Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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Diagnosed with the rare SKID disease at a young age, Maddy, allergic to the world, must stay inside her sterile, air-locked house or risk a deadly reaction. Maddy is happy in her little, if isolated, world, but dreams of what life is like on the Outside. When a mysterious, tortured boy, Ollie, moves in next door, Maddy’s life changes forever. She is no longer content to spend her life breathing pristine air and playing it safe — she wants to be part of something bigger. Hopefully Ollie can help her get there.

Wow! Usually I don’t like books that have received a lot of hype — they tend to be overrated. But Yoon’s novel is excellent. Though there’s little action, the plot moves at a fast pace, and the illustrations breaking up the text are great. Maddy has a strong voice, is independent even though she spends her life in a “bubble”, and her relationship with Ollie is exactly what you’d want — super cute. My favorite part of the book is the twist at the end that I never saw coming — so good!! If you liked John Green or Rainbow Rowell, this one is for you! The movie just came out, so read the book first!

*Rating: 5/5

 

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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Finch and Violet have a common goal when the meet on the edge of the bell tower at their school. Though everyone believes Violet saves Finch from a suicide attempt, she’s not so sure that’s the truth. At first an incongruous pair, the two are slung together for a class project in which they must explore their home state. During the course of their adventures, Violet and Finch draw closer together, but their relationship may not be enough to save them from the dark pull of tragedy.

A brilliant new addition to the realm of realistic fiction. Niven gives readers a little bit of romance, hilarious adventure antics and, of course, Kleenex-worthy sadness. This is also a poignant, unflinching look at mental illness in teens — a subject that is often danced carefully around. I think it’s important to read novels like this, where truths are discussed without shame. I can’t say too much without giving away spoilers, but pick this one up if you’re looking for your next heavy read.

Rating: 4/5

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

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Devastated by the loss of her mother, Juliet spends much of time at the cemetery, writing letters to her mom. Declan, an angry teen doing  community service at the cemetery, finds Juliet’s letter and responds to it. At first enraged at the intrusion, Juliet begins to see how cathartic it can be to write to an anonymous stranger, and she and Declan begin a secret correspondence. When the harrowing truth in their letters begins to bleed into real life, however, Declan and Juliet must decide how to deal with the exposed secrets.

If you like Perks of Being a Wallflower and Love Letters to the Dead, this one is for you! Unlike the other two books, Kemmerer’s narrative varies between letters and prose from the character’s point of view. It’s a great read if you like books with feels, high school dramas, or underdog stories. I especially like the way the author forces you to look the way we see other people, and how we often peg someone into a stereotype when there’s always more to their story.

Rating: 3.5/5

 

 

Forget Me by K.A. Harrington

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Heartbroken over the accidental death of her boyfriend, Flynn, Morgan attempts to move on from the tragedy by making a memorial post on social media. But, when she uploads a picture of Flynn onto the site, face recognition software attempts to tag Flynn as someone else — someone who looks exactly like Flynn and who is still alive. Now, Morgan has a deadly mystery on her hands. Is this other person Flynn? If so, why did he fake his death? In getting her answers, Morgan uncovers wrenching truths that shatter her perception of reality.

This one can be a bit cheesy at times, but it is an entertaining read — especially if you like mystery/thrillers. Unfortunately, Morgan is YET another character who involves herself in a bad relationship because she believes she can change the other person. Sigh. BUT, her character does evolve and there is enough suspense to keep the story going. If you’re looking for an easy read with some excitement, give this one a try.

Rating: 3.5/5

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

Conversion by Katherine Howe

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When a group of girls falls mysteriously ill at a private school, many believe some kind of poison or side effect is to blame. Colleen, however, doubts the opinions of the media. Guided by anonymous texts, Colleen is drawn to the history of her town, the town once-named Salem, Massachusetts, where nineteen women were hanged for witchcraft in 1692. Is the mystery illness a coincidence? Or is the bloody history of the town repeating itself in the afflicted girls? Told using flashbacks to the confessions of an afflicted girl in the 1700’s, Conversion is the story of paranoia, media frenzy, and a history of violence.

The Salem Witch Trials fascinate me, so I was looking forward to this book. It was extremely disappointing. Though I very much enjoyed the historical flashbacks, the modern part of the book was messy, unconnected, and difficult to read. The author has an interesting theory about what “ailed” the afflicted girls, but the execution of that theory was incredibly confused and lackluster.

Rating: 2.5/5

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

Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee by Mary G. Thompson

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Having escaped from her kidnapper six years after she and her cousin, Dee, were taken, Amy returns home to a family that is broken in the wake losing her. Though pressured to disclose the horrors of her captivity (namely the whereabouts of Dee), Amy is silent about the experience. But Amy can only maintain her silence for so long. Soon, she is wrapped up in terrifying flashbacks of her ordeal, her mind focused on protecting the dark secrets of the last six years. Somehow, Amy must find a way to find her way back to her old life before she’s lost forever in memory.

Warning: this one is HEAVY. Though written for a YA audience, the themes in this book are extremely adult. It contains many triggers (see the full analysis) and even I needed to take breaks from it now and then. That said, the book is very well-written and packed with emotion. There are some hopeful feelings that float up through the end as well, so it’s not all heart-wrenching. But mostly it is. If you liked Room, or if you like serious tearjerkers, you make like this one. But be warned (again), it’s not an easy read.

Rating: 4/5 

For full analysis (including SPOILERS) click here. 

Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman

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After years of struggling with anxiety and body image issues, Lara has finally turned her life around. She’s even somewhat popular and on the cheerleading squad. When a boy she doesn’t know, Christian, friends her on Facebook, Lara accepts. Their online friendship soon turns to romance — until Christian abruptly breaks it off and humiliates Lara online. Bree, Lara’s ex-best-friend, is happy Lara is getting put “back in her place”, but has no idea how devastated Lara really is over the incident. Lara’s online life suddenly spirals out of control, bringing real life consequences crashing down.

So, you can tell from my rating that this book wasn’t my favorite. BUT, that doesn’t mean you won’t like it. I personally felt that this book was super cheesy and did a great job of hammering its message home over and over and over. Don’t get me wrong; the message is very important! Online actions definitely have real life consequences, and it’s important that we realize those consequences. I’ve also had lots of kids tell me they LOVE this book. It’s got life drama, Facebook drama, romance drama — there’s a lot to like. I just didn’t. But you may want to give this book a try if you’re a fan of realistic fiction.

Rating: 2.5/5

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