A few weeks ago I read The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. I haven’t read one of her books in years, but a colleague said that it was one of her favorite YA books of the year so I decided to give it a try. It was pretty awesome, definitely in my top 10 YA books I’ve read this year.

The book is definitely fantasy, and very brutal. In the very beginning Jude’s parents are murdered by her mother’s husband (she faked her own death and ran away while pregnant – then had two more children by another man). He may be violent and horrible, but he has a special Fae honor, so he takes his own daughter and his wife’s two additional daughters to raise them all in Faerie. The book then picks up a few years later when Jude and her twin sister are older teens. They both have been totally drawn in to the allure and eccentricity of Faerie (which is beautifully described), even though it’s super dangerous and they don’t fit in. The book follows Jude as she tries to find her place, getting herself embroiled into a crazy royal family fight for the throne.

A lot of the teens I speak to love fantasy, and as long as they don’t mind how violent it is (most won’t), they will really enjoy this book. It’s filled with lots of interesting creatures, and who doesn’t love that? Definitely a great book for any high school student or adult that loves fantasy and twisty-turny plots.

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DAMSEL by Elana K. Arnold

I just finished Damsel by Elana K. Arnold, a Printz honor book of 2019, and wow, I totally get why it is so highly regarded. This book is not your typical fairy tale, even though it initially sounds like it. A prince must kill a dragon and rescue a damsel in order to become king. This is the way it’s been done for generations, as far back as anyone can remember. Prince Emory is no different, and he very quickly and successfully kills a dragon, rescues a damsel, and returns to his kingdom. 

The book initially starts from the prince’s point of view, but it gets really good and exciting when it switches to the damsel’s. She is totally confused and has no memory of her life before, but trusts the prince and takes him at his word – she was in danger and he has rescued her. At first he seems great and kind, but things change pretty quickly, and she realizes that he is not as wonderful as he thinks he is. The rest of the novel follows Ama as she tries to recover her memory, keep Emory from harming her pet lynx, and to carve out some control/joy/peace for herself in this new life she finds herself in.
I think this book would be great for mature high school students and adults, for lovers of fairy tales, and for people who have want or need of books with a theme of female empowerment.
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PUMPKINHEADS by Rainbow Rowell, illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks

Over a nice 45 minute span I read Rainbow Rowell‘s newest graphic novel, Pumpkinheads. The book was illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks. Rowell wrote the wonderful and super popular Eleanor & Park, so I am always interested in everything she wrote before and after.

The story follows two teenagers that are best friends, Josiah and Deja, on their last night working at a sort of amazing autumn theme park, where there are fun things like a “Succotash Hut”, tons of punny and delicious fall snacks, hayrides, and more. Josiah has had a major crush on a girl that he has been too nervous to talk to all the years they’ve worked there. Deja encourages him to seize the day and tell her how he feels. They run through the park all evening looking for her, just missing her, but it gives them (and us) the opportunity to see all the different parts of the park.
A super fun book with great illustrations, perfect for anyone that loves fall.  This book would be a wonderful choice for any teen, no matter the age.
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MONDAY’S NOT COMING by Tiffany D. Jackson

A couple of years ago during a two week hospital stay, I read Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson. It was an awesome book – an unreliable narrator, suspense, twists – what’s not to love? Last year she came out with Monday’s Not Coming. It got amazing reviews, but I think I just wasn’t ready for the premise – an 8th grade girl goes missing, and nobody seems to care or be concerned except for her best friend, Claudia.

I decided to give it a go the other day, as the book keeps coming up in different ways for me. As hard as this book is to read because of the hard topics it touches-racism, poverty, mental illness, child abuse, it is so so well written, and so unputdownable. Even though I knew what was coming, Tiffany D. Jackson still manages to make the book have twists and so much suspense. In addition to just being an exciting read, it’s an important book for teens and adults alike. One of the author’s main purposes of writing the book is to draw attention to the fact that black girls are the most likely to go missing and not be followed up on, and she does just that.  An amazing, thought provoking book, that I will definitely be talking and thinking about for a long time to come.

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WE WALKED THE SKY by Lisa Fiedler

I love a good historical fiction book. I think it’s especially interesting when there are multiple characters that go backwards and forwards in time, much like Midnight at the Electric. Great news, We Walked the Sky by Lisa Fiedler takes place both in the past and in present day. Victoria runs away from an abusive father to join the VanDrexel Family Circus in 1965, and the book follows her from the day she leaves up until the birth of her daughter, Quinn. In present day her granddaughter, Callie, has just left the circus to live with her mother at a billionaire’s animal sanctuary in Florida, which she is very much not happy about.

The book makes me very nostalgic for the circus, the author really does a beautiful job describing the people – the roustabouts, clowns, tightrope walkers, lion tamers, etc., the smells, the shows. However, she also not only mentions the abuse that some animals have suffered in circuses, but makes it a very important part of the story.

I loved this book, and even knowing where it was headed, I still shed a few tears when it got there (2 books have made me cry in less than a few weeks). This book would be great for mature middle schoolers, high schoolers, and even historical fiction loving adults.

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ONE by Sarah Crossan

This has been a very busy summer so far here at the library – our summer reading programs have been a great success! I’ve been trying to read as much as possible, but it’s been a little difficult because I have two book clubs per week. So what have I done? Chosen some of my favorites to reread of course! Last week’s high school book club book was One by Sarah Crossan. I love a good novel in verse, and this is a great one.

Two conjoined sisters, Tippi and Grace, have been home schooled their whole lives, but now due to financial problems, they start at a public school. Most of the kids look at them with a kind of fear, but they make two very good friends right away. Having new friendships and even a romance, opens up a whole new world for the 16 year-olds (both positively and negatively). Tippi and Grace never want to be separated, but a medical issue forces them to make a choice – die together or be separated and have a chance at living?

This book was just as good the second time around as the first – I even cried a little at the end, which is very rare for me. An awesome quick read, great for high schoolers.

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FALLING OVER SIDEWAYS by Jordan Sonnenblick

The library’s Summer Reading Program is in full swing! I’m going to have no less than 12 book club meetings this summer (between my middle school, high school, and YA for adult groups). That means a very busy summer of reading! My first book choices for my upcoming groups are Dry by Neal Shusterman (high school) and Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick (middle school). I just finished Falling Over Sideways, and I did a combination of both reading the print and listening to the audio (the narrator was very animated and great to listen to). I have not read Jordan Sonnenblick in a bunch of years, but he did not disappoint.

Claire is an 8th grader with typical problems – she is trying to live up to her “perfect” older brother, she doesn’t make it into the advanced dance classes with her friends, but then one morning while having breakfast with her dad, he has a stroke. This changes her life, and the lives of all of her family members. Her father was a novelist, strong and funny, and after his stroke he has to regain his speech, mobility, and ability to eat by himself.

I think very often we hear about people’s hardships, but it’s hard to empathize since we don’t know what they go through on a daily basis. This book is important because even though outwardly Claire is living her regular life – going to school, dance class, seeing her friends, we get to see what life is like at home. This book is realistic fiction at its best – a window into what a family’s life is like after a medical trauma, but from Claire’s perspective. A great book for middle schoolers, I’m excited to hear what my book club thinks.

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