by Lynn Painter

4.5 Stars

Better Than the Movies follows Liz Buxbaum and her next-door neighbour (and enemy) Wes Bennet. When Liz’s childhood crush, Michael, moves back into town, she decides that she will do anything to get him to like her. Even teaming up with Wes to get Michael to notice her. Ever since she was a little girl, Liz has been obsessed with romantic comedies. She dreams of creating a romance with Michael, worthy of a movie. As she tries to win over Michael, she begins to actually like Wes. Liz learns that maybe the boy next door isn’t as awful as she always thought. While she hangs out with both Michael and Wes, Liz must decide if she wants the picture-perfect romance she’s always dreamed of or if she’s willing to sacrifice it for something new. As Liz deals with the drama of high school, she starts to realize, maybe life isn’t always like the movies.  

The biggest reason I loved this book was all the movie references. There were so many iconic rom-coms mentioned that made the book feel much more relatable. All the characters were so enjoyable to read about. I felt that they all played a key part in the story and helped the plot move along. Something really interesting that this book had was a playlist. The author created a playlist of songs that were mentioned throughout the book and added it onto streaming platforms. This helped me further relate to the characters, and I genuinely felt like I was in the story with them. This is one of my new favourite romance books, and I definitely recommend it.

Hailey B.

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by Rebecca Serle

5 Stars

The Romance/Domestic/Time Travel Fiction, In Five Years, written by Rebecca Serle, was one of my favourite books to read. It tells the story of Dannie Kohan, a 32-year-old woman who has always planned things out; she is also one heck of a lawyer. She absolutely loves her job, and she wouldn’t trade it for anything. Along the way of her journey, she meets a guy, David, who in the end is her lover, her fiancé and soon-to-be husband. But how long does it really take for them to get married? How long does it take for David to truly take in the truth of their marriage? How long does it take for Dannie to find the reality of her love for David?

Before any of this happens, Dannie has a dream, a dream that you could say that haunts her. Her dream is something you possibly wouldn’t even imagine, the night that David proposes to Dannie, and she says yes, she has a dream of her in bed with a different guy. A guy she probably would’ve never thought of even dating, obviously a lot happens in her dream, but once she’s awake she is absolutely frightened and doesn’t tell anyone. I mean, who would’ve believed her. But what happens when the guy she dreamt is the person her best friend, Bella, is dating and is insanely in love with him. At first, it’s very nerve-wracking and scary to her, but eventually, she tries her best to stop thinking about that dream. Throughout the story, a lot happens to Dannie, especially when something tragic happens to her best friend, Bella. I promise you, the second you start reading this novel, you wouldn’t even be able to put it down. By the end of the book, I was in tears, both happy and sad, and trust me, the second you’re at the end of the book, you’ll understand what I mean. Overall, I recommend this book to anyone who is over 14 and up. Nevertheless, I rate this 5/5 stars!  

Hoda D.

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by Ben Philippe

5 Stars

In Ben Philippe’s latest book, Charming as a Verb, it appears as though everything that comes easily to you is actually really difficult. Henri Haltiwanger seemed to have life in the palm of his hand at first look. He is a first-generation American, the son of devoted Haitian immigrants; he is a thriving student at the renowned FATE Academy, where he is well-liked; and he operates a dog-walking service for New Yorkers. The one thing he desires more than anything else is to attend Columbia University. It’s also his father’s ambition for Henri too, so there’s extra pressure and concern about whether he’ll be accepted.

Enter Corinne Troy, a fellow student and neighbour who is not pleased with Halti. She is highly gifted and “intense,” and when she finds that Halti has been operating his dog walking company, she blackmails him into helping her become more likable among the student body. Corinne eventually becomes nice to be around, and she and Halti begin to depend on each other more and more, sharing their personal difficulties and worries. She encourages Halti to see what his aspirations may be rather than what he believes they must be just for his family’s sake, and they both let down their guard to allow one another in. Things go wrong when Halti snaps under pressure. It’s time for him to show that he’s more than simply a charming guy who desperately wants to rediscover himself. This was a wonderful read for me. Charming as a Verb really captured the pressures that teenagers face during high school, particularly the children of immigrants. Definitely a book you don’t want to miss!

Manaal I.

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by C.L Clark

4 Stars

Do you enjoy reading about enslaved people fighting against their masters, rebellion, sapphic relationships, imperfect, perfect love, and beautiful, adult writing?

Well, if so, I sincerely recommend The Unbroken by C.L Clark. The book follows 2 main protagonists: Tourraine (the black slave/guard) and Luca (the princess of the empire — aka the colonizers).
 Quick 1 sentence summary: Tourraine is accused of killing someone she didn’t and Luca seizes the opportunity to save her from the gallows and enlist Tourraine as a messenger/ambassador to communicate with the rebels as an attempt to create peace.

Review: I loved the writing (in all honesty, I love any adult third-person writing, so I may be partially biased), the queerness (again, I am partially biased) and the BIPOC representation (once more, partially biased). Basically, I loved everything. Except *embarrassed sigh* the plot. So, the plot was under no circumstances BAD (not even close) but it also wasn’t WOW to me (although, to be fair, I had extremely high expectations). It was pretty realistic, which I liked but also, I really, really don’t want to read ‘their bowels mixed with their blood’ over, and over again (I’ve read something like that in the book at least 3 times).

Representation: a lesbian main character, a bisexual — or pansexual — main character, LOTS of BIPOC representation (hello? It’s set in North Africa and it’s about slavery), interracial couples and more.
 Trigger warnings: Death, attempted rape (multiple times), mentions of rape, mentions of torture, slavery, gore, and much more — please look up in more depth if you’re sensitive to certain topics!
 Age rating: 16+ (I’m 14 but this is an Adult book so proceed with caution)
 Star rating: 4 / 5 stars (amazing book but could’ve been better)

Jazleen H.

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by Adrienne Kress

Based in the setting of 1946, New York City, seventeen-year-old Buddy is trying to escape the Lower East Side slums. Working as a delivery boy to help support his family, Buddy realizes that he wants to be an artist. A dream that seems to be impossible. That changes when his delivery boy job leads him to a Mister Joey Drew, who is the owner of an animation studio. Buddy starts working his new job in the studio and meets Dot, a writing intern for the animation studio. Buddy starts believing in what Joey Drew says about dreams coming true. But Buddy discovers that Mister Joey Drew’s animation studio is not as simple or perfect as it seems. Buddy and Dot team up to discover the secrets of the animation studio and find something they probably never expected to find lurking in the studio.

This novel was based in the universe of the video game Bendy and the Ink Machine. As I did play the video game and enjoyed it as well, I was drawn to read this novel. Dreams Come to Life does a wonderful job translating the universe of Bendy and the Ink Machine into it. If you have played Bendy and the Ink Machine, some characters that do appear in that game, such as Mister Joey Drew himself, are very similar to who they were in the video game personality-wise. Even if you have no experience or prior knowledge of the original video game, this is still a great novel! It has a great plot, good pacing, interesting settings, and a wonderful cast of characters. I would however add on to Buddy’s grandfather’s backstory a little more. It seemed very brief. Despite this little flaw, I would highly recommend you check out this novel!

Emily W.

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by Nagata Kabi

3.5 Stars

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is a manga that follows the life of Kabi/Nagata, yes this is a memoir, and her experience with loneliness and mental health. While the book may seem like it’s about lesbianism, lesbophobia, dealing with compulsory heterosexuality and other lesbian-related issues but lesbianism is barely even mentioned in this book! This book more so focuses on the author’s struggle with her parents and her mental health, and for this, I offer you a list of trigger warnings that I found especially prevalent. Disclaimer beforehand: this may not be a full list so please do your own research if you are aware of your triggers. Without further ado: disordered eating (anorexia and binge eating), depression (extreme low-functioning), self-harm (cutting and hair pulling), verbal abuse and shame (mostly from parents), and mentions of sex. I’m sure there are more, don’t be fooled by the playful cover — this is a heavy book, but those were the ones that stuck out to me. Because of those, I would recommend this book for 16+ year olds, but it really just depends on your maturity and triggers!

Before I end this review, I would like to mention the things I liked: I related to almost everything Nagata/Kabi wrote (ED, depression, being a lesbian, self-harm, wanting to please parents, etc.), the writing, though short, was wonderful. The drawings were cute, and it was a fast-paced book.

In conclusion, read this if you can handle all the triggers and if you can’t, that’s completely fine- read what you’re comfortable with.

Jazleen H.

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by Karen M. McManus

4 Stars

One of Us is Lying was my first YA “Whodunit” book, and it did not disappoint. Karen M. McManus writes in a way that hooks you right from the very beginning and keeps you guessing until the end!

One of Us is Lying follows the story of five Bayview High students, Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, Cooper and Simon. Bronwyn is an intelligent and introverted girl whose goal is to get into Yale. Addy is the popular high school girl who wishes to become the homecoming princess. Nate, also known as the school “bad boy,” is on probation for dealing and doesn’t believe he has a future doing much else. Cooper is a star athlete who has many successes ahead of him. Finally, there is Simon, the outcast and the creator of Simon Says, the high school’s notorious gossip app.

