Welcome to yAdult Review, a space where two girls review novels from across the genres, from YA and MG, to fantasy and sci-fi, to historical fiction and mystery, with a sprinkling of non-fiction too. We hope you enjoy your stay here as much as we enjoy ours.

Tag Archives: genre: middle grade

25819506Royal Wedding Disaster (From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess #2) by Meg Cabot
Release Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Source: ARC provided by publisher
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

You are invited to a Genovian Royal Wedding in this second book pulled FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF A MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCESS, a Princess Diaries spin-off series, written and illustrated by New York Times-bestselling author Meg Cabot.

Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison still finds it hard to believe that she’s a real live PRINCESS OF GENOVIA. Not only does she get to live in an actual palace with her newly discovered family and two fabulous poodles (who all love her and think that she’s anything but ordinary!) but she also gets her very own PONY!

Of course, things aren’t going exactly like she imagined. Her half-sister Mia is very busy learning how to take over the country while trying to plan a wedding and her father is actually getting remarried himself-to Mia’s mother!-and spends most of his time “renovating” the summer palace, although Grandmere says he is just hiding from the wedding preparations. Olivia hardly gets to see either of them.

Fortunately, Grandmere has her own plans for Mia’s wedding, and needs Olivia’s help to pull them off. Just when Olivia starts to think that things are going to work out after all, the palace is invaded by a host of new cousins and other royals who all seem to be angry at Olivia (although Grandmere says they are just jealous).

As the day of the wedding gets closer and closer, Olivia becomes more and more worried. For such a carefully planned event, it seems like a LOT of things are going wrong… Can Olivia keep this royal wedding from becoming a royal disaster? – Goodreads

Review:

Meg Cabot’s middle grade books, to me, are like eating a cupcake. There is something lovely and nice to them and Royal Wedding Disaster is no different. Taking place right after Notebook from a Middle School Princess and Royal Wedding. Although one does not need to read Royal Wedding or the original series for this book to make sense. Much like the first book, Notebook from a Middle School Princess stands alone.

In Royal Wedding Disaster Oliva is dealing with multiple new things in her life. From a new school, with a frenemy to dealing with her sister’s wedding Olivia feels like she can’t keep anything together in her life. The stress is understandably getting to her. What Cabot does is use humor and everyday situations to make this work.

  • A grandmother butting into wedding business? Check.
  • A new school where you feel lost and out of place? Check
  • A wedding where you don’t know what to give? Check

Throughout the novel the message is true and that is that Olivia is the same as she was in New Jersey, she just happens to be a princess with princess lessons. Princess lessons that are true life lessons even to the non-princess is all of us.


25664417Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider by E.F. Abbott
Release Date: February 16, 2015
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Source: ARC provided by Publisher
Rating: starstarblank_starblank_starblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

What would you do if your country was counting on you to deliver a message? That’s sixteen-year-old Sybil Ludington’s urgent mission.

In 1777, Sybil and her family believe the American colonies should be free from British control. Sybil’s father leads a regiment of New York militiamen, and everyone in the family is dedicated to the Patriot cause. Using spy tactics and codes, the Ludingtons gather intelligence, hoping to stay one step ahead of their enemies. When British troops raid nearby Danbury, Connecticut, Sybil gallops through the night to call out her father’s men. But the journey is dangerous for a girl who’s all alone. With obstacles at every turn, will she make it in time to stop the British?

Based on a True Story books are exciting historical fiction about real children who lived through extraordinary times in American History– Goodreads

Review:

Sybil Ludington is a nice little middle school novel about the Revolutionary War. Where I fell into problems with it is for the longest time I fought the book. Was it non-fiction? Was it fiction? Was it fiction trying to be non-fiction? Was it non-fiction trying to read as fiction? Generally I have a clear picture within the first few pages. This book I did not peg for quite sometime. There wasn’t anything wrong with it. I just had to figure out my bearings while reading it.

That being said, it was a good book. Sybil Ludington tells the story of a girl in the American Revolutionary War who got pulled into the struggle because she wanted to help, but couldn’t based on the fact that she was a female. Sybil also uses her being a female to her advantage. She helps her father’s regiment via being a spy but of course not being seen as a spy.

Once I got over my is this fiction? Is this non-fiction? hurdle, I ultimately was thrilled to read this book. That being said, while, I personally struggled with Sybil Ludington I believe it could be a solid addition to a middle school library.


25663502Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Source: ARC provided by publisher
Rating: starstarstarblank_starblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

When Friday Barnes solves a bank robbery, she uses the reward money to send herself to Highcrest Academy, the most exclusive boarding school in the country–and discovers it’s a hotbed of crime!

Soon she’s investigating everything from disappearing homework to the terrifying Yeti haunting the school swamp. But the biggest mystery yet is Ian Wainscott, the handsomest (and most arrogant) boy in school who inexplicably hates her. Will the homework be found? Can they ever track down the Yeti? And why is Ian out to ruin her?

