YA Contemporary

All book covers link to The Tattered Cover book page for that book.

bridgefrommeThe Bridge from Me to You, by Lisa Schroeder
This is a very sweet and enjoyable read. The two main characters are explored in a gentle way, and although I wouldn’t have minded a little more depth into their personal stories, the gentleness suited the overall feel of the book. Both people were likable, thoughtful, and struggling to find themselves in a realistic manner. I liked how their relationship progressed, as well. My only complaint (a minor one) was how quickly everything resolved at the end — that’s actually a compliment, as well. I was invested enough in their stories that I wanted more! šŸ™‚
The story (in a nutshell): Lauren (the new girl) and Colby (the hometown football hero) both have secrets they hope to keep hidden. However, as events in their lives unfold, they must find the strength to reveal the truth or risk losing themselves altogether.
Point, 7/14

redRed, by Alison Cherry
Once I realized the satirical nature (which took very little time), this became a pretty enjoyable tale. It’s a little annoying at first because the main character is kind of shallow…but as her internal dialogue becomes more prevalent, I found her more likable too. The satirical feel is clever here, and I liked the underlying message and tension. Overall, though slightly predictable and a tad on the shallow side, it’s definitely entertaining and worth reading, imo.
The story (in a nutshell): Felicity’s mom has been prepping her for the Miss Scarlet pageant all her life — including dyeing Felicity’s strawberry blonde hair into a richer red (making Felicity an ‘artie). This secret is one Felicity has guarded her entire life, but now, as the pageant starts rolling, someone is blackmailing Felicity, claiming they not only know her secret but will reveal it to all if Felicity doesn’t do as the blackmailer asks…Felicity has to rely on strength she didn’t realize she had if she wants to make it out of this without losing everything and everyone important to her.
Ember, 10/13

breatheannieBreathe, Annie, Breathe, by Miranda Kenneally
I liked this better than Catching Jordan. I think Kenneally’s writing has strengthened, and her gift for characterization has only improved (though it was good, in the first place). I found Annie very sympathetic and realistic, and I was so thrilled for her when she was able to forgive herself and move on in life. I’m a trail runner (jogger?), so I also related well to the ‘sport’ at hand here (more than I did to football, ha). I enjoyed the romance, as well, and I appreciated the realistic outlook on lust versus love and the inherent risk involved with caring for another person. The supporting characters were also very strong, and it was nice to see Jordan (and Henry and Ty) here again. Kenneally’s books truly are like being invited into this small Tennessee town and being a part of life there as you read. The story: Annie is determined to learn to run so she can run a marathon in Kyle’s name. She knows it’s her fault Kyle is dead, and she thinks this is what she must do to help make amends. Falling in love with another guy is not part of the plan, and although Annie is attracted to Jeremiah (and it’s clear he feels the same), she can’t betray Kyle’s memory like that. Plus, she needs to focus on her running…but it isn’t long before she begins to question her ability to succeed — at any of it. (YA contemporary, released 7/14, publisher: Sourcebooks Fire)

licensetospillLicense to Spill, by Lisi Harrison
I enjoyed this. It’s not a deep book, but I definitely think the multi-POV showcases how self-centered the average teen is. It’s not that they’re bad people, but they’re so unaware of anything outside their own selves — and that was very clearly shown here. It also shows the impulsiveness that most teens have, as well as their versatility. The story: The five continue to try and figure out their lives, all of them struggling with honesty and trying to maintain their social positions. Still, some have serious problems, and the tension rises as those problems grow. (YA contemporary, released 6/14, publisher: Poppy)

pretendersPretenders, by Lisi Harrison
This is definitely compelling, but it has a huge cliff-hanger. I loved the multiple POV, and I found it pretty easy to follow the different voices here. The characters are interesting, and I think hearing from the five different students is a great way to truly see beyond the masks so many put up. I wish more of the story had been developed in this first book, however. The story: Five students’ journals are ‘released’ to their classmates, and we read along as the first part of the year unfolds through their eyes. Things are definitely not as they seem, however, and tension builds as various world collide and the different students begin to see that they’ve misjudged one another. (YA contemporary, released 10/13, publisher: Poppy)

