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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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‘The Humans’ Is A Work of Vonnadorian Art

The Humans by Matt Haig

The Humans

Plot: 20/20 

Our hero, Professor Andrew Martin, is dead before the book even begins. As it turns out, though, he wasn’t a very nice man – as the alien imposter who now occupies his body discovers. Sent to Earth to destroy evidence that Andrew had solved a major mathematical problem – and the people who know about it,, the alien soon finds himself learning more about the professor, his family, and “the humans” than he ever expected. When he begins to fall for his own wife and son – who have no idea he’s not the real Andrew – the alien must choose between completing his mission and returning home or finding a new home right here on Earth.

The story is fantastic, interwoven with the impostor Andrew Martin’s voice who is challenged by the simplest, everyday tasks. Everything is a discovery and the journey is gradual. There’s tension, laughs and tragedy. It grips you from page one right to the end.

Narrative: 20/20

The narrative voice is sharp and consistent throughout. Everything about the new world is a new and tangible experience. The reader is in on the joke but the Vonnadorian doesn’t understand the culture in which he has been immersed. The gradual development of independent thought and emotion change the narrative voice, making it more intimate and vulnerable.

Character: 20/20

I love the impostor. Everything that comes out of his mouth his hilarious. Haig makes it difficult to immediately like him. The deceased Andrew’s wife and son, Gulliver, are great and the chemistry that’s created between the impostor and Andrew’s family adds another element to the journey, especially since we get to see his transformative power on the family unit. Vonnadorian humour:

  • “He was also quite rotund, as if he didn’t want to watch football but become one.”
  • “The lack of geometric imagination was startling. There was not as much as a decagon in sight. Though I didn notice that some of the buildings were larger and – relatively speaking – more ornately designed than others. Temples to the orgasm, I imagined.”

Quality of Writing: 20/20 

The writing, though told by an alien, is very human and touching. It’s funny as he comes to terms with the human race and the differences between species; tragic, at times; and ultimately, touching when we realize how much he has come to love the very people that he was tasked with killing:

“’Now,’ she said, ‘I would like to start by asking you something very simple. I’ve been wondering if you’ve been under any pressure recently?’ I was confused. What kind of pressure? Gravitational? Atmospheric? ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘A lot. Everywhere, there is some kind of pressure.’ It seemed like the right answer.”

Setting: 10/10 

Haig sets the scene in Cambridge and we get a real sense of where we are through what what we see and hear. It’s not so much this that intrigues me as the other world – Vonnadoria. The comparisons to the other world pique our curiosity and tease it out without ever saying exactly what it is. Haig is able to conjure up an image of the impostor’s world with parameters and a new lexicon without us ever having to visit it in the story:

  • “I must say it was kind of a relief – given the dimensions of the room – to realise they knew what a circle was.”
  • “The sound was very melancholy somehow, like the bass rumble of a sleepy Bazadean.”
  • “’We’ve established that,’ the officer said, who kept his eyebrows low and close, like doona-birds in mating season.”
  • “I ate the vegetable stir-fry. It smelt like Bazadean body waste.”

Comparative Literature: 10/10

In a market flooded with vampires other paranormals, it’s nice to see an author tackle aliens thorough a playful lens. The closest comparison I can make is to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, which I’m sure many people will have read. If you enjoyed that, then The Humans is right up your alley. Haig’s writing has carved him a deserving space on the YA shelves.

Overall Score: 100/100

Rate it or Slate it?

Rate it: This book is sharp and witty with a story that will play hockey with your emotions.

Books You May Also Like:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – if you liked the mix of humor with science fiction

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April 2, 2015 · 12:04 pm

‘Made For You’ Needs To Be Treated As A Hit-And-Run

Made For You by Melissa Marr

Made For You

Plot: 5/20

Eva wakes up in hospital after becoming the victim of a hit-and-run. After her release, she gets visions of her friends being murdered. And then, the visions play out and the body count rises in the sleepy town of Jessup. Nate, an old friend, offers to help but the killer will stop at nothing to get to Eva.

It has the makings of a page-turner, no?

Great idea but poor execution. The pivotal moments are drawn-out and the tension is undercut by a shoddy storytelling technique. The synopsis sets up a standard that the writing doesn’t live up to. Eva takes so many risks towards the conclusion that I wonder if they’re even plausible. Would the police – would her family – allow her to race after her murderer? Would they not be following her? Would her house not be monitored? Are Marr’s fictional police force so stereotypically incompetent that they allow another girl to be kidnapped? Minimum marks for (wasted) potential.

