Category Archives: Young Adult

Review: We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards

Title: We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A new romantic thriller—with a dash of horror—from the author of One Was Lost and Six Months Later

Theo’s always been impulsive. But telling Paige how he feels? He’s obsessed over that decision. And it’s time. Tonight. At the party on the riverbank, under the old walking bridge, site of so many tales of love and death.

Paige has had a crush on Theo since they first met, but she knows her feelings are one-sided. She’s trying to move on, to flirt. A party at the river is just what she needs. Except a fight breaks out, and when Paige tries to intervene—Theo’s fist lands in her face.

All Theo and Paige want to do is forget that fateful night. But strange events keep drawing them back to the bridge. Someone, something is determined to make them remember…and pay for what they each did.

Review:

We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards is a suspenseful young adult novel with a few supernatural elements.

Theo Quinn and Paige Vinton-Young are best friends who rely heavily on each other to help deal with their respective mental health issues. Theo is struggling with a fairly severe problem with ADHD and he has gone through a host of medications to try to help manage his disorder. Paige has been plagued with rather intense anxiety from a young age.  Just as Paige is ready to move on from her unrequited crush for Theo, he realizes he has feelings for her.  Attending a party together one night, Theo jealously lashes out at the guy she is interested in and when Paige attempts to stop him, things go horribly wrong.  Six months later, they are estranged but when both of them begin experiencing eerie occurrences that are connected to that fateful night, will Paige and Theo reunite in order to discover the truth about what is happening to them?

Paige’s parents are extremely overprotective and due to their strong influence over her after the events with Theo, she cannot trust her instincts about him.  Trying to respect their wishes, she has cut Theo completely out of her life.  When she begins finding objects associated with the night things went so drastically wrong between them, Paige wants to give Theo the benefit of the doubt, but she is having difficulty deciding whether to trust Theo or listen to her parents.

Theo is spending the summer with his uncle Denny who understands all too well some of the problems his nephew is going through. Theo is committed to adhering to his new medication regimen and when he begins experiencing unexplained phenomena, he cannot figure out whether it is side effects from the meds or something more sinister. He accidentally runs into Paige one day which sets the stage for a possible reunion, but Paige’s trust issues remain a source of conflict between them.

We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards is a rather slow moving novel with likable characters that seem defined by their respective mental health issues. The storyline is initially intriguing but it becomes a little repetitive as Theo tries to make sense of what is happening to him. Paige’s parents’ interference in her life is also extremely exasperating due to their lack of faith in her ability to manage her anxiety and day to day life. The supernatural element falls a little flat as does the explanation for Paige’s discoveries.   The conclusion is a little rushed but all of the loose ends are nicely tied up.

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Filed under Contemporary, Mystery, Natalie D Richards, Rated C, Review, Sourcebooks Fire, Suspense, We All Fall Down, Young Adult

Review: Remember Me Always by Renee Collins

Title: Remember Me Always by Renee Collins
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 322 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Shelby is nervous to start her senior year after spending the whole summer away from home. After all, it’s hard to be carefree when you’re trying to protect a secret.

Shelby was in a devastating car accident, and everyone in town thinks that she was undergoing more physical therapy in Denver. Instead, Shelby’s mother enrolled her in a clinical program to stop the panic attacks that started after the crash. The treatment erased Shelby’s memory of the accident, but she can’t help feeling as if a piece of herself is missing, that the treatment took more than the doctors claimed.

So when Shelby starts hallucinating a boy with dark and mysterious eyes, she knows it must be a side-effect of the clinical program. Except you can’t kiss hallucinations. And this boy insists that they know each other and are in love…

Review:

Remember Me Always by Renee Collins is an intriguing young adult novel with an interesting premise and a multi-layered storyline.

Over the summer, Shelby Decatur undergoes a somewhat extreme treatment to erase her memories of a car accident that are causing her severe anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD. Now home, her excitement at beginning her senior year of high school is tempered by an underlying, low-level sense that something is not quite right. Having recently experienced a tantalizing fragment of memory featuring a young man, Shelby does not know what to think when she discovers the teenager from her recollection is real. She is even more stunned to learn that she and the young man, Auden Keplar, were in a two year relationship.  Auden wants to try to resume their romance and although Shelby is drawn to him, his intensity is a little unnerving. Although she cannot remember their romance, Shelby is willing to give him a chance but when she discovers he has been less than truthful with her, will she continue to see him?

