#SixteensBlogAbout: Summer Reading

With the summer months practically here (seriously, how is it June already? Slow down, 2015…), the Sweet Sixteens are blogging about a particularly timely topic: summer reading.

This got me thinking about a lot of things. All the fabulous books I want to be reading right this second. The massive TBR list I’m dying to catch up on. The chair on my deck, beckoning me to sit down with a glass of Riesling and my Kobo.

Beach

Beach reading: one of the ultimate reading locations.

But the very first thought that came to mind? Being a kid and having the whole summer off, and not even appreciating how awesome that was. I  remember complaining to my parents, loudly and dramatically, that I was bored during those summers. Bored. There were only so many hours that could be spent playing outside, so many afternoons reading The Babysitter’s Club and hacking the hair off Barbies with my sister. So many days with nothing to do.

(It goes without saying that I also didn’t appreciate nap time back then. Because I had a lot to learn.)

As an adult, I relish any free time I get. There’s absolutely nothing more exciting for me than a whole day stretching ahead with no plans at all, nothing to do at all. It’s funny how things change— how what I now call the perfect day used to be a dime a dozen, ferociously underappreciated. What would summer reading look like for me, if I had back those endless summer days bereft of responsibilities that I didn’t value as a kid?

Summer reading would be both leisurely and fervent. It would involve starting and finishing a book in the same day. Maybe two books a day, since there wouldn’t be laundry to do or groceries to buy or meals to burn cook. Summer reading would happen everywhere. On my deck, where a waiter would magically refill my champagne when my glass got empty. (Hey, it’s my fantasy here!) At the beach, where I’d be careful not to get SPF 60 all over the pages. In the passenger seat during road trips, because let’s face it, I’m a useless navigator anyway. In my bed, where I’d sleep until at least noon like I did when I was a teenager. In an inflatable pool chair, floating from the shallow end to the deep end and back again, my toes dangling in the water. (In this wishful summer, I of course have a pool.) In the park, on a blanket in the grass. On a boat while my husband fishes. Summer reading would swallow up my days and the word “boredom” would never be used.

But that’s not the summer I have to work with. In reality, summer reading fits in wherever it can. On my breaks at work. While a TV show plays in the background. At the library. In coffee shops, accompanied by lattes. In my office. While I’m quickly eating breakfast before work. With a little lamp-light, under the covers at night. (Maybe I have something in common with kid-me after all.) I’ll read everywhere and anywhere, in whatever time I have, because quite simply, there is no better summer vacation than the ones found within a book’s pages.

And just for fun, here are some of the (many) books I hope to read this summer:

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

In A World Just Right by Jen Brooks

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre

Learning Not to Drown by Anna Shinoda

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

Mania by J.R. Johansson

Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Happy reading, everyone, whether it’s under the covers after dark, on a deck with champagne, or everywhere in between!

May, briefly

May has been a flurry of activity, to say the least. (Thankfully, no flurries outside… but touch wood, because in Canada, you never know.) I’m very grateful that I’ve been able to stay organized and on top of things, because otherwise something would have slipped through the cracks. The best part is that we have been experiencing summer-like temperatures here (Heat! Humidity! Be still, my heart!), which means I can do my work on the back deck with a glass of wine. Basically, that’s my happy place.

This month, I have been:

Pen

The coolest pen ever.

Working on: With one finished WIP in the very capable hands of my CP, I have been revising another completed WIP draft. Because of everything else going on, this second WIP has sat on my computer, untouched, for several months—and the time away has done wonders. After reading the full manuscript, I was able to pick out exactly what needed to be fixed and get to work quickly instead of dawdling over a page filled with question marks. I guess that saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” works for an author’s relationship with her writing, too. This WIP (another YA contemporary) is unlike anything I’ve ever written before, and it was something that started as an “in between” project, which was great because I felt no pressure from myself to make it into something.

