Young Adult

WindfallWindfall by Jennifer E. Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the story well enough, but the characters were annoying in many moments. I felt like Alice nagged everyone around her too much and did the “right” thing a lot easier than real teenagers might. I understand being nervous about money changing your relationships and who you are, but what person isn’t going to want the “safety net” she was so eager to avoid. Maybe I just can’t understand the logic so I couldn’t connect with her.

I wish we got to see more of Alice’s love interest outside of Teddy. Sawyer was so sweet, and I wish we got more of him and he wasn’t simply a “stand in” for Teddy.

I enjoyed the ending, and I appreciated all of the serious subjects discussed. It’s well-paced, but it was a simple, predictable YA novel.

Girl Out of WaterGirl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**Thank you to the author for providing me with an early copy in exchange for an honest review.**

I don’t think I’ve ever read a more perfect coming of age novel. You would never expect that GIRL OUT OF WATER is Laura Silverman’s debut novel because it’s as well-crafted and artfully developed as a seasoned author’s best work. Her witty and diverse characters, punchy dialogue, and stimulating plot are comparable to those of Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything–another debut and one of my favorite books of 2015.

Anise Sawyer lives a life of sand and surf on the Santa Cruz coast. It’s the last summer that all of her friends will be together before they head off to colleges or boot camp and leave Anise behind for her last year of high school. Anise’s pull to the ocean is stronger than that of the moon on the tides. Nothing could stop her from spending every waking moment in the waves with her friends, especially her best friend, Eric, whose glistening abs and broad shoulders are suddenly much more attractive than she remembers. The summer is sure to heat up to be the best yet, until Anise’s dad drops the devastating news: Anise’s aunt was in a terrible car accident and will be recovering in the hospital for many weeks, leaving the “disastrous duo” (nine-year old twin boys) and an emotional preteen in need of supervision for the summer–the whole summer. With nothing to do in landlocked Nebraska and three restless kids to entertain, Anise finds an athletic outlet in the local skate park where her cousins, and a charming, one-armed hunk (with abs even more defined than Eric’s), skate circles around her. Nothing can replace her love of Santa Cruz, but it’s getting hazier in her memory as Nebraska offers familial bonds, new friendships, and more adventures than anticipated.

Unlike many YA novels, GIRL OUT OF WATER offers more than just a comment on young love and relationships–it deals with real issues like loss, abandonment, adversity, and change. It’s relatable and truthful, and I have no doubts that this will top the bestseller lists. I can’t wait for this to publish and to see what else Silverman creates.

Five glowing stars!

SchizoSchizo by Nic Sheff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I did not expect the turn this book took, but it was well done and sheds light on mental illness and schizophrenia. It’s a topic that isn’t explored often, but it should be considering how many people it affects.

The First Time She DrownedThe First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this one on audiobook, and I listened to it every spare moment I had. It’s a powerful YA novel that shows the pains of mental illness and how it can affect those around you. Well-written and lyrical.

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Isla and the Happily Ever After is the weakest of the three Perkins titles in this series, but it’s still a feel-good teen romance. Josh and Isla are cute together, but there were definitely moments where Isla’s choices and her reactions to those choices annoyed me. The ending makes up for all of it, though!

3.5 stars

Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss, #2)Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I needed this light, sweet romance this week. It’s easy to get caught up in the happiness of it all!

The only aspect I didn’t enjoy was the “mystery” of what the neighbor “did” to Lola all those years ago. It sounds like the worst possible offense, and it’s confusing when you find out the truth (“is that all?”). Besides that, it’s an enjoyable, easy read!

I enjoyed the cameos of Anna and St. Clair from the first book!

3.5 stars

Thirteen Reasons WhyThirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The release of the Netflix series encouraged me to finally read THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. The format of the book is inspired and helps make it a page-turner. I HAD to know how Hannah reached an ultimate low after all of her experiences in high school and how all of the characters intertwined in each other’s stories. It’s a quick read that I finished in a handful of hours, and although it covers difficult subjects like suicide and sexual assault, the “thriller” aspect makes it not feel so heavy.

I’ve only watched two episodes of the Netflix show, but I must admit I’m liking the direction the show is taking over the book. It seems paced better and the characters are given more weight and importance, whereas in the book, it’s easy to forget about some of the earlier offenders.

In general, I’m not sure I agree with the way the plot makes it seem okay to blame others for your choices and make suicide almost a “revenge” tool instead of the mental health issue it is. It seems to glamorize it by showing how many people will feel bad and guilty after you’re gone, as if you are still able to sit on the sidelines and watch it all unfold. The tapes even make it feel like she is there watching her classmates squirm. I remember in a psychology class (and I’m not claiming to be an expert) the instructor mentioned that young adults don’t fully understand the weight of suicide and see it as a way to “get back” at people who were mean to them, whereas adults resort to it when they literally can’t go on with their lives anymore. Hannah seems to fall into the young adult “revenge” category.

Ignoring the psychology of it all, it’s a page-turner!

Anna and the Swallow ManAnna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Savit writes in a gorgeous literary style that allows the reader to reflect on the juxtaposition of the beauty and horror in this WWII story. It’s easy to get caught up in the words and question the author’s choices, just as Anna questions everything. It’s a profound story, but I don’t think I would have understood it if I read this at 14, even though the main character is 7. It feels more like an adult novel than the YA novel it’s marketed as.

I am disappointed by the ending. It does leave you questioning, as seems to be the goal of the author on every page, but this isn’t even answered in the unsatisfactory way of the Swallow Man. I’m not sure what happened. (view spoiler).

