Teen Advisory Board Member Ava Reviews Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao
The sequel to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns switches to Jade’s perspective. The wicked but stunning Empress Xifeng is slowly poisoning the Emperor, seeking to control the Great Forest. But the rightful heir to the throne, Jade, is determined to put an end to her reign, especially after Xifeng tries killing Jade, the one prophesied to bring her downfall. Using the stories her nursemaid taught her, Jade must collect five relics to raise the Dragon Guard, the only way to dethrone the Empress.
Though YA fairytale-retellings were my go-to for quite some time, I eventually lost interest. Well, at least until I read and reread Julie C. Dao’s Snow White spinoffs. Not to mention, it’s about time we have an all-Asian cast in an Asian-based fantasy world! While it’s fantastic that the number of Asian in entertainment is rising, most of the time those sources (E.g. novels, movies, etc) feature the struggle in being an outcast in society as a result of not being white. But this novel takes a whole new turn, casting the characters in a fun plot where they don’t have to struggle with their heritage, as being Asian is the norm.
Also, I love how the love interest defies stereotypes. Almost 100% of the time, the male love interest is this dark, brooding, handsome figure. But there are two stereotypes Dao defeats:
The love interest is Asian. Asian men have a history of been viewed as unmasculine, just as Asian women have a history of being overly-sexualized. Although this factor is sort of a given, as Dao’s cast is entirely Asian anyway.
He has the height of a dwarf. Many men struggle with the idea of dating a woman who’s taller than them, but this defies that expectation.
Love this fresh, diverse retelling of Snow White! It’s filled with more plot twists than I can count on both hands. Recommended to fans of the Lunar Chronicles, Caraval, and people who want more diversity in literature.
-Review written by Ava, Age 14
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix hit stores November 6th. Haven't read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns yet? Find it here!
So often we see authors place their black characters in minor roles with a white savior as the protagonist. So here we present to you a list of six popular fiction genres with corresponding YA novels featuring black protagonists!
1. Romance with Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Everything, Everything has been mentioned countless times from both the book and the movie. Maddy is allergic to everything, and can’t leave her house because of the risks, not leaving for seventeen years. Olly moves in and they make eye-contact, and Maddy knows she’s going to fall in love. A sweet, beautiful story about overcoming odds and risking it all for love is a definite, swoon-worthy must-read.
2. Action-Adventure with A Blade So Black by L. L. McKinney
Alice, trained in magic weaponry and battling Nightmares, is struggling to keep up with school and her mother. But when Alice’s mentor is mysteriously poisoned, she must travel to Wonderland, home of the Nightmares that nearly ended her before. The task is seemingly simple: find the antidote and make it back home with her head still attached to her neck. But she soon discovers it’s easier said than done!
3. Biographical Account with Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Space travel is easily one of America's greatest accomplishments, with its crowning glory arguably being the spectacular moon landing. Yet contrary to what was for so long believed, this wasn't achieved solely by white men, nor white women either... Meet the HIDDEN FIGURES who helped to make this amazing feat possible - several incredibly devoted and talented black women who fought to assert their rights in a world that was prejudiced against them. Beautifully written by Margot Lee Shetterly, this will be a read that you won't want to put down!
4. Fantasy withThe Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
In Orléans, every person is born ugly and gray without the help of a Belle, who controls beauty and has the power to make people beautiful. Camellia Beauregard, a Belle, wants to be chosen as the royal favorite by the Queen of Orléans and able to be acknowledged as the most talented Belle, serving the royal family. Competing with five other Belles for the position, Camellia navigates through dangerous waters to make a choice for something she truly believes in. Not only is this book a fantastic fantasy book, but it also deals with many issues prevalent in the world today.
5. Speculative Fiction with Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
After the Civil War was brought to a sudden halt when the dead began walking the battlefields, the Native and Negro Reeducation Act was enacted, requiring colored children to train in combat schools with the sole purpose of defending the privileged white people from the dead. Jane McKeene is about to graduate as an Attendant—women who are trained in combat and etiquette, though she wants nothing more than to head back to her home in Kentucky. But when she finds out about a dastardly plot that threatens everyone in Baltimore County, she discovers maybe the dead aren’t the ones to fear after all.
6. Thriller with Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
While technically more historical fiction with a fantastical twist, KINDRED features many thriller-y elements. And it was just so good that we had to put it on this list! While celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her husband, Dana, a modern black woman, time travels to the antebellum South to save a drowning young boy. But as Dana is continuously called back to the past to save the boy from life-threatening situations, the time she needs to stay in the past grows longer and longer until she is unsure whether it’s possible to go back to the present in one piece.
This list is a hybrid of two of our favorite things: YA novels and Taylor Swift. And did we mention 13 is Taylor Swift’s number?
