STAY GOLD by Tobly McSmith

Pony just wants to fly under the radar during senior year. Tired from all the attention he got at his old school after coming out as transgender, he’s looking for a fresh start at Hillcrest High. But it’s hard to live your best life when the threat of exposure lurks down every hallway and in every bathroom.

Georgia is beginning to think there’s more to life than cheerleading. She plans on keeping a low profile until graduation…which is why she promised herself that dating was officially a no-go this year.

Then, on the very first day of school, the new guy and the cheerleader lock eyes. How is Pony supposed to stay stealth when he wants to get close to a girl like Georgia? How is Georgia supposed to keep her promise when sparks start flying with a boy like Pony?

Funny and poignant, clear-eyed and hopeful, Stay Gold is a story about finding love—and finding yourself.


Title : Stay Gold
Author : Tobly McSmith
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 384
Genre : Contemporary YA/LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Quill Tree Books
Release Date : September 2, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Being a man
Being respected
Being brave
Tissues needed

This book grew and grew to steal my heart completely. This was a gently building story but it hit such a cresendo of feelings, I was almost overwhelmed. You need to know going into this that there are triggers a-plenty (feel free to DM me or check other reviews).

Pony was a stunning character, starting afresh as a male and he wanted to pass, without any drama. That whole approach came with a bucket load of problems which on the one hand Pony took in his stride but my heart hurt for him. His connection with Georgia, the cheerleader was sweet and real. What I particularly liked about this story of these two, was the reality, the rejections, the learning, the raw-ness.

The was a really difficult background story with Pony’s family but he had the sister of sisters in Rocky. She was an epic character. Max, his trans friend really upset me with his actions and that whole plot had me angry and crying.

That was only the start of my crying jag because this story hit a realistic fever pitch that shredded my emotions. I felt every single pain in my heart.

Stay Gold was a beautiful story despite it’s heartbreak. I will remember this story, these characters and I have learnt a little more of the experiences of trans people through Pony. This was beautifully written and had a light-hearted feel to it through Pony’s character which really balanced the tough stuff. I highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Pride Book Tours and the publisher for the review copy.

FRESH by Margot Wood

A hilarious and vulnerable coming-of-age story about the thrilling new experiences––and missteps––of a girl’s freshman year of college

Some students enter their freshman year of college knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives. Elliot McHugh is not one of those people. But picking a major is the last thing on Elliot’s mind when she’s too busy experiencing all that college has to offer—from dancing all night at off-campus parties, to testing her RA Rose’s patience, to making new friends, to having the best sex one can have on a twin-sized dorm room bed. But she may not be ready for the fallout when reality hits. When the sex she’s having isn’t that great. When finals creep up and smack her right in the face. Or when her roommate’s boyfriend turns out to be the biggest a-hole. Elliot may make epic mistakes, but if she’s honest with herself (and with you, dear reader), she may just find the person she wants to be. And maybe even fall in love in the process . . . Well, maybe.  


Title : Fresh
Author : Margot Wood
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 352
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Harry N Abrams
Release Date : August 23, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 -4 star review

Headlines:
Banter central
Sex-positive
Fun formatting

Fresh was a ride of a read in that it was light, fun and full of banter. This hardback was formatted pretty innovatively and the narrative had regular footnotes of sarcasm. Framed around moving into college as a freshman, Elliot drove this story with her experiences of the first year with roommates, dating and sexual experiences.

Elliot was bisexual, had ADHD and tended to crash into life at a speed of knots, picking up the pieces afterward. The narrative was part stream of consciousness and inner monologue and part banter with everyone around her. Life through her eyes was definitely witty, sometimes cringey and peppered with questionable decisions.

This was an incredibly sex-positive story. There’s not a lot that is unsaid in this book, I would say the character connections were less about chemistry and more about navigating new sexual experiences in college. When things didn’t exactly go peachy in that department, it was hilarious. I would say that I never really got deep with Elliot as a character because of the comedic facade but it was an entertaining read.

Just like the title, this read was fresh and a contemporary YA story with an emphasis on comedy.

Thank you to the publisher and Pride Book Tours for the review copy

MEET CUTE DIARY by Emery Lee

Felix Ever After meets Becky Albertalli in this swoon-worthy, heartfelt rom-com about how a transgender teen’s first love challenges his ideas about perfect relationships.

Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.

When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.

In this charming novel by Emery Lee, Noah will have to choose between following his own rules for love or discovering that the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script.


Title : Meet Cute Diary
Author : Emery Lee
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 400
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Quill Tree Books/Harper360 YA
Release Date : May 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Young protagonist
Endings and continuations
Pronouns

Meet Cute Diary says it all in the title, this was incredibly cute. Noah, the trans protagonist was 16 years old and I would say that this story felt young, younger than some other YA stories. Maybe he didn’t have street smarts, he’d just come out and was starting afresh, so I think that’s an important representation for readers to have.

