Thank you to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.
Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.
All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.
As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.
Tweet Cute is an adorable, modern enemies-to-lovers romance that’s sure to hook any contemporary reader. Its charming, tropey storyline and classic plot full of heart had me from the very first page. I loved the Twitter war, the anonymous chat app, and all the little things about watching Jack and Pepper fall in love.
Jack and Pepper were such well-developed characters who complemented each other perfectly. Pepper is an over-achieving superstar, with top grades and extracurriculars… but is also funny, down to earth, and loves desserts. Jack helps run his family deli in between swim practices and self-pity over his “golden child” twin brother. These two had the wittiest conversations and text chats, while also feuding on Twitter via corporate accounts for their family businesses. Their chemistry was amazing. Pepper and Jack knew each other so well, even when they were just starting to become friends. I’m honestly so jealous of their relationship and ability to cut to the core of what was bothering the other person. The way they connected is so innately realistic as well, showing the joy of finally getting to know someone you’ve been around for years.
All of the characters made this novel shine, but I especially loved Pepper. I think she’s the most relatable character to me in some aspects, and I had so much sympathy for her plights. She struggled to balance her school life, baking blog, and friends with her mother’s demands, and I constantly hoped that she would find balance. Once she lets down her guard she starts to enjoy her senior year more, make some new friends, and realize there’s more to life than working, I saw her light up on the page. I also appreciate her struggle to keep her family together and being a go-between for her mom and sister who no longer speak. That takes a toll on her energy and is a source of frustration throughout the novel.
The plot is equally adorable. Tweet Cute is a modern “You’ve Got Mail,” with Jack and Pepper acting as rivals while falling in love over a chat app. Their antics were so amusing, and I had so much fun watching them up the ante on their feud. Of course, the emotional and familial components to the story tie in perfectly, with neither Jack nor Pepper missing out on their fair share of family drama. Luckily, they find each other—though they don’t find that out until much later. The tension between Pepper and Jack wondering who the person on the other end of the app is while simultaneously but unknowingly growing close in person drew me in. I wanted them to figure it out from all the dropped hints, but I also thought it fun to read about them (especially Pepper) wondering who it was.
The Twitter war, however, is my favorite plot point. It’s the hook of the novel, giving insight into the difference between running a small business and a big corporation, and the families behind both. Pepper and Jack go to bat for their restaurants armed with memes and witticisms, and their over-the-top challenges got a laugh out of me, keeping me on my toes! The combination of this humor and the romance gripped me throughout the novel.
Lastly, Pepper and her sister Paige connect over a baking blog they run, and seriously, with all the food talk, Tweet Cute made me so hungry! From Grandma’s Grilled Cheese to Monster Cake and Kitchen Sink Macaroons, I *need* a recipe book stat! I love books that connect to real world fun, but in this one I hope hard copies contain recipes, because I think this needs to be an interactive activity!
My one bug is that I think some of the cultural references will date Tweet Cute quickly. Two, five, seven years from now, will we be interacting with media culture in the same ways Tweet Cute expects readers to understand? It’s a very specifically timed novel, and time will tell whether these quirks and specific late 2010’s in-jokes will age well. However, this is such a subjective issue that I decided not to let it affect my overall rating.
Tweet Cute earned 5 stars from me because of its sharp ideas and originality. This has to be one of the cutest new romances I’ve read in a while, and you should check it out!
Thank you to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review.
All Kane Montgomery knows for certain is that the police found him half-dead in the river. He can’t remember how he got there, what happened after, and why his life seems so different now. And it’s not just Kane who’s different, the world feels off, reality itself seems different.
As Kane pieces together clues, three almost-strangers claim to be his friends and the only people who can truly tell him what’s going on. But as he and the others are dragged into unimaginable worlds that materialize out of nowhere—the gym warps into a subterranean temple, a historical home nearby blooms into a Victorian romance rife with scandal and sorcery—Kane realizes that nothing in his life is an accident. And when a sinister force threatens to alter reality for good, they will have to do everything they can to stop it before it unravels everything they know.
This wildly imaginative debut explores what happens when the secret worlds that people hide within themselves come to light.
