Published: Henry Holt & Company - September 29th, 2015
If you know anything about me, it’s that Leigh Bardugo’s debut series, The Grisha Trilogy, is one of my favorites, period. So when I heard Leigh was coming it with a new book, set in the the same world, I was ecstatic. And then, when it was described as Grisha meets Ocean 11? My immediate reaction was a very enthusiastic hell yeah! But, like any book lover, I was a little concerned. Would Six of Crows live up too my expectations? I had nothing to worry. It’s obvious Leigh has grown as a writer, you can see it through her writing. Her skill for developing characters has increased, and her plots have become more dense, yet her trademark suspense is still intact.
Six of Crows centers around Kaz Brekker, the most infamous criminal in Ketterdam, the port city Bardugo introduced to us in The Grisha Trilogy. Cunning, cold, and with a body count going on forever, he has but one desire; money. So when he’s offered a sum he can barely believe to pull off the biggest heist he’s ever done, he can’t do anything but accept. All he needs is the perfect team. There’s Inej, better known as the infamous spy Wraith, Jesper, a sharpshooter and a chronic gambler, Rylan, a boy running from his future, Matthais, a convict, assumed dead, Nina, a heartrender—and breaker. And of course there’s Kaz. Can they pull it off? Or will they kill each other first?
I was first introduced to Leigh by a friend over lunch. We met again at YallWest last April, and enjoyed every minute of it. Her new work, Six of Crows is a must read for every fantasy lover, Grisha fan or not. Find it on shelves September 29!
I have found the ultimate end-of-summer read, Finding Audrey by British author, Sophie Kinsella. Now, you’ve probably heard of Kinsella, her Confessions of a Shopaholic is an adult rom com turned movie in 2009 starring Isla Fisher. She’s also written more than 20 adult books, but this is her Young Adult debut.
First things first; no, this is not a romantic comedy like Kinsella’s other novels. Instead it’s the charming, uplifting story of Audrey Turner, a girl with an extreme anxiety disorder. Extreme meaning she won’t go outside, runs away when someone tries to talk to her, and won’t even make eye contact with her own family. Get the gist? One day, while Audrey’s brother is having a friend over, not knowing Audrey has the disorder, he tries to talk to her. She is terrified, but over the course of multiple visits, Audrey begins to communicate with her brother’s friend, Linus. Soon, an unlikely friendship is formed. With the help of Linus, her therapist, and her video camera (she’s creating a documentary about herself/her family) Audrey finally begins to open up. But is she ready to face the world again?
Funny, quirky, and perfectly happy, Sophie Kinsella’s YA debut is the perfect book to finish off your summer.
Falling into Place is a small, unassuming book with a rather normal cover. When it came out September 2014, it wasn’t a bestseller. Nothing about it seems particularly extraordinary. But yet, somehow, everything is. Written by teen author (no- Maya Van Wagenen isn’t the only one out there!), Amy Zhang’s Falling into Place is the story of Liz Emerson’s attempted suicide, told from everyone else’s perspective.
There’s Julia, beautiful, smart, confident, and always stoned. There’s Kennie, vibrant, loud, charismatic, and struggling to recover from her abortion. There’s even Liam, quiet, musical, sweet, and in love with her for as long as he’s known her. And so many more people, from her mother to her physics professor.
And, of course, there’s Liz. Liz, the unofficial queen of Meridian High, who had planned her suicide for months, down to the second, to make sure it seemed like an accident. Liz, who decided the world would be better off without her.
With an atmospheric style reminiscent of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, Amy Zhang manages to perfectly capture heartache, grief, and utter loneliness so perfectly it aches. Falling into Place is an absolute must read for anyone who enjoyed Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why or Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall.
For a while, I’ve wanted to read a Ruta Sepetys book. I’ve heard the hype, sure, but I never really listened to it. Her genre is not a genre I read frequently, so I was a little skeptical at first, but I’m really glad I picked up this historical fiction coming-of-age/mystery.
