The Tragedy of Dane Riley by Kat Spears

Every adult and young adult should read this book!

Dane Riley is an interesting character. He needs purpose but has extreme difficulty finding any. His self esteem is rock bottom and he’s grieving the loss of his dad. Dane is a senior on the verge of graduating high school yet he has no idea what he wants for his future. He has a few good friends that don’t attend the same high school and he has a deep crush on Ophelia, his classmate that also happens to be his next door neighbor. This story gave me food for thought and some good advice along the way. I especially appreciate the statement that Dane’s English teacher told him:

“During high school, it seems like nothing that you’re doing is important, but if you want to eventually have an interesting job, to have some reason to look forward to getting up in the morning, the course you set for yourself really does matter.”

This is also a well-advised quote:

“Life is just what you make it. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

Every young adult and adult should read this book. It might build connections between parents and children, teachers and students and a greater understanding of the lives and perspectives of others. Am enjoyable and valuable read, 5 stars!

Breathless by Jennifer Niven

Encompasses everything wonderful, stressful and everything in between of falling in love for the first time.

Coming of age story about Claudine, aka Claude. Contains explicit sexual content, heads up to readers that may be bothered.
Breathless encompasses everything wonderful, stressful and everything in between and around falling in love for the first time. Claude and her mother travel to an island where they have family roots. They plan on staying for the summer to give Claude’s father a break after he decided he wants a divorce. Angry and annoyed, Claude and her mother arrive on the secluded island with very little internet service. She has to adjust to not being able to text her friends and father back home. She meets the summer young-adult workers and becomes friends with most of them. One in particular catches her eye, Jeremiah Crew (Miah). They hang out and eventually become more than friends. During this summer, Claude and Miah mature, and together they help each other deal with their personal lives and the problems they’re both dealing with. Miah teaches Claude how to ride a bike and shares his island adventures with her. Claude helps Miah talk about his personal life. They have a great and memorable summer together but dread the day they have to say goodbye when it ends. A beautiful story with unique characters that grow in depth and maturity together. A perfect romance for a summer read, 5 stars!

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

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Impressive mystery!
Thanks to NetGalley and Margaret McElderry Books for the opportunity to read and review I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick!
The book begins in August as Anna is being questioned by the police about Zoe Spanos, a young woman who has been missing for two months and looks similar to Anna. Then, the story moves back to June when Anna starts her nanny job. Little by little, Anna meets members of the community and gets to know the neighborhood. The story of Anna alternates with the local podcast, Missing Zoe, created by a Spanos family friend. The podcast explores the investigation into Zoe and her disappearance. The story keeps moving between June when Anna started her job as a nanny in Herron Mills and August when she was arrested for the manslaughter of Zoe. People tend to act strangely around Anna and she starts to wonder why. She knows it’s not just from how she looks. The mystery and questions about Zoe’s disappearance build ominously until the very end of the book. Complicated and fascinating in each part and with all of the characters, I Killed Zoe Spanos weaves a complex, twisty mystery that’s worth a full 5 stars!

What I Want You to See by Catherine Linka

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Interesting and unique story!
Thanks to NetGalley and Disney Book Group for the opportunity to read and review What I Want You to See by Catherine Linka!
Sabine has lost her mother and is now on her own. She’s attending art school and has great talent. She’s attending due to a scholarship but her art teacher is harsh and without his recommendation, she won’t keep her scholarship and will have to drop out of school. Sabine gets conned into practicing and perfecting her artistic skills by secretly painting a replica of her tough professor’s painting, that has yet to be revealed. This painting has already been sold for almost a million dollars but when it’s put out for the art exhibition, Sabine knows it’s not the professor’s painting but her copy because she can see her flaws. She’s devastated and realizes she was tricked and now she’s going to be the fall guy because the con man has fled. The story touches on homelessness and college students who struggle to make ends meet. The author has given information about homelessness in her ending notes. Riveting suspense and food for thought. 4 stars!

Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

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Controversial issues and thought provoking!
Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Teen, Edelweiss and Bookish First for the opportunity to read and review Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry!
Veronica has an awesome father who drives trucks and makes waffles. Sawyer moves into the three story house that Veronica lives in. Veronica and her father live on the third and second floor. Sawyer lives with his little sister Lucy and their mom on the first floor. Supposedly the house is haunted. Veronica gets migraines and ghosts often accompany her headaches. She’s unsure whether the ghosts are truly there or hallucinations. Veronica’s deceased mother often appears and she wants to believe her mom’s ghost is watching over her. Veronica has a benign brain tumor but she does her best to live her life despite the wrenching headaches that disable her. Sawyer is tired of his mom controlling his life and he’s sick of her drinking. The two of them develop a relationship and help each other deal with their struggles.
Several controversial topics are explored in this book, the use of medical marijuana, if ghosts are real or not, choosing or denying treatment for an illness, addiction, enabling addiction and self-care.
4 thought-provoking stars!

The Bookworm Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

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A lighthearted story that takes on a few serious issues!
Bookworm Crush, by Lisa Brown Roberts and Entangled Teen, opens as Amy is sneaking around town at night. She sneaks out to decorate for a social media challenge so she can win a meeting with her favorite author. The winner also receives a scholarship. Toff happens to drive by as Amy is running scared because she heard a noise and falls. He stops to help Amy, not knowing that he’s Amy’s crush. Since it’s past curfew, a police officer pulls them over to question the reason they aren’t home. They feign a relationship, pretending that they lost track of time. Amy’s terrified of getting in trouble but Toff plays it cool and the police officer lets them go. Toff takes Amy home and her brother notices the two of them as she’s sneaking into the house. Her brother Brayden assumes they’re dating. This is the beginning of Toff having his eyes opened to Amy. He coaches her for the author competition and helps Amy build her “swagger”. His confidence rubs off on her and together they create fun, interesting social media posts. Meanwhile, Toff’s father is remarrying and Amy’s father is looking for a job. This lighthearted story takes on a few serious issues and character growth, 4 stars!

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

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Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett addresses several difficult topics with boldness and knowledge.  Simone was born HIV positive and she lives with her loving, adoptive parents, Dave and Paul, who she calls Dad and Pops. Simone recently moved to the school she’s now attending, after being tormented and shunned at her previous school when her best friend told everyone that Simone has HIV.  She wants a fresh start and her junior year is going well, at first.  She’s been assigned as the high school musical director for the school production of “Rent” because Broadway is one of her passions and her teacher believes she has what it takes to follow her dreams and make a career out of directing.  Simone meets this amazing guy, Miles, and they form a healthy relationship and she shares her secret with him.  Miles handles it kindly and with empathy and treats Simone the same as before.  Someone starts leaving threatening notes for Simone, warning her to break up with Miles or else.  Everything escalates after that and blow up.  Simone finds out who her true friends are and she has to decide whether to hold her head up high and persevere or run away from the same problem all over again.

 Be aware that Full Disclosure freely talks about sexual issues and questions, so not for sexually squeamish readers.
Impressive and bold young adult debut!

Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith

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Tough situations handled well by author!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing and Margaret K. McElderry Books for the opportunity to read and review Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith!
First we meet Chris, who’s changed identities. Next is Maia who has lost her sister Mallory. Both main characters feel lost and, while Chris is struggling with the transformation of being transgender, Maia is trying to figure out the basics of who she is without her sister. The two of them work through some of their struggles together but Maia seems to be having a more difficult time adjusting personally than Chris. Transgenderism is handled perfectly from all perspectives, personal, family, friends and romantic relationships. Being transgender would be difficult enough as it is, but adding a relationship would make everything even more complicated. How and when do you tell your romantic interest or even just a new friend? They have a right to know, so their feelings are respected too. The author approaches these issues gently and respectfully for all sides involved. Losing a loved one is also part of this book and that’s something that all of us will have to deal with at sometime in our lives. These tough situations are handled well by the author, who also shares her own experiences with sexuality. I wish the cover was better though; I can see it being a deterrent for readers. 3.5 stars!

Mean Little People by Paige Dearth

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Heartbreaking realistic fiction.
Thanks to NetGalley, Fiction With Meaning LLC and a Goodreads giveaway for the ARC of Mean Little People by Paige Dearth.
The prologue broke my heart with the bullying of a seven-year-old boy. Tony was severely bullied by children and then he went home after being saved by a passerby and was bullied horribly by his father. The story continues on as Tony grows up, makes friends, loses friends and stands up to his father. The story jumps through Tony’s life and is somewhat choppy for a while but then finally settles and flows better. Once Tony becomes a teenager, the jumping stops and the story continues on with the tragically sad, horrifying and heartbreaking events that he’s living through. Tony sees his friend Salvatore harm someone. Vincent and Salvatore run away but Tony stays to help the injured person. A witness sees Tony by the person and tells the police that Tony was the killer when the person dies. Tony ends up in a juvenile detention center where he’s abused beyond comprehension. The only reason he was arrested is because he wouldn’t tell on Salvatore. Salvatore’s father is the mob boss but he’s cold and uncaring so he doesn’t help Tony as much or as quickly as he should. The mob eventually kills the witness and Tony is released. Now he has nowhere to go because his wretched father refuses to let him stay at home because he’s a “criminal”. He’s homeless. Tony finds a friend in a male drug addict and they share a room in an abandoned apartment building. This is the first time that he feels safe and isn’t harmed by someone he’s trusted. He also meets Donata, who owns a bakery that Tony frequently visits on the rare occasion when he has money. Donata and her granddaughter Ruth become family to Tony. His addict friend freezes to death and Tony is left on the streets alone and terrified of freezing to death too. He ends up joining the Slayers, a violent gang, just so he has a warm place to sleep. Through all of this, Salvatore begs his father to help Tony. The mob boss finally gives Tony a job, freeing him from the Slayers. He always tells Tony that he is indebted to him and the mob family and owes them, even though Salvatore continues to remind his father that he’s really indebted to Tony for saving him from the awful detention center in the first place. This story reminds me of the movie “Scarface”, with the hatred, anger and violence. I admire the author for being brutally honest with the details of the harm and violence that is predominantly portrayed throughout the book. Perseverance is strongly represented also. Tony has amazing strength and because we’re given his view of tragedies that he suffered through, his strength and perseverance become even more hard- earned and amazing because he carries on. The choppy grammar is used to make the characters real and it does work. Heartbreaking realistic fiction that’s also very eye-opening, 4 stars.

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

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A charming book about relationships!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi! Penny lives with her single mother and every neighborhood man seems to hover around her. This embarrasses Penny to no end. Sam lives where he works, literally, and he absolutely loves to bake. Sam’s ex-girlfriend shows up to tell him she might be pregnant and that information knocks him over. By chance, Sam and Penny meet and through an unfortunate panic attack, they become friends. I enjoyed their relaxed friendship and their humor. Both Penny and Sam have family issues and other things they need to figure out. Emergency Contact shares their stories, with all the ups and downs, the good and bad and builds a charming book about relationships in the process. 5 stars!