The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban

When Duncan returns to the elite Irving School for his senior year, all he wants to do is forget what happened the year before. His focus, he tells himself, should be on graduating, having fun, and finishing the dreaded “Tragedy Paper”, an assignment traditionally given by Irving’s senior English teacher. However, once Duncan is back on school grounds, nothing goes as it should. He gets the worst room in the dorms, his relationship with almost-girlfriend, Daisy, is weird, and he gets the feeling his friends are treating him differently. Worst of all, Duncan receives a gift from Tim Macbeth, an albino student who was a senior the previous year. Soon, Duncan is sucked into Tim’s last semester at Irving, reliving everything he hoped he’d forget.

I was super disappointed in this one. While it was sort of interesting and I didn’t have a problem finishing it, I also didn’t care that much about it. It has a great set up — Tim leaves CDs for Duncan that tell his story. Creepy, really. But the plot was incredibly predictable, the secrets revealed not that juicy, and just all around meh. If you’d like a quick read that has a little bit of action, go for it. Who knows — you may love it!

Rating: 2.5/5

*YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2014

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

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The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal

In 16th century Scandinavia, superstition rules, and a mysterious illness plagues the royal children, killing them off one by one. In a land where every misfortune is viewed as a sign from God, accusation and suspicions fly surrounding the fate of the young heirs. Told using varying perspectives – including mute servant, Midi Sorte, seamstress, Ava Bingen, and the presumed mad queen, Isabel – Cokal weaves an interesting epic account of intrigue, murder, and deception in the royal court.

I really wasn’t sure what to think about this one at first. There are a ton of really gross parts (violence, descriptions of disease, sexual content) which almost made me want to put it down. But I kept reading, and I’m glad I did. The mystery and intrigue in this book was amazing. I was never sure what was really going to happen, who was telling the truth, or who was going to win in the end. That said, if this book were a movie, it would be rated R. There are a ton of flags and some very adult content, so don’t pick it up if you’re looking for a fairytale. But if it sounds like something you’re interested in, give it a try. I really enjoyed it!

Rating: 4/5

*Printz Honor Book

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

More Than This by Patrick Ness

Seth clearly remembers dying – drowning in the ocean, his head smashed in by a rock. So why is he awake? And where is he? And . . . where is everyone else? Seth wakes from death in what he believes is hell. He’s naked, alone, and the outside world is empty. Horrible memories of his past surface to haunt him – punishment, he believes, for mistakes he made in life. Seth must solve the mystery of this hell, must find an answer to his questions, or be trapped forever, doomed to relive the pain of his past.

This is probably the most weirdly amazing book I’ve read. The science fiction is fantastic, so if you’re a fan, this is a definite must-read. Even if you aren’t a big fan of sci-fi (which I’m not), it’s not so crazy technical or scienc-y that it’s boring or hard to read. Everything is incredibly believable — so much so that you might be wondering if this is where our world is headed. The twists in the novel will blow you away and leave you wanting more. It’s kind of a slow beginning, though, so hang in there — you’ll be glad you did!

However, as amazing as the novel is, the ending was a HUGE letdown for me. Mega cliffhanger. If you’re a reader that needs a nice, neat ending, this one may not satisfy you. But the rest of the book is so awesome that you should read it anyway 🙂

This one has a great book trailer!

Rating: 4/5

*YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2014

*The Kitschies Nominee for Red Tentacle (Novel), 2013

*ALA Rainbow List, 2013

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS), click here.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Elise has known since fourth grade that she was uncool. She never has the right clothes, never says the right things, and devotes herself to weird projects that no one else cares about. Finally, after a spending a summer trying to study her way to “cool” and miserably failing, Elise decides it’s time – to die. But when her suicide attempt fails, Elise is back to being the weird girl – now made even weirder because she tried to kill herself. To Elise, things are worse than ever, that is, until she finds an underground dance club where the music is great and the people accept her. What’s more, she becomes popular as a DJ at the club. Can Elise keep up her new life? Or is it all too good to be true?

If you’re looking for a quick, easy, upbeat read, this is it. There’s music, partying, romance — everything! I enjoyed reading Elise’s transformation, and could really relate to her problems in school. Though largely predictable, I still had a good time reading this one. Pick it up and see if you do too!

Rating: 3.5/5

*YALSA Top Ten Books For Young Adults, Nominee, 2014

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

 

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Set in New York during the roaring 20’s, Bray’s epic novel weaves together the lives of Evie, a flapper determined to find the “good” life, Memphis, a number’s runner with a powerful gift, Theta, a Ziegfeld girl running from her past, and many more. Evie, foremost in the cast of characters, is sent to live with her bachelor uncle in New York after a public embarrassment, and finds herself helping him with a murder investigation. Evie, who boasts the ability to “read” objects, must use her ability to help find the murderer, though a darker mystery looms in the near future.

This one was not my favorite. I had high hopes, as I know Libba Bray won the Printz for Going Bovine, but this was a real letdown. First of all, it’s incredibly long (578 pages). I don’t mind length if the story is really good, but Bray filled up most of these pages with back-story that wasn’t necessary to plot development, and lengthy descriptive prose. If I want to read a whole two pages about what the wind “feels”, I’ll pick up Dickens. Aside from wordiness, Bray also riddles the text with 1920’s slang. I think she was trying to add legitimacy, but the constant “-ski’s” and “pie face’s” got annoying. I just really expected better.

That said, once Bray finally got down to business, the murder mystery/serial killer hunting was fantastic. There were points that were really exciting, and I definitely wanted to see how the novel ended. The ending was another let-down, though. Oh well. As always, just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean you won’t, so if you’re a fan on the ’20’s, murder mysteries, or ghost stories, give this one a try!

This one has a great book trailer!

Rating: 2.5/5

*YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2013

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Cady Sinclair comes from an established, wealthy family. They spend their summers on a private island off the coast of New England, where Cady and her close group of cousins, The Liars, thoughtlessly spend their days. But one summer Cady has a terrible accident, the result of which gives her terrible migraines and has wiped out most of her memory of the summer. In We Were Liars, Cady must remember what happened, discover why everyone is lying to her, or remain forever broken and alone.

Wow! We Were Liars is simply amazing. It’s not too long, packed with great dialogue, and has a twist that will blow you away. Seriously. Usually I can see twists coming, but this one really surprised me. There’s also a lot to think about while reading — class differences, prejudice, greed, romance, you name it. I’m surprised that Lockhart accomplished so much in less than 250 pages, but she did! Keep your eye on this one! I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s headed for some awards!

Rating: 5/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

Accustomed to a life in which he must steal to survive, orphan, Sage, is surprised when a mysterious nobleman, Conner, buys him from his orphanage. Even more surprising is that Conner bought three other orphans, all of whom must compete for the prize of a lifetime – the crown of the kingdom of Carthya. Conner’s plan is to use one of his orphans to pose as the believed dead son of Carthya’s king – a son who would inherit the throne. Now Sage finds himself pitted against three other boys, playing a deadly game that ends either on the throne, or in the grave.

I picked this one up because of how well this series has taken off. As popular as it is, though, I was disappointed. I liked the setting (a medieval fantasy without magic), the characters, and the plot set up, but the plot “twist” was a major letdown. I was not surprised at all, and was a little upset that the twist event was what the whole book built up to. That said, once I got over my twist hate, the ending was entertaining and well done. It certainly made me curious as to what happened next. In fact, the ending is what pushed this book to three stars instead of two and a half (which is what I was leaning towards). Pick it up and see if you agree!

Oh! And this one is in development to become a movie! Keep an eye out for it!

Rating: 3/5

**YALSA Best Books for Teens, 2013

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.