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Book Review: Grades 9 & Up Fiction | February 2014

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redstarArnett, Mindee. Avalon. 432p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Feb. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062235596. LC 2013005155.

Gr 9 Up –Jeth’s parents were the preeminent scientists of the Confederation until their final mission ended in tragedy and they were suddenly charged with treason and executed. Since then, Jeth has been in the forced employ of an interstellar crime lord, aboard the Avalon. It is a ship specially designed by Jeth’s parents to navigate and explore the Belgrave, a sector of space that gives off inexplicable power fluctuations; many consider it haunted. Jeth is finally given the opportunity to captain the Avalon when the crew are sent into the Belgrave to salvage a stranded Confederation ship said to hold a dangerous weapon. Little does he know that this mission will set off a chain of events that could have far-reaching consequences and fundamentally challenge his understanding of his own family’s history. This is an exciting piece of science fiction that keeps up its energy from beginning to end. Fans of the short-lived but beloved Joss Whedon television show Firefly will find this book especially enjoyable, and it is sure to be one of the most popular releases in the genre this year.–Ryan F. Paulsen, New Rochelle High School, NY

redstarCosimano, Elle. Nearly Gone. 400p. ebook available. Penguin/Kathy Dawson Bks. Mar. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780 803739260. LC 2013010335.

Gr 9 Up –In this suspenseful and thrilling murder mystery, high school junior Nearly Boswell is struggling to get by in a Washington, DC trailer park with her single mother, who works the night shift at a local strip club. Any chance she has of escaping her miserable life is dependent on a highly competitive scholarship for which she and her best friend are vying against each other. Everything is going according to plan until Nearly spots an eerie personal ad in the local newspaper–an ad that ends up being a clue in the attempted murder of one of her classmates. She soon finds another clue in the following week’s paper leading to another murder. And then another. The police won’t take her seriously, and when the hints start pointing in her direction, Nearly becomes their number one suspect. The only person she can trust is bad boy Reece, whom she suspects is working with the police to keep a close eye on her. The clock is ticking, and Nearly must hurry to solve the homicides, and prove her own innocence, before it is too late. There is a hint of the paranormal in this murder mystery, as Nearly has an unusual gift that allows her to “taste” the emotions of others when she touches their skin. Eloquently written and packed full of suspense, debut author Cosimano strikes gold with this page-turning thriller that will have teens chomping at the bit to get to the end. Give this to fans of Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder (HarperCollins, 2010) or anyone else who is looking for a captivating murder mystery.–Candyce Pruitt-Goddard, Hartford Public Library, CT

redstarReynolds, Jason. When I Was the Greatest. 240p. S & S/Atheneum. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442459472; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442459496. LC 2012045734.

Gr 7-10 –Ali lives with his mother, Doris, and kid sister, Jazz, in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn and spends all of his free time with best friends Noodles and Needles, brothers who live in a run-down brownstone next door. Needles was born with Tourette’s syndrome, and after a particularly bad episode of tics, Doris gave him some knitting needles to focus his attention. The three teens hang out on the stoop and streets, living life and getting in just a touch of mischief. When their friend Tasha gets them into a party–and not just any party, an exclusive, adults-only party–trouble escalates. How will the trio deal with the fallout of that eventful night? Reynolds’s debut oozes with authenticity–details about bodegas, barbershops, and local streets flesh out the setting–and builds with great tempo, starting in a slow groove and picking up to a swift beat. The main and secondary characters are well developed; their sweetness, sassiness, and even stupidity are endearing and relatable. This title is an easy sell to teens living in urban areas but will appeal to anyone looking for realistic protagonists in the daily grind, learning about themselves and one another. Reynolds is an author to watch.–Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ

redstarSmith, Andrew. Grasshopper Jungle. 464p. ebook available. Dutton. Feb. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525426035; pap. ISBN 9781405273411.

