From Michael Buckley’s alien-infested YA debut to poignant explorations of sexual violence and mental illness, the following titles for teens will keep young people coming back for more.
Science fiction fans have their pick among several action-packed narratives, including Cori McCarthy’s high-flying Breaking Sky and Jen Brooks’s In a World Just Right. Graphic novel connoisseurs can dip into the campy Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson and company and All You Need Is Kill, manga based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel, which the science-fiction movie Edge of Tomorrow was based on.
For readers of more informational fare, check out nonfiction titles about women’s history, faeries, robotics, and much more. There’s even a short story collection, Love & Profanity, that features works by the hottest teen authors.
The original reviews of the following works appeared in SLJ’s February print magazine.
Grades 9 & Up
Aguirre, Ann. The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things. 320p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250047502.
Gr 8 Up–Sage Czinski just wants to do her time in high school. Though not popular, she is not relegated to burner status either. Her calling card is leaving positive Post-it notes on her classmates’ lockers, earning the nickname “Princess Post-it.” She used to have a crush on her best friend Ryan, but otherwise has never really fallen for any guy—until Shane Cavendish arrives at her small-town Illinois school. He plays guitar, has dreamy eyes, and lets Sage meddle in his life, despite his hardened surface. Sage knows that he is hiding something, but then, so is she, and she is afraid to let him know the real girl behind her upbeat facade. Aguirre’s first stand-alone novel has a slow-building story line, more focused on character development than external action. Sage’s positive nature is a hidden gem in this pleasant tale. VERDICT For teens who can’t get enough of YA romance.
Angel, Ann, ed. Things I’ll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves. 320p. ebook available. Candlewick. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763673079. LC 2014944916.
Gr 10 Up–In this collection of dramatic short stories by various authors, all of the protagonists have secrets, though some are more intense and life-altering than others. Other than fulfilling this unifying theme, the entries are quite diverse. They span across several genres, including realistic, paranormal, and historical fiction. Regardless of the setting, these tales tackle often taboo subjects, such as inappropriate relations with teachers, gender issues, and mental disorders. Inclusion of drugs, alcohol, swearing, and liaisons between teens and more mature adults make this work appropriate for older readers. Overall, this collection will resonate with many young adults who have their own secrets as well as readers who vicariously live through the risqué lifestyles of others. VERDICT A very discussible title for fans of Chris Lynch’s and Ellen Hopkins’s hard-hitting realistic fiction.
Barnholdt, Lauren. Heat of the Moment. 304p. (The Moment of Truth: Bk. 1). HarperCollins/HarperTeen. May 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780062321398.
Gr 9 Up–Lyla McAfee cannot escape her younger self as she gets a daily email reminding her of the promise she made to herself as a freshman: “Before graduation, I will learn to trust.” With this in mind she heads off for her senior trip to Florida which does not go as planned. She is hoping to lose her virginity to her boyfriend, Derrick, but cannot help but be entranced by Beckett who bails her out more than once. The teens lack supervision on the trip; trouble and adults rarely find them. Even though Lyla is an idealistic teen who could use some guidance, readers will like her and forgive her for the decisions she makes. This series opener leaves readers at an intriguing cliff-hanger, wanting to know what comes next for Lyla and her two friends, who have also made promises to themselves. VERDICT A frothy summer beach read for older teens.
Beaufrand, M.J. The Rise and Fall of the Gallivanters. 304p. ebook available. Abrams/Amulet. May 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419714955. LC 2014013556.
Gr 9 Up–It’s the early 1980s in Portland, OR, and girls are disappearing without a trace. Punk protagonist Noah believes that he knows who’s to blame. In what seems to be threads of magical realism, he discovers a mysterious David Bowie look-alike, Ziggie, who helps him uncover and work to defeat the Marr, a “toxic darkness” that threatens the girls in the city as well as his best friend Evan. Only music seems to stop the Marr, and Noah hopes that by playing at the battle of the bands being held in the sinister PfefferBrau Haus, he may be able to save his friend. As Noah delves deeper into his memories of his abusive father, his friendship with Evan, and his relationship with the girls in his band, the Gallivanters, he uncovers answers he wasn’t expecting. This engaging story of friendship, mystery, music, and romance illuminates the vivid life of a complex teen. Readers experience and discover along with Noah, and, after a roller coaster of emotions, are ultimately left with hope. VERDICT A sound addition to any YA collection.
Bodger, Holly. 5 to 1. 256p. Knopf. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385391535; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780385391542; ebk. ISBN 9780385391559.
Gr 7 Up–In this debut novel told in alternating points of view, one in poetry and one in prose, Bodger explores a future in which gender selection in India has led to there being five boys for every girl. The prose is captivating in its authenticity, portraying Kiran’s point of view very well. The poetry is appropriately jarring and nuanced, showing many aspects of Sudasa’s culture and lifestyle. Sudasa is about to come of age, meaning that she, along with many other girls just like her, will watch eight boys compete for her hand in marriage. Kiran is one of those boys, but he has a plan to escape the tests, his inevitable military assignment, and the oppression of his country. Sudasa struggles against her grandmother’s strong and repressive influence, while Kiran battles pressures from the other boys in his testing group. Over days of trials and judging, Sudasa comes to realize that Kiran may have another agenda besides winning her hand in marriage. In a not-so-distant future, readers see the possibilities of giving too much power to one gender or the other, and the negative impact that inequality can have on young people and an entire country. VERDICT An engaging dystopian novel set in India that poignantly explores gender politics.
Brooks, Jen. In a World Just Right. 432p. S. & S. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481416603; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481416627.
Gr 9 Up–High school senior Jonathan Aubrey is a world-maker. After surviving a plane crash that killed nearly everyone onboard, including his family, Jonathan discovers that he can simply will new worlds into being. This comes in handy, because in the real world he has no friends, isn’t graduating, and watches his crush, Kylie Simms, from afar. In the Kylie-Simms-Is-My-Girlfriend world, Jonathan has friends, a spot on the track team, college prospects, and Kylie’s undying devotion. One day he confuses the two worlds, almost kissing the real Kylie Simms. Suddenly, the Kylie in Kylie-Simms-Is-My-Girlfriend grows distant, while real Kylie feels an inexplicable pull toward Jonathan. As the Kylies from the two worlds become increasingly intertwined, Jonathan must determine what is happening and how to fix it before both girls suffer catastrophic fates. Brooks’s debut novel will find wide readership. Elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance combine in a well-paced story that still manages a surprising conclusion. VERDICT A thoughtful story that still feels fresh amid the many other sci-fi/romance combinations out there.
Buckley, Michael. Undertow. 384p. Houghton Harcourt. May 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544348257; ebk. ISBN 9780544348622.
Gr 8 Up–In his first YA novel, Buckley delivers a solidly entertaining adventure with the perfect amount of romance and danger. Lyric Walker used to be a “wild thing.” At 14, she and her friends ruled the dilapidated beach community of Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY. Then one night, Lyric witnesses the arrival of the Alpha, strange creatures from the depths of the ocean, and learns a terrible secret her family has been keeping from her. Three years later, Coney Island is a police state, with the Alpha living in a containment camp on the beach, and furious protestors roam the streets. When six Alpha teenagers are forcibly integrated into the public high school, Lyric’s complicated web of hidden truths threatens to unravel. Smart and snarky, with rough edges and killer fashion sense, Lyric is a girl to be celebrated. Sharp political commentary and strong parallels to the treatment of minorities in the U.S. ground the world in reality, while the well-rounded and ethnically diverse supporting cast will cause readers to root for them. VERDICT Give this one to fans of Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games” trilogy (Scholastic) searching for the next big thing.
Cotugno, Katie. 99 Days. 384p. Harper Collins/Balzer & Bray. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062216380.
Gr 9 Up–Molly Barlow is back in her hometown near the Catskill Mountains. A year ago, Molly fled to a faraway boarding school in the wake of a disastrous betrayal that left her the most hated girl in town. Now that she’s back, all of her fears are justified—the girls who used to be her friends want nothing to do with her, especially not the Donnelly siblings, who used to be her closest friends. She is getting used to all the bullying, when the arrival of the two Donnelly boys turns her world upside-down. Patrick, Molly’s first boyfriend, has a new girlfriend who doesn’t seem to hate Molly despite her past transgressions. And Gabe is there for her when nobody else seems to care if she exists. When Gabe wants to spark up a romance, Molly starts to feel like she may be able to right some wrongs and put her past behind her. But things are never simple, and Molly finds herself dreading as well as clamoring for the 99 days of summer to be over. VERDICT This book will appeal to fans of E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks (Hyperion, 2008), offering complex characters, plot twists, and an insightful look at society’s double standards. School Library Journal
de la Peña, Matt. The Hunted. 384p. Delacorte. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385741224; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375989926; ebk. ISBN 9780375984365. LC 2014036148.