Right off the bat, Ruta Sepetys immerses you in a vivid portrait of 1950’s New Orleans, where our main protagonist, Josie Moraine has grown up. After reading Out of the Easy, I was practically counting down the minutes until I got to visit New Orleans (more on that after the review). Josie lives above and works at a small, independent bookstore in the French Quarter. When she’s not doing that, she helps at the local brothel where her mother works. And when she’s not doing that, she’s trying to find a way to get into the college of her dreams. Quite obviously Josie has her hands full. She’s used to it, as she’s been living alone in her apartment since the age of 10 while her mother lives at the brothel. One afternoon, when Josie and her friend/colleague Patrick Marlowe are working in the bookstore, a man comes in. His name is Forest Hearne, a Vanderbilt football player. Josie is immediately enamored my him, and is delighted when he shows interest in her ambitious future plans. The next day, Forest Hearne is found dead in a bar. He was uninjured, so it’s ruled a heart attack. But Josie doesn’t believe that… especially when she finds Forest’s solid-gold watch in her mother’s bedroom. The same day, Josie’s mother’s former boyfriend, Cincinnati, appears. The last time anyone had seen him before his disappearance, he was beating Josie’s mother, before running off into the streets. Can Josie find out the truth about Forest Hearne and her mother’s role in his death while still trying for the future she’s always dreamed of?
Complete with a cast of nuanced, unique characters that will make you laugh, cry, and swoon, Ruta Sepetys’s second YA novel set in the unique environs of 1950s New Orleans is not to be missed!
For a while, I’ve wanted to know more about Pakistan’s culture. Granted, it’s pretty hard to find a YA book with a Pakistani protagonist or even set in Pakistan. So when I found Written in the Stars, I was very excited. Lucky for me, Aisha Saeed’s Young Adult debut was exactly what I needed.
Written in the Stars is the story of Pakistani-American teen, Naila. You could say Naila’s parents aren’t all that strict. She can dress however she wants, wear her hair however she chooses, go to whatever college she desires. There’s just one itsy-bitsy thing; Naila may not ever date, become friends with, or even socialize with boys. Her parents get to choose her husband. This isn’t an uncommon fate for Pakistani women. In fact, the author’s marriage was arranged. Naila didn’t mind; until she met Saif. A year later, and Naila and Saif are in a serious, yet completely forbidden, relationship. Naila has no idea how to tell her parents, so when they find out on their own, they’re understandably livid. Naila’s punishment is a month long summer trip with her family to visit their relatives in Pakistan. In this month, Naila’s parents hope she can rediscover her true path. Naila’s happy for this punishment, she’s excited to finally meet her extended family! And maybe, just maybe, she can show her parents Saif isn’t that bad. But when the very future Naila’s been fighting against finally happens, she’s devastated and completely trapped. Is her relationship with Saif really written in the stars?
Now, I’ll admit, although arranged marriage is a loaded topic, I was expecting a lighter book. Written in the Stars is quite the opposite. It deals with the realities of life, so expect hardship, joy, and everything in between. Written in the Stars is short, smart, and a must read.
Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books - September 22nd, 2015
I think everyone knows by now that dystopian YA has had its time. For a while it was great, then it turned sour with knock offs and unoriginal ideas. As the reading community, we decided it was stale, and so, we moved onto the next big thing. Contemporary. But, I have exciting news. The Scorpion Rules is dystopian Young Adult’s triumphant end. Just when I, and nearly everyone else, thought there were no original dystopian ideas, Erin Bow wrote a zinger.
The Scorpion Rules has all the makings of the dystopians we loved, such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, and even The Maze Runner. A completely unique idea (more on that soon), a likeable heroine, and great writing. One of the more unique aspects of The Scorpion Rules is how Greta, the main protagonist, explores her sexuality. Of course, this isn’t exactly unique for a contemporary, but a dystopian? Not so mainstream.
Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederacy is a hostage. Along with every child destined for the crown, she is held hostage by a robot. Based on a war strategy the goes back centuries (yes, in real life. Look it up), the children are the only things keeping peace. See, if your country goes to war, the monarch’s child is killed by the peace-keeping robot, Talis. If your child makes it to eighteen without your country going to war, your child becomes the ruler. It’s a well oiled system, with almost no flaws. Greta’s chances of survival are next to none. Her country is on the verge of war, and she’s resigned to the inevitable. Then Elián arrives. He’s everything Greta’s not. He’s bold, rash, and a rule breaker. As he begins to bond with Greta and her friends, he plants an idea in their head. Is this system really working?
Okay, I know. It’s sounding pretty clichéd. But, I swear, it’s not - and I am not going to spoil it. The ending is completely unexpected and Greta and Elián are much deeper than they seem. Mark this release on your calendar, this dystopian is not to be missed.
