Tag: Young Adult

Love Between Enemies by Molly E. Lee

Love Between Enemies by Molly E. LeeLove Between Enemies by Molly E. Lee
Series: Grad Night #2
Published by Entangled: Crush on January 8th 2018
Pages: 221
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three-stars

Zoey Handler is ready to put an end to her decade-long rivalry with Gordon Meyers. They’ve traded top spot between valedictorian and salutatorian for years, but all that’s over now. Right? But after a crazy graduation speech prank gets out of hand, suddenly their rivalry turns into all-out war. Time to make peace with a little friendly payback.

Step one? Make him believe they’re now friends.

Step two? Show him the time of his life at an epic graduation party.

Step three? Don’t fall for his tricks.

Step four? Absolutely, positively, do not kiss him again.

So what if he’s cute? (Okay, hot.) So what if he’s charming? (Heaven help her, tempting.) So what if he apologizes? (That has to be fake.) She knows the real Gordon. And no matter how much her heart begs her to stop, there’s no turning back.

Ah…enemies to lovers. it’s a trope that I can’t ever resist and ‘Love between Enemies’—as formulaic as this trope is—delivered that rivalry in a high-school setting. Throw in a badly mis-timed speech done out of hurt and overreaction and a rather mischievous plot for revenge that has bigger repercussions than initially thought about, and something entirely different and unexpected comes out as the end product.

Molly E. Lee captures the teenage mindset rather well, as Gordon and Zoey battle it out, humiliate each other (whether intentional or not), then realise that they’re better together than against each other during the grad night party where they realise that beyond the rivalry is a chemistry they can’t deny.

There were scenes that made me wonder how much of the rich-girl, entitled bitch Zoey was going to be, which in contrast, made Gordon seem almost like the perfect, articulate, mature 18-year-old that I don’t see too often in fiction. Nonetheless, I definitely appreciated how Lee didn’t go overboard (not too much at least) with the drama that some YA/NA books tend to revolve around. All’s well that ends well in a HFN ending, albeit somewhat sweetly but abruptly, considering that the whole shift from shift from rivalry to something else took place over a mere 2-ish days. But for characters on their way to college, with their lives ahead of them, it’s probably the best we can ask for.

three-stars

Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy

Pretty Dead Girls by Monica MurphyPretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy
Published by Entangled: Teen on January 2nd 2018
Pages: 300
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three-stars

Beautiful. Perfect. Dead.

In the peaceful seaside town of Cape Bonita, wicked secrets and lies are hidden just beneath the surface. But all it takes is one tragedy for them to be exposed.

The most popular girls in school are turning up dead, and Penelope Malone is terrified she's next. All the victims so far have been linked to Penelope—and to a boy from her physics class. The one she's never really noticed before, with the rumored dark past and a brooding stare that cuts right through her.

There's something he isn't telling her. But there's something she's not telling him, either.

Everyone has secrets, and theirs might get them killed.

Imagine a group of privileged girls—all of whom sort of conform to the rich, aloof, snooty and somewhat mean stereotype—suddenly being swamped by a mysterious but vengeful serial killer who throws their ordered but small world into chaos. In the midst of them is the head cheerleader and a quiet, mysterious boy who find themselves in the centre of the maelstrom as the noose tightens around them while they play amateur detectives.

There aren’t too many of these sort of YA-thriller, high-school-centric books that I’ve read (or the kind of movies that I’ve watched) and it takes an adjustment every time I read a book like ‘Pretty Dead Girls’. Jumping into a YA book can be hard at times, not least because it’s a throwback into the mean, teenage girl mindset—where everything is exaggerated, pulled apart and then reacted to in an over-the-top fashion—but also because it’s one which I have the hardest time connecting with as well.

This is sort of a step outside my usual reading habits, but I still did have a good time in a way as a distant spectator would with teenage shenanigans, alternating between cringing at the sensibilities of the self-absorbed and petty girls (and wondering if I was as bad as them or worse?) and trying to do the whodunnit game that I normally do with the adult mystery-thrillers I sometimes read. If anything, Monica Murphy gets those behavioural traits pat down and pitches the story perfectly for teens, though it’s honestly difficult to like the characters you want to yell at to grow up before you realise they’re acting exactly their ages…and can’t be expected to do anything differently.

