Finished Posted by John David Anderson. I received a copy for review.
Frost and his friends aren’t the coolest group in their middle school. They’re mostly left alone, thanks to the fact that one of them is a jock. Then three things happen (in no particular order): the jock friend gets good, a new girl starts to sit with them and cell phones get banned from the school. As a result, Post-Its become a new form of bullying.
This book is a slow burn. Most of it is character-driven (which is fine, because the characters are fantastic, especially Rose) and, while it’s interesting throughout, the last quarter or so is the best.
It’s definitely interesting to think that kids will always find a way to be awful to each other. I like to think it’s not true, but I know better. Especially in middle school. But it’s also true that you find your people and they will save you. Those are basically the two themes of the book, and both are equally true.
Finished The Summer of Bad Ideas by Keira Stewart. I received a copy for review.
Edith, her twin siblings and their parents are spending the summer at her grandma’s house. She died recently and her will stipulates that her children fix up the house together (it’s Edith’s family, her uncle AJ and cousin Rae). Rae is about 50 times cooler than Edith and so she decides to reinvent herself. Step one: go by Edie instead. Step two: complete a list her grandmother made on how to have a great summer. (Except the suggestions are scary—catch a snake? Cross the swamp at night? Kiss a boy?)
This book is cute. It’s perfect summer reading (though you don’t have to wait til then; it’ll bring summer to you!) and Edith is incredibly relatable.
Bonus points for having Rae not be so perfect and cool either.
I would like a sequel please.
Finished Georgia Rules by Nancy Turner Steveson.
Maggie’s mom and stepfather are getting divorced. That’s hard enough except her mom has decided that they’re going to move to Vermont. Maggie’s biological father (a man who’s essentially a stranger) has died and left her a farm. The plan is to stay there a year and then sell it (that stipulation is in the will), take the money and move anywhere else. Except it doesn’t take long for Maggie to love Vermont and the friends she makes there. She feels closer to her dad there…hopefully she can convince her mom that they need to stay.
This is another fast read, one that I think will make people want to go to Vermont. (In my case, in the summer. The snow would kill me.)
It also works as a reminder that families can comprise people we choose, not just people we’re related to. And I love Maggie’s friends (a giant blended family with siblings) and her new life.
Finished Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson. I received a copy for review.
Emmie is practically invisible and that’s the way she likes it. Whenever she has to talk, she kind of does a little. Being the center of attention is excruciating.
Katie is the exact opposite. She’s super popular and loves being noticed.
They don’t spend time together until a note Emmie wrote to her crush (but never intended to share) is accidentally found and spread. That guy is Tyler and he happens to be dating Katie. (Or whatever you call it when it’s middle schoolers.)
This book is so cute! It’s a fast read (Emmie’s sections have little illustrations and Katie’s parts are graphic-novel style) and it’s completely charming.
Watching Emmie come out of her shell (slowly and grudgingly) is completely delightful and I think shy girls will overidentify and maybe decide to talk more, as well.
Finished Planet Jupiter by Jane Kurtz. I received a copy for review.
Jupiter, her brother Orion and their mom lead a very unconventional life. They make their money busking and doing odd jobs and they tend to leave when the mood takes them. And then Jupiter learns that her couson Edom is going to live with them while her mom (Aunt Amy) is going through chemo. Even worse, they have to live in one place while this happens. And worst of all, Orion isn’t coming with them.
Edom isn’t a good replacement, either. She’s adopted (from Ethiopia) and takes everything literally. She won’t talk about her past at all, and she won’t share. Any money she earns is her money.
I enjoyed this story, which felt like something I would’ve read and loved as a child (it has a touch of The Great Gilly Hopkins) and I think middlegrade readers will enjoy a glimpse into two very different lifestyles.
It’s sweet and surprisingly funny, too. Obviously there are sad parts, but on the whole, I don’t think anything would upset young readers. It’s clear that Aunt Amy is going to survive, for example.
Finished Dreamfall by Amy Plum. I received a copy for review.
Seven teens agreed to participate in a sleep study/treatment that will, in theory, cure their respective disorders (insomnia and night terrors, mostly). Something goes wrong and they are now trapped in their nightmares. The good news: they’re together. The bad news: in the best horror movie tradition, if you die in the dream, you die for real.
