It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
This series introduced me to one of my all time favourite characters – Delilah Bard. Thief/pickpocket and wannabe pirate, whose goal in life is to just live it. She is gender-fluid, has a disability, carries a load of knives around with her and is confident and sassy without being cocky. She starts off as something of a side character when she teams up with Kell but by the end of the series, she is the shining star. She goes through so much character development in just three books and grows so much as a person. She was a girl used to running, used to having nothing, used to sleeping with her back against the wall but now she is pure magic (literally and figuratively.)
Another character with huge development is Rhy, heir to the Arnesian throne and Kell’s brother (also a queer PoC.) He has no magic and always felt as though he was less because of it but he proves that you don’t need magic in order to be a true and just king. I was so so proud of him after reading this book, he’s just my royal son. His relationship with Alucard progressed more and we hear more about their backstory – they are just the cutest. Speaking of Alucard, he continued to be a badass in this book, whilst also breaking my heart into a thousand pieces and constantly bickering with Kell.
Want to know what broke my heart the most? Other than pretty much everything. The award goes to Holland. We get chapters from his POV as he also tells us about his past, from the beginning. Without excusing some of his actions, he has been through so so much, his life has literally been hell on earth and we hear more about his life and the people who have been in it. Holland, Kell, Lila and Alucard even team up in the second half of the book and I enjoyed every second of these people working together. Teamwork (especially between former enemies) is my soft spot in fiction. Also, without giving away spoilers, Kell and Holland go through quite a bit in this conclusion.
Overall, this book was huge (the paperback being 666 pages, har har, Victoria) but every second was packed with action, emotion and excitement. I read this book in a day and every time I had to put it down, I felt as though I had been pulled from the world. We get POVs from Kell, Lila, Holland – even characters such as Queen Emira & King Maxim which was really interesting. I usually hate secondary characters suddenly having a voice in the final book but this is Victoria Schwab we’re talking about so she nailed it. The beginning, middle and end captured my attention and I’ll miss this world more than you can imagine. It is rich, diverse and just magical and it will forever be a series I recommend.
It’s been a few days since I finished this book and I still can’t put my feelings into words. The one thing I can confidently say right now, to sum everything up, is this – although I’ve loved this series from the start, it was A Conjuring of Light that truly made it one of my favourite series’s of all time.
We are thrown straight into the action with this book kicking off exactly where A Gathering of Shadows left off, and this fast-pacing carries on throughout, because for Kell, Lila, Alucard, Rhy and Holland, it’s no longer just a magical power play – it’s about saving their world(s). I’m not always a fan of books that are full of action all the way through, but ACOL did this perfectly – yes, the action, tension and plotting never stopped, but it wasn’t all action and nothing else. Each of the characters grow and develop more in this book than in either of the previous books, and we get more of a look into their pasts as well – Holland’s back story, most of all, destroyed me. I’ve always loved him (sorry, I just have a thing for antiheroes/villains) and his story arc in this book couldn’t have been more perfect. Lila was, as always, amazing, and she definitely grew and matured in this book in my opinion.
I feel like there isn’t much that I can say that Angharad hasn’t already said or that wouldn’t absolutely spoil this book for anyone else, so I’ll just say this – go and read it. If you’ve already read the first two books in the series, I don’t think you need me to convince you to pick this up, and if you haven’t started this series yet, take our gushing as encouragement to go and do so. If you want a fantasy series full of complex, well developed and diverse characters, three different worlds with the most perfect atmospheric world building, a fast-paced, emotional plot, and enough twists and cliffhangers to make you dizzy, this is the series for you.
The Upside of Unrequited follows the story of seventeen-year-old, Molly Peskin-Suso who knows all about the world of unrequited love after having a string of crushes but nothing in return. Her twin, Cassie, is her complete opposite and everything changes, including their close relationship, when Cassie meets and falls in love with Mina, a girl Molly meets in a girl’s bathroom (yay for female friendships formed in the toilets!!) Faced with being alonie, Cassie tries setting her up with Mina’s best friend, Will and he’s everything Molly would usually go for. That is until she gets a new job and meets the Tolkien/Game of Thrones fan (who wears seriously white trainers,) Reid. What follows is a journey of self-acceptance, love in all its forms and a story full of diverse and fantastically written characters.
