Category: Rating


This is one that’s been giving me all kinds of trouble writing a review for. It’s one that I really enjoyed reading, but that is really hard to talk about without risking serious spoilers. Obviously something I want to avoid there. This one’s courtesy of netGalley. Here’s Mira Grant’s In the Shadow of Spindrift House. Enjoy!

In the Shadow of Spindrift House cover

Straight lines don’t exist in nature. There is no place for them among the curves, the twists, the softened edges. The House stands, all ruler straight lines and sharply measured angles, above a dying town that the sea reclaims street by street. The House stands, holding tight to its secrets and waiting. Harlowe Upton-Jones has been searching for answers for as long as she can remember. It’s what found her the teen detective group that would become her family. It’s what she’s good at. But a teen detective group can only stay teens so long and it’s all Harlowe can hope to do is find one last big case. One last big case to keep the band together or give the group a proper send off. One last big case that might find her the answers she’s been looking for since her parents’ murder. The legends surrounding Spindrift House twist in on themselves bending the Answer Squad’s story into something it was always meant to be, something it was never meant to be.

In the Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant is decidedly Lovecraftian in its horror, which in a lot of ways makes it kind of hard to talk about. The house itself is this inescapable thing for Harlowe, something she’s been keeping back from showing the other members of the Answer Squad for years but that she also knows is the big mystery. The one that could make them hit the big time, the one she hopes will keep her friends together for a little longer. The book is a story of losing battles and inevitabilities, buried family secrets and friends growing up and growing apart.

A lot of the story is driven by Harlowe being desperate to hold on to her present, to avoid facing the future for just a little longer. She doesn’t see any prospects for herself, no colleges that would take her that she could afford to go to, the girl she loves is planning on moving on with her life now that the mysteries are drying up. It’s that desperate fear that takes them to the Spindrift house and let’s Harlowe make excuses to just stay a little longer and a little longer. After all, Addison would be so mad if they left  and missed out on the reward money. Or maybe she just imagined the truly creepy things going on, they should just take a little longer and keep looking. There’s a fair amount of that.

In a lot of ways, the atmosphere of the story builds on mundane fears and frustrations. The Answer Squad are at a point in their lives where they can’t really be teen detectives anymore, and Harlowe feels more than a little trapped by the changes she’s staring down. She’s the one with no plan. She’s the one that weird things are happening to in Spindrift house. In a lot of ways it feels like the mundane is the root of all Harlowe and, by extension, the Answer Squad’s troubles within the story. They’re high school graduates, so the local authorities don’t have as much patience for them solving mysteries the police couldn’t. There aren’t many mysteries headed their way anymore, so they can’t support themselves with it, so Addison is getting ready to go make something of herself and start a career. Harlowe feels adrift and scared that she’s going to lose the people closest to her, so she pulls out the nuclear option of final mysteries.

Then Spindrift house itself has this fantastic oppressive atmosphere. The weight of time and all the fears that have driven Harlowe to lead her friends here. The things that are just off, that are wrong in little ways that add up. Then, there’s a reprieve, a moment with the Answer Squad just being a group of friends. It eases up for a little while to let the reader breath and to restart the cycle of rising tension. The writing in In the Shadow of Spindrift House is tight and satisfying even as a number of things begin to feel more and more inevitable.

This is much further on the horror end of things than a lot of things I read. But a slow creeping sort of horror, an internal horror that’s too big to properly fight, as opposed to something more action oriented. That is absolutely to its credit. Grant did a fantastic job here, especially with regard to the atmosphere. So, of course In the Shadow of Spindrift House gets a five out of five from me. It makes me want more of this setting and this type of horror.

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It’s the first of July, Summer is happening, and you know what that means? That means it’s time for the same thing that happens every Monday. Dice! This is another set from the Dice Envy Original subscription box. Enjoy!

Acid Splash 1

Right, so the Acid Splash dice set’s June’s Origin box dice of the month. These are black dice, with sort of a goldenrod yellow paint, and reverse engraving to make the details pop and add an interesting texture to them. I really like the contrast and the bubbling effect.

