The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

Amber Smith was another author I recently saw at an event, and I had been hearing such great things about her debut title. I hadn’t yet had a chance to read it until now, but it is unforgettable!


The Way I Used to Be

When her older brother and his roommate come home from college for winter break, Eden is sexually assaulted by the brother’s roommate, Kevin. As Eden tries to tell her family after it happened, no one lets her speak and she retreats further and further from them. Since Kevin has been his best friend for a long time, Eden comes to believe they will choose to believe Kevin if he denies it than her accusation. The novel follows Eden through her freshman to senior year in high school after the assault, showing her process of shame, grief, anger, and finally action. She gains boyfriends but pushes everyone who might care about her away, experiences sexual addiction, abuses drugs and alcohol, all in an attempt to numb herself to the pain of being assaulted. Eden’s emotional journey is the most compelling part of this novel, and is so empathetic that the reader will experience the same emotional path. Why would you read this? Because Eden could be every girl who has been sexually assaulted and harassed, and shows the invisible pain and consequences of such abuse. Hauntingly beautiful and raw, Amber Smith will crack you wide open.

Don’t forget to check out her new title The Last to Let Go coming February 2018.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 18, 2018 in Contemporary fiction, Young Adult/Teen


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Back at it again over at Tynga’s Reviews, this time with the sequel to Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo.tumblr_o2z5hlBaaK1uemgt0o1_1280

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 11, 2018 in Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Warcross by Marie Lu

Today I’m at Tynga’s Reviews discussing my recent read of Warcross by Marie Lu (and, actually, a brief bit of comparison with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline).



Leave a comment

Posted by on January 4, 2018 in Science Fiction, Young Adult/Teen


Tags: , , , , , ,

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Recent Morris Award 2018 finalist, Dear Martin follows African American senior Justyce as he navigates a recent incident of racial discrimination that has him questioning his identity and writing to Martin Luther King, Jr. about his experiences and how they interact with MLK’s philosophy.

Dear Martin24974996

When Justyce McAllister tries to help his drunk ex-girlfriend by safely driving her home one night, a policeman arrests Justyce, believing he is committing a crime, and Justyce is not allowed to speak in his defense. It’s a rude awakening for potential Ivy League student Justyce to racial discrimination, especially since he’s been attending a prestigious mostly-white prep school on scholarship and highly involved in extracurriculars like debate team. To try and understand his situation, Justyce writes letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to compare Dr. King’s teachings with his recent experiences. Meanwhile, tensions heighten for Justyce as some of his classmates don’t understand racism, and the cop who arrested him is shot, setting off an explosive and heartbreaking chain of events that leads to Justyce’s character being defamed in the media. It’s a fast, honest, compelling look at current topics of racism, privilege, police brutality, and what it can mean to be black in America.

[Read an Excerpt]

This novel blew me away, especially reading so soon after The Hate U Give. One of the wonderful things about it is that it has an easier readability than THUG, and therefore might have greater appeal to teens who might not be reading books currently, a gateway book. I would love to do a book club with this title. There is so much to discuss in its pages about current events and could be an opportunity for teens to talk about their own experiences in light of Martin’s teachings. Underlying themes that occur in Dear Martin are:

  • white privilege – as evidenced frequently by Blake and Jared (the KKK costume and the Equality Brigade) and pointed out by SJ.

“When they get to Manny’s car and Blake pulls on the hood and raises his arm in the Nazi salute, Justyce knows the train he just hopped on is headed downhill in a major way. It occurs to him that the moment he said he was cool with the whole thing, he cut the brake lines and completely surrendered his power to stop it.”

“Whatever, Jared. Bottom line, nobody sees us [white teens] and automatically assumes we’re up to no good. . .We’ll never be seen as criminals before we’re seen as people.” – SJ

  • the viewpoint that some people in the black community have towards other people of color or in not noticing and combating racism

“There are people who don’t see a man with rights when they look at me, and I’m not real sure how to deal with that. Being treated the way I was and then hearing Jared insist there’s not a problem? And then hearing Manny agree with him? It sucks, Martin. It really does.” – Justyce

  • the acceptance or defeatism of some in the black community of the consequences of racism

“Why try to do right if people will always look at me and assume wrong?” – Quan

There’s no escaping the Black Man’s Curse.” – Quan

  • affirmative action and the potential for retaliation
  • police brutality
  • media bias

…and so much more. SJ and her family were great examples of how white people should act and support people of color when they speak out. I loved this book, and could have read more, but I understand Nic was told to cut much of it. This is a great book to challenge your own viewpoints in reading because only then can we see through others’ eyes and learn empathy. If you only read a few books this year, this is a great touchstone book for current society.

Interviews with Nic Stone:

Writer’s Digest

The Winged Pen

Adventures in YA Publishing

Dear martin quote


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to see Robin Benway at an author event. I had never read any of her books before, so when I knew I was going, I immediately rushed to find something of hers to read. I picked up Audrey, Wait!, her debut novel, and it was a such a fun book! If only I had picked this book up sooner! It is definitely a book I would have loved to read as a teen.

51VfOv6AC0L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Audrey, Wait!

When die-hard music lover Audrey planned to dump her musician boyfriend, she never anticipated the song he promised he’d write about her would be a song about their breakup, Audrey, Wait! which becomes an instant household hit. Audrey herself becomes somewhat of a celebrity as everyone wants to know about the girl who inspired a hit song. However, having a popular song written about you if you’re in high school means you’re socially doomed. Sure, Audrey suddenly gets a lot of attention, not just from those annoying paparazzi but classmates who never cared about her before. She’s finding it hard to be normal, except around her family who is clueless. Even her best friend is acting weird and her job at the ice cream shop at the mall is gaining notoriety. The only silver lining is her quiet coworker who doesn’t seem to care about fame, just old-fashioned hard work.

This was such a cute read. It was fast-paced, totally believable, and while touching on a few comments about today’s celebrity society, also light-hearted and humorous. Audrey has a unique voice and the supporting characters such as her best friend Victoria, her parents, etc. all are strong and memorable. The romance is sweet and down-to-earth, and the final twist at the end is both justifying and empowering.


Give this to any teen who is obsessed with music, bands, and concerts or those who enjoyed Ali Novak’s The Heartbreakers. I’m really looking forward to reading more of her titles, including the recently published Far From the Tree.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 21, 2017 in Contemporary fiction, Young Adult/Teen


Tags: , , , , , , ,