Young Adult Books & After High School

When I first picked when I Was Here by Gayle Forman (my review) a few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to learn the main characters had graduated from high school with one of them attending a college away from home and the other going a completely different route. I realized that I’ve always been surprised when young adult characters are in college and it’s not because it doesn’t fit into the “criteria” for young adult books but because there are so few of them.

In writing this post, I found myself googling: What is young adult literature? (This is almost laughable since it’s the primary category I read so you would think I would know, but, technically, I find it hard to explain.) I really liked this explanation from Michael Cart on the ALA website:

The term “young adult literature” is inherently amorphous, for its constituent terms “young adult” and “literature” are dynamic, changing as culture and society — which provide their context — change.

…young adults are beings in evolution, in search of self and identity; beings who are constantly growing and changing, morphing from the condition of childhood to that of adulthood. That period of passage called “young adulthood” is a unique part of life, distinguished by unique needs that are – at minimum — physical, intellectual, emotional, and societal in nature.

Frankly, I can’t think of a greater period of evolution in your life than the unknown associated with life after throwing your caps in the air and waving goodbye to high school. For me, personally, the summer after graduation and the years that followed led to some of the best, most difficult, super strange moments in my life so it’s cathartic to see them on the page, relive them again with a bit more life experience under my belt and realize, well, hey, that sucked but I’m here and I’m okay.

So today I’m applauding the books that tough upon the messy complications of college, navigating a life with high school friends and the new ones you are going to make, and, perhaps, what happens if your life moves you in a different direction — one that isn’t filled with books and beer pong and sharing a room with a stranger.

(Our options are truly endless.)

The best part in creating this list is that a good majority of these titles have been floating under the radar. Nothing makes me more excited than giving them a bit more attention in sharing them with you. PLUS a nice chunk of these are 2015 releases, making it, I think, a pretty exciting year in YA lit. I hope you find a few to add to your own reading list, and think up a few that I can add to mine.

Rather Be Reading Blog Beyond High School Young Adult Book List


I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Amplified by Tara Kelly | Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally
Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty | Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Girls in Pants by Ann Brashares | How to Love by Katie Cotugno
I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios | Love, Lucy by April Lindner

Roomies by Tara Altebrando & Sara Zarr | Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard | When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

99 Days by Katie Cotugno


Thanks so much for stopping in today! I had a blast with this one.
(It’s very rare that a list like this contains so many of my favorite books. ♥)

Top Ten Tuesday: Tough Subject Books

I’m pretty drawn to tough subject books. I scoured my Goodreads lists and narrowed it down to these FIFTEEN tough subject books instead of ten. (Bonus reads!) Obviously I didn’t follow the rules very well. Some of these were harder than others, but they all have aspects of them that really open your eyes to some difficult-to-discuss topics. If you have recommendations for me, I’d love to know what you suggest I add to my TBR.

I broke these down into a few topics and added brief notes for why they were difficult. No spoilers included. All links go to either a review on Rather Be Reading or Goodreads so you can check out the summaries.



young adult books about bullying recommendation

  1. Rites of Passage — bullying, sexism, hazing
  2. Tease — teen suicide, bullying
  3. If I Lie — knowing the secret truth about characters, bullying, ass-hat father
  4. Some Girls Are — bullying. bullying. bullying. stupid high school.



young adult books with difficult topics, circumstances, and uncomfortable relationships

  1. The Tragedy Paper — albino character, seclusion, longing after an unavailable girl
  2. Ketchup Clouds — written to a prisoner, hidden identity of main character
  3. The Lucy Variations — uncomfortable relationship with an adult, parents dictating every move
  4. When You Were Here — loss of a parent, misuse of prescription pills, loss of sense of self
  5. Small Town Sinners — discovering one’s own religious beliefs apart from what parents have taught you to believe
  6. Room — being held hostage, abuse, kidnap, written from the POV of a 5 year old



young adult books about sex, mental and sexual abuse, and pregnancy

  1. Where the Stars Still Shine — mental/emotional abuse MC suffered from mother’s instability
  2. Please Ignore Vera Dietz – implicit sexual fetish, death of a friend, crumbling friendship
  3. Me, Him, Them, & It — teen pregnancy + working through the decision to keep, abort, or give up the baby for adoption
  4. Uses for Boys — language + actual way it was written, but also sexually explicit, borderline uncomfortable for me — sex isn’t described as overly poetic and is raw and often very in-your-face
  5. Live Through This — sexual abuse by a relative, mental instability of the MC who questions right from wrong



Which of these books was most difficult for you to read?
What tough subject book recommendations do you have for me?

Sweet Summertime Reads: When You Were Here Gift Pack

Sweet Summertime Reads - Summer Beach Reads Feature with Fiction Folio and GReads!

Can you believe there’s only two weeks left of our Sweet Summertime Reads series with Ginger and Tara? It’s been such a fun summer of new ideas, summer loving, and it’s crazy that it’s about to come to a close. I’m going solo today with this post but it is totally inspired by Magan’s affection for When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney.

I’ve been trying to do a better job of balancing books for review, books I own, and most importantly, getting to books that Magan reviews and loves. Well, after buying When You Were Here on its release day, I finally read it last week and absolutely loved it. It was  so touching, so well written, and I loved the switch in setting from California to Tokyo.

After reading, I felt inspired to do our first themed gift pack post in a long time. There were so many fun details in Whitney’s book and I hope seeing them in a collection will inspire you to pick up this novel sooner rather than later. I’ve been on a reading roll lately, and When You Were Here was one of the standouts of the bunch.


When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney Themed Gift Pack: a few little things that make up the fun details of this YA novel from June 2013, part of Sweet Summertime reads.

Maki My Day Earrings: Traveling to Tokyo means eating a lot of raw fish. I think it’s pretty self-explanatory but Danny’s mom’s best friend (Kate, who is also his unofficial guardian) loves to collect plastic pieces of sushi. I think these earrings are just hilarious and so quirky.

Buddha Statue: There’s a certain level of spirituality to this story. As Danny discovers more about his mother’s way of dealing with her disease, he must seek his own peace and also finds out about more and more about hers. (It also made me think of; do you follow this website? It’s super motivating and calming!)

Colorful socks: I love the supporting characters in When You Were Here especially Kana (the daughter of the landlord in  Tokyo). She becomes Danny’s friend and tour guide, and is such a vibrant character. I loved her outgoing personality (all of her clothes), how important Danny’s mom was to her, and how she was determined to make her own plans when high school was over. Their partnership was great to watch unfold. (ha! That’s a punny joke about socks… almost.)

Green tea:  The Japanese teahouse is one of Danny’s main destinations when he gets to Tokyo. He knows his mom spent a lot of time there, and he wants to know why. Did she think that the tea would cure her? Jasmine green tea is one of my favorites. It’s super relaxing and tastes nice on a cold morning.

Lilacs: When I was young, our neighbor used to have a lilac bush and I was obsessed with the smell. It’s still one of my favorites, and I’m not even a fan of flowers much. Danny’s mom LOVED lilacs. The smell, the look, everything and he is constantly reminded of her when he comes in contact with them.

Stationary: When I visited Magan in Texas, we talked a lot about how nice it is to receive a handwritten card from friends every now and then. It’s so true. Notes are very sentimental to Danny’s mom, and also help him to piece together what Danny wants to find out about his mom when he’s visiting Tokyo. (I also love PaperSource. This website is full of the cutest things.)

Dog Magnets: Talk about man’s best friend. Danny’s dog, Sandy Koulfax, is one of the best animal characters in a book I’ve ever read. It’s true. The connection between them was depicted so realistically, and I could just tell how much they loved each other. I could not put together this gift pack without mention good old Sandy K. (Who was a big help in finding ladies for Danny’s friends too.)


Be sure to add When You Were Here to your Goodreads account, check out Magan’s review, or go and buy it already. This book is perfect to read during the summer because it’s about those months after graduation and before Danny jumps into college — such an important time of self-discovery, especially as he mourns the loss of his mom. Whitney has written such a touching, genuine, and surprisingly fast-paced story with brilliant supporting characters and a lot of heart. (I read it in a day if that tells you anything.)

Thanks for following today + be sure to check out what Ginger and Tara are up to for Sweet Summertime Reads!

book review of When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

Magan: When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

book review of When You Were Here by Daisy WhitneyWhen You Were Here by Daisy Whitney (twitter | website)
Publication Date
: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown
Pages: 264
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: loss of a parent, grief, Tokyo, relationships that don’t end well
Format read: ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley. (Thank you!)
Other Books Read by the Author: The Mockingbirds (a joint review)

Summary: Just a few short years after the loss of his father, Danny’s mom dies a few weeks shy of his high school graduation from the cancer she’s been battling. Danny is lonely and seeking answers; he goes to Tokyo to learn more about his mom’s last few months, treatments, and to seek peace after his unexplained break-up from his girlfriend, Holland.

Very, very thankfully I haven’t had to work through a parental loss. I can’t imagine what Danny must have been feeling when at 18, he finds himself without both parents. His father passed away after a freak accident in Japan a few years prior. Present day he’s reeling from the loss of his mother who passed away after a long battle with cancer, one month shy of his high school graduation. Further complicating his family dynamic, he and his (adopted, older) sister aren’t necessarily on good terms. Understandably, Danny is feeling very alone and lost.

He would turn to his best friend Holland for help and a listening ear, but Danny started dating her last year and then she completely cut off communication shortly after leaving for college. Even though she’s back home for the summer, things just aren’t the same. Danny and Holland can easily slip back into their witty banter, but Danny feels guarded because he’s still deeply in love with Holland. Without answers and a huge helping of honesty, he just can’t let things go back to the way they were.

To clear his mind, let go of Holland, and seek answers to burning questions he’s got about his mom’s passing, Danny takes off for Tokyo. His parents owned a house there and they frequently visited as a family. Danny’s mom visited Tokyo often throughout her last months for treatment and he feels speaking to her doctor will give him peace about why she couldn’t make it one more month to see him walk across the stage. He also must decide what to do with their family condo now that he’s inherited it. Kana, daughter of their property’s landlord, becomes his tour guide as he follows in his mother’s last footsteps.

When You Were Here was full of absolutely all of my favorite things — a deep, emotional story, shocking twists and turns that left me needing to collect my thoughts, and a journey to a new place that made me want to catch the first flight to Tokyo. Whitney’s writing was as beautiful as ever, and Danny’s voice was so spot on. He was full of humor that he used to protect himself from feeling all the pain he was going through. He was confused and in need of someone to protect him from more bad things happening.

There’s a major, major plot twist that made me gasp when I read through the scene. HOLY CRAP! — I was so stunned and silenced. I needed time to walk away and think about how I felt. Guys, that doesn’t happen often. Whitney made me feel like Danny’s life was real and I was being asked to lend a helping hand or offer advice. Hopefully you’ll feel the same protectiveness over Danny that I did; after I closed the book, I felt this spoke volumes for Whitney’s writing — she has an uncanny ability to make me want to take care of all her characters. (I felt the same way when I read The Mockingbirds.)

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Goodreads | Amazon | Why I Want to Visit Tokyo Now | Nail Polish Selections for the WYWH Cover


BONUS: Daisy Whitney has another book coming out this fall, Starry Nights.
Don’t forget to add it to your TBR shelf on Goodreads!

Sweet Summertime Reads - Summer Beach Reads Feature with Fiction Folio and GReads!

Sweet Summertime Reads: The Bookish Places We Would Go

Sweet Summertime Reads - Summer Beach Reads Feature

Welcome to our first post for Sweet Summertime Reads, a feature we’re co-hosting with Tara at Fiction Folio and Ginger at GReads! Ginger kicked us off yesterday with a trip to the beach and a giveaway of Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen. (Go enter!) Today we’re taking you to two places we’ve both read about and are inspired to go visit now. What better time than summer, right?


I’m not going to lie. I wanted to pick up Sarah Strohmeyer’s How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True because it was set in a theme park. I know theme park vacations are not for everyone but for almost every summer since I turned 13 and until I was 21, my parents, sister, and I would spend about 10 glorious days in Walt Disney World. In August.

Yes, it was hot. Yes, it was sometimes crowded. But I kid you not: you can do a Walt Disney World vacation and still relax. These are most definitely my happiest summer memories.

How Zoe Made Her Dreams Come True Traveling to Theme Parks Walt Disney World

I think this is why I related so much to Zoe (mostly). Like me, she’s a character who has such a strong pull to a place. When she was little her mom used to take her to Storytown all the time: an amusement park where fairy tales came true. And now many summers later, she was working at the neighboring theme park called Fairyland Kingdom as Storytown decays nearby.

History plays a huge part in my pull to WDW. I love that I can go there and relive favorite moments from my childhood, but also make some new memories as an adult (and with my husband alongside me!) For however amount of days, I can act like a kid, escape reality, and give into pure fantasy. (It might seem monotonous to go to the same place over and over, but I swear it feels like a new experience every time.)

While Strohmeyer’s book certainly poked fun at “the Mouse” and Fairyland Kingdom held many similarities to the real park’s processes, I totally smiled the whole time I read it — thinking of those lovely vacations from before and all the ones I’ll have in the future.

Add How Zoe (Mostly) Made Her Dreams Come True to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon


Recently, I finished reading When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney, and I LOVED IT. Not only is the story really gripping, but it was filled with new sites that left me aching to visit them. For reasons I won’t dive into here, Danny visits Tokyo after his mother passes away. It’s a place his family has visited time and time again. He’s searching for answers and a new friend, Kana, becomes his tour guide.

Tokyo might be an unconventional choice for a summertime destination because often beaches and sunshine come to mind when I think about my trips, but I was so inspired by the scenes Whitney described I wanted to fly there immediately.

They visit a very special tea house his mother frequented often because it was known for its healing tea. Danny finds some peace in knowing he was able to sit at the same table as his mother, swap stories with Kana as his mom did, and was happy to get to know the woman who served his mother tea. It was such a peaceful experience to read about; I’ve never been to a tea house before, but I certainly had a vivid picture of the darker environment and somber atmosphere and wished I were there to sip tea with a friend.

A little known fact about myself? — I don’t really like sushi. I’ve tried several times and I haven’t acquired a taste for it yet. However, that being said, I definitely wanted to try it again when Danny visited his favorite outdoor sushi hut where he and his mom were known by name. My stomach rumbled as the food was described. Yum, yum.

And lastly, but maybe most importantly, there were Kana’s outrageous outfits. She was always wearing something Danny took note of because it was wild and colorful. In fact, I began searching Japanese street fashion after reading When You Were Here because I was so intrigued by the outfits Whitney imagined for Kana. Maybe if I visited Tokyo, I could experiment and let go of my rather boring and conservative wardrobe.

 Add When You Were Here to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

Nailed It: Upcoming June Releases

Welcome to another Nailed It!

The weather is getting warmer in our neck of the woods, and we’re feeling more and more inspired to seek out the bright colors in our nail polish collections! Isn’t that the best?

Before we share our color palettes for some upcoming June releases, we wanted to feature some purdy nail photos from our giveaway winners back in April! Both gals were kind enough to share their nails in action.

Nailed It Winners from April 2013: Rather Be Reading launched a new series featuring nail palettes + book covers.

 Don’t they look fantastic? Love the colors they picked out!

And now for this months nail palettes + book cover pairings….

Magan’s Pick:

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney, from a photographic standpoint, is a really lovely image. I love the editing they did on the photograph because it evokes a mood. I could not decide on a blue to pull from this cover (other than Julianne, that Estelle previously chose, and it still didn’t seem quite right either). What better time is there to wear white nail polish than when you’re working on your summer tan? And purples aren’t typically my first choice, but I love, love the shade on the WYWH cover. The green is maybe the less obvious choice, but I pulled it from the trees and the grass to give this a brighter, summery pop!

Julep Nail Polish Colors: Charlotte | Kate | Adrianna

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney -- June 4, 2013 Release Date

Goodreads | Amazon

Estelle’s Pick:

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen. I know, I know… everyone in the world is super hyping up this book but Dessen is a young adult staple and this cover — screams summer to me. So I don’t blame them. As for the cover, I love how the girl is walking down that pier, wearing such a relaxed outfit. The greens are so vivid and mostly, I am loving the array of colors in the title. Is anyone else super digging the newly designed Sarah Dessen covers? I cannot cannot get enough of them. The typography is so simple but it… just works!

Julep Nail Polish Colors: Ally | Leah | Avery


Nailed It The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen June 2013

Julep didn’t have any PERFECT blues to match the shades in this cover (there are so many) but ALLY  matches the title, LEAH is all about the grass, and AVERY is that cute little skirt our character model is wearing. This palette is so fun + perfect for vacation or a summer day out!

Goodreads | Amazon