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“21 Questions” uses a tried-and-tested formula for YA and misses the mark

21 Questions is a book about two high school teenagers, Brock and Kendra, who despite their differences form a meaningful relationship with each other and grow as individuals because of their bond. The book explores themes of grief, love, and friendship – all through the lens of the characters themselves. 

The book is set in Laguna Beach in California. This setting is important because Kendra is training to become a professional surfer. Her brother, who died before the book begins, was primed to enter the professional surfing sphere before he died of a drug overdose. Kendra has been experiencing anxiety attacks ever since. Surfing and meditation are what help her get through it.

Brock, on the other hand, could not be more different. His parents run a successful drug-dealing operation and Brock has been roped into the family business. He sells to classmates and friends. When we first meet Brock, it is clear that although he seems to enjoy this life, his first love is music – something he cannot pursue because of his parents’ expectations. When Brock and Kendra meet, they have an undeniable and immediate mutual attraction. The chapters alternate between Brock and Kendra’s points of view, giving the reader more insight into their thoughts and motivations.

I have mixed feelings about the style of language in this book. I admire the switch in the tone of language between Kendra’s and Brock’s points of view. Brock’s chapters are narrated the way he thinks – with a lot of slang and curse words, while Kendra is less angry and shyer. However, the excessive slang and text language make the book hard to read at times.

The novel is full of tropes. The underlying themes of this book are predictable. The bad boy male protagonist charms the straight-as-an-arrow female protagonist. He teaches her to relax and she teaches him to be a better person. It’s a formula that’s been applied many times before. Kendra is Brock’s muse in the sense that she is his motivation to stop selling drugs and play music. This is not to say that such formulae cannot be used – after all, they are so popular because they mostly work. But I personally do not think that was the case for 21 Questions.


Although it was heartening to see the characters learn and grow, I did not feel that inexplicable sympathy a reader needs to root for the characters. Kendra’s thoughts veered towards the ‘I’m not like other girls’ territory, throwing the feminism of the book into question. In fact, all the characters seemed to be one-dimensional. The girls who are not Kendra are overly superficial. Brock and his friends seemed to be obsessed with sex and not much else. Brock’s love for music does add another layer to his personality – but the troubled musician character is not one that I have patience for after reading and watching him so many times.

The story is on the whole predictable but is not without its surprising twists and turns. I would not have much of an issue with the plot if only it was told better. Two teenagers who have past family traumas that they are trying to get over in order to live their own lives. As a reader, I would have liked to root for the main characters a little more. Perhaps if they had more depth this would have been easier. I also felt that the epilogue was entirely unnecessary, but I will concede that I have a personal disinclination towards epilogues.


If you like knowing what the characters are up to in the future, then this book has a comprehensive epilogue that ties up the characters’ journeys nicely, albeit rather self-indulgently. By the end of the book, the characters have grown up. I just wish the same could be said of the book itself.

Want to give this book a try? Buy it on Bookshop or Indiebound and support local bookstores.

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10 new books to burn through this August

I know we’re all waiting for Halloween and fall to arrive. But we still got time to enjoy the summer! What better way to enjoy the weather than by sitting outside (with sunscreen!) with a good book? Personally, I’ve been spending a lot of my time during this pandemic outside in my backyard reading.

I’m excited to have compiled a list that I think will blow you out of the water – literally if you’ve been around a pool or any body of water. These are all new books coming out in August that absolutely need to be on your radar.

1. The Second Season by Emily Adrian

[Image description: the cover of The Second Season by Emily Adrian. There is a woman wearing sunglasses and an ear mic. on the cover.] via Ratuken Kobo
Do you want romance? A headstrong, passionate woman? You may not have either of these in your life, but this book has it all.

Ruth Devon’s basketball career was put to a halt when she got into an accident during college. Now? She has the opportunity to become the world’s first woman NBA sportscaster…. after he husband retires from the job. Let the drama ensue!

You can read the first chapter here, courtesy of The Tempest. Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores

2. SugarTown Queens by Malla Nunn

[ Image description: the cover of Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn. A picture of three best friends graces the cover.] via Amazon
Amandla’s mother’s life is a mystery to her. She tells her stories of her father in glowing light, but Amandla has never met him. Her mother also struggles to accept reality: she has visions and tells her daughter that she should style her hair a certain way to bring her father back.

Amandla has never gotten answers about her past. So she sets out to find them. What could go wrong?

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores

3. The Perfect Place to Die by Bryce Moore

[Image description: the cover of The Perfect Place to Die by Byrce Moore. A woman’s skeleton is gracing the cover.] via Goodreads
Would you do anything for your siblings? 1890s Chicago is extremely dangerous – Zuretta’s sister disappears during the World Fair. And Zuretta concludes her sibling is taken by a well-known serial killer. She takes a job at a hotel called The Castle hoping to learn more… but she might never escape. Do you think she misses her sister asking her to make Tik Tok videos?

