Booktopia’s Sarah, Bron and Tanaya review 7 new YA reads they’ve loved!
Reviews by Sarah McDuling
Caraval was one of the most delightful books I read last year. A magical and mystical tale of adventure, romance and sisterhood, it completely captured my imagination with its lovable characters and beautiful imagery. I’ve been looking forward to reading the sequel for ages and I’m pleased to say it delivered everything I wanted!
In Caraval, we followed Scarlett Dragna on her dangerous misquest to find her missing sister, Tella. Now in Legendary we get to know Tella better as she undertakes a mission to do something no-one has even been able to do before… discover Master Legend’s true name!
This series is such a sumptuous feast! Vividly imagined and gorgeously told, the world of Caraval is like a vibrant fairytale circus that explodes off the page in the riot of colour. It was such a joy to return to the world again and I’m looking forward to the final book of this dazzling series – the appropriately named Finale.
There is nothing I love more than a kickass, sassy heroine and Zera from Bring Me Their Hearts might just be my new favourite! I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this book… but I’m going to try…
Bring Me Their Hearts has cemented Sara Wolf as a new favourite author of mine. I will now follow her wherever she goes because WOW. The flawless world building and tightly paced plot would have been enough to win me over but the true delight of Bring Me Their Hearts is found in the characters. Oh the characters!!!! There was so much great banter, witty quips and snappy dialogue galore. I love fantasy with a dash of humour, and I am very partial to character driven fantasies like this one.
The story has a great set up with Zera, who is a “Heartless”. The Heartless are like magically enslaved assassins who are bound to serve witches. The witches keep their hearts in jars… it’s a whole magical situation that causes the Heartless to be immortal and to be burdened with a powerful hunger for flesh, which is wildly disturbing! Honestly, I so loved the dark fairytale allusions and creepy atmosphere of this world. It was horrifyingly awesome!
Zera is bound to a wicked witch called Nightsinger and when she is offered a chance to win her freedom she leaps at the opportunity… but what price is she willing to pay to get her heart back?
I am 100% addicted to this new series and cannot wait for the next book. I won’t lie – there is a cliffhanger ending so be prepared for anguish. Bound to draw comparisons with Sarah J. Maas, this is the perfect read for anyone who likes fast-paced, character driven adventure/fantasy/romance with loads of charm and humour.
Sara Wolf’s writing reminds me of Leigh Bardugo, Rae Carson, Laini Taylor and many other of my other favourite authors. If you are a fan of any of the above authors, you are going to love this book! Learn more.
Reviews by Tanaya Lowden
This was one of my most anticipated YA releases of the year, and I’m so happy that it met all my expectations.
All of This is True follows a group of four teens who befriend their favourite author, Fatima Ro. They adore her, trust her, and tell her all their secrets only to discover with the release of Fatima’s next book one year later, that all their secrets ended up in the book. The premise alone had me super excited to read this, and when a copy landed on my desk I dropped everything to devour it.
The narrative is told in a few really interesting ways that just worked so well together and always had me questioning what the truth was. Two of the characters, Miri and Penny, have their perspectives told through an interview transcription. The same character is interviewing them, but what I thought worked particularly well was the juxtaposition of their opinions. As these interviews are taking place after the “twist”, and after both girls knew that Fatima had used them to write her book, it was interesting to see that one of the girls still idolised Fatima and essentially excused her behaviour, whilst the other felt used and abused and could look back on the events and see the manipulation.
Another of the perspectives, Soleil’s, used journal entries, which was an interesting way of incorporating flashbacks into the story. It is Jonah’s perspective though that is told the most interestingly. As Jonah is in a coma for the entirety of the book, he can’t exactly tell his side of the story. Rather, his perspective is told through the fictional book that Fatima Ro wrote about the four teens, where the main character is a fictionalised version of Jonah. Why I found this to be the most interesting perspective is because it had me questioning whether this was a true representation of Jonah’s feelings or whether it had just been how Fatima saw things. How can you know what the truth is when you know you are reading a fictionalised version of the events? I was just incredibly impressed with how much this book had me thinking about the switch between fiction and reality and just how transparent this can be at times.
This book drew me in so much that I didn’t want to put it down. Its unique formats ensure it is a quick read, but it is one that has managed to stay in my mind even months after reading it. Whilst none of the characters are particularly likeable, their personas, actions and thoughts are just so fascinating, and this is definitely a book I want to revisit again to see if there are things I missed the first time around. Learn more.
I recently read Jenn Bennett’s Alex, Approximately and fell in love with her writing. It was the cute, fluffy, and fun contemporary that I was in the mood for, and I knew that I needed to read all of her other works. Starry Eyes, her latest release, is just as adorable and a definite must-read for contemporary fans.
Starry Eyes follows Zorie, a meticulous planner and astronomy lover. When Zorie finds herself invited on a group camping trip, she agrees to go without knowing that her once best friend but now best enemy, Lennon, has been invited too. When a fight amongst the group leaves Zorie and Lennon stranded in the wilderness together, the two are forced to hash out their issues and work out just exactly what went wrong between them.
I absolutely adored the characters in this book. Zorie and Lennon are both precious cinnamon rolls and I was just waiting with anticipation for them to get together. I found myself really relating to Zorie and her reliance on organisation and making plans for everything, especially knowing it was as a result of her lack of control in a traumatic experience. I also really loved some of the secondary characters, including Zorie’s Mom and Grandparents, Lennon’s Moms, and one of Zorie’s friends (specifically one, because the rest of them were a nightmare!). A good supporting cast in a YA contemporary can really boost the overall enjoyment levels of a book, and this is something Starry Eyes excelled at.
Although this is the kind of fun and lighthearted contemporary read that I know I love, Starry Eyes actually surprised me with the depths it went to with some of its themes. This book deals with cheating parents, divorce, the death of a parent, plus the usual friend and school dramas common in YA contemporaries.
I loved the combination of the best friends to lovers and enemies to lovers tropes in this book. These are two tropes I really enjoy reading, and they’re not often something that get combined together. I was delighted by the extra banter and quick jabs that this allowed Zorie and Lennon to have in their interactions with each other, but also by the added will-they-won’t-they tension that this orchestrated.
If it isn’t clear yet and you need another reason as to why I loved this book so much, then it is definitely the addition of not one, not two, not three, but four maps. Normally reserved to fantasy titles, it isn’t often that you find a map in a YA contemporary novel, and I thought this was a fun and quirky addition to the story.
Starry Eyes is the perfect read for fans of Morgan Matson, Jenny Han, and Emma Mills. Learn more.
The Way You Make me Feel was a combination of all the things I love in a YA contemporary. It had an entertaining plot, great characters, and adorable relationships, but what this book also brought to the table was a bunch of diversity and it was oh so fabulous!
When Clara and her rival Rose are forced to work for her father’s Food Truck as punishment for a prank gone wrong at their prom, it seems as if their summer breaks are ruined. But as time goes on, it turns out that Rose isn’t so bad, and the cute boy Clara meets may just might make summer a little bit better than she was expecting. This is a relatable story of love and finding yourself in the most unexpected of places.
A lot of the times in YA books, family – parents in particular – are often not around, and so I always feel such joy when there are loving, supportive and present family members. In particular, Clara’s Dad Adrian was a delight. It was such a refreshing relationship that he and Clara shared, and Goo did an excellent job of portraying this.
I also really enjoyed the growth of the friendship between Clara and Rose. They started out with a lot of animosity for each other, and at first I thought their path to friendship had been quite sudden. But once I got to the end of the book I realised that I wished there had been even more of their friendship because it was so delicate and lovely. I think we’ve all at one stage had that friendship that started after an indefinite amount of time of animosity, and it was nice to see this reflected in a YA contemporary.
This book also touched perfectly on the drifting nature of friendships. One of the best pieces of advice one of my teachers gave me was that who you’re friends with now won’t necessarily be the friends you’ll have in five years. People change, we grow and develop, and whilst it is a little bittersweet and sad, it’s the truth. As Clara worked on the food truck throughout the summer and started to take more responsibility for her actions, her pranking and careless ways lessened, and so did her closeness with her current friends. This is all a part of growing up and discovering who you really are and Goo handled it like a pro.
Everything else about this book was a delight to read. I loved Goo’s charming and humorous writing, I enjoyed where the plot went, and most incredibly I was surprised to find myself crying whilst reading this book. I had not been expecting what looked like a fluffy, summer read to go into such depths in regards to some of its themes, but it did and it made this book all the more relatable.
The Way You Make Me Feel is a definite must-read for contemporary fans! Learn more.
From Twinkle, With Love is the highly anticipated second book from Sandhya Menon, author of When Dimple Met Rishi. Filled with charming characters and a cute romance, From Twinkle, With Love is every bit as enjoyable as When Dimple Met Rishi.
