Young Adult Fiction
Spice Road is a well-constructed evenly-paced YA fantasy that feels ideal for teens just getting into YA fantasy. The story follows Imani, a fierce monster-slaying soldier, in the magical Arabian-inspired city Qalia.
The book jumps into the plot immediately as Imani is informed that her missing brother may be alive in Alqibah, a faraway city on the other side of a vast and dangerous desert. Imani sets across the desert with her rival and an untrustworthy charming Djinn.
I found myself getting more invested in the world as our characters enter Alqibahl and witnesses the political upheaval between the Alqibah people and the ruthless pale-faced colonizers
Spice Road features some YA fantasy classics; brooding boys, a love triangle plus a dash of enemies to lovers that is all the rage right now
The lore behind the world is kept simple and we learn just enough to understand the story’s stakes. This book moves at a fast pace– making this a fun quick read for newbies to YA fantasy
This Time It’s Real is a fun contemporary YA following Eliza Lin who writes an essay about her fake boyfriend—only for it to go viral. So she finds the perfect boy, C-Drama star Caz Song, to play the part.
I. Only. Want. To. Read. The. Fake. Dating. Trope. In. YA. I think it works best from this perspective because high school exists in its own little world where things like who you are dating can feel big and life-changing.
I love books that take place outside of the United States and it was fun exploring and learning more about Bejjing through Kaz and Eliza. I also liked that this book featured positive and supportive parents
Last year I read No Filters and Other Lies by Crystal Maldonado which also featured a teen girl lying to the internet. It’s interesting seeing how each author depicts teenagers and their relationship to our social media-saturated world. This book is much lighter with the repercussions, which is odd because the stakes are so much higher in this book; Eliza gets writing and job opportunities based on this no-so-truthful essay and Caz is lying to his very diehard fans.
Overall, this is an easy recommendation if you want a YA romance that is also about finding your place and building better relationships.
Debut author Brian Kennedy swings for the fences in this charming debut about a pair of teens who get more than they bargain for when they accept jobs at Wanda World–a campy amusement park themed after charismatic country musician Wanda Jean.
Think Dolly Parton/Dollywood.…
No One Will Miss Her by Kat Rosenfeld
A vicious murder-suicide at an idyllic lake house leaves a small town reeling. and a society housewife on the run.
I found this to be an enjoyable quick read. It’s a study in class and the choices afforded to those with money and privilege. Rosenfeld does deep dives into her characters, which can sometimes leave the plot wanting.
I hate to be that person but I clocked the twist in this book by the 4th chapter. I read this on audio and print– the print makes the twist very obvious. I think the author is somewhat aware of this and the ‘reveal’ actually comes in the middle of the book instead of the end.
Now that we are firmly in the 2020’s I’m finding more books are having to consider social media when delving into the character’s past. If a character is between 18-30 years old you can’t talk about their high school experiences without considering what their high school Facebook or Instagram looked like.
Heartbreak Symphony by Laekan Zea Kemp
My first impression of this book was wow…this feels like it could be a prestige television show. It was this down-to-earth and character-driven book with an ominous narrative twist. Aspiring DJ Aarón Medran embarks on a series of clandestine humanitarian missions around his small barrio at the behest of La Maquina, a celebrity DJ and hometown hero Aarón is never alone on these missions as La Maquina’s 7-foot-tall robot mascot has been following him since his mother’s death. This seemingly friendly robot has a foreboding nature and leads to some of the more poignant and moving parts of the story. I liked this strange aspect of the story. I always enjoy YA books that go for a high or unusual concept.
We also follow Nina, a high school senior whose self-doubt has kept her from pursuing her dreams and performing the trumpet she loves dearly. Her story honestly felt like it could have been a companion book. I felt like both stories could have stood on their own.
Kemp masterfully balances grief, hope, and forgiveness in this emotion-packed read.