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April 16, 2024

3 Young Adult Novels to Read

by MK French

Young adult fiction is popular with readers of all ages. If you are a fan of young adult fiction, then you will want to add these books to your reading list.

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

Merciless Saviors by H. E. Edgmon

book cover of young adult novel Merciless Saviors by HE Edgmon
April 2024; Wednesday Books; 978-1250853639
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); young adult

Gem Echols had been betrayed and forced to use the Ouroboros knife, and now has the powers of the God of Air. It wouldn't have been so bad if Gem wasn't already the reincarnation of the Magician, because now the power of the Gods is thrown out of whack. Gem, Rory, and Enzo search for a way to restore the balance without sacrificing themselves, new horrors make them question how far they're willing to go.

In this sequel to Godly Heathens, we pick up where the first book left off. Nonbinary Gem had realized they were the reincarnation of the Magician, who had done incredible trickery to escape into our world. Gem and several of the people they know are these reincarnations, as they all gravitate toward each other in our world. Using the Ouroboros knife would be able to sever connections, but killing a god means taking on their power. Gem had been an impulsive and emotional teen, and for all that they tried to push people away and isolate themselves. Now we see the consequences of their actions.

With power unbalanced, death doesn't quite stick and Poppy can raise zombies. Rory can not only control land but animals as well and makes them spread. Enzo as the Shade can make forbidden things, but even that goes awry, too. This volume is a bloody violent mess, with gods dying, the specter of abuse in Gem's past, and the Ether in disarray. Body horror elements and the literal manifestations of grief and suffering abound. Gem continually says they're not a good person, they don't deserve to be loved, and they are a monster. They are selfish, as teenagers can be, as omnipotent gods never told no can be. But those are also the tortured emotions of a traumatized child who didn't believe that they could deserve better. 

Gem is truly at their worst here, and is forced to contend with the poor choices the Magician made, as well as their own darker side. It's only by confronting that past and letting go of it that Gem can heal, which would allow the Ether to heal, as well as the rest of the pantheon. It's a messy path, often a literal bloodbath in the Ether, but shows that unconditional love and understanding is usually the first step in becoming whole again.

Buy Merciless Saviors at Amazon

Kill Her Twice by Stacey Lee

book cover of young adult historical fiction
April 2024; G.P. Putnam's Sons; 978-0593532041
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); historical mystery

In 1932, Los Angeles, Lulu Wong is a famous actress and the pride of Chinatown. May, Gemma, and Peony Chow are Lulu’s former classmates and neighbors. The sisters recognize Lulu when they discover a body and suspect foul play, but the police aren't motivated to investigate. Signs point to a cover-up, and factions want to frame the killing as evidence that Chinatown is a den of iniquity and crime, and should be demolished. The Chow sisters are determined to solve the murder and save their neighborhood. With Lulu’s killer still at large, the investigation likely will catch the murderer's attention.

May is the oldest and more filial of the Chow girls, while Gemma often charges ahead and is more outgoing. Peony is the youngest at twelve, and of a similar age to Lulu's younger sister, while Lulu's was older than May and encouraging her to get into acting as well. The two families were close before Lulu's fame, so the sisters feel obligated to look into her death, especially when they are the ones to find her and call the police. Police looked for an easy way out, but the girls use their friendships and connections in the community to ask around for hints as to what may have happened, and Gemma isn't above lying and pretending to be Lulu's sister to get clues. They get far closer together than the police intended, and find out a lot more about Lulu's final days they think.

I enjoyed the red herrings placed along the way, the details about Chinatown of the period, and the way the sisters bonded through the search. Their personality differences may have clashed at times, but they complement each other's strengths and pulled together in the tense finale. This is a fantastic noir mystery novel. 

Buy Kill Her Twice at Amazon

What's Eating Jackie Oh? by Patricia Park

book cover of young adult novel What's Eating Jackie O? by Patricia Park
April 2024; Crown Books; 978-0593563410
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); young adult

Jackie is tired of living up to her Korean American parents' Ivy League dreams. She wants to be a professional chef and works at her grandparents' Midtown Manhattan deli. It's one of the few places she can get away from her stresses. When she gets a spot on a teen cooking show, it feels like a dream come true. But there are teen stars, gimmicky challenges, and different kinds of stress that make it very hard to be who she really is.

The model minority myth states that Asians are quiet, work hard, study all the time, and get into good schools to get high-paying jobs. Not every Asian child meets this standard, which is impossibly high and has led to additional classes and cram schools on weekends or summers. The children who don't fulfill this standard, including Jackie's own brother, are shunned and never talked about again, as if they don't exist. Jackie's dream of being a chef is seen as a throwback to her immigrant grandparents who had no other choice than to cook in order to pay bills. Even her close friend studies all the time to get into an Ivy League college and doesn't understand her love of food and flavors. The barely suppressed rage in Jackie is one that many teens feel once they're trapped in dreams that others have for them, but she's expected to swallow it down and follow the plan that will make her and her family look good.

We see the behind-the-scenes look at the cooking show, which is extra fun if you love watching cooking game shows already. Producers try to get tidbits to air on TV, some contestants try to psych each other out, and it's difficult to get past the challenges every week. Jackie's mother is with her as a chaperone, and eventually, the two are forced to talk. It's enough to put a crack in the wall between them, enough to give Jackie and us hope that they can build a better relationship going forward. She even says that she learns more about her mother in ten minutes than in all of her prior years. This leads her to be more open when dealing with her friends.

Of course, there are challenges along the way, including trying to showcase who she is rather than what the judges seem to expect her to be. She's dealing with a lot, even without the references to hate that Asian Americans received during the height of the pandemic. I really enjoyed Jackie and her perspective and saw a lot of myself in her. Certain scenes really came close to home, and you don't have to have had the same background to understand the stresses that she was under and the need for her own purpose.

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. I put Kill Her Twice on my TBR list. I love mysteries! Thanks for the suggestion.