Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons why I love YA

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! This week’s theme is reasons why I love [literally anything]. There has been so much controversy over the years about adults reading YA — from other readers trying to shame YA readers for not reading books that they deem sophisticated enough to authors actually saying that only teens should read (or review) YA.

While I can absolutely recognize that YA isn’t written with me in mind and I think it’s important to focus on the opinions of actual teens when it comes to these books, I also think it’s weird to set some magical cut-off age where it’s no longer appropriate to read a particular genre.

All of that said, here I go with ten reasons why I, an adult, love YA.

It’s easy to read

Here’s the thing about my reading in general: I like to feel like I’m making progress. I don’t usually read huge books and I don’t usually read things that I feel like I have to slog through. Now, there are definitely some YA books that are absolute bricks, and there are definitely some YA novels that have taken me forever to get through, but overall, I can usually finish them in a day or two.

It makes me happy

There’s a lot of just purely feel-good, fluffy YA. And don’t get me wrong, those kind of adult books exist too. But I can usually count on adult books to have some big, dramatic conflict that will stress me out to no end. And while YA can be about something dark, it doesn’t usually feel overwhelming, and it almost always has a happy, uplifting ending.

I might be older, but I can still relate

I might have graduated from high school twelve years ago, but I still remember what it’s like to try to find your place in the world, to try to get up the courage to make a big, life-altering decision, to worry about disappointing your parents, and to worry about whether you’re making a fool of yourself in front of the person you like. These are such universal themes! I hope I’m never too old to relate.

I usually don’t like books that end with marriage and kids

One of my biggest pet peeves in an adult romance is everything suddenly getting wrapped up neatly with marriage and children. It’s fine if it’s been part of the plot all along or if it makes sense for the characters, but I hate it when the last chapter features the couple, usually at the start of their relationship, having just gotten through some huge fight, and then we have a random epilogue set a year later and they’re already married with kids. This happens so often in adult romance and I think it sets a really unrealistic expectation that marriage and children are the ultimate goal. This is something that just does not happen in YA since, you know, the characters are teenagers.

It’s a nice escape from the sad medical charts I read all day

I spend 40+ hours each week reading and coding medical charts, mostly from very sick people. I often listen to a YA audiobook while I’m doing that so that I don’t dwell too much on what I’m doing.

YA now is so much better than YA when I was an actual Young Adult

Don’t get me wrong, I read a ton of YA when I was a teen. But the YA section of my library was just a corner. I read nearly all of the books within a couple years, and then I moved on to inter-library loans and bookstores. And while I did read a lot of really good books, I also read a lot of books that followed the same predictable characters and the same predictable plots. I suppose that’s still true today, but the YA section is often a room (or even a floor!) instead of a corner now, and the YA selection in bookstores has expanded from a couple shelves to several aisles. It features vastly different characters experiencing vastly different things, and the possibilities seem to expand every day.

Which leads me into my next point…

It seems easier to find diverse YA than diverse adult novels (or maybe I’m just better at finding them)

There’s such a push for diverse YA books right now, and I absolutely love it. I feel like I can find diverse YA books much more easily than I can find diverse adult books — but maybe they’re just marketed better, or my libraries are better about buying them, or maybe I just follow the right accounts and know what I’m looking for. Regardless of how or why, I think this is a definite plus for YA.

A lot of YA books are really just… good

I tend to read a pretty wide variety of genres, and a lot of my favorite books of all time are YA. Jenn Bennett, Libba Bray, and Marissa Meyer are three YA authors that consistently put out really great YA books with really great stories. There are also deeper themes in a lot of YA, like Sadie, which is heartbreaking and amazing.

I have a whole page of favorite books, and a ton of them are YA.

They create really great opportunities for discussion

Even, or maybe especially, when I dislike a YA book, I think it’s important to talk about why. Sometimes the characters felt too young or I didn’t like the decisions they made, and in that case, I’ll usually do a quick mini-review about how that particular book wasn’t for me but I can see how the actual target demographic might enjoy it. But other times, there are really harmful messages hiding in YA books (see my review of Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens for an example) and there are some weird, or even difficult, conversations to have.

I get some nice feelings of nostalgia

My teenage years weren’t entirely rainbows and butterflies (are anybody’s?), but now that I’m a decade removed from them, I can look back with some rose-colored glasses and remember the really good parts. I love it when I read about a YA friend group that reminds me of my best friends from high school. I love it when I read a scene about an awkward first date that reminds me of my awkward first date. One of my favorite things about reading YA is the occasional nostalgia.

Did you do your own Top Ten Tuesday post today? Feel free to leave your link in the comments and I’ll check it out! Do you read YA? What do you love about it? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Tag: The Real Neat Blog Award (Take 2)

Thank you to Lori for nominating me for the Real Neat Blog Award! ❤

You can see the previous take of this award here!

