Review Crew Book Reviews by Genre: Romance

One of us is next book jacket
McManus, Karen M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Bayview Four, the four pupils Simon falsely accused of being the cause of his death, are no longer together, and their younger classmates and relatives are forced to play a new round of gossip-filled Truth or Dare. One year has passed since the events of One of Us Is Lying, and a game of Truth or Dare has begun. However, this isn't your typical Truth or Dare. This game can be deadly. Accepting the dare could be risky, even fatal while telling the truth might reveal your deepest secrets. This sequel had a mixed record as far as success goes. First on the list is Phoebe. It's true if you decide not to play. Phoebe’s secret is dark and it keeps her relationships and family messed up until the very end when the truth is spilled. Maeve then enters the scene, and she ought to know better than always taking the dare. However, things have become dangerous by the time Knox is ready to be tagged. The dares have turned deadly, and Maeve has learned that she cannot rely on the authorities for assistance after what happened to Bronwyn last year. or security. Although Simon is no longer with us, someone is committed to preserving his legacy at Bayview High. And the regulations have altered. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending, so many things were left untouched like relationships and the truth or dare game that I feel like there must be a third book.

Reviewer's Name: Anushka
Heartstopper: Volume Four book jacket
Oseman, Alice
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Every time I think, "Alice Oseman can't possibly outshine previous Heartstopper books," she proves me wrong! This graphic novel had beautiful art and great representation. Heartstopper: Volume Four follows Charlie and Nick as they deal with separation anxiety, saying "I love you", and working through Charlie's declining mental health. There are some really important themes introduced, the biggest being Charlie's anorexia and OCD diagnosis. This was a really emotional part of the book, but it is also crucial for more young adult books like this to spread awareness about how common mental illnesses are. Charlie and Nick's relationship is strong, but it was also cool that they discussed how spending time with other loved ones instead will strengthen their relationship. Plus, their friends are diverse, endlessly kind, and could easily be real people. It is always a joy to read this series, and I can't wait for Volume Five!
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
We Hunt the Flame book jacket
Faizal, Hafsah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

We Hunt the Flame is about a girl named Zafira who is forced to take on the role of breadwinner after her father died. She is a strong-willed, independent character who gets dragged into a quest to find a rare item with incomparable power. While she has noble intentions, the prince, Nasir, takes on a role of assassin as he fights to find the artifact before she does. I really liked the slow-burn romance throughout the book, and how Zafira's personality doesn't change as she falls in love. Nasir's character arc is a really important lesson too, as he struggles with a need for approval from his father, and the cost of that approval. The other characters were really interesting as well. The author did a wonderful job of describing each personality, so even though there were a lot of characters, I never got confused between them. Near the end, a lot of the action did muddle what I thought would be an epic conclusion to the book, and the plot twists at the end were interesting but not necessary. It was obvious that the author wanted to set up a plot for the second book, but it felt forced. However, the characters were likeable, not predictable, so you might catch me reading the sequel!
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
A Thousand Pieces of You book jacket
Gray, Claudia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray is a science fiction and adventure novel that anybody would love. This easy read quickly starts off with our main character, Marguerite, jumping into an alternate reality chasing her friend who killed her father. She catches him, but before he slips out of her grasp, she is conflicted with the question if he really did it or not. This book mixes physics for any math lovers, adventure for any aspiring traveler, and just a little bit of romance that makes it difficult to grasp onto what is real or fake. I would recommend this book to anybody who is in a reading slump and needs a good pick me up.
Jaala 12

Reviewer's Name: Jaala
Small Admissions book jacket
Poeppel, Amy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Small Admissions follows Kate Pearson, right after getting brutally dumped at an airport by her handsome, French, almost-fiancé. After the prodding of friends and family, Kate takes up a job with private school admissions, and is quickly thrown in to a mess of angry parents, bratty kids, scholarship grants, and interview skills. Throughout her journey, Kate and her friends will need to learn to let go, keep going, and grow up.
I love Amy Poeppel's books because each of her characters is so wonderfully flawed that it's a love letter to changing even as an adult. Every character in this book has a lot of issues, ranging between codependency, independency, over-confidence, under-confidence, and all possible maladies in between. This was very annoying in the beginning, but it lended to the catharsis of character development at the end. I never knew I could get so invested in a middle-aged woman making one good decision, but 300 pages of horrible decisions will do that for you! The characters themselves are amazingly vibrant and likable despite their horrible choices. There were a lot of names to remember at first, but each soon became memorable in their own way. They also interacted wonderfully throughout the book. Even though some characters got more time to shine than others, watching them bounce off each other was so fun. In particular, the female relationships in this novel get a lot of time and development, which I appreciate. The writing itself was great, not a ton of prose but very smooth and concise. The themes were phenomenal, and carried through the entire piece. There's a throughline of learning to let go of things you thought you'd always have, and while this at first seems obviously related to Kate's break-up, it applies to practically every character in the novel. People have to let go of jobs, schools, belief, and people, and it really is a love letter to letting yourself change for the better.
All in all, despite some issues with the large number of initially annoying characters, this book is phenomenal! I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants great character growth, a solid story, and a lesson on letting go!
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
King of Scars book jacket
Bardugo, Leigh
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The dashing young king, Nikolai Lantsov, has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country's bloody civil war -- and he intends to keep it that way. But some secrets aren't meant to stay buried -- and some wounds aren't meant to heal. This is not really a book of spills and thrills, but its biggest triumph lies in its deep undercurrents, in the attention and care that Leigh Bardugo pours into her characters -- into their failures and successes, and their responses to trauma, threats, and uncertainties. Bardugo breathes vivid life into each one of her characters, and lays their hearts open to the reader, which is easily perceived through the multiple different point-of-views. As a result, there is a devastating sense throughout that the characters are being stripped down to their essence, revealed in all of their glassy fragility and heartfelt vulnerability. Fantasy, politics, inner-demons, and romance -- all used to support this novel through character development and unexpected turns in the story. The King of Scars duology is my favorite out of the entire Grishaverse series -- combining storylines and characters from both the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology. I absolutely loved this book, and would definitely recommend the series.

Reviewer's Name: Nataleigh
Crooked Kingdom book jacket
Bardugo, Leigh
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The only thing keeping this book from a full 5 stars is the fact that I'm still upset about a choice Leigh Bardugo had made in writing the end of the book. I won't spoil anything, but I will say, I have never cried harder over anything. This book opens where we left off with Wylan wearing Kuwei Yul-Bo's face, and our gang must rescue Inej, get revenge, and defeat the bad guys. But that doesn't even begin to sum up all of the action, adventure, and craziness that this novel entails. And as well as being dark and compelling, the characters and relationships we love become even more fascinating and developed. Kaz and Inej, Jesper and Wylan, and Matthias and Nina have come quite far with each other, and draw me in more and more as time goes on. This found family has been and always will be my favorite group from any novel. The ending was devastating, but it was absolutely amazing. It was the kind of ending a story like this deserves -- the kind that leaves you wanting more, but knowing that it finished in exactly the right place.

Reviewer's Name: Nataleigh
The Wicked King book jacket
Black, Holly
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

After tricking Prince Cardan to not only be king, but also into obeying her every command for a year and a day, Jude steps up as the new king's seneschal. With nearly the entire kingdom of the High Court of Faerie, at her command, Jude conspires of how to keep the throne from her evil step-father, Madoc, and hold it until her step-brother, Oak, is old enough to rule. Kidnappings, murder, betrayal, scheming, plot-twists, unexpected and unspoken thoughts, The Wicked King was a book I never wanted to end. Holly Black uses such captivating diction, dialogue, and imagery, it constantly had me yearning for more. If I could read this story over and over again for the first time, I would. Holly Black has a way of combining politics, war, calculating and powerful Faerie, and sub-plots of romance; nothing too overbearing or confusing. It has everything I could ever wish for in a fantasy book. I definitely recommend reading this novel to anyone and everyone.

Reviewer's Name: Nataleigh
Caraval book jacket
Garber, Stephanie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The first book in Stephanie Garber's trilogy is a fantasy story about two sisters and their adventure at a nighttime, carnivalesque game. Scarlett Dragna leaves the tiny island where her and her sister, Donatella, live with their cruel and powerful father. Their exigence for leaving was the long awaited invitation to the legendary Caraval. Only, as soon as Scarlett and her sister reach the island, her sister is kidnapped. In order to save her sister, Scarlett must win the game. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is a mere performance. Getting entangled in a game of magic, love, heartbreak, and manipulation, Scarlett must stay focused and find her sister within the five nights of the game, or Donatella will be lost forever. The less you know about the book, the better. The more confused you are, the more you will enjoy it. I sat down and read this book in a matter of a couple of hours. Plot-twist after plot-twist -- once you start to think you finally understand what is going on, Garber turns the story around and confuses you once again. This is a story I will never forget reading, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy with a bit of mystery.
Reviewer's Grade: 11th

