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The Crème De La Crème Of YA Lit: 15 YA Summer Reads

 

Here are my top 15 YA Summer Reads. Follow me here for more bookish, YA thoughts and tweets and keep an eye out for an exciting new start-up @YAfictionados , launching 25th May, run by @thereaderrunt and @yablooker.

**Note that all covers used are the UK covers**

***Information correct at time of publication***

1. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

untitled (8)

UK Release Date: 7th May 2015

US Release Date: 7th May 2015

Plot:

Faith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.

The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter . .

Ideal for Fans of: Ransom Riggs and Maggie Stiefvater

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23592175-the-lie-tree?ac=1

2. Bomb by Sarah Mussi

9781444917864
UK Release Date: 7th May 2015

US Release Date: N/A

Plot:

I’m Genesis Wainwright. I’m a sixth-form student. I come from Somerset. My mum is the best mum in the world. I play the guitar (badly). My best friend is Holly. I’m searching for answers to the Meaning of Life. I believe in True Love. AND I’M IN LOVE WITH NAZ. I want to be a performance poet. And I’m crazy about motorbikes. I can remember everything. Except last night. When Genesis goes on a blind internet date, she just wants to get over her ex-boyfriend Naz. She just wants someone to like her again. But when Genesis wakes up the morning after the date, she can’t remember a thing.

She doesn’t know where she is, or how she got there. And she can hardly move because she is strapped into some kind of body armour …Before she has time to figure it out, she receives an order through an earpiece stuck in her ear. And then a voice sounds in her head: ‘You have been chosen for an assignment …The vest you’re wearing is packed with high explosives. And with one mobile call we can detonate it.’ To her horror Genesis has become an agent of mass destruction, a walking weapon in the hands of a terrorist cell. The countdown to detonation has begun: Genesis must re-examine everyone and everything she loves and make terrifying choices …in the face of certain death

Ideal for fans of: A. J. Grainger and Kathy Reichs

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23604128-bomb

Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas


BECAUSEUK Release Date:
 2nd July 2015

US Release Date: 2nd June 2015

Plot:

Ollie and Moritz are two teenagers who will never meet. Each of them lives with a life-affecting illness. Contact with electricity sends Ollie into debilitating seizures, while Moritz has a heart defect and is kept alive by an electronic pacemaker. If they did meet, Ollie would seize, but turning off the pacemaker would kill Moritz. Through an exchange of letters, the two boys develop a strong bond of friendship which becomes a lifeline during dark times – until Moritz reveals that he holds the key to their shared, sinister past, and has been keeping it from Ollie all along.

Ideal for fans of: Becky Albertalli and Tess Sharpe

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20649195-because-you-ll-never-meet-me

4. Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

UK Release Date: 2nd July 2015SUICIDE NOTES

US Release Date: 7th July 2015

 

Plot:

When June met Delia, she was a lifeline. Their intense friendship gave her a sense of belonging, of security, that she’d never had before. She felt braver, smarter, funnier, more attractive when Delia was around. But then something went wrong, and Delia and June haven’t spoken for a year when an announcement is made at their school that Delia is dead. June barely has time to mourn before Delia’s ex-boyfriend convinces her that Delia didn’t kill herself but was in fact murdered, and June is fast swept into a tangle of lies and deceit – and a conspiracy she can barely conceive of, never mind believe. Stylish, sexy and atmospheric, with so many twists it will leave you breathless.

Ideal for fans of: Jay Asher and Cat Clarke.

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18244970-suicide-notes-from-beautiful-girls

5. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas


SARAH J MAASUK Release Date:
 5th May 2015

US Release Date: 5th May 2015

Plot:

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest.

Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever. The start of a sensational romantic fantasy trilogy by the bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series.

Ideal for fans of: Julia Kagawa and Holly Black

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16096824-a-court-of-thorns-and-roses

Birdy by Jess Valance

UK Release Date: 2nd July 20159781471404665

US Release Date: N/A 

Plot:

Frances Bird has been a loner for as long as she can remember. But when she is asked to look after the new girl at school, the sparky Alberta Black, they soon become inseparable, doing everything together, and even creating their own sign of togetherness – a blackbird. After a while though, Bert wants to do things without Frances, and see other people without her there. And that won’t do…No that won’t do at all…

A darkly compulsive tale of friendship and obsession.

Ideal for fans of: Melissa Marr

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25269375-birdy

7. I Am Her Revenge by Meredith Moore

REVENGEUK Release Date: 1st May 2015

US Release Date: 7th April 2015

Plot:

She can be anyone you want her to be.
Vivian was raised with one purpose in life: to exact revenge on behalf of her mother. Manipulative and cruel, Mother has deprived Vivian not only of a childhood, but of an original identity. With an endless arsenal of enticing personalities at her disposal, Vivian is a veritable weapon of deception.

And she can destroy anyone.
When it’s time to strike, she enrolls in a boarding school on the English moors, where she will zero in on her target: sweet and innocent Ben, the son of the man who broke Mother’s heart twenty years ago.

Anyone… except for the woman who created her.
With every secret she uncovers, Vivian comes one step closer to learning who she really is. But the more she learns about herself, the more dangerous this cat and mouse game becomes. Because Mother will stop at nothing to make sure the truth dies with her.

Ideal for fans of: Sarah Mussi and Sara Shepard

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18658071-i-am-her-revenge

8. Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

UK Release Date: 4th June 20159781408335222

US Release Date: 2nd June

Plot

Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Grey doesn’t look dangerous. A tiny, blonde, wisp of a girl shouldn’t know how to poison a wizard and make it look like an accident. Or take out ten necromancers with a single sword and a bag of salt. Or kill a man using only her thumb. But things are not always as they appear. Elizabeth is one of the best witch hunters in Anglia and a member of the king’s elite guard, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and bringing those who practice it to justice. And in Anglia, the price of justice is high: death by burning.

When Elizabeth is accused of being a witch herself, she’s arrested and thrown in prison. The king declares her a traitor and her life is all but forfeit. With just hours before she’s to die at the stake, Elizabeth gets a visitor – Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful wizard in Anglia. He offers her a deal: he will free her from prison and save her from execution if she will track down the wizard who laid a deadly curse on him. As Elizabeth uncovers the horrifying facts about Nicholas’s curse and the unwitting role she played in its creation, she is forced to redefine the differences between right and wrong, friends and enemies, love and hate…and life and death.

The first book in an incredible new series set in a fantastical medieval world.

Ideal for fans of: Rachel Hawkins and Sally Green

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18190208-the-witch-hunter

9. The Memory Hit by Carla Spradbery

UK Release Date: 4th June 20159781444920277

US Release Date: N/A

Plot

On New Year’s Eve, Jess’s life is unrecognizable: her best friend is in the hospital, her boyfriend is a cheater. A drug-dealing cheater it would seem, after finding a stash of Nostalgex in his bag.

Nostalgex: a drug that stimulates memory. In small doses, a person can remember the order of a deck of cards, or an entire revision guide read the day before an exam. In larger doses it allows the user detailed access to their past, almost like watching a DVD with the ability to pause a moment in time, to focus on previously unnoticed details and to see everything they’ve ever experienced with fresh eyes. As Leon, the local dealer, says ‘it’s like life, only better.’ What he fails to mention is that most memories are clouded by emotions. Even the most vivid memories can look very different when visited.

