Tag Archives: friendship

Corrie Wang’s The Takedown 

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Corrie Wang’s The Takedown 

Corrie Wang’s The Takedown wasn’t really on my radar until I saw it on the Amazon editor’s picks for YA in April, but I’m so glad I snagged a last minute ARC on NetGalley.  I could not put it down. There is a lot going on in this story beyond the very compelling mystery of who is trying to ruin Kyla, and it is both timely and engaging.  The Takedown is publishing Tuesday, April 11, 2017, and it is well worth your time.


Goodreads Summary

Kyla Cheng doesn’t expect you to like her. For the record, she doesn’t need you to. On track to be valedictorian, she’s president of her community club, a debate team champ, plus the yummy Mackenzie Rodriguez has firmly attached himself to her hip. She and her three high-powered best friends don’t just own their senior year at their exclusive Park Slope, Brooklyn high school, they practically define the hated species Popular. Kyla’s even managed to make it through high school completely unscathed.

Until someone takes issue with this arrangement.

A week before college applications are due, a video of Kyla “doing it” with her crush-worthy English teacher is uploaded to her school’s website. It instantly goes viral, but here’s the thing: it’s not Kyla in the video. With time running out, Kyla delves into a world of hackers, haters and creepy stalkers in an attempt to do the impossible-take something off the internet-all while dealing with the fallout from her own karmic footprint. Set in near-future Brooklyn, where privacy is a bygone luxury and every perfect profile masks damning secrets, The Takedown is a stylish, propulsive, and provocative whodunit, asking who would you rely on if your tech turned against you?

My Thoughts

It was thought-provoking to follow Kyla through an experience that blurred her carefully cultivated and curated image.  I really thought I would be cheering for the downfall of this queen bee, so imagine my surprise when her narrative voice spoke to me deeply.  Some people will only see a teen drama with a scary message about personal privacy, but I saw it as a book that makes readers think about how actions will always have consequences – good and bad.  Kyla’s character goes through a nice development without betraying her – she doesn’t have to become the things others want her to be in order to grow into a better version of herself – and that was really important to me as a reader.  The messages are relevant and strong, and I think they can speak to a wide audience.  And that mystery?  It kept me guessing right up until the big reveal – bravo! This is definitely going on my high school classroom library wishlist, and it is a book I will highly recommend to my students.  Language (some of it in annoying but relevant text talk) and situations are appropriate for grades 10+.

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

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Ashley Poston’s Geekerella is the perfect fairy tale for the Geek Girl in you

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Ashley Poston’s Geekerella is the perfect fairy tale for the Geek Girl in you

There have been so many times that I have held my breath, waiting to see who will be cast as a beloved character.  Some have met my approval – Claire and Jamie from Outlander.  Others have broken my heart – I’m pointing at you entire cast of Twilight (yes – it mattered very much to this grown woman).  I completely understood Elle Wittimer from Chapter 1 of Geekerella.  Her world crashes down when her favorite character is clearly miscast .  . . Or is he?

I very much enjoyed this Geek girl version of Cinderella, and I’m not alone – this book has a 4+ star rating with more than 500 reviewers on Goodreads!


Goodreads Summary
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

Enter to win a copy of Geekerella on Goodreads until May 1, 2017!

My Thoughts

This retelling of Cinderella is a contemporary take, perfect for anyone who has ever loved a fandom.  The decision to make “Prince Charming” a movie star is brilliant, and the fact that his side of the story is an important part of the plot adds a lot to the tale you think you know.  And you do know this story, but if you think that means you won’t feel anxious, you are wrong.  This evil stepmother is wicked, and if her brand of mean feels a bit thick at times, it doesn’t stop you from feeling outraged when she pulls her ugly stunts.  Despite her dark cloud, the modern touches are charming – from the pumpkin themed food truck to the decidedly modern take on the fairy godmother – it is worth reading just to study the parallels.  The vibe is more teen movie than fairytale, but I think it will appeal to a pretty broad audience.   I’m definitely adding it to my high school classroom library wishlist and recommending it to fans of reimagined fairy tales as well as those who love a good fandom.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+, but adults can enjoy it as well.

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

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Brigid Kemmerer’s Letters to the Lost

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Brigid Kemmerer’s Letters to the Lost

Brigid Kemmerer’s Letters to the Lost is a tale of two people finding each other when they need someone the most.  It will appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park and Julie Buxbaum’s Tell Me Three Things.  I found it engaging and satisfying, so I gave it four stars.

