YA – Muted: A Novel in Verse

Charles, Tami. Muted: A Novel in Verse. Scholastic, 2021. 978-1-338-67352-4. $18.99. 386 p. Grades 9-12.

Author Tami Charles, who once belonged to rhythm and blues girl group, relates a compelling story reminiscent of the R. Kelly scandal. She chooses a real-life small town between the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and the Catskills in New York. Drawn to each other because they are the few persons of color in their predominantly white high school, three talented girls are overwhelmed and overjoyed to get the notice of a leading recording artist and record producer, Sean “Mercury” Ellis. Denver LaFleur, a curvy, African American with a powerhouse voice, her talented friends Dalisay Gomez and Shakira Brown, sneak behind their parents’ backs to meet with Merc. When Shak drops out because she has suspicions about Merc’s intentions, Merc whisks Denver and Dali to Atlanta where he grooms them to be performers separately in his mansion on Pristine Road. Gradually, Denver takes center stage, while Merc tells Dali she is not ready. Though Denver finds Merc’s methods stringent and mercurial (he limits her calories and takes away her cell phone and internet) and he adapts and takes credit for her original songs, she does get the chance to cut a demo record and make money. Both girls stay with Merc with their parents’ permission (they are only seventeen when he takes them under his wing) because of the possibility of fame and fortune. However, not long into the novel, Denver has difficulty sorting out the rigor becoming a lead singer requires from the torture of being blocked from her family and true love, Dali. Thinking Dali has returned home to Sholola, their hometown, Denver makes clandestine phone call to Shak and discovers Dali is not back in Pennsylvania. Where is she? Using her wiles, Denver explores Merc’s mansion, uncovering a maze of rooms, each one holding captive girls Merc kidnapped. Told in verse, the book is not graphic, but it is brutal. The ending brings some resolution, although not happy ones. The realistic subject matter conveys successful people get away with incorrigible acts is troubling, yet highly readable.

THOUGHTS: Students will draw parallels between this verse novel and R. Kelly, the R & B singer, and similar allegations of captive girls and sexual misconduct. Denver is a sympathetic, authentic character and her involvement in the glittering world of celebrity makes for an interesting, if depressing, read. The setting in Sholola, Pennsylvania, too, is a draw for local readers. The print in the book is extra tiny; hopefully, the published version will be standard size font. Some cursing and descriptions of sexual activity.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Best friends Denver LaFleur, Dalisay (Dali) Gomez, and Shakira (Shak) Brown are the trio that make up Angelic Voices, a singing group with hopes of making it big and getting out of their small town Sholola, Pennsylvania. When Denver sees their opportunity to get noticed in front of Sean “Mercury” Ellis (Merc), she grabs her friends’ hands and presses play on a cell phone to cue up the music. Time stands still as the group beautifully blends harmonies, and they begin to see their dreams within reach. Denver is ready to do whatever it takes to make it. But Shak has doubts about Merc who creeps her out, and she has other obligations with her family, church, and basketball. Shak isn’t ready to sneak around and lie to her family to get her big break, so the trio becomes a duo under Merc’s guidance. Denver and Dali leave their families and move into Merc’s Atlanta mansion. Despite small doubts, Denver is mostly okay as long as Dali is by her side (no one else knows of their secret relationship). Merc has rules, though, to keep his legacy safe and keep the creative juices flowing. The girls hand over their cell phones, have no internet access, sleep in separate parts of the house, and only come out of their rooms when permitted, all in the name of getting into the zone. The next time Denver sees Dali, though, Dali has been on a trip with Merc to have a complete makeover including having work done on her teeth so she no longer needs braces. Denver feels a hint of jealousy with the attention Dali’s been getting while she’s been stuck at home with a personal trainer and very limited food. And there’s Merc’s ever present old school camcorder. Fame isn’t quite what Denver thought it would be, and not being in contact with her family starts to get hard. In a few short months Denver’s life looks entirely different, but is it all worth losing herself and everyone she loves in the process?

THOUGHTS: Readers will root for Denver and cringe at the warning signs she misses. This one would pair well with Tiffany D. Jackson’s Grown and is a must have for high school collections.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

MG – Tristan Strong Destroys the World

Mbalia, Kwame. Tristan Strong Destroys the World. Disney, 2020. 978-1-368-04238-3. 390 p. $17.99. Grades 3-7.

