Spring 2018 YA Contemporary Mini Review Roundup: Royals, Puddin’, and Leah on the Offbeat

Posted June 25, 2018 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Reviews / 10 Comments

Spring 2018 YA Contemporary Mini Review Roundup: Royals, Puddin’, and Leah on the OffbeatRoyals by Rachel Hawkins
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on May 1, 2018
Pages: 304 •Goodreads

Meet Daisy Winters. She’s an offbeat sixteen-year-old Floridian with mermaid-red hair; a part time job at a bootleg Walmart, and a perfect older sister who’s nearly engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. Daisy has no desire to live in the spotlight, but relentless tabloid attention forces her join Ellie at the relative seclusion of the castle across the pond.

While the dashing young Miles has been appointed to teach Daisy the ropes of being regal, the prince’s roguish younger brother kicks up scandal wherever he goes, and tries his best to take Daisy along for the ride. The crown–and the intriguing Miles–might be trying to make Daisy into a lady . . . but Daisy may just rewrite the royal rulebook to suit herself.

Somehow Royals flew under my radar until right before it’s release date, and I was shocked. How could I, who credits The Princess Diaries series as being the reason for my love of YA, not be in the loop about a book about modern day royalty, which is one of my FAVORITE fiction tropes EVER?! So when I came home from YALLWEST I immediately put this on hold at my library and flew through it in just 2-3 sittings.

While this was certainly NOT my first contemporary royalty story, it was my first Rachel Hawkins book, and I have to say I enjoyed it! There were several laugh out loud moments, and Daisy’s quotes were actually sincerely funny without feeling like she was trying to hard. I also loved the self-deprecating humor at her American background:

“So I’m not going to be able to get up on the fence and sing ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ while waving six American flags and twirling a baton?” I snap my fingers. “Well, there’s today’s plans ruined.” – Kindle Edition, Location 1321

The mixed media format was also really fun, and I loved seeing the articles from royal gossip sites like “Off with their Heads” and “Crown Town.” It was just so fun and snarky and actually helped me keep all of the characters straight (such as who all of the “Royal Wreckers” were).

However, for as much fluffy fun this was (and it was pure fluff) and the perfect timing since I read it the week after Harry and Megan’s IRL wedding, I did have a few qualms. The plot reminded me a LOT of Prince in Disguise, which also took place in Scotland and also had the protagonist with an older sister marrying into nobility (I feel like that’s a common theme now instead of the protagonist herself???). Also apparently Scotland is the new place to be for YA contemporary royal romances (though I’m pretty sure Scotland doesn’t have a monarchy anymore since Mary Queen of Scot’s son took the throne, and it’s now all considered the United Kingdom of Great Britain, which is why Harry and Wills have different titles depending on if they’re hanging out in Ireland, Scotland, or England…I know this is clearly set in an alternate universe but there was just not enough CONTEXT for this monarchy to work). However I preferred Prince in Disguise because there felt like there was a lot more substance to the story, for as much as I loved Daisy in this novel, I feel like I barely got to know her sister and Alex, and the story almost felt like it ended right when it was getting started. Also, Seb’s character felt like it needed a good round of edits because he was all over the place and his ~big reveal~ at the end really felt super random to me. Also I would have loved to get more background context on the Queen, and just all of the Royal Wreckers…there was just a whole lot of potential here and I felt like this story could have easily been another 100 pages longer.

Overall: Fun and fluffy with some truly laugh out loud moments, Royals was an enjoyable read but fell short on plot and character development, and didn’t really bring anything new to the contemporary royalty genre of YA. I would have loved for more research to be done on Scotland and more context to be established for the alternate history the book portrays. Goodreads notes this is the first in a series so fingers crossed their are improvements in the next book.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Spring 2018 YA Contemporary Mini Review Roundup: Royals, Puddin’, and Leah on the OffbeatPuddin' by Julie Murphy
Also by this author: Dumplin', Ramona Blue
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 8th, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 448 •Format: ARCSource: YALLWest

Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream—and to kiss her crush. Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend. When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they will surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing they might have more in common than they ever imagined.

I’ll admit, securing an ARC of Puddin’ was one of my top priorities this year at YALLWEST. I adored Dumpin’ and I was excited to return to Willowdean’s world via a secondary character who ended up being a real show stopper in the first novel. A true companion novel, Puddin’ can be enjoyed on it’s own or as a fun continuation of the small Texas community full of a lot of heart that Murphy introduced us to back in 2015.

Puddin’ is actually told in two dual perspectives: poster girl for positivity Millie, and total chip on her shoulder Callie. They’re a really unlikely duo and the circumstances under which they end up coming together are rather extreme, but I found that I actually liked their hesitant friendship more than I thought I would. While each girl learns from the other, neither of them really change or transform their personalities (for better or for worse) and I thought that was believable- Callie, for instance, doesn’t really stop being a selfish brat, but she can still be a friend to others and be open about her flaws and try to overcome them occasionally, for example.