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen is its own kind of powerful.It centers around an abusive relationship, a drug addiction, and a runaway sibling. As you can see, this book isn’t something to be taken lightly, nor is it something you can just read in one sitting (even though it’s really short). You’ll leave Dreamland in a sort of daze, reconsidering your feelings on love and human nature.
What I love most about Dreamland is the main character, Caitlin. Caitlin is not a hero. She’s not an outspoken yet genius, weapon wielding, take-no-prisoners type of girl. She’s quiet, shy, obedient, normal teenager. She doesn’t have a moment where she jumps into the spotlight and saves the world/prince(ss)/kingdom/family/etc. She’s not your average YA character. In being completely and utterly average in everything, Caitlin defies her genre’s stereotypes, and becomes a unique and shockingly realistic main character.
Dreamland is a very character driven story. It begins at one of the most classic places a coming-of-age story can, Caitlin’s 16th birthday. Also known as the day her outspoken, Yale-bound older sister, Cass, runs away to New York to live with her boyfriend. Caitlin’s entire world is immediately, completely thrown out of balance. Her mother spirals into depression, while her father barely notices her. And her sister? Well, she’s gone. While she’s struggling with her feelings, she meets perfect-boyfriend-material Rogerson Biscoe. He’s funny, genius, knows her McDonald’s order by heart, and has really cool friends. He’sperfect. But when she discovers something about Rogerson she doesn’t necessarily want to know, she’ll have to decide; what is the price of her love?
I would absolutely recommend Dreamland to anyone who wants a great read, that will leave them thinking about it after the book is over.
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - May 26th, 2015
I loved Jenny Han’sP.S. I Still Love You, although not as much as its predecessor. PSISLY is chock-full of the things I loved about To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (the first in the duology) ; romance, relatable and laughable moments, and times when you just want to cry an ocean. P.S. I Still Love You is definitely one of those books perfect for curling up with on the couch during a rainy day.
Note: Spoilers forTo All the Boys I’ve Loved Before below!
It starts off right where To All the Boys ends, with Lara Jean finishing up writing a letter to Peter K. about how she screwed up at the Christmas party. However, her sisters, Margot and Kitty, convince her that instead of mailing the letter to Peter she should deliver it to him face to face. One thing I enjoyed about the book starting off so soon after the first book ended was how Lara Jean recounted the events multiple times in her head, just to clear up your memory if, in case, you have forgotten some of the major details. Luckily, Peter and Lara Jean make up sharing a totally swoon-worthy moment. But things aren’t quite over for the couple (after all, it’s just the beginning of the book). Lara Jean’s never been in a real relationship, much less one with Peter Kavinsky.
One weak aspect of PSISLY was the whole epilogue-ness about it. The story wasn’t particularly character or plot driven; it was more about what happens next for our favorite characters (I’m looking at you, Kitty Covey). That isn’t necessarily bad, it just means you really must care about the characters to enjoy the book.
In conclusion, if a rainy day happens upon you anytime in the near future, or part of your summer travel means hanging out in airports or on planes, pick up P.S I Still Love You. You won’t regret it.
Published: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen - April 21st, 2015
I went into 99 Daysexpecting nothing, thanks to the dust jacket summary. A summer where a girl must confront her past with two brothers? No thanks. What I got from 99 Dayswas so much more.
99 Days has everything that makes a good summer novel: realistic characters, a unique and compelling storyline, friendship (although it was more like sisterhood) and an unpredictable ending (a near impossible feat in YA contemporary). My favorite part was the great characters; all multidimensional and completely relatable. Even the love interests, Patrick and Gabe Donnelly, were interesting, and even I couldn’t pick a side in the love triangle! Katie Cotugno also explores the double standards girls face when it comes to dating, which I’m sure feminists (like me) will enjoy.
99 Dayscenters around Molly Barlow, an utter social outcast, returning to her small Catskills town for the summer. Molly’s mother is the acclaimed author, Diane Barlow, whose latest bestseller just so happened to be about her daughter’s love life (read: her daughter’s cheating scandal). The tabloids were all over it. Molly’s then-boyfriend… not so much. So, with plans to live in her room watching Netflix documentaries until autumn when she starts college, Molly returns to the Catskills. No surprise - not a single person is happy to see her.
