Love Letters To the Dead - YA Review by Rayna Grace C

Reader: Rayna Grace C.
Age: 15
Title: Love Letters to the Dead
Author: Ava Dellaira
Publisher: Farrar Straus, & Giroux
Pub Date: 04/01/2014
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: When I picked this book up at 11:00 Thursday night, I am not sure what I was expecting, but it was not this. By the third page I was in tears (I do not cry during books, and if I do, I can count the tears on one hand) and after the book was finished (At 4:36 AM) I am certain I was a sobbing incoherent mess. I went to school three hours later and was completely changed. My friends were kind of concerned, actually. This book has left me with so much to think about, so many life lessons, I want to ask if I can keep the Advance Reader Copy in my possession to highlight and bookmark all of the profound quotes, which I have never felt the urge to do.  Every single character in this book is completely different than the rest, even though many are friends and share some of the same hobbies. Each person was beautifully crafted and felt so tangible; each individual had amazing potential, yet no one was without a flaw. The protagonist, Laurel was no exception to these truths; her voice was phenomenal and I felt completely engulfed in her perspective while reading.

Honestly, I do not know what to even say right now, because normally I have so many things I find wrong with a book I can ramble on for at least a single-spaced page on Microsoft Word, but this book is pretty much flawless, in my opinion, so I feel like I am just running around in circles right now, excitedly rambling about a book only a few dozen people in the entire world have read. My biggest problem with the whole entire book right now is that I cannot talk to my friends about it, which is quite an accomplishment for Ava Dellaira. So, to quickly conclude this long-winded love letter because I do not want to sound like a totally broken record, I adore this book and cannot wait for Dellaira’s next story.

Memorable or Forgettable: The deep thematic undertones in this book were so original and genuine that I know I will have this book in the back of my mind for years, if not for the rest of my life. The idea that perfection cannot be achieved even when one finds a partner is not a new idea, but one very few would ever let themselves admit. It is hard enough to know that you will never be flawless or completely pure when you are old enough to understand what that means, but to realize that even when you find the other shoe, your life will not magically become picture-perfect is a revelation too terrifying for many (including myself, before this book) to face. Love Letters to the Dead will help open the door and transition many teens (and hopefully adults) to come to these conclusions with ease and acceptance. I cannot wait for this book to be published so then all my friends and my mom and my mom’s friends will all have to read it.
Cover: The cover to this book is very good (like a 7 out of 10, for me) but I do not think it really captures the right audience. It portrays more of an I-may-be-alternative-and-interesting-but-am-probably-really-mainstream-and-unoriginal romance novel, but this is actually a breakthrough piece that teaches a lesson I think many adults and teens should learn. Okay, so I kind of have an idea for what I would want to be the cover (because I am crazy,) so my idea (you really don't have to take this seriously, I’m just a kid with an overactive imagination and an obsession with good books) would be a close-up of (hypothetically May's) heart-shaped sunglasses set on the ground in front of the Cliff at dusk with the sky in the background. Sorry, I just really like heart-shaped sunglasses and dusk; I'm not trying to be pushy or anything, I swear.
Age Range: 14 through 17
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation:  When Laurel's sister dies under deplorable circumstances, she needs a fresh start. She transfers to a new school and begins her life anew, befriending spectacular individuals who each have a life lesson to teach, if someone is willing to listen. Laurel writes letters to celebrities who have passed for a school assignment and paints her life in rich detail, which flawlessly pulls back the curtain on the "perfect relationship."

tags:  contemporary / realistic fiction / ya lit

Hero Worship - YA Review by Taj H

Reader: Taj H.
Age: 15
Title: Hero Worship
Author: Christopher E. Long
Publisher: Flux
Pub Date: 01/01/14
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: I'd have to say it has strong character development from the time elapsed from the beginning to end of the book.
Memorable or Forgettable: It is forgettable because it has qualities of a decent book but the storyline itself isn't catching.
Cover: No, it didn't really reflect the cover of the book from the actual book.
Age Range: 12 through 13
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal
Additional Comments: It starts off kind of lenient. It is a book where the hook is really subtle, and if observant, you can catch it fast.

tags:  superheroes / action/adventure / ya lit

Independent Study (Testing #2) - YA Review by Katie J

Reader: Katie J.
Age: 13
Title: Independent Study (Testing #2)
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pub Date: 01/07/14
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: EH.  This book could be better but it could be worse too.  It is still as much as a rip off as the first book.  I think this book was written well, it just needs a different theme.
Memorable or Forgettable: This was just such a rip off.
Cover: The cover didn't really help it or hurt it.
Age Range: 12 through 13
Quality: 1Q How did it get published?
Popularity: 1P Yech! Forced to read it

tags: science fiction / dystopian romance / The Testing series / ya lit

Prodigy (Legend #2) - YA Review by Guanani

Reader: Guanani
Age: 18
Title: Prodigy
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Pub Date: 01/29/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: This is action-adventure dystopia at its best. Marie Lu delivers a swashbuckling sequel to Legend, complete with dynamic action sequences and fleshed out heroes that drive the story right along with the plot. The emotions and romance aren't just a subplot sideshow: they directly effect the events and make them all the more meaningful and high-stakes. Prodigy is a particularly satisfying sequel because of the way it expands and develops the world of the split United States and lets the reader glimpse the surroundings of the Republic dictatorship through the uber-capitalist Colonies. Telling details and backstory are revealed on a need-to-know basis and feel completely natural.
Memorable or Forgettable:  Instead of getting caught in the trappings of of YA dystopia, this series avoids the common "overthrowing the government is the only answer" cliché and introduces a realistic sense of ambiguity. Instead of fulfilling their destiny, the characters find themselves in power and struggle to figure out the right thing to do with it. This makes the story all the more unpredictable and compelling. Another thing that sets the Legend series apart is that when Lu's characters fall off buildings or get shot, they actually get hurt, a reality that other action stories blatantly ignore.There are no miracle cures or “it’s just a flesh wound.” Best of all, these characters aren’t just running around on rooftops. They’re taking action for a reason, and it’s much more complex and exciting than “kill the bad guys.” I can’t wait for the next book.
Cover: The cover has a nice color balance and matches nicely with the first book. I like that there are no people or photos used in it.
Age Range: 12 through 17
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Additional Comments: This is my current favorite action series. It would be quite cool if they got turned into movies.
Annotation:  Marie Lu delivers another stunning dystopian thriller, bringing back June and Day as they struggle to balance between the totalitarian military state that killed their families, a rebel group that is not what it seems, and each other.

