Summary: Pranking mastermind Doe and her motley band of Weston girls are determined to win the century-long war against Winfield Academy before the clock ticks down on their senior year. But when their headmistress announces that The Weston School will merge with its rival the following year, their longtime feud spirals into chaos. To protect the school that has been her safe haven since her parents’ divorce, Doe puts together a plan to prove once and for all that Winfield boys and Weston girls just don’t mix, starting with a direct hit at Three, Winfield’s boy king and her nemesis. In a desperate move to win, Doe strikes a bargain with Three’s cousin, Wells: If he fake dates her to get under Three’s skin, she’ll help him get back his rightful family heirloom from Three. As the pranks escalate, so do her feelings for her fake boyfriend, and Doe spins lie after lie to keep up her end of the deal. But when a teacher long suspected of inappropriate behavior messes with a younger Weston girl, Doe has to decide what’s more important: winning a rivalry, or joining forces to protect something far more critical than a prank war legacy. This May End Badly is a story about friendship, falling in love, and crossing pretty much every line presented to you—and how to atone when you do.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I ended up reading this book via the finished audiobook instead of the eARC I was provided. I think that This May End Badly was a fun and enjoyable YA contemporary. I liked the prank wars between the schools. I liked the romance between the main couple. I think the fake dating was silly but still made me smile. I liked the main character. Overall, I had a fun time listening to this book. It made me smile a few times. I was really engaged by the audiobook. But this wasn’t a new favorite or one that will likely stick with me.
Summary: Up and coming fanfic author Kaylee Beaumont is internally screaming at the chance to finally meet her fandom friends in real life and spend a weekend at GreatCon. She also has a side quest for the weekend: Try out they/them pronouns to see how it feels Wear more masculine-presenting cosplay Kiss a girl for the first time It’s… a lot, and Kay mostly wants to lie face down on the hotel floor. Especially when her hometown bully, Miss North Carolina, shows up in the very same hotel. But there’s this con-sponsored publishing contest, and the chance to meet her fandom idols… and then, there’s Teagan. Pageant queen Teagan Miller (Miss Virginia) has her eye on the much-needed prize: the $25,000 scholarship awarded to the winner of the Miss Cosmic Teen USA pageant. She also has secrets: She loves the dresses but hates the tiaras She’s a giant nerd for everything GreatCon She’s gay af If Teagan can just keep herself wrapped up tight for one more weekend, she can claim the scholarship and go off to college out and proud. If she’s caught, she could lose everything she’s worked for. If her rival, Miss North Carolina, has anything to do with it, that’s exactly how it’ll go down. When Teagan and Kay bump into one another the first night, sparks fly. Their connection is intense—as is their shared enemy. If they’re spotted, the safe space of the con will be shattered, and all their secrets will follow them home. The risks are great… but could the reward of embracing their true selves be worth it?
Review: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. The One True Me and You follows two queer characters, Teagan who is a lesbian but not out because she also competes in beauty pageants, and Kay who is non-binary. These two meet at a hotel that is hosting both a beauty pageant and a fandom convention. Teagan is secretly also very into the fandom of this convention. So she and Kay meet when she sneaks out of her room to see some of the convention. From there, their romance blossoms. I really liked Teagan. She’s driven and thoughtful. She knows who she is and what she must do to reach her goals. I didn’t love how she was to her friend Jess, who is supposed to be one of her best friends, who she blew off most of the weekend to see Kay. But I really actually enjoyed the behind the scenes of beauty pageant stuff. I felt like we got enough backstory to know who she was a character even though we weren’t seeing her in her day-to-day life. Kay, on the other hand, is still figuring themselves out. They are trying on they/them pronouns for the first time. They want to kiss a girl for the first time. And they feel that this fandom convention is the best place for that. Being a part of the fandom feels like a safe place for them and I can absolutely appreciate this. I enjoyed following Kay as they learned so much about themself. I think there were some really great comments about things that are wrong with beauty pageants. I think it did a great job with that. But I felt like the book was clearly biased in favor of fandom. I think there were some real chances to talk about the ways that fandom can be harmful (the amount of times I see people sending death threats to strangers because of fandoms is gross). But being a part of this fan base is only really ever described as a happy and safe place when I think in reality that isn’t always the case. Overall, I think this was a wonderful story about a girl who competes in pageants to promote charity and win some money for college. And about a person finding themselves in a place where they truly feel safe. I think this book will definitely be well-loved.
