YOU’LL BE THE DEATH OF ME by Karen Mcmanus

I am a very big Karen McManus fan. I loved The Cousins and One of Us Is Lying, they’re great thriller-mysteries, which are two of my favorite genres. You’ll Be the Death of Me was just as good as those two stories.

Mateo, Ivy, and Cal were best friends in middle school after the “Greatest Day Ever”, but grew apart in high school. They’re now seniors, and decide to try to recreate that day by skipping school to hang out in Boston. The day goes south really quickly when the teens find themselves at a murder scene. Then it’s a race against the clock to figure out who the murderer is, otherwise they could be suspects. Everyone is hiding something, and many secrets come to light by the end of the book.

This book was a quick and exciting read, good for any teen 8th grade and up, that likes thrillers and mysteries.

DEVILS UNTO DUST by Emma Berquist

Devils Unto Dust by Emma Berquist was not really on my radar, but one of my wonderful high school book club members recommended it for us to read, so it was this month’s book. I’m so glad he did, because it was great! It reminded me so much of Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. It took place shortly after the civil war, had zombies and zombie hunters, and had a tough female protagonist.

Willie’s mother was the victim of a zombie (“shake”) attack, her father has run off and gambles off money as soon as he gets it, so she is taking care of her three younger siblings. When her father steals a bunch of money from a dangerous man, Willie needs to track him down with the help of two hunters to navigate the scary world outside their town.

This book is horror and feels post-apocalyptic, and is also an adventure story. It is a great choice for anyone that doesn’t scare too easily, and isn’t in the mood for a romance. Devils Unto Dust: 9780062642783: Berquist, Emma: Books

2021 Wrap Up

I can’t believe that this year is almost over. I know I say this every year, but wow, did time fly. One thing I tried to keep going from 2020 was the amount that I read, and I came pretty close with 110 books this year. This was a great year for YA, and I’d like to list some of my favorites of the year (not all of them were published in 2021).

10. Nubia: Real One by L.L. McKinney

9. The Cousins by Karen McManus

8. Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

7. Fable by Adrienne Young

6. Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

5. Okay for Now Gary D. Schmidt

4. What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson

3. In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

2. Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

  1. The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson (Truly Devious #4)

All of these great books are available to be checked out here, and many are available as eBooks and/or eAudiobooks on Libby or Hoopla.

Happy New Year, and thanks for reading!

The box in the woods

ACE OF SPADES by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

I love a good mystery thriller, my favorite of recent years being Truly Devious. The other day, Mrs. Nafz, the head Children’s Librarian recommended Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé. I had been hearing other good things about it for awhile,  so I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did, because it was AMAZING! It had twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, which I feel like is hard to accomplish for a lot of writers. And this is from a debut author, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is only 23 years old, which is super impressive. This book is marketed as “Gossip Girl meets Get Out” which I can definitely stand behind. 

Chiamaka and Devon have just started their senior year at the very prestigious Niveus Academy, and both have been named prefects on their first day. That sounds like a great beginning to the school year, but things quickly go downhill when a mystery texter, Aces, starts spilling secrets about them and the students associated with them to the whole school. Both of them are working hard to figure out who is trying to ruin their reputations and lives, and the end result is shocking. 

This book has a lot to say about racism and classism, along with being a really exciting mystery. I would highly recommend this to anyone in high school, and adults as well. Ace of Spades: 9781250800817: Àbíké-Íyímídé, Faridah: Books

IN THE WILD LIGHT by Jeff Zentner

I just finished In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner, the author of The Serpent King. I had read a lot of great reviews of this book, so even though the topic didn’t totally intrigue me, I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did, because this is definitely in the top 5 YA books that I’ve read this year. 

In the Wild Light has no big plot, no great reveals, it’s the coming of age story of a boy from rural Tennessee. Cash has lost his mother to drugs, but has a simple and content life with his grandparents – mamaw and papaw, his genius best friend – Delaney, and his aunt. When Delaney discovers a new type of penicillin, opportunities come their way, the biggest being a full ride scholarship for both of them to an elite boarding school in Connecticut. As much as Cash doesn’t want to leave his grandparents, especially because his grandfather is very sick with emphysema, he decides to go. New friends, poetry, and being able to experience more of the world, helps Cash realize more of his potential.  

A beautiful, well-written book, with complex characters for high school readers. 

