THE EX-FELDWEBEL When Ayano Watase hands in her resignation letter to the Osthauptstadt militia, she’s not expecting to go back to normal. After all, she’d lived through hell and back as she climbed the ranks of a sweep squad commander battling the Fever with her childhood friend, Souta. Nothing could change that. Yet what she finds at the park apartments of Torberg where her cousin-once-removed lives change everything she thought about the Fever. About the world. THE HAUPTFELDWEBEL Souta Nonomiya’s life seemingly continues on after Ayano resigns. But as he steadily climbs the ranks Ayano gave up on, he begins to see cracks in the Stadt he had been ignoring. As a policy change reconstructs the Stadt militia, his path once again crosses with the girl who rescued him many years ago.
It’s Wednesday again. (For some strange reason, I kept thinking it was still Tuesday.) Sadly, we’ve lost all the sunshine and it’s back to being Rain-couver. Very sad.
Today, I will share with you my 5 Favourite Contemporary YA Reads (+1!) I actually don’t really read contemporary books so much, so I had to think a little about it. But once I did compile some book list, I realised I had 5+1. I think I like adding one more to lists like these, because it’s sort of like a bonus!
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the lineup…
1: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Content: Swearing, Sexual Content, Dying, Chronic Illness, Some Illegal Activity
My Rating: 4 Stars
This is the funniest book you’ll ever read about death.
It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. But on the first day of his senior year, Greg Gaines thinks he’s figured it out. The answer to the basic existential question: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad? His strategy: remain at the periphery at all times. Keep an insanely low profile. Make mediocre films with the one person who is even sort of his friend, Earl.
This plan works for exactly eight hours. Then Greg’s mom forces him to become friends with a girl who has cancer. This brings about the destruction of Greg’s entire life.
Fiercely funny, honest, heart-breaking—this is an unforgettable novel from a bright talent, now also a film that critics are calling “a touchstone for its generation” and “an instant classic.”
I’ve avoided reading this book for as long as possible. For some strange reason, this book and The Perks of Being a Wallflower since I encountered them in the library. Now that I’ve read ME+DG, I think I will give Perks a try, too. One thing I really liked about this book was how the first part is painful-gut laugh-worthy, and then the humor starts being flat and bleak as the story progresses. It’s sort of like a “sick-girl story” parody, and I would recommend it to anyone who might find this interesting.
2: What I Like About You
Content: Some Swearing (I think), Romance, Dealing with Death, Online activity
My Rating: 5 stars
Can a love triangle have only two people in it? Online, it can… but in the real world, it’s more complicated. In this debut novel Marisa Kanter explores what happens when internet friends turn into IRL crushes.
There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.
He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…
Except who she really is.
Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.
That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.
Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.
If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.
Okay, can we just stop and comment about how much I loved this book? I mean, I almost never write reviews on Goodreads. After finishing WILAY, I went straight to Goodreads to rant about this book. And that’s really all you should know about it, other than the fact you should be reading this book now.
A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan..
But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
This was a bittersweet story (and surprisingly serious look) about life in college. It was really fascinating how the story unfolds where it’s not just about Cath’s love of her life, Simon Snow and the fanfic, but also very much about her pain and hurt when her mother left. It’s a really thoughtful book; it does contain LGBTQ2+ elements that is important in the story, so it’s not for everyone.
4: The Alex Crow
Content: Swearing (I think), Sexual assault/content, refugee camp, violence
My Rating: 5 stars
Once again blending multiple story strands that transcend time and place, Grasshopper Jungle author Andrew Smith tells the story of 15-year-old Ariel, a refugee from the Middle East who is the sole survivor of an attack on his small village. Now living with an adoptive family in Sunday, West Virginia, Ariel’s story of his summer at a boys’ camp for tech detox is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic bomber and the diaries of a failed arctic expedition from the late nineteenth century. Oh, and there’s also a depressed bionic reincarnated crow.
I actually wasn’t sure if I could place this book as a “contemporary YA”, but I do think it does. It’s a delightful mixture of something like urban legend, the road to becoming a refugee, and a sciency-adventure filled to the brim with boys. Yes, boys. There’s hardly any girls in this story (which is refreshing) and you’d have to endure the silliness of boys as well as all their weirdness (totally not looking at my brother) and quirks. It’s also very emotional and thought-provoking. This is one of the books I’m glad to have met and would re-read.
When 16-year-old poetry blogger Tessa Dickinson is involved in a car accident and loses her eyesight for 100 days, she feels like her whole world has been turned upside-down.
Terrified that her vision might never return, Tessa feels like she has nothing left to be happy about. But when her grandparents place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a typist to help Tessa continue writing and blogging, an unlikely answer knocks at their door: Weston Ludovico, a boy her age with bright eyes, an optimistic smile…and no legs.
Knowing how angry and afraid Tessa is feeling, Weston thinks he can help her. But he has one condition — no one can tell Tessa about his disability. And because she can’t see him, she treats him with contempt: screaming at him to get out of her house and never come back. But for Weston, it’s the most amazing feeling: to be treated like a normal person, not just a sob story. So he comes back. Again and again and again.
Tessa spurns Weston’s “obnoxious optimism”, convinced that he has no idea what she’s going through. But Weston knows exactly how she feels and reaches into her darkness to show her that there is more than one way to experience the world. As Tessa grows closer to Weston, she finds it harder and harder to imagine life without him — and Weston can’t imagine life without her. But he still hasn’t told her the truth, and when Tessa’s sight returns he’ll have to make the hardest decision of his life: vanish from Tessa’s world…or overcome his fear of being seen.
100 Days of Sunlight is a poignant and heartfelt novel by author Abbie Emmons. If you like sweet contemporary romance and strong family themes then you’ll love this touching story of hope, healing, and getting back up when life knocks you down.
*takes deep breath* CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT HOW CUTE THIS BOOK IS!!! (I totally didn’t use all caps.)
100 Days of Sunlight is probably the cutest (and not annoying) book I’ve met in my entire life. It chronicles Tessa’s journey of suddenly losing eyesight, being plunged into the darkness, to finding life even more vibrant and dazzling and…alive. It’s so alive. The prose can be somewhat simple, but it makes it up by adding other forms of writing like poetry. It’s one book I will continue to fangirl and squeal about for my entire life.
+1: Grendel’s Guide to Love & War
Content: Romance, Partying, Illegal Activity, Some Swearing (I think)
My Rating: 4 stars
The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets Revenge of the Nerds in this tale of a teen misfit who seeks to take down the bro next door, but ends up falling for his enemy’s sister and uncovering difficult truths about his family in the process.
Tom Grendel lives a quiet life—writing in his notebooks, mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors, and pining for Willow, a girl next door who rejects the “manic-pixie-dream” label. But when Willow’s brother, Rex (the bro-iest bro ever to don a jockstrap), starts throwing wild parties, the idyllic senior citizens’ community where they live is transformed into a war zone. Tom is rightfully pissed—his dad is an Iraq vet, and the noise from the parties triggers his PTSD—so he comes up with a plan to end the parties for good. But of course, it’s not that simple.
One retaliation leads to another, and things quickly escalate out of control, driving Tom and Willow apart, even as the parties continue unabated. Add to that an angsty existential crisis born of selectively reading his sister’s Philosophy 101 coursework, a botched break-in at an artisanal pig farm, and ten years of unresolved baggage stemming from his mother’s death…and the question isn’t so much whether Tom Grendel will win the day and get the girl, but whether he’ll survive intact.
This is one of the most weird and amazing contemporary books I’ve ever read. It’s actually a modern retelling of Beowulf, which I read (in both the unreadable language and the translation) but retain no memory of. So I can’t really talk to you about the authenticity of it. If you think it’s loosely inspired, that might help. I also really liked the main character, Tom Grendel, and I want to give him rosemary bagels and earl grey hot chocolate.
So that’s it for now. And remember, my blogiversary is coming up soon, so if you have any questions about me, just leave it in the comments or in the contact page!
What do you think? Do you recognise any of the books? Are you interested in reading some of the books from this list? Do you like contemporary YA? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!
So pleased to see you again. I am hoping against all odds you don’t find me quite annoying after I’ve switched to twice a week schedule. (Please don’t blame me, it’s all the pandemic that’s been apparently going on.)
Today, I wanted to discuss the 7 YA Pet Peeves I have, what’s so wrong with it, and how we should avoid it as authors. Because, really, it can’t go on like this.
NOTE: Before we go on any further, I would like to say that I don’t mean to discriminate or point out certain people. We’re talking about fictional people. And, these are my opinions and my personal pet peeves that I have. I apologise ahead of time for anyone who may be offended.
1: The Dead, Nonexistent, or Evil Parent
Okay, this is probably one of my biggest pet peeves. Some of the YA I have read actually had good integration with parents, but the overwhelming part of YA is filled with dead, nonexistent, or evil parents.
Which is not realistic.
Sure, there are people who have this as a reality. Maybe they have deceased, nonexistent, or downright evil parents who aren’t much of someone who cheers for them. But in truth, even parents who might not be the best person in the world, do care about their children. Even when they’re teenagers.
2: Love Triangles
I actually am not a fan of romance, to begin with, and my biggest pet peeve YA romance trope is the love triangle. There are so many levels this is unhealthy and…wrong.
I mean, it’s not that this is unrealistic. Yes, love triangles do happen in real life, which is the reason it would be written in the first place. But at the same time, there’s something inherently painful about having to read about three people (two of whom would compete against each other for the one) and in all the unhealthiness that is present in YA, I think we should try to rethink love triangles.
One love triangle I did like was What I Like About You, which is a love triangle between a girl and her online self (blogger). I think that was quite innovative and also had a satisfying resolution.
3: Instant Hero
Initially, I was thinking this was the same as the Chosen One ™, but I realised it wasn’t the case. This is where the MC is dragged off into an adventure and despite their previous self (not much of an athlete or strategian), suddenly they gain a secret weapon or superpower and become the hero.
That. Just. Can’t. Happen.
People do not become the best sparring champion in hours. It takes years. I’ve been doing karate for over seven years now, but no one I’ve known has become a Kumite champion in hours, or a month. You need at least half a year. I particularly want to throttle these YA heroes.
4: Party of Doom
One thing that had always puzzled me is the amount of underage drinking, drug abuse, swearing that is involved in any YA. And the party, where everything comes crashing down.
To back things up, I do have to say I grew up in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. (It’s like the capital of capitals. It’s the coolest city in the world, although I may be biased.) I’m also a homeschooler and grew up in a conservative home. Then again, Japanese people are kind of more conservative than people think.
There’s no such thing as house parties in there. At least, not for high schoolers. Plus, even though some people may do this, I feel like writing about parties like it’s normal is kind of unrealistic. I have friends here who do go to public high schools, but from their stories, I’ve heard that parties aren’t something everyone goes to. Or even a normal thing.
For once, it would be nice to have YA that didn’t entail these things.
5: Diversity. (Because, DIVERSITY!)
As a black Asian person, I’ve known first hand what racism feels like. Couple that with the fact I was a Christian homeschooler in a country with less than 1% Christian population, I would know the importance of diversity. Plus, I wanted to go into STEM, and I was a girl. (Not sure about my second career choices now. First is always a published author.)
But the thing is, you can’t just arbitrarily bunch a black queer programmer, whasian fashion blogger, and straight 3.9 GPA jock together. (Actually, it does sound sort of interesting, but that’s beside the point.) Diversity can’t be diversity just because we need to.
What people need to realise is that before anyone is skin colour or gender orientation, they’re a person. A human being. And that alone makes the person so vastly different from another person. I’ve known two Korean boys who are good at STEM in my science class, and even though they share similarities (math and tech wiz, plays unconventional games) but they are nothing like each other. Even people from the same country, same town, same family, even (looking at my sister) would be different.
And that’s what diversity is all about.
I do not appreciate being shoved down empiric agendas, especially ideas that are veered toward a certain people group. This comes out a lot as the tough girl. Usually, girls in YA tend to lean towards one or the other, and although this has been improving, I still see a lot of girls who defies earthly standards. Girls have different body builds than boys. Take it from someone who was always leading the way as the big sister who was tough and adventurous. (Okay, that is a little bit of exaggeration, but listing out the things I did for my siblings are quite impressive.) At one point, it becomes impossible to keep up with brothers on biking trips, or beating them in Kumite. Utterly disastrous.
Of course, there are people like my sempai from karate who can spar with men twice her size no problem. But not all girls are like that. In fact, most girls are not like that. And it’s okay not to be that person.
So, it would be nice to read/write about girls who are just girls with their own personal strengths and weakness. Being strong isn’t about brawns all the time.
7: The Chosen One
And at last, we come to the most famous YA trope in the world: The Chosen One.
So the one thing I would say is that I don’t necessarily hate this trope. It’s just that I’ve seen this too many times, and sometimes it feels too cardboard.
But, this is actually one trope that could be salvaged. Done correctly, it can deliver a powerful theme and message.
And that’s it for now.
What do you think? Do you have any tropes or pet peeves that you can’t stand? What are some YA tropes that you think should be avoided? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!
Also, let me know in the comments any questions you might have. I’ll answer them on my upcoming blogiversary.