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Teen SRC 2021 – #murderfunding by Gretchen McNeil

#MurderFunding - McNeil, Gretchen

A fast-paced creepy book with many gory murders, #murderfunding by Gretchen McNeil makes up for its poor characterization and cheap tropes with action scenes and suspense. 6/10 for incredibly poor representation (POC especially, watch out) and cringe-worthy teenage slang. Seriously, I don’t know how editors approved the “teen” slang in this book–I’d rather hear teenagers speak like any regular adult than speak like they did in this book. “For reals” made an appearance, and an attempt to say that a character was “salty” (see: frustrated, annoyed) resulted in “less salted”. I LAUGHED SO HARD.

Anyway, I didn’t love this book much, but it was fast-paced and emotionally bland enough to get me out of a reading slump, which is great. There was some attempts to be political in this book, but they failed incredibly hard–resulting in an almost conspiracy-like feel. I did enjoy the formatting of discussion forums/articles on the Internet, but once the Russian meddling plot line was added, that began to feel cheap, too.

Overall, if you’re looking for a quick, creepy thriller, this is it. Otherwise, find something else.

P.S. This is the sequel to #murdertrending, which I read but then forgot mostly about. It is possible to read #murderfunding (2nd book) without having read the first (which got better ratings than this one, btw), but there is some confusing vocabulary to get through at the start. My suggestion: pick up #murdertrending first, then this one if you enjoy it. Happy reading!

Teen SRC 2021 – Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

Though I’d like to admit otherwise, what first drew me in to this book was the cute cover design. I was expecting a standard cheesy YA romance, but the story surprised me with it’s realistic characters and layered story.

Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer stars Prudence, “Pru” to her friends, over the course of her summer before junior year of high school. After a freak karaoke accident, Pru finds the universe has gifted her the ability to control karma. People she finds doing good are rewarded, and those who are mean or disrespectful are punished accordingly. Now she has the perfect opportunity to seek justice with her lazy, uncaring lab partner Quint, who’s responsible for her terrible biology grade.

What she can’t figure out is why he never seems to be brought to justice, no matter how many times she tries using her power. Forced together again as a last attempt to bring up her grade, Pru finds the more time she spends with Quint outside of class, the less unbearable he becomes. Even worse, his work and devotion to the local Sea Animal Rescue might even make him…cute.

Personally I was pleasantly surprised with Pru’s growth as a person over the months we follow her. I loved how the author managed to capture Pru’s thoughts and opinions. The reader may be able to see through her assumptions at times, but it’s easy to see why Pru herself thinks that way. Above all, her “karmatic insights” serve as a great way to illustrate the blurred line between justice and revenge, and the downfalls of quick judgments.

Teen SRC 2021 – Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman

Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle, #1) by Amie Kaufman

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff follows a group of cadets from Aurora Academy who were sent on a simple supply sending mission. However, they weren’t told that this would determine the outcome of a very long war. The crew consists of Auri, a girl with supernatural powers, Tyler Jones, a star pupil of the Academy, and many other people who are considered as misfits.

This book consisted of many plot twists and was very confusing overall. I didn’t like it a lot, but I’d recommend it to anyone who is a fan of interstellar romance or someone who likes reading about aliens.

Teen SRC 2021 – The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

I had high expectations for The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins because of the original trilogy and…it lived up to them! I’d give it an 8/10. The only downside of this book is that the exciting part doesn’t start until very late in the book.


This book was told from the perspective of the one and only President Snow. He is in his last year at the academy and hopes to win the prize that will help him into university, which he otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. A way that he can win this prize is if he mentors the winner of the 10th Annual Hunger Games. When he is assigned the girl from district 12, the lowest of the low, he is embarrassed but still determined to win. The story continues as he tries to help Lucy Gray, the tribute, win the Games.

***SPOILERS BELOW**

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Teen SRC 2021- Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

In the book Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen, Ever Wong’s strict parents are sending her to Taiwan for a summer program before the start of college/medical school. Only when she arrives, Ever realizes that the “Loveboat” program is less about reclaiming her roots and more about partying all night–at least according to her classmates it is. As Ever breaks more and more rules set out for her by her parents, the future she doesn’t want looms at the end of summer. Will she deny the expectations of med school and follow her dreams of dancing or is the strength of her immigrant parents’ sacrifice too much to shed?

