Teen Readers Share the Last Book They Loved: Fandoms, Secrets, Greek Gods, and DRAGONS!

Meet the Young Adults, the B&N Teen Blog’s swat team of awesome teenaged bloggers. YA literature is a strange and wonderful landscape of books that should be read by everybody, but each month we highlight the perspective of teens reading the best of the best books written for and about them. Check back monthly to see what they’re recommending next, and read previous installments here.

Lovely War, by Julie Berry
Do you ever find yourself swooning over the pages of a novel, your stomach aflutter with secondhand butterflies courtesy of the Lizzies and Darcys of the literary world? Did you actually enjoy your summer assignment to read Edith Hamilton’s Greek Mythology, and are A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Nightingale on your five-star Goodreads shelf? If you happen to share any of these simple joys with me, or admire any act of creative storytelling, then oh, my goodness, are you in for a treat! Lovely War was the sweetest of birthday cakes: a recipe perfectly mixed with ingredients of romance, mythology, and history. In a heartbreaking story told by Aphrodite of two couples facing the trials of love and war, Berry beautifully captures seemingly opposing forces to bring us a book about the unifying nature of life’s hardships. She also undercuts her entire novel with the identification of issues like race, gender, and mental health, acknowledging the intersectionality of war and its toll on marginalized communities. Is all fair in love and war? To find out, you might just want to read Lovely War.

–Maddie M., 19, is finishing up her first year of college and is excited to be working at an internship in D.C. this summer! When she’s not writing ten-page essays on Beyoncé’s Homecoming, she loves working at her feminist coffeehouse, eating waffles with Nutella, and jammin’ on her planner.

The Priory of the Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon
The Priory of the Orange Tree left me absolutely stunned with its beauty, complexity, and presence. In the East, dragons are revered as deities, and one young woman will do anything, break any law, to rise from a lowly orphan to a dragon rider. Anything except kill a man.

In the West, dragons are despised as demons, chief among them the Nameless One, who almost destroyed the world in fire and sickness. A thousand years after his defeat, a spy for a religion nobody knows exists must protect a foreign queen.

But what happened once is happening again, and the world cannot afford to make the same mistakes. I am in absolute awe of the sheer gravity this book wields so naturally. As expected of Samantha Shannon, each word is carefully placed and precisely used, possessing the gravitas of fantasy and mythological classics while deconstructing them at the same time. Shannon weaves together a world-spanning tale of faith, love, bravery, and conviction. This is a story about doing what is right, no matter the cost, no matter the consequences. It’s about holding on to those you love and moving heaven and earth to keep them safe. It’s about unity, and legacy, and tradition, and their ability to shape an era.

And also, it’s about dragons. Because dragons.

–Assaf T., 17, likes his books very interesting and very heavy, because exercise isn’t as fun but is still important.

Little White Lies, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
On a scale of manners to mechanics, this book is a high-class comedy packed with wit and mystery to the very last page. I don’t normally go for novels that aren’t romances, but there’s something about this one, with its gossip, backstabbing, and scandal under a smile that drew me in and kept me absolutely hooked. This book has the perfect amount of intrigue and tension, with staccato bursts of comedic relief and sharp moments that make it a lot more fun than serious to read. Sawyer Taft is definitely one of the most fierce heroines I have encountered and grown to love on my fantastical YA journey. Relatable, with sharp wit and intelligence, she makes it hard not to be on her side and hope it all works out for her in the end. Usually with mysteries it’s easy for me to guess who done it, but Barnes kept me guessing every step of the way, with crazy twists and unexpected turns to keep me on my toes. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of mystery, suspense, thriller, and scandal. This book has it all under a pretty face and a big dress full of secrets.

–Kaitlin D., 16, self-proclaimed bibliophile, hardcore selfie taker, and lover of the oxford comma. Secretly a superhero. May have taken a bite out of the moon. Current status: Trapped in a romance novel.

Summer Bird Blue, by Akemi Dawn Bowman
I knew I’d love Summer Bird Blue after I read its heartfelt description. It’s the perfect book to read if you’re aching for a good cry session. The novel follows Rumi, a teen navigating life after the death of her younger sister, Lea. With a heavy heart, she challenges herself to finish the song she and Lea had started as a tribute to her memory. Rumi must complete this task in Hawaii, where she’s spending the summer with her aunt. Her sorrow greatly contrasts the paradise-like setting of Hawaii. Even more beautiful than Hawaii, however, is Bowman’s cast of characters—there were so many shining stars in this novel. Rumi’s charming new surfer friend Kai, her compassionate aunt Ani, and the lovable Mr. Watanabe are some of my favorites. Each character in this novel shared a quiet inner strength that I greatly admired; they’re all battling loss or regret in some form, and Bowman captures this theme with thought and sincerity. Summer Bird Blue is a beautiful love letter to sisterhood, to friendship, and to music.

–Nicole S., 18, recently committed to a college!! She is excited to embark on a new journey with great books, soulful music, and a pen in her hand. When she’s not hitting the books, you may find her cooking, reading (for fun!), or playing the ukulele.

