Frankly in Love by David Yoon is a cute coming-of-age story with more depths than first anticipated. I love when there are several layers in a story that are woven together in the end and when the author does not leave you with any easy answers. Please note that his review contains spoilers, so don’t continue reading if you haven’t yet read the book!
In short, this is about Frank and how his dreams and wishes do not meet his Korean parents’ expectations. And their racism. Sometimes it was so hard to read all the things Frank’s parents said and how they shut their daughter out for falling in love with a black man, that I wanted to toss the book into the wall. But luckily Frank was so loveable and I rooted so much for him that I had to continue reading and see how he would stand up to his parents and fight for his right to love whomever he want.
When Frank falls in love with white girl Brit (a big no no), he comes up with a fake-dating scheme with a Korean girl his parents would approve for him to be with. The fake-dating scheme was really cute, but Frank’s feelings for Brit never seemed that deep. Spoiler: (Which they clearly weren’t when Frank ends up falling for Joy instead… Even though I loved Frank and his dorkiness, I liked him a little less for leaving Brit like that. It somehow made most of the story in the book seem a bit unnecessary. Like it lacked purpose. Why have us read 400 pages of Frank’s love struggle, when he just tosses it all away for Joy at the end? Already from the start, I thought that Frank and Joy were a much better match.)
But no matter that I didn’t quite agree with some of his decisions, Frank is one of my favorite main characters. I especially loved his friendship with Q and the dorky way the talked and how they always supported each other. I also loved learning more about Korean culture and the complexity with family relationships and racism within minority groups. This book was such an eye-opener to the problems that second generation Korean might have to deal with.
All in all, Frankly in Love was a cute and funny, really fast-paced book with a wonderful humor, an adorkable male protagonist and a fresh new take on life growing up as a second-generation Korean teenager in the US.
Find out more about the book and the author here: David Yoon
I struggled so much with this book. About halfways I almost gave it up since I just couldn’t get to like the main character. At all. But I’m glad I kept on reading, as the book got better in the end.
Mia is the middle sister of three, where older sister Grace is being absolutely flawless (straight As, beautiful, kind and with the perfect boyfriend) and younger sister Audrey is a future Olympic swimming champion (and such a sweetheart). Mia, on the contrary, is wild, daring, shallow and selfish, failing at school and drinking and partying too much.
In a way, it was very refreshing with a completely flawed main character, but the down-side was that it took me almost to the very end until I could even stand her… There were so many times I wanted to shake her and tell her to get her s**t together and stop being so selfish and reckless. I can understand why she would feel ignored or judged, but for me it was no excuse for her behavior. Especially the way she treated her friends, never caring about their feelings. It’s okay to make mistakes and stupid decisions, that’s part of growing up, but the problem in this book was that Mia didn’t seem to learn anything from her mistakes. She just blamed anyone else for them.
What I did like about this book already from the start though was the family dynamics and Mia’s sisters and parents. They were all so sweet and kind and loveable. Which made me worry that Mia would manage to destroy the family ties, especially to do something really mean and stupid that would ruin her sister’s relationship with Sam. So it was an anxious read… But after about chapter 34 or so, the story got so much better and I’m happy to say that Mia did step up and take responsibility for her actions eventually.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Lisa Williamson
I first saw Odd One Out by Nic Stone in a post on Instagram by the Swedish publisher Lavender Lit, and was immediately intrigued. Odd One Out is, despite the title (Triangle in Swedish), not about a typical YA love triangle by any means. It’s a unique take on the triangle trop, it’s heartwarming (and heartbreaking) and so real, awkward, funny and messy, just like life as a teenager questioning yourself and your sexuality is.
The book follows the three teenagers Courtney, Jupiter and Rae, and is divided into three sections, one for each different character. Courtney is a straight black boy in love with his best friend, even though he knows she will never feel the same way because she’s a lesbian. Rae is a biracial Irish/Korean new girl at school, a people-please and apparently, not as straight as she thought. Jupiter is a biracial black girl who has two dads and a proud lesbian, as well as Courtney’s best friend and completely obliviate to his feelings.
