February 20, 2018

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YA Xpress Reviews | January 2017

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1701-ya-xpressrevAlward, Amy. Royal Tour. 416p. (The Potion Diaries: Bk. 2). ebook available. S. & S. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481443814.

Gr 6-8 –This sequel to The Potion Diaries finds Samantha Kemi departing on a royal tour with her boyfriend and former rival, Zain, and her friend, Princess Evelyn. Plans change drastically, though, when her grandfather falls deathly ill owing to the return of Sam’s evil adversary, Emilia, who takes Sam’s grandfather’s memories in hope of finding the recipe for the elixir of life. Kidnapping, court intrigue, and mistaken identities finish out this installment. While the plot moves swiftly, the novel does not add new layers to the protagonist, and the newly introduced characters are equally flat. In addition, the blending of the modern and the magical feels forced. Magic seems available only when convenient to the plot, and exclamations of “holy dragons!” and insertions of magical spells are at odds with references to texting and cell phones. It’s hard to create a believable mix of contemporary, archaic, and fantastical worlds, and this title, unfortunately, does not succeed in that ambitious goal. VERDICT Purchase only if the first book is popular; otherwise, suggest Kiera Cass’s The Selection, Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer, or Kristin Cashore’s Graceling, depending on readers’ magic-to-romance needs.–Lisa Ehrle, Falcon Creek Middle School, CO

Boorman, Kate A. Heartfire. 336p. (Winterkill: Bk. 3). ebook available. Abrams/Amulet. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419721243.

Gr 8 Up –This third “Winterkill” book finds Emmaline living in Matisa’s village among the First People. Em and Matisa have a special dream-sharing bond that may help them survive the impending attacks from two violent factions that want to lay claim to their homelands. The Dominion is invading from the east, while Leon and his men think they have a right to take whatever they find. Both groups are heavily armed and will kill to get what they want. But Em and the First People are the only ones who know the remedy for a fatal sickness called the Bleed. They hope to use this cure as a bargaining chip to ensure their safety. To do this, Em and her friends must return to the settlement where she spent a fearful childhood and convince the colonists to help. The journey is fraught with danger—betrayal, ambushes, natural disasters, deadly warfare, captures, and escapes. The tense first-person narrative is lightened with hints of romance among some of the characters. Fans of the series will be happy to witness Em’s maturity from an oppressed girl living in a dystopian society to a strong leader. The theme of acceptance among different types of people in order to attain peace is strong, clear, and never more relevant. VERDICT Although it helps to have read the previous series titles, this volume can stand on its own and will draw readers who like the intersection of fantasy, romance, and adventure.–Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT

Cooper, E.E. Avenged. 352p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062293923.

Gr 8 Up –This conclusion to the duology picks up right where Vanished left off: Britney has returned after being presumed dead, Beth’s death has been ruled an accident, and Kalah is convinced that Britney killed Beth. Kalah spends much of the novel pretending to be Britney’s best friend while secretly trying to prove her guilt. Throughout the book, Britney and Kalah’s game of cat and mouse raises in stakes and pulls in other characters. Britney is determined to keep her spot at the top of the social food chain and to make another girl miserable for stealing Britney’s boyfriend, Jason. Kalah’s increasing paranoia and mental instability make her an unreliable narrator of the best sort for a psychological thriller similar to popular adult titles such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train. Readers will be unsure if Britney is guilty or if Kalah is delusional until the very end. This title can stand alone, but those who have read the first book will get more out of Avenged. VERDICT A fine addition to a teen psychological thriller collection, especially where Vanished is popular.–Cyndi Hamann, Cook Memorial Public Library District, Libertyville, IL

Flanagan, John. The Battle of Hackham Heath. 352p. (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years: Bk. 2). ebook available. Philomel. Nov. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399163623.

Gr 6-10 –In this companion to The Tournament at Gorlan, Flanagan continues his new prequel series. In the aftermath of an intense battle to restore King Duncan’s kingdom, Halt and Crowley commit themselves to securing the realm’s safety by ensuring that evil Morgarath never returns. Dividing their duties, Crowley escorts a pregnant Queen Rosalind to a safer location, while Halt goes on a scouting expedition to the Mountains of Rain and Night, where Morgarath is thought to be training an army of fanged and furry semihuman creatures called Wargals. Relying on mind control to direct the beasts, Morgarath seems unstoppable. A showdown and culminating clashes highlight the Rangers’ ability to rely on unseasoned recruits, local terrain, and well-choreographed infantry and cavalry tactics to outplay the enemy. Despite some tragic losses, Duncan’s depleted army lives to fight another day, leaving the door open for Morgarath to make another move in future episodes. Flanagan is a master of using context clues for challenging vocabulary, and his narrative is as delightfully descriptive and imaginative as ever. VERDICT This is not as page-turning or humorous as other “Ranger’s Apprentice” titles, but Halt and Crowley still rule as beloved heroes with wide appeal.–Vicki Reutter, State University of New York at Cortland

Hosie, Donna. The Devil’s Banshee. 324p. (Team DEVIL: Bk. 3). ebook available. Holiday House. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780823436507.