Summary: Life in a small Appalachian town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his best friend, Delaney, is second nature. He’s been spending his summer mowing lawns while she works at Dairy Queen. But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full rides to an elite prep school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his love for the grandparents who saved him and the town he would have to leave behind.
Review: In the Wild Light is an emotional story that follows Cash as he tries to find his place in the world. Cash and his best friend, Delaney, have been a dynamic duo for years. So, when Delaney makes a scientific discovery and she’s offered a spot at a prestigious school in Connecticut, she asks that Cash be considered for a place as well. They’re both accepted and Cash must make the difficult choice of whether to leave his sick grandfather and go off to school. Once at school, Cash faces obstacles that he’d never considered before. This was very much a slice of life story of a boy who is, for the most part, on his own for the very first time. I liked Cash most of the time. It was easy to empathize with his feelings about leaving his grandparents and his feelings of inadequacy. He’s a kind and caring human being that I liked. His friendship with Delaney dominated this story. I didn’t always like Delaney. I don’t think she always treated him very nicely. Sometimes she treated him poorly in an attempt to tell him to get his shit together, but I think she absolutely could have been nicer about it sometimes. I really enjoyed seeing Cash flourish at his new school and I especially enjoyed seeing his new love for reading and writing poetry. It was a little funny to me at times because we’re reading the story from Cash’s point of view, so it’s all supposed to be his thoughts and feelings. Some of the writing where he’s talking about the setting and the new places he’s seeing are incredibly poetically and lyrically described, but he really struggled writing his own poetry. It made me chuckle a few times that his inner thoughts were so beautiful and full of imagery but that wasn’t always translated into the poetry he was attempting to write. Overall, this was a beautiful story of a boy that’s doing new things, things that will be good for his future, and getting out of the small town he’s lived in his whole life. It’s a story of making new friendships and trying new things, even though those new things might be scary. Zentner has once again written a a beautiful and sad story that somehow leaves you feeling hopeful.
Summary: A hilarious and vulnerable coming-of-age story about the thrilling new experience–and missteps–of a girl’s freshman year of college Some students enter their freshman year of college knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives. Elliot McHugh is not one of those people. But picking a major is the last thing on Elliot’s mind when she’s too busy experiencing all that college has to offer–from dancing all night at off-campus parties, to testing her RA Rose’s patience, to making new friends, to having the best sex one can have on a twin-sized dorm room bed. But she may not be ready for the fallout when reality hits. When the sex she’s having isn’t that great. When finals creep up and smack her right in the face. Or when her roommate’s boyfriend turns out to be the biggest a-hole. Elliot may make epic mistakes, but if she’s honest with herself (and with you, dear reader), she may just find the person she wants to be. And maybe even fall in love in the process . . . Well, maybe.
Review: I picked this one up at the Barnes and Noble 50% off hardcovers book sale under the influence of my friend Kelly. She recommended this for the 12 challenge that was going around Instagramand Twitter at the start of the year. All she said was it’s about a bisexual girl in her first year of college and I was immediately sold. Plus, when I saw it in the bookstore that book cover really just shines. It’s so simple and yet so stunning at the same time. I already can’t wait to take pictures of it. Fresh follows Elliot, who is starting her first year of college. She’s from Ohio, but she’s going to Emerson College in Boston. As someone that grew up Boston adjacent, there are so many excellent Boston and Massachusetts references that had me laughing out loud. The thing about this book is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s told in first-person perspective and Elliot “talks” directly to the reader at times. I loved the way this story was told. I think it was incredibly engaging to be following Elliot as if she was sitting next to me, telling me about her experiences. Now, Elliot doesn’t always make the best choices. She’s incredibly flawed and I absolutely loved that about her. She’s bisexual and confident in her sexuality. The first half of the book is mostly (to use Elliot’s phrasing) Elliot being “horny on main.” The second half is Elliot taking the lessons she learned from her first semester of college and making better choices. She learns from her mistakes and doesn’t repeat them. I think that’s a big reason that she was a character I felt I could be invested in. She doesn’t just do stupid things over and over. She learns and makes a point to do better. I absolutely loved all of the side characters, too. Lucy and Micah were excellent friends. I also loved Elliot’s RA, Rose. I think they made this story even better. Elliot really had amazing friends to support her and to tell her to pull her head out of her ass when she needed it. Overall, I loved this book. I said earlier that it doesn’t take itself seriously. I think the author did a wonderful job of balancing that feeling while also covering some serious topics. There are conversations of sexual assault and slut-shaming. But it’s also a really sex-positive book. I feel like any words that I write cannot do this story justice. I will be recommending this book in the future very often.