The Beginning of Everything, by Robyn Schneider
Ezra Faulkner is starting his senior year in a very different way than he’s used to. After a tragic car accident that wrecked his knee, Ezra was forced to quit tennis and spend the summer away from his friends. Now, things have changed, and they seem to have moved on from him. His popularity has dwindled, his chances of playing college tennis have disappeared. But there may be hope. Pulled into an oddball friend group by his middle school best friend, Ezra finds himself on the debate team and attracted to mysterious new girl Cassidy. As Ezra begins to figure out his new life apart from popularity, he learns how to be himself and not who other people want him to be. Schneider has an incredible talent for writing realistic characters experiencing real-life themes that are common in a teenager’s life. She writes with beauty and enough humor and style to keep a reader interested. This book is one that anybody who has struggled with fitting in should read and find comfort in.

–Ellie T. is a Ravenclaw, an avid reader, and an excessive listener of Broadway musical soundtracks. When she’s not reading or talking about books, you can find her binge-watching shows like ArrowGilmore Girls, and The Office.

Hot Dog Girl, by Jennifer Dugan
A hilariously awkward queer romantic comedy, Dugan’s Hot Dog Girl follows Elouise (Lou) Parker, who just wants to have the best summer ever at the Magic Castle Playground, an amusement park where she works in a hot dog suit. But when Lou finds out the Magic Castle Playground is closing soon, her summer starts to go rapidly downhill. Not only is the Magic Castle Playground somewhere she gets to see her crush Nick every day, but it’s also been a constant as she grew up. Lou is determined to fix her summer, which means setting up her best friend, Seeley, with a new girlfriend, finally getting to know Nick better, and saving the park—although things might not go as planned.

Hot Dog Girl is not only everything you’d expect from a romantic comedy—funny, sweet, romantic—but it’s also so real and genuine, packing on the secondhand embarrassment (in a good way!). Lou is such a fun and genuine main character—you’ve got to be, if you’re working as a giant hot dog—and I was both grinning goofily to myself and cackling at some of her antics while reading. The romance was as adorable as expected (Lou is bisexual!), but what pushes Hot Dog Girl to be a rousing success for me is how Lou’s story is so honest and contains this amazing character arc that allows her to grow as a person. It’s not just a love story; it’s also a coming-of-age story for Lou. From the fully developed cast of complex characters to the lessons Lou learns, I was completely enamored and would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone itching for a sweet and hilarious read with its own unique brand of charm.

–Vicky C., 17, has finally gotten her college decisions (accepted!), but is still waiting for her Hogwarts letter. Both to celebrate and to fill up the time it takes for her misguided owl to find its way back to her, she likes to lose herself in a good book (or three).

 

Again, but Better, by Christine Riccio
This is a lovely contemporary novel about finding oneself, overcoming anxiety, and chasing your dreams. Riccio’s debut details the journey of Shane Primaveri, a junior in college who has struggled to find friends and study what she loves, so she heads to London for a study abroad journey to try college again, in a way. But despite her high expectations, Shane soon finds she will have her fair share of obstacles to overcome across the Atlantic.

I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. I went into Again, but Better expecting it be a fluffy, lighthearted rom-com—which it is—but it also explores many themes I think are especially relevant to high school and college students. Riccio explores social anxiety and friendship challenges so authentically, inspiring the reader to chase their dreams no matter what others say, and includes an adorable romance along the way.

With a dash of magic, a lot of 2011 pop references, and some humorous dialogue, Riccio writes a promising debut about finding oneself above all else. So if you could go back and do it all again, would you?

–Kav is a 17-year-old booktuber and cohost of Book Bound Society who loves media, books, and social justice. They are frequently active on Twitter and YouTube talking about a combination of book-related and social justice-related topics.

The Princess and The Fangirl, by Ashley Poston
It is no secret that Jessica Stone is not a fan of Starfield. Her role as Princess Amara was supposed to be a launchpad to bigger, better, more Oscar-worthy roles. But as the highly anticipated sequel creeps ever closer, Starfield is starting to feel like a prison Jess will be trapped in forever. ExcelsiCon, with it’s hordes of Starfield superfans, is the last place in the Galaxy Jess wants to be. Unfortunately, when her to secret script is stolen from the conference floor, Jess finds herself trading places with one of those superfans in order to retrieve it.

Once again I’m left in awe of Poston’s talent. I fell for Geekerella because it perfectly captured the love and community that can be found inside a fandom. Unfortunately, there is always some hatred lurking in the shadows, and it’s often the artists creating the very things we love who bear the brunt of that hate. In The Princess and the Fangirl, Poston managed to acknowledge that toxicity and room for growth within our communities while simultaneously telling two of the cutest love stories that I’ve read in 2019. AND IT’S A RETELLING! She really must be some kind of fairy godmother, because this series is straight up magical.

–Evalyn H., 17, loves Disney movies, marching band, and the smell of new books. She can often be found with video camera in hand, scream singing to musicals, and crying over fictional characters.

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