Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi

Furthermore was one of my favorite books of last year and so I shook with joy when this was handed to me.

While still a great book, it didn’t live up to Furthermore for me.  And, as a bookseller, I am incredibly confused by this book because I am not sure how to sell it.  It is incredibly dark, dealing with a lot of death and very violent and gory descriptions of things.  (Bodies walking down the street without their skin will always haunt me.)  On the other hand, it was a great story of accepting help.  Seeing the characters from the last book interact with a new character and a completely new world was also a great experiences.  I love Mafi’s characters and her worlds are fully rounded out.  I liked that this is a companion book rather than a sequel but I just wish I could read Furthermore again for the first time.

4-stars

Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm

I am a huge fan of Stephanie’s and this is her best book yet, in my opinion.

Her voice shines through in the humor and nerdy references that fill this book.  There are so many literary references that made me shout “YAAASSSS” throughout my empty apartment when I was reading.

The combination of a fun Scottish setting and an intrusive reality show leads to tons of laughs and silly situations.  The characters are all great and incredibly realistic.  I was really disappointed to leave them behind when the book ended. And, ughhhh, Jamie was so freaking adorable!  I wish he was real…

5-stars

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

This book was such a fun adventure.  Following Jane through 5 different possible timelines, the book goes from most realistic timeline to bizarre as the book goes on.  Jane is a fun character who is stuck in a strange house with people she barely knows yet she is always up for adventure.  Cashore does a great job of making each timeline its own story while pulling details throughout them, which kept me incredibly invested as a reader.  And she left me questioning what was actually real.

This book is incredibly fun and I flew through it, wanted to know how much weirder it could get.  Cashore created some awesome characters and it was great to see how they were different in each timeline while still being the character you had grown to love.  It’s a great puzzle of a book and I loved attempting to solve it.

4-stars

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

I’m going to start this review by saying that this book is so out of the realm of what I usually read.  So keep that in mind.

First, the stuff I liked.  The world that Veronica Roth created for this book is fascinating and incredibly well formed.  The characters are wonderful (even when they are absolutely horrible).  It was incredibly creative and I always felt like Roth knew what was going on, which I don’t always feel reading sci-fi/fantasy.

Now the stuff I didn’t like so much.  First, there was the format.  The book flipped between two perspectives and one of them was in first-person while the other was in third-person.  I was incredibly distracted by this and it made me feel really connected to one character and I just couldn’t bring myself to care as much about the other.  Also, this book is incredibly graphic in its violence.  I have a low tolerance for this sort of thing and, to be honest, it makes it hard for me to recommend it to teenagers.  I think that passages could have been just as powerful if they didn’t describe every terrible moment of a horrific incident.

3-stars

Need by Joelle Charbonneau

Holy crap.  This book was intense.  And it reminded me of how truly terrible teenagers can be.

Joelle Charbonneau’s teenage thriller took me on quite the adventure.  I was actually incredibly angry when I looked at the clock and realized that I had to go to work because I NEEDED ANSWERS.  I always judge a good thriller by whether or not I can see the twist coming and, for the majority of the book I didn’t see what was coming.  Until I did.  And that’s where the book got confusing for me.

I was sure while I was reading the first 3/4 of the book that this was going to be a 5-star (or 5-sequinbeast, in my judging system) book and then I hit the end and it completely lost me.  I still don’t understand the ending and the motivations that caused all of the action in the book to happen.  Maybe I just need to go back and re-read it cause there is the possibility I missed something.  But it all seemed confusing and, at least to me, was not the ending I was hoping for.  I know, I know, authors don’t have to end books how I want them to.  I was just hoping to have more answers, to finally understand what was happening.

That said, this is a great YA thriller.  Just be warned that there is some terrible violence, so keep that in mind when thinking about what age to recommend it to.

4-stars

After the Fall by Kate Hart

This book ripped my heart out of my chest and made me cry tears onto it.  It upset me to no end but I loved every minute of it!  I’m also not sure how to talk about this book without giving stuff away so this review is mostly going to just be my emotions about the book.

Kate Hart’s characters were so incredibly real.  I felt like I actually knew all of them in real life, like we were actually friends and so it hurt me when things happened to them.  My roommates had to deal with me going through insane waves of emotion while reading this because I became so incredibly invested in these characters and their lives.  After I finished the book, I called my mom and took a long walk while I talked to her about it because I just had to unpack it.  I never saw any of the twists coming and, after talking to my mom about it, I realized it was because the characters were so well written, so fully developed, that I was completely living in the moment with each and every one of them as I was reading.  I wasn’t thinking ahead because I was so invested in what was happening in each and every moment.

This is not a book to read if you are looking for a light and happy read.  That said, it is definitely a book you should read.  It is amazingly written and incredibly powerful.  Pick this one up when you need a good cry.

A sign of a good book, to me, is one that I can’t stop thinking about.  And I finished this book a month ago and I haven’t stopped thinking about it.  Great, great work, Kate Hart.

5-stars

The Date to Save by Stephanie Kate Strohm

I love love love love Stephanie Strohm and couldn’t handle my excitement when the galley for this book arrived.

