by E. Lockhart

1 Star

We Were Liars is a novel by E. Lockhart. I was in the market for an interesting “mystery” type novel, and I had seen this book praised on social media for the longest time. I finally gave in and decided to read the book. I was not impressed.

We Were Liars follows the story of a rich and distinguished family who spends each summer on their private island. The main characters include a group of four teenage friends who call themselves the Liars. The story especially concentrates on one of the teenagers, a girl who develops amnesia following an accident that happened during the summer when she was 15. We follow along as she tries to remember what truly happened during that summer.

Although I was intrigued at first by the storyline, I did not end up enjoying this book at all. I found the characters hard to relate to, probably because of their rich world. I also found the story to be bland. It took the longest time before getting to any “juicy” parts. The author gives small hints about “the accident” here and there, but nothing of importance and nothing to keep the reader really hooked. I almost gave up reading it several times because of how slow the development was. The only interesting part in this book is the ending… but even with that in mind, I wouldn’t recommend it. The time spent on reading the first 190 pages of the book is not worth it, not even with that shocker ending. Lockhart did not meet my expectations with this book. I was disappointed.

Emily O.

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by Jaye Robin Brown

3 Stars

Do you like books featuring lesbians, lesbian relationships, horses, contemporary romance, and has easy to follow writing?

If you answered yes to at least 3 of those, I recommend The Key to You and Me by Jaye Robin Brown. Now, in full honesty, I enjoyed Jaye Robin Brown’s other books more than I did this one but I will never NOT recommend Jaye Robin Brown to sapphics (especially lesbians) so without further ado, here is the summary and review.

Piper has just been dumped by her cheating girlfriend, Judith, so, she obviously takes the only option available to her: running away to her grandma to train with a former Olympic horse rider and try to make Judith jealous from afar. Except when Piper arrives, her perfect plan gets wrecked. Not only is her grandma forcing her to learn how to drive but Piper’s driving instructor is also a very, very pretty girl. Straight girl. Or so Piper thinks… Kat has been struggling with her sexuality and who she is so when openly lesbian Piper comes along — as her driving student, no less! — Kat pounces and they strike a bargain. If Kat drives Piper around, Piper will, in turn, help Kat figure out her sexuality. What could possibly go wrong? It’s not like they’ll fall for each other… right?

Jaye Robin Brown is a phenomenal queer writer but I think this book was a bit… average. It wasn’t BAD (Jaye is not capable of writing anything bad!) but it just fell a little flat to me. There was no real plot but the writing was engaging enough that I still finished the book in 1 day. I would say this is a fun light read but don’t expect to be mind blown when you’re done.

Jazleen H.

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by Rainbow Rowell

In the novel Carry On, written by Rainbow Rowell, Carry On dives into the world of wizardry, magic, and mages. Carry On is a part of a series that Rainbow Rowell has created. In this magical world, Rowell has created its main protagonist as a young eighteen-year-old wizard named Simon. Simon is a talented wizard who is a little famous for his special magical arts and does he had vanquished. Simon shares a strong love for magical art as he encounters many other very powerful wizards such as Penelope, who Simon stated “Is much more powerful than me” and the Mage who is a master in the arts of magic. This Mage casts spells with ease, such as the “clean-up spell” that as the name suggests takes impurities off of your clothes and body. 

In Carry On, Simon acts as the narrator telling his own story, mentioning his childhood and some of the heroic things he did in the past. Simon is going to a magic school where he meets some friends such as Baz, his roommate. Readers that enjoy the Harry Potter series might like this novel as it involves magic, spells, and mystical creatures. Carry On mentions many mystical creatures such as vampires, dragons, a face mimicker, and more.  

I really liked the spells and magic, no matter how silly or unrealistic they may be, such as the “clean-up spell” Alas, I found the book a little boring as Simon, as the narrator, usually talks about his adventures in the past and when he does talk about events in the present Simon’s pace is a little slow from the beginning to around the fifth chapter. In the fifth chapter, he talks about the sword in his possession named “The Sword of mages”. This is when I started to get interested in the book when it added a little bit more magical items. In all, I liked this book even though it had a slow start. I feel like other people will love this book and all the magical aspects of it.

Leo S.

