Publisher: Razorbill

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Review: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June by Robin Benway

June 19, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June by Robin BenwayThe Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June by Robin Benway
Published by Razorbill on June 2, 2011
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary, YA Paranormal
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought (Used Bookstore)
Goodreads
two-stars
I hugged my sisters and they fit against my sides like two jigsaw pieces that would never fit anywhere else. I couldn't imagine ever letting them go again, like releasing them would be to surrender the best parts of myself.

Three sisters share a magical, unshakeable bond in this witty high-concept novel from the critically acclaimed author of Audrey, Wait! Around the time of their parents' divorce, sisters April, May, and June recover special powers from childhood--powers that come in handy navigating the hell that is high school. Powers that help them cope with the hardest year of their lives. But could they have a greater purpose?

April, the oldest and a bit of a worrier, can see the future. Middle-child May can literally disappear. And baby June reads minds--everyone's but her own. When April gets a vision of disaster, the girls come together to save the day and reconcile their strained family. They realize that no matter what happens, powers or no powers, they'll always have each other.

Because there's one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.

 

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

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

Well, here I am. Years after buying all of Robin Benway’s books due to her outspoken support for Wendy Davis during the Texas filibuster of June 2013, I’ve read them all. And I’m honestly disappointed?I’d hoped someone so outspoken about women’s rights and feminism would have really awesome and feminist books, but The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June is such basic feminism. Yay for sisters and all, but wow, is this book white as bread and straight as a line.

Read more »

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Review: Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw

April 4, 2016 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★½

Review: Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna BreslawScarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw
Published by Razorbill on April 19, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
two-half-stars
Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her pot-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.

When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. Scarlett never considers what might happen if they were to find out what she truly thinks about them...until a dramatic series of events exposes a very different reality than Scarlett's stories, forever transforming her approach to relationships—both online and off.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Scarlett and her mom are Puerto Rican; Scarlett’s stepmom Kira is black but barely present)
QUILTBAG: 0 (there’s a gay woman, but she dies seemingly just to make Scarlett/readers sad)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 1

I started writing fan fiction for Vampire Kisses when I was fourteen or so and I’m still reading it every night as I approach my twenty-second birthday even though I quit writing it when I was sixteen. Needless to say, I think fan fiction is awesome and that it factors into Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here as a major plot point was absolutely the reason I picked this book up. If I’d been smart and seen the pitch of “If Amy Schumer and Rainbow Rowell had a baby, she’d be Anna Breslaw” earlier, I would have been smart and run away. I don’t like Amy Schumer. I don’t like Rainbow Rowell. I have no feelings about Anna Breslaw, but I sure don’t like Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here. Read more »

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Review: Don’t Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche

August 17, 2015 Diversity 5, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: Don’t Fail Me Now by Una LaMarcheDon't Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche
Published by Razorbill on September 1, 2015
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
four-stars
From the author of Like No Other, the novel Entertainment Weekly calls "One of the most poignant and star-crossed love stories since The Fault in Our Stars": What if the last hope to save your family is the person who broke it up to begin with?
 
Michelle and her little siblings Cass and Denny are African-American and living on the poverty line in urban Baltimore, struggling to keep it together with their mom in jail and only Michelle’s part-time job at the Taco Bell to sustain them.

Leah and her stepbrother Tim are white and middle class from suburban Maryland, with few worries beyond winning lacrosse games and getting college applications in on time.

Michelle and Leah only have one thing in common: Buck Devereaux, the biological father who abandoned them when they were little.

After news trickles back to them that Buck is dying, they make the uneasy decision to drive across country to his hospice in California. Leah hopes for closure; Michelle just wants to give him a piece of her mind.

Five people in a failing, old station wagon, living off free samples at food courts across America, and the most pressing question on Michelle’s mind is: Who will break down first--herself or the car? All the signs tell her they won’t make it. But Michelle has heard that her whole life, and it’s never stopped her before....

Una LaMarche triumphs once again with this rare and compassionate look at how racial and social privilege affects one family in crisis in both subtle and astonishing ways.

Diversity Rating: 5 – Diverse as Fuck

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (Michelle, Cass, and Denny are black/biracial; Leah and Tim are white and Michelle regularly makes them confront their privilege)
QUILTBAG: 3 (Cass is a lesbian)
Disability: 4 (Cass is diabetic, Denny probably has an undiagnosed behavior disorder)
Intersectionality: 5 (Michelle, Cass, and Denny live in poverty/semi-poverty and there are many other intersections of identity)

This will be a happy novel, the cover says. It’ll be a fun romp with two Pollyanna-ish half-sisters going to tell off their awful dad while snarking all the way there, the jacket copy says. DON’T LISTEN TO ANY OF IT BECAUSE IT’S ALL A LIE. Don’t Fail Me Now hurts to a ridiculous degree and I want to set curses on whoever decided to make it look and sound happy. This is the kind of book so wonderful and painful that you want a warning of what you’re in for, but it’s absolutely worth reading nonetheless because it tears the stuffing out of white privilege. Read more »

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Review: Zodiac by Romina Russell

December 8, 2014 Reviews 3 ★½

Review: Zodiac by Romina RussellZodiac by Romina Russell
Series: Zodiac #1
Published by Razorbill on December 9, 2014
Genres: YA, YA Fantasy, YA Sci-fi
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: BEA 2014
one-half-stars
At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancerian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

Embark on a dazzling journey with ZODIAC, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in a galaxy inspired by the astrological signs.

