This review will be fully clouded by nostalgia, there is no way to treat Midnight Sun like a stand-alone read. I know that there are a lot of problems with the Twilight series, but it is such a big part of my story and how I got on the path I am today. It was released at a time when I had fallen out of reading, but it just drew me in and brought back the magic of books to me again. It reigniting my love for reading and opened my eyes for the Young Adult genre, and I probably wouldn’t even be an author myself today, if it hadn’t been for it. When I found out about the release of Midnight Sun, I honestly didn’t think that I would want to get back into the Twilight universe again, too afraid to ruin the old magic. But somehow it pulled me right back in… and I am so happy for it!
As you all probably know, Midnight Sun is the first Twilight book, retold from Edward’s point of view. All the problematic aspects of Twilight still stand and this book obviously does not change any of that, as it’s basically the same book (just from a different perspective). But that set aside, I enjoyed this book so much more than I anticipated. It was surprisingly interesting to relive the story from Edward’s POV; I really enjoyed his narration and how he has a much more distinct voice in comparison to Bella. I also appreciated the way you could tell he was from a different time through the way he talked and how his mannerisms were subtly included in his narration. Stephenie Meyer has also added a lot more of his feelings and inner struggle, that offers an explanation to things that seemed a bit rushed or not making the most sense in the original story. And since Edward can read minds, you also get insight on so many characters that felt like a mystery even after four books in the series.
I really loved all the extra content based around the Cullen family and how they all interact. There is so much love and tenderness between Edward and his family. I love the way they support and guide each other, but also the way they banter and joke around. I also really enjoyed the new looks into the history of several of the characters and that it showed the extent of Alice and Jasper’s powers more. A minor complaint is how Rosalie was portraited though. She’s never been any of my favorites, but in this book she comes across as so much more shallow and only interested in her physical appearance, with the trauma that preceded her turning into a vampire being whisked over way too quickly instead of taking the opportunity to give her character and history more depth. On the other hand, I got to like Emmett so much more in this book, where his loyalty and empathy is better shown.
A really fun (and sometimes annoying part) was the revelation of Edward’s lack of communication skills. In the original book, he was supposed to be so deep and mysterious with his cryptic answers to Bella, but in this book it’s obvious that he’s just been to much in his own head. You could expect a mind reader to have a better clue at the human mind, but he just fails so brutally at times to explain to Bella why she should stay away from him.
“Honestly, Edward, I can’t keep up with you. I thought you didn’t want to be my friend.”
“I said it would be better if we weren’t friends, not that I didn’t want to be.”
Edward also deals with so much anxiety, insecurity and self-loading. Compared to the original book, where he was so “perfect” (as seen from Bella’s eyes) he’s definitely thrown off his pedestal in this one. It’s refreshing and I like it, but the younger me feels a bit offended on Edward’s behalf…
This book really did help to understand the actions of the first book better, as like intended it makes it easier to understand the thought processes and the intentions of Edward. It really demonstrated his internal instinctual battle in a really primal sense really well. He is constantly fighting with himself in his internal monologue to be a good person, constantly juggling his instincts and his morals.
“Run, Bella, run. I love you too much, for your good or mine.”
Some of the actions in the original book that felt really creepy, were rationalised in this book. I’m not a big fan of the cover design (not at all... I think that the pomegranate is seriously appalling), but with Edward’s references to the Hades-Persephone-pomegranate myth, it makes total sense.
“Suddenly, as she ate, a strange comparison entered my head. For just a second, I saw Persephone, pomegranate in hand. Dooming herself to the underworld.”
I must say that the myth is a very clever way to illustrate Edward’s inner struggle how to let himself fall in love with Bella when he knows that he is endangering her life.
“I wondered again how I could make this happen – be with her without negatively impacting her life. Stay in Persephone’s spring, keep her safe from my underworld.”
Even though the plot of this book is virtually identical with the original one, barring scenes where Edward is away from Bella, it is almost twice as long in page length. Because of this, the book felt a bit slow and repetitive at times. Especially in the middle; up until the meadow scene it was seriously dragging. Perhaps if I hadn’t known the Twilight story so well it wouldn’t have felt so drawn out, but I still think it would have benefited from a little more cutting. But overall, I’m so happy I read this book and I thoroughly enjoyed jumping back into the Twilight universe! The retelling from Edward’s POV really added something to the story, and gave me a whole new appreciation for the story and characters. (Even though, the problematic aspects of Twilight still stand and if this review hadn’t been clouded by nostalgia that would have affected the rating substantially… but given my history and old love for this series, this book was a four star read for me.)
Find out more about the book and the author here: Stephenie Meyer
Date Me, Bryson Keller is such a sweet, fast-paced and gorgeous fake dating romance story that deals with difficult topics like homophobia, religious condemnatory and non-accepting parents in a light and hopeful way. It’s a warmhearted story about coming out and putting everything at risk for the chance of being true to yourself. I was immediately hooked, this book and its amazing characters captured my heart from the first page and made me swoon, squeal, hurt, blush and grin like an idiot while reading. It was such a roller coaster of emotions, in the best possible way!
The two main characters are utterly wonderful. Kai Sheridan is a mixed race, closeted, adorably shy and sweet guy who is keeping his head down, just waiting for high school to be over and for his new life as an openly gay college student to start. Bryson Keller is the super-hot and popular soccer captain who everyone in school wants to date, but who doesn’t believe in high school relationships. A dare at a party will change that though, and for the last semester, Bryson Keller has to date the first person who asks him out every week. And one week, as a kind of joke out of anger, that person is Kai...
“It all started as a dare. Of course, at that time, I didn’t know that the dare would change my life. But that’s the thing about change, isn’t it? Like love, it just happens, never seeming to announce itself. Instead, it’s just one “oh shit” moment happening after the next. Or in my case, one capital “OH SHIT” moment, which, if I’m being honest, is what 95 percent of being a closeted gay teen is like.”
I loved the way Kai and Bryson got to know each other and slowly started to trust and open up to one another, so much that Kai dared to be open with whom he really was and Bryson dared to explore his own identity. The chemistry between the two was just so perfect. The author nailed capturing all the things and feels you experience, like the stolen glances, the flirting, and the awkwardness, when falling in love for the first time. It was so wonderful to see how Kai grew during this time, and as for Bryson… all I can say is that I love him with all my heart. He’s such a multi-layered, warm-hearted, thoughtful and sweet person, definitely making it to my list of favorite literary characters!
This is an own-voices story and you can really feel that the experiences are real and true when reading the book; the characters and their thoughts and feelings about coming out, navigating the life in a religious household and dealing with the day-to-day homophobia were described in such an authentic way.
“Anyone who thinks that homophobia doesn’t exist in this day and age has never been the gay boy standing in a boys’ locker room.”
There are some events in the book that are really upsetting. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there are two events and two persons whose actions are so detestable. And the worst thing is that these things are happening to people in real life. As this book really highlights, it’s so important to have someone you trust to confide in, someone who has your back when things seem to be falling apart. The way their sisters loved and stood by Kai and Bryson was amazing. I especially adored Kai’s sister Yazz who stood up for him at all times. She reminds me a lot of Kitty, Lara Jean’s feisty little sister in TATBILB. She’s hilarious and adorable, and a total brat at times. I love her frankness and smartness and how she is just completely in her own skin all the time. I also loved Kai’s two best friends, Donny and Priya, and their snarky banter and the unwavering support for Kai.
I’m so glad Kevin Van Whye wrote this wonderful, heart-wrenching and hopeful book. There is such a need for more representation and stories with authenticity that make readers feel seen and understood, and this book sure does that. I recommend it with all my heart, and I promise you, if you loved Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before you will definitely love this book too!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Kevin Van Whye
It Sounded Better in My Head is a tender, funny, and at the same time totally awkward novel about first love and its confusions. The characters are all so real and have real-life problems with anxiety, lack of confidence, skin issues, heart-break and awkward romance. I immediately rooted for the protagonist Natalie, but oh my, there were so many times I blushed and squealed at all the embarrassing things she did. I’m so glad though that she was allowed to completely be herself that way; she’ like the introvert, insecure yet incredibly brave and honest heroine that we didn’t know we all needed.
18-year-old Natalie has just graduated from high school and is about to find out where her future is headed, when her parents announce their impending divorce and her best friends Zach and Lucy are dating and making all kinds of big plans, leaving her feeling like the loser third wheel. It doesn’t help that Natalie is already extremely self-conscious and struggles with her confidence after having had severe acne problems for many years. So yes, she is socially weird, shy and insecure. And you may guess that she’s never been kissed and had a romantic relationship. But that is about to change...
“Every second of this is terrible and confusing and wonderful, and I love it and hate it in equal measures.”
I don’t want to make any spoilers, but all I can say is that the romance is not a cliché one, it’s just as raw, realistic and gloriously awkward as the rest of this wonderful book. It’s a must read about the vulnerable state of finding yourself and taking the first step to adulthood. The characters are all amazing and so believable in their challenges, their questioning minds and their way of embracing the life.
All in all, I love how authentic, witty and awkward this gem of a book is and I can’t wait to read more from Nina Kenwood!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Nina Kenwood
Brown Girl Dreaming is a beautiful memoir of Jacqueline Woodson’s upbringing in South Carolina and Brooklyn written in verse. The entire book flows in dreamy poetry as she describes how growing up African American in the 60s and 70s in the US wasn’t always easy, but how she finds happiness in writing and starts to figure out her place in the world.
“How can I explain to anyone that stories are like air to me, I breathe them in and let them out over and over again.”
This is one of the first books I’ve read that’s been written in verse, but I loved it immediately. The writing style was perfect for this story. Each poem was like a snapshot of a moment from Jacqueline Woodson’s past, like an extracted memory stored in a bottle and revealed like the silvery, hair-like wisps in Albus Dumbledore’s Pensieve, but read together, the poems created a complete, vivid and intimate description of her childhood that made this book so incredible, emotional and heart-warming.
Growing up, Jacqueline Woodson’s time was divided amongst Ohio, South Carolina, and later, New York (Brooklyn). Each area provided a different experience and a vastly different culture, which made this book such a rich description of the growth of the civil rights movement across a variety of social settings and geographic locales. Through her eyes as a child, noticing how the adults walked, talked and dreamed, she manages to make the subtle differences in the South versus the North clear without having to point it out explicitly to us readers.
“Even the silence has a story to tell you.
Just listen. Listen.”
It wasn’t until after I finished it and was about to write my review that I realized that this book is rated middle grade. It is absolutely well accessible for middle grade readers, but I can guarantee that adult readers will enjoy this wonderful, evocative and impactful story just as much.
Overall, this was a very moving and thought-provoking story that raised awareness and provided so much insight to really important and difficult topics, while also being joyful, beautiful and easy to read. I recommend it with all my heart to readers of any age!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Jacqueline Woodson
The Black Flamingo by is an absolute must-read! It’s one of the most beautiful, heart-wrenching and raw coming-of-age stories I’ve ever read. I’m almost shocked by how amazing it was! And by how much I loved that it was written in verse.
This gorgeous, thought-provoking and important story is about Michael, who is Jamaican and Greek, living in London with his single mother, and the challenges he faces growing up as a queer and biracial boy in a predominantly white and straight neighborhood. It follows Michael from a young age up til college on his journey of self-discovery from wanting to play with Barbies rather than GI Joes, to finding the drag community and creating his drag persona The Black Flamingo, and the freedom he obtains on that journey.
“He is me, who I have been, who I am, who I hope to become.
Someone fabulous, wild and strong.
With or without costume on.”
The verse format was perfect for this story. I loved the intimacy the poems and illustrations created by showing pieces of Michael’s life and peeling back his thoughts and feelings.
Even though this book deals with difficult and important topics like racism, sexism and cultural oppression, it’s still a surprisingly light and uplifting story, filled with hope and positivity and loving family relationships. It tackles identity issues in such a beautiful way, showing how noone should have to conform to anyone else’s standards of sexual identity, race or gender, but how we are all free to be who we are and how empowering it is to be true and open about it. On our own terms! Dean Atta really emphasizes how ’coming out’ should always be an active choice of free will when and how you feel ready for it.
“Don’t come out unless you want to.
Don’t come out for anyone else’s sake.
Don’t come out because you think society expects you to.
Come out for yourself.
Come out to yourself.
Shout, sing it.
Be a bit gay, be very gay.
Be the glitter that shows up in unexpected places.
Be a beautiful thing.
Be the moonlight, too.
Remember you have the right to be proud.
Remember you have the right to be you.”
This book is a true masterpiece! It might be my absolute favorite book this year! Or ever. All I have to say is GO READ THIS BOOK! Seriously, it’s a book everyone should read! I know that it’s a book that I will come back to over and over again and that I will never forget!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Dean Atta
As Far as the Stars is a gripping story following the teenagers Air and Christopher as they come together and are leaning on one another for emotional support after a plane carrying their loved ones (Ari’s brother Blake and Christopher’s pilot dad) has gone missing. It’s a both sad and loving story, dealing with the subject of death, grief and guilt so tactfully and considerately.
The story is intense and the plot well paced, but the thing I loved most about this story was the characters. When I first began reading this book, I struggled a little with the voice as it is told from Air’s point of view. At first, it felt a little childish and immature the way she went into denial and kept everything about the plane accident a secret to her family waiting at her sister’s wedding, but then she started to grow on me. Even though Air was the youngest sibling, she was the one always looking after her brother, bailing him out and making sure he turned up on time. I really liked her determination to become an astronaut and her genuine love for astronomy. Christopher is quieter and more insecure. He’s spent his life being home educated, travelling with his pilot dad. His mum left him with his father when he was a baby and he’s rarely had contact with her since. Now, though, Ari and Christopher go on a road trip together, driving across the country for Christopher to see his mother and for Ari to join the wedding in Nashville, where she hopes her brother miraculously will show up after all.
I loved seeing Ari and Christopher interact and watching as their relationship develop during the road trip, even though I had hoped for a little more substance to their feelings for each other. There were also parts of the road trip that felt completely unrealistic, like how they in the midst of everything going on and the wedding to get to, made these random detours to do things that Ari did with her brother. I can understand that it was a way for Ari to grieve and feel close to her brother, but it still felt out of place.
But all in all, As Far as the Stars is a heartbreaking, emotional and gripping story that will stick with me for a long time.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Virginia Macgregor
Fourteen Summers by Quinn Anderson is a sweet coming of age, second chance childhood sweetheart, super cute M/M romance story about twin brothers Aiden and Max and their best friend Oliver. Growing up, the three of them were inseparable, but when Oliver moved across the country the twins lost contact with him. Until they accidently run into each other again, now aged 20 and all in college, and take up the friendship again. Only, this time there might be more than friendship between Oliver and Aiden, which makes the whole threesome thing a lot more complicated…
Especially as Aiden starts to grow out of letting Max, who has always been the fun, extrovert, big brother speak for them both and itches to discover who he is outside of his “twin” identity. Summer won’t last forever, and with friendship, family, and happily ever after on the line, they three of them have to navigate their changing relationships before it’s too late.
I immediately rooted for Aiden and Oliver (Max not as much) and read it in one sitting as it was completely unputdownable until the very end! The prologue with the childhood marriage was such a cute start, really setting the tone for the book:
“Do you both swear – cross your hearts and hope to die – that you will always, always be the best of friends?”
The only objections I have is that the proteges felt a bit too immature (more like 15-16 than 20 at times, and I think the story and the way they acted would have made so much more sense if they’d been in High School rather than in college) and that the book changed a bit from sweet, slow-burning, awkward romance to NA quite sudden. I feel that it would have been better to keep the sweetness all through the book instead of going explicit, but that’s just my personal opinion, and I really understand if someone else appreciate the steamy parts. For being explicit, the sex scenes were very well written, I have to give Quinn Anderson kudos for that.
What I really liked about this book was the focus on the burgeoning romance and the changing dynamics of the brothers’ relationship, and not solely on Aiden and Oliver dealing with being gay and coming out. Those are important and, sadly still often problematic and scary issues, but there are also so many other aspects to tell about gay love stories. It therefore felt really refreshing and hopeful that being gay was not the big thing in itself in this story - when we get to meet them, they were both very clear about their identity and had already come out years ago, with family and friends loving and respecting them for who they are - but that just as in any other romance novel, it was all about the feelings, the butterflies in your stomach, the wonder of falling in love and having someone love you back, and for Max the feeling of jealousy and being left out.
All in all, this is a wonderful, sweet and addictive reading experience and I can’t wait to read more of Quinn Anderson’s books!
Find our more about the book and the author here: Quinn Anderson
Love, Creekwood was one of my most anticipated releases this year. I love, love, love Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and couldn’t wait to get back into Simonverse again. And I’m so happy that this novella did not disappoint. Not at all. Love, Creekwood was such an adorable and addictive read. I read it in one sitting with a goofy smile all over my face.
I loved the chance to hang out with all the wonderful Simonverse characters again (Simon, Bram, Leah and Abby and the others from Simon vs, The Upside of Unrequited and Leah on the Offbeat) and to meet them all in their respective colleges, getting glimpses of their lives through the emails they send to each other.
