Tag: romance

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy (InfoSoup)

NASA has called on Yuri, a 17-year-old physics prodigy from Russia, to help save the earth, literally. An asteroid is heading on a path that will directly impact earth in the next few weeks. Yuri joins the team of adults who don’t really listen to him. Yuri’s own research into antimatter has not yet been published, though he expects it to win him the Nobel Prize. Meanwhile, Yuri meets Dovie, a teenage girl who has the life that Yuri never lived. Her hippie family is warm and wonderful, despite many horrible culinary experiments. Despite his focus on the asteroid, Yuri finds himself drawn to Dovie and her American teenage experiences. As Yuri works, he also discovers that the Americans intend to force him to stay, rather than allowing him to return to Russia. Now Yuri has to deal with the asteroid, escaping NASA and teenage love.

Immediately upon starting the book, I was in love with the author’s voice. She writes with a wry tone that broadens at times into full-on farce and humor. The interplay between Yuri and his counterparts at NASA is fascinatingly displayed, often using a mix of both cultural differences and Yuri’s social awkwardness to best effect. The novel is fast paced and yet not breakneck until the very end where it is entirely warranted and great fun. Yuri in an American high school and then at prom are wonderful moments that show the horrors of American schools but also Yuri as a unique character.

The book works because of Yuri himself and Dovie as well as her family. Yuri is a great character, someone who could initially be seen as Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory and then zigs in a different direction, becoming someone who is kind, friendly and horny too. Dovie and her family are the opposite of “typical” Americans, instead living a hippie lifestyle that is lovingly captured on the page. The addition of Dovie’s brother and his wheelchair is far more than a token gesture and he becomes important in Yuri’s growth and choices.

A richly funny and deeply fascinating book that asks big questions about life and death while making you laugh along the way. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.


Flannery by Lisa Moore

Flannery by Lisa Moore

Flannery by Lisa Moore (InfoSoup)

At age 16, Flannery is dealing with huge issues. Her mother, an artist, is unable to pay for her biology book or heating bills. Her best friend, Amber, has a new boyfriend that Flannery does not trust because he is over-controlling and their friendship is falling apart. And now Flannery has been put into a Entrepreneurship class project with her long-term crush, a graffiti artist who seems to think he’s too cool for school. So she is left doing all of the work for their project herself. Flannery works to hold it all together, even managing to create a project that sells out: love potions. While Flannery may realize they are entirely pretend, everyone who drinks one seems to be finding love. As things start to shatter around her though, Flannery discovers who is there for her and who is not.

OK, everything I read about this book seems to focus on the love potion aspect. This book does have that, but oh my it is so much more. The writing here is strikingly unique. Moore does away with quotation marks, creating dialogue poetry on the page, the voices running together exquisitely and somehow becoming even more clear without the punctuation. That is great writing. She plays with the mysticism of love, the power of control, and the illusion of it as well.

Beyond the love potions, this is a book about a teenager finding her own strength, her own voice and her own way of living which is not about conforming at all. Flannery knows throughout the book that she is unique and in love and that everything is not what it should be. Still, there are revelations even as she lives her truth, ones that change her point of view and make her grow. That is done so naturally and organically. Beautiful.

A stunning teen read, pick this one up not for the love potions but for the deep story and strong unique heroine that you will want to meet. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (InfoSoup)

Maya was born with a terrible horoscope, one that dooms her to marry death, so no man will marry her. So Maya has been focused on her education, since she knows she will never marry. She is detested in the kingdom’s harem and spends much of her time up in the rafters where she can listen in on her father’s throne room. That is how she hears that he plans to have her married off to save the kingdom, despite her horoscope. As Maya becomes a political pawn, her father asks her for the ultimate sacrifice to give her life for peace in her kingdom. Just as Maya is about to sacrifice herself however, war arrives at the kingdom and she is dazzled by a young man she has never met before. Soon her life becomes filled with options she has never considered and magic she never knew was more than tales.

Chokshi makes this book so much more than what it sounds like above. She first creates a world filled with restrictions for women, who are seen only as sexual beings or as collateral to be used for leverage. It is a world where women fight behind the scenes for power, where spite and anger lurk constantly. It is a world of immense wealth and plenty and yet no freedom. Then, and this is what makes this book exceptional, Chokshi turns it all on its head. Readers and the main character move away from those strictures of society and are plopped into a world with its own rules. It is a world of pure power, immense magic and yet rules too.

Against those two diverse worlds, Maya is shown to be a teenager of real distinction. She manages to gain an education where it should not have been a priority. She makes a dire choice and then discovers lust and potentially love. But her path is not straight at all, it moves from princess to queen to something else entirely, something dark and thrilling. It is in that third life where she discovers real power and real love.

This daring and lush novel is filled with excellent world building and one strong teen protagonist who has to save the world. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.




The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Winners Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski (InfoSoup)

This is the third and final book in the Winner’s Trilogy. Arin is now fighting to keep his country from once again falling into the hands of the Valorians. He has a new alliance with the Dacran queen who has sent her brother to monitor the war and Arin. Arin is trying to convince himself that he doesn’t love Kestrel anymore after she rejected him so clearly. Kestrel is being sent to a work camp where no one knows who she is. She mines sulfur by day, her strength increased by a drug in the food and water. At night, another drug allows her to sleep without thinking of what she has lost. Even drugged though, Kestrel cannot help but try to escape. When news comes of Kestrel’s death from disease in a remote area, Arin refuses to believe it. Then he gets a whisper of her true circumstances and sets off to find her. But it may be far too late for them.

