Serendipity Ten Romantic Tropes Transformed Book Review

Book Description

Love is in the air in this is a collection of stories inspired by romantic tropes and edited by #1 New York Times-bestselling author Marissa Meyer.

The secret admirer.
The fake relationship.
The matchmaker.


From stories of first love, unrequited love, love that surprises, love that’s been there all along, ten of the brightest and award-winning authors writing YA have taken on some of your favorite romantic tropes, embracing them and turning them on their heads. Readers will swoon for this collection of stories that celebrate love at its most humorous, inclusive, heart-expanding, and serendipitous.

Contributors include Elise Bryant, Elizabeth Eulberg, Leah Johnson, Anna-Marie McLemore, Marissa Meyer, Sandhya Menon, Julie Murphy, Caleb Roehrig, Sarah Winifred Searle, and Abigail Hing Wen. 

Review

Overall: I really liked the many narrators that are included throughout this audiobook as there was someone different reading each of the stories. The fact that a different narrator was used made it feel like these were all different stories as well as different characters. This is a great book for those looking for more diversity in romance stories in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. I was so pleased to find that these stories had LGBTQ+ characters in them and their stories were happy stories where they also got to fall in love. I really enjoyed that these stories were not just all about romantic love but we also get to see love through friendships.

Bye Bye, Piper Berry by Julie Murphy

Trope: Fake Dating

I loved that this story gives us a fat protagonist who thinks that he isn’t deserving of love. I loved how his best friend points out how the reason someone wouldn’t be interested has nothing to do with his size but all to do with how he views himself and how he instantly assumes no one would be romantically interested in him. This was a cute story overall.

Anyone Else but You by Leah Johnson

Trope: Stranded Together

I really do love a good enemies-to-lovers story especially one that is set in academia so this one instantly got my attention. I liked that these two characters were so different from each other which caused the constant bickering.

The Idiom Algorithm by Abigail Hing Wen

Trope: Class Warfare

This story had so much in it that it would have done better as a full-length novel. I have read books that address the differences in class when being in a romantic relationship but they always end successfully for both parties. I was surprised to see this go differently and show the reality of classism for some people especially when their family gets involved.

Auld Acquaintance by Caleb Roehrig

Trope: The Best Friend Love Epiphany

This one I wasn’t too sold on and I kind of just had it playing in the background while not paying too much attention to it.

Shooting Stars by Marissa Meyer

Trope: One Bed

This was another one in which I wasn’t too sold on the love story. I love friends to lovers and a one-bed trope but this one passed through too many days for me to follow it. Due to me not being able to follow the story it really made it so that I wasn’t into the romance.

Keagan’s Heaven on Earth by Sarah Winifred Searle

This is told in storybook format and not included in the audiobook.

Zora in the Spotlight  by Elise Bryant

Trope: Grand Romantic Gesture

I really enjoyed this one but couldn’t find where the romance was supposed to be. I just liked that this one has our main character learning to let herself be loved and to love herself.

In a Blink of the Eye by Elizabeth Eulberg

Trope: Trapped in a Confined Space

This one was great because it was about romantic love but also friend love. I liked that we get to see our main character having had feelings for Tyler and get passed up for her best friend so she turns her feelings into hatred. I love seeing how she gets over that and they become friends because of how much Tyler loves his girlfriend and our main character loves her best friend.

Liberty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Trope: The Makeover

This was one of my favorites and not just because of the sapphic relationship but so much because of the main characters. I really enjoyed how this one points out how our main character feels like she doesn’t fit in because of her Latinx characteristics and then we see how Camilla doesn’t feel like she belongs because she is a Lesbian. It was great to see how their relationship develops over a short period of time and how that helps them learn to love themselves.

The Surprise Match by Sandhya Menon

Trope: Matchmaker

This one was just okay for me even if I felt bad for the character playing matchmaker as she puts everyone before her. This kind of tends to be a theme in a lot of these stories in which a friend is included.