That said, since the effect is reverse engraved and stands level with the face of the dice, there’s a lot of places where the paint isn’t even. It’s either too thin or it looks like the dice were turned while it was still wet and it flowed around the design. On it’s own that isn’t a big deal, a lot of dice need a paint touch up, but there isn’t a good, simple way of touching up the paint on these.

Acid Splash 2

Surprisingly, with all the extra detail, the Acid Splash dice are easy to read. That’s definitely helpful. The texture is pretty nice, it adds to the way the dice feel in hand. They roll well, as expected with acrylic dice.

That’s about the size of it. The Acid Splash dice are a solid set of dice with nifty decoration. The only real issue I’ve found with them is the paint being uneven and hard to fix, but that’s pretty minor. I really like the aesthetic of the Acid Splash dice, the bubbling controlled chaos. It makes me sort of wish I could get a set of d10s in this mold, so I could use them for World of Darkness, roll up some horrifying thing beyond the ken of modern mortals to throw at my players. So, yeah, they get a four out of five. I’m looking forward to building a character to use these with.

I’ve rewritten this at least three times. It was a lot of fun to think about and I kind of want to do a book vs series vs novella now, but I also didn’t want to just sit here comparing it to the web series. This one’s thanks to the awesome folks at Kids Can Press, via netGalley. Here’s Kim Turrisi’s adaptation of Carmilla. Enjoy!

Carmilla cover

When college freshman Laura Hollis’ roommate goes missing after a party she calls everyone she thinks might be able to help find her. Instead of help, she gets stuck with Carmilla, the roommate from hell, an aloof philosophy student who responds to seemingly everything with sarcasm. But the more Laura digs, the stranger things get. And the stranger things get, the more it seems like Carmilla knows much more than she lets on. The more it seems like Carmilla might be interested in her for less than nefarious purposes. What’s a girl to do with a mystery to solve, a very possibly vampiric roommate, and homework piling up by the day?

So, Kim Turrisi’s Carmilla is an adaptation of an adaptation, the Kinda TV web series of the same title started out in 2014 and has grown since. Being an adaptation can make things a little clunky at times, things that work well in video don’t always translate well to writing. But, it’s also not tied to a web cam anymore or just the initial script. The novel seems to tie in some things from parts of the web series’ setting that were introduced later as well as a few new scenes away from Laura’s updates regarding the missing girls mystery.

Not being tied to one web cam in one room is both a positive and a negative. The new scenes can be a lot of fun and add to the feeling of the setting and to Laura’s relationships with other characters. But, it can also feel like there’s just not quite enough to them or of them. The library scene stands out for me on this. We get Laura and La Fontaine and Carmilla breaking into the library and Carmilla knowing things that make getting where they need to be easier. That’s great, it adds to her as a character, it’s something new. Then they get into the library and things play out and are described nearly the same as they were in the web series. It didn’t feel as exciting as the characters being attacked by a flaming card catalogue should have been. It felt like I was being told what happened rather than seeing them experience it. There was a lot of room to expand or to fill things in a bit, and it feels like the author didn’t take it.

The exception to this feels like Laura’s crushes on both Danny, the TA for one of her classes, and of course Carmilla. Being in Laura’s head instead of just seeing her actress react, the reader gets a lot more details on how she feels about these two. Being into Danny because she’s sweet and straight forward in standing up for the missing girls and Laura herself. The attraction to Carmilla while still thinking she’s a terrible person and how that mellows into being into Carmilla the person. There’s a lot of internal stuff added here that makes it flow well.

There was kind of a weirdness about how some of the speech tags were done, especially when it comes to Carmilla. Maniacal laughter doesn’t really mesh with the whole disaffected philosophy student thing, or the whole aloof vampire thing, either way. Some things with Kirsch coming across as whiny, almost wimpy, in a way that feels odd given his whole friendly frat bro character. If I had to put my finger on it, I’d say that the tags that take me out of the narration feel too big for their moments or even their characters. It isn’t a huge issue, but it is a notable one.

