I’ll be honest; I picked up Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart because it was compared to Girl in Pieces, a book I love. I’m always going to be drawn to books about trauma, and I had a dream that I might love Scars Like Wings the same way I do Girl in Pieces. Interestingly enough, I loved it more!

Scars Like Wings tells the story of Ava Lee, a girl who lost her parents and cousin in a horrific house fire and suffered burns over the majority of her body. With nearly her entire face burnt and reconstructed, Ava has entirely lost her sense of self. But with the help of her new friends Piper and Assad, who see her for who she really is beneath her scars, Ava begins to find herself again.

It’s not as cheesy as it sounds. I swear. And I loved this book. Ava is so well written. Her feelings about living with her aunt and uncle and being the “replacement” for her cousin, who died in the fire, are shown and not told. Her way of negotiating the world around her and the growth she experiences as she does make her truly dynamic. It’s lovely to see the way that Ava begins to interact with her friends and family in different ways. My favorite character though is Piper. She’s the opposite of Ava in so many ways, the largest of which being that she’s seemingly very loud and proud about her burn survivor status and is not afraid to encourage Ava to be the same. Piper could have existed in a way that just made her a catalyst to Ava’s progress, but Stewart made her so much more!

There’s honestly not a lot I didn’t like about this book. MINOR SPOILER WARNING: I did wish that Ava could have gotten the guy, and that’s a rare comment for me to make considering I’m not a romance fan. I wanted her to have that moment of realizing the guy saw her as beautiful, but at the same time I appreciate that she was able to find that beauty within herself and didn’t need to look elsewhere to get it. 

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has spent time trying to find themselves. So really, everyone. There are so many lessons here about true beauty and the value of friendship and family that Scars Like Wings isn’t a book to be missed. If you pick this up, you won’t regret it. 4.5 stars!

**I received Scars Like Wings from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Scars Like Wings is scheduled for publication October 1st, 2019, by Delacorte. 

Resurrection Girls…what do I say about this book?? First off, I went into reading it largely blind. The summary fit my interests of grief/trauma/etc, so I gave it a go. I just wasn’t expecting magical realism, so when that appeared with a wallop in the last quarter of the book, it left me uncertain how I felt overall.

Resurrection Girls centers around Olivia Foster, a teenage girl who found her toddler brother dead in their backyard pool three years prior to the beginning of the book. Olivia and her family are frozen in the grief of losing her brother, until the Hallas family moves in across the street and literally changes everything. Ava Morgan has crafted Olivia and her family as an amazing portrait of grief. You don’t just “get over” losing someone. It doesn’t work that way. Olivia is in denial, her mother is lost in a drugged haze, and her father has created a secret shrine to his lost son in a storage locker. Each family member is isolated in how they manage their grief and convinced they are the only ones who mourn; none of them see they could heal stronger and faster together. Olivia’s mothers drug use in the dark corners of their family home is especially well crafted, as are the unspoken undercurrents of blame running through the household. Reading about Olivia’s father alone in the storage locker also struck a cord with me–as someone who has lost somebody, I understand that need to keep as much of them as close to you as you can.

It is hard to discuss this book without spoilers, (especially the part I decidedly did not like) and I find myself struggling to write this review!! Olivia’s relationship with Kara starts out odd but normal. They bond over writing to inmates who are on death row for any number of atrocious crimes. Olivia is uncertain why Kara is obsessed with death, but writing the letters with her under the moniker “Resurrection Girls” slowly helps her get a handle on her own emotions about the loss of her brother. Kara exists to bring the light back into Olivia’s life as she begins to move on from her devastating loss, and the character does her job well. Looking back, perhaps pieces of the ending should have been more obvious to me than they were? But watching Olivia grow through her relationship with Kira felt like I was let in on something special.

Honestly, I didn’t dislike this book. Magical realism, however, is not a genre I’m generally going to seek out. Morgan had me solidly invested in the characters until the last quarter of the book when the rug got yanked out from under me by a very strange event I didn’t quite buy in conjunction with the rest of the story, and she never quite reeled me back in. The metaphor of the ending just didn’t entirely work for me. As a result, I’ll give this one three stars for highly believable and well written characters with a two star dock for the unusual abrupt turn of an ending. If you like magical realism though, you may rate this more highly!

**I received Resurrection Girls as an ARC from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. Resurrection Girls is scheduled for publication October 1st, 2019, by AW Teen.

