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YA Book Reviews by Amy

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YA Book Reviews by Amy: Judging a Book by Its Cover Part II

Last week, I discussed my feelings about the idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and while I think it expresses importance when discussing people and not making assumptions based on appearances, my feelings about the literal translation is a little grayer: It is difficult not to be fascinated over a book cover; a book cover that then prompts the potential reader into reading the summary or making the reader learn more about it. I ask myself often: Would you have picked up that book if it didn’t look interesting? Or pretty? Or appealed to your desired aesthetic?

I don’t have the answer.

But there are some “diamonds in the rough,” or books that may not be visually appealing to me, but the content is just too good to ignore. And you could chalk it up to, “well the cover did not prompt me to read it, but I am sure glad I did.”

This list is of course my own opinion and please feel free to disagree with me, but here are my picks of the books that may not have appealed to me visually, but the contents were fantastic.

These are truly the books that should not be judged by its cover!

Chasing Starlight by Teri Bailey Black

Kate moves to Hollywood to live with her grandfather since there is nowhere else for her to turn to. Her grandfather owns a boarding house in which hopeful up-and-coming actors are living before potentially hitting their big break. When one of the men end up dead, can Kate figure out what happened to him and why? Can she go undercover in Hollywood to get the answers she needs to save her grandfather’s reputation and his life?

This cover is a cover that makes me sad; while the bright pink hair stands out and would definitely attract new readers, it does not match the plot or the time period that this book is written about. Maybe I am taking the cover too literally. I think this is a great historical fiction title about the Golden Age of Hollywood and a murder mystery at its finest! I really enjoyed reading this book and I am glad my friend suggested my book club read it or I might have missed out on this fantastic book!

Available as an eAudiobook on Hoopla and at the library* for checkout.

Starflight by Melissa Landers

Solara has little choices for her future after receiving felony tattoos that are highlighted across her knuckles. She runs into rich and temperamental Doran; Solara and Doran end up on a rogue ship called the Banshee and must conceal their identities after Doran is framed for a conspiracy he was not involved in. These two must work together if they are to solve the mystery surrounding them and evade arrest.

Starflight - Landers, Melissa

This book has a fantastic group of side characters with complex backgrounds. It was a really fun read with a solid romance. The cover fits the science fiction theme, but it is really minimalistic.

Available as an eBook on Overdrive and as an eAudiobook on Hoopla.

Dig by A.S. King

Five teens have seemingly nothing in common other than the fact that their families are falling apart and the mysterious wealthy Hemmings family is involved. The Shoveler watches his single mother struggle with money as he takes odd jobs here and there. The Freak has supernatural abilities that can transport her away from her sad family situation. CanIHelpYou? is a fast food drive-thru worker that is selling more than just food at her window. Lorettta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress talks to the fleas that flood her home. And First-Class Malcolm has been living between the United States and Jamaica ever since his father was diagnosed with deadly cancer.

Dig - King, A. S.

Dig is truly a strange tale that does not shy away as an uncomfortable read. This strange book has a strange cover; the cover matches the story so well, but it is unsettling nonetheless. I find the cover uncomfortable, which works well. What I really enjoyed about Dig the most is the mystery surrounding these bizarre characters and how their different storylines connect and intermingle.

Available as an eAudiobook on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

Cousins by Karen McManus

This follows three cousins that might as well be strangers; when each one receives a mysterious letter from their grandmother that they never met, inviting them to her resort for the summer, it sounds promising to each teen. Milly wants to learn the reason why her mother and three brothers were disinherited abruptly 20 years ago. Aubrey wants to make her father proud, even though his decisions have destroyed her family. Jonah is trying to lay low and make some money to help his family’s business. When they arrive, they realize this small-touristy island is holding secrets of the past that could be deadly now.

The Cousins - McManus, Karen M.

I think it is funny that I have one Karen McManus book on one of my favorite covers list, and this one is a cover that is just okay. I don’t think that this cover captures the mood as much as the other one’s do, and the similarities might be a good marketing tool, but it does not work for me. I do like the eerie tag line! I did enjoy this book; this is a fun mystery with many twists that seem to keep coming.

Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

During 1906, Mercy Wong is trying to gain admittance to a fancy finishing school for girls. This school does not accept girls like Mercy- Chinese and living in poverty. When she bribes the headmaster with her influence in Chinatown, San Francisco, she is accepted under the conditions that she must lie about her true identity. Posing as royalty from China, Mercy must pretend she is everything she is not if she wants to learn how to run a business and provide for her family. Things are not going too poorly, when disaster strikes, in the form of a deadly earthquake.

Outrun the Moon - Lee, Stacey

I really liked this book a lot and would suggest it for anyone that enjoys strong female characters and historical fiction. Stacey Lee is one of my favorite authors and continues to be. I appreciate this cover as it does connect to the story: the shattering lantern foreshadowing the earthquake, surrounded by the paper lanterns that represent Mercy’s Chinese culture. But while the cover does all that, I found myself not picking up this book until years later, even though I knew I would like the contents. I blame the cover and not myself, of course!

Available as an eBook on Overdrive, as an eAudiobook on Hoopla, and at the library* for checkout.

The Girl in the White Van by April Henry

Savannah is always the new girl—moving town to town with her single mother and living with her mom’s new boyfriends. When the latest boyfriend and Savannah get into a fight before she leaves to attend her only sanity: kung fu class, Savannah disappears after her class, some assume that she ran away and others suspect the truth—she was kidnapped. A man in a white van stole her away, and she meets a girl named, Jenny, that was taken ten months earlier. But Savannah is a fighter, and she knows that the first 48 hours are the most important.

The Girl in the White Van - Henry, April

While I really did enjoy this book, the cover is not what inspired me, but reading it alongside a friend was. The cover is just very bland to me with the gray and wet window, the hand print detailing gets lost when I saw it in person, and the generic “books with girls’ faces on the cover” did not appeal to me either. If you are looking for a quick mystery with multiple point-of-views, this is the book to read!

Available at the library* for checkout.

All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

Six teenagers receive invitations to a scholarship dinner, only to find out that it was all a ruse to get them to do something dastardly; they must pick someone to murder or a bomb will detonate. These six people all have interconnecting lives that inhabit friendship and love, but also deceit and lies. These dishonest actions have shattered some of these relationships beyond repair and some might be a reason to volunteer someone else to be the martyr. Will we find out who has organized this evil plan and why? Will Amber, the musician, find a way to save everyone and thwart the malevolent plot?

All your Twisted Secrets - Urban, Diana

I read it all in one sitting. Completely page-turning and addicting, I had to read it to find out who would commit this evil plot. This cover is interesting, but so much happens in this book, that I think that there are plenty of other ideas that could have been even more fun. The plot summary was more of the reason why I decided to pick up this book.

Available as an eBook on Overdrive and eAudiobook on Hoopla

The Invention of Sophie Carter by Samantha Hastings

In 1851, inventor Sophie would like to leave her past behind her and get an apprenticeship and visiting the Great Exhibition in London would be the first step. Her identical twin sister, Mariah, does not know what she wants, but is sure that marriage would be the most likely path. When their aunt sends for only one of them to visit London to court and find a husband, the girls come up with a plan for both sisters to stay together—they will both pretend to be the same twin. What could possibly go wrong?

The Invention of Sophie Carter - Hastings, Samantha

This book was just so much fun! The concept was so goofy (very Parent Trap-esk), but it was a nice light read with some amazingly touching quotes. The cover is a little too loud with the pink and yellow color combination. I think the cover is cute, but I think it could have been even better.

Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

*check the link for available copies or to place on hold


Hello everyone! I’m Amy and I am a Youth Services Librarian at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. When I’m not trying to reach my reading goal for the year, I like to talk about what I’m reading to my family, friends, and coworkers. You could say I am a little obsessed with reading Young Adult books. I enjoy most genres, but my favorites include: Westerns, Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Fantasy, and Mystery. I am always looking for the next great book that makes me connect to its characters and hits me in the feels.