Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Divider

Review: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

August 18, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 2 ★★

Review: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda FoodyDaughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Published by Harlequin Teen on July 25, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Goodreads
two-stars
A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 1
QUILTBAG: 3 (Sorina is bi, one or two of Sorina’s illusions are QUILTBAG, there are plenty of QUILTBAG people in the background; I take issue with Luca’s asexual/demi identity as someone who is asexual)
Disability: 1 (Sorina has no eyes whatsoever but can still see)
Intersectionality: 1

Well, crud. What do I say about Daughter of the Burning City when I’ve already forgotten so much about it as I write this? I’ve gotta review it. Got a review copy, therefore must deliver review if possible–and it’s very possible. It’s just difficult. There’s plenty to like in Foody’s debut novel, but I have some issues too, particularly with Luca’s identity since we fall under the same queer umbrella.

Read more »

Divider

Review: Four Weeks, Five People by Jennifer Yu

August 4, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★½

Review: Four Weeks, Five People by Jennifer YuFour Weeks, Five People by Jennifer Yu
Published by Harlequin Teen on May 2, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Goodreads
one-half-stars
They're more than their problems

Obsessive-compulsive teen Clarissa wants to get better, if only so her mother will stop asking her if she's okay.

Andrew wants to overcome his eating disorder so he can get back to his band and their dreams of becoming famous.

Film aficionado Ben would rather live in the movies than in reality.

Gorgeous and overly confident Mason thinks everyone is an idiot.

And Stella just doesn't want to be back for her second summer of wilderness therapy.

As the five teens get to know one another and work to overcome the various disorders that have affected their lives, they find themselves forming bonds they never thought they would, discovering new truths about themselves and actually looking forward to the future.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Clarisa is Asian, but I don’t believe her identity is clarified any further than that)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 3 (Everyone is mentally ill, but not everyone’s mental illness is written well)
Intersectionality: 2

I would have loved attending a camp for mentally ill teens like the one presented in Four Weeks, Five People when I was still a teen. Not the being-mentally-ill part, of course, but spending a couple of weeks in the wilderness learning coping mechanisms and interacting with other kids who understood what I was going through. So how in the world did a story idea I was completely open to go so wrong in Four Weeks, Five People?

Read more »

Divider

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
Goodreads
two-stars
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
QUILTBAG: 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 »

Divider

Review: Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

January 30, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: Our Own Private Universe by Robin TalleyOur Own Private Universe by Robin Talley
Published by Harlequin Teen on January 31, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Goodreads
four-stars
Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it's mostly about sex.

No, it isn't that kind of theory. Aki already knows she's bisexual—even if, until now, it's mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too.

Actually, Aki's theory is that she's got only one shot at living an interesting life—and that means she's got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It's time for her to actually do something. Or at least try.

So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older, far more experienced—it seems her theory is prime for the testing.

But it's not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you're in love? It's going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.

Diversity: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 3 (Aki and her brother are biracial, as is Aunt Miranda; lots of Mexican characters in the background)
QUILTBAG: 5 (three bisexual characters, an out-and-proud lesbian, use of the more inclusive LGBTQIA acronym, and the book is basically Forever… for queer girls)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 4 (really engages with the difficulties of being a queer girl and mentions racial attitudes toward queerness at one point)

At some point in your life, I hope you’ve gotten unexpected mail that was so wonderful it made you scream. I’ve had two such moments: when a letter arrived telling me I’d been offered a full-ride scholarship to a college I applied to (I recently graduated from the same college) and when Our Own Private Universe appeared on my doorstep. Talley’s previous novels with Harlequin Teen have seen a lot of criticism lately and they raise valid points. I loved Lies We Tell Ourselves and have no problem admitting that! With Our Own Private Universe, Talley is moving in the right direction and has written a book I expect parents will pass onto their children the way they do Forever… by Judy Blume. Read more »

Divider

Review: Daughter Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

November 2, 2015 Diversity 0, Reviews 1 ★★★★

Review: Daughter Unto Devils by Amy LukavicsDaughter Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
Published by Harlequin Teen on September 29, 2015
Genres: Historical, YA, YA Historical, YA Horror
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars
When sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner's family decides to move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, she hopes it is her chance for a fresh start. She can leave behind the memory of the past winter; of her sickly ma giving birth to a baby sister who cries endlessly; of the terrifying visions she saw as her sanity began to slip, the victim of cabin fever; and most of all, the memories of the boy she has been secretly meeting with as a distraction from her pain. The boy whose baby she now carries.

When the Verners arrive at their new home, a large cabin abandoned by its previous owners, they discover the inside covered in blood. And as the days pass, it is obvious to Amanda that something isn't right on the prairie. She's heard stories of lands being tainted by evil, of men losing their minds and killing their families, and there is something strange about the doctor and his son who live in the woods on the edge of the prairie. But with the guilt and shame of her sins weighing on her, Amanda can't be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or deep within her soul.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

YA is in need of some good horror novels and Daughter Unto Devils is ready to answer that call and scare your clothes off this fall in a very nonromantic way. Also good for Thanksgiving if you’re especially angry at crimes committed against Native Americans over the last six centuries or so. ANYWAY. This is far from what I expected from Harlequin Teen as someone familiar with the kind of work they publish, but Daughter Unto Devils is among their best novels by far.