Gr 9 Up–Previously, in The Living (Delacorte, 2013), Shy Espinoza’s cushy summer job aboard a cruise ship was short-lived. A tsunami sunk the luxury liner, and Shy survived harrowing moments at sea, after learning that some of the passengers were working for Laso Tech, an evil biotech company responsible for Romero’s Disease, a deadly contagion ravaging Southern California. In this episode, Shy and three friends survive in a dinghy for a month with some stolen vials of the precious Romero’s vaccine, only to wash ashore and see the California coast devastated. Leveled by earthquakes, Los Angeles is an apocalyptic wasteland of rotting corpses and fearful survivors unable to contain Romero’s epidemic. Vigilantes patrol the streets looking for the ill to kill, and the healthy have few places to isolate themselves. Shy’s friends Marcus, Carmen, and Shoeshine hope to make their way to Arizona where scientists can duplicate the vaccine samples and save the masses. It is a race against time as they dodge Laso Tech’s henchmen and desperate citizens willing to kill to survive—occasionally helped by a mysterious stranger on a motorcycle. Readers will be drawn to the raw and gritty setting, fast-moving plot, and diverse characters. VERDICT A more focused and linear sequel for fans of YA survival novels.
Easton, T.S. Boys Don’t Knit. 272p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250053312.
Gr 8 Up–Seventeen-year-old Ben Fletcher is on probation for an incident involving a bottle of Martini & Rossi and the lollipop lady. Although the initial plan was against his better judgment, his knucklehead friends talked him into stealing alcohol, thus landing him in trouble with the law. In order to fulfill the terms of his probation, Ben not only has to complete community service, but he also has to take up an extracurricular activity and maintain a journal chronicling his daily experiences. Rather than sign up for his father’s car maintenance course (due to his lack of interest in anything his father deems fun), he takes up knitting. However, the protagonist soon discovers he is a natural knitter, a fact that he has to hide from his dad and friends. As he takes on this new hobby, he learns a valuable lesson about gender stereotypes, relationships, and self-worth. Easton creates a humorous story told through the fast-paced format of Ben’s journal entries. VERDICT Teens will laugh out loud as they read about the protagonist’s knitting and non-knitting escapades in this honest coming-of-age yarn.
Engel, Amy. The Book of Ivy. 304p. Entangled Teen. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781622664658.
Gr 9 Up–After the brutal war that decimated most of the country, Ivy Westfall’s grandfather founded Westfall and envisioned a democratic nation in which everyone had a right to vote. However, after a conflict between the Westfall and the Lattimer families, the Lattimers won power and governed Westfall as a dictatorship. All of her life, Ivy has been trained to hate President Lattimer for his imposed laws—specifically arranged marriages. When it is her turn to marry, she is assigned to Bishop, President Lattimer’s son. Going into the marriage, Ivy’s father and sister encourage her to kill her new husband and return the Westfall family to their rightful position. This mission becomes increasingly difficult as Ivy develops feelings for her husband. She is forced to make a decision that will alter her entire life. The novel quickly separates itself from the mediocre and presents a fantastic plot that makes readers think about the blurred lines between right and wrong. VERDICT Well-developed characters and intricate world-building combined with complex relationships, political corruption, and betrayal, leave readers begging for the second book in this series.
Fixmer, Elizabeth. Down from the Mountain. 276p. ebook available. Albert Whitman. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807583708. LC 2014027714.
Gr 9 Up–Fourteen-year-old Eva and her mother are members of the Righteous Path, a 17-member cult located in Colorado. Eva struggles to be obedient and is justifiably afraid of Prophet Ezekiel’s fierce moods and demands. Her faith is further shaken when her mother must suffer a difficult pregnancy without medical attention or proper nutrition. Eva and Rachel, the youngest of Ezekiel’s 10 wives, are sent down the mountain to purchase supplies and sell Eva’s handmade jewelry in the nearby town. Eva is fearful and amazed at the contrast between her stark, strict life and the freedom of the “heathen” world. She is also surprised at the kindness of the people she meets, contradicting everything Ezekiel has told them. Meanwhile, Ezekiel has become paranoid that outsiders may try to attack them and spends most of their money buying guns instead of food to last through winter. Her forced betrothal to Ezekiel pushes Eva to take action, leading to a gripping climax. The first-person narrative sustains a tense mood throughout, with frequent referrals to tragic real-life cults, such as the Branch Davidians of Waco, TX. VERDICT Readers will be caught up in this realistic story of a brave girl rebelling against a fundamentalist society.
Halbrook, Kristin. Every Last Promise. 288p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Apr. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780 062121288.
Gr 9 Up–Unlike her three best friends—Jen, Bean, and Selena—high school junior Kayla wants to remain in their small town of Winbrook, MO, forever. When Kayla causes a car wreck after a party that kills a classmate and injures Jen’s twin and high school football star, Jay, Kayla spends her summer with her aunt in Kansas City. Upon her return, she is a temporary outcast and the foursome becomes a threesome with Bean forging new friendships. Though Kayla pretends not to remember what happened the night of the accident, she does. She remembers wanting to crash the car and the reasons why. Told in alternating chapters between the spring before and the fall after the accident, Halbrook slowly reveals the truth of what happened that night. The author explores the effects a “boys will be boys” mentality can have on a town, and how personal safety and comfort are often valued more than a friend’s justice. VERDICT Halbrook presents a fictionalized exploration of why so many sexual assault cases are never reported that is on par with yet different from Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak (Farrar, 1999).
Hautman, Pete. Eden West. 320p. Candlewick. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763674182; ebk. ISBN 9780763676902.
Gr 10 Up–Since he was five years old, Jacob has lived inside the Nodd, 12 square miles of Montana land that he works on along with other members of the Grace. Jacob has been taught that the world is wicked and that the Grace will return to Heaven on an ark that the Prophet Zerachiel will be sending shortly—it is The Truth. Jacob’s world begins to turn upside down with the arrival of several beings. Tobias’s family travels from Colorado to join the Grace—and yet Tobias won’t stop questioning and pushing against The Truth. During his patrols along the Grace’s border, Jacob meets Lynna, a worldly girl with whom he should not interact—but he cannot help but be attracted to her. The third newcomer, a lone wolf, begins to slowly kill off the sheep and threaten the well-being of all the Grace. Jacob’s faith is tested as he struggles to reconcile what he knows to be The Truth and what is happening around him. Hautman delivers a captivating character study, studiously demonstrating the reasons why some people are drawn into cults and quietly revealing how unquestioned power turns rotten. Jacob is a realistic and relatable protagonist and his complex relationships with those around him—and himself—ring true. VERDICT A heartbreaking, uplifting, and fantastic read.
Heathfield, Lisa. Seed. 336p. Running Pr. Teen. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780762456345. LC 2014949872.
Gr 9 Up–Seed is at the center of 15-year-old Pearl’s life: it is the isolated family of which she is part, it is the house in which she lives, and it is the remote patch of land around that house where she sows and gathers crops for her family’s sustenance. Pearl is happy at Seed. She does not often leave because according to Papa S., the leader of Pearl’s family, Seed is pure and leaving risks contact with poisoned Outsiders who may taint Pearl’s spiritual core. The teen knows Papa S. is truthful, but when three Outsiders unexpectedly join the family, the patriarch’s word—and Pearl’s entire reality—is challenged. The smooth pacing and sophisticated yet age-appropriate style of the work lend credence to the story as it transforms the everyday activities of Seed into complex issues of physical and emotional abuse, budding self-esteem and increasing self-reliance, fear as a means of control, and belief as an expression of faith or as a means of deception. VERDICT Seed will hold readers’ attention as the story’s mood slowly changes and the work builds to an ultimately stunning conclusion.
Hesik, Annameekee. Driving Lessons. 264p. (The You Know Who Girls: Bk. 2). Bold Strokes. 2014. pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781626392281.
