Beau, Lee, The Bomb and Me: A (Rapid Fire) Review

Beau, Lee, the Bomb and Me by Mary McKinleyBeau, Lee, The Bomb and Me by Mary McKinley (2014)

It’s bad enough being smart or fat in a high school with known bullying issues, Rusty Winters is both. It’s even worse to be gay, which is unfortunate for new kid Beau Gales.

When Beau arrives, Rusty’s first thought is relief when she thinks the school might have someone else to target for a while. But when Rusty and Beau become fast friends, it hits her hard when Beau’s bullying escalates to a beating on his way home. Rusty and fellow misfit Leonie readily agree to follow Beau when he decides to run away to San Francisco to ask his gay uncle for advice.

This road-trip novel is peppered with nods to The Wizard of Oz that range from clever to heavy-handed. A detour to the town of Forks (of “Twilight” fame) and numerous additional plot points—including the friends deciding how to properly deal with Leonie’s molestation by her teacher and others, a car-jacking, and more—force much of the character development off-page in the form of time jumps and informative asides.

Lengthy passages about the devastating effects of the AIDS outbreak, often reductive explanations of the gay rights movement, and numerous reminders about the importance of tolerance lend a self-righteous tone to the narrative.

While the issues of bullying and gay rights are timely, outmoded pop-culture references and odd slang choices lend a dated feel to this novel. Worth a look for those hoping to flesh out their LGBTQ or bullying selections as well as hardcore Oz-philes. A good choice to pair with Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.

*A slightly different version of this review appeared in an issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen in various sites online*

In the Afterlight: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Black is the color of memory.

“It is our color.

“The only one they’ll use to tell our story.”

In the Afterlight by Alexandra BrackenRuby is haunted by memories of her time at Thurmond–the country’s largest rehabilitation camp–and what she has done to survive since her escape. No matter how hard she runs, she can’t get away from the memories of the people she has lost along the way.

But she has to keep moving because there might finally be an end in sight with a potential cure for IAAN–the disease that has killed so many children and left survivors like Ruby with strange and sometimes crippling abilities.

Pressure is mounting to rescue Psi kids from the camps. But time is also running out to stop IAAN. After surviving the government’s attack on Los Angeles, Ruby and the other Psi kids are even more determined to bring about change. Questions arise, however, as they try to decide what to do and who to follow.

Ruby’s loyalties are soon torn between Liam, the boy who has Ruby’s heart and his brother Cole, the only person who understands everything Ruby struggles to control. With both brothers trying to pull their motley team of survivors in different directions, Ruby has to make some painful choices.

After years of hiding, Ruby will have to embrace who she is–and what she can do–to save the people she loves in In the Afterlight (2014) by Alexandra Bracken.

Find it on Bookshop.

In the Afterlight is the conclusion of Bracken’s Darkest Minds trilogy. It is preceded by The Darkest Minds and Never Fade.

Bracken once again delivers a high action and deeply thoughtful story as she brings her bestselling trilogy to a close.

While the story has its moments of action (and a bit of a road trip) this novel really shines as the focus turns to Ruby and the characters that have been with her from the beginning. Readers have seen Ruby push people away and sacrifice her own well-being for the sake of others. Throughout the series she has also struggled with her ability and what it means in relation to her sense of self. In the Afterlight includes the same struggles but more than ever it is obvious that Ruby is coming into her own as she embraces who she is and everything she can do.

It’s impossible to say too much about the plot without revealing too much, but rest assured that In the Afterlight has everything readers could hope for in this final installment. In the Afterlight is largely the story that these characters, particularly Ruby, deserve and also one that is deeply satisfying. An excellent conclusion to an excellent series.

Possible Pairings: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, White Cat by Holly Black, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, False Memory by Dan Krokos, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Damaged: A Review

Damaged by Amy ReedKinsey Cole knows people can only bear to hear so much bad fortune. That’s why everyone in the small town of Wellspring, Michigan knows that Kinsey’s best friend Camille died in a car accident when Kinsey was driving. It’s easier for people to see the straight A student with a full athletic scholarship.