Reverie is a beautifully inventive fantasy novel that brings together pain and joy within the magic of dreams. I’ve always been on the magical realism bandwagon, and Reverie does not disappoint in this regard. The mix of Kane’s real world versus the world of Reveries plays out in multiple conflicts throughout the novel, and the reader tugs at the fabric of reality right along with the gang. It’s not exactly breaking the fourth wall, but has a similar effect where readers question the limits of the separation between the material world and the magical world within the novel. I loved this aspect.
The characters did not disappoint either! Kane, our main character, is deeply sympathetic. His separation from his classmates due to years of their avoidance (homophobia, an unfortunately classic feature of American schoolchildren), and the wall he placed around himself, comes across clearly to readers and makes it ever more joyful as we watch him bond with friends and tackle new adventures.
Sophia, Kane’s younger sister, is sardonic and brave, and the whole Montgomery clan just owns my heart now. I don’t want to tell you too much about the Others, for fear of spoiling the novel, but Ursula, Elliot, and Adeline are great allies for Kane as he explores a changing world and fights against a powerful evil. Great banter, great powers, great motives. A fantastic squad!
Poesy is easily one of 2019’s best YA villains. She is so incredibly powerful, and La Sala’s choice to represent this power through drag is well-executed. “it was useless to expect a drag queen to do anything other than exactly what she wanted,” so Kane would “just have to let her perform her way, or no way at all...” reads one line. Poesy’s power is immense, and threatening to Kane and readers because she also appears unstoppable. I was fascinated every time she appeared on-page.
This cast of characters make up for a few of Reverie’s faults, in my opinion. One of the problems with incorporating imagination and dreams in a story is that it’s hard to set limits. Reverie struggled with this—I didn’t understand the magic system, because each reverie (think a dream come to life) differed based on the dreamer. Weaponizing this for Kane and Poesy became difficult because I could always question whether or not the written solution was realistic in the world. If all things are possible, there are infinite chances for plot holes. Beautiful descriptions of each new setting distracted from the essence of the world, and I found myself wondering about the substantive properties of each rather than immersing myself in the prose.
Overall, Reverie is a wonderfully written novel and an important addition to the too-small canon of queer YA fantasy. 4/5 stars.
Thank you to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review. I'm so sorry I'm late sharing my thoughts!
Lena and Campbell aren't friends.
Lena has her killer style, her awesome boyfriend, and a plan. She knows she's going to make it big. Campbell, on the other hand, is just trying to keep her head down and get through the year at her new school.
When both girls attend the Friday-night football game, what neither expects is for everything to descend into sudden mass chaos. Chaos born from violence and hate. Chaos that unexpectedly throws them together.
They aren't friends. They hardly understand the other's point of view. But none of that matters when the city is up in flames, and they only have each other to rely on if they're going to survive the night.
I’m Not Dying With You Tonight is a snappy, action packed novel that explores the lives of two girls, Lena and Campbell, who are thrown together during a riot. I liked the plot—it moved quickly, and the tension between the girls as well as surrounding them drove key elements of the story.
In the novel, Campbell and Lena have to work together to survive riots that happen in their city, which is difficult in the face of violence, looting, and mistrust. I enjoyed how the pacing suited the story: readers are thrown into moments with the lead characters, and watch on the edges of our seats as they make decisions about how to get home when different routes keep closing to them. However, this constant motion did leave a lot of room for underdevelopment in other areas.
While the plot was fully fleshed out, the characters are less so. Various moments during the novel could have been extended more to give insight into Campbell and Lena’s backgrounds and personalities, besides the few key traits chosen to be repeated. Lena: loves her boyfriend, protective cousin, likes fashion. Campbell: former runner, new to town, lives with her dad. Other than that? Not much to say. They had distinct voices because of the writing style, but I wish readers could get a deeper feel for their characters.
Another problem I had is that the setting seemed vague. The story is very much set in the moment, which is great for readers to understand the action, but I would have liked to dive into town history and dynamics as well. There seemed to be tension between different parts of the town. Exploring the region from the perspective of Campbell, who just moved in, as well as Lena, who had lived there longer would have been an interesting contrast.
