Review: “A Girl’s Guide to Love & Magic” by Debbie Rigaud

Release Date: August 2, 2022
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Description

Perfect for fans of The Sun Is Also a Star and Blackout, this YA novel from Debbie Rigaud is a celebration of Haitian and Caribbean culture, and a story of first love, vodou, and finding yourself, all set against the backdrop of the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn.

Cicely Destin lives for the West Indian Day Parade, the joyous celebration of Caribbean culture that takes over the streets of her neighborhood. She loves waving the Haitian flag, sampling delicious foods, and cheering for the floats. And this year? She’ll get to hang with her stylish aunt, an influencer known for dabbling in Haitian Vodou.

And maybe spot her dreamy crush, Kwame, in the crowd.

But fate has other ideas. Before the parade, a rogue, mischievous spirit seems to take possession of Cicely’s aunt during a spiritual reading. Cicely hardly knows anything about Vodou, or how to get someone un-possessed. But it’s up to her to set things right–and the clock is ticking. She’ll have to enlist the help of her quick-thinking best friend, Renee, and, as luck would have it…Kwame.

Cicely, her friends, and the reckless spirit who is now their charge set off on a thrilling scavenger hunt to gather the ceremonial items they need. And along the way, will Cicely discover surprising powers of her on?

Bestselling author Debbie Rigaud infuses this novel with sparkling wit, romance, and nuance that will keep readers riveted and enchanted.

Continue reading “Review: “A Girl’s Guide to Love & Magic” by Debbie Rigaud”

Feature: “Retro” by Jarrod Shusterman & Sofía Lapuente

Release Date: January 24, 2023
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Young Adult

Description

What starts off as a lighthearted competition to live without modern technology for a year turns into a fight for survival in this unputdownable young adult thriller by New York Times bestselling author Jarrod Shusterman and debut author Sofía Lapuente.

It was never meant to happen this way.

Things were never supposed to get this out of hand.

After a cyberbullying incident at her school goes viral, Luna Iglesias finds herself at the heart of a brewing controversy. When the social media company Limbo—who are also implicated in the scandal—sweeps in with an offer that sounds like an opportunity to turn over a new leaf and receive a scholarship to the college of her dreams, she’s happy to jump on the new trend. It’s called the Retro Challenge, where contestants live without modern technology, wear vintage clothes, party as if the future weren’t already written, and fall in love as if they were living in a movie.

At first, the challenge is fun. But then things get dangerous. Kids start disappearing, including Luna’s friends. There are voices in the woods. Bloodred markings on the trees. And Luna increasingly begins to wonder if all these strange happenings are connected with the Retro Challenge.

Secrets. Lies. Betrayal. The weight of her family on her shoulders. There’s so much on the line for Luna, not to mention she’s falling in love with the last guy she expected. Unless she can figure out the truth behind who’s sabotaging the challenge, the next person to disappear may be Luna herself.

Continue reading “Feature: “Retro” by Jarrod Shusterman & Sofía Lapuente”

Deadly Magic and Intergenerational Trauma: Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn

Release Date: November 8, 2022
Series: Legendborn #2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Description

The shadows have risen, and the line is law.

All Bree wanted was to uncover the truth behind her mother’s death. So she infiltrated the Legendborn Order, a secret society descended from King Arthur’s knights–only to discover her own ancestral power. Now, Bree has become someone new:

A Medium. A Bloodcrafter. A Scion.

But the ancient war between demons and the Order is rising to a deadly peak. And Nick, the Legendborn boy Bree fell in love with, has been kidnapped.

Bree wants to fight, but the Regents who rule the Order won’t let her. To them, she is an unknown girl with unheard-of power, and as the living anchor for the spell that preserves the Legendborn cycle, she must be protected.

When the Regents reveal they will do whatever it takes to hide the war, Bree and her friends must go on the run to rescue Nick themselves. But enemies are everywhere, Bree’s powers are unpredictable and dangerous, and she can’t escape her growing attraction to Selwyn, the mage sworn to protect Nick until death.

If Bree has any hope of saving herself and the people she loves, she must learn to control her powers from the ancestors who wielded them first–without losing herself in the process.

Continue reading ““Deadly Magic and Intergenerational Trauma: Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn

Review: “How to Succeed in Witchcraft” by Aislinn Brophy

Release Date: September 27, 2022
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Description

Magically brilliant, academically perfect, chronically overcommitted–Shay Johnson has all the makings of a successful witch. As a junior at T.K. Anderson Magical Magnet School, she’s determined to win the Brockton Scholarship–her ticket into the university of her dreams. Her competition? Ana freaking Álvarez. The key to victory? Impressing Mr. B, drama teacher and head of the scholarship committee.When Mr. B asks Shay to star in this year’s aggressively inclusive musicalshe warily agrees, even though she’ll have to put up with Ana playing the other lead. But in rehearsals, Shay realizes Ana is . . . not the despicable witch she’d thought. Perhaps she could be a friend–or more. And Shay could use someone in her corner once she becomes the target of Mr. B’s unwanted attention. When Shay learns she’s not the first witch to experience his inappropriate behavior, she must decide if she’ll come forward. But how can she speak out when her future’s on the line?

Continue reading “Review: “How to Succeed in Witchcraft” by Aislinn Brophy”

Charming But Shallow: Darby and the Dead

My Thoughts

Darby and the Dead is full of little moments of joy. I loved how Darby’s version of making herself popular involved a twist out. Often when Black girls are given a TV makeover to look hot (according to Western standards), she ends up with straight hair, but Darby went back to her natural curls. There’s a scene with Nicole Maines hanging out in the girls’ locker room with her Mean Girl friends and everyone is totally cool with it. (If you don’t know Maines’ background, she was at the center of an anti-discrimination case where the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that trans people can use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.) It was so nice to have 100 minutes of no racism, sexism, queerphobia, or transphobia. Breaking the fourth wall isn’t easy to pull off, but Riele Downs nails it. Particularly at the end when she has her heart to heart with Alex (played by the delightful Chosen Jacobs) and during the epilogue. If you liked how She-Hulk played with the fourth wall trope, you’ll probably also like how Darby and the Dead does it.

For the rest of my review, head over to Tor.com.

Vampires, Aliens, and Killer Clowns: A Golden Age of YA Horror

We have entered a new golden age of young adult horror, and I am one hundred percent here for it. While there has long been plenty of horror-adjacent fiction, real horror has been hard to come by. That is until the last year or so. I keep a spreadsheet of all the traditionally published young adult speculative fiction for each year, and in 2022 we had 17 (!!!) books come out that were specifically marketed as horror, plus many others that were delightfully bloody and bite-y. I’ve put together a short list of some great YA horror for fans new and old to check out.

Read the rest of this spotlight at Tor.com.