‘Dating My Best Friend’ by Michelle MacQueen and Ann Maree Craven

‘Dating My Best Friend’ by Michelle MacQueen and Ann Maree Craven delves deeply into themes that range from loss and grief to loneliness, heartbreak, kindness, truth, introspection, and more. Peyton Callahan and Cameron Tucker are the main characters who find themselves thrown into an unfathomable situation when one night changes everything. Peyton’s brother Cooper is killed in a devastating accident that hits not only her family and friends, but the whole town harder than anyone could have imagined. Their lives turn upside down and their relationships seem permanently fractured. It doesn’t seem like there is an out to the topsy turvy world their lives have become, so Peyton eventually gives up on finding solace in her the arms of her best friend (who also happens to be her crush). Cam isn’t returning her emails and doesn’t seem interested in seeing her, so why should she bother anymore?

When Cam returns to school, life finds a way to continue to throw curve balls. Despite his return, he feels the same loss he did eighteen months ago when Cooper was killed in the accident. His parents don’t seem to understand him as he hopes they might, and the one person he has always felt most comfortable talking to doesn’t seem to want to have anything to do with him. Peyton doesn’t want to let things be that simple. She wants to get back to what they had, but she doesn’t know how she can ignore eighteen months of him not wanting to see or talk to her. The pain is still too fresh for both of them.

All the while, Peyton focuses on a new app she created called No Body Shame, which she calls No BS. She knows how much it is helping others in her high school to cope with their own issues, and even though she is good at dishing out advice and helping others find their own ways to cope, she realizes she isn’t quite capable of this herself. Cam’s return has thrown her for a loop, and with mean girls getting in the way of what she wishes could just be a happy relationship with him, along with fights among the people she used to call her friends, it doesn’t seem like anything is fixable. But, though cliche, love always finds a way, and so it does in this story, in more ways than one.

MacQueen and Craven each have their own series of books that are well-written and engaging, but their joint work in this young adult contemporary novel is a testament to their ability to cross genres and truly inhabit the minds of their characters. Readers will feel as though they are in the thick of the action, dealing with the trials and tribulations of Peyton, Cam, and their friends and parents. It is a story of devastation and redemption, and will bring both laughter and tears for readers.

You can find ‘Dating My Best Friend’ by Michelle MacQueen and Ann Maree Craven here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘The Cook and the King’ by Julia Donaldson Book Review

‘The Cook and the King’ by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by David Roberts, is a cute story that shows how working together, and sometimes working alone with someone by your side, can lead to success. When the King hires Wobbly Bob to be his new cook, he gets more than he bargained for. Wobbly Bob tells the King from the moment he is hired that he is a “bit of a wimp” but would love the job. The King, eager to have someone fill the position, takes Bob on, but soon he finds himself catching the fish, chopping potatoes, frying everything up, and more. Wobbly Bob is too scared to do any of these things. The King, though, takes on the challenge, encouraging Wobbly Bob to let him help. In the end, the final product is made by the King, but he is shown to have enjoyed the process of working with Bob to do the work and make the food, priding Bob (and himself, by extension) on a job well done.

Also author of ‘The Gruffalo,’ Julia Donaldson has a knack for fitting words together and working with her illustrators to make the images spring to life. This book does well with that, and it captures a lot of themes, from kindness and growth to teamwork and independence. Donaldson also uses a nice amount of rhyming and repetition to make the book accessible to young readers.

You can find ‘The Cook and the King’ by Julia Donaldson here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Stranger Things: Runaway Max’ by Brenna Yovanoff Book Review

‘Stranger Things: Runaway Max’ by Brenna Yovanoff provides an intriguing look into Max’s life before and during her time in Hawkins, Indiana. While trying to find her place once she moves to Hawkins from California, she meets Lucas, Dustin, Mike, and Will, along with some of the other main characters from Stranger Things. She wants to be part of their group, but finds herself guarded and worried about what will happen if she gives in to the temptation of getting to know them and actually starting to believe their stories about all of the crazy things that have been happening in town since Will mysteriously disappeared the year before.

All the while she tries to keep her worry at bay about older stepbrother Billy, who seems bent on making her life as miserable as possible, despite her sometimes thinking he is doing what he does because he cares about her. She learns quickly, though, that his easily provoked, highly angry nature is doing neither her nor him any favors, and his rage seems to easily turn into rampages that she doesn’t want to affect her new friends, as she feels it did her old ones back in California.

Yovanoff brings added insight to the Stranger Things storyline through her writing. Having worked with the writers of the show, readers can be sure they are gaining more nuanced understanding to the inner workings of the characters. Definitely worth reading!

