36 Mature Reads for Older Teens

As rising seniors and college-bound high school graduates finish off the school year, the following works will keep them intrigued during the summer months.

As rising seniors and college-bound high school graduates finish off the school year, the following works will keep them intrigued during the summer months. By no means a comprehensive list, this is just a smattering of titles from recent years that have grabbed our attention. Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

Frosh Woes

The below works offer a sneak peek at what comes after high school graduation—romance, uncertainty, new friendships, and a whole lot of drama.

YA-Mature-SLJTeen-FroshAllison, John. Giant Days. illus. by Lissa Treiman & Whitney Cogar. 128p. Boom! Studios. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781608867899.

Gr 10 Up –A hilarious peek into freshman year of college from the eyes of three spunky but realistic young women. Susan, Esther, and Daisy have become fast friends during the first few weeks at university. Brash Susan suffers no fools and hopes to take down the patriarchy. Punk/goth Esther can’t escape the drama that seems to follow her every move. And sheltered, super-sweet Daisy begins to explore new aspects of herself (including her first experiences with drugs, clubbing, and girl crushes). Collecting the first four issues of the acclaimed comics, this volume showcases the trio’s misadventures as they navigate the highs and lows of that pivotal first year of college. From enduring a dorm room flu epidemic to bringing down the dudes responsible for putting Esther on a website that objectifies “hot” freshmen girls, the friends’ high jinks will cause chuckles and groans. Allison’s sparkling and wry dialogue, which fans of his Bad Machinery (Oni, 2013) will recognize, and Treiman’s laugh-inducing illustrations combine to create a fun romp for older teens looking forward to their college debuts. Cogar’s warm and vibrant gem-tone colors complete the package. Briticisms don’t detract from the reading experience (except for Daisy’s birthday celebration in a bar—teens can legally drink at age 18 in the UK). The work is appended with variant covers from individual issues. VERDICT A pitch-perfect exploration of the small and large milestones of early college life that should garner a place in collections serving older teens.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Forman, Gayle. I Was Here. 288p. Viking. Jan. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780451471475; ebk. ISBN 9780698170544.

Gr 9 Up –Cody and Meg have been inseparable since childhood. They planned to leave their small town in Washington and move to Seattle to go to college, but that changed when Meg got a full scholarship to a small, prestigious private college in Tacoma, WA. Having no scholarships or money saved, Cody is now stuck in town, cleaning houses to have a little bit of money to give to her mom toward living expenses and to take a couple classes at the local community college. Those classes have gone by the wayside, though, since news came of Meg’s suicide. Meticulously planned, her former best friend ordered a poison that had a high fatality rate, and sent emails to friends and family on a timed delay so that no one could interfere with her fatal decision. Cody struggles to figure out why Meg took her own life and puzzles over a suspicious line in her friend’s suicide email. The distraught but determined teen begins to encrypt files on Meg’s laptop, which lead her to a suicide support group and posts from All_BS, a Pied Piper–type character who encourages suicide as a way out. As she goes further down the rabbit hole, Cody comes to the realization that she needs to forgive Meg, and, more importantly, herself. Reminiscent of Nina LaCour’s Hold Still (Dutton, 2009), Anna Jarzab’s All Unquiet Things (Delacorte, 2010), and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why (Penguin, 2007), teens will clamor for this latest offering from the author of If I Stay (Dutton, 2009). Have multiple copies in your collection.–Suanne B. Roush, formerly at Osceola High School, Seminole, FL

Kletter, Kerry. The First Time She Drowned. 352p. ebook available. Philomel. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399171031.

Gr 9 Up –Cassie O’Malley is 18 and can finally (against medical advice) check herself out of the mental institution she was committed to by her parents. Having been admitted into her mother’s alma mater, an anxious yet hopeful Cassie attends college. While there, she finds it difficult to make friends and go to class, because she lacks coping and social skills. As childhood memories bubble to the surface, Cassie begins to question her upbringing. Kletter’s exploration of a dysfunctional family through the eyes of a daughter is raw with emotion. The storytelling moves forward in time with flashback scenes to fill in the character’s backstory. The author expertly establishes the familial connections, but the development of new bonds in college moves jarringly fast, especially given the complexities of and attention paid to Cassie’s relationships with her mother, brother, father, and other extended family members. This book could contain triggers for students who have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of a relative. It is a sophisticated read that—given more pages to develop in the collegiate setting—could easily be placed on new adult shelves. Great for fans of Stephanie Kuehn’s Charm & Strange (St. Martin’s, 2013). VERDICT Sophisticated readers who enjoy dark realistic fiction will be satisfied by this lyrical novel.–Stephanie DeVincentis, Downers Grove North High School, IL

McCarthy, Cori. You Were Here. illus. by Sonia Liao. 400p. ebook available. Sourcebooks/Fire. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781492617044.

Gr 10 Up –It’s been five years since Jake died—he broke his neck the day of his high school graduation while attempting a daredevil stunt. Jake’s sister, Jaycee, has had a hard time letting him go. It’s now Jaycee’s own high school graduation, but she’s still consumed with sadness, guilt, and anger over his death. When she discovers a map in Jake’s old room of all the locations he visited during his urbex explorations (going to abandoned man-made structures like a mall or amusement park), she and a group of unlikely friends decide to re-create Jake’s path. There’s Natalie, Jaycee’s former best friend; Zach, Natalie’s slacker boyfriend; Bishop, a lovesick artist; and Mik, Jake’s former best friend who is now a selective mute. The story is told from five points of view in alternating chapters. Three follow a traditional prose narrative, while Mik’s is told in graphic novel style and Bishop’s through chapters consisting of street art reproduced on a single page. The emphasis, however, is on the two female characters, and since Jaycee’s chapters are in the first person, her story is the most personal. The pacing is slow at the start, and the work has an ambitious structure with a lot of moving parts; it may take a while for readers to become vested in the outcome or care about the characters. Readers who persevere, however, will be rewarded by the emotionally satisfying conclusion. VERDICT The topic of urban exploration and the inclusion of graphic novel style chapters will appeal to teens.–Ragan O’Malley, Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn, NY

redstarPerez, Rene S., II. Seeing Off the Johns. 256p. ebook available. Cinco Puntos. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781941026113; pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781941026120; ebk. $11.95. ISBN 9781941026137.

