Book Reviews

Check out these reviews for some of our newest YA Books:


Concrete Rose
by Angie Thomas

-You can find this book here.

This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Review found here.


The Initial Insult
Initial Insult series, Vol 1
by Mindy McGinnis

-You can find this book here.

Tress would kill to find out why her parents disappeared.

In small-town Amontillado, Tress Montor had a seemingly normal life until her parents disappeared. That was seven years ago. Now living with her negligent grandfather at his questionable exotic animal attraction, the high school senior has become a pariah among her classmates. The one person who may know what happened is Felicity Turnado, who not only used to be best friends with Tress but was the last one to see her parents alive. Told in alternating chapters from each girl’s perspective, this thriller starts off as a slow burn with longer chapters establishing their personalities; the nature of the closed-minded, predominantly White town; and the mysterious disappearance. When Tress, bent on truth and revenge, sets up an interrogation of Felicity reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” the story accelerates evenly with shorter, taut chapters delivering the final shocks. The narrative’s changing timeline, as each girl remembers events from the past, answers questions, and raises intrigue in equal measure; their experiences are gritty reflections of teen life. And in the true spirit of Poe, a black cat, in this case, a panther from the zoo, adds another level of creepiness with intermittent free-verse poems told from its perspective. A sudden, nail-biting ending leaves the door open for the next installment of this duology.

A dark, Poe-inspired thriller that lives up to the gothic master. (Thriller. 14-18)

Review found here


Game Changer
by Neal Shusterman

-You can find this book here.

A timely, speculative thought experiment in perspective, privilege, and identity.

Ash Bowman is a White, heterosexual boy who doesn’t think too deeply about the plights of others. That is until a jarring football injury shifts him into a parallel universe. At first, the changes to Ash’s world are small: Stop signs are blue, not red, for example. Then, with every tackle, Ash transports himself into a new reality, and the changes become much more pronounced. Characters change gender, social class status, sexuality, or even live in a world where racial segregation still exists. These changes in perspective prompt Ash to cultivate a greater sense of empathy and urgency regarding the suffering of others. But as reality becomes increasingly unstable, he must set the world back to rights. Ash is a clever, sincere narrator, and his journey of self-discovery is well-paced with solid twists at nearly every chapter’s end. But the project ultimately attempts to tackle too much, covering abuse, racism, homophobia, misogyny, class privilege, and more; this leads to little time and nuance dedicated to each. Unlike in real life, characters typically possess a single marginalized identity, and the interplay between struggles for progress in different areas is not explored, oversimplifying matters. The joys of queer love are shown, but experiences of being female or Black are largely presented in terms of oppression. Additionally, characters from marginalized populations are generally used for Ash’s own character development.

A well-intentioned project whose earnest messages of empathy and equality fall short in execution. (Science fiction. 14-18)

Review found here.

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