Category Archives: Young Adult

Review: Cold Summer by Gwen Cole

Title: Cold Summer by Gwen Cole
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Young Adult, Time Travel
Length: 334 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Today, he’s a high school dropout with no future.

Tomorrow, he’s a soldier in World War II.

Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past.

When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him. Harper reminds him of the person he was before the PTSD, which helps anchor him to the present. With practice, maybe Kale could remain in the present permanently and never step foot on a battlefield again. Maybe he can have the normal life he craves.

But then Harper finds Kale’s name in a historical article—and he’s listed as a casualty of the war. Is Kale’s death inevitable? Does this mean that, one of these days, when Kale travels to the past, he may not come back?

Kale knows now that he must learn to control his time-traveling ability to save himself and his chance at a life with Harper. Otherwise, he’ll be killed in a time where he doesn’t belong by a bullet that was never meant for him.

Review:

In Cold Summer by Gwen Cole, a teen’s time-traveling ability endangers his life and puts him at odds with his family.

Kale Jackson began time-traveling at seven years of age and recently his “trips” have begun to occur with alarming frequency. His recent travels take him back in time to World War II where his skills as a marksman put him in harm’s way. Kale’s brother Bryce and sister Libby have always been  his staunch supporters, but with Bryce ignoring him as he prepares to leave for college and Libby spending the summer with their mother, Kale has little reason to remain in the present. Adding to his stress is his increasingly fractured relationship with his father, who makes no effort to hide skepticism for his son’s inexplicable disappearances.

Until six years ago, Harper Croft spent her summers with her Uncle Jasper. She, Kale and Libby were inseparable during her visits but in recent years, she is only in touch with Libby. Now moving in with her Uncle Jasper permanently due to her mother’s recent move, Harper is looking forward to renewing these friendships.  Although she is aware of Kale’s disappearances, she has no idea why he periodically vanishes. Despite her alarm over his unhealthy appearance and his apparent unhappiness, Harper keeps her promise she made to him long ago. But when she discovers shocking information about his visits back to World War II, will Harper convince to Kale to try to figure out how to control his unusual ability?

In theory, time travel sounds like an exciting adventure, but as Kale knows all too well, not everyone is willing to believe he travels into the past. Although his siblings and best friend Miles never doubt his stories about his adventures, he has given up trying to convince his father he is telling the truth.  Kale is quickly sinking into despondency when he thinks about his future since his unexplainable absences caused problems with school and extracurricular activities. With everything in the present turning into a unhappy mess,  Kale is only slightly troubled by his frequent trips back to World War II.  At the same, the situation with his dad is spiraling out of control but Kale stubbornly refuses to provide him with irrefutable proof he is telling the truth.  Will he make the same mistake when his relationship with Harper turns romantic?

Harper knows she made the right decision to move in with her Uncle Jasper but she cannot help but wish things were different between her and her emotionally (and now physically) absent mother.  Making the best of her new circumstances, she tries to be understanding about Kale’s frequent absences but she is fairly assertive as she tries to persuade him to try fix his relationship with his father. With her concern over his health growing with each of his trips back to World War II, she eventually forces him to tell her the truth about what is going on with him. Once their friendship deepens into romance, will Harper convince Kale to figure out why his travels have become more frequent? And when she learns the truth about what happens to him during World War II, will Kale try to change the outcome?

Cold Summer is a very clever and enjoyable young adult novel with an interesting premise. Gwen Cole does a fantastic job with the time travel element of the story while at the same time gently delivering an important message to her readers. Although flawed, the characters are appealing and sympathetic. The storyline is engaging and quite interesting. The glimpses of Kale’s wartime experiences  provide insight into  both his need to go back in time to help comrades in arms and his struggles with PTSD in the present. All in all, a riveting young adult novel that I absolutely loved and highly recommend to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Cold Summer, Contemporary, Gwen Cole, Historical, Historical (40s), Rated B, Review, Sky Pony Press, Time Travel, Young Adult

Review: Lucky Girl by Amanda Maciel

Title: Lucky Girl by Amanda Maciel
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Lucky Girl is an unflinching exploration of beauty, self-worth, and sexual assault, from the author of the acclaimed Tease.

Rosie is a beautiful girl—and it’s always been enough. Boys crush on her, men stare at her, girls (begrudgingly) admire her. She’s lucky and she knows it.

