29 March 2017

Review: The Heartbeats of Wing Jones

The Heartbeats of Wing Jones
by Katherine Webber

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: March 14, 2017

Fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is shocked and devastated when she learns her older brother, Marcus, was the drunk driver in a crash that killed two people. He’s fighting for his life in the hospital with a coma, leaving Wing to deal with the wreckage he’s caused. Her family is grieving, their house is under risk of foreclosure, and her bullies, armed with the news of Marcus’s accident, have become intolerable. Wing begins to cope with her stress, anger, and sadness by running. When her crush spots her on the track one night, he’s astounded by her incredible pace. She is one of the fastest young female runners in Atlanta, but when the opportunity arises to sprint professionally, she’s plagued by self-doubt. Does she have what it takes?

This gripping novel explores the issues of coming-of-age and self-discovery. The author succeeds at creating incredibly realistic and touching characters. The romance is masterfully weaved in; it’s not the point of the book and it’s not overdone, but the scenes that include it are written perfectly. Katherine Webber’s crisp, conversational style is engaging.

28 March 2017

Review: Blood Rose Rebellion

Blood Rose Rebellion
by Rosalyn Eves

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 28, 2017

Anna Arden should have it all. Born into Britain's high society, she has looks, brains, and wealth.  But the only thing that matters in Rosalyn Eves' BLOOD ROSE REBELLION is the one thing Anna doesn't have: magic. Born into the Luminate, a social class of magic wielders, Anna's "barrenness" makes her a pariah, and her family sends her to Hungary in exile. There, she learns that magic is not all that it seems, and must choose between the magic she desires among the Luminate...or revolution.

This book was a thrilling mix of LES MISERABLES, REIGN, and DIVERGENT, and is definitely one of this year's strongest fantasy books. The characters and the plot are both very well-written, and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. While certain characters are unrealistic in their lack of geopolitical knowledge, it doesn't detract from the novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Review: Just Another Girl

Just Another Girl
by Elizabeth Eulberg

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: March 28, 2017

JUST ANOTHER GIRL by Elizabeth Eulberg is about a girl named Hope who has a crush on a boy named Brady. She has had a crush on him forever but he has a girlfriend. Hope comes to hate his girlfriend (her name is Parker). The book is about all of the things Hope does to try to win Brady over, while she figures out Parker. I really enjoyed the book. It was a great coming of age story with a few big plot twists. I like the way the author uses foreshadowing. I really thought it was well written. It also had just the right amount of humor. I highly recommend this book.

21 March 2017

Review: Nemesis

by Brendan Reichs

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: March 21, 2017

NEMESIS tells the story of two teens, Min and Noah. During the past few years, Min has been killed several times. And she has stayed living. Noah suffers in a similar way, as he receives horrific nightmares of a murderous man in a black suit who kills him. Always on even-numbered years, both teens have horrific experiences, yet keep it to themselves. But the times are changing. A giant asteroid may or may not soon destroy their planet. Huge earthquakes have been hitting cities, triggering volcanos and tsunamis. So, what do all these things have in common? Soon, the teens will have to band together to discover the secrets behind their horrific murders, and find out what a mysterious government group – Project Nemesis – has to do with all this.

The characters in the book were very interesting and well-defined. Noah is different from your usual rich-kid character, and is very shy. Min, while living in a small trailer, still enjoys her life and doesn’t care about what others think. I liked that when they first met, they were reluctant and not so trusting of each other, which is different from those books when they fall into each other’s arms so quickly. The plot was also very intriguing, and made you wonder what was going on. It was full of mystery, and made you feel unsure about what would happen next. I really liked how the further you went into the book, the more complex the mystery became, making you want to read until 2am to figure it out. I would recommend this book to any sci-fi or mystery lovers looking for a new thriller.

Review: Ten Miles One Way

Ten Miles One Way
by Patrick Downes

Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: March 21, 2017

Q and his girlfriend, Nest, are walking through their small town. As they walk, Nest narrates and tells him everything: about her life, her parents, her dreams, and her struggles with bipolar disorder. TEN MILES ONE WAY is a touching and beautifully written novel that confronts mental illness. Patrick Downes draws Nest’s character superbly; she is so realistic, it is almost as if you could reach out and touch her. This book brings readers to tears. You will be thinking about it for days after you finish the last page. I highly recommend TEN MILES ONE WAY.

