Monday, May 20, 2019

10 Newish YA Novels that Colored my Last Six Months

By way of explanation: YA is the industry-recognized acronym for the Young Adult genre, arguably the most influential, colorful, and thoughtful genre of the current literary era. All my ratings are based on the Goodreads Metric: 1-5 of 5 stars. In Abbyland that’s: 1- Hated its guts 2- Didn’t like it, but saw some redeeming value 3- Enjoyed it, but not too much. You might like it more. Read if the premise intrigues you 4- Liked it a lot. Recommend. 5- LOVED IT. Highly Recommend.


1 All the Crooked Saints (October, 2017) by Maggie Stiefvater while she had hookworms living in her face. Five stars.

A book about miracles and radio waves, sinners and so-called saints. About bondage made allegorically physical and darkness made light. A book about fake roses so wonderfully made they look real and real roses so wonderfully grown they look fake. A book about silence and noise. About interminable guilt and authentic Mexican food (yes, in the same sentence). A book about looking at darkness in others made manifest and loving them anyways, and about looking at darkness in ourselves and refusing to put up with it anymore. A book about the wisdom of brokenness. Not a Christian author, just a woman who gets quite a few things very right. Highly Recommend.

2 Manga Shakespeare: Twelfth Night (Okay so not remotely recent, but I Just Discovered it, so there) play by William Shakespeare, text adapted by Richard Appignanesi, illustrated by Nana Li. Five stars.

The entirety of this ever-growing series is a beautiful mix of East and West and does tribute to the Bard. Twelfth Night is currently my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s not my very favorite of the series, but it is a Solid offering for sure. Each installment was illustrated by a different manga artist, giving the works of Shakespeare a broad treatment in the Eastern graphic style. The original language is preserved, but the artist and adapter take liberties with the settings and character portrayals within those settings. Check it out and call me when you’re ready to freak out, mmkay? Highly Recommend.

3 A Curse So Dark and Lonely (January, 2019) by Brigid Kemmerer. Four stars.

A dark and lonely twist on Beauty and the Beast complete with a modern DC princess with cerebral palsy. There’s not a lot I can say here without SpOiLeRs, but it was quiet and tense, and I really liked it. It felt more genuine and gritty than your typical fairy tale without departing from the conventions of the genre. Both the princess and the prince are Real People, not airbrushed ideals. The book examines the necessity of selflessness in the face of your own limitations both for your own success and for others. It works to define courage and heroism in new and different lights. It features a David and Jonathan-like male friendship I really liked, and also one of the more well-rounded evil witches I’ve seen. Recommend.

4 Obsidio (March, 2018) by Aimee Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Five stars.

The final installment in the incredible space opera that is The Illuminae Files. I say opera. I mean three-part dossier of video transcripts, IMs, photographs, journal excerpts, e-mails, photographs, and other items of evidence collected against the evil space company Beitech. Alternative title: B*it*ch Gets Space-Punked Three Times in a Row by a Sassy Bunch of Kids and also a Psychopathic A.I., then Taken to Court. This final installment wasn’t Quite as mind-blowing as the first two with their mutated viruses, space parasites, and alternate realities, but it’s a solid end to an amazing tale and gets a Highly Recommend from me.

5 Truly, Devious (January, 2018) by Maureen Johnson. Four Stars.
I took up A Clockwork Reader's recommendation on this one, and it did not disappoint. Truly, Devious is The Mysterious Benedict Society meets Sherlock Holmes. I can’t say too much, but there is an old, unsolved kidnapping and a modern murder at a school for super-nerds. There are truly fascinating characters and a famous, cryptic letter signed, “Truly, Devious”. All of the intrigue commences. I impatiently await my chance to get my hands on the sequel, The Vanishing Stair. To whoever currently has it out from Loudoun County Public Library, can you hurry the heck up? I need to know what happens. Recommend. Content Warning: at least two actively dating LGBTQ side characters if that's something that bothers you. Also murder if that's something that bothers you.

6 Long May She Reign (February 2017) by Rhiannon Thomas. Four stars.

Another book with murder! I’ve been on a bit of a murder mystery kick lately. It sounds weird, but murder mysteries are so Cozy! This one is like the female princess version of the TV show, Designated Survivor, which, admittedly I’ve seen scene and a preview for. Mostly I just loved that the princess, turned queen, is a socially-awkward scientist far more interested in figuring out who poisoned the entire court than wearing pretty dresses or asking people to approve of her. The book is not super deep, but it’s highly relatable and a family-friendly choice for even elementary kids. Aside from, you know, the mass murder part. Recommend.

