Source: YA Books Central

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Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

March 16, 2017 Diversity 2 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
Goodreads
three-half-stars
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 »

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Review: In Case You Missed It by Sarah Darer Littman

March 9, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Review: In Case You Missed It by Sarah Darer LittmanIn Case You Missed It by Sarah Darer Littman
Published by Scholastic Press on October 11, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Everyone has secrets—until they go viral.

Sammy Wallach has epic plans for the end of junior year: Sneak out to the city to see her favorite band. Get crush-worthy Jamie Moss to ask her to prom. Rock all exams (APs and driver’s).

With a few white lies, some killer flirting, and tons of practice, Sammy’s got things covered. That is, until the international bank her dad works for is attacked by hacktivists who manage to steal everything in the Wallach family’s private cloud, including Sammy’s entire digital life. Literally the whole world has access to her emails, texts, photos, and, worst of all, journal.

Life. Is. Over.

Now Sammy’s best friends are furious about things she wrote, Jamie thinks she’s desperate, and she can barely show her face at school. Plus, her parents know all the rules she broke. But Sammy’s not the only one with secrets—her family has a few of its own that could change everything. And while the truth might set you free, no one said it was going to be painless. Or in Sammy’s case, private.

Diversity: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Sam’s family is Jewish; her friend Rosa is Hispanic with no specified background; two characters with the surnames Karim and Chen go undescribed and also have no specified background)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 1 (Racism is a major issue handled in the novel, but I don’t feel it did it well)

You know Jennifer Brown? The YA author who wrote Hate List and a bunch of other books that play out contemporary issues like sexting and a natural disaster destroying your home? If you ever needed a comp author for her because you or your teen already devoured Brown’s entire backlist, Sarah Darer Littman is that author. In Case You Missed It is yet another brilliant novel from her, but I’d appreciate it if her books would stop making me cry. Read more »

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Review: One Silver Summer by Rachel Hickman

January 9, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 1 ★★★

Review: One Silver Summer by Rachel HickmanOne Silver Summer by Rachel Hickman
Published by Scholastic Press on April 26, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 263
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-stars
The thinking girl's summer romance: a gorgeously written story of love and loss with a thrilling royal twist!

After a car accident claims her mother's life, Sass is sent to Cornwall to live with the uncle she's never met. All she wants is to be alone, to come to terms with the new Sass -- the girl who can't forget the screech of tires, the crunch of metal.

With its rocky beaches and secluded fields, Cornwall is the perfect place to hide. It gets even better when Sass glimpses a silver horse and starts sneaking off to spend time with the one creature who makes her grief feel manageable.

During one of her visits, Sass runs into Alex, the horse's owner. At first, he shows nothing but disdain for the trespassing American. But despite his brusque manner, he feels an affinity for the curious girl with the sad eyes, and offers to teach her to ride.

Sass never expected to feel anything again, yet soon she finds herself falling for Alex. But Alex has a secret -- a bombshell that could shatter Sass's fragile trust. . . and force him to abandon the only girl who made him believe in true love.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

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

Warning: animal death in this book. Specifically, a horse dies.

Let’s be real, we’re all here for a romance between a royal and a commoner at some point in our lives. Maybe it’s when we’re kids and we refuse to turn off Cinderella or we’re adults and the once-a-generation royal wedding is happening in the UK, but it’s an attractive trope for more than a few reasons. Even more attractive for book nerds: a royal romance that dives into the nitty-gritty. Does One Silver Summer manage to do that? Well, it tries. Read more »

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Review: Macarons at Midnight by Suzanne Nelson

January 5, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: Macarons at Midnight by Suzanne NelsonMacarons at Midnight by Suzanne Nelson
Series: Wish
Published by Scholastic Paperbacks on June 28, 2016
Genres: MG Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-stars
When Lise Santos stumbles into a bakery's midnight taste test, she meets a supercute boy. He's as sweet as the macarons they share, and Lise is totally smitten. She's pretty sure he is, too -- but they never get a chance to exchange names. Now Lise has to find him again....

When Lise finally discovers who her mystery guy is, he's not at all what she expected -- and suddenly they don't get along anymore! Things become even more complicated when her friend Viv starts to express interest in him. Now Lise's head and heart are all in a jumble. Can she gather the courage to admit her true feelings ... or is this a recipe for total disaster?

