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  • Bright Eyes: A Kunoichi Tale

    by David Kudler

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: The author has built an impressive imaginative world, yet strikes a balance by including elements of Japanese culture so it feels realistic. While readers will benefit from having read the first book in the series, Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale, the story is clear and compelling enough to stand alone.

    Prose: This well-written novel immerses the reader in the Japanese culture through vocabulary and tradition. The plot is easy to follow, with a balance between detail and conversation to convey the story. The use of the Japanese vocabulary throughout helps establish a grounded setting, and the glossary will prove helpful to the reader.

    Originality: The author crafts a highly unique and captivating world in the pages of Bright Eyes.

    Character Development/Execution: The main character experiences much growth from the first book in the series to the second. There are many characters to tackle, and several of them share a similar backstory; this commonality can result in some confusion. Nevertheless, both protagonists and villains are finely developed.

  • The Gold Dark Summer, a boarding school story

    by Susan Papas

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot:  The Gold Dark Summer is a rich coming-of-age story that unfolds in the late 1950s. Papas creates a realistic, relatable narrative that is fully relatable to modern readers, despite its historical setting.

    Prose: The prose style is eloquent with detailed descriptions that make the story vivid and filmic. The narration is smooth, clear, and interesting.

    Originality: Historical stories of characters finding their footing in life and defining their individuality are familiar. Papas's fine level of detail and the distinctive characters who grow and change throughout the story, allow the work to stand out.

    Character/Execution: Characters are engaging and interesting; their concerns, fears, and feelings are age-appropriate and believable.



  • Tracker220

    by Jamie Krakover

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: Fast-paced and with lots of adventure, Krakover submerges the reader into a tech world that could credibly take place in the future. This intriguing storyline is well executed; however, the interactions between the characters feel rushed. More development in these areas would allow this book to reach a broader audience and to leave a deeper impression on readers.

    Prose: Well-written, the novel features a solid flow of dialogue, detail, and action throughout. Told in first-person, the reader learns plenty about the smart, quick-thinking main character and her circumstances. 

    Originality: The author introduces a number of familiar sci-fi themes and tropes, but does so with panache and authenticity. 

    Character/Execution: The main character is cunning and always thinking ahead. Her interactions with the other characters would benefit from additional development, particularly in order to develop the romantic angle of the story.



  • People of the Sun

    by Ben Gartner

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: This thought-provoking installment in the Eye of Ra series is filled with adventure, action, and fun. The plot is intense and questions scientific ideas that will invite readers to think. The author tackles the nuances of time travel with ease, and the well-researched plot moves at a fast pace.

    Prose: The story flows well and strikes a balance between well-described history, science, and action without relying on exposition. The enthusiastic tone throughout keeps the action moving forward while the descriptions of Mexico allow the various locales to come alive.

    Originality: While time travel adventures are a familiar staple in YA literature, this series effectively blends science and history, creating a memorable reading experience.

    Character Development/Execution: The curious and intrepid protagonists effortlessly lead the reader through the action of the plot. 

  • The Unraveling of Luna Forester

    by Marisa Noelle

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: The Unraveling of Luna Forester is an intense and inventive story with paranormal elements and psychological depth. Readers will easily engage with the well-staged narrative and welcome its plot twists.

    Prose: Writing in clipped sentences, the author immediately creates tension and intrigue. The conversations among the many characters are natural and drive both character development and propel the storytelling. 

    Originality: Noelle integrates familiar fairytale and fantasy elements while also maintaining a high level of originality and unpredictability. 

    Character/Execution: The author does a fine job of developing her characters and their relationships while maintaining the degree of mystery surrounding the protagonist in the aftermath of overwhelming loss.

  • The Aquamarine Surfboard

    by Kellye Abernathy

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Abernathy has written a strange and delightful adventure that combines magic with the discomforts and joys and challenges of coming of age. Exploring friendship, love, death, magic, and supporting those who are most in need, The Aquamarine Surfboard is a welcome read for both younger and older crowds alike.

    Prose: Abernathy is excellent at describing magical scenes and windswept beach settings, which are aplenty in this novel. Sometimes the verbiage can be a bit awkward, leading but the majority of the novel is beautifully phrased and well-written.

    Originality: The Aquamarine Surfboard is extraordinarily unique in its storytelling. Although it does incorporate some tropes, such as the orphaned child searching for meaning, they work well within the context of the novel.

    Character Development/Execution: Abernathy excels at bringing to life sympathetic, dynamic characters. She is highly capable of displaying the awkwardness and fun of teenaged relationships, the love between a grandmother and her grandchild, and the terror of an evil villain. Her characters all feel very different even from first meeting them, and carry with them a distinctness that makes them easy to differentiate.