tags:  science fiction / action / dystopian romance / thriller / Legend series / ya lit

This Is What Happy Looks Like - YA Review by Paxton A

Reader: Paxton A.
Age: 14
Title: This Is What Happy Looks Like
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Headline
Pub Date: 04/02/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: This was an interesting book to read. The account of emails was a great way to begin the story and give a context to their relationship. They were also helpful later on in the book to show the characters' emotions. The dialogue sometimes didn’t seem realistic and distracted me a little when reading, but for the most part it was good. The story was intriguing, and even though it wasn't very realistic, it had good imagery and sensory details.
Memorable or Forgettable: One of the things that made this book memorable for me was the plot. It was a somewhat-cheesy-but-exciting love story and didn't make me think a lot about what I was reading, but I still read it fast. My emotions seemed to go up and down with Ellie's and that made me like the book a lot.
Cover:  I believe that the cover represents the book well. It also is intriguing with the use of just black,white and yellow and the title intrigued me a lot.
Age Range: 12 through 18 and up
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity:  4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation:  When Ellie O'Neil starts an internet relationship with mysterious stranger, she doesn't know she is actually talking to Graham Larkin, a Hollywood movie star and teen heart-throb of teenage girls everywhere. When he comes to her hometown for a movie shoot, Graham can’t wait to meet the girl he has been emailing. But will they be able to ever have a relationship in real life with his attraction of spotlight and her secret family past that needs to stay in the dark?

tags:  contemporary / romance / realistic fiction / ya lit

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die - YA Review by Katie J

Reader: Katie J.
Age: 13
Title: The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die
Author: April Henry
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, LLC
Pub Date: 01/26/2013
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book:  I love this book.  Probably my favorite part of it is that she gets help from an employee at McDonalds. I love it.
Memorable or Forgettable: It was memorable because of the way it was written.
Cover: I like this cover.
Age Range: 12 through 18 and up
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation:  She doesn't know who she is.  She doesn't know where she is, or why.  All she knows when she comes to in a ransacked cabin is that there are two men arguing over whether or not to kill her.  And that is why she must run.

tags:  suspense / thriller / biological warfare / identity theft / ya lit

Falling Kingdoms - YA Review by Eli S-M

Reader: Eli S-M.
Age: 14
Title: Falling Kingdoms
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Publisher: Razorbill
Pub Date: 12/11/12
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: The book had several elements which were strong, and others which were weaker. The interwoven story lines worked well. Just when you were getting tired of one story, you would be whisked to another, and your interest in the book was rekindled. Unfortunately, both the romance and the way the story lines actually come together seems very contrived.
Memorable or Forgettable: This book was somewhat unmemorable. The intertwining story lines were nice and refreshing, even if the author didn't pull their intersection very well. There are, however, several parts of the book that are bizarrely skimmed over as well, the climactic battle at the end being a notable case.
Cover: The cover reflected the content of the book fairly well, and it did tempt me to pick the book up.
Age Range: Under 12 through 15
Quality: 3Q Readable
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal

tags:  Falling Kingdoms / fantasy / ya lit

Fan Art - YA Review by Claire W

Reader: Claire W.
Age: 12
Title: Fan Art
Author: Sarah Tregay
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pub Date: 06/17/14
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: Everything was great. The plot was one I had read before but done really badly. Sarah Tregay captured real feelings so well I could cry. The dialogue was great and had correct punctuation. The character development was the best I have seen in a while.
Memorable or Forgettable: I will always remember this book. It was written so well and the style of writing was also fabulous.
Cover: The cover was great before I read the book after I had read it it made it all the more sweeter.
Age Range: 12 through 17
Quality:  5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation:  Jamie's life is going pretty good. He is in his senior year of High School and has straight Bs on his report card. He also came out to his parents and they were proud of him and okay with his sexuality. There is only one problem. Jamie is falling for his best friend Mason (who looks Blaine from Glee). But anyway, he is afraid to tell him because he thinks Mason might stop being friends with him.

tags:  contemporary / romance / GLBT / ya lit

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out - YA Review by Guanani

Reader: Guanani
Age: 18
Title: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
Author: Susan Kuklin
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Pub Date: 02/11/14
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book:  This is an articulate nonfiction book that delves into the lives of transgender and non-gender-identifying teenagers. It goes beyond superficial profiles, stereotypes, and other shortcuts. Each section (one for each individual) is extensive, even meticulous. This book seems like a place where questions people are afraid to ask could get answered.
Memorable or Forgettable:  The author clearly spent some time getting to know each person well. I appreciated the wide variety of personalities and gender situations that were presented, and how each section explored both the positive and negative aspects of these people’s lives as they struggle to be recognized for who they are.
Cover:  The cover is lovely, showcasing one of the many portraits of each individual featured in the book.
Age Range: 14 through 18 and up
Quality: 4Q Better than most
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal

tags:  non fiction / transgender / ya lit