Tag Archives: contemporary YA romance

Miranda Kennelly’s newest: Defending Taylor

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Miranda Kennelly’s newest: Defending Taylor

The biggest strength of this book is the theme:  a life without enjoyment is a hollow endeavor. I love this message in a book for YA’s, and I think that it will hit home with many readers.  The rest of the book is pretty much what fans of Miranda Kennelly are expecting.  I mean that in a good way. If you haven’t read any of Kennelly’s books but you are a fan of Abbi Glines, I think you will enjoy these because it has the same feel as the early books in her Sea Breeze series.

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Goodreads Summary

There are no mistakes in love.

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision-one lie to cover for her boyfriend-and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

My Thoughts

The narrator, Taylor, is easy to connect with and her love interest is crush-worthy.  The romantic relationship is believable, in part because there is some history between these two characters that began long before the start of the story.  This past is clearly laid out, so readers can relax and enjoy watching it come to fruition without having to backtrack and read an earlier book in the series.  That being said, a few beloved characters from Hundred Oaks make cameos, so if you have read the series, you will get a chance to catch up with a few of your favorites.

Another thumbs up goes to the family and friendship angles that this book explores.  They allow characters to actually work through issues in a positive way.  Don’t get me wrong, there is still all the drama readers want, but the resolutions are satisfying and heartening.

I had never read any books by this author until last year, and when I put a copy of Jesse’s Girl in my classroom library, my high school girls demanded more instantly.  So far, Breathe, Annie, Breathe is their favorite, and I don’t think this book will usurp its standing, but I’m certain they will enjoy Defending Taylor.  It’s a hard call to put this one on my shelves, though.  Interest and engagement are high for this series, but it feels like this particular book is crossing out of YA and into New Adult territory.  Fans won’t mind, but their parents might object to some of the sensuality.  I would say this one is really for more mature high school and college readers.

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

Life After Juliet 

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Life After Juliet 

What a great read!  I devoured it in a couple of hours, and I dare you not to do the same.  If you are looking for a contemporary YA romance to read this summer, I think you would be hard pressed to do better than Life After Juliet.  Bookworms will find a special kinship in Becca, the narrator, but even you extroverts will enjoy this story about putting yourself out there.  I gave this book five stars.

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Goodreads Summary

Becca Hanson was never able to make sense of the real world. When her best friend Charlotte died, she gave up on it altogether. Fortunately, Becca can count on her books to escape—to other times, other places, other people…

Until she meets Max Herrera. He’s experienced loss, too, and his gorgeous, dark eyes see Becca the way no one else in school can.
As it turns out, kissing is a lot better in real life than on a page. But love and life are a lot more complicated in the real world…and happy endings aren’t always guaranteed.

The companion novel to Love and Other Unknown Variables is an exploration of loss and regret, of kissing and love, and most importantly, a celebration of hope and discovering a life worth living again.

My Thoughts

Becca’s voice is so real and easy to connect with, especially for those of us with introverted, nose-in-book tendencies.  I haven’t suffered a loss like Becca’s, but I certainly fight every day to make myself put the book down and do some living of my own, and that is really what this story is about.  She conquers fears, but in a way that is still true to herself in the end, and I adored her for it.  The romantic relationship is also pretty awesome.  It is given the time it needs to develop into something that will squeeze your heart. And the the romantic interest? So, so, so swoon-worthy, ladies.  And every fairy-tale love story needs a witch, right?  I particularly liked the villainess in this story – she is a delightful surprise.   I’ll admit I didn’t enjoy the companion book, so I wasn’t prepared for this one to grab me so completely. I think it can be read as a stand-alone because there is enough background info there to fill you in, and it has been ages since I read the first one and it was no deal to pick this one up and sink in.  It’s definitely going on my classroom library wish list because I just know my high school readers are going to be as wild about it as I am.  I’m also recommending it to our drama teacher because I see a definite peak in interest in school plays in conjunction with the reading of this book!  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+, but adult readers will find it has the depth to engage them as well.

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

Learning to Swear in America – the (possible) destruction of Earth has never been so charming and funny

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Learning to Swear in America – the (possible) destruction of Earth has never been so charming and funny

Sheldon Cooper, move over because Yuri Strelnikov just took your place as the most loveable, socially awkward scientist in my heart.  I love him for his brain and his ineptitude with articles and for his ego and his shortcomings.  And I think he is about to take the YA Geek nation by storm.  The book wasn’t too bad either.  I gave this funny, heartfelt read five stars.

