Tag Archives: contemporary ya

How to Disappear 

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How to Disappear 

With echoes  of Gone Girl and a fast-paced, threat-filled storyline, this twisty mystery will hold a lot of appeal for YA fans of suspense thrillers. It has its flaws, but I enjoyed.

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Goodreads Summary

This electric cross-country thriller follows the game of cat and mouse between a girl on the run from a murder she witnessed—or committed?—and the boy who’s sent to kill her.

Nicolette Holland is the girl everyone likes. Up for adventure. Loyal to a fault. And she’s pretty sure she can get away with anything…until a young woman is brutally murdered in the woods near Nicolette’s house. Which is why she has to disappear.

Jack Manx has always been the stand-up guy with the killer last name. But straight A’s and athletic trophies can’t make people forget that his father was a hit man and his brother is doing time for armed assault. Just when Jack is about to graduate from his Las Vegas high school and head east for college, his brother pulls him into the family business with inescapable instructions: find this ruthless Nicolette Holland and get rid of her. Or else Jack and everyone he loves will pay the price.

As Nicolette and Jack race to outsmart each other, tensions—and attractions—run high. Told in alternating voices, this tightly plotted mystery and tense love story challenges our assumptions about right and wrong, guilt and innocence, truth and lies.

My Thoughts 

It took a while for me to hit the groove with this book simply because it took a while for me to really puzzle out what was going on.  That wasn’t a bad thing. It was a really intriguing thing.  Nicolette saw something she shouldn’t have, and this time her stepdad (even with his crime boss connections) can’t help her.  On the run, but longing for the life she left behind, Nicolette struggles to keep herself hidden from the powerful men who want her silenced.  Jack has tried to forget the legacy of crime and violence connected to his name, but when the one thing he cares about most is threatened, he is willing to use every advantage he was born with to get the girl he’s been sent to kill.  This is a tense game of hide and seek, and the author uses both the dual narrative perspective and the dramatic irony it creates to keep readers holding their breath until the last page.  The really impressive thing about this book for me is how Nic and Jack both manage to come across as crafty and street smart while still reading like teens.  Sure, they both know that getting involved with the other is a horrible idea, but just like real and impulsive teens, they find the siren song of attraction is hard to resist.  I liked the fact that they made mistakes and were thwarted by stupid turns of fate because it added an authenticity to their characters and the plot which kept me in suspended disbelief just long enough to really get swept away by this story, a story that I would have scoffed at as completely unrealistic if I hadn’t been so invested in the outcome.  I think it might be hard for some readers to buy into two teens navigating this situation, but I also think most YA readers who pick it up will have a hard time putting it down simply for its tense blend of underworld mystery and dangerous attraction.   I will say that I wasn’t able to guess this ending at all, despite my excellent prediction skills, and it has a twist that I wasn’t really sold on, but I think it will delight most readers.  I don’t think this is a perfect book, but I did find it compelling and extremely entertaining.  I will definitely recommend it to my high school readers, especially those with a penchant for mystery and a yen for a darker kind of romance.  This one is going on my classroom library wish list and my high school librarian recommendation list.  Language and situations, specifically violence and some sensuality, make this most appropriate for high school readers.

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


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American Girls

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American Girls

Honestly, I’m so glad I gave this book a chance.  I love stories where a character experiences revelations that force them to recalibrate their picture of the world, and Anna’s strange summer of discontent does exactly that.  Better, I like the fact that this book has the possibility of reorienting the world for the reader.  I didn’t love the cover or the blurb, but I did enjoy the read.

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Goodreads Summary

She was looking for a place to land.

Anna is a fifteen-year-old girl slouching toward adulthood, and she’s had it with her life at home. So Anna “borrows” her stepmom’s credit card an runs away to Los Angeles, where her half-sister takes her in. But LA isn’t quite the glamorous escape Anna had imagined.

As Anna spends her days on TV and movie sets, she engrosses herself in a project researching the murderous Manson girls—and although the violence in her own life isn’t the kind that leaves physical scars, she begins to notice the parallels between herself and the lost girls of LA, and of America, past and present.

In Anna’s singular voice, we glimpse not only a picture of life on the B-list in LA, but also a clear-eyed reflection on being young, vulnerable, lost, and female in America—in short, on the B-list of life. Alison Umminger writes about girls, sex, violence, and which people society deems worthy of caring about, which ones it doesn’t, in a way not often seen in YA fiction.

