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Most Anticipated Reads of 2023
Teen Book Review: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
A book review by Mina Nguyen
The Inheritance Games is a truly captivating, thrilling young adult series. Essentially, Avery Grambs grew up with no connections and no money; she grew up with nothing. Her only plans are to finish high school and win a scholarship. All of a sudden, however, Avery is left with the entire fortune of billionaire Tobias Hawthorne who she has absolutely no connections to. The only clue she has is the beginning of a riddle that might lead her to the answers of why she was so lucky enough to inherit billions over his four Hawthorne grandsons. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne believes that Avery has conned her way into the top while Jameson Hawthrone sees Avery as another riddle Tobias has left behind to figure out. As Avery learns to associate with this new world of cutthroat wealth, she must also learn how to play the game in order to survive.
I want to preface this by saying that I’ve recently finished the third book, The Final Gambit, but I will only be reviewing the series as a whole and minor details from the first book due to spoilers and certain plot developments. This series is amazing. My only regret with this series is that I didn’t start it earlier. It’s well-deserving of the hype it got over social media. It’s so original that sometimes I couldn’t believe how the author connected everything together; this series definitely took some planning to get all the dots to connect. The riddles were extremely well thought out, down to the names of each character. You really wouldn’t think that names have importances, but this author makes everything a clue. I can’t get my mind wrapped around how Barnes managed to tie it all together into one big picture or even keep her head straight while making everything related with one ulterior motive in mind. I remember flipping the pages constantly at 12 in the morning because the clues kept coming and I needed to know what happened next. I finished the first and second book in one sitting; it was seriously that great!
While this book is not strictly a romance and it’s a subplot in this series, we have to discuss the love triangle in this book. I’m not a big fan of love triangles (they’re probably my least favorite romance tropes). I don’t like love triangles because they’re usually not well done, and it’s very obvious who the main character ends up choosing; however, this book made it difficult to decide. I don’t think I really had a “team” until the end of the second book because both choices were so great and Avery had chemistry with both characters. It was honestly so hard to pick. Barnes did a great job of making both options great choices to the point where I wouldn’t be mad if she ended up with either boy. I am, however, more of a Jameson girl, but I am open to debate because I do also love Grayson a lot. It’s really hard to decide. I was going back and forth between the two for the longest time. I also love that throughout the series, it never solely focused on the romance and continued to be about the riddles and the mystery.
You have to read this book. Personally, I find it worth the hype, and I could see all levels of readers enjoying this book. The mysteries were so well throughout and everything connected the end with no plot holes. I’m still amazed how Barnes connected everything together; she had to solve her own riddles and puzzles and incorporate that into the book which is so incredible in itself. This is a great read if you want something thrilling but don’t know what to pick up; it’s short but manages to hit all the points you want in an enjoyable read.
One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus / A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson / Caraval by Stephanie Garber/ We Were Liars by E. Lockhart / The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Put the Inheritance Games on hold today!
Books Written by Korean American Authors
Why should a man care for his parents when they failed to take care of him as a child?
Kyung Cho is a young father burdened by a house he can’t afford. For years, he and his wife, Gillian, have lived beyond their means. Now their debts and bad decisions are catching up with them, and Kyung is anxious for his family’s future.
A few miles away, his parents, Jin and Mae, live in the town’s most exclusive neighborhood, surrounded by the material comforts that Kyung desires for his wife and son. Growing up, they gave him every possible advantage—private tutors, expensive hobbies—but they never showed him kindness. Kyung can hardly bear to see them now, much less ask for their help. Yet when an act of violence leaves Jin and Mae unable to live on their own, the dynamic suddenly changes, and he’s compelled to take them in. For the first time in years, the Chos find themselves living under the same roof. Tensions quickly mount as Kyung’s proximity to his parents forces old feelings of guilt and anger to the surface, along with a terrible and persistent question: how can he ever be a good husband, father, and son when he never knew affection as a child?
As Shelter veers swiftly toward its startling conclusion, Jung Yun leads us through dark and violent territory, where, unexpectedly, the Chos discover hope. Shelter is a masterfully crafted debut novel that asks what it means to provide for one’s family and, in answer, delivers a story as riveting as it is profound.
Two friends. One fake dating scheme. What could possibly go wrong?
