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Young Adult reviews from the Bookshop Santa Cruz Staff! Read more Young Adult staff recommendations on our website.

The Mending Summer

By Ali Standish

Ali Standish tells the story of Georgia and her summer at her great-aunt’s house in her book, The Mending Summer. When alcoholism begins to consume Georgia’s father so that her mother must work and study extra hard to support their family, Georgia is sent to live with her great-aunt in the countryside. There, she makes a new friend, Angela. Together they discover a magical lake in the woods near Georgia’s great-aunt’s house. This mystical lake appears to be the solution to all of Georgia’s problems, but Georgia’s home life worsens and the powers of the lake are abused. Georgia must find a way to reckon with her emotions regarding her father and learn important lessons about friendship and family.


I liked this book. The figurative language that Standish used transported me into Georgia’s forest paradise. I also appreciated the way both magical and realistic elements were intertwined in this story. That said, the plot was pretty predictable. Georgia was also a more childish character in comparison to most characters in other young adult novels.


I would recommend this book to those who enjoy reading both realistic fiction and fantasy.

Reviewed by Sophie Cornish

Concrete Rose

by Angie Thomas

A prequel to the critically acclaimed novel The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas, Concrete Rose tells the story of Maverick’s (Starr’s father) young adult life. For as long as he can remember, Maverick has been aware of his responsibilities as the son of a King Lord. With his father now in jail and his mother working multiple jobs to keep them afloat, Maverick decides to take on extra dealing jobs in addition to the ones he fulfills for the King Lords. Luckily, he has a great girlfriend and a caring cousin to support him. This relatively stable situation is destroyed when Maverick finds out he is the father of a son whose mother is not his girlfriend. While learning how to be a parent and provide for a child he must also grapple with the death of someone close to him. Maverick must figure out how to balance his identity as a son, father, and boyfriend, with his duties as a member of the King Lords. 

I really enjoyed this book. The story was engaging and provided refreshing insight into the life of those involved with gangs as well as teen fathers. Thomas’ colloquial style of writing displayed through Maverick’s narration made the book feel more realistic and also helped the audience get to know Maverick better. Maverick’s character was overall inspiring and admirable. 

I would recommend this story to anyone who loved The Hate You Give, realistic fiction fans, and those wanting to diversify their shelves. This book will make you laugh, cry, and reflect. Enjoy! 

Reviewed by Sophie Cornish

Roxy

by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

The novel Roxy by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman is a strange and interesting read that talks about problems with drug abuse. The book is interestingly written from 4 different points of view with Ivy, Issac, Roxy, and Addison. Ivy and Issac are brother and sister who simultaneously have individual struggles with drugs, Ivy with adderall and Issac with oxycontin. They both have their own reasons as to why they do what they do, but ultimately neither of them are all that aware that they have an addiction. Roxy, oxycontin, and Addison, adderall, are portrayed as people who only interact with Ivy and Issac and are invisible to the rest of the world. While the reader is led to believe that Addison and Roxy could actually be people, all of their public interactions with Ivy and Issac go unnoticed by other people.  The goal for Ivy is to get her life together by working harder in school and get a handle on her ADHD. The goal for Issac is to allow him to keep playing soccer even though he hurt his ankle badly. The goals for Addison and Roxy are to get Ivy and Issac to the party and take them to their boss, Hiro, who will lead them to their deaths. Hiro is actually heroine and his job is to ensure that people like Ivy and Issac never leave the party by killing them with an overdose.  This book was a very interesting read for a few different reasons. Ivy and Issacs’ points of view in the book are both in third person while Addison and Roxys’ are in first person. I thought that was a subtle but powerful choice by the authors because it shows how Issac and Ivy are not in control of their choices, even though they think they are. Addison and Roxy are actually in control of them. I liked all the plot twists throughout the book that were super unexpected, and intriguing which made the ending very hard to predict, and also surprising. I also liked how at the party, all the “people” there are named with nicknames or parodies of the names of the actual drugs they’re supposed to be. Like marijuana was Mary-Jane, and Al was alcohol. It was kinda fun trying to figure out all the names. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun and interesting read, that makes a heavy subject a bit lighter. 

Reviewed by Payton Lundberg

Love and Other Natural Disasters

by Misa Sugiura

Love and Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura is a fun and light-hearted teen romance novel. The main character, Nozomi, has moved to San Francisco for the summer to live with her uncle. She is trying to get over a rough experience with a girl as well as try and figure out where she stands with her grandmother, who is struggling with dementia and might not accept Nozomi for her sexuality. Over the summer, she meets a girl named Willow and instantly develops a crush. Willow is not yet over her ex-girlfriend but when she asks Nozomi to pose as her fake girlfriend to woo back her ex, Nozomi instantly agrees. As she makes new friends in a new city, she must reevaluate her idea of romance after it had been warped from her parent’s recent divorce. She will find the true meanings of love and family throughout her summer.

