8 Young Adult Books You Might Have Overlooked

One of the best and worst things about being a voracious reader is reading and coming across so many under the radar books. A few of these end up being hits for me and a few are duds. The young adult books below are a mix – a few were simply amazing and some I could take or leave. Regardless, some of these books that you may have overlooked could end up really working for you, depending on your taste.

The young adult books below are a mix - a few were simply amazing and some I could take or leave. Regardless, some of these books that you may have overlooked could end up really working for you, depending on your taste.

 

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Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore is a book you could simply describe with the word lush. It’s a gorgeously written, complex story about love, family, and acknowledging and coming to terms with the past. This is absolutely not the kind of book that you rip through in a single day, but one that requires bite sized processing to fully inhabit McLemore’s immersive setting.

Wild Beauty follows the Nomelovides women who live on an estate called La Pradera. There are three generations of five Nomelovides women each. There’s five sets of grandmothers, mothers, and daughters. The women are unable to leave La Pradera permanently – they end up dying if they try to make a break for it. There also is a curse on the men they love – if a Nomelovides woman loves a man too much La Pradera takes him and he disappears. However, when a young man appears in La Pradera out of nowhere, they believe the other lovers might come back and there;s a possibility the tide may be turning on the curse.

So this story mainly follows Estrella who is from the youngest generation of Nomelovides women. Estrella is the one who finds Fel, the young man, in the gardens. She’s also, along with her four cousins, a little bit in love with this girl named Bay who was also raised on the La Pradera property.

I won’t give anything about this book away – because it’s worth unraveling on your own. However, I will say this book reminds me a lot of Isabel Allende and Sarah Addison Allen but for the YA set. It’s beautifully written. It is worth the slower read – just be patient with this book and realize you aren’t going to read it in a single sitting.

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore is a book you could simply describe with the word lush. It's a gorgeously written, complex story about love, family, and acknowledging and coming to terms with the past.


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Emma Mills is quickly becoming one of my top ten favorite authors. Foolish Hearts really just cements her spot in my favorites. I actually described her writing over the weekend to my sister as being in the same vein as Morgan Matson, Emery Lord, Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen. So, my contemporary YA must read authors. I just get this wonderful feeling as I read her books and recognize her hallmarks.

Foolish Hearts follows Claudia who attends a prestigious private girl’s school at hefty discount because her father works there. The book opens with Claudia attending the “pink” luncheon hosted by one of her classmates just before school starts. While in the bathroom, she unwittingly overhears the school’s it couple – Paige and Iris breaking up. Through a series of unfortunate events, Claudia ends up drafted into working on the school’s play in conjunction with the neighboring boy’s school - A Midsummer Night’s Dream along with Iris. Claudia also finds herself in this sort of flirtation with Gideon who plays Oberon but also actually making new friends.


This book is absolutely characteristic Emma Mills. There’s a very slow burn romance that starts out as friendship. The main character is an average, normal, every day girl. The friendships in this book – both long term and new – are solidly written. There are SIBLINGS. Claudia has a family that plays a role and comes across as three dimensional. There are funny moments and serious moments and a whole lot of feelings going on.

I think that people who enjoy contemporary YA need to just get their hands on all the books by Emma Mills. Like, it’s wild to me that she’s not blown up as big as Morgan Matson, Sarah Dessen, Emery Lord and Jenny Han. Her books really are THAT good. They’re the types of books that I just fly through because I am so invested and so thrilled with what I am reading. Completely, completely recommend with all my heart and soul.

Emma Mills is quickly becoming one of my top ten favorite authors. Foolish Hearts really just cements her spot in my favorites.

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Better Than The Best Plan by Lauren Morrill came into my life at the best possible time. I was coming off of a longer, more involved sort of book and really wanted to read a book that would absorb all my attention. This book did that! It absolutely grabbed me immediately and I am so thrilled that it did.

Morrill’s Better Than The Best Plan is about a 17 year old girl named Maritza, or Ritzy for short. Ritzy is about to be a high school senior. It’s the summer before her senior year. She’s thought about college but is focused on graduating first. She has lived a bit of a bohemian life, as her mother is flaky and moves them from place to place. So, she’s off to take a test and has this out of the blue conversation with her mother. She comes home to a note saying her mother has gone to Mexico to learn how to be a life coach.