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A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi Book Review

Book Description

Set against the backdrop of Karachi, Pakistan, Saadia Faruqi’s middle grade novel tells the story of two girls navigating a summer of change and family upheaval.

Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.

The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?

Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most. 

Review

CW: Classism, Poverty, Chronic Illness (Diabetes), absent father, theft

Thoughts and Themes: I picked this one up at the library but it was taking a while for me to get into it so I tried it as an audiobook and really enjoyed it. I like that the audiobook has two distinct voices for each of the girls which makes it easier to tell them apart.

There was a lot that I really enjoyed about this book but my favorite are the scenes in which Sakina and Mimi are teaching each other about their culture. I love how Sakina is hesitant at first to allow Mimi into her world and how Mimi doesn’t understand why Sakina responded to her in a way she deemed rude. I liked when Sakina would ask Mimi things about America and Mimi got to explain what was familiar to her and felt like she belonged somewhere.

I also really enjoyed the moments in which Mimi realized how different Sakina’s life was from her and the different expectations that were put on each of them. I also like that both of the girls are keeping things from their families and they trust each other with this information. It was nice getting to see them talk each other through things that they were struggling with.

Characters: This book centers around our two main characters, Sakina and Mimi, and through them you get to meet several other characters in this book. You get to meet both of their families as well as some other people they interact with while they are both navigating Pakistan.

I really liked getting to know both of our main characters and liked reading as their friendship develops. I thought it was great that at first they both needed something from each other which is why they were speaking to each other but that develops into more. I thought it was great that Mimi felt like she could open up to Sakina and share her feelings with her.

I also do enjoy getting to know each of the girls apart from each other and getting to see them act their age when they are with each other. There are times in which the girls are interacting with adults that you forget that they are still kids because they have been forced to grow up quickly because of the struggles their families are going through. I liked getting to see them react like children though and get to see them allow each other feelings that were messy and complicated.

Writing Style: This book is told in the first person through the dual perspectives of Sakina and Mimi. Sakina is a girl who works for Mimi’s mother’s family in Pakistan and lives in poverty, and Mimi is an American girl who is visiting her rich grandparents in Pakistan. I really enjoyed getting the chance to see this story unfold through both of their perspectives because when you first start reading you think that they are so different from each other and come from two different worlds. It isn’t until you keep reading and get to see them interact that you realize that they have some things in common.

Author Information

Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” published by Capstone and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” (HMH/Clarion 2020) co-written with Laura Shovan, and “A Thousand Questions” (Harper Collins 2020). She has also written “Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan” a short story collection for adults and teens. Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She resides in Houston, TX with her husband and children.

What about Will by Ellen Hopkins Book Review

Book Description

Twelve-year-old Trace Reynolds has always looked up to his brother, mostly because Will, who’s five years older, has never looked down on him. It was Will who taught Trace to ride a bike, would watch sports on TV with him, and cheer him on at little league. But when Will was knocked out cold during a football game, resulting in a brain injury–everything changed. Now, sixteen months later, their family is still living under the weight of the incident, that left Will with a facial tic, depression, and an anger he cannot always control, culminating in their parents’ divorce. Afraid of further fracturing his family, Trace begins to cover for Will who, struggling with addiction to pain medication, becomes someone Trace doesn’t recognize. But when the brother he loves so much becomes more and more withdrawn, and escalates to stealing money and ditching school, Trace realizes some secrets cannot be kept if we ever hope to heal.

Review

CS: Addiction, Suicide Attempt, Sexist comments

Thoughts and Themes: I don’t recall reading any other books by this author but I am familiar with the books. I picked this one up because of the synopsis and since it is written in prose, I knew it would be a quick read which is what I was looking for. I am really glad that I picked this one and can’t wait to read more from this author.

This book deals with several tough topics such as absentee parents, prison, addiction, rehab, and more. I believe that they do this in a way that is appropriate for the age range that it is intended for.