I enjoyed the story and the character development. It’s certainly more a character-driven story than a plot-driven one. The audiobook narrator also has a soothing voice which seems to fit the overall feel of the novel.

We Were LiarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lot of reviewers complained about the writing style, including random line breaks and fragmented sentences. Listening to it on audio, none of that was apparent. I thought the language was beautiful and the story was fast-paced. In the beginning, I noticed the clues to suggest the ending, but as I continued reading, I got so caught up in it that I was honestly surprised by the twist.

Exit, Pursued by a BearExit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR as an audiobook, and I thought that the narrator, Jorjeana Marie, does a wonderful job capturing the essence of a teenage girl and the correct inflections throughout. Although this story details the difficulties of rape and the slut-shaming that may happen afterwards, I didn’t feel depressed by this book. If anything, Johnston’s words made me feel empowered by the strength of the main character, Hermione, and encouraged by her support system of teammates, school staff, friends, and family. As a former high school cheerleader, I related to both the catty gossip of the team, as well as the strong bond that holds the group together when it matters most.

I recently reread Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, which I loved just as much as I did in high school, but EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR, although written about the same subject matter, handles it in a completely different way. Reading these two types of stories reminds us that every person deals with tragedy differently, and there is no “wrong” coping technique.

This is a great read for any teenager (both male and female). I have nothing negative to say about the book, but it wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

SpeakSpeak by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I remember reading this in high school and finding it so powerful, so I decided to do a second read via audiobook. It feels just as powerful and resonates just as well in my twenties. I love the symbolism explored in “the tree” and the “silence”, and Halse Anderson’s and the student’s comments on Hawthorne’s symbolism.

The audio is also only about five hours so I finished this in less than a work day. So glad I picked this up again.

Between Shades of GrayBetween Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a beautiful, heartbreaking, raw, and real telling of a not well-known aspect of WWII. It’s not just another Holocaust story; there’s so much more to it. You feel the hope, the debilitating depression, and the omnipresence of death on every page. It’s amazing that this book was Sepetys debut because it is perfection.

P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #2)P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lara Jean is such a sweet and relatable character. Kitty is an amazing aspect of the story — so wise and tough for a 9-year-old. The romance is adorable and I love the wisdoms from the older generation at the nursing home. This book just makes you happy, and sometimes that’s all you need from a story. I’m not sure how I feel about who Lara Jean ultimately ends up with, but Han does a good job convincing you at the end that it was a good choice. I’m excited to finish out the trilogy this spring!

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Adorable. A coming of age story about the bonds of sisterhood, family, and new budding romances. I love that the main characters are Asian-American and this is part of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement.

What LightWhat Light by Jay Asher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Asher writes the perfect feel-good story for the holiday season. It reminds me of a Hallmark movie (aka a Debbie Macomber book) for teens. Sweet and romantic, it will have you feeling the love.

Two Boys KissingTwo Boys Kissing by David Levithan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two Boys Kissing was not what I expected. From the cover it looked like a cute romance, but it’s actually a statement about the difficulties gay men endure in high school, coming out to families and friends, and the backlash from our unsupportive society. The story follows a handful of gay men and couples, including two gay best friends trying to break the world record for longest kiss, two boys first discovering love after meeting at a gay prom, and a young man hiding his true self from his parents as he tries to find self-worth via a hook-up dating website.

It’s a bit slow to get into because the structure of the narrator was strange to me. It’s told by a chorus of dead, gay men who have all died from AIDS and want to pass on their lessons to the current generation. As I got deeper into the story, I understood the author’s choice to tell the story that way a bit more, and although it was not my favorite aspect of the story, it did become essential to the hope and overall message.

Levithan is a poetic writer as it’s clear that each word was well thought out for both its meaning and feel; it’s written almost like prose poetry. I wish we got a bit more into the boys’ stories as there are some I still feel like I know nothing about (Peter and Neil). However, it’s a quick read, and I enjoyed reading about the multiple experiences that each young man dealt with. It’s an important read that should be required reading for high schoolers.

Last Seen LeavingLast Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A YA thriller/romance unlike any others I’ve read. There are a lot of stories about missing teens, but this one is unexpected and engaging. There were a few moments that I was yelling at the main character for his stupidity, and the fact that in real life Flynn would have compromised the entire case with how he handled it, but overall, I couldn’t put it down. Each chapter ends in a way that forces you to keep reading.

I also LOVE the romance and coming of age aspect of this story. So sweet and real. If anything, I thought it was stronger than the mystery.

The Outliers (The Outliers, #1)The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Just finished this, and omg it’s so crazy! Some of it is good crazy, and other parts are more like “wtf did I just read?” THE OUTLIERS definitely has the heart-pounding action of a thriller, but many of the twists are predictable. However, there are some twists that are completely unexpected and shocking (still not sure if it’s in a good way or not).

The driving motivation behind the plot is difficult to follow and believe. It doesn’t seem like there is that much at stake in order for all the craziness that ensued to actually have happened.

Although I’m not in love with the plot, or even the characters as they were often annoying and idiotic, I still gave it three stars because weirdly, I enjoyed it! I read this so quickly and even stayed up way past my bedtime to find out what would happen. I didn’t realize this was a series when I picked it up, and I usually avoid series because there are way too many books to read to waste time with characters for longer than a few hundred pages, but I’m still going to have to read the subsequent books. I’m trapped in the story, and that stupid cliffhanger has left me holding on by my fingertips. Hopefully the next one is stronger and clears up some lingering questions.