Gr 10 Up –It used to be that the only interesting events to occur in crumbling Ealing, Iowa happened between the pages of 16-year-old Austin Szerba’s “history” journals. Austin’s journals are elaborate and uncensored records about sex; his love for his girlfriend, Shann; his growing attraction for his best friend, Robby; his unique Polish ancestors; even Ealing’s decrepit mini-mall where he and Robby hang out. Shann tells Austin, “I love how, whenever you tell a story, you go backwards and forwards and tell me everything else that could possibly be happening in every direction, like an explosion.” And that’s exactly how Austin narrates the end of the world when a twist of fate sparks the birth of mutant, people-eating praying mantises. Austin not only records the hilarious and bizarre tale of giant, copulating bugs but his own sexual confusion and his fear about hurting the people he loves. Award-winning author Smith has cleverly used a B movie science fiction plot to explore the intricacies of teenage sexuality, love, and friendship. Austin’s desires might garner buzz and controversy among adults but not among the teenage boys who can identify with his internal struggles. This novel is proof that when an author creates solely for himself–as Smith notes in the acknowledgments section–the result is an original, honest, and extraordinary work that speaks directly to teens as it pushes the boundaries of young adult literature.–Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ

redstarWaller, Sharon Biggs. A Mad, Wicked Folly. 448p. Viking. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780670014682.

Gr 9 Up –In 1870, Queen Victoria made the astonishing declaration that women’s rights were a “mad, wicked folly.” This statement was the inspiration for Waller’s impeccable debut novel about a young English woman who is talented, beautiful, passionate, and wealthy. Despite these advantages, Victoria Darling struggles with the harsh limitations imposed upon women prior to and during the Edwardian era of 1901-1910, which curtail her attempts to attend art school. While Victoria does not initially associate with the Suffragette Movement, she ultimately discovers that her fate is intertwined with the cause. The first-person narrative in her earnest voice helps readers to more intimately understand the rampant frustration felt by thousands of women during that time. Waller vividly describes the unbearably restrictive corsets for women, the force-feeding implemented to undermine protesters during hunger strikes, and notable individuals who helped in the movement. At equal turns humorous and heartbreaking, readers will chuckle at Victoria’s exploits (climbing out a bedroom window, being stuck mid-curtsey before King Edward in court) and admire the brave sacrifices she makes to pursue her dreams. There is enough detailed information throughout to make this a useful and fascinating book to pair with nonfiction resources about women’s history. A must-have first purchase.–Etta Anton, Yeshiva of Central Queens, NY

redstarWalton, Leslye. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. 320p. Candlewick. Mar. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763665661.

Gr 9 Up –Walton’s novel is both strange and beautiful in the best of ways. Though the titular Ava serves as narrator and ultimately the tale’s heroine, her story spans multiple generations, starting with her great-grandmother, remembered only as Maman, an immigrant to “Manhatine” two generations earlier. Through the eyes of her grandmother Emilienne, and then her mother Vivianne, Ava’s lineage unfolds. Emilienne, suffering a broken heart, leaves New York and travels to Seattle, where she sets up shop as a baker on Pinnacle Lane. She gives birth to Vivianne, Ava’s mother, who later suffers her own heartbreak and gives birth to Ava in 1944. Ava is a normal girl with one notable exception: she was born with the wings of a bird. Ava looks to the stories of her matriarchs to make sense of her own life and to understand how to navigate the world as both an “other” and a typical teenage girl. It is not until a fateful day in her 16th year that many narrative threads come to a head. This multigenerational tale examines love and considers the conflicting facets of loving and being loved–desire, despair, depression, obsession, self-love, and courage. Difficult to categorize, this is a mystical tale, a historical novel, a coming-of-age story, laced with folkloric qualities and magic realism, often evocative of great narratives like Erin Morgenstern’s transcendent The Night Circus (Doubleday, 2011) or the classic Like Water for Chocolate (Anchor, 1995) by Laura Esquivel. It is beautifully crafted and paced, mystical yet grounded by universal themes and sympathetic characters. A unique book, highly recommended for readers looking for something a step away from ordinary.–Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ

The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue:

Grades 9 & Up

Almond, David. The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean. 272p. ebook available. Candlewick. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763663094. LC 2012954332.

Anns, Lynn. Tent City Princess. 216p. ebook available. websites. PageSpring. 2013. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781939403056.

E–Armentrout, Jennifer L. Bitter Sweet Love. 105p. (Dark Eden Series). Harlequin Teen. 2013. ebk. $2.99. ISBN 9781460323670.

Baskin, Janie. Paint Me a Monster. 352p. ebook available. Scarlet Voyage. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781623240189. LC 2012051040.

Bick, Ilsa J. White Space. Bk. 1. 560p. (The Dark Passages). ebook available. Egmont USA. Feb. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781606844199.

