Mercedes Helnwein’s Slingshot is an exciting debut contemporary young adult novel perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell and Mary H. K. Choi
“I didn’t think it was going to be anything like this when I finally fell in love. I thought it was going to be pretty simple. Like, I’d love someone and they’d love me. I thought that’s the way it worked.”
Grace Welles is stuck at a third-tier boarding school in the swamps of Florida, where her method of survival is a strict, self-imposed loneliness. And it works. Her crap attitude keeps people away because without friends, there are fewer to lose.
But when she accidentally saves the new kid, Wade Scholfield, from being beaten up, everything about her precariously balanced loner world collapses and, in order to find her footing again, she has no choice but to discover a completely new way to exist.
Because with Wade around, school rules are optional, weird is okay, and conversations about wormholes can lead to make-out sessions that disrupt any logical stream of thought. Nothing’s perfect, but that’s not the point. When they’re together everything seems uncomplicated in a way that Grace knows is not possible.
Except it is.
So why does Grace crush Wade’s heart into a million pieces?
Acidly funny and compulsive readable, this debut is a story about two people finding each other and then screwing it all up. See also: soulmate, stupidity, sex, friendship, bad poetry, very bad decisions and all the indignities of being in love for the first time.
Books that take place at a boarding school are my favorite, so needless to say, I was very excited about the opportunity to read All Girls.
As the prestigious Atwater School prepares to welcome its students back for a new school year, they encounter an unexpected surprise: signboards along the local roads, except instead of presenting a jovial message like the Burma Shave ads of almost a century ago, they announce that the school is harboring a rapist.
Naturally, this sends shockwaves through the entire Atwater community. Rather than presenting one girl’s experience at school like Sittenfeld’s Prep, this book presents a cohesive narrative of the school year through the eyes of a series of girls. While the scandal—a student from 25 years ago has accused an unnamed male faculty member of coercing her into a sexual relationship when she was a senior—is always in the background, the main themes are much more about American girlhood than this particular scandal. The students are from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds; they also have different interests, presenting the breadth of the student body at a place like Atwater.
Rian’s life as the art teacher to a gaggle of displaced boys at Albin Academy should be smooth sailing—until the stubborn, grouchy football coach comes into his world like a lightning strike and ignites a heated conflict that would leave them sworn enemies if not for a common goal.
A student in peril. A troubling secret. And two men who are polar opposites but must work together to protect their charges.
They shouldn’t want each other. They shouldn’t even like each other.
Yet as they fight to save a young man from the edge, they discover more than they thought possible about each other—and about themselves.
In the space between hatred, they find love.
And the lives they have always wanted…
Just like this.
“The romantic longing, themes of bravery and confidence, and moments of cozy domesticity shine.” —Publishers Weekly on Just Like That
Just Like This by Cole McCade
This is a delightful “opposites attract” romance. Damon and Rian haven’t spoken much to each other, because they don’t think they share anything in common. But when a student who plays football and takes art class gets into trouble, they have to work together.
Their mutual frustration with each other turns into mutual attraction, but the more pressing concern is that they’re still trying to figure out what’s going in with their student, whose evasive answers are not yielding very much in the way of clues.
Their personalities are similar, despite their differences in vocation and outward appearance. Damon is buff and Rian is more ethereal, but they both pretend to keep to themselves and aren’t overly sociable, which is probably why neither tried to befriend the other before.
The attraction comes first, but as they get to know each other, both men lean on each other as “found family”, which strengthens their bond and allows them to rely on each other instead of keeping their feelings to themselves.
I would recommend Just Like This. While it’s the second book in the series, it functions well as a standalone. Rian does have a conversation with Summer, one of the protagonists from Just Like That, but readers won’t be lost if they start with this book. This is the fourth book I’ve read from McCade, and I’m looking forward to reading more in the future.
I received an ARC of this book from Carina Press/NetGalley.
Rian Falwell had a problem.
And that problem was currently staring at him through a messy tangle of black hair, from beneath a brow dotted with gleaming beads of sweat that—beneath the glassy afternoon light streaming through the windows—turned to glistening motes of amber against dusky brown skin.
Honestly, if Damon Louis was going to come barging into Rian’s studio like this…
He could at least have the decency to wear a shirt.
The P.E. teacher took up far too much space inside the tiny cubicle of a studio, his shoulders so broad they had almost touched both sides of the door frame as he’d stalked inside. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of the gym, with his wide, sculpted, scar-rippled chest glazed in a sheen of sweat and a pair of loose black track pants hanging off his
hips, the elastic waistband barely clinging to the narrow line cut below his iliac crest. His shoulder-length tumbles of dark hair clumped together, completely drenched, droplets dangling from the tips.