Gr 10 Up –In Greenton, TX, everything revolves around the Johns, the two star baseball and football players in the local high school. Everyone in town even wakes up before dawn to come out and send them off to college and wish them luck. When a tragic accident occurs, resulting in their untimely deaths, everything changes, especially for 16-year-old Chon Gonzales. Chon is a somewhat average teen working a dead-end job in a gas station and occasionally hooking up with an older female coworker. He’s looking to get out of his small town and win over Araceli, the girl of his dreams who used to date one of the Johns. Chon struggles with his desire to pursue a relationship with Araceli as well as the feeling that he is possibly taking advantage of a bad situation for his personal benefit. Perez captures the spirit of small-town USA and the high school football culture that often dominates. The protagonist and his friends all have authentic teen voices, and the author never shies away from colorful profanity and somewhat explicit sex talk. Perez briefly follows up with some of the members of the town throughout the story to show how the loss of the Johns affects them in ways big and small. The last chapter jumps forward in time to see how Chon and his relationships with his friends and lovers are resolved. This authentic story of loss is powerful and one that many readers will not forget. VERDICT A well-told story of life in a small town that will resonate with older teen readers.–Christopher Lassen, BookOps: The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library

TOMP, Sarah. My Best Everything. 400p. Little, Brown. Mar. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316324786; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316324762. LC 2013039870.

Gr 9 Up –Luisa “Lulu” Mendez dreams of leaving her dead-end small town behind. She cannot wait to immerse herself in the University of San Diego’s biochemistry program in the fall. So she is devastated when her dad admits that he has lost her college funds in a bad investment. Lulu is determined to make her college dreams a reality, and when a confiscated distillery turns up at the junkyard where she and her best friend work, she sees it as a bit of serendipitous luck. Although Lulu is not a party girl, she is aware that the moonshine business, illegal or not, is still thriving in the rural mountains of Virginia. Roni and Bucky do not take much convincing to go along with her plan—some extra cash will hurry her friends’ wedding date along—and through some creative paperwork, the still disappears from the impound lot where it sits awaiting a trial. Lulu has recently met Mason Malone, whose family wealth comes from generations of “shining.” There’s an instant attraction between the two, and although Mason is a recovering alcoholic who has sworn off the family business, he reluctantly agrees to share his knowledge with the three 18-year-olds so that they can operate the still without blowing themselves up. As the still starts producing and the enterprising friends see the money coming in, college no longer seems out of reach—but will she be able to walk away from Mason at the end of the summer? And will her unorthodox college fund scheme mean his destruction as he edges closer and closer to his addiction? Lulu narrates the story in second-person, as a confessional of sorts to Mason, and readers will race to turn the pages as it becomes apparent that Lulu’s gamble may result in the destruction of the people she cares about the most. A wholly original and most satisfying debut.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

Van Diepen, Allison. On The Edge. 304p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062303448; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062303462.

Gr 9 Up –College-bound Maddie finds herself in the middle of a dangerous gang war after witnessing the murder of a homeless man. With a target on her back, she is unexpectedly defended by an underground gang and in the midst of it all begins to fall for their mysterious leader, Lobo. As their relationship heats up so does the danger, and Maddie becomes an essential piece to bringing down a gang-run human trafficking ring. While the relationship between Maddie and Lobo is the focus of the story, the thriller-type subplot set in the Miami underbelly steals the show. The sometimes violent, always gripping action of a vigilante underground gang rescuing trafficked girls keeps the pace moving and the tone from becoming saccharine. The menace of this dark world is a nice foil to the unexpectedly sweet development of young love, and adds a desperation and sense of urgency to their romance. The friendship between Maddie and her friends is especially multifaceted, and readers will appreciate the honest examination of the complex emotions of friendship as they learn to allow their relationship to evolve while facing big life changes. While the hyper-gritty street life may be over-the-top and border on unrealistic, the struggle of the characters to do right at all costs will resonate with teen readers.–Sarah Townsend, Norfolk Public Library, VA

Foul-Mouthed Adventures

These quirky selections will find ready readers in those who enjoy their fiction wry and satirical.

YA-Mature-SLJTeen-Foul1Calame, Don. Dan Versus Nature. 384p. ebook available. Candlewick. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763670719.

Gr 10 Up –Dan Weekes, a budding graphic novelist, and his geeky, germophobic best friend, Charlie, are just trying to survive high school, their main goal being not getting beat up by the jocks. Meanwhile, Dan’s mother has made a point of dating almost every man in California. Then she meets Hank, to whom she gets engaged before Dan even meets him. The teen’s first impression is that Hank is the living version of Wolverine, leaving him checking his hand for fractured bones after their initial handshake. For Dan’s 16th birthday, his mom gets him two tickets to go on a wilderness adventure to bond with Hank. To make matters worse, Dan is assigned to take Baby-Real-A-Lot (a mechanical baby) the same week as the trip. Dan convinces Charlie to go on the trip, with Charlie coming up with a series of increasingly raunchy pranks designed to scare Hank off from marrying Dan’s mom. Calame throws a twist in when Penelope, a smart and adorkable teen, and her mother end up on the same trip. Full of uproariously funny scenes and foul language typical of today’s teens, this is a journey through the wilderness that readers will never forget. The pranks include doctored-up chili, doe urine, rainbow barf, and an unplanned stalker. Under the surface, Calame touches on deeper issues, including Dan’s absent father, Hank’s own father issues, jealousy, and expectations of what makes a family. VERDICT Perfect for the most reluctant of readers, this book is a sure-fire hit.–Erin Holt, Williamson Cty. P.L., Franklin, TN

redstarLubar, David. Character, Driven. 304p. ebook available. Tor Teen. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765316332.

