Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Rating: 5* stars
Jordan Sun is a first generation Asian-American girl on full scholarship at a performing arts centered boarding school. She is tall, broad bodied, and has a deep singing voice. Her concentration is in theater, but she never gets any parts because she doesn’t fit in the stereotypical female roles and her voice is too deep for even the ensemble parts. When the most prestigious of the campus male acapella groups sends out an email with word that they need to fill an open spot that just happens to fit her range, she comes up with the crazy idea to dress up as a boy and audition. And of course, she gets in. Which leads to an entire semester of desperately trying to hide her femininity, while also realizing how much more herself she feels when acting like a boy.
I expected this to be a very light-hearted and pretty straight forward YA novel. Girl dresses as boy, falls for another boy in the group, has some sort of embarrassing moment that leads to boy discovering girl is actually girl, and they eventually end up together. And in a way, that is what happens. But Jordan really has a lot of introspective moments as she starts becoming Julian, her male counterpart. She feels more comfortable in her skin, confident in who she truly is. She begins to question her own sexuality through a lot of confusing encounters. It’s interesting and heartfelt and a journey I loved being taken on.
Overall, I really loved this book. Jordan was a great character, but I really fell for all of the supporting roles – the seven other boys in the a capella group. They had such distinct and delightful personalities. And while you can assume that Jordan will eventually fall for one of them, I was really kept guessing on which one it would be because they were all so wonderful. The only thing that really bothered me is that Jordan is a female, in high school, in a boarding school. She is dressed as a boy more than half of her day. And yet nobody ever sees her going in and out of her female dorm room. We’re given an explanation why she never mixes with the guys during the day – she’s in the theater area and they’re in the music or visual arts areas. It was a minor thing, but it did seem a bit unbelievable. But besides that – I loved it! It might not be for everyone, especially if you’re not super into YA. But I highly recommend Noteworthy. It was one of my favorites of the year!
Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West
Rating: 4.5 stars
Abby is a 17 year old teenager who is completely in love with her best friend Cooper. She confessed to him a year before and he was so shocked that she played it off as a joke. She didn’t want to lose their friendship and decided to continue on as if the words were never spoken. This summer she finds herself alone with Cooper as their two other best friends are out of the country and unavailable. They spend all their time together and her feelings continue getting stronger. In the meantime, Abby is working at museum and trying to get her paintings into an art show that would guarantee her a spot at a creative winter camp. The man in charge of the show, also her boss, tells her that she doesn’t have enough heart and her paintings are too one dimensional. This forces Abby to write a list of all the things she could do over the summer to grow her heart and produce paintings worthy of the opportunity.
One of the reasons I really enjoyed this book was due to the witty and sarcastic dialog between almost all of the characters. Abby lives with her mom and her grandfather and her dad is fighting in Iraq. Her mom is nearly agoraphobic, but also a loving and supportive member of the family. But her grandpa is hilarious and plays a huge role in her life. The friendship between Abby and Cooper is light and fun, but it’s hard to understand how Cooper can treat her so wonderfully and still not return her feelings, or at least acknowledge them. I liked list they created to grow their hearts and the adventures that took them on. It was a tender hearted yet laugh out loud kind of book that also brought to commiserating tears.
Overall, this is one of Kasie West’s bests. I love all of her books, but this one felt particularly delightful. I highly recommend it.
My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff
Rating: 5 stars
I’ve fallen behind on my book reviews. 🙁 I’ve fallen behind on all of my blog posts the last few weeks. Sewing deadlines have taken over my life. I finally finished those and now I’m on to wrapping and baking and getting everything ready for Christmas. So I’m making the decision to skip writing in depth reviews on the last few books I’ve read. But I wanted to start back up again with this book I finished today because I loved it! And if you’re looking for a lighthearted and sweet holiday read, this would be perfect.
Charlie (Charlotte) is co-editor of the high school newspaper and an overachieving perfectionist to a tee. She has zero tolerance for people breaking the rules or being late for anything. She develops a crush on the school’s most popular star student and athlete, Teo. She decides to rig the paper’s Secret Santa exchange so she can get Teo gifts that prove how perfect they are for each other. The only problem is that Charlie has no idea what Teo likes. So she solicits help from Teo’s cousin J.D. – also known as the most annoying person in the world. J.D. has been a constant headache to her as the paper’s photographer and is late to every meeting, driving her insane. But for the sake of Christmas, Charlie and J.D. are forced to spend a lot of time together coming up with the perfect combination of gifts that will win Teo’s heart. A friendship eventually emerges and Charlie’s heart begins to turn.
