Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016) Broken teens living broken lives and finding hope in each other. Blake comes dangerously close to stereotypes and tropes in this YA romance, yet layers her story—the scenario and its characters—with depth and nuance enough to create something achingly genuine.
How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) While not shying away from the hardships of her protagonist’s life—the cycle of neglect, growing up too soon, a barely functioning mother—Blake subtly shifts the emphasis to the difficulty of embracing good possibilities within that bad situation. Heartfelt and absorbing.
The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake (Little, Brown & Company, 2019) Not quite at the same level as Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World—the conflicts are a little more forced, the resolutions more predictable—but still a highly engaging middle-grade exploration of family, friendship, first love and identity. Serious yet gently uplifting.
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (Little, Brown & Company, 2019) A near-perfect middle grade coming-of-age story. Blake approaches the central premise with sensitivity and does so within a wider context of family relationships. The result is a beautifully crafted book—a single-day read that will entrance readers of all ages and orientation.
Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) ‘How can I believe either one of them? How can I not believe them?’ This he-said, she-said rape dilemma seems at first the be-all and end-all, but blossoms into a wider exploration of identity, trauma, family, friendship, and gender inequality. Beautifully told.