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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 28th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 444
Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

5 Stars

The Hate U Give instantly made the list of my favourite reads of 2017. You won’t find a lot of 5 stars among my ratings but this one was a no-brainer. I’d been expecting great things of Angie Thomas when this release was first announced, as it tackles an emotionally-charged topic in the US, and it did not disappoint.

When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and the bees. The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me.

This refreshing, daunting new voice deserves all the hype it’s getting. A lot of authors address and confront hard and controversial topics in their works, but Angie Thomas had her finger on the pulse of time with her debut. With its raw, realistic, and authentic narration, The Hate U Give tackles racism and the police violence related to it, but it digs far deeper than that – it uncovers a flaw rooted in our society. It takes a great deal of courage to make us and the world we live in look into a mirror, and Angie Thomas accomplished just that. No wonder so many readers said this book changed their lives.

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A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba BadoeA Jigsaw of Fire and Stars Published by Zephyr on September 7th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Pages: 278
Goodreads

A powerful, haunting, contemporary debut that steps seamlessly from the horrors of people-trafficking to the magic of African folklore, by an award-winning Ghanaian-British filmmaker.

Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasure. It seems she is the sole survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying migrants and refugees. Her people.

Fourteen years on she's a member of Mama Rose's unique and dazzling circus. But, from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them:

A bamboo flute. A golden bangle. A ripening mango which must not fall... if Sante is to tell their story and her own.

Rich in the rhythms and colours of Africa and glittering circus days. Unflinching in its dark revelations about life. Yaba Badoe's novel is beautiful and cruel and will linger long in the memory.

3.5 Stars

I had heard little to nothing about A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars prior to requesting it on NetGalley. I’ve been trying to expand my reading of literature by authors of cultures foreign to my own and the book’s premise spoke to me, so I was more than delighted than we’d been accepted for this novel.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is pitched as a contemporary but I believe magical or animist realism describes it best. The story combines contemporary themes such as people-trafficking, the flow of refugees from Africa to Europe, and the search for identity and belonging with magical elements of African folklore.

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya MenonWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
on May 30th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads

The arranged marriage YA romcom you didn't know you wanted or needed...

Meet Dimple.

Her main aim in life is to escape her traditional parents, get to university and begin her plan for tech world domination.

Meet Rishi.

He's rich, good-looking and a hopeless romantic. His parents think Dimple is the perfect match for him, but she's got other plans...

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works even harder to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

As joyfully refreshing as Rainbow Rowell, Jenny Han and Nicola Yoon, When Dimple Met Rishi is a frothy, funny contemporary romance told from the dual perspectives of two Indian American protagonists. While Dimple is fighting her family traditions, Rishi couldn't be happier to follow in the footsteps of his parents - could sparks fly between this odd couple, or is this matchmaking attempt doomed to fail?

4 Stars

That moment you realize you’ve been reading a lot of fantasy because you tried to create a section “world-building” for a contemporary (I realized that, unless I was going to judge how well the university campus was described, I wasn’t going to get very far). In the premise on GR, it says, The arranged marriage YA romcom you didn’t know you wanted or needed… Well, I sure knew I wanted it but I didn’t know I needed it. Apparently, I did. This was the perfect read for my exam phase at uni – light but hooking.

When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my most anticipated releases in the contemporary genre, partly because it sounded cute, but mostly because I expected get a great #OwnVoices view on Indian culture. This debut did not disappoint. It may have had some rough edges, since this is Menon’s first novel, but it was every bit the cute and diverse read I expected it to be. 

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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky AlbertalliThe Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 11th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

3 Stars

I know, this is a disaster. The Upside of Unrequited – a novel I’ve been looking forward to for months – only received 3 stars from me. I’ll need some Oreos to get over this. Overall, I liked it fine but I’m so disappointed I didn’t like it more. This is Becky Albertalli, after all. I feel like she wanted too many things with this book. The Upside of Unrequited and I just didn’t click. That spark I had with Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda? Inexistent. There was no chemistry between me and this book. That’s a real case of unrequited love right there.

But there’s this awfulness that comes when a guy thinks you like him. It’s as if he’s fully clothed and you’re naked in front of him. It’s like your heart suddenly lives outside your body, and whenever he wants, he can reach out an squeeze it.
Unless he happens to like you back.

