Reviews for Young Adults – February 2020

We're back with more reviews of great YA reads! Last month, I curated a list of some of the amazing new releases coming out over 2020. If you didn't catch it (maybe you were too busy enjoying your summer holiday!), check it out and start filling up your holds list!

Did you know?

If you've consumed all of the Percy Jackson series and the spin-off books, there's actually more mythology inspired tales from Rick Riordan! After his huge success with the Percy Jackson books, Rick Riordan teamed up with Disney to create Rick Riordan Presents,a company which publishes books based on mythologies from around the world! As he says on the website:

"I thought, to use my experience and my platform at Disney to put the spotlight on other great writers who are actually from those cultures and know the mythologies better than I do. Let them tell their own stories, and I would do whatever I could to help those books find a wide audience!"

Pretty cool, right?

Aru Shah and the End of Time

Dragon Pearl

Graphic Novels and Manga

Sanity & Tallulah

This graphic novel is written for younger readers (10-12) but would be great for people a little older than that who are new to the graphic novel format or to science fiction as a genre. It follows the story of two girls who live aboard a space ship and their (mis)adventures in science experiments – specifically, the creation of a very cute but very illegal three-headed kitten. It’s a fun, fast-paced, and beautiful book featuring a diverse cast – I can’t wait for the next one!
Ray - Hapori | Community, Tūranga 

Sorry for My Familiar

This is such a fun manga series! Patty is a demon trying to track down her deadbeat dad. It would be a lot easier if her familiar - a human called Norman - stopped creating chaos. Norman has travelled to the demon world and is more than thrilled to travel with Patty as he considers himself a demon researcher! Unfortunately, Norman is a little bit too enthusiastic. Sorry for my Familiar is a hilarious road-trip style story as Patty, Norman, and their growing entourage follow the unpaid loans, robberies, and abandoned familiars to track down Patty's mysterious dad. What's great about this series is there is little to no fan-service (something that has often turned me away from manga), fantastic world-building, and two amazing female characters (Patty and the gem hunter, Lasanil). Give it a go!
Alicia - Hapori | Community, Tūranga 

Young Adult Non-Fiction


This book rocks! It tells the stories of some really awesome women from throughout history who haven’t just let society dictate how they’re going to live their lives. There are scientists, musicians, and artists, and leaders and pioneers in all areas of life. From a 4th century gynaecologist to a lawyer for 21st century whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, and so many more in between, this really is a wild and colourful look into the wild and colourful lives of some pretty amazing women across time and place.
Ky - Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

Open your Heart

BBC Radio Presenter Gemma Cairney, along with the help of a few experts, delves deep into what makes life's challenges so difficult for young people and discusses ways of how to ease these burdens. It is a truly enlightening read, as Gemma is not afraid to broach tough subjects such as mental health, your body, heartbreak, family and friendship. This book is a refreshing non-confrontational take on all the things that make us human and is a great read for both those who are starting to go through these struggles, or those who have already experienced them. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys non-fiction self-help.
Stacey - Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre

Young Adult Fiction


There’s good and bad in the world around us, but if you never experience the bad, how do you know what to look out for? This is a great read that will make you think about the society around you, your friendships with your family and friends, and how you can be true to yourself.
Ky - Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

Call Down the Hawk

If you are anything like me, you've been dreaming of Cabeswater since The Raven Cycle ended in 2016. Call Down the Hawk is everything you will need to fill the gap left by Gansey, Blue and trees which speak Latin. Ronan Lynch is the protagonist this time, with a new set of bad guys (who maybe aren't so bad?) and a new set of problems. I particularly enjoyed the introduction of Hennessy and her "girls" because we really do need more books about art forgers. You'll want to look up all the paintings mentioned! I believe you could read this book without first reading The Raven Cycle but you would be missing out.
Rachael C - Upper Riccarton Library 

A Skinful of Shadows

Set in the 17th century during the first years of the English Civil War, Makepeace Lightfoot is a girl raised among Puritans who suffers from terrible nightmares. Her mother is a strict, emotionally-distant woman who demands that Makepeace comes to terms with her night-horrors, often by shutting her up in an old chapel overnight.

But then disaster strikes, and Makepeace finds herself among her father's people: the grim, foreboding Fellmottes. Clearly there is a secret to Makepeace's past, not only in the identity of her missing father but the reason for her horrifying nightmares.

