Tag: young adult fiction

Book Review The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig, by Don Zolidis

theseventorments
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig
Author:   Don Zolidis
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3.8 out of 5

Craig is awkward. He plays Dungeons & Dragons, which, in 1994 Wisconsin, does not make you part of the cool crowd. He’s had a crush on Amy for a while. But a geek with the super-smart student body president? That’s never going to happen. Until it does.

Then Amy breaks up with Craig. And gets back together with him. Then breaks up with him again. Over and over again. Seven times.

Senior year is hard enough without adding heartbreak—repetitive heartbreak at that—into the mix. Craig wants to escape his hometown and hopes to find a quirky college to feel at home at. Amy doesn’t know what she wants—she just knows it’s not what she has. It might be Craig. It might not. But both of them are fighting to figure out what really matters—and what they can do about it.

I liked Craig. He’s quirky and fun and definitely awkward. His group of friends are all nerdy but vibrant. Craig and Amy together, however…Well, I was Team Craig in this one. Except he was basically selfish and oblivious of what was going on around him, so focused on himself and what he wanted that it never occurred to him to think about what other people wanted. But he does grow and develops an awareness of others that is both fledgling and blooming, making this worth reading.

Don Zolidis is a playwright and former teacher. The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig is his first published novel.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: My Whole Truth, by Mischa Thrace

my whole truth
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:   My Whole Truth
Author:   Mischa Thrace
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Seelie Stanton has a mother who could not care less about her, but she has three best friends who have her back no matter what, so it’s okay. Even when the kids at school can’t stand her. She just sticks with her friends and minds her own business. Until Shane Mayfield shows up at her job high and attacks her.

Seelie never wanted to kill someone, but she had to kill Shane to save her own life. Now she’s being charged with murder, haunted by a night she never wants to speak of again.

Though her friends support her, most of the town turns against her. Seelie doesn’t want to think about that night, much less talk about it, but she’ll have to tell the truth about what happened—the whole truth—if she wants to survive.

The friendships in this book are the best thing. I loved the group’s interactions, even when they disagree, they still support each other. Seelie is a strong character, but she can’t see it for her grief and pain. A well-written look at a girl who survived the horrors of being attacked—only to face condemnation and hatred from those around her.

Mischa Thrace lives in Massachusetts. My Whole Truth is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Words We Don’t Say, by K.J. Reilly

words we don't say
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   Words We Don’t Say
Author:   K.J. Reilly
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Joel Higgins has almost 1,000 unsent text messages on his phone. He can say whatever he wants there. He can talk to people he just can’t seem to find words for in person. Like Eli, the girl he has a crush on.

His best friend, Andy, is gone. The new guy, Benj, talks a lot but Joel doesn’t know quite how to take him. He failed the SATs. The only bright spots in his days are volunteering with Eli at the soup kitchen.

Then there’s the wounded vet Joel meets. The bag hidden in the garage. And the problem of all those Corvette Stingrays. Joel sees so many problems and has so many questions, but all he can do is type another text message he won’t send.

I really enjoyed this book, even though I sometimes have problems clicking with male narrators. That wasn’t the case here. Joel is such an honest character and getting inside his head was easy. You should definitely read this!

Words We Don’t Say is the new novel by K.J. Reilly.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: After the Fire, by Will Hill

after the fire
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   After the Fire
Author:   Will Hill
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Before

Moonbeam has lived inside the fence as long as she can remember. Her parents joined the Lord’s Legion when she was very young, and this is the only life she’s ever known. Her father died here. Her mother was banished. Now Moonbeam is alone, except for the rest of her “family,” and Father John, the leader of the Legion and her future husband.

Every day is filled with labor, a fight for the Legion to survive. Rules govern every action, every thought. Father John is the Lord’s voice, so his words are law. No matter what. Less food. Stricter punishments. New rules. More wives. Disagreeing means banishment:  being forced to leave the safety of the fence for the dark world outside. Sometimes Moonbeam wonders if this is what life should really be like. But she can never let any of her family know she wonders.

After

Reeling from the destruction of the Lord’s Legion, Moonbeam struggles to stay true to Father John’s teaching:  never speak to outsiders! They are servants of darkness and speaking to them gives them power. But Dr. Hernandez seems to really care what happens to her, and slowly her defenses come down. Then Agent Carlyle starts asking questions about life inside the fence—and what really happened the night of the fire. Moonbeam knows she shouldn’t tell, but some wounds will never heal without being exposed to the light. Even if the truth means she must pay for her sins.

This book. Wow. I was intrigued by a character raised by a cult, and I loved how Will Hill handled it. Moonbeam is a fantastic narrator. The story follows her growth from a fervent believer in the Legion to a tragedy survivor who realizes the truth. The subtle way Hill weaves this tale together had me hooked from the beginning, and this vivid look at life inside a cult was completely engrossing.

