Review: The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow

March 30, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★½

Review: The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol OstowThe Devil and Winnie Flynn by David Ostow (illustrator), Micol Ostow
Published by Soho Teen on October 15, 2015
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Horror, YA Paranormal
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Told as an ongoing letter to a friend, Winnie’s story is a heartrending mystery and a pop culture critique in the vein of Libba Bray’s Going Bovine and Beauty Queens—with illustrations throughout that recall the quirky, dark, and distinct aesthetics of Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Winnie Flynn doesn’t believe in ghosts. (Though she wouldn’t mind a visit from her mom, explaining why she took her own life.) When her mysterious aunt Maggie, a high-profile TV producer, recruits Winnie to spend a summer working as a production assistant on her current reality hit, Fantastic, Fearsome, she suddenly finds herself in the one place her mother would never go: New Jersey.

New Jersey’s famous Devil makes perfect fodder for Maggie’s show. But as the filming progresses, Winnie sees and hears things that make her think that the Devil might not be totally fake after all. Things that involve her and her family. Things about her mother’s death that might explain why she’s never met Aunt Maggie until now.

Winnie soon discovers her family’s history is deeply entwined with the Devil’s. If she’s going to make it out of the Pine Barrens alive, she might have to start believing in what her aunt is telling her. And, find out what she isn’t.

Diversity: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

The Devil and Winnie Flynn is one of those books I didn’t know about until a good while after it came out. I like to think I stay on top of current and upcoming releases, so this doesn’t happen often! In addition to finding an ARC in my local used bookstore, I discovered my library had gotten a copy of it. SWEET! Using my loophole that I can check out a book from the library and it can skip my TBR jar whether I already own the book or not, I dove right into this spooky little tale. Except it wasn’t that spooky, just bad.

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Review: The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics

March 23, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 1 ★★

Review: The Women in the Walls by Amy LukavicsThe Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics
Published by Harlequin Teen on September 27, 2016
Genres: Gothic, YA, YA Horror, YA Paranormal
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: ALA Annual 2016
Lucy Acosta's mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They're inseparable—a family.

When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she's ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother's voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin's sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.

Diversity: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 0
Disability: 2 (Lucy self-harms)
Intersectionality: 0

A few days ago, I was at the local used bookstore with my best friend and I found a copy of Daughter Unto Devils. I’d read the book and loved it; she hadn’t. Meanwhile, she’d already gotten to The Women in the Walls and was terrified by it when I hadn’t even gotten to read it yet. Naturally, I peer pressured her into buying it and happened to pull The Women in the Walls out of my TBR jar the very next day. Reader, for how much I enjoyed my previous experience reading a novel from Amy Lukavics, I am disappoint. Read more »


Review: Love Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

March 17, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 1 ★★★★

Review: Love Letters to the Lost by Brigid KemmererLetters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on April 4, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

Diversity: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (Declan’s best friend Rev was adopted by black parents; Declan’s community service supervisor is Hispanic; Juliet’s friend/photography rival has the surname Cho, presumably marking him as Asian)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0 (Juliet’s thoughts on the refugees her mom photographed are… ew)

Brigid Kemmerer made her name and developed a cult with her YA paranormal Elementals series, but I still haven’t gotten around to reading my copy of that series’s first book Storm. Funny how I end up reading her foray into YA contemporary first thanks to the TBR jar! Maybe it’s setting me up for disappointment to read an author’s most recent work first and then go backwards, but Letters to the Lost was pretty darn good.

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Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

March 16, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn BennettAlex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 4, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

Diversity: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 3 (Porter is Chinese, Hawaiian, and Polynesian; best friend Grace is Nigerian; minor character Davy is Hispanic)
QUILTBAG: 1 (a gay character way in the background)
Disability:  3 (Porter’s dad is missing an arm thanks to a shark; Davy suffers from chronic pain due to a surfing injury)
Intersectionality: 3 (see above; bothered that Porter’s Polynesian heritage is not specified)

Jenn Bennett is best known for her bestselling urban fantasy novels, but she’s clearly getting into the YA contemporary game. She’s building a fanbase among YA readers too based on how many of my friends were in love with The Anatomical Shape of a Heart! Alas, that novel failed to enchant me on that level. Hate-to-love between two people who unknowingly have been talking to each other online for ages, though? YES. Alex, Approximately is a step up with a cute couple and a whole lot of dramatic irony. Read more »


Review: You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

March 13, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney GardnerYou're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner
Published by Knopf BFYR on March 7, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
A vibrant, edgy, fresh new YA voice for fans of More Happy Than Not and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, packed with interior graffiti.