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t expecting to like this book. To me, it sounded like Ever, a rigid rule-following daughter goes to a fun summer camp, learns the taste of freedom (and goes crazy) which leads to her rejecting her future and her parents. This isn’t exceptionally original or interesting, as far as plots go.

In the end, I was right. I didn’t love this book very much. At Loveboat, Ever gets stuck in a love triangle (sigh). There is some cheating that is disguised as not-cheating, a lot of drama (most of it unnecessary), and girl hate. Like seriously, I do not understand the friendship–if you can call it that–between Sophie and Ever. There were some things that surprised me in a good way, though. The daughter of immigrants and the “your dream not mine” plot line was surprisingly well-written. Ever does not completely discount her parent’s perspective and admits that their sacrifice is not something she can ignore, even if a future of dancing means more to her than anything. For such a shallow novel, these type of discussions were surprisingly nuanced.

Unfortunately, most other discussions were not. Some heavy topics are brought up in the novel, like depression, gender stereotypes, and the stigma of dyslexia, but aren’t fully developed or discussed. Some plot points don’t add up (Sophie spending loads of money but her backstory being the fact that she’s poor, for example). We are introduced to some characters that don’t show up again, such as Meghan. Also I don’t want to spoil anything but the last couple of chapters were SO rushed and most of it didn’t logistically make sense…

Some plot lines show surprising depth and are fun to read but the shallow drama and emotional/romantic manipulation throughout the book makes it a very frustrating read. A fun setting with cultural nuances but flat characters and too much teenage drama. 7/10.

Teen SRC 2021 – They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

They Wish They Were Us - Goodman, Jessica

Another YA mystery set at a prestigious boarding school! I seem to have a soft spot for those. Anyway, I had high hopes for this book because wow, what a cover. They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman gets a 7/10 because while I enjoyed the setting, and smaller details, the mystery just didn’t deliver.

They Wish They Were Us is about a group of elite students at Blackbrook Prep, called the Players. Being the elite of the elite means good grades, better parties, and the best drama. But it all comes at a cost. No one knows this better than Jill Newman, whose best friend was killed by her boyfriend during Player initiation. That’s all done and dusted, though, because it’s three years later and Jill is going to make the most of her senior year. But then she gets a text message, questioning what happened the day she became a Player… and when Jill looks deeper, she realizes not everything is as it seems.

There is a lot of your typical YA stuff in this book, like partying, pulling pranks and drinking…most of it I don’t enjoy nor find realistic. The only thing I feel this book did better than any other YA mystery is the character relationships which are complex and go deeper than labels. I also liked the premise of a boarding school with its unjust hierarchy system, as well as how Jill’s financial struggles played into the story. Still, like I said before, the mystery was too predictable and got frustrating as the book dragged on.

Overall, I would recommend this book as a contemporary drama/coming of age more so than a mystery. It’s fun, shocking and you’ll enjoy the character relationships in spite of the lukewarm plot. 7/10

Teen SRC 2021 – The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

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The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski follows Kestrel as a seventeen year old girl and a general’s daughter. Her destiny is already set for her; join the military or get married. However, her still naive mindset from being sheltered all her life, has different ideas and paths that could cause an avalanche of disasters. Each mistake takes the price of hundreds of lives, each choice comes with harsh consequences, and how much will it take for her grow out her shell and open her eyes to the cold, back stabbing world.

“But when you are faced with only two choices— the military or marriage—don’t you wonder if there is a third, or a fourth, or more, even, than that?”

The story is set in a world where war is at the edge of commencing, with rebellions standing up after the Valorians, white and fair, raided and overtook the land, enslaving the surviving Herrani, dark skinned and native to the land. Her less open minded friend dragged her out to a slave auction resulting in Kestrel impulsively buying Arin after learning about his ability to sing. This is one of the many choices her naive mind caused as she had made two mistakes here; buying a slave she has no need for making her engage in unnecessary problems, and buying him for a ridiculous price, thus the title “The Winner’s Curse.”