Overall, an important book touching on racial conflicts, police brutality, and the story of two girls overcoming fear and prejudices to work together in a disaster, but has a few key flaws that diminished my reading experience. 3/5 stars.
Thank you to Little, Brown and my local public library for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Ava, CJ, Jordan, and Martha (listed in alphabetical order out of fairness) have been friends since kindergarten. Now they're in their senior year, facing their biggest fears about growing up and growing apart. But there's more than just college on the horizon. One of these girls is destined to become the president of the United States. The mystery, of course, is which girl gets the gig.
Is it Ava, the picture-perfect artist who's secretly struggling to figure out where she belongs? Or could it be CJ, the one who's got everything figured out...except how to fix her terrible SAT scores? Maybe it's Jordan, the group's resident journalist, who knows she's ready for more than their small Ohio suburb can offer. And don't overlook Martha, who will have to overcome all the obstacles that stand in the way of her dreams.
This is the story of four best friends who have one another's backs through every new love, breakup, stumble, and success--proving that great friendships can help young women achieve anything... even a seat in the Oval Office.
I am convinced that Sarah Watson brings the same warm energy to each of her projects, and I eagerly await the next one. Most Likely is her debut novel, but it shares the same focus on female friendship, advocacy, and fun that made The Bold Type—her hit TV show—a fan favorite. Ava, CJ, Jordan, and Martha “(listed in alphabetical order for fairness)” (a quirk I love) remind me so much of Kat, Jane, and Sullivan in a delightful way.
The friendship between the girls is the crux of the novel, which shifts perspective often to portray each of them. This is to great advantage, and they were all well-developed and distinct characters. I could see the similarities in the group dynamic between Most Likely and The Bold Type, so if you’re a fan of one, you’ll enjoy the other. I think Watson has a unique approach to developing bonds between friends, so that even though I did have a favorite character (Ava), the whole group dynamic made a mark on my reading experience.
All of these girls come together in a truly heartwarming way to support each other, even when it might hurt. They deal with the fact that life doesn’t come equally to all of them, and manage to rise above deep challenges. I love it. Girls supporting girls is exactly what we need, and Watson nails it. The blurb says it all: “great friendships can help young women achieve anything… even a seat in the Oval Office.”
They all make mistakes, some smaller than others, but they’re there to lift each other up with forgiveness and lessons for the next time. It’s so great to see that go unchallenged in a novel. I’m glad Most Likely takes this friendship as a constant positive, rather than something that’s up in the air. Yeah, I’m spoiling that. I think readers need to know going in that this novel doesn’t twist friendship, and that even when these girls fight, or something’s unequal between them, they know they’ve been friends since the 9th of August before they started kindergarten, and that bond's not going anywhere. Most Likely is a novel about friendship, but it’s about the joys of having best friends, not the struggle.
The backdrop for the whole novel is set by the prologue, which introduces one of the girls and her husband right before her inauguration ceremony as President of the United States. The only information given is the (admittedly unique) last name of the husband. This aspect kept me guessing throughout the whole novel, because each of the girls had moments in which I could clearly see them as being the “I” voice in that prologue. Given more effort, I probably could have guessed which one of them became President, but as it is, I was happy just going along for the ride. The reader only knows that one of the girls is going to end up married to a man with that last name, and the story unfolds from there. This was a fun way to frame the novel, and kept me on the hook because I knew all would be revealed in the end, and I wanted to get there! I was so curious in the beginning about Madam future President’s identity, but as I kept reading, I wondered more and more about the path she’d take to get there, no matter which girl it was.
Most Likely also does a deep dive into contemporary concerns, specifically disability advocacy and classism. CJ learns about bias and how to channel her activism energy when she starts to volunteer at an after school sports program for kids using wheelchairs, and all of the girls work together to fight a neighborhood park being razed for an office building while dealing with judgment (inside the group and outside) against the surrounding neighborhood, which is seen as “less than” because its residents aren’t wealthy.
Overall, Most Likely is a delightful debut novel involving the power of female friendship and local activism, that has more than earned its place on your shelf. 4/5 stars. Watch out for Sarah Watson: first The Bold Type, and now Most Likely—she’s on a roll. If it wasn’t clear, I’m an avid fan, and can’t wait to see what she does next!
