Five #RealYA Books I've Read in 2015

#RealYA emerged as a trend in the YA Twitter community earlier this week. YA authors, bloggers, and readers posted about their #RealYA experiences in comparison to the high school tropes that are so often seen in contemporary young adult literature. Cliques, jocks, nerds, absent parents, and YA's obsession with top tier schools were among the topics discussed.

These are a few of my favorite examples from the conversation:  




As a pre-highschool teenager, I would read so many books with these tropes and wonder if this is what high school was really like. Spoiler alert: It wasn't. Now that I'm nearly a year and a half out of high school. I identified with so many of the #RealYA stories that I read as I scrolled through the thread. So today I want to share some of the best #RealYA that I've read in the last year. 

*Note that these aren't all necessarily 2015 releases 


THE START OF ME AND YOU by Emery Lord


Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances. 
It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live? 
*This book has it all -- overlapping friend groups, overprotective parents, Quizbowl, and a nice jocks. All paired with Lord's beautiful storytelling. I devoured it in one sitting. 





ALL THE RAGE by Courtney Summers 
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.  
With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive? 
*This is one of the most important books of 2015. Period. 



MY LIFE NEXT DOOR by Huntley Fitzpatrick

"One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time."
The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything. 
As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase's family embraces Samantha - even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha's world. She's suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself? 
A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another. 
*Again, I'm a sucker for YA that's family focused. 



I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

A brilliant, luminous story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal for fans of John Green, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell 
Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world. 
This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once. 
*This one DESTROYED me the first time I read it. 


BEHIND THE SCENES by Dahlia Adler
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N




High school senior Ally Duncan's best friend may be the Vanessa Park - star of TV's hottest new teen drama - but Ally's not interested in following in her BFF's Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father's mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van's on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she's capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can't play by Hollywood's rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.


*I think I love this book so much because I related to Ally so much on a personal level. JUST VISITING is on my TBR.

What are some of your favorite #RealYA books? Let's keep the conversation going! Follow me on twitter @mleekanterr12 and tweet me some of your favorite #RealYA books and you'll be entered to win a choice of one of the five fabulous books I've featured! Spread the word!





ILLUMINAE by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff



ILLUMINAE by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Published: October 20th, 2015


This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she'd have to do.
This afternoon, her planet was invaded. 
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. 
But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again. 
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

How do I even begin to review a book like this? ILLUMINAE is in a class of its own. 

Structurally it is the coolest freaking book I have ever read. We get IMs, journal entries, artwork, emails, surveillance footage. And somehow, someway, this mashup of documents works so incredibly well and is both effective and efficient in telling this story. We don't get much from the characters, we're rarely inside their heads at all. All of the world building and character development and plot and drama comes from this packaged compilation of stuff. The most perspective we get is from an Artificial Intelligence, for crying out loud! 

Honestly, this book is a work of art, and I've probably spent way too much time thinking about the complexity of the design and format. Moments of it reminded me a lot of Marshall McLuhan's The Medium is in the Massage, such as the way in which images and word worked together and just how the book was so interactive. Reading ILLUMINAE is not only a visually moving experience, it's a tactile one as well. 

I couldn't stop turning the page. It really speaks to Kaufman and Kristoff's skill as writers that I'm so emotionally attached to characters that I've primarily encountered through instant messages. The details kept coming at us, building Kady and Ezra into these full and complex and awesome characters. Their voices are incredibly vivid and distinct through their interactions--both with and without each other. Also, Kady has pink hair. Just saying. It's awesome. With all of these fantastical science fiction elements, the characters were still very real and relatable to me. EMOTIONS though. 

The intensity of this book, oh my god. It starts fast and then somehow keeps speeding up. There's never a dull moment, never a moment where I wanted to put the book down (just moments where assignments and sleep deprivation forced me to close it.) The stakes are always high in this universe where every decision is life or death. The introduction and establishment of the virus was also incredibly well executed, elevating this book from people on spaceships to ZOMBIES on spaceships. 

ILLUMINAE one hundred percent deserves all of the hype that it is getting. This isn't even a review so much as a flailing gush session. It's hard for a sci-fi to win me over. Sci-fi is not my preferred genre, but I'm obsessed with this book and the world it has crafted. Now I'm just left wondering how the heck I'm supposed to wait at least a year for book too?

ILLUMINAE hands down won me over. How many stars? I'm going to give it all the stars. 


This Semester In Books: Featuring Mini-Reviews


College = Required Reading + Essays + Midterms  + More Essays + Seriously Why Is There So Much Required Reading??

