Book Reviews

YA Contemporaries to End 2023 Pt. 3

We’ve got another installment of YA Contemporary stories to end 2023. This is perfect for anyone who wants to channel their inner summer! Keep reading this book review for my mini book reviews of Fatima Tate Takes the Cake, Everyone’s Thinking It, Caught in a Bad Fauxmannce, All the Fighting Parts, and In the Ring.

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Caught in Bad Fauxmance by Elle Gonzalez Rose

Devin Baez is ready for a relaxing winter break at Lake Andreas. That is, until he runs into his obnoxious next-door neighbors the Seo-Cookes, undefeated champions of the lake’s annual Winter Games. In the hope of finally taking down these long-time rivals, the Baezes offer up their beloved cabin in a bet. Reckless? Definitely.

So when annoyingly handsome Julian Seo-Cooke finds himself in need of a fake boyfriend, Devin sees an opportunity to get behind enemy lines and prove the family plays dirty.

As long as Devin and Julian’s families are at war, there’s only room for loathing between them. Which is a problem because, for Devin, this faux game of love is feeling very real.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Caught in a Bad Fauxmance swept me away. It was fake dating and family rivalries at the best. It’s the pranks of “The Parent Trap” meets rivalries with teeth and fake dating. It’s clear that Caught in a Bad Fauxmance is about fake dating. The chemistry is precious as both Devin and Julian expose their vulnerabilities, everything behind and underneath the fronts we put up. All our secrets, grief, and resentment. At the same time it’s about families and parents.

About what we will do to appease our families, to win family approval. It’s also about our siblings and the ways we can feel left behind. All in all, Caught in a Bad Fauxmance is an utter win which will make you feel the whole spectrum of human emotions. There’s banter, plenty of disasters, and a core of love. Find Caught in Bad Fauxmance on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.

All the Fighting Parts by Hannah V. Sawyer

Sixteen-year-old Amina Conteh has always believed in using her tongue as her weapon—even when it gets her into trouble. After cursing at a classmate, her father forces her to volunteer at their church with Pastor Johnson.  

But Pastor Johnson isn’t the holy man everyone thinks he is.

 The same voice Amina uses to fight falls quiet the night she is sexually assaulted by Pastor Johnson. After that, her life starts to unravel: her father is frustrated that her grades are slipping, and her best friend and boyfriend don’t understand why the once loud and proud girl is now quiet and distant. In a world that claims to support survivors, Amina wonders who will support her when her attacker is everyone’s favorite community leader.

When Pastor Johnson is arrested for a different crime, the community is shaken and divided; some call him a monster and others defend him. But Amina is secretly relieved. She no longer has to speak because Pastor Johnson can’t hurt her anymore–or so she believes.

 To regain her voice and sense of self, Amina must find the power to confront her abuser—in the courtroom and her heart—and learn to use all the fighting parts within her.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

All the Fighting Parts made me rage, cry, and smile. It’s about an assault that ends our capacity to feel at home in our own body, voice, and rage. To have it quell the fighting parts and our spirit. A community created and enforced with power and silence. In many ways All the Fighting Parts is about patriarchy and sexism. The powerful choices, ways the world opens doors for some, and the exploitation. With chapters from the past, we are able to witness the before and the after.

The moments in our life when we didn’t choke on words and thoughts. When we thought we knew about the power of our voice. All the Fighting Parts is about survival and resistance in our own way. With words that can never be unspoken, it’s about how the fight looks different for each of us. It’s about the people who will support us, show up for us, and believe in us. Find All the Fighting Parts on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.

Everyone’s Thinking It by Aleema Omotoni

Within the walls of Wodebury Hall, an elite boarding school in the English countryside, reputation is everything. But aspiring photographer Iyanu is more comfortable observing things safely from behind her camera. For Iyanu’s estranged cousin, Kitan, life seems perfect. She has money, beauty, and friends like queen bee Heather. But as a Nigerian girl in a school as white and insular as Wodebury, Kitan struggles with the personal sacrifices needed to keep her place—and the protection she gets—within the exclusive popular crowd.

