Happy Monday everyone. Can you believe it’s March already?!  I’m so excited that we’re finally getting close to Spring and warmer temps because I’m just over the cold.  Anyway, today I’m sharing two YA contemporary novels that I really enjoyed.  The common thread between them is that they are both set in schools, but beyond that, they are pretty much night and day.



Author: Sophie Gonzales

Publication Date: March 9, 2021

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales was such a fun and delightful read.  It follows Darcy Phillips, a bisexual teen, who has managed to commandeer a locker at her high school and uses it to anonymously dispense relationship advice to her fellow classmates.  Students write letters and enclose a $10 fee and their email address, and after school, Darcy empties the locker and takes the letters home so that she can respond to them.  What could possibly go wrong with this scheme?  Enter Brougham, a member of the school’s swim team, who catches Darcy in the act of retrieving letters from the locker.  Rather than rat her out, however, Brougham tells Darcy he desperately needs her help and wants to hire her to help him win his ex back.  Again, what could possibly go wrong here?

For me, the most fun about this book was Darcy herself and what a perfectly imperfect character she is.  She gives this business of hers her all, truly going out of her way to research the psychology of relationships and provide thoughtful answers to each of her classmates’ questions.  Even though what she is doing is morally and ethically questionable, Darcy truly believes she is helping people and wants everyone to be happy.  But when it comes to Darcy’s own love life, however, she’s basically a hot mess and can’t follow her own advice.  For example, Darcy is in love with her best friend, Brooke, but she can’t work up her nerve enough to tell Brooke how she feels. Instead, she goes out of her way to sabotage all of Brooke’s relationships so that Brooke stays in her orbit and available in case she ever does work up the nerve.  Darcy’s flaws in this area just made her all the more lovable of a character for me and I just wanted her to find her own happiness the way she was so intent on everyone else finding theirs.

There was really just so much to love about this book.  In addition to adoring Darcy, I also really adored Brougham.  He comes across as arrogant and obnoxious at first but it becomes clear over time that he is soft boy with a very dysfunctional home life, who just really needs a hug.  I loved watching his friendship with Darcy evolve as they worked together and got to know each other better.

In addition to being a fun and super cute read, Perfect on Paper also tackles some important topics such as biphobia. I was a huge fan of the Q and Q (Queer and Questioning) Club where queer students could meet up and discuss whatever is on their minds.  Darcy is the student who brings up biphobia as she discusses how people question whether or not she is actually queer if she has a boyfriend rather than a girlfriend. I loved that she had a group like this she could go to and receive support and validation from her peers.

Perfect on Paper is just an all around wonderful read and it really does have something for everyone. Friendships, flawed characters, humor, drama, teen angst, and so much more.  If you’re looking for a fun read that will leave you with a contented smile on your face, this is the book for you.  4.5 STARS


Reviews: PERFECT ON PAPER & THE CASTLE SCHOOL (FOR TROUBLED GIRLS)The Castle School (for Troubled Girls) Goodreads

Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Publication Date: March 2, 2021

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Moira Dreyfuss is seventeen years old and she lives in Manhattan.    Even though she lives in one of the most exciting cities in the world, Moira feels alone.  Her best (and only) friend, Nathan, has recently lost his battle with cancer and Moira is truly struggling to cope with this loss.  She starts skipping school, acting out, refusing to eat, and even uses a fake ID to get a tattoo behind her parents’ back.  At their wit’s end because they don’t know how to help her, Moira’s parents opt to send her away to The Castle School, a boarding school located in rural Maine along the coast.  The headmaster is a doctor so not only will Moira attend classes to continue her school, but she will also attend therapy sessions with the headmaster.

As the school’s name implies, The Castle School is just that, a castle, and it looks like something out of a Gothic novel.  Couple that with bars on the windows and the confiscation of all electronics and Moira is practically a prisoner, completely cut off from the outside world.  I think because of this eerie, remote setting and the way Moira is introduced to the school, I was expecting this novel to be a mystery, thriller, or even a horror story (something along the lines of a Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children novel), but it’s none of those things.  While there are a few small mysteries sprinkled throughout, by and large, The Castle School (for Troubled Girls) by Alyssa Sheinmel is a YA contemporary that explores grief, mental illness, and dysfunctional family relationships.

There are actually twelve girls in all at the school, but Moira is the one we follow most closely.  We follow her as she meets and gradually begins to bond with the rest of the girls and as she learns why each of them has ended up at the school.  Each girl’s story was just as heartbreaking and lonely as Moira’s, and each girl also had a history of mental illness, so it was great to watch them all bond and act as a support system for each other.  Aside from watching Moira interact with these girls and start to form friendships, we also follow Moira to her therapy sessions, which were unusual, in part because Moira is so resistant to the idea of exploring her own thoughts and feelings about where she is in life.  Instead, she spends most of her sessions asking the Doctor questions about his school.  Why a castle?  Why only twelve girls?, etc.  He patiently humors her and answers her questions as he waits for her to come around and willingly discuss why she has landed at his school.  I found that doctor/patient relationship quite interesting to watch develop, particularly because it is through Moira’s questions that we learn more about the school and rhyme or reason as to why the doctor runs thing as he does.

In addition to being an exploration of grief and mental illness, The Castle School (for Troubled Girls) is also a coming of age story in the sense that Moira has to figure out who she is and what her place in this world is without her best friend by her side. Moira’s journey is heartbreaking at times and the author does a wonderful job of making the overall story a compelling one that I found myself completely invested in.  3.5 STARS

12 replies
  1. Sam@wlabb
    Sam@wlabb says:

    I thought the Q&Q club was a brilliant way for the characters to explore certain issues. I wanted to give Brougham a hug too. I was glad he and Darcy became friends.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Yeah, the author did a really nice job using the Q&Q Club environment to discuss biphobia. I was really impressed with how the topic was handled.

  2. verushka
    verushka says:

    Reading about Darcy and Perfect in Paper just made me smile; I think I would adore this book!

  3. Angela
    Angela says:

    The Castle School sounds like an interesting read – I kind of like that it went in a direction that you weren’t expecting!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Yeah, me too. It was actually a pleasant surprise since I’ve been enjoying contemporary fiction so much this past year.

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