Kinsey is struggling to stick to her own plan for the future now that Camille is dead. She is going to go to college and get away from her small town and her mentally unstable mother once and for all. She is going to succeed the way everyone always expected she would.

The only problem is that Kinsey is quietly falling apart.

When Camille’s boyfriend, Hunter, invites Kinsey on a road trip to San Francisco, Kinsey jumps at the chance to get away from all the memories and start her real life. But with Hunter’s heavy drinking and Kinsey’s own demons, it will take more than a fresh start for either of them to accept everything that has been lost in Damaged (2014) by Amy Reed.

Find it on Bookshop.

Kinsey and Hunter travel across a largely barren landscape on their way to California in this haunting and well-done novel. An unflinching focus on Kinsey and Hunter makes this character driven road trip story even stronger.

Nightmares that may or may not be her dead best friend plague Kinsey throughout the novel adding a surreal quality to the plot. Reed offers a well-plotted and excellently written meditation on grief, loss and the power of new beginnings in this striking novel about two wretched characters trying to make themselves whole.

Possible Pairings: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, Stealing Henry by Carolyn MacCullough, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Fracture by Megan Miranda, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in the September 2014 issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen in various sites online*

The Strange Maid: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“In a week and a half I’ll be seventeen. It’s a decade since I climbed the New World Tree, since Odin Alfather, god of the hanged, named me the next Valkyrie of the Tree, and still I have not won my place on the Valkyrie council.”

The Strange Maid by Tessa GrattonSigny Valborn dedicated herself to Odin when she was seven years old. She was told one day she would join Odin’s Valkyrie council and fill the long vacant place of the Valkyrie of the Tree. That was before she read the riddle. Before she left her Death Hall and her sister Valkyrie behind.

The Valkyrie of the Tree will prove herself with a stone heart. Signy knows that is her riddle. But after traveling far and wide through New Asgard for years, she is no closer to finding an answer.

Until a mysterious troll hunter named Ned Unferth appears with a proposal. Ned speaks in riddles as well as ancient poetry and truths that feel more like lies. But he promises Signy that a greater mountain troll holds the answer to her riddle and offers to train Signy to hunt them. Signy has never been so close to her future and has little choice but to accept Ned’s help.

Their winding journey will take Signy to the wilds of Canadia and beyond. Along the way she will cross paths with a lone berserker named Soren Bearstar, a monstrous troll mother, and the truth behind the destiny she was promised so long ago in The Strange Maid (2014) by Tessa Gratton.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Strange Maid is the second book in Gratton’s Songs of New Asgard (United States of Asgard) series. It is preceded by The Lost Sun. Both books function very well as stand-alone titles however, because of timeline and character overlap, The Strange Maid does include some spoilers for The Lost Sun if you choose to read the books out of order.

Gratton once again delivers a perfect blend of myth and fantasy in this engrossing tale. Signy is a sharp, wild narrator with strong opinions and a vibrant love of poetry that comes through in every word of her frank narration. Ned, Signy’s mysterious companion for much of the novel, is a perfect foil as Signy is forced again and again to re-evaluate what she knows (or thinks she knows) about her chosen path.

The Strange Maid is a vivid story about the power of choice as well as an ode to the strength of well-chosen friendships. References to Beowulf and other Norse tales will bring these older myths to life for new readers.

Ideas of causality as well as free will are also artfully explored in this remarkable second book in a trilogy that promises even greater things to come.

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Curiosities by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers,  Freya by Matthew Laurence, The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, Soundless by Richelle Mead, Clariel by Garth Nix, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Beowulf

You can also check back for my interview with Tessa starting tomorrow!

Open Road Summer: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Open Road Summer by Emery LordReagan knows she is better than her past behavior would indicate. She knows she deserves more than her bad-news ex-boyfriend and more than her bad girl reputation. What Reagon doesn’t know is how to get beyond all of those things once and for all.

Reagan’s best friend, Lilah Montgomery is having problems of her own including nursing a broken heart and headlining her first major tour. With her star on the rise, Lilah will have to navigate the world of country music stardom and the murky waters of celebrity news and minor scandal.

Even with so much baggage, Reagan is thrilled to be joining the tour for a girls only summer of bonding and healing.

The only problem is Matt Finch–himself a former teen star–is also part of the tour as an opener. With his clean-cut good looks and enough snark to match Reagan barb for barb, Reagan knows her promise to stay drama-(and boy)-free all summer is in for trouble.

It takes a cross-country tour but over the course of one unforgettable summer Reagan will learn that mistakes aren’t forever,  even if friends are, and home doesn’t always have to be somewhere to leave in Open Road Summer (2014) by Emery Lord.

Find it on Bookshop.

Open Road Summer is Lord’s first novel.

Believe the hype about this book. Lord has crafted a novel that is equal parts escapism and realism. While readers are treated to the luxe world of celebrity musicians, Open Road Summer also highlights the tough realities of living (and growing up) in the public eye.

Reagan is a prickly, multifaceted narrator with a lot of heart and a lot of personality. The fact that she is a self-proclaimed bad girl who wants a change is utterly refreshing. This story constantly challenges the usual tropes and binary structures found in similar stories to create a plot and a cast of characters that are unique and completely engaging.

Tour stops across the country add a vivid backdrop to this delectable story of a girl trying to find her way.

Possible Pairings: Now and Forever by Susane Colasanti, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Where She Went by Gayle Forman, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Being Friends With Boys by Terra Elan McVoy, Swoon at Your Own Risk by Sydney Salter, Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle

Shift: A Review

Shift by Jennifer BradburyChris didn’t know what to expect when he and his best friend Win began their cross-country bike ride the summer after high school graduation. Chris had made all of the needed preparations from packing food to making sure his bicycle was balanced. He made sure Win did the same.

And most of the trip was everything Chris hoped it would be. More, even, than he could imagine when they started the trip in West Virginia.

Until everything started to go wrong.

Fast forward to the weeks after the trip:

After they part ways, Chris finishes the ride in Seattle and hops a bus back home with a week to spare before starting college.

Chris assumes that Win does the same thing.

Chris is wrong.

Now Chris is being hounded by Win’s influential and severely upset father, federal agents and who knows who else. Everyone wants to find Win and bring him home. Chris, in particular, wants answers. He is owed answers. But before Chris can even try to find Win he’ll have to rethink everything about their fateful trip in Shift (2008) by Jennifer Bradbury.

Shift is Bradbury’s first novel.

Shift is a deceptively simple mystery. With chapters alternating between Chris’ current situation getting settled at college and flashbacks to his disastrous road trip with Win, Bradbury presents a surprisingly faceted image of both boys. Expertly handled exposition highlights the changes in both Win and Chris over the course of the trip.

Although the story very much focuses on Chris, and to a lesser extent Win, Bradbury still manages to add some diversity to the cast and also present effective, well-realized female characters in secondary roles.

The clues Chris follows as he tries to figure out the truth behind Win’s disappearance often feel obvious. However they all still build to a satisfying conclusion as Chris works toward the truth. This character-driven story is as much a tense mystery as it is a coming of age story. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, Paper Towns by John Green, Stranger in the Forest by Eric Hansen, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anna Heltzel, Racing California by Janet Nichols Lynch, I am Princess X by Cherie Priest, The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith, Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

The Geography of You and Me: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. SmithLucy and Owen meet in an elevator trapped between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City highrise during a citywide blackout. What could have been an ordinary night spent alone in the dark becomes a shared moment of wonder for Lucy and Owen. Together they explore a Manhattan that looks more like a party than a crisis before admiring the shockingly bright stars over Manhattan’s skyline.