Bock, Caroline. Before My Eyes. 320p. St. Martin’s Griffin. Feb. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250045584; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781250035677.

Burgess, Melvin. The Hit. 304p. ebook available. Scholastic/Chicken House. Mar. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545556996; pap. $4.05. ISBN 9781908435330. LC 2013013792.

Carter, Aimée. Pawn. Bk. 1. 304p. (The Blackcoat Rebellion Series). Harlequin Teen. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780373210558.

Castellucci, Cecil. Tin Star. 240p. ebook available. Roaring Brook. Feb. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781596437753. LC 2013002600.

Charbonneau, Joelle. Independent Study. Bk. 2. 320p. (The Testing Series). Houghton Harcourt. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780547959207.

Crawford, Brian. The Weaver’s Scar: For Our Rwanda. 168p. Royal Fireworks Press. 2013. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780898244779.

Derting, Kimberly. The Offering. Bk. 3. 304p. (Pledge Series). ebook available. S & S/McElderry. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442445628.

Duncan, Alexandra. Salvage. 528p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062220141.

E— Elkins, Sabrina. Stir Me Up. 268p. Harlequin Teen. 2013. ebk. $1.99. ISBN 9781459254732.

Fishman, Seth. The Well’s End. 352p. ebook available. Putnam. Feb. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399159909. LC 2013022716.

E—Freilich, Elisa. Silent Echo: A Siren’s Tale. 336p. Diversion. 2013. ebk. $3.99. ISBN 9781626810761.

Friend, Lizzie. Poor Little Dead Girls. 285p. Merit. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781440563959. LC 2013031470.

Frost, Mark. Alliance. Bk. 2. 352p. (The Paladin Prophecy). ebook available. Random. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780375870460.

Gottesfeld, Jeff. XO Ronette. Bk. 1. 158p. (Campus Confessions). Saddleback. 2013. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781622507016.

Grant, Michael. BZRK Reloaded. 432p. Egmont USA. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781606843949; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9781606843956. LC 2012025064.

Graudin, Ryan. All that Glows. 320p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Feb. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780062187413. LC 2013037285.

Gregory, Philippa. Stormbringers. Bk. 2. 327p. (Order of Darkness). S & S/Simon Pulse. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442476875. LC 2012050609.

Guillory, Sarah. Reclaimed. 296p. Spencer Hill. 2013. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781937053888; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9781937053895.

Haas, Abigail. Dangerous Girls. 388p. S & S/Simon Pulse. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442486591; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442486614. LC 2013008216.

Hale, Kathleen. No One Else Can Have You. 288p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062211194.

Hamilton, Kersten. When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears. Bk. 3. 388p. (Goblin Wars Series). Clarion. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780547739649. LC 2012029195.

Hawke, Rosanne. Spirit of a Mountain Wolf. 208p. ebook available. Scarlet Voyage. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781623240332. LC 2013943715.

Hodge, Rosamund. Cruel Beauty. 352p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Feb. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062224736.

Howard, A. G. Unhinged. 384p. ebook available. Abrams/Amulet. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419709715; pap. $9.73. ISBN 9781419710476.

Hurley, Tonya. Passionaries. Bk. 2. 368p. (The Blessed Series). S & S. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442429543. LC 2013019654.

Jayne, Hannah. See Jane Run. 288p. Sourcebooks/Fire. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781402282454.

Johnson, Peter. Out of Eden. 143p. Namelos. Feb. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781608981601; pap. $8.10. ISBN 9781608981618. LC 2013931031.

Jones, Darynda. Death and the Girl He Loves. Bk. 3. 272p. (Darklight Series). St. Martin’s Griffin. 2013. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780312625221. LC 2013025061.

Justesen, Kim Williams. The Deepest Blue. 292p. Tanglewood. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781933718903. LC 2013022122.

Kehoe, Stasia Ward. The Sound of Letting Go. 400p. ebook available. Viking. Feb. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780670015535. LC 2013013098.

Khoury, Jessica. Vitro. 384p. Penguin/Razorbill. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781595146052.

Klass, David. Grandmaster. 240p. Farrar. Feb. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374327712.

Kluver, Cayla. The Queen’s Choice. Bk. 1. 512p. (Heirs of Chrior Series). Harlequin Teen. Feb. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780373210923.

Kyi, Tanya Lloyd. Anywhere but Here. 320p. ebook available. S & S/Simon Pulse. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442480704; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781442480698.

