Genre: Mystery

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Review: Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

January 1, 2018 Diversity 4, Reviews 1 ★★★★★

Review: Before I Let Go by Marieke NijkampBefore I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on January 23, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, YA, YA Contemporary, YA Horror, YA Thriller
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley, YA Books Central
Goodreads
five-stars
Days before Corey is to return home to the snow and ice of Lost Creek, Alaska, to visit her best friend, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town's lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she's a stranger.

Corey knows something is wrong. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter...

But Does It Represent?

  • #ownvoices asexual representation in Corey
  • Kyra is pansexual and has bipolar disorder
  • Roshan and Sam are gay and together
  • Roshan and his father are Indian and from the UK
  • Native and indigenous people are mentioned regularly but never appear on the page

Ah, Alaska: the US state where the people have Canadian accents, can see Russia from their backyards, and have one of the only decent Republicans in the entirety of Congress. (Their senator Lisa Murkowski has been instrumental in stopping ACA repeals, though her general record is spotty and she’s very pro-gun.) You won’t find many YA books set in Alaska and now Before I Let Go joins the small club. It also joins the “books I’m gonna get but never reread” because it’s SO GOOD but omfg I can’t put myself through this book again. MY HEART.

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Review: Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

October 27, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: Echo After Echo by Amy Rose CapettaEcho After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta
Published by Candlewick Press on October 10, 2017
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
four-stars
Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 3 (Eli is Puerto Rican, Zara is culturally Jewish)
QUILTBAG: 5 (Eli is a lesbian, Zara is bi, and there are plenty of QUILTBAG side characters)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 3

Much like we now own every rainbow in existence, queer people own the world of theater. We may not always be visible, but we’re definitely there. (I’m always in the audience. I may be ridiculously dramatic, but I can’t act in front of a crowd to save my life nor reliably work backstage.) If you’ve been waiting around for a theater book starring queer girls–because the gay guys who make up the G in QUILTBAG get almost all the queer rep–you’ve got that rep now in Echo After Echo and it is good.
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Review: A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

October 2, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: A Line in the Dark by Malinda LoA Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo
Published by Dutton Juvenile on October 17, 2017
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
four-stars
The line between best friend and something more is a line always crossed in the dark.

Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.

As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.

When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.

“It doesn’t even matter that she probably doesn’t understand how much she means to me. It’s purer this way. She can take whatever she wants from me, whenever she wants it, because I’m her best friend.”

A Line in the Dark is a story of love, loyalty, and murder.

Diversity: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (Jess and her family are Chinese, as is Jess’s new friend Emily)
QUILTBAG: 5 (Jess, Angie, and Margot are all queer and none of them die)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 3 (Whoo, queer girls everywhere!)

Fun fact: I have a copy of Ash signed and personalized by Malinda Lo, but it’s signed to someone named Whitney. I found it in a used bookstore and it is my precious. Anyway, a mysterious book starring queer girls and someone ending up dead? I’m always here for mysteries! Add queer girls everywhere and I’m on the hook just waiting to be pulled out of the lake.

And no, none of the queer girls end up dead. THE REPRESENTATION BAR HAS BEEN SET SO LOW THAT THIS ACTUALLY EXCITES ME. Gotta love the state of media, y’all.

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Review: The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay

July 21, 2017 Reviews 0

Review: The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKayThe Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on August 2, 2016
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Goodreads
DNF
Who will be left after lights out?

Tag, you’re it…

It’s 4:00 a.m. when they come for me. I am already awake, strung out on the fear that they will come, and the fear that they won’t. When I finally hear the click of the latch on the dormitory door, I have only a second to brace myself before—

At Cate's isolated boarding school, Killer is more than a game—it’s an elite secret society. Members must avoid being “Killed” during a series of thrilling pranks, and only the Game Master knows who the “Killer” is. When Cate’s finally invited to join the Assassins’ Guild, she know it’s her ticket to finally feeling like she belongs.

But when the game becomes all too real, the school threatens to shut it down. Cate will do anything to keep playing and save the Guild. But can she find the real assassin before she’s the next target?

