book review, coming of age, contemporary, netgalley, romance, Young Adult

Slingshot | ARC Review

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: Slingshot

Author: Mercedes Helnwein

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 352

Publication Date: 4/27/21

Categories: Young Adult, Mature Situations, Romance, Family, Abuse, Boarding School, Coming of Age, Contemporary

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

An exciting debut contemporary young adult novel perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell and Mary H. K. Choi 

Grace Welles had resigned herself to the particular loneliness of being fifteen and stuck at a third-tier boarding school in the swamps of Florida, when she accidentally saves the new kid in her class from being beat up. With a single aim of a slingshot, the monotonous mathematics of her life are obliterated forever…because now there is this boy she never asked for. Wade Scholfield.

With Wade, Grace discovers a new way to exist. School rules are optional, life is bizarrely perfect, and conversations about wormholes can lead to make-out sessions that disrupt any logical stream of thoughts. 

So why does Grace crush Wade’s heart into a million tiny pieces? And what are her options when she finally realizes that 1. The universe doesn’t revolve around her, and 2. Wade has been hiding a dark secret. Is Grace the only person unhinged enough to save him?

Acidly funny and compulsively readable, Mercedes Helnwein’s debut novel Slingshot is a story about two people finding each other and then screwing it all up. See also: soulmate, friendship, stupidity, sex, bad poetry, and all the indignities of being in love for the first time.

  • Grace is a MESS. She’s 15, at a boarding school, unlikable, mean, a jerk, lacking social skills, says whatever she wants to say usual not caring about the consequences and she doesn’t believe in love. In a way she’s courageous, for not giving a crap but in lots of ways she’s afraid (of love) but wouldn’t admit it out loud until Wade and even Beth comes into her life. Also, she and her mom are her dad’s secret family so it’s no wonder she doesn’t believe in love. The blurb says “acidly funny” and all that acid comes from Grace haha!
  • Watching Grace navigate all her emotions was riveting and I could not put the book down. She’s all over the place. This girl is in love with her teacher then hates him when she finds out she was basically delusional about it. She pretty much scars a guy she hates, then sleeps with him and then unknowingly breaks his heart. If she went to my high school, this girl would have been getting into a lot of fights – she’s that girl. Despite her psychotic tendencies – I related to her thoughts about relationships, falling in love and sex because the relationships I saw growing up were totally dysfunctional too.
  • As for the romance with Wade ~ they start off as unlikely friends. Then best of friends into the possibility of something more and then into love. So it wasn’t instant which was nice, because Grace has a lot of issues but it was a sweet spot in the book. Wade is a good guy but we don’t know much about him until almost the ending. His life is complicated too.
  • Bittersweet ending – in true fashion, Grace falls for Wade, has this amazing time with him and it all comes crashing down. One thing is for sure with Grace, who basically hates everyone…she doesn’t hate Wade. And because Wade is so good, she learns to open up a bit…even make some friends and let some in. It’s not a total happy ending but realistic? I think so.
  • Triggers: student/teacher crush (one-sided), abuse, bullying
  • Grace crushes on her Bio teacher – hard. She thinks he reciprocates her feelings but ugh…he surely does not. And she basically does crazy stuff to him because she’s angry at him (breaks his pencils, writes him notes, tells him off) ~ this is how we are introduced to Grace and honestly from then on, I knew she needed therapy! This might turn people off to this book right away but seriously, it’s all one-sided.
  • Kind of bummed that Grace let all her grades go because of that whole teacher crush heartbreak – obviously this girl is SMART just lacking so much social skills and is almost hungrily studying others around her, hating them, judging them, needing praise (even it’s from some random guy like Derek who she hates) – dooming herself to loneliness because in the essence of it all she thinks her father never wanted her. Doesn’t love her.
  • I felt called out when Grace says she was into older music like 80’s/90’s and starts jamming to Smashing Pumpkins and Rage Against the Machine. 🤣 Talk about nostalgia – that was the music of MY high school years! Yes I’m old, but damn it the music was good!
  • This book totally could be a tv series, it’s quirky and dark enough, and Grace is so problematic.