However, there are some questions that don’t seem to be satisfactorily answered, where secrets that you think are soul-destroying turn up to be mere storms in tea cups. Still, it was kind of a fun ride, given the unholy glee I felt when these girls had their comeuppance and almost wished the body count got higher just to up the thrill factor for my bloodthirsty and mean soul.

three-stars

Hello Forever by Sarina Bowen

Hello Forever by Sarina BowenHello Forever by Sarina Bowen
Series: Pay It Forward #2
Published by Rennie Road Books on July 14th 2017
Pages: 213
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four-stars

When they were only teenagers, Axel and Caxton were caught making out in the woods at church camp. And afterward, Cax had disappeared from all the youth group activities.

Six years later, Axel is astonished to spot his first love’s face in the crowd of a college basketball game he’s watching on TV—at a school which has just offered him a job. It’s a thousand miles away, in a tiny rural town. But suddenly, he can’t wait to get there.

Cax can’t believe his eyes when Axel appears in the same Massachusetts town where he now lives. And he’s still just as drawn to Axel as ever. But he can’t let himself go there again, because loving Axel will mean giving up everything else he holds dear.

Both men have so much to lose. But as far as their love is concerned, it's Hello Forever.

Sarina Bowen’s ‘Hello Forever’ is a memorable read and I’m starting to think that she’s got a particular talent for M/M stories even if a few of her other M/F romances have ranked as a few of my favourites.

In ‘Hello Forever’ Axel and Cax have their own journey to undertake here in what feels like a spinoff from the first book in the series, though it’s perfect as standalone. Bowen’s storytelling shines especially when it comes to her ability to forge intimate and sweet connections between her characters regardless of sexual orientation, and I found myself enjoying Axel/Cax’s second chance story a lot more than I usually do for this trope because it didn’t have the usual hysterics TSTL bits in which some characters ‘break character’ for the sake of creating conflict.

Yet ‘Hello Forever’ is also very much a book about young people taking responsibility and stepping up when their own parents fail them—almost as if it’s a defiant flip of the bird at the media wailing about rootless, millennial ingrates. Bowen sets up Axel and Cax as very relatable characters that struggle with their careers, adulthood and the heavy burden of caring for family, not least to mention their sexuality. The slight bit of angst does help drive the story forward, though mostly, it’s an easy read without the extreme highs and lows that allow you root wholeheartedly for yet another couple to get their HEA.

four-stars

Love in the Friend Zone by Molly E. Lee

Love in the Friend Zone by Molly E. LeeLove in the Friend Zone by Molly E. Lee
Published by Entangled Publishing, LLC (Crush) on August 14th 2017
Pages: 219
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two-stars

The only thing worse than not being able to tell your best friend you’re head over heels in love with him? Having to smile and nod when he enlists your help to ensnare the girl of his dreams.

Braylen didn’t even want to go to Lennon Pryor’s epic graduation-night party, but when Fynn begs her to be his “wingwoman,” she can’t deny him. Talking up her BFF—how he’s magic behind a camera, with a killer sense of humor and eyelashes that frame the most gorgeous blue eyes in the history of forever—is easy. Supporting his efforts to woo someone so completely wrong for him? Not so much.

Fynn knows that grad night is his last shot before leaving for college to find true love. And thanks to Bray, he gets his chance with the beautiful Katy Evans. But over the course of the coolest party of their high school careers, he starts to see that perhaps what he really wants has been in front of him all along. Bray’s been his best friend since kindergarten, though, and he’d rather have her in his life as a friend than not at all.

Reading about storms in teacups is how I approach YA stories, because I sort of remember that nothing seemed more important than a crush returning your feelings and the obsession over college choices.

