Tag Archives: YA Fiction

Hope for Garbage by Alex Tully

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Welcome to the cruel world of Trevor McNulty. No matter how hard he tries, this seventeen year-old just can’t get a break. Through no fault of his own, he finds himself living with his alcoholic uncle on the outskirts of Cleveland. His days are filled with garbage-picking and hanging out with his seventy year-old neighbor, who also happens to be his best friend.

One early morning while scanning the streets in a posh suburb, he meets Bea, a rebellious rich girl with problems of her own. She’s smart, cute, and a glimmer of light in his dark world.
But in the midst of their budding romance, Bea’s beautiful mother enters the picture with an agenda of her own. She sets off a chain of events so shocking and destructive, Trevor's crazy life soon becomes more than he can handle. While he is desperate to save his relationship with Bea, he learns that nothing in his world can be saved unless he first saves himself.

Hope for Garbage is a story about resilience—about overcoming adversity under the most extraordinary circumstances—about never, ever, giving up hope.

Because sooner or later, everybody gets a break.

This was a lackluster read for me. It wasn’t the worst book I have read this year, but it definitely was one of the worst.

When I said that it was lackluster, I mean that fully. Every aspect of this book was just dull. The writing was dull, the characters were dull, the plot was dull. I managed to get through it, but just barely.

The one thing I did enjoy about this story was the relationship between Trevor and his next door neighbor. This book was rife with situations and relationships that were unbelievable, dialoge that was often painful to read and a plot that plods on in far too many places but the relationship between the two characters almost made this book worth the read.

Trevor and Bea on the other hand just doesn’t make sense. They spend almost no time together and when they do there is no chemistry between them and this book is classified as a romance. Um, no. Just no.

I gave this book two stars.

I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

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Lena has her killer style, her awesome boyfriend, and a plan. She knows she’s going to make it big. Campbell, on the other hand, is just trying to keep her head down and get through the year at her new school.
When both girls attend the Friday-night football game, what neither expects is for everything to descend into sudden mass chaos. Chaos born from violence and hate. Chaos that unexpectedly throws them together.
They aren’t friends. They hardly understand the other’s point of view. But none of that matters when the city is up in flames, and they only have each other to rely on if they’re going to survive the night.

This was another random pick from Libby.

This was a startling book to read in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests. It was a fast read, but intense and stressful.

The story is told through the eyes of Lena and Campbell, two very different girls who both happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time during an out of control fight that breaks out between opposing fans at a high school football game. The fight is racially charged, stemming from an incident that happens before the book begins. After it becomes apparent that the fight has become completely out of control and shots are fired, the two girls end up taking off into the chaotic night in an attempt to find their loved ones and make it home safely.

I sort of liked this, but like I said, this was a stressful story. From the beginning to the end, there was very few breaks from the intensity. As the action starts very quickly, there’s not much opportunity to get to know Lena and Campbell before they were thrown together, and the story ends almost as suddenly so we never find out what happens the next day and the days to follow but we learn enough about the girls throughout the story to get a sense of who they are, who they were, and based on the information, we sort of get a sense of what they go on to do do.

This is the type of book that stays with you after you finish, and the longer you think about it, the more thoughts and questions come to mind. I actually finished reading this twenty days ago, and when I started this review I was worried that I wouldn’t have much to say, but as I started writing I realized that this had stuck with me far more than I had expected.

The rating I gave this was four stars. It was well earned and I think if it had been a little longer with a bit more details it would have been a five star read.

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

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Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

I borrowed this from Libby.

I picked this book up without knowing much about it. It was an okay read. Obviously it wasn’t the type of book that you read for fun. it is the kind of book you force yourself to read because it seems like the kind of book that you should read because it feels important.

And the book was okay. The message of it was clear, but the execution was a clunky, not at all organic. The characters were stereotypes and they were all kept an armslength away from the reader so there was no chance of connecting.

I gave this three stars as there was some merit to the book. Sexual assult, especially amongst teenagers is something that should be explored more and I’m glad that this book exists so that it can open the conversation.

Book Review: Frankly In Love by David Yoon

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Two friends. One fake dating scheme. What could possibly go wrong?