Do not be fooled by this pink, happy book cover…this is not a fluffy, cutesy love story. Grace is a mean, cold, hurt, lost teenager trying to navigate all these feelings of love, sex, and friendship. She takes it out on everyone around her, and then Wade comes along and she tries to be better, for him. This story will not be for everyone, Grace has no filter ~ but she reminds me of someone I befriended in my younger years and things turned out okay for my friend. Moral of the story, we are all flawed, the teenage years are angsty and emotional, but we can still turn out okay.

🖤 ~ Yolanda

book review, coming of age, contemporary, romance, Teen Readers, Young Adult

I Wanna Be Where You Are | Book Review

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Title: I Wanna Be Where You Are

Author: Kristina Forest

Format: Hardcover (own)

Pages: 256

Categories: Young Adult, Teen Readers, Contemporary, Romance, Family, Friendship, Coming of Age

A debut young adult rom-com about an African American ballerina who finds love on the road to an audition.

When Chloe Pierce’s mom forbids her to apply for a spot at the dance conservatory of her dreams, she devises a secret plan to drive two hundred miles to the nearest audition. But Chloe hits her first speed bump when her annoying neighbor Eli insists upon hitching a ride, threatening to tell Chloe’s mom if she leaves him and his smelly dog, Geezer, behind. So now Chloe’s chasing her ballet dreams down the east coast—two unwanted (but kinda cute) passengers in her car, butterflies in her stomach, and a really dope playlist on repeat.

Filled with roadside hijinks, heart-stirring romance, and a few broken rules, Kristina Forest’s I Wanna Be Where You Are is a YA debut perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sandhya Menon.

  • I love the cover and the pastel aesthetics. It’s so pretty and makes me feel like it would be a good spring/summer read.
  • Chloe and Eli’s adventure was eventful although they did lie or withhold information from their parents. I thought it something that mended their friendship and then some.
  • Chloe is a talented dancer and want to realize her dream of joining a company but she’s at odds with her mother who doesn’t feel like it’s a good career choice for her. Eli is going through the same thing with his dreams of wanting to be an artist as opposed to his dad’s dream of him pursuing law just like he did. That was very relatable to me because I remember feeling lost as a teen, wanting to please my parents but knew my major wasn’t what I really wanted to do in life.
  • The romance is sweet, and this is a quick, light contemporary read with a happy ending. It covers family dynamics and pursuing your dreams, so it’s perfect for teen readers.
  • Triggers: car accident, grief, anxiety
  • Other than Eli cursing a few times using the F word, this book is fairly rated PG. Or is PG-13 with swear words? I don’t know – I’d rate it PG though haha. It’s more for teens than young adults.

I enjoyed this quick read and in my teen years, this was the kind of book I’d have devoured in one sitting. This is a solid debut and I think Kristina Forest will definitely be a name to watch for in the contemporary teen and YA romance genre.

📚 ~ Yolanda

book review, coming of age, contemporary, E-book, magic, New adult, paranormal, romance, Teen Readers, Young Adult

Love Spells and Other Disasters | ARC Review

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Title: Love Spells and Other Disasters

Author: Angie Barrett

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 400

Publication Date: 2/1/21

Categories: Romance, Young Adult, Witchcraft, Friendship, Family, Contemporary

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

I didn’t know when I wrote the first love spell that it would actually make things happen. Like, actually make people fall in love with each other… 

How could I have known something like that? I mean, magic isn’t real, right? 

But here’s the thing—the spell does work and so does the next one and the next one…and suddenly I’m getting a whole lot of attention from everyone at my high school. Me, Blend-into-the-Walls, Please-Let-Me-Introvert-in-Peace Rowan Marshall. And not only that, but I’ve also caught the attention of Luca Russo, a godlike, football-playing hottie who claims he likes me just the way I am. Ummm…

But as I’m about to learn, playing around with things you don’t understand means when things go wrong—like really, very awfully wrong—you don’t know how to fix them.

