March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Sexy Retellings, Alternative History, and Road Trip Novels | What’s Hot in YA

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.


From Rosamunde Hodge’s latest fairy tale reimagining to Bill Konigsberg’s road trip YA, the following books for teens are among this year’s must-have titles. Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us, Elizabeth Wein’s Black Dove White Raven, and David Levithan’s Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story are just a few of the works that YA fans should have on their radar. And for readers looking for a good cry, look no further than Sarah Benwell’s The Last Leaves Falling. If humor is more your speed, Rhoda Helms’s Promposal will fill that need.

The original, full reviews of the following works appeared in SLJ’s March print magazine.

Adrian Like It neverAdrian, Emily. Like It Never Happened. 368p. Dial. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525428237; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698185494. LC 2014019390.

Gr 9 Up –Beautiful and talented Rebecca Rivers is the star of her high school’s theater department. She, along with four other thespians, who call themselves The Essential Five), take the stage and their roles very seriously. But being the star has a dark side. Many of her classmates think Rebecca is untouchable, a golden child who is somehow immune to critique from the demanding director. Then the protagonist and her leading man, the handsome and charismatic Charlie, begin dating. From the outside, her life seems to be something out of a fairy tale. But as Rebecca grows as an artist, she also matures in her relationships in the real world, and she realizes that performance isn’t just actors on a stage. Rebecca’s story is about complex interpersonal relations for which there are no easy answers. VERDICT This title will satisfy thinking readers, namely fans of E. Lockhart and of realistic teen fiction that invokes drama without melodrama.–Jennifer Miskec, Longwood University, Farmville, VA

Alcott, Jessica. Even When You Lie to Me. 352p. ebook available. Crown. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385391160.

Gr 10 Up –Charlie is dreading her senior year. Introverted, not traditionally pretty, and a bit of a bookworm, she has her sights set on life after high school. In fact, Charlie has applied early decision to Oberlin College. Her ever-loyal best friend, Lila, has become popular overnight, throwing Charlie’s social inadequacies into sharper contrast. Mr. Drummond, her new English teacher, is the only bright spot in her life. He’s young, super-friendly, and seems to get her. When Charlie’s Type-A mother insists that she participate in an extracurricular activity, the girl joins the school newspaper, newly revived by Mr. Drummond. Charlie develops an intense and all-consuming crush on him, fueled by their time working on the newspaper together and discussing books in and out of class. Mr. Drummond is friendly to everyone, but Charlie senses that there is something different about his feelings for her. Alcott pushes the boundaries in this exploration of a taboo student-teacher relationship. Charlie’s sexual thoughts and desires are candidly and honestly depicted. Complex emotional content is handled tactfully and sensitively. The witty repartee among characters is reminiscent of the dialogue in John Green’s novels or a Gilmore Girls episode. VERDICT A cutting-edge exploration of a thorny topic, this is a wonderful debut novel.–Ragan O’Malley, Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn, NY

Baldwin A School for UnusualBaldwin, Kathleen. A School for Unusual Girls. 272p. (Stranje House: Bk. 1). Tor Teen. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765376008; ebk. ISBN 9781466849273.

Gr 8 Up –This intriguing series opener is a tale of daring, conspiracy, adventure, and romance set against the tumultuous, backdrop of war-torn Europe in 1814. Napoleon is in exile on Elba, dignitaries from across Europe are gathering at the Congress of Vienna, and assassination plots are rumored. At the cavernous Stranje House in England, a select group of spirited, inventive, and nonconformist girls are secretly learning espionage tactics. Georgiana Fitzwilliam has an unconventional aptitude and enthusiasm for math and science. When one of her experiments accidentally leads to a fire in her father’s stables, Georgie is banished by her exasperated parents to the supposedly harsh, reforming tutelage of Headmistress Emily Stranje. Her classmates have special talents; her headmistress is a clever, well-connected, resourceful teacher; and visiting Lord Sebastian Wyatt is on a covert mission. VERDICT The spunky, naive, and passsionate protagonist will resonate with readers, who will appreciate the lively, fast-paced narrative of personal discovery, maturing realizations, and understanding.–Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts, NC

Banks, Anna. Joyride. 288p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250039613.

Gr 9 Up –Good girl Carly and popular Arden combine forces in order to live more authentic lives in this angsty contemporary novel. Carly’s parents have been deported to Mexico and she works nights to support her family. Arden uses his bad-boy reputation to pull off grand, sometimes disastrous pranks to salve the pain of his sister’s death. Carly is not Arden’s type, at first—and Carly knows she is too busy to bother with him. Eager to escape the iron fist of his sheriff father, Arden grows closer to Carly after an unexpected encounter. Together they realize Arden’s father’s true intentions and work in concert to bring him to justice. With a dash of romance, Banks’s book tackles the issues of human smuggling, immigration, and a rogue police officer. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti will flock to the author’s fan pool. VERDICT Relevant, risky, and romantic, this work is a clear standout in today’s contemporary YA niche.–Amanda C. Buschmann, Atascocita Middle School, Humble, TX

Benway, Robin. Emmy & Oliver. 352p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062330598; ebk. ISBN 9780062330611.

