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A Line in the Dark — Malinda Lo

11 Jan

 

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Released: October 17th, 2017
Genre: YA, psychological thriller
Source: ARC from publisher

 

Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.

As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.

When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.

“It doesn’t even matter that she probably doesn’t understand how much she means to me. It’s purer this way. She can take whatever she wants from me, whenever she wants it, because I’m her best friend.”

From Goodreads

Okay, so I’ve been struggling for MONTHS with how to review this book. Not because I’m not sure how I feel about it (I really enjoyed it) but because I really don’t want to give anything away. So this will be a short review.

I LOVE Lo’s writing. She really gets to the heart of her characters and their motivation without dumping a lot of info on the reader. And she weaves such wonderful stories that her books are really hard to put down. I mean, as I write this review I’ve added A Line in the Dark to the top of my to reread pile.

YA contemp is one of my favourite genres, and I love when it leans towards psychological thriller. The plot was tight and really kept me wanting to turn the page. And the ending wasn’t cliche or typical.

I think anyone who likes books with a bit of edge and twists should give this a try. And fans of YA contemp are going to love it.

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Spellbook of the Lost and Found — Moïra Fowley-Doyle

24 Oct

 

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Released: June 1st, 2017
Genre: YA, mystery, supernatural
Source: Finished copy from publisher

 

 

One stormy summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items like hair clips and jewellery, but soon it’s clear that Rose has lost something bigger; something she won’t talk about.

Then Olive meets three wild, mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel and Rowan. Like Rose, they’re mourning losses – and holding tight to secrets.

When they discover the ancient spellbook, full of hand-inked charms to conjure back lost things, they realise it might be their chance to set everything right. Unless it’s leading them towards secrets that were never meant to be found . . .

From Goodreads

Ooooh how to talk about this book without giving anything away!  Okay, here goes…

This book has a really cool and unique concept and made me realize that I really need to read more books with spellbooks and charms and the likes. I really like the idea of the give and take of the charms and also the fact that when it comes to the supernatural, what you see usually isn’t all that you get.

All of the plots were captivating and I felt like I was right along with the characters, trying to figure things out. The characters were well-written and I really liked that each was dealing with their own crap while also dealing with crap as a group.

There is a twist towards the end of the book (don’t worry, no spoilers here!) and I felt that once it was revealed, the pacing was a bit rushed. I would have liked to have seen more emotional reaction from the characters. Everyone seems to just accept the twist and continue one, which didn’t ring 100% true to me.

With that being said, this book is definitely one that I would recommend. The writing is tight, the concept really cool and over all it was a great YA read.

36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You — Vicki Grant

17 Oct

 

Publisher: Running Press
Released: Oct 17th 2017
Genre: YA, contemp
Source: ARC from publisher

 

 

Hildy and Paul each have their own reasons for joining the university psychology study that asks the simple question: Can love be engineered?

The study consists of 36 questions, ranging from “What is your most terrible memory?” to “When did you last sing to yourself?” By the time Hildy and Paul have made it to the end of the questionnaire, they’ve laughed and cried and lied and thrown things and run away and come back and driven each other almost crazy. They’ve also each discovered the painful secret the other was trying so hard to hide. But have they fallen in love?

Told in the language of modern romance—texting, Q&A, IM—and punctuated by Paul’s sketches, this clever high-concept YA is full of humor and heart. As soon as you’ve finished reading, you’ll be searching for your own stranger to ask the 36 questions. Maybe you’ll even fall in love.

From Goodreads

This book, guys. THIS. BOOK. So brilliant and funny and heart-warming and just ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. I have loved all of Vicki’s books, but this one is my fave.

First I have to talk about the concept. So so cool! I love that 36 Questions is based on an actual study. It just adds another layer of realism to the story.

The format was very different from other YA contemp books that I have read and it just added to the story telling. I love when authors take a chance like that. Especially when it works out so well.

The writing is just amazing. Most of the book is dialogue and not just any dialogue. Teen dialogue. Which can be hella hard to nail. The flow of the conversation between Hildy and Paul and the back and forth and the teasing and the flirting and the honesty is so spot on it was awkward to read at times. Like I was eavesdropping on a real conversation between two teens trying to navigate their lives while figuring each other out.

I really can’t recommend 36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You enough. I know a couple of people who will be getting this book as a Christmas gift.

 

The Fashion Committee — Susan Juby

29 Aug

 

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Released: May 23rd, 2017
Genre: YA contemp
Source: ARC from publisher

 

 

What if one contest could change the course of your entire life?

Charlie Dean is a style-obsessed girl who eats, sleeps, and breathes fashion.

John Thomas-Smith is a boy who forges metal sculptures in his garage and couldn’t care less about clothes.

