Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry *REVIEW*


Orpheus Girl

Rating: 4/5⭐️

Synopsis:Abandoned by a single mother she never knew, 16-year-old Raya—obsessed with ancient myths—lives with her grandmother in a small conservative Texas town. For years Raya has been forced to hide her feelings for her best friend and true love, Sarah. When the two are outed, they are sent to Friendly Saviors: a re-education camp meant to “fix” them and make them heterosexual. Upon arrival, Raya vows to assume the mythic role of Orpheus to escape Friendly Saviors, and to return to the world of the living with her love—only becoming more determined after she, Sarah, and Friendly Saviors’ other teen residents are subjected to abusive “treatments” by the staff.
In a haunting voice reminiscent of Sylvia Plath, with the contemporary lyricism of David Levithan, Brynne Rebele-Henry weaves a powerful inversion of the Orpheus myth informed by the real-world truths of conversion therapy. Orpheus Girl is a mythic story of dysfunctional families, trauma, first love, heartbreak, and ultimately, the fierce adolescent resilience that has the power to triumph over darkness and ignorance.
CW: There are scenes in this book that depict self-harm, homophobia, transphobia, and violence against LGBTQ characters.

Review:It is officially Reading Rush time, which means I typically am reading books that I never would have picked up 100% on my own. I knew that my first task for the week should be tackling the “read a book from a genre that you don’t usually read” prompt. I do not read a ton outside of fantasy, with the occasional romance book. I took to my Libby app to see what was available. I won’t lie, this cover was absolutely the reason that I picked up this YA contemporary. I did not even realize how short it was when I hit “borrow”.
With this book being so short, there is not much that I can say about it. This is a YA contemporary story about the struggles of growing up in a conservative town and religion, while also being queer. This was a very difficult and dark story, but I think it is an important one. I do not want to get into the plot because I think with short books it is easy to give it all away.
My biggest “complaint” is that it WAS so short. The author did a great job of developing these characters and their relationships with each other, but I wanted more. I think that this is a purely personal preference, and I think I am learning that short fiction just isn’t for me.
Overall I think this is a story that everyone should read, not just those on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, but everyone. It was very eye-opening about the harsh reality that a lot of queer kids face growing up. This was HARD to read at times, but I know that this is something that needs to be talked about more.

The Shadows Between Us by: Tricia Levenseller *REVIEW*


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Rating: 5/5 Stars

Synopsis:Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:
1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.
No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.
But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

Review:I am not going to lie, I added The Shadow Between Us to my Goodreads “Want To Read” shelf as soon as the covers released because- LOOK AT IT. The black and red color scheme along with the dagger? It appealed to my aesthetic heart. THEN I read that it was being described as the Slytherin romance we all need. I was sold from that point forward. When I got the Libby notification that it was finally available to checkout, I hit the “borrow” button and never looked back.
Now, I will be honest. I have been STRUGGLING with YA fantasy for a while now, but this book was definitely a turning point for me. To say that I loved it is an understatement. I devoured this book in less than 24 hours and my only regret is that I cannot go back a re-experience it for the first time all over again.
Selling something as a Slytherin romance had me very nervous, but that ended up being the best way to describe this story. Our main character Allesandra is power-hungry and conniving. She is one of those characters that you know you should not love, but you can’t help it. She is snarky, yet somehow very relatable. The Shadow King is just as snarky and is not afraid to stand nose to nose with her. We also have an incredible cast of side characters who are relatable and really add to the story overall.
This story did a really great job of being a feminist novel without being cringey or over the top. There were a lot of really great quotes on being a woman and standing your ground without it feeling preachy or off-putting. There was also a great focus on female friendships which I always really enjoy seeing in stories, young adult especially.
The romance was SO GOOD. It had a great plot pushing the story forward while keeping the romance plot going at a perfect pace. In the first half of this book, I had no guess as to where this story was going and it was such a fun time figuring it out. Everything within the romance and relationship felt organic and real. Nothing ever felt rushed or over the top, which is usually my main gripe with YA romance plots.
Overall this was an easy 5 stars from me and I am a bit sad that it was a standalone. I just want to be able to spend more time with all of these characters and in this world.

Only Mostly Devastated by: Sophie Gonzales *REVIEW*


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Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis:SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease
Summer love…gone so fast.
Will Tavares is the dream summer fling―he’s fun, affectionate, kind―but just when Ollie thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After, summer vacation ends and Will stops texting Ollie back. Now Ollie is one prince short of his fairy tale ending, and to complicate the fairy tale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country. Which he minds a little less when he realizes it’s the same school Will goes to…except Ollie finds that the sweet, comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted―and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.
Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship, especially since this new, bro-y jock version of Will seems to go from hot to cold every other week. But then Will starts “coincidentally” popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, and Ollie finds his resolve weakening.
The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.
Right? Right.

Review:Only Mostly Devastated is a book that I picked up on a whim as I was scrolling my library’s collection of ebooks. I saw that it was a modern take on Grease and it sounded like a quick read to sit down and read in a day. I did just that. I read this book over the span of a few hours and couldn’t get myself to put it down. I ignored my husband all through lunch AND dinner because I was just so into these characters and their lives. Young Adult has been something I have been struggling with recently, especially young adult contemporary, however that was not an issue with this book. This reminded me what I love about the genre and what it can achieve if done correctly. Simply put, books like Only Mostly Devastated need to be in the hands of younger readers.
There was so many themes explored in this book, as well as so much representation. Many different sexualities, as well as cultural backgrounds were present and that is something I really really appreciated about this book. We even have a plus size model who is dealing with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which I think is INCREDIBLE representation to find in a young adult novel. The topic of grief is a big one in here, as out main character loses a family member who is very close to him. I feel like the depiction of grief within this novel is the most realistic that I have found in a young adult novel. We see the unexplainable emotions and reactions when dealing with grief in different stages and levels and it was beautifully done.
Of course this novel is a fun male/male romance that gets you hooked, but to me the shining parts of this book were the themes and watching these teenagers come to terms with themselves and figure themselves out while dealing with all of the other outside pressures. At times it got messy and the characters hurt each other, but this book left me really happy to see such a TRUE depiction of what being a teenager is like. This was an easy 5/5 stars for me and it is definitely going to be a young adult book that I recommend over and over again.