By Casey Wilson
Purity by Jackson Pearce: Purity is Pearce’s first contemporary YA novel, and it’s one that hits on a somewhat controversial topic: purity vows. After Shelby’s mother dies, she is determined to obey her mother’s last wishes and listen to her father – even when he wants her to participate in a purity ball. But that clashes with another of her mother’s wishes – to “live without restraint” – and, with the help of her friends, she has to figure out how to do both. Purity hits many familiar beats over the course of the story, building as it does on a well-engrained set of conventions. But it has its share of grace notes that make it Pearce’s story, rather than the genre’s. If family drama/romance are your thing, this wouldn’t be a bad addition to your list.
The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman: Nora Kane finds herself in the middle of an ancient conspiracy after the murder of her best friend – one that takes her all the way to Prague. Blood and Shadow is very much in the vein of The DaVinci Code, though if my memory of the latter is correct, Wasserman’s book is much better written. That said, I think the novel’s real strength is in the character relationships. My mind would wander whenever too much time was spent in the past or on the conspiracy, but the instant we got back to Nora and her friends I always became fully engaged again. There are a lot of plot twists here – one too many, in my opinion, though you may well disagree – and they will propel you through the novel. Plus, there’s a lot of nerdy academia stuff here. It’s made for grad students. (Also: remind me to write an entry sometime about the rise of “BLANK of BLANK and BLANK” titles in YA fiction.)
The Selection by Kiera Cass: Sometimes, you just need a book set in a future version of the Americas featuring a protagonist named America who enters into a contest to become the nation’s queen and has to wear lots of pretty dresses and try to choose between the boy from home she’s always loved and the surprisingly sweet and normal prince. This is that book.
Casey is a PhD student who is gleefully catching up on recent YA releases now that the semester is over.