Category Archives: Young adult fiction

Review of ‘The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily’ by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan


Thanks to NetGalley and Egmont Publishing for the ARC of this book.

I read the first book in this series, ‘Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares’ a few years ago. I didn’t remember much about it, other than I thought it was OK.  It had a pleasant, if unlikely, book-themed Christmassy romance and I absolutely loved the cover, which is beautiful, perfect for the book and so much better than the sequel’s cover (see above for the contrast). I’m pretty partial to a Christmas-themed romance so I thought I’d give the sequel a whirl.

Unfortunately, this book is not great. It falls into the trap of so many unnecessary romance sequels in that it has to create some drama/conflict between the protagonists but doesn’t want to destroy their relationship or make either fall out of love or do anything bad, so the drama comes from miscommunication. If the two leads just sat down and had an honest, candid conversation, they would realise they are both completely on the same page. That’s one of the most frustrating premises to read and is too thin to sustain a whole book.

The one thing this book does do well is to highlight how as you get older Christmas begins to lose its magic and starts to remind you of the passage of time and the people who are missing from the celebrations. This is obviously true but not really the feeling you are hoping to get from a cosy YA Christmas romance book. You want the magic and escapism. These are missing from most of the book as for the majority of the time Lily, one of the main protagonists, is thoroughly depressed about her life. She mopes and mopes and mopes; moping white, rich, privileged teenagers with loving families has to be one of the most boring thing to read about. Your life is not that bad! You have enough money and influence to organise a private skating rink party with a hot chocolate caterer and ice dancers at a day’s notice a couple of days before Christmas, for goodness sake! Ridiculous.

This book is sadly lacking in sparkle and won’t do much to put you in the Christmas mood.

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Review of ‘One Of Us is Lying’ by Karen M. McManus

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the ARC of this book.

This book is a blast! I had so much fun reading it. I was so worried when it started with 5 stereotyped teens entering detention that it would be a dismal, unnecessary retelling of ‘The Breakfast Club’; but then one of the kids dies and immediately I knew I was in safe hands.

It’s a teen murder mystery set in an American high school with really likeable characters and a sweet unbelievable romance. My favourite element was the transformation of the character Addy from clingy girlfriend to independent girl who realises it’s better to be alone that be with a man who won’t let you be yourself.

I guessed two thirds of the solution to the crime but there was one element I didn’t see coming. I really enjoyed the whole book and would love to read more by this author. 

Review of ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell

It was Mother’s Day in the UK yesterday. My Mother’s Day treat was to spend the whole day pretending I’m not the mother of a one year old and to snuggle down and read a whole book in one sitting which I haven’t managed to do since I was in the hospital waiting for my daughter to be born.

In honour of this momentous occasion, I picked a book by the same author, Rainbow Rowell, as Ireland in the hospital. Last year it was ‘Attachments’, this time it was ‘Fangirl’. From experience of her writing. I knew it would an easy, light, enjoyable read that I’d be able to get into and through quickly. I also wanted to read it because one of the characters is called Wren, which is my daughter’s name, although it turned out that that character was a bit of a cow.

‘Fangirl’ is the story of twins Cath and Wren, who start university together. They’ve always been close but Wren wants to strike out on her own, leaving the more introverted twin Cath feeling nervous and scared about finding her place at university on her own. Cath is obsessed by a Harry Potter style series for which she writes fan fiction. Gradually she makes friends, falls in love and discovers that real life can be as rewarding as her fantasy world.

I enjoyed this book, particularly the beginning. I’m very introverted so I found Cath very relatable. However, I felt like the story lost a bit of momentum once Wren got a love interest; Levi was a bit too good to be true and I wasn’t really convinced by their relationship. He is so much more mature than Cath, and she is still such a child I found their relationship a bit creepy even though he is always the perfect gentleman. Also, I was disappointed that the character of Nick wasn’t explored more, I found him more interesting than Cath home life drama with her parents.

It’s a sweet book, but not quite as emotionally punchy and gripping as ‘Eleanor and Park’ which is definitely Rowell’s best book so far. I also didn’t really enjoy reading the sections of fan fiction and excerpts from the fantasy series which Cath is obsessed by. They felt a bit like padding and not all that well written. It’s interesting that Rowell’s latest book ‘Carry On’ is set in that world, I’m going to read it but I find it hard to imagine it working very well based on the bits of the story interspersed through this book.

Review of ‘Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between’by Jennifer E Smith

imageThanks to NetGalley, Bookbridgr and Headline for the ARC of this book.

‘Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between’ follows high school sweethearts Aidan and Clare on their last night before leaving to go to university on opposite coasts of America. They revisit places which have been significant to their relationship as they try to come to a decision about whether to stay together or split up.

I really enjoyed this as a concept for a book. It’s a dilemma which thousands of kids have to go through every year but about which I don’t recall reading before.