There’s no rest for the weary. Tristan Strong may be the hero of the Battle of the Bay, having saved the mythical land of Alke, home to the West African gods and the legends of African-American folktales, but a battle means winners and losers, and it appears someone is not happy with Tristan. Barely a month has passed since Tristan returned from Alke when he’s alerted that a shadowy figure called the Shamble Man is coming after Tristan. When he comes, he destroys Tristan’s grandparents’ farm and kidnaps his grandmother. It’s time to return to Alke. Luckily Tristan has his SBP (Story Box Phone), inhabited by Anansi the spider, who is doing a little magical app development while cooped up in the SBP. Soon they are on their way to the mythical lands to try and discover the identity of the Shamble Man, rescue Nana and set Alke right again. As Tristan attempts to uncover the identity of the Shamble Man, friends old and new come to his assistance, but it looks like time might be running out on Tristan. Mbalia’s conversational narration (the audio book, read by Amir Abdullah, is sensational) grabs readers from the first words. Tristan is eminently likeable, as he struggles with fears and self doubt, but the surrounding cast of characters really brings the book to life. Once again, Tristan’s tiny, gooey sidekick, Gum Baby, steals the show, offering a steady stream of tongue-twisted patter and comic relief. Fortunately for readers, the ending leaves plenty of room for further sequels, because we all need more Gum Baby.

THOUGHTS: There is no sophomore slump for Mbalia. This second entry in the series is easily as good as the first, if not better. The characters from African American folk tales and West African gods may not be familiar to young readers, but they will have a very good time meeting them. Hand this series to readers who enjoy mythology based books, but also those who like to laugh.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

MG – Show Me a Sign

LeZotte, Ann Clare. Show Me a Sign. Scholastic Press, 2020. 269 p.  978-1-338-25581-2. $ 18.99. Grades 4-7.

Part Historical Fiction and part Thriller, this story is set in 1805 Martha’s Vineyard and follows 11 year old Mary. Mary is one of the many deaf inhabitants of Martha’s Vineyard who descended from a small town in England. This genetic abnormality passes over some, yet inflicts others. However, life on the island is normal for the deaf and hearing alike. Most inhabitants speak their own form of island sign language as well as English. Life is normal until a young scientist from Boston comes to the island to study this abnormality. In trying to uncover the cause of deafness, Andrew captures Mary as his specimen and absconds with her to mainland Boston. Tortured by her captor, and realizing that she is different for the first time, Mary must find a way to escape and return to her family. Follow Mary as she escapes with the help of some Vineyard friends and finds her way home to her family and friends. The afterword includes a short history of deafness on Martha’s Vineyard, Sign Language, and the Wampanoag Tribe.

THOUGHTS: Such an interesting and unforgettable story that is rooted in history. LeZotte is deaf herself and does a fantastic job of bringing you into the world of Mary.

Historical Fiction          Krista Fitzpatrick, Waldron Mercy Academy

Tags: Deafness, Kidnapping, Sign Language

YA FIC – The Special Ones; Children of Blood & Bone; List of Cages

Bailey, Em.  The Special Ones.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.  978-0-544-91229-8. 297 p. $17.99.  Gr. 9-12.

For the past few years, Esther has been living in an old farmhouse with Harry, Lucille, and Felicity.  They have all been brainwashed to believe that they are the “Special Ones” who “he” (their captor) has saved from the atrocities of the modern world.  They have no electricity and running water, and they are forced to follow very strict behavioral guidelines. Because he is always watching them, failure to follow these guidelines often results in punishment or, even worse, renewal. When a “Special One” is renewed, they leave the house and are replaced by someone else who has been kidnapped and must be brainwashed. Although Esther has begun to question the entire process – especially what really happens to those who are renewed – she must continue to play her part if she wants to survive.  This gripping page-turner full of surprising twists will have readers rooting for Esther and the others until the very end. THOUGHTS: This would be an interesting book to analyze in a psychology class.  Students could discuss the mentality of the kidnapper (and what made him that way), and/or they could discuss the difficulty the victims have assimilating back into society after the ordeal.  Real-life examples, such as the Elizabeth Smart case, could be compared. Fans of kidnapping stories like Emma Donoghue’s Room or Lucy Christopher’s Stolen would enjoy this title, as would fans of psychological thrillers like Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train or Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.

