Here are some shorter musings on some recent YA reads.
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge
There are some aspects of this one that I really loved-the politics, the world-building, Paris. I also rather liked the fraught relationships between the four main characters and how those developed. Other than Paris, I wasn't really enamored of the other three main characters though, and found myself wanting to smack them more than hope for good things for their lives. As this is a reworking of Romeo and Juliet with necromancy, there is a lot of angst and misunderstanding. I was prepared for that. I was not prepared for this 400 plus page book to only be the first half of the story. There's going to be a sequel. And I don't think Romeo and Juliet needs to be extended to 800 pages of angst and misunderstanding. And even Paris let me down in the ability to make good decisions department in the end so I'm more than a little annoyed with all of them. Also the end INFURIATED me. If you want to read this, I recommend waiting for book two to come out so you can read them together. I don't know that I'll be here for that second book though.
By Your Side by Kasie West
I had high hopes for this. Boy and girl stuck in a library together for a weekend? All the swoon potential. Unfortunately it never moved past potential into actually swoony for me. The library portion is concluded about 1/3 of the way in. That was a lot of space to do some really great character and couple development, but a lot of it was flat. West made the hero Dax a little to silent and broody for the relationship to start clicking soon enough. After that, there were SO MANY issues. Autumn has an anxiety disorder. Dax is in CPS and has a meth addict mom. Then there is the boy Autumn thought she liked who ended up in a medically induced coma. Plus their friends. As a result the end was rushed and the romance, while sweet, never really had me invested. Still enjoyable, but not what I've come to expect from West.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy
I didn't like this quite as much as most people I know did though I did find it an enjoyable read. Yuri is a Russian boy genius who comes to America to help deal with a meteor that is going to take out the western US (and possibly Japan). It's a fish out of water story where Yuri meets a girl who helps him see the world differently. That could have been awful but it actually worked fairly well. For me personally there was just a little too much quirky in the characters and how they came together for my enjoyment to turn into full out love. The book is full of humor and heart though and is definitely a good recommendation for teen readers. I will definitely be picking up Kennedy's next book because there was a lot of potential in the writing in this one. I think I could love another book by her the way many of my friends loved this one.
Spindle by E.K. Johnston
Spindle is trademark E.K. Johnston. That is to say it is beautiful, evocative writing with characters you will love and a plot that will tear your heart to shreds. I think I may have chosen the wrong day to read this as I was incredibly sad already. I think my love for it may have known no bounds if I had been in a different mood. As it was, I ended up wanting a little something different. However, this is exactly how the story Johnston was telling needed to unfold and as always she does a brilliant job of convincing the reader that this is how it needs to be.
The Way to Game the Walk of Shame by Jenn P. Nguyen
As a romance this didn't really work for me on any level. The boy does a lot of changing. Goes from being the school's biggest player to totally focused on the heroine. He suddenly decides to go to college and stop having issues for her. She, on the other hand, has zero character development and ends the book the same girl she was in the beginning. I didn't really like either of them though. There were some moments of fun banter but they were overshadowed by pages of zero chemistry. It made it all very hard to swallow. I was also expecting there to be a little more commentary on the societal aspect of Taylor's reputation dragged through the mud while Evan was considered a "god" and "hero" for the same thing.