YA – Girl, Unframed

Caletti, Deb. Girl, Unframed. Simon Pulse, 2020. 978-1-534-42697-9. 368 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Can you imagine if your mom was famous? Like moviestar-famous? Sydney doesn’t usually have to deal with her mom and her drama, but she’s going to visit her for the summer. Before setting eyes on her mom, the newest man in Lila’s life picks Sydney up from the airport, and it’s all downhill from there. From shady art dealings to rejected credit cards, Sydney misses her friends from home. Luckily, she befriends a guy working construction next door because shady art dealings quickly become the least of their worries. It’s as if Lila’s movie script has come to life, but crimes of passion are still crimes.

THOUGHTS: There is a lot of heaviness to unpack in this story, from women who prioritize beauty over motherhood and men treating women like objects, not to mention murder. A good addition for high school libraries looking for YA thrillers that are also coming of age stories.

Mystery          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

YA – The Loop

Oliver, Ben. The Loop. Chicken House, 2020. 978-1-338-58930-6. 368 p. $18.99. Grades 9 and up. 

The Loop. The high-tech prison serving adolescent death-row inmates is a unique hellscape. With torture every night and isolation most of the day, these juveniles are the dregs of society, committers of crimes so unspeakable as to be sentenced to death before they ever turn 18. But one thing can “save” them; choosing a ‘Delay’ extends their sentence by 6 months. Another 6 months to live, but only if they partake in scientific experiments including experimental surgeries, that’s assuming they survive. Everything runs like clockwork, down to the minute the same thing happens every day. Until it doesn’t. Until the rain doesn’t come. Set in a society where the government has the control, even over the weather, what will happen when things go awry, when the people revolt?

THOUGHTS: A thrilling-fast paced dystopia, The Loop will appeal to fans of The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games.

Dystopian          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

YA – A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

Jackson, Holly. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. Delacorte Press. 2020. 978-1-984-89636-0. 400 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

Pippa Fitz-Amobi is a good girl: high achiever, faithful friend, devoted daughter, and big sister. So it’s a bit out of character for her to solve a murder for her senior capstone project, especially because it’s one that’s already been solved. Five years ago, high school senior Andie Bell disappeared from their small town of Fairfield, Connecticut. Her body was never found, but the remains of her boyfriend, Salil “Sal” Singh, were discovered in the woods along with evidence that he had killed Andie and then committed suicide out of guilt. Pippa’s instincts, honed on true crime podcasts and documentaries, tell her that Sal is innocent. She aims to raise enough doubts about Sal’s guilt to convince the police to revisit the case. With the help of Sal’s younger brother, Ravi, Pippa susses out one lead after another, untangling clues and connections hidden within interview transcripts, journal entries, and text messages. Meanwhile someone with much to lose is watching their every move — and he (or she?) is unafraid to follow through on threats against what Pippa holds dearest when she refuses to stop digging. Holly Jackson skillfully weaves the elements of a solid mystery into her debut: suspense, red herrings, breathless amateur surveillance, and even a spooky dark alley. A huge twist, revealed just when the crimes have seemingly been solved, propels the pace right to the final page.

THOUGHTS: Mystery fans, take note: You’ll be hooked from the “Murder Map” that appears on page 29! This fast-paced whodunnit is perfect for fans of Karen M. McManus’ thrillers, especially Two Can Keep a Secret. Note that this novel’s potentially sensitive topics include suicide, sexual assault, and an animal in peril.

Mystery          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Pippa Fitz-Amobi has everything going for her: She’s a good student with good friends and a great family. Pip is a “good girl,” and she can’t help but notice how local missing (presumed murdered but never found) Andie Bell also seemed like a good girl. A fan of true crime podcasts and documentaries, Pip can’t ignore the feeling that the five year old murder/suicide of two local teens has some gaps in its investigation. She knew Sal when she was younger, and he couldn’t have possibly killed Andie then himself. Or did he? Though she sells it to her advisor as a look at how media sensationalizing can impact an investigation, Pip decides her senior capstone project will be to look into the Andie Bell case. As she uncovers one clue after the next, she begins to hope that she can prove Sal’s innocence. When Pip receives a threat telling her to stop digging, she knows she must be onto something. Then again, maybe someone is just playing a sick joke. Getting closer to Sal’s little brother Ravi during her investigation doesn’t help Pip keep her feelings separate from the case. When a threat hits close to home, Pip is ready to give up. She might be paranoid, but it seems like someone in Fairview doesn’t want her to keep looking. Told throughout Pip’s investigation, readers will be on the edge of their seats to learn what really happened to Andie Bell and if Pip will successfully complete her project.

