YA

Heartbreaking & Exhilarating Depiction of Real Life

Guest Post by Natalie Hess.

The emotional impact that Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower had on me from the very beginning was incredible. This story is told through letters to an anonymous friend, and it depicts the life of Charlie, a teenage boy, who is simply growing up. Everything about this novel is so real.

Chbosky does not try to sugarcoat the hardships of life and what it’s like to discover those hardships and have to live with them. Charlie experiences everything from the death of a loved one, drugs and alcohol, and sexual assault, to building different kinds of relationships with people and learning to trust and be there for them. Charlie (as well as many side characters) go through so much, and it’s similar to what so many real people experience all the time, which makes this read heartbreaking and exhilarating and confusing and amazing and miserable all at once. But it’s life. And this book did such a good job of depicting real life that I would highly recommend it, especially for those of us who still have some growing up to do.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Pocket Books, February 1999.

Reviewer bio: I’m Natalie Hess and I’m simply a high school student who LOVES reading everything from scifi to romance to nonfiction and everything in between. I also love sharing my thoughts and I hope you enjoy!

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

RYPA 2021

I am delighted each time the annual Rattle Young Poets Anthology appears wrapped in the package with the companion issue of Rattle. Over twenty poets ranging from age five to fifteen are featured in this year’s publication. It would be easy to fall into the trap of saying, “These are great poems for writers so young,” when the truth is quite simply: These are great poems. The opening work by Maria Arrango, “¿Identity?” which begins “El president Donald Trump said / they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. // My brown sugar skin delicately / compresses me with warmth / as I try to understand / the anatomy of my body.” is the immediate indicator that these young poets hold their own among their elder peers. Age is indeed just a number.

There are poems that disrupt the idea of idyllic youth, such as Matthew Burk’s “The Roller Coaster” and Maria Gil Harris’s “Like Magic,” as well as those that confront reality, like Adrianna Ho’s “Pasta Sandwiches in Quarantine” and Ivy Hoffman’s “Only Days Before Leaving for College, I Note the Existence of My Brother.” Some poems reach deep to connect imagery and emotion: Ha Trang Tran’s “A Love Letter for Home,” imagining a “grand return” to Hà Nộ, and Hannah Straub’s “Cadillac Mountain” with haunting lines like, “Though I was not falling / I was stumbling, in the way I clung to people / I could not reach, memories as useless / As the wire guardrails.” And there are plenty of works that raised a smile through their intellectual rhetoric, like “The Weight of Heavens” by Emma Hoff, which begins with the barb, “Was the minotaur / Really / A monster?” Kakul Gupta’s “Ten Haiku” are each effective meditations, and Mackenzie Munoz’s “Catching Dreams” reaches the metaphysic, while other works were just plain fun, like Paul Ghatak’s “Counting to One,” Grant’s “Lions Roar,” and Melissa A. Di Martino’s “Saive Me By Thes Wendrous.” Shreya Vikram’s “DIY Project” is the kind of poem that can only be experienced, and with good reason, as, in response to the Contributor’s Note question, “Why do you like writing poetry?” Vikram’s answer begins, “Without poetry, I’d waste language.”

For any readers out there with young writers in your circle, please introduce them to Rattle and this annual collection. It’s essential for young writers to connect with other young writers and find encouragement for their own reading, writing, and submissions. For more resources, check out the NewPages Young Writers Guide to Publications and NewPages Young Writers Guide to Contests.

[It is challenging to include mention of every work in a review, but I want to acknowledge the remaining poets from this collection and commend them for their contributions, all of which brought me immense pleasure to read: Natalia Chepel, Natalie Friis, Kevin Gu, Jessie Johnson, Dahee Joy Kang, Chloe Lin, Naomi Ling, Joseph Miner, and Perry Sloan.]

‘Scavenge the Stars’

Guest Post by Natalie Hess.

Tara Sim’s Scavenge the Stars is a retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo, which follows a girl named Amaya who was sold to a shipowner when she was a small child in order to pay off a debt. She escapes from the ship and is helped out by a rich man who also appears to be landless. He helps her disguise herself and go back into the city she grew up in so she can get revenge on whoever sold her. I was a bit disappointed because I really loved The Count of Monte Cristo, but this novel was still quite entertaining.

There are plot twists I didn’t see coming, and there are some exciting action scenes, with romance that didn’t take over the whole story. It was particularly interesting to find out how some of the characters were acquainted with one another at the end of the story, and that was an unexpected and enjoyable aspect. This was a fairly average book though, and I gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars.


Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim. Little, Brown and Company, January 2020.

Reviewer bio: I’m Natalie Hess and I’m simply a high school student who LOVES reading everything from scifi to romance to nonfiction and everything in between. I also love sharing my thoughts and I hope you enjoy!

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

A Dreamy Adventure

Guest Post by Natalie Hess.

What an incredible novel. Laini Taylor’s writing is so beautiful and dreamy and adventurous, which makes this book so much fun. All a reader needs to know about the plot going into it is that it follows a boy named Lazlo Strange who has an obsession for this city referred to as Weep, the real name of which has been lost. Someone from Weep comes to find people who can help the city out of trouble, and Lazlo finally gets to visit this city of his dreams and discover what it truly means to be a dreamer.

Readers make discoveries alongside Lazlo; see the beauty of Weep and what it could be, as well as the horrible things that have happened there; and learn about the past of all the characters. We truly get to know these characters and care for all of them, even the “bad guys,” creating such a roller coaster of emotion and wonder and longing for all of it to be real. Every single aspect of this book was mind blowing and I absolutely cannot wait to read the sequel!


Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. Little, Brown and Company, March 2017.

Reviewer bio: I’m Natalie Hess and I’m simply a high school student who LOVES reading everything from scifi to romance to nonfiction and everything in between. I also love sharing my thoughts and I hope you enjoy!

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Inside the Night Circus

Guest Post by Natalie Hess.

All I can say is wow. The amount of whimsy and magic in this book blew my mind. It follows a girl named Celia and a boy named Marco who are forced to fight each other in a magical competition which they are bound to until someone wins. Here’s the catch: neither of them are told any rules or boundaries and this competition takes place in a circus which travels all around the world, and is only open at night. This circus is so magical and mysterious that it captures the attention of all who are introduced to it, making them want to revisit it as much as possible, including the reader.

The way Morgenstern describes every little detail brings this world to life so much, and I couldn’t help but wish it were real. Even the simplest things are described as so mysterious and fascinating that this book is impossible to put down. And the relationships between some of these characters are very eye-opening and make you question the morals and intentions of those around you, while others are just flat out wholesome and amazing. Everything about this book was beautiful, stunning, captivating, and I fell in love with it. Definitely a 5-star read, and every fantasy-lover should pick it up.


The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Anchor Books, 2021.

Reviewer bio: I’m Natalie Hess and I’m simply a high school student who LOVES reading everything from scifi to romance to nonfiction and everything in between. I also love sharing my thoughts and I hope you enjoy!

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

A Mystery that Only the Dead Can Solve

Guest Post by Heather McCardell.

Elatsoe (pronounced el-at-so-ay) by Darcie Little Badger follows Ellie Bride, a Lipan Apache teenager, as she, her ghost dog Kirby, mom, and best friend Jay seek to uncover the truth about the night her cousin was found in a single car crash. This hunt takes them to the little town of Willowbee, where Ellie discovers a town secret that haunts her more than the dead she can wake. In this riveting debut novel, Little Badger crafts a world where magic is the norm and passed down through family lines – Ellie can wake the dead, passed down through her Great-Six Grandmother, and Jay is a direct descendent from the fairy king Oberon – and weaves a tale about family, allies and advocacy, and the ongoing colonization of Indigenous peoples. Little Badger handles the topic of colonization with delicacy, approaching it through character dialogue and entwining it with the ending revelation.

One thing I adored about this book was the oral storytelling culture that appears throughout, especially in the tales of Great-Six. These act as teaching moments for both Ellie and the reader, and provide readers a deeper look into Ellie’s family history and relations. At the heart of this novel is a story about a young girl who will do what she can to get justice, and allies who believe and support her and her family when they rightfully claim that her cousin’s death was no accident. In between the detective work, Ellie continues to work on her skill of waking the dead, much to the concern of her mom, but there is one rule passed down with this magic that Ellie plans to abide by: never wake a human ghost. With Dr. Abe Allerton as a suspect, Ellie senses a conspiracy that involves her cousin’s murder, and this is one secret she won’t let stay buried.


Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger. Levine Querido, August 2020.

Reviewer bio: Heather McCardell is a graduate student at the University of Windsor, studying English Literature and Creative Writing. When not writing essays, she enjoys writing poetry and hiking.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Explorations of Identity

Guest Post by Natalie Hess.