Shelby often feels out of step with the rest of her small hometown. She has big dreams of becoming an actress, but her controlling mother is rather forceful with her attempts to dissuade her from leaving town. Shelby is initially very reluctant to trust Auden and in his zeal to convince her to give him a chance, his behavior is uncomfortably close to stalking and obsessive. At Auden’s urging, she keeps their renewed friendship a secret from her mom and her best friend, Grace. Shelby is enthusiastically embracing her resumed relationship with Auden when she learns he has been keeping some very serious secrets from her.

Meanwhile, Shelby is beginning to suffer from nightmares that fill her will an incredible sense of unease. Her anxiety levels are increasing and she is uncertain whom she can trust after her relationship with Auden is discovered by both her mother and Grace. Shelby comes to the realization that she needs to recover the memories that have been erased but will it be possible for her to remember what happened the night of the accident?

Remember Me Always is an appealing young adult novel with an innovative storyline and well-developed characters. Shelby’s quest to recover her traumatic memories offers her the opportunity to stop running from problems and instead face them head on. Grace’s predicament with an ex-boyfriend is an important demonstration of when a relationship crosses the line into abuse.   While some aspects of the plot are easy to predict, Renee Collins brings the novel to a surprising conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Rated B, Remember Me Always, Renee Collins, Review, Sourcebooks Fire, Young Adult

Review: The Long Ride Home by Tawni Waters

Title: The Long Ride Home by Tawni Waters
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 240 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

After the loss of her mother, Harley can barely handle her grief. But the start of summer marks new beginnings, and Harley leaves for a cross-country road trip to scatter her mother’s ashes with Dean, her friend (with benefits). The two ride by motorcycle, reconnecting with people who knew her mother along the way.

But it’s not long before Harley realizes she’s pregnant…with Dean’s child. And as Harley learns that her mother faced similar choices during her own pregnancy, Harley must come to terms with her mother’s past to make a difficult decision about her own future.

Review:

The Long Ride Home by Tawni Waters is a poignant yet surprisingly sometimes humorous young adult novel about a teenager’s road trip to scatter her beloved mother’s ashes.

Six months after the death of her mom, Harley is still deeply grieving her loss. In the aftermath of her mother’s death, she moves from New York to California to live with her mom’s best friend, Mercy. Angry, hurting and suffering from anxiety attacks, Harley’s only friend (with benefits) is Dean and when she asks him to join her on her cross country trek to spread her mom’s ashes, he agrees without hesitation. However, Harley is keeping a big secret from Dean and she is quick to lash out in anger when she feels overwhelmed by the events that have occurred in recent months.

Harley is incredibly prickly and antagonistic but it is impossible not feel empathy for everything she has recently experienced. She uses sarcasm and snark as a defense mechanism when things become too emotional for her. She also shuts down instead of discussing important issues and she is also quick to run away from her problems instead of facing them head on. Her road trip to take her mom’s  ashes back to New York quickly turns into an emotional journey in which Harley learns some unpleasant truths about her mother’s past. However these negative discoveries are offset by the realization that Harley is not as alone as she believes and that there are people in her life whom she can count on. Harley makes several impetuous decisions that are somewhat self-destructive but some of her choices are also unexpectedly healing.

The Long Ride Home is an emotionally compelling, gritty young adult novel.  Tawni Waters deftly handles difficult subject matter with sensitivity and she brilliantly balances the more sorrowful moments with humor. With a realistic storyline, a feisty lead protagonist and an endearingly charming hero, this thought-provoking novel is well-written with an unexpected ending.  An excellent story that I highly recommended to adult and older teen readers.

