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The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney – a light but engaging YA paranormal

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The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney – a light but engaging YA paranormal

When I read the premise for this book, I thought it sounded a bit like The Raven Boys, one of my favorite books ever.  It promised a house full of generational psychics and a narrator desperate to live any other life.  It sounded promising, but the thing was that it only took a few minutes to forget what I wanted the book to be.  I just embraced what I was given – quirky characters, persistent ghosts, and a girl facing a crossroads.

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Goodreads Summary

In high school, the last thing you want is for people to think you talk to ghosts.

When Sparrow begins tenth grade at a huge new school full of strangers, she thinks her dreams of anonymity and a fresh start are finally coming true. No more following in her six older sisters’ footsteps. No more going to class with kids who’ve seen her grandma doing jujitsu in the front yard next to the headstones of her four dead husbands. And no more worrying about keeping her deep, dark secret hidden.

Sparrow makes a new best friend and has her eye on an irritatingly appealing guy in her history class. She feels like she’s well on her way to a normal life. But it’s another boy–a dead one–who wants Sparrow’s attention, and he won’t let her be till she’s helped him Move On.

You see, Sparrow Delaney’s secret is that she’s a psychic. And there’s one very persistent ghost who won’t let her forget it.

My Thoughts

The biggest strength of this book is the narrator, Sparrow, who manages to make her unique concerns feel universally understandable.  She is bent on resisting the path laid out for her by her grandmother, her spirit guides, and even the (mis)fortune of her birth – she is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. She just wants to be normal, something most YA’s will understand.  I liked her voice, I loved her delightfully strange and interesting family, and I even understood her reluctance to let go of the lie she has used to shield herself for a decade.  The message, be true to yourself, might be an old one, but it is one that is paired well with Sparrow’s experience.

There isn’t really a mystery here – when folks show up as ghosts, it is clear they are dead.  We are even given a pretty clear picture of how.  The true question in this book is if Sparrow will cling to her story for the sake of being “normal” or if she will embrace the possibilities and purpose inherent in her gifts.

I genuinely enjoyed this book, enough to see if it had any companion books (not that I can find).  It isn’t the most complex story, and it definitely had a lighter tone than I expected, but it left me feeling satisfied and like the time I spent reading it was worth it.  I found this book on the Overdrive library that my high school maintains, so it was free (always a bonus), but if I had paid the $3.99 for the ebook, I still would have felt it was money well spent.  This is a clean read with no language and a chaste romance.  It is gentle enough for middle school readers, easy to connect with for older YA readers, and just funny enough that I found it engaging as an adult.

This book is available through Overdrive in the MHS library.

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Siren’s Song is exactly the conclusion readers want from Mary Weber’s Storm Siren trilogy

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Siren’s Song is exactly the conclusion readers want from Mary Weber’s Storm Siren trilogy

If you like Marie Lu’s The Young Elites, I think you will enjoy Mary Weber’s Storm Siren trilogy.  They have similar elements and similar feels, though they ultimately head in completely different directions.  The best part, though, is that Weber’s trilogy is finished (and each ebook only costs $5.99).  The final book, Siren’s Song, published this month, and I think it was the best of the three.  However, you have to read this series in order.  The first book is Storm Siren and the second is Siren’s Fury.   The third book, Siren’s Song, is exactly the ending that the Storm Siren trilogy needs.  If you have read the previous two books, it would be a big mistake to miss this resolution.

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Goodreads Summary

Nym and Draewulf prepare to face off in a battle destined to destroy more lives than it saves.

With the loss of Tulla still fresh in mind, Rasha’s fate unknown, and Lord Myles taken over by the dark ability, Nym and the few Bron soldiers rush to warn Cashlin’s queen. Only to discover it may already be too late for the monarch and her eerie kingdom. As the Luminescents are sifting through Nym’s past memories and the queen is reading into her future, Nym is given a choice of how to defeat Draewulf, but the cost may be more than she can bear. And even then there are no guarantees.

With that reality burrowing into her bones—along with the guilt of the lives she will sacrifice—Nym returns to her homeland of Faelen to raise an army of peasants through promises of freedom. But when the few friends she has left, along with the world and citizens she loves, are staring down the face of a monster and his undead army, will Nym summon every element her blood is capable of controlling . . . or surrender to a different strength—one of sacrifice?