Gr 9 Up –Emmy and Oliver were the best of friends up until the third grade, when Oliver disappeared, leaving their community forever changed. Years later, high school senior Emmy still lives next door to the house where Oliver lived with his mother and she has never been able to forget him. Emmy lives with the consequences of Oliver’s kidnapping, as her parents smother her with rules and restrictions meant to keep her safe. But then one day, Oliver is back. He is grown up, guarded, and confused. Oliver thought that his mother had abandoned him, when in fact his father kidnapped him, and he was discovered by chance when he gives fingerprints on a school field trip. Although Emmy is a vaguely familiar face, he doesn’t know how to bridge the time gap and find a place to belong in this community again. Oliver and Emmy try to do just that, amid the chaos surrounding Oliver’s past and Emmy’s uncertain future. VERDICT Plot driven as well as introspective, it is a good choice for fans of Stephanie Perkins’s Anna and the French Kiss (Dutton, 2010) or any of Sarah Dessen’s novels.–Tara Kron, formerly at School Library Journal

benwell last leavesBenwell, Sarah. The Last Leaves Falling. 368p. ebook available. S. & S. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481430654. LC 2014022950.

Gr 8 Up –Abe Sora loves baseball, wants to be a professor, spends much of his time reading history and literature—and is dying of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). No longer able to attend school, as he is now wheelchair bound—and the school is not equipped to handle his physical needs—Abe spends his days either alone or with his mother and doctors. He joins a chatroom anonymously, never telling anyone of his illness. When his mother, worried about her son’s isolation, insists that he invite his two online friends over for dinner, he agrees but does not inform them his health situation. Despite the initial shock, the three become good friends, giving Abe a chance to have normal teen experiences. As his condition grows worse, he thinks more and more about death. His counselor gives him a book on samurai death poetry, which helps him realize that he wants to die with dignity. VERDICT Not just another “dying teen novel,” this thought-provoking read offers teens a different perspective on living and loving life.–Janet Hilbun, University of North Texas

Brockenbrough, Martha. The Game of Love and Death. 336p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545668347; ebk. ISBN 9780545668354.

Gr 9 Up– Set in 1930s Seattle, this work tells the story of two teenagers whose destinies are being manipulated by powers far beyond their control. An orphan from a poor African American family who works as an airplane mechanic by day and a jazz singer at night, Flora dreams of being the next Amelia Earhart. Henry lives just a few blocks away, but he is white, and his adoptive family is wealthy. A bright future of college and a career lies ahead of him, but he is distracted by his love of music and, from the moment he first lays eyes on her, by Flora. What Flora and Henry don’t know is that they have been chosen as pawns in a game between the immortal entities Love and Death. If they choose each other, then Love wins and they both survive, but if they don’t, then Death wins and Flora’s life is forfeit. Love and Death take on various guises and wreak havoc on the lives of their players at a deadly cost to both of their families. Romance lovers will find themselves rooting for the ill-fated couple. VERDICT An interracial YA romance with weighty themes.–Eliza Langhans, Hatfield Public Library, MA

cameron rookCameron, Sharon. Rook. 464p. Scholastic. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545675994; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545676007.
Gr 9 Up –“It was a fine night for an execution…” but the Red Rook has other plans. Eighteen-year-old Sophia Bellamy, with the help of her older brother Tom and their trusted friend Spear, has freed the prisoners before the Razor could sever their heads. This retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel is set in a far-future England and France, when magnetic pole shifts have rendered technology a distant memory. Candlelight, penned letters, and escapes on horseback are the order of the day, and shards of plastic can fetch a pretty price. A political atmosphere similar to the French Revolution has taken hold, and the Rook is determined that innocent lives will not be lost. When not wielding her sword (and a red-tipped feather as a calling card), Sophia is juggling her betrothal of convenience to handsome Frenchman René Hasard, meant to save the Bellamy estate from forfeiture. VERDICT This dashing story line combines a technology-free dystopia with swashbuckling romance.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

Cross, Kady. Sisters of Blood and Spirit. 288p. (Sisters of Blood and Spirit: Bk. 1). ebook available. Harlequin Teen. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780373211487.

Gr 8 Up –Lark and Wren Noble are twins; one living and the other a ghost existing through her sister after she died at birth. Entering high school in small town New Devon hasn’t been easy for Lark with her dead sister tagging along and sometimes taking over her body. Conversations always appear to be one-sided to others, making her look a little unbalanced. With her sister occasionally inhabiting her body, Lark never knows what she will wake up to and often wonders if it would be easier to join her sister in the Shadow Lands, where she lurks with other ghostly characters. When a teenager and his friends are challenged by the restless spirit of a serial killer, they seek the help of Lark and Wren to fight the disturbance. Librarians won’t keep this one on the shelves for long. VERDICT Readers will impatiently wait for the second book in this series, as the first will intrigue fans of romance mixed with paranormal phenomenon.–Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

Emerson Breakout_Emerson, Kevin. Breakout. 304p. Crown. 2015. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780385391139; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385391122; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385391146.

Gr 6 Up –Eighth grader Anthony Castillo is fed up with his friends, his teachers, and even his parents. He lets it all out in a song that expresses all of his hate and anger, no-holds-barred. He didn’t count on the song accidentally getting out and going viral. With his song quickly spreading around his school and the world, Anthony starts receiving positive attention, including from his crush. With his new reputation as a rebel and an upcoming band showcase, pressure mounts for Anthony to perform his song live, a song full of feelings and language that could get him back in hot water again. Emerson paints the angsty ups and downs of a middleschooler feeling misunderstood with lots of drama. The story’s strength and momentum revolves around a cast of colorful secondary characters and the musical story line. VERDICT A work that stays away from anything too edgy or deep, it’s still a solid coming-of-age tale that younger readers will pick up for its emotion and shades of rock and roll.–Sarah Townsend, Norfolk Public Library, VA

Frank, E.R. Dime. 336p. S. & S./Atheneum. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481431606; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481431620.