In this book, we get to see not only how opioid addiction affects Will but also how it affects those around him such as his brother, Trace, and the rest of his family. In this book you get to see how Trace is trying to hold everything together and fix things that are out of his control, you get to see how his brother’s addiction is impacting him and how he feels throughout the progression of this addiction.

This book also shows the importance of having a support system in place for all ages. Through this book, you see the importance of Trace having a support system so that he doesn’t try to carry everything on their own. We get to see how important Will has a support system is and what happens when he pushes that support system away. We also get to see Trace realizing how important it is for his dad and grandfather to not be alone as he and his brother get older. We also see how Trace cares for Mr. Cobb as he realizes how he must feel being alone now, and also how he feels for Cat since she’s new to town and alone.

Characters: In this book, you get to meet several characters through their interactions with Trace. You get to meet his dad, his dad’s girlfriend, Lily, his friends, Bram and Cat, his brother, Will, his neighbor, Mr. Cobb, and a few others briefly.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the friendships between Trace, Bram, and Cat. I really appreciate how Cat is able to relate to Trace because her brother went down a difficult path that unfortunately leaves him in prison. I thought that being able to see Cat and Trace have this connect them shows how books that deal with these topics need to exist for younger children because they also deal with tough subjects. I liked how Trace points out the importance of having friends that supported him and never left his side throughout Will’s addiction.

Something else that I really enjoyed about this book was the adults who were a part of Trace’s life especially as his parents were absent. I understood his dad’s need to work and how that affected the amount of time he had for his children. I really liked the role that Mr. Cobb plays in this story and how he is a trusted Adult for Trace. I thought it was great to see how much Trace learns from Mr. Cobb and how much realizations come from this time he spends with him. I also like the way Lily fits into Trace’s life and how she doesn’t force him or Will to embrace her or think of her as a new mother.

Writing Style: This book is written in prose and told in first person through the perspective of Will’s younger brother, Trace who is 12 years old. I really enjoy books that are told in prose as you get to see a story be told in a different manner. I also really enjoyed getting this through Trace’s perspective because we get to see how addiction affects a child and what he needed during this time.

Author Information

Ellen Hopkins is the New York Times bestselling author of CrankBurnedImpulseGlassIdenticalTricksFalloutPerfectTrianglesTilt, and Collateral. She lives in Carson City, Nevada, with her husband and son. Hopkin’s Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest pages get thousands of hits from teens who claim Hopkins is the “only one who understands me”, and she can be visited at ellenhopkins.com.

Like most of you here, books are my life. Reading is a passion, but writing is the biggest part of me. Balance is my greatest challenge, as I love my family, friends, animals and home, but also love traveling to meet my readers. Hope I meet many of you soon!

The Bone Spindle by Leslie Vedder Book Review

Book Description

Sleeping Beauty meets Indiana Jones in this thrilling fairytale retelling for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and All the Stars and Teeth.

Fi is a bookish treasure hunter with a knack for ruins and riddles, who definitely doesn’t believe in true love.

Shane is a tough-as-dirt girl warrior from the north who likes cracking skulls, pretty girls, and doing things her own way.

Briar Rose is a prince under a sleeping curse, who’s been waiting a hundred years for the kiss that will wake him.

Cursed princes are nothing but ancient history to Fi–until she pricks her finger on a bone spindle while exploring a long-lost ruin. Now she’s stuck with the spirit of Briar Rose until she and Shane can break the century-old curse on his kingdom.

Dark magic, Witch Hunters, and bad exes all stand in her way–not to mention a mysterious witch who might wind up stealing Shane’s heart, along with whatever else she’s after. But nothing scares Fi more than the possibility of falling in love with Briar Rose.

Set in a lush world inspired by beloved fairytales, The Bone Spindle is a fast-paced young adult fantasy full of adventure, romance, found family, and snark. 

Review

CW: Blood, emotional abuse, gaslighting, PTSD, sexism, violence, misogyny, confinement

Thoughts and Themes: It took me a while to really get into this book and I was ready to put it aside and decide to read it at a later time. I’m really glad that I stuck with it and didn’t just give up though because once you are about 40% into the book then it is hard to put the book down.