The Epidemic (The Program, #0.6)The Epidemic by Suzanne Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t read many series as I easily get bored with characters, but The Program series and this prequel duology had me captivated. This dystopian world is so different from all the other repetitive YA ones.

P.S. I Like YouP.S. I Like You by Kasie West
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So adorable! This is a light, high school love story that will have you “oohing, awwing”, and laughing until the end.

Me & Earl & the Dying GirlMe & Earl & the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I rarely give out one star ratings because I try to give every book the benefit of the doubt, but with this one, I just can’t. From the “author’s note” “written” by the main character “writing” the novel I knew I probably wasn’t going to like the book, but I had already bought it and I was determined to read it. I was hoping to like it because it’s been on the NYTimes list for so many weeks, there was a movie, and I heard great buzz.

Throughout the entire book, Greg, the protagonist kept reiterating how terrible, unemotional, and pointless the book would be. I realize that this was supposed to be a humorous direction, but all it did was convince me that the book was ridiculous and awful. I had assumed, incorrectly, that there must be more to the novel based off of the buzz and that maybe near the end there would be an enlightening realization that would have the character crying, the reader crying, and it would completely salvage the story; so I kept reading. After all, the title is Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl–where’s the emotion?!? Nope! I got to the end and nothing interesting or notable happened. It was a waste of time reading it. Luckily it didn’t take long since the format was large and spaced out with pretend screenplays and texts.

The humor was also forced. I don’t think I found anything besides a sentence or two to actually be funny. I really wanted to like this book, and I normally never speak so negatively about a title. Author’s and publishers work so hard to craft stories that people will love and appreciate, but in all honesty, it seems like was one big joke to the author. Maybe I’ve just grown out of immature YA books because it read quite young. If all the swearing and sexual innuendos were deleted, I think it would have been marketed as MG.

Regardless, I’m disappointed, but I can’t rate this more than one fading star.

The One Memory of Flora BanksThe One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Flora is the queen of unreliable narrators as she is 17 and can’t remember much for more than an hour or two due to brain trauma. In her mind, she is still 10 years old–the age she was at the incident. She takes clues from the notes on her arms and her notebook which she reads whenever she is confused. The writing is simple since Flora is stuck in her ten-year-old mind, and because of her memory loss, it can get repetitive and slightly annoying. However, the plot pulls you in as you follow Flora on her adventure away from her parents and friends as she embarks on a search for her one true love.

I finished this book in two sittings, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happens. The last quarter of the book is especially compelling. Lately I’ve been comparing so many YA novels to Yoon’s EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING, but this one also has similar tones to that novel. It also reads similar to THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME. If you enjoyed either of those, I think you’ll love this one, too. I can’t wait for this to publish so I can hear other readers’ thoughts. I would also be curious if Barr will consider a sequel. It definitely works on its own, but I’d love to follow Flora further on her path.

Delicate MonstersDelicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is so strange and obscure. I’m not really sure what I just read. It has dark themes and characters, and at the end, nothing was really solved. I kept waiting for something to happen, then it all happened at once, and then it just ended!

Usually I like switching perspectives, but in this book it felt a bit forced. I wasn’t enthralled enough to read a longer book, but at the same time, I think it needed to be longer in order to delve into all the messed up minds of each of the characters.

I was intrigued, but in the end, it didn’t do anything for me.

Holding Up the UniverseHolding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is so amazing! A lot of people have loved Niven’s last book ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES, and it continues to appear on the NYTimes Best Seller list consistently, but I loved this one 100 times more. Nivens powerfully touches on self-esteem, bullying, and disabilities. The characters and the story-line are real and relatable, and the writing is simple but elegant. I predict this has the potential of Nicola Yoon’s EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING, or even John Green’s THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.

For anyone looking for a romance to root for, strong characters to love, or a reminder that you’re not holding up the universe on your own, read this book.

Written in the StarsWritten in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the most epic love stories I’ve ever read. A modern day Romeo and Juliet with a cultural twist. It made me so angry and I shed many tears, but it’s an important read about the reality of forced marriages.

Saeed writes in a way that captivates you, and I felt a connection to Naila as she struggled along with her emotions of what’s right, what’s wrong, and how to make choices when you feel you have none.

It’s heartbreaking that Naila’s fictional story is a reality to many young men and women today in a variety of cultures, and hopefully this book brings voices to those that have been silenced.

At the same time, this story definitely puts Pakistan and middle eastern cultures in a negative light. As someone who doesn’t know much about those cultures already, it has created an unfair bias against it, and I obviously know there are many wonderful people and traditions from those countries. I definitely would love to read something more positive about a protagonist from the Middle East.

My other main complaint is that the ending felt a bit rushed. (view spoiler)

Those issues aside, it’s still an important read, and I’m so glad I experienced it.

A Totally Awkward Love StoryA Totally Awkward Love Story by Tom Ellen

This book is hilarious! Rarely do I giggle and laugh out loud while reading, but with this one, I just couldn’t help myself. There are so many funny one-liners, and as the title promises, totally awkward moments.

The book confronts sex and losing your virginity head on, so if that bothers you, this isn’t book for you. However, there are no explicit details and it’s perfectly acceptable for the YA audience to which it’s geared, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up on banned book lists.

