3 Hard-Hitting YA Novels I Loved // ft. mini reviews + adoration!!

Sometimes you need a little more than fluff.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all here for a cutesy, fluffy contemporary. I mean, take a look at my bookshelf. But often it’s so necessary to read a YA novel that’s more than fluffy. It’s so important to read books that address more difficult topics, or aren’t only sunshine and happiness all the time.

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Today I’m going to be reviewing (in a miniature fashion) three novels I recently read that were incredibly hard-hitting. Each of these sent powerful messages and really got me thinking. Like I said, I have nothing against fluff, but fluff isn’t everything, and these three books really proved that point!

I know I just did a mini reviews post last week, but there are just too many books and too little time that I read and then didn’t get to talk about, so after this post I’ll finally be caught up on my reviews and we can go back to more of my regular scheduled programming. 😉

All right, without further ado, let’s get into the reviews!


On the Come Up


Title: On the Come Up

Author: Angie Thomas

Page Count: 447



First of all, I read On the Come Up as a buddy read with Jenna from Bookmark Your Thoughts and it was such a great experience! Jenna is so sweet and funny, and you should all definitely go check out her blog and read her review of this book.

I highly recommend buddy reads, because they’re just so fun and it’s always wonderful to talk in depth about a book with someone else. We ended up having a lot of the same thoughts about On the Come Up, so let’s get into those said thoughts. 😉

I have to start off by saying that, for me, this book did not stay in The Hate U Give‘s shadow in the least. Since THUG was such a hyped book (and rightfully so), I was worried that I would be disappointed by Angie Thomas’s second book, but it ended up exceeding my expectations by a lot!

On the Come Up had:

  • Memorable characters. There’s nothing better than a full cast of characters who you feel like you actually know. From the main character, Bri, to her friends, to her mom, to her brother, to her aunt, to random people in her town, I genuinely got to know all the characters and I LOVED that.
  • Really cool rap. Rapping was a big part of Bri’s story, and the book actually included the rap. It enhanced the story and made it all the more interesting.
  • It followed up on THUG. This takes place in the same neighborhood as the beloved THUG, and it was so intriguing to read about the aftermath of what happened in Thomas’s debut novel.
  • Powerful messages. The messages of racial discrimination and prejudice were so, so apparent in this novel and I feel like it’s going to leave behind an impression on anyone who reads it.

I felt drawn into Bri’s world from the get-go and the plot never slowed down. There were family relationships (oh my gosh the best brother/sister relationship!!), a hint of romance, rap, and most importantly, it addressed current social issues.

trigger warnings: drug abuse, hate crimes, loss of loved one, police brutality, racism, gun violence

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I truly couldn’t have asked for anything better. I’m so glad that I picked up this novel, and I hope to reread it in the future!



Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire, #1)


Title: Girls of Paper and Fire

Author: Natasha Ngan

Page Count: 400



My favorite read of 2019. My new favorite fantasy book. Girls of Paper and Fire is my new favorite everything.

As a mainly contemporary reader, I hesitated more than I should have before picking this up, but once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I finished it in one day because it was just that good.

The prose was beyond gorgeous- I don’t know the last time I read such a wonderfully crafted, descriptive story that left me this captivated. Despite it being set in a whole new world, the worldbuilding was so good that I was never confused and it never disrupted the novel.

The slow build-up of meeting the characters, the slow burn romance, and anticipation and suspense of what was to come…I literally could not stop reading.

I adored getting to knew the main character, Lei, as well as the other girls in the story. Wren, the love interest! Aoki, her best friend! Lei’s adorable maid whose name I can’t remember! The sheer strength of these female characters was beautiful and empowering to read about.

While I loved every moment of it, this was not an easy read and it’s important to know how heavy it is before reading it. The king uses Lei and the other Paper girls to demonstrate power, and it’s very hard to read about. However, the way that Lei, Wren, and other characters fight for themselves and for their relationships is inspiring.

An incredible world, beautiful prose, well-crafted characters that I love- this book has it all, and I will forever recommend it.

trigger warnings: rape, abuse (sexual and physical), loss of a loved one,

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I don’t think my rating will surprise anyone! I’m so, so glad that this book was recommended to me by so many bloggers and that I got to witness its beauty.





Title: Autoboyography

Author: Christina Lauren

Page Count: 407



At first, I was fooled by the colorful cover which I still don’t think looks like a tent or anything and breezy synopsis and completely thought this was going to be the fluffy read of the century.

