The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne

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When her best friend, Hannah, comes out as gay, Daisy decides to make her a new “cause”. Daisy joins her school’s alliance group and begins brainstorming ways to make Hannah’s coming out as supportive as possible. First item on the list is changing a school rule that students cannot bring same sex dates to school dances. Met with resistance by the school board, Daisy and the alliance group begin planning counterattacks. But, to Daisy’s surprise, Hannah doesn’t seem to be that interested in Daisy’s efforts. What’s more, Hannah is dating Daisy’s arch-nemesis, a girl who has made Daisy’s life miserable since grade school. Somehow, Daisy must come to terms with the tumultuous changes in her life, save the school dance, and win her best friend back.

This is, hands down, the best book I’ve read in a while. Other reviews will tell you that Daisy is hard to read because she’s awful. While that opinion is not untrue (Daisy is selfish and flawed), I’m impressed with the character growth that happens with her by the end of the book. And, even if you hate Daisy, the other characters more than make up for her flaws. With the strong cast and super relevant issues, this book gives you a lot to think about. The plot, though predictable, is entertaining and engaging. I was constantly reading to find out what happened! While this may not be the most “academically weighty” book you will read, it’s certainly a great one, and I highly recommend it.

Rating: 5/5

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

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Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

 

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When Lina’s mother dies of cancer, her last wish is for Lina to live in Italy with her biological father — a man Lina has never met. Now, after sixteen years of no contact, Lina must completely uproot her life, leaving her remaining family, friends, and school behind to live with a man who runs a cemetery. In Italy, Lina is determined that her visit will only last the summer. But, after receiving a journal from her mother written during her stay in Italy, Lina decides the mystery surrounding her mom’s early life must be solved. Why did her mother leave this journal for her? What message is she trying to send? As Lina tries to unravel her mother’s Italian past, adventures ensue — complete with new friends, enemies, loves, and, of course, gelato.

Super, super cute!! I will admit, the plot is predictable, but the story itself is really fun to read. The characters are great, and I especially liked that we got to read what Lina’s was experiencing, as well as what her mother experienced through her journal. The book has just the right mix of happy/sad feels, and that’s hard to do. Also, there’s Italy. If I didn’t want to go to Italy before reading this book (and I totally did), I definitely want to go now. If you’re in the mood for an light-but-kind-of-sad, romantic-y read, give this one a try. It’s worth it!

Rating: 4/5

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

 

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh

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Gigi has always had her life spelled out for her — get good grades, do her homework, go to a good school, etc.. But, when she and her sister, Didi, move to a new town, Gigi is determined to start living her life the way she wants to live it. In her new school, Gigi makes a plan to make lots of friends, join in the with popular crowd, and actually have fun. At first, Gigi’s new set of goals works perfectly. But soon she is faced with school drama, frenemies, and secrets from her and Didi’s past coming back to haunt her. Can Gigi rise above these obstacles to become her “most successful” self?

I was really expecting to be bored by this book, but it was SO good. Yes, it’s a cute, easy, read, but it has a surprising amount of depth, and the characters are the best. Gigi, of course, if one of my favorites. She’s smart, funny, and gets herself into some crazy scenarios. Perhaps the best part about this book are the recipes! If you love to cook, you’ll love having the opportunity to make the dishes Gigi talks about all the time. Also, don’t be fooled by the book’s cuteness. There are some serious plot twists — just wait until the end! If you’re a fan of realistic fiction, cooking, for “school drama books”, this book is for you. It may or may not be required to eat treats while reading it 🙂

*Lonestar, 2016

Rating: 5/5

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

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

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For most of her life, Lara Jean has lived in the shadow of her older sister, Margo. But when Margo leaves for college, Lara Jean is left with the role of oldest sister living at home, and the pressure is demanding. Just when she thought her junior year couldn’t get more complicated, Lara Jean finds out that her secret love letters, ones she’d written to old crushes, have been mailed out. Now Lara Jean has to do some real damage control as her romantic life spins out of control. The ensuing schemes and antics make this “rom-com” read fun and enjoyable.

