The Boy Who Steals Houses is utterly heartbreaking. I felt so sad and emotionally invested in the main character that it was almost impossible to read this book, it just hurt so much.
“I had nowhere to go, he wants to say. I’m the boy of nothing and nowhere. I’m invisible and forgotten, a thief of dust and cobwebs and house keys.”
Sammy Lou is a fifteen-year-old boy who has been betrayed and abused by everyone who should take care of him and his older brother Avery who is autistic. Kicked out from his aunt’s house, he does the only thing he can to stay off the streets each night, look after his older brother and create something that reminds him of a home – he steals houses. But when Sammy steals a house that is occupied and is still there when the owners return, he somehow finds himself swept up in the big, loud and busy family who lives there. (So busy that they fail to realise they have another live-in friend to the kids.)
I rooted for Sammy right from the start and it broke my heart to learn about his story of abuse and neglect, and how he still kept himself going and taking care of his demanding brother. He is by no means perfect though. He makes a lot of bad choices, some that really raises questions of morality, and he has severe trust issues that make him hold back and miss out on chances for happiness.
But no matter how sad the story itself is, C.G Drews manages to write it in such a way that it’s also funny and with lighthearted, hopeful moments. I absolutely love the family that Sammy strangely became a part of (even though some parts of how that came to be and the reaction when he was found out was slightly unrealistic, but that’s just a minor objection), how loving and caring the dad was and the fun banter going on between the siblings. Finally Sammy got a taste of what a home and a family really means. And the romance that starts to blossom is so sweet.
“I like your eyes,” she says. “They look like infinite blue skies of possibilities.”
The Boy Who Steals Houses is not an easy read - you should be prepared to get your heart broken before entering into it. It’s a complex and emotionally devastating story that contains abuse, homelessness, betrayal and violence. But it’s also a story about the importance of support, family and belonging, and a story full of hope that will end up stealing your heart the same way Sammy steals houses.
Find out more about the book and the author here: C.G. Drews
Oh my gosh the angst, the passion, the forbidden love… this book is intense! Caught Inside by Jamie Deacon is the story about seventeen-year-old Luke Savage who is about to spend the summer with his girlfriend Zara at her family holiday cottage in Cornwall. But what should have been a simple, lazy, summer spent sunbathing and surfing, turns into a whirlwind of desire and betrayal and a discovery that makes Luke question everything he thought he knew about himself.
Luke Savage is a player, the boy who always get girls without even trying. His one true passion is surfing. Until he meets his girlfriend’s cousin, Theo, and is overtaken by a desire he’d never experienced before.
I absolutely loved Theo from the start. He’s so fragile and wounded that you just want to hug him and tell him everything will be fine. Luke on the other is not very likable to be honest. He’s selfish and immature, and the way he treats his girlfriend Zara is not okay. At all.
“It isn’t that I don’t care about Zara, that this will hurt her. I just don’t care enough to stop.”
I don’t really agree with the decisions that Luke makes or how he treats the people around him. The decent thing to do would of course have been to break it off with Zara immediately, and then later to reach out to Theo. But on the other hand, I do understand how he felt unsure of what was going on between him and Theo and that he needed to let it go a bit further first. That the thing between them was too new, too fragile, to leave unfinished.
And it truly is a beautiful, heart-wrenching love story. I read it in one sitting, it completely drew me in. It’s so full of tension, angst, passion and heart-breaking decisions that it was impossible to put it down. I read it with a beating heart, desperately needing to know what would happen to Luke and Theo. So, the writing and the love story makes this an absolute five star-read, but because of the woeful way Luke went about it all, I will lower my overall rating for the book to four stars.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Jamie Deacon
Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman is a dramatic, gripping and heart-breaking story that turns history on its head, and pinpoints racism and injustice in such a telling way.
This thought-provoking story is set in an alternative universe, where people of color called “Crosses” are the dominant rulers, with “Noughts”, people of European origin, as a despised underclass excluded from the best schools and work, even seen as nothing or “Blankers”. The story follows teenagers Sephy (a Cross) and Callum (a Nought) as their childhood friendship turns into a forbidden love with all the attendant difficulties that a racially divided world presents. The narrative switches between the two perspectives as they both try to make sense of the world they live in.
