The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A powerful, authentic read!

Starr lives in a rough part of town and after one of her best friends gets shot in a drive by shooting when they’re ten, Starr’s parents have her attend a private school that’s safer. Now Starr is sixteen and she witnesses her other childhood friend getting fatally shot by a police officer. Her friend did nothing to provoke the shooting. This is a powerful novel about much more than racism. It’s also about choices, bravery, integrity and helping others. This book has a lot of swearing which is authentic to the lifestyle of the character’s surroundings but the message of empowerment makes it a must read. 5 stars for a novel that will stick with me.

Likes/dislikes:
I liked how the author shows reality and brings her characters to life to make the readers care about them. I like that two different worlds are brought together by two teens living in both and experiencing the stark differences in each. Character development is abundant and bravery and integrity are a huge factor in the main character’s life and family. I love how the main character’s family is open to discussing everything instead of keeping secrets from each other.
Mature content: PG-13
Underage drinking, marijuana use
Page 81 foreplay (boyfriend touching of girlfriend’s pubic region)
Page 376 arousal (the boyfriend had a bulge in his pants when he kissed his girlfriend)
Violence: PG-13
Fatal Shooting at a party. Police brutality and fatal shooting of a teen male. Riots, gang beatings, starting fires.
Language: R for 100+ swears and 54 f-bombs

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-hate-u-give

The Haunting of Maddy Clare

A haunting spooky thriller!

Sarah Piper is alone in the world. She lives in a little apartment and works temporary jobs for a living. In 1920’s post-war England, live is dreary. Most young adult men have injuries from the war, physically and mentally and jobs aren’t easy to find. When the temp service calls her to assist an unfamiliar male writer, Alistair, Sarah is leery but accepts the meeting and eventually the job as his ghost research assistant. They travel to a haunted barn in a small town and meet the homeowner. Mrs. Clare has told Alistair about the haunting, the ghost Maddy, and that Maddy hates men and recently chased a vicar away who was trying to perform an exorcism. Alistair is hoping for actual evidence of a haunting or manifestation and Sarah just wants the job. Both of them become part of a horrible past tragedy and the terror the tragedy caused. A haunting, spooky thriller! 5 stars!

The Girl in the Castle by Emily Raymond & James Patterson

The mystery kept me hooked!

Hannah is brought to the psychiatric hospital after being found screaming and half-dressed on the streets. She says she’s trying to save her family and friends by robbing the castle because the village people are starving. Then the timeline jumps back to the 1300’s, where Hannah is with those starving villagers, family and friends. The story continues to alternate between the present and the 1300’s while Hannah is in the psychiatric ward (present) and with her family in the village (1300’s). An intern, Jordan, finds Hannah fascinating and wants to help her heal after hearing her story and background. While Hannah is in the past, she’s captured along with her friends. Her friends are either hanged, stabbed or badly beaten but Hannah is spared by the Baron who is curious about her. While in the present, Hannah attends group meetings, therapy, meets new roommates, loses a fellow ward resident to suicide and builds a relationship with Jordan. While in the past, she is pampered in the castle, brings food to the villagers and has a relationship with the Baron. Jordan investigates as much as possible to discover Hannah’s past to see if trauma is at the root of her story. The mystery kept me hooked, 4 stars!

Mature content: PG-13 for vaguely detailed sex, mention of drugs, suicide and attempted suicide, self harm with razor blades
Violence: PG-13 for suicide, suggestion of rape, bleeding cuts, cut herself repeatedly with a spoon sharpened against a table leg, stealing and hanging
Language: R for 76 swears, 19 f-bombs
Ethnicities:
1300’s timeline- predominately white, present timeline-mixed ethnicity
Likes/dislikes: I liked the mystery surrounding the main character, Hannah. Was she experiencing time travel, hallucinations or trauma induced schizophrenia? I appreciate the author’s note at the end sharing experiences working at a psychiatric hospital and acknowledging that those experiences helped shape this book.

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Sweet adult romance with a touch of ghostly attention!

Florence Day is a ghostwriter using the pseudonym Ann Nichols. Everyone, except for a select few, thinks Florence is Ann’s assistant since Ann is always “away”. Ann Nichols did her own writing, becoming well-known, until five years ago when Florence took over for her. Florence meets the new publisher, thinking it’ll be another female like the last publisher. She’s surprised when it’s a man instead, a very handsome man named Ben Andor. He’s friendly until Florence tells him Ann doesn’t want to write romance anymore but he insists that she fulfill her contract and complete the manuscript by the next day. Florence’s roommate Rose takes her out for a fun night so she can relax. Florence ends up kissing the new publisher and having a great time until she answers her ringing phone and is told that her father had a heart attack and didn’t make it. She heads home for the reading of the will and funeral. While she’s home with her family, Rose tells her that Ben was hit by incoming traffic and soon Ben appears to Florence as a ghost. Florence and her father have always been able to see and speak with ghosts. Usually the ghosts need help in some way so they can move on. Florence tries to help Ben but neither is sure of what help he needs. They get to know each other and become friends and a bit more. When Ben disappears, Florence grieves his passing and misses him desperately. She finishes her manuscript and tries to move on with her life. This is a sweet adult romance with a touch of ghostly attention. 5 stars!

