Reviews: Wonderful YA

Hello everybody! Today, I’m very excited to be sharing my latest review pos, which is themed around some of the wonderful YA books I’ve been reading these past few weeks. Onto the post!

Love Me Not by Holly Smale

If you know me, you’ll know that I’ve been a fan of Holly’s basically forever, so it didn’t surprise me that I loved this, but oh my God, I really, really did. Mercy is the oldest Valentine sister, still reeling from a huge loss several years before the book begins, who warns us on the very first page that she isn’t likeable and doesn’t want to be. Despite this, I found her to be an inherently good person who has been through a lot, and needs to heal before she can try and move forward. It was fascinating to learn more about the Valentines and the tragedy that shattered their worldsNo offense to any of the series’s other love interests, but Finn is easily my favourite! He was so perfect for Mercy and I loved that meeting him wasn’t an automatic fix for her problems, but instead a reason to try and face up to them. Also, although the book tackles very serious issues like grief and mental illness, it’s also got plenty of laugh out loud moments and Mercy’s narrative voice is delightfully darkly comic a lot of the time. Overall, this is just an incredibly moving, fitting finale to a trilogy I’m hugely fond of, and although I’m sad to say goodbye to the Valentines, I’m sure I’ll love whatever Holly chooses to write next.

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

This is the story of three cousins- Milly, Aubrey and Jonah- who belong to a very complex and estranged family, in which their grandmother cut off and disinherited her four children with a five word note, who are invited to work at their grandmother’s resort and end up trying to solve the mystery of why she (seemingly) so cruelly abandoned her children. I really liked all three of the cousins and the multiple perspectives that allowed us to really get to know them all, and their parents too. I also enjoyed the inclusion of Milly’s mum Alison’s past POV, which allows us to know what the family was like before it got torn apart. I also really loved the mystery- I think the fact that it was so centred around the Story family was pretty unique for a thriller, but there was still a really compelling plot and a proper page-turner of a mystery. I guessed a couple of the twists, but there were plenty I absolutely did not see coming, and others that had extra layers to them I didn’t predict at all. Also, I’ve seen some very mixed opinions on the ending (particularly the final page) but I absolutely loved it personally! This is definitely my new favourite Karen M McManus book.

The Yearbook by Holly Bourne (TW: emotional abuse)

Every time I read a new Holly Bourne book, I finish it even more in awe of her incredible talent. I read Am I Normal Yet? when I was 13 and it remains one of my favourite YA books to this day, and now that I’m almost 20 I can’t imagine not having a new book from Holly to look forward to each year. This one tells the story of Paige, who tries her best to be silent at home and at school, to avoid the cruelty of her emotionally abusive/neglectful parents and the popular, vicious bullies at her school. Then she meets a boy named Elijah in the pages of a library book, and she decides to stand up and use her voice, no matter the consequences. I absolutely bloody loved Paige, just to start this review off. She is so strong and clever and kind, and it made me so angry that her parents refused to see that and acknowledge how brilliant she was. Elijah was just perfect for her (and so so lovely and quirky and fun!), and I loved her very supportive Aunt Polly, and I’m so glad she stayed in the book given that Holly mentioned at an event she started off as a joke. Also, I think the exploration of how cruel people can be at school was incredibly well portrayed (I definitely found a lot of it similar to my experiences), and I loved the way that Paige brings down the Mean Girls in the end. This is definitely a book I see myself rereading, very likely more than once, in the future.

Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw (recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

I’ve been following Amy on social media pretty much since I started blogging, so I was really excited to hear that her debut novel was getting published, and even more excited to finally get to it this month. It tells the story of Mina, who is spending the summer of 1995 in New Orleans with her estranged sister Libby, and what happens when a murder happens at their workplace (the brilliantly atmospheric Mansion of the Macabre) and Libby is the prime suspect. Soon Mina joins the Dots and realises there’s a serial killer creating New Orleans’ infamous supernatural murders, and has to figure out who is behind them to clear her sister’s name. Mina was a very likeable protagonist and I found it very easy to empathise with her, but I could also see Libby’s side of their fight, so I ended up feeling very warm towards her too. I was a big fan of Jared, and I loved how supportive and lovely Della is to basically everybody. In addition, I loved the way this mixed the supernatural with a murder mystery plotline, and the 90s setting was so much fun to read about. I have to admit I know next to nothing about the horror genre but it was cool to see so many film and book references too! There were a few twists in this I could never have predicted or seen coming, and I think it was a brilliant debut from Amy. I’m really looking forward to seeing what she writes next!

Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli I’m a huge fan of Becky Albertalli, as you might know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, but I don’t love her co-written books just as much, so I was absolutely thrilled when I learnt that this was getting published. It’s the story of best friends Kate and Anderson (who are ever so slightly co-dependent), who have always shared “communal crushes”, until a new boy named Matt turns up at school and they both start to seriously fall for him. First up, I just love the concept of this so much! Becky Albertalli is the queen of YA rom-coms and I thought this was such an original and clever idea. I loved Kate and Andy so much, as well as their extended friendship group, and Matt was an amazing love interest. It was easy to see why both Kate and Andy liked him so much, and couldn’t just back off for the sake of the other. Noah is a pretty hard character to talk about, so all I’ll say is that he was very different to what I initially assumed he would be, and I adored him by the end of the book. The theatre plotline with the school production of Once Upon a Mattress was a really fun addition, and I loved that even though this is a romcom and there’s plenty of lovely romantic moments, at it’s core, Kate in Waiting is about the power of friendship. Also, I don’t want to give any spoilers and tell you exactly how things end, but I think the way this was wrapped up was absolutely perfect- everyone gets a happily ever after, and the overall message is that friendships like the one Kate and Andy have will never truly end.

Bookishly Ever After by Lucy Powrie

I’ve loved this series since it debuted in 2019, and although I’m very sad to see it come to an end, I think this was the perfect send off for the Paper and Hearts Society. This time, we focus on Ed (who is hands down my fave member of this group of friends/book club), and get to learn a bit more about his family as well as seeing him start his new job at the bookshop Woolf and Wilde, and fall for his new colleague Hannah. I love the characters in this series so incredibly much. Ed is an absolute sweetheart and I love how much he loves his friends and animals, and of course, books. I absolutely hated his dad for the way he treats Ed, but I loved his bond with his mum, and although The friendship between the Paper and Hearts Society wasn’t always smooth sailing throughout this, it’s so lovely that they’re always so supportive of one another in the end. Ed and Hannah’s relationship absolutely melted my heart, and I loved that Hannah is autistic, and how self-assured and comfortable with that she is. It’s so important to me to see disabled and neurodivergent love interests in books, because there really aren’t enough and it contributed so much to being convinced I’m unloveable my entire life, up till very recently. It was interesting to learn more about the behind the scenes of being a bookseller, and I especially liked the excerpts from Hannah’s blog on this theme. The book club meetings and the activities done during them were as fun as ever, and I’m so happy everyone got to live bookishly ever after in the end.

This Can Never Not be Real by Sera Milano (won a copy in a Twitter giveaway)

TW: terrorism, suicide and grief/bereavement

This is the story told from the perspective of survivors- primarily Joe, Violet, Ellie, Peaches and March- of a terrorist attack on a small town musical festival, that has horrific consequences for everyone involved. This is honestly one of the best multi-perspective worries I’ve ever read. Although there are a lot of people to keep to track of, they all had very distinct voices and storylines and I think every single one of their POVs being included really made the story work. I loved them just about equally, but I must admit to Peaches being my very favourite because somehow, despite how dark this book is, she made me laugh quite a few times. The romance storylines were lovely inclusions as well. I hadn’t realised before picking this up that it mostly took place on the night of the attack, but I think it worked incredibly well- although the book was very fast paced and didn’t let up for a second, it really made it clear that in the moment of a traumatic incident, time moves so slowly and so quickly all at once, and it feels neverending. It really was just absoluely unputdownable! I did also love the exploration of what happened after the attack though, and to see how the characters lives’ changed as a result of it. I don’t know if I’ll ever quite build up the courage to reread this even though I loved it, but I think every single detail will stay in my memory for a very long time.

We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman (recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

I love books about books, so when I was offered a copy of this, I absolutely jumped at the chance. It’s the story of Aaron Stein, who runs a failing independent bookshop with his father, after their family was changed forever by his older brother dying of a drug overdose and everything changed. Then Aaron meets Hannah, and he hopes that his attraction for her will end up being the good kind of inevitable thing in his life, for once. Aaron is a pretty complicated character and although I didn’t always agree with his decisions, I did feel a lot of sympathy for him, and I think he was just trying do the best he possibly could after going through something really painful and difficult. I loved Chad and the Carpenters for the way they helped him (and as individuals!), and my heart was genuinely breaking for Ira the whole way through. Hannah was a really interesting love interest and person in her own right, and I don’t want to give spoilers but I think her and Aaron ended the book the way they should have. The book references throughout this were so much fun (and have given me some ideas for books to add to my already toppling TBR), and I loved the discussion of what is so special about reading and bookshops, in particular.