Because in the end, death may be more merciful for them all.

My Thoughts

Fans of the series will be quite pleased with the mix of action, danger and thwarted romance.  Yes, I said thwarted romance – Bron is free of the Draewolf, but he could be a ticking time bomb, and Nym can’t really take the chance, especially since she is the final puzzle piece in the prophecy.  According to Bron, at least. Gah.  This is only one of many sacrifices Nym may be faced with making, and as the stakes get higher, it becomes apparent that she might have to sacrifice everything if she is going to give her people a chance at survival.  That threat is present and real all the way through this journey, and the suspense makes for a great read.   Seriously, the more questions the story answered, the more uncertain I became about the fate of Nym, her friends, and her world’s survival.  I enjoyed this series, and this final book is really the best of the three.  This series is engaging and the romance is compelling, but I love the fact that it doesn’t have any language or situations that compromise my ability to add it to my classroom library. It is appropriate for grades 7+, but adults will enjoy it as well.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Robin Benway’s Emmy and Oliver -YA contemporary for fans of Sarah Dessen

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Robin Benway’s Emmy and Oliver -YA contemporary for fans of Sarah Dessen

One of the biggest struggles for any teen is finding their place in the world, and Emmy & Oliver focuses on that conflict.  There are some complications thrown in that make these struggles more interesting than average, but, ultimately, it really is about making choices.  I sort of stumbled onto this book in the kindle sale, and I was quite pleased with my $1.99 purchase.  This isn’t your average $2 ebook, and it is well written and compelling enough that it is going on my classroom library wish list.

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Goodreads Summary

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.
She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.

He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

Readers who love Sarah Dessen will tear through these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver’s father’s crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.

My Thoughts

The smart thing about this book was the decision to choose a narrator with one foot in the experience, and one foot out.  Emmy is close to the situation, but she is distant enough to add something new to the genre of books where kidnapped teens find their way back home.  If Oliver had narrated the story, this would have only been about the problems associated with the kidnapping, but Emmy allows the story to expand to include themes of friendship, trust, truth, and making your own decisions.  I like Emmy’s voice, which is smart and witty but also uncertain.  She is someone that an average reader can relate to easily, and I think she is a character that most people will enjoy.  The story is well paced to develop both the plot and the relationships evenly, and while it wasn’t action-packed, it was a fast and yet thoughtful story.  I did think  there was a bit of cheese in the scenes where the story flashed back to life before Oliver disappeared, particularly the final flashback, but those sections are short and easy to ignore.

Overall, I think most of the target audience will appreciate how each character represents some battle with finding their place in the world, and this book offers diverse perspectives of that same issue without being redundant.  I enjoyed it, and I think it will appeal to both YA’s and adult readers of YA because of the complexity of the characters’ emotions, which ring true.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

The Stillburrow Crush by Linda Cage is a sweet YA contemporary romance with a side of depth

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The Stillburrow Crush by Linda Cage is a sweet YA contemporary romance with a side of depth

In college, I worked with one of the prettiest and most ladylike girls I had ever met, and since we were trapped in an office sealing envelopes for hours on end, I decided I was going to ask her all the stuff I’d ever wanted to know about how it felt to be beautiful.  I just really wanted to know what it was like to wear the right clothes and to attract boys like flies – to be the one thing I always wanted to be but could never quite achieve.  I was a little stumped when she acted like my perception of her was crazy.  Even more surprising was when she turned the tables on me and asked what it was like to be so sure about everything, so confident.  I’m pretty sure I spit my drink across the room. I knew the anxiety and insecurity in my own head, so that seemed way off base. The fact is, though, that your perceptions of yourself can be so far off the mark.  I felt like a bumbling idiot, and she felt like a shrinking violet.  Who knew?

Carrie Paxton, the protagonist in this story, is a little too wrapped up in her own perceptions of the world and the people who populate it, and it doesn’t take long to see exactly how that is holding her back from the things she really wants in life.  I liked this book because there was the love story I wanted, fairly low on silly angst, and there were still some lessons for readers to take away.  I think you’ll enjoy this sweet and fast read if you like writers like Miranda Kennelly or Huntley Fitzpatrick.

