesting to see it play out.

I also love the characters. It’s fascinating to see how the responsibility of her role (current and as the future queen) weighs on Beatrice and how seriously she takes that responsibility. We don’t see many people who really do put country before self, but she does. Her sister Samantha is a sharp contrast to that, but it’s hard not to feel for her because her whole life has been about how she is less important than her siblings (her sister will be queen and her twin brother is the only boy) and her code name is Sparrow, which is so mean (because she’s the spare).

Our other two narrators are Daphne and Nina. If you ask Daphne, she and Nina are in a fight practically to the death to win Prince Jefferson’s heart. If you ask Nina, she’s just living her life. Daphne is probably my least favorite of the four, but I respected her and her drive. She’s basically a Terminator; she will not stop.

This book is such over the top fun and I loved every page of it. I can’t wait for the sequel. Highly recommended.

Past Perfect Life

Finished Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Small-town Wisconsin high school senior Allison Smith loves her life the way it is-spending quality time with her widowed father and her tight-knit circle of friends, including best friend Marian and maybe-more-than-friends Neil. Sure she is stressed out about college applications . . . who wouldn’t be? In a few short months, everything’s going to change, big time.

But when Ally files her applications, they send up a red flag . . . because she’s not Allison Smith. And Ally’s-make that Amanda’s-ordinary life is suddenly blown apart. Was everything before a lie? Who will she be after? And what will she do as now comes crashing down around her?”

I felt so awful for Ally. I can’t imagine how it would feel to learn that everything you thought you knew about your life was a lie. Then, as an added bonus, you would have to go live with strangers in an entirely different state.

And Ally does her best. She doesn’t continually ask her mom to call her Ally instead of Amanda. She doesn’t try and run away. She just quietly becomes increasingly unhappy.

On paper, her new life seems better. Her stepdad is super nice and she has a half-sister. All of a sudden, she has this huge extended family. But again, they’re complete strangers. Her school is also a lot better but it’s hard to make friends because how do you figure out and stick to a cover story so no one figures out you’re THAT KID.

This is a real departure from Elizabeth Eulberg’s usual books (it’s just as well-written and fun to read, but it’s not as light as her other books—this is not to say it’s dark or uncomfortable to read; it’s just comparatively dark) but I think it’s her best yet. Recommended.

Something Like Gravity

Finished Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?”

I’ve loved Amber Smith and this (her third) is my favorite yet. There’s a lot going on (grief and trauma and family issues) but there’s also a lot of good (love!). She’s becoming one of my most favorite authors because of the way she tackles these incredibly hard issues. It never feels like a melodrama and it never feels like an afterschool special where things are really glossed over, either. Things are handled with the sensitivity and gravity they deserve, but it never feels cheesy or hopeless. It’s got to be an incredibly hard thing to do but she makes it look effortless.

There’s a lot to love here but my personal favorite is how Maia is not at all fazed by Chris being trans. She literally could not care less, which is how we should all be.

It’s an Amber Smith book so you can expect two things: it’s going to be really good and it’s going to be very hard to read. It’s intense and painful in parts, but it’s so worth the effort and tears.

Highly recommended.

Forward Me Back to You

Finished Forward Me Back to You by Mitali Perkins. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Katina King is the reigning teen jujitsu champion of Northern California, but she’s having trouble fighting off the secrets in her past.

Robin Thornton was adopted from an orphanage in Kolkata, India and is reluctant to take on his future. Since he knows nothing about his past, how is he supposed to figure out what comes next?

Robin and Kat meet in the most unlikely of places — a summer service trip to India to work with survivors of human trafficking. As bonds blossom between the travel-mates, Robin and Kat discover the healing superpowers of friendship.

At turns heart-wrenching, beautiful, and buoyant, Mitali Perkins’ new novel explores the ripple effects of violence — across borders and generations — and how small acts of heroism can break the cycle.”

Mitali Perkins is one of the best YA authors writing today. Her books deal with heavy topics (this one deals with human trafficking, attempted sexual assault and someone trying to find a biological parent) and yet they’re also full of hope. They’re also full of characters who fight, which we definitely need more of.

I loved Forward Me Back to You. Kat and Robin are the kinds of narrators who burrow into your heart and don’t leave. I’ll be thinking about them for a long time, and I hope we get a sequel. (They both plan to return to Kolkata, so there are more stories to be told!)

Highly recommended.