February 17, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review Genre-Bending Dystopians, Romance, and More

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Ahern_FlawedFrom Sarah Brennan’s latest to Cecelia Ahern’s YA debut, the following titles have SLJ’s teen reviewers buzzing.

AHERN, Cecelia. Flawed. Feiwel & Friends. Apr. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250074119.
Gr 7 Up–
Celestine North lives a perfect life until she makes a bad decision that leads to terrible consequences. Flawed is a book about finding out who you really are, you won’t be able to put it down!

I really liked the cover because it was simple and did reflect the contents. I loved the plot, it was so unique and different from any other book I’ve read. I think the characters could have been more unique with a more built up personality.—Veronica C., 12

Brennan_Tell the Wind_BRENNAN, Sarah Rees. Tell the Wind and Fire. Clarion. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544318175.
Gr 9 Up–
I thought that this was a really great book set in the future of a divided New York. I liked how the cover is black and white, except for the title, which makes it stand out a little creepily, especially with the words below it, “who will you save when the cities burn.” It reflects the contents and gives me an idea of the setting and time period.

I really liked the plot. Normally, you would think of the light as good, and the dark as bad, and that’s what the citizens of light also believe. But then, as you read more, it seems like the light is more bad, and the dark seems good. And in the end, they’re pretty much the same, and it’s only a mix of this that the good truly comes out. The characters are all different and add some really cool personality to the story.—Kaitlyn H., 13

CASTNER, K.D. Daughters of Ruin. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Apr. 2016. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 9781481436656.
Gr 7 Up—
Four “sisters” try to get along for the sake of their kingdoms, but after an attack on the yearly Revels, true alliances are formed and broken, and the rapid events that unfold show that nothing is quite as it seems.

Castner, K.D. Daughters of RuinThe cover was captivating, which was originally why I picked up the book in the first place. The girl looks like how the main character Rhea was described, and having her sisters in the background was a nice touch. It did not reflect the contents well, however. The sisters never once meet underground, and the cover portrays Rhea as someone challenging whatever she sees, whereas her character is more of a passive aggressive and silent brooder.

I really liked the setting. While it was slightly confusing at first, the world that the book was set in was very unique; every kingdom had its own culture and customs that were reflected in its princess. This made the world captivating, and I honestly wish the author had spent more time exploring the world. I loved Marta and Endrit, as their characters were well-rounded and amusing. Their interactions with the other characters and each other was always enjoyable to read.

The sisters made their own impressions in the beginning of the book, and sadly I thought that they didn’t live up to their first impressions. Rhea started out whiny but proud, and is later described almost as having a sister complex and self-confidence issues. This would have been fine by itself, but at the end of the book she is suddenly described as being manipulative and power-hungry, wanting the throne for herself and despising her father and brother for not properly killing off the old ruler’s lineage. This seemed really out of character for me, and I thought that the author did a poor job of leading up to this development. Cadis and Iren both lived up to my first impressions, until Cadis completely gave up their relationship and Iren left. Their bond was troubled, but Cadis seemed like the type of person to try to understand why Iren was behaving like she was, instead of lashing out and sending her off. Their development didn’t fit the characters I had thought the author was trying to have them be, and it was frustrating.

Suki was a rather disturbing character, with all of the parenthesis difficult to read and making her seem mad. This was completely understandable, and while I thought the author did well at trying something new, it was painful to read. Suki lived for her sister, and every move revolved around her sister’s death. [SPOILER] So when Suki kills Tola in the end, I was astonished. Out of all of the characters, Suki was one that was set up the most securely in my opinion, and her actions were beyond mad, they were almost random. I would also like to mention that there were quite a few sentences that didn’t make any sense, not only to me but to friends I showed them to.

I think that it would be good to ask about the author’s personal bio. This author had a very random, slightly disturbing bio. I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell your potential reader that you almost died three times in water, and the bio almost made me not read the book. Over all, the plot and the world are good ideas, but I would have gone over the story again for a smoother, more understandable presentation of the author’s ideas.—Shelby D., 18

Cumyn hot-pterodactyl-boyfriend-CUMYN, Alan. Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend. S. & S. Mar. 2016. Tr. $ 17.99. ISBN 9781481439800.
Gr 10 Up—Shiels has her life under control and planned to the last detail. She’s student body chair. She has a loving boyfriend, and she has college plans. Everything’s going great for her, until a pterodactyl lands on the school track and turns her life upside down. After a slew of incidents, Shiels must decide if she’s willing to throw everything away for the sake of a mysterious (and oddly attractive) pterodactyl.

The cover of Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend is utterly hideous. I don’t think there’s a nicer way to say it. The title font is arranged in an asymmetrical manner that could look nice if it didn’t make it so hard to read the rainbow-tinted letters. Additionally, the color scheme of neon letters on a black background is more “conspiracy theorist HTML webpage” than it is “edgy teen novel.” The back cover with the purple girl on it is nothing more than terrifying, and not something you want to see next to your bed in the morning when you still don’t have your contacts in. It’s fairly scary, actually. Unfortunately, this reflects the book very well, because it’s a confused and disturbing mess.

I honestly can’t think of anything good to say about this book, except for the fact that the plot idea was completely audacious and definitely makes you want to pick up the book just to see how weird it is. And the title is fairly amazing, as it lends itself well to jokes and again, makes you want to pick up the book and see what exactly a book called Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend is about.

To put it lightly, I hated this book. It started out weird, and then it got weirder, and then I got mildly grossed out and had to take a break from reading it, and then it just got even more disgusting and I finished reading it with a profound sense of “what on earth did I just read.” I don’t know what I was expecting from a book about a girl lusting after a pterodactyl, but definitely not the surprising amount of detail focused on the main character’s period. Or the pterodactyl-on-human sex. Or the fact that the pterodactyl was basically creating a harem of human women that included the school track star, the main character, and Shiels’s mom. Or the whole purple nose thing. Basically, this book felt like it didn’t know what it wanted to be.

There were times when it seemed like it was a parody of paranormal romance novels, and others when it seemed like everything was being taken completely seriously. This made it a confusing mess to wade through, and didn’t lessen the disturbing nature of much of the plot. I spent most of the time reading this in a state of vague shock, discomfort, and disgust. Additionally, the characters are basically cardboard cutouts that could have been in any mediocre YA novel, making this a thoroughly unpleasant reading experience.

This book was utterly and appallingly bad. It was also extremely disturbing, and I cannot in good conscience recommend it to anyone unless they enjoy being squicked out. It’s just a really gross and appalling book, and I don’t think I’ve hated something I read this much since Material Girls [reviewed May 4, 2015, linked]. And that’s really saying something. There is a limit to how far you can go with weirdness, and this has completely crossed it. –Ella W., 16

Dinan_Don't Get CaughtDINAN, Kurt. Don’t Get Caught. Sourcebooks. Apr. 2016. Tr. $10.99. ISBN 9781492630142.
Gr 7 Up–
When Max receives a mysterious invite from the untraceable, epic prank-pulling Chaos Club, he knows something’s up, but ignores his instincts and accepts the invitation. Needless to say, Max soon finds out that the joke’s on him, so drawing from his repertoire of spy movies, Max and his fellow victims gear up for revenge.

I liked the cover because it was fun and quirky, but simple. I especially loved the plot. Yes, it was a bit predictable but Don’t Get Caught was an engaging and fun read. I was a bit disappointed with the writing style, which was far from exceptional.–Isabel T., 14

Spalding_New Guy_SPALDING, Amy. The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions). Little, Brown/Poppy. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316382786.
Gr 7 Up–This book was a light, fun read that realistically depicted high school life, love, and competitiveness. I actually really like the cover, it’s very doodle-y and fun and shows the tone of the book really well.

At times, it was a little cliché, “WOE IS ME”–type of book, but the cuteness of the whole thing made up for it. Mostly, I just wanted Alex Powell to come back into the book. I may or may not have a small fictional character crush on him.—Lauren W., 16

WELCH, Jenna. Love & Gelato. S. & S. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481432542.
Gr 7 Up–
Lina is a Seattle born native. Right? Wrong. When her mom dies of pancreatic cancer, she is devastated by both death and having to move in with someone she hardly knows. When a journal shows up, her life is about to take a path she didn’t know existed.

This is probably one of my most favorite covers ever because of its simplicity. The two gelatos are like Ren and Lina—polar opposites—only they fit together like puzzle pieces. They just don’t know it. Gelato is like a remedy in the book and comes into play on several different occasions—both happy and sad.

My favorite part was the characters. Towards the end I wasn’t sure if I could forgive Ren. The character of Lina is a lot like me. Always moving/ running and if I was given a journal like that, man, I would be on the train as soon as I knew. Only, I would be smart enough to read the whole thing first.—Emma B., 14

welxh love and gelatoANOTHER TAKE

Lina’s mother had a dying wish: to have Lina go live with her father in Italy for a while. She wants to be anywhere but there, but when she begins to read her mother’s journal of her time in Italy, she discovers a wonderful and amazing world of romance, art, and delicious food. In this hilarious yet sad read, Lina follows the footsteps of her mother to discover who she really was, and to find herself. One of the best books you will ever read!

I like the simplicity of the cover because it makes me feel like I can relax and just read. Very welcoming. I like the cones of gelato that are together as well. The cover does reflect the contents with the cones and heart, but that is all. I love the cover, but it doesn’t reflect the contents, which I don’t think is a bad thing. I love how Lina grows into and relaxes into her new home, family and friends, and into Italy. Also, I loved the humor. I laughed so hard at some parts when her dad was being really protective because it made me think of my dad. I would laugh in the middle of class while reading this (silently of course, but still laughing).        No! I just want for there to be another one. I was so sad that the book was over! I loved this book to pieces!

TO THE AUTHOR: You are amazing! I was able to relate to the landscape and the humor because of personal experience and your details in the book. I had so much fun reading this and I want to say thank you for writing this fantastic book. I don’t usually say this, but this is one of the best books I have ever read!

I really liked this book, and will recommend it to others. It was an easy read, and should definitely be advertised. –Eleanor C., 14

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