Thank you to Mascot Books for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.
While Loukas is playing his flute at the seawall one day, he befriends a mysterious talking, dancing snake that rewards him with fortune and favor. Some years later, tempted by freed and pride, Loukas loses all his riches and his family. He must now set off on a treacherous journey through a frightening forest filled with suspense and strange creatures to find Destiny; her son Ilion, the Sun; and her daughter Luna, the Moon. These celestial guardians will surely allow him to reverse his misfortune, restore his honor, and win back all that he loves and treasures, won’t they?
A reimagined Greek Folktale, Loukas and the Game of Chance is illuminated with dramatic and evocative pen and ink drawings that provide an ideal backdrop for the dark intrigue that fills this haunting story of human struggle, courage, and resilience.
Loukas and the Game of Chance totally surprised me! To be quite honest, I wasn’t expecting a picture book, but I ended up enjoying myself and had a good reading experience nevertheless. I know some of you are probably skeptical on reading picture books past a certain age, but I think they’re a breath of fresh air in between books with heavier content matter.
This lively, informative book with wonderful illustrations is great for any reader seeking a fun Greek folktale. I was a bit thrown off by the illustrations—some pages were illustrated, others weren’t, and the book ends up being around 70 pages regardless—but they are still beautiful. Full of beautiful imagery of life on the Aegean Sea, I could easily imagine Loukas’ journey and the beautiful landscapes he encounters.
Loukas himself is a sympathetic character: he understands the importance of kindness and humility, as taught by his parents, but he falls victim to his pride, loses everything, and must work to regain his family. Following his failure, he puts in the effort to plead his case in front of Destiny and her children, celestial beings who decide the fates of humans. There were times when Loukas thought about turning around and wallowing in shame, but he persevered on his quest, demonstrating the importance of determination and sacrifice for the people you love.
The plot is full of adventure and mysterious beings, some of whom may not have the best intentions... but ultimately it is up to Loukas whether or not he is able to rejoin his family. There’s a great message in the story about the dangers of greed and pride, and how it is important to live life with dignity and, as the kids would say, not “let the haters get you down.”
Overall, Loukas and the Game of Chance is a light folktale that’s worth a read. 4/5 stars.
Thank you to Netgalley and Knopf BFYR for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review!
She’s the beauty, I’m the bold one–together, we are the perfect girl…
Aphra Brown is bold and outgoing. Her best friend, Bethany, is achingly beautiful. Individually, they could both do a little better in the self-esteem department, but together? Together, they have what it takes to win over Greg D’Agostino, a proverbial “ten,” who happens to be fluent in six languages–seven if you count the language of smoldering gazes . . .
What begins as an honest mistake turns into an elaborate deception, wherein Bethany goes on dates with Greg while Aphra coaches her on what to say, and texts him in the guise of Bethany, trying and failing, all the while, to tamp down her own hopeless crush. It’s only a matter of time before things come crashing down. The question is: What will happen when Greg finds out? And can Aphra and Bethany’s friendship survive the fallout?
From the author of We Regret to Inform You comes a witty, warm-hearted exploration of love in all its forms, and a cris-de-coeur for self-acceptance when the pressure to be perfect is overwhelming.
First, I want to apologize for the extreme lateness of this review. I am deeply grateful to Knopf for sharing a copy of We Are the Perfect Girl.
We Are the Perfect Girl is a must-read of 2019. Featuring incredible character development, complex families and friendships, and a little bit of romance (if you squint at the end), it’s one of my new favorite novels. From the beginning, I was intrigued by the fact that this is a retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac. I love reading YA novelizations of plays. It’s interesting to see how authors interpret characters and translate the themes into a modern setting. Silverman completely succeeded in capturing my attention.