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by Laurel Fantauzzo

5 Stars

My Heart Underwater by Laurel Flores Fantauzzo is written about a Filipino-American girl named Corazon Tagubio, living in California with her parents, who she calls Mama and Papa. She’s young and figuring herself out, specifically her sexuality in regards to her crush on Ms. Holden, the AP European History substitute teacher. Corazon, or “Cory” for short, has conflicting feelings about her queerness and her religion. Cory’s morality class says that her feelings are “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to Natural Law.” One day, her secret is uncovered. Cory’s Papa goes through something that seems like it will change him forever. Everything seems to crumble; to make it worse, Cory is sent to the Philippines to live with unknown relatives. She seems afraid of these unfamiliar people, unfamiliar mannerisms, and an unfamiliar country. Readers may appreciate Fantauzzo’s wonderful ability to understand how to give the readers a proper look into the intensity or sadness of a moment. My Heart Underwater features the integration of Tagalog and Taglish (Tagalog & English), which adds to the genuineness of its Filipino perspective. This added aspect can help other Filipino readers to feel seen in a way not commonly found in books or any media before. Personally, its authenticity in speaking to the Filipino perspective in North America really spoke to me and made me feel heard, warm and sad in all the right ways. One quote that really resonated with me that made me pause and think was this, “‘Some men,’ she begins, ‘Sometimes… all they know how to do, is control. If you try to be away from their control, in any small way, they punish. I was not like my sister, ready to please, ready to obey. If you must reshape yourself, contort yourself, for their love, anak, it is not love.'” The banter between parent and child really brought joy to my heart, and seeing how Cory’s relationship with her parents evolve and change with many surprises was truly lovely to read through.

Though the story felt so perfect, there were some flaws. Some writing techniques felt a little repetitive and boring at times. For example, the use of continual commas that might have indicated Cory’s worry repeated so much that it was uninteresting to read. There were also some parts within the book that was a little dull such as her arrival in the Philippines. Some parts of the plot seemed too rushed to fully take in, for instance, Cory’s romances throughout the book.

Overall, even with some minimal imperfections, the book was so worth reading. All the fierce scenes of emotional rollercoasters or happy little moments were so amusing and entertaining to read. As a queer Filipino living with immigrant parents, in a North American country, it depicted my life almost perfectly. It made me feel seen and important, which is crucial and major to literature now. My Heart Underwater, for me, was a 9/10. It’s definitely a must-read for anyone looking to see a different cultural perspective you may not be used to, and it is very enjoyable to absorb yourself into.

Leo V.

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by Kalynn Bayron

4.5 Stars

It has been 200 years since Cinderella and the Prince found each other, but that fairy tale has been twisted into a nightmare. Teenage girls now have to attend an annual ball, where the men choose their brides based on the finery the girls display. Sixteen-year-old Sophia rather marry her childhood best friend, Erin, than be paraded at the ball in front of a group of suitors. On the night of the ball, Sophia decides to run, and she finds herself in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, who is the last known descendant of the original Cinderella and her stepsisters. Together they vow to bring down the king, and during that process, they find out much more to Cinderella’s tale than they ever knew. 

This book is a retelling of the story of Cinderella. It is a fantasy novel with a dystopian theme mixed into it. This book was very fast-paced (although too fast at times), and there was always something going on to keep the reader’s attention. I personally did not want to put this book down! The protagonist, Sophia, is a very strong protagonist to follow. Through her eyes, the reader sees this gruesome, wicked world that she lives in and sees how Sophia longs for an escape from it. I liked how this was a very different take on Cinderella and how the author incorporated a dystopian society into the novel. I also liked the relationship between Sophia and Erin because you got to see how the world that they live in impacted them. Overall, I would very much recommend this book, especially to the people who like to read fairy tale retellings!

Emily W.

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by Jen Calonita

4.5 Stars

Set after the ending of the original 1997 animated Disney film, Hercules, this book explores the twist of “What if Meg had to become a Greek god,” to stay with Hercules in Olympus. Zeus opposes the match of Megara and Hercules. With both of them heartbroken, Hera approaches Meg with a mission, and once Megara completes this mission, her reward is to become a God, which would solidify her future with Hercules on Olympus. The mission Hera assigns Megara is to save her ex-boyfriend’s wife from the Underworld. The ex-boyfriend who abandoned Megara when she sold her soul to Hades to save him. Can Meg put her feelings aside and use her wits to defeat the monsters and Gods that stand in her way, or will she run away from Godhood and Hercules due to her fear of commitment? 

This book is a part of Disney’s Twisted Tales Series. It is book 11 of the series, but you don’t have to read this series in order (as they are separate tales from separate films). As someone who loves retellings and liked the original movie, I was so excited to read this book, and it did not disappoint! All the characters adapted well to the text, and Megara was such an interesting character to follow. In the original movie, the audience mainly follows Hercules and his quest to become a God to join his parents (Zeus and Hera) in Olympus. It was nice to change the perspective onto Megara, who was already one of my favourite characters in the film. This book expanded on Meg’s character, and I thought the backstory was fitting. I also love what the author did to change the story between Meg and her ex-boyfriend. The only qualm I had with this novel was that I thought there was too much intervention from the Gods, which I thought took away from the original purpose of the mission given by Hera (Megara had to earn immortality by completing the mission). Overall, I would highly recommend that you check this novel out!

