Tag: YA

Book Review: The Crossing, by Jason Mott

the crossing
Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title:  The Crossing
Author:   Jason Mott
Genre:   YA/dystopian
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

At first, the disease only took those over age 90, putting them into a sleep they never awoke from. Gradually, the victims grew younger, and the world realized eventually no one of childbearing age would be left awake—or alive. Accusations of blame arose, followed by the war.

Virginia and Tommy have spent most of their lives in the foster care system, fighting to stay together. But now the draft threatens to keep them apart forever. So they run away, headed for Florida and a space shuttle lunch that could be the last hope of mankind.

In a world gone mad, people try desperately to forget the truth, but Virginia remembers everything:  ever single detail of everything she’s ever seen or heard. The Memory Gospel brings the past alive for her, but it makes her blind to some things. As Tommy and Virginia flee across the country, they have only themselves to depend on, but can they bear the cost of the truth?

This was an intriguing novel, with a premise unique in the dystopian books I’ve read. The world, filled with war and the Disease, is frankly terrifying. Virginia and Tommy’s history is sad, yet their love for each other remains strong.

I found Virginal pretty unlikable. Her perfect memory makes her think she’s smarter than everyone around her, and, while that may be true in some cases, she only remembers her memories, not necessarily the truth. She’s a selfish person whose intellect makes her push people away. Despite that, this was an engrossing read.

Jason Mott is a New York Times bestselling author. The Crossing is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)

 

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Book Review: The Way You Make Me Feel, by Maurene Goo

the way you make me feel
Image belongs to Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR).

Title:   The Way You Make Me Feel
Author:   Maurene Goo
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Clara Shin and her friends are rebellious and anti-anything-too-trendy-and-popular. Clara is always pulling pranks and cracking jokes to keep people at arm’s length, but when a school prank goes too far, Clara ends up sentenced to work her dad’s food truck with her enemy all summer long.

Rose Carver is an uptight goody-two-shoes, but as Clara is forced to spend time with her, she realizes Rose is really just from a family of overachievers and she is scared to fail. She’s never had a friend, and she and Clara work to figure out their relationship while working the KoBra.

When Clara meets Hamlet, the boy who works the coffee shop near one of their stops, she’s intrigued, but he’s not her usual type at all; Hamlet is much too nice and polite for that. Then Clara realizes the way things have always been may not be all there is out there, and who she’s always been may not be based on the truth.

I loved this book! Clara’s relationship with her single dad is funny, open, and absolutely perfect. She’s always thought her social influencer mother was the thoughtful parent, but she learns that things aren’t always what they seem.

Clara’s sarcasm and biting humor were over-the-top in the beginning, but as her summer “punishment” opened her eyes to the truth, she truly changes as a person. Hamlet is almost too good to be true, and he serves as a great foil for Clara’s pessimistic worldview. Lots of humor and social commentary in this one, making it a fun, enjoyable read.

Maurene Goo is a young adult author who lives in California. The Way You Make Me Feel is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Elektra’s Adventures in Tragedy, by Douglas Rees

elektra's
Image belongs to Running Press Kids.

Title:   Elektra’s Adventures in Tragedy
Author:   Douglas Rees
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Elektra is happily becoming a Southern belle in a small Mississippi college town where here father is a professor—and an expert on Greek mythology—and her mother is a struggling wannabe writer. Then, without warning, her mom packs Elektra and her sister in the car to move to California.

They end up in Guadalupe Slough, a tiny community outside of San Jose that’s filled with a lot of colorful people. Home is a decrepit houseboat on a mudflat, complete with a pet tarantula. Elektra will do anything to get back to Mississippi and her father, even if it means stealing, but she soon finds out there’s more to what’s going on than meets the eye.

So…I enjoyed this book. For one thing, because it’s one of the few YA books I’ve read without a strong romance plot. Elektra is an interesting character. She starts off pretty self-centered and kind of a spoiled brat but being in a different environment and learning new things is good for her, as are the interesting people she meets. She ends up being much more aware of what’s going on around her, and much more caring as well.

The setting and secondary characters are a little flat, without a lot of details or description. I never had a clear picture of Guadalupe Slough apart from dusty and dry. There’s an interesting mix of secondary characters, but they’re a little one-dimensional. Even so, this was a quick, pleasant read.

Douglas Rees is a children’s librarian and the author of 15 children’s books. Elektra’s Adventures in Tragedy is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Running Press Kids in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Girl and the Grove, by Eric Smith

the girl and the grove
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:   The Girl and the Grove
Author:   Eric Smith
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Leila hasn’t had an easy life. Bounced from foster home to group home, the only constant she’s had is her best friend Sarika. Now Leila is adopted, and she loves her new home, even if she’s still waiting on the other shoe to drop and her new parents to decide they don’t want her.

To make new friends, Leila joins an environmental group at a local high school, and soon finds herself chatting with the cute leader of the group, whose ex-girlfriend is determined to make trouble for Leila and Sarika.

