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 – A Far Wilder Magic

Saft, Allison. A Far Wilder Magic. Wednesday Books, 2022. 978-1250623652. $18.99. 384 p. Grades 9-12.

Margaret Welty spends most of her time living alone with her dog, Trouble. Her mother, a famous alchemist, spends most of her time traveling, away from home. Weston Winters is desperate to become an official alchemist, and when he arrives at the Welty house looking for the famous alchemist to become her apprentice, Margaret strikes a deal with him: she will allow him to stay until her mother returns if he agrees to join her in the annual hunt to kill the legendary Hala, a mythical and deadly fox that stalks the town until the hunt begins. Margaret knows she has a great shot, but she needs an alchemist as a part of her team in order to enter the competition. These two strangers soon find that they are drawn to each other and have more in common than they know. As the competition looms closer, so does danger, and together they must learn to trust each other in order to survive.

THOUGHTS: This unique, stand alone fantasy takes place in a made up world influenced by the culture and lifestyle of the 1920s. Although fantastical, the story also tackles more serious and relatable issues like prejudice and racism. Readers will be drawn into Saft’s world and the slow romance that builds between Margaret and Weston and the connection they have as outcasts in their communities.

Fantasy          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

Elem. – King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost Library Book

Butler, Dori Hillestad. King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost Library Book. Peachtree, 2022. 978-1-682-63215-4. 47 p. $14.99. Grades K-2. 

King (a dog, and the narrator of the King & Kayla series) wants to play with his owner Kayla, but she doesn’t have time. She’s busy searching the house for her missing library book. She needs it so she can participate in book exchange at the library. King loves listening to Kayla read him stories, so he decides to help her look for the book. When Kayla’s friend Jillian stops by, she joins in the search, too. Together, Kayla and Jillian create a list of things they know about the missing book and what they don’t know. (King wants to contribute to the list, but unfortunately for him, the girls don’t understand dog-speak). The girls then determine a plan of action to try to locate the book. With a little help from King, the book is found and the crisis averted. 

THOUGHTS: This delightful early chapter book will hold great appeal for readers. It serves as an excellent gateway to mystery/detective stories and could also be used in lessons about problem solving or even in a talk about locating lost library books. The book incorporates humor through the character of King, who can be somewhat excitable in his efforts to solve the mystery.

Early Chapter Book          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

YA – Friends Like These

Alvarez, Jennifer Lynn. Friends Like These. Delacorte Press, 2022. 978-0-593-30967-4. 384 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Tegan Sheffield is known for her Fourth of July beach bonfire and end of the summer party. Those in Tegan’s orbit are at her beck and call, while those not so close clearly are on the outside. People love her and love to hate her. Jessica Sanchez has been dating Jake Healy, Tegan’s ex, for months. While Jake promises there’s nothing between him and Tegan, Jess doesn’t want to attend the end of the summer party. The last place she wants to be is at Tegan’s. They had a friendship falling out in fifth grade, and everything has been uncomfortable since then. Parties aren’t really Jess’s scene anyway, but she knows Jake loves them. The last party before senior year is going to be epic. But things go horribly wrong. An explicit video from the party goes viral, two girls are missing, and some relationships never will be the same. The police are being pretty tight-lipped about their evidence, interviewing everyone who was at the party, while the FBI works to clean the video before it reaches the deep web. With Tegan’s family connections, this case is a top priority. Then a body is discovered in the water below a popular cliff overlook not too far from Tegan’s house. As the police search and investigation intensify, secrets are revealed. Not not everyone is as innocent as they may seem, and loyalties shift. Is everything an innocent tragedy, or will a killer strike again?

THOUGHTS: Told in alternating chapters from earlier in the summer, the party, and the aftermath, multiple narrators will keep readers’ interest as they try to piece this thriller together. Highly recommended for high school libraries.

Mystery          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD
Thriller

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 – Rise of the Snake Goddess

Elder Moke, Jenny. Rise of the Snake Goddess (Samantha Knox #2). Disney-Hyperion, 2022. 978-1-368-06727-0. 320 p. $17.99. Grades 7 & up.

Desperate to be a part of the prestigious archaeology program at the University of Chicago, Sam Knox embarks on an impulsive trip to the island of Crete. The clues she deciphers lead her to the legendary girdle of the Snake Goddess. Triumphant with her find, Sam plans to use this find as proof she deserves to be admitted to what has always been a “boys club.” However, before she can show her misogynist professor her find, the girdle is stolen and a series of catastrophic earthquakes suddenly begin to hit the island. Sam and friends Joana and Bennet Steeling must find the thief and return the girdle to its rightful place before the magic of the Snake Goddess is fully released upon the island and the world. As the chase brings them deeper into Cretian and Minoan mythology, deadly encounters with legendary creatures abound, including the infamous Minotaur.

THOUGHTS: This is a fantastic follow up to the first Samantha Knox title, Curse of the Specter Queen. Readers will enjoy the friendships, light romance, and adventures that mark popular YA fiction. A quickly-paced novel paying homage to Indiana Jones and The Mummy movie series, Snake Goddess takes readers through the legends of Knossos and Crete while infusing the story with a touch of magic. Knox herself is tempted by the magic of the Snake Goddess, but the story takes readers on an adventure through archaeological digs, swanky boat parties, and the legendary labyrinth.