The guidelines for accepting the Real Neat Blog Award are pretty straightforward:

  • Display the award logo.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Answer the questions from the blog who nominated you.
  • Nominate seven to ten bloggers.
  • Ask them seven questions.

Lori’s Questions

Do you have any weird pet peeves?
I don’t think I really have any weird pet peeves, but it does really stress me out and make me kind of cranky when there are a lot of dirty dishes in the sink.

Which celebrity would you like to meet?
Taylor Swift, but I would probably pass out. More realistically, Jack Antonoff. I’d probably just come close to passing out and not actually do it.

What’s your favorite childhood book?
I read all of Tamora Pierce’s books over and over and over again when I was younger! Her Song of the Lioness series was my favorite.

Have you picked up any new habits while being quarantined?
I’ve been baking a lot more (currently obsessed with making cinnamon rolls) and I’ve been cross stitching a lot!

If you could meet one fictional character, who would it be? Why?
I want to meet Lucy from The Hating Game! She’d be so much fun to hang out with.

What is the title of the best book you’ve read this year?
So far, probably Catch and Kill!

What food will you absolutely not, under any circumstances, eat?
I don’t think there are any foods that I would absolutely not under any circumstances eat, but I certainly would not be picking up eggplant unless I had to. There’s just something about the texture that I cannot handle.

Please feel free to consider yourself tagged and answer these questions if you’d like! Which celebrity would you like to meet? Do you have any new quarantine hobbies? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: The Hand on the Wall, More Than Maybe, and Sawkill Girls

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Source: Borrowed

Ellingham Academy must be cursed. Three people are now dead. One, a victim of either a prank gone wrong or a murder. Another, dead by misadventure. And now, an accident in Burlington has claimed another life. All three in the wrong place at the wrong time. All at the exact moment of Stevie’s greatest triumph . . .

She knows who Truly Devious is. She’s solved it. The greatest case of the century.

At least, she thinks she has. With this latest tragedy, it’s hard to concentrate on the past. Not only has someone died in town, but David disappeared of his own free will and is up to something. Stevie is sure that somehow—somehow—all these things connect. The three deaths in the present. The deaths in the past. The missing Alice Ellingham and the missing David Eastman. Somewhere in this place of riddles and puzzles there must be answers.

Then another accident occurs as a massive storm heads toward Vermont. This is too much for the parents and administrators. Ellingham Academy is evacuated. Obviously, it’s time for Stevie to do something stupid. It’s time to stay on the mountain and face the storm—and a murderer.

In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy.

New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson delivers the witty and pulse-pounding conclusion to the Truly Devious series as Stevie Bell solves the mystery that has haunted Ellingham Academy for over 75 years. 

I don’t even know what I can say about the third book in a series about a murder mystery that’s not some kind of spoiler for something. But what I will say is that I felt this book was a satisfying conclusion to both the mystery of what happened years ago and the recent deaths that have surrounded Stevie. The great reveal might not have been shocking, but it was realistic, and I’d rather have a realistic ending that makes sense than have something nonsensical happen that just makes me roll my eyes.

And, as always, the anxiety rep was great:

Anxiety does not ask your permission. Anxiety does not come when expected. It’s very rude. It barges in at the strangest moments, stopping all activity, focusing everything on itself. It sucks the air out of your lungs and scrambles the world.

I’d definitely recommend this series.

More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
Source: ARC via publisher

Growing up under his punk rocker dad’s spotlight, eighteen-year-old Luke Greenly knows fame and wants nothing to do with it. His real love isn’t in front of a crowd, it’s on the page. Hiding his gift and secretly hoarding songs in his bedroom at night, he prefers the anonymous comfort of the locally popular podcast he co-hosts with his outgoing and meddling, far-too-jealousy-inspiringly-happy-with-his-long-term-boyfriend twin brother, Cullen. But that’s not Luke’s only secret. He also has a major un-requited crush on music blogger, Vada Carsewell.

Vada’s got a five year plan: secure a job at the Loud Lizard to learn from local legend (and her mom’s boyfriend) Phil Josephs (check), take over Phil’s music blog (double check), get accepted into Berkeley’s prestigious music journalism program (check, check, check), manage Ann Arbor’s summer concert series and secure a Rolling Stone internship. Luke Greenly is most definitely NOT on the list. So what if his self-deprecating charm and out-of-this-world music knowledge makes her dizzy? Or his brother just released a bootleg recording of Luke singing about some mystery girl on their podcast and she really, really wishes it was her? 

I was going to write a nice, long review of this one, but I think sometimes short and sweet is better. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book as part of my participation in the blog tour and I loved it just as much as You’d Be Mine.

