The Year I Stopped Trying by Katie Heaney

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: The Year I Stopped Trying

Author: Katie Heaney

Book Series: Standalone

Diversity: F/f romance, Lesbian MC

Rating: 4.5/5

Recommended For…: young adult readers, contemporary, romance, LGBTQIA+

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publication Date: November 16, 2021

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Pages: 256

Recommended Age: 14+ (masturbation discussed, sexual content, romance, coming out, slight language)

Explanation of CWs: Masturbation and sexual content is discussed. There is a sapphic romance. Coming out is shown and there is some curse words.

Synopsis: Mary is having an existential crisis. She’s a good student, she never gets in trouble, and she is searching for the meaning of life. She always thought she’d find it in a perfect score on the SATs. But by junior year, Mary isn’t so sure anymore.

The first time, it’s an accident. She forgets to do a history assignment. She even crosses history essay off in her pristine planner. And then: Nothing happens. She doesn’t burst into flames, the world doesn’t end, the teacher doesn’t even pull her aside after class.

So she asks herself: Why am I trying so hard? What if I stop?

With her signature wit and heaps of dark humor, Katie Heaney delivers a stunning YA novel the sprints full-force into the big questions our teen years beg–and adeptly unravels their web.

Review: I really liked this book. It read like a Judy Blume book and it was so sweet. The book not only goes into mental health and how hard school is on teens, but also goes into discourse over society’s pressure to be perfect in school, do everything you’re told to do, turn in every assignment, and even into compulsory heterosexuality. The book makes a lot of good points about school, some of which I wished more kids knew. When I was in my sophomore year I discovered that I could get away with 1-3 missing assignments and still have an A in the class, which was a small relief for me during high school to be able to know if I had an off day I could just skip the homework. A lot of teachers overpressure kids to do everything in classes, for example extra credit even if they’re earning above 100%, and I hope that kids read books like this and realize that it’s ok to take time you need. Personally I believe that kids should have mental health days/PTO like days from school like how you get when you’re an adult at most jobs. I also loved the sex positive nature of the book and how the main character questions their sexuality in a relatable way. The character development was amazing as well.

The only issues I had with the book is that the world didn’t feel that well developed and I felt like the plot kind of died a bit in the end of the book. It was just drug out and didn’t move like the rest of the book did.

Verdict: Highly recommend!

Passport by Sophia Glock

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Passport

Author: Sophia Glock

Book Series: Standalone

Diversity: Bisexual mc
Latinx side characters

Rating: 5/5

Recommended For…: Young adult readers, biography, graphic novel

Genre: YA Biography Graphic Novel

Publication Date: November 30, 2021

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 320

Recommended Age: 16+ (Sexual harassment, Rape mentioned, Being Outed, Kidnapping mentioned, Bullying, Drug use mentioned, Death mentioned, Gore mentioned, Suicide
mentioned, Sex mentioned, Alcohol consumption by minors, Language, Romance, Child abuse mentioned, Pedophilia hinted at, Sexual assualt)

Explanation of CWs: There is sexual harassment and sexual assault in the book. Rape and kidnapping are mentioned, with rape and/or consent being discussed about 3 times. There are two instances of the main character being outed. Bullying is shown. Drug use is mentioned a handful of times. Death is mentioned and a dead body is shown in a casket at a funeral. Gore is mentioned and suicide is discussed. Sex is mentioned and alcohol consumption is shown. While the age of consent is 18 where the MC is, I don’t believe she herself is 18. There are a couple of curse words. Child abuse is mentioned and there is one instance where a character says a bartender caters to her because he likes little girls and both are very young, if not minor, children. There is also some romance scenes shown.

Synopsis: Young Sophia has lived in so many different countries, she can barely keep count. Stationed now with her family in Central America because of her parents’ work, Sophia feels displaced as an American living abroad, when she has hardly spent any of her life in America.

Everything changes when she reads a letter she was never meant to see and uncovers her parents’ secret. They are not who they say they are. They are working for the CIA. As Sophia tries to make sense of this news, and the web of lies surrounding her, she begins to question everything. The impact that this has on Sophia’s emerging sense of self and understanding of the world makes for a page-turning exploration of lies and double lives.

In the hands of this extraordinary graphic storyteller, this astonishing true story bursts to life.

Review: I really enjoyed this graphic novel. I didn’t expect the graphic novel to go where it went, but it was a really fun read that focused a lot on the teenage trials and tribulations outside of having parents that are spies LOL. I also appreciate that the book talked about colonization and poverty in Central America. I also liked that the book touched on activism and consent. The character development was really well done and I absolutely love the illustrations. I also thought The world building was fairly well done and the story is well written.

My only issue with the book is that from the synopsis it sounds like the story is going to go one way I e with our main character finding out that her parents are spiced and having to deal with that, but that was barely a blip on this teenagers radar in the book. The book mainly focused on this teenage girl figuring out life and her parents being spies was in a side to it. I really hope that there is a sequel because I really enjoyed the story overall, but I would like to see more of an emphasis on having to maintain the secret in living this lifestyle.

Verdict: Highly recommend!