If I am in the mood to read something that I will find instantly absorbing or interesting, I pick up a young adult contemporary Book. We are in a time of abundance and quality. Seriously, there are so many great young adult contemporary books coming out and already released that the challenge is really in picking one out – decision paralysis right. These five books below are diverse, immensely readable, thoughtful and HIGHLY recommended.
Little Universes by Heather Demetrios
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Little Universes by Heather Demetrios
Also by this author: I'll Meet You There, Bad Romance
Published by Henry Holt and Company (BYR) on April 7, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Family, Siblings, Social Themes, Death & Dying, Romance
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Heather Demetrios's Little Universes is a book about the powerful bond between sisters, the kinds of love that never die, and the journey we all must make through the baffling cruelty and unexpected beauty of human life in an incomprehensible universe.
One wave: that’s all it takes for the rest of Mae and Hannah Winters’ lives to change.
When a tsunami strikes the island where their parents are vacationing, it soon becomes clear that their mom and dad are never coming home. Forced to move to Boston from sunny California for the rest of their senior year, each girl struggles with secrets their parents’ death has brought to light, and with their uncertainty about the future. Instead of bringing them closer, it feels like the wave has torn the sisters apart.
Hannah is a secret poet who wants to be seen, but only knows how to hide. The pain pills she stole from her dead father hurl her onto the shores of an addiction she can’t shake and a dealer who turns her heart upside down. When it’s clear Hannah’s drowning, Mae, a budding astronaut suddenly launched into an existential crisis—and unexpected love—must choose between herself and the only family she has left.
Little Universes by Heather Demetrios is an emotionally heavy book. There is so much going on that it actually does merit its almost 500 pages. Although Little Universes was not my favorite of the books I’ve read by Demetrios, it was an incredible read regardless.
Little Universes is about two sisters – Mae and Hannah. The sisters lose their parents to a tsunami in Malaysia and move from California to Boston. The story is an exploration of grief. It also is an exploration of the bond between sisters. Of course, that bond gets put to the test.
Mae is brilliant and wants to be an astronaut. She also is a little bit socially awkward. Hannah is very spiritual and intuitive. She also has a drug problem which is exacerbated by a difficult life experience previous to the tsunami. Ultimately, this book is about how both girls come through the other side of such tragedy. It does not paint a pretty picture but really depicts the struggle as well as plumbs the emotions.
Overall, I loved the exploration of the bond between Mae and Hannah – and how unique it was. I liked that there was romance in this book but that it was not the focus. Also, there’s parts where we get to see that maybe all was not perfect with their parents. Truly, both girls grow up quickly in this book. However, I’ll admit that there were parts of this book that just dragged for me. I think maybe my frame of mind just wasn’t right at the time. Regardless, if you want a book that actually goes really in depth and explores emotion on more than just a surface level – Little Universes is ideal.
Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen
I received this book for free from Library, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen
Published by HarperCollins on January 7, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Diversity & Multicultural, Coming of Age, Family, Parents, People & Places, Asia
Format: Hardcover, eARC
Source: Library, Publisher
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A New York Times bestseller!
Optioned for film by the producers of Jenny Han’s TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE.
Most anticipated novel of 2020: Boston Globe, Book Riot, Bustle, Nerd Daily, Seventeen, She Reads.
Praised as “an intense rush of rebellion and romance” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Garber, this romantic and layered Own Voices debut from Abigail Hing Wen is “a roller-coaster ride of romance and self-discovery.” (Kirkus)
“Our cousins have done this program,” Sophie whispers. “Best kept secret. Zero supervision.”
And just like that, Ever Wong’s summer takes an unexpected turn. Gone is Chien Tan, the strict educational program in Taiwan that Ever was expecting. In its place, she finds Loveboat: a summer-long free-for-all where hookups abound, adults turn a blind eye, snake-blood sake flows abundantly, and the nightlife runs nonstop.
But not every student is quite what they seem:
Ever is working toward becoming a doctor but nurses a secret passion for dance.
Rick Woo is the Yale-bound child prodigy bane of Ever’s existence whose perfection hides a secret.
Boy-crazy, fashion-obsessed Sophie Ha turns out to have more to her than meets the eye.
And under sexy Xavier Yeh’s shell is buried a shameful truth he’ll never admit.
When these students’ lives collide, it’s guaranteed to be a summer Ever will never forget.