‘Love in the Friend Zone’ all but practically takes place over the course of an evening during a graduation party, as you’re thrust straight into the climax of a story after being given a rushed run down of Braylen’s unrequited feelings and Fynn’s inability to see that she has always been in front of him.

Within this time period, Bray vacillates between wanting the best for Fynn and struggling with her own desires and jealousy, while Fynn remains oblivious which is the status quo for teenage boys as it seems. All this is well and fairly typical—it’s the hormonal teenage years after all—but I probably would have liked this better if the story focused less on Bray’s overwhelming angst and her inability to be convinced that Fynn would ever want her.

Fynn’s sudden realisation that he’d been in love with her all along was somewhat cringeworthy, since it had to take a confession from Bray to get his head out of his own arse.  Granted, I’m not someone who can easily accept sudden switch of the flip type epiphanies particularly when it comes to a party realising he/she had been in love with someone all along because it can, in some cases, get extremely hypocritical.

The events at this particular party did however, got more and more ridiculous, taking a rom-com’s blithe journey to a climax of mistaken identities, stunts and high drama. Expect juvenile jokes, and even more juvenile pranks and a huge load of emotional spikes and valleys…all before Fynn and Bray actually get it together.

If this review is sounding as though there’s some impatience on my part, it’s probably me having a hard time admitting I’m quite much older with different tastes now.

two-stars

When It’s Real by Erin Watt

When It’s Real by Erin WattWhen It's Real by Erin Watt
Published by Harlequin Teen on May 30th 2017
Pages: 416
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four-stars

Meet Oakley Ford-teen celebrity, renowned pop star, child of famous movie stars, hottie with millions of fangirls… and restless troublemaker. On the surface he has it all, but with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry, and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley's team decides it's time for an intervention. The result: an image overhaul, complete with a fake girlfriend meant to show the world he's settled down.
Enter seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett-devoted sister, part-time waitress, the definition of "normal." Under ordinary circumstances she'd never have taken this gig, but with her family strapped for cash, she doesn't have much of a choice. And for the money Oakley's team is paying her, she figures she can put up with outlandish Hollywood parties and a team of publicists watching her every move. So what if she thinks Oakley's a shallow, self-centered jerk? It's not like they're going to fall for each other in real life…right?

‘When it’s Real’ is an undoubtedly fun read and an absolute guilty pleasure…and I was entertained throughout, which is more than I can say for many books these days. But re-tune your inner voices for teenage drama and high-school antics because it’s a NA/YA book with teenage characters who well, behave in a way you completely expect them to.

I read this in one sitting because I did like the voices of both Vaughan and Oakley and it was interesting to see how Oakley became more and more likeable while the initially-grounded Vaughan became a little stupid in the middle.

There are also, so many echoes of the cynical world of showbiz written into this and I couldn’t help but grin wryly at the not-quite-blatant references to the type of tabloid headlines and social media feeds that construct a world that as fake or as real as you want it to be. The oblique pokes at how certain music celebrities (and their fans) behave these days is as obvious as daylight too, which thoroughly delighted me as I saw these parodied so well here.

‘When it’s real’ ends with the same euphoric high of the ending notes of the concert, which is mostly HFN bliss for the newly-minted couple in question, but in the fickle world of celebrity-happiness and coupledom, it’s probably for the best.

four-stars

Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson

Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid PaulsonWhy I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson
Published by Entangled: Teen on June 6th 2017
Pages: 287
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three-stars

Per her 537 rules, Harper Campbell keeps her life tidy—academically and socially. But the moment Sterling Lane transfers into her tiny boarding school, her twin brother gets swept up in Sterling’s pranks and schemes and nearly gets expelled. Harper knows it’s Sterling’s fault, and to protect her brother, she vows to take him down. As she exposes his endless school violations, he keeps striking back, framing her for his own infractions. Worst of all, he’s charmed the administration into thinking he’s harmless, and only Harper sees him for the troublemaker he absolutely is.
As she breaks rule after precious rule in her battle of wits against Sterling and tension between them hits a boiling point, she’s horrified to discover that perhaps the two of them aren’t so different. And maybe she doesn't entirely hate him after all. Teaming up with Sterling to save her brother might be the only way to keep from breaking the most important rule—protecting Cole.

