Tag: YA

Book Review: Things I’d Rather Do Than Die, by Christine Hurley Deriso

things I'd rather do than die
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:   Things I’d Rather Do Than Die
Author:   Christine Hurley Deriso
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Jade Fulton is a senior in high school who only hangs out with her best friend. She spends time with her family:  her brother, half-sister, stepmom, and her dad. She watches high school drama from the outside and can’t wait to go away to college. Until her father is diagnosed with aggressive cancer, and her world just doesn’t make sense anymore. Then she’s held hostage in the gym where she works, locked in a dressing room with Ethan Garrett.

Ethan is the star quarterback, popular, high-achieving, and a Christian. He has his life planned out:  a scholarship to prove he’s not like his abusive, alcoholic father, life with his cheerleader girlfriend, and growing in his faith. But when he’s locked in the dressing room with agnostic Jade, he soon starts to ask himself questions he thought he already knew the answers to.

Their shared ordeal creates a bond between Ethan and Jade that lingers back in their regular lives. But those questions—and answers—they shared while locked in the dressing room cause them both to realize that what they always had in life is no longer good enough.

I’ve seen a lot of complaints and people marking this book as DNF…because it’s Christian, and they think Christians are too judgmental and close-minded. Which seems a bit hypocritical, considering they automatically refused to read it. And Christians are the ones who are judgmental? Right. Sure, some Christians are judgmental. Just like some people who aren’t Christians are judgmental. Judging an entire group by the actions of a few is never the right choice.

I was impressed that Ethan is a teenage boy with a strong faith. You don’t see that much. Here’s the thing:  Ethan actually listens to Jade and starts asking himself and others questions as he learns from her remarks. He realizes he needs to make some changes to the way he thinks, especially about non-believers. I found his wishy-washiness with his girlfriend and the way he kept taking her back pretty annoying, but he’s a teenager. He’s still learning.

Jade has a sizable chip on her shoulder because of her family history, her experiences with racism, her feelings about religion, and her dad’s illness. She’s plenty judgmental, but she’s too close-minded to see it. She does some stupid things during the story, but she learns and attempts to grow from them.

Christine Hurley Deriso is a YA author. Things I’d Rather Do than Die is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Flux in exchange for an honest review.)

Advertisements

Book Review: The Lantern’s Ember, by Colleen Houck

the lantern's ember
Image belongs to Delacorte Press.

Title:  The Lantern’s Ember
Author:   Colleen Houck
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Jack made a deal with the devil 500 years ago. He doesn’t remember much about that. Or when he was alive. Now he spends his days as a Lantern, one of the watchmen who guard the portals to the Otherworld, which is full of dangerous creatures. And he watches Ember, a young witch who lives in his town.

Ember is curious about Jack. And the Otherworld. She wants to get to know both. When Jack refuses to take her there, she runs away with a mysterious and charming vampire with ulterior motives. But Jack knows someone powerful is after Ember—and her power—and he’ll stop at nothing to keep her safe.

I loved the steampunk feel of The Lantern’s Ember. And you have to love Jack, the Lantern. That pun alone made it worth the read, along with the Headless Horseman similarities. Ember and Jack both are pretty naïve, but her wonder at the Otherworld shines through every page. A magical read!

New York Times-bestselling author Colleen Houck’s newest novel is The Lantern’s Ember.

(Galley provided by Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: To Be Honest, by Maggie Ann Martin

To Be Honest
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Title:   To Be Honest
Author:   Maggie Ann Martin
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Savannah’s sister is her best friend, but she’s going away to college and leaving Savannah alone with their mom, who’s become overbearing and food-and-exercise-obsessed since her stint on an extreme weight-loss reality show. She’s especially obsessed with Savannah’s food choices and weight, but Savannah just wants to get through her senior year and join her sister at college.

Savvy isn’t worried about her weight. She’s worried about her classes, the journalistic expose she’s working on about some questionable athletic recruiting practices at school, and George.

George is the cute new guy who has some problems of his own. As Savvy tries to help him, they grow closer, and George stands by her even when her mom’s helicoptering gets out of control. But more than their families stand in the way of George and Savvy, and they’ll have to figure things out on their own if they stand a chance together.

I enjoyed the body positivity message of To Be Honest. It’s great that Savvy is happy in her own skin and sees the dangers in her mom’s “health” obsession. George’s cute-but-dorky persona is charming and lovable, but the misunderstandings these two go through! Really enjoyed reading this.

