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.
Barnes and Noble
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Synopsis:They have a love-hate relationship with summer.
Sidney and Asher should have clicked. Two star swimmers forced to spend their summers on a lake together sounds like the perfect match. But it’s the same every year—in between cookouts and boat rides and family-imposed bonfires, Sidney and Asher spend the dog days of summer finding the ultimate ways to prank each other. And now, after their senior year, they’re determined to make it the most epic summer yet.
But their plans are thrown in sudden jeopardy when their feud causes their families to be kicked out of their beloved lake houses. Once in their new accommodations, Sidney expects the prank war to continue as usual. But then she gets a note—Meet me at midnight. And Asher has a proposition for her: join forces for one last summer of epic pranks, against a shared enemy—the woman who kicked them out.
Their truce should make things simpler, but six years of tormenting one another isn’t so easy to ignore. Kind of like the undeniable attraction growing between them.
Review:I am always hesitant going into YA contemporary/romance reads. It is a genre that I had myself convinced I had “aged out of”. I haven’t read one that I really enjoyed in well over a year. That being said, when Tor Teen emailed me to see if I would be interested in reading and reviewing this I immediately looked up the review and when I saw it was a “YA take on The Hating Game by Sally Thorne” I knew I had to give it a shot, and I am so glad that I did.
This book set out to be a fun, angsty, summery, enemies-to-lovers romance and it did just that. This was such a fun book to get lost into for a few hours. I actually read it all in one sitting. Asher and Sidney have this perfect angsty relationship full of high jinks and snarkiness. The chemistry was dripping off of the page and left you screaming at them to just get together already. There were enough little traces of chemistry and sweet moments sprinkled throughout the entire book that it never felt drawn out, or TOO heavy on the enemies part of enemies-to-lovers. I think it had a perfect balance of all of the romance elements you want to find in a light summer read.
The only reason I am deducting one star for this book is for the character of Sidney. Although I loved her for 95% of the book, there was that 5% where her self-sabotaging got under my skin and just kinda pulled me out of things a bit. I can overlook most of it because I think had I been a teenager reading this book it would have been way more relatable, but as an adult, I was just stuck feeling like her self-sabotaging came off as being petty.
Overall I really enjoyed this read and would definitely recommend it to those that love romance and YA contemporary. It would be the perfect read to sit down on a chair by the pool with for an afternoon.
Thank you Tor Teen for sending me a finished copy of his novel for review. That does not in any way affect my rating of the book. All opinions expressed are honest and my own.
Barnes and Noble
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.