April 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Political Thrillers, Flirty Romances, and Complex Sci-Fi | YA Series Update

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The following are some of the latest installments in popular YA series. The highlighted choices include classic romances, science fiction, dystopians, horror, a modern-day take on Shakespeare, and political thrillers that teens won’t want to miss.

Barnes, Jennifer Lynn. All In. 384p. (The Naturals: Bk. 3). ebook available. Disney-Hyperion. Nov. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484716434.

Gr 9 Up –This series follows 17-year-old Cassie, a people-reading, Sherlock Holmes–type teen who is able to pick up on the tiniest details that others often overlook. No one takes her “talent” seriously until she is approached by the FBI, which is recruiting teens to act as profilers to help solve cold cases. In The Naturals and Killer Instinct, Cassie faced a serial killer who had ties to the disappearance of her mother, and a copycat killer who committed crimes very similar to those that landed Dean’s father in jail. In All In, Cassie and friends head to Las Vegas, the site of a killer who appears to be targeting casino visitors. Unlike the cold cases they are used to, this killer is different. He seems to have no common motives, as the victims, scenes, and methods of death are different every time. He also seems to be a bit of a ghost, as each victim is killed in plain sight, with no one—including surveillance cameras—witnessing anything. The only clue that Cassie and her friends have to go by are numbers tattooed on the victims. While each volume’s bad guy is self-contained, readers will want to start with the first entry in order to follow character development, which is one of this series’s strengths. Cassie’s background was examined in the first novel, Dean’s in the second, and a number of other Naturals in this third installment. Many teens will also appreciate that while there is some romance, it does not overwhelm the plot. The main focus is on the camaraderie of the very different teens brought together in extraordinary circumstances.

Barnes, Jennifer Lynn. The Long Game. 368p. (Fixer: Bk. 2). Bloomsbury. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781619635968.

Gr 9 Up –In The Fixer, Tess found herself shipped off to live with her older sister, Ivy, after her grandfather succumbed to dementia and Tess could no longer take care of him. Ivy holds a unique job as a “fixer”—a person who can make political scandals disappear for a high price. Enrolled at Hardwicke Academy, a school full of Washington, DC’s elite children, Tess found an inlet to popularity by becoming Hardwicke’s very own “fixer.” At first it was all fun and games, until Tess and Ivy discovered two of their cases might actually have much in common. In The Long Game, Tess gets to really follow in Ivy’s footsteps as she agrees to run the class president campaign for a classmate who happens to be the offspring of a powerful politician. Tess soon discovers it is not just adults who are hiding potential scandals. This series has been called the YA version of the television show Scandal. Barnes is a prolific YA author whose success lies in creating very likable protagonists, well-developed secondary characters, and fast-paced plotting. Teens looking for YA political thrillers featuring not one but two strong female leads will enjoy Barnes’s latest.

Cremer, Andrea. Conjurer’s Riddle. 352p. (Inventor’s Secret: Bk. 2). ebook available. Philomel. Nov. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399164248.

Gr 9 Up –Charlotte is a 16-year-old who lives in a North America that never won the Revolutionary War. In her world, the British Empire rules with an iron fist—steampunk machines and innovations help the British keep a tight rein over its many subjects. While most descendants of the rebels are forced to work in servitude as punishment, Charlotte and her brother, Ash, live in a forest with other young rebels waiting to come of age to join in the upcoming rebellion against the British. In Inventor’s Secret, everything was almost exposed when Charlotte rescued a boy named Grave, who couldn’t remember anything about his life before coming to their camp. In order to discover if he is a threat, the teen rebels were forced to head to the city and look for answers. Conjurer’s Riddle follows Charlotte as she leads her friends to New Orleans, where the resistance is headquartered. Along the way, she has to keep the children she saved from the Catacombs safe and focus on protecting Grave, as everyone seems out to get him. Soon, she is struggling to understand if she is on the “right” side of the revolution she is fighting. What if her side is just as corrupt as the British? A big cliff-hanger will leave readers clamoring for the third installment. Cremer has created an interesting alternative history that seamlessly merges science and mechanics with magic and mysticism. Purchase where steampunk and alternative history are popular with teens.

Dawson, Delilah S. Strike. 480p. (Hit: Bk. 2). ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481423427.

Gr 9 Up –This is a fresh take on future dystopian worlds. Readers were introduced to 17-year-old Patsy in the first installment, Hit. America went bankrupt and was bought out by Valor National Bank. Their extreme method of saving the country was to hunt down debtors and give them three options: pay their debt, become an indentured bounty hunter, or die. When someone came for her mother, Patsy volunteered to become a hunter to save her. Her first mission involved hunting down 10 people, but not all of them were strangers. In Strike, Patsy has faked her own death to escape Valor. With nowhere left to go, she agrees to meet with Leon Crane, the leader of the Citizens for Freedom (CFF)—a group of people who are out for revenge against Valor. However, the more she works with the CFF, the more she begins to wonder if they are not just as bad as the people they are standing up against. Dawson’s series successfully combines an economically bleak future America with some political rebellion, lots of secrets, a smart heroine, and a little bit of romance.

