Readers' Favorite

November 4, 2021

5 New Books for Young Adult Readers

by MK French

The holidays are coming up and if you have an avid reading teen, then you are probably already trying to find just the right book to put under the tree. Or perhaps you need something to keep them entertained during the holiday breaks. Either way, I have a few books you can get now for entertainment and others coming out a little later this month that you can put back for the holidays.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

A Girl From Forever by Yolanda McCarthy

A Girl From Forever
August 2021; Indie; 979-8546077921
ebook, print (290 pages); dystopian

Fern has lived inside the secretive Forever Institute in London her entire life. They had given her a body that can’t age and psychic powers if she can learn to access them, as well as a purpose for the future of humanity. Fern isn’t told the details, but she’s sure it will all work out. When a psychic from outside the Institute contacts her, it throws everything she’s ever known into question. Who can she really trust?

We start with Fern’s POV as she leaves the Institute to meet Rehan, and that’s when she first realizes that the supervisors at the Institute lie. From there we flash backward, which felt a little awkwardly done. There’s bound to be smoother ways of introducing life in the Institute and Fern’s name than a prolonged flashback sequence after an action-packed first chapter. That technique reminded me more of the anime series that starts in the middle, goes to the beginning, then works their way slowly to the present. It doesn’t feel fluid here, and the way Fern’s thoughts jump around doesn’t feel natural, either.

That being said, I liked seeing that Fern was so brave even in the face of uncertainty and danger. She is loyal to those she believes are her friends, and is willing to help those less fortunate than she is. Those are all admirable traits. As she continues to go through London, there are some situations she is unprepared for, such as a random guy she meets that only wants sex, or finding out that there are even more lies involved around the Institute and the terrorist organization she fears. There are side trips and backtracking several times, likely because she’s seventeen and has no idea how to live outside the confines of the Forever Institute. For that matter, neither do the other teens in her program when they track her down.

The plot is interesting and the fight/battle scenes are pretty good. Otherwise, it feels like a lot of characters are introduced and then discarded randomly; while this happens all the time in real life, it doesn’t work well in a novel. This story is complete at least, with a teaser for the next novel to complete the story of the Forever Institute.

Buy The Girl From Forever at Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for FREE)

Lies My Memory Told Me by Sacha Wunsch

Lies My Memory Told Me
October 2021;  Inkyard Press; 978-1335018274
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); science fiction

Enhanced Memory, developed by Nova's parents, allow people to learn new skills almost instantly, travel the world, share memories, and learn anything. Nova feels this is a gift, even as Kade vlogs about the dangers of Enhanced Memory. He's afraid of her, though she's most comfortable with him, and over time Nova realizes that people won't meet her eyes, no one wants her to ask questions, and she has the nagging feeling that she's forgotten something.

It's a fascinating concept, and of course soon after we're introduced to it via Nova in the prologue. Of course, its benefits include learning new information or skills and safely experiencing things. There's so much stress on the benefits of using EM, but we see how much time her parents are absorbed in its development, and then the possibility of addiction is brought up. We also see how people aren't trying to develop new memories or experience the real world for themselves anymore. There's such fear of getting hurt, of experiencing loss, or fear or pain.

As the novel progresses, the mystery surrounding Kade's fears, her parents' behavior, and Nova's exposure to EM deepens. It's fascinating, and we really see the consequences of new technology as it evolves faster than people realize or laws can regulate. On top of that, Nova's own memory is suspect, and Kade isn't as unnecessarily paranoid as he seemed at first. I was drawn into the second half of the book especially because of this and loved how all the threads were neatly tied together at the end. This is a great book and really makes you think about memory, experience, and what matters most in life.

Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

The Skin of the Sea
November 2021; Random House; 978-0593120941
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); mermaid fiction

Simi from the start is different from her mermaid sisters, as she recalls her past as a human in flashes, and isn't able to let it be. This drives the story forward, as she saves a human instead of merely waiting for him to drown and take his soul. Because it's not what her role is meant to be, she must beg forgiveness from the Creator and avoid his messenger, who is seeking to gain more power.

I've always been fascinated with mythology, and this incorporates orisas, other spiritual and mythological creatures, and the Little Mermaid framework that most people are aware of. Simi is drawn to Kola and is focused on her drive to find the rings that will allow her to speak to the Creator Olodumare and beg forgiveness. The rings are tied to Kola's need to return home, and ultimately the safety of the world and the people living in it. You really feel her desperation and the care she has for the Mami Wata, Kola, his family, and the mortals trying to survive, as well as for life in general. Esu's menace is a palpable thing, heightening the dread as they all move to find the rings before he does.

It's later in the book when Simi says the line that names the novel: "When you peel back the skin of the sea, you never know what you will find." This is certainly true of the characters, especially Simi, and the drives of the orisas and even the histories that the people and the supernatural know. The journey is treacherous, and losses along the way are rapid and heartbreaking when they come. Honestly, I was surprised by the ending even though I probably shouldn't have been. Simi does what she says she will, and honors tradition and duty as much as her own heart. She comes into herself as a mami wata, and from the start shows a willingness to sacrifice and endure in order to get the job done. She's a strong young woman, and I enjoyed her journey in this novel.

Buy Skin of the Sea at Amazon

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

You Can Go Your Own Way
November 2021; Inkyard Press; 978-1335405685
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); romantic comedy

Adam Stillwater wants to protect the pinball arcade his father worked so hard for, but Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul wants to turn it into another gaming café. Whitney Mitchell is stuck running social media for her father's chain of super successful gaming cafés in a senior year complicated by her parents' divorce and her boyfriend leaving. When Adam and Whitney are trapped inside the arcade during a snowstorm, they form a connection. Will it last when the storm stops?

We meet Adam and Whitney when they're both stuck in their usual routines: Adam spends all of his free time at the arcade trying to fix things when others break them, and Whitney is handling the cafe's social media account in the middle of a party. Adam won't even think about college, not seriously, and all of his energy is spent fixing pinball machines or taking jabs at the cafe on Twitter. Whitney misses her boyfriend after he breaks it off, but that forces her to realize that her friends weren't really girls that cared about her, only what she could do for them. Adam and Whitney used to be friends before his father died and his grief isolated him, and Whitney's drive to succeed and be noticed meant that it was difficult for her to keep bridging the gap between them. That's part of the sniping on social media, and something that most of the shops in the area know about. As much as Philadelphia is a large city, the Old Town area is close knit enough that everyone bands together and knows each other.

I liked the smooth transitions between the main story and the Twitter threads recreated in the book. It reflects the voices of these two teens, and I enjoyed the blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to Eric's prior book "Don't Read The Comments," which is another YA book involving gaming and social media presence. It's not necessary to have read that one to understand this, as they're entirely two separate books that only have Philadelphia in common. Both Adam and Whitney have the need to connect with their fathers, using the only way they know how. The hurts in families can't always be fixed right away, even if it's unintentional; the living always are left with the fallout of grief, and it's hard to let go of those ties. For Whitney, the emotional abandonment is clear for the reader to see, even if her father doesn't.

The push and pull of Adam and Whitney here is realistic, as they're former friends reconnecting and maybe having a physical attraction. The larger problem of their families' needs still looms large, and can't be ignored because they're seventeen and still very strongly affected by those concerns. There's no easy fix for them, but there's still that hopeful note at the end. Painful ties don't have to be maintained, and memories don't always have to be painful. Moving forward while still honoring the past is a goal we should all have, and I have every hope for Adam and Whitney to figure it out as they go. I enjoyed meeting them in this slice of their lives and being part of that journey.

You've Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

You've Reached Sam
November 2021; Wednesday Books; 978-1250762030
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); romance

Julie was supposed to move out of her small town for college with her boyfriend Sam, but he died in a car accident. Somehow, she can still reach him through her phone. As she spends all her time with him, she spends less and less with others. If she explains the connection she has with Sam, she might lose him forever, and she's not ready for that.

The concept of talking with the dead isn't a new one, but to talk with them through cell phones certainly puts a modern twist to it. Julie goes from talking to Sam on the phone for hours, missing all the things about her senior year of high school that she used to care about. She avoids friends, stays alone in her room, and the connections with friends, family, and Sam's family fray. Once she engages with the outside world, the connection with Sam starts to fray instead. This sets up the clear choice: Sam or the outside world.

This novel follows Julie through the stages of grief, using the supernatural connection through the phone as a way to give her closure. It's a heartfelt and tender story and one that will help others in their own journeys through grief.

Buy You've Reached Sam at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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  1. All but the first one are books I've had on my radar. Now I'll have to check out that first one too!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  2. I really liked Sam, and I have been quite curious about the others on your list, too! I have been hearing a ton abou You Can Go Your Own Way (which gets the song stuck in my head heh) so I will definitely need to get to it!