While it does take a lot of the book, I did enjoy the world building that we got throughout this story. I liked that this was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty but it was more than what I expected. I liked learning about Briar Rose kingdom and the curse that is over it as well as getting the back story of the two main characters.

I cried when I found out Fi’s backstory and recommend you proceed with caution on this one especially if you find emotional abuse triggering. When you find out about Fi’s curse and how that happened to her, you see into her past and see how she was emotionally abused, manipulated, and gaslit.

Characters: In this book you get to meet several different characters through their different interactions with Fi and Shane. You get to meet both of their love interests along with Fi’s ex.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Fi and Shane and the snarky banter between them. I liked how they both have to learn to trust the other but they both are the kind of people who want to accomplish everything on their own.

I liked the love interests that are included in this story for both of our main characters and how those relationships come to be. I liked getting to know more about Briar Rose throughout the whole story and through his interactions with Fi. I liked their interactions with each other and how snarky they are towards each other. I liked the way their romance develops throughout the story and how it wasn’t something that was immediate but took a while for Fi to even consider him as a potential love interest.

I do wish that we got more of a love story for Shane since I feel we didn’t get that relationship as developed as Fi’s relationship was. I do hope that we get to see more of this relationship in the next book and we get more of a romance arc for Shane since she deserves this too.

I was searching for a villain this whole time and I think while there’s some villainous characters, it was more about their adventure. I think that you really don’t get to meet the villains of this story until the last 20% of the book and even then it isn’t all about them.

Writing Style: This story is told in third person dual point of view, alternating between Fi and Shane’s perspectives. You also get a few sections with Briar Rose’s perspective thrown in there as well but those are shorter sections than the other two. I liked getting to see this story from all three of these perspectives as it adds to their adventure. I would have liked to hear more from Briar Rose though to see his story before this all takes place. There are also portions where I would have liked to see Shane’s point of view more too.

Author Information

Leslie Vedder (she/her) is a queer ace author who subsists primarily on coffee and cat snuggles!

She grew up on fantasy books, anime, fanfiction, and the Lord of the Rings movies, and met her true love in high school choir. She currently lives in Colorado with her wife and two ultra-spoiled house cats.

Her debut YA novel THE BONE SPINDLE is forthcoming in January 2022 from Penguin / Razorbill. Find her online at leslievedder.com.

The Coldest Touch by Isabel Sterling Book Review

Book Description

Elise Beaumont is cursed. With every touch, she experiences exactly how her loved ones will die. And after her brother’s death—a death she predicted but was unable to prevent—Elise is desperate to get rid of her terrible gift, no matter the cost.

Claire Montgomery also has a unique relationship with death, mostly because she’s already dead. Technically, anyway. Claire is a vampire, and she’s been assigned by the Veil to help Elise master her rare Death Oracle powers.

At first, Elise is reluctant to work with a vampire, but when she predicts a teacher’s imminent murder, she’s determined to stop the violent death, even if it means sacrificing her own future to secure Claire’s help.

The trouble is, Claire and Elise aren’t the only paranormals in town—a killer is stalking the streets, and Claire can’t seem to shake the pull she feels toward Elise, a romance that could upend the Veil’s mission. But as Elise and Claire grow closer, Elise begins to wonder—can she really trust someone tasked with securing her loyalty? Someone who could so easily kill her? Someone who might hold the key to unraveling her brother’s mysterious death?

Review

CW: Death, Murder, Manipulation, Grief, Sibling loss, abandonment

Thoughts and Themes: I heard great things about the other books by this author so I was pleased to get a chance to read this book. I tried reading it on e-book but since it was slow to start, I couldn’t get into it. I winded up getting it on audiobook and followed along by e-book and that was so much better.

