Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

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

Book: Be Dazzled

Author: Ryan La Sala

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Gay MC, m/m relationship

Recommended For…: contemporary readers, ya readers, LGBT+

Publication Date: January 5, 2021

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 16+ (language, drug usage, alcohol mention, sexual content, and slight gore for cosplay)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Pages: 336

Synopsis: Who’s ready to sparkle??

Project Runway goes to Comic Con in an epic queer love story about creativity, passion, and finding the courage to be your most authentic self.

Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making–for creation. He’s always chosen his art over everything–and everyone–else and is determined to make his mark at this year’s biggest cosplay competition. If he can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There’s only one small problem… Raffy’s ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.

Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously meeting in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store–or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca’s insecurities and Raffy’s insistence on crafting perfection caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now, Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can’t ruin.

But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he’ll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart, and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he’s ever wanted: choosing his art, his way.

Review: I really like this book. I thought that the concept would be a bit tropey, but I am so glad that I was wrong. The two main characters were not at all enemies to lovers or vengeful x or anything like that, they felt like real people in the book. They had their tips and everything but the whole book didn’t dwell on those little tips, but rather their relationship as a whole. I thought that the characters were wonderfully well developed and the world building was amazing. I really liked the concept of the book and that it takes place during conventions and with cosplay, something that I don’t see a lot in books. I also thought that the book was wonderfully well written and the audiobook narrator did a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life.

the only thing that I really had an issue with was the way that the story was told. I really did like how the story was told for the most part, and that the book is told in this back and forth between the now and the then. But the story got a little bit metal towards the end, and I wish that the author took the last two chapters of the then and combine them into one big chapter and then left the last two chapters of the now complete. But the book is very poetic in that sense because while you’re seeing the relationship fall apart in the then you are seeing it come back together in the now and there’s something that’s just epically poetic about this and I am so happy that I got to listen to this book. I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in cosplay or if you’re looking for those one of the million best ya romance contemporary books.

Verdict: Highly recommend!

Fractured by Shay Siegel

Disclaimer: I received an arc from the author. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Fractured

Author: Shay Siegel

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Recommended For…: contemporary readers

Publication Date: October 27, 2020

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 17+ (attempted rape, sexual assault, self harm, depression, toxic masculinity, upsetting female representation)

Publisher: Indie Published

Pages: 290

Synopsis: Mason Vance is the guy everybody wants to be, and he knows it. He’s the best high school quarterback in New York, a shoo-in for a football scholarship at any school he chooses, and he’s expected to land in the NFL one day. That is, until a broken wrist leaves him fearing whether he’ll ever play again.

Desperate to save his damaged ego, Mason sets his sights on Lace. No cheerleader or homecoming queen like his usual type, she’s too wrapped in her own misery to fall for his pickup lines. Even though she tries to shut him out, she’s surprised to find he’s there for her when no one else is. Slowly, she lets him into the sad workings of her mind and less-than-perfect life, and Mason finds himself caring about Lace more than he’d ever thought possible. That’s why neither of them sees his huge mistake coming—one that instantly fractures everything between them.

Will Mason confront the ugliest side of himself, and in the process see who he’s capable of becoming, or will he fall back into the life he knew before Lace and his injury?

Review: Overall, I thought the book was ok. The book covered a lot of hard topics and while it did so in a pretty good manner, it is still a bit of a difficult read. The book had some good character development with some of the side characters and the world building was good as well.

However, the story was really bad. The book is from the viewpoint of the main character and while I understand why the author wrote the story in such a degrading manner, it’s still really concerning for me that most of the time Mason doesn’t change his stance on his positions. I also don’t believe that the main character, who supposed to be a high schooler, doesn’t know what sexual assault is or what rape is. This isn’t something you teach a 16 year old. This isn’t something you teach 16 year olds. This is something you teach small children. Mason also had a pity party through most of the book. I feel like he was sad about himself having sexually assaulted women more than he should have been sad for the women he sexually assaulted. I don’t feel like he learned that doing those actions leaves real victims with everlasting scars. Overall, the book left me feeling kinda icky but I can see the message the author meant to leave behind.

Verdict: It’s okay for me, but please don’t read if you have triggers with any listed above.

A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Disclaimer: I received an arc in a contest I won hosted by the author. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: A Danger to Herself and Others

Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Recommended For…: contemporary lovers, mental health readers, mystery readers, ya readers

Publication Date: February 5, 2019

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 16+ (mental health, suicide mentions, gaslighting)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Pages: 341

Synopsis: Four walls. One window. No way to escape. Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She didn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at her summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. In the meantime, she is going to use her persuasive skills to get the staff on her side.

Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage. And she may be the only person who can get Hannah to confront the dangerous games and secrets that landed her in confinement in the first place.

Review: I had to DNF this book at page 71. While the book is wonderfully well written and I love that I won it, I just couldn’t read it at this time and it’s time for me to put it off my TBR for awhile. The book has some graphic detail about mental health and some various ways the character and her therapists try to deal with it. I don’t feel like I’m in the best health myself to read that and unreliable narrator books don’t really interest me as they are sometimes wrote too confusingly. However, the book didn’t shy away from calling people out who dehumanize people with mental health issues and I love how raw and unapologetic it is. 

Verdict: It wasn’t for me this time, but it could be for you!

My Last Summer with Cass by Mark Crilley

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

Book: My Last Summer with Cass

Author: Mark Crilley

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 4/5

Recommended For…: graphic novel readers, ya readers, contemporary lovers

Publication Date: March 16, 2021

Genre: YA Contemporary Graphic Novel

Recommended Age: 12+ (losing a friend)

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 256

Synopsis: Megan and Cass have been joined at the brush for as long as they can remember. For years, while spending summers together at a lakeside cabin, they created art together, from sand to scribbles . . . to anything available. Then Cass moved away to New York.

When Megan finally convinces her parents to let her spend a week in the city, too, it seems like Cass has completely changed. She has tattoos, every artist in the city knows her—she even eats chicken feet! At least one thing has stayed the same: They still make their best art together.

But when one girl betrays the other’s trust on the eve of what is supposed to be their greatest artistic feat yet, can their friendship survive? Can their art?

Review: I really liked that this was a graphic novel book. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous and I loved how the author drew the two girls. I thought the story was pretty good. The characters were pretty well developed as well and this is a super quick read if you’re in a time crunch!

The only things I felt could have been better was the pacing (it was too quick for me to get attached to the story) and the character development, which I think suffered because of the quick pacing. I also felt like the book didn’t have a solid conflict. I understand losing a friend all too well, but maybe I’m at an age and place in my life where that doesn’t affect me anymore or as much. However, I can see where that can be a worldending event for teens and I totally recommend this for teens who have went through this or who fear this thing happening.

Verdict: It’s a solid friendship novel.

Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

Disclaimer: I received this audiobook from netgalley and the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Instant Karma

Author: Marissa Meyer

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 1/5

Diversity: Karma is in Indian derived concept, but wielded by white characters

Recommended For…: contemporary lovers, people who like bad books

Publication Date: November 3, 2020

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 16+ (sexual content, triggering amounts of HP)

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Pages: 400

Synopsis: Chronic overachiever Prudence Barnett is always quick to cast judgment on the lazy, rude, and arrogant residents of her coastal town. Her dreams of karmic justice are fulfilled when, after a night out with her friends, she wakes up with the sudden ability to cast instant karma on those around her. Pru giddily makes use of the power, punishing everyone from public vandals to karaoke hecklers, but there is one person on whom her powers consistently backfire: Quint Erickson, her slacker of a lab partner and all-around mortal enemy. Soon, Pru begins to uncover truths about Quint, her peers, and even herself that reveal how thin the line is between virtue and vanity, generosity and greed . . . love and hate.

Review: For all the good that the narrator did, this book absolutely sucked. First of all, I saw the comments calling out the book for cultural appropriation and I want to note that their opinions are valid and yes, this book takes a very white character and gives her an Indian power and then takes the concept and twists it into what it’s not. It’s not pretty and that’s not cool of the author to do. Why is it 2020 and we’re giving white characters god like powers that people of another culture invented? Just because it’s Marissa Meyer doesn’t mean that she gets a pass. Anyways, overall I hated the book. The book reads like it should be a villain origin story except we’re supposed to believe that Prudence is a good character. The main character (Prudence) even sucks if you look at this from a villain’s perspective. She’s annoying, overbearing, and very much a young Karen in training. If you work in retail, you’ll despise Prudence and even in the end she doesn’t have that many redeeming moments. She’s still so hard to relate to and I just want to punch her one good time in the left eye. The book took a holier than thou approach when discussing veganism and that wasn’t really checked. The book had too many subplots for a contemporary read. The book is also incredibly boring. I went to court at one point and left the audiobook running for an hour. When I returned, the book was almost exactly where I left off. There was less than 5% progress from the characters while I progressed 7% in the audiobook. I’m also faulting the author on the many Harry Potter references. JK Rowling has been problematic for decades with her homophobia, transphobia, racism, and sexism and authors are still putting triggering amounts of HP in their works, even going so far as to name a prominent animal character after an HP character? Yea, that’s a no for me. The narrator tried and I fell in love with her voice, but other than that, I hated listening to this book.

