I am a huge fan of paranormal and urban fantasy. I love a little magic and dangerous creatures in my romance, but lately I have been addicted to a different genre. Contemporary. I have always felt that contemporary YA has been lacking,but these titles made me shut up. They are filled with drama, action, tragic heroes, bamf heroines, twisted pasts and romance. Only books like these can make me forget that I usually go for vampires, shifters and warlocks.
Below are the sections of my reviews for each book that perfectly sum up how I felt after reading them. :-)
The Time I Joined the Circus by J.J Howard
A book like this stands squarely on the shoulders of its heroine and narrator. If Lexi was whiny, annoying, a mary sue, a martyr or someone who just cannot survive on her own, this book would have failed. It works so beautifully, because as a reader I loved the narrator’s voice. What I love most about Lexi Ryan is that she felt like a legitimate teenager and more importantly she felt like a legitimate New Yorker. As someone who was born and raised in NYC, went to high school on Amsterdam ave and college at NYU, I often roll my eyes at “New Yorkers” in books. Not so Ms. Lexi Ryan. The way she speaks, her attitudes toward certain things and her opinions are so authentic New York, I saw myself clear as day in her. Most of all, we New Yorkers are survivors. We can survive and triumph over everything. Lexi Ryan continues that spirit as she learns to move on from the guilt and sorrow that follows the death of her father.
Golden by Jessi Kirby
I loved this book. There are so many elements that I could gush on for paragraph after paragraph. The best thing about this book is the main character, Parker. I love when the main character is amazing. A lot of the time it’s the world, the love interest, the story, the dialogue, etc and sometimes the main character is boring, whiny or dull. Not Parker. Parker is every person who was so focused on the future they let their youth pass them by. The overachievers. The kid’s from not so well off families, who spend their youth trying to make sure they get out of their small town and make their families proud.
What’s great about Parker is that you not only see her legitimately change, you go through that change with her. Her evolution from a Mary Sue to a legitimate adventurist risk taker is just a joy to read. You can feel this girl shaking off the responsibility and just letting herself be a kid. I found myself rooting for her to cut class, kiss the boy and defy her mom at least once!
What’s also great about Parker is her nonstop optimism. It’s not over the top and perky to the point of annoying. Parker, like us, reads a lot of books. Those books have epic love stories and happily ever after. Parker’s parents are divorced and although she has never really seen it, Parker believes in true love. She believes in soul mates and happily ever after’s. It is that belief that leads her to Julianna and this life-changing journey.
Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry
On page 1, “Pushing the Limits” felt like it was going to be just a normal angsty young adult book. You know the type. Where the heroine has a messed up family and the hero’s dad beats him. The kind of book written by a clueless adult who doesn’t really remember being a teenager, but tries to connect to the youth by saying “hey, I know you have problems, read about fucked up lives in my book! You will relate, because I understand.”
Those kinds of books usually try too hard and usually fail in my eyes. Not so “Pushing the Limits.” Echo and Noah not only felt real to me, their romance is honest and their conclusion not perfect, but a happily ever after all the same.
This book made me cry, a lot. I was literally in tears the entire last act. I have never read a book where I could feel two teenagers becoming adults before “Pushing the Limits.” Noah and Echo both learn how to make the tough choices, how to let go of the past and how to forgive. They have to give up the happy endings they built up in their heads and do the right thing for themselves, each other and their families.
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
I loved “Anna and the French Kiss,” absolutely adored it. So, when I read reviews that its companion novel “Lola and the Boy Next Door,” wasn’t as good, I believed it. I entered Lola’s world with lower expectations and was absolutely blown away by how much I loved this book. First of all, I love Lola. Even when she’s making wrong choices or allows herself to be taken advantage of, I adore her. She’s unique, she has amazing resilience and her very own style. Lola is the kind of girl who can take a picnic blanket and create an awesome dress. She wears wigs of varying colors, puts on platform boots and does her make-up in outlandish tones. No one really understands Lola. They think that her costumes are disguises that she hides behind. The only one who truly gets that her colorful style is Lola, is Cricket Bell, the boy next door.
The Fault in Our Star by John Green
Every now and then a book is released that gets everyone talking. Readers and non-readers alike are captivated by a world, by characters, by a story or by a niche that overwhelms them. They talk about it and talk about it until everyone in the world has read the book or seen the movie. I am usually one of those people who get the hype first and spread the word, but sometimes I’m on the other end. Sometimes, I am one of those people who come late to the game and then get overwhelmed. “The Fault in Our Stars” overwhelmed me.
Hazel Grace is the best kind of heroine. She is smart, charming, quirky and aware of herself. There is no whining or bitching about how life is not fair. Hazel knows life isn’t fair, but she has moved on from that. She’s on the living part. She takes classes at the local college during the day and gets swept away in fiction books by night. She does her best to put on a happy face for friends and family, but she always lives with the truth that she is dying.
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
When I closed the book, I broke out into uncontrollable sobs. I couldn’t stop, because I was so relieved. Not, because this book is bad. No, TS0T could never be described as bad. This is the most emotionally draining book I have read in a long time, in the best possible way. I forgot that I could empathize so strongly with fictional characters. I forgot how horrible life could sometimes be for teenagers. I forgot that sometimes you just have a string of luck so horrible, you know without a shadow of a doubt that if there is a God, he hates you.
There is nothing really “average” about the relationship between these two characters. They meet and their worlds collide, because they both make the choice to risk a connection to each other. They can’t help it, they don’t want it, but they are magnets. This romance unfolds in ways that makes no sense and yet it works so wonderfully. I literally want everyone I have ever met to give this book a chance. It’s worth it.