I’m not sure what to say about Here There Are Monsters, if we’re being honest. It began strongly, and it kept me reading until a little less than halfway through, where I found myself struggling each time to pick it up. But I made it!!! And I’m not totally sorry I did; I’m just confused.

The story centers around Skye, a girl who has recently relocated with her family to a swamp parts unknown so they can all have a fresh start. Skye’s sister, Deirdre, isn’t exactly average–she’s what a lot of the other kids call weird. But Deirdre doesn’t want to change who she is to satisfy some norm; all she wants is to be friends with her sister forever. But then Deirdre disappears, and it becomes rapidly clear to Skye that she, via the fantasy games they played as children that Deirdre never grew out of, is the only one who can find and save her sister.

Here There Are Monsters starts out very strong. Skye is a fairly solid character in the beginning. She would do anything for her sister, at least until she realizes that Deirdre doesn’t actually WANT to grow up. The use of a back and forth in time narrative allows us to watch the relationship between Skye and Deirdre begin to age and dissolve amidst the present day search for the missing sister. Their relationship was classically well crafted, and anyone with a sibling will easily be able to identify with Skye and her struggle to separate her identity from the one created by their relationship. The parent characters are static but well written; it’s tough to lose a child, and that grief is well portrayed, albeit largely in the background.

Where the narrative all falls apart for me personally is when the magic heavily seeps in. I don’t understand the monsters because we lack origin for them. What we are slightly led to believe as the monsters begin to emerge turns out not to be the case at all, and the ending left me with more questions than answers–but not in a good way. God’s honest truth, I thought Skye was schizophrenic for most of the book and was actually the one who murdered her sister. And that would have been a great twist! Sorry for the spoiler, but that’s not the case. I won’t tell y’all how it does end, but suffice it to say, I’m less than satisfied. While the book itself was well written, we aren’t given a proper foundation to understand the magic that is the end of the tale. I appreciate that Skye’s need to protect Deirdre carries through nearly to the end of the book. But I don’t like the person she becomes and the ending didn’t sit right with me. The main rule of a good fantasy is that the reader is able to suspend their disbelief, and I was not. I’m not sure if this book was actually trying to be a fantasy or whether it wanted to be a contemporary in dark clothing, and I’m not sure the author knew either.

2.5 stars. Many points for mostly well written characters, with deductions for a confusing plot. If you like a contemporary with somewhat of a fantasy element, you might find this one at a higher rating, but be prepared to leave it with some level of confusion.

**I received Here There Are Monsters as an ARC from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. Here There Are Monsters is scheduled for publication August 1st, 2019, by Sourcebooks Fire.

Let me just start out by saying, Wilder Girls by Rory Power is a debut??? For real??? It’s been a while since a book impressed me the way this one did–I was so impressed, in fact, that I devoured it in a matter of hours and mostly one sitting.

Second off…why is nobody I know talking about this book??

But okay, here’s what you came for, and this book definitely deserves to be talked about! Wilder Things is everything I love: feminist, horror, LGBTQ relationships, and STRONG PROSE. Oh my GOD, the prose!! Am I gushing? That’s because I loved it, if that was not apparent, so much so that I sat down to write this the instant I finished it. The book centers around three friends–Hetty, Reese, and Byatt (and I love the unique naming!). These friends are students at a school on Raxter Island, where they’ve been quarantined due to an emergence of something called the Tox. The Tox causes flare ups and sickness that can lead to death, though somehow the girls have survived for nearly two years. But then Byatt disappears, and Hetty embarks on a quest to both find her friend and solve the mystery of what is happening to the girls of Raxter.

It is so rare these days to find a young adult novel with a unique story. I originally heard this pegged as a Lord of the Flies deal, which made me a little nervous. But that’s not really the case. Power takes the idea of island quarantine and really makes it her own. I love the world building in this story. Power expertly builds upon her created environment and tackles the explanation and evolution of the Tox without making things seem world dumpy. I was never bothered by learning about what was happening, and these info bits were worked into the story in a way that functioned well. A lot of sci-fi/horror, especially in YA, can definitely suffer from that “I must dump all the info my reader needs right here clearly because they are stupid” syndrome, but Wilder Girls rises deftly above that concept. Power never runs from her subject matter; she renders what happens to the girls as beautiful and heartbreaking, but it is very in your face and I did find I appreciated that. Her prose changes to suit the situation. Words come apart when the girls are not feeling well or are having a flare up of the Tox, and they come together again when they have their heads on straight.