Dance Like No One’s Watching by Vanessa Jones

I really liked Vanessa’s debut Sing Like No One’s Listening back in 2019, and I was so sad when this had its release date postponed due to the pandemic, so I was very pleased to finally be able to pick it up and see what happened next to Nettie and all her friends at the elite performing arts college Duke’s. In this installment, Nettie starts out feeling like she’s much more confident with her voice and she has her new relationship with Fletch and she’s got a really tight friendship group, but when the new year starts and a camera crew invades the College, things start to get pretty messy. And as if that wasn’t enough to deal with, she also has to continue investigating her mum’s secret past, that everyone is trying to hide from her. I’m pretty sure I said this when I reviewed Sing, but I really love Nettie. I think she’s incredibly strong and I love the way she treats her friends, and it was nice seeing her a bit more sure of herself this time round. I have to admit Fletch got on my nerves a bit with the way he treated Nettie throughout this, but I had forgiven him by the end, and I really loved getting to know Luca, Alec, Kiki and Leon better, as they all have really great subplots explored during the book. The cutthroat world of showbiz can be a bit difficult to read about at times, but there’s no doubt it’s a fascinating setting for a book, and I loved the extra element of tension and ccompetition the documentary added. I got the sense from the ending of this that there probably isn’t going to be another book in the series, but I really like the way it left things, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for whatever Vanessa writes next.

Hexed by Julia Tuffs (recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

Okay so before I start this review, I have to get the important bit out of the way first: I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS. I knew going in that the premise sounded epic but I didn’t think the actual book could ever possibly live up to it, so I’d just like to put it out there that I was completely and utterly wrong, and if you consider yourself a feminist you’re going to want to read this. It’s about Jessie Jones, who just wants to blend in and fly under the radar at her incredibly sexist new high school on the Isle of Wight, where her mum has moved the whole family after an enlightening health scare. But then strange things to start to happen, and Jessie realises she’s a witch with menstrual-cycle related powers, and she decides she wants to try and take down the patriarchy with them. I absolutely adored Jessie. She thinks she’s pretty average, but she’s actually very funny and empathetic and someone I’d love to be friends with, so I absolutely did not agree with her assessment of herself (at the beginning of the book, at least). I also really liked her friends Tabitha and Summer (who Jessie very aptly nicknames Badass before they meet properly!), I didn’t exactly like Libby but I did feel sympathy for her a fair bit, and Jessie’s family were all such strong, cool women and I loved them. And there’s a very cute cat too, whose presence allows for one of my very favourite comedy in the whole book. On that note, this book is hilarious. There was barely a single page where I didn’t laugh at least once, but it also deals with the very serious theme of sexism really well, and I found the finale to the book so empowering. Think Holly Bourne crossed with Sarah Mlyknowski’s All About Rachel books, and you’ll get a taste of just how fabulous this book is!

Tiny Pretty Things by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra (recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

I was really excited for the TV show of this coming out, but I wanted to read the books first, so I was delighted when Harper Collins got in touch to offer me a copy. It’s a multiple perspective book from the POV of Bette, Gigi and June, who are all students at Manhattan’s most prestigious (and dangerous) ballet academy. None of the characters are entirely likeable, although Gigi is very lovely and I felt so sorry for her, but I also felt a lot of sympathy for the other two girls. They don’t always handle situations perfectly, or very well at all, but they have a lot of issues in their personal lives and I honestly think it would be impossible to not have felt for them, at least a bit. I loved the ballet school setting, even though it was ruthless, and learning more about ballet and its traditions too. The slight mystery threaded throughout the plot was so gripping and involving, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. After THAT ending, I’m planning to get my hands on the next book as soon as I possibly can so I can find out!

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

I think I’m one of the very few people who hasn’t read Elizabeth Acevedo before picking this up, because I’m not very keen on verse novels, but this has tempted me to at least try her work in verse at some point because it was such a brilliant story, and I’ve never read anything exactly like it before. This is the story of an Afro-Latinx girl named Emoni who has a gift with cooking, and is also a teenage mother, as she navigates her senior year at high school and deciding what she wants to do with her future. Her relationship with Emma (who she calls Babygirl) is so lovely and her dedication to giving her an amazing life full of opportunities was incredibly moving. I also really liked her relationships with ‘Buela and Gelly, but her love interest Malachi was undoubtedly my favourite secondary cast member. I loved My favourite scenes were those set in the culinary arts class, as I loved seeing Emoni spar with Chef Ayden, and also the ones where Emoni is with Malachi, as their dialogue is fantastic. This book deals beautifully with some really important topics with its lyrical writing and lovable characters, and it’s such a fantastic YA contemporary.

Thank you so much for reading! What YA books have you read recently that you’d recommend? Have you read, or are you planning to read, any of the ones I’ve reviewed today? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x


Author: goldenbooksgirl

Disabled book blogger who also writes TV, film, music and other posts from time to time | UKYABA Champion Teen 2018 | Email: | she/her

6 thoughts on “Reviews: Wonderful YA”

  1. I’m just starting the Throne of Glass series now, and I also intend at some point to read Ready Player One. I started To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but I just… could NOT get into it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mina and the Undead is the only one here I have read and I loved it. With the Fire on High is on my TBR and Bookishly Ever After is one I really need to get but am in denial about it being the end of a series


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