Sexual orientation is a big part of a teen’s identity and the protagonists in the latest books for young adults grapple with that complex question, including Alyssa Brugman’s Alex as Well, Samantha Hale’s Everything Changes, and an anthology of writings by teens from Harmony Ink Press. Also making waves are clever spins on timeless tales, including Sarah Cross’s Tear You Apart and Althea Kontis’s Dearest. And, horror masters Barry Lyga and R.L. Stine are joined by newcomer Courtney Alameda with her spine-tingling Shutter. The following works are sure to pique teens’ interest and keep them coming back for more.
Adrian, Susan. Tunnel Vision. 320p. St. Martin’s Griffin. Jan. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250047922; ebk. ISBN 9781250047915.
Gr 7 U –Jake Lukin has a secret talent: if he holds an object that belongs to a person, he can instantaneously “tunnel” to that person—envisioning them physically, pinpointing their location, seeing what they see, feeling what they feel. After Jake reveals his skill at a high school party, he quickly finds himself on the run from government agents who would harness his talents for their own purposes. This YA novel is a heart-racing thriller set at full throttle from the opening page, and it never decelerates.
Alameda, Courtney. Shutter. 384p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250044679.
Gr 8 Up –A paranormal ghost-hunting story that is a standout in the genre. With the ability to see spiritual auras, Micheline and her tetrachromat crew are the fiercest cadets in the Helsing Corps, an organization with an illustrious history that specializes in dealing with the undead. However, when they aggressively enter a dangerous situation they are unable to control, each of them is infected with a soulchain that will turn deadly if they are unable to break it within seven days. Through detailed scientific processes that are richly explained, Alameda has created a unique world of ghosts, reapers, and exorcisms. Frightening from the first page, this novel is sure to please horror fans, particularly those familiar with ghost and vampire legends.
Bao, Karen. Dove Arising. 336p. (Dove Chronicles: Bk. 1). ebook available. Viking. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780451469014. LC 2013041198.
Gr 7 Up –Set on the Moon in the not-so-distant future, this series opener follows an introverted teenager who has spent her life working hard and obeying the rules of the Committee, the governing body of the Moon. Water has been scarce and money is tight, but Phaet and her mother always find a way to provide for her little brother and sister since Phaet’s father’s death nine years earlier. When the teen’s mother is quarantined, however, it is up to her to find a way to keep her family out of the filthy, poverty-stricken district known as “Shelter.” Though it means deferring her dream of studying to become a scientist, the protagonist decides to join the Moon’s Militia. Competition is fierce, and Phaet will need to work harder than ever before and learn everything she can from the top trainee, a quiet boy named Wes, who often seems more machine than human. Perceptive readers will recognize a burgeoning romance between the pair. Fans of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game (Tor, 1985), Veronica Roth’s Divergent (HarperCollins, 2011) and Marie Lu’s Legend (Putnam, 2011) should flock to this well-written debut effort by 19-year-old Bao.
Bliss, Bryan. No Parking at the End of Times. 272p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062275417.
Gr 8 Up –This haunting and elegiac tale opens with Abigail and her family living in a van parked on the San Francisco streets. Months earlier, Abby’s unemployed father took the family from their North Carolina home to follow “Brother John” across the country to a place where they would all meet the end of days together. The world was due to end at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Now it’s January, the world did not end, and Abby, her twin brother Aaron, and her parents still have no home. With no school to attend, Abby and Aaron’s only escape from the close confines of the van is the predatory self-anointed preacher’s “church” (an empty store). Abby wants to continue to be the good girl her parents expect and to protect her brother from getting mixed up in dangerous street drama, but most of all, she wants to go home. Bliss offers a stark portrayal of a family lost and a searing perspective on homelessness. An interesting choice for book discussion and recommended for readers of realistic fiction.
Brugman, Alyssa. Alex As Well. 224p. Holt. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781627790147.
Gr 10 Up –Fifteen-year-old Alex Stringfellow has lived her entire life feeling like she’s two people, male and female. Though previously identified as male, Alex decides to begin living as a female. What Alex doesn’t know is that she was born intersex, and her parents had chosen not to tell her. To make her transition to living as a female easier, Alex enrolls in a new school where she quickly makes friends. While her adjustment is mostly smooth, Alex is concerned about how her friends will react if they find out she’s a lesbian or if they find out about her “noodle.” Her transition at home is less easy. After telling her parents, “I’m a girl,” Alex’s father leaves home and her mother struggles with Alex’s gender identity and often handles it with fits, abuse, and attempts to control her child. Brugman tackles a sensitive issue with grace and grit. The strong protagonist often acts with more maturity than her parents. This work is best suited for fans of problem novels, teens struggling with identity issues of all kinds, and readers looking for a good contemporary fiction title that has teeth.
Carey, Janet Lee. In the Time of Dragon Moon. 480p. Penguin/Kathy Dawson Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803738102; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781101593851.
Gr 8 Up –Uma has always had difficulty finding acceptance within the Euit tribe in which she has grown up. Her father is the Adan, the Euit tribal healer, but her mother is an English midwife. Uma serves as her father’s apprentice and dreams of succeeding him as Adan one day, but Euit tribal law forbids a woman as a healer. When English soldiers invade the village and abduct her father, Uma is taken with him to the royal court at Pendragon Castle, where her father is commanded to provide a cure for the queen’s infertility on pain of death. When she becomes the queen’s designated healer, Uma is soon embroiled in deadly court intrigues involving dragons and the fey folk. Set in the same world as Carey’s Dragon’s Keep (Harcourt, 2007) and Dragonswood (Dial, 2012), this title can be read independently. The author’s world-building is detailed and fascinating, and Uma is a strong, admirable heroine.
Carter, Ally. All Fall Down. 320p. (Embassy Row: Bk. 1). Scholastic. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545654746; ebk. ISBN 9780545654784.
Gr 8 Up –As she has been told repeatedly, Grace Blakely’s mother was killed in an unfortunate fire that destroyed the small antiques shop she owned. But Grace was there, and she remembers the gun, the bullet wound in her mother’s chest, a man with a facial scar, and an explosion just before the shop was engulfed in flames. After three years in treatment for post-traumatic stress, the 16-year-old has returned to where she spent her childhood. With her father constantly away on military missions, she’s once again living in the U.S. embassy in Adria, Italy, where her grandfather serves as ambassador. She knows everyone thinks she’s crazy, but the teen is determined to prove that her mother was murdered. As the ambassador’s granddaughter, she is expected to observe embassy protocol, but when she spots a man with the same facial scar she remembers from the antiques shop, her reaction threatens U.S. diplomatic relations with every country on Embassy Row, not to mention Adria itself. Grace’s justifiable anger and spunk are sure to resonate with teens. With its intrigue and clever plot twists, this series opener will leave readers hungering for more.
Cross, Sarah. Tear You Apart. 384p. Egmont USA. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781606845912; ebk. ISBN 9781606845929.
Gr 8 Up –An otherworldly spin on the “Snow White” fairy tale and a companion novel to Kill Me Softly (Egmont USA, 2012). Seventeen-year-old Viv Deneuve is the Snow White figure in this tale. A dark-haired beauty with blood red lips, Viv is a sitting duck. If her jealous stepmother doesn’t poison her first, then her cursed boyfriend Henley is charged with hunting Viv down and cutting out her heart. Her only chance of survival is to stay as far away from Henley as possible, but that’s hard to do when she is desperately in love with him. When Viv is invited to an underworld club by the same prince who is supposed to break her curse, she wonders if she can leave Henley and her heart behind. But Prince Jasper isn’t Prince Charming. And once Viv enters the underworld, Jasper’s father isn’t going to let her go home. The protagonist decides to take her fate into her own hands. Cross deftly takes the all-too-familiar Disney fairy tale tropes (fair maiden, handsome prince) and turns them on their heads. These tales are dark and sinister (Viv worries her prince has a dead girl fetish) and filled with a diverse cast of characters. A great read for fans of the television show, Once Upon A Time.
Dickerson, Melanie. The Princess Spy. 304p. ebook available. Zondervan. 2014. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780310730989.
