28 February 2017

Review: The Free

The Free
by Lauren McLaughlin

Publisher: Soho Teen
Publication Date: February 28, 2017

THE FREE by Lauren McLaughlin is about a boy named Isaac West. A boy who was raised in a troubled house without a father, Isaac starts to steal and eventual he finds himself in Juvie. During his sentence, he is put through very intense therapy where he has to reenact his crime. The book is about Isaac figuring out he wants to be and who he is. I really liked the book--it touches on stuff that happens in real life, like having abusive parents and being in prison. It was written well and I enjoyed the plot. I suggest you read this book.

Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 28, 2017

Starr Carter watched in horror as the police shot her black friend Khalil three times during a routine stop. Khalil died at the scene. Weeks later, Starr would like nothing more than to be left to grieve in peace, but her nightmare is just beginning. As the only witness to the shooting, everyone—including the police—is eager for Starr to explain exactly what went down that night. To make matters worse, Starr needs to strike a delicate balance between the two worlds she lives in: While her friends at her rich, primarily white private high school sneer at Khalil as a “drug dealer”, her poor black neighborhood sees him as yet another victim of police brutality. How can she appease both sides? Is she brave enough to stand up for what is right? 
THE HATE U GIVE is a beautiful, touching, and witty story that confronts the issue of racism. I was captivated from the first page. The author, Angie Thomas, has an easy conversational style. The book will stay with you long after you finish. 

21 February 2017

Review: Crazy Messy Beautiful

Crazy Messy Beautiful
by Carrie Arcos

Publisher: Philomel Books / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: February 7, 2017

CRAZY MESSY BEAUTIFUL is an unconventional story that deeply examines the meaning of true love. The story follows Neruda Diaz, named after famous poet Pablo Neruda, as he attempts to find the passionate love described in his namesake’s work. However, as Neruda’s personal relationships grow more complex, he is forced to reevaluate his previous perceptions of what love really is.

While this story is set up like a very traditional YA romance, the plot was more nuanced than I had originally anticipated. First of all, the story is more of a coming of age story than a love story: by starting to experience life instead of simply witnessing it or drawing it, Neruda matures vastly and gains understanding beyond the confines of romance. While I appreciated that this book was not especially clichéd, I would still definitely say that it is more of a light read. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a story that’s somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of extreme playful romance to extremely serious literature.

Review: Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined

Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined
by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 21, 2017

EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS NOT RUINED by Danielle Younge-Ullman follows Ingrid as she treks through uncharted wilderness with other troubled youth. Haunted by her glamorous past and the drama that ended her mother's career in opera, Ingrid finds her future is drastically different than what she’d expected. All the while Ingrid chronicles her journey in letters to her mother. Younge-Ullman does a great job of keeping the reader's interest, juggling past and present, which at first seem like different life times. However, as the reader reads on, it becomes clear why and how Ingrid ended up in Peak Wilderness for four weeks.

Emotional and exciting, Ingrid’s past is revealed and by the end of the novel each piece finally falls into place, and a big secret is discovered. Each character in this book develops uniquely throughout the novel. They take their own challenges and overcome them just as Ingrid does. Ingrid’s hilarious take on her adventures at Peak Wilderness balance out with her heartfelt and sorrowful past. It’s easy to identify with Ingrid as she’s just as sarcastic and conflicted as any teenager. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

Review: Long May She Reign

Long May She Reign
by Rhiannon Thomas

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: February 21, 2017

LONG MAY SHE REIGN by Rhiannon Thomas is the story of a girl named Freya who is 23rd in line to be queen, but is suddenly made queen after a deadly banquet where hundreds of people die, including the king and all of those in line before her. So she's instantly elevated to the throne, and now has to fight death threats, people who think she's the murderer, and a council that doesn’t listen to her. She also has to solve the mystery of who poisoned the entire court.

What I really liked about this book is how the author had this young girl be smart and powerful at the same time. She's science-y and loves to solve problems, and is so unlike many of the girls that you see in a court setting. She also has to fight her council: because she's a young girl and they think she's easy to manipulate, she has to prove herself to them.

The book takes a very feminist approach to many of the problems that females might have faced in the court setting back in the day, and lets us follow the story of a girl who wants to defy the expectations of what a queen is. I would recommend this book to lovers of medieval fiction, and those who are looking for a powerful feminist book to read.

14 February 2017

Review: American Street

American Street
by Ibi Zoboi

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 14, 2017

AMERICAN STREET is a brilliantly written, courageous novel that explores familial and romantic relationships, religion, and the true nature of the American Dream. Fabiola Toussaint is a Haitian immigrant who finds herself unexpectedly alone in an unfamiliar country after her mother is detained by US Customs Officials. Fabiola’s cousins welcome her into their Detroit home and teach her the ways of American society, but she longs for the comforting presence of her mother. Ultimately, Fabiola is faced with a choice that threatens to shatter the bonds she has made in her new life. Aspects of Fabiola’s religion were woven into the plot, with characters and symbols from Haitian religion making appearances on the gritty streets of Detroit. This unique setting enhances the reader’s understanding of Fabiola and the relationships she has with her mother, cousins, and a new love interest. As far as the writing goes, Ibi Zoboi is, quite simply, an amazing author. This novel was her debut, but I will personally be on the lookout for any other books that she publishes in the future, because her writing style was so compelling and her message was universally relatable. Each of her characters were beautifully crafted, with layers of identity that slowly emerged as the novel progressed, but I especially enjoyed reading about Fabiola--she was strong, compassionate, moralistic, and flawed. As I read this book, it reminded me a bit of THE OUTSIDERS, and I would highly, highly recommend it.  

