Monday, 21 December 2015

My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins - Review

Since I've been feeling festive since about Halloween, I decided to give this book of twelve short stories a go. Another plus is that many of my favourite YA authors contributed to this including Jenny Han, Rainbow Rowell and Laini Taylor among others

The best thing about this book is that the stories are all so different! Yes there's the unifying themes of love and Christmas running through them, but I loved how many variations there were. Some stories had a supernatural or fantastical element and others were more contemporary and this made for a very moreish read.

Though there wasn't a bad story in the bunch for me, these were a few of my favourites: 'Midnights' by Rainbow Rowell, 'The Lady and the Fox' by Kelly Link, 'Angels in the Snow' by Matt De La Pena and 'The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer' by Laini Taylor.

In these stories in particular, I marveled at how well-developed the characters were in such a few pages. The only problem is that I'd like a whole book dedicated to them!

My only regret is that now I've finished I need a break from all things Christmas-related. I'm sure I'll get over it after some Stephen King or Star Wars.

This was a really fun read and I will definitely seek out the authors in here that I was previously less familiar with.

Merry Christmas 3D Images | Wallpapers

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell


I missed a week on the blog for two reasons. Firstly, it was my birthday and I was busy crying over Mockingjay Park 2/ wandering around Christmas markets. Secondly, I discovered Raindbow Rowell. I might be the last YA fan in the world to do this, but I felt compelled to review this book because I loved it so much! Since reading Eleanor and Park, I have inhaled Fangirl and I'm working on Attachments. 

Rainbow Rowell is officially my new favourite contemporary author. I’ve never read a book that so accurately captures what it’s like to be a teenager and made me so invested in what happened to these characters. Somehow this book weaves together the weird, funny and heart-breaking things that people think and say in a really honest way. 

These characters feel like living, breathing people I knew at school. I saw aspects of people I liked (and those that I didn’t) in all of them. I think they were so believable because the most minor of characters didn’t feel like stereotypes. Even peripheral mean girls were the heroes of their own stories (and didn’t they know it?) 

On the face of it, the plot sounds quite ordinary. Two people meet on a bus and slowly a relationship grows from tentative roots. Yet the way it was described was just beautiful, showing how the simplest of actions or words can gradually build into a real connection between two people.

I'm not always a fan of setting a book in a random time period, as it can feel a bit forced. Even though I only vaguely remember the eighties, there was no moment that I remembered this was written in the 2000s. Everything from the (sometimes dubious) fashion choices to the music and the way people talk felt really authentic and deliberate.

I loved this book so much that I felt its absence when I finished. Rainbow Rowell is an amazing author and I plan to read everything she ever writes!

If you liked the sound of this, now try everything by the following authors:

-Simon Elkeles
-John Green
-Sarah Dessen

I'm sure there are more but I'm off to finish Attachments! I'll add them to the comments if I think of any after my Rainbow Rowell binge read.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich - review

Publisher: Orion Children's Books

Through excerpts from diary entries, police reports and transcripts of videos, the book describes the run-up to 'the Johnson Incident', when three high school pupils died and twenty were injured. The diary entries belong to Kaitlyn Johnson, who is conscious only during the night, while her counterpart Carly lives in the day. 

This is a terrifically original premise and writing style. At first I thought the book's piecemeal nature might feel jarring or pretentious, but it was incredibly well-suited to the plot and characters. The writing is electrifying and felt throughout like you were given an insight into the lives of real people.

The question that hung over this gave me a lot to think about: whether Kaitlyn was real or a personality disorder resulting from trauma. From the start, Kaitlyn was portrayed as an unreliable narrator, who had suffered trauma and struggled with mental health. I enjoyed picking through the evidence to work out the truth about her.

This book was really dark and overall I liked how unflinching it was about tackling difficult issues. Despite that, I would've liked more moments of lightness in contrast. Using Kaitlyn as the main narrator worked well in a lot of ways, but sometimes felt consistently bleak.

It's a long time since I've read a book that kept me guessing and truly messed with me like this. It reminded me of my early experiences of reading Stephen King in the best possible way, and I'm looking forward to reading more by Dawn Kurtagich.

