Tag Archives: Fiction

Bang by Barry Lyga

Bang by Barry Lyga. April 18, 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 978316315500.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

One shot ruined his life. Another one could end it.

Sebastian Cody did something horrible, something no one—not even Sebastian himself—can forgive. At the age of four, he accidentally shot and killed his infant sister with his father’s gun.

Now, ten years later, Sebastian has lived with the guilt and horror for his entire life. With his best friend away for the summer, Sebastian has only a new friend—Aneesa—to distract him from his darkest thoughts. But even this relationship cannot blunt the pain of his past. Because Sebastian knows exactly how to rectify his childhood crime and sanctify his past.

It took a gun to get him into this.

Now he needs a gun to get out.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Accidental shooting of an infant; Suicidal thoughts; Cyberbullying; Islamophobia

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 7-10. Fourteen-year-old Sebastian lives in the past: when he was four years old, he accidentally shot and killed his four-month-old sister. This haunts him, leading to obsessive self-hate and suicidal feelings. He is waiting, in fact, for the voice in his head to tell him it’s time to effect his end. That time seems imminent as his past and future seem to come together, faster and faster—until he meets Aneesa. The two become friends, bonding over a YouTube channel they create that features Sebastian making pizzas. As time passes, Sebastian finds himself falling in love and feeling a strange emotion: hope. “For her,” he thinks, “For her, yes, I could stay.” But does he deserve happiness, and what might happen if she doesn’t return his feelings? Lyga manages his intensely emotional material well, creating in Sebastian a highly empathetic character, though his voice seems far too sophisticated for a 14-year-old. Nevertheless, the psychology that drives his decisions is acutely observed, and his story is highly memorable.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2017)
Ten years ago, when he was just 4, Sebastian accidentally killed his infant sister with his father’s unattended handgun. Now a teen, he struggles to cope with the far-reaching effects of this horrific experience. Though on the surface they’ve moved on with their lives, Sebastian and his family are still lost in their grief. His father moved out many years before, and Sebastian and his mother have eked out a daily routine, but anguish underpins their every move. When his lighthearted, wealthy, white best friend, Evan, leaves for summer camp, Sebastian thinks that the time is almost right to end his own life, as he’s long planned. However, the auspicious arrival of a new neighbor, Aneesa, changes things for him in ways he couldn’t have predicted. Rich characterization anchors this explosive novel, from white Sebastian’s likable, brainy, but at-times acerbic intensity to Aneesa’s upbeat, intelligent kindness. Aneesa is Muslim—her dad is Turkish-American—and she and Sebastian discuss everything from Islamophobia to their families to how to turn his pizza-making hobby into a YouTube Channel. If such details as Sebastian’s love of all types of antiquated pop culture seem odd to some teens, they are rooted in his deep desire to turn time back, and there will be others who appreciate these genuine quirks. Regardless, readers will root for him to find some sort of peace. Heartbreaking and brutally compelling. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Barry Lyga is a recovering comic book geek. According to Kirkus, he’s also a “YA rebel-author.” Somehow, the two just don’t seem to go together to him.

When he was a kid, everyone told him that comic books were garbage and would rot his brain, but he had the last laugh. Raised on a steady diet of comics, he worked in the comic book industry for ten years, but now writes full-time because, well, wouldn’t you?

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl is his first novel. Unsoul’d is his latest. There are a whole bunch in between, featuring everything from the aftermath of child abuse to pre-teens with superpowers to serial killers. He clearly does not know how to stick to one subject.

His website is www.barrylyga.com.

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Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Radio Silence by Alice Osman. March 28, 2017. HarperTeen, 496 p. ISBN: 9780062335715.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl.

I just wanted to say—we don’t.

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying. When she’s not studying, she’s up in her room making fan art for her favorite podcast, Universe City.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As. But no one knows he’s the creator of Universe City, who goes by the name Radio Silence.

When Frances gets a message from Radio Silence asking if she’ll collaborate with him, everything changes. Frances and Aled spend an entire summer working together and becoming best friends. They get each other when no one else does.

