YA Reviews: Week of April 3, 2017

This week welcomes some excellent new YA titles to the world! Of all the advance reader copies for this week’s releases that I read, these are my favorites…………reviews below:

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Get it Together, Delilah by Erin Gough (Chronicle Books, April 4, 2017)

Get It Together DelilahI’ll start with this being on Barnes and Noble’s “23 of Our Most Anticipated LGBTQA YA Books of 2017” list. Then I’ll add in that it was originally published (titled “The Flywheel”) in Australia in 2014 to much acclaim. This already sets it up as one to look for! This is an intensely readable book, one that you will just fly through, although that would be my only issue with the book as well – it’s a little shorter than I would have liked. Although the characters were well-developed, I wouldn’t have minded MORE of them. More backstory, more information about Delilah’s discovery of her sexuality from a younger age, more on her parents’ marriage earlier on. All the events of the book are laid out well, and the account of the bullying in school and her counselor’s reaction just made my heart break. The bullying depicted in this story make it so apparent why a student in Delilah’s situation might in fact drop out of school. The romance between Delilah and Rosa is as sweet and tender as any YA romance I have read. Highly recommend for all school library collections. Stated as Grades 9 and up, but I would be okay with younger – only some minor sexual content.

Here is the official book description:

Seventeen-year-old Delilah Green wouldn’t have chosen to do her last year of school this way, but she figures it’s working fine. While her dad goes on a trip to fix his broken heart after her mom left him for another man, Del manages the family cafe. Easy, she thinks. But what about homework? Or the nasty posse of mean girls making her life hell? Or her best friend who won’t stop guilt-tripping her? Or her other best friend who might go to jail for love if Del doesn’t do something? But really, who cares about any of that when all Del can think about is beautiful Rosa who dances every night across the street. . . . Until one day Rosa comes in the cafe door. And if Rosa starts thinking about Del, too, then how in the name of caramel milkshakes will Del get the rest of it together?

I received a digital ARC of this title for review- all opinions are my own.

At First Blush by Beth Ellyn Summers (Bloomsbury SPARK, April 4, 2017)

AtFirstBlushLet’s start this with a plea to Bloomsbury Spark to get this ebook into paper publishing ASAP – I guarantee it would be a huge hit in my high school library! I would hand it to every single girl who loves the “Anna and the French Kiss” series by Stephanie Perkins, as well as the Morgan Matson et al fans. It is compared to The Devil Wears Prada in the blurb, and I completely concur. As an adult reader who adores Lauren Weisenberger, Sophie Kinsella and other frothy, feel-good chick lit, I was completely captured by this story and fully appreciated the timeliness of the YouTube, vlogging, Instagram and Twitter storylines. That’s happening NOW, and as I just read in a piece about YA lit being the genre to change the world, YA can be NOW much more easily than adult lit can. Yes, technology may change in the near(ish) future, but YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter are not going to be dying soon enough that this book won’t enjoy a few hot-selling years on the shelves before Summer gets her next book out. The main character in this book, Lacey, is a tech-savvy female YouTube sensation and shows an amazing amount of tech skills, emotional strength and moral fortitude in this story ~ these are the characters we want teen girls to see and read! While this isn’t necessarily a hard-hitting piece of social journalism, it truly IS a snapshot of teen culture today that wrestles with the line between social media and true selves and the need to balance these. I read this book in less than 24 hours and would love to be able to get it into my library, but for now will just tell students about it and tell them to spend the $3.82 it costs on Kindle right now…….if they will be willing to read it in digital. I hope they will, but I also hope it gets put into a gorgeous shimmery pink trade paperback version sooner than later.

Here is the official book description:

Finding the perfect lip gloss? Easy.
Finding your way in the world? A whole lot harder . . .

Who would have thought that a teenager could have a successful career creating makeup tutorial videos on YouTube? For Lacey Robbins, this dream has been her reality. An up-and-coming YouTuber, she has thousands of fans and can’t wait for the day when her subscriber count reaches the one million mark. And when she is offered a high school internship at On Trend Magazine, she figures that this could be the make it or break it moment.

But sometimes your dream job isn’t all that it seems. Her editor is only interested in promoting junk products, and her boss in the Hair and Makeup department introduces her to the larger world of makeup artistry, making her wonder if making tutorials online is all she is meant to do. To top it all off, when the magazine’s feature subject, musician Tyler Lance, turns his broodingly handsome smile her way, falling for him could mean losing her fans, forcing her to make a decision: her YouTube life or her real life?

