A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is a loose retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, but with a much darker twist. When Feyre slays a wolf in the forest she believes she has merely procured the means to help her family survive the harsh winter; until a faerie shows up demanding retribution from Feyre for the death of the wolf which was actually a faerie in disguise. The people of Feyre’s land have long held an uneasy alliance with the High Fae, but now Feyre is given a choice; die or live out the rest of her life with the faerie Tamlin.
Feyre soon learns that although at first glance the faerie realms seem prosperous and beautiful, the various courts are at war with each other and all are threatened by various dangerous creatures controlled by a psychopathic High Fae. As her connection and attraction to Tamlin grows, Feyre’s life is increasingly placed at risk.
Maas’s story clearly owes a lot of inspiration to myth and fairy tales, but influences from recent YA series such as the Hunger Games are also clear. Feyre is a skilled hunter who provides, and sacrifices, for her family. She is a strong protagonist who is willing to go to great lengths to protect those she loves.
A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first time I have encountered the genre classification of New Adult. New Adult books are targeted slightly older than traditional YA, more for 18-21 year olds. A Court of Thorns and Roses is slightly more graphic and violent than many YA books, but it should still be suitable for older high school students. Overall, A Court of Thorns and Roses is an action-packed and romantic fantasy adventure.
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When Juliet Moreau learns that her father, a scientist who has been banished from London after charges of performing unethical experiments, is alive and carrying on his work on a remote island in the South Pacific, she sets off to join him. It is not, however, the happy reunion she would have liked. Her father’s work is still shrouded in mystery and the island is populated by many unusual inhabitants. After a series of violent attacks on the residents of the island, Juliet becomes deeply suspicious of the exact nature of her father’s experiments.
Inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter has an excellent gothic-horror atmosphere. In addition, Shepherd stays true to the feel of early works of science fiction such as Wells’ novels and even Frankenstein. Although the book takes place at the end of the 19th century and the experiments described are quite fantastical, the discussion of ethics versus scientific progress is still incredibly relevant.
It was interesting to try to piece together what is actually happening on the island, and there are several truly scary moments in the novel. The Madman’s Daughter does feature the typical YA love triangle; Juliet tries to choose between her lifelong friend Montgomery, and Edward, a castaway she encounters on the way to the island. This was not my favorite aspect of the story, but overall it did not detract too much from the true strength of the novel: Shepherd’s skill in constructing a suspenseful gothic mystery. The ending will definitely leave the reader eager to begin the sequels, Her Dark Curiosity, and Her Cold Legacy, which are just as compelling.
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Seventeen year old Stella Cross was diagnosed with a failing heart when she was just fifteen years old. After two years of waiting, she finally receives a heart transplant from an anonymous donor. Luckily, Stella’s body accepts the new heart, but every day after the transplant she feels extreme pain. This would seem normal, except the pain only occurs at 5:08 p.m. on a daily basis. Stella returns to school after her transplant surgery and she experiences horrifying hallucinations that involve harm coming to her family, friends, and even Stella herself. Soon after Stella returns to school, a new boy named Levi Zin arrives at Stella’s Seattle prep school. When Stella is around Levi, the pain she feels in her heart instantly disappears, but Levi starts becoming obsessed with Stella. She tries to pull away from being with Levi, but the only result is that Levi’s infatuation with her becomes stronger. Stella sets off to discover why only being around Levi can calm the side effects of her transplant while also trying to figure out why Levi is unnaturally obsessed with her at the same time.
This book is recommended for teens who are interested in mystery or horror novels. Readers should expect mild descriptions of situations involving blood, drowning, and danger. Stella and her friend Henry are obsessed with the scary and the supernatural, and they figure out that her heart is acting up because it is from another person’s body. Stella’s hallucinations are also somewhat gory or violent, as they usually involve terrible things happening to her or her family and friends. This book is also very suspenseful and will keep readers guessing throughout the novel. The plot is very original and it also has little pieces of action and love thrown in, but it is done in a way that does not take away from the suspenseful and mysterious mood that is set by Baker. The fast-paced action-filled ending, although a little confusing to understand immediately, is satisfying and wraps up the novel nicely. This 2015 release by Baker is definitely a must read for teens who prefer scary and suspenseful novels over other genres.
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Fangirl is the story of eighteen-year-old Cather Avery, a freshman in college who is a popular fanfiction author on the Internet. She bases her fanfiction off of the fictional Simon Snow series (think Harry Potter) and is completely obsessed with Simon’s fantasy world. When Cath gets to college with her twin sister Wren, she has a hard time leaving her fantasy world for the real world. Cath is very socially awkward and has a hard time making friends, and feels her sister drifting apart as Wren starts going out to parties and meets new people. Cath’s junior roommate Reagan and her on-and-off boyfriend Levi slowly start to help her come out of her shell as they help her navigate college. Back home, her father struggles with living by himself because he is mentally unstable, and without Cath and Wren to take care of him, he eventually is admitted into a hospital. Even worse, her fiction writing professor claims that Cath is plagiarizing her beloved Simon Snow series when she writes her fanfiction, which crushes Cath’s confidence as a writer. With the help of her friends, family, and fanfiction she begins to find her true self as both a writer and a person.
Cath’s socially awkward nature and her fanfiction-obsessed lifestyle can be relatable to many teens. Many of her thoughts and actions are common to socially awkward teens, such as not wanting to meet new people or being afraid to go to new places alone. Rowell develops Cath as a character throughout the novel as Cath starts facing problems found in the real world while simultaneously slowly leaving her fantasy world. In between chapters, Rowell adds a unique element by adding excerpts from Cath’s fanfiction, Carry On, Simon, or an excerpt from one of the fictional Simon Snow books as chapter dividers to help the reader learn more about the fantasy world of Simon Snow. A main theme of the novel is the difficulty of transitioning from being a teenager to an adult, which Rowell integrates smoothly with realistic family and life problems, such as Cath’s absent mother’s suddenly reappearing in her life. By the end of the novel, Cath finds a balance between her fantasy world and the real world instead of giving up on fanfiction forever, which makes Cath seem like a more realistic character. Fans of Rowell’s other popular novel, Eleanor & Park, will certainly enjoy Fangirl; Cath and Eleanor have very similar shy, bookish personalities. Those not already familiar with Rowell’s work should check out Fangirl if they are looking for an engaging read.
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This 2015 release by Sarah Dessen was more serious, contemplative, and reflective than her numerous other novels, such as Along for the Ride, This Lullaby, Just Listen, and Lock and Key. The story focuses on teenage girl Sydney Stanford, who has always been overshadowed by her popular brother Peyton. While in high school, Peyton started going down a bad path after he started experimenting with drugs, shoplifting, and drinking. This eventually results in Peyton getting sent to prison after he seriously injures a boy one night while driving under the influence. Sydney feels ignored by her family, especially her mother, as her parents try to connect with Peyton in prison. She feels ashamed of Peyton’s bad behavior and is the only person in her family who feels guilty about what happened to the boy, David Ibarra, who ended up paralyzed as a result of the accident.
One day, Sydney meets the Chatham family and they help give her advice on how to deal with her family and the accident, as they have gone through a similar situation. She begins to spend time with the Chatham family to escape the problems in her own family. Sydney develops a deep friendship with them, and their friendship is tested at the end of the novel.
This is one of Dessen’s more serious novels, as one of the main conflicts is between Sydney and her mother about focusing less on Peyton in prison and more on what is happening to Sydney. There is a slight theme of love, but it is not the main focus of the novel and plays a little role in the development of the plot unlike in some of Dessen’s other novels, such as This Lullaby. The theme of family is prevalent throughout the novel, especially how family must support one another through hardships. This new release gives readers insight of how difficult it is for families to stay together after a life changing event. Fans of Dessen’s will not be disappointed, and those who are interested in realistic teen fiction should check out Saint Anything if they are looking for a good read.
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