But it’s the start of a new school year and she begins to realize that she wants to be more. Namely, she’s determined to be better to her best friend, Maddie, who’s just back from a summer program abroad having totally blossomed into her own looks. Rosie isn’t thrilled when Maddie connects with a football player who Rosie was hooking up with—but if it makes her friend happy, she’s prepared to get over it. Plus, someone even more interesting has moved to town: Alex, who became semifamous after he stopped a classmate from carrying out a shooting rampage at his old high school. Rosie is drawn to Alex in a way she’s never experienced before—and she is surprised to discover that, unlike every other guy, he seems to see more to her than her beauty.

Then at a party one night, in the midst of a devastating storm, something happens that tears apart Rosie’s life and sets her on a journey of self-discovery that forces her to face uncomfortable truths about reputation, identity, and what it means to be a true friend.

Review:

Lucky Girl by Amanda Maciel is a thought-provoking young adult novel about sexual assault.

Rosie Fuller is a beautiful teenager who revels in the attention she gets from the opposite sex. While she is popular with the boys at her school, she is not exactly teeming with female friends.  After spending the summer apart from her best friend, Maddie Costello, she is shocked to discover that Maddie has transformed from a slightly nerdy awkward duckling into a beautiful swan.  Rosie is determined to be a better friend to Maddie so after learning of Maddie’s crush on popular football player (and Rosie’s summer fling) Cory Callahan, she breaks things off with Cory.  Despite her lingering jealousy, Rosie is supportive of her friend’s new romance with Cory. However, one night at a party, Cory attacks Rosie and instead of coming to her friend’s defense, Maddie blames Rosie for coming on to her boyfriend. In the aftermath, Rosie is ashamed and blames herself for Cory’s actions but will  her new friendship with transfer student Alex Goode help her see that what happened is not her fault?

Rosie is beautiful and she knows it.  She uses her looks to validate her self-worth and she seeks out attention from boys every chance she gets.  She is a party girl who sees nothing wrong with flitting from boy to boy but her relationships are as superficial as she is. While her friendship with Maddie means the world to her, Rosie is extremely jealous of her friend’s transformation and she is ill prepared for the change in the dynamic of the friendship once Maddie gains some much needed self-confidence.

Initially, Rosie is so incredibly self-centered and selfish that she is difficult to like but after the incident with Cory, she finally begins to tone down her need for male attention. She is also much more reflective as tries to understand her conflicted emotions about what happened to her. Like many girls and women, Rosie is certain that she is to blame for the attack because she dresses to noticed and loves to flirt.  She goes over the events from that night again and again and while at first she is convinced she flirted too much, she gradually begins to understand that the only person who is responsible for what happened to her is Cory.  This is just the beginning of Rosie’s transformation from self-absorbed party girl to a young woman who begins to realize that outward appearances are not the measure of a person. Repairing her friendship with Maddie is another important facet of her newfound maturity. Will Rosie take the next step in healing from her ordeal and report Cory for assaulting her?

Lucky Girl is a poignant and powerful novel that challenges the pervasive “blame the victim” attitude following a sexual assault. The long standing “she asked for it” mindset is still firmly in place and women are conditioned to automatically take the blame when they are sexually assaulted. The resulting shame and guilt in the aftermath of an unwanted sexual advance or assault are HUGE factors in a victim’s unwillingness to report an attacker.  Amanda Maciel’s portrayal of Rosie after Cory’s attempted assault is an all too accurate depiction of what a victim feels and thinks in the aftermath of such a shocking and painful  event.  In Rosie’s case, her confusion is much worse considering her previous relationship with Cory and her own behavior.  The subject matter is difficult to read, but this topic is so incredibly important that I highly recommend Lucky Girl to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Balzer + Bray, Contemporary, Rated B, Review, Young Adult

Review: Get It Together, Delilah! by Erin Gough

Title: Get It Together, Delilah! by Erin Gough
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Lesbian, Romance
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Delilah Green wouldn’t have chosen to do her last year of school this way, but she figures it’s working fine. While her dad goes on a trip to fix his broken heart after her mom left him for another man, Del manages the family cafe. Easy, she thinks. But what about homework? Or the nasty posse of mean girls making her life hell? Or her best friend who won’t stop guilt-tripping her? Or her other best friend who might go to jail for love if Del doesn’t do something? But really, who cares about any of that when all Del can think about is beautiful Rosa who dances every night across the street. . . . Until one day Rosa comes in the cafe door. And if Rosa starts thinking about Del, too, then how in the name of caramel milkshakes will Del get the rest of it together?

