Elem./MG – Guidebooks to the Unexplained (Series NF)

Abdo, Kenny. Guidebooks to the Unexplained. Abdo Zoom. 2020. $19.95 each. $119.70 for set of 6. Gr. 2-5

Area 51. 978-1-532-12933-9.
Cryptids.978-1-532-12934-6.
Ghosts. 978-1-532-12937-7
.
Lost Lands. 978-1-532-12935-3.
Men in Black. 978-1-532-12936-0.
Witches. 978-1-532-12938-4.

 

 

Have you ever wondered about the mysterious places and creatures that captivate our media and folklore? Have you ever wondered if these places are actually real or if there is a creature out in the forest or mountain, lurking about? If so, then this series is for you. Guidebooks to the Unexplained takes you on a brief adventure, looking at some of the most famous places and creatures you hear about in stories and movies, providing a information and even more wonderings and questions than you started with!

THOUGHTS: This is a beginner series to these questions that many readers have. This series would be a great way to begin research on a topic!

1.942-398.47 Folklore         Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

YA – Cemetery Boys

Thomas, Aiden. Cemetery Boys. Swoon Reads, 2020. 978-1-250-25046-9. 344 p. $17.99. Grades 7-12. 

In the heart of LA lives a cemetery where the dead roam long after they’re gone. They’re welcome to stay as long as they stay themselves, but stay too long and a ghost risks turning maligno. Protected by the brujx, a line of guardians who roam the cemetery to keep the peace, the cemetery is home to the newly dead and those not quite ready to let go. Once they are ready, the brujos are there to release them into the afterlife. Yadriel comes from a long line of brujx and wants nothing more than to become one. However, even after coming out as trans, his family still tries to push him to be a bruja, a healer, and refuses to let him try to take the test meant for the men. When Yadriel takes matters into his own hands he ends up with a companion he didn’t expect, the ghost of a classmate who rarely attends school. If Yadriel can release him then he will prove himself as a real brujo. Julian, however, isn’t going to give up so easily.

THOUGHTS: A powerful story of Latinx heritage and the strength it takes to break with tradition and find your own place in the world. While not the same premise, readers of They Both Die At The End will love Cemetery Boys.

Fantasy (Paranormal)          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

YA Fiction – Wolf Hour; Unearthly Things; Book of Dust (Bk. 1); Hell & High Water

Holmes, Sarah Lewis. The Wolf Hour. New York: Scholastic, 2017. 978-0-545-10797-6. 320 p. $16.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Sarah Lewis Holmes has written an interesting, if overly long, take on classic fairy tales.  Using the familiar tropes of the wicked witch, the haunted wood, and the wayward child, Holmes spins the stories of the Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood on their heads.  The story is told from three perspectives: Magia, the daughter of a woodcutter; the Pigs – Biggest, Little, and Littlest; and Martin, a wolf. Magia’s dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps and chop the special wood from the trees in the Puszka, the dark forest that borders her home.  Magia’s mother has other plans for her though; she wants Magia to use her prodigious singing talents to make a name for herself in the city.  While Magia is happy that her singing soothes her mother’s pregnancy pains, she does not want to make a career out of it.  The Pigs’ dream is to get their mother back; they have been told by the witch that the only way to do so is to play out their story, over and over again: get chased by the wolf, take shelter in the house made of bricks, trick the wolf into climbing into the chimney where he falls to his death into a pot of boiling water. Martin’s dream is to stay safe in his tower of books and find the safety and love that he experienced before his mother was killed by a human.  Martin’s mother always warned him to stay away from stories, because they can suck you in, and you can lose yourself, and so Martin was raised on books of facts.  And then there’s the witch, the puppetmaster holding all of the strings.  Eventually, the characters all find themselves in the same story, and, for better or worse, need to figure out how to extract themselves in order to set things right.  THOUGHTS:  While the book definitely lags in the middle, and Holmes takes her time getting to the real meat of the story, her premise is clever, and the characters are well-drawn.  The love that each of these characters (other than the witch, perhaps) feels for their families is palpable and heartbreaking. Hand this book to lovers of fairy tales, and those who enjoy a slow-burning plot.