  • Rowan has an interesting mom who is famous for being a parapsychologist, someone who studies the mystical and unexplainable. Ro feels like people at school thinks she is weird because of it. She has one best friend, Ethan who’s been friends with her since childhood and that pretty much consists of her social life, or lack there of…until a project at school makes her realizes she has the power to cast spells.
  • The romance is cute with a touch of heat. There are some sexy scenes but it stays PG-13 for the most part. Luca is the hot jock who is actually a nice guy. The romance comes of as insta-love but he did confess he was into her way before he talked to her. I mean, there are love spells involved so it gets complicated.
  • I did like how Rowan and her project partner, Abby, innocently start making these love spells for a project without thinking of the consequences but when it all hits the fan…the consequences are bad. Rowan does the right thing and takes responsibility. She tries her best to fix broken relationships by doing acts of kindness, which I thought was awesome.
  • I think this story had a good blend of romance, drama, and witchcraft.
  • Rowan isn’t your typical strong girl who can stand up for herself, Ethan helps her do that. Abby pushes her around when it came to doing the spells, but I guess Rowan felt guilty also for her part in ruining Abby’s science project years ago. I think Rowan is strong in her own way, not loudly, but in telling the truth and acts of kindness.
  • We don’t learn much about Rowan’s magic lineage in the story until her mom starts finally talking about her dad which is near the end of the book. It would have been nice to get some idea of how she could do the spells earlier in the book.
  • Ethan was her best friend until that spell really took a turn for the worst and he turned on her. That sucked to see since yes Ro cast the spells, but Ethan asked for the spell. I’m just glad they made up.
  • I read an arc copy so there were some errors near the end of the book which probably will be cleaned up by publication.

I enjoyed reading this witchy romance story because it was a nice blend of sweetness and drama. I liked seeing Rowan blossom as she starts dating Luca and also it was good to see her tackle the consequences of the love spells going bad by helping the ones she hurt. Even though Rowan and Luca seems like an insta-love kind of deal, he actually was into her way before the spells and I loved their relationship. We get a happy ending and it gave me all the feels in the end, that’s all I wanted, so goal accomplished.

♡ ~ Yolanda

book review, contemporary, E-book, magic, romance, Teen Readers, Young Adult

Instant Karma | Book Review

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: Instant Karma

Author: Marissa Meyer

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 400

Categories: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

In this young adult contemporary romance, a girl is suddenly gifted with the ability to cast instant karma on those around her—both good and bad.

Chronic overachiever Prudence Barnett is always quick to cast judgment on the lazy, rude, and arrogant residents of her coastal town. Her dreams of karmic justice are fulfilled when, after a night out with her friends, she wakes up with the sudden ability to cast instant karma on those around her. Pru giddily makes use of the power, punishing everyone from public vandals to karaoke hecklers, but there is one person on whom her powers consistently backfire: Quint Erickson, her slacker of a lab partner and all-around mortal enemy. Soon, Pru begins to uncover truths about Quint, her peers, and even herself that reveal how thin the line is between virtue and vanity, generosity and greed . . . love and hate. 

  • I enjoyed the slow burn of Prudence and Quint’s relationship. Their partnership during the school project was quite intense. They do not like each other and honestly…I can see Quint’s point because being micro-managed is the worst! Yet I relate to Prudence where you know you will pick up the slack of the other team member if need be for a good grade. I like that we see them get to be friends first though.
  • Love the theme of environmentalism and this story set in a coastal town. Who doesn’t love a story about trying to save wildlife?
  • Prudence isn’t perfect, she’s just Type A controlling at times and super ambitious – which is a good thing, because she is determined to reach her goals. I’m glad Quint was there to call her out on some things though because she was super judgmental when it came to Quint. I just wanted to shake some sense into her sometimes.
  • Prudence got on my nerves a lot. Poor Quint! I like that she learns a lot of things in the end, like how it’s not all about business and making money, that causes have to actually mean something if you want other people to care about it too.
  • The instant karma..”magic” for me didn’t work at times…especially when it kind of disappears in the middle of the book? Haha…I guess everyone was on good behavior or something? It was an interesting idea though, and Prudence learned from it in the end.

Overall, this was a quick read and I enjoyed the enemies to lovers vibe with Prudence and Quint. I’m not a fan of Prudence though, she seriously needed to let go of control but I’m sure my husband says the same about me. 🤣 Basically no one is perfect but if you can listen to the other person and let them help out, good things can actually happen.

