Publisher: Simon Pulse


Review: Such a Good Girl by Amanda K. Morgan

March 5, 2018 Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: Such a Good Girl by Amanda K. MorganSuch a Good Girl by Amanda K. Morgan
Published by Simon Pulse on June 20, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Riley Stone is just about perfect.
(Ask anyone.)

She has a crush on her French teacher, Alex Belrose.
(And she suspects he likes her, too.)

Riley has her entire life planned out.
(The plan is nonnegotiable.)

She's never had a secret she couldn't keep.
(Not ever.)

Riley is sure that her life is on the right track.
(And nothing will change that.)

She's nothing like a regular teenager.
(But she doesn't have any problem admitting that.)

Riley doesn't usually play games.
(But when she does, she always wins.)

She thinks a game is about to start....

But Riley always has a plan....

And she always wins.

Warning: Riley is a YA character who has been prescribed voluntary medication by a therapist (why is a spoiler) and she does not take them. I say this for other mentally ill people tired of seeing people like them going unmedicated for a neurotypical person’s entertainment.

If you asked me to describe Such a Good Girl in a few words, I’d say the following:

Riley likes Alex Belrose, her French teacher.

Alex likes Riley.

Riley and Alex are two very fucked up people.

That’s the whole truth without diving too far into exactly what kind of mess they get into with their student-teacher affair and exactly what kind of awful things they do to one another. Such a Good Girl is what happens when you put the student-teacher YA book, the unhealthy relationship YA book, and red food dye in the blender together. Why the latter? BECAUSE WE’VE GOT HEADS ROLLING, PEOPLE. Read more »


Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

March 1, 2018 Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review: American Panda by Gloria ChaoAmerican Panda by Gloria Chao
Published by Simon Pulse on February 6, 2018
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via Edelweiss
An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her germophobia and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents' master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can't bring herself to tell them the truth--that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

But who does it represent?

  • Mei and her family are Taiwanese
  • The book is thoroughly entrenched in the Taiwanese-American experience
  • Mei’s love interest Takumi is Japanese
  • Large POC presence in the novel
  • Minor QUILTBAG (specifically lesbian) and disability (endometriosis) presence

Does it need saying again that we need more YA set in college because the teens who go straight from high school to college need it and the themes of YA still resonate for them but no longer resemble their reality? YES IT DOES. Because we do need it for the reasons mentioned. Though Mei lives a very different reality than I did in my first year of college because we come from two disparate cultural backgrounds, American Panda is the story I needed during my first two years in college.

If you’re not Taiwanese-American or familiar with their culture, you’re going to be out of your depth to begin with. It’s defamiliarization in action as Mei’s everyday language clashes with your own until you get it and you’re fully sucked into her story. Took me about 50 pages or so. Mei’s problems with her family, specifically what they expect from her vs. what she wants and the ideological differences that deeply divide them, resonated deeply with me.

Those exact problems run so deep in my family that my older brother will be dead to me the day I move out the way Xing is dead to Mei’s parents and I’m planning to put serious limits on how much I communicate with my parents. Some of their beliefs are outright harmful to me and to people I care about. How am I supposed to just accept that and be okay with it? We’re not, as Mei shows us in her conflict with her parents. They can either understand her side and adjust or lose both their children.

Alongside Mei’s struggles with her cultural heritage and parents, she has the usual adventures of a college student. She discovers a really itchy rash down below, is wrongly diagnosed with herpes at the student medical center, and finds out it’s actually an allergic reaction to her pants when she sees a different doctor. I’ve been there except it was pain in my side instead of a rash around my vagina and they kept telling me it was psychosomatic pain when it was really a pulled muscle.

ANYWAY. She gets into shenanigans, has roommate issues, develops a crush, and explores her own interests now that she’s living on her own. Her parents are determined she’ll become a doctor and marry a good Taiwanese boy. Meanwhile, Mei can hardly stomach medical things and uses her newfound freedom to return to dancing as well as get back in contact with her brother. The experience of living on your own in college versus not going to college or even commuting instead of living on campus is a unique one and Mei makes the most of it.

It’s been approximately three centuries since I read American Panda and some details are fuzzy, but just thinking about the book induces feelings of joy and solidarity with Mei. Does that tell you enough about how good the book is?

Well, probably not. Sorry. You shouldn’t even be bothering with my rambling anyway, go read reviews from people who are actually Taiwanese/Taiwanese-American. I’m just hear tapping away at my laptop because I got a review copy and I’m doing the thing I’m supposed to: reviewing it. Nobody said I had to do it well!

If you read The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera and loved it, American Panda is that for Taiwanese-American girls. I LOVE THEM BOTH SO MUCH.

Oh, and if anyone comes out of this book thinking badly of Mei’s cultural heritage, they’re not reading it right. We see multiple examples of how different Taiwanese families hold onto cultural traditions to varying levels of strictness. Some are very easygoing, like Mei’s friend Helen’s family, and others are strict adherents to tradition like Mei’s family is.


