YA – Nowhere on Earth

Lake, Nick. Nowhere on Earth. Alfred A. Knopf, 2020. 978-1-984-89644-5. 292 p. $17.99. Grades 7-10.

Emily would do anything to protect her little brother, Aiden, even stowing away on a bush plane when the men in black start following him around town. But crashing in the Alaskan wilderness wasn’t in the plan. However, the rapid arrival of men with guns, shooting at them, propels Emily into action. She, Aiden, and Bob, the injured pilot, head out across the dangerous landscape, trying to put distance between themselves and the hunters, making their way towards safety. The book opens with the plane crash and the adrenaline doesn’t let down. Emily’s and Aiden’s backstories are revealed as the story unfolds, including Emily’s tempestuous relationship with her parents. Emily does come to appreciate the myriad survival lessons her ex-special-ops father taught her, as well as the beauty of the Alaskan territory, but deeply resents her parents for moving from Minneapolis and forcing her to leave behind her beloved ballet. The book begins as an adventure-survival tale, but then evolves into so much more, including a massive plot-twist and several thought provoking ethical issues. A few threads could have been more fully developed, including a hint that the plane crashed due to sabotage, but readers will be forgiving.

THOUGHTS: This hard to pigeon hole book should find a home with a wide variety of readers. Perfect for those who prefer a book that grabs you from the first page, but also gives satisfaction to readers looking for some depth.

Science Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

YA – Color Outside the Lines; The Library of Lost Things; Patron Saints of Nothing; I’m Not Dying with You Tonight; Stamped; I Know You Remember; When You Ask Me Where I’m Going; Deadly Little Scandals; The Last to Die; Winterwood

Mandanna, Sangu, editor. Color Outside the Lines: Stories About Love. Soho Teen, 2019. 978-1-641-29046-3. 269 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12. 

Color Outside the Lines is an exploration of what it means to love while you’re young, especially when something gets in the way. For some that something is race, for others it’s prejudice, and yet for others it may be superpowers. The stories are wonderfully interspersed with meet-cutes and relationships both normal and fantastical, all exploring different cultures and experiences and the dynamics and challenges that come with them. Readers will encounter mythologies and realities, villages and cities, changing families and stable relationships within the 16 stories included.

THOUGHTS: Color Outside the Lines will strike a chord with many readers who have never before seen themselves in a book. I loved the way the stories were not all what I expected, not everything was about romantic love, and not everything was rooted in reality. It’s a must add to any middle or high school collection.

Mostly Realistic, Some Fantasy Elements        Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD


Namey, Laura Taylor. The Library of Lost Things. Inkyard Press, 2019. 978-1-488-05135-7. 384 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12. 

A teen literary prodigy, Darcy spends most of her spare time lost in a favorite book or working in the local independent bookstore. With best friend Marisol by her side, Darcy has found a careful balance in life, amidst her mother’s serious hoarding addiction. Darcy’s safe space has long been the one place her mother cannot set foot, Darcy’s bedroom where she is surrounded by myriad books. When a new property manager begins making cosmetic improvements around the apartment complex, Darcy worries how long she’ll be able to keep the secret of her mother’s “collections.” While her mother is able to work, she can’t control her compulsive shopping. Darcy is supplemented by her grandmother but also has learned to be self reliant. Falling for Asher Fleet isn’t part of Darcy’s plan, but something about him makes her want a real life fairy tale. Darcy is used to the comfort of her books, and real life isn’t so predictable or easy.

THOUGHTS: Avid readers will appreciate all of the literary references, and teens will enjoy the slow burning romance, friendship, and mother-daughter dynamics. Recommended for high school libraries where compelling romances are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Ribay, Randy. Patron Saints of Nothing. Kokila, 2019. 978-0-525-55491-2. 323 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12. 

Half Filipino high school senior Jay spends much of his spare time lost in a video game world, not fully aware of what’s going on around the world. Though he’s been accepted to the University of Michigan, he’s only going out of obligation to his family who worked hard, so he could life their American dream. Jay doesn’t really know what he wants, and he’s just going through the motions. When Jay learns more about his cousin Jun’s death (Jun was murdered as part of Philippines President Duterte’s war on drugs), he can’t shake his guild over losing touch with Jun. Jay wonders if he had returned Jun’s letters would have become lost – surely Jun really wasn’t into drugs. But Jay doesn’t really understand life in the Philippines, and he’s determined to learn more. Passing up the new laptop he’s wanted for college (really gaming), Jay convinces his parents to let him travel to the Philippines, promising not to bring up Jun’s death, especially around his Uncle ___. With Jun’s letters in his bag, Jay is determined to learn the truth about Jun’s death and honor his cousin in the way he deserves.

THOUGHTS: Ribay’s novel encourages teens to get out of their comfort zones and become more globally aware. With many issues from family dynamics and grief to international politics, readers will be taken on a journey of healing. Highly recommende3d for high school libraries.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Jones, Kimberly, and Gilly Segal. I’m Not Dying with You Tonight. Sourcebooks Fire, 2019. 978-1-492-67889-2. 249 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12. 

From two very different worlds, Lena and Campbell are forced together inside a Friday night football game concession stand. On the outside Lena appears to be cool and confident, always wearing the “right” clothes and trying to impress her boyfriend Black. Like many girls, though, Lena isn’t as confident as she seems in herself or in her relationship. New to town after her mother takes a job abraod, Campbell is trying to find her place in school and at home with her father, who owns a local hardware store. One teen black, one teen white, Lena and Campbell must learn to work together when chaos erupts all around them. With their lives in danger, the girls must see past their differences in order to survive and get to safety.

THOUGHTS: Written by two authors, this dual narrative intertwines and comes to life. A Big Library Read selection in 2019, this title is sure to be popular with high school readers who have enjoyed other powerhouse YA titles like The Hate You Give, Long Way Down, All American Boys, Dear Martin, and more. Highly recommended.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Reynolds, Jason, and Ibram X. Kendi. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-316-45369-1 320 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12. 

Re-evaluate everything you learned or think you know about history in this text that is “NOT a history book.” Broken down by various time periods, Reynolds adapts Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning for a teen audience. Reynolds explains that everyone fits into a category – racist, antiracists, or assimilationist – often moving from one to another or being associated with one but really fitting into another. Various leaders throughout time are analyzed for their words and actions, causing readers to reconsider what they think they know about history.

THOUGHTS: Teen readers will appreciate Reynolds’ open and honest voice which asks them to question the educational system – what they have been taught, by whom, and why. Instead of accepting what they are told, readers will want to prove their history texts (and teachers) wrong. teachers should appreciate the opportunity to encourage students to rewrite history with a more open, honest, and true version. This is a must have nonfiction title for every secondary library.

305.80 Racial, ethnic, national groups          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Donaldson, Jennifer. I Know You Remember. Razorbill, 2019. 978-1-595-14854-4. 336 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12. 

Three years ago Ruthie and her mother left Anchorage, Alaska hoping for a fresh start away from Ruthie’s alcoholic father. Ruthie tried to keep in touch with her best friend Zahra, but time and distance (not to mention Zahra’s delayed or lack of responses) meant that wasn’t always easy. After a tragic hiking accident kills her mother, Ruthie finds herself on a plane back to Anchorage to live with her now clean father and his new wife and stepdaughter. Before boarding the plane, Ruthie texts Zahra, letting her know she’ll be home soon and hoping they can reconnect. Zahra never receives the message, and Ruthie is devastated to learn that Zahra has gone missing, following an argument at a party with her boyfriend Ben. Ruthie tries to help the search for clues while connecting with Zahra’s new friends. She hopes this will help her understand how Zahra has changed since they were friends. The Zahra that Ruthie knew isn’t the same girl that’s missing, but Ruthie is determined to find her and recover their lost friendship.

THOUGHTS: This twisty mystery is unpredictable, and things aren’t always as they seem. A must have for high school collections where fast-paced dramas are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Kaur, Jasmin. When You Ask Me Where I’m Going. HarperCollins, 2019. 978-0-062-91261-9. 256 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12. 

This debut collection of poetry, prose, and illustrations will cause readers to think and feel deeply about a variety of tough topics such as sexual assault, mental health, and undocumented immigrants, just to name a few. With a strong voice, Kaur is sure to be appreciated by poetry fans.

THOUGHTS: This title will enhance and diversity existing high school poetry collections. Recommended for libraries looking to offer new voices and update poetry pieces.

