Books I Loved & Not So Loved: YA Mini Reviews

I’ve read so many YA books this spring & summer that I can’t help but fangirl all over about (although I have had a few misses here or there). Today I’ll be sharing two books I LOVED and one I unfortunately didn’t love as much as I wish I had.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

My Rating: 5/5 Stars 

If there’s at least one 2019 YA release that you need to catch up on, it’s Elizabeth downloadAcevedo’s With the Fire on High! With the Fire on High has received so much hype & praise from my bookish friends & fellow bloggers that I knew it was time to finally pick it up. The book follows Emoni, a high school senior living in Philadelphia who dreams of running her own kitchen. When her high school offers a culinary arts class that includes a week-long trip to Spain, Emoni is willing to do anything she can to make sure she gets into that class and go on the trip. But life has never been easy for Emoni, especially now as she raises her two year old daughter and tries to balance her life as a high school student and mother, with her abuela there to support.

Elizabeth Acevedo is so well known for her beautifully written verse. Although With the Fire on High isn’t written in verse, her writing style shines through and was so descriptive! The chapters are between 2-5 pages each, with each chapter title’s alluding to its main theme. I always feel like I blow through books with shorter chapters faster for some reason, which only added to how I could not put With the Fire on High down. Emoni was a really complex character. I think what is likely the most intriguing part of her story is that Emoni has a daughter, having had her when she was a freshman in high school.  Emoni directly disputes a lot of the stereotypes associated with her as a mother. Emoni has to make some tough decisions as a student and as a mother, but she fortunately has her grandmother and her best friend to help support her and her daughter, Emma. Growing up in a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood in Philadelphia there are also somer really great discussions surrounding race, as Emoni identifies as Afro-Puerto Rican.

And lastly, probably the best part of With the Fire on High, there are so many great descriptions and scenes revolving around food!  The book really revolves around Emoni’s love for cooking and the ‘magic’ she has for being able to pull ingredients together to make amazing recipes. It seriously makes readers want to hop into their kitchen and try mixing and matching ingredients together! 

Anna K: A Love Story by Jenny Lee

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Anna K: A Love Story was everything I wanted & more. I’ve been on a bit of an adult 9781250236425fiction kick lately, but I wanted to pick up one of the YA books I had checked out from the library. Fortunately, Anna K was the perfect choice because it was the perfect blend of YA high-class drama with a writing style that reminded me of some of my recent adult fiction reads. A retelling of Anna Karenina, Anna K is set in modern-day NYC and Greenwich high society, as the title character and co. find themselves in scandal after scandal. Anna K seems to have it all, including the perfect, Harvard boyfriend (even if he is a bit boring), but her ‘perfect’ life gets turned upside down when she meets the infamous playboy, Alexia “Count” Vronsky. Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are working through a cheating scandal of their own, while Steven’s best friend and tutor, Dustin, falls head-over-heels for Lolly’s sister, Kimmie. I loved how interconnected the characters and their drama were, as their connections made for a ton of jaw-dropping moments. 

What sets Anna K apart from other YA books following rich & elite teens and their glamourously scandalous lives was its representation and the depth of each character. While I want to believe that teenagers aren’t using drugs or partying it up as much as Anna K and her friends do, Jenny Lee did such a fantastic job of allowing the reader to really get in the mind of each character and their lives. The chapters are fairly short, which for some reason always seems to suck me more and more into a book! Although I haven’t read Anna Karenina, I did see the odes to the classic based on what I do know. I don’t want be spoilerly or the ending, but I will say that I actually enjoyed it – in a weird  way, I’m glad it wasn’t super cheery? – and I am counting down the days until the sequel, Anna K: Away, comes out!

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

My Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

ltI wanted to LOVE Loveboat, Taipei, but it really wasn’t the read I was expecting. The book follows Ever Wong, who’s sent to Taiwan for the summer by her parents so she can learn about her Taiwanese culture. Ever is honestly bummed to be going to Taiwan, with her freshmen year filled with pre-med classes looming ahead and having wanted to spend the summer dancing as much as she can. But Ever finds herself having a lot more fun and experiencing way more drama than she expected at “Loveboat,” a summer program that’s really a summer long party for teens to go out and hook-up as much as they want (as long as they don’t get caught by the program’s counselors).

I feel like most of the YA books I’ve read in 2020 have such great writing styles and mature characters, but the writing style and first person perspective of Ever made her feel younger and immature – which didn’t make for the best contrast considering there’s a few hook-up scenes and a mature photoshoot scene involving Ever later on. I think I was expecting a more mature and, honestly, Gossip Girl like story, but I just did not like the direction of the plot and really didn’t like Ever much as a character. Her parents hold very high expectations for her, but I feel like there were so many opportunities for Ever to stand up for herself and also make better choices. I think I kept reading in hope that Ever would stand up for herself and somehow get out of the pretty bad situation she finds herself in with her roommate and others. I likely would’ve DNF’ed it, but the story is so fast-paced and easy to read that I decided to hold on. I didn’t really feel too attached to the side characters, although I admit one of the reasons I held on was because of Ever’s love triangle and her relationship with Rick. 

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Have you read any of the books I mentioned? What YA books have you been reading this summer? Share in the comments! 

12 thoughts on “Books I Loved & Not So Loved: YA Mini Reviews

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