March 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Gothic Romances, Sci-Fi Adventures, and a John Green Readalike | What’s Hot in YA

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Looking for a John Green readalike? Search no further than Adi Alsaid’s Let’s Get Lost. Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s eerie gothic novel set in 1980s Barcelona will entice teens and haunt them long after they’ve turned the last page. And if you thought the dystopian and paranormal novels have worn out their welcome—Michelle Krys, Catherine Linka, and Kelsey Foster bring fresh takes to the tried-and-true genres. The following young adult, nonfiction, and crossover titles will grab reluctant and avid readers alike.

LetsGetLostAlsaid, Adi. Let’s Get Lost. 352p. Harlequin Teen. Aug. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780373211241.

Gr 8 Up–An achingly beautiful story about the profound impacts of opening oneself to a stranger. Seventeen-year-old Leila, on a road trip to Alaska, gives each person she encounters a different reason for traveling to see the Northern Lights. Readers learn little about Leila’s motivations until the very end, when her tragic truth is revealed and some questions are still left unanswered. Reminiscent of John Green’s Paper Towns (Dutton, 2008) and road trip novels that feature a teen paving the way to adulthood, Alsaid’s debut is a gem among contemporary YA novels.–Jamie-Lee Schombs, Loyola School, New York City

Carter, Caela. My Best Friend, Maybe. 304p. Bloomsbury. Jun. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781599909707; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9781619632356.

Gr 10 Up–Colette and Sadie are former best friends who have not spoken in three years. Out of the blue, Sadie invites Colette to go with her family to Greece. The protagonist is supposed to go to Costa Rica with her boyfriend and members of his church but agrees to go change plans and go with her former friend—a decision made out of a mix of curiosity and feeling like Sadie’s invitation is a challenge. Once in Greece, the girls try to set aside their complicated history. They revert to their childhood traditions of playing cards, swimming, and sharing old jokes. But pretending everything is fine is difficult, and Colette starts needling Sadie for answers about their falling out and why she really asked her on this trip. The answers are slow to come, and when the she hears them, they shake her world. Suggest this one to readers looking for an introspective take on the intricacies of friendship.–Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Apollo High School Library, St. Cloud, MN

Chen, Justina. A Blind Spot for Boys. 326p. Little, Brown. Aug. 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316102537; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316364386. LC 2013021621.

Gr 9 Up–After a painful breakup, Shana Wilde has issued a “Boy Moratorium” when it comes to dating and relationships, despite her own flirtatious personality. In search of the perfect photograph to bolster her portfolio for college, Shana meets Quattro, and his wit and sweetness make her question her new mantra. Life throws another curveball Shana’s way when her father announces he is going blind. With her father’s sight lessening every day, Shana and her parents fly to Peru to pursue a lifelong dream of visiting Machu Picchu. Chen tackles romance and family adeptly in this realistic fiction story. The protagonist’s character development is entwined with how she handles the challenges in front of her. The story is high on heartbreak, but leaves the future open to hope, particularly for the narrator. A book that will appeal to readers who enjoy a side of adventure with their heartache.–Sarah Wethern, Douglas County Library, Alexandria, MN

Things you kiss goodbyeConnor, Leslie. The Things You Kiss Goodbye. 368p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Jul. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780060890919; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780060890926.

Gr 9 Up–After 15-year-old Bettina Vasilis’s best and only friend moves away, she is left socially stranded in the home of her traditional Greek family. Suddenly her life as the thrift shop-raiding, bad girl “dancerina” comes to an end. Lonely and unoccupied, Bettina’s sophomore year ends with the unlikely attention of the up-and-coming basketball star, Brady Cullen. The teen rarely questions why their summer dates only include the two of them or why Brady encourages her unlikely application to the cheerleading squad, but as their junior year begins, she develops an awareness of Brady’s new social standing as the school’s star athlete. Then she meets “Cowboy”, an older auto mechanic who challenges her to focus more on the things important to her, like her art. What begins as a chance friendship turns into something more, despite the taboo age difference. This novel is compulsively readable. The characters are well developed, the plot is compelling, and the ending plausible and satisfying. Bettina’s Greek family is a welcome dimension to the complicated love triangle.–Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD

Ellis, Ann Dee. The End or Something Like That. 352p. Dial. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803737396; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781101635421.

Gr 6-10–It is the one-year anniversary of her best friend Kim’s death, and Emmy is still reeling from the loss. Emmy made a promise to Kim that, once she died, Emmy would contact her ghost, but as it turns out, “I suck at talking to dead people.” When Emmy attends the funeral of her science teacher, however, she is shocked to be visited by Ms. Homeyer’s spirit. If she can see Ms. Homeyer’s ghost, why hasn’t she been able to see Kim? As Emmy sees more and more dead people—everyone but Kim—she begins to explore her complicated emotions and relationships. Told in parallel time lines, Emmy describes the months leading up to Kim’s death, including a major betrayal and strong skepticism about the possibility of an afterlife; she also tells her story in real time, one year after Kim’s death. Just as she did in This Is What I Did (Little, Brown, 2007), Ellis skillfully captures what it’s like to be a kid who flies beneath the radar and is afraid to speak up. The story’s ending is lovely; readers will realize that it’s not about trying to find a ghost. It’s about trying to find oneself.–Laura Lutz, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

Ellis, Sarah. Outside In. 208p. House of Anansi/Groundwood. May 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781554983674; ebk. $14.95. ISBN 9781554983698.

Gr 6-8–With the exception of her quirky, unmarried mother, Lynn is a typical 13-year-old Canadian, navigating through life filled with choir practice, projects, best friends, and school. Things start to fall apart when her mom wrecks her relationship with the only man who has ever stuck around and Lynn’s passport doesn’t come in time for her to take the choir trip with the rest of her friends, who leave for Portland and the promise of a fun week away from school. Then a mysterious girl named Blossom is thrust into her life and introduces her to a wonderful world within their city called the Underland. Ellis’s descriptions of the Underlanders are enthralling, and readers will easily believe that people live off the grid within big cities. Lynn’s difficult relationship with her mother and her strong bonds with friends make this story very relatable. A thoughtful, exciting read that makes everything ordinary suddenly have the possibility to be extraordinary.–Ellen Norton, White Oak Library District, Crest Hill, IL

Finn, K. C. The Mind’s Eye. 348p. (Synsk: Bk. 1). Clean Teen. 2014. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781940534381.

Gr 7 Up–A paranormal romance set during World War II, The Mind’s Eye offers an engaging adventure with a physically challenged female protagonist. Kit Cavendish and her brother have been evacuated from London to a small Welsh village. They are housed with the lively Price family, whose male members have all gone to war. Kit spends most of her time in a wheelchair due to a long-term illness, but she is able to wander the world through telepathy. With the help of the surly village doctor and her steely determination, the teen continues to try to improve her physical condition and also focus her clairvoyant skills. Her desire to walk independently and hone her power become desperate after her first mental encounter with Henri, a Norwegian teen facing Nazi occupation. Readers will enthusiastically root for the couple to overcome the dangers of war and reunite for a bright future. The horrors of war are authentically presented without gratuitous violence, while the romance between Kit and Henri is innocently portrayed. The gentle realism makes this well-written book perfect to share with teens and tweens.–Cindy Wall, Southington Library & Museum, CT

Starbird MurphyFinneyfrock, Karen. Starbird Murphy and the World Outside. 384p. Viking. Jun. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780670012763. LC 2013027007.

Gr 8 Up–Starbird grew up within the confines of her Family. To her, normalcy is not knowing who her father is, working for the greater good of those on the Free Family Farm, and waiting for elder and translator EARTH to make his way back from his mission. Starbird is a true believer, not like some of the other members of the Family who have drifted since EARTH’s departure. She despairs about her own brother’s disappearance, but finds comfort in the rituals of Family life: farming, communal cooking, story night, and her developing feelings for fellow family member Indus Stone. But when Starbird finds herself seemingly scorned by Indus, and she has an opportunity to work Outside in the Free Family Cafe, she leaves the Farm for the first time. She quickly realizes that life in the Free Family was not everything she thought it was. Just when Starbird is ready to ask some tough questions, charismatic EARTH comes back into the picture. This well-paced, character-rich story boasts a sense of foreboding that will be palpable even for those readers without much knowledge of American cultism. Readers from all walks of life will likely identify with this story’s overarching themes of questioning faith and authority and the building of family.–Stacy Dillon, LREI, New York City

Gibbons, Alan. An Act of Love. 298p. chron. Sterling/Orion. Jun. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781780620183.

Gr 8 Up–Mates Chris and Imran have been inseparable since childhood. But as they approach adolescence, their friendship is strained by escalating discord in their community between the peaceful Muslim population and right-wing activists who try to antagonize them. Over time, Imran develops a bitter anger related to the worldwide mistreatment of Muslims and eventually becomes involved with extremists. Meanwhile, Chris has drifted away from Imran; he joins the army and finds himself fighting in Afghanistan. Eventually, facing a bomb that is scheduled to be detonated at a ceremony recognizing returned veterans, both boys must look inward and recover some trust in each other in order to make a decision that could potentially save lives. The non-linear plot of this novel is well developed and successfully builds momentum. Chapters switch between alternating viewpoints, offering readers a balanced understanding of each protagonist. This will certainly provoke conversation about friendship, war, and how societies should deal with prejudice.–Julie Hanson, Chicago Public Library

scanJury, Walter & S. E. Fine. Scan. 336p. Putnam. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399160653. LC 2013023623.