But when Aled’s identity as Radio Silence is revealed, Frances fears that the future of Universe City—and their friendship—is at risk. Aled helped her find her voice. Without him, will she have the courage to show the world who she really is? Or will she be met with radio silence?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Underage drinking; Cyberbullying

 

Book Trailer

Excerpt

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 8-11. “I was study machine Frances Janvier. I was going to Cambridge . . . Uni, job, money, happiness. That’s what you do. That’s the formula,” Frances mulls to herself as she spends an uncomfortable evening with friends, trying to relax and enjoy herself. Not that there’s much chance of relaxation or enjoyment, ever. Frances is a superstressed British teen, and the only thing she really loves is drawing and Universe City, a mysterious YouTube podcast with a haunting voice and a story that echoes her pain. Anonymous narrator Radio Silence describes a bleak world, seemingly a university campus that he or she is trying to escape. When Frances is invited to add her online fan art to the podcast, the story moves into high gear. Turns out the creator is neighbor Aled Last, twin brother of Frances’ former friend Carys. What emerges is an intense, highly engaging, well-plotted story of relationships, explorations into gay and bisexual identities, family trauma, a straitjacketlike education system, and, mostly, kids yearning to be their truest selves despite it all. Though a companion title to Oseman’s Solitaire (2015), this story stands alone and features believable characters in a unique setting. Readers this side of the pond will enjoy the school system comparisons and identify with the stress their witty, cyberworldly peers undergo as they hang on for dear life.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
Two teens connect through a mysterious podcast in this sophomore effort by British author Oseman (Solitaire, 2015).Frances Janvier is a 17-year-old British-Ethiopian head girl who is so driven to get into Cambridge that she mostly forgoes friendships for schoolwork. Her only self-indulgence is listening to and creating fan art for the podcast Universe City, “a…show about a suit-wearing student detective looking for a way to escape a sci-fi, monster-infested university.” Aled Last is a quiet white boy who identifies as “partly asexual.” When Frances discovers that Aled is the secret creator of Universe City, the two embark on a passionate, platonic relationship based on their joint love of pop culture. Their bond is complicated by Aled’s controlling mother and by Frances’ previous crush on Aled’s twin sister, Carys, who ran away last year and disappeared. When Aled’s identity is accidently leaked to the Universe City fandom, he severs his relationship with Frances, leaving her questioning her Cambridge goals and determined to win back his affection, no matter what the cost. Frances’ narration is keenly intelligent; she takes mordant pleasure in using an Indian friend’s ID to get into a club despite the fact they look nothing alike: “Gotta love white people.” Though the social-media–suffused plot occasionally lags, the main characters’ realistic relationship accurately depicts current issues of gender, race, and class. A smart, timely outing. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Alice Oseman was born in 1994 in Kent, England. She completed a degree in English at Durham University in 2016 and is currently a full-time writer and illustrator. Alice can usually be found staring aimlessly at computer screens, questioning the meaninglessness of existence, or doing anything and everything to avoid getting an office job.

Her website is www.aliceoseman.com.

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Radio Silence on Amazon

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Just a Girl by Carrie Mesrobian

Just a Girl by Carrie Mesrobian. March 28, 2017. HarperCollins, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062349910.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

Senior Rianne Hettrick-Wynne has had her share of hookups and parties in small-town Wereford, Minnesota. Now volleyball season is over and her once-solid friendships are unraveling, while an all-of-a-sudden relationship with Luke Pinsky is weirdly becoming serious. Add to that the possibility of getting kicked out of her house, and Rianne is desperate to make a plan that doesn’t include going to college or working at Planet Tan for the rest of her life.

At the same time, her divorced parents have started cohabiting again without any explanation, making Rianne wonder why they’re so intent on pointing out every bad choice she makes when they can’t even act like adults.

That’s not the only question she can’t answer: How is it that Sergei, a broken-English-speaking Russian who makes his own vodka, is the only one who seems to understand her? And why, when she has Luke, the most unattainable boy in Wereford, all to herself, does she want anything but?

