City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

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The third book of the Mortal Instruments series finds Clary, Jace, and the Shadowhunters reeling from Valentine’s massive attack in the mortal world. Though he’s hiding in Irdis, Valentine remains no less deadly, and the Shadowhunters know that it’s only a matter of time before he attacks again — especially since he has two of the mortal instruments. Jace leaves Clary to the safety of the mortal world to find and fight Valentine in Irdis, but Clary uses her newly developed power to follow him anyway. In Irdis, Jace and Clary learn startling truths, and the lives of both nephilim and downworlders are changed forever.

This was definitely my favorite book in the series! So much happens! As with some of the other books, I predicted the “big” twist early on, but there were a lot of other unexpected turns I wasn’t expecting which made up for that. Without spoiling things too much, this book had probably the MOST satisfying “burn” scene in it. You’ll know it when you get there. If you loved the first two books, keep reading! If you were meh about the first two, this one certainly picks things up.

*YALSA Teen’s Top Ten, 2010

Rating: 4/5

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

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Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

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While WWII raged, Lina and her family lead normal lives in Lithuania. But Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, begins exerting his force on other nations, deporting those he feels are not Soviets. One night, the Soviet soldiers crash into Lina’s house, taking her, her mother, and her younger brother into captivity. Separated from her father, Lina and the rest of her family are shipped like cattle to a work camp. They are charged as criminals and sentenced to work to pay off their “crimes”. Around Lina, the other prisoners begin to die of fatigue, disease, starvation, and hypothermia. Somehow, though others around her beg for death, Lina and her family must hold on to hope — that someday they will be allowed to go home.

What I liked about this book is that it IS a Holocaust/WWII book, but it isn’t about the Jews in Germany. It’s told from the perspective of a teenager in Lithuania during Stalin’s aggression on neighboring countries. What’s really interesting is that Stalin (and the USSR) were allied powers — the ones fighting Hitler. So, even though the USSR was one of the “good guys”, Stalin was invading other countries and deporting the citizens to work camps. It’s pretty sad. And, it IS a sad book, so it’s maybe not the best pick if you’re looking for something warm and fuzzy. But, if you’re looking for a tear-jerker with an interesting historical perspective, this one might be it.

Rating: 3.5/5

*Golden Kite Award for Fiction, 2012

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

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

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Though her mom is a former beauty queen, Willowdean couldn’t be further from your typical pageant contestant. Much to her mother’s constant disappointment, Willowdean is a fat girl. But she  doesn’t care. Willowdean is totally comfortable in her own skin. So comfortable, in fact, that she decides to enter the town’s beauty pageant regardless of other people’s opinions of her. But pageant life isn’t as simple as Willowdean believed it to be, and soon she’s battling more than just the mean whispers of other girls. Somehow, Willowdean must sort out the pieces of her jumbled life — from an unrequited love, a distant best friend, a missing aunt, and a group of new friends with pageant fever.

While I wasn’t as impressed with this book as I thought I’d be, it’s still pretty good. I liked that this book isn’t about Willowdean trying to lose weight in order to be attractive to others. Now, she still has a ton of other self-confidence issues that DO involve her weight (whether she realizes it or not), but she isn’t trying to diet herself to death. There are other  good things about the book too — Willowdean’s relationship with her best friend, El, her new pageant friends, and her roller coaster love life. If you like realistic fiction stand-alones, this is a solid pick.

Rating: 3.5/5

*YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2016

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