Then the voice in Leila’s head starts demanding her attention, and her coping methods no longer work. On impulse, she follows the voice’s direction to a grove deep in the local park. The grove is a place of old magic, and Leila discovers the truth about herself, and a danger that threatens the entire city.

A YA book about environmental issues? Yes, please. Throw in a diverse cast of characters who also fight against racism, and that upped my interest even more. I loved the premise of this novel, and the magical element made it even more promising. With Leila’s fears and insecurities from being adopted front and center, there was a lot going on in this book.

However, Leila and Sarika weren’t consistent enough to make them completely believable to me. Leila had a wonderful strength, was very outspoken and strong-willed, yet sometimes she seemed so naïve and childish in her thoughts and actions. Sarika was brazen towards others, although she showed her softer side to Leila. Their friendship was amazing, but then they’d throw in an f-bomb or two, and it seemed totally out-of-character, as if the cussing was just to make them seem more adult. Gratuitous profanity just didn’t fit the rest of their character. Actually, all of the teenagers had this dichotomy of personality, so their actions and personality were never cohesive. I never got a good sense of the why behind this erratic behavior.

Eric Smith is an author and literary agent. The Girl and the Grove is his newest novel.

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

@ericsmithrocks #thegirlandthegrove

Book Review: The Stars at Oktober Bend, by Glenda Millard

the stars at oktober bend
Image belongs to Candlewick Press.

Title:  The Stars at Oktober Bend
Author:   Glenda Millard
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Alice is fifteen but to everyone else, she is forever twelve:  she has acquired brain injury as the result of an assault she can’t remember, and now her electrics don’t work. She can speak, but her words don’t always come out right. Instead, she writes poetry; beautiful, haunting, anonymous poetry that she leaves all over town, hoping that someday, someone will read her words.

Alice lives with her brother, Joey, and her grandmother, in a house that’s mostly hidden from the rest of the world. Alice doesn’t go to school. Instead, she writes, ties fishing flies, and takes care of her grandmother. Her family is her world, and she wants things to stay the same forever.

Then Alice meets Manny, a boy who reads her poems and wants to hear her speak. Manny was forced to become a boy soldier, and he still suffers from PTSD. In Alice he finds comfort. But not everyone in town wants Alice, her family, or Manny to be happy, and as Alice finds out more of the truth surrounding her life, she will be faced with her greatest fears.

I’m not a fan of stream-of-consciousness writing, nor with lack of proper punctuation or capitalization. The parts of this novel from Alice’s point-of-view employed this, and I initially considered not finishing this. However, I got so drawn into Alice’s tale that I stopped noticing these things—they absolutely made sense for Alice, and by the end of the book, I had forgotten they existed.

This is a book with a lot of sadness, but there is joy and hope as well. I found this very lyrical and compelling, and Alice and her family broke my heart, as did Manny and his story. The other people in town were infuriating, but typical for society, making this a highly believable book to read (even if it made me angry). A very good read, and one I highly recommend.

Glenda Millard is an award-winning author from Australia. The Stars at Oktober Bend is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Suitors and Sabotage, by Cindy Anstey

suitorsandsabotage
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Title:   Suitors and Sabotage
Author:  Cindy Anstey
Genre:   young adult, historical romance
Rating:   4.5/5

Shy Imogene Chively hated the Season, but she had a successful one, gaining a serious suitor, Ernest Steeple. Now the aspiring artist just wishes to get to know Ernest better before he proposes. When Ernest and his brother, Ben, arrive earlier than expected for their visit, Imogene finds herself in over her head.

While Imogene and Ernest get to know one another, charming Ben reveals his dark secret:  he’s an architect apprentice who can’t draw. Fortunately, Imogene is an apt teacher, and the two work together as Ben learns to draw.

But a series of suspicious accidents lead them to believe that someone is out to get Ben. The only suspects are Imogene’s friends and family, so Ben, Ernest, Imogene, and her friend, Emily do their best to uncover who means Ben harm. Along the way, Imogene realizes she has feelings for the wrong brother—feelings that could break Ernest’s heart and alienate her from her demanding family.

Suitors and Sabotage was a fun, light read full of sassiness, humor, and romance. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! It had the feel of Jane Austen mixed with a modern romcom, but the characters showed some surprising depths and the identity of the saboteur surprised me completely.

Cindy Anstey loves to travel and write books inspired by Jane Austen. Suitors and Sabotage is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: In Sight of Stars, by Gae Polisner

In Sight of Stars
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  In Sight of Stars
Author:  Gae Polisner
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5/5

Seventeen-year-old Klee’s life has changed immensely in the past year. He’s living in the suburbs. He’s in love with the volatile and free-spirited Sarah. And his beloved father, who taught him about art and explored New York City with him, is dead.

When life with his ice queen mother gets to be too much and an unexpected betrayal sends him over the edge, Klee ends up in the “Ape Can,” a psychiatric hospital for teens.