Frank Li has two names. There’s Frank Li, his American name. Then there’s Sung-Min Li, his Korean name. No one uses his Korean name, not even his parents. Frank barely speaks any Korean. He was born and raised in Southern California.
Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl–which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit . . . who is white.
As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he’s forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don’t leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he’s found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he’s left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love—or himself—at all.
The world of K-Pop has never met a star like this. Debut author Lyla Lee delivers a deliciously fun, thoughtful rom-com celebrating confidence and body positivity—perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Julie Murphy.
Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.
She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.
When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.
But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.
How far will you go to protect your family? Will you keep their secrets? Ignore their lies?
In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident.
A showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe?
A teen graphic novel memoir about a Korean-born, non-English-speaking girl who is abruptly transplanted from Seoul to Huntsville, Alabama, and struggles with extreme culture shock and isolation, until she discovers her passion for comic arts.
For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up in the 1990s as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together.
So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated. Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends at home and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily. And worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to—her mother.
Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined.
From New York Times bestselling author Mary H.K. Choi comes a funny and emotional story about two estranged sisters switching places and committing insurance fraud to save one of their lives.
Jayne Baek is barely getting by. She shuffles through fashion school, saddled with a deadbeat boyfriend, clout-chasing friends, and a wretched eating disorder that she’s not fully ready to confront. But that’s New York City, right? At least she isn’t in Texas anymore, and is finally living in a city that feels right for her.
On the other hand, her sister June is dazzlingly rich with a high-flying finance job and a massive apartment. Unlike Jayne, June has never struggled a day in her life. Until she’s diagnosed with uterine cancer.
Suddenly, these estranged sisters who have nothing in common are living together. Because sisterly obligations are kind of important when one of you is dying.
An exquisite collection from a breathtakingly new voice–centered on a constellation of Korean American families, these stories announce the debut of a master of short fiction.
A long-married couple is forced to confront their friend’s painful past when a church revival comes to a nearby town . . . A woman in an arranged marriage struggles to connect with the son she hid from her husband for years . . . A well-meaning sister unwittingly reunites an abuser with his victims . . . Through the lives of an indelible array of individuals–musicians, housewives and pastors, children and grandparents, the men and women who own the dry cleaners and the mini-marts–Yoon Choi explores the Korean American experience at its interstices: where first and second generations either clash or find common ground; where meaning falls in the cracks between languages; where relationships bend under the weight of tenderness and disappointment; where displacement turns to heartbreak. Suffused with a profound understanding of humanity, Skinship is, ultimately, a searing look at the failure of intimacy to show us who the people we love truly are.
Some stories refuse to stay bottled up…
When Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, a magical tiger straight out of her halmoni’s Korean folktales arrives, prompting Lily to unravel a secret family history. Long, long ago, Halmoni stole something from the tigers. Now they want it back. And when one of the tigers approaches Lily with a deal–return what her grandmother stole in exchange for Halmoni’s health–Lily is tempted to agree. But deals with tigers are never what they seem! With the help of her sister and her new friend Ricky, Lily must find her voice…and the courage to face a tiger.
Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.
Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.
Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.
But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…
2023 Reading Challenge: Read an award-winning book
Are you participating in our 2023 Reading Challenge?
If you’re participating in the category-based reading challenge, either by using the tracking sheet or on Beanstack, we can help you find books in each of the categories. Today we’re featuring award-winning books. Below are just a few recommendations, but these aren’t the only award-winners we have. You can read books from any book award of your choice, and from any year. These are just a few ideas to help get you started. Look here for a list of more awards, but feel free to read books from other award lists!
National Book Award
The Rabbit Hunch by Tess Gunty / South to America by Imani Perry / All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir
Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence
The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin / Deacon King Kong by James McBride / Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Gibbs
Invisible Child by Andrea Elliott / The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich / Covered with Night by Nicole Eustace
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka / Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart / Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley / Everything sad is untrue by Daniel Nayeri / Dig by A.S. King
If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauley / The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe / Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera / When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller / New Kid by Jerry Craft
Coretta Scott King Award
Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford / Me (Moth) by Amber McBride / Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson
Pura Belpré Award
Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros / Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez / The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Stonewall Book Awards
Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff / Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo / The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar
Watercress by Andrea Wang / We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom / The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander