Category Archives: Young Adult

Review: Someone Else’s Summer by Rachel Bateman

Title: Someone Else’s Summer by Rachel Bateman
Publisher: Running Press
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Anna’s always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost and her family is torn apart. That is, until she finds Storm’s summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever–which includes taking an epic road trip to the coast from her sleepy Iowa town. Setting out to do everything on Storm’s list along with her sisters best friend Cameron–the boy next door–who knew that Storm’s dream summer would eventually lead to Anna’s own self-discovery?

Review:

Someone Else’s Summer by Rachel Bateman is a poignant yet heartwarming young adult novel.

Anna Holloway is absolutely gutted when her much admired older sister Storm unexpectedly dies in a car accident. Going through the motions as she resumes her regular activities within a couple of weeks, Anna is surprised when she finds her sister’s final list of things to do over the summer.  Desperately wanting to complete the list, Anna and her sister’s best (and next door neighbor) Cameron Andrews embark on a road trip in an attempt to feel closer to Storm and hopefully work through their grief over their loss. By journey’s end, Anna is stunned by a final revelation that leaves her feeling like she really did not know Storm as well as she thought.

For much of their childhood, Anna tagged along on Storm and Cameron’s many adventures. However, in recent years, Anna is busy with cheerleading and her best friends Piper and Jovani. Nevertheless, Storm’s death leaves a huge whole in Anna’s life and she is struggling to understand how everyone around her can resume their normal lives after such a devastating loss. In addition to her grief, she also regrets not spending time with her sister and the discovery of Storm’s list provides her the opportunity to feel close to her sister again.

Cameron is struggling to cope with Storm’s death and in addition to his grief, he also harbors a hefty dose of guilt for a few reasons. Anna and her parents are quick to reassure him they harbor no ill feelings for his self perceived role in her loss. He does not hesitate to agree to accompany Anna on the road trip but there are a few tense moments between them along the way. Cameron is just as surprised as Anna when their friendship takes an unanticipated romantic turn.

It is not until they have nearly completed all of the items on Storm’s list that Anna becomes curious about some of  the things her sister wanted to do that summer. When she broaches these topics with Cameron, he is forced to reveal the secrets he has been keeping for the past several months. She is stunned and extremely distraught by these revelations and she is quite angry with Cameron for not telling her the truth about Storm. Will she forgive Storm for the choices she made before she died?  Will Anna forgive Cameron for keeping such important information from her?

While Anna’s friendship and subsequent romance with Cameron is absolutely delightful, her friendship with Piper is a sadly lacking. Piper does not have much empathy for Anna’s loss and while she is more than happy to drag her to parties and out shopping,she does not provide any emotional support. Piper’s attitude when Anna returns home after the road trip is just horrible which makes Anna’s efforts to resume their friendship that much worse.

Fast-paced with a well-written storyline and an endearing cast of characters, Someone Else’s Summer  is an emotional novel of healing. Rachel Bateman perfectly balances the sadder elements of the story with the light-hearted yet meaningful road trip. Anna is a wonderful protagonist whose struggles to deal with Storm’s death are realistic. I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this bittersweet novel to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Contemporary, Rachel Bateman, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Running Press, Someone Else's Summer, Young Adult

Review: It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

Title: It Started with Goodbye by Christina June
Publisher: Blink
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client).

When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela/fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

A modern play on the Cinderella story arc, IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE shows us that sometimes going after what you want means breaking the rules.

Review:

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June is a wonderful young adult novel that explores the relationships between stepfamilies.

Sixteen year old Tatum Elsea was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people and although she is guilty of nothing more than being loyal to her best friend, Ashlyn Zanotti, she is paying a steep price.  While Tatum completely understands she could have handled the situation differently, her father and stepmother Belén impose a harsh punishment on her and she is essentially under house arrest for the summer. With a lot of free time on her hands, Tatum spends the summer working to pay off her fine and fulfilling her community service hours. At her feisty step-grandmother Blanche’s urging, she also begins a graphic design business which leads to some flirty exchanges with a mysterious new client.  Blanche also teaches her some gentle life lessons that provide her with some much needed insight into her strict stepmother’s behavior.  When Tatum’s father returns home at the end of summer from a business trip, will the family find a way to heal their fractured relationships?

Tatum’s relationship with both her stepmother and stepsister Tilly have always been strained. Stepmom Belén is not exactly the warm and cuddly type and she deals with everyone in a brisk, no nonsense manner. She has extremely high expectations for both Tatum and Tilly but luckily for Tatum, she is able to convince her father to intervene on her behalf when necessary. Which is why it comes as such a complete shock when her father sides with Belén and agrees to the harsh punishment her stepmother has imposed. Down but not out, Tatum creatively devises ways to work around some of the edicts but she still deeply resents her dad and Belén for their unfair treatment over something that really is not her fault.

While the storyline mainly focuses on Tatum’s family relationships, there is a slight romantic element to the plot. Tatum’s e-mail exchange with her new client is light-hearted, fun and flirty.  She has no idea who the young man is but she finds much to admire about him as she gets to know him over the summer. When they do eventually meet in real life, readers won’t be too surprised about who he is, but Tatum sure is!

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June is a terrific novel of healing for Tatum and her family. The characters are multi-dimensional with easy to relate to human frailties and foibles. The storyline is quite engaging and deals with real life issues in a straightforward, realistic manner. A very well-written young adult novel that I absolutely loved and highly recommend to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Blink, Christina June, Contemporary, It Started with Goodbye, Rated B+, Review, Young Adult

Review: Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

Title: Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen will fall in love this contemporary debut about finding yourself-and finding love-in unexpected places.

Ocean breeze in her hair and sand between her toes, Anise can’t wait to spend the summer before her senior year surfing and hanging out on the beach with friends. Santa Cruz is more than her home-it’s her heart. But when her aunt, a single mother, is in a serious car accident, Anise must say goodbye to California to help care for her three young cousins.

Landlocked Nebraska is the last place Anise wants to be. Sure, she loves her family, but it’s hard to put her past behind her when she’s living in the childhood house of the mother who abandoned her. And with every Instagram post, her friends back home feel further away.

Then she meets Lincoln, a charismatic, one-armed skater who challenges her to swap her surfboard for a skateboard. Because sometimes the only way to find your footing is to let go.

Review:

Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman is a fast-paced and engaging contemporary young adult novel.

Santa Cruz native Anise Sawyer is a carefree teen whose days are spent surfing and hanging out with her friends. With summer break just beginning, she, her best guypal;Eric, best gal pal Tess and the rest of their group are eagerly making plans for their last summer together. However, Anise’s life is immediately turned upside down when her Aunt Jackie is involved in a serious car accident leaving her kids in desperate need of someone to care for them as she recovers. Although she always has a good time with her cousins, twelve year old Emery and nine year old twins Parker and Nash, Anise is dismayed by her dad’s plan for the two of them to spend the summer in Nebraska. Feeling sorry for herself as she sees her friends having fun without her back home, Anise is rather overwhelmed taking care of her cousins when she meets Lincoln Puk, a charming, upbeat skateboarder who manages to pull her out of her doldrums and challenges her to try new things.

Anise has a great life with her dad and her friends but she has yet to come to terms with her mother’s abandonment. Her mom drops into Anise’s life on an irregular basis and she disappears just as unexpectedly as she arrives. Luckily for Anise, her dad is incredibly laidback and he not only puts a great deal of trust in her, he is pretty indulgent when it comes to her love of surfing. Although she knows going to Nebraska is the right thing to do, Anise is a little petulant at first about giving up her last summer with her friends before they go their separate ways. It is not until she meets Lincoln that she begins to fully emerge from her self-indulgent funk.

Lincoln’s life is the complete opposite of Anise’s. Due to his mother’s job, his family moves frequently and he is surprisingly adept at starting over and fitting in wherever they end up. Lincoln is one of those people who rolls with the punches and he has an uncanny ability to make the best of whatever situation he finds himself in. Lincoln appeals to Anise’s competitive nature by challenging her to learn how to skateboard and a delightful friendship and budding romance soon follows.

One of the things that makes Girl Out of Water stand out from other young adult novels is the diversity in the cast of characters. Anise’s best friend back home is Samoan and two of their closest friends are a lesbian couple. Lincoln is a person of color who is also an amputee. Each of these characters is well-developed and multi-faceted and refreshingly free from any stereotyping. The world is full of wide range of people from different backgrounds and ethnicity and it is wonderful to see this reflected in works of fiction.

Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman is an entertaining novel with a fantastic cast of characters and an interesting storyline. Anise is a bit of an adrenaline junkie whose fearlessness while in her normal surroundings is surprisingly absent when she is out of her element. Her fears of turning into her mother leave her clinging to familiarity and her summer in Nebraska leads to some very unexpected life lessons. A thought-provoking young adult novel that I recommend to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Contemporary, Girl Out of Water, Laura Silverman, Rated B, Review, Sourcebooks Fire, 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