Summary: Nothing will get in the way of Millie Price’s dream to become a Broadway star. Not her lovable but super-introverted dad, who after raising Millie alone, doesn’t want to watch her leave home to pursue her dream. Not her pesky and ongoing drama club rival, Oliver, who is the very definition of Simmering Romantic Tension. And not the “Millie Moods,” the feelings of intense emotion that threaten to overwhelm, always at maddeningly inconvenient times. Millie needs an ally. And when a left-open browser brings Millie to her dad’s embarrassingly moody LiveJournal from 2003, Millie knows just what to do. She’s going to find her mom. There’s Steph, a still-aspiring stage actress and receptionist at a talent agency. There’s Farrah, ethereal dance teacher who clearly doesn’t have the two left feet Millie has. And Beth, the chipper and sweet stage enthusiast with an equally exuberant fifteen-year-old daughter (A possible sister?! This is getting out of hand). But how can you find a new part of your life and expect it to fit into your old one, without leaving any marks? And why is it that when you go looking for the past, it somehow keeps bringing you back to what you’ve had all along?
Review: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. When You Get the Chance follows Millie, a theatre kid, who is doing quite a few things. She’s looking for her mom (after narrowing it down to three possible women), trying to convince her dad to let her go to a super-selective theatre program that she’s been accepted to (except it’s across the country), and also, she’s falling in love. I was not a theatre kid. They didn’t have any sort of drama program at my high school, so that aspect of this story went right over my head. Though I could totally feel the energy and excitement and passion that Millie had for acting from this book. My favorite part was the mom drama. I have to say that once you get past a certain point about the mystery moms, I absolutely guessed who Millie’s mom was before it was revealed. Growing up with a single dad, I really liked this aspect of the story. Millie’s family dynamic was an interesting one. I loved Millie’s dad and it was so clear that he loved her. He obviously did his best to raise her and love her and I loved that. But I also could understand Millie’s complicated emotions about her mom. I think this part was really well done. Because it’s not that Millie is unhappy with her dad and her aunt, but there’s nothing really that can replace the mom that birthed you, even if she gave you up. Now, the romance. I was absolutely here for the rivals to friends to lover’s romance between Oliver and Millie. I think they were so fun to follow as they figured out what a great team they can be. I liked learning about the ways that they helped one another and didn’t even know it. I think their journey from grudging respect to friends to lovers was absolutely to die for. I devoured it. Overall, this was a fun and easy to read story about Millie who is just trying to find herself (but what else are we going to do at age seventeen), and instead finds more of a mystery, love, and possibility. I think this will be a hit among YA readers, for sure.
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes. Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail. And Sam picks up the phone. In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. You’ve Reached Sam follows Julie during her senior year of high school. There are only a few months before graduation and she and her boyfriend, Sam, have made so many exciting plans for their future together. But then Sam dies suddenly in a car accident and Julie’s future has changed forever. But then things get a little weird and Julie calls Sam’s phone one day and he answers. So, instead of trying to move on and figure out what she’s going to do now, she spends all of her time on the phone talking to Sam. I’ve seen basically nothing but rave reviews for this book, so I was pretty excited to read it and be emotionally destroyed by it. But that did happen for me and it’s absolutely because I think Julie was pretty terrible. The story opens with her getting rid of all of Sam’s things less than a week after he’s died. I just couldn’t reason that away in my mind. I wear a ring that belonged to my grandfather every single day and he died ten years ago. I totally understand that everyone grieves differently but that was just the first of many things that Julie did that just made me feel really disconnected from her. I couldn’t reason away her behavior or feel attached to her as a character. I will say that Julie really does the work to make up for her incredibly crappy behavior. She’s hurt most of her friends and it was really good to see her do the work to make it up to them. But my initial reaction to her just stuck with me. I loved the concept of the story. I loved the idea that Julie was talking to Sam on the phone even though he was gone. I liked the cast of characters (except Julie). I think they absolutely made the story better and more enjoyable. Overall, I liked this book but I didn’t love it. It’s entirely Julie’s fault that I didn’t love this book. She was kind of terrible for the beginning of this book and even though she really grew and had some great character development, I just never felt like I could really get invested in her. I can absolutely see why so many people love this book and I will definitely be recommending it in the future.
