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The Rest of Us Just Live Here

The Rest of Us Just Live Here Book Cover The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Patrick Ness
October 6, 2015

ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults * Cooperative Children’s Book Center CCBC Choice * Michael Printz Award shortlist * Six starred reviews * Kirkus Best Book of the Year * VOYA Perfect Ten * NYPL Top Ten Best Books of the Year for Teens * Chicago Public Library Best Teen Books of the Year * Publishers Marketplace Buzz Books * ABC Best Books for Children * Bank Street Best Books List

A new YA novel from novelist Patrick Ness, author of the Carnegie Medal- and Kate Greenaway Medal-winning A Monster Calls and the critically acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a bold and irreverent novel that powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

What if you aren't the Chosen One? The one who's supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you're like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week's end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.



“The Rest of Us Just Live Here” is one of the most unusual books I have ever read.

The beginning of every chapter tells what the “Indie Kids” are up to, which is the stuff typically found in young adult fiction that is not realistic.  There were so many lines centering around them that had me laughing I couldn’t even begin to narrow it down to only one example.  The real story centers around a group of friends who are just living their normal lives on the outside, not really involved with what’s going on.  None of them are “the chosen ones.”

All of the characters are well-developed, including the secondary ones, and are going through the typical growing up issues all of us face at one time or another.  The group is diverse in almost every way imaginable, and that really adds another level of enjoyment to it all.  Most importantly, there are some very important messages hidden within the fun and entertainment.  I’ll let you find those out for yourselves.

As an aside, there is a wonderful portrayal of OCD found in the main character, Mikey.  It isn’t the main focus, but I’m sure many readers will relate.

I highly recommend “The Rest of Us Just Live Here” to any older young adult or adult who is looking for a book that is capable of having them shifting between laughter and tears.


Content Warnings:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Underage Drinking, Discussion of Eating Disorders

The Swan Riders (Prisoners of Peace, Book 2)

The Swan Riders Book Cover The Swan Riders
Prisoners of Peace, Book 2
Erin Bow
Margaret K. McElderry Books
September 20, 2016

Treacherous twists await Greta as the stakes get even higher in this stunning follow-up to the “masterful” (School Library Journal, starred review) novel, The Scorpion Rules.

Greta Stuart has become AI. New transmitters have silvered her fingerprints. New receptors have transformed her vision. And the whole of her memory has become one book in a vast library of instant knowledge. Greta is ready to rule the world.

But the new technology is also killing her.

Greta is only sixteen years old, but her new enhancements are burning through her mortal body at an alarming rate. Of course the leader of the AIs, an ancient and compelling artificial intelligence named Talis, has a plan. Greta can simply do what he’s done when the time comes, and take over the body of one of the Swan Riders, the utterly loyal humans who serve the AIs as part army, part cult.

First though, Greta will have to find a way to stay sane inside her new self. Talis’s plan for that involves a road trip. Escorted by Swan Riders, Greta and Talis set out on a horseback journey across the strange and not-quite-deserted landscape of Saskatchewan. But there are other people interested in Greta, people who want to change the world…and the Swan Riders might not be as loyal as they appear…



I’m not even sure where to begin with “The Swan Riders” aside from saying that Erin Bow somehow managed to outdo “The Scorpion Rules.”

I don’t want to write much because almost everything in the book is unexpected. It’s excellent.  Great character development; non-stop plot.  There is also a very healthy dose of existentialism, which is always a plus to me.  A bonus was that it had some parts that scared nightmares into me. In something that very rarely occurs, the story could stop with this book or keep going, and either would be perfect.  I’m hoping for the latter, of course.

I recommend “The Swan Riders” to anyone who enjoyed “The Scorpion Rules.”  If you haven’t read either, please pick up the series if you’re a fan of intelligent dystopias and very diverse books.

This honest review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.


Content Warning:

Language, Non-Explicit Sexual Situations, Violence, Horrifying Imagery

My Name Is Leon

My Name is Leon Book Cover My Name is Leon
Kit De Waal
Simon & Schuster
June 2, 2016

For fans of The Language of Flowers, a sparkling, big-hearted, page-turning debut set in the 1970s about a young black boy’s quest to reunite with his beloved white half-brother after they are separated in foster care.

Leon loves chocolate bars, Saturday morning cartoons, and his beautiful, golden-haired baby brother. When Jake is born, Leon pokes his head in the crib and says, “I’m your brother. Big brother. My. Name. Is. Leon. I am eight and three quarters. I am a boy.” Jake will play with no one but Leon, and Leon is determined to save him from any pain and earn that sparkling baby laugh every chance he can.