My Thoughts

Anna is easy to connect with, and she feels genuine.  She is confused and a little angry at the people who are suppose to be her support system, and I think many YA readers will find that feels familiar.  She spends a lot of time thinking about what motivates people, and she comes to some big conclusions about how the choices we make have a bigger impact than the choices that are made for us.  (You are responsible for being more than just the things that happen to you).  I loved the fact that The Great Gatsby came up because there is a true sense of careless, superficial, and wasteland about the LA that Anna experiences.  Anna is a bit of a Nick, herself, though her judgements are a little less delighted voyer than his. The Manson girls, too, are part of the story, but not in the way I expected – much less sensationalized and an integral part of the story.  I did find some of the characters a bit awful (personality-wise), and I did think some of the plot points were a little strange, but I believed they were likely to be real in the land of celebrity.  If anything, it does play to the stereotypes of the ugly world behind the curtain that regular folks like me love to believe.  Overall, I think this is an engaging read with a strong message that doesn’t come on too strong.   The language and situations are going to be more appropriate for a mature high school reader.

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


 

The Loose Ends List – an awesome YA about loving life and letting go

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The Loose Ends List – an awesome YA about loving life and letting go

Half of this book will have you snorting with laughter, and the other half will leave you searching for tissue.  Seriously.  It’s a feelings read, and even the hardest hearts (me, for instance) will find it hard to resist the cast of vivid characters and their collective journey.  I liked the world travel and the ridiculous antics, but I also liked the lessons about dealing with the hard things in life.  I gave this book five stars.

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Goodreads Summary

First loves. Last Wishes. Letting go.

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way – and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.

Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

My Thoughts

First, and foremost, this is a book about love, and sometimes it’s about finding and reveling in love, and sometimes it’s about letting go of the things you love.  This lesson comes at a pivotal time in the narrator’s life and is the right mix of levity for young adult readers who are probably facing some of the same heartbreaking and breathtaking experiences.  Older readers will draw from the story in a different but equally compelling way.  The characters are rich, the plot is unexpected, and the culmination is absolutely worth your time.  I want it for my high school classroom library because it is the equivalent of hiding the broccoli in the cheese – so good that the kids won’t even notice the important messages they are also getting.  This book does take a stance on assisted death, and there are some pretty frank (and hilarious) discussions about sex as well as a few scenes of sensuality, so it isn’t for everyone, but I think it is appropriate for mature high school readers.

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

Kill the Boy Band – Dark YA humor about being a fan 

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Kill the Boy Band – Dark YA humor about being a fan 

In the vein of some of the great eighties teen movies where a little innocent fun and rebellion turns into a major cluster that has to be covered up before the parents come home, Kill the Boy Band is funny and improbable and a great escape read.  It reminded me of my New Kids On the Block days (fourth grade) when I championed Danny because he was the one member I thought might be unattractive enough to be attainable – I really did think that.  I still have a giant pin of his head that I used to wear on my jean jacket.  No.  I won’t sell it to you, but you can experience the angst and calculated admiration I felt by reading this dark and funny YA.

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Goodreads Summary

From debut author Goldy Moldavsky, the story of four superfan friends whose devotion to their favorite boy band has darkly comical and murderous results.

Okay, so just know from the start that it wasn’t supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near The Ruperts, our favorite boy band.

We didn’t mean to kidnap one of the guys. It kind of, sort of happened that way. But now he’s tied up in our hotel room. And the worst part of all, it’s Rupert P. All four members of The Ruperts might have the same first name, but they couldn’t be more different. And Rupert P. is the biggest flop out of the whole group.

We didn’t mean to hold hostage a member of The Ruperts, I swear. At least, I didn’t. We are fans. Okay, superfans who spend all of our free time tweeting about the boys and updating our fan tumblrs. But so what, that’s what you do when you love a group so much it hurts.

How did it get this far? Who knows. I mean midterms are coming up. I really do not have time to go to hell.

My Thoughts

There will be crybaby reviewers who will be offended for the perceived insults about fandom or whatever “stereotype” they most closely relate to, but those people have missed the point.  Yes, it’s over the top, but it’s really about those moments when the narrator awakens to those awful coming of age realizations that we all have.  Your perception of a friendship isn’t always the truth. People will sometimes use you to further their own agenda. You often feel passionate about something you will later feel embarrassed about. You are not a unique snowflake having a unique experience – yes, this really is just a phase that almost everyone else has or will experience in some form. Your idols are not as great in real life as in your imagination.  All of these little gems and more are wrapped up in an over-the-top, dark, teen girl version of a The Hangover type of scenario.  I thought it was a lot of fun.  I don’t care how reasonable the scenario is because it wasn’t suppose to be.  Some language, sexual references, and dark situations, but I think it is appropriate for high school readers.  Adult readers who once adored NKOTB or ‘N Sync and fans of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off will get a good laugh as well.

