Most Likely to Succeed (Jennifer Echols)

Most Likely to Succeed is the third novel in the Superlatives series by Jennifer Echols.
Finished on: 3.9.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other novels in the series.]

Content Note: racism

Plot:
Kaye has always been a high achiever, just like her boyfriend Aiden. They are both on the student council (he as president, she as vice-president) and it will be a close call who of the both of them will become valedictorian. In any case, they will apply for Columbia together and their life is pretty much laid out from there. Only that recently Kaye hasn’t been able to stop thinking about Sawyer, bad boy, class clown with a difficult family history and an uncertain future – in short, the complete opposite of Aiden. As circumstances – and friends – keep pushing them together and they become ever more flirtatious, Kaye starts to question the plans for her life.

Most Likely to Succeed, or rather Kaye and Sawyer as a couple, have been teased since book one in the series, so there was some anticipation on how things would play out, and I have to say that it was fine, but it didn’t blow me away, unfortunately.

The book cover showing a Black girl sitting on a chair with a white boy striking an exaggerated pose behind her.
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I Love You Just the Way You Are (Riley Rian)

I Love You Just the Way You Are is the first novel in the Rock Canyon series by Riley Rian.
Finished on: 18.8.2022
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Content Note: (critical treatment of) transmisia

Plot:
Maddie wants to spend her summer working at the café in peace before school starts again, where she will return after a home-schooling break during her transition. But her peace is short-lived when star-quaterback Kellan starts coming to the café – and tries to hit on Maddie. It’s not that Maddie hasn’t been dreaming about Kellan forever, but she is worried: does he even know that she is trans? And if not, what will he think when he finds out? And anyway, he has a reputation of having a new girl every week. So she rather blows him off than flirt. But Kellan doesn’t give up so easily. Or at all.

I Love You Just the Way You Are is wonderful when it comes to trans representation, but I struggled a little with Kellan as the romantic lead. Still, despite being a bit of a bumpy read, it is almost compulsively readable and has its heart in its right place.

The book cover showing a painting of young girl sitting on a skateboard.
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Perfect Couple (Jennifer Echols)

Perfect Couple is the second novel in the Superlatives series by Jennifer Echols.
Finished on: 10.8.2022
[Here’s my review of the first novel in the series.]

Plot:
Yearbook photographer and introvert Harper can’t believe it when the voting results for the senior year superlatives come in and she won “Perfect Couple That Never Was” with star quarterback Brody. Who would ever think to pair the two of them together when they couldn’t be any more different? But once the thought is out there, Harper can’t help but consider Brody. This is only made more awkward by the fact that they are both dating other people. Well, more or less. Harper’s boyfriend Kennedy is constantly picking fights with her, and Brody likes to keep things casual. But as the two of them try to figure out what exactly their class had been thinking and how to take the obligatory photo for the yearbook, they discover that people may have been onto something with them.

Perfect Couple was a superquick read (half a day of being out sick from work and I was done), and a very sweet one. I think I might have been a tad more in love with Biggest Flirts, the first novel in the series, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the hell out of this one.

The book cover showing a girl holding up a camera for a selfie with a guy who stands behind her.
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Wilder Girls (Rory Power)

Wilder Girls is the first novel by Rory Power.
Finished on: 1.8.2022

Content Note: suicide, self harm, starvation

Plot:
Hetty, Byatt and Reese are students at the Raxter school for girls. The school is located on Raxter island and pretty much the only thing on that island. For the past 18 months, Raxter island has been hit by the Tox – a sickness that has been changing the animals and the people on the island. At least the people who survived it. Hetty has lost an eyes. Byatt grew a second spine. Reese has a claw. What hasn’t changed is the friendship between the three, as they wait to be released from quarantine on the island, to be cured. But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty is done waiting, even if it means breaking all the rules.

Wilder Girls reminded me a lot of Annihilation, though there is much more emphasis on body horror here and the two novels are far from alike (apart from a very changed nature). There is just this sense of unsettled strangeness that they both work with. In any case, I found myself entirely engrossed by Wilder Girls.

The book cover showing a young girl, hair covering one eye. Her face is drawn in a spiral with gaps and in those gaps we can see flowers.
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Biggest Flirts (Jennifer Echols)

Biggest Flirts is the first novel in the Superlatives series by Jennifer Echols.
Finished on: 29.7.2022

Plot:
Tia has a very clear idea of what she wants, and that is no responsibility whatsoever. That she will become the drum captain pretty much by default for her senior year is a major drawback in that plan. But the start of the school year is still a week away, and meanwhile there is Will – new guy, freshly moved to Florida from the Midwest. They hook up, but then Tia realizes that Will would rather become serious. And she doesn’t do serious. But since he also plays the drums, it’s not like they can avoid each other. Not avoiding each other leads to friendship and to a whole lot flirting. When they are actually voted Biggest Flirts for the yearbook, things become awkward indeed.

I really enjoyed Biggest Flirts, especially Tia who is an unusual protagonist for a young adult romance. The story is well-paced and cute. Overall, it’s just really fun.