Since I started letting my little TBR Jar decide what I read back in early 2016, I’ve gotten hilariously, terrifyingly behind on my review copies. I feel less stressed about reading in general because it’s technically out of my hands, but that’s been replaced by the lesser stress of OH GOD, I HAVE 80+ REVIEW COPIES UNREAD AND MOST OF THEM HAVE ALREADY BEEN PUBLISHED.

The Assassin Game here? Yeah, it’s one of the victims. It was published close to a year ago and I felt so guilty for being behind on it that I actually bought a finished copy of it. If I can’t be on time with the review, I can at least give them my money, you know?

But The Assassin Game is bad. Badly written, throws around microaggressions with aplomb, and simply not fun. Read more »

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Review: If You’re Lucky by Yzonne Prinz

May 12, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 2

Review: If You’re Lucky by Yzonne PrinzIf You're Lucky by Yvonne Prinz
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on October 20, 2015
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought (Used Bookstore)
Goodreads
zero-stars
Is Georgia’s mind playing tricks on her, or is the entire town walking into the arms of a killer who has everyone but her fooled?

When seventeen-year-old Georgia’s brother drowns while surfing halfway around the world in Australia, she refuses to believe Lucky’s death was just bad luck. Lucky was smart. He wouldn’t have surfed in waters more dangerous than he could handle. Then a stranger named Fin arrives in False Bay, claiming to have been Lucky’s best friend. Soon Fin is working for Lucky’s father, charming Lucky’s mother, dating his girlfriend. Georgia begins to wonder: did Fin murder Lucky in order to take over his whole life?

Determined to clear the fog from her mind in order to uncover the truth about Lucky’s death, Georgia secretly stops taking the medication that keeps away the voices in her head. Georgia is certain she’s getting closer and closer to the truth about Fin, but as she does, her mental state becomes more and more precarious, and no one seems to trust what she’s saying.

As the chilling narrative unfolds, the reader must decide whether Georgia’s descent into madness is causing her to see things that don’t exist–or to see a deadly truth that no one else can.

Diversity: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: -5 (Georgia has schizophrenia and its handling is why this book gets 0 stars)
Intersectionality: 0
Sometimes, you read a book about or starring a person from a marginalized background and you can tell it isn’t meant to be read by someone from that same marginalized background. See: Thirteen Reasons Why and the massive amounts of controversy surrounding how graphic and triggering the Netflix series has been for suicidal, self-harming, and rape-surviving viewers.
If You’re Lucky is one of those books. Time to cut the bullshit and outline why you wouldn’t want to give this to a mentally ill teen, especially if they have schizophrenia like the main character Georgia does.

Read more »

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Review: Antisocial by Jillian Blake

May 1, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: Antisocial by Jillian BlakeAntisocial by Jillian Blake
Published by Delacorte Press on May 16, 2017
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Contemporary, YA Thriller
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
three-stars
Alexandria Prep is hacked in this exhilarating whodunit set in the age of social media and the cloud—Pretty Little Liars meets WikiLeaks.

Senior spring at Alexandria Prep was supposed to be for sleeping through class and partying with friends. But for Anna Soler, it’s going to be a lonely road. She’s just been dumped by her gorgeous basketball star boyfriend—with no explanation. Anna’s closest friends, the real ones she abandoned while dating him, are ignoring her. The endearing boy she’s always had a complicated friendship with is almost too sympathetic.

But suddenly Anna isn’t the only one whose life has been upended. Someone is determined to knock the kings and queens of the school off their thrones: one by one, their phones get hacked and their personal messages and photos are leaked. At first it’s funny—people love watching the dirty private lives of those they envy become all too public.

Then the hacks escalate. Dark secrets are exposed, and lives are shattered. Chaos erupts at school. As Anna tries to save those she cares about most and to protect her own secrets, she begins to understand the reality of our always-connected lives:

Sometimes we share too much.

Diversity: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (Anna is half-Columbian; her best friend Radhika is Indian and Rad’s boyfriend Andrew is Chinese)
QUILTBAG: 1 (quite a few characters get outed as gay by the leaks, but only one has any major role)
Disability: 3 (Anna has social anxiety disorder and her ex has OCD/anxiety too)
Intersectionality: 3 (Anna is pretty well-written and I’m happy to see all three categories above represented)

In my book, it’s always time for a YA thriller. Putting together the pieces of a mystery, trying to solve it just before or at the same time as the main character, watching everything get worse and worse right up to the climactic scene,… Maybe I’m a bit cruel, but as often as I read YA contemporary novels, YA thrillers and mysteries are a bit above them in my heart. Antisocial is a pretty good one with plenty of representation across the board and its realistic stakes will chill just about every reader.