I feel as though, if you read a basic plot synopsis for The Upside of Unrequited without any context or background information on the characters, it could seem like your typical girl-meets-boy YA contemporary. The thing is, it couldn’t be further from typical.
Our main character Molly is a fat, Jewish girl with mental health issues and a wonderfully quirky sense of humour; she’s a girl with an lgbt+ twin, two mums, and her and both of her siblings are surrogates. I didn’t realise how much I needed a book with Molly Peskin-Suso as the main character until I read this. I absolutely devoured the entire book within a couple of hours, it was that enthralling, funny, and at times painfully true to life. Molly is a character you will connect with straight away – she’s so likeable and easy to relate to, and I genuinely felt her anger on the rare occasions that she got mad.
As a girl who would be called overweight by a BMI calculator, Molly was a breath of fresh air for me. Finding a book with an overweight main character, especially a YA book, is such a rare occurrence – I actually can’t think of any others that have one. Although Molly’s life doesn’t revolve around her weight (which was such a positive thing to reinforce!!!) she mentions issues that all of us slightly larger girls deal with – the chub-rub, the “you’re pretty – for a fat girl” comments, the constant mental comparisons to skinnier girls – it’s all dealt with in this book. I was immediately hooked when I read this extract, literally on the first page:
‘I suck in my cheeks so it looks like I have cheekbones. And it’s quite a transformation. Sometimes I have the idea that I could maintain this. I could spend the rest of my life gently biting the inside of my cheeks. Except for the fact that it makes my lips look weird. Also, biting your cheeks definitely gets in the way of talking, and that’s a little hardcore, even for me. Even for cheekbones.’
Honestly, I cannot even count the amount of times I’ve stood in front of a mirror and done similar things. I knew as soon as I read this that I’d instantly connect with Molly, and my love grew for her throughout the entire book.
Anyway, although I really loved Molly (if you can’t tell that already from my insane amount of gushing) I did also love other things in this book! Cassie perhaps wasn’t the best sister at times, but I loved how she always called out things that were wrong, and she was always prepared to stand up for Molly, even to her Grandma. I loved her personality and I adored her and Mina. I wish we could have seen more of Mina though – I have to admit that I fell in love with her just a little bit. Nadine and Patty, Molly and Cassie’s parents, were absolutely perfect, and as Angharad said – it’s a YA novel and they were actually present in their kids lives! They were such a down to earth couple and definitely family goals. Reid and Molly were also so cute together, and again, it was a breath of fresh air to read a YA contemporary that didn’t resort to instalove. I loved watching their friendship grow and the way that they bonded over a love of mini eggs and cookie dough – food based friendships are the best kind, and everyone knows it.
One of my pet peeves with many YA contemporaries is the attempt to include social media without actually naming any modern day companies or websites. I find that often authors will say the main character “logged into a chatroom” etc, and you just feel instantly disconnected and transported back to the 90’s. I really appreciated that the characters in this used up to date websites and apps that we all actually use – they’re always checking Facebook and Instagram, and Molly is a complete Pinterest addict. Although this is just a small thing, I do really think it helps a modern day audience to connect to the characters (I mean, who even uses chatrooms anymore? Do they still even exist?!)
Overall, The Upside of Unrequited is such a diverse, modern, and generally relatable book. I love a good contemporary, but I am so tired of reading something that tries to portray the real world, but it couldn’t be further from it. Becky Albertalli’s world in Upside – with a range of diverse characters, strong but complicated family ties, different religions, and hey, characters who aren’t all a perfect size eight with a flat stomach – this is the real world, and it was absolutely perfect.
Dreadnought is the first book in the Nemesis series by April Daniels. We follow the story of Danielle, a superhero who just happens to be transgender. This is a world where superheroes are a part of everyday life and when Danny is confronted by a dying Dreadnought, one of the world’s best superheroes, it isn’t long until her life is completely changed when with his dying breath, he gives her his powers and changes her from the boy she was born into the girl she has always been. Faced with her new appearance and blossoming superpowers, Danielle is drawn into the world of heroes and villains alongside her fellow class-member/masked vigilante, Sarah/Calamity as they work together to stop Utopia, a super-villain hell bent on controlling the world.
|Thank you to Netgalley for sending me this.
Goodreads | Book Depository
Jordan Sun is starting her junior year at performing arts school, but being an Alto 2, she’s always struggled to get a role in the school musical. When the school get a mass email informing them that the Sharpshooters, the school’s revered all-male a cappella group, Jordan is determined to make this year different. She cross-dresses as a guy, Julian, and discovers that, as a Tenor 1, she’s just what the Sharpshooters need.
+ Our main character represents a lot of things. Jordan is a bisexual (which she discovers throughout the course of the novel), Chinese-American girl coming from a poor family. She’s tall and has a low voice, making her easily pass as a guy. All of these things have stopped her from achieving her goals in Kensington, but as a guy, she finds her place. During the beginning of her transformation into Julian, she Googles ways to flatten her chest and comes across a website for trans people. What follows is an important narrative as Jordan compares her cross-dressing as a disguise and lie whereas for trans, it’s a very different and important matter. The book also touches upon sexuality and gender stereotypes as Jordan regularly calls out acts of sexism in her role as Julian.
+ Overall, I liked being inside Jordan’s head. I liked her transformation into Julian and how it changed her and also the high expectations she puts on herself to please her parents. Jordan is also dealing with an emotional breakup throughout the course of the novel and it was so refreshing to see her journey through accepting its end. This book just manages to deal with so many topics and issues and yet never rushes over the main story. Riley Redgate just proves that you can still deal with important issues in a YA contemporary novel without it being the main focus. Jordan destroys gender norms one page at a time and it was truly an honour to have met her and the Sharpshooters.
All Grace wants is a normal life, where she doesn’t have to worry about paying the bills, constantly moving around, or her unreliable mother and her latest boyfriend (who just happens to be the father of Grace’s ex-boyfriend). Grace’s plans to lie low until graduation are disrupted when she meets Eva – a girl with her own ghosts. This is a story of family relationships, and two girls in love helping each other to overcome their obstacles in life.
Aki knows that she is bisexual, but has only dated guys before – and has only come out to Lori, her best friend. When the two girls go on a four week mission trip to Mexico, Aki doesn’t expect to meet anyone that she’d be interested in – that is, until Christa shows up. This book discusses sexuality, safe sex, and the struggles that young people can face when trying to explain their sexuality to their loved ones.
Alex, a bisexual Latina protagonist, is an encantrix – one of the most powerful Brujas in generations. However, she fears that her powers will ultimately hurt those close to her, and in an attempt to get rid of them, accidentally sends her entire family to the in-between world of Los Lagos. Alex is forced to hire Nova, an untrustworthy brujo boy, to guide her through Los Lagos and rescue her family. However, there is a darkness running through Los Lagos that has affected her and her family more than she could expect. Labyrinth Lost is a novel with an almost fully POC cast of characters, and the fact that Alex has both a male and female love interest but this wasn’t treated like a big deal (the word ‘bisexual’ isn’t actually used throughout the book) really made this book stand out for me.
When Taylor, Jamie and Charlie go to SupaCon together, they know they’ll have an amazing time, but they don’t expect the convention to change their lives forever.
Charlie, a bisexual Chinese-Australian film star, knows that SupaCon is her chance to show fans that she’s over her ex-boyfriend. When her crush Alyssa Huntington turns up, she definitely didn’t expect her feelings for Alyssa to be requited.
Taylor runs a blog where she openly talks about her anxiety, and because of this, is scared of big changes. The one change she’s hoping for, though, is for her friendship with Jamie to turn into something more. However, when she hears about the Queen Firestone contest, she starts to rethink her stance on taking risks.
A book packed with diversity, romance and strong female friendships, this is a must read!
Etta is sick of the labels that are being attached to her and making her feel as though she doesn’t fit in – she’s “not gay enough” for her old friends after recently dating a boy, “not white enough” for her ballet class, and “not sick enough” after recovering from an eating disorder. When she meets Bianca in her therapy group – a straight, white Christian girl with an eating disorder who represents everything that Etta both does and doesn’t want to be – Etta finds herself on a path to self-discovery and overcoming the labels constantly placed on her.