Destiny, A. & Rhonda Helms. Portrait of Us. ISBN 9781481451901.

Destiny, A. & Emma Carlson Berne. Sunset Ranch. ISBN 9781481451895.

ea vol: 224p. (Flirt). ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Sept. 2015. pap. $9.99.

Gr 8 Up –In Portrait of Us, Corinne is an aspiring artist excited to learn about a summer workshop where she can collaborate with a famous artist-in-residence. Added to that, the workshop incorporates a competition element with a grand prize. Corinne hopes to win so her parents understand that she can really succeed as an artist. However, her plans come to a halt when she is paired with Matthew. Not only is he the biggest jock at her school, Corinne does not view his postmodern style as “real” art. He could not possibly be as serious about art as she is, could he? As they begin to work together, she discovers that stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason as they begin to form a relationship. In Sunset Ranch, Chloe faces a traditional love triangle when she lands a summer job at a popular dude ranch. At first, she is attracted to Stephen, a funny ranch hand. When she gets the opportunity to train some new colts, she is paired instead with Zach, a cocky ranch hand who is the complete opposite of Stephen. Who will she end up with? The tagline of the “Flirt” series is “first crush, first love, first kiss.” These are short, simple, and sweet, straightforward romances. Portrait of Us is noteworthy for presenting something sadly missing from many modern YA romances—a biracial couple. Too often romances are between an all-American white girl and boy. The books in this series are great stand-alone titles to add to pump up the romance options in a teen collection.

Guertin, Chantel. Leading Lines. 216p. (Pippa Greene: Bk. 3). ECW Pr. Oct. 2015. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781770412323.

Gr 8 Up –This series follows Pippa Greene as she struggles with everyday teenage problems—changing friendships, complicated love triangles—while attempting to attain her lifelong dream of becoming a famous fashion photographer. In the first volume, The Rule of Thirds, Pippa tried to win the Vantage Point photography contest and an internship at Tisch School of the Arts while balancing potential love interests in Dylan, a fellow hospital volunteer, and Ben, a fellow photographer, and dealing with her father’s recent death. Depth of Field found Pippa spending two weeks in New York City with Dylan. However, rejected Ben refused to leave her alone, and her new mentor at Tisch, David, appeared to have a hidden connection to Pippa’s father. The third volume opens with Pippa back home, coping with Ben at school and Dylan’s possible lack of interest in their relationship as opportunities arise for his aspiring musical career. Pippa’s story, while spanning only three volumes thus far, is reminiscent of the long-running “Alice” series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. This Canadian import has flown under the radar but is an excellent paperback choice to add to a YA collection’s realistic fiction offerings.

Hall, Maggie. Map of Fates. 320p. (Conspiracy of Us: Bk. 2). ebook available. Putnam. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399166518.

Gr 7 Up –Avery West lives a life of privilege. Everything she has ever wanted, she gets. However, she avoids making connections because her mother’s job means many relocations. In Conspiracy of Us, the teen learned where her family’s wealth and power comes from—her father just might be alive and the leader of an old secret society called the Circle. To make matters worse, certain members believe that Avery may be the key to a long-awaited prophecy. Map of Fates picks up where the first volume ended—Avery is in love with a boy she is not allowed to love, betrothed to another boy she does not love, and alone, as her mother has been kidnapped by the Circle’s enemies. The heroine is forced to hunt down clues to uncover the secrets of her family’s involvement with the Circle. Give this series to teens who enjoy edge-of-your-seat world-traveling adventures full of secrets and characters who struggle with determining who they can and cannot trust.

Howard, A.G. Untamed. 288p. (Splintered: Bk. 4). ebook available. Abrams. Dec. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419718694.

Gr 8 Up –Just when fans thought Alyssa Gardner’s adventures in Wonderland were over, Howard gives us Untamed, a companion book to the “Splintered” series, collecting three stories previously available only as ebooks. Splintered, Unhinged, and Ensnared followed Alyssa as she started experiencing the same hallucinations that put her mother in a mental institution when Alyssa was a child. Alyssa is a relative of the real Alice in Wonderland—Alice Liddell—and soon learned that the fantasy world of Wonderland was real and extremely dangerous. In order to save her family, Alyssa had to undo all the mistakes Alice made during her original visit to Wonderland. In Untamed, Alyssa’s mother takes the reins in “The Boy in the Web” to remember her time in Wonderland and how she saved Alyssa’s father. “The Moth in the Mirror” features Morpheus examining Jeb’s point of view of what transpired in Splintered. Lastly, in “Six Impossible Things,” readers learn about Alyssa’s life post-Ensnared. Purchase where this 2014 Teens’ Top Ten title is popular.

Kaufman, Amie & Meagan Spooner. Their Fractured Light. 432p. (Starbound: Bk. 3). ebook available. Disney-Hyperion. Dec. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781423171041.

Gr 9 Up –A stunning conclusion to the “Starbound” trilogy. In These Broken Stars, the luxury spaceship, Icarus, fell out of hyperspace and landed on a distant planet. Only two teens appeared to have survived the crash—Lilac, the daughter of the most powerful man in the universe, and Tarver, a poor war hero whose life is the complete opposite of Lilac’s. Can they survive long enough to be rescued? In This Shattered World, Avon was a world in trouble. As citizens rebelled against the corporation that ruled Avon and promised a bright future for colonizing the planet that never was attained, Jubilee is sent as the captain of a force to subdue the rebels. There, she was captured by Flynn, a rebel leader whose sister was killed in one of the original revolutions. When his comrades prepared to execute her, Flynn sensed something in Jubilee and rescued her. Will they be able to work together, and end the war on Avon? In the final volume, a year has passed since the events of the first two books. Lilac and Tarver have been living double lives since they were rescued, while Flynn and Jubilee created the Avon Broadcast—a message that pointed out the corrupt nature of LaRoux Industries—Lilac’s father’s company—to the entire universe. These four teens are brought together on Corinth, where they meet Gideon, a hacker bent on exposing LaRoux, and Sofia, a grifter. All six must learn to trust one another and work together if they hope to destroy LaRoux Industries and make the world a better place. A series that started off as Romeo and Juliet in space concludes with three separate couples coming together to save the world. A good choice for YA science fiction collections.

Monahan, Hillary. Mary: Unleashed. 256p. (Bloody Mary: Bk. 2). ebook available. Disney-Hyperion. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781423185390.

Gr 9 Up –In Mary: The Summoning, Shauna and her friends were convinced by troublemaker Jess to perform a ramped-up version of the slumber party game Bloody Mary. However, Jess was hiding details from the girls that resulted in Mary leaving the mirror and attacking Shauna. Soon, Mary was stalking Shauna in any reflective surfaces and trying anything in her power to draw Shauna into the mirror with her. In the second installment, Shauna’s nightmare continues as Jess intentionally releases Mary from the mirror world, allowing her to have a physical body that can take her anywhere the girls go. Shauna decides that she must separate the fact from the fiction of Mary’s story in the hope of putting her ghost to rest. Unfortunately, Jess has some very personal ulterior motives that might interfere with Shauna’s plans. This horror duology stands apart from similar titles, with its focus on a less-known horror story. Mary is not a vampire; she is not a zombie. She is a murderous ghost whom children attempt to summon in a party game to prove their bravery. While Mary is a terrifying foe, Monahan gets readers to sympathize with her as Shauna digs deep to understand what turned Mary bad. Give to readers who enjoy gory horror and would like to see some character development in bad guys.

O’Brien, Caragh M. The Rule of Mirrors. 432p. (Vault of Dreamers: Bk. 2). ebook available. Roaring Brook. Feb. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596439405.

Gr 9 UpVault of Dreamers introduced readers to the Forge Show, the most popular reality TV series in the world. Its stars are teens who attend the Forge School, an arts school. Not only are their every waking moments televised but their dreams and nightmares are, too, through nightly sleep-induced pills that lead to “enhanced creativity.” One night, when Rosie skipped her pill, she discovered that something about the school was wrong. The Rule of Mirrors begins where the first volume ended—Rosie has learned Forge’s secret—the teens’ minds were being mined and seeded into other people. Rosie, now expelled from the school, is split in two. Part of her mind remains in her body (Rosie Rosie), while part has been seeded to a girl named Althea, who has been in a brain-dead coma for six months (Althea Rosie). With part of Rosie in Althea, Althea finally wakes up, but Althea is gone, and Rosie’s main consciousness is in control of her body. The trouble is that Rosie Rosie—now a hollow shell of the Rosie who entered Forge—does not know that Althea Rosie—the true essence of the real Rosie—even exists. Althea Rosie needs to do everything in her power to be reunited with her other self. There is just one complication—the original Althea happens to be an 18-year-old pregnant girl. Give this to teens looking for a science fiction tale with lots of complexity.

Shakespeare, William & Courtney Carbone. Macbeth #killingit. ISBN 9780553538809.

Shakespeare, William & Brett Wright. A Midsummer Night #nofilter. ISBN 9780553538823.

ea vol: 112p. (OMG Shakespeare). Random. Jan. 2016. Tr. $9.99.

