Fantasy Sequels, Prequels, and a Contemporary Much Ado Retelling | June 2018 Xpress Reviews

A quirky best friend gets her time to shine in Albertalli's latest; zombies put a lively twist on familiar historical fiction tropes; Jackson's powerful novel addresses loneliness, abuse, and the importance of female friendships; and more in this month's YA Xpress.

Albertalli, Becky. Leah on the Offbeat. 368p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Apr. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062643803. POP

Gr 8 Up –A contemporary high school story of breakups, apologies, and being true to oneself. Leah, high school senior and best friend of Simon Spiers (of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda), is looking forward to heading off to college in the fall, but she’ll have to survive her senior year first. When her friend group begins to splinter, Leah isn’t sure where her allegiance lies, especially when she realizes she likes one of her friends as more than just a friend. This relationships-focused novel takes place during the final semester of senior year, leading up to prom night. With a breezy, conversational tone sprinkled with plenty of humor in the midst of the drama, the narrative moves quickly. A diverse cast of well-rounded and flawed characters navigate the difficulties of staying friends after failed romances and high school. Leah’s quirky sense of humor and perfectionist tendencies will endear her to readers who will relate to her strained relationship with her mother and her mother’s new boyfriend. Give to fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk About Love, and Kathryn Ormsbee’s Tash Hearts Tolstoy. VERDICT A first purchase for public and school libraries.–Jenni Frencham, formerly at Columbus Public Library, WI

Baratz-Logsted, Lauren. Zombie Abbey. 352p. Entangled Teen. Apr. 2018. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781633759114.

Gr 8 Up –This part zombie romp, part historical fiction, and part romantic comedy will delight readers. Welcome to Porthampton Abbey, a sprawling estate in 1920s England. This playful tale is driven from the perspectives of daughters Kate, Grace, and Lizzy, along with the viewpoints of servants and guests. Kate is the headstrong eldest, Grace is the floating middle child, and Lizzy is written off as a simple, bubbly girl. As suitors arrive for a weekend visit, strangeness is afoot, and most of the ensemble ignore hints of danger. From the first zombie encounter—William the stable boy’s dear Uncle Ezra—to the realization of a zombie among the party, the household observes an absurd dedication to routine embedded in the aristocratic culture. Class divisions, however, unravel splendidly as zombies turn out to be great social equalizers. Multiple points of view weigh in as the Abbey becomes a haven to wayward villagers and romantic feelings meander every which way. Even if teens forget who has a crush on whom, witty dialogue keeps pages turning despite a few lulls in action. An abrupt ending will leave some searching for a sequel and others disappointed at loose ends. VERDICT Purchase where cheeky historical fiction or zombie stories are popular.–Angela Wiley, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Booth, Molly. Nothing Happened. 336p. Disney-Hyperion. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484753026.

Gr 9 Up –A Maine summer-camp retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. As it follows the romances of Bee and Hana Leonato, counselors at their parents’ Camp Dogberry, this mild romp draws on all of the camp novel classic tropes and games (capture the flag, polar bear swim) to create a backdrop for the gossiping, backstabbing, gulling, shaming, and starry-eyed loving that fills Shakespeare’s story. Booth’s story mixes up some of the gender pairings and the communication devices, but the basic plot remains the same—a mix of mischief, betrayal, love, and loyalty that works itself up into some high drama. While occasionally exposition-heavy, this is a sweet, casual read, with plenty of treats for fans of the original play. VERDICT Fun escapist romance with more than a dash of real-life issues. A good choice for libraries in need of summer reads.–Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library

Bowles, Kelley Kay. Down in the Belly of the Whale. 240p. Aionios Bks. May 2018. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780998084480; pap. $11.99. ISBN 9780998084473.

Gr 8 Up –Harper is a typical teen: pimples, a crush, and not a lot of confidence. One unique trait is her ability to sense illness in the people around her, but what good is that? While dealing with the basic confusion of adolescent life. Harper’s mother becomes ill, and her best friend confides a terrible secret. Bowles creates standout characters with believable teen attributes. The humor in Harper’s inner thoughts balances the serious and difficult events of her life. The traumatic and tough elements of the story are written with compassion and tact. Readers will find the prose similar to Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, but with a more contemporary twist. Also, the pacing and writing style make this accessible to reluctant readers. VERDICT A great addition to any young adult collection.–Meaghan Nichols, ASI Heritage, Ont.