Poetry          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 

 


Barnes, Jennifer Lynn. Deadly Little Scandals. Freeform, 2019. 978-1-368-01517-2. 352 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12. 

Sawyer Taft is back with another southern high society debutante drama. This time she spends her time alternating between the family home and their summer lake house. Much more comfortable among her cousin Lily and their fellow debutante friends, Sawyer is still determined to solve the puzzle of her biological father. As she becomes closer with the girls, though, Sawyer must be careful not to upset the balance they have achieved. Drama seems to follow these girls wherever they go, and pledging to a long time debutante, elite, all female secret society may give Sawyer the answers she’s been seeking. Not everyone wants Sawyer to solve the mystery, though.

THOUGHTS: A new cast of characters with some old friends will ensure readers are on the edge of their seats. A must-have for libraries where Little White Lies and mysteries are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Sawyer, Lily, Campbell, and Sadie-Grace are spending the summer trying to relax, forget, and figure out the aftermath of the past year. Together at the lake, Sawyer is trying to figure out how to tell Lily who her father is; Campbell’s family is trying to survive the humiliation of her father’s arrest and save their company; Sadie-Grace is covering up Greer’s “pregnancy,” and Lily is figuring out who she is and what she wants. Of course, a relaxing summer isn’t quite in the picture for these debs, as they pledge the elite and mysterious White Gloves, and learn more about their pasts and present. When things spiral out of control, can the debs survive the scandal and the truth?

THOUGHTS: I love Jennifer Lynn Barnes. She is one of my favorite mystery/thriller authors. Although readers should read the Debutantes series in order because of references made to events from book one, Deadly Little Scandals is easy to follow. Barnes’s use of flashback for the majority of the novel keeps readers focused without confusion and constantly guessing what possibly could come next. Highly recommended for all high school collections.  

Mystery         Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Garrett, Kelly. The Last to Die. Sourcebooks Fire, 2019. 978-1-492-69844-9. 240 p. $10.99. Grades 9-12. 

Seventeen year old Harper seems to live an idyllic life. She’s a star soccer player at school and on her club team, she has a boyfriend who adores her, and she’s got a great group of friends. Home life, though is a bit more complicated. her older brother is in a second stint of rehab, her mom copes with glasses of wine, and her dad can’t deal or even be bothered to learn how to sign with Maggie, Harper’s little sister who is deaf. A regular visitor to the principal’s office for voicing her mind, Harper isn’t always a star student, but she has plans on getting a soccer scholarship. To entertain themselves friend couples Harper and Gin; Paisley and Benji; and Sara, a rival soccer teammate, and Alex make a game out of burglarizing each other’s houses, with some ground rules, of course. What seems like innocent, though sometimes embarrassing, fun turns deadly. With suspicions on one of their own, the game becomes a race of cat and mouse, and the stakes couldn’t be more serious.

THOUGHTS: Fans of mysteries will enjoy this somewhat predicable read, though the quick ending may be frustrating. Purchase for high school collections where character-driven mysteries are popular. Note: This title was first published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2017 and was republished by Sourcebooks Fire in 2019.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Ernshaw, Shea. Winterwood. Simon Pulse, 2019. 978-1-534-46279-3. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

The Walkers, as legend says, are older than the woods themselves. The Wicker Woods, cursed and dangerous to enter unless it is a full moon. The Walker women do not fear the woods, as they know they sleep during the full moon and not to enter at any other time, for who knows what the woods will do when they are awake and watching…

Nora realizes all of these things, as she is a Walker. Although her nightshade has not yet come to her, she knows she is a witch like those before her. Nora is not afraid of the woods. And yet, one boy is missing and one boy is dead. What happens when Nora comes across the missing boy, alive in the woods 2 weeks after the terrible snow storm? What does this boy know about the boy who is dead? As the mystery unravels, Nora finds herself deeper and deeper in her struggle of learning the truth of this mysterious boy and solving the puzzle that lies within the heart of him.

THOUGHTS: An engaging fantasy that pulls you in as you learn more about Nora’s family and the mystery of the missing boy. This is a book you cannot put down as you hope to find out more about what truly happened on the fateful night when one boy went missing and the other met his death.

Fantasy/Mystery        Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

YA FIC – The Secrets We Bury, One Small Thing, People Like Us, Not If I Save You First, Time Bomb

Ramey, Stacie. The Secrets We Bury. Sourcebooks Fire, 2018. 978-1-492-65420-9. 320 p. $10.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Dylan is on the run; he only has a few months until he can decide for himself that he’s not attending the school for psychologically challenged students where his family wants him. Though he lacks survival and hiking experience, Dylan decides the Appalachian Trail is the perfect place to hide. A few months of hiking until he’s 18 is nothing, right?

Most people that know Dylan would say his issues would get in the way of hiking the Trail, but Dylan finds himself at home and able to think of others for the first time. Dylan isn’t the only one hiding on the Trail, though, and others need the serenity as much as he does. When it comes to survival in his carefully, yet unpredictable world, will Dylan be selfish or put the needs of others before his own.

THOUGHTS: Readers that like a character-driven novel will root for Dylan as he tries to remain anonymous. As more details are made available through his hike, readers come to understand why he’s in the situation he is. Readers looking for a realistic adventure with a bit of mystery and a subtle love interest will devour Ramey’s newest work to see if Dylan can make it.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Watt, Erin. One Small Thing. Harlequin Teen, 2018. 978-1-335-01727-7. 384 p. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Beth feels trapped in a cage – her house – ever since her older sister died tragically. Fed up with not being seen or heard by either of her parents, Beth is looking for a little taste of control in her life. Sneaking out to a party in the next town and hooking up with a guy she meets is just what Beth needs. Afterwards, though, she begins to realize how monumental her decision was, and part of her feels regret. Luckily, she’ll never see him again.

Now out of juvie and determined to live life under the radar, Chase attempts to assimilate with his former life. A welcome home party and a pretty girl who throws herself at him is just what he needs.

It isn’t until Beth and Chase realize who the other is that they truly realize the impact of their connection. Forbidden from being together yet drawn to the other, Beth and Chase struggle with their feelings as well as with grief, guilt, and loss.

THOUGHTS: Initially drawn in by the cover and the title, One Small Thing left me feeling torn. As a parent, I can understand wanting to protect your child, but Beth’s parents take protection to a suffocating level. Teens will devour this story of first love, desperate to know the outcome for Beth and Chase. Underage drinking and mature relationships make this more suitable to high school readers.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Mele, Dana. People Like Us. G.P. Putman’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-1-524-74170-9. 384 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Bates Academy was Kay Donovan’s ticket out of her old life. Being at the top of the social food chain has had its advantages for Kay. She’s a soccer star, has a great group of friends, and has plans to earn a college soccer scholarship.

When a classmate is found dead the night before a major scouting tournament, games are cancelled and Kay begins to panic. A mysterious email from the deceased classmate that arrives the following day sets Kay on a path to make sure her long-hidden secrets stay that way. Though she’s been enjoying life at the top, Kay will do anything to get what she wants.

THOUGHTS: This deceptive, fast-paced scenario will leave readers racing ahead to see if Kay stays on top or is ruined by her past secrets. As she fights the clock to solve the mystery, Kay becomes more involved and more suspect. Fans of mystery fiction (especially those with a small town and/or private school flare) will enjoy this read. Underage drinking and casual descriptions of sexual relationships make this more suitable for mature readers.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD


Carter, Ally. Not If I Save You First. Scholastic Press, 2018. 978-1-338-13414-8. 304 p. $18.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Maddie and Logan don’t live the typical 10 year old’s lifestyle. In their spare time, they find secret ways to get from one place to the next – in the White House. Together they enjoy escaping the adults and the high profile lifestyle they live as the President’s son and the President’s Secret Service agent’s daughter.

Life changes drastically after shots are fired during a botched kidnapping attempt. Maddie and her dad leave DC behind and move to Alaska, where there isn’t another person around (or any way other than written letters for Maddie to contact one) for miles. In Alaska Maddie learns a new skill set to help her survive the harsh wilderness. Though she misses her best friend and writes him daily, Maddie gradually moves on and accepts her life.

Flash forward six years, and Logan hasn’t been the model First Son. He’s now being shipped to Alaska (and back into Maddie’s life) to learn a lesson. Before Maddie has the chance to give Logan a piece of her mind, they are attacked in the woods, and Logan is dragged off. Maddie wants Logan dead, but she also wants the pleasure of getting her own revenge.