Gr 8 Up–Typical teen Tate consistently argues with his dad about not being able to have a normal life: Why can’t he have a girlfriend? Why did he start learning chemistry at age five? Why must he learn so many languages? One day he breaks into his father’s super-secret lab and finds a cool, scannerlike gadget that glows blue when he waves it over himself and red for his girlfriend. Bringing the contraption to school results in being attacked by crazy strangers and the death of his father who was trying to protect him. With his dying breath, the scientist reveals that the human race has been infiltrated by aliens who have been breeding with humans, and few “pure” humans are left, including Tate himself. Now the teen is on the run, not sure who to trust. With the help of his mother, possibly alien girlfriend, and the advanced skills in science and fighting he has acquired over the years, the protagonist tries to figure out the secret behind his father’s invention. This is a fast-paced, very readable sci-fi novel solidly aimed at young adults who aren’t into “bug-eyed aliens” tales but love good suspense stories. A fun, escapist novel with a cliffhanger ending. A solid choice for reluctant readers.–Saleena L. Davidson, South Brunswick Public Library, Monmouth Junction, NJ

Krys, Michelle. Hexed. 384p. Delacorte. Jun. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385743372; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375991103; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780449813119. LC 2012046888.

Gr 9 Up–Sixteen-year-old Indigo Blackwood wants nothing more than to focus on her position on the cheerleading squad, her new boyfriend Devon, and patching things up with her jealous friend Bianca. Hoping to increase her popularity, Indigo is eager to avoid her nerdy former friend Paige. The teen is also embarrassed by her New Age hippie mother, who runs an occult shop in Los Angeles, and her party animal aunt Penny. After witnessing an apparent suicide, however, Indigo soon finds herself in the center of a top-secret bloody feud between dueling factions of wizards and sorcerers. With the aid of a hunky stranger, Indigo must quickly master her newly developed magical flying abilities in order to protect her friends and family. Krys’s debut novel offers a fast-paced plot with plenty of shocking twists and turns and a cliff-hanger ending that will appeal to fans of paranormal romances.–Madigan McGillicuddy, Atlanta-Fulton Public Library, Atlanta, GA

Leno, Katrina. The Half Life of Molly Pierce. 256p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jul. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062231178; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062231192.

Gr 8 Up–In this mystery unraveled in reverse, Molly begins to fit together pieces of a life only half-remembered, due to frequent blackouts. After witnessing a tragic accident during which a dying stranger seems to know her, memories of those blackout periods begin to return. When the teen connects with the stranger’s brother, she feels an intense, familiar love, and Molly questions what she thinks she knows about herself. The protagonist’s Dissociative Identity Disorder allows her characterization to unfold slowly, the narrative building on short bursts of memories that go further back in time, revealing more secrets further in to the story. The disorientation at the novel’s start begins to settle as the flashbacks occur, and the sense of urgency for the two alternating time lines to merge intensifies with the girl’s increasing melancholy and thoughts of self-harm. The race to uncover Molly’s truth will keep readers turning pages.–Sarah Townsend, Norfolk Public Library, VA

a girl called fearlessLinka, Catherine. A Girl Called Fearless. 368p. St. Martin’s Griffin. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250039293; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781250039309.

Gr 9 Up–Los Angeles, just a bit in the future, is a distressing place for females. Most adult women have died from side effects of hormone-laden beef, and the Paternalists may soon win political majority, passing even harsher “protective” measures to encourage child bearing and domesticity. Avie Reveare and her friends at Masterson Academy have become experts at eye blinks, bribes, stitch code, and other creative means to avoid security detection as they practice independence under the direction of their teacher, Ms. A. Meanwhile, they see college recruitment posters replaced by recipe cards, and discuss who might be sold into a marriage contract, and at what price. The best girls are auctioned through Sotheby’s and Christie’s—verified virgins who will honor and obey. Avie, aided by her childhood friend (now romantic interest) Yates, decides to head for Canada when her financially desperate father contracts her to a man twice her age. The short chapters keep the action moving in this solid selection, best for readers who enjoy plot-driven stories.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

Mallory, Alex. Wild. 368p. Harper­Collins/HarperTeen. Jul. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062218742; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062218766.

