Showing posts with label Young Adult Literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Young Adult Literature. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review: The Raven King

"He was a book, and he was holding his final pages, and he wanted to get to the end to find out how it went, and he didn't want it to be over." 
-Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven King

In the last book in the Raven Cycle, Blue and the Raven Boys are getting closer and closer to finding Glendower as a darkness starts to takeover Cabeswater. Their interference with the ley line has expanded to the town of Henrietta, and each is as desperate as the other to save the life of Gansey, Blue's true love and in mortal danger. By the end of the series, so many different stories are intertwined that it's difficult to tell who's the real hero of the story.

Oh my goodness. Where to even begin with this series? This past month has been my foray back into Maggie Stiefvater's work, and I forgot how absolutely lyrical her writing is. She's often given the title "Master Storyteller" and for good reason. Every single one of her books is woven so smoothly together, giving the reader all of the right pieces at the right time, inserting a magical quality that's entirely believable. If you haven't read any of her work, I highly recommend it.

One thing I specifically like about this final book in the series was the way that you could see the development in the characters. Blue, Gansey, Ronan, and Adam all bear marks of their journey toward finding Glendower, and by the end, they're all trying their best to save Gansey. Always Gansey. Ronan was probably my most favorite character (check out my playlist for him!), just because he put up such a hard shell, but you knew he would do anything for the people that he loved. Absolutely anything. The well-developed characters help to flesh out the emotions that emanate from the book, the emotions that draw you into the story and won't let you go until it's over.

The structure of the plot will have you on the edge of your seat until the very last breath of this story. Stiefvater expertly shifts between characters throughout the text, showing how the darkness seeps into each aspect of the story. Stiefvater's plot is poetic and original, living through the complex characters she creates. Overall, a fantastic ending to a well-crafted series.

5/5 stars 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Review: Nemesis

"The world might be about to end, but what did I care? My world ended all the time." 
-Brendan Reichs, Nemesis

Since she was eight-years-old, Min has been murdered on all of her even birthdays, just to wake up again in a forest clearing completely unharmed. No matter what she does to stop it, the black suited man comes to murder her without fail. Noah has also struggled with nightmares of death and destruction, until a shocking discovery turns his world upside down. Everyone he trusted has been lying to him. As the Anvil, a giant asteroid threatening Earth, looms closer, Min and Noah realize everything is more connected than they could possibly imagine. Min vows to figure out the conspiracy at the center of their town before it costs more people their lives.

I'll start with this: the premise of this book is fascinating, the first third to a half of the book easily pulls you into the world of Min, Noah, and Fire Lake, Idaho. You're in the dark, much like Min is, and you desperately want to figure out why she has to go through these gruesome murders. Events are unfolded at just the right pace to get you interested in the conspiracy at the center of the town, and whether or not the world is actually going to end. 

Once I got to about the halfway point, the book started to get a bit repetitive for me. Min and Noah just kept asking why, without getting any real answers until the very last 50 or so pages. While Reichs keeps up the action between the middle and the end, peppered with a few twists that will keep you hooked in the story of Min and Noah (and Tack), I eventually just wanted to know what was happening. And by the end, I still didn't have any clear answers, meaning that I'll have to pick up the second book when it comes out in March. Maybe I should have just waited until they were both out to read them!

The other thing that bothered me about the plot of the novel was that it wasn't quite believable to me. Most dystopian texts that I read seem to based in reality, expanding on a social flaw or societal fear. This one seemed a bit far-fetched. In turn, this made the plot seem a little disjointed by the end. I was left a little disappointed, but there's hope that this can be changed with the sequel.

Overall, if you're looking for a fast paced book with a lot of twists and turns, the action in Nemesis doesn't disappoint. Brendan Reichs has left enough intrigue to make me want to pick up the sequel when it comes out in March.

3/5 stars

Friday, December 8, 2017

Review: They Both Die at the End

"No matter how we choose to live, we both die at the end."
-Adam Silvera, They Both Die at the End

Both Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio receive a call from Death-Cast that tells them they're going to die today. They both download the Last Friend app, desperate for a friend on their last day. Together, they're able to conquer their fears and pack a bunch of new adventures into their last day on Earth.

