Probably best known for her “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” series (Delacorte), Ann Brashares returns to the young adult world with a unique time travel novel. And, acclaimed Chris Lynch offers a quirky love story complete with mob bosses and acerbic wit. Teens looking for another paranormal romance fix will find it in Aprilynne Pike’s new series opener. From chick lit and urban fiction to the latest nonfiction and graphic novel innovations, the following books will intrigue teens and keep them coming for more.
Alexander, Kwame. The Crossover. 240p. Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544107717. LC 4500437263.
Gr 6-10–Twins Josh and Jordan are junior high basketball stars, thanks in large part to the coaching of their dad, a former professional baller who was forced to quit playing for health reasons, and the firm, but loving support of their assistant-principal mom. Josh, better known as Filthy McNasty, earned his nickname for his enviable skills on the court. In this novel in verse, the brothers begin moving apart from each other for the first time. Alexander’s poems vary from the pulsing, aggressive beats of a basketball game to the more introspective musings of a child struggling into adolescence. Underscoring the sports and the fraternal tension is a portrait of a family that truly loves and supports one another. Alexander has crafted a story that vibrates with energy and heart and begs to be read aloud.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal.
Brashares, Ann. The Here and Now. 256p. Delacorte. Apr. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780385736800; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780307976154; lib. ed. $21.99. ISBN 9780385906296.
Gr 9 Up–Prenna’s part of a select group of people who not only survived the Blood Plagues but also immigrated to present-day New York from more than 80 years in the future. Bound by rules that force her to sacrifice her personal freedoms and isolate herself from the local community, also known as Time Natives, Prenna can’t help developing a close, yet guarded friendship with a classmate, Ethan Jarves.. When a local indigent man, who mysteriously knows about the Travelers’ origins, prophesizes a time fork on May 17, Ethan and Prenna are launched into a plan to stop a murder that could save the future of mankind. The story moves along at a compelling pace with enough foreshadowing and plot twists to keep the pages turning. The Here and Now has a satisfying ending that only slightly hints at what would be a welcome sequel.–Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD
Carleson, J. C. The Tyrant’s Daughter. 304p. further reading. websites. Knopf. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780449809976; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780449809983; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780449810002. LC 2013014783.
Gr 9 Up–Growing up in an unidentified Middle Eastern country, Laila had no reason to question her parents’ narrative–her father was king, and her privileged life was one afforded by birthright. Now in a suburb of Washington, DC, the 15-year-old is exposed for the first time to a Western view of both her homeland and father. The news reports of a tyrant whose regime was responsible for atrocities against its people are at odds with her memories of a loving parent. Laila struggles to adjust to American life. Although Laila’s mother is still embroiled in dealings with the CIA, this smart, complex novel refrains from falling into clandestine spy tropes and deftly shows that innocents get caught on both sides of any conflict. The concluding pages leave Laila’s story open-ended, but readers will hope that the teen’s good nature continues to prevail.–Amanda Mastrull, School Library Journal
Colbert, Brandy. Pointe. 352p. Putnam. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399160349.
Gr 9 Up–Theo, 17, is determined to become one of the few African American professional ballet dancers. While she’s preparing for a high-stakes audition, flirting with a new crush, and recovering from a bout of anorexia, she learns that her best friend, Donovan, who went missing four years earlier, has suddenly returned. Donovan’s kidnapper was Theo’s former boyfriend, an adult who lied about his age to the then-13-year-old dancer. Theo thought what she and Trent (aka Chris) had was love, but she gradually realizes that it was actually something more sinister. Debut author Colbert bravely chooses realistic, if not necessarily happy resolutions to some subplots. Libraries where All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry (Viking, 2013), Bunheads by Sophie Flack (Little, Brown, 2011), and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking, 2009) are popular will want to consider this title, as will those seeking to enhance their collection of books by and about strong African American women.–Jill Ratzan, I. L. Peretz Community Jewish School, Somerset, NJ
Lynch, Chris. Little Blue Lies. 224p. S & S. Mar. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442440081; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442440104.