Gr 7 Up –This hilarious series continues with two more volumes. Macbeth tells the story of a general who learns of a prophecy that he will one day become King of Scotland. Coveting power, he immediately kills the king and is soon forced to keep murdering to hide his secret. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the tale of four young lovers, six unknown actors, a marriage between Theseus and Hippolyta, and a bunch of manipulative forest fairies. “OMG Shakespeare” is a clever idea that has its strengths and weaknesses. The books are short and tell the basic plots of Shakespeare’s plays in a mixture of emoji-laden text messages, social media status updates, photos, and more, which means they can easily be paired with the real plays to help aid in students’ understanding of the source material. The weakness, though, is the gimmicky nature of the books. Some teens might find the emojis harder to decipher, as the images sometimes appear to stand in for actual words and at other times appear to be just pictures that emphasize the actual text. Purchase where the titles would appeal to fans of “Manga Shakespeare” or would aid in teens’ comprehension of the original source material.

Stine, R.L. Can You Keep a Secret? 272p. (Fear Street). ebook available. St. Martin’s Griffin. Apr. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250058942.

Gr 7 Up –The “Fear Street” series relaunch continues with this fourth volume. Sweethearts Eddie and Emmy plan a camping trip with their friends to the Fear Street woods. While there, Eddie discovers a tree with a hidey-hole and a briefcase filled with thousands of dollars. The teens decide to hide the money and eventually split it evenly. Unfortunately for Emmy, her life is crumbling around her. Her parents disapprove of Eddie, she is having nightmares about being a wolf, and now there are news reports of people being attacked by a large wild animal. When tragedy strikes and Emmy needs some money, she and Eddie discover that the briefcase is gone. Soon someone appears to be stalking Emmy and threatening her. Will Emmy and her friends find the money, or are their lives at risk from some unknown threat? While the writing of this installment is nothing extraordinary, the “Fear Street” books are fun additions to a teen collection because they will reach a wide audience looking for a not too scary horror story. Adults who grew up with the originals will check them out for nostalgia reads, while teens will pick them up for a quick fluff horror story, and tweens will find the series an easy transition up from Stine’s “Goosebumps.”

Graphic Novels

YASeries-Allison_The-Case-of-the-Fire-InsideAllison, John. The Case of the Fire Inside. 128p. (Bad Machinery: Bk. 5). Oni. May 2016. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781620102978.

Gr 7 Up –The boys and girls of Griswalds Grammar School explore separate cases in this stand-alone volume. Sonny, who has never had much interest in girls before, swears he saw a mysterious girl swimming in the sea, while his best friend, Mildred, catches the attention of the local bad boy, Lee, and his jealous ex-girlfriend, Sasha. As Mildred’s friends, Lottie and Shauna, try to protect her from Sasha’s potentially murderous attempts to keep Lee to herself, Sonny finds the new transfer student, Ellen, glued to his side. As the teens uncover more clues about their new friends, they discover a potential link among Ellen and Sasha and a homeless man who has appeared in the neighborhood looking for his daughters. Could the old town folktales about selkies from the sea be true? Bad Machinery is a UK-based webcomic about a group of 13-year-olds who try to solve some very surreal mysteries. It may be helpful to have prior volumes of this graphic novel series to help aid readers in understanding the characters (especially since the setting is in England), but it is not necessary in order to enjoy the mystery. Teens will be attracted to the cute art style and will appreciate the black humor of the characters, especially adorable weirdo Lottie.

YAseries-Fridolfs_Study-Hall-of-JusticeFridolfs, Derek. Study Hall of Justice. illus. by Dustin Nguyen. 176p. (DC Comics: Secret Hero Society: Bk. 1). Scholastic. Jan. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780545825016; ebk. $12.99. ISBN 9780545833561.

Gr 5 Up –Meet Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, and Diana Prince while they were in middle school! Bruce is excited when he gets accepted to Ducard Academy, a prep school for gifted students. He has been homeschooling for a while and is interested in meeting new people and making new friends. However, on his first day he begins to think something is not quite right at Ducard. Bruce is baffled when other students appear to misbehave and are rewarded for it. He teams together with Clark and Diana, the only students who are nice to him. They begin to investigate the history of the school, especially the mysterious unnamed headmaster. What is he hiding? This first installment is a quick read that will appeal to many. Because this is a combination graphic novel/found item narrative, librarians could place this series with fiction or graphic novel collections. While the reading level is aimed at upper-elementary readers, young tweens will enjoy the adventures of popular DC superheroes at their own ages. The series will also appeal to older teens who either are struggling readers or those who are looking for a quick read that provides not only a humorous story but also a fun exercise for DC fans, who will love deciphering the hints to all the secondary characters and who they are in the DC universe (for example, Mr. Freeze appears in this volume only as a young Victor Fries). A cute new series for all ages.

Tomsu-Lindsey_Contrib_WebLindsey Tomsu is the teen librarian at the La Vista (NE) Public Library.

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