So, Ritzy is living on her own when someone reports it to Florida’s version of CPS (child protective services). Martiza is placed into foster care. She discovers this actually isn’t her first time in foster care. She ends up back with the same foster parent – Kris – and her husband. Ritzy’s new life gives her access to money and she’s seeing what life is like on the other side of the train tracks. She’s also getting to know the boy next door, Spencer.

Better Than The Best Plan explores families, their dynamics, what makes a family and more. It is a very quick read. This book is one that I inhaled, and lately I have not exactly been inhaling all kinds of books. I loved the pacing. The characters were right on point and had different things I could relate to. I felt like Better Than The Best Plan was a truly wonderful, unexpected book. Absolutely would recommend if you want a book to read that’s easy and quick and fascinating.


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Apparently Air by Lisa Glass is the second in a series and I accidentally opened up the Netgalley widget not knowing this, thus obligating myself to read and review this book. So because this is my year of clearing through as many eARCs as possible, I went in with an open mind to this YA surfing book. I do tend to enjoy books about girls who participate in sports, after all.

Air follows Iris who is from Cornwall and is 16 and about to turn 17. She’s the face of Billabong UK and a talented surfer in her own right. Iris is in Miami for a competition tour along with her boyfriend Zeke who is a very elite surfer. Zeke apparently has a lot of friends in Miami. Anyways this whole book is basically about Iris being insecure in her relationship and Zeke being somewhat shady and secretive.

I think I am just too set in my grown up ways to have really enjoyed this book. There’s like no adult supervision of these two teens who basically shack up with their parent’s permission. So much could be resolved with a simple conversation. And don’t get me started on how some therapy could be real useful for both characters. I also think that it was easy to figure out what had happened in the previous book without having read it. However, I maybe was missing some nuance.

Regardless, Air was a miss for me. I won’t go on to read the first book or to complete the series. One good thing is that it was a very quick read. I just wish there was more focus on actually surfing and less on the relationship issues. There is appeal to actual youths who read this book for sure. But if you’re an adult, you might want to skip this one.


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My first initial impression of A Void The Size Of The World by Rachele Alpine was that it was going to be a contemporary YA book that’s part thriller, part dealing with grief. My impression was wrong, as it turns out. And that’s not exactly a great thing. I really had some expectations but this book just did not live up to those expectations.

A Void The Size Of World is told from the perspective of Rhylee, who is younger sister to track star Abby. Rhylee has had a long time crush on her former best friend Tommy who happens to be Abby’s boyfriend. One day Rhylee and Tommy kiss and realize they were meant for each other. This leads to Abby’s disappearance. And so, the rest of the book is about how they deal with Abby disappearing.

In all honesty, I was just really bored while reading this book. I would have DNFed except that I wanted to know what happened to Abby. As it turns out, spoiler, we don’t exactly find that out. There are some hints dropped, but nothing that comes out and says what happened. So for me, I did not really care about the characters, the plot was slow, and I didn’t get the payoff I was hoping for. This wasn’t for me, but that’s not to say it won’t be for you.


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Spinning Starlight by RC Lewis is a sci-fi retelling of the Wild Swans – the story where the girl can’t talk and has to make needle fir shirts for her seven brothers. Well, this story definitely is a unique take on the fairy tale. For the most part, I quite liked it.

Liddi Jantzen is the youngest of the Jantzen siblings and the only girl. Her family is prominent in that they pioneered some of the most important technology in the Seven Points and own this massive company. Liddi is set to become head of the company on her eighteenth birthday. Until then, her brothers help her out – her parents are dead. Anyways, Liddi is returning home when she finds her home under attack and she runs away. From there, she finds herself entangled in a much larger plot. She is unable to use her voice and if she does, her brothers will die.

Spinning Starlight by RC Lewis is a sci-fi retelling of the Wild Swans - the story where the girl can't talk and has to make needle fir shirts for her seven brothers. Well, this story definitely is a unique take on the fairy tale.

Liddi somehow ends up in a whole other world and there she is unable to speak. However, she must find the help she needs to unravel the mystery and save her eight brothers who are trapped in the portals – stuck between worlds. Liddi learns that this world that she thought was pretend is actually real. She also meets aliens and gains a whole new understanding of the portals. There’s also a bit of a love story.