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FABLE by Adrienne Young

I didn’t expect to like an adventure story, although I don’t hate the idea of pirates. However, I really really enjoyed Fable by Adrienne Young. A totally unique and exciting story told in an alternate world where pirates dredge the ocean floor for treasures and trade them for coins. 

In the very beginning of the book we meet Fable, she has been abandoned by her father four years prior when her mother died, on an island full of thieves and the lowest of the low. He challenged her to make it off the island, and if she did, she would get what was hers. When her time begins to run out, she meets the crew of the Marigold, a group of young pirates that help her find what she seeks. 

This book was unlike anything I’ve read, and it moved very quickly. I would recommend this book for anyone 7th grade and up, especially those who love action and adventure. 

Title details for Fable by Adrienne Young - Available

A SITTING IN ST. JAMES by Rita Williams-Garcia

I had never read anything by Rita Williams-Garcia before A Sitting in St. James. This book has multiple starred reviews, and is being described as “epic” and “monumental” by people, so I had to give it a try. Especially because I love a good historical fiction story. I thought that it had a slow start, and so many of the main characters are just horrible, unlikeable people (they’re white slave-owners) that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish. However, I’m glad I stuck with it, because it was one of the best YA books I’ve read this year. I expect it to win a few at least a few awards.

A Sitting in St. James is told from multiple perspectives in the year 1860 – a mother, her son and grandson, owners of Le Petit Cottage (a plantation in Lousiana), and several of the enslaved Black people that work for them.

Madame Sylvie convinces her son to let her sit for a very expensive portrait by a well renowned French artist, and he agrees, as long as she tells him where the family’s long buried gold is. In the meantime, Byron, his engaged son, is carrying on a secret love affair with his best friend from the military academy he attends. The pain and horrors that the Black people face at the hands of the family told throughout the book, including Lucien’s own daughter, don’t even phase them at all. However, as upsetting as many parts of this book are, there are hopeful things that happen.

Just a couple of things to note, this book is for extremely mature teens, ages 16+ and adults, as there are several cases of disturbing imagery.

Title details for A Sitting in St. James by Rita Williams-Garcia - Available

OKAY FOR NOW by gary d. schmidt

I chose Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt for my middle school book club, mostly because it was available on Hoopla and it had been a National Book Award finalist. I usually love a good historical fiction book, but for some reason I wasn’t super excited for this. Maybe it was the mention of baseball in the summary I read? I was pleasantly surprised because I loved it.  

Doug Swieteck is going into 8th grade when he has to suddenly move to the Catskills because his (very angry and not very nice) dad is fired from his job. This is a coming of age story that takes place during the Vietnam War, one where the main character has a lot to overcome – being poor, not knowing how to read, an abusive dad, people forming opinions of him without knowing him. A beautiful, sad, but also hopeful book. Recommended for all middle and high schoolers (and adults) that like historical fiction.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

“CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY” BY Steven Salvatore

Last night I finished Can’t Take That Away by Steven Salvatore. It is a book with main character that is genderqueer, by a genderqueer author. It had several starred reviews, which made me want to pick it up.

Carey is an amazing singer that is obsessed with their idol, Mariah Carey. With a supportive mom, English teacher, and friends, they gather up the courage to audition for the high school musical, Wicked. Carey is cast as the lead, Elphaba, and gains love, friendship, and the ability to do what they love the most, sing. Things start to fall apart due to a sick grandmother, homophobic and bigoted teachers, parents, and students, but Carey stands up for themselves, along with their community. A well written and important book for high school teens. And it also made me want to relisten to the Wicked soundtrack!

Can't Take That Away by Steven Salvatore

NUBIA: REAL ONE by L.L. McKinney

It’s been a minute since I’ve read a graphic novel, and one of the best reviewed ones of the year has been, Nubia: Real One by L.L McKinney. I’m not always a big fan of superhero books, but this one was great. Nubia has a secret – she has superhuman strength. Her moms get nervous every time someone inevitably finds out, and they move somewhere new where no one knows them. She has managed to keep her secret under wraps for awhile, but when a convenience store she’s in gets robbed, she has no choice but to step in. Her crush, Oscar, happens to see, but helps her not be found out. Nubia also has to deal with racism, violence against females, and identity. There is a big reveal near the end that helps Nubia come into her own. Great illustrations and text, make this a great read, for 8th grade and up. 

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