You can find ‘Stranger Things: Runaway Max’ by Brenna Yovanoff here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Little Penguin’s New Friend’ by Tadgh Bentley Book Review

‘Little Penguin’s New Friend’ by Tadgh Bentley is a cute story about the making of a friendship despite misconceptions about the other person. The penguin has heard things about the polar bear that he doesn’t know whether to believe. He wonders whether he’ll be scary, if his roar will be frightening, and if he’ll tell bad jokes. When the polar bear arrives, the penguin learns that he isn’t what he seems. Polar Bear likes to roar, but with laughter, and even though he does tell bad jokes, Penguin doesn’t think they’re so bad. The book shows that even though people are different, there is always something that people can find in each other to get along. However, if one doesn’t look for these similarities, one can find it difficult to connect with others.

A great book for new readers as they learn more sight words, you can find ‘Little Penguin’s New Friend’ by Tadgh Bentley here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Bea and the Bad Boy’ by Anna Catherine Field Book Review

‘Bea and the Bad Boy’ by Anna Catherine Field is a page-turning story that evolves from two people who don’t really know much about each other into two people who find that they’ve been thrown together and it isn’t all that bad. Actually, it’s pretty good, and the fact that they begin to fall for each other is surprising to both of them, but is icing on the cake for readers.

While Bea considers herself naive and somewhat prudish – or at least that’s how she thinks her classmates see her – she finds herself wrapped up in what starts out as a fake relationship with next door neighbor Carter, who is anything but those characteristics. Rather, he is what everyone considers trouble with a capital “T,” yet he also is devastatingly handsome and knows how to charm almost anyone. His life isn’t so easy, though, as he deals with an overbearing yet not-so-present father who wants Carter’s swimming to be his only focus. Bea finds herself constantly in her twin brother Atticus’ shadow, and the fact that her best friend started dating Atticus isn’t helping matters any since she no longer feels she can be friends with or confide in her. It’s the reason Bea and Carter start faking a relationship – to help each other with the issues they feel are constantly plaguing them. It all turns into something more, though, and while neither of them see it coming, they both find themselves falling for the other, and their already complicated fake relationship becomes all too real, emotions and all.

Mean girls, lies, misunderstandings, friendships gained and lost, and so much more make ‘Bea and the Bad Boy’ a must read for any lover of young adult romance and drama.

You can find ‘Bea and the Bad Boy’ by Anna Catherine Field here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Igloo High’ by Jacinthe Dessureault Book Review

‘Igloo High’ by Jacinthe Dessureault has many of the typical aspects that young adult novels contain, including a popular girl, a mean girl, and the requisite crush. The novel, however, does not stick to the same tried and true form that other novels do, as main character Ella finds herself a fish out of water, moving from her hometown of Montreal to a much more northern area of Canada where the cold is not just the weather topic for the day, but rather the norm she must learn to live with as she acclimates to her new home.

Leaving her best friend behind, along with her crush whom she just found a way to connect with, she treats the move, due to her dad’s job, as the biggest hindrance ever. Her entitled attitude comes off a bit extreme, so it helps that she finds a way to make more of the situation as the novel goes on. This doesn’t mean things are easy. Despite the fact that she is quickly befriended by the resident popular, and equally mean, girl, Sera, one big misunderstanding gets in the way of their budding friendship. This causes Ella to soon find herself in a place she doesn’t want to be surrounded by people who want nothing to do with her, because Sera has the power to keep Ella from making new friends. Yet, she does find friendship in places she doesn’t expect, and the fact that there’s a guy in the mix doesn’t hurt matters any, especially if her seeing this guy is the perfect thing to make Sera super jealous.

Ella’s transformation throughout the novel from someone who can only think pessimistically about her situation into someone who learns the difference between tolerance (dealing with people until she can find a way to leave) and acceptance (understanding that her situation may not be as bad as she thinks and she might actually like it there) is pretty well done. Any high school student, and even adults, can learn a lesson from Ella, as negativity and worry don’t help anything. Rather, focusing on the positive and all of the good that can come out of life will make anyone’s day better.

You can find ‘Igloo High’ by Jacinthe Dessureault here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Flights of Fancy’ Book Review

‘Flights of Fancy: Creative Inspiration from Ten Award-Winning Authors and Illustrators’ is a great help to aspiring authors, as it shows how writing can be both effortless and fun, while at the same time instilling the importance of hard work and dedication. There are challenges in the book that come in the form of interesting writing prompts which help readers try their hand at the same types of activities that each of the authors and illustrators has in their own arsenal to help them shine at their craft.