But after that one magical night, Lucy and Owen find themselves pulled in opposite directions. Literally. Owen and his father head for points west while Lucy and her parents move to Edinburgh.

Lucy and Owen don’t have a lot in common to start with. They don’t even know much about each other. Still their relationship plays out across the miles in the form of postcards and sporadic emails. Although both Lucy and Owen try to move on they soon realize an unfinished something keeps pulling them back to each other in The Geography of You and Me (2014) by Jennifer E. Smith.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Geography of You and Me is a delightful story of an unlikely long-distance relationship and an ode to the joys of travel and old-fashioned correspondence. Smith brings the wonder and frustrations of a New York blackout delightfully to life in the opening pages. The evocative prose just gets better from there as readers travel across the country with Owen and across the Atlantic with Lucy.

The story alternates between Lucy and Owen’s perspective to offer insights not just into their correspondence but also into the relationships both have with their parents. As much as The Geography of You and Me is a romance it is also an anthem for family and communication. With Lucy coming from a well-to-do family and Owen being on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, there are also some interesting moments about privilege and what that can mean in modern life.

Smith offers nods to social networking and emails while also hearkening back to the simpler and often more sincere communications found in postcards. It is highly likely readers will seek a new pen pal or join Post Crossing after finishing this cheerfully well-traveled novel.

Possible Pairings: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, All I Need by Susane Colasanti, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Royals by Rachel Hawkins, The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes, The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Golden: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Golden by Jessi KirbyParker Frost knows exactly what her future holds. It definitely doesn’t include any detours onto roads less traveled. If Parker’s mother has her way, it won’t include anything poetic at all.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are as much a part of Parker’s town as any of the buildings. Once they were the golden couple of the local high school with everything ahead of them. Now they’ve been dead ten years leaving nothing behind but a crashed car. No one really knows what happened to them; no bodies were ever found and no one knows what caused that fatal accident even if everyone still wonders.

With a path to a full scholarship to Stanford followed med school and a successful life laid out for her, now is not the time for Parker to stumble. But when the key to the mystery surrounding Julianna and Shane all but throws itself at her, Parker has a hard time paying attention to the road she’s supposed to travel in Golden (2013) by Jessi Kirby.

Golden is Kirby’s third novel.

A funny thing happens sometimes with books. Sometimes everyone, almost universally, can love that book while you are sitting down, reading that book, and wondering what you missed. That, unfortunately happened with this book. (It actually happened with several books over the past couple of months.) Part of the problem here was absolutely me. I read Golden the week my mom had her brain surgery and this book wasn’t what I needed at the time. I’m not sure any book would have stood up to the scrutiny this one got while I waited twelve hours for news. That’s how it happens sometimes.

Kirby is good at what she does. Like her debut Moonglass, Golden is a story about a complicated family and a girl who feels apart in a town where everyone knows her. Parker is a narrator that a lot of readers will recognize and identify with. She’s the girl who always does the right thing and never takes a risk; she’s the girl who, at the end of high school, is wondering if all that caution was really worth it.

Kirby expertly captures the claustrophobia and unpredictability that surround life changes–especially graduating high school. Although I took very strong issue with how Parker handles (read: throws away) her chances at a full scholarship to a great school* I do think Parker is a strong point in this story. She is real and whether or not she is related to Robert Frost she was a decent character to travel follow through this book.

The problem is that for all its talk in the plot summary, Golden isn’t really a book about Parker Frost. Parker is essentially just a framing story for the mystery that unfolds surrounding Julianna Cruz and Shane Farnetti.

Golden is strongest in the beginning and the final chapters. In between what we have is a draggy story told in journal entries as Parker learns that the alleged golden couple of her town were really anything but.

A lot of time is spent with both Julianna and Parker wondering what they will do with their one “wild and precious” life (that quote is a key plot point). And many of the high school experiences rang true. Still, this story never came together for me as anything more than a frustrating read. Part of that, I am absolutely sure, is because I wasn’t in a good place while I was reading and there was too much other stuff taking up head space. Part of the problem might also been that, for better or worse, a lot of the big choices in my life are made and I’m on this road wherever it leads for the next while.

Golden is an interesting book and another solid if not (to me) exceptional read from a competent author. If you can get past the obvious framing structure and the frustrations I outlined here it might be more of a winner for you than it was for me.

*I also needed a full scholarship to get to college. Which I happily did get. I find it hard to believe anyone who wants to go to college so badly would throw that chance away just to see what comes next. This is what changing majors was designed for people!

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, City Love by Susane Colasanti, How to Love by Katie Cotugno, The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols, Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney, Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten

The Ten Best and Worst Summer Vacations in YA Books

August is already coming to an end, but there’s still time to get in one last vacation trip or two. As any seasoned traveler can tell you, not all vacations are created equal. For the characters in the books below, summer vacations cover the entire spectrum from epic adventures with sizzling romances to disastrous trips and even terrifying summers filled with murder and mayhem.

Best Summer Vacations:

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara AltebrandoAll I Need by Susane ColasantiAn Abundance of Katherines cover13 Little Blue Envelopes coverUnbreak My Heart

  1. The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando: After an entire life spent in second place, Mary Gilhooley hopes the Oyster Point High Official Unofficial Senior Week Scavenger Hunt will be her chance to finally come out on top. One all-day scavenger hunt, two lawn ornaments, three meltdowns, four relationship fails, and one incredibly daring stunt stand between Mary’s team and victory. Or utter failure.
  2. All I Need by Susane Colasanti: Every summer Skye jokes that this summer will be different; something exciting will finally happen. Usually that isn’t the case. Then Skye sees Seth at a party and she knows, at last, that something big is going to happen. After one magical night Skye and Seth know they’re meant to be. But before they get to a happy future they’ll have to deal with a present filled with missed connections, worried parents, and  troublesome friends.
  3. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green: Colin Singleton excelled in school. He was special. Then he met a girl named Katherine and they started dating. Then she dumped him. Then eighteen more girls named Katherine dumped him. Suddenly, Colin is a teenager with no claim to fame except for his former status as a prodigy. No new ideas. No girl. No plans for the summer except wasting away in his room and moping. At least until his best friend Hassan drags Colin along for a cross-country road trip.
  4. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson: The rules were straightforward, sent to Ginny Blackstone in the first of thirteen letters from her eccentric Aunt Peg. Ginny is used to her aunt’s whims and willing to play along because Aunt Peg is the only person in the world who can make Ginny seem interesting–even if it is just by association. The letters will take Ginny to England and across Europe on an adventure that includes a behind-the-scenes tour of Harrod’s, youth hostels of various ilks and karaoke. At the end of the summer, Ginny might discover she’s more interesting than she thought–all because of those thirteen envelopes.
  5. Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker: Clementine made a big mistake her sophomore year when she broke one of the most important rules of friendship. Heartbroken and friendless, Clementine is about to embark on a three-month sailing trip with her parents and her little sister, Olive. Last year the trip sounded like a horrible, faraway idea. Now that it’s here, Clem is surprised to realize it might be exactly what she needs.