I did find that for two teenagers the characters had a little more prescience than I would expect. They understood how unlikely they would be to make it as a couple and the damage they could do to their relationship and their college experience by trying to stay together. I’m not sure teenagers are that thoughtful, I remember starting uni and there were loads of girls who arrived with boyfriends at home and within the first month only one of these couples were still together.

However, I do think the book captures the pain and confusion of this situation perfectly. The staying up all night talking things through is exactly what happens in these situations. I went through something similar with my then boyfriend now husband before leaving to study in America for a year in 1999 and this brought all those memories back.

Overall, I found this a sweet, enjoyable read which benefited from a simple concept and sparse narration.

Review of ‘Apple and Rain’ by Sarah Crossan

Apple and RainThanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the ARC of this book.

This book is marketed as YA fiction, but I think it reads a bit younger. The writing is simple and the storyline is familiar and formulaic. I think you would need to be as young and naive as the lead character Apple not to know exactly how the story is going to pan out,

Apple was abandoned by her mother when she was 2. Her mother turns up ten years later and Apple moves in with her after pining for her all these years, only to discover that she is not everything that Apple had hoped and dreamed.

The book is jam packed with tropes from these sorts of books and films; the disinterested father who has moved on with a new wife, the feckless parent, the surprise sibling, the older crush who is actually a let down, the boy next door love interest,  the inspiring teacher. It’s thoroughly unoriginal and predictable but adequately well written and will probably work for its target audience of 11-12 year old girls who haven’t read or watched this story premise a million times before.

Review of the ‘Lorien Legacies’ series

I’ve recently read the first three books in the Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore, here are a few brief thoughts on these books.

FourI Am Number Four
I saw the film of this book a couple of years ago and thought it was pretty rubbish, but I got this book free on iTunes so I thought I’d give it a go. As usual the book is better than the film. It’s a fairly enjoyable jaunt about an alien living on Earth in a small town in Ohio dealing with the perils of high school and first love while being hunted by an evil race of aliens who want to destroy the planet. He is number four of nine aliens who are being hunted and killed in order (don’t ask me why; it’s a thoroughly contrived premise which is abandoned in later books because the hero can’t die).

My favourite part of this book is the road trip that the lead character John and his best friend Sam take to Athens, Ohio, because I spent a year of university in that town so I was able to picture it exactly and it’s always exciting reading about places you know, especially ones as obscure as Athens, Ohio!

The first two thirds of the book are pretty slow, developing the relationships between John and his girlfriend Sarah, friend Sam and mentor Henri. The last third is action packed with a dramatic climax when the Mogadorian baddy aliens attack.

Mostly it’s a fun read. I gave it three stars out of five and it might have got four stars if not for the inexplicable change of heart by the human nemesis at the end of the book. His character completely changes without any explanation in the narrative for this transformation, it’s unnecessary and spoils the end of the book a bit. Also, as with the majority of YA fiction it’s written in the present tense, which I detest!

sixThe Power of Six
This book picks up where the last left of following John, Sam and alien number six on the run from the government and the Mogadorian. It also has a second narrative from the perspective of Marina, alien number seven who lives in a convent in Spain and also comes under attack by the Mogadorian.

This book isn’t as fun as the first, it feels a bit like series filler, introducing new characters of aliens numbers 7, 9 and 10 and not really progressing the story too much. However, it is still light and easy to read and if you like a bit of teen angst mixed with sci-fi battles then you’ll probably enjoy it.

I listened to the audiobook and found that the voices didn’t really match the characters. John is read by a middle aged man rather than a teenager and the actress playing Marina has a really annoying voice when doing the people with Spanish accents.

NineThe Rise of Nine
I begun to get bored with this series during the third installment. It has the feel of a series which is going to be dragged out to get the most money from book purchases rather than one which is designed to create the best narrative possible.

This book introduces alien number eight, but it takes the full book for all the aliens to finally come together in a battle against the Mogadorian Voldemort, Setrakus Ra. This really feels like filler and it’s quite frustrating waiting for all the aliens to meet up. Plus the human hero Sam doesn’t even feature in this book, so you have to read the next one to find out what’s happened to him.

I also felt that the sci-fi element began to outweigh the teen angst element in this book and it spoiled the equilibrium between reality and fantasy. I don’t mind aliens with special powers but teleportation and secret caves in Everest began to take this too far, I prefer it to be routed a bit more in reality. Otherwise the author can just keep coming up with more and more fantastical elements to get himself out of corners he’s written himself into.

Again I listened to the audiobook version and had the same reservations about the age of the narrator reading John.

I’m not sure I’ll bother with the rest of the series.

Review of ‘Love Hurts’

Love Hurts coverThanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the ARC of this book.

‘Love Hurts’ is an anthology of mostly extracts from young adult novels with a few original short stories by YA authors all based loosely on the theme of love. Authors include Malorie Blackman, Patrick Ness and David Levithan.