Hannah and Sam are characters you root to get together from the beginning. They are charming, relatable, and posses the quirkiness of awkward teens. The friendships felt real and believable, especially the toxic relationship between Hannah and Stella as many people find themselves friends with someone they shouldn’t be because they think it’s important to their social status. I enjoyed the obstacles along the way, and overall, this is a fun, mindless read. I even became a bit nostalgic for my own high school experiences.

4.5 stars.

The FeverThe Fever by Megan Abbott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just finished this mysterious novel on the train ride home. The ending took a twist I didn’t expect, but it definitely made the novel much stronger! The last few chapters had my heart was racing. It went from a simple high school story to a riveting thriller in a matter of pages.

I’m not 100% satisfied with the ending. I wish there was a little more to the other stories of the girls with “the fever”. We are told details of three girls who are sent to the hospital, but we never hear of more except when the nurses make a side note of how busy they are with all the girls coming in. We didn’t get a full picture of how widespread “the fever” was. There was a lot of build-up, and then it all wrapped up so quickly. Especially with Gaby, Skye, and Lise. The relationship between Deenie and Sean was also not fleshed out and didn’t seem to make a lot of difference to the story.

Overall, it was enjoyable and fast-paced. I read parts of it and listened to parts on audio, but the father’s voice actor whistled whenever he spoke words with an “s”, and I just had to stop listening. I’m glad I had the physical copy so I could finish it.

Not If I See You FirstNot If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This novel reads like a typical YA novel. It’s a quick, easy read that I enjoyed, but nothing that will stay with me for long after it’s over.

I understand that the point was to show that Parker, even though she’s a blind girl, is strong and independent, and obviously should not be treated as if she is different than other students her age, yet it didn’t delve enough into the mechanics of her day to day life for me. I’ve read a couple books about blind main characters that blew me away explaining the technology blind people use in order to function seamlessly in society. The book doesn’t have to get as technical as those, but I wish it was a more complete view of that life.

I appreciated the underlying messages about friendship and the cute romance story. It’s rare that YA focuses on the friendships more than the romance, but fostering stable and trustworthy friendships during adolescence is more important than romantic relationships, so that’s a definite strength for this book.

A lot of reviewers mention how much they disliked Parker. I didn’t dislike her at all. Yes, there were moments where her faults were obvious, but everyone has faults and this book was just honest about them.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 stars.

Ask the PassengersAsk the Passengers by A.S. King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A powerful book that shows the struggles of a dysfunctional family and how a young girl has to send love to strangers on passing airplanes because she doesn’t feel loved by her family, her friends, or her community.

When you move to a tiny, small-minded town from NYC, there are a lot of adjustments. You must fit in and uphold a certain reputation, which proves to be impossible when you’re hiding your identity. Astrid is struggling to determine if she’s gay, and her journey isn’t made any easier by the ignorant bigots overflowing the town. This is a wonderful coming of age novel, perfect for anyone struggling with their identity, in whatever capacity that may be, or for adults, young or old, who need to be reminded of their roles in creating equality.

ASK THE PASSENGERS is a fast read with meaningful prose. I enjoyed how sending love to the passengers sort of came full circle, but the occasional stories from the passengers seemed a bit forced. It is a creative and interesting concept, but I think it could have been fleshed out a bit better. I loved how Astrid took her philosophy class to heart and used the lessons to navigate and solve her own problems. It’s a wonderful way to show the usefulness of humanities in real world situations.

This is the second book I’ve read my King, and I’m excited to indulge in more of them. Especially as someone who grew up in a small-town bubble, I’m constantly trying to expand my understanding of diversity and the problems associated with it, and King’s books do a wonderful job of making complicated issues simple, yet attention demanding. I always feel like I’ve grown more as a person after putting a book like this back on the shelf.

Salt to the SeaSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are so many stories that recount the horrible tragedies of WWII, yet SALT TO THE SEA tells of horrors never before retold in fiction, and even rarely in history books. I had never heard of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff before picking up this book, even though it killed more people than the Titanic and the Lusitania combined.

Sepetys’ writing will humble you as the history becomes a part of you. SALT TO THE SEA is told from the perspective of four teens whose lives converge on the Wilhelm Gustloff. Even with all the sadness and tragedy, there’s a bit of romance, humor, and lots of irony.

I’m compelled to read all of Sepetys’ works now as this one has changed me. History should never be forgotten, and it’s a shame that until now, the death of over 9,000 lives, 5,000 estimated to be children, were dismissed. Sepetys story has resurrected the memories of thousands that were simply just salt to the sea before.

TumblingTumbling by Caela Carter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great read for anyone who has ever put their heart and soul into something only to wonder if it was worth it in the end. This novel is told from the perspective of five gymnasts competing at the Olympic trials. It’s an inside look into what’s required to become an Olympian–the sacrifices you must make and what makes up the girl beneath the chalk and make-up. It touches on important themes including health and body image (on all spectrums), self-acceptance, sexuality, friendships, and familial and romantic relationships.

This book kept me up half the night because I just couldn’t put it down–I needed to know who was going to the Olympics. This book scores a perfect 10!

Everything, EverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is everything, everything. A new and better version of Nicholas Spark’s A Walk to Remember, you will cry along with Madeline Whittier as she navigates the feelings of teenage love, heartbreak, and “hysterical abdominal rhopalocera” (Maddy’s made up diagnosis for butterflies in the stomach) right from the prison of her bedroom. Born with SCID, a rare disease that causes a severely weak immune system, Maddy has grown up in a purified, detoxified house. Her only visitors are her mother, her nurse, and occasionally her tutor, who all have to go through an hour long decontamination process just to be in the same room with her. Although she isn’t thrilled with her life, she is satisfied living each day with the company of her books and the hundreds of games of Honor Pictionary and Phonetic Scrabble that she plays with her mother. That is until Oliver (Olly) Bright moves in next door. His suave moves visible from her bedroom window leave her hopelessly in love, and she begins to question if living is really worth it she never actually “lives.”