15 March 2017

Review: The Beast is an Animal

The Beast is an Animal
by Peternelle van Arsdale

Publisher: Margaret K McElderry Books
Publication Date: February 28, 2017

THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL by Peternelle van Arsdale follows Alys, a young girl whose parents are killed by soul eaters. After losing her parents, Alys goes to live in a nearby town called Defaid, where the adults’ fear of both a creature known as The Beast and the soul eaters seems to have taken over their entire lives. As Alys grows up, she begins to see the danger in the town’s fear of the unknown, and takes it upon herself to redefine the line between good and evil. 

In the beginning of the novel, Alys is seven, and readers stay with her until she is fifteen years old. Being able to see Alys’s growth throughout the novel created a personal connection between the main character and reader, and will allow readers to understand her on a deeper level. The entire novel is written like a dark fairy tale, with eerie rhymes about The Beast and the soul eaters woven throughout the story. Fear of these creatures leads the town-members to struggle to accept anybody who may be different from them, while Alys struggles to find the balance between finding herself and caring for others. While some may find that the plot seems slow to unfold, it will give readers time to reflect on the ways they deal with fear, and what it takes to overcome prejudice. Overall, van Arsdale created a dark fantasy world that readers will be left thinking about. 

14 March 2017

Review: Hunted

by Meagan Spooner

Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: March 14, 2017

After her father loses their fortune, Yeva aka Beauty and her family are forced to move to a small cabin on the outskirts of town. When her father goes missing while obsessively tracking a Beast, Yeva, the only one he taught to hunt, is obliged to keep her family alive. However, not knowing how to live without her father, she decides to go after him by hunting down the Beast. Soon she encounters the Beast who forces her to hunt down an unknown force to save him.
In HUNTED, Spooner decides to give a whole new appearance to this classic tale. This retelling of Beauty and Beast presents Beauty as no damsel in distress. Shes independent, brave and totally badass, making her the perfect role model for the 21st century girl. In addition, Yeva and the Beasts relationship is more relatable than other YA novels, where the leads tend to fall in love right away.

Review: A Psalm for Lost Girls

A Psalm for Lost Girls
by Katie Bayerl

Publisher: GP Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: March 14, 2017

A PSALM FOR LOST GIRLS by Katie Bayerl is a provocative story about religion, grief and sisterhood. Told in alternating perspectives, the narrative features sisters Callie and Tess de Costa, two sisters from New Avon, Massachusetts. When Tess begins hearing a voice in her head warning of terrible doom, she is able to relay these messages and prevent catastrophes. Soon, those in her town are convinced that she is a saint. However, when Tess dies unexpectedly and a missing girl appears at one of her shrines, the case for her sainthood only grows. The story follows Callie and Tess’ secret boyfriend, Danny, as they try to protect Tess’s memory and trace the kidnapper of the abducted child. This story is a compelling mix of fast-paced mystery and poignant reflection on the all-consuming nature of grief. While the plot is obviously a bit dark, the religious elements that are woven in give it a sense of hope, and Callie’s bond with her sister is inspirational and feels authentic.

09 March 2017

Review: Stranger Than Fanfiction

Stranger Than Fanfiction
by Chris Colfer

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 28, 2017

STRANGER THAN FANFICTION by Chris Colfer is a coming-of-age novel that makes deeper connections to friendship, sexuality, and the true meaning of fame. The story follows four friends obsessed with Wiz Kids, a hit television series starring actor Cash Carter. As a joke, the friends invite Carter on a road trip, but when he accepts, they find themselves immersed in a narrative that reveals hidden truths about Carter and each other. While I thought that this novel was well-written overall, I felt that some of the characters could have used more development. The storyline incorporated a diverse cast of characters in terms of race and sexuality, but it did sometimes feel as if certain stereotypes were reinforced rather than disproved. Overall, though, this was a book with a light plot and some more rich insights. I would caution readers that it contains repeated, explicit references to alcohol, sex, and drug use, so it is probably most appropriate for more mature readers.

07 March 2017

Review: Confessions of a High School Disaster

Confessions of a High School Disaster
by Emma Chastain

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Adjusting to high school can be hard... Especially when you fall in love with a senior who has a seemingly flawless girlfriend, have parents who are splitting up but can't admit it, and are the lead in the school musical. CONFESSIONS OF A HIGH SCHOOL DISASTER by Emma Chastain is told by Chloe, a lovable but flawed high school student. Throughout this witty, hilarious diary of an ordinary teenager, we follow her as she navigates friendship, the role of family, and most difficultly, love. I thought it was very interesting for the book to be written from her perspective as a diary so we get to see her life day by day, without one detail missing. This book was very well written.