Brooks, Tiffany. Reality Gold. 398p. (Shifting Reality: Bk. 1). Dunemere. May 2018. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9780998499765.

Gr 7 Up –Riley Ozaki has it all: wealth, privilege, and a public persona that began as a bid for social acceptance but brought only Internet shaming and social shunning. Riley wants her life back, so she decides to join a reality show treasure hunt to show the world what a kind, sweet, funny person she really is. The network sends her and 19 teens to live on a deserted island where they will subject themselves to challenges and hunt for treasure. Reality show schemes, real-life treasure hunters, and the usual vicissitudes of teen romance follow—along with pirates, murder, and a few discoveries about trust, forgiveness, and personal responsibility. The novel is replete with contrived coincidences. Riley’s dad is a sponsor of the show; her dad’s friend Miles is a treasure hunter who long ago gave her clues about the very treasure being hunted; the island’s pirates include Miles’s ex-girlfriend, who murdered an important character. Nevertheless, Brooks does include gray areas that invite introspection and teen relationships that feel very real. The reluctantly reflective narrator and her adventures are as compelling as kettle popcorn, and they’ll keep readers’ eyes glued to the page. VERDICT A great beach read for teen collections.–Sheri Reda, Wilmette Public Library, IL

Dennard, Susan. Sightwitch. 240p. (Witchlands: Bk. 3). Tor Teen. Feb. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250183521.

Gr 8 Up –Dennard continues her world-building magic in this intriguing fantasy. This prequel takes place two years prior to Truthwitch. Fans of the previous volumes may remember minor character Ryber Fortiza as the Heart-Thread (soulmate) of Windwitch Kullen Ikray. She is the central figure here, a Sightwitch Sister who is the only one in the convent who has not been given the gift of telling the future. When Ryber is 17, all the other Sisters are summoned into the depths of the mountain to serve Sirmaya, their sleeping goddess. When they do not return, Ryber decides to go against the rules and enter the Crypts with an ancient but wise bird, known as The Rook, to look for them. While battling deadly monsters and navigating the dark maze of caverns, she finds a man who does not remember his name or how he got there. She calls him Captain, although series fans will quickly realize he is Kullen. Told through diary entries that alternate with writings by another Sightless Sister from years ago, the much-revered Eridysi, this work tells the True Tale of the Twelve Paladins, the backstory of the wars that still rage in later installments. Magic, mystery, and even romance set the stage for future plot lines. VERDICT This standalone entry will delight devoted fans and serves as a good introduction to the series.–Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT

Donne, Alexa. Brightly Burning. 400p. HMH. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781328948939. POP

Gr 8 UpJane Eyre blasts into outer space. In the far-distant future, volcanic eruptions have caused a new ice age on Earth, forcing the population to flee into space, orbiting the planet on a fleet of starships. Stella Ainsley lives aboard the Stalwart, a struggling food supply ship, where she teaches Earth history and helps in the engineering department; but as her 18th birthday draws closer, so, too, does her permanent job assignment. Stella is desperate to leave the ship before she’s permanently assigned to the engineering department. So, when she’s offered a teaching job on the private ship, the Rochester, she jumps at the chance, but she soon finds that the ship holds many secrets, not the least of which is its handsome and enigmatic captain. Though it initially stumbles to find its footing, Donne’s retelling hews very closely to the source material with a few refreshing updates. The new setting serves the story well, highlighting Stella’s isolation and heightening the eerie sense of claustrophobia when things on the Rochester start to go awry. Another welcome change is the diverse crew of both ships, as well as changes to the character of John, who is no longer the cousin of the protagonist. There are enough similarities that will appeal to fans of the original, but there are also plenty of twists that make it a compelling page-turner. VERDICT This debut will be a hit in libraries where science fiction and romance are popular. Hand this to fans of the original work as well as anyone who enjoys Marissa Meyer’s Cinder.–Mimi Powell, Library Systems and Services, Kissimmee, FL

Donovan, Sarah J. Alone Together. 248p. Seela. May 2018. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780999876800; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780999876831.