Death was a theme in the books I read this summer, apparently. Adam Silvera is currently the king of writing emotionally devastating books, because every single book he's written makes you feel. He has a way of writing this book that gives you hope that maybe Mateo and Rufus will find a way to defy the Death-Cast call even though you know that that's probably not the case. This is an Adam Silvera book, after all. You often end the book with a lot of different emotions.

The characters in this book are so relatable and well-developed, with characteristics that I think many teens will be drawn to. What's interesting about this book, and connected it to More Happy Than Not, was that we get no explanation as to how we get this technology that predicts death, it's just there. And while that might be frustrating and confusing to some people, I think Silvera's writing allows us to just accept that there's this new technology, and new vocabulary, which allows us to focus on the characters and the story.

Adam Silvera's books are so emotionally driven, and I'll definitely keep reading everything that he puts out. None of his books have disappointed me so far, and I hope that continues to be the case in the future. A beautifully written story about living life to the fullest.

5/5 stars

Review: Scythe

"Hope in the shadow of fear is the world's most powerful motivator." 
-Neal Shusterman, Scythe

Humanity has cured every illness--including death. In order to continue to control the population, scythes are the only ones who can bring about death. The wield the most power in this new society, mimicking the nature of death in the best way they can. Rowan and Citra have been chosen to apprentice a scythe, a role that neither of them actually wanted. The apprenticeship quickly turns into a deadly competition, with both of their lives on the line.

The premise of this book was absolutely fascinating, and Shusterman did not disappoint with the plot. The plot took a different turn than I was expecting, and the detail that was put into the entire scythe community was fantastic. Shusterman did everything possible to mimic natural death with the introduction of scythes, and shows very different perspectives on the position: ones that do it for the power, and ones that do it because no one else will.

The multiple perspectives also help in the building of this post-modern world. There's an interesting moral question that sets itself in center of the novel that builds throughout the text, presenting itself differently in each of the scythes that narrates the story. Both Rowan and Citra find themselves thrown into this complex community, navigating it the best they can.

The romance aspect of the story wasn't completely necessary, as the story would have still functioned just as well without it. I was addicted to the story right from the beginning, reading almost the entire book in one sitting. As a fan of young adult dystopia, this book was new and refreshing and I can't want to read the next book in the series. I think more of the "bad" will be expanded on as the corruption within the scythe society is slowly reveal. Definitely a series to keep your eye on!

4.5/5 stars

Review: Our Dark Duet

"I'm willing to walk in the darkness if it keeps the humans in the light." 
-Victoria Schwab, Our Dark Duet

The monsters have taken over Verity. Kate hasn't stopped fighting them--August has finally decided to become one of them. In order to win the fight against the monsters, Kate has to return to Verity once more. To fight the new monster, the monster that feeds on fear and chaos, both Kate and August have to forget the past and create an alliance. But will it be enough to pull Verity into the light?

Schwab doesn't disappoint in this second book of the Monsters of Verity duology. She somehow makes the tone darker and grittier in this book than the first book, with both Kate and August battling demons that threaten to overtake them. The world of Verity is dark and menacing, and crafted beautifully.

One of the things that I absolutely loved about this series was that while there was definitely chemistry between Kate and August, it never evolved into a full-fledged relationship. It was mostly left to the reader's imagination, leaving Kate and August to fight the darkness of Verity together. Because the vast majority of young adult texts feature a romantic relationship of some sort, the lack of one in this story is a breath of fresh air. Not to mention each of their characters are beautifully constructed.

Overall, I'm glad that I received the first book, This Savage Song, in an Uppercase box. Schwab is not afraid to play with the emotions of her readers, gorgeously crafting a dark, twisty world, underscored by the light of hope. The plot is fast-paced, accented with new, unique monsters that haunt the night. If you're looking for a book that doesn't back down, this one is definitely for you.

5/5 stars

Friday, December 1, 2017

Review: One of Us Is Lying

"Some people are too toxic to live. They just are."
-Karen M. McManus, One of Us Is Lying

Five unlikely students go into detention: Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, Cooper, and Simon. Simon, the creator of the school's most popular gossip app, doesn't make it out alive. Word on the street is that the day after he died, he was going to post juicy secrets about each of his four fellow classmates in detention, secrets that would shatter each of their reputations. Their secrets make them suspects in his murder. Or are they being framed? As police dig more into Simon's death, one thing's for sure: who would go the furthest to protect their secret?

I listened to this book on audio, and I actually really enjoyed it in that format. There were four different speakers for each of the narrators, making it easy to tell who's story you were on. Listening to it on audio also helped to build the suspense--who really did it?

The suspense was built really well with the plot, intertwined with plot twists and red herrings that drew your attention away from who the real killer was. At the surface, the characters seem to be just portrayals of typical high school stereotypes: the nerd (Bronwyn), the popular girl (Addy), the bad boy (Nate), the jock (Cooper), and the outcast (Simon). But as we learn the secrets each character is hiding, we learn there's more to their story than meets the eye. McManus artfully reveals each of her characters while the suspense is unfolding.

McManus's book is a bit like a modern day Breakfast Club with a murder mystery thrown in. If you're a fan of the show Riverdale and are looking for a twisty, high school mystery, this is definitely the book for you.

4/5 stars

Friday, October 13, 2017

Review: The Forgetting

The Forgetting Cover
"The past is never really gone. It only lies in wait for you, remembered or forgotten."
-Sharon Cameron, The Forgetting

The Forgetting occurs every twelve years in Canaan, when everyone forgets friends, family, and memories--unless they're written down. Everyone, that is, except Nadia. As Nadia starts to use her memories in order to solve the mysteries at the heart of Canaan, she discovers truths that will alter the structure of Canaan forever. As the Forgetting looms nearer, Nadia and Gray must figure out how to stop the threats at work in the heart of the city, before everyone forgets.

The core idea behind this novel was so fascinating to me. It explores a lot about the importance and truth behind the written word and people's ability to manipulate the truth. At first, it seems like your typical dystopian novel; some event has happened and thrown everyone back into the Middle Ages, they're sheltered from the rest of the world, and hidden behind a wall everyone is afraid to cross. However, when you throw in the Forgetting, everything becomes more interesting--no one knows how long they've been there or how long this cycle has been happening.

While the writing wasn't necessarily the best I've read (it was a little repetitive at times), the characters and the plot kept me going throughout the book, and the need to understand what the Forgetting actually was. The ending was complex, filled with twists that kept me turning the pages until I finally reached the very end. Like any good first book of a series, there's a cliff hanger that's sure to keep you hooked for the next book (which just came out this week!).

Overall, an engaging read certain to make you think about the way the truth can be warped.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Review: Things I Should Have Known

"It's like people have a place in their brain for normal, and they have a place in their brain for something obviously wrong, but they can't deal with something just a little bit different. And that makes them uncomfortable. And when people are uncomfortable, they act like jerks."
-Claire LaZebnik, Things I Should Have Known

Chloe knew that her sister was lonely, and the only way to cure her loneliness was to help her make some friends--maybe even set her up on a date. So, she tries to play matchmaker, setting up Ivy (who is on the autism spectrum) with another boy from her special needs class, Ethan. However, Ivy and Ethan refuse to go out on their own, forcing Chloe to interact with Ethan's brother, David. The four quickly form a bond, making Chloe rethink her own romantic choices and realize it's okay not to follow everyone else's expectations.

Portrayals of autistic characters in YA literature is pretty non-existent--in fact, besides this book, I can't think of a book that has an autistic character off the top of my head. The fact that this book exists does inspire hope for the future, though, and YA fiction is slowly starting to become more inclusive. But that doesn't mean that it still doesn't have a long way to go. 

LaZebnik's creates really realistic characters in her novel, and while it would be even more progressive to have the book narrated by the autistic character, she shows the lengths siblings will go to in order to make their own sisters or brothers feel safe. The character that most intrigued me was David, who had two totally different sides depending on the people he was dealing with. He felt incredibly real to me, and once we learn his backstory, 

There's also a twist in the story that adds even more diversity (one of the characters ends up being gay), and is done in a realistic way. Though stories that deal with this many challenges might become bogged down by the negative aspects of the situation, this story still remains funny, endearing, and hopeful, making it even more true to life. This book definitely deserves more hype than it originally got--and I hope more people are able to discover it.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: We Are Still Tornadoes

We Are Still Tornadoes Cover

"If you can't forgive someone you're close to for making a mistake, then why do apologies even exist?" -Michael Kun and Susan Mullen, We Are Still Tornadoes

As Cath gets ready to leave for college, she promises to stay in touch with her best friend, Scott, as she starts her new adventure. Meanwhile, Scott is trying to get his band off the ground while he stays home and works at his dad's store. Neither of them realize how difficult their first year outside of high school is going to be.

