My Top 5 Memorable YA Reads of 2017–in 20-word summaries

It’s two days until Christmas and little more than a week to the end of the year. This is the year I rekindled my love of reading and got into book blogging (the last days of June were when I created Serendipitous Reads, then called Lowbrow or Literary?, to be precise). According to my Goodreads tracker, I’ve read 67 books this year, but there are quite a few from the early part of the year that aren’t counted in there. All in all, it’s been a good first 6 months of reviewing.

Looking back over the entire list of titles, here are my top 5 memorable Young Adult books published in 2017, each with a 20-word sales pitch that’ll hopefully tell you immediately whether the book is for you or not:

5. The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

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Official blurb:

Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

My 20-word sales pitch: The valour in Fallon’s princess turned gladiatrix almost makes Caesar’s Rome look glamorous. With convincing cameos from Arviragus and Cleopatra.

4. Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Wintersong Cover

Official blurb:

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

My 20-word sales pitch: The Labyrinth retelling meets Phantom of the Opera you never knew you needed. Thankfully, Liesl is more useful than Christine.

3. Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Warbringer cover

Official blurb:

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

My 20-word sales pitch: Diana of Themyscira returns as a teenaged girl to tackle 21st century prejudice, CVS Pharmacies, and a potentially apocalyptic curse.

2. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

OFUIL cover

Official blurb:

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

My 20-word sales pitch: Intriguing even if you solve the crime early on. What’s a murder mystery without forbidden love and heartwarming squad goals?

1. The Empress by S.J. Kincaid

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Official blurb:

It’s a new day in the Empire. Tyrus has ascended to the throne with Nemesis by his side and now they can find a new way forward—one where they don’t have to hide or scheme or kill. One where creatures like Nemesis will be given worth and recognition, where science and information can be shared with everyone and not just the elite.

But having power isn’t the same thing as keeping it, and change isn’t always welcome. The ruling class, the Grandiloquy, has held control over planets and systems for centuries—and they are plotting to stop this teenage Emperor and Nemesis, who is considered nothing more than a creature and certainly not worthy of being Empress.

Nemesis will protect Tyrus at any cost. He is the love of her life, and they are partners in this new beginning. But she cannot protect him by being the killing machine she once was. She will have to prove the humanity that she’s found inside herself to the whole Empire—or she and Tyrus may lose more than just the throne. But if proving her humanity means that she and Tyrus must do inhuman things, is the fight worth the cost of winning it?

My 20-word sales pitch: Roman Empire in space, or Game of Thrones characters in the world of Star Wars. Also, there are black holes.

Honorable Mentions:

Now I Rise by Kiersten White

Warcross by Marie Lu

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

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