HOW TO LIVE WITHOUT YOU by Sarah Everett

In this heart-wrenching coming-of-age story about family, grief, and second chances, seventeen-year-old Emmy returns home for the summer to uncover the truth behind her sister Rose’s disappearance—only to learn that Rose had many secrets, ones that have Emmy questioning herself and the sister Emmy thought she knew.

When her sister Rose disappeared, seventeen-year-old Emmy lost a part of herself. Everyone else seems convinced she ran away and will reappear when she’s ready, but Emmy isn’t so sure. That doesn’t make sense for the Rose she knew: effervescent, caring, and strong-willed. So Emmy returns to their Ohio hometown for a summer, determined to uncover clues that can lead her back to Rose once and for all.

But what Emmy finds is a string of secrets and lies that she never thought possible, casting the person she thought she knew best in a whole new light. Reeling with confusion, Emmy decides to step into Rose’s life. She reconnects with their childhood best friend and follows in Rose’s last known footsteps with heart-wrenching consequences.

An honest and intimate look at sisterhood and the dark side of growing up, Sarah Everett’s latest novel is a stunning portrayal of how you can never truly know the ones you love.


Title : How To Live Without You
Author : Sarah Everett
Format : eARC
Page Count : 392
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Clarion Books
Release Date : May 17, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Coming of age with a punch
Sisters
Emotive, challenging and rich
Mental illness

I know from reading and loving Sarah Everett’s previous release to expect my heart in my mouth, difficult subject matter and beautiful writing; I got all those things. This contemporary YA was a tough read for sure but it dealt with issues in depth and with authenticity and respect. I do advise checking out the content warnings for this book which I’ve put at the end of this review, but please be aware they have some spoiler elements. Also do make sure you go all the way to the author’s note at the end.

This book was about sisters, broken families, mental illness and lies. It dealt with trust issues, friendships, first experiences and betrayal. There was much to this read but not too much. Get ready to hand over your heart to Emmie and Rose, Levi and their dad. Those were my favourite characters. I was left rather conflicted by Chris in all the ways but especially after the later reveals.

How To Live Without You is the kind of read that builds and builds, so that when at about 3/4 of the way through, some reveals started coming, I was half expecting some of it but other parts shocked the heck out of me. I literally didn’t put this book down much over the 24 hours it consumed me.

I am becoming a staunch fan of the authentic writing that Sarah Everett delivers on and the themes she frames around her characters.

Thank you Clarion Books for the eARC.

**Content Warnings** depression, suicidal ideation.

SOMETHING CERTAIN MAYBE by Sara Barnard

Something Certain, Maybe is a powerful novel about first love, friendships and embracing the uncertainty of an unknowable future, from Sara Barnard, winner of the YA Book Prize.

Rosie is ready for her life to begin, because nothing says new life like going to university. After years of waiting and working hard, she’s finally on the road that will secure her future.

Except university turns out to be not what she hoped or imagined, and although she’s not exactly unhappy – really – she might be a little bit worried that she doesn’t really like her course much. Or her flatmates. Or, really . . . anything? But it’s normal to be homesick (right?) and everything will have settled in a month or two, and it’s totally fine that her friends seem so much happier than she is, and that the doctors don’t seem to know what’s wrong with her mother.

And then she meets Jade, and everything starts to look a little brighter. At least, it does if she’s only looking at Jade. But is first love enough when everything else is falling apart?


Title : Something Certain Maybe
Author : Sara Barnard
Format : Physical
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Macmillan Children’s Books
Release Date : July 7, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
The first year of uni life
Trying to fit in
First LGBTQ+ relationship experiences

As a fan of Sara Barnard’s previous books and in particular the two books related to Something Certain, Maybe (Beautiful Broken Things and Fierce Fragile Hearts), picking this book up was a no-brainer. But you don’t have to have previous knowledge of Rosie, Caddy and Suzie, it can be read as a standalone. Content warnings at the bottom of this review.

This book focused on Rosie but with her two buddies there in the background. Leaving Brighton, her mum and friends behind was a bittersweet experience for Rosie but she had a plan. This story was all about that first year of her plan and it didn’t play out how she expected.

Rosie spread her bisexual wings in this book and she dealt with some microagressions in relation to her bi-ness but any issues were dealt with really well on the page. Rosie’s blossoming relationship with Jade was lovely reading and the positive focus of the plot. Rosie navigated some mental health challenges which felt authentic as well as deep family worries. Talking of authenticity this university lecturer (me) thought this first year at uni was written so darn well. Kudos to the real feels that were conveyed and the whole reason why I read and enjoy YA…it helps me connect with my students’ experiences.

