Young Adult

What Makes Us Human?

Adrianne Finlay tackles a big concept with Your One and Only in only 320 pages. There is a vast amount that happens in this story, and there is even more that could happen.

As humanity is slowly killed by a plague, a group of scientists build a quarantined community in Costa Rica and tirelessly work on creating clones. As the original scientists die and the clone population grows, their views of humanity grow more perverse with each new generation. The originals intended for these clones to reproduce in a natural, sexual way, but the clones have their own ideas for such matters.

After 300 years of cloning the same DNA the structure is breaking down and becoming unstable. Using the archive of additional human DNA curated by the Originals, the clones create a human. Jack is treated with disgust and disdain for being different and not a perfect copy of one of the originals. He is left mostly isolated and introduced to the group of clones his own age when they are in their mid-teens. Naturally it doesn’t go well. One clone, Althea-310 sympathizes with Jack as she has a scar on her wrist, setting her apart from her flawless Althea sisters. And this sympathy is the beginning of the end.

Finlay dedicates much of the beginning of the novel to world building, thus giving it a slow start. She alternates POVs from Althea-310 and Jack and it helps greatly to round out not only the characters but the stores overall. The clones have bizarre customs, but we’re given a chance to understand them with Althea’s POV. Jack’s rage and violence wouldn’t have felt as sincere if we didn’t see his POV, either.

For as slow as the beginning is, the ending zips by. The action escalates as the story goes on, but I grew concerned as the number of pages dwindled and the plot seemed to lengthen. The ending is left opened but satisfying enough that I’m not expecting a sequel, but Finlay covers a lot of ground in a dozen pages. This leaves the whole story feeling off kilter. Finlay built an interesting world, giving us a unique clone story. Even with the unbalanced narration, it was still a fun read. It probably won’t make my top 10 for 2018 (there is a lot of year left) but I certainly don’t regret reading it.



By: Emily Coleman


Young Batman

By now most YA readers are aware of the DC Icons books coming out from Random House. Leigh Bardugo caused waves with her Wonder Woman story, and Sarah J. Maas broke Instagram when she released the cover of her own DC story, Cat Woman (not really but she did garner over 34,000 likes). Warcross received positive reviews (myself included in those reviews) and is still being talked about months after its release. Now Marie Lu is following it up with Batman Nightwalker. What a way to start the year.

Lu had the privilege and the challenge of writing teenage Bruce Wayne, before he becomes Batman. We’ve watched his parents die numerous times and have seen him fully committed as Batman in various mediums, but those middle years have largely been absent. This gave Lu the creative freedom to explore what high school might be like for a billionaire, but I can’t imagine writing a character with an extensive history. We had specific expectations of what we wanted to see because we know the ending. We know exactly who Bruce Wayne will be and there are tropes we expect to see to set that up.

This isn’t an earth shattering book, but Lu fulfills our needs with the Easter eggs we were hoping for. Bruce has just turned 18 and is finally allowed in the experimental room at Wayne Tech where Lucian does most of his work and where we get The Suit smoking gun, which is exciting because we know its one of many suits to come.

A major aspect the movies haven’t used enough of is Batman’s detective tendencies. Batman: The Animated Series did an excellent job of portraying the show as a mystery show, with Batman actively researching other villains before taking to the night. Lu plays with this idea, showcasing Bruce’s interest in what’s happening in Gotham by listening to a police scanner, delving into the internet, and poking around abandoned buildings.

Batman Nightwalker is a fun, quick read. It gives depth to Bruce, Diana, and Harvey, seeing them as teenagers. I haven’t met an Alfred I didn’t like, and Lu’s Alfred is no exception. You won’t regret taking a jaunt through Gotham with young Bruce Wayne.

Team Player

Marie Lu has some exciting things brewing. Legend will be seen on the big screen soon, and her Batman YA novel will be released in January 2018. Now Warcross’ publication was met with fanfare from fans and YA authors alike. I will confess, Warcross was the first book I’ve read by Lu. It didn’t surprise me that it was well written and well structured. What surprised me is how completely I fell in love with it.

Warcross is set in a future where virtual reality is not only the norm, but beyond anything we can imagine today. Hideo Tanaka created a game called Warcross and it’s so widely played, people have made careers from playing the game. The future generation of professional athletes. Emika is a teenage hacker turned bounty hunter, doing anything she can pay off her deceased father’s debt. Emika is invited to play in the championship tournament as a wild card, but she has to keep her real reason for playing from her teammates and the millions of fans watching: find the hacker trying to destroy Warcross from the inside.

