YA – Nothing More to Tell

McManus, Karen M. Nothing More to Tell. Delacorte Press, 2022. 978-0-593-17590-3. 356 p. $19.99. Grades 7-12.

After her school newspaper account was hacked, and pornographic pictures posted under her byline, senior Brynn left her Chicago area high school in disgrace while her family relocated back to her hometown of Sturgis, Massachusetts. Her life and her journalistic reputation in tatters, Brynn interviews for an internship with a true crime show, hoping to pad her college applications, as well as to convince the show to research the unsolved murder of Mr. Larkin, her favorite middle school teacher. To her surprise, she is awarded the position, and hooks the show’s host with her crime story proposal. Re-enrolled in the private school she attended at the time of the crime, Brynn reconnects with old friends and puts her tenacious investigative reporter skills to work. But Brynn eventually realizes that playing reporter is more than fun and games when it becomes obvious someone does not want her digging up the past. In typical McManus style, the suspense rarely lets up, as the narrative alternates between Brynn and Tripp, her former best friend, and one the students who discovered the body of  Mr. Larkin four years ago. Red herrings abound as the threads of the complex plot slowly coalesce. All four main characters cue white, but minor characters are diverse. 

THOUGHTS: McManus presents a challenging mystery with fine character development. A first purchase where her other books are in demand and mysteries are popular. 

Mystery          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

YA – Never Coming Home

Williams, Kate. Never Coming Home. Delacorte Press, 2022. 978-0-593-30486-0. 320 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

A free, invite only trip to a never before seen, exclusive tropical island resort is too good to pass up for ten young influencers. Following an extensive marketing campaign, the resort has a soft opening for its first ten guests. They represent a variety of backgrounds: the gamer, the beauty blogger, the rich girl, the superstar, the junior politician, the environmentalist, the DJ, the CEO, the chef, and the athlete. But pictures can be deceiving, and Unknown Island isn’t all it was promised to be. Cut off from the rest of the world the guests come to realize the island resort is a trap instead of a treat; then things turn deadly. Each influencer keeps their secrets close, beginning to question who else is on the island with them – or if one of them is the person behind the terror. Who will suffer horribly, and who (if anyone) will make it off alive to tell the tale?

THOUGHTS: Recommended for high school libraries, hand this fast-paced thriller to fans of Gretchen McNeil, Karen McManus, and April Henry.

Mystery          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD
Thriller

YA – Pretty Dead Queens

Donne, Alexa. Pretty Dead Queens. Crown, 2022. 978-0-593-47982-7. 336 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Moving to a new town to live with her estranged grandmother is not the senior year Cecelia Ellis had in mind. Her mother’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent passing have forced Cecelia on a new path, but her plan is to graduate and get out of town just like her mom did. In the meantime, she’s living at the top of creepy Victorian mansion with Maura Weston, her famous mystery writing grandmother. Though a small California coastal town, Seaview was put on the map years ago with Maura’s first book, a fictionalized version about the of death of one of Maura’s classmates. Later turned into a movie which was filmed in Seaview, the town now has its own unique traditions, like a murder tour given by two of Cecelia’s classmates and Weston-Con, a weekend retreat for fans of Maura’s thriller books. When one of Cecelia’s classmates is found dead under eerily similar circumstances to one of Maura’s books, Cecelia distracts herself from her grief by trying to solve the murder and determine if a copycat killer is loose in Seaview – or if someone was wrongly convicted years ago. As Cecelia learns about the history of Seaview and about animosity among her new friends, she’s convinced there’s more to the story. Will Cecelia make a connection before the police solve the case, or will she be the killer’s next victim?

THOUGHTS: Knowing all that Cecelia has overcome, readers will root for her to uncover the truth behind two crimes that are decades apart. Fans of fast-paced mystery/thrillers (like Donne’s The Ivies and Henry’s Two Truths and a Lie) will enjoy this whodunit.  

Mystery          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA – Two Truths and a Lie

Henry, April. Two Truths and a Lie. Little, Brown, 2022. 978-0-316-32333-8. 268 p. $17.99. Grades 7-12.