Gr 9 Up –It’s April 1413, and 18-year-old Margaretha, eldest daughter of Duke Wilhelm of Hagenheim, is reluctantly entertaining the pursuit of her latest suitor, Rowland Fortescue, Earl of Claybrook, when a handsome, severely injured stranger, Colin, arrives. The heroine is immediately drawn to the alluring young man and the daunting information he insists that he must share with her father—information that could put her and her entire family at risk, but could also save their lives. Talkative, sheltered, and carefree, Margaretha must undertake the task of spying on Lord Claybrook and his men to learn for herself if what Colin has warned her of is true and if so, how she can save her family from certain death. The story and the characters are believable, and the author seamlessly weaves details about this Holy Roman Empire village and courtly life, while maintaining the narrative’s even pace. An appropriate title for teens who enjoy princess-themed Christian romance.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. A Study in Scarlet. illus. by Gris Grimly. 288p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062293756.
Gr 7 Up –A great way to introduce young adult readers to Sherlock Holmes. This unabridged version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1887 novel has been updated with Grimly’s signature dark and stylized illustrations. The artwork suits the sinister, bizarre nature of the tale—the characters have crazy, twisted hairstyles, super skinny necks, and are reminiscent of graphic-novel figures. Readers will quickly become absorbed in the story of the first time that Holmes meets his future partner Watson, who has just returned from an exhausting military stint in Afghanistan. Even though this mystery was originally published in a bygone era, the sinister plot will hook modern-day readers. Hand it to teens and expect them to come back for more literature from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Dunn, Patricia. Rebels by Accident. 320p. ebook available. Sourcebooks Fire. Dec. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781492601388.
Gr 9 Up –Miriam and her best friend Deanna land in jail following an ill-advised attempt to crash a party shortly before the police arrived. Egyptian American Miriam, always kept on a tight leash by her parents, is convinced her life will end following the party incident. Instead, she’s handed a worse fate; her irate parents send her to Egypt to live with her notoriously strict Sittu (grandmother). Deanna’s mother decides that she should go, too, so they are promptly shipped off together. Sittu, however, strikes little resemblance to the harsh woman described by Miriam’s father and clearly has a few secrets up her sleeve, as they begin to suspect her online activities have something to do with the civil unrest bubbling up around them. Miriam and Deanna’s trip coincides with the dawn of the Arab Spring on the eve of the protests in Tahrir Square. Miriam’s growing self-awareness and reluctant connection to her Egyptian identity and Sittu are the primary focus. A sweet coming-of-age tale that sheds light on the plight of anyone who feels like an outsider.
Falkoff, Michelle. Playlist for the Dead. 288p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062310507; ebk. ISBN 9780062310521.
Gr 9 Up –Accustomed to operating outside of the major social scene, Sam is disappointed when a rare party he attends is ruined by a fight with his best friend, Hayden. Disappointment fades quickly when he discovers that Hayden killed himself afterward. Rocked by the tragedy, Sam is left puzzling over tracks that his friend left for a playlist and struggling to figure out who he is without Hayden around. Despite the heavy subject matter, the overall tone of the book is less somber than the title would indicate, and it is a quick, engaging read. Falkoff nails the war-zone mentality and painful symbiosis of high school friendships. The mixture of grief, anger, and guilt that Sam works through is realistic and well written, and his reactions to Hayden’s music choices further illuminates not only his struggle but also how their friendship was beginning to change. The strong characters, dialogue and the use of the playlist to structure the book make this a good pick for struggling readers. Hand this to fans of the movie Superbad and Spotify-obsessives.
Feinstein, John. The Walk On. 368p. (Triple Threat: Bk. 1). Knopf. 2014. lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385753470; Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385753463; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385753487. LC 2013044495.
Gr 6 Up –This book begins with freshman Alex Myers, a new transplant to Chester Heights, PA, at varsity football tryouts where he meets fellow newbie, Jonas Ellington. Unbelievably, both are superior to the upperclassmen in their positions, quarterback for Alex and wideout for Jonas. Dictated by the quest for another State Championship, and the subsequent scholarship offers for upperclassmen, high school football politics kick in, and Alex finds himself playing backup behind two lesser quarterbacks. The starting quarterback, who happens to be Head Coach Gordon’s son, quickly honors Alex with the nickname “Goldie” in recognition of Alex’s faultless throwing arm. While most of the school blindly cheers the dictates of Coach Gordon, the school newspaper is a breeding ground of investigative reporters, one being freshman Christine Whitford. Football action on the field, suspicious events off the field, combined with modern dilemmas faced by both teen and adult characters, make this coming-of-age story a page-turner for all mystery and sports fans. Feinstein’s latest is an excellent addition to sports-fiction collections.
Ford, John C. The Cipher. 320p. ebook available. Viking. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780670015429.
Gr 9 Up –Robert “Smiles” Smylie is a slacker who barely gets by in life. He is surrounded by geniuses–from his father, who invented a key encryption code used by every secure website in the world, to Ben, his best friend who is convinced he has solved The Riemann Hypothesis, a virtually unsolvable mathematical principle involving prime numbers. Smiles tries to prove his worth by accompanying Ben to a conference where he hopes to show his father that he is truly worth something. When Ben gets kidnapped by people who don’t want his work to see the light of day, Smiles must use his intellect and street smarts to help his friend, potentially changing the world in the process. Ford has written a unique story involving dense mathematics principles and makes them accessible to a young audience. The thriller aspects of the story are exciting and keep the pages turning. The design of the book enhances the experience; the chapter numbers, for example, are all prime numbers. The Cipher is an exciting tale with a twist ending that teens will enjoy.
Forman, Gayle. I Was Here. 288p. Viking. Jan. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780451471475; ebk. ISBN 9780698170544.
Gr 9 Up –Cody and Meg have been inseparable since childhood. They planned to leave their small town in Washington and move to Seattle to go to college, but that changed when Meg got a full scholarship to a small, prestigious private college in Tacoma, WA. Having no scholarships or money saved, Cody is now stuck in town, cleaning houses to have a little bit of money to give to her mom toward living expenses and to take a couple classes at the local community college. Those classes have gone by the wayside, though, since news came of Meg’s suicide. Meticulously planned, her former best friend ordered a poison that had a high fatality rate, and sent emails to friends and family on a timed delay so that no one could interfere with her fatal decision. Cody struggles to figure out why Meg took her own life and puzzles over a suspicious line in her friend’s suicide email. The distraught but determined teen begins to encrypt files on Meg’s laptop, which lead her to a suicide support group and posts from All_BS, a Pied Piper–type character who encourages suicide as a way out. As she goes further down the rabbit hole, Cody comes to the realization that she needs to forgive Meg, and, more importantly, herself. Teens will clamor for this latest offering from the author of If I Stay (Dutton, 2009). Have multiple copies in your collection.
Gibbons, Faye. Halley. 208p. NewSouth. 2014. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781588382900; ebk. ISBN 9781603063289. LC 2014933020.
Gr 7 Up –As this historical novel opens, the title character, a 14-year-old girl living in the mountains of Georgia, is recording her father’s recent death in the family bible. After this sad start, things only get harder for Halley, her younger brother, and their mother Kate. They move in with Kate’s parents: a cruel preacher, his put-upon wife, and their youngest son. Kate takes a dangerous job at the local mill, while every action Halley tries to improve their lot—taking on sewing jobs to raise money to buy a gravestone for her father, trying to get accepted to a boarding school for farmers’ children—is thwarted by her vicious grandfather. He steals her savings, whips her brother, intercepts her mail, and tries to stop his children from marrying the people they love. Gibbons perfectly captures the cadences of Georgia hill country speech; it is rhythmic and lovely, even when the characters are speaking of hard, rough things. The plot is compelling as the author adeptly covers loss, coming of age, and small-town attitudes and values without sugarcoating. Gibbons expertly depicts the complexity in “simple” mountain life. With shades of Richard Peck in this novel’s DNA, Gibbons’s tale features a strong and unique voice.
Hale, Samantha. Everything Changes. 264p. Bold Strokes/Soliloquy. 2014. pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781626393035.
