I’ve loved Simone Elkeles bad boys-romances since I read Perfect Chemistry and am so excited that it will be turned into a movie soon! Seeing that news, I wanted to get back into the Simone Elkeles world and picked up this cutie, Better Than Perfect (formely Wild Cards).
This is another bad boy-good girl-can’t-help-falling-for-each-other book, but with a bit of a new take in that the main character, Ashtyn, is kicker and captain of her football team. So a bit tougher than the usual good girl, and with motivation and drive to carry out her plan to catch the attention of college football recruiters and get a scholarship. Derek on the other hand is trouble. Cocky, getting kicked out of school and with no real plans for life at all. The relationship between them starts out as antagonists, but slowly, it turns into something else.
I love Simone Elkeles’ slow-build romances and her bad boy characters with good hearts. This book was another cute, romantic read, but not one of her bests. I was a bit irritated with Ashtyn from time to time, for being so clueless about her boyfriend being a douche-bag and for acting too girly when she was supposed to be this tough football girl. And there wasn’t the usual spark in the romance, not the same tense and smoldering chemistry as I’d expected from a Simone Elkeles’ book.
But still, both Ashtyn and Derek were very lovable and the story was sweet and heartwarming. IT was one of those happily-ever-after-stories we all need once in a while. But if you haven’t read anything by Simone Elkeles yet, you should definitely start with Perfect Chemistry instead. (Or see the movie, I’m sure it will be awesome!)
Find out more about the book and the author here: Simone Elkeles
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is one of the most beautiful, heart-wrenching, sad and gripping stories that I that I’ve ever read. It’s a story that will stay with you for a long time and that will break your heart in pieces.
This is one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever written. It’s almost impossible to describe the book in a way that does it justice. And I also just want to write about the ending, but I promise, I will make sure not to give that away…
Starting from the beginning instead, this is a story about teenagers Theodore Finch and Violet Markey who meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school. They are both thinking about ending their lives by jumping off it, but instead they end up saving each other. Finch is fascinated by death, but also searching for the romantic notion of the ‘perfect day’. Each day he plans to kill himself, but every time, something good or beautiful stops him. Violet’s life has been shattered by the death of her elder sister in a car accident, that Violet feels responsible for. When Finch and Violet pair up for a project at school to discover the wonders of their state, they both discover way more. About each other and themselves.
This is such an important book about mental illness and suicide that everyone should read. But most of all, it’s a beautiful book that will grip you and make you fall in love with the characters and make you cry your heart out. I love the writing and how the chapters are divided by the alternating POVs of Finch and Violet. I love the wanderings and how wonderful, strong and unique Finch is. I love the use of book quotes to add an extra layer to the characters’ thoughts and feelings. I love the raw feelings and that Jennifer Niven does not hold anything back. The only thing I did not like was Finch’s ignorant, abusive parents, but they are vital for the story.
Overall, All the Bright Places is a story that will bring tears to your eyes and break your heart, but that you in the end will be glad that you have read. I truly love this book and recommend it with all my heart, regardless if you like contemporary, YA or sad readings or not! This is truly a book that anyone will be affected by and start to rethink one’s own life after reading.
Readers have even said that this book spoke to them in their darkest hour and saved their life. That’s how important this book is, and how important it is to raise awareness about mental illness and suicide.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Jennifer Niven
My Love Is Blue by Rosemary Danielis is a beautiful, captivating and emotional novel about overcoming grief and finding the strength to live, and love, again.
After the loss of the love of her life, Julian, painter Emma is hiding away in her remote cottage. Mourning Julian’s death, she’s trying to focus on her painting, where she feels that Julian comes alive again. Underneath the layers of paint, Emma finds a kind of dreamlike place where she and Julian can still be together. But when she’s running out of money to pay her rent, Emma is forced to open up her locked-down existence to take on off-duty Police Officer Grayson Tate. He’s opinionated, arrogant and completely charming with a burning desire to learn how to paint, specifically from Emma. Soon Emma develops feelings for Grayson, but how can she possibly fall in love with Grayson without betraying Julian and the love they shared?
I really enjoyed this book! The writing is beautiful and the characters are so relatable and loveable. There are so many layers to the story. It’s not just about finding yourself after the death of your loved one by suicide, but about finding new love and coming back to the land of the living after being struck with your own grief and depression. In addition to Emma’s and Julian’s love and loss and the burgeoning romance with Grayson, there is also an unexpected mystery plot and an evil villain in disguise that adds action and suspense to the story. It’s a book that gives you the feels and draws you in and makes your heart ache for the characters. Reading My Love Is Blue was like riding a rollercoaster of emotions! I also really appreciate the artistic parts with the painting lessons and the description of Emma’s feelings when she painted. It added a truly unique touch to the story.