Reviewer's Name: Nataleigh
Last Night at the Telegraph Club book jacket
Lo, Malinda
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Last Night at the Telegraph club is set in the 1950's and follows Lily Hu a student in her final year of high school, and follows her life. During a dangerous time for Chinese Americans. It progresses slowly the struggles of Lily slowly begin adding up putting pressure on the characters, in multiple moments you can feel the pressure yourself, and feel the struggles. It confronts multiple stereotypes of the time this book it set women in stem, and the lesbian community. The characters in this book feel like their real, the characters have multiple layers to their personality. It immerses you in the story that you can perfectly picture and see yourself in the settings. The ending it leaves you wanting more, I would love to see a sequel of the following events that happened afterwards.

Reviewer's Name: Hana
The School for Good & Evil book jacket
Chainani, Soman
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

At first look, The School for Good & Evil may look like your classic and basic fantasy book with a little romance. Even though there is so much more, this book has so much depth to its plot, and just how the world is set up could be a whole book in itself. It starts in this little classic village that looks like any classic medieval village, maybe a bit more sophisticated. This village for the past 150 years has had two of their children aged around 16, boy or girl, taken from their village in the middle of the night and they are never seen again. The villagers try their hardest to stop this force that takes them, yet every year they fail. They go looking for them in the forest surrounding the village but every time someone has gone looking they go in on one side of the forest and appear out of the forest on the other side of the village. Then every year a book shows up full of stories, some including people who look like the children taken, the bookmaker then copies this book over and over to sell to everyone in the village. These stories are the classic fairy tales that everyone has heard of, as well as fairy tales we have never heard of. The village people have no clue where the children go or what happens to them except for the maybes in the books. Yet they know one thing, one child is good and one is evil.
The story starts with two girls, Sophie and Agatha, two best friends, yet opposites. Sophie is your classic-looking princess who has flawless skin, long golden blonde hair, beautiful clothes, almost the best house in the village, and is kind to everyone. While Agatha is your classic-looking witch who dresses in all black, doesn’t care about her appearance much, lives in a graveyard, has a cat that seemed to come from hell, and her mother is the witch doctor of the village. Both the same age, everyone knew they would be taken, knowing which is good and which is evil. Sophie wanted to leave desperately and did everything she possibly could to make sure she would be taken, Agatha wanted to stay in her quaint little life and not leave the village, her mom, and her cat. When the day came that the children would be taken everyone in the village worked to blockade every window door and make sure everyone stayed inside, while everyone older lined along the forest. Sophie prepared to be taken, and Agatha prepared to save her best friend from being taken. Night fell and as it turned out both Agatha and Sophie were taken, it was not a fun ride; they were pulled through the forest, the branches ripping their skin, then flying above in the claws of some bird. The two girls then saw the castles, the school for good and evil, one castle bright and shining and the other dark and gloomy. A fog came in and the girls couldn’t see anymore, they then were both dropped first Agatha and then Sophie. Yet Sophie woke up in the swamp of the evil castle and Agatha woke up in the shining clear blue lake of the good castle, something no one anticipated.
This book was something I never expected, I thought it would just be a bunch of fluff and would be a really short, easy, and bland read. NOT AT ALL. This book changed my expectations of how books should be written. This book was like something I have never read before. The twist on how we see fairytales is insane and shows what we never would have thought happened. There are so many twists and turns that even though you know the general idea of the book, you have no clue what is going to happen on every single page. This book would be great for anyone that loves reading fairy tales, fantasy, drama, and a little bit of a dark side twist in books.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Margaret
Yolk book jacket
Choi, Mary H. K.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Yolk follows two sisters. They're both in their 20s and in New York City, but that's where their similarities end. Jayne is emotional, artistic, extroverted, and endlessly neurotic. June is stiff, high-performing, self-sufficient, and horrifically condescending. The two of them want nothing to with each other. But when their lives start burning up around them, and their past starts weighing down on them, they'll have to come together to find a way to move forward.
This is one of the most realistic books I've ever read. I don't mean realistic in terms of it being sad, or technical, or boring. I mean this book creates a perfect picture of sisters, children of immigrants, the weight of expectations, and the struggles of just being alive. Starting on the sisters, I loved how the author portrayed June and Jayne. Jayne is the main point of view, but the author still manages to flesh out June for the audience without too much of Jayne's bias. They're both very flawed, they're both very talented, they both hate each other, and they both love each other. Their exchanges were the best part of this book, just as snippy and reflexive as real siblings. I also liked how Jayne, the point of view, was portrayed. She clearly doesn't like herself, and lots of that goes into her narration, but the audience is still able to marvel at her courage and resourcefulness even if she doesn't see it herself. This book also went very in-depth to Asian and immigrant culture in general. You can feel the cataclysmic effects this has upon the family, and how it still effects them all decades later. You can also see the struggles with being an immigrant/minority in the US, from microaggressions to family expectations to finding the right type of noodle at the very limited amount of Asian markets. On this point, the weight of expectations is a well done, and a driving theme of the novel. Both these girls, regardless of if their successes, feel crushed by what their parents expect of them. And their parents are shown to also be conflicted, feeling like outsiders in America.
Basically, this book has very fleshed out characters, accurate relationships, and fun dialogue! I'd recommend this to anyone fascinated by New York, sisterhood, and the struggles that make life worthwhile!