Aspiring filmmaker Twinkle wants to change the world with her stories, if only the world would listen. When fellow film geek Sahil approaches her to direct a movie for an upcoming festival, Twinkle is ecstatic to put her passion to use, and hopes that the film will enable her to get close to her long-time crush, Neil, Sahil’s identical twin brother. But through the power of filmmaking, Twinkle develops feelings for Sahil, and soon things are more complicated than ever.
Sandhya Menon does an excellent job of crafting relatable and realistic characters. Twinkle is just a ray of sunshine. She’s quirky and awkward, endearing and passionate, and just such a joy to read about. She doesn’t shy away from dreaming big, and this was something I absolutely adored about her.
This book is told through a couple of formats. Primarily, the story is told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favourite female filmmakers, but there are also a few text message exchanges from various other characters. I rather like it when books are written epistolary and to people the character admires, and this book did the style justice. Two such examples that come to mind are Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, although From Twinkle, With Love is definitely more upbeat than either of those two books.
The romance of this book features a love square – yes, you heard me correctly, a love square. Twinkle has had a long time crush on Neil, Sahil’s identical twin brother but he barely knows she exists. Sahil has had a long time crush on Twinkle. Twinkle develops feelings for Sahil the more they work on the film, and to complete the last side of the square, a secret admirer known as N has been emailing Twinkle. This love square ensures a lot of hilarity, especially since the reader is clued into everyone’s feelings way more than Twinkle is herself. Whilst I’m normally not a fan of love triangles or in this case squares, I actually think it worked really well in this book and was one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much!
This book also tackles the ups and downs of female friendships. Twinkle’s longtime best friend Maddie has started to hang with the popular crowd, essentially ditching Twinkle unless the two are alone. Twinkle doesn’t really like confrontation and just wants things to return to normal, and so I spent a chunk of this book just wishing for Twinkle to call out Maddie on her behaviour. This is a storyline that is definitely something most of us can relate to, and Menon portrayed it incredibly well.
If you loved When Dimple Met Rishi, you are going to love From Twinkle, With Love. This is also the perfect book for you if you’re looking for some diversity amongst your contemporary YA fiction. Learn more.
Review by Bron Eley
The epicness that is Hattori Mariko continues in Smoke in the Sun, book two in the Flame in the Mist series by Renee Ahdieh! My favourite thing about this series is definitely Mariko and her unwavering strength. Renee Ahdieh has created a powerful, unyielding, kick-ass female protagonist who doesn’t give an inch, even for love. The sacrifices Mariko makes for her cause, her courage, and her conviction to do what’s best for the greater good are admirable, if not a little baffling.
In this second and final book, Mariko is trapped among cunning socialites and violent rulers inside Heian Castle, where she awaits her marriage to Raiden, the man she does *not* love. I love the progression of Raiden’s character. He is aggressive, detached, seemingly unloving… yet we start to see that Raiden himself has been trapped in his own way, perhaps his whole life. He’s a really interesting character and I enjoyed watching him develop throughout the book.
Raiden’s mother is one scary lady. Kanako has always been second best in the eyes of the emperor and everyone at court. She wasn’t chosen to be the wife, merely the consort, and her son, although the eldest, would never been chosen as reigning emperor. Kanako has plans and we see her lighting the first spark of these at the end of book one, Flame in the Mist. Things only get more intense from there. She is ruthless and single-minded to such an extent that her actions can only be described as selfish and evil. Considering how she bends the dead and the living to her will in order to get what she wants: her son as emperor.
Every time one of her chapters came up, she was shrouded in this spooky imagery of magic and a smiling fox and men who lose hours to mindlessness… they were some of my favourite parts!
One really interesting concept Ahdieh plays with is the idea of loyalty. Does loyalty to family always trump love, friendship or yourself? Mariko is tested throughout the book by her disagreements with her brother Kenshin. When does it stop mattering that they are family? When is it ok to walk away?
Kenshin treats Mariko with mistrust the second she is ‘rescued’ at the end of book one and he battles with whether or not he can trust her. As I’ve said before, Mariko’s strength is impressive. Even the love for family, for her brother, cannot trump the loyalty she feels for the Black Clan and what they, as a team, stand for.
About the Contributor
Tanaya has been a lover of books for as long as she can remember. Now, her book collection is a little out of control, mostly consisting of YA fiction and pretty hardcovers. When she’s not reading, she spends a lot of her time taking photos of books for her bookstagram account, @prettypagesblog. She also has a love of Disneyland, bullet journaling and cats.
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