Gr 9 Up –For several months, 17-year-old Raven has become increasingly aware that she is not attracted to boys. No member of the opposite sex has ever caused her heart to flutter. Then Raven meets Morgan, an art student at a nearby college, and she experiences fireworks for the first time. When the older girl offers to help Raven prepare for her art history midterm, she accepts the offer. The tutoring session concludes with Raven giving Morgan an awkward kiss, and the two later express their mutual attraction. Morgan, who is openly gay, offers patience and reassurance to the teen, agreeing to keep their relationship secret until she feels comfortable telling others. Raven discovers that in order to live her life, she must be honest with everyone about her sexual orientation. Readers will feel Raven’s anguish as she wonders if the comfort and pleasure of acceptance from family and friends will evaporate once she opens up to them. Hale’s novel will be enjoyed by all teens, but especially those experiencing life decisions similar to Raven’s. An honest and sympathetic portrayal of coming to terms with one’s sexual identity.
Hand, Cynthia. The Last Time We Say Goodbye. 400p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Harper. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062318473.
Gr 8 Up –For Lex, since her brother committed suicide, questions about their last goodbye have haunted her. Filled with regret, she ponders their last words and not being able to show him how much she loved him while he was still alive. The narrative unravels in perfect pacing, drawing readers into this emotional story. With a rocky home life in a small town in Nebraska, Lex begins pulling away from her friends, breaks up with her boyfriend, and struggles with life in general. When her therapist, Dave, assigns her the task of writing down her thoughts in a journal, flashbacks of the siblings’ relationship and the protagonist’s interactions with their parents fill in the gaps. Raw, emotional, and gripping, this book is Hand’s first realistic fiction title, and fans of her popular “Unearthly” series (HarperCollins) will follow her genre change willingly. An excellent and thoughtful exploration of grief.
Harmonious Hearts: A Harmony Ink Press Anthology. 294p. Harmony Ink. 2014. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781632161864; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9781632161888.
Gr 9 Up –In the publisher’s first Young Author Challenge anthology, the authors of these LGBTQ short stories range in age from 16 to 21. The stories share common themes of hope, love, acceptance, and happiness. The entries include many genres, such as fairy tales, the supernatural, science fiction, fantasy, and realism. Standouts include “Tess” by Becca Ehlers. Here, girlfriends Sam and Tess reassess their relationship when Sam, who is not yet ready to be out, heads to New York for college. In “Paranormal Honor Society” by Leigh Taylor, Andi, who prefers the pronouns “ze” and “hir” and calls hirself “gender fluid,” starts a new school and is immediately embraced by the paranormal club. The teenagers work to solve the mystery of who has been killing women in their town, certain something supernatural must be behind the deaths. Some club members wonder if Andi could be the murderer, though as one humorously points out, “You’re confusing gender fluidity with werewolves again.” Other narratives cover coming out, opposites attracting, careless insults, a wish granted, and a boy who never speaks. What the selections may lack in sophistication, they more than make up for in spirit in this wonderfully diverse collection.
Holmes, Kathryn. The Distance Between Lost and Found. 320p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Harper. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062317261.
Gr 7 Up –When high school sophomore Hallelujah attends a church camping trip in the Great Smoky Mountains, she does not expect much. Over the past few months, her life has been reduced to a series of negatives. She used to have friends. She used to be confident. She used to sing. She used to be good friends with Jonah. She used to have faith in God. Now she is sad, quiet, insecure, and lonely thanks to the ruthless slandering and bullying campaign headed by the handsome and seemingly perfect preacher’s son, Luke. When Hallelujah, Jonah, and another girl, Rachel, become separated from the group while hiking, the trio become lost. As hours pass and then days, the teens find that staying alive is only part of their struggle. In addition to the cold weather, torrential rain, hunger, and sundry health crises, the characters deal with a host of emotions involving their pasts—guilt, resentment, fear, forgiveness, hate, and love. This is a perfectly balanced novel wherein the heroine wrestles with survival of not just her body but of her spirit as well.
Howell, Simmone. Girl Defective. photos by Henry Beer. 320p. ebook available. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442497603.
Gr 9 Up –Australian author Howell brings stateside her intriguing story of a coming-of-age summer for 15-year-old Skylark Martin. The teen lives above the family record store in a small Melbourne suburb with her home-brewing, stuck-in-the-past father, and endearing younger brother, Gully, whose social issues have manifested as an obsession with being a detective and near-permanent wearing of a pig-snout mask. Sky is blunt in her depictions of them and her mother, who left the family to reinvent herself as performance artist Galaxy Strobe. Flawed but likable Sky is drawn to the 19-year-old, enigmatic, worldly Nancy, who introduces her both to recreational drugs and underground parties. There’s an element of mystery to the story, with posters around town of a girl who died and has some connection to both those parties and the record store’s attractive new hire, Luke. But while Nancy is outrunning her past, and Luke seeks to make sense of his own, Sky finds a future that holds some promise. Howell’s writing is engaging and well suited to the pacing of the story, and the Aussie references are part of the charm. Library Journal
Kantor, Melissa. Better Than Perfect. 336p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062279231.
Gr 9 Up –Juliet has a charmed life. She is a high school senior with a perfect family, boyfriend, and most likely a perfect score on her SATs. Juliet wants to go to Harvard and has the perfect plan to achieve her goals. Then a bomb goes off in the teen’s life. Her father moves out, and her mother ends up in psychiatric hospital. Then the protagonist meets the less-than-perfect Declan, whose family encourages her to join their band. Spending time with Declan and the band has Juliet questioning her life choices. Perhaps there is a future for her that is “better than perfect.” Kantor poignantly captures what a broken marriage can do to the whole family. The characters are well developed, and readers experience Juliet’s pain as she realizes her parents’ fallibility. The narrative skillfully reflects the protagonist’s ups and downs.
Khoury, Jessica. Kalahari. 368p. ebook available. Penguin/Razorbill. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781595147653.
Gr 9 Up –Having grown up traveling the world with her zoologist parents, Sarah doesn’t have many friends that are human, let alone her own age. Now her mom is dead and it’s just Sarah, her father, and their research assistant Theo camped in the middle of the Kalahari. Enter Avani, Joey, Sam, Miranda, and Kase, five teenagers signed up for an educational safari led by the teen’s father. But when he and Theo leave the others on the first night in pursuit of dangerous poachers and never return, Sarah is left to keep herself and the visitors safe while simultaneously searching the desert for her dad and Theo. It doesn’t take long for the group to discover that they are dealing with something far bigger than poachers as they come across a silver lion and a murdered Theo. They become the prey after they discover a top-secret laboratory that has unleashed a deadly virus. Khoury’s latest novel is enthralling and filled with suspense, taking readers on a roller-coaster ride. This story is a entertaining and will capture teens’ attention.
Kontis, Alethea. Dearest. 288p. (Woodcutter Sisters: Bk. 3). ebook available. Houghton Harcourt. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544074071. LC 2014000737.
Gr 7 Up –Kontis continues to artfully interweave fairy-tale plots and nursery-rhyme references, as Friday (who is, true to form, loving and giving) sews patchwork outfits and tends to the refugee children in the kingdom of Arilland, now ruled by Sunday and ex-frog Rumbold. While investigating a tower, she almost falls into the sea, rescued from certain death by seven swans, who can return to their human forms only at night. One swan in particular, Tristan, captures her heart, and with the help of Rampion (an enchanted servant and sister to the swans) and others, Friday sets out to break the spell and save Arilland from destruction by the evil Mordant, Gana, and the Infidel. Readers will enjoy spotting storybook references from many sources (helpers named Wendy, John, and Michael; a town called Hammelyn). Magical adventure, occasional humor, and moments of gentle romance make this a good choice for younger to mid-teen readers.
Laurie, Victoria. When. 336p. Disney-Hyperion. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484700082.
Gr 9 Up –Maddie has always seen the date people will die, but does not realize what she is seeing until one day, in first grade, her father is killed on a date she told him about two years prior. The tragedy sends Maddie’s life spinning out of control: her mother can no longer function without alcohol, they leave the city to live in a small community, Maddie’s ability challenges her facility to make friends, and her mother cannot hold down a job. They survive on her father’s wrongful death settlement. Maddie, now 16, also makes ends meet by charging a small fee to tell people their death dates. A mother comes for a reading for her youngest son, but Maddie notices that the woman’s older son will die in a week instead. When the older boy goes missing a week later, FBI agents show up at the protagonist’s school because they suspect Maddie and her best friend, Stubby, of foul play. The plot is filled with false turns, which will keep readers engaged until the surprising ending.