Psychological Fiction      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area School District

 

Adeyemi, Tomi. Children of Blood and Bone. Henry Holt, 2018. 978-1-250-17097-2 532p. $18.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

Ademi witnessed her mother’s brutal murder by soldiers on the night magic disappeared throughout Orisha.  When Ademi and the princess meet in a marketplace, a strange partnership and a long string of events lead to great change.  Magic is being reawakened. Romances, betrayals, and plot twists lead to an enjoyable storyline. THOUGHTS: This fresh new fantasy world has some interesting parallels with our very real world.  Readers with dark skin will see themselves in this book as people who can take power into themselves and perhaps make some change. I really enjoyed reading this, but had to set it aside for a while when the violence got to be too much for me.  I will keep reading the series, in spite of all of the bloodshed.

Fantasy      Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

 

Roe, Robin. A List of Cages. Hyperion, 2017. 978-1-148476380-3. 310 pp. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Adam and Julian’s paths keep crossing. First, Adam was assigned as a reading buddy to mentor Julian when the boys were in 5th and 2nd grade. Then, after Julian’s parents were killed in an accident, Adam’s single mom fostered Julian for about a year. Now, Adam is a popular high school senior assigned to escort quiet, withdrawn Julian to his twice-weekly school counseling appointments. The two quickly reconnect, and Adam’s tight circle of friends expands (sometimes grudgingly) to allow room for the younger boy. But Julian is hiding a terrible secret: his guardian, an uncle by marriage, has been physically abusing him for years. When Uncle Russell finds out that his nephew has newfound friends, he withdraws Julian from school and the abuse escalates over some extremely difficult-to-read chapters. Throughout the book’s final fifty pages, it’s almost impossible not to read ahead just to find out what happens to each character. THOUGHTS: This is a well-paced, affecting, terribly sad, and somehow still uplifting story of what too many young people face when they go home at the end of each school day. It’s also an homage to friendship, courage, and kindness that still manages to be a gripping page-turner. At the novel’s heart is the lesson that “Hate ricochets, but kindness does too.”

Realistic Fiction    Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

YA FIC – Spill Zone; Skinful of Shadows; Race to the Bottom of the Sea; Starfish

Westerfeld, Scott. Spill Zone. First Second, 2017. 978-1-59643-936-8. 224 p. $22.99. Gr. 9-12.

Addison and her sister Lexa live in the seemingly abandoned town of Poughkeepsie, New York. Lexa hasn’t spoken since her parents disappeared three years earlier, when a strange “spill” occurred and changed the town forever. Not many venture into the spill zone, where nightmarish creatures and cruel manifestations lurk around every corner. But in order to support herself and her sister, Addie illegally ventures into the zone to capture pictures of the otherworldly terrors inside, selling them to curious outside collectors for top dollar. While in the zone, Addie has rules for herself that she refuses to break in order to stay alive – that is, until a collector offers her an incredible sum of money for extremely dangerous photographs. So Addie decides to take the risk, putting her life in danger, but to also hopefully to learn more about the spill – which might not be the only one in the world. A haunting, peculiar story from YA staple Westefeld, with surreal artwork from Alex Puvilland. THOUGHTS: A good addition to any graphic novel collection where post-apocalyptic tales are still popular.

Graphic Novel      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

 

Hardinge, Frances. A Skinful of Shadows. New York: Amulet Books, 2017. 978-1-4197-2572-2. 415 p. $19.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Frances Hardinge writes odd, dark, twisty, and cleverly complicated novels, and her most recent offering, A Skinful of Shadows, is no different. This is the story of Makepeace, a girl raised in a strict Puritan community, who has the ability to house spirits inside of her head. Most of her life, Makepeace fought against these spirits and spent her formative years learning defensive tactics to keep them out. However, after a devastating accident leaves Makepeace orphaned, she unwittingly allows the spirit of a once-captive bear to take up residence in her head. Bear, as she calls him, becomes a fierce ally, and he and Makepeace form an unshakeable bond. Sent to live with her mysterious and aristocratic relatives, the Fellmottes, Makepeace learns some disturbing secrets about this side of her family, so when it becomes clear that her life is in danger, Makepeace flees. The novel is set in England during the reign of King Charles I, amidst great political turmoil and upheaval; the civil war between the Royalists and Parliamentarians plays a large role in the plot, with Makepeace both spying for, and subjugating herself to, both sides. While on the run, Makepeace acquires other spirits; watching the interplay between all of the personalities, including Bear, is what makes this story great and drives the action. Makepeace, who has no cause to trust anyone other than herself and Bear, must learn to come to terms with her abilities, and learn to put herself – literally – into the hands of others.  At the same time, she transforms from a girl with no agency into a fully-fledged, autonomous young woman, who is not afraid to get what she wants.

