Always, Forever, Maybe by Anna Mrose Ricci

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Originally published in School Library Journal, March 2018.

Gr. 9 & Up: High school senior, Bee, has been living in the shadow of her best friends, popular twins Jo and Eric, counting the days until she can move away from her demanding parents. When Bee begins dating Aiden, her relationship with Jo becomes strained, which further increases as she starts keeping secrets involving Aiden from Jo. The tone starts off lightheartedly, but quickly turns serious as Aiden’s true character is revealed. Bee is convinced that Aiden is the one, and she remains in the relationship as he becomes jealous, irrational, and violent. Her parents forbid the relationship, causing her to want Aiden even more. Readers will sense Bee’s fear, and the pressure of trying to please everyone but herself. When sudden tragedy strikes, Bee finally realizes she must leave Aiden before it’s too late. Rissi’s first YA novel gives an accurate, but heartbreaking picture of teenage relationships. Recommended for additional purchase, the story has mature language and sexual scenes, as well as real-life situations which teen readers will appreciate. VERDICT: Fans of Colleen Hoover will enjoy this modern day realistic fiction story, full of diverse characters and the important message that abusive relationships are never acceptable.

 

 

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

51yzVoK9UiLI probably wouldn’t have picked up this book to read, but I was assigned to read it for a state high school book award committee on which I serve. I’m SO glad that I read it. It’s an awesome book about finding yourself in spite of pressure from your family, your peers, and the closed-minded views of the world around you. It’s a lighthearted, quick read with plenty of hilarious banter and adorable first love moments.

When Dimple meets Rishi, it’s certainly nothing like either of them would have planned! Told in alternating points of view between Dimple and Rishi, both in their final summer before starting college, the story is engaging and refreshingly unexpected.

Dimple Shah is determined to be successful, choosing a college and career path where she can get the best education, rather than her very traditional mother’s plan for her to find the I.I.H. (Ideal Indian Husband).  Dimple is pleasantly surprised when her parents agree to send her to a summer program for web developers called Insomnia Con at SFSU where she plans to attend college in the Fall. She plans to code an app and win first place in order to have the chance to work with her idol, developer and past Insomnia Con winner, Jenny Lindt. She has no clue that her parents are planning for her to go so she can meet and then marry the son of their friends, Rishi Patel.

Rishi Patel, a romantic at heart, believes in tradition and is thrilled when his parents tell him of their plan to send him to Insomnia Con in order to meet his future wife, Dimple. He is under the impression that Dimple has been included in the plans. Though his very successful, wealthy father plans for him to study engineering and follow in his footsteps, Rishi’s dream is to pursue a career in creative arts with comics, in which he has substantial talent and interest. Sadly, knowing that his father will never approve, he has agreed to follow the path chosen for him.

You can probably imagine what their first meet-up will be like, but its likely much more comical than your imagination suggests. I found myself laughing out loud while reading many times. Again, I loved this book and would recommend it for both teens and adults. The characters are unique and easy to love. They say opposites attract…but whoever “they” are haven’t met Dimple and Rishi! Read it; you won’t be sorry.

Love Songs & Other Lies by Jessica Pennington

9780765392275_3ab13Originally published in School Library Journal, March 2018.

Gr 9 & up – On summer break, Virginia (Vee), a talented songwriter and musician, leaves Michigan for a 3 month reality band competition tour with best friend, Logan. Much to her surprise and initial dismay, the newest member of Your Future X is Cameron, Vee’s not-quite forgiven or forgotten ex. Guilt-ridden and alone, Cam moved to Riverton from California after a horrible accident which killed his parents. Vee becomes the center of attention on a tour bus full of single musicians where every moment, private or not, is viewed by the fans. Told in alternating points of view, the pacing is quick, switching between two years prior to the present. Much like notes plucked on their guitars, Vee can’t deny the hum of sexual tension between herself and Cam. Will Vee forgive Cam and open herself up to love again? This modern-day realistic fictional romance has both steamy love scenes and tender moments between best friends, appealing to even reluctant readers. It’s like Battle of the Bands meets the Bachelorette in book form. VERDICT: Filled with lyrics, love, and late nights, Pennington’s timely debut novel will appeal to romance fans of Sarah Dessen and Susane Colasanti.