April Henry never disappoints, and Two Truths and a Lie is another sensational mystery from the master of YA suspense. In a pitch perfect homage to Agatha Christie, the story centers around two groups of high school students trapped at a run-down motel during an unexpected blizzard. Nell and her drama club friends Min, Adam, Raven and Jermaine are on their way to a theater competition when the weather forces them off the road. Once at the Travel Inn and Out hotel, the group meets other guests stranded for the night, including a high school robotics team. All the teens congregate in the community room and dive into a game of two truths and a lie. Then Nell pulls out a slip that stops the giggles: “I like to watch people die; my least-favorite food is mushrooms; I have lost track of how many people I’ve killed.”  The next morning, the bodies start accumulating. With over a dozen people staying at the motel, suspects abound. Henry adroitly inserts red herrings galore, and nothing is ever quite what it seems, as the teens desperately try to stay alive and uncover the killer. In this perfect locked room mystery, it seems everyone is telling a lie or two, and you can never trust the truth. The characters cover a spectrum of diversity, including Indian, Black, white, and gay individuals. In addition to the mystery, Henry touches on racism and human trafficking issues as well.  

THOUGHTS: This is a must purchase for middle school and high school libraries. April Henry attracts loyal fans, and her books are perfect picks for reluctant readers as well. Purchase multiple copies. 

Mystery          Nancy Nadig  Penn Manor SD

Nell and her drama club friends are on their way to a theater competition determined to beat the blizzard that is surrounding them when they’re forced to take a detour at the dilapidated Travel Inn and Out hotel. An expansive complex the hotel must have been impressive in its glory days (which seem to have been quite a while ago). There they meet a high school robotics team who also is stranded for the night as well as other travel guests. After checking in and finding their way to their rooms through the maze of hallways, the teems agree to meet back up in the community room and make the best of their situation. Deciding on an innocent game of two truths and a lie to get to know each other, things seem to be going well until Nell pulls a slip that reads “I like to watch people die; my least-favorite food is mushrooms; I have lost track of how many people I’ve killed.” Sufficiently spooked, the game comes to an abrupt halt, and everyone returns to their rooms. As people become unaccounted for and everyone suspects everyone else, the remaining teens race to uncover the mystery of what’s happening at this off the beaten path hotel. Who will make it out alive, or will they all become another victim of this blizzard detour?

THOUGHTS: With eerie similarities to King’s Overlook Hotel from The Shining, Henry will not disappoint fans of her thrillers. A fast-paced, quick read, Two Truths and a Lie is a must have for secondary students!

Mystery          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA – The New Girl

Sutanto, Jesse. The New Girl. Sourcebooks, 2022. 350 p. $10.99 (paper) 978-1-728-21519-8. Grades 9-12. 

Thanks to her running speed on the track, Lia Setiawan has been given a full scholarship to prestigious Draycott Academy, and she is determined to prove she deserves it. But the school is full of extremely wealthy young people–think private jets, designer drugs, and racist, elitist attitudes. Because she begins mid-year after the dismissal of the outspoken drug-addicted Sophie, she finds few people to welcome her.  Draycott’s dirt app closely follows every student, and students anonymously post about everyone and everything (which isn’t about to end well). It turns out that Sophie had complaints about unfair grading practices of English instructor Mr. Werner, and Mr. Werner very pointedly informs Lia she does not belong in his class. Lia insists on staying in the class only to find herself failing dismally despite extreme diligence to the classwork.  She begins to suspect that some students have paid Mr. Werner for their grades, and she knows she’ll never be able to do that, and her track scholarship depends on her grades. Lia instantly connects with the drool-worthy Danny, who is another reason to fight for her place. But the dirt, the revenge, and the drugs begin to take their toll, and when Lia is the one to find Sophie dead in Mr. Werner’s office, she realizes that she needs to play the game even harder if she’s going to win–or live.

THOUGHTS: Like Sutanto’s The Obsession (2021), this novel features characters who can and will go to extremes to hide, succeed, and get revenge. By the novel’s end, nearly every character has a twisted secret revealed. And after the death Lia causes, tension rises to see if she will be revealed, too.  A good choice for suspense addicts.  