As you can tell by the fact that it’s on this list, I was wrong.

Autoboyography ended up being way more hard-hitting than I ever expected. It was a beautiful, messy, complicated love story that was tangled up in religion and prejudices, and I loved it for everything that it was.

Here are a few random tidbits about this novel that I feel like are good to know.

  • Tanner’s family. His family was so supportive of him, it made me happy to read about. Like actually it was adorable and he had a really great relationship with his parents!!
  • The main characters like to write! I’m not the biggest writer anymore, but I know a lot of y’all are, and it’s rare to find a main character who loves to write. Hello, enter Autoboyography.
  • Solid friendships. Despite Tanner and his best friend Autumn’s relationship getting a little weird at one point, for the most part, they had a really solid relationship and I’m here for boy/girl friendships.
  • The romance the romance the romance. YES it was a little insta-lovey but it’s okay because it was too adorable for me to really care about that. *coughs*

One thing I didn’t expect was for this story to have such a focus on religion. Sebastian, the love interest, was Mormon and that drove so much of the story. The author did a great job at respecting the Mormon church and its values, while still not endorsing them. I don’t want to say too much about it, because I feel like it’s hard to explain the religion part of this book? It will make more sense when you read it. I learned a lot about the LDS church while reading this book, which I enjoyed because I’ve never had any intense exposure to it before. It was just hard to read about certain morals that I strongly disagree with.

The messages of self-acceptance, self-discovery, and just the shining!! written in block letters!! incredible thing that is LOVE just shone through in this story. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t fluffy, but it sure was memorable and lovely.

trigger warnings: homophobia, homophobic slurs

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I really loved this book! It didn’t have that extra factor that would push it to a five-star read for me, but I still recommend it with all my heart.



There we have it, three hard-hitting YA novels that I enjoyed! There are tons more that I could talk about, but I read these in the past few weeks, so I wanted to share my thoughts on them right away.

Thank you all for reading, and I hope you were able to get some good recommendations from this post! I love making everyone’s TBR even more monstrous than it already was. 😉 

I hope you’re all having an excellent day, and that your summer (for my Northern hemisphere peeps) is going well, or that if you’re in the Southern hemisphere, your winter (or is it still fall??) is amazing.

Have you read any of these books? If you did, what did you think of them? Which ones did you add to your TBR? Do you like fluffy or hard-hitting books better? I’d love to chat with you all in the comments.

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Credits for the image in my featured image >> Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

60 thoughts on “3 Hard-Hitting YA Novels I Loved // ft. mini reviews + adoration!!

  1. I’ve read all of these, and recently finished re-reading Autoboyography on Riveted! I loved them so much. As for fluff vs Hard-hitting, I generally go for quite deep topics on the regular, and will choose a fluffier book for a quiet day or summer reading 🙂 Amazing post!!
    -Emma 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Autoboyography is a fav for me, I love it with all my heart ❤ It’s premised as a fluffy book but it delves so much deeper 😉 As a very accepting person (read: highly disagreeing with many LDS values and some other religions) it was hard to read at times for me also, and to see Seb struggle with choosing his faith or being who he is…. it was an emotional read. I’m so glad you enjoyed and maybe even connected to it like I did xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great set of mini reviews, these books all seem so good. I should really get on with things. I haven’t even read The Hate U Give yet!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely reviews, darlin’! I’m so glad you enjoyed On the Come Up! The incorporation of the rap was amazing — and I was so shocked to see how well written it was!

    I haven’t read Girls of Paper and Fire but I’ve been told MULTIPLE times I need to read it. I’ll probably borrow it from the library later this year … thinking the fall.