The book cover showing a boy and a girl posing for a photo in front of school lockers. She is sitting on his lap, making a kissy mouth.
Just a note: Tia is Puerto Rican, I don’t know why the whitest girl ever is on this cover.
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Cinderella Is Dead (Kalynn Bayron)

Cinderella Is Dead is a novel by Kalynn Bayron.
Finished on: 26.7.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia and misogyny

Plot:
Cinderella died 200 years ago, but her legacy lives on: everybody has to learn her story, and all girls have to give everything at the annual ball to find a husband, just like Cinderella did back then. If they don’t find a husband by their third ball, they are forfeit. Sophie dreads her first ball, and not just because of the pressure that comes with it. She doesn’t actually want a husband, she’d much rather escape with her girlfriend Erin. But escape is easier said than done in a society that affords women no rights.

I love fairy tale retellings, and if you make them queer and add people of color, I’m even more here for it. So, Cinderella Is Dead was right up my alley – and it did not disappoint. I enjoyed it a lot.

The book cover showing a young Black girl in a blue ballgown. The dress is torn and dirty, her face scratched and bloody.
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The Summer I Turned Pretty (Jenny Han)

The Summer I Turned Pretty is the first novel in the The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy by Jenny Han.
Finished on: 26.7.2022

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Belly has always spend the summers at the beach with her family, at the house of her mother Laurel’s best friend Susannah. For the summer, it was she, her brother Steven and Susannah’s sons Conrad and Jeremiah. Each summer, it was Belly’s secret crush on Conrad and her friendship with Jeremiah. She always hoped that Conrad would see her as something else than the kid sister of his friend at some point, and this summer is shaping up to be actually different from the summers that came before.

The Summer I Turned Pretty is a quick sweet read that managed to make a love triangle palatable to me. The ending felt a little fast, but since it is only the first novel in a trilogy, that’s quite okay.

The book cover showing a girl and two boys in swimming suits/truns running on the beach.
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Black Canary: Breaking Silence (Alexandra Monir)

Black Canary: Breaking Silence is a novel by Alexandra Monir. It is part of the DC Icons novels.
Finished on: 16.4.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other DC Icons novels.]

Content Note: cissexism/gender plague

Plot:
Dinah Lance lives in Gotham City under the rule of the Owl Council who have made sure that the women in Gotham City don’t have a voice – figuratively, but also literally: singing is outlawed for women, and has been made physically impossible, much to Dinah’s chagrin. She dreams of singing, and of the one time she is sure she remembers hearing a girl sing when she was a child. When she and her friends Ty and Mandy try to find out more about the female singers of the past, Dinah gets in deep trouble though, drawing the attention of the Owl Council, with worse consequences only avoided through the intervention of her cop father Larry. Dinah should be keeping her head down under the circumstances, but with an old friend of her dead mother, Barbara Gordon, making an appearance, and new and very cute student Oliver Queen arriving at her school, Dinah can’t help but continue to question the way things are. And maybe she can find her voice after all.

Black Canary: Breaking Silence takes a very different approach from the other novels in the DC Icons series so far, setting its story decades in the future in an dystopian version of Gotham. While that’s interesting, a lot of it seems a little half-baked and not quite thought through, making it a little disappointing despite its obvious(ly) feminist mission.

The book cover showing a drawn blond girl with bandages across her mouth, a black canary on the shoulder of her torn leather jacket.
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Re-Read: Fire (Kristin Cashore)

Fire is the second of the Graceling Realm novels by Kristin Cashore. It is both a prequel to and a spoiler for Graceling.
Finished on: 25.3.2022
[Here are my reviews of the Graceling Realm novels.]

Content Note: ableism, animal abuse, rape (mentioned)

Plot:
In the Dells, there are monsters: Animals that look quite normal, except that they are brightly colored and with the power to control the minds of others. Monsters are carnivores with a special hunger for monster meat. Fire is the last of the human monsters. She’s impossibly beautiful, has bright red hair and is jealously guarded by her childhood friend and lover Archer. Fire would have probably enough on her plate just by being herself – alternately admired and feared by everyone around her and struggling with the memories of a father who used his monsterness for cruelty – but she gets caught up in the young king’s struggle for the throne and has to worry about assassins with weirdly clouded minds.

It’s been a while that I read Fire, and much like with Graceling, I’m very happy that the book still holds up. I really loved returning to this novel as well.

The book cover showing a red-haired woman in a red dress with a bow and arrow in front of a dramatic sky.
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No Filter and Other Lies (Crystal Maldonado)

No Filter and Other Lies is the second novel by Crystal Maldonado.
Finished on: 4.3.2022

Plot:
Kat loves photography, and she has carefully curated her instagram to show the best of her photos. Nevertheless, her follower count remains low – much lower than her best friends’, Hari, Marcus and Luis. She suspects this might have to do with the fact that she is fat and Brown. After a fight with Hari, with whom she has been making out despite the naggling suspicion that he likes her more than she him, Kat makes a bad decision: she takes the photos of her friend Becca who is blond, thin, beautiful and not on social media and creates a fake account with them. Kat starts regretting it pretty immediately but when the account keeps raking in likes and this really cute girl, Elena, starts messaging the fake profile, Kat can’t quite give it up.

No Filter and Other Lies is cute and has a queer, fat Latina as the protagonist which is something I am completely here for. And yet, it didn’t quite make me happy.

The book cover showing a drawing of a fat Latina with a camera. Behind her a snapshots of a fat girl with pink hair, a blond girl, and a Brown guy.
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