Gr 7 Up–Cade grew up among the trees and caves of Daniel Boone National Forest. Dara grew up in the Kentucky town of Makwa. When a Spring Break camping trip Dara takes with her boyfriend, Josh, turns terrifying, the world of the forest and the world of modern-day Kentucky are thrust together. Cade is forced out of the wilderness and must contend with the media circus forming around him. It may be more than he and Dara can bear. The plotting of this retelling of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes is smart and will keep readers interested in how Cade came to be in the woods by dropping clues about his mother’s past throughout the narrative. The novel features some romance, but it is not overwrought nor does it override the mystery element. A fine addition to any YA collection.–Paige Garrison, Aurora Central Public Library, CO

Peters, Julie Anne. Lies My Girlfriend Told Me. 246p. Little, Brown. Jun. 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316234979; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316234948.

Gr 9 Up–Alix’s world is turned upside down after falling for popular and confident Swanee, so much so that ditching her friends and playing by her love’s rules seems almost too easy. When her mom breaks the news that Swanee has suddenly died of an unexpected cardiac arrest, Alix has a hard time accepting that her vivacious and seductive girlfriend is really gone. In Peters’s newest offering, questions of love and honesty abound. After Alix gets ahold of Swanee’s cell phone, she discovers texts revealing that Swanee had been carrying on an affair with another girl. To find out more about the mysterious L.T., she sends her a message, pretending to be Swanee, before ultimately tracking her down and giving her the news of Swanee’s death. Alix finds out her name, Lianna, and that they share more than just a girlfriend in common. The book does not focus on sexuality, and it’s a pleasure to read a typical teen romance that just happens to be between two girls. Romance fans of any persuasion will be swept up in this slow-paced but ultimately sweet story.–Joanna Sondheim, Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, New York City

marinaRuiz Zafón, Carlos. Marina. tr. from Spanish by Lucia Graves. 326p. Little, Brown. Jul. 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316044714; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316320177.

Gr 8 Up–Set in Barcelona, Spain from late 1979 to May 1980, this gothic novel centers around 15-year-old boarding school student Oscar Drai. Instead of studying during his free time, the teen explores the city, and one day ends up in an area that seems deserted. Drawn in by music coming from an old dilapidated house, Oscar is given a scare by the owner, an eccentric and haunted artist named Germán. Having accidently taken a watch from the house, the boy returns to bring the valuable item back and meets the enigmatic Marina. Realizing that they both like mysteries, Marina invites Oscar on an escapade to a graveyard to observe a woman who leaves a red rose on an unmarked grave. Soon, the narrator becomes embroiled in the lives and histories of a presumed dead actress, recluse tycoon, and mad scientist obsessed with escaping death. From the very first page, this beautifully written work of historical fiction is impossible to put down. With elements of romance, mystery, and horror, none of them overwhelming the other, this complex volume manages to weave together three separate stories for a cohesive and eerie result.–Jesten Ray, Seattle Public Library, WA

Sabel, Lauren. Vivian Divine Is Dead. 288p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Jun. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062231956.

Gr 8 Up–Someone is after Hollywood’s “it” girl. Teen film star, Vivian Divine, has always followed in her famous mother’s footsteps—but this time, she’d rather not. Her mother was murdered six months ago, and when Vivian receives a mysterious death threat with alarming parallels to her mother’s tragic end, she flees incognito to Mexico. The Hollywood princess is on her own and out of her element, trying to stay alive while unraveling the mystery of who’s chasing her and why. Her odds of survival increase when she meets the attractive Nick—but he may not be who he seems. This action-packed novel is enjoyably quirky; the writing shines in the scenes of a richly described Día de los Muertos celebration, and Vivian’s journey through rural Mexico will keep readers in suspense as the heroine faces danger at every turn. In the end, though, there’s heavy reliance on coincidence. This will appeal to readers looking for a fast-paced romp with suspense, action, and romance—with an encouraging message of self-actualization as Vivian learns she’s capable of more than she knew.–Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

Scott, Kieran. Only Everything. 336p. (True Love). S. & S. May 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781442477186; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781442477162. LC 2013019388.

Gr 8 Up–Scott captures the capriciousness of the gods in her Greek mythology mash-up. The novel begins with a vignette of Eros cavorting with Orion in a secluded forest and uttering the fateful words “I’d rather die than live without you.” Zeus banishes the goddess Eros to earth without her powers and with a deadline to help three mortal couples find love or lose Orion forever. There are strong themes about staying true to one’s self and finding relationships that are based on mutual respect, but Scott finds the fine line between showing rather than preaching. Readers looking for a denouement are likely to be disappointed, because once the couple has committed, the story is over. The shifts in perspective and the recurring flashbacks combined with the clever use of literary devices creates a text complexity that is present without becoming overwhelming. This series will round out collections in need of a little romance that doesn’t involve dystopias or vampires.–Jodeana Kruse, R. A. Long High School, WA

One Past MidnightShirvington, Jessica. One Past Midnight. 336p. ebook available. Walker. Jul. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802737021.