    I’m SO HAPPY you enjoyed Autoboyography!!! It’s such a beautiful and powerful novel! I cried … A LOT. But it’s a beautiful story. And Tanner and his family!! ❤

    Thank you for sharing my post, love!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jenna! Aah, I know, the incorporation of the rap was so, so good and added a whole other element to the story.😍

      Yay! It’s so good, and I can see fall being a good time to read it. (Though anytime is a good time. XD)

      It was AMAZING, and yes, so powerful. I don’t remember if I cried but I know I got super emotional and I loved Tanner and his fam.❤️

      Of course, your review was wonderful!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so surprised that I’ve actually read all of these books already, because when i read wrap-ups, rec posts, or any posts featuring multiple books in general honestly, I always end up not having read a majority of them. I agree so much with your thoughts on On the Come Up! I actually think that it’s as good as thug, almost better, even. and I like how Bri and Starr were such different people, reacting in different ways to almost the same situation. and my favorite thing about angie thomas’ books is how she rights the bond between black people and black communities. Overall, she’s just such a talented writer and I definitely don’t think it was a mistake that she’s stayed on the NYT bestseller list for so long.

    omg i just remembered that cute little maid from Girls, but why the heck did i forget her name too? she was so sweet, but i swear her name was wiped from my mind. also I’m so hyped for GoSaS ahhhhh–I’m hoping i love it even more than the first book! autoboyography was also such a great read because i’ve never read anything featuring Mormons, and I think i actually hadn’t heard of them prior to picking autoboyography up hahaha. anyways, the insta-love did catch me off guard at first, but I thought it was pretty realistic, considering we were in the persepctive of a teenage boy, and I agree that Tanner’s family was the best!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahh, I usually am the same way with reviews or recommendation posts?? Normally I just add them all to my TBR, but it’s nice to be able to talk about my thoughts on the books every once in a while too. 😉 Yes to everything you said about On the Come Up, the characters and messages were so amazing! I’m excited to read anything Angie Thomas writes in the future because it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’ll love it.

      Haha, I’m really sad I can’t remember her name because it on the tip of my tongue?? I keep thing Bess but I know that’s not right. I’m glad you’re hyped for GoSaS because SAME.🙌🏼Autoboyography was so educational and all together amazing! Okay yes, the insta love was sort of realistic in this scenario, haha.

      Thank you for the kind comment, Caitlin!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. ooh, girls of paper and fire was so. good. I literally cannot remember the maid’s name either -sheds a tear- but lei’s self discovery throughout the book was pretty spot-on. AND CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT HOW BEAUTY-FULL THE COVER IS?? HOW?? anywayyy, the details of the book were so captivating and the description so drool-worthy I just can’t.

    oh, I reallyyyy want to read on the come up and the hate u give by angie thomas. it’s a must read of everyone in the bookish community, but sadly, I live under a small rock. on the come up def. seems to live up to people’s expectations though! maybe someday, I’ll FINALLY read it, haha.

    love the mini-review style of this post 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was! Okay, it’s bothering me so much that I can’t remember the maid’s name, haha, I need to look it up. Yes, Lei’s self discovery was amazing and THE COVER THE COVER I COULD TALK ALL DAY ABOUT THE COVER TOO.😍

      I hope you get to read it soon! On the Come Up is so amazing and I recommend it with all my heart. *cries over its wonderfulness*

      Thank you so much and thank you for your comment! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ahh lovely reviews, Olivia! ❤ I haven't read any of these books, except from Girls of Paper and Fire, which unfortunately I enjoyed a little less than you did.. I think I expected a little too much from it :/
    I need to read all of these other books, On The Come-Up sounds so, so great and I've been looking forward to reading it after enjoying THUG so much 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Marie! ❤ Aww, I'm sorry to hear Girls of Paper and Fire wasn't the book for you. :(( I hope you were still able to get something from the reading experience so it wasn't a loss though! It definitely was very hyped up and sometimes hyped books can be the most disappointing ones.

      Yes, I recommend On the Come Up and Autoboyography! They're both amazing.😊

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great reviews! I’ve read Autoboyography, and I really enjoyed it! Though if I’m being totally honest, the second-hand embarrassment in that book absolutely killed me 😂 I’ve been meaning to read Girls of Paper and Fire since I’ve heard so many amazing things about it!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ugh, I need to actually get around to reading these because they all look so good. Sometimes I like fluff but I really love hard-hitting, too. My ideal TVshow/book/movie would deal with huge issues and have a lot of hard-hitting darkness but still have lots of comedy and fluffy romance. I guess I like a mix. Hey maybe I should invent that…..

