Category Archives: Young Adult

Fiction traditionally written for ages ranging from twelve years up to the age of eighteen. The terms young-adult novel, juvenile novel, young-adult book, etc. refer to the works in the YA category. The vast majority of YA stories portray an adolescent, rather than an adult or child, as the protagonist. Includes stories about the challenges of youth or coming-of-age novels. Age-wise this is a step beyong traditional Teen Fiction and may include adult themes not suitable for some teens.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Oelke

Jane Sinner is a screw up. She has been expelled from school in her senior year. All her friends will be graduating without her. She has a hard time with her family’s religious beliefs. She simply doesn’t believe in God. The more her parents push, the more she rebels.

Nice Try Jane Sinner
By Leanne Oelke
Clarion Books
January 2018

To compromise with her parents request for her to get her GD, she enrolls in the Elbow River Community College. She sees a notice to audition for a Reality Show being produced by a student at the college. Her audition goes well and she is accepted as one of the contestants. Now, how is she going to tell her parents she is moving out since she is required to live with the others. Knowing they won’t approve, she lies and says she is renting an apartment with a friend, but nothing about the show.

The winner will receive a used car and $500. She is determined to win, but doesn’t fully grasp what it entails. What the contestants are required to do borders on insanity.

Can Jane stay the course and come out a winner. Only time will tell.

I liked the book. It was funny, but a little sad also.

Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for and has generously provided this review. She describes herself as “an 88 year young great-grandmother and an avid reader.”

This book was provided by the publisher for review.

Before I Fall Review

Before I Fall, based on the 2010 book by Lauren Oliver, centers on a young lady that relives the same day over and over – the day of her apparent death.

The day starts normally, with her friends picking her up for school on Valentine’s Day (here: Cupid Day). Normal for Sam means preparing to have sex for the first time later that night, hanging out with her shallow Mean Girl friends, making fun of and bullying other students, and going to a party where she and her friends – all underage – will drink until drunk. After bullying a young lady at the party, and after drinking quite a bit and possibly being drunk, Sam and get friends set off for home but hit something in the road, crash and Sam dies. Then she wakes up again and does it all over.

“What do you think people will say about you when you die?” Asks Sam on her first repeat. Even as an awareness of her shallow lifestyle starts to dawn on her, Sam still considers depth from the perspective of selfishness.

By her second repeat, Sam continues the narration from the opening lines. Now she wants to make positive changes and starts asking questions about her life choices. She smartly rejects her planned sexually encounter with her boyfriend recognizing that she “shouldn’t have to have sex with him to get him to say ‘I love you.'”

After she wakes for her third repeat, though, she says, “I did everything right and nothing changed.” Which sets off uncounted days of despair. So instead of being nice, she decides to be even more selfish and lets her anger out on everyone around her as she self destructs.

At one point Sam asks her mom if she thinks Sam is a good person. The mom says, “Of course I do, but what matters is what you think.” Sam replies, “But why do you think I’m a good person?” And that’s the most important question this movie may ask of us. By what criteria can
we say Sam (or anyone) is “good?” The story seems to suggest the answer is by being true to yourself (literally in a big sign on a boy’s wall) and being nice to people around you. But those are not actually good answers, because so many characters who are being true to themselves are simply not good by any criteria. Since the movie struggles to find a good definition of “good,” the ending isn’t as powerful or permanent as it could have been.

[SPOILERS]The resolution and final conclusion of the story is when Sam somehow realizes that she needs to save someone else from suicide by effectively committing suicide by jumping in front of the truck to push the other girl out of the way. There are so many issues with this resolution it’s hard to cover them all. How is her dieing somehow the best resolution? Why couldn’t she have tackled the girl or got in her way? What about telling an adult? (Isn’t that the best answer for a teenager dealing with this?) And even if this was the best way to end things, it’s done in such a selfish way that it’s unclear exactly what Sam learned, only that she got a bunch of positive memories in her final last days. She tells a boy who loves her that she loves him then runs off to her death. She tells her friends how much they mean to her but doesn’t teach them any lessons about how underage drinking, sex, distracted driving, or being mean and bullying all made their lives and the lives around them bad. She never calls her friend Lindsey on how She bullied everyone (in her final day). She leaves them pretty much how she found them. The girl didn’t commute suicide, but was Sam really save by her? I’m not so sure.[END SPOILERS]

