I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

Anna takes a nanny job in the Hamptons for the summer before college, but what she expects to be a peaceful summer in a beach town immediately takes a different turn. She is constantly told by the locals that she looks like Zoe Spanos, the missing girl from the town, and she begins to have memories that make her think she was involved in Zoe’s disappearance.

Mystery/Thriller, 384 pages, published in 2020

Anna takes a nanny job in the Hamptons for the summer before college, but what she expects to be a peaceful summer in a beach town immediately takes a different turn. She is constantly told by the locals that she looks like Zoe Spanos, the missing girl from the town, and she begins to have memories that make her think she was involved in Zoe’s disappearance.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Content Warnings: non-consensual kissing, schizophrenia, murder/death

I was really intrigued by this book because of the striking cover and sprayed edges. I hate comparing things like this, but I was hoping it would be similar to A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, so maybe I was going in with too many expectations, but this book did not stick the landing for me.

It is told in alternating chapters of past and present, told in first and third person respectively. I generally like formats like this because it keeps things interesting and I love trying to figure out where the two timelines meet. The first person chapters kind of suffered because of these alternating chapters, because it just took so long to get information that wasn’t just about how Anna’s summer was going. For the whole book, the chapters are strictly Anna’s first person POV in the past, then a third person POV in the present, but in the last few chapters, this changes. This really bothered me because if you’re going to have a pattern, stick to it.

I definitely was curious about finding out what happened to Zoe and seeing if Anna was involved, so that propelled me through the book. I did not particularly care about Anna as a character. She just made such chaotic decisions and even at the beginning of the book, I was pretty down with the idea that she did kill Zoe, because it really felt like something she would do.

The reveals at the end of this book felt kind of lack luster to me. They left me feeling “oh.” instead of “ooOOOOhhhHHHH”, if you know what I mean 😂. Most things made sense, but it just felt a little anti-climactic to me.

This book wasn’t bad by any means, but it didn’t blow me away. I had a fairly enjoyable time reading it, but it’s not going to stick with me.

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Most Likely by Sarah Watson

Ava, CJ, Jordan, and Martha have been friends since kindergarden and one of them will become the President of the United States. The story follows each of the girls as they deal with their own struggles through their last year of high school.

Ava, CJ, Jordan, and Martha have been friends since kindergarden and one of them will become the President of the United States. The story follows each of the girls as they deal with their own struggles through their last year of high school.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I originally picked this book up because it was the April pick for the Barnes & Noble YA Book Club, but due to COVID, it was moved to an online liveshow type of thing. I did not want to attend that because I just wasn’t interested in it, I like the people at my local store that I get to chat with. I don’t think that I would have given this book a second glance had it not been for the book club, so I was pleasantly surprised!

The overarching theme of this book was definitely friendship. There was some romance sprinkled in, but it always came back to the friendship. Sometimes someone would mess up, but they knew how to communicate and apologize and always had each other’s backs. It was just so nice to see, especially because the friendship was so much more of a priority in the story than the romance.

I also really liked that there was an air of mystery, since I was constantly trying to guess which girl would become President. There is a pretty major hint in the prologue, but it definitely had me guessing until the very end. What I thought was interesting was that I could see each of them in that position. They were all quite different people with different backgrounds and goals, but I could still see each one’s path to becoming President.

I also loved that this book tackled so many different issues. One character begins working with kids in wheelchairs and has to confront her discomfort around people with disabilities. Another character deals with depression and working to find more about her birth family. A bunch of other stuff happens, but those are the two that stick out to me. This point is interesting because I liked that it tackled so many issues, but at the same time, I wish it had spent more time on each. The book is fairly short, so there wasn’t a ton of room to be exploring each girl’s story in a ton of depth.

The ending of this book definitely got me a little emotional. The bond between friends was just so sweet and inspiring. Also, seeing a female President…that definitely got to me.

Overall, I thought this was a fun book! It’s not something I would normally pick up, but I appreciate it for what it was and I had enjoyable time reading it. I think if you like YA contemporaries, this is definitely a good one to check out!