It’s an interesting thing. I know that a lot of my enjoyment of the novel comes from my enjoyment of the web series. I know there were moments where I was left waiting for a particular bit or where something filled in a little bit more and it feeling better tied in for that. Turrisi’s adaptation does feel unfinished in places, possibly as a result of working from the script rather than the finished series, or maybe just as a result of things not translating well between one format and another. There are places where I felt thrown off by knowing there was more, and that does knock the book down a little for me. But I also want to see novels for the next two seasons and the movie as well. I’m left hoping that this is part of the lead up to something new coming, something more. I enjoyed Turrisi’s adaptation of Carmilla.

And that leaves the final score in a strange place. As a fan of the web series and knowing what they already managed, I would be inclined to give the novel a three out of five. But I also know that if I was just reading the novel on its own, knowing that the romancy aspect is a fair sized part of it, I would be more likely to bump it up to a four. So a four is where I’m going to leave it with the hope that, if there is a next book, it does all the things this one could have made this one fantastic.

Sort of a one more thing that I hope was a result of reading an ARC rather than the finished book. In the original season one of the web series La Fontaine isn’t specifically said to use they/them pronouns, it’s possible they aren’t entire out at that point, though they do go strictly by La Fontaine or Laf. As a result of this, she/her pronouns are used for them in the first season of the web series. The novel introduces them as gender queer, but still uses she/her pronouns for them in some places where the character speaking would know to not do that. It seems like the kind of thing that happened as a result of just transferring things over, but is also a sign that this could have been looked over again. That’s a big mistake to glance over.

Yellow Sign of Hastur

Late again, late again. But the dice are worth waiting for. I should know, I spend more than a month looking forward to Magic City Con to check out the Infinite Black booth. The Yellow Sign of Hastur dice are from Infinite Black’s Unspeakable Tomes collection. Enjoy!

YSoH 4

These are a fantastically presented set of dice. The grimoire dice box looks fantastic with the Yellow Sign on its spine and cover and the printed on details of the metal latches to hold it closed and the magic symbols on the front cover. It even has printed on page edges, giving it the look of a worn and well read tome. There’s a little bit of resistance from the magnetic closure when you open it, enough to be felt but not enough to be annoying. There’s a fantastic piece of art on the inside cover that’s also used on the “White Night, Black Stars, Dim Carcosa” play mat. All fun stuff.

YSoH 3

Inside the box, there’s both the dice and a lore card. Describing the Yellow Sign and its effect on those not dedicated to the Yellow King, the madness it can bring, the lore card is well made. It makes me look forward to reading the ones on other sets of these dice.

YSoH 2

On to the dice themselves though. I love the look of these dice both the places where the yellow and black clash and the parts where the black just sort of seeps through like an infection or a creeping mold. It’s lovely and bright and just pleasing to look at. There is the downside of the coloring though, that the gold inking is really hard to read from any distance. There’s not really a good way to fix that though and, I admit, I like the gold for thematic reasons

The Elder Dice sets come with the standard seven dice as well as two more d6, for a grand total of nine dice. Which is useful. The dice are pretty standard as far as feel goes. The inking is even and the detail on the Yellow Sign on the high sides is fantastic. They seem to be well balanced, though I haven’t tested these as much as I want to yet.

YSoH 1

So, I’m definitely going to be getting more of these. This particular set I feel like I would use for a character who’s having a face heel turn or who’s being revealed as an antagonist. The packaging makes for a fantastic display piece, I like the dice themselves, and the issue with the inking is something I can work around. So, yeah five out of five.

I’m later than I wanted to be on this. No excuses there, I just didn’t get it done on time. That aside, this one is thanks to Entangled Teen. Here is A. M. Rose’s Breakout. Enjoy!

Breakout cover

Lezah doesn’t know what landed her in prison, or really much of anything else about herself. With six days left before her execution the only chance she has to find out is to escape. And her only chance of escaping requires relying on strangers, possibly dangerous ones, and her former school rival. Can she trust anyone long enough to get out or will they all fall prey to the prison’s formidable defenses?