Fans of Zoella’s Girl Online will fall right into the world of this YA The Devil Wears Prada and stay hooked from the first blush to the last glossy kiss.

Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.

What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold (Carolrhoda Lab TM, April 1st 2017)

WhatGirlsAreMadeOfPICWhat Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold is hands-down the most feminist book I have ever read. And the most unflinchingly graphic YA book I have ever read. There are pages and pages of quotes I would love to share that just cut to the feminist core, but technically I can’t share them here because I read an uncorrected proof of the book. Once I get a final copy, I will update to share some of them!

This is the one and only book I have read that talks about every single thing that we (speaking as a parent, teacher and librarian) like to pretend that teen girls don’t think about or do, but if we think back to our time as teens………we thought about and possibly did as well. We just didn’t have this exquisite/disgusting, beautiful/disturbing, truthful/magical book to read to articulate the thoughts we had about entering womanhood and all the inequities and contradictions involved in that rite of passage. The magical realism stories between chapters are strange and disturbing, but at the same time incredibly symbolic and poetic. As the mother-daughter relationship got more and more complex as the past was revealed, I realized there was never once (that I can recall) a interaction between Nina and her father. Telling to be sure. Descriptions of virgin martyrs and twisted tales of saints are blended in throughout the story, including horrifying stories told to Nina as a child by her mother, leading readers to understand just why Nina may be the Nina she became. I appreciated the message of service and cried at the descriptions of the impossibility of unconditional love (which I disagree with, by the way).

As I wrestled with and appreciated the extremely blunt and graphic language (including detailed naming of reproductive organs and descriptions of orgasms and an abortion) within this book, I was attempting to decide whether or not I could place “What Girls Are Made Of” in my high school library…….and then I remembered that I bought and read and handed “Asking for It” by Louise O’Neill to senior girls. Because it was amazing and it won a huge award this year. And if I could hand that book to high school kids, I can hand this book to young adults. Mature ones. Is this YA like Sarah Dessen is YA? No. But neither is Angie Thomas and THUG is winning every star and award out there. And high schoolers are lining up to read it. Would I hand this to middle school girls? Not necessarily, but I’d be fine with my own daughter reading it in middle school.

What Girls Are Made Of deserves awards, even if adult readers like to think girls like these don’t exist. They do. They are ALL girls.

Here is the official book description:

When Nina Faye was fourteen, her mother told her there was no such thing as unconditional love. Nina believed her. Now she’ll do anything for the boy she loves, to prove she’s worthy of him. But when he breaks up with her, Nina is lost. What is she if not a girlfriend? What is she made of? Broken-hearted, Nina tries to figure out what the conditions of love are.

Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC of this book for review – all opinions are my own.

Speed of Life by Carol Weston (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, April 4, 2017)

speedoflifePICReading Sofia’s story brought me instantly back to my days of pouring over YM and Seventeen magazines in the early 90s ~ all of the angst and uncertainty combined with absolute hope that growing up would make life easier, and that magazines and advice columns could decode the entire process. This book is about grief, to be sure, but it’s at the same time an incredibly happy book, as Sofia manages to miss and remember her mom so poignantly while finally experiencing a whole new life. I loved the authenticity the author’s educational background in Spanish brought to the story, and Sofia’s connection to her and her mother’s shared Spanish heritage gave the story additional depth. Growing up, death, divorce and moving on are all difficult topics, but Weston manages to write them in a way that leaves readers smiling and hopeful. VERDICT: Highly recommended for grades 6-10.

Here is the official book description:

Sofia lost her mother eight months ago, and her friends were 100% there for her. Now it’s a new year and they’re ready for Sofia to move on.

Problem is, Sofia can’t bounce back, can’t recharge like a cellphone. She decides to write Dear Kate, an advice columnist for Fifteen Magazine, and is surprised to receive a fast reply. Soon the two are exchanging emails, and Sofia opens up and spills all, including a few worries that are totally embarrassing. Turns out even advice columnists don’t have all the answers, and one day Sofia learns a secret that flips her world upside down.

SPEED OF LIFE is the heartbreaking, heartwarming story of a girl who thinks her life is over when really it’s just beginning. It’s a novel about love, family, grief, and growing up.

Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC of this book for review purposes – all opinions are my own.

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