The themes in this book were about endings but also how to keep relationships going with friends and family. Noah found himself in a new state, able to start afresh and I loved seeing him feel free from people’s preconceptions. I felt something pretty fishy about Drew early on and that element felt somewhat unfinished but I think Noah thought that too.

The whole concept of the meet cute diary on tumblr and the blog spiralling out of hand was really interesting. Dealing with expectations, trolls, disappointed audiences made for avid reading. I have to give a shoutout to Brian, the best side character in this book, he was the brother of brothers.

It doesn’t matter how I was born or who I thought I was back then. I’m me, and we’re brothers, and there’s nothing in the world that can ever change that.

There were some great but low key elements of education in this book regarding the range of pronouns one might choose for themselves and I welcomed the insight.

Thank you Harper360 YA and Pride Book Tours for the review copy.

EXCUSE ME WHILE I UGLY CRY by Joya Goffney

A passionate, hilarious and heartfelt YA romcom debut full of juicy secrets and leap-off-the-page chemistry about how we choose to live our lives and what it means to live your truth.

For fans of Jenny Han, Nicola Yoon and Justin A. Reynolds. Quinn keeps lists of everything – from the days she’s ugly cried, to “Things That I Would Never Admit Out Loud,” to all the boys she’d like to kiss. Her lists keep her sane. By writing her fears (as well as embarrassing and cringeworthy truths) on paper, she never has to face them in real life. That is, until her journal goes missing . . .

An anonymous account posts one of her lists on Instagram for the whole school to see and blackmails her into facing seven of her greatest fears, or else her entire journal will go public. Quinn doesn’t know who to trust. Desperate, she teams up with Carter Bennett – the last known person to have her journal and who Quinn loathes – in a race against time to track down the blackmailer. Together, they journey through everything Quinn’s been too afraid to face, and along the way, Quinn finds the courage to be honest, to live in the moment, and to fall in love. A razor-sharp, passionate and addictive YA romcom that readers will love.


Title : Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry
Author : Joya Goffney
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count :352
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Hot Key Books
Release Date : May 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Personal identity and empowerment
I love lists
Deep feelings and firsts

Oh this book won me over good. It was the kind of book that engaged me early on but it really built up, especially the last quarter of the book as answers were coming. This was a rich YA contemporary with some high school drama that felt authentic but really this story was all about Quinn’s identity as a young black women; the lies she told herself and the lies others told.

Quinn was a list maker and this story had an occasional epistolary feel to it with Quinn’s and much later, Carter’s lists. I loved getting to them, they were personal, sometimes emotional and I really got to know the characters this way. The big plot of this story centred around Quinn’s journal, who had it and who was blackmailing her for the contents (this is all in the blurb).

The friendships Quinn had weren’t what she thought and Carter, Livvy and Auden came into her life at the right time, affirming and empowering her identity and showing what real friendship was all about, flaws and all. I did feel a bit left without the end tied up on Matt, I just wanted a bit of closure on that, I think.

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry was a light but also a deep read. It had themes that were important but it still had the levity of life for an 18 year old. The characters were well developed and there was a nice sprinkle of chemistry across the pages. Highly recommended.

Please check out some black reviewers on this title. Also, there are some triggers in this book, so look for other reviews if you need that info, or DM me for more details.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for the review copy.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR DANCING by Nicola Yoon

#1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star Nicola Yoon is back with her eagerly anticipated third novel. With all the heart and hope of her last two books, this is an utterly unique romance.

Evie Thomas doesn’t believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began . . . and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually.

As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything–including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he’s only just met.

Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it’s that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk?


Title : Instructions For Dancing
Author : Nicola Yoon
Format : eARC
Page Count :304
Genre : Contemporary YA, BIPOC
Publisher : Penguin
Release Date : June 3, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Ropes you in
Cute, fun, engaging
Then that happened

Wow. I am a little lost for words, hyperventilating somewhat and pretty disappointed with that outcome. Instructions for Dancing was a cute, fun and hugely engaging story. It had MCs and side characters to love and get lost in. It was low on angst, all until….

The story had a side slice of clever magic (literally) that was the premise both for how the female MC Evie navigated the story and made changes in her life. It was also ultimately the vehicle for my disappointment. The male MC X (Xavier) was pretty delightful in all the ways. I was cheering these two on.

I’m going to keep this short. I’m crushed, surprised and some trust in Yoon’s storytelling has melted away, which is sad because three quarters of the journey was delightful.

Thank you to Penguin Random House Children’s for the early review copy.

