ONLY A MONSTER Plus a Few Other YA Books You Should Read

Happy June!

School is out, and it’s the time of year my schedule is different every week, but I’m also hoping to read a lot more this summer, so hopefully I’ll have reading roundups more frequently. Today I have an interesting variety for you–time traveling monsters, a Jane Austen murder mystery, contemporary YA, and fantasy. Hopefully you’ll find one or more to add to your list!

Only a MonsterThe tagline alone for ONLY A MONSTER by Vanessa Len is intriguing enough: In every story there is a hero and a monster. She is not the hero.

But here’s a bit more: Sixteen-year-old Joan is spending the summer with her eccentric London family, just like she does every year. She has a summer job at a historic house, and she’s going on her first date with her crush, Nick. But before he arrives, she tries to help an old man and somehow jumps forward to the middle of the night. 

Joan learns that the London side of her family are all monsters, who steal time from humans in order to travel to other times, and she just accidentally did that. Plot twist—her crush’s whole destiny is to kill monsters like her and her family, which he starts to do.

Joan’s determined to save her family, which sets her against Nick and makes her allies with another boy, Aaron, whose family hates hers. Plus she’s forced to steal more time. Then there’s an extra power inside her to figure out.

What did I love about this book? Time travel! Forbidden romance! A hint at a possible love triangle? Plus super complicated family dynamics and moral questions, along with great tension and action. Best of all, this book is the first in the series, so there’s more to come. Can’t wait!

Sense and Second-Degree Murder by Tirzah PriceI loved the first book in Tirzah Price’s Jane Austen Murder Mystery series, so I was anxiously anticipating the second installment. If you aren’t familiar, the premise is that the books take characters from Austen’s classic books and insert them into a murder mystery. Well, plus a few other twists 😉.

As you may have guessed from the title, SENSE AND SECOND-DEGREE MURDER tackles the story of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. In this story, Mr. Dashwood was a private investigator, and in the opening scene, Elinor finds him dead in his study. As in the original story, Mr. Dashwood’s estranged son from his first marriage inherits everything, and his wife (Fanny) doesn’t feel any obligation to her husband’s younger half-sisters.

Marianne, who was an apprentice to her father, suspects foul play, and when Elinor, who wants to study chemistry, discovers an unusual substance in her father’s tea, they start investigating. All the characters you expect from the original story are there, just in slightly different roles: Edward as Fanny’s brother and a young accountant, Willoughby as a charming young man with questionable talents, Colonel Brandon as young Mr. Brandon the apothecary seeking to study medicine, and more. I loved following along as the mystery unraveled and the plot thickened. I can’t wait to see what Tirzah Price does with the next book in the series!

This Might Get Awkward by Kara McDowellAs soon as I read the description for THIS MIGHT GET AWKWARD by Kara McDowell, I knew I would love it. Think While You Were Sleeping but at the lake. But then it turned out to be even more. Here’s the setup:

Seventeen-year-old Gemma is pretty sure she has social anxiety disorder. She can’t handle social interactions, and when she does try to talk to people, she either freezes up or says the wrong thing. To celebrate the beginning of summer, she goes to the deserted beach, only for a party to form around her and block her truck. Her crush, Beau, inexplicably asks her to pretend she likes him, then knocks his head, falls into the water, she saves his life, but he’s in a coma–and everyone somehow thinks she’s his girlfriend.

She goes along with it, for a variety of reasons that make sense when you’re reading it. But things get complicated when she befriends Beau’s estranged brother Griff. Somehow, she’s not as anxious around Griff, who helps her tackle a to-do list meant to help her address her anxiety. She also has friends for the first time ever, but it’s all a lie, and she doesn’t know how to fix it.

I loved the setup and the romance, but I also loved how this book addresses anxiety and Gemma’s efforts to face it but also to talk about it with the people in her life. Beau and Griff’s family also is loving and fun but not perfect, and I appreciated how that was portrayed. Pick this one up for a funny, romantic read with a deeper thread!

A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert

I’ve been trying to catch up on some of the21ders books I missed last year, and I just finished A DRAGONBIRD IN THE FERN by Laura Rueckert. I loved how this book mixes fantasy, mystery, and political intrigue.

Princess Jiara’s older sister Scilla has been murdered, and it’s vital they bring her murderer to justice. Otherwise her ghost will torment her loved ones. Twist: Scilla was supposed to be married to the young king of a neighboring kingdom, and now he wants to marry Jiara instead.

Jiara isn’t totally opposed to the king himself, but it’s a totally different country with different customs and a different language she doesn’t speak. Plus, she has dyslexia so that will make it even harder for her to learn. But the choice becomes moot when she discovers her sister’s killer may be from the king’s country. She must go to find the killer and set her sister’s ghost free.

I really appreciated reading from the perspective of a dyslexic character and gaining a better understanding of her struggle to learn a new language. I also really liked how Jiara adjusted to a new country and figured out how to merge what she had grown up believing with what they believe in her new country. Her ability to adapt in challenging circumstances and be open to new people and customs made her an engaging and inspiring character.

What are you reading this month? Let me know if there’s anything I should add to my list!

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