Fantasy        Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

 

Gagnon, Michelle. Unearthly Things. Soho Teen, 2017. 978-1-61695-696-7 278p. $21.99.  Gr. 8 and up.

After Janie’s parents are killed in an accident, she is shipped off to a family in San Francisco, her dad’s best friend, supposedly. She is thrown into a world where buying an $800 dress seems to be the norm, while back home in Hawaii, that money could have paid a lot of bills. Janie is sent to a private school where everything seems foreign; she can’t even wear comfortable shoes to school. Things get pretty sinister and creepy as there seems to be a ghost in the house that is bothering Janie more than the other residents in the house. The motivations of her benefactors come into question.  Between that and the haunting, Janie does not feel safe anymore, but what can she do?   THOUGHTS: This is a fast-paced book that is more than a little sinister with plot twists galore. It is a retelling of Jane Eyre, that moves quickly. Students who have not read Jane Eyre would still enjoy this suspenseful tale.

Horror; Suspense      Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

 

Pullman, Philip. The Book of Dust. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-0-37581-530-0. 464 p. $22.99. Gr. 7-12.

Fans of Pullman’s classic His Dark Materials series will be delighted to re-enter the world of Lyra Belacqua. Set several years before The Golden Compass, Dust focuses on Malcolm, a twelve year old boy working at his parents’ inn on the River Thames. In his spare time, Malcolm helps the nuns with odd jobs around the local priory and takes care of his precious boat, La Belle Sauvage. The quiet of his little town is disrupted when the nuns take in orphaned baby Lyra, and Malcolm and his daemon Asta begin to pay special attention when curious visitors begin to frequent the inn. One of those visitors is Hannah, who befriends and exchanges information with Malcolm, and works to decipher the mysterious alethiometer device. Another guest is one less kindly; a strange man and his disfigured hyena daemon, who Malcolm believes is trying to kidnap Lyra. When a terrible storm begins to flood the town, Malcolm must set out on La Belle Sauvage to protect Lyra at any cost. THOUGHTS: A rich, absorbing fantasy set in the familiar, parallel world crafted by Pullman so many years ago. This exhilarating read is the beginning of another trilogy.

Fantasy     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

 

Pullman, Philip. La Belle Sauvage. Alfred A. Knopf, 2017. 9780375815300. 449 pp. $22.99. Gr. 8 and up.  

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series has always been a favorite of mine and countless other fantasy fans. The long wait since the publication of The Amber Spyglass is rewarded with the first novel in Pullman’s new companion trilogy, The Book of Dust.  La Belle Sauvage is a welcome return to the fantastical, alternate world of England in the early 20th century.

This story follows 11-year old Malcolm Polstead, a charming and observant boy who works in his family’s inn near Oxford. By chance he finds a clue meant for a Resistance spy, who is working against the totalitarian Magisterium. The clue leads him to a friendship with Dr. Hannah Relf, a master of the alethiometer and the spy’s local contact in Oxford.  Intrigue builds as many characters come to town in search of information about a mysterious baby who has been left under the care and protection of nuns in the village. Malcolm and a local servant girl, Alice, become the protectors of baby Lyra as she comes under threat from agents of the Magesterium and a flood of biblical proportions. The three children and their daemons take refuge in Malcolm’s trusty boat, La Belle Sauvage, in search of Lyra’s father Lord Asriel.  THOUGHTS: Readers will be more than satisfied with this captivating adventure tale with terrific and complex new characters, an intriguing plot and the promise of more adventures to come. One of my favorite books of 2017.

Fantasy      Nancy Summers, Abington School District

 

Landman, Tanya. Hell and High Water. Candlewick Press, 2017. 978-07636-88752.  $17.99 312 pp. Gr. 7-12.

