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Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson & Ellen Hagan

Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson & Ellen HaganWatch Us Rise by Ellen Hagan, Renée Watson
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: 21st February 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: two-stars

Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends on a mission. Sick of the way that young women are treated even at their 'progressive' New York City high school, they decide to start a Women's Rights Club. One problem - no one shows up. That hardly stops them. They start posting everything from videos of Chelsea performing her poetry to Jasmine's response to being reduced to a racist and sexist stereotype in the school's theatre department. And soon, they've gone viral, creating a platform they never could've predicted.

With such positive support, the Women's Rights Club is also targeted by trolls. But Jasmine and Chelsea won't let their voices - or those of the other young women in their city - be silenced. They'll risk everything to be heard and effect change ... but at what cost?
 

Watch Us Rise had a lot of promise as a feminist YA story, but unfortunately it fell pretty flat for me. I was unable to connect with any of the characters, mostly because they were either lacking substance or completely irritating.

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Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie WestFame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: 5th February 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

Lacey Barnes has dreamt of being in a movie for as long as she can remember. However, while her dream did include working alongside the hottest actor in Hollywood, it didn’t involve having to finish up her senior year of high school at the same time she was getting her big break. Although that is nothing compared to Donavan, the straight-laced student her father hires to tutor her, who is a full-on nightmare.

As Lacey struggles to juggle her burgeoning career, some on-set sabotage, and an off-screen romance with the unlikeliest of leading men, she quickly learns that sometimes the best stories happen when you go off script.

Kasie West’s newest book was super cute, as always. If you’re looking for something new and refreshing, you’re in the wrong place. But if you’re here for a cute contemporary that’s also a lot of fun, this is the book for you.

West has added a bit of mystery to the plot of this book, which was nice because it was an extra element that she doesn’t usually include in her books. This mystery sideplot made the book a bit more entertaining than her books have been lately, since I’ve been finding them to be quite repetitive.

Lacey, the main character, had absolutely no character growth at all, which was a bit disappointing. She was incredibly up herself the entire way through, and she didn’t seem to act any better towards her dad at the end. I mean, she’s alright, definitely not the worst, but I feel like there was a missed opportunity here and she could have developed a bit in 300 pages.

The lack of female rivalry was really nice. It was hinted at a tiny bit, but nothing ever came of it. I really appreciated this because I was fully expecting some cattiness or female rivalry on set of the movie.

The romance is also cute af, which really helped me enjoy the book more, despite it being quite generic and nothing standout.

We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss

We’ll Fly Away by Bryan BlissWe'll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: 8th May 2018
Publisher: Greenwillow
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

Uniquely told through letters from death row and third-person narrative, Bryan Bliss’s hard-hitting third novel expertly unravels the string of events that landed a teenager in jail. Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling. Tense and emotional, this heartbreaking novel explores family, abuse, sex, love, friendship, and the lengths a person will go to protect the people they love. For fans of NPR’s Serial podcast, Jason Reynolds, and Matt de la Peña.

We’ll Fly Away was absolutely devastating, but in the best way. I almost didn’t want to finish it because I knew from the beginning that the ending was going to be brutal, but at the same time I couldn’t put it down. It’s a wonderfully written book about friendship and family, and I would highly recommend it.

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Now You See Her by Lisa Leighton & Laura Stropki

Now You See Her by Lisa Leighton & Laura StropkiNow You See Her by Laura Stropki, Lisa Leighton
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: 26th June 2018
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: two-half-stars

AMELIA has always felt like a happy life is just out of reach. Having moved every few years with her mom and sister, she’s always had a hard time making and keeping friends; there’s never enough time, and never enough money to stay in one place. And now, in her senior year, right before tennis season, Mom wants to move again.

SOPHIE has a perfectly curated, Instagram-ready life, from her first singles wins to her cute, long-term boyfriend to the beautiful, landscaped home where she lives with her parents. Though they’re tennis teammates, the two girls almost never speak.

But then one night changes everything. When Amelia’s car breaks down on the side of the road in a rainstorm, a man she thinks is a Good Samaritan pulls over to help her. When he tries to abduct her instead, she escapes into oncoming traffic.

In one inexplicable moment, Amelia and Sophie switch bodies. Amelia wakes up in Sophie’s body. Amelia’s body is in a coma. Now Amelia needs to find a way to switch back into her own life—but before that, she must retrace her steps to unravel the mystery of the accident, her attempted abduction, and how it’s all tied to her mother’s secret past.

I always find it difficult to review books that I would class as “just… okay”. There is very little to say about them and I don’t feel as though I can give an in-depth review because I have nothing of substance to say. These are the kinds of books where the characters are alright, the plot is okay, and the writing is nothing standout. There’s nothing bad about them, but there’s nothing particularly good either.

Now You See Her is one of those books. I felt like I had read the entire thing before (many, many times) and it doesn’t bring anything new to the YA world. It felt more like an episode of a TV show than a book, and nothing about it was particularly captivating.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh MafiA Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: 16th October 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

This. Book. Was. Incredible. I am super impressed by A Very Large Expanse of Sea. I was very hesitant to read it at first because I hated Shatter Me and Adam and Warner were both awful, but I thought I would give it a go to see if Mafi’s writing has improved. And it really has!

This story was absolutely wonderful. The book follows Shirin as she deals with life and arsehole classmates and neighbours. I did wonder if Shirin was a bit of a self insert by the author, but to be honest I don’t really care if she is. Shirin was a lovely character to read. She’s just so good, and I can’t even explain why. I just really enjoyed reading about her and her life and her struggles. I liked how fierce she is.

Also, I have to mention the romance. The romance! I loved it! I can’t remember the last time I said this about a book but OH MY GOD it was so great. I ship it. Ocean, the love interest, was lovely.

One thing that I was wondering was why it was set one year after 9/11. I’m not sure how much it really added to the plot, since I’m sure Muslim girls go through all of this stuff nowadays in 2018. If anyone is able to enlighten me, please do! This isn’t a complaint, I’m just really not sure what the point was.

Sana loved it as well, and I think we should all trust her opinion.

I really hope Mafi writes more contemporary because I loved this and I will definitely read more from her. Unless it’s YA paranormal/dystopia because I’m not sure I can trust that.