Gr 10 Up –At the center of this hilarious offering is an adorably awkward protagonist. Cliff’s first-person and sometimes second-person narration, rendered in an affable, funny, and talkative tone, will suck readers into his life story immediately. He is a 17-year-old boy with a crush on a girl, Jillian, but he has no idea how to talk to her. He also has a difficult home life, partly because of his unemployed and angry, often cruel father and his overworked mother. Cliff works two jobs, and his father doesn’t want him to go to college. The book is light on plot in the beginning, and the pacing is measured. The tone and the writing, which will appeal to fans of Jesse Andrews’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, are what shine here. Cliff breaks the fourth wall often, adding rich layers to this creative work of metafiction. Lubar plays with tropes expertly, crafting a deeply relatable young man whom readers won’t soon forget. While some of the material is more appropriate for older teenagers, it’s always authentic (for instance, Cliff describes an idealized version of a sexual encounter and then presents the much more awkward but realistic version). VERDICT A fascinating and inspired novel for sophisticated readers.–Shalini Miskelly, St. Benedict Catholic School, Seattle, WA

Moldavsky, Goldy. Kill the Boy Band. 320p. Scholastic/Point. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545867474; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545867481.

Gr 10 Up –What if a group of fangirls decide to meet their idols by any means necessary? In the case of Strepurs—that’s Ruperts spelled backward—the thing they most desire are the boy band The Ruperts. Discovered on So You Think the British Don’t Have Talent?, four boys named Rupert are thrust into the spotlight and become every fangirl’s dream. When the singers arrive in the Big Apple to film a Thanksgiving special, thousands of fans surround their hotel in an attempt to get a glimpse of the guys. Apple, Erin, Isabel, and the unnamed narrator decide to get a room at the hotel and will do anything to meet the group. When a coincidental meeting with Rupert P., the untalented Rupert, leads to him being strapped to a chair in the girls’ hotel room, misunderstandings, chance meetings, Twitter revelations, and murder ensue. Told in the first person, Moldavsky’s debut novel is filled with dark humor and pop culture references and will have readers laughing until the end. Fans of boy bands and reality TV talent contests will notice parallels between The Ruperts and current pop groups. The power of social media and fandom and its impact on teens and adults alike make this a relevant read. Sexual innuendos and language make this book better suited to older teens. VERDICT A hilarious read to satisfy readers’ inner fangirls. A must-have for high school and teen library collections.–Ashley Leffel, Griffin Middle School, Frisco, TX

Identity Crisis

More than ever, the “new adult” years are a period for older young adults to find themselves, just like the protagonists in the following works.

YA-Mature-SLJTeen-IdentityAvery, Lara. A Million Miles Away. 320p. Little, Brown. Jul. 2015. ebook available. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316283687.

Gr 9 Up –Kelsey Maxfield’s identical twin sister, Michelle, is killed in a car crash during their senior year just after Michelle’s boyfriend, Peter, has been deployed to Afghanistan. While coping with the loss and trying to get back to normal, Kelsey stumbles upon a Skype session with Peter. Not sure how to tell him about Michelle’s death, she decides to keep it a secret and leads him to believe that she is Michelle. Kelsey carries on the long distance relationship. Eventually, she gets up the courage to relay the message through a video, only to find out that Peter never receives it, which leads to more problems. While the story holds true to the deception between Kelsey and Peter and is somewhat romantic, other issues are introduced when Kelsey finally comes clean, making the plot feel uneven and disjointed in places. The adult characters are forever absent and more wrapped up in themselves than the teens. Wondering how Peter will react to the deception will keep readers interested. VERDICT Those who are looking for something similar to Nicholas Sparks will appreciate this light romance.–Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

redstarHautman, Pete. Eden West. 320p. Candlewick. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763674182; ebk. ISBN 9780763676902.

Gr 10 Up– Since he was five years old, Jacob has lived inside the Nodd, 12 square miles of Montana land that he works on along with other members of the Grace. Jacob has been taught that the world is wicked and that the Grace will return to Heaven on an ark that the Prophet Zerachiel will be sending shortly—it is The Truth. Jacob’s world begins to turn upside down with the arrival of several beings. Tobias’s family travels from Colorado to join the Grace—and yet Tobias won’t stop questioning and pushing against The Truth. During his patrols along the Grace’s border, Jacob meets Lynna, a worldly girl with whom he should not interact—but he cannot help but be attracted to her. The third newcomer, a lone wolf, begins to slowly kill off the sheep and threaten the well-being of all the Grace. Jacob’s faith is tested as he struggles to reconcile what he knows to be The Truth and what is happening around him. Hautman delivers a captivating character study, studiously demonstrating the reasons why some people are drawn into cults and quietly revealing how unquestioned power turns rotten. Jacob is a realistic and relatable protagonist and his complex relationships with those around him—and himself—ring true. Eden West is both quiet and loud, understanding and judging, and absolutely engrossing. Readers will be quick to judge the Grace but may find themselves looking inward to their own beliefs as they move through the story. VERDICT A heartbreaking, uplifting, and fantastic read.–Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ

Knowles, Jo. Read Between the Lines. 336p. Candlewick. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763663872.

Gr 9 Up –Knowles’s latest novel realistically depicts the intertwined lives of 12 individuals. From high school student to recently graduated new adult to teacher, these personal vignettes are achingly truthful and reveal the secrets and sorrows hidden behind everyday facades. As the stories unfold and the points of view begin to overlap, a complete picture begins to form. The message of the novel is divulged on the last page, bringing the book into tight focus and finally giving teens an “aha” moment. The short story format could tempt reluctant readers, and many young adults will see shadows of themselves in the well-drawn characters. Hand this one to fans of dramatic realistic fiction and those who enjoy slice-of-life novels.–Heather Miller Cover, Homewood Public Library, AL

redstarRowell, Rainbow. Carry On. 528p. ebook available. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250049551.

