Category Archives: Young Adult

Review: Rules of Rain by Leah Scheier

Title: Rules of Rain by Leah Scheier
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Length: 386 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

How far would you go to protect the ones you love?

Rain has taken care of Ethan all of their lives. Before she even knew what autism meant, she was her twin brother’s connection to the world around him. Each day with Ethan is unvarying and predictable, and Rain takes comfort in being the one who holds their family together. It’s nice to be needed—to be the center of someone’s world. If only her longtime crush, Liam, would notice her too…

Then one night, her life is upended by a mistake she can’t undo. Suddenly Rain’s new romance begins to unravel along with her carefully constructed rules. Rain isn’t used to asking for help—and certainly not from Ethan. But the brother she’s always protected is the only one who can help her. And letting go of the past may be the only way for Rain to hold onto her relationships that matter most.

Review:

Rules of Rain by Leah Scheier is a heartwarming and poignant young adult novel.

Rain Rosenblatt has always protected and taken care of her twin brother, Ethan, who is autistic. Now sixteen,  both siblings find romance which unexpectedly throws their relationship into a bit of turmoil. Rain is surprised to discover that her crush, Liam, returns her feelings and their relationship is off to an awkward but promising start. At the same time, her best friend Hope and Ethan are exploring their feelings for one another and Rain is not exactly on board with their burgeoning romance. As Ethan begins to expand his horizons beyond the safe, comfortable confines of their home, Rain finds herself continually off balance when she discovers she does not know her brother as well as she thought.

Rain is very loyal to Ethan and since her single mom has abdicated his care to her, her life pretty much revolves around her brother’s schedule and predictable routines. Always anticipating his needs and certain she knows what is best for him, she bases most of her decisions around him including her plans beyond high school.  Rain is definitely not in favor of his relationship with Hope, but once she realizes her opinion is not going to change anything, she tries to push her misgivings aside.  However, Rain is also struggling to adjust to the changes in her relationship with Ethan as he continues to be more independent.

Liam is a great character but he comes across as a little too perfect. He is great with Ethan and he treats him just any other kid their age. He is beyond patient with Rain’s quirks and he is her biggest cheerleader. Liam’s plans for the future are quite different than hers but with so many changes occurring with her brother, she is a bit adrift as she tries to figure out if her dreams are what she truly wants for herself.

Rain and Ethan’s family situation is less than ideal. Their parents went through a somewhat acrimonious divorce and they live with their mother in Montana while their dad lives in DC.   Rain’s mom is one of those parents who becomes fixated on using alternative methods to “fix” Ethan and rejects traditional medical advice when faced with her own health crisis. Rain’s dad is making more of an effort to be present in their lives but Rain is struggling with their reconciliation.

Rules of Rain by Leah Scheier is thought-provoking journey of self discovery for both Ethan and Rain. Their relationship is wonderfully depicted and Rain’s difficulties with accepting the changes in their relationship are frustrating yet realistic. Ethan’s romance with Hope is so incredibly sweet and surprisingly free from drama. Rain’s relationship with Liam is also quite endearing but an ill-thought out decision results in unintended consequences. I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this captivating young adult novel to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Contemporary, Leah Scheier, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Rules of Rain, Sourcebooks Fire, Young Adult

Review: The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis

Title: The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Adam Hawthorne is fine.

Yeah, his mother left, his older sister went with her, and his dad would rather read Nicholas Sparks novels than talk to him. And yeah, he spends his nights watching self-curated porn video playlists.

But Adam is fine.

When a family friend discovers Adam’s porn addiction, he’s forced to join an addiction support group: the self-proclaimed Knights of Vice. He goes because he has to, but the honesty of the Knights starts to slip past his defenses. Combine that with his sister’s out-of-the-blue return and the attention of a girl he meets in an AA meeting, and all the work Adam has put into being fine begins to unravel.

Now Adam has to face the causes and effects of his addiction, before he loses his new friends, his prodigal sister, and his almost semi-sort-of girlfriend.

Review:

The Temptation of Adam is a young adult novel about addiction. While pornography addiction takes center stage,  Dave Connis also touches on other types of addictions as well.

Sixteen year old Adam Hawthorne’s expulsion from school from an undisclosed infraction sets him on the path for treatment for his addiction to porn. A benevolent teacher, Mr. Gratcher, intercedes on his behalf with his school principal and as a result, Adam must spend one on one time with his teacher in addition to attending meetings similar to AA. He also must join Mr. Gratcher and three other young men, Elliot, Trey and Mark in Knights of Vice meetings.  Like so many people who have addictions, Adam is not only completely in denial about his dependence on porn, but he is also quite unaware of the reason he relies so heavily on it.  With a well-rounded group of people supporting him, (including his romantic interest,  Dez Coulter, and  his older sister, Abby), will Adam finally open his eyes to the truths that Mr. Cratcher is attempting to show him?

Adam is a highly intelligent young man who was blindsided by his parents’ divorce. Now referring to his absent mother as “The Woman”, he lives with his dad who is physically present, but emotionally checked out. Adam adores Abby, but since she lives with The Woman, they are not as close as they were prior to the divorce.  Since he is deeply in denial about his addiction to porn, Adam refuses to accept responsibility for the incident that resulted in his suspension. He is extremely resistant to  Mr. Cratcher’s attempts to help him but with the threat of permanent expulsion from school hanging over him, he has no choice but to continue attending meetings and spending mornings with his teacher.

Adam’s realization that he is addicted to porn occurs at a realistic pace. He gradually beings to understand the reasons why he turned to porn and  despite this self-awareness, he is often powerless to fight his addiction. His romance with Dez also offers him a new perspective on his destructive behavior and  provides him with an added incentive to try to conquer his demons.  Unlike the young men Adam meets, Dez is a bit of a stereotype and it is rather difficult to take her addiction to addictions seriously.

The Temptation of Adam is an engrossing and insightful young adult novel about porn addiction. Adam is well-rounded character who is genuinely likeable and easy to relate to despite his flaws. The storyline is well-developed and Dave Connis’s handling of various addictions is exemplary as is his realistic depiction of recovery. All in all, a well-written novel that will appeal to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Contemporary, Dave Connis, Rated B, Review, Romance, Sky Pony Press, The Temptation of Adam, Young Adult

Review: Alone by Cyn Balog

Title: Alone by Cyn Balog
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

This must-read for lovers of Stephen King’s The Shining will leave readers breathless as Seda and her family find themselves at the mercy of a murderer in an isolated and snowbound hotel. Get ready for what Kirkus calls “A bloody, wonderfully creepy scare ride.”

When her mom inherits an old, crumbling mansion, Seda’s almost excited to spend the summer there. The grounds are beautiful and it’s fun to explore the sprawling house with its creepy rooms and secret passages. Except now her mom wants to renovate, rather than sell the estate—which means they’re not going back to the city…or Seda’s friends and school.

As the days grow shorter, Seda is filled with dread. They’re about to be cut off from the outside world, and she’s not sure she can handle the solitude or the darkness it brings out in her.

Then a group of teens get stranded near the mansion during a blizzard. Seda has no choice but to offer them shelter, even though she knows danger lurks in the dilapidated mansion—and in herself. And as the snow continues to fall, what Seda fears most is about to become her reality…

Review:

Set in an isolated and disquieting mansion during a snowstorm, Alone by Cyn Balog is a suspense-laden young adult mystery that keeps readers on the edge of their seats.

Seda Helm is not at all pleased by her mom’s decision to remain in the creepy home she inherited. Despite her plans to sell it, she keeps rejecting offers for the onetime hotel turned murder mystery mansion. Cut off from the outside world due to no cell service, internet or landline, no one has heard from Seda’s dad since he abandoned the family months earlier due to his frustration with his wife. Seda’s much younger siblings still take great delight in the rundown mansion, but Seda is more than ready to return to Boston.  When a group of teenagers are stranded at the decrepit home during a blizzard, Seda’s mother stages an elaborate murder mystery scavenger hunt that takes a deadly turn.

Seda is a bit of an unreliable narrator who spends a lot of time in her own head.  She is great with her younger siblings despite the fact she feels a little overlooked by her parents.  The longer she and the rest of her family remain at the mansion, the darker Seda’s thoughts become. She also misses her dad and she is growing increasingly irritated with her mom’s refusal to return to Boston.

When the teenagers find themselves stranded following a minor car accident, Seda reluctantly allows them to remain on the property as long as they stay out of sight of her mother.  The group’s leader, Heath, ignores the edict and her mom ends up not only welcoming the teens with open arms, she convinces them to take part in a clever murder mystery. Seda is initially a reluctant participant in the game, but since she is paired up with the very attractive Heath, she eventually becomes more invested as they figure out what the clues mean. Slowly but surely, the hunt becomes more sinister and after she and Heath make a startling discovery, Seda makes a shocking admission.

Although a little slow paced in the beginning, Alone is an engaging mystery that readers of all ages will enjoy. The storyline is entertaining and the characters are interesting.  Although observant readers will most likely pick up on few subtle clues that hint at some of the upcoming plot twists, Cyn Balog brings the novel to an absolutely jaw-dropping conclusion that will take readers completely by surprise.

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Filed under Alone, Contemporary, Cyn Balog, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Sourcebooks Fire, Suspense, 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