I’ve always tried to be my best self online, but even I’m terrified at the idea of all my texts, emails, etc. being leaked online. Whether it would expose someone’s two-faced ways or provides enough evidence that they could be successfully convicted of a felony, everyone has something to fear if their name gets attached to their anonymous or private online shenanigans. Anna’s fear: the friends who are just barely starting to accept her back after she abandoned them for her boyfriend will learn how she insulted all of them when talking to him.

Antisocial is a tiny little book at 256 pages and perfectly paced so you’ll feel compelled to read it all in one sitting. In particular, Anna is an incredible character Latin@ and anxiety disorder-ridden readers hungry for representation will love. She’s half-Columbian, has social anxiety disorder, and had a stint in a group home, but she’s still determined to find out who’s leaking students’ online histories, which were gathered via an app the school required students to download. Turned out the app was gathering all their data and storing it and then someone found a hackable hole! Oops.

Even when her ex-boyfriend’s data gets leaked and she finds out how easily he dumped her when he wrecked her with the break-up, she still wants to help him. He has a form of OCD (pretty respectful and nonstereotypical, at that!) and they shared a kinship over their anxieties. No matter how much he hurt her, she’d rather do what’s right than revel in his humiliation. If I explained my history with an ex-friend, you’d quickly learn I wouldn’t be as good of a person in the same situation as Anna.

Too bad it has a lot of stereotypes and cliches going on among both the characters and the events. One twist of an event in particular toward the end of the book failed to make me feel anything at all when it was intended to be gut-wrenching. Honestly, it made me laugh and quote Heathers, which made fun of something very similar. It doesn’t ruin anything for either book or film to tell you I was giggling to myself and quoting “I LOVE MY DEAD GAY SON” as the twist’s aftermath played out.

My giggling was sandwiched between me groaning at how melodramatic and ridiculously corny the whole ending is. This is what Heathers was making fun of almost thirty years ago! Considering everything the data leaks caused at their school, trying to spin it as “everything will be sunshine and rainbows soon” makes me want to gag. You know who things won’t be okay for? The kid who made a podcast out of the leaks and delighted in it. He better change schools or he is screeeeeewed. No one’s gonna forgive him that easily for having fun with someone else’s humiliation.

All in all, Antisocial is a gripping thriller for the modern teen. Its ending may not have left me feeling anything other than mildly amused, but the core conceit of the story is what will make it memorable for readers and get the most praise. I’m excited to read more from Jillian Blake in the future and would recommend this for anyone whose hunger for thrillers still needs to be satiated or is in a bit of a reading slump. This tiny little thrill ride should cure you pretty easily!

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Review: The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill

April 13, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 1 ★★★

Review: The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie MorrillThe Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill
Published by Blink on February 7, 2017
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Historical
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-stars
Lydia has vanished.

Lydia, who’s never broken any rules, except falling in love with the wrong boy. Lydia, who’s been Piper’s best friend since they were children. Lydia, who never even said good-bye.

Convinced the police are looking in all the wrong places, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail begins her own investigation in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. With the reluctant help of a handsome young detective, Piper goes searching for answers in the dark underbelly of 1924 Chicago, determined to find Lydia at any cost.

When Piper discovers those answers might stem from the corruption strangling the city—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.

Diversity: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0 (the only POC is a black woman employed by Lydia’s family as a servant and her 1-2 lines of dialogue have a rather stereotypical phonetic accent)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0 (Lydia has seizures due to an unidentified disease or disorder)
Intersectionality:  0

The 1920s was a big, extravagant mess of a time in American history. We had the Harlem Renaissance going on and we tend to associate the decade with glamour, but we also had Prohibition and organized crime basically owned the city of Chicago. That’s the setting of The Lost Girl of Astor Street and the background for one girl’s search for her best friend. It was an alright novel, I guess. I have a few bones to pick, though. Read more »

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