Through their letters, the two are able to support each other through annoying roommates, dumb family drama, and broken hearts; not to mention they have to figure out what they want to do for the rest of their lives. As something more slowly grows between the two friends, are they sure that it's something they want to pursue?

I read this book a few months ago, finishing most of it on the train ride back to Chicago from Michigan. The letter format really helps to bring the characters to life, through their writing quirks, letter lengths, and gaps in writing. Some of the references they use throughout, especially music, help to place the reader more squarely in the time period (the 1980s).

The romance aspect of the book is slightly predictable, but that doesn't take away from the entertainment quality of the book itself. Readers who are fans of romance, especially young adult romance, will find this book endearing. Fans of writers like Sarah Dessen will definitely enjoy Kun and Mullen's writing.

3.5/5 stars

Friday, August 4, 2017

My Anticipated YA August Releases

It seems like 2017 has been killing it so far in the young adult department, with releases like The Hate U Give, History is All You Left Me, and Goodbye Days, and by the looks of it, it's just going to keep getting better. Not only do we have a new John Green novel coming this October (woo!), we'll also get new books by Kristin Cashore and Adam Silvera.

While there's a lot to look forward to this fall, there are also a lot of books coming out this August that should definitely be on your TBR list before school starts back up in September. Here are 5 of my most anticipated books for the month of August.

1. A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor

Sisters Emma and Henri had always been best friends--until an accident strands them on a desert island, with a companion (Alex) who has just as many secrets as they do. As Emma and Alex spark a relationship, Henri and Emma's relationship falls apart. 

I remember getting this book while cataloging books at Booklist, and I'm super excited to get to read it!



2. This Is Not the End by Chandler Baker

Lake Devereaux lost the two people she loved most in a car crash--her best friend and her boyfriend. However, new technology has granted people one resurrection to be used or given up by their 18th birthday. Lake has to make an impossible choice, one complicated by the fact that she already promised her resurrection to someone who isn't even dead yet.

This book also came in while I was interning at Booklist, and the premise sounds so intriguing.


3. Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Olive and her best friend Rose suddenly begin to lose things one night. It begins with small items, but it quickly becomes apparent that Rose has lost something bigger, something she doesn't want to talk about. After discovering an ancient spellbook that will help to bring back lost things, they think that this can set things right. But it might also bring out secrets that would have been best left alone.

Moira Fowley-Doyle also wrote The Accident Season, which I absolutely loved. This one sounds just as creepy and magic infused.

4. All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

In the future, once you turn 15, you must pay for everything you say. Even every gesture, every scream, costs money. And falling into debt has dire consequences. Instead of adding to her family's debt, Speth decides to take an oath of silence at her 15th birthday; one that sends the world into a frenzy. 

If you know me, you know I'm all about dystopias, and this one sounds different and awesome. I hope it lives up to its unique premise!

5. The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

After a car crash, Olivia wakes up in a hospital bed thinking she just lost her memory of the past few weeks. But as she begins to recover, she quickly realizes she's lost years of memories, making it difficult to navigate as her friends and family try to fill in the gaps. The only person that seems to help is Walker--but as she grows closer to him, tensions grow between her friends and her family.

Memory loss tends to be a popular topic in young adult lit, but this one sounds promising! 

I hope to get my hands on these sometime in August, but at least sometime in the future. What August releases are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: History Is All You Left Me

History Is All You Left Me Cover
"History is nothing. It can be recycled or thrown away completely. It isn't this sacred treasure chest I mistook it to be. We were something, but history isn't enough to keep something alive forever."
-Adam Silvera, History Is All You Left Me

Griffin doesn't know how to cope with his best friend and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dying in a tragic drowning accident. Though Griffin hasn't seen much of Theo since he moved to California for school and started dating Jackson, he believed that they would one day find their way back to each other. Now, that future has gone far off course and Griffin is quickly falling into a downward spiral. His obsessions are getting worse and he is lashing out at people that truly care. In order for Griffin to finally move passed Theo's death, he must confront their history and everything that's tearing him apart.

Adam Silvera has done it again. Though I didn't review it (apparently), More Happy Than Not was heartbreaking and beautiful and this book was no different. Silvera has a gift in writing raw teenage emotion, fully encompassing pain so well that it makes your heart hurt. The story feels effortless, and Silvera has created characters in Griffin, Theo, Jackson, and Wade that drive it forward, drawing you in deeper and deeper as you go. 

The complexity of the characters and the reality of their stories is what makes this novel, I think. Though none of the characters were particularly likable, with Wade as a possible exception, you still become invested in their stories and want them to turn out okay in the end. This is what makes them the most realistic, adding to the realism of the story as a whole.

All in all, this novel is absolutely heartbreaking, much like Silvera's other work as well. A bonus was the portrayal of OCD in the novel, which felt real to me and was something that Griffin always had to deal with. He couldn't just turn it on and off when he wanted, like is portrayed in some young adult literature. History Is All You Left Me feels real, which is essential for young adult literature.

P.S. What is with the theme of friends dying in young adult lit lately? I feel like I've read quite a few books like that recently, more so than usual. 

5/5 stars

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review: Goodbye Days

Goodbye Days Cover

"For the most part, you don't hold the people you love in your heart because they rescued you from drowning or pulled you from a burning house. Mostly you hold them in your heart because they save you, in a million quiet and perfect ways, from being alone."
-Goodbye Days, Jeff Zentner

Carver Briggs believes that he is the cause of the death of his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. He was the one who sent Mars the text that he was responding to when they got into a car accident, after all. And now Mars' father, a judge, is trying to pursue a criminal investigation against him. 

Through it all, Carver does have some allies: his sister, Eli's girlfriend, and even Blake's grandma, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her, honoring Blake's memory. Soon, the other families are asking to do the same, all in the hope of finding some peace within the tragedy of loss.

This is Jeff Zentner's second novel, and I am yet again blown away by his ability to write emotions. The Serpent King (which I read last fall, but apparently didn't write a review for) slowly sunk its claws into you and grabbed hold, one of those books where you keep thinking about it for days after. Goodbye Days was no different. You start in the middle of Carver's tragedy, attending the last of the three funerals for his best friends, and are taken along with Carver as he experiences his grief throughout the novel.

Zentner's writing also realistically encapsulates anxiety and mental illness, especially with his descriptions of panic attacks. The way he introduces Carver to therapy is also a positive experience: Carver is hesitant at first, not believing that therapy will help. As they continue sessions, Carver realizes how helpful therapy can be, perhaps helping readers who might also be hesitant to see how helpful it can be as well.

Overall, I know that anytime Zentner publishes anything new, I will read it ASAP. He's definitely one to watch.

5/5 stars

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review: The Sun Is Also a Star

The Sun is Also a Star Cover
"We're kindling amid lightning strikes, a lit match and dry wood, fire danger signs and a forest waiting to be burned."
-Nicola Yoon, The Sun Is Also a Star

Natasha is a scientist. She has always believed in facts and figures, not in fate and destiny. And definitely not in love. Especially when her family is about to be deported to Jamaica. Daniel is a poet and a dreamer, though he puts aside his desires in order to be the good son, the son that his parents are proud of. But all of that changes when he meets Natasha. The two meet one fateful day in New York City--will the universe allow them to be together?

I've never really been one to believe in fate, in destiny, in love at first sight. To me, it's always been something that exists in books, that people read about in order to escape the harshness of reality. But this book made me want to believe in the power of fate and destiny. Nicola Yoon has crafted an exquisitely beautiful story about human nature, about why things happen the way that they do. I found myself completely lost in the story, desperate to know whether Natasha and Daniel make it.

Yoon also uses the point of view of other characters that Natasha and Daniel interact with in order to give us a more complete version of the story. Not only do we get depth in the two main characters, but we get depth in the background characters, showing that humanity is more intertwined than we might originally think.

Not only does Yoon craft a romantic love story, she also addresses issues like race, immigration, and family expectations. It delves deeper than the romance, and that's part of what made me love it so much.

A beautifully romantic exploration of fate and destiny.

