Category Archives: ya fiction

Top Ten – Book Review

Title: Top Ten

Author: Katie Cotugno

Pages: 320 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Published: October 3, 2017

Summary:

Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?

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Review:

I feel like I can relate to Gabby a lot, which is probably why I liked this book so much. I’ve read a lot of reviews for this book in which people don’t like Top Ten because they can’t relate to the character, but that wasn’t an issue for me. Gabby has some pretty bad anxiety, and while my anxiety is nowhere near hers, I could still sympathize with a lot of what she feels, because I feel the same things to a lesser extent. I think that a lot of times, people don’t understand how tough it is to have feelings like this, and to see a character with such severe anxiety really helped me to feel like what I feel is more normal than I think it is. (I know anxiety is a huge deal, but it’s always hard to feel like you’re not alone in your symptoms.)

One of my absolute favorite things about Katie Cotugno’s writing is the fact that her books are never your “typical contemporary”. I always find that things never end the way you might expect or want them to in Katie’s novels. Sure, you might want things to end happy, with a neat little bow tied around everything, but that isn’t how life works, and it’s not how Katie’s books work either. And I LOVE it! Her characters are always flawed, and that makes them feel so much more real.

The format that this book was told in made it tough for me to grasp where in the timeline I was at times. It is told in an episodic structure, with each chapter being a different memory/story between Ryan and Gabby, and even though they were in chronological order, I was constantly confused about “has this already happened yet?!” I also think this confusion was slightly due to the fact I read this as an ebook, so it was much more challenging to be able to flip back to the beginning of a chapter and see when in the timeline that particular story was taking place.

I am a Katie Cotugno fan for life, and this book is no exception. I give it 4.25/5 stars.

 

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

 

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Neighborhood Girls – Book Review

Title: Neighborhood Girls

Author: Jessie Ann Foley

Pages: 368 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Publisher: Harper Teen

Published: September 12, 2017

Summary:

When Wendy Boychuck’s father, a Chicago cop, was escorted from their property in handcuffs for his shady criminal practices, she knew her life would never be the same. Her father gets a years-long jail sentence, her family falls on hard times, and the whispers around town are impossible to ignore. If that wasn’t bad enough, she gets jumped walking home from a party one night. Wendy quickly realizes that in order to survive her father’s reputation, she’ll have to make one for herself.

Then Wendy meets Kenzie Quintana—a cigarette-smoking, Catholic-school-uniform-skirt-hiking alpha—and she knows that she’s met her savior. Kenzie can provide Wendy with the kind of armor a girl needs when she’s trying to outrun her father’s past. Add two more mean girls to the mix—Sapphire and Emily—and Wendy has found herself in Academy of the Sacred Heart’s most feared and revered clique. Makeover complete.

But complete is far from what Wendy feels. Instead, she faces the highs and lows of a vapid, toxic friendship, the exhaustion that comes with keeping up appearances, and the only loss that could hurt more than losing herself.

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Review:

 

Oftentimes when I start reading a book, I don’t like to read the description because I don’t want to “spoil” myself on what the book is going to be about. So while I did read the description before I requested this book, by the time I actually got around to reading it, I had no clue what it was about. Which is exactly how I like it.

Wendy has had a tough life in recent years, and she hasn’t exactly tried to make it any easier on herself. I think that there is so much character growth throughout this novel, not only with Wendy, but with a lot of the other characters as well.

Perhaps one of my favorite things about this book was the way that Jessie Ann Foley captures the strange ways that teenagers (and people in general, lets be honest) act. Sometimes its as if there is no reasoning behind certain decisions, but to whoever is making the decision, it just “feels” right. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve thought something would be a great idea, only to look back or be told by someone else how stupid it was. It’s just a part of life, but it is a part that Jessie Ann Foley captures in the most realistic way.

I am not a religious person, so the fact that religion plays a big part in the main character’s life had me a little hesitant to read this. I don’t really like it when things feel preachy, and like they are trying to push certain beliefs down your throat. A lot of this book takes place within a Catholic high school, and focuses around religious themes. But religion was handled so tastefully in this book, that I found myself almost forgetting it was even a factor.

Some of the pacing of this book felt a little off to me. At times, random stories or memories would be thrown into the main story arc, and it was a bit jarring, leaving me wondering how or why it fit into the overall arc. But overall, I enjoyed the story a lot, and give it 3.75/5 stars.

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

 

There’s Someone Inside Your House – Book Review

Title: There’s Someone Inside Your House

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Pages: 289 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Horror, Contemporary

Publisher: Dutton Books

Published: September 26, 2017

Summary:

Over a year after her parents sent her away from Hawaii to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, Makani Young is still adjusting to her new life. She’s made a small group of close friends and even flirted with romance, but her past in Hawaii is still hard to forget. And then . . . one by one the students of her new high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders. Makani doesn’t know who’s next on the list. Between this, and a secret scorching relationship with the school weirdo, this school year may turn out to be one to die for . . . literally.

