I Guess I Live Here Now by Claire Ahn

A well-written and descriptive realistic fiction story that makes me want to visit Korea! 4 stars!

Melody is caught by a police officer smoking her first joint with her friend Sophie. They both managed one cough-inducing puff. The officer takes them both home, giving them a warning to not do it again. The next day she discovers that her parents have decided that they all need to be together so she’s moving with her mom to Korea and away from New York City. The two of them have lived in a tiny New York City apartment for most of Melody’s life while her father has worked in Korea and traveled back and forth to visit them. Melody and her mom have a close relationship but everything in Melody’s life changes once they’re in Korea. Her father is strict and gruff, her grandparents seem cold, distant and uncaring. She does make some friends and her Dad encourages socializing, which helps ease the family tensions and the homework stress. Her relationship with Sophie is strained too and Melody wants to figure out how to pursue her dream of becoming an interior designer while mending relationships with the people she cares about and navigating two countries as her home. A well-written and descriptive realistic fiction story that makes me want to visit Korea! 4 stars!

Language: 24 swears, including 1 f-bomb
Mature content: PG-13-kissing; underage smoking of marijuana
Violence: PG-arguing
Ethnicity: Korean, Ethiopian, American and many languages, such as French, spoken and ethnicities represented in Korea when Melody goes to a nightclub.
Likes/dislikes: I love the descriptions of each setting the main character is in. I also like the relevance of family contention and teen angst that takes place as Melody’s father tries to completely control her and she discovers her mother keeping secrets. She sees her grandfather treat her father the same way her father treats her and she wonders why he does that to her when he seems to dislike being treated like that. Great insight into Korean culture through Melody’s experiences as she visits places and tries new foods.

Family of Liars by E. Lockhart

Heads up, Family of Liars is a prequel but also a spoiler to We Were Liars!

Carrie is the oldest of three sisters. When the youngest sister Rosemary drowns, the three remaining sisters must follow the family motto and not show any grief. Carrie becomes addicted to painkillers after jaw surgery that her father insists she needed to give her a stronger looking jaw. The summer after Rosemary drowns, their cousin Yardley brings her boyfriend and his two best friends to the island. They’re funny and help lighten the mood on the island. Carrie and Pfeff are interested in each other but he keeps being inconsiderate and annoys Carrie. She discovers a secret that her mother’s been keeping and it’s consuming Carrie. Pfeff also turns out to be self-centered and when the cousins see him kissing Carrie’s sister Penny, things become precarious. I enjoyed Pfeff’s humor and the writing is exemplary. I felt firsthand what the characters were going through because of the details. Humorous parts with Pfeff changing lyrics of Mary poppins song, Step In Time:
Take no prisoners, do some crimes
Know your math facts! Step in time.
Every time he would sing this, it made me chuckle!
Heads up, Family of Liars is a prequel but also a spoiler to We Were Liars! It’s an enjoyable read full of teen angst, 5 stars!

Ethnicity is predominantly white.
Mature content is PG-13, underage drinking and smoking, attempted rape
Violence is PG-13

It’s All in How You Fall by Sarah Henning

A very cute YA romance!

Ethnicity- predominantly white with a mix of colored people.
Caroline, a fifteen-year-old gymnast, has to stop competing due to an injury. Her brother’s friend Alex tries to help her find something else that’s active but not harmful to her back and is enjoyable for her, so they try several different sports to see what Caroline likes. Alex has a crush on Caroline’s friend Sunny so she’s trying to set the two up without being obvious. Everything is going fine until she realizes she’s developed a crush on Alex. This is a super cute story that builds on friendship and appreciation and turning into more. A very cute, young adult romance! 4 stars!

Ethnicity- predominantly white with a mix of colored people.
No violence, PG content, two f-bombs and 37 other swears, mostly by Caroline’s brother.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Tremendously honest, heartbreaking and soul healing!

Kya lives in the marshlands of North Carolina with her poverty stricken family. Her father is abusive and, one by one, her siblings leave and, eventually, so does her mother. Her father stays and he seems better for a time, even kind. Then he falls back into his old ways again and ends up leaving too. Kya tries school for a day but after being bullied, she doesn’t return. She makes it completely on her own and digs mussels to sell to the local store to bring in money for food. Tate, a boy a few years older than Kya, loves to explore the marsh. They become friends and he teaches her to read. With reading, she discovers and teaches herself to be literate and all about the marshlands and its nature. She illustrates and collects samples of everything she finds in her marsh area. Tate leaves to attend college and becomes a biologist and works in the marsh. He submits Kya’s illustrations and notes to a publisher and she becomes a published author several times over. She adds comforts to her house and lives well by her own wealth. She lives simply but she gets electricity and running water and other basic comforts that she’s never had. When Tate went away to college, he realized that his life would be difficult for Kya. So, he doesn’t visit her for years. While he’s away, the local and popular Chase moves in on Kya. He tricks her into thinking he’s going to marry her, all the while dating other women. Kya eventually sees his engagement article in the local newspaper and ends it with him. Later, he attacks her, trying to rape her and he beats her up. She fights back and escapes. His body is found later and it looks like he fell from the fire tower in the marsh. Since he was a local celebrity, the police are pushed to investigate for foul play. Kya is arrested and faced with a murder trial. The whole time I’m reading the part after Chase attacks Kya, I’m hoping she killed him but I also don’t want her to be found guilty. The suspense builds to intensity and I couldn’t put the book down! Tremendously honest, heartbreaking and soul healing! 5 stars!