I don’t think I’ve ever read anything similar, with these three blocks instead of alternating POVs, but I liked it. Especially Courtney’s parts, he was definitely my favorite character and voice in the book, I really got him. More than I did the girls. I think that having two questioning queer people in one book might have been a bit too much, in the end it all got a little too messy. Reading this book was such a rollercoaster of rooting for the characters one second, then really disagreeing with their choices the next. But I feel like that was kind of the point and that the messiness was what made this book so unique and made it feel real. Life if messy and as a teenager you should be allowed to be messy and make bad decisions in order to figure out who you are and where and how you fit into the world. I really appreciated the talk about labels that Nic Stone added to the story in the end. It’s an important discussion to have and to realise that labels can change and it can be scary to change them and question who you are.
All in all, this is a book with a new and important angle. It’s a book that shows how complicated it is to navigate personhood, to question your sexuality while falling in love, to be biracial and to deal with homophobia, to grieve a family member and deal with past traumas. Basically, it doesn’t dodge any difficult or awkward topic that you might find yourself having to deal with as a teen, and it tells the story in a wonderful, heartwarming and authentic way.
So, even though I didn’t agree with many of the choices made by the characters, I really enjoyed it. It’s an unforgettable book that I feel could be incredibly important to so many teenagers, that would make them feel seen and validated, and would help others to be more emphatic and understanding to the process of questioning your identity.
Find out more the book and the author here: Nic Stone
Tailgates & Heartaches is the second book in the wonderful The Locals series by Haley Rhoades and it sure lives up to its title. Oh, how my heart aches for Madison!
This series follow a group of friends from their High School graduation in small town Athens as they are about to start their lives for real, and in this second book, Madison’s past affects every part of her future. She has left her friends and the love of her life, Hamilton, to keep a BIG secret, but the weight of the secret grows heavier with every passing day. Madison is such a brave, kind and unselfish person and that sacrifice she does is remarkable. I don’t agree with her decision to keep the secret, but I can understand her reasoning for it. I just hope that she will change her mind in the next book in the series…
I really liked the way Madison and her friends were growing up and dealing with their new lives. There were some great character developments in this book, Madison of course, but also Bethany and Troy after the hardship they go through. I also liked the way Haley Rhoades described Madison’s struggle to come to terms with the way her life has changed. She who always wanted nothing but to leave Athens behind, now comes to realize how much her home town and friends means to her and how she wishes to come back, but her secret makes it impossible. Haley Rhoades describes this so beautiful in this quote:
“It’s the whole “opposites attract” saying coming to life. From middle school to high school, Athens and I were south-pole magnets; we repelled one another. In high school, my only goal was to leave town after graduation and never return. One year has now passed since my graduation, and I’m not the south-pole magnet I thought I was.”
All in all, this is an enchanting, sweet story about a lovely group of friends and I cannot wait to continue the series to find out what will happen to them all, and if Madison and Hamilton will get their happily ever after and become a family in the end.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Haley Rhoades
I loved, loved, loved Becky Albertalli’s book Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda to pieces and had such high expectations when starting to read this book. It seemed like a dream team with Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera co-writing it and the plot seemed to be right up my ally; two teenage boys meet-cute at the post office in NYC and their efforts of finding each other again because maybe “life really isn’t like a Broadway play? But what if it is?”. Unfortunately, What If It’s Us didn’t quite meet my high expectations, but still, it was a very cute, fast-paced read, with a lot of enjoyable New York scenery and pop culture and Broadway references.
