The Names They Gave Us

30038906by Emery Lord
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

Lucy Hansson is prepared for her summer before senior year, until her mother’s cancer reappears, her boyfriend suggests they take a break, and the God she’s always known feels cold and distant. As she tries to hold herself together around her parents, she falls apart in front of her friends–and they aren’t prepared to help her with her questions.

At her mother’s urging, instead of spending the summer with them at their Christian camp the way she has her entire life, Lucy becomes a counselor at the camp across the lake which is for kids dealing with difficult times. Lucy feels adrift until her fellow counselors show her that despite their past experiences they can feel joy and love and hope.

This is the most harrowing book she has written. There are moments of humor and fun, but this is largely about having to grow up fast when your parents face problems they can’t shield you from. It’s hard to read, but for anyone who has experienced loss it would probably be cathartic. Learning to see your parents are people who don’t have all the answers, finding the friends who can handle your dark moments, letting yourself grow in surprising and sometimes scary ways–all of this is explored in-depth. Lucy’s gradual change in so many areas is rewarding to read and I felt like the end hit just the right note for her.

I’m already looking forward to Emery’s next book! 

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Names They Gave Us is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown – A take on Christian girls who are into girls. Jo’s dad is a pastor, and for years she has wanted to add an LGBTQ-friendly radio show to his extensive radio ministry. She might finally get her wish—if she can pretend to be straight for his new wife’s extended family, until she graduates high school. Sketchy, but fine, Jo agrees. And then she meets beautiful, funny, sensitive Mary Carlson. See my review here.
  • Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes – Maguire is convinced she is cursed with bad luck, but a trip to her family’s relatives in Ireland convinces her to try a new form of therapy. A wry and emotional story of Maguire’s progress in the form of challenges she sets herself, with good friendships and a bit of romance along the way. See my review here.
  • Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Gabi is caught between two worlds, trying to please her traditional Mexican American family, and trying to fit in at school. Both worlds give her nothing but stress: college apps, one best friend coming out to his religious family, her pregnant sister, her father’s drug habit, and her mother’s constant advice to lose weight. Finding her voice through poetry might be the only way she survives. See my review here.

What’s new this month

I’m so excited for this month’s books! I tend to gravitate towards contemporary stories in the summer and I will have plenty to choose from:

303128605/2 – Always & Forever, Lara Jean – by Jenny Han

Lara Jean is a senior now, and she has her wonderful boyfriend Peter and her dad is getting remarried–which means Margot is coming home for the summer! But it’s Lara Jean’s turn to make the tough decisions Margot faced: where to go to college, and what that means for her relationship with Peter. I love these sister relationships and I’m ready for one more story with Lara Jean! These are fun, light-hearted summer reads with gorgeous covers.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

278302875/9 – It Started with Goodbye – by Christina June

This debut’s gorgeous cover grabbed me months ago and I’m so excited to dive into this modern-day Cinderella retelling. Tatum Elsea is stuck in her grandmother’s house for the summer after being falsely accused of a crime. Between community service and her secret graphic arts job she’s keeping busy–and then she finds out she isn’t the only one in the house with secrets. I’m so intrigued by the hint of romance and what her “step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother” is going to do for her!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


314492275/9 – Ramona Blue – by Julie Murphy

This book has received a lot of attention due to a somewhat confusing synopsis. Ramona Blue is described as one of only two out lesbians in her small town. The town is recovering from Hurricane Katrina, her younger sister is pregnant, and Ramona picks up a lot of responsibilities around the house thanks to her parents’ issues. Then her childhood best friend Freddie returns, and they start swimming together–and then Ramona might have feelings for him. The description has changed a few times, but I think the intent is for a girl who thought she was a lesbian to discover she is bisexual, which can be polarizing.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

233080875/16 – Flame in the Mist – by Renee Ahdieh

My fantasy pick for this month! Pitched as a Mulan-inspired story of Mariko, a girl pledged in an arranged marriage for her family, only to be attacked on her way to her betrothed. Disguised as a boy, she infiltrates the ranks of the Black Clan hired to assassinate her, and uncovers a lengthy history secrets and murders. I have not had a girl-impersonating-a-boy story in so long, and I’m so curious how this one will go and what Mariko will do to set herself free!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