who i kissedWho I Kissed, by Janet Gurtler
This, like all Janet’s books, is very good. Janet knows how to tap into that teen angst, and I spent the entire book aching for Sam and wishing I could talk to her about her guilt and her struggles. It was very hard (incredibly hard) to watch as Sam made some pretty big mistakes as she tried to work through things — and although I got frustrated, that’s also an area that I admire in Janet’s writing: she can let her characters be completely foolish, just as many teens truly are. I also wanted to shake Zee and tell him to pull his head out (ha). All in all, this is an emotional, painful story, but the resolution is sweet and satisfying and (imo) very realistic. The story: Sam is the new girl in school, but she’s made some friends over the summer through the swim team. However, when she attends a party early in the school year, she kisses one boy (Alex) to make another boy (Zee) jealous — and then Alex dies from an allergic reaction. Sam is quickly ostracized as the girl who killed Alex with a kiss, but even worse are her own feelings of guilt and culpability. She can’t forgive herself for being so careless as to eat a peanut butter sandwich before attending the party…and those feelings quickly overwhelm her. She quits the swim team to punish herself, and she starts dating a boy she doesn’t even like that much to hide from her pain. Sam knows she needs to face this — and needs to face Zee (Alex’s best friend) and Alex’s family, but she can’t even face herself in the mirror…how will she get past this tragedy? (YA contemporary, released 10/12, publisher: Sourcebooks)

pizza love and other stuffPizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous, by Kathryn Williams
I really enjoyed this, as well. I loved all the food issues (loved them), and the behind-the-scenes stuff was also very intriguing. I like Sophia, and I thought the other characters were interesting and complex, as well. I really liked Sophia’s family too. If I had one complaint, it was that the ending/resolution felt a little rushed. I could seriously have spent another 50+ pages with these characters and their circumstances, so it was a little disappointing when everything seemed to speed toward the ending. Still, I liked this (and the diversity of characters was also great — loved the inclusion of Stan). šŸ™‚ The story: Sophie’s best friend convinces her to enter a contest for a teen cooking reality show, and to her shock, she gets in. However, the show is more fiction than fact, and although Sophie feels like she’s learned a great deal, she’s not sure she likes how the producers are presenting her. Plus, the contestants are mic-ed all the time, and the camera crew not only overhears more than Sophie wants, but someone is trying to create friction between the teens. In the end, Sophie has to decide how badly she wants to win and what the overall experience should mean to her — and how it will affect her family and her best friend, as well. (YA contemporary, some gblt, released 8/12, publisher: Henry Holt)

take a bowTake A Bow, by Elizabeth Eulberg
This has tons of elements which I love: performing arts, multi-POV, intriguing characters, tension, etc. I really enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down. Why didn’t it get 5 stars? Well, I had a couple minor disappointments with it. One, I didn’t understand why Ethan’s POV didn’t do more to give us insight into his heart…it was obvious how he felt about certain people, but I didn’t understand why his actions didn’t seem to match that, and there was no real explanation during his scenes (though an explanation was given, at the end, through another person’s POV). Two, I saw little growth in Sophie — and while that’s realistic, having her POV as one of the group made me want to see something change in her. However, other than those two things, I absolutely loved this! Emme and Carter were amazing characters, and I loved getting into their heads a bit. I found Ethan fascinating too (which is why I was disappointed a bit with the lack of revelation). The story: Emme, Sophie, Carter, and Ethan are students in a performing arts school. Their senior year is filled with competition and stress, and as Emme’s and Sophie’s friendship stretches to the breaking point, so does Emme’s understanding of herself and what she’s capable of. At the same time, Carter is realizing that he no longer has any desire to be ‘famous’ but isn’t sure how to escape the trappings…and Ethan must find a way to be true to himself without any crutches. (YA contemporary, released 1/12, publisher: Point)

