New Release: 180 Seconds

Allison is entering her junior year at college. Her adoptive father, Simon, drops her off. He adopted her out of foster care when she was 17 years old. Allison is quiet, and she is happy when she finds out her roommate isn’t attending school anymore, so she will have the room all to herself. Then one day, after wandering around town by herself, a girl grabs her to participate in a social experiment. Allison has to spend 180 seconds looking at a boy, without breaking eye contact. At the end of the 3 minutes, he pushes his chair back and kisses Allison passionately. She runs away immediately after, not saying anything. Her best friend, Steffi, who lives in California, calls her and asks her about a viral video by the online sensation, Esben Baylor. Esben makes videos of his social experiments, and the one that he posted of him and Allison holding eye contact for 180 seconds has gone viral. All of his fans want to know what happened to the girl in the video, after she ran away. At first, Allison is embarrassed and furious at this invasion of her privacy. She doesn’t want any kind of attention, especially not from fans on the internet. Eventually she speaks to Esben, and he isn’t the jerk that she thought he was. She thought he posted the video for his own gain, but he really cares about Allison. Esben teaches Allison to break down the walls that she has built up after years of living in foster care. However, soon her newfound strength is tested, and threatens her relationship with Esben.

In general, this was a good story. It had a unique plot, though some aspects were cliches of contemporary YA books (such as Allison living in foster care for most of her life). It was entertaining and the characters were realistic most of the time.

Good stories give the reader an emotional attachment. When Allison was falling in love with Esben, I felt happy with her. Similarly, when Allison was facing tough times, I felt bad with her.

Though the plot was intriguing, this story was quite a rollercoaster of emotions. The high parts were super high, with everything going extremely well for Allison and the other characters. But the low parts had everything spiralling out of control. There wasn’t really a happy medium of emotions. This is the only criticism I have of an otherwise good story.

Being A Witch And Other Things I Didn’t Ask For

Rachel, AKA Raya, is a teenage girl in foster care in London. She lives with Angie and Jake, another child in foster care. She’s almost 17. She wants to run away and live on her own. She goes to a hostel that someone recommended but it isn’t what she expected. She meets Pavel, who brings her to his friends, Ian and Emma, who own a cafe and have a spare room for her to stay in. She works for them for about a week but eventually her social worker finds her. Her foster brother has also run away, and he took Oscar, their social worker’s magical, talking cat, with him. Raya feels terribly guilty for influencing Jake to run away. They find him in a coma in the hospital. He ran in front of a truck to save the cat. Oscar was still in the hospital, so Raya and the social worker, Bryony, go to get him back. But when they reunite with Oscar the cat, Raya suddenly transports them back in time. Raya and Oscar arrive in England in 1645, just in time for the Essex Witch Trials. This isn’t the best time to be a teenage witch who travelled from the future, with a talking cat. Raya has just discovered she has powers, so she isn’t strong enough to bring them back to the future. Bryony comes back and finds them, but that isn’t the end of their adventure. When Raya attempts to send them back to the future, they only travel to Turkey, during the same period. Now Raya is faced with the challenge of learning how to use her powers to return them to modern England and how to survive in 17th century Turkey.

I enjoyed this book. At the beginning I was a little confused about how witches are perceived in the London of the book. Of course, since it’s called Being a Witch, I knew that the main character was going to be a witch. But she called her social worker a witch like it was an ordinary thing to say to someone. And her social worker agreed with her. Plus, she could hear a cat speak. No one addressed if this was a normal part of their life. There was also a part of the police department dedicated to “integrators,” which is the term used by Pavel for people with magic powers.

I enjoyed the story once she got to Turkey. The last half of the story was quite exciting, with her travelling around Istanbul, Turkey and learning how to use her new powers. I liked the historical aspects of the novel too. They were accurate depictions and added some truth to this fictional story.