I loved getting to learn about the vampires in this story and the layers of different paranormal creatures that are in the story. I liked learning about Elise being the death oracle and what that means for her and also what it means for Claire. I liked learning about the veil and what that is and how it functions alongside our world and what vampires and other paranormal creatures’ roles are in the veil.

A little over halfway in this book there is a moment that just frustrates me, it just doesn’t really fit the rest of the story. I don’t understand why this is included but I can’t really say much about this without ruining the story for you all.

Characters: In this book, you are introduced to the main characters, Elise and Claire, as well as several other characters through their interactions with our main characters. You get to meet Elise’s friends, Jordan and Maggie as well as other vampires that Claire works with such as Wyn. You also get to see some interactions between Elise and her parents, and there are mentions of her brother, Nick.

I really enjoyed watching Elise build relationships with people as she learns more about what she is and comes to terms with that. I liked how she allows her friends into her world and how she allows them to support her. I think that the character development with Elise is greatly done as we see her grow while still grieving her brother.

I also really liked watching as Claire grows as a person while she is training Elise and then also interacting with the other vampires. I also like learning about why Claire is trying to distance herself from Elise as well as how she became a vampire.

The villain in this story is also pretty well done even though you don’t really realize who the villain is until a little over halfway through. I really like how the villain has a relationship with both of our main characters and how this villain has power over both of them. I also love how the villain pits the two of our main characters against each other and what that adds to the story.

Writing Style: This story is told in the first person through the dual points of view, Elise and Claire. I thought that it was great to see the story unfold through both of their perspectives. I really liked getting to know the history of the species that are involved in this story and the world-building that is done from Claire’s point of view.

I like that we get the story from both of their perspectives because we get to see what each of them is keeping from the other. I liked that we get to see all of this unfolding behind the scenes before each of our main characters gets to see everything unfold in front of them. I didn’t really put everything together as it was happening until our main characters figure things out which made things so much better for me.

Author Information

Isabel Sterling is a writing coach, LGBTQ advocate, and author of These Witches Don’t Burn, This Coven Won’t Break, and the forthcoming f/f vampire novel The Coldest Touch. When she’s not writing, Isabel can be found crocheting projects she’ll never finish, completing crosswords with her wife, and trying not to destroy her garden. She lives in Central New York, where the winters are frigid, the summers are too hot, and autumn is perfect.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga Book Review

Book Description

I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
at the same time.

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

Review

CW: Islamophobia, War, Hate Crime Depiction, Racism

Thoughts and Themes: I had seen this book around but just hadn’t had the time to pick it up yet. I was glad to find it in the library when I was looking for quick reads to get through over the holiday break.

This book covers several different themes, it covers coming of age, family, friendship, belonging, as well as discrimination of immigrants from specific cultures and countries.

I really liked the way that this book covered coming of age for Jude and showed her trying to hold on to her old home, country, and culture but also fit in with her new culture. I thought that it was great that we got to see directly how she felt about both cultures and the way she reacts to others’ reactions to her holding onto her culture and home country.

Characters: In this story you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Jude. You get to meet her uncle, his wife, her cousin Sarah, her friend Layla, her mom, her dad, her brother Issa, and more. I really liked each of the characters that you get to meet in this story and the role that they play in Jude’s life.

I liked getting to see the differences with Jude and her cousin. I thought it was nice for the reader to be able to see the same culture represented in two different ways through both of these characters. I think this also showed the forced assimilation of Jude’s uncle and how much he had to let go of in order to fit into his new culture. We don’t get to see or hear much about why he let go of his culture but you can see when he interacts with his sister that he still holds to his home.

I also really enjoyed getting to see Jude interacting with her new friend Layla as well as the other children in her ESL classroom. I liked how Layla’s family embraced Jude and how Layla pointed out how Jude didn’t really understand what it was like to be Muslim in America. It was sad to see the moment that Jude realized what Layla had been trying to tell her the whole time.

Writing Style: This story is told in verse through the first person point of view of Jude, who had to flee Syria with her mother due to the situation that was stirring in her country. In leaving Syria, Jude had to leave her father, brother, and several friends behind.

