What I’ve Been Reading: 2014 Releases Edition

My almost-one-book-a-day streak didn’t last (which was probably a good thing for my productivity in other areas), but I did tear through four YA novels in the last week. Call it the last hurrah of the summer. All four books happened to be published in 2014, though none of them are debuts. Below are some thoughts on each one. I can’t promise there aren’t spoilers.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I did not guess the twist, so in that respect this book succeeded for me. I do think all the hype surrounding We Were Liars and knowing that there was going to be a huge twist lessened its impact, but when the reveal came, I did get one good shiver out of it. Also, wow, what a toxic family. Widowed patriarch playing his three malicious daughters off one another, said malicious daughters forcing their children to manipulate their grandfather into giving their mothers pieces of the inheritance… It makes one grateful not to have been born into a family so wealthy it owns a private island.

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

I read Complicit directly after We Were Liars and was struck by how much the two books have in common. (Here’s where you have to watch out for spoilers!) I mean, they both feature unreliable narrators who cannot remember the past, including the fact that they set deadly fires. They both have suspenseful plots that build to a major twist. In the case of Complicit, I did go in knowing the main twist, because I’m one of those people who always blithely clicks “view spoiler” when reading reviews online, even when I haven’t read the book yet (okay, I made an exception for We Were Liars because the twist was so hyped). Knowing the truth didn’t spoil my enjoyment of Kuehn’s novel, though, and in fact I hadn’t realized the full extent of the twist, so there were still shocking revelations above and beyond what I was expecting. And that ending! So chilling.

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

This book is about two girls, Biddy and Quincy, who become roommates after graduating from their high school’s Special Ed program. The writing is lovely and spare, conveying much in a few words, and the story is unflinching in its approach to the really horrific things Biddy and Quincy go through. It’s not sensational, though, and at its core, this is a book about friendship and hope. It’s funny in places too. I really loved it.

Like No Other by Una LaMarche

This is a modern tale of star-crossed love between two teens in Brooklyn. I don’t read a lot of books that are “just” romances, but when I heard this one was about Devorah, a Hasidic girl, and Jaxon, a West Indian boy, who get stuck in a hospital elevator together during a hurricane, I had to read it. And I really enjoyed it! Devorah and Jaxon both had engaging voices, and I thought the Hasidim were portrayed with sensitivity (though obviously I’m far from an expert). The ending was well done, neither unrealistically happy (love doesn’t always conquer all) nor utterly crushing. My one quibble was that Devorah and Jaxon go from being strangers to saying they love each other in the space of a few weeks. Literally their entire relationship from beginning to end lasts less than one month, and yet in the middle of that they believe not that they’re “in love” but that they actually love each other. I just had trouble buying that. Maybe this is a sign that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager, but. Precipitous love aside, though, I thought this book was wonderful. Maybe my obsession with Chaim Potok meant I was destined to like it.

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