Trouble by Non Pratt

Aaron is the new kid in school. Surrounded by an air of mystery because no one can figure out why he switched schools halfway through the year, Aaron is unexpectedly swept into the popular crowd, where he meets Hannah. Hannah is in trouble. Though usually careful with birth control, Hannah finds herself pregnant and unwilling to disclose the identity of the father. The news of her pregnancy only further fuels Hannah’s manufactured reputation as the schools “bicycle”, and a wave of bullying ensues, casting Hannah out of the popular circle. Despite Hannah’s new status, Aaron steps up with an offer – he’ll volunteer to be the father of Hannah’s baby, even though he’s not, and even though it means his social life is over.

This book is a slap in the face of British. Get ready for British slang, dialect, customs, etc. That’s not a bad thing at all, but if you’re unaccustomed to these things (as I was), it can take a few chapters to get used to. Once you get used to it, though, this book is great. I picked it up because of the premise: boy volunteers to be teenage girl’s baby daddy even when he’s not? Yes, please. Also, the story of Hannah’s real baby daddy is crazy. Aaron also has a deep, dark back-story that is incredibly compelling. There’s a lot to love in these characters, even when they’re being idiots, and you won’t want to put this book down. Definitely one of the best I’ve read in a while. That said, this one has some pretty mature content, so be prepared if you want to try it out. Check out the flags if you’re not sure.

Rating: 4/5

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

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Though a time traveling gene runs in Gwen’s family, everyone believes it has been passed to Gwen’s cousin, Charlotte. Charlotte is trained in the secrets of the Montrose family, learning the art of time travel survival and prepped for the mission she must help complete. As the family’s hopes are vested in Charlotte, naturally everything goes awry when Gwen starts suddenly throttling through time instead of her accomplished cousin. Unprepared, untrained, and paired with smug co-traveler, Gideon, Gwen must replace Charlotte as the next time-traveler – the Ruby – and complete the family’s dangerous quest.

I tend to skip the books that get a lot of hype (they usually turn out disappointing), but I was surprised with how good this one was! It’s got action, intrigue, romance, mystery — I had trouble putting it down! While some of the characters are flat, and I did feel that Gwen was a bit too dependent on her male, co-time-traveler, the story really was interesting and entertaining. I’ll be checking out the next two in the series, Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green for sure. Pick this one up if you’re at all a fan of time-travel books or adventure!

Rating: 4.5/5

*YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012

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

The List by Siobhan Vivian

Each year, an infamous list emerges in Washington High naming the prettiest and ugliest girl in each grade. No one knows who makes the list, but its implications are irrefutable. The named ugliest girls are shamed for the rest of the year, the prettiest are sought after and adored. The rest are ignored, left to their jealousy or relief, hoping that next year will (or won’t) be their turn. Vivian’s The List describes the brutal fallout from the mysterious document, following each girl as the list makes (or breaks) her high school future.

Not my favorite. I had high hopes for this one based on the premise, and I did get interested in a few places, but this was overall a fail. There are too many characters, too many switches in perspectives, and the book is extremely similar to the Mean Girls movie. Also, the ending is so sudden that I was sure there would be a sequel, but I couldn’t find one. If it sounds interesting you, give it a shot, but I was extremely disappointed.

Rating: 2/5

* YALSA Reader’s Choice Booklist, 2013

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

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

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Virginia struggles to find a place for her imperfect self in a perfect family. Though her beautiful parents and siblings seem to have everything going for them, Virginia hates her body, and can’t seem to keep up the trophy-winning, record-setting, or ladder-climbing tradition her family keeps. Between her mother’s constant criticism, her best friend’s move across the country, and her weirdly defined relationship with Froggy the fourth, Virginia’s world is in a constant state of tension. Somehow, she must find a way to accept herself, regardless of anyone else’s opinion.

I really liked this book. It was funny at times, heartbreaking at others, and incredibly relatable. If you’ve ever hated the way you look, or dealt with unreasonable parents, you will understand Virginia’s problems. I loved watching her change in perspective throughout the novel. Though Mackler’s book isn’t full of suspense, it’s definitely a good read that deals with some important issues. A great pick if you’re fan of realistic fiction, or need a break from fantasy/dystopia!

Rating: 4/5

*Printz Honor Book, 2004

*YALSA Top Ten Teen Fiction, 2004

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

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

In her characteristic hard-hitting style, Hopkins weaves together the storylines of four high-schoolers, all striving to achieve that elusive quality: perfection. Sean is a phenomenal athlete, set on going to Stanford to play baseball, but believes he needs steroids to get the performance he wants. Kendra will do anything to achieve her modeling dream, including starve herself to emaciation. Cara wants to escape her parents’ demanding standards – standards which drove her brother, Conner, to attempt suicide. Andre dreams of becoming a dancer, but can’t find a way to make that profession fit into his parents’ expectations of corporate greatness. During their last year of high school, these teens find their goal of perfection tested to the max, and everything they thought was truth to be questioned. What they do with their new perceptions of reality will shape the rest of their lives, as they must answer: what does perfection really mean?

This book is the second in Hopkins’ Impulse series. While it received many positive reviews, I was largely unimpressed. Don’t get me wrong — it was good! It just wasn’t great. This is my third Hopkins novel, and so I think the constant heavy issues are starting to become predictable for me. I understand that not every teenager has the picture-perfect life, and that many teens do experience the issues Hopkins writes about. But I’m at the point with her books now that I pick them up expecting the worst possible things to happen, they do, and I’m bored. Making bad things happen all the time can be just as boring and predictable as making good things happen all the time. I’d just like a little variety. That said, if you’re a Hopkins fan, this won’t disappoint. If you haven’t read Hopkins, make sure you prepare for some seriously heavy issues and a non-neat ending. Check out the flags if you’re not sure this is a book for you.

Rating: 3/5

*YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2011
For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS), click here.

All the Truth That’s In Me

After being held captive for two years by a man presumed dead, Judith returns to her village forever changed. Not only has she lost her childhood, but her captor cut out her tongue before allowing her to leave home. Barely tolerated by her mother and bullied by her younger brother, Judith must make her way in a world that fears and shames her. Despite these circumstances, Judith knows she is luckier than her best friend Lottie, who did not return home from the experience alive. Judith knows the truth of what happened to Lottie, the truth of the dark secrets of her village, and she must find a voice to reveal them before she is forced into silence forever.

I was a little surprised by how much I liked this book. I didn’t know until I started reading it that it was historical fiction (pre-revolution colonial America), and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Additionally, the mystery surrounding what happened to Judith and Lottie seemed straightforward, but there was a great twist at the end! The characters are all believable and each has their own “demons” to fight. I also really appreciated how strong Judith is. Living in a world that thinks you’re worthless can’t be easy, but she finds ways to cope. Overall this is a well-written, interesting novel that leaves a lot to think about.

Rating: 4/5

*Carnegie Medal in Literature Nominee, 2014
*YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2014
For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.