I loved For Real, a new title from Alison Cherry in which we get to follow Claire and her older sister, Miranda, on a seriously fun summer adventure. When Miranda’s boyfriend is found out as a cheater right before they’re supposed to move in together, she moves home and struggles to move on… until Claire comes up with an idea for the perfect revenge. Miranda’s ex is going on an around-the-world race reality show, and without him knowing it, the two girls audition to be one of the last minute replacement teams. They go on the show with the intent to bring Miranda’s ex down, but the fun and bonding they get from the experience is worth far more than the revenge. I’m a fan of the positive sister relationship shown in this, and the strength of the two girls on their adventures.
Find For Real here on Amazon or at your favorite local bookseller.
I really, really have come to love Kasie West’s contemporary romance titles. Earlier this year, I read The Distance Between Us and adored it. I can’t even count how many of my students have purchased it based on my recommendation, and I’m happy to see it being read in my classroom. This past weekend, I got my hands on her most recent title, On the Fence, and I was not disappointed.
In this one, Charlotte (who goes by Charlie) is a tomboy who has grown up in a family of all boys – her dad, her three brothers, and even the boy next door who’s been around for as long as she can remember. She plays sports, runs a lot, and acts like one of the guys. When she’s forced to get a job to pay for her speeding tickets, the job she gets is in a girly, frilly boutique where she has to trade in her t-shirts and sneakers for skinny jeans and silk blouses. As she struggles to reconcile her tomboy self with her girly self (which is not all as bad as she thought it would be), she comes to realize that her feelings for the boy next door, Braden, are anything but sisterly.
I so appreciate that West writes a fun, contemporary, relevant story while keeping language, sexual content, and drugs at bay. You don’t HAVE to include all of that to relate to teenagers, but they’re so prevalent in so much of YA that it’s like a breath of fresh air to not have to wade through the crud to find redeeming quality underneath. Kasie’s books are great, and I could not possibly recommend them more!
Find On the Fence here on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore.
First, here’s the official blurb:
Love. Betrayal. Murder.
Valentina is living a charmed, glittering life in Miami—falling in love for the first time, showered with gifts and affection by her father, surrounded by friends—when one shocking moment shatters everything she thought she knew about herself, her boyfriend, and her world. With no one left to trust, Valentina sheds her identity and flees to Montreal, where she finds work posing for a series of portraits by a pompous young artist. Valentina has always been at home in the art world, but she’s never felt quite so alone.
Valentina’s carefully constructed new life comes crashing down when someone from her past resurfaces, putting her safety in question and her heart on the line. With betrayal at every turn, Valentina must untangle the deceptions of those she once loved and race to find her own truth—before it’s too late.
This book shocked and amazed me in so many ways, the most important of which is that IT ACTUALLY SURPRISED ME. I kept thinking I knew how it would end, or guessing Martinez would put one plot twist too many in there, but nope. She didn’t. It ends perfectly, with a protagonist who is strong and kicks butt, and left me a highly satisfied reader.
Kudos to Martinez on a true, gritty but not gross, hot but not crude or pornish, suspense thriller that literally had me guessing all the way through. This is one YA thriller that I would actually love to see in the hands of my students!
Find Kiss Kill Vanish here on Amazon or at your favorite book store!
Jane Casey’s How to Fall is a great story all around – I loved the characters, the setting, and the eerie mystery surrounding Freya’s death. Jess makes an intriguing protagonist and amateur detective which made the story even more likable. While this novel felt complete and satisfying, it also left room for sequels, which I’m very much looking forward to! If you’re looking for something to usher in the fall season and compliment the Halloween candy already showing up in stores, this is definitely it! Find How to Fall: A Novel (Jess Tennant Mysteries) here on Amazon or grab it at your favorite local bookstore.
In this, the latest title from the incredible Jenny Han, protagonist Lara Jean has dealt with the end of each crush she’s had on a boy by writing a letter to him detailing the reasons she loved him and the reasons she’s done loving him… like a break up letter, but without every having an actual relationship. The problem, of course, is that when you write things down they can be discovered by others, and her letters actually get mailed to these boys she had crushes on in the past. Some of them she currently goes to school with and knows, some of them have moved on and live elsewhere, but regardless it’s awkward for all of them. Where I can picture myself completely freaking out and panicking, Lara Jean holds it together remarkably well and by the time you get to the end you’re so deeply invested in her and so completely rooting for her that you don’t want it to be over.
Jenny Han has a kind of quiet, understated way of developing really amazing characters that stick with you well after the book is over. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is reminiscent of her style with the Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy, which is great news for me – I absolutely adore those books. There are going to be more books to follow, but this one resolved well enough to satisfy while leaving just enough curiosity to make me look forward to the next one!
Find To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before on Amazon or at your favorite local bookseller!
I’ve been wanting to read this for forever because of its adorable cover and because I’ve heard so many good things about Kasie West, but for some reason I just got around to it recently. It was so much more than I could have hoped for! Kasie West has sealed herself solidly onto my must-read list, which means I have more books to read!
In The Distance Between Us, Caymen is a girl taught to be weary of the wealthy – she helps her mom run the doll shop that they own and live above, and money is always tight. When Xander comes in to pick up a doll for his grandma, it doesn’t take Caymen long to recognize him as one of the wealthy elite and write him off. Xander doesn’t give up. He’s instantly taken with Caymen and just starts showing up all the time. Just as Caymen starts to recognize her own feelings for Xander, things get super complicated.
This story is a sweet realistic fairytale of a romance mixed with some intriguing family drama that ultimately ends beautifully. I can’t wait to read everything else Kasie has already published, and I’m looking forward to her future works as well.
Mostly I want to say that Some Boys handles the topic of rape with intelligence and great storytelling, which is so often the most effective way to teach on such a sensitive subject. In the vein of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Some Boys tackles the difficult issues of rape, bullying, slut shaming, etc. which are all incredibly important topics for teens (and parents, teachers, and more) to be aware of and discuss openly.
I was troubled, though, by how teachers and school administration were portrayed in this. I am a teacher. I have worked in several schools and with plenty of different types of teachers so far in my career. I can’t speak for all schools, obviously, and it saddens me to know that there probably are some teachers and administrators who would choose to look the other way rather than get involved, but I can say with certainty that it’s not the norm. Teachers teach because they care. Administrators too. In that way, I felt like that aspect of this book was unfairly represented. There would have been more than just the Coach who tried to help, and it would have been before he finally actually stepped in. Also, schools do have the ability to intervene and discipline students based on social media harassment when it impacts what’s happening at school, as this obviously does. Grace may not have felt like there were caring adults around her, but I want to urge all of my teenage readers to seek out help at school – we’re there because we want to help, not to shame you.
All of that aside, I do think there’s a valuable message here, and I’d encourage high school girls, especially, and parents of teenagers to read it. And, I think the most valuable lesson here is to urge students and parents to communicate with authorities, whether police or school based, when they know minors are being harassed. Most of the adults in this earn a giant F from me in how they handled Grace’s situation.
Grace’s story is immediately compelling and engrossing, and ultimately is a sweet story of healing and love. Find it here on Amazon.