The Best of 2016 Part 1: YA

 

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It’s that time of year again, when we look back on all the amazing books and series we read this year, and look forward to those coming next year. I read a total of 136 books this year, but here are the books that blew me away or were simply unforgettable-all rated 4.5 stars or higher. I will be splitting my favorites into 2 separate posts: Young Adult, then New Adult+Adult. Starting with YA!

 

 

My Favorite YA reads of 2016: (In no particular order)

 


{By the way, I already wrote mini reviews for the seven books shown below so if you want to read them, revist my last post Top Ten Tuesday:Top Ten Books That Lived Up to the Hype, for short reviews of:  Throne of Glass, Falling Kingdoms, Everything Everything, An Ember in the Ashes, The Winners Curse,  Six of Crows, and Cinder. And for reviews of Alex Bracken’s Passenger and Elizabeth Brigg’s Futureshock just click the titles to be redirected to those pages!}

 

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“Mini” Reviews: 

 

1.) Out of Control by Sarah Alderson: 

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This book was action packed from beginning to end. Chapter one literally started out with a bang. Seventeen year old Olivia-after being brought in by police as the only witness to the murder of her legal guardians-finds herself fighting to survive when she winds up in the middle of a police station shooting, with only a 19 year old car thief named Jaime by her side.

We’re given glimpses of Olivia’s shady past that explain her father’s overprotective behavior and possibly the reason they’re being persued. Being inside her head kept the story alive. Her mind was sharp and though her fear threatened to overwhelm her, she and Jaime made a good team and kept each other on their feet.

I was on the edge of my seat throughout this entire book. It’s full of non stop action and suspense as they race across the streets of New York, and the growing romance between Olivia and Jaime is addictive. There’s also diversity! Jaime, our sexy, badass hero, is part Cuban. He’s flirty, intelligent, understanding, loyal and compassionate, and I immediately adored him. There was a shocking twist to the story that I did not see coming, and the ending was absolutely perfect.

 

2.) Shutter by Courtney Alameda

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Lights! Camera! Poltergeists! This YA horror had everything I look for in a scary book: spine tingling paranormal encounters, a unique and interesting plot, gore and violence, and even a little romance. This book is an urban fantasy and was basically a teenage Ghostbusters meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hell yes!

Micheline Helsing is a “tetrachromat”; she can see the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. Descended from a powerful lineage of Ghosthunters, she was trained since she was a kid to destroy both corporeal and spirtual monsters. The corporeal are taken down by bullets, while the spiritual are exorcised via lens to capture their spiritual energy on film.

When a routine ghosthunt goes awry, the four of them find themselves infected with a curse known as a “soulchain”, that, if not exorcised from their bodies in seven days, will kill them. The story follows Micheline and her friends as they take off on a wild goose chase after this poltergeist that’s wreaking havoc among the citizens of San Francisco.

I loved the friendships between Micheline and her best friends Oliver, Jude and Ryder. Each boy was compelling in their own way. Jude is a snarky, darkly humorous character who can see people’s potential deaths when he touches them. Oliver, who’s of Stoker lineage, is the tech wiz who designed Micheline’s camera. And then there’s Ryder, the boy she has known and loved forever, who’s always been by her side in times of hardship.I fell for each of them and the support they offered one another; the way they all looked after each other and Micheline. The friends-to-lovers romance between Ryder and Micheline was super sweet and heart warming.

I loved the brilliant idea of a special camera to capture the spirits of evil ghosts, and the incredibly creative world Alameda created, where the existence of all sorts of supernatural creatures is common knowledge. Also, how Micheline and her friends all live in a sort of community made up of ghost hunters in training, all descendants of the Van Helsings, the Stokers and other well known names from classic horror novels. I loved that tie-in of Dracula. Super cool!

The minimal insight we were given into Micheline’s past was intriguing, although her backstory was extremely sad and dark; so terribly tragic that it showed how strong she was to be able to carry on. She was extremely brave, tough and protective of her friends. I honestly wish this book had a sequel because I was so sad to leave these characters behind! I was left devastated that their story was over. It all wrapped up nicely at least. But, seriously. I had a book hangover for like 2 weeks.( Actually, I don’t think its ended.)

 

3.) The Leaving Season by Cat Jordan

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This emotional rollercoaster had me torn between crying and swooning until the end. When Middie’s boyfriend Nate leaves for a year abroad volunteering in Central America, she’s left feeling lonely and uncertain of how to go about her senior year without him. Then tragedy strikes, driving her towards an unexpected friendship with Nate’s best friend, Lee, whom Middie hates and has only ever seen as a slacker and a druggie.

As she and Lee grow closer, Middie begins to see that maybe her relationship with Nate wasn’t as perfect as she’d once thought, and that she may not know him as well as she’d thought. Middie has grown used to being defined by Nate for so long, to being his shadow, while Lee encourages her to take risks, to look at the world from a different perspective, and become her own person.

Torn between loyalty to her long term boyfriend and her growing feelings for Lee, Middie struggles to find her path and come to terms with these new developments in her life. It was a beautiful story of friendship, romance and personal growth.

I thought both Nate and Lee were important and interesting characters, who’s contrasting personalities showed how different Middie was when in their separate presences. Middie was likable and relatable, her ways of dealing with grief and change understandable and realistic. Despite her moments of self-absorbtion and stubborness, she is someone who always looks out for the people in her life and feels things deeply. Lee, although complicated and snarky at times, turned out to be so much sweeter, intelligent and more compassionate than Middie had ever assumed of him, and their love story was beautiful and eye opening.

 

4.) Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

redKick-ass alien princess who is the first female ruler in generations? Check. Queer alien royal with an evil streak? Check. A strong-willed orphan rebel who perseveres in spite of the discrimination he faces due to his mixture of both human and alien DNA? Check!

The only thing better than a YA book about aliens is a YA book with poc aliens and gay aliens and a slow-burning romance. None of the characters are easy to like at times, but you will find yourself rooting for them. Nevertheless, even hard to completely despise Kora’s violent and tyrannical twin brother who belives he deserves the throne more than she does.

Eros is captured and sent to be Kora’s bodyguard, and after losing so much, he is extremely wary of her and harbors a lot of hatred towards her and her staff. But as they realize both their lives are at stake, they have to learn to trust and protect one another. I loved the blossoming friendship between Kora and Eros, and how it slowly grew towards something more.

The world of the Seraphon is described beautifully-the blazing red sand, different cultures and politics were all so captivating to read about and the subjects of race, racism and homophobia come up many times. Beyond the Red is a brilliantly diverse sci-fi full of characters both poor and rich, good and evil, and I can’t wait for the sequel to see what Kora and Eros do next to save their world from her brothers thirst for power and blood.

