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Jul 7 2015

Joyride by Anna Banks

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22718685Novel: ​Joyride by Anna Banks | Goodreads
Release Date: ​June 2nd, 2015
Publisher: ​Feiwel & Friends
Format:​ ARC
Source: Borrowed
Also Published On: Reading Over Sleeping

A popular guy and a shy girl with a secret become unlikely accomplices for midnight pranking, and are soon in over their heads—with the law and with each other—in this sparkling standalone from NYT-bestselling author Anna Banks.

It’s been years since Carly Vega’s parents were deported. She lives with her brother, studies hard, and works at a convenience store to contribute to getting her parents back from Mexico.

Arden Moss used to be the star quarterback at school. He dated popular blondes and had fun with his older sister, Amber. But now Amber’s dead, and Arden blames his father, the town sheriff who wouldn’t acknowledge Amber’s mental illness. Arden refuses to fulfill whatever his conservative father expects.

All Carly wants is to stay under the radar and do what her family expects. All Arden wants is to NOT do what his family expects. When their paths cross, they each realize they’ve been living according to others. Carly and Arden’s journey toward their true hearts—and one another—is funny, romantic, and sometimes harsh.

I’ve been really wary of Anna Banks’s Syrena Legacy Trilogy because I’ve heard mixed things about it. Despite that, I jumped at the chance to read Joyride early because contemporary is my favorite, and I was intrigued by the premise. I am so glad I did because I loved Joyride. 

Joyride was hilarious and entertaining and oh so sweet when it needed to be, but it was also very honest and insightful for me. I’ve never read a YA novel with such a real feeling look into immigration like Joyride. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever read a YA novel that deals with immigration at all, but it’s a very real thing that so many families deal with. It was refreshing to see it represented in a novel. I also loved how it portrayed racism because I feel like a lot of people choose to refuse to acknowledge that racism exists in this day and age when in fact it’s, unfortunately, a very prominent issue. (Speaking of, Arden’s dad is a loser and I hate him BYE.) So, like, you go, Anna. 

Going back to the ‘hilarious and entertaining and oh so sweet that I mentioned before, OMG Joyride had a lot of that. Arden and Carly’s relationship was largely centered around the fact that Arden needed a pranking accomplice, so obviously there were fun times there. Some of their pranks were seriously gold. Also, the banter between those two was so funny, as was the banter between Arden and his Uncle Cletus. I loved both of those relationships. But especially Arden and Carly’s, who am I kidding. It was sweet and swoony and basically everything you could ever hope for from a story about first love. 

I just don’t want you to have any regrets with me. I don’t want to hold you back.”

“You’ve filled a hole I didn’t know I had in me, Carly. What is there to regret?”

*swoons* *sighs* Arden might have made my list of book boyfriends. Hmm…We’ll see. Anyway, Joyride was an honest and delightful read that everyone should have on their TBR. 

Jul 6 2015

The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi

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Novel: The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi | Goodreads
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Format: ARC
Source: PLA

Lexi has a secret.

She never meant for her mom to find out. And now she’s afraid that what’s left of her family is going to fall apart for good.

Lexi knows she can fix everything. She can change. She can learn to like boys. New Horizons summer camp has promised to transform her life, and there’s nothing she wants more than to start over.

But sometimes love has its own path…

Sometimes I come across a book that spreads a supererogatory smile across my face and keeps it there throughout the entire story. Cheerful and empowering, these novels never fail to put me in a great mood. However, while I love a well-written feel-good book, bubbly cheerfulness is not the only emotion that can stem from a brilliant story. As much as I adore books that make me feel upbeat, I also love books that can make me ragingly, achingly angry. And that is exactly what The Summer I Wasn’t Me did.

The first page of Jessica Verdi’s sophomore novel makes it clear that the story will not be an easy read, and the rest of the plot delivers on this promise 100 percent. Set in a “same-sex-attraction” conversion camp, The Summer I Wasn’t Me includes abundant scenes designed to make readers furious, including vivid details of the brainwashing and emotional and physical abuse that Lexi and her fellow campers endure. I cannot comment on the accuracy of the details, but if everything in this book is true, Verdi did amazing research—and my hope for humanity took a bit of a blow. I do know one thing for sure—not one chapter tranquilized the constant turmoil of rage turning inside of me, and while I may not have enjoyed the fury and exasperation it caused, I more than appreciated it.

To balance its battering bitterness, The Summer I Wasn’t Me includes a quirky cast of characters who made me laugh through my rage. I loved getting to know Lexi’s friends—especially Matthew, whose confidence about his “SSA,” as the characters conveniently abbreviate, keeps the novel grounded in sanity. He questions each camp activity and challenges Lexi to accept herself for who she is, adding a hint of rebellion and optimism to an oppressive setting and helping the protagonist grow.

Thanks to the balance between the horrifying setting and the endearing cast of characters, The Summer I Wasn’t Me is a must-read for anyone interested in contemporary YA that tackles important, pressing subjects. This book taught me so much about the toxic world of gay conversion camps and left me more aware of the real-life trouble they cause. But above all else, The Summer I Wasn’t Me is not a chilling report on a social issue, but a story of deciding who you are and accepting it despite other people’s attempt to exorcise your personality. This book once again proves Verdi’s ability to not only write about prominent issues, but to include wit, intelligence, and compassion. I will be first in line for her next thought-provoking novel.

Jul 4 2015

The Spotlight Book Club July Selection: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

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The Spotlight Book Club is one of the most exciting things we do on the blog! As avid teen readers, it’s hard to find a book online book club with readers like us all over the world. Each month we choose a book, and we will give you the entire month to read it. On the last Saturday of the month we will post a selection of mini-reviews (ranging from one of us to all of us) along with (we hope) an author interview, giveaway, or something else fun! Throughout the month, you can start threads on our Goodreads group to interact with other book club members. The only rule is you can’t spoil the book for everyone else!