📚 ~ Yolanda

book review, coming of age, contemporary, Teen Readers, Young Adult

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter | Book Review

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Author: Erika L. Sanchez

Format: paperback (own)

Pages: 368

Categories: Young Adult, Family, Friendship, Grief, Mental Health, Identity, Coming of Age, Sexual Situations

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian meets Jane the Virgin in this poignant but often laugh-out-loud funny contemporary YA about losing a sister and finding yourself amid the pressures, expectations, and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican American home. 

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend, Lorena, and her first love (first everything), Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

  • Julia is a Mexican American teen who is feeling trapped by grief and her family with their strict rules. I could relate to Julia even though I am not Mexican American, my parents are immigrants, so I remember not understanding some of their rules even silly ones like not shaving your legs. I couldn’t understand my parents, just like how Julia couldn’t understand hers. Her story is very relatable to me.
  • Julia is so judgmental until near the end when she becomes so overwhelmed with her thoughts and feelings about Olga’s death, her mom, herself…that I realized she needed help. I thought it was powerful that we saw her coasting through life, angrily and acting out (but nothing too crazy), thinking she’s going to be okay, she just needs to let time heal woulds and all that and then the situation becomes dangerous. This is very relatable too – how many of us think we feel trapped, not realizing we need help? I remember that in my teen years and beyond as well. I’m glad we see how Julia gets the help she needs.
  • I liked when Julia goes to Mexico. It reminded me of my parents taking us on our family trip to the Philippines when I was 7 years old. I remember seeing and hearing my dinner being killed, and butchered. It was quite an eye opening trip. But it was nice to learn more about Julia’s family in Mexico and glad she had that time to feel a bit freer from her anxiety.
  • Julia as a character is real as can be, her thoughts aren’t censored, she judges everyone harshly but it was refreshing. She wasn’t likable, but she didn’t even like herself, and who does like themselves as a teenager? Julia is dealing with so many things at one time: grief, her mom’s rules, trying to please her parents/family, hating her life, and investigating Olga’s past. She is imperfect and I loved the scenes where she is finally acknowledging her thoughts out loud to someone else who listens without judging her.
  • Triggers: grief, suicidal ideation, violence, sexual harassment
  • I thought this story moved slowly in the beginning and it almost lost my attention, especially since I thought investigating Olga’s past was the main thing about this story – but nothing much happens there until the big reveal at the end.

Despite it being a slow moving story, it is powerful in the way it explores immigrant Mexican American families, grief and mental health issues. None of us are perfect but most of us live with the pressure from our parents or other family members to be their idea of perfect. Julia was not about to conform to their ideals but she felt trapped and didn’t know who to talk to about it. This is a great book for teens coming of age.

📖 ~ Yolanda

book review, coming of age, contemporary, romance, Teen Readers

New Year’s Kiss | Book Review

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Title: New Year’s Kiss

Author: Lee Matthews

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 240

Categories: Romance, Young Adult, Holiday Romance, Teen Readers, Contemporary

A fun and upbeat paperback original romance about a girl who has a New Year’s resolution to make the coming year epic in every way—and is willing to put herself out there for love.

Tess and her opinionated older sister Lauren are spending the week after Christmas at the snowy Evergreen Lodge in Vermont and they aren’t happy about it. Their stern grandmother, who owns the holiday resort, is not known for her warmth and good humor. But when shy, straight-laced Tess meets Christopher in the lobby, things are suddenly looking up. And when she decides to get out of her comfort zone and create a bucket list of things to accomplish before the New Year-like singing in public and skiing a black-diamond slope-Christopher is happy to help, even as he keeps a secret that could turn everything upside down. When the ball drops, will Tess and Christopher share a magical kiss-or will Tess start the new year off alone?

  • It’s short, sweet, wholesome, and a quick light holiday romance story.
  • I like the setting of a holiday resort in Vermont where it’s got snow, skiing and a quaint town. It’s a perfect read for Christmas/New Year’s.
  • It’s one of those books where the main character makes a list of things she’s never done and tries to accomplish everything on the list before a certain time, this one would be by New Year’s – she has like a week to do it.
  • Definitely more for teen readers than young adult because it’s light reading. Tess’s parents are going through a divorce and she and her sister Lauren are trying to bond while at their grandmother’s lodge. There isn’t much drama going on in the book, no depth. I was bored in the middle since we pretty much knew what was going to happen.
  • Didn’t really connect to any of the characters.