5.) Star Wars: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

loststarsHaving grown up watching Star Wars and reading YA, I was stoked to find a book that was a combination of both. By one of my favorite authors, no less!

This galatic adventure follows two childhood best friends Ciena and Thane, who grew up on the planet of Jelucan and spent their younger years learning to fly together. Eventually, they set off to start schooling at the Imperial Academy where they’ll train as fighter pilots under the reign of the Galactic Empire.
The book takes place over the course of several years, introducing Ciena and Thane at eight years old and following them all the way until they’re in they’re early 20’s. Over the years they’re driven apart again and again by conflicting loyalties and viewpoints, but always manage to find each other again. Throughout their schooling and the years after, as they’re hardened by the rigorous training and demands of the Empire, they make new friends, face unexpected obstacles, and are shaped into adult versions themselves who couldn’t be more different from their childhood selves.
When Thane’s growing distrust and disdain for The Empire leads to his decision to abandon his position, he joins the rebellion against Darth Vader and the Empire. Ciena remains behind, stubbornly holding on to her faith . Over the years their friendship  slowly develops into something more, even as the divide between them continues to grow. How can they be together now that they’re on opposites of the rebellion and therefore sworn enemies?
This unique journey through the Star Wars universe had me hooked from start to finish, with all its ups and downs and unpredictable complications that rose up between Ciena and Thane over the years. The chapters switch back and forth between the third person POV’s of both of them, and I thought it was intriguing to be given a glimpse inside the minds of two characters who’d grown up in the same world but chosen completely different paths. Especially since the Star Wars movies have only really shown us the ‘good guys’ side of the story. But here, we’re given the perspectives of two teens who’ve been on the other side of the rebellion from the beginning, and have never known any other way. We’re shown that it is never completely black and white, and that innocent lives were lost on both sides.
It was frustrating at times when they would go years without seeing one another, without even knowing if the other was alive. Ciena was most frustrating of all, with her stubborness blinding her to the truth for so long. At the same time though, I could understand her internal conflict.
I loved watching both characters change and grow over the years and when it was over it felt too abrupt and the ending felt a little too open. But it was an exciting and emotional ride until the end and I couldn’t have asked for a better YA version of Star Wars.
I think this book will appeal to all ages though; both young adults and adults, because it’s very maturely written & follows the characters well into their adult years. So don’t let the YA label stop you from picking this one up!
6.)Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

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Tell Me Three Things was a cute, quick read about navigating a new school, a new step family, and new relationships. It’s been barely two years since Jessie’s mom died, and already her dad has eloped with a woman he met online, and up and moved them to the opposite side of the country to live with her and her pretentious teenage son.
From day one, she feels out of place among her priviliged classmates at her pompous new high school and it’s clear that the popular girls look down on her. She’s desparately missing Chicago and is resigned to a shitty junior year when she receives an email from an anonymous person who calls themself somebody/nobody (SN, for short). SN won’t confess to her who he or she is, only revealing that they go to Jessie’s school and thought she could use a friend to help her survive as the new girl in an unfamiliar environment.
As they continue to talk online, they become quick friends, bonding over mutual losses and sharing details about each others lives. Jessie finds herself depending on this mystery person to help her survive the bullies that torment her at school, to help her deal the difficulties of her new home life.

This invisible savior could be anyone…..her step brother, the boy she likes, any of the girls she’s befriended. Or a complete stranger. Is it possible that the one person she needs the most is someone she’s never met?

This was one of the most realistic high school stories I’ve read. The funny dialogue and quirky conversations hold your attention and Jessie’s inner monologue is relatable and allows to connect to everything she’s feeling. Jessie was perfectly imperfect; she could be quick to judge, insecure, struggled to communicate her feelings, and sometimes failed to see more than one side of things. Overall though, Jessie had a lot of mental strength, made the best of a series indimidating life changes and eventually found acceptance and even appreciation for her new home.

A lot of different topics came up, from homophobia to teenage sex and relationships. The number of times the topic of sex was brought up among Jessie and her new friends actually felt very realistic for their age group. The teenage years are the years that many people first begin to navigate sexual and romantic relationships and I feel that it’s important to address the potential complications that may arise in highschool romances. The author really captured exactly how teenagers think and react to certain topics or situations.

Then there’s the boy, of course. Ethan. He was cute and sweet, although his own issues initially caused him to hold Jessie at arms length. But he never judged and was a sweetheart to Jessie and they slowly formed a tentative friendship. There are other boys that capture Jessie’s attention too, as she’s unsure of Ethan’s feeling and wary of getting her hopes up, but they didn’t hold a candle to his genuine personality and open mind.

I thought the mystery SN person would be completely obvious and I thought I had it down at times but the author just kept me second guessing until the very end. I cannot reccommend this book enough, it’s witty and raw and so unbelivably real that you’ll almost feel like you’re reading a true story. It’s inspiring and emotional and truly worthy of the hype surrounding it.

 

7.) The Forbidden Wishby Jessica Khoury
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As you may know, I love love LOVE retellings of all kinds. So I was immediately hooked by the idea of a re-telling of Aladdin-in this case a complicated romance between a young boy named Aladdin and the genie he finds in a lamp-a teenage girl who’s been trapped inside said lamp for years and years, in a seventeen year old body.
Zahra hasn’t seen the world outside the lamp in hundreds of years. Her very existence is now illegal and she must disguise who she is in order to survive, until her new master has been granted his three wishes.
As she grants Aladdin’s wishes, the two of them dodge several enemies and encounter the multiple obstacles that arise in her attemp to help him avenge the deaths of his parents. Aladdin soon begins to fall for her, but Zahra, still ashamed of her past, refuses to let him get close. There’s no way they can be together anyway, not when the fobidden wish that could set Zahra free has dire consequences. But when the king of the Jinn offers her a chance to be free forever, she has to decide wether her freedom is worth betraying the boy she’s fallen in love with.
Both Zahra and Aladdin’s backstories are tragic and largely affect their relationship in the present. Aladdin is determined to achieve vengeance and Zahra is afraid to let herself get close to another human after what happened to her only friend so many years back. Aladdin’s only intention upon first discovering Zahra is to use her to go after his enemies but as he comes to know Zahra and see who she really is, he begins to worry over what her fate will be when his three wishes are up.
Aladdin comes off as very reckless and one-track-minded at first but his selflessness shows in how he refuses to give up on Zahra and continues to protect her even it means losing his chance to avenge his parents. I loved being inside Zahra’s mind. I loved Aladdin’s acceptance of her and how fiercly he believed in her and saw the good in her. The romance was beautiful and the story was intriguing, unique and suspenseful from start to finish.
 I’m usually pretty wary of fantasy stand-alones. In my experience, fantasies are usually better as trilogies or series. This book though, was wrapped up very nicely and perfectly paced from beginning to end.
8.) The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
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 After hearing so many great things about Holly Black, I decided to finally give her a try. And I’m so glad I did!
This stand-alone contemporary fantasy takes place in a small town where humans and mythical creatures co-exist. The most infamous of these creatures lies in a glass coffin in the woods, a faerie prince with horns on his head and pointed ears, who’s been asleep for decades without ever waking.
Hazel and her brother Ben have always been enchanted by this strange boy and have loved him since their childhoods. Then one day, the boy wakes up, and chaos ensues. A horrible curse befalls the town, and soon they’re fighting to survive and unlock the secrets of the forest. Their beloved prince may not be the hero they’d always imagined him to be, and they have no clue as to his true intentions. Hazel begins waking up with leaves in her hair and mud on her shoes, with no recollection of the night before.