Where Power really shines, however, is with her characters. Hetty is fantastic!!! I enjoyed that she was not the typical snotty YA female. Her interactions with the other characters and the world around her were dynamic and moved along with the narrative. Her relationships with Reese and Byatt were where she really shined, and it was nice to see a trio of girls build each other up over tearing each other down. Hetty mostly stuck to her scruples (minus one SPOILER FREE choice towards the end of the book) and her choices consistently stuck with the best way she could help her friends. Hetty was strong and consistent throughout, and because of that, the other character really shined both alongside and against her. I feel like the Headmistress could have been slightly more developed–her dramatic change at the end of the novel fell a tiny bit flat, but beyond that I have no complaints.

I do, however, have to knock half a star off for what I personally view as questionable writing choices towards the end of the novel. Hetty makes a choice that doesn’t seem to be totally in character as I’d grown to know her while frantically binge reading. And also–the ending!!! I wanted more!!! How could it end that way??? WHY WOULD POWER DO THIS TO US?? Then again, I suppose that’s the sign of a great book!

4.5 stars! Definitely definitely pick this one up; I promise you won’t regret it.

**I was not at all compensated for this review and posted it of my accord after purchasing this book. Wilder Girls, by Rory Power, was published on July 9th, 2019, by Delacorte Press.

The Grace Year…I have so many things I want to say about this book, so let’s start with a summary.

I’ve heard this called a modern Handmaid’s Tale meets Lord of the Flies. I can’t say that assessment is off base. The story centers around a girl named Tierney. Tierney has recently turned sixteen and will be embarking on her grace year. Each year, the community sends the girls who are of age out into the wild wild woods to get rid of their “magic,” which seemed at first to be a metaphor for sexuality. Go out into the woods with a group of girls and see what happens? Go out into the woods and get rid of your wild nature before it’s time for you to become a wife. Tierney, however, has no desire to become a wife. She wants to work. She wants to be FREE. Tierney goes out into the woods with the other girls of her year, and they start out trying to work together and be different from those that went before them, but as the season moves on, the girls begin to unravel. Tierney realizes, through a string of (spoiler free!) events that the magic they are supposed to be getting rid of in the woods may not be all that it appears to be…

I like Tierney as a character, up until the point in the book where I didn’t. I can’t specifically say what I don’t like, as I avoid spoilers on this blog, but I can say that she began the story as a strong female protagonist who wanted to be free, and she ended it not in the way I thought she would. I wanted her to have everything she wanted, and while she obtained that to some extent, she made choices that limited her ability to obtain it fully.

The other girls in the story were well written as well, though many got relegated to the background fairly quickly. The dynamics in the camp really shine a light on how women attack each other on a regular basis. Liggett did a fantastic job keeping the plot moving as the girls went at each other, but then a romance appeared mid-book and it sadly sank the plot ship. It wasn’t needed for me, and it didn’t work. Not only that, but it took away from what was important.

And that ending. That ENDING. What is that ending?? Is it one thing? Is it another? If you’ve read and want to discuss, hit me up in the comments below. (If you’ve not read, don’t look at the comments!)

I struggle with what to give this book in terms of rating. The beginning is tight, but as the story reaches the conclusion, the prose begins to fall apart, as does the cohesiveness of the narrative. I think that for a younger reader, this might be less bothersome–and I also believe the message of this book regarding relationships between women to be important. For that, and for the strong prose in the first half of the book, I’ll give this one three stars. But know that I wish I could give it more!

(And this is not a dig to the book at ALL, but if you receive a review copy from Netgalley, beware–it is not broken up into chapters at all and you are reading one continuous block of text! A distracting format, to say the least!)

**I received a copy of The Grace Year from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The Grace Year is expected for publication on October 8th, 2019, by Wednesday Books.

Upon meeting Scott Westerfeld, I was quick to tell him I’ve been a fan since the original Uglies series. I have every single first edition, and though some are slightly damaged from making many moves around the country, the entire set has survived! It’s obvious therefore that Shatter City was a BookCon must have for me, much like Imposters, its predecessor. I waited in line for a long time for this book. Was it worth it? Most definitely. Anything by Westerfeld is worth it.

I quite enjoyed Shatter City as a whole. I won’t lie–the book took a while to grab me, and really put a sticky spot into the middle of my reading streak. But once it hit page 150/200 or so, things really began to take off. The book started with Frey still in Shreve, posing as her twin sister Rafia, and set to marry Col–exactly where book one left off. Frey escaped her father to rejoin her sister, only to discover that her sister had disappeared–leaving everything behind for Frey, including her name. This book, while largely about the destruction of cities, is really more about finding your identity. It’s when the book really gets to this point that things get interesting.