7 The Sacred Lies of Minnow Blye (June 2015) by Stephanie Oakes. Five stars.

Speaking of super deep. This book is super deep. I was scared to sneak it off my sister’s shelf for the longest time, not only because Liz is a dragon with a hoard about her books, but also because it’s a story about a girl in Juvie who’s just lost her hands to the cult she grew up in. It’s a hard book, but it’s good. It’s the sort of thing Christians ought to read in order to think rather carefully about the ways in which we cross lines into believing and enforcing doctrines that sound spiritual and give us power but are not in the Bible. That or use that which Is in the Bible in wrong and hurtful ways. Both of these mis-uses stand starkly in this compassionate novel. It’s most powerful theme is in its title: there are lies which we hold as sacredly as truth. And when we hold lies in this way, we hurt people and feel good about it. Highly Recommend.

8 Replica (October 2016) by Lauren Oliver. Three stars.

This book didn’t quite live up to the hype, but it was enjoyable. I’ll get around to the sequel eventually. It’s claim to fame is that it is a story told twice through two different sets of eyes: Lyra’s and Gemma’s, and you can start with whichever and get a completely different feel for it. They both get things wrong. Both understand some things better than the other does. Both find out they’ve been wrong about themselves and their worlds for a very long time. It’s a fascinating examination of the necessity of a bit of relativism in literature when you’re dealing in human perspective. We lie to ourselves about what we see, and we tell the story to ourselves wrong before we tell it wrong to anyone else. Read if you’re intrigued (I was).

9 The Mortal Engines (2001, but the movie (click for a trailer) was just released last December) by Philip Reeve. Book: three stars. Movie: four stars.

This is one of the few books out there where I genuinely feel the movie is better. The movie is a steampunk flick about cities on wheels that roll through their post-apocalyptic landscape and eat smaller cities. Their politics are built upon justifications for their barbaric actions including slavery of the citizens of consumed cities. It’s also a study in unsustainability. The story is about what happens when you have to come to terms with the fact that the way you thought was right your whole life may, in fact, be evil. Evil people can be those who know that what they do is wrong and do it anyway. But evil people can also be those who don’t ever ask themselves whether what they’re doing is right, and instead just thoughtlessly follow along behind a wicked leader or influencer. I personally think the characters in this book are a bit darker than than they need to be, and the series gets darker as it goes along. I recommend the movie, but maybe stop there unless you really want to get into the series. Book lovers, please don’t tar and feather me. The format of book is not the holy grail of storytelling. It’s just generally more conducive to depth. Case in Point...

10 Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (July 2016) Play by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne. Five stars.

I’m soooo late getting on the bandwagon with this one. I wasn’t allowed to read Harry Potter until I was 18 (my parents have since repented of their crimes against humanity XD), so I didn’t get around to reading this installment until I finished the original series. Which was recently. I think I’m going to write a whole post on why Harry Potter is one of the best things that ever happened in children’s/YA literature, and why parents really needn’t fear it will lead their children into the occult. Show of hands, how many of you Potterheads have tried to make a horcrux? LIZ PUT YOUR HAND DOWN. No one? Cool. See parents? Completely safe. So look forward to that! Meanwhile, I highly recommend this transition of Rowling’s (with the help of some playwrights) into her now-preferred format: Screenplay/Script.

Bonus Title: The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm: Tales from Alagaesia Vol. 1 (December, 2018) by Christopher Paolini. Five stars.

If you loved The Inheritance Cycle (As I do...I Just Reread the Whole Goshdarn Thing), then try out this little collection of short stories. If not, don’t bother. You won’t get any of it. Even if you have read the series but it’s been awhile, and you weren’t a total nerd about it, these stories will probably be too full of obscure references to make much sense. *Insert more Nerdy Literary Snobbishness*. Highly Recommend.

Annnnd I’ll leave you with that. Leave a question or comment about any of the above titles. If you disagree with any of my reviews Definitely leave a comment. I want to hear your thoughts. What YA books have captured Your imagination lately?


  1. Oh, I still need to read Replica and All the Crooked Saints!!! Someday I'll make it to those, lol.

    I just finished a middle grade book called The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle. It was pretty good, not the greatest story of all time, but it had a soft way of pulling me in. I didn't feel like desperate to find out the answers, but I wanted to know enough that I went ahead and finished it in about 4 sittings over 48 hours. So take that how you will, lol