Part memoir, part self-help(ish) book, part something else entirely, Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive seeks to remove the stigma society places on depression, by revealing the author’s own struggles with the disease, as well as peppering the book with facts and statistics on depression and suicide. Super personal and very raw, I see this as a sort of companion to Notes on a Nervous Planet, which is structured in a very similar manner. Warning: this one is not nearly as light-hearted, but equally helpful.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage (★★★☆☆½)
Baby Teeth stars a pint-sized sociopath with designs to kill her mother, the mother herself, and the father who is completely oblivious to his wife and daughter’s true selves. You know, totally normal family dynamic type stuff. The story is made up of alternating chapters that switch between the crazed daughter who is too smart/demonic to be believable, and her mother, who is convinced she will never be a good enough wife and mother. While a super interesting premise — mostly because the kid is not alright — the plot definitely drags at times.
Rust & Stardust is based on the 1948 kidnapping of 11-year-old Florence “Sally” Horner, a crime that would go on to inspire the Vladimir Nabokov classic Lolita. Despite being pulled straight from history, Greenwood’s novel is less a true crime story and more historical fiction, exploring the horrors that Sally was most likely forced to endure during her 21-month ordeal, and the ramifications it had on the people in her life. This heartbreaking and beautifully written novel deserves every single star (and then some).
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On the outside, Scream All Night looks like a horror novel, but twist: it’s actually a coming of age story. The YA debut follows emancipated teen Dario, who is forced back into the family business (which just so happens to be his father’s B-horror movie film studio). Full of an eccentric cast of characters and some tough subject matter, Milman’s novel explores what happens when the monsters are found behind the camera. [Read our creator Q&A with author Derek Milman.]
Nyxia by Scott Reintgen (★★★★★)
I loved this super fast-paced science fiction story more than I ever could have imagined. Full of complex characters and shocking twists and turns, Nyxia features a definitely evil corporation who are taking young people to another planet to mine a mysterious material know as Nyxia. What could go wrong? Since this is the first book in the series, it’s focused solely on the kid’s training before arriving on Eden, a second earth-like planet inhabited by humanoid creatures known as Adamites.
The Traitor’s Kiss started off super promising, but unfortunately, things got real dumb real fast, and the story completely lost me toward the end. Set during an indistinguishable time period where everyone has to be paired by a matchmaker, this book definitely should have been a standalone novel. While things start off great with the matchmaking stuff, this far superior/way more interesting section was mostly glossed over to make way for a time jump and some nonsensical plot about spies and secret princes for no reason.
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The Elizas by Sara Shepard (★★★☆☆½)
Sara Shepard’s latest adult novel is a thriller that features some of my favorite writing mechanisms, including an unreliable narrator and a story within a story. Unfortunately, like the majority of Shepard’s young adult novels, there is a heavy reliance on doubles (no more doppelgangers or twins ever again, please!), and the novel doesn’t get really interesting until about a third of the way through … before completely losing the plot again shortly thereafter.
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows (★★★★☆½)
Historical fantasy meets alternate history in this much happier and way more fantastical re-imagining of the life of Lady Jane Grey (AKA the Nine-Day Queen). Told by the trio now known as the Lady Janies, My Lady Jane follows book-loving Jane Grey, who lives in a world where some people can turn into animals. Unbeknownst to Jane, she’s going to be named next in line to the throne by her dying cousin, and she’s about to be married off to a man who is sometimes a horse. Sure it’s super wacky, but it’s also really funny and charming.
Frostblood by Elly Blake (★★★☆☆½)
I had a lot of trouble with the first 75% of Frostblood. Despite being blessedly fast-paced (the only thing that kept me going), the beginning of Blake’s book has a predictable plot that I’ve already read a million times over. Spoilers: the magical girl who can control fire is going to be the chosen one who falls in love with the attractive yet damaged man who can control ice. Thankfully, all that turned around when I got to meet the real villain of the story. Thanks for saving this entire series evil frost king!
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Everyone’s favorite smutty couple is back in this lengthy novella that bridges the gap between ACOWAR and the next — as of yet untitled — book in the ACOTAR series. While it was great to hang out with all my friends again, I think Maas spent too much time setting tiny things into motion for her next trilogy (wasn’t there enough of that in ACOWAR?) when all I wanted was 200 pages of Feysand fan fiction.
Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau (★★★☆☆½)
I had high hopes for Dividing Eden, a young adult novel whose premise promised to focus on an epic, backstabbing rivalry between two royal twins fighting over one throne. Unfortunately, the rivalry was far from believable thanks to a main character who suddenly becomes a murderous monster after one five-minute conversation at a party. It’s not really character development if it develops from nowhere.
Michelle McNamara is the queen of compulsively readable true crime. Sadly, she suddenly passed away before she could finish the first (of what should have been many) nonfiction books, leaving the novel to be finished by her two researchers. Despite this setback, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark still feels like a mostly complete look at the rapist and serial-killer McNamara dubbed the Golden State Killer. And a unique glimpse at the true crime author who was obsessed with discovering his identity.
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Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (★★★★☆)
Super adorable and simultaneously super sad, Dumplin’ tells the story of Willowdean Dickson, a self-professed “fat” southern girl dealing with the death of her Dolly Parton-loving aunt, her former beauty queen mom’s hard to live up to expectations, and a best friend who is pulling away from her. To make matters worse, she is falling for a boy at work … a boy she doesn’t think she deserves. Desperate to fulfill her deceased aunt’s dreams, Will — the definitely not beauty pageant type — enters the Miss Clover City pageant, changing her life forever.
Tarnished by Kate Jarvik Birch (★★★★☆)
Despite being incredibly dumb, Tarnished is the compulsively readable follow up to Perfected, which takes place in a world where young women are genetically engineered as pets for the wealthy. Tarnished takes an even darker turn than its predecessor, exploring the tragic fate of unwanted pets. Is it good? Absolutely not. Is it fun? Sort of. Will you keep reading regardless? Of course you will.
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (★★★★☆½)
Described as The Handmaid’s Tale for a new generation, Red Clocks follows four very different women (a wife and mother, a barren teacher, a pregnant teen, and a mysterious homeopath) who live in a not-so-distant future where abortion is illegal, in-vitro fertilization is no more and single people are no longer allowed to adopt. Perfect for our current political climate, Zumas’ novel is a frightening and very feminist look at the dangers of life legally beginning at conception.
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Lovelace’s second –and in my opinion superior — poetry collection in the Women Are Some Kind of Magic series is a love letter to feminism and all the nasty women of the world. Once again split into four parts (The Trial, The Burning, The Firestorm and the Ashes), this time around Lovelace takes aim at a broken patriarchal system through the lens of a witch hunt, inspiring and motivating readers through her quotable poetry.
This short story follow up to The Raven King focuses on Ronan (the best raven boy), Adam (the okayest raven boy) and their dream made sort of love child Opal as the trio plans to create a brand-new Cabeswater. Told from Opal’s perspective, this is the coda The Raven Cycle deserved, now with 100% more adorably domestic Ronan/Adam moments.
Every summer in the town of Sparrow three accused witches return from the dead to seek their revenge, taking over the bodies of three young girls and luring men to their deaths. Moody, suspenseful and atmospheric, The Wicked Deep is set in the seemingly magical town of Sparrow (they sell cakes that make you forget), whose dark past is now a successful tourist attraction. One room facing the haunted ocean please!
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Beautifully illustrated by Emily Carroll, this graphic novel adaptation of Speak re-imagines the classic novel for a new generation, complete with modern technology. Perfect for fans of the original, or someone who has yet to read the prose version, Anderson’s young adult story about finding your voice is even more prevalent for those growing up in the midst of the Time’s Up and Me Too movements.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (★★★☆☆½)
Sadly, Exit West was not what I anticipated. I was super excited to read about magical doors that take their users to far away places (the main reasons I picked up this novel), but was disappointed when the doors did not go to other dimensions. But mostly, I just found the overly extended sentences to be tiresome.
Glitter by Aprilynne Pike (★★★★☆)
Despite having a somewhat unlikable heroine who makes the worst decisions imaginable, Glitter is still an exciting ride that combines the decadence and fashion of Marie Antoinette’s court with fun, futuristic technology. Does this combo make any sense? Not really. Is it still an enjoyable and fast-paced read regardless? Absolutely.
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