Reading this book felt to me like reading a favorite classic faerie tale, only it was purely original and full of surprising twists I never would have predicted. It has diversity too; Hazel’s brother Ben is gay. Ben’s best friend Jack (Hazel’s long time crush), is black. I loved the darkly magical feel of the story and the glances we were given into Hazel and Ben’s childhoods, which really helped to tie together the overall mysteries they faced in the present. There’s more than one romance taking place and I found them both to be surprising but satisfyingly sweet.

 Ben and Hazel were very close despite being so close in age. I loved their relationship and the way they both looked after one another in a home where their parents seemed too busy attending parties to pay attention to their children and the trouble they often found themselves in. Jack was mysterious yet endearing and the prince was intriguing and not at all like I expected. I loved this darkly enchanted tale and I can’t wait to read more from Holly Black!
 9.) Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes by Scott Cawthon 

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 I know what you’re thinking. A scary story based off a video game featuring killer anamatronics? Cheesy! Stupid! Weird! But don’t let the story’s origin as an overrated video game dissaude you from reading this book. It was extremely well written, with diverse characters and a surprisingly deep plot.
This story is written by the same guy who developed the games. I find it unfair that a single person can hold so much talent! Seriously, the writing was beautiful and entrancing. I literally finished the book within one day.
Ten years after the horrific murders that tore their small town apart and led to Freddy Fazbears being shut down, Charlie and her childhood friends reunite on the tragic anniversary.
We’re given the whole backstory as to how this abandoned arcade and it’s haunted robotic animals came to be. Our main character, Charlie, is the daughter of the man who owns the restaurant and designed the infamous animatronics, and has grown up surrounded by her father’s inventions.
We’re really given a deep look into Charlie’s mind and her flash backs were so vivid that I felt every emotion she experienced through them. There were parts that made me want to cry, parts that made me laugh, and I couldn’t out the book down because I just needed to know more about Charlie’s past and her father and how everything happened.
I was surprised by how attached I became to all the characters, and despite my lust for blood and gore, I found myself cringing at every terror, praying they’d all make it out alive. It wasn’t all-out terrifying necessarily, but it was still suspenseful, creepy and intriguing and had me biting my nails at parts. I wish there were more YA Horror novels like this out there. Here’s to hoping Scott Cawthon writes a sequel or another stand-alone!
10.) Rumble by Ellen Hopkins

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This past year, I’ve fallen in love with books written in verse and I’m eager to read as many as I can get my hands on. Ellen Hopkins is known for writing in verse and having heard greats things about her books, I picked Rumble as my first read by her. And it proved to be a fantastic choice!
This book, while very dark and dismal at times, tackles some very important issues regarding bullying and LGBT discrimination. And it totally shits on bible-thumping homophobes, which I’m all for!
After losing his brother to suicide, Matt has become an angry, bitter shell of the person he used to be. He constantly fights with his girlfriend, he doesn’t trust anyone-including his former friends-and the tension between his parents at home is nearly tangible. His grief over the loss of his younger sibling and animosity towards his classmates and parents is threatening to push him over the edge.
He blames the bible thumping religious freaks at school for his brothers death-he knows for a fact that they bullied his brother to suicide simply because he was gay. He blames his parents for not accepting their son and worrying more about what other people thought than the toll their lack of compassion and understanding was causing him.
But mostly he blames himself. For not realizing the extent of the pain his brother was experiencing, for not being there for him, for not standing up for him or protecting him.
Matt is a complicated character, who’s behavior is questionable at times, even if you understand where his negative feelings are coming from. Overall, though, I loved how much he grew as a person after his brother died. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, to call out his parents and classmates on their bigotry and lack of sympathy, and their refusal to see the role they played in driving Zach to take his own life.
 Seriously, his classmates and parents pissed me off so much, I praised Matt for speaking up and shutting down their ignorant arguments and attempts to excuse the blatant homophobia they continued to spew, even after the tragic consequences it had already brought about. His strictly religious girlfriend Hayden was equally obnoxious and close minded, although she hides it well in the beginning.
This book is devastating and had me crying more than once, and I was deeply impressed with the intensity of the emotions Hopkins was able to provoke in me. I honestly wanted to throw the book at a wall at times. Unfortunately, this story represents how much of the world treats the LGBT community, and the hypocrisy and injustice brought to light here is something that will always need to be addressed.
11.) Lies I Told by Michelle Zink

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I loved this story following a family of con artists, moving from town to town as they target their next victims. Our main character, Grace has always been conflicted over this lifestyle, and the role she’s expected to play in helping her adoptive parents pull off their heists.
She feels like she has no choice but to go along it with. Her adoptive brother keeps urging her to runaway with him, but she can’t bring herself to abandon her parents. After all, they got her out of foster care and gave her a proper family; even if it came at a price.
Soon Grace finds herself falling for the son of their current target-a rich boy who seems to have it all, but who’s family is hiding secrets within their California mansion. The plan is already in motion and there’s nothing she can do to stop it. Then things start to fall apart and she has to decide where her loyalty lies-with her new friends, or with her family and the only life she’s ever known.
Grace’s brother Parker was frustrating at times but he appeared more determined than her at first to quit this life. Grace’s stubborness was frustrating as well. At times I just wanted to yell at her to stand up for herself and try harder to get out of this situation. I could see why she had a hard time going against her parents, even as she saw how sweet and humble Logan really was despite his family’s wealth.
Their parents frustrated me more than anything, with their greed and lack of sympathy for what the constant moves and conning was doing to their adoptive children.
The story was frustrating, compelling and  complicated. I couldn’t put it down.  AAAAAND there’s a sequel, which I need to read immediately. It ended with quite the cliff hanger.
12.) Starflight by Melissa Landers