Summary: For all of Emory’s life she’s been told who she is. In town she’s the rich one–the great-great-granddaughter of the mill’s founder. At school she’s hot Maddie Ward’s younger sister. And at home, she’s the good one, her stoner older brother Joey’s babysitter. Everything was turned on its head, though, when she and Joey were in the car accident that killed Candy MontClaire. The car accident that revealed just how bad Joey’s drug habit was. Four months later, Emmy’s junior year is starting, Joey is home from rehab, and the entire town of Mill Haven is still reeling from the accident. Everyone’s telling Emmy who she is, but so much has changed, how can she be the same person? Or was she ever that person at all? Mill Haven wants everyone to live one story, but Emmy’s beginning to see that people are more than they appear. Her brother, who might not be cured, the popular guy who lives next door, and most of all, many ghostie addicts who haunt the edges of the town. People spend so much time telling her who she is–it might be time to decide for herself. Inspired by the American classic Our Town, You’d Be Home Now is Kathleen Glasgow’s glorious modern story of a town and the secret lives people live there. And the story of a girl, figuring out life in all its pain and beauty and struggle and joy.
Review: You’d Be Home Now is following Emory, who is in a violent car crash after leaving a party. She injures her leg, but in the car with her was her brother, who was overdosing on drugs, his best friend, and a girl that Emory was trying to help get home. After the accident, Emory’s brother, Joey, is sent to rehab, the driver is sent to a juvenile hall, and the girl died. We follow Emory as she recovers over the summer and lives in a quieter than normal house, hooking up with the boy next door in the pool house. This is a very slow and steady story. It all takes place over the summer and the first few months of the next school year. We get to know Emory while she’s recovering over the summer and then we get to know how things are changing once the new school year starts. We’re told rather than shown these changes because we didn’t even get to see what Emory’s life was like before. But I think Glasgow did a good job of showing how all the changes feel for Emory. I liked seeing how she adapted to these changes and the things and people that encouraged Emory herself to grow and change. Overall, this was a really tough and hard-hitting story about a girl who loves her brother so much but can do nothing for him while he struggles with addiction and recovery. I could really sympathize with what Emory was feeling but also what Joey was going through. Teenagers can be really cruel and going back to high school after everything they’ve been through would be incredibly hard, but to add trying to stay sober on top of that? No thanks. I would absolutely recommend Glasgow’s newest release for any readers that like hard-hitting contemporary books.
Summary: Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés. Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. She lost all her friends. Her boyfriend dumped her. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town. But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?
Review: I’m a part of the blog tour for You Can Go Your Own Way. So, thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for this advanced copy to read and review honestly. This was a fun story full of love and nods to the city of Philadelphia. I’m from New England and I’ve never been to Philly, but Smith’s love for the city definitely shone through. I could, however, absolutely related to the weather problems that the characters had to deal with in the story. Adam and Whitney get ‘trapped’ in Adam’s family arcade during a blizzard. The thing with the weather though is that they had warning, they all knew the snow was coming. I’m not sure what the snow is usually like in PA, but in New England, if there’s a risk of a blizzard, everything is shut down. From what it sounded like, they don’t do a super great job clearing and salting the roads. So, one would assume that they would close everything down as well (which eventually happened, but way too late to be realistic in my experience). Despite my personal issues with the weather, I liked both Adam and Whitney as individuals. They both have things that they’re dealing with and needing to work through. For Adam, he’s still grieving his father but he also really needs to learn to move on and let things go. He’s letting himself get stuck in the past and unable to look toward the future. Whitney is a people pleaser, specifically her father. She craves his attention and the only way she thinks she can get it is by working for his business (a rival to Adam’s family arcade.) But running the social media and worrying about her father’s business is negatively affecting the rest of her life. Her friends are really not great. Her boyfriend breaks up with her. Adam and Whitney are connected by their past. They’re childhood friends that drifted when they got to high school. The synopsis was a little misleading since I thought the whole book was going to be the day/night they were trapped in the arcade, but there’s so much more to the story than that. I really enjoyed the book. I think Whitney and Adam were interesting and well-developed characters. I liked them as individuals and how they came back together to be friends again and then more than that. I loved the setting. I especially liked the bits we got to see of the business’s social media interactions with one another. They were really funny at times. I definitely think this will be a hit for fans of YA contemporary books.
