I’ve got four reviews for you today: two YA paranormals, a YA contemporary, and a MG humorous sci-fi. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: Origin #1
Published by Macmillan Audio on October 30, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Length: 12 hours and 11 minutes
Source: NetGalley, Library, Won It!
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing; Some violence)
When seventeen-year-old Evie Dasher is caught up in a raid at a notorious club known as one of the few places where humans and the surviving Luxen can mingle freely, she meets Luc, an unnaturally beautiful guy she initially assumes is a Luxen...but he is in fact something much more powerful. Her growing attraction for Luc will lead her deeper and deeper into a world she'd only heard about, a world where everything she thought she knew will be turned on its head...
This was my favorite JLA book that I’ve read in a while. I really love JLA, but I was starting to worry that I might have been getting the teensiest bit bored with her formula—a girl starts to fall for a somewhat gruff, pompous alien (or Origin, or demon, or gargoyle or… ) and chaos ensues. The latest books have the added benefit of a secret that the girl doesn’t know about herself but the guy does.
Well, I don’t know if something (besides the formula) was different in this book or if this was just the exact sort of distraction I needed right now, but this book definitely worked for me. I started listening on an extra-long trip to the grocery store (due to the lines out the door from COVID) and didn’t want to stop listening when I got home. So I didn’t!
I did guess the mystery surrounding Evie pretty early on, but I still found the process of her discovering the truth interesting. And her reaction when she found out brought up a lot of questions about what makes us who we are. I also appreciated the parallels JLA drew between today’s circumstances with immigrants (and certain minority groups) and the plight of the Luxen. Those parallels were especially notable when Evie’s friend starts protesting the Luxen’s right to attend her school based on the acts of one deranged individual. I also found that Luc walked the fine line of being aloof and mysterious (and a teensy bit unlikable, at least as far as Evie is concerned) without jumping into jerk territory. To me, this is the only kind of hate to love relationship that works well.
So I really enjoyed this one, and I’ll definitely be picking up the next book soon!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes (but ended up listening to the audiobook from my library). No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros
Published by Quill Tree Books on March 31, 2020
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Cover Artist: Jay Bendt
My content rating: Middle Grade
An OwnVoices debut middle grade novel about family, friendship, and tearing down the walls being built between all of us.
Efrén Nava’s Amá is his Superwoman—or Soperwoman, named after the delicious Mexican sopes his mother often prepares. Both Amá and Apá work hard all day to provide for the family, making sure Efrén and his younger siblings Max and Mía feel safe and loved.
But Efrén worries about his parents; although he’s American-born, his parents are undocumented. His worst nightmare comes true one day when Amá doesn’t return from work and is deported across the border to Tijuana, Mexico.
Now, more than ever, Efrén must channel his inner Soperboy to help take care of and hopefully reunite his family.
This is one of those timely books that you want to put into the hands of all middle graders—and a whole bunch of adults too. When Efrén’s mother is deported, it turns his life upside down in a myriad of ways. Suddenly, his father has to work even more to try and earn the money to bring her back home, and Efrén now has the responsibility of taking care of his siblings. There’s the stress of missing his mother, of missed assignments and missing out on friendships—he’s suddenly so busy, and he’s afraid to tell people what happened because then they will know that his mother is illegal. The constant fear looming over Efrén is huge. There’s the fear that his mother won’t be able to return (or that something horrible will happen to her on the dangerous trip home), the fear that his father could be taken too, and the fear that his life will continue to crumble.
It’s easy to think of immigration as an “issue” and ignore the humanity of it all. This book shines a spotlight on that human side of the equation. It shows us why people might flee Mexico and what it really does to a family when it’s being torn apart. And the story is told in a way that will capture kids’ attention (especially toward the end when Efrén has to do something very brave to try to help his mother). I highly recommend this book!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Edelweiss for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Awesome Dog 5000 vs. Mayor Bossypants by Justin Dean
Illustrator: Justin Dean
Series: Awesome Dog 5000 #2
Also in this series: , Awesome Dog 5000
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on March 3, 2020
Genres: Middle Grade, Science Fiction
Source: The Publisher
Heads up, DOG MAN lovers! Watch out, readers of BAD GUYS! Robotic dog AWESOME DOG 5000 is back in another action-packed adventure with some upgrades. . .just in time to battle a new supervillain!