Maggie Ann Martin is from Iowa but lives in New York. To Be Honest is her new book.

(Galley provided by Macmillan/Swoon Reads in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Brave Enough, by Kati Gardner

brave enough
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:   Brave Enough
Author:   Kati Gardner
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Cason Martin is the youngest dancer at the Atlanta Ballet Conservatory. She’s driven and determined, and she’s never really even considered if she wanted to dance. She never had a choice:  her mother is the demanding artistic director at the conservatory and will not accept Cason being anything less than the best.

On the day of Cason’s injury, that ceases to matter, as an injury she’s been hiding turns out to be cancer. Now she finds herself in a children’s cancer ward, fighting to live and to come to terms with her new normal. Davis Channing knows how that feels. He survived cancer, and then beat drug addiction, although he lives with the temptation to use again every day. Volunteering at the cancer ward is his way to give back.

Cason and Davis’s friendship is tenuous, but what they both need, until his ex-girlfriend appears in his life, eager to lure him down old roads again, while the unthinkable happens to Cason. Turning their backs on each other is easiest, but is it what they really need?

Let me first say that I’ve never read The Fault in Our Stars, so I can’t make any comparisons to that novel (and I have no intention of reading it, because almost never will I choose to read a book that I know will make me cry. #sorrynotsorry). I found Brave Enough to be one of the most touching and inspiring books I’ve read this year. I felt for Cason on a deep level, and truly experienced her grief and other emotions along with her. Davis’s struggle was so well-done and brought an addict’s struggle to gut-wrenching life. Highly recommend!

Katie Gardner is a childhood cancer survivor, amputee, and a recovering actor. Brave Enough is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by North Star Editions/Flux in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: That Secret You Keep, by Brenda Benny

thatsecretyoukeep
Image belongs to Liddle Book Press.

Title:  That Secret You Keep
Author:  Brenda Benny
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Max is seventeen, taller than everyone else, and trying to keep a few secrets from his dads. Like the fact that he wants to seek out his biological parents. And he’s not gay. But sometimes it’s easier to just keep secrets…secret. Like his longtime crush on Serena.

Serena was a shining star at their performing arts high school, until her famous mother died tragically. Now she sits in the back of the chorus, wrestling with her debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, avoiding the spotlight.

But together, Max and Serena find both happiness and understanding. They can tell each other anything. Except the one secret Serena has kept from Max, a secret that might tear them apart.

I really enjoyed That Secret You Keep. Max is awkward and adorable, and his struggles are so realistically portrayed. Serena is deeply scarred from her loss and doesn’t think she’ll ever get better, but in Max she finds hope. A wonderful story of healing and love.

Brenda Benny lives in Canada with her family. That Secret You Keep is her new novel.

(Galley provided by Liddle Book Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: #murdertrending, by Gretchen McNeil

murdertrending_LowRes
Image belongs to Disney/Freeform.

Title:  #murdertrending
Author:  Gretchen McNeil
Genre:   YA/horror
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

In a near-future where society is obsessed with social media, followers, and apps, The Postman app is the newest big thing. Alcatraz 2.0 takes convicted killers and puts them in a suburbia setting on Alcatraz, where serial killers hunt them down and kill them in graphic, theatrical detail for those watching on the app.

Dee’s sister, Monica, was obsessed with the app, so when Dee wakes up in a deserted warehouse, she knows immediately she’s been sent to Alcatraz 2.0 for the murder of her sister. With social media buzzing with bets on the quickness of her demise, Dee decides she’s not going to just roll over and die.

Instead, Dee takes on the notorious serial killers, determined that this princess is going to rescue herself—and prove her innocence. She just has to survive the worst the island has to offer.

#murdertrending was, to me, a scary look at a future that wouldn’t surprise me at all if it came true, considering how our culture is changing. The characters were a bit underdeveloped, and the identity of The Postman didn’t surprise me at all—the foreshadowing was a little heavy-handed—but it was a quick, easy read. If you’re squeamish, you might want to give this a pass, as it’s pretty graphic.

Gretchen McNeil is a trained opera singer, former circus performer and voice over artist, and current author. Her newest novel is #murdertrending.

(Galley provided by Disney/Freeform in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Someone I Used to Know,by Patty Blount

someone i used to know
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   Someone I Used to Know
Author:   Patty Blount
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Boys will be boys is never an excuse.

Ashley was fourteen, a freshman, when she was raped by the senior star for points in the traditional football team scavenger hunt. That was two years ago. A year ago, her rapist was sentenced to a paltry year in prison as the community, the team, and her brother supported him.