Gr 10 Up–Oliver and Junie’s relationship thrives on lies. Together they are glib, sarcastic, and rarely serious, but they’re in love. That is, they used to be, because Junie broke up with Oliver and now she’s gone, possibly on the run from the local mob boss, the One Who Knows. Still desperately in love with her, Oliver wants to find and protect Junie, but how can he help someone who doesn’t want to be found? This quirky novel from the Printz Honor-winning Lynch is charmingly clever and witty. Although he is somewhat oblivious to his socioeconomic privilege and emotionally clueless, readers will root for him because of his devotion to saving Junie. Lynch’s staccato and ironic style is highly readable. Readers who aren’t sure what they want to do with their life after high school will find that this book’s light and honest approach to figuring it out rings true.–Joy Piedmont, LREI, New York City
Pike, Aprilynne. Sleep No More. 352p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780061999031; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062209269.
Gr 9 Up–High school student Charlotte Westing isn’t like her peers. She’s an Oracle, and she is not allowed to tell anyone. Modern Oracles are forbidden to alter the future. Her new visions are too powerful, however, and break through all of Charlotte’s defenses. The bloody and gruesome scenes she sees are of a serial killer’s victims–her classmates. After a second murder, Charlotte gets a text from a stranger named Smith, imploring her to change the future and prevent more attacks. He can show her how, if she’ll just let him into her mind. Can Charlotte change the future without repercussions? Pike’s newest novel is a thrilling paranormal mystery with a hint of romance. Charlotte’s situation as an outsider is universal, even while the cause is firmly rooted in the realm of fiction. Teen girls, fans of Pike’s previous novels, and those who are just discovering her will enjoy this unique, quick read.–Heather Miller Cover, Homewood Public Library, AL
Schmidt, Tiffany. Bright Before Sunrise. 304p. Walker. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802735003.
Gr 8 Up–Jonah Prentiss, the new guy at Cross Pointe High School, spends his days alone and silent. Instead of attending this wealthy suburban school, he would rather be back at his old school in Hamilton, only a few miles away in distance, but on the opposite side of the universe in terms of economics. He goes back to Hamilton as often as he can to see his girlfriend and old buddies. At his new school, he reluctantly befriends Brighton Waterford, a popular and spirited school leader who tries to recruit Jonah to help with service projects. Even when he lashes out at her, Brighton continues to be sweet and friendly. Brighton and Jonah end up going to a party together and help each other uncover some of the deeper issues each faces. The story takes place all in one long evening and ends with a good bit of romance as the two find they have more in common than they first thought. This book will appeal to readers who enjoy realistic fiction and love stories.–Diana Pierce, formerly at Leander High School, TX
Smith, Jennifer E. The Geography of You and Me. 352p. Little, Brown/Poppy. Apr. 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316254779; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316254748.
Gr 7 Up–Lucy and Owen meet in a stalled elevator in their New York City apartment building when a blackout affects the northeast. The two are rescued and spend the remaining night wandering the dark streets, admiring the star-filled sky, and picnicking on the roof. The next morning the power returns and with it the reality of their situation. The two are pulled in opposite directions as Lucy and her family move to London and Owen and his father trek westward across the United States. Although they are separated by thousands of miles, the teens can’t forget each other. This contemporary YA novel focuses on themes of family, life after loss, and long-distance relationships. Readers will enjoy experiencing different cities and countries through the protagonists’ eyes. Fans of Sarah Dessen, Elizabeth Eulberg, and Susane Colasanti will enjoy Smith’s latest meet-cute romance.–Tiffany Davis, Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh, NY
The following graphic novels will entice fans who are new and familiar with the manga format.
Dillies, Renaud. Betty Blues. tr. from French by Joe Johnson. illus. by Renaud Dillies. 80p. NBM/ComicsLit. 2013. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781561637584. LC 2013944726.
Gr 10 Up–In this noir-inspired graphic novel, Rice Duck is one of the best trumpet players in the West Wood. When his girlfriend, Betty, leaves him for a slick millionaire, he throws away his horn and skips town to try and cope with his loss. With little backstory, it’s hard to get truly invested in these characters and their relationships, but some dream sequences do provide background in an abstract way. However, once the main characters really start to develop and learn about what they have taken for granted, the story abruptly ends, which readers will find either poignant or frustrating. Though the story is lacking in parts, the illustrations are flawless; drawings are heavily shaded, leaving a bit of grit and rawness that perfectly matches the dismal tone and filthy settings. Slinky characters with oblong angles bring jazz-fueled craziness to life. Like a jazz song, Betty Blues is a short but wild ride that doesn’t hit all the notes just right but comes together in the end and lingers well after the music is over.–Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI
Sazanami, Ichiya. Black Bard. tr. from Japanese by Julianne Neville. illus. by Ichiya Sazanami. 544p. One Peace. 2013. pap. $18.95. ISBN 9781935548386.
Gr 9 Up–The Black Bard wanders the medieval lands. With his gothic attire, good looks, and harp at his side, he serves no master, performing for anyone willing to appreciate his songs. On his travels, he encounters the menacing Witch Queen, a crew of pirates, magicians, and man beasts. It’s rumored that the Bard’s music is imbued with magic. Could this be why the powerful March Bunny Association is after the Black Bard? And what of his quest to find out why the Crimson Empire vanished thousands of years ago? Black-and-white art features strong use of dark tones, emphasizing the gothic style. The magical and mysterious world showcases silhouettes, paper cuts, and effective use of white space. Readers will enjoy exploring the detailed panels. The story line is character-driven, unfolding at a leisurely pace with nice plot twists. While references to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland appear in character names, designs, and images, this book is not a remake. Characters are well written, and the secrets are revealed with a deft hand. A small percentage of the Japanese text for signage and sound effects has been retouched or subtitled into English. The complete three-volume manga series is published in a single omnibus. Recommended for readers who enjoy fantastical journeys with a minimum of violence and gore.–June Shimonishi, Torrance Public Library, CA
For those interested in nonfiction, take a look at these stellar offerings that range in subject from women’s and music history to sea adventures.
Gibson, Karen Bush. Women in Space: 23 Stories of First Flights, Scientific Missions, and Gravity-Breaking Adventures. 234p. (Women of Action Series). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Chicago Review. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781613748442. LC 2013024950.
Gr 7-10–In the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States, the first woman in space was the Soviet, Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963. America’s first female astronaut, Sally Ride, went into space in 1983. This book details the stories of 19 others from across the globe who overcame obstacles of prejudice to fly in space. They include four Soviet women, Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar, Japanese doctor Chiaki Mukai, French astronaut Claude Andre-Deshays Haignere, and Yi Soyeon, the first Korean in space. The story of the Mercury 13 is fascinating; 15 women were selected by NASA in the late 1950s. Successful pilots and scientists, they trained, as did the (male) crew of the Mercury 7, but then were not allowed to travel. Each chapter contains photographs and “Learn More” suggested readings. Sidebars are scattered throughout the book. This volume is a companion to the author’s Women Aviators (Chicago Review, 2013) and an important addition to women’s-history collections.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Colls., Mt. Carmel
Parker, Maceo. 98% Funky Stuff: My Life in Music. 208p. Chicago Review. 2013. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781613743461. LC 2012037923.
