Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
About: Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties.
Kelsey’s Thoughts: Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are the fantasy, heist, high-crime novels I never knew I needed. Bardugo is a spectacular writer, but I remember that when Six of Crows came out, I felt she had stretched herself too thin. I couldn’t connect with these new characters as much as I did with those in her Grisha trilogy. Crooked Kingdom fixes that, for sure. I cried three different times. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, and just writing about it makes me want to re-read it. Anyway, these two books were nothing like I expected them to be, and the newly released Crooked Kingdom has definitely taken one of my top spots for 2016.
Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel
About: Almost seventeen, Rani Patel appears to be a kick-butt Indian girl breaking cultural norms as a hip-hop performer in full effect. But in truth, she’s a nerdy flat-chested nobody who lives with her Gujarati immigrant parents on the remote Hawaiian island of Moloka’i, isolated from her high school peers by the unsettling norms of Indian culture where “husband is God.” Her parents’ traditionally arranged marriage is a sham. Rani throws herself into 4eva Flowin’, an underground hip hop crew—and into other things she’s never done. Her naive choices look like they will undo her but ultimately give her the chance to discover her strengths and restore the things she thought she’d lost, including her mother.
Kelsey’s Thoughts: I definitely admire Sonia Patel for handling a very, very tricky topic with humor and empathy. Rani has been through a lot, and is still very much struggling with it, but she never comes across as dislikable or mean. It’s been brought up that her interactions with other girls are fraught with jealousy and anger, but I think that is telling of the abuse she has suffered. And women, particularly teenage girls, are very susceptible to that kind of internalized misogyny, regardless of how self aware they are. I loved Rani for the mistakes she made. All those times she kept going back to the people that hurt her just made her all the more human. Who among us can say they haven’t done the same? Rani Patel in Full Effect was one of the most unique and promising things I read this year, and I hope Sonia Patel continues her foray into YA lit.
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
About: The sequel of Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses, Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people. Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.
Kelsey’s Thoughts:I had a hard time choosing between this book and the fifth Throne of Glass book, Empire of Storms. And this surprised me, because A Court of Thorns and Roses was incredibly subpar for Maas, while the Throne of Glass series has been blowing me away since book one. But ultimately, Court of Mist and Fury won. Maas sure knows how to write a fantasy romance, holy moly. I don’t think it was just me who came away frustrated with Feyre and Tamlin’s relationship at the end of A Court of Thorns and Roses, so I was VERY excited to see the direction that A Court of Mist and Fury took. Additionally, it was just so dang good to see that girl finally grow some fangs and stand up for herself. Like I said, I was surprised how much I loved this sequel after the first one fell flat, but I am very much looking forward to the third installment!
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
About: Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence. While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways. But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm.So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.
Kelsey’s Thoughts: I talked about this book more in my official SPL Teen Machine review, but this is a hard book to read. It’s raw and intense, but it’s exactly the look at rape culture and how it affects young women that we need. It may have not been the most enjoyable thing I read all year, but it’s certainly the most important. It’s unflinching in it’s details, and I would recommend caution if you are someone who is triggered by violence and sexual assault. And like I said in my review, it’s not for everyone. But, it is a book that has stuck with me since finishing it and I would absolutely recommend to those interested.