Yoon successfully captures the personalities and mannerisms of teenagers, and the worry and protectiveness that come from a mother. EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING will make you feel nervous, hopeful, happy, and empathetic. A book that really makes you feel and will stay with you after you read the emotional last words.

(view spoiler)

I highly recommend this young adult novel to all hopeless romantics, readers who love real characters, and anyone who wants a quick but meaningful story.

Paper TownsPaper Towns by John Green

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Green seems to be obsessed with mislabeled “perfect” female characters who are depressed and destructive. PAPER TOWNS, similar to all of Green’s works, is well-written and has an elevated literary element, unlike a lot of YA, but he seemed to plagiarize his own story, LOOKING FOR ALASKA. Although this novel is much better than the aforementioned, his main characters have the same personality traits as that story, and it is essentially the same plot, except for the final outcome.

I still enjoyed the story, and I see why all of his works are consistently on the NY Times Best Seller list, but I don’t know if I can be bothered to read his others if they will all follow the same pattern, following parallel characters in the same towns.

I did, however, immensely enjoy the literary analysis of Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” as it interconnected with Margo’s story. Green does have a way to make literature accessible to young minds.

All the Bright PlacesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another interesting, entertaining story, but why are all these authors suddenly centering only on teen death and depression? Yes, it’s a real issue in the world, but these books are all so similar and not offering much more than the one before. If anything, these books are normalizing and desensitizing these kids to these serious issues. It almost makes it “tragically hip” to disappear or die and have all these people mourning for you. I hope this trend stops soon because I’m getting bored, and I’d rather spend my free time on happier, or at least more thought-provoking works.

Don't Fail Me Now

Don’t Fail Me Now
by Una LaMarche

Jul 15, 15
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
bookshelves: young-adult, race-privilege
Read from July 01 to 15, 2015

ARC generously provided by Razorbill
Publication Date: September 2015
$17.99 ($20.99 CAN)
Ages 12 up / Grades 7 up
288 pages
ISBN: 978-1-59514-817-9

This is a typical YA novel that focuses on identity, family, and relationships. The plot moves, but unfortunately, I found it to often be boring and lacking innovative prose. The characters lacked depth, and I thought the author could have dug much deeper into the idea of white privilege. She told us that it existed, but didn’t let us feel the race issues rise within the story. The relationships between the siblings and the romantic relationships also weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been. In a book dealing with difficult situations and emotions, I found myself rather emotionless.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #1)Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

May 17, 15
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
historical, mystery, magical-realism, young-adult, psychological, thriller
Read from May 17 to 19, 2015

A novel so marvelously strange and perfectly peculiar. This is one of the most unique YA novels I think I’ve ever read. The incorporation of real photographs made the fantastical story feel real, and all the characters were wonderfully constructed and believable in their strangeness.

The physical book has a lovely presentation with thick, white paper and ornate design. It’s definitely a paperback that looks more like a hardback, and one I’ll display proudly on my bookshelf.

I enjoyed how Ransom Riggs left the first book open for more adventure in a sequel, yet all the questions from the beginning were successfully answered. He didn’t put the need for a sequel over the quality of the ending. The writing is evocative and beautiful, and I look forward to more of it in Hollow City.

The Walls Around UsThe Walls Around Us
by Nova Ren Suma

May 27, 15
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
young-adult, contemporary, mystery,psychological, magical-realism, paranormal, thriller
Read from May 14 to 17, 2015

Unexpected, unbelievable, and unreliable: The Walls Around Us is a novel unlike anything I’ve read before.

The story is told from the perspective of Violet, a ballerina begging to steal the spotlight from her best friend, Ori, who never has to work to be the best in the class, and from the two ballerinas who do everything possible to make Violet miserable. The other perspective is from Amber, a girl sentenced to spend her teen years at the Aurora Hills Juvenile Detention Center for Girls. As the story unfolds, Ori connects the two perspectives when she is sentenced to the detention center for the rest of her young life for the murder of those two bitchy ballerinas.

From the beginning, it’s impossible to know where this story is heading. It’s dark and convoluted and every new piece of evidence leaves you even more confused than before. The uncertainty drives you to keep reading as you try to piece together the clues, but unlike many paranormal stories, the ending strangely makes sense and is hauntingly thrilling and beautiful, like choreography of a violent and breathtaking ballet.

Nova Ren Suma did a phenomenal job tying the stories together and each section perfectly ends in a cliffhanger, forcing you forward to finish the book before you know it. The writing flows eloquently and the imagery is enchanting. Nova Ren really knows how to stick to a theme because every sentence feels like it is part of a perfect ballet performance–so graceful.

Nova Ren Suma makes a strong comment of the injustice of the justice system with this book. I can’t find the original quote, but the inmates discuss how if you are from a certain social class, race, background, etc., you will definitely be convicted. Those of privilege in this book recognize it, too. (view spoiler) This is an important issue because it resonates with everyone today, especially as protests are growing about different races being treated unfairly by cops and the justice system.

The story is hard to follow at times, so that’s why I dropped the rating slightly, but I think it deserves 4.5 stars. I’m intrigued to read other works by Nova Ren Suma. This novel’s ghost will haunt me for days.