This book is pretty much a perfect YA romance for me. If you love YA as much as I do, you’ll like this book – guaranteed. It was lighthearted and funny and J.D. was an absolute delight! Charlie definitely had her faults, but they were things I could relate to. I also loved the genuine friendship she sheared with her best friend throughout the story. I feel like so many holiday books revolve around someone being grumpy and anti-Christmas. This was a refreshing twist with everyone excited and full of Christmas spirit. I also loved that so much of the book was about finding the perfect gifts for the Secret Santa exchanges. I adore gift giving and it was fun to read about people who found as much joy in it as I do.
Overall, I loved this book. It was one of my favorites of the year! I think it’ll definitely be a re-read every December. One of my favorite parts about the book was the almost constant interaction between Charlie and J.D. That made the whole story a lot more entertaining and fast paced. It was such a sweet book that will bring anyone a smile this Christmas!
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (audiobook version)
Rating: 4.5 stars
I decided to give fiction audiobooks another try after hearing so many rave reviews about The Hate U Give. I’m sure I would have eventually read it because it’s being talked about everywhere, but the audio version was definitely worth the time I put into it (over eleven hours).
That being said – this is a hard book to read. It will challenge you, the way you think about everything. It’s about Starr, a 16 year old black girl who lives in a very rough neighborhood with her parents, older half brother, and younger brother. When she’s at home she’s Garden Heights Starr, black girl with black friends and a black family. But she goes to a predominately white prep school an hour away with her white boyfriend and white friends. She constantly feels split between her two worlds. Near the beginning of the book she is the sole witness to the death of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Six years earlier she witnessed the death of her other best friend by a drive by shooter. This horrific event spurs everything that happens for the rest of the book.
Overall, this is a very powerful and poignant book with a very strong voice. As a white woman in an almost entirely white small town, it was pretty eye opening. And heartbreaking. It’s so easy to judge the people that live in these kinds of neighborhoods, surrounded by drugs and thugs and violence. Dismiss them, group them together, push them out of your mind if you’re not in the middle of it. But this book brings everything to the surface, really pushing you to pay attention and want to join the fight for change. I loved learning more about Starr and was so intrigued by her family dynamics. It was hard for me to reconcile her loving father with the man he was before she was born. It really goes to show how powerful love and family can be, no matter what your external circumstances.
I thought this was a fantastic book. But it’s not something I necessarily enjoyed listening to. It was heavy, for sure. I had to take a day break in between huge chunks of listening. But I think it’s important and something that everybody should be required to read.
Warcross by Marie Lu
Rating: 3.5 stars
Emika is a penniless, orphaned bounty hunter. Days away from being evicted from her apartment, she desperately hacks her way into a worldwide virtual reality game called Warcross and is instantly famous. She is immediately whisked away to Tokyo to meet with Hideo, the billionaire creator of Warcross who inspired her to make something of herself when her dad died seven years earlier. Hideo asks Emika to join the Warcross games with the additional duty of finding out who else has been hacking into their elaborate security systems. She is recruited to a team with members she does not fully trust. She struggles to learn how to work in that team, while also having feelings for Hideo.
Much of this book takes place in a virtual world. In that regard, it’s very similar to Ready Player One. Which really isn’t my genre. Lu does it well, but I also read through the intricately laid out scenes wishing it’s something I could just see on a screen, instead of trying to visualize everything. When people are constantly seeing each other and interacting through virtual reality, I can never stop thinking about what’s going on with their real life bodies in the meantime. At any rate, this also comes across as a bit of a dystopian novel, which I do like reading about. It was all done very well, and ends with a little twist that leaves you hanging for the second book.
Overall, I’d recommend this book to anybody who enjoys young adult dystopian/sci-fi fiction. The storyline is interesting and the characters are intriguing. I like how Emika’s teammates come through to help her in the end, even though she wasn’t much of a team player herself before that point. I like seeing her learn to trust people, despite how hard her childhood has been. I greatly look forward to the sequel coming next year to get some closure on where the characters are left at the end of Warcross.
Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
Rating: 3 stars
Tanner is an 18 year old bisexual kid whose family moved to a very Mormon community in Utah and he is forced to go back into the closet. His family is aware and extremely accepting of his sexuality, but they live in fear that the community will find out and he will end up hurt. Tanner has a best friend Autumn who is not to secretly in love with him. Tanner and Autumn take a seminar their last semester of high school that requires them to write a full length book by the end. Helping teach the class is Sebastian, son of the local bishop, a boy whose book from the year before is about to be published. Tanner and Sebastian immediately feel a connection and begin to explore the possibility of the relationship they’d truly want with each other.
The main theme of this book is being comfortable with your own sexuality and learning how to deal with it if people will not accept you for who you are. Tanner is fortunate that his family is incredibly supportive of him and they have excellent relationships with each other. Sebastian is highly religious and though he knows that he’s never been attracted to a girl, he refuses to admit that he might actually be gay. Coming out – and acting on said attraction – would ostracize him from his family and his LDS community. The boys struggle with their extreme attraction to each other, while needing to keep their relationship in secret, living in fear of the wrong person finding out.
This book definitely has some heartbreaking moments. It makes you think about the kind of person you would aspire to be if your own son/brother/friend came out as gay or bisexual. Tanner’s parents’ accepting nature lead them to an amazing family dynamic, whereas Sebastian even suggesting the possibility of him being attracted to men leads to his entire family giving him the silent treatment for weeks. It’s really sad. Overall, the storyline made for some great YA. I just wasn’t extremely interested in all the LDS stuff, which makes up a pretty big portion of the book.
Truly Madly Famously by Rebecca Serle
Rating: 4 stars
This sequel to Famous in Love takes place immediately following the first book. Paige and Rainer are together, but Paige is having serious doubts. Rainer is struggling with holding his image together after the scandal with his father. In a drunken moment of stupidity, Paige calls Jordan for help and they’re photographed in a compromising position. All of their reputations are immediately ruined as fans either turn against them for destroying their perfect on and off camera romance or are rooting for the love triangle to really play out.
Much like the first book, Paige has a pretty good idea of what she really wants, but she believes that true love is all about sacrificing what she desires the most. She is ruled so strongly by her public image and her passionate desire to keep all of her fans happy. She continues to struggle with wanting both Rainer and Jordan in her life, even though she realizes the difference in roles she wishes they would play. She’s constantly musing and introspective and honestly a little bit full of herself and just how important she really is.
Overall, I enjoyed this sequel. I was frustrated with Paige and how badly she wanted Jordan and seemed to think that it automatically meant she wasn’t supposed to have him. They had some heated moments which definitely steamed things up. I didn’t feel any chemistry with Rainer in this book and wish their rollercoaster emotions didn’t rule so much of the story. But if you’re in the mood for some quick and fun YA books, this is a good series to try. But do yourself a favor and do NOT watch the tv show at the same time. You’ll find yourself constantly wondering WHYYYYYY they changed so many things! I was more about the tv show’s story at first, but now I really wish it had gone the route of the book. Except I don’t like the tv’s Jordan. Or Rainer. So maybe I should just stop watching. 🙂 Read the books, though!
Without Merit by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 5 stars
I have to preface this book review by explaining my love for Colleen Hoover. So, I don’t usually read books in the actual romance genre. They always feel so shallow and unrealistic and I’m not interested in reading about people that just jump into bed together five seconds after they meet. Colleen Hoover romances, however? They are AMAZING. I’m not even sure if her books are usually categorized as romances. A lot of them might tread into YA waters. But intense YA. Very romantic YA. But the characters are always written so well. They have flaws, they have hopes, they are fleshed out and easy to identify with, no matter their story. And when they get together with the other love interest? Actual sparks will fly. Hoover writes love scenes that are so tantalizingly delicious without being corny and cliche. Bottom line? Read her books. ALL OF THEM. I don’t think I’ve ever rated any of her books below a 4.5. And I’m pretty stingy with my 5 star ratings! Slammed is the first one I read and still my absolute favorite. November 9 was another very memorable one. But they’re all fantastic. Read them.
