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
The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan is an addictively intriguing mystery novel about teenage girl Zoe who was involved in a tragic accident that left three of her classmates dead. Now, three years later, after serving her time, Zoe and her mother is trying to start over and create a “second-chance life” for themselves. Zoe’s mother therefore demands Zoe to keep the past tucked far away, hiding it even for her new husband. But this new life and new husband soon turns out not to be so perfect after all.
Gilly Macmillan makes a great job in keeping you in the dark about the plot twists all the way through the end. For a long time, when I read the book, I had no idea what to expect – is it turning into a murder story, a love story, a suspense novel or what? - which is such a good thing. (Don’t you just hate it when you can figure the whole intrigue out just by reading the blurb of a book?) What’s so different about “The Perfect Girl” is that the death of Zoe’s mother is not the surprise in this book and that the mystery plot is not really centered around what happened, but around exploring the facets of the characters’ lives that brought them to that moment in time. What Zoe, and the readers, soon finds out is that the truth is rarely straightforward, and the closer we are to someone, the less we may see.
The story is told from the first person perspectives of Tessa, Zoe’s aunt, and her loving yet alcoholic husband, Richard, as well as Zoe, her stepbrother, Lucas, and Sam, Zoe’s attorney, which gives you a chance to get into their minds and to see the messy, dysfunctional family from different perspectives.
Gilly Macmillan is so good at keeping the characters secret and only slowly and deliberately revealing them one by one, keeping you itching to learn more about the persons and their reason for behaving the way they are.
This slow-burning, intriguing book proves that a good crime book doesn’t need complicated twists or excessive violence to be a compelling read. This touching story with strong three-dimensional characters is an excellent, addictive page-turner nevertheless.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Gilly Macmillan
I don’t read many Romance books, but I got this one recommended to me and I’m so happy for that and for giving this book a chance. Mists of the Serengeti is such a beautiful and gripping story about coping with grief and loss and finding new purpose in life. It’s a romantic story about finding love where you least expect it. And a story about a journey to Africa, full of beautiful scenery and a thrilling race to save a group of endangered children.
Tragedy brings English teacher Rodel Emerson to Tanzania when her sister is killed by a bomb explosion in a mall. In the same explosion, coffee farmer Jack Warden loses his only daughter. Trying to cope with her loss, Rodel decides to continue her sister’s rescue mission, saving albino children from a horrible death. As their path crosses, Rodel and Jack, finds a common purpose in the mission and slowly, something else.
Mists of the Serengeti is a breathtakingly beautiful romantic read about loss and healing, courage and sacrifice and the power of love. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves a gripping story!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Leylah Attar
I’ve loved Simone Elkeles bad boys-romances since I read Perfect Chemistry and am so excited that it will be turned into a movie soon! Seeing that news, I wanted to get back into the Simone Elkeles world and picked up this cutie, Better Than Perfect (formely Wild Cards).
This is another bad boy-good girl-can’t-help-falling-for-each-other book, but with a bit of a new take in that the main character, Ashtyn, is kicker and captain of her football team. So a bit tougher than the usual good girl, and with motivation and drive to carry out her plan to catch the attention of college football recruiters and get a scholarship. Derek on the other hand is trouble. Cocky, getting kicked out of school and with no real plans for life at all. The relationship between them starts out as antagonists, but slowly, it turns into something else.
I love Simone Elkeles’ slow-build romances and her bad boy characters with good hearts. This book was another cute, romantic read, but not one of her bests. I was a bit irritated with Ashtyn from time to time, for being so clueless about her boyfriend being a douche-bag and for acting too girly when she was supposed to be this tough football girl. And there wasn’t the usual spark in the romance, not the same tense and smoldering chemistry as I’d expected from a Simone Elkeles’ book.
But still, both Ashtyn and Derek were very lovable and the story was sweet and heartwarming. IT was one of those happily-ever-after-stories we all need once in a while. But if you haven’t read anything by Simone Elkeles yet, you should definitely start with Perfect Chemistry instead. (Or see the movie, I’m sure it will be awesome!)
Find out more about the book and the author here: Simone Elkeles
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is one of the most beautiful, heart-wrenching, sad and gripping stories that I that I’ve ever read. It’s a story that will stay with you for a long time and that will break your heart in pieces.
This is one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever written. It’s almost impossible to describe the book in a way that does it justice. And I also just want to write about the ending, but I promise, I will make sure not to give that away…
Starting from the beginning instead, this is a story about teenagers Theodore Finch and Violet Markey who meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school. They are both thinking about ending their lives by jumping off it, but instead they end up saving each other. Finch is fascinated by death, but also searching for the romantic notion of the ‘perfect day’. Each day he plans to kill himself, but every time, something good or beautiful stops him. Violet’s life has been shattered by the death of her elder sister in a car accident, that Violet feels responsible for. When Finch and Violet pair up for a project at school to discover the wonders of their state, they both discover way more. About each other and themselves.
This is such an important book about mental illness and suicide that everyone should read. But most of all, it’s a beautiful book that will grip you and make you fall in love with the characters and make you cry your heart out. I love the writing and how the chapters are divided by the alternating POVs of Finch and Violet. I love the wanderings and how wonderful, strong and unique Finch is. I love the use of book quotes to add an extra layer to the characters’ thoughts and feelings. I love the raw feelings and that Jennifer Niven does not hold anything back. The only thing I did not like was Finch’s ignorant, abusive parents, but they are vital for the story.
Overall, All the Bright Places is a story that will bring tears to your eyes and break your heart, but that you in the end will be glad that you have read. I truly love this book and recommend it with all my heart, regardless if you like contemporary, YA or sad readings or not! This is truly a book that anyone will be affected by and start to rethink one’s own life after reading.
Readers have even said that this book spoke to them in their darkest hour and saved their life. That’s how important this book is, and how important it is to raise awareness about mental illness and suicide.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Jennifer Niven
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.