I’m quite surprised that this book is being sold as a full price book. I would expect it to be given away as a free sampler or sold for a token price as it is basically just a shopfront for promoting existing YA novels. It’s aim is to get you to buy more books by these authors.

I’m not really into anthologies. I find I either love the story and I am frustrated that I can’t read the full book or I’m unengaged and want to skip to the next extract. There were also quite a few extracts from good books which I have already read such as ‘Noughts and Crosses’, ‘Trouble’ and ‘The Northern Lights’, which I skipped over.

There were two extracts that I genuinely enjoyed and which had the desired effect of making me intrigued enough to consider buying the full novel: ‘You Against Me’ by Jenny Downham about a love affair between the sister of an alleged rapist and the brother of his victim; and ‘Forbidden’ by Tabitha Suzuma about an incestuous relationship between a brother and sister. I thought these were unusual premises for books and the extracts seemed well written and piqued my interest.

I think if you are going to buy a YA book, you’d be better off picking one of the featured books and buying and reading that rather than spending money on this book, as I didn’t really get much out of it. However, the cover is beautiful.

Review of ‘The Last Wild’ by Piers Torday

WrenI’ve been a bit quiet recently because 6 weeks ago I gave birth to a lovely baby girl called Wren. Throughout my pregnancy and early weeks of being a new mum I was very distracted and found it much harder to find the time to read. This is a particular shame as obviously I adore reading.

I am determined to get back to reading much more frequently and have just finished the first book since I gave birth. I managed to do this by reading out loud to Wren when I am feeding her. It’s supposed to be really important to read to children and I’ve decided that since she’s so long it doesn’t really matter what I read it’s just the reading that counts.

The Last WildI picked The Last Wild because I thought it would be a short easy read to get started with, but I’m really glad I did. It is a funny, engaging young adult book which I genuinely enjoyed and which actually lent itself quite well to being read out loud.

I didn’t know anything about this book, from the cover I thought it would be about a boy running around on Scottish moors and befriending a deer, so I was quite surprised when it opened with a boy who can’t speak living in a boarding school in a future dystopia where all the animals have died. One day the boy Kester Jaynes discovers that he is able to speak to vermin, seemingly the only non-human creatures left. He is rescued from the boarding school by some cockroaches and pigeons and taken to the last place on earth where animals live. Here he joins with a stag and a wolf cub to take on a quest to cure the illness which has killed the animals.

In some ways this book is your standard children’s quest book, with a journey and various challenges and dangerous situations along the route. However, I think it is a cut above many of these books because it is genuinely funny in places. I loved the character of the wolf-cub, who is constantly declaring that he is the best at everything and the harvest mouse who has a special dance for all situations. It’s a really fun read which I think most early children aged about 10 onwards would enjoy.

Review of ‘Found’ by Harlan Coben

FoundI love Coben’s crime thrillers for adults, but I haven’t been a very big fan of his young adult series focussing on Myron Bolitar’s nephew Mickey. However, this third instalment of the series is definitely the best so far. The premise is slightly less far fetched in this book and we get some answers to unsolved mysteries from the previous two books.

This book is a bit less action packed than the preceding books and does a better job of focussing on the school and basketball life of Mickey and his friends. The series revolves around Mickey saving missing or endangered teenagers, and the case in this book is much more believable. However, it is still a really daft premise especially the way they are directed towards teenagers they must save by pictures of butterflies appearing somewhere.

The book has a very satisfyingly conclusion, finally resolving the plot line introduced in the first book which placed a question mark over the death of Mickey’s father. I feel like now this has been resolved future books in the series will probably be better; this book definitely feels like Coben is beginning to get the hang of the young adult genre which I think he struggled with in the first couple of books.

Review of ‘City of Heavenly Fire’ by Cassandra Clare

City of Heavenly FireI find it almost impossible to believe that the author of this series is also the author of The Infernal Devices series the gap in quality between the two series is astonishing. The Infernal Devices books are exciting, well-paced, with engaging characters; whereas The Mortal Instruments series is 80% filler. Sadly City of Heavenly Fire also falls into this trap. It is repetitive, predictable and simply far far too long. I wish Clare had given up on this series after the third installment.

The sixth, and thankfully final, installment follows Clary, Jace et al as they travel into the demons’ dimension in order to defeat Sebastian. It takes them 725 pages. I have no idea why it takes so long, there is so much filler, aimless wandering about and unnecessary scenes with Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn in an attempt to sell the next series of Shadowhunter books. Even after Sebastian’s inevitable defeat there is still a good 70 odd pages dedicated to giving everyone a happy ending and tying up everything into a nice bow.

There is only one exciting and unexpected moment and this comes fairly early on in the book when SPOILER ALERT Jordan is killed. The rest of the book is so, so dull and monotonous.

I absolutely must stop wasting my time by reading these books, I swear here and now that I will not pick up any books in the next series The Dark Artifices.