Hello, readers! I return with some fun summer reads from the New YA table. Pick your poison:
This Savage Song, Victoria Schwab
Vicious, violent sci-fi for the vampire romantic in us all. A ruthless girl with nerves like tungsten returns to her home city and her sort-of mafia, sort-of king father, ready to claim her place at his side in a world where crime breeds monsters. On the other side of the wall, a wistful boy who isn’t quite human fights for his family and the survival of the people, only to be thrown into a dangerous situation even something with claws might not get out of alive. This is a thrill ride for all of you hoping for a new twist on a genre that I didn’t think had any twists left in it. It helps that it’s be the author of A Darker Shade of Magic.
If I Was Your Girl, Meredith Russo
I’m a little late to this party — the release date was May 3rd — but I loved this, and I needed to share. Amanda Hardy is the almost-too-perfect all-American dream girl you’d expect a prom queen to be, except for one secret she’s moved to a new town to hide: she’s transgender. She thinks she can ride out high school without a fuss so long as no one knows who she used to be, but that’s until she meets handsome, clean-cut Grant and starts to wonder if she can date and keep her past to herself. There is a hate crime toward the end of the book, which is starting to feel depressingly requisite for books about queer kids, but it catches itself before it falls. A summer romance with a core of real-world social issues. A+.
And I Darken, Kiersten White
I will shut up about this book someday. Today is not that day. While you’re recovering from your Game of Thrones hangover, grab this luxuriously wicked historical thriller off the nearest independent bookshelf and lose yourself in the intrigues of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. It’s much gayer than expected. When I was done, I hauled ass to Wikipedia to see how much of it White made up for flavor, and she actually toned it down. She also reminded me why I minored in Medieval Studies as an undergrad: I never thought I’d have heart palpitations from reading about minor Eastern European nobility, but I did. You should, too.
The Leaving, Tara Altebrando
Eleven years ago, six kids vanished. Now, five have come back. They remember nothing. They’re not even sure their families are really their families. And what happened to child number six? The author spoke at our store a few weeks ago, and within a day my manager had added the book to her staff favorites, a bunch of us have borrowed copies, and I’m eyeing my “no new book purchases” rule with some contempt. If you like mysteries that are dancing on the near side of horror, give this one a shot.
The First Time She Drowned, Kerry Kletter
Cassie O’Malley hasn’t broken the surface of her life in years. Dumped in a psychiatric ward by an abusive mother, she claws her way to freedom and the promise of a new start at college when she turns 18, but life has a way of bringing all your demons back to shore. The reason I didn’t review this when it came out in March was because I couldn’t finish the advanced copy I’d been given. Not because it wasn’t good — it was very, very good — but because it was a jaw-cracking psychological punch. I don’t put many books down because they are too real and too brutal, but I put this one down. You should read it anyway.
The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi
Pitched to me as, “a Persephone retelling set in a mythical version of India,” I’d say the description holds true. A young princess has a bad destiny, according to the stars: she is going to marry Death. And my, is that more literal than she expected. If you like Beauty and the Beast and The Wrath and the Dawn, this is a good next read. My only complaint is that Chokshi’s lyrical style isn’t as sustainable over a novel as it is in her short fiction, but it remains excellent — it’s just missing a little something.