Worst Summer Vacations:

A Little Wanting Song coverReunited by Hilary Weisman GrahamClarity by Kim HarringtonWherever Nina Lies coverPaper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

  1. A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley: Charlie Duskin lives and breathes music. At least, she does when she’s alone. Playing guitar or singing in front of anyone is impossible even though she is not entirely without talent. Charlie doesn’t mind so much because music can be enough most of the time–especially during a summer in the country surrounded by old ghosts and locals who want nothing to do with her.
  2. Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham: Alice, Summer and Tiernan were best friends and the self-proclaimed biggest fans of the band Level 3. That was before high school. Before Level 3 broke up. Before the girls’ friendship imploded. Now, one Volkswagen van, two-thousand miles and a whole lot of problems are the only things standing between these three ex-best friends and the reunion concert of a lifetime.
  3. Clarity by Kim Harrington: Clare is expecting a typical summer in the small town of Eastport hanging around the family house to help her mother with psychic readings during the busy tourist season. Things get a bit more complicated when a girl is found murdered at the local motel and her brother becomes the prime suspect.
  4. Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten: When Ellie finds a drawing that can only have been done by her sister, Ellie knows it’s a sign. If she can follow the clues surely she can find Nina wherever she is and bring her home. Ellie sets off on a road trip following Nina’s trail. Along the way Ellie will meet some unlikely misfits, face some harsh realities, and realize that she might be more like her sister than she thought.
  5. Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff: Hanna Wagner wants to keep pretending she is the shiny, happy girl she used to be. But all of that pretending to be normal becomes nearly impossible when a girl is found murdered and her best friend’s ghost insists that Hannah should find out more about the investigation. Drawn into complicated dealings with ghosts, killers, and the enigmatic Finny Boone, Hannah begins to understand that nothing about dying–or living–is as straightforward as she once thought.

How do your own vacations stack up in comparison?

The Lost Sun: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“My mom used to say that in the United States of Asgard, you can feel the moments when the threads of destiny knot together, to push you or pull you or crush you. But only if you’re paying attention.”

The Lost Sun by Tessa GrattonSoren Bearskin has been avoiding his destiny for years. He can feel the berserker fever burning in his blood but he refuses to give into the rage; to let himself become what his father was before him. People fear him and what being a berserker actually means.

Astrid Glynn is everything Soren is not: wild, free and completely aware of who and what she is–a seethkona dedicated to the goddess Freya, a girl who can travel beyond death to retrieve answers to the questions of others even though she cannot find answers for herself about her missing mother.

Baldur the Beautiful is the most popular god in the country; his resurrection each year marked by a festive celebration and a live television broadcast. He returns to the United States of Asgard every year just in time for summer.

When Baldur instead disappears, the country is thrown into chaos as citizens fear the worst.

Astrid has dreamt of Baldur and knows where to find him. With Soren’s help. Together the two set off on a road trip to find the lost god and bring him home. But in finding Baldur, Soren and Astrid may have to give up everything they’ve come to hold dear in The Lost Sun (2013) by Tessa Gratton.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Lost Sun is the first book in Gratton’s Songs of New Asgard/United States of Asgard series and it is awesome. As the series title suggests, this book is part fantasy, part alternate history as Gratton imagines a world where the United States are imbued with Norse traditions and mythology as well as populated by the Norse gods themselves.

What could have been a confusing or alienating world instead becomes immediately fascinating and evocative in Gratton’s hands. (Readers of her short stories in The Curiosities may also recognize a few passing references to a female berserker mentioned in that anthology.)

It’s hard to know exactly what to say about The Lost Sun because it has so much going for it. Soren is a likeable, convincing narrator. Astrid is essentially one of the best female characters around. Having these two characters together in one book makes for an electric story that is as beautiful as it is thrilling. Gratton seamlessly builds a world of gods, magic and modern life around her characters as readers are introduced to this compelling world with an utterly original story imbued with old mythology.

The Lost Sun is, at its core, a intricate story of love and friendship. Soren and Astrid do a lot of different things throughout the plot but those threads are never far from the core. Sacrifices are made, surprises are revealed, but through it all there is a very strong meditation on what really being love (or loving) a person means.

Good books draw readers into the world of the story. Great books keep readers thinking after that story is finished. The Lost Sun is a great book.

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Curiosities by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff, Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers, Freya by Matthew Laurence, The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, Soundless by Richelle Mead, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Check back tomorrow for my exclusive interview with Tessa Gratton!