I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was last week. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve previously read and am now ready to share my full thoughts about.
First up, I’d like to talk about Family of Liars by E. Lockhart. Thank you to Hot Key Books for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
The thrilling prequel to the TikTok phenomenon and #1 New York Timesbestseller We Were Liars takes readers back to the story of another summer, another generation, and the secrets that will haunt them for decades to come.
A windswept private island off the coast of Massachusetts. A hungry ocean, churning with secrets and sorrow. A fiery, addicted heiress. An irresistible, unpredictable boy. A summer of unforgivable betrayal and terrible mistakes. Welcome back to the Sinclair family. They were always liars.
Publication Date: 4th May
TW: death, drowning, grief, addiction, murder
As a huge fan of When We Were Liars, as soon as I knew there was a prequel coming out, I was absolutely sold. I’d loved the complex characters and it was one of the books that initially got me into YA. Lockhart has taken every element of the original and developed it even more. This is a slick and mature addition to the underlying story.
For me, a prequel has to flesh out something hinted at the original. It has to be complimentary, while also making something new. Family of Liars does this to perfection, with an exploration of intergenerational trauma, secrets and of course, the titular lies. This book depicts that broken, murky beating heart underneath the veneer of glamour and wealth the Sinclairs hold dear. It helps explain a lot of underlying tensions and subtle details in the original.
I know for certain that I need to re-read both books to see how the entire story unfolds and fully appreciate Lockhart’s eye for detail. She has this way of making you invest in the characters almost immediately. They are deftly sketched and fractured people, filling the page with their vibrancy and strength of character. Suddenly, a lot of why people operated the way they did in the original clicked into place for me. There’s this whole unspoken backstory that Lockhart spools out for you now. It just enriches and adds a whole new layer for me.
Something I particularly loved in this book was the heartfelt exploration of grief. This is a book that digs deep into the nuanced and splintering heart of death and loss. Lockhart really showcases the differing ways it affects each character, particularly in this environment of silence and stifling emotions. The pretence must be upheld at all costs. This fosters such a suffocating and tense environment, with every action fracturing something deep. That being said, I do not want to give anything away about this brilliant book.
Family of Liars is a book that must be approached with an open mind and heart. Just be warned to prepare for Lockhart to devastate you all over again.
Next up, I’d like to talk about Only on the Weekends by Dean Atta. Thank you so much to Hachette Children’s Group for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Mack never thought he’d find love, but now two boys want to be with him. Will he choose Karim or Finlay? And can true love last for ever? A must-read queer love story for fans of Sarah Crossan and Sex Education, written in verse by Dean Atta.
Fifteen-year-old Mack is a hopeless romantic – he blames the films he’s grown up watching. He has liked Karim for as long as he can remember, and is ecstatic when Karim becomes his boyfriend – it feels like love.
But when Mack’s dad gets a job on a film in Scotland, Mack has to move, and soon he discovers how painful love can be. It’s horrible being so far away from Karim, but the worst part is that Karim doesn’t make the effort to visit. Love shouldn’t be only on the weekends.
Then, when Mack meets actor Finlay on a film set, he experiences something powerful, a feeling like love at first sight. How long until he tells Karim – and when will his old life and new life collide?
Publication Date: 24th May
TW: racism, fatphobia, homophobia, mention of parental death, mention of cancer
Dean Atta has proved once more why he is a force to be reckoned with.
With The Black Flamingo, Atta portrayed such a searing exploration of masculinity, sexuality and race. His verse just has such an innate emotional complexity and ability to connect with the audience seamlessly. Once more, that power and intensity shines through in Only on the Weekends. This is another book that found a notch in my heart and just placed itself there. Mack is such a compelling character as he struggles with accepting his own ability to love and be loved. He is protective, lovable and endlessly generous. Reading his voice was like a ray of sunshine, though I also loved the exploration of his privilege and his acknowledgement of it.
Atta also threads in a poignant depiction of grief and loss, with that desire to connect back to your wider family and mourn what could have been. Mack is torn between two places and two people, embodied in his relationship entanglements. Both Finlay and Karim are such interesting people and their respective chemistry with Mack is wonderful to watch. Seeing queer joy on the page is still such a thrill to see and a refreshing change of narrative. However, the story is not without drama. Atta deals with the ethical dilemmas of these burgeoning loves in such a fascinating way. It becomes an impossible choice for Mack and I appreciated how emotional cheating was really explored. There are no simple answers here, because it is life and life is inherently messy. Atta leaves those little details and nuances completely open here, choosing to prioritise Mack himself above all else. On top of this, I really loved the familial exploration of both biological and found family and the entangled relationships of that as well. Mack’s journey with his dad throughout the book was one of the highlights for me.
Only on the Weekends is a book that lit up my heart and brought a smile to my face.
Finally, I’d like to delve into Summer’s Edge by Dana Mele. Thank you so much to Nicole Valdez at Simon and Schuster for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Emily Joiner was once part of an inseparable group—she was a sister, a best friend, a lover, and a rival. Summers without Emily were unthinkable. Until the fire burned the lake house to ashes with her inside.
A year later, it’s in Emily’s honor that Chelsea and her four friends decide to return. The house awaits them, meticulously rebuilt. Only, Chelsea is haunted by ghostly visions. Loner Ryan stirs up old hurts and forces golden boy Chase to play peacemaker. Which has perfect hostess Kennedy on edge as eerie events culminate in a stunning accusation: Emily’s death wasn’t an accident. And all the clues needed to find the person responsible are right here.
As old betrayals rise to the surface, Chelsea and her friends have one night to unravel a mystery spanning three summers before a killer among them exacts their revenge.
Publication Date: 31st May
TW: murder, blood, suicidal ideation, involuntary admission to a psychiatric hospital, death, trauma, animal death, drowning, poisoning, fire, fear of sharks, falling
This is an early contender for one of my favourite books of the year. The more I think about it, the more I fall in love with it and it stays on my mind.
Summer’s Edge has cemented Mele’s status as a must-buy author for me. The way she blends the central mystery with the fraught relationships between characters and those ominous snippets of another narrative in alternating chapters was something so special. Right from the opening, I walked right into her trap and she had me snared. It was such an atmospheric and horrifying opening, effectively setting the scene and giving you the necessary context for the events that are about to unfold. Mele’s writing was tense, descriptive and effortlessly engaging. I could not tear myself away. I had to know every last devastating secret and my god, there are plenty of them. That additional narrative voice that occasionally crops up in between chapters was genuinely chilling and added a creepy element that sent shivers up my spine.
I knew from People Like Us that Mele is a hurricane of a writer, particularly when it comes to immaculately plotted mysteries. Even with this, I was left shocked by plenty of what unfolded here. To be honest, I’m still reeling from those twists. It was so, so well-paced and intense. The construction of this is labyrinthine and completely upends every last one of your expectations. Every time you think you have it figured out, trust me, you have not. This is a must-read for any YA mystery lovers, with plenty of layers and a killer instinct. I don’t really want to give anything away, as I think you should discover the maelstrom Mele has in store for yourself. Simply put, this book is bloody brilliant.
Summer’s Edge is not a book I will not be forgetting any time soon.