I have also been hard at work for a secret project we have cooked up for FIRSTS. I’m looking forward to sharing more about this as soon as I can! I’ll say this much: it has been an insanely fun thing to do, and I hope everyone enjoys it!

Reading: I have been a bit behind on my massive TBR, unfortunately. (Can there please be more hours added to the day solely for reading?) But I finished BECOMING JINN by Lori Goldstein, which kept me up way too late at night. My relationship with Lori, my former Pitch Wars mentor, is very dear to me, so I was obviously quite excited to read her debut. She’s tremendously talented and balances drama with humor to absolute perfection. BECOMING JINN is the story of Azra, whose Jinn powers are released on her sixteenth birthday. I loved Azra’s snarky, sarcastic voice, her relationships with her Zar sisters and her mother, and how she reconciles her feelings for two very different guys. Often, the hardest part of writing is balancing the elements that make a good story, and Lori makes that seem easy: she has the perfect amounts of world-building, action, tears, laughter, tragedy, and plot twists. My only complaint? Having to wait for the sequel after THAT ENDING!

I also read I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson this month. I have heard nothing but great things about her writing, so I was really looking forward to diving in to this book. And basically, it knocked the wind out of me and replaced it with sunshine. Stunning, beautiful, and unputdownable, I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is about many kinds of relationships– brother and sister, daughter, son, student, lover– and at its core, the relationship between artists and their art. For a book that centers around art and the “ecstatic impulse,” this book is art itself. Funny, sad, smart, insightful, and electric. Jandy Nelson knows how to make words bend, sizzle, soar, and take shape, just like art. I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN inspired me and made me want to create things.

Watching: My husband and I are mainlining Dexter on Netflix. We’re six seasons in now and I’m continually impressed with the suspense and tension and how it has held up. Generally, I feel like shows lose some steam as they get into later seasons, but in my opinion, Dexter is just as good or better as when it started. The writers have done a great job of keeping the storylines creative and making us care about the characters. I tend to compare Dexter to Breaking Bad (which is one of my all-time favorites) because in both shows, we root for a character who does seriously questionable things. I think this moral ambiguity is so interesting, and it’s a lesson to be learned for writing, too– characters need to have both good and bad elements for us to care about them. Plus, I can’t help it—I’m a total sucker for an antihero.

All that said, May has been a great month, and I hope June brings more hot weather, words, and backyard wine!

April, briefly

I cannot believe April is almost over. I’m still blinking and rubbing my eyes, wondering where the month went. For the most part, I have been deep in the revision cave, only coming out for coffee and an occasional breath of that thing called fresh air. My weekend wardrobe has consisted of pajamas and one time I almost called my husband the name of a character in my book. So, yeah… April has been a blur.

The glamorous life of a revising writer.

The glamorous life of a revising writer.

Working on: (See above…) Revising, revising, revising. Note to past Laurie: you thought it was such a good idea to write scenes out of order and stitch them together. Well, it wasn’t! Revising this WIP has been a completely different experience for me. Since there are two timelines and lots of short chapters, I have employed different tactics to stay organized (and sane). One involved my closet door, a lot of Post-It notes, and quite a bit of swearing when the Post-Its didn’t want to stay put. The other strategy, which I have come to love, is a mini three-ring binder I bought at Staples as a total impulse buy. (I’m one of those people who gets sucked in at the checkout.) I have used the little pages to keep chapters in order and shift things around while retaining (some of) my sanity. This method made it (somewhat) easy to add new chapters and take out ones that weren’t working. Plus, it’s easy to tote around in my purse. Because every writer should have a tiny binder full of desperation and betrayal jostling around with her lipstick and loose change.

Reading: The new releases for 2015 debut authors are insanely amazing. Like, so good I need to become a full-time reader so I can devour them all. This month, I read the cyberthriller DUPLICITY by N.K. Traver, and completely loved it. Brandon’s voice was excellent (I adore boy POV, especially done this well), and the plot had plenty of twists that kept me rapidly turning pages.

