New YA: January 8-14.
The Tragedy Paper, by Elizabeth LaBan:
As you'd expect in a book that features characters not only studying, but living and breathing tragedy, a lot of famous works—mostly Shakespeare, but others, too—are name-dropped, there are loads of literary terms listed and considered and discussed, and the secondary characters and relationships actually take a backseat to all of that. So, in that way—and despite how it held me utterly enthralled from start to finish—the book feels more like a literary exercise than a story unto itself. But, considering the framing, that feel may well have been just as carefully deliberate as the word choice.
Just One Day, by Gayle Forman:
I loved this book. Much of it is painful—first love, first heartbreak, the slow death rattle of a best-friendship, the high expectations of an overly-involved parent, the difficulty of opening up to people, being lost literally and metaphorically and emotionally—but it's painful in a comforting way. Even at Allyson's lowest moments, I never doubted that she'd not only come through it all, but that she'd come through it all far stronger than before. And she did.
What We Saw At Night, by Jacquelyn Mitchard:
It’s a solid thriller with a cool premise—think Rear Window, but starring a Parkour-practicing heroine who has Xeroderma Pigmentosum, a condition that makes sunlight not just dangerous, but life-threatening—strong dialogue and character development, exciting action, suspenseful plotting, and the requisite smootchies, AS WELL AS being a really believable, effective story about friendship, secrets and lies.
The Lacey Chronicles #3: The Rogue's Princess, by Eve Edwards:
Also like the previous books, there is a secondary romance: this time, between Mercy's aunt Rose, an all-around awesome theatre-goer and "fallen woman" with a soft spot for fancy shoes who wishes her niece would occasionally live a little, and Silas Porter, a grizzled former soldier who also has a checkered past and wants to solve every problem by skewering someone. Despite my endless affection for Kit, I found Rose and Silas' blossoming romance far more adorable and satisfying than Kit and Mercy's.
Paper Valentine, by Brenna Yovanoff:
I enjoy her so very much: her stories satisfy my weird, vaguely uncomfortable fascination with the macabre without coming off as sensationalized or exploitative. She also writes sensitively about difficult topics—in the case of Paper Valentine, about grief and eating disorders and the nature of sociopathy—but without getting maudlin, and with a good deal of dark humor.
Then You Were Gone, by Lauren Strasnick:
Delusion, by Laura L. Sullivan:
As in Ladies in Waiting, the Albion girls are quite worldly—and they’re not above using their physical assets as powerful tools—and so some of that humor comes from subtle sexual innuendo, but there’s also humor that would be right at home in a Diana Wynne Jones book or in a Wodehousian farce. On top of the fun, Delusion explores serious issues like preemptive incarceration; the morality of neutrality and pacifism in the face of True Evil; and as is fitting in a World War II novel, the idea of a superior race.
Revolution 19, by Gregg Rosenblum
Rise: A Nightshade Novel, by Andrea Cremer
Shadowlands (Shadowlands), by Kate Brian:
A book that suffers from FBS is a lot like a mediocre television pilot—it provides the set-up for the upcoming series...and that’s pretty much it. Which is what Shadowlands does: The entirety of the book—all 326 pages of it—could easily be boiled down to less than 100 pages while still including all relevant information, character development, plotting and atmosphere.
Anatomy of a Single Girl, by Daria Snadowsky
Blood Prophecy: A Drake Chronicles novel, by Alyxandra Harvey
Crash (Visions), by Lisa McMann:
Same formula, same quirks, same result: Crash will very definitely appeal to McMann’s fanbase and it isn’t likely to change the minds of those who haven’t enjoyed her previous books. So, if you’ve liked her previous titles, pick it up; if not, pass on it.