Lidh, Jessica. The Number 7. 272p. Adams Media/Merit. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781440583063; ebk. ISBN 9781440583070.
Gr 7 Up –Louisa and her sister are brought to Pennsylvania by their widowed father to live in the home of his once-estranged, now-deceased parents. Louisa soon begins receiving calls from her dead grandmother through an old telephone in the attic. The calls share family secrets and events that took place in Sweden during World War II. It is through these phone calls that the narrative jumps between present day to the past. Louisa is a sweet-natured, somewhat introspective teenager who is still grieving from the loss of her mother, trying to figure out how to open up to her father and sister. She is in the center of a fairly innocent love triangle and is well adjusted to the idea of her father dating someone new. The main character of the historical sections, Gerhard (Louisa’s grandfather), is fleshed out, and the tension in those historical chapters builds well. He is only slightly older than Louisa’s 16 years, and the severity his circumstances versus her “which-boy-to-choose” situations eventually hits home for her. The story is interesting and highlights a part of World War II history that isn’t often addressed. Strengths include a light romance, some interesting historical references, and strong pacing.
Lyga, Barry. Blood of My Blood. 480p. (I Hunt Killers: Bk. 3). ebook available. Little, Brown. 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316198707. LC 2014003643.
Gr 9 Up –Jasper “Jazz” Dent is locked in a storage locker with two dead bodies, trying to nurse his own bullet wound in the dim light of a fading cellphone. Picking up (without pause) from the cliff-hanger ending in Game (2013), Lyga’s series about the 17-year-old son of escaped killer Billy Dent continues as he tries to aid the police in his father’s recapture. Unaware that his girlfriend Connie has been lured by Billy to a Brooklyn tenement house and imprisoned with Jazz’s mother, and that his hemophiliac friend, Howie, has been attacked, Jazz faces his demons alone—including repressed memories with sexual undertones, and the creepy voice of Billy educating his son on the acumen required to be a good serial killer (appearing in italics). The worrisome genetic factor plagues Jazz yet propels him in the right direction to foil some copycat killers and elude authorities long enough to solve his own life’s mysteries. Obstructing the law, the teen follows clues that take him back home to Lobo’s Nod for the chilling climax and surprise ending, despite red herrings thrown in the readers’ path at every turn. As a trilogy wrap-up, this gory winner with raw appeal requires having read the first two titles.
Napoli, Donna Jo. Hidden. 384p. bibliog. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442483002.
Gr 7 Up –Readers who enjoyed Donna Jo Napoli’s Hush (S. & S., 2007) and wondered about the fate of eight-year-old Brigid finally have their answers. The author uses her amazing ability to find the bare bones of an old story and flesh them out into a rich, living tale. This time, it is the story of Alfhild, feared female pirate of 10th-century Norse lore. Brigid survives her plunge into icy waters when escaping the slave ship she and her sister Melkorka were aboard. Upon realizing that Mel did not escape with her, she is determined to find her sister, no matter the long odds. But how to find one beautiful slave girl possibly traded anywhere in Europe? Brigid, or Alfhild as she comes to be called, ponders this question as she learns, grows, and thrives. Brigid is a fictional character but Alfhild is an actual historical figure—this blending to fit a historical framework produces continued good fortune, which lends the work a folktale feel at times. Napoli seamlessly weaves cultural, mythological, and historical information together, immersing the readers in Norse life.
Nichols, Amy K. Now That You’re Here. 304p. (Duplexity: Bk. 1). Knopf. Dec. 2014. lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385753906; Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385753890; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385753913.
Gr 7 Up –Danny Ogden was trying to blend in with the crowd before he was jolted from his universe to that of Eevee Solomon’s. Lucky for Danny, Eevee is intrigued by this sudden change in demeanor and personality from the Danny she knew. She enlists the help of her best friend Warren and together—with the help of their physics teacher —the three explore the scientific explanations for Danny’s universe jumping. Danny and Eevee develop feelings for each other and when they arrive at a possible answer, they have to come to terms with what might happen if Danny stays or goes. This science-fiction tale takes place almost entirely in present day. Its short chapters in alternating voices lends it a quick pace. Eevee is a strong lead—smart, grounded despite her parent’s divorce, and secure with her strongest friendship. Although we never get to know the Danny originally in Eevee’s universe, the parallel Danny is empathetic, thoughtful, and very trusting considering what had just happened to him. Nichols adeptly simplifies the complex concepts of string theory and parallel universes without condescending to readers. The short chapters develop into a mystery set against a sweet romance that will envelop teens.
Oliver, Lauren. Vanishing Girls. 368p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Harper. Mar. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062224101.
Gr 9 Up –Different as night and day, sisters Nick and Dara are practically joined at the hip. Nick is perpetually the cool and calm older one who calls the shots. Dara is always tagging along, longing to be in the spotlight. That was before the accident that left Dara injured and Nick shaken to the core. Now, the siblings barely speak to each other; they live together but never cross paths. Nick gets a job at a local amusement park and begins to interact with people again, mostly with her longtime best friend, but also with her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Parker. As the summer continues, a young local girl goes missing and Nick finds herself getting more involved with the ensuing drama than she ever expected. Oliver’s characterizations and background stories are well-developed and compulsively readable. The relationship between Nick and Dara drives the plot and is very realistic. The twist the author incorporates at the end is dramatic without being absurd and was completely unexpected. Recommend to teens looking for a well-written work with a juicy ending. They will not be disappointed.
Payne, Mary Jennifer. Since You’ve Been Gone. 216p. Dundurn. Feb. 2015. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781459728189.
Gr 8 Up –Fifteen-year-old Edie is no stranger to starting over. She and her mother have been evading her abusive father for longer than she cares to remember. This time however, things are different. Edie doesn’t just have to move to a new town and make new friends. She is forced to relocate to London, leaving her beloved cat behind at a moment’s notice. As if adjusting to a new country weren’t enough of a challenge, Edie finds herself at the center of a missing person case when her mother does not return home from her new job. With the help of unlikely ally and romantic prospect Jermaine, Edie’s search for her mother takes her all over the city. It is on this journey that she realizes it’s time to stop running and start living. This realistic novel is a quick read abd readers will enjoy this fast-paced sojourn through London. For fans of Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes (HarperCollins, 2005).
Salisbury, Melinda. The Sin Eater’s Daughter. 320p. Scholastic. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545810623; ebk. ISBN 9780545819732.
Gr 7 Up –Seventeen-year-old Twylla has a gift and a curse as the embodiment of a goddess on Earth: she is worshipped and she can kill men in seconds with the briefest of touches. Twylla’s mother is a Sin Eater, one who eats symbolic foods of the deceased person’s sins at their grave site; Twylla is set to pursue this path until the Queen of Lormere takes her from her home to become the goddess Daunen Embodied. Every month, the teen ingests a poisonous substance that reinforces her position as the goddess’s personification and the kingdom’s executioner, and every month Twylla becomes more isolated. Her only hope of escape lies with her future marriage to Lormere’s prince, Merek. Possible deliverance comes in the form of a new guard who joins her service—Lief is different from the others. As the protagonist grows closer to Merek and Lief, she becomes more aware of how truly trapped she is in her role with the Queen—and how much she will have to sacrifice to break free. Salisbury’s luscious world-building and mythology make this fantasy a worthy read. Twylla is strong and sensible, and teen fans of royal intrigue titles will be rooting for her.
Santopolo, Jill. Love on the Lifts. 272p. (Follow Your Heart). Penguin/Speak. Jan. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780147510938.
Gr 7-10 –Your boyfriend was just caught kissing another girl. But you get to escape the embarrassment and post-breakup social slump by traveling with your family on an annual trip to the Galaxy Ski Resort. Your older and more experienced sister, Angie, has hatched a plan to help you get over your philandering boyfriend in less than a week: fall in love on the lifts or, at the very least, kiss a boy. As soon as you accept the plan as exactly the remedy your broken heart needs, Angie is plowed over by a skier and you have some choices to make. Should you stick with your sister while she recovers from her minor injuries or should you choose from one of the 11 different boys who could be a new romance? In this “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure”–style book, readers gets to select the path of the story by making decisions at various points in the plot’s development. This is a quick, breezy tale with with very light character development. The interactive format is the true attention-grabber.
