I’ve got four reviews for you today: a YA steampunk, two YA verse novels (one of them is borderline YA/MG), and a manga. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Firestarter by Tara Sim
Series: Timekeeper #3
Also in this series: , Timekeeper, Chainbreaker
Published by Sky Pony Press on January 15, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Steampunk
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex, Violence)
The crew of the Prometheus is intent on taking down the world's clock towers so that time can run freely. Now captives, Colton, Daphne, and the others have a stark choice: join the Prometheus's cause or fight back in any small way they can and face the consequences. But Zavier, leader of the terrorists, has a bigger plan--to bring back the lost god of time.
As new threats emerge, loyalties must shift. No matter where the Prometheus goes--Prague, Austria, India--nowhere is safe, and every second ticks closer toward the eleventh hour. Walking the line between villainy and heroism, each will have to choose what's most important: saving those you love at the expense of the many, or making impossible sacrifices for the sake of a better world.
What a fabulously wild ride! Though Timekeeper is still my favorite book in this series, the very end of Firestarter made the whole series journey more than worth it. Sim puts her characters through a lot in this book–it’s full of action, a whole lot of twists and turns, and brutal loss. Still, I’ll confess that it took me a long time to read the book, and there were times that it dragged a bit for me. Maybe that’s just because I wasn’t ever as invested in the newer characters as I was in Danny and Colton. But luckily, this book brought my favorite couple back together and the moments between them sustained me. The tension in their relationship as they struggled between their own desires and the fate of the world was oh so heartbreaking. And they often had to ask themselves what they would sacrifice in order to hold onto their love.
And, again, that ending was … perfection.
The Lonely Ones by Kelsey Sutton
Published by Philomel Books on April 26, 2016
Genres: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Verse, Contemporary Fantasy
Source: Library, Purchased
My content rating: MG/YA (Only hints of romance, Some minor bullying)
When your only friend is your own endless imagination, how do you escape your mind and connect to the world around you?
With parents too busy to pay her attention, an older brother and sister who would rather spend their time with friends, and peers who oscillate between picking on her and simply ignoring her, it's no wonder that Fain spends most of her time in a world of her own making. During the day, Fain takes solace in crafting her own fantastical adventures in writing, but in the darkness of night, these adventures come to life as Fain lives and breathes alongside a legion of imaginary creatures. Whether floating through space or under the sea, climbing mountains or traipsing through forests, Fain becomes queen beyond - and in spite of - the walls of her bedroom.
In time, Fain begins to see possibilities and friendships emerge in her day-to-day reality. . . yet when she is let down by the one relationship she thought she could trust, Fain must decide: remain queen of the imaginary creatures, or risk the pain that comes with opening herself up to the fragile connections that exist only in the real world?
Told in breathless and visual verse, THE LONELY ONES takes readers through the intricate inner workings of a girl who struggles to navigate isolation and finds friendship where she least expects it.
This book is the epitome of verse novel perfection as far as I’m concerned. First of all, I absolutely adore the blend of fantasy and contemporary and how seamlessly Sutton integrates the two. The book also displays a wonderful balance between poetic language and a storyline you can easily follow (though the plot mostly involves an emotional journey, as is true with most verse novels). And Sutton does a fabulous job of making us truly care about Fain. We experience her intense loneliness right along with her and rejoice when she starts to make connections in the real world (instead of just in her fantasy world).
This is one of those few gems that bridges the gap between MG and YA. I think it was technically marketed as MG, but Fain is a high school freshman, and I think the book would be equally enjoyed by YA readers who want substance without the darker, edgier content that’s a staple in a lot of YA these days. (And that’s not a complaint about that sort of content—it’s just nice to have other options as well.)
Fain is in that precarious in-between time where she feels too young to relate to her older brother and sister but too old to whine about it. She feels her family slipping away from her in many ways (often fearing that her parents are headed for divorce), and she doesn’t have a solid foundation of friendship to fill that gap. So she escapes to a fantasy world at night, where beastly creatures are her companions. The poetry in the fantasy sections of the book is particularly beautiful, and the fantasy storyline reminded me a lot of an aged-up version of Where the Wild Things Are. The story follows Fain as she learns to let go of her fantasy and make connections in the real world.