Another fearless debut I read was NONE OF THE ABOVE by I.W. Gregorio. This was one of my most highly anticipated books of 2015, and it blew all of my expectation away: stunning, totally original, and beautifully written. I.W. Gregorio tackles Kristin’s struggle to accept herself for who she is with grace and unflinching honesty.

Wearing the lovely infinity necklace I won in the #BecomingJinn Twitter chat. Just like the one Azra wears!

Wearing the lovely infinity necklace I won in the #BecomingJinn Twitter chat. Just like the one Azra wears!

I was beyond excited for April 21st, the book birthday for BECOMING JINN! Its author, the supremely talented Lori Goldstein, is my former Pitch Wars mentor and somebody who has shaped my writing journey in a huge way. I preordered BECOMING JINN and my copy arrived a few days ago, so as a reward for getting so much revising done, I started reading it. I’ll have more to say when I’m finished, but I was hooked from the first page and totally love Azra, the snarky, rebellious sixteen-year-old who learns that becoming Jinn comes at a cost greater than she ever imagined. Lori’s attention to detail, amazing premise, and sense of humor make this book something very special. (Plus, it has a sequel coming out next year!) I could definitely see BECOMING JINN well, becoming, a classic must-read teen series.

Watching: I went to see FURIOUS 7 with my mom and sister. I have been a huge fan of the whole franchise since the first one came out. (My mom has taken me to see all of them in the theater, with the exception of Tokyo Drift. She’s the best!) I’m so not a movie crier, but the end definitely brought some waterworks. It’s strange to imagine the series carrying on without Paul Walker, but I love their dedication to him and how much the cast seems like a family.

(On a totally awesome note, later the same day, my sister got engaged! I’m so excited to be her maid of honor and for her to marry a truly wonderful guy.)

So, that’s April, not-so-briefly. If you need me, I’ll be stewing in my revision cave, stitching chapters together like Dr. Frankenstein!

SWEET MADNESS Cover Reveal & Giveaway!

Today, I’m thrilled to be part of the cover reveal for the incredible, chilling, and unforgettable SWEET MADNESS by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie! You can read more about this YA Victorian horror below…

SWEET MADNESS

Coming September 18, 2015 from Merit Press

 

Lizzie Borden took an axe,

And gave her mother forty whacks.

When she saw what she had done,

She gave her father forty one.

 

BLURB: 

Who was Lizzie Borden? A confused young woman, or a cold-hearted killer? For generations, people all over the world have wondered how Andrew Borden and his second wife, Abby, met their gruesome deaths. Lizzie, Andrew’s younger daughter, was charged, but a jury took only 90 minutes to find her not guilty. In this retelling, the family maid, Bridget Sullivan, shines a compassionate light on a young woman oppressed by her cheap father and her ambitious stepmother. Was Lizzie mad, or was she driven to madness?

And without further ado, here’s the haunting, beautiful cover!

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SweetMadness

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Mark it to read on Goodreads

Preorder Sweet Madness:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

TrishaLeaverTrisha Leaver lives on Cape Cod with her husband, three children, and one rather irreverent black lab. She is a chronic daydreamer who prefers the cozy confines of her own imagination to the mundane routine of everyday life.  She writes Young Adult Contemporary fiction, Psychological Horror and Science Fiction and is published with FSG/ Macmillan, Flux/Llewellyn and Merit Press. To can learn more about Trisha’s books, upcoming shenanigans, and her quest to reel in the perfect tuna, please visit her website: www.trishaleaver.com

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LindsayCurrieLindsay Currie lives in Chicago with her three awesome children, husband, and a one hundred and sixty pound lap dog named Sam. She has an unnatural fondness for coffee, chocolate and things that go bump in the night. She spends her days curled up in the comfortable confines of her writing nook, penning young adult psychological horror, contemporary fiction and science-fiction and is published with Flux/Llewellyn, Merit Press and Spencer Hill Contemporary. Learn more about her at www.lindsaycurrie.com

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To celebrate, we are giving away four AMAZING books from our publisher Merit Press.