Langston, Elizabeth. Whisper Falls. 328p. Spencer Hill. 2013. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781937053420; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9781937053444.

Larson, Sara B. Defy. 336p. Scholastic. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545597586; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545597630. LC 2013011011.

Leicht, Martin & Isla Neal. A Stranger Thing. Bk. 2. 279p. (The Ever-Expanding Universe Series). S & S. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442429635; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442429659. LC 2013025253.

Lewis, Amanda West. September 17. 313p. websites. Red Deer. Mar. 2014. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9780889955073.

Livingston, Lesley. Descendant. Bk. 2. 336p. (Starling Saga). ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062063106.

Ludwig, Elisa. Pretty Sly. 336p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. Mar. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062066091. LC 2012008898.

Lynch, Chris. The Right Fight. Bk. 1. 192p. (World War II Series). Scholastic. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545522946; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545522960.

E—Martin, Tracey. Another Little Piece of My Heart. 184p. Harlequin Teen. 2013. ebk. $2.99. ISBN 9781459254749.

Meyer, Kai. Arcadia Falls. tr. from German by Anthea Bell. Bk. 3. 480p. (Arcadia Trilogy). ebook available. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Feb. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062006103. LC 2013014512.

Mitchell, Saundra. Mistwalker. 320p. ebook available. Houghton Harcourt. Feb. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780547853154. LC 2013004144.

Moore, Kelly & Others. Neverwas. Bk. 2. 320p. (Amber House Series). Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545434188; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545576321. LC 2013020546.

Murphy, Julie. Side Effects May Vary. 336p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Mar. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062245359.

Napoli, Donna Jo. Storm. 368p. ebook available. S & S/Paula Wiseman Bks. Feb. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481403023. LC 2013026808.

Oh, Ellen. Warrior: A Prophecy Novel. 336p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062091123.

Polisner, Gae. The Summer of Letting Go. 320p. Algonquin. Mar. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781616202569. LC 2013038536.

Prendergast, Gabrielle. Audacious. 336p. ebook available. Orca. 2013. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781459805309. LC 2013936062.

Ramsey, Jo. Nail Polish and Feathers. 192p. ebook available. Harmony Ink. 2013. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781627980883.

Reedy, Trent. Divided We Fall. 384p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545543675; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545543699.

Reisz, Kristopher. The Drowned Forest. 264p. Flux. Feb. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780738739106. LC 2013032699.

Riggs, Ransom. Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children. 400p. photos. Quirk. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781594746123. LC 2013914959.

Rossi, Veronica. Into the Still Blue. Bk. 3. 400p. (Under the Never Sky Trilogy). ebook available. HarperCollins. Feb. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062072092.

Roux, Madeleine. Asylum. 313p. photos. HarperCollins/Harper. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062220967. LC 2013007302.

Rush, Jennifer. Erased. Bk. 2. 288p. (Altered Series). Little, Brown. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316197151; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316251891.

Rutkoski, Marie. The Winner’s Curse. Bk. 1. 368p. (The Winner’s Trilogy). ebook available. Farrar. Mar. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374384678. LC 2013000312.

Schrefer, Eliot. Threatened. 288p. Scholastic. Feb. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545551434; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545551441. LC 2013018599.

Skinner, Gard. Game Slaves. 336p. ebook available. Houghton Harcourt. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780547972596.

Smelcer, John. Lone Wolves. 190p. ilus. glossary. Leapfrog Press. 2013. Tr $16. ISBN 9781935248408.

Smith, Heather. Baygirl. 275p. Orca. 2013. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781459802742. LC 2013935299.

Stewart, Barbara. The In-Between. 256p. ebook available. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2013. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781250030160.

Templeman, McCormick. The Glass Casket. 352p. Delacorte. Feb. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385743457; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375991134; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780449813157. LC 2013001970.

Tracey, Scott. Phantom Eyes. Bk. 3. 408p. (Witch Eyes Series). Flux. 2013. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780738736594.

Weingarten, Lynn. The Book of Love. 272p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780061926204.

Yansky, Brian. Homicidal Aliens and Other Disappointments. 325p. Candlewick. 2013. RTE $16.99. ISBN 9780763659622; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780763667115. LC 2013931461.

York, Kelley. Made of Stars. 291p. Entangled Teen. 2013. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781622660209.

This article was published in School Library Journal's February 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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