Those are not the only reasons to be concerned about this film. Without giving too many details away (see spoilers above of you must), there are some really troubling things that happen in the film that are often portrayed positively. Things that make this story significantly more appropriate for an adult than a teenager – the intended audience. Underage drinking and sex are portrayed in a mostly glorified way and lessons learned through the film don’t really counter the negative messages throughout.

In the end, this is a film that tries to send the right message but ultimately fails for lack of a standard on what “good” actually means. As a Christian this makes sense to me, because apart from God no one can be good, so a film set with a purely atheistic worldview cannot come to a clear conclusion. We are left with a weak answer: Sam must learn to be nice in high school, but she can still participate in any sins she may want to so long as she doesn’t bully people. While I think it is “good” to be nice and not bully people that can’t be the end of the journey. True love for others warns of dangers, it doesn’t just smile and say the words. Lessons need to last, not be covered up by a single day or act, then everything goes back to normal.

2/5 stars. Tons of bad language of every stripe, with an emphasis on B*****. Strong focus on sexuality. No nudity. One repetitive view of an underage girl’s chest in a bra. Sexuality is discussed along with slurs made towards a self described lesbian. Underage drinking and drunkenness. Bullying. Drunken and distracted driving. Suicide. Immorality doesn’t often have consequences. Agonist no violence other than the car crashes, which doubt show anything.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

Oxblood by Grant

OXBLOODVictoria Asher and her older brother are untimely orphans when their parents die in a plane crash.

The Victoria Asher Novels
by AnnaLisa Grant
Open Road Media Teen & Tween
September 2016

After a settlement and after her brother is old enough to take custody of her, Victoria finds herself on her own for a summer while her brother is on a work assignment. When she receives a package with his journal and the word “oxblood” she comes to believe he’s in trouble. When she calls around looking for him she can’t find him anywhere – it’s clear he hasn’t been honest about what he was doing in Italy.

Victoria travels to Italy to find her brother [SPOILER] only to find herself in front of a man who works for interpol, where apparently her brother was working to combat sex trafficking. She joins the team to find her brother and stop the criminals. [END SPOILERS]

There are a lot of plot twists to keep the young reader interested. Comedy and a little bit of romance as well. Victoria Asher is a good heroine – fearless, smart and tenacious. Only a few minor cuss words are spoken by the bad guys.

Overall a fun, clean novel for middle schoolers aged 14 and up.

Freckles is a long suffering wife of twenty years and mother of four children in every stage of adolescence who enjoys coffee and silence. She gets coffee sometimes.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Deavys by Foster

DeavysI wanted to read this book for two reasons: 1) Alan Dean Foster has a great reputation and a long list of books, and 2) somewhere in the press for this book it was mentioned that Foster would use puns ala Terry Pratchett or Pierce Anthony. Within the first few pages, though, it didn’t matter who the author was – this is no Discworld or Xanth. In fact, for most of the book I was bored.

The Deavys
by Alan Dean Foster
Open Road Media Teen & Tween
February 2016

Simwan (pronounced “Someone”), his two and a half sisters (one phases in and out of physical reality) and their cat go on an adventure to find the “Turth” which was stolen and taken to [MILD SPOILERS] New York. The four kids (I count N/Ice as a person even if she isn’t always around, and yes, that is the terrible name of the third sister) and the cat travel to visit their uncle (a zombie) to start looking for the Crub, who they think is behind the theft. Along the way they come across several bad guys, none of whom are interesting, and good guys, ditto. They go to a place, do some stuff, somehow fight off terrible and powerful monsters (as four kids under 16 and their cat are known to do) and … well if you really want to know how it works out you can suffer through the book if you like. I’m not happy that I did. [END SPOILERS]

The book isn’t punny or funny. It’s long winded, hard to read at times (see above names for examples), and not that interesting. The idea that someone stole the Truth could totally be a great Xanth novel, but Anthony is busy writing much better books than this. I really hate saying all of this about the book. But it’s the Truth (there, I found it for you.)

