YA Mystery – City of Saints & Thieves; Embassy Row Book 3

Anderson, Natalie C. City of Saints & Thieves. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017. 978-0-399-54758-4. 401 pp. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

As a small child, Tina fled Congo with her mother Anju and relocated to Sangui City, Kenya. There Anju found work as a maid at the estate of Mr. Greyhill, a mining executive with questionable business dealings. She was murdered in his home office several years later, and the case was never solved. Now orphaned, Tina has nursed her thirst for revenge for years. She joins a street gang called the Goondas who provide a family of sorts and even a way to bring down Greyhill via a complicated heist. When the break-in is interrupted by Greyhill’s son, Tina’s childhood friend Michael, the two form an unlikely alliance in a quest for the truth about Anju’s murder and Extracta Mining’s role in trading conflict minerals. THOUGHTS: This powerful debut novel has an enticing premise, a richly realized setting, strong characters, and more than one big reveal. It’s got elements of a murder mystery, techno-thriller, and refugee story rolled into one wonderfully complex page-turner!

Realistic Fiction, Thriller, Murder Mystery      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District


City of Saints & Thieves takes readers on a fast-paced adventure as Tina seeks revenge on the man she has always believed killed her mother. Set in the Congo and Kenya this mystery/adventure will draw readers in as they puzzle the mystery surrounding Tina’s mother’s death and their escape from the Congo years before.

Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District


Carter, Ally. Take the Key and Lock Her Up (Embassy Row Book 3). Scholastic Press, 2017. 978-0-545-65495-1. $17.99. 327 pp. Gr. 7 and up.

Grace Blakely is back in book three of Embassy Row.  After learning of her royal lineage, Grace, Alexei, and Jamie are on the run from those who want them dead (and want to arrest Alexei for murder).  When they are found by the prime minister of Adria, Grace realizes that she cannot hide forever and must return to Adria to face her future.  Of course, Grace doesn’t go quietly and first returns, although inadvertently, to the town where they lived when her mother died.  After a visit to her mother’s store, Grace, Jamie, Alexei, and Dominic find a hidden basement that holds the truth (and some secrets) to her mother’s past, death, work, and Grace and Jamie’s future.  With the help of Rosie, Noah, and Megan, Alexei and Grace set out to find the truth behind the society, the work that killed Grace’s mother, and the future of Adria.  THOUGHTS:  Take the Key and Lock Her Up is a great conclusion to another fabulous Ally Carter trilogy.  Although Grace Blakely is one of the most annoying characters in recent years, she is a strong (and annoying) female protagonist, who truly understands the world around her, but still remains (and acts) like a teenager.  Embassy Row is a must-have series for any library serving teens.

Mystery         Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area School District




Great Realistic Fiction for Upper Elementary – Strudel’s Forever Home; Summerlost


Freeman, Martha. Strudel’s Forever Home. New York: Holiday House, 2016. 978-0-8234-3534-0. 184 pages. $16.95. Gr 3-6.

It’s a big world of adventure for a little dachshund, especially while adapting to his new adopted family in Martha Freeman’s latest chapter book for upper elementary readers. Strudel needs to learn how to handle his pack, including a loving boy who has some bully struggles. A gang of cats also torments Strudel, until the brave dog with the heart of a hero forms a plan. Can the family get around the trials and tribulations to keep Strudel in his forever home? Freeman has a hit for dog-lovers and anyone looking for lessons on bravery and loyalty.  THOUGHTS: Writing from the point of view of the dog creates an entertaining perspective in this book. The reader gets to hear a voice that tells a different kind of story and think how things would look through canine eyes. The bully plot points also open the door to useful classroom/family discussions.

Realistic Fiction     Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District



Condie, Ally. Summerlost. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2016. 978-0-399-18719-3. 249 pp. $17.99. Gr 4-6.

Dealing with loss and change are rarely easy, and a sense of melancholy or rebellion are both common responses. When Cedar’s brother, Ben, and her father are killed in a drunk driving accident, she and her mom and brother Miles try to pass the summer by moving back to her mother’s hometown. Cedar is lonely, until she follows an unusual neighbor boy into the world of Summerlost, a Shakespearian theater festival. This new community provides her with work, friendship, and a mystery revolving around the town’s most famous actress who died 20 years ago and may still be haunting the area. Still, Cedar has ghosts of her own to face at home. This engaging, empathetic novel will provide a meaningful outlet to the summer doldrums.  THOUGHTS: The content may feel more middle school than elementary, but there is nothing objectionable for upper elementary readers. Summerlost is especially relevant for social outcasts,  theater lovers, those with big dreams, or grieving families. There are also honest discussions about perceptions of race, relationships, and emotions in this heartfelt novel.

Realistic Fiction    Dustin Brackbill, State College Area School District