Caleb Chappell and his father make a living as traveling performers of Punch and Judy shows in 1752 England.  Caleb admires his father Joseph, who has creative, technical and moral understanding, so it is a blow when his father is wrongly imprisoned.  Rather than death, Joseph is sentenced to be sent to the colonies.  For Caleb, it feels like death.  But his father tells him to find his aunt (unknown to him) who will care for him, and he will find him again, “come hell or high water.”  His aunt and cousin Letty accept him, unlike the rest of the town who suspects him of everything due to his skin color.  Survival in their small town of Tawpuddle is dependent upon dangerous sailing trips and the wishes of nobleman Sir Robert Fairbrother.  Then Caleb is shocked to find his dead father’s body washed ashore, identifiable only by his ring.  But while Caleb summons help, the ring is stolen and the man buried, meant to be forgotten.  But much, much more is amiss, and Caleb’s determination to prove the man was his father leads him to unearth a landslide of secrets and power in this small seaside town.  THOUGHTS: A well-crafted and twisty tale with the right amount of suspense, atmosphere and characterization (even the puppets) to intrigue readers. With a focus on unmasking racism, sexism and the power of class structure to determine one’s fate, this is not to be overlooked.  

Historical, Mystery      Melissa Scott, Shenango Area School District

Picture Books – The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse; The Teacher’s Pet; Tool School; Scariest Book Ever

Barnett, Mac. The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse. Candlewick Press, 2017. 978-0-7636-7754-1. 40 pp. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

When a mouse is swallowed by a wolf, he thinks it’s the end of the line. But, it turns out, it’s just the beginning of his adventures. In the wolf’s belly, the mouse meets a duck. The duck explains that they might have been swallowed, but he has no intention of being eaten. Instead, from inside the wolf, the pair enjoy tasty home-cooked meals and dance parties, all without the ever-present fear of predators that nagged them before. Life is good until the wolf experiences a bellyache. His moans attract the attention of a hunter, and when all of their lives are in danger, the mouse and the duck decide they need to intervene.  Jon Klassen’s muted mixed-media illustrations are the perfect compliment to this subtly funny story, and readers will laugh at all the items mouse and duck find inside the wolf. Fans of this duo’s previous collaborations, including the Caldecott Honor winners Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and Extra Yarn, will eagerly devour this latest offering.  THOUGHTS:  This original pourquoi tale will be a wonderful addition to storytimes, and it will very likely fly off elementary shelves.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

Rissi, Anica Mrose. The Teacher’s Pet. Disney Hyperion, 2017: ISBN 978-148474364-5. 32pp. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

Mr. Stricter has always dreamed of having a pet, so he’s very excited when the science projects hatch. Each student monitors the growth of one tadpole, and when they’re grown, they release all the projects into the wild: all except one. Bruno, the last one to hatch, had been the smallest, but as he devours everything in sight, he grows, and grows, and grows. The students quickly realize Bruno is a hippo, and his size is troubling, but Mr. Stricter is blinded by love and is oblivious to any problems. Even as Bruno smashes desks, chomps textbooks, and snores during silent reading, Mr. Stricter declares his love for the class pet. It isn’t until Bruno swallows Mr. Stricter whole that the class is forced into action to get their teacher back.  THOUGHTS:  This title will make a wonderful read-aloud thanks to the witty restraint the author uses. The word “hippo” never appears in the book, but students will immediately notice what Mr. Stricter does not: Bruno looks different from the other tadpoles. The bold acrylic and pencil illustrations shine, extending the text and allowing Bruno’s larger-than-life personality to take center-stage. This will be a good match for science units about watching animals hatch and grow.

Picture Book       Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

Holub, Joan. Tool School. Scholastic, 2017.  978-0-545-68520-7. $16.99. Unpaged. PreK-2.

