Tuesday, May 21, 2013

FLASH REVIEWS: Recent YA Reads in Realistic Fiction

I have been woefully remiss about posting book reviews lately, but here are some quick reviews of some of the YA books I've read and enjoyed over the last few months. We are undergoing a few changes right now at Book News & Reviews, but I promise we will continue to publish "reviews of all sorts" for your reading pleasure—and hopefully with greater frequency than ever!

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Coming of Age
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Colby's plan for after high school has always been to spend the year after graduation exploring Europe with Beth, his best friend—and secret crush. Only now suddenly Beth has other plans that don't include Colby and he must figure out both his confused feelings for his best friend and what her deviation from the plan means for his own future. In the meantime, he is on an adventure-filled road trip with Beth and her punk-rock girl band, The Disenchantments. This is a fantastic novel, full of humor; quirky, complex characters; and deeply felt emotions. Hauntingly beautiful and rawly honest without becoming overly heavy, it is a perfect summer read.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Romance
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Perfect good-girl Samantha Reed has been fascinated by the messy, complicated lives of the large Garrett family since the day they moved next door 10 years ago. Her state senator mother, on the other hand, considers them a blight on the neighborhood and so the ever-dutiful Samantha has kept her distance. But then Samantha finally meets Jase Garrett and the perfect bubble she lives in under the dictates of her mother suddenly seems sterile and unsatisfying. This book has far more depth than a typical summer romance, with strong characters and a slowly unfolding plot. Complicated family dynamics, shocking secrets, and difficult moral dilemmas come into play to create a compelling read sure to appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen, Elizabeth Scott, and Deb Caletti.

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Told in alternating viewpoints—part prose, part poetry—this is a lyrical, edgy read that will especially appeal to creative and artistic teens. Set over the course of a single night, the story follows a group of teens on a mission to uncover the identity of a talented local graffiti artist who goes by the name Shadow. Lucy, an aspiring glassblower, has always felt a special connection to Shadow's work and believes they are fated to meet. What Lucy and her girlfriends don't know is that Ed, a boy with whom she once shared a disastrous date and who now claims to know the whereabouts of Shadow, is actually the reclusive artist himself. Over the course of the night, the teens encounter several misadventures and Lucy and Ed gradually move from adversaries to confidantes as they share their inner thoughts about past failures, artistic inspiration, and deeply held beliefs. The beautiful imagery and innovative writing falters a bit here and there, but overall this is a wonderfully written novel with well-developed, believable characters and motivations.

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Ever since her parents split up and she moved with her father to the U.S., Sophie spends her summers with her mother in the Congo helping out at the wildlife sanctuary that has become her mother's obsession. But after Sophie impulsively purchases a mistreated bonobo from a street seller, her mother leaves on a business trip and assigns Sophie the task of caring for the animal while she is away. Then fighting breaks out across the country and the sanctuary is ransacked by rebels. Somehow, Sophie manages to escape into the jungle with several of the apes in tow, and she must find a way to survive both the dangers of nature and the threat of human killers. Though the story occasionally pushes the limits of credulity, this is a harrowing, vividly realized novel with wide appeal.

Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Struggling with her own inner guilt and determined to locate her missing drug-addict brother, Rachel teams up with Tyler—a former bandmate of her brother's—to look for clues to Michah's whereabouts. Together, they travel to a beach town believed to be Micah's last-known residence, all while Rachel desperately searches to understand what became of her brother and what it all means for her life. Flawed but believable characters, emotional revelations, and short, fast-paced chapters, make for an absorbing and powerful story. Frequent flashbacks showing Rachel's unraveling relationship with her brother make the narrative even more compelling and heartbreaking.

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