Gr 8 Up –Readers of Rowell’s Fangirl (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013) have already had a glimpse at the world of Simon Snow, but now Rowell turns the full force of her imagination on the Watford School of Magic and those connected to it. Magic is disappearing all over England, leaving pockets of dead air that disable any magician in the vicinity. Somehow, everyone knows that the Insidious Humdrum is responsible, but who—or what?—is the Humdrum, and why does he look exactly like 11-year-old Simon? That’s not the only mystery at hand, however. Simon’s roommate and nemesis, the vampire Baz, disappears for weeks, and while he’s gone, the Veil opens and Baz’s late mother shows up at their room with a message for her son: her killer, Nicodemus, is still out there. When Baz returns, he’s barely more than skin and bones. What has he been doing? And why can’t Simon stop thinking about him? Simon and Baz reluctantly declare a truce and join forces, along with the intrepid Penelope Bunce, to find the mysterious Nicodemus. With rock-solid worldbuilding, a sweet and believable romance subplot, and satisfying ending, Rowell’s latest is a monumentally enjoyable reading experience. VERDICT Hand this to fans of Rowell, Harry Potter, love stories, and magic.–Stephanie Klose, Library Journal

redstarQuintero, Isabel. Gabi: A Girl in Pieces. 378p. Cinco Puntos. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781935955948; pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781935955955; ebk. $11.95. ISBN 9781935955962. LC 2014007658.

Gr 9 Up –Sixteen-year-old Gabi Hernandez has a lot to deal with during her senior year. Her best friend Cindy is pregnant; her other best friend Sebastian just got kicked out of his house for coming out to his strict parents; her meth addict dad is trying to quit, again; and her super religious Tía Bertha is constantly putting a damper on Gabi’s love life. In lyrical diary entries peppered with the burgeoning poet’s writing, Spanglish, and phone conversations, Quintero gives voice to a complex, not always likable but totally believable teen who struggles to figure out her own place in the world. Believing she’s not Mexican enough for her family and not white enough for Berkeley, Gabi still meets every challenge head-on with vulgar humor and raw honesty. In moments, the diary format may come across as clunky, but the choppy delivery feels purposeful. While the narrative is chock-full of issues, they never bog down the story, interwoven with the usual teen trials, from underwhelming first dates to an unabashed treatment of sex, religion, and family strife. The teen isn’t all snark; there’s still a naiveté about whether her father will ever kick his addiction to meth, especially evident in her heartfelt letters to him. When tragedy strikes, readers will mourn with Gabi and connect with her fears about college acceptance and her first sexual experience. A refreshing take on slut- and fat-shaming, Quintero’s work ranks with Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (Candlewick, 2013) and Junot Diaz’s Drown (Riverhead, 1996) as a coming-of-age novel with Latino protagonists.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Reid, Raziel. When Everything Feels Like the Movies. 160p. Arsenal Pulp. Apr. 2015. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781551525747.

Gr 10 Up –Reid introduces readers to Jude, a gay teen who fantasizes about being a movie star. Jude, who has been given the nickname Judy by some classmates, is fairly comfortable with his sexual orientation as well as his desire to wear his mother’s beautiful dresses and makeup. In order to deal with the homophobia he confronts at school and home, Jude slips into his fantastical life as a movie star constantly tortured by paparazzi. Throughout the book, Jude explains how his school is like a movie set and his family, friends, and enemies are all players in the melodrama. This story is a whirlwind of gender-bending drama with plenty of pop culture references. Underneath the references to drugs and sex, the story is simply about a teen boy looking to find a place where he is accepted and celebrated. VERDICT A fun choice for readers who can handle mature content.–April Sanders, Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL

Sexy Bits

Whether they’re ready for it or not, teens are intrigued by the sexual experience, and these titles present a variety of perspectives and viewpoints, from earnest to realistic to thrilling.

YA-Mature-SLJTeen-SexyDoller, Trish. The Devil You Know. 304p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781619634169. Gr 10 Up –Cadie, 18, lives in a tiny Floridian town with her widowed dad and kid brother. She’s spent the last couple years pining for an adventure to take her away from her boring home. When two cute cousins, Matt and Noah, show up at a campfire party, Cadie is so strongly attracted to Noah that it thrills and scares her. The next day, the guys invite her and her old friend to join them on their road trip. Even though they’re not much more than strangers, Cadie just can’t say no. What the teen thought was going to be a sexy and temporary getaway slowly turns out to be a dangerous, terrifying, and deadly experience. Doller gives readers a smart, strong, yet wounded lead in Cadie. Although her decisions put her in an incredible dangerous situation, her choices don’t seem anything but natural. The spark between Noah and Cadie is delicious, and the slow build of darkness throughout the story is the kind of terrifying that teens will enjoy. Fans of Stolen by Lucy Christopher (Scholastic, 2010) should be sure to put Devil on their to-read list. VERDICT This dark thriller features a strong female lead and a heap of sexy; a must-buy for readers looking for a healthy dose of drama.–Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ

redstarFederle, Tim. The Great American Whatever. 288p. ebook available. S. & S. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481404099. Gr 10 Up –In the six months since his sister was killed in a car accident, Quinn has hardly left his bedroom. He hasn’t gone to school or talked to his best friend and has barely interacted with his heartbroken mother. He hasn’t turned on his phone, either, knowing the last text his sister sent before running a red light was to him. Urged on by his best friend, Geoff, Quinn reluctantly emerges from his isolation just in time to meet a cute boy, turn 17, rediscover his passion for writing screenplays, and uncover some big secrets about the people he thought he knew best. He also gets some advice from a former idol, a neighbor turned Hollywood screenwriter: forget the rules of what’s expected in a script and just write the truth. For Quinn, who seeks solace in his daydreamy scripts with imagined conversations and outcomes that he can control, this is a hard pill to swallow, especially as he’s learning some truths he’s not really sure he likes. Even under the weight of grief, Quinn’s conversational and charming narrative voice effervesces, mixing humor and vulnerability in typical Federle style. Quinn’s story is at turns sad, funny, awkward, and endearing as he figures out friendship, romance, coming out, and moving on. VERDICT Federle’s YA debut about life’s unscripted moments has wide appeal and is an essential purchase for all collections. Readers will be instant fans of the funny and honest Quinn.–Amanda MacGregor, Great River Regional Library, St. Cloud, MN