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Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle

Mafiosa by Catherine DoyleMafiosa by Catherine Doyle
Series: Blood for Blood #3
Published by Chicken House Ltd. on January 5th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 416
Goodreads

A blood war rages on the streets of Chicago.

Protected by an infamous mafia family, Sophie is living a dangerous lie, pretending to lead a normal life. But the deceit can’t last for ever. Her heart belongs to a killer and Sophie’s the prime target of a rival clan. She’s determined to seek revenge on her mother’s murderers, but can she pay the price – can she be a mafiosa?

The third and final instalment in the explosive YA Blood for Blood series which started with Vendetta and Inferno.

4 Stars

Mafiosa was by far my most anticipated instalment for 2017. So imagine how ecstatic I was to find it on my doorstep on January 30th, a couple of days before the official release date. I swear, I didn’t make the Godfather an offer he couldn’t refuse. Or, make a pact with the devil (though I would have). Or, bribe the publisher. It was a miracle.

The fact that the sequel Inferno remains my favourite book in the series means that not everything about Mafiosa went according to plan. For the most part, Mafiosa was the addictive, gripping and action-packed rollercoaster I hoped it would be. I sat down, forgot about the world and blew through this in one sitting. Sadly, there were a couple of things that got in the way of my complete and utter bliss with this book.

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The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati

The Weight of Zero by Karen FortunatiThe Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati
Published by Delacorte Press on October 11th, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Mental health
Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Cath knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disease, has almost triumphed once, propelling Catherine to her first suicide attempt. With Zero only temporarily restrained by the latest med du jour, time is running out. In an old ballet shoebox, Catherine stockpiles meds, preparing to take her own life when Zero next arrives.

But Zero’s return is delayed. Unexpected relationships along with the care of a new psychiatrist start to alter Catherine's perception of her diagnosis. But will this be enough? This is a story of loss and grief and hope and how the many shapes of love – maternal, romantic and platonic – impact a young woman’s struggle with mental illness.

3.5 Stars

The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati offers a sensitive take on the daily struggles of a teen living with the prospect of a chronic mental illness. Besides highlighting the impact Catherine’s bipolar disorder has on her life, such as attending intensive group therapy, and the grim expectations she has for her future, the book tackles subjects such as the burden that rests on parents of mentally ill children, the image of mental health in society, bullying, and first love.

This debut on a girl suffering from bipolar disorder had been on my radar for months. I am aware that YA fiction has a habit of misportraying mental illnesses, sacrificing psychiatric accuracy for drama effects, romantic subplots, and happy endings. Nonetheless, I was really excited to get my hands on a YA contemporary featuring such a severe mental disorder, for I feel like bipolar does not get the literary attention it deserves with, according to the World Health Organisation, roughly 60 million people being affected worldwide. The reason I wish more YA books, not just contemporaries but also fantasy and dystopian novels, would focus and/or include mental illnesses is because many of these have their onset during adolescence, therefore making it a topic of utmost relevance.

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Inferno by Catherine Doyle

Inferno by Catherine DoyleInferno by Catherine Doyle
Series: Blood for Blood #2
Published by Chicken House Ltd. on January 7th, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 416
Goodreads

Romeo and Juliet meets The Godfather in the second installment of Catherine Doyle's Blood for Blood series.

Sophie's life has been turned upside-down, and she's determined to set things right. But Nic, the Falcone brother who represents everything she's trying to forget, won't give up on their love - and it's Luca's knife she clutches for comfort. Soon another mafia clan spoils the fragile peace - and with her heart drawn in one direction and her blood in another, Sophie's in deeper than ever.

5 Stars

Inferno gave me ALL THE FEELS, and I have 5 half-moons in each palm to prove it. In contrast to its tame predecessor Vendetta, this sequel is darker, grittier, with a fast pace and tensions flaring high. And, of course, there’s a lot more of Luca. Jackpot. Inferno left me squealing, laughing, yelling, dreading, and in a state of utter shock.  

new girl it's possible i'm still in shock photo: ng_shock.gif

inferno (noun)
Pronunciation: /ɪnˈfəːnəʊ/
1. A large fire that is dangerously out of control
2. (usually Inferno) Hell; with reference to Dante’s Divine Comedy
3. Luca is haaawt as hell

Ok, let’s do this.