Gr 9 Up–Abbey’s sophomore year is already in trouble. She’s scared to learn to drive after her father’s fatal accident, afraid to come out to her mother, and is suddenly targeted by the meanest girl in school. That, plus baggage from her last not-girlfriend, confusing dynamics with her very straight BFF, and a flirtatious straight girl all mean that this year will be one for the books. A fun, contemporary, lesbian heir to Alex Sanchez’s “Rainbow Boys” trilogy (S. & S.), this series seems to be a wonderful and relatively light realistic look at the specific trials of being a teenaged girl who likes girls. Hesik does a good job of filling new readers in on the relationships and plot points established in Freshman Year (Bold Strokes, 2012) without bogging down the opening chapters. There is also a very well-handled relationship between a Deaf character and the hearing protagonist. The interactions ring true to the way that Deaf and hearing individuals and culture rub up against each other. VERDICT A strong read for girls just coming out who want to see their own experiences reflected back at them.
Hogan, Edward. The Messengers. 224p. Candlewick. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763671129; ebk. ISBN 9780763676988. LC 2014939364.
Gr 9 Up–After her older brother almost kills someone in a bar fight and disappears, Frances, a promising young artist, starts seeing strange things in her drawings. They materialize out of nowhere after she blacks out. She can’t figure out why these images are hazy and imprecise—until she puts one of them under a scanner, and learns with the help of her mentor Peter, another “messenger,” that each one reveals where and when someone is going to die. Peter’s convinced that they’re just a couple of killers, but Frances might have a plan to change all that, using their premonitions to save lives rather than end them, and maybe find her brother, presumed dead, in the process. But do they have the power, or the right, to change fate? That’s only one of the weighty questions explored in this clever page-turner. VERDICT A mash-up of philosophy, mystery, and horror, this haunting YA novel takes on all of these subjects with satisfying results.
Hoyle, Tom. Thirteen. 240p. Holiday House. May 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823432943; ebk. ISBN 9780823433827. LC 2014028416.
Gr 7 Up–In this dark thriller by a first-time British author, a sadistic self-appointed messiah leads his brainwashed cult in murdering boys born on New Year’s Day of 2000. Now 2013, only a few remain, including protagonist Adam, who runs, fights, and kills for his life, aided by his love interest and neighbor, Megan. Interspersed with Adam’s action-packed running around are various scenes of gruesome murders, torture, and cinematically threatening posturing by the cultist leader, Coron, and his fit teenage disciples. Hoyle removes Coron’s mystique fairly early by explaining that the “Master” he serves is merely a “shadowy production, a sort of echo, in Coron’s sick mind.” He also ends the novel with a list of real-life cults gone bad. Descriptive passages and well-formed chapters keep this work thrilling. VERDICT This gruesome survival story will most likely garner a readership among violence-craving, action-loving anglophiles.
Katcher, Brian. The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak. 336p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062272775.
Gr 7 Up–When slacker and sci-fi enthusiast Zak Duquette meets type-A scholar Ana Watson, he is strangely attracted; unfortunately, Ana has no time for anything but academics, as her parents’ demands for perfection will ensure. But the two are forced to work together when Zak is coerced by a teacher to join the quiz bowl team with Ana and her whiz-kid younger brother, Clayton. Unfortunately for Zak, the quiz bowl takes place on the same weekend as WashingCon—the sci-fi convention where Zak has had many amazing adventures every year. After Zak extols the glories of the fest, Clayton sneaks away to experience it for himself. In order to keep Clayton’s disappearance from her overly controlling parents, Ana must team up with Zak and brave the gathering of geeks, zombies, Vikings, and aliens to find her brother before curfew. In alternating chapters, as they meet one obstacle after another, this seemingly incongruous couple slowly begins to open up and to appreciate each other’s talents. Strong personalities, a cast of out-of-this-world characters, and a fast-paced manhunt in an imaginative setting make this an appealing title for tweens and teens. VERDICT A zany romantic comedy for pop culture geeks and “Con” enthusiasts.
Kirby, Jessi. Things We Know By Heart. 304p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062299437.
Gr 8 Up–Junior Quinn Sullivan finds it hard to forget the night that her life changed in an instant when her boyfriend, Trent, was killed in a car accident. Healthy and only 17, his organs were donated to five different people. After 282 days and several written letters, Quinn meets the recipients of Trent’s organs—all but one of them. Who received Trent’s heart and why didn’t that person come forward? Quinn needs to know and begins combing websites looking for clues. She eventually finds the receiver, Colton Thomas, and sets out to meet him in person. The love story that follows will hook readers. The author has created believable and likable characters who will remind readers to seize the moment and live each day to the fullest. Kirby brings attention to the importance of organ donation without sounding preachy. VERDICT This memorable romance will ring true with teens, and librarians won’t be able to keep it on the shelf.
Krossing, Karen. Punch Like a Girl. 228p. ebook available. Orca Bks. Apr. 2015. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781459808287.
Gr 9 Up–Tori Wyatt shocked her family and friends when she shaved her head in the middle of the night. She tells everyone that she wanted to donate her hair to deflect from the real reason—her need to feel strong and tough after being sexually assaulted by her ex-boyfriend at a party. She gets in an altercation at the mall that further surprises everyone and to avoid arrest, agrees to do community service at a shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. Bonding with one young girl at the shelter, Tori finds her strength in defending others and is then able to talk about what happened to her and start on the path to recovery. The first-person present-tense narration gives a sense of immediacy and pulls readers along with the protagonist as she seeks ways to stop feeling helpless in the aftermath of the assault. VERDICT While comparisons to Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak (Farrar, 1999) are inevitable, Tori’s journey is her own and will provide another option for encouraging necessary discussions on sexual assault.
Latham, Jennifer. Scarlett Undercover. 320p. Little, Brown. May 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316283939; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316283892.
Gr 6-10–Sixteen-year-old Scarlett is a Sam Spade-talking, fedora-wearing Muslim American who runs her own detective agency in the gritty city of Las Almas. Scarlett’s usual cases involve adultery and insurance fraud until a 10-year-old girl hires her to investigate a suicide. The minute the teen takes the case, she is tailed by two strange girls with gold circles in their eyes. Someone breaks into her apartment and steals a family heirloom. Even her closest friends start acting like the world is ending. Scarlett quickly discovers that her case isn’t just about a suicide, but rather an ancient war between genies and the descendants of King Solomon. There is a relic that could tip the balance of power. Scarlett is tough and fiercely independent. While her older sister takes comfort in religion, the protagonist finds solace in her father’s old copy of One Thousand and One Nights. The supernatural mystery is engaging and the Muslim American teenage sleuth will be a welcome addition to YA shelves. VERDICT A fun whodunit with a diverse protagonist who is an heir apparent to Veronica Mars.
Leaver, Trisha & Lindsey Currie. Creed. 288p. Flux. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780738740805. LC 2014025039.
Gr 9 Up–A dark, disturbing story that will appeal to teens on the cusp of reading Stephen King. Seventeen-year-old Dee, for many years an abused child, has lived in countless foster homes before finally settling in with a loving older couple. As a surprise for her boyfriend Luke, Dee arranges a fun night to attend a concert several towns over. She has enlisted Luke’s younger brother Mike to aid in lying to their parents about their whereabouts. Things progress smoothly and the trio sets off on the trip, but tension builds quickly when the teens forget to get gas. They eventually end up stranded in a desolate, snow-covered landscape with no cell phone service. The characters come across a tiny, eerily silent, and deserted settlement. They fruitlessly search for gas and eventually break into an isolated cemetery shed where they discover mysterious papers. Mike also finds a sign denoting the name of the town as Purity Springs. Trapped, the protagonists make the fatal choice of looking for help in one of the homes along the street. The houses are identical and all contain a bizarre manual entitled “Fashioning Children in the Image of God.” For Dee, the volume hits too close to home as it describes punishing children through beatings. This book pulls no punches: There is swearing, sexual references, violence, underage drinking, and drug use. VERDICT A fine choice for teens who crave horror.
McCarthy, Cori. Breaking Sky. 416p. Sourcebooks Fire. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492601418; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781492601425.
Gr 9 Up–The year is 2048. Teenager Chase, better known by her call sign, Nyx, is a pilot in training for the American military’s topmost secret project. Back in 2020, American pilots were massacred in an airfight by drones—dictator Ri Xiong Di’s most effective weapon. The entire world has endured a second Cold War ever since. No other countries are allowed to aid the U.S. at all, and the people are suffering. The military is secretly testing two new plane prototypes that might outrun the drones. However, their pilots must be young and strong enough to withstand the tremendous force on the human body that occurs when traveling at high speeds. In order to get funding for more prototypes, Nyx and her comrades must prove the worth of the project. On a training mission, Nyx spots a third prototype that she didn’t know existed. In her haste to discover the identity of its pilot and country, Nyx endangers the entire project and many lives as well. But, if she can start dismantling the wall she’s built around herself since her difficult childhood, she might be able to trust someone, fall in love, and save the day. The dialogue is authentic, and the characters are nuanced. The description of her flights is breathtakingly realistic. VERDICT Strong characterizations, action, adventure, and emotion combine to produce a sci-fi novel that is more than just the sum of its parts.