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Check out a Rafflecopter giveaway and enter to win!

An interview with Lori Goldstein, author of BECOMING JINN!

Today, I’m honored to have the talented, smart, and all-around wonderful Lori Goldstein on my blog. Lori’s debut YA contemporary fantasy, BECOMING JINN, comes out April 21, 2015 from Feiwel and Friends. BECOMING JINN is the story of Azra, whose genie powers awaken on her sixteenth birthday—but she soon learns that becoming Jinn comes at a cost.

BecomingJinn-203x300For those of you who don’t know, Lori was my mentor during Pitch Wars in 2014, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now without her amazing guidance and support. Our relationship didn’t stop at Pitch Wars—Lori has been there for every step of my publication journey, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to celebrate the release of her debut.

One of the coolest things about having generous and talented writer friends like Lori is being able to ask questions about their writing process—what inspires them, what frustrates them, what motivates them. So Lori has graciously agreed to share her thoughts on how she conjured up JINN and more.

Hi Lori! Thanks for letting me pick your brain. With BECOMING JINN coming out just over a month from now (!), can you tell me a bit about your journey to publication?

First off, thank you so much for having me and for that lovely introduction. Being your mentor was a terrific experience because not only did I get to read a fantastic, unique, and bold new novel (coming in 2016!), but I also got to know you. And that’s one thing I will say about this journey to publication: meeting talented writers who become friends is the best part of this ride and one that I never expected. The community is welcoming and generous—and thank goodness for that! Because this journey is amazing, but it’s also scary and so much is unknown. Having other people to share it with and learn from is key!

As for the technical aspect of my road to publication, I worked on a manuscript for three years that essentially taught me how to write by letting me make mistakes—and I made many! By the time I started writing Becoming Jinn in the fall of 2012, I was able to write it in two months instead of three years. I entered many contests with it, lost a lot, received great feedback, revised, and was able to get my agent, Lucy Carson, in February of 2013. She had savvy insights into the manuscript and I revised for two months before going on submission in May of 2013. We sold in less than two weeks to Feiwel and Friends for Becoming Jinn and its sequel. It’s been a bit of a longer wait to publication than most, but I’ve had the chance to learn a lot in that time and feel – mildly – in control and prepared for what’s to come.

That’s a very inspiring story! How has your writing style and technique changed since you first started writing? Is there a certain routine you like to follow?

The biggest change is that I’m not a committed plotter. When I wrote my first manuscript, in addition to not having a clue what I was doing, I didn’t plan a thing. I figured the story would just “come to me.” And it did, over three long, grueling years during which I rewrote the novel from start to finish probably four or five times because I had no idea you needed to do more than have two people just chat with one another. That book was my education in writing. Combined with some great craft books and a course in novel planning, I changed gears before writing Becoming Jinn. I planned for a full month and had a 70-page outline before I began. I did character profiles, setting exercises, I went into the writing knowing so much about the world, which allowed me to write it fast. I consider that long outline essentially a very short draft of the book. My first draft is more like a second draft. It’s the only way I’ll write from now on. I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a good fit for me.

You have killer editing skills, as evidenced by the notes you made on the, um, first copy of FIRSTS I sent you. How has that affected you as a writer? Do you edit as you go, or wait till the initial draft is out of the way?

Well, thank you! I went to school for journalism, and I have been an editor, both content and copyeditor, for years, mostly nonfiction. Editing is second nature to me by now in terms of the nitty-gritty aspects, and I definitely edit as I go. I like to start each writing day by revising what I wrote the day before. I can’t move on until I feel the previous day’s work is in good shape. I find it really helpful for getting me into the zone; it takes me time to get into “writing mode,” and by rereading, tweaking, and changing the previous day’s material, I do double duty: I get into the zone faster than if I were starting to write from scratch and I remind myself of what I’ve just written, both in terms of plot and details like having just used certain words or turns of phrase so I can avoid them going forward in the new day’s work. I am not an “insert XYZ here” kind of writer. My brain doesn’t work that way.