This is one of the oddest, most entertaining and weird books I’ve read in a long, long while. There’s the stilted speech of English boarding schools (the kids sound like uptight lawyers-in-training with sticks up their arses) and good ol’ teenage pranks wrapped up in the scheming of Cruel Intentions, the cold malice of mafia movies and the calculative manoeuvrings of some spy shows.

But you know what they say about hate being the other side of the coin of love. At least I think it is, because I couldn’t quite be sure by the time I finished the book when denial and doublespeak hadn’t quite let down yet. Written wholly in Harper’s POV, I couldn’t decide where she was the judgemental, self-righteous, rule-following shrew or whether Sterling was truly the devil’s spawn wrapped up in sheep clothing. And without Sterling’s POV, he never quite appeared more than a shady character whose personality way surpassed his rich-kid stereotype who sort of decided that he could be more serious about his future post-boarding school.

The book really begins with a ‘mortal enemies’ type of situation, where rule-follower (and breaker) Harper is determined to take down the rich, spoiled lazy kid whose schemes actually match hers for deviousness. Attraction only creeps in way, way later and their ‘relationship’ is barely formed when the book finally ends. I had a few good laughs though (the pranks *were* hilarious), despite my bewilderment at the tone, the setup and the characterisation and perhaps, the story’s prominence simply lies in how much it differs from the typical NA/YA books that have sailed by as ships passing in the night.

three-stars

Don’t Speak by Katy Regnery

Don’t Speak by Katy RegneryDon't Speak by Katy Regnery
Published by Katharine Gilliam Regnery on February 27th 2017
Pages: 318
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four-stars

A fisherman’s daughter.

The governor’s son.

Two very different worlds.

In this modern retelling of The Little Mermaid, a fisherman’s daughter from an Outer Banks island untouched by time, meets the son of North Carolina’s governor at a fancy party where she’s working.

Laire, who wants so much more from life than her little island can offer, is swept away by wealthy, sophisticated Erik, who is, in turn, entranced by her naiveté and charm. The two spend a whirlwind summer together that ends on the knife-point of heartbreak and forces them to go their separate ways.

Years later, when fate leads them back to one another, they will discover the terrifying depth of the secrets they kept from each other, and learn that shattered hearts can only be healed by a love that willfully refuses to die.

Fairytale adaptations have always enraptured me although the quality of retellings have always been varied. And of the numerous adaptations, I’ve almost never read a contemporary retelling of ‘The Little Mermaid’, which made ‘Don’t speak’ immediately a mesmerising standout because it was so different.

Katy Regnery blends the tropes quite seamlessly in a way that makes it the entire tale believable somehow: two contrasting protagonists, quite literally from different worlds with archetypical wicked-parents, yet with the earthy, intense flavour of young love that slips into hate and pain before the HEA that drops rather suddenly. Yet Regnery’s writing is lofty as well, with the elevated, descriptive purple prose that distances her book from the typical NA read as Erik and Laire are fashioned into stylised characters who fall into instant-love. There’s a lot of naïveté present written into them as well too – whether by choice remains unclear – and perhaps never seen more in Laire, whose constant sobbing and inability to stand up for Erik when it mattered most got on my nerves at times.

It’s the secret-baby issue here, that perhaps downed the reading experience for me and the lagging pace that had me struggling to turn the pages. Even though Erik/Laire were kept apart by circumstances beyond their control, I always felt as though Erik was the one who constantly tried to build bridges as Laire wallowed in her islander thinking…until she was forced out of the Banks. Coincidence, or serendipity, is the only thing that brings them back together and their rushed reunion – and tearful confessions that pledged forever love despite the thorny issues that led to a 6-year separation – precipitates a sudden number of events that leads to the rather rushed ending.

That said though, ‘Don’t Speak’ is undoubtedly a memorably read despite its faults, and pretty much one that left me on the verge of a book hangover.

four-stars