Like Suigiura’s other works, I thought this book was enjoyable. It was fun to follow Nozomi’s mission to win over Willow. That said, the serious themes also included in the book gave it more meaning. The plot was also very engaging and exciting. The POC LGBTQ+ representation was very refreshing to see.

Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot and I would recommend it to romance lovers and fans of Jenny Han. You are in for a great read!

Reviewed by Sophie Cornish

Blackout

by Dhonielle Clayton

Blackout is a collection of intertwining black love stories by six different black female authors. All the stories take place in New York city during a heat wave that causes a city-wide black out. This book contains all different types of love, from self love to family love to romantic love, readers will be able to find a story they connect with.

This book was a great quick read, it’s sure to make anyone having a hard time feel comforted. Elements such as timeline and imagery were done wonderfully making the book exciting to read. However, some of the dialogue, especially the slang, felt forced or unnatural. Personally, I could look past the dialogue and enjoy the description of New York city. 

If you want to read more diverse love stories, consider picking this up. Not only are all the main characters black, but they all come from different socio-economic backgrounds, have different sexual orientations and relationships with their mental health. 

Reviewed by Lynda Otero

All These Bodies

by Kendare Blake

All These Bodies by Kendare Blake is a young adult murder mystery novel following Micheal Jensen, a teenage boy passionate about journalism. When a family is murdered in his close knit community, one of several cases in the country, everyone is in shock and desperate for answers. Fortunately a suspect is found at this murder, Marie Catherine Hale has the answers everyone is looking for but won’t give them up so easily. Some of her conditions include that she will not reveal her partner’s identity and will only tell Micheal the story of the murders. Right off the bat, Micheal believes this is his ticket to get into a journalism program after high school, soon though he discovers that talking to Marie may not only cost him his reputation, but his sanity too.

This story took an unexpected turn, and while some may find the twist enjoyable others may find it childish. Initially, it seems the story will be realistic fiction, especially considering that it takes inspiration from a real story, but after a while there is a monstar element added. Although it adds mystery to the tone, it doesn’t do much to move the plot along, which is confusing in and of itself. What makes the reader come back for more is definitely the characters and their natural dialogue. Personally, if I had known the story strayed away from realistic fiction I wouldn’t have picked it up, but I am glad I did as the author did a good job of making everything as realistic as possible. 

All in all, I would recommend this book to those who want to start reading more horror or murder mystery stories because it is excellent introduction to the genre. – Lynda O

Victories Greater Than Death

by Charlie Jane Anders

“Victories Greater Than Death” by Charlie Jane Anders is a glorious adventure of a book. It’s like a cross between Star Wars and probably Star Trek, however I have not seen Star Trek so I don’t know for sure. Or Star Wars and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Definitely Star Wars and something else. The main character, Tina, is a Makvarian that was disguised as a human at birth and was sent to live on Earth. When she was born, a copy of warrior Captain Thaoh Argentian consciousness was put inside her. When Tina reaches a certain age, a beacon will light up inside her, alerting fellow members of the Royal Fleet of her location. Tina gets picked up by an alien spaceship called the Indomitable, which also accidentally picks up her best friend Rachel. At this point Tina will be able to go through a treatment to restore Captain Argentian’s memories and essentially bring her back to life. However, the technology was still pretty experimental when Captain Argentian’s memories were collected and transferred, so things didn’t work out exactly how Captain Othaar planned. This leaves Tina, Rachel, and a plethora of different aliens to fight a battle to save the galaxy. This book was really fun to read! I love all the different types of aliens and how much detail Anders gives to try to explain them. The huge diversity of the types is really creative and impressive. I also like the different names for different species of aliens, like the Grattna and the Kraelyors. Also the crazy names of the different “people ” on the Indomitable like Uiuiuiui, Lyzix, and Yatto the Monntha. It was a little difficult to keep all the different names and types of aliens straight though, just because the names are so weird and there are so many of them. Another thing that I enjoyed about this book was that everyone introduced themselves with their pronouns. I thought that was super cool and definitely something we should try to normalize more. Also all the different little aspects of the cultures of the different aliens. Like how the Grattna always have to have three sides to any situation, or that the Oonians can only have a baby after one of them die so that there are only 1,000 of them at a time. I also thought it was cool that the Makvarians have three genders and that a general Makvarian relationship involves all three of them. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure, and sci-fi. It’s an epic adventure full of action and fun. 