Summary: Two girls. One night. Zero phones. Kat and Stevie—best friends, theater kids, polar opposites—have snuck away from the suburbs to spend a night in New York City. They have it all planned out. They’ll see a play, eat at the city’s hottest restaurant, and have the best. Night. Ever. What could go wrong? Well. Kind of a lot? They’re barely off the train before they’re dealing with destroyed phones, family drama, and unexpected Pomeranians. Over the next few hours, they’ll have to grapple with old flames, terrible theater, and unhelpful cab drivers. But there are also cute boys to kiss, parties to crash, dry cleaning to deliver (don’t ask), and the world’s best museum to explore. Over the course of a wild night in the city that never sleeps, both Kat and Stevie will get a wake-up call about their friendship, their choices…and finally discover what they really want for their future. That is, assuming they can make it to Grand Central before the clock strikes midnight.
Review: Matson’s books have been really hit or miss for me. I totally loved Save the Date, but some of her other books were just average for me. I liked Take Me Home Tonight more than average, but less than Save the Date. I had one big issue with this book and it was the weird timeline with Teri. The story follows Kat and Stevie when they say they’re sleeping over their friend Teri’s house, but instead they go off to New York City for a best friend adventure. We follow both Kat and Stevie because, of course, nothing goes as planned and they get separated. But we also follow Teri here and there. And Teri’s storyline was just completely bizarre. I would have loved this book had it not had Teri’s weird story branch. Now, I did really enjoy both Stevie and Kat’s parts of the story. The two go off into the city together, but Kat has ulterior motives for going to the city. This news causes a huge fight between the two. Then Stevie’s phone breaks and the two get separated accidentally and there’s lots of incorrect assumptions. So, instead of a fun best friend adventure in the city, the two both end up having their own adventures. I really liked Stevie’s storyline. I come from a blended family and I have half and step siblings, so I really enjoyed following Stevie as she finally takes the time to get to know her new (ish) step-siblings. She ends up having a really great night with them. I just loved the growth of the family relationships. It was wholesome as hell. Kat had a more romantic plot line. She faces a lot of disappointment regarding the ulterior motives that she came to New York for in the first place. Nothing is going as planned and its one major disappointment after another. Her idol turns out to be a jerk and her best friend seemingly leaves her stranded in the city. But she meets a cute boy that swoops in and saves her night. Overall, I did enjoy this book. But the Teri plotline totally came out of nowhere and it completely took me out of the story. I would have preferred it just have been about Stevie and Kat. I loved the friendship struggles and family issues being resolved. Most of all, I loved following the pair as they really learning more about themselves.
Summary: West Finch is one hurricane away from falling into the sea. Yet sixteen-year-old Harlow Prout is determined to save her small Maine hometown. If only she could stop getting in her own way and find someone, anyone, willing to help. But her best friend Ellis MacQueen “fixes” problems by running away from them―including his broken relationship with his twin brother, Tommy. And Tommy’s depression has hit a new low, so he’s not up for fixing anything. In the wake of the town’s latest devastating storm, Tommy goes out for a swim that he doesn’t intend to survive. It’s his unexpected return that sets into motion a sea change between these three teens. One that tests old loyalties, sparks new romance, and uncovers painful secrets. And nothing stays secret in West Finch for long.
Summary: The Sea is Salt and So Am I is an advanced copy that I was given via NetGalley so that I could read and review it. Thank you for that NetGalley and the publishers. This story follows three points of view, Tommy, Ellis, and Harlow. Tommy and Ellis are twin brothers who both have their issues. The book starts off with Tommy attempting suicide. This is a big focus of the story. Everyone is doing their best to make sure that Tommy is okay after his failed attempt. Harlow and Ellis are best friends. They’ve been best friends since they were kids. So, Tommy is depressed. Ellis is an amputee. And Harlow focuses on all the wrong things to ‘fix’ and just creates more problems for herself. I had a few problems with this book. The biggest one was that I just genuinely didn’t like any of the characters. I think the depression and amputee representation was a great thing. But I didn’t like Harlow and Ellis was sort of an asshole for most of the book. Harlow starts dating Tommy so that she can make sure he doesn’t try to kill himself again. Like, what? More than one person thought that this was okay for these characters? I just didn’t get it. I understood that eventually there were genuine feelings. But Harlow overall, she just wasn’t a character I could get behind. I didn’t root for her. It doesn’t happen often but I actively didn’t like her and the same goes for Ellis. He couldn’t sympathize with the reasons behind his actions and the more I read about him the less I liked him. Overall, I just didn’t love this book. I loved the environmental topics. There’s mention of the Piping Plovers which are something that I knew lots about from my hometown, so I definitely laughed about their mention. But I also really liked the topic of erosion and the ocean washing away West Finch. I think this was a really great topic. I also think the author did a great job of showing us the story, the relationships, the settings, and not just telling us. There were things that I liked, but my dislike for the characters really put a damper on those things.