from what i rememberFrom What I Remember…, by Stacey Kramer & Valerie Thomas
I enjoyed this. It was my week for multi-POV, perhaps, though I always love story-telling from many perspectives. I really liked the insights into the various characters here, and it made the reading experience solid and enjoyable throughout. I felt like some of the sections could have been streamlined a bit, and I had trouble relating to Max. He was a distant character, and even during his POV, I didn’t always get a sense that he was being open with the reader. It made his growing relationship with Kylie hard to grasp (though I still found it romantic and sweet, especially from Kylie’s POV). I also loved Will (how could you not?). I thought the insights into Lily gave a nice additional dimension to the story too. I think one reason I didn’t find it a 5-star read was because aspects of it seemed a little glib, but it was still good. The story: Kylie and Max are given a last-minute assignment, which Max wants to blow off but Kylie insists they do. Since they’re not friends, Max considers blowing her off anyway, but Kylie’s persistent — and when a pick-pocket takes off with Kylie’s backpack (with her laptop in it), Kylie is determined to get her work back. Unfortunately, this takes Kylie and Max into Mexico (when they get trapped in the van filled with stolen goods) where Kylie meets someone who knew her dad as a boy. One thing leads to another, and soon Kylie and Max are partying it up (and getting a tad drunk) and getting to know one another for the first time in six years of schooling together. They quickly discover how much they like each other, and when their ride shows up (Will), he takes off with someone else (another guy, as Will has not met a gay guy his age before)…and they end up barely making it back for graduation — where Kylie must give the valedictorian address, Max must break up with his perfect girlfriend, and Will must find a way to keep Juan with him. (YA contemporary, some gltb, released 5/12, publisher: Hyperion)

shut outShut Out, by Kody Keplinger
This was very good. I really liked the language (though graphic, at times) because it wasn’t over the top (for me), and yet it definitely sounded authentic. I loved how the girls actually began talking about their sexual experiences, and how they discovered that sex really is something which was beyond most of them. I loved how the book hints at the fact that sex is more than just the act — it’s an intimacy that very few (if any?) teens are really capable of (as I think it needs that underlying commitment and dedication to the other person), and because of that, it will be extremely rare for teens to truly understand it. I also loved that some of the girls were able to speak up and admit they weren’t ready for all that — I just liked the whole idea of frank conversation! Another realistic aspect (imo): Randy kept saying he ‘loved’ Lissa, and she admits she was ‘in love’ with him too…and yet, their actions spoke quite differently. Very authentic teen (and no, I’m not saying teens don’t know what love is — but it’s definitely true that teens, and even some adults, confuse sexual intimacy — or even affection — for love). The story: Lissa is tired of her school’s inner rivalry, soccer players versus football players. When her boyfriend Randy admits he was part of a group who led to the injury of a soccer player, Lissa decides she’s had enough. She gets the other girlfriends together (from both groups), and they agree to have a sex strike. Soon, though, the strike brings up many other issues about intimacy, affection, what sex really is and means — and loyalty between boyfriends and girlfriends. Lissa doesn’t know what to do as things start getting out of hand and Randy humiliates her in front of everyone — and Cash, a hot soccer player, seems to be the friend (and more?) Lissa’s always wanted. Lissa has to figure out what the strike is really all about — and how to truly end it and the rivalry. (YA contemporary, released 9/11, publisher: Poppy)

the survival kitThe Survival Kit, by Donna Freitas
I loved this, even though I cried throughout much of it. Freitas is officially one of my favorite authors, now that I’ve read her three books (this one, This Gorgeous Game, and The Possibilities of Sainthood) and loved each of them! This story is so touching, so brave, so filled with depth and beauty. Things I loved: Rose — she was strong, vulnerable, hurting, loving; Krupa — what a great best friend; Will — a beautiful boy, also hurting yet coming out on the other side; Kecia and the cheerleaders — I liked the positive take on this group which is so often maligned. Yes, the characters made this book. Each one felt real to me, and I especially liked how they were all *good* people. The story: Rose’s mom dies, and Rose and her brother and father have to figure out how to continue on. Rose is mostly alone, as her brother is off at college and her dad has turned to drinking. She finds a Survival Kit (something their entire family used to make for those who needed help) from her mom, and she begins to work her way through grief using the supplies from her mom. Along the way, she discovers Will, a boy who’s been right in front of her for years, but whom she couldn’t see until now. Throughout the year following her mom’s death, Rose must find her own, new path…and maybe even bless those around her at the same time. (YA contemporary, released 10/11, publisher: FSG)

if i tellIf I Tell, by Janet Gurtler
I really enjoyed this! I had the privilege of reading this before it was published, and I loved reading it again and seeing how it’s changed and tightened. I think Janet does a great job with something that often bothers me in other books: Jasmine has a secret, and she can’t tell — and it’s not only realistic that she wouldn’t tell, but the struggle between telling and not telling is also realistic (and not at all convenient). I also like Jasmine’s conflict over her black-white heritage and her changing relationship with Jackson. All in all, it was a compelling book! The story: Jasmine sees her mom’s boyfriend making out with Jasmine’s best friend — and before she can tell her mom what’s happened (so her mom can break up with the loser), her mom informs Jasmine that she’s pregnant. Now Jasmine feels trapped, and soon the pressure of knowing this secret, combined with the daily struggles in being one of the only mixed-heritage girls in her school and her growing feelings for a new boy with a shady past, get to Jasmine. She begins to lash out, but when her mom has the baby and things are not going well, Jasmine has to learn when a secret works more harm by being kept than it does out by being known. (YA contemporary, released 10/11, publisher: Sourcebooks)