Emily W.

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by Suzanne Selfors

4 Stars

Mimi Wallingford, the great-granddaughter of the famous actress Adelaide Wallingford, has a life some can only dream about. She is an actress playing Juliet in her family’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Mimi is playing opposite to teen heartthrob Troy Summer, who is playing Romeo. The catch for Mimi is that she has no interest in acting, something her mother cannot understand. But when Mimi, along with Troy, are magically transported into Shakespeare’s Verona, they both experience the Montagues and Capulets feud first hand. When Mimi meets Juliet, she realizes that they are not that different, and Mimi does not want to see the tragic end of Romeo and Juliet play out. But what will happen if they change the ending to this famous tragedy? 

This book was a unique adaptation of the original play of Romeo and Juliet, written by William Shakespeare. It takes place in the modern world (2006, when this book was published). This book was laid out as Mimi Wallingford’s recounted story of what happened when she was magically transported to Shakespeare’s Verona. I found that to be a very entertaining way to tell Mimi’s story. The characters, especially Mimi, were interesting to follow. The pacing was very good, and the parallels between Mimi and Juliet were written well. The only issues that I had with this novel was Benvolio’s character change (as he was changed to be a man who was an awful character, when he was an honest character in the original play), and the relationship between Mimi and Troy seemed rushed. This book is a different take on Romeo and Juliet, but I enjoyed reading it nonetheless. In conclusion, I would recommend that you read this book, especially if you like Shakespeare retellings!

Emily W.

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by Suzanne Collins

5 Stars

The dystopian, set in the future novel The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins, is about the protagonist Katniss Everdeen, fighting for her family in the annual competition where members from several districts fight to the death. She volunteers in place for her little sister Primrose after her name was pulled out to fight in the games. There can only be one winner in the hunger games, and that is who remains alive at the end. We follow Katniss, a girl from the poorest district, District Twelve and Peeta Mellark, the boy who had also been selected to represent their district in the annual games. During the games, Katniss tries to stay alive and fight for her life by pretending to be in love with Peeta just for her safety. Peeta is the baker’s son, he has been giving Katniss bread many times to give to her starving family, and she feels as if she needs to owe him for his generosity. Now, they are forced to kill each other for the games to end.

It’s hard to trust anyone knowing that person might soon become your killer. 

Leaving readers flipping pages till the end, the science-fiction novel by Suzanne Collins includes a lot of shocking turns and twists along with intense action. This outstanding novel is definitely suitable for all ages.

Amina F.

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by Karen M. McManus

4.5 Stars

Two Can Keep a Secret is definitely my favourite Karen McManus novel. The ending was something I never saw coming! I highly anticipated this book, and it did not disappoint. McManus writes in a way that hooks you right from the very beginning, and keeps you guessing until the end! 

Two Can Keep a Secret tells the story of two teenagers, Ellery and Ezra, who move to an old town called Echo Ridge. They have to go live with their grandmother, whom they barely know, while their mom is in rehab. Echo Ridge is a small town with a big reputation for mysteries and things going wrong. Many years ago, Ellery and Ezra’s aunt (their mom’s twin) went missing when she was just seventeen. Five years ago, the homecoming queen was killed… and now another girl is missing. The siblings soon become intertwined with the secrets and the tensions of Echo Ridge, while also trying to uncover the truth around all those disappearances. 

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 the missing girls. This novel ends on a big cliffhanger, which makes the novel impeccable. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and would recommend it to any teenager or YA!

Emily O.

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by Jennifer Donaldson

5 Stars

Written by Jennifer Donaldson, I Know You Remember, follows the life of 17-year-old Ruthie Hayden, thrilled to move back to her hometown Anchorage and reunite with her best friend Zahra Gaines. Moments after arriving, she learns the devastating news that Zahra had gone missing after vanishing from a party a few days before Ruthie’s arrival. While Ruthie digs deeper into Zahra’s mysterious disappearance, she learns that her once best friend Zahra has had drastically changed her life. Zahra has gone from being the playful, creative girl who loved books and a girl who knew every of Ruthie’s secrets to an athlete, a partier, a girl with secrets of her own. Ruthie desperately tries to unpack the truth as she falls much deeper into her friend’s new world, coming close to a dangerous realization of what Zahra experienced in the days before her disappearance, one that might be better off not spoken about and buried

Ruthie is not ready to give up searching for Zahra as she makes risky decisions in the mission to find Zahra. 

With a very chilling plot twist and keeping readers on the edge of their seats with eyes glued to the pages, Jennifer Donaldson brings the thrilling mystery to a shocking and unexpected conclusion. My favourite part was the twist at the end because it shows that the characters aren’t who they seem to be. I extremely enjoyed and highly recommend this astonishing novel to young adults.

Amina F.

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