Verdict: It sucks and is full of problematic content. It’s a swerve for me.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Disclaimer: I received an e-arc of this book. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book:  One of the Good Ones

Author: Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: LGBT+ characters, Black main characters

Recommended For…: ya readers, contemporary lovers, lgbt+ readers

Publication Date: January 5, 2021

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 16+ (grief, violence, police brutality TW, murder, generational trauma, coming out)

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Pages: 384


When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.

One of the good ones.

Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again.

Review: Do not read this book when you’re already sad. You’re going to cut onions reading this book and it’s going to give you a sadness headache. Or is that just me that gets those? Seriously though, this book is SO GOOD! I loved the story and plot and I loved that this book included something I’ve only read about before: The Green Book, which was this book that was published in the 1930s to help Black people travel and stay in safe places (seriously, more books should include this piece of history). The character development is amazing and the history and world building was amazing as well. This will definitely be a book I buy and reread.

The only thing I had an issue with was that the beginning was a bit slow but it definitely picked up.

Verdict: Highly recommended reading! We should know our history as a nation and how to best be an ally!

Everywhere You Don’t Belong by Grabriel Bump

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

Book: Everywhere You Don’t Belong

Author: Gabriel Bump

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Black American main characters and focused stories

Recommended For…: contemporary lovers, ya readers, cultural reads

Publication Date: February 4, 2020

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 16+ (slight violence, injustice, trauma, childhood violence, racism, slight romance)

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Pages: 264

Synopsis: In this alternately witty and heartbreaking debut novel, Gabriel Bump gives us an unforgettable protagonist, Claude McKay Love. Claude isn’t dangerous or brilliant—he’s an average kid coping with abandonment, violence, riots, failed love, and societal pressures as he steers his way past the signposts of youth: childhood friendships, basketball tryouts, first love, first heartbreak, picking a college, moving away from home. 
Claude just wants a place where he can fit. As a young black man born on the South Side of Chicago, he is raised by his civil rights–era grandmother, who tries to shape him into a principled actor for change; yet when riots consume his neighborhood, he hesitates to take sides, unwilling to let race define his life. He decides to escape Chicago for another place, to go to college, to find a new identity, to leave the pressure cooker of his hometown behind. But as he discovers, he cannot; there is no safe haven for a young black man in this time and place called America. 
Percolating with fierceness and originality, attuned to the ironies inherent in our twenty-first-century landscape, Everywhere You Don’t Belong marks the arrival of a brilliant young talent.

Review: I really liked this book! I thought the book did well to make a story and make it so engaging that I lost myself in the book. The character development is amazing, the world building was amazing and the writing was masterful! The book does well to show the trials and tribulations that most Black Americans face today, including injustice and generational pain through racism. The book also opens in such a lyrical and beautiful fashion. The book, for the second half of it, then centers on a person who is experiencing another sort of trauma. The book is beautiful from start to finish and you will cry.

The only thing that I didn’t really like about the book was that sometimes the pacing was a bit slow.

Verdict: Highly recommend!

Roman and Jewell by Dana L. Davis

Disclaimer: I received an e-arc of this book. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Roman and Jewel

Author: Dana L. Davis

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 4/5

Diversity: Black main character and side characters

Recommended For…: contemporary lovers, ya readers

Publication Date: January 5, 2021

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 16+ (romance, drug usage, slight language)

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Pages: 336

Synopsis: Jerzie Jhames will do anything to land the lead role in Broadway’s hottest new show, Roman and Jewel, a Romeo and Juliet inspired hip-hopera featuring a diverse cast and modern twists on the play. But her hopes are crushed when she learns mega-star Cinny won the lead…and Jerzie is her understudy.

Falling for male lead Zeppelin Reid is a terrible idea–especially once Jerzie learns Cinny wants him for herself. Star-crossed love always ends badly. But when a video of Jerzie and Zepp practicing goes viral and the entire world weighs in on who should play Jewel, Jerzie learns that while the price of fame is high, friendship, family, and love are priceless.

Review: For the most part, this book was fun! I loved the way the story was told and how hard this book hooks you from beginning to end. The book has some good character development for most of the characters and the book also has some well done world building. The book also sounds like something a teen would write, which I think is key to YA books.