Gr 8 Up –A quiet tale of self-discovery, written in verse, from the perspective of 15-year-old Sadie Carter, one of 11 children in an Italian Catholic family living in the suburbs of Chicago. Strapped with a distant mother, an unemployed father, a pregnant younger sister, and an older sister who was, until recently, wrongly estranged by their parents because of her sexuality, Sadie is deeply stressed by the state of her family and seeks solace in prayer and distraction in work. Donovan explores the financial reality of a one-income large family in subtle but effective ways; Sadie and most of her sisters have part-time jobs to pay for their share of rent, tampons, and other necessities. One scene reveals, without judgement, that most of the siblings sleep on the floor together. Taking place over the course of a year, the narrative touches upon a number of milestones for Sadie, including first real kisses and an introduction to feminism. In this touching but late in the book thread, Sadie finds empowerment in the works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Audre Lorde, Zainab Salbi, and others, which may inspire readers to do just the same. One error of note, the text misattributes Melissa Harris-Perry’s Sister Citizen to Claudia Rankine. Teens will appreciate Sadie’s growth from a melancholy, doubtful soul to one who confidently accepts and gets through the anxieties of life—and experiences small miracles, too. VERDICT Consider where novels in verse are popular and for libraries that serve Catholic populations.–Della Farrell, School Library Journal

Hecker, Anna. When the Beat Drops. 320p. Sky Pony. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781510733336.

Gr 10 Up –Music, romance, drug use, and family issues make for an absorbing—if sometimes melodramatic—novel focused on the electronic dance music scene. Mira loves jazz, but when her family can’t afford to send her to music camp for the summer, she instead begins attending warehouse parties with her older sister Britt. Soon she’s learning to mix electronic dance music and DJing at festivals. She makes new friends and learns some surprising truths about the soccer-star sister, who has always overshadowed Mira in the family. She doesn’t approve of her sister’s use of Molly (MDMA) at the dance parties, but isn’t seriously concerned until tragedy strikes her sister’s friend Yelena. Britt’s life seems to be disintegrating, and Mira isn’t sure how to help her. Meanwhile, Mira falls hard for Derek, a music promoter, who may not be quite the great guy she thinks he is. Mira is also struggling with feeling left out of her high school friend group, dealing with family money problems—the gym her parents own is failing—and figuring out what she really wants. With all of these threads, the story sometimes lacks focus and feels overwrought. However, readers interested in music and the EDM scene will likely enjoy this novel. VERDICT An additional purchase where Leila Sales’s This Song Will Save Your Life is popular.–Miranda Doyle, Lake Oswego School District, OR

Jackson, Kamichi. K My Name Is Kendra. 178p. Amazon/CreateSpace. Jan. 2017. Tr $9.95. ISBN Wil.

Gr 9 Up –Fifteen-year-old Kendra Renee James is going through the motions. Her family does not show her affection at all. Her mom, Loretta, is ultraparanoid about Kendra’s developed body. Her father, Lawrence, is emotionally distant and ignores her, but not her other siblings. Her world takes a turn for the best when her eldest sister, Meisha James Hill, returns to her life. Meisha does not disclose the mysterious circumstances that led her to run away from home years ago. The sisters are forbidden to see each other by Loretta. Meanwhile, Kendra’s uncle, former professional football player C.J., showers her with the affection she does not get at home. Her life is forever changed when C.J. commits an unthinkable crime against her. Meisha’s return to the family exposes a quiet tension between her parents and siblings and forces Kendra to reveal an ugly truth. Jackson’s powerful novel will draw in reluctant readers quickly. The pace is just right, and young adults will identify with Kendra’s alienation, confusion, and hopelessness. Jackson also writes about the importance of bookstores and libraries to black authors and communities. While the author has crafted an empowering novel for teen girls and young women, most of the male characters are not supportive of Kendra. The significance and impact of female mentorship shines in this work. VERDICT Jackson’s excellent novel is a much-needed selection and would be a good choice for #MeToo displays and roundups.–Donald Peebles, Brooklyn Public Library

King, Tiffany. Losing Leah. 320p. Feiwel & Friends. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250124661.

Gr 9 Up –Ten years after losing her twin sister to a kidnapper, Mia still feels incomplete, struggling with migraines as well as her broken parents. She finds solace in her brother and her friends, but when Leah, captive and abused, escapes her tormentor and returns home, Mia disappears. Leah, who has internalized her abuse and created an identity in which she has survived for most of her life, is pressured into recovery and high school, but her coping mechanisms draw scorn from classmates, and she is unsure whom to trust or believe. While the adults in her life seem to think that she will adapt and leave her ordeal behind, Leah is left to handle her inner torment the only way she knows how. This disturbing tale has an early twist that readers won’t see coming and details of abuse and psychological experiences that will mesmerize some readers while upsetting others. Be wary of sharing with readers who may be sensitive to the subject. As with much teen fiction, the adults are presented as harmful at worst and imperceptive at best. VERDICT Perfect for those who enjoy the psychological thrillers of Natasha Preston, Kim Savage, and Mindy McGinnis. –Kerry Sutherland, Akron-Summit County Public Library

Lee, Fonda. Cross Fire: An Exo Novel. 384p. Scholastic. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338139099.

Gr 7 Up –In this sci-fi sequel to Exo, the relationship among Earth’s alien colonists, “zhree,” human soldiers with enhanced exoskeletons, “exos,” and Sapience, human rebels against the other two, has deteriorated to an almost all-out-war. Soldier-in-Erze, Donovan, 17, an exo, is uneasily acting as an advisor during the peace accord discussions between Earth and its alien colonizers, the Mur Erzen Commonwealth. Riots ensue after Soldier Gur of the Mur Erzen Commonwealth Council announces they are withdrawing their protection from Earth. Only exos and a few select humans will be selected to be evacuated. The Mur Erzen also consider forcing humans to become exos to help defend Earth. Donovan thinks humans should have a choice, otherwise Sapience’s influence will become even more powerful. Then the Rii, a violent nomadic alien race, attacks Earth. The soldiers-in-erze are programmed not to attack other zhree, so their exocels are useless against the Rii. Many soldiers are slaughtered, and millions of humans are killed worldwide. Donovan must use the secret research he obtained to have any hope that the exos and humans will defeat the Rii. Readers of this prescient novel are asked to consider both human and alien identities, the danger of blind obedience, and the fear of those who are different from one another. VERDICT Fans of the previous book will enjoy this thought-provoking and complex sci-fi story that’s both contemplative and action-packed.–Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton

McGhee, Alison. What I Leave Behind. 208p. S. & S./Atheneum. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481476560.

Gr 9 Up –Will has been walking “the day out” since his David Bowie–loving father died from suicide three years ago. Will walks to his job, where the teen bonds with his boss, who may be on the spectrum and also is a Bowie fan. He walks past the house where a little boy of color who loves butterflies lives and plays in the yard unattended. If he keeps walking, he might figure out whether his father would still be alive if Will had just paid more attention. If he keeps walking, he might build the courage to face Playa, his best friend who was raped by a group of boys at a party he left early. The protagonist revisits old haunts that he shared with dad, including a shop where 100 Chinese blessings are sold. This short novel is made up of 100 chapters, each only 100 words. A Chinese character, numbers one to 100, appears on the verso, while the rhythmic and spare text is featured on the recto. Will’s grief is palpable and his grasping at fleeting memories of his father is heartbreaking. However, the secondary characters, mostly from marginalized backgrounds, serve only as vehicles for Will’s development. A woman of color’s sexual assault is presented as a plot device for the protagonist’s inspiration and the means by which he is jolted out of his grief. VERDICT While the unique writing style will intrigue teens and draw in reluctant readers, the problematic tropes and thin characterization make this a secondary purchase.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Miller, Michael & AdriAnne Strickland. Shadow Call. 432p. Delacorte. Apr. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399552571.

Gr 8 Up –This title continues the saga of Qole, space pilot and Shadow fisher, and Nev, exiled and disinherited heir, who are caught up in a bitter power struggle for control of the valuable and dangerous energy source, Shadow. Nev has repudiated his cruel father and his family’s regime, but surprisingly his family asks for a rapprochement. Despite his misgivings, Nev plays right into the hands of his traitorous sister, Solara, who proceeds to try to take over the Shadow fishing grounds. Qole persuades her fellow Alaxan fishermen to resist, demonstrating that she can control and use Shadow as a much-needed and incredibly powerful weapon. Nev, branded a traitor and murderer by his sister, stakes his claim as the rightful king of Luvos and builds his own resistance. Qole and Nev then unite their forces against Solara in a desperate bid to win back their worlds. The more she uses Shadow, the more it consumes Qole, and she is not sure she will even survive the battle. The writing is not quite as tight as the first title, but readers will forgive and forget. Teens will enjoy the evolving relationship between Qole and Nev and appreciate the forces that continually pull them apart. The space battles, skirmishes, and duels are rendered with just the right amount of tension, guts, and glory. VERDICT A must purchase for fans of Qole and Nev, but this also has enough exposition for it to stand alone for space opera fans.–Gretchen Crowley, formerly at Alexandria City Public Libraries, VA

Mullin, Mike. Surface Tension. 350p. Tanglewood. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781939100160.

Gr 10 Up –With a gripping contemporary story line, Mullin begins the book with an act of domestic terrorism in which Betsy, the teenage protagonist and daughter of a terrorist, is plotting the downing of a plane. Cue the second protagonist, a cyclist training nearby when a plane crashes; now he’s lying in a hospital room without much memory of how he is connected yet a target nonetheless. The dual narrative injects empathy and frustration into both perspectives. Betsy must learn to maim and kill as a family tradition, while Jake was on his way to a championship run, but now cannot discern his girlfriend from a girl plotting to kill him. This tale of suspense and intrigue requires that readers suspend their disbelief throughout. It is distracting, though it does not detract from the high-octane escape that Jake and his real girlfriend, Laurissa, must pull off or else die at the hands of these killers and agents posing as law enforcement. Short chapters increase the tension and readers’ interest in solving the mystery of Jake’s connection. VERDICT A vivid thriller that entertains and excites, fitting in alongside books by April Henry and Anthony Horowitz.–Alicia Abdul, Albany High School, NY

Sharma, Nisha. My So-Called Bollywood Life. 304p. Crown. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553523256. POP

Gr 7 Up –Destiny has played a major role in Winnie’s family her entire life. The pandit who predicted Winnie’s parents’ marriage and her birth also predicted Winnie would meet her soul mate before she turned 18. Raj fits all the requirements offered by the pandit, except Winnie isn’t sure about her feelings. When he starts dating someone new before their senior year, Winnie decides to ignore the prophecy and focus on her goals. But nothing is going the way she wants. The new film club advisor won’t let Winnie oversee the club’s regular activities and their big film festival. Raj has decided he wants her back, but only when Dev, another classmate, shows his interest in her. While Winnie is the main character and her story is the focus, readers get to know the most important people in her life. This romance features a love triangle and a very confident and outspoken protagonist. There are many references to Bollywood and Hollywood films, and the back matter includes an annotated list of all the Bollywood films mentioned along with others the author recommends. VERDICT Purchase where romance flies off the shelves.–Natalie Struecker, Cedar Rapids Public Library, IA

Smith, Holly. Idiot: Dear Kami. 264p. Little Portland Pr. Apr. 2018. pap. $10.03. ISBN 9780692051542.

Gr 9 Up –Eva has been through things that no kid or teenager should have to experience. Her mom’s boyfriend, Ray, is an alcoholic who verbally and physically abuses Eva and her mother. The novel is composed of Eva’s letters to her best childhood friend, Kami. In this way, the readers get an intimate look into the protagonist’s life. Eva ends up in the foster care system and receives intervention from her therapist, Melissa. Melissa very gently helps Eva navigate her feelings for her mom, who has become a drug addict. The stars align when Eva is chosen by Melissa’s friends to be her foster parents. The Paxtons end up being fantastic guardians. Their love further helps Eva to truly blossom through her late teen years, and she eventually meets and has a relationship with Margo. The character of Eva is fully developed through the course of the book. The writing is straightforward, but the dialogue feels dated and workmanlike. VERDICT An additional purchase for teen collections.–Jill Baetiong, Kaneville Public Library, IL

Sommersby, Jennifer. Sleight. 424p. Sky Pony. Apr. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781510732087.

Gr 9 Up –After Genevieve Flannery watches her mother fall to her death during their circus performance, Geni enters a world where she must constantly run from threats, both supernatural and very human. She had always known her mother wasn’t as crazy as everyone around her thought, but she didn’t know that the ghosts she spoke to were helping her guard an extremely important artifact. Geni starts seeing the same visions her mother did, and she has to decide whether she wants to travel the same path as her late parent. Though this tale, set in a traveling circus and based on Mesopotamian mythology, has a fascinating premise, the book struggles to find its voice. Originally self-published, there seems to be leftover plot points that did not get polished, such as threads about Geni’s best friend, Violet, and her twin, Ash. Geni often ignores extremely wise advice of the adults who are magically bound to help her and often to no consequence. She is clearly suffering from the effects of watching her mother die but refuses to acknowledge it. She also experiences an extremely serious head injury and is running around hours later. Also glossed over is how Geni gets to stay with the circus as a minor without a legal guardian. VERDICT Though a fun romp at times, even the most forgiving reader may get frustrated with the inconsistencies in this novel.–Kathryn Kania, Pelham Public Library, Pelham NH

Starr, Kimberley. The Book of Whispers. 400p. Text Publishing. Feb. 2018. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781925355512.

Gr 9 Up –Fantasy, horror, romance and history combine in an epic story of the violent Crusades. In an age when magic and religion were often intertwined, so, too, are the fates of young noble Luca from Tuscany and Suzan, a girl running for her life. Luca sees demons’ shadows, and after his father reveals to him the family treasure, The Book of Whispers, he sees the demons themselves. He also foresees the murder of his father on the crusade, so he joins the pilgrimage, accompanied by his jealous cousin, Narlo, and the malevolent priest Ramberti. Suzan lives underneath a convent and pretends to be mute or else risk having her tongue cut out like her mother. When her secret is revealed, she flees and is quickly taken under Luca’s wing. Suzan can read the magical book, and it guides them on the rough journey battling the blood lust of the pilgrims and powerful demons in human form whose goals upon reaching Jerusalem could prove cataclysmic. Descriptive metaphorical language helps propel an intricate plot and complex cast. There is clear evidence of historical accuracy and welcome mention of the fearless Tuscan Countess Matilda. Despite repeated and often gratuitous descriptions of the grotesque demons, the actual documented acts of the pilgrims and knights prove more gruesome. However, some central characters disappear for chapters before abruptly reappearing. Not for the faint of heart, this complex historical fiction YA illuminates the evil that can be wrought in the name of religion and the power of love. VERDICT A strong choice.–Lee De Groft, Jamestown High School, Williamsburg, VA

Sweat, Jeff. Mayfly. 368p. Feiwel & Friends. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250139207.

Gr 9 Up –In postapocalyptic southern California, a mysterious illness has wiped out adults, and life ends at 17. At 15, every female is expected to become a “Mama” to help her tribe survive. Jemma, who has served as a gatherer, has never given a second thought to her duties. However, now that she is expected to have a child, she finds herself in love with a fellow tribe mate. With a pull toward Apple that is stronger than her sense of duty, Jemma finds herself questioning everything she has ever known. Exiled and on the run, the pair finds themselves with unlikely allies from other factions. They have heard that there is a way to stop what they call “The End,” but can they find the truth and save themselves? The premise has potential. It has ties and parallels to several popular dystopian series. However, the dialect and slang that the author created crowd the story with unnecessary difficulty. The plot moves quickly but little is resolved at the end, which likely leaves room for a sequel. Overall, this is a forgettable attempt in an already saturated genre. VERDICT Skip this.–Carli Sauer, Carmel Middle School, IN

VeláSquez, Gloria L. Forgiving Moses. 132p. (Roosevelt High School: Bk. 10). Piñata. May 2018. pap. $10.95. ISBN 9781558858640.

Gr 9 Up –The latest installment of the long-running series that explores social injustices in Latinx and Black communities in short novel format is a narrated by two newcomers to the school: Chicano teenager Moses, angry at his incarcerated father, and a counselor, Ray, who is Native American and Chicano and innovative in his use of circle practices to build community. The inclusion of each narrator’s inner thoughts makes this novel readable, culturally responsive, and compassionate, and the central role of weekend prison visits makes it timely. The pitfalls and anxieties around those visits are not widely discussed in YA lit, yet Velásquez covers them all, including the extreme predicament of relocation for families of the incarcerated when spouses are moved to another facility, precipitating a new migration pattern. Despite the hard work and devotion given by his mother, Moses feels that she always put his father first by moving the family and sacrificing herself for a “lifer.” Luckily, another classmate, Dalana, also visits her father every weekend and, after Moses overcomes his initial resistance, offers her perspective. Ray has troubles of his own with his son, but once the voluntary, all-male circles begin, trust and healing emerge as they face the fears of repeating their fathers’ mistakes. VERDICT Buy this and the entire series.–Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City

Weekes, Patrick. Feeder. 304p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534400160.

Gr 8 Up –The world as we know it is over. Sea levels have risen, cities are underwater, and “feeders” are preying on mankind. Lori’s parents are gone, and she is left to look after her little brother while hunting these monsters with an interdimensional creature called Handler. While out on a job, Lori stumbles across the Nix, a group of mutant teenagers held captive on the docks. From there, she teams up with them to defeat the Lake Foundation and protect her brother. This is a fast-paced, action-packed story that blends sci-fi and fantasy. Set over the time period of five days, there is never a dull moment. With aspects of romance, pop culture, and witty banter, there is something for all readers. The book features a diverse cast: Lori is of Chinese descent, Maya is transgender, Hawk is Filipino, Iara is Brazilian and uses a wheelchair, Ben has ADHD, and Tapper is black, autistic, and gay. While the representation fumbles at times, the inclusion feels authentic and organic to the narrative. Give this to fans of “X-Men and Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. VERDICT The simple message of self-acceptance shines through and makes this a good addition to high school libraries with science fiction fans.–Morgan O’Reilly, Riverdale Country School, NY

Welch, Jenna Evans. Love & Luck. 320p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. May 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534401006. POP

Gr 9 Up –A heartwarming contemporary companion novel to Welch’s Love & Gelato. Sixteen-year-old Addie Bennett takes a summer road trip through Ireland with her brother Ian and gains insight on how to heal the pieces of her shattered heart. Readers will cheer that Addie’s best friend, Lina from the previous book, makes an appearance, but this is Addie’s story. Their friendship is tested when a planned trip to visit Lina in Italy is sidetracked, thanks to her brother Ian and a dimpled-faced driver named Rowan. They take an unexpected road trip to the biggest music festival in the country. Through the winding roads and lush greenery of Dublin, Addie reminisces about her romance with Cubby, Ian’s football teammate, and although Ian disapproves of the relationship, he is the only one who knows what Addie is going through. While offering the advice of a travel guide, each chapter is like a reassuring hug in the icy climate. The teens travel through Ireland in a cramped car with a leaking roof, and the trio meets a selection of colorful characters that unknowingly help Addie get through a lost love and increase her respect for her brother—they learn about one another more than they could imagine. Fans of Love & Gelato will enjoy this as Welch takes on love, laughs, friendship, and the Electric Picnic Festival in a trip through the scenic green hills of Ireland. VERDICT Purchase for all teen romance shelves.–Annisha Jeffries, Cleveland Public Library

Woodard, Ben. The Staircase of Fire. 280p. Miller-Martin. May 2018. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780997344899.

Gr 8 Up –In this fast-paced historical fiction novel set in early 1920s Kentucky, Tom Wallace is grieving and angry with himself because he witnessed the murder of a black boy by the Ku Klux Klan in his hometown and failed to report it. This crime plunges the teen into a moral dilemma, because members of his family would be implicated. Tom needs money to leave Shakertown, so he and his cousin turn treasure hunters, in search of lost Shaker gold. Meanwhile, caught up in self-absorption, Tom struggles to navigate friendships and romantic relationships. Once Tom splits town, he discovers that he must carve out a life helping others. The white protagonist’s character development occurs at the expense of violence against the secondary black characters. The book lacks descriptive language, but the fast-moving plot may engage reluctant readers. Most of it reads like a middle grade novel, but the treatment of sex and the language suggests an older audience. Young women are highly sexualized, with the main female characters frequently discussed in terms of their sexual behavior. VERDICT A strictly additional purchase.–Melissa Williams, Berwick Academy, ME

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Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

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