Westerfeld’s world building from Imposters really paid off here. The tech and the way it functions both in the world as a whole and in the individual cities was easy to follow. Watching Frey get Rafia’s feels installed, and then use them more and more as she lost herself in Rafia’s identity, was a well woven treat. Frey is multi-dimensional and intriguing, with different well constructed reactions to the variety of traumatic experiences that comprise the plot of the narrative. Rafia is a tad one dimensional, but in a way, that’s almost the point of her character. Rafia herself IS near one dimensional, after spending her childhood hidden while her sister played her in public. She’s only ever been able to act one way, and I’m interested to see how she grows as the series moves forward now that the world is open for the sisters to largely do what they’ve set out to do. And grow I’m sure she will, as all Westerfeld characters do.

I enjoyed the Rebels as a whole, though there were many of them, and the Rebels and the Vics army began to bleed together a little bit on account of the sheer number of characters involved. Col is an afterthought for me, the same way he was in book one. I honestly just don’t care about him. He seems to pop up where he needs to, completes his function within the plot, and then disappears again. The relationship between Frey and Rafia is so much more meaningful to me, and hopefully Westerfeld focuses on branching off from where the sisters find themselves in the end of the book to develop the sisterly bond further in the second half of the series.

And spoiler free, I am still adamantly convinced that Boss X is the missing brother, despite what Shatter City has given us as an answer to that question. We shall see.

Sometimes it takes the destruction of your world to find out who you really are, and I suppose I know that better than anybody. Four stars. Looking forward to books three and four.

**I was lucky enough to receive this novel as an ARC at BookCon, with no promise of a review. Thanks to Scholastic for this copy! Shatter City is scheduled to be released September 17th, 2019.

The Rest of the Story was the literal reason for my journey to BookCon this year. A Sarah Dessen release four days early? Yes please. Unfortunately it was gone by the time I located the table it called home, so I was relegated to ordering it on Amazon and reading it on release day last week with the rest of the world. Because I REALLY needed to buy another book after all the freebies I got at BookCon? No really, I needed it. It’s Sarah Dessen, aka the only contemporary romance author I’ve ever really loved.

The Rest of the Story is typical Dessen fare. Girl has trauma that forces relocation. Girl meets boy. Girl can’t possibly be with boy because a) there’s another boy, b) she’s just too traumatized, or c) she doesn’t even realize boy exists. But we all know that in the end, there will be another small trauma that will force her into the arms of said boy as she is forced to confront the original trauma. It is the ultimate in cheese, but I love every second of it. This is, in essence, a summary of The Rest of the Story. Emma, or Saylor, depending who you ask, loses her mother to drugs. Her father gets remarried, and while he honeymoons Emma goes to stay with her mothers family. And while she does not remember any of them, they most definitely remember her. Her childhood best friend, Roo, aka the love interest, appears early and often, fighting for her affections in a very passive aggressive way of simply existing, but it works for them. When Emma’s father takes her away again, she has to figure out how to discover the rest of her story (see it?? Title reference! Dessen does this in every book.) while being separated from the family she’s barely gotten to know and the boy she has yet to realize she loves.

I love Emma. I won’t claim she’s constructed any differently than any other Dessen protagonist, but Dessen has hit on a formula that works so why stray from it? The romance in this makes me happy because it’s not the IN YOUR FACE junk that I hate. Emma’s a smart girl who just doesn’t know what she wants, and getting to be along for the ride (I’m on a role with the title references!) while she discovers who she really is makes for a terrific journey. Roo is also fun–a working class kid with five jobs trying to help support himself and his mom. It’s nice to see a YA love interest that’s not a total jerk (let’s not talk about Blake), but Dessen is always good for that. I enjoyed the relationship between Gordon and Emma as both girls tried to figure out who they were in a world where their mothers didn’t exist, and I would have loved to see more development there. Every side character who appeared had a role in the construction of Emma’s story, so while there were many people to get to know, I didn’t hate it.

Honestly, I can’t complain about this book. Yeah, it’s Dessen-formulaic, but I’ve read every single book she’s written and I knew what I was getting into. This one is a good read for fans both new and old. If you enjoy reading well constructed romance with a little bit of a trauma background and all the drama, any Dessen book is just what the doctor ordered. A solid five stars.

**I did not receive this book for free; this review was composed of my own volition after purchase of the book. The Rest of the Story was released June 4th, 2019, by Balzer and Bray.