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (the love interest Rajeev is Indian, the principal’s wife is Thai, and Elise’s dad is Brazilian)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

This is one of those reviews I’ve been putting off for months because Macarons at Midnight is pretty easily summarized. Very cute, a bit outlandish in parts, but worth reading if you’re in a bad mood and want something fluffy. BUT I MUST WRITE A PROPER REVIEW FOR IT. I almost wish I weren’t swamped in review books now so I just could review what I wanted when I wanted the way I did when I started six years ago. So. Reviewy thing now.

(I know, I’m a master at transitions and subtlety.) Read more »

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Review: The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia

December 8, 2016 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana ZiaThe Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia
Published by Peachtree Publishers on March 1, 2016
Genres: MG Contemporary
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-stars
Aliya already struggles with trying to fit in, feeling confident enough to talk to the cute boy or stand up to mean kids — the fact that shes Muslim is just another thing to deal with. When Marwa, a Moroccan girl who shares her faith if not her culture, comes to Aliya's school, Aliya wonders even more about who she is, what she believes, and where she fits in. Should she fast for Ramadan? Should she wear the hijab? She's old enough for both, but does she really want to call attention to herself?

Diversity: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (Aliya and her family are Indian Muslims; her best friend Winnie is Korean; Marwa’s family is Moroccan)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 4 (the book’s focus on Muslim girlhood creates plenty of intersections between gender and racial-ethnic identity)

One review of The Garden of My Imaan calls the book a modern homage to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, that classic book parents gave to their kids when puberty threatened to rear its ugly head and begin the monthly misery of menstruation. I never got to read that one because I was an ace at odd things like not getting to read things that were “normal” for kids my age to read. That continued all the way into high school. ANYWAY. The Garden of My Imaan is far from perfect, but it has a lot of value for its audience even if it’s a bit didactic. Read more »

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Review: Interference by Kay Honeyman

September 22, 2016 Diversity 1, Reviews 1 ★★★★½

Review: Interference by Kay HoneymanInterference by Kay Honeyman
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on September 27, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
four-half-stars
As a Congressman's daughter in Washington, D.C., Kate Hamilton is good at getting what she wants -- what some people might call "interfering." But when her family moves to West Texas so her dad can run in a special election, Kate encounters some difficulties that test all her political skills. None of her matchmaking efforts go according to plan. Her father's campaign gets off to a rough start. A pro tip for moving to Texas: Don't slam the star quarterback's hand in a door. And whenever Kate messes up, the irritatingly right (and handsome) Hunter Price is there to witness it. But Kate has determination and a good heart, and with all her political savvy -- and a little clever interference -- she'll figure out what it takes to make Red Dirt home.

Terrifically funny and sweetly romantic, with whip-crack dialogue and a wise perspective on growing up, INTERFERENCE is the perfect next read for fans of Jenny Han, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Elizabeth Eulberg, or Sarah Dessen.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (Ana and Ms. Serrano are Latina)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Politics and football: two things I love and despise in equal measure. I’ve grown up on football, but the culture of football is bad for the players (see: the concussion stuff) and I’m tired of seeing players get away with sexual assault and/or domestic violence; politics are honestly fascinating and important to pay attention to as a good citizen, but it also brings out the absolute worst in people. Interference manages to mix the two and create a cute but sharp read with more than a little influence from Jane Austen’s Emma. Read more »

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Review: Girls Mans Up by M-E Girard

September 15, 2016 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review: Girls Mans Up by M-E GirardGirl Mans Up by M-E Girard
Published by HarperCollins on September 6, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
five-stars
All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. If she dresses like a girl, and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty.

But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth—that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (Pen and her family are Portuguese; Olivia is half-Asian; other minor POC characters)
QUILTBAG: 2 (Pen is lesbian, Blake is bi)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 5 (perhaps not in the usual sense, but the nature of Pen’s story and its handling is excellent)

Thanks to all sorts of psychological stuff I learned about in high school, bright colors on a book cover make me think a book will be happy and fun and sweet. Something something schemas, our brains are like Google AutoComplete, something something. Girl Mans Up has a bright red cover, but it’s really representative of how you’ll be seeing red while reading. Pen’s story is necessary and beautiful and relatable no matter your gender or sexual identity, but you’re going to be mad at just about everyone in Pen’s life.

Read more »

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