Sophie loves living in a small town. She has her four best friends, marching band, and the Yum Yum Shoppe and its fourteen flavors of ice cream. She also has a few regrets, but she tries not to let them get her down. This year, she just wants the band to be able to march in the Rose Bowl parade, and she’s ready to go all-out to make sure that happens. Even if that includes a social media campaign to the country star who is from their small town.
When August moves in down the street, he’s determined to keep everyone at arm’s length, especially Sophie, but soon he’s hanging out with her friends and joining the social media campaign. Her friends aren’t sure he deserves a permanent spot in the group, but August makes a home for himself there—if he’s willing to claim it.
I enjoyed this light, funny read, but it does have some deeper themes as well. Sophie is good at pushing the bad stuff to the back of her mind, but sometimes you just have to face things. August prefers to expect the worst—and not to bother hoping for the best. The friendships in this story are so realistic: good, bad, at times ugly. I’d love to hang out with these people.
Emma Mills lives in Indianapolis. Famous in a Small Town is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Henry Holt & Company in exchange for an honest review.)
Willa and Flor have been friends for years, so when Flor’s boyfriend breaks up with her, they start writing The Girl Code—starting with Never date a friend’s ex. Too bad Flor’s ex is Zach, Willa’s next-door-neighbor, best friend, and the guy she’s secretly had a crush on for years. But Willa would never betray a friend, so Zach is strictly off-limits.
Until she realizes there just might be a chance for her and Zach to be more than friends. Willa has always put others before herself, but she realizes that doing something for yourself can sometimes be important.
Flor wants to get back together with Zach. Her dad is obsessed with his much-younger girlfriend. She’s almost failing math. And she just wants something to change. Then she meets Grayson, her math tutor, and realizes sometimes the best things are hidden in plain sight.
I liked the female friendships in this book. They’re strong—even when tested to their limit. Neither Willa or Flor are clichés, they’re individuals with real problems, determined to support each other. Honestly, the romance took a back seat to the friendship aspects, which I really liked.
Sophie Jordan grew up in the Texas hill country and is a best-selling author. The Me I Meant to Be is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)
Sadie has a boyfriend she loves, Henry, who plays in a band and loves her even though she can’t understand why. Her best friend, Lucie, runs Cross Country and is a secret nerd, but still loves to hang out with Sadie. Then there’s George. George just gets her. They talk for hours. They go on adventures. They explore the world around them. Together, they are magic.
George is a secret. He’s imaginary. But when a car accident leaves Sadie calling out his name, she ends up in a hospital for people with issues like hers.
Life with George is more extraordinary than anything Sadie has experienced without him. But, while trying to keep her secret, she starts to yearn for something more, for something real. Can she give up George and the magical lives she leads with him?
At first, I wasn’t too sure about this book. I mean, daydreaming is one thing, but Sadie takes it to a whole other level. Her adventures with George are fantastic, but she just can’t see how great her real life is, too. I just didn’t get it at first, but then it all started to make sense, and I really felt for Sadie and all she’d been through. This is an exploration of mental illness from the inside—and it is very, very well done and vivid.
Tara Wilson Redd lives in Washington D.C. The Museum of Us is her debut novel.
(Galley provided by Random House Children’s/Wendy Lamb Books in exchange for an honest review.)
Lulu Saad has her squad, her family, and a huge chip on her shoulder. She doesn’t need anything else. She’s fasting for Ramadan, which she does every year, and her squad still doesn’t get it, but Lulu is determined to make it through this time.
Except Lulu and her friends have a falling out. And she alienates half of her extended family. And she can’t quite figure out why everything in her life is going wrong…
Okay. I didn’t realize quite how…plotless this book was until I tried to write a synopsis. And now it’s all so clear to me…Lulu and her friends aren’t very likeable. Scratch that. They aren’t likable at all. They do stupid stuff, knowingly. They talk about people. They sabotage people. They’re judgmental. Basically, this book is all angst and anger, with a lot of cultural diversity thrown in.
Now, that part was very well done, and executed so well that I caught all the nuances of Lulu’s struggle to fit in when she feels like she doesn’t belong in either culture. But she’s also touchy to the point of looking for things to take offense at. Have some respect for yourself. Guys should absolutely respect women, and women should be able to wear whatever they want without having to be afraid of guys’ reactions…but, it’s not okay to sexualize men for their bodies, either. Lulu doesn’t get this, and she thinks it’s okay for her to be focused on the guys and for her to react inappropriately towards them. So…all the stars for diversity, but no stars for plot or character likability.
Aminah Mae Safi has studied art History, but now writes fiction. Not the Girls You’re Looking For is her debut novel.
(Galley provided by in exchange for an honest review.)
Hannah and Emory are next-door-neighbors and best friends. Until a few months ago, when they had a fight and said some things they can never take back. Hannah’s life at the Christian school her father runs is great, but is her faith really her own, or is it something she just picked up from her family? These questions become even harder when she realizes she may never get the chance to live out her dreams and gets involved with someone she should never have been involved with.
Emory is preparing for her UCLA performing arts audition and enjoying every moment she has left with her boyfriend, Luke. They’ll be going off to separate colleges, and she knows they don’t have much time left. Emory just wants to avoid her memories of the fight with Hannah—and what caused them.
