Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux


Review: Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

September 8, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★½

Review: Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth ClarkJess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on November 8, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
The last time Jess saw her father, she was a boy named Jeremy. Now she’s a high school graduate, soon to be on her way to art school. But first, Jess has some unfinished business with her dad. So she’s driving halfway across the country to his wedding. He happens to be marrying her mom’s ex-best friend. It’s not like Jess wasn’t invited; she was. She just told them she wasn’t coming. Surprise!

Luckily, Jess isn’t making this trip alone. Her best friend, Christophe—nicknamed Chunk—is joining her. Chunk has always been there for Jess, and he’s been especially supportive of her transition, which has recently been jump-started with hormone therapy.

Along the way from California to Chicago, Jess and Chunk will visit roadside attractions, make a new friend or two, and learn a few things about themselves—and each other—that call their true feelings about their relationship into question.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 4 (Jess is a trans girl, Chuck is pansexual)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: -3 (the book is heinously fatphobic in how it describes Chuck and it takes the entire book for Jess to learn better)

Though it was troubling at times and my feelings might change upon rereading it, I enjoyed Clark’s debut novel Freakboy. Where Freakboy was serious and at times scary due to violence against two of its narrators, Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity is more lighthearted and features no violence against Jess whatsoever, though two instances of violence against other QUILTBAG individuals are mentioned. Its trans rep shines, but the rest of the book leaves something to be desired. Read more »


Review: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

April 29, 2016 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: Underwater by Marisa ReichardtUnderwater by Marisa Reichardt
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on January 12, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
“Forgiving you will allow me to forgive myself.”

Morgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive—first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then herself.

But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school.

When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (Evan is Native Hawaiian)
Disability: 2 (Morgan is deeply agoraphobic; her father is an alcoholic)
Intersectionality: 0

Contemporary YA has somehow become My Thing despite my preference for the paranormal. It took looking through my reading of the past 2-3 years to realize it, honestly! It can run the gamut from formulaic to genuine to everything in between and beyond and it generally has an easier time than genre fiction (paranormal, sci-fi, etc.) Underwater is the kind of contemp YA that puts me in a reading funk. It just doesn’t feel real. Read more »


Review: Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern

April 25, 2016 Diversity 5, Reviews 1 ★★★½

Review: Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovernRules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on November 24, 2015
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: YA Books Central
A heartrending but ultimately uplifting debut novel about learning to accept life's uncertainties; a perfect fit for the current trend in contemporary realistic novels that confront issues about life, death, and love.

Seventeen-year-old Rose Levenson has a decision to make: Does she want to know how she’s going to die? Because when Rose turns eighteen, she can take the test that will tell her if she carries the genetic mutation for Huntington’s disease, the degenerative condition that is slowly killing her mother. With a fifty-fifty shot at inheriting her family’s genetic curse, Rose is skeptical about pursuing anything that presumes she’ll live to be a healthy adult—including going to ballet school and the possibility of falling in love. But when she meets a boy from a similarly flawed genetic pool, and gets an audition for a dance scholarship in California, Rose begins to question her carefully-laid rules.

Diversity Rating: 5 – Diverse as Fuck

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (Rose is an Ashkenazi Jew through her mother, Caleb and his family are black
QUILTBAG: 1 (Rose meets a gay couple in passing on a train; minor)
Disability: 5 (Rose’s mother has Huntington’s and Rose may share the gene; Caleb’s family has the sickle cell anemia gene and his mother as well as his sisters have the disease)
Intersectionality: 4 (lots of minor characters who come from various intersections of identity as well as the above)

Some books, you can churn a review out for right after finishing them if reviewing stuff is your jam. Others need a little more time. Rules for 50/50 Chances needed to sit in my brain and cook for three months before I found any words for it. It happens! That’s not a bad thing, though. It’s a book that you should take your time with and appreciate. Read more »


Review: Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton

September 11, 2014 Reviews 0 ★★

Review: Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle CromptonAdrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on September 23, 2014
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 192
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
When a daredevil teen pushes herself too far, she must choose between two boys: the one who wants to keep her safe, and the one who dares her to return to her old self.

Seventeen-year-old Dyna comes from a family of risk takers and is an avid thrill-seeker herself, until the day she splinters her ankle in a terrible fall. Her whole life goes from mountain biking and rock climbing to sitting at home and attending group sessions at the bizarre alternative healing center that her hippie mother found. The boy who witnessed Dyna’s accident believes her injury is a wakeup call and he encourages her mild new lifestyle, but a young Afghanistan War veteran she meets at the healing center pushes her to start taking chances again. Forced to face the consequences of her daredevil impulses, Dyna finds herself in danger of risking the one thing she’s always treated with caution—her heart.

Is it just me or are more YA novels bringing in young combat veterans from the war in the Middle East as love interests? There was Something Like Normal by Trish Doller in 2012, there’s I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios coming next year, and there’s this one: Adrenaline Crush. There are countless others I’m forgetting or unaware of, but it’s funny how this war has been going on for so long and so many young men enroll in the military right after graduation that we’re starting to see this happen more. Having read and liked one of this author’s previous novels somewhat, I was interested in seeing what she did with this cool concept, but I’m as lukewarm to it as I was to her debut novel.

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Review: Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn

May 9, 2014 Uncategorized 0 ★½

Review: Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie FinnBroken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn
Series: Broken Hearts & Revenge #1
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on May 13, 2014
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Summer, boys, and friendships gone sour. This new series has everything that perfect beach reads are made of!

Gemma just got dumped and is devastated. She finds herself back in the Hamptons for the summer—which puts her at risk of bumping into Hallie, her former best friend that she wronged five years earlier. Do people hold grudges that long?

When a small case of mistaken identity causes everyone, including Hallie and her dreamy brother Josh, to think she’s someone else, Gemma decides to go along with it.

Gemma's plan is working (she's finding it hard to resist Josh), but she's finding herself in embarrassing situations (how could a bathing suit fall apart like that!?). Is it coincidence or is someone trying to expose her true identity? And how will Josh react if he finds out who she is?

Katie Finn hits all the right notes in this perfect beginning to a new summer series: A Broken Hearts & Revenge novel.

Summery tales of vengeance and shenanigans are my thing and this novel should be too, but it’s not. There’s no easy answer to why this failed for me on such a deep level. Blind characters doing ridiculous things? The very obvious twist? A meh romance that failed to make up for the previous two problems? Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend starts out as a fun tale of a girl using a case of mistaken identity to make up for what she did wrong so many years ago but quickly goes downhill.

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Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

March 27, 2014 Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava DellairaLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on April 1, 2014
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more -- though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was -- lovely and amazing and deeply flawed -- can she begin to discover her own path.

A couple of months ago, there was this great little book called This Song Will Save Your Life. Most people loved it and connected to it, but I was not one of them. Love Letters to the Dead is a lot like This Song Will Safe Your Life; both have deep connections to music, a female lead who has been through mental hell in the past year or two of her life, and she’s isolated from the world around her until she finds the right friends and then herself. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m the black sheep again. Read more »


Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

February 25, 2014 Reviews 1 ★★★

Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on March 4, 2014
Genres: YA Fantasy
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Whoo boy, has the hype train for The Winner’s Curse been tooting its horn and making its way around. Most everyone that has been lucky enough to read an ARC loved it and praises it to the heavens and back. Naturally, we all know what happens with something like this: a black sheep arrives. Ladies and gentlemen, I am that little black sheep this time and will baaa for a while. While The Winner’s Curse is a good novel, it isn’t quite what it’s made out to be. Read more »