The Duff (Designated Ugly Fat Friend)The Duff
by Kody Keplinger

May 13, 15
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
contemporary, young-adult, romance
Read from May 10 to 12, 2015

When I first started reading this book, I thought it was terrible. The writing felt forced and the characters seemed superficial and whiny. I only pushed through because I hate not finishing a book, especially one I had to buy.

After the first few chapters, however, I was addicted. The plot is driven by romance, sexual tension, and humorous characters and situations. The high school drama is realistic and it’s commendable that the author was about that age when she wrote it.

This book is a fast read, and I loved the witty banter between Bianca and Wesley. Bianca’s confusion and self-esteem issues are relatable, and I also enjoyed the irony of B’s mom being a motivational self-esteem speaker who is never around for her own daughter. That irony was quite obvious, however, and the author didn’t necessarily need to spell it out for the reader.

Even though Wesley was an a**hole and a womanizer, the reader feels sympathetic towards him and we still root for them to have a real relationship. In that aspect, the author created three dimensional characters whom I could have imagined finding at my own high school. I would love to see more of Wesley and Bianca in the future.

I Was HereI Was Here
by Gayle Forman

May 4, 15
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
young-adult, contemporary, psychological
Read from May 03 to 04, 2015

I did not expect to like this book so much! I haven’t read any Gayle Forman books before this one, but after watching the emotionless travesty that was the If I Stay movie, I assumed the book couldn’t have been much better and I dismissed the thought of reading it. So when I was handed I Was Here, I didn’t have high hopes. After the first few pages though, I was hooked.

I read this novel in a matter of hours, gobbling the story and anxious to discover the truth behind Meg’s death. It’s well-written and an almost philosophical read as it makes you contemplate life, death, and relationships.

Like other reviewers, I was a bit put off at first by the romance between Ben and Cody because of how it originated, but by the end, it didn’t bother me anymore. I think Forman paced it well so that after the initial shock of it, it wasn’t an appalling idea, and I actually wanted them to work things out.

Overall, a great read, and I’m looking forward to reading other novels by Forman.

The Remedy (The Program, #0.5)The Remedy
by Suzanne Young

March 29, 15
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
bookshelves: dystopian, young-adult, favoritesprequel
Read from March 24 to 29, 2015

ARC generously provided by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing 
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
$17.99 ($20.99 CAN)
Young Adult
416 pages
ISBN: 978-1-48143-765-3

UPDATE: There will be a sequel (THE EPIDEMIC) due to publish Spring 2016!

Quinlan McKee has been living multiple lives since she was a young girl. With the help of wigs, make-up, and her own mimicry skills, she works as a closer and helps grieving families have the chance to properly say goodbye to their child by pretending to be them. She reads the deceased’s diary entries, watches videos of them, explores the secrets of their room, learns to talk like them, act like them, and essentially, live their lives for a few days. Being a closer is a taxing job, so to prevent the closer from taking grief into their own lives, rules are put into place to limit the length and amount of assignments in a given time. This all changes when Quinn’s father insists she takes on a new assignment less than 24 hours after she’s returned from one. The case of Catalina Barnes is completely different than any she has ever done before. The cause of death is “undetermined”, the assignment is two weeks long, and not only will Catalina’s family be involved in the therapy, but her boyfriend, Isaac, will be, too. Afraid of messing up and hurting the family more than they already are, Quinn dives into this role more than she ever has.

The Remedy follows Quinn as she starts to lose herself, imagining she could really be Catalina Barnes–wishing she really could live Catalina’s seemingly perfect life. Her father, her adviser, and even her friends seem to be hiding secrets from her as Quinn tries to uncover why this case is so special and how Catalina really died. Romance unfurls between Quinn and ex-closer, Deacon, but she also connects with Isaac, who is delusional in the belief that Quinn is really Catalina.

Young succeeded in writing a page-turner that has you saying “well, maybe just one more chapter…okay one more” until you finish the whole novel. Although The Remedy is set in the world right before The Program and The Treatment, you don’t have to read those books to read this one. In fact, if you haven’t read that duology just yet, I would recommend starting with this book, as some answers lay in the latter books and will prevent some twists in The Remedy from being surprising. Although, I enjoyed The Program and The Treatment, I actually enjoyed The Remedy the most. Quinn is a real, relatable character, and the reader is rooting for her and is just as confused about the right thing to do as she is. The twists will leave you in shock and reading faster than you imagined possible in order to find the answers.

After devouring The Remedy, I’m desperate for more. I hope Young decides to write another novel after this one because there were a few loose ends that still haven’t been tied-up. Actually, it’s more like a cliffhanger, and I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember if any of these questions were answered in The Program or The Treatment, but I don’t believe they all were. Overall, a wonderful read that will have you crying, laughing, and gripping the book will such intensity that you may leave imprints. Five glowing stars!

Looking for AlaskaLooking for Alaska
by John Green

March 22, 2015
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
contemporary, young-adult
Read from March 13 to 21, 2015

John Green’s Looking for Alaska started out strong and continued to be enticing through the first half of the book. Alaska was my favorite character and had so much personality. Her interactions with all of the characters were believable and allowed the reader to see multiple sides of Alaska. The reader was obsessed with this character, so it made perfect sense that all of the book characters were obsessed with her, too. Since she was the focal point of the story, even though it’s Pudge’s story, her physical disappearance from the novel hurt the book. The book no longer had the same novelty it did in the first half.

