YA Mystery – One is Lying; A Good Idea; Expelled

McManus, Karen M. One of Us Is Lying. Delacorte Press, 2017. 978-1-524-71468-0. 368 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.  

Five very different high school students walk into detention. They’re known for being smart, pretty, dangerous, athletic, or outcast. Within a few minutes of being stuck together, something seems off. It turns out science teacher Mr. Avery confiscated a phone from each of them, phones they claim don’t belong to them. The problem: Only four students walk out of detention.  While four students are distracted, Simon collapses. 911 is called; the police ask questions, and meanwhile everyone in detention wonders what just happened. Was Simon targeted? He created an app that shares everyone’s juicy gossip. It’s not unreasonable to think someone wanted the gossip to stop, or maybe it was simply revenge.  Narrated by each student, readers are taken on a fast-paced whodunit ride. Each character has his or her own drama to deal with as rumors circulate, and mystery surrounds each suspect. Though these students know each other, this book asks how much do they really know? Readers will quickly learn not all is as it seems.  THOUGHTS: Mystery fiction fans will devour this book, puzzling the details as bits and pieces of the story are given. The multiple narrators add a compelling element as readers will want to know the next piece of the story. Don’t skip around, or you’ll miss out on some key evidence!    

Realistic Fiction, Mystery      Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District


Simon Kelleher is the face behind Bayview High’s most notorious gossip site, so it’s no surprise that he is also one of the most unpopular (and at times popular, depending on the gossip at the moment) students at Bayview.  When Simon ends up in detention with Nate Macauley, Bayview’s “bad boy”; Cooper Clay, a rockstar pitcher looking at the majors; Bronwyn Rojas, the “brain”, and Addy Calloway “Miss Popularity”, it seems like The Breakfast Club all over again.  That is until Simon dies in detention due to anaphylactic shock and only Cooper, Bronwyn, Addy, and Nate are in the room when it happens.  Now it’s up to them to prove they didn’t kill Simon, unless one of them actually did kill Simon since he was about to post gossip about each of them.  THOUGHTS:  This is a true mystery “whodunit”.  It is not for the murder-mystery, action-packed mystery lover, but for the thoughtful problem/crime solver mystery lover.  It moves slowly, and due to the varying narrators (Addy, Cooper, Nate, and Bronwy rotate sections in each chapter) has some holes throughout.  Readers need to focus on the minutia to solve Simon’s murder.  

Mystery      Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Moracho, Cristina.  A Good Idea. Viking, 2017.  978-0-451-47624-1. 357 p. $18.99. Gr. 9-12.

When Finley’s parents divorced, she moved to New York City to live with her mom.  However, she returns to the small town of Williston, Maine, every summer to visit her dad and hang out with her best friend, Betty.  That is, until Betty disappears during the fall of their senior year, and her ex-boyfriend, Calder, admits to drowning her.  Unfortunately, his testimony is thrown out because he was a minor when he gave it and did not have a lawyer present.  Because the body was never found, people begin to speculate about whether Betty was actually murdered or whether she ran away.  When she returns to Williston at the end of her senior year, Finley is determined to discover the truth about Betty and seek justice in the case.  However, she soon learns that the truth may be more complicated and devastating than she ever imagined.  THOUGHTS:  Although this is not an incredibly fast-paced mystery, it does have realistic, relatable characters and plot twists that keep readers coming back for more.  It is a powerful portrait of grief, anger, and forgiveness, concepts and feelings that we all experience at some point in our lives.  It also takes a look at the realities of small town life and includes some edgy content, such as underage drinking, drug use, lesbianism, and sex.

Mystery    Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD


Patterson, James and Emily Raymond. Expelled. JIMMY Paterson Books/Little, Brown, 2017. 978-0-316-44039-4. 304 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Theo, Jude, Sasha, and Parker are not the type of students you would expect to be expelled from school — the boy-next-door, the artist, the hot mysterious girl, and the quintessential football jock not only have very little in common but also have never gotten in trouble before.  Best friends Theo and Jude have a friendship that survives on keeping the other in check while Sasha and Parker broke up years ago for the simple fact that a relationship is hard to maintain when you have nothing of substance to say to the other person.  However, now they all have something to talk about.  These four high school students find themselves thrust together when each gets expelled, vowing to work together to find the truth behind who really committed the crimes they’ve been accused of.  The only problem is, each is hiding their own secret that could tear the misfit group apart at the seams.  Can they solve the mystery and save their own futures without destroying each other in the process?  THOUGHTS:  Patterson’s newest YA release is a bit The Breakfast Club meets Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, with very modernized twists that can still stand the test of time.  In fact, several iconic 80’s movies are referenced, which was a delightful surprise for this mid-30’s reader of YA.  Adults are not to be trusted in this contemporary, realistic fictional world, but then again, teenagers aren’t, either.  The protagonist, Theo, is a clean-cut teen who has had a very rough year and could use a break that just doesn’t seem to be coming his way.  So, he makes one for himself.  Readers will root for Theo the entire book for the simple fact that, when being handed a raw deal, he shows a tenacity to fix his own life without waiting for someone else to do it for him.  He isn’t impervious to a depressing life he finds himself in; he does have a small pity party or two, but he also refuses to let it swallow him whole or use it as an excuse to give up.  Theo is the epitome of a modern-day teenage hero whose lesson hopefully resonates with every young adult who picks up this book.