Gr 7-10–If readers do not have the same respect for Parker’s name that the musician had for his idol, Ray Charles, that is likely to have changed by the time they finish reading this biography of a music prodigy and one of the best saxophone players in the music business. Drawn to the piano as a toddler, Parker astonished his parents with an innate ability that they eagerly fostered throughout his childhood, although a spur-of-the-moment impression from a parade led the young impresario to change to the saxophone, and he never looked back. The narrative deftly handles the firsthand view of civil-rights issues and the historical events pertinent to the author, making this a relevant book for school libraries. Where the text shines is in the author’s handling of the musicians with whom he played. No foibles and difficulties such as drugs, [James] Brown’s legal difficulties, and band squabbles are overlooked, and the text still manages to include a solid picture of the life of an artist and the evolution of funk music.–Betsy Fraser, Calgary Public Library, Canada
Tougias, Michael J. & Casey Sherman. The Finest Hours: The True Story of a Heroic Sea Rescue. 176p. bibliog. photos. Holt/Christy Ottaviano. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805097641.
Gr 6 Up–This “young readers” adaptation of The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue (Scribner, 2009) tells the story of the 1952 rescue of 70 men (and the deaths of 14 more) aboard two oil tankers that were heavily damaged 20 miles apart during a fierce winter storm off Cape Cod. At times it reads as a character-driven narrative, with short, biographical sketches of many of the men; at other times, it speeds up with the pulse-pounding pace of a thriller. The authors ably capture the drama of the situation: seas at times reaching well over 50 feet, the “shudder and earsplitting crash” of a ship tossed on the waves, the pain screaming through the body of a man waiting to scramble out of the frigid water. This poignant history should be an easy sell to readers of adventure, seafaring, or rescue stories. A Disney film is in development.–Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA
Werle, Simone. 13 Fashion Styles Children Should Know. tr. from German by Cynthia Hall. 48p. chron. glossary. photos. reprods. Prestel. 2013. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9783791371344.
Gr 6-10–The new freedom in women’s clothing that began with the banishment of the corset is displayed in this decade-by-decade introduction to fashions of the past century. Overlapping time lines give a broad look at the trends, covering 30 to 40 years each and highlighting significant designers as well as major historical influences. The generously sized layout varies from a single spread for the 1980s to the addition of a Harajuku spread for the 1990s. Content for each section includes significant “fashionistas” and designers, plus makeup, hairstyles, and accessories trends. The pages are light on text, but the colors are bold, and there are plenty of photos. Occasional fashion tips, activities, and “Test Yourself” insets add depth and versatility. The concluding 21st-century (“Look What I’m Wearing”) section references the overarching influence of social media and asserts that today, anyone can be a trendsetter. Readers will find inspiration galore, plus plenty to explore in this well-designed look at a century of fashion work.–Carol S. Surges, formerly at Longfellow Middle School, Wauwatosa, WI
And from SLJ’s Adult Books 4 Teens blog, a book that would be perfect for fans of “The Hunger Games” (Scholastic) and “Divergent” (HarperCollins) dystopian series .
BROWN, Pierce. Red Rising. 400p. Del Rey: Ballantine. 2014. Tr $25. ISBN 9780345539786; ebk. ISBN 9780345539793.
Adult/High School–For three years, Darrow, 16, has been a hot-tempered helldiver, drilling deep beneath the surface of Mars for helium-3, the lifeblood of the terraforming process that will someday make the planet habitable for future generations. Darrow is a Red, the lowly class of laborers in a color-coded caste system crowned by Golds who rule with ruthless authority. After his wife, Eo, is executed for a simple defiance, Darrow also finds himself in the hangman’s noose. He survives through the effort of rebels who want to overthrow the Golds. Evoking the tribal tensions and intrigues of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones (Bantam, 1996), Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games (Scholastic, 2008), and the TV show “Survivor,” Red Rising will carry readers far beyond those entertainments with powerful writing, vivid world-building, and captivating characters that teens will love, loathe, and want more of in the volumes to come.–John Sexton, Greenburgh Public Library, NY
This article was featured in School Library Journal's SLJTeen enewsletter. Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you twice a month for free.