300389065/16 – The Names They Gave Us – by Emery Lord

Emery Lord, my feminist giver of life advice, finally has a new book out! Lucy has the rug pulled out from under her this summer. Her mother’s cancer reappears, her boyfriend wants to take a break, and instead of working at the Christian Bible camp she is assigned to a camp for “troubled” kids. She attempts to be positive about all these changes, but she can’t fully stifle her questions and doubts; and when family secrets come to light she will have to decide how to handle her relationships and her future. Her books always make me laugh and cry and I’m sure this will be no different!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

284585985/30 – When Dimple Met Rishi – by Sandhya Menon

Another debut! An arranged marriage between two Indian-American teens with both of their POVs. Dimple and Rishi have completely different ideas about romance and relationships, but when they both show interest in the same web-developer summer program their parents think it might be a good match. This sounds so cute! Their opposing views, natural attraction that was possibly influenced by their parents without Dimple’s knowledge–this sounds like the perfect rom-com setup and I’m sure I’ll devour this with a big smile!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

The Start of Me and You

25663744by Emery Lord
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

As previously mentioned on my blog, I had the absolute delight of meeting Emery Lord a few months ago and I’m finally reading her books (I loved When We Collided, you can see my review for that here)! I’m also a huge Twitter fan of hers and if you enjoy jokes and food and dogs and feminism, I highly suggest following her. (End of fangirl plug).

I’m not sure why my BFF left out the fact that this was one of her favorite reads the year it came out, and that it’s one of her favorite depictions of female friendships of all time, but since I FINALLY got around to following up on her quiet recommendation from a year ago all I can think is: where was this my whole life?!

Such a fun summer read, such an accurate depiction of high school (without shaming that part of your life), and yes, full of all the female friendships you could desire! They fight, they make up, they are there for each other, they don’t always make the right choices, but they are allowed to make those mistakes and learn from them. All of it comes across so naturally, truly masterful.

Paige gets to have all the anxiety and exuberance and anger of being in high school. Sometimes she says just the right thing. Sometimes she lashes out and has to deal with the consequences. I loved following her junior year!

What else did I love? Paige’s grandmother. Having a main character close to a grandparent is so refreshing and it was beautifully done. What else did I love? The romance, and crush vs. friends-to-love-interest. And? The English teacher (the fact that she isn’t the Voice of God in the narrative, constantly butting in to guide Paige). AND? Laugh out loud humor and emotional vibrancy that had me tearing up (in the span of 25 pages).

Pick this up and devour it in 2 days just like I did!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Start of Me and You is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell  – For a healthy dose of nerd love, look no further than anxious introvert fanfiction writer Cath as she tries to handle her first semester of college, separation from her twin sister, and the cute guy who keeps coming by to flirt with her. This is a seriously adorable story!
  • Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes – Maguire is convinced her bad luck hurts everyone around her, so she’s been a hermit for years. Her therapist suggests some challenges to get her back out in the world, but it’s a love of tennis and a helpful instructor also in therapy that might let her reclaim her life. See my review here.
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Simon isn’t exactly “out” and the only person he can truly be himself around is Blue – the boy he’s been emailing that he’s crushing on so hard. As he and Blue try to figure out each other’s true identities, Simon has to be brave, especially since another guy at school is threatening to expose his secret. See my review here.
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han – Lara Jean and Peter are going out for real, and it turns out that’s even harder than pretending to have a relationship. I loved this one more than the first book—more sisters, more friendships, more adorable moments. See my review here.
  • Made You Up by Francesca Zappia – One of the cutest books I’ve read in a long time! Alex is used to questioning her reality—having paranoid schizophrenia means things are rarely what they seem. But she has to wonder if the cute guy who seems to like her back is a figment of her mind or actually someone she could be with. (Not the most scientific approach to schizophrenia but a fun story). See my review here.
  • Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar – Carolina’s family is moving her grandfather off his southwestern ranch and into an assisted living home. A drought has ruined the land, but he tells Carolina that “the bees will bring back the rain.” Carolina thinks he’s confused by his dementia, until bees begin following her around the ranch. See my review here.