Narration: 4/20

The narration is car-crash bad. The story is told by three narrators: Eva, her friend, Grace, and Judge, the one who wants her dead. Let me break it down:

  • Eva is a bland narrator and without an infusion of personality, it’s hard to care either about the story or her, as a character.
  • Grace reads exactly like Eva and I have no idea what she brings to the table. She doesn’t sound different from Eva’s voice and her narration doesn’t give us any vital insight that justifies her point of view in the story.
  • I’m not quite sure why Judge’s voice is included. Filler, maybe? Including his point of view further undercuts the tension of the plot. His voice is weird and creepy although I’m not sure it’s in the way Marr intended. It’s plain difficult to read. And his motive, which drives the story, is a bit out there.

Character: 2/20

Some American YA authors have this really lazy attitude when it comes to characterization that the idea and the story will carry them through and Marr is no exception. I’m not going to go into too much detail here but finding character in Made For You is like trying to find Atlantis.

Quality of Writing: 2/20

It feels like Marr wrote the book in several parts and different stages of her life. There’s no sense of continuity in the words and the whole thing feels contrived. There’s no sense of transition in and out of Eva’s premonitions. They’re clunky and jarred me out of the story:

“She reaches out to brush my cheek, and that’s all it takes. I fall into what looks like a continuation of the same hallucination of Grace I had before.”

Marr’s attempts at humour and character are weak and cringe-worthy:

“He looks aghast, as if I’d just suggested his father was a closeted Democrat.”

When I read a YA book, I expect more from it than Adult Fiction. The word choice was monotonous, overused and dull. With every page, I wanted it to end. I fell asleep reading it because the language induces sleep. I wanted at least one memorable line that would stick with me (like Marie Lu’s Legend, Veronica Roth’s Divergent or E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars) but each word is like someone twisting a knife into my side:

“I feel a wash of happiness at her praise. I am doing well. I’ll be ready when I’m allowed to go home. My parents are here to be tomorrow, and they’ll see that I’m coping fine. I told them as much, and although I know I sounded connvincing, they still suggested we hire a temporary companion for me. I know that this is there way of trying to help, but I haven’t had a sitter since I was eleven. I’m almost eighteen now and I’m very accustomed to being on my own. They’ve never quite known what to do with me. They work hard and succeed, and when they think of it, they stop to say hello to me.”

Marr proves her writing ability to be as repetitious and dull as English weather:

“My mouth feels like it’s filled with something hot and sour.”

It was a painful read and undoubtedly one of the worst YA books I’ve ever read.

Setting: 1/10

The locations – Eva’s bedroom, the hospital (etc.) – feel generic. Jessup is the sort of place I feel like I’ve read about in twenty other YA books. Nothing new. Nothing special. In direct contrast to Marr’s inability to create setting for her scenes, is Gayle Forman’s I Was Here. The dramatization of scene-setting is subtle and sharp but it gives you enough to ground you within Cody’s community.

Comparative Literature: 1/10

Where do I start?

If you’re going to try and experiment with narration, you need to push it. Judge could have been pushed further. If you cover the names, you should be able to tell from the writing who is speaking but that’s near impossible since Eva’s and Grace’s voices both sound as dull and devoid of personality as each other. E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars introduces the unreliable narrator and achieves a result that compels you to listen to Cadence’s story.

If you’re going to do a murder-mystery/thriller, then it really shouldn’t be obvious one hundred pages in, who the killer is. And there should be suspense but Judge’s voice sucks the tension out of the story. Alyxandra Harvey creates atmosphere, earths her story in a particular time and setting that’s easy to grasp and creates a mystery that isn’t so easy to uncover in Haunting Violet.

Though not in the same category per se (and leaning more towards dystopian fiction), James Dashner offers a master-class in suspense and mystery in The Maze Runner. He keeps you on your toes, page after page, right up until the end.

NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:

  • Stereotypical characters that have as much personality as a Big Mac has nutrition
  • Narrators who sound the same and in no way relate to their audience
  • A story would potential but one where the execution could put you to sleep

Overall Score: 15/100

Books You May Also Like:

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – a narrator that will keep you on your toes, a story worth investing your time in and an ending that you won’t see coming

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey – a sharp and humorous narrator telling a murder mystery the way it should be told

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November 21, 2014 · 2:33 pm

It’s All Skulls and Bones Until Someone Gets Murdered

Skullduggery Pleasant: The Dying of the Light by Derek Landy

TDOTL

Plot: 20/20

The ninth and final installment offers explosive action, outrageous humour and twists and turns galore. Darquesse has taken over and it’s up to Skullduggery & Co. to stop her. The plot is meaty. If you’ve read the previous books, you’ll, no doubt, devour this book. There are less laughs than previous books due to the dark nature of the content but Landy manages to squeeze in some additional quips right until the last page.

