Mini Reviews #17: Recent YA Disappointments


We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.


Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.


3/5 cuddly kittens.
This is definitely an "it's me, not you" thing.

Theoretically, I should have loved We Are Okay. It's beautifully penned, and for me, the most important thing about a book is always how well it's written. This book took the time to fully explore individual sensations, seconds, and emotions. And boy, there was a ton of emotion in this book. I was moved to tears at several points, which rarely happens.


So why didn't I like this book all that much?


I chalk it up to the genre. Contemporary has never been and never will be my thing. And I just couldn't connect to Marin or Mabel - going to lots of parties? Shopping for dresses? Getting excited about cute underwear??? I go to fantasy rp get-togethers, shop for snarky t-shirts, and get excited about cute dogs. Parties?? Dresses?? Boys?? wHaT???


So if you like both beautiful prose and contemporary novels, you are one of the many out there who would enjoy We Are Okay. I, alas, happen to not be one of those people.

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. 

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. 


Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?


3/5 overdramatic elf-kings.
If nothing else, Hunted has definitely cemented one fact about me: It is very, very hard to get me to like retellings. So if you like retellings, you'll probably enjoy this a lot more than I did. That being said, my issues with this book went beyond genre. 

The few things I enjoyed: Meagan Spooner is undoubtedly a genius at vivid yet concise prose, and reading Hunted helped me pinpoint ways to improve my own writing. I also loved Asenka and Lena, and the whole Russian vibe of this story was very intriguing.


However, I had serious issues with the plot. This stems partially from the genre, but I've read other retellings that didn't have this issue at all. Nothing that happened in this book surprised me. I already know the story of Beauty and the Beast, so there were no plot twists or surprises I couldn't see coming. Plus, the middle third of this book felt ridiculously repetitive, and I couldn't connect to Yeva. I feel like I SHOULD like her because she's a heroine who's strong without being obnoxious. But nothing about her stood out as unique or memorable.


Overall, Hunted was book full of well-written words and poorly-written plot. If you like retellings, this might be worth a try; however, if you tend to shy away from them, this probably isn't the read for you.

Albion Academy by Elijah David

Is a Djinni just a trickster? Can a wizard only learn magic? Must a Valkyrie always ferry the dead? For Mortimer, Merlin, and Bryn, it seems the fates have already written the ends of their stories. When Mortimer asks unorthodox questions, the Djinni Elders exile him to a human school of magic—Albion Academy. Merlin's friendship with a mortal only increases his mother's determination for him to live up to the heritage of his ancestors. And Bryn's prophetic sisters outright declare that her fate is tethered to Mortimer, Merlin, and the mysterious door in the school's basement. As the three of them struggle against the constraints of their families' expectations, they find themselves inexorably drawn into a conflict that encompasses rogue Faeries, dangerous mortals, and sorcerers hidden in Albion Academy itself. Defying their fates might be the only way they survive their first year at Albion Academy.


3/5 Nifflers.
(get ready, this one is a bit long)

Plenty of authors, such as Natalie C. Anderson with City of Saints & Thieves, stun me with the excellence of their debuts. I am sad to say Elijah David is not one of them. However, this does mean that almost all the problems I found in this book appear to be results of writing inexperience. They can easily be fixed by the third, fourth, or even second Albion book, and I predict most of them will be. Thus, I still plan on trying the next book in the series.


All that being said, here are the reasons I had to drag myself through most of Albion Academy:


- The writing itself. It almost always tells and never shows, and there is very little imagery. Add in lots of information dumping, and you get a book that caused no strong reactions on my part. 


- Bryn, Mortimer, and Merlin. All of them, especially Mortimer, have the potential to be SUCH incredible characters. But most of their actions, thoughts, and dialogue felt very cookie-cutter and generic.


- Albion Academy as a whole didn't feel very unique. In fact, it gave me strong Harry Potter vibes. Two male and one female first-year students at a magic school discover mysterious stuff is going on in their school's basement, the girl is aloof from the guys at first but eventually becomes friends with them, one of the guys is a Chosen One chosen against his will, the headmaster is a guidance figure who knows more than he lets on.....you get the gist.


"So, Ellie," you may be thinking, "why did you enjoy this book at all?"

