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.

 

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?

Blood and Ink by Stephen Davies

9781580897907_34ab1First appeared in School Library Journal, July 2017.

Though both raised in the Fulani tribe, teens Ali and Kadi are like oil and water when their paths cross in the midst of political turmoil in their home of Timbuktu, Mali. Religiously strict Ali belongs to the Defenders of Faith, a branch of Al Queda. His current assignment is to take control of Timbuktu, destroying any opposition in the way. Equally strict, brave, and feisty is Kadi, a lover of music and literature and the daughter of a librarian. As a Guardian, Kadi must keep ancient manuscripts safe at all costs. While trying to flee Timbuktu with the manuscripts, Kadi ends up in mortal danger. Ali must choose where his true loyalty lies. The ending is abrupt, but hopeful, and it begs for a sequel. Modern-day Timbuktu is brought to life in this timely, fast-paced story of teens falling in love despite being at war with each other. Historically rich background and Islamic culture combine, providing two perspectives on the war in Mali. The drama unfolds in alternating points of view between well-developed characters with multicultural subject matter that is unique, but relevant to current events.  Davies’ writing is authentic, because he spent over a decade with the Fulani tribe. Both a glossary and a fact & fiction section are included to enhance reader’s understanding and provide factual background of Islamic practices. VERDICT: Readers will enjoy the well-drawn characters and fast-paced action of this diverse YA thriller with a hint of romance.

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

15797848Stephanie Perkins’ YA horror/thriller novel, There’s Someone Inside Your House, will have adults and teens alike reeling until the very last page. Think Scream, but much more original and clever! Try to go right to sleep after finishing this book and let me know how that works out for you. It certainly didn’t work for me!

Makani left Hawaii and is now in her senior year at a small school in rural Nebraska, in the farming town of Osborne. She lives with her aging, and somewhat senile grandmother, sent to help her by her soon-to-be-divorced and non-present parents, who stayed behind in Hawaii. Her two best friends are Alex and Darby, and though she sometimes feels like the third-wheel of the group, she is going through the motions of surviving high school, all the while trying to keep a low profile so that no one finds out the true reason she left Hawaii and changed her last name to Young. Makani starts to take a renewed interest in Ollie Larssen, one of her classmates who is sexy and mysterious, but doesn’t care what others think about him, or his recent hot pink hair color. Ollie lives with his slightly older brother, Chris, a town police officer, because their parents were killed by a drunk driver a few years ago.

As Makani and Ollie get to know each other better (nothing like a good steamy romance!), random high school students are being brutally murdered one-by-one.  Makani fearfully begins to wonder who will be next. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to how the students are being chosen at random, but Makani can’t help but wonder if her past and the incident in Hawaii is finally catching up with her in Nebraska. The murders start to increase at an alarming rate, but the killer manages to escape capture, leaving a gruesome setup at each murder scene.

The book is packed with both fear and romance, a killer combination that will keep readers fascinated. I couldn’t put the book down! It was a very fast read, but the scenes and grisly details stayed with me well after I had read the last page. The murder scenes were bizarre and original, causing Perkins’ first horror novel to be a stand-out from other books of this genre.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the book is that the killer is revealed about three-quarters of the way through the book, and readers don’t have to wait until the final page to know who it is. However, even after the killer is revealed (in a most unsettling & painful way for Makani and Ollie, by the way), he/she keeps on killing, right under everyone’s noses. It’s crazy! The plot is original, wildly entertaining, and filled with creepy moments. When you start a young adult novel and one of the characters is murdered savagely in the first chapter, you know it’s going to be a game-changer for young adult horror. Fans of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer will absolutely love this book!

To quote of my high school student readers, “It was a real slasher!” (She gave it a 10 of 10.)