This book is so cute! I usually don’t like this kind of read (the easy romance novel in which the main character is obsessed with boys), but this one really surprised me. Most of the story is, of  course, Lara Jean dealing with her secret crushes receiving their love letters (YIKES!). However, there’s a ton of family/sister drama laced in that adds depth and meaning to the book. If you’re looking for a fun “beach read”, this is it. I actually liked it so much that I’ll probably read the sequel!

Rating: 4/5

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

Boys Don’t Knit (in public) by T.S. Easton

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After Ben Fletcher is caught attempting to steal alcohol for a party, he receives a probationary sentence in which he is required to take extra-curricular classes. Though he believes he is signing up for pottery with his beautiful teacher, Ms. Swallow, Ben finds himself stuck in a knitting class taught by the mother of his crush. At first, he hates the idea of knitting, but then realizes that the methodical movement helps him with his anxiety issues, and that he’s actually an excellent knitter. But some of Ben’s friends and family are not as accepting of the hobby ( they believe knitting is for girls), and Ben must find a way to hide his new passion, or else risk total humiliation.

I LOVED this book! I also love knitting, so I admit to being a bit biased. But, really, this book was hilarious, exciting, and a really fun read. It is a British book, so there is some British slang, but it’s not so much that it renders the book unreadable (which is kind of what happened with Trouble, another British novel). If you’re not a knitter, there may be some parts where you don’t understand the knitting references and become bored, but just skip over those parts. There’s plenty of action and hilarious misadventures to make up for the knitting jargon. I also really enjoyed how this book called into question the act of genderizing activities. Should it matter if something is considered a “girl” or “boy” activity? If you love it — go for it!

Rating: 4/5 

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

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Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen

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After finding a teenage popularity guide, Maya decides to try out the advice during her 8th grade year in the hopes that it will bring her the social status she desires. However, her sudden shift into wearing pearls, hats, and sitting with strangers doesn’t quite have the effect Maya hoped. Instead, she finds herself even more of an outcast (if that’s possible). Popular is Maya’s chronicle of her year following 1950’s model, Betty Cornell’s, life advice, and the successes, failures, and changes in perspectives that advice brings.

I loved this book so much!! At first I wasn’t sure any book could top the other YALSA nonfiction nominees for 2015, but this one really was the best. What made it so great for me was the fact that Maya wrote it herself. I’m pretty tough on teen authors, mostly because I feel they are too young for their writing skills to really have developed (that takes serious time). Most also put their name on the book, but have actually used a ghostwriter for most of the writing — I don’t like that. Maya is different. At 15, she’s already an amazing author and I can’t wait to see what she does next. Popular really has it all — it’s heartfelt without being overly “mushy”, Maya learns valuable lessons without hitting you over the head with them or being “preachy”, and, above all, she gains entirely new perspectives. This book would be great for any teen to read (not just girls!); Maya does an incredible job of capturing what it’s like to survive being a teenager in a world obsessed with “popularity”. Go read it!

*Rating: 5/5

*YALSA Award for Nonfiction for Young Adults, Winner, 2015

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

45 Pounds (More or Less) by K.A. Barson

Ann Galardi hates being fat. She hates that nothing fits, that no diet has ever seemed to work, and that her super-thin, beautiful mother criticizes her every bite. But no more. After watching an infomercial for a new weight-loss system, Ann decides that it’s finally time to take off her extra weight – just in time for her Aunt’s wedding. Using the system, she’ll drop the weight, look gorgeous, and finally have the life she’s wanted. However, through her process, Ann discovers that there’s more to having a perfect body than a number on the scale, and that weight loss doesn’t always mean instant happiness.

This book will not keep you on the edge of your seat. You’ll probably be able to figure out what happens before it ends, and you might be frustrated by some of the more predictable elements. That said, it’s a quick, fun read that has some important messages about body image and weight loss. In a world where the “perfect” body is slapped on every billboard and commercial possible, teens (and everyone, really) are under more pressure to look they way the media says they should look. What’s more, teens often find themselves under the same pressure at home. Eating disorders are sometimes characterized as successful tools to maintain weight, with health thrown out the window and beauty on a pedestal. Though sometimes preachy, Barson’s books tackles these issues head on, and I liked what she had to say. This isn’t a “how-to-lose-weight” book, and it’s not even a “you’re-beautiful-no-matter-what” book. It’s about being healthy, and I appreciated it very much.

Rating: 3.5/5

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