If I Stay by Gayle Forman

While out for a drive with her family during an unexpected day off, Mia’s entire world comes crashing down around her. The family’s car is hit by a pickup truck, killing her mother and father instantly. Mia and her younger brother are rushed to the hospital, barely alive. Mia witnesses the fight to save her life from outside her body and must decide: stay, though it means a world without those she loved most, or let go. Through a series of flashbacks and bedside visits, Mia’s choice becomes increasingly painful. But there is no middle ground, and Mia is the only one who can decide.

Though I found parts of the novel to be unrealistic, overall this was a great read. It’s super short, but packed with emotion and suspense. Not all of the characters are easy to relate to, and you may not even like some of them, but Mia alone is enough to make you keep reading until you find out what she decides. If you’re in the mood for a tear-jerker, this might be the book for you. And, if you have to know what happens after the cliff-hanger ending (I do!), pick up the sequel, Where She Went. Also, this one was recently made into a movie! Here are the links to the IMDB page and the movie trailer. Remember, it’s short enough to read before you watch the move, so give it a shot!

Rating: 4.5/5

*YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, 2010

*South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Young Adult Book Award, 2011

*YALSA Teens’ Top Ten, 2010; Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee, 2012

*NAIBA Book of the Year for Children’s Literature, 2009

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

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Karou’s entire life is a mystery. Raised by a family of other-worldly creatures, Karou has no idea of her true parentage, and can’t get any answers from her unusual family about their placement in the human world. Though she fills her days attending art school, sketching, and running dangerous, mysterious errands, Karou can’t seem to shake the feeling that she was meant for more than her life’s current path. When Karou meets the gorgeous but deadly Akiva, her suspicions are confirmed. Karou must find a way to make sense of her life, or risk losing everyone she loves.

This book was recommended to me several times, but I always skipped it because I thought it sounded too weird. I was wrong. This was amazing! The creatures in the novel are so creative, and the action kept me turning the pages long after I should have been sleeping. The first half of the novel does seem a little long, but stick with it — the ending is so worth it. If you’re a fan of fantasy at all, give this one a shot. And, even if you don’t like fantasy, this one has enough action and romance to make up for the magic. I’ll definitely be checking out the next two: Days of Blood and Starlight (2), and Dreams of Gods and Monsters (3).

Rating: 4.5/5

*Audie Award for Fantasy, 2012

*Children’s Choice Book Award Nominee for Teen Choice Book of the Year, 2012

*The Inky Awards Nominee for Silver Inky, 2012

*Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee, 2014

*Andre Norton Award Nominee for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2011

*YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012

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

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Tally Youngblood lives in a perfect world: there’s no crime, violence, or even arguments. The best part is that, at age 16, each citizen undergoes an operation to turn them “pretty”. Along with getting to spend the rest of your life beautiful, pretties get to live in a different town where their only job is to have fun. Tally can’t wait to turn pretty and go to parties with her best friend, Peris. But when Tally’s new friend, Shay starts questioning the operation, Tally’s entire world is turned upside-down. Tally must find Shay or risk staying ugly forever.

I know this one is old, and I’m probably the last person finally getting around to reading it, but, if you haven’t read it, you should. I’m usually a fan of anything Scott Westerfeld does, and Uglies is no exception. There’s action, drama, romance, a twist — everything you could want! The science fiction is really creative without being too hard to understand, and the ending definitely left me wanting to finish the series. If you’re looking for the next book, the order is: Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Extras. Why hasn’t there been a movie of this yet?! Also, if you’re looking for more Westerfeld, check out his Leviathan series.

Rating: 4/5

*Golden Duck Award for Hal Clement Award for Young Adult, 2006

*South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Young Adult Book Award, 2008

*Georgia Peach Honor Book Award, 2008

*Abraham Lincoln Award, 2007

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

Looks by Madeline George

Meghan Ball and Aimee Zorn could not be more different. Meghan is extremely overweight, constantly persecuted by her classmates, and spends her time trying to be invisible. Aimee is the new girl in school, a poet, and has a litany of food “allergies” she uses to explain her anorexia. Despite their differences, Meghan feels drawn to Aimee, and wants to protect her from people she mistakenly believes are her friends. Aimee, however, is repulsed by Meghan and wants nothing to do with her. Together, the two must overcome their inner flaws to see each other as they really are.

I really enjoy Madeleine George’s writing, and I loved The Difference Between You and Me. Unfortunately, this book just isn’t as great. The story is interesting, the characters have some depth, but the ending leaves SO many loose ends. Sometimes I don’t mind an open ending, as I like to come up with my own, but I just had too many questions at the end of this novel. If you’re looking for a high-school “mean girl”-esque story, give this one a shot, but its ending may leave you disappointed. Aside from the beautiful writing style of George, there’s no real wow factor here.

Rating: 3/5

* ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 2009

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