Rapid Fire: Five Recent YA

Reading YA takes time. Books often stretch to 400 plus pages, and sometimes at the end of the day, those 400 pages aren’t worth an in-depth review.  But you’d still like something, right?

So, at a glance, here are 5 rapid fire reviews of recent YA novels.

Children of Blood & Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.  Henry Holt and Co., 2018.  544 pages.

Fans of Black Panther will thrill at the idea of a magical fantasy set in Africa, but will find themselves bogged down in a lengthy story. (That is also the first book in a series!)  Magic has been brutally eradicated from Orisha by its monarchy.  Zelie is a diviner, capable of doing magic —if it were present.  When an artifact surfaces that is capable of returning Orisha’s magic, Zelie and a small group set out with that goal.  Meanwhile, the king’s son and soldiers work, often brutally, to stop her.  Continual flashbacks, emotional trauma, violence, torture, and sexuality hamper the story.  Repetition causes the narrative to drag and ultimately hinders character development.  Also, continual magic involving visions, mantras, spirits of the dead and blood rites, is enough to be off-putting to even a fantasy lover.  For a Marvel fan, this is not Wakanda.

Firebrand by A. J. Hartley. Tor Teen, 2017.  336 pages.

A tangle of political complexities and intrigues bog down this sequel to Steeplejack.  Ang, former steeplejack and now undercover investigator, is an interesting character, but even she suffers under a complex plot.  A strong undercurrent of issues (most notably immigration and discrimination) drag the story down, making it feel agenda-based.  Most disappointing though is the book’s conclusion.  While it promises more, it also opens an alternative potential romance that will leave readers questioning Ang and hoping later books don’t veer into LGBTQ waters.

Murder, Magic & What We Wore by Kelly Jones.  Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017.  304 pages.

Fans of Patricia Kindl & Garth Nix’s Newt’s Emerald should enjoy this light-hearted fantasy involving Regency England.  Cast upon hard times, teenaged Annis Whitworth discovers a magical talent for sewing.  False aliases, friendships and intrigue occur as she attempts to keep up appearances and unravel the mystery surrounding her father’s death.  While a light read, one lecherous character’s behavior is noticed and encountered, marring a story that could otherwise be enjoyed by younger readers.

Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon.  Blink, 2018.  336 pages.  

A mediocre “sequel” to Oliver Twist full of heart-throbbing romance, kissing, barely repressed passion, and languishing looks. There’s a lot of romance in this book coupled with sensuality. Though historical fiction, it’s hard to feel the Victorian London setting. Olivia turns all social conventions topsy-turvey and a Robin Hood type morality encourages stealing from the rich for the sake of the poor. If teens want to read a really good historical romance, Scarlett Pimpernel or Mara, Daughter of the Nile are some alternatives.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer. Feiwel & Friends, 2017.  576 pages.

In an apocalyptic world, an angry teen seeks vengeance on the group of law keepers who have ruined her life —yet preserved society.  The first book in a new series, Renegades feels stretched and leaves many unanswered questions.  Hard-to-like characters and constant deception do nothing to help matters.  In addition, Meyer includes a prominent homosexual couple, “dads” of one of the characters, whose lifestyle is highlighted.  This darker more political tale will leave fans of the Lunar Chronicles disappointed.

Have you read any good YA recently? Comment and share!  





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Hayley Morell

Born in a library and raised by books, or rather, raised by a book-loving family, Hayley loves talking and writing about books. She lives in the middle of Wisconsin and works with children as well as with words.

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  1. Meredith on May 30, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    I feel a bit as if I’m going through a reading drought this year, particularly where YA literature is concerned. I am weary of book series and just crave a good stand-alone story with substance. There is an interesting-sounding book of Asian fairy tales being released later in June: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, edited by Ellen Oh. While I regrettably don’t know much at all about Asian fairy tales, I am intrigued and hope the book will be worthwhile reading. I have reread a dark but thought-provoking book called, The Language of Thorns, by Leigh Bardugo. The stories in the book are inspired by traditional fairy tales, but the author puts interesting twists within them. While I do not agree with every aspect of the book, (and some scenes are truly disturbing), the stories have a lot to say about self-perception, evil ambition, and sacrifice.

  2. Hayley Morell on May 31, 2018 at 5:54 am

    Meredith, I’ve felt the drought too for YA. Exceptions would by Invictus which was a stand-alone and reviewed by Janie. Also, I did just read one good YA that could be a stand-alone, Isle of Blood and Stone. It’s not perfect, but it’ll get a good review here at RR next week!

  3. Amy Marie on May 31, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    I’ve been so frustrated by newer YA titles lately… so this kind of affirms my findings! Back to my old tried and trues. 😉 I recently read The Hazel Wood and it started off promising and then I was very disappointed. Sigh.

    • Betsy Farquhar on May 31, 2018 at 6:20 pm

      I didn’t even finish The Hazel Wood, Amy Marie! I thought it sounded good, too, but then decided I had better things to read ;-).

  4. Emily on May 31, 2018 at 5:55 pm

    Thanks for the reminder about Mara, Daughter of the Nile. I am finally at the point that I need some good romance books for my oldest, and I hope this will fit the bill!

  5. Donna on June 28, 2018 at 9:54 am

    I have returned so many unfinished YA to the library. It is very discouraging trying to find one with characters you would be pleased to introduce to your own kids! I started Hamilton and Peggy. It’s slow to get going, so we’ll see how far I get. Just read The Girl on the Train. There are parts where it is too explicit sexually, but it is a pretty well-written story of intrigue for upper teens and adults.

  6. Carol Johnson on January 16, 2019 at 8:58 am

    I very much appreciate the work you are doing. We own a small bookstore and really want to sell quality children’s books. Keep up the great work!!

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