I admit – I used to look down on teen books. I’ve always loved YA sci-fi and fantasy, but I used to think that contemporary teen books were beneath me. Of course, I’ve realized since then just how wrong I was (check out my review of From Twinkle, With Love and When Dimple Met Rishi, both contemporary teen romances), and I’m happy to say, I have a quite a few teen books on my TBR now! In fact, last month, I read three contemporary teen books, and I absolutely adored them!
Here’s what I thought of Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson, One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, and Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo!
Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have always been inseparable. There’s not much excitement in their small town of Cross Creek, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley’s favorite activity: amateur witchcraft.
So when Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.
Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders, but they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Mystery
I first came across this book thanks to a review from May over at Forever and Everly. A quick read through of her thoughts and I was hooked. Witchcraft? Brown girls? Zombie girl gangs? Um, have I died and gone to YA heaven?
While the plot is nothing new (once you’ve read one killer mystery, you’ve read them all, let’s be real – and I figured out who the killer was about one-third of the way into the book), Lily Anderson’s masterful handling of the four main characters still merits this book a five-star rating. Mila, Riley, June, and Dayton are wonderfully fleshed out individuals with different interests and motivations, all of which clearly shone through despite the book being narrated by Mila. That, to me, tells me that Lily took the time to really get to know and tell the stories of these four girls, and I really appreciated that.
Speaking of Mila, I positively loved her! She’s snarky and sarcastic, but deeply caring and protective of those she loves. She’s unapologetic about her weight and her Latinx heritage, and I thoroughly enjoyed her snark. And while she was, indeed, sarcastic and wry, she also has her moments of vulnerability that really made me connect with her.
Despite the supernatural spin to the plot, this book still deals with some very relevant real-world issues. June and Dayton are cruel high school bullies who, in life, made life unbearable for Riley and Mila. Eventually though, they learn the consequences of their actions, and they’re also called out by Mila on how they default to whiteness as what is considered “normal” (I LOVED THAT SCENE). They’re clearly more than their imperfections though – you can clearly see them grow and learn and become better, despite being dead.
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom.
Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery
This was pretty easy to figure out, I’m not gonna lie. But still, I really did enjoy reading this. It felt like a Netflix series in book form – which is to say, if it was, I’d binge-watch it in a heartbeat.
The Bayview Four, as Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, and Cooper come to be known, find themselves as the prime suspects in the murder of their classmate Simon, a notorious gossip who had possibly life-ruining dirt on each of them that he wanted to share with the world. That’s practically the motive du jour, right? Silencing a blackmailer? Well, as it turns out, none of them are actually the killer, and they must band together to figure out who it really is, all while dodging accusations from the police and condemnation from the media.
The suspense and drama is breathtaking, and bolstered up by incredible character growth – especially from Addy! I was rooting all the way for her, and was so happy to see how her story arc ended.
The ending was so satisfying, you guys. It’s especially important today in light of how white boys get a pass for shooting up schools because they were troubled and mentally ill. And how things turned out for the Bayview Four? I can’t even come up with any more words to describe it because it just made me feel so happy! Like when you take the top off of a carton of yoghurt and the underside is clean? That kind of happy!
A star docked for some slut-shamey thoughts, but that’s it really!
Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
Daughter of immortals. Princess Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mortal. Diana will soon learn that she has rescued no ordinary girl, and that with this single brave act, she may have doomed the world.
Daughter of death. Alia Keralis just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted by people who think her very existence could spark a world war. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.
Together. Two girls will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. Tested beyond the bounds of their abilities, Diana and Alia must find a way to unleash hidden strengths and forge an unlikely alliance. Because if they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Superhero Fiction
FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS, Y’ALL. FEMALE. FRIENDSHIPS.
I know a lot of people were disappointed that this wasn’t an F/F romance featuring our favorite superhero-slash-warrior princess Diana of Themyscira, but that is honestly okay, because the deep, meaningful, well-developed friendship between these two girls that Leigh Bardugo has crafted gives all the feels, ever.
I could talk forever and ever about what makes this book just work – the well-researched mythology, the perfect pacing, the right blend of action scenes versus introspective chapters that focus on character development, the diversity of the characters (Alia is black and Greek, and her two friends are Brazilian and Vietnamese) – but this mini-review is going to focus on Diana and Alia’s friendship. Because holy shit you guys, this isn’t all that common in YA!
It’s all too easy to hate beautiful women, to perpetuate the dichotomy that being pretty automatically means you’re vapid and shallow. It’s so easy to have a girl like Alia, an introverted scientist, be threatened and intimidated by Diana, described by others as a “six-foot tall supermodel”. Instead, not only do the two become devoted to each other’s causes, they actually become lifelong friends. Have a gander at their badass oath:
“Sister in battle, I am shield and blade to you. As I breathe, your enemies will know no sanctuary. While I live, your cause is mine.”
Read any good teen books lately? Leave me a comment!