We all have those days where we’re feeling less than inspired. What gets you out of a rut, or over a bad case of writer’s block?

Thinking helps me the most. But I can’t just sit in a chair and think. So I go for walks or swim, which I like to do for exercise. Those times when I’m alone with my thoughts are when I am the most creative and productive. I’ve worked through many a plot problem while in the pool or shower—waterproof notebooks come in very handy!

Waterproof notebooks? I need to get in on this! What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process?

While I spend a lot of time plotting, I don’t enjoy it, especially at the start. I feel a lot of pressure to think creatively and while I know it will pay off in the writing, it’s not a fun task. However, the end of that process—when I have index cards lined up, type my notes into a long scene-by-scene outline, and sit down to actually write…well, that’s the payoff. I love that moment when it all comes together with real words and scenes.

What’s something surprising you have learned about yourself in the months leading up to JINN’s release?

I was just talking to my husband about this, actually. I never thought of myself as someone who’d be able to switch gears and turn on the marketing side of my brain. But I’m better at it than I would have thought. And by this I don’t just mean standing on the street corner and pushing my book into people’s hands, but I mean coming up with ways to promote it and story ideas to write for nonfiction publications, and doing all the research and outreach that’s involved whether it’s applying to festivals or conferences or looking for other opportunities. It’s a ton of work, and it leaves little time for writing, which is the downside. But it’s also more fun than I would have expected.

JINN is about genies and wishes. Speaking of wishes, what’s one thing you wish you could go back and tell yourself before you had an agent or a book deal?

Ooh, I love this question. I would like to tell myself that it’s not as hard as I think it is and to enjoy the ride as much as possible. When you love something so much—when something is so important to you—the highs are sky high and the lows are subterranean. I think it’s natural, but it sure doesn’t make the bumps in the road easy to get past. Thankfully, see my answer to number one. Writer friends are what get us through. Externally grateful to all of mine!

JINN has a sequel, which is coming out in 2016! Can you tell me a bit about what you plan to work on next?

I have several story ideas that I’m working on now that JINN 2 is finished and in copy edits (yay!). Two are really speaking to me, and I’m exploring them both right now, but it’s too early to say which will be the one that steals my heart. But they are in the vein of JINN in that they are steeped in the contemporary world (which though JINN has magic in it, I very much consider it to have a contemporary feel). They will have both humor and deeper emotion like JINN. I’ll always write with some humor, but I think these two ideas might push me in ways that I’m very much looking forward to.

That’s so exciting! Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog, Lori. Are there any words of wisdom you’d offer to writers in the query trenches?

Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t compare yourself to others, which is natural for all of us at every stage. But it really is the thing that will stop us from pursuing our dreams. You have to disconnect from that as much as possible. And you know what? We all give in to it at times. Let yourself, but then move on. And also, don’t be afraid to receive strong feedback on your work. If people didn’t tell me my first page wasn’t working or my query sucked—and if I didn’t accept that they were right—I’d have never moved on. You have to be able to evaluate your work subjectively, which is really hard. But if something’s not working, figure out why. Read craft books; research everything you can about writing a good query. That’s how you will be able to change and have success.

Thanks, Lori!

Thank you, Laurie! I cannot wait until FIRSTS is out in the world!

Lori-Goldstein-Author-2-200x300You can learn more about Lori and the world of Jinn by visiting www.lorigoldsteinbooks.com or follow Lori on Twitter @loriagoldstein! And if you preorder or buy Becoming Jinn before April 25, 2015, email Lori the receipt at becomingjinncontest@icloud.com and you’ll be entered into a raffle to win gift cards in the amount of $5-$50 to places like iTunes, Starbucks, Amazon, and more.

Want to know more about Lori’s writing process and Becoming Jinn? Join Lori for a Twitter chat hosted by New York Times best-selling author Anna Banks on Monday, March 23 at 8 pm EST!