Gottfred, B.T. Forever for a Year. 320p. Holt. Jul. 2015. ebook available. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627791915. Gr 9 Up –Carolina and Trevor meet on the first day of their freshman year when Carolina gives Trevor two sheets of paper and a pencil so he can take notes in class. For both, it is near love at first sight. For Carolina, her freshman year is a chance to start fresh and be one of the popular girls while getting over her dad’s infidelity to her mom. For Trevor, it’s his second time attempting a freshman year, but in a new city as his family tries to pick up the pieces of his mother’s attempted suicide. The teens fall hard and fast, sharing just about every first love experience one could imagine. Like Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park (St. Martin’s, 2013), this work is a tale of first love from the protagonists’ alternating points of view. Gottfried gives this concept a new spin by providing a detailed account of all aspects of this budding relationship, from every insecure thought to the last “I love you.” The author captures the unhealthy codependency of crushes in a way that will be relatable to teens. Some graphic sex scenes makes this title appropriate for older readers. VERDICT A swoon-inducing and heartbreaking novel for most YA collections.–Adrienne L. Strock, Teen Library Manager, Nashville Public Library

Kennedy, Claire. After Hours. 256p. ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481430166; pap. ISBN 9781481430159. Gr 10 Up –Isa, Peter, Finn, and Xavi are four workers at an upscale restaurant. Finn is the jock next door. Isa is the mysterious new girl. Xavi’s sole reason for working is to get out of their town to New York City. Peter, Xavi’s stepbrother, simply loves to cook. Each is there for their own reasons, and their secrets and desires drive each to participate in the high stakes, employees-only game—Tips. It is the ultimate truth and dare competition—without the truth element. The rewards are plentiful, though to get them, players must succeed in overcoming the high risk challenge. Compelled to compete and win, all four of them will do whatever it takes to get what their heart’s desire. Filled with dates, sex, theft, and twists, this fast-paced YA novel keeps readers absorbed in the story until the (fairly abrupt) ending. Told from alternating points of view, the book gives the perspectives of four main characters and four different personalities. An additional plot point revolves around their shady manger. VERDICT Recommend this title to reluctant readers and mature teens.–Stephanie Charlefour, Wixom Public Library, MI

Keyser, Amber J., ed. The V-Word: True Stories About First-Time Sex. 208p. further reading. notes. websites. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Feb. 2016. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781582705224; pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781582705217. Gr 10 Up –All too aware that often media and pop culture messages about sex and virginity are at best inaccurate and at worst dangerous, Keyser has compiled 17 essays from female authors—straight, gay, bisexual, and transgender—about their first time having sex: the good, the bad, the ugly, and, of course, the awkward. The experiences range from a wedding night to a spontaneous but tender hookup to an alcohol-fueled one-night stand. The writing varies, but all of the authors express genuine and heartfelt emotions. While there is a fair amount of explicit content, the tone is less sultry and more contemplative. Keyser prefaces each piece with a brief introduction that teases apart themes such as gender identity and sexual autonomy. The book concludes with information on topics such as consent, body image, and masturbation, all presented in a way that reflects the editor’s progressive mind-set. Appended is an interview between Keyser and contributor, former librarian, and editor Kelly Jensen, who offers many examples of YA novels with rich depictions of female sexuality. Although there’s a wealth of thought-provoking content here, Keyser is never preachy, and teens will come away feeling as though they’ve spent time in the company of a smart and self-assured but gentle and reassuring older sister or friend. VERDICT A strong addition to sex ed shelves and a much-needed perspective on teenage sexuality.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Teen Brides

Not often portrayed in YA fiction, teen matrimony (and parenthood) occasionally pops up. These titles present the good and the ugly of marrying (or having a family) young.

YA-Mature-SLJTeen-BrideredstarAhdieh, Renée. The Wrath and the Dawn. 400p. glossary. Putnam. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399171611; ebk. ISBN 9780698185890.

Gr 9 Up –A reimagined tale based on One Thousand and One Nights and The Arabian Nights. In this version, the brave Shahrzad volunteers to marry the Caliph of Khorasan after her best friend is chosen as one of his virgin brides and is summarily murdered the next morning. She uses her storytelling skills, along with well-placed cliff-hangers, to keep herself alive while trying to discover a way to exact revenge on the Caliph. However, the longer she stays in the palace, the more she realizes there’s more going on than just a murderous prince. While her feelings for the Caliph grow and change, the first love she left behind is busy plotting to overthrow the entire palace. When the various plotlines come together in a final conflict, the story is brought to a satisfying, if unexpected, ending. A quick moving plot and sassy, believable dialogue make this a compelling and enjoyable mystery, with just the right amount of romance and magic. The main characters are well drawn and surprisingly likable, while secondary characters also develop in endearing ways. The rich, Middle Eastern cultural context adds to the author’s adept worldbuilding. Intimacy is dealt with in a straightforward way, without graphic details, and a subtle message of strength is portrayed through the brave independence of the protagonist. VERDICT This well-written mystery will be a surefire hit with teens.–Sunnie Lovelace, Wallingford Public Library, CT

redstarChokshi, Roshani. The Star-Touched Queen. 352p. ebook available. St. Martin’s Griffin. Apr. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250085474.

