Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.
Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him…or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is. (Goodreads)
Alwyn Hamilton has built an incredible world with feisty characters and gorgeous settings in Rebel of the Sands. Amani is an independent and, quite frankly, badass main character who decides to take control of her future when it’s beginning to look bleak. Her journey across the desert with Jin stirs up magic and adventure (and maybe some trouble, too) that will have you turning the pages as quickly as you can to keep up with it all. I especially loved Rebel of the Sands for keeping me on my toes the whole time; every prediction I made about the plot was proven wrong as I got further into the story, and there were some incredible twists and turns that I could not see coming. Hamilton’s debut is definitely one not to miss, and I can’t work for the next book in this magical world.
Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.
Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.
What really happened?
Someone is lying. (Goodreads)
Yet another book recently where I have not seen the twists or ending coming whatsoever, Wink Poppy Midnight tells the story of three high school students who get caught up in a crazy, heart-pounding plot. While it seems like it could be an innocent mystery, this is not a book to read right before bed – things get downright crazy. Tucholke cleverly takes the story in directions that will have you holding on for dear life as lies and truths begin to cut through the tension between Wink, Poppy, and Midnight. Perfect for fans of young adult thrillers.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Hermione Winters has been a flyer. She’s been captain of her cheerleading team. The envied girlfriend and the undisputed queen of her school. Now it’s her last year and those days and those labels are fading fast. In a few months she’ll be a different person. She thinks she’s ready for whatever comes next.
But then someone puts something in her drink at a party, and in an instant she finds herself wearing new labels, ones she never imagined:
Victim. Survivor. That raped girl.
Even though this was never the future she imagined, one essential thing remains unchanged: Hermione can still call herself Polly Olivier’s best friend, and that may be the truest label of all.
Heartbreaking and empowering, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is the story of transcendent friendship in the face of trauma. (Goodreads)
Someone slipped something into Hermione’s drink at cheer camp and she wakes up a survivor. Hermione doesn’t remember the actual assault and Johnston explores the consequences of that, while also showing the social, mental, and physical repercussions an event like this can have – Hermione is struggling with the fact that she doesn’t remember the attack while everyone else in her life suddenly treats her differently. She’s labeled a “victim” but doesn’t always feel like one, and Hermione definitely shows how to come out of such a dark situation stronger and decidedly not the victim. An honest, eye-opening look at the aftermath of sexual assault, E.K. Johnston handles the subject matter with grace and sensitivity. Exit, Pursued by a Bear is certainly not an easy read but it’s thought provoking and worth the time.
The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three best friends are students at Selwyn Arts Academy, which has been hijacked by For Art’s Sake, a sleazy reality-television show. In the tradition of Ezra Pound, the foursome secretly writes and distributes a long poem to protest the show. They’re thrilled to have started a budding rebellion.
But the forces behind the show are craftier than they seem. The web of betrayal stretches farther than Ethan could have ever imagined, and it’s up to him, his friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save Selwyn. (Goodreads)
The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy was such a delightful read. Ethan and his friends are such nerdy heroes and I love it. Their solution to stopping a sleazy reality show from taking over their school? A long poem that they distribute to the entire student body as their means of protest. Of course, things don’t quite go as planned and there are plenty of surprises (and betrayal) along the way. Hattemer includes clever references to literary devices that language lovers will appreciate and teenage humor that will have you giggling despite your best intents not to laugh. I can’t wait to read her next book, The Land of 10,000 Madonnas.