Perhaps most confounding is the “easy girl” reputation that Rianne has gotten stuck with by doing the same things that guys do without judgment or consequence. If they’re just being guys, then why can’t Rianne just be a girl?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Drugs; Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 10-12. Rianne’s spent her whole life in Wereford, a small, nothing town in the Midwest, living with her divorced mom, getting up to mild trouble with her friends, casually sleeping around, and not trying terribly hard in school. By the time senior year rolls around, she still doesn’t have any plans for her future, and she finds herself in a relationship with notorious playboy Luke Pinsky, who’s kind of loyal and sweet, if oblivious to her needs. But when she meets Sergei, a 25-year-old Russian man who’s studying agriculture at the community college, she’s immediately entranced by his assured worldliness and, later, the confident way he touches her, which she keeps a secret from everyone, especially Luke. When she’s faced with making a definitive choice about her future, can she decide between what she truly wants and what’s been deemed “good”? Mesrobian is at her best plumbing the depths of what happens between big choices and elevating those potent moments of transition, and she does that beautifully here. Rianne’s rich inner life, especially when it’s at odds with what’s expected of her, is captivatingly full of meaningful, compelling drama, and Mesrobian’s frank, realistic depiction of teenage sexuality is a particular bright spot. There’s nothing simple about being just a girl, and this resonant, thoughtful novel makes that abundantly, stunningly clear.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2016)
A high school senior whose mother has given her an ultimatum that she must leave home immediately after graduation struggles to decide what she will do next. Bright and tough but at times self-loathing, Rianne stumbles into a serious relationship with her hook-up buddy, Luke, during their last few months of school. However, she also has several electrifying sexual encounters with Sergei, a Russian student studying at a nearby college. Despite enjoying a small, tightknit group of friends, Rianne has had to deal with being labeled a slut, and while she recognizes it for the unfair double standard it is, she is still shamed by it. The alcohol- and pot-fueled hangouts that make up a lot of the social scene in their small Minnesota town will ring true to rural teens. Rianne is a complex, conflicted character, and her third-person narrative voice keeps her at a bit of a remove even as she grapples intensely with her thoughts. All of the central characters are white with the exception of Rianne’s friend Kaj, who is Hmong-American, and each is interesting in his or her own right. The unexpected ending may leave some readers wondering, but it’s not a surprise that this slice-of-life novel leaves things slightly ambiguous. An authentic, smart read for older teens. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Carrie Mesrobian teaches writing to teens in Minneapolis, where she lives with her husband and daughter. Her debut novel, Sex & Violence, was named a Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, in addition to being nominated for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award. She has also written Just a Girl, Perfectly Good White Boy, and Cut Both Ways.

Her website is www.carriemesrobian.com.

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Just a Girl on Amazon

Just a Girl  on Goodreads

Just a Girl  on JLG

Just a Girl  Publisher Page

The Football Girl by Thatcher Heldring

The Football Girl by Thatcher Heldring. April  4, 2017. Delacorte Press, 208 p. ISBN: 9780385741835.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 540.

Team Statistics:

Caleb McCleary. QB. Following in his brother’s “baller status” footsteps.

Tessa Dooley. Any position that needs filling. Her motto: “Be afraid.”

The summer before Caleb and Tessa enter high school, friendship has blossomed into a relationship…and their playful sports days are coming to an end. Caleb is getting ready to try out for the football team, and Tessa is training for cross-country.

But all their structured plans derail in the final flag game when they lose. Tessa doesn’t want to end her career as a loser. She really enjoys playing, and if she’s being honest, she likes it even more than running. So what if she decided to play football instead? What would happen between her and Caleb? Or between Tessa and her two best friends, who are counting on her to try out for cross-country with them? And will her parents be upset that she’s decided to take her hobby to the next level?

This summer, Caleb and Tessa figure out just what it means to be a boyfriend, girlfriend, teammate, best friend, and someone worth cheering for.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 8-11. Tessa loves football, and she’s been honing her skills with cute boy-next-door Caleb. She’s always accepted that she’d have to opt for something other than football, like cross-country, to participate in school sports. But now that she’s getting ready for high school, she wants to make some decisions for herself, so in spite of her demanding parents’ wishes, she insists on going to football camp. Heldring alternates between Caleb’s and Tessa’s perspectives, nicely exploring their struggles with self-determination, family conflict, and the importance of teamwork as well as their efforts to balance their burgeoning relationship with the pressures they each encounter regarding Tessa’s football dreams. Meanwhile, Tessa faces extra scrutiny—her mother is running for mayor, so her football aspirations put her at the center of a local media frenzy. Though Caleb and Tessa’s voices occasionally sound quite similar, there’s enough fast-paced football action, realistic family drama, and sweet romance in this slim novel that readers looking for girl-powered sports stories should find plenty to like.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
If any girl can make Pilchuck High School’s football team, it’s fourteen-year-old wide receiver Tessa Dooley. She’s fast, runs good routes, catches well, and knows how to play head games with defenders. But so far all she has played is summer-league flag football. She doesn’t know if she can handle tackle football—she’s never even worn a helmet. As the summer unfolds, she finds herself having to defend her love of the game (her parents want her to concentrate on more serious things); she also finds herself becoming the girlfriend of quarterback Caleb McCleary. In alternating first-person narratives, Tessa and Caleb give voice to their feelings about each other and about football. Though the back-and-forth, he said/she said of the narrative feels like Ping-Pong at times, it does serve to illuminate the appropriately complicated emotions both of a young romance and of pursuing a dream. Heldring writes with insight and restraint, letting complicated feelings remain complicated. There are no heroics in Tessa’s first official school game, but a satisfying performance and a realization that she has been an inspiration for a younger girl who decides she, too, wants to play football someday. Interviewed in the local paper, Tessa says, “I guess what matters is that I have a choice…Whether I play football in high school or not, I’ll never have to wonder what was possible.” As of now (according to the book), sixteen hundred girls across the country are playing high-school football and, like Tessa, pushing themselves to see what’s possible. dean schneider

About the Author

Thatcher Heldring grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where he taught himself to write and play sports—though not at the same time. Heldring has had several jobs in publishing. He has also worked as a grocery bagger, a ditchdigger, a small forward, a goalie, a scorekeeper, a coach, a rabid fan, a benchwarmer, and a shortstop. He lives with his wife and son in Seattle, a good place for indoor sports.

He is the author of Toby Wheeler: Eighth-Grade Benchwarmer, Roy Morelli Steps Up to the Plate, The League, and The Football Girl.

Her website is www.spitballinc.com.

Around the Web

The Football Girl on Amazon

The Football Girl  on Goodreads

The Football Girl on JLG

The Football Girl  Publisher Page

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 by Sara Holbrook

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 by Sara Holbrook. MArch 7, 2017. Calkins Creek, 224 p. ISBN: 9781629794983.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.0; Lexile: 740.

Set in 1954, this compelling historical novel tells the story of a young girl’s struggles and triumphs in the aftermath of World War II. The war is over, but the threat of communism and the Cold War loom over the United States. In Detroit, Michigan, twelve-year-old Marjorie Campbell struggles with the ups and downs of family life, dealing with her veteran father’s unpredictable outbursts, keeping her mother’s stash of banned library books a secret, and getting along with her new older “brother,” the teenager her family took in after his veteran father’s death. When a new girl from Germany transfers to Marjorie’s class, Marjorie finds herself torn between befriending Inga and pleasing her best friend, Bernadette, by writing in a slam book that spreads rumors about Inga. Marjorie seems to be confronting enemies everywhere—at school, at the library, in her neighborhood, and even in the news. In all this turmoil, Marjorie tries to find her own voice and figure out what is right and who the real enemies actually are.

Includes an author’s note and bibliography.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Racism; Prejudice; Xenophobic epithets; Descriptions of World War II atrocities

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
Poet Holbrook brings back the Cold War in her debut novel for middle grades. White sixth-grader Marjorie has lots to worry about in the late winter of 1954. Her father came back from World War II jumpy and abrupt. She’s not a fan of Frank, the 18-year-old orphan her father took in, or Carol Anne, her skittish 6-year-old sister. She’s best friends with Bernadette, also white, who rules the sixth grade and would make the world’s worst enemy, and she just got assigned to share a school desk with Inga, a “displaced person” whom Bernadette has decided to hate. Inga came to Detroit from Canada, but she speaks, sounds, and looks German. Marjorie is drawn to Inga, who’s sunny, determined, and kind, but she’s afraid to befriend her. Meanwhile Sen. Joe McCarthy’s national hunt for Communists has led to the banning of many books from public libraries; in defiance of her husband’s direct orders, Marjorie’s mother hides a box of rescued banned books under Marjorie’s bed. Holbrook pulls elements of the story from her own multicultural childhood in Detroit after the war. She’s ace at delineating the petty jealousies and tyrannies of middle school girls, and her evocation of the era feels absolutely true. Marjorie’s cowardice and ultimate courage lead to a rousingly satisfying ending that, if it doesn’t quite tie up all the plot threads, will resonate with readers. A solid fictional examination of a time rarely depicted for this age group. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Publishers Weekly (January 16, 2017)
As 12-year-old Marjorie Campbell navigates the standard awkwardness and small cruelties of sixth-grade life in 1954, she is increasingly plagued by questions. Should she befriend the new girl in school, who claims to be from Canada but seems undeniably German? Should she participate in the slam book her supposed best friend Bernadette has initiated? What about the books her college-educated, independent-thinking mother smuggled out of the library and stashed under Marjorie’s bed? Does wearing a red scarf make her a Commie sympathizer, as Bernadette asserts? And what’s worse, anyway, a Nazi or a Commie? Holbrook (Weird? [Me, Too!] Let’s Be Friends) brings home the complexities of the Cold War era in a multicultural Detroit neighborhood where neighborliness and name-calling coexist. With a WWII veteran father with PTSD and an annoying fatherless teenage boy living in her family’s basement, Marjorie is a sympathetic character whose struggles to understand fear and prejudice, as embodied in her friends and family, resonate sharply in today’s political climate. An author’s note explains Holbrook’s personal connections to the story and offers further historical detail about the era. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)