Narration: 20/20

As always, Landy is one of the few authors who can successfully manage multiple story arcs and weave them around each other to ratchet up the tension and make it easy to remember who’s done what and to whom.

Character: 20/20

Do I really need to comment? Landy gives the reader a masterclass in characterisation. Skullduggery sticks in the mind for all the right reasons.

Quality of Writing: 20/20

The writing is funny at the right times and builds on the tensions when needed in in-the-moment, fight scenes. I love the Irishness of many of Landy’s characters and descriptions (and, as an Irishman, I’m in no way biased!).

Setting: 10/10

I’ve visited a lot of the places in which the story is set (obviously, I am referring to the non-fictional places). But even so, I feel like I’ve visited the Sanctuary and Haggard. Landy paints his scenes and settings with masterstrokes upon a vivid and striking canvas. 

Comparative Literature: 10/10

I really think Landy is ahead of the game and one of the most prominent writers in the horror genre. His work is comparable to Eoin Colfer, Charlie Higson, Will Hill and Darren Shan.

NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:

  • Words that will make you laugh and possibly cry
  • An ending that will leave you feeling hollow (we want more Skullduggery!!)
  • More from the characters that we have grown to loathe or love (and sometimes both)
  • A strong, fast-paced plot that reminds us why we enjoy Landy’s writing so much

Overall Score: 100/100

Books You May Also Like:

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – if you enjoyed Landy’s wit

Department 19 by Will Hill – for more monster (and gore) action

The Enemy by Charlie Higson – for more horror and zombie action (think Scapegrace and Thrasher but less laughs)

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Out Of The Easy

Out of the Easy

Title: Out Of The Easy

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Publisher: Penguin Books

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Standalone

Pages: 352

Plot:

The plot isn’t overly complex. Josie is the seventeen-year-old daughter of a prostitute in New Orleans. She wants to escape but becomes entangled in a murder investigation. The plot is linear with lots of twists and turns that will keep you reading to the last page.

20/20

Narration:

Josie tells the story in intimate, touching detail. Her struggle and her survivalist nature come through loud and clear, and her narrative voice is so strong that we feel what Josie feels. She’s a sharp character that will make you laugh but also have your heart hammering in your chest in those in-the-action moments.

20/20

Character:

You know you’ve read a fantastic book when you struggle to pick a favourite character. I think I’d have to choose Willie (with Josie’s mother as a close second. But I love Josie too… It’s a three-way tie!) Anyway, Sepetys crafts a great spectrum of layered characters, each changed by the time the story concludes.

20/20

Quality of Writing:

What can I say? The writing is sharper than a shard of glass. I can’t add more than that. Perfection.

Some of my personal favourites:

  • “‘Well, I got school. I read. I cook, I clean, and I make martinis for Mother.'” (5) (Josie at seven-years-old)
  • “‘Honestly, Louise, a seven-year-old bartender?'” (7)
  • “She always said she could make tea in a tornado.” (210)
  • “I looked at Willie, dressed in all black, with chianti lips and eyes that would send a snake slithering back into its hole.”

20/20

Setting:

I’ve never been to New Orleans and that doesn’t matter. I get a vivid image of the French Quarter with description sliced into scenes rather than overwhelming the reader with pages of description. The brothel, the book shop, John Lockwell’s office – they all feel like real places and we really envision the picture that Sepetys is trying to paint.

10/10

Comparative Literature:

I’ve not sure what more I can add. Flawless writing, a street-savvy, funny narrator and a story that you’ll find hard to forget.

10/10

Overall Score:

100/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • Likeable narrator
  • Love-them and hate-them characters
  • Vivid setting

Books You May Also Like:

Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys – for more of the same sharp writing style

The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene – for another survival story that will stay with you long after you read it

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May 7, 2014 · 7:47 am

The Sin Eater’s Daughter

imageimage (1)

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

Hero

Hero

Title: Hero

Author: Perry Moore

Publisher: Hyperion

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Standalone

Pages: 428

I do not own the content taken from this novel. All rights belong to Perry Moore and Hyperion.

Excerpt from page 1:

“I NEVER THOUGHT I’d have a story worth telling, at least not about me. I always knew I was different, but until I discovered I had my own story, I never thought I was anything special. My destiny began to unfurl during my very last game at school. What started with an accident on the court ended with the single most devastating look I ever got from my father. And it made me want to die.”

Plot:

I like the intertwining of Thom’s sexuality with the idea of superheroes. I’ve never seen this done in a YA novel before and I enjoyed it. There are some drawbacks though. Some of the superheroes and villains resemble Marvel and DC characters. This isn’t too much of an issue but when you look at the mention of the Silver Surfer, it instantly brings to mind the Fantastic Four. Even this isn’t bad compared to Justice, whose whole story arc is remarkably similar to Superman’s:

  • Superman is an alien. Justice is an alien
  • Superman’s home was destroyed. Justice’s home was destroyed
  • Superman is from Kansas. Justice is from Kansas
  • Superman’s weakness is kryptonite. Justice’s is a similar (purple) stone
  • Superman is invulnerable. Justice is invulnerable (both sharing most of the same abilities)

I also wondered about Scarlett and how her clothes didn’t burn off when she lit up and how the Spectrum was murdered in the lab and no one thinks to put two and two together and deduce logically who the culprit could possibly be. Instead, the heroes venture out on a crazy quest to apprehend every villain in the vicinity. I can’t deny though that the plot, although similar to the comics, is well-thought-out and feels fresh.

12/20

Narration:

I don’t like Thom as a narrator. I’m not even sure I like him as a character. Scratch that, I just don’t care about Thom. His narration is like a bag of nachos without the jalapeno kick. Moore’s narrative voice comes across, at times, like a female’s and the words go against the character:

“He wiped a long strand of luscious platinum hair out of his face and smoothed it back over his ear.” (77)

He might have gotten away with it once but it happens a lot and these thoughts do not reflect Thom as a character and they confuse and jar the reader’s ability to read and get lost in the moment.

The voice comes across as a bit too advanced for Thom in some of his language (“vestibule”/”anathema”/”sowing destruction”/”trim bare midriff”). It doesn’t matter that they may be interesting words or clever phrases in some cases as they don’t fit the vocabulary of a teenage boy.

8/20

Character:

Character is a grey area. Thom is weak both as a narrator and a character though there are glimmers of hope with other characters like Scarlett and Ruth. Thom’ fantasies about Uberman come across as a Mills and Boon story. Thom is described as a gay stereotype at certain stages in the novel (like his comments on men’s and women’s hair when it doesn’t fit with his character).

When we first meet Scarlett, she’s reading a NASCAR magazine and this simple piece of information tells us a lot about her character. She’s also just a badass. Ruth doesn’t care about the rules and her clairvoyance ties in with her character nicely, leaving opportunities that Moore takes to amp up the humour. The villains are believable and though similar to some comic book villains, Moore does well in making them seem fresh and new: Sig Sig Sputnik, Ssnake and Transvision Vamp.

12/20

Quality of Writing:

The writing isn’t as sharp as it could be. Thom uses formal language at times and it’s not in line with his character. I found myself becoming quite distant. The piece is peppered with clichés (“bone dry”/ “And then the unthinkable happened.”). The sentences run on far too long and are often clunky, and difficult to grasp on first reading. Moore also repeats some of the same words, particularly within the same page and  paragraph.

There are a number of occasions where Moore could capitalise on details that I found interesting but instead, he brushes over these. And finally, while I read, I noticed how Moore will find three different ways of describing something in close succession where one would do.

Despite this, information is slowly released and  the superheroes names and places in the story are dramatised rather than being told and over-egged. At times, there were some nice analogies like Thom comparing a child mesmerised by a Disney film to the first time he sees Uberman in person.  The Americanisms further reinforce the setting (“patties”/”goofy”/”grocery store”).

7/20

Setting:

There’s evidence of world-building here and I do get to see the world clearly through Thom’s eyes but sometimes, Moore could dramatise more. Thom tells us everything and we get a lot of lengthy description that pulls away from the plot. It gets to the point where you almost feel like you’re been presented with, let’s say, an apple, that it is, in fact, an apple and you’re tasting that apple and touching that apple.

7/10

Comparative Literature:

I honestly haven’t read anything like this in a novel and it would be unfair of me to compare it to the comic book form. The voice could be a little stronger to stand out in the world of YA Fiction but in terms of content, the general idea feels fresh to the genre.

8/10

Overall Score:

54/100

Summary:

Good world-building but if you’re after something with a lot of bite, maybe give this one a miss.

Books You May Also Like:

Gone by Michael Grant – for fast-paced plot and super-powered content

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan – for the LGBT content and a heart-warming tale of finding love

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger – for similar discovery of self

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February 27, 2014 · 9:31 am

Ketchup Clouds (Hmm… Heinz…)

Title: Ketchup Clouds

Author: Annabel Pitcher

Publisher: Orion Publishing Group

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Standalone Title

Pages: 305

The story revolves around Zoe – not her name, but a pseudonym – who has a dark secret that she cannot share with those she loves so instead, she picks up a pen and writes to a prisoner in America on Death Row, using it as an outlet for her guilt.

