From mind-numbing thrillers to the always-sinister doll-infested spine-tinglers, the following young adult novels will inspire teens to keep the lights on way past curfew. Readers beware!
Blacker, Terence. The Twyning. 432p. Candlewick. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763669027. LC 2013955665.
Gr 7-10 –Set in an unnamed year in London’s past, an orphan known as Dogboy and a young rat named Efren must work together to save both of their societies. When the rat king dies, it is Efren who sees the truth of the matter and must work with Dogboy to prevent an all-out war between humans and rats. Told in alternating chapters between the rodent and human protagonists, Blacker’s novel introduces both the world of Dickensian street orphans and the hierarchical rat kingdom. The suspense builds as the characters’ worlds come closer and into conflict. This book will appeal to readers who are looking for a step up from the “Redwall” series (Philomel), but are still interested in an action adventure filled with a magical merging of the known human and mythical animal worlds. However, gory elements might make it a bit scary for some elementary-aged readers. The primary weakness in this novel is the similarity between the voices of Dogboy and Efren. Still, both characters are relatable and readers will cheer for them as they find strength and grow in their adventures. For a book with a dire and at times bloody premise, the overall mood of hope and friendship will sustain readers long after they finish.
Sullivan, Kiki. The Dolls. 384p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Sept. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780062281487; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062281494.
Gr 9 Up –Eveny Cheval’s life is turned upside down when she and her Aunt Bea move away from their New York home just before her 17th birthday. Eveny hasn’t set foot in Carrefour, Louisiana since her mother’s suicide 14 years earlier. Returning now, she is stunned by the stately old houses and the pristine gardens. Even her new classmates are flawlessly beautiful—so much so that most people call them the Dolls. Drawn in by Peregrine Marceau and Chloe St. Pierre, Eveny is soon at the center of the decadence that is the Dolls’s world. But beneath the wealth and charm, Carrefour is hiding a secret, one that leads to murder and dark turths about Eveny and her past. Atmospheric writing and genuine chills enhance this story that is populated with familiar mean girls, gorgeous boys, and a generally clever narrator. Sullivan capitalizes on the Southern setting here to spine-tingling effect as the story moves in a surprising direction involving voodoo magic and sinister forces at work around Carrefour. Sure to be popular with fans of the “Vampire Academy” (Razorbill), “Hex Hall” (Hyperion), “Caster Chronicles” (Little, Brown) or “Pretty Little Liars” (HarperCollins) series.
Tucholke, April Genevieve. Between the Spark and the Burn. 320p. Dial. Aug. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803740471.
Gr 10 Up –In this conclusion to Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Dial, 2013), a restless Violet is itching to leave the little town of Echo. She longs for news of liar and mind-manipulating River Redding, like a self-aware junkie bent on her next score. Taking travel cues from a late-night radio show pedaling supernatural tales, and joined by a cast of new, old, and always uniquely depicted misfits, Violet follows reports of devil-boy and sea-god sightings, on the chance she’ll be reunited with River or put an end to sadistic half-brother Brodie. Her growing attraction to River’s superior, self-sacrificing brother, Neely, occasionally and refreshingly tempers her lust for the former. Disturbing yet sensual flashbacks via grandmother Freddie’s newly discovered journal further illustrate the intoxicating, perilous path of a Redding boy abusing his power and the dangers of loving one. The lush and polished prose, eerie locales, and pervading sense of dark unease are as engrossing they were in the first installment. Like Violet, readers may miss the gloriously deteriorating Citizen Kane; fortunately Tulchoke’s new settings, especially Captain Nemo, prove as distinct and dangerous. While not quite as gripping as the first book, the twists, secrets, and Redding-brand mayhem make this a worthy successor. The open-ended conclusion will leave readers hypothesizing the fates of Citizen Kane’s increasingly hodgepodge inhabitants.
Vaught, Susan. Insanity. 300p. Bloomsbury. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781599907840; ebk. ISBN 9781599908397.
Gr 7 Up –The spirits living at Lincoln Psychiatric Hospital in Never, Kentucky, are restless, creepy, and memorable. They don’t play nice with the four teen employees who each tell a different story. Forest meets a dead teen whose job is to help others cross over; Darius, haunted by the words of his grandmother, must defeat the ghost of his murdering grandfather; Trina, a witch, is at odds with her father who is out to exterminate those with Madoc blood; and Levi, a lost soul, helps connect the four stories. The secrets that lurk in the tunnels of the hospital are revealed throughout. While the novel is eerie, the magical powers that are introduced tame the darker elements. Readers will appreciate the way that Vaught has brought the four tales together to an overall climax but first brings each story to its own conclusion. At times, the stories stray a bit, but readers will want to stick with it as Vaught has made the ending worth the trip. Teens looking for an eerie ghost story will want to check this one out.
Vega, Danielle. The Merciless. 288p. Penguin/Razorbill. Aug. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781595147226; ebk. ISBN 9781101631317.
Gr 10 Up –Sofia just moved to a new town. With a mom who works for the military, this is nothing new. What sets this particular move apart is when three of the prettiest, most popular girls in her new high school befriend her. While Sofia may not share the ultra-Christian values of her new comrades Riley, Alexis, and Grace, it doesn’t prevent her from forming a strong bond with them shortly after meeting. The trio confide in her about Brooklyn, the punkish, rebellious girl whom they fear may be possessed by the devil. When Riley takes the drastic step of kidnapping Brooklyn to exorcise the demon she fears is inside of her, Sofia first fights for what she believes to be right before being pushed into a battle for her very survival. This pulse-pounding, debut novel creates a wickedly creepy atmosphere where mean girls quickly turn homicidal. Readers may wince in pain as Riley cuts the sins out of her victims with a butcher knife, proving this story is not for the faint of heart. Still, it’s a perfect book to give to older teens in need of satiating their potentially voracious horror appetites.