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Filed under Contemporary, Rated B+, Review, Sourcebooks Fire, Tawni Waters, The Long Ride Home, Young Adult

Review: How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas

Title: How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas
Publisher: Tim Duggan Books
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 338 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program

Summary:

A witty, heartfelt novel that brilliantly evokes the confusions of adolescence and marks the arrival of an extraordinary young talent.

Isidore Mazal is eleven years old, the youngest of six siblings living in a small French town. He doesn’t quite fit in. Berenice, Aurore, and Leonard are on track to have doctorates by age twenty-four. Jeremie performs with a symphony, and Simone, older than Isidore by eighteen months, expects a great career as a novelist–she’s already put Isidore to work on her biography. The only time they leave their rooms is to gather on the old, stained couch and dissect prime-time television dramas in light of Aristotle’s Poetics.

Isidore has never skipped a grade or written a dissertation. But he notices things the others don’t, and asks questions they fear to ask. So when tragedy strikes the Mazal family, Isidore is the only one to recognize how everyone is struggling with their grief, and perhaps the only one who can help them—if he doesn’t run away from home first.

Isidore’s unstinting empathy, combined with his simmering anger, makes for a complex character study, in which the elegiac and comedic build toward a heartbreaking conclusion. With How to Behave in a Crowd, Camille Bordas immerses readers in the interior life of a boy puzzled by adulthood and beginning to realize that the adults around him are just as lost.

Review:

Spanning a couple of years, How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas is a character driven young adult novel about the youngest of six children who is trying to figure out how he fits in with his genius siblings.

Eleven year old Isidore “Dory” Mazal is quite ordinary compared to his highly intelligent, grade skipping brothers and sisters.  While he might not be as smart as his siblings, Dory is much more observant and he is also more social than they are. Despite being more interested in forming friendships, his only friend at school, Denise Galet, is also somewhat of an outcast due to her ongoing depression and anorexia.  Although Dory is close to his mother, his relationship with his business traveling father is somewhat distant.  Despite sharing a room with his sister, Simone, who is also closest in age to him, they are not particularly close since she is a scholastic overachiever like their older siblings. After the family suffers a tragic loss, Dory reacts with kindhearted compassion and empathy unlike his brothers and sisters who quickly return to their normal life.

Life with the Mazal family is somewhat dysfunctional since Dory’s siblings are rather disconnected from the rest of the family. Their interactions with one another are limited to family meals and watching the occasional TV show together.  The siblings’ extremely high IQs alienate them from their peers and they have little patience or tact when dealing with anyone whom they perceive is not their intellectual equal.

Although the concept for How to Behave in a Crowd is unique, the novel is very slow paced. The plot occasionally feels disjointed since Dory’s narration hops from one anecdote to another that are not necessarily connected to each other. Overall, his narration comes across as extremely detached which makes it somewhat difficult to for the reader to feel much of a connection with the various characters. While Dory is an enjoyable lead protagonist, none of his is siblings are particularly sympathetic or likable. Camille Bordas brings the story to a very abrupt and rather unsatisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Camille Bordas, Contemporary, How to Behave in a Crowd, Rated C+, Review, Tim Duggan Books, Young Adult

Review: Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Title: Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Genre: Magical Realism, Young Adult
Length: 366 pages
Book Rating: D

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program

Summary:

The highly anticipated new book from the acclaimed author of The Accident Season is a gorgeous, twisty story about things gone missing, things returned from the past, and a group of teenagers, connected in ways they could never have imagined.

One stormy Irish summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items like hairclips and jewelry, but soon it’s clear that Rose has lost something much bigger, something she won’t talk about, and Olive thinks her best friend is slipping away.

Then seductive diary pages written by a girl named Laurel begin to appear all over town. And Olive meets three mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel, and her twin brother, Rowan, secretly squatting in an abandoned housing estate. The trio are wild and alluring, but they seem lost too—and like Rose, they’re holding tight to painful secrets.

When they discover the spellbook, it changes everything. Damp, tattered and ancient, it’s full of hand-inked charms to conjure back things that have been lost. And it just might be their chance to find what they each need to set everything back to rights.

Unless it’s leading them toward things that were never meant to be found…

Review:

In Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, a small town’s annual bonfire is the catalyst for some very unusual occurrences.