I may not read my horoscopes or put any faith in those things, but the zodiac and all that is one of my favorite things to study. Even if the horoscopes are inaccurate, my personality fits my sign (WHOOOOO CAPRICORN) far more than any other and it works for my friends too. A sci-fi fantasy series that takes the signs and makes them into their own constellations fighting against the evils of Ochus? YES PLEASE. Well, it turned out to be a NOPE instead. Zodiac is a two-dimensional book that leaves you with more questions than answers–and something tells me most of those questions will never be answered. Read more »

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Review: The Merciless by Danielle Vega

June 2, 2014 Reviews 2 ★★★

Review: The Merciless by Danielle VegaThe Merciless by Danielle Vega
Published by Razorbill on June 12, 2014
Genres: YA, YA Horror
Pages: 336
Source: eARC from the publisher
three-stars
Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.

Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.

Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .

In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

Oh good lord, this novel. It made me feel so many things and bamboozled me so well at the end that the only reason I didn’t start stomping around and cursing is the fact I was at my ailing grandmother’s house at the time and I’m pretty sure my language would have sent her right to the afterlife. I wanted some YA horror in my life and that’s exactly what I got: some YA horror that bends the mind, gives you chills, and makes you angry. A little too angry, methinks. Read more »

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Firecracker by David Iserson

October 25, 2013 Reviews 0

Firecracker by David IsersonFirecracker by David Iserson Published by Razorbill on May 16, 2013
Genres: Comedy, YA Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
DNF
Being Astrid Krieger is absolutely all it’s cracked up to be.

She lives in a rocket ship in the backyard of her parents’ estate.

She was kicked out of the elite Bristol Academy and she’s intent on her own special kind of revenge to whomever betrayed her.

She only loves her grandfather, an incredibly rich politician who makes his money building nuclear warheads.

It’s all good until…

“We think you should go to the public school,” Dad said.
This was just a horrible, mean thing to say. Just hearing the words “public school” out loud made my mouth taste like urine (which, not coincidentally, is exactly how the public school smells).

Will Astrid finally meet her match in the form of public school? Will she find out who betrayed her and got her expelled from Bristol? Is Noah, the sweet and awkward boy she just met, hiding something?

Find out in this hilarious tragicomedy from New Girl and SNL writer David Iserson!

There are three things I associate with this book: funny, stupid, and stupid-funny. Stupid-funny and funny are what the book was trying to be. Stupid is what it actually turned out to be. Had Astrid been more thoroughly developed and concentrated more on finding out how her friend got her kicked out of private school, maybe this would have been a fun read, but as it is, it’s bad. It’s bad on a level I’m not used to seeing. This sounded like fun and I genuinely expected it to make me laugh, but I cringed more often than anything else. Read more »

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Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

January 13, 2013 Reviews 0 ★★★

Paper Valentine by Brenna YovanoffPaper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff Published by Razorbill on January 8, 2013
Genres: Mystery, YA Paranormal
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from a swap
three-stars
The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

Paper Valentine is a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between.

Readers coming to this book looking for a paranormal murder mystery will need to adjust their expectations. Readers looking for an exploration of Hannah’s grief over her best friend’s death and a young woman who lets life float by finally doing something about it will be right at home. The deaths, while they do play a part in the novel, aren’t the focus for much of it.

Hannah’s a likable character with a boatload of issues she works through over the course of the novel, her best friend’s ghost haunting her, and a crush on a bad boy named Finny (actually Finnegan, but that’s rarely used). Her relationship with Finny happens pretty much just because YA needs romance, but more of the focus is on Hannah and her dead best friend Lillian. Even as a ghost, Lillian exerts a massive amount of power over her best friend by pushing her into investigating the murders. Between the deaths, Hannah dressing up in all sorts of beautifully odd clothes, and Hannah living life, we get glimpses into Lillian’s mind as she spiraled into anorexia and eventually died from it.

Yovanoff’s prose is beautiful–so beautiful that there are too many passages I want to quote. Oh, why didn’t I mark any of them?! There are a few flubs here and there, such as when Hannah describes the way blood bubbles out of a wound like water when it’s just starting to boil in a pot, but for the most part, the poetic, evocative writing style is the best part of the novel. If her story matched her style, this might be a five-star book.

Hannah is rather disconnected from the world; problems roll off her like water off a duck’s back most of the time. Even her younger sister says if Hannah was on fire, she’d still say she was fine! Hannah’s way of being distanced from life and the crimes also distances readers from the narrative. Getting connected to the story is difficult, especially when the mystery we expect to be drawn in by gets less focus than we expected. It isn’t until the very end, when the killer tries to off her, that I got nervous for her and invested in the story.

Yovanoff can definitely write, and I’m looking forward to reading more of her books in the future. The two I’ve read from here have been rather average or slightly above average, so here’s hoping she’ll be able to write a book that can really wow me. She has the ability. She just needs the story.

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