Gr 8 Up–Sabine has everything: the perfect house, the perfect friends, the perfect car. Everything is exactly as it should be for the 18-year-old queen bee reigning supreme in her wealthy Boston suburb. However, every night at midnight, she Shifts to her other life where she has nothing: an increasingly difficult family life, hard relationships with peers, an unrewarding after school job in an as-yet-to-be gentrified Boston suburb. Sabine has two lives—living each day twice—and has kept it a secret for as long as she can remember. By developing a rich and nuanced mythology of Sabine’s experience, Shirvington invites readers to consider what it means to struggle with the social pressures of being a teenager. The short, action-packed chapters move readers swiftly from day to day and life to life. The story is fresh and focused and would be a welcome addition. A complex and compelling tale.–Pete Smith, Pioneer Valley Performing Arts CPS, South Hadley, MA

Sloan, Holly Goldberg. Just Call My Name. 328p. Little, Brown. Aug. 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316122818; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316203135.

Gr 8 Up–After 10 years on the run with their paranoid schizophrenic father, brothers Sam and Riddle have found a home with Emily’s family. Sam enrolls in school after a long hiatus, and Riddle emerges from his protective shell. Sam and Emily’s burgeoning relationship is tenderly romantic in its authenticity. The boy finally breathes a sigh of relief—but should he? Their father, Clarence, has escaped from jail with plans of revenge. Newcomer Destiny, figuratively and literally, sets her sights on Sam and is taking no prisoners. What should have been the summer of love for the young couple ends in a dramatic confrontation with the violent Clarence. Fans of Sloan’s I’ll Be There (Little, Brown, 2011) will be thrilled to be reunited with Sam, Riddle, and Emily in this immensely satisfying, heartfelt, and lyrical sequel. The author’s simplistic writing style allows readers to connect intimately with the characters and makes for a truly compelling novel. Sloan succeeds in skillfully combining the tenderness of young love, various distinct voices, and fast-paced action.–Laura Falli, McNeil High School, Austin, TX

Stevenson, Sarah Jamila. The Truth Against the World. 360p. Flux. Jun. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780738740584.

Gr 6 Up–Wen, a California teen, is going through a difficult time. Her Welsh great-grandmother is terminally ill, and Wen feels this approaching loss deeply. Her fears seem to be manifesting into strange dreams. Wen is an active blogger, and she posts descriptions of her dreams in an effort to process them. An ocean away, Gareth Lewis visits his great-grandfather in Wales. Gareth is haunted by a disturbing event that occurs at the grave of a girl named Olwen Nia Evans. Gareth discovers Wen’s blog when researching the ghostly girl haunting him. The two connect, and vow to solve the mystery of little Olwen Nia Evans and put her soul to rest. The description of Wales, and integration of Welsh language and proverbs are fascinating and well researched. The overall pace of the book is a little slow but would grip those interested in paranormal mysteries.–Tiffany Davis, Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh, NY

Stokes, Paula. The Art of Lainey. 384p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jun. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780062238429; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062238436.

Gr 9 Up–In a plot that serves as a modern mashup of classic teen movies, soccer prodigy Lainey is dumped by her “perfect” boyfriend at her family’s coffee shop. Lainey and her friend use their summer reading, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, to hatch a plan to win Lainey’s boyfriend back. When the plan calls for misdirection, Lainey needs a fake boyfriend. She and Micah, a prickly bad boy co-worker at the coffee shop, make a pact to pretend to date in order to make their exes jealous, and every reader can guess what happens by the end of the summer. Stokes does a good job with the sports subplots as well as the familial relationships. Lainey is a driven athlete who focuses on her passion, which is a refreshing change of pace from many other heroines in the romantic realistic fiction genre. Lainey’s family is supportive and candid, and Micah’s sister is a good reality check for both main characters.–Susannah Goldstein, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

Where Silence GathersSutton, Kelsey. Where Silence Gathers. 360p. Flux. Jul. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780738739472.

Gr 9 Up–Alexandra Tate has always been able to see personified Emotions, but now she is faced with a Choice. Revenge, her best friend since the drunk driving accident that killed her family, and Forgiveness, a tempting new Choice, compete for her attention. Even six years after the tragedy, Alex struggles with her grief and tries again and again to get justice for her family’s murder. Completing her senior year of high school loses priority as Alex uncovers mysteries about her father’s past, is chased by haunting voices that no one else can hear, and runs from faceless attackers threatening the lives of her remaining family and friends. A poignant, heart-wrenching story of grief, love, and loss, Where Silence Gathers combines an authentic narrative with tantalizing supernatural elements to create a powerful companion novel to Sutton’s debut, Some Quiet Place (Flux, 2013).–Eden Rassette, Kenton County Public Library, KY

Vehlmann, Fabien & Marie Pommepuy. Beautiful Darkness. tr. from French by Helge Dascher. illus. by Kerascoët. 96p. Drawn and Quarterly. 2014. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781770461291.