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Goodreads Summary

Sixteen year old, Carrie Paxton, isn’t the most popular girl in her small town of Stillburrow. But that’s never concerned her before. Her life revolves around her writing, and she loves her job as the student editor of the school paper.But when she gets assigned to interview the football team’s beloved quarterback, she takes one look into Luke Carter’s blue eyes and is a goner. Suddenly, she doesn’t like her lowly rank so much.

Then her dreamy, popular crush surprises her when he starts to act as if he likes her in return. But there’s no way Luke Carter could possibly ever like a nobody like Carrie Paxton.

Is there?

My Thoughts

This a fast and sweet contemporary, small town YA romance that will satisfy your secret dream of being noticed by the hottest guy in town.  Surprisingly, it addresses a few deeper issues of small town life, including the perceived lines between the haves and the have nots.  I enjoyed this book and finished in a couple of hours, and I think if you are looking for a clean read with a bit of resonance, this book is a good choice.  I did think that Carrie was a little too committed to her beliefs about small town social hierarchy, but I know people who feel that about their own towns.  Luke is a bit of a lightweight of a character.  He has dimension, but I didn’t really feel like he was an actual person making his own choices so much as a character following a script.  That is okay.  I like my romantic interests a little idealized, but if you are looking for a guy that you might encounter in real life, you might find he is a bit more fantasy than reality.  Overall, this is a book that I can see my high school readers embracing, particularly those who enjoyed books like Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 8+.

Mandy Hubbard’s YA Contemporary Romance, Everything But The Truth – Can it be love if he doesn’t even know your real name?  

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Mandy Hubbard’s YA Contemporary Romance, Everything But The Truth – Can it be love if he doesn’t even know your real name?  

There is just something I hate about a book where I can see the disaster from the beginning.  I don’t do well with the stress, and a romance based on a deception is a hard thing for me to roll with.  That being said, I rather enjoyed Everything But the Truth.  This is the sixth book in the Bloomsbury “If Only” series of books where the only thing that ties them together is the theme – you always want what you can’t have.  Each book is a standalone contemporary YA romance, and they are clean and sweet reads that I would hand to anyone from my sixth grade cousin to my grandmother.  I have read several in this series, and they are hit or miss, but this is definitely a strong addition.

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Goodreads Summary

If Only . . . she wasn’t pretending to be someone else! The If Only romance line continues in this fun rags-to-riches romance.

Holly Mathews’ mom is the new manager of a ritzy retirement home, and they just moved in. But having super-rich retirees as her only neighbors isn’t a total bust, because the gorgeous, notorious Malik Buchannan is the grandson of a resident. Just one problem: when they meet, Malik assumes Holly is there to visit her own rich relative. She doesn’t correct him, and it probably doesn’t matter, because their flirtation could never turn into more than a superficial fling . . . right? But the longer she lives in his privileged world, the deeper Holly falls for Malik, and the harder it is to tell the truth . . . because coming clean might mean losing him.

For anyone who has dreamed of their own Cinderella story, this romance shows that when it comes to true love, the best person to be is yourself!

My Thoughts

The romance is sweet and clean, and the characters are interesting and original.  I particularly enjoyed Holiday’s furniture moving obsession, and her interest in antiques – it was just quirky enough to be new but it was real enough to be believable.   This isn’t a really long read, so most of the other characters are surface characters, but they don’t feel shallow, so I didn’t have any complaints. The plot moved quickly but took the time to savor the romance part of the love story, and the central relationship was well developed and thoughtful.  I would honestly let this author plan my next date, because she got the ones in here so right.  I  also thought it was a pretty cool thing that the book took place in a retirement home.  That sounds so strange, but there is such a nice parallel about how people, no matter what stage of life they are in, are always having to adjust to big changes in life, whether it is giving up something you thought you really were essential to or letting relationships evolve with the changes life throws at you.  This book offers a lot of diversity, almost so much that it is a little suspect, but I think that means a wide audience can find something to connect with.  As I said, I’m not a fan of deception dating books, and this one dragged the climax of discovery out a long time, which meant the resolution was a little too rushed, but, overall, I was pretty pleased with this quick and loveable romance.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for son honest review.

In Mystique, Shari Arnold’s newest YA, you really can’t keep a dead guy down.

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In Mystique, Shari Arnold’s newest YA, you really can’t keep a dead guy down.