I loved seeing these three characters in an adult (young adult) light. Yes, there were dramatic moments and if you know these three, that felt just right. It felt like a sweet reward getting another book with these characters.

Thank you to Pride Book Tours and Macmillan Children’s Books for the review copy.

Content warnings: anxiety, panic attacks, discussion of previous suicide attempts, bi-erasure

THE SILVER CHAIN by Jion Sheibani

Uplifting and unputdownable, a coming-of-age verse novel about family, mental health and the healing power of music.

Azadeh is a budding violinist on a music scholarship at an expensive private school, dealing with all the usual trials of being sixteen: trying her best to fit in, keep up and have fun. Then as her mum’s mental health spirals out of control, Azadeh’s world starts to unravel. Her friendships fall away, and as much as she and her dad try to keep a lid on everything, their problems insist on taking over. Feeling alone, it’s her violin that finally helps Azadeh to find her way back to her friends, herself and even her mum.

A beautifully packaged, highly important and irresistible novel about mental health struggles and the solace we find in music and rhythm, friendship, family and honesty.


Title : The Silver Chain
Author : Jion Sheibani
Format : Physical
Page Count : 352
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Hot Key Books
Release Date : June 23, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Told in verse
Parental mental illness
Poles apart friendships

There was a lot to unpack in this story told in verse. I really enjoyed the format where some sections were more lyrical than others, and some more straight narrative. Azadeh was something of a prodigious violinist, having a scholarship at a private school. In fact, Azadeh’s family were from humble means setting her apart financially from her peers but also in term of her heritage. Azadeh had a Persian father and I think an English mother although I wasn’t certain. Azadeh had some longings towards her origins that seemed unfulfilled.

Azadeh sought solice in her music, her violin, the notes, the message of the music. When things went wrong at home however, she lost her connection to music for some time. That seemed to untether her own mental wellbeing.

There were some slightly toxic friendships in this book, some lack of cultural understanding from friends and racist microagressions. Azadeh found this hard to navigate and it was uncomfortable to witness.

There was a strong storyline of mental illness and while that was good representation, I didn’t always feel that it was fully unpacked. It felt a little unfinished in the end from that perspective.

The most enjoyable aspect of this book was in it’s narrative style of verse. I found it very easy to read and listen to.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for the early review copy.

CONFESSIONS OF AN ALLEGED GOOD GIRL by Joya Goffney

Monique lives a perfect life – a preacher’s daughter and the girlfriend of the town’s golden boy. But it’s not that simple. She’s torn between her parents who want the pure virginal daughter, and her boyfriend, Dom, who wants to explore the more intimate side of their relationship.

Tired of waiting, her boyfriend breaks up with her, spurring Monique to discover she has a medical condition that makes her far from perfect and she concocts a plan to fix her body and win him back.

With the help of her frenemy, Sasha, the overly zealous church girl Monique’s mum pushes her to hang out with, and Reggie, the town’s bad boy, Monique must go on trips to unknown and uncomfortable places to find the treatment that will help her. But in doing so, she must face some home truths: maybe she shouldn’t be fixing her body to please a boy, maybe Sasha is the friend she needed all along and maybe Reggie isn’t so bad at all.

This is a powerful journey towards loving yourself, about body and sex positivity, with heart, humour, family intrigue and a dynamic and delicious love triangle.

Contains explicit references to sex and sexual health.


Title : Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl
Author : Joya G0ffney
Format : eARC
Page Count : 314
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Hot Key Books
Release Date : May 3, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Sex positive
Growing up in church
Confidences and friendships

This is one of the best examples of a sex-positive story I’ve ever read and this is hugely important in contemporary YA. Goffney crafting an impactful story that was also threaded with lightness so that it didn’t feel heavy. I blasted through this book in a day and I loved it.

Monique found herself under significant pressure to have sex, while also wanting to, but not being able to. There’s a physical condition afoot that was really good to see amongst these pages and while there were characters that were shady (hello Dom, I did not like you) there were a bunch of great characters in Reggie, Sasha and Aunt Dee. There was a whole layer of complication to this story about being brought up in a straight-laced church household where the parents were hugely unrealistic about life, sex education and natural adolescent development. I couldn’t decide if I really hated these parents but I guess it just diluted to dislike.

Reggie, the man of young men, I loved this guy on the page. His understanding, his humour, his respect were everything. I loved how these two brought great character growth in one another.

Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl was a YA read of the year for me and I highly recommend.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for the early review copy.

MY EYES ARE UP HERE by Laura Zimmermann

Insightful, frank, and funny, My Eyes Are Up Here is a razor-sharp debut about a teenage girl struggling to rediscover her sense of self in the year after her body decided to change all the rules.

