2.5 star, YA

ARC Review: The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson

New York Times bestselling author Tiffany D. Jackson ramps up the horror and tackles America’s history and legacy of racism in this suspenseful YA novel following a biracial teenager as her Georgia high school hosts its first integrated prom. 

When Springville residents—at least the ones still alive—are questioned about what happened on prom night, they all have the same explanation . . . Maddy did it.

An outcast at her small-town Georgia high school, Madison Washington has always been a teasing target for bullies. And she’s dealt with it because she has more pressing problems to manage. Until the morning a surprise rainstorm reveals her most closely kept secret: Maddy is biracial. She has been passing for white her entire life at the behest of her fanatical white father, Thomas Washington.

After a viral bullying video pulls back the curtain on Springville High’s racist roots, student leaders come up with a plan to change their image: host the school’s first integrated prom as a show of unity. The popular white class president convinces her Black superstar quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to be his date, leaving Maddy wondering if it’s possible to have a normal life.

But some of her classmates aren’t done with her just yet. And what they don’t know is that Maddy still has another secret . . . one that will cost them all their lives.



**The Weight of Blood comes out September 6, 2022**

Thank you Edelweiss and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

While The Weight of Blood was every bit the strong contender about race and the continued challenges the Black community faces in certain small towns with a history of segregation and racism, the execution of the mystery fell flat on so many levels. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I’ll explain why I can’t give it a higher rating no matter how much I want to.

The premise of the story from the synopsis makes it sound like we follow Maddy, a girl who is half-Black but has been “lying” to the whole town and passing off as white her whole life. Unfortunately, her POV is only one of many that we follow and it dilutes the focus between too many people to thoroughly invest and enjoy any one of them. We follow Kenny, the love interest, who also happens be dating a popular white girl who is part of the group that bullied Maddy. But not only his POV, we get his girlfriend’s POV which was a rather interesting take as it made it harder to yearn for the main romance when I empathized with her situation the more I got to know her.

For the parts where we do get to see the situations Maddy lives through which we know somehow leads up to a Bloody Prom Night that left over a hundred dead in their small town, I was utterly enthralled in half amazement and disgust. Amazement at how she was raised and her fanatical father who put this narrative in her mind that being Black was wrong, but definite disgust at the treatment of her peers and the town overall towards her. I mean, they still had separate proms, like other ethnicities weren’t seen as equals to dance and celebrate together? Just disgusting behaviour, and I really hope not reflective of small towns in America.

I did think the social commentary on racism was a great place to launch much-needed discussions on this topic. In particular, I also liked the focus on her peers who didn’t throw any insults or directly did anything but nevertheless just stood by and allowed the ones who did get a free pass. Aren’t they as much at fault for what led up to the tragic Night?

Another interesting take was how the small Black community at school didn’t necessarily welcome her into their arms either. Was it because they thought she was ashamed of her Blackness and thus extends to those in the community? Was she not Black enough for them to at least acknowledge her as one of them? It was something that Kenny had to reflect on too as he had integrated well into the popular groups at school by, in a sense, pretending he was colour blind to the little “jokes” by his friends that really were microaggressions or harmful stereotypes.

I would’ve liked to have seen more focus on this topic but I suppose the point of the main premise is a thriller – the big Why everyone (or rather, the survivors) is trying to answer.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good thriller, but the pacing was super off here. First, reminiscent to the popular book Sadie, there’s a present day podcast in interview style narrating what had happened a decade ago that is Maddy’s story. So the timeline is actually split with the present day parts looking to explain what led to the tragedy. While I like having the podcast style and making us feel just as confused and intrigued by Maddy’s story as the podcaster, it slows things down by cutting into any buildup. The multiple POVs with changing tensions (or different kinds of tension) doesn’t allow for extended buildup either. It’s just getting good – and then it cuts to present day or another person.