THOUGHTS: Fans of survival and mystery stories will be delighted by the treacherous Alaskan setting. A strong female heroine shows that girls can have brains and beauty. Readers will be disappointed that this Carter book isn’t part of a series.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Maddie and Logan were best friends until the fateful night when terrorists gained access to the White House, and Maddie’s dad was shot. Now, six years later, Logan is back in Maddie’s life, but it’s not the life she had. Before her dad was shot, Maddie lived in Washington D.C., and her best friend was the president’s son. Now, she lives in the wilderness of Alaska with no friends, no school, and a dad who’s away for work often. Logan’s return to Maddie’s world brings back all of her anger towards him and his disregard for their friendship after she left. But when Logan is kidnapped by a henchman of “the Wolf”, the man who six years prior infiltrated the White House, Maddie must bury her anger and save her friend before the Wolf or Alaska kill him. Will Maddie’s wit and knowledge of the Alaskan wilderness be enough to save Logan and out maneuver a terrorist seeking revenge, or will Alaska win before Maddie has a chance to save Logan first?  

THOUGHTS: This is another fast-paced adventure from Ally Carter author of the Embassy Row and Heist Society series. The strong female protagonist will appeal to all readers because of the relationship between Maddie and Logan and the relatability of the two. Highly recommended for middle school and high school readers.

Adventure          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD


Charbonneau, Joelle. Time Bomb. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-0-544-41670-3. 352 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Each in school for different reasons, characters take a turn as the lead suspect when the radio announces one of them is the bomber. Narrated by a diverse cast of characters, seemingly innocent and not connected to each other, Time Bomb will grab readers right from the beginning and hold them hostage as the seconds tick by.

THOUGHTS: Loving character-driven, multi-point of view narratives, I knew right from the description (and author) that Time Bomb was going to be a book for me. Reminiscent of Karen McManus’s One of Us Is Lying‘s Breakfast Club style cast of characters, readers will be hooked from the beginning. Hand this one to fans of Hate List by Jennifer Brown, This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp, and Violent Ends by various authors. Though intense in topic, this book is still suitable for younger high school readers, especially given recent national events.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

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

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

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

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

 

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

Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

 

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

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

Mystery         Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area School District

 

 

 

YA Realistic Fiction (and a Thriller) – Either the Beginning…; Up From The Sea; Lies I Told

beginningorendworld

Farish, Terry. Either the Beginning or the End of the World. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Lab, 2015. 978-1-4677-7483-3. 191p. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Sophie Grear, 16 years old, is her father’s daughter. She has, until now, shared all her secrets with her fisherman father, and they act as a well-oiled machine, living together since Sophie was a young child. Her relationship with her mother is almost non-existent, so when Sophie’s mother and grandmother come to live with her because her father is away for months fishing, the tension is palpable. Immigrants from Cambodia and survivors of the atrocities inflicted by the Khmer Rouge, mother and grandmother carry scars as well as traditions and superstitions that Sophie at first must endure. Relationships are further complicated by the fact that Sophie is involved in her first real relationship, with Luke, a former medic and veteran of the war in Afghanistan who suffers from PTSD. The beauty of this coming-of-age novel lies in Sophie’s recognition that both her Cambodian mother and grandmother and her boyfriend Luke suffer from similar psychological and emotional damage caused by experiences of war and suffering, and she evolves from being a typical self-centered teenager to being an empathetic young adult. THOUGHTS: Trauma comes in many forms, and certainly our students can relate to families struggling with mental and emotional challenges. This novel offers hope and optimism for seemingly impossible relationships.

Realistic Fiction      Annette Sirio, Barack Obama Academy

 

 

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Lowitz, Lena.  Up From the Sea.  New York: Crown Books, 2016.  978-0-553-53474-0.  272 p. $17.99.  Grades 7 and up.