Five little tools, hammer, screwdriver, tape measure pliers and saw, head to school. Each is eager to display his or her skills but find working alone doesn’t produce very good results. Ms. Drill, their teacher, encourages them to cooperate, yielding better results. Bouncy rhyming text with bold illustrations by James Dean (Pete the Cat) make this a perfect workshop introduction for the tiny tool time set. Cool tool tips are included after the story.  THOUGHTS:  This would be a great introduction to a primary maker-space experience, promoting creativity and cooperation.  

Picture Book      Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

 

Shea, Bob.  The Scariest Book Ever. Disney, 2017. 978-148473046-1. $16.99. Unpaged. Gr. Pre K – 2.

Boo! A tiny ghost tries everything to avoid going into the scary woods, from spilling orange juice on himself (drat, he has to take his sheet off) to a bellyache, to convincing the reader that he can be scary right at home. Meanwhile, the reader is apparently reporting back what horrors lurk in the woods – bunnies! Woodland creatures! Doughnuts! Eventually the little ghost is convinced to go into the woods, where he finds a costume party. Shea’s familiar-style illustrations (Ballet Cat, Buddie and the Bunnies) add to the humor of the little ghost trying to convince us he is brave and scary. THOUGHTS:  Youngsters will giggle wildly over the silly juxtaposition of thought and image, as the little ghost tries to be brave but is so obviously afraid of the unknown in the woods.

Picture Book      Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

A Few More 2016 Titles…The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart; The Fairy Tale Matchmaker; Lost in Ghostville

DeStefano, Lauren. The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart. Bloomsbury, 2016.  978-1-61963-643-9. $16.99. 208pp. Gr. 4-7.

Marybeth is well respected at the orphanage. She befriends Lionel, a boy misunderstood by others. After winding up at a barn unexpectedly for a night, she tells Lionel that she followed the blue spirit and since then things have been very wierd. Mrs. Mannerd is very worried about Marybeth’s recent behavior. Doctors worry that Marybeth is hurting other students, and this upsets Mrs. Mannerd as she would have loved to have a child like Marybeth before these episodes.  The special doctor visit leads Marybeth to be admitted into a hospital where it will be month before visitors are permitted. How can Lionel save his dear friend?  THOUGHTS: This is a powerful novel filled with heart.  The message that bravery is inside resonates throughout the adventures.  Late in the book readers learn that Lionel’s father killed his mother and that is why he wants to be a fierce animal. The spirit shows that Liza was killed and father suggested mother not know  and the guilt rid the older brother.

Fantasy    Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

 

 

Baker, E.D. The Fairy Tale Matchmaker: The Truest Heart. Bloomsbury, 2016. 978-1-61963-849-5. $16.99. 272pp. Gr. 4-7

Cory needs to participate in the Ogre party that includes a kick boulder game, food-eating contest, flatulence contest, and a three-legged race. This is a diversion for the harassment and sabotage that Cory has received since leaving the Tooth Fairy Guild. While Cory is a cupid, this is kept a secret. Her skills make it hard for her to believe that her mother, Delphinium, who disowned her, should pair with FLEA Officer Deads. Cory seeks advice from her grandfather, also a cupid. Will Cory be able to calm the guilds, help her estranged mother, and embrace her Cupid skills?  THOUGHTS:  E.D. Baker writes whimsical novels and has also influenced Walt Disney’s The Frog Princess. The series should be read in order to build on the continuity of the series.

Fantasy    Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

 

Bladek, John. Lost in Ghostville. Stone Arch, 2016. 978-1-4965-3360-9. 205pp. $25.32. Gr. 4-8.

Sixth grader Trey embraces adventure and finding ghosts. He basks in the new excitement that celebrity Rex Rangler adds to their low key town.  Trey even brings his ecto-meter to the girl’s bathroom at school, but this leads to trouble. As a result, Trey’s mother drives him and Vicki to Dino-Barn, but it does not feel right. The old theater owner, Mr. Greensock, is there. Vicki remembers that he died last year.  Through his adventure he is shocked to become friends with Vicki, and she wonders if she can find the ghost of her father who died at war. Trey has his ecto-meter and hopes to find his grandma and free Vicki. He has a showdown with Rex to confront his “ghostnapping.”  This book also includes a glossary.  THOUGHTS:  With well developed characters and adventure, this book is more than a ghost story to cause fear.