This is so creepy, guys. Some of the nightmares are seriously terrifying. And pretty much no matter what you’re afraid of, there’s something here that will prey on said fear. Of course, there are clowns…but that wasn’t the worst one.
Also, it ends on a cliffhanger so be prepared to want the sequel immediately. (Unfortunately, we all have to wait.)
Finished How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake. I received a copy for review.
Ever since she can remember, it’s been Grace’s job to take care of her mother, Maggie. Maggie is fragile and her mood can change at any given second. She’ll seem OK but then start dating a jerk. When it ends (and it always does), she’ll start drinking and then Grace has to save her. She doesn’t like this at all bit Maggie is all she has. And then she meets Eva, another girl who’s essentially an orphan. She doesn’t want to fall for Eva, because that would mean involving her in Grace’s messy life. And yet…
This book broke my heart. Teens with absent parents is a common trope (and complaint) in YA novels and it really works in this one. Maggie is everywhere in this book, and yet it’s because of her inability to parent. Even when she’s physically present, she’s not really there. And that has defined Grace’s entire life.
Even when her mom disappoints her, Grace loves her and feels almost doomed to repeat her mistakes. After all, even with all Maggie’s faults, it’s Maggie and Grace, together forever.
This book is intense but so worth it.
Finished The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger. I received a copy for review.
When she was a teenager, Zoey’s parents were murdered and she was tortured and left for dead. Now she’s an adult and tracking down the people responsible. Meanwhile, Claudia and her teenage daughter are starting over, living in a new house that’s a total fixer-upper. And there are rumors that her house is (a) haunted and (b) the place where a million dollars is hidden. You guessed it—they’re living in Zoey’s old house.
This book is amazing and I absolutely dare you to stop reading it. There are a few twists but mostly it’s just insanely suspenseful.
I love how this book basically exists in shades of gray. People are complicated and most of them are good and bad, although a few are all bad. It is a master class in creating real characters and in plotting. (Basically just get this book and read it. You won’t be sorry.)
I am a fairly recent Lisa Unger convert and this makes me wish I could skip all my current TBR and just read her backlist.
Finished I Found You by Lisa Jewell. I received a copy for review.
This takes place in two time periods (present day and 1993). The 1993 story centers around a family (mom, dad, teenage boy and girl) on vacation. The girl meets a charming boy who turns out to be less than charming, after all. In present day, Alice (single mom, three kids) meets a man with amnesia. Meanwhile, Lily’s a newlywed whose husband has gone missing.
Yes, that’s a super vague synopsis. And yes, you’ve probably guessed how things fit together. (But do they?)
This is an incredibly fun novel, one that almost hinges more on its characters than on the plot itself. I didn’t love any of them, but I still cared about their outcomes. I wanted (most of) them to be OK and to get a happy ending.
This is a total vacation novel, one that will hold your attention on an airplane. It’s not this year’s Must Read Thriller, but you’ll have fun.
Finished Lucky Girl by Amanda Maciel. I received a copy for review.
Rosie and Maddie have been best friends for basically ever. Rosie is the pretty one and Maddie is the smart (and kind) one. Except since Maddie got back from spending the summer in Spain, she’s gorgeous. And honestly? Rosie is super jealous. So she flirts with Maddie’s crush. It doesn’t mean anything…except then he sexually assaults her at a party. Maddie thinks she sees them making out and doesn’t register what actually happens.
I think the best part of this book is the fact that Rosie is a pretty horrible friend. It would be easy to feel awful for her if she was sweet and selfless and genuinely excited for Maddie. (And she is! She wants Maddie to get the guy she’s wanted for ages…she just wants to feel pretty and wanted, too.)
And yet, what happens to Rosie is just as awful. She is just as blameless and her “no” is no less important.
There’s a lot more to this book than that aspect. Rosie has family issues and there’s a new boy at school. But what I love best is the fact that she’s an imperfect (and frankly, kind of unlikable, at least at times) heroine. Because who hasn’t, in their smallest moments, been jealous of the people they love most? Maybe we’re not conflicted over their newfound attractiveness, but I would be willing to bet that, no matter how much we love our friends, we’ve all had at least one “Why couldn’t that happen to ME?” bitter thoughts.
So read this and think about it and share it. It’s important.