This was a really weird book, but in a good way. It follows a girl named Jenna Fox who was in a car accident and woke up from a coma with no memories at all. She has to build a new life for herself while also trying to find out about her past.

There are some sci-fi elements in the medical parts of this story as well which made for some really shocking plot twists, and the way that Jenna’s new life is shaped because of those things is so much different than normal people’s lives.

This book also brings up identity and what it means to be yourself and have your own personality and I really enjoyed that part of it. I also liked the whimsical way the story was told. There were parts where I felt like I was reading poetry because the writing is so pretty, but it was really easy to understand, even the more scientific parts.

If you really enjoy stories about medical miracles, or utopian stories, this is a great book to pick up.


The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson. Square Fish. 2009.

Reviewer bio: I’m Natalie Hess and I’m simply a high school student who LOVES reading everything from scifi to romance to nonfiction and everything in between. I also love sharing my thoughts and I hope you enjoy!

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

A Departure from the Everyday Love Story

Guest Post by Aramide Salako.

Love it. I reckon this to be the best Romance/Young Adult fiction ever. All love stories, fiction and nonfiction, are each unique manifestations unlike none other. But here, the story of love takes a clear departure from your everyday love story. What makes this book a brilliant read is the simple presentation of the power and shortcoming of love in the face of mortality.

Humans have a life to live, and the love to share wholeheartedly with another is the blessedness of being human. That humans will ultimately die, leaving the one bereaved of such felt assurance and aliveness that only the other half could provide, is the nemesis of being human.

Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters, bound with the affliction of cancer and then again bound by the Cupid arrow, grapple with the reality of their fate stoically, braving the odds stacked against them. They experience, enjoy, and embrace love, but death, that Grim Reaper, of course, has the final say.

The Fault In Our Stars is a fictitious narration of a story of our lives. Life is transient—a mere finite number within infinity.

We shall not have all the time in the world to experience the profundity of companionship, mirth, eros, and all of the fine attributes accompanied by love. But in that brief expanse of time—cancer-ridden, poverty-ridden, crisis-ridden, virus-ridden—love endures and triumphs over all human vagaries and the finitude of time.


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Penguin Group, April 2014.

Reviewer bio: My name is Aramide Salako from Nigeria. I enjoy reading classics and bestsellers. I’ve read some classics that linger in memory, both fiction and nonfiction. I self-published my first book this year: Thoughts in Traffic; 243 Quick-fire Notes to Aid Your Outlook on Self, Life and the Afterlife.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Chaos Walking Conclusion

Guest Post by Natalie Hess.

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness is the conclusion to the Chaos Walking trilogy. Like the second book, this story follows Todd and Viola as they fight to be together, only this time, there is a war between the people and the spackle. We also get to read about the thoughts of a spackle and see their motives and their lives which adds a lot to the story.

The Ask and Answer are still not exactly in agreement, but their fight was put on pause to focus on the spackle. This was quite a bit different from the other two books because most people seemed to actually want peace, instead of just wanting to rule over everyone else. It’s wild how every single character is so trustworthy and suspicious at the same time, and just when you start to actually believe someone’s intentions, they do some significantly bad thing out of nowhere.

Like the other books, there were some parts that were confusing and sections where I just didn’t care what was happening, but there were also parts that were really good and I had to know how things turned out. Ness did a good job of tying up all of the loose ends and giving everyone the ending that suited them in one way or another. If you liked the other books, you’ll like this one too.


Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness. Candlewick Press, 2014.

Reviewer bio: I’m Natalie Hess and I’m simply a high school student who LOVES reading everything from scifi to romance to nonfiction and everything in between. I also love sharing my thoughts and I hope you enjoy!

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

A Gripping YA Sequel

Guest Post by Natalie Hess.

This sequel to Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi was quite gripping as we learned what happened after Zélie brought magic back to the people of Orïsha.

When two groups of people have been fighting for decades, it seems nothing can unite them, even if peace is ultimately what they both claim to want. It is so easy to see how these characters can become so confused by their morals and so easily fooled because of their trust, but it’s very frustrating at the same time. As the reader I just wanted the best for all of these characters at all times but it seemed that something bad awaited them at every corner.

I cannot wait to see how the author ties up these loose ends in the conclusion when it comes out.


Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi. Pan Macmillan, March 2020.

Reviewer bio: I’m Natalie Hess and I’m simply a high school student who LOVES reading everything from scifi to romance to nonfiction and everything in between. I also love sharing my thoughts and I hope you enjoy!

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.