Smith, Daniel. Big Game. 272p. Scholastic/Chicken House. Mar. 2015. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780545766357; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9780545766364.
Gr 6 Up –In Oskari’s Finnish mountain village there is a tradition known as the Trial. On the eve of a boy’s 13th birthday he spends the night on the mountain. Whatever game he brings back indicates the kind of man he’ll be. Oskari’s father, a fearless hunter, brought back a bear when he was just 13. Oskari is small and doesn’t even have the strength to fully draw back the string of the traditional bow in order to shoot an arrow straight. Everyone in the village, including Oskari himself, doubts that he will be able to kill anything. While on his Trial, Oskari comes across a strange metal pod in the woods. Out of it emerges the President of the United States whose plane, Air Force One, has just been shot out of the sky. The president’s would-be assassins are hunting him and, by association, Oskari as well. It soon becomes clear that Oskari’s mission is not to hunt and kill, but rather to use his knowledge of the wilderness to save the president. Initially the assassins appear to be terrorists, but Oskari and the president soon learn that the nefarious plan is far more complicated and insidious. This fast-paced page-turner will appeal to fans of action-packed plots and is recommended for reluctant readers.
Shepherd, Megan. A Cold Legacy. 400p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062128089; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780062128102.
Gr 9 Up –The final volume of the “Madman’s Daughter” series (HarperCollins) accomplishes something too often lacking in trilogies—a third volume that is as compelling and well-written as the first installment. In this entry inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Juliet, Lucy, Montgomery, Balthazar, and Edward have escaped from their pursuers to the Scottish estate of Juliet’s friend and benefactor, Elizabeth von Stein. They find the isolated estate inhabited by a number of young women and girls, “wards” of Elizabeth, and one very strange male child named Hensley, Elizabeth’s son. Juliet also discovers that the secrets of the rich woman’s ancestor Victor Frankenstein have been preserved by the family, and with no legitimate heirs, Juliet has been chosen to receive the knowledge of “Perpetual Anatomy.” In addition to the outer turmoil, Juliet continues to worry whether or not as her father’s daughter she, too, has the “madness” gene. The skillfully drawn and well-developed characters face their emotional upheavals and outside dangers with aplomb. Fast-paced and romantic, this page-turning volume results in mixed emotions—contentment with the ending, but still a desire for more.
Stetz-Waters, Karelia. Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before. 304p. Ooligan Pr. Nov. 2014. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781932010732.
Gr 10 Up –It’s 1989, and the state of Oregon is attempting to pass legislation against gays, and Triinu Hoffman’s high school principal makes no secret about how he feels on the issue. The teen knows she is a lesbian, understands that she might be up for a challenge. Classmate Pip Weston has bullied her for years, but she doesn’t let that stop her from continuing to discover who she is. The principal does not make it easy for Triinu and neither do the girls she encounters in her quest for companionship. This is a true coming-of-age novel that is open and honest as relationships develop between Triinu and several love interests. High schools will not be able to keep this book on the shelves as it intertwines a variety of issues and challenges that teens endure. There are some sex scenes as the protagonist develops relationships with different young women and strong language that is organic to the situations in which they occur. A good discussion starter for mature teens.
Stiefvater, Maggie. Blue Lily, Lily Blue. 400p. (The Raven Cycle: Bk. 3). Scholastic. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545424967; ebk. ISBN 9780545662901.
Gr 9 Up –Having inhaled the first two installments in this thrilling series about four Virginia schoolboys on a quest to find a legendary Welsh king, teens will be anxious to see where Stiefvater next leads Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah. The volume picks up directly after The Dream Thieves (Scholastic, 2013) and the quest takes some bizarre and dangerous twists. Blue Sargent and the psychically talented women of 300 Fox Way take center stage this time. Blue’s mother Maura has disappeared, and it’s not immediately clear if she wants to be found. Despite the fact that “time and space were bathtubs that Maura splashed in,” Blue and Mr. Gray, Maura’s ex-hitman boyfriend, begin to think she’s underground and in trouble. Informed by several mystical and live sources that there are three ancient sleepers in the nearby mountain caves, one of which is not to be awakened, the young people are hurled toward a subterranean encounter of the weirdest kind. Throughout, the prose is crisp and dazzling and the dialogue positively crackles. Blue and the Raven Boys come into their own over the course of the novel and realize their individual strengths and the power of their collective bonds, making them unstoppable. School Library Journal
Stine, R.L. Party Games: A Fear Street Novel. 288p. ebook available. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250051615.
Gr 9 Up –Lurking on Fear Street are many more page-turning (albeit formulaic) horrors from the beloved author. This first installment of the revamped series has the classic Stine recipe: told from one character’s point of view in a linear chronology, with a focus on plot over character or context development. Each chapter is a cliff-hanger and readers can anticipate the type of scare they’re in for—until the final twist. The novel is written from the perspective of contemporary teenager Rachel, who is delighted to be invited to her crush Brendan Fear’s birthday party on his remote private island. The cursed Fear family and has a terrifying reputation, and when teenagers start being murdered at Brendan’s party, it seems the curse is becoming a reality. The simple language and horror themes will appeal to many readers, including reluctant ones. A volume that proves why Stine’s books endure.
Stirling, Tricia. When My Heart Was Wicked. 192p. Scholastic. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545695732; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545695756.
Gr 9 Up –Debut novelist Stirling has written a delightfully dark and twisty story for those who never quite outgrew fairy tales. Removed from the custody of her abusive, dysfunctional mother when she was 13 years old, Lacy has spent the past three years with her loving father and free-spirited stepmother. But following the death of her father to prostate cancer, her mother, Cheyenne, insists that Lacy leaves her stepmother’s home in Chico and moves to Sacramento with her. Adding to the stress of going to a new school and making new friends, Lacy grows increasingly aware that something is very wrong with her mother and that she, herself, is being pulled into darkness. This enigmatic novel will keep readers guessing from the first page to the last. No clear answers will frustrate and delight readers. Stirling is an author to watch.
Thorne, Bella with Elise Allen. Autumn Falls. 224p. Delacorte. Nov. 2014. lib. ed. $21.99. ISBN 9780375991615; Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780385744331; ebk. ISBN 9780385385237.
Gr 7 Up –At the start of this realistic novel by the Disney Channel actress, Autumn Falls’s father dies in a car accident. Already planning to move to Aventura, Florida to take care of Eddy, their grandmother, the grieving family settles in the quiet town. Switching to a new school gets even harder for Autumn, when on her first day at Aventura High, her brother runs his skycam into her, which leaves a giant bump on her forehead. Someone takes a photo and posts it on the student portal. The pranks continue to make her adjustment period difficult. Autumn begins to write in a journal that Eddy gave her, and magical things occur. Every time the protagonist writes “I wish” in her journal, she receives her wish, just not always how she expects it. A feel-good book with believable and well-developed characters and an evenly paced plot. Its discussion of bullying, death, friendship, and family makes it a timely and resonant read.
TOMP, Sarah. My Best Everything. 400p. Little, Brown. Mar. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316324786; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316324762. LC 2013039870.
Gr 9 Up –Luisa “Lulu” Mendez dreams of leaving her dead-end small town behind. She cannot wait to immerse herself in the University of San Diego’s biochemistry program in the fall. So she is devastated when her dad admits that he has lost her college funds in a bad investment. Lulu is determined to make her college dreams a reality, and when a confiscated distillery turns up at the junkyard where she and her best friend work, she sees it as a bit of serendipitous luck. Although Lulu is not a party girl, she is aware that the moonshine business, illegal or not, is still thriving in the rural mountains of Virginia. Roni and Bucky do not take much convincing to go along with her plan—some extra cash will hurry her friends’ wedding date along—and through some creative paperwork, the still disappears from the impound lot where it sits awaiting a trial. Lulu has recently met Mason Malone, whose family wealth comes from generations of “shining.” There’s an instant attraction between the two, and although Mason is a recovering alcoholic who has sworn off the family business, he reluctantly agrees to share his knowledge with the three 18-year-olds so that they can operate the still without blowing themselves up. Lulu narrates the story in second-person, as a confessional of sorts to Mason, and readers will race to turn the pages as it becomes apparent that Lulu’s gamble may result in the destruction of the people she cares about the most. A wholly original and most satisfying debut.