However, I really wish that the author put more of the musical in the book. The book could have been so much better with the musical aspects in it and I wanted so bad to see it in there. I also thought the love interest was very insufferable and I wanted to yeet him from the book. I didn’t like the redemption arc the villain got, it was a bit too short for my liking, and I didn’t like the instalove trope.

Verdict: Highly recommend!!

Good Enough by Gemma Donoghue

Disclaimer: I received this ebook from the author. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Good Enough

Author: Gemma Donoghue

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 4.5/5

Recommended For…: contemporary fans, ya readers

Publication Date: March 3, 2020

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 16+ (suicide TW, romance, slight gore and violence)

Publisher: Indie Published

Pages: 273

Synopsis: Ten facts about myself.

1. My name is Simon Baker.
2. I’m seventeen years old.
3. I have two sisters. Jessica, who’s fourteen and Bailey who’s twelve.
4. My parents aren’t divorced, they’re still together.
5. We live in a nice two-story house in a nice neighborhood.
6. My parents don’t do drugs, they don’t even drink that often, and neither do I.
7. My parents have never hit us, they’ve never kept us locked up in the basement or kicked us out of the house.
8. No one has ever touched me in the wrong place.
9. I’ve been to parties and I’ve been in a few fights but never over anything serious.
10. I didn’t try to kill myself.

Except that Simon wakes up to find that his parents have had him committed to Palmdale Psychiatric Hospital after a failed suicide attempt. Simon wasn’t normal and he knew it. He was struggling after losing his best -and only- friend, with being an outcast at school. He tries his best to pretend that everything is okay, but there is still a part of him that he would always keep locked away from everyone else.

Here, Simon meets the other patients and is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety and depression. His healing process has just begun when he meets Oliver, another patient, who changes his life.

Review: For the most part, this was a good book. The book instantly drew me in. The story was intriguing and the characters were well developed. The author has a wonderful writing style and I really loved how beautiful the book was.

The only issues I had were that I wish there was more world building and I wish the book was a bit longer.

Verdict: It was great! Get the tissue box ready!

Fragile by Gemma Donoghue

Disclaimer: I received this ebook from the author. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Fragile

Author: Gemma Donoghue

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Recommended For…: contemporary readers

Publication Date: January 19, 2020

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: can’t recommend, DNFed, but ED trigger warnings!

Publisher: Indie Published

Pages: 301

Synopsis: It started with a candy bar.

One minute Katherine was sitting on the couch watching cartoons, about to eat a Snickers.

The next she was running to the bathroom and shoving two fingers down her throat and throwing up.

Katherine doesn’t know how her eating disorder started; was it curiosity, a jealous competition with her best friend Carol to see who would be the smallest, or was it something else? All she knows is that she dropped six sizes in five months after her grandmother tried to file for custody of her after her parents divorced when she was at her lowest weight.

Katherine feels like she has lost control over her life and the only thing she believes she can control is what she eats. It became easier and easier for her to lie to her dad and say that she had eaten, to lie to herself and say she was full, or to just not eat at all.

At 95 pounds she doesn’t feel like a size zero. She still feels fat. When she looks in the mirror she can all she sees is an ocean of fat hanging off of her body even though no one else can see it. Katherine doesn’t see food as food. She only sees the calories it contains.

Katherine is stuck in a rut in life. And now she’s trapped in the small town of Deer’s Run New York. Life in Deer’s Run is a nightmare come true. Her grandmother has the school nurse, teachers, and lunchroom attendants watch Katherine at lunch, when she goes to the bathroom, and challenges
her constantly to eat the foods she’s spent half of her life avoiding.

Katherine has planned to stay in Deer’s Run for her sophomore year. But what he Dad doesn’t know is that
Katherine only plans on staying long enough to convince her Dad and more importantly her grandmother
that she is healthy. Healthy enough to avoid being shipped back to the Rosewood Inpatient Clinic for Eating Disorders, a treatment center for girls like her—girls with eating disorders.

When Katherine learns that Carol, her best friend, had committed suicide only two weeks earlier, trying to get better is almost impossible.

Not only does she have to listen to her own voice analyzing and obsessing about every single thing she does and every single calorie of food she eats, but she also has to listen to Carol’s as well when she listens to several messages Carol left her.

Messages that will change her life forever.

Review: I had to DNF this book. It had an interesting concept and if you liked Twilight or the other early YA books then you might like this one, but the ED in this book was really hard on me mentally and I can’t focus on it during this time.

Verdict: Not for me at this time.