Like Dumplin’, a prominent theme in Puddin’ is definitely that of self-worth and self-image, especially when it comes to weight and body image. I appreciated Millie’s candid attitude toward her weight and the discussions she has with Callie about it (such as explaining that “fat” doesn’t have to be a bad word), and her own recognition that even if she’s comfortable in her body, the societal pressures and prejudices won’t stop, such as her mother’s obsession with dieting and weight loss. There were also several wonderful portrayals of  relationships that did touch on the issue of weight/differences in weight, which is something that I rarely see portrayed in a YA book, especially so naturally. I also applaud this novel for showing Callie work through her prejudices toward people’s weight that have been so ingrained in her through society/hanging out with the “popular” crowd, and how though she showed problematic behaviors at times, she was willing to learn from them and didn’t get totally thrown under the bus by the other characters- it showcased acceptance and overcoming prejudice as being a learning process, even for those who might experience prejudice of their own (such as Callie dealing with being biracial in a small, mostly white town and the subtle everyday racism she encounters).

Side note: While Millie’s positive outlook on life was almost unbelievable, it was so refreshing to see a character in a novel who is just so genuine and eager and kind. It seems silly that these are things that stand out so much but I was just really moved by Millie’s capacity for kindness and positive thinking, and that is was written in a way that felt so authentic and honest.

Overall: Puddin’ was a feel good book that dealt with issues of weight and even race in a way that didn’t overwhelm the story or overshadow the characters’ other characteristics. I loved returning to this small town and seeing Millie and Callie’s friendship form, and I loved the fun cameos by characters from Dumplin’.

Spring 2018 YA Contemporary Mini Review Roundup: Royals, Puddin’, and Leah on the OffbeatLeah on the Offbeat (Creekwood, #2) by Becky Albertalli
Also by this author: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, What If It's Us
Published by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray on April 24, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 343 •Source: Scribd

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

I was so excited to read this one, because I was a latecomer to the Simon fandom but I recently read the book and saw the movie and saw both! I couldn’t wait to return to Creekwood and get peripheral glimpses of my cinnamon role Simon. This was also the first book I listened to since giving Scribd another shot.

First off, I really enjoyed the narration of this audio book. Leah’s voice is definitely different than Simon’s (much more sarcastic and cynical) but it worked with her character, and the narrator did a great job of portraying the inner monologue of an angsty teenage girl (having been one, I can attest that it was extremely well done lol). I loved getting a different perspective on the same characters from the previous book and also seeing more of Leah’s life and her relationship with her young mom and her less than privileged life that’s very different than Simon’s. It was a lot of fun getting to hang out with the crew again and follow them through the end of their senior year (and prom, of course).

However, I just couldn’t get on board with the plot. It was very romance driven and I just didn’t feel the chemistry between the two main romantic characters (and personally didn’t see any signs in the previous books). While I’m happy for the characters finding happiness, it unraveled a lot of the plot elements from Simon and I think a lot of the characters got hurt in the process of the main two characters getting together. While it’s great that there was diversity rep in this book, I think situations could’ve been handled better to make the characters a bit more kind and considerate to others (I feel like there was likely a lot of collateral damage that was glossed over or just not mentioned).

Overall: I loved seeing Simon, Blue, and the rest of the gang again, but the story felt forced and unfair to a lot of the characters and events from the previous book.



10 responses to “Spring 2018 YA Contemporary Mini Review Roundup: Royals, Puddin’, and Leah on the Offbeat

  1. Royals is on my TBR because I’m basically obsessed with any book having to do with royalty, but I also thought it sounded very similar to Prince in Disguise, which I just read and LOVED. Probably won’t be rushing to read this one soon, but I will keep it in mind if I need a light, fluffy read!

  2. Krystianna

    I have been really hearing mixed things about Leah on the Offbeat. I hear everyone hates Leah. It sucks that a lot of people got hurt in the process of the two mains getting together. I may still give it a chance just to see what I feel. Thanks for sharing.
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

    • Honestly I didn’t hate Leah (I think her teenage angst is pretty normal), I was more annoyed by the fact that a lot of the things that happened in SIMON were undone for the sake of the plot of this book, and just didn’t feel authentic. It was fun getting snippets of Simon and Blue, but other than that, I didn’t see much point in this book.

  3. I love Rachel Hawkins and I’m always up for some royal shenanigans, therefore the Royals is high up on my tbr 😀 Yeah I think it will work more if the sister marry some Duke or other nobility, but I guess that title Duchess won’t have the same ring as Princess 😀 Great review!

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