I really enjoyed Shari Arnold’s  Neverland.  It was magical and unexpected.  I had high hopes for Mistique, but I have to say I was disappointed.  While I liked the concept (big Les Revenants fan here), this story just didn’t come together for me.  However, this book, which does feel like a YA Stephen King concept, might really appeal to you.  I mean, essentially this whole town becomes the less evil equivalent of the Pet Cemetery, which is pretty cool.  I also do have to say that it got me thinking about how wild it would be if you had a town that could resurrect the dead, and Arnold does a good job of really making that chaos of hope and desperation come alive.

Mystique is publishing Tuesday, November 13, 2015.

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Goodreads Summary

Only Bauer Grant can pull off gorgeous while dead. But staying dead is another thing entirely. When he wakes up at his own funeral, the town of Mystique calls it a miracle, until it happens again. Something is bringing the residents of Mystique back to life, but what? Presley Caine finds herself caught up in the mystery when Bauer asks her to visit him. Presley can’t figure out why the most popular guy in school is so drawn to her. And when Bauer is kidnapped soon after, she looks to Bauer’s brooding best friend Sam, whose dad works for the powerful Mystique military base, for answers. In her quest to discover the truth, Presley’s relationship with Sam deepens, her feelings for Bauer are tested, and it becomes clear that her own mysterious past is somehow connected to these strange events. But is she strong enough to handle the truth when it is finally revealed?

My Thoughts

I think my problem really started with the things that left me feeling disbelief for too long at the very beginning of the book.  It started with a question about embalming – a small detail, but a really big stumbling block for me.  How can a kid wake up at his own funeral and not have his eyes glued closed or his lips sewn shut?  Did he still have a heart?  Didn’t they drain his blood and pump him full of chemicals?  Yes, these are the things I think about.  Anxiety takes many fun forms.  This is finally addressed chapters later, and a weak explanation was offered, but it was already too late.  I had lost a little faith in the story.  When that was compounded by the seemingly inconceivable insta-connection Bauer felt for Presley, I really struggled to stick this one out.  The connection was eventually explained, but, again, my ability to suspend disbelief was already gone.  I didn’t trust the story, and I just never really settled in after that.  I did still see a bit of what I most enjoyed about Neverland in this book – the relationship between Sam and Presely was one I could get lost in.  I think that is really what the author excels at – sweet and carefully drawn connections between her main characters.  However, I struggled with the relationships of her more minor characters in this book.  I think this is a result of the way Presely connected with them, which created a one sided and surface friendship, but it didn’t work for me.  Overall, I was able to enjoy the book when it focused on Sam and Presley, but I felt like when that focus shifted, I was reading a book that just didn’t quite gel.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

LINK by Summer Wier – YA SciFi that will take you to the stars and back

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LINK by Summer Wier – YA SciFi that will take you to the stars and back

I spent many years looking at the stars and, at one point, I wanted desperately to become an astronaut (Thanks, Space Camp).  Years of abysmal grades in math and science grounded that dream, but I can always enjoy books set in or around the stars.  LINK by Summer Wier is definitely a book steeped in starlight and wishes, but I just didn’t connect with this read.  Perhaps you will have better luck because my two star review does look a little suspect amid all the great four and five star reviews it received on Goodreads.  I will say that the author has generously donated a copy of the book and a nice stack of beautifully designed bookmarks to our classroom library, even after she saw my honest review, so I might not have loved the book, but I’m a huge fan of Summer Wier.

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This picture in no way prepares you for how beautiful this cover is in person. It is really gorgeous IRL.

Goodreads Summary

For seventeen-year-old Kira, there’s no better way to celebrate a birthday than being surrounded by friends and huddled beside a campfire deep in the woods. And with a birthday in the peak of summer, that includes late night swims under the stars.

Or at least, it used to.

Kira’s relaxing contemplation of the universe is interrupted when a piece of it falls, colliding with her and starting a chain of events that could unexpectedly lead to the one thing in her life that’s missing—her father.

Tossed into a pieced-together world of carnivals and gypsies, an old-fashioned farmhouse, and the alluring presence of a boy from another planet, Kira discovers she’s been transported to the center of a black hole, and there’s more to the story than science can explain. She’s now linked by starlight to the world inside the darkness. And her star is dying.