*MSL stands for Most Suitable Lyric
1.The cover for THE BELLES is "Gorgeous"!
Camellia Beauregard is a Belle, one of the few able to temporarily remodel people’s dull faces into masterpieces. But if that’s not enough, Camellia also wants to be chosen as the Queen’s favorite, the most revered Belle who gets to live in the palace and tend to the royal family and the court.
MSL: ‘Cause you’re so gorgeous, it actually hurts
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
2.IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET: a perfect "Love Story".
Things begin to change when sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara moves to California, new state, new school, new… sexuality? Sana starts falling in love with Jaime Ramirez, and Jaime might even like her back. There’s just one problem: Sana’s friends and Jaime’s friends don’t trust each other. And perhaps another: Caleb is falling for Sana. A perfect love story. And another: Sana’s dad might be having affair. Hmm… not so perfect after all?
MSL: This love is difficult, but it’s real/Don’t be afraid we’ll make it out of this mess
Author: Misa Sugiura
3. THE SECRET OF A (love-witch’s) HEART NOTE is a bit "Delicate".
Mim comes from a long line of love witches who use their powerful noses to brew elixirs. But there’s one catch: a love witch can’t fall in love without losing their gift of scent. So what to do when Mim starts falling for the popular soccer-star?
MSL: We can’t make any promises now, can we, babe?/But you can make me a drink
Author: Stacey Lee
4.Yael’s WOLF BY WOLF tattoos are a reminder of “Look What You Made Me Do".
Long story short, Yael’s family dies in a Nazi concentration camp while Yael is genetically experimented upon, developing the ability to change her appearance. Now she wants to take revenge by entering a competitive motorcyclist with someone else’s face. The prize for winning? A dance with the Furher and the perfect time to draw a gun.
MSL: But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time
Author: Ryan Graudin
5. When you see a GENUINE FRAUD, do you ever get that "I Knew You Were Trouble" feeling?
Jule wants to reinvent herself. Imogen, a million-dollar heiress, is the perfect ticket out of Jule’s hard-knock life. Against all odds, the two become the best of friends, but each have their own agendas when it comes to their friendship. Oh, and there might be a murder.
MSL: When the saddest fear comes creepin’ in/That you never loved me
Author: E. Lockhart
6. Problematic family? Obsessed ex? Heart melting romance? It’s A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, but I guess you could "Call It What You Want".
Feyre finds drama queens taking swings, jokers dressing up as kings, but they all fade to nothing when she looks at him. Feyre, a human girl, gets involved with the Faerie lands of Prythian and everything goes wrong. But who can she trust? And what about true love, anyway?
MSL: Starry eyes sparkin' up my darkest night
Author: Sarah J. Maas
7. It’s part of THE WINNER’S CURSE, there’s just a "Blank Space", and they’ll write your name.
In The Winner’s Curse trilogy, Kestrel is the daughter of the general whose empire is a military genius and enslaves those who are captured. She’s smart, crafty, and best of all, she’s not afraid to play games to get what she wants.
MSL: Find out what you want/Be that girl for a month/Wait the worst is yet to come
Author: Marie Rutkoski
8. Go ahead and SHATTER ME, but Juliette is saying "I Did Something Bad".
The Shatter Me series is steadily growing in popularity and there are no surprises why - this book’s main character is Juliette, a girl whose touch kills and has been locked up by the government. She had warned everyone, and now she’s coming for vengeance.
MSL: If a man talks s***, then I owe him nothing/I don't regret it one bit, 'cause he had it coming
Author: Tahereh Mafi
9. Beautiful as a CLOCKWORK ANGEL, a love forever in Tessa’s "Wildest Dreams".
"Wildest Dreams" fits the relationships in the Infernal Devices series perfectly. Both Will and Jem are absolute heartthrobs, but either way, Tessa’s relationship with either of them is destined to fail. Representing the bookworm in all of us, Tessa is smart, sharp-witted, and is not afraid to speak her mind.
MSL: And his voice is a familiar sound, nothing lasts forever/But this is getting good now
Author: Cassandra Clare
10.THE CROWN’S GAME harbors two "New Romantics".
Vika and Nikolai, the only two enchanters in Russia, enter the Crown’s game—a competition in magical ability. For the winner, the prize is being initiated as the Imperial Enchanter and advisor to the king. The loser faces death. Both are eager to compete, but it becomes clear that emotions may complicate things…
MSL: And every day is like a battle/But every night with us is like a daydream
Author: Evelyn Skye
11. From Elizabeth May’s THE FALCONER, Aileana has got some "Bad Blood" on her hands…
The seeming paragon of an aristocratic girl in nineteenth century Edinburgh, she leads another life, a secret one, centered around her ability to sense the highly treacherous faery race, which she uses to hunt and kill them. With the help of Kiaran, a peculiar friend who may or may not be hiding something himself, Aileana has devoted her life to finding the fae that killed her mother. But when she finds out she’s the last of the falconers - a line of women gifted to hunt and kill the fae - the plot thickens.