THE ONE THING Cover Reveal & Giveaway!

I couldn’t be happier about being part of the cover reveal for a book I love– a book I couldn’t put down, even while I was getting ready for a New Year’s Eve party. (You try reading and applying eyeliner at the same time. It’s not easy. But more importantly, the book is that good.)

I can’t wait for THE ONE THING to be out in the world on September 8, 2015 so that everyone can know how amazingly talented Marci Lyn Curtis really is. Maggie is a main character you’ll want to spend more than a whole book with– she’s witty, sarcastic, and struggling to cope with a vastly different life after losing her sight. You’ll laugh out loud and reach for the tissues during this one– and as a writer, I know that being able to make your readers giggle one chapter and cry over the next is no small feat.

Without further ado, here’s a bit about THE ONE THING:

A soaring tale of life and love, of sacrifice and renewal, and learning to see people as they really are.

Maggie Sanders might be blind, but she won’t invite anyone to her pity party. Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie’s rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal.

Now Maggie has a probation officer. But she isn’t interested in rehabilitation, not when she’s still mourning the loss of her professional soccer dreams, and furious at her so-called friends, who lost interest in her as soon as she could no longer lead the team to victory.

When Maggie first meets Ben, she thinks she can add crazy to her list of problems. But the precocious ten-year-old isn’t a hallucination. Maggie can actually see him. She immediately befriends the kid, desperate for any chance to see again.

It turns out Ben’s older brother is Mason Milton, the ridiculously hot lead singer of Maggie’s new favorite band. Music is the first thing that has made Maggie feel alive since losing her sight. But when she learns the real reason she can see Ben, Maggie must find the courage to face a once-unimaginable future… before she loses everything she has grown to love.

And now… the moment we have been waiting for!

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TOT final cover (2)

 

*round of applause!*

What a stunning, beautiful cover!

Not only is Marci revealing her cover today, but she’s also giving away a really special prize. THIS really special prize. THE ONE THING earrings! If you want to be entered in a draw to win them (of course you do!), visit this page now! http://marcilyncurtis.com/updates/

TOTearrings

If you haven’t already, you can add THE ONE THING to Goodreads by clicking here!

MarciCurtis

Marci Curtis grew up in Northern California, where she went to college and met an amazing guy in a military uniform. Two college-aged kids and one dachshund later, she lives in Maryland, where she laughs too loudly and eats peanut butter off spoons. Her YA contemporary debut, The One Thing, comes out September 8th, 2015 via Disney-Hyperion. Learn more about her at Marcilyncurtis.com.

#SixteensBlogAbout: 2014 YA Standouts

This month, the Sweet Sixteens are blogging about favorite books and authors, a subject I could go on and on forever about. To narrow it into a readable blog post, I thought I would feature some of my favorite YA books that came out in 2014.

Let me first say this: 2014 was an incredible and important year for YA. So many amazing books came out, and while I read as much as I could, I still feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of my gigantic TBR list. (This is why when my parents and husband asked what I wanted for Christmas, I told them without hesitation: Kobo gift cards.)

So without further ado, here are the YA books that came out in 2014 that I’m still thinking about, by some tremendously talented authors!

Listed alphabetically by title:

 

behindthescenes2 BEHIND THE SCENES by Dahlia Adler

I have followed Dahlia’s blog religiously since my days in the query trenches (which wasn’t all that long ago– what a difference a year can make!), so I was quite excited to read her YA debut. I especially love Dahlia’s use of humor– Ally’s voice made me laugh out loud more than once– the friendship between Ally and her BFF Vanessa, and the fresh spin Dahlia puts on a girl-meets-Hollywood-star love story.

 

bleedlikemeBLEED LIKE ME by Christa Desir

Pitched as a YA Sid and Nancy, this book tells the obsessive, intoxicating love story of troubled teens Gannon and Brooks. It’s not your traditional love story– not even close. And Gannon is not your typical likeable female protagonist, either. She makes her share of mistakes and bad decisions, and hands-down, she’s one of the most memorable protagonists I have ever read. Gritty, haunting, and unflinchingly real, this is one book that will be on your mind long after you read it.