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
Some Other Now book jacket
Everett, Sarah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Some Other Now is about a girl torn between two summers, two brothers, the mistake that will destroy them all, and what it's going to take for her to move forward.
This book is pretty solid, very emotional, has some good characters, and doesn't do much else. I did like reading it, but it was a very typical story. Some of the tropes seemed played out and overly dramatic, especially in the romantic scenarios. But the things it does well, it does very well. I really liked the contrast between the narrator in the first summer and the narrator in the second summer, and how it showed her guilt and grief. I liked the complexity of her family structure, both chosen and biological, and how it weighed on her. The main character overall is very well developed, with a lot of complexity and flaws and inherent kindness that makes her very easy to root for. I honestly didn't like either brother that much, but that's to be expected. The story does a great job of exploring depression and grief and guilt and mistakes that we can't take back, making it very relatable.
All in all, it's a very typical story, but done very well, and I don't have much to say about it. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a sad story, some drama, and good characters!

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
A Winter's Promise book jacket
Dabos, Christelle
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

A Winter's Promise is originally translated from French, and the author's writing style carried over well. The story is about a girl named Ophelia who lives in a dystopian world where people can have special powers, hers being the ability to travel through mirrors. When Ophelia is engegaed to a man she's never met, she must discover what's most important: her freedom or her family's reputation. It's not so easy, however, with the fear that the family of her betrothed has malicious intentions. With that interesting premise, it was easy for me to finish the book. However, a lot of the dialogue was muddled for me because the characters weren't easily diferentiated. Though Ophelia was a headstrong main character, I was concerned by her dangerous choices and it felt like there wasn't any character development. If I put a bit more effort into understanding the world-building, this book would likely have a higher rating. Complex fantasy worlds aren't really my thing because it may take away from the characters, and it did in this case.

Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Betrayed
Cass, Kiera
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After being slightly disappointed by The Betrothed, I stayed loyal to Kiera Cass and picked up a signed copy of The Betrayed. It was good! Hollis lives outside of the palace and vows to defeat a group of assassins who work for an evil king, all while avoiding the other king she left behind. The morals had changed from the first book to be focused on overcoming grief and juggling different family values. Plus, the unpredictable love story didn't hurt. Hollis' personality developed to be even more obstinate due to her experiences. The ending was, just like the first book, a little deflating, but I see the author's vision for an atypical female empowerment story to combat any criticism from The Selection and I will give her credit for being creative with the storyline.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
The Betrothed
Cass, Kiera
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Three stars is pretty tough for me to rate, seeing as I love the Selection series so much! Kiera Cass is a great author, but The Betrothed didn't blow me away. The main character, Hollis, follows everyone else's lead in trying to seduce King Jameson and is surprised to succeed. She has trained in the ways of a queen her whole life and is prepared for life as a royal- until a handsome palace worker shows up and Hollis questions everything she thought she knew about true love. Hollis is a level-headed, passionate character (although a little whiny at times) and I liked her character arc from a conforming queen-to-be into a rebellious person who cares more about love than money or a title. What I didn't like as much was the disheartening twist and a complete change in the mood of the book. Many readers enjoy a good dark plot twist, but it felt like I had started reading a whole different book after being so invested in the first one.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
Sense and Sensibility book jacket
Austen, Jane
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Sense and Sensibility follows two sisters, Marianne and Elinor, who have been left destitute following their father's death. Marianne is an impulsive romantic who chases love wherever it will lead her. Elinor is logical and socially conscious, and hides her turbulent emotions even from those closest to her. Together, the two of them will survive scandal, family drama, and first loves in an attempt to find the prized middle ground between passionate expression and silent intelligence.
This is not the best Jane Austen novel. I've only read about one and a half of her other works, but I can guarantee anyone that this is not the best Jane Austen novel. My main problem with this work is that it has all the drawbacks of a Jane Austen classic (slow pace, meandering conversations, way too many characters) with none of the expected romantic investment.
There's still a lot of great stuff about this book. The best thing for me was the main character, Elinor. Elinor is the character through which we sees the story, which has a lot of benefits. It makes her sister's antics more endearing and impactful. It makes her romantic situation more sympathetic, which it needs. It also makes the book much more interesting, because Elinor is an amazing character! She's funny in the best, most sarcastic way possible. She's observant and intelligent, so its great to watch how her mind works. She deeply loves the people around her, and gives everyone new dimensions. She is what makes this book special. The other benefits, I'd say, is the general humor in the writing, the drama of the story, and the sustained level of tension.
The thing I don't like about this romance novel is that it doesn't do what its supposed to do: create a compelling romance. Both sisters have romances that both end somewhat in tragedy, which is supposed to be very sad and moving. This works a pretty well with Marianne, since her situation involved a lot of deceit and drama that was very fun to read. It does not work at all with Elinor. Elinor's love interest is present for very little of the novel, and is so boring that I already forgot his name for this review and wouldn't have remembered it while reading the book if Elinor didn't think about him so often. And she does think about him a lot, which doesn't make sense to the audience, since he's offered so little of himself as a character to be a compelling love interest. This wouldn't be as big of a problem if romance wasn't the central pivot of the book, but as it stands it's distracting to see the intelligent, charismatic lead longing after someone the audience couldn't care about less.
All in all, this book is still very good, and worth a read! I'd recommend this to anyone who likes regency romance, interesting female lead characters, moving emotion, and lots of drama!