A. M. Rose’s Breakout is a book that I bounced around on how I felt about it, especially early on in reading it. But once it hit its stride, it worked really well.

The start was a little rough, with what’s nearly a new world entirely in the form of a California that’s been separated from the rest of the US by earthquakes. Special standouts on that were the WALTERS or Walking Computers, essentially robots that are meant to have free will, and the SOULS that everyone is supposed to have that are ID and phone and personal entertainment all rolled into one. SOULS do everything from let their users keep in contact to changing their appearances pretty drastically to being the main way the government kept tabs on citizens. It was all fed to the reader pretty bluntly at the start, which was necessary to a degree but also felt incredibly clunky.

I had a bit of a similar issue when the male characters, Trip and Seph, were introduced.  It quickly became clear that Seph was our designated love interest, with his history with Lezah and his sad sad eyes and super competence. The build up to that felt like it took away from the immediacy of escaping the prison for a good bit. It felt like there were big neon signs telling me that this was going to be a huge part of the experience.

Here’s the thing though, both the rough bits from the start and Seph and Lezah’s whole thing, both worked out. The blunt early explanations felt weird because it was stuff that Lezah knew and wouldn’t have had much reason to explain to, essentially, herself but that smoothed out later once the characters were more in the action and things felt more focused. As to Lezah’s crushing on Seph? It wound up feeding character stuff for both of them as well as feeding in some bits of Lezah’s missing memories. The book hit a point in the action where the mystery and the full cast were more important than just those two characters, so it made the moments between Lezah and Seph feel more impactful. It wasn’t just the two of them and a world of card board cutouts.

This all said, the thing that made the book for me more than anything else was one of the antagonists. They were written in so well that I was genuinely caught off guard at the reveal. It was built in really well and makes me want to see how Rose handles other antagonists.

That’s about it. While I’m left wanting to see where things go for Lezah and company from the book’s ending on, it was still a satisfying ending that worked for the story. The things that didn’t work did well by the things I enjoyed. And, at the end of the day, I even wound up appreciating the romancey bits. So, Breakout earns a four out of five from me. I’m interested in seeing what A. M. Rose does in the future.

Hey all, running late because of job hunt related stuff. Things are turning out pretty well just now. In any case, it’s time for dice. This set’s a little different from others I’ve reviewed because it’s from the Dice Envy subscription service and isn’t available for ordering yet. I lucked into a subscription before car issues ate my savings, so I’m planning on reviewing the monthly set until the subscription runs out. Enjoy!

Cyclone 1

The Dice Envy Cyclone Dice set is an interesting thing for me. I’ve never done much with metal dice before this set. Ease of use on getting other materials and all that. Now, something that’s just really cool for me is that the mold on these is split between the Sixteen Candles set and the Oathkeeper’s Armor set. It makes for a fantastic design clash. The difference in the blue of the Oathkeeper’s sides and the purple and teal of the Sixteen Candles sides works really well for that.

These dice are super heavy compared to acrylic or resin sets. It’s a nice difference and makes them feel much different. Admittedly that’s kind of an obvious thing to note, but it’s still pretty nice.

Cyclone 2

I do admit that the weight is part of why I haven’t tested these as much as I usually do. I don’t currently have a dice tray and didn’t want to risk damaging my table. Four of the points on the d8, in particular, are very pointy. They still seem to roll just fine, from what I tested they don’t seem to get hung up on numbers. The big exception to this is the d4, it was miscast, but Dice Envy is already aware of that and is replacing that dice with the next month’s set.

Overall, I’m quite happy with the Cyclone dice set. They’re something very different from anything else in my collection and, while I don’t have any particular plans for a character for them, I look forward to trying them out. Just for the niftiness of design and that I’ve enjoyed what testing I’ve been able to do with them enough to be planning for finding a dice tray, the Cyclone dice get a five out of five.

Not much to say here this time. It was really hard to write this without including spoilers and I have enough left that I want to talk about that I might do an “And Another Thing” post about it some time. That said, this one is thanks to the nice folks at Entagled Teen. Here is Rachel Rust’s 8 Souls. Enjoy!