Will Hill lives in London and calls himself a creative procrastinator. After the Fire is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Tomb, by S.A. Bodeen

the tomb
Image belongs to Feiwel & Friends.

Title:   The Tomb
Author:   S.A. Bodeen
Genre:   YA, fantasy, sci-fi
Rating:   3 out of 5

Kiva grew up going to school, dreaming of being a doctor, and missing her best friend, Seth, the prince she hasn’t spoken to in three years. Life in ancient Alexandria was simple but good. Or so she thought.  Until she finally speaks to Seth again, and his first words are “Nothing is as it seems.”

Then Kiva finds out her world never existed at all. Instead, she’s been in a sleep chamber in deep space for years, and her world was all virtual reality. And Seth woke up three years ago and never told her the truth.

Now the two of them must find the part their spaceship needs if they are to survive, but there’s been no contact with the other ships harboring the remnants of humanity for years. They’re not sure where they’re going. They’re not sure how to find what they need. And they’ll need all their broken trust in each other if they’re to survive.

This book had an interesting premise, so I was excited to read it. However, within a few pages, most of my interest had faded. I’d love to read something actually set in ancient Alexandria, but I found things a bit anachronistic at first. Which makes sense, considering it was all virtual reality. I never grew to like Seth, and found him condescending and annoying, and Kiva was very naïve, so I didn’t trust anything she said or did. I felt like the story was still a little rough and wasn’t quite fully realized. The premise was promising, but the execution was less-than-stellar.

S.A. Bodeen grew up in Wisconsin, has lived in Africa, and now resides in the Midwest. The Tomb is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Feiwel & Friends in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Confessions of a Teenage Leper, by Ashley Little

confessions
Image belongs to Penguin Random House.

Title:   Confessions of a Teenage Leper
Author:   Ashley Little
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3 out of 5

Abby Furlowe is determined that this will be her year. She’ll make the cheerleading team again—she’d better, all her plans for a future as an actor hinge on a prestigious cheerleading scholarship—enjoy parties with her two besties and continue to rule the school as one of the most beautiful and popular girls. Maybe even be named prom queen!

She doesn’t have time for her brother Dean and his secret life and drama. She doesn’t have time for her boyfriend’s sudden distance or the losers at school. And she certainly doesn’t have time for the weird numbness and spots that keep showing up on her skin. Until the numbness gets worse and she takes a fall while cheering, waking up to find her whole life has changed.

That weird numbness means she has Hansen’s Disease, or leprosy, and the diagnosis is now all Abby has time for. She’ll have to go away to a treatment center if she’s to get better—or have any hope of reclaiming her old life. But time away from everything gives Abby plenty of time to think, and she comes to realize what a horrible person she is. But who she was isn’t the person she has to be now, and some of the new people she meets at the treatment center help her come to terms with her new reality.

Based on the title, I sort of thought this book would be a funny read about a girl who ends up a social outcast, not a person who actually had the disease. It wasn’t. At all. For most of the book, Abby is a horrible person. Totally unlikable. Her mean-girl persona really made me want to put the book down, but she had a few bright spots, like saving her brother’s life, so I kept reading. Abby learns a lot, about the power of words, about family, about being a better person.

Ashley Little is an award-winning author. Confessions of a Teenage Leper is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: I Do Not Trust You, by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz

I do not trust you
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  I Do Not Trust You
Author:   Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3 out 0f 5

Memphis grew up traveling the world with her father, visiting archeological digs and learning lost languages and cultures. But when her father died unexpectedly, her life changed to boring, normal school with people who think they know more than she does under the watchful eyes of her guardians, friends she never knew her father had.

Until one evening she realizes a shadowy figure is following her. When she catches him by surprise, Memphis meets Ash, sent by an ancient cult to discover the secret her father might have been able to solve. Memphis finds out her dad is still alive, held captive by another ancient cult also after the icons to be found if the secret is revealed.

There’s no way Ash can decipher the clues and find the icons himself. And Memphis doesn’t know where her father is being held. They’ll have to work together for them both to get what they want.

I Do Not Trust You had such an intriguing premise:  adventure, ancient cults, archeological mysteries…but the delivery was a bit short on the adventure front. Memphis was a great character, just a touch naïve, which makes sense, considering she hasn’t had much interaction with people her own age. I loved her intelligence, and her determination. Ash…was just kind of “meh” for me. He wasn’t horrible, just kind of wishy-washy. But this was still a fun, quick read.

Laura J. Burns grew up on Long Island. Melinda Metz grew up in San Jose, California. I Do Not Trust You is the duo’s newest novel.

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

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.)

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.)