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 Clarton

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.

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

If you have ever read a book by Tiffany D. Jackson, then you are well aware of the amazing ability she possesses that makes readers question everything they know about a character. In her novel Grown she does it again while highlighting how black girls are overly sexualized from childhood leading to their dehumanization. The main character of the novel is Enchanted Jones, an aspiring teenage singer who happens to meet a big celebrity during an audition. This celebrity promises to help her accomplish her goals as long as she does what she is told. Rapidly, her life becomes a terrible nightmare and she must prove she is innocent in his murder. 

Reading this book is quite uncomfortable and nerve racking, but this seems to be the author’s intention as stories about girls being taken advantage of are never pleasant. This was a great book, the themes it set out to explore were fully thought out and left the reader thinking deeply for a while after. The only critique would be towards some of the dialogue, sometimes the slang felt unnatural. Occasionally, this messed with the flow of the story a bit, but the author’s writing style and expert use of time jumps made up for it. As someone who typically doesn’t enjoy mystery or thrillers, this book felt captivating as it made me question the character the way society would make people question the character. This revelation shocked me and broke my heart because I realized how easily I was swayed to believe something I knew wasn’t true. 

In summary, this book is wonderful although it is difficult to read and reflect upon. It’s themes are extremely important and well written therefore I would recommend this to others, especially those who question the dehumanization of black women. – Lynda O

Come On In edited by Adi Alsaid

Have you ever been transported to fifteen different places in one book? The readers of Come On In edited by Adi Alsaid have. This book is a collection of fifteen different stories about immigration, with a focus on young people immigrating. All the characters and stories are drastically different, but immigration is a major element in all the stories, it shapes all the characters. From 1990s Indian teens, to 1930s Irish teens, to modern day Latinx teens, this book is diverse and full of adventure as well as heartbreak.

This was an amazing book because any reader could resonate with a story or writer’s style. Some stories were plot heavy, whereas others were more character based but in general the reader often wished the story hadn’t ended when they were finished. There were a few stories that were very poetic, with vibrant words that created wonderful landscapes for readers. The time jumps in other stories were flawless, which is very difficult to accomplish. Often characters were created with such care that they felt real, and whatever happened to them felt devastating or amazing. I could resonate with some of the stories because they were about first generation children like myself. A major thing I appreciated was that immigration was not only portrayed as something heartbreaking that separates people, but also something that creates new opportunities and hope. 

To wrap up, this is definitely a book I would recommend to others, not only to immigrants or children of immigrants, but people who want to begin to understand a little of what immigration is like. It shows immigrants as humans, which is immensely important as they have been dehumanized in the media. – Lynda O

Smash It! by Francina Simone

The stirring novel Smash It! by Francina Simone follows teenager Olivia James as she attempts to turn her year from predictable to exciting. Olivia notices that she has a tendency to give up on her aspirations, as well as, blend in with the crowd. She decides to write down what she wants to accomplish and follows through. Of course, alone she doesn’t realize her goals; her friends, new and old, push her to see it through. Unfortunately, Olivia loses sight of this as her relationships become more complicated and must recognize how she has wronged those around her, including herself. 

This story does an excellent job of portraying how complicated life and relationships can be when someone is young and trying to come to terms with their identity. The plot was clear as it was evident that the story was leading up to the school play. Elements like the unique characters, dialogue, and youthful style worked well. Despite this, some comments about how being friends with women is more difficult than being friends with men and other jokes did rub me the wrong way.

Looking past that, I would recommend this book to other teenage girls looking to learn to love themselves because it teaches that self love should always come first. – Lynda O