This semester, luckily, I have managed to find the time to squeeze in some pretty amazing reads! Here's me playing catch up of what I've been reading in the form of mini-reviews. Some are 2015 releases, others are a bit older. There's contemporary, middle grade, even a graphic novel. One thing that all of these books have in common is that they are definitely worth the read!



What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick 
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble 
My Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars

I came to read WHAT I THOUGHT WAS TRUE immediately upon finishing Fitzpatrick's debut novel, MY LIFE NEXT DOOR (which I absolutely loved). In comparison, this novel was loaded with the angst. What I love about Fitzpatrick is that her stories are always family-centric, with active parents that are consistent throughout. She also has a tendency to tackle classist issues as well, as in not everyone is Ivy League Bound middle class, that's just not reality. In WHAT I THOUGHT WAS TRUE, I loved the complexity of the relationships, Gwen's relationship with her little brother Emory, and the island setting was gorgeous and so well done. Don't go into this read expecting it to be like Fitzpatrick's debut. It's more angst, raw emotion, and it was more difficult for me to get through (but not in a bad way.) If you're a fan of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Sarah Ockler, definitely check out Huntley Fitzpatrick!






GEORGE by Alex Gino 
My Rating: 5 / 5 Stars 

George looks like a boy, but she knows she's a girl. Her fourth grade class is putting on the play Charlotte's Web, and George wants to play Charlotte. Except boys can't play Charlotte. What I loved the most about GEORGE is that the plot itself is so simple, a child being told that they can't do something because of their appearance. The profound nature of this story comes also in the method of storytelling, third person limited with she pronouns from beginning to end. Because George knows that she's a girl. I cannot sing enough praise about this book. It made me want to smile and cry all at once, and I'm so excited that this book is out in the world for children to read. 






Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe 
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble 
My Rating: 6 / 5 Stars (yes, seriously, it's THAT good)

Dante teaches Ari how to swim. Ari doesn't have any friends, yet somehow Dante becomes his best friend. And that's the story, an evolving friendship between two Mexican-American boys trying to discover the secrets of the universe. This book is INCREDIBLE and I'm totally embarrassed that it took me so long to find it. Sáenz's poetic prose is lyrical and just all around gorgeous, I felt like I had been time warped back to the 1980s. As if the writing alone isn't reason enough to grab this book, Aristotle's coming of age story is spot on. The book deals with family, friendship, and intersectional diversity beautifully, and maybe I'm just a sucker for co-dependent male friendships. Ari & Dante left an impact on my heart, and I know we still have a couple months left of 2015 but I can definitely say that this is one of the best books I've read this year.





Fun Home by Alison Bechdel  
My Rating: 4 / 5 Stars 


 As someone who doesn't branch into graphic novels too often, FUN HOME was just so fun (sorry) to read. I enjoyed the graphic novel format, there's just so much detail in the images, and it adds an entirely new dimension to story telling. I mostly read this book because I am dying to see the musical (if you haven't listened to the music, you should. It's fantastic.) At it's core, FUN HOME is a story about family & identity and the parallels Bechdel drew between herself and her father. Definitely recommend!





Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble 
My Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

DUMPLIN' is the story about Willowdean Dixon entering a beauty pageant. Willowdean is fat, and she wants people to stop treating fat like it's a bad word. As confident as she is on the outside, inside the insecurities seep in, especially when it comes to Bo. She likes Bo, she just can't imagine why Bo would like her. Overall, DUMPLIN' is great, and deserves all the hype that it's getting. For me, I was expecting more of an emotional punch, but it's still an excellent body-positive read filled with characters I adored. And lots of Dolly Parton references, which is always fabulous. 





The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler 
My Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Oh my God. This book. It's another one of those books that everyone must read right now. In fact, if I could climb up onto my roof and scream EVERYONE READ SARAH OCKLER RIGHT NOW  I would. I forgot how much I missed her until she was back in my life. And this story was so complex and wonderful to read. I felt how badly Elyse missed Trinidad and Tobago and how the islands were just as present even though she was in Oregon. I felt the weight of the tragedy that changed Elyse's life. It was also amazing reading from the perspective of a character that can't speak, and all the extra effort it took to make people hear her. The romance was done perfectly. The Little Mermaid references were the best.  Seriously, this book is a must read, and another favorite of 2015 for me. 






Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler 
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble 
My Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

WOW, I was not expecting to love this book so much. It had the perfect fluff-to-depth ratio. Adler's characterization is incredibly intricate and well done, her ability to show the reality of Hollywood without overdramatizing it was excellent. Not to say that there wasn't plenty of drama, but it was good drama, not roll-your-eyes-oh-my-God-WHY drama. There's the family drama, boy drama, Hollywood drama -- I couldn't stop turning the page. Ally was a great narrator and I enjoyed watching the ups and downs of her relationships. I loved Ally and Van's friendship and how it wasn't perfect. And Liam, oh my GOD Liam was fantastic. Nate I could've done without. Josh was also surprisingly complex for being a hot mess, and I found his character intriguing. Guess I'm just going to have to read UNDER THE LIGHTS next! I knew of Dahlia from her awesome twitter feed, and now I can say that I totally recommend her books too!


And that is what I've been able to get my hands on so far this semester! I can't complain, they've been a bunch of pretty great reads. Now that I'm all caught up, I'm planning switch back to full reviews, starting with ILLUMINAE (which I am halfway through but oh my GOD). I'm also hoping to get through, UNDER THE LIGHTS, SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY, and THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, and TELL ME AGAIN HOW A CRUSH SHOULD FEEL before the end of the semester.

It's been an exciting semester in books. What are some of your favorites from this fall?




Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. 
He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.
Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel. 
Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives. 
And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

How is a book about cancer so funny? Because this book is hilarious, and more often than not I caught myself laughing out loud. The humor is sometimes smart and witty, and other times just straight up silly. The juxtaposition between the tone of the book and the content was surprising, yet effective.  

This is not just a book about cancer. It’s about friendship and self-discovery and facing your fears (which for Greg, is sharing his homemade films with others). It’s not about miracles or falling in love or there necessarily needing to be a happy ending. That made this read so refreshing. And the Greg / Earl friendship/partnership was one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. 

It sucks that this book came out the same year as The Fault in Our Stars, because in terms of subject matter, there is no doubt that there are similarities. And while I love John Green’s lyrical writing style (he certainly crafts some the greatest quotable moments), the teenagers he depicts always feel less like teenagers and more like pretentious adults. In this book, it felt like I was reading about real teenagers. I loved the honesty that the narrator Greg has in describing the situations that he’s in, that no, this is not meant to be “a touching romantic novel." 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl felt like I was reading an experience. He talks about his family a lot, particularly interactions with his mother, and how even thinking about the word college stresses him out, and these family / live moments were all particularly real and relatable. Sometimes in YA authors tend to forget that teenagers are highly influenced by their parents, so it was cool to see family as a constant presence. Especially since he only starts hanging out with Rachel because his mom tells him to.

I enjoyed the breaks in standard prose, the shifts to bullet points and scenes from a script. Just yeah, I really enjoyed this read. 

It’s the first cancer book that didn’t make me cry. 

Also, in case you were wondering, the movie is just as fantastic. 



COVER REVEAL: Picture Imperfect by Jelsa Mepsey


Picture Imperfect by Jelsa Mepsey 
Published by: Swoon Romance
Publication date: September 22nd 2015
Genres: New Adult, Romance, Young Adult


Synopsis:


Sixteen-year-old Max Prescott knows all too well the joys of cheating girlfriends and traitorous friends. He’s not eager to have his heart trampled again, but money and a fresh start can mean the difference between happiness and a dark path with his name on it.

So when Melly Hewson, a perky and enigmatic classmate, asks him to be her model for a year-long photography project, Max agrees. Melly Hewson is everything Max isn’t. She’s outgoing, witty and always knows the right words to say. And despite his best efforts, Max finds himself drawn to her.

Still, he isn’t stupid. He knows a girl like Melly will only use him and then never speak to him again. Besides, he’s been to that rodeo. As long as he keeps his feelings off the market, he won’t make the same mistakes as last time.

Yet underneath Melly’s sweet smiles lies a secret she’d rather kept hidden. And as the year goes on and the photos pile up, Max and Melly will find themselves developing through the negatives, a story that when told could push them to opposite ends of their world. But the only thing worst than the truth is, the facade that surrounds them.


About the Author:

Jelsa Mepsey writes young adult contemporary romance fiction, drawing inspiration from daily life. With her work, she is dedicated to spurring people to think about what they have taken for granted and to shed light on the issues people avoid talking about. As an Asian-American in her 20s, she is excited to explore more of the human experience as she herself journeys through life. Writing, rock climbing 5.12 routes, and playing various instruments have resulted in the formation of many calluses on her hands over the years. When not engaging in her previously mentioned hobbies, Jelsa can be found at her local library with a stack of at least ten books, naming her various pens, or staring at her dog Waffles for inspiration.






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I'm so excited to be a part of this cover reveal for PICTURE IMPERFECT. Jelsa has been one of my closest writing friends throughout the years, and I can promise you that Max and Melly's story is one that you do not want to miss!