5/5 stars

Saturday, April 15, 2017

50 Best YA Books

As some (or most) of you may know, I am interning at Booklist in Chicago until the the end of May. In trying not to think about what's going to happen when that internship is over, I've been back at the blogging, trying to up my content on other social media sites and create more posts on here that aren't just book reviews. At Booklist currently, we are creating things that celebrate 50 years of young adult literature, as it has been 50 years since The Outsiders was published.

Booklist has created their own list of the 50 Best YA Books of All Time, including one on their Twitter everyday (you can follow them @BooklistYA). While I didn't help create the list, I've been doing little tasks throughout the course of my internship in order to help with the publication of the list. In doing so, I couldn't help but think that there were books that I would have included on the list that weren't there--so, I'm creating my own list! It, perhaps, will be skewed more to my own tastes as a reader, but many of these are books that I could read again and again. 

Here are, what I think, are 50 of the best young adult books to have been published, in no particular order. Because, let's face it, it's difficult to rank what books are your absolute favorite.

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (1997)*
2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008)
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)
4. The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)*
5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005)
6. Looking for Alaska by John Green (2005)
7. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
8. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967)
9. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (1995)
10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951)*
11. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)*
12. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (1974)
13. Feed by M.T. Anderson (2002)
14. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1999)
15. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2011)
16. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson) by Rick Riordan (2005)
17. Every Day by David Levithan (2012)
18. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (2011)
19. Going Bovine by Libba Bray (2009)
20. Blankets by Craig Thompson (2003)
21. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (2006)
22. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (2016)
23. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)
24. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (2007)*
25. Deadline by Chris Crutcher (2007)
26. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (2007)
27. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2008)
28. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin (1968)
29. Forever by Judy Blume (1975)
30. It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (2006)
31. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (2002)
32. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005)
33. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (2012)
34. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2014)
35. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (2016)
36. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (2010)
37. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2016)
38. Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (2016)
39. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012)
40. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
41. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (2014)
42. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (2015)
43. Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King (2011)
44. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)*
45. Postcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers (1999)
46. Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger (2007)
47. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (2011)
48. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2008)*
49. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (1987)
50. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (2000)

*These are not traditionally classified as YA, but are often read by young adults. 

There's a pretty decent mix of older and newer books in here, but there's definitely been a surge of really good YA books published recently. We are in the second golden age of young adult literature, after all. What would you include in your top 50 YA books?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Review: At the Edge of the Universe

At the Edge of the Universe Cover

"You can choose to be happy with what life gives you...or spend your life miserable. I choose happiness. It’s really that simple."
-Shaun David Hutchinson, At the Edge of the Universe

Tommy and Ozzie have been basically inseparable since elementary school, always dreaming about their escape from their small town in Florida. Suddenly--Tommy disappears, and is erased from everyone's memories. Everyone's except Ozzie, that is.

When Ozzie is paired with Calvin for a science project, he thinks Calvin might know more about Tommy's disappearance than he's letting on. As the two begin to spend more time together, Ozzie can't deny that he's developing feelings for Calvin, even though he's adamant about still loving Tommy.  And since the universe is shrinking, Ozzie is running out of time to figure out what exactly what happened to Tommy--and where he wants to go with Calvin.

Ever since I read We Are the Ants, Shaun David Hutchinson has been on my radar. Though these are the only two books that I've read by him, he has a knack for creating rounded characters that completely immerse the reader in the story. Hutchinson does the same thing in At the Edge of the Universe. They're unique and diverse, and I became intimately involved in their lives.

Told from the point of view of Ozzie, readers are just as perplexed at things that keep disappearing as Ozzie is; things like the moon, stars, other parts of the United States. While I thought this was an interesting and unique way to tell the story, but the end of the book I felt slightly frustrated. I am one that enjoys open-ended books, but it felt like this one didn't have much resolution. Though I think this was intentional, as we're supposed to wonder what was real and what wasn't (much like We Are the Ants), I didn't think it was as well executed as his previous book. I was left wanting more resolution at the end of the novel.

Despite this flaw, the diversity and execution of the characters made up for the flaws of the plot.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Review: Holding Up the Universe

"We can't fight another person's battle, no matter how much we want to."
-Jennifer Niven, Holding Up the Universe

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout and Jack Masselin. No one takes the time to see past Libby's weight, and Jack puts up a facade that allows him to fit in, hiding his biggest secret: he can't recognize faces. After an incident at school, Libby and Jack become unlikely friends. They find that the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. 

