June 10, 2013

Mini-Reviews: Contemporary/Realistic YA Fiction

Recently I've read some great contemporary/realistic YA fiction. This is my favorite genre to read. I don't review everything that I read, but I wanted to highlight a few recent reads that stood out to me with some mini-reviews. 

Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Description: Everyone's sorry. But no one can explain why. Harper Scott's older sister, June, took her own life a week before high school graduation, leaving Harper devastated. So when her divorcing parents decide to split up June's ashes, Harper steals the urn and takes off cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going--California. 

Enter Jake Tolan, a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession...and an unknown connection to June. When he insists on joining them, Harper's just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanor and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what Harper needs. Except...Jake's keeping a secret that has the power to turn her life upside down--again. 

My Review: I love stories featuring road trips and cute guys who are obsessed with music (I was definitely swooning over Jake!).   As a music buff, I appreciated all the references to music and the playlists included with the story. Harper is real, raw, and angsty, and she grows over the course of the story. I loved her friendship with Laney and her growing relationship with Jake. The mystery with Jake's connection to her sister was intriguing. Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to fans of stories involving grief, road trips, and/or music!

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Description: No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.

But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

My Review: I can't resist a story told in alternating points of view. I tend to speed through them because I'm always wondering what the other character is thinking or how they interpreted a situation. Echo and Noah had distinct voices and both felt genuine. However, sometimes, Noah was a little cheesy in the way he referred to Echo, so I wasn't quite as swoony over him as other readers have been. Overall, though,  I enjoyed this story and recommend it to those who like reading about characters overcoming tragedy. Fans of Simone Elkeles will most likely enjoy this one, too. 

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

Description: When she is caught in the backseat of a car with her older brother's best friend--Deanna Lambert's teenage life is changed forever. Struggling to overcome the lasting repercussions and the stifling role of "school slut," she longs to escape a life defined by her past. With subtle grace, complicated wisdom and striking emotion, Story of a Girl reminds us of our human capacity for resilience, epiphany and redemption.

My Review:This was my first Sara Zarr novel, and it won't be my last! I love stories about flawed, complex characters who grow in maturity over the course of the story. This story was an interesting examination of how we perceive ourselves (and how we let others' perceptions of ourselves affect us). Overall, this was an interesting, beautifully written book with thought-provoking themes. 


This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Description: If fate sent you an email, would you answer? In This is What Happy Looks Like, Jennifer E. Smith's new YA novel, perfect strangers Graham Larkin and Ellie O'Neill meet—albeit virtually—when Graham accidentally sends Ellie an email about his pet pig, Wilbur. In the tradition of romantic movies like "You've Got Mail" and "Sleepless in Seattle," the two 17-year-olds strike up an email relationship, even though they live on opposite sides of the country and don't even know each other's first names.

Through a series of funny and poignant messages, Graham and Ellie make a true connection, sharing intimate details about their lives, hopes and fears. But they don't tell each other everything; Graham doesn't know the major secret hidden in Ellie's family tree, and Ellie is innocently unaware that Graham is actually a world-famous teen actor living in Los Angeles. When the location for the shoot of Graham's new film falls through, he sees an opportunity to take their relationship from online to in-person, managing to get the production relocated to picturesque Henley, Maine, where Ellie lives. But can a star as famous as Graham have a real relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie's mom want her to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?

My Review: After reading several darker contemporary titles, I wanted something a little more light and fluffy. This was a sweet romance that definitely made me smile! It gave me the feeling I get when I'm watching a good romantic comedy. A charming setting, realistic portrayals of friendships and complicated family relationships, an adorable romance...this book has it all! While I didn't love it as much as The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I did enjoy reading it quite a bit. If you enjoyed This Is What Happy Looks Like,  you may like Shooting Stars by Alison Rushby (read my review of Shooting Stars). 

P.S. I love that the main character's name is Ellie. That's my baby niece's name! :) 

Have you read any great contemporary/realistic YA fiction lately? Share your recommendations in the comments! 


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