Review:

 

Oh my goodness. Where do I begin with this book?

I really enjoyed this book. I’m not usually the type who likes scary things. I hate horror for the sake of horror (i.e. movies that make you jump just to scare the pants off of you), and I think of myself as more of a thriller kind of girl. So I’ll admit I was a bit hesitant about reading There’s Someone Inside Your House. But, seeing as though I’ve always loved Stephanie Perkins’ books, I decided that I was going to read this one regardless of my initial thoughts. I’m glad I did.

This book got right into the action in the first chapter, which I loved! There’s nothing worse than a book that drags on with a slow burn. Also, I definitely was not terrified by this book. It has some great horror elements, but it didn’t keep me up at night. That being said, there was one evening where I was reading this book rather late in the night, with all of the lights out (it was an e-ARC), and I heard some noises in my house, which set my heart pounding. I later found out it was my mom doing some weird things in the house, but boy, was I a little nervous. I even got up to double-check the house for anything suspicious.

I think if you go into this book expecting a full-on horror novel, you will be disappointed. But if you keep in mind that Stephanie Perkins is a contemporary writer, I think you will be very happy with this book. There’s plenty of romance within this book to appease those who want more of Perkins’ swoon boys, but it doesn’t feel like it’s too much for the genre. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of intrigue and mystery going on surrounding the killer.

I gave There’s Someone Inside Your House 4/5 stars.

*I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

 

The Dazzling Heights – Book Review

Title: The Dazzling Heights

Author: Katharine McGee

Pages: 432 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

Publisher: Harper

Published: August 29, 2017

Summary:

Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a beacon of futuristic glamour and high-tech luxury… and to millions of people living scandalous, secretive lives.

Leda is haunted by nightmares of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’s afraid the truth will get out – which is why she hires Watt, her very own hacker, to keep an eye on all of the witnesses for her. But what happens when their business relationship turns personal?

When Rylin receives a scholarship to an elite upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being here also means seeing the boy she loves: the one whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return.

Avery is grappling with the reality of her forbidden romance – is there anywhere in the world that’s safe for them to be together?

And then there’s Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who’s arrived in New York with a devious goal in mind – and too many secrets to count.

Here in the Tower, no one is safe – because someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. After all, in a world of such dazzling heights, you’re always only one step away from a devastating fall….

Review:

I loved this book so much. Just when I thought that this story couldn’t get much better after The Thousandth Floor, I was proven wrong because The Dazzling Heights is absolutely amazing.

The story picks up shortly after the events that ended the first novel. I won’t go into any details here to avoid spoilers, but the drama between characters is so entertaining. There were so many times where you just want a character to be aware of one little bit of information because it would make a world of difference, and the fact that they are so blind to everything except what they believe drives you crazy, but in the best way!

I also loved that we got a new character’s perspective in this novel, and got to experience more of this world outside of New York and what little we saw of Paris in the first novel. In The Dazzling Heights we also get to explore Katharine’s versions of Hollywood and Dubai, and they are just as stunning.

This book ended on such a cliffhanger and now I am absolutely dying to read the next one! Seriously though, who do I need to sell my soul to in order to ensure I get an ARC of the next book, because it’s all yours. Are you listening, HarperCollins?

I give 5/5 stars to The Dazzling Heights. It exceeded my expectations, and dazzled me until the very end.

*I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Nice Try, Jane Sinner – Book Review

Title: Nice Try, Jane Sinner 

Author: Lianne Oelke

Pages: 432

Genre: YA, contemporary

Publisher: Clarion Books

Release Date: January 9, 2018

Summary:

The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

Review:

Jane Sinner is not your typical main character. She is sassy, and a smart ass, and unapologetically herself. She’s been through some tough experiences in her life, but they’ve helped shape her into the person that she is. I think one of the things that I love most about Jane is that she sticks to what she believes in, and she doesn’t let others try to sway her. In the beginning of the book, Jane is faced with the decision of what to do after being kicked out of high school months before graduation. She knows that living at home isn’t the best environment for her, because she doesn’t have the same views as her parents and doesn’t want them to constantly judge her and her actions. So she agrees to go to community college to finish her high school diploma, as long as she can move out of the house. I admire Jane’s strength and tenacity.

Jane’s story is told through the perspective of her diary, which is such a great format for this book. Seeing as though Jane is a contestant on a student-run reality show similar to Big Brother, being able to know Jane’s deepest inner thoughts really allows the reader to get to know her. I’ve never been a huge fan of reality competition shows, but Big Brother has always been my guilty pleasure, and I loved that Jane Sinner took it’s own spin on the show.

