Review: I’ll Be the One

I’ll be the One by Lyla Lee

Genres: Young Adult, Fiction
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.


This book was so fun! I wish it had been available back in June when I was really craving light, feel-good books because it would have really hit the spot. It’s exactly what you would expect based on the cover and blurb.

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Review: Date Me, Bryson Keller

Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye

Genre: Young Adult
Maturity Level: 4
(Content Warnings: homophobia, public outing)
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Everyone knows about the dare: Each week, Bryson Keller must date someone new–the first person to ask him out on Monday morning. Few think Bryson can do it. He may be the king of Fairvale Academy, but he’s never really dated before.

Until a boy asks him out, and everything changes.

Kai Sheridan didn’t expect Bryson to say yes. So when Bryson agrees to secretly go out with him, Kai is thrown for a loop. But as the days go by, he discovers there’s more to Bryson beneath the surface, and dating him begins to feel less like an act and more like the real thing. Kai knows how the story of a gay boy liking someone straight ends. With his heart on the line, he’s awkwardly trying to navigate senior year at school, at home, and in the closet, all while grappling with the fact that this “relationship” will last only five days. After all, Bryson Keller is popular, good-looking, and straight . . . right?


I really enjoyed this sweet, romantic book, but it wasn’t as fluffy/fun as other bloggers led me to believe. It gets really heavy at times, and is super emotional throughout. It’s the perfect blend of adorableness and important themes, and it fits right in with other great LGBTQ YA books coming out this year.

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Review: You Should See Me in a Crown

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Genre: Young Adult
Maturity Level: 4
(Content Warning: public outing, chronic illness)
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?


“Miss Lizzie, why are you looking at the white girl like that?”
“Like what, P?”
She rolls her eyes and tries again. “Uh duh, like Tiana looked at Naveen?”

Reading You Should See Me in a Crown was exactly like watching a 90s teen rom-com, if 90s teen rom-coms were diverse and queer.

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Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Series: Dimple and Rishi
Genre: Young Adult
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.


Sometimes I forget how much of a stinking romantic I am. Sometimes I forget that I believe in true love more than I believe in nearly anything else. Today I remember. My heart is completely melted.

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Review: We Set the Dark on Fire

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Key Mejia

Series: We Set the Dark on Fire
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopia
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating:
⋆⋆⋆⋆

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?


If you’re in to YA Dystopias you can’t miss We Set the Dark on Fire. It’s exactly what you might expect it to be and completely lived up to the hype.

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What is a Young Adult Book?

Okay, so. I notice that as book bloggers or members of bookish social media we have a *really* hard time determining when books are young adult and when they aren’t. Partly this is a direct result of using social media. If a blogger we love who mostly reads YA books is reading a book, we may assume it is YA. (That happened to me with Red White & Royal Blue. Oops!) We may check the Goodreads shelves, and lord knows THEY cannot be trusted. Partly this is because publishers don’t necessarily go out of their way to let us know if something is YA. They tend to let marketing and the imprint speak for itself. But I don’t know about y’all, I don’t know which imprints do YA. And even if I *did*, Harper Collins doesn’t put the word “Teen” anywhere on the outside of the book, even though the imprint is Harper Collins Teen.

So, yeah, it can be a tricky field to navigate. I get that.

But I also see a LOT of misconceptions when I’m reading reviews and discussion posts about YA. So let’s take a second to define things, shall we?

“Definition”

I think the most important thing I need to address going in is that there is no hard and fast definition or rule of what makes a Young Adult book. The phrase “Young Adult Literature” hasn’t even been around all that long, even if the concept has been. It’s constantly changing. Even experts in the field can’t all agree on what YA is, so that’s part of the reason the whole thing is so ambiguous.

But, essentially, Young Adult is a marketing category created by publishers in order to target books at young audiences. This means that when writing the book the author has teens in mind, when publishing the book the publisher has teens in mind, and when marketing/selling the books booksellers have teens in mind.

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Review: House of Salt and Sorrows

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Genres: YA, Fantasy, Horror
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.


This Twelve Dancing Princesses adaptation was not really for me, but if you’re into light-psychological-horror and/or dark fantasy, it is probably right for you.

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Middle Grade Review: Finding Orion

Finding Orion by John David Anderson

Genre: Middle Grade/Young Adult
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆

Rion Kwirk comes from a rather odd family. His mother named him and his sisters after her favorite constellations, and his father makes funky-flavored jelly beans for a living. One sister acts as if she’s always onstage and the other is a walking dictionary. But no one in the family is more odd than Rion’s grandfather, Papa Kwirk. He’s the kind of guy who shows up on his motorcycle only on holidays, handing out crossbows and stuffed squirrels as presents. Rion has always been fascinated by Papa Kwirk, especially since his son—Rion’s father—is the complete opposite. Where Dad is predictable, nerdy, and reassuringly boring, Papa Kwirk is mysterious, dangerous, and cool.

Which is why, when Rion and his family learn of Papa Kwirk’s death and pile into the car to attend his funeral and pay their respects, Rion can’t help but feel that that’s not the end of his story. That there’s so much more to Papa Kwirk to discover.

He doesn’t know how right he is.


There’s not really a tactful way to say this, so I’ll be blunt. I didn’t like this book and I wouldn’t give it to a kid.

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Review: Slay

Slay by Brittney Morris

Genres: Young Adult, Fiction
Maturity Level: 4-
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process? 


I realize that as a white 30-year-old woman this book was not really written for me. I also realize that my opinion maybe doesn’t (and probably shouldn’t) matter. But I’m in the habit of writing reviews for nearly every book I read, so here I go.

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Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Genre: Young Adult
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.


A Very Large Expanse of Sea was everything I was expecting it to be, and then so much more. It was like The Hate U Give meets Eleanor & Park. I felt all of the feels, but I also had to walk in the shoes of someone completely different than me. I swooned, and I also examined my own privilege. This book was everything, and everyone in America should read it.

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