When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.

Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.

Told with wit and grit by debut author Whitney Gardner, who also provides gorgeous interior illustrations of Julia’s graffiti tags, You’re Welcome, Universe introduces audiences to a one-of-a-kind protagonist who is unabashedly herself no matter what life throws in her way.

Diversity: 3 –  Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 3 (Julia is Indian and so is her birth mother)
QUILTBAG: 3 (Julia has two moms who got her via sperm donor)
Disability: 4 (Julia and both of her moms are Deaf and Julia is explicit about the fact she’s not particularly good at reading lips)
Intersectionality: 2 (though I love the intersectionality present in Julia, the deep historical relationship between black culture and modern street art like graffiti goes untouched)

Illustrated YA books are my weakness and will always remains so. Though I lack any artistic ability, cruising art installations and museums and online collections makes me so, so happy. Words will always be my favorite, but being visually engaged by images as well as words? JACKPOT. Plus You’re Welcome, Universe featured a Deaf Indian protagonist and I’m here for that even if it isn’t #ownvoices. Meanwhile, it is pretty darn good.

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Review: In Case You Missed It by Sarah Darer Littman

March 9, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Review: In Case You Missed It by Sarah Darer LittmanIn Case You Missed It by Sarah Darer Littman
Published by Scholastic Press on October 11, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Everyone has secrets—until they go viral.

Sammy Wallach has epic plans for the end of junior year: Sneak out to the city to see her favorite band. Get crush-worthy Jamie Moss to ask her to prom. Rock all exams (APs and driver’s).

With a few white lies, some killer flirting, and tons of practice, Sammy’s got things covered. That is, until the international bank her dad works for is attacked by hacktivists who manage to steal everything in the Wallach family’s private cloud, including Sammy’s entire digital life. Literally the whole world has access to her emails, texts, photos, and, worst of all, journal.

Life. Is. Over.

Now Sammy’s best friends are furious about things she wrote, Jamie thinks she’s desperate, and she can barely show her face at school. Plus, her parents know all the rules she broke. But Sammy’s not the only one with secrets—her family has a few of its own that could change everything. And while the truth might set you free, no one said it was going to be painless. Or in Sammy’s case, private.

Diversity: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Sam’s family is Jewish; her friend Rosa is Hispanic with no specified background; two characters with the surnames Karim and Chen go undescribed and also have no specified background)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 1 (Racism is a major issue handled in the novel, but I don’t feel it did it well)

You know Jennifer Brown? The YA author who wrote Hate List and a bunch of other books that play out contemporary issues like sexting and a natural disaster destroying your home? If you ever needed a comp author for her because you or your teen already devoured Brown’s entire backlist, Sarah Darer Littman is that author. In Case You Missed It is yet another brilliant novel from her, but I’d appreciate it if her books would stop making me cry. Read more »


Winter 2016-2017 Bingo Wrap-Up

February 28, 2017 Links and Silliness 0

Well, it’s February 28, meaning it’s the last day of Pretty Deadly Reviews’s seasonal Bookish Bingo reading challenge. I’m always sad for a season to end, but tomorrow means we get a new one. BRING ON MORE BINGO.

(Fact: whether you are 10, 20, or 60, bingo will bring out the competitiveness in you. I’ve been in a room full of high-strung college kids trying to win free groceries and assorted goodies at least five separate times. I know this.)

Here’s how I did:

Wintry Bingo 15 Enter Title Here

I got bingo three times over, so I feel pretty good! Remember, my TBR jars choose most of my reading, so it’s entirely random for me. I didn’t exactly make the jar system with the intent to do true-blue Bingo, but it looks like that’s the result.

Green cover: The Lost & Found by Katrina Leno

Alternative format: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Set abroad: Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson

Sequel: Invaded by Melissa Landers

Own voices: Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

Romance: One Silver Summer by Rachel Hickman

GR Choice nominee: And I Darken by Kiersten White

Not YA: The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia

Science fiction: Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

Crime: Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu

Blue cover: This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston

LGBT: Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

Super hyped: The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Unreliable narrator: Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

Cover buy: The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson