“The Nature of Witches” is a true, and beautiful, YA story featuring a heroine born with a wonderful and strong power that she does not want because of the devastating effects it can have on those closest to her. Clara, as the only Ever in over a century, is desperately needed to hold the world’s atmosphere together while witches and non-witches alike figure out how to reverse the effects of climate change. But Clara feels too out of control, too scared of her own magic to want the responsibility. If she can’t keep her magic from hurting those she loves, she’d rather not have it at all. See what I mean about this being a true-blue YA novel? This book is very much a coming of age, self-discovery novel with the overall message being: love heals, but you have to be willing to let it. It’s a beautiful message, and there were some equally beautiful scenes in this book, too. So why was I kind of “meh” about it?
When people kept saying that this book was like Mulan meets Project Runway, I took it with a grain of salt. Usually those comparisons are loose, or the elements are there, but not in a significant way. That’s not the case with “Spin the Dawn”. Oh no! The Project Runway and Mulan elements were STRONG in this book, especially for the first half of the novel (and again toward the end but mainly early on). Was I mad about this? Absolutely not! I can’t remember the last YA fantasy I devoured the way I did this magical story of Maia, who dreams of being the Imperial Tailor but can’t because of her gender. Then, when a decree is called for a new Imperial Tailor, and all the great Masters of the land must participate in the competition, or send their son in their stead, Maia steps in for her ailing father, and war broken brother. Pretending to be a boy and fooling all the men she’s competing with turns out to be the easiest of the trials and dangers Maia had to face, which tells you already how exciting this book ended up being.
Any Alice in Wonderland fans who like the concept of retellings, but still want something wholly unique? “Labyrinth Lost” is that in spades! Meet Alex, a girl who believes magic is a curse and will do anything to avoid her Deathday and deny the magic in her blood. And, because this is a YA fantasy after all, her desire backfires when she takes steps to strip her magic away and instead banishes her family to a place of nightmares; where bruja’s and brujo’s are sent to be punished. Desperate to save her family, Alex ventures to Los Lagos to free them, meeting strange, nightmarish creatures, and those disguised only to appear like nightmares, on the journey. And, again because it’s YA, learning about herself, her magic, and the idea of family being home all at once. While this book has some mixed reviews, I have to say, I really, really enjoyed Cordova’s interpretation of witches, magic, and the ceremonies and gods that inhabit this world.
“Screamcatcher” is a young adult, fantasy adventure that centers on young Jorlene Pike, left alone at 17 when both of her parents die in a tragic accident. Jorlene—Jory—now helps her grandfather run their family curiosity shop that specializes heavily in Chippewa items and lore. Jory doesn’t necessarily put much stock into her heritage, until one night when she is having a sleepover with three of her other friends. The nightmares of her friends, as well as Jory, overload the old dream catcher in her apartment, they are then sucked into an alternate reality steeped heavily in Chippewa Indian folktale and lore. But as only Jory knows anything about what may be happening, and the strange alternate reality full of terrors they suddenly find themselves in, it’s up to her to navigate the twisting web and lead her friends to safety before they get stuck in the dream catcher forever—or until the nightmares kill them. This quick-paced adventure is nonstop action! Literally! The action almost never stops and features so many different native legends and harrowing survival scenarios, but the quick pace does mean this ended up being mainly a story focused on plot, and little character development.
I’m really late to the party on this book, but hey! At least I got here, right? “Simon vs.” is a cute, contemporary self-discovery book that had me on the verge of tears on occasion. We get a close-up view of Simon who KNOWS he’s gay, but no one else does. When he finds a Tumblr post from his school from another gay boy, he responds, and a whirlwind email pen pal relationship ensues. But there’s one problem: these boys don’t actually know who each other are, and because neither is out to their friends and family, they decide to keep their identities secret. But part of the thrill is getting to know someone without fear of judgment, because they don’t really know you, right? But then these adorable boys catch a case of feels, and suddenly the excitement of anonymity begins to slip away… Except anonymity is only fun with Blue, Simon’s crush, but that secret is important for Simon to keep from the wider school. Now he just has to keep the guy blackmailing him from spilling the beans to everyone… This story was endearing, and fun, and quick, and each time I was CONVINCED I knew who Blue was, the author did the old switcher-roo, which kept this otherwise straight forward story exciting.
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