Set in a world similar to our current reality but not quite, The Darkening by Sunya Mara is a study of both psychology and sociology. Mara explores the consequences of classism and social hierarchies while also taking a deep dive into the effects of despair, vengeance, hate, pain, and anger. In the process, she also asks some critically important questions worthy of soul-searching. Seventeen-year-old Vesper Vale is the daughter of revolutionaries and refers to herself as “a hopeful little screwup from the fifth ring” (216). Her father’s fear has kept her safe, but Vesper wonders if it is wrong to want more out of lifeRead More →

Based on the web comic from WEBTOON, Crumbs by Danie Stirling is a fantasy romance featuring characters Ray and Laurie. A number of this graphic novel’s scenes occur in a bakery owned by Laurie’s Aunt Marigold, who names pastries after enchantment spells she has concocted. A seer who attends Council Academy, Ray wants to put her visions to good use. The novel’s second protagonist, Laurie Garcia aspires to be a world famous musician who plays sold-out concerts in which the entire audience sings along. Yet neither character has a straight route to that sought-after goal. Ray struggles with parental expectations and her own assurance thatRead More →

Alechia Dow writes an intriguing speculative story with her novel The Kindred. Her two protagonists—as is everyone else in the Monchuri system—have been linked with since birth. The Kindred program was created after The Second Chaos, a revolution in which the poor rose up demanding that their voices be heard by the rich. Maru’s top scientists created the mind pairing idea as a solution. Because those who are paired come to know each other’s thoughts so intimately, they often marry. However, in the case of Joy Abara and Felix Hamdi, a pairing is unlikely since he’s of royal blood and in line for the throneRead More →

Robby Weber writes a romantic-comedy that moves beyond what I define as a beach book, a sugary treat to indulge a craving but not necessarily one that prompts deep thought. With his novel If You Change Your Mind, Weber explores topics like relationships and finding the core of what matters. Even though real life and romantic comedies are very different things, under the influence of Weber’s pen, we realize that similarities do exist. To assist the reader in seeing some of these, each chapter is named for or alludes to a rom-com film to parallel the plot. Some of these include You’ve Got Mail, Serendipity,Read More →

Two gay couples are navigating relationships in Here’s to Us. This romantic comedy is the collaborative effort of Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. Couple number one is Mario Colón and Ben Alejo—two white-passing Puerto Ricans who bond over their work as writers. Ben loves connecting with people over words and aspires to publish his fantasy, The Wicked Wizard War. Mario, who writes television episodes, is blush-worthy beautiful, highly energetic, and affectionate. Whenever this world bores him, Ben escapes into writing where he creates his own reality. Couple number two is Mickey McCowan and Arthur Seuss. Mikey is a beacon of order and symmetry, while ArthurRead More →

Set in Riverton, Washington, Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June follows the life of Jay Collier, a young man who feels alone in his difference. A hyper-organized list maker, Jay is a statistics geek, mathematician, and reality tv aficionado who can recite the MTV, VH1, and Bravo show schedules. He is also an award-winning hoedown costumier and a self-proclaimed “inexperienced and getting-desperate gay virgin” (60). Jay’s life grows more complicated when his ride-or-die best friend, Lu Fuhrman, goes into “Heterosexual Hookup Mode.” While Lu experiences various milestones with her boyfriend, Chip, Jay feels abandoned and like he’s living in quarantine. Then, his mom is promotedRead More →

Because of her parents’ arguing at home, racist comments and insensitivity from classmates at school, stress induced anxiety, and the typical horrors of high school, Quinn Jackson keeps a journal filled with lists.  A coping mechanism of sorts, her lists serve to calm her mind, provide a sense of focus, and give her a foundation.  She also lists her goals and dreams, her fears and worries.  Her journal contains her feelings when she doesn’t know how to express them out loud. When her journal turns up missing and she instead has a red-covered spiral that belongs to Carter Bennett, Quinn determines that Carter must haveRead More →

A senior at Grove Hill High School in Michigan, Aubrey Cash aspires to be a veterinarian, but her best friend Reese is cursed with a romantic streak.  As a cheerleader, she is constantly encouraging Aubrey to date. Using her “Disney Princess Face,” she plays matchmaker. But in Aubrey’s scientific mind, “The whole concept of true love is inherently flawed” (45). Basketball star, Webster Casey is new in town after his parents’ recent divorce. Because he lives across the street from Aubrey, the two form a connection until Webster inexplicably fails to take her to the homecoming dance as promised. After getting close to a boyRead More →

Summer at Meadow Wood by Amy Rebecca Tan tells the story of thirteen-year-old senior camper Victoria (Vic) Brown who is not happy with her mother’s decision to ship her off to Meadow Wood, a beautiful lakefront campus in New Hampshire where Vic has spent previous pleasure-filled summers. However, this summer, Vic had plans for sleeping in, binge-watching old television shows, floating on a raft at the pool while checking out the lifeguards, and shining flashlight beams into the night sky as she and Jamie, her bestie in Pennsylvania, whispered their deepest wishes and fears to each other. Instead, she is covered in sweat, fighting aRead More →