Historical Fantasy     Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

 

Eager, Lindsay. Race to the Bottom of the Sea. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2017. 978-0-7636-7923-1. 432 p. $17.99. Gr. 6 and up.

Life is a series of oceanic adventures for Fidelia Quail, daughter of two prominent scientists (a marine biologist and a zoologist) in Lindsay Eager’s Race to the Bottom of the Sea. On track to be as brilliant as her parents, and already with several substantial and successful inventions under her belt (including a two-person submersible), Fidelia’s future looks very bright indeed. When disaster strikes, and Dr. and Dr. Quail are tragically lost during a storm, Fidelia is consumed by grief and guilt and is unsure how to move on. Her mourning is rudely interrupted by Merrick the Monstrous, the most fearsome pirate alive, who kidnaps Fidelia with the intent of using her to find his treasure. Merrick, however, has some secrets of his own, and is, perhaps, not as monstrous as everyone things. THOUGHTS:  This book is at once a fast-paced adventure novel of the high seas, while at the same time it’s also a philosophical look at life, death, and sacrifice. The latter at times feels too heavy for middle-grade readers; this, combined with Merrick’s backstory all about his doomed romance (the reader knows who his love interest is, but Fidelia does not), makes this novel less accessible than it should be.  However, Fidelia is such a feisty, whip-smart heroine, who uses both common sense and her scientific mind to think her way out of trouble, and she will definitely resonate with readers of all levels. Her relationship with Merrick, and her growing empathy towards him, is palpable, and serves to move the plot forward. Hand this to readers who enjoy quirky, outside-the-box tales.

Fantasy      Lauren Friedman-Way, The Baldwin School

 

Bowman, Akemi Dawn.  Starfish.  Simon Pulse, 2017.  978-1-4814-8772-6. 343 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

All her life, Kiko Himura has felt like an outsider.  She suffers from anxiety and wants nothing more than acceptance from her mother, who belittles Kiko’s Japanese descent (which came from her father) as well as her dreams of attending Prism Art School in New York City.  When Kiko receives a rejection letter from Prism, she is devastated.  She cannot stand to live in her house any longer with her emotionally abusive mother and her sexually abusive uncle.  She cannot move in with her father, for he is too preoccupied with his second wife and their newborn twin daughters.  Therefore, when a childhood friend invites her to head to California with him and look at art schools out west, she decide to take advantage of the opportunity.  Once there, Kiko begins to flourish.  Under the mentorship of artist Hiroshi Matsumoto, who befriends her at an art show, Kiko begins to find herself through art, and she finally gains the courage and conviction that had been missing all her life.  A moving story that will speak volumes to any reader who has ever experienced anxiety or self-doubt.  THOUGHTS: Though slow-moving at first, the pace of this novel picks up about halfway through, and readers will find themselves desperately rooting for the realistic and relatable Kiko and hoping that she soon finds her voice.  Besides drawing relatable characters, the author has also interweaved a love story and complicated family dynamics into the novel, creating a narrative that will speak to a variety of readers for different reasons.  A 2018 William C. Morris Award finalist, this novel will have readers anxiously awaiting Bowman’s next release, set to debut in September of 2018.

Realistic Fiction      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

YA Mystery – Genuine Fraud; Little Monsters; Bonfire; Truly Devious

Lockhart, e. Genuine Fraud. Delacorte Press, 2017. 978-0-385-74477-5. 262pp. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

In her follow-up to We Were Liars, e. Lockhart masterfully creates a world of lies and deceit.  Told from the end backward, readers are introduced to Jule West Williams, a young woman living a life of luxury after the death of her best friend Imogen Sokoloff.  Imogen left Jule her trust fund after killing herself in London.  She also left Jule a mess to clean up, a flat, and an ex-boyfriend who wants answers.  As Jule explores her relationship with Imogen and her own existence, more questions about the truth arise.  What was the truth behind Jule’s and Imogen’s friendship?  What happened to Jule’s family?  How did Jule infiltrate Imogen’s life?  Is Imogen actually dead?  It’s hard to decipher the truth amongst all of the lies.  THOUGHTS:  Once again, e. Lockhart has created a masterpiece.  Her storytelling and writing is beyond match.  The use of the third-person limited narrator keeps the reader guessing as to the truth behind the lies. I couldn’t put this one down.  Lockhart certainly earned her many starred reviews with this one.

