My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp ( web | tweet )
Published March 3, 2015 by Little, Brown
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: summer after graduation, small town, family secrets, alcoholism, religion
Format read: Borrowed from the library
Summary: After graduating from her small Virginia high school, Lulu is set to leave her hometown for college in California but when her dad loses the money that was going to send her there, she is desperate to find a Plan B. With her best friends and Mason, a mysterious older boy, she leads the charge to cash in on an illegal moonshine venture.
If only everything went according to plan, right? High school graduate Lulu is ready to escape her small town living and head to California for college, but the very same person who motivated her to dream big is the same person holding her back. Her dad has spent the money meant for her college education and now she’s forced to stay in town with her crumbling mom, the same friends, and no idea what to do with her future.
Lulu’s not going to let her dad’s carelessness and selfishness get her down. When a moonshine still is dropped off at the junkyard she currently works, it plants a seed that launches into one big, crazy plan — dive into the illegal world of making moonshine and selling it. It might not be lucrative but it will make her the money she needs. She ropes in her best friend, Roni, and her boyfriend, and, by some kind of luck, Mason — part of a long line of moonshiners — happens to fold into her life at the right time. He has the knowledge and the connections, and helps this plan along (at times, apprehensively).
My Best Everything is Lulu’s story, and Sarah Tomp writes it as if Lulu is talking directly to Mason. Even though they are complete opposites, they totally bond during the summer and slowly fall in love. Mason is the first teenage recovering alcoholic I’ve met in a young adult book, and his struggle to ignore his demons paired with Lulu’s first foray into experimentation makes for an interesting parallel. Lulu goes from someone who goes on “Daddy dates” and takes weekly confessions at the church to someone who is questioning her relationship with God and all she’s been told about abstinence. I really enjoyed these moments. It’s ironic how the small town she is so desperate to leave still (unexpectedly) provides her with so much that last summer.
The small town girl wanting to leave the confines of her home for a bigger world isn’t a new story. We’ve heard it time and time again, but Tomp made it her own with intricate detail, a solid best friendship, and a main character who wants so badly to think the best of people and make the most of herself.
Boys Don’t Knit by T.S. Easton ( web | tweet )
Published March 24, 2015 by Feiwel & Friends
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: knitting, friendships, family, outcasts
Format read: ARC paperback from Publisher (Thanks!)
Summary: Paranoid, overthinker Ben gets caught in a scheme that he didn’t want to be a part of and he’s forced to take a class and serve the community — which leads him to a surprising hobby: knitting.
Talk about utterly charming. Ben, like so many people I know — ahem myself — gets very stressed out. Stressed about his kind of shitty friends, how his dad’s not the best parent when his mom is off traveling for work, the girl he likes — all the basic kind of stuff. But when he gets punished for a scheme his friends thought up and he got roped into, all of his stress elevates to a new level. He’s required to keep a journal, take a class, and even do some community service which leads him to a knitting class and forced servitude for a notoriously mean crossing guard.
When Ben starts his knitting class, he has no idea he is 1) going to like it so much 2) be actually pretty good at it — like one of the best in his class. Suddenly, he’s visiting the yarn shop, reading knitting magazines, and listening to podcasts about it too. Unfortunately, he’s afraid of getting made fun of by his friends and, most importantly, his dad, who is constantly trying to get him interested in sports. Few people know about his new passion, and while knitting does alleviate his stress and allow him to think more clearly, he knows he’s digging himself into a new hole of trouble. Eventually he’s going to get found out.
T.S. Easton did a great job here of chatting about how certain hobbies are broken down by gender without preaching how we need to be more lenient with these “rules”. Who the hell cares what makes us happy? Why shouldn’t we be able to do what we want? Especially when that one thing makes us ridiculously happy. Ben does a lot of growing because of this “punishment” and he forces people to look beyond how they think the world should be and show them there’s so much more beyond the frustrating boundaries that permeate our culture.
I laughed, I smiled, and I may have even drawn a tear. Such a fantastic read!
Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham ( web | tweet )
Published May 19, 2015 by Little, Brown/Poppy
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: mystery, family secrets, ancient curses
Format read: ARC paperback from Publisher. (Thanks!)
Summary: Scarlett has graduated high school early, and spends her time keeping her town safe by fighting crime. Her latest client — a young kid — sets her on a course she’s not expecting — uncovering her own family secrets.
I’ve never watched Veronica Mars so I won’t be much help with that comparison but what I can tell you is that Scarlett Undercover features one of the most fearless, kick ass female characters I’ve read in awhile. Many times, while I was reading, I forgot she was actually a teenager. In ways it makes sense. She lost her father and her mother. Her closest family is her perpetually busy sister, who is studying to be a doctor. But Scarlett is pretty much running her own detective business and her newest client — Gemma — shows off her protective side as much as it does the side of her that enjoys solving puzzles and helping people.
I can’t give away too much but Gemma’s initial plea to uncover why her older brother has changed so drastically and his role in someone’s suicide turns into a mission that hits all too close to home. Riveting because the story touches on so much of Scarlett’s Muslim roots, the plot builds up a steady momentum but wrapped up a little too quickly — especially for how dangerous everything turned. As another bright side, Scarlett has a subtly flirtatious relationship with her best friend, Deck, that I loved from the get-go.
Diversity, mystery, and strong leading lady = very fun read for me.