When I heard that Stephanie was writing a sequel to It’s Not Me, It’s You, I thought that she must be a little crazy.  That book was awesome and the format was cool and unique.  How could she follow it up with something as awesome?

Well, not only did she follow it up, she outdid herself.  The Date to Save follows Angelica Hutchinson as she realizes that all of the big fall events at her high school are scheduled for the same night.  Filled with crazy antics, nerdy references (one of the many reasons I love Stephanie), and tons of interesting characters, I was with Angelica each step of the way as she navigated the forces that were trying to stop her reporting while still managing to figure out how to save the day.

Stephanie’s voice rings clearly throughout this book.  I like each of her books more than the last.  She is a powerhouse not to be messed with.

(Also, on a completely personal note, I may or may not have started happy crying when I saw that she mentioned The Book Cellar in the acknowledgements.  I never expected to kinda see myself talked about in a book!)

5-stars

Stranger Than Fanfiction by Chris Colfer

Boy oh boy did I hate read this whole book.  We received a box of galleys and this was sitting in there.  And it continued to sit there for a while and I got it in my head that someone on the staff needed to read it.  I thought to myself well, his kids books are really popular and I’ve heard good things so why don’t I give this one a try?  I made a huge mistake.

This book is the perfect example of why I am hating on YA right now.  Reading through, I felt like Colfer thought to himself, “I am a young gay celebrity.  I must write a book for teenagers in the LGBTQ+ community.  What characters will they relate to?  Oh yeah, stereotypes!  I know all about those because I was on Glee!”  Each time he introduced a character, I felt like he was checking off a stereotypical character from a list he had created.  It was infuriating.  This book could have been important.  It could have helped teens see themselves in characters.  Instead, it turned them into flat characters.  I found myself yelling, “WHY?  STOP!  I HATE THIS!” so many times but just couldn’t stop reading.   Part of the reason was that, each time I was about to quit, Colfer would have a great one-liner.  I would think, well, if he can do this, then maybe he can save this book.  I was wrong.

The end was supposed to be a huge, shocking twist, but I saw it coming from very early on.  I cannot explain how disappointed I was.  I guess I am mostly disappointed in myself for expecting something more.

 

2-stars

Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

I read this book because we will be doing an event with Brendan later this month.  I have been feeling a little down on YA recently because I feel like a lot of the YA I have been reading is disappointingly formulaic.  So I went into reading this a little reluctantly.  But this book was a lovely surprise.

Nemesis tells the story of the sophomore class in a small town, told mostly through the perspectives of Min, a poor girl who lives in the trailer park, and Noah, the son of the richest man in town.  Flipping between the two, we follow them as they try to figure out what is happening to them, why they are haunted by murder, and why the adults in town seem to think they are crazy.  These two voices are very distinct and interesting, with Reichs never giving into the stereotypes for YA characters.

There were a couple of times when I thought “Oh man, why is this starting to fall into a YA trope trap” but the very end of the book answered that question for me.  I was honestly disappointed when I had to go to work cause it meant that I had to stop reading and I just really needed to know what was going on!  I am in desperately in need of the next book to come out.

4-stars

#famous by Jilly Gagnon

Jilly Gagnon’s #famous tells the story of two teenagers, Kyle, who becomes suddenly famous after a picture of him goes viral, and Rachel, the girl who took the picture.  This book brought back memories of how terrible teenagers can be but also reminded me that, sometimes, they could be cool.  Nevertheless, this was another book that reminded me that I am so glad that high school is over and that I never want to go back there.

The book is based on real events, namely the Alex from Target internet phenomenon.  While the characters and specifics of the story are fabricated, I felt like Gagnon stuck too much to the real world and events at time.  Her talk show host, Laura of The Laura Show, is exactly Ellen only with a different name.  Details like this made it hard for me to relax into the story.  Instead, I kept finding myself drifting off and wondering about the actual people involved in the real events.

That said, this book is adorable and, as I have said with other books I have read this year, I enjoyed her writing.  Talking to Gagnon at her book launch about this book, she told me about other books she is working on and I am excited for those.  I believe that she will be more successful in the future when she is able to craft the world on her own and not try to adapt real events.  I think she let reality get in her way sometimes with this book.

3-stars

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Being seventeen is hard. It’s even harder, though, if you can’t remember anything since you were ten-years-old. So it is for Flora Banks. That is, until she experiences her first kiss and suddenly has a new memory. Flora is the teenager I wish I could have been; brave, adventurous, and filled with wonder. I laughed with her, cried with her, and couldn’t believe how proud I felt of this wonderful fictional teenager. This is a book for anyone who is doubting his or her abilities or feeling lost in life. If Flora can do it, you can too. I read this book in less than 24 hours.

My one complaint is that, because Flora can only remember for small periods of time, the book became incredibly repetitive for huge chunks of the book (which, I know I know, is the point).  But, it did make the times when this repetition didn’t occur all the more powerful and fascinating.  I almost wish that Flora was a real person so that I could check up on her and see how things are going for her since the book ended.

The One Memory of Flora Banks comes out May 2, 2017.

4-stars