Author Information

Jasmine Warga is a writer from Cincinnati, Ohio who currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. She is the internationally bestselling author of My Heart and Other Black Holes and Here We Are Now. Her books have been published in over twenty-five countries and optioned for film. Her debut middle grade novel, Other Words For Home, will be published in Spring 2019. Jasmine lives in an apartment filled with books with her husband, two tiny daughters, large dog, and mischievous cat.

Vanilla by Billy Merrell Book Review

Book Description

A bold, groundbreaking novel about coming out, coming into your own, and coming apart.

Hunter and Van become boyfriends before they’re even teenagers, and stay a couple even when adolescence intervenes. But in high school, conflict arises — mostly because Hunter is much more comfortable with the sex part of sexual identity. As the two boys start to realize that loving someone doesn’t guarantee they will always be with you, they find out more about their own identities — with Hunter striking out on his own while Van begins to understand his own asexuality.

In poems that are romantic and poems that are heartbreaking, Vanilla explores all the flavors of the spectrum — and how romance and love aren’t always the same thing.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I was pleased when I stumbled across this book several years ago and immediately bought it but it took a while for me to pick up the book. I picked it up last year but forgot that I was reading it and only picked it up again recently.

I am going to warn you that there is a lot of ace phobia in this book from two of the main characters and several of the side characters. Hunter, Vanilla’s boyfriend is constantly trying to coerce him to have sex with him, sends him nudes, gets him naked, after Vanilla has pointed out multiple times that he isn’t ready for it. Vanilla also feels as if he isn’t able to express to Hunter that he isn’t interested in sex without Hunter taking it as Vanilla doesn’t love him or trust him.

I actually did enjoy the ace representation that we got from this book as it felt accurate to being ace at that age. This book reminded me of how when I first even started questioning if I was ace, it was much easier to say anything else than have to explain my asexuality. That being said, It does take a long time for Vanilla to realize that he is ace and come to terms with it. The majority of the book is Hunter trying to convince Vanilla to have sex with him and Vanilla feeling conflicted about it and not understanding why this isn’t something he wants.

Characters: In this book you meet three main characters, Hunter, Vanilla, and Clown/Angel along with several of their friends and family. I really enjoyed getting to know each of these characters even there were several times Hunter and Clown were frustrating me.

Hunter was a character that I really wasn’t too fond of because of his insistence that Vanilla has sex with him to prove he loves and trusts him. The fact that Hunter keeps giving Vanilla ultimatums over this was really off putting. I was also frustrated with Hunter because regardless of Vanilla’s sexuality, he still shouldn’t need a reason to not want sex. I felt that Hunter’s whole personality was centered around sex and thought it was important that Vanilla pointed out that having sex wasn’t the only thing that made them gay.

Writing Style: This story is told in verse and in three point of views, Hunter, Vanilla, and Clown. I liked getting to hear this story from all three points of view but I did find that knowing each of their stories didn’t make me feel sympathy for the ace phobic characters.

I really did enjoy getting to know more about Clown and gender journey throughout the book. I liked seeing how his grandmother supports him and loves him regardless of who he is. I did enjoy how this book shows his grandmother supporting his gender and sexuality but not really understanding any of it and how he finds that to not be enough. I thought that piece was relatable because you want the people who you love not just to accept you but to get you.

I really loved reading Vanilla’s point of view the most and seeing as he is figuring out his sexuality. I liked how he struggles outwardly with what others expect and want of him and what his needs and wants are.

Author Information

Billy Merrell was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. He is a writer of both poetry and prose, coauthoring the New York Times bestselling Spirit Animal series and appearing in several anthologies of poetry. His other works include Talking in the DarkVanilla, the Infinity Ring Secrets series, and The Full Spectrum, which was coedited with David Levithan and recipient of the Lambda Literary Award. Merrell currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his husband, Nico Medina.

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao Book Review

Book Description

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.

Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.

And Sam picks up the phone.

In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I kept starting this one and putting it down because of all the hype around it on booktok. I was also kind of worried that this one would make me cry and was waiting to get it on audiobook. I’m glad that I waited for this one on audio because I think it adds a whole other layer to the story.

Throughout this book something that I was always wondering was if all of this was in Julie’s head. I was wondering if any of this was really happening or if it was a dream, even after Julie shares with Mika about Sam, I still wondered if it was real.

The ending of this story just shattered my heart but I can’t tell you all about that or else it would ruin this whole story. It just closed really nicely and just was like a warm hug after putting you through the heartbreak of this whole book.

Characters: I loved each of the characters in this book as it is hard not to. You get to know our main character, Julie throughout the book as well as some of her friends through their interactions with her. You also get to briefly know Sam through Julie’s interactions with him.

I liked how you got to see each of these characters deal with grief in their own ways. I thought it was great to see how grief shows itself differently for everyone. I also loved the way that we got to see Sam grieve the loss of his own life. I thought this was really important to the story because it allows all the other characters to mourn his life alongside him.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person through the perspective of Julia. I thought it was great to hear everything from her perspective because its like you are escaping into a world that Sam made just for Julie.

Author Information

Dustin Thao is a Vietnamese American writer based in New York City. He graduated from Amherst College with a B.A. in Political Science, and is currently in a PhD program at Northwestern University. He writes contemporary fiction, and his debut novel You’ve Reached Sam will be published November 2021 with Wednesday Books.

If This Gets Out By Book Review

Book Information

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?

Review

CW: coming out, closeting, parental abuse, excessive drinking, substance abuse, psychological abuse, car accident

Thoughts and Themes: I had heard so many great things about this one on Booktok and Bookstagram so I was so happy to get access to it on Netgalley. I really enjoyed so much about this book and how there are so many different pieces to it. I loved the boy band aspect to it, the coming out story, the romance, and the friendships throughout this book.

There was so much in this book to examine which made there just so much to love about this book. I really enjoyed the romance in this book but also how that romance was complicated by Saturday’s management not allowing Ruben and Zach to be out. I thought that it was great to see what being out meant for both of them and how it meant different things for both of our characters. I also liked how management tried to make it seem that them coming out would affect the other band members and to have Angel and Jon disregard management’s concerns.

Something else that I really enjoyed in this book was the push back that you get from each of these characters with their parents as well as their management team. I thought it was great to see how these characters developed through the story as they first try to please everyone but then they realize that to be happy they have to do what is important to them.

Characters: In this book you are introduced to our main characters, Ruben and Zach as well as the other two band members, Angel and Jon. You also get to meet each of their families as well as some of the people who are involved in the band.

I loved getting to know each of the four band members both as themselves but also when they were with each other. I loved the romance that occurred between Ruben and Zach and how supportive the whole band was of this. I also really liked how their friendship develops into this romance and how they each push each other respectively to be better for themselves. I like that Ruben has had time to be out and figure out who he is but Zach has just come to the realization that he is bisexual. I liked the way that Ruben wanted to protect him from what the reality of being out meant but he also wanted Zach to stand up for what he wants.

I loved Angel as a character and all that he added to this story. I thought it was great that we got to see him struggle with the image others wanted him to project of himself and the person he wanted to be. I thought the storyline of him turning to drugs and alcohol was done well and that resolves itself nicely as well. I thought it was great to show how his friends played into getting him the help he needed when management wasn’t being very helpful.

Writing Style: This story is told in a dual perspective through the eyes of Ruben and Zach. I liked that we got both of their perspectives as they each have different thoughts as the story takes place. I like that we got to see Zach not knowing how to navigate his queer identity and Ruben just wanting to be allowed to embrace his queer identity publically. I thought it was also great to get both perspectives as they each have different relationships with the other members of the band.

Author Information

Sophie Gonzales writes young adult queer contemporary fiction with memorable characters, biting wit and endless heart.