Skip the dust jacket, I promise you that you’ll love getting lost in Katie Cotugno’s second novel, 99 Days. Don’t miss it!
This has been on my TBR list since before it even came out, so I was super excited to read it. Admittedly, I had really high expectations because everyone I know who read it loved it. Me? I liked it. A little generic, but good nonetheless.
The Queen of the Tearlingstarts out with the nineteen year old crown princess Kelsea Raleigh-Glynn of Tearling being picked up from her forest home by the Queen’s Guard. When Kelsea was a baby, her mother, the late Queen Elyssa sent her into hiding until she turned nineteen, whereupon Kelsea would become queen. For the first 140 pages, Kelsea traveled to the Keep (the name of her castle), which for me was the only sore spot of the book. It was monotonous (we set up camp, we eat dinner, we went to bed, we woke up, we rode, we set up camp…) But once she arrives at the Keep,The Queen of the Tearlingfinally began living up to my expectations. Armed with only her sharp mind and strong sense of social justice, Kelsea starts her queenhood by stopping a slave lottery that’s been going on for years- and potentially beginning a war with the feared Red Queen of Mortmesne, the neighboring kingdom.
Honestly, I was expecting to really dislike Kelsea. She’s a real Plain-Jane, but something about her is just… interesting. I just couldn’t help but like her. I also loved the world that this took place in. it’s some sort of dystopian-fantasy mixup, and I loved it, even if I thought it was a little (ok, a lot) improbable.
Told from interesting, alternating perspectives, The Queen of the Tearling is chock-full of suspense, magic, palace intrigue, and drama, and an enjoyable read.
Everything, Everything’s absolutely stunning cover was the first thing that drew me to it. However, when the blurb promised aThe Fault in Our Stars-esque book, I was immediately deterred (I mean, who wants to read a Fault in Our Starsknockoff?). I was in for a surprise though,Everything, Everything is not remotely like TFiOS. It’s in a whole new incredible ballpark. I loved everything, everything about it (sorry, couldn’t resist).
The protagonist Maddy, has SCID, a real disease that makes her allergic to almost everything. It’s so dangerous that she hasn’t left left her house or been outside in seventeen years. She’s content though, living in near solitude with her mother and beloved nurse, Carla. That is, until a moving truck pulls in to the house next door and her entire life starts unraveling. It’s an average family moving in, a mother, father, sister, and brother. The boy in particular catches Maddy’s eye (don’t worry; this isn’t the classic boy moves in next door and airhead protagonist falls in love with him story). Through a series of emails and IMs, Maddy and the boy, named Olly, begin to connect. They can never meet in person, however. Olly might have a virus latched onto him somewhere that could doom her. As they draw closer, Maddy begins to see things that are not quite right in Olly’s house. At the same time, she begins to realize something’s not quite right in her house either. Something’s missing.
My favorite parts (I just can’t choose between them) were Maddy’s hilarious spoiler reviews of classics, the ending (it’s insane)! Full of hope and tragedy Nicola Yoon’s witty, heartbreaking debut is a shocking joyride until the very last page, and comes out this September.
Published: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen - April 7th, 2015
For most of her life, Kristin Lattimer has had everything. Sure, she’s had a roadblock or two, like the death of her mother, but the majority of her life has been in privilege. She’s a star athlete, with a great boyfriend, amazing friends, and a college scholarship. And then, sheisn’t.
Debut author I. W. Gregorio’sNone of the Aboveis the compelling, provocative story of a girl struggling with a shocking medical diagnosis; she’s intersex, an actual condition affecting only a tiny percent of our population.
At a doctor’s appointment, Kristin, the girl with everything, gets the life changing diagnosis that she’s a girl, but with male chromosomes. She’s shocked and terrified as she tries to come to terms with her new identity. What will everyone at her school think? But, she has a plan. She’ll just tell her close friends and family selectively. But when her diagnosis is leaked to her entire high school, things don’t go exactly as planned. Now everyone, including her boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend) knows and is not exactly accepting. Kristin can barely show her face at school, much less make peace with her body.
Without reading her dust jacket biography, you can tell I. W. Gregorio is a surgeon. Her medical terminology is precise, even clinical, but phrased in a way that’s easy to understand, adding even more realism to the story. None of the Above is an earth-shattering story of love, loss, friendship, depression, bullying, and gender identity that is not to be missed.