Adventure          Natasha Lewis, Whitehall-Coplay SD
Historical Fiction
Fantasy

YA – I’m the Girl

Summers, Courtney. I’m the Girl. Wednesday Books, 2022. 978-1-250-80836-3. 352 p. $18.99. Grades 10 & up.

When 16 year old Georgia Avis discovers the body of 13 year old Ashley James on the road to infamous celebrity hideout Aspera, it becomes Georgia’s mission to determine what happened to Ashley. She teams up with Nora, Ashley’s older sister, and is thrown into a world of money, corruption, and greed. As a child raised in the shadow of Aspera, Georgia always dreamed of becoming an “Aspera Girl,” girls known for their beauty and exclusive access to celebrities. Georgia’s own naive misunderstanding of Aspera and its employees gets in the way of her realizing the gravity of the situation she has gotten into by becoming employed at Aspera. As time progresses and the truth about Ashley’s death becomes clear, Georgia’s beliefs are challenged and hard decisions have to be made.

THOUGHTS: Summers’ follow up to previous hit thrillers does not leave you wanting.  This title deals with topics such as abuse, rape, and murder much more openly and violently than previous titles by Summers. A content warning is provided at the beginning of the book and gives insight into Georgia’s frame of mind as a naive girl learning about the toughest aspects of the world.

Mytstery          Natasha Lewis, Whitehall-Coplay SD

YA – The Weight of Blood

Jackson, Tiffany D. The Weight of Blood. Katherine Tegen Books, 2022. 978-0-063-02914-9. 306 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Madison “Maddy” Washington, who lives with her controlling and abusive father in their small town of Springville, Georgia, has spent her whole life “passing” as white. She straightens her hair, dutifully applies sunscreen, and stays home if there’s any chance of rain. An unexpected spring shower curls her hair and reveals that she is black, closely followed by a racist incident of bullying that is captured on another student’s cell phone. As the students at Springville High attempt damage control to prove to the world that they are not a racist community, they consider ending the tradition of segregated proms for black and white students and holding the school’s first All-Together Prom. One of the popular black students asks Maddy to prom as part of a stunt to keep up appearances, and readers familiar with Stephen King’s Carrie will suspect where things are headed. Author Tiffany D. Jackson mixes Maddy’s point of view with transcripts of a podcast called “Maddy Did It,” press coverage of events in Springville, and the perspectives of several other students. The climactic prom chapters are gleefully, horrifically over the top.

THOUGHTS: Jackson’s second foray into horror (after last year’s White Smoke) is the work of an author at the top of her game. The Weight of Blood is a standout, from the cover image of a blood-soaked prom queen to the foreboding tagline: “Uneasy lies the head that wears the tiara.”

Horror          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD
Mystery

The town of Springville, Georgia still is recovering from a tragedy everyone knows Maddy Washington is responsible for causing. In fact, there’s now a podcast “Maddy Did It.” But before the climactic event that changed the town forever, Maddy Washington is a high school student who keeps to herself and generally is considered a loner. At home Maddy lives in fear of her father, who owns an antique shop and enjoys reruns of favorite classic movies. Maddy, who secretly is biracial, has passed for white her entire life. Under the glare of her father’s watchful eye, she can’t imagine anyone finding out her secret and works hard to hide the truth. Avoiding the sun, wearing long clothes – even in the summer – Maddy stays home on rainy days and has a strict beauty regimen. When Maddy’s gym class gets stuck outside in a sudden rain storm, she is devastated that her secret is out. Her peers are shocked, and Maddy’s father is furious. When racist bullying, played off as a “simple joke,” is caught on camera, Springville is labeled a racist community. Hoping to prove the world is wrong about them, student leaders attempt some damage control. But with a history of segregated proms, this small town seems to be stuck in the 1950s instead of modern day.

THOUGHTS: With masterful skill, Jackson gives an updated take on a Stephen King classic, incorporating racial tensions and teenage drama into a modern day setting. Highly recommended for high schools seeking to add new titles to their mystery/horror genre.

Horror          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD
Mystery

MG – The Supernatural Society

Ogle, Rex. The Supernatural Society. Inkyard Press, 2022. 978-1-335-42487-7. 281 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Will moves with his mom and his dog, Fitz, from New York City to a new school in East Emerson because his parents have recently divorced, and he is not pleased. Will deals with quite a bit of culture shock as he acclimates to small-town life and realizes that East Emerson isn’t just a sleepy, boring town; his new home is also overrun with monsters! Eventually, though, he befriends Linus and Ivy, two siblings from his neighborhood who help him deal with the monsters and make him feel as though he has found a “tribe” among all the upheaval and heartbreak in his life.

THOUGHTS: Good for students who want more scary stories, those who are fans of Stranger Things and groups of smart, multicultural kids finding monsters and solving mysteries. Linus is unapologetically smart, Ivy is strong, and Will is the glue that holds the band together. Students will be waiting with excitement for future books as well! This story will also serve as an unusual but interesting way to lead students to Free Lunch, Rex Ogle’s gritty and fascinating memoir.

Mystery Fiction          Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD
Supernatural Fiction