The story is told from different POV:s, alternating between Ben and Arthur. Normally, I like this set-up, but here I found a bit unnecessary. I think the main reason why this book was a 4 star and not a 5+ star read for me was that I didn’t fully connect with the characters. Arthur was a bit over the top and Ben was always talking himself and Arthur down and reflecting on how Arthur was too short and not being chill, which after a while got a bit annoying. I also missed a bit of chemistry between them too; it wasn’t Broadway magic between them, which I had hoped for. I also have to say that I found the ending thoroughly dissatisfying. I just really, really wanted to love this so much more than I did. But that’s got more to do with my extremely high expectations than the book, and if I hadn’t read anything by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera before, I’m sure I would have loved it without objections. Because, besides these objections, this really is a lovely book.
What If It’s Us is a bit softer and sweeter, more quiet somehow, than most YA books, which I liked. It was about Ben and Arthur and their little part of the world, which was enough. I really, really enjoyed the descriptions of the dates all over New York and the pop culture and fanfiction references. And the representation is great, the main characters are a gay Puerto Rican and a gay Jewish with ADHD who is obsessed with the musical Hamilton, yay to that! And even though I would have liked some more swoon-worthy magic between Ben and Arthur, the authors did a great job in describing the insecurity you feel about doing things for the first time (first date, first kiss etc.) in such a realistic and adorable way that it made your heart ache. I also adored the side characters, especially Ben’s friend Dylan and his hilarious, awkward “future-wife”-way of jumping way ahead in a relationship. I think Dylan was my favorite character in the book.
Overall, this was a cute and sweet book that is definitely recommend, even if it wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for.
Find out more about the book and the authors here: What If It’s Us
I read this book in Swedish when it first was released in 2016 and loved it! After seeing the Netflix series, I wanted to re-read it in English, to share with y’all. I’m so happy I did and that I loved it just as much the second time around as well.
Quicksand is a book about a mass shooting that has taken place at a prep school in Stockholm’s wealthiest suburb. But, unlike most crime novels, this isn’t really a story that focuses on the actual crime. When the book starts, we already know that the shooting has happened and that eighteen-year-old Maja Norberg is charged for her involvement in the massacre that left her boyfriend and her best friend dead. So, the premises of the book are quite different. But the fact that we know that the crime has been committed, and even how, does not in any way make it any less intense.
In fact, it’s breathtakingly exciting! And so gripping. Instead of the crime, the story focuses on Maja and how she, a popular and privileged top student, came to be accused of murder. I was completely blown away by the way Malin Persson Giolito keeps the suspense even though the premise of the story is clear already from the start, the emotional depths of the characters and how she made me question my own instincts as to whether Maja was guilty or innocent.
Through flashbacks and Maja’s talks with her lawyer and the prison guards, the inescapable slow, dark, twisted way to perdition is revealed layer by layer. This is such a sad, gripping, story about broken kids, abuse and drugs. Money does not make you happy, that’s for sure.
This book was the winner of Sweden’s Best Crime Novel 2016 and I completely understand why. It’s a brilliant, breathtaking and insightful masterpiece! It’s written with fury and it tells a story about society at large and the consequences when teenagers are let down by the adults around them. When rich teenagers are left drifting, with only their peers to turn to. When fear of being left out of the circle of so called friends, make them sacrifice anything to belong. When wealth shadows all problems and the cry for help. When you have sunk too deep into the quicksand to get out, and what happens when you are so broken that you there is no point of return. Eventually, Malin Persson Giolito leaves us to draw our own conclusions about who is truly guilty of a crime. The truth of what really happened is hard to grip, it’s a different truth for all involved and in the end it comes down to interpretations and grey zones.
It’s a book that makes you question your own beliefs and that will stay with you for a long time. It’s upsetting in the best possible way, and I recommend it with all my heart!
We Were Never Here by Jennifer Gilmore is a bittersweet, honest and emotional story about recovery and healing, and a about the romance between a hospitalized girl and a troubled boy.
The story is about teenager Lizzie, whose life changes drastically when she gets sick and finds out that she’s suffering from an inflamed colon. This is probably one of the most embarrassing illnesses for a teenage girl, having a bag attached to you doesn’t really make teenage life and the idea of being intimate with anyone easier… Understandably, Lizzie is mortified and has a lot of self-pity, pushing her friends and family away. But eventually, she meets Connor, who appears to be this sweet golden boy who visits the hospital patients with his dog and who can help Lizzie get her confidence and hope back, as he sees more to her than her sickness. Soon though, it becomes clear that Connor has his own demons and although he doesn’t have scars to show for them, his wounds might be harder to heal.
I have some mixed feelings about this book. I absolutely loved some parts of it, but some parts didn’t work quite as well. I loved that the heroine, Lizzie, was so true about the pain and struggle to handle her disease and her humor dealing with it, but still there were so many parts of her and her way of reacting to other people that I really didn’t like at all. It’s understandable that having to deal with a lifelong illness, and such an awkward one, was a struggle and that she had a right to be upset and acting out, but there were moments when she was just unreasonably mean and rude to her friends and people who were interested in her wellbeing. I definitely felt for Lizzie, but I wasn’t really able to connect with her. And then strawberry-golden boy Connor, who was such a cliché at first, but who grew on you when it turned out that he wasn’t that perfect after all, only to act so badly that I ended up not liking him very much in the end after all. I also didn’t really feel any chemistry between Connor and Lizzie. Their love story was sweet, but it didn’t move mountains.
The character I loved most in the book was Stella, Lizzie’s new friend. I loved how she changed Lizzie for the better. And the dogs! They must be some of the best written dog-characters ever. They really added to the story and are a part of the book that I liked the most.
Overall, I enjoyed this story and Lizzie’s character development. It’s a very real, thought-provoking and meaningful story about an unusual illness that emphasizes how important it is to see beneath the obvious. Mental illness isn’t always visible and it’s not always the person in the hospital that suffers the most. It wasn’t the greatest love story, but it was honest and emotional, and I definitely recommend it.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Jennifer Gilmore
Eight friends in small town Athens are getting ready to start their lives after High School. Two of them want nothing but to leave Athens behind (Madison even has a list of 4,247 reasons for leaving), the other six are happy to stay and build a life amongst friends and family where everything feels safe and familiar.
I love the premise of this book, that we follow a group of friends during that time when life shapes and small decisions can have such major impacts on the whole future. The description of small town life is absolutely on point, you can tell that Haley Rhoades knows from experience, growing up herself in a small Missouri town.
In this book the story is told from Madison’s perspective, but it’s also focusing a lot on Adrian. In the next books in the series I believe focus will be on the other friends in the group.
I really love Madison and my heart aches for her dealing with her alcoholic mother and chaotic home situation. I also love her friendship with Hamilton and the way it evolves after one of those seemingly small decisions that will change life forever. Madison is such a brave, kind and unselfish person and that sacrifice she does is remarkable. The other part of the story focusing on Adrian does not engage as much. Adrian’s bossiness and her sex talk was not my cup of tea and I couldn’t connect to her at all. But all in all, this is an enchanting, sweet story about a lovely group of friends and I cannot wait to continue the series to find out what will happen to them all.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Haley Rhoades
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston is a queer, political/royal romcom masterpiece! This book has it all, a swooning gay romance, great dialogue, enemies-turning-to-lovers, old traditions that need to be challenged, wonderful siblings and sassy friends. It’s hilarious, witty, tender, thoughtful and devastatingly heartfelt. It's a story about being brave enough to admit you are worth fighting for, for wanting things, and for chasing after those things. It’s a story that deals with difficult topics in a both honest and fun way at the same time. It’s a story that gives you hope for a better world. I love it with all my heart!
Red, White & Royal Blue is a contemporary read, but it takes place in a parallel (better) world, where Trump never happened and instead the first female president was elected. Her son, Alex Claremont-Diaz, is an overachieving cocky aspiring politician in his early twenties. Since an episode in the past, Alex despises his British counterpart, Prince Henry.