Fantasy/Paranormal    Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

YA Realistic FIC – Rocks Fall…; Run; Female of Species

rocksfall

Ribar, Lindsay. Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies. New York: Kathy Dawson Books, 2016. 978-0-525-42868-8. 323 pp. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Aspen Quick can reach inside of people and steal almost anything: thoughts, feelings, memories, or physical attributes. It’s a family trait the Quicks of Three Peaks, New York, have always used to perform the “triad ritual” that repairs dangerous fault lines in the cliff looming over their town. And sure, maybe Aspen occasionally uses his ability to make his life a little better (e.g., manipulating his crush into breaking up with her boyfriend and falling for Aspen instead). Following his cousin Heather’s death, Aspen becomes a regular member of the ritual. But he notices something strange afoot in seemingly idyllic Three Peaks; local teens still talk about Heather in the present tense, and one of them seems immune to Aspen’s abilities. The novel’s interesting structure, with scenes from “Before” closing each chapter, adds context even as the holes in Aspen’s memory are revealed. THOUGHTS: With Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, Lindsay Ribar has stirred up a singular brew of summer love, magical realism, and family secrets. It’s a satisfying stand-alone that readers of Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap will enjoy.

Magical Realism      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School Library

 

run

Keplinger, Kody. Run. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.  978-0-545-83113-0. 295 pp.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

Bo Dickinson and Agnes Atwood could not be more different.  Bo comes from a family of drunkards, drug addicts, and criminals and has a reputation for being wild.  Agnes, on the other hand, goes to church with her parents every week and always follows the rules.  Because she was born legally blind, Agnes has lived a very sheltered life.  When Bo suddenly enters her life, Agnes is curious about the world outside her small circle, and the two become best friends.  That’s why Agnes doesn’t hesitate when Bo asks her to run away from their small, rural town with her.  Told in alternating perspectives, Agnes explains how their friendship formed while Bo relays the events of their road trip.  Throughout the course of the book, the two will share secrets and new experiences, break rules, and form an indestructible bond.  A solid story of friendship, this book has some edgy topics that will be relatable to many teens: bisexuality, sexual experiences, disabilities, dysfunctional family dynamics, underage drinking and more.  THOUGHTS: This book really opened my eyes to what life can be like for those who are blind and how refreshing it can be for others to treat them like normal people (as Bo does for Agnes) rather than treating like they are handicapped.  For that reason, I could see this book pairing well with Blind by Rachel DeWoskin or with books about other disabilities or abnormalities, such as R.J. Palacio’s Wonder or Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind.  I would warn purchasers, however, that the book contains some graphic language and edgy content, so it may be more suited for older readers.

Realistic Fiction       Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

 

female

McGinnis, Mindy. The Female of the Species. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2016. 978-0-06232-089-6. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Three years ago, Alex Craft’s sister Anna was found in pieces in the snowy woods. Without enough evidence to convict the killer, Alex watched her sister’s murderer walk free. Now she watches and waits, and becomes what she thinks and feels; violence and vengeance. With her own crime unpunished, Alex retreats from her family and peers, afraid to unleash the violence buried deep inside her. While volunteering at an animal shelter for her senior project, Alex meets Peekay, the local preacher’s daughter, and an unlikely friendship blossoms. Now venturing into the high school social world, Alex also meets Jack, who begins to chip away at her hard exterior and see the person underneath- but with that person also comes darkness and anger. Told through Alex, Peekay, and Jack’s alternating perspectives. McGinnis expertly taps into the often uncomfortable yet realistic world of teenage drinking, drugs, and sex, as well as the social pressure that accompanies it. THOUGHTS: While the ending seemed a bit rushed and dramatic, McGinnis is an excellent storyteller who expertly unravels Alex and Anna’s story over the course of the book. Jack, Peekay and Alex are far from the perfect teen, which makes them all the more relatable to teen readers.

Realistic Fiction     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

YA Fantasy – HP & the Cursed Child; Labyrinth Lost; Ghosts

harrypotter

Rowling, J.K., John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. New York: Scholastic, Inc, 2016. 978-1-33809-913-3. $29.99. 343 pp. Gr. 6-12.

The eighth book in the Harry Potter series is set nineteen years after the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, taking readers back to the enchanting world of wizards. Harry, Ron and Hermione all work at the Ministry of Magic, balancing careers with their family life; all have children attending Hogwarts. In his first year at Hogwarts, Harry and Ginny’s youngest son, Albus, is sorted into Slytherin, and instantly befriends Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpious. The two seclude themselves from others and grow up mostly as outcasts. As Albus enters his teen years, he struggles with having famous Harry Potter as a father, and Harry struggles to understand his adolescent son. Meanwhile, a time-turner is uncovered at the Ministry of Magic, and Amos Diggory pleads with Harry to travel back and save his son Cedric. Fans of the original series will love the journey back in time, happy to meet old characters and new. THOUGHTS:  The play format might seem sparse to seasoned Harry Potter readers, but fanatics and fans alike will love traveling back to Hogwarts to see what Harry, Ron, and Hermione are up to.

Fantasy        Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

 

lablost

Córdova, Zoraida. Labyrinth Lost. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Fire, 2016. 978-1-4926-2094-5. 324 pp. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Alejandra just wants to be a normal Brooklyn teenager who hangs out with her friends, goes to concerts, and definitely does not come from a long line of brujas (witches). Instead, she’s a burgeoning encantrix whose Deathday ceremony (a chance to connect with and be blessed by her ancestors) is fast approaching. So Alex, who hates her magic, devises a risky plan to perform a spell that will cast out her powers. When the spell backfires, Alex’s whole family disappears into the spirit realm of Los Lagos. With the help of cute but mysterious Nova, Alex opens a portal to Los Lagos so she can rescue her family. Suddenly, everything depends on the powers she’s never bothered to hone. It’s truly a bruja‘s odyssey, complete with challenges, obstacles, and tricksters. The cliffhanger ending will either frustrate readers or entice them to read the forthcoming sequel. THOUGHTS: Cordova has crafted a fully realized world and a beguiling mythology that more than compensates for the novel’s slightly slow start (Alex’s family doesn’t disappear until nearly a third of the way into the book’s 300+ pages).

Fantasy Fiction        Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School Library

 

ghosts

Telgemeier, Raina. Ghosts. New York: Graphix, 2016. 978-0-54554-062-9. $24.99. Gr. 6-12.

Cat and her family are moving to Northern California. The salty sea air there is better for her younger sister Maya, who has cystic fibrosis. While her family is excited for the change, Cat is sad to leave her friends back in Southern California and anxious about her new town which is said to be very haunted. Cat and Maya’s neighbor, Carlos, takes them on a ghost tour through town, and an encounter with the spirits leaves Maya hospitalized. Cat is determined to keep her sister safely away from the ghosts, but when Maya returns home, she is determined to see them again. Cat is scared, and not just of ghosts; Dia de los Muertos is coming up, and meeting with the many ghosts may be too much for Maya. Telgemeier once again creates an excellent middle grade graphic novel that explores tough issues through relatable text and beautiful illustrations. For those who loved Telgemeier’s previous books Smile, Drama and Sisters, this will be another popular graphic novel in your Middle School. THOUGHTS: An exciting opportunity to incorporate a supplemental text and a graphic novel into a language class that studies Dia de los Muertos. Students really relate to and love Telgemeier’s story and artwork. While relatable to tweens and teens, readers also get a chance to explore cultural traditions they may not be familiar with.

Paranormal Fantasy        Victoria Schoewbel, Friends’ Central School

Sublime by Christina Lauren

sublime

Lauren, Christina.  Sublime.  New York: Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2014.  978-1-4814-1368-8.  318p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and Up.

