Tag Archives: YA

That REALLY not Inevitable Victorian Thing

that inevitable victorian

Source: Penguin Random House

I got the ARC and loved the title. I assumed this would be a book that poked fun at the teen trope, and laughed at itself a little. I was not prepared for this book to up-end pretty much every one of my expectations. I can’t tell you much without spoiling the book, but it threw 100% of the cliches out the window. This is speculative fiction for sure, and although I’m sure there will be accusations of “SJW utopia, ” I have to say I’m here for it. There is a conscious avoidance of two-dimensional characters, some really interesting concepts, and a lot of things (trans inclusion, lgbtq2+, religious tolerance, indigenous rights) that I was definitely not expecting. This is a very Canadian book, but I hope it finds a wider audience. The role of speculative fiction is to make us question, to be introspective, to think about what we truly want the world to look like. This Victorian world is by no means perfect, but I really like some of the ideas and relationships put forward, and I look forward to getting my kids to read this – and then talking about it with them. It’s releasing next month, and I highly recommend you snap it up. I want to hear what you thought!

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Everything Everything


I actually gasped while reading this – held my breath through a little.

Madeline is allergic to the world – she lives in a house with an airlock, and goes to school via internet.  But then a new family moves in next door, and sees Olly – and falls hard.

It’s a book about survival versus living, the lies we tell ourselves, and how love can be both prison and freedom.

There is some good clever witty banter, self-mockery, emotion.  Great teen book, nice fast read, perfect if you want something absorbing and emotional.  If you are looking for something for the John Green lover, this will do.  Out in September.


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The Masked Truth does a lot of unmasking.

Masked-Truth-NA-web (1)

Kelley Armstrong is not hesitating to go straight for the real stuff with The Masked Truth.  Although there is more representation of mental health in literature lately, there is still not nearly enough, especially in teen fiction, and this book is a valuable addition.

Teens at a group therapy session are taken hostage by masked killers, seemingly for the purpose of ransom – one of the participants comes from a very rich family.  The truth of the situation is far less straightforward, and a lot of secrets are going to come out before it’s all over.

Spoiler alert: if you don’t want to know anything more, stop reading.

I want to stand up and applaud Armstrong for her main characters.  The protagonist is struggling with PTSD, and the love interest has schizophrenia.  Armstrong shoots straight for the heart with the turmoil and fear they feel, and the struggles they endure, with so much compassion for the characters.  You don’t love Riley and Max despite their mental health – it is included in who they are, and are that much braver because of it.  There is great diversity among the characters too, on many different levels, and it makes the story feel much richer than most YA.  Even the villains aren’t one-dimensional.  I would call this YA literature.

There is some very on-point dealing with stigmatization and misunderstandings  – survivor’s guilt, PTSD, schizophrenia, homosexuality, racism.  There’s corruption, ashamed parents, estranged friends.  Well done, Ms. Armstrong – this is a book that a kid dealing with one of these things will read and think “Maybe being different isn’t bad.  Maybe it means you are that much tougher.  That much stronger.  That you are a hero for living every day with something not many other people understand.  And maybe out there, I will find someone who does.”

Bit too neat of an ending, but otherwise great.  Highly, highly recommend it.


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I Will!


In a world where young adult romance has actually spawned a genre called “sick-lit” (thanks for that, The Fault in Our Stars), thank the literary deities for Say You Will.

This is a book that I have no reservations handing over to even a younger teen (my own daughter, for example), and it is fully readable by boys as well.

I first heard about the book last fall, from Eric Walters himself – he was really excited about the book, and the whole idea of “promposals” – which I had never heard of.  A promposal is an elaborate, public invite to the prom – like it wasn’t laden with enough pressure to begin with.  The protagonist, Sam, is a boy with a very high IQ who is only just starting to get the hang of social interaction, who wants to create the perfect promposal for the girl of his dreams.  I can’t tell you much, because it will ruin the story, however Walters not only tells a sweet love story but also makes sure to puncture as many tropes and preconceptions along the way as possible.  Highly recommend this.

I now digress from this review to make a point that has been bothering me.  As was brought up very eloquently in a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, boys are often steered away from books that either have female protagonists, or that might be classified as romance.  GIRLS ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES WHO LIKE ROMANCE.  I have a couple of male customers at my store who are die-hard Harlequin lovers, and know many men, including my husband, who are fond of a good love story.  (In fact, a great romantic night in can be a bottle of wine and taking turns reading The Notebook) Even books like The Hunger Games, or Divergent, I have seen parents steer away from because a female is the star, so of course their son won’t want to read it.  Thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy;  Clearly there must be something wrong with a boy reading a book starring a girl, or with a guy reading a love story – so he will never pick one up.  This is dumb. Boys can empathize with a girl main character, and you’re selling them short by assuming they won’t.  Boys dream of being the star of their own epic love story too, and Say You Will is a great one.


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Red Queen is Bloody Good


If you love a good dystopian YA, Victoria Aveyard’s debut novel,  Red Queen is for you.  With a lot (and I mean a lot) of parallels to The Hunger Games & Divergent, the characters and plot twists make this read different enough to still be enjoyable, without feeling like you’re just reading on repeat. If you have read Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, this is like a weird parallel universe to that book.

Red Queen is a little more rooted in fantasy territory, and has a unique take on the dystopian theme.  The nobility of Red Queen‘s world is distinguished by their innate ability to channel fire or electricity, or possess extreme strength or psychic powers.  Their control over the lower class is absolute, who don’t possess any superhuman talents.  Imagine the uproar when Mare, a girl of perfectly common blood, suddenly displays her own power – and no one’s surprise is greater than Mare’s.

I won’t get too deeply into the plot  and spoil it, but there are some great twists, a little romance, lots of intrigue. Lots, and lots, of intrigue.  Like baby Game of Thrones.  If you have a teen who is looking for an entry to more sophisticated story lines, this is a good place for them to start.

This is clearly the start of a series – it should be a fun ride.

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Lockets & Charms: Not as harmless as you’d think.

Haunted Museum Book 1: The Titanic Locket by Suzanne Weyn


I’ve been reading pre-adolescent books with my grandchildren in mind.OK, for me too. I love well-written YA books, picture books, and novelettes. So when I read the back cover of Haunted Museum, I was impatient to dive in. Whoever writes these things posed an intriguing set of questions leaving me ready for a good tale.


The introduction was suspenseful and spooky, reminding me of the old “Twilight Zone” TV series.  The last sentence sets the mood and hints at a link between the haunted museum and the sailing of a replica of the doomed ship Titanic. “Take, for example, the case of two sisters, Samantha and Jessica Burnett, who are about to embark on a cruise into a ghostly past thanks to a peculiar locket they first see at…the Haunted Museum.” P.2


Unfortunately, that was the high point. The plot was tortured and even for a ghost story ridiculous. It contained some scenes that I believe would be very scary for the youngest children in the target readership. The premise that the ghosts of the Titanic were haunting the new ship Titanic II was overwritten and confusing.


Perhaps the person who wrote the enticing endorsement should have written more of the novel.


I am still interested in the concept of how a haunted artifact can affect an adventure, so in spite of being disappointed in Book 1, I will be checking out any other books in the series.


2½ stars (out of 5)




Charmed Life: Caitlin’s Lucky Charm by Lisa Schroeder


Caitlin is one of four grade six girls who met and became “bffs” at summer camp. To celebrate their strong ties, the girls pooled the last of their spending money and bought a charm bracelet that they will each take a turn wearing once they are home. Then they will buy a charm before sending it off to the next friend.


Back home, many things have changed. Caitlin is starting at a new school where she knows no-one. Her father’ job is in jeopardy so money is tight. No shopping for new school clothes!  Cancel the satellite TV!


At school, Caitlin wants very badly to be friends with a group of four girls who are obviously close and having so much fun with each other. They remind her of her friends at camp. She tries so hard to impress them that she forgets the most important rule of all – be yourself. She finds out eventually that she has some true friends right under her nose who like her just the way she is.


The events are all from the perspective of a grade-six girl, and deal with the topics of family, friends and school. Some advice for being a friend is dispensed and the family relationships are realistic, including some inter-sister sniping.


The author does a good job noting that there are levels of financial misery when parents are threatened with job loss. Caitlin volunteers at a soup kitchen, but one of her friends has meals there.


This is relevant for any student for whom peer relations are sometimes challenging.


3½ stars out of 5



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