If you like the sound of this, now try:

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys - a book of short stories which I reviewed at 
Carrie by Stephen King
Horns by Joe Hill

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Nameless (Tales of Beauty and Madness) by Lili St. Crow - Review

When Camille was six years old, she was discovered alone in the snow by Enrico Vultusino, godfather of the Seven-the powerful Families that rule magic-ridden New Haven. Papa Vultusino adopted the mute, scarred child, naming her after his dead wife and raising her in luxury on Haven Hill alongside his own son, Nico. Now Cami is turning sixteen. She's no longer mute, and keeps her faded scars hidden under her school uniform only opening up to her two best friends, Ruby and Ellie and to Nico, who has become more than a brother to her. But her past is now coming back to haunt her. (Publisher's Blurb)

I've been on a bit of a fairy tale bender recently, rereading the Brothers' Grimm and any retellings that I can lay my hands on. Fairy tales are such great source material, because they are truly disturbing and contain flat characters with a lot of potential for development.

This was a modern take on Snow White (usually not my favourite fairy tale because of the lackluster heroine). In this I loved the world that Lili St. Crow created, with compelling magical realism and other fairy tale characters making fun cameos. 

There was a mounting sense of unease throughout, as Cami gradually unearths her back story and finds out who she is. The traditional fairy tale aspects were also melded effectively with modern and magical elements.

My one quibble was the romance. I like my romances slow-burning and building to something really explosive. For me, the relationships in 'Nameless' had tonnes of potential (and some great love interests) but didn't really go anywhere.

This was an enjoyable, well-paced read, and I'll definitely be checking out the other books in the series (so much for keeping out of my overdraft!)

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (the first in the amazing Lunar Chronicles)
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore - Review

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

The Palomas and the Corbeaus have long been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows. The Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find. Lace Paloma may be new to her family's show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she's been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it's a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace's life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees. (Publishers' Blurb)

This book is right up there with the best YAs I have EVER read. The plot and lyrical writing style utterly engrossed me, yet I tormented myself by reading it in short stints so it would last longer. 

The premise of this is just brilliant, very Romeo and Juliet with the two warring families who descend on the same town once a year where the rift between their families began. Star-crossed love stories done well are the best kind as far as I'm concerned! This one was gut punchingly, heart wrenchingly riveting all the way through, with no pointless falling out/ will they or won't they needed.

A particularly amazing aspect of this was that the descriptive writing style managed to provide a gorgeously evocative reading experience, at the same time as making the teen speak feel authentic and not at all annoying. I can't remember reading another book that does this so well since 'Daughter of Smoke and Bone' (one of my all time favourites).

The beautiful writing set against the subtle supernatural elements made the whole thing feel magical. There was a Shakespearean, fairy tale thread through it, and I loved that I had no idea how it would end.

The alternating third person viewpoints also worked really well for the book, allowing the families to be set apart at times and overlap at others. This allowed the layers of the family history and mythology to peel away as the story progressed.

In case you couldn't tell, I really adored this book! If you read one more YA novel before the end of this year, make it this one.

I swear I'm not getting soft, but here comes another five stars...



If you liked this, now try:

-The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

-The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett - Review

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Hardcover: 352 pages

"Romeo and Juliet" meets "Children of the Corn" in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror. "When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in blood and salt. " These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time. Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town's history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own. As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself and discover the truth about Quivira before it's too late. Before she's all in blood and salt." (Publishers' blurb)

I really liked the premise of this! There's something about cults that repulses and fascinates me, the idea that your mindset can be twisted into thinking it's right. This book definitely wasn't afraid to delve into dark subject matters, from the brutally described deaths to the unsettling cult traditions.

There was also an interesting supernatural element to this, especially in the flashbacks of Ash's ancestor Katia. This plot unravelled alongside the present day story, and the two wove together in an interesting way.

My favourite part of this book was the building tension, in the romantic side story and the quest to save Ash's mother. By the end, I was reading this at crazy speed because I really wanted to know what happened!

The only downside of this was that it took me a while to get into. For some reason I didn't engage with the voice and the writing style immediately, though I did get into the flow as the tension started to increase.

Overall, I found this a really unique concept and a very tense, creepy reading experience. If you're feeling the post Halloween slump, this is a perfect read to keep the scares going!

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

The Accident Season by
The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Six of Crows Review and Signed UK edition giveaway

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Orion Children's books

I'm posting this on my mobile from the middle of Scotland, so I'm sorry if the formatting is weird. I was too excited about this giveaway to delay posting! Details to follow under the review.