July’s selection is Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli!


Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Happy Fourth of July, Litlets! After reading so many glowing reviews, we’re excited to announce that our book club pick for July is Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. If you’ve read it (you probably have) let us know what you think in the comments. If not, join us in reading it this month.

Jul 3 2015

The Spotlight Book Club Presents: The Read Between the Lines Showcase

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The Spotlight Book Club is one of the most exciting things we do on the blog! As avid teen readers, it’s hard to find a book online book club with readers like us all over the world. Each month we choose a book, and we will give you the entire month to read it. On the last Saturday of the month we will post a selection of mini-reviews (ranging from one of us to all of us) along with (we hope) an author interview, giveaway, or something else fun! Throughout the month, you can start threads on our Goodreads group to interact with other book club members. The only rule is you can’t spoil the book for everyone else!

June’s selection was Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles!


Does anyone ever see us for who we really are? Jo Knowles’s revelatory novel of interlocking stories peers behind the scrim as it follows nine teens and one teacher through a seemingly ordinary day.

Thanks to a bully in gym class, unpopular Nate suffers a broken finger—the middle one, splinted to flip off the world. It won’t be the last time a middle finger is raised on this day. Dreamer Claire envisions herself sitting in an artsy café, filling a journal, but fate has other plans. One cheerleader dates a closeted basketball star; another questions just how, as a “big girl,” she fits in. A group of boys scam drivers for beer money without remorse—or so it seems. Over the course of a single day, these voices and others speak loud and clear about the complex dance that is life in a small town. They resonate in a gritty and unflinching portrayal of a day like any other, with ordinary traumas, heartbreak, and revenge. But on any given day, the line where presentation and perception meet is a tenuous one, so hard to discern. Unless, of course, one looks a little closer—and reads between the lines.

This Spotlight Book Club wrap-up is a bit late – shoutout to our insanely busy lives that have only gotten crazier since the start of summer break – but better late than never, right? Interested in our thoughts? Here are our mini reviews!


Read Between the Lines is a light, quick, and refreshing read with plenty of substance. Told in several short stories from different points of view, this book originally appears to be merely a collection of engaging vignettes. But the story turns out to be so much more than that. Jo Knowles does a fantastic job of showing how the stories connect in both subtle and monumental ways, compelling readers to consider how their actions may affect other people. I thoroughly enjoyed this clever and thought-provoking novel, and you can read my full review here.

Jul 2 2015

Ten Illuminations {31}: Classics

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Ten Illuminations is a bi-weekly feature hosted by Lit Up Review where we recommend our ten favorite books that fit under one topic. Inspired by The Broke and The Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday, Ten Illuminations gives you five people’s recommendations in one!

All teens end up reading some classics, so we’re giving you a list of our favorites in case you’re searching for a new one to read.


765811The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor | Goodreads

I read this book last year for sophomore English, and it completely changed me as a reader. Before encountering this classic, I had never truly felt “all the feels,” but reading it showed me exactly what I was missing. Despite leading a vastly different life, I was more emotionally invested in the characters’ stories than I ever had been before. Their tales tore me apart and pieced me back together, gibing me a new book to add to my favorites list in the process.

Animal Farm by George Orwell | Goodreads170448

This book may be a bit of a jump from my previous one, but I love it just the same. An allegory for communism re-enacted by animals on a farm, this clever novel makes the story of a corrupt government entertaining and accessible. I’ll also take this opportunity to include a bonus illumination, mentioning my love for another George Orwell book, 1984, one of the most though-provoking dystopians ever written.

It’s actually a bit funny that this is our Ten Illuminations topic because I just scheduled a post on my favorite classics that I had to read for school. I’m going to stay away from the obvious ones (ahem TKaM, P+P, and Great Gatsby, some of my favorites) because most of you probably already know about those.

Slaughterhouse Five Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut | Goodreads

This was the very last book I read for high school, and I’m so glad I went with the option to read this book. It certainly is a crazy, strange book, but once you figure it out and figure out how the different, seemingly unrelated portions fit together, you realize how beautiful of a story this is. It’s so well crafted. It’s gritty and sends an interesting message. It made me think about life, death, fate/destiny, human nature, and more. The book is so thought-provoking and being able to discuss it with my peers and analyze the text was such a treat.

The Awakening
The Awakening by Kate Chopin | Goodreads

This book got very mixed reactions from my classmates, and for much of the book, I was caught somewhere in the middle. But after having some time away from it and after discussing it with a friend outside of class, I realized how much I enjoyed this. It’s short, and I could see why others wouldn’t enjoy it, but if you look at the feminist message and the symbolism and word choices in the book, it becomes so much more interesting and layered. This is one of those books where the more you reread portions, the more you get out of it. I loved the sometimes subtle, sometimes outright feminist message in the book, and it should be a book every feminist/person reads at some point.


4708The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald | Goodreads

Everyone loves The Great Gatsby, but I love The Beautiful and Damned. (I actually ranted on why I don’t like TGG here.) TB&D is hilarious, heartwarming, and features equally dislikable characters as in TGG, but they are far more enjoyable to read about. Anthony and Gloria are a couple with infinite problems, a complicated love, and individually they are even more of a mess. But somehow, they wormed their way into my heart and I adore them.

1885Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen | Goodreads

I read Pride and Prejudice expecting something I could barely understand and was dreafully boring. But oh boy was I wrong. It’s freaking HILARIOUS and I was honest-to-god laughing out loud multiple times. Once you get into the language it’s easy to follow, and the characters are so well written. Austen is truly a mastermind, and Pride and Prejudice is a great way to get a foothold into her work.

Read about some more of my favorite classics here!



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