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Goodreads Summary

Brimming with humor and one-of-a-kind characters, this end-of-the world novel will grab hold of Andrew Smith and Rainbow Rowell fans.

An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been called to NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster. He knows how to stop the asteroid: his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize–if there’s ever another Nobel prize awarded. But Yuri’s 17, and having a hard time making older, stodgy physicists listen to him. Then he meets Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he’s not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and save a life worth living.

Prepare to laugh, cry, cringe, and have your mind burst open with questions of the universe.

My Thoughts

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the blurb for Learning to Swear in America, but the mix of humor, real life awkwardness and one bad A of an Asteroid is a winning combination.  Themes about perspective and what it means to grow up (or down) add depth to the tale, but the real reason you pick this book up and read it straight through is because it will make you laugh.  If you’ve ever felt lonely or like the only person who doesn’t get a joke, you are going to connect with this odd-ball cast of characters in their certain death scenario.  I can’t wait to get this book in my classroom library because it is the perfect read for so many of my guy readers who hate the sports books that are always thrust in their direction, but the jocks and the fairytale girls, and the romance-only gals are going to enjoy it as well if they give it a chance (not because it has those things in it but because it is generally awesome).  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+, though adult readers of YA will be just as enchanted.

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

We Own the Night – A Radio Hearts book

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We Own the Night – A Radio Hearts book

We Own the Night is the second in Ashley Poston’s Radio Hearts books.  The first, The Sound of Us, is one that I enjoyed – it has a rock star love interest, so I was game.  I was less engaged by We Own the Night which is narrated by a character who frequently made me grind my teeth, which left me feeling a bit “meh” about it.  Both can be read as stand-alone stories, but I think the best reading experience would be to read them in order because the band, Roman Holiday, is featured in the first book and plays a smaller role in the second.  Both ebooks are under $5.

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Goodreads Summary

“Happy midnight, my fellow Niteowls…”

As a candy store employee by day, and mysterious deejay “Niteowl” by night, eighteen-year-old Ingrid North is stuck between rock ‘n roll and a hard place. She can’t wait to get out of her tiny hometown of Steadfast, Nebraska (population three hundred and forty-seven) to chase her dreams, but small-town troubles keep getting in the way. She can’t abandon her grandmother with Alzheimer’s, or her best friend Micah–who she may or may not be in love with.

But for one hour each Saturday, she escapes all of that. On air, she isn’t timid, ugly-sweater-wearing Ingrid North. She’s the funny and daring Niteowl. Every boy’s manic pixie dream girl. Fearless. And there is one caller in particular– Dark and Brooding–whose raspy laugh and snarky humor is just sexy enough to take her mind off Micah. Not that she’s in love with Micah or anything. Cause she’s not.

As her grandmother slips further away and Micah begins dating a Mean-Girls-worthy nightmare, Ingrid runs to the mysterious Dark and Brooding as a disembodied voice to lean on, only to fall down a rabbit hole of punk rockstars, tabloid headlines, and kisses that taste like bubble tea. But the man behind the voice could be surprising in all the right, and wrong, ways.

And she just might find that her real life begins when Niteowl goes off the air.

My Thoughts

After a weak start, this book finds its stride about halfway through, and readers who stick it out will be quite happy with the resolution.  But every reader won’t stick this one out.  Ingrid, the narrator, comes across as a whiner.  She has problems that plenty of us can relate to, and I actually feel really bad about calling her out, but she is a drag.  She cries or fights back tears a lot.  And she doesn’t really seem inclined to do much to improve her own situation, choosing instead to just be angry at others who have succeeded where she feels she has failed.  I understood her – she is at that place where you don’t feel like you can make a move because it will probably be the wrong one, but it isn’t very fun to read about it for very long.  Once Ingrid does shut down the pity party, things really improved, and it is nice to see how she finally figures out who she wants to be.  Teens will probably have more patience with Ingrid than adult readers of YA.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 10+.

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

The Sound of Us – YA Contemporary about being true to yourself

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The Sound of Us – YA Contemporary about being true to yourself

If you like music or romance, or genuine and believable characters, I think you will enjoy this read.  It isn’t your average YA music book – it takes place at an opera camp – but  don’t let that deter you.  There is plenty of catty girl stare downs, some awkward shirtless guy encounters, and a little bit of geek-girl-letting-go in the depths of this coming of age tale.