When Sophie’s (a bisexual MC) best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believed was a drug deal gone wrong (which they also believe that Sophie set up), Sophie was forced into rehab along with her and Mina’s secret – Mina was deliberately murdered. Once Sophie is out of rehab, she’s determined to track down Mina’s killer before they track her down first. Not your typical romance, but instead a murder-mystery which also focuses on Sophie and Mina’s relationship, Far From You is definitely different from the rest of the books featured on this list, and worth a read!
Frances, a bisexual WoC, is known only as a study-machine focused on getting high grades. However, she has a secret obsession – a podcast called Universe City. When Frances is asked to design art for the podcast and meets its creator, the two form a strong bond, and what follows is a story of friendship and self-acceptance.
Jess, a Chinese-Vietnamese bisexual girl, lives in a world where the majority of citizens have superpowers – including her famous parents. Being without superpowers herself, Jess finds what could be the perfect internship whilst looking for activities to add to her college application – it’s paid, it doesn’t require her to have powers, and she gets to work with her secret crush, Abby. She may be working for the town’s biggest supervillain, but what could go wrong?
Jordan Sun is starting her junior year at performing arts school, but being an Alto 2, she’s always struggled to get a role in the school musical. When the school get a mass email informing them that the Sharpshooters, the school’s revered all-male a cappella group, Jordan is determined to make this year different. She auditions in drag and discovers that, as a Tenor 1, she’s just what the Sharpshooters need.
The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember
Goodreads | Release Date: 4th May
When nineteen year old mermaid Ersel rescues and falls in love with Ragna, a shield-maiden, and the two are caught by Ersel’s suitor, he attempts to force her to choose between saying goodbye to Ragna or facing the wrath of her king. However, Ersel has other plans and is determined to be reunited with Ragna. A bisexual, f/f retelling of The Little Mermaid with Norse mythology thrown in (plus, who doesn’t love both mermaids AND shield-maidens?) this is a must read!
+ Amanda. A transgender main character in a YA novel? Yep. Not only that, it’s also written by a transgender author. This is so important for young readers, regardless of the story itself. For Amanda to lead the life that many YA characters live – to fall in love, have family issues, meeting a new group of friends but also have such a traumatic past. She is brave character and incredibly strong. She tells us her story from present day but also switches between years and months ago, from a very young age when she knew that she should have been born a girl. There’s this amazing parallel scene in the book – in one chapter, Amanda tells us of the time she took pills and tried to end her life but then we also experience the moment she took pills that began her transition and the two scenes – one heartbreakingly sad and the other heartbreakingly joyous really stood out for me. Amanda is definitely one of my top favourite female characters after reading this book.
+ Familial relationships! Amanda has a very strong bond with her mother, despite the fact that she is living with her father during the events of this novel. Her mother is the one who helped her after her suicide attempt and accepted that she is transgender. Her father, however, is less accepting at first and so the two go on a journey of acceptance. I like that there were strong family ties in this novel but still maintained complications. It’s realistic and it showed not only Amanda’s journey through transition, but also her parents. The two ultimately care deeply for their daughter.
+ Female friendships!! I recently posted a blog post about my favourite fictional female friendships and I wish I had read this book before I compiled it because Amanda’s friendship with Chloe, Anna and Layla was really lovely. They accept her from the very beginning and they all maintained such a healthy relationship, especially Anna who is very religious and has a very religious family. I mean, Chloe pulled a loaded gun on Parker to save Amanda. Friendship goals.
+ Character treatment. So a character in this book, Bee, is bisexual, something she openly admits. She is also in a secret relationship with Chloe, another of Amanda’s friends. Bee is the first person Amanda trusts enough to tell her she is transgender as the two form a quick friendship and play a game in which they tell each other secrets about each other. What seems like a strong bond quickly turns sour when Bee attempts to kiss Amanda, gets kindly rejected and then proceeds to stand on stage and reveal secrets about pupils, including outing Amanda and Chloe. It was awful and I feel as though it came from nowhere? I feel like Bee’s character was ruined here and for no reason and also nothing comes of it after. She was such an interesting character, she was a good friend to Amanda, openly bisexual and also a rape victim and I feel like outing everybody was very OOC for her.