Review: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

September 25, 2017 Diversity 5, Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Review: The Nowhere Girls by Amy ReedThe Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
Published by Simon Pulse on October 10, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via Edelweiss
Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

Y’all, by the time you read this, I’ve been sitting on this review since June 2017. It’s been killing me to not publish this sooner. Maybe it caught me at the right time or maybe it’s just that good, but The Nowhere Girls struck me right in my feminist heart at a time I really needed it to keep going. It’s not an emotionally easy book to read, as you might expect from any book with rape and sexism at its center, but it’s a fantastic read for the modern teenage activist.

Read more »


Double Review: When Dimple Met Vassa in the Night

August 24, 2017 Diversity 1, Diversity 4, Reviews 0

by Sandhya Menon, Sarah Porter
Published by Simon Pulse, Tor Teen Genres: Magical Realism, YA, YA Contemporary
Source: ALA Annual 2016, Bought, eARC via Edelweiss



When Dimple Met Rishi

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Simon Pulse (May 30, 2017)
384 pages
Source: eARC via Edelweiss, later bought hardcover (which is what I read)
Rating: 3.5 stars

Diversity: 4 (Dimple and Rishi and their families are Indian, Dimple’s roommate Celia is bi and Latina, basically the entire cast is POC save the antagonistic Aberzombie kids)

Good God, everyone was right, this book is so cuuuuuuuuuute. Though I’ll outright admit When Dimple Met Rishi wasn’t to my taste, that doesn’t matter one little bit. What’s important is that Indian kids now have a hate-to-love YA book starring teens who look like them and come from their experience. An Indian teen’s opinion on this book matters much more than mine. Read more »


Review: Past Perfect by Leila Sales

June 15, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Past Perfect by Leila SalesPast Perfect by Leila Sales
Published by Simon Pulse on October 4, 2011
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
A sweet and clever novel about the woes of (boy) history repeating itself, from the author of Mostly Good Girls.

All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new.

Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off-limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it….

Diversity: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (Chelsea is a Ukrainian Jewish girl; her camp’s teens are led in the “war” by a black girl named Tawny)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Good God, I’ve been waiting to read this for YEARS just for the historical reenactment stuff. History is kinda my thing? I was one of the handful of kids who enjoyed field trips to historical sites like the Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Clinch. (I’ll always regret being a racist little shitnugget and buying a Confederate hat there when I was thirteen.) Still, Sales’s other novels failed me badly. Of course I’d be worried I wouldn’t like it! Read more »


Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

March 16, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn BennettAlex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 4, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

Diversity: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 3 (Porter is Chinese, Hawaiian, and Polynesian; best friend Grace is Nigerian; minor character Davy is Hispanic)
QUILTBAG: 1 (a gay character way in the background)
Disability:  3 (Porter’s dad is missing an arm thanks to a shark; Davy suffers from chronic pain due to a surfing injury)
Intersectionality: 3 (see above; bothered that Porter’s Polynesian heritage is not specified)

Jenn Bennett is best known for her bestselling urban fantasy novels, but she’s clearly getting into the YA contemporary game. She’s building a fanbase among YA readers too based on how many of my friends were in love with The Anatomical Shape of a Heart! Alas, that novel failed to enchant me on that level. Hate-to-love between two people who unknowingly have been talking to each other online for ages, though? YES. Alex, Approximately is a step up with a cute couple and a whole lot of dramatic irony. Read more »


Review: We Know It Was You by Maggie Thrash

September 19, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 0

Review: We Know It Was You by Maggie ThrashWe Know It Was You by Maggie Thrash
Series: Strange Truth #1
Published by Simon Pulse on October 4, 2016
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via Edelweiss
Twin Peaks meets Pretty Little Liars in acclaimed author Maggie Thrash’s new Strange Truth series.

It’s better to know the truth. At least sometimes.

Halfway through Friday night’s football game, beautiful cheerleader Brittany Montague—dressed as the giant Winship Wildcat mascot—hurls herself off a bridge into Atlanta’s surging Chattahoochee River.

Just like that, she’s gone.

Eight days later, Benny Flax and Virginia Leeds will be the only ones who know why.

SPOILER WARNING TIME. I’m spoiling some major stuff here.

Diversity Rating: -5 – What the Fuck is This?

Racial-Ethnic: 0 (one Nigerian girl and three Korean men, but they’re ALL villains; Benny is Jewish)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

WOW, have I been waiting to rant about this. I read We Know It Was You alllllllllllll the way back in April 206 because my TBR Jar told me I had to. Seeing as I was legitimately excited, I wasn’t keen to defy the almighty jar either. Twin Peaks meets Pretty Little Liars sounds fascinating and twisty! Well, it’s a lie. Instead of the magnetic surrealism of Twin Peaks, we get cockamamie bull that’s also kinda racist. Read more »