Emika is easily likable and relatable. With her father’s death and her mother walking out on them years ago, Emika is trying to keep her head above the mountain of debt her father accumulated and the never ending rent bill. Girl, I feel ‘ya there. She uses her hacking skills to become a bounty hunter, chasing down people who gamble on Warcross. It doesn’t pay much though. Even finding a waitressing job is becoming obsolete with restaurants turning to automated servers. Everything about Emika character, from her mannerisms to her backstory, felt fully developed.
Lu did a great job with the futuristic world building and describing a technology in a plausible way. It sounded crazy, but plausible. The game levels were intense and imaginative. Gaming isn’t a world I understand, nor a world I’ve been a part of ever, but I understand sports. And watching these teams battle it out in a simulated landscape had my heart racing.

As you would expect with YA, there is a love story tangled in the plot. Unlike some other love stories, this one felt earned. Hideo is famous and while Emika has a crush on him, upon meeting him for the first time, she has a start struck reaction, but is rubbed the wrong way by his stand offish manners. It isn’t until halfway through the book that Hideo fully shows his feelings for Emika. Even then, nothing is easy about their relationship. Not only with keeping it a secret in a public situation, but both Hideo and Emik are private, closed off people, both with baggage they need to work through. Each of their relationship milestones are earned slowly as they both learn to open up to one another. But then….

I thought I had figured out the twist at the end but Marie Lu still took me by surprise. There was a lot of magic at work with her world building and plot, even non gamers will be hard pressed not to be on the edge of their seat. It will be exciting to see what the second novel has to bring. Emika has quite the journey ahead of herself.




By Emily Coleman

What Will Disappear Next?

I haven’t been reading YA as frequently as I used to. The characters tend to get on my nerves and the sentences are more likely to bother me. While The Disappearances is far from perfect, it has a unique and refreshing premise. Murphy created a story steeped in mystery laced with literary references. The amount of research and prep that went into this stories structure is impressive. And as Murphy’s debut novel, she will only strengthen her style and voice.

Aila and her brother Miles are shipped off to live with her deceased mother’s childhood friend after their father is drafted into WWl. The siblings are treated with distrust and disdain because their mother left Sterling and never came back. Aila learns their mother was blamed for a curse blanketing the town and the surrounding towns for decades. The disappearances occur every seven years. Smell disappeared first. The stars. Colors from paint and pencils. A person’s reflection. Children born into these towns grow up without these senses. When Aila and Miles arrive, they lose all of them as well.

Each disappearance could be linked back to Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. Murphy must have read Shakespeare backward and forward to pull out just the right lines to create a story around them. Using everything she’s learned from her mother’s personal copy of Shakespeare’s collected works, Aila helps the town inventor and her new group of friends to lift the curse that has plagued the town for so long.

The Disappearances is a story that suffers from “weak ending” syndrome. The ending seemed too easy. There were questions left unanswered. Not that the story rose those questions, but I wanted to know more about why that worked or how that didn’t work. It wasn’t explored enough for me to feel completely satisfied. My final feeling is that it was good; worthwhile premise but lackluster ending.




By Emily Coleman

Enchanting Sisters

The universe is sending me messages about sisters. I didn’t mean to read back to back books containing a strong sister bond but now that I have, my tear ducts are shriveled and dry. The tag line on the front of the ARC of Caraval is “Remember, it’s only a game…” but when it comes to your sister, it’s never just a game. The main characters Scarlett will protect her sister, Tella, from anyone and anything.img_2391

Scarlett has to be mother and best friend and older sister while protecting Tella from their manipulative, abusive father. Of course Tella has a wild streak that makes it difficult to protect her but Scarlett does her best making sure their father stays unaware of Tella’s actions. Scarlett doesn’t always succeed and it was startling to find out how their father, the governor of a small isle, punishes his daughters. Caraval is essentially an elaborate circus, with less animals, and a scavenger hunt twist. Legend is the ringmaster with plenty of performers to make the five night event feel like a daring adventure. The players are warned at the start “it’s only a game” but the performers encourage them to indulge during the game.

Each year Legend creates a game of tricks and clues for the prize at the end. This year it’s a wish, but to win you have to find the stolen item. Scarlett and Tella have a lot of things to wish for but Scarlett quickly learns she has more at stake when the stolen item to find is her sister. Scar has never been the daring one but she will risk her father’s wrath and her engagement to find Tella first. She has help from the sailor that got the sisters to Caraval but he seems to know too much about the game and has an awful lot of secrets for Scarlett to completely trust him.

Stephanie Garber wrote a magical tale not only of a sister’s love but of self-discovery and self-worth. I loved the world of Caraval. Magical, inviting, but dangerous and a little faded around the edges. Garber added wonderful details to make the island feel tangible. Some of my issues were with the clues Scarlett was searching for. Sometimes it seemed she forgot she was looking for clues at all, and the second, third, and fourth clues happened all at once. It didn’t feel like Scarlett had to work for them and it was really rushed, but then she still didn’t find her sister for some time. The plot structure in the middle was just a little of but I loved the cliff hanger at the end. The story wrapped up but it’s far from over. Hopefully we get to follow Tella on the next adventure.

Protect Your Own

On the back of the ARC, there is a blurb that says “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl” and it’s a pretty accurate description. I got more Dragon Tattoo than Gone Girl but I see what they’re saying. This is a solid story. It’s not that it took me by surprise because I expected it to be bad, but I surprised myself by how fast I drank this story in. Twists and turns and danger makes for some fast reading but it helps when you care about the characters.img_2363

Christina a.k.a. Tina a.k.a. Tiny Girl/Tiny is broken in so many believable ways. Fleeing the Congo as a young child with a single mother can’t be easy but who would have thought living in a gated estate is where she would end up being orphaned. Living on the street, learning to pickpocket is where she becomes Tiny Girl. The pickpocketing is just practice until she becomes stronger, faster, sneakier, until she can take on her revenge.

Natalie Anderson not only created believable characters but wove together an intricate story of secrets. Anderson tore Tina’s world apart and let us watch her put it back together. She has a strong writing voice but my one critique of her writing was how American the characters sounded. These are teenagers and street thugs who grew up in the Congo or in Sangui City but sometimes is was hard to think of them as natives. And yet on the other hand, I completely believed her description of the area. Of course I’ve never been there to see it myself but nothing about her world building took me out of the story.

As the book worked up to the fast-paced resolution, I got nervous it would fall apart. It would have been easy with one minor change and I would have been disappointed. But I’m happy with how the conflict resolved. And then the last couple of pages happened. In my defense, anything to do with sisters gets me a little emotional but as I finished the book, I was on a plane to Minnesota for my sister’s wedding. Let’s just say I stared out the window until I got myself under control again. Not saying anyone else will end up an emotional mess like I did, but it is touching. Natalie Anderson did a great job for being a debut author and it’ll be fun to see what else she comes up with.

Endless Journeys

A Holocaust story is an ambitious endeavor for a debut author. Gavriel Savit wrote a historical fiction young adult novel centering around Poland as the Nazis invaded. What I really liked about the book is it wasn’t a story about the war but a story about a young girl on the run as the war is happening around her. Anna’s father leaves for a meeting at the University he teaches at and never comes home. The family friend watching Anna for the day doesn’t want to take the responsibility of harboring a child that might bring unwanted attention from the Nazis and leaves Anna on the street. Not having a mother anymore and no one willing to care for her, Anna is now alone in the world.IMG_0111
A tall, thin man sees Anna sitting in the street and questions what she is doing there by asking her in several different languages. Anna’s father was a linguistics professor and she has grown up with various languages spoken freely. Anna immediately feels a connection with the strange man because of his knowledge of languages and his knowledge of one language she doesn’t know, the song of a swallow bird. This mysterious man allows Anna to follow him out of Krakow and into the surrounding forest where Anna will grow up into a young woman. Anna and the reader never learn the man’s name so because of his connection with swallows, Anna names him Swallow Man while calling him Daddy when strangers are around. The Swallow Man teaches Anna how to survive on the run. He also teaches her the language of Road, a way to lie to the strangers you encounter while being sincere about it.
Gavriel Savit weaves a fairy tale-esk story with beautiful images of loneliness and wanting. Anna and the Swallow Man learn little about each other in their time together but they are caretakers of the other throughout their journey. The ending was left very open ended. We hope Anna will be taken care of but it’s hard to say what will become of her Swallow Man.