MSL: So take a look what you’ve done/ ‘Cause baby now we’ve got bad blood, hey!
Author: Elizabeth May
12."Sparks Fly" in the THE TIME BETWEEN US
They met against all odds. She’s from Chicago in 1995, and he’s from 2012 San Francisco. Yet Bennet’s remarkable power to travel through space and time brings the two together, in Anna’s time, and their paths collide. As they get to know each other better, Anna and Bennet become, well, more than friends, and must realize the truth: How will Anna and Bennet be able to stay together when time threatens to knock Bennet back to his own time?
MSL: ‘Cause I see, sparks fly, whenever you smile
Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
13. The TO ALL THE BOYS I LOVED BEFORE letters’ closing-off phrase is probably "You Belong With Me", Lara Jean
When a mysterious force mails Lara Jean’s secret love letters To All The Boys [She’s] Loved Before (by Jenny Han), one by one, her former crushes are driven to confront her. But what’s written in each? "You Belong With Me" is a condensed version of the messages.
MSL: Been here all along so why can’t you see?/You belong with me
Teen Advisory Board Member Amanda Reviews A Court of Thorns and Roses
A Court of Thorns and Rosesby Sarah J. Maas
A Court of Thorns and Roses is the explosive start to an amazingly written series filled with love, betrayal, and hatred. Feyre Archeron, a peasant human girl, hunts in order to support her family. Killing a deer and what she assumes to be a wolf, a faerie lord takes her away in vengeance for his friend. She learns of the courts of the fae, and navigates through politics, hatred, and an unidentifiable plague spreading throughout the courts. Her choices dictate the fate for all faeries - and her human family as well.
I came here from her Throne of Glass series and stayed for the beautifully written plot, fascinating characters, and general amazingness this story has to offer. Every character has such a diverse background, and it shows in her writing. I loved how each character had a motive - and a role to play. Not all life is good, not all shadow is bad, and the emotions these characters invoke is something that most authors wish to do.
Another part I really liked was the politics of the courts of fae, and how different they were from those of humans. Feyre grew up not learning how to read or write, and isn’t educated in book smarts. She had to learn to fend for herself, which is a huge culture shock when she enters the land of the faeries. The cold descriptions of the reality of Feyre’s life compared to the illustrious court of the High Fae is harsh and contradicting, and it’s absolutely beautiful.
If I am to be perfectly honest, my favorite part of all was the character development, and how I was emotionally invested in the characters. If you like fantasy stories with the opportunity to ship people, you’ll definitely love this series. Teen or adult, everyone could find someone they love, and I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any readers YA or above.
-Review written by Amanda, Age 14
You can find all of Sarah J. Maas' work, including the Throne of Glass series, here.
Teen Advisory Board Member Emily Reviews Strange the Dreamer
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor follows Lazlo Strange’s journey to complete his dream: to see the lost city of Weep. Starting at a young age, Lazlo’s fascination with the lost city supported him through his lonely childhood, and continued even after becoming a librarian as an adult. Unfortunately, Weep is located across the world and hasn’t been heard from in centuries. Lazlo is not like the warriors and heroes in his stories; he cannot possibly make the journey on his own. Fortune strikes when Eril Fane, a warrior known as the Godslayer, comes into Lazlo’s town in search of anyone who can help him fix the history that shadows Weep. Little do they know, five of the godspawn, the offspring of the same gods Eril Fane slew, survived and live in the giant seraph that continues to haunt the city. One of them, Sarai, visits Lazlo through his dreams, and the pair eventually develops a relationship. As their relationship blossoms, conflict ensues between the godspawn and the inhabitants of Weep, and secrets begin to surface.
Throughout the book, Laini Taylor maintains her fantastical imagery and magnificent setting. The characters were all intriguing, even when they weren’t always the most likable. Lazlo remains endearing and almost overwhelmingly good throughout the book, and Sarai was such an interesting character to read. While their romance did develop rather quickly, I found myself rooting for the two of them all the same. The conflict between the two sides is realistic, and each side has a valid motive. Although there is a clear good side and bad side, I felt empathetic towards the bad side. However, although the plot sounded really interesting, the pacing was so slow I stayed slightly detached from the story while reading. That being said, I was easily able to read the entire book in one sitting due to the amazing world building and unique cast of characters. All in all, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor has a slower start, but its immersive world and fascinating set of characters more than compensate for its pacing.
-Review written by Emily, Age 14
Did you enjoy Strange the Dreamer too? The sequel, Muse of Nightmares, is available in stores now!