Across town Sam Cooper is in trouble. Again. This time, gagged and bound in the boot of a car. Getting on the wrong side of a drug dealer is never a good idea, but if he doesn’t make enough money to feed and clothe his sister, who will?

On New Year’s Day, Jess and Cooper’s worlds collide. They must put behind their differences and work together to look into their pasts to uncover a series of events that will lead them to know what really happened on that fateful New Year’s Eve. But what they find is that everything they had once believed to be true, turns out to be a lie …

‘A pleasingly dark teen thriller with fun, fresh characters. Spradbery is a debut author to watch.’ James Dawson

Ideal for fans of: Ellen Hopkins and Tess Sharpe

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23595949-the-memory-hit

11. Lola Carlyle’s 12-Step Romance by Danielle Younge-Ullman

99 DAYSUK Release Date: 7th May 2015

US Release Date: 21st April 2015

Plot

I told her the worst, most secret, most important thing in my life – and she wrote a bestselling book about it. Last year, Molly Barlow did something terrible. Then, her mother wrote a book about it. And so everyone in their tiny hometown found out that Molly cheated on her childhood sweetheart, the love of her life, her best friend with his brother.

After spending senior year at a boarding school in the middle of nowhere, Molly now has ninety-nine days to endure back in her hometown before she can escape to college. Ninety-nine days of being the most hated person in town. Ninety-nine days to heal the hurt she’s caused. Ninety-nine days to figure out what she wants, and who she loves…

Ideal for fans of: John Green and David Levithan

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22836575-99-days

12. The Lost and Found by Cat Clarke

UK Release Date: 2nd July 2015THE LOST

US Release Date: N/A

Plot

LOST. When six-year-old Laurel Logan was abducted, the only witness was her younger sister. Faith’s childhood was dominated by Laurel’s disappearance – from her parents’ broken marriage and the constant media attention to dealing with so-called friends who only ever wanted to talk about her sister.

FOUND. Thirteen years later, a young woman is found in the garden of the Logans’ old house, disorientated and clutching the teddy bear Laurel was last seen with. Laurel is home at last, safe and sound. Faith always dreamed of getting her sister back, without ever truly believing it would happen. But a disturbing series of events leaves Faith increasingly isolated and paranoid, and before long she begins to wonder if everything that’s lost can be found again…

Ideal for fans of: Lucy Christopher and Tanya Byrne

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20685157-the-lost-and-the-found

13. The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

RED QUEENUK Release Date: 2nd July 2015

US Release Date: 10th February 2015

Plot

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart …

Ideal for fans of: Robin Hobb and George R. R. Martin

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17878931-red-queen

14. All My Secrets by Sophie McKenzieALL MY SECRETS

UK Release Date: 2nd July 2015

US Release Date: 2nd July 2015

Plot

A brand new title from bestselling, award-winning author, Sophie McKenzie. The shocking reality behind a GBP10 million inheritance turns Evie Brown’s world on its head. Unable to find out the truth from her parents, Evie ends up on the mysterious island of Lightsea, where her desire for answers leads her towards a series of revelations that threaten everything she holds dear …including her life.

Ideal for fans of: Robert Muchamore and Lucy Christopher

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24907336-all-my-secrets

15. All the Rage by Courtney Summers 

ALL THE RAGEUK Release Date: 11th May 2015

US Release Date: 14th April 2015

Plot:

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything–friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous.

But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time–and they certainly won’t now–but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, Courtney Summers’ new novel All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women in a culture that refuses to protect them.

Ideal for fans of: Tess Sharpe and Lousie O’Neill

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21853636-all-the-rage

All these books are available here from Foyles.

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15 YA Spring Titles to Sink Your Teeth Into (***May Contain Nuts***)

Here are my YA picks for Spring 2015. I’ve tried my best to order them in the way I think the general reader would want to read them with a touch of subjectivitiy. If you have any feedback, comment below. Enjoy!

**Note that all covers used are the UK covers**

1. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

UK Release Date: 7th April 2015

US Release Date: 7th April 2015

Plot:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Hype:

North American rights were pre-empted by Balzer & Bray within three days of the manuscript being submitted and the story has the book trade buzzing. The author, Becky Albertalli, is a clinical psychologist and spent seven years working with a support group for gender-nonconforming children in the US. Penguin have also bought rights for her second novel.

Ideal for fans of: David Levithan and Stephen Chbosky

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19547856-simon-vs-the-homo-sapiens-agenda?ac=1#

2. Under My Skin by James Dawson

Under My Skin
UK Release Date: 5th March 2015

US Release Date: N/A

Plot:

Seventeen-year-old Sally Feather is not exactly a rebel. Her super-conservative parents and her treatment at the hands of high school bullies means that Sally’s about as shy and retiring as they come – but all that’s about to change. Accidentally ending up in the seedier side of town one day, Sally finds herself mysteriously lured to an almost-hidden tattoo parlour – and once inside, Sally is quickly seduced by its charming owner, Rosita, and her talk of how having a secret tattoo can be as empowering as it is thrilling. Almost before she knows what she is doing, Sally selects sexy pin-up Molly Sue, and has her tattooed on her back – hoping that Molly Sue will inspire her to be as confident and popular as she is in her dreams.

But things quickly take a nightmareish turn. Almost immediately, Sally begins to hear voices in her head – or rather, one voice in particular: Molly Sue’s. And she has no interest in staying quiet and being a good girl – in fact, she’s mighty delighted to have a body to take charge of again. Sally slowly realizes that she is unable to control Molly Sue… and before long she’s going to find out the hard way what it truly means to have somebody ‘under your skin’

Hype:

Another story from 2014’s Queen of Teen. Dawson established himself last year with titles such as Say Her Name and This Book is Gay and his Number One gal-pal, Conchita Wurst. His latest offering, no doubt, offers a new and interesting twist delivered in classic Dawson-esque style. What’s that? You don’t follow? Then, I guess you need to pre-order Under My Skin. Now. Of course now. I’ll just wait…

Ideal for fans of: Kendare Blake and Alyxandra Harvey

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23058143-under-my-skin?from_search=true

3. The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan

The Dolls
UK Release Date: 1st March 2015

US Release Date: 2nd September 2014

Plot:

Eveny Cheval just moved back to Louisiana after spending her childhood in New York with her aunt Bea. Eveny hasn’t seen her hometown since her mother’s suicide fourteen years ago, and her memories couldn’t have prepared her for what she encounters. Because pristine, perfectly manicured Carrefour has a dark side full of intrigue, betrayal, and lies—and Eveny quickly finds herself at the center of it all.

Enter Peregrine Marceau, Chloe St. Pierre, and their group of rich, sexy friends known as the Dolls. From sipping champagne at lunch to hooking up with the hottest boys, Peregrine and Chloe have everything—including an explanation for what’s going on in Carrefour. And Eveny doesn’t trust them one bit.

