Book Reviews

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

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Family of Liars
by E. Lockhart

-You can find this book here.

This prequel to We Were Liars (2014) takes place in 1987 as 17-year-old Carrie Sinclair faces her first summer at the family’s Massachusetts vacation property without her youngest sister, Rosemary.

Ten-year-old Rosemary drowned the previous summer while swimming alone. Carrie’s parents and remaining sisters, 16-year-old Penny and 14-year-old Bess, endure the loss with characteristic Sinclair stoicism, but Carrie finds it difficult to repress her sorrow, even with the aid of codeine pills to numb her pain. When Rosemary’s ghost appears to her, she is bewildered by the specter but accepts her intermittent appearances and comfortably mundane requests. Even more unexpected are the arrivals on Beechwood Island of George, Major, and Pfeff, friends of Carrie’s cousin Yardley. The boys’ presence, a deviation from the Sinclair family’s usual routine, sets into motion an unforeseen chain of events that ultimately entangles the three oldest Sinclair sisters. Lockhart’s stark, evocative prose captures the emotions of a grieving teenage girl paralyzed by the weight of her parents’ expectations and plagued by a perpetual sense of inadequacy. The novel is framed as a story that present-day Carrie tells the ghost of her deceased son, Johnny, who asks Carrie to reveal “the absolute worst thing you ever did, back then.” Her response is a haunting confession about family allegiances; the arbitrary rules of powerful, moneyed White families; and the strength required to bear witness to terrible truths.

Beautiful and devastating. (Fiction. 13-18)

Review found here.



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I Must Betray You
by Ruta Sepetys

-You can find this book here.

A rare look at the youth-led rebellion that toppled Romania’s Ceaușescu.

Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu, with his spiky hair, love of poetry and English, and crush on Liliana Pavel, is as much of a rebel as it’s possible to be in Bucharest, Romania, in 1989. Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu has been in power for 24 years, and most Romanians live in poverty, exporting what they produce to unknowingly fund Ceaușescu’s obscenely extravagant lifestyle. Wild dogs attack children in the streets, and secret agents are everywhere. When an agent confronts Cristian with evidence of treason—a single dollar bill tucked inside his notebook—and also offers medicine for Bunu, his sick grandfather, Cristian agrees to spy on the American diplomat family whose son he’s become friendly with. But as young Romanians gradually become aware that other countries have gained freedom from communism, they rise up in an unconquerable wave. Sepetys brilliantly blends a staggering amount of research with heart, craft, and insight in a way very few writers can. Told from Cristian’s point of view, intercut by secret police memos and Cristian’s own poetry, the novel crackles with energy; Cristian and his friends join the groundswell of young Romanians, combining pragmatism, subterfuge, hope, and daring. While the story ends with joy on Christmas Day, the epilogue recounts the betrayals and losses that follow. The last line will leave readers gasping.

Compulsively readable and brilliant. (maps, photos, author's note, research notes, sources) (Historical fiction. 12-18)

Review found here.


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Anatomy: A Love Story
by Dana Schwartz

-You can find this book here.

n a quasi-historical version of Georgian-era Edinburgh, wealthy 17-year-old Hazel Sinnett would rather dress in her dead brother George’s clothes to attend anatomy classes than attend balls.

Fortunately, her father is on St. Helena with the Royal Navy, and her distracted mother, Lady Sinnett, is in London with her younger brother, Percy, leaving Hazel in Hawthornden Castle with just two servants for supervision. This enables Hazel to pursue her dreams of becoming a surgeon, until a sexist doctor sees through her disguise. Hazel then sets up shop at home in the dungeon and hires a young, attractive resurrection man to bring her bodies for dissection, which in turn allows her to stumble very slowly into the gothic aspect of the story: medical experiments born out of hubris and destined to end badly. The novel contains elements of mystery, horror, romance, and feminist historical fiction but unfortunately does not quite succeed at any. The science is only as accurate as the story requires. Hazel’s romance with her body-stealing companion is complicated by her long-standing betrothal to her boring cousin, Bernard, son of Lord and Lady Almont, who plays a minor villain role. Hazel treats the poor from her dungeon surgery and plans a takedown of medical patriarchy, which slows the unfolding of a mystery that is signaled in the prologue. The enjoyably creepy elements and grandstanding main villain are largely relegated to the final chapters. Characters default to White.

Unlikely to steal readers’ hearts. (Historical thriller. 12-17)

Review found here.



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