Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Bailey “Mink” Rydell is pretty sure her soul mate is a fellow film geek she only knows online as “Alex.” When she moves across the country to live with her dad, it just happens to be the same town where Alex resides, but since they agreed to keep the personal stuff to a minimum, she doesn’t know how to find him. But, she does find the annoying, yet charming, Porter Roth. As Bailey and Porter grow closer, she begins to wonder if finding Alex is still a priority. She just doesn’t know she’s already found him. Jenn Bennett creates a delightful YA take on You’ve Got Mail with Bailey and Porter. Their quips back and forth create an undeniable chemistry as does the snippets of their online conversations that intertwine with the story. That chemistry is what pulls the whole story together and kept me reading when I should have been sleeping.
Starflight by Melissa Landers
Solara Brooks needs to restart her life and the best way to do that is find passage to the outer realm where no one will care about the felony tattoos across her fingers. Unfortunately, the only way to get there is to become the indentured servant of her former classmate, Doran Spaulding, the spoiled heir to a fuel fortune. Suddenly, everything changes when Doran is accused of conspiracy and must flee the authorities. Solara tricks him into playing her servant and the two find refuge aboard the Banshee with its rag-tag crew. Starflight is a refreshing YA science fiction space adventure with excellent protagonists and an enjoyable supporting cast. It’s a fast-paced read with engaging plot points. I particularly liked Solara. She was an independent, non-apologetic, yet still feminine character. You’ll have fun with this easy, sci-fi tale.
Scarred by Joanne Macgregor
Sloane’s life was perfect. But after a life-changing car accident, she’s left with an ugly scar on the side of her face and hopefully a fresh start at a new school. When she recognizes Luke Naughton, the cute swimmer she used to see at meets, Sloane thinks that maybe her new start might not be so bad until she smiles at him and he sends a sneer back. Sloane is sure that her scar disgusts him and tries to keep her distance but when life keeps throwing them together, Sloane discovers that looks might be deceiving. Scarred is an unremarkable yet enjoyable YA novel about loss, bullying, and forgiveness. The story moves along at a good pace and I found the protagonist, Sloane, to be realistic and sympathetic. There were some overdramatic points toward the end but overall, it was a nice, easy read.
Interference by Kay Honeyman
Kate Hamilton likes to “interfere” and it mostly gets her in trouble. When her Congressman father decides to run in a special election in his hometown in West Texas, Kate finds herself out of her usual Washington D.C. element and thrust into a world where football is king. As things get off to a rocky start, Kate keeps running into an irritating boy, Hunter, every time she screws up. Can she finally use her good intentions and machinations to help make this new place home? Kay Honeyman takes a somewhat bland YA retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma and saves it through her characters. Kate, like Emma, tends to annoy me as a reader as she continually messes with the lives of the good people around her but Kate seems to have better motivations for her interference. And of course, it is Hunter that draws all the attention just as Mr. Knightly is the perfect gentleman. I enjoyed this retelling by the end but it lacked imagination in spinning the West Texas, football, political campaign, and high school dramatics all together in a cohesive story.
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Andie Walker always has a plan. Her plan for this summer was an academic pre-pre-med program at Johns Hopkins but when a political scandal involving her congressman father changes everything, Andie’s life suddenly veers off her carefully controlled course. She finds herself actually living with her dad for the first time in years, working as a dog walker, and flirting with a super cute boy named Clark, who just might break her usual three-week and done rule for dating. The Unexpected Everything makes it official. Morgan Matson has made it on my favorite authors list. After reading this, her fourth great book, in only a day, I am convinced that her YA novels are at least a couple steps above average. Her writing is superb and her characters linger more than most of the other YA books I have read. Case-in-point: Clark is definitely lingering. He’s nerdy and nervous and completely adorable. I especially liked the way that he challenged Andie and helped draw her out of her emotionally guarded comfort zone. If you are in the mood for feel-good yet heartfelt stories about summers, friendship, love, and ice cream, Morgan Matson’s books should definitely be at the top of the list.
Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt
Brighton Waterford, all-around nice, popular princess, and Jonah Prentiss, brash, angry new guy, started the day as each other’s biggest annoyance. What a difference 14 hours can make. The long, awkward night brings them closer together and soon they find out that they might just be what the other needs. Brighton helps Jonah accept his parents’ divorce and his subsequent move to the neighboring rich town. Jonah forces Brighton to drop her sunny façade and face her real issues. Super cute and well-written, Bright Before Sunrise is a terrific way to spend an evening.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
What is described as a book about the unlikely event in which two teenage boys both named Will Grayson meet on a Chicago street corner one cold night, ends up being an enchanting read in the hands of the masterful John Green and David Levithan. These powerhouse YA authors create a wonderfully funny, uplifting, and earnest coming-of-age story about friendship, love, and one epic musical. Written in alternating chapters between the Wills, the voices of the characters are distinct but the plot never feels choppy. I don’t expect anything less from these great writers and you shouldn’t either. Read it.
Song of Summer by Laura Lee Anderson
Robin’s perfect guy must be tall, dark, handsome, a good tipper, nice to kids, and have good taste in music. After all, Robin’s first love is her guitar and folk music. Then Carter walks into the diner where Robin works and he fits every single item with one exception, he’s deaf. Despite the fact that they don’t quite speak the same language, the closer Robin and Carter get to each other, the more the differences between them seem to fade away. I can’t decide what I think about this book. On the one hand, I really liked the main characters. Robin and Carter were genuine and their feelings felt real to me. On the other hand, some of the drama felt forced. I didn’t fully believe that after mostly overcoming the large communication obstacle that a small misunderstanding would have such a huge impact on them. Maybe, I just didn’t want that to be the case because I care about them. I suppose that is a hallmark of a good story so, on the whole, I’d recommend Song of Summer.
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Morgan Matson continues to impress me with her honest and achingly real novels. Her characters deal with change and growing up with such authentic emotions and Second Chance Summer is no different. Taylor Edwards hasn’t been to her family’s summer lake house since she was twelve and she doesn’t particularly want to be there this summer either. But when Taylor is confronted with memories and mistakes from the past, she realizes maybe this is her second chance with old friends, family and maybe even her childhood crush. Ms. Matson spins a tale of heartbreak, loss, love and hope with the precise amount of laughter, tears, and affection. I’m already looking forward to her next book.