On the whole, Spinning Starlight is a quick read. My tastes have shifted and I am not as into sci fi anymore. However, this was pretty easy to follow and understand what’s going on. It wasn’t too overwhelming on any science fronts. Liddi is an interesting character. I loved how the flashbacks helped formulate who she is as a person. Overall, this is a good book to curl up with while on vacation.


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How To Be Luminous is Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s second book and well, it didn’t quite hit all the notes that The Square Root Of Summer did for me. I was quite excited to read How To Be Luminous. This is the sort of book where I was expecting the writing to be lovely and some interesting imagery as well as to really care about the characters. I did get some of those expectations met, however, this was not 1000% the book for me, and that’s just fine.

How To Be Luminous follows Minnie Sloe who is reeling from when her mother goes missing. Minnie is the middle daughter and has two sisters. Niko is her older sister and goes to SCAD, Niko is Deaf. Emmy-Kate is the youngest and kind of wild. Each girl has a different father and does not know who their father is. Their mother is a famous artist. Anyways, Minnie finds her mother’s note in her studio and ends up losing the ability to see in color. She also isn’t into her boyfriend, Ash, anymore. And so, this book is about Minnie’s coping with her reaction to the trauma of her mother being gone – losing her colors.

How To Be Luminous is Harriet Reuter Hapgood's second book and well, it didn't quite hit all the notes that The Square Root Of Summer did for me. I was quite excited to read How To Be Luminous.

I liked how between most of the chapters was a list of the colors Minnie had lost and what they describe. I thought those short pages were brilliantly and beautifully written. Minnie is also completely imperfect and impulsive and I was down for that. It did drive me up the wall that we don’t really find out what happened to the mom – although you can infer. Also, as a parent, the whole thing was outside the realm of my understanding – how and why the mom just ups and leaves/possibly dies by suicide. How To Be Luminous is sensitively written.

I think I just wanted this book to be more than it was. After reading, I left not really feeling a whole lot. However, I am several years past the phase in my life when this book would have landed most. Therefore, I do think that actual YA people will likely enjoy this. As for myself, not so much. On the other hand, it was quite well written and the descriptions of the art are fantastic as is the depiction of the connections the Sloe sisters share.


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This whole mission to get my Netgalley to queue zero has really highlighted how my tastes have evolved and changed over time with book blogging. The Suffering Tree by Elle Cosimano is a book I would have been all over three years ago. Now, however, I enjoyed it but it wasn’t a new favorite. I do not see myself re-reading this book. Looking back, I kind of wish I had read this one during the fall because it sure is evocative of autumn – moodwise, not so much season-wise.

The Suffering Tree follows Tori who is moving from DC to Chaptico Maryland with her mother and brother, following the death of her father. Tori self harms and during one instance of self harm, she ends up raising the dead. In this case, a young man by the name of Nathaniel who was an indentured servant for the Slaughter family. Basically, the Slaughter family is angry because Tori’s family inherited 20 acres in the middle of their property as well as Al Slaughter’s house. They don’t know why Tori’s family inherited the property. They are determined to reverse it.

One child, Will Slaughter, goes missing. And Nathaniel, that dead young man that Tori happened to raise, is under suspicion. What drives the book is Tori looking for the reason why her family inherited the land and the house. Tori is trying to figure out how she is connected to the Chaptico witch. The story is thrilling and at times has a lot of action. There’s also flashbacks to the past through Nathaniel’s point of view and Emmeline’s point of view. Those were the best parts and gave me grown up Hocus Pocus vibes.

Overall, The Suffering Tree is not a book I find myself regretting. It is a good read for the lead up to Halloween, but not so much for the lead up to Valentine’s Day. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. However, the setting and mystery make for threads of interest that kept me reading.


the setting and mystery make for threads of interest that kept me reading.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

Comments

  1. Foolish Hearts was my gateway Emma Mills book, and I am so happy I read it, because I have read and adored each and every Mills book since. I liked How to Be Luminous. I felt like a black sheep on that one, but I really liked the exploration of grief and the dynamics between the sisters.

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