I really enjoyed that this book was staying true to Simon and Bram’s origins with the emails, and I also really, really enjoyed the references to the characters and places in some of my other favorite books such as The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, THUG, What If It’s Us and Dear Martin.
If you loved Becky’s other books and her adorable characters, then you’ll definitely want to read this gorgeous novella too and find out what’s going on with them all!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Becky Albertalli
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy, focusing on Coriolanus Snow (i.e. President Snow to-be) as a young, poor, student and mentor in the 10th Hunger Games.
I really enjoyed the backstory of the games and to see how Snow impacted them to evolve the way they did to Katniss’s time, and to get the history as to why the mockingjay became a symbol for the rebellion. It was also interesting to learn more about the consequences of the war and how Snow had to struggle with keeping the façade up and protect his family legacy, while starving in post-war Panem. I also really liked to know more about his cousin Tigris and his grandmother, and I loved Lucy Gray Baird’s character, but I never really felt attached to any of the characters the way I did in the original series. I missed the bravery and honesty of the original characters, and their struggle for the freedom and their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the greater good that made the original story so addictive and engaging.
Picking up this book, I was intrigued to know how Suzanne Collins would try to make us sympathize with one of the most evil villains in YA literature and had hoped for something that would shake things up and alter my whole impression of him. But unfortunately that didn’t happen. Even though the book provided Snow’s perspectives and gave more depth to his character, it didn’t really do enough to endear him to me. Already from the start, there was something selfish, manipulative and spineless about him, with his ambitions and his need to always keep up appearances. Also his mentorship and kindness towards Lucy Gray was really just another project for his portfolio and a means to get him the desired university scholarship. And as the book continues, he becomes more and more ruthless, willing to do anything, betray anyone, in his quest for power.
All in all, I enjoyed this book, but I didn’t love it. It was a bit slow and it definitely would have benefited from being shorter. My main problem was the lack of characters I loved and rooted for, which made me not feel as invested in this book as I had hoped for. But it was a good, decent read, and if you loved The Hunger Games, I definitely think you’d find it interesting and worth the time!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Suzanne Collins
Such a Fun Age starts off with privileged, wealthy, (white) blogger Alix calling her (black) babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction after a family crisis. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged. From there, we get to know Alix and her husband, Emira and her friends, and Kelley, Emiras boyfriend-to-be and also a person with whom Alix shares a (not so good) past, as things start to spin out of hand.
This book deals with really important questions like racism, diversity, hypocritical attitudes and ‘white saviour’ complexes in a genuine and objective way, and it was certainly an eye-opener in many aspects.
“I don’t need you to be mad that it happened. I need you to be mad that it just like... happens.”
The story was fast-paced and vivid (it’s a Reese’s Book Club pick and I couldn’t stop picturing it as a movie with Reese Witherspoon herself as Alix the entire time I read it…), thought-provoking, smart and sometimes funny, and a much-needed new voice. I had such high expectations for this book and I wanted so much to love it. But it wasn’t quite what I had hoped for, sadly, even though I still enjoyed it very much.
My main problem was that I didn’t particularly like any of the main characters in the end. It was interesting to see the relationship between Alix and Emira and how it evolved from employer/employee to something else, but after a while Alix’s obsession with Emira felt really unhealthy and questionable. And at the end some big revelations about Alix made me lose my sympathy for her completely. Emira was a much more likeable character, and I loved the empathic, tender and respectful way she treated Briar, but she felt very aimless and lost most of the time. If she was younger than 25, I would have understood it, but as it was now, I started to get annoyed by her lack of direction and for not even trying to find out what she wanted from life. I won’t go into the other characters in detail, but there is a cast of interesting characters in the story, but most of them not so likeable. As Kiley Read successfully manages to point out in her book, some people may have good intentions but sometimes as they are trying too hard to let everyone know they are not racist they manage to achieve the opposite effect…
But overall, Such a Fun Age is a really good novel with insightful, thought-provoking social commentary, an important message and well-developed characters. And even though I didn’t love it the way I had hoped for (I especially didn’t like the ending, that was way too abrupt for me and left me feeling disheartened and like something was missing in the book), I still enjoyed it very much and definitely recommend it! (And I can’t wait to see the movie, ’cause surely there will be one, right Reese?)
Find out more about the book and the author here: Kiley Reid