Kate in Waiting by Beck Albertalli

The book “Kate in Waiting” by Becky Albertalli is a light-hearted, enjoyable book. It’s about a girl, Kate, who has a crush on the same guy her best friend Anderson does. She’s pretty used to short-lived, unrequited crushes, until Matt moves to her school. Kate then realizes that this crush might be different from the others in that it might be reciprocated. She also hopes that this year, she’ll finally get a significant part in the school play. Little does she know that getting cast as a couple with Matt might not be exactly what she expects. Also that sometimes the people you don’t notice are the ones that see you the most. This book was really good! It was kind of predictable in a comforting way, but still had surprises. My favorite character was probably Anderson because he didn’t out Matt even though he really wanted to tell Kate that they were dating. He respected the fact that Matt was not ready to tell people and didn’t go behind his back or anything. Even though he kind of jeopardized his relationship with Kate, but it worked out for all of them in the end. I also really liked Noah because even though he had had a crush on Kate forever, he waited until Kate got over Matt to tell her. He was also always there for her when things with Anderson got weird and tense. Their relationship is cute since Noah is her brother Ryan’s best friend from when they were kids. So they’ve known each other forever. I don’t know, I think I’m just a sucker for that kind of love story. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good, comforting love-story, full of laughs and a few tears. – Payton L

The Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy by Rae Carson

Wow. I devoured this series from start to finish, simultaneously dreading and yearning the ending. I have nothing but praise and applause for the writing, plot, characters, and overall feeling of joy this book brought me. The Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy by Rae Carson is truly an unforgettable adventure.

The story is broken down into three books—The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers, and finally The Bitter Kingdom—that all follow the story of one heroic girl. Elisa has always felt out of place, an ugly monster compared to her beautiful sister. Born with a Godstone that deems her the chosen one, she feels anything but. When, on her sixteenth birthday, she is wed to a handsome king, she must find it inside herself to become the queen she never thought she could be. As war breaks out and enemies seek the power of her Godstone, she must find a way to use it or lose it. For the good of her people and the good of the world, she must hold great courage and become stronger than ever in the face of destruction.

There are so many things I love about this series but one of the most important is the growth and realness we see in Elisa’s character over time. Unlike many fantasy novels, she didn’t start confident and beautiful. She’s described as pretty much useless, with a love for pastries above all else. She’s unsure and weak, longing for acceptance with no idea where to go. Skip to the end of the book where she has become a regal and magnificent queen. She is powerful and strong, a badass woman who has lost, loved, and learned. I love her journey because it is not easy. Carson has created a female protagonist that is truly unique and independent, a person that other girls can relate and look up to.

Aside from Elisa’s strength of character, the world that Carson has created is equally enjoyable. It’s a fantasy realm with magic, swords, high seas, and giant castles. The storyline takes you on so many adventures that it’s impossible to get bored, and even more impossible to put the book down. The side characters that Carson introduces are just as compelling and lovable as Elisa, bringing humor, romance, and comfort into the pages.

I’m sad that it ended so soon, but delighted to share my review, as it’s one of the most enjoyable fantasy adventures series I’ve read in awhile. I highly recommend for anyone interested in that genre, and especially for those seeking an excellent female protagonist. – Kira K

Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach

Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach is an adorable young adult novel following Eliza Quan, a teenage girl learning about feminism. After Eliza’s goals seem to be unreachable due to a sudden competitor, she expresses her emotions privately the best way she knows how, by writing. Unfortunately, someone takes her writing and publishes it for the world to see. She doesn’t back down from her claims although she begins getting harassed, instead makes her opinions even more known by protesting in many creative ways. Along the way she makes friends with people she least expected, who make her question whether she is a good feminist and what that actually means. 

This story was great, the characters felt very real and relatable even when some situations seemed stereotypical of young adult stories. The plot was very clear, making all the events in the story fascinating because the reader wanted to know the effects of everything on the characters’ relationships and futures. Another thing that is greatly appreciated in stories is having funny or amusing dialogue, Quach definitely delivered on this front. For all it’s great qualities, there were a few things that needed improvement, the world building and descriptions for example could have been less detailed as this often got tedious to read. Personally, I could related to the main chacater feeling as though she is unlikeable as well as constantly questioning whether she is a good feminist or not. 

To conclude, I would definitely recommend this book to others, especially those who want to read about feminism in a school setting that does not only talk about dress code. This is because this author finds many different examples in education where misogyny goes unchecked, not just the classic dress code discussion. – Lynda O.