Then photos from Iyanu’s camera are stolen and splashed across the school the week before the Valentine’s Day Ball—each with a juicy secret written on it. With everyone’s dirty laundry suddenly out in the open, the school explodes in chaos, and the whispers accusing Iyanu of being the one behind it all start to feel like déjà vu. Each girl is desperate to unravel the mystery of who stole the photos and why. But exposing the truth will change them all forever.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Everyone’s Thinking It manages to examine racism and secrets within this Ace of Spades like mystery. It’s about our secrets and desires being showcased. The opportunity for our own revelations robbed from us. In this dual POV story, Omotoni examines what we will do to fit in, to stay at the top, do what we think makes us safe. What happens when what we would do disappears? The places we hide which turn into rooms with double sided mirrors.

In many ways, Everyone’s Thinking It explores all the ways we are hiding who we are. How we can feel like an Outsider no matter what. It’s action packed and a fantastic addition to the mysterious boarding school YA Contemporary sub genre. Find Everyone’s Thinking It on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.

In the Ring by Sierra Isley

Rose Berman is losing her mind. At least, that’s what everyone at school seems to think.

Plagued by panic attacks that started after her mother’s suicide, Rose is the target of frequent teasing and rumors. The only people who understand her are her quirky therapist and her ex-girlfriend, now bestie, Gemma.

But when the star quarterback takes “teasing” too far, the school’s tattooed, cigarette-smoking time bomb ― Elliott King ― steps in and punches him in the face. Rose’s therapist recommends she try out a sport to manage her anxiety. She can’t help but think of Elliott―maybe if she could punch like him, she’d feel safer and stronger. She sticks out like a sore thumb at the boxing gym, but she soon finds power in the sport and a reprieve from her panic attacks. As their worlds intertwine, Rose and Elliott are forced to face their most daunting opponent outside the Ring: their growing feelings for each other.

But Midtown Ring isn’t just a gym. As Rose falls deeper into the world of boxing, she learns Midtown is a front for a late-night, underground fight club where Elliott King is the headliner. Surrounded by violence and destruction, Rose’s anxiety begins to spiral. She starts hallucinating, just like her mother did before her death, leaving her to wonder if everyone at school might be right. If her newfound physical strength can’t keep her grounded in reality, she may be doomed to walk the same path as her mom.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

What I loved about In the Ring is the way it examines what we inherit from our parents. Are we destined to always be the product of their lives? Their expectations, their obsessions, their ambitions, their demons? Can we escape their own fate? In the Ring explores this theme and idea through a variety of characters through Rose’s mother’s mental illness and Elliott’s father’s fists. If you love a story about reclaiming our own power, of re-inhabiting our body, and love, this is for you.

We can try to run from our own demons, ghosts, and past, but there comes a day we realize we can’t run forever. And at the end of the day we realize we can’t save anyone from drowning when we’re drowning ourselves. That our own progress won’t help anyone if we backtrack. Find In the Ring on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.

Fatima Tate Takes the Cake by Khadijah VanBrakle

Seventeen-year-old Fatima Tate, aspiring baker (100% against her conservative parents’ wishes), leads a pretty normal life in long drives with BFF Zaynab, weekly services at the mosque, big family parties, soup kitchen volunteering (the best way to perfect her flaky dough recipe!), stressing about college. But everything changes when she meets a charming university student named Raheem. Knowing the ‘rents would FREAK, Fatima keeps their burgeoning relationship a secret… and then, one day, her parents and his parents decide to arrange their marriage. Amazing! True serendipity!  

Except it’s not amazing. As soon as the ring is on Fatima’s finger, Raheem’s charm transforms into control and manipulation. Fatima knows she has to call the whole thing off, but Raheem doesn’t like to lose. He threatens to reveal their premarital sexual history and destroy her and her family’s reputation in their tight-knit Muslim community. Fatima must find the inner strength to blaze her own trail by owning her body, her choices, and her future.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Fatima Tate Takes the Cake is perfect for fans of The Great British Bake Off, finding our own voice and listening to our intuition, and chasing our dreams. When stability and family expectations go against our dreams, we have to ask ourselves if we have what it takes, or if we can, chase them. It’s a story about red flags, about when something seems too good to be true, about listening to ourselves.

Full of tasty moments, Fatima Tate Takes the Cake asks us if we can have our cake and eat it too. It’s a YA Contemporary that was a quick read because I was so invested in her being able to use her voice, to dispel the excuses people make, and to find her own future. Find Fatima Tate Takes the Cake on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.


Do you have a YA Contemporary still on your TBR this year?

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