Jennifer Niven's All the Bright Places is one of my favorite young adult novels, so I was excited to finally get to read her latest novel. And I wasn't disappointed. Niven has a knack for creating complex characters that have more to them than meets the eye. Libby and Jack are both dealing with difficult things. However, it does represent a somewhat unfortunate trend in young adult literature that in order for the adolescent protagonists to feel accepted and wanted, they have to be in a romantic relationship. Nowadays, it's almost impossible to find a young adult novel in which the main characters do not end up together (except This Savage Song, which gets bonus points!).

Despite my annoyance at the romantic relationship, I really did enjoy this book overall, especially for the message that it sent: "You are wanted." Many teens need to hear that message, and I thought it was well done. Despite my views of it, this novel has apparently been getting a lot of bad press and reviews because some reviewers are saying that Niven uses her characters insecurities in order to create an angsty romance; that Libby doesn't wholly accept herself until she is with Jack. While yes, the romance aspect of the book wasn't necessarily my favorite, I don't think that this is the case. Libby stands up for herself when her and Jack aren't together, and I don't think she needs him to feel whole. 

Overall, the message of this book is powerful, but I do think it could have done without the romance. Not every novel needs to end in a relationship these days.

4/5 stars

Monday, February 20, 2017

Character Playlist: Libby Strout

Holding Up the Universe

One of the best messages from Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven is that you are wanted. Libby Strout distributes this message to her entire high school, after years of struggling with the way she looks. It's a message that she constantly has to tell herself, but it is worth the reminder.

Libby is all about dancing, expressing herself through movement. What better way to pay tribute to her character than to create a playlist for her?

Here's to being yourself and dancing without a care in the world.

"Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar
Libby begins the morning before she goes back to school for the first time in five years dancing to Pat Benatar, getting herself psyched for the day ahead. Anyone can face the day after a good Pat Benatar song.

"SexyBack" by Justin Timberlake
Perhaps this is more Jack's song than Libby's--but I think she'd dance to it just the same. With a beat like that, it's impossible not to. They're bringing sexy back.

"Hurricane" by Panic! At the Disco
I picked this song mainly for the lyrics, "You'll dance to anything," because I believe they fit Libby to a tee. But, it also has an excellent beat, which makes it excellent to dance to.

"I Love to Love" by Tina Charles
Libby starts singing this song in the car on the way to Bloomington with Jack, and the two have the most epic dance party in the car on the way there.

"Ben" by Michael Jackson
Libby and Jack dance to this song on their first date, and it accurately describes their relationship. They are two lonely people that need each other.

"The Way We Get By" by Spoon
Before Jack and Libby meet each other, before they give each other the courage to be themselves, they're just getting by. Hiding from themselves, hiding from other people, is the way they get by.

"Uptown Funk" by Bruno Mars
If there's any song that makes you want to get up and dance, it's this one. And it's about being comfortable in your own body, feeling confident in yourself. Which is exactly what Libby feels when she dances.

"It's Thunder and It's Lightning" by We Were Promised Jetpacks
Though Libby is trying to make things work, trying to hide her darkness and loneliness, sometimes that darkness shines through.

"Believer" by Imagine Dragons
When Libby finally takes things into her hands and stands up in front of her entire high school, preaching that everyone is wanted, I feel this song could have been coursing through her veins.

"We Are Young" by Fun.
By the end of the novel, I feel that Libby, and Jack, would sing this song from the rooftops, relishing in life. They are young, and they have so much to live for.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Review: The Great American Whatever

The Great American Whatever Cover

"That's actually the most confusing part about being alive without knowing the end of your own hero's journey. You never know if it's time to go home or head into battle. You never know if you've already faced your biggest monster." -Tim Federle, The Great American Whatever

Quinn Roberts has spent the last six months in hibernation; after the accident, he didn't think he could ever face the world again. Enter: Geoff. Quinn's best friend. One haircut later and Quinn is on his way to his first ever college party. Where he meets a guy. The week that follows has Quinn imagining all sorts of scenarios until he can finally take the reigns back and control his own life story.