Gr 9 Up –Thirteen-year-old Dime is a product of the foster system. She finds an escape in the books she reads, but she struggles academically because she is called on to help out with the younger foster children at home. One day she meets a girl who takes her in. Dime finds acceptance here, but is slowly groomed into becoming a prostitute. The book takes the form of a note that Dime is trying to write, whose purpose is unclear until the last chapters. The multiple nested flashbacks and the attempts to have other concepts contribute to the note (such as Money or Truth) much as Death narrated Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief (Knopf, 2006) (Dime herself credits Zusak for this idea) would have failed at the hands of a lesser writer, but they are effective here. The simple, one-line note that the protagonist ultimately writes is heartbreaking. This title will appeal to fans of grittier problem novels, like those written by Ellen Hopkins, and will provoke discussion. VERDICT An important work that should be an essential part of library collections.–Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

Fuller, Claire. Our Endless Numbered Days. 388p. Tin House. Mar. 2015. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781941040010.

Gr 9 Up –In 1970s London, eight-year-old Peggy Hillcoat lives somewhat contentedly with her survivalist father and her concert pianist mother. When her mother goes on tour, her father abruptly kidnaps Peggy, taking her to a German forest. He claims that the world has ended and that her mother, along with every other human on Earth, has died. She resigns herself to a life in the cold, remote woods with her mentally unstable father, little food, and no medical care, not resurfacing until 1985. This is a dark but poignant coming-of-age story reminiscent of Geraldine McCaughrean’s The White Darkness (HarperCollins, 2007). Told from the perspective of now 17-year-old Peggy, the narrative is lyrical and, aside from a slow start, well paced. VERDICT This gripping tale will be well received by fans of survivalist fiction and psychological thrillers.–Pilar Okeson, Allen-Stevenson School Library, New York City

Grey, Melissa. The Girl at Midnight. 368p. Delacorte. Apr. 2015. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375991790; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385744652; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385390996.

Gr 9 Up –For the past decade, 17-year-old Echo has been raised among the Avicen, a race of magical people with birdlike feathers. Despite her status as the ward of a powerful Avicen council member, Echo is still seen by some as an unwelcome human in their midst. When Echo stumbles upon a clue to the whereabouts of the firebird, a magical, legendary creature, she can’t resist the chance to follow the lead. Prophecy says that the firebird will be the key to ending the Avicen’s long-standing war with the dragonlike Drakharin people. If she can be the one to find it, she’s sure that the Avicen will finally accept her as one of their own. She teams up with an unlikely crew that includes a pair of Drakharin soldiers. Suddenly, everything she has ever known about good and evil is turned on its head. VERDICT Purchase where epic fantasies with strong female protagonists are popular.–Liz Overberg, Darlington School, Rome, GA

helms promposal-Helms, Rhonda. Promposal. 224p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481422321; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781481422314; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781481422338.

Gr 7 Up –Camilla’s Ohio high school has a tradition in which boys ask girls to the annual prom via elaborate scenarios. She is mortified when Zach approaches her wearing a tux and accompanied by a film crew documenting his “promposal.” Camilla agrees, even though she’s not especially fond of Zach and really wishes that Zach’s handsome cousin Benjamin had asked her first. To complicate matters further, Camilla is assigned to work with Benjamin on a psychology project, and sparks fly, inflaming their attraction for each other. But Benjamin takes the high road and will not risk hurting his cousin. Meanwhile, Camilla’s gay best friend, Joshua, would love to ask Ethan to the prom, but Ethan asks Joshua for help in planning an epic promposal to another young man. VERDICT This enjoyable story won’t sit on the shelves for long, especially during prom season.–Susan Riley, Mamaroneck Public Library, NY

Hillyer, Lexa. Proof of Forever. 352p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062330376; ebk. ISBN 9780062330390.

Gr 9 Up –Luce, Tali, Zoe, and Joy were best friends, but after a falling out at the end of their last summer at Camp Okahatchee, they barely speak. At a summer camp reunion, the four friends step into a photobooth for old time’s sake and are sent back in time two summers earlier to when they were 15. This event will hopefully give them a second chance at romance, finding themselves, and, most importantly, mending their friendship before they leave for college. A quintessential summer novel, this contemporary work mixes in a bit of sci-fi with the time-traveling photobooth. All four characters deal with realistic emotions and a variety of experiences, including a father’s dubious business practices, budding sexuality, and the desire for independence. VERDICT Hillyer has penned a tale ideal for readers seeking something sweet tinged with a hint of sadness.–Paige Garrison, Aurora Central Public Library, CO

Hodge Crimson BoundHodge, Rosamund. Crimson Bound. 448p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062224767.