Wrong in All the Right Ways by Tiffany Brownlee

Title: Wrong in All the Right Ways
Author: Tiffany Brownlee
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Henry Holt BYR/Macmillan
Pub. Date: July 17, 2018
Summary/Blurb:
An attraction between foster siblings sets fire to forbidden love in this contemporary reimagining of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Emma’s life has always gone according to her very careful plans. But things take a turn toward the unexpected when she falls in love for the first time with the one person in the world who’s off-limits: her new foster brother, the gorgeous and tormented Dylan McAndrews. Meanwhile, Emma’s AP English class is reading Wuthering Heights, and she’s been assigned to echo Emily Bronte’s style in an epistolary format. With irrepressible feelings and no one to confide in, she’s got a lot to write about. Distraught by the escalating intensity of their mutual attraction, Emma and Dylan try to constrain their romance to the page―for fear of threatening Dylan’s chances at being adopted into a loving home. But the strength of first love is all-consuming, and they soon get enveloped in a passionate, secretive relationship with a very uncertain outcome.
Wrong in All the Right Ways marks the exciting debut of a fresh voice in contemporary teen fiction.
Pages: 341
About the Author
Tiffany Brownlee was born in San Diego, California, but currently lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she works as a 7th Grade English Teacher. Her debut novel, Wrong in All the Right Ways—a YA remix of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights—is set for publication in Summer 2018.

 

 

Librarian Laura’s Review 

Brownlee’s debut novel, a modern-day re-imagining of Bronte’s classic, Wuthering Heights, will have readers swooning over the forbidden romance and the tension between main characters Emma and Dylan.

Skipping two grades in high school, exceptionally smart 16 year old Emma is in her senior year at the top of her class. Emma is pretty much a loner, focusing all of her time and energy on studying, with the hope of getting away from Cedar Pointe to pursue a career in the publishing industry. An added bonus for going away to college in less than a year is that she’ll be out from under the roof of her overbearing, controlling father, a former baseball star who makes everything Emma does into a fiercely competitive endeavor.

Thrown for a loop by her parents, Emma is told that she is getting a foster sibling. Her little brother, Matthew, age 8, is excited, hoping to have a playmate. Emma, on the other hand, is concerned about losing more attention from her parents the last year she will be under their roof. Thinking she’ll get another kid brother or sister like Matthew, Emma is surprised to get Dylan, a very handsome, mysterious boy her age as the new foster sibling. Dylan is an artist and very talented, but his painful past has taken its toll on him, as he tries to keep things hidden and puts on a happy face around Emma’s parents and people at school.

In the midst of receiving a new foster sibling into her family, things start looking up a bit for Emma when Karmin, the hot, popular girl encourages her to join the dance team and befriends her.

Emma and Dylan first try to deny their immediate attraction to one another, but it soon becomes impossible. Knowing they are breaking a cardinal rule of foster care, even though they are in no way blood-related, they have to keep their attraction a secret, causing them to long for the small bits of alone time they get with one another.

As with all forbidden romance, there are some bumps in the road, the first being star baseball player, Keegan, Karmin’s twin brother, who is attracted to Emma. Keegan is undeniably cute, kind, and everything Emma’s parents want her to have in a boyfriend. Plus, the baseball thing is a major hit with her father. However, Emma only wants what she really can’t have – Dylan.

As Emma and Dylan fall harder for each other, the stress and worry of trying to hide and uncertainty of the future with Emma going away to college proves to be too much. When tragedy strikes, Emma is forced to reveal her secrets to try to heal the sudden loss of so many firsts – her first kiss, first relationship, and first love. The ending is hopeful, with just enough uncertainty to keep readers guessing what will be in store next for Emma and Dylan. You’ll have to read it to find out for yourselves. I’m not in the business of spoiling endings!

Wrong in All the Right Ways is well-written with many connections to the well-known love triangle of Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar of Wuthering Heights. I can’t wait to read Tiffany’s next novel because I loved this one! I would recommend it for teens and also adults who enjoy quality YA literature.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

 

Love Songs & Other Lies by Jessica Pennington – Author Interview

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About the Book

Title: Love Songs & Other Lies

Author: Jessica Pennington

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: April 24th, 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Synopsis: It’s summer romance and second chances, the songs that stay in your head, and the boy you’ll never forget.

Two years after rock-song-worthy heartbreak, Virginia Miller is looking forward to a fun, carefree summer. Her friends just landed a spot on a battling bands reality show, and Vee is joining them for her dream internship on tour. Three months with future rockstars seems like an epic summer plan. Until she learns she’ll also be sharing the bus with Cam. Her first love, and her first heartbreak. Now Vee has more than just cameras to dodge, and Cam’s determination to win her forgiveness is causing TMZ-worthy problems for both of them. With cameras rolling, she’ll have to decide if her favorite breakup anthem deserves a new ending. And if she’s brave enough to expose her own secrets to keep Cam’s under wraps.

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| Book Depository | Macmillan

About the Author

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Jessica Pennington is no stranger to the combination of love and drama. She’s a wedding planner, after all. A writer since the age of ten—when she sought publication for her poem about a tree—Jessica likes the challenge of finding the humor in a sad situation or highlighting the awkwardness in a romantic one. She lives in a Michigan beach town suspiciously similar to the one in her books, where she’s currently finishing her second novel, WHEN SUMMER ENDS, out April 2019.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

 

Interview with Jessica Pennington

1. How did you get started as a writer?

I wrote poetry in elementary school and always dabbled with it, even through high school, but I really didn’t attempt fiction until about five years ago. I’ve always loved to write, I just never felt like I had a story to tell. Until I did!

2. What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?

I feel like romance in general can be sort of underappreciated, and that’s mainly what I like to read. I think books that are fun and let you escape have a lot of value, especially for teens, and I’d really love to see it stop being a genre targeted just to girls, when the stories are really relevant to anyone discovering love for the first time. Boys fall in love too. I maybe didn’t answer this question, but I’m sticking with it!

3. What is your favorite childhood book?

I don’t tend to have favorites of anything—or if I do, it’s just my most recent favorite—but for childhood books a few of my favorites were anything by Roald Dahl and Shel Siverstein, Island of the Blue Dolphin, Graeme Base books, and I was obsessed with non-fiction books about animals as a kid!

4. Do you have a special room or place that you prefer to write?

I can write just about anywhere if I have headphones, but I do have a writing space in my house. It’s new—I recently claimed my dining room as my office/study—so it’s lacking the ambiance I would normally like, but it has a giant picture window and the best natural light in my whole house. My dad just built me a huge barn door so I can close it off from the kitchen, and I’m excited to fill it with plants this summer. It has so much potential! But I also really love writing at one of my local libraries—there’s something awesome about being surrounded by books while writing one.

5. Tell us about your typical process for starting a new book.

I only attempted one book before Love Songs & Other Lies, so in a lot of ways I feel very unqualified to talk about processes, but for the most part I just start with a kernel of an idea. With Love Songs, it started with the breakup scene. And as much as I love to plot, and sort of obsess over having things worked out before I start writing, I almost always abandon my plotting or seriously change things along the way, as I get to know my characters. It’s all a bit haphazard, I suppose, but I like the organic way my stories tend to come together. Things build off of little details, and the story usually ends up better than I could have planned! I also have to kick things off with a writing playlist that sets the mood, because I can’t write without music on.

6. How do you select the names of your characters?

Sometimes I base them on something meaningful—like in Love Songs & Other Lies, Virginia is named (by her parents) after the song ‘Meet Virginia’ by Train. But in real life, Train is one of my favorite bands, and one of the first concerts I saw on my own while in high school. But very often I just look up what names were popular when the character would have been born, and go from there!

7. What is the most difficult part of being a writer?

Since I’ve become an author, I think the most difficult part is writing on deadline. It’s much different from writing something at your own pace, and there’s a lot of pressure attached to producing something creative on a fixed timeline. It’s definitely been an adjustment to get into that headspace!

8. Are you working on any new novels at this time? If so, can you share a little about them?

Speaking of deadlines! I wrote my second novel, When Summer Ends, this winter, and I just finished up copy-edits. It’s about Olivia, a cautious girl who decides to live summer by chance – dice rolls, coin flips and all – after her longtime boyfriend dumps her right before break; and Aiden, the former star pitcher who gets swept up in her plan while trying to find a new passion, after learning he’s losing his vision. It’s dual POV, which I love to write (and to read) and for anyone who thought Cam was swoony in Love Songs, just wait until you meet Aiden.

9. What is your favorite/most valued work that you have written?

I plead the fifth! Love Songs & Other Lies and When Summer Ends feel like my babies, and it’s too hard to pick. But it would definitely be one of those two, because the novel I wrote before Love Songs was pretty horrid. It was a paranormal romance, and the first story I ever attempted, and just very out of my wheelhouse. Love Songs and When Summer Ends both have big pieces of me in them, so each is my favorite in its own way, but I think my debut will always feel really special to me.

10. Can you give us a sneak peek about your upcoming novel?

It’s set in the same town as Love Songs & Other Lies, but while Love Songs only took place partly in Riverton, When Summer Ends spends all of its time in the Michigan beach town. And it’s a bit of a love letter to how amazing Michigan is in the summer—canoe trips, dune hikes, nights under the stars—it was really fun to get to delve further into my love of beach towns! I seriously can’t wait to share more about this one—it will be out April 2019 (but you can add it to Goodreads now!)

Excerpts from the Book

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Where I Live by Brenda Rufener

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Originally published in School Library Journal, November 2017.

Grade 9 & Up – Secretly living in Hinderwood High, teenager Linden is homeless and working two jobs to afford living essentials. After her mother was killed, she ended up in Oregon at her grandmother’s nursing home, before she died too. Linden, white and homeless, and her best friends, Korean American Seung, and gay, fun-loving Ham make up the Triangle. Linden’s goal is to graduate and go to college with the Triangle, her only family and support. While reporting for the school blog and trying to keep her homelessness a secret, Linden uncovers perfect, mean-girl Bea’s secret – an abusive boyfriend. Not wanting to draw attention to herself, Linden worries for Bea, but does not expose her secret. When Seung becomes more than a best friend, Linden inadvertently lets her guard down, starting a new chapter in her life. When the truth is revealed, reactions of her friends and community prove that family is where your heart is, regardless of blood relation. Rufener’s cast of diverse characters and genuine dialogue helps balance the unlikely premise that a teenager could be living in a high school undetected. Readers will empathize with Linden, because her matter-of-fact attitude and bravery, never wallowing in self-pity. VERDICT: Recommended for strictly additional purchase for older teens due to mature language. Fans of Jennifer Niven and Nicola Yoon will enjoy this debut realistic fiction novel which brings to light heavy topics of homelessness and abuse.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

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This is such a cool book. It’s like a modern-day Breakfast Club with a twist – a murder investigation! Five students from Bayview High go into to detention and only four students make it out. There’s Bronwyn, the brainiac who only has time to be successful, Addy, the beauty queen who prefers to be treated as a princess, Nate, the criminal who sells pills and tries to fly under the radar, and Cooper, the star baseball player who is being scouted by the pros, but isn’t quite telling the truth about his stellar performance on the field. After a strange fender-bender outside the school draws their teacher out of the room for a moment, Simon ends up dead. Simon, the social outcast who runs a gossip blog, and as such, he is known but not necessarily liked by many. The other four students, who are as different as can be, are targets in Simon’s blog post set to be released the day after his death, exposing their deepest, darkest secrets and making them all murder suspects. What looked like an accidental death due to a severe peanut allergy at first turns out to be a murder with serious planning and consequences.

As the investigation unfolds, the story pacing gets quicker and quicker, each chapter switching point-of-view between Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, and Cooper. Readers will try to figure out which of the four students is lying and who really knows what happened to Simon. This is an addictive, can’t-put-down-until-it’s-over kind of thriller which will appeal to both adults and teens. I highly recommend it. Can you figure out which one is lying?