MacColl, Michaela. The Revelation of Louisa May. 256p. ebook available. further reading. notes. Chronicle. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452133577.
Gr 7 Up–Readers are immediately drawn into Louisa’s 19th-century world as her mother departs for work in the city and Louisa discovers a runaway slave, named George, hiding outside the Alcott home. The teen capably manages the various conflicts in the novel: money struggles, her relationship with her father, George’s safety, and romantic tensions between her and her distant cousin, Fred. Unsavory characters like Fitch, who is a slave catcher, and a disreputable woman named Miss Whittington, bring additional tension to this plot-driven novel. MacColl creates a strong sense of place, both in time and with her presentation of the physical environment. Her fluid incorporation of the transcendentalists and their movement aligns well with her attention to the novel’s setting. VERDICT Though light on character development, MacColl has created a page-turner that satisfies.
McGann, Oisín. Strangled Silence. 372p. Open Road. Apr. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781497665798; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781497665712.
Gr 10 Up–Originally published in the UK in 2008, McGann’s novel sometimes feels dated, but makes for an entertaining pick for mature readers. In her second year at university, Amina Mir lands an internship at the Chronicle. Her mother is a well-known and respected journalist, but Amina intends to make her own way. She expects the internship to start out as making coffee and keeping the copier working. When she is asked to do a human interest story on a veteran who has won the lottery but is not spending any of the money, she is glad just to have received a story assignment. What she does not expect is to find herself in the middle of a huge government conspiracy. The characters are well developed and believable. Hovering UFOs, a rogue surgeon, and mindwashed schoolchildren are just a few of the pieces that readers will need to put together to figure out what is really going on in this suspenseful tale. VERDICT This fast-paced and cinematic conspiracy thriller will keep teens’ attention.
Meyer, Carolyn. Diary of a Waitress. 348p. Calkins Creek. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781620916520. LC 2014948477.
Gr 7-10–It is 1926, and Kitty Evans is looking forward to finishing high school and going to college to become a journalist. Unfortunately, her father informs her that there isn’t enough money to educate both her and her brother and that she will have to get a job. With her dreams shattered, Kitty answers a newspaper ad for a Harvey Girl. After six weeks of training, she’ll be transferred to one of many Harvey restaurants located along train lines in the western United States. Little does Kitty know that the rules and expectations of a Harvey Girl are very strict. She meets some new friends including Cordelia, a debutante from Philadelphia who wears short flapper dresses and bright red lipstick, and Emmy, another girl who hopes to make money to send back to her family. Cordelia encourages the girls to try new things, Emmy reminds them of the rules, and Kitty documents it all. The narrative is told through a series of diary entries in which Kitty notes her challenges—from the job interview and telling her parents about life-changing decision to making friends and meeting all kinds of characters. Kitty records interactions with everyone from railroaders to politicians to hobos. She also has many admirers and is asked to “go for walks” and to “save a dance” at local gatherings. Readers will feel connected to Kitty and her group of girlfriends and hope for their success. VERDICT A fast and interesting read about a part of history of which many readers may be unaware.
Moore, Meredith. I Am Her Revenge. 336p. Penguin/Razorbill. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781595147820; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698157743.
Gr 9 Up–The circumstances under which Vivian comes to The Madigan School are anything but typical. Arriving at the school in the British countryside midyear, she takes the place of a young woman reputed to have been fraternizing with a member of the faculty, a charge that few seem to believe, including the student’s roommate. Nonetheless, Mother needs Vivian to attend this school and Mother is accustomed to getting what she wants. For her part, Vivian is accustomed to bending to her mother’s every whim, or suffering very real consequences for her disobedience. She has been bred to take on any role needed to further Mother’s plans for revenge, but Vivian’s task at Madigan is to cultivate a plot ending in the ultimate humiliation of the man who had betrayed Mother years before. While playing out this plan upon the man’s son, also a student at Madigan, Vivian begins to unravel quite a bit of her mother’s secret history. This journey of discovery will prove to be the undoing of each character’s precariously balanced life. Moore leads readers through carefully constructed paths, set on the English moors, in her debut novel. The tightly concocted plotlines and clearly drawn characters are delivered in digestible pieces. VERDICT A refreshing and dramatic tale with a fearless and fragile protagonist.
Nielsen, Susin. We Are All Made of Molecules. 256p. Random/Wendy Lamb Bks. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553496864; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780553496871; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780553496888. LC 2014017652.
Gr 7-10–Thirteen-year-old Stewart and 14-year-old Ashley could not be more different. Stewart is a quirky, gifted intellectual who is coping with the loss of his mother, while Ashley is a popular fashionista still reeling from her parents’ divorce—brought about by her father’s announcement that he is gay. When a serious relationship develops between Stewart’s father and Ashley’s mother, the two teens find themselves living under the same roof. By turns humorous and heartbreaking, the story is told in alternating chapters narrated by both protagonists. The contrast between the two characters makes for a compelling read, particularly as they begin to challenge and influence each other. Their overlapping journeys will leave readers with much to think about, as Nielsen unflinchingly tackles issues such as bullying, bigotry, and tolerance; the true nature of friendship; and what it means to be a family. VERDICT This work of realistic fiction should find a place in most libraries serving teens.
Oakes, Colleen. The Crown. Vol. 1. ISBN 9781940716022.
––––. The Wonder. Vol. 2. ISBN 9781940716213.
ea vol: 222p. (Queen of Hearts). ebook available. BookSparks/SparkPress. 2014. pap. $15.
Gr 9 Up–Readers get a peek into the story behind the darkly twisted world of Wonderland before Alice arrived. Fifteen-year-old Princess Dinah, heir to the throne of Wonderland, tries to navigate her way to power around the ruthlessly brutal King; her half-sister, Vittore; her much adored “mad” brother Charles, who is the direct heir, but not able to take on the responsibilities of the throne; and an interesting hierarchy of characters who are either in support of or in opposition to her becoming the “Queen of Hearts” once she turns 18. In The Crown, readers catch a glimpse of the causes of the future Queen’s anger-management issues and mistrust of people. Surrounded by few friends and numerous enemies—with the shape-shifter and king’s advisor Cheshire being the most dangerous of all—Dinah lives in constant fear and is forced to hide her true feelings for mere survival. In The Wonder, Dinah is in exile, hiding from the king’s assassins, and purported to be a traitor and murderer. Oakes expertly expands the children’s classic into a complex and compelling series of plot twists that uncover the future Queen of Hearts’s true origins. VERDICT Complete with a mad tea party in the woods, this cinematic series has just the right amount of fantasy and epic suspense to keep even the strongest of hearts on the edge of their seats.
Saft, Lauren. Those Girls. 336p. Little, Brown/Poppy. Jun. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316403665; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316403672. LC 2014009416.
Gr 10 Up–Alexandra and Mollie have been friends for as long as they can remember. In middle school, they befriended the risqué but adorable Veronica. The three of them now attend a posh, private all-girls school. Once Mollie starts dating high school jock Sam, the dynamic of the trio changes. Alex spends more time with Drew, her platonic best friend and unrequited crush. Veronica becomes promiscuous and gets a reputation for it. Alex, the frizzy-haired rebel of the group, decides to join a band in order to pursue her musical interests and establish a separate identity for herself. As the new school year begins, Veronica throws a massive party at her often-empty house. She eventually begins an innocent flirtation with Drew, which her friends notice, and secretly hooks up with Sam on the sly as well. With two different love triangles developing, tensions mount as feelings between all invested parties threaten to break beyond repair. In this debut novel, Saft gives readers a look at the complicated relationships between high school girlfriends. The female characters she crafts are complex. The drama between the girls combined with their first-person perspectives proves to be a delightful, guilty read. VERDICT Fans of Cecily Von Ziegesar’s “Gossip Girl” series will no doubt love this more nuanced story.
Shusterman, Neal. Challenger Deep. illus. by Brendan Shusterman. 320p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780061134111.