My Love Is Blue is an intense, heart wrenching, and emotional read that I hope more readers will discover, it so deserves it!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Rosemary Danielies
The Witch’s Blood is the third and final book in the cute YA trilogy about sixteen-year-old Merry, who is trying to be a normal teenager, while also being a witch and the problems that comes with that. The second book ended with Ronan revealing his evil self and taking Leo to another reality, trying to force Leo to surrender to him and give up his own will. Now, Merry has to find a way to fee her brother before Ronan succeeds.
This book is the perfect ending to the wonderful The Witch’s Kiss trilogy. It’s dark, vivid, emotional and nerv-wracking. You can really feel Merry’s despair and how she’s willing to do anything to free her brother, including magic that’s forbidden by her coven. I love Merry and Leo’s incredible bond, they must be the cutest siblings ever and it adds so much to this series. I know I said it before, but Leo is my favorite book-brother of all times! And Merry is such a great main character. She’s fierce, strong and smart.
Another thing I love about this book is the humor and the references to fantasy genre clichés. Comments like these, from when Merry and Finn break into the evil wizard’s fortress, really made you laugh and lightened the dark and intense story:
“What, no menacing creek?” Finn murmured.
“Guess Gwydion and Ronan skipped the ‘Evil Villainy for Beginners’ class.”
This series has a unique way of combining ancient and contemporary world buildings, the writing is so well-done and slips cleverly between the different times. There are also twists and unexpected turns that kept you on the edge throughout all three books. I don’t want to make any spoilers, but Katherine and Elizabeth Corr have such a clever way of wrapping things up, and making the past and present come together. The Witch’s Blood is filled with unexpected twists and turns, adventure, emotions that are running high and unconditional love.
All in all, The Witch’s Kiss Trilogy is an enchanting YA series, with magic, adventure, love, evil wizards and old curses wrapped up in an amazing reading experience that I highly recommend!
Find out more about the book and the authors here: The Corr Sisters
I am so in love with this book, I can’t even put it into words! Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazemian is one of my all-time favorite books ever! It’s not often that you find a new voice in YA literature, but the storytelling in this book is completely unique and refreshing. It’s so raw and honest, so vivid in the description of the fear of AIDS and discrimination, cruelty and violence, but also so hopeful and loving, so full of activism, friendship and community, courage and pride. My first feeling when I finished it was to shout to the world to GO READ THIS BOOK! Then I wanted to turn back to the first page and reread it all again.
This is a story about three somewhat misfit teenagers in New York City in 1989, trying to find out who they are and where they belong. It’s also such an important, necessary, story about the LGBTQ movement, the AIDS crisis and the ACT UP activism, giving voice to the heroes behind the formation of a queer community fighting for everyone’s right to be themselves against homophobia and prejudices. But most of all it’s a story about friendship, finding the courage to be true to who you are and learning to love and be proud despite all discrimination and cruelty around you.
“The most important four-letter word in our history will always be LOVE. That’s what we are fighting for. That’s who we are. Love is our legacy.”
The characters are amazing, so lovable and unique. I don’t even know where to start… There’s Reza, an Iranian boy who is new at school and terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself; that he is attracted to boys. But all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS. Then there’s Art, the school’s only out teen and the flamboyant, rebellious son of wealthy and conservative parents, and Judy, an aspiring fashion designer and hopeless romantic. And last, but absolutely not least, Judy’s uncle Stephen, an ACT UP activist and Hollywood fanatic, dying of AIDS. Art and Judy have always been best friends, spending every Sunday night watching old movies at Uncle Stephen’s and telling each other absolutely everything. But, when Reza stumbles into their lives and starts dating Judy (and Art starts catching feelings), things get a little bit more complicated.
These characters are what made the story! I adored every single one of them as the story unfolded. Abdi Nazemian describes them with such integrity and empathy, allowing them to be real, with flaws and less likeable traits, and in a way that made you fall in love with them and break your heart when theirs did. Reza, Art, Judy and Stephen immediately seared themselves into my heart. And the side characters are just as loveable. Judy’s parents, Reza’s wonderful supportive and rebellious sister, and even Reza’s stepdad and stepbrother in the end.
And Madonna! This book is also a wonderful homage to Madonna. She’s almost like a character in the book, that’s how big her part is. I absolutely love how the importance Madonna has, and has always had, for the queer community and the courage to self-expression and individually, is so knowledgeable described. I couldn’t stop myself from humming her songs while reading, like a soundtrack.
