Don't Judge Me by Lisa Schroeder
Ehhhh...I wanted to like this one, as I really liked Schroeder's previous book, See You on a Starry Night, and it has a decent cast of characters and a good storyline and message. But it's completely marred by the fact that it's preachy as all hell! Every single page seemed to be beating me over the head with its morals and messages, "Women deserve to be treated with respect! Boys need to learn to respect women! Women aren't objects to be ogled over! Bullying is bad! Girl power! Down with toxic masculinity and the patriarchy!" over and over and over again! I think I would have liked this better if Schroeder made an attempt to approach the book's subject matter with more subtlety and toning down the preachiness so it wouldn't feel so much like an after school special. Trust your audience! But this is SLIGHTLY better compared to the book right below this one...
Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone
Don't even bother with this one. It's another schmaltzy after school special style book that beats you over the head with its ham-fisted message and morals constantly. None of the characters are interesting or well developed at all, the book is littered with subplots that never really go anywhere (Particularly with one girl named Ashley), the writing felt very disjointed and haphazard, and the antagonistic adults were little more than comical Saturday morning cartoon villains with how utterly obsessed they were with enforcing the dress code. In all honesty, I felt the subplot about Molly's drug addicted brother was way more interesting. This is apparently the authoress' debut novel, and it really shows. It really felt completely unpolished all around. Here's hoping she writes better books down the line.
Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse by Susan Vaught
This one I did like. The main characters of Jesse and Springer were great, and the side characters got some decent development as well. But...the prose and the way the story was structured felt very disjointed. The authoress decided to just randomly spatter chapters where Jesse's town gets involved in a tornado all throughout the main plot involving her father getting arrested, making it feel very jumbled and disorienting. I feel like the story would be better if the author had just written everything in their linear order, giving it more flow, though even the main storyline was often vague in terms of what was happening at points. Eh, I liked it okay.
Starfish by Lisa Fipps
Now this is a good one! This is what Fat Angie should have been: The characters are actually well developed, it isn't relentlessly mean-spirited, Ellie isn't made into yet another fat person stereotype, and the book actually calls out a lot of stigmas and toxic attitudes about obesity and the ways people try to get others to lose weight without perpetuating them itself. I admit I'm not used to reading verse-novels, but I found it easy to get into. It does sometimes feel like scenes get cut off before they can get any real resolution, making the transition between some chapters feel jarring at times because of it. My only real gripe I have with the book is that we never find out whether Liam realizes the error of his ways or apologizes to Ellie or not. I wish the authoress had followed up on him. But yeah, this is an ACTUAL novel that ACTUALLY encourages body positivity.
Alpaca My Bags by Jenny Goebel
This was cute. I liked it well enough, but I feel like more could have been done with it. The prose was believable, I liked Amelia as a character, and the conflict was relatable as well, but it just felt like there was something missing. I know some characters were just there to be one-note antagonists and not much else. But I really don't have much to say about this one.
Halfway to Harmony by Barbara O'Connor
Uugh. Normally I like Barbara O'Connor's works, but out of the ones I read, this one was not one of the better books she put out. The entire story hinged on the characters being complete idiots and doing things they should know better not to do! The main characters are as bland as wheat toast, Banjo is a complete and utter asshat who is constantly simping for Posey's mother while forcing the kids to partake in his outlandish schemes without any consideration for their safety, O'Connor's prose seemed more concerned about telling events rather than actually showing them happening most of the time, and the story makes zero sense whatsoever. Yeah, I still like Wish way better. That one had a more coherent storyline and didn't make the characters act like fools who had death wishes!
The Sea in Winter by Christine Day
This was cute. I liked it well enough. The prose was engaging and not too beige, the characters were interesting, the tidbits about Native American history were nice, and while the plot wasn't anything special, I liked it just fine. But it doesn't really try to be any different from other books about a girl trying to cope with a big change in her life and is kind of held back by its formula. Yeah, I really don't have much to say about this one, and I feel bad about this as this really is a nice little book.