Gr 9 Up –The members of Team DEVIL are back on another harrowing adventure in this continuation of Hosie’s hilarious series. When the Devil’s wife and Dreamcatcher—a soul who keeps the afterlife in check by filtering the Devil’s most evil dreams—suddenly leaves him, Satan has a hard time sleeping, thus throwing the afterlife into teetering chaos. Satan has chosen Elinor Powell, member of Team DEVIL and Prince Alfarin’s girlfriend, as his Dreamcatcher replacement—unless the four friends can find the Devil’s wife within the Nine Circles of Hell. With the timeless Virgil as their guide, the quartet descend into horrors unimaginable in order to protect one of their own and set things right for Hell and Up There (the demons’ phrase for Heaven). Despite the bleak premise of the novel, Hosie constantly injects the plot with humor, creating the same combination of suspense and hilarity that has made the series so popular. The plot also intertwines with the story of how Prince Alfarin, the de facto leader of the group, and Elinor met and fell in love, which lends a rather touching romantic element to the tale without becoming overbearing and cloying. VERDICT Fans of the series will gobble up this new installment and will be pleased that a fourth book is set up at the end.–Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal

Lu, Marie. The Midnight Star. 336p. (Young Elites: Bk. 3). ebook available. Putnam. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399167850.

Gr 8 Up –Following The Young Elites and The Rose Society, this conclusion to the trilogy wraps up Adelina’s story. Once again, Lu pulls in aspects of mythology and dark fantasy to take readers on an intense ride told in alternating points of view, from ruler Adelina’s (in first person) to love interest Raffaele’s (in third person), along with other characters’ third-person perspectives. In this last installment, Lu continues to enhance the character development that has been building throughout the trilogy, but this is really a plot-driven novel that follows Adelina’s quest to save her imperiled realm. The most dramatic action is saved for the last few chapters, which are full of answers and resolutions as well as deaths and reunions. Though Adelina is an antihero, readers will still root for her during her quest to save herself and the Elites. Lu provides an emotional, heartbreaking, and quick read. It doesn’t stand alone, but teens who have relished the former books will appreciate this one. VERDICT Readers will need to be familiar with the previous volumes to enjoy this conclusion to the series. Expect demand for this in libraries where Lu’s titles are already popular.–Morgan O’Reilly, Riverdale Country School, NY

Slayton, Shonna. Spindle. 400p. ebook available. Entangled. Oct. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781633754935.

Gr 7 Up –Since her parents’ death, 16-year-old Briar Rose Jenny has been the head of the house, toiling at the spinning mill and caring for her three younger siblings. She works hard to make ends meet, looking for odd jobs as a seamstress, only to face discrimination because of her Irish heritage. Things get worse when her fiancé, Wheeler, suddenly calls off the engagement for no apparent reason and finds himself a new lass to flaunt. In addition, her only friend, Henry Prince, is talking about leaving for Europe. Briar is tempted, then, when a peddler offers her an enchanted spindle that will increase her production and earn her more money at the mill. She does indeed grow prosperous, and she doesn’t believe the bad luck the spindle can bring until she falls victim to it. Fairy-tale elements and historical fiction blend into an intriguing and enjoyable tale. While readers familiar with the novel’s roots may find the story predictable, the romance will draw readers, and Briar proves to be a strong heroine learning life lessons about responsibility. In addition, the author calls attention to the working conditions of the cotton mills—a part of history with which many may be unfamiliar. VERDICT This engaging novel will draw a wide range of teen readers.–Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

Wolf, Sara. Forget Me Always. 280p. (Lovely Vicious: Bk. 2). ebook available. Entangled Teen. Nov. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781633753174.

Gr 8 Up –Isis Blake is the one girl who managed to break down the wall around Jack Hunter’s heart. Jack recently rescued Isis from a brutal attack by her mother’s boyfriend that nearly killed her. As Isis recovers in the hospital and struggles to put together the pieces of the traumatic incident, she befriends Sophia, a very sick girl who is also hurting inside and out. Isis and Sophia gradually discover that they have something else in common: a complicated history with Jack. As another dark side of Isis’s past resurfaces, Jack might be the only one who can protect her from the dangerous person who is sending mysterious, haunting emails. Yet is Jack who he appears to be? Can Isis really trust him? She’s already been hurt by her mom’s boyfriend as well as by a past love interest she calls “Nameless,” and she cannot afford another betrayal as she works to overcome body image issues and a traumatic past. Horror fans will appreciate this tale of friendship, trauma, and love. Teens won’t need to have read Love Me Never to follow along, although prior series knowledge will, of course, deepen the experience. A third installment, Remember Me Forever, is scheduled for release in 2017. VERDICT Purchase where best-selling author Wolf’s books have a large following—and where paranormal romance circulates well.–Margaret A. Robbins, University of Georgia, Athens

This article was published in School Library Journal's January 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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