Gr 9 Up–Caden Bosch lives in two worlds. One is his real life with his family, his friends, and high school. There he is paranoid for no reason, thinks people are trying to kill him, and demonstrates obsessive compulsive behaviors. In his other world, he’s part of the crew for a pirate captain on a voyage to the Challenger Deep, the ocean’s deepest trench. There he’s paranoid, wary of the mercurial captain and his mutinous parrot, and tries hard to interpret the mutterings of his fellow shipmates as they sail uncharted waters toward unknown dangers. Slowly, Caden’s fantasy and paranoia begin to take over, until his parents have only one choice left. Shusterman’s latest novel gives readers a look at teen mental illness from inside the mind of Caden Bosch. He is a credible and sympathetic character, and his retreat into his own flawed mind is fascinating, full of riddles and surrealism. VERDICT This affecting deep dive into the mind of a schizophrenic will captivate readers, engender empathy for those with mental illnesses, and offer much fodder for discussion.
Skrypuch, Marsha Forchuk. Dance of the Banished. 234p. Pajama Pr. Feb. 2015. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781927485651.
Gr 8 Up–Skrypuch continues to tell the stories of young refugees in her latest historical novel. Set between 1913 and 1917, it features two Alevi Kurd teenagers in Anatolia as World War I breaks out and Turkey begins the Armenian Genocide. Ali emigrates before the war begins and gives his girlfriend, Zeynep, a journal to write in for when they meet again. While in Canada, he is locked up in an internment camp because of his nationality, though he does not identify as Turkish. Meanwhile, Zeynep is witness to the genocide of her neighbors and is called to help. The author sheds light on an often overlooked piece of history. The setting is fascinating, the research is thorough, and the story is made all the more interesting due to current events in the region. The author’s note is full of source notes and historical details, though it lacks a bibliography. In a world that continues to be violent, readers may find solace in the novel’s joyful ending. VERDICT Dance of the Banished is a good book for teens who enjoy historical fiction.
Smith, Andrew. The Alex Crow. 304p. ebook available. Dutton. Mar. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525426530.
Gr 9 Up–The author weaves several odd yet connected story threads: the 19th-century Arctic exploration aboard the ill-fated Alex Crow ship; a madman’s bizarre U-Haul road trip; and the Merrie-Seymour Research Group and its de-extinction program. But the most compelling narrative is that of Ariel, a teenage refugee of an unnamed country, who is adopted into an American family. He and his brother, Max, are sent to Camp Merrie-Seymour “where boys rediscover the fun of boyhood.” The camp’s purpose is to wean teenage boys off of their technology addictions. Unfortunately for Max and Ariel, their father works for Merrie-Seymour, so they’re forced to attend because it’s free. Smith deftly combines Ariel’s harrowing wartime horrors juxtaposed against his hilarious six weeks at an American summer camp with maladjusted teenage boys. The teen protagonist is the lens through which readers see how society exerts its control over teenage boys’ thoughts and actions. And Camp Merrie-Seymour is the satirical showcase for how often these boys are expected to deal with the harsh world on their own without any real guidance from adults. VERDICT A must-have for all YA collections.
Spalding, Amy. Kissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys). 312p. Little, Brown/Poppy. Apr. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316371520; ebk. ISBN 9780316371513; Audio ISBN 9781478903499. LC 2014015563.
Gr 8 Up–Sixteen-year-old Riley is pretty happy with her life so far. She has her best friends Lucy and Reid; their band, the Gold Diggers, is getting better; and school is not horrible. After walking in on Lucy and their other bandmate Nathan, Riley and Reid decide they need to do something to bring a bit of romance into their own lives. They make a pact: help each other with their respective crushes and document everything in a notebook. Reid tries to overcome his insecurity and anxiety; Riley gets in over her head with three different guys—Garrick, Milo, and her crush, Ted. While trying to figure out what to do about the men in her life, Riley also avoids Lucy, feeling like they no longer know each other. The band starts to take off but everything gets jumbled as emotions escalate and things get complicated. Then the notebook disappears and Riley and Reid must tell the people closest to them the truth. Character-driven enough to keep the story moving, this book will appeal most to teenagers questioning and exploring romantic relationships. VERDICT Recommended for teens looking for realistic stories without a hefty amount of drama.
Sullivan, Derek E. Biggie. 269p. Albert Whitman. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807507278.
Gr 9 Up–In this debut novel, Henry is an obese high school student weighing in at 300 pounds. Because of his weight, everyone calls him Biggie, and he has little desire to try to lose the weight. That is, until one day when he is forced to participate in gym class and pitches a perfect game in a Wiffle ball match. The unathletic son of a baseball legend, he’s always had little hope of living up to everyone’s expectations—until that Wiffle ball game, when he catches a glimpse into his possible future. Most of his motivation to lose weight and play baseball comes from Annabelle, the popular girl he’s been crushing on since elementary school, but his chances with her are ruined when she finds out that he’s been hacking into her email account for years. Some teens may find Biggie’s attitude off-putting. In the end, however, Biggie redeems himself by realizing that he just might be the villain of the story. This novel is well written and fairly quick-paced, but only skims the surface on the topic of bullying. VERDICT Readers who persevere through the unlikable characters will find a thoughtful conclusion.
Van Ark, Katie. The Boy Next Door. 288p. Feiwel & Friends/Swoon Reads. Feb. 2015. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9781250061461.
Gr 9 Up–Fans of ice-skating and romance will fall in love with this debut novel. Maddy and Gabe, both seniors at Riverview Prep in Kansas, grew up next door to one another and have been figure skating as a pair since they were in preschool; Gabe even gave up a place on a championship hockey team to skate with Maddy. The two are close friends and practice for hours every day. Their relationship was just fine until trainer Igor asked them to do Romeo and Juliet as a long program. Gabe considers Maddy to be like a sister and at first, he’s not interested in even pretending to be in love with her. Maddy, nursing a secret crush, would like nothing more than a romance to develop with Gabe. As they prepare for the competition, the two friends toy with the idea of dating. As Gabe’s past relationships have only lasted two weeks or less, he worries about what will happen if this one doesn’t work. Could he lose skating and his friend? Underlying the frothy plot are some serious themes and issues, including sex, pregnancy, cancer, money problems, family stress, lies, and complicated relationships. VERDICT For unapologetic romance lovers, this is a first purchase.
Wallace, Becky. The Storyspinner. 432p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481405652; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481405676.
Gr 7 Up–Santarem and Olinda are two lands divided by a magical wall. Those with powers live on the north side while the non-magical people live in Santarem, south of the wall. King Wilhelm of Santarem is murdered and his heir is allegedly dead as well, which jeopardizes the safety of everyone on both sides of the wall. Johanna Von Arlo, a 16-year-old Performer who specializes in the art of spinning stories, travels with her family to perform throughout Santarem, until her dad dies from a mysterious fall and the entire Von Arlo family is exiled from the Performers community. To make ends meet, Johanna takes employment at the DeSilva’s estate, performing for nobility, including the honor-bound, handsome, and frustratingly stubborn Duke-to-be, Rafael. Jo finds herself at the center of an age-old story—one she has told many times—and discovers the magic of her tales may be more real than she could ever have imagined. In this beautifully constructed first installment of a new fantasy series, Wallace creates a lush environment, interweaving unique characters. VERDICT Recommended for fans of classic fantasy (J.R.R. Tolkien) as well as more modern fantasy adventures by Melina Marchetta, Kristin Cashore, and Sarah J. Maas.
Wallach, Tommy. We All Looked Up. 384p. S. & S. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481418775. LC 2014004565.
Gr 10 Up–It’s spring of senior year, and four students are questioning whether they’re headed for the futures they want. For Peter (the popular jock), Anita (most likely to succeed), Andy, (the slacker stoner), and Eliza (the photographer with a reputation), the pressures of school, friends, and family feel massive—until the announcement that an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. Suddenly the future isn’t so important. Wallach has created an accessible cast of realistic teens struggling with identity, family, and loyalty. Substantial language, casual sex, drugs, and occasional violence occur throughout, but it almost always feels authentic to these teens and the world they’re living in; even their worst mistakes feel relatable and worthy of empathy given the world-ending circumstances. In following his four protagonists as their lives converge, Wallach has written a coming-of-age novel with a captivating existential twist. VERDICT Fans of gritty and apocalyptic fiction won’t be disappointed.
Whiting, Sue. Portraits of Celina. 352p. Capstone/Switch Pr. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781630790240.