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores

4. Like a Love Song by Gabriela Martinez

[ Image description: the cover of Like a Love Song by Gabriela Martinez. there is a man in a black suit and a woman in a large, flowy purple dress at a movie premiere on the cover.] via Goodreads
What’s the biggest lie you’ve told? Have you ever lied about having a boyfriend? Well, if you have not, Natalie has beaten you to it. Natalie is living her dream as a famous Brazilian pop star, but her PR team believes she needs to step up her game after her very messy and public breakup that has the presses talking. So, they propose that she finds a fake boyfriend. They hire a handsome man named William, but what happens when she starts falling for him? I don’t know about you, but my love life is pretty dry right now so I am going to live vicariously through these characters.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores

5. How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

[ Image description: the cover of How Moon Fuentez fell in love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliliand. A young woman who is colored grey with a pink shirt . The background is also pink and there are cherry blossom trees.] via Goodreads
Imagine your sister goes viral on social media… and you have never. Moon Fuentez feels like she is the ugly, inferior sister who is destined to be in her sister’s shadow. She takes a job as a “merch girl” on a tour bus full of influencers. She has the hottest and most insufferable bunkmate… and she ends up falling in love with him.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores

6. Brown Boy Nowhere by Sheeryl Lim

[Image description: The cover of Brown Boy Nowhere by Sheeryl Lim. A boy is wearing a yellow shirt and jean shorts and is on an orange skateboard in the picture.] via Goodreads
A sixteen-year-old Filipino boy named Angelo Rivera feels like life is a black hole of nothingness. ( Hah… I can’t relate at all. Just kidding.) He’s been forced to move from his home in San Diego to a boring small town in the middle of nowhere. He’s reduced to the weird Asian kid in his new school and he feels hindered until he meets Kristin….an ex-cheerleader and graffiti artist. He becomes the leader of a group of misfits. It’s the real ARMY. ( stan Twitter can you can hear me?!)

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores


7. The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

[Image description: the cover of The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang. A woman wearing sunglasses is gracing the cover.]via Amazon
Anna Sun experiences the power of social media when a video of her playing the violin goes viral. It is a huge career milestone. But she is unable to recreate the moment. And then her long-time boyfriend tells her he wants an open relationship and… she agrees. She has a series of one-night stands. Her professional and personal life really delves into it.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores

8. All’s Well by Mona Awad

[ Image description: All’s Well by Mona Awad. A woman who is dressed like she’s from Shakespearean times is lying on the floor with arrows in her. She also has red hair.]
Miranda Fitch’s life does not go according to plan. An accident ends her acting career and leaves her with chronic back pain. AND her marriage is failing. She finds a job as a college theatre director, only for her semblance of security to be threatened. The college kids are determined to put on Macbeth instead of Shakespeare’s All Well That Ends Well. Then, she meets three strange benefactors that know too much about her past. Definitely sounds like a Shakespearean tragedy.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores

9. The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon

[Image description: the cover of The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon. A couple is staring lovingly at each other.] via Goodreads
Can you imagine the way your phone would blow up if you were dating a celebrity? You would have to put evil eye emojis on every post. Anywho, Taylor Powell is dating a former NFL player… kind of. Jamar Dixon wants Taylor, a personal trainer, to work with him. However, he wants her to keep this a secret. When someone makes the assumption they are a couple, Taylor and Jamar go along with it. But do they go hoopy for each other?

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores

10.  A DragonBird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert

[ Image description: the cover of A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert. A blue dragon graces the outside of the book] via Amazon
Being a princess sounds so tough. No, really. Princess Jiara’s sister, Scilla was assassinated. Her ghost is doomed to haunt the country until she is avenged. As all of this is happening, Princess Jiara’s sister’s betrothed arrives and asks that the 17-year-old take her sister’s place as his bride. The alliance between the country is dependent upon their marriage. It is extremely stressful for Princess Jiara, who is dyslexic. She fears, on top of everything else, that she will be unable to learn a foreign language. She discovers that her sister’s killer is in this foreign country she is asked to go to. So she takes the risk;

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores

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I need to grab my tea and read these books! If you want to join the tea party, check out The Tempest Book Club to know what our August’s pick is (and take part in many awesome giveaways and live events with authors!). If you’re more of a lone reader and want even more book suggestions, check out our list of exciting 2021 releases.

Let us know which books you pick and what you’re reading this month by tagging @TheTempestBooks on Instagram so we can feature you!