Mystery       Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Imogen leads the charmed life, but it doesn’t always feel so charming. She’s decided to leave it behind and live off her trust fund, traveling wherever she pleases for a while. Jule works hard and fights to fit in – to be what people want her to be. Connecting with Imogen and being invited to go along on her travels seems like the break she deserves. Jule isn’t what she seems, though, and together she and Imogen have a toxic friendship. Jule is willing to go great lengths to protect her friendship with Imogen, even if it means not playing nicely. With her suitcase tightly in her grip, and several wigs and passports at the ready, Jule is on the run, but from whom or what readers won’t know until the end.   THOUGHTS: Beginning at chapter 18 and told in reverse order then ending with chapter 19, Genuine Fraud is an intricately woven tale. Readers will rely on this unreliable narrator to figure out the details. Profoundly confusing and fast-paced at the start, readers will page through this story, determined to learn its beginning. Fans of Lockhart’s We Were Liars might also like this story. Violence and mature content make this novel suitable to older readers.       

Realistic Fiction, Mystery   Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 

Thomas, Kara. Little Monsters. Delacorte Press, 2017. 978-0-553-52149-8. 322pp. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Kacey Young recently moved to Wisconsin to live with her father, step-mother, step-brother, and half-sister, all people she didn’t know until last year.  Now a senior in high school, Kacey has a “normal” life, a job, friends, and a decent chance at art school.  That is until Bailey, one of Kacey’s best friends, goes missing after a midnight visit to the Leed’s barn, a haunted site in Broken Falls, and Kacey becomes a prime suspect in her disappearance.  As Jade, Kacey’s other best friend, and Lauren, Kacey’s half-sister, both of which were at the Leed’s barn too, begin to become distant, Kacey is determined to figure out what happened to Bailey and clear her own name while fighting her own demons, the same demons that brought her to Broken Falls in the first place.  THOUGHTS: Kara Thomas does it again with a suspenseful mystery that looks deep into the raw emotions of humans and the breakdown of the human psyche.  Little Monsters is an excellent follow-up to The Darkest Corners.  Although there are some holes in the text, leaving readers wondering a bit about Kacey’s family, this novel doesn’t disappoint.  Recommend to mystery/suspense lovers who enjoy the criminal mind over the action-packed mystery.

Mystery      Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Ritter, Krysten. Bonfire. Crown Books, 2017. 978-1524759841. 277 pp. $26.00. Gr. 10 and up.

Erin Brokovich meets All the Missing Girls in this debut novel of psychological suspense from actress Krysten Ritter. Ten years after graduating from high school and ditching her small-town past, Abby Williams is back in her hometown of Barrens, Indiana. Now a lawyer with the Center for Environmental Advocacy Work, Abby is leading an investigation into water pollution and illegal waste disposal by Optimal Plastics. As the team uncovers a trail of corruption and cover-ups, Abby is pulled back into a decade-old mystery: the unusual illness and subsequent disappearance of her one-time friend, Kaycee Mitchell. Now Abby herself is experiencing mysterious symptoms. In Ritter’s deft hands all of the old rivalries, romances, and cruel games from the past repeat themselves on a collision course with the present. Readers will enjoy some truly harrowing moments along the way.  THOUGHTS: Teen readers who are familiar with Krysten Ritter from her starring role on the Netflix series Marvel’s Jessica Jones will be thrilled to discover her talents as an author!

Mystery/Thriller; Crossover     Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

 

