YA Sequels from Lauren James, Matthew Laurence, Peadar O'Guilin, & More | April 2018 Xpress Reviews

An emotional love story centers a protagonist with an uncommon allergy; the Carnival Fantastic traps a teenager in a curse; Mulan takes an action-packed trip to the underworld.

Cook, Trish. Midnight Sun. 272p. Little, Brown. Feb. 2018. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9780316473576.

Gr 9 Up –A beautifully written story about a girl who is allergic to the sun. The angst of a teenager just wanting to be “normal,” mixed with the want of a father to do what is best for his daughter and defy the short life span that the doctors have predicted, is a constant struggle for Katie and her dad, Jack. It is because of his desire to protect Katie that Jack only allows Katie out of the house at night with a strict curfew. During one of these nights, while playing her guitar in the train station, Katie’s world gets turned upside-down when her longtime crush, Charlie, notices her. The ominous feeling that Cook weaves throughout the dates that Katie and Charlie go on gives a true feeling of the dangers of her disease. Confusion, distress, love, and wanting to be loved are woven through Katie’s thoughts as she struggles with telling Charlie about her health. This poignant tale will make fans of Nicola Yoon and Nicholas Sparks’s books laugh, cry, and bite their nails in frustration. VERDICT A great choice for anyone who wants an angsty realistic novel.–Lenore Catalano, Hammarskjold Middle School Media Center, NJ

Dunbar, Helene. Boomerang. 322p. Sky Pony. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781510713215.

Gr 9 Up –When he was 12 years old, Michael Sterling disappeared on his way home from school. Everyone in town thought he was kidnapped. However, the truth is that Michael couldn’t face another day of going home to nothing—his mother is an alchoholic and a stripper who often leaves him alone, sometimes for days at a time—and so he ran away with the help of a local woodcraftsman and his wife. The Woodhouses take Michael in as their own son, homeschool him, and basically give him the life he’d always wanted. Five years later, Michael—now Sean Woodhouse—returns home to collect an inheritance his grandparents promised him if he finished high school. His mother is now clean and responsible. His best friend from childhood, Jenny, has carried a torch for him all these years. And there’s a mysterious girl at school, Emery, who confuses his feelings for Trip, the intense, complicated boy he’d fostered a relationship with while living with the Woodhouses. As Sean battles with the guilt of deceiving his family and friends, he also struggles to reconcile his two lives. Dripping with teenage angst, this is a quietly intense novel about friendship, love, and what it means to be a family. Unfortunately, Michael/Sean’s angsty inner monologue bogs down the narrative, but the relationships between the characters are complex and interesting. Sean’s relationships with Trip and Emery are real but separate entities. VERDICT A sometimes over-emotional yet powerful read. Hand to fans of Adam Silvera’s books and Carrie Mesrobian’s Cut Both Ways.–Tyler Hixson, Brooklyn Public Library

James, Lauren. The Last Beginning. 312p. (Next Together: Bk. 2). Sky Pony. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781510710221.

Gr 9 Up –In this follow-up to The Next Together, readers meet Clove, the daughter of time travelers Kate and Matt. Now 16, Clove lives with her aunt and uncle, scientists on the verge of inventing a time machine in 2056. Believing that Jen and Tom are her parents, Clove is stunned to learn the truth while at the same time dealing with her unrequited love for her best friend. Determined to figure out her biological parents’ whereabouts and their mysterious time jumping, Clove takes the time machine and travels to 1745 to Carlisle, England. Posing as a servant girl, Clove meets her parents and a lovely young woman named Ella. Although her intentions are good, Clove’s interactions with her parents interferes with their mission and causes chaos in Clove’s real time line. With the assistance of Ella, Clove must time travel to right her wrongs. As in the first book, this installment is peppered with love notes, diagrams, and photos of future events, which cleverly foreshadows some of the plot twists. Teens will relate to Clove’s struggles with identity and sexuality, but the plot advances too quickly, and the protagonist isn’t fully developed. Clove’s feelings and reactions are often told rather than shown. She visits a historic time period and a dystopian future, but readers don’t spend enough time in either period to fully experience either world. VERDICT Recommended for very large collections where time travel and science fiction are popular.–Dawn Abron, Zion-Benton Public Library, IL

Lancaster, Mike A. dotmeme. 420p. Sky Pony. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781510708075.