Gr 8 Up –With this romantic mash-up of classic fairy tales that touch on elements from the familiar “Little Red Riding Hood” and the lesser-known “Girl with No Hands,” Hodge has created a chilled cocktail of creep and gore shaken, stirred lightly, and poured over villains who fall in love and heroines who commit murder. Featured in this delicate and skillfully written romantic horror is Rachelle Brinon, who has been trained by her aunt to serve as a woodwife. It’s her responsibility to protect the village from the dark magic of the forest. While venturing into the forest, Rachelle is eventually tricked by a humanlike wolf creature, to whom she becomes bound to it by a thin crimson thread that only she can see. The connection is filled with passion and also gives her superhuman skills with the possibility of immortality. Now one of the king’s assassins, Rachelle [is] assigned the job of protecting Prince Armand, and a romantic triangle develops among Rachelle, the prince, and the captain of the bloodbounds. VERDICT With a thoroughly developed setting and so many shadowed nods to the Brothers Grimm, this novel will captivate readers. Outstanding.–Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA

Horowitz, Lena. Dancing with Molly. 208p. ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481415521.

Gr 10 Up –The narrator of this story is a self-professed “band geek” who is tired of being overshadowed by her popular and beautiful younger sister. At the beginning of this narrative, she is excited to go home and tell her family that her school band will be marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but all of that is overshadowed by her mother’s enthusiasm over the younger sister’s prom invitation. When she goes over to her best friend’s to commiserate, she is given her first taste of MDMA, or Ecstasy. Written in journal format, this story is about a teen’s gradual slide into heavy drug use. VERDICT A quick read for mature high school students who liked Ellen Hopkins’s “Crank” trilogy (S. & S.).–Deanna McDaniel, Genoa Middle School, OH

johnston prairie fireJohnston, E.K. Prairie Fire. 304p. ebook available. Carolrhoda Lab. Mar. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781467739092. LC 2014008995.

Gr 8 Up –There is a little something for everyone in this sequel to the acclaimed The Story of Owen (Carolrhoda Lab, 2014). Fantasy fans will love returning to an alternate world in which the armed forces slay dragons. History fans will get a kick out of the way Johnston intermixes actual U.S. and Canadian history with a dragon-friendly story line. Eco-aware fans are unlikely to miss the underlying sentiment that oil brings nothing but trouble in both titles. This time around Owen, Sadie, and Siobhan have enlisted in the Oil Watch (think the U.S. Army, but with more fire drills). While Sadie and Owen excel with ease, troubadour Siobhan struggles to prove her worth. When the three are stationed in separate locations, Siobhan must learn to find her role without the reassurance of her two best friends. VERDICT A fantasy YA novel that steers clear of love triangles, teen angst, and a tidy ending is hard to come by; Prairie Fire and its prequel are must-haves.–Jennifer Furuyama, Pendleton Public Library, OR

Kephart, Beth. One Thing Stolen. 280p. ebook available. Chronicle. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452128313.

Gr 9 Up –This is an intense and ultimately hopeful look at a debilitating mental disorder and a family in crisis. The setting is Florence, where the Caras, Americans from Philadelphia are residing while the professor researches the 1966 flood that nearly destroyed the storied city. His precocious children should be thriving there, especially his daughter and biggest fan, but 17-year-old Nadia is in deep trouble. She has been isolating herself, slipping out on her own, and stealing random items that she compulsively weaves into elaborate nests. She cannot explain her behavior and seems to be losing her ability to speak altogether. Kephart deftly switches between the girl’s past and familiar life at home and the scary, precarious existence she is experiencing in Italy. Nadia’s parents arrange for her best friend from home to join them aboard, and she picks up the narrative at the two two-thirds mark and searches for the elusive boy with whom Nadia is obsessed. The boy, Benedetto, narrates the last section, which leaves readers with a measure of hope for the future. VERDICT Kephart’s artful novel attests to the power of love and beauty to thrive even in the most devastating of circumstances.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

konigsberg porcupineKonigsberg, Bill. The Porcupine of Truth. 336p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545648936; ebk. ISBN 9780545648943.

Gr 9 Up –Carson’s mother thwarts his summer plans when she drags him from New York City to Montana. He wasn’t especially looking forward to working at a frozen yogurt shop, but it couldn’t be worse than staying with his ailing (and alcoholic) father, a man he hasn’t seen in 14 years. Aisha Stinson has been sleeping at the Billings Zoo since coming out to her ultra-conservative father. After a chance meeting, Carson and Aisha recognize each other as kindred spirits. Aisha comes to stay with Carson’s family, and the pair soon unearth family secrets in the basement. They set off on a roadtrip to uncover the root cause of three generations of estrangement. As they pursue a reconciliation with Carson’s missing grandfather, both teens wrestle with their own strained family relationships. VERDICT Konigsberg weaves together a masterful tale of uncovering the past, finding wisdom, and accepting others as well as oneself.–Tony Hirt, Hennepin County Library, MN

Laybourne, Emmy. Sweet. 288p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250055194.

Gr 9 Up –A posh, seven-day celebrity cruise begins as a pre-launch publicity party for Solu, a groundbreaking new artificial sweetener. Passengers are promised they will lose five to 10 percent of their body fat in a matter of days. Over the course of the week, they lose a lot more than fat. Celebrity TV host and emcee of the festivities, Tom, is 19 and handsome. When he shows interest in Laurel, 17, she is excited but cautious. As a tender romance between the two develops, a strict diet and a case of sea sickness keep them from Solu. Most passengers, however, eat Solu with every meal. The weight loss is dramatic, but so, too is the unexpected side effect of rage. The ensuing addiction to the substance (sucking spilled Solu out of the carpet, anyone?) yields homicidal actions—and worse. As dead bodies pile up, Tom and Laurel realize it is up to them to get off the ship and warn the world about Solu before its widespread public release in a few days. VERDICT A finely knit narrative in which romance pairs perfectly (somehow) with societal horror.–Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Libraries, NC

zeroboxerLee, Fonda. Zeroboxer. 360p. ebook available. Flux. Apr. 2015. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9780738743387.