For what it is, a romance teen holiday story, it hits all the marks – we have the right location, family time (that you dread) and meeting cute boys. Tess goes through some drama but nothing heavy at all and in the end there is a happy ending. If you want a quick holiday romance read geared towards teens, then you will like this one.

🎉 ~ Yolanda

book review, coming of age, contemporary, E-book, Young Adult

Grown | Book Review

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Title: Grown

Author: Tiffany D. Jackson

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, Sexual Assault, Rape, Mystery, Thriller

Korey Fields is dead.

When Enchanted Jones wakes with blood on her hands and zero memory of the previous night, no one—the police and Korey’s fans included—has more questions than she does. All she really knows is that this isn’t how things are supposed to be. Korey was Enchanted’s ticket to stardom.

Before there was a dead body, Enchanted was an aspiring singer, struggling with her tight knit family’s recent move to the suburbs while trying to find her place as the lone Black girl in high school. But then legendary R&B artist Korey Fields spots her at an audition. And suddenly her dream of being a professional singer takes flight.

Enchanted is dazzled by Korey’s luxurious life but soon her dream turns into a nightmare. Behind Korey’s charm and star power hides a dark side, one that wants to control her every move, with rage and consequences. Except now he’s dead and the police are at the door. Who killed Korey Fields?

All signs point to Enchanted.

  • Aesthetics ~ the cover is gorgeous! I love that mustard yellow and brown combination with the earring carrying the title of the book.
  • This is a murder mystery that really got me hooked on the first page. I didn’t know it would be inspired by R. Kelly’s story and yes, I did watch that docuseries Surviving R. Kelly which aired last year. The author did such a great job following Enchanted and how she is groomed by Korey. She thinks it’s love but it becomes something more dark and sinister the longer she is trapped with him. I was afraid for her and the other girls in his life. I felt the same way as when I watched that docuseries.
  • The story brings up so many issues such as parenting ~ was it Enchanted’s parents to blame for what happened? The artist himself, Korey, obviously had a pattern of this behavior ~ how could people let him do this in front of the whole world? The police ~ why didn’t they believe Enchanted or her parents when they reported something was wrong? Enchanted ~ should she have known better, she knew he was 28? Bottom line, Korey was the adult and the monster.
  • Enchanted is filled with so many dreams of being a singer in the beginning and she gets part of her dream – with a huge cost. She loses herself, her family, her power, and the little control she had over life. Korey was scary because he came off so perfect at the start, in the end he was the boogie man in the closet.
  • Triggers: physical, emotional and sexual abuse, being drugged, grooming, kidnapping
  • There was a point in the book when Enchanted’s sanity is questioned – especially when it comes to her friend Gab. Even I thought I was losing my mind as it confused me for a moment as to what the author was trying to do with that moment.

Whether you know the R. Kelly story or not, this book is a powerful read. Enchanted’s story is scary and heartbreaking, I felt scared and trapped with her. How do we let these predators get away with so much? If you can handle the heavy issues in this book, read it.

💛 ~ Yolanda

book review, coming of age, contemporary, E-book, romance, Young Adult

You Should See Me in a Crown | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: You Should See Me in a Crown

Author: Leah Johnson

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 328

Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, F/F Romance, Racism, Sickle Cell Disease, Friendship

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

My Attention: read in 3 days

World Building: Campbell County, Indiana – where prom is the event of the year

Writing Style: easy to read, flowed beautifully

Crazy in Love: cautious in love 

Creativity: a prom giving away prize money? I can see the appeal of running for prom court!

