Another month, another blog post with new YA releases! April is shaping up to be an excellent month for YA readers with so many great new books coming out.
We’ve read and reviewed seven of these new releases. Among them are not one, not two, but three sensational new #LoveOzYA titles- Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein, Neverland by Margot McGovern, and Paris Syndrome by Lisa Walker. There’s also a debut fantasy release, Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian; the fourth book in a beloved YA series, Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi; a satirical and hilarious new title from Jesse Andrews; and a magical and wonderfully diverse contemporary debut, The Astonishing Colour of After. Read on for all our reviews.
Reviews by Sarah McDuling
This spine-tingling, shiver inducing psychological thriller is one of the most impressive YA debuts I’ve read in ages. With its twisty-turny plot, super-creepy atmosphere and compelling characters, Small Spaces is impossible to put down and a legitimate threat to any reader’s peace of mind. This book should probably come with a nightmare warning!
Tash has never forgotten the childhood trauma she suffered after witnessing her imaginary friend, Sparrow, abducting a young girl from a carnival. Over the years Tash has come to distrust her memories, convinced that Sparrow is nothing but a figment of her imagination – a manifestation of her childhood fears. And yet when she starts seeing Sparrow again she is forced to confront her inner demons and question her own sanity. Is it possible that Sparrow is real, or is Tash losing her grip on reality?
I love a good nail-biting thriller with an unreliable narrator and in this respect Small Spaces really delivers. Abandoned amusement parks, creepy (possibly imaginary) villains, fragmented childhood memories, mysterious disappearances and also did I mention the abandoned amusement parks because seriously. Good luck thinking of anything more disturbing than an abandoned amusement park. It can’t be done.
Overall, I couldn’t be more impressed by this stunning Australian debut. Small Spaces is packed with oodles of spookiness and overflowing with shocking twists and creepy chills. I enjoyed every second of this addictive pageturner and cannot wait to see what Sarah Epstein writes next. Learn more.
This was such a raw, emotionally painful read. Dealing with a lot of difficult subject matters including abuse, self harm, suicide and mental illness, Neverland is the kind of story that manages to be simultaneously disturbing, confronting, enlightening and ultimately uplifting. Bold, brutal and beautiful, this book hit me a lot harder than I expected and yet left me with a fragile yet shining sense of hope.
The story begins with Kit – one of the most sympathetic protagonists I have encountered in quite some time – leaving boarding school to return home after a suicide attempt. Oh how my heart bled for Kit! I spent so much of this book just really wishing I could give her a big bear hug!
Kit has suppressed the memory of watching her parents die in a tragic accident when she was twelve-years-old. In fact, all she remembers from her childhood are the enchanting stories her father told her about the island they called home. She remembers the island of “Neverland” as a magical place full of mermaids and pirates, however, when she returns home she finds things have changed. Her uncle has established her childhood home as a school for children struggling with mental health issues. And now Kit is one of them…
Neverland is a gorgeously written book full of wonderfully atmospheric Peter Pan references which lend the story a somewhat menacing air of magic and mystery. There is a captivating quality to the writing which really draws you into another world. This is the kind of thoughtful, lyrical book that manages to charm and enchant while also never shying away from hard truths and painful subject matter. It reminded me a bit of On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, which is one of my all time favourite YA books so really, it’s no wonder I fell so deeply under the spell of Neverland. This is a story I know I will want to read again, probably multiple times.
In conclusion, this book bashed my heart back and forth like a punching bag… and I really, really loved it! Australian author, Margot McGovern, is an amazing new talent and I’m already impatient for her next book. Learn more.
The Astonishing Colour of After is something really special. This debut novel really held me captive and splashed such a vivid array of colours and images into my mind. It somehow upgraded my imagination to Ultra HD and tugged so hard on my heart strings that I swear I felt actual sharp pangs of sorrow in my chest. (I mean, I guess it might have been indigestion? But I’m pretty sure it was pure unadulterated emotion.)