Gr 8 Up –Carr Luka is the king of the Cube, a zero gravity cage fight arena. In his upcoming championship fight, Luka will represent Terrans against a Martian colony and his supporters will cheer, “Make him float!” highlighting the grisly implications of a knockout. Luka’s confidence is shaken, however, when a visit to his mother reveals that his physical prowess is a result of illegal genetic enhancements, making his participation in the sport potentially criminal. Zeroboxer is a delicious mix of two genres: sports and science fiction. The colony rivalry and futuristic details are riveting, and martial arts followers hungering for fight action will not be disappointed. This work adeptly combines elements of futuristic TV shows, such as Gattaca (genetics) and Battlestar Gallactica (Terran colonies), and sports program such as Tap Out. VERDICT This gripping sci-fi novel will have teens screaming for a sequel.–Leah Krippner, Harlem High School, Machesney Park, IL

Levithan, David. Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story. 208p. ebook available. Dutton. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525428848.

Gr 10 Up –Written as a two-act musical complete with stage directions and 25 provocatively titled songs, such as “The Ballad of the Lesbian Babysitter” and “Summer of Gay,” this companion to John Green and Levithan’s award-winning Will Grayson, Will Grayson (Dutton, 2010) shines a spotlight on the larger-than-life Tiny Cooper, who was born “big-boned and happily gay.” Accepted by his supportive parents, Tiny suffers no angst over his sexual orientation, despite having to contend with schoolmate bullies and a homophobic coach. Phil, his straight BFF, offers advice through Tiny’s unsuccessful relationships with 18 different boyfriends, helping him eventually to realize that love is painful but worth it. Replete with laugh-out-loud one-liners, in-your-face language, and showcasing Will and Tiny’s “onstage” kiss, this edgy, au courant novel tackles a potentially difficult subject head-on, while giving sound, if liberal, counsel on sexual issues for gays and straights alike. VERDICT A welcome addition to progressive library collections, this unapologetic gem will encourage teens’ discussion of a sensitive topic and potentially broaden their understanding of the meaning of “tolerance.”–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI

Mckenzie, Paige with Alyssa Sheinmel. The Haunting of Sunshine Girl. 320p. Perseus/Weinstein. Mar. 2015. Tr $16. ISBN 9781602862722; ebk. ISBN 9781602862739.

Gr 9 Up –In this combination of ghost and coming-of-age story, readers follow Sunshine Griffith as she navigates the obstacles of a new school, boys, family, and, of course, her new and very haunted home. Sunshine and her mom move to Washington state from Texas for her mom’s job. Their once strong and open relationship is soon sorely tested, not by the move but by something more supernatural. Sunshine starts to hear a little girl laughing and skipping around upstairs—a sound that only she can hear. She is soon fighting for her mother’s life in this suspenseful tale. The chapters alternate between Sunshine’s and the ghost’s points of view, offering different perspectives on events. This sometimes frightening tale and series opener is based on a YouTube channel of the same name, so transmedia fans can enjoy both formats. VERDICT A good choice for readers who enjoy Holly Black–Julie Zimmerman, School Library Journal

matharu Summoner-covMatharu, Taran. The Novice. 368p. (The Summoner Trilogy: Bk. 1). Feiwel & Friends. May 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250067128; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781250067135.

Gr 7 Up –Fletcher, 15, an orphan raised by a blacksmith in the Hominum Empire’s northern village of Pelt discovers he has the ability to summon demonic creatures in this exciting fantasy trilogy opener. After Fletcher and Ignatius, his ferretlike demon, attack the local bully, Fletcher is forced to flee his village. Through a chance encounter with a mage, Fletcher finds himself attending an academy for battle mages. Trained mages are needed in Hominum’s ongoing war with the orcs and in the armed truce against the elves. At the Academy, Fletcher, a commoner, endures scorn from the more skilled second-year students of noble birth, especially a pair of snobbish twin siblings, who are particularly cruel to Sylva, the elf chieftain’s daughter, and the dwarf Othello. VERDICT The appealing characters, fast-paced plot, focus on racial politics, and interesting demon varieties (demonology addendum included) make this an enjoyable read.–Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton

McVoy, Terra Elan. Drive Me Crazy. 288p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062322432.

Gr 6-8 –Two months ago, Lana’s Grandpa Howie married Cassie’s Grandma Tess (Nono). The girls didn’t quite hit it off, but as they’re accompanying their grandparents on their California road trip honeymoon, Lana hopes that they’ll soon be great friends. Cassie, on the other hand, just wants to get through the trip as best as possible. She quickly realizes that maybe Lana isn’t so bad, and they begin a tentative friendship. Both girls are struggling emotionally: Lana is pretending that her mother’s recent health issues are not bothering her, and Cassie is obsessed with keeping the popular kids as her friends. A spur of the moment trip to Maine to catch a Magic Moment finally allows the protagonists to understand what each is dealing with and solidify their friendship. VERDICT Despite some heavy topics, this is a lighthearted road trip story with a lot of middle school appeal.–Kefira Phillipe, Nichols Middle School, Evanston, IL

surviving-santiago-miller-lachmannMiller-Lachmann, Lyn. Surviving Santiago. 320p. ebook available. Running Pr. Teen. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780762456338. LC 2014954486.