  • Burying Eva Flores

    by Jennifer Alsever

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Alsever’s finely developed story is one of overcoming stigmas, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice. The plot is delivered with a quick pace, from both past and present perspectives, and the storyline takes shape in an astonishingly creative way. 

    Prose: The prose is crisp and realistic, particularly in light of the protagonists’ ages. Alsever permeates the text with suspense and intensity, giving readers the opportunity to employ imagination in scene-building.

    Originality: The focus on using social media and recorded interviews to deliver the storyline adds an element of creativity, and the finale is wrought through multiple perspectives that all come together smoothly.

    Character Development/Execution: Alsever stuns with weighty characters and profound self-exploration. Eva’s fragile façade and desperation will resonate with the intended audience, as will Sophia’s deep-rooted anger at injustice – and the eventual triumph over her own selfishness.

  • Take Me With You

    by Linda Duddridge

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Take Me With You poignantly documents young adult angst, the impacts of trauma, and absorbing relationships. The story follows a group of intimate friends and their lives, most notably 16-year-old Sam, who is walking the line between his abusive home life and common teenage conflicts. Along the way, Duddridge reveals the devastation of early childhood trauma played out interpersonally, and the effects of substance abuse on meaningful relationships. The novel draws readers in and keeps them invested in the outcome of the main characters, and readers who prefer realistic problems with happy endings will embrace this book. 

    Prose: Duddridge’s prose is remarkably clear and concise, and readers will devour the passages where she bares Sam’s heart and portrays his internal struggles. Dialogue flows naturally between the protagonists, with a contemporary and authentic feel, and the main characters have strong, distinct voices that will resonate with readers.

    Originality: Although Duddridge depends heavily on certain conventions common to young adult fiction, the novel offers an unusually intense psychological reflection that expertly connects readers with the emotional battles of the main protagonist.

    Character Development/Execution: Duddridge is accomplished with character development, and Sam shines as a tortured, lost protagonist desperately trying to right his wrongs. Kennedy is equal parts inspirational and frustrating in her passive acceptance of heartbreaking circumstances, but even these interactions come across as genuine for the intended audience. The author weaves the main players together in a nearly effortless dance that smooths the novel’s storyline.

     Blurb: A moving coming-of-age story bursting with insight and authenticity.




  • Ghost Hunters: Spirit Fire

    by Susan McCauley

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: Effective worldbuilding drives this paranormal narrative for middle grade readers, the third of a series. Strong themes of friendship and grief trump the repetitiveness of the plot throughout the story. 

    Prose: Clear, exciting, and evocative, McCauley executes a well-written ghost story with an atmospheric setting.

    Originality: While reminiscent of classic middle grade mystery adventures, McCauley provides a fresh and fun supernatural element. 

    Character/Execution: The main character is likable and comes across as a gifted hero who is mentored by his cranky teacher. He takes his gift seriously and strives to help others, all while grappling with his own personal struggles. Some encounters with spirits are cut short, leaving readers craving more.

  • Child of Etherclaw

    by Matty Roberts

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Roberts's novel is dark and grim, set against a dystopian world where low-tier living in New Cascadia forces Fenlee and her brother, Elliott, to scavenge to survive—while those lucky enough to inhabit the upper tiers are surrounded by green landscapes and fresh air, with seemingly anything they need for comfort. When Fenlee discovers the mysteries of her deceased mother's necklace, a whirlwind chain of events ensues as she vows to save her family, and the world, from destruction.

    Prose: Roberts elicits deeper meaning without overwhelming readers, broaching topics such as identity, family, freedom, and individual choices. The style stays consistent and skillfully amplifies the imperfections in Fenlee's world, allowing readers both despair and hope as the story progresses.

    Originality: Child of Etherclaw is immersive, and readers will immediately be swept into the protagonists' world—although the future of New Cascadia may feel bleak at best.

    Character Development/Execution: Fenlee is a relatable protagonist, and her loyalty to family is admirable. Roberts generates an interesting cast, although some characters resort to clichés, which detracts from the novel's impact.

  • Cryptid Academy

    by Howard Wolke

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: The story is intricately and meticulously plotted, with a well-established sense of suspense that builds throughout.

    Prose: The writing and narration style draws the reader deep into its mythical and mythological creatures and realms.

    Originality: The author proves to be no stranger to golems, djinns, nagas, and fairies, and depicts them with energy and inventive flair.

    Character/Execution: The characters are vivid, convincing, and well-described.

  • During the Pandemic with Edward Jenner

    by Barbara ten Brink

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: A timely and relatable story for contemporary readers, During the Pandemic with Edward Jenner skillfully commemorates Edward Jenner's innovative contributions to immunization and the ensuing eradication of smallpox. 

