Although Leah Johnson is a writer and editor, You Should See Me in a Crown is her first novel. Set in Indiana, the story features seventeen-year-old Liz Lighty whose life has been derailed by her mother’s death to complications with sickle cell disease (SCD).  Living with her grandparents where money is tight and taking care of her brother Robbie who has Acute Chest Syndrome, an inherited form of SCD, keeps Liz on edge. Because she feels like everything about her makes her stand out, Liz has mastered the art of being a wallflower.  On the fringes and out of the spotlight, Liz hopes to hideRead More →

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, I needed a feel-good book, and Alex Flinn’s Love, Jacaranda did not disappoint.  Written in one-way email correspondence, almost like a diary, Flinn’s book performs some genre-bending in that it is realistic fiction sprinkled with mystery and romance. Named for the tree that heralds springtime in Southeastern Florida, Jacaranda Abbott bags groceries at a Publix supermarket.  Because she loves to sing and to bring joy to others, she performs for Mr. Louis, one of her favorite patrons. Chorus has always been the best part of her school day, since it is “sort of like a little vacay right in the middleRead More →

Leighton Barnes is a reader, an aspiring journalist, and an intense individual who has her dreams set on attending journalism school at New York University.  That dream will enable her to escape Auburn, Pennsylvania, and her home, where she lives amidst tension-induced anger and domestic violence.  If she leaves to attend college, however, Leighton wonders who will keep her sisters—Campbell, age 13 and Juniper, age 9—safe from their abusive father?  Although Jesse Barnes always apologizes and is nice otherwise; that behavior doesn’t excuse his terrible side.  However, since he’s not evil, just broken, he’s harder to hate. Because of her father’s mercurial nature, Leighton isRead More →

With The Surface Breaks, Louise O’Neill has reimagined the story of The Little Mermaid, while looking through a feminist lens. This fractured fairy tale follows of Hans Christian Andersen’s original plot line with variations typical of a reimagined tale. O’Neill’s story features Princess Muirgen, a curious mermaid whose mother named her Gaia.  This name has influenced her curiosity for earthly things.  Now that she is fifteen, Muirgen will be allowed to visit the surface rather than remain confined by her watery world.  She is eager for this trip since she hopes to find answers about her mother’s disappearance.  Muireann vanished on Muirgen’s first birthday, andRead More →

At eighteen years old, Selah is the seneschal-elect of Potomac, which implies that she will soon be the steward of her province’s resources, as well as the person to oversee its courts, its militia, and its administration.  However, as a woman in the historical time in which the Anna Bright’s novel The Beholder is set, Selah will need a man by her side to help her rule, despite her keen mind and kind heart. As her fiancé, Selah has chosen Peter Janesley, who is brilliant at math and at sports.  However, this smart, earnest, and kind young man rejects the extended marriage proposal.  Given Selah’sRead More →

Her dad’s leaving after fifteen years with her mom makes Sophie Evans realize that with love there are no guarantees.  Now, somewhat of a cynic on the topic of love, Sophie has a habit of not giving guys a chance.  Furthermore, Sophie has hitched her dreams to her passion: to attend design school in New York.  Craving a place full of action and creative energy, Sophie yearns to escape the simple and uncluttered life of Rockside, Alabama.  Because she is so busy looking to the future that she forgets to enjoy the present, her good friend Micah Williams frequently has to remind Sophie to “playRead More →

With the writing of her debut novel, We Set the Dark on Fire, Tehlor Kay Mejia set out to begin an answer to some questions: What do we lose when we are forced to subjugate our desires for our drive?  How long can we keep ourselves in the cages in which society is so fond of locking us?  As she chips away at the answers, she actually asks more questions, as all good research will do.  The promised second book in the duology will certainly answer and ask more.  This daring and romantic fantasy will likely be appreciated by fans of The Handmaid’s Tale byRead More →

At age seventeen, Lei is plucked from her family and taken to live in the Hidden Palace of Han to lead a privileged life of service to the Demon King as a Paper Girl.  Tien, Lei’s surrogate mother, has told her that some families see great honor in their daughters being chosen, but for Lei, “honor is in family, in hard work and care and love, in a small life well lived” (55). In the world of Ikhara, three castes coexist.  Those in the Paper caste are fully human, while the Steel caste consists of humans endowed with partial animal-demon qualities—both in physicality and abilities—andRead More →

Weighed down by her parents’ rules, paranoia, fears, and three years of betrayal after her sister Rachel’s death, Elizabeth Jones wants to escape the noose and have some fun.  Because of the constraint Beth feels, she yearns to “bust windows, get drunk, and have sex with as many people as possible” (136).  So, before summer ends and her senior year begins, Beth attends a party and hooks up with Chase, a blond hottie with an aura of controlled calm. “But it didn’t take very long for . . . the thrill of doing something new and exciting and rebellious [as losing her virginity] to beRead More →