Bite-Sized Reviews of Throwback; Goth Girl, Queen of the Universe; Ellie Engle Saves Herself; and Perfect Villains

Posted June 14, 2023 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Reviews / 2 Comments

Today, I’m reviewing two YA reads and two MGs. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!

Bite-Sized Reviews of Throwback; Goth Girl, Queen of the Universe; Ellie Engle Saves Herself; and Perfect VillainsThrowback by Maurene Goo
Published by Zando Young Readers on April 11, 2023
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Source: B&N ARC
Cover Artist: Kemi Mai Willan
My rating:
4.5 Stars

Back to the Future meets The Joy Luck Club in this YA contemporary romance about a Korean American girl sent back to the ’90s to (reluctantly) help her teenage mom win Homecoming Queen.

Being a first-generation Asian American immigrant is hard. You know what’s harder? Being the daughter of one. Samantha Kang has never gotten along with her mother, Priscilla—and has never understood her bougie-nightmare, John Hughes high school expectations. After a huge fight between them, Sam is desperate to move forward—but instead, finds herself thrown back. Way back.

To her shock, Sam finds herself back in high school . . . in the ’90s . . . with a 17-year-old Priscilla. Now this Gen Z girl must try to fit into an analog world. She’s got the fashion down, but everything else is baffling. What is “microfiche”? What’s with the casual racism and misogyny? And why does it feel like Priscilla is someone she could actually be . . . friends with?

Sam's blast to the past has her finding the right romance in the wrong time while questioning everything she thought she knew about her mom . . . and herself. Will Sam figure out what she needs to do to fix things for her mom so that she can go back to a time she understands? Brimming with heart and humor, Maurene Goo’s time-travel romance asks big questions about what exactly one inherits and loses in the immigrant experience.


Perfect for fans of Back to the Future, this book sends the MC on a quest back in time, where she has to fix the relationship between her mom and her grandma… and maybe meet the boy of her dreams? Sam has a fantastic bond with her halmoni (her grandma), and she’s never understood the rift that exists between her halmoni and her uptight mom. But when she gets sent back in time to her mom’s high school era, she starts to see how all those tensions might have started, and she decides it’s her mission to fix them by preventing the big fight that started it all. Her goal: to make sure her mom wins Homecoming Queen. Along the way, she comes to understand her mom in a whole new light, and she starts falling for a boy–which is unfortunate since he’ll be her mother’s age when she gets back to her real life! The story is fun and relatable, and the romance is swoonworthy, even while you’re left wondering how on earth it will all work out. The story also explores racism and classism through an interesting lens as Sam sees the 80s world through modern eyes. This was a great read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a sweet contemporary romance (even though this one spends a good deal of time in “historical” territory).

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via the bookstore I work at. No compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Bite-Sized Reviews of Throwback; Goth Girl, Queen of the Universe; Ellie Engle Saves Herself; and Perfect VillainsGoth Girl, Queen of the Universe by Lindsay S. Zrull
Published by Flux on July 19, 2022
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Source: NetGalley
Cover Artist: Jordan Kincaid
My rating:
4.5 Stars

Bounced between foster homes since the age of seven, Jessica knows better than to set down roots. Most of the kids at her new Michigan high school think she’s a witch anyway (because, you know, goth). The only one who gives her the time of day is geeky Oscar, who wants to recruit her fashion skills for his amateur cosplay group. But Jess is fine showing off her looks to her Insta fans—until a woman claiming to be her biological mother barges into her DMs.

Jess was claimed by the state when her bio mom’s mental illness made her unstable. While their relationship is far from traditional, blood ties are hard to break. There’s only one problem: Jess can’t reunite with her mom in New York City without a bunch of paperwork and she worries her social worker will never approve the trip. That’s when she remembers Oscar’s cosplay group, which is aiming for that big convention in New York . . .

So, Jess joins Oscar’s team—with every intention of using them to get to her mom. But her plan gets complicated when she discovers that, actually, cosplay is pretty great, and so is having friends. And Oscar, who Jess thought was just a shy nerd, can be as gallant and charming as the heroes he pretends to be. As the big convention draws near, Jess will have to decide whether or not chasing a dream of “family” is worth risking the family she’s built for herself.


A book that deftly blends the fun of cosplay and conventions with the more serious topics of mental health and foster care. Jessica has learned the “rules” of foster care–don’t get too close to people and try not to cause too many problems. But when she gets a mysterious message from someone claiming to be her birth mother and the possible opportunity to visit her, Jessica breaks every rule on her list. She ends up teaming up with a group of cosplaying kids, hoping to win a spot at a big-time convention in NYC, which just happens to be where her mom is at. Jessica has to navigate her complicated feelings for her mom, who has schizophrenia, her new foster mom, who actually seems like a really nice person if only Jessica didn’t have to lie to her all the time, and the very geeky but also sort of sweet Oscar. Since the author is a former foster teen herself, she captures Jessica’s feelings perfectly. It’s hard not to both root for the MC and want to shake some sense into her as she navigates a world of hurt alone when there are so many people around her who would want to help. The book definitely pulls at your heartstrings–it had me in tears by the end. So much to love about this story!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley so I could provide an honest review. No compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Bite-Sized Reviews of Throwback; Goth Girl, Queen of the Universe; Ellie Engle Saves Herself; and Perfect VillainsEllie Engle Saves Herself by Leah Johnson
Published by Disney-Hyperion on May 2, 2023
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Pages: 288
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Mirelle Ortega
My rating:
4.5 Stars

Ellie Engle doesn’t stand out. Not at home, where she’s alone with her pet fish since her dad moved away and her mom has to work around the clock. Not at the bakery, where she helps out old Mr. Walker on the weekends. And definitely not at school, where her best friend, Abby—the coolest, boldest, most talented girl in the world—drags Ellie along on her never-ending quest to “make her mark.” To someone else, a life in the shadows might seem boring, or lonely. But not to Ellie. As long as she has Abby by her side and a comic book in her hand, she’s quite content.

Too bad life didn’t bother checking in with Ellie. Because when a freak earthquake hits her small town, Ellie wakes up with the power to bring anything back to life with just her touch. And when a video of her using her powers suddenly goes viral, Ellie’s life goes somewhere she never imagined—or wanted: straight into the spotlight.

Surviving middle school is hard enough. Surviving middle school when paparazzi are camped out on your front lawn and an international pop star wants you to use your powers on live TV and you might be in love with your best friend but she doesn’t know it?
Absolutely impossible.


A different kind of superhero story–where the hero is really just trying to figure herself out. Ellie figures out that she has the ability to bring things back to life, but there are no epic battles or adventurous quests in this book. No evil overlord wants to take over the world, and Ellie doesn’t even have to rescue anyone close to her. Instead, this is a superhero story that reads like a contemporary (because that’s really what it is). Ellie’s quest to understand her powers is really a quest to understand herself–her friendships, her sexuality, her desire to stay out of the limelight, the loss of her grandfather, and more. Kids who love heartfelt contemporaries will adore this story with a supernatural twist.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher so I could provide an honest review. No compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Bite-Sized Reviews of Throwback; Goth Girl, Queen of the Universe; Ellie Engle Saves Herself; and Perfect VillainsPerfect Villains by Jennifer Torres
Series: Bad Princesses #1
Published by Scholastic Press Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 176
Source: B&N ARC
My rating:
4.5 Stars

Princesses don’t break the rules, but they may rewrite them… Every girl dreams of going to the Fine and Ancient Institute for the Royal to learn how to be a princess. But Dalia and Dominga could not be any less enchanted. They are different…the same kind of different. Neither of them wants to be the fairest of them all. They want to join a secret society of villains at the Bewitched Academy of the Dreadful. So, they've devised the perfect plot to ruin the first day of class. It will be the rottenest scheme of all. Something so perfectly awful, so fantastically horrible, so wonderfully wicked that they’ll surely get their invitations to the BAD.


A perfectly magical series for younger middle grade readers! Dalia and Dominga are stuck at princess school when they really want to be villains. So, they set out to do something dastardly, something that will give them a reputation so bad they’ll be noticed at the nearby villain school. Unfortunately, all of their plans keep working out for the good! This is a super cute start to a series, and I’ll be interested to see where Dalia and Dominga’s antics take them next. They’ve avoided making friends, but they’re already starting to see that everyone at their school may not be as terrible as they once thought. I’m eager to see how it all ties in with the villain school down the road. Will the girls end up there? Will they discover that they don’t want to be villains after all? Will the villains not turn out to be villainous? There are lots of directions this could go!

This book is great for kids who have just graduated from chapter books like Unicorn Diaries or Heidi Heckelbeck but aren’t quite ready to jump up to monstrous 300-page middle grand fantasies.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via the bookstore I work at. No compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think?
I wanna know!


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