Review: Goodbye Days

Goodbye Days
by Jeff Zentner

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 7, 2017

GOODBYE DAYS, Jeff Zentner's sophomore novel, takes a look at the ramifications of sorrow, loss, and how to move on. Carver, Eli, Blake, and Mars had been thick as thieves since they were barely teenagers; they formed an inseparable group entitled the "Sauce Crew" by the members themselves. Yet, when three of the foursome meet their untimely end the summer before senior year due to a car crash, Carver, the lone survivor, is faced with the blame. Mere moments before the crash, Carver texted Mars, the driver of the car, asking where they were since he was waiting to be picked up by the other three, and that text was found open on Mars's phone at the wreck. Facing a legal battle brought on by the judge father of one of his friends and struggling with his own grief, Carver finds support in his family and what few friends he has left, including the former girlfriend of one of the victims, and tries to make peace with the loss of his friends through a series of memorial "Goodbye Days".

This book was a bit unusual to me; it had a strange mix of beautifully crafted and powerful sentences next to choppy and awkwardly phrased dialogue, but it still managed to get its point across. While I couldn't understand exactly why Carver was being blamed for the accident, rather than Mars who was actually driving the car, his struggle with his losses and mental health felt raw and honest. The goodbye days, while emotional, felt a bit cheesy and unrealistic, but they were the main way that the perspectives and backstories of both the victims and their families was introduced into the story, and for me, that was the best part of the novel. Overall, I enjoyed this book for its dynamic character relationships and fresh take on the classic YA friend/family death trope. I'd recommend it for anyone who enjoys books like LOOKING FOR ALASKA or 13 REASONS WHY.

Review: Girl Code

Girl Code
by Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser

Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: March 7, 2017

GIRL CODE by Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser is a documentation of Andy and Sophie’s initiation into the world of coding, and their unique experiences as they created video games and lasting friendships. Andy and Sophie’s uplifting attitude during their adventures sends out a positive message about what women can achieve when they set their minds to something. The reader will find herself rooting for Andy and Sophie as they face many trials involving coding, as well as those encountered in typical teenage life. If you are interested in coding, this book is great because it discusses many different concepts and opportunities for young coders. Likewise, if you don’t know much about coding, this book is a great introduction and showcases two girls who knew nothing about coding and the ways they learned to create things they never would have imagined. The reader should keep in mind that GIRL CODE is a record of Andy and Sophie's experiences rather than a story. Therefore it doesn't have a typical climax or exposition. I found some parts of it a bit hard to follow, but overall it was a very positive message and will encourage the reader to achieve their goals.

02 March 2017

Review: City of Saints and Thieves

City of Saints and Thieves
by Natalie C. Anderson

Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: January 24, 2017

CITY OF SAINTS AND THIEVES is the action-packed story of Tiny, a refugee from the Congo and a formidable thief. For years, Tiny has been planning to avenge her mother, who was murdered by her lover, but when the opportunity arises, things don't go to plan. Tiny must travel through Africa to discover the real story, accompanied by none other than the murderer's son...who is also Tiny's childhood best friend. This story contains a riveting plot with a good pace and well-developed characters, and is a great new spin on the Ocean's Eleven "thief on a mission" storyline while also addressing several important global issues, such as the refugee crisis and systemic poverty. Overall, a great read.

Review: Splinter

by Sasha Dawn

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: March 1, 2017

SPLINTER by Sasha Dawn is a mystery novel about Samantha Lang trying to figure out what happened to her mother after her disappearance ten years ago, trying to avoid the obvious conclusion that her dad is guilty. Samantha tries to play the role of a detective, finding out clues on her own. I really enjoyed this book, which is basically a puzzle. It is fun to try to think about what really happened, piecing together bits of information as they appear. Throughout the book, many of the clues that are revealed cause you to re-form your own opinion of what really happened. For each new piece of evidence, you are forced to decide how, or if, you should use the new information. I found this book to be engaging and suspenseful, and I would read other books by this author. Although it's a different genre, this book reminded me of THE MARTIAN. I would recommend this book to fans of THE MARTIAN, and also to those who like to solve or play with puzzles.