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Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

All Ever wants to do is dance, but her parents have pushed her into becoming a doctor her whole life. For the summer, they force her to go to Taiwan for a summer program, infamously called Loveboat. When she arrives, she realizes that since her parents are on the other side of the world, she doesn’t have to follow their strict rules, at least for the summer.

Contemporary, 432 pages, published in 2020

All Ever wants to do is dance, but her parents have pushed her into becoming a doctor her whole life. For the summer, they force her to go to Taiwan for a summer program, infamously called Loveboat. When she arrives, she realizes that since her parents are on the other side of the world, she doesn’t have to follow their strict rules, at least for the summer.

Spoiler Free Review:

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I don’t think I would have picked this book up if not for the YA Barnes & Noble book club. I don’t mind contemporary books, but they are definitely not my preferred genre. I definitely had an entertaining time reading this book, but it’s not something I would ever feel the need to reread.

At first, I really felt connected to Ever. She got rejected from a ton of colleges and she feels pushed into something she doesn’t want to do. However, once she got to Taipei, she made decisions that I just did not understand. A lot of them seemed to go against who she was as a person. I get that she was trying to do things to spite her parents, but it just felt like too much.

I didn’t really like any of the characters. Ever does some things that felt kind of manipulative to me, her love interest Rick does what felt close to emotional cheating, and her friend Sophie does something terrible as revenge. Speaking of Sophie, what she did was absolutely awful and I think she got off way too easy for what she did.

I enjoyed the plot because it was filled with drama and I didn’t know where things were going to go. There is a huge group of kids in their late teens in this program, so things were bound to get wild.

I also enjoyed the portrayal of the struggle of expectations placed on the children of immigrants, especially people of color. Ever wants to dance, but her parents gave up everything to give her the chance to go to medical school, and throughout the book, she has to deal with the guilt involved. Many of her peers deal with this pressure as well.

Overall, I think this book just bit off more than it could chew. I think it could have explored more to do with children of immigrants, but it also deals with abuse and depression. There was some travelling around Taiwan near the end of the book that I wish I could have read more of. I felt like lots of things were covered briefly, when I would have preferred a few things to be covered in depth.

I read this book super fast, so it definitely was entertaining, but I had enough issues with it that it’s not a standout for me.

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Reverie by Ryan La Sala

Kane was found half-dead by the river, but he can’t remember how he got there and his life seems different than before in ways he can’t place. With the help of strangers who claim to be his friends from before the accident, they fight the magical reveries that are plaguing their town.

Fantasy, 416 pages, published in 2019

Kane was found half-dead by the river, but he can’t remember how he got there and his life seems different than before in ways he can’t place. With the help of strangers who claim to be his friends from before the accident, they fight the magical reveries that are plaguing their town.

Spoiler Free Review:

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I initially heard of this book because it was a Barnes & Noble YA Book Club pick, but I started hearing more about it after that. I had heard that it was a fantasy that included lots of LQBTQ characters, so I was very intrigued, but unfortunately, that couldn’t save this book for me.

I was just so confused for a lot of the book. Kane is confused as well, at least at the beginning, but even when he started to get his bearings, things still didn’t make sense. I feel like rules about the reveries and the magic would be laid down, then broken right away, so it felt very disorienting. This was my biggest problem with the book because it made it unbearable to get through.

I thought the reveries themselves were cool. They are kind of like dreams, where they come out of one person’s subconscious. However, I feel like it just took to long to get oriented in each new reverie and it kind of pulled me out of the story.

I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters. I especially didn’t like Kane. I felt like he was so angry and rash. There were roughly six main characters of this book and a few of them definitely got pushed to the sideline towards the middle of the book. This book also had one of my least favorite tropes: everyone gets paired up at the end. I have recently realized that romances in stand-alone books (that aren’t just romances) just do not work for me because they don’t feel developed enough. So when there were multiple romances happening, I couldn’t really get on board with any of them because I hadn’t had time to connect to them.

There were just a lot of things that felt under-baked about this story. I wanted more character growth, more about magic, more on relationships.

I just really did not care for this book. It seems like a common trend with Barnes & Noble’s YA Book Club picks for me, unfortunately. If I hadn’t been reading this for that reason, I would not have finished it.

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Reread Review: Scythe (Arc of Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman

In a world where disease, murder, and even death have been conquered, there is the need for scythes to kill in order to keep the population from growing too rapidly. Teenagers Citra and Rowan are thrown into an scythe apprenticeship that neither of them wants.

Sci-fi, 443 pages, published in 2016

In a world where disease, murder, and even death have been conquered, there is the need for scythes to kill in order to keep the population from growing too rapidly. Teenagers Citra and Rowan are thrown into an scythe apprenticeship that neither of them wants.

Spoiler Free Review:

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I read this book around a year ago and I enjoyed it, but this time around, I loved it!! I planning on just looking up a synopsis before reading the third book, but after it was announced as the Barnes & Noble YA Book Club pick for December, I decided to give it a reread. I’m honestly so glad I reread it because now I am obsessed with this series!

The premise of the books has always been interesting to me. I love the moral questions about death that it raises. If humans should be in charge of choosing who dies, is there a right type of person for that job? Should they enjoy it? The book also features an AI that governs people, but has nothing to do with scythes. Should an AI be allowed to choose who dies, or if life is a human affair, should death also be a human affair? The characters struggle with all of these questions and more throughout the book.

As far as Neal Shusterman’s books go, I have only read Scythe, the sequel, and Dry, but I feel like they all tend to be more plot driven. It’s not that I don’t like the characters, because I do like Rowan and Citra for the most part, it’s just that the plot is way more interesting than the characters for me. Even though this was a reread, the plot twists still had me on the edge of my seat! Normally, I prefer character-driven books, but the plot and world of this book kept me so engaged.

The romance in this book is a little…abrupt in my opinion. I don’t dislike it, but there is very little lead up to it. I know it is because we don’t spend much time in the day to day lives of the characters, but it’s worth noting that if you are looking for well-developed romance, you’re not going to find it here.

I’m loving this series! As I am writing this, I have reread Thunderhead and I’m in the middle of The Toll. I love the world and what it says about humanity, as well as the plot and it’s twists. I highly recommend this series!

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I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

Synopsis: Campbell and Lena are not friends, but after an incident at their high school football game and a protest gone wrong, they must count on the each other to make it home alive.

Contemporary, 249 pages, published in 2019

Synopsis: Campbell and Lena are not friends, but after an incident at their high school football game and a protest gone wrong, they must count on the each other to make it home alive.

Spoiler Free Review:

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This is another book I read for the Barnes & Noble YA Book Club! So far, I have not been loving their choices, this book included. I just needed more from it. I think it had the beginnings of a really good book, but I really just needed more.

The beginning felt kind of like an info dump. It was in first person, so the characters were talking about their whole backstories in their mind in order to inform the reader, but this could have been done better. Lena and Campbell didn’t know each other before this night, so having the reader find out their backstory by reading a conversation between them would have made it feel more natural.

It is a short time frame story, so it takes place all in one night. I think these types of stories can be really interesting because you can see how one moment or one event can change a person. I think Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo did a great job at this! However, in the case of this book, I just wanted to see how this event impacted the girls and their relationships with each other and others changed from it. There were a few exclusive deleted chapters in my edition, but even those were not enough to do what I wanted. Also, I think have deleted chapters is just silly, like if they were that important, include them in the book.

I did enjoy Campbell and Lena’s relationship. They go from disliking each other, to reluctantly working together, to becoming almost friends. They definitely had some good moments along their journey. Because this book was so short both in terms of timeline and page count, their relationship couldn’t develop too much, or else it would feel unrealistic.

The book definitely hits on points about race and racism, but I just felt like it didn’t go far enough. They give you the information about the events in the book that have happened and are happening due to racism, but that’s it. They just give you the facts and don’t do anything to make it go any deeper than that.

I enjoyed this book while I was reading it, but now that I am looking back on it, I can’t see myself thinking about it much in the future.