When We Collided

collidedby Emery Lord
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

It’s been awhile since I had a 5-star read! I loved this book from page 1 (but I waited til chapter 3 to commit) and I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it. I’ve long admired the author from afar, on Twitter (I think that’s literally the only time this has happened to me) and I finally got around to reading this book that I bought weeks ago. So glad my best friend referred me to her a year ago! (I told you, reading more recs from friends was a goal this year–because yes, I have this kind of painfully slow track record).

The story itself? A teenage summer love story set in a tiny Californian beach town called Verona Cove. Vivi and her artist mother are there for the summer, and Vivi quickly meets Jonah (a townie) and decides he’s cute enough for a summer date. Ordinarily, this would bother me, BUT. I think this is realistic for some teens (and adults). Also both of them are clearly looking for a distraction and a summer fling will work just fine for that.

Vivi is hiding her bipolar disorder from everyone because she is determined to be better now. Jonah is surviving by a thread in the wake of his father’s death after months of taking care of his 3 younger siblings and his depressed mother. Naturally, their relationship is a mix of light fun and bitter arguments. And the best part is–they are both right, and they are both wrong. They are both broken in different ways, and their relationship isn’t going to fix that.

So much to love here: 2 distinct POV voices, present parents, sibling relationships, issues not related to the romantic relationship like money and the Future, mental health and illness, and a definite streak of feminism (which is why I love Emery Lord of course). Also you can’t help but love the symbolism behind the names–Vivi is vivacious and lively, Jonah is drowning in an ocean of pain and responsibility he doesn’t want (similar to the biblical prophet in the whale).

I love that this story includes the silly and the sucky moments of family life. Some days you’re laughing outside with the sprinkler on, sometimes you’re screaming because you can’t stand them another minute. I love that the parents have their own problems (whether it’s depression or the struggle of when to trust your kid-who-is-almost-18-but-they’ll-always-be-your-kid).

This story made me laugh and tear up and it’s just the right length. No, these characters aren’t always “likeable” (I saw that mentioned in a lot of reviews) and that is the point. They are just regular people trying their best. It would be better if we could see everyone with mental health problems that way.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, When We Collided is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes – Maguire is bad luck–terrible things happen to people when she’s around. Her new therapist suggests some challenges that will help her overcome her “curse” with cognitive behavioral therapy, but Maguire isn’t convinced it will work. Her biggest challenge becomes a fellow tennis player who has a crush on her. Will she be able to take back the life the Universe stole from her?
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Cath and Wren are twin sisters who have done everything together-including obsess over the Simon Snow series and its fanfiction. But then Wren drops the bombshell that she’s not rooming with Cath for their first year of college, and she doesn’t care about Simon Snow anymore either. Cath isn’t sure how to cope, especially when her roommate’s cute friend keeps hanging around her dorm room trying to talk to her.
  • Mosquitoland by David Arnold – Mim is not thrilled with her stepdad’s new family or their new home. When she learns her mother is ill, she takes a secret road trip hundreds of miles back to see her, and maybe learn about herself along the way. See my review here.
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – Lia and Cassie make a pact to be the thinnest girls in school. But when Cassie dies from bulimia, Lia feels haunted by her best friend’s spirit and the conviction that if she can just be thin enough, she and all her problems can disappear for good. See my review here.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – Charlie is starting high school with no friends and no clue how to survive. When two seniors adopt him into their group, he has a lot to learn about life and how to deal with the secrets of his past. See my review here.
  • The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter – Cassie leaves the psychiatric hospital her mother forced her into two years previously, determined to start college and put the past of their toxic relationship behind her. But then her mother shows up promising all the love and attention Cassie always wanted, and she wonders if they can start over. See my review here.
  • The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick – This is a relatively short novel about Pat and his quest to become the perfect man so that God will restore his estranged wife Nikki to him. His neighbor Tiffany has her own issues, but it takes him awhile to realize they might be good friends. The writing is great, both book and movie are excellent.
  • Made You Up by Francesca Zappia – Although not the most accurate in terms of symptoms / diagnosis, this is such a good story I couldn’t resist including it. Alex suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is never sure what’s real and what isn’t. When a cute boy takes an interest in her, she begins to wonder whether he’s real, or if she made him up. See my review here.