For those of you who haven’t read Vendetta, I must clarify a few things: Although I thought Vendetta was a pretty solid start to this series, I had issues with the first book (predictable plot, insta-love, lack of character depth, …). All of those issues were crushed to dust by Inferno. In short, if you’re looking for a light, entertaining read along the lines of The Godfather meets Romeo and Juliet, then read the damn book. And then, read Inferno. And then, we fangirl.

For those of you who have read Vendetta and plan to continue with the series: This review will be as spoiler-free as possible but I will share quotes, so if you’re a reader who has a strict I-do-not-want-to-know-anything-that-happens-beforehand policy, then you might want to stop reading at this point.

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Vendetta by Catherine Doyle

Vendetta by Catherine DoyleVendetta by Catherine Doyle
Series: Blood for Blood #1
Published by Chicken House Ltd. on February 24th, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads

When it comes to revenge, love is a dangerous complication.With a fierce rivalry raging between two warring families, falling in love is the deadliest thing Sophie could do. An epic debut set outside modern-day Chicago.

When five brothers move into the abandoned mansion in her neighbourhood, Sophie Gracewell's life changes forever. Irresistibly drawn to bad boy Nicoli, Sophie finds herself falling into a criminal underworld governed by powerful families. As the boys' dark secrets begin to come to light, Sophie is confronted with stinging truths about her own family, too. She must choose between two warring dynasties - the one she was born into, and the one she is falling in love with. When she does, blood will spill and hearts will break.

3.5 Stars

Excuse this swoony, patriotic review, but Catherine Doyle’s debut Vendetta is a piece of hot danger and my girly hormones are all over the place. This book is a trashy YA version of Romeo and Juliet meets The Godfather, and it has brought forth one of my favourite fictional crushes of all time. (In case you can’t tell after I’ll have mentioned his name 1’000’000 in this review, his name is Luca and he’s mine).


zoey deschanel new girl photo: tumblr_lu9wjmPuXa1qi9psro1_500.gif

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One by Sarah Crossan

One by Sarah CrossanOne by Sarah Crossan
Published by Bloomsbury Children's on August 27th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Goodreads

Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.

And their lives are about to change.

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?

But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…

From Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this moving and beautifully crafted novel about identity, sisterhood and love ultimately asks one question: what does it mean to want and have a soulmate?

4.5 Stars

This will be a short review because 1) this book is short (read it on the plane in 3 hours) so I don’t want to give anything away and 2) there really isn’t much to say except READ IT NOW

One is probably one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It’s touching, heartbreaking, raw and honest. It’s about Grace and Tippi, two teenage girls who also happen to be conjoined twins. It’s about their family; the physical, medical as well as the emotional implications it has on everyone around them.

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Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Saving Francesca by Melina MarchettaSaving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Published by Viking Children's Books on March 31st 2003
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mental health
Pages: 243
Goodreads

MOST OF MY friends now go to Pius Senior College, but my mother wouldn't allow it because she says the girls there leave with limited options and she didn't bring me up to have limitations placed upon me. If you know my mother, you'll sense there's an irony there, based on the fact that she is the Queen of the Limitation Placers in my life.

Francesca battles her mother, Mia, constantly over what's best for her. All Francesca wants is her old friends and her old school, but instead Mia sends her to St. Sebastian's, an all-boys school that has just opened its doors to girls. Now Francesca's surrounded by hundreds of boys, with only a few other girls for company. All of them weirdos or worse.

Then one day, Mia is too depressed to get out of bed. One day turns into months, and as her family begins to fall apart, Francesca realizes that without her mother's high spirits, she hardly knows who she is. But she doesn't yet realize that she's more like Mia than she thinks. With a little unlikely help from St. Sebastian's, she just might be able to save her family, her friends, and especially herself.

4.5 Stars

Just ask how I’m feeling, I want to say. Just ask and I may tell you.

But no one does.

Chantal read a YA contemporary? And she liked it?? *shocked face*

Melina Marchetta has become my queen of contemporary. First On the Jellicoe Road and now Saving Francesca. The woman can do no wrong. I still can’t fathom how she managed to make me this in love with characters in less than 250 pages. On the Jellicoe Road has a significantly higher rating on GR compared to Saving Francesca and I can see why. Saving Francesca is more understated, less dramatic and with not as much actually happening. But that’s exactly why I loved it. This book managed to evoke so many emotions in me by just being an organic story of a young girl trying to find herself.

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