I recommend you pass. Especially if you are looking for a funny, and fun, book.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

tellthewindandfire-1Lucie Manette is the Golden Thread in the Dark.  The symbol of freedom to the Dark Magicians long oppressed by the Light.  The symbol of need for that oppression by the Light Magicians. A young woman who desires to be neither, and yet must be both.

Tell The Wind and Fire
by Sarah Rees Brennan
Clarion Books
April 2016

Having missed the last train to Light New York and forced to take a later one, Lucie and her boyfriend, Ethan Stryker, are stopped by Light Guards.  Ethan has been accused of treason, an offense punishable by instant death.  Saved only by her image, his name, and a stranger with a familiar countenance, Lucie is brought face-to-face with a secret that could destroy the foundation of the Light’s most powerful family.

Although she’s accustomed to keeping secrets, Lucie is still rattled by what she learns.  She makes decisions that will impact the course of the Light…and the Dark.  She becomes an unwitting pawn in a game in which there are no winners.  The heroine in a story for which there can be no happy ending.

Before I can speak to the story, I have to speak to Sarah Rees Brennan’s writing of it.  Story aside, the writing is brilliant.  Her prose is lyric and deep, bringing the scenes and feelings to life.  I could read books of hers over and over again, just for the writing itself.

As to the story, I wish it lived up to the talent of the writer putting pen to paper (or keystroke to keyboard, as it were).  About mid-book, I kept wondering where we were headed.  There are so many undercurrents that felt unresolved.  If this is the start of a series, then that makes sense.  If it is not, then  is hard to reconcile this into something I can say that I liked.  Appreciated, yes.  Liked?  Not so much.

It does, however, live up to the theme of similar novels by other authors.  Dystopian novels will not have happy endings, and that is something to which the reader must reconcile him/herself going in.   I wasn’t looking for happy inasmuch as I was looking for resolution.   I can deal with unhappy; I have issues with incomplete.

Overall, again, if this is the start of a series, then I could read others to see where Rees Brennan might take us.  Based on her writing, the journey would be incredible.


Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at She currently spends her days wrangling her 3rd grade science nerd and toddler aged busy body. You can visit her world of randomness at, where there is no spoon.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Soundless by Mead

SoundlessWith four Young Adult readers in our home, I was very excited to dig into Richelle Mead’s new book series. After all, she is the author of the Vampire Diaries, a series that several of us in my home read and enjoyed. The problem with this book isn’t that Mead did a poor job writing it or that it didn’t have a compelling plot or characters. The issue is that we’ve already read almost this same book – Princess Academy by Shannon Hales).

by Richelle Mead
November 2015

The Chinese setting and cultural distinctives are new to YA I’ve read and are appreciated. I also appreciate that there isn’t a love triangle! (So thankful!) But almost everything else is strongly reminiscent of Hales’ Princess Academy. Consider the setups:

Fei lives on a mountain. She wakes up to find she’s the only one in her village that can hear. She has a male friend who she has liked since they were young, but because of her social class does not act on her feelings. She finds out that there is peril because the people who live down the mountain who normally feed her people are not sending as much food as they used to so goes on an adventure.

Miri lives on a mountain. She finds out that someone in her village is a princess (and it may be her). She goes on an adventure to an academy to learn how to be a princess. She has a male best friend who she has liked since she was young but hasn’t acted out on her desire. She finds out that there is some peril from bandits and goes on an adventure.

I’m not suggesting that Mead stole the ideas here. What I’m saying is that almost any YA is starting to sound like another one already written. I was excited to read the Chinese aspects of this but they play very little role in this very straight forward story. And if that’s the distinctive and selling point (other than this author’s fan base,) then I’m left wondering why I would read more in this series.

Unfortunately, I don’t recommend this series. I really thought I’d love it but it fails to stand apart from the dozens of other YA titles that are released every month.

Arieltopia, Young Adult Editor, is an 15 year old avid reader – usually going through a book a day – who gives readers a unique perspective on Young Adult, Teen Fiction, along with adult fiction: an actual teenager’s perspective.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

All Fall Down by Ally Carter

allfalldownGrace may be crazy. She acts crazy. Others tell her she is crazy. She is starting to believe she is crazy. The question isn’t whether she is crazy or not but whether a reader will care enough to find out.

All Fall Down
Embassy Row 1
By Ally Carter
Scholastic Press
January 2015

Grace’s mother died in a fire. Or from a gunshot wound. It was an accident. Or it was a hit by a man with a scarred face. Grace doesn’t know for sure but she swears that it was murder. Moving around with her military father and settling on living with her ambassador grandfather isn’t helping her settle things down. It also doesn’t help that everyone – including herself – believes that she may have cracked. And her reckless, self endangering actions seem to prove that point. But has she?

When she seems to spot the scarred man, her friends (other ambassadors’ kids) help track him down. Sorta. In the end the question of the scarred man is not answered but rather leads to more questions. This is a theme of the book – constant uncertainty. Both the main character, her “friends,” and even the death of her mother. Nothing is certain. And when you put the book down in the end you’ll be no closer to an answer. In this way it is not so much a full book but the start of a book. A prequel chapter at best. A normal ending of a book would have certain aspects cleared up and the challenges set up for the next book. This one ends with questions and nothing resolved. Not satisfying.

But young readers will like it. My teen reader (15 and also a fan of Carter’s other series) loved it. It was adventure and intrigue and she looks forward to the next one. I blame this on the Netflix effect where instead of watching a weekly show we instead now binge on episode after episode. The kind of expectation for sequels that now exists in a trilogy-filled Young Adult section has taught younger readers to accept and look forward to what many readers would have previously expected to be only the first part of a novel; not a completely separate novel.

In the end, it’s not a great book in itself. There is very little story. Very little development and very little to recommend. But once the whole trilogy (or whatever number in this series will be) is completed it will likely be a fan favorite. And of course, Carter fans will be predisposed to enjoy it. My recommendation: either wait till they are all done and read them together or avoid this series and go for something more complete.

@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Miting by Dee Yoder

81+G1r-jd2L._SL1500_Leah Raber wants to read the Bible but this is forbidden by the Old Order Amish Church. She leave the church but is so homesick that she comes back.

The Miting
by Dee Yoder
Kregel Publications
March 2014

The Miting by Dee Yoder is the most enlightening Amish novel that I have ever read. Leah Raber is torn between her Amish beliefs and her desire to read the Bible which is forbidden by the Old Order Amish Church. She has no desire to go through rumspringen as many of the Amish teenagers do, she only wants to be free to read her Bible, to understand her relationship with God, and to attend a Bible study conducted by an ex-Amish couple. She does not understand how so many of the Amish “rules” are not in the Bible so she asks questions and this causes her family and the bishop to call her rebellious. Leah’s best friend Martha is also Amish but her family and the church do not prevent her from being abused by a family member. This and all the other unanswered questions cause Leah to finally leave the Amish life. She adapts well to the Englisher world but she is suffering greatly from homesickness. She finally goes back to her family but the miting/shunning is extremely severe and very painful but if she will give up reading the Bible, the miting will be lifted. Leah also wonders if everything that is happening to her will prevent her from having a lasting relationship with Jacob Yoder.

I have read many Amish novels but none has ever explained shunning so well. I knew what shunning was but it had never really registered with me how devastating it could be to the individual being shunned. I was surprised at the large number of things that the Amish are not allowed to do, many in my opinion seem ridiculous. Dee Yoder did an outstanding job in the development of this story. Every character in the story came to life and I felt as if I knew them. Many I loved and several I could barely tolerate. All the scenes were so realistic that many times I was in tears as I was reading, and if not in tears then sometimes fighting mad. There were a few twists and turns in the story but they added to the suspense of the story. Would Leah stay Amish or become English and will Jacob become part of her life? After reading this story, I have great respect for those who want to leave the Amish life for the freedom to read and study the Bible and to accept God as their Savior. I never realized how very hard that could be. I definitely hope that there will be a sequel for I want to know more about Leah and Jacob and would also like to know if Martha ever found happiness.

