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YA Book Reviews by Amy

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YA Book Reviews by Amy: Books that Will Get You Out of a Reading Slump

Several times throughout the year, I have trouble picking up a book; it may be because the book that I am in the middle of reading does not hold my interest, or I am not in the mood to read at all and I would rather do anything other than reading, or the book I just finished needs a little more time to be processed and appreciated in my mind.

Whatever the case may be, this inability to pick up a book (or the unwillingness to read) is called: a reading slump. A reading slump can happen at any moment and could last a seemingly too long of a time. Sometimes it is natural to just go through the motions of a slump and ‘let it happen’ but if you are a big reader like me, you will ultimately feel guilty that you are not reading (and oh wow, is that To Be Read pile getting larger?!?)

I still do not have a clear-cut solution of how to get out of a reading slump. I think that the reading slumps are easily a way of our minds telling us that we may need a break from reading. But I also know sometimes all it takes is to read a book that holds your attention, is on the shorter-side page wise, and the book compels you to ‘read just one more chapter’ and before you know it, you are finished and ready to move onto the next book.

Here is my list of books that have truly gotten me out of a few reading slumps! Maybe try one when you run into your next slump!

This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

Five boys walk into the woods, but only four walk out alive. It all went wrong one morning when the intoxicated boys go hunting. It appears that one of them shot and murdered Grant, but what is the motive? The only one that knows the truth is the murderer. Each boy decides that they will protect one another by remaining silent about the incident or telling the same story that they know is not true. Kate was secretly texting Grant in the months leading up and started falling for him. Now she wants justice for his murder, but will she learn ugly things about him that caused his death?

This was a well-written mystery suspense novel that will keep you guessing what really happened until the very end. I read this in only one day, and I could not put it down. It made me want to read more books in the mystery genre right after.

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

My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Mary Queen of Scots has a secret, she is an Eðian, a person that has the ability to turn into an animal magically. In a world that is persecuting Eðians, Mary is not safe, and if anyone were to find out about her, it could mean death. Mary is set to marry childhood friend, Frances (the future king of France). Will they have a happy marriage? Are they ready to rule France during turmoil in Europe? Will a local psychic help or hinder their plans?

This story is so much fun, and I find the authors to be hilarious. The authors started writing these books to rewrite tragic histories into something happier. Like most authors that write historical fiction, a lot of research went into this book. While I have yet to listen to the audiobooks, I have heard they are delightful!

Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy

Waylon is gay and is one of the few openly out in his high school which makes him a target. He does not have many friends, but who needs friends when you have a twin sister that is always there for him. When his sister derails their future college plans, Waylon is lost. What makes matters even worse is a tape of him auditioning for Fiercest of Them All, a drag television show, leaks throughout the school, and his drag persona, Pumpkin, is ridiculed, and he is nominated for prom queen. Hannah, Waylon’s sister’s girlfriend is also nominated as prom king; both decide to run for those positions, and they might even have a chance of winning.

This was such a fantastic conclusion to the Clover City companion novels (you do not have to read Dumplin’ or Puddin’ to enjoy this book, but it makes it that much richer!). I found myself genuinely being happy and positive while reading and it got me out of a severe reading slump. Waylon is learning to be true to himself, and he finds acceptance with others and through him.

Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards

Its Christmas Eve and Mira is desperately wanting to be home for Christmas to take care of her mother, who is still reeling from the loss of her twin sister from the year prior. When Mira’s connecting flight is delayed, she joins a group of four teenagers, complete strangers, to drive 6 hours in terrible weather. One of these strangers has a secret, one that could be deadly. 

This building suspense and a feeling of constant dread, an atmospheric setting, and characters that readers cannot or should not trust, Five Total Strangers was hard to put down and was overall a fantastic thriller for YA readers.

Available on Hoopla and at the library* for checkout.  

Heartstopper: Volume 1 by Alice Oseman

This is a graphic novel series that follows Charlie, a boy that no longer wants to hide being in a relationship with another boy. When Charlie meets Nick, a large and kind older-boy, he finds friendship and a crush. Simply this is story is about Nick and Charlie becoming friends (or as the British say- mates) and discovering what they both want in life.

I absolutely adored this graphic novel! The art is stunning; the expressions that Alice Oseman places on her characters are heartachingly relatable and charming. When I was reading this book, I had to make sure that I was taking my time reading it because I would have read it within hours, and while I can definitely reread this (and I will), I wanted to make sure that I took my time to enjoy the words on the page and the art within the pages.

Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Two stories that are divided by time but are connected when Rowan, in current day Tulsa, finds a skeleton on her family’s property. A century earlier in 1921 Tulsa, William witnesses the violence against minorities while in a town that is segregated by Jim Crow. His own prejudices are confronted when he is directly involved in the death of a stranger. Guilt and questioning plagues William when he meets siblings James and Ruby and he realizes that he must do right by anyone no matter the color of their skin. Whose body was found? And what were the circumstances in which the death occurred? The night Tulsa burns holds the answers. 

This is a fantastic historical fiction, contemporary, with a mysterious twist. I never felt so nervous about the survival/fates of our main characters because I wanted them all to have a happily-ever-after.  This was one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard! There are added sound effects and music at times, but by far I enjoyed both voice actors: Pyeng Threadgill and Luke Slattery. They sounded exactly like what I would imagine them to sound like.  

Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.  

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

In this realistic YA fiction, two boys meet at the local swimming pool one summer. Set in 1988, this book follows first two summers of Aristotle and Dante’s friendship. Aristotle has to deal with the anger he has about his brother being in prison and his struggle to connect with his parents. Dante is everything Ari is not; he is charming, happy, and has a fantastic relationship with his parents. Ari and Dante will learn from each other.

The love that I have for Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secret of the Universe knows no bounds. The relationship between the two main characters (as well as the relationship with their parents) was so powerful. This book reads quickly and got me wanting to read more.

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

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Mila has believed in magic and witchcraft ever since meeting her best friend Riley, but when Riley and two other girls from school unexpectedly die under mysterious circumstances, Mila accidently brings them all back to life for one week. The girls have no memories leading up to their death, but they know it is not the suicides that were said in the papers. Can these girls get along long enough to figure out what truly happened to them?

This book was a surprise: a good mix of humor, mystery, and girl power. I listened to the audiobook and could not stop listening to it. I had to know what was going to happen. This easily got me out of a slump and back into reading.

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.