But Leon isn’t in control of this world where adults say one thing and mean another, and try as he might he can’t protect his little family from everything. When their mother falls victim to her inner demons, strangers suddenly take Jake away; after all, a white baby is easy to adopt, while a half-black nine-year-old faces a less certain fate. Vowing to get Jake back by any means necessary, Leon’s own journey—on his brand-new BMX bike—will carry him through the lives of a doting but ailing foster mother, Maureen; Maureen’s cranky and hilarious sister, Sylvia; a social worker Leon knows only as “The Zebra”; and a colorful community of local gardeners and West Indian political activists.

Told through the perspective of nine-year-old Leon, too innocent to entirely understand what has happened to him and baby Jake, but determined to do what he can to make things right, he stubbornly, endearingly struggles his way through a system much larger than he can tackle on his own. My Name Is Leon is a vivid, gorgeous, and uplifting story about the power of love, the unbreakable bond between brothers, and the truth about what, in the end, ultimately makes a family.



“My Name is Leon” is a difficult book to rate.  There are so many important elements but something lacking in the actual telling.

The heart of the story is Leon and his love for his brother, Jake.  Taken away from a neglectful mother, Leon is left to navigate the foster care system on his own.  One chapter was so heartbreaking that it had me sobbing.  The third person limited point-of-view is an interesting choice, and in some ways it worked, but I feel like it actually kept the reader distant from Leon at many pivotal points.  Since the main point was to show how he understood and saw his world, it was disappointing to feel so far removed from him.

The social issues facing minorities in the United Kingdom during the late 1970s/ early 1980s also featured prominently in the story.  With Leon being mixed race, he was a good character to show the reactions of both “sides.”  Since this is still a problem most countries are struggling with, it was very poignant.  However, it really muddled the foster care aspect of the plot.  I feel like too much was trying to be done in one novel, and that dragged both plotlines down.

I can neither recommend nor not recommend “My Name is Leon.”  If it sounds interesting to you, give it a try.

This honest review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.


Content Warning:

Language, Vague Sexual References, Violence, Alcohol Abuse, Racial Slurs


Twisted Book Cover Twisted
Hannah Jayne
Juvenile Fiction
Sourcebooks Fire
July 1, 2016

Bex is ready to start a new life in foster care. There, she won't be known as a serial killer's daughter. Though her father was never tried for the murders attributed to "The Wife Collector," he disappeared after questioning. And Bex struggles with the guilt that she provided the circumstantial evidence that convicted him in the public's perception-and drove him to abandon her. But when a body turns up in her new hometown, all signs point to the Wife Collector. Bex's old life isn't ready to let her go. The police want to use Bex to lure in her father. But is she baiting a serial killer or endangering an innocent man?



“Twisted” fell far short of my expectations.

I had really high hopes for the book.  The daughter of a serial killer who is being stalked?  Yes, please.  Unfortunately, it read more like a somewhat poorly done script for a syfy horror movie.  Bex and the other characters fell completely flat, and there were quite a few inconsistencies in the story.  Don’t even get me started on the amount of stupid in the main character’s decisions.  I know all of this is typical of a low-budget horror movie, but books allow for development.  It would have been nice to see the author use it.

I wish I could recommend “Twisted.”  The premise was really promising, and I hope to see the author come up with another one that delivers more fully.

This honest review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.


Content Warning:

Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence


Gemini Book Cover Gemini
Sonya Mukherjee
Juvenile Fiction
Simon and Schuster
July 26, 2016

In a small town, as high school graduation approaches, two conjoined sisters must weigh the importance of their dreams as individuals against the risk inherent in the surgery that has the potential to separate them forever.



Actual rating: 3 1/5 stars

“Gemini” is a groundbreaking ya novel about conjoined twins.  It was an interesting read that took me beyond my preconceived notions.

Clara and Hailey are conjoined but as different as two people can be.  One is an artist and one is an astronomy genius.  Told in alternating viewpoints, it highlights how differently they think and see their situation.  Topics such as relationships and bullying are tackled, as well as the more mundane tasks in life that are more difficult for them, such as the act of sitting down.  One of my favorite aspects of the characters was that they were unapologetically presented as capable of being assholes at times.  Too many people think disabled people can’t be like that.  The angel phenomenon was nice to see broken.

I will say that the story seemed more suited to upper middle graders than older teens.  There is very little objectionable material and some of the situations can be ridiculous.  The ending is a good example of that.  That being said, it is still a fun read.