Beautiful adult romance but suitable for mature young adult readers

Some minimal swearing and a few f-bombs

Mature content, vaguely detailed sex

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!

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!

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

A truly touching story with many life lessons!

Lily finds a random rooftop in Boston so she can reflect on the eulogy she gave at her father’s funeral. She misses solitude since she has moved to Boston and has a not quiet roommate. While on this rooftop, she meets Ryle, a neurosurgeon resident. Ryle is adamantly against relationships in his life but he enjoys flirting with Lily. Through coincidental circumstances, Lily sees Ryle here and there throughout the next year. They eventually become involved in a relationship and his family absolutely loves her. She doesn’t about his temper until he hurts her and then she’s left wondering if it was accidental. In the meantime, Lily grows closer to her mother and she runs into Atlas, her first boyfriend. We learn about her past with Atlas and how much they both helped each other when they were teenagers. I read this book quickly because it’s completely engrossing and I fell right into the story! The characters are authentic and I grew to love them, with their humor and quirks and through their struggles. The author’s notes share the author’s perspective as she created this story and I admire how well she dealt with the delicate issues and the choices of the main characters. A truly touching story with several life lessons, 5 stars!

Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye

Jam-packed with action!

A young woman is searching for evidence of her mother in unmarked graves. Sloane knows that the Nightwalkers are responsible for her mother’s disappearance and she wants the proof. She’s caught by a Nightwalker and attacked. She unleashes her Scion power to save herself and burns him to ash in the process. Her identity as a Scion has to be kept secret or the rulers will kill her. She runs home to her grandfather, Baba. He has news that one of her friends ran from the draft and was killed because of it. Now three more people will be sent draft letters. She’s one of them, along with her best friend Teo. Teo has saved money and planned for the two of them to run if they are drafted. He shows Sloane his plan but she knows he’ll get killed if they run. To get him to drop his plans, Sloane threatens to turn him in. He walks off. Sloane is drafted, along with her bully Malachi. Malachi hates Sloane and wants revenge on her because she accidentally killed his family in a fire that she started. As the story continues, Sloane discovers secrets about her mother, finds possible allies and learns that not everyone is as they seem or appear to be. She also has to lose some of her humanity and empathy to sacrifice and do her part in becoming a hardened soldier. So many surprises and twists pop up in this book, making it a fast-paced read that’s also jam-packed with action and acts of violence. Sloane’s world is brutal and she makes some horrible choices to stay alive. 4 stars!

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Suspenseful, dangerous and interesting fairytale retelling!

Serilda enjoys creating stories to tell and embellishing the tales every time she retells them. One snowy night, she hears noises outside her house. She dares to go outside and she sees two moss maidens trying to hide from hunters. Serilda helps them hide but lies to the Erlking to keep them safe. He’s intrigued by her story of being able to spin straw into gold so he sends for her to come to his castle. After that, she’s bound to keep going back to the castle because the Erlking won’t let her go. She meets Gild, who the Erlking classifies as a poltergeist. Gild has the gift of magic that allows him to spin straw into gold. He helps Serilda but requires payment in return each time he helps her. The first two times, Serilda gives him the gifts the moss maidens gave her when she saved them from the Erlking. The third time, she offers her future firstborn child as payment. That is the only thing she has to offer. Gild accepts this offer, so his magic will work. Everything grows more complicated and the people Serilda love become endangered. The Erlking is heartless, cold and brutal. He will do whatever it takes to get what he wants.
Gilded is one of the best fairytale retellings I’ve read because Marissa Meyer adds twists and brings original characters to the story. Suspenseful, dangerous and interesting fairytale retelling, 5 stars!

The Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Strong characters!

Daunis is looking forward to college and her future. She’s attending with her best friend Lily. They’re both descendants of members of the Tribe Council who are Native American. She befriends a new hockey player that just moved to town. His name is Jamie and he’s good at avoiding answering questions about his personal life. When a murder-suicide affects Daunis, she’s asked to help the undercover investigation to catch and stop the drug dealing happening in their community. She reluctantly and cautiously becomes an FBI informant. Daunis worries that she’ll betray her people by not helping the FBI see the good in her community, only the drug issues. A wonderful glimpse of a piece of Native American life, language and culture. Strong characters, true character development and the surrounding mystery pulled me deep into the story and it’s still sticking with me days later. Betrayal, deception, mistrust, broken family, violence, loyalty (sometimes misplaced), and manipulative behavior are all parts of this book. 4 stars!