Letters to the Lost is publishing Tuesday, April 4, 2017.


Goodreads Summary

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book.  The main characters are believable, especially because they aren’t always perfect, and I found myself invested in their lives quickly.  I did think this was going to be more of a romance, but I wasn’t disappointed.  Juliet and Declan form a much needed friendship, and I was pleased when that seemed to be the bigger focus.  While the angry boy and sad girl are not new ideas; their journey to better is not the usual YA romance solution – readers can actually see the realistic actions that bring about their changes.  It hits home that the choices you make do impact the way you feel, the way you are perceived, and the way you are treated.  I really appreciate the fact that this book has all the drama my high school students want, but it also has messages that they can tie to their own lives.  I’m adding it to my classroom library wishlist and I know it will be a hit, especially with students who enjoy contemporary YA.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school, but adult readers of YA can enjoy it just as much.

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

We Are Still Tornadoes 

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We Are Still Tornadoes 

What a fun read!  We Are Still Tornadoes is funny and smart and sweet in all the right places.  This is a five star read that will engage a broad audience.  Lived through the eighties?  You will appreciate the references.  Just lived your first year away from home?  You will be so connected.  It wasn’t what I expected, but it turned out to be exactly what I wanted.


Goodreads Summary

It’s the summer of 1982, and for Scott and Cath, everything is about to change.

Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends for most of their lives. Now they’ve graduated high school, and Cath is off to college while Scott stays at home trying to get his band off the ground. Neither of them realized that their first year after high school would be so hard.

Fortunately, Scott and Cath still have each other, and it’s through their letters that they survive heartache, annoying roommates, family dramas, and the pressure of figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they’ve ever wanted to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should think about being more than friends? One thing is clear: Change is an inescapable part of growing up, and we share unbreakable bonds with the friends who help us navigate it.

My Thoughts

I’m always cautious about novels that are in the format of letters – it is easy to loose character voices or skimp on the  imagery when forced to rely only on the words the characters actually commit to the page.  I can honestly say that nothing was lost in this book.  Cath and Scott are vivid and distinct voices, and their letters make it easy to picture exactly what is taking place both within and between the lines.  I was quickly drawn into their dramas and their daily lives alike.  Their comraderie shines through every exchange, and it is charming.  The story their exchanges tell is a universal one – it is the story of growing up and seeing things through a new, more adult perspective.  While I think my high school readers will enjoy this book, it will really hit the mark with the new adults and beyond crowd because this is the audience who will better understand what Cath and Scott are going through the first year out of high school.  I’m adding it to my high school classroom library wish list, but this is also one I would definitely recommend to my adult friends, especially those who enjoyed Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments. Language and situations are appropriate for mature high school readers.

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

When The Moon Was Ours – An Enchanting and Enigmatic Modern Fairytale

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When The Moon Was Ours – An Enchanting and Enigmatic Modern Fairytale

Lush and vivid imagery make for a beautifully written, if somewhat enigmatic, modern fairytale.  Fresh character concepts blend with universal and timeless themes to make something that feels weighty and exotic, and yet, still welcoming.  In short, Anna-Marie McLemore spins a pretty and a pretty strange tale that I gave four stars.


Goodreads Summary

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

My Thoughts

The book is paced for a leisurely read – rife with descriptions of pumpkins and petals, well drawn emotions, and pauses where characters ponder how much self discovery they can handle.  Both Miel and Sam are carefully crafted characters that transcend the page, and I enjoyed their journey towards acceptance.  I loved their friendship – the kind that lasts despite  the ugliness of life.  At the same time, the magical realism did, as usual, leave me feeling like I was a step behind.  I never fully understood the mystical bond of the Bonner sisters, and that left me a little frustrated.  Don’t get me started on the glass pumpkins – that is a mystery beyond my comprehension.  However, if you are willing to embrace the tale and let go of some of your rational questions, this is enchanting.  Some language and sexual situations make this most appropriate for the 15+ crowd.

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

You might have missed Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff, and that would be a real shame

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You might have missed Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff, and that would be a real shame

This haunting and otherworldly book is such an enchanting tale.  I read it in just a few hours, but I’m still thinking about it months later.


Goodreads Summary

Only women and girls are allowed in the Red Abbey, a haven from abuse and oppression. Thirteen-year-old novice Maresi arrived at the Abbey four years ago, during the hunger winter, and now lives a happy life under the protection of the Mother. Maresi spends her days reading in the Knowledge House, caring for the younger novices, and contentedly waiting for the moment when she will be called to serve one of the Houses of the Abbey.