“You can’t just call him my ‘archnemesis’,” Alex says [to his sister Julia]. “Archnemesis implies he’s actually a rival to me on any level and not, you know, a stuck-up product of inbreeding who probably jerks off to himself.”
So, the story starts off as a hate-to-love one, with Alex and Prince Henry having butted heads whenever they meet, until an incident at the royal wedding of Henry’s older brother lands them in the tabloids and they need to do damage control by faking a friendship. But soon they start to see each other for who they really are and the bitter rivalry evaporates into something more tender. And soon starks start to fly and after a surprise-attack kiss the First Son of the United States realizes that he’s in love with a Prince of England and that they’ve loved each other for a long time.
“True love isn’t always diplomatic.”
That’s for sure. But it’s also a fact that diplomatic Anglo-American relations have never been so much fun as in this book.
The characters are so loveable. Not just Alex and Prince Henry, but I also love Alex’s parents and his sister Julia and friend Nora (called “The White House Trio”, where ”Alex pushes them. June steadies them. Nora keeps them honest.”) and Henry’s sister Bea and the White House staff… Casey McQuiston does such an amazing job in making them feel real and making you love them. And there were so many wonderful scenes and twists and dialogues. The writing is so good and fun! Easy banter, sassy retorts, just everything you could possibly wish for.
Still, there are so many emotions in this book. So much love and vulnerability, friendship, angst, and the hardship and struggle of finding out who you are and stay true to that or remaining closeted. In fact, Alex doesn’t even realize that he is bi until he falls for Henry.
“Like, he’s pretty sure he’s straight. But he thinks about Henry, and, oh.”
“He needs a list. So: Things he knows right now.
One. He’s attracted to Henry.
Two. He wants to kiss Henry again.
Three. He has maybe wanted to kiss Henry for a while. As in, probably this whole time.”
This book is a gorgeous mix of love, hate, witty banter, strong characters, but also of ignorance and prejudices. It makes the important point that queer love is often forgotten by popular history, but Casey McQuiston reminds us about that so cleverly through Alex and Henry’s letters and gives us hope that a First Son of America and a Prince of England could make history together through their relationship. In short, the sentence printed on t-shirts after their love letters leak – “History, huh?”.(“Bet we could make some.”)
I hope we will get to see a love story like this in real life too soon, but until then go read this book and take its message to your heart!
“Take everything you want and know you deserve to have it.”
You are perfect just the way you are! You are beautiful and you are allowed to love whomever your heart desires!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Casey McQuiston
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is something of a companion book, or prequel, to the heart-breaking, sad and beautiful Salt to the Sea. In this book we get to follow Joanna’s (from Salt to the Sea) cousin Lina as she is hauled away by the Soviet secret police from her home in Lithuania and thrown into a cattle car en route to a work camp in Siberia. Up until then, Lina had been just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941, but with an extraordinary talent for drawings. Separated from her father, Lina finds solace in her art, and at great risk documents events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive.
Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea can be read as standalones, but I really enjoyed learning about Joanna’s life prior to meeting her in her struggle in Salt to the Sea.
This is a beautiful, gripping story about survival and hope in the darkest of places. It’s deeply moving and emotional, but compared to Salt to the Sea, it didn’t steal my breath and heart just as much. Perhaps because I read the books in the wrong order? Or perhaps because it was Ruta Sepetys’ debut book and she’s gotten even better at creating heartfelt characters and plots along the way?
Still, Between Shades of Gray is an amazing, important and highly recommended historical read with loveable characters. And even though the tragic, horrible, historical events it describes, it’s a fast and easy-read YA story that in the end gives you hope and shows you the strength of love and compassion.
Ruta Sepetys is an extraordinary writer, always doing thorough research and creating heart-piercing fiction based on historical events that must not be forgotten. I will definitely keep reding more of her books!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Ruta Sepetys
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.