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YA Book Reviews by Amy: Companion Series Part I: Contemporary Tales

Companion series are pretty popular these days. A collection of works that are connected by the same world. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the first one that comes to mind, but also the Pixar theory, different Star Wars episodes, and spin-off series of television shows are all companions.

Companion series is such a fun concept with connected worlds and characters between books, but with the freedom of reading only a single book if you want, or to continue reading them as if it were a series!

I truly love stories that take place in the same world; maybe the readers see some familiar faces or get a better sense of the world building that is created by the author. Sometimes the reader may just enjoy an author and will read what ever they write, and it just so happens that the books connect.

I think companion books are my favorite type of story telling; I like that I do not have to rely on my memory for the previous books, and the readers usually get some fun cameos or Easter eggs. I enjoy seeing all the interconnections that string the characters and world together.

Here are some of my favorite companion books that take place in a contemporary setting.

The Clover City Books by Julie Murphy: Dumplin’, Puddin’, and Pumpkin 

Dumplin' - Murphy, JuliePuddin' - Murphy, JuliePumpkin - Murphy, Julie

These three books follow different main characters from the same town: Clover City, and the main characters attend the same school. While they easily can be read separately as standalone novels, if you want to read them in order, I would read them by publication date: Dumplin’, Puddin’, and Pumpkin because they follow that timeline. All of these books deal with confidence and finding your place in the world. You can follow Willowdean when she competes in the Miss Clover City beauty pageant with some unlikely friends in Dumplin’. Millie and Callie realize that they have more in common than differences in Puddin’. And in Pumpkin, Waylon decides to be his authentic self when he is nominated for prom queen as a joke, but competes as a serious candidate.

All of these books have heart with characters that are so easy to root for! They made me feel positive and happy which is such a great feeling when you close a book. Plus, look at these covers! They are stunning.

Dumplin’: Available on Overdrive, Hoopla, and at the library* for checkout.

Puddin’: Available on Overdrive, Hoopla, and at the library* for checkout.

Pumpkin: Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

Dimpleverse by Sandhya Menon: When Dimple Met RishiThere’s Something about Sweetie, 10 Things I Hate about Pinky

When Dimple Met Rishi - Menon, SandhyaThere's Something About Sweetie - Menon, Sandhya10 Things I Hate About Pinky - Menon, Sandhya

All these titles are fun plays on popular romantic comedy movie titles make this rom-com series a lot of fun! This companion series follow three different main characters: Dimple, Sweetie, and Pinky who are all navigating through life, school, and romance. Dimple is excited to attend a summer web design program, but not-so-thrilled when her family decides to arrange a marriage for her. But when she runs into Rishi, a friendship emerges and something romantic might be on the horizon. Sweetie and Rishi’s brother, Ashish, are wanting their parents to understand them as Sweetie is seen as lacking for her size, and Ashish needs to date an Indian-American girl. They become closer and learn they can be more with each other. Pinky and Samir (Ashish’s friends) begin to fake date to please Pinky’s mother in exchange for Samir receiving an internship… nothing could possibly go wrong!

These are such cute stories that are clearly written out of the love of the rom-com genre by Sandhya Menon. I love the feelings attached to these characters, and the strong messages about family, friends, and trusting one’s self; it is truly inspiring!

When Dimple Met Rishi: Available as eAudiobooks on Overdrive and Hoopla, and at the library* for checkout.

There’s Something about Sweetie: Available as an eAudiobook on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

10 Things I Hate about Pinky: Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

Garden Heights Books by Angie Thomas: The Hate U Give, On the Come Up, and Concrete Rose

Cover art for the novel The Hate U Give, published in 2017. The cover art depicts a young African-American female teenager holding a title card with the novel's title; the title card obscures the entirety of the teenager's torso, and the only visible clothing includes a red hairband, blue denim cut-off shorts, and white athletic shoes.On the Come up - Thomas, AngieConcrete Rose - Thomas, Angie

Set in the same universe, these three stories are about being strong in the face of injustice, following your dreams, and the importance of family and friends. After Starr witnesses her friend be killed by a police officer, she can either remain quiet and protect herself, or fight for justice at the risk of becoming a public figure. Starr will do what is right for her in The Hate U Give. Bri dreams of becoming one of the greats; she has the skill of rapping: twisting words, forming stories, and presenting powerful ideals all with the cadence and rhythm of rapping. Bri has a lot to live up to because she is the prodigy of her rapper father that could have made it big before he died; can she follow her dreams in On the Come UpConcrete Rose follows Starr’s father, Maverick, when he was a teenager, trying to get out of gang with his family still together.

Angie Thomas really has a gift with words; these stories are powerful with strong main characters. These books lasted with me longer than most. Either one of these books would be a powerful standalone story, but are great to be read together too. Concrete Rose is a prequel to The Hate U Give, and On the Come Up takes place in Starr’s universe.

The Hate U Give: Available on Overdrive, Hoopla, and at the library* for checkout.

On the Come Up: Available on Overdrive, Hoopla, and at the library* for checkout.

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

Love & Gelato Books by Jenna Evans Welch: Love & Gelato, Love & Luck, Love & Olives

Love & Gelato - Welch, Jenna EvansLove & Luck - Welch, Jenna EvansLove & Olives - Welch, Jenna Evans

This collection of companion novels follows our characters traveling to a new destination to rekindle family ties, find romance, and discover themselves in the process. You will catch some glimpses of some familiar faces if you read all of these stories! In Love & Gelato, Lina travels to Italy to meet her absent father after the death of her mother. In the process, she will connect with her father, meet a cute boy, and learn about her mother’s past. When Addie travels to Ireland for a destination wedding, she will try to heal her own heartbreak and tours around the country with her brother and his friend in Love & Luck. Liv travels to Greece to met up with her father to rekindle their relationship and their love of Atlantis. Will Liv forgive him and find love in the process? Find out in Love & Olives!

These books seriously give me wanderlust vibes and makes me want to travel even more. Who wouldn’t want to see beautiful places and possibly meet the love of your life? You definitely do not need to read all of these books, as they read as standalones, but it is fun to see characters from the previous book pop up.

Love & Gelato: Available at the library* for checkout.

Love & Luck: Available as an eAudiobook on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

Love & Olives: Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

Creekwood Series by Becky Albertalli: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, The Upside of Unrequited, and Leah on the Offbeat

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda - Albertalli, BeckyThe Upside of Unrequited - Albertalli, BeckyLeah on the Offbeat - Albertalli, Becky

Interrelated by friendship and family, our main characters must accept who they are while discovering their paths in life. Simon knows that he is gay, but that does not mean he is ready to share that with the world including his friends. When a classmate finds out his secret, he is blackmailed into hurting those around him in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. In The Upside of UnrequitedMolly knows all about unrequited love, but when she meets Reid, it might become something more. Leah on the Offbeat follows Leah, Simon’s best friend, and she is trying to navigate senior year with new relationships, friendships fracturing, first love, her band, and putting a label on her sexuality: bisexual.

The Simonverse is engaging and as the others can be read separately, but I would suggest that Leah on the Offbeat should be read after Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. These books follow some really engaging main characters that I believe that many can relate to. Also, if you liked Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, you should watch Love, Simon (the movie adaptation to the book) it was really well done!

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: Available as an eAudiobook on Overdrive and Hoopla, and at the library* for checkout. 

The Upside of Unrequited: Available on Overdrive, Hoopla, and at the library* for checkout. 

Leah on the Offbeat: Available as an eAudiobook on Overdrive, on Hoopla, 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.