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Melissa Landers is the queen of fiery sci-fi romances and outer space journeys full of both action and self discovery. The romance trope in this book is one that I never love-two people who hate each other in the beginning but eventually find themselves falling in love.
Solara is desparate to get away from Earth, from the judgement that follows her everywhere she goes thanks to the engine grease underneath her fingernails and the tattoos on her knuckles that mark her as a criminal. Space travel is not cheap though, and she finds herself with no choice but to indenture herself to someone she despises: Doran, a former classmate and pretentious rich boy who’s made her life miserable as long as they’ve known each other.
Before they know it though, they’re on the run together; Doran having been framed for conspiracy. Solara cons him into acting as her servant when they find themselves on board the Banshee alongside a crew of odd characters. As they run from their enemies, they have to come together in spite of their past and their differences, and work to protect the ship mates that have come to feel like family.
I loved the banter between these two vastly different former enemies and how they slowly grew to trust and understand each other. It was honestly hilarious how the tables ended up turning when the roles were reversed and Doran found himself serving Solara instead. I won’t reveal how exactly it happens to avoid giving away spoilers, but it gave me a really good laugh.
Doran is a huge asshole in the beginning-there’s no denying or excusing that. He’s had some hardships in his own life though, that help to explain his behavior and give us some insight as to why he’s so angry and unpleasant upon first impression. Solara doesn’t allow him to trample all over her, and I really admired how she didn’t hold back or hesitate to stand up to him. Doran eventually begins to redeems himself and the two of them slowly come to understand each other. The other members on board the crew are equally interesting and likable, especially childhood friends Cassia and Kane whose relationships may be developing into something more. I can’t wait to read their story in Starfall, the companion to Starflight coming out early 2017!
13.) Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

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Will I ever tire of the book trope featuring young women dressing as men and embarking on a high-stakes journey of action, drama and self discovery? Nope! And this one was especially unique, as it takes place in the Wild West!
We follow eighteen-year-old Kate as she disguises herself as a young boy and sets off across the gritty deserts in pursuit of the men who murdered her father to get their hands on notebook containing the location of a hidden gold mine. She’s tough as nails, fiercly independent, and willing to do almost anything to track these madmen down and make them pay.
Along the way she becomes allies with Cowboy brothers Will and Jessie (who refuse to let her continue on her road to vengeance alone) and a Native American girl who gets caught in the cross-fire, and is trying to find the way back to her people.
As they race across the rugged California plains, Kate’s friends try to warn her of the possible costs of chasing a gang of gun-toting bandits, but there’s no way she’s giving up now. Don’t they know that nothing gets in the way of a woman seeking revenge? Nothing-not bullet wounds, not the blazing desert heat or relentless dust of the plains, and certaintly not her growing attraction for the oldest of the brothers.
Kate, although sometimes brave and stubborn to a fault, isn’t afraid to talk back to anyone who disrespects her. She is admirably independent, not needing anybody to take care of her, although there were times it would have been better for her to take someone else’s advice or allow them to help her. She was so determined to rely on no one that she didn’t always stop to think before rushing into things alone.
There were scenes that were shocking, heartbreaking and nail bitingly suspenseful. The romance was very subtle but still sweet, even though they both had very different end goals in mind and had trouble seeing eye to eye. An abundance of Wild West slang and detailed descriptions of 1800’s California makes this tale feel all the more authentic.
I was devestated the book had to end; it just felt like way too early to say goodbye to these characters, and I was reeling after all the hardships they’d faced. This book, though, is definitely one I won’t forget.
14.) More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera 

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An extremely well written diverse read about a gay teen in a speculative near-future in which there is a facility with the technological ability to erase any particular memories that one may want to forget.
In the months since his dad’s suicide, Aaron has been struggling to find happiness. He has girlfriend he adores and who loves him back. But sometimes it feels like there’s something missing from his life. And there’s the new kid in town, Thomas, whom Aaron finds himself drawn to. As Aaron and Thomas grow closer, he’s confused by his growing feelings. He has a loving girlfriend, he’s happy, he’s straight. Right? But as his feelings grow stronger, Aaron considers turning to the Leto Institute to straighten (pun intended) himself out, even if means forgetting who he is.
In his small town, it’s near impossible to hide secrets. The bullies in town prey on weakness and being gay means having a constant target on your back. But is it worse than living a lie, and trying to force yourself to be someone you’re not?
Oh, Aaron. Poor kid has been through so much. But he’s resilient and stronger than he even realizes. He’s stubbornly determined to move on from his past, even if it may mean forgetting himself. He deals with some real assholes on a daily basis. Homophobes, nosy neighbors, and even his own so called “friends” put pressure they put on him to be “normal.” Although his “friends” and neighbors are hardly more than a bunch of intimidating bullies, Aaron knows it’s safer to stick with them and blend in rather than attempt to go it alone.
Aaron’s friendship with Thomas was sincere and sweet. Thomas was really supportive of him and accepting of his past. He didn’t care what other people thought and didn’t feel the need to pretend to be someone he wasn’t just to please everyone else. He was there throughout Aaron’s struggle with regaining old memories and coming to terms with who he really was. I liked Thomas a lot and I loved every moment he and Aaron spent together.
This isn’t a light hearted story by any means, so be warned. Aaron has a pretty sordid past, and his present life is just as miserable at times. But it’s an important story about self acceptance, overcoming major life obstacles and learning to stand up for yourself. Most of all, it’s a story of family and friendship. It’s heavy on the heart but eye opening and well worth the read.
15.) What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler 
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 This another important story that focuses on a very heavy topic, and one I think everyone should read.
Rape and rape culture are sadly still very prominent in our society, and while this book is heart breaking, it’s one I’m very glad to have picked up. The main character herself is not the rape victim, rather, one of her classmates, Stacy is. Kate doesn’t remember much about what happened the night of the party. She remembers Stacey Stallard handing her shots, and her friend/quasi boyfriend Ben taking her keys and getting her home early. But the next morning, a picture of Stacey passed out over baskeball star Deacon Mill’s shoulder appears, and Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates.
The town is torn abart by controversy, with most people dismissing Stacey’s allegations as false. They become furious with her for jeapordizing their basketball teams reputation by accusing four of their main stars. As facts continue to surface, Kate finds herself unable to ignore the clues and begins to question the truth of what happened that night. Who was involved? Who saw what happened? And is Ben telling the truth about not being a witness, or could he possibly have something to do with it?
Oh. My. God. This book made me cry so much. It was horrifying the way people talked about Stacey and how they blamed her and made excuses for jocks and the horrible things that had been done to her. I was furious with some of Kate’s friends and how their fear over what their classmates might think kept them from defending and speaking up for Stacey. They weren’t nearly as bad as some of the other people, but they did nothing to help the situation either.
Kate was slow to act as well, but her actions impressed me in the end. She was very determined to get to the bottom of it all and didn’t hide her disgust towards anyone who spoke horribly of Stacey or defended her rapists. There was a certain someone I was wary to trust from the beginning, but I found myself begging that my suspicions would be false. Regardless of that particular outcome, this book will very likely leave you in tears and with a heavy heart, but you’ll be very grateful to have read it because of how much it makes you think and feel. It perfectly captures the horrible way many rape cases are handled and the lack of compassion people can have for victims.
No character is perfect, and the males especially play a huge part in the authors main objective, from Kate’s younger brother, to Ben, to anyone who stood by Deacon and his friends and refused to believe Stacey’s story. Some of them redeem themselves, some of them not so much. I found the ending happy, but not entirely in the traditional sense. This book is so much different from any I’ve read before but I will never regret picking it up.
16.) The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti
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This cute contemporary romance had so many things I love; elephants, a flawed yet likeable main character, an accurate potrayal of mental illness and a cute guy with a baby!