Gr 8 Up–After her father dies suddenly, 16-year-old Bayley finds herself uprooted by her mother to their family’s abandoned lake house in the middle of nowhere with the intention of starting over and moving on. Inside her new room, Bayley discovers a chest containing clothes and other items that belonged to her relative Celina, who mysteriously disappeared 40 years earlier. When Bayley tries on Celina’s clothes she makes a startling discovery—she can sense Celina trying to contact her from beyond the grave. The ghost wants Bayley to “make him pay.” Bayley must now solve the mystery of who “he” is and what exactly happened to Celina all of those years ago. Bayley learns that the deeper she digs, the more she struggles with Celina trying to take over her body. The plot is one part ghost story and one part a story about loss. Bayley and her family ineffectively deal with the tragic death of her father, which sets up an atmosphere rife with emotional instability and ideal for ghostly revenge. There’s plenty of gradual tension and foreboding to keep readers interested from start to finish. Bayley finds a love interest in Oliver, a teenager from across the lake, who serves as a device to keep her occasionally grounded in reality. VERDICT Give this to fans of paranormal mysteries with a touch of romance.
FICTION Graphic Novels
Fiffe, Michel. All-New Ultimates Vol. 1: Power for Power. illus. by Amilcar Pinna. 136p. Marvel. 2014. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9780785154273.
Gr 9 Up–There’s a new superhero crew in town and they’re off to a rough start. Led by Jessica Drew, aka Spider-Woman (later Black Widow), the Ultimates include Spider-Man (Miles Morales, not Peter Parker), the romantic duo Cloak and Dagger, the volatile Bombshell, and the famous Kitty Pryde. This group of young superheroes must face a scientist developing a drug that endows the subject with horrifically destructive powers, the band of villains known as the Serpent Skulls, and the vigilante Scourge. What they lack in experience, they make up for in enthusiasm and loyalty. Refreshingly, while the girls are athletic (we see lots of short shorts and toned legs), they’re not excessively busty. There’s some violence and gore in these pages, so this graphic novel isn’t for the faint of heart. VERDICT An exciting addition to the Marvel universe.
Sakurazaka, Hiroshi & Ryosuke Takeuchi. All You Need Is Kill: 2-in-1 Edition. illus. by Takeshi Obata. 550p. Viz Media. 2014. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781421576015.
Gr 9 Up–Based on Sakurazaka’s novel, which served as the basis for the science-fiction movie Edge of Tomorrow, this manga was available digitally as two volumes, and is now released in this ominbus print edition. Live, die, repeat. Earth has been invaded by aliens known as Mimics. The fate of humanity rests with the United Defense Force. Suiting up in battle armor called a jacket, soldier Keiji Kiriya prepares to deploy on his first combat assignment, alongside the elite U.S. Special Forces lead by Rita Vrataski. During the battle, Keiji dies. He wakes up to the day before his death, only to go out into battle and die again. His memories intact, Keiji realizes that he is trapped in a time loop where his death is seemingly inevitable, “like hitting the reset button on a video game.” To save the human race, Keiji must solve the mysterious connection between himself, Rita, and the Mimics. The writing is compelling as the plot moves between fast-paced military action and reflective, philosophical moments. The tone is intense as characters are pushed to the limits, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Obata’s stunning artwork offers textured designs of mechanized suits and weaponry, exciting battle sequences, and expressive human characters. being gratuitous. VERDICT A complex manga that’s highly recommended for fans of science fiction, the Edge of Tomorrow film, strong female characters, and video games.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. adapted by Gareth Hinds. illus. by Gareth Hinds. 152p. Candlewick. Feb. 2015. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780763669430; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780763678029. LC 2014939338.
Gr 8 Up–On the opening page, three Witches sit atop a barren tree in the midst of a bloody battlefield against the backdrop of a gloomy sky, setting the stage for one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. Macbeth, a valiant general of the King’s army, is told a prophecy by the three witches that he will one day become King of Scotland. Unwilling to wait for the prophecy to come true on its own, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plot to expedite the process, murdering the current King Duncan in his sleep. Shakespeare’s text has historically been linked to theatrical productions, the story enhanced by the visual performance, making his plays perfect source material for graphic novels. Hinds, widely praised for his graphic novel adaptations of classic literature, succeeds yet again in bringing Shakespeare to life for modern readers. He captures the haunting and dramatic tone of Macbeth with expert pacing, skillful usage of shadow and color within the panels, and emotional close-ups of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, depicting their journey into madness. VERDICT Hinds’s Macbeth will make a solid addition to any graphic novel collection, especially those looking for accessible, enjoyable, and quality Shakespeare adaptations.
Stevenson, Noelle & Grace Ellis. Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy. illus. by Brooke Allen & Shannon Watters. 128p. Boom! Studios. Apr. 2015. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781608866878.
Gr 5 Up–The first four issues of this female-created and female-starring comic, set at summer camp with creepy happenings, are collected here in this kick-butt volume. The graphic novel begins mid-adventure as five campers are out after hours investigating a strange event that they all witnessed: a woman turning into a giant bear. This is just the first of many odd occurrences that Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley encounter at the summer camp for “Hardcore Lady Types.” The Lumberjanes, as the scouts are called, band together to solve puzzles, defeat three-eyed creatures, and escape the ire of their watchful counselor Jen. Each protagonist has a skill that helps the group conquer each obstacle. Spunky, lovable characters sparkle with exuberant personality and challenge gender stereotypes. Small details make these episodes stand out—the hipster Yetis guarding a mysterious lighthouse, Molly and Mal’s tender glances at each other, and Ripley’s penchant for animals and all things cute. At the opening of each chapter, an excerpt from the Lumberjanes field guide is included and a gallery of cover images append the book. References to female heroines (invocations of Bessie Coleman and Joan Jett as well as Rosie the camp director’s striking resemblance to Rosie the Riveter) and phrases such as “Friends to the Max!” and “What the junk!” add to the charm of this feel-good title that celebrates female empowerment. The vibrant art exudes humor and reinforces themes of teamwork and friendship. VERDICT A must-have graphic novel for those who have graduated from Raina Telgemeier’s works. School Library Journal
Watson, Andi. Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula. illus. by Andi Watson. 176p. First Second. Feb. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781626722750; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781626721494.
Gr 6-10–In this graphic novel by longtime comic artist Watson, harried Princess Decomposia is so busy running the Underworld for her overbearing and hypochondriac father that she never has time to eat properly. With state affairs hanging in the balance, she hires pastry chef Count Spatula as the new cook, hoping he will finally be able to assuage the King Wulfrun’s cantankerous belly, so that he can go back to running the gloomy kingdom. When Wulfrun discovers the growing friendship and romance between the Princess and the cook, all hell breaks loose as the burgeoning couple take a day trip aboveground. Visual and textual puns abound in this Downton Abbey-esque romp, which balances serious discussions on class, gender, and politics with humor and wordplay. Decomposia learns to stand up for herself, inspired by her new friendships, and comes into her own, a lesson that could border on preachy, but is delivered with nuance. The inky black-and-white illustrations on the mostly three-tier, six-panel pages denote movement and facial expressions with aplomb. VERDICT This comedy of manners and errors is a delightful confection for graphic novel fans looking for a quirky, tame romance. School Library Journal
Wilde, Lisa. Yo Miss: A Graphic Look at High School. illus. by Lisa Wilde. 160p. Microcosm. Mar. 2015. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781621069874.
Gr 8 Up–This is a selection of semi-autobiographical vignettes in the life of Ms. Wilde—teacher of seniors in John V. Lindsay Wildcat Academy—and her students. The black-and-white artwork, while lacking the sophisticated shading of many slicker graphic novels, plays a supporting role and moves readers through scenes of heartbreak and triumph. Whether it is William and his myriad attempts to escape the call of a gang and the street; Natalie, who is struggling to be a student even as she is becoming a mother; or Danny, who insists on calling Ms. Wilde “Snowflake” and masks his fear of failure with bravado and bullying; each of the characters ring true. Struggling students will recognize the scenarios, burned out teachers will find their passion rekindled for trying just one more time with that difficult student, and both sets of readers will be refreshed by Wilde’s conclusion to the story with a graduation ceremony that is filled with hope that realistically transcends the grim reality her characters must overcome. VERDICT When it comes to portraying life in an alternative high school setting, Yo Miss is a direct hit.
Wolfman, Marv & Geoff Johns. Teen Titans: A Celebration of 50 Years. illus. by George Perez. 400p. DC Comics. 2014. Tr $39.99. ISBN 9781401251772. LC 2014032614.