8 Souls cover

Villisca, Iowa is known for murder. For the deaths of eight people in 1912. For the Ax Muder house.  The house that seventeen year old Chessie has been dreaming about her entire life, sometimes new and lived in, sometimes as it is now slowly falling in on itself across the street from her grandparents’ house. Across the street from where she’ll be spending the entire summer while her parents work out the details of their divorce. Amid nightmares and ghostly voices, Chessie finds herself stuck trying to figure out her connection to the Ax Murder house and David, the mysterious boy who knows more than he lets on and so, so many secrets.

So, I make no secret of the fact that I love haunted house stories and horror in general. The promise of a small town with dark secrets and a house that can’t forget pulled me to Rachel Rust’s 8 Souls. It’s a book that was pretty good for what it is and than just misses the mark for what I wanted it to be. Notable differences there.

This being a book published by Entangled Teen, I knew to expect a fairly large romance side plot. That’s just what they do as a publisher. The mysterious boy is mentioned in the blurb. It’s something that I was going to have to roll with. My issue, of course, comes not from the existence of this romance plot but from how much feels underdone in the face of and about it.

There were a lot of ideas that could have been fantastic if they’d been given more room or if they’d been introduced earlier. Most of the stuff about the haunting and David’s whole deal could have worked fantastically if they’d been worked in earlier and given more page space. Make that a thing alongside Chessie thinking that David and Mateo were pranking her with the whole ghost hunting deal. Spend more time with Chessie trying to figure out what’s going on instead of avoiding David and watching Netflix instead of looking into the thing haunting her. Even the romance itself felt rushed along once Chessie decided that she could trust what David was saying.

The antagonist gets hit with this harder than most other details. There’s a thread throughout the book about these little girls having gone missing and that there’s more disappearances and strange deaths in Villisca than most cities its size. But there isn’t much done with that until right at the end. It was almost to the point that I’d forgotten about it in a couple of places. There were a couple of characters who might have been antagonists or, in a more horror focused book, solid red herrings. But nothing came of them and the antagonist was left feeling like they’d been brought in out of left field. A last minute, one more thing, secret that David hadn’t bothered to mention yet. It was an idea that got introduced and used within pages so the story could rush on to the climax. That was frustrating for me, because the antagonist and the climax both could have been so, so good with a little tweaking and a little more page space.

That’s pretty well where I land on 8 Souls. Rust did a good job with the setting, a small town that’s losing people as time goes on. The real world Villisca, Iowa was actually the scene of an ax murder of eight people, so that’s something that could be interesting to look more into after reading this. But it is very much a book that wants for a little more. A little more to the horror, and the characters, and the buildup. As a YA romance with supernatural elements, it’s functional. With more time to percolate it could have been fantastic, and for that I give it a three out of five. I would be willing to read Rachel Rust again, but I also want to see what she would do in another genre.

So, this wasn’t the review I intended to post this week, but I really didn’t like the idea of not posting one at all. This is one that I picked up awhile back after enjoying the first one and just didn’t get to until recently. In any case, here’s Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Worship. Enjoy!

Heroine Worship cover

It’s been months since Aveda Jupiter and her best friend/personal assistant turned co-heroine Evie Tanaka saved Los Angeles and the world from a demonic invasion and subsequent apocalypse. Months with no demons. No monsters. No need for Aveda Jupiter, especially with how in love with Evie’s fire powers the people of LA are. Months of feeling more and more like she’s obsolete. A sudden rush of rampaging bridezillas and Evie’s engagement might be just the thing to help Aveda set herself back to rights. At least it might if it doesn’t destroy her first.

Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Worship feels very much like a middle book. The stakes feel a lot lower than in the previous book, Heroine Complex, and things feel much more focused on characters’ feelings and Aveda as a conflicted person rather than a diva boss. It’s a needed slow down, but one that made the book go a little slow in places for me.

