These Buzz Books samplers (at least the YA sort) are not only useful, they are also a perfect cure for reading ruts. For those of us pr...

BOOK REVIEW: BUZZ BOOKS 2015: YOUNG ADULT FALL/WINTER

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These Buzz Books samplers (at least the YA sort) are not only useful, they are also a perfect cure for reading ruts. For those of us prone to compulsive 1-click e-book shopping on Amazon, the alternative might be to just open twenty(ish) yet unread novels our e-readers contain and read the first few chapters of each. But it's not quite the same. Everything tastes sweeter when it's exclusive. And this collection of upcoming YA ARCs for the fall/winter season is plenty exclusive - and plenty diverse, in terms of (sub)genre.

Having said that, the choice of ARCs of which the excerpts are featured here is heavily on the Contemporary side of things. Out of the few Fantasy/Paranormal/Sci-fi excerpts featured, even fewer read like true Fantasy/Paranormal/Sci-fi. So for those keen on Contemporary - I can safely recommend this compilation. For those more inclined towards Fantasy/Sci-fi, a better idea might be to just go ahead and request full-volume ARCs of their choice and forego being introduced to the first few chapters of a dozen Contemporary stories.

If you are a blogger, librarian, bookseller or an industry professional at any capacity and interested in this collection, you may get it on NetGalley now.






The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin - Despite being a Middle Grade title about a girl in middle school who struggles to come to terms with her best friend's sudden death, The Thing About Jellyfish reads a lot like straight-up YA contemporary. And while the premise is promising - the protagonist convinces herself that her friend died of a deadly jellyfish sting rather than a simple case of drowning - the first few chapters featured in this compilation were quite slow for me personally. For fans of Middle Grade Contemporary, however, this might be just the thing.

The Game of Lives by James Dashner - This is the third book in James Dashner's The Mortality Doctrine series. Having never even heard of the first two books in the series, let alone read them, I skipped this excerpt. Those who have been following the series will have already made up their minds as far as this finale, I imagine.

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly - Set in Victorian England, in a boarding house for girls, These Shallow Graves is somewhat reminiscent of Libba Bray's A Great And Terrible Beauty - at least based on this excerpt. The premise, however, does seem to take the remainder of the story in a different direction. As with Libba Bray's series, my chief problem with this excerpt was the author's tendency to repeatedly explain the most fundamental principles of the era (e.g. women's rights, or the lack thereof), as if assuming that the reader would be entirely unfamiliar with it and would be fascinated to hear about how good girls are expected to marry well about six hundred times in just the first chapter. On a more positive note, though, in just this brief excerpt, there was a handful of quotes I marked down as either hilarious or just beautifully-phrased. So for those who don't mind a slow-moving plot, a bit of unnecessary worldbuilding, but who love a beautifully-written story and/or the Victorian setting, this is just the book.

Inherit The Stars by Tessa Elwood - Despite the overwhelming amount of information to take in right off the bat, Inherit The Stars was one of the biggest surprises of this edition of Buzz Books for me. This compelling science fiction story reminded me of exactly nothing I'd read before - which is about the best thing about sci-fi where I am concerned. Though these first handful of pages probably ought to be read a few times to fully understand the world and how each part relates to another, in the grand scheme of things the premise is  intriguing and I think I'll probably request this as a full ARC.

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle - The Accident Season has so far been marketed as a new We Were Liars. Based on this brief excerpt, the only similarity to We Were Liars lies in the fact that the plot appears to concern a family, and not just one specific member of said family. But the similarities stop here. Having said that, there is something compelling about a premise where one can't quite distinguish whether it's meant to be a contemporary or a paranormal read on the whole. A family which suddenly becomes accident-prone once a year, to the point of deaths? An accident season meant to be one of the worst ever "foretold" for this year? Intrigue.

Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski - Exactly nothing happens in this excerpt... and it's kind of captivating. Based on the synopsis, Nightfall promises to be an eerie post-apocalyptic sort of thriller, where a group of friends are left behind after their entire community flees before the creatures of the night to distant shores. And while the excerpt doesn't offer much in terms of plot, it does plenty to establish a haunting, uncertain atmosphere which matches the synopsis perfectly. For this alone, I might consider this as a full ARC. The concept is just too eerie for me to pass up.

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler - The synopsis of this book promises to tackle the subject of rape in a high-school setting. As such, it is very likely not going to be an easy read. At times, I was left wondering why this seemingly unrelated protagonist was telling the story instead of the rape victim herself, only to be reminded by the title. As another story in this Buzz Books collection (A Step Toward Falling), this story explores the bystander phenomenon and complicity through silence and a failure to act to help others in times of crisis. While I wasn't sucked into the story by any means, I do recognize that this will be an important book once it is released, and one everyone should read, if only for the benefit of lessons learned.

Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman - It's invariably a bad sign when one can't make their way through an entire excerpt and finds themselves skimming the last few pages - which is exactly what happened to me with Legacy of Kings. Based on the premise alone (Alexander the Great re-imagined in a YA setting!), the expectations might have been running too high. Whatever the cause was, Legacy of Kings was much too slow for me, disproportionately focused on slow worldbuilding and unnecessary detail. The King summons his son to his chambers for a talk. After about 10 pages of endless descriptions of everything around them, the king actually talks. Not a good sign for things to come in this book. This is where my expectations were let down a considerable amount.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - Illuminae is not just a sci-fi story - it's one told entirely in reports, interviews, excerpts, pictures, web articles and various files displayed throughout the book. Already hailed as one of the most anticipated books of the year, this brief insight into Illuminae combined the best of action-packed sci-fi with the best of original storytelling methods. And I am absolutely requesting it as an ARC.