I think my favorite thing about Hahn’s books is the way she can just casually insert a ton of music references, but it never feels over-the-top. Vada and Luke dropped a lot of song titles in this book and I loved every minute of it. I was particularly happy to see a bunch of my favorites make an appearance!

A brief selection of some of my favorite songs and bands mentioned in this book:

In short: I loved Vada and her blog, I loved Luke and his podcast, I loved Phil and his club, and I loved this book. I can’t wait for Never Saw You Coming.

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.

He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

You may have seen me talk before about how Claire Legrand was my librarian up until I moved to Tennessee a few months ago. She’s super nice and approachable and I really wanted to love her books, but Furyborn just did not do it for me. I took a long break and then decided to jump back in with Sawkill Girls.

This was a completely different reading experience! Sawkill Girls is a little bit weird, a little bit mysterious, a little bit spooky, and filled with a diverse, well-written cast of characters. It’s about the mysterious death of girl after girl after girl. It’s about about girls helping each other and calling out bad behavior.

My only real complaints about this book are that the story got a bit confusing at times (though it’s possible that I only feel that way because I listened to the audio at work and get interrupted pretty frequently) and the pacing seemed a little off toward the end. Still, this book was much better than I’d expected and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re in the mood for some murder and empowerment.

Content warnings for:• death/murder
• loss of family members
• blood/gore
• abuse (physical and verbal)
• death of an animal
• misogyny
• acephobia (immediately challenged)
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Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good YA books recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Weekly Update

In case you missed it, here are this week’s blog posts:

  • Tag: The Folk of the Air Book Tag
  • Review: Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell & Katie Cotugno
  • Top Ten Tuesday: Last ten books I abandoned
  • WWW Wednesday
  • Review: Broken Things by Lauren Oliver
  • Mini-Reviews: The Fire Never Goes Out, The Woods Vol. 1, & An Embarrassment of Witches

I’ve been reading:

Recently acquired:

  • Nothing this week!

1 thing this week:

  • I finally finished my special project at work (I’ve been on it since mid-January) and I’m back to my real job. I forgot how much I love it! The days go so much faster now.

Song of the week:

I’ve been listening to 1989 a lot this week.

How was your week? What’s the best thing you read or listened to? Anything interesting happening in your life? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: The Fire Never Goes Out, The Woods Vol. 1, & An Embarrassment of Witches

The Fire Never Goes Out by Noelle Stevenson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Source: Borrowed

From Noelle Stevenson, the New York Times bestselling author-illustrator of Nimona, comes a captivating, honest illustrated memoir that finds her turning an important corner in her creative journey—and inviting readers along for the ride.

In a collection of essays and personal mini-comics that span eight years of her young adult life, author-illustrator Noelle Stevenson charts the highs and lows of being a creative human in the world. Whether it’s hearing the wrong name called at her art school graduation ceremony or becoming a National Book Award finalist for her debut graphic novel, Nimona, Noelle captures the little and big moments that make up a real life, with a wit, wisdom, and vulnerability that are all her own.

I’ve read many things by Noelle Stevenson but hardly knew anything about her, so when I saw this graphic memoir show up on my library’s Overdrive, I knew I had to check it out.

I think the first thing I want to say is that this isn’t a typical memoir. It’s a lot of doodles and sketches and early comics of hers with little wrap-ups of each year from 2011 to 2019. There’s nothing to really tie everything together and it comes across as a lot of anecdotes and lists of accomplishments. And that’s fine, I just had to adjust my expectations a little bit.

The book does have a nice discussion of mental health, and it was interesting to see Noelle come to accept herself and her sexuality. There are some definite content warnings here for self harm and overwhelming sadness. But overall, the book comes across as very hopeful.

I don’t know that I would recommend this to someone who’s not already a fan of Noelle’s, but if you’ve enjoyed her work and want to learn more about her, this might be worth a read.

The Woods, Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 3, 2014
Source: Borrowed

On October 16, 2013, 437 students, 52 teachers, and 24 additional staff from Bay Point Preparatory High School in suburban Milwaukee, WI vanished without a trace. Countless light years away, far outside the bounds of the charted universe, 513 people find themselves in the middle of an ancient, primordial wilderness. Where are they? Why are they there? The answers will prove stranger than anyone could possibly imagine. 

This is the third of Tynion’s series that I’ve had the pleasure to start, and it’s also the one that takes the most effort to get into. It’s not that there’s anything overtly wrong with this series. It’s set at a high school that just, out of nowhere, gets plopped down into the middle of nowhere on an alien planet. As expected, things descend into chaos as the school’s administration tries to figure out what to do and certain students and teachers take things into their own hands.