But as overheated as Damon looked?
His dark brown eyes were completely cold—glossed to reflective ice as he folded thick, brawny arms over his chest and took a slow look around the cluttered space of Rian’s studio.
Rian could track the line of his gaze—starting with the gloppy pile of clay on his pottery wheel; a pile that would eventually become a vase, but right now was just misshapen lumps of gray.
Then to the thin sheets of handmade papyrus parchment drying on a clothesline strung across the room, pulped and pressed from the fallen early autumn leaves of the trees around Albin Academy, an experiment Rian had been quite pleased with when it resulted in fine paper with a green-gold translucent fragility, flecked with bits of brown from the leaves’ veins and stems.
Next, the many half-finished canvases propped about on their easels, slashed with angry, bold strokes of paint in abstract designs.
The anatomical diagrams pinned to the walls.
And the extra large sketchbook left open on his worktable, displaying loose, light sketches of male bodies in motion, focused on capturing the flow of sinew in the turn of the waist, the tightening of an arm as it drew back, the extension of the body and curve of the spine during a long, lazy reach.
Damon’s eyes lingered longest on that one, his dark, expressive brows rising fractionally, almost mockingly—and Rian’s face burned.
All of these were his personal projects, all unfinished, but still things he put everything he had into.
So why was this stone-faced, unsmiling jerk standing here looking over them like he was about to assign Rian a failing score?
What was he even doing here at all?
Those dark brown eyes snapped back to him as if Damon had somehow heard the question snarling in the back of Rian’s mind.
“So,” Damon drawled, and Rian realized this was the first time he’d actually heard Damon speak in his three years at Albin Academy, rather than noncommittal affirmative mutters during staff meetings. His voice was deep, raw, gritty, with a subtle pull to it that didn’t quite seem to echo typical New England accents around Massachusetts. “I thought this was some kinda broom closet. Chambers and Walden know you’re using it for…” He tilted his head. A damp ripple of hair fell across the refined sharpness of his cheekbone, the tip practically licking at the corner of his wide, full, stern-set mouth. “…this?”
More at the implied scorn dripping from this than at the fact he’d been…uh…
Caught using school grounds for unauthorized purposes.
He doubted Principal Chambers and Assistant Principal Walden would particularly care. Especially when Rian had been using the storeroom as a studio since he’d been hired, and no one had really noticed—though considering Lachlan Walden had only been hired last semester, the assistant principal had more things to worry about than one rogue art teacher moving a few brooms.
So Rian drew himself up, lifting his chin as he reached for the wet rag hanging from the edge of his wheel and began wiping the thick patina of clay from his hands, peeling off the cold, clinging layer.
“My broom closet,” he said firmly. “Attached to my classroom. I’m allowed to use it as I deem necessary as long as it’s for educational purposes.”
Cole McCade is a New Orleans-born Southern boy without the Southern accent, currently residing somewhere in Seattle. He spends his days as a suit-and-tie corporate consultant and business writer, and his nights writing contemporary romance and erotica that flirts with the edge of taboo—when he’s not being tackled by two hyperactive cats.
He also writes genre-bending science fiction and fantasy tinged with a touch of horror and flavored by the influences of his multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual background as Xen. He wavers between calling himself bisexual, calling himself queer, and trying to figure out where “demi” fits into the whole mess—but no matter what word he uses he’s a staunch advocate of LGBTQIA and POC representation and visibility in genre fiction. And while he spends more time than is healthy hiding in his writing cave instead of hanging around social media, you can generally find him in these usual haunts:
Format: Trade Paperback *ebook and audio formats also available!
Price: $14.99 U.S.
Book Description: Summer Hemlock never meant to come back to Omen, Massachusetts.
But with his mother in need of help, Summer has no choice but to return to his hometown, take up a teaching residency at the Albin Academy boarding school—and work directly under the man who made his teenage years miserable.
Professor Fox Iseya
Forbidding, aloof, commanding: psychology instructor Iseya is a cipher who’s always fascinated and intimidated shy, anxious Summer. But that fascination turns into something more when the older man challenges Summer to be brave. What starts as a daily game to reward Summer with a kiss for every obstacle overcome turns passionate, and a professional relationship turns quickly personal.
Yet Iseya’s walls of grief may be too high for someone like Summer to climb…until Summer’s infectious warmth shows Fox everything he’s been missing in life.