Realistic Fiction, Mystery            Sandra Reilly, Pleasant Valley SD

YA Fantasy & Sci-Fi – Bull; Caraval; Carve the Mark; Edge of Everything

Elliott, David. Bull. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. 978-0-544-61060-6. 189 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

A modern twist on the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, this sassy novel in verse will have readers hooked from the beginning.  Each chapter is written in a unique poetic form and in one of seven different voices, Poseidon, King Minos, Queen Pasiphae, Daedalus (builder of the Labyrinth), Asterion (the Minotaur), Ariadne (Asterion’s half sister), and Theseus.  For the most part, the story stays true to the myth; Poseidon exacts revenge on King Minos by making his wife fall in love with a bull, after which she gives birth to Asterion, who is ultimately locked up in the Labyrinth until he is killed by Theseus.  The author, however, takes some liberties in developing the attitudes and relationships among the characters.  The book ends with an author’s note about his take on the myth and an explanation of the various poetic forms used throughout.  An excellent choice for both English classrooms and leisure reading, this title’s use of rhymes, modern slang and profanity will help today’s students make connections and find relevance in an old classic.  THOUGHTS: I could see this book being used in so many ways.  English teachers might find it useful as a way to introduce an old classic or introduce poetic forms. It could be read aloud like a play as a way to engage students.  The underlying message about the frailty of humans could spark some great discussion.  Students could compare and contrast between the classic version of the myth and this version. No matter what the use, note that the book does contain some profanity, so audiences should be selected accordingly.

Fantasy (Mythology)    Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School


Garber, Stephanie. Caraval. New York: Flatiron Books, 2017. 978-1-2500-9525-1. 416 p. $18.99. Gr. 7-12.

Scarlett and her sister Tella have lived their entire life on the island of Trisda, secluded from the rest of the world. Eager to escape her tyrannical father, Scarlett is excited when he arranges a marriage for her and thinks only of taking Tella with her. One night, a mysterious sailor convinces Tella to leave, and Scarlett feels compelled to follow. She finds herself wrapped up in Caraval, a magical event that blurs the lines between performance and game, often with deadly results. Scarlett is now a player in Caraval, and she must find Tella, who has been kidnapped by Caraval’s strange creator, Legend. Scarlett must solve cryptic puzzles and navigate the deadly terrain, unsure who is a player or an actor, while fighting off feelings for the mysterious sailor. Caraval is thrilling, mysterious and unique; it’s unlike anything else on YA shelves. THOUGHTS:  Stephanie Garber’s debut will enchant any fantasy, sci-fi or romance fan, and leave you hanging on the edge of your seat at the book’s conclusion. Highly recommended.

Fantasy      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School


Roth, Veronica. Carve the Mark. HarperCollins, 2017. 978-0-06-234863-0. $22.99. 480p. Gr. 9 and up.

Carve the Mark is a story of friendship and love in a galaxy where oracles see the future and the current supplies everyone with a currentgift. The story is told from two characters’ points-of-view. The female protagonist, Cyra, got an unenviable currentgift of being in constant pain, which she can inflict on others when she wants. Her brother, Ryzek, is the ruler and tyrant of the aggressive Shotet, and he keeps order among his people by forcing Cyra to use her currentgift on anyone who mentions the prophecy of his downfall. The second point-of-view is told by the other protagonist, Akos, who is from the peaceful Thuvhe people.  He is the son of an oracle and the only person in the galaxy that can touch Cyra without feeling pain since his currentgift is the ability to stop the flow of other’s gifts. Cyra and Akos find themselves both fighting against Ryzek and over time start to fall in love. THOUGHTS: I enjoyed reading this book, which is the first in a planned duology. It received a starred review from Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) and is a must-have for all middle & high school libraries due to the popularity of Roth’s Divergent trilogy. My hint for the readers of this book is to persevere with the difficult names. Countries, planets, and people all have unusual names, which some of my students sometimes voice displeasure with. There is some descriptive violence and ritual scarification which might turn some readers off.

Fantasy; Science Fiction    Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Giles, Jeff. The Edge of Everything. New York: Bloomsbury, 2017. 978-1-6196-3753-5. 368 p. $18.99. Gr 7-12.

Zoe lives in a remote area of Montana with her mother and younger brother, Jonah. Her year has been pretty terrible; her Dad died in a caving accident, and her elderly neighbors mysteriously disappeared not long after. Zoe is doing everything she can to hold onto the family she has and come to terms with her loss. One night during a blizzard, Zoe finds herself under attack and unable to call for help due to the storm. She is saved by X, a strange (but handsome) bounty hunter from the Lowlands, who was sent to take the soul of her attacker. While Zoe knows she should be terrified, she instead finds herself drawn to X, who is unlike anyone she’s ever met. As the two connect, she finds that X is risking everything to stay by her side. Zoe is determined to free X from the Lowlands, but as a result must learn the terrifying truth about her missing father and neighbors. THOUGHTS: A fast-paced, original story that’s a great addition to any fantasy collection. Fans of supernatural romance will swoon as Zoe and Z fall in love, and action fans will be on the edge of their seat as the novel takes off.

Fantasy     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School