What’s new this month

162218514/5 – Tell the Wind and Fire – by Sarah Rees Brennan

I received an ARC on Net Galley for this story! I was never overly fond of A Tale of Two Cities (or really any of Dickens’ work, despite reading all of it) but the title is awesome so I requested an early copy. This Dickens retelling is set in New York with magic and interpersonal drama and I’m a terrible person because I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet–mostly because it wouldn’t transfer to my Nook and I don’t read on my laptop. Yes, still a bad excuse! Don’t be like me – check this out!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

collided4/5 – When We Collided – by Emery Lord

This is a strange case where I fell in love with the author on Twitter (I mean hard-core girl-crushing: she’s-my-spirit-animal if-I-met-her-I-would-flail-so-much crushing). She’s amazing. So I’m finally checking out one of her books! This one sounds fun and I’m trying to get out of my YA fantasy bubble this year and I can’t wait for this. Plus the cover is gorgeous. The plot sounds a bit like a John Green novel (super cool, crazy chick attracts a somewhat mopey guy) but I’m sure it will be better coming from Emery’s smart and savvy perspective.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

257563284/12 – Love & Gelato – by Jenna Evans Welch

Tuscany, love, adventure—looking forward to a light summer read with this debut novel. Lina is sent to Italy to fulfill her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her estranged father. Through her mother’s journal (and Tuscany’s innate magic), Lina meets a boy and starts uncovering a mystery in her family’s past that could change everything she thought she knew about her parents and herself. The cover is cute and I love the idea of sleuthing through family secrets. I feel like this was a storyline more popular when I was a kid (think Parent Trap days) so just the jacket makes me nostalgic.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

252036754/26 – The Star-Touched Queen – by Roshani Choksi

I’m very excited about this standalone story because it sounds so unique (and because there’s a loose connection that one of my CP friends is CP’s with the author!). I can’t wait to read this! Maya is a princess cursed with a horoscope that declares her marriage will only bring death and destruction upon her kingdom. When she is married off to form a political alliance, she finds strange magic and mystery within her court and kingdom. The summary promises a trip to the Otherworld and plenty of dark magic as Maya tries to save herself, her loved ones, and her kingdom. This sounds like a stunning debut!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

Raven King4/26 – The Raven King – by Maggie Stiefvater

THIS is one of the most-anticipated books of the year for me! I have been following this series for years now and I’m so anxious to see how it ends I can hardly stand it! After two different publication delays, it’s finally here, and I’ll be going dark online until I read it, I can assure you. Blue and the Raven Boys are finally getting close to uncovering the secret of Glendower, the buried Welsh king that will grant a wish to whoever discovers him. They aren’t the only ones looking for the dead king, of course. And Stiefvater has sworn since book 1, when Blue saw Gansey’s spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, that Gansey will die as promised. I believe her, but that doesn’t make me any less nervous about this ending. The writing is amazing and the characters are loveable, so add this to your list!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


rose and the dagger4/26 – The Rose and the Dagger – by Renee Ahdieh

Surprise! This release date was bumped up! The Wrath and the Dawn surprised me by sucking me into a world that typically makes me yawn (I never could get through The Arabian Nights for some reason). Shazi’s spunk and Khalid’s passion carry this story and I can’t wait to see more of the world and the magic. The writing is excellent and this is a fresh take on an ancient legend. Definitely check this out, it’s the fore-runner in the YA trend towards the old desert, and this one sounds even more action-packed than the first!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

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