Under The Lights by Dahlia Adler
Wonderful dual narrative between Josh, Hollywood heart-throb starring in a hit TV show while trying to deal with his mother who forces him to join a new family reality show, and Vanessa, his co-star. Vanessa is missing her BFF Ally but finds a kindred spirit in her new handler Brianna. As their feelings for each other change from friendship to romance, she’s left wondering which way to turn. I love both main characters a LOT here, while the Vanessa/Brianna relationship is utterly gorgeous with fabulous chemistry. A stunning read! (And while it’s technically the second in a series, it definitely works even if you haven’t read book one, Behind The Scenes.)
Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
When Leila's first ever crush turns out to be on another girl, the beautiful Saskia, she's left trying to make sense of her feelings, wondering how her conservative Iranian parents would react to her being with another girl, and comforting her former best friend Lisa over her brother's death. Will she find love?
Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous contemporary with one of my very favourite romances ever and a fantastic ensemble cast. Leila is such a lovely character, I adore her friends and I'm glad the romance doesn't stop her spending time with friends and making new ones, and the interactions with her family and the wider Iranian-American community are really interesting. A stunning read!
Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin
It's the summer of 1926. Sent to stay with relatives in the lakeside resort of Excelsior, Garnet Richardson tries to amuse herself by cutting out birds from paper, a hobby of hers, but quickly gets bored. Then she meets the enchanting flapper Isabella, and her relationship with the more daring girl opens up a huge new realm of possibilities for her. But with marriage to her high school boyfriend awaiting her back at home, can she find the courage to be herself?
Griffin captures both the time period and the setting wonderfully, while the central relationship between the two girls is a tender one and Garnet is a great narrator with a lovely voice. Garnet's character development during the book is fantastic, too. As for Griffin's writing style - wow! I was hooked within a few pages, she writes so beautifully. I loved the ending, as well. I wasn't sure what to expect but think Griffin handled it brilliantly here. Massively recommended, a wonderful read.
Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia
I was sold on this by Gossip Girl meets House of Cards comparisons and wow, does it deliver! Antihero Reshma is an utterly amazing character with an incredibly strong voice and, while she's often awful, you can see exactly WHY she does things. It's a sharp and witty read, and behind the humour there's real depth as it looks at tough topics including institutional racism and the abuse of study drugs.
Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour
Beautiful romance between two girls, a light and sweet Hollywood-set story with a fabulous cast of characters. I loved the lead character’s job as a set designer for an indie film, and this is such a fantastic feel-good read. It’s a gorgeous story of family, films and romance and I absolutely adore it. (Also, I really want an indie film BASED on this please!!)
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Outstanding Australian contemporary which is split over two time periods, following boarding school student Taylor as she leads her peers in turf wars against the Cadets and the Townies, while every so often the story moves to tell that of five teens a couple of decades previously. Both stories are utterly gripping, the link between them gradually becoming clearer, and the cast of characters is amazing. As for Jonah Griggs. OH WOW.
Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
Etta is sick of her hometown in Nebraska, and can't wait to get out of there. Feeling alone as she's been ditched by ex-clique the Dykes due to her relationship with a boy (she's bisexual, they're lesbians and many of them are biphobic), she turns to Bianca, a younger girl in her eating disorder support group for friendship. But while Ella's heart lies in ballet - which she's given up on due to not being tiny or white enough - Bianca dreams of getting into the New York theater academy that both girls are auditioning for. Bianca is straight, but her brother James is dealing with problems of his own, hiding his sexuality from his religious family. Can Etta and Bianca save each other?
Etta is a wonderful character, one of my very favourite MCs ever! Her race, her sexuality and her eating disorder all contribute to her character, but so do her protectiveness of her younger sister and of Bianca, her long-standing friendship with Rachel, her dancing dreams, and her incredible personality. They all combine to make her a really superb character and her voice is breathtakingly good. I loved her confidence in herself - she's a very proactive character, seeking help for her eating disorder without being pushed to do so, and being well aware that she's in the right in the argument with the Dykes. She is the strongest in the book by a long way, although Bianca is another interesting one, struggling to reconcile her religious beliefs with her brother James's sexuality, while James, his friend Mason, and Etta's friend Rachel are all well-written as well.
The way the relationships develop through the book is another major plus, especially Etta and Bianca's, but also the really complicated long-term friendship that Etta has with Rachel and Etta's interactions with Mason, who is clearly significantly more into Etta than vice versa. I think it's Ella's narration which made me really fall in love with the book because of the strength of her voice, but in addition to that, there's a strong plot which kept me guessing and doesn't go the obvious route.
In addition, there's a climactic speech from Etta which is one of the best I've read in a long time, and a gorgeous gesture of friendship at the end which made me smile massively. A really fantastic read!
This Song Is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin
Oh wow oh wow oh wow, ace representation, an AMAZING love triangle, and three incredibly likeable main characters. This completely blew me away. I adored the way the central trio actually talk through things, I liked the relationships they had with their parents, and overall this stands out as pretty close to being unique in several ways.
Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh
Outstanding collection with so many amazing stories. Matt de la Pena and Walter Dean Myers bookend it with two of the best shorts I've read for ages, but there's not a weak link in this wonderful anthology - and such variety in characters and stories. Special mention to contest winner Kelly J Baptist, whose story absolutely holds up against the more experienced and better known authors here. A definite must read!
Trust Me I’m Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer
I'm a huge fan of books about con artists and this was SUCH a fun read (although it got surprisingly emotional towards the end.) Julep is a really awesome main character, the plot isn't especially plausible but worked for me because it's so pacy and exciting, and I'm really glad that I have the sequel to hand because while the main mystery is wrapped up nicely, a question raised late in the book has me desperate to know the answer to it.