Up From the Sea is a novel-in-verse based on the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Honshu, Japan.  Kai is a 17 year-old who lives with his mother and grandparents in a small seaside community (his father abandoned the family years before the quake).  The quake hits while Kai is at school and even though he, and most of the school community get out safely, Kai’s family is lost in the earthquake/tsunami.  Later, the survivors take refuge at the school and wait.  They wait for family members to be found, they wait to be found, and they wait for life to get back to “normal”.  Kai is eventually nominated to go to America with other teenage earthquake victims.  The children of 3/11 will be meeting with people who survived 9/11 to talk, grieve, and learn to move on.  Kai goes on the trip.  He attempts to make contact with his estranged father (unsuccessfully) and he learns that the best way to move on from the disaster is to go back home and be part of the recovery.  Later, in Japan, Kai finds that passing his love of soccer on to younger students is the best way for him to aid the recovery.  When his father, newly out of rehab, comes to take Kai with him to America, Kai knows he has found his purpose and his home; he will not leave his beloved Japan.  THOUGHTS: Lowitz’s book, one of many recent novels-in-verse, lacks the grace and poetry of some books in this genre.  It does, though, capture what being a teenage boy must feel like.  This book is a good introduction to novels-in-verse for young men and should be included in junior and senior high book collections.

Up From the Sea is a powerful depiction of the 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami.  Kai is a relatable young man; in many cases he is fearful, angry, and childlike.  In other situations, we see hints of the adult Kai will become.  Although novels-in-verse are very popular with students, this is one book that I would like to have seen presented in traditional prose.  Kai goes through a great deal in this story.  He is the only member of his family to survive the horrible disaster.  He lives the complicated life of a biracial teenager in Japan.  He gives hope to a younger generation of Japanese children by forming a youth soccer league.  Finally, he learns to forgive the father who abandoned him when he was a young boy.  I would like to have seen these events addressed in a deeper way.  This book was not poorly done, by any means, but it could have been much more.

Realistic Fiction; Novel in Verse                         Susan Fox, Washington Jr./Sr. HS

 

 

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Zink, Michelle. Lies I Told. New York, NY: HarperTeen, 2015.  978-0-06-232712-3. 341 p. $16.99. Gr. 9-12.

Grace was a child of the foster care system until being adopted by the Fontaines, a couple of thieves who use Grace and her brother, Parker, to accomplish their cons. They con the wealthy out of anything from money to art and jewelry. Grace is an expert at making friends, following the rules of the con, and completing any heist; however, when they move to Playa Hermosa, California, and Grace forges stronger friendships than she had in any previous location, she begins to break certain rules of the con. Her feelings for Logan, who is the son of the mark, complicate matters more. Grace is conflicted between her feelings for her new friends and the rules of the heist, which helps to build the suspense. With a twist ending, readers will be left wanting more.  THOUGHTS: Lies I Told is an excellent addition to any thriller/suspense collection. The blending of friendship, family, romance, and con make it appealing.

Realistic Fiction; Thriller     Graig Henshaw, Littlestown Senior HS/Maple Avenue MS

Girl Underwater – New YA Thriller

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Kells, Claire. Girl Underwater. New York: Dutton, 2015. 978-0-525-95493-4. 291 p. $26.95. Gr. 10 and up.

College sophomore and competitive swimmer Avery Delacorte is en route to Boston for Thanksgiving when her flight crashes into a remote lake in the Rocky Mountains. Against all odds, Avery, her teammate Colin Shea, and three young boys survive the impact and make it to shore. Scenes of their high-stakes alpine survival are intercut with Avery’s recovery in the hospital, her efforts to return to campus and rejoin the team, and her unwillingness to face Colin and the boys again. Tension mounts with every page as the reader wonders, why is Avery so sure she let them all down out there? If she is meant to be with her college boyfriend, Lee, then why does her mind keep wandering back to Colin? And can she swim again without memories of the ordeal overwhelming her? This debut novel by Philadelphia native Claire Kells could easily have been published as YA. With athletics, adventure, suspense, and spine-tingling romance, it’s one of the best crossover books of 2015 (so far)!
 
Realistic Fiction      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

The audiobook production is read by the wonderful Julia Whelan, who also lent her voice to The Impossible Knife of Memory and I’ll Give You the Sun, among many other titles. Playing a sample of this stellar audiobook would be a great way to interest students in the novel and audiobooks alike!