I had to reread this book twice before I could write any sort of review. I cried both times—I have little in common with Aphra, but I identified with her just the same, and couldn’t help but love her by the end. She’s incredibly complex, and though sometimes she makes questionable choices, you can’t help but root for her. I loved reading about how she viewed herself in relation to her loved ones. A big part of this novel is about self esteem, and Aphra learning to both stand up for herself and also think about other people, which is an easily relatable struggle for readers. She is simultaneously assertive and selfless, and it hurt so much every time Aphra chose to prioritize someone else over herself. Characters like Aphra, who who learn from their mistakes and self reflect over the course of a novel, are easily some of my favorites to read because they give the reader a chance to understand them in a way we often can’t with other real-world people.
As she’s written, Aphra is a really natural teenager. I noticed this especially in her crush on Greg—her observations, the things she remembers and references about him might seem inconsequential to anyone else, but those details matter so much to her. That’s very authentic, and Kaplan has truly captured a teen voice in Aphra. A high point of the book is its humor. Aphra's chat transcripts were genuinely funny, as was much of the narration. I laughed out loud at the “eat-the-pilot” scene, as well as many others. The clever writing and fresh dialogue hit the mark every time, which is especially important in this story and balanced out some of the heavy emotions and raw insecurities that Silverman explored.
I love the balance between Aphra, her friendships, and her family. Each relationship is so complex and given equal attention. I think my favorite dynamic is between Aphra and Bethany. They are the main characters, but I think a great choice of narration is the first person perspective solely for Aphra. It truly emphasizes some of the more unhealthy aspects of their relationship, as well as giving a window into all the good times they’ve had together. Aphra makes some questionable choices, but while I was reading I could tell the foundation of their friendship was solid. This gave me constant hope that Aphra and Bethany would be honest with each other and learn to properly communicate, which would make for an even better best-friendship.
Aphra’s family seems tough to live with, but I enjoyed seeing her relationship with them grow through the book. The sibling relationships especially got me. Kit is a super cute younger brother, and I liked that he and Aphra had a good relationship. She and Delia, however, is another story. They have a fraught relationship that turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the book, showing how family members’ choices can have a real effect on people. I was constantly rooting for Aphra and Delia to communicate and work towards understanding one another.
In terms of plot, the natural tension of whether Bethany and Greg will find out about Aphra’s deception is fantastic. Kaplan has such a great way of turning up the dial every time you think Aphra’s off the hook. I waffled between savoring every scene and wanting to find out what happened next, every time. Of course, some plot points are easy to predict because of the retelling aspect, but Aphra is a great character and narrator, and it was a joy to read her perspective on the events. That made the book feel new and original.
My favorite part of the book that isn’t about character or plot is probably the positive representation of mental health professionals. I liked that Aphra went to therapy and respected her need to be there. She also showed real improvement, which is positive messaging in and of itself. I like the notion in novels that young adults can’t solve every mental health problem themselves. One thing that always angers me is when characters try to love each other out of their issues. No! Therapy! Talk to adults! Silverman totally gets this, and Aphra is all the better for it. I think mental health professionals are extremely underrepresented in YA books, but I hope that trend is coming to a close.
I cried throughout the last two chapters of this novel. The ending is so emotionally resonant, and I think readers leave Aphra in a fantastic place. I grew to love her so much over the course of the story, and it was so rewarding to watch her grow and display vulnerability in the way she ends with. Finishing the novel, reading those last few pages… I felt like I was in a world of my own. By the end, loving Aphra felt like self-love, in a way. I couldn’t help but adore how Silverman closed out the story, but I also wished I could have more! I will definitely be rereading We Are the Perfect Girl for years to come. It earns 5/5 stars for me. My only regret is that I can’t rate it higher.
Thank you to Netgalley and Delacorte Press for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Seventeen-year-old Esme Pearl has a babysitters club. She knows it's kinda lame, but what else is she supposed to do? Get a job? Gross. Besides, Esme likes babysitting, and she's good at it.
And lately Esme needs all the cash she can get, because it seems like destruction follows her wherever she goes. Let's just say she owes some people a new tree.
Enter Cassandra Heaven. She's Instagram-model hot, dresses like she found her clothes in a dumpster, and has a rebellious streak as gnarly as the cafeteria food. So why is Cassandra willing to do anything, even take on a potty-training two-year-old, to join Esme's babysitters club?
The answer lies in a mysterious note Cassandra's mother left her: "Find the babysitters. Love, Mom."