This idyllic existence is threatened by the arrival of Jai, a girl whose dark past has followed her into the Abbey’s sacred spaces. In order to protect her new sister and her own way of life, Maresi must emerge from the safety of her books and her childish world and become one who acts.

My Thoughts

I loved the setting – a sanctuary for women and girls with a magic and mythology that feels epic.  I loved the well drawn characters and their transformations in the course of the action.  The action is engaging and builds to a satisfying and suspenseful climax.  While there are dark elements in this tale, Maresi is ultimately an uplifting read with themes about friendship and finding inner strength in the face of fear.  Fans of Naomi Novak’s Uprooted will definitely want to check this out, but I think anyone who loves a good fairytale or folktale will be swept away by this read.  This is a translation, but you wouldn’t know it – the prose is fluid and magical all on its own.  I can definitely see many of my high school girls enjoying this, particularly those who like the His Fair Assassins series and Marie Lu’s Rose Society books.  It’s going on my classroom library wishlist.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

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

Cecilia Vinesse’s Seven Days of You

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Cecilia Vinesse’s Seven Days of You

This is a book about letting things go:  Old hurts, old friends, and old dreams.  It is also a book about seeing all the good things that are waiting to fill the void.  It gets ugly, as only teen drama and talk shows can, but I ultimately enjoyed how it turned out in the end.  I gave Seven Days of You four stars.


Goodreads Summary

Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she’s harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days…until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.

Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?

My Thoughts

The characters are fairly immature teenagers, and they all have their good sides and their bad sides. This book mostly revolves around an incident that broke up a friendship years ago, prompted by jealousy over middle school crushes.  If you are expecting more grown up issues, step away from this book.  If you are still holding a grudge from junior high and expressly avoid that person to this day, you will relate.  I loved the fact that the book did give a lot of the cultural aspects of the setting a role in the book, but don’t expect actual natives to be part of the cast.  I thought that was a missed opportunity, and I couldn’t decide if it represented the self absorption of teens or reiterated the the stereotype of self absorbed Americans.  I was horrified that the main character repeatedly pointed out her failure to learn the language despite living in the country for years.  Really?  I chose to enjoy the book despite those flaws, but I did notice them.   I will say that the book made me get a bit of wanderlust (which my husband promptly shut down – boo). Teens looking for a familiar story in an exotic setting will probably find this engaging, and there is definitely enough conflict to satisfy those who long for drama.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

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

Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith – What a find!

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Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith – What a find!

Look, I saw the cover for Children of Icarus and read the cryptic summary and I seriously thought about passing on it.  What a mistake that would have been!  This is one of my favorite reads of 2016.  I found myself racing through this compelling book, and I ended it questioning how far I would go to get my hands on the second.  The answer would shock you, unless you’ve read it, too.  Reviews have been mixed, but it is interesting to note that even those who didn’t love it acknowledged that it would appeal to fans of the big dystopian hits like The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games.  I gave it five stars, and it will be the first book I purchase for my classroom library this year.

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Goodreads Summary

It is Clara who is desperate to enter the labyrinth and it is Clara who is bright, strong, and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It is no surprise when she is chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes, they are torn apart forever. Now the girl who has never left the city walls must fight to survive in a living nightmare, where one false turn with who to trust means a certain dead end.

My Thoughts

Look, that summary doesn’t give you much.  So . . . In a future society, Icarus is worshipped.  Special children between the ages of ten and sixteen are chosen on the day Icarus fell to go into the labyrinth of Icarus and to ascend as angels.  Except, the labyrinth is definitely not a holy place, and all those kids?  Well, some of them might be angels, but it had nothing to do with Icarus and a lot to do with the nasty truth about what really happens in the labyrinth.

While it reminded me in part of The Maze Runner (mysterious labyrinth with horrifying depths) and it reminded me a bit of Ann Aguire’s Enclave (a primitive society born operating in confusion and fear), it was something all its own and that something was rich and engaging.  The narrator is not the fierce warrior woman, as a matter of fact, she is the forgettable sidekick, and that leaves a lot of room for growth.  The mystery and palpable danger of her situation make it hard to leave her side, even when you need a bathroom break.  The twist at the end left me stunned, and the questions I’m still pondering have me itching to talk about it to anyone who will listen.  I can’t wait to share it with my high school readers.  The fast-paced action and the unique brand of mystery make for a winning combination that I know my students will embrace.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school 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.