Rival, by Sara Bennett Wealer
I loved this book! Shall I count what I loved? šŸ™‚ 1) the dual POV — I really like getting into the heads of both girls and seeing not only their strengths and weaknesses, but also how the same situation looked so differently in each set of eyes; 2) the singing — this took me back to my own high school days so completely; 3) the depth of all the characters, including periphery ones — I felt like I’d been dropped into this world, and everyone there was real and complex. The story: Kathryn and Brooke are rivals, although they were once friends. Mistakes on both their parts, along with jealousy, tore them apart, and now, for the first time since then, they are up for the same scholarship (even though one is a soprano and one an alto). Past grievances fuel both of them, and soon they must face their own fears and weaknesses. (YA contemporary, releasing 3/11, publisher: Harper Teen)

puttingmakeupPutting Makeup on Dead People, by Jen Violi
I really liked this book. I liked how the main storyline focused on Donna’s struggles with her father’s death, but the subplots pulled in her family and friends. Donna’s very sympathetic — she’s hurting, struggling, and yet she’s strong and fights for what she wants. I really like her! I also like the realistic relationships around her — she and her mom don’t see eye to eye, but they’re not out-and-out nasty to each other, either. The battles are subtler, and for me, that makes them that much better. There’s some realistic language and sexual situations in this book too (fyi), but for me, everything fit the story and only made it stronger. The story: Donna’s almost ready to graduate, but high school has been a blur of fading into the background as she reels from her father’s death years before. A new girl, Liz, begins pulling Donna out of her shell. When Donna attends the funeral of a peer, her fascination with death intensifies — and soon she’s decided to follow that fascination professionally — as a mortician. Her mom opposes her choice, but Donna’s certain this is the path for her…even as she struggles to understand death and how to make a new life for herself in the aftermath. (YA contemporary, released 5/11, publisher: Hyperion)

Prom & Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg
This is a fun, clever ‘retelling’, where marriage is prom and birth standing is a private school. I enjoyed seeing how Fulberg changed the original to fit a contemporary setting (though she kept some of the quaint speaking styles), and it would have been five stars (easily) except that I was a little disappointed with the ending. It wasn’t quite swoon-worthy enough to me — however, it’s still a fantastic read and kept me engrossed as I flew through it. The story: Lizzie Bennett is a scholarship student at the prestigious finishing school Longbourne. She’s shunned by most of the girls at the school, except for another scholarship student (Charlotte) and Jane, her roommate. When Jane’s possible boyfriend (Charles Bingley) returns from a semester in London with his best friend (Will Darcy), Lizzie’s life gets more complicated as she struggles to discover why Darcy would be so prejudiced against her (and all scholarship students), to learn why Wick flirts and laughs but doesn’t seem to do much more, and to understand why Charles — who so clearly cares about Jane — would turn aside his affections when prom is looming. (YA contemporary, released 1/11, publisher: Point)

Five Flavors of Dumb, by Antony John
This is a great book! The only thing which keeps it from being a five-star read (for me) is that I really didn’t like Piper for at least half the book. She’s very prickly, and although I can understand why, it didn’t make her any more likable. However, as she grew and we start to learn more about the other members of the band, the story pulled me in more and more. By the end, I definitely liked Piper and felt like we’d gotten beyond her barriers — plus, I found Ed a lovely person šŸ™‚ The story: Piper (who’s deaf) kind of falls into the position of manager for a school band called Dumb. Before long, she recruits her friend Ed (a drummer) to help the three members of the band learn to keep rhythm…and then pretty girl Kallie is pulled in, as well, even though she can’t actually play an instrument. Piper promised she’d get the band paying gigs, but their internal struggles — along with Piper’s own challenges with her family — keep interfering. (YA contemporary, released 11/10, publisher: Dial Books)

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About Robin

I'm a reader, a writer, a mom, a writing coach...and someone who loves the outdoors.
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