I very highly recommend this book to all who would like to know more about the Amish while reading a very enjoyable story that will touch the heart.

Deanna Love Gottreu is a 75 year old widow and the mother of two wonderful sons who share second place in her life – with God being in first place. She spends her time reading or making quilts for charity. Her book reviews can also be read on her blog at
This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Battle of Verril by Lallo

verrilThe final book in The Book of Deacon trilogy, Myranda and the Chosen must face the invaders from another world. But the generals of the D’karon are fearsome enemies that apparently can’t be killed. Even more troubling, the prophecy that brought the Chosen together states that only four of them will survive the final battle, and one will die.

The Battle of Verril
The Book of Deacon #3
by Joseph Lallo
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
July 31, 2012

As the final book of the trilogy, the author’s writing shows quite a bit of improvement, and I can only imagine that the act of writing such a lengthy trilogy was a growing experience and a labor of love.

That said, it was quite a labor to reach this point in the story, and there are plot holes and problems from the previous books that continue to overshadow the successes made with this final chapter of the trilogy.

The characters, both good and bad, actually begin to take on more layered personalities, but their rocky foundations still leave much to be desired.

As final battles go, things continue as you would more or less expect them to. Although I couldn’t help but wonder why a war that has lasted for over a century and was supposedly engineered by an invading force from another dimension would only just now be reaching its conclusion.

In the end, the overall story isn’t bad, just poorly executed. The entire series would have probably done better as a single book and with a generous amount of editing. Still, the author has shows quite a bit of improvement and has since written a few side stories that take place in the same universe, but have a much higher quality of writing.

Anyone who has managed to make it this far, should definitely check out some of the author’s later works.

Matthew Scott is the Dark Fantasy & Horror Editor of who describes himself as just another average reader who enjoys sharing his opinion on various books, authors, and whatever else may cross his path.

The Great Convergence by Lallo

greatconvThe second book in the The Book of Deacon trilogy, picks up directly where The Book of Deacon left off. Now that two of the Chosen have been found, it would seem the Perpetual War may finally end. But Lain isn’t interested in stopping a war, and while the prophesied spirit named Ether has finally been summoned, she has emotional bearing of a petulant child. With an end to the war in sight, Myranda has taken up the charge of finding the remaining Chosen, but dark forces are gathering to oppose her.

The Great Convergence
The Book of Deacon #2
by Joseph Lallo
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
July 31, 2012

Delving a little deeper into the world, The Great Convergence actually starts to build up to a workable plot. Unfortunately, it still suffers from a lot of the problems that plagued the first book. The overall story is still rather convoluted, and the characters too often come across as flat archetypes.

We do, however, finally have a villain or troupe of villains to address. As it turns out, Myranda’s world is being invaded by forces from another dimension, and the war that is currently being fought is really just an excuse to wipe out humanity.

But the villains all come across as the exact same, and I honestly had trouble trying to keep their names straight, since they all seemed to be clones of one another.

Myranda attempt to actually take charge in this book, but since she has no means of forcing the Chosen to act, her attempts to direct them just comes across as whining and nagging.

Lain remains flat and dull as he constantly broods in the background, and his friend Desmeres is little more than greed incarnate. (Actually both characters seem to have absolutely no moral compass and are motivated solely by their own selfish reasons, so it’s little wonder they get along.)

Ether and Ivy are introduced and act like spoiled children throughout the entire story. Ether is snobbish and cruel, looking down on everyone but Lain and herself. Meanwhile, Ivy has all the social grace and attitude of a five year old. And while it’s clear that the author wanted Ivy to be painted in a sympathetic light, her childlike naivete and constant whining wear on the nerves rather quickly.

Ultimately, the story doesn’t really go anywhere, since once again, the narrative comes to abrupt end and we’re left to wait for the next book. But for anyone who has bothered to read this far, the final book is more of an inevitability than anything else.