THRILLER & GYMNASTICS-INSPIRED READS: YA Mini Reviews

I think half of my reading back in December was dedicated to YA books, including the three books included in today’s mini review round up. One of these books has definitely received so much hype since the authors is a YA thriller favorite, while I’d love to see more hype and love for the last 2 books in today’s reviews!

The Cousins by Karen McManus

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I was craving a YA book early on December and since it was the Bad on Paper Podcast book club pick for December, I decided to pick up Karen McManus’  The Cousins. I’ve only read Karen McManus’ smash hit, One of Us is Lying, back in 2018. It wasn’t my FAVORITE book in the world, but I definitely understood the hype and liked Karen McManus’ writing style. Another YA mystery, The Cousins follows Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story, three cousins whose family has been estranged ever since their grandmother disinherited their parents over twenty years ago. When the cousins receive a letter from their grandmother asking them to work for the family resort for the summer, the three soon find themselves heading to Cape Cod for the season and trying to figure out what went wrong all those years ago. 

The Cousins is such a great thriller to binge read in a day or so this winter. I ultimately read it in three sittings, but if it hadn’t been for final exam season, I so would’ve read it in one go! You know that I love reading YA books with ‘rich kid’ settings, and I really enjoyed getting into the extravagance of the Storys’ lives on a fictional Nantucket meets Martha Vineyard’s inspired island. Although their grandmother and their parents as teens did have pretty privileged lives (we get a few chapters told from the teenage perspective of Milly’s mom), Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah’s lives aren’t exactly as extravagant as their parents used to be. I feel like we got to explore Aubrey and Jonah’s backstories quite well and their own secrets, but I do wish we got some on Milly- the only reason I think why we maybe don’t is because we explore her mom’s story as a teen. I admit I often had to return to the family tree in the beginning of the book because I kept getting their parents/the four siblings confused, since all their names begin with A. I really didn’t know what to expect from the mystery and I did enjoy the way the plot unraveled. It wasn’t the most jaw-dropping ending, but I thought the twists were delivered well and I honestly wouldn’t have guessed the big reveals in the beginning of the book. Will The Cousins be a super memorable read for me? Maybe not, but nevertheless, there’s just something about Karen McManus’ writing style that is so easy to get hooked into that makes The Cousins a fun binge read on a cold day this season. 

Break the Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Hannah Orenstein’s Head Over Heels, a gymnastics-inspired contemporary romance, is one my favorite reads of 2020 that left me craving another book about gymnastics. Enter Jennifer Iacopelli’s 2020 release, Break the Fall, a YA book following a fictional group of young women on the USA gymnastics team headed to the 2020 Olympics, until a scandal involving their coaches and one of their teammates threatens their future at the Games. 

Break the Fall tackles the very real reality surrounding sexual assault and other scandals in the competitive gymnastics world. While the main protagonist, Audrey, is not directly involved in the scandals, her teammates’ experiences are obviously very traumatic and affect the entire team’s mentality and relationships. The book well balances these serious discussions while also focusing on Audrey’s preparation for the Games – something she never thought she’d actually experience between the competition and the back injury that almost ended her career. There is a lot of details about the type of moves and gymnastic events Audrey and her teammates perform, and I found myself glued to every paragraph in fear that they would make a wrong move or in anticipation for their final score. The book was so well-written and again balanced the gymnastics scenes with the serious conversations and emotions going through Audrey’s head. There is a slight romance between Audrey and another Olympic hopeful snowboarder, Leo. While I think the story still would’ve been strong without it, their relationship allowed us to see another side of Audrey, especially as she prepares for a life without gymnastics after the Games. 

While I believe both were meant to pair well with the 2020 Olympics hype, Head Over Heels and Break the Fall are the perfect way to not completely miss out on gymnastics this year, but more importantly address serious topics surrounding the sport. 

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Wow, Tiffany D. Jackson’s Allegedly is absolutely a book that packs a punch. As you might be able to tell from the synopsis, the book is not an easy read, to say the least. The book follows Mary, a fifteen-year old black girl who was accused at nine years old of murdering the white baby her mother was babysitting. Mary spent six years in jail before going to a group home for girls who have also been accused of violent crimes. Now pregnant, Mary wants to be able to raise her child, but against her mother’s wishes, must re-open her case and go back to that night. 

Allegedly is a really dark read. There were so many violent scenes, especially at the group home and in Mary’s flashbacks, that might be hard for some readers to digest (warning again for violence, but also sexual, physical and verbal abuse). The characters are all really complex and flawed, which made it really difficult, but interesting to think about their motivations and in Mary’s case, determine if she was guilty or not. While the book did feel a bit more mystery and even somewhat contemporary to me, it is also has thriller vibes. I did not predict the twist at the end at all. I read Tiffany D. Jackson’s Grown back this summer, and between Grown and Allegedly, I’m definitely interested in picking up more of her books. She has this way of creating stories that are hard to digest but provide a ton of commentary and make her readers think about society deeply. 

Have you read any of the books that I mentioned? Do you have any YA book recommendations for me? Share in the comments! 

 

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