Gr 7 Up –Ani and Joe are back at it in this sequel to dotwav. The duo is working for the British YETI (Youth Enforcement Task Initiative). Ani is the hacking master, and it is a joy to watch her analytical mind sift through data to wrestle with difficult problems. Meanwhile, Joe is equipped with a superchip that gives him a bionic edge—breaking into warehouses and scrambling away from foes. In this scenario, the two are working on two different cases that eventually turn out to be the same one, drawing them to a remote section of Romania. This mystery challenges the parameters of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and whether an actual Turing test to distinguish humans from AI exists, as well as exploring the concept of an AI’s ability to write code for itself. Video gamers will delight in the lore of early gaming, and the history of memes is fully explored. The novel is extremely timely, referencing the Internet’s ability to generate and redistribute “fake news.” Although this episode theoretically stands alone, readers jumping into book two will find themselves at a disadvantage. VERDICT Purchase this sci-fi thriller wherever the first was popular.–Leah Krippner, Harlem High School, Machesney Park, IL

Laurence, Matthew. Slay. 384p. (Freya: Bk. 2). Imprint. Mar. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250088192.

Gr 8 Up –Watch out, Hollywood: Freya is back! The Norse goddess of love, beauty, and war returns from destroying Finemdi Corporation’s Orlando, FL, office to seek worshippers from the cult of celebrity to strengthen her waning powers. Finemdi enslaves gods of all pantheons. When Freya, as Sara Vanadi, her modern mortal-mingling identity, escapes those overlords with her faithful high priest Nathan and centuries-long ally Sekhmet, they come to find that, like a game of Whack-a-Mole, her task to take out Finemdi continues. Its New York headquarters waves a red flag before Sara in the form of her ancient foe Ares, the Greek god of war, who defeated and decapitated Sara long ago when the two gods of faced off with opposing human armies. For revenge, Sara must use all her otherworldly charm, beauty, and magic to take La-La Land by storm. The drawn-out passages in which Sara and her two sidekicks are treated with Pretty Woman–style fashion and spa excesses goes on for too long, and the book’s pacing suffers for it. Readers who enjoyed the snark and reckless confidence of the title character in Freya may thrill at her return; but many will find the character has become more cloying while the high jinks and adventures are eye-roll–inducing instead of exhilarating. VERDICT Only for undemanding acolytes of the first book.–Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Sugar Hill, GA

Lim, Elizabeth. Reflection: A Twisted Tale. 416p. Disney. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484781296.

Gr 6-9 –Fans of the Disney film Mulan will recognize the first chapter as a retelling of the battle on Tung-Shao pass, but here Shang gets injured instead of Mulan, and his injury is fatal. Wracked with guilt, Mulan takes a chance to go to Diyu, the Chinese underworld, and bargain with King Yama for Shang’s life. If she can find him and bring him to the gates by sunrise, they can return to the land of the living. Along with Shang’s guardian lion, ShiShi, they must battle demons and ghosts while navigating obstacles like a mountain made of knives and a room of mirrors that plays on your deepest and darkest fears. Heavily based in Chinese Buddhist belief in the mechanics of the afterlife, the journey through Diyu and the friends and foes encountered will appeal to fans of Rick Riordan. While Mulan and Shang do open up and form a deeper bond, it is the fast-moving plot rather than character development that keeps the pages turning. VERDICT A fun read for fans of the animated movie.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA

Moyer, Melanie. The Rules of Me. 328p. Waterton. Mar. 2018. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9780990524939; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9780990524922.

Gr 6 Up –Gabe is uncertain what or who he is: a ghost, or a spirit, or perhaps an imaginary friend. Whatever he is, he has been that to Danny since she was a kid. Always alone (with Gabe), Danny decides that her freshman year of high school is going to be different. She sits at the right table at lunch and now has Janine, who shares Danny’s enthusiasm for soccer, and the two prepare for their soccer tryouts. Their friendship grows, pushing Gabe into the background until Danny’s world is shaken by her mother’s cancer diagnosis. Gabe watches as Danny works to stay invested in soccer, encourages her blossoming feelings for Janine, and puzzles over all of her attempts to distract herself from the fact that her mother is dying. This novel appropriately conveys the various emotions of having a loved one who is dying, and Gabe is an occasionally sage narrator. However, some readers might find it difficult to empathize with Danny. As for Gabe, there are several contradictions regarding who or what he is. How he moves and lifts objects and uses them without the attention of other characters aside from Danny is never made clear. The overall pacing is inconsistent, with poignant moments receiving minimal attention while unnecessary observations from Gabe are given several paragraphs. VERDICT An additional purchase to larger YA collections featuring hints of the paranormal.–Sarah Voels, Cedar Rapids Public Library, IA

O’Guilin, Peadar. The Invasion. 336p. (The Call: Bk. 2). Scholastic. Mar. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338045628.