Van Diepen, Allison. On The Edge. 304p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062303448; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062303462.
Gr 9 Up –College-bound Maddie finds herself in the middle of a dangerous gang war after witnessing the murder of a homeless man. With a target on her back, she is unexpectedly defended by an underground gang and in the midst of it all begins to fall for their mysterious leader, Lobo. As their relationship heats up so does the danger, and Maddie becomes an essential piece to bringing down a gang-run human trafficking ring. While the relationship between Maddie and Lobo is the focus of the story, the thriller-type subplot set in the Miami underbelly steals the show. The sometimes violent, always gripping action of a vigilante underground gang rescuing trafficked girls keeps the pace moving and the tone from becoming saccharine. The menace of this dark world is a nice foil to the unexpectedly sweet development of young love, and adds a desperation and sense of urgency to their romance. The friendship between Maddie and her friends is especially multifaceted, and readers will appreciate the honest examination of the complex emotions of friendship as they learn to allow their relationship to evolve while facing big life changes. The struggle of the characters to do right at all costs will resonate with teens.
Waltman, Kevin. Slump. 304p. (D-Bow’s High School Hoops: Bk. 2). Cinco Puntos. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781941026007; pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781941026014; ebk. ISBN 9781941026021. LC 2013026452.
Gr 8 Up –In this follow-up to Next (Cinco Puntos, 2013), basketball star D-Bow enters his sophomore year, and the dreaded slump that goes with it. Girl problems and concerns about his dad’s health keep him distracted, making it difficult for him to take the leadership position that his status as starting point guard would typically demand. In the end, D-Bow makes good decisions and learns how to be a team player. While the protagonist makes typical teen mistakes, he listens to the adults in his life and learns from his errors. His relationship with his coaches is particularly well drawn. Fans already engaged in D-Bow’s story will find the same strong characters and fast-paced basketball action they enjoyed in the first book. Readers will be left wondering what will await D-Bow in his junior year, as he begins to be recruited by colleges. This series will be a great addition to any collection that needs more YA sports-themed books.
West, Carly Anne. The Bargaining. 416p. ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442441828.
Gr 8 Up –After fights at school and the accidental death of her best friend (and worst enemy), Penny needs some time away, or at least her parents think she does. The teen’s mom dumps her two states away with her dad and stepmom, April. April has a grand plan to renovate an old house in some remote woods over the summer and expects Penny to go with her. While it’s not an ideal situation, Penny goes along with it only to discover that things are not as they seem in the North Woods. No one willingly sets foot in the area and Penny is sure she hears voices and laughter and she keeps seeing things. A pervading sense of creepiness drives this book. The scary parts are truly terrifying, akin to old school Stephen King novels, not to be read before bedtime. Give to teens who claim they aren’t afraid of things that go bump in the night.
Yancey, Rick. The Infinite Sea. 320p. Putnam. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399162428; ebk. ISBN 9781101599013. LC 2014022058.
Gr 9 Up –The majority of the first-person narration in this second book in “The 5th Wave” series (Putnam) shifts between Ringer, a beautiful teen with deadly aim, and tough-but-tender Cassie, who thought she was the lone surviving human. A third-person viewpoint is used for Evan, an alien who has shifted his allegiance in the face of true love and Ben (Zombie), badly injured but still in command of the ragtag paramilitary group of creatively nicknamed children and teens. The action springs back and forth in place and time as readers learn why Poundcake no longer speaks, how Evan is related to super-strong Grace, and why chess is important to Ringer. Yancey keeps the pressure on, as Cassie and Ben seek to protect the younger humans and outsmart the devious Silencers. Ringer struggles to maintain her humanity in the face of nanotechnology and Evan struggles with turning his back on what his species has been working toward for thousands of years. Yancey’s writing will keep action-craving readers enthralled. With a 5th Wave movie in the works, and alien questions left unanswered, expect readers to be interested in this series for the foreseeable future.
Ashihara, Daisuke. World Trigger. Vol 1. 192p. VIZ Media. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421577647.
Gr 7 Up –A gate to another world has opened in Mikado City from which invaders from another dimension attacked, causing a defense group called Border to fight back. Osamu Mikumo, a Mikado City high schooler, is a member of the Border defense, but hides this secret identity from others. New transfer student Yuma Kuga is has even bigger secrets of his own. The two boys form an unlikely friendship that has far-reaching implications for the future. This is an exciting manga with a lot of physical and psychological action, including battles against gigantic monsters, tension between members of Border, and the constant threat of secrets being exposed. Ashihara’s artwork is very dynamic, particularly in action sequences when the movement affects the size and shape of the panels. During these scenes, panels jut out and overlap at crazy angles, heightening the narrative’s pace. A thought-provoking start to a series that manga fans will snatch up quickly.
Davis, Rob. The Motherless Oven. illus. by Rob Davis. 160p. SelfMadeHero. 2014. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781906838812.
Gr 9 Up –In a bizarre, topsy-turvy world where children make parents, and knives rain from the sky, Scarper Lee’s deathday looms before him like a ticking time bomb. The teen has resolved himself to his fate—even if his hairdryer mother and makeshift wind-powered brass sculpture father haven’t quite yet—when new girl Vera Pike arrives and throws a wrench into the status quo. When his father disappears, Scarper, Vera, and new friend Castro Smith escape their daily routine to find him. During their journey, they face a field of abandoned mother creatures, a gaggle of elderly police officers, and their own mortality. In an Odyssey-like quest, the trio searches for the fabled Motherless Oven, where humans were supposedly first fashioned, and hopefully the answer to all of their prayers. Heady topics such as existentialism, destiny, religion, and love make this a quirky title rife for discussion. Davis’s dark and shadow-filled art appropriately mindbends and illuminates the text. For teens who enjoy graphic novels that are disturbing and beautiful all at once. School Library Journal
Parker, Jeff. Meteor Men. illus. by Sandy Jarrell Kevin Volo. 128p. Oni Pr. 2014. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781620101513; ebk. $14.99. ISBN 9781620101520.
Gr 8 Up –A meteorite falls on Alden’s parents’ property and soon the orphaned teen encounters the alien organism that used the rock as transport to the planet. The alien is one of many that has landed on Earth, and governments and scientists try to determine their intent as Alden tries to learn how to communicate with the one in his woods, as well as find his friend who disappeared just after the landfall. Parker gives every character involved a recognizable humanity beyond their role in the story—soldiers and scientists are more than just stand-ins for exposition or authority—and this helps make the story complex and affecting. The artwork has a rumpled, lived-in feel that suits and supports this tone and yet also delivers some cleverly executed spectacle to heighten the drama and provide some scale and perspective. The ending is optimistic and disquieting, and will likely provoke strong reactions and discussion.
Shouoto, Aya. Kiss of the Rose Princess. 180p. VIZ Media. Nov. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421573663.
Gr 7 Up –Anise’s father gave her a rose choker and told her that if she ever removed it she would face a terrifying punishment. But wearing it draws unwanted attention as she is constantly reminded that she is violating her school’s dress code. When the choker mysteriously disappears, the teen receives several magical cards, each one able to summon a knight who has the power to help her. These knights happen to be boys at her school, and each one is attractive in a different way. Some of them don’t want to listen to her, while others like being bossed around, and when they talk to her in school it brings even more unwanted attention. The protagonist evolves as she begins to see each of the boys differently and discovers their hidden strengths and flaws. What is not completely clear in this volume is why these boys need to protect this “rose princess.” However, there are hints that in future volumes Anise will face several challenges, in the form of a demon lord and her angry father. Shouoto’s traditional manga–style drawings are filled with windswept energy that help propel the story forward. There is a lot of crashing action, and panels teem with objects in motion, from wild, flying hair to dramatically falling rose petals. Fans of fantasy/romance manga will enjoy this book and will look forward to future installments to learn more about what happens to Anise and her knights.
For those interested in nonfiction, take a look at these stellar offerings subjects as diverse as a collection of creative work by Native American teens, graphic novel-style books about famous artists, short biographies on Latino heroes, and a cookbook for young adults.
Charleyboy, Lisa & Mary Beth Leatherdale, eds. Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices. 128p. illus. photos. reprods. Annick. Nov. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781554516872; ebk. ISBN 9781554516889.