On Monday, these five students find themselves all wound up in detention. At the end, only four exit the classroom. Why you ask? Because Simon is dead, and according to the investigation, it wasn’t an accident. Simon had planned to reveal dirty secrets on the four survivors the next day. Once this is found, Bronwyn, Addy, Nate and Cooper all become prime suspects… is one or all of them guilty?

This novel is definitely a page-turner. It is impossible to put down once you start reading as you want to figure out what happened to Simon. The story is told from the viewpoint of the 4 “prime suspects,” so you get to really relate to each of the characters in unique ways. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to any teenager or YA!

Emily O.

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by Carrie Mac

5 Stars

Do you like to read books about lesbians, sapphic relationships, mental health topics (such as anxiety), or heavy topics (handled with humour)?

Well, if so, read 10 Things I Can See from Here by Carrie Mac. If I’m being 100% honest, this book took me by surprise. I was expecting a badly written, basic, contemporary romance and instead I got this amazing blessing of a book.

This book is pretty lax about the plot but the main gist is that Maeve, the main character, is stuck with her step-family and drunk dad in Vancouver for 6 months while her mother is in Haiti with her boyfriend. Maeve has severe anxiety and so this was even harder for her to manage, which the author does an amazing job conveying. Maeve soon meets Salix, a seemingly fearless lesbian violinist and the book dives into their budding relationship while also managing Maeve’s anxiety and her father’s relapse in addiction.

I loved, loved how everything in this book was handled. The writing was great and the characters were relatable. The characters were flawed but perfect in their own way, much like in real life. The romance between Salix and Maeve was so damn cute and as someone who has been hating contemporary romance lately, that says a lot. There was only one thing in the entire book that I disliked: the author is a lesbian and she did write the D-slur (which is fine) but she also wrote the F-slur (which is a slur for gay men).

I rated it 5 / 5 stars and I recommend it a lot!
 Representation: Lesbian main characters, bisexual step-mom, addiction.
 Make sure to look up the trigger warnings!

Jazleen H.

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by Justin A. Reynolds

4.5 Stars

I was first intrigued in Opposite of Always because I saw that Angie Thomas, one of my favourite authors, had commented that she thoroughly enjoyed this book. I can confirm that this book is one of the best love stories I have ever read. Justin A. Reynolds has done a beautiful job with this novel. When reading the back of the novel, you might think that it could come across as a bit “sci-fi,” but I guarantee it isn’t like that at all.

Opposite of Always follows the story of two teenagers, Jack and Kate. When Jack and Kate meet at a party, they are instantly compatible. Jack feels as though he might be falling hard for this girl. Soon enough, Kate is meeting Jack’s best friends, Jilian and Franny, who she wins over just as quickly as she did Jack…

But then Kate dies. Typically this is where the story would end, but no. Kate’s death sends Jack right back to the party where they met. Jack thinks he might be losing his mind because there is Kate standing right next time him, breathing, alive and healthy. Jack doesn’t know what is happening, but if he has the chance to save Kate, he will take it. Will he be able to save Kate, or will their story end just as abruptly as it did the first time?

This novel is funny, heartfelt, beautiful and everything in between. I strongly suggest this book to any YA reader or even a young teen who loves unexpected love stories. Justin A. Reynolds had me hooked right from the first sentence all the way to the last. This book is definitely one of my top three favourite books that I have read. I look forward to reading more books by this amazing author.

Emily O.

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by Eileen Cook

4 Stars

You Owe Me a Murder, written by Eileen Cook, tells the story of 17-year-old Kim going on a school trip to London. However, Kim hasn’t even boarded the plane and she’s having a terrible time watching her ex-boyfriend Connor and his new girlfriend together. Later on, Kim meets a fellow passenger Nicki, a charming young woman. Unthinkingly on the plane, Kim tells Nicki that she wished Connor, her ex-boyfriend was dead, turning out that Nicki wishes her mother was dead as well — both having someone miserable in their life. Nicki jokingly suggests a proposal for their problems, “I kill your ex. You kill my mum. We both get what we want”. Kim thought it was a joke until a few days later her ex-boyfriend mysteriously had been announced dead after having fallen under an underground train track in London. Kim immediately thinks of Nicki but is unsure of guessing right away. Kim’s assumption is confirmed once Nicki comes back, expecting Kim to return the favour. Kim’s only option is to come clean to the police about wanting Connor dead or get blackmailed by Nicki into committing a crime.

You Owe Me a Murder is an enjoyable twisty thriller that makes teens never wanting to take a break from reading. Personally, I thought Kim was an amusing character because she is such an awesome heroine, relatable but at the same time being a whole savage and powerful character.

Amina F.

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