High school senior Jade is living with an anxiety disorder and often finds herself overwhelmed and overthinking everything. Although she knows her fears are irrational, she can’t escape the terrifying thoughts and loss of breath that accompany them. To deal with her anxiety, she often finds herself watching the live cam of the elephant enclosure at the nearby zoo. She finds the familiarity of their routine soothing and comforting. One day, she sees a boy her age stop in front of the enclosure: a boy with a baby.

Over the next few weeks she sees the boy several more times on the livestream, and she begins to wonder about him. Is he a babysitter? A nanny? Is the kid his brother or his son? Soon she begins working at the zoo where she finds solace in the family of elephants she tends to and the other employees she befriends. And eventually she meets the boy, whose name is Sebastion, and who is indeed the father of the child he carries on his back.

Soon, Jade finds herself falling in love with Sebastion as she spends her days with him and his activist grandma on their Seattle houseboat, watching over his son Bo together and sharing their fears and secrets and dreams. But Sebastion is hiding something about his past, and it may just come back to haunt them.

Jade’s inner monologue is easily relatable and although her thoughts tend to ramble, she was cleary a very intelligent and open minded character. She had strong opinions and attention to detail and a very sharp mind. She worried over nearly everything, but well, that’s anxiety disorder for you. I liked her a lot and admired her strength and determination not to let her anxiety overcome her life, although a lot of the time with mental illness, you don’t have much of a say in the matter. Sebastion didn’t appear to be nearly as  multi dimensional as Jade did, since we only really got to see the positives when it came to him. I would have liked to see more sides to him, but I feel like the role he played in Jade’s story was perfectly subtle and sweet. He was very accepting and understanding, a perfect gentleman who wasn’t quick to judge or express negative emotion.

Jade’s family and the conflict between her and her parents played a large role in the book as well, as did her relationships with her friends. I easily understood a lot of the frustrations she dealt with in her home and school life and how she struggled to see which friendships were real and which ones were shallow. I will definitely be seeking out more books by Deb Caletti!

17.) The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

rb4Armentrout’s books have long been a guilty pleasure of mine, but this gem is a true masterpiece. It realistically tackles the difficulties of living with anxiety as a teenager in high school, especially for a foster child still recovering from a traumatic childhood.

Mallory hasn’t seen her childhood friend and protector Ryder, in years. Not since the incident that separated them and landed her in the hospital. Four years later she has a loving foster family and is getting to ready to tackle her next big obstacle-attending public school for her senior year, after years of homeschooling. Her extreme fear of public speaking and social interaction has her anxiety through the roof, and she has no idea what to expect.
What she least suspects, though,  is to run in to Ryder on the first day of school. She hasn’t seen him since she was thirteen, and although they’ve both changed tremendously, they recognize each other immediately and quickly reunite as friends. And eventually, as they get to know each other again, they even begin to see each other as something more.
But Ryder’s life isn’t quite so put together as it initially seemed. He and his foster brothers have gotten caught up in some dangerous crowds, and although they’ve tried to put it behind them, they may not be completely out of the woods.
Mallory always thought Ryder was the stronger of the two of them, the one who didn’t need protecting. As she watches him lose his grip and his life begins to spiral out of control, she begins to see that their past affects him more than she could have thought. And she has to decide wether she should fight for him or just let him go.
Mallory’s struggle with anxiety was very relatable and believable. As someone with anxiety myself, I felt like that part of her was realistically portrayed-the extreme shyness, occasional stuttering, the intense fear of public speaking. I knew exactly how she felt at particular moments. The steps she took to fight it and her determination to not let it take over her life was admirable and inspiring. She slowly learns to stand up for herself and love who she is.
Ryder Ryder Ryder! This boy was just so ridiculously sweet and gentle and understanding. He was an amazing friend to Mallory-enouraging and accepting and patient. He was exactly what Mallory needed at that time in her life. He’s just gorgeous inside and out. I mean seriously, can’t you just hear me gushing? Definitely one of my favorite book boyfriends.
Overall, a perfectly romantic and heart breaking yet inspiring read about self love and acceptance, overcoming your past, and the power of family and friendship. Most of Jennifers work are simply guilty pleasures for me, but this book is by far her best work, by far my favorite, and a complete and total masterpiece. Here I go, gushing again!
18.) Chasing Truth (The Eleanor Ames series) by Julie Cross

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 Julie Cross is becoming a new favorite author of mine. Her characters just feel so much more unique and complicated than most, which makes them more real to me.
Chasing Truth is the first in a series, and it follows former con artist Eleanor Ames as she struggles to live a normal life free of her past. Her parents are no longer in the picture (although she’s initially vague about the reason) so she lives with her older sister and her (sister’s) boyfriend.
Things haven’t exactly gotten off to a good start so far: Ellie’s first and only friend at her new high school commits suicide by gun just months after they meet. Eleanor is sure that there’s more to it, and is determined to uncover the truth.
When Miles moves in next door, he’s instantly suspicious of her and seems to dislike her from the moment they meet. The feeling is mutual, and Ellie keeps her distance. But soon she starts to question his reason for being here; Is Miles arrival in her town just coincidence or is he here for a reason? And could he possibly have something to do with Simon’s murder?
As they form a steady friendship, their feelings for each other grow complicated, hovering somewhere between romantic and friendly, but they’re still wary to trust one another completely. Given Miles’s aversion for any kind of law breaking or injustice, Ellie is sure he’d hate her if he discovered the truth about her family. But as they begin working together towards a common goal, she finds she has bigger issues to deal with. The closer they get to the truth, the less they know who they can trust and the higher the stakes are.
Miles is a very serious and intense guy, with little patience for games or anyone who plays them. As he and Ellie become friends though, he shows a softer, more sympathetic side of himself. Ellie is a well-written protagonist, guilty over her past and desperate to make up for it and move on. She’s admirably confident at times but vulnerable at others, and she felt more believable to me because of it. I liked how many different sides there were to her.
There’s also some diversity in this book, in case you were wondering. There’s lots of kissing as well, many different types of characters, and a whole lot of mystery and suspense. I’m anxiously awaiting the release of book two!
19.) Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