Triggers: racism, outing, mention of death, illness, homophobia

My Takeaway: “I was born royalty. All I had to do was pick up my crown.” ~ Leah Johnson

  • Liz Lighty, is smart, talented and queer. Only her friends and family know but now she’s running for prom court because there is a money prize she needs to attend the college of her dreams. So everything about her now is in the spotlight at school – who she talks to, who she hangs with and who she likes.
  • The f/f romance was so cute and Amanda’s promposal was a winner! These two don’t have it easy dating each other but it’s obviously easier for Amanda because she’s a new girl, quirky and white. Liz is black, in Indiana and queer. She has it harder on all levels but they try to make it work and mostly do with some challenges.
  • For me the friendship stories really stood out in this book. Liz has a different crew of friends, each with their own quirks and talents – but Gabi is her best friend. Gabi is also all in with helping Liz win prom court, but it gets too be a bit overwhelming for their friendship. And an old friend, Jordan, reunites with Liz because they are both running for prom court – but they have a troubled past and relearn to be friends again.
  • The message of taking the crown for your own is empowering. Liz stays classy while fighting for her right to run for prom Queen despite her race and who she loves. I absolutely loved that moment when her friends help her come up with her motto! It was so inspirational.
  • I can see this one as a movie or tv show.

This story is an inspirational story about a black girl, Liz, who is trying to be prom queen and win a crash prize in a small conservative town while being queer. What starts off as a story about winning money to attend her dream college ends with a girl who takes the crown by being unapologetically herself. YES. “Eff your fairy tale.” 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

💕 ~ Yolanda

book review, coming of age, contemporary, netgalley, romance, Young Adult

The Black Kids | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Black Kids

Author: Christina Hammonds Reed

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Categories: Racism, Los Angeles History, Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Family, Friendship, Rodney King Riots, Coming of Age, Identity

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of high school and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

But everything changes one afternoon in April, when four police officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them? 

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

I had to request this book because of the cover and it’s subject matter. It did not disappoint!

My Reactions:

My Attention: caught

World Building: Los Angeles, California 1992

Writing Style: slow beginning but the message is strong

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 the heat of the riots – yes, the sex or romantic scenes, not so much

Crazy in Love: not so crazy, there is a growing relationship but it’s in the second half of the story

Creativity: during the Rodney King riots, Ashley is coming of age and dealing with family problems/history, friendship problems, dating problems and being black in an affluent part of Los Angeles

Mood:  eyes opened to Los Angeles history

Triggers: racism, bullying, violence

My Takeaway: When Ashley’s world comes crumbling down she finds out the truth about her friends, family and herself – and that’s a good thing.

  • This was the book I needed to read because I went to college in Los Angeles, back in 1996. I was only there for four years but this book opened my eyes very wide to the history of Los Angeles that I never knew about! I was unaware of the segregation of Santa Monica and the coastal towns but it explains what I see on the news today when I see white supremacist that are prevalent there! Also, this story takes place in 1992 and I was a high school freshman back then but the time setting definitely made me nostalgic for the music, which is tied into Ashley’s story.
  • Ashley is friends with the popular white girls in her school, and some of them use racial slurs around her casually. She likes fitting in but at what cost? Throughout the story she starts to question her friendships with these girls. It was a relief to see her venture out and talk to other people outside her group.
  • Speaking of Los Angeles history, another important history that Ashley explores is her family history. It’s so powerful when she says the history she knows starts with slavery in America…and that’s what was robbed from black people when they were taken from their motherlands and sold into slavery here in America, their true histories…histories that began in Africa, lost. At times Ashley doesn’t seem to care, she’s a teen going through friend and boy problems and the world outside doesn’t seem to matter. How much does it affect her that her grandma’s vacuum shop gets looted in the riots? She’s not close to that side of the family or it’s history, so how much should she care? So many of the mention of history in this story is powerful.
  • Her family problems are realistic. Every family has drama, and they are going through it with her older sister, who becomes part of the riots. Her parents have their marriage problems, her uncle and cousin being affected by the riots also appear in the story – so I felt like those issues were relatable. Also, I love her relationship with her nanny, Lucia – she was someone super close to her it seems, the one real friend she had maybe.
  • This story builds – at first it feels superficial being in Ashley’s head, in her life with her perfect white friends as they do whatever they want to do. But that’s what I think is great about this story, Southern California has that beach, casual, blasé, and Hollywood vibe. But this story gives us a history lesson about Los Angeles. I was waiting for this story to make an impact on me and it snuck up quietly, it was a crescendo. And though this was in 1992…it happened again in 2020, except the riots took over more than one city. It’s what makes this story so important today.
  • This is set in the 1990’s but at times I thought it was set in 2020! The racism, the violence of the riots, it was a repeat this year and on a bigger scale.
  • Another issue that was big in the 80’s and 90’s was HIV/AIDs. It does appear in this story very briefly. Also the teens in this story are out doing all kinds of things like smoking pot, drinking or doing drugs like E at prom. There is even a quick sex scene memory but it’s not graphic.
  • Ashley comes off superficial, especially in the beginning because of the friends she has and where she lives but it’s important that we are in her head. We do see growth throughout the story.

