Young Adult books I read in May 2018

I read a really solid line up of YA novels this month! Pretty much every single one I have some great things to say about. I rated 3 non comic-books 5 stars on good reads this month, and all three of them are in this wrap up so… get ready for some gushing.

  • We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
    • Rating: 4.5/5
    • Thoughts: I don’t think this book will have the same effect on everyone that it had on me, but I absolutely ADORED this.  I had heard some things about LaCour before picking this one up, but this book exceeded all of those expectations. This is such an incredible rumination on grief and mourning, especially for a family member that you complex feelings about. This has a pretty personal connection to a lot of things that I have felt in my life over the years, and I felt like this novel, more than any other, captured that feeling so, so well. Marin and Mabel are such endearing characters, it is difficult not to feel incredible empathy for the entire messed up situation. This book is also SO beautifully written too – it’s such a quiet, melancholic novel that just fills you with this deep loneliness. (It’s a good thing I promise!) I’m a weepy reader for sure, but even I was surprised what got to me in this book. It was the small things, like the kindness from strangers, that had me tearing up on my train ride home. The biggest criticism I have is that I didn’t much care for the ending, but I don’t think it’s enough of a blemish to tarnish the entire work. I don’t think this book will be as strong for everyone – it just happened to hit a particular sweet spot for me at the right time. I am so excited to pick up more of LaCour’s work in the future.
    • Also to note – I picked this up as an audiobook, which was also really really good. I highly recommend it – it’s a little less than 6 hours, so you’ll fly through it.
    • Possible content warning for: discussions of depression and suicide. Not super severe, but definitely enough to potentially be triggering.
  • The Astonishing Color of After  by Emily X.R. Pan
    • Rating: 4.75/5
    • Thoughts:  What a STUNNING debut novel. I FLEW through this book. About 60 percent of the way through the book I just kinda went “I need to finish this entire novel tonight” and stayed up late balling my eyes out by the end. (I was… in a bit of grief kick if you can tell by my first pick). This book. Is. Incredible. Pan writes beautifully – she just nails the complex emotions of grief and resentment and confusion and loss in her main character. And it just… this book has a story to tell, and it just gets it. It really gets these emotions, and does such a good job of getting these emotions across. I’m usually pretty eh on magical realism, but I think those elements worked well in this! Also? The main character is such a well written teenager. That sounds weird to say, but more than a lot of other books I’ve read in my exploration back into YA, Pan has done the best job at creating a teenage character that I actually was like “oh yeah shit. I feel this. I remember feeling like this.” I think my biggest criticism that comes to mind is just some more personal experience things – The main character is biracial (half chinese and half white) and the book is… kind of weird about it? It’s hard to explain, but I think it’s because as a half chinese/half white person, it didn’t seem…. right. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a HUGE deal, and I highly highly highly recommend this book if you’re looking for an impactful read.
    • Content warning for Suicide and depression on this one. a HEAVY content warning. This is all pretty explicitly part of the novel – it was never too much for me, but please take care of yourself while reading this.

  • Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
    • Rating: 3.25/5
    • Thoughts: This book was a lot of fun! After the last western I read, I was a bit more trepidation walking into this novel, but didn’t let me down. The characters were definitely the best part of the book – Sammy and Andy were precious. I loved seeing them and the group they fell in with interact, and most of the characters felt like real people. Despite all of that though, I did not care much at all for the story construction or how the book was paced. It was… fine? But I felt like the book generally meandered until the last quarter, which became a buck wild ride. It felt a bit predictable. I also didn’t…. care at all for the romance. Which there is enough of it in here for that to be a bit of a downer. It was also… fine? But listen, I encounter so many mediocre straight white boys in fiction, it is hard to get me rooting for one, even if he has a Tragic Back Story that Explains his Flaws. The main character’s musings about romance are also just Not Fun to read. It may because I’m in my mid twenties and have an ice cold black heart, but it just didn’t do it for me. I still recommend this book if you’re looking to give western’s a try, and you’re scared to just right into adult westerns (which believe me I’m RIGHT THERE WITH YOU there is only so much White Man Pain but Historic I can deal with). It’s a solid western with interesting characters.

  • Sabriel by Garth Nix
    • Rating: 4.25/5
    • Thoughts: I’d heard a bit about this series as a kid, but I hadn’t picked up any Garth Nix up until Sabriel and holy shit????? I can see why this is so beloved. This is such an interesting fantasy world! The worldbuilding and magic system are soooo good in this. Necromancy isn’t a super popular magic explored in fantasy novels, and after reading this I don’t know why. The atmosphere is solid – gloomy and cold and quiet. This would have been a great winter read. Nix also builds up the dread throughout the novel expertly – while his writing style isn’t anything to write home about, his ideas and general novel construction leaves you tense and curious and on the edge of your seat.  Unfortunately, there are a few character choices and pacing issues in the last third/quarter of the book. I think it would have worked better if it was a bit longer to let the characters interact and breathe more, and the end was a tad abrupt. That being said, this is such a crisp, inventive and cinematic world. I WANT someone to adapt this. I want more people to read it! It deserves to be a YA fantasy classic. I can’t wait to pick up the sequel! I want more of this world so baaaaad.
  • Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
    • Rating: 5/5
    • Thoughts:  Y’all I read this book in one day. ONE DAY. I cannot believe it! I haven’t done that since I was like. Sick in bed during a school vacation. I picked this up on a whim – I’d heard a lot of people say positive things about it and it was cheap on Kindle for the day. And I am SHOCKED I enjoyed it as much as I did! I’ve not read any Amie Kaufman but I picked up the first book in Kristoff’s Stormdancer series and I was….. not a fan of. But this book. THIS BOOK! It is just non stop sci fi action thrill ride. I got everything I wanted and more. This book is also told in kind of a… mixed media kind of way? With email exchanges, official documents, chat logs etc.  And I thought actually REALLY worked for the kind of story it set up. It also packed an emotional punch I REALLY wasn’t expecting. This novel ACHES, and does so in the easiest, smallest ways. The romance was pretty okay too! (Which with YA novels is a RINGING endorsement) I think it actually helped make the two main characters a lot more solid. I HIGHLY recommend this if you’re looking for so sci-fi action/thriller that has actually has some shit to say as well. While I’m asking for movies, yo hollywood this one is RIPE for the picking. It is SO much fun pick this the FUCK up. Don’t sit on this like y’all did with Lies of Locke Lamora. And Temeraire.
    • I do have to say though…. I don’t…. really know how I feel about this having sequels? I’m sure they’ll be fine, but Illuminae has a pretty solid conclusion. You could potentially just stop at the end of this if you really want to.
    • It’s also odd because most of the people I’d heard recommend it don’t do… the best job comparing to other pieces of fiction work? I think it’s because most of them primarily are into novels and haven’t dove head first into Scifi like I have. For the more scifi literate, If I had to describe it, it reminds me more of a cross between Battlestar Galactica, Alien, 2001: a Space Odyssey and Tacoma.
    • No. It is nothing like Star Wars. Other than there is Space.

My adult books will not include NEARLY as much fangirling so…. Look forward to be being less enthused I guess?

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