Johnson, Maureen. Truly Devious. Katherine Tegen Books, 2018. 978-0-062-33805-1. 320 p. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Private school Ellingham Academy is tucked into a remote Vermont mountainside. The school is known for encouraging some of the greatest minds – both academic and creative. Founded in the mid-1930s by wealthy philanthropist Albert Ellingham, a man fond of riddles and games, the school is free for those who attend, and the resources available to them are endless. Ellingham, his wife, and their young daughter live in the main house at the center of the school’s campus. When Mrs. Ellingham and Alice go out on a drive and  disappear, the only clue is a gruesome letter signed Truly Devious. Ransom calls come in, and Ellingham desperately does everything he can to rescue them to.  Nearly a century later, true-crime fan Stevie Bell is moving into Ellingham Academy, determined to succeed where all others have failed. Stevie feels like she has something to prove, though. While everyone else at school seems to have some incredible talent or skill, Stevie’s fascination with crime-solving, specifically her obsession over the unsolved Ellingham case, is what she was admitted on. When past and present collide, it seems Truly Devious may be closer than Stevie thinks.  THOUGHTS: Mystery fiction fans will love the blending of two stories, and be desperate to puzzle the clues together. While Stevie deals with being away from home; the pressures of a new, competitive school; and her anxiety, readers will watch her grow and come into her own. Underage drinking takes place, but consequences are also discussed. Initially, I was disappointed not to have all of the answers in book one, but I will anxiously await them in books two and three!

Mystery Fiction      Maryalice Bond, South Middleton 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

YA Realistic Fiction – The Detour; Sister Pact; Hello, Goodbye…

detour

Bodeen, S.A. The Detour. New York: Feiwel & Friends, 2015. 978-1-2500-5554-5. 224p. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.

Livvy Flynn is a seventeen year old bestselling author of a fantasy book series.  She thinks she has it made; she has overcome being the victim of bullying when she was younger. Now she’s wealthy and successful with a sporty car and a serious boyfriend she met online.  Livvy is on her way to present at a writer’s retreat when she is forced to take a detour and wrecks her car.  When a woman and her daughter arrive on the scene, Livvy thinks everything will be alright.  But, she soon finds herself kidnapped by the aspire and locked in a basement.  Injured from the crash, Livvy plots a possible means of escape.  She also tries to determine why Peg and her daughter are so angry with her.  There seems to be a purpose and motivation to Peg’s rage.  Livvy uses the hours spent in the basement to reflect on her past.  Could she have encountered Peg on her rise to the top of the publishing world?  THOUGHTS:  The Detour is a tightly paced young adult homage to Stephen King’s Misery.  Though the character of Livvy is somewhat hard to warm up to (she is fairly self-centered at the outset), readers will find themselves engaged in trying to determine the motivation behind Livvy’s kidnapping.

Realistic Fiction (Thriller)         Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

 

sisterpact

Ramey, Stacie. The Sister Pact. Naperville: Sourcebooks Fire, 2015. 978-1-4926-2097-6. 310p. $9.99. Gr. 9-12.

Allie is overcome with grief when her older sister Leah commits suicide.  She can’t understand why she was left behind.  After all, she and Leah promised one another they would be together in life and in death, but Leah broke the pact.  Now Allie is left to deal with their broken and dysfunctional family as well as cope with well-meaning peers.  To help deal with the pain, Allie begins to self-medicate, mixing over the counter medication and pills to help get her through the days.  As her life seemingly spins out of control, Allie discovers there were secrets that Leah kept from her, and that despite Leah’s influence over her, she didn’t really know her sister at all.  Ultimately, Allie must come to terms with her loss and begin to move forward and live again.  THOUGHTS:  This a potent story of betrayal, loss and grief, and how to forgive and move forward without the person who is no longer there.  While the storyline and topics tackled are intense, readers will find themselves thinking about this thought-provoking story long after they have turned the final page.

Realistic Fiction           Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

 

hellogoodbye

Smith, Jennifer E. Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between. New York: Little, Brown, 2015. 978-0-3163-3442-6. 256p. $18.00. Gr. 9-12.  

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between follows teen couple Clare and Aiden over the course of one night.  This is not a typical night, however.  In the morning these high school sweethearts will go their separate ways to begin their freshman year of college; Clare on the East Coast and Aiden on the West Coast.  What should they do: break up or try to maintain a long-distance relationship?  Over the course of their final night together, they will retrace their relationship, traveling to locations that have special meaning, as well as meeting up with friends and family.  Throughout the night they will engage in heartfelt conversation, tell honest truths, have arguments, shed tears, and share declarations of love.  But, when the morning arrives, Clare and Aiden must decide: is this truly the end of their relationship?  THOUGHTS:  This romance explores an aspect of teen relationships that is not often shown in YA lit – what happens when high school is over.  Readers will feel Clare and Aiden’s turmoil as they struggle to reach and accept the inevitable decision they must make.  Fans of Smith’s earlier works will not be disappointed.  

Realistic Fiction        Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS