Here are some shorter musings on some recent YA realistic fiction reads.
American Panda by Gloria Chao
I bumped this up my TBR list after seeing several really favorable reviews for it in a row. I'm so glad I did. This is an excellent story of the child of immigrants trying to find her place in the world. Mei struggles with how to be herself and the perfect, obedient daughter her parents expect her to be. They have already officially disowned her brother. Mei's journey is one of self-discovery, which is interesting since it is advertised as more fluffy and more of a romance that it truly is. (There is a romance, but it is definitely not the central relationship in the book.) I really loved how much this story was about Mei's relationship with her mom and the complications of relating to each other.
Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West
I enjoyed this as the quick, fluffy read it is intended to be. Kasie West is the ultimate at YA romance that is perfect for any age YA reader not wanting sexual content or strong language in their books. Her books are always fun and enjoyable. I wanted to love this one more than I did because of how much I enjoyed Love, Life, and the List. This is a sort of companion novel in the way that romances that center someone introduced in another book are. Lacey is the focus of this story as her acting career gets what she hopes will be her big break. Her love interest is the tutor her father hires to help her get her schoolwork finished while on set. Donovan is quietly nerdy but also hot and funny. Lacey has a strict no dating rule. Donovan has a strict no dating actresses rule. They both fail at wanting to follow their rules. The book's story is rounded out by a mystery going on set that was rather predictable and a little distracting. It was a fun afternoon's read though.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Written in first person blank verse poetry as the journal of the main character, The Poet X is an excellent book about growing up, finding your creative voice, trusting your talent, and surviving difficult circumstances while learning to thrive. It is incredibly well done on every level. Xiamora is the daughter of immigrants. Her parents are incredibly strict, and she is struggling with questions of faith and a desire to live her own life outside her mother's stringent rules. There are parts of the book that were incredibly difficult to read as Xiamora's relationship with her mother is incredibly toxic and it bleeds into all her relationships as well as her view of herself. The journey is worth it in every way though.
Royals by Rachel Hawkins
This was so FLUFFY!!! And I thoroughly enjoyed every frothy second of it. Daisy's older sister is marrying the Prince of Scotland (just go with it -doesn't matter), and Daisy finds herself having to live amongst the Royals to protect herself from paparazzi following her around back home. The problem is the royals closest in age to her are hot messes. The younger prince is the hottest mess of them all. And he comes with a stuffy best friend whose sole purpose in life seems to be save him from himself while jumping to conclusions and sneering. Daisy is not impressed. Until she suddenly realizes Miles is kind of hot when he's not sneering. Then they have to fake date for publicity. I mean...
antagonism to love ✅
snarky clever banter between heroine and hero✅
fake dating trope✅
girls having each others backs and sisterly devotion✅
This book is just perfectly made for me. It was so much fun to read. And Daisy is really the best.
Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan
I was super into the first 1/3 of this. I loved both Jasmine and Chelsea (though Chelsea is more abrasive, she is amazing and a fighter) along with their friends and families. The conflicts both at school and home were well executed and realistic. I just started to lose interest and felt as though it was getting a bit repetitive after a while. It may be the mood of the week, or maybe it needed tighter editing. Whichever is the case, it tempered my enjoyment of the book as a whole. I do love that it is a book I feel I can recommend to younger readers in the YA range who love contemporary social justice stories.