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Goodreads Summary

Kiki Nichols might not survive music camp.

She’s put her TV-loving, nerdy self aside for one summer to prove she’s got what it takes: she can be cool enough to make friends, she can earn that music scholarship, and she can get into Krause University’s music program.

Except camp has rigid conduct rules—which means her thrilling late-night jam session with the hot drummer can’t happen again, even though they love all the same TV shows, and fifteen minutes making music with him meant more than every aria she’s ever sung.

But when someone starts snitching on rule breakers and getting them kicked out, music camp turns into survival of the fittest. If Kiki’s going to get that scholarship, her chance to make true friends—and her chance with the drummer guy—might cost her the future she wants more than anything.

My Thoughts

I particularly enjoyed the narrator, Kiki.  She is smart, medium quirky, and a character who feels things deeply.  I related to her anxious attempts to become more social, and her obsessive drive to prove herself.  She won’t be everyone’s cup of tea initially because she comes across as pretty meek and insecure, but readers who stick it out will realize exactly how strong she can be.  This journey is one that a lot of YA readers will find engaging, especially since the message is about being true to yourself.  Kiki struggles with that quest, as many of us do, and that feels genuine.  The cast of secondary characters are varied and I love the fact that they surprised me, often as much as Kiki did.  Overall, this read is one I’m happy to put in my high school classroom library.  It has a clean and compelling romance – these characters aren’t squeaky clean, but they aren’t going to horrify your mother with their antics — a nice coming of age story, and Kiki is a character I would be proud to point to as a role model.  It is definitely going on my wish list.  Language  and situations are appropriate for grades 14+.

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

The Way to Game the Walk of Shame

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The Way to Game the Walk of Shame

Sometimes the only thing you can control about high school is the image you present. When you lose control of that, it can feel like a disaster.  But sometimes it takes a disaster to help us understand who we really are and what we really want.

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The Way to Game the Walk of Shame will be available on Tuesday, June 7, 2016.

Goodreads Summary

Taylor Simmons is screwed.

Things were hard enough when her single-minded dedication to her studies earned her the reputation of being an Ice Queen, but after getting drunk at a party and waking up next to bad boy surfer Evan McKinley, the entire school seems intent on tearing Taylor down with mockery and gossip.

Desperate to salvage her reputation, Taylor persuades Evan to pretend they’re in a serious romantic relationship. After all, it’s better to be the girl who tames the wild surfer than just another notch on his surfboard.

My Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed this YA contemporary romance.  The characters are likeable and easy to connect with despite their flaws.  The plot moves quickly enough to keep readers engaged, but there is definitely care taken to develop a believable and enviable romantic relationship between the leads.  It was sweet and just the right amount of romance for a high school read.  I’m not a huge fan of dual narratives, but being able to see what was going on in Evan’s mind really increased his swoon factor – ladies, you are going to be pleased with this book boyfriend.  Even the conflicts were ones that I thought added enough drama to be interesting but still be believable.  I loved that this book left me feeling happy but didn’t go out of its way to make everything artificially perfect.  I think this is definitely a book my high school girls will enjoy, so it’s going on my classroom library wishlist, and I’ll be looking for more from this author.  Lots of kissing, some suggestions and a few light swears, but overall, this is a pretty clean read.  I think it is appropriate for ages 14+.

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

The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You

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The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You

Every snarky geek girl needs a copy of this book.  Actually, every snarky girl needs a copy of this book, even if they don’t have the credentials to be considered a geek girl. Why?  Because this author gets it right – she has to be one of us, or at the very least, a friend of one of us.

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Goodreads Summary

Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West–and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing–down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben’s, including give up sleep and comic books–well, maybe not comic books–but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it’s time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie’s for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben’s best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben’s cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie’s best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they’re on–and they might not pick the same side.