Ashley still suffers from debilitating panic attacks that make her wonder if she’ll ever get better. She’s a pariah at school—for getting football thrown out—but when the team is reinstated, she’s desperate to prevent the scavenger hunt that changed her life forever from hurting anyone else. Though scared and afraid, Ashley decides to speak up one more time.

Her brother Derek, away at school, blames himself for what happened to his sister—and how he reacted. What he once saw as normal behavior, he now sees as rape culture, but he doesn’t know how to communicate with Ashley—or anyone else—his remorse and determination to be part of a change. At Thanksgiving, with their entire family falling apart, Derek and Ashley must decide if their relationship is worth the effort it will take to repair.

Patty Blount loves chocolate, cars, and reading. Someone I Used to Know is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Impossibility of Us, by Katy Upperman

the impossibility of us
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Title:   The Impossibility of Us
Author:   Katy Upperman
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Elise doesn’t want to leave the city and start over in a new town, but since the death of her brother in Afghanistan, her mom has checked out, and her sister-in-law and niece need help. So, they move to a small coastal town, but Elise just longs to get back to the city.

Until she meets Mati on the beach one day. He’s Afghan, and Elise must put that aside and get to know him. She discovers a kind, quiet, caring boy who she has so much in common with.

But his religion and culture—and both their families—are huge obstacles. Not to mention the looming date of Mati’s return home. Is there any way to make things work out?

Katy Upperman is a YA author. The Impossibility of Us is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Swoon Reads in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Fawkes, by Nadine Brandes

FAWKES-Rollover-Plain-e1513549653551
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:   Fawkes
Author:   Nadine Brandes
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

The Stone Plague has tormented England for years. There is no cure. In most cases, it means death. For a lucky few, it means a life of despair and being shunned and beaten. Thomas Fawkes has the plague, but it’s dormant, hidden behind his eye patch, and almost no one knows.

Except his father, the legendary Guy Fawkes, known for his bravery and courage. But he abandoned Thomas after his son got the plague, and all Thomas wants from him is his own mask—so he can graduate and make his way in the world using his color power as a Keeper, one who bonds with a single color power. Keepers are beaten and killed now that an Igniter king is on the throne, so Thomas trusts no one.

When his father doesn’t show up, Thomas is kicked out and abandoned. Angry, he makes his way to London, and finds his father embroiled in a plot to kill the king and Parliament, destroying Igniter power forever and putting a Keeper on the throne. But Thomas starts to see that things aren’t as his father believes, and with the help of a classmate, an Igniter girl with more power than he’s ever seen, he learns the truth. Now Thomas must decide between his father and the girl he loves—and his choice is a death sentence for one.

I found the magic system in Fawkes fascinating and unique. Thomas is a troubled character searching for the truth amid many obstacles. His relationship with his father—the notorious Guy Fawkes—is complex and nuanced, and the exploration of English culture is vivid and probably uncomfortably accurate. I highly enjoyed reading this adventure.

Nadine Brandes loves Harry Potter and Oreos. Fawkes is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Olympian Challenger, by Astrid Arditi

olympian-challenger-cover-animation
Image belongs to Astrid Arditi.

Title:   Olympian Challenger
Author:   Astrid Arditi
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Hope Diaz lives in New York City. She spends her time swimming, studying, and caring for her mother, who has dementia. She doesn’t have time for parties, so when she receives a mysterious invitation to one, she doesn’t really care. It seems like every other senior in the city got one, so it can’t be all that special. Until she realizes that everyone else can only see a single sentence on the invitation…and she sees more.

Soon, Hope finds herself on Mount Olympus, a guest of the gods, as she and other challengers prepare for a competition that will grant them their greatest wish. Hope doesn’t want immortality. She just wants to go home and take care of her mother.

But leaving Olympus isn’t an option and Hope soon finds out that not everything—or everyone—is as it seems.

Olympian Challenger isn’t a completely unique concept. I’ve seen lots of comparisons to Percy Jackson and Hunger Games. Sure, there are similarities. It’s difficult to write anything that has nothing in common with any other book ever written. But Olympian Challenger is its own story.

Hope is an interesting character, and the friendships she forges on Olympus are intriguing and inspiring. I enjoyed seeing the gods and the heroes through her less-than-impressed eyes. While the plot lags in places and does skimp on details at times, the writing is solid, and I’m interested in reading the second book.

Astrid Arditi lives and writes in Brooklyn. Olympian Challenger is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.)