Mystery          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD
Realistic Fiction

YA – Bad Things Happen Here

Barrow, Rebecca. Bad Things Happen Here. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2022. 978-1-534-49743-6. 352 p. $16.99. Grades 9-12.

Luca Thomas has lived on Parris Island her whole life – an island that seems like the ideal place to grow up. But Luca knows the truth: The island is scattered with unexplained tragedies. Rumors shroud the community that the island is cursed. Three years ago, Luca’s best friend, Polly, was killed. Now a new girl has moved into Polly’s house. Immediately, Luca’s older sister, Whitney, goes missing after a wild party. Is this the curse once again? What is happening on this island?

THOUGHTS: The book has drinking and sexual situations thus being more appropriate for older students. With fast-paced, short chapters, readers will be hooked. The ending was a bit of a mystery; though, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Could hint to a sequel.

Mystery          Victoria Dziewulski, Plum Borough SD

YA – Killing Time

Ehrlich, Brenna. Killing Time. Inkyard Press, 2022. 978-1-335-41867-8. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Natalie has lived a pretty sheltered life in Ferry, Connecticut, thanks to her mom’s overprotective rules. Working in their family diner, it’s always just been the two of them. When Natalie, who recently graduated from high school, learns that her favorite teacher died under suspicious circumstances she’s determined to honor Mrs. Halsey’s memory. Though their last conversation didn’t end well, Mrs. Halsey understood Natalie’s interest in true crime and supported her (and Nat’s best friend Katie) as the true crime club advisor. They even started their own podcast – Killing Time – where they evolve in their discussion of legendary killers. All of this “true crime stuff” is done, of course, without her mom’s knowledge or permission. But Nat, who wants to go to college to be a journalist, is determined to tell her teacher’s story and honor her life. When she finds a threatening note telling her to “Stay out of it. I’m warning you.” she’s even more motivated to piece together what happened to Mrs. Halsey. Between the conversations among customers at the diner, her internship at the paper, and some convenient friendships, Nat seems to be getting closer to the truth. But how likely is a teenager operating on her own to solve a crime, especially when someone doesn’t want the truth to come to light? Interspersed throughout the novel are “Then” chapters that flash back to Helen’s college days which shed some light onto the strained relationship between mother and daughter and some of Helen’s overprotective tendencies.

THOUGHTS: Fans of true crime will like this one. I especially enjoyed the Then chapters which seemed to have more suspense and keep the story moving. A supplemental purchase where mysteries are popular.

Mystery          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

MG/YA – A Forgery of Roses

Olson, Jessica S. A Forgery of Roses. Inkyard Press, 2022. 978-1335418661. $19.99. 384p. Grades 7-12.

Myra Whitlock has a secret: she’s a prodigy. When she paints, she can access her magic, and heal her subjects. Not everyone is accepting of prodigies, especially the governor, but when his wife discovers her secret, she hires Myra to paint her recently deceased son, Will, in the hopes of bringing him back to life. Myra has never resurrected a person before, but the reward is too great to pass up. Money has been tight since her parents’ disappearance, and her sick, younger sister needs to see a doctor, a luxury they no longer can afford. When she arrives at the governor’s house, she befriends the governor’s oldest son, August, and together, they discover that Will’s death was not an accident, and if Myra has any chance of bringing him back, she must first discover the mysterious circumstances of his death and avoid becoming the next victim herself.

THOUGHTS:  A Forgery of Roses is a magical, murder mystery that will keep readers guessing until the very end. Although two of the main characters develop feelings for each other, it goes no further than a few embraces and kisses, making this title a good fit for middle school libraries as well as high school ones. Myra is hired to use her magic to bring a person back to life, and the book does contain descriptions of blood and gore among murder victims and within art work. One of the main characters suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, and that’s not always a trait readers get to see in main characters.

Fantasy          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

YA – The Agathas

Glasgow, Kathleen, and Liz Lawson. The Agathas. Delacorte Press, 2022. 416 p. 978-0-593-43112-2. Grades 9-12. $18.99.