HANA KHAN CARRIES ON by Uzma Jalaluddin

From the author of Ayesha at Last comes a sparkling new rom-com for fans of “You’ve Got Mail,” set in two competing halal restaurants

Sales are slow at Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, the only halal restaurant in the close-knit Golden Crescent neighbourhood. Hana waitresses there part time, but what she really wants is to tell stories on the radio. If she can just outshine her fellow intern at the city radio station, she may have a chance at landing a job. In the meantime, Hana pours her thoughts and dreams into a podcast, where she forms a lively relationship with one of her listeners. But soon she’ll need all the support she can get: a new competing restaurant, a more upscale halal place, is about to open in the Golden Crescent, threatening Three Sisters.

When her mysterious aunt and her teenage cousin arrive from India for a surprise visit, they draw Hana into a long-buried family secret. A hate-motivated attack on their neighbourhood complicates the situation further, as does Hana’s growing attraction for Aydin, the young owner of the rival restaurant—who might not be a complete stranger after all.

As life on the Golden Crescent unravels, Hana must learn to use her voice, draw on the strength of her community and decide what her future should be. 


Title : Hana Khan Carries On
Author : Uzma Jalaluddin
Format : Paperback
Page Count :
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Corvus, Atlantic books
Release Date : June 3, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Small town feel
Racial tensions personalised
Strong female characters

Hana Khan Carries On was a grower of a read, you got to know Hana and the characters better and better and for me, that equaled getting sucked in more. This was a story that started off on the surface but delved deep into family issues and racial tensions of the city (read any city here).

This book had a very small town feel to it, which is weird to say when it was set in the bustling city of Toronto. Jalaluddin brought that small town feel by inviting you into the Khan family both nuclear and wider. This story centred on restaurant rivalry, podcasts, online friendships and in real life rivalries. There were some predictable moments but there was also one heck of a twist.

I really came to like Hana, she was a strong female from a line of strong females. She knew her mind, her plan until the plan went pear-shaped. There were side characters to really get your teeth into, one fav being cousin Rashid and of course, Aydin.

There was some compelling plot around islamaphobia, racial tensions and what that meant personally and to a community as a whole. I think this was really good representation but I do encourage you to look for #ownvoices reviewers, but do note the author is own voices from that city.

Hana Khan Carries On makes this two for two from Uzma Jalaluddin, so I will be looking out for her third book with anticipation.

Thank you to Corvus for the early review copy.

WE ARE INEVITABLE by Gayle Forman

A heartbreaking story about finding yourself and your people, from the bestselling author of If I Stay, a major film starring Chloë Grace Moretz. For fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, John Green and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

‘I got this whole-body feeling . . . it was like a message from future me to present me, telling me that in some way we weren’t just bound to happen, that we had, in some sense, already happened. It felt . . . inevitable.’

So far, the inevitable hasn’t worked out so well for Aaron Stein.

While his friends have gone to college and moved on with their lives, Aaron’s been left behind in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, running a failing bookshop with his dad, Ira. What he needs is a lucky break, the good kind of inevitable.

And then he meets Hannah. Incredible Hannah – magical, musical, brave and clever. Could she be the answer? And could they – their relationship, their meeting – possibly be the inevitable Aaron’s been waiting for?


Title : We Are Inevitable
Author : Gayle Forman
Format : Paperback
Page Count :288
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK
Release Date : June 1, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Melancholy bordering on sad
Injections of hope
Families grieving

I found We Are Inevitable to be an incredabily melancholy read. The main character Aaron was burdened with so many stresses and emotions that a 19 year old shouldn’t have that I got why he was the way he was. Still, I needed those bits of hope that were occasionally pieced into the story.

This was a story for booklovers, about a booklover who owned a bookstore. However, even the bookstore had tragedy in its shelves. Aaron’s father, Ira was difficult to fathom, his mother a puzzle and his brother created an unresolved bundle of emotion. There were key themes of grief in this book and you need to be ready for that.

There were a number of clever uses of other books, book quotes and how books can soothe and solve within the story and I really appreciated those nuggets. I didn’t buy into the romance and the story let me know why that was.

One of our largest shelves has split down the middle, like the chesnut tree in Jane Eyre. And anyone who’s read Jane Eyre knows what that portends.

I found this book a bit of a pacing roller coaster but it still kept my attention. I did feel the emotion of the culmination and that was satisfying. Overall this was a book I liked but didn’t love.

There are other triggers in this book that I haven’t mentioned, so please look for those on other reviews or DM me for details.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster UK for the review copy.

HANI AND ISHU’S GUIDE TO FAKE DATING by Adiba Jaigirdar

Everyone likes Humaira “Hani” Khan—she’s easy going and one of the most popular girls at school. But when she comes out to her friends as bisexual, they invalidate her identity, saying she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Panicked, Hani blurts out that she’s in a relationship…with a girl her friends absolutely hate—Ishita “Ishu” Dey. Ishu is the complete opposite of Hani. She’s an academic overachiever who hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for college. But Ishita agrees to help Hani, if Hani will help her become more popular so that she stands a chance of being elected head girl.