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I do think it is nice to have some books which talk about hard-hitting subjects because it is important to talk about it and with books you can see different viewpoints and I think it is good to gain further knowledge about these important subjects. All these books sounds so good and I’m glad you enjoyed them. Being a fantasy lover I particularly want to pick up Girls of Paper and Fire as I have heard a lot of good things!! 🙂 Great reviews!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love a hard-hitting YA every now and then. I kinda like how it shakes me up and changes my perspective on things. The Hate You Give is by far one of my favorite reads. Autoboyography is on my TBR list as well. After reading your review though, I’ll try and get my hands on it as soon as I can! Loved your post!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve read a few books recently that have characters with medical/mental illnesses and have really enjoyed them. I think it’s good to read books that raise awareness of such important topics!
    Happy reading, Olivia. Do you think you’ll be getting through your TBR in the summer? I’m hoping to.
    Erin xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely, I couldn’t agree more! I’m glad you’re getting to read a lot of really great books. ☺️
      My TBR is so large that I know I won’t be getting through it this summer…and since it’s always growing, possibly ever?? But I am hoping to get through a good amount of it. Happy reading to you too and wishing you luck with crushing that TBR! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  13. i have yet to read these! but from this review, i’m definitely going to place an order soon. hopefully (depending on how my next interview goes at these two job places, eeek–totally off topic, sorry!). but on the come up seems like it’s amazing, and like you said, i was worried it wouldn’t live up to THUG either. but i’ve definitely added all of these to my TBR books and i’m more excited to read autoboyography, it sounds like it’ll be really cute and emotional. i prefer reading hard-hitting books tbh!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aah, I’m so happy I could give you some new recommendations! By the way, best of luck on both your job interviews, I hope they go wonderfully.💖 Yes yes yes, On the Come Up was so great and I was pleasantly surprised by how much it lived up to THUG?? I hope you get around to both it and Autoboyography (and also Girls of Paper and Fire was phenomenal too, haha)! Thank you so much for the kind comment, I hope you have a wonderful day.

      Liked by 1 person

      • you know when everyone asks you what you want for your birthday? i’m just going to write down the names of these books haha. and thank you so much!! ooh did you watch the THUG movie?? & you’re welcome!! you tooooooo ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  14. AH, mini-reviews!
    Wasn’t On the Come Up so good?? Okay, I need to ask. Do you have a favorite between THUG and On the Come Up? Mine is On the Come Up. I’m really excited to see what Angie Thomas writes next. Also, I recently read another book that had a lot to do with rapping-it was recommended by Red Gal Musings. It’s called Let Me Hear a Rhyme. I think you would like it :))
    Ohh wow, Girls of Paper and Fire sounds beautiful.
    That’s interesting that you learned about the LDS church while reading Autoboyography. That’s definitely something I want to be more knowledgeable about.
    Also, update: I read Emmy and Oliver and am currently reading The Spaceship Next Door!

    Liked by 1 person

    • On the Come Up WAS so good. Ahh, I honestly think my favorite was On the Come Up too?? I haven’t read THUG in a while, so maybe I need a reread to remember how good it was, but I definitely loved On the Come Up so, so much. Ooh, thanks for the recommendation! (Agh I love Red Gal Musings.) I just added to my TBR. The cover is so pretty. :))
      It is!
      It was really great to learn more about it. I’d heard of it before and know people who are Mormon, but I didn’t really know that much about their church besides some of the stereotypes.
      Ahhh! What did you think of Emmy and Oliver, and how do you like The Spaceship Next Door so far??

      Liked by 1 person

      • I KNOW. Hahaha if you reread it, tell me what your conclusion is. You’re welcome :)) Yes, it is a good cover! It has more lyrics inside of it too, like On the Come Up.
        Me either. Honestly I couldn’t really name stereotypes either.
        Okay, I liked Emmy and Oliver. Afterwards, I did think it was a little unlikely that they got along so well when they were best friends when they were so little-because I feel like we all were best friends with kids in kindergarten that we don’t really remember. But I only thought of that after, not while I was reading. And I’m sorry to say I skimmed the rest of The Spaceship Next Door, not because it wasn’t good, but because it wasn’t really good? If that makes sense.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Oh wow, these books were all already on my TBR but now I REALLY want to read Girls of Paper and Fury. Thank you for this!

    I think I prefer hard-hitting books. Fluffy is good to get me out of a slump, though, and there are days that’s all I crave. But hard-hitting stay with me longer. And I love that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay, I’m so glad I made you want to read all of these amazing books! I really do recommend all three of them with my whole heart.

      Ohh, I love that so much and definitely agree. ❤ The lessons that hard-hitting books teach and the messages they send are worth so much!

      Liked by 1 person

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