Doomed, by Tracy Deebs
Janie Face to Face (Janie Johnson), by Caroline B. Cooney
The Cadet of Tildor, by Alex Lidell
Through the Ever Night, by Veronica Rossi
Timekeeper, by Alexandra Monir
The Wrap-Up List, by Steven Arntson
Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, by Kirsten Miller:
It doesn't take long for Ananka to team up with Kiki Strike and her band of delinquent Girl Scouts: Oona, the forger and lock-picker; DeeDee, the chemistry/explosives expert; Luz, the attitudinal electronics queen; and Betty, the team's mistress of disguise. (Are you thinking of Uma Thurman's monologue about "Fox Force Five" in Pulp Fiction? Because that's what I thought of -- except of course, these girls are twelve. Which just makes them that much cooler.)
Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb, by Kirsten Miller:
Remember how I said that this book could counteract books like The Great Big Glorious Book for Girls? Here's (one of the many ways) how: Most of the chapters end with a How To section. And I'm not talking "How to Make Daisychains" or "How to Choose The Sexiest Thong for your New Lowriders". I'm talking practical, girl detective tips like: "How to Detect the Presence of an Intruder". I'm talking "What To Do If Your Secret is Revealed". I'm talking "How To Know if Your House is Haunted", "How to Summon a Poltergeist" and "How to Crash a Party".
The Lacey Chronicles #2: The Queen's Lady, by Eve Edwards: While there was much to enjoy in this one—there's way more humor than the cover art suggests, and the period details are well-chosen and interesting—the focus is more on James' struggles with his memories of war than on his romance with Jane, so it doesn't reach the same swoontastic heights The Other Countess. It should also be noted that Sir Walter Raleigh's scenes continue to be awesome, and he proved himself to be slightly less of a d-bag than he appeared to be in the first book. SLIGHTLY.
Despite Justin's voice—and he really did make me laugh quite a few times—I found him a difficult character to like. Part of that was certainly due to his desperation to be popular, as there were moments when he took Trying Too Hard—which is never an attractive quality, though it's certainly not an uncommon one—to an excruciatingly new level. He was so self-absorbed that he treated people poorly, and despite his brains and his wit, I never felt like I connected with him.
The Death Cure (Maze Runner Series #3), by James Dashner: Apparently, I never wrote about this one... which speaks to how 'meh' I found the conclusion of this trilogy. (And believe me, I know that there are zillions of young readers who would disagree, so what do I know, right?)
The Golden Lily: A Bloodlines Novel, by Richelle Mead:
Despite the plot holes and the issues with unbelievable characterization (Sydney's convenient on-again/off-again social skills and/or deductive reasoning), I continue to find this series completely enjoyable. While Sydney's cluelessness about Adrian's Feelings for her (not to mention SPOILER BUT IT'S OBVIOUS her cluelessness about her own Lack of Feelings for Brayden END SPOILER) does get a tad grating, it's also nice to see a paranormal heroine who isn't constantly having the Which Dude Is The Dude For Her internal debate.
Cinder (Lunar Chronicles), by Marissa Meyer:
While it's pretty clear where the story's going from the beginning—for one, everyone knows how Cinderella goes, and for two, if there's a Moon princess who supposedly died in a fire but no body was ever found and the main character is a girl with a mysterious past and who clearly suffered some hideous unknown accident resulting in her body being one-third machine, WELL HOW DO YOU THINK IT'S GOING TO GO?—I didn't find that the obviousness of the plotting even remotely detracted from the entertainment value. In fact, that actually made it sort of more fun.
Dragonswood, by Janet Lee Carey:
I loved the first half of this book. The descriptions of daily life in Tess' village, the whole witch-hunting sequence (thumbscrews = *shudder*), the complicated relationship between Tess, Poppy, and Meg (who are forced to run with Tess after she gives up their names under torture), the escaping, the traveling, the escaping again. It was all very exciting, and felt like the best sort of historical fiction/fantasy.
Love? Maybe., by Heather Hepler:
For a Book about Lurrrve, I never felt any real heart. It ticks all of the boxes—including a romance for Mom—but never does more than that. In other words, there was no swooning. To some degree, of course, that makes sense, given Piper's mindframe and disposition. But, no matter fair-minded I attempt to be, it comes down to this: a romance without any swooning is not a particularly enjoyable romance.