She is the author of THE LAW OF INERTIA, ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED and PERFECT ON PAPER. IF THIS GETS (co-written with Cale Dietrich) is forthcoming in Fall 2021 from Wednesday Books / Macmillan.

When she isn’t writing, Sophie can be found ice skating, performing in musical theatre, and practicing the piano. She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia where she works as a psychologist.

She is represented by Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency.

Cale Dietrich is a YA devotee, lifelong gamer, and tragic pop punk enthusiast. He was born in Perth, grew up on the Gold Coast, and now lives in Brisbane, Australia. His debut novel, The Love Interest, was named a 2018 Rainbow List Selection. He can be found on Twitter.

The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Gleen Marsh Book Review

Book Description

Dare Chase doesn’t believe in ghosts.

Privately, she’s a supernatural skeptic. But publicly, she’s keeping her doubts to herself—because she’s the voice of Attachments, her brand-new paranormal investigation podcast, and she needs her ghost-loving listeners to tune in.

That’s what brings her to Arrington Estate. Thirty years ago, teenager Atheleen Bell drowned in Arrington’s lake, and legend says her spirit haunts the estate. Dare’s more interested in the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death—circumstances that she believes point to a living culprit, not the supernatural. Still, she’s vowed to keep an open mind as she investigates, even if she’s pretty sure what she’ll find.

But Arrington is full of surprises. Good ones like Quinn, the cute daughter of the house’s new owner. And baffling ones like the threatening messages left scrawled in paint on Quinn’s walls, the ghastly face that appears behind Dare’s own in the mirror, and the unnatural current that nearly drowns their friend Holly in the lake. As Dare is drawn deeper into the mysteries of Arrington, she’ll have to rethink the boundaries of what is possible. Because if something is lurking in the lake…it might not be willing to let her go.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I tend to quickly go through audiobook and not take notes but this one was one that I had to actually sit with and took so much notes. I needed to know what was going on in the story and follow along with everything happening.

I really liked the narrator of this story and found that they were easy to listen to and made it easy to follow the story. I really liked how the story builds up to the main scenes that occur later on. I think that the author did a great job building up the background of the house, the lake, and the previous owners of this house. I also really liked the explanation that was given towards the end of the story as to why certain things were happening.

While I wouldn’t consider this to be a scary book, I do think that it is quite eerie and creepy. If you liked House of Hollow, I believe this is one that you will also enjoy. I also can’t end this review without letting you all know that this is a sapphic book which was one of the reason that I read it. The relationship between Quinn and Dare is just so cute and I loved how protective each of them are of the other.

Characters: In this book you get to meet several characters through their interactions with our main character Dare. I really enjoyed getting to know Dare through this book and liked how we got Diabetes representation in her. I thought it was great to see how her diagnosis affects her daily life and how she navigates certain things because of this. I thought it was also great that the book wasn’t about her having diabetes but that it was more so here is this cool, badass girl who happens to have diabetes.

I really enjoyed the friendship that develops between Dare, Holly and Quinn. I liked getting to read as each of them learns to trust the others and how you get to learn more about them through their interactions with each other. I also really liked seeing how Dare and Quinn’s relationship develops throughout the story. I liked how that changed depending on the events that were occuring at the house and the lake.

Writing Style: This story is written in first person through the perspective of Dare which is something that I really enjoyed. I liked that we got to see everything through her perspective and how she was feeling in every moment. I think this really added to the story because for so long Dare didn’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural. I thought Dare wanting to find an explanation for everything that wasn’t a supernatural cause really added a great element to the story and instilled fear in the reader.

Author Information

Sarah Glenn Marsh writes young adult novels and children’s picture books.

She lives, writes, and paints things in Virginia, supported by her husband, four rescued greyhounds, three birds, and many fish.

If she could, she’d adopt ALL THE ANIMALS.

Oh, and she’d love to be your friend here on Goodreads, or over on Twitter http://twitter.com/SG_Marsh!