This book was given to me by a friend for Christmas, and it was thoroughly enjoyable! Quinn's witty, sarcastic take on life shines through the text and hooks the reader right from the beginning. But it isn't pushed to the extent that Quinn feels fake--in fact, they almost make Quinn feel more real, using his sarcasm and humor to hide his true feelings. They make him more rounded, and they make the book difficult to put down.

None of the characters in this story are flat--they all have their quirks that together, create a cast of characters that you wish could be your friends. Federle is able to write with such an authentic teen voice that this book will be sure to remain in your thoughts long after you finish it.

For a YA debut, Federle has definitely hit it out of the park.

5/5 stars

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: This Savage Song

This Savage Song book cover
"He wasn't made of flesh and bone, or starlight. He was made of darkness." 
--Victoria Schwab, This Savage Song

In the city of Verity, violence has begun to breed monsters, monsters that lurk in the shadows. Kate Harker's father made a truce with the monsters, making certain areas of the city safe. Kate wants to live up to her father's ruthlessness, and is willing to go to any lengths to do so. August Flynn wants the opposite--born into a family of monsters, all August wants to be human. August goes undercover in order to spy on Kate, but when things go terribly wrong, the two must run for their lives.

Let me start out by saying--this book was dark. And violent. But so well written. Schwab created a whole atmosphere in This Savage Song that envelopes you right from the beginning. Verity is a city where you have to constantly look behind your shoulder wherever you go, and Schwab keeps up this suspense throughout the entire novel, through the unique voices of Kate and August.

I was also intrigued by the kinds of monsters that Schwab created, specifically the Sunai. The Sunai feed on people by stealing their souls through playing music, which is one of the things that August struggles with throughout the novel. He loves his violin, but is deeply tortured by the fact that playing his music can take the life of a human being.

These themes of struggling with what you're supposed to be are woven throughout the story, as Kate is desperately trying to gain the acceptance of her father, desperately trying to be what she thinks he wants her to be. This is what draws August and Kate together--but there's no romance! Gasp! I find that these days, it's extremely rare to find a YA novel that doesn't feature a romance, and it's extremely refreshing to find one that doesn't. Sure, there are hints of something between Kate and August at times, but instead of focusing on a blooming relationship, the novel is able to focus on their struggles as individual characters.

The only reason this book didn't receive 5 stars is because it took me a bit to get into it. Sure, the beginning scene with Kate setting a church on fire was captivating--but it took me a bit to figure out Verity and all its quirks. But once I did--I was hooked.

4/5 stars

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Review: Junior Hero Blues

Junior Hero Blues cover






Title: Junior Hero Blues

Author: J.K. Pendragon

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Release Date: November 7, 2016






"I, Javier Medina--or Blue Spark, as I'm known to the citizens of Liberty City--am one-hundred-percent dork, through and through. The mask only makes it worse." -J.K. Pendragon, Junior Hero Blues

I received this book for review from NetGalley, and just let me say, I was so excited when this was approved. It breaks the mold from the traditional superhero story, and gives readers a different type of hero to look up to, which is especially fantastic for its targeted audience. The voice is remarkable, and the action was paced well throughout this book, making this a highly entertaining read.

Javier Medina is a Junior Hero in Liberty City, and he's still trying to figure out how to navigate from being an awkward gay high schooler to a newly buff and attractive superhero, hiding his identity from his school mates and his parents, all the while trying to learn how to navigate the dating world when his boyfriend keeps mysteriously disappearing. Javier gives an unflinching account of the sacrifices needed to become a superhero--something that didn't quite fit his original expectations.

Let me begin by saying the voice in this book was absolutely fantastic. Javier is so real and honest, and downright hilarious at times. It honestly reminded me a little of the Spider-man comics, and the sassiness and snarkiness of Peter Parker, thought maybe not quite as quick witted. Pendragon also created very real characters throughout, incorporating a lot of diversity that is slowly making it's way into the superhero world in the ways of sexuality. It's refreshing to read a book with a gay male superhero that isn't afraid to hide his sexuality. 

The only critique I have of this novel is the formatting at the beginning. Though I liked that it jumped right into the action, it took me a while to realize exactly how far back in time Javier jumps. Add in a little more transition there, and think this book will be golden. Absolutely golden. And I would love to read more stories from Javier, because I think he has lots more to tell!

4.5/5 stars