    Prose: The author's writing style is overly formal in places and contains lengthy conversations that may make the story less engaging, but the prose is designed to match the tenor of the story's time period, adding legitimacy to the narrative.

    Originality: This is a research-based story, although it's delivered in an accessible way for young adult audiences, and the documents and background knowledge conveyed by the author make it more reliable.

    Character Development/Execution: Fictional characters added to the plot are welcome additions and beneficial to bringing the historical background to life. The characters' interactions and dialogue could be smoothed out to boost the entertainment aspect, given the age of the intended audience.


  • Myracles in the Void

    by Wes Dyson

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: The twin stories of Lynd and Gai are touching, effective, and compelling. Dyson slowly reveals a time discrepancy between their arcs that further draws readers into their stories as they hunt for clues concerning who is where and when.

    Prose: Though Dyson's descriptions can be clunky, especially their use of metaphors, the overall dialect is superb in this story. The heroes sound true to their impoverished background and markedly different from the nobility in their world—a somewhat unusual feature from similar novels.

    Originality: Although the idea of a "light" power (Elix) contrasted against a "dark" power (Ruin) is not new, Dyson injects so many additional details and points of interest into this classic set-up that one hardly notices the familiar elements.

    Character Development/Execution: From Commandress Ada to Mac, the cast is thoroughly engrossing, with few outright villains, and readers will find those characters who do possess villainous qualities easy to empathize with.  The cities of Hop, Carpé, and Electri feel like characters unto themselves, each with a distinct personality.

    Blurb: The tale of two siblings with extraordinary powers, Myracles in the Void is guaranteed to keep readers entertained from the characters' humble beginnings straight to their fantastic conclusions.

  • The Lucky Diamond

    by Valinora Troy

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: Troy crafts a rich, multilayered story reminiscent of classic fairytales with a darker twist. The plot centers on five orphans, each possessing magical gifts, who must embark on a dangerous enchanted journey – and in the process, Troy reveals separate but intertwined journeys of self-discovery.

    Prose: Troy’s prose is nearly flawless, featuring astounding mythical world-building alongside writing that skillfully builds tension in all the right moments. Though some of the text struggles to keep up with the multidimensional plot, in the end the narrative is delivered with brilliant flair.

    Originality: The Lucky Diamond borrows from iconic fairytale stories and melds them into one harrowing, entrancing adventure. Troy balances the dreamy settings with plenty of action, giving the novel a well-rounded feel.

    Character Development/Execution: Troy’s central characters are appealing, and readers will eventually root for their victory – despite a lack of in-depth development. The five main children undergo satisfying transformations, and their antagonist is equal parts chilling and mesmerizing

  • Caring for Your Clown Book One: Aliens are Real

    by Oleander Blume

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: This is an intriguing novel that crafts a haunting portrait of a teenage transgender boy trying to cope with the death of his mother. What begins as the story of a bizarre alien sent to help Oliver manage his grief turns, by the end, into a journey of self-discovery and emotional endurance. The storyline moves slowly initially, but once it picks up readers will be firmly engaged until the end.

    Prose: Blume’s prose blossoms alongside the novel, transforming into profound and poignant writing that mirrors Oliver’s immense metamorphosis. The protagonist’s self-analysis is exceptionally wrought and a high point of the novel. 

    Originality: Blume has crafted a completely original take on a story that is relevant to many audiences, and this stark twist on a coming-of-age tale boasts several exceptionally creative elements. 

    Character Development/Execution: Oliver shines as a protagonist tormented by his past and trying to find his place in a dangerous world. Blume delivers an astoundingly relatable inner life that will resonate with readers and bring them to the brink of heartbreak again and again.

  • Plot/Idea: Howard builds the plot steadily and unveils twists in a natural manner. Readers will be swiftly carried alongside Trinia’s soul-searching quest for justice that forms the backbone of the storyline, but the novel’s events are rich with complications that add depth and meaning.

    Prose: With crisp prose that reinforces the story’s distinctive setting, Howard delivers a concise novel that contains strong variation and intimate perspectives. The descriptions are powerful, particularly in more tense conflicts and events.

    Originality: Howard’s dynamic worldbuilding gives this novel an edge over others, transporting readers front and center to the story’s numerous intrigues, double meanings, and complications – all of which combine to give it a distinctive and exclusive air.

    Character Development/Execution: Howard’s characters are profound, with skillful interior monologue that illuminates their challenges and inner struggles. Readers will value the complexity of the main players, most notably Trinia’s metamorphosis throughout the course of the story.

    Blurb: Fantasy, thrills, and risky crusades unite on a meaningful quest for justice in this suspenseful page-turner.