Gr 7 Up–This book covers the entire publication history of the team known as the Teen Titans, whose core membership has primarily consisted of Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy, and Aqua-Lad with support from several others throughout the years. The team started out as a hip alternative to their adult counterparts designed to appeal to a younger audience; the early stories reflect that in content and language. This first section, featuring the original Titans, also contains a story from the “Teen Titans: Year One” series (DC Comics, 2008). The work also highlights “The New Titans” era to present-day, including some “Tiny Titans” (a children’s cartoon-style comic with the Titans as little kids) and the graphic novel version of the Teen Titans Go! television show geared toward adolescents. This is a good selection of stories that represent the place and the growth of the team through the years as the original heroes have given way to an even younger generation in much the same way their own mentors did. Each era and team of Titans is given adequate space to give a good flavor of that group. One quibble about this work is that there are a few stories that are unresolved, leaving readers with little or no recourse to finding the conclusions, since many of the follow-ups to these tales have not been previously collected—especially in the case of the original team. VERDICT A collection that certainly warrants inclusion in any library, especially those that already have strong graphic novel collections.
For those interested in nonfiction, take a look at these stellar offerings with subjects as diverse as rad women in history, Chinese fairy tales, LEGO Mindstorm robots.
Alifirenka, Caitlin & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch. I Will Always Write Back. 400p. photos. Little, Brown. Apr. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316241311; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316241342. LC 2014030355.
Gr 6 Up–The true story of two young pen pals who forge a life-altering connection. In 1997, Caitlin, a typical 12-year-old girl from a middle class American family, began writing to Martin, a studious 14-year-old from a Zimbabwe slum. In her letters, Caitlin described her life, which consisted of shopping trips, quarrels with friends, and problems at school. Martin was initially far more circumspect in his responses. Inflation had rocketed in Zimbabwe, and even finding money for postage was a struggle for the boy. Staying in school, which required paying costly fees, became merely a dream. Eventually, Martin revealed the harsh realities of his life to Caitlin, who began sending money and gifts. What started as chatty letters turned into a lifeline for Martin and his family, as Caitlin and her parents helped the boy stay in school and achieve his goal of studying at an American university. This is a well-written, accessible story that will open Western adolescents’ eyes to life in developing countries. Told in the first person, with chapters alternating between Caitlin’s and Martin’s points of view, this title effectively conveys both of these young people’s perspectives. VERDICT A useful addition to most collections and an eye-opening look at life in another culture.
Bolden, Tonya. Capital Days: Michael Shiner’s Journal and the Growth of Our Nation’s Capital. 96p. chron. glossary. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. Abrams. 2015. RTE $21.95. ISBN 9781419707339. LC 2014024668.
Gr 4-6–This well-designed read details the story of Michael Shiner (1805–80), a slave in 19th-century America who eventually gained his freedom and who left a diary behind detailing an account of his life. Born into slavery in Maryland, Shiner came to Washington, DC as a child, where he was later leased by his owner Thomas Howard to the Navy Ship Yard. Shiner eventually purchased his freedom, started a family, and learned to read and write—skills that would allow him to start writing his journal. Bolden tracks Shiner’s life, giving readers a unique view into the history of America’s capital. Shiner wrote about major historical events, such as the burning of Washington, DC in 1814, as well more personal anecdotes that shed light on attitudes of the day, such as facing aggression from those who erroneously assumed that he was a runaway slave. VERDICT Well written and impeccably researched, this excellent title offers a uniquely personal look at history. A must-have.
Casey, Susan. Women Heroes of the American Revolution: 20 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Defiance, and Rescue. 240p. (Women of Action). bibliog. filmog. further reading. photos. reprods. websites. Chicago Review. Mar. 2015. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781613745830.
Gr 7-10–In a clear writing style, Casey profiles 20 female figures in this collection of biographies of women involved with the American Revolution. While some of the names are legendary and recognizable, most are not. These ordinary girls and women who accomplished amazing feats usually thought of as masculine make for interesting reading. From spies to soldiers to slaves, the women profiled here are engaging enough to keep students interested, and some may even seek out further information. VERDICT This well-researched book sheds light on lesser known women of this period and is an excellent way to incorporate diversity into the curriculum.
Cooney, Robert P.J., Jr. Remembering Inez: The Last Campaign of Inez Milholland, Suffrage Martyr. 90p. American Graphic. Mar. 2015. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9780977009527. LC 201493850.
Gr 9 Up–When a friend spoke at suffragist Inez Milholland’s funeral in 1916, she said that Inez “is one around whom legends will grow up.” In her time, certainly, Milholland was a celebrity. Young, beautiful, rich, and articulate, she was a passionate and active proponent of women’s suffrage. Somehow, her name is lesser known compared with her predecessors, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and her contemporary Alice Paul. Even though Milholland died when she was 30, her contributions to the cause of women’s suffrage are immeasurable. This slim volume consists largely of articles, speeches, and resolutions from issues of the magazine The Suffragist, all of which concern Milholland’s background, character, beliefs, and work. The excerpts are accessible to modern-day readers, being largely devoid of the stiff, formal language common in writings of the day. Cooney’s introduction provides ballast to the laudatory articles, pointing out aspects of Milholland’s life that were controversial, especially her advocacy of socialism and free love. In addition, Cooney describes in brief the political clime of the nation, couching Milholland’s attitudes and actions in a larger historical context. VERDICT This is a vivid, engaging account of a young woman who filled her short life with activity and meaning. Perhaps this book will bring Milholland’s life and works back into the spotlight.
Froud, Brian & Wendy Froud. Brian Froud’s Faeries’ Tales. 144p. Abrams. 2014. Tr $35. ISBN 9781419713866.
Gr 9 Up–This elegant presentation of well-known and more obscure fairy tales from the point of view of the fairies combines the mysterious and magical with cold calculation and complexity: successful ingredients for sophisticated readers. The authors whimsically present the perspectives of the different fairies, thus revealing their thoughts and motivations. Breaking up the first-person accounts is a story about the little Duster fairies, which gives structure and ongoing focus. This treatment puts all the stories in a different light and makes fresh and new even the most well-known tales, such as “Tam Lin,” “Cinderella,” and “Sleeping Beauty,” as well as the lesser known fairies, such as Moon Dancer, the King’s Knight, Alyssa the Changeling-Maker, and the Shadow Man. The art is rich with deep colors, intricate borders, fanciful sketches, and searching portraits, creating a background for the humorous, romantic, sad, or dangerous tales. VERDICT The Frouds’ quality work is so well known and popular that this title will be a welcome addition to the genre.
Healy, Nick, ed. Love & Profanity: A Collection of True, Tortured, Wild, Hilarious, Concise, and Intense Tales of Teenage Life. 232p. index. Capstone/Switch Pr. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781630790127.
Gr 8 Up–Short yet powerful autobiographical stories comprise this collection of consistently excellent, vivid writing. The 43 authors from various backgrounds include a few YA well-knowns—John Scieszka, Joseph Bruchac, Carrie Mesrobian, Will Weaver—and many new and upcoming names. The stories reflect the writers’ adolescent experiences with conflict, bullying, family, school, friendship, unrequited love, sex, and more. Love, or the abysmal lack of it, is central to many of the stories, while profanity is primarily reflected in situations rather than word choice (though the language is occasionally graphic). The stories are, by turns, edgy, nostalgic, poignant, sad, and humorous, with some offering a combination of these qualities. VERDICT Readers of Break These Rules: 35 YA Authors on Speaking up, Standing out, and Being Yourself edited by Luke Reynolds (Chicago Review, 2013) and Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally (Zest, 2012), may appreciate this compilation.
Rauch, Georg. Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army. tr. from German by Phyllis Rauch. 352p. glossary. illus. photos. Farrar. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374301422.
Gr 8 Up–In this glimpse into history, Rauch, a young Jewish man in Third Reich Vienna, describes his experiences during World War II. Strongly opposed to Nazi rule, Rauch and his mother hid Jews in their apartment, helping them escape to safety, and worked with the underground resistance. But when Rauch was drafted into Hitler’s army (though he admitted to having Jewish heritage), he was stationed on the Russian Front, facing the constant threat of death from hunger, the elements, and Soviet soldiers. The story is well paced, offering a fascinating and intriguing look at the era. VERDICT A good supplementary purchase for libraries looking to expand their historical memoir section, complementing titles such as Leon Leyson’s The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Possible Became Possible…on Schindler’s List (S. & S., 2013).