The story is so dramatic, gripping, emotional, shocking and tragic. There are many moments of happiness between Callum and Sephy, but there are also so many dangerous events occurring against a rising tide of Nought militarism and so many things happening to them that are just heart-breaking. The characters are so realistic and complex, with flaws and likeable and less likeable traits. I immediately rooted for Callum and his wish to change the world, whereas still being realistic about the limitations and risk for violence when challenging the current order. Sephy irritated me at times for being so childish and naïve, even though she tries her best to see Callum’s perspective. What I really liked about them both was how fair and unprejudiced they were, despite the values they’d been raised with and the judgement and bias they’d been surrounded by all their lives.
(On a side note, the book has been adapted for the screen in an HBO series that I actually think is better than the book in certain aspects, especially when it comes to Sephy. In the series she is much more likable and the role of her parents are better portraited. The love story between Sephy and Callum also makes much more sense as they are older when they really fall for each other and more aware of the consequences. On the other hand, the book provides more background to Sephy’s and Callum’s friendship, which I really enjoyed.)
All in all, Noughts & Crosses is a well written, unique and powerful story that really makes you think. I can’t wait to continue the whole series, especially after the very unexpected ending!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Malorie Blackman
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett is something of a mix between The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies and The Handmaid’s Tale. I also got a lot of vibes from Under the Never Sky. Nevertheless, it’s a completely unique book. It’s disturbing and intense, intriguing and eye-opening. It’s a dystopian thriller with a feministic perspective that puts a finger on some really important issues like independence, equality and how strong and powerful we all can be if we support each other, and how scary the alternative is.
Tierney James lives in an isolated village where the men rule everything and were women that speaks their minds are considered as dangerous creatures trying to lure men by using magic. It is believed that girls on the verge of womanhood possess powerful magic that can ruin men. During their sixteenth year all girls are therefore banished from the county to fend for themselves in the wild and get rid of their magic in the fight for survival. Only then can they return, broken and meek, to enter into the marriages decided for them.
I really rooted for Tierney right from the start. She is fierce, has a mind of her own and dreams of a better world, and dares to questions the current order of things. Unlike the other girls, she does not dream of getting married and become the property of a man, but would rather prefer the harsh life on the fields. Destiny has other plans for her though… As she is sent off for the grace year, Tierney soon discovers that it’s not the magic or the brutal life in the woods that she must fear. Not even the poachers (men waiting in the woods to catch and kill the girls), but rather the other girls. Alone in the woods a very complex and twisted relationship forms itself between the girls, who are indoctrinated to believe they have magic powers.
The book was a little slow in the beginning, but about halfways it really took off and I was completely sucked into the story, reading the last part feverishly. This book is brutal and violent, but it also shows the good in people and how they can grow if they are given the opportunity. The world building is amazing and very credible. There is also a cute and very well-executed enemy to lovers part, which is one of my favorite tropes. I really hope that there will be a sequel though, as there are so many unanswered questions and so much more I want to learn about Tierney’s life ahead.
All in all, I highly recommend this book! It’s one of the best dystopians I’ve read in a long time and I really love the underlying message and feministic approach.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Kim Liggett
Wow, I love the cool and futuristic vibe of this book! Do you remember the movie Minority Report? (The futuristic film with Tom Cruise in a specialized police department, who apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge?) Walk A Mile by Joey Paul is something of a lighter YA version with a lovely 18-year old Hetti as the police officer who starts to have doubts about the accused’s guilt.
The story is set in the year 2050, where a quiz you take at the age of 16 determines your future career and where the popular Walk A Mile (WAM) software makes it possible, literally, to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes by putting on a special WAM accessory.
Fresh out of the police training college her quiz determined, 18-year-old Hetti joins the police force alongside her best friend Layla. Already on her first day, Hetti is drawn into a series of murders that don’t make any logical sense. All murderers are dazed and confused and claim their innocence. The only link Hetti can find between the cases is the WAM accessory found at all crime scenes. Could it be a malfunction in the WAM software or that someone is using it to turn people into murderers? Being a rookie though, Hetti lacks the confidence to voice her gut feeling. Not until her friends and family are put at risk.
I really recommend this book! It’s a fast-paced adventure mystery story with a unique and refreshing plot line and with characters that you immediately root for. And the twist at the end! I so did not see that one coming… which is exactly what you want from a great mystery book!
Find out more about the books and the author here: Joey Paul
Yes No Maybe So is an adorable teen romance paired with social activism and political awareness. It follows the two estranged childhood friends Jamie Goldberg and Maya Rehman as they are forced together to canvas for a political campaign and as they face personal problems and family drama.
Jamie is the very definition of adorkable; awkward, shy, clumsy and cute and with political ambitions that seem somewhat unachievable as he is a choke artist when it comes to speaking in public. Once he even got so nervous that he threw up on a politician during an interview…
“Let’s face it. Some people are meant to change history. And some people are meant to change out of their vomity interview clothes.”
(This quote reminded me a lot of another of my favorite books, Red, White & Royal Blue, but compared to that book this one has a heavier focus on the political parts, especially the practical aspects of passing bills and canvassing voters etc.)
I immediately fell in love with Jamie. He’s so goodhearted, so self-conscious, so perky cute and considerate. I could definitely relate to his social anxiety and how the thought of making a toast at his sister’s bat mitzvah clouded the whole Summer. Speaking of his sister, she was just wonderful. So sparky and outspoken and always making fun of Jamie in a loving way. I absolutely adored their affectionate relationship.
Maya is a Muslim girl who is having the worst Summer dealing with her parents’ break-up and her best friend abandoning her for a new university roommate, and who agrees to do the political campaigning solely to get her parents to give her a car. At first, she’s too preoccupied with the crises in her life to think about anything else. Especially as her parents don’t want her to date anyone she’s not serious about and certainly not someone who isn’t a Muslim. But when an Islamophobic bill is threatening to be passed and antisemitic images are being glued to cars, she and Jamie find each other in their political awakening and the desire to make a change.
I really loved Jaime’s and Maya’s cute banter and how they built their friendship from the ground up. To paraphrase Jamie, I loved their “slowmance” and the very, very, slow friends-to-lovers trope and how they got to know more about each other’s cultures and being receptive at the same time.
Both the characters and the story felt very realistic, especially when it came to the political climate, the tension and hatred beneath the surface and the simple black-and-white attitudes to complex problems. Which frankly is very scary and makes you fear for the future of our world. But luckily, the passion and how much the characters wanted to make a difference made up for that.
All in all, Yes No Maybe So is a cute and charming love story which deals with some heavy issues such as antisemitism, Islamophobia, cultural differences and family difficulties, but that is also light and fun with a lot of bantering and satiric dialogues. And the best of all is that it leaves you feeling hopeful and believing that anyone can make a change.
“There is hope. Hold it tight, and keep fighting.”
Find out more about the book and the authors here: Yes No Maybe So
Seeing the beautiful cover and reading the synopsis, I was immediately drawn to this book and so sure I would love it. Sadly though The Kiss of Deception didn’t blow me away. But it was good. A simple, light read, although a bit slow at times. The main problem for me was that I felt like there could have been so much more to this book.
In short, the story is about Princess Lia who escapes her arranged marriage and flies to a small coastal village. But following her and eventually tracking her down are not only the prince she was supposed to marry, but also an assassin hired to kill her. At the village, Lia meets and interacts with two young men named Rafe and Kaden, but she doesn’t know that they are not who they pretend to be. Even though the readers know that Rafe and Kaden are not who they say they are, we are also left in the dark at first as to who of them is the prince and who is the assassin.
I really liked the premises of the plot and it was intriguing in the beginning, especially before the mystery of Rafe’s and Kaden’s identities were revealed. I also really liked Lia and how she stood up for herself when she decided to flee her home to avoid an arranged marriage. But for a YA fantasy there wasn’t as much action as I expected. After her initial escape, Lia more or less stays in a small village, trying to blend in to hide from her father’s army sent to find her. And when the suspense was lost after the reveal of the assassin’s and prince’s identity, the story slowed down even more and focused mostly on the romance part.
But all in all, The Kiss of Deception was an enjoyable and sweet read, even though I felt that it didn’t quite reach its full potential.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Mary E. Pearson
I absolutely loved this book! It’s so amazing and different for a YA book (in the best possible way). The main character, Emoni, is not your typical YA heroine. First of all, she got pregnant at 15 and is now a senior in high school with a toddler. Second, she’s got a passion for cooking, which I can’t think I’ve come across in a YA book before. The one place Emoni can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen and Elizabeth Acevedo makes an amazing job describing the joy of cooking.
All foodie scenes added such a wonderful vibe to the story, with the descriptions of the food Emoni cooked and how she tasted it, added spices and unconventional ingredients, and the beautiful foodie illustrations and recipes sprinkled throughout the book.
