This book is a beautiful story of friendship, coming of age and finding out who you truly are. Aristotle (Ari) and Dante meet at the swimming pool one summer and become instant friends, despite seemingly having nothing in common. Ari is an angry, socially awkward, boy with a brother in prison and a father suffering from PTSD, who has more or less built a wall around himself. Dante is a sweet, kind, gentle, boy who loves art and poetry and who is not afraid to express his feelings and show his vulnerability. But as they spend the summer together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime.
At first I had some problems to connect with Ari. His anger and cynical way of looking at the world made him much harder to like than the sweet, wonderful Dante. I did love Ari’s relationship with his mother though. They had such an honest and humorous relationship, full of bantering and snarky comments. Generally, this book contains such beautiful portrait of all the parents and how they are real persons with their own sad stories, feelings and shortcomings.
This book is one of the most intelligent YA books I’ve ever read. It’s built around Ari’s and Dante’s conversations about life, the meaning of it, the problems with family and growing up, and love. It’s written in such a tender way, gently describing how Ari and Dante explores their identity and sexuality, and eventually finds their place in the world. It’s a wonderful, authentic, painful and honest LGBT story, reminding us all how love always should be without shame.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Wayward Son is the sequel to Carry On, which followed the Chosen One Simon Snow and his witchery friends and (to be) boyfriend, Penny and Baz, as they fought the evil Humdrum. I loved Carry On so much, I remember saying that “the only negative thing about this book is that it is a standalone, I need more of SnowBaz, I haven’t had anywhere near enough of my favorite OTP”.
Then all of a sudden there was this sequel, so so happy for the wonderful surprise! I binge-read Wayward Son in one day and loved it! But please, Rainbow Rowell, tell us that you are writing on a third book?!! Don’t leave us hanging after that ending!
The series is something of a fan fiction for Harry Potter. It is also a spin-off from Rainbow Rowells’ book Fangirl, where Simon Snow began his life as a fictional character. In the beginning of Carry On it was quite easy to pick out the similarities between it and Harry Potter – Simon/Harry, all the things about being the “chosen one”, Baz/Draco, Penelope/Hermione, Watford/Hogwarts, the Humdrum/Voldemort etc - but this story very soon takes its own completely unique direction and it’s definitely not a rip-off of any kind. In this second book, it evolves even further.
In Wayward Son, we once again meet Simon, Baz and Penny after they war was won, after Simon saved the day and everything should be happily ever after. Baz is at university, thriving, and Penny is… well, Penny. But Simon is depressed and can’t find the energy to even get off the couch. He believes that his only purpose in life was magic, to be the chosen one that everyone needed. Now that it’s over, he fears that Baz and Penny don’t love him, that they only ever did because of his power.
“This is what happens when you try to hang on after the end. When your time has come and passed. When you’ve done the things you were meant to do.”
I love Rainbow Rowell’s writing style with all the different POVs and the fast pace, the characters and their dialogues. The light banter between Penny, Simon and Baz was hilarious, I didn’t realize just how much I missed Baz’s snarky retorts. This series is not the traditional fantasy one, it’s more of a magical adventure written in a contemporary, quirky style with amazing characters and relationship. It was the characters and their feelings and the dialogues that lead the story in such an amazing and addictive way, not the fantasy plot.
It was also such an unusual take to follow ex-heros and show what happens after the epic battle has been won. Not to mention how it shows mental illness and takes a pretty serious look at depression and PTSD. While yet managing to make it a fun read! Not an easy task! I love how Rainbow Rowell adds so much depth and dimensions to the characters by displaying their shortcomings and problems. And how she managed to make Simon and Baz’s relationship just as heart-wrenching and dramatic as in Carry On, even though they were supposed to be in an easy relationship and enjoying their new quiet life together.
I also really liked the new character Shephard and I hope we get to see more of him in the third book that I hope (demand!) that Rainbow Rowell will give us after that cliffhanger! (If there would not be a continuance of Simon and Baz’s journey, it would be nothing less than pure evil.)
Find out more about the books and the author here: Rainbow Rowell
The Serpent King is a beautiful, brutally honest, sad yet hopeful, story about love, friendship and the hard realities of growing up in the Bible Belt in Southern Tennessee. It’s one of my absolute favorite reads this year. Possibly ever.
The story follows the three outcasts Dill, Lydia and Travis when they handle the hardships of their High School days. Dill’s dad was a Pastor who urged him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes to show his faith but who has been sentenced to jail after a scandal leaving Dill and his mother shunned by the people in town. Travis is a shy, lovely, but odd, boy who always has his nose in a book to shield him off from his abusive father and the hardships at home. Lydia runs a successful fashion blog and has all her focus on going away to college and rise above the narrow-minded and condemning small town.
The friendship between the three of them is so strong and beautiful. I rooted so for all of the characters. Dill who thinks he’s not worthy of Lydia and who is afraid of his past and of making the same mistakes his family has for generations. Lydia who wants so much more in life and just can’t wait to become the real her and break the chains, and of course Travis. I sure can relate to how books can help you escape reality and create a safe haven for you. The story is told from all their POVs, which really added to the perspectives and showed how they were all stressed out and reacted in different way to the fact that life would inevitably change after graduation. For Dill, the idea of losing Lydia scares him more than anything and puts an extra stress on his already misery life:
“The worst days spent with her were better than the best days spent without her.”
I felt so much for them all, it’s been a long time since I felt so protective and invested in any characters. I read the book feverishly, both eager to know and dreading what might happen to them all in the end. This is a book that will stay in my heart forever, it made me root for the characters and their bravery and kindness. And it broke my heart into pieces. Oh how I cried when... certain things (don’t want to spoil anything)... happened. But even though the book has a lot of hardship, struggle, unfairness and sorrow, it is full of hope and love and about daring to stay true to yourself and who you are:
“If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave and beautiful things.”
The Serpent King is such a beautiful, powerful and gripping book that I cannot recommend enough!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Jeff Zentner
“It’s because we aren’t normal people,” he said, and then chuckled, which had me doing the same. “It’s because our lives – just like us – are extraordinary, exceptional, and totally fucking over-the-top.”
A Twisted Cessation by Pearl Khatri is the second book in the Twisted Duet series and just as the quote above said about the characters, this book is “extraordinary, exceptional, and totally fucking over-the-top”.
Being an author myself, I know how hard it is to writing a sequel and to meet the readers expectations. But Pearl Khatri should be proud of herself, because she delivered not only a great sequel, but a sequel that even out-did the first book. If I thought the first book had it all (strong bad-ass females, Greek mythology creatures, witches, vampires, Kings and glorious Princes, transforming Empyreans, epic adventures, battles for life and death, Goddess Prophecies and destiny calling moments), this book added even more despair and pain, revenge and intrigues, even more epic battles, including fighting an army of dead souls, even more imaginative creatures, like the four-headed and eight-armed Hecatoncheires and Mother Nature herself, and more love. Even orgies… Yes, this book contains mature content, both sexual and language-wise and that it is a NA, not a YA, novel. The sex scenes were hot in the first book, but let me tell you that it’s nothing compared to the ones in this book. A big plus for all LGBT relationships, I really love all the MM characters!
The story is dynamically told from multiple POVs; by the main character Era (Lady Erabella Tarandos, the Heiress of Athelia) of course, but also by Ryan (Ryan Lawson, the Centaur of Pladeris, and the love of Era’s life), Jo (Johan Forde, Prince-Commander of Pladeris), Wance (Wance Raddor, the Whitehead Warlock), Laze (Shalaze Zorakh, the Ray Bearer) and in some occations by Val (King Vallian Forde), Aaron (Aaron McLaren, the Flame Bearer) and Orion (the Minotaur and Healer of Boronos), giving them each a way to express their feelings and giving the readers to see the story unfold through their eyes. I’m sorry for the spoiler alerts coming up, but it’s almost impossible to say something about the story otherwise:
The beginning of this book broke my heart, when Era lost her and Ryan’s baby. It was just so cruel. But it got easier when Era was reunited with her loved ones again. And then there was a complete whirlwind of actions, all the way to the very end, with the fulfilling of the prophecy and all minacious events, darkness, fears and nightmares, the journeys and fighting brutality and evilness, and the final war to save the world from the terrorizing monster (Ariesto, the evil King of Tyzer). But my poor heart got another shock there, when it seemed that Era would lose not only her baby but also her love, Ryan. Luckily though, Goddess Athelia saved the day. Besides the hardship our heroes have to face, this book also contains so much love and friendship. I really shipped the MM relationships and the strong friendship amongst the members of the squad. And the double-wedding was so sweet and perfect. As was the ending. I am so happy with that.
End of spoilers
This is a book about not bending to but creating your own destiny, overcoming hardship and become stronger from it, as well as the power of love. All in all, The Twisted Duet series is a fast paced, hard hitting, epic ride that will take you on exciting twists and turns! Both books are full of diversity, imaginative characters and a unique world building.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Pearl Khatri
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!
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.