This reminded me a bit of Something is Killing the Children, which is another of Tynion’s books that I’ve recently read. It took me a little while to separate the two in my head, but once I did, and once the story picked up, I really enjoyed this.

I’m curious to see where this story goes!

An Embarrassment of Witches by Sophie Goldstein & Jenn Jordan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Source: Borrowed

A coming-of-age urban fantasy set in a world full of animal familiars, enchanted plants, and spell-casting that explores the mundane horrors of breakups, job searches, and post-graduate existential angst.

Life after college isn’t turning out exactly as Rory and Angela had planned. Rory, recently dumped at the gate of her flight to Australia, needs to find a new life path ASAP. What do you do with a B.A. in Communications and a minor in Southeast Asian Spellcraft? Maybe her cute new housemate Guy is the answer she’s looking for (spoiler alert: he isn’t).

Meanwhile, Angela is buckling under the pressure of a high-stakes internship in a cutting-edge cryptopharmocology lab run by Rory’s controlling mother, who doesn’t know Rory is still in town… and Angela hates keeping secrets.

An Embarrassment of Witches is the story of two childhood friends learning how to be adults–and hoping their friendship can survive the change.

I checked out An Embarrassment of Witches on a whim, mostly because I liked the cover and the title, and it was mostly fine. It’s definitely not the greatest graphic novel I’ve ever read, but it’s also far from the worst.

I loved the color palette and the witches’ familiars. I loved the magical university. I loved all of the magical takes on our world, like Taco Spell instead of Taco Bell. What I didn’t love was the virtual absence of plot. This is a graphic novel that’s just about two witches in their mid-20s trying to figure out life, but that’s about it. I kept expecting some actual storyline to show up, and it never really did.

This isn’t a bad graphic novel by any means, but I’m definitely not recommending that anybody run out to the store to buy it.

Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good graphic novels recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Borrowed

It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods.

Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. That driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn the three girls had imagined themselves into the magical world where their fantasies became twisted, even deadly.

The only thing is: they didn’t do it.

On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as the lines begin to blur between past and present and fiction and reality, the girls must confront what really happened in the woods all those years ago—no matter how monstrous.

Honestly, given all of the mixed reviews I’ve read of Broken Things, this was better than I’d expected. I can see why some people have loved it and I can also see why a lot of people have hated it. There are some pretty extensive content warnings for this book that I definitely think you should be aware of going in, so I’ve included those at the bottom of this review.

The first thing that I think I need to say about this book is that it’s very, very reminiscent of Pretty Little Liars with some of the Slenderman stabbing thrown in for good measure. Summer is basically Ali if Ali had grown up in foster care rather than being raised rich and privileged. As the book begins, it seems that this perfectly innocent young girl was brutally murdered for absolutely no reason, and as the book unfolds, we learn things about her that paint her in a less flattering light.

There were many things that I liked about this book. I liked Brynn and Mia and thought that their backstories were really well done. They felt like fully fleshed out characters and I could absolutely understand everything that had gone on in their lives in the years since Summer’s murder. My heart broke for Mia, being so young and having to deal with her mother’s mental health issues by herself. My heart also broke for Brynn, who has bounced from one rehab facility to another for years. The side characters — Abby, Wade, and Owen — were all lovable in their own ways and I think they really added to the story nicely. The incompetence of the detectives was both frustrating and (I think) realistic, since I’m sure this small town wasn’t trained or prepared to handle a murder quite this gruesome. And finally, the excerpts from The Way into Lovelorn and Return to Lovelorn were a nice way to break up the actual story of Summer, Brynn, and Mia.

There were, however, some things I didn’t particularly enjoy. I’ve read really mixed opinions on the reveal of Summer’s true killer, with some people saying it was obvious from the beginning and other people saying it came out of nowhere. I’m somewhere in the middle, but leaning more toward “it came out of nowhere.” I can’t say it was mind-blowing, but it was a little weird. The motivation for her murder seemed to be very basic and after what was otherwise a pretty solid story, I was left feeling a little disappointed. There’s also a very, very disturbing scene involving the torture and murder of a cat, and while it’s definitely not glamorized or excused in the book, I’m also not convinced that it’s something that needed to happen on-page.

Overall, though, this book was good. I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it if you’re looking for a good YA mystery and can handle the content warnings below.

Content warnings for:violence, murder of a child, torture and death of an animal (graphic and on-page), homophobia (challenged), pedophilia, bullying, self harm, talk of drug use

Have you read Broken Things? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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WWW Wednesday

It’s time for another WWW Wednesday!

WWW Wednesday is hosted over at Taking on a World of Words and just involves answering the 3 Ws!

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR? Did you do your own WWW Wednesday post today? Let’s talk in the comments!

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