This is the first reimagining of “The Nightingale” I’ve read, so I wasn’t too familiar with the original Hans Christian Anderson version going in. But the author did provide the original short story at the end of the novella, which was a lovely touch as it let me better see how this version and the original connected without spoiling anything. In the original, you have the Emperor of China who covets beautiful things; his gardens are impeccable, as are his palace and clothes. So, when he hears tale of a nightingale whose songs far surpass the beauty of the royal palace, he has to have such a prize for himself… I won’t say what happens next because I don’t want to give spoilers, but Williams does a wonderful job expanding on the short story by weaving in some courtly intrigue, and the plight of Kari, who needs to find a new purpose in life when she learns she will not be taking over the family business. There’s magic, too, but honestly, I don’t consider anything but the Nightingale itself to be a source of magic in this novella.
“Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun” is a perfect blend of fluffy YA contemporary romance, mixed with the heartbreaking reality of what it can be like for gay teens to come out when they have a toxic parent who is forever full of criticisms. Jules is a sweet, young man who longs to live authentically, but is rightly afraid of what his father may do if he were to know the truth. Jules believes the freedom he so craves to live openly exists only in going to college in Los Angeles, far away from his father in Texas. But when Jules accidentally comes out on Twitter while drunk during a house party with his best friends (they’re all seniors in HS), Jules realizes that he didn’t always have to hide—well, not from everyone.
The thing with “The Hate U Give” is that it’s supposed to be fictional, but this story is not fiction in the slightest. The things Starr experiences, what happened to Khalil, are real, they do happen, they are still happening. Which makes this book so hard to both read and review because it becomes really difficult to separate fiction from reality. Which is probably the point. Starr witnesses not one, but two of her friend’s violent murders. Even though the focus is primarily on Khalil, Starr grew up no stranger to violence. The opening chapter is her at a party that she has to flee because of shots being fired. This is Starr’s reality; she is torn between the community she grew up in and being “black enough” to fit in to these types of parties, and then the preppy, very white private school she attends where she can’t be “too black”. Even though Starr is not a real person, her situation is not fictional. Neither is Khalil’s where, no matter what, he should never have been murdered by a cop. Which is why I do think that this book is very important to read, I just don’t think it’s all that appropriate for younger YA readers.
If you are looking for a smooth, fluffy contemporary retelling of Cinderella wrapped in a love letter to geek culture, then hey, hi, hello, have you met “Geekerella”? Yes, this is another addition to the “Chelscey’s real late to the party” book list, but here we are. Geekerella is exactly what you expect it to be, equal parts Cinderella retelling with a healthy dose of “You’ve Got Mail”, this book was so easy to read, and even though parts brought a few tears to my eyes with how touching they were, this book was otherwise incredibly sweet, fluffy, and geeky. A combination I didn’t know that I enjoyed until I was neck deep in Elle and Darien’s story.
“The Prophecy in Stars” seems to suffer from the indie book mistake of not including the full synopsis on their page, and only includes it on the paperback which is currently out of print. Unfortunately, what information IS available doesn’t do this story justice, so if you want to check out the full synopsis first, you can read that here. This debut novel has taken the tried-and-true trope of the “chosen one” and flipped it on its head, which I love! Nalia finds herself at the center of a prophecy, not to save the world, but to end it. She doesn’t think she would do something like that, but she has harbored her bloody desire for revenge against the group of people she blames for her lost memories, and the death of her parents, for almost a decade. Being bullied in an orphanage most of her life, Nalia rarely speaks and is quick to anger, so while she may not want to be the harbinger of the end of the world, the reader can’t completely discount it either, which was another fun twist. Oh, and did I mention there are dragons in this book? Because there are!
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