What a month in young adult fiction! Below you’ll find reviews of the YA books Booktopians have read and loved lately. Enjoy!
Reviews by Sarah McDuling
Once and For All is exactly the kind of uplifting, emotionally cathartic ode to growing up that I have come to expect from Sarah Dessen. When it comes to exploring friendship, family and first love – Dessen really is the queen! She excels at writing the kind of poignant coming of age stories that grab you by the heartstrings and never let go.
Louna is a bit of a cynic when it comes to love. She has spent her formative years helping her single mother run a wedding planning business where she has glimpsed behind the scenes of countless fairytale romances. She knows better than to hope for a happily ever after, especially since her own perfect love story ended in heartbreaking tragedy.
And then she meets Ambrose, an arrogant, entitled, extremely annoying (yet oddly charming) boy who seems to attract chaos wherever he goes…
There’s no way to describe a Sarah Dessen book without making it sound like every other romantic comedy ever written. The difference is, Sarah Dessen doesn’t just tell cute, funny love stories. She tells cute, funny love stories that pack an unexpectedly heavy emotional punch. Her characters are always complex, messy and quirky without ever seeming clichéd. It’s a true artform to write a “quirky” character without crossing into cliché – but Sarah Dessen pulls it off time and again!
In conclusion, this book will make you laugh and smile (and maybe even cry a little bit). Read it! Learn more.
Oh man, this book has literally everything I need in life. Swashbuckling adventure, gods, pirates, magic, an adorable romance, and a vividly imagined new fantasy world to explore. I’m in heaven!
Caro is a glorious heroine who is strong, spirited and empowered. In order to save her father, she accepts a mission as a privateer and sails away on an epic adventure full of danger and intrigue. Caro is not the sort of girl who sits in a tower and waits to be rescued. Nope, she’s the kind of girl who does the rescuing!
For lovers of romance, there is a nice slow burning love story that plays out amidst all the madness and mayhem. It is, however, very much a subplot. Caro is a fully realised and layered character who has so much going on there isn’t really any time for swooning over boys. Also, Caro isn’t really the swooning type. She’s a busy lady with a ship to captain and a mission to complete, gods and magic to contend with… not to mention mysteries to solve, plots to uncover and loved ones to rescue!
Evil Librarian is such an awesome book. Sassy and scary, hilarious and horrifying… these are some of my favourite combinations! It’s why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is so very much my jam. There’s nothing quite like a snappy one-liner delivered in the middle of a life threatening fight to save the world from a demonic apocalypse… and that’s exactly what Evil Librarian is all about. If you like a wisecracking heroine who can quip in the face of death, I suggest you get yourself a copy asap!
Ever since reading Evil Librarian I have been soooooo looking forward to the sequel. Now at last it has arrived! I’m only a few chapters into Revenge of the Evil Librarian and so far I’m loving it. It’s good to be reunited with Cyn as she heads off to summer camp with her brand new boyfriend Ryan. It’s a theater camp (of course), and Cyn is super excited until she realises Ryan’s best camp buddy is in fact an alarmingly gorgeous girl.
Oh and also, it’s possible that pesky demon drama isn’t entirely in the past. There’s a chance Mr Gabriel (aka the Evil Librarian) might have found a way to come back from the dead and wreak a terrible vengeance… Learn more.
Reviews by Tanaya Lowden
My Life as a Hashtag is an entertaining and incredibly relatable story about the impact of social media in schools and society as a whole.
It follows MC, a 17-year-old girl from Melbourne who is dealing with her parents splitting up, as well as normal school drama, boys, and friend issues. When one of her mean Tumblr posts about the friend she’s fighting with goes viral, MC gets a shock awakening to the repercussions of social media and bullying.
This book is incredibly important for society today, with a highly relatable message at its core. I’m sure we’ve all had those moments of panic when something we’ve said about someone has come around to haunt us. Imagine that on a global scale. Social media is a wonderful tool, but it also has a hidden underside to it, one that this book explores, and that teenagers will easily be able to identify with.
The string of events that happen to MC will have you desperately hoping you’re never in her shoes, but will also have you empathising with her and hoping the outcomes will be positive. You see MC learn from her mistakes, making this a thought-provoking read and the perfect book for both the regular and casual YA reader. Learn more.
Ballad for a Mad Girl is a beautifully creepy book. It’s a little dark, a little mysterious, and a lot of what-the-hell-is-going-on.
It follows Grace, the funny girl known for her hilarious pranks. When Grace is drawn into a twenty-year-old mystery surrounding missing girl Hannah Holt, the thin veil between this world and the next begins to slip, causing Grace to lose herself in the madness.
I’m about halfway into this eerie novel, and am enjoying it immensely. In particular, I’m loving Vikki Wakefield’s writing. Any book that can make me feel unsettled while reading it is a winner in my eyes. I’m very intrigued to find out how this mystery will unfold!
Review by Bronwyn Eley
While reading Flame in the Mist, I was instantly draw to Hattori Mariko, a strong and compelling protagonist whose story reminded me so much of Mulan. Mariko was just as daring as Mulan, if not more so, and I found myself nodding in appreciation and muttering “you go girl” to myself more than once. I even burst out laughing at some points, so surprised by the boldness of Mariko.
This is a girl who, instead of running back to her family for help, decides to dress up as a boy, slink into the depths of the dangerous Black Clan and find out who tried to kill her – all by herself. And who’s up for a little sexy time after nearly drowning? Hattori Mariko, that’s who.
Ahdieh’s descriptions of winding rivers, lotus blossoms, luxurious silks, and the beauty of the Geiko made me feel like I was visiting the exotic, yet sometimes grimy city of Inako. This was definitely one of my favourite parts of the book, especially as we gain an insight into the members of the Black Clan, as they go about their day-to-day activities in this city. We see, perhaps for the first time, members of the clan humanised, and Mariko’s reaction upon realising they’re not all evil.
I haven’t spoken about Okami yet. Now, here’s a mysterious man. He really knows how to throw people off, and is perhaps just as bold as Mariko. It was nice to see his softer side with his sister and the elderly lady he and the Black Clan support financially. It’s perhaps one of my favourite tropes: the tough guy act is simply that. An act. And beneath that steely exterior? A warm heart.
I am eager to see what troubles Mariko finds herself in in book two! Learn more.
About the Contributor
Anastasia Hadjidemetri is the former editor of The Booktopian and star of Booktopia's weekly YouTube show, Booked with Anastasia. A big reader and lover of books, Anastasia relishes the opportunity to bring you all the latest news from the world of books.