Leigh is left shattered in the wake of her mother’s suicide. Struggling to come to terms with her loss, she visits Taiwan to connect with her mother’s family. What follows is a gut-wrenching exploration of grief, depression, family, love, art, identity and memory. This is the kind of story that will really break readers down and then slowly build them back up. It left me feeling utterly shattered, yet weirdly rejuvenated.
The family relationships in this book are so complex and compelling. Leigh’s grief and her mother’s mental illness are depicted with such care and sensitivity, the setting is vibrant, the writing is lush, the characters are heartbreaking… I really cannot rave enough about this book!
Emily X. R. Pan has managed to capture what it’s like to grieve the loss of a loved one to suicide with such raw, visceral clarity – and without once offering any kind of explanation, or attempting to make sense of the tragedy. This story brims with feeling and rings with truth. It’s honest and raw, yet also written with such stunning imagery, creative energy, and a deft touch of magical realism. In short, it’s a breathtaking book that will very likely make you cry.
If you’re looking for a poignant and immersive read with wonderful diversity and exquisite writing, this is the book for you! Learn more.
Reviews by Tanaya Lowden
Tahereh Mafi surprised us all when she announced that she would be adding an additional three novels to her Shatter Me trilogy, four years after the then final book was released. I was immediately ecstatic, because this is one of my favourite YA trilogies ever!
If, like me, you haven’t had the time to reread the original three books before jumping into Restore Me, let me tell you that you do not need to worry about feeling lost or confused. Before starting I quickly googled recaps of Shatter Me, Unravel Me, and Ignite Me, and once starting Restore Me I was easily swept away in the world and characters, and didn’t feel as if I had no idea what was going on due to not reading this series in four years.
The question we’ve all been asking since the news of the additional books was dropped, is if Restore Me is as great as the rest of the series. Simply put, YES! I was so enraptured in this book that if it wasn’t for work I would have easily finished it in one sitting. I had forgotten how absolutely enchanting Mafi’s writing is, so delicate and descriptive, and how easy it is to get lost in her beautiful words.
It was so nice to get to revisit the characters we all came to love. Restore Me is set only 16 days after the ending of Ignite Me, so we really haven’t missed much time with them. We get to see the relationship between Juliette and Warner develop further, and whilst it is a bit of a bumpy road for them, I still adore it after all this time. It was also nice to have some new characters to get to know, and I definitely think they will be an interesting addition to the rest of the series.
One thing I really enjoyed about the plot was how realistic certain elements of it were. Juliette has become the Supreme Commander, the governing figure for all the sectors in the region. As a seventeen-year-old girl who has spent many of those years isolated in an asylum, who has not had the chance to finish her education, or to even have experience commanding a group of people before, I really loved that Mafi chose to show Juliette’s struggles with ruling. Running a country is not an easy feat, and it felt very realistic and grounding that rather than Juliette being a pro and having no issues whatsoever with her new responsibilities, she would struggle and feel overwhelmed. It was a plot point I think Mafi developed quite nicely throughout the book.
There are also many revelations throughout this book that will completely change our opinions on what we thought we knew about these beloved characters. The last few chapters in particular had me gasping in both delight and sorrow, and I ended this book dreading the wait for the next one.
If you haven’t had a chance to read the Shatter Me series, I would definitely recommend. The series is one of those highly esteemed YA series and it is completely deserving of all this merit. If you have read the original trilogy and were unsure about the new book, give it a chance. I for one felt that it was an excellent addition. Learn more.
If I had to think of one word to summarise Munmun, it would be weird. Now I know sometimes weird might not necessarily be a positive adjective, but in the case of Munmun it most definitely is. This is honestly one of the most unique books I have ever read – there really is nothing quite like it.
Set in an alternate reality called the Yewiss, every person’s physical size is proportional to their wealth. The poor are as small as rats, whilst billionaires are as tall as skyscrapers. We follow Warner and his sister Prayer on their journey to attempt to change their fate from poor, destitute and tiny into a bigger and better lifestyle.