Summary: A poignant, funny, openhearted novel about coming out, first love, and being your one and only best and true self. Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life. Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown—literally—out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self. Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone. Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.
Review: Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun was provided to me vie NetGalley so that I could read it and write an honest review. This book follows Julain Luna, a teenager that’s in the midst of applying to colleges, his last year of high school, and counting down to the day he leaves Texas so that he can be himself, finally. Julian is gay, but he feels like he can’t tell anyone because of his abusive father. His father knows in that way that isn’t talked about, but he lays hands on Julian, yells at him when Julian does ‘unmanly’ things. The parts of this story where Julian is suffering his fathers verbal and sometimes physical abuse were hard to read. It’s the reality for so many people, but I can’t help but wish that everyone struggling through this would just be loved and accepted by their family. One night, after getting incredibly drunk via the peer pressure of his friends, he comes out on his personal Twitter. This brings a new set of challenges. He’s treated differently at school and by his fellow players on the soccer team. But Julian has a great group of friends on his side and he has his sister. There’s also Mat, the very handsome boy that DM’d Julian after he came out. I really liked this book. It’s full of heartfelt moments between friends. It’s a lovely story about moving on from high school. But it’s also Julian’s story about coming out and falling in love for the first time. I loved following him as he got to know Mat and then eventually got to meet him. I liked the tense moments of whether or not Julian was going to be able to go to college in California. I absolutely loved the sincere moments between Julian and his sister. Overall, I really loved this story. I can see how important this story will be to so many people. It’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking. It’s sex positive. It’s gay. It has so many good things that I think will really speak to so many teenagers. I absolutely recommend this one.
Summary: When Josie, a teen journalist who dreams of life after high school, wins a contest to write a celebrity profile for Deep Focus magazine (think Rolling Stone), her only concern is that her parents insist she bring her sister as a chaperone. But as Josie joins the cast on a multi-city tour and gets to know the subject of her profile, Marius, she senses that something is off. It’s not long before she learns that a celebrated director has been harassing girls on set and apparently getting away with it for a long time. Josie is reluctant to speak up–she’s not sure this is her story to tell. What if she lets down the women who have entrusted her with their stories? What if her big break ends up being the end of her journalistic career? There are so many reasons not to go ahead, but if Josie doesn’t step up, who will?
Review: Off the Record is an eARC I was gifted after attending a virtual event that this author was a part of. Thanks to NetGalley for providing the eARC. We follow Josie, the youngest of three sisters, who is a journalist. She’s done mostly work for her school newspaper, but she’s also done some freelancing work for magazines. She’s waiting to hear about a few things. One is whether or not she won the celebrity profile for Deep Focus and the other is if she’s been accepted to her dream college. I liked getting to see a bit of Josie with her whole family before she and one of her sisters, Alice, goes off to follow along on the press tour for the celebrity profile. We get to see a bit of why Josie feels the way she does about things mentioned later in the story. I really liked Josie. She’s a loner who doesn’t really have friends. She’s a dedicated writer. She’s also bisexual, fat, and has anxiety. Her anxiety is pretty prevalent throughout the book and I really liked how it was portrayed. We see her try different coping methods where some worked sometimes and others worked better another time. I really liked the anxiety representation. While Josie and Alice are on the press tour, Josie is interviewing the cast and crew of the movie. She ends up making friends with the two younger members, Penny and Marius. Marius is who Josie is writing a profile about, so the two develop a relationship with all of the time they spend together. Penny and Josie end up friends, which leads to Josie learning about a director who has been sexually harassing women he’s worked with. Josie and Penny start working together to get in touch with others who have been harassed by this director and writing a story about it. I really liked this aspect of the story. It didn’t shy away from the details and really talked about how stuff like this is overlooked in the industry. Overall, I really liked this one. I liked how we got to see Alice and Josie’s relationship change after they managed to communicate better. I liked the little bit of romance that was included. I also liked that when Josie reacted poorly to someone’s story about this director, she was called on it for saying shitty things. I would definitely recommend this one.