Gr 9 Up –This companion to Miller-Lachmann’s Gringolandia (Curbstone, 2009) focuses on Daniel’s 16-year-old younger sister, Tina. In 1989, Tina is sent to Chile for the summer to be with her father and aunt. Her father is a known anti-government activist, and though he is able to work as a reporter for a radio station, his home life is difficult due to the large amount of alcohol that he consumes and his physical handicaps, which were caused by the beatings he endured when he was locked up as a political prisoner. His sister feels an obligation to help care for him, even though they have a rocky relationship. Tina finds herself in an uncomfortable situation. She is lonely and spends much of her time at her father’s house trying to keep busy while her father and aunt are at work. When she meets a delivery boy named Frankie, she believes that he will save her from the agonizing summer ahead. VERDICT Purchase for collections in need of literature with Hispanic protagonists and historical time periods not often covered in schools.–Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Jefferson, LA

Noble, Carrie Anne. The Mermaid’s Sister. 252p. ebook available. Amazon/Skyscape. Mar. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781477820889.

Gr 8 Up –This lovely, lyrical fantasy takes place in a mythical Pennsylvania mountain setting and tells the story of three foundlings—Clara, Maren, and O’Neill. Clara was delivered to Auntie by a stork, Maren was found in a seashell, and O’Neill was placed beneath an apple tree. Clara and Maren have grown up as sisters with wise woman Auntie as their guardian, while the young man O’Neill is raised by Scarff the traveling peddler. When Clara notices that Maren is developing scales and needs to spend more and more time in water, she realizes that her friend is turning into a mermaid and that no potion or magic will halt the change. Because the only way to save Maren is to return her to her father, the Sea King, Clara and O’Neill place Maren in a tub of salt water in the peddler’s wagon and journey toward the ocean. However, they are waylaid by members of a traveling show who enslave them and put Maren on display in a freak show. Clara must overcome her inner doubts about who she really is in order to save Maren, O’Neill, and herself from the wicked traveling players. VERDICT Noble’s treatment of the mermaid theme is fresh and original, and even her minor characters are beautifully depicted.–Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ

rabb kissing in americaRabb, Margo. Kissing in America. 400p. HarperCollins. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062322371; ebk. ISBN 9780062322395.

Gr 9 Up –Two years ago, Eva Roth’s father was killed in a plane crash, which is still being investigated. Eva’s grief is as fresh as it was the day he died, but her mother seems determined to move on and expects Eva to do the same. As her mother becomes increasingly uncommunicative and obsessed with work, Eva tries to escape her pain by focusing on preparing for college; studying with her best friend, Annie; and losing herself in the pages of romance novels. When the teen is paired with high school heartthrob, Will, in an after-school tutoring session, she discovers that he, too, has lost a family member. Their shared understanding of loss and pain draws them into a relationship that is abruptly halted when Will has to move from New York to Los Angeles. She convinces the brilliant Annie to enter the two of them in an academic teen game show that promises a trip to Los Angeles and a $20,000 scholarship to the winner. Together they embark on a cross-country adventure that will test their friendship, and ultimately bring Eva to a deeper understanding of herself and her family. VERDICT A first purchase for most YA collections.–Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA

Reyes, M.G. Emancipated. 400p. Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062288950.

Gr 10 Up –The situation is any adolescent’s fantasy: six beautiful teenagers living together in a house on Venice Beach without parents. For different reasons, each of the young people—two boys and four girls—have been emancipated from their parents. Though they promise to finish school and pay their rent, trouble finds them. As Lucy’s music career takes off, Candace finds success as an actress, and Paulo works on his tennis game (he’s a very in-demand tennis pro for reasons not just related to his athletic prowess), each of the characters’ pasts catches up to them. In the tradition of other popular teen dramas—like Lauren Conrad’s “L.A. Candy” and Sara Shepard’s “Pretty Little Liars” (both HarperCollins) —the six housemates are all hiding something: a past mistake, their true identity, or their real intentions, and things get messy when their worlds converge. VERDICT Older teens who love drama will be hooked and asking for the next book immediately.–Jennifer Miskec, Longwood University, Farmville, VA

Ropal, Monica. When You Leave. 336p. ebook available. Running Pr. Teen. Apr. 2015. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780762454556.

Gr 9 Up –Romance and a murder mystery intermingle in this gritty and engaging novel. Cass is a high school student, struggling to fit in at a fancy private school. Before her father’s desertion and her mother’s remarriage, Cass lived in a low-income neighborhood and hung out at the skate park. Her best friends are a group of boys who include Mattie, Gav, and Franklin. She’s especially fond of Mattie—he lost his voice to cancer nine years ago, but they’re so close that she can tell exactly what he’s thinking. Now Cass is a preppy St. Bernadette’s student by day, trying to blend in and remain unnoticed. When she falls for Cooper, a rich, charming boy, though, her old friends clash with her new love interest. Cooper is brutally murdered, and Gav is arrested for the crime. Cass is positive that he is innocent. She decides to play detective at St. Bernadette’s, uncovering a complicated mix of friendships, love triangles, and dark secrets. There are plenty of twists and turns on the way to an enjoyable conclusion. VERDICT Readers will find much to like in this fast-paced and well-written story.–Miranda Doyle, Lake Oswego School District, OR

Schneider, Robyn. Extraordinary Means. 336p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062217165; ebk. ISBN 9780062217189.

Gr 8 Up –After being diagnosed with a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, the cute but nerdy Lane is sent to Latham House, an isolated boarding school where there is plenty of fresh air, no homework or tests, and long rest periods between classes. Lane, who has been more focused on getting into his dream college than making meaningful friendships and high school memories, connects once again with the eccentric Sadie, a former summer camp intrigue who has already been quarantined at the school for over a year. With only a narrow chance at recovery, as romance unfurls, neither teen has fully come to terms with what it means to be terminally ill. VERDICT Schneider’s subtlety, combined with themes about learning to live life fully, makes this an easy recommendation for those seeking titles similar in premise to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton, 2012).–Danielle Jones, Multnomah County Library, OR

SLJ1503-Fic9up-The-Walls-around-Us-Nova-Ren-SumaSuma, Nova Ren. The Walls Around Us. 336p. ebook available. Algonquin. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781616203726.

Gr 9 Up –This haunting and evocative tale of magical realism immerses readers in two settings that seem worlds apart. The book is told in alternating first-person voices from the perspective of two teenagers: lonely Amber, who at age 13 was convicted of murdering her abusive stepfather and sent to Aurora Hills, a juvenile detention facility, and Vee, an insecure yet ruthlessly ambitious Julliard-bound ballerina. Through Vee’s and Amber’s recollections, readers learn about talented, kind-hearted Ori, Vee’s former best friend and a dancer herself, who after being convicted of a heinous crime is sent to Aurora Hills, where she becomes Amber’s roommate—and where soon after a strange tragedy occurs. The prose is mesmerizing, laced with visceral, gorgeous figurative language, and draws subtle parallels between the disciplined, constricting world of ballet and the literal prison in which Amber and Ori find themselves. VERDICT A powerful story that will linger with readers.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Vaughn, J.D. The Second Guard. 432p. Disney-Hyperion. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423169093.

Gr 7 Up –Talimendra has turned 15, which means it’s time for her to leave her family to train for the queen’s guard or, failing to qualify after the training, to work as an indentured servant until turning 21. This is a requirement for all second-born children in Tequende, a peaceful land surrounded by those who would seek to conquer it. Tali’s mother, now deceased, served on the guard, and Tali wishes to do the same. She makes new friends at Alcazar, the training location: first with Zarif, of the Moon Guild, and then his roommate Chey, of the Earth Guild. Tequende society is divided into three guilds, each a reflection of one of the deities that the people worship, each encompassing certain trades and occupations; to make friends across the guilds is rare. Tali is of the Sun Guild, and her father was a trader. Vaughn captures the discomfort of the teens’ hard training along with the bonds that form among those who are suffering together. There is also intrigue—the three friends realize that there is a mutinous plot involving some of the highest ranking officials in the land. VERDICT Teens will cheer for Tali and her friends and appreciate the rich setting in this well-written and engaging fantasy.–Kathy Kirchoefer, Henderson County Public Library, NC

SLJ1503-Fic9up-Wein_Black Dove White RavenWein, Elizabeth. Black Dove, White Raven. 368p. Disney-Hyperion. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781423183105; ebk. ISBN 9781484707807.

Gr 8 Up –In her latest World War II–era novel, Wein returns to themes of aviation and the enduring bonds of platonic love and friendship. Best friends Rhoda, a white Quaker, and African American Delia were “barnstorming” pilots, a team who performed in air shows across the United States as White Raven and Black Dove, their children, Emilia and Teo, in tow. When Delia is killed in a plane crash, Rhoda commits to fulfilling Delia’s dream for Teo—to live in a land where he wouldn’t be judged by the color of his skin—and moves them all to Ethiopia, where Teo’s father was born. Life on the coffee farm at Tazma Meda is wonderful, especially since Rhoda is teaching the children to fly, but rumors of invasion by Italy become reality, and bureaucratic snafus mean that the family can’t leave the country. Then the war becomes even more personal when all young men of Ethiopian heritage are conscripted. VERDICT Highly recommended for all libraries, especially where her previous titles have flown off the shelves.–Stephanie Klose, School Library Journal

withers andreo's raceWithers, Pam. Andreo’s Race. 224p. ebook available. Tundra. Apr. 2015. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781770497665.

Gr 8 Up –This action-packed book revolves around the topics of adventure races and illegal adoptions, managing to make both interesting and highly readable. Sixteen-year-old Andreo was adopted as a baby, and his family’s upcoming team adventure race in Bolivia is a chance for him to learn more about his origins. When his friend and fellow adoptee Raul discovers that they may have been stolen as babies from their rightful parents, the pair resolve to investigate during the race. Andreo navigates through nighttime cycling, awkward family dynamics, and wanted criminals in his search for his birth mother. The experience of adventure racing is brought to life in the story, with readers experiencing the intensity of training and competition through Andreo. VERDICT The simple, straightforward language, surprise twist, and nonstop action will appeal to reluctant readers looking for a thrilling novel.–Marian McLeod, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich, CT

Zappia, Francesca. Made You Up. 448p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062290106.

