Review: Best Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

4 stars (I really liked it)

Best Friends cover (link to Goodreads)

This one didn’t make me cry, so I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing or just a me thing. But it had more of the same things I adored in the first book, only for junior high: the drama of having boys (or girls) who like you or who you think you might like but aren’t sure or who you think you’re supposed to like but you’ve never really thought about it. It’s got navigating the pressure to be cool and to fit in, which I personally didn’t relate with because I was the direct opposite of cool in junior high, but it’s just so well done, and the art is emotional and adorable and relatable, and I loved watching Shannon as a baby novelist.

These books are important. They are for everyone who is a kid, who was a kid, or who knows a kid. Really. Go read them if you haven’t. It’ll only take an hour or two per book.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

4 stars (I really liked it).

Insignificant Events cover (link to Goodreads)

What’s great about this book:

  • Representation of both the MC, who has no arms, and her friend with Tourette’s
  • A cheerful, fun tone throughout–easy for kids and adults alike to love
  • A happy, intact family
  • The main character herself

What didn’t work as well for me:

  • The mystery–I felt the book would have worked as well or better without it

Luckily, the mystery wasn’t a crucial enough piece that I couldn’t enjoy the story without it, so this still rates 4 stars for me. My 11 year old son also read this and liked it.

Review: The Strangers by Margaret Petersen Haddix

2 stars (It was okay).

Chess, Emma, and Finn come home from school one day to find their mother very upset about an article about three missing children from Arizona who share their names. They don’t think much of it until she also disappears. Then they try to solve both mysteries and end up falling into a rather science fiction story.

I couldn’t help but compare this book to my own middle grade story about parallel worlds and kids who get mixed up in them. Except . . . dare I say I think my book is better?

I never really connected with the characters, especially the youngest, Finn. I didn’t think the clues lead logically from one to another, and I felt like the kids took way too long to figure out what was going on.

You can bet I’m using this as a comp title, though.

Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner

5 stars (It was amazing!)

This was book 2 on my read-YA-science-fiction-with-male-protagonists list, and it did not disappoint. It did remind me in feel of the Illuminae Files series, so if you like that, maybe check this out. And if you don’t like that, then maybe this won’t be for you either.

Is this book going to change the world? Absolutely not. Was the romance swoony and believable? Oh yes. I loved watching the two leads gradually increasing in respect for one another, which slowly developed into love. The plot also kept surprising me, and a series of twists blew my mind.

It’s fun science fiction and fun romance. The YA voice is just right. I’m not sure it would be the sort of thing my 13 year old son would love at this moment in his life, but maybe it would be. Who knows?

There is a pretty tame sex scene, so I guess parents should know about that.

Review: The Terrible Two Go Wild by Mac Barnett and Jory John

2 stars (It was okay).

So, the humor’s still here. Our prankster heroes are still magnificent at pranking. Principal Barkin continues to be a delightful character. The illustrations are great. What I was missing for much of this book was plot. I read it out loud to my 8 year old and 5 year old, and we all kept wondering where it was going.

By the end, it had settled into itself, but we did find ourselves kind of bored and confused quite a few times before that.

But it has a 4.2 star rating on Goodreads, so who knows?