Both are gunning for a scholarship to the private art high school that could make all their dreams come true. And whoever wins the fashion competition will win the scholarship.

From Goodreads

 

Susan Juby is one of those authors that I can always count on to deliver an engaging and amazing and awesome book. She has a way of dealing with serious issues with laughter and an honesty that can be brutal. She is also hands down one of the best writers of misfits and odd characters.

OMG these were interesting characters. And you know what? *SPOILER* They don’t fall in love!!!!!!! This is SOOOO refreshing and unexpected for the genre.

The format of the book is diary entries, and I just loved that. And Juby writes both Charlie Dean and John so differently. Both had very distinct voices and sometimes that’s hard to do.

Charlie Dean is such an optimist and the way she writes about some of the crap in her life so matter-of-factly is heartbreaking. She reminds me a lot of Rachel from Glee in season one. That whole the show must go on and I am always awesome attitude. John, on the other hand, is a bit of a pessimist despite the fact that his life is pretty good. The contrast between their attitudes and situations in life is my favorite part of the book.

This was a pretty unique book for the genre and I think everyone will enjoy it.

What to Say Next — Julie Buxbaum

24 Aug

 

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Released: July 11th, 2017
Genre: YA contemp
Source: ARC from publisher

 

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her. 

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

From Goodreads

 

This is one of my fave YA contemp novels of all time. I have so much love for this book, the writing and the characters. I love when unlikely friendships/relationships end up being just the thing that the characters needed. And this was definitely the case in What to Say Next. A spur of the moment decision by Kit resulted in a friendship that, on paper, shouldn’t work. But it does. Because the real world isn’t perfect and some times the things that makes the least sense end up making the most sense.

I love David’s voice. Buxbaum nails it. I don’t want to give anything away, but the way she writes him is so true and amazing that he fast became one of my fave YA characters.

I whipped through this book and hated anytime I had to put it down. It was a captivating read and I just got more and more hooked as I delved deeper into Kit and David’s lives and friendship.

As soon as I finished I thought of all my bookish friends I wanted to recommend it to. Julie Buxbaum is now one of my fave YA authors and I can’t wait to read all of her other books.

Optimists Die First — Susin Nielsen

9 Aug

 

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Released: Feb 21st, 2017
Genre: Young adult contemp
Source: Arc from publisher

 

 

Life ahead: Proceed with caution.

Sixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde is anything but wild. A family tragedy has made her shut herself off from the world. Once a crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula now sees danger in everything, from airplanes to ground beef.

The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class. She has nothing in common with this small band of teenage misfits, except that they all carry their own burden of guilt.

When Jacob joins their ranks, he seems so normal and confident. Petula wants nothing to do with him, or his prosthetic arm. But when they’re forced to collaborate on a unique school project, she slowly opens up, and he inspires her to face her fears.

Until a hidden truth threatens to derail everything.

From Goodreads

It’s no secret that I worship the ground Susin Nielsen writes on. She is one of my top five favourite authors and her books never disappoint. Optimists Die First continues that trend. This is a heartfelt and honestly written book.

I read this book at the perfect time. I was having a hard time dealing with my depression and anxiety. So despite the fact that I am way older that Petula, I could really identify with her. And I think a lot of readers will. For me Nielsen is the queen of writing about important topics without hitting readers over the head with it. She really gets into the psyche of her characters and shows rather than tells the readers what’s going on.

I’m a sucker for stories about people who don’t 100% fit in. Those who are on the edge of society, either doing their own thing or trying to fit in. Petula and Jacob are perfect examples of this.

I really can’t recommend this book enough. Or any of her other books.

Goodbye Days — Jeff Zentner

2 Aug

 

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Released: March 7th, 2016
Genre: Ya contemp
Source: ARC from publisher

 

 

What if you could spend one last day with someone you lost?

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison.

From Goodreads

As an editor, I know that one of the hardest things for authors to nail is dialogue, especially in YA. The flow of the dialogue, having it bounce around without being confusing, keeping it real and genuine. Jeff Zentner is one of the best YA writers for honest dialogue. The exchanges between the teens was perfection. The tone, the words chosen, the flow. Just amazing.

Actually the whole flow and tone of the book was bang on. Goodbye Days is one of those YA contemp that had me laughing and crying. It pretty much tugged on my heartstrings in every way possible.

As with Zentner’s previous book, The Serpent King, this isn’t an easy read, emotionally. He deals with death and survivor’s guilt and trying to get on with life. But never once does he get preachy or over dramatic. Everything about this book was realistic and never cliche.

I can’t recommend Goodbye Days enough. If you like honest and emotional tales, then this is definitely for you.