Time to level up the awesomeness! Ever since discovering Awesome Dog 5000, life for gamers Marty, Ralph, and Skyler has been one epic adventure! But Awesome Dog's spectacular hero work has made front page news -- and Mayor Bossypants is not happy about it. The mayor makes a plan to take down that robot dog. . . and anyone else who stands in his way. Which means Marty, Ralph, and Skyler are about to have a real-life Bossypants battle!
Attention, readers! This is a wild action-comedy told through a mix of text and black-and-white illustrations, with a mystery to solve at the end. Can you handle the awesomeness?
Want to replay the first adventure? Check out the first book: Awesome Dog 5000!
This series is pure, silly fun! The second book finds Marty, Ralph, and Skyler trying to make some extra money so they can buy their favorite video game. Their best option is a local science fair—but they have to invent something super cool to win! Only problem is, Awesome Dog 5000 has started to get a bit of attention, and Mayor Bossypants isn’t having it—he wants to be the center of attention at all times!
This book is cute, but not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as the first one, in my opinion. Still, kids will love the concept of the spoiled, selfish mayor. And the showdown with the mayor is full of danger and excitement. I also loved the secret message at the end that the kids have to decode. And the illustrations are adorable!!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Pretty in Punxsutawney by Laurie Boyle Crompton
Published by Blink on October 29, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Narrator: Madison Lawrence
Length: 6 hours and 51 minutes
Source: The Publisher, Library
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
A Groundhog Day meets Pretty in Pink mashup that tells the tale of a shy, introverted high school girl who must relive the first day of school over and over again until her first kiss can break the curse...she hopes.
Andie is the type of girl who always comes up with the perfect thing to say...after it’s too late to say it. She’s addicted to romance movies - okay, all movies - but has yet to experience her first kiss. After a move to Punxsutawney, PA, for her senior year, she gets caught in an endless loop of her first day at her new school, reliving those 24 hours again and again.
Convinced the curse will be broken when she meets her true love, Andie embarks on a mission: infiltrating the various cliques - from the jocks to the nerds to the misfits - to find the one boy who can break the spell. What she discovers along the way is that people who seem completely different can often share the very same hopes, dreams, and hang-ups. And that even a day that has been lived over and over can be filled with unexpected connections and plenty of happy endings.
Fans of eighties movies will love this mash-up of Pretty in Pink and Groundhog Day! Actually, my family just watched the latter the other day, and now I’m handing this book off to my daughter while the movie’s still fresh—I’m guessing she’ll love all the parallels! Just like poor Phil, Andie finds herself reliving one disastrous day over and over and over again. For Andie, it’s the first day of school, which does not go well the first time.
I thought this was a really interesting take on the concept of reliving a single day. The things Andie chooses to do with her “extra” days are at first sort of shallow (she wants to get the attention of a boy and figures becoming a cheerleader will help her do that), but they get more and more selfless as the books goes on. It made me think a lot about how hard someone might be willing to work toward a specific goal. Andie perfects MANY skills (cheerleading, playing the bass, applying makeup—lots of other things), but she’d still have to work extremely hard at them, just the same as if she’d lived a regular life. The only difference is that no one else sees the work she puts into them. It made me wonder if I’d be so industrious or if I’d be just as lazy with a repeating day as I am in regular life!
Like Pretty in Pink, this book highlights the disparities of social groups in high school and shows how they artificially divide people. Andie thinks it might be her duty to help everyone come together—but that’s tough to do when the world keeps resetting and any progress she’s made is lost. She befriends people from nearly every group, though, which I loved. And I was definitely a fan of the direction that the romance took! Overall, this was a really cute read, and I recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a light, breezy read (something we can all use right now).
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review purposes (but then ended up listening to the audiobook from the library). No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***