Frances Hardinge is incredibly good at combining original ideas, relatable characters and detailed prose into her twisty tales, though her real gift is creating morally complex situations without committing to any one side. There aren’t any true heroes or villains here, just normal people trying to do what they can with the cards they've been dealt. She’s criminally underrated as an author, so make sure you track down her work.
Rebecca - Ōrauwhata: Bishopdale Library

I Am Number Four

This is your friendly Youth Librarian, and wow, I am so late to the party on this one.

Impressions of I Am Number Four: It's tense, the universe-building is cool, and the plot sets up the series well. I can understand why it would be earmarked for a movie, there's lots of action, some romance, and a lot of relatability (when you remove the fact that the protagonist is an alien).

The book has been on and off my 'to read' shelf for years. I am so glad I got around to it, albeit 10 years late.
Claire - Hapori | Community, Tūranga

Let's Call It A Doomsday

Ellis is a prepper and cannot understand why she has been sent to therapy by her parents! Although having crippling anxiety can be rather lonely, so therapy turns into a good idea when she meets Hannah in the waiting room and the two become best friends. Is it fate for the two of them to have met? Ellis is ready for the apocalypse and Hannah knows when it is going to happen! Is that what her visions mean?

This intriguing tale entwines faith, family, friendship and just a little bit of crazy adventure to make it a great read. I’ll certainly be looking out for Heretics Anonymous, another book written by Katie.
Katie - Outreach 

The Queen of Nothing

Holly Black’s Folk of the air series has been a breath of fresh air (pun intended) and a wild diversion from the usual fantasy fairy tales. If you like something a little darker with a twisty plot and a little romance, then this series won’t disappoint. 

This final instalment promises to see Black’s dramatic tale to the climax, and I’m not one for spoilers so I’ll just say whatever you think might happen, throw that idea from the top of the palace tower because you can bet at least five twists will change that course of logic! 

Do read these books, only don’t read this particular one first, it’s the last one. The series starts with The Cruel Prince.
Alice - Redwood Library

With the Fire on High

I’m such a slow reader but this book made me hungry to read faster. Emoni loves cooking and has a natural talent for it. I felt like I could smell her dishes and was eager to taste those that she made in the book. Emoni is a lovely girl who struggles as a teen mother with studying, financial issues and her career. The story tells about motherhood, the stereotypes of being a teenager mother but also talks about loving all of parts of yourself through food, culture and family. It's such a good book to start off the year!!
Kowoon - Hapori | Community, Tūranga

Winter of Fire

Sherryl Jordan’s “Winter of Fire” is so good that even though I hadn’t read it since I was twelve, I still remembered specific details over twenty years later. It’s been reprinted for its twenty-fifth anniversary, and its themes of oppression, corruption and freedom.

A dystopian novel long before “The Hunger Games” came along, this novel involves a population divided into two distinct sects: the Chosen and the Quelled. The former live in relative ease and luxury, while the latter are branded slaves forced to mine the precious firestones that provide necessary warmth in a world that has no sun.

Among these Quelled is a teenage girl called Elsha, who on her sixteenth birthday is selected as a handmaiden to the Firelord, the most powerful Chosen of them all. His selection of a Quelled for this position is unprecedented, and in this new position of influence and power, Elsha struggles to find a way to help her people. She’s up against hundreds of years’ worth of prejudice, so it’s clearly not going to be an easy task.
Rebecca - Ōrauwhata: Bishopdale Library

The Diviners

This is the first of a four-part series involving an assortment of misfits with psychic powers living in New York during the Roaring Twenties. Along with tales of how they learn to channel their gifts, find each other, and use their abilities to fight supernatural threats, these books are also an exploration of America itself: its history, culture and people. 

Libba Bray introduces a wide variety of people from vastly different backgrounds: a black boy who can heal people, a gay pianist that walks in dreams, a fire-starter on the run from her abusive husband, a Jewish thief that can make himself unseen by others, a vivacious flapper that can “read” objects by touching them, and an Asian-Irish asexual girl with her legs in braces who can communicate with the dead – each one has their own unique flaws, fears and aspirations.

I've never actually read anything that so deeply reminded me of a television show, containing as it does a series of subplots, separate character arcs, rising and falling action, and the definite sense that it's just one part of a much larger story. But Bray takes great care with her research and character development, and I’m hopeful that she’ll stick the landing with her fourth and final book “King of Crows”, to be released later this year.
Rebecca - Ōrauwhata: Bishopdale Library


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