Another thing that was quite different about this book (yet again, in the best possible way) was how realistic it was. It really showed the struggles and sacrifices Emoni has to do for her baby, and how hard it is for her to get all parts of life together with school and all her extra work. Being a mom means that she’s never able to per herself first and that she always has the responsibility for someone else, especially as her abuela (grandma) is getting older and as she’s not on the best terms with her daughter’s father. And when the chance comes for a culinary class and trip to Spain, nothing happens by magic.
I also really loved the way Emoni struggled when starting to have feelings for the new cute guy in class, Malachi. With a little daughter and the bad experience from her previous relationship she’s not ready to jump into a new one easily. The fire is on high when it comes to cooking, but when it comes to love it’s a slow burning one… Almost too slow at times, I really rooted for Malachi and wanted Emoni to let him into her life much sooner. He’s one of the sweetest teen boy characters ever!
All in all, this is a wonderful and gripping story that is endearingly realistic yet heart-warming and hopeful.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Elizabeth Acevedo
When Skies Have Fallen is a truly epic romantic and gripping story following British airman Arty Clarke and American Sergeant Jim Johnson from their first encounter during WWII and twenty years on as they fight for their right to love and live together. Reading this book felt like watching a wonderful movie, the characters came alive from the very start and the settings were so real, vivid and dramatic. I really hope that it will get adapted to a movie or TV series one day!
This story starts at a dance at the air force base where both Arty and Jim are stationed, when they can’t help notice each other across the dance floor. Sensing Arty’s feelings, his competitive dance partner Jean, pushes him to make contact. From there, they work to find time together to get to know each other, falling in love as they do. As war nears an end, Arty and Jim are making plans on how they will be together, when tragedy strikes.
This story was so beautiful, heartbreaking, sad and gripping, and hopeful at the same time. It truly is an epic love story that spellbinds you and touches your heart from the start. There is heartbreak and tragedy, cruelty and tension, but also so much laughter, friendship and love. Despite the tragic events, despite the danger and fear for being discovered, despite the harassments and contempt, their deep love and affection for each other never falters. But it’s not just a story of two young men meeting and falling in love during WWII, it’s also a story about making a life after war and fighting for the right to be true to yourself and show your love for the person you have given your heart to. In war, they were heroes. After war, they could be persecuted simply because of their love for one another.
The characters in this book were amazing and so relatable and three-dimensional. I immediately rooted for both Arty and Jim, they were so sweet and adorable and so real. I loved that the relationship developed slowly and with hesitation that felt true to the time. Showing your love for another man in those days was forbidden both by the armed forces and by law, so the mixed feelings of love and excitement with anxiety and tension was all too understandable. I also loved the secondary characters, especially Arty’s dance partner and close friend Jean, who give them help and cover. She was such a wonderful, strong, courageous and fun best friend that always stood by Arty and Jim no matter what.
I absolutely loved this book, it really is one of the greatest romances I’ve read! It’s both an important eye-opening story to tell, how gay love was forbidden and the injustice in how society treated them, and a swooning, sweet and emotional love story that took my breath away. I recommend it with all my heart!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Debbie McGowan
Grease goes gay in this warmhearted YA romance. Only Mostly Devastated is a sweet, fastpaced and gorgeous story about Ollie, who due to a family tragedy is forced to transfer to a new school after summer. A summer where he’s had the perfect summer fling with the hot basketball jock Will. So it should be perfect that Will happens to go to the same school, right? Well, not quite, since Will isn’t out and treats Ollie like a real jerk to try and hide it…
I love the Grease parallels in this story! Even thought this definitely is its own story, you can really see how Will is the Danny, Ollie the Sandy and Lara the Rizzo of this Grease retelling. The characters are really well written and I adore Ollie, his little cousins, Juliette and Lara. I had problems with Will though, since he acted so unnecessarily cruel and mean at times. But in the end, he kind of made up for it.
Overall, this is a sweet, fuzzy and funny read while also dealing with some pretty heavy topics, like family illness, coming out, staying true to yourself and not let anyone walk all over you.
“All this time, I’d been wondering when my needs would start to really matter to him. Maybe I hadn’t spent enough time wondering when my needs would start to really matter to me.”
Sophie Gonzales made an amazing job combining these difficult topics with the lighter ones while still making it a very easy and joyful story to read. I finished this book in one sitting, ending it with a big goofy smile all over my face… Highly recommended for fans of Grease and Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Sophie Gonzales