Ashley’s experience with the Rodney King riots, living on the outskirts of the rioting has a powerful and unexpected impact on her. She thinks the issues don’t affect her until she realizes it really does. She’s black. The racism against her and her family, her people, it affects her deeply but she’s been trying to fit in or blend in – but she can’t. I loved watching her change and grow as she confronts all the issues converging on her at once. This is a powerful story of an important time in history that’s absolutely relevant and relatable today.

book review, coming of age, contemporary, netgalley, Young Adult

ARC Review | The Mall

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Mall

Author: Megan McCafferty

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: June 9, 2020

Categories: 90’s Nostalgia, Young Adult, Romance

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty returns to her roots with this YA coming of age story set in a New Jersey mall.

The year is 1991. Scrunchies, mixtapes and 90210 are, like, totally fresh. Cassie Worthy is psyched to spend the summer after graduation working at the Parkway Center Mall. In six weeks, she and her boyfriend head off to college in NYC to fulfill The Plan: higher education and happily ever after.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans…

Set entirely in a classic “monument to consumerism,” the novel follows Cassie as she finds friendship, love, and ultimately herself, in the most unexpected of places. Megan McCafferty, beloved New York Times bestselling author of the Jessica Darling series, takes readers on an epic trip back in time to The Mall. 

Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Talk about taking me back to the 90’s and basically my childhood! This story which is mostly set in a mall, is all nostalgia and fun. Cassie Worthy, is actually dealing with a few things in her life like breaking up with her boyfriend of two years, not having a place to work and then dealing with her parents divorce. But she finds herself a new job and getting through this disastrous summer by going on a treasure hunt. A treasure hunt in a mall you say? This story is a fun homage to “the mall”, which was our social hub once upon a time, a long, long time ago…in the 1990’s.

  • The cover and it’s neon pink color just captures the feel of the book. Love it.
  • I may be a little biased, but I was a pre-teen/teen in the 90’s! So everything in this book, like the Sam Goody music store 😂 (cassette tapes and cd’s – wow), the food court, ALL of it just took me down memory lane. The mall was the place to be!
  • I really enjoyed the characters like: Drea Bellarosa, Cassie’s not-so-new summer friend, is pretty awesome. She pops off the page, I could see her in her fashions and hear her honking laugh. They made unlikely friends but they were good for each other. “Sam Goody”, who’s name we don’t know until the end was so reminiscent of my love of all things music back in the 90’s and discovering bands – etc. Love that Cassie had a summer fling with him and Gia’s mom was fantastic too, she had such personality!
  • The treasure hunt in the book is such an 80’s/90’s adventure – like the movie Goonies. But it added a fun element to the story, and it helped Cassie concentrate on something other than her life seeming to fall apart. It brought Cassie and Drea close together and I’m glad Cassie earned a friend through it all.
  • Cassie transforms during the summer with Drea’s friendship, the treasure hunt and hooking up with boys. I’m glad she found her backbone when it came to her douche of an ex-boyfriend Troy and the plan. Cassie’s a smart girl and was definitely not someone who was going to sit back and take Troy’s treatment of her, but from a lot of nudging from Drea, she learned to love her true self.
  • This is a really light-hearted quick read – at times I thought maybe too light hearted but I think the focus on Cassie and Drea’s friendship was the right call. I was more interested in their relationship than Cassie finding a new boy to be a rebound. I like that though she had all these changes during the summer, it never changed her plans for college and her future.

The Mall is a nostalgia filled read for us who grew up in the 90’s. I think for readers today who are fascinated with that decade, this book would definitely give them an insight to our days gravitating to the mall. The book is a fun, quick read and will make the perfect summer read. I could definitely see this as a tv show and I’d totally watch it.