This Raging Light by Estelle Laure - Oh, holy uniqueness. Centering on two girls whose parents are suddenly gone from their lives, This Raging Light may not have the most original of plots. But it's told in such an incredibly unique, lyrical narrative that it made me incredibly sad to see the excerpt end (and then promptly request the entire ARC). When older sister Lucille realizes that their mother had abandoned her and her younger sister, she realizes it is up to her to step into a role of guardian prematurely and take care of them both... even as she finds herself falling in love with her best friend's brother and fending off tricky questions about their living situation. No shortage of believable, well-rounded characters here.

Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom - The crowning jewel of this story, in my opinion, is the protagonist's voice. It would be entirely too easy to fall into a Mary Sue woe-is-me trap when narrating from a blind protagonist's point of view. This blind protagonist, however, is snarky and sassy and sometimes downright condescending (and knows it). The excerpt didn't offer much in terms of plot - in fact, the inciting incident hadn't even happened by the end of it - but it did entertain me enough to make me wonder what happens in the rest of the story.

A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern - Another YA Contemporary about school violence. This, too, was a pretty uneventful excerpt, in no way indicative of what's to come, if the synopsis is to be believed. The two scornful protagonists are assigned to work together in a center for youth with disabilities as punishment for not stopping an attack on a girl with disabilities in their school despite having been witnesses to it. Presumably in the book, this center will be a transformative experience. In the excerpt, the two do little else but sulk, so it was hard to get the feel for the book as a whole.

A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz - This was easily the biggest disappointment of the collection for me personally. As a fan of fantasy and a particular fan of unique/different writing styles, I'd wholly expected to enjoy this story about wars between fairies, goblins and the like. The exhausting run-on sentences, an incredibly slow narrative full of repetition, however, put me off entirely. This (relatively long) excerpt mostly ruminated on one and the same over and over again, and was phrased so strangely that half the sentences didn't even make sense to me. I'd been prepared to love it. But I didn't.

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy - Dumplin' is everything it promises to be - a YA story about a fat girl (she insists on "fat", by the way) entering a beauty contest, which will doubtless result in a body-positive message, set to the tone of Dolly Parton lyrics in the deep south. If that sounds like your sort of thing, or if you're a fan of doubtlessly diverting plots, then I suggest you go for it. As for me personally, this story excerpt neither appealed nor repelled me. It was just very quickly forgotten.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness - As one of my most anticipated books of 2015, this excerpt was the primary draw for me when it came to this Buzz Books collection as a whole. And if there's one thing to be said about Patrick Ness, it's that he never tells the same story twice... or in the same way. With chapters which briefly reflect on "bigger picture battles" which other, indie kids are fighting, The Rest of Us Just Live Here instead tells a story of the kids who just live amid the fantastical battles and end-of-the-world scenarios, but instead choose to worry about families, prom and friends, and allow the heroes to save the day. The excerpt didn't offer too much insight into the story as a whole given how brief it was, but Patrick Ness's writing will always appeal to me, and I can't wait to read this book in its entirety.

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp - Told from four alternating points of view, This Is Where It Ends is a story about a school shooting where each of the four protagonists seems to be inextricably linked to the shooter - and have very good reason to fear him. Features two girlfriends who are facing two different kinds of tickets out of town; a resident troublemaker who's out to protect his sister; and a track star and aspiring cadet. This entire excerpt takes place before the actual shooting begins, but hints at ties and links to the perpetrator each of the characters has. For those interested in (currently popular) YA Contemporary novels about school violence, this seems like a book to pick up.

Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver - This Middle Grade story follows an orphan foursome, each with their own unique talent, who meet at a Museum of Freaks, Oddities and Wonders. Despite the promise of a stolen shrunken head (doesn't that sound just bizarre enough to work?), the Buzz Books excerpt is limited to the three orphans who have grown up in the Museum joined by a fourth who is about to chart a new course for them all. Her name is Mackenzie, she likes to be called Max, and in her spare time, she throws knives very precisely. If anyone call tell this story as it ought to be told, it's Lauren Oliver. And judging by the premise, interesting times are ahead.

Are You Still There by Sarah Lynn Scheerger - One of the (many) YA Contemporaries about high-school violence, this one about a girl whose school is threatened by an anonymous bomber. Apart from the initial bomb threat, not much happened in this excerpt as a whole, and I very quickly forgot most of its relevant points. The somewhat somber tone set the mood nicely for the rest of the story, however. But mostly, this was just okay for me.

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith - I would recognize Jennifer E. Smith's plot everywhere. You know it by a lot of (cute) things happening between a couple in a short span of time, usually propelled by an impulsive decision or an accident, and resulting in all manner of lessons learned. And in that vein, this excerpt was classic Jennifer E. Smith. It promises an interesting story on the whole - one where we genuinely care about the characters before we even really know what hit us. I intend to give this a read once it's been released.

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon - This was an expectedly fun premise, and an unexpectedly compelling one at that. By the end of a short excerpt, I was invested in the character(s) and the story that was about to unfold. For all intents and purposes, Everything, Everything seems to be an adorable lovechild of Bubble Boy and My Life Next Door.





These and similar compilations of excerpts or short stories are amazing for one thing, though - book slumps. Even if you don't find anything you like in a collection of this size, chances are you'll still discover what sort of (sub)genre you're in the mood for. If you have any questions about this collection, or you wish to leave your own review for us to read, leave us a comment below or find us on social media:




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