Turns out, Esme and Cassandra have more in common than they think, and they're about to discover what being a babysitter really means: a heroic lineage of superpowers, magic rituals, and saving the innocent from seriously terrifying evil. And all before the parents get home.
I remember reading The Baby-Sitters Club books as a kid (I wanted to be Claudia), because of their adventurous yet responsible spirit. The Babysitters Coven revitalizes the series for the 21st century, adding elements of magic and high school life. The main similarity between the two series is the group of girls who form a babysitters club. Other than that, The Babysitters Coven is completely different, and I love it.
Esme is a fun narrator: she babysits, she's learning how to drive, she's awkward in front of her crush, and she's got a lot going on at home. Her narration was funny and quirky, which I appreciated. It set the tone for the rest of the novel. I also liked reading about her friendship with Janice, who is the other member of Esme's Babysitters Club. Love female friendships! The girls went thrifting together, planned out outfits, and hung out after school. It’s so refreshing to see characters commit to a friendship and make it work, even when it’s not a main focus of the story.
Cassandra was a great character. She was chaotic to Esme’s rational, which was a good balance. She did get the pair in trouble a couple of times, but I thought she was fun to read about and her actions moved the story along nicely. I don’t necessarily think she’s a good person all the time, but I liked reading about a character in a contemporary setting who makes those same mistakes, and has good intentions that don’t always help everyone.
I had a great reading experience when I stopped taking the plot seriously. It's not a grave high fantasy, but a campy, witchy book about high school demon-fighters that's perfect for Halloween season. Watching Esme and Cassandra learn about their powers was hilarious, because of the specificity of some spells. There’s a spell for everything—even bad hair days!
My main fault with the book is that I wanted to know more about the Sitters: the history and structure of the organization, and to meet other members, for example. Basically, I wanted more world-building.
Overall, The Babysitters Coven is a fun fall fantasy that makes a great read for anyone—even if you’ve never babysat before! 4/5 stars.
Thank you to Random House BFYR and Netgalley for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Two princesses vying for the ultimate crown.
Two girls vying for the prince's heart.
This is the story of the American royals.
When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. Like most royal families, the Washingtons have an heir and a spare. A future monarch and a backup battery. Each child knows exactly what is expected of them. But these aren't just any royals. They're American. And their country was born of rebellion.
As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America's first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling. Nobody cares about the spare except when she's breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn't care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there's Samantha's twin, Prince Jefferson. If he'd been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.
Like The Thousandth Floor, McGee’s first series, American Royals thrives on a character-driven plot, with lots of gossip and drama that has the reader choosing sides immediately. I knew who I would be rooting for from the very first chapter, but as the perspectives deepened I found myself sympathizing with all of the characters. This is a fantastic historical re-imagining that takes readers on a whirlwind journey through the minds (and hearts) of the fictitious American royal family.
I love Beatrice. McGee did an excellent job portraying the struggles of growing up with a crown in her future, and how Beatrice both loved and felt trapped by her job. Obviously there are no American princesses in the present day, but I could easily imagine how celebrities might feel the same way as Beatrice did—she was controlled by her image, which is hard for a young person, who of course has their own interests and must balance that with a duty to their fanbase or, in Beatrice’s case, her citizens. If you’ve ever wondered how movie stars really feel, I think American Royals gets a lot of it right. Of course, I’m not famous in any way, shape, or form, so take my advice with a grain of salt and read this book for fun anyways!
Beatrice’s romantic storyline also hooked me. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but I will note that there is a love triangle of sorts and that I love the internal tension that caused. It’s a lot easier for me to read than drama of the gossip and blackmail sort, so I was very invested in the outcome of Beatrice’s love life.
I also enjoyed reading about Beatrice’s relationship with her younger twins. Beatrice is the heir, and Samantha and Jeff won’t rule in all likelihood, so of course there were some interesting emotions there, especially between the sisters. American Royals had a fair few moments of sibling rivalry, but there were also some sweet moments that I loved.