The first thing one notices about this book is its beautiful cover depicting a pale, ethereal, girl gazing up lovingly at a handsome but unconscious young man.  I was drawn to the book by its cover, and many students will borrow this book for the same reason.

The story opens with the beautiful and ghostly Lucy simply walking out of the woods at St. Osanna’s boarding school.  She doesn’t know why she’s there, but when she sees one of the students, Colin, she is immediately drawn to him.  Colin’s feelings for Lucy are similarly intense.  As time goes on, Lucy is revealed to be a ghost who haunts the school after she is murdered.  Colin is also revealed to be the young boy who saw Lucy being abducted and led authorities to her killer.  The yearning (obsession) between Colin and Lucy is difficult to comprehend.  Colin has been an adrenaline junkie for years. He and fellow daredevil, Jay, inadvertently discover that near–death experiences allow Colin to enter Lucy’s world in a physical sense.  Colin begins to take part in ever more dangerous stunts on the school’s icy cold lake, so he can simulate death and be with Lucy.  He begins to suffer physical effects from the frequent near-death experiences at the same time Lucy gains new vitality. It is almost as if she is sapping the life from him.

One of Colin’s later stunts gone wrong almost does kill him. St. Osanna’s nurse, whose experience with the “walkers” has taught her that there is an element of evil to these ghosts, orders Lucy to stay away from Colin. Lucy’s anger/ psychic force is so great that she causes a tray of surgical tools to injure the nurse.  For the first time, Lucy sees herself for what she really is and retreats into the lake to spend eternity.  Colin’s actions following Lucy’s disappearance are drastic.  Many readers and literary critics have taken issue with the ending, but the author hints throughout the novel that there can be no happy endings in ghost-human relationships.  This was a very different kind of ghost story and if the reader tries to keep in mind that it is not another Twilight, he/she may actually enjoy it.

Paranormal Fiction     Susan Fox, Washington Jr./Sr. High School

The Madness of YA Fiction 2013

Johnson, Maureen. The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, Book 2). New York: G.P. Putnam’s, 2013. 978-0-399-25661-5. $17.99. Gr. 7+.

In this follow-up to the Edgar Award nominee, The Name of the Star,  Rory Deveaux has survived her attack by “the Ripper”.   As Rory tries to adjust to life in Bristol, miles away from Wexford and her friends, she learns that her survival not only left her with a mean scar, but also a terminus.  Only this time the terminus is not a cell phone; she has become the terminus.  After weeks of therapy, Rory’s therapist suggests that she return to London and school to help with her healing.  Rory knows something’s up when, in the middle of the night, Stephen, head of the secret Shades police, takes her from Wexford to the London underground.  As Rory’s “gift” is displayed, an inner struggle begins, a struggle that leads her to Jane, a new therapist who helps Rory overcome herself, but does she really?  Maureen Johnson once again brings to life the paranormal world of the Shades, the secret ghost-fighting police force, while manipulating Rory’s teenage world of school, boyfriends, friendships, emotions, and growth.  This is a great novel to pair with exploration into the paranormal, cults, Greek mythology, and teenage maturation issues.

Fantasy (Paranormal)                         Erin Parkinson, Lincoln Jr/Sr High School, Ellwood City

I really enjoyed the first novel in this series, The Name of the Star.  I found Johnson’s grasp of character intertwined with the paranormal only added to her grasp of the plot and the conflicts within and around Rory.  Although I enjoyed this second novel, I did not enjoy it as much.  If I had to rate it it’s about a 4 out of 5 stars.  It was good, but it lacked the intrigue of the first novel.  The Madness Underneath focused more on character than plot. It was somewhat angsty, but still delivered enough interest in the characters and story to want to finish it.  I’m looking forward to the next installment in the Shades of London series because Johnson can really do something amazing, and I’m hoping she does.  Happy Reading!

MadnessUnderneath