I like doing mini-review roundups when I don’t feel the need to write full reviews (my reviews get looooong) for books that I still want to cover on the blog.

Today, I’m looking at five YA and NA books I’ve read recently that are hugely popular. Most of them came out a while ago and have been very widely hyped, so I don’t know that I have anything to add to the conversation, but I wanted to share my thoughts.

All of these are five-star reads for me. Let’s dive in!

The Wicked King
Holly Black
(Folk of the Air #2)

So good. The Wicked King gave me everything I loved from the first book, pitched at 150%. Nobody plots twists and turns and reversals and betrayals like Holly Black.

In my review of The Cruel Prince, I mentioned that I have reservations about the romance. The sexually-charged, violent, love/hate relationship at the center of the book is what has drawn a lot of passionate fans. (I wouldn’t even describe it as enemies-to-lovers. It’s more like enemies-and-also-lovers.) In my review, I’m skeptical of it. The Jude/Carden relationship is wonderfully exciting to read, but that kind of thing is very difficult to do well. It can go very wrong if a book doesn’t successfully communicate the nature of the relationship to readers.

I’m much less worried after The Wicked King. The book is clear-eyed about the destructive nature of the relationship. I was finally able to let go of the discomfort that Cardan was being misrepresented tot he reader and just enjoy the dark, subversive sandbox that Black is playing in.

I can’t wait for The Queen of Nothing. I rarely preorder books (I’ve preordered three this year, and that’s unusual) but I’ve had my copy locked down for a long time.

Carry On
Rainbow Rowell
(Simon Snow #1)

I held out on this one for so long. I always got the feeling it wasn’t really my thing, and looking back, I have no idea why.

I loved Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell’s book that introduced the Simon Snow characters) and I was watching soooo much excitement for Wayward Son that I picked up a copy on a whim at the big Barnes and Noble sale a while back. I inhaled it in two days. It’s everything I’d forgotten I loved about Rowell’s writing—so funny. So sweet, clever, and earnest. This is another author having palpable, infectious fun playing around in a fantasy sandbox.

Wayward Son
Rainbow Rowell
(Simon Snow #2)

Wayward Son dropped right after I finished Carry On, so I couldn’t resist. The audiobook was up on Scribd so I didn’t even have to leave my seat to watch.

I think some fans of Carry On are going to be a little let-down by this one… it’ll depend on why you loved the first book. For me, Wayward Son was exactly what I wanted. Rowell continues her exploration of the Chosen One trope, showing Simon struggling (and failing) to come to terms with what it means for his “final battle” to be over. The Simon/Baz relatinship continues to be incredibly well-crafted, and the book is honest about the ways that relationship built a foundation on sand.

Wayward Son is still technically YA, but it has lots of New Adult qualities. Simon and friends are struggling to enter early adulthood; it’s very much a post-graduation stage of life.

Red, White and Royal Blue
Casey McQuiston

Oh my god. Lived up to every bit of the hype. I don’t have anything intelligent to say here besides reading this book was some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time. My heart.

Sorcery of Thorns
Margaret Rogerson

This one isn’t as huge as the others in this post, but I’m including it because I don’t feel like writing up a full review. It came out long enough ago and got enough hype that there are plenty of in-depth reviews if you want them.

I loved it. Sorcery of Thorns is old-school YA fantasy in the best sense. I was captivated. Exciting, surprising, romantic, and often quite funny. Rogerson limits herself to a small handful of character, fleshes them out completely, and gives us compelling, fresh relationships among them. Just what I needed.


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