YOLO Juliet

YOLO Juliet is one of the books in a series from Brett Wright. These books retell classic stories, told in text messages. This one is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet are star-crossed lovers in Shakespeare’s classic play. They come from feuding families, but fall in love. They are forbidden to see each other, since their families hate each other. They secretly get married. Romeo gets into a fight with Juliet’s cousin and kills him, which leads to Romeo being banished from the town. Juliet fakes her death with a special potion. The plan is that after she is buried in her family’s tomb, she will wake up and run away to be with Romeo. Friar Lawrence, who gave Juliet the potion that will make her appear dead, sends a letter to Romeo telling him of the plan to reunite him with Juliet. However, the letter doesn’t reach Romeo in time. Romeo hears about Juliet’s death, and rushes back to see her in her tomb. He drinks poison and dies, just as she wakes up. When she wakes up and sees her love has poisoned himself, she takes her dagger and stabs herself. After the deaths of these two young people, the Capulets and Montagues end their feud, though it is too late to help Romeo and Juliet.

This adaptation of Romeo and Juliet was very funny. At times, it was absurd to think about a story like this happening today through text messages. But it was funny to imagine how Romeo and Juliet would text each other. I especially liked that Lady Capulet would sign her name at the end of every text messages, because I have seen people who are not used to texting sign their texts with their names.

Many texting abbreviations were used in the story, but there is a glossary at the back that explains what they mean. I like how “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) is in the title. Juliet literally learns that in the story, since she and Romeo end their lives over their love.

This book was really good, so I’m going to watch for the other adaptations in the series.

New Release: Fireworks

Dana and Olivia are best friends who live in the town of Jessell, Georgia. They have just graduated high school in 1997. Dana stays with Olivia’s family most of the time to avoid her alcoholic mother. One day, Olivia asks Dana to go with her to Orlando for an audition. The manager of the hottest pop star, Tulsa MacCreadie, is holding auditions for the next pop girl group. Though Olivia was the one auditioning, the manager asks Dana to audition too. After they return home, both Dana and Olivia are called back to be part of the girl group, Daisy Chain. Soon after they start training to be pop stars, a boy threatens to come between them. It becomes apparent that Dana is much less musically trained than the other girls. Dana has to work much harder than the other girls to keep up. But will it be enough for her to stay in the group?

This story is set in the 90s but the relationships between the characters have a timeless quality to them, so it could be happening today. If it wasn’t for the references to the Spice Girls and the lack of cell phones, the story could take place in 2017. 

The story was quite good. I kept anticipating something serious to happen but it wasn’t too dramatic. Overall, I enjoyed the book and will recommend it to my friends. 

A Study in Charlotte

Charlotte Holmes is the great-great-great granddaughter of the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. Jamie Watson is the great-great-great grandson of Sherlock’s partner, John Watson. Jamie moves to the U.S. to go to a boarding school, the same boarding school that Charlotte attends. Jamie is fascinated by Charlotte, who seems as brilliant and mysterious as her ancestor. Soon, the death of a student, who harassed Charlotte and fought with Jamie, throws the new generation of Holmes and Watson into a mystery. They revisit some of Sherlock’s and John’s famous cases, when the murderer sets up crime scenes that resemble those cases. They also have to face the descendant of Sherlock’s nemesis, Moriarty. 

As soon as I saw the title of this book I knew I had to read it. It pays homage to the first Sherlock Holmes stories, “A Study in Scarlet.” I’m a huge fan of Sherlock! I’ve even been to his home of 221B Baker St. 


I really enjoyed how this book revisits the classic stories but brings them into the modern world. It’s similar to how the BBC TV series has updated the series, but this is in a young adult format. It’s more accessible to young people today than the original book series since it has a contemporary setting, but it stays true to the original stories. The characters are great representations of their famous ancestors. And the good news is, the sequel is out now!