Gr 6 Up –This dynamic, creative work is an interactive portal that introduces readers to the lives of 64 indigenous Native American young people. The writers include an award-winning throat singer, a fashion model, a hip-hop dancer, a tribal leader, an activist, a graphic designer, a comic book creator, a chef, a dancer, a musician, a makeup artist, and a rapper, and the contributors communicate powerfully who they are in their own words and images. The visuals are a blend of bold, contemporary digital graffiti and indigenous art at its best, and the end result is a collage of profound, sometimes gritty photos and digital images. The text is a combination of awe-inspiring poetry, prose, and poignant captions. No topic is left untouched—identity, racism, gender, bullying, abuse at boarding schools, adoption, mixed heritage, runaways, suicide, drug, poverty, coming of age, death, and sex, though the tone is positive and success stories are emphasized. Not to be missed.
DePrince, Michaela & Elaine DePrince. Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina. 249p. photos. Knopf. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385755115; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385755122; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385755139. LC 2013048188.
Gr 6 Up –In this moving memoir, DePrince, who in 1995 was born in war-torn Sierra Leone but went on to become an acclaimed professional ballerina, tells her story. Her struggles started early: it was discovered that she had vitiligo, a medical condition that results in blotchy, irregular patches of skin, and her biological parents both died when she was only three. DePrince was sold to an orphanage, where she was starved and abused and where she witnessed the brutal murder of her pregnant teacher, a memory that would forever haunt her. After the orphanage was bombed, DePrince and the other orphans fled to a refugee camp. When she was four years old, she and her best friend, Mia, were adopted by the same family and taken to live in the United States. Just before leaving, DePrince found a magazine photograph of a ballerina, and her dream of becoming a dancer was born. Her supportive family did everything they could to help her attain her goal, but the girl still encountered challenges, including prejudice from those who believed African American dancers to be less suited for the craft. However, she persevered and succeeded, becoming the youngest principal dancer for the Dance Theatre of Harlem and joining the Dutch National Ballet. ond her years. An uplifting story about overcoming the odds.
Herrera, Juan Felipe. Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes. illus. by Raúl Colón. 96p. further reading. notes. Dial. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780803738096. LC 2013044661.
Gr 4-8 –A dazzling collection of short biographies on 20 Latino men and women who have shaped United States history. Profiled chronologically, each entry provides a succinct but lyrical description of how these heroes have made their mark. From the arts (Desi Arnaz, Joan Baez, Rita Moreno) to the sciences (Luis W. Alvarez and Ellen Ochoa), the breadth of influence covered is vast and aptly demonstrates the diversity within the Hispanic community. California Poet Laureate Herrera packs relevant info and kid-appropriate details (Tomás Rivera meeting the “library lady” for the first time; Dennis “Dionisio” Chavez being bullied because of his name) without overwhelming the work, infusing the narratives with engaging text. Colón’s portraits are luminous. His use of watercolor and pencils gives each entry an ethereal cast, elevating the subjects to an almost beatific place of honor. This visually and textually stunning title is one to cherish and celebrate. School Library Journal
Holland, Jennifer S. Unlikely Heroes: 37 Inspiring Stories of Courage and Heart from the Animal Kingdom. 246p. notes. photos. Workman. 2014. pap. $13.95. ISBN 9780761174417.
Gr 5-8 –In this heartwarming work, Holland whips up enthusiasm for the selfless acts of different animals. The book is divided into “Superheroes” (animals engaging in thrilling acts of bravery, such as dolphins who rescue divers from great white sharks), “Everyday Heroes” (creatures still making an impact, including a llama that comforts the elderly and disabled), and “Big-Picture Heroes” (those unknowingly contributing to a larger effort, such as housecats that, through in-vitro fertilization, are gestating and giving birth to endangered black footed kittens). A charming design enhances the text. Inspirational quotes set the mood for each section, insets throughout add related facts, and eye-catching photographs add to the adorable factor. A sweet look at the animal kingdom.
Ingram, Catherine. This Is Dalí. illus. by Andrew Rae. ISBN 9781780671093.
––––. This Is Pollock. illus. by Peter Arkle. ISBN 9781780673462.
––––. This Is Warhol. illus. by Andrew Rae. ISBN 9781780670140.
ea vol: 80p. (This Is…). bibliog. illus. photos. reprods. Laurence King. 2014. Tr. $15.95.
Gr 10 Up –Ingram’s eye-grabbing graphic-novel profiles convey each artist’s life story and particular panache with a combo of witty narrative, vivacious illustrations, reproductions of pivotal artworks, and the occasional photo. The book design is superb: each volume features a pen-and-ink portrait of its subject on the front cover and a personal quote that imparts each man’s essence on the back cover. Biographical highlights and astute and accessible discussions of artworks are woven into a tapestry of historical events, contemporary cultural trends, and art history context. Bright-colored comic book–style illustrations interpret and expand upon the texts with drama, humor, and insight. Eloquent, informative, and amusing, the series’ urbane viewpoint and sometimes-titillating images make it best suited for more mature readers. School Library Journal
Kamkwamba, William & Bryan Mealer. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition. illus. by Anna Hymas. 304p. ebook available. photos. Dial. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803740808.
Gr 4-7 –This youth edition of the original adult book of the same title has been skillfully adapted for younger readers. Kamkwamba recounts a period from his childhood living in a small Malawi village. His family was poor, but they got by working as farmers. Kamkwamba was in elementary school, about to graduate to secondary school, when the drought and famine of the mid-2000s upset the patterns of local life. The author deftly describes the devastating effects upon his family: they ate insects, and rations were reduced to only a single mouthful daily. Many around them suffered even worse. Somehow, the family struggled through until the rains returned to nourish a new crop, but they couldn’t afford Kamkwamba’s school fees. He farmed with his father but also discovered a local library, where he taught himself to engineer a windmill to draw water to irrigate the fields. Those around him thought he was crazy as he salvaged motor parts, a PVC pipe, his father’s broken bicycle, and anything else he could find. Kamkwamba did successfully harness the wind, managing to light his family’s house, charge community cell phones for a small income, and pump irrigation water. This is a fascinating, well-told account. An inspiring, incredible story.
Levine, Gail Carson. Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink. 304p. index. HarperCollins/Harper. Dec. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062275301; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780062275295; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9780062275318.
Gr 5-8 –In this follow-up book to Writing Magic Creating Stories That Fly (HarperCollins, 2006), fantasy author Levine doles out realistic and helpful guidance to aspiring authors. This title is an extension of her blog, and Levine provides her audience with the common nuts and bolts of the profession, offering this advice: writers write, they keep writing, and they save everything they write to use again. Levine’s tone is conversational and upbeat and her suggestions easy to follow, tinged with an underlying sense of encouragement that will bolster readers. She discusses common difficulties, warning young people not to get hung up on minutiae and letting them know that confronting challenges is a surmountable part of the craft. Each chapter ends with appealing and doable exercises. Levine urges her audience to cast away self-criticism and to write and rewrite, underscoring that this is an enjoyable, important process. An engaging and valuable addition.
Marchive, Laurane & Pam McElroy, eds. The Green Teen Cookbook: Recipes for All Seasons—Written By Teens, for Teens. 144p. index. photos. Zest. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781936976584; ebk. $14.99. ISBN 9781936976591.
Gr 8 Up –Written for teens and by teens, this title is ideal for young adults interested in starting or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The book opens with some informative narrative sections, such as “How to Eat Healthfully,” “How to Eat Seasonally,” and “Eating Organic, Vegetarianism.” These sections, penned by cooking or gardening professionals, don’t push the writers’ views onto readers but give insight into why the book was written. The real “meat” of the book comes from the recipes written by teens. Readers will enjoy quotes from the teen chefs that provide helpful hints or reasons why this is their favorite recipe. Also included with most of the recipes is a “helpful hint” box giving the user an easy way to scale down the recipe or use alternate ingredients to change the flavor. The book also contains a resources section listing local farmers markets across the country, as well as online resources to search for more recipes or find healthy living advice. A great addition to any nonfiction cookbook collection.
Mercer, Bobby. The Robot Book: Build & Control 20 Electric Gizmos, Moving Machines, and Hacked Toys. 224p. (Science in Motion). further reading. photos. websites. Chicago Review. 2014. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781556524073.