Sometimes a bit of advice and an understanding that one isn’t alone in the world is all one needs to press on and make one’s own magic. Each of the British Children’s Laureates who have expressed themselves in this book have many impressive accomplishments. Their humble attitudes as they profess their own challenges throughout their lives in bringing their stories and ideas to life make the book all that much more special. It is easy to get caught up in the fame and excitement of being an author; however, their ability to present their thoughts to readers of all ages and make writing and illustrating seem attainable is a testament to the power of this book.

You can find ‘Flights of Fancy: Creative Inspiration from Ten Award-Winning Authors and Illustrators’ here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Lily and the Wedding Date Mistake’ by Seven Steps Book Review

‘Lily and the Wedding Date Mistake’ by Seven Steps is a story of friendship lost and found between main characters Lily and Becks. They travel through uncharted territory trying to figure out how to get their friendship back on track after Becks’ faraway move many years ago. They don’t seem to be on the same page and seemingly have no desire to find their way back to each other, but as the novel goes on, the two find that they have more common ground than they once thought, and they haven’t changed nearly as much as they’d like to think they have.

While Lily works hard at planning a school carnival to help raise money for a fellow student, Becks works at getting on Lily’s every nerve, or so she’d like to believe. Yet it turns out that the nerve he’s hitting most is the one she does her best to deny – the one that makes her realize she has a crush on her former best friend. They spar throughout the planning process, and at times he agrees with her, which she finds gnawing at her since she can’t grasp how his moods are always changing regarding how he feels about her. All the while, her sister, Rose, and her best friend, Calla, have issues of their own, making Lily’s life that much more complicated.

With a healthy dose of uncertainty and teenage angst and a number of misunderstandings, Seven Steps shows that this new story is a solid addition to her library of books. As author of the St. Mary’s Academy series, she has shown that her aptitude for writing swoon-worthy teen romance is definitely strong, and ‘Lily and the Wedding Date Mistake’ lives up to that. Definitely check out this new novel by a great author.

You can find ‘Lily and the Wedding Date Mistake’ by Seven Steps here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘Smile: How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (and Cry)’ by Gary Golio Book Review

‘Smile: How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (and Cry)’ by Gary Golio, illustrated by Ted Young, is an interesting look at the life and makings of Charlie Chaplin and his most well-known character, The Tramp. It starts off telling about his life, including how his mother and brother fit into it, and includes colorful illustrations that guide readers on the journey that he took to become the most famous version of himself.

It would have been nice to learn a bit more about who he was after his transformation into the Charlie Chaplin people still know today, but the afterword and “Facts About Charlie Chaplin” page helped shed more light on his persona. It is also nice that the author thought to include a “Resources” page at the end of the book to allow readers to learn more about Charlie Chaplin through books and movies that they see fit to review further. There was also a bit too much text for young readers, but the story still flowed pretty nicely.

For those curious to learn more about Chaplin’s history, this biography of sorts does a nice job of sharing the beginnings of his life and career. The lyrical writing also makes for a smooth and engaging read.

You can find ‘Smile: How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (and Cry)’ by Gary Golio here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

‘She’s the Liar’ by Alison Cherry Book Review

‘She’s the Liar’ by Alison Cherry is about sisters Abby and Sydney and their time together at Brookside Academy. Abby, who has decided to rebrand herself as ‘Abbi’ and be a newer, cooler version of herself upon entering sixth grade, comes to learn that with her newfound role comes heartache. Eighth grader and big sister Sydney is not making Abbi’s life easy. Not only is Sydney the head of The Committee (which basically makes her the student body president, or Brookside’s version of it), she has the power to make decisions that govern everyone, and make Abbi terribly upset with the outcomes. When Abbi dares to stand up to her sister, Sydney is taken aback and decides to deal with the issue the only way she knows how – shutting Abbi down, just as she shuts down everyone else with what seems to be her power-hungry decisions.

The first half of the book tells Abbi’s side of the story. It shows how she deals with her sister’s power plays, and how she tries to take matters into her own hands and bring the student body around to support her instead of her sister. The second half of the book tells Sydney’s side of it. Alison Cherry does an amazing job of this, as readers will likely not see how anything Sydney can show of herself in the second half can make her actions okay. But Sydney does indeed have her own side for readers to learn about, and what it is comes across more surprising than one might expect. Her power-hungry actions and their consequences are more than just that, but she needs to make Abbi see this. The trouble is that Abbi has taken it upon herself to fight to join The Committee and make change, including undermining her sister. Figuring out how to thwart Abbi’s attempts before Abbi finds out the truth about Sydney is all Sydney can think to do, but the truth may come out anyway.

An intriguing look at how perspectives can truly shape the way one sees others and also themselves, ‘She’s the Liar’ is a quick and entertaining read that will make readers think long and hard about their own actions. Definitely recommended!

You can find ‘She’s the Liar’ by Alison Cherry here.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*