Summary: Acclaimed author Lizzy Mason delivers a moving contemporary YA novel about mental illness, young romance, and the impact of family history on one teen’s future, perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Robin Benway, and Kathleen Glasgow. When eighteen-year-old Sydney Holman announces that she has decided to attend NYU, her overprotective mom is devastated. Her decision means she will be living in the Big City instead of commuting to nearby Rutgers like her mom had hoped. It also means she’ll be close to off-limits but dreamy Grayson—a guitar prodigy who is going to Juilliard in the fall and very much isn’t single. But while she dreams of her new life, Sydney discovers a world-changing truth about her father, who left when she was little due to a drug addiction—that he has schizophrenia and is currently living on the streets of New York City. She seizes the opportunity to get to know him, to understand who he is and learn what may lie in store for her if she, too, is diagnosed. Even as she continues to fall for Grayson, Sydney is faced with a difficult decision: Should she stay close to home so her mom can watch over her, or follow the desire to take risks and discover her true self?
Review: Okay, this was not an easy book to read. It centers around mental health and mental illnesses. So, I want to start by saying that because I think this was a really good story but it’s not going to be for anyone. Also, thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Sydney just turned eighteen. She’s getting ready to go off to college, except she’s not going to the college that her mom thinks she’s going to. Sydney, with the help of her grandparents, has decided that she wants to go to NYU. This is not what Sydney and her mom discussed and agreed to. Sydney’s mom has always been over protective. And she learns why when she visits her grandparents beach house. She learns that her mom has been keeping information about her father from her. Her father has schizophrenia. She also learns that there is a chance she could develop symptoms over the next few years. While all of this is going on, she meets a boy, Grayson. She has a crush on him and ends up seeing him while she’s staying with her grandparents. The only problem with her crush on Grayson? He has a girlfriend. He also has a really bitchy cousin. So, I really liked Sydney. She’s anxious all the time, but she doesn’t let her anxiety stop her. She stands up for herself. She has all these doubts about herself, but they don’t really show on the outside. I really liked how Sydney was portrayed and how her emotions and reactions were shown. I don’t have personal experience with schizophrenia so I can’t speak to the accuracy of the representation, but it seemed it be handled thoughtfully from my outside perspective. I thought it was interesting the way that Mason managed to show how everyone reacts differently to mental illness. We see Sydney’s grandparents come to a slow realization that there’s nothing they can do for their son, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t try to help him in any way they can again and again. We see Sydney’s mom listen to her husband when he asks her to let him go. There’s also some really good conversation about the lack of support available for people with mental illnesses, about the unfairness of the courts and prison systems when it comes to caring for people with mental illnesses. I think these topics were well done. Now, the romance with Grayson was the one thing in this story that I didn’t really care for. I think everything that was done could have been left the same, minus Grayson as a romantic interest. I think it could have been a completely platonic relationship and the story would still have had the same effect. I don’t think this needed to be romantic in anyway. I think it would have been an even better story had it just been Sydney’s story about learning to accept herself. Overall, I think this was a really hard hitting and emotional portrayal about what it’s like to have a family member with a mental illness and feeling helpless to help them. I especially liked Sydney’s friends. Eliot is the light of my life and I loved every moment that he was on the page. I also really loved Magda. Magda reminded me of quite a few of my friends from my hometown, which is a beachy town like the one in parts of this book. So, we also get people from other countries that come over on a student visa and work for the summer. I always loved working with them. They, much like Magda were always so interesting and fun to be around. They also always threw the best parties. I think this will be a book that some will really love and others will not. So, take this review with a grain of salt and read it if the topic is one that you can handle.
Summary: A girl walks into a bar… then onto a stage, and up to the mic. Sixteen-year-old Izzy is used to keeping her thoughts to herself—in school, where her boyfriend does the talking for her, and at home, where it’s impossible to compete with her older siblings and high-powered parents—but when she accidentally walks into a stand-up comedy club and performs, the experience is surprisingly cathartic. After the show, she meets Mo, an aspiring comic who’s everything Izzy’s not: bold, confident, comfortable in her skin. Mo invites Izzy to join her group of friends and introduces her to the Chicago open mic scene. The only problem? Her new friends are college students—and Izzy tells them she’s one, too. Now Izzy, the dutiful daughter and model student, is sneaking out to perform stand-up with her comedy friends, and she can hardly remember all the lies she’s telling to keep her two lives separate. Her controlling boyfriend is getting suspicious, and her former best friend knows there’s something going on. But Izzy loves comedy and this newfound freedom. As her two parallel lives collide—in the most hilarious of ways—Izzy must choose to either hide what she really wants and who she really is or, finally, truly stand up for herself.