Jane’s family is extremely religious, and the irony that their last name is Sinner is not lost on me. Being from a family that has religious values that I don’t agree with, I was able to understand Jane’s struggles with the issue. Jane can’t really figure out a way to let her parents know that she doesn’t believe in God without them thinking that there’s something wrong with her.

Jane is so snarky, and I love it! For most of the novel, I felt like Jane’s thoughts mirrored many of my own internal thoughts that I tend to keep to myself. She, however, has no qualms about speaking her mind and letting her thoughts be known. She is blunt and doesn’t beat around the bush. I really think that more people should be like Jane Sinner, because the world would be so much less confusing.

The supporting cast of characters is so varied and lively. They are all so well developed, and you can tell that they each have their own motivations behind their actions. I really believe that none of the characters in Nice Try, Jane Sinner are like any others that I’ve seen before.

I really don’t think I could have asked for any more in this book. I devoured it so fast, and was immensely satisfied. It surprised me in the best ways, and took turns that were entirely unexpected. Jane Sinner is refreshingly unique, and should be at the top of every YA lover’s 2018 TBR. I give it 5/5 stars.

I received an e-ARC of this from HMH Teen in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Lucky in Love – Book Review

Title: Lucky in Love

Author: Kasie West

Pages: 333 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Scholastic

Published: July 25, 2017

Summary:

Maddie doesn’t believe in luck. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment —

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

With tons of humor and heart, Kasie West delivers a million-dollar tale of winning, losing, and falling in love.

Review:

 

I was so excited for this book when I heard about it. I’ve read a few of Kasie’s books and I absolutely loved them. So when I got a chance to read Lucky in Love, I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, I was not lucky enough to fall in love with this book. I liked it okay, but I have quite a few problems with this book.

Maddie, our main character, is likable. She’s smart. She works hard for what she wants, and has a close group of friends. But once she wins the lottery and has $30+ million at her disposal, she makes a lot of bad decisions. She says she’ll go see a financial advisor as soon as the money comes through, yet she puts it off over and over again. She lets people talk her into giving them money for the stupidest things. The more bad decisions Maddie made, the slower I found myself reading. I have very little patience for stupidity, and Maddie is just so darn trusting and gullible. When I had about 50 pages left, I seriously considered not finishing because I just couldn’t deal with Maddie any more.

The crazy thing is, though Maddie’s instincts when it comes to giving people money absolutely suck, her instincts about people in general are pretty spot on. Which makes it so much more difficult to believe that she’s making such bad choices. I fully believe that she has the best intentions, and that she just needs a little help. Nevertheless, it was still tough to read. A contemporary that’s as long as Lucky in Love takes me less than a day to read usually. This, however, took me three whole days to get through.

There were some redeeming aspects to Maddie. She does give each of her parents and her brother a million dollars apiece, to help with their financial struggles. She thinks that this will fix all of her problems (i.e. her parents’ marital issues and her brother’s depression over not being able to continue college because of money), and while the money makes things better for a while, it’s only a temporary fix.

I did really like the romance in this book, which is probably why I rated this book as high as I did. I loved that Seth and Maddie didn’t have instalove, and their romance developed throughout the course of the entire novel. Their romance is really cute, and gave me all of the feels.

Overall, I didn’t hate this book, but I wanted to smack some sense into Maddie so many times that it made it a bit difficult to get through at times. I give Lucky in Love 3/5 stars. Definitely not my favorite book of Kasie West’s.

What to Say Next – Book Review

Title: What to Say Next

Author: Julie Buxbaum

Pages: 272 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Published: July 11, 2017

Summary:

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

Review:

 

I was so excited when I got an ARC of this book. If you’ve read my review of Tell Me Three Things, then you know how much I absolutely love Julie Buxbaum’s writing. I went into What to Say Next with pretty high expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed. I flew through this book so quickly, and instantly fell in love with the characters.

The first thing that I fell in love with about this book was the diversity of the characters. Both of the main characters in this novel are diverse: David is on the Autism spectrum, and Kit is half Indian. While each of these characters are unique, their personalities work extremely well together. Seeing their friendship develop throughout the book made me love these two so much. You know those books where you never want to leave the characters behind, even after the story is long over? This is most definitely one of those books. Kit and David’s story sucks you in and leaves you feeling so many emotions.

I also really loved the alternating perspectives in this book. It helps to show the back and forth between Kit and David, as well as what they are both thinking and feeling as things happen between them. Especially in some scenes, it was so great to see both sides of the story and really understand how things can be meant to come off a certain way, but are completely changed by someone else’s perspective on the matter.

I give What to Say Next 5/5 stars. On a side note, I am absolutely LOVING all of the diverse reads that we have been getting lately, and all I can say is “Give me more, please!”