My Thoughts

Trixie is definitely prickly, but under that exterior beats a heart.  She can’t resist a chance to banter with her nemesis, and she doesn’t hold back the punches, but when she finds out that her frenemy takes her words to heart, she is determined to right her wrongs.  I loved the loyalty and the feelings and the funny that this character has to offer.  She is authentic and spot on.  Bonus: The plot isn’t bad either.  There is a mystery and some teen dating drama, a high pressure school for genius and some library/bathroom/supply closet make-out sessions – no one walks away without a prize on this one.  And while this book does have a geek element, you don’t have to be versed in a Joss Whedon or Dr. Who to get it (though that helps).  Themes and thoughts are universal enough that a few Star Wars references won’t leave you feeling out of the loop.  I clearly enjoyed this book, and I know others will as well.  It is definitely going on my high school classroom library wish list, and I can’t wait to recommend it to those snarky girls in my classes.  Language and situations are appropriated for ages 14+, but grown up geek girls will enjoy it just as much.

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

Brenna Yovanoff’s Places No One Knows

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Brenna Yovanoff’s Places No One Knows

While I was reading Places No One Knows, I kept hearing Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “We Wear the Mask” in the background.  The first stanza kept running through my mind:  “WE wear the mask that grins and lies, /  It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,— / This debt we pay to human guile; /  With torn and bleeding hearts we smile. . .”  Brenna Yovanoff’s characters are wearing the mask and playing their parts for all they are worth – you have to in high school.  So what happens when the single most real relationship in your life threatens that mask?  It can go either way.

Five stars
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Goodreads Summary

Waverly Camdenmar spends her nights running until she can’t even think. Then the sun comes up, life goes on, and Waverly goes back to her perfectly hateful best friend, her perfectly dull classes, and the tiny, nagging suspicion that there’s more to life than student council and GPAs.

Marshall Holt is a loser. He drinks on school nights and gets stoned in the park. He is at risk of not graduating, he does not care, he is no one. He is not even close to being in Waverly’s world.

But then one night Waverly falls asleep and dreams herself into Marshall’s bedroom—and when the sun comes up, nothing in her life can ever be the same. In Waverly’s dreams, the rules have changed. But in her days, she’ll have to decide if it’s worth losing everything for a boy who barely exists.

My Thoughts

I found myself thinking that this was a beautifully written love story, and then I thought that was kind of strange.  It is a little stark and the main characters are initially either concealed razor sharp edges or just invisible voids, but it really did feel like such a perfect intersection of two characters who could have been lost forever if they hadn’t found each other.  I loved that the dual perspectives offer readers many ways to connect with these characters, and I think the plot is one that creates a lasting investment in the outcome.  As far as the magical element goes, it really doesn’t take over the story, so readers who shun books with supernatural elements will still find that this contemporary romance is, in fact, focused on relationships.  Themes of truth, friendship and kindness add a nice depth, and they are done right.  YA readers will understand that this author grasps the balancing act of being accepted by the wolves who will turn on you in an instant, and acting on that small, still voice that is the truth inside.  I found the psychology of relationships that laced throughout the story fascinating, and I think it will appeal to my high school readers as well.  This one is definitely going on my classroom library wishlist.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+, but I thoroughly enjoyed it as an adult reader.

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

Summer of Supernovas

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Summer of Supernovas

A promise made before her mother’s death and a unique alignment of the stars mean that Wilamena has to get her love life in order pronto, but following the stars conflicts with following her heart. This conflict is the cornerstone for this sweet YA romance, and while it does lead to a dreaded love triangle, it makes for an engaging and bumpy ride in Wil’s journey to finding love.  I gave Summer of Supernovas four stars, and fans of contemporary, light YA romance will enjoy it as well.

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Goodreads Summary

Fans of Jennifer E. Smith and Jenny Han will fall in love with this heartfelt and humor-laced debut following one girl’s race to find the guy of her cosmic dreams.

When zodiac-obsessed teen Wilamena Carlisle discovers a planetary alignment that won’t repeat for a decade, she’s forced to tackle her greatest astrological fear: The Fifth House—relationships and love.

But when Wil falls for a sensitive guitar player hailing from the wrong side of the astrology chart, she must decide whether a cosmically doomed love is worth rejecting her dead mother’s legacy and the very system she’s faithfully followed through a lifetime of unfailing belief.

My Thoughts

The characters are lightly quirky and wholly believable, and the romantic gestures are actually romantic. My only real issue was Wil’s (completely understandable and yet still annoying) devotion to the astrology that is so clearly leading her astray. I think most readers would like to think that there is a sure fire way of knowing that you are getting it right in love, though, so the majority of readers will be willing to cut her some slack. This is a fun read that doesn’t plum too far into the depths but still manages to create a world readers will enjoy escaping into. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 8+.

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