Gr 9 Up –Born with a horoscope that predicts a marriage of death and destruction, Maya is an outcast in her father’s kingdom, Bharata. When Amar’s political machinations go horribly wrong, Maya finds herself married to him and queen of Akaran—a mysterious place filled with secrets and magic. Amar offers Maya the chance to rule at his side and become more than Bharata ever would have allowed. All he asks in return is her patience and trust, which soon prove more than she can give. Her search for answers will lead her across worlds and through her own fragmented memories to discover surprising truths about her husband’s kingdom and herself. Maya is refreshingly unapologetic about her ambitions and her desire for independence. Although her distrust and doubts lead to the main conflict of the story, she is quick to own those mistakes and works to correct them even when it might be to her detriment. Chokshi’s debut fantasy is filled with vivid and unexpected imagery as Maya discovers the wonders and dangers found in her new home in the Otherworld. Well-researched figures from Hindu folklore and mythology, astonishing creatures, and expressive characters further complement the story. A setting drawn from ancient India, romance with feminist sensibilities, and a unique magic system reminiscent of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Little, Brown, 2011) make this a novel sure to appeal to fans of Renée Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn (Putnam, 2015). VERDICT A stunning debut filled with lush writing, smart characters, and a mysterious plot that provides as many twists as it does swoons.–Emma Carbone, Brooklyn Public Library

Coutts, Alexandra. Young Widows Club. 304p. ebook available. Farrar. Nov. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374301262.

Gr 10 Up –Tamsen Baird becomes a widow at the age of 17 when her husband, 19-year-old Noah, dies in the middle of the night. Marrying Noah and taking a break from high school to manage his band and live in the house his parents were building for them were the best decisions Tam had made, or so she thought. Noah’s death puts Tam’s world into a tailspin. After a trespassing incident with a band member, she spends the night in jail and is sentenced to return to high school, move back in with her father and stepmother, and attend a support group for widows. While in the support group, Tam meets Colin, 26, a lawyer who lost his wife to cancer. Over time, Tam and Colin connect, each feeling emotions that they thought they were ready to accept. Noah’s family remains in Tam’s life but at a distance, with his father, Mitch, working on finishing their house and his mother, Molly, battling intense grief and depression. Coutts examines underage drinking, lying to authority figures, complicated relationships that evolve as a result of grief, and other mature topics in this exploratory novel about a teen widow. Not only does she demonstrate realistic consequences for illegal actions, but she focuses on the relationships that suffered and were rekindled as a result of Noah’s death. This intense and emotionally charged novel adeptly examines the five stages of grief and how one teen handles marriage, death, and rebirth. VERDICT A must-have for YA collections.–Erin Holt, Williamson County Public Library, Franklin, TN

redstarVerdi, Jessica. What You Left Behind. 368p. ebook available. Sourcebooks Fire. Aug. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492614401; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781492608745.

Gr 9 Up–Ryden Brooks is making the most of his senior year as the star soccer goalie with his beautiful girlfriend Meg on his arm. He has a promising sports career, with his eyes set on a scholarship to UCLA, until it all comes crumbling down. Meg gets cancer and is pregnant. While the protagonist is riddled with guilt, wanting to take care of the situation, Meg feels the opposite and goes against all advice, thus writing her own death sentence. Hope is born, and Meg passes, leaving Ryden and his single mother to pick up the pieces; Meg’s parents wants nothing to do with them. The teen is thrust headfirst into fatherhood, meanwhile working a summer job at Whole Foods where he meets Joni. She knows nothing about his past and awakens something in Ryden that he thought was long buried. Verdi eloquently details the trials and tribulations of being a single teen dad, Ryden’s feelings of guilt over Meg’s death, and his budding feelings towards Joni. The author weaves a mystery amid the chaos through the uncovering of a series of journals that Meg left for Ryden, her sister Mabel, and best friend Alan. Verdi holds nothing back, shedding a realistic light on Ryden’s situation, his decisions, and their very real consequences. His voice is spot-on and doesn’t sugarcoat the harsh realities that he faces. It isn’t often that a book nails the male teen voice as well as Verdi does in this work. VERDICT An excellent addition to YA collections.–Erin Holt, Williamson County Public Library, Franklin, TN

Tough Stuff

The experiences touched upon in the novels reviewed below represent the gamut of the young adult experience. From abuse, drugs, and mental illness to assault, addiction, and loss, these tough topics will resonate with young people on the cusp of adulthood.

YA-Mature-SLJTeen-ToughAlcott, 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. Additionally, all of Alcott’s characters are well developed, from Charlie’s parents to the Indian American twins in her English class, who befriend her. All have distinct personalities and motivations, adding to the realistic atmosphere the author has created. The witty repartee among characters is reminiscent of the dialogue in John Green’s novels or a Gilmore Girls episode—although slightly improbable at times, it never fails to entertain. VERDICT A cutting-edge exploration of a thorny topic, this is a wonderful debut novel.–Ragan O’Malley, Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn, NY

Desir, C. Other Broken Things. 256p. ebook available. Simon Pulse. Jan. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481437394.

Gr 9 Up –Seventeen-year-old Natalie’s story starts with “I’d cut a bitch for a cigarette,” hooking readers immediately. In this gritty and honest tale, Nat’s struggle with sobriety starts with court-ordered AA meetings and community service after a DUI incident. She is a fighter, literally. Her parents’ demand that she quit boxing leads to her drinking. Nat fills the holes in her life with booze and sex. Without an addiction, she feels lost. Enter Joe, the sexy, 30-something would-be sponsor Nat bums cigarettes off of during meetings. Though Joe tries to shut down Nat’s outrageous flirting, the sexual tension is palpable, foretelling the inevitable train wreck. Desir writes the relationship as an ill-fated May/December romance between two addicts. If Nat and Joe do not have alcohol, they will find something else to quench their needs. In this case, they find each other, until that implodes. While this situation lends itself to controversy, it also invites conversation. Other plot threads—losing friends and reuniting with others, relapses, and Natalie’s parents’ rocky marriage—round out the recovering addict’s experience. Facing her demons, Nat evolves from a rightfully angry teen to a wiser, emotionally stronger young woman able to stand on her own without a man or alcohol, and readers will cheer for her success. Not for the faint of heart (Joe’s rock bottom story involves a dead hooker), Natalie’s story is told without judgement and with an uncanny understanding of the 12-step program. This is sure to appeal to fans of Nic Sheff’s Tweak (S. & S., 2008), Koren Zailckas’s Smashed (Viking, 2005), and the-like. VERDICT This title deserves a place on high school shelves.–Laura Falli, McNeil High School, Austin, TX

Kuehn, Stephanie. Delicate Monsters. 240p. ebook available. St. Martin’s Griffin. Jun. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250063847.