Review:

Get It Together, Delilah! by Erin Gough is a charming lesbian young adult romance with a strong lead character who is self-assured but, more often than not, is her own worst enemy.

After her mother leaves them, Delilah Green encourages her father to take an extended vacation while she takes care of running the family owned diner, The Flywheel. When the situation at The Flywheel become more serious due to her lack of reliable employees and dwindling sales, Delilah decides to take time off from school in an effort to save the diner. Her choice to ditch school is an act of self-preservation since she has been the target of unrelenting bullies due to her sexuality. Delilah is, in many ways, a resilient and likable young woman but she stubbornly refuses to ask for help as the situation at the cafe worsens. Nor is she willing to give a concerned teacher/counselor the opportunity to help deal with the harassment from her classmates.

With her best friends busy with school, Delilah’s friendship with her best guy pal Charlie McFarlane turns out to be the most reliable support during her trials and tribulations. While he is rather fickle when it comes to matters of the heart, he is unfailingly loyal and his irreverent charm and good nature is the perfect foil for Delilah’s troubles. Charlie is also exceptionally skilled in the kitchen but he finds himself in a bit of trouble when he impulsively decides to pursue his latest love interest.

As if Delilah does enough problems in her life, she is the midst of a huge crush on flamenco dancer and uni student Rosa Barea. While she adores Rosa from afar for a good part of the novel, there are a few cringe worthy scenes where Delilah finds herself tongue-tied and clumsy when she has the opportunity to talk to the girl of her dreams. Although they do eventually make progress with their relationship, Delilah’s impatience once again causes problems with her fledgling romance.

Get It Together, Delilah! is a light-hearted and entertaining young adult romance with a great cast of adorable characters. Although some parts of the plot are a tad bit unbelievable, Erin Gough does a wonderful job balancing the true to life issues such as bullying and homophobia with plenty of humor. Although the romance between Delilah and Rosa is just in the beginning stages by the novel’s conclusion, it is easy to root for them as a couple. This part of the storyline could have been fleshed out just a little more and while Rosa’s hesitance to go public with their romance is realistic, Delilah’s reaction is completely understandable.

An imperfect but completely darling debut that fans of contemporary young adult novels will enjoy.

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Filed under Chronicle Books, Contemporary, Erin Gough, Get It Together Delilah!, Lesbian, Rated B, Review, Romance, Young Adult

Review: Abigale Hall by Lauren A. Forry

Title: Abigale Hall by Lauren A. Forry
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Genre: Historical, Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 376 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Amid the terror of the Second World War, seventeen-year-old Eliza and her troubled little sister Rebecca have had their share of tragedy, having lost their mother to the Blitz and their father to suicide. Forced to leave London to work for the mysterious Mr. Brownwell at Abigale Hall, they soon learn that the worst is yet to come. The vicious housekeeper, Mrs. Pollard, seems hell-bent on keeping the ghostly secrets of the house away from the sisters and forbids them from entering the surrounding town—and from the rumors that circulate about Abigale Hall. When Eliza uncovers some blood-splattered books, ominous photographs, and portraits of a mysterious woman, she begins to unravel the mysteries of the house, but with Rebecca falling under Mrs. Pollard’s spell, she must act quickly to save her sister, and herself, from certain doom.

Perfect for readers who hunger for the strange, Abigale Hall is an atmospheric debut novel where the threat of death looms just beyond the edge of every page. Lauren A. Forry has created a historical ghost story where the setting is as alive as the characters who inhabit it and a resonant family drama of trust, loyalty, and salvation.

Review:

Abigale Hall by Lauren A. Forry is a creepy Gothic mystery set in Wales during the late 1940s.

Having lost both of their parents during the  World War II, seventeen year old Eliza Haverford and her troubled twelve year old sister Rebecca live with their unpleasant Aunt Bess in a rundown apartment in London.  Although the second World War has finally ended, jobs, food, housing and clothing remain scarce so Bess seizes the opportunity to rid herself of her troublesome nieces and make a tidy sum of money in the bargain. Eliza and Rebecca are sent against their will to Wales where they begin working for Mrs. Pollard, the housekeeper at the desolate, ramshackle Thornecroft estate. When Eliza begins experiencing increasingly eerie phenomena,  she starts looking into the mysterious disappearances of other young women who worked for Mrs. Pollard. Equally concerning is Rebecca’s behavior which is growing more disturbing the longer they remain at the estate. Unbeknownst to  Eliza, her London boyfriend Peter Lamb is desperately searching for her, but will he find her before it is too late? And if he cannot, will Eliza find a way to save herself from the same fate as her predecessors?