 

damagedDAMAGED by Amy Reed

I just finished reading this (it kept me up late!) and it’s still lingering in my head, which is fitting because this beautifully written book deals with ghosts, both literally and figuratively. Kinsey and Hunter are both struggling with the weight of their guilt following a car accident that kills Kinsey’s best friend Camille. The two teens are about to realize that they can’t outrun their guilt and fear that easily– especially when Camille starts haunting Kinsey’s dreams. DAMAGED is both a ghost story, a love story, and a story that doesn’t shy away from difficult issues.

 

perfectlygoodwhiteboyPERFECTLY GOOD WHITE BOY by Carrie Mesrobian

After SEX & VIOLENCE blew my mind, I was eagerly anticipating Carrie Mesrobian’s next book– and PGWB went above and beyond my expectations, giving an achingly honest glimpse into the life of a teenage boy searching for meaning and something to hold onto. After getting dumped by popular senior Hallie, Sean is left to make sense of his last year of high school– and to figure out his future. This book features a male voice so masterfully written that Sean feels like an actual person, one with both good and bad qualities. You completely forget you’re reading a fictional character at all.

 

sweetunrestSWEET UNREST by Lisa Maxwell

Lisa Maxwell’s debut novel features voodoo, a spooky mystery, and a mesmerizing love story. When Lucy’s family moves from Chicago to New Orleans, she finds herself plunged into an age-old mystery tied to the strange dreams she has been having. Lucy is the kind of main character you want to spend a whole book with– rational, yet spirited and inquisitive. This story features plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing, and the chemistry between Lucy and Alex is undeniable– and undeniably fun to read.

 

teaseTEASE by Amanda Maciel

I love a protagonist who’s not traditionally likeable, and Sara, the main character in this book, fits the bill. TEASE tackles the subject of bullying and its tragic consequences, and it’s utterly fascinating getting into the head of the one doing the bullying instead of the victim. Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is that it’s not moralizing, just very honest. Sara isn’t painted in shades of black and white, as a terrible person– she’s just a person dealing with the terrible weight of her actions. This is a daring, provocative read that left me thinking about exactly how much damage words can do.

 

thetruthaboutaliceTHE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE by Jennifer Mathieu

This book is multiple POV done absolutely perfectly. Each character’s voice feels so distinct, and hearing perceptions of Alice Franklin from each different perspective is fascinating. I love the way we get to know Elaine, Kurt, Josh, and Kelsey and hear their personal biases toward Alice before actually hearing from Alice herself. It really shows how much a story can be skewed beyond recognition through gossip and lies. The damaging effects of stereotyping and slut-shaming fuse together in this extraordinarily powerful book.

 

wearethegoldensWE ARE THE GOLDENS by Dana Reinhardt

This book deals with how the bond between two sisters is threatened when one of them is keeping a huge secret for the other. I haven’t read many novels from second-person POV, and it’s used exquisitely here. As a reader, I feel all of Nell’s emotions as she is torn between loyalty to her sister Layla and doing the right thing. I loved being in Nell’s head as she felt herself drifting apart from her older sister, and as she navigated friendship, fear, and love under the weight of Layla’s secret. I couldn’t put this book down until I knew how it ended.

 

wewereliarsWE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart

There’s a reason why everybody has been talking about this one since it came out. Dark, twisty, and beautifully written, with an unreliable narrator and an ending that will leave you totally shocked. This is one book I don’t want to say much about, because everyone should go in with the element of surprise. I will say that it’s all about secrets and lies, and the damaging power of both.

 

That’s a wrap! Now, as I get caught up on more 2014 reading, I also can’t wait for all the YA coming out in 2015… I feel like my Kobo and I will spend a LOT of quality time together in the new year. And that’s just the way I like it.