Gr 10 Up –This novel centers on the convergence of the lives of Sadie, a damaged girl who enjoys causing others pain, and Emerson, a boy who’s trying desperately to hide the dysfunction inside his family and himself. The novel follows Sadie as she arrives back in California wine country after being expelled from a series of far-flung and expensive boarding schools. Emerson is stunned by her reappearance and unprepared to face the past they shared, which only makes Sadie more interested in pursuing and taunting him. When a life-or-death crisis occurs, both of them must finally face reality, along with their demons. The emotional baggage of the main characters is never fully explained or resolved, but this will not bother teens who enjoy a briskly paced, high-adrenaline narrative full of parties, sex, and fast cars. Overall, Delicate Monsters is an enjoyable read but has no gripping moments or stunning surprises to make it stand up against more compelling novels, such as The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking, 2014) or It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (Miramax, 2006). VERDICT For avid fans of the author and teens who enjoy honest and often dark tales.–Tara Hixon, Piedmont High School, OK

Laure, Estelle. This Raging Light. 288p. HMH. Jan. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544534292.

Gr 8 Up –Lucille is a 17-year-old with substantial responsibilities; her mother disappeared two weeks earlier, leaving the teen in charge of her nine-year-old sister, Wren. Two months ago, Lucille witnessed her father’s mental breakdown and subsequent violence, and he now resides in a halfway home. The sisters are on their own with little money. The protagonist is terrified of the authorities swooping in before she turns 18 (and can legally take custody of Wren). Waiting tables by night while attending high school by day, Lucille trudges along. Best friend Eden steps in to help. Pining after Eden’s twin brother, Digby, complicates matters for Lucille. Laure offers a unique problem novel in which the troubles—though deadly serious—are never treated with unnecessary melodrama. Lucille still stresses over typical teenage issues like her crush on Digby and the uncomfortable heels she has to wear to work. The author uses poetry to bridge the gap from grief to joy, including references to Dylan Thomas, as evidenced by the title. While there is a definite beginning, middle, and end of this tale, all problems are not wrapped up neatly at its culmination. VERDICT A good choice for savvy readers and book discussion groups; this title will invite comparisons to Cynthia Voigt’s contemporary classic Homecoming.–Tara Kehoe, New Jersey State Library Talking Book and Braille Center, Trenton

LEW, Craig. Breath to Breath. 456p. Relish Media. 2015. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781939775085.

Gr 10 Up –William Stout, a recent transplant from Kansas, is hoping his move to California will be the fresh start he needs. After his grandfather passes from cancer, he moves to California to live with his estranged father. The 17-year-old William remembers very little of his parents, yet something about his new neighborhood seems oddly familiar, something that threatens to trigger the violent tendencies he seeks to repress. Counseling, a potential girlfriend, a new job, and a starting spot on the school football team help him manage his anger. However, run-ins with a mysterious child lead William to discover hidden talents and pieces of his past that threaten to unravel the new life he has created. Although he does not know the child, he is plagued by the unshakable feeling that the child is suffering horrific abuse, and he is determined to help. Written in short, impactful poetic prose, this is a gut-wrenching novel that manages to be dark and hopeful. It is a suspenseful mystery with a revelation that is unexpectedly sad and heartbreaking. VERDICT A tough choice for sensitive readers, this is recommended for older, mature teens.–Tamela Chambers, Chicago Public Schools, IL

redstarMcCarry, Sarah. About a Girl. 272p. ebook available. St. Martin’s. Jul. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250068620.

Gr 10 Up –The conclusion to the “Metamorphoses” trilogy (St. Martin’s) follows Tally to a small town outside of Seattle where she seeks out her maybe-father to learn more about her past and her family. The place feels full of magic and people who intrigue her. Tally has a hard time thinking straight here, and her dreams are filled with vivid and terrifying images of blood. She falls for the mysterious Maddy, a girl who seems to hold the answers to her many questions. Based loosely on the story of Jason and the Argonauts, the protagonist’s journey reveals far more about her family than she could have imagined. Maddy keeps saying “no pasts,” but as Tally learns, the past is everywhere—the past is then and now. The stunning, densely packed story is full of as much intoxicating poetry as meticulous scientific explanations. Tally’s initial prim and rather academic narration becomes richer and more dreamlike as her story unfolds. This edgy, smart, and challenging title combines mythology, punk rock, science, a quest, feminism, art, dreams, and the power of stories and storytelling with unforgettable results. The well-developed cast of characters is racially and sexually diverse. The emphasis on the importance of female relationships—as family, as lovers, and as friends—is a welcome exploration of the many levels of intimacy. The book can be read as a stand-alone, but will certainly send new readers looking for the previous books in the series. VERDICT A highly recommended and breathtakingly read for sophisticated readers.–Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Apollo High School Library, St. Cloud, MN

redstarMedina, Meg. Burn Baby Burn. 320p. ebook available. Candlewick. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763674670.

Gr 9 Up –Nora Lopez is 17 in 1977 when New York City faced one of its most horrific summers in history. A serial killer called Son of Sam was on the loose, shooting innocent couples; the city faced a blackout complete with looting; and arson was rampant. Nora’s brother Hector is illegally dealing drugs and physically abusing his mother, Mima, and Nora. Their father is practically out of the picture, unreliably sending checks and calling only on the holidays. Nora works at her neighborhood deli, helping the family to make ends meet. Just when Nora’s fear and panic peaks, she meets new hire Pablo. While Nora is not ready for a relationship, one quickly forms. Ashamed and embarrassed, Nora hides secrets about her family from Pablo and from her best friend, Kathleen. Medina uses Nora’s story to seamlessly connect readers to an unforgettable period in history, the setting leaving readers thirsting for more information about the summer of 1977. The character development is tight and accurately constructed. Medina holds nothing back, shedding light on the characters’ flaws, which teens today will be able to relate to. Medina is on point with the teen voices, evoking their intense fear, panic, and dreams. VERDICT A devastatingly intense story, this work is a must-have for all collections, especially where Ruta Sepetys’s books are popular.–Erin Holt, Williamson County Public Library, Franklin, TN

redstarNelson, Colleen. Finding Hope. 200p. Dundurn. Apr. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781459732452.