Review: This Will be Funny Someday is a story that follows Isabel, the youngest child (an unexpected pregnancy for her parents), feels like a pig among a family of puppies, always trying to keep up and never succeeding. She has learned to keep her thoughts to herself, never speaking up. So, this pattern follows with her boyfriend, Alex. He is controlling and abusive, though Isabel hasn’t realized that yet. But when she worries that she’ll get in trouble if he sees her, she sneaks into what she thinks is a restaurant. Isabel has hearing issues. It’s not her ears, but some sort of auditory processing disorder. So, she manages to find her way into a loud club and can’t understand what is being said. Little does she know, she just signed herself up to perform as a stand-up comedian. On stage, she becomes Izzy V. She finds a place where she can use her voice. Izzy meets Mo and some of Mo’s friends. Mo brings Izzy into the stand-up comedy world. I loved all of the parts of this story that had Mo and their friends in it. They were funny because they’re all teaching Izzy about comedy and how to write good jokes. But they’re a diverse group so, they also talk about the struggles of stand-up comedy as a person of color or as someone queer. These are topics Izzy wouldn’t generally have thought of, as she comes from a place of privilege. I thought it was a really great part of the story. Izzy is in a place in her life where she is learning who she is and what kind of person she wants to be. So, learning about the experiences of others is an important thing for her. She doesn’t always act the right way or say the right thing, but I think that was realistic. I didn’t love that she lied about her age, but I think that whole situation was handled well when the truth finally came out. Now, Isabel’s relationship with her boyfriend was not a good one. It wasn’t completely clear from the beginning, but the more we saw of their relationship the more obvious it was that it wasn’t a healthy one. My favorite thing about this book was that when Izzy started wanting to speak up. Through her stand-up routine, she gains confidence. She starts to believe that the things she has to say matter. So, she starts using her voice in other areas of her life. Like her friendships and at school. I think this book does so many things all in one story, but it did them all really well. There are some really tough topics (most obvious is the toxic relationship, but there are also discussions of racism and discrimination). I thought that all of these tough topics were discussed thoughtfully and with care. But take that with a grain of salt, as I am not a part of any of those represented in these conversations (aside from queer and female). I love all of Henry’s work so far and I am very eager to see what she will write next.
Summary: When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true. And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.
Review: Honestly, I don’t even know how to start this review. I read this book in January and it has not left my brain for a single day since then. I’m going to do my best to explain how this book made me feel but I’m apologizing in advance if this is mostly nonsensical. All the Bad Apples follows Deena. Deena is the youngest of three sisters, Mandy and Rachel practically raised Deena, but in different ways. Rachel was the one Deena lived with and she made sure Deena went to school, had clothes that fit, fed her and helped with homework. Rachel was the responsible one and Mandy was the fun one. So, no big surprise that Mandy is the favorite. Well, Deena comes out accidentally to her father on her birthday. When Deena goes running to Mandy for comfort, Mandy enlightens Deena about the family curse. Only days later, Mandy disappears. It’s thought that she’s jumped or fallen off a cliff. But Deena doesn’t believe that Mandy is really gone. So, Deena set’s off to find Mandy and break this family curse. This is where the story really starts. The reader is left with so many questions in those first few chapters. Questions about Mandy, the curse, and how Deena might find her. But as Deena travels, she starts finding letters. In these letters is the family history. The book alternates between following Deena and sharing the family history. I think the combination of these two was so well done. I stayed up reading this way past when I should have gone to sleep because I kept coming to a stopping point at the start of a new bit of family history and I just couldn’t stop reading. Along the way, Deena finds people to accompany her on her journey. Her best friend (who is black and bisexual), a relative that Deena didn’t know existed, and a random girl that the three found in a bar that ends up being connected to the whole story. The way this author connected the characters was so fascinating. I loved learning about why these specific characters had come together for this journey. While these three follow Mandy’s letters they learn of a horrible and devastating history. Deena’s female ancestors were treated horrifically and Deena is determined to break the family curse. She refuses to be another bad apple that’s left to rot on the ground. Overall, I am obsessed with this book. It was written beautifully. I think Fowley-Doyle did such an amazing job weaving the past with the present in this story. I also really appreciate that this book covers some really tough topics, but it does it so well. It does it in a way that shows the horror, but also in a thoughtful way. It wasn’t for shock value or anything, it mattered to this story. I think this is a feminist masterpiece. It covers everything from being queer to getting safe and legal abortions. It was mysterious and gothic, mythological and all too real. It’s an emotional ride about soul searching and learning to speak up for yourself. I cannot say enough good things about this book.