Showing posts tagged young adult

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

4 star

Los Angeles, Werewolves, Internet Culture, Love, Friendship

Stiefvater’s magical way with words and her love of love take center stage in this companion novel to the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy that follows Cole St. Clair and Isabel Culpepper to Los Angeles where Cole is filming a reality show and Isabel is trying to keep herself on track to be a doctor with no time for love. The language alone is worth reading it for, and Stiefvater makes you feel as if you really are in Los Angeles with Cole and Isabel, living beside them. My only complaint is that I felt there wasn’t enough struggle—that may sound weird, but Sam and Grace had to fight to stay human and keep the rest of the pack safe and this book lacked that tension that an external force provided. All of the tension comes from Cole struggling to overcome his addictive personality and Isabel struggling to overcome her own fear of intimacy—both valid and honestly depicted, but I would have liked to see them more at odds with the world.

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner

4 star

WWII, Internment Camps, Japanese-Americans, Family, Graphic Novel

Despite his white mother, Koji is set to an internment camp after Pearl Harbor. His mother joins him, and he tries to make a life by helping an older man garden and avoiding the wrath of the gang of Japanese boys who hate him for being half-white, an outsider. It is a heartbreaking tale that describes the horrible time in American history when Americans were treated as monsters simply for their skin — an appalling trend that still rings true today. It is a story of history but it is even more a story of mankind.

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

3 star

Fantasy, Death, Romance, Village Life, Black Plague

Keturah has known Lord Death since her mother died giving birth to her, but when she is a young woman she is dying and Death comes for her—but she steals herself time by telling him a story, Scheherezade-style, and promises to tell him the end if he gives her another day. Keturah is a delight: she tricks Lord Death, after all, and she knows what she wants and spends her final time on earth helping her friends and her village. But she is not enough to make up for angsty Death and a predictable ending. Leavitt writes neatly crafted sentences but the story as a whole lacks the depth it needed to make this story ring true.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

5 star

Fairy Tales, Mythology, Russia, Communism, Love, Revolution

Marya Morevna is the girl you know from the fairy tale — but she is more: Valente’s Marya sees the patriotic Communist domovoi and birds who turn into men, and when Koschei the Deathless arrives to take her away, she is waiting for him. In this tale, Ivan is not the husband who comes to save Marya—he is Koschei’s enemy, the man who always takes Marya away from their marriage. This is a spellbinding tale that combines history with mythology and in so doing makes the two more than they could be on their own. It is strange and wild and exactly what you might expect when a fairy tale like this comes to life. Would recommend to anyone looking for a different kind of fantasy, or anyone who loves fractured fairy tales.

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

4 star

Isolation, Wilderness, Family, Greed

The story has two parts that alternate between chapters: Alaska ten years ago where Sig’s father went to hunt for gold, and present day Arctic where Sig has just found his father’s frozen body and a stranger has come demanding his father’s gold. It is a very slow-moving atmospheric story that lets the tension build around Sig and his father’s past, the stranger and Sig’s revolver. It felt very real and present, but the characters were a little too stock and the story a little too perfectly tied up. Would recommend if you want a simple but powerful novella.

The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

2 star

Mystery, Teenagers, Army Towns, Drugs

When a girl is found dead in the woods, Emily’s father is arrested—he can’t remember committing the crime, but his counselors and the police are blaming a PTSD-related flashback. Emily is blaming Damon, the dead girl’s boyfriend and the last person to see her alive—but when she starts to have feelings for Damon, she wonders if she is crazy or if there is another killer out in the woods. None of the character relations are very realistic; Damon was too drugged up to remember what happened to his girlfriend the night she dies, he and Emily have inexplicable feelings for each other, Emily’s mother doesn’t defend her jailed husband, Emily’s friends are pretty creepy and not fleshed out, and this pretty much kills the character-driven story. I was looking for a murder mystery but was handed a sad (but not insightful) look at the aftermath of war and a bunch of screwed up kids. The writing was not particularly skilled and overall it was a very forgettable story.

The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks

4 star

Epic Quests, Everyman Heroes, Friendship, Family, Honor, Good vs Evil

Fifty years after the first book, Shea’s grandson Wil is assigned as the protector of the girl who must revive the tree that stands alone to keep demons out of the world. The stakes are high because the rest of the realm does not believe in the demons that are about to burst into the world, and Wil and Amberle are racing against time to save the tree before the entire Elven army is slaughtered and the demons take over the land. Brooks is skilled at building a detailed world and creating interesting characters without ever spending too long on descriptions. The tale is a splendid one of good and evil, friendship, and sacrifice.