Gr 10 Up –Fifteen-year old Hope has always fallen into her older brother’s shadow. Eighteen-year-old Eric, once a hotshot hockey player, is now a meth-addicted shell of the popular boy he once was. Homeless and desperate, Eric relies on Hope for the money, food, and clothing she leaves hidden for him. But when Hope is sent to an all-girls academy, she finally has a chance to start a new life. At Ravenhurst, Hope quickly finds new friends and an online boyfriend. But as Eric’s addiction continues to spiral out of control, his need for Hope’s help is overwhelming. When he shows up at the gates of her new school, drugged out and needing a fix, Hope is conflicted about how she can continue to help him and still keep her broken family a secret. Nelson presents a sobering view of a normal family torn apart by addiction and abuse. Though their stories are painful, Hope and Eric feel like real people whom readers will root for. Told in alternating viewpoints, this realistic novel explores serious themes such as drug abuse, sexual abuse, and extreme bullying. Eric’s chapters are especially well written, as they show Eric’s thoughts and behavior during his meth-induced highs and lows. The siblings are believable characters who simply trusted the wrong people, with disastrous results. VERDICT Both heartbreaking and hopeful, this will be a popular choice among mature readers of realistic fiction, particularly fans of Ellen Hopkins’s “Crank” series (S. & S.).–Leigh Collazo, Dulwich College, Suzhou, China

redstarPérez, Ashley Hope. Out of Darkness. 408p. ebook available. Carolrhoda Lab. Sept. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781467742023.

Gr 9 Up –The tale’s layered plot begins with a prologue set hours after an actual deadly U.S. school disaster in New London, TX in March 1937. Readers are plunged into the grief and horror of the moment long enough to meet important protagonists and wonder at the event before being transported back to September 1936. From this point, the book focuses primarily on Naomi, a 15-year-old of Mexican heritage, and her younger biracial twin half-siblings. Recent arrivals from San Antonio, the children are all living with the twins’ white father, and Naomi is forced to navigate the racially divided oil-mining town, learn to run a household, and to face her increasing interest in an African American youth. This third person story, recounted in multiple perspectives, slowly discloses the origins of the teen’s apprehension for the recent transition. The insertion of black-and-white photos and stark black pages interrupt the narrative much like the metaphoric explosions in the lives of the diverse protagonists. Additionally, an increased use of white space leading to the book’s climax seems to slow, and almost stop time. This book presents a range of human nature, from kindness and love to acts of racial and sexual violence. The work resonates with fear, hope, love, and the importance of memory. The author’s note and acknowledgements pages give more background on the disaster. VERDICT Set against the backdrop of an actual historical event, Pérez’s young adult novel gives voice to many long-omitted facets of U.S. history.–Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, IL

Ruby, Laura. Bone Gap. 368p. HarperCollins/ Balzer & Bray. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062317605; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780062317636.

Gr 10 Up –It is a rare book that sits comfortably on the shelf with the works of Twain, McCullers, Conroy, Stephen King, and D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths--rarer still that a novel combines elements of these authors together. Bone Gap does just this, to superb effect. We start with a boy named Finn and his brother, Sean. Sean is the classic hero: strong, silent, great at everything he does. Finn is a pretty boy whose otherworldly goofiness has earned him the nicknames Spaceman, Sidetrack, and Moonface. Along comes Rosza, a beautiful and damaged young woman, fleeing from some unknown evil. When she disappears, only Finn witnesses her abduction and he is unable to describe her captor. He is also unsure whether she left by force or choice. The author defies readers’ expectations at every turn. In this world, the evidence of one’s senses counts for little; appearances, even less. Heroism isn’t born of muscle, competence, and desire, but of the ability to look beyond the surface and embrace otherworldliness and kindred spirits. Sex happens, but almost incidentally. Evil happens, embodied in a timeless, nameless horror that survives on the mere idea of beauty. A powerful novel.–Nina Sachs, Walker Memorial Library, Westbrook, ME

Schantz, Sarah Elizabeth. Fig. 352p. ebook available. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481423588.

Gr 9 Up –Fig is six years old and spends a lot of time worrying about her mother, Annie. Her mother talks of fairy land, feral dogs lurking in the woods, and the importance of rituals. It is only after her mother attempts suicide that Fig learns the truth: her mother is schizophrenic. The story unfolds over the next 11 years, detailing the many ways Annie’s schizophrenia changes her and affects her family. Through it all, Fig remains determined to save her mother. She begins sacrificing trinkets, thinking this will somehow make her mother get well. She also sacrifices her own needs and creates a Calendar of Ordeals, dictating what she must refrain from each day. The teen exhibits many troubling behaviors and is eventually diagnosed with OCD, but her health is overlooked as the focus remains on her increasingly unwell mother. Fig is often left in the care of her icy grandmother and has no support system. When her uncle catches her cutting herself, she is relieved that someone finally sees her and will hold her accountable, but Fig never stops thinking she can save her mother. This beautifully written story is a painful look at mental illness. An element of fantasy weaves throughout the narrative, with Annie’s tenuous grip on reality and Fig’s magical thinking, and references to fairy tales, The Wizard of Oz, and Alice in Wonderland abound. This dense, literary tale starts slowly, but builds to become an incredibly haunting story about mental illness and family bonds.–Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Apollo High School Library, St. Cloud, MN

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