Gr 9 Up–What starts as a common fairy tale trope—Prince Hector and Princess Aurora are having tea the day after a ball—quickly turns dark and disturbing. The prince is charming but self-absorbed, and the princess is somewhat flighty and unprepared, when the ceiling appears to fall in, and they find themselves in a dark forest filled with other refugees, all Borrowers-small. While Aurora and her friend Plim adapt to their surroundings, taking charge and feeding the others they have found, Hector is only concerned with staring into space. None of the characters notice the dead body that they are playing on and living around (a human-sized girl, also named Aurora), and do not question where the items they are using are from (quite possibly the corpse’s purse). The artwork is cartoonlike and colorful, in contrast with the morbid and macabre tone. Purchase where teens like their graphic novels and fractured fairy tales on the dark side.–Suanne B. Roush, formerly at Osceola High School, Seminole, FL

West,   Kasie. On  the  Fence. 304p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jul. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780062235671; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062235688.

Gr 8 Up–West crafts a beautiful story that will hook lovers of contemporary teen romance. Ever since her mom died, Charlie, a 16-year-old tomboy who loves all things sports, spends most of her time playing pick-up games with her three brothers and next-door neighbor Braden. But when Charlie’s dad makes her get a job to pay off a speeding ticket, she lands a job at a clothing store where she must model make-up and be more feminine than she’s ever cared to be. Soon she’s in over her head with lies—lying to her dad, her boss, and a cute boy who’s never seen the tomboy side of her. The only thing that saves her are her late night fence chats with Braden, who she is slowly beginning to fall in love with but can’t risk losing. This tale is eloquently written and goes deeper than most teen romances dare to go. For fans of Susane Colasanti and Stephanie Perkins.–Candyce Pruitt-Goddard, Hartford Public Library, CT

wildflowerWhitaker, Alecia. Wildflower. 320p. ebook available. score. Little, Brown/Poppy. Jul. 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316251389.

Gr 8 Up–Bird and her family are members of a bluegrass band that play at various local venues around the United States, touring in their beloved RV named Winnie. The family is extremely close, united by tragedy and their love of music. Aside from her beautiful voice, masterly fiddling, and song-writing skills, Bird is a regular teenager who fights with her brothers, loves to text on her phone, and wants a handsome fellow performer to notice her. Things begin to change when a talent scout for a record company offers Bird, but not the entire family, a contract. The Barrett Family Band faces an uncertain future as they relocate to Nashville, where Bird can begin recording her music. Fans of country music will enjoy the contemporary references to well-known stars, and aspiring musicians will appreciate the detailed plotlines involving Bird’s work in crafting music and song lyrics. As a bonus, an appended section provides the sheet music and lyrics to Bird’s “hit” song “Notice Me.”–Anne Jung-Mathews, Plymouth State University, NH

For those interested in nonfiction, take a look at these stellar offerings from creators with proven track records; titles about important historical figures, such Ida Tarbell and the talented Wyeth family; and intriguing works for budding scientists.

Carson, Mary Kay. Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard. photos by Tom Uhlman. 80p. bibliog. chart. diag. glossary. index. maps. notes. websites. (Scientists in the Field). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. May 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780547792682.

Gr 4-8–This entry in this popular series focuses on the study of selected plants, animals, and geologic formations in three of our most famous national parks, which are akin to “natural laboratories and living museums.” It all begins in Yellowstone National Park, where hydrothermal activity and its effects are astutely explained. Next, the history, current status, and study of the famous park grizzly bears are carefully detailed. Exploration and examination of giant saguaro cacti and the elusive Gila monster are the focus in the section on Saguaro National Park, which includes a description of “BioBlitz” through which everyday citizens and students can assist in park research programs through 2016. Pertinent, attention-grabbing, full-color photographs and captions, maps, infrared images, and diagrams accompany the fascinating, informative text in each section. Featured experts provide primary-source information for each topic covered. Overall, this is a well-written, unique, carefully organized treat for nature lovers and investigators.–Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, CO

The third chimpDiamond, Jared. The Third Chimpanzee: For Young People. adapted by Rebecca Stefoff. 352p. chart. ebook available. glossary. illus. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. Seven Stories. 2014. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781609805227.