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
The Queen of Nothing book jacket
Black, Holly
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The third book in Holly Black’s trilogy, The Cruel Prince, was almost impossible for me to put down. Picking back up after the cliffhanger it left off on in the previous book, it quickly drew me in and started its action. With Jude sneaking back into Elfhame pretending to be her twin sister, Taryn, she meets the people she either missed greatly or didn’t mind living without. She discovers Cardan’s place as High King of Elfhame is in danger, and Jude has to work fast to insure his safety and her own. Cardan’s witty banter, Jude’s quick thinking, family drama, messy politics, a bit of romance, and fairytales come to life. The big events and action was never ending, and made it quite difficult for me to leave the book closed. Although being fast-paced, the 300 page book has become one of my favorites. I would definitely consider re-reading, and would recommend this book to anyone interested in reading about ambitious, sword-wielding, strong queens, war between elves and a fight for a crown, and tension between lovers.

Reviewers Grade: 11th

Reviewer's Name: Nataleigh
Beach Read
Henry, Emily
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Emily Henry is an author whose work I've enjoyed, so Beach Read was on my list right away. The story follows January and Augustus, two accomplished novelists and college rivals, who become neighbors and work together to overcome writer's block caused by their resurfacing trauma. They challenge each other to new genres and experiences and definitely don't fall in love along the way. January is a fun character to read about during her most embarrassing and romantic moments, despite each situation being exaggerated so much that it felt silly. Augustus' personality was a little bland and I wished there was an actual reason for them to become enemies instead of the overused misunderstanding trope. However, the message of valuing family despite their faults and taking a leap of faith for the sake of your individuality is important. I'd say this book isn't life-changing, but good to read if you can relate to any struggles with parental relationships or feeling obligated to stay in a relationship that is just average.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Maggie
Love and Olives
Welch, Jenna Evans
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The novel focuses on Liv, a teenage girl who thinks her father abandoned her to find Atlantis and never came back or reached out until postcards start coming in the mail. All of a sudden her life changes when her dad says he wants her to come to Greece and help him. Liv agrees but is hesitant to talk and meet with her now-doing well father while she leaves her boyfriend, parties, and life behind. I think the storyline was short and a little odd. Liv suddenly leaves, meets a bunch of people, and the characters all think everything in life is solved. I like the premise of the Love and Gelato trilogy with types of love being the center, but this one doesn't do that theme justice. The wholesome romances of the first two just didn't compare to the hurried and kinda sloppy put-together romance with both family and a boy. I think having the story center around Atlantis was interesting but an intriguing choice since it has mystery and unknowns like Liv's adventure. I think the ending was pretty predictable and the relationships were rushed, but I like the theme and imagery in the novel.
Grade 12

Reviewer's Name: Tisha