Schatz, Kate. Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped our History..and Our Future. illus. by Miriam Klein Stahl. 64p. City Lights. Mar. 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780872866836.
Gr 5 Up–Colorful and hip potraitures create a visual sensation that immediately draws in readers. Profiled are 26 American women from the 18th through 21st centuries, who have made—or are still making—history as artists, writers, teachers, lawyers, or athletes. The women come from a variety of economic and ethnic backgrounds and many had to overcome extreme hardships. One woman represents each alphabetical letter beginning with Angela Davis, an activist, teacher, and writer, and concludes with Zora Neale Hurston, an anthropologist and writer. Readers will also encounter Carol Burnett, the Grimke Sisters, Lucy Parsons, Rachel Carson, and Sonia Sotomayor, among others. Interestingly, the letter X is designated for the women, “we haven’t learned about yet, and the women whose stories we will never read.” The book’s conclusion challenges readers to be strong and to make a difference in their own communities and suggests 26 things that students can do to be rad. VERDICT Classes across the curriculum can utilize this informative book.
Valk, Laurens. The LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3 Discovery Book: A Beginner’s Guide to Building and Programming Robots. 352p. further reading. index. photos. websites. No Starch Press. 2014. pap. $34.95. ISBN 9781593275327. LC 2010011157.
Gr 6 Up–A tome for fans of robotics and LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Kits. Hyper-detailed instructions—with full color, easy-to-read and understand illustrations—help budding enthusiasts navigate EV3 Kits with clear language and step-by-step directions. Readers learn the basics of assembling a simple robot before being introduced to various programming tricks to be used on the EV3 Brick, the colloquial term for the Mindstorms mini-computer. Be forewarned that in order to take full advantage of the programming functionality of the kit, including the ablity to create and edit programs, users must have a computer to connected to their EV3 Brick (though basic programming on the EV3 Brick can be done without one). Each chapter contains several short challenges, dubbed “discoveries,” which are cleverly accompanied by a legend: whimsical gear wheels represent the estimated amount of building time; tiny Microsoft Windows–esque blocks show the expected level of programming expertise; and a small clock estimates the length of time it should take to solve the challenge. The size, advanced vocabulary, and organization of the book evokes a science or physics textbook, which is warranted due to the amount of complex and detailed programming information contained within. However, colorful images keep it from feeling too academic. VERDICT This book will find a home in libraries with makerspaces and/or those that offer robotics or science clubs, LEGO teams, or other STEM-oriented groups.
Yee, Paul, retel. Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook. illus. by Shaoli Wang. 160p. notes. Interlink. 2014. Tr $25. ISBN 9781566569934.
Gr 4 Up–This is a fine collection of quintessential Chinese fairy tales and recipes. The stories are told with tangy and intriguing details that invite American readers to consider the Chinese perspective. The symbiosis between the recipes and the stories is impressive; paired with each dish is a traditional tale. Yee and Wang share the Chinese characters that go with proverbs that pair traditionally with dishes. The stories are short, requiring only 15 or 20 minutes to read aloud. The renditions of the tales are impressive and will be appreciated by a wide age range; they are easy to read but not oversimplified. VERDICT Educators may find this valuable for geography units or lesson plans involving Chinese culture.
NONFICTION Graphic Novels
Geary, Rick. A Treasury of Victorian Murder Compendium II. illus. by Rick Geary. 400p. bibliog. NBM. 2015. lib. ed. $29.99. ISBN 9781561639076.
Gr 10 Up–With an amazing eye for detail, Geary chronicles five different Victorian-era murders previously published as individual volumes. They include the Borden Tragedy, Mary Rogers, the Bloody Benders, Madeleine Smith, and the assassination of President Lincoln. Geary so thoroughly researches each and every case that he is able to portray events from all sides. Backed by numerous sources, the murders chosen for this anthology are presented in such a way that readers can’t help but become engrossed in the drama. The events prior to each murder are meticulously provided, as are the aftermaths. The stories unfold as if one were watching a classic black-and-white noir film. In the case of Madeleine Smith and her secret lover, Emile, the story is enhanced by bits and pieces of their actual correspondence. The illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to these rather bleak and sordid moments in history and the use of pen and ink makes some of the content less graphic and more tolerable than if it were in color. History fans, true crime aficionados, and readers of nonfiction graphic novels will all find something quite enthralling in this collection. VERDICT Fans of Geary’s other historical adaptations won’t want to miss this one and this compendium will likely make fans of those new to his work.
Rehr, Henrik. Terrorist: Gavrilo Princip, the Assassin Who Ignited World War I. illus. by Henrik Rehr. 232p. maps. Graphic Universe. Apr. 2015. lib. ed. $33.32. ISBN 9781467772792; pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781467772846. LC 2014021939.
Gr 8 Up–In the words of Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck, turn of the century Eastern Europe was a powder keg simply waiting for the right spark to explode into what we now know as World War I. The nationalist, revolutionary, and terrorist, Gavrilo Princip, was just the man to set the fire that would ignite the keg. The assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the inciting factor that instigated what was one of the 20th century’s bloodiest wars. But little is known about the motives behind the assassination. Here, Rehr imagines the circumstances leading up to the killing. Princip and his coconspirators were real people living in a desperate time. They yearned for a free Serbia, Bosnia, and Yugoslavia and were willing to do anything in order to achieve their dream. This intriguing and ultimately harrowing narrative humanizes a historic event. The author is able to breathe life into this confusing and conflict-filled portion of European history. The stark black-and-white artwork and theatrical art-filled splash pages transport readers to 19th-century Eastern Europe. VERDICT This fictionalized account based on historical fact is an excellent contribution to graphic novel collections.
From the Adult Books 4 Teens blog
And from SLJ’s Adult Books 4 Teens blog, the following titles are perfect for teens looking to cross over to adult books.
KNISLEY, Lucy. An Age of License: A Travelogue. illus. by Lucy Knisley. 189p. Fantagraphics. 2014. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9780345544926. LC 2014023994.
This short, absorbing travelogue is based on a journal the graphic novelist kept during her travels through Europe and Scandinavia in September 2011. Heartbroken after ending a relationship, Knisley accepted an invitation to participate in a Comics convention in Norway, which inspired a month of visiting friends and family. Shortly before leaving, Knisley met a boy from Stockholm, Henrik, who invited her to visit him, too. Knisley chronicles her pre-trip jitters (traveling “unhomes” you), as they vied with excited anticipation of a new perspective on life. The conference went well, as did her time with Henrik. So well that he accompanied her to Berlin for a few days, and arranged to meet her in Paris for a romantic finish to her adventures. It was while visiting a friend in Bordeaux that she met an older man who termed this period of her life “L’Age Licence”—a time of exploration before familial or career obligations make experimentation impossible, a time to decide what kind of life you want to have. As in the Alex Award-winning Relish (First Second, 2013), friends, family and food continue to be Knisley’s preoccupations. Predominantly black & white panels are punctuated by full-page color paintings of a pretty view, a delectable snack, the portrait of a friend, or a dress in a shop window. The many teens who travel for exchange programs, volunteer activities, or family trips will recognize Knisley’s nervousness about leaving the familiarity of home, the freedom and pleasures of exploration, insecurity about the future, and the revelations afforded by time away from routine. This ingenuous and wise travel narrative will charm readers of any age.
STEVENSON, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. 316p. notes. Spiegel & Grau. 2014. Tr $28. ISBN 9780812994520.
Only a handful of countries condemn children to death row, and America is one of them. What is the one commonality of people on death row? The race of the victim. If the victim is white, the perpetrator is 11 times more likely to be condemned to die than if the victim is black. In heartbreaking and personal details, Stevenson interweaves these statistics with real stories and his fight to change the injustices. He was 23 years old, studying law at Harvard when he was called to an internship in Georgia where his first assignment was to deliver a message to a man living on death row. This brought him face to face with what became his calling: representing the innocent, the inadequately defended, the children, the domestic abuse survivors, the mentally ill— the imprisoned. This fast-paced and relentless book, told in short chapters featuring different people’s stories, reads like a John Grisham novel. Walter, who was at a barbecue with over 100 people at the time of the murder he was accused of, spent more than six years on death row. All Jenkins wants from Stevenson is a chocolate milkshake, as he cannot understand what is going on. The stories include those of children, teens, and adults who have been in the system since they were teens. This is a title for the many young adults who have a parent or loved one in the prison system and the many others who are interested in social justice, the law, and the death penalty. A standout choice.
The original reviews of the following works appeared in SLJ’s February print magazine.
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