Gr 9 Up–Adapted for younger audiences by the redoubtable Stefoff but not significantly different in scope, arguments, or, for that matter, reading level from Diamond’s original (Harper, 1992, 2006), this wide-ranging study of what makes us human offers provocative views of evolution, adaptation, cultural diffusion, sexuality, genocide, race, mass extinctions of the past and present, the roots of drug abuse and language, and even the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (“we’re alone in a crowded universe. Thank goodness!”). The strength of Diamond’s views is what makes them provocative, whether he’s explaining why we—uniquely among social animals—prefer to have sex in private, or portraying the urge to smoke or take dangerous drugs as another manifestation of seemingly anti-survival animal displays, such as the male Bird of Paradise’s plumage. Thoughtful readers interested in any fields related to evolutionary science, anthropology, psychology, human history, and culture will find plenty to ponder.–John Peters, Children’s Literature Consultant, New York City

Ida tarbellMcCully, Emily Arnold. Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business—and Won! 288p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. reprods. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Jul. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780547290928. LC 2012039650.

Gr 7 Up–McCully expertly brings to life the story of a unique and determined woman in this well-written and thoroughly researched biography, filled with numerous and pertinent photographs. She places Tarbell’s story into historical context, detailing how the country was just discovering the hidden wealth of oil and all the opportunities that came with it and how certain individuals were making shrewd business deals to guarantee large incomes. Tarbell went where no one had gone before, becoming an investigative reporter for a top magazine. Though women were little respected at the time, she dove right into a man’s world, exposing the somewhat shady side of John D. Rockefeller, head of the powerful Standard Oil Trust. Readers will not only get a feel for Tarbell, but they’ll also get a sense of the changing world she inhabited.–Carol Hirsche, Provo City Library, UT

Mizuki, Shigeru. Showa: A History of Japan, 1926–1939. tr. from Japanese by Zack Davisson. illus. by Shigeru Mizuki. 560p. chron. notes. Drawn & Quarterly. 2013. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9781770461352.

Gr 9 Up–Mixing memoir and political history, this graphic novel presents a tumultuous time in Japan’s past through the eyes of someone who lived it: influential 20th-century manga artist Mizuki. The early years of Japan’s Showa era were marked by government and military corruption that ultimately led the nation to World War II, and Mizuki’s frank account of this period does not gloss over unflattering truths. At first glance, this tome may appear to be strictly for history buffs and Japanophiles—but any reader will be hooked by the juxtaposition of the author’s humorous anecdotes of his rural childhood and the sobering picture of his country’s financial instability, political turmoil, and harrowing acts of aggression in Asia. It’s an eye-opening reading experience, a window into a segment of history not taught in typical American classrooms. Thought-provoking and powerful.–Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

RUBIN, Susan Goldman. Everybody Paints!: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family. 112p. bibliog. index. photos. reprods. Chronicle. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780811869843. LC 2013006595.

Gr 7 Up–Reminiscent of the Duchamps of France, the Wyeths are a family of painters: three generations, in fact, of artists. Here, the author gives a chronological account of how the Wyeth men came to be painters and of how their lives intersected. This “first family of American art” began with Newel Convers (N.C.), Massachusetts-born in 1882, oil painter and noted illustrator for both major magazines and a series of children’s classics such as Treasure Island. His son Andrew (1917–2009), whose initial artistic success came at the young age of 20, originally used watercolors to create scenes of Maine life, then switched to tempera to paint works such as his poignant “Christina’s World.” Andrew’s son Jamie, the only one of the three still alive, uses combined media to create his portraits of dogs, friends, and neighbors. The text is clear, concise, and very complete for such a slim volume. While the family’s existence in the Pennsylvania countryside and the sea coast of Maine often seems idyllic, Rubin does not shy away from recounting family eccentricities, disagreements, and problems. Rubin’s is the first title to combine the lives of all three artists in a work geared to a middle school audience. An ideal introduction to the Wyeths.–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI

And from SLJ’s Adult Books 4 Teens blog, the following titles are perfect for teens looking to cross over to adult books.

The Lost Sisterhood FORTIER, Anne. The Lost Sisterhood. 608p. Ballantine. Mar. 2014. Tr $27. ISBN 9780345536228; ebk. ISBN 9780345536235.

For many readers, Amazons are either Wonder Woman’s race, characters in the “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” series, or a passing mention in Greek myths.  To Diana Morgan, a lecturer at Oxford specializing in languages and obsessed with Amazons, they’re the reason she’s not taken seriously in the academic community.  When a mysterious offer to help decode an unknown script is presented, Diana is off on an adventure that takes her from Amsterdam to northern Africa to Turkey to Scandinavia. The script she’s shown at a hidden archaeological dig reminds her of a dictionary of sorts that her grandmother wrote – and for some reason there are versions of the bracelet Diana’s inherited from her admittedly strange (to the point of being committed) grandmother.  What she sees at the dig further fuels her belief that the Amazons did exist—and may still. The text she decodes is fleshed out for readers in a flashback to the world of the Amazon women and their history; this story mimics Diana’s movement around the globe as she tries to solve the intertwined mysteries of the text, the bracelets, and her grandmother.  Added to the mix are two potential love interests, both of whom may be working purely on their own behalf and contrary to Diana’s interests.  This is a conspiracy book that calls to mind the Indiana Jones films with archaeological digs and relics as well as Kate Mosse’s “Languedoc” trilogy (Putnam) and Kathleen McGowan’s “The Magdalene Line Trilogy” (S & S).—Laura Pearle, Miss Porter’s School, Farmington, CT

LEONARD, Anne. Moth and Spark. 368p. Viking. Feb. 2014. Tr. $27.95. ISBN 9780670015702.

In Leonard’s debut novel, Corin is preparing to become king of his father’s kingdom, but learns that he has been tasked to free the world’s dragons. It’s a huge responsibility because the dragons currently serve the Empire, and no one understands how to free them, especially Corin. Luckily he receives help from Tam, a common physician’s daughter. Tam’s discovery that she is a Seer helps Corin with his task. The two must figure out how to rescue the dragons and the realm from Emperor Hadon’s invasion, while experiencing their own whirlwind romance. Fantasy readers will appreciate the freshness of this stand-alone novel. Dragons, magic, firekeepers, secret villages, poison, and many other familiar elements are present, but Leonard spins them together well. In the Acknowledgments, the author admits that she borrowed language from Jane Austen, and the readability of the narrative demonstrates that it worked. Much of the book is focused on the swoon-worthy relationship between Corin and Tam, which isn’t cheesy or overdone. Both of the main characters come of age and wisely make decisions to improve their world. There may be too much romance for some die-hard fantasy fans, but give this to teens with soft hearts.—Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

bird boxMALERMAN, Josh. Bird Box. 272p. Ecco. May 2014. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780062259653.

This fast-paced horror thriller alternates between past and present. Malorie and her sister Shannon are living away from home for the first time, outside Detroit, when the news reports start coming in. First in Russia, then Alaska, then closer to home, people begin seeing something so terrifying that they attack those around them, then take their own lives. On a drive to a doctor’s appointment—Malorie may be pregnant—they notice windows covered by blankets and pedestrians shielding their eyes. What are they worried about seeing? No one knows, because no one who has seen it has survived. For a while there are internet reports and television news stories, but eventually technology falls silent. After Shannon succumbs to the affliction (did she look out the window?), Malorie decides to try to reach a rumored safe house nearby. In the present, the protagonist is the mother of two four-year-olds, and none of them go outside their barricaded house without a blindfold. She has trained the children’s hearing, planning for the day they will row down the river behind their house to a better, safer place. Now the time has come. They will have to do it blind, with unknown creatures all around. Every whisper of sound is an unknown threat. This is an intriguing novel in which it is the not knowing that is scariest of all. Teen horror fans will be hard-pressed to put it down before Malorie and her children complete their trip down the river.—Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

MOORE, Allison with Nancy Woodruff. Shards: A Young Vice Cop Investigates Her Darkest Case of Meth Addiction–Her Own. 288p. Touchstone. Apr. 2014. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781451696356. LC 2013026028.

It’s not often that cops write memoirs about their own descent into corruption: Shards is a terrific book to fill the void. Moore opens with her plan to kill the man she calls “the dealer” and then herself. Living in hell, she was desperate to escape. She describes the personal integrity that led to her rise as a hardworking vice cop in Maui, followed by her brutal descent into meth addiction.  Her memoir details the extreme manipulations of an addict and the painful reality of betraying oneself and others.  In order to leave Maui to score and use drugs, she told the married cop she was having an affair with that her grandmother died, and then her mother. To explain how sick she looked, she deceived her fellow officers and her family into believing she had cancer. Her fellow officers took up the cause, donating sick leave and hosting fundraisers for her “treatment.”  Meanwhile, Moore was living with an abusive drug dealer in Seattle, held prisoner, raped, and tortured, completely in the grips of addiction. Ultimately she escaped and was then faced with 25 felony charges. Tightly written, the narrative is pulse pounding and relentless. Moore comes across as sympathetic primarily because of her truthful account and because she takes responsibility for the trust and relationships she destroyed.  Teens who like gritty biographies, particularly fans of  Nikki Sixx’s The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star (MTV Books, 2008), will enjoy this one.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

The original reviews of the above works appeared in SLJ’s May print magazine.


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Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz ( is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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