Gr 9 Up –Relieved to have survived The Call, Nessa and Anto are planning a calm, peaceful life together on a farm in Donegal. But when Nessa’s bus is stopped on the way to visit Anto, she knows something is very wrong. The two are split apart, their dreams indefinitely on hold as Nessa is arrested for treason against the Nation and Anto is pressed into service with an army squadron. With a story line split among Nessa, Anto, and Aoife, who is traveling with the remainder of Boyle Survival College, readers are given a broad overview of the Sídhe’s plans to invade Ireland. As the island and the Grey Land slowly merge, plot points weave together to create a bigger picture. Throughout, Nessa, Anto, and Aoife each exhibit the characteristics that previously made them so convincing. Nessa is strong-willed but lonesome, Anto the pacifist yearns for violence, and quiet Aoife, still grieving, wrestles with feelings of hopelessness and insignificance. All struggle with their own selves while still battling to survive in a world at war with fairies. VERDICT Fast-paced, brutal yet hopeful, and with even more fascinatingly twisted descriptions of the Grey Land and its inhabitants that now spill into Ireland, fans of The Call will not be disappointed.–Maggie Mason Smith, Clemson University, SC

Questell, Jaime. By a Charm and a Curse. 306p. Entangled Teen. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781633759008.

Gr 9 Up –Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic is more than the average county fair. It travels around the country, protected by a charm that gives its performers unnaturally long life and protects them from physical harm. That all changes when the carnival comes to Claremore, OK. For Emmaline King, the carnival is an opportunity for diversion in an otherwise boring small town. But Emma’s world is upended when the curse that holds the charm intact is foisted onto her, trapping her in an unfeeling mannequin of a body and binding her to the carnival. With the help of Benjamin Singer, the carpenter’s son, Emma settles uneasily into her new life, knowing that, at some point, she must also pass on the curse. But when the charm begins to lose its potency as accidents happen, Emma tries to do the unthinkable—break the curse, and also the charm with it. Overall, the story is imaginative, but it begs for more development. Told from the alternating perspectives of Emma and Ben, it opens a bit hastily—introducing Emma and a slew of carnival characters all at once. The story is also very heavily plot-based. More of the carnival’s backstory is revealed as the tension builds, but Emma is the only complex character who experiences any growth. Even though many of the characters face challenges, they remain static and often flat. VERDICT Add to larger young adult collections where paranormal romance is popular.–Erica Ruscio, Rockport Public Library, MA

Struzziero, Phil. Teen Ref: A Good “No Call”. 238p. Morgan James Publishing. Mar. 2018. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781683505716.

Gr 6-9 –Star quarterback Drew Hennings takes a brutal hit in his eighth grade championship football game and is knocked out cold. Fearful of future injury, his parents make the tough but logical choice to forbid Drew from playing football again. While he understands their decision, Drew takes it hard—and worries his teammates will take it even harder. As he heads into freshman year, a family friend invites him to help ref a youth football game. While apprehensive and nervous, Drew soon comes to realize that his top-notch football knowledge makes him a pretty decent ref. If he can study hard, explain his new role to his friends, and somehow score a date with a cute girl, his life will be back on track. Struzziero, a high school football official, clearly knows his stuff. Play-by-plays dominate the book, making Drew’s life somewhat of a subplot. The clinical nature with which the games are dissected does not make for riveting reading, though. Drew’s conflicted feelings and reluctance to communicate ring true, but unfortunately, his family, friends, coworkers, and would-be girlfriend are surface-only characters. While sports fiction is usually a good call for athletic and reluctant readers, the pacing and frequent misspellings are distracting, and perhaps more problematic is the author’s many missed opportunities to show instead of tell. VERDICT Despite good intentions, Struzziero misses his intended receivers.–Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI

Weil, Cynthia. 806. 232p. Tanglewood. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781939100146.

Gr 9 Up –KT is a teen musician who lives with her constantly dating single mother and finds out that the man she always thought was her father—even though she has never met him—is most definitely not. She was conceived via artificial insemination due to a farfetched plot for her supposed father to inherit a business. When KT learns her biological dad was a sperm donor, she begins a quest to find him. Along the way, she miraculously and immediately connects with two half-siblings via a website called DSC (Donor Sibling Contact), and the three of them embark on a cross-country quest to find their father. This story is at best unbelievable and at times downright offensive given the numerous ways that various marginalized groups are spoken about or referred to. Characters are shallow, dialogue is minimal and trite, and events seem to happen with divine intervention, given the timing of certain reveals and discoveries. VERDICT Not recommended for library purchase.–Kate Olson, Bangor School District, WI

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