A “monomial” is a simple algebraic expression consisting of a single term. 30H, for example. Fifteen-year-old Greer Walsh hasn’t been fazed by basic algebra since fifth grade, but for the last year, 30H has felt like an unsolvable equation – one that’s made her world a very small, very lonely place. 30H is her bra size – or it was the last time anyone checked. She stopped letting people get that close to her with a tape measure a while ago.

Ever since everything changed the summer before ninth grade, Greer has felt out of control. She can’t control her first impressions, the whispers that follow, or the stares that linger after. The best she can do is put on her faithful XXL sweatshirt and let her posture – and her expectations for other people – slump.

But people – strangers and friends – seem strangely determined to remind her that life is not supposed to be this way. Despite carefully avoiding physical contact and anything tighter than a puffy coat, Greer finds an unexpected community on the volleyball squad, the team that hugs between every point and wears a uniform “so tight it can squeeze out tears.” And then there’s Jackson Oates, newly arrived at her school and maybe actually more interested in her banter than her breasts.

Laura Zimmermann’s debut is both laugh-out-loud funny and beautifully blunt, vulnerable and witty, heartbreaking and hopeful. And it will invite listeners to look carefully at a girl who just wants to be seen for all she is.


Title : My Eyes Are Up Here
Author : Laura Zimmermann
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Dutton Books
Release Date : June 23, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Made me sad
Body negativity

This book is about boobs, growing up with them, living with them, accepting them (or not). I am of the big-boobed population, so in some ways I could relate to the protagonist in this story but equally, I really did not relate to her. I did feel really sorry for her, not for her big boobs but for her self-perception and poor body image. The book made me incredibly sad, to be honest.

What I did like about the story was Greer finding a sport she loved and how she navigated the boob problem through playing, made her address her day to day boob-dom. Honestly, sometimes this story was just painful to watch play out and read.

The side story of Jackson and Greer was the nicest thing about the plot if only Greer could look away from her ‘girls’ a moment or two. I did love Jackson’s final declaration at the end, that was worth the wait.

Maybe this book will help young people with big boobs feel seen while trying not to be seen (if you get my drift) but I would have loved to have seen a more positive stance on this issue.

WHEN OUR WORLDS COLLIDED by Danielle Jawando

A powerful coming-of-age story about chance encounters, injustice and how the choices that we make can completely change our future. The second YA novel from the critically acclaimed Danielle Jawando, perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Gayle Foreman, Jennifer Niven and Nikesh Shukla.

‘Jawando’s writing is incredibly raw and real; I felt completely immersed’ – Alice Oseman

When fourteen-year-old Shaq is stabbed outside of a busy shopping centre in Manchester, three teenagers from very different walks of life are unexpectedly brought together. What follows flips their worlds upside down and makes Chantelle, Jackson, and Marc question the deep-rooted prejudice and racism that exists within the police, the media, and the rest of society.


Title : When Our Worlds Collided
Author : Danielle Jawando
Format : Physical
Page Count : 368
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK
Release Date : March 31, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Hits hard in the heart and gut
Manunian grit
Real, emotional and beautiful

When Our Worlds Collided was a read that revealed it’s title meaning after the first chapter…and what a chapter that was. This trio of black teens, found themselves together after a tragedy and naviagated it both together and alone. Chantelle, Jackson and Marc all had their own difficulties to live with but Shaq brought them together.

This threesome of new friendship in Manchester all faced different inequalities whether that was walking down the street, just being in class or trying to live in the care system. Some of the things that happened in this book made me rage. The organisational prejudice, the police and the media, were hideous. Ms Edwards was a complete tool and as an educator myself, I hated her with a passion but I know people like her exist which is, I guess, why I hated her so much. But then we had Gran, Mrs Cohen and Dry Eileen who frankly was a hug in human form; I adored her.

This story gripped me from the first few pages and while there is nothing easy about the themes in this book, the writing made it easy. Danielle Jawando has a way of not just bringing these characters to life, but also of revealing their hearts and minds. The mancunian narrative, the places and the locations, brought the city and culture to life. The grief journeys these teens and adults walked were relatable even if the exact experiences were theirs only.

I cannot say how emotional (across the range) this book got me at times. The injustices, the sadness, the love, the beauty, the connections and more than anything, the potential and possibilities were everything. This book was another triumph from Danielle Jawando who has securely placed herself as superb writer of black UK contemporary YA.

Pack your tissues, folks.

There are lots of content warnings for this book, feel free to DM me for details.

Thank you to Simon YA for the early review copy.

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.

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