Review: Piecing Me Together

Piecing Me Together
by Renée Watson

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: February 14, 2017

In PIECING ME TOGETHER, Renée Watson writes about Jade, an artist and scholarship student at a predominantly white, private high school in Portland. Jade lives a different life than her classmates and is constantly being given “opportunities” by her school counselor, one of which is an offer to become part of a mentorship program called Women to Women. Though Jade accepts, she struggles to connect with her mentor, Maxine, and feels as though Maxine is attempting to repair Jade instead of supporting her. Throughout the novel, readers watch as Jade discovers the power and voice she has in the world, which Watson beautifully depicts through descriptions of Jade’s artwork. Her story is told clearly and expresses the importance of treating people equally, allowing yourself to discover what matters to you, and finding beauty in everything. She and her friends are strong characters with important messages and ideas. 

Review: Valiant

The Valiant
by Lesley Livingston

Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: February 14, 2017

THE VALIANT by Lesley Livingston is a creative retelling of the Spartacus story from a female's perspective. It is about a girl named Fallon who is the daughter of a king. She gets captured and sold into slavery. Where she finds herself at an all female gladiator training school. The book is well-written, with a multitude of creative names(though sometimes difficult to pronounce). I really enjoyed the plot and I had recently watched the movie Spartacus. Halfway through the book is when I found out it was a retelling of Spartacus and it was a pleasant surprise. I highly recommend this book!

Review: The Wish Granter

The Wish Granter
by C. J. Redwine

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 14, 2017

In THE WISH GRANTER by C.J. Redwine, Thad makes a deal with the mysterious Wish Granter so that he and his sister Ari ascend to be the King and Princess of the kingdom. Thad does the best he can to protect his people, but is restricted by his side of the Wish Granter’s deal. Sebastian, the new weapons master, helps Ari try to find a way to get Thad out of his contract, and return peace to the kingdom. The motivation of the Wish Granter, Teague, felt a little weak, such that the extent that he goes to in order to achieve his goal seems like overkill. I enjoyed reading THE WISH GRANTER, which retells a certain fairy tale with a dark twist. Those who are not familiar with the fairy tale will not understand what it is based off of until the end of the book, but those who are familiar with it will be able to figure out the ending. I recommend this to fans of the book CINDER. 

Review: #Famous

by Jilly Gagnon

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: February 14, 2017

#FAMOUS by Jilly Gagnon is a cute and light foray into the ramifications of accidental internet stardom. After Rachel's picture of Kyle, the hot guy who works at the mall's hotdog stand, goes viral, the two have to figure out how to live their lives while experiencing their 15 seconds of fame, and determine what will stay the same and what's going to have to change. Though it was a bit cheesy and trope-filled at times, the interactions between the characters seemed genuine and realistic. The story flowed smoothly with good laughs and consistent behavior throughout, though there were definitely some stand-out scenes. Like many recent YA books, this novel uses tweets and texts as part of the storyline, and Gagnon really integrated these as into the story cleanly and really added another level of character to the plot all together. If you're looking for a fun and chill read and are a fan of classic high school cheesy romances, I'd definitely recommend this book.

07 February 2017

Review: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful
by Eric Lindstrom

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 7, 2017

In A TRAGIC KIND OF WONDERFUL, Mel Hannigan is a sixteen-year-old girl living with bipolar disorder and struggling to make sense of the complex web of relationships surrounding her. While struggling with the death of her brother, Nolan, Mel carefully organizes her world in order to keep her feelings in check. Author Eric Lindstrom sheds light on the difficulty of living with bipolar disorder while also showcasing Mel’s determination to not be defined by her mental illness. While I personally don’t have experience with bipolar disorder, I found Mel very easy to connect with due to a somewhat weird but very effective combination of cynicism and optimism that enriches her as a character. While this book certainly has a romantic angle, it is primarily focused on Mel’s personal journey, which helps to overcome the more cliched love story. I would highly recommend this book to fans of ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES and ELEANOR AND PARK.

Review: The Cruelty

The Cruelty
by Scott Bergstrom

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Scott Bergstrom’s new book, THE CRUELTY, shines a whole new light on the YA spy genre. I feel that this book’s greatest strength is its realism, something that I feel other YA spy books simply don't have. The book is a series of shocking developments, each leaving you more astonished than the last. So when the main character, Gwendolyn Bloom, is thrown into the midst of spies and criminals just to get her father back, you'd better be ready for a page turner, where each page just leaves you hungry for more.

Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies

Empress of a Thousand Skies
by Rhoda Belleza

Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Rhoda Belleza’s debut novel, EMPRESS OF A THOUSAND SKIES, follows Rhee, the last in line for the Ta’an throne, as she sets out to avenge her family -- who died in a “mysterious accident” years prior -- meanwhile, Aly, a reality star from war-ravished lineage, must survive after being blamed for Rhee’s “assassination.”

In space.

Yes, this is a Sci-Fi Novel, and while I’m admittedly not a huge fan of the genre, EMPRESS OF A THOUSAND SKIES definitely avoided the tropes that typically push me away from The Final Frontier. The world Belleza sets up is clearly defined, and allows her to explore themes of cultural and racial tension, without being unpleasantly overt. Rather than getting lost in names that sound like meaningless keyboard-smashes, I was able to understand the differences that came with being a Kalusian or a Fontisian, and the implications behind it. I’d mark EMPRESS OF A THOUSAND SKIES as a book that, regardless of genre-bias, I could recommend to anyone. You want a book dealing with racial tensions? Yep. You want a 16-year-old warrior-princess? Yep. You want a book with actually foreshadowed plot twists??? Yep!

If you’re in a reading-slump, I’d definitely suggest picking up Empress of a Thousand Skies. It’s fast-paced, fun to read, and sure to entertain!