I can recommend “Gemini” to those looking for books about uncommon disabilities, somewhat light reads, and older middle graders.

This honest review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.


Content Warning:

Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Brief Mention of Underage Drinking


And I Darken

And I Darken Book Cover And I Darken
Kiersten White
Juvenile Fiction
Delacorte Press

In this first book in a trilogy a girl child is born to Vlad Dracula, in Transylvania, in 1435--at first rejected by her father and always ignored by her mother, she will grow up to be Lada Dragwlya, a vicious and brutal princess, destined to rule and destroy her enemies.



I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up “And I Darken,” aside from the story of Vlad the Impaler if he were female, but this book blew me away.

The main character, Lada, is a deliciously evil anti-heroine.  She is nothing like the typical YA version of a female character.  She’s plain, even ugly, and not in need of any boy.  She’s a badass.  A badass you never want to meet.  Her brother, Radu, is the sensitive and beautiful one.  There is romance, but like the plot, I don’t want to spoil anything.  I’ll just say I was pleasantly surprised to find a lgbtq character in the book.

I highly recommend “And I Darken” to anyone who enjoys a dark story and doesn’t mind gore.  That being said, I do want to warn that the publisher recommends the book for ages 12+, and I feel it would be a rare 12-year-old who will be able to handle the subject matter.

This honest review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.


Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Gore, Disturbing Imagery

The Museum of Heartbreak

The Museum of Heartbreak Book Cover The Museum of Heartbreak
Meg Leder
Simon and Schuster
June 7, 2016

In this ode to all the things we gain and lose and gain again, seventeen-year-old Penelope Marx curates her own mini-museum to deal with all the heartbreaks of love, friendship, and growing up. Welcome to the Museum of Heartbreak. Well, actually, to Penelope Marx s personal museum. The one she creates after coming face to face with the devastating, lonely-making butt-kicking phenomenon known as heartbreak. Heartbreak comes in all forms: There s Keats, the charmingly handsome new guy who couldn t be more perfect for her. There s possibly the worst person in the world, Cherisse, whose mission in life is to make Penelope miserable. There s Penelope s increasingly distant best friend Audrey. And then there s Penelope s other best friend, the equal-parts-infuriating-and-yet-somehow-amazing Eph, who has been all kinds of confusing lately. But sometimes the biggest heartbreak of all is learning to let go of that wondrous time before you ever knew things could be broken "



“The Museum of Heartbreak” is the sort of YA book that takes me right back to my high school years.  I was literally going through all of the emotions Penelope was feeling while reflecting on my own memories.

The format is a fun way to get to know the life of Penelope and her friends.  Each chapter contains a different item from the “museum catalogue” and revolves around the story behind it that helped shape where she is at the moment.  Some of them are flashbacks to elementary school and others are recent events.  It was a clever plot device and made me think about the small mementos I’ve accumulated over the years.  (To the young adults: This habit doesn’t stop when you get old and is perfectly fine.  Just don’t become a hoarder.)

There are all sorts of heartbreaks covered, but the one that resonated most for me was that of  growing up.  Everyone matures in different ways at different paces, and it really hurts to be the one who feels left behind during it all.  It was a good lesson to be able to see from the outside that maturing at a different speed isn’t a bad thing and there is no need to rush.

“The Museum of Heartbreak” is a book I can recommend for any young adult or adult who enjoys contemporary YA.  The pacing was fast and the dialogue realistic.  It will make for a perfect summer read or provide an escape from the real world.

This unbiased honest review is based upon a complimentary copy.

Cure for the Common Universe

Cure for the Common Universe Book Cover Cure for the Common Universe
Christian McKay Heidicker
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
June 14, 2016

Prepare to be cured by this quirky and hilarious debut novel about a sixteen-year-old loner who is sent to rehab for video game addiction—perfect for fans of Ned Vizzini and Jesse Andrews.

Sixteen-year-old Jaxon is being committed to video game rehab…ten minutes after meeting a girl. A living, breathing girl named Serena, who not only laughed at his jokes but actually kinda sorta seemed excited when she agreed to go out with him.

Jaxon’s first date. Ever.

In rehab, Jaxon can’t blast his way through galaxies to reach her. He can’t slash through armies to kiss her sweet lips. Instead, he has four days to earn one million points by learning real-life skills. And he’ll do whatever it takes—lie, cheat, steal, even learn how to cross-stitch—in order to make it to his date.