I don’t know what else to say except that you should read this beautiful book. I got my copy from the library but immediately purchased the book after I was finished so I can read it again and again.
We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan, Brian Conaghan
Published by Bloomsbury Childrens on February 9, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Verse
My content rating: YA (Bullying and violence, Abuse, Language)
From two acclaimed authors comes an emotional story told in verse about friendship, love, and overcoming unbeatable odds.
Authors Brian Conaghan and Sarah Crossan have joined forces to tell the story of Nicu and Jess, two troubled teens whose paths cross in the unlikeliest of places.
Nicu has emigrated from Romania and is struggling to find his place in his new home. Meanwhile, Jess's home life is overshadowed by violence. When Nicu and Jess meet, what starts out as friendship grows into romance as the two bond over their painful pasts and hopeful futures. But will they be able to save each other, let alone themselves?
For fans of Una LaMarche’s Like No Other, this illuminating story told in dual points of view through vibrant verse will stay with readers long after they've turned the last page.
Another verse novel, We Come Apart focuses on the lives of two misunderstood teenagers: one who is trying to escape an abusive home and one who is trying to adjust to life as an immigrant in London (and hoping to avoid having to go back home to get married at 15). This book is often pretty brutal—Nicu faces cruelty and bullying due to his race and lack of English fluency—his chapters are written in broken English, which I found rather charming. (Though I did sort of wonder why he wouldn’t have been writing/thinking in his native language. Maybe he was trying to get extra English practice in?) And Jess is often forced to witness her mother being abused. The friendship that Nicu and Jess forge is based on a shared sense of brokenness. Nicu is, by far, the more optimistic, positive character and he’s therefore a bit more likable, but it’s easy to understand why Jess is so hardened and you have to sympathize with her even when you don’t like her that much. The story is powerful and the ending left me reeling!
The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story by Marie Kondō, Yuko Uramoto, Cathy Hirano
Published by Ten Speed Press on June 27, 2017
Genres: Self-Help, Manga
My content rating: Appropriate for all ages
From the #1 New York Times best-selling author and lifestyle/cleaning guru Marie Kondo, this graphic novelization brings Kondo's life-changing tidying method to life with the fun, quirky story of a woman who transforms her home, work, and love life using Kondo's advice and inspiration.
Marie Kondo presents the fictional story of Chiaki, a young woman in Tokyo who struggles with a cluttered apartment, messy love life, and lack of direction. After receiving a complaint from her attractive next-door neighbor about the sad state of her balcony, Chiaki gets Kondo to take her on as a client. Through a series of entertaining and insightful lessons, Kondo helps Chiaki get her home--and life--in order. This insightful, illustrated case study is perfect for people looking for a fun introduction to the KonMari Method of tidying up, as well as tried-and-true fans of Marie Kondo eager for a new way to think about what sparks joy. Featuring illustrations by award-winning manga artist Yuko Uramoto, this book also makes a great read for manga and graphic novel lovers of all ages.
I’ve been Marie Kondoing my house lately, after watching the Netflix series (actually, I started purging and organizing before I knew the series existed, but it was perfect timing for me!). So when I saw that there was a manga related to Kondo’s book, I decided I needed to pick it up, just for curiosity’s sake. If you want an adorable introduction to the Marie Kondo method of organizing, you should definitely check this out. The storyline is simple—Chiaki’s life and home are a mess, and she hires Kondo to help her get them in order. There’s a bit of a romance thrown in as well. The manga highlights Kondo’s idea that tidying up is not just a physical process but a mental one.
The book includes illustrations with Kondo’s folding methods, which are helpful. It also includes details about her organizing style and philosophy that weren’t necessarily directly mentioned in the Netflix Series. And, yes, there’s a part that includes her beliefs when it comes to books—which most of us bookworms will vehemently disagree with (she basically says that if you don’t read a book right after you buy it, you probably won’t ever read it and shouldn’t hold onto it)—but I found her ideas easy enough to adapt. The overall philosophy holds, even if you don’t follow all the details of her advice.
I was glad I picked this fun little manga up! Is it actually life-changing? On its own, probably not. But there’s a reason so many people are following Kondo’s advice—she just might be onto something.