THOUGHTS: Told in a variety of formats, readers will not want to put down this fast-paced mystery. The full cast audiobook is excellent. Fans of other YA Thrillers by authors like Karen M. McManus, April Henry, and Gretchen McNeil will be happy to have a new author to enjoy. Mature topics (drug use, drinking, and suicide) make this one best suited for high school readers.

Mystery          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA – The Cousins

McManus, Karen M. The Cousins. Delacorte Press, 2020. 978-0-525-70800-1. 336 p. $22.99. Grades 7-12.

It begins with a most unexpected letter. Teen cousins Aubrey, Milly and Jonah are invited to spend the summer on Gull Island, the resort home of their wealthy WASP grandmother, Mildred Story, the woman who, decades before, cut off all contact with her children, enigmatically telling them, “You know what you did.” Except the three brothers and their sister have always denied knowing what their mother meant. Now the adult siblings, encouraged by this gesture, bribe, threaten, and cajole the cousins to accept the offer, for a variety of personal reasons, including, but not necessarily limited to, possible access to the immense Story fortune. Sweet Aubrey, bearing a traditional Story family name; sophisticated Milly, named after her grandmother; and extremely disgruntled Jonah meet up on the ferry ride to the island, pondering what the summer will hold. None of them envisions the events that unfold. But when one of the first people they encounter on the island tells them “you shouldn’t have come back,” the cousins become reluctant allies, uncovering lost family history and learning exactly what happened all those years ago. McManus presents another tour de force with her fourth young adult mystery. This character driven plot has the feel of a classic Agatha Christie. Breathtaking suspense takes a back seat as Aubrey, Milly, and Jonah, burdened with parental legacies, expectations, and disappointments, cautiously open up to each other, shedding secrets and personas molded by family legacy. Plot twists keep the reader guessing until the tempestuous climax, but the journey is the true star in this book.

THOUGHTS: McManus just keeps getting better. A first purchase for all middle school and high school collections, and multiple copies will be needed. 

Mystery          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Cousins Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story did not grow up enjoying extended family vacations on Gull Island or at the resort home of their wealthy grandmother. Instead each has had to deal with a parent who is still – years later – dealing with the fallout of being disinherited by their mother, matriarch Mildred Story. Cut off with only a message of “You know what you did.” the story children are left to fend for themselves which, given their upbringing, they were not prepared to do. When the cousins each receive a postcard from their grandmother inviting them to work on Gull Island’s resort for the summer, they have mixed reactions. Their parents, however, insist. It’s the opportunity to get back into their mother’s good graces, and they’ve been waiting decades. Forced together, the cousins arrive on Gull Island only to be told they “shouldn’t have come back.” They bond together to make the best of their circumstances and learn more about the family they never got to know.

THOUGHTS: This one will keep readers guessing, and fans of McManus’s other books will be happy with this new mystery. A must have for middle and high school libraries.

Mystery          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Twenty-four years ago the Story children were disowned by their mother, Mildred. The children, Adam, Asher, Allison, and Archer received a note with just five words: “You know what you did.” The problem was, and still is, that none of them know what the note means.  Now, 24 years later, the children of Adam, Asher, and Allison received letters inviting them to Gull Coast Island on behalf of their estranged grandmother to work in the resort’s Towhee program. The cousins have not seen each other in years, so when Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah meet up on the ferry to Gull Coast Island, it is as though they are meeting for the first time. As they are introduced to their new boss, Carson, their grandmother arrives and appears very surprised to see them. When Mildred immediately leaves for two weeks, Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah begin to question the entire situation. Who sent the letters inviting them to Gull Coast Island? Why is their grandmother so elusive? What happened over 20 years ago that has kept their grandmother away? But, it isn’t until they are finally introduced to Mildred and a night out that the cousins truly begin to delve deep into the history of the Story family. Told through alternating chapters from Milly, Aubrey, Jonah, and Allison in 1996, The Cousins looks at secrets kept to protect family and secrets hidden to expose mistakes.

THOUGHTS: Karen M. McManus once again weaves a thrilling tale of lies, secrets, and deceit.  Mystery and detective fiction lovers will devour this novel.

Mystery        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

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; 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


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

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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

 

 

liesItold

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