Gone Dark by Amanda Panitch

Her survival skills might keep her alive!

Zara’s father is a survivalist that lives on a compound. Zara and her mother used to live on the compound too, until seven years ago. Now she lives with her mother and attends public school far away from her father’s compound. Her father’s survival lessons are drilled into Zara’s head and she replays them often. When there’s a widespread blackout, Zara uses her survival knowledge to get away from a strange man chasing her, to find her mother and to help her friends. As they travel looking for safety and to reach her father’s compound for protection, they come across a lot of danger and strange, sometimes creepy situations, cult communities, religious communities, families stealing supplies from them and people that will do anything for self preservation. Interesting, unique dystopian story, 4 stars!

Turning by Joy L. Smith

A story that gives readers perspective!

Genie is a dancer who has lost the ability to walk. Ballet has been her life and was going to be her future but she fell and everything changed. Genie now uses a wheelchair to get around. She’s keeping a secret hidden from her family and she has more than one secret that’s pulling her down. Her ex-boyfriend is pushy and she has to force him to listen to anything she tries to say. This frustrates Genie tremendously and she wants to move on. She meets Kyle in physical therapy and he has his own tragedy that he’s struggling with. The two of them become friends. When her secrets are revealed, Genie will hopefully have the love and support she needs. A realistic fiction story that helps readers realize that troubles and struggles could be much worse. 4 stars!

Pretend She’s Here by Luanne Rice

Suspenseful, crazy, thought provoking;
5 stars!

Emily lost her best friend Lizzie and now she’s been kidnapped by Lizzie’s family to be her replacement. Lizzie’s mother has gone insane with grief. She’s tried to turn their younger daughter Chloe into Lizzie but that didn’t work because they’re still missing a child and have an empty seat at the kitchen table. Chloe is used as bait to get Emily to the van and convince her to go for a ride. They drug her and kidnap her. Emily is taken from everything she knows and loves and she sees that Lizzie’s mom is twisted in justifying the kidnapping. Emily’s hair is dyed black and she’s forced to wear contacts the colors of Lizzie’s eyes. Little by little, Emily is allowed tiny freedoms and eventually can attend school, if she agrees to send an email to her parents telling them that she ran away. She only agrees to send the email because her mother’s life is threatened if she doesn’t. Trauma, abuse and manipulation are parts of Emily’s daily life now and to keep her family safe, she agrees to be Lizzie.
Suspenseful, crazy, thought provoking; 5 stars!

The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda

Appalachian Trail Mystery!

Abby works at the Passage resort that sits next to the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. This resort is known for the disappearance of a group of four men twenty five years ago. Since those four friends went missing, three separate disappearances have happened, two women and a man. The latest disappearance, Landon West, occurred four months ago and his brother Trey just came to stay at The Passage. He wants to search for information about his brother and hopes to find answers. Abby and Trey both end up finding items that belonged to missing people. This makes her suspicious and a little creeped out. The story of the missing fraternity four is interesting and eerie but I would have liked more details of the last three crimes. I do feel that the ending was somewhat rushed. 4 stars!

The Rumor Game by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra

A cautionary tale!

A prime, fictional example of the harm rumors can do.
Bryn caused an accident out of anger and jealousy. The high school students have treated her harshly in person and online. She’s relieved when rumors start online about other students and their lives because it takes the attention off of her. She wants to use this chance to make things better. The story has much to learn from, such as never accepting food or drinks from anyone at a party because others might not be trustworthy; stay aware and alert at a party so you know what’s happening; photos can be taken out of context just like words, so don’t trust everything you see online; and there’s more than one side to every story. Full of diverse characters and very realistic, The Rumor Game is a cautionary tale. 4 stars!

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Morbidly fascinating!

Weird. Psychologically twisted. Wow… This story is a mystery in itself because of the narrators. As I read, I was unsure if I could trust any of the narrators. They all seem unreliable in some way. Ted, the man with extremely odd behavior and lifestyle, Olivia, Ted’s cat, and Dee, a woman who moved into Ted’s neighborhood who’s secretly looking for her younger sister that’s been missing for years. Ted supposedly has a daughter, Lauren. It’s difficult to decipher her age and maturity. Also, it seems that Ted’s mother handicapped Lauren so she’s unable to walk. It took me a few chapters to get into the story but then I needed to finish it to figure it all out. By the time, I read the entire book, I was fascinated, albeit a bit morbidly. I completely appreciate the author’s notes at the end of the book, explaining everything and making sense of it all and her spoiler alert at the beginning of her notes. So, don’t read her notes until after you’ve finished reading the book. She shares her research also, which is impressive! I want to read more of Catriona Ward’s books now. She wrote an intricate and complicated story, The Last House on Needless Street, showing the fragility and capabilities we all have within us. 5 stars!