Gr 9 Up –Alex is starting her senior year at a new high school, making a clean start after an incident at her previous school. She just wants to keep her grades up and perform her mandatory community service so she can get into college. But Alex knows she’ll have a hard time achieving these goals, since she has paranoid schizophrenia. She keeps her illness to herself, hoping that between her doctor, her medication, and her own homegrown coping strategies, no one else need ever know. But on her first day at her new school, she meets a boy who looks exactly like someone she hallucinated on the day her illness first manifested 10 years earlier. And although Miles is not entirely friendly, he may be the only person who understands her. Zappia sets a fast pace that she maintains throughout. While Alex may be unreliable, she is sympathetic from the start. VERDICT Zappia tackles some big issues in her debut, creating a messy, hopeful, even joyful book.–Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT

Graphic Novels

Christin, Pierre. Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City. illus. by Olivier Balez. 112p. maps. Flying Eye Books/Nobrow. 2014. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781907704963.

Gr 6 Up –This biography of urban planner Robert Moses effectively demonstrates why he was one of the most polarizing figures in New York’s history. Moses stayed in power for decades, outlasting mayors, governors, and presidents. Activist and journalist Jane Jacobs is presented as the man’s main opponent; cycling around the city, the unpretentious Jacobs is an ideal foil for the larger-than-life Moses. Christin relies heavily on dialogue to tell the story, which keeps the narrative from becoming dry. Balez’s artwork is visually striking, capturing with just a few colors the lives of rich and poor, from scenic panoramas to tenement slums. VERDICT This work provides an excellent overview of one of New York’s most powerful public figures and the legacy he left behind for generations to come.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

cool japan guideDenson, Abby. Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats and Ramen. illus. by Abby Denson. 128p. maps. websites. Tuttle. Mar. 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9784805312797.

Gr 5 Up –What could be a more fitting format for a travel guide on modern Japan than a comic book? Relying on delightful cartoon illustrations, this creative, nicely designed title details travel preparations, the homestay experience, food, shopping, and festivals. Readers will get a strong sense of all that the country has to offer: manga, anime, onsens (or hot springs), karaoke bars, and much more. Some images are accompanied by lengthy, enlightening captions. Kitty Sweet Tooth, a cheery feline who sports a lime green dress festooned with a red heart, introduces a pronunciation guide for common words. VERDICT Those fascinated by Japan will enjoy this amusing and educational romp.–Robyn Gioia, Antilles Middle School, Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico

diorcover.inddGoetzinger, Annie. Girl in Dior. tr. from French by Joe Johnson. illus. by Annie Goetzinger. 128p. bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. NBM. Mar. 2015. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781561639144. LC 2014956278.

Gr 9 Up –This is a appealing graphic novel, gorgeously illustrated by French costume designer and illustrator Goetzinger. The story covers the 1947 groundbreaking first fashion show put on by designer Christian Dior, when he introduced weary post–World War II patrons to the “New Look”—yards and yards of fabric and fantasy after years of shortages and short skirts. We watch the magic happen through the eyes of Clara Nohant, a young “fashion chronicler,” a fictional character injected into the story amid real-life modistes, drapers, pattern makers, muses, magazine editors, and movie stars who surrounded the designer. Goetzinger’s renderings of each character, from Dior’s beloved dog “Bobby” to French grandmères to Hollywood icons is distinct and memorable in every respect. And the clothes! The sweep and drape of the gowns and the exquisite cut of the suits and hats will make would-be designers and future fashion chroniclers shiver. VERDICT This title is like a perfect Dior creation: stunningly designed, lavishly beautiful, effortlessly elegant. Fashionistas and fashionistos of all ages will devour this book hungrily.–Liz French, Library Journal

whispered wordsIkeda, Takashi. Whispered Words, Vol. 1. 472p. ISBN 9781935548454.

––––. Whispered Words, Vol. 2. 456p. ISBN 9781935548577.

ea vol: tr. from by Julianne Neville. illus. by Takashi Ikeda. ebook available. One Peace. 2014. pap. $16.95.

Gr 9 Up –Best friends Sumika and Ushio have hidden feelings for each other, and because neither wishes to risk their bond, a rift forms between them. At first, Ushio is oblivious to her heart’s desire, and Sumika is unwilling to reveal her own feelings, but with new friends complicating their daily lives, they are forced to reevaluate themselves. Gradually, their revelations, coupled with genuine bonding moments, bring them much closer. Character forms morph frequently to visually match the tone of the situation; poignant moments are shaded and highlighted in comparison to the normal gently cute mode, while comedic scenes are simplified and exaggerated. This shoujo-ai (light girls love) is a pure-hearted romance with minimal fanservice that establishes itself as a female friendly environment. VERDICT A sweet romance between two female teens told in the manga format.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ontario, Canada

The original reviews of the following works appeared in SLJ’s March print magazine.

SLJTeen header

This article was featured in our free SLJTeen enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you twice a month.

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.

Empowering Teens: Fostering the Next Generation of Advocates
Teens want to make a difference and become advocates for the things they care about. Librarians working with young people are in a unique position to help them make an impact on their communities and schools. Ignite your thinking and fuel these efforts at your library through this Library Journal online course—April 24 & May 8.