Nina, Samantha’s best friend, was such a sweetheart, and I loved reading about both her friendship with Samantha and her relationship with Jeff. I’m always a sucker for friendships that get a lot of page time, as well as friends-to-lovers romance storylines, and I liked Nina’s perspective throughout the novel because I got a fresh dose of both! Nina herself is amazing, and I’m very happy with the choices she made throughout the novel. She isn’t royalty, so it was interesting to see a “commoner’s” perspective on the madness of the royal lives.
Lastly, that ending? I just CAN'T. I'm so glad American Royals is the start of a series, because I need to know more. That being said, I expected there to be more resolution at the end of the book. I felt like the story would continue for another fifty pages or so, because new questions were still being introduced when the plot should have been wrapped up. The novel now becomes reliant on its sequel for the full context of the story.
Overall, I’m giving American Royals 4/5 stars for a neat concept and sympathetic-yet-scheming characters! Pick it up!
Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The spellbinding tale of six queer witches forging their own paths, shrouded in the mist, magic, and secrets of the ancient California redwoods.
Danny didn't know what she was looking for when she and her mother spread out a map of the United States and Danny put her finger down on Tempest, California. What she finds are the Grays: a group of friends who throw around terms like queer and witch like they're ordinary and everyday, though they feel like an earthquake to Danny. But Danny didn't just find the Grays. They cast a spell that calls her halfway across the country, because she has something they need: she can bring back Imogen, the most powerful of the Grays, missing since the summer night she wandered into the woods alone. But before Danny can find Imogen, she finds a dead boy with a redwood branch through his heart. Something is very wrong amid the trees and fog of the Lost Coast, and whatever it is, it can kill. Lush, eerie, and imaginative, Amy Rose Capetta's tale overflows with the perils and power of discovery — and what it means to find your home, yourself, and your way forward.
The Lost Coast was released May 14, so I extend many apologies for my belated review.
This book... you guys, look at that cover! It's so shiny and pretty and once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. Part romance, part mystery, part celebration of queerness--The Lost Coast has it all. I'm having a hard time putting words together to describe how I felt when I was reading it.
First of all, Capetta absolutely struck the right balance between character and plot. I became so invested in the lives of Danny and the Grays, as well as their quest to save Imogen. The group dynamics drove this story, and I loved seeing Danny and the Grays interact and bond. What was especially interesting to me were the moments when the Grays chose to include or exclude Danny, who was at once an outsider and vital to their quest. She could find Imogen, but only if the Grays trusted and shared with her. I love a good squad forming, and this was perfect. Capetta is a master with words. Her descriptions of each of the Grays distinguishes them so quickly from each other. After only one chapter, I already felt like I knew all about them from their clothing, the way they touched and supported one another, and each of their relationships to Imogen. Seeing them relax and just exist in the woods, casually interacting with magic and the world around them was so heartwarming and freeing. Of course, they are still quintessential teens: they hide things, keep secrets, and take on too much alone. Later, seeing Danny herself interact with Imogen was emotional as well. I loved Danny setting aside everything to help her new friends, girls she felt she belonged with. All of the group scenes were so moving, and I loved the friendships in The Lost Coast. All of the characters were so complex and real.
Danny was a great narrator. Most of the chapters were from her POV, and I loved it. Her thoughts were so organic, and I wanted to get to know her. Watching her discover her magic, exploring her connection to Rush, and balancing her past with the new life she’s leading was all so natural. I especially enjoyed reading Danny’s thoughts about Rush—her temptation was tangible, and I loved how Capetta wrote their romance.
The pacing and plot were just as great as the character development. I liked how the mystery unfolded and connected with the elements of magic in the story. World-building is top-notch as well: I felt at home in the redwoods, and vivid descriptions helped me picture the landscape and feel a part of the scenery was with me as I read. I've been in the redwood forests, and they are absolutely the right setting for the magic in this story. The descriptions of the Grays interacting with the forest are breathtaking. Dense and lush, the atmosphere is quietly energetic and bleeds through the page. This novel is a very beautiful escape. Every sensory aspect is so clear, so even if the reader has never seen a forest, they know exactly how it feels to stare up at branches and leaves and want to climb among the needles. The energy surrounding the whole book makes it so easy to start reading and lose track of time. I liked how multiple POV was used to build the atmosphere and plot. The story is told in patches that are mostly chronological, so there is no info-dumping and I always had context for the events in the present. The redwoods also get a point of view, which adds to the sentiment of the forest as a living entity.