Gr 4 Up –A concise title that introduces readers to the basics of robotics and building simple robots. The projects here all call for home appliances and everyday electronics, such as cell phones, toys, and computers, which are cited as the best sources for at-home robotic experimentation material. In order to complete these activities, students will need tools that include pliers, tape, screwdrivers, paperclips, and other more expensive pieces of equipment like motorized toy trucks, LED lights, and old CD computer drives, among other items. Those interested in tinkering with electronics will find the tasks engaging and thorough.
Platt, Richard. The Ultimate Book About Me. 144p. chart. diag. glossary. illus. maps. photos. Barron’s. 2014. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781438005577. LC 2014932008.
Gr 4-8 –This fun guide answers fascinating questions about the human body. Whether kids read from cover to cover or skim, they’ll find intriguing facts to keep them engaged. The book deals with many subjects: lifespan, genetics, senses, gender, emotions, and more. The information is presented in clear, bite-size pieces, ideal for students with little knowledge of the subjects. While vivid and colorful, the photographs and illustrations don’t distract from the material. Amusing and creative, this title is ideal for reluctant readers. A solid pick for report-writers and browsers alike.
Reber, Deborah. Doable: The Girls’ Guide to Accomplishing Just About Anything. 208p. chart. diag. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Jan. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781582704678; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781582704661; ebk. $9.46. ISBN 9781481403306. LC 2014005614.
Gr 7 Up –Author and life coach Reber brings her impressive mentoring expertise to tween and teen girls. The step-by-step self-help guide shows readers how to maximize their potential by setting—and achieving—realistic goals. Through a no-nonsense instruction and do-it-yourself coaching advice, Reber presents a well-thought-out plan for all readers to personalize and execute. Logically ordered, the book opens with an overview of the eight steps in Reber’s doable philosophy: define your do, detail the little tasks, defend against obstacles, develop support systems, determine what success looks like, do the work, deal with setbacks, and deliver the goods. The book addresses lofty successes and everyday victories, providing examples and insight for those wishing to achieve any goal, no matter how small. Reber instructs without preaching, and her suggestions are precise and comprehensible.
Rusch, Elizabeth. The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans. 80p. (Scientists in the Field). diags. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. Houghton Harcourt. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544099999. LC 2013050150.
Gr 5-8 –Rainforests and savannahs, coral reefs and tundra—readers are most likely familiar with these fields in which scientists work. But this time, it is the energy of the physical movement of the global ocean that is the field, and here in this world of watery physics, a series of imaginative, innovative engineers have been designing, building, and experimenting to successfully harness this inexorable surge of energy. Rusch’s readable text follows three very varied groups of visionary engineers on this quest: Mike Morrow and Mike Delos-Reyes (who are working on a device that will allow people to sit upon the ocean floor), Annette von Jouanne and her team (working on a floating design), and the cofounders of Ocean Power Technologies, the first to win a permit to generate “ocean electricity” to be marketed to homes and businesses on the Oregon coast. This pellucid look into a promising field of alternative energy and into the scientists devoting their lives to bring concept into reality is informative, intriguing, and inspiring.
Schutten, Jan Paul. Hello from 2030: The Science of the Future and You. 224p. index. notes. photos. Atria/Beyond Words. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781582704746; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481409469. LC 2013044906.
Gr 5 Up –Ever wonder what food we’ll be eating in 15 years? How about what kind of cars we’ll drive or where our energy sources will come from? Schutten isn’t quite sure, either, but he knows enough about the scientific trends to make some fair guesses in this introduction to science forecasting for the 21st century. Basing his assumptions on Moore’s Law (which states that computer processing power doubles every two years), Schutten hypothesizes that other facets of the scientific world work the same way. In each chapter, Schutten discusses a different area of science, including space, energy, food, health, and robotics, and he covers the growing concerns that affect each issue. Robot lovers will enjoy the “Age of the Robot,” a chapter where futuristic cars, robosoldiers, and other gadgets are discussed. Colorful graphics are included and pair nicely with the text. This book will spark discussion. Hand it to a science lover, and watch the conversation flow.
Thompson, Laurie Ann. Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters. 230p. chart. further reading. illus. websites. S. & S./Simon Pulse. 2014. LC 2013044580.
Gr 7 Up –Teens with an entrepreneurial and charitable bent will find this book a trove. Each chapter covers a specific aspect of starting a social change campaign: identifying a social passion, finding a mentor, managing money, recruiting other teens to help, and more. Entries begin with a real-life story of teens whose projects had a positive impact. Not only are the accounts inspiring, they shed light on practical matters, such as how to make your project stand out from others. For instance, Zach, a young man who paired his passion for baking with raising funds to fight breast cancer, used the same pink signage and the same pink tablecloth at every bake sale to set himself apart. Other accounts relate pitfalls of spearheading social change. The author balances the upbeat, can-do tone with a thread of decorum and caution. This is a fine resource.
Weeks, Marcus. Heads Up Philosophy. 160p. (Heads Up). chart. glossary. illus. index. photos. reprods. DK. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781465424488.
Gr 9 Up –This basic overview of philosophy will draw readers in with its dynamic design, starting with the eye-catching cover, which includes quotes such as René Descartes’s famous “I think, therefore I am” to pique interest. The book starts with a brief introduction and a chart that answers the question “What Do Philosophers Do?” Weeks organizes the material thematically by the branch of philosophy being highlighted, making the text ideal for browsing. Each section uses different font sizes, graphics and images, sidebars, and inset text boxes, enabling the author to convey a great deal of information without overwhelming readers. Weeks also integrates biographical sketches of selected male and female philosophers with intriguing facts about each figure and their personal struggles, which makes the subject much more engaging for students. A solid introduction to the subject.
Nonfiction Graphic novles
Maier, Corrine. Marx. illus. by Anne Simon. 72p. further reading. Flying Eye Books/Nobrow. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781907704833.
Gr 9 Up –A graphic novel biography of Karl Marx that offers an intricately illustrated window into his personal travails and career. Maier and Simon present Marx’s early years, his career highs and lows, his complex personal life, and how his works affected history. The illustrations help to explain concepts, such as capitalism, labor relations, economics, and communism. The extensive use of reds, orange, and yellow adeptly leads readers through the many phases of the man’s tale. The narrative contains quotes and references from historical texts written by the subject and his colleague Friedrich Engels. This book is an excellent introduction to Marx and how his views shaped world history.
Mizuki, Shigeru. Showa: A History of Japan, 1939-1944. tr. from Japanese by Zack Davisson. 536p. (Showa: Bk. Vol. 2). notes. Drawn and Quarterly. 2014. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9781770461512.
Gr 9 Up –Renowned manga artist Mizuki’s autobiographical graphic novel series continues where Showa: A History of Japan, 1926–1939 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2013) left off, with Japan on the brink of World War II. The narrative recounts the war years, shifting between pivotal events in the Pacific theater and the author’s personal anecdotes. There is quite a bit of humor as Mizuki balances serious scenes of battle and politics with cartoonish depictions of his antics bumbling through a newspaper delivery route, trade school, and service in Japan’s army. The work is often critical of Japan’s wartime actions. This account puts a very human face on a complicated time in history. Readers can easily jump into this installment without having read its predecessor, and military buffs will be especially riveted by the detailed account of naval battles. Recommended where the first title has an audience.
Vansant, Wayne. The Battle of the Bulge: A Graphic History of Allied Victory in the Ardennes, 1944-1945. illus. by Wayne Vansant. 104p. appendix. diag. further reading. maps. Quayside/Zenith. 2014. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9780760346228. LC 2014012286.
Gr 7 Up –The creator of the Normandy (2012), Bombing Nazi Germany (2013), and The Red Baron (2014, all Zenith) graphic novels, now addresses the major battle that led to Germany’s surrender. The photo-realistic and full-color illustrations—Dwight D. Eisenhower, Adolf Hitler, and other major players are authentically captured—add gravity. This work is factual and mostly neutral, not going into the reasons behind the war, only the military strategies employed by each side. A useful resource in exploring this historic battle and a fine edition to classrooms as well as libraries.
The original reviews of the above works appeared in SLJ’s November print magazine.
This article was featured in our free SLJTeen enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you twice a month.