Despite their mutually beneficial pact, they start developing real feelings for each other. But relationships are complicated, and some people will do anything to stop two Bengali girls from achieving happily ever after.


Title : Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating
Author : Adiba Jaigirdar
Format : eARC
Page Count :352
Genre : Contemporary YA/LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Hot Key Books
Release Date : May 25, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Bisexual fake dating trope
Parental pressures
Toxic friendships
Prejudice

This book, and Hani & Ishu as characters in particular, secured my interest in this story very quickly. Adiba Jaigirdar once again set this story in Ireland with the backdrop of a Bengali heritage, cultures and traditions.

Hani and Ishu brought some stark differences to one another as well as some similarities. I enjoyed the spikey-ness of Ishu alongside Hani’s open and generous nature. Ishu was from an Indian heritage with no faith in the background while Hani was from a Bengali muslim family. Seeing these two cultures intersect without clashing was really superb storytelling; differences don’t have to be polarised.

These two were high schoolers, 16 and 17 years old, one out to her family and the other not. They felt somewhat set apart from their peers at school but there were some really toxic friendships afoot that took time to be revealed. There were also some slices of family problems, parental pressures and drama. The fake dating trope was pretty sweet and solidified a friendship with chemistry.

Hani declares she’s going to drop me home like we’re some antiquated heterosexual couple and not two queer teens who don’t even have access to a car.

These two stole my heart with a delightful but real story.

Please check out some own voices reviewers on bisexuality and Bengali perspectives. There are also a number of triggers in this story, so please look for those if you need to or DM me for more info.

LORE by Alexandra Bracken

Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.
Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths.

Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.

The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.


Title : Lore
Author : Alexandra Bracken
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 545
Genre : Contemporary YA Greek Mythology
Publisher : Quercus Books
Release Date : January 5, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

Headlines:
Like a super hero film but YA/greek mythology contemporary
Complex, full attention required
Gritty with a few brutal moments

Lore was a clever concept, greek mythology brought into the modern day NYC with the kind of fast pace that reminded me of a Marvel or DC movie. Lore was a descendent of Medusa’s bloodline and every seven years, there was a fight amongst ancient greek gods (kinda). It is a really complex plot that is slowly unfurled for the reader. What helped me with the complexity was being willing to go along with the story even when I didn’t quite know what was happening or why.

I was interested from the early pages, I liked the characters of Lore, Miles, Castor and Van. There were a crop of nasty characters and I enjoyed Lore’s strong feelings about other families and gods. The story never once lost pace and because it was complex, I’d advocate a one book approach and keeping going with the read to keep the plot straight. There was lots of action, fighting, some strategy, quick thinking and a bit of gore.

Sometimes you just have to survive to fight another day. Even I knew those were bad odds.

I was pretty grateful we read this for bookclub because I learnt a few more things I hadn’t picked up on in our discussions and we helped one another with plot points we hadn’t quite grasped. So it’s definitely not a perfect read but it’s still worth your time and investment. I think it would make a great film.

KATE IN WAITING by Becky Albertalli

Contrary to popular belief, best friends Kate Garfield and Anderson Walker are not codependent. Carpooling to and from theater rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient. Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment. Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway.

But when Kate and Andy’s latest long-distance crush shows up at their school, everything goes off script. Matt Olsson is talented and sweet, and Kate likes him. She really likes him. The only problem? So does Anderson.

Turns out, communal crushes aren’t so fun when real feelings are involved. This one might even bring the curtains down on Kate and Anderson’s friendship. 


Title : Kate In Waiting
Author : Becky Albertalli
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 400
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Penguin
Release Date : April 22, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Sweet, fun and musical
Friendships colliding and together
School crushes

This was an easy, fun and light read from Becky Albertalli. Kate In Waiting was uplifting with strong themes of friendship; I mean we’re not surprised about that, are we? Musical theatre fans will gush towards this book because it’s framed around a high school drama/musical theatre group. While I’m not a groupie of that kind of entertainment, I still enjoyed the backdrop and got on board with the ride.

This read was all about the bonds within the group, but friendships were tested as crushes grew. It was funny throughout with mild tension at times and it brought a welcome light-vibe to my week. Becky Albertalli has a skill of getting you involved in friendships groups and she can make you connect with more than the MC; I did in this.

While this wasn’t my Albertalli favourite it was fun and easy to sink into.

Side note: I don’t ever want to see the phrase f**kboy or f-boy 63 times again.

Thank you Penguin for the early review copy.