A meandering tale with chapters alternating between three points of view, the novel has a unique premise that, unfortunately, quickly becomes repetitious and lacks any type of forward progress. The many soundalike names (Olive, Rose, Ivy, Hazel, Rowan, Laurel, Holly, Ash, etc) make is virtually impossible to tell the characters apart. The chapters are narrated in first person and with the exception of Olive, the voices are so similar, it is impossible to tell them apart. Much of the supporting cast is also somewhat bland with little to distinguish them from the others.

Olive is one of the few voices that is distinct and easy to follow. Her family is also unique and their interactions are truly delightful and incredibly enjoyable. Olive’s friendship with Rose (who is rather distinctive) is quite heartwarming and their text messages are hysterical. Olive’s sister Emily is also a breath of fresh air and she is wise beyond her years.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s does have some unexpected plot twists and a wonderfully diverse cast of characters. However, readers will need plenty of patience as they work their way through this convoluted, incredibly slow-paced young adult novel.

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Filed under Contemporary, Kathy Dawson Books, Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Rated D, Review, Spellbook of the Lost and Found, Young Adult

Title: When I Am Through with You by Stephanie Kuehn
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Suspense
Length: 303 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program

Summary:

A gripping story of survival and the razor’s-edge difference between perfect cruelty and perfect love. 

“This isn’t meant to be a confession. Not in any spiritual sense of the word. Yes, I’m in jail at the moment. I imagine I’ll be here for a long time, considering. But I’m not writing this down for absolution and I’m not seeking forgiveness, not even from myself. Because I’m not sorry for what I did to Rose. I’m just not. Not for any of it.”

Ben Gibson is many things, but he’s not sorry and he’s not a liar. He will tell you exactly about what happened on what started as a simple school camping trip in the mountains. About who lived and who died. About who killed and who had the best of intentions. But he’s going to tell you in his own time. Because after what happened on that mountain, time is the one thing he has plenty of.

Smart, dark, and twisty, When I Am Through With You will leave readers wondering what it really means to do the right thing.

Review:

In Stephanie Kuehn’s young adult novel, When I Am Through with You, a hiking trip with seven teens and a high school teacher takes an unexpectedly dark and tragic turn.

Narrator Ben Gibson has a dark family history which is not fully revealed until late in the novel. His two year relationship with girlfriend Rose Augustine is beginning to feel the strain of his debilitating migraines, his dysfunctional relationship with his mother and his tendency to avoid making decisions. After spending part of the summer apart, Ben is not as excited about their reunion as he feels he should be, but his inertia and desire to avoid conflict keeps them together. Rose is very surprised by Ben’s announcement that he is in charge of the school’s orienteering group and that he, along with teacher Mr. Howe, will be leading the members on an expedition.  The members turn out to a rather diverse yet somewhat troubled mix of young men and women and Ben quickly loses control when Mr. Howe takes a shockingly hands off approach once they embark on their journey.

It is not very surprising when Ben quickly loses control of the students on the expedition since he easily gives in during confrontations.  Although Ben is well aware there could be dangerous repercussions from his classmates poor decisions, he does not make any effort to let Mr. Howe know there is trouble brewing. Mr. Howe is also a large part of the problem since he abdicates a lot of his responsibility to Ben even though he is fully aware of Ben’s shortcomings. Circumstances are ripe for disaster in the face of an unforeseen encounter with a sketchy group of campers, unanticipated bad weather and exceedingly bad decisions by everyone in the group.

When I Am Through with You is well-written but the pacing is excruciatingly  slow.  Ben holds his secrets close and he is not exactly perceptive when it comes reading people.  Outside of his relationship with Rose, he is essentially a loner who is rather clueless about what is going on in his classmates’ lives. With so many unknown variables, Ben is literally and figuratively stumbling around in the dark for much of the expedition. The storyline is rather convoluted and predictable, everyone exhibits poor judgment and Stephanie Kuehn brings the novel to a somewhat unsatisfying and ambiguous conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Dutton Books for Young Readers, Rated C, Review, Stephanie Kuehn, Suspense, When I Am Through with You, Young Adult