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Teen SRC 2021 – The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

I loved the Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson trilogy, so I was very ready to read this spin-off featuring teen-detective Stevie Bell and all her friends. There are very few spoilers for the trilogy in this book so if you want to read this without having read the first three other books first, then please do!

Read the description of the book here.

I really don’t have much to say except that I enjoyed this book tremendously. The mystery was well-written, the character growth was impressive (especially as you don’t expect it after three whole books), and I loved the small town summer camp setting. I didn’t enjoy the romance in the Truly Devious trilogy but in this book we see another side to David, who is the love interest, which is fun. The side characters also each get their own little arc, and I especially loved Nate’s! The last thing I’ll say is that The Box in the Woods also has interesting social commentary sprinkled throughout, so if you like satire and political humour, you’ll enjoy this too.

All in all, a captivating summer mystery with an unexpected ending and lovable characters. 9/10

Teen SRC 2021 – Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

In the kingdom of Astrea, Princess Theodosia Eirene Houzzara was imprisoned and inside her own palace since the day her mother, the Queen of Fire, was murdered by the conquering and merciless Kalovaxians. She was merely 6 years old when the Kaiser invaded her land and destroyed her family. Ever since Theo was forced into the title “Ash Princess” to insult the Astreans and the suffering country. Regardless, Theo kept grasping on the speck of hope that someone will rescue her from the horrid palace and aid her in reclaiming the throne. Now, 10 years have passed and Theo finally realized she needed to take action herself against the Kaiser and fight for her kingdom again. Throughout these years, Theo witnessed her people perish and land being abused. She is determined to take revenge and revolt on the battlefield against the malicious Kaiser.

At first, I was intrigued in this book because I hoped to see Theo grow into a powerful female lead. However, the book displayed her as a cowardly, naive, and indecisive girl despite the traumas she had experienced. I was also quite skeptical about the teen romance involved because everything seemed childish for a young adult fantasy novel. Even the names of the people, objects, and land were unnecessarily long and strange. I did not like this book because I think the reading and comprehension level is too simple for me.

You can find Ash Princess here and more of Laura Sebastian here

Teen SRC 2021 – Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Tweet Cute: A Novel: Lord, Emma: 9781250237323: Books - Amazon.ca

I feel like I know what you’re thinking: Rosie writing another review on a YA romance?? ?

And yes, you are correct. I did indeed read yet another realistic fiction, teen romance novel this year :0

BUT — it’s because I was trying to get into the summer mindset and this just happened to scream teen spirit to me!!

And guess what? I liked it a lot more than Anna and the French Kiss! I know, crazy. Just read on to find out why <3

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord is the story of Pepper Evans and Jack Campbell. An enemies to friends to enemies to lovers. Yep. That’s basically it. But if you really want to get into it, let me tell you about these two, because I loved, loved, LOVED them. Remember how I commended Stephanie Perkins on making Anna and St. Clair relatively realistic and likable? Well Emma Lord blew this aspect out of the heckin’ park.

Pepper is an all-round amazing student. A perfect GPA, countless stellar extracurriculars and awards, and a naturally competitive spirit to top it all off. She’s smart, she’s driven, and she’s… lost? She isn’t quite sure what she wants to do in the future, so she’s just trying to do everything she can to make it into a top university for the time being. To add to her workload, her mother (the CEO of a huge fast-food chain, Big League Burger) is constantly asking Pepper to manage the business social media, posting snarky replies and funny tweets.

Jack, on the other hand, is the class clown, always just one step behind his incredibly popular twin, Ethan. His family runs a local deli (Girl Cheesing), and Jack’s been working there his entire life, and many of their loyal customers have watched him grow up. He knows that when he graduates, Ethan will be off changing the world, and he’ll be charged with staying and taking on the family business. Secretly though, Jack harbours dreams of going into app development and coding, and has already created several fun and unique apps.

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