The way Abdi Nazemian writes is simply amazing. This is such a fast read, I felt like I was flying through this book. From the very first page, the story just pulled me in and I couldn’t put it down. I read it feverishly and finished it in one sitting! The topic is heavy at times, with the fear of dying, the fear of condemnation and of being rejected and humiliated, but the way Abdi Nazemian writes about those who were dying is so respectful, yet honest and realistic. There is absolutely no glorification of AIDS, all the grit and horror that went along with it are kept real. I loved the detail with Uncle Stephen keeping a jar with jelly beans for each friend who has died.
“Don’t forget me. Us. All of us. What we did. What we fought for. Our history. Who we are. They won’t teach it in schools. They don’t want us to have a history.”
Well, with this book, Abdi Nazemian has changed that. Uncle Stephen, Art, Reza and all others in the queer community of the late 80’s now have a history. A history that will be taught in schools.
I could go on forever about how wonderful and amazing this book is, and how it will stick with you for forever, but all I really want to say now is… GO READ IT! This book should be read by everyone!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Abdi Nazemian
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a heart-breaking story of children being stolen from their families, about abuse and danger, but also about hope and love and the feeling of belonging. It’s a captivating and emotional novel that tells a horrible story in a beautiful way.
This novel has two parallel storylines; one in 1939 and one is present day. In 1939, Rill Foss and her younger siblings are stolen from their poor Mississippi Shanty boat and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director Georgia Tann, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty. In present days Avery, the daughter of a prominent Senator, returns home to help her father through a health crisis, when a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history. From here, the two storylines slowly unravel and come together.
The narrative switches back and forth between Rill and Avery, telling the story from their different angles and giving us pieces to what happened to Rill and her siblings both in a linear way via Rill’s parts, but also in hindsight via the discoveries that Avery does in her parts. Both storylines pull on the heartstrings, but I loved Rill’s parts the most. I think the part of the story taking place in modern day had a bit too much of chick lit romance in it to truly be my cup of tea, but it still added so much to the story with the mystery plot.
Before We Were Yours is an important story about a real-life scandal that needs to be told, but it’s also a wonderful novel on its own merits. It’s a bittersweet book that pulls on your heartstrings, with a lot of sadness and terrible things happening, as well as a story about hope, love and survival and about the strength in family bonds that cannot be broken, no matter what. I highly recommend this novel!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Lisa Wingate
The Witch’s Tears is the second book in the cute YA trilogy about sixteeen-year-old Merry, who is trying to be a normal teenager, while also being a witch and the problems that comes with that. The book starts off three months after where The Witch’s Kiss left off, with Merry and Leo still grieving what happened in the first book.
This second book is much darker and sadder than the first one. It’s also my favorite book in the series. I love how the story evolves, creating an intricate weave of dual times (modern and Anglo-Saxon) and deepening the characters. The plot felt more in-depth than the first, and there was even more action and magic in this book. When Merry’s and Leo’s grandmother, and leader of the coven mysteriously vanishes, the two of them must team up to get her back. Which is not an easy task, with Merry still being untrained and inexperienced when it comes to her witch craft, and with the coven distrusting her. And on top of that, Leo is still being consumed by his grief.
Oh, poor Leo! It was painful to see him suffer so much in this book. Really painful. Especially in the parts where he thought that he’d found someone else to love, but you as a reader can feel it in your guts that it will not end well… But still, I love that Leo got to be a bigger part of the story and the extra layers of depth that was added to his personality. He’s definitely my favorite book-brother of all times!
Just like the first book, this book is so well-written and full of action that you can’t stop yourself from flying through the pages. I was so eager and nervous to find out what would happen to the characters and how they would survive all dangerous situation they ended up in that I read this in one sitting. The suspense if they would succeed in finding the grandmother and if the newcomers Ronan and Finn were to be trusted, was killing me!
This is an enchanting YA series that I highly recommend! It is full with magic, adventure, love, evil wizards and old curses wrapped up in an amazing reading experience.
Find out more about the book and the authors here: The Corr Sisters
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel is an absolutely wonderful book that I recommend with all my heart also to YA readers, even though it for most part has the parents’ perspective. This is such a witty, sweet, honest, gripping and thought-provoking read that addresses so many important questions.
The book is about the large, gorgeous, lively Walsh-Adams family and their five sons, and what happens when the youngest one, the extraordinarily verbal little Claude, explains that he wants to be a girl scientist when he grows up. Laurie Frankel does such an amazing job in describing how important it is for Claude to wear dresses to feel comfortable and as him/herself even though he is not yet clear with that he is a girl. She also explains so well how the parents find themselves on new and scary terrain, trying to balance Claude’s safety and happiness with the older brothers worry about the comments and bullying both they and Claude will be victims to. After an incident, the whole family moves to a new city, where Claude blossoms as Poppy. The problem is that they have kept the past a secret, allowing Poppy to be a girl just like anyone else, which makes things easier for Poppy in a way, but increasingly difficult on her brothers. The story takes a darker turn when she is outed and Poppy and her parents must find their footing again.