Frank Li has two names. There's Frank Li, his American name. Then there's Sung-Min Li, his Korean name. No one uses his Korean name, not even his parents. Frank barely speaks any Korean. He was born and raised in Southern California.

Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl--which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit . . . who is white.

As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he's forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don't leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he's found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he's left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love--or himself--at all.

In this moving debut novel--featuring striking blue stained edges and beautiful original endpaper art by the author--David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable.

I read the ebook version of this that I borrowed from Libby.

The selection that my home library chooses for Libby is impressive, the more I use it. I admit, for the longest time I felt annoyed because it seemed all the newer titles always had a huge waitlist but recently I have been doing a bit of a deep dive into older titles or less popular titles that are available right now. My last few picks have been absolute gems and this one was no exception. It was freakin’ amazing.

On the surface, this seems like a normal YA romance but in a guys perspective but there is just soo much going on and the romance aspect, though, important to the plot and a good chunk of the entire point of the novel but there is so much more about racisim (and not the typical type), classism, being first generation American and even some LGBTQ elements. Oh, and it’ll destroy you, so make sure you have tissues handy. It’s also pee your pants hilarious at times so there is definitely a balance.

Rating: Five stars! I cannot wait for the sequel.

“Humanity’s greatest strength – and also the reason for its ultimate downfall – is its ability to normalize even the bizarre.”

― David Yoon, Frankly in Love

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

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Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.

But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face.

I read the ebook version via Libby.

I had never heard of this book before, but I saw it on Libby and it felt like it was the type of book that I should be reading. I am so glad that this was on Libby and it came across my radar as this was one of the best books I have read.

This was YA, but I thought this was one of those stories that would appeal to any age group. Jade was such a great character and I loved seeing how much she grew into herself throughout the book. Jade knew that what kind of person she wanted to be, and she knew where she wanted to go in her life but she didn’t quite know how she was going to get there, and this story explored how Jade grew within herself to understand herself, and the people around her.

This was a perfect read. Five stars.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
AndSimon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High's notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn't an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he'd planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who's still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them. 

I read the ebook version of this.

At the beginning of this novel, I almost gave up on this. It seemed like it was going to be a complete shit show. Everything just seemed sloppy. The cops were imcompetent. The school was incompetent…the characters were kind of caricatures of The Breakfast Club and I was almost sure that the rest of the book would be trash…

But I held in there, at first because I wanted to at least see whodunit and then I continued to read it because I found that I was actually kind of enjoying getting swept up in the mystery and while I stand by my assessment on the characters with just a bit more depth to make them seem not completely ridiculous, it was actually a pretty fun reading experiences.

If you are looking for a more serious thriller, then maybe this wouldn’t be worth the time but if you want to read a more fun mystery then this is a good pick.

Rating: Three and a half stars

All the Ways the World Can End by Abby Sher

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Lenny (short for Eleanor) feels like the world is about to end. Her best friend is moving to New York City to attend Julliard and her dad has terminal cancer. To cope with her stress Lenny is making a list of all the ways the world can end—designer pathogens, blood moon prophecies, alien invasion—and stockpiling supplies in a bunker in the backyard. Then she starts to develop feelings for her dad's very nice young doctor—and she thinks he may have feelings for her too. Spoiler alert: he doesn't. But a more age-appropriate love interest might. In a time of complete uncertainty, one thing's for sure: Lenny's about to see how everything is ending and beginning. All at the same time. 

I read the Kindle edition of this.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It was YA, but very much relatable to anyone who has dealt with a sick parent. While both my parents are still alive, my father, whom I was close to growing up has dealt with a lot of health concerns and a few near deaths over the years. Often when he is sick and is in the hospital (which does happen every few months) I’m worried that it will lead to even more problems. With Covid-19, my nerves regarding my dad are even more jangled and so I truly connected with Lenny.

There were however a few subplots that I didn’t like. Lenny is involved in a school performance and the play does not seem plausible-at all. It is like this avant garde performance that didn’t seem the type of thing that high school kids would be involved it. And then there was this little love interest thing going on that seemed forced and put into place just because…it didn’t go anywhere and I think it was the weakest part of the story.

Rating: Four stars

Review: A Messy, Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Alan

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From Goodreads:

Life is funny sometimes.

And not always the ha, ha kind. Like that one time where a hot guy tried to kiss me and I fell. Down. Hard. And then found out I had cancer.

I’m trying to be strong for my friends and my mom.

And I’m trying so hard to be “just friends” with that hot guy, even though he seems to want so much more. But I won’t do that to him. He’s been through this before with his family, and I’m not going to let him watch me die.

So, I tell myself: Smile Ellie. Be funny Ellie. Don’t cry Ellie, because once I start, I might not stop.

Right before I read this, I made a decision to slow down my reading to only three books at any given time…and all in different formats (one physical book, one digital and one audio). I also decided to make my way through my Want to Read list on Goodreads and this was the first title that I chose.

I am not sure how this book ended up on my Want to Read list, and I don’t even remember purchasing it but there it was, waiting for me on my Kindle. I’m always up for reading from my Kindle queue so that made me happy, if not perplexed.

It was an okay book. It wasn’t another The Fault In Our Stars, so I’m grateful for that. I do like books that are sad, but sometimes it’s nice to come across a more positive spin on that type of read. However, I don’t this that this novel worked. I think it was just a bit too short, so the story was rushed…yet, it seemed to take forever for the actual story to emerge. The first chapter very nearly lost me, it was much too long, and it just threw the reader into a situation that just didn’t seem to make much sense unless you are fairly familiar with improv…though, I think that even then, there would be some head-scratching as improv does not exactly work well in written form. It’s one of those things where you have to see it.

I think it took three or even four chapters until I actually felt myself find my footing in the story and it was okay, not terrible, but not a book that I would recommend. It was too short but drawn out and then it just ended a little too neatly.

 

 

 

Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

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Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self.

I read this book through the Scribd app, which was good as it wasn’t a favorite. I had had it in my want-to-read list on Goodreads for a while so when I saw it was on Scribd I was excited. I had been having good luck with picking out good books lately so I figured that this would be another enjoyable read. Plus, it was a short read, a bit over 200 pages so that was a plus.

The shortness of the novel was probably the best part of this, as I didn’t have to commit too much time to this. I’m still questioning though if a longer novel would have made a better story. I think that maybe with a longer novel, Sara Farizan may have had had more time to fully develop the story and the characters. With it being as short as it was, it was a mere skim of what could have been a great story. The characters were there, but again, in such a short time there wasn’t enough time for it to be developed. The plot was strong, but as the story takes place in Iran, a setting I’m very limited in my knowledge of I was left feeling as though I was missing out.

It was a decent attempt with potential, but sadly, it did not deliver.

Review: All About Mia by Lisa Williamson

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From Goodreads: One family, three sisters.
GRACE, the oldest: straight-A student.
AUDREY, the youngest: future Olympic swimming champion.
And MIA, the mess in the middle.

Mia is wild and daring, great with hair and selfies, and the undisputed leader of her friends – not attributes appreciated by her parents or teachers.

When Grace makes a shock announcement, Mia hopes that her now-not-so-perfect sister will get into the trouble she deserves.

But instead, it is Mia whose life spirals out of control – boozing, boys and bad behaviour – and she starts to realise that her attempts to make it All About Mia might put at risk the very things she loves the most.

I listened to the audiobook version of this.
If I had to describe my biggest emotional while listening to All About Mia, I would probably have to admit that I was mostly frustrated. Mia was not an easy character for me to identify with, and her actions throughout the book often made me want to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her.
Once I got over my frustration, I then spent time diagnosing Mia. I was so sure at one point that the direction the novel would go in would be for Mia’s family to finally realize that their middle kid was not just a “handful” but actually dealing with some serious issues…but no, it turns out that there was a nice neat ending to this.
But the truth was…I actually enjoyed this novel. I liked having to deal with a character that did her own thing and was completely the opposite of how I was when I was 16. I think I’m also glad at the way things ended. It wasn’t how I would have ended things but sometimes it’s nice to have a nice ending to a story that in general, wasn’t nice.