The first thing you need to know about this book is that the writing style is rather unique and may take you a little bit of time to get into. There are a lot of words purposely misspelled/made-up in this book, and some interesting grammar choices. These are all entirely part of the story. As our protagonist is tiny and poor, he has never been able to attend school because schools for his size simply do not exist. As a result, Warner can not read or write very well, and so by misspelling words Andrews is cleverly incorporating this aspect of the society into his novel. This is a style of writing that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I do think it’s worth soldiering on. I found myself easily following along once I got used to it, and I think the story is really rewarding and worth continuing!
Jesse Andrews writes humour extermely well. I’ve previously read Andrews’ Me and Early and the Dying Girl, and I remember laughing throughout the entire book. The same can be said for Munmun, as the banter between the characters and some of the outrageous events that occur are truly entertaining.
The plot of this book is also entertaining. There is constant action and many developments that I definitely did not see coming. This is the kind of book that is so wildly unpredictable that you have no choice but to go with the flow.
At its heart, Munmun is an incredibly clever novel, exploring social injustice in a really original way. The inequality between poor and rich is developed throughout this satirical novel. Although set in an alternate universe, the parallels to our society are clearly obvious. This book definitely made me think more than I thought it would. Learn more.
I feel like at some stage we’ve all known (or been) a person who is obsessed with Paris. The city of love has been incredibly romanticised throughout all of history, delicately enticing us all to feel enamoured by its charm. I for one definitely had a love for all things Parisian, collecting trinkets with Eiffel Towers on them, listening to cool French music, watching beloved French films, and even studying the language for a little bit. And if I’m being honest, it is this love of Paris that first drew me to this book.
Paris Syndrome follows Happy, a teenage girl from Brisbane, obsessed with Paris and with dreams to go there after finishing her final year of school. When she wins a French essay competition, she meets a quirky professor and her girl-gardner Alex, who recruit Happy in their fight against Paris Syndrome. This is a syndrome that affects some visitors to Paris, and sees those afflicted feeling disappointed in the city that’s been so romanticised to them. This also allows Happy to become close to another Alex, this time a boy who interns at the French tourism office.
This is a really sweet and fun coming-of-age story exploring a range of themes. It delves into first love, family, the pressures of moving to a new town, friendship, but most importantly sexuality. Happy begins to develop feelings for both the female and male Alex in her life, and I felt that the confusion of her feelings for both was portrayed realistically and relatably.
This book ended up surprising me immensely. One of the revelations towards the end I really did not see coming, and I felt that it made me rethink how I had interpreted the first part of the novel. It also made things make sense in a different way.
Paris Syndrome is definitely the book for you if you love YA contemporary or love all things Paris. Learn more.
Ash Princess is the first book in a fun and addictive new fantasy trilogy. This book is a wild ride full of magic, intrigue, betrayal and plenty of romance.
The story follows Theodosia (AKA “Theo” AKA “Thora”) a displaced princess who has been kept captive by the ruthless Kaiser who invaded her land. Ridiculed, tormented and constantly watched in the years since the siege, Theodosia decides to join a secret plot to free her people from the tyranny of the Kaiser and regain her rightful throne. To do this she must seduce the Kaiser’s son, Prinz Soren. Unfortunately, this proves more complicated than Theodosia expected when she realises she is developing true feelings for the Prinz.
This book was such a captivating read. The world was interesting and well developed. In particular, I was really intrigued by the magic system, although I do wish there was more exploration of it in this first book. I can’t wait to see how the magic is expanded upon in the rest of the trilogy.
I also found this book incredibly difficult to put down. The last 60 pages especially were non-stop action, filled with unexpected twists and betrayals. I had actually thought I had worked out what would happen with about 100 pages to go, and was pleasantly surprised to be wrong on all accounts. The ending left me with enough unanswered questions that I am burning with curiosity to find out what happens next, and now I know I will be excitedly waiting to get my hands on the second book.
About the Contributor
Tanaya has been a lover of books for as long as she can remember. Now, her book collection is a little out of control, mostly consisting of YA fiction and pretty hardcovers. When she’s not reading, she spends a lot of her time taking photos of books for her bookstagram account, @prettypagesblog. She also has a love of Disneyland, bullet journaling and cats.
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