So, a big issue with my reading Heroine Worship was that I didn’t really like Aveda Jupiter for a big slice of it. A part of that is a holdover from Heroine Complex, where she’s this complete diva and more than kind of a control freak. That’s not the greater share of things though, in that book it was a little tiring that she was like that but she was also this larger than life character versus Evie being a normal person forced to become extraordinary. Here though, Aveda is the protagonist and the stakes feel so much lower so there’s more focus on who she is as a character. This is Aveda’s story about coming back to herself from being just Aveda Jupiter the super heroine diva perfectionist and learning to embrace the parts of herself that are Annie Chang the regular woman.

That actually lands the book in an interesting place for me. The reader sees Aveda trying so very hard to shed her diva tendencies and to be a good friend to Evie, just on the terms she understands. We see her being bad at communication and making assumptions about what’s best and a hundred other things, and that’s so frustrating even as it does a really good job of humanizing her. We also get the occasional mini chapter seeing what other people think of her behavior, and the outside perspective is also frustrating because of course the characters from these bits don’t have the whole story and of course they’re written as being extra antagonistic. As frustrating as some of this was, especially her running off assumptions, it all made me like Aveda a lot more. All the frustrations and the trying to do the right things and wanting to be her best self but not having the best handle on who that is, that worked really well for me. It baked in the understanding that Aveda and Evie’s friendship wasn’t magically all fixed up after the last book. It baked in that Aveda needs to learn to let herself be a person instead of always a super heroine. It filled out the cast a little, giving Aveda other characters to work with and react to. All that I really liked.

Honestly, the only thing that bothered me and kept me bothered was the romance. Even then it was, more than anything, a combination of second hand embarrassment from Aveda clearly not knowing what to do with feelings  and just feeling like it was there just for it to be there. The love interest, Scott, was a perfectly decent character, the surfer dude spell caster who’s been friends with Evie and Aveda since childhood. But, I feel like I’d have wanted to see Scott and Aveda end things moving towards acknowledging their mutual attraction rather than that being a thing that ate so many words where it didn’t need to. They’re clearly good for each other and I could have been totally behind it, if it hadn’t felt quite so wedged in and if it hadn’t largely followed Heroine Complex in using sexual attraction to short hand the characters being romantically into each other.

Heroine Worship is an interesting one for me to review. I’m already planning on reading the final book in the trilogy, but there are absolutely aspects that I’m expecting to roll my eyes over when I reach them. I mean, the romance issues are pretty set in the series so far. But it was also a book that I legitimately enjoyed the majority of. While at the end I think I remember the things that I didn’t like more than the things I did enjoy, those same things are absolutely bits that other readers are probably going to be here for. So, I think I tend towards giving Heroine Worship a three out of five. I don’t know that it isn’t better than that, I’m certainly going back for more after all,  but there are certainly aspects that are just not for me.

Magic Missile Infinity D4

Running late this week, but I’m doing something a little different this time. When it comes to dice, standard d4 are probably my least favorite. They’re odd little caltrops of dice that function fine but just don’t quite work for me. So of course I wanted to check out Dice Envy’s Infinity d4, and since they have a fantastic sale on a set of the Magic Missile Infinity d4 this seemed like the time to give them a try. Enjoy!

Magic Missile id4 1

I’m not super sure how to talk about this set exactly, but I do like them quite a bit. The dark blue and gold is a pretty standard color pairing that works really well together. I like the way the magic missiles are engraved into the dice rather than painted on. Both the decoration and the numbers are fairly deeply engraved and have awesome visibility.

Now, the big thing with these dice is that they aren’t standard d4. Obviously. A standard d4 is, of course, a sort of pyramid with the numbers assigned to each angle. I’m not a huge fan though I’d be hard pressed to say why exactly, I think part of it might just be that they aren’t as satisfying to roll as other dice. That’s not a problem with the infinity d4 because they roll a lot like a d6 and just feel nice to roll.

