Genre: Mystery

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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 0 ★★★

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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Review: The Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages Amato

March 31, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: The Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages AmatoThe Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages Amato
Published by Balzer + Bray on March 21, 2017
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Contemporary, YA Paranormal
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Megan Brown’s brother, Tyler, is dead, but the cops are killing him all over again. They say he died of a drug overdose, potentially suicide—something Megan cannot accept. Determined to figure out what happened in the months before Tyler’s death, Megan turns to the things he left behind. After all, she understands the stories objects can tell—at fifteen, she is a gifted collage artist with a flair for creating found-object pieces. However, she now realizes that her artistic talent has developed into something more: she can see memories attached to some of Tyler’s belongings—and those memories reveal a brother she never knew.

Enlisting the help of an artifact detective who shares her ability and specializes in murderabilia—objects tainted by violence or the deaths of their owners—Megan finds herself drawn into a world of painful personal and national memories. Along with a trusted classmate and her brother's charming friend, she chases down the troubling truth about Tyler across Washington, DC, while reclaiming her own stifled identity with a vengeance.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 3 (love interest Nathan is black and his adoptive parents are Chinese)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Nathan’s grandmother has Alzheimer’s)
Intersectionality: 0

YA is not dumb no matter how many Jonathan Franzen-esque literary dweebs come out of the woodwork saying so. They claim it’s juvenile (no duh, it’s written FOR teens, who are classified as juveniles), simple, brainless fluff, or otherwise lesser than adult fiction. Quite frankly, they need to stop looking at their anuses and accept that different people like different things. The Hidden Memory of Objects is one of the smartest YA novels I’ve ever read, but it’s perhaps a little too smart for me.

If you want something like The Da Vinci Code with fewer conspiracy theories and gaping holes, this book is for you. Though it’s a contemporary YA novel, its plot spreads its roots deep in American history–specifically, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Before his death, Megan’s brother Tyler got obsessed with John Wilkes Booth and the assassination, seeing it as something of an inspiration because it seems Booth genuinely believed he was doing the right thing. What readers learn about the assassination from this book only barely goes beyond what we learn in history books, but it brings the night Lincoln was murdered to life.

Megan’s grief for her brother runs so deep in her that when she touches things that once belonged to Tyler–later any objects with an emotionally charged history–she can see the memories attached to it. For instance, she touches some small silver balls she found in Tyler’s room and sees when he stole those balls while in a senator’s office. Other charged items specifically related to Lincoln’s assassination dance in and out of the story, like the gun Booth shot Lincoln with and a scrap of the bloody dress of Clara Harris, a woman in the box with the Lincolns that night.

No solid explanation is offered for Megan’s sudden development of psychometry, creating confusion about exactly which genre the book might fall into. For magical realism, such things simply are, like footprints literally left on the heart of someone heartbroken. Psychometry on its own is typically classed as paranormal, but the theory Megan’s friend Eric proposes would take the novel into sci-fi territory a la X-Men. Its inability to fit comfortably in any of the three makes it difficult to recommend the book to the right reader.

But as smart as the book is, it’s also boring. Megan, her grief, and her dangerous dealings with historian Dr. Brightman inspired nothing in me. The only character who brought me to any emotion was Eric and he really just made me want to strangle him. You know the pixie type character Zooey Deschanel gets typecast as? The love interest in every John Green novel? Yeah, that’s Eric except he’s the best friend, not the love interest. Despite being a relatively short 336 pages, the novel felt almost endless.

Like I said earlier, it’s all very reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code but without any screams of HISTORICAL CONSPIRACY!!! coming from the pages. It’s a great read for teens who want an especially smart read. It may not have been my particular fancy, but that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile for another reader. Now if I could just figure out whether it’s trying to be magical realism, paranormal, or sci-fi for ease of making recommendations…

Spring 2017 Bingo 6 Hidden Memory of Objects

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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
Goodreads
one-half-stars
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
QUILTBAG: 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.

Read more »

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Review: Shutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz

February 27, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★½

Review: Shutter by Laurie Faria StolarzShutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Published by Disney-Hyperion on October 18, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: ALA Annual 2016
Goodreads
one-half-stars
Sixteen-year-old Day Connor views life through the lens of her camera, where perspective is everything. But photographs never tell the whole story. After Day crosses paths with Julian, the world she observes and the truths she believes—neatly captured in black and white—begin to blur.

Julian does not look like a murderer, but his story is full of holes, and his alibis don’t quite add up, either. This time, Day is determined to see the entire picture…whatever it reveals.

Did he kill his parents? Or didn’t he?

While Julian remains on the run, Day digs deeper into his case. But the more facts she uncovers, the longer her list of questions becomes. It’s also getting harder to deny the chemistry she feels with Julian.

Is it real? Or is she being manipulated?

Day is close to finding the crack in the case that will prove Julian’s innocence. She just needs time to focus before the shutter snaps shut.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Julian’s mom suffered from depression and a painkiller addiction; she attempted suicide multiple times)
Intersectionality: 0

Back when I was just a wee fourteen-year-old just getting into reading, Laurie Faria Stolarz’s Blue is for Nightmares series was a small thing and her Touch series was just beginning. While looking for new reads, her books would always be right there waiting, but I never bothered with them. Well, if their quality is anything like Shutter, I’m thankful little me was never interested.

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Review: Avenged by E.E. Cooper

October 28, 2016 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Avenged by E.E. CooperAvenged by E. E. Cooper
Series: Vanished #2
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on November 8, 2016
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Avenged is the conclusion to the Vanished duology, an absorbing, psychological suspense story about friendship, deception, jealousy, and love.

Everyone believes Beth’s death was an accident, except for Kalah. The girl she loved was stolen from her, and now Kalah’s broken heart wants revenge. In order to crack Brit’s perfect alibi, Kalah pretends to be Brit’s best friend—with the sole mission to destroy her.

Kalah knows that playing Brit’s game is deadly. One wrong move could cost someone their life, including her own…but the more lies Kalah tells, the closer she is to the twisted truth.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Kalah is Indian)
QUILTBAG:
4 (Kalah and Beth are bisexual, a gay couple is in here somewhere)
Disability:
2 (Kalah has OCD and anxiety)
Intersectionality:
4 (See all the above about Kalah)

Return of the bisexual Indian girl with anxiety! Vanished remains fresh in my mind even though I read it close to a year and a half ago thanks to its characters and well-written mystery. Also, diversity and intersectionality are fantastic. Naturally, I was excited to see its sequel Avenged land on my doorstep! Cooper writes a solid conclusion to her duology and the mystery remains as engrossing as ever, but I have more problems with the ending than I can discuss. That’s very literal. I can’t discuss them without spoiling everything. So I don’t! Read more »

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