We Are All Made of Molecules

Stewart and his dad move in with his new girlfriend and her daughter Ashley. Stewart’s mom died a year ago, and Ashley’s parents got divorced because her dad came out as gay. Stewart is thirteen and goes to a special school for gifted children. Ashley is fourteen and goes to the local high school. But when Stewart moves in to Ashley’s house, he decides he wants to go Ashley’s school, to improve his social skills. Though Ashley is mortified that her new step-brother is going to her school, she soon figures out that she needs him as much as he needs her. 

This book covers a wide range of problems that teenagers face. Stewart has to deal with the death of his mother. Ashley has to learn to accept her father for who he is, and not be ashamed of him. They both have to face teenage drinking and parties, and the negative consequences that can come from that. 

I really liked how the book addressed so many important issues but was still able to keep a light, humourous tone. There were both laugh-out-loud and heartbreaking parts. Most importantly, this book shows that we all have something in common, despite our differences: we are all made of molecules. 

Jonesy Vol. 1

Josephine aka Jonesy is a high school student. She lives with her father, who owns a donut shop. She also has a pet ferret. The story follows Jonesy through major parts of the school year: Valentine’s Day, a talent show, prom. She also has to face the idea of her father starting to date. Though these are fairly ordinary things that most teens face, Jonesy is unique. She has a special power: she can make people do anything she wants. Jonesy discovered this power when she made her two favourite characters on her anime show fall in love. The only problem is that the powers don’t work on Jonesy herself. She isn’t able to make her crush (a pop star named “Stuff”) fall in love with her. 

This graphic novels was so entertaining. It was very funny. There were many times that Jonesy spoke directly to the reader, especially at the beginning of the chapters. This breaking of the “fourth wall” set the scene and brought me into the book.  

This story also has a diverse cast. Jonesy is latina. Her best friend, Susan, is black and has a crush on a girl. It was refreshing to see these diverse characters in a YA/middle-grade graphic novel.

I definitely recommend this graphic novel and I can’t wait to see the next volume!

New Release: Definitions of Indefinable Things

One day, when Reggie is picking up her prescription for depression medication, she meets Snake. Snake has a tattoo on his neck and dark hair hanging in his eyes (to Reggie, he looks like an “emo” poster boy). But Reggie and Snake have something in common: depression. They see each other a couple of days later when Snake starts working at the same ice cream parlour where Reggie works. Though Reggie isn’t ready to let anyone in, she begins to “hate” Snake… in a good way. Her mixed feelings become even more complicated when she discovers that the popular girl at school, Carla, is pregnant with Snake’s child.

I loved this story because it has a unique plot. It deviates from a traditional love triangle, since two of the people are having a child together, though they aren’t necessarily “together.” Though most of the book deals with these serious issues, there is some comic relief with the caricatures of their parents. Reggie’s extremely religious mother and Snake’s lesbian moms provided some moments of relief between the dark discussions and therapy sessions.

This amazing debut novel explores what it means to be depressed, what it means to be lonely, and how to learn to love.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This is the first book in the Lunar Chronicles series. It is a modern retelling of Cinderella, but with a twist.

Cinder is a cyborg, living in New Beijing. She was adopted by Linh Garan but he died soon after, so she lives with his wife and their two daughters. A plague is taking over the country which soon claims the life of their emperor. Cinder meets his son, Prince Kai, when he gets his personal android repaired by her at the market. This leads to her going to the palace where she finds Dr. Erland. After running some tests, he discovers that she is from Luna, the planet of their enemy. She is also immune to the plague since she is Lunar. Being Lunar is more dangerous than ever now, because the Queen of Luna is vying to become Prince Kai’s wife. The plague is brought close to Cinder’s heart when her favourite stepsister, Peony, becomes ill. Cinder has to decide how to use her secret of being Lunar to save the people of New Beijing and prevent Prince Kai from marrying Queen Levana.

This story and the following books in the series (Cress, Scarlet, Winter, Fairest, and Stars Above) are also very diverse, featuring characters from different backgrounds. The other books also have lead characters that are based on classic fairytales but they are all set in the same world.

This is one of my favourite new series! I hope you enjoy it too!