The romance was also marketed for this book in some ways, but I never felt any real chemistry between Kenny and Maddy. Yes, they both had to come to terms with their Blackness and what that means in who they want to be and how others may see them. But a connection on that struggle that doesn’t equate to instant attraction and undying love. Kenny did a complete 180 as he was still technically in a relationship with his girlfriend Wendy (whom we also get to really know) for most of the book. I honestly felt bad for Wendy at times even though she missed some cues that the relationship was not going where she hoped it would.

But, the one thing I think everyone loved given the strong Carrie vibes (is this considered a retelling?) but didn’t quite settle with me is the supernatural element to the story. I never read Carrie so I didn’t immediately make that connection with the synopsis so I most definitely wasn’t anticipating this supernatural narrative. In a way, it makes the premise less mysterious and therefore exciting for me. Now there’s a very plausible way that Bloody Prom Night ends up happening and there’s definitely plenty of motive for why on Maddy’s part. The only unknown is the exact sequence of events that led up to it. And the execution of that, as mentioned above, was at times convoluted and all over the place.

I wanted to love this book so badly. I haven’t been reading the reviews for it so I had no high expectations either beyond the premise. Unfortunately, however unpopular this is, The Weight of Blood was less thriller and more of a paranormal story with commentary on race and segregation in small town America.

Overall Recommendation:

The Weight of Blood doesn’t quite hit the nail as a thriller but it at least provides thoughtful reflection on Black identity in predominantly white small towns with a legacy of racism. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect although it sickened me in places at the abuse our protagonist, Maddy, faced. However, the romance felt forced and the supernatural elements came as a surprise. If you enjoy social commentary on race with a huge sprinkling of paranormal activity, then this is for you! But otherwise, this isn’t what I’d say is a typical thriller and unfortunately not what I anticipated for my first Tiffany D. Jackson novel. It’s probably a case of “it’s me, not the book” so take what you will from this review.

4 star, YA

ARC Review: Accomplished: A Georgie Darcy Novel by Amanda Quain

Georgiana Darcy gets the Pride & Prejudice retelling she deserves in Accomplished, a sparkling contemporary YA featuring a healthy dose of marching band romance, endless banter, and Charles Bingley as a ripped frat boy.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Georgiana Darcy should have been expelled after The Incident with Wickham Foster last year – at least if you ask any of her Pemberley Academy classmates. She may have escaped expulsion because of her family name, but she didn’t escape the disappointment of her big brother Fitz, the scorn of the entire school, or, it turns out, Wickham’s influence.

But she’s back for her junior year, and she needs to prove to everyone—Fitz, Wickham, her former friends, and maybe even herself—that she’s more than just an embarrassment to the family name. How hard can it be to become the Perfect Darcy? All she has to do is:

– Rebuild her reputation with the marching band (even if it kills her)
– Forget about Wickham and his lies (no matter how tempting they still are), and
– Distract Fitz Darcy—helicopter-sibling extraordinaire—by getting him to fall in love with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet (this one might be difficult…)

Sure, it’s a complicated plan, but so is being a Darcy. With the help of her fellow bandmate, Avery, matchmaking ideas lifted straight from her favorite fanfics, and a whole lot of pancakes, Georgie is going to see every one of her plans through. But when the weight of being the Perfect Darcy comes crashing down, Georgie will have to find her own way before she loses everything permanently—including the one guy who sees her for who she really is.



***Accomplished: A Georgie Darcy Novel comes out July 26, 2022**

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

CW: bullying, emotional manipulation/toxic relationship

Are you a fan of Pride & Prejudice? Have you read all the retellings that you can possibly get your hands on? Well, this may not be focused on Lizzie Bennet but you can bet Accomplished still has plenty of heart, romance, and family issues to deal with.

Georgie Darcy is the younger sister of Fitz Darcy, the sole Darcys left in their family now that their father has passed and their mother ditched them (whoops, motherly instincts were never her strong suit). But that’s okay because Fitz is all the family Georgie needed, or so she thought before everything came crashing down.

This retelling focused on the younger Darcy sibling surprised me in more ways than I anticipated. I barely remember her in the original story so I suppose that helped with minimal expectations. Georgie was by far a perfect protagonist. At the start of the book, we already knew she had a very tumultuous previous year with Wickham, an unfortunate family friend who took advantage of her while Fitz was away at college. Yet she was also someone I highly empathized with. Bullied and isolated by her classmates for things that she didn’t necessarily do or deserve (why do teenagers insist on liking the drug dealer over the patsy he controlled?), Georgie displayed more strength than even I would have as she devised a plan to gain the respect of her peers and her brother once again. Honestly, if I were in her shoes, I’d probably want to hold up in my room and just cry.

I liked how her character grew through the ordeal. She struggled and tried in the only way she knew how to – by sometimes throwing around her Darcy money to help make grand gestures to show she cared about those around her. Yes, perhaps she may have needed to learn to read the room, but it all came from a place of genuine want to fit in and to do good for the people around her. I was also happy to see a little conversation with Fitz at one point discussing their privilege. While being rich (or SUPER rich in their case) did NOT negate the bad things that happened to them as they’re still very valid hardships they suffered, it did provide a large cushion that did in a number of ways make things easier for them than a lot of others in the same situation.

Of course, the romance was a large feature in the book and I’m not just talking about Fitz and a certain Lizzie Bennet who aggravated him unlike anyone else did (aside from Georgie). I’ll get back to them. No, I’m talking about Georgie’s band classmate, Avery. When no one else gave her the time of day or even a nod of acknowledgment in the hallways (like, come on, how hard is it to even just acknowledge someone’s presence?), Avery did.

After everything with Wickham which could only be described as emotional manipulation where Georgie struggled to feel like she could be on her own without him, Avery was a breath of fresh air and exactly what she needed after she healed. I don’t want to spend too much time talking about Wickham because it was a little sickening the way he practically groomed her and isolated her from everything except to say it’s a large part of her story. It’s not heavily focused what he did exactly but the aftermath is definitely present. Thankfully, Avery is the complete opposite and their friendship-turned-romance was everything I was here for. He grounded her but also liked who she was. She wasn’t just her name, her money or the legacy being a Darcy brought, which frankly mostly associated with negative things.

For P&P fans, no worries, we do get to see Lizzie and Fitz in more than a cameo appearance. I liked the reimagination of these two iconic characters in a modern setting, not to mention Charlie Bingley as a frat boy. It felt realistic to the core characters Austen brought to life while fitting seamlessly into Georgie’s story here. One reprieve from the more emotional aspects of Georgie’s life is her scheme to matchmake them to get Fitz off of her back and simultaneously do one good thing for him to make him happy after all the stress she gave him. Her plans and set ups were surely fanfic level ideas, something Georgie is also super into, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing whether they would actually bring these two stubborn people together successfully.

Whether you’re a fan of Pride & Prejudice or not, Georgie Darcy’s story stands out on its own. With such an empathetic character even with her flaws and her failures, maybe because of them, she shines bright as we follow her attempts to accomplish all that a Darcy should be and find herself in the process. Is she only a Darcy or can she be more as simply Georgie? This isn’t a story that sees happily ever after dependent on some boy righting her world but rather about a young woman learning she can be happy for herself with the help of those she loves. If that’s something you’d cheer for, then this is the book for you, my friend.

Overall Recommendation:

Accomplished delivers an emotional coming-of-age story about Georgie Darcy, the younger Darcy sibling, while featuring familiar names from Pride & Prejudice. After disappointing her brother, all her peers and herself when she got entangled with the toxic Wickham, Georgie tackles a grand plan to win back everyone’s respect and approval by being the best Darcy she could be with the help of her only friend, Avery. Their friendship and romance was a highlight, but what really tugged my heartstrings is Georgie herself as she navigated her struggles and failures. I laughed and cried with her as she learned more of who she wanted to be, not only who everyone expected her to be. This is a retelling you don’t want to miss.

4 star, YA

Review: See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Barrett Bloom is hoping college will be a fresh start after a messy high school experience. But when school begins on September 21st, everything goes wrong. She’s humiliated by the know-it-all in her physics class, she botches her interview for the college paper, and at a party that night, she accidentally sets a frat on fire. She panics and flees, and when she realizes her roommate locked her out of their dorm, she falls asleep in the common room.

The next morning, Barrett’s perplexed to find herself back in her dorm room bed, no longer smelling of ashes and crushed dreams. It’s September 21st. Again. And after a confrontation with Miles, the guy from Physics 101, she learns she’s not alone—he’s been trapped for months.

When her attempts to fix her timeline fail, she agrees to work with Miles to find a way out. Soon they’re exploring the mysterious underbelly of the university and going on wild, romantic adventures. As they start falling for each other, they face the universe’s biggest unanswered question yet: what happens to their relationship if they finally make it to tomorrow?



CW: bullying

Groundhog Day in print format, hmm? I was intrigued by the synopsis from the start and I can pleasantly say See You Yesterday gave a sweet story that brought growth to both protagonists as they faced the same day over and over…and over again.

Barrett is by far from the perfect protagonist. We know from the start that things go super awry on her first day of classes after orientation. She gets into it with another student in a class she’s not sure she wanted to take and is trapped with the girl who dropped her as a friend ages ago as a roommate. But no one wants perfection, especially in their protagonist, and I appreciated the candor Barrett brings as the POV we see everything through. She suffered through a number of different ordeals in high school at the mercy and words of her peers, and college life was her hope for recreating herself with a brand new slate.

Repeating the same horrid day seems bad enough, but learning nothing she did differently made any difference (so you’re telling me trying to a better person the second time around doesn’t work as a magic spell to finally make it Thursday, September 22?). But what kept the repeated days from getting super tedious and repetitive was the antics Barrett encounters with Miles, a guy she instantly hit a sour note with in physics class who apparently is also stuck. I liked their interactions and banters, from the heated I-can-barely-stand-you-why-are-you-the-only-person-in-the-world-who-is-stuck-in-this-time-loop-with-me arguments to the softening, vulnerable conversations, because they felt genuine and real for two barely-started freshmen trying to find themselves and possible reinvent everything they were running away from. It would kind of suck if you didn’t like them because, sorry, we’re stuck with them. Everyone else is kind of like an amnesiac who will forget everything that happened the next time the day resets.

While I initially pegged this as a fun rom-com kind of book, it definitely has its space for serious conversations about the people they were and the ones they were hoping to become. I did really enjoy that and thought it made the story more interesting to read than perhaps only the silly things one could do without any consequences when the day just resets sometime during the night. The chemistry between Barrett and Miles was also there although I wouldn’t say it was always heavy on the romantic part for me like some other romance novels can make me feel. I suppose it wasn’t the focus because they were also getting to know one another as individuals, seeing each other in ways that maybe no one else had ever been privy to before underneath the walls and armor they showed the world. The romance is still there, don’t get me wrong, but it felt more like a contemporary story at times than romance as a genre.

If you’re looking for a fun story about young people stuck in a time loop – and oh boy, does the physics of it kind of come into play A LOT more than I anticipated? – then this is your book. If you’re looking for some more serious-toned story where the protagonist(s) really self reflects and dives deep into who they want to become through the experiences that have shaped them, this is also for you. I think there are different layers for a wider audience to enjoy, but the caveat is it’s not one specific thing that caters to one group more if that’s solely what you want it to be. I think it’s part of its beauty and I’m glad I picked up one of Rachel’s YA novels.

Overall Recommendation:

See You Yesterday definitely brought the fun as Barrett and Miles race to figure out how to escape the time loop they’re stuck repeating over and over again with only one another as company. Read part as a rom-com with the forced proximity trope really tugging these two characters together and part as a contemporary novel focusing on heavier themes such as bullying, this book wasn’t what I expected but had plenty of heart to love.