Tag Archives: YA Fiction

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.

Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone

From Goodreads: It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Um…

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane’s list. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go skinny-dipping? Wait…what?

I looked over my reading list for this year and realized that I have read a lot of YA novels this year. I counted eight, though, if I count a few more where the protagonist is a teenager, the number would be more like 10.  I’m not sure what it is about YA novels, but there is something appealing to being able to return to a simpler age. Oh sure, being a teenager sucked so bad-but looking back, it was an exciting time. YA fiction reminds me of that.
So…Since You’ve Been Gone.…I enjoyed it. It was a fun story that checked off all the items that make for a YA novel. A semi crazy family, a cute boy next door type, a fun best friend. I definitely enjoyed this novel.
However, I have read two other novels by Morgan Matson and I have to say…I’m disappointed by this novel. While the previous two novels left me in tears…this one just didn’t quite hit me in the heart.
Regardless, I had a good time reading this. Emily reminded me a little bit like me when I was younger. I liked the relationship she had with her little brother as it reminded me of the relationship we had back when we were growing up. I liked that Emily had a best friend like Sloane, as it was fun to see her push Emily to do things that made her uncomfortable. Everyone should have a friend like Sloane.
There were a few things that weren’t tied up at the end, which annoyed me but mostly I thought it was good, just not great.
Upon doing some research on Goodreads, Morgan Matson has two more novels which I’m sure I will be reading at some point.
“Real friends are the ones you can count on no matter what.
The ones who go into the forest to find you and bring you home.
And real friends never have to tell you that they’re your friends.”
― Morgan Matson, Since You’ve Been Gone

Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, #1)

From Goodreads: Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

I know I had said that The Book of Essie had been my favorite book of the year, but Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was also a favorite. I chose this read from my ever growing TBR list on Goodreads. According to Goodreads handy reference, I added this to my list sometime in 2018, but I don’t remember where or why I saved this novel. I am glad I did though.

From the first introduction of Ari and his Mom at the start of the novel, I instantly was hooked. The dialogue between the two characters was just so spot on that I knew I was in for a treat. By the time Dante was introduced…well, let’s just say I was head over heels in love with this book.

Because the summary was so vague, I honestly had no point of reference as to what was going to happen during the story. It propelled forward and found myself just along for the ride, enjoying the experience of being surprised at each turn. Each time I thought I figured out what was going to happen, or had a feeling about how a particular character was going to turn out, I ended up surprised and happy.

If you are hoping for something light and fun, this is definitely not that type of book. It had many dark moments, but it was a necessary part of the plot and I did not find that it was too heavy to be hard to read.

I highly recommend this book.

“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.”
― Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Review: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Hate List

From Goodreads: Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

I have wanted to read Hate List pretty much since it was originally published, but as luck would have it, I have only now gotten around to read it a full decade after the fact and unfortunately, it was not worth the ten-year wait. While there is still three months left of the year, I think I’m safe to assume that this will be my least favorite and most disappointing read of 2019.

In preparation for writing this review, I glanced through some of the other reviews that have been left on the Goodreads page. Resoundingly, it seems that people really liked Hate List, which just makes this review even more painful to write as the stuff that people loved about the book, I disliked.

Maybe I disliked Hate List because, after twenty years of hearing about school shootings on a weekly, if not more frequent basis, I am just entirely too fatigued by the whole topic. Maybe it’s because, after twenty years of this, I find it extremely hard to believe that someone who had such tight ties with the shooter was able to escape without any type of legal repercussions. Perhaps I just found the whole premise of the book to be contrived and just not believable. I wanted desperately to find something about this novel that I could honestly point to and say, I like this, but the truth was, I couldn’t find a single thing that redeemed this book.

“Just like there’s always time for pain, there’s always time for healing.”
― Jennifer Brown, Hate List