This is the best book I've read since starting my blog. It's set in same world as the brilliant Grisha series, but you don't need to have read them to follow this one.

A young criminal genius has put together an crew of misfits to rescue a scientist for a tidy sum of money. The only problem is that he's being held in the Ice Court, which has never been breached before. Leigh Bardugo describes it as Game of Thrones meets Ocean's 11 (or Guardians of the Galaxy  if she's talking to a younger audience). 

There were so many great things about this book. At first I thought there might be too many characters, but they all turned out to be distinctive and fleshed out with their own stories. My favourite was Inej, an ex-circus performer wrestling between her commitment to the gang and her desire to see her family again. She felt like a unique, utterly believable character that I hope to see more off!

This book was also insanely well plotted! For once I had no idea where it was going, and Kaz's twisty, ingenious plan was exciting and well thought-out.

I really liked the writing style too. The third person viewpoint allowed for depth of each character, with flashbacks used well to explore their histories. It was also super witty and beautifully descriptive.

This is usually where I say what I didn't like, but I genuinely can't think of anything! This is a really well plotted, amazingly written book. You should definitely buy it, or hope to win the giveaway!


All you need to do to enter the giveaway is retweet/ facebook the link to this blog post (I trust ya) and subscribe to my blog by putting in your email address somewhere to the right.

Good luck!

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

- The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
- The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Philip Pullman at the Durham Book Festival - on Northern Lights, fairy tales and his hatred of CS Lewis and Tolkien

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'Northern Lights' came out when I was about ten, and it was my first ever book obsession. I've read the trilogy several times, and every time I've got a little more out of them. 

Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching Philip Pullman being interviewed as part of the wonderful Durham Book Festival. I've written up an overview of the discussion below. Apologies for anything that I've paraphrased horribly, as I've put this together from notes typed on my phone!

Very early on, Pullman made it very clear that it he doesn't think an author should tell the reader what to think. When writing, he is the dictator or tyrant of his world, and has powers of life and death over it. This becomes a democracy when the book is made, because you can take what you like from it.

I really enjoyed hearing about Pullman's literary influences. He's obviously stupendously well-read, and discussed his physical reaction to reading Milton as a teenager. Both Paradise Lost and Northern lights are about the coming of experience into the world of innocence. This is also a subject that William Blake deals with, the idea that your life story begins when you realise you were born into the wrong family (Pullman's words!) Pullman not only read aloud the Milton quote from Northern Lights, but could recite chunks of Milton from memory! Amazing.

An amazing experience was when I realised that even Philip Pullman has struggled over his writing. He redrafted the beginning of Northern Lights many times before writing the words 'Lyra and her daemon'. I loved the idea that this revelation surprised him, and he had to read his own writing back to work out what a daemon was. When asked what his daemon would be, he said it would be some kind of bird that steals things (because that's what authors do!)

At two points Pullman read aloud from 'His Dark Materials' (the scene in 'Northern Lights' where Lord Asriel shows the photograph of dust, and the one in 'The Subtle Knife' where Lyra and Will meet). His readings were absolutely mesmerising, and I'd highly recommend watching if they ever turn up on Youtube.

Philip Pullman's relationship with religion has been discussed at length in the media. The way he explained it was really interesting; that he has no argument with the big problems and answers brought up by religion, but only takes issue when religious people get political power. He was brought up as a Christian and it formed his mind, so he writes about Christianity because he knows it.

I was also really interested in Philip Pullman's take on fairy tales. Because fairy tales weren't written, there is little development of the character and settings, or use of dialogue. The characters have no psychology, and just act rather than thinking about things. He loves the power of simple and uncluttered stories, and has written a version of Grimms' Fairytales that I will definitely check out!

A particularly humorous moment was when Philip Pullman mentioned that his great regret is that CS Lewis died 'before he could have a go at him, and I'm ruder about Tolkien' (paraphrased). Pullman described his problem with Tolkien is that there are few women and no hints of sexuality. He also hated the ending of the Chronicles of Narnia, and felt that it betrayed the characters and readers. He disliked the treatment of Susan in the books, because she was kept out of Narnia for growing up in a normal, healthy way!

My final revelation - Philip Pullman is writing a new book set in the same universe! How didn't I know this? 'The Book of Dust' will apparently feature Lyra and other characters from the series, but is neither a prequel nor a sequel (if I remember that right - I was very busy freaking out at the time!)

