They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman, tells the story of Jill and the other members of the Players, who attend an elite school where inclusion is limited and exclusion is the norm. Hazing at its finest and worst is what makes the school run from year to year. The students who are picked to become Players get privileges that no other students receive but they get these privileges at a price. Jill and her group are seniors looking forward to college and their bright futures since they’ve put the death of their friend behind them until new evidence enlightens the police that they may have arrested the wrong person. Amidst the elite and their plans, and their ongoing school expectations, the students are derailed and need to help find the true killer. Strong characters in a fascinating political mess tell this story of discrimination, manipulation, and abuse. The protagonist, Jill, brings brains, strength, and empathy to this unique book, 5 stars!

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

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Impressive sequel!
A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer
Rumors abound about and rewards are offered for the lost heir of Emberfall. Grey is working as a stable boy and goes by the name of Hawk. He mostly keeps to himself except for his stable companion and coworker, a young boy named Tycho. One night Grey tests out the silver bracelet Lilith gave him for transport into Harper’s world. He didn’t know if it worked anymore but when he touched the bracelet, he left the stables and when he returned, Tycho was staring at him. The ruthless leader that threatened Emberfall before has returned with her daughters to force Rhen into an alliance. The daughter named heir is like her mother while the other cares for people and their well being. Rhen brutalizes Grey and Tycho and the group escapes Emberfall because Grey unintentionally uses his magic. Grey doesn’t trust either kingdom or their rulers but the kind, wise daughter convinces the group to go to her kingdom despite worrying about her mother. A tremendous amount of character development bonded me with this story. I thought A Curse so Dark and Lonely was a wonderful read but this sequel is just as good! 5 stars for this impressive sequel that introduces even more great characters!

This Vicious Cure by Emily Suvada

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A fun sci-fi dystopian story, This Vicious Cure by Emily Suvada, alternates between Cat and Jun Bei, giving insight into each of their thoughts. Cat is inside a simulated environment which is really in Jun Bei’s mind since Jun Bei took over. Both realities are under duress and fighting to fix its own problems. Memories have been wiped, so Cat is new to most, except for feelings of familiarity. Jun Bei wants to fix the Panacea mortality cure and goes to severe lengths to accomplish her goal. For the first time in her life, Jun Bei feels guilty about harming people and regrets the killing she’s been responsible for in the past. Cat can see everything in the environments she’s in and everyone can see her. She looks perfectly real and solid and she’s undetected unless someone tries to touch her because their hands will go right through her image. The science fiction aspect of this series is fascinating. Embryos were created with specific genetic material to make people great coders/hackers. Thirty generations were created, mixed and born within a short period of time. Only two embryos were grown into people who were born and raised to be coding geniuses, Dax and Mato. The Panacea cure/vaccination will make people immortal while the Hydra virus has been mutating people into Lurkers through the tech panels in their arms. The series comes full circle with a satisfying ending, 5 stars!

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

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I love this cover!

Sea Witch, by Sarah Henning, opens as three young children play together and one ends up gravely injured. The story jumps to their teen years, the present time in this setting, when the Prince turns sixteen and the kingdom celebrates. Prince Nik and his best friend Evie dance and remember their third friend that is no longer with them. I like the alternating between the present time, and four years earlier around the time tragedy strikes, because it gives insight into the characters and their backgrounds and builds suspense. As the village prepares to celebrate, a young woman named Annamette appears. She confides in Evie her secrets and deepest wishes. This is where complications begin. With magic, royalty and the sea, problems brew and lives change drastically. Sea Witch is the beginning of transformation and the ending of innocence and freedom for Evie, 5 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!

End of the Lie by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

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Twisting mystery!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review End of the Lie by Diana Rodriguez Wallach!
Anastasia watches her sister become more and more depressed because of her traumatic kidnapping and the bad publicity that follows. They are both trying to adjust to the new situation with their parents and unwanted fame. Twists and turns keep them running and confused but they stay by each other’s sides to get through their intense struggles. Anastasia sees the people around her change until everything comes full circle. Intense, mysterious and suspenseful all wrapped up in this finale of the Anastasia Phoenix series, 5 stars!

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

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Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down!  So good, I actually read it twice already!
Thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Book Group for the opportunity to read and review Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart!
Serina and her family await Signor Pietro to make his choice of one of the community’s young women who will travel to Bellaqua, join others from different provinces, and vie for the opportunity to be a Grace for the royal Heir. Sera’s mother is thrilled when she’s the one who’s chosen, but her siblings Nomi and Renzo seem to feel otherwise. Sera’s unsure how her father feels. Sera has learned to be happy with the lack of options given to women in Viridia but Nomi openly hates the idea.
The Heir, Malachi, chooses three Graces every three years. This will be his first year of choosing Graces. The Superior has forty Graces and everyone assumes he will step down and let the Heir rule Viridia. At the ball, Nomi wanders into a palace library and notices a beautiful copy of the book Renzo taught her to read with, when they were younger. Reading is forbidden for women but Nomi loves to read. She slips this book into her clothes and as she’s going back to the ball, runs straight into the Heir and his younger brother Asa. The Heir demands to know what she’s doing and she coyly answers that she was using the restroom and if he needs it she points to where it is. Nomi can’t fathom how she could have been so rude to the Heir and she’s sure she’s going to be sent home. Sera is the only young woman the Heir dances with at the ball. He makes his decision afterwards, choosing two women and then Nomi instead of Sera! Grace and Fury is fast paced and full of intrigue! This magnificent book twists and turns with suspense that kept me on the edge of my seat! Once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. Fantastic writing, unique storyline and intriguing characters make Grace and Fury a must-read- 5 stars!

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

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The Wicker King by Kayla Ancrum blew me away and I am still processing it! Wow, an interesting, twisted story about two teen boys, their acquaintances, family lives and their long-lasting friendship. The relationship between the young men becomes increasingly unhealthy and worries their friends, who try to help them. Things get worse before anything changes and authorities intervene. Food for thought in so many ways, 4 stars!

Body Swap by Sylvia McNicoll

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Fun with a twist!
Thanks to NetGalley and Dundurn Press for the opportunity to read and review Body Swap by Sylvia McNicoll!
Hallie, a teenager, focuses on her cell phone so much that she walks in front of a car and gets hit. An elderly woman, Susan, was driving the car and she blames the car’s mechanical problems for the accident. Both of them are badly injured and unconscious and while they’re in that state, they involuntarily switch places. This story reminds me of Freaky Friday except the switchers aren’t family members and ageism is prevalent. Hallie is a spunky, self-absorbed teenage girl that’s slightly boy crazy and Susan is an octogenarian that’s feeling smothered by her son and daughter-in-law. They want to take away her independence, her car and her condo and make her move into a retirement home. When Hallie and Susan trade places, they gradually grow to truly care for each other and gain a great deal of compassion. I like how the author brought ageism to light and built empathy towards both young and old. Endearing realistic fiction with a twist, 4 stars!