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

The Choice by Allison J. Kennedy is a sensitive and hopeful YA read about a tough, relevant topic

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The Choice by Allison J. Kennedy is a sensitive and hopeful YA read about a tough, relevant topic

Sometimes you read a book for pleasure.  Sometimes you read a book to gain empathy and insight into a situation.  Sometimes you read a book to heal.  I’m not sure which reason you have for reading The Choice, but I think it is an important addition to the conversation we should all be having about rape and victims who protect themselves through remaining silent.  The author’s approach is sensitive and her message is hopeful, so don’t be afraid to pick this one up just because the subject is one most people would rather ignore.  While this is a topic covered in two of my favorite YA books of all time, Sarah Dessen’s Just Listen and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Choice brings up issues and conflicts that those books didn’t address, including a more complete understanding of the fallout from this crime.

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Goodreads Summary

How do you heal from your past when you’re still trapped within it?

I lost myself the night of the party. Just like that, my innocence and my sanity were torn away. 

I would like to say that time heals all wounds, but it doesn’t. And I would like to say that falling in love is what rescued me, but it wasn’t. Nobody told me what to expect in the coming days and weeks and months after conceiving a rapist’s child. Years later, my wounds are still just as fresh as the night they were made. It would be so easy to disappear and allow the memories to consume me.

But that’s the choice, isn’t it? To live instead.

**This book contains rape triggers. Discretion is advised

My Thoughts

The Choice came across to me as a genuinely written book, meaning the author wrote about this topic because she cares, not because it is one that the media has picked up on or because it is a teen issue that is easy to sensationalize. She also chose a rather smart narrative structure – the perspective moves between the protagonist’s present and the protagonist’s past which is probably the most effective way I could imagine for keeping this book from turning into the most depressing read ever.  Readers will know from the the beginning that whatever went down, May survived her ordeal and went on to have a happy life.  The author has done a good job of keeping the suspense of the titular choice alive for the duration of the book.  While the prose does slip into a clinical mode at times, I think that reflects the distance that May is using to cope with her situation.  This book works hard to present a neutral position about choices while allowing her character to make a choice that she believes is right for her.  I think this is a book that can represent hope and healing for any victim of this most destructive of crimes, and if you are not a victim, this is a book that can help you become more understanding and empathetic to your fellow human.  The situation demands a mature reader, but, again, this was a very carefully crafted and sensitive look at a situation that I wouldn’t hesitate to hand to one of my students.  And guess what?

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The author, Allison J. Kennedy, sent us an autographed copy for our classroom library and it is already here!!! How awesome is that?  We struck up a conversation on Goodreads after I left a review, and she is as genuine as I imagined.  Thank you, Allison!  You are doing important work.

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

The Odyssey of Falling is What you should be reading now. Seriously. NOW.

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The Odyssey of Falling might be my top read for 2014, and if you like contemporary YA, this would be my first recommendation. The book summary doesn’t do this one justice. This book has soul. I was so glad that I read it! This is a kindle only book, and that makes me sad because I just want to hand out a hundred copies and get my students reading this funny, heartfelt, compelling book that I couldn’t put down. At $3.99, it is a real bargain. You should buy it. Now.

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The Odyssey of Falling Paige Crutcher
Published Nov. 4, 2014

Goodreads Summary
Meet Odd. Audrey “Odd” Ashworth is an exceptionally bright girl with a sympathetic heart. She’s in the top 4% of her class. She’s obsessed with getting into Manhattan School of Music, committed to following the “signs” the universe delivers, and infatuated with her recently deceased best friend’s boyfriend.

Life is a little strange for Odd.

Until she finds her best friend’s diary in her crush’s car, and decides to do the bucket list tucked inside the pages. As Odd seeks closure and a way to honor her friend, she discovers there’s nothing wrong with being a little strange, especially if it helps you discover who you were meant to be. Along the way, Odd falls into trouble, adventure, and finally love.

The Odyssey of FallingThe Odyssey of Falling by Paige Crutcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received this ARC through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Audrey is trying to make sense of her life as she struggles with the death of her best friend. Audrey and her friends are offbeat and relatable and genuinely fun to follow. The plot was entertaining and meaningful but not the predictable teen read. I laughed, and I got that thick crying feeling in my throat, and I truly cared about the outcome in this book. I read it straight through in an afternoon. I will definitely recommend it to my Sarah Dessen and Huntley Fitzpatrick fans. There was some minor language, sensual situations, and drug/alcohol use, but they were not glorified. High school and above readers.

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