Find it at your library!

I don’t read much realistic young adult fiction. It’s just not my jam. I already lived through high school once and taught it for another four years, so when it comes to teen angst, I’ve graduated twice. But I love YA fiction that brings another element along with it, like a historical bent or a bizarre fantasy world or a dystopian nightmare scenario. A Line in the Dark is a delightful combo: a YA thriller. And it’s super thrilling because it’s a known and universally accepted fact that there is nothing scarier than a teenage girl.

Jess and Angie have been best friends forever, but there’s always been unacknowledged tension between them because Jess’s feelings are more intense than Angie’s. When Angie starts dating a girl from the fancy private school across town, the tension grows into something bigger and more deadly. And that’s probably all you need to know about the plot, because I don’t want to take away from the slow burn and eventual catastrophic explosion of this book. Teenage girls, a love triangle, complicated feelings, backstabbing, and manipulation. What could be better?

I was nervous about this book because I’d seen some mixed reviews, but I took the risk and bought the hardcover anyway. I am delighted that I was totally vindicated! And now I have that beautiful, sinister cover to adorn my bookshelf and my Instagram feed. I don’t think it’s a spoiler content-wise to say that there’s a big structural shift mid-book, and that’s what some readers have taken issue with. For me, though, that perspective change is what elevates A Line in the Dark above all the predictably structured novels you can find on YA shelves today, and I say props to Malinda Lo for trying something new.

Highly recommended for fans of dark mysteries and authors like Megan Abbott.

Find it at your library!

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into when I picked up Beautiful Creatures. Like Twilight, it seems like the kind of YA paranormal romance that people love to hate. Somehow it managed to stay off my radar until now despite being released while I was still teaching high school English, but lately I’ve been wanting to read light, fluffy fun stuff and nothing else and I’ve had to do some targeted browsing to find more of it. Thus Beautiful Creatures appeared one day as I was tunneling deep through a rabbit hole of fantasy stories written for audiences decade(s) younger than me. When I noticed it was set in the South, I was sold. Something about the advent of summer makes me crave books about hot, sticky, swampy places, and if dark secrets and magic are involved, all the better.

And you know what? For the most part, I really enjoyed myself. Beautiful Creatures is a perfectly adequate diversion if that’s what you’re in the market for. If I put on my snobby English major hat, sure, I could pick it apart like a kid in science class armed with a scalpel and presented with a formaldehyde-soaked frog. But why would I want to do that, when I could sit back with a sweating glass of sweet tea, slide on my shades, and let the story of reclusive witches and dark magic wash over me? Which, I should note, is even easier to do if you choose the audio version, read by the silky-voiced Kevin T. Collins in a delightful southern drawl. His voices for the doddering elderly aunts had me in stitches.

I say, if you like it, don’t fight it. Beautiful Creatures is lazy summer fun that goes down like ice cream on a hot afternoon.