I could appreciate Green’s ties to religion and the focal question of “How do we get out of the labyrinth of suffering?” The themes were well thought out and offered great lessons which made the reader think deeply about their own lives and beliefs. To me, however, focusing on these questions in the second half of the book seemed to be a way to keep the story going, even though it had finished over a hundred pages earlier. The two halves were almost like separate stories. It changed from an upbeat contemporary YA fiction to a self-help book the moment everything changed (view spoiler).

I enjoy John Green’s style and his ability to get a visceral reaction from his readers, but this wasn’t his best work. I still enjoyed it, and if you like books that make you feel and think philosophically, then I would give the book a chance.

Falling into PlaceFalling into Place
by Amy Zhang

Feb 10, 15
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
bookshelves: young-adult
Read from February 01 to 10, 2015

A book that leaves you thinking long after the binding cracks closed.

Superficial appearances are not what they seem, and the most popular, athletic girl may actually be the one most likely to fall in an attempt to fly. Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction, and bullying others finally pushes Liz under.

Amy Zhang is a literary writer and captures the high school scene with ease and truth. Her first book is more than a success; it brings issues to the forefront and will hopefully help others deal with similar problems before it’s too late. Her writing made me think deeply about my own life–how I treat others and why impatience and intolerance is more prominent in relationships than love and acceptance.

A necessary read for all teens and adults, and although it’s emotional and thought provoking, it’s humorous and entertaining and a book that won’t stay unopened on a bookshelf for long.

The Treatment (The Program, #2)The Treatment
by Suzanne Young

Jan 8, 15
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
bookshelves: dystopian, young-adult
Read in January, 2015

The Treatment was intriguing and a great concept, however, it was a bit of a disappointment after reading The Program. I continued to love the relationship between Sloane and James, but the plot wasn’t as exciting as the first book’s plot. It was a lot of the characters just sitting around and talking about what was being done, but nothing was really shown. It wasn’t clear at all how the rebels were actually being rebellious. Sloane and James kept saying they were going to run away, but they never did.

The ending was also disappointing. (view spoiler)

I finished the book quickly and I did enjoy the character relationships and the dialogue, as I did in the first book, but this one was greatly lacking in the plot. Since I liked the first book so much, and I was never bored while reading The Treatment, I gave it three stars.

The Program (The Program, #1)The Program
by Suzanne Young

Jan 2, 15
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
bookshelves: young-adult, dystopian
Read from December 30, 2014 to January 01, 2015

The world is struggling with a teen suicide epidemic, and several towns and cities have adopted “The Program” to save lives and prevent teens from terminating themselves. Parents are thrilled with the reported success of The Program, but students are terrified of being flagged and forced to endure it for at least six weeks.

Sloane Barstow and her boyfriend James Murphy do whatever they can to hide their depression. They try not to show emotion in front of anybody, especially not at school or in front of their families. The pressure of escaping The Program and the handlers is so severe, it makes them wonder if suicide rates are increasing simply to avoid being put into The Program because that would be a fate worse than death. The teens who leave The Program are new people. They are smiling and laughing and have new hair and clothing despite all of the difficulties in their past–because they don’t remember anything before The Program. Their memories have been completely wiped.

Suzanne Young creates a disturbing, believable view of the future. The character development is well-done, especially through the dialogue. Many YA novels struggle to give each character a different voice, but there is no question that Young succeeded in doing just that. There is emotion and struggle that the reader can really feel. I felt myself smiling and laughing along with Sloane when the love story was unfolding, and I teared up when she did as she struggled with the emotions of losing her brother, her best friends, and losing her strength and hope of survival.

I was always on the edge of my seat waiting for what would happen next. Young makes you question everything and analyze whom you can really trust. Every page is another clue as to what is really happening in The Program and trying to figure out if they really think they are doing good for the community, or if it’s all part of a bigger plan.

One of the few issues I had with “The Program” was that the book was not well-edited. Every few chapters I would find a typo or odd sentence structure. I’ve never seen so many typos in a published novel. However, I’m hoping the editors were more careful in the sequel, “The Treatment,” which I’m excited and eager to read. I’ve just finished “The Program,” and I’m going to Barnes & Noble right now to get the sequel (if only there was an independent bookstore near me). I can’t wait to find out what is really happening in this dystopian society.

Reality BoyReality Boy
by A.S. King

Dec 27, 14
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
bookshelves: young-adult, favorites
Read from December 24 to 27, 2014

This is the first book I’ve read by A.S. King and I loved it and her writing style. The characters are well-developed and multidimensional, and it’s easy to empathize with the protagonist, Gerald Faust (aka the Crapper).

At five years old, Gerald’s life was exploited by a reality TV show called The Nanny Network, which sort of parallels the reality show Nanny 911. His life was manipulated and molded for entertainment as he tried to cope with his dysfunctional family–a mother who insisted that he was “retarded,” one sister who tried to kill him on a daily basis, another sister who abandoned him when he needed her most, and a dad who may as well have been nonexistent. Searching for attention and to get back at his psychopathic sister, he crapped everywhere in the house, and none of the viewers knew the real story except that he was troubled.

Switching between past and present tense, we get a full view of Gerald’s life–how this show affected him now as a high schooler and the abuse he encountered as a child. The first person tense really makes this book feel like a memoir and you never question the validity of anything Gerald says.

The romance is sweet and essential to the story as it helps Gerald realize that he isn’t the only one in the universe with an upsetting past, and without her, Gerald would be stuck as the “Crapper” forever.

