Showing posts tagged young adult

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

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

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5 star

Love, Werewolves, Family, Friendship, Truth

Sam is still struggling to accept his new human body when Grace starts to get sicker and sicker and the couple finds out that one of Beck’s newest wolves is actually a rock star who won’t stay hidden for long. Stiefvater takes the fear that Grace had about losing Sam in the first book and throws it on its head as Sam struggles to find a way to keep Grace with him and pick up the pieces of a life he didn’t think he would have. The narrative is divided up between Sam, Cole, Grace, and Isabel which makes for a much richer story and keeps the book from being a standard boring love story sequel. I loved that more science aspects were introduced, and Stiefvater’s writing is as superb as always.

Previous book: Shiver
Later book: Forever
Companion: Sinner

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

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5 star

Love, Werewolves, Family Life, Friendship

Grace has always been obsessed with the wolves in the forest behind her Minnesota home, but when the wolf who saved her life turns out to be a boy she can barely believe her luck—until she finds out that being a werewolf is not a permanent state, just a thing that happens until you are permanently stuck as a wolf. No summary I write could do justice to the family relationships, sweet romantic moments, spunky heroines, or heartbreaking plot that Stiefvater has crafted. Her impeccably chosen language and carefully crafted characters bring a perfect touch to the tortured werewolves of mythology, making them arguably more sad in the process. Would recommend to fans of compelling characters, werewolves, or great language.

Later books: Linger, Forever
Companion-y later novel: Sinner

Who Done It? Edited by Jon Scieszka

4 star

Anthology, Humor, Murder Mystery

Over 80 young adult authors have been accused of murdering Herman Mildew, their horrific editor, and each must come up with a short statement defending their innocence. The stories are humorous and outrageous and it is a fun read for anyone who recognizes the names listed in the table of contents. There is no coherence between the stories however, so you can’t read it as a whodunnit because none of the narratives fit together, but it is a funny light read. Proceeds benefit a literary non-profit and it was nice to see so many authors joining together for a good cause.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

5 star

Irish Lore, Water Horses, Island Life, Growing Up, Family

Sean is the man you want around a horse and winner of the last several Scorpio Races, and Puck Connolly is an orphan with two brothers desperate to have enough money to live in. The Scorpio Races, where the cruel and dangerous water horses come from the sea and men capture and race them annually, bring the two together into an unexpected friendship / rivalry. Stiefvater beautifully describes the island Thisby and its inhabitants, painting them all so well that you can practically taste the November Cakes and smell the salty air and the stink of water horses. The interactions between the characters are gritty, from Puck fighting with her brothers to them saving each other to Sean’s desperate love for his water horse, and well-crafted. Would recommend to lovers of folk stories and simply well-written books.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

2 star

Vampires, Segregation, Teenagers, Fear, Ignorance

Tana’s world in full of vampires relegated to Coldtowns that no one, not even humans, can leave — but when she wakes up at a party where renegade vampires have killed everyone except her and her ex-boyfriend, she flees to Coldtown with her infected ex-boyfriend and a vampire who is helping them escape. Tana never wants anything through out this adventure — she has a mild interest in Coldtown, less interest in going back to her family, vague interest in the fate of the people around her, and then when she gets to Coldtown she wants to leave, but only kind of. The story seems to happen around her, which is a shame as the world is built very well and the other characters are very interesting, as is Tana’s backstory as she explains how her mother was infected when Tana was a child. Unfortunately, the lack of any action precluded any kind of true conflict around Tana, so it feels more like she is getting involved in other people’s business than actually having a story of her own. Would recommend to someone looking for an old-fashioned vampires are scary story that includes modern technology well.

The Forbidden Sea by Sheila A. Nielson

2 star

Island Life, Money Trouble, Mermaids, Legends, Loyalty

Adrianne has been her family’s anchor since her father died, but when a mermaid starts hunting her younger sister and the family might starve, she isn’t sure how much longer she can be brave. Adrianne is a mean character who despises meanness in others, and yet people keep telling her how wonderful she is and horses love her, but as a reader I found her insufferable (; I do not believe all characters need to be likable, but I do think the author should at least have some awareness of how her character reads). The plot changed abruptly midway from being one of a poor girl struggling to fend off a scary mermaid while trying to catch the eye of her best friend while feeding her family before becoming a tale of mermaids who respect her so much that all the other conflicts have fallen by the wayside and never get resolved. The writing is not particularly impressive, though the scenery was at least well depicted. Overall a forgettable story.

Surfacing by Nora Raleigh Baskin

1 star

Drowning, Family Problems, First Relationships, Cheating

This jumbled novel is a blenderized mix of Maggie’s sister drowning when she is nine, Maggie growing up to be a star on the swim team, Maggie having a magical and not-helpful-to-the-plot ability to get people to tell her their secrets, Maggie finding a perfect boy but cheating on him with a guy she doesn’t even like, Maggie’s parents getting divorced, et cetera. The novel is far too short to deal with all of the issues it addresses and so many things are left unanswered that the reader is left feeling cheated, wondering if you are supposed to feel validated at the end when Maggie has no more secrets, bitter with her for being such a bad human, or respect her for finally being honest. The writing is of poor quality and the flow is abysmal; I found myself rereading scenes trying to piece together what had happened. Would not recommend to fans of magical realism or dark realism as it does a botched job of being either, but I would recommend to those of you who like train wrecks of novels.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

1 star

Pageants, Survival, Politics, Capitalism, Satire

When the plane taking fifty beauty queens to their pageant crashes on a remote island, the thirteen surviving girls must band together and use their pageant talents to stay alive in a story punctuated by advertisements, bios, various cultural footnotes, and bizarre political drama. The characters themselves are all fashioned to be models of what society should be like to the point where it is boring: a transgender girl who finds perfect love, a lesbian, two girls of color, the stuck up one, the shy one, and I have to stop here because my brain is crying. The plot is nonexistent but presumably is meant to be about how these girls are strong and brave and can take down any evil, such as the former pageant queen who wants to kill them so she can become President, but mostly it is a mash up of scenes written to make a point so that the satirical intentions are completely washed away by the Aesop-like morals. This book is not particularly funny, the characters are not remotely interesting, the grating style is less entertaining than it is gritted-teeth-inducing, and I find myself struggling to find a type of person to recommend this to.

Selkie Girl by Laurie Brooks

2 star

Scotland, Selkies, Teenage Problems, Family Problems, Fitting In

Elin Jean is an outcast because of her webbed fingers; she struggles to maintain a life and brightens at the thought of romance and escaping her self imposed prison, but when she realizes she is half selkie, she throws it all away to live in the sea and almost immediately regrets it. The story had promise as it dealt with an oft ignored mythic creature, but it turned out to be a standard “whiny protagonist saves the day and wins the love of all” kind of story. Elin Jean’s only memorable trait is that she is self centered, yet despite this she is surrounded by the love and faith of a number of people and selkies. The prose was mediocre, though the descriptions of the Scottish landscapes were interesting. Altogether a forgettable story.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

4 star

Parallel Worlds, Love, Friendship, War, Sacrifice

Karou is facing her hardest challenge yet: convince a handful of chimaera and seraphim to play nice long enough to stop a millenia-long war and save what is left of her people. The romance and friendship in this book are just as perfectly executed as in the first two, and I found myself tearing up more than once as these characters grew. The introduction of an overarching plot line was fascinating, but I do wish it had been foreshadowed more in the first two books, as it felt cruelly dumped on Karou and Akiva this late in the game. Overall it was a fitting ending to a great trilogy: perfectly paced, funny at times, and poignant at others.

Previous books: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight