February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Assorted Spring Loves | Adult Books 4 Teens

With spring formals and prom season upon us, the titles in today’s column focus, to varying degrees, on love. From more typical romance to science fiction, the novels here offer plenty of genre diversity to satisfy teens.

No love story is complete without a soundtrack, and J.P. Monninger’s The Map That Leads to You will have readers humming the Maroon 5 chart topper “Maps”: “So I’m following the map that leads to you/The map that leads to you.” Instead of taking a gap year before college, the protagonist spends a summer in Europe after college, before the reality of adulting sets in, and she meets her soul mate. They travel to not-so-typical European destinations, and their witty repartee would feel at home in a John Green novel. Our reviewer compares Monninger’s title to the work of Nicholas Sparks, who plugged the book as “romantic and unforgettable.”

Romance isn’t the main focus of Heather Graham and Jon Land’s The Rising: the two high school senior protagonists are too busy running around like the main characters of the television show 24. With this fast-moving sci-fi thriller that’s threaded with romantic suspense, the best-selling authors have produced a winning title that’s hopefully the first volume of a series. I’m not sure why the book wasn’t published as YA, because it’s a natural fit for reluctant teen readers.

Colleen Oakley’s Close Enough To Touch is ideal for a read-alike display for Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, which comes to theaters May 19. Even those with extreme allergies can fall in love, and Jubilee meets her match in the library. Readers who enjoy a good Lurlene McDaniel–ish romance will adore this one.

There’s something here for historical fiction fans, too; they’ll gravitate to Teresa Messineo’s The Fire by Night, which follows two best friends as they graduate from nursing school and become World War II battlefield nurses. Both young women face devastating tribulations in their deployments to France and the Pacific, but their strong bond and hope of reuniting with their loved ones keep them resilient.

Young adults know that not all love stories have happy endings, and last year I dedicated an entire column to “The Perils of Love.” Tasha Kavanagh’s twisted debut, Things We Have in Common, absolutely blew my mind. Obsession is never pretty, and Yasmin’s crush on Alice turns ugly. Originally published in Great Britain, Kavanagh’s book was on the short list for the Costa Award for first novel. Readers won’t forget Yasmin’s unique voice, even if they might find it hard to identify with her.

Finally, Laleh Khadivi’s A Good Country focuses on religious radicalism. Young Rez, an American born to Iranian parents, leaves home with his girlfriend to join ISIS in Syria. Khadivi, winner of a Pushcart Prize, was born in Iran and grew up in California, and she’s created a heartbreaking coming-of-age tale. The conclusion to a trilogy, this novel stands alone, but readers can check out the previous installments to learn more about Rez’s parents.

Romance, science fiction, historical fiction, coming-of-age, contemporary fiction, and mystery—this column has something for everyone; after all, quality books need a little love in them. Benjamin Alire Sáenz said it best in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: “I bet you could sometimes find all the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.”


RisingGRAHAM, Heather & Jon Land. The Rising. 400p. Tor. Jan. 2017. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780765337917.

Alex Chin, the star quarterback, and his science-loving tutor, Samantha Dixon, are thrust together in a 24-hour science fiction adventure. Family members die, government officials lie, and the two teenagers discover that Alex’s adoption was the beginning of a global crisis. Sam, who’s interning at NASA, has connections, while quick-thinking Alex possesses sharp reflexes, and the two must collaborate to escape from the government special ops team and superhumans trying to capture or kill them. With adolescent main characters and nonstop action, this sci-fi page-turner could have easily been published as YA and will have plenty of teen crossover appeal. California’s Alcatraz and San Francisco provide the perfect setting for this roller coaster of a novel. The budding romance between Alex and Sam barely has time to bloom among the cloak-and-dagger activities, but hopefully a sequel will continue the relationship and offer a resolution to Alex’s problems. VERDICT Buy where fast-paced action thrillers and science fiction such as Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave are popular.–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon IL

ThingsweKAVANAGH, Tasha. Things We Have in Common. 304p. Harlequin/Mira. Jan. 2017. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780778326854.

Published in Great Britain in 2015, this suspense novel will surprise readers. Yasmin, a depressed 15-year-old, is still recovering from her father’s death years ago while obsessing over Alice, her school’s “it” girl. Yasmin is bullied by classmates and teachers, but her mom and stepfather are more concerned with getting her to lose weight than with her mental health. When Yasmin notices a man who “only [has] eyes for Alice,” she, too, becomes determined to stalk Alice in order to protect her and be seen as a hero. Yasmin is an unreliable first-person narrator who lives in a fantasy world; periodically, she addresses the stalker through second-person narration. Readers will find themselves thoroughly confused and questioning what’s actually happening until they reach the last sentence. The anticipation and tension that mount as Alice disappears are exhausting—who kidnapped Alice? Is Yasmin involved, or is she a victim? VERDICT Like E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, this title will have its champions, but whether teens love it or hate it, it will nevertheless spark discussion and elicit strong feelings. Purchase where twisted reads are popular.–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

goodcoutnryredstarKHADIVI, Laleh. A Good Country. 256p. Bloomsbury. May 2017. Tr $27. ISBN 9781632865847.

Rez Courdee, 14, is an excellent student who lives in Laguna Beach, CA, with his quiet, unreligious, but traditional Iranian parents. He breaks away from his image as an academic overachiever, trying pot and hooking up with an attractive girl. Surfer friends introduce Rez to the quest for the best waves, so he joins them for a trip to Mexico, which goes terribly wrong. The boys make it home, but they blame Rez for the trouble they get into. Lonely after his friends drop him, Rez is drawn to Fatima, who takes him to her mosque, and after a terrorist attack, he connects with others at school who, like him, have been scapegoated because of their religious background. He looks online for information about Islam, the religion of his ancestors, and is seduced by speeches calling for a new life in the new caliphate. A friend who has already left for Syria convinces Rez and Fatima to join him. Instead of taking the train to college, he and Fatima fool their families and fly to Syria, where they plan to marry. The story unfolds deftly, beautifully capturing the psychology of an American teen who goes down the path of radicalization; readers will understand what would motivate a sheltered, shortsighted young person to run away to join Syrian extremists. VERDICT Give this expertly written and stirring exploration of a timely subject to readers who enjoy novels that tackle global contemporary issues, such as Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs or Rabee Jaber’s Confessions.–Karlan Sick, formerly at the New York Public Library

fireMESSINEO, Teresa. The Fire by Night. 320p. HarperCollins. Jan. 2017. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780062459107.

Winston Churchill is often quoted as saying: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Jo, an army nurse for the Allied forces in World War II France, finds herself in hell: she is watching over a group of injured soldiers while surrounded by the enemy. Jo’s friend Kay is in the Philippines, barely surviving as a prisoner of the Japanese while nursing wounded soldiers. Jo and Kay watch their patients die, while waiting for help and facing starvation, disease, and the constant fear of instant—or not so instant—death. Descriptions of the hardships of the women’s current lives are interspersed with flashbacks to their time as eager young student nurses, ready to take on the world. The horrific reality of their work within the confines of a war that brings death, destruction, starvation, and terror is surpassed only by their determination to endure. This is grim reading, but teens will learn about women’s vital contributions to the war effort and the many roles they played. VERDICT This untold story of the women of the Army Nursing Corps, who did everything in their power to keep soldiers alive while maintaining their own sanity and health, will inspire readers of dramatic historical novels to celebrate the resiliency of humanity through hope, grit, and first loves.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

mapMONNINGER, J.P. The Map That Leads to You. 400p. St. Martin’s. Jun. 2017. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781250060761.

Heather realizes it’s a cliché: graduate from college, head to Europe with friends, and meet a cute guy. But when she gazes into Jack’s eyes, she just can’t look away. Dubious about the idea of love at first sight, Heather tries fending him off with barbed insults and flat-out rudeness. But she likes him too much. Heather and Jack have their first kiss on the train platform in Amsterdam. In Berlin they make love. In Switzerland they find the exact spot where Jack’s grandfather stood in 1946. After Paris, the plan was to fly back to the States together. But things go wrong. Romance fans could hardly hope for a more luxurious love story. Heather and Jack share plenty of sensuous moments, and their banter is smart and funny. Even skeptical Heather has to admit that the universe seems to be bending around them, creating a romance that seems too wonderful to be true. Readers will be as stunned as Heather when Jack doesn’t show up for the flight home. On the plane ride back, Heather finds Jack’s grandfather’s journal in her bag. Is the relationship between her and Jack really over? Debut author Monninger expertly captures Heather’s emotional devastation; readers who love romance novels with a bittersweet twist will cling to every word. VERDICT Recommended for fans of Kristin Hannah and Nicholas Sparks.–Diane Colson, formerly at City College, Gainesville, FL

closeenoughOAKLEY, Colleen. Close Enough To Touch. 336p. Gallery. Mar. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781501139260.

Jubilee is deathly allergic to other people, a detail Oakley skillfully reveals through the inclusion of fictional New York Times articles reporting on the protagonist’s health issues. For Jubilee, skin-to-skin contact with anyone else could lead to horrific reactions, even death (the proteins in her skin trigger an extreme intruder alert in her immune system). Unfailing vigilance, ever-present gloves, and self-imposed isolation help Jubilee survive her allergy and school until just before high school graduation. One kiss with a popular guy puts her into anaphylactic shock and results in nine years of seclusion after her mother marries a rich man and moves away. But when Jubilee’s mom dies, the checks she’s been sending stop, and a life of books and delivery is over. Self-help for agoraphobia and an old bike bring the protagonist into the orbit of Madison, a high school classmate, and then lead to a job as a library assistant. Taking baby steps out of her head and into the real world, Jubilee comes into contact with Eric, a recently divorced man who has moved with his traumatized and introverted adopted son to Jubilee’s New Jersey community. Chapters narrated from Eric’s first-person point of view are interspersed with those from Jubilee’s perspective, personalizing all the quirks and hurdles of this most impossible, charming romance. VERDICT For YA readers who can’t get enough of John Green or Nicola Yoon, suggest this quirky “new adult” love story with relatable, well-rendered characters.–Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Gwinnett County, GA

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Sarah Hill About Sarah Hill

Sarah Hill is SLJ's Adult Books 4 Teens cocolumnist and an information services librarian at Lake Land College in Mattoon, IL.

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