Previous book: The Sword of Shannara
Later book (in this trilogy): The Wishsong of Shannara

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

4 star

Voynich Manuscript, Teenagers, Mystery, Love, Secret Societies

Nora is trying to impress school officials by working on Latin translations of ancient letters for a college internship with her best friend Chris. But when Chris winds up dead, his girlfriend catatonic, and his roommate/Nora’s boyfriend Max is missing, Nora has to find some way to figure out why this is happening and stop it before she is next. Fast-paced and suspenseful and at times laugh out loud funny, Blood and Shadow is the perfect book to entertain history buffs, relationship drama addicts, and action-adventure lovers. The ending is weak compared to the rest of the book (too expected in a book of so much unexpected) but it is worth overlooking for the ride.

The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgwick

2 star

Prophecy, World War II, Family, War

Sasha, like Cassandra, can see death before it happens — but no one believes her. She fights to become a nurse against her father’s wishes, but generally acts pretty foolish so he tells her she can’t be a nurse, but then she sees her brother’s death coming and decides that she is the only one who can save him because no one will listen to her. The story itself is boring; he took a classic without breathing life into it—the characters are cardboard, and the ending was so dumb I almost chucked the book across the room. Sedgwick has a way with words that is enjoyable, but not worth reading this for.

Fruits Basket Volume 1 by Natsuki Takaya

5 star

Zodiac, High School, Friendship, Family Problems, Manga

Tohru finds herself living at the Sohma mansion with two of her classmates and their older cousin—and as if this isn’t weird enough, when they get hugged by a member of the opposite sex, they turn into their zodiac animals! This is a largely comedic story with sad undertones and darkness in the history of the characters. This is a reread from my high school days and it is just as good now; I’ll spare you a review of every volume but I definitely recommend it if you are looking for an intro to manga, a long-unraveling mystery, hijinks, and fun.

Winger by Andrew Smith

4 star

Boarding School, Friendship, Sports

Winger is a 14-year-old junior at his boarding school where he struggles with being attracted to every girl ever, being viewed as a child, playing on the varsity rugby team, living in the dorm with the troublemakers, and aspiring to be as genuinely kind as Joey, the rugby captain who is gay (this shouldn’t matter but it does). Winger takes a while to get warmed up to as he starts out being kind of a self-pitying jerk, but Smith does a great job of showing how he grows and learns and becomes a brave, kind, fearless guy without making him too introspective. It is a funny book that feels real; like Looking for Alaska it takes these kids living in a pressure cooker of teenage feelings and shows their happy moments and horrible ones. Smith has captured the language and thoughts and painfulness of adolescence in a single, beautiful book.

The Boneshaker by Kate Milford

3 star

Spunky Preteens, The Devil, Mythology, Carnivals

Natalie knows something is wrong with the four creepy members of the traveling medicine show, and she spends a lot of time lurking around and hearing ghost stories and visiting the crossroads of the former town nearby while looking for clues. Unfortunately, the title is the most exciting thing about this book (it actually just refers to a type of bicycle). The medicine show docs are appropriately creepy, and the stories of the past are great, but Natalie and her friends are not interesting enough to make up for the slow pacing. I would recommend it to people who like Supernatural-style stories as it is fun, but it isn’t spectacular.

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

5 star

Love, Reincarnation, Island Life, Short Stories, Mystery

The book begins with a journalist visiting an island where it is believed that the inhabitants live forever—and it continues on to total seven stories on the island that are separate stories but all link together through the names Eric and Merle. Sedgwick does a fantastic job of writing stories that are alternately romantic, odd, and scary, and elaborating on each life just long enough to make you attached before moving on to the next. Would recommend to fans of fantasy grounded in this world, fans of weird love stories, fans of scary stories.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

2 star

Unreliable Narrator, East Coast Stereotypes, Teenagers, Rich People Problems

Cadence cannot remember one eventful night at her family’s island—she knows something traumatic happened, but it is two years later before she returns with her mother and spends the next few weeks with her extended family trying to piece together that last summer. The unreliable narrator thing got old fast as the whole time you are just waiting to find out what happened to Cadence because she doesn’t grow or learn or live, she just struggles to remember. The longer I thought about this book after I finished it the angrier I became, because I felt like the ending was kind of a dirty trick—yes, it was unexpected, yes, it had some great thriller elements, but it was so uncharacteristic and unforgivable that you don’t want Cadence to get the absolution she grants herself for remembering. While some of the style choices were interesting and the suspense was definitely suspenseful, it is overall unimpressive.

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater


5 star

Love, Werewolves, Family, Friendship, Truth

Sam, Grace, Cole, and Isabel share narration again as they fight to save the wolves from the men who want to eradicate them to protect Mercy Falls. Cole is still researching and butts heads with Sam as Sam struggles with the truth of his relationship with Beck, and Grace is trying to survive as a wolf and somehow find a way to fix her relationship with her parents and her friends. This book is more suspenseful overall than the first two as it presents deeper relationships and the fate of the wolves is at stake, so Stiefvater again works her magic to make you have the most terrible of feels while also enjoying perfect, tender moments between characters (both romantic and friendship ones). A fantastic ending to a fantastic trilogy.

Previous books: Shiver, Linger
Companion: Sinner