A great coming of age story. It’s inspirational and deserves every award it has received.

Between the LinesBetween the Lines
by Jodi Picoult

Nov 8, 2014
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
bookshelves: young-adult
Read from November 06 to 08, 2014

Between the Lines is such a fun, light-hearted and feel good story. Many people have given this book poor reviews, but I think it’s simply because the story wasn’t intended for them. Since I actually read the synopsis of this book beforeI read it, I knew this was a YA novel written by Jodi Picoult and her daughter. I don’t just read a book because an author I like has their name on it, which seems to be the case for many reviewers. I love many of Picoult’s stories, but I knew this would be completely different. However, it wasn’t a bad different at all.

This book seems to be for a younger YA, maybe even late MG age bracket, although the characters are 15-16. I definitely think it will appease readers, most likely females, ages 12-16. Although, I’m in my 20s and loved it. I read the whole story in two days and I was completely enraptured. I thought the idea was ingeniously creative and well-executed. The reader gets the perspectives of Oliver–the Prince stuck in the fairy tale–and Delilah–the protagonist from the “real” world. The authors also include the actual fairy tale story, which I thought was a great touch. It flowed nicely, and it never seemed to drag.

When reading fairy tales, it’s okay if they seem unrealistic–that’s what makes it a fantasy story to begin with. For a high school student, the writing was eloquent, and had several funny quotes. I chuckled out loud quite a few times. I am in awe of Miss van Leer because she wrote and published a story similar to what I always imagined I’d want to write, at such a young age, too. I hope she keeps writing because I’d love to read her next book, hopefully done on her own.

I’d. recommend this story to anyone who loves fairy tales, romance, and light-hearted stories. It was nice to not be crying during one of Jodi Picoult’s books because, as the story says, everyone deserves a happy ending!

The Vault of Dreamers (The Vault of Dreamers, #1)The Vault of Dreamers
by Caragh M. O’Brien

Sep 30, 14
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
bookshelves: young-adult, sci-fi, dystopian
Read in September, 2014

It’s refreshing to see a YA novel with elegant prose that still captures the voices of the young characters. Normally, I’m not a big fan of sci-fi, but the book’s premise seemed fascinating, and I have enjoyed the recent rise in dystopian novels, so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

This novel had my heart beat rising and falling with the action, and my fingers were twitching to turn the pages. Mystery, romance, sci-fi, and action filled the pages, and I loved the mix of the genres. I especially enjoyed main character, Rosie’s, love interest, Linus. Their scenes were so sweet, and I was always rooting for them to succeed.

The concept was fascinating, and I didn’t expect all of the twists and turns throughout the novel. There were moments my jaw actually dropped with shock. The only thing I’m unsure of is the ending. I’m slightly confused about what really happened, and there are many unanswered questions, but I’m hoping the sequel will redeem it. It seemed a bit rushed at the end, but I’m willing to give the rest of the series a chance since the rest of the novel was brilliant. I’m anxious to find out what happens next (and what’s happening now!)

Four: A Divergent Story Collection (Divergent, #0.1 - 0.4)Four: A Divergent Story Collection
by Veronica Roth

Aug 31, 14
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
bookshelves: young-adult, dystopian, series, prequel
Read in August, 2014

Just like the other three novels in the Divergent series, it is captivating and a quick read. I enjoyed getting Tobias’ perspective, especially when it came to the courtship between him and Tris. We also get more background on Evelyn which I think is important.

However, the book ended rather abruptly. Although we know what happens in the next books, it felt more like the end of a chapter as opposed to the end of a book. I don’t enjoy when series end on a cliffhanger. I think there needs to be at least some closer, and I don’t believe there was. Also, although it is a prequel, you have to read the main series before you attempt this book. Otherwise, especially when Tris enters the book, nothing will make sense. The prequel also has spoilers that will downplay important moments in Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant.

It’s easy and entertaining, so if you have the time, read it. I wouldn’t spend the retail price of $17.99 on it though. Borrow it from a friend, the library, buy it used, or get the eBook if it’s less expensive.

WWW: Wake (WWW, #1)WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not impressed. This book has an interesting plot and I enjoyed learning and discovering the world in a new light through Caitlin’s fresh point of view; however, it wasn’t captivating.

I listened to this book on Audible and the voice actors added a lot to this otherwise mediocre book. For instance, many people have commented that Caitlin’s LiveJournal wasn’t realistic, but the reader’s whiney, teenage voice made it seem realistic to me. I think listening to the book also aided the listener to understand, at least slightly, what it was like for Caitlin to only be able to listen for most of her life. The voice actor did a great job mimicking the computer/Jaws, and I also enjoyed getting the live recording of the astronauts’ speeches from 1968.

In general though, I often lost interest mid-chapter. I found myself tuning out the book when the “phantom” would drone on about its attempted connection with “the other.”

I quite enjoyed Hobo’s story, but that ended abruptly without any closure. I also wasn’t sure how that story, and especially the story about the fever outbreak in China, was relevant to Caitlin’s story. The author seems to have multiple book plots jammed into this one volume, and none of them are fully developed.

The author seems to have a lot of great ideas, but they weren’t executed well. This was one of the first books I’ve read in the sci-fi genre, and to be honest, it turned me off from wanting to read anything sci-fi. I’m not interested in reading the rest of the series, and I’m just glad that I received the Audible book for free so I didn’t waste any money on this undeveloped mess.

View all my reviews

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