Now both men must be brave enough to trust each other, to take that leap.
To find the love they’ve always needed…
Just like that.
In Just Like That, critically acclaimed author Cole McCade introduces us to Albin Academy: a private boys’ school where some of the world’s richest families send their problem children to learn discipline and maturity, out of the public eye.
Adelaide Buchwald is a “fac brat” (child of a faculty member) at a boarding school. She has just broken up with her boyfriend and is spending the summer walking dogs, and she is going to spend her summer walking dogs. On her third day at the park, she meets a boy.
The narrative splits into three different possibilities (accentuated by bold text) of how the conversation could proceed, before the real possibility plays out.
To say much more would be delving into spoiler territory, but needless to say, this is a summer where anything can happen. This book is so much more than the classic tale of “girl meets boy”.
Sage Morgan is starting her senior year at the The Bexley School, along with her best friends Charlie and Nick Carmichael. Everyone thinks that Sage and Charlie would be perfect together, but Charlie is a serial dater and they’re strictly friends. Besides, Sage secretly kissed Nick at a summer bonfire on Martha’s Vineyard.
There’s also a new student at Bexley: Luke Morrison, a PG (post-graduate). He and Charlie form a connection almost immediately, but Charlie has always dated girls and he’s worried about what people will think if he starts dating Luke.
This book takes place over the course of the school year and unfolds from Sage and Charlie’s dual perspectives. The pace is a little slow at times, but this is exactly what boarding school is like in real life. There’s a whole lot of status quo, punctuated by moments of high drama. Needless to say, friendships are tested and the characters have to figure out who they are and what they want out of life.
Honestly Ben is a YA novel by Bill Konigsberg. It’s the companion/sequel to Openly Straight. Now, I haven’t read Openly Straight, but as soon as I saw Honestly Ben on the new arrivals shelf at my town library, I just had to add it to my borrowing pile.
Ben is a student at the Natick School, a prestigious boys’ boarding school in suburban Massachusetts. As an aside, this is vaguely my neck of the woods, so I was quite enchanted by the setting. Anyway, Ben has decided to focus on academics and baseball. He feels that his involvement with Rafe Goldberg the previous semester (chronicled in Openly Straight) was a phase, and as school resumes, there is a notable froideur between the pair. Everything is going well for Ben- he’s even dating a girl from the local girls’ school- but something doesn’t feel quite right. Ben needs to figure out what he needs to make himself happy, and not what will make everyone else happy. Read more
People Like Us is a young adult novel written by Dana Mele. I read this book a while ago, but I am woefully behind with my review writing. I had heard about this book, and so I requested it via my library network.
It is an absolute nightmare when the body of a student turns up in the lake on the campus of the exclusive Bates Academy, but for Kay Donovan, it’s just the beginning. She receives a message from the dead girl, instructing her to confront her friends, and if Kay fails to comply, there will be consequences. It seems as though everyone is keeping secrets, but the biggest secret of all is how the girl ended up in the lake in the first place. Could Kay be implicated for the crime? Read more
Jolly Foul Play is a middle grade novel written by Robin Stevens. It is the fourth Wells & Wong Mystery that features Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, the intrepid schoolgirl sleuths. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book with my oldest daughter because I had a feeling she would like it.
Hazel and Daisy are back at Deepdean for another year, and there have been a lot of changes. Elizabeth, the new Head Girl, is very cruel to the younger girls. She and her five friends rule the school, and there are severe repercussions for the most minor of infractions. On Bonfire Night, Elizabeth is found dead on the playing field. The Headmistress insists it was an accident, but Hazel and Daisy are convinced that it is murder- especially after someone begins releasing secrets about the girls at the school. It is time for the Detective Society to reconvene and solve their fourth murder! Read more
S.T.A.G.S. is a young adult novel written by M.A. Bennett. This book had piqued my interest because I love boarding school stories, and I was very excited when I finally had the opportunity to read it.
Greer is a new student at St. Aidan the Great, a posh English boarding school. She doesn’t really fit in with her peers, so needless to say, she is quite surprised when she receives an invitation to spend the weekend at the country estate of the most popular boy in the school. Henry and his friends are collectively known as the Medievals, and they serve as school prefects.
Greer is enchanted by the sumptuous estate, and flattered by the attention from Henry. She’s so wrapped up in these superficial details that she fails to notice that the weekend of “Huntin’, Shootin’, and Fishin’” has taken a sinister turn. She and her fellow guests must band together if they are going to survive the weekend. Read more