Hello everyone, and welcome back!
This segment went over well for my winter reads, so I thought I’d bring it back to wrap up spring! Well, that, and this is going to make my end of year posts way easier to sort out. (Selfless/selfish blogging.)
The bests are the ones that stand out to me as the season wraps up; the worsts are ones that disappointed me in one way or another. All in no particular order, because that’s how I roll. Without further ado, let’s get to it!
Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
This is a fun sci-fi romp across space as an AI and a girl speed between colonized planets to try to avert a war. The worldbuilding is cool, the romance is slow-moving and non-irritating (with no love triangle, thank everything), and morality is not all black and white. Good times. (And it’s a sci-fi! Yes to the sci-fi in YA trend.)
Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Another second shot at an author that paid dividends. This duology is probably one of the most hyped that’s ever been on the YA reviewing corner of the Internet, but in any case: it’s a fantasy set in the same universe as the Grisha trilogy (so magic exists). It’s about a team of misfits who get together and perform a very risky heist, and the aftermath of that.
The characters in this are flawed but very likeable, the heist plot makes for a familiar and fun device, and just in general—if you like morally ambiguous, mildly tragic, diverse characters (some different backgrounds, some queerness, a bit of disability rep) with dashes of magic, romance, and scheme-y goodness, this will be the duology for you.
Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
This one is some heartwrenching mental illness representation about a young woman who struggles to leave her house. Of course it’s a contemporary romance, so of course she meets a boy next door, but it’s certainly not simple getting to know him.
This one rushed the ending a bit (it feels like a lot of books in this mold do so; Everything, Everything has a similar vibe and is perhaps more guilty of the same issue) and was a bit short, but otherwise it had some really solid material. Scope out the trigger warnings before this one, though.
Geekerella by Ashley Poston
A fandom contemporary romance and fairy tale retelling all wrapped up in one, which is honestly exceedingly fun and clever before we even get to the writing. This one splits time between “Geekerella” and her “prince charming,” and both perspectives are fun to read from.
This was a short book, so inevitably there was more I wanted in terms of development for a lot of the not-two-main-characters (when will I find a short book I am totally happy with?), but it still stands out as probably the cutest and most engagingly written romance of the season.
The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Agh the smell descriptions in this book and the imagery and the love of setting, I can’t.
This is set in Alaska in 1970 and it follows the stories of four teens as they deal with different struggles. The stories are interconnected and the images are beautiful and this is a lot about found families and place and it was made to turn me to mush, I guess. This is also a short book, so there were aspects of backstory I sort of wished I had and didn’t get, but this book just killed me and it’s one of my favourites of the year almost certainly.
A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
I’ve had time to think about it since this. And honestly, this book isn’t bad per se, but it disappointed me so hard. The second book in this trilogy was so much better than the first; I expected this one to ramp up even more in quality.
It…didn’t. I would argue it was not as good. For that and other reasons (cough Feyre as a spy in enemy territory was wasted potential, it seemed like a queer character was retconned into the story for no particular reason but maybe to avoid criticism), I just…no. Not really.
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
This book represents an important issue, forced marriage, that affects a lot of young women around the world. It’s also about a young female protagonist from a culture I’m not too familiar with. Based on that, I feel really badly putting it on this list, because honestly? It’s the only thing representing that issue that I’ve ever read, I learned a little from it, and really, it’s short enough to recommend anyway.
But this book so disappointed me. The writing is just…messy, friends. You don’t get to know the characters really, there’s no reason to care about the protagonist in particular (I just cared that her life sucked because of the situation), scenes sometimes just melt into one another because the action is unclear, and…yeah. I wanted to be yelling about recommending this book, but I’m kind of, “Well, the issue is important, just…make it to the end.”
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
Everyone loves this. I could not love this. It had an autistic, anxious female protagonist and a queer POC protagonist and it takes place at a fan convention. What wouldn’t be to love?
Only that…like the conflict and stakes in this story are kind of “???” so it feels a lot like a grouping of scenes loosely stitched together based on minor obstacles that can fall into the protagonists’ paths, that they then react to very melodramatically…? And I feel like I didn’t feel the con magic, which is obviously important. I don’t know. You do you, rest of the Internet that loves this. I wish I could.
Zodiac BY roMINA rUSSELL
I don’t know if this book should even count, because I should’ve known what I was getting into.
Anyway: this book is a hot dang mess. Which is too bad, really. It does have some cool moments (the prologue) and ideas (that cool way the Gemini folk visualize ideas!), but it’s also chock full of love triangle including overbearing, condescending dickweed we’re supposed to root for, instalove, Chosen One stuff, the protagonist being unable to do anything because Adults Never Take Teens Seriously, etc. It’s just…yeah. I mean, read it if you don’t believe me. At least it’s not boring!
Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff
I don’t know how a book about fandom (and being in a boyband fandom, no less!) can come off as seeming this unenthused, but here’s this book for ya. Grace came off as so “normal”-acting that she actually seemed like she lowkey hated her BFF in fandom. She also seemed mildly disdainful (at first) towards the guy in the band she first meets.
I don’t even know, y’all. Maybe if you’re a Directioner, this book works. (Or maybe it’d super offend your senses. I expect it could.)
For me? Some of the coming-of-age bits worked well and I liked the ending, but I came out for the fandom contemporary romance, and the fanning in this was so flat that I was genuinely confused. Which I don’t get, because clearly the author is a fan! What happened, Zan Romanoff? What did they do to you.
Well, that’s the end of spring and the start of summer, officially! What are your favourite genres to read during the summer months? Did you love/hate any of my best/worst picks? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!