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Despite our main character’s tragic past and her string of terrible luck, Girl Against the Universe was one of the funniest, most heart-warming reads of this year.
Ever since she was little, Maguire has had terrible luck. Or, more accurately, she seems to bring bad luck to everyone around her; from rollercoasters flying off tracks, to houses catching fire, to the car wreck that killed her dad and brother. But Maguire? She survived without a scratch, like all the other times. So she can’t help but feel like a bad luck charm, stuck drowning in survivors guilt and terrified of getting close to anyone, lest she ruin their life too.
When she moves to a new school, Maguire meets Jordy, a tennis star who seems to have everything-girls, money, a solid tennis career, and a loving family. But as they grow close, she sees that things aren’t all that simple for him either. Jordy tries to show her that the events in her past weren’t her fault and that she can change her luck if only she stops blaming herself for every little mishap.
Jordy and his sister were both very likable characters who brought a lot to the story and some much-needed positivity to Maguire’s life. Jordy was adorably awkward and easy going and an easy-to-love character.
The romance was super sweet, as were the friend and family relationships, and I loved this story that was both moving, inspiring and cute as heck. It was a compelling sports romance about letting go and learning to look at life in a more positive light.
20.) Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods

supernovas From the very first chapter, this book had me laughing out loud. Literally. The main character Wilamena is one of the most eccentric and entertaining narrators I’ve ever read. She’s weird and she knows it; she owns it. She’s exactly who she wants to be, with her cat eye glasses and astrology obsession. She doesn’t pretend to be anyone she’s not. She gets herself into some pretty hilarious and ridiculous situations that had me simultaneously giggling and cringing from second-hand embarassment.

Ever since her mom died in a car accident a few years previously, Wil’s lived with her grandmother. Her grandmother doesn’t believe in all the “astrological houey” that Wil and her mom, an expert astrologist, lived by and insists that it’s ridiculous for her  to live her life according to the stars. But Wil is determined to live by her mother’s beliefs and continue her legacy, so she ignores her grandmothers warnings.
When her horoscope tells her that she has an opportunity, a certain period of time to find long lasting love, she sets out to find someone who’s star sign is said to be her perfect match. She finds him…and his brother.
As she starts dating Seth, her “perfect match” she grows closer to his brother Grant. Even as she’s falling for him she refuses to let go of her mothers beliefs, denying their attraction to each other, because she just knows things couldn’t possibly work out between two incompatible signs…right? Torn between her heart and wanting to honor her mothers memory, Wil has to decide whether dating someone from the “right” side of the chart is worth losing her shot at true love and her own happiness.
Grant is the cute, sensitive guitar-playing type. He’s gentle, sweet, patient, a good listener, and adorably dorky. His brother Seth had his moments too, but Grant is definitely the brother I’d choose. Seriously, such a cutiepie. A talented, good looking cutiepie. I loved him. He was perfect for Wil and loved her for who she was, even in her moments of stubborness and quirkiness.
And Wil’s best friend Iri was an amazing person as well; equally quirky and hilarious. I loved their friendship and how they were more like sisters to each other. I’d totally read a book about Iri if Darcy Woods were to write one.
If you’re looking for a touching, light-hearted romantic read with lots of star gazing, kissing and laugh-out-loud moments, then pick this one up! It’s a good read for any time of year.
21.) Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Image result for breaking beautiful by jennifer shaw wolf If there’s anything I love more than romances, it’s books featuring twins who are each others best friends. And this book has both! But this is not a light-hearted book at all. It follows the story of a girl named Allie struggling to adapt to life after the death of her boyfriend; a boyfriend who abused her both emotionally and physically, unbenownst to both her twin and her best friend Blake.

 Allie doesn’t know what happened the night her boyfriend Trip, died. All she knows is that his car went off a cliff, and that she was able to jump out of the car just in time. But she didn’t escape unharmed; her fall from the truck resulted in a nasty head injury that landed her in the hospital. This left her with a scar across her cheek, her previously long, golden hair now cut in an ugly bob and a partially shaved head.
In the two years that she and Trip dated, her friendship with Blake had faltered as a result of her boyfriend’s possesive behavior. Now, he’s back in her life, trying to help her put her life back together, and she has no idea where they stand. Her lack of motivation to leave the house and learn to live again has her pushing both Blake and her twin Andrew away, but they’re determined to be there for her.
Trip had been admired by many, and had lots of friends and girls fawning over him. Allie’s classmates are suspicious about her role in his death, blaming her. And Allie is terrified they might be right-that she may have played a deliberate role in his death to escape the pain he put her through.
Blake was hard to get a read on at first. I wasn’t sure how much he knew about the accident, what he knew about her relationship with Trip, or what his exact feelings were for Allie. But I liked that he believed her, was there for her despite how she had cut him off over the past couple years. He was gentle and patient with her, with an understanding for what she was going through. It was obvious he cared a lot for her-possibly even in a more-than-friends type of way, but he never pushed her or demanded anything of her. I could tell Allie missed their friendship as much as he did, and that she may have felt the same way until Trip invaded her life. Blake was a closed book much of the time but his motives still felt genuine to me, and the romance developing between them was slow but sweet.
Her twin brother Andrew was a total sweetheart and the best brother anyone could ask for. He felt her pain and his obvious love for his sister was shown through both his actions and words. Andrew is wheelchair-bound and living with cerebral palsy, which makes it hard for him to communicate, but he didn’t let it stop him from trying to get through to Allie. The sibling bond between them was powerful. They stood up for each other and would do almost anything to keep the other safe, and I thought it was a beautiful relationship that brought this book to life.
This story deals a lot with grief and Allie’s struggle for self acceptance, but it’s also a murder-mystery from start to finish, with plenty of suspenseful and creepy moments. It deals with a very heavy topic, but is overall a positive book about survival and repairing broken relationships.
 22.) Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider

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Yet another book featuring both twins and lots of romance! This time, much less dark and taking place in Hawaii during the summer.
After discovering her boyfriend has been cheating on her, Sloane finds herself with a broken wrist from a sloppy punch she delivers to his nose. So she is all too relieved to be spending the summer at her mom’s house in Hawaii. Especially considering the other girl just happens to be her best friend-who’s now pregnant.
Sloane is determined to have an unforgettable summer and forget all about her disloyal ex-boyfriend and traitorous former friend. But even in Hawaii, she can’t escape the never-ending texts and emails they’re firing her way.
In Hawaii, she meets Finn, and as they spend time together, the chemistry between them is threatening to turn their friendship into something more. Sloane doesn’t know if she’s ready to move into another relationship so quickly. Her feelings for Finn seem real, but can things between them be any more than just a summer fling or a rebound to mend her broken heart?
While this book was mostly a cutesy summer romance, there were parts that had me so frustrated and angry that I wanted to throw the book out the window. Her former boyfriend and best friend don’t let up in their barage of texts and emails, even going so far as to try to guilt trip her into responding and manipulate her into giving them another chance by bombarding her with positive memories of their pasts together. Seriously, I wanted to scream at them. I wanted Sloane to tell them off, but she didn’t, and it frustrated me.
Even Finn had me frustrated at times, with his jumping to conclusions and stubborn refusal to listen to explanations before making an assumption. Overall though, he was by far a better person than Sloane’s lying ex and aside from one incident, he treated her wonderfully. He was understanding and patient regarding her reluctance to jump into another relationship, and he helped her to live the amazing summer she wanted so she could temporarily forget the betrayal she’d left behind.
Sloane didn’t always stand up for herself the way I wanted her too, but I admired her strength and maturity in handling it all, and how she didn’t easily give in to her friend and ex’s pleas for forgiveness. So, although this was primarily a cute and fun summer read, it definitely dealt with some pretty serious topics surrounding friendships and relationships as well. Although we didn’t learn too much about her twin, I did like how well they got along and the protectiveness he had for her.
The romance between Sloane and Finn is full of sparks and cute moments I thought he was the perfect guy to help her forget her asshole ex. The feelings between them didn’t feel forced or fake or too sudden either. Their relationship, while rocky at times, felt real and healthy. I would, without a doubt, pick up another book by this author!
23.) Rogue (Talon #2) by Julie Kagawa

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I’ve always loved Julie Kagawa’s work, and this series is no exception. I read the first book in this series, Talon, a few years ago, and while I did enjoyed it, I didn’t LOVE it like I did it’s sequel. Rogue just felt so much more complex to me, the characters more real, the plot more interesting and intense. And the romance was twice as hot.
It’s hard to review a book two without giving spoilers, but the main reason I love this series overall is-dragons! Yes, a few of our main characters are dragons who have the ability to change into humans. Ember and her twin brother Dante, are sent to live among humans, as part of the assimilation process of their training. Each young dragon in their community is given a career based on their skills and assets. And once they’re of age, they’re expected to complete all missions given without complaint. But first, they have to learn to disguise themselves in the human world and blend in among them.
Garrett has been raised his whole life to hate dragons, and trained since a kid to hunt and kill them. His new mission? To find the young dragons hiding out in crowded beach town and kill them. He and Ember meet, and begin to fall for each other, but Garrett doesn’t know who-or what-she really is. Nor does Ember know who he is. Will he ever be able to look past his prejudices, or will he not hesitate to kill her once he discovers the truth?
I already liked the characters in book one, but book two just took them and expanded them, made them more real, more dimensional, more developed. And the storyline was twice as suspenseful and quicker paced. I’m getting ready to read book 3, and book four comes out early 2017! I can’t wait to see what direction this series takes.
24.) A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

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From the well-known and loved author of Throne of Glass, comes A Court of Mist and Fury, the much anticipated sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses, which I also read this year. But this sequel just stomps all over it. There is no comparison. This is just one kick-ass follow-up of a novel.
Book one began with Feyre struggling to provide food and clothes for her family. Since her mother died and their dad lost their house, they’ve lived in poverty on the edge of the woods. Feyre does all of the hunting, the cooking and preparing of meals, but doesn’t get much gratitude from her bratty older sisters or crippled father. She seems to be the only one working to keep them fed.
One day, Feyre kills a wolf in the woods. Later that evening a terrifying beast appears at her home, demanding she pay for the life she took, which also happened to be a fairy, a human’s mortal enemy. To save her family from the beast’s wrath, she agrees to be taken into the fairy realm, where she’ll live out the rest of her life.
While there she discovers that there’s a huge threat to both her world and the Fey’s world, one that she must find a way to stop before it spreads past the wall dividing the two worlds.
As Feyre falls in and out of love,dodges death, and adjusts to life in this strange new land, she discovers that things aren’t necessarily as black and white as she’d thought, that not all faeries are evil.
Book two was just twice as incredible as the first one. There’s incredible character development in Feyre, slowly developing friendships and relationships between those she’d previously considered enemies, and a whole lot of world building. I personally think that A Court of Mist and Fury is Sarah J Maas’s best work so far.
Disclaimer: A Court of Mist and Fury fits more under the “New Adult” category despite its label as a Young Adult novel. I don’t think it’s really suitable for anyone under 17 or so.
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Top YA Series I read in 2016:

 

Illuminae and Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

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If you’ve read my review of Illuminae then you’ll know why I love these books so much: the unique formatting is made up of emails and IM’s, hacked documents, drawings, diagrams, diary entries and more. The characters are hardass troopers , the plot is nail-bitingly addictive and full of of action, violence, conspiracy, suspense, romance, a whole lot of creepy, and even plenty of humor.

I loved Gemina as much as I did Illuminae, and the banter between our new characters Hanna and Nik was hilarious and heartfelt. I loved the relationship Hanna had with her dad, and Nik with his cousin. Their relationship reminded me in many ways of Katy and Ezra, but was so unique at the same time. Hanna goes from being a priviliged rich girl living a sheltered life as the station captain’s daughter to running for her life from the bad guys who’ve put a target on her back. Nik, the resident drug dealer and member of a notorius crime family, also finds himself fighting for survival when an exchange goes awry. Despite his liftstyle, Nik was a very selfless and sympathetic character, a real teddy bear at heart. And Hanna turns out to be a whole lot more than the spoiled rich girl people have her pegged as.

There were scenes that sent shivers down my spine and others that had me sobbing so hard I had to put the book down for a week. Literally. So be warned! But it is so so so worth it. I had the pleasure of meeting Jay and Amie at a book signing/discussion in San Diego a couple weeks ago and I can tell they are two of the funniest authors I have ever met. I can see why they work so well together-they have the same sense of humor and balance each other out perfectly.

Fun Fact: I met the authors at a book signing just a few months ago, and Amie said the Jay is to blame for any over-abundance of gore and death, and that it’s him we should curse to high heavens when we find ourselves bawling our eyes out and cringing in shock at two in the morning. So blame him, I have. But I must admit he is a wonderful writer and story teller, as is Amy. I’m super stoked that there will be a third book in this series released next year! I’m jumping in anticipation. Hopefully my heart can handle it.

 

The Darkest Minds trilogy by Alexandra Bracken

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Another popular series that lived up to the hype, these are without a doubt the best YA Dystopian books I have ever read. You can read a mini review for The Darkest Minds on my previous post Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Lived up to the Hype. But here’s an overall summary of my love for this series and why it was one of the best ones I read this year.

Alexandra Bracken knows how to bring to life a band of diverse and eccentric characters, and I was highly impressed with how real they felt and how unique they all were to each other. Ruby is a character you’ll instantly be rooting for when you learn of the hardships she’s been through, and the supporting characters each bring something original to the story. You won’t have a hard time remembering their names or distinguishing between them.

The trilogy is overflowing with tear-jerking moments, shocking twists and a whole lot of car chase scenes as our group of escapees flee from enemies determined to throw them back into the rehabilitation camps or use them in their fight against the government. Romance, violence, friendship, action, terror, and the supernatural collide in a post-apocalyptic world thrown into disarray by the sudden appearance of frightening new mutant abilities in the current generation of teens.

 

The Naturals series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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This is a psychologically thrilling series about a young girl who is asked to come join a group of teens-all of whom have different crime solving abilities- and put her own abilities to the test to help them solve murders.

Cassie’s mom was murdered when she was younger, but they never found her body nor her mother’s killer. Cassie accepts their request, hoping to possibly find some answers regarding her mother’s death. They’re only allowed to work on cold cases, however, so she may not find the answers she’s looking for. However, soon they find themselves caught up in a current murder investigation-one that just might have something to do with them.

As the series goes on, they tackle multiple mysteries and bad guys, each new spree of murders seeming to connect to each of their past, dredging up old memories and involving them more than they ever would have expected.

Each of the five teens have their own tragic pasts, but each of them gained some insight into the murder investigations because of it. Each of them deal with it in their own way, and although they clash constantly, they look after each other and work with one another. Each of them are both likable and hard to like at times.

But I truly loved all of them-especially Dean, despite how broody and bitter he appears at first impression. The whole lot of them-Dean, Michael, Sloane, Lia and our main character Cassie are all very multi dimensional and intriguing personalities, and we get glimpses into each of their pasts.

We even get the POV’ of the killer every other chapter or so, which I found very interesting and extremely well written. This is such an exciting crime series, and I definitely suggest it to lovers of crime tv shows. I actually have yet to read the final book Bad Blood, but I hope to sart it soon!

 

The Ascendance trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen

the-ascendance-trilogy

The love I garnered for this series took me by surprise. I didn’t expect to become so invested in the journey and trials of a fourteen year old orphan boy. But before I knew it I was hooked on this trilogy, despite my tendency to avoid books containing little to no romance and featuring young male protagonists. It was just so interesting, so impossible to put down, and the characters, especially our main character Sage, are just so exciting and unpredictable and unique.

After being caught trying to steal some meat from a vendor, Sage finds himself taken from the orphanage by a mysterious stranger. The guy’s mission? To find a suitable imposter to fill the role of the king’s long-thought dead son and present him as the false prince. And this very well may be a fight to the death. His only option is to win the role of the imposter.

He makes some unlikely friends along the way; a mute servant girl, even one of his captors, and the other boys he’s competing with.

Sage is impossible not to like, despite some of his questionable behavior and decision making. He’s confident, snarky and unafraid to speak up to anybody. But underneath it all, he’s just a teenage boy trying to survive among wolves and remember who he is even as he’s trained to be someone he’s not.

I tore through this series in just a few months, not wanting Sage’s journey to ever end. There’s action, adventure and suspense from beginning to end, and Sage is a character you won’t forget any time soon.

 


The Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead

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I don’t read very many vampire books anymore, but this series is just so addicting and the whole cast of characters is impossible not to adore.

Sydney is an Alchemist, part of a group of humans who protect humans and vampires from each other, and hide the existence of vampires from the mortal world. When she’s woken up in the middle of the night, she’s terrified that they’re finally going to send her to the Alchemist rehabilitation center, as punishment for helping and befriending a vampire. They protect vampire secrets, but to get too close to one is seen as taboo.

Instead, she’s given a new assignment, to pose as a senior at a high school in Palm Desert with a young vampire princess as her roommate; a princess who is in great danger and needs to be hidden away from potential assasins.

At first, Sydney is not pleased. Although these are the kinds of jobs her alchemist status require, she believes vampires are truly unnatural creatures. She’s terrified at having to live with one and work alongside the other vampires and half vampires assigned to protect the princess. They’re all posing as siblings, but she can barely stand to be around them, scared of the magic and strength they possess.

As the series goes on, though, Sydney begins to see that not all vampires are evil, and that the alchemists aren’t all good. She makes vampire friends, falls into a forbidden romance, and comes to care for her team of fake “siblings.” She uncovers secrets regarding the alchemists and finds herself trusting them less, and the vampires more.

Sydney is an interesting character-she’s a huge nerd who knows pretty much everything there is to know about everything. She’s very studious, and very set in her ways. She actually enjoys school and the comfort it brings her, especially math and chemistry-how everything has a straight forward answer that can be solved with a little bit of hard work. And when she can’t find an answer to something, it drives her a little mad. She’s very stubborn, kinda anti-social and lacking in people skills, but very likable all the same-loyal, intelligent, selfless and fiercly independent and determined to get the job done.

The romance slowly builds up over the course of the six book series, with them starting as just-barely-friends and eventually becoming more as their story progresses. Adrian, Adrian, Adrian. The funny thing, is, when he was first introduced in Mead’s other series Vampire Academy, I wasn’t much of a fan of the “rebel bad boy” vibe he gave off, as though he didn’t care for anything aside from smoking and booze and girls. But in this series he’s a much bigger character and we get to see whole new sides to him-and I fell in love right alongside Sydney.

Then there’s Eddie, the super sweet vampire body-guard assigned to protect the princess. Then of course there’s the princess herself, Jill. Eddie is just so nice and selfless and an all around good guy that it’s impossible not to like him. Jill comes off as a little bratty at first, but I came to admire her love for her friends and her strength of spirit.

The characters and ever-growing high stakes suspense of this series made it impossible to put down, and I hated to say good bye to everyone, even after six books! It was a very original vampire universe that hooked me in from the start.

 

The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer

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I wrote a short review of Cinder in my last post if you want to check it out! These were some of my favorite retellings I read this year. We have well-known characters such as Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel brought back to life with very unique personalities and living in a science fiction version of Europe.

The author somehow manages to weave their stories together and introduce multiple character POV’s without it being confusing. It’s seriously impressive! There’s so much going on at once- plenty of romance, action, kick-ass female characters, and of course, an evil queen trying to destroy them all. But Myers manages not to make it too convoluted, and despite it being based on retellings, the series isn’t at all predictable, and tells an entirely new story. So if you haven’t picked these up yet, what are you waiting for?

 

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Aaaaaaand that’s a wrap! But here’s a list of my 2016 ‘Honorable Mentions’, or just some more favorites I was too lazy to write reviews for. Aside from One was Lost, which you can find here.

 

 

 

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