Winterwood puts style over substance, but I don’t mind when the style is this good. A creeping, atmospheric romantic mystery from Shea Ernshaw, perfect for witchy moods and frosty weather.
Today, I’m looking at five YA and NA books I’ve read recently that are hugely popular.
Songs from the Deep tries hard to be something it’s not, resulting in a shallow read stripped of fantasy and wonder. A boilerplate romantic mystery.
Girls of Storm and Shadow leaves behind the setting, stakes, and everything great about the first book to wander a half-baked fantasy world. A shallow, directionless middle book: pure filler.
Full Disclosure is a sensitive, much-needed exploration of teen sexuality that comes wrapped in an immature high-school drama narrative. A highly mixed bag from a promising new author.
Dear Girls is about the messy parts of life, but ends up being a bit of a mess itself. Stand-up and TV writer Ali Wong is hilarious, graphic, and sometimes frustrating in this memoir.
War Girls confronts true Nigerian history as an unflinching, compassionate witness to unspeakable violence. Tochi Onyebuchi paints gritty, powerful girls that endure and overcome.
The Grace Year is the best of old-school dystopia. Kim Liggett serves up suspense and gore alongside sharp ideas on the paradoxes of female power.
Orpheus Girl dwells on graphic queer pain with no clear purpose. A short, directionless debut from an author with tremendous future potential.
The Water Dancer is as personal and skillfully written as should be expected from renowned nonfiction writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The Last True Poets of the Sea sets high drama in an idyllic seaside town. Julia Drake’s send-up to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is romantic, hilarious, and full of heart.
Rules For Vanishing is old-school paranormal horror: suspense, gore, and sinister threats from unexpected directions. Kate Alice Marshall orchestrates a strong ensemble and perfectly plotted twists.
Who Put This Song On is an honest exploration of the intersection of mental illness and Blackness circa 2008 that probably shouldn’t have been a novel.
If there’s any justice in the world, The Ten Thousand Doors of January will soon be a YA classic. My favorite read of 2019 so far.
Scars Like Wings is a moving, introspective story of healing from immense loss when healing can be a trauma itself. Through the eyes of a teenage burn survivor, Erin Stewart asks what it takes to truly choose life.
The (Other) F Word takes on modern fatness with an intersectional eye and a spirit of joyful defiance.
The Babysitters Coven doesn’t have the story to back up its fun hook. A shallow series-starter that might have been more successful as upper-Middle Grade.
The Young Adult rewrite of Anderson and Bolden’s award-winning One Person, No Vote never justifies its existence. Read the original instead.
It’s a Whole Spiel uses its all-star lineup of Jewish YA authors to maximum impact, painting a nuanced, intersectional picture of the joys and pains of contemporary teenage Jewish identity.
Rebel Girls attempts to repackage nostalgia as a novel, substituting pop-culture references for thoughtful worldbuilding. The result is a poorly-paced, directionless story with a disturbing lack of empathy.
Frankly in Love isn’t the fake-dating romance you might be expecting. It is, however, an outstanding YA debut: a loving look at identity, family, and growing up.