Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tracy's Favorite YA Reviews

It's hard to believe, but Book News & Reviews hit its two-year anniversary back in August! More than 70 reviews later, I've given out only a handful of 5 and 4.5 star reviews so readers would know which books really stand out for me. Many of those selections have been YA books, so to wrap up Teen Read Week, I thought today would be a great time to look back on some of my favorite teen titles reviewed here on the blog.

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Reviewed: August 9, 2011

This book is still very close to my heart. It was my very first review for Book News & Reviews, but more importantly I read it at a time when, like Amy, I was coping with my own grief and guilt over the loss of a loved one. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour deals with some difficult issues, but it is also an undeniably fun book about music, friendship, and adventure. It made me cry, it made me laugh, and it made me reflect. Amy and Roger's playlists inspired me to create my own mixes in memory of my mother, a task which gave me something concrete to do and helped me deal with her loss. Sometimes you are lucky enough to discover the perfect book at just the right time. I'm glad that I found Amy & Roger's Epic Detour when I did. Read my original review »

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Reviewed: December 6, 2011

Now that Divergent is one of the "It" books, with a devoted fandom and a highly anticipated movie on the way, I can proudly say that I discovered it fairly early on. (I actually read it months before I wrote my review because I was waiting for library copies to come in.) As I said in my original review, I liked it far it more than The Hunger Games. For me, Tris is a more believable character and I love the dynamic between Tris and Four. Which makes me wonder why I STILL haven't read Insurgent although it's been sitting by my bedside since shortly after the release date. I think secretly I know the wait for the final book would drive me crazy. But since Allegiant comes out this month, it may be safe to proceed... Read my original review »

I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Reviewed: December 23. 2011

This book was such a surprise to me. There was very little buzz, and it wasn't a contender when awards time rolled around. But, trust me, it's a gem. This is what I wrote in my original review:
Intertwining a gripping survival story with a sweet tale of first love, I'll Be There is one of the best, most heartfelt books I've read in ages. It's one of those stories that completely mesmerizes you and still lingers in your mind weeks later. And puts a smile on your face. There is a magic to Sloan's prose: it is thoughtful and yet carries an immediacy that makes each page a joy to read. There is nothing flashy in her writing; it is vivid and precise, allowing the extraordinary characters and their predicaments to move the story along. Am I sounding a bit fan-girl crazy and over-the-top in my praise? I apologize. But. I love this book.
Excessive and gushy perhaps, but I stand by what I wrote 100%. Read the full original review »

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Reviewed: February 22, 2012

Unlike I'll Be There, this is a book that was on everyone's radar. Well, anyone remotely familiar with YA literature who hasn't been living under a rock for the past few years. Almost universally known as the book that will have you crying your way through at least one box of Kleenex, The Fault in Our Stars actually did not push those particular buttons for me. It was heartbreaking but, for me, not tear-inducing. Instead, I simply enjoyed the heck out of the smart, quirky, book-loving characters and John Green's always stellar dialogue. Read my original review »

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Reviewed: June 23, 2012

This is the fifth book in the series and easily my favorite yet. I wasn't fully on board the Mortal Instruments bandwagon early on, although I enjoyed the books well enough. I simply felt that Clare's writing was not as polished as I wanted it to be. I got a kick out of her sharp, snarky humor and strong characterizations, but I also spotted a lot of plot inconsistencies. Maybe that was related to errors in the audiobook recordings, but I doubt it. But City of Lost Souls won me over once and for all. The tension and angst were at full throttle from start to finish, and the audiobook was fantastic. (Seriously, I am so glad the producers ditched Ed Westwick and stuck with Molly Quinn on her own.) The City of Bones movie may have been a HUGE disappointment, but I can't wait till the final installment of the series comes out in May 2014. Read my original review »

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbotsky
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Reviewed: August 16. 2012

I was a late discoverer of this fabulous cult classic. My love for this book is mostly down to the strong, engaging voice. The fact that it's set during in the 1990s, when I was a high school student myself, probably has a little something to do with it at well. This is an engrossing, full story with excellent characterizations and relatable issues. Although on the surface my high school experience was nothing like Charlie's, I still felt like we had everything in common. I especially recommend the audiobook, which brings out Charlie's voice perfectly.
Read my original review »

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Reviewed: February 11, 2013

This book made a huge impression on the 2013 Youth Media Award committees (<---check out that cover to see the evidence), and it's clear why. The simple narrative, without any unnecessary literary embellishments, packs a powerful punch. This is a novel that succeeds on multiple levels and tackles A LOT of issues without ever becoming heavy handed or preachy. In hindsight, I am seriously tempted to bump up my star rating to a five!  Read my original review »

The Diviners by Libba Bray
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Reviewed: June 12, 2013

Urban fantasy meets horror meets historical fiction in this near-perfect series opener. The 1920s have never been creepier or more intriguing, and I love the diversity of the characters and personalities.This is a book that works both as a self-contained novel and as a wonderful lead-in for the rest of the series. Although I read it months ago, The Diviners is a book that I keep coming back to in my mind over and over. I can't wait to see what comes next and how the many disparate characters will eventually come together.  Read my original review »

If you're interested, other books I've awarded 4.5 or 5 stars to include:

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