The distance between the two girls seems unsurpassable, until the night Hannah finds Luke in his car outside Emory’s house, doubled over and on the verge of death. In the aftermath of that ordeal, the girls seek to sort out their differences, and realize their friendship is the strength that keeps them both afloat.
I loved this book. I could relate to Hannah so much, and the way she struggles with defining her own faith, while fighting for the chance to chase her dreams, was both poignant and uplifting. She makes some bad decisions, but learns from them, and changes as a result. Emory is a vibrant girl who practically dances across the pages. Her outgoing personality hides a secret—and a fear of the future. The two of them are drawn back together because of Luke, but their friendship is the backbone of this wonderful novel.
Tamara Ireland Stone is a New York Times-bestselling author and her novels have won several awards. Little Do We Know is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)
Running a successful bakery takes time. Lots of time. So much time that Kat is astonished to realize it’s been almost two years since she’s had sex with her boyfriend. It isn’t that she doesn’t want to, but last time they tried, it proved physically painful and impossible. And Kat’s been so busy, she forgot to follow up with her physical therapy. Oops.
With their anniversary looming, Kat gives Ryan a break from the relationship, while she works on her physical therapy, with a little—okay, a lot—of advice from her best friends/business partners. Their best customer is Ben, who just happens to be a physical therapist, so Kat enlists his help in her crusade. But Ben isn’t interested in just being a means to an end, and Kat has to figure out what is really important to her (besides cupcakes).
The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky is a hilarious romp of a novel, filled with awkward—of course—moments, lots of friendly banter, and cupcakes. So. Many. Cupcakes. I laughed so hard at Kat’s escapades with her friends: she has a knack for open-mouth-insert-foot, usually loudly and when Ben can overhear. If you need a laugh, a dose of friendship, or an appetite stimulant, this is the book for you.
Summer Heacock writes contemporary women’s fiction. Her newest novel is The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky.
(Galley provided by Harlequin/MIRA via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Renata Lake expects prom night to be full of the typical things one finds on prom night: moonlight, dancing, teenage hormones, and an epic prank by her group of friends involving throwing a dead body over the side of the boat into Boston Harbor. What she doesn’t expect is a proposal or a bomb explosion, leaving real bodies in the water before she sinks beneath the waves.
Renata wakes up in Patchwork, a ghostly world where all her memories come together in a crazy pattern, and her friends’ murderer chases her through these memories, determined to kill her—and everyone she loves—once and for all. Reliving her memories and watching her friends die over and over is enough to drive anyone insane, but Renata must rise above that if she is to figure out who the killer is, and get back to her real life.
Patchwork is a fantastic read, fast-paced and with enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing all the way to the final pages. There’s a bit of mythology here, not enough to overpower the action and the mystery, just enough to spice it up. I wanted to read this straight through, but real life had to take priority. This is a must-read for anyone who loves fast-paced fantasy with an edge.
Madison Nakama is living her dream life: online high school—so she doesn’t have to deal with people and she can help take care of her sister, who’s on the spectrum—and her pop culture re-watch site has a massive following, giving her both income and human interaction. Maybe Madi’s real life isn’t so stellar—family angst and a mother who’s never present—but her online life is great. Especially when she meets Laurent, a cute French exchange student and fan.
As Madi steps out of her self-imposed bubble to explore this new life, someone else is watching. Someone who doesn’t want her to be happy. Madi’s site is attacked by a vicious troll, and soon the attacks spill over into real life. Can Madi figure out who’s behind it before her entire life crumbles to pieces?
Internet Famous is a quick read with likeable characters. Madi is relatable—even to readers older than the fandom crowd of the book—and she struggles with real problems: a mother more concerned about her own career than her family, a sister that’s a little bit different and who needs her a lot, and dealing with criticism, harassment, and bullying. The story is engaging and draws the reader in, rooting for Madi to figure things out before her world implodes. (Word of warning for anyone out of their teens: Madi does re-watches of “old” shows, like Star Wars, Buffy, and Pretty in Pink, so you might feel a teensy bit like grabbing your cane and waving it at the youngsters in the book.)
Gabe’s family runs a funeral home, so she knows about death and the truth about life: everything ends. Gabe has embraced her reputation and her Wednesday Addams-vibe, complete with vintage clothes and an I-don’t-care attitude. Her best friend, Bree, is all she needs, someone who understands the weirdness of her life and loves her anyway.
But when Bree starts dating a boy who is the epitome of everything Gabe—and Bree—has hated for years, she wonders if the really knows the truth, or if she knows Bree at all. The only one she can turn to is new boy Hartman, who doesn’t know quite what to make of Gabe, but who gets Gabe out of her shell anyway. Driving a hearse to prom will change Gabe’s life more than she ever imagined.
All the Forever Things is an enjoyable read. Gabe is a character I both loved and sympathized with, and her faux pas and missteps made me laugh and cringe at the same time. Her friendship with Bree broke my heart, and made me hope everything would work out for the two of them, and Hartman is a wonderful contrast for Gabe. If you love young adult books, definitely pick this one up.