Once one of the “Mains” – wealthy kids at Castle Cove High who go by their last names – Alice Ogilve has been a social pariah since disappearing for five days last summer, causing her friends, family, and especially her ex-boyfriend Steve a lot of heartache and costing the town of Castle Cove a lot of money. Since then Alice has been homeschooled while on house arrest, and her only friend was the complete works of Agatha Christie. Now it’s Halloween (Alice is under dressed for the occasion.), and the message: “Alice Ogilve is crazy.” greets her on her locker. Alice’s former best friends are less than thrilled to see her. To make matters worse, Alice is called out of class to visit Ms. Westmacott’s counseling office, and she’s assigned a peer tutor. One of the “Zoners” – kids who seem to be thrown together out of necessity because they’re poor – Iris prefers to fly under the radar and focus on her studies. Though they’ve gone to school together since kindergarten, Iris only accepted the tutoring job because of the promise of a nice paycheck, regardless of how well Alice does. Besides, she has other things on her mind like getting herself and her mother “out of Castle Cove and away from the Thing.” When Alice’s former best friend goes missing, the town thinks she’s “pulling an Alice,” but Alice knows Brooke never would run away. Though unlikely, Alice teams up with Iris, and the two have to work together to figure out what happened, especially when the local police and Brooke’s own father think nothing is wrong. But each with their own secrets, it won’t be easy to let someone new in, especially someone so different.

THOUGHTS: There are a few mysteries within this character driven thriller, and readers will root for different people throughout, unsure of exactly what happened until the big aha moment. Recommended for high school collections where compelling mysteries are popular.

Mystery          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

The previous summer, Alice suddenly disappears, and the small oceanside town of Castle Cove goes into a panic trying to locate her. She shows up unharmed without an explanation five days later. Her friends are not willing to welcome her back with open arms, and she begins to struggle with school. It is a year later, and another girl goes missing. It is believed that this is a copycat of what Alice did before, so no one is in a hurry to find her. Except Alice and her mysterious tutor, Iris. When the girl’s body is discovered, the police immediately make an arrest. Alice and Iris believe they have arrested the wrong person, and with the help of Iris’s friends they channel Agatha Christie to solve the mystery.

THOUGHTS: This book is for fans of One of us is Lying and We Were Liars. The story revolves around a small town with many mysterious characters. I really enjoyed the back and forth between Alice and Iris since the chapters alternate between their voices. It also has a map in the beginning of the book. Who doesn’t love a map?

Mystery Fiction          Victoria Dziewulski, Plum Borough SD

YA – These Deadly Games

Urban, Diana. These Deadly Games. Wednesday Books, 2022. 978-1-250-79719-3. $18.99. 416 p. Grades 9-12.

Crystal loves getting lost in the world of multiplayer game Mortal Dusk. Her team is so skilled that they could even overtake a local gaming celebrity in an upcoming tournament. Crystal hopes to do well in the individual contest, as the prize money would go a long way in helping her single mother pay the mortgage. The team of six basically lives in the game world to increase their scores and determine which five players will earn a spot in the team competition. But they all have to go to school too… During class Crystal gets an odd text with a video of Caelyn, her younger sister (who is supposed to be away for a weekend field trip), gagged and bound. The message is clear: “You have 24 hours to win. If you break my rules, she dies. If you call the police, she dies. If you tell your parents or anyone else, she dies.” Initially, filled with shock and disbelief, Crystal flees her classroom to make sure she read the message right. But each new message replaces the last, and she quickly realizes she will go to any lengths, will do anything to rescue her sister. Besides, the game seems fairly harmless at first. When Crystal realizes she has to choose saving her sister or her friends, her desperation increases. Told over a rapid, deadly game with brief flashbacks to a hidden secret, Crystal races against the clock to win what seems like an unwinable game.

THOUGHTS: Thriller and gamer fans will devour this mystery, desperate to uncover who is behind the anonymous messages. If you have April Henry and Karen McManus fans in your library, you’ll want to add Urban’s titles (All Your Twisted Secrets, 2020) too.

Mystery          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD