Today, I’m reviewing three YA reads and two MGs. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Between Monsters and Marvels by Alysa Wishingrad
Published by HarperCollins on September 12, 2023
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Cover Artist: George Ermos
In the next standalone high-stakes middle-grade fantasy by Alysa Wishingrad, the author of the Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection The Verdigris Pawn, a misunderstood young girl named Dare is shipped to the mainland from her tiny island and uncovers startling secrets behind her father’s death, the island itself, and the monsters that lend its lore.
Monsters are still lurking on Barrow’s Bay.
Dare Coates is sure of it. No drifter or ruffian could have killed her father, the Captain of the Guard, while he was on patrol. But everyone insists that monsters have been gone for years now. Dare’s mother. Her classmates. Even the governor, who swiftly marries her mother just months after her father’s death.
Dare’s suspicions grow even stronger when the governor suddenly ships her off to the mainland, away from any hope of uncovering the truth about her father’s death.
Or so she thinks. But when Dare finds solid proof that monsters still exist, she starts to question everything she’s always known. Was her father who she thought he was? Who can she trust? Where is the line between good and evil?
The truth hides behind danger and deception.
But with the help of an unlikely crew of cohorts and a stray beastie, nothing can stop Dare from finding out what happened to her father and exposing who the real monsters are.
A unique middle grade fantasy with a big dose of mystery! When Dare’s father is killed, everyone says it’s a random stranger, but she doesn’t believe it. She’s sure that a monster killed him, even though monsters were supposedly eliminated completely. Dare is sent away from home, but she doesn’t stop searching for answers. Dare is one of those characters who you can’t help but love. She’s super scrappy and won’t take no for an answer. She’s smart, but not so smart that she always knows exactly what next steps to take. That leaves room for the reader to be unsure as well, which leads to some fun twists. Plus, the monsters in the story are just really cool!! I highly recommend this book to MG fantasy readers (or even mystery or historical readers who are willing to branch out a little)!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review. No compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
The Swifts: A Dictionary of Scoundrels by Beth Lincoln
Illustrator: Claire Powell
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on February 7, 2023
Genres: Middle Grade, Mysteries
Source: The Publisher
In her family, Shenanigan Swift has always been synonymous with mischief. As Arch-Aunt Schadenfreude always says, "She can't help her name." When a family reunion suddenly turns into a murder mystery, Shenanigan is determined to catch the perpetrator. A celebration of words and individuality, this remarkable debut is both brilliantly contemporary and instantly classic.
shenanigan, noun 1. Tomfoolery, skulduggery, mischief of all varieties
2. A devious trick for an underhanded purpose
On the day they are born, every Swift child is brought before the sacred family dictionary. They are given a name and a definition, one it's assumed they will grow up to match. Unfortunately, Shenanigan Swift doesn't much like being told what to do.
Troublemaker and mischief enthusiast Shenanigan rattles around the grand old Swift house rehearsing Arch-Aunt Schadenfreude's funeral with her older sisters Phenomena and Felicity, plotting future crimes, and wondering whether she is herself by choice or design. When the Family Reunion floods the house with people, Shenanigan is excited to meet her rogue's gallery of relatives--until one of them gives Schadenfreude a deadly shove down the stairs. Shenanigan had planned to spend the reunion hunting for Grand-Uncle Vile's hidden treasure. But more murders and an awful lot of suspects--from newcomers Daisy and Atrocious to beloved Uncle Maelstrom--keep complicating Shenanigans plans.
With some help from her sisters and their newly befriended cousin Erf, can Shenanigan catch the killer?
And in a world where definitions are so important, how will she define herself?
Sometimes you read a book that you’re just sure you’re going to love. This was one of those books for me. As soon as I read the concept and the main character’s name “Shenanigan Swift” I knew it was going to be a whole lot of fun, and I was not disappointed. Everyone knows that the Swifts are all supposed to live up to their names, and Shenanigan seems to be doing just that. But when her aunt is murdered, she has to set out to find the culprit and prove that there’s more to her than the family might think. This is an elaborate mystery with lots of twists and turns and a zany family kids will love! The Swifts is full of quirky humor and a whole lot of heart.
***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.***
A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner
Illustrator: Jarrett Lerner
Published by Aladdin Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade, Verse
Source: The Publisher
A young boy struggles with body image in this poignant middle grade journey to self-acceptance told through prose, verse, and illustration.
Will is the only round kid in a school full of string beans. So he hides…in baggy jeans and oversized hoodies, in the back row during class, and anywhere but the cafeteria during lunch. But shame isn’t the only feeling that dominates Will’s life. He’s also got a crush on a girl named Jules who knows he doesn’t have a chance with—string beans only date string beans—but he can’t help wondering what if?
Will’s best shot at attracting Jules’s attention is by slaying the Will Monster inside him by changing his eating habits and getting more exercise. But the results are either frustratingly slow or infuriatingly unsuccessful, and Will’s shame begins to morph into self-loathing.
As he resorts to increasingly drastic measures to transform his appearance, Will meets skateboarder Markus, who helps him see his body and all it contains as an ever-evolving work in progress.
This book is really all about self-esteem and the ways that middle schoolers (and all of us, really) internalize things that are said about them. When Will is called fat, he can’t get the word out of his head. It haunts him and wields power over him in ways he can’t seem to control. The result is an eating disorder. The book is told in verse, which fits Will’s emotional turmoil extremely well, and Lerner’s illustrations underscore those feelings as well. The end result is an extremely readable, utterly engrossing book that reminds us the power of our words. And the power we have to overcome the words of others.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher. No compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Land of Broken Promises by Jane Kuo
Published by Quill Tree Books on June 6, 2023
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Verse
Taiwanese immigrant Anna and her family make a shocking discovery that puts their American dreams at risk in this companion to In the Beautiful Country.
After a rocky first year, Anna's family have settled into life in California--their small restaurant is even turning a profit. Then her parents make a shattering discovery: their visas have expired.
Anna's world is quickly overwhelmed by unfamiliar words like "undocumented" and "inequality." She longs to share the towering secret that looms over every aspect of her life with a friend, but her parents strictly forbid her from telling anyone.
As Anna grapples with the complexities of being undocumented, the strain that it places on her family, and the loneliness of keeping it all to herself, she has to wonder--if America is the promised land, why does everything she's hoped for feel like a lie?
A gorgeous sequel to In the Beautiful Country that depicts the difficulties that immigrants face and the many pitfalls of the immigration system. Like many verse novels, this book is light on plot, but it perfectly encapsulates the emotional turmoil of families with lives in limbo. When Anna’s parents discover they have accidentally let their documented status expire, her mother has to leave to make money to pay a lawyer and Anna has to pick up the slack by working in the family store instead of enjoying her summer. Anna struggles to be dependable and not waste her time on “frivolous” activities (like reading!) and she struggles with the burden of this secret about her family. A beautiful story!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley. No compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***