Thornecroft is a very atmospheric setting and Mrs. Pollard, caretaker Mr. Drewry and the mysterious Mr. Brownawell add to the overall sinister feel of the novel.  Eliza is a strong lead character but her quest for answers are quickly shutdown by the very formidable housekeeper.  Eliza tries to pry information out of the nearby town’s residents, but with no one but Ruth Owen willing to talk to her, she does not receive very many new details about the odd occurrences at Thornecroft. Daring to search the huge manor, Eliza does uncover very disconcerting  signs that something ominous is going on, but the answers she is searching for remain elusive.

Back in London, Peter is running into trouble as he tries to figure out what has happened to Eliza. His search takes him into the very seedy underbelly of London as he follows the few clues he has managed to unearth. With a shadowy figure following his every move, Peter tenaciously refuses to give up trying to find Eliza but will his efforts to save her pay off?

While the premise of Abigale Hall is certainly intriguing, the story is a little slow paced and becomes rather repetitive. The slow parceling of information is frustrating as is Eliza’s blind devotion to her obviously very troubled sister.  Her loyalty to Rebecca is understandable given their circumstances, but there comes a point where it is very obvious she is in desperate need of medical intervention.  Peter is a wonderful character and his efforts to find Eliza are quite touching especially since he has to dig deep to find the courage to follow his convictions. Lauren A. Forry brings the novel to a pulse-pounding, twist-filled conclusion that will catch readers completely off-guard.  An eerie, suspenseful young adult historical novel that, while imperfect, is still a chilling yet entertaining read.

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Filed under Abigale Hall, Historical, Historical (40s), Lauren A Forry, Mystery, Review, Suspense, Young Adult

Review: Ultimatum by K.M. Walton

Title: Ultimatum by K.M. Walton
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From the author of Cracked and Empty comes a gripping, emotional story of two brothers who must make the ultimate decision about what’s more important: family or their differences.

It’s not Oscar’s fault he’s misunderstood. Ever since his mother died, he’s been disrespected by his father and bullied by his self-absorbed older brother, so he withdraws from his fractured family, seeking refuge in his art.

Vance wishes his younger brother would just loosen up and be cool. It was hard enough to deal with their mother’s death without Oscar getting all emotional. At least when Vance pushes himself in lacrosse and parties, he feels alive.

But when their father’s alcoholism sends him into liver failure, the two brothers must come face-to-face with their demons–and each other–if they are going to survive a very uncertain future.

Review:

Ultimatum by K.M. Walton is a poignant young adult novel about two very different brothers who are undergoing a life-altering event.  Will this tragedy help them bridge the gap between them?  Or will it pull them even farther apart?

Ten months apart in age, Vance and Oscar Irving are not at all close and in fact, they are complete opposites.  Older brother Vance may look like the boys’ now deceased mom, but he has much more in common with his hard partying, boisterous father.  Vance is the gregarious, life of the party and he is a hotshot lacrosse who is quite popular.  Oscar, on the hand, is the spitting image of his dad but he is much more introverted and retreats both psychically and emotionally  when things turn adversarial.  Now facing the death of their father who is in the final stages of liver failure, Vance and Oscar are independently realizing they will only have one another to rely on after he passes away.  Will his death be the end of the brothers’ strained relationship?  Or can they find a way to overcome their differences and strengthen their fragile bond?

Ultimatum alternates back and forth between the brothers’ perspectives and weaves back and forth in time.  The present is written from Oscar’s point of view and through his eyes, readers witness his uncertainty about his relationship with Vance.  As he reflects on certain events from the past, it is very easy to feel the pain he has experienced at his brother’s and father’s indifference and their lack of understanding for the things that are important to him.  He is much more introspective than Vance and Oscar is quite reflective as he faces his father’s impending death.

Vance’s chapters go back in time and focus on the events that have gone wrong in both his and his family’s life.  He is quite dismissive of Vance and his interests and he makes absolutely no effort to include his brother in his life.  Instead, he numbs his emotions with drugs and alcohol and concentrates on making his dad proud of him.  Vance is devoted to playing lacrosse and in fact, he is relying on the sport to pave his way to a college scholarship. He is well on his way to success when he makes a decision that has a detrimental impact on his future and in the aftermath, his relationship with his father is extremely tense.  And just like Oscar, Vance is filled with regrets as he watches over his father’s final days.

