Book Reviews

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

Those We Drown
by Amy Goldsmith

-You can find this book here.

When Liv’s friend Will disappears the first night of their semester at sea, it’s unclear what really happened, who can be trusted, and what horrible darkness might be onboard.

Liv feels lucky to have scored a full scholarship to participate in the trans-Atlantic SeaMester program aboard the Eos, a posh cruise ship. But surrounded by wealthy, beautiful students, including the stunning and untouchable trio of social media influencers known as the Sirens, Liv starts to feel uneasy. Will’s inexplicable disappearance triggers a host of unanswered questions about his well-being, staff members get caught in lies, and her sophisticated, alluring classmate Constantine proves a complicated mix of friendly ally and untrustworthy love interest. As more people go missing, Liv races to find Will and make sense of murky, mysterious incidents and behaviors. Goldsmith deftly keeps readers in the dark, unsure of which characters to believe but also wondering whether Liv is a reliable narrator. The ship is the perfect setting for just such a thriller: isolated and eerie. The slow unraveling of the mystery is captivating and surprising, the ending deliciously—horrifically—ambiguous. The plot ramps up slowly, but it’s worth the wait. Liv is a White English girl; there is some diversity in nationality and ethnicity among the supporting cast.

An original, suspenseful, and atmospheric debut. (Horror. 12-17)

Review found here.

Invisible Son
by Kim Johnson

-You can find this book here.

An African American boy released from a juvenile detention center attempts to clear his name amid a pandemic and a social justice movement that are reshaping his hometown of Portland, Oregon.

Seventeen-year-old Andre Jackson is returning home to participate in a restorative justice program. He was trying to keep his friend Eric Whitaker from getting in trouble, but it backfired, and he was charged for a crime Eric committed. Andre’s life used to revolve around swimming, the YouTube channel he created with his best friend, and Sierra, who is his crush and Eric’s biological sister (the two Black teens were adopted by White parents). Now Andre is trying to rebuild his life while adjusting to the Covid-19 pandemic and a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. He wants to find out why Eric might have betrayed him instead of telling the truth. But Eric is missing, and his parents aren’t answering questions. As schools switch to remote learning and people protest the murder of George Floyd, Andre begins his own investigation. His efforts reveal a different, disturbing picture of the Whitakers’ multiracial family—they also have two biological children and a son adopted from Mexico. The novel tackles in a nuanced way topics such as the erasure of Black history, the disproportionate negative impact of the pandemic on communities of color, and entrenched racial bias in the justice system. The strong pacing and vivid characterization will keep readers engaged.

A powerful, emotional, and insightful read. (author’s note, resources) (Fiction. 14-18)

Review found here.

A Crooked Mark
by Linda Kao

-You can find this book here.

A life of demon-hunting doesn’t leave much time to examine personal demons.

Matthew Watts has grown up on the road with his father, following assignments from the Second Sweep, a secret organization whose mission is to hunt the Marked, people whose souls have been claimed by Lucifer. On his 17th birthday, Matt is gifted with his first solo mission. It’s up to him to determine if Rae Winter, the only survivor of a tragic accident that claimed her father’s life, may have been possessed in the moments between life and death. After settling into Mills Creek near San Francisco, Matt infiltrates Rae’s life, trying to identify signs that will prove she is Marked. What he doesn’t expect is to find himself wondering what might have been if he’d had a typical teen experience—or developing an interest in Rae that goes beyond his assignment. The diversity of ways grief can be expressed is smartly woven into the narrative through Matt’s observations of the Winter family; his own mother died when he was a toddler. Matt’s questions about the mutability of identity and values as his worldview expands outside the bubble of the Second Sweep will resonate with readers as he comes to terms with the bad he has done and determines how to make things right. Matt’s late mother was Chinese, and his father is implied White; Rae reads White.

This thoughtful debut offers both supernatural thrills and careful character development. (Paranormal. 12-18)

Review found here.

Borrow My Heart
by Kasie West

-You can find this book here.

A girl’s attempt at preventing a boy from being embarrassed by his friend’s catfishing prank complicates their growing relationship.

When Asher and his friend Dale show up at a coffee shop for Asher’s date with Gemma, a girl he’s met online but has never seen a photo of, it’s clear to best friends Wren and Kamala that Dale has set Asher up and intends to humiliate him. Usually orderly Wren, eavesdropping and hidden from the boys’ view behind a plant, impulsively presents herself as Gemma. What she didn’t imagine was that she’d see Asher again or that they would form a connection and develop a trusting friendship that quickly heads toward something more. This initial lie eventually catches up with Wren, threatening to ruin the closeness they build over the summer. Though the romance is compelling, West’s best writing tackles the complicated relationship between Wren and her mother, who left her family 7 years prior. The very real emotions of hope, disappointment, and heartache existing among Wren, 20-year-old sister Zoey, and the girls’ mother are well drawn. Kamala is a present and active part of the story. The backdrop of Wren’s job at an animal shelter gives the story shape as well, highlighting her personality traits and tenderness. Main characters are White; Kamala is Indian American.

A solid teen romance with strong characterization and nuanced relationships. (Romance. 12-18)

Review found here.

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