books and reading · reviews

Book Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus


Five students at Bayview High sit in a classroom for detention one afternoon. Before the day is over, one of them is dead–and the other four are being treated as murder suspects. Although the four teens don’t have much in common, they find that there are plenty of secrets to go around–and one of them might be pretty guilty.

Karen McManus’ debut novel is a fast-paced, twisty surprise of a book. The beginning might feel like a modern-day rehash of The Breakfast Club, but the plot quickly turns that on its head and presents readers with something completely different, and the result is a ton of fun. Fairly distinct characters (though not always distinct in their narrative voices) and mostly believable dialogue as well as a romance that feels authentic makes this a crowd-pleaser for even the pickiest of teens.

Super-savvy mystery readers might figure out at least part of the mystery before it fully unfolds, but there are still twists and turns that will surprise. There’s a surprising amount of depth to each of the characters, turning this novel into something a bit more substantial than what it looks like on the surface. I devoured this in a single night, and it was well worth the lost sleep.

Take one part Pretty Little Liars, one part John Hughes, and a little inventiveness on the part of McManus, and you’ve got this book. It’s compulsively readable, and teens (and adults) won’t be able to put it down until they’re finished. McManus is an author to watch. Recommended.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus. Delacorte: 2017. Library copy.




books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig


Flynn’s girlfriend January has disappeared. Her official status is “missing,” but you can tell that people think the worst. Flynn can’t believe she’d just up and leave without a trace, but as he starts to unravel her secrets, he realizes there’s more going on than he initially realized. And Flynn has secrets of his own that he’s desperate to keep hidden. How can he solve January’s mystery without revealing things about himself?

Roehrig’s debut novel tackles a bunch of different issues while presenting a twisty, provocative mystery for readers to devour. Vivid characters help ground the novel’s more unbelievable aspects, and young gay teens will especially relate to Flynn’s issues regarding his process of coming out. This is a smart novel with realistic dialogue (Roehrig excels particularly in this regard).

Seasoned readers of mysteries might figure out the twists well before they’re revealed, but it’s still a heck of a ride. There are enough twists and turns to keep the pages turning, and the oftentimes witty dialogue races by. There are moments where the book feels overly long, though, and a tighter editing hand might have made for an even stronger story.

On the whole, a very entertaining debut. Roehrig is an author to watch, and this is a strong entry into the YA mystery genre. Recommended.

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig. Feiwel & Friends: 2016. Library copy.

books and reading

What I Read This Week

These are the books I read this week:

32571395One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus: Five teens enter after school detention. Although the group doesn’t have much in common at the start, by the end of the afternoon they’ll find themselves embroiled in a nightmare situation: one of the teens is dead, and the remaining four are murder suspects. Who is lying? Who knows more than they’re saying? Working together seems like the only way the teens can get to the bottom of what happened, but what if they can’t trust one another to tell the truth?

Part Breakfast Club and part Veronica Mars, this whip-fast novel is pretty smart, holds plenty of teen appeal, and will keep readers guessing until the final pages. Fairly well-rounded teen characters and mostly smart dialogue writing make this a true pleasure to read. I really enjoyed it and tore through it.


Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke: This graphic memoir recounts Radtke’s experience losing her favorite uncle to a genetic heart condition, and her subsequent interest (bordering on obsession) in photographing abandoned places all over the world. Jumping around a bit, this memoir traces crucial moments in her young life, her late adolescence, and early adulthood.

Radtke’s drawings are sparse, gorgeous, and moving, and her prose is so powerful. Radtke is a talented writer whose prose rivals her artistic skill. I devoured this one in a single sitting and can’t wait to recommend it to people.

140079Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris: I’ve started watching True Blood as I continue my read-through of all the Sookie Stackhouse books, and the sixth one in the series sees Sookie travel to New Orleans to deal with her deceased cousin Hadley’s estate, as well as a huge vampire summit. The books are still enjoyable–I think Sookie is one of the most charming, quirky characters one can find between the pages of a book–but I definitely think the books continue to decline in quality of story as they progress. I never much cared for Quinn as a love interest (though literally anyone before Bill–ANYONE), and the books are getting longer in page count while still feeling


shorter in content.

So Much I Want to Tell You by Anna Akana: Part memoir, part open letter to her sister who committed suicide when Akana was a teenager, this frank, honest, and emotionally engaging book is a quick read. Known mostly for her YouTube channel, Akana is a decent writer whose aim is to connect with young-ish fans about everything ranging from dreams to relationships. Sweet and slight.

What did you read this week?

books and reading · Uncategorized

Book Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo


Amanda Hardy is new to Lambertville, Tennessee.  Determined to have a fresh start for her senior year, she wants to make friends and fit in.  But she’s harboring a secret and a past that threaten to disrupt her new life, and she’s determined to keep her secret safe so that she can remain safe.  But she doesn’t bank on meeting Grant Everett, and she doesn’t plan on falling in love with him.  Grant seems different, and the two have an undeniable connection. She wants to share everything with him, but she’s not sure she can share the one thing she wants most to tell him: she used to be Andrew Hardy.

Hailed as one of the best YA books of 2016, Meredith Russo’s debut novel about a trans girl trying to make a new life for herself after a brutal attack has earned its extensive praise. This novel offers trans teens and adults a story that is at once sweetly romantic while also very believable, grounded in enough realism without ever veering into the horrifically tragic. The novel offers enough friction in the plot to offer readers insight into the real dangers that Amanda faces as a girl without ever overwhelming the narrative.  There’s good writing here, although at times the dialogue feels a bit clunky, and the exploration of new friendships helps flesh out the narrative beyond the typical romance.

The plot moves quickly, the characters are engaging and interesting, and this is a necessary novel for all readers.  It’s one to stock your shelves with and push into the hands of teens.  There’s lots to discuss here as well, and it’s going to garner those discussions.  Highly recommended.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo. Flatiron Books: 2016. Library copy.


books and reading

Waiting on Wednesday: Rebel Bully Geek Pariah by Erin Jade Lange

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

25582820Rebel Bully Geek Pariah by Erin Jade Lange

Expected Release Date: February 16, 2016

The Breakfast Club gets a modern, high-stakes reboot in this story of four very different teens and a night that changes them forever.

The Rebel: Once popular, Andi is now a dreadlocked, tattooed wild child.
The Bully: York torments everyone who crosses his path, especially his younger brother.
The Geek: Tired of being bullied, Boston is obsessed with getting into an Ivy League college.
The Pariah: Choosing to be invisible has always worked for Sam . . . until tonight.

When Andi, York, Boston, and Sam find themselves hiding in the woods after a party gets busted by the cops, they hop into the nearest car they see and take off—the first decision of many in a night that will change their lives forever. By the light of day, these four would never be caught dead together, but when their getaway takes a dangerously unpredictable turn, sticking together could be the only way to survive.

(summary via Goodreads)

These novels that take place over the course of a single night can go a number of ways.  They can be intensely plotted and super excellent, or completely boring and strain credulity.  I’m hoping that this one is the former and has a lot to offer.  The Breakfast Club is one of my favorite movies, and I’m interested to see a fresh take on the topic.

What are you waiting on this week?


books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt


Jackson is 12 and his family has just taken in a new foster child.  Joseph is 14 and has already been to prison and fathered a child.  He wants nothing more than to find his daughter, named Jupiter, whom he has never met before.  As Joseph starts to visualize a future with Jackson’s loving family, his past catches up with him in the most cataclysmic–and tragic–way imaginable.

Schmidt’s writing takes a serious turn in this sparse, beautifully haunting novel that will have readers glued to the page until the book’s upsetting end.  Jackson’s no-nonsense narration helps keep the novel grounded, even when Joseph’s story threatens to veer into melodrama.  Although the novel begins as a redemption tale, Schmidt offers readers no pat, happy endings here.  The result is a gut-punch of a novel with just a tinge of hope for the future.

Like Schmidt’s other books, the characterization is wonderful in this one.  Both boys develop throughout the course of the novel, with Jackson’s ideas about his own morals developing as he gets to know Joseph.  Although Jackson seems like an old soul for a 12-year-old, the narration is sparse enough to seem authentic.  The result is a knockout of a novel, engrossing and emotionally resonant even as it’s unbearably sad.

Lovely, haunting, and one that readers will want to talk about as soon as they finish.  Give this one to savvy middle-grade readers and YA fanatics alike.  It’s got broad appeal for a wide range of readers and will spark great conversation.  Highly recommended.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt. Clarion Books: 2015. Library copy.

books and reading

Waiting on Wednesday: Little White Lies by Brianna Baker

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

25614196Little White Lies by Brianna Baker and F. Bowman Hastie III

Expected Release Date: February 9, 2016

Seventeen-year-old honors student Coretta White’s Tumblr, Little White Lies—her witty thoughts on pretty much . . . everything—has gone viral. She’s got hundreds of thousands of followers; she’s even been offered a TV deal. But Coretta has a secret. She hasn’t been writing all her own posts. Stressed from the demands of the sudden attention, she hired an expert ghostwriter, forty-one-year-old Karl Ristoff, to keep the Tumblr going. Now consumed with guilt, she confesses.

Almost instantly, she suffers a public humiliation. The TV deal disappears. Her boyfriend breaks up with her. Then Karl is thrust into the limelight, only to suffer a dramatic fall himself. Together, they vow to find out who is responsible for ruining both of their lives, and why. But in order to exact justice and a wicked revenge, they must first come clean with each other.

(summary via Goodreads)

Everything about this one looks like a lot of fun.  I love that it features a black girl on the cover.  I love that it’s about a ghostwriter and Tumblr and lies.  I love the idea of exploring what happens after a social media disaster.  It’s going to be a fun read for sure, and it’s perfect mid-winter reading.

What are you waiting on this week?