- There were a couple characters I liked. Harry was very heartwarming, hilarious, and unique, and I loved watching Gabriel's redemption arc.


- Some of the dialogue was pretty damn funny. Mortimer propositioning Bryn before the Door of Doom made me laugh out loud. (I want more flirtatious Mort in the next book, please!!)

- Though the plot line itself wasn't too unique, the twists and turns ALWAYS surprised me. Elijah David is the master of plot twists that are unexpected at first but make sense when you look back at the clues leading up to them.

Overall, Albion Academy was a pretty rough debut. The writing itself, plot, and main characters need a lot of work; however, I'm confident that the author is capable of improving greatly in the next book or two. Fingers crossed that Albion Apparent will be better!



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Let's chat! Have you read any of these books? What YA books have you been reading lately? What books have been recent disappointments? Comment below, and remember that you are all very beautiful pickles.

Namarië,
Ellie

16 comments:

  1. Hunted is a book on my TBR pile, but I think you've changed my mind about me reading it anytime soon.

    xoxo Abigail Lennah

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    1. If you do read it, I hope you like it more than I did XD

      - Ellie

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  2. I've been wanting to read We Are Okay for a while now. I'm not usually into contemporary either, I much prefer my magic and dragons, but that cover has honestly just sold me. And I'm really happy to hear about the writing, because writing definitely is the most important thing in books for me too (usually). But it sucks about the fairy tale retelling, I hate when things stick to the inspiration or source too much. Awesome post!

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    1. Me, too! When they do, it's not that much of a retelling. Thank you!

      - Ellie

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  3. I like retellings, but I also wasn't crazy about Hunted. The main character was very bland. The best part of the story was her sisters.

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    1. I agree. Lena and Asenka kept my interest and attention so much easier than Yeva did.

      - Ellie

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  4. I guess my view of Hunted was rather different though I also don't quite relate to Yeva except for her love of books and she has sisters like I do. I do think, the last part of the books didn't seem quite complete. since we all know how beauty & the beast ends, there really is no surprises but I was sort of surprise about the bit part about how there's another world that can be seen and heard if you listen and that includes a dragon that can shred her skin and appear as a human woman, I actually wasn't sure why that part is there and it isn't quite used later on.

    have not read 'we are okay' but then I don't like to read contemporary all that much. it just seems like a sad book.

    haven't read albion academy either and I don't think I'll ever, for some reason, it does not interest me the slightly.

    I have a lot of disappointing books lately but I've forgotten them or rather, I chose to forget them because there is so much stuff in my head, I don't need any more.

    have a lovely day.

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    1. Yes, I did have some issues with the ending, as well. It seemed to wrap up a bit too abruptly compared to the casual pace of the rest of the book.

      It was quite sad :(

      Thank you, you too!

      - Ellie

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  5. I was initially very excited to read Hunted but as time goes by that interest has dwindled. I typically enjoy re-tellings but I've not read many of them. I think a retelling is more successful to me when you can identify the core of the fairytale but the book still retains its sense of individuality.

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    1. Yes, that's happened with me with other books! I agree; the more the book deviates from the original story, the more I tend to enjoy it. I think retellings should not be different forms of the same story, but different stories based on the same form.

      - Ellie

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  6. Uh oh, I have the first two books on my TBR list. lol! I didn't buy them yet bc I've been waiting to see the reviews before I do. lol. I feel like a lot of people said they were a bit underwhelmed by Hunted, which is disappointed. I may still check out We Are Okay tho. Great honest reviews!

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    1. I hope you enjoy them more than I did! Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed reading :)

      - Ellie

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  7. Same feelings about Hunted, the first half was good but then the plot got weird and I lost interest but it was still enjoyable to a point.

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    1. I agree. It was a nice, pleasant book to read, but it doesn't have any sticking power. I also enjoyed the first part more than the second :)

      - Ellie

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  8. Haha, can I just say I LOVE your rating system? ;)
    The first two books are on my TBR so I'm sorry to hear they weren't your thing and a little disappointing. Not sure if I'll still check them out, maybe I'll still enjoy them, but in any case they're not a top priority right now :)

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    1. Thank you! :D If you do read them, I hope you enjoy them more than I did.

      - Ellie

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