The Devil You Know – New YA Thriller

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Doller, Trish. The Devil You Know. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 978-1-61963-416-9. 246 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

In the summer after high school graduation, Cadie Wells wants to ditch backward-looking drama with her ex-boyfriend and find some “forward adventure” instead. She’s also itching for a break from all the responsibility she’s shouldered at home since her mom’s death three years ago. A chance for a few days of freedom arrives at a campfire party in the form of hunky cousins Noah and Matt. Cadie impulsively accepts an invitation to join both guys on a canoe trip around some local Florida waterways. Though caught up in the excitement and her lust for Noah, Cadie has a nagging sense of guilt over ditching her dad and little brother. She also questions whether she can fully trust Noah, who has a violent past, especially when two missing persons seem to overlap with his travels. This is a very fast-paced romantic thriller. I love the way Trish Doller incorporates the steamy, sticky wilds of Florida and some survival elements into the narrative. This will be popular with teenage girls who like their romantic reads with a dangerous twist. It would be perfect to read this one in a tent after a long day of paddling on the river!
Thriller            Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

In The Devil You Know, Cadie and Noah share an intimate moment in the Devil’s Chair in the Cassadaga, FL, graveyard. This wonderfully creepy setting is real! The Devil’s Chair was supposedly built for an elderly widower to visit his wife’s grave, but urban legends about the chair abound. As with the mortsafes featured in Dianne Salerni’s The Caged Graves, it would be fun to incorporate pictures of these real places into a booktalk!

New from Ally Carter – All Fall Down, Embassy Row Book 1

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Carter, Ally. All Fall Down (Embassy Row Bk. 1). New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-0-545-65474-6. $17.99. 310p. Gr. 7 and up.

Grace Blakely is sure of three things: she’s not crazy; her mother was murdered, and one day she will find the killer and make him pay.  These are the only absolutes Grace has as her world changes once again three years after her mother’s death.  With her father deployed and her brother at West Point, Grace must live with her grandfather, the United States Ambassador to Adria.  Having spent summers in Adria for most of her life, Grace is familiar with Embassy Row and the rules of life in the embassy, but that has never before stopped Grace.  With her return to Adria, Grace is constantly reminded of her mother, who grew up in the embassy, and is haunted by memories of her mother, her murder, and the subsequent fire that Grace witnessed three years ago.  During a “mission” in the abandoned Iranian embassy, Grace overhears two people secretly meeting, one of which she recognizes as the “Scarred Man” who murdered her mother.  After multiple run-ins with “the Scarred Man”, one of which he refers to her by name, Grace’s determination to avenge her mother’s murder heightens, as do her memories of her mother, her death, and the fire.  When she tries to share this information with her grandfather and Ms. Chancellor, his assistant, they inform Grace that the man she has been running into is Dominic Novak, the Prime Minister’s Head of Security, a man who could never have murdered her mother because it was an accident, and this is not the first man Grace has accused of murdering her mother since the accident.  With new found friends, Noah and Rosie, and old friend Megan, Grace sets out to avenge her mother’s death.  As Grace is continually haunted by that night and told that she is only imagining a murder, she learns more about the secret lives led in Adria on and off of Embassy Row and learns the truth behind her mother’s death and life.  Ally Carter once again weaves mystery, thrills, reality, and fabulous characterization into the first book in a new series about life on Embassy Row and the realities behind the façade.

Mystery    Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City

I loved Ally Carter’s series Heist Society, so I was very excited to read All Fall Down, Book 1 of her new Embassy Row series.  Grace is a fabulous female protagonist who struggles with memories of the death of her mother after witnessing it and the fire that destroyed her only stability.  Upon her return to Adria, she is haunted by memories of her mother.  As Grace tries to cope with these memories and her need for vengeance, she is continually told by her grandfather, Ms. Chancellor, his assistant, and Alexi, his brother’s best friend who lives at the Russian Embassy, that her mother’s death was an accident, not murder.  Yet, Grace cannot accept this; she knows someone killed her mother, and she will stop at nothing to find him and make him pay.  Through Grace’s actions, reactions, and memories, the reader is often left questioning whether or not Grace truly witnessed anything or is she just trying to cope with her mother’s death by creating a story from her memories.  She does not appear to be a reliable narrator, but as the novel progresses the reader realizes that perhaps Grace has a point and is the reliable narrator.  Maybe it’s everyone else who is unreliable and hiding the truth from Grace?  The supporting characters are intriguing and established just enough for future storylines either about them or their embassy.

One final note – I wanted Grace to be more spiteful and fight more against her grandfather and Ms. Chancellor.  I felt that she gave in a bit too much, but after finishing the novel (which I did not want to end), Grace made perfect sense.