But after murder strikes and Eveny discovers that everything she believes about herself, her family, and her life is a lie, she must turn to the Dolls for answers. Something’s wrong in paradise, and it’s up to Eveny, Chloe, and Peregrine to save Carrefour and make it right

Hype:

Though I’ve yet to read them, I admire an author who supports her stories with e-novellas, short stories and, in Sullivan’s case, e-episodes. It allows for the expansion and development of the world. I think the premise is an interesting one. I’m a sucker for paranormal and fantasy stories. Sullivan had me at murder!

Ideal for fans of: Kendare Blake and Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Links:

Link to a free chapter of the book and six free e-episodes: http://www.usborne.com/catalogue/book/1~EB~E14~8884/the-dolls.aspx

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18249114-the-dolls?ac=1

4. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

My Heart and Other Black Holes

UK Release Date: 12th February 2015

US Release Date: 10th February 2015

Plot:

I’m getting higher and higher and I feel the swing set creak. ‘Be careful,’ he says. ‘Why?’ I’m not thinking about being careful. I’m thinking about one last push, of letting go, of flying, and of falling. ‘You aren’t allowed to die without me,’ he whispers.

Aysel and Roman are practically strangers, but they’ve been drawn into an unthinkable partnership. In a month’s time, they plan to commit suicide – together. Aysel knows why she wants to die: being the daughter of a murderer doesn’t equal normal, well-adjusted teenager. But she can’t figure out why handsome, popular Roman wants to end it all…and why he’s even more determined than she is. With the deadline getting closer, something starts to grow between Aysel and Roman – a feeling she never thought she would experience. It seems there might be something to live for, after all – but is Aysel in so deep she can’t turn back?

Hype: This feels a bit like a re-visioned Romeo and Juliet. I love reading something different. I think it will appeal to teens and twenty-teens because of the way it deals with a real social issue but uses it as the means for two people to come together and fall in love. High hopes for this one.

Ideal for fans of: Jay Asher and Cat Clarke

Links:

Goodreads: http://www.bookdepository.com/My-Heart-Other-Black-Holes-Jasmine-Warga/9781444791532

5. Soulprint by Megan Miranda

Soulprint

UK Release Date: 12th February 2015

US Release Date: 3rd February 2015

Plot:

Alina Chase has spent her entire life in confinement. With the science of soul-printing now a reality, she is ‘protected’ for her own safety – and the safety of others – because her soul has done terrible things …or so she’s told. When Alina finally breaks out of prison, helped by a group of people with unclear motives, she begins to uncover clues left by her past life that only she can decipher. And she may not be as innocent as she once believed. Can Alina change her future, or is she fated to repeat her past and face the consequences?

Hype: I love the mystery behind this; the obliviousness of the main character’s actions that obscure whether she’ll be the hero or a sort of anti-hero. What is soul-printing? And what has Alina done that’s so bad?

Ideal for fans of: Sophie Kenzie

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22392926-soulprint?from_search=true

6. Geek Drama by Holly Smale

Geek Drama

UK Release Date: 26th February 2015

US Release Date: 26th February 2015

Plot:

“My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek.”

Harriet Manners knows that the hottest observed place on earth is Furnace Creek in Death Valley. She knows that dolphins shed the top layer of their skin every two hours. And she knows just how badly auditions can go, especially when you’re a model. But she has no idea how to get herself out of the extreme embarrassment of the school play or what to do when arch-nemesis Alexa decides it’s the perfect opportunity to humiliate her…Can GEEK GIRL survive the bright lights of the stage?

Hype:

A hilarious World Book Day GEEK GIRL novella by award-winning, bestselling author Holly Smale. I love this. Seriously, I’m 24 and I don’t care. Holly Smale is a genius. Harriet comes alive in the pages and I literally LOL on the bus (which is worrying when you’re pressed up against sweaty armpits at the peak time rush!).

Ideal for fans of: Lousie Rennison and James Dawson

Links:

http://www.bookdepository.com/Geek-Drama-50-Book-Pack-Holly-Smale/9780008113483

7. Half Wild by Sally Green

Half Wild

UK Release Date: 26th March 2015

US Release Date: 24th March 2015

Plot:

“You will have a powerful Gift, but it’s how you use it that will show you to be good or bad.”

After finally meeting his elusive father, Marcus, and receiving the three gifts that confirm him as a full adult witch, Nathan is still on the run. He needs to find his friend Gabriel and rescue Annalise, now a prisoner of the powerful Black witch Mercury. Most of all he needs to learn how to control his Gift – a strange, wild new power that threatens to overwhelm him.

Meanwhile, Soul O’Brien has seized control of the Council of White Witches and is expanding his war against Black witches into Europe. In response, an unprecedented alliance has formed between Black and White witches determined to resist him. Drawn into the rebellion by the enigmatic Black witch Van Dal, Nathan finds himself fighting alongside both old friends and old enemies. But can all the rebels be trusted, or is Nathan walking into a trap?

Hype:

Sally Green’s Half Bad debut saw a boy in a cage at Manchester Piccadilly and the book itself gave witches a face-lift (arguably, literally) and experimented with first- and second-person narrative styles. This is certainly one to look out for. No doubt, we’ll see it in bookshop windows very soon.

Ideal for fans of: Rachel Hawkins and Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20814989-half-wild?from_search=true

8. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

The Game of Love and Death

UK Release Date: 2nd April 2015

US Release Date: 28th April 2015

Plot:

Flora and Henry were born a few blocks from each other, innocent of the forces that might keep a white boy and an African American girl apart; years later they meet again and their mutual love of music sparks an even more powerful connection. But what Flora and Henry don’t know is that they are pawns in a game played by the eternal adversaries Love and Death, here brilliantly re-imagined as two extremely sympathetic and fascinating characters. Can their hearts and their wills overcome not only their earthly circumstances, but forces that have battled throughout history?

Hype:

This has the potential to be amazing. I can’t add anything else, without sullying the plot, other than saying I love reading about diverse characters in YA Lit. I hope it’s a dual narrative and offers credible accounts from both characters.

Ideal for fans of: Jenny Downham and Gayle Forman

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20308537-the-game-of-love-and-death?from_search=true

9. The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

The Sin Eater's Daughter

UK Release Date: 5th February 2015

US Release Date: 24th February 2015

Plot:

Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court. She’s the executioner. As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company. But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen. However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?

Hype:

I got an advance copy of this last year at the London Book Fair and I have to say, it’s a damn good read with twists, romance, betrayal and action galore. The cover looks amazing and Melinda (from what I’ve gathered, tweeting her back and forth) is absolutely lovely.

Ideal for fans of: Ideal for fans of: Maria V. Snyder and Philip Pullman

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22536448-the-sin-eater-s-daughter?from_search=true

10. The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

The Alex Crow

UK Release Date: 26th February 2015

US Release Date: 10th March 2015

Plot:

Ariel, the sole survivor of an attack on his village in the Middle East is ‘rescued’ from the horrific madness of war in his homeland by an American soldier and sent to live with a family in suburban Virginia. And yet, to Ariel, this new life with a genetic scientist father and resentful brother, Max, is as confusing and bizarre as the life he just left. Things get even weirder when Ariel and Max are sent to an all-boys summer camp in the forest for tech detox. Intense, funny and fierce friendships are formed. And all the time the scientific tinkerings of the boys’ father into genetics and our very existence are creeping up on them in their wooden cabin, second by painful second…

Hype:

The story is an interesting one (much like the rest, he says). The follow-up to Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle – I think we can expect another great read. I also heard that the book fairies left copies at London (underground) tube stations this morning.

Ideal for fans of: Markus Zusak and Sally Gardner

Links:

Goodreads: http://www.bookdepository.com/Alex-Crow-Andrew-Smith/9781405273428

11. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You The Sun

UK Release Date: 2nd April 2015

US Release Date: 16th September 2014

Plot:

Jude and her twin Noah were incredibly close – until a tragedy drove them apart, and now they are barely speaking. Then Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy as well as a captivating new mentor, both of whom may just need her as much as she needs them. What the twins don’t realize is that each of them has only half the story and if they can just find their way back to one another, they have a chance to remake their world.

Hype:

This one is described as “a radiant novel that will leave you laughing and crying” so obviously, I had to include it. I would have placed it higher except that A.) it’s a tough quarter for YA and B.) it echoes Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall and Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and that worries me a little. If it’s too similar, it will show but still, a potential good read.

Ideal for fans of: Karen Joy Fowler and John Green

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20820994-i-ll-give-you-the-sun?from_search=true

12. Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton

Unspeakable

UK Release Date: 5th February 2015

US Release Date: 5th February 2015

Plot:

Megan doesn’t speak. She hasn’t spoken in months.

Pushing away the people she cares about is just a small price to pay. Because there are things locked inside Megan’s head – things that are screaming to be heard – that she cannot, must not, let out.

Then Jasmine starts at school: bubbly, beautiful, talkative Jasmine. And for reasons Megan can’t quite understand, life starts to look a bit brighter.

Megan would love to speak again, and it seems like Jasmine might be the answer. But if she finds her voice, will she lose everything else?

Hype: This has echoes of Emily Murdoch’s If You Find Me so I’ll just wait and see. It seems to offer some diversity (LGBT) and again, we need more diverse voices in YA, so that, along with the plot (and the John Green style cover) places this at the #12 spot.

Ideal for fans of: Tess Sharpe and David Levithan

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22103725-unspeakable

13. The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

The Girl At Midnight

UK Release Date: 28th April 2015

US Release Date: 28th April 2015

Plot:

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known. Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants …and how to take it. But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

Hype: I love fantasy escapism. This looks like just the ticket. World-building and story; all we can do now is hope for character and distinct narration and Melissa Grey is on to a winner.

Ideal for fans of: Leslye Walton and Marcus Sedgwick

Links:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20345202-the-girl-at-midnight?from_search=true

14. Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick

Killing

UK Release Date: 5th March 2015

US Release Date: N/A

Plot:

Set in a girls’ boarding school in Massachusetts a haunting and sinister story YA story for World Book Day from prize-winning author Marcus Sedgwick. 1963. Foxgrove School near Stockbridge, Massachusetts. One of the oldest and finest academies in the country – but what really goes on behind closed doors? Nathaniel Drake, the new young English teacher, Isobel Milewski, the quiet girl who loved to draw spirals, her fingers stained with green ink, Jack Lewis, who lent Isobel books – just words, just ink on paper, Margot Leya, the girl with those eyes – who are they, what part have they played in killing the dead? Follow the dark, dark path Into the dark, dark woods To the dark, dark bridge By the dark, dark water. Linger. Let the ghosts of heaven tell their story

Hype: A stylish and creepy story for World Book Day from the award-winning author of She is Not Invisible. Cheap and cheerful: what more could you want?

Ideal for fans of: Kendare Blake and Alyxandra Harvey

Links:

No Goodreads link available.

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/killing-the-dead/marcus-sedgwick/9781780622392

15. The Prey by Tom Isbell

The Prey

UK Release Date: 12th March 2015

US Release Date: 20th January 2015

Plot:

In the Republic of the True America, it’s always hunting season. Riveting action, intense romance, and gripping emotion make this fast-paced adventure a standout debut. After a radiation blast burned most of the Earth to a crisp, the new government established settlement camps for the survivors. At one such camp, Book and the other ‘LTs’ are eager to graduate as part of the Rite. Until they learn the dark truth: ‘LTs’ doesn’t stand for lieutenant but for ‘Less Thans’, feared by society and raised to be hunted for sport.

Together with the sisters, Hope and Faith, twin girls who’ve suffered their own haunting fate, they join forces to seek the safety of the fabled New Territory. As Book and Hope lead their quest for freedom, these teens must find the best in themselves to fight the worst in their enemies. But as they are pursued by sadistic hunters, secrets are revealed, allegiances are made, and lives are threatened.

Hype:

We had The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner and now, we have The Prey. There’s been a lot of talk about this one over at Team HC (HarperCollins – the publisher). It seems to be aimed at adults (marketed by the Harper Voyager – sci-fi/fantasy imprint) though it will be probably also resonate with a teen audience. Dystopian fiction has been exhausted in recent years (with big screen adaptations and book market saturation), this holds promise though I worry it could come off like The Hunger Games fan fiction.

Ideal for fans of: Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22061971-the-prey?from_search=true

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‘The Age Of Miracles’ Is Upon Us

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

untitled

Plot: 12/20

An ordinary girl. An ordinary boy. An invisible catastrophe.

When the Earth’s rotation starts to slow, longer days and nights are the least of the world’s worries as the Earth, as they know it, irrevocably changes. In the chaos, Julia and Seth find their very own unknown. I should start by saying that I generally hate end-of-the-world/apocalypse/eco-disaster books. I read the synopsis and dread the thoughts of reading them but this one surprised me. Cleverly crafted, the Earth’s rotation might be the driving force of the book but it’s the effects it has on Julia and her community that are foregrounded. The “slowing” feels unnecessary though and the ending is unsatisfying. The story focuses on the breakdown of relationships and coming together (in other instances) but the ending does not deal with the can of worms it opens. Furthermore, I feel as though an explanation of why scientists didn’t see this coming might have given the premise more weight.

Narration: 16/20

Julia narrates the story, framing it in an adolescent’s viewpoint, describing everything in poetic detail and relaying the events proceeding the first news broadcast. I love her observations and perception of her changing world:

  • “I heard the click and creak of the liquor cabinet, the clinking of ice in a glass.”
  • “Bouquets of fine wrinkles fanned out from her eyes.”

She exhibits flashes of humour:

  • “There was a lot to learn about the care of hair and skin. There was a proper way to hold a cigarette. A girl wasn’t born knowing how to give a handjob.”

She can ratchet up the tension:

  • “We were driving a silver station wagon, although the police report would later describe it as blue.”

Despite all of these good points, I feel as though Julia could have demonstrated more of her character in her observations. In a crowded market, the narration is sharp but with a character infusion, it could have really set it apart from the competition.

Character: 14/20

I like the cast of characters. Julia’s voice, like many of the others, definitely could have been pushed even further. She’s an observer; something of a fly-on-the-wall but I feel as though she could be much more. I find the mother and father believable. I’m particularly intrigued by the father. He seems to be one thing one minute, but he changes dramatically when the “slowing” occurs.

Quality of Writing: 18/20

The writing is beautiful and evocative. There’s not much more to say except maybe give a few examples:

  • “I missed Hanna like a phantom limb.”
  • “Every morning officials announced the minutes gained overnight, like raindrops collected in pans.”

Setting: 10/10

Set in a suburb in California, it’s the subtle ways that Walker shows this that make it an easy read:

“A familiar breeze was blowing in from the direction of the sea… The eucalyptus trees were fluttering like sea anemones in the wind…”

And how Walker weaves the evolution of Julia’s world into the everyday relationships and happenings of her community. We get an image of the fairgrounds and in particular, the description of the Ferris wheel stands out, its last remaining bucket likened to the last red leave before autumn.

Comparative Literature: 6/10

It’s difficult to compare this to other YA books as it’s a more subtle story, combining a dystopian element with romance, relationships and human nature. The dystopian element is simplistic but it works for this story that it comes across as wholly unnecessary. It lacks the complexity of The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner. The dystopian elements of these stories are pivotal to their plots. That’s not really the case with The Age of Miracles. It’s the breakdown of relations and the exploration of human behaviour that fascinates me and the “slowing” serves as nothing more than a backdrop that is never properly dealt with.

NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:

  • Funny and gripping observations that ratchet up the tension
  • An interesting dystopian concept though one that does not deal with the can of worms that it opens
  • An coming-of-age story that contrasts the coming together of family with the breakdown of relationships

Overall Score: 76/100

Books You May Also Like:

Wonder by R. J. Palacio – a heart-warming story with memorable characters that will resonate with a universal audience

Gone by Michael Grant – the disappearance of adults and development of supernatural powers sets the backdrop for this story about struggle, loyalty and friendship

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – a story about community and the struggles and secrets that threaten it

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January 28, 2015 · 12:37 pm

No Place Like Oz

Oz

Title: No Place Like Oz

Author: Danielle Paige

Publisher: HarperCollins

Format: E-Book Novella

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 132

Plot:

Set two years after Dorothy’s triumph over the witches of Oz, Dorothy is stuck in Kansas, now a sad, bullied girl who longs for the opulence and magic of Oz. On her sixteenth birthday, Dorothy receives a pair of ruby shoes and a cryptic message signed “G”. Dorothy puts on the heels, returning to Oz along with her clueless aunt and uncle but finds that nothing is how she left it. Her friends have disbanded. A mysterious new ruler occupies the Emerald City’s throne and with Glinda the Good Witch missing, all is not well in Oz.

Kansas is a good starting point. It establishes a standard with which to compare the extraordinary that’s to follow. We get to see how Dorothy’s life has changed and that subsequently feeds in to how she herself evolves as a character. The ending whets your appetite for the main novel.

17/20

Narration:

The first-person narration is distinguished from Amy’s voice in Dorothy Must Die. At times, modernity breaks through in her words and the way that she acts but ultimately, we get a perspective that’s true to the author’s vision.

14/20

Character:

Dorothy’s transformation is gradual:

  • Her longing for Oz features within the initial pages
  • “THE GIRL WHO RODE THE CYCLONE. That headline, from the Star, was my favourite.”
  • She invited a reporter from the Carrier to her sixteenth birthday
  • She realises at her birthday that she has no friends except the ones in Oz (the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion)
  • She starts to lash out at her aunt and uncle when they want to go home

I was annoyed at how drastic her change is in the conclusion. I feel like the author needed more time to work the final stages of her transformation to make me believe it. I was also confused by Glinda. When she appears, she offers vague answers and uses odd phrases that are uncharacteristic to the original Glinda to the point where it feels like an entirely new character and Dorothy doesn’t question her. Glinda’s first words are “[m]y beautiful, powerful, angry Dorothy” and instead of comforting Dorothy, she tells her she’ll have a new family. Though a minor detail, Polychrome’s dress, like Ozma’s, is described as being “diaphanous”. It draws a comparison because these are the only two uses of the word in the book. It takes away from Ozma’s character, making me think that maybe she isn’t as grand and beautiful as Dorothy remarks. Diaphanous is such a rare word. If both dresses were big or blue or even frilly, it would be different but such a precise word is attributed to both characters’ dresses that I can’t help but draw a link between both characters.

10/20

Quality of Writing:

There’s quite a bit of repetition in the writing style. In the Forest of Fear, everyone is “screaming”, and the trees are “snapping” and “cracking” repetitively. The excessive detail acts like a vacuum that sucks the tension out of the scene. It’s the cultural references that really grate though. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900 and it’s assumed that it was set in the same year. This novella is set two years after which would make it 1902 and yet, the following references contradict and confuse:

  • The Great War (19-14-1918)
  • Shirley Temple (who wasn’t born until 1928)
  • Henry Ford (who I would argue, didn’t gain prominence until 1903 though I’m willing to let this one slide somewhat)

Further to this, the author describes the trees’ faces in the Forest of Fear as being “frozen into gargoyle masks” but they’re not literally frozen and later, Dorothy says that her desire was a tornado and it’s baffling whether or not it’s an actual tornado? When you use this supernatural terminology in a paranormal tale, you need to be extremely careful and this is a good example of how you can stop your reader in their tracks and lose a customer and more importantly, a fan. Also, there are clunky sentences and some uses of the present tense that jar the reading experience.

The cons above are somewhat saddening since overall, the writing style is actually quite clever and sometimes funny:

  • “This is what a place like this does to you. It makes you put words in the beaks of chickens.”
  • “They might be old, but at least they could still outrun a few trees.”
  • “Had the trees’ bark simply been worse than their bite?”

5/20

Setting:

There’s nothing wrong with the setting. I just wish that some of the detail could be sliced into the piece. The author uses the established Oz that most of us would have some, if varying, knowledge of, to her advantage.

8/10

Comparative Literature:

The novella can be compared in some ways to other YA retellings though it’s difficult since it’s considerably shorter. I like how the author immerses us in Oz, especially since it’s unlikely that everyone has read L. Frank Baum’s original. The movie is not the book – just to clarify. Dorothy Must Die offers a stronger heroine, improved world-building and more diversity in the range of characters. The characters come off a bit stilted in the novella. I do, however, enjoy the twist and Dorothy’s evolution throughout. Starcrossed is a similar YA title, that explores the Helen of Troy myth along with Everneath, which looks at the Hades/Persephone myth. The retelling element is far more subtle though and while I prefer this, the excessive, less-than-subtle approach works well in No Place Like Oz. I just wish the characters could be slightly more rounded and intriguing like Ozma.

6/10

Overall Score:

60/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • Humorous and witty writing though sometimes clunky and the detail can be excessive
  • The chronicling od Dorothy’s light to dark journey is gradual and gripping
  • The author works off a world that most of us already love, or will, after reading this, enjoy
  • Some inaccurate, cultural references jar the reading experience

Books You May Also Like:

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini – for another YA retelling that delivers romance, danger and adventure

Everneath by Brodi Ashton – for another YA retelling that offers a love triangle and loss

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – delve deeper into Oz with a relatable narrator and a tale full of betrayal and magic

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Don’t Even Think About It

Think

Title: Don’t Even Think About It

Author: Sarah Mlynowski

Publisher: Orchard Books

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 299

Plot:

The plot is pretty straightforward. The 10b Homeroom class  acquire telepathy through botched flu shots. I was never on the edge of my seat reading this. It took me almost a week to read because I kept putting it down and picking it up. I don’t buy the “scientific” explanation for the telepathy. It strikes me as more of a cop-out than an explanation. There’s no real sense of plot either. Just an event and the after-effects more than a story. The characters all have their own personal dramas but none of it feels real or relatable. And it’s predictable to the point where it starts to feel like one, big cliché. Also, Brinn tells everyone to skip donuts, at one point, in case they’ve been spiked with the antidote but if that’s the case and it can be ingested, then why are they getting injections?

6/20

Narration:

The narration confused me at first. I like the idea that everyone is telling the narrative. I like those moments, in particular, where we’re reminded of it:

  • “We think her best jeans were actually the ones with the frayed bottoms.” (75)
  • “He tried to avoid us when he could. He couldn’t stand our sympathy.” (197)
  • “We all thought it at the same time – Renée.” (183)

But overall, it kinda annoys me and it feels far to clinical. I don’t feel like the narrative style was altogether thought through. I didn’t buy the characters’ telepathic thoughts either. Would teenagers actually think so mechanically? I’m only 23 but I still should be able to relate to the teenagers on some level or at least coming away thinking, “yep, sounds like sixteen-year-old me” or “yep, sounds like something my sister might think”.

8/20

Character:

The characters are about as flat as the tyres on my bike –  there’s no air in them. They all feel kind of one-dimensional and by the end, I wasn’t sure who was who (and not because I can’t keep track – I’ve read The Bone Season for crying out loud!) and the girls all felt the same. There were no distinguishing characteristics. I had high hopes for Pi since she was so different but by the end of the book, I didn’t even buy her evolution. The only character I sort of believed was Cooper’s sister – Ashley. Here’s an image that sums up the characters in this book:

tt

3/20

Quality of Writing:

The writing made me feel like I was being spoon-fed. I wondered if I needed to know every little detail; if it was all relevant. I would have preferred to have had the information sliced in instead of being overloaded with scene-setting and backstory that takes me out of the scene, like when we hear all about Pi’s choices to try and achieve a higher IQ. I mean, why do I need to know ALL of that and even if it is important, could it not be condensed? If it’s supposed to support her character, I should be able to tell what sort of person she is by her actions and reactions. Not to pages upon pages telling me about the things she does to boost her IQ.

5/20

Setting:

The story is set in and around Tribeca and centred mostly at BHS (Bloomberg High School) but it feels like it could be anywhere. There’s no anchoring details, nothing to support this or give it an air of authenticity unlike the works of other YA authors such as Tanya Byrne or Cat Clarke. It could be set in any part of the States and I wouldn’t know the difference.

2/10

Comparative Literature:

The concluding explanation feels disingenuous and doesn’t feel credible. When you look at Michael Grant’s FAYZ series, you get a sense of character, place, narrative, world and an explanation that matches up to how grand the events are in each book of the six-part series. I get none of that from Mlynowski’s novel. I give her a four for trying to do something a bit different and trying to bring something extraordinary to the ordinary but I won’t give any more based on the fact that the book is a bit of a snooze and offers practically nothing new to the genre. Props for experimenting with narrative though it wasn’t properly thought through and it wasn’t pushed as far it could have been.

4/10

Overall Score:

28/100

Summary:

It’s a Just-Ham kinda book. It’s got nothing on a BLT.

Books You May Also Like:

Think

Title: Don’t Even Think About It

Author: Sarah Mlynowski

Publisher: Orchard Books

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 299

Plot:

The plot is pretty straightforward. The 10b Homeroom class  acquire telepathy through botched flu shots. I was never on the edge of my seat reading this. It took me almost a week to read because I kept putting it down and picking it up. I don’t buy the “scientific” explanation for the telepathy. It strikes me as more of a cop-out than an explanation. There’s no real sense of plot either. Just an event and the after-effects more than a story. The characters all have their own personal dramas but none of it feels real or relatable. And it’s predictable to the point where it starts to feel like one, big cliché. Also, Brinn tells everyone to skip donuts, at one point, in case they’ve been spiked with the antidote but if that’s the case and it can be ingested, then why are they getting injections?

6/20

Narration:

The narration confused me at first. I like the idea that everyone is telling the narrative. I like those moments, in particular, where we’re reminded of it:

  • “We think her best jeans were actually the ones with the frayed bottoms.” (75)
  • “He tried to avoid us when he could. He couldn’t stand our sympathy.” (197)
  • “We all thought it at the same time – Renée.” (183)

But overall, it kinda annoys me and it feels far to clinical. I don’t feel like the narrative style was altogether thought through. I didn’t buy the characters’ telepathic thoughts either. Would teenagers actually think so mechanically? I’m only 23 but I still should be able to relate to the teenagers on some level or at least coming away thinking, “yep, sounds like sixteen-year-old me” or “yep, sounds like something my sister might think”.

8/20

Character:

The characters are about as flat as the tyres on my bike –  there’s no air in them. They all feel kind of one-dimensional and by the end, I wasn’t sure who was who (and not because I can’t keep track – I’ve read The Bone Season for crying out loud!) and the girls all felt the same. There were no distinguishing characteristics. I had high hopes for Pi since she was so different but by the end of the book, I didn’t even buy her evolution. The only character I sort of believed was Cooper’s sister – Ashley. Here’s an image that sums up the characters in this book:

tt

3/20

Quality of Writing:

The writing made me feel like I was being spoon-fed. I wondered if I needed to know every little detail; if it was all relevant. I would have preferred to have had the information sliced in instead of being overloaded with scene-setting and backstory that takes me out of the scene, like when we hear all about Pi’s choices to try and achieve a higher IQ. I mean, why do I need to know ALL of that and even if it is important, could it not be condensed? If it’s supposed to support her character, I should be able to tell what sort of person she is by her actions and reactions. Not to pages upon pages telling me about the things she does to boost her IQ.

5/20

Setting:

The story is set in and around Tribeca and centred mostly at BHS (Bloomberg High School) but it feels like it could be anywhere. There’s no anchoring details, nothing to support this or give it an air of authenticity unlike the works of other YA authors such as Tanya Byrne or Cat Clarke. It could be set in any part of the States and I wouldn’t know the difference.

2/10

Comparative Literature:

The concluding explanation feels disingenuous and doesn’t feel credible. When you look at Michael Grant’s FAYZ series, you get a sense of character, place, narrative, world and an explanation that matches up to how grand the events are in each book of the six-part series. I get none of that from Mlynowski’s novel. I give her a four for trying to do something a bit different and trying to bring something extraordinary to the ordinary but I won’t give any more based on the fact that the book is a bit of a snooze and offers practically nothing new to the genre. Props for experimenting with narrative though it wasn’t properly thought through and it wasn’t pushed as far it could have been.

4/10

Overall Score:

28/100

Summary:

It’s a Just-Ham kinda book. It’s got nothing on a BLT.

Books You May Also Like:

Eve and Adam by Michael Grant – for better world-building, a story about the limits of science and humorous and varied narrative perspectives

FAYZ series by Michael Grant – for better world-building and a similar journey of teenagers getting paranormal abilities (from ordinary to extraordinary)

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July 17, 2014 · 9:01 am

Undone

undone

Author: Cat Clarke

Publisher: Quercus

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Standalone

Pages: 352

Plot:

The plot is something else. I read this line – “Jem Halliday is in love with her gay best friend. Not exactly ideal, but she’s learning to live with it.” – and I thought:

mean girls 1

Then I read on – “Then the unspeakable happens. Kai is outed online …and he kills himself. Jem knows nothing she can say or do will bring him back. But she wants to know who was responsible. And she wants to take them down.” And then I was like:

mean girls 2 A

But seriously:

mean girls 2

And 100 pages in:

mean girls 3

I was roped in. It was something different and I feel like 2014-2015 will be the year where the spotlight will be on realistic YA books by which I mean that illness, suicide, pregnancy, teenage angst (etc.) will be prevalent over paranormal stories. Not to say that paranormal stories don’t deal with these issues. I just feel like The Fault in Our Stars, Trouble and 13 Reasons Why and similar books have opened up the door for stories that teenagers (and wannabe teenagers like me) can relate to. I love the plot. It moved along nicely. There’s no swordfights or explosions if that’s what you’re expecting but it’s a beautifully, dark story and I loved every minute of it. The only thing that bugged me was Bugs’ revenge. It felt too much like a frat-party prank rather than revenge. It didn’t have the power and effect that Lucas’ and Stu’s revenge carried. If Lucas had an equal part in the act in Jem’s eyes, which she believes  he does, then something more crushing needs to happen to Bugs.

17/20

Narration:

I loved the narration though I feel as though Clarke could have reinforced the fact that it was a letter throughout the novel in the same way Stephen Chbosky does in The Perks of Being a Wallflower or Annabel Pitcher in Ketchup Clouds. Clarke straddles the line between a dark Jem and a flippant Jem at times and while I think she succeeds, there are times where we tend to forget how disturbed and dark she is; how determined she is to die. Kai’s letters are uplifting and show how Jem, even as she decides she wants to die, mimics her best friend’s letter-writing – if maybe only to be closer to him.

16/20

Character:

I like Jem. I don’t find her whiny. I understand her pain and in the last 30 or so pages, I found it difficult to breathe. That’s right, Cat Clarke. If you’re reading this, you very nearly killed a reader. Disclaimer much? I felt every moment of Jem’s pain, every second of Kai’s pain in his letters. But Kai’s voice in the letters really gives you something to look forward to and tugs at your heart strings. I would like to know more about who Jem is rather than knowing things about her like how she looked and that. I mean, in the first scene, we get a sense of a younger Jem but for the rest of the novel, she’s losing herself – who she is – but the “self” hasn’t been fully established. I liked the rest of the cast but Jem (and Kai from the grave) really do rule the show.

16/20

Quality of Writing:

The writing is powerful but rather than go on and on, I’ll pick out some examples:

  • “Everyone thought that things were getting back to normal. They had no idea that normal didn’t exist for me any more. Normal had been smashed on the rocks beneath the bridge.”
  • “I know people think suicide is selfish, and maybe sometimes it really is. But what happened to Kai was beyond what anyone should have to cope with. I didn’t blame him, not really. It just broke my heart that I wasn’t enough to keep him here.”

20/20

Setting:

I had no issues with the setting. I knew where I was. There was adequate description without being overloaded with pages of tedious scene-setting.

Comparative Literature:

I quite enjoyed the voice and the premise though the narration could have been more distinct. I think Jay Asher nails it in 13 Reasons Why when he uses the tapes to get Hannah’s voice across and we get to see how Clay was and how he is as the tapes start to affect him. I think both books have pros and cons but Undone is a story worth reading and raises awareness about an important issue while also telling us a plot-driven story of revenge. Chbosky and Pitcher, as I’ve already said, have stronger narrative structures with the letter format. And yes, while Clarke’s characters aren’t the strongest characters I’ve ever read about in a YA novel, they serve their purpose and when you read, you can look over certain details once the story is good. And baby, is it good!

8/10

Overall Score:

87/100

Books You May Also Like:

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher – deals with suicide and the story is told in part, through tapes, which give it and eerily creative effect

Looking for Alaska by John Green – for another story that raises the question of suicide and explores a character who suffers from depression

Torn by Cat Clarke – for another story with guilt, lies and revenge

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Allegiant

aaaaaa

Title: Allegiant

Author: Veronica Roth

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 526

Plot:

The plot leaves us where the second book ended. The faction system has been abolished and Tris and her friends are awaiting trial. Although the faction system is gone, the lack of freedom remains. Evelyn tells everyone that they have choices as long as they don’t stay loyal to the factions – which is brutally enforced – and it isn’t long before Tris and Tobias realise this. I have a couple of issues with the plot. Firstly, Edith Prior has her memory wiped and it’s suggested that this is because she must have seen something terrible but it’s never actually specified and though we could deduce that it’s associated with the fringe, it would have more impact if we knew exactly what she saw or endured. Secondly, we know that David loved Tris’ mother. That’s not a spoiler. You can see that clearly very early on it’s hinted that the code to the Weapons lab could be her mother’s name. Maybe I’m reading to much into this (?) but if this is the case, it creates a flaw in Tris’ character in that she’s not all that smart and a flaw in the plot. I also don’t feel that the world is fully realised; that the superiors of the Bureau would just accept the conclusion to the events. Worse than this, Jeanine’s connection is never fully explained and it just confuses things. The Bureau send in Tris’ mother to save the Divergents but give Jeanine the attack simulation to weed out and exterminate the Divergents? This makes zero sense. The whole outside the fence explanation is weak as well. Experiments to promote good genes and rid the world of bad genes. Overly ambitious, wholly unnecessary and 100% ludicrous. Genetics is a branch of science but you can’t eradicate bad genes, especially not in the crazy experiments the Bureau carries out. The ending feels like a bit of a let-down, given the build-up of tension across three novels.

5/20

Narration:

The narration doesn’t work for me as well as it did in the previous instalments. Tobias’ episodic glimpses at the end convey more of his character than I get throughout the novel. There’s no real distinction between Tris and Tobias. For the most part, they’re together and Tobias doesn’t offer us much more insight to their world. If you covered the name, you still wouldn’t really have any clue who’s speaking because both voices are pretty much the same. And worse, the narrative styles become so similar that you have to constantly remind yourself who’s speaking.

14/20

Character:

I love the characters in Roth’s world. I love Tris as the self-sacrificing hero – the one who runs into battles to protect the ones she loves – even though she probably irritates most people. She’s not dissimilar to Katniss in The Hunger Games. I like Tobias and the relationship he has with his mother and his parents in themselves are interesting characters and their conflict adds a spark to the story – a sense of conflict and much-needed tension. Cara really grew on me. As always, I love Christina and how much she’s grown since the first book. And though this might sound unusual, I have soft spot for Johanna Reyes. The most important thing for me is that Roth’s characters are consistent and they evolve and change with each book. I didn’t buy David as an antagonist. He wasn’t as formidable as either Evelyn or Jeanine even though he has more power than both. I question the concluding moments of Tobias’ and Evelyn’s relationship. I’m not going to spoil anything but yeah, seems like a quick way to tie up loose ends.

14/20

Quality of Writing:

The writing quality is superb, There are some beautiful phrases and analogies:

  • “But now I know I am like the blade and he is like the whetstone- I am too strong to break so easily, and I become better, sharper, every time I touch him.” (416)
  • “I look at her, and I can see the way time has worn her like an old piece of cloth, the fibers exposed and fraying.” (463)

Just a couple of example but Roth avoids clichés and writes in a way that connects back to her characters and the world she has created.

20/20

Setting:

Similar to Lu’s world in the Legend trilogy, Roth focuses on a small aspect of her world – the Dauntless compound – in Divergent, zooms out on the faction system, exploring Amity and Erudite among other areas and zooms out further again in the final book demonstrating just how small their world is and showing us that the people in the experiment never had any power to begin with.

10/10

Comparative Literature:

The style is similar to Lu in that we see more and more of the world with each book though, unlike the Legend trilogy, Tris’ and Tobias’ voices aren’t distinguishable like June’s and Day’s. It’s a faster-paced novel than the Ally Condie’s Matched series thought the parameters aren’t always as clear. Like The Hunger Games, the conclusion of the trilogy falls short of the first and second books though The Hunger Games offers continued action and brutal force from a cruel, calculating leader in President Snow unlike David who doesn’t seem that altogether for the most part.

4/10

Overall Score:

67/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • An interesting world divided into factions
  • A daring hero that must fight to survive
  • Great fight scenes
  • An explanation that might leave you baffled
  • Plot holes that compound your confusion

Books You May Also Like:

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman – if you loved the dual points of view and the cruelty in this dystopian world

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – if you loved the savagery and brutality of Roth’s world

Legend by Marie Lu – for a corrupt, dystopian world, lots of action and strong male and female protagonists

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The Maleficent Seven

The Maleficent Seven

Title: The Maleficent Seven

Author: Derek Landy

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series – Novella (offshoot) from the Skullduggery Pleasant series

Pages: 288 

Plot:

The plot centres around Tanith Low, who assembles a group of criminals, and Dexter Vex, who assembles a team of good guys, who race to find the four God-Killer weapons. Tanith wants to destroy them so that Darquesse, when she emerges, won’t be harmed and Dexter wants to stash the weapons away so they have a way of defeating her. You know from the start what you’re going to get in a Landy novel: explosive action, incomparable wit and OMG moments throughout. The story delivers on every level and even in a short novella, Landy manages to provide twists and turns and weave lies and secrets into the plot. A beginning that will pique your interest, a middle that will keep you reading and an action-packed ending.

20/20

Narration:

The third-person, omniscient style of narration is consistent with the series. As is usual in Landy’s novels, we get to observe different characters and Landy keeps us in the dark, moving to a different character and leaving us with a burning desire to find out what happens next. The voice is funny, creates dramatic suspense and ratchets the tension.

20/20

Character:

Some of the characters we’ve met in the other Skullduggery novels but some are new like Sabine and Black Annis and fit perfectly into Landy’s world. Tanith is the breakout star for me but there’s so many great characters within the novella, each with the certified, Landy stamp of approval.

20/20

Quality of Writing:

The writing is a joy to read. The words all but flow off the page and paint the picture. I especially love how Landy demonstrates and differentiates between the old Tanith and The Remnant Tanith. He’s able to show just how cruel and brutal she’s willing to be to get what she wants.

20/20

Setting:

Again, Landy doesn’t fail when it comes to his settings. From the English Sanctuary to Jackie Earl’s compound in Chicago, we get the full experience.

10/10

Comparative Literature:

Landy creates a world in the Skullduggery Pleasant series and is able to build upon and reinforce it in this novella. He does this with an incomparable wit and an imagination to rival top children’s authors. Landy creates worlds that rival the dystopian worlds of The Hunger Games and Divergent and characters as memorable as those from iconic texts ranging from Harry Potter to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

10/10

Overall Score:

100/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • Great characterization
  • New and interesting characters
  • High quality writing that makes you feel as though you could be watching a movie
  • Incomparable wit and explosive action throughout

Books You May Also Like:

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – for another story about magic and the good and bad within all of us

 

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White – for more great world-building and a story packed full of humour and action

 

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins – for another story of magic, betrayal and secrets

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May 30, 2014 · 8:52 pm

The Sin Eater’s Daughter

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Title: The Sin Eater’s Daughter

Author: Melinda Salisbury

Publisher: Scholastic

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 320

Plot:

Set in Lomere, Salisbury crafts an original world. The plot progresses with  a three-act structure and there’s enough bumps in the road to keep you hooked.

20/20

Narration:

The narrative is told by Twylla in first-person narration. I like how she sets up the world and the back story with Tyrek and slowly releases information about her life and her world. I had an issue with her personality though. It doesn’t really shine until halfway through the story and even then, I found myself wanting more. I love the world, I love the setting and the array of characters but I just wanted more personality in the narration.

15/20

Character:

I love Twylla’s mother and we get glimpses of Twylla’s personality mirrored back to us in how she thinks about, and acts, around her mother. I love the ruthlessness of the queen and the open-mindedness and intelligence of her son, Merek. I like Lief as one of the love interests in the love triangle. The issue I had was when Twylla discovers that her sister is dead. I don’t feel any more sad when I discover this than if Morrissons ran out of fish fingers. The reason being that other than being Twylla’s sister, I have absolutely no idea who she is. There is not enough established back-story on her character for me to feel anything when this blow is delivered.

13/20

Quality of Writing:

The lexicon employed in the novel is, for the most part, consistent and words like “breeches”/”my lady”/”Queen” and so on, help to support the world and the information that is released about it. I wish the in-the-moment scenes were more immediate as I read them and felt quite distanced and on certain occasions, there are words like “rank” (referring to smell) and “slut” that don’t fit in with the established lexicon. I would also have liked to have seen the information filtered in or dramatised. At times, it’s al lot to digest and it’s big blocks of text with a lot of information coming at the reader fast.

15/20

Setting:

The setting is spot-on. There’s not much else I can say. Salisbury knows her world inside-out.

10/10

Comparative Literature:

The plot reminds me somewhat of Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study where, Yelena, having committed murder, must choose between execution or becoming the new food taster to the King. To prevent her escape, she is poisoned with Butterfly Dust and must take the antidote every day or the poison will kill her. Both authors create really vivid worlds. But have memorable antagonists and a good range of characters. Salisbury layers her plot with betrayal but Snyder does infuse more character into her narrative style. The main selling point of this book is the world and its secrets – secrets that can get you killed.

9/10

Overall Score:

82/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • Great world-building
  • Could do with more character in the narration
  • An intricate story layered with betrayal and secrets
  • A memorable antagonist
  • Layered characters that have their own agendas

If you enjoyed this review, follow me on @YAblooker and follow Mel on @AHintofMystery

Books You May Also Like:

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder – for another fantasy title with forbidden love and a great world to explore

The Iron Fey series by Julia Kagawa – for a novel with an exciting world to explore, a love triangle and memorable antagonists

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April 28, 2014 · 7:15 am