With black-and-white art throughout, this is the launch of an exciting new mystery series! – Goodreads

Review:

I’m not sure how Friday Barnes, Girl Detective got on my radar but this is a delightful novel and I cannot wait to see what comes from this series. Friday Barnes is a girl who feels like she does not fit in with her family, and not only because she knows she was the accident baby. Her parents are very scientific and planned their babies to be born at an exact moment/time and no, I’m not joking. While Friday’s parents love her, they often forget about her.

“But you’re only nine,” protested her equally bewildered father.

“I turned eleven last October,” Friday pointed out. —ARC page 30.

Friday is a bit of a genius who is also good at solving crimes, who lands her dream school that she pays for out of a payment she received from solving said crimes. That being said, it doesn’t stop people in the school from looking down on her from assuming she is the scholarship kid (which is of course worth mocking).

Friday though goes through trials and tribulations that she would have went through even if she went to a “normal” school. Back stabbing students, weird rumors, assignments that should be done but aren’t. Friday just tends to get into the middle of things she shouldn’t and then make a bigger mess out of them..by solving said mysteries.

Friday does however find a good group of friends who accept her for who she is. The only thing I wished for (and this may have been changed by publication) was tighter editing. This book was first published in Australia and while I was able to figure out what phrases meant, a middle grade student may not be able to. That being said, it did not take me out of the story, I still found Friday Barnes, Girl Detective to be an enjoyable. One that I look forward to continuing on in the next book.


23310714Finding Fortune by Delia Ray
Release Date: November 10, 2015
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Source: ARC from publisher
Rating: DNF
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Running away from home isn’t as easy as Ren thinks it will be. At least she isn’t running very far-just a few miles to the ghost town of Fortune . . . or Mis-Fortune as everyone else calls it. Mis-Fortune on the Mississippi. Supposedly, there’s an abandoned school on the outskirts with cheap rooms for rent. Ren knows her plan sounds crazy. But with only a few more weeks until Dad comes home from his tour of duty in Afghanistan, she also knows she has to do something drastic so Mom will come to her senses and stop seeing that creep Rick Littleton, the creep she promised she would stop seeing but didn’t, for good.

From the moment she enters the school’s shadowy halls, Ren finds herself drawn into its secrets. Every night old Mrs. Baxter, the landlady, wanders the building on a mysterious quest. What could she be up to? And can Mrs. Baxter’s outlandish plan to transform the gym into a pearl-button museum ever succeed? With a quirky new friend named Hugh at her side, Ren sets out to solve the mystery that could save Fortune from fading away. But what about her family’s future? Can that be saved too?– Goodreads

Review:

I feel Finding Fortune could have been really, really good, but it just didn’t work for me. From pacing, to characters, to setting I could not find myself able to get through it. I wanted to know the answers to the questions that had been posed. But after two months of trying to read Finding Fortune I decided it was time to put it aside. I may come back to it later because I was enjoying it. Just not enough.


21947304 (1)Star Wars: Episode IV a New Hope: Being the Story of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and the Rise of the Rebellion (Star Wars Illustrated Novels #1)
by Alexandra Bracken
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Disney LucasFilm Press
Source: Audio from library
Rating: starstarstarblank_starblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

The galaxy is at war.

Although the Rebel Alliance has won a few battles against the Empire, hope is fading. The Empire is about to unveil the greatest weapon the galaxy has ever seen–the Death Star. The Rebels’ only chance to defeat it now lies in the unlikely hands of a princess, a scoundrel, and a farm boy….– Goodreads

Review:

I’m going to say something…taboo. I’m not a big Star Wars person. I know. Sacrilege. How can I live this life. However, this past summer when I had a chance to go to LucasFilms when I was in San Francisco, HECK YES I went. And I got it. I got the love of Star Wars. I also got excited about Alexandra Bracken’s newest book in the universe.

Star Wars: Episode IV a New Hope: Being the Story of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and the Rise of the Rebellion is a retelling of Episode IV, from four points of view. Where this story shined for me is the fact I listened to this as an audiobook. With two narrators and sound effects I felt like I was there, in the middle of all the action and I wanted more. I think this story will be good for people who are beginners of the series.

 


20646933Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Release Date: May 1, 2002
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: Digital Copy
Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it. – Goodreads

Review:
This is the final book required for my literacy class and it was one of my favorites. Esperanza Ortega is a privileged girl on her father’s ranch. She has grown up with servants and nice clothes, horses and dolls, everything handed to her. Until her father is killed. Her uncles try to force Esperanza’s mother into some things, so they flee for California, where the land of opportunity awaits. Of course, it’s not exactly what it seems either. Esperanza is privileged, like I said, and spoiled and prejudiced. She treats “peasants” with some scorn, she has never bathed herself without the help of a female servant, and she is startled when one of the field worker’s sons points out that the lighter skinned Mexicans are top tier and the rest work. She doesn’t seem to understand that her family is fleeing to California to work, not continue the life they had in Mexico. She’s bratty, but it’s almost endearing, because you know what’s coming next, and you know it will change her.