Ultimatum by K.M. Walton is a deeply affecting and emotional young adult novel that is ultimately uplifting as Vance and Oscar come to terms with the past and make plans for the future.  The characters are richly drawn and imbued with strengths and weaknesses that are easy to relate to.  Oscar is the more sympathetic of the brothers, but Vance undergoes the most growth by novel’s end.  A bittersweet yet hopeful young adult novel that I absolutely loved and highly recommend to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Contemporary, KM Walton, Rated B+, Review, Sourcebooks Fire, Ultimatum, Young Adult

Review: Switching Gears by Chantele Sedgwick

Title: Switching Gears by Chantele Sedgwick
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Still mourning the loss of Lucas Nelson, the boy she loved in secret for years, seventeen-year-old Emmy Martin turns to her passion for mountain biking to try to fill the empty void in her life. But just when things start looking up, Emmy discovers her mom has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Confused and angry that her parents didn’t tell her sooner, she throws herself into mountain biking like never before.

When Cole Evans, the rich boy who usually doesn’t care about anything but himself, offers to train her for the biggest mountain biking race of the season, she accepts, determined to beat her nemesis, Whitney, and prove she’s good enough for a sponsor. The more time she spends with Cole, the more she realizes he’s different than she’d expected, and, to her surprise, she’s falling for him. Torn between the deep feelings she still has for Lucas and her growing ones for Cole, she knows she must choose a path: one offers her the chance to love again, while the other is blocked by the overwhelming heartache for the boy she lost.

As she drifts further away from her family and closer to her dream of being sponsored, a terrible accident threatens any semblance of peace and happiness she has left. Instead of closing herself off to the people she loves, Emmy must learn to rely on those she has pushed away if she’s going to have any chance of getting her life back again.

Review:

Switching Gears by Chantele Sedgwick is a poignant young adult novel about loss, family and unexpected love. This companion piece to Love, Lucas that can be read a standalone.

Following the tragic loss of her best friend and secret love, Lucas Nelson, seventeen year old Emmy Martin’s life is still off kilter.  An avid mountain bike racer, she is disappointed when she comes in second place in a race against her nemesis Whitney.  She is still also smarting over losing her team captain spot to relative newcomer Cole Evans.  So when Cole offers to coach her after she agrees to race against Whitney, Emmy turns him down without hesitation.  However, their paths continue crossing as she trains on her own and she begins to realize there is more to Cole than she previously believed, but is Emmy ready to move on to a new relationship?

Emmy is initially not an easy young woman to like.  She is prickly, closed off and refuses to let anyone except her best friend Kelsie get close to her.  Emmy is extremely close to her mom which is why it is so upsetting when she learns her parents have been keeping secrets from her and her brother Gavin.  After learning the truth about her mother’s recent diagnosis, Emmy refuses to talk to her parents and she begins avoiding spending any time at home.  Instead, she throws herself into training for the upcoming race against Whitney and as she continues running into Cole, she is surprised when she begins to realize she might be falling for him.

Kelsie is a wonderful secondary character and she is extremely loyal to Emmy.  She easily overlooks her friends moodiness and she is quick to agree to anything Emmy asks her to do.  But Kelsie refuses to let her friend wallow in her grief and she gently, but consistently, urges Emmy to consider giving Cole a chance.  Their friendship is refreshingly lacking in angst or drama and Kelsie’s upbeat personality is a nice contrast to Emmy’s numerous issues.

Cole is a fantastic love interest for Emmy and he refuses to give up on her no matter how unpleasant she is to him.  At first he seems like he might be a little too perfect but underneath his clean cut, wholesome facade is a normal teenager dealing with the same issues as other kids his age.  Cole accepts Emmy’s refusal to let him help her train without putting up a fuss but he is not fazed by her attempts to keep him at arms’ length. His persistence pays off and a tentative friendship forms between them which eventually deepens into a real relationship.

Switching Gears by Chantele Sedgwick is a sweet young adult romance that is fast-paced with engaging characters.  The storyline is well written with realistic problems and issues to overcome.  The ending is a little overly melodramatic but the epilogue is nice.  All in all, an enjoyable young adult novel that readers of all ages will enjoy.

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Filed under Chantele Sedgwick, Contemporary, Rated B, Review, Romance, Sky Pony Press, Switching Gears, Young Adult