Rutkoski has managed to keep this romantic fantasy trilogy entirely engaging and powerful through the entire series. In this third book, readers will once again discover her skill in writing battles and fight scenes which do not scrimp on blood, sweat and emotions. She is also highly skilled in creating a world that feels real with the various kingdoms at war and two people caught between them.

And then there is the romance as well. Here readers who adore Arin and Kestrel get to watch them reconnect and rebuild what was stolen from them. It is a romance of timid and tender beginnings, false starts and sudden flares of passion. It is written with a delicacy that is beautiful, particularly against the backdrop of war, personal risk and sacrifice.

A glorious end to a remarkable fantasy romance trilogy, fans will need to know how the story ends. Now we can look forward to what is next from the talented author. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


Lucky Penny by Ananth Hirsh

Bread Pig_Case

Lucky Penny by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota (InfoSoup)

What do you do when you lose your job and your apartment on the same day? Well, if you have a friend with a storage unit, you move in there! Penny lands a job with her friend’s family too at their laundromat working for a 12-year-old manager. As Penny figures out the tricks to living in a storage unit, she also meets a boy who works at the community center. At first she tries to trade him a date to be allowed to shower there, but their connection grows. Still, there are problems with living in a storage unit like heat, kids trying to break in, and more. Perhaps it will take a villain and his henchmen to battle to change Penny’s luck. Or not.

I loved this playful graphic novel that will work for both teens and adults. Penny is clearly out of high school but also in that bizarre interim before becoming a “real” adult. She is entirely lovable in her own unique way with a tattoo she hates, plenty to worry about and very few plans for the future. Still, she manages to take care of herself, keep a job, flirt a little, and fall in love.

I particularly enjoyed the way that the book would suddenly have battle scenes. The majority of the book is a slice-of-life from Penny’s world. It is filled with small moments that are charming and lovely. Still, there is real humor here such as the scores above characters’ heads as they drink in a bar. The fighting too brings this graphic novel to a different and unexpected place where it pays homage to plenty of hero comic tropes.

Funny and smart, this graphic novel will be appreciated by older teens and adults, some looking forward to life beyond high school and some looking back to when they weren’t adults either. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from library copy.




The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle (InfoSoup)

Quinn has always dreamed of being a Hollywood screenwriter and creating films with his sister Annabeth directing. Then Annabeth died. Now Quinn spends a lot of time in his room alone, not looking for the phone that has Annabeth’s final text to him on it sent right before she ran a red light. As summer starts, Quinn longs for air conditioning and his best friend Geoff shows up with a solution. It means that Quinn has to finally leave the house. It also means heading to his first college party where Quinn meets a very hot guy. As Quinn works to see his life playing out as a screenplay, life as other ideas.

Wow. Federle has a gift with voice. He has created in Quinn a gay teen boy who does not fit into any stereotype at all. Quinn is very smart, very sarcastic and amazingly self-centered. He could have been completely unlikable, but Federle has also made Quinn one of the most stunningly human protagonists of all time. Riddled with grief and unable to voice or even think about his loss, he hides from everyone but most particularly himself.

This is a profound look at grief, but it is also a book about being a gay teenager. It’s a book that thinks deeply about coming out to friends and family, finding out other people’s secrets, exploring new love. It’s a book where there is sex, gay teenage boy sex, and it is wonderfully awkward and normal.

Thank you to Federle for creating a gay protagonist where the book is not driven by the angst of being gay, but where sexual orientation is also not ever ignored as the important piece of life that it is. Beautifully done. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin by Julie Murphy

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (InfoSoup)

Willowdean doesn’t spend her days worrying about how fat she is, though her mother’s nickname of “Dumplin'” can be a problem, especially when used in public. Her mother is in charge of the local beauty pageant and has never encouraged Will to enter, though she has told Will’s best friend Ellen that she could win. When a boy at her work at a local fast food joint starts to flirt with Will, she is shocked. Bo is a gorgeous guy and someone that moves in a different social level than Will. When the two of them start to make out after work in their own secret place, Will begins to question her comfort with her body. As Will’s confidence plummets, she makes a big decision. She’s going to enter the Miss Clover City pageant. As she reclaims her self-image, she ends up helping other girls do the same.

Murphy’s novel is simply brilliant. Willowdean is a wonderful protagonist and the claustrophobic setting of a small southern town is also perfection. It’s that setting that lets Will really shine, since it wears on her and the reader. Add in the Dolly Parton songs, the loss of a beloved aunt who served as a second parent, and a handful of red suckers, and this novel will have you head-over-heels in love with Will and everything that she stands for.

Murphy gets the fat-girl personality just right. The feeling of complete self-acceptance that you can have and then the way it can disappear as if it never existed. Murphy though does not accept that. Instead Will fights back, recovers from her funk about herself, insists on relationships on her own terms, and heck even falls in love for good measure.

A book that will have you turning on Dolly yourself, this novel for teens shines and dazzles. It’s for girls of every size, because none of us feel worthy enough. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from library copy.