“A unique story from an exciting and authentic new voice.” —Sabaa Tahir, #1 New York Times bestselling author of An Ember in the Ashes
“Equal parts surprising, original, and intelligent. An intense rush of rebellion and romance.” —Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Caraval
“Fresh as a first kiss.” —Stacey Lee, award-winning author of Outrun the Moon
"Fresh, fun, heartfelt, and totally addictive, a story about finding your place—and your people—where you least expected." —Kelly Loy Gilbert, author of the William C. Morris Award finalist Conviction
I wasn’t expecting to love Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen quite as much as I did. I thought it would be light, scandalous fun reading. FYI, I tend to really enjoy those sorts of books regardless. However, everything about this book just hit perfectly. It was the perfect book at the perfect time – for once.
Loveboat, Taipei is about Ever Wong, a girl from Ohio who loves dancing right down to her bones. Only, her parents want her to go to medical school and fulfill the life they have been work and sacrificing for her to have. Her parents then force her to go to a cultural program in Taipei for her last summer before college. Ever dreads this, until she learns it is essentially going to be a summer of freedom with no parental oversight.
There’s romance – a love triangle but not annoying. Ever also learns she can’t give up on her passion for dancing. She makes new friends. Ever comes to terms with her heritage and takes pride in where she comes from. It’s a summer of hook ups, drinking, sneaking out and so much more. This book goes down easy – at the same time having an excellent message. I really adored Loveboat, Taipei and only regret not reading it sooner.
Lucky Caller by Emma Mills
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Lucky Caller by Emma Mills
Also by this author: , This Adventure Ends, Famous in a Small Town, Foolish Hearts
Published by Henry Holt and Company (BYR) on January 14, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Social Themes, Friendship
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With the warmth, wit, intimate friendships, and heart-melting romance she brings to all her books, Emma Mills crafts a story about believing in yourself, owning your mistakes, and trusting in human connection in Lucky Caller.
When Nina decides to take a radio broadcasting class her senior year, she expects it to be a walk in the park. Instead, it’s a complete disaster.
The members of Nina's haphazardly formed radio team have approximately nothing in common. And to maximize the awkwardness her group includes Jamie, a childhood friend she'd hoped to basically avoid for the rest of her life.
The show is a mess, internet rumors threaten to bring the wrath of two fandoms down on their heads, and to top it all off Nina's family is on the brink of some major upheaval.
Everything feels like it's spiraling out of control—but maybe control is overrated?
I really just inhale the books that Emma Mills writes. Lucky Caller is the latest by Mills, and I flew right through it. I’ll admit that it wasn’t my favorite of all her books. However, it still is a compelling and engaging read.
Lucky Caller is about Nina who is a high school senior. She leaves in the Eastman apartment building with her mother and two siblings Sidney and Rose. Nina is fairly average. She does okay in school. When she was a kid, she was best friends with another kid in her building, Jamie. Now that they are nearly grown, Nina and Jamie are not friends anymore. Alas, Nina and Jamie get thrown together in a group for radio broadcast class. That group is comprised of completely different people, but that’s not a bad thing.
On the whole, I did find it somewhat hard to relate to Nina. She’s a classic middle child and I am a classic oldest in the birth order. Nina has like one friend too. Her family is a delight though – I especially liked her soon to be stepdad, Dan. Overall, this is a really engaging book. Just it did not leave me with the same OMG OMG OMG I LOVE THIS feelings like the rest of her books, and that’s okay. It’s still head and shoulders above many other things I read.
Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti
Also by this author: Stay, A Heart in a Body in the World
Published by Simon Pulse on June 23, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Thrillers & Suspense, Social Themes, Dating & Sex, Family, Young Adult
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A teen girl’s summer with her mother turns sinister in this gripping thriller about the insidious dangers of unwanted attention, from Printz Honor medal–winning and National Book Award finalist author Deb Caletti—perfect for fans of Courtney Summers’s Sadie.
Sydney Reilly has a bad feeling about going home to San Francisco before she even gets on the plane. How could she not? Her mother is Lila Shore—the Lila Shore—a film star who prizes her beauty and male attention above all else…certainly above her daughter.
But Sydney’s worries multiply when she discovers that Lila is involved with the dangerous Jake, an art dealer with shady connections. Jake loves all beautiful objects, and Syndey can feel his eyes on her whenever he’s around. And he’s not the only one. Sydney is starting to attract attention—good and bad—wherever she goes: from sweet, handsome Nicco Ricci, from the unsettling construction worker next door, and even from Lila. Behaviors that once seemed like misunderstandings begin to feel like threats as the summer grows longer and hotter.
It’s unnerving, how beauty is complicated, and objects have histories, and you can be looked at without ever being seen. But real danger, crimes of passion, the kind of stuff where someone gets killed—it only mostly happens in the movies, Sydney is sure. Until the night something life-changing happens on the stairs that lead to the beach. A thrilling night that goes suddenly very wrong. When loyalties are called into question. And when Sydney learns a terrible truth: beautiful objects can break.
Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti is a young adult book that takes on the male gaze. It delves into what it is like to be under that gaze as a young girl. This book explores both desire and objectification. I believe that Girl, Unframed is an important book — even though maybe it just didn’t quite hit or land as much for me. That’s fine though, I am not quite the target of this book. I do think that themes within will truly resonate for the book’s intended audience.
Caletti’s latest follows Sydney Reilly who is going to San Francisco for the summer to stay with her actress mother, Lila Shore. Lila lives in this beautiful mansion with her current boyfriend, a shady art dealer named Jake. Sydney feels all these gazes on her and keeps alluding to this event that honestly we don’t unravel or get to until the very end of the book. There’s a bit of a romance too. The best part though is the dog Max. It made me want to get a dog after reading.
I think reading this as a parent, I just was flabbergasted at how so many adults kept failing Sydney. I am glad that she did have a few people she could trust. Still, her mother has always been an object and in turn, treats Sydney like an object. The men are pretty much trash in this book. There’s street harassment. It’s just, I don’t know, frustrating to see her mom not give much of a crap and then turn herself into a child and make Sydney take on a parentified role. Obviously this is fiction and it would be boring if Lila was perfect. Just yeah, a tough read.
Girl, Unframed is a great book for budding feminists to read. Particularly as they go into theory on privilege and the male gaze. I think this book has relevance to the Me Too conversation. It’s a fast and compelling read. I do recommend it – even if it wasn’t the ideal read for me at the moment. Also, I recognize that this book has so many merits and strengths and really lends well to discussion.
Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao
Published by Simon and Schuster on October 15, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, People & Places, United States, Asian American, Diversity & Multicultural
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“A story that’s sure to stick with you for a long time.” —BuzzFeed “More than a coming-of-age novel.” —School Library Journal “[An] inventive, deeply heartfelt love story that explores connections of many kinds.” —Booklist
A teen outcast is simultaneously swept up in a whirlwind romance and down a rabbit hole of dark family secrets when another Taiwanese family moves to her small, predominantly white midwestern town in this remarkable novel from the critically acclaimed author of American Panda.
Seventeen-year-old Ali Chu knows that as the only Asian person at her school in middle-of-nowhere Indiana, she must be bland as white toast to survive. This means swapping her congee lunch for PB&Js, ignoring the clueless racism from her classmates and teachers, and keeping her mouth shut when people wrongly call her Allie instead of her actual name, pronounced Āh-lěe, after the mountain in Taiwan.
Her autopilot existence is disrupted when she finds out that Chase Yu, the new kid in school, is also Taiwanese. Despite some initial resistance due to the “they belong together” whispers, Ali and Chase soon spark a chemistry rooted in competitive martial arts, joking in two languages, and, most importantly, pushing back against the discrimination they face.
But when Ali’s mom finds out about the relationship, she forces Ali to end it. As Ali covertly digs into the why behind her mother’s disapproval, she uncovers secrets about her family and Chase that force her to question everything she thought she knew about life, love, and her unknowable future.
Snippets of a love story from 19th-century China (a retelling of the Chinese folktale The Butterfly Lovers) are interspersed with Ali’s narrative and intertwined with her fate.
I think I will eagerly await each new release from Gloria Chao. Her books are emotional as well as character driven with solid plotting. Our Wayward Fate is her second book and I tore through it just as fast as I did American Panda. It was a solid book to pick finish off during the readathon, and honestly one I’d recommend you grab for to read the whole thing during readathon.
Our Wayward Fate is about Ali who lives in Indiana with her parents and is surrounded by white people who are lowkey racist – but think they are well meaning. Ali’s life is shaken up when a new boy moves to her town – Chase Yu. He calls his classmates on their bullshit. Also? He’s a great sparring partner in Ali’s kung fu class. The attraction is undeniable. However, Ali’s mother is dead set against them dating. Ali has no idea why though, her family doesn’t really communicate. Interwoven with Ali’s story is that of the Butterfly Lovers. There’s also a trip to Shanghai.
Chao’s book is a quick read that really had me feeling different emotions. I was very invested in the romance between Chase and Ali. Also, I was invested in the family dynamic – not just with Ali but another character who shows up later. I couldn’t figure out everything ahead of time and was actually appreciative of that fact. Read this book if you can’t resist a deep dive into character as well as a commentary on microaggressions and how much they suck and can hurt others. Also – for a brief love letter to Chicago.
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