This is a wonderfully contradictory story. So painful at times, yet so heartwarming and joyful, written with such a humor and witty language. And with so much knowledge. Laurie Frankel has herself a daughter who was born a boy, which is evident from the depth and understanding of what the family goes through in the book. I know that I will keep coming back to this book and the questions about how to best support and protect a child who isn’t identifying itself as its genders, but still not entirely as the other either. I loved the way the book does not give any definitive answers, but rather opens of for discussions about what it really means to be true to yourself; suggesting that there are times when neither right nor left works and, instead, you have to go straight ahead, through the great unknown of the middle.
And I was so moved by Laurie’s explanation about the inspiration behind the book and the differences between a novel you write and your own life, in that the novel should be perilous, unpredictable, full of near misses and heartbreak, but the latter you want as plotfree as possible and a world where anyone can be who they are and become their most wanted , loved and appreciated selves.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Laurie Frankel
The Witch’s Kiss is the first book in the cute YA trilogy about sixteen-year-old Merry, who is trying to be a normal teenager, while also being a witch and the problems that comes with that. This is such an enchanting story, full of magic, adventure, love, evil wizards and old curses that will draw you in from the very first page!
I love the setting in present days and the combination of witchcraft in modern times (like how Merry’s grandmother contacts her witch-friends via Facebook...). It gives this series a unique touch. And the characters are so realistic and loveable. I love that Merry is allowed to be a normal teenager with teenager problem while also being a witch and struggling with understanding her powers (which is extra hard since her mother has prohibited her from using them). Merry is such a great main character. She’s fierce, strong and smart. And the relationship with her older brother, Leo, is adorable.
Merry and Leo must be the cutest siblings in history! I love their strong bond. Leo was overall one of my favorite characters in this series. He was so kind and protective of his sister, even though he sure had his own shares of problems to deal with. His struggle with being in love with his best friend and trying to find a good way to come out of the closet to tell him was so well described and made my heart ache for him.
The book is very fast-paced, with a lot of action as Merry has to defeat and ancient curse when the King of Hearts, who has been hunting Merry’s bloodline for ages, once again rises. When the boy she’s been dreaming about suddenly materializes himself, Merry faces another problem. How can she fight the curse if she’s attracted to the boy under its spell?
I love how the story evolves to be told in parallel timelines, with a fairytale explaining the origin of the King of Hearts by the heartbroken Gwydion in Anglo-Saxan times. And how the love story between Merry and Jack has been a long time coming, over generations.
The ending was a bit of a surprise though. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I had thought that the title of this book would have some meaning that would have made the book end in a different way. But it sure made you eager to continue the series...
All in all, this is an absolutely wonderful YA fantasy book, with strong and loveable characters, magic, adventure, ancient curses and forbidden love that I highly recommend!
Find out more about the book and the authors here: The Corr Sisters
The fact that the events described in The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth even exists, and that families actually send their loved ones to conversion therapy camps to “cure” them from being who they are, makes me so angry I want to cry. This book is a heart-breaking reminder that even though so much has been gained the past decades we must keep on fighting for everyone’s right to love, freedom and justice.
That said, I so wished I would have loved this book. This book is so important and it was well-written, but it wasn’t a read that pulled you in. It wasn’t bad, but it had so much potential that it didn’t quite meet, sadly.
Cameron was a likeable enough main character and I really appreciated that she was allowed to act like a real teenager; selfish at times, irresponsible and contradictory, but she didn’t steal my heart. The main problem was that the book was so wordy and that every single thing Cameron did or thought was described in detail, which slowed the story down and created a distance to the characters.
There is also another objection that I felt after finishing this book, and that is that the book, nor Cameron, doesn’t condemn the correction therapy clear enough. This kind of camps, and the idea that someone can be “cured from homosexuality” or that “homosexuality is a sin” are completely unacceptable, and I wished that it had been made absolutely clear and condemned in a much harder way.
But all in all, it is an important book that deserves to be read and discussed.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Emily M. Danforth
Hi! I'm Annie, a Swedish bookworm, YA addict and coffee lover, who writes romantic YA books in English. I'm the author of the Angelheart Saga series (First Came Forever and Forever Disguised).
I love YA books and want to share what I read with you too, so check out my reading tips here!
Below you can find the reviews per author as well.