I hope you enjoyed my fangirl ramblings! If anyone reading this hasn't yet discovered 'His Dark Materials', you should do so immediately and thank me later.

I'll leave you with a picture of the book signing at the end of the event. Although you can't see my face very well, you might notice the expression of giddy excitement...

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Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson - YA book review

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Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Hardback release date: 22nd September 2015

'Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more. She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.' (Publisher's blurb)

This is the second YA Western that I've reviewed recently, and if they're all as good as this one I hope there'll be a lot more.

Leah is a great YA heroine. She's super strong and self-reliant, which is demonstrated when she dresses as a boy to keep safe in a hostile environment for women. I love it that she has romantic feelings and desires, but she isn't defined by them like some YA main characters.

This book also balances using detailed historical research of the time period, without this weighing down the narrative. The sacrifices that people made to seek gold felt very real, as did the daily struggles of their journey.

The writing is also really evocative, conjuring up clear images of the heat and the changing climate as the wagon trail moves westwards towards California.

My favourite part of this book is the supernatural element. Leah's ability to sense gold is described vividly, in terms of how it works and how it makes her feel. Introducing this power in the context of the California Gold Rush is sheer brilliance, and it made this feel quite different from a lot of historical fiction that I've read.

The only downside in my opinion surrounds the overarching plot conflict. Every once in a while Leah's Uncle was mentioned, the ruthless relative who wants her for her abilities. This was the impetus for Leah leaving home, and I felt there could have been more of a building sense of threat linked to him. Could there have been wanted posters everywhere maybe, or heartless outlaws in pursuit of her?

This was a small issue amidst a lot of things that I loved about this book. The characters, setting and historical details were delivered so well that I'm really excited about the next book in the series.

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

-Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman (which I reviewed at the link below)
-Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George (also reviewed at this link)
-A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Return to the Secret Garden Review and Giveaway - Blog Tour


Author: Holly Webb
Release Date: October 1st 2015
Genre: Historical MG
Publisher: Scholastic UK
Format: Hardback and E-book

It's 1939 and a group of children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall. Emmie is far from happy to have been separated from her cat when she is sent to a huge old mansion. But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house - a boy crying at night, a diary written by a girl named Mary, and a garden. A very secret garden...’ (Publisher’s blurb)

I was so happy to join this blog tour, because I adored ‘The Secret Garden’ as a child! It was one of those classics that drew me into a different world, and ever since I’ve loved visiting the gardens of old castles and stately homes (sadly I’ve never found a secret one though). The sequel is a beautifully written, delightful book that a new generation of children will love.

I don’t often review middle grade books, but I really enjoyed this one. I was pleased that it felt in keeping with the original book, as I feel quite protective of my childhood favourite! The writing style was lyrical and descriptive, creating a world and characters that felt very real.

Reading it reminded me of what it was like to be a child; that feeling of being so curious and excited about the world. Emmie’s narrative voice was perfect, both childlike and very evocative of the World War 2 time period.

Probably my favourite part of the book was the threads linking it to ‘The Secret Garden’. Without giving too much away, there were many allusions to the first book, such as wonderfully written excerpts from Mary Lennox’s diary.

I’d be hard pressed to say something I didn’t like about this book, even though I’m long past the target age range! The only issue some readers might have is that there isn’t masses of action, but I’d argue that’s the point of the book. I wanted to get wrapped up in the dream world of the secret garden again, and felt no desire for explosions or battles with mythical creatures (well, no more than usual).

I would highly recommend this book to people who loved the original, and anyone who wants to be immersed in a world that is somehow whimsical, and yet true to the pain and beauty of reality. Please go out and buy this book for yourself, or somebody else who will love it!

If you liked the sound of this, now try:
Goodnight Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce 

The lovely people at Scholastic are giving away a copy of The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett and a copy of Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb to one lucky blog tour follower! [UK AND IRL ONLY]. Please click on the link below to enter.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The Book of Ivy Review

The Book of Ivy (The Book of Ivy, #1)

Author: Amy Engel
Published: November 4th 2014
Publisher: Entangled: Teen

This is one of those books that is impossible to stop reading. I found myself yanking it out of my bag whenever I had a spare minute, and reading it until my eyes hurt at night. So what made it so compulsively readable?

I think it has a lot to do with voice. Ivy’s narrative sucked me in immediately, as it had that ring of authority that makes it seem like Ivy and her problems are real.  

The plot was also really tightly structured, so I didn’t experience any dips in interest. The tension levels stayed high and kept on building, and I think that’s a big part of what kept me reading so feverishly.

The third and best thing I loved was the romance! Anyone who knows me/ has read any of my blogs will know this is my absolute favourite part of YA: a teasing, slow burning love story that holds out on you until the last possible moment. And all I can say about the love interest, Bishop, is thank you, Amy Engel. Thank you. 

The only problem with this book for me? As soon as I started reading, I knew where it was going. That wasn’t a major issue, because I enjoyed it a lot anyway. I’ve read so much YA that it takes some major outside the box thinking to surprise me.

Despite that one little niggle, this is a really promising series and author that I’ll be looking out for. Fortunately the sequel ‘The Revolution of Ivy’ is out next month, so we don’t have long to wait!

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

-The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
-The Chemical Garden Trilogy by Lauren Destefano

-The Matched series by Allie Condie

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Queen of Shadows Review

Author: Sarah J Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's

‘Bloodthirsty for revenge on the two men responsible for destroying her life, and desperate to find out if the prince and his captain are safe, Celaena returns to Rifthold, the seat of so much evil. She has accepted her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, there are dark truths to learn and debts to be paid. Aelin must stay hidden beneath her assassin's hood and draw on her mortal strength as Celaena to prevent the King of Adarlan from tearing her world apart. Only then can she fight for her people. (Publishers’ blurb)

This is one of my favourite YA series, and the fourth book is a brilliant addition. The first book 'Heir of Fire' has been described as a cross between 'Game of Thrones' and 'The Hunger Games', and that lofty comparison is greatly deserved.

The world building in this series is staggering. Sarah J Maas has managed to create a world with a rich culture and mythology, without bogging the narrative down with backstory.

And the romance… I love a slow-burning, gradually building relationship more than just about any aspect of YA, and this one is amazing! Aelin and Rowan are my favourite two characters, and the close friendship and love between them feels utterly real and beautiful.

Another interesting aspect of this series is the witch Manon’s viewpoint. She is brave, brutal and merciless, and yet I found myself rooting for her. I looked forward to her storyline, because her ambiguous heroism/ villainy was very intriguing and quite different.

This leads me onto the narrative viewpoint. I loved the use of the third person in this book, because it gave an insight into the several unique and interesting main characters.

I only really had one issue with this book, and I’m not sure it’s a genuine problem. I felt like it was a bit long, and as a result of this my reading pace slowed way down in a few places.

I look forward to reading a lot more books by Sarah J Maas, and if you haven’t already started this series it really should be your next purchase!

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

-Need by Carrie Jones
-The Mortal Instruments/ Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare

-A Court of Thorns and Roses (also by Sarah J Maas)
-The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
-The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Rest of Us Just Live Here Review

Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Walker Books

I'm really excited about this! It's one of those rare books that I miss now I'm not reading it. The idea of writing about everybody who isn't 'chosen' is super original, and the book had a strong voice throughout.

I think you could open a Patrick Ness book at any page and know that he wrote it. His style is so honest and convincingly teenage that it really sets his books apart. 

The characters are also enviably brilliant and unique. They feel like real people: flawed, lovely, annoying and likeable. Even the minor characters feel well-developed, like each of them has a story worth telling.

Another interesting feature was that each chapter started with a brief description of what the chosen ones (or 'indie kids') were getting up to, then the chapter was about how the main characters perceived those events. Admittedly it took me a while to work out that this was going on, but I appreciated it when I did.

I also admired the treatment of mental health. Several characters face challenges in this regard, and a perfect balance was struck between treating these issues respectfully but being realistic at the same time.

My only issue with this book (and it is a minor one) is tangled up with what I liked about it. I loved how the characters weren't the obvious heroes that have to battle the big evil. The problem was that sometimes the indie kid introduction to a chapter stirred up my interest, and I wanted to read more about them.

This is a moving, unique book that I'd recommend to absolutely everyone!

The edition I read was beautiful, with yellow edged pages, the author's signature and a limited print (see the picture above). You can buy it at Waterstones.

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

-Watching Buffy and Freaks and Geeks
-Because you'll never meet me by Leah Thomas (a YA that I've previously reviewed).
-Before I fall by Lauren Oliver