Some important themes of the book resonated with me, particularly about how power and emotion are tied to one’s effect on the universe. Magic is tied to intent as well as ability, and I liked the rule that whatever a witch does returns upon her threefold. Of course, as with all themes, the darker side is interesting as well. Finding the space to be seen and to be yourself is different from wanting attention, or to be noticed.
An epic conclusion drives home the importance of finding yourself and standing in the place where you belong. The Lost Coast is about embracing otherness and making people feel seen, as well. I felt that the story wraps up perfectly, and I am delighted that I don’t have any lingering questions. Overall, I give The Lost Coast 5/5 stars for its beauty. It is a powerful addition to Capetta's body of work, and I hope it earns a place on your shelf.
Andria’s twin sister, Iris, had adoring friends, a cool boyfriend, a wicked car, and a shelf full of soccer trophies. She had everything, in fact—including a drug problem. Six months after Iris’s death, Andria is trying to keep her grades, her friends, and her family from falling apart. But stargazing and books aren’t enough to ward off her guilt that she—the freak with the scary illness and all-black wardrobe—is still here when Iris isn’t. And then there’s Alex Hammond. The boy Andria blames for Iris’s death. The boy she’s unwittingly started swapping lines of poetry and secrets with, even as she tries to keep hating him.
Heartwrenching, smart, and bold, Dreaming of Antigone is a story about the jagged pieces that lie beneath the surface of the most seemingly perfect life…and how they can fit together to make something wholly unexpected.
I have some complicated thoughts about this book, so I’m going to start with what I found most engaging, and then talk about the hard things. I liked the astronomy connection—it’s an awesome hobby for Andria to have, and is really interesting to read about. I liked the exploration of how epilepsy affects Andria’s life: her seizures standing in the way of her driver’s license, and ability to make friends through sports like Iris did. Speaking of friends, Andria’s were awesome. Natalie was super-cute especially (her mom’s baked goods sound so delicious, too!). I loved that Trista and Natalie never made Andria feel like an outsider even though they were more Iris’ friends. Their supportiveness really spoke to me. Andria, in return, became a good friend and always reassured them and made an effort to hang out and socialize, which I liked.
Even though we didn’t meet her, I LOVE Iris! I wish she was in more scenes, but from the way Andria talks about her I really liked her character. The “flashback” moments to their conversations were adorable. She was so complicated, and a great character. As much as Dreaming of Antigone is about friendship, romance, or astronomy, it is more about sisters. I truly felt for Andria when she learned more about Iris’ life and how she found out all of the secrets that Iris had kept.
All of that being said, there were a number of things about the story that truly didn’t sit well with me. Firstly, I was blown away that Andria thought it appropriate to date her dead sister’s boyfriend, especially because of how Alex and Iris got involved with drugs together. I think the romance was out of character for Andria, but also odd in the context of the novel and it didn’t sit well with me.
I didn’t love how the book talked about addiction. I think the mentality of being able to love someone out of their addiction (“his demons could fight mine” and “I could save her”) is truly harmful. Addiction is a real illness that needs to be treated by professionals and can’t be healed by a couple of dates.
Andria’s attitude towards everyone in her life seemed to change in every scene, especially her parents. She could be fighting with Mom then hugging her, calling Craig a good step-dad then calling him a dork/insulting him in the narration. Her opinions seemed to reset often, and overall I disliked the lack of narrative consistency.
There were so many storylines packed into the book. I think it would be easier to form emotional connections with the characters and story if it had just one or two central themes/plot lines: addiction, family/sisters, romance, sexual predators, and Andria’s epilepsy, to name a few. Because Dreaming of Antigone tackled all of these issues, I could see twists coming from a mile away and I wasn’t very shocked when I read some of the big reveals.
Overall, although I liked some aspects of Dreaming of Antigone, I give it 3/5 stars because I couldn’t get past some of the faults I found. That being said, maybe you will find a new favorite in this book! Give it a try!
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.