Klee must deal with his past if he’s ever to get back to his real life, but that means exploring the darkness and the secrets he doesn’t even know are there. Pushing people away has always been the easy way out, but Klee will have to learn to trust if he’s ever to heal.

In Sight of Stars alternates between the present, when Klee is hospitalized, and the past, events leading up to his breakdown. Klee is a fascinating character:  he’s broken, but he longs for wholeness and belonging, despite the blows the world keeps raining on him. This is a look at mental illness from the inside, gazing at the hurt and confusion that ripped one boy’s life to shreds, and how he learns to knit those shreds back into something whole.

I enjoyed reading this, and loved learning the truth right along with Klee, as he searches for the meaning in his past, his present, and his future. There’s a little bit of Klee’s brokenness in all of us. And, hopefully, his strength as well.

Gae Polisner is a family law attorney. She writes women’s fiction and young adult fiction. In Sight of Stars is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: In Search of Us, by Ava Dellaira

in search of us
Image belongs to Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR).

Title:  In Search of Us
Author:  Ava Dellaira
Genre:  Young Adult
Rating:  4/5

In LA in the late 1990s, Marilyn is a pretty 17-year-old with a mom who has ambitions;  she expects Marilyn to make it big in Hollywood, so Marilyn can support them. But her mother never asks what Marilyn wants:  going away to college and becoming a photographer. With Marilyn landing fewer jobs, they soon find themselves living with Marilyn’s unpredictable uncle.

Marilyn is just biding her time, living for graduation, when her “real” life will start. Then she meets James, the boy who lives downstairs. James shows her how to live in the now.

In the present, Angie has a single mom, a dead father she never met, and no one to help her sort out her identity. With her brown skin and curly hair, she looks nothing like her mom, and she knows nothing about her father. Then Angie finds out her mother has been lying to her all along, and she sets out on a road trip to LA with her best friend, Sam, hoping to discover who she really is.

In Search of Us is an emotional story about family, love, and finding yourself. These two stories are entwined seamlessly, and I’m not sure which I was more emotionally invested in, Marilyn’s or Angie’s. Both feel like their mothers don’t understand them, and both want more out of life. Marilyn is struggling to break her mother’s hold on her, and Angie struggles to find her father in more than just a single old picture. Racism is a strong theme here, portrayed honesty and realistically, with a large helping of grief. I was in tears by the end, and this book made my heart ache, as well as being so vivid I felt like I was a part of the story.

Ava Dellaira is the author of Love Letters to the Dead. In Search of Us is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman

tess
Image belongs to Random House.

In Goredd, reputation is everything and there are certain expectations about women and their place. Expectations that Tess just can’t seem to live up to. Trapped in her duty to her family, Tess is bitter, angry, and hopeless. Also, a little bit of a drunkard. Which leads to the incident at her sister’s wedding…

Before she’s forced into a nunnery, Tess chops off her hair, dresses as a boy, and sets out on the Road, ins search of one of the World Serpents, creatures of legend she’s been fascinated with for years.

The Road is more challenging than Tess ever imagined, and every day, she must make the decision to live one more day. She meets friends in unexpected places as she searches for who she really is, learning to heal from the pain of her past so she can seek the future she dreams of.

There’s some darkness in Tess of the Road. Tess begins as a hateful, unlikeable character—although with her past, who wouldn’t be hateful? This is a book about growth more than anything, and Tess’s journey is magnificent as it unfolds, and she learns there is so much more to the world than what society expects.

Rachel Hartman has a B.A. in Comparative Literature. Tess of the Road is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Rending and the Nest, by Kaethe Schwehn

the rending
Image belongs to Bloomsbury USA.

One moment, Mira was at the mall shopping with her little brother. The next instant, 95% of the world’s population vanished, along with sunlight, most of the animals, food, and stuff. What isn’t missing is in huge random piles. The survivors eke out a living by scavenging the Piles and banding together in haphazard communities.

Four years after the Rending, Mira spends her days scavenging for her community of Zion, hanging out with her best friend, Lana, and avoiding people she might come to love—she can’t bear to lose anyone else. Then Lana tells her she’s pregnant, the first pregnancy since the Rending. For the first time since everything changed, Mira feels hope.

But when Lana gives birth to an inanimate object—and so do other women in Zion—Mira’s world crumbles again. An outsider named Michael lures Lana away, and Mira must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice to save her friend, her community, and her own pregnancy.

I’m not going to lie:  this is an odd book. Dystopian, with no explanation for why the Rending occurred (so if you must have a “why,” you’re out of luck here). The world is both strangely familiar and oddly skewed, like everything is just a bit off-kilter. Mira and Lana—well, everyone—are hiding secrets from their before, secrets that they need to deal with before they can truly accept their now. The Babies are creepy—and weirdly fitting—and I was drawn into the story from the first page as Mira struggles to make sense of this new world while still trying to sort out just who she is. Despite the oddness, this is an enthralling book, with a vividly realized setting that’s just as intriguing as the characters.

Kaethe Schwehn is an award-winning writer of prose and poems. The Rending and the Nest is her new novel.

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