Like all the books I had to read for this class, Esperanza Rising is a coming-of-age tale. Esperanza has to leave her old life behind and become someone else, which isn’t easy when other girls call you “Cinderella” and you don’t even know how to sweep a platform. Esperanza also has to try to understand foreign terms like “strikes” and is presented with the other side of the Mexican civil war, the side of those who tried to bring men like her father down. It’s a lot of change happening at once for a thirteen-year-old girl, and I felt enormously sorry for her. But she does rise. Oh, does she rise.

When her mother is sick, Esperanza takes to the fields. She becomes one of the best workers. She transforms. She becomes a real person. She endures hardships, and loss, and sadness. She grows and doesn’t hold onto any grudge or hate. This story was inspiring and eye-opening. One of the best stories I’ve read all year.


keeperInside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Release Date: February 22, 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Digital Copy
Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Inside Out and Back Again is a New York Times bestseller, a Newbery Honor Book, and a winner of the National Book Award! Inspired by the author’s childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration.

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing received four starred reviews, including one from Kirkus which proclaimed it “enlightening, poignant, and unexpectedly funny.” An author’s note explains how and why Thanhha Lai translated her personal experiences into Hà’s story. – Goodreads

Review:
This is another book for my literacy class, but I chose it myself based on the fact that it’s a Jane Addams award winner and the struggle of fitting in has always been something I could relate to. Ha, at 10, is the youngest in her family and the only girl. Her brothers, 14, 18, and 21, make fun of her, and she longs for a sister. War is ravaging Vietnam and only getting closer to Saigon. Ha’s father has been gone for nine years after being captured while on a Navy mission, and her family is preparing to flee.

They are on a boat for a few week, hungry, dirty, awaiting rescue. It finally comes, and Ha is fascinated by the bearded American soldiers. They land in Guam, where they attempt to learn English and watch Western movies. They eventually go to Florida, then are finally sponsored by a family in Alabama, which leads them to their own rented house.

Ha has a hard time in school. She can’t explain that she already understands fractions, and she doesn’t have the words to understand how the other kids are making fun of her. It’s sad and hard to read. Kids can be cruel, especially when it comes to anything even slightly different. The words escalate to pranks and even violence, but then Ha’s family meets Miss Washington, who offers to tutor them all.

This book made me cry, because this little girl feels so much frustration and loss and gets almost no reward for it. She has her moments of childish selfishness, but that’s typical, and she’s a fish out of water in Alabama, of all places. It’s another coming-of-age tale, but it’s also a tale of social justice, understanding, acceptance, and love.


keeperDoll Bones by Holly Black
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Library
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . . – Goodreads

Review:
Holly Black is one of my favorite YA/MG authors ever. I’ve loved everything I’ve read of hers, from the Modern Faerie Tales to the Curse Workers to the Spiderwick Chronicles, and I’ve had this one on my list since it came out. I love how Black blends the creepy and the funny. She’s a master at that kind of thing. I mean, there’s a cat named “The Party.” Come on! So we start with Alice, Poppy, and Zach. Alice lives with her overprotective grandmother, Alice lives with her seemingly neglectful parents and wild siblings, and Zach lives with his parents, though his father has just moved back home after three years away. Each of these environments offers problems and hardships for the kids, but their friendship is strong and based on a love of make believe and play. Until Zach’s father throws away all his action figures, sending Zach into a spiral of rage and despair. He can’t think of any other way to deal with it than to stop playing with Alice and Poppy. Since Zach is only twelve, he can be forgiven these terrible coping skills. Soon, though, he’s pulled back in when something happens with the china doll they call The Queen.

The ghost of a little girl named Eleanor visits Poppy, imploring her to bury the girl’s bones, threatening her with a curse if she doesn’t. The kids decide to travel to Ohio to do so. As a mom, this would freak me the hell out. No kid of mine is traveling to another state on a bus by themselves. Of course, they don’t tell anyone where they’re going.

This book, despite being superficially about a quest and spooky dolls, is really a coming of age story. Alice is the most mature of the three and has gone through the most. She is the most aware of her feelings, actions, and intentions. Poppy is the most immature. She isn’t good with change and she’s easily angered. Zach falls somewhere in between them. These kids are learning about life and hardship and love and death. That’s what the story is about, not some doll or some ghost. Holly Black is SO GOOD at incorporating these elements into her stories, and the flow is just so smooth and normal. It feels like you’re watching it happen in real-time. This is why I love her so much and have read literally everything she’s written.