If all else fails, Jaxon will have to bare his soul to the other teens in treatment, confront his mother’s absence, and maybe admit that it’s more than video games that stand in the way of a real connection.

From a bright new voice in young adult literature comes the story of a young man with a serious case of arrested development—and carpal tunnel syndrome—who is about to discover what real life is all about.



Rounded Up From 3 1/2 Stars

“Cure for the Common Universe” is a fun and fast-paced read with a premise and setting any gamer is bound to love.

Set in a video game rehab facility which uses a game system of points to allow the patients to be released, it almost seems like a fun place to be.  That is unless you will miss your video games too much.  I’m not going to lie, if I had to give up the gigantic time suck of Animal Crossing it would not be pretty.  Someone has to weed my town, and it won’t be those lazy villagers.

Jaxon is the main character, and he is the perfect example of an unreliable narrator.  It takes a couple of chapters to figure him out, but once you do it’s fun to revel in his delusions.  The side characters are all quirky and interesting, while also having some depth that partially explains why they are addicts in the first place. And yes, they really are addicted to gaming.  The nature of addiction is explored in an accessible way without feeling preachy, and I think that will resonate with a lot of young adult readers.

The plot is fast-paced and quite an easy read.  The only reason I knocked off stars was the ending.  It sort of jumped off of the track.  However, it wasn’t so far off that it made the rest of the book unenjoyable.

“Cure for the Common Universe” is a particularly good book for reluctant readers who enjoy gaming.  It’s also great for someone looking for a funny and light read that still packs a bit of a punch.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Language, Brief Sexual Situations, Violence, Underage Drug and Alcohol Use

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You Book Cover The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You
Lily Anderson
Juvenile Fiction
May 17, 2016

After years of competing against each other, Trixie and Ben form a fandom-based tentative friendship when their best friends start dating each other, but after Trixie's friend gets expelled for cheating they have to choose which side they are on.



I am apparently in the minority in not being blown away by the sly and snarky retelling of “Much Ado About Nothing” that is “The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You.”  Before you throw the infamous rotting fruit of The Globe at me, please allow me to explain.

The characters of Trixie, Ben, and their friends were likable enough and well-developed.  They all had a good backstory and fit well within the Shakespearean framework.  The school was interesting and the mystery aspect of the plot was intriguing and well-done.

Here comes the issue.  It was great to see a female comic book geek who was into all things awesome.  The problem was, it was overdone.  So much of it felt like there was a neon sign with an arrow on it pointing at her and saying “geek here.”  What is really sad is that none of the pop culture references needed to be removed, just perhaps reworded or missing a sentence or two.  It was like being hit with an anvil when all you needed was a foam finger.  It really took me out of the story by about five chapters in.

As I said before, my opinion about “The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You” is not the popular one, so don’t let my review persuade you.  In fact, when I reflected on my thoughts I decided to give it one higher star than my initial reaction called for.  It is very clever, so give it a try if it appeals  to you.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Language, Brief Sexual Situations

Did I Mention I Need You (DIMILY, Book 2)

Did I Mention I Need You? Book Cover Did I Mention I Need You?
DIMILY, Book 2
Estelle Maskame
Juvenile Fiction
Sourcebooks Fire
March 1, 2016

Stepsiblings Eden Munro and Tyler Bruce have desperately tried to ignore their love for each other for the sake of their family. The Tyler invites her to spend the summer with him in New York...Alone together, away from their parents and friends, and caught up in the excitement of life in the Big Apple, they can't deny their feelings any longer. As their summer fling turns into something much more serious, Tyler and Eden must face up to reality and make some life-changing decisions. But how will their family react when they confess their secret romance -- and is their relationship strong enough to survive the devastating fallout?



I had such great hopes for “Did I Mention I Need You.”  Unfortunately, they fell far short.

Anyone who read my review of “Did I Mention I Love You” will know that I thought there were many flaws with the book, but I did think that they were fixable and was going to read the second because the premise was so good.  Let me tell you, the problems not only remained but managed to become worse.

Eden is infuriatingly naive and grating.  Tyler was actually pretty good until the out-of-nowhere ending.  There were A LOT of plot points that seemingly had no context.  It could also have used a hundred or so fewer pages.  I’m going to leave the review here, as the waste of a good premise is making me need blood pressure medication.

I can’t recommend this to anyone.  The two stars is for the obvious ability of the author to come up with a good story idea.  I’m hoping to see her fulfill it one day. There is a lot of potential left.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Language, Adult Situations, Violence, Underage Drinking