I discovered Ann Aguirre via her Razorland Trilogy (Enclave, Outpost and Horde), which I started reading thanks to a tip from a fellow book lover on Twitter and ended up loving. So when this one came out, I just had to find out if her storytelling chops translate from fantasy to contemporary. Lucky for me, they do.
Unlike the Razorland books, which take place in a future where the world has been all but destroyed and our heroine has grown up in an underground enclave of survivors, this one is set in a contemporary high school, and the demons our heroine must face are internal.
Sage hasn’t had an easy life – but we don’t learn about her past right away. All we really know from the beginning is that somehow she lost her parents and washed up with her aunt who gave her a second chance at family, unconditional love and safety.
Sage has carefully curated a wholesome persona at her school. She’s a leader in environmental groups, and leaves encouraging post-it notes on the lockers of fellow students she sees are having a rough time. But despite this persona, Sage keeps the world at arm’s length, with only one close friend.
When a new boy, Shane, shows up at her school, she recognizes something in him that she’s long tried to suppress in herself – a familiarity with pain and an instinct for survival. She’s drawn to Shane and soon he has become the centre of her world. But their burgeoning relationship causes some complications for the two. Sage, through sticking up for another girl in her class, has gotten on the wrong side of the popular group of athletic bullies who run their school. When it was just her on the line, Sage didn’t have to be too concerned – she can take care of herself. But the stakes are higher for Shane, who has to stay out of trouble or risk losing everything.
Though in places this story seems a little bit heavy on teen melodrama, Aguirre manages to create believable characters with layers and complexity that will draw the reader in and make them become invested. Plus there’s that whole rooting for the underdog thing that’s pretty much impossible for me to resist.
I don’t normally go in for contemporary romance YA, but I really enjoyed this one. I was intrigued by the characters and wanted to get to know them and find out what would happen to them next. It also brought to mind the feeling of being a teenager who’s gone through some difficult times and finds someone they trust for the first time. That “us against the world” feeling that you never quite experience in the same way as an adult, and how powerful it can be.
Though not my typical jam, I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good contemporary romance with some gritty undertones.
Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.
Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.
But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again… – Goodreads
Book Title: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things
Author: Ann Aguirre
Published By: Feiwel & Friends
Released: April 7, 2015
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Date Read: November 6-7, 2015