I do not own the content taken from this novel. All rights belong to Annabel Pitcher and Orion Publishing Group.

 

Opening:

“Dear Mr. S Harris,

Ignore the blob of red in the top left corner. It’s jam not blood, though I don’t think I need to tell you the difference. It wasn’t your wife’s jam they found on your shoe.”

(Ketchup Clouds, Annabel Pitcher, 2013)

 

Narration: Zoe as narrator is a funny girl. Just take a look at the opening paragraph above. The way that she views the people in her community and her surroundings make it easy to read though I can’t help but feel that there is an issue with her age. Zoe is supposed to be a fifteen year old girl telling this story and yet, her mannerisms are sometimes childish and she comes across, at times, as a lot younger. At the same time, she is seen to drink vodka at a house party and sleep with Max. This suggests that she may be a year (or two) older. Later, her age is later clarified but it has a slightly jarring effect. Luckily, the format of the book – the use of letters – disguises this issue, to an extent, as it allows the reader to feel closer to Zoe and makes for a more intimate and personal journey (The conclusion to each letter becomes increasingly informal and warm even ending with kisses halfway through the novel).

16/20

 

Character: The most important thing to recognise is that these are REAL characters with REAL problems and REAL relationships. Zoe’s parents are dealing with a potential divorce and we see how this affect Zoe’s sisters – Dot and Soph – and how they try to understand and cope with this. I even feel like we begin to understand Stu through Zoe. Even though he is being convicted for murdering his wife and her lover, I begin to feel sorry for him towards the end of the novel. My main issue with the characterisation is with the ages of Zoe’s sisters. Dot is supposed to be 5 and Soph is supposed to be 9. They read much older in the novel. At one point, Dot falls down the stairs, hurting her wrist but the next day, she feels now pain and she is able to wave out the window at Soph as she goes to school.

I love the insight we get into Zoe’s family life. They are characters who are all dealing with real, individual problems (for example, Soph’s cries for attention and Dot’s struggle in picking up lip-reading). The love triangle in the book is refreshing because the boys aren’t overly romanticised and the plot doesn’t obsess over the romantic details. Aaron and Max aren’t perfect and the author doesn’t try to mould them the way so many other authors have.

15/20

 

Plot: The plot moves at a reasonable pace. Zoe tends to go off on tangents and leave details for the next letter, making it seem more real (that this is a fifteen-year old girl writing at night in a shed by torchlight). Zoe’s secret keeps the reader wanting to know what happens and her little tidbits make you want to devour the book in one sitting. While this story is being told, we are constantly reminded in her letters that Zoe is telling this story to a man that is on Death Row for killing his wife. This is a tale that is both light and humorous and dark. It touches on divorce and brings to light, the death penalty, murder, underage drinking and adolescent sex. Though at times, Zoe can go off on a tangent for too long when really, all I want to know is what happens next!

18/20

 

Setting: I love the neighbourhood in which this is set. I can vividly picture the houses and the trees, the layout of the library where Zoe works and the locations of the books. Pitcher gives us enough to piece together the world she wants us to see; the world in which these characters live. We don’t get to see as much of the world as I would like though. I feel as though we have taken a slice into a strawberry gateaux and while we are seeing a bit of everything, I can’t help but feel that we are missing something between the visible layers.

16/20

 

Comparative Literature: This book represents the thing I love most about Young Adult Lit. There are so many boundaries and conventions in this genre and this book challenges them. The book deals with sex, underage drinking, touches on divorce, explores murder and lying as well as presenting us with a protagonist that divides the reading audience. When I read this, it reminded me of some of the novels in recent years that have presented us with edgier content like The Fault In Our Stars and Thirteen Reasons Why. This section is purely to look at how this book stacks up against the other books in this category. Zoe has a strong voice, the plot is simple but effective, the story is a little darker than most readers might be used to but overall, Green has a wittier narrator and pushes further with his character. Consistency in age is also better presented. Asher haunts the reader more, touching on a huge theme of suicide and the dark spiral of depression that leads to that final destination.

14/20

 

Summary:

An enjoyable read. A funny narrator that divides the audience. Characters that have real relationships and are challenged with real problems.

 

Overall Score:

79/100

 

Books You May Also Like:

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (I chose to include this partly because of the letter format and partly because of the way that Handler deals with and focuses on a break-up rather than an “epic” love)

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October 20, 2013 · 8:20 pm