If she doesn’t return home before the star’s light disappears and her link breaks, she’ll be trapped forever. But she’s not the only one ensnared, and with time running out, she’ll have to find a way to save a part of her past and a part of her future, or risk losing everything she loves.

Dreamy, fluid, and beautiful, Link pairs the mystery of science fiction with the minor-key melody of a dark fantasy, creating a tale that is as human as it is out of this world.

My Thoughts

This isn’t a terrible book.  It was creative and had a unique plot that I definitely was not able to predict.  There are a few revelations that I found really surprising and cool.  At the same time, it was a book I struggled to finish.  The pacing is far too rushed to create believable relationships, and that is a problem in a book that is focused on a love triangle.  While one romantic interest is an established person in the protagonist’s life, the second comes out of nowhere and creates an insta-love scenario that will leave most readers dissatisfied.  The dialogue is also a problem.  The conversations rang false, and the banter felt corny and flat.  Finally, no one feels like a real, nuanced character.  The good guys and the bad guys are black and white, with none of the gray areas real people have.  They just never came alive for me.

I also found the whole concept too esoteric.  I honestly have no idea where the plot is or will be going.  There are stars. There are black holes. There are some people who want to control the power of these two forces, but I don’t have a clue why.  I have no idea why there is a carnival involved. Or ponies.  (Not that those are bad things. I really like carnivals and ponies.  These just didn’t fit the context for me.  That might be the point, though.)  Overall, I just struggled, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

This book is in our classroom library because Summer Wier is an awesome person.  I sincerely hope you read it, love it, and tell me I’m a fool for not recognizing her genius!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Red Girl, Blue Boy – love and politics for the YA crowd

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Red Girl, Blue Boy – love and politics for the YA crowd

This was a cute story with a sweet romance that is part of a Bloomsbury series of books about wanting the one thing you can’t have.  The series is simply thematic, so each book is actually a stand alone title.  It’s not great literature, but if you are looking for a simple, straightforward YA contemporary romance, this one might entertain you.

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Goodreads Summary

Sixteen-year-old Katie and Drew really shouldn’t get along. After all, her father is the Republican nominee for President of the United States while his mother is at the top of the Democratic ticket. But when Katie and Drew are thrown together in a joint interview on a morning talk show, they can’t ignore the chemistry between them. With an entire nation tuned into and taking sides in your parents’ fight, and the knowledge that—ultimately—someone has to lose, how can you fall in love with the one person you’re supposed to hate?

This title in the If Only line is a frank and funny romance that shows how sparks fly when opposites attract.

My Thoughts

This is a fairly surface read with one dimensional characters and a predictable plot line.  It didn’t bother me because I enjoy a good, simple romance every once in a while.  I liked Drew, and I think most readers will agree he is a pretty ideal love interest.  The problem most readers will have is with Katie.  She is a strange mix and it is hard to see Drew’s attraction to her.  She is socially awkward beyond belief and her oblivious and often entitled world view cancels out a lot of empathy that her loneliness creates.  I’ll admit that she eventually grew on me, but she is hard to relate to.  This book is a pretty fast read, and the pace is fairly consistent.  I think the romantic relationship could have used more detail and I actually would have enjoyed a longer book.  Now, to my biggest complaint – the ending.  While the biggest plot point is nicely resolved, the author chose to leave readers hanging on one of the subplots.  I believe it was to make a point, but, come on!  It irritated me.  This is a clean, sweet contemporary romance with language and situations appropriate for grades 7+.

I received ed an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

First And Then by Emma Mills is a quiet YA contemporary romance that stole my heart

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First And Then by Emma Mills is a quiet YA contemporary romance that stole my heart

Really good contemporary YA romance is hard to find, and I only come across a few each year that grab me heart and soul.  I can honestly say that First and Then is one of those rare finds.  The cover is unassuming and the title gives little away, but there is a lot of heart in this unexpected gem, and it left me feeling exactly like a great book should.  I gave it five stars, and I preordered it for my classroom library.  I can’t think of a higher recommendation than that.

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Goodreads Summary

Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing. She’s happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon’s cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn’t want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

My Thoughts

Okay, so this book made me cry just a teensy bit, and that doesn’t happen ever, so I”ll say I was really engaged with these characters and their story.  Devon is a strong narrative voice and even though her conflicts aren’t universal, her personality and emotions make it hard not to relate to her hopes, disappointments, and doubts.  She comes across as an average YA who is kind of floating along her senior year until some big changes alter her world view, one relationship at a time.  Foster, her awkward cousin, is a charming addition to the storyline, and his own conflicts add a lot of depth while his socially inept presence adds a lot of comic relief.  I want my own Foster!  The two possible romantic interest are compelling characters each in their own way.  I appreciated the way the author gave them some vulnerabilities because it made them much more than just representations of YA love interests that we’ve all seen before.  I also appreciated the pace, which took the time to build meaningful relationships and character backgrounds.  The romance may come across as lethargic to some readers, but it is perfectly suited to parallel a Jane Austin romance, and that, I believe, is just exactly the intention.  While this is touted as Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights, and that is a truthful comparison, I didn’t see so much a retelling in this book as the spirit of those two things, something that can make this book accessible to both Austenites and those who haven’t a clue about her works.  This feels wholly modern and refreshingly original.  I think my high school girls will enjoy this as much as I did.  It is a modern and realistic take on how love of all kinds can surprise you.  Some mature language, but no graphic situations make this a book for grades 9+, but adult readers of YA will enjoy it just as much.

This book is in our classroom library.  

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Once Upon A Time: Red’s Untold Tale left me underwhelmed

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Once Upon A Time: Red’s Untold Tale left me underwhelmed

I thought this was going to be a general re-telling of a fairy tale classic, but it is actually connected to the show Once Upon A Time (I was given a different summary than the one on Goodreads which is a lot clearer about that). I wasn’t really impressed as an adult reader, and even adult fans of the show will probably be disappointed, but middle school readers might think it is just right.  Three stars from me, but the reviewers at Goodreads scored just under four stars.

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Goodreads Summary

Red is 16 and lives with Granny in a cottage in the village, where boarding up the house and hiding during Wolfstime is a means of survival. Red help’s Granny with Granny’s baked good business, catering as well as door-to-door sales.

Red has a constant internal battle between her wild side and her strict, overprotective upbringing, and the issue of “control” as she discovers she has a hot temper when the “mean girls” push her too far. (“When we learn to control it, we needn’t fear it,” Rumpelstiltskin says in the series.) She has flashbacks to her 13th year when she received her cloak and the nickname “Red.”

She is plagued by nightmares that she doesn’t understand, but the Once Upon a Time fans will recognize them as her wolf side coming out.

Red balances the difficult times with Granny at home and the girls at school with an emerging and satisfying romance with Peter.

My Thoughts

This book is definitely going to be most appealing to middle school readers.  The conflicts are firmly middle school territory – mean girls, jealousy, disagreements with Granny.  Red is angsty and impulsive.  She has an irritating habit of doing the opposite of what she is told because she thinks she knows best, and that leads her to drugging Granny so she can sneak out, stealing so she doesn’t have to explain how the mean girls got the better of her, and wandering into the woods at the height of wolf season to make a deal with a strange magician.  I found the pace to be a little slow, and my interest drifted as Red mostly got tormented or yelled at by Granny for a majority of the book.  Peter admired her and had a knack of showing up just when she needed him most, and their slow blossoming relationship is sweet if unrelentingly G rated.  I think that this book is trying to give fans of Once Upon a Time an origin story for Red, but I haven’t seen the show since the first season, and I didn’t really connect it to the show until I finished reading.  Perhaps avid viewers would find this story fascinating, but I thought it was fairly mundane and dull.  Through flashbacks, readers learn about how Red got her nickname and how she came to own her red riding hood.  In the course of the story, readers also discover a little about Red’s parents and their deaths.  I’m not sure if anyone really desperately wanted this  background information because most of it can be inferred, but just in case you did – here.  As an adult reader, I was underwhelmed.  A lot of the story seemed very ordinary and nothing about Red really stood out as a narrative voice.  The plot line is rather predictable, and the resolution is sweet enough to give you a tooth ache, but wholly unrealistic.  I can’t help but think that this book is forgettable in a genre full of more memorable and distinct female fairytale protagonists.  I can’t even begin to guess how much context is lost on me simply because I haven’t followed the show, but I can’t help but imagine that adult readers who look to this book because of their love of Once Upon A Time will be a little disappointed.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.