Sunday 12 January 2014

YA Recommendations

Author: Joss Stirling
Obtained: Received from publishers OUP in exchange for consideration for a recommendation
Why I Read It: Review copy, requested as I loved Stirling's first two books.
Genre: YA contemporary thriller
Release date: 6th February 2014
Highly recommended

American student Raven Stone doesn't like it at her exclusive English boarding school. People are going missing, and return seeming very different. The teachers pick on her as a scholarship students, and her classmates hate her - one of them enough to send her death threats. Just as the mystery starts to deepen, two new boys arrive. Joe is friendly and charismatic, but it's Kieran's analytical brain which may be the clue to solving her problems. Although her problems may be bigger than either of them had realised...

This was a slow-burner in many ways, and while it didn't grab me with the immediacy of Stirling's wonderful Finding Sky, it got better and better as the book went on. I think part of my issue with it at the start was that neither lead is a particularly easy character to warm to - Raven is prickly and hot-tempered, while Kieran is extremely analytical and cool. (Although his Sherlock Holmes style deductions in his first scene are impressive!) However as the book, and their relationship progresses, they become much easier to like and I thought the romance was very well-written.

Also, it has a plot with several twists which was unpredictable and which had me glued to the book even before I'd warmed to the characters - a real rarity for me; normally I'm not that bothered about a novel unless at least a couple of the characters grab me early on. In this case, I was so desperate to find out what was happening that I raced through it anyway. It helps that Stirling's writing style is extremely easy to read and her books always rattle along at a cracking pace! Of course, this meant that once Kieran and Raven had found their way into my affections, I was even more involved. (Making the climax almost unbearably tense - I knew from reading her earlier books that I'd have my heart in my mouth by the end; I think I did so even more than previously here.) 

Highly recommended as a really good read for fans of teen contemporaries and/or mysteries. Oh, interestingly, while the proof cover proclaims it be a standalone, Joss Stirling's website says it's a new series - I'd definitely be interested in reading a follow-up!

Author: Katie Cotugno
Obtained: Borrowed from library
Why I Read It: Lots of really positive reviews floating around the blogosphere for this one!
Genre: YA contemporary
Release date: Already out
Highly recommended

Reena has always loved Sawyer, but  their eventual relationship is a messy one. Three years after he disappears from town, he returns to find Reena bringing up their baby. Can she let herself love him again?

I've been having a bit of a bad run when it comes to hugely hyped books recently, with many proving a bit disappointing (and the major exception to this was the wonderful This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales; in that case I somehow missed all the hype!) Because of that, I wasn't 100% sure whether I wanted to read this, but saw it at the library and couldn't resist. Thankfully, the hype here is pretty justified - Reena is an excellent narrator; I loved her friendship with Shelby and the brilliantly complex relationships both Reena and Sawyer had with their parents. I liked the love triangle (rare for me!) between Reena, Sawyer and Shelby's brother Aaron, with both guys having their strong points. (Although I'm not 100% sure Sawyer's were really strong enough to overlook how much of a jackass he was at times, which is holding this back from Very High Recommendation for me.)

I was a big fan of the alternating timeline here, showing Reena with baby Hannah and dealing with Sawyer's return to the town in the After parts, and Reena first crushing on Sawyer and then getting into a relationship with him in the Before parts. It's not a narrative technique I'm a big fan of, to be honest, but Cotugno gets it just right, and it's a really strong way of showing Reena's character development. Throw in a strong conclusion and this isn't quite up there with my top 2013 contemporaries (remember I read LOADS, this is my sixtieth to be released last year!) but it's not far off at all. Definitely looking forward to Cotugno's next.

Author: Louise Rozett
Obtained: Bought on Kindle
Why I Read It: I picked this up a couple of weeks ago (I have a feeling it was only 99p at some point) thinking it was another book with a similar premise that I'd started a while ago but never finished. I realised it wasn't and put it to one side, but when doing the spreadsheet I noticed really positive reviews from Queen ofContemporary and Fluttering Butterflies so gave it a go.
Genre: YA contemporary
Release date: Already out

Since Rose Zarelli's dad died, she's been angry all the time - especially at her brother, away at college, her best friend who's desperate to be a cheerleader, and her mother who barely talks to her. Her life becomes even more confusing when she kisses Jamie Forta, super-hot older guy whose girlfriend is also a cheerleader. Can she navigate the perils of high school?

I don't really feel I can answer my last question there, because while this is an engaging read with a good lead character, I thought it ended with very little resolved. The main thread of Jamie and Rose doesn't get much closure on it and there's various other strands not really tied off either. Despite this, it's still worth reading and I'm definitely going to be tracking down book 2, Confessions of An Almost Girlfriend, to see what happens next. The main reason for this is that Rose is a really good narrator, but I also enjoyed the chemistry between her and Jamie and I liked Jamie's friend Angelo, who has a really good heart despite sometimes not knowing the right thing to say.

Well worth reading despite the disappointing ending, for me. I'm looking forward to the next book.

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