Okay, all that being said – Without Merit isn’t actually a romance book. I was a little thrown off by the amazon description when I realized a few weeks ago she had a new book coming out. But I was sure it would still be a hit no matter what the subject matter, and I was right. This book is about Merit, a 17 year old girl who belongs to a pretty bizarre family. She lives with her dad, her step-mom who she hates, her older brother Utah, twin sister Honor, little half brother Moby, step-uncle who is only a few years older than her Luck, and Honor’s boyfriend, Sagan. Oh, and her agoraphobic mother lives in their basement. The Voss family is full of eccentricities and Merit holds a lot of judgement against all of them. As a person, she’s pretty flawed as you watch her learn to understand that she’s depressed and actually at fault for a lot of their family’s anger and drama. She’s not always a particularly likeable character, but you can also relate to how many times she says things she instantly regrets and has to live with the shame and embarrassment that comes with it.
While the main theme does not revolve around romance, it does exist! At the beginning of the book Sagan (before he lives with them and knows they are twins) mistakes Merit for being Honor and kisses her. This sparks a bit of infatuation on Merit’s part and she has to deal with wanting what she can’t have. Their relationship is one of the driving forces behind the book and what really pushes Merit to see that she needs help.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I’m never quite sure how I feel about domestic/family life books. They’re not something I’m usually drawn to initially, but I rarely regret actually reading them. I loved all of the characters. I enjoyed watching the family members interact with each other and thought Luck and Sagan’s presence was so essential to making the story great. It was a little hard to understand how a dad who is “doing his best” doesn’t actually have a problem with the way his kids are living. But I like how they begin to resolve their family craziness at the end. I’m definitely recommending this book. And all the rest of her books while you’re at it!
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
Rating: 3.5 stars
Lucy is the daughter of two parents who spend most of their time traveling overseas for work and pleasure. Owen is the son of a new apartment manager, who is struggling with grief over the death of his mother. They live in the same New York City apartment building and finally meet while stuck in an elevator during a citywide blackout. They have an instant connection and spend the night talking to each other on the roof of their building gazing at the stars. The next day circumstances beyond their control take them apart from each other, but they keep in touch by sending the occasional postcard – an inside joke they have from their overnight conversation.
Throughout the book, Lucy moves all over Europe and Owen moves all over the western states. They drop a postcard to each other every time they move and occasionally write emails. They begin other relationships, but never forget each other. They feel powerfully connected to each other, even though they had so little time to get to know each other.
Overall, I felt like this book had a lot of potential. I loved the beginning when they met and seemed so good for each other. They weren’t living under the best circumstances, but they both made the most of it and looked out for the people in their families. But for so much of the book they were apart! It’s hard to really feel invested and deeply root for characters that never have any interaction. I didn’t see have any of that spark I so often long for in juicy YA romances. I liked the characters, but the book just didn’t hit me where I had hoped.
Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse
Rating: 3 stars
In this book, 17 year old Sophia is counting down her final days of living in Tokyo before she has to move back to the States after a four year stay. She’s upset about leaving the only friends she’s ever had, but determined to make the most of her final days. Until she finds out Jamie, a boy she knew years before, is on his way back to Tokyo. Jamie and Sophia parted on terrible terms three years ago after a missent text and haven’t spoken since. You travel along with Sophia as she spends full days and nights reliving her best memories of Tokyo and making new ones with her best friends – and Jamie.
It might have something to do with the last book I read also being a countdown to some inevitable tragedy. But I did not enjoy the premise of this book at all. I thought the misunderstanding between Sophia and Jamie that happened when they were only 13 and 14 years old, was a little bit ridiculous. And the way they suddenly jump into a relationship despite how many times Sophia says she hates Jamie, was kind of unbelievable. I liked Jamie. And it was vaguely interesting to learn about their favorite spots around Tokyo. But there were also a lot of allusions to other big topics that were not fully explained. If this book eventually has a sequel, I think I’d like it better.
Overall, Seven Days of You felt pretty mediocre to me. I was interested enough to keep going, but it was not be memorable. Nothing about any of the characters truly sparked my investment. If you’ve been to Tokyo or are interested in it, this might be a fast and fun YA for you. If you’re not, I’d say skip it. There are plenty of better ones out there.