From the very first page, Lukavics is hard at work creating the eerie, open-yet-claustrophobic atmosphere that really makes this novel. Whether the Verner family is trapped on their mountain and in their home by snow or in their new home in the middle of an open prairie, the devil Amanda is certain she saw the winter before always seems to be on her heels. Surprisingly few spooky things actually happen, but once the gore and action really kick in at the end of the novel, the sparseness of events before makes everything that much more frightening.

The characters aren’t great, especially Amanda’s cardboard-like younger siblings Joanna and Charles, but pregnancy’s effect on Amanda and her relationship with her next-closest sister Emily are effective and well-written. Horror fans used to seeing characterization replaced by scares won’t be too surprised by the lacking characterization. Almost the entirety of the novel is about the Verner family leaving the mountain and settling in their new, mysteriously-blood-drenched new home, not the spooky things happening to them. This is a novel about atmosphere, not happenings, so if Amanda’s voice doesn’t immediately grab you or sell you on the spooky, you’re probably gonna have a bad time.

As satisfying as Daughter Unto Devils is, it leaves you wanting too. How much of the evil followed the Verners from the mountain and how much was waiting for them on the prairie? What brought the evil to the prairie in the first place if the massacre previously committed in the new home was a result of the evil, not the cause? Did someone–like Native Americans who aren’t in the novel at all but are the go-to cause of curses and the paranormal in horror–do something to make the white people kicking them off their own land suffer or did evil always live there? So many questions are left unanswered and the trademark final punch might leave you angry this is such a short little standalone.

Someone give Lukavics more book deals because she’s a one-of-a-kind voice in horror and I love what she does. Subtle horror beats out-and-out gore for me every time. In case your Halloween season consists of munching on candy and reading spooky books, Daughter Unto Devils is a necessary addition to the tower of terrifying lit.

BINGO 9 Daughter Unto Devils

Divider

Review: Storm by Amanda Sun

July 31, 2015 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: Storm by Amanda SunStorm by Amanda Sun
Series: The Paper Gods #3
Published by Harlequin Teen on June 30, 2015
Genres: YA, YA Paranormal
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: finished copy from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
three-stars
After almost a year in Japan, Katie Greene has finally unearthed the terrible secret behind her boyfriend Tomohiro's deadly ability to bring drawings to life—not only is he descended from Kami, the ancient Japanese gods, but he is the heir to a tragedy that occurred long ago, a tragedy that is about to repeat.

Even as the blood of a vengeful god rages inside Tomo, Katie is determined to put his dark powers to sleep. In order to do so, she and Tomo must journey to find the three Imperial Treasures of Japan. Gifts from the goddess Amaterasu herself, these treasures could unlock all of the secrets about Tomo's volatile ancestry and quell the ink's lust for destruction. But in order to complete their quest, Tomo and Katie must confront out-of-control Kami and former friend Jun, who has begun his own quest of revenge against those he believes have wronged him. To save the world, and themselves, Katie and Tomo will be up against one of the darkest Kami creations they've ever encountered—and they may not make it out alive.

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (most characters are Japanese)
QUILTBAG: 2 (Ishikawa is gay, but his role troubles me)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 2 (Gay Japanese boy, Tomo from one-parent family, and others)

Though my ratings for this series have been a bit middling in the past (3.5 for the first book, 2 for the second), my feelings for this series are a lot more enthusiastic. How on earth were Katie and Tomohiro supposed to make it together when them being around one another actually causes him harm? Would the triad Jun proposed actually happen? (Probably not, BUT I HAD A DREAM AND I HAD HOPE.) Sometimes, there are things you care a great deal about even if you don’t care much for them. That make sense? Whatever. Storm makes for a solid finale, but it wraps itself up perhaps too neatly in the end. Read more »

Divider

Review: Rain by Amanda Sun

December 30, 2014 Reviews 1 ★★½

Review: Rain by Amanda SunRain by Amanda Sun
Series: The Paper Gods #2
Published by Harlequin Teen on June 24, 2014
Genres: YA, YA Paranormal
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
two-half-stars
American Katie Green has decided to stay in Japan. She's started to build a life in the city of Shizuoka, and she can't imagine leaving behind her friends, her aunt and especially Tomohiro, the guy she's fallen in love with. But her return is not as simple as she thought. She's flunking out of Japanese school and committing cultural faux pas wherever she goes. Tomohiro is also struggling—as a Kami, his connection to the ancient gods of Japan and his power to bring drawings to life have begun to spiral out of control.

When Tomo decides to stop drawing, the ink finds other ways to seep into his life—blackouts, threatening messages and the appearance of unexplained sketches. Unsure how to help Tomo, Katie turns to an unexpected source for help—Jun, her former friend and a Kami with an agenda of his own. But is Jun really the ally he claims to be? In order to save themselves, Katie and Tomohiro must unravel the truth about Tomo's dark ancestry, as well as Katie's, and confront one of the darkest gods in Japanese legend.

Close to four years have passed since the Great Computer Crashes stopped me from reading manga online, but my desire for the feel of it has never gone away. Ink, with its setting and art and its love of shoujo manga tropes, was exactly what I wanted and needed when I read it in early 2013. So was Rain anticipated? OH YEAH. Too bad the appeal wasn’t as strong this time around thanks to poor female representation and enough angst to kill several fictional characters.

Read more »

Divider