Thursday, August 22, 2019

Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh

Unrated | 368 pages | Contemporary YA | Harper Teen | Release Date: 06/04/2019
This book is made for every teenager who loves Jane Austen and the Brontë Sisters. Ordinary Girls is a send-up of Sense and Sensibility (you know....that Austen book our blog is named after and neither of us have read). It tells the story of the two totally opposite Blatchley sisters and their mother as they trt to save their old Victorian house.

Fifteen-year-old Plum Blatchtly is the most sensible of the group, she's a dreamy introvert who often finds herself taking charge in her unconventional family and develops a sweet romance with the roguish boy from down the street. As a character, you can tell she idolizes the women of Austen's time and her speech and cadence reflect that.

The Blatchley women are quirky, free-spirited and not above a humorous situation. From furniture-less dinner parties, broken water pipes and small fires they endure quite a year.

Ordinary Girls is a well-meaning and earnest YA novel made for fans of the Jane Austen aesthetic.

Check out the audiobook review at AudioFile Magazine

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Out of the Pocket By Bill Konigsberg

 Unrated |  Contemporary |  Dutton Juvenile | Release Date: 9/18/2008
Bill Konigsberg is my favorite type of YA author, the kind who has been writing for years but suddenly gets a big highly marketed title with tons of buzz (usually because of the big push in diversity) from the book influencer world.

Konigsberg's sixth book, The Music Of What Happens, is on a ton of most anticipated YA  list for 2019 and Out of The Pocket was his debut all the way back in 2008.

Bobby Framingham is the star quarterback of his Southern California high school football team. He is most at home with this team on the field and trying to find the best way to come out to his friends and family without losing the community he holds close. After being publically outed, Bobby is thrust in the national spotlight.  Now out of his comfort zone, he has to be the best quarterback he can be, hold his team together and support his father after he is given a life-changing diagnosis.

Out of The Pocket feels like a microcosm of teen life in the late 2000s, I was in high school during the time this book takes place and for me, this book was like a blast from the past. It's this strange time where we were using landlines and watching cable TV while at the same time using cell phones and Google. I could go on and on about the references to the pop culture like Avril Lavigne and Borat. But I think what this book really reminded me of was how 'casual homophobia' was just apart of our culture.

2008 was just ten years ago but back then Don't Ask Don't Tell and DOMA was still in effect, gay marriage was not nationally legalized and MTV had to run PSAs telling people not to use gay as a slur.

I really wonder what Gen Z would think of millennials after reading this?  I mean I remember being in high school and hearing people say everything was "gay" and a teacher making a joke about how kids ran around calling each other "homos".

I think if teen me would have picked this up I would have likened it to Chris Crutcher's novels. Crutcher wrote sports fiction which tackled race, violence, and class. This book enthralled me even though I know absolutely nothing about sports. Konigsberg has a slightly lighter touch
but if you enjoy this Chris Crutcher may be a great read-a-like. I can't guarantee his books age well but I think they are worth a try.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

You'd Be Mine by Erin Hahn

Rating: Unrated | 304 pages | Contemporary/Romance | Macmillian | Release Date: 4/2/2019
I've seen this book recommended as Nashville meets A Star Is Born which I don't think is fair because this book was so much better than A Star is Born. Like, this book was what I wanted A Star Is Born to be. I will say music is my pop culture blind spot. I'm not a music person but I'm fascinated by media about music.

Annie Mathers' is a bright, talented and humble country girl raised by two country music icons whose lives came to a tragic end six years ago. Now she's is ready to head out on her own and tour with the bad boy of country music; Clay Coolidge. Clay and Annie become a sensation on tour with enough chemistry and talent to sell out stadiums.

What the world doesn't know is that Clay Coolidge's swaggering party frat boy persona is just an act that Jefferson Daniels wears to cover the pain of losing his brother and grandfather. The more Jefferson embraces "Clay" the more he sinks into depression and alcoholism and when Annie and her band join his tour for the summer, they pull him out of his siloed world and remind him what it is to be young, talented and free. 

The characters in this book all have a lot of fun together, they form a bond only performers (and theater kids) can understand. Clay and Annie's bands both have fiddlers who have an instant spark and passionate summer romance.

I liked that Annie is presented as Christian and it's not used as shorthand for virtue or to foil to Clay's sinner image. Religion is a genuine part of her life and something she leans on to deal with her past.

But here is why I ultimately think the romance in this book works:

There is a grovel. 

A grovel is something romance novel readers used to describe the moment when the (typically) hero in the romance has to come back and make a change to win back the heroine. Clay is a teen alcoholic and his illness takes him to some dark places that he has to pull himself out of to earn his HEA with Annie.

Because a majority of the characters are 18-20 this read a lot like a New Adult romance. Hahn has a great ability to build and break relationships, cultivate drama and in a way I associate with New Adult. I wonder if Hahn ever considered this route? I see that she is also a former Twilight fanfiction writer, many of whom have found great success in the NA genre.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest

Rating: ★★★★ | 320 pages | Contemporary | Roaring Brook Press | Release Date: 6/4/2019

When 17-year-old Chloe Pierce gets the opportunity to audition for her dream ballet school she’ll have to break her overly cautious mother’s rules for the first time to audition. Her carefully planned day trip is quickly derailed into an unexpected weeklong road trip, when her troublemaking neighbor Eli Greene--and his dog Geezer--tag along for the ride.

I read this book while on vacation and it was the perfect YA vacation read. Forest has crafted a solid debut about discovery, friendship and confidence-building in a fun rom-com package. In our 19 to 2019 I said this looked like the kind of book teen me would have enjoyed and it totally was!

What I like most about this book is that it features an all-Black and brown cast but there are no “on page” moments of racial trauma or microaggressions. There are a couple moments in the book where I thought it was going to go there but I found myself relieved when it didn’t. I see microaggressions pop up a lot in YA stories that are not about racial trauma. At times it feels like they are included as a “teachable” moment for white readers. I think those narratives are important but sometimes I feel like teens of color need a break. Now, there is a brief moment where Chloe notices her body is developing differently than the other white ballerinas in the book, but it felt more observational than aggressive.

This book is also perfect for a younger YA audience who may want to read a romance that has kissing but no mentions of sex.

I Wanna Be Where You Are is the perfect coming of age YA summer read about how sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination. Can’t wait to see what Forest does next!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Five Great New Audiobooks About Living On Your Own Terms.

Summer isn't over yet and AudioFile Magazine is here to share some must-listen unique young adult audiobooks for those last days of summer.

What is it about individuals and society? They’re not always coming from the same place, that’s for sure. Here are our picks of five great new audiobooks about living on your own terms. Some edgy, some sweet, some joyful, some weepers. All awesome. Here’s to having an audiobook in your ear. 

                          - Aurelia C. Scott, AudioFile Magazine blogger

CROWN OF FEATHERS by Nicki Pau Preto 
Read by Samantha Desz, Jacques Roy, Joy Osmanski, Gibson Frazier, Cassandra Campbell
Simon & Schuster Audio | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner
This flawless full cast carries the listener away to the fantasy world in Niki Pau Preto's first novel. Guided by Veronyka, a war orphan who disguises herself as a boy in order to join a group of rebels who ride phoenixes into battle, you’ll immerse yourself in this tale about relationships, loyalty, and finding something you care about.

PAN'S LABYRINTH: THE LABYRINTH OF THE FAUN by Guillermo del Toro, Cornelia Funke | 
Read by Thom Rivera
Harper Audio | Unabridged 
There’s nothing like fairytales for chills and thrills. In Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke’s atmospheric version of del Toro’s twisty film about a girl who undergoes a series of tests to attain immortality, chills and thrills are abundant. Beautifully voiced by Thom Rivera, who gives realistic characterizations to everyone from the girl to cruel Captain Vidal.

LOVE FROM A TO Z by S.K. Ali |
 Read by Priya Ayyar, Tim Chiou, S.K. Ali
Simon & Schuster Audio | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner
Love between two very different Muslim teens who meet on spring break is movingly voiced by Priya Ayyar and Tim Chiou, with the author entering as referee when the teens’ (fictional) diaries conflict. No one said love is easy. But it’s always worth the effort. 

FIVE MIDNIGHTS by Ann Dávila Cardinal

Read by Almarie Guerra
MacMillan Audio | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner
This deliciously scary murder-mystery based on Puerto Rico’s mythic boogeyman-monster is fully inhabited by Almarie Guerra’s narration. A 16-year-old "GringaRican" living with her uncle for the summer and a 17-year-old recovering addict try to figure out why his childhood friends are dying on the eve of their 18th birthdays. Just don’t listen late at night.

SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS by Jessie Ann Foley | Read by Ron Butler

Harper Audio | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner 
We’ve all said it, knowing that the phrase can’t begin to comfort someone’s pain. Well this is what it’s like to be on the receiving end - inside the pain of losing an older brother and finding a way through to the other side. Terrifically performed by Ron Butler, who sensitively portrays 16-year-old Pup Flanagan and everyone else in his large and varied family.

For more audiobook reviews, features and extras check out!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Birthday by Meredith Russo

Content Warnings: transphobia, homophobia and domestic violence

Rating: ★★★ +.5 | 288 pages | Contemporary | Flatiron Books | Release Date: 5/21/2019

Eric and Morgan are best friends who share everything--including a birthday. On their 13th birthday, Morgan is ready to tell Eric they identify as a girl even though they were assigned male at birth. But that moment never comes and in each chapter, we visit Morgan and Eric on their shared birthday and watch how their lives grow and change through adolescence.

The cover calls this a love story---and it is--but this isn’t exactly a romance, which is kind of what I thought it was going to be. This story takes place in small-town Tennesse where the only way out is football. Morgan has to struggle with toxic masculinity, poverty and alcoholism while trying to come out as trans.  There is also mention of and one scene of domestic violence as well as lots of homophobia and transphobia so it can be a tough read at times.

Birthday is a heart-wrenching but ultimately hopeful story about friendship and love  I'm sure we will be hearing about around Printz time.


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