Magic Misslie id4 2

I like how clear the numbering is on these, even with the decorations, they’re super easy to read. I like how they feel in the hand and just enjoy rolling them. This is a set of one single type of dice that makes me want to find an excuse to use them, like I found myself wondering what kind of character I could use these for while I was playing with them for the review. For the feel of them and the novelty of how they’re shaped, the Magic Missile Infinity d4 get a five out of five.

This feels like way more of an accomplishment than it really should. But, for this week at least, I’m back to book reviewing! This one’s courtesy of the nice folks at Entangled Teen. Here is T.H. Hernandez and Jennifer DiGiovanni’s Prom-Wrecked. Enjoy!

Prom Wrecked cover

Prom wasn’t supposed to end in a jail cell. Riley Hart is the co-chair, the vice president, the planner for more clubs and student organizations than anyone cares to count. But when senior prom is cancelled due to lack of interest and funding, she has to step up for the first time in her high school career. With the help of her gaming buddy, the utterly off limits Owen Locklear, she’s going to make prom memorable for everyone involved. Missing deposits, elderly musicians, uncertain community donors, missing deposits, or even venue destroying acts of nature or not there will be prom.

T.H, Hernandez and Jennifer DiGiovanni did a number of nifty things with Prom-Wrecked. The split point of view between advertised protagonist Riley and her former best friend Catherine showing the reader different aspects of prom planning and the various characters is used fantastically. Add on to that, both points of view feel like very different coming of age stories that complement each other well. It was a really fun read.

One thing that I think worked to the book’s favor was the bit at the beginning where the reader is shown how prom ended. All the major characters are in jail, a number of them are roughed up, and the reader knows nothing about how a high school prom went so wrong that it ended up like this. Roll back to the day that prom’s cancelation is announced and read every bit of everything going wrong and the kids in the jail cell trying to make it work anyway. It simultaneously takes away the worry about Riley and company failing while also promising ridiculous events on the way there.

The two separate coming of age stories thing that I mentioned earlier is also worth noting. Both Riley and Catherine are sort of stuck in their respective social niches. Riley is in everything but avoids leading anything until the prom committee, while Catherine is one of the popular girls but stuck with friends she isn’t really friends with and trapped by her mother’s expectations. One has to learn to lead and deal with other people’s expectations, the other has to learn to embrace what she enjoys despite expectations. It works. More so, it works while still feeling like a single cohesive  story rather than two partial stories stitched together.

Extra special bonus points to the Catherine chapters. As the former best friend who dumped the protagonist to hang out with the popular girls, she could have easily been a one note mean girl character. Having her be the deuteragonist neatly avoids that, gives the story a character who’s invested in prom happening and has the connections to attempt things that Riley couldn’t, and makes the love story bits more interesting and satisfying. She might actually be my favorite character.

The romance aspect that generally is something that elicits an eye roll and a fair amount of disinterest in both YA and contemporary novels is present here. And it did initially get an eye roll. But then something happened. Riley kept a lid on her crush on Owen and was as good a friend as she could be, supporting his relationship with Catherine and joking around with him, listening to his ideas for Morp and spinning them into something workable. It’s a lot of fun and leaves him the one pining for what can’t be. More even than that, on Catherine’s side of things we have her realizing that her relationship with Owen isn’t what either of them really wants. The lack of an antagonist within the romance narrative works for me really well, as does the way Riley and Owen and Owen and Catherine feel like friends who care about each other instead of points on a triangle.

If I have one quibble, it’s with a bit towards the end where better communication could have avoided a lot of stress for a number of characters. But that feels both in character and like it paid off pretty well, so it’s kind of a nothing issue. If I have a second one, it’s that some of the music references felt kind of forced. That might have just been because I’d only heard of a third or so of the artists referenced though.

So, Hernandez and DiGiovanni’s Prom-Wrecked is very much not my usual cup of tea, being a YA contemporary romantic tragicomedy about the rise and fall of a canceled senior prom. It’s not the kind of book I would usually pick up or, really, give much thought. But it was absolutely the book I needed to break myself out of my reading slump. Prom-Wrecked was just fun and I’m ready to look for other things either author has written. Five out of five.