About the Author

Sara Holbrook is the author of multiple poetry books for children published by WordSong/Boyds Mills Press, including Zombies! Evacuate the School!, Weird? (Me, Too!), and Wham! It’s a Poetry Jam. This is her first novel. She lives in Mentor, Ohio.

Her website is www.saraholbrook.com.

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The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 on Amazon

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 on Goodreads

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The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 Publisher Page

The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie

The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie. April 18, 2017. Flux, 281 p. ISBN: 9781635830002.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 870.

Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she’d been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it’s not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It’s being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart. But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers Boa is not the only a monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against the creatures she used to care for and protect? Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?

Sequel to: The Abyss Surrounds Us

Part of Series: The Abyss

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking; Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Three weeks have passed since Cassandra lost her Reckoner monster Durga, her life as a trainer, and her heart to a pirate girl. In this sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us (2016), Santa Elena, pirate queen and captain of the Minnow, has retreated to the freezing waters of the NeoAntarctic, fleeing another Reckoner beast gone wild. Cas is stuck when she realizes that the illegal monsters stolen by a greedy agent are all loose in the ocean, attacking ships and people with no trainers to guide them: she grew up as a trainer and is attached to the beasts. On the other hand, she’s now a pirate on the receiving end of their wrath, and she wants the threat neutralized. This is a new kind of adventure book—sci-fi piracy at its finest—and Skrutskie has penned another winner. There is definite closure in this second book of a planned duology, but enough open ends mean that Skrutskie could certainly return to this world, and readers will surely hope she does.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2017)
The sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us (2016) finds this world’s post-apocalyptic future threatened by rogue genetically engineered sea monsters.Cas Leung, once an aspiring trainer of the savage, gargantuan Reckoners that protect the world’s maritime traffic from pirates, now bears the tattoo of pirate captain Santa Elena’s Minnow. It’s the only way, she figures, she can pursue the double-dealing Reckoner agent who has been selling unlicensed pups to pirates. When the Minnow tangles with one that’s now grown and on the loose, Cas realizes the NeoPacific’s fast-dwindling fisheries are being consumed by these Hellbeasts, and global environmental catastrophe looms again. Even as Santa Elena convenes the Salt, the treaty organization of the NeoPacific’s pirates, to address this threat, the relationship begun previously between Cas and fellow trainee Swift continues to evolve, physical attraction and affection ever in conflict with the ruthless competition for supremacy that defines a pirate trainee’s life. Skrutskie deftly balances introspection and action, making for a page-turning, thoughtful read. Her worldbuilding envisions a brutal and diverse future: gender is no barrier to success—kick-ass women abound, most notably brown-skinned Santa Elena and white Swift—and neither, for the most part, is race, although differences are both acknowledged and celebrated. Chinese-American Cas’ moment with a plate of siumai, ordered in her “best Canto,” is “pure bliss” with “food that is so thoroughly mine.” A dazzling, satisfying sequel. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Emily Skrutskie is six feet tall. She was born in Massachusetts, raised in Virginia, and forged in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. She holds a B.A. in Performing and Media Arts from Cornell University, where she studied an outrageous and demanding combination of film, computer science, and game design.

Her website is skrutskie.com.

Around the Web

The Edge of the Abyss on Amazon

The Edge of the Abyss on Goodreads

The Edge of the Abyss on JLG

The Edge of the Abyss Publisher Page

The Palace of Memory by Julian Sedgwick

The Palace of Memory by Julian Sedgwick. MArch 1, 2017. Carolrhoda Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9781512499940.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.2; Lexile: 790.

Danny Woo has just escaped from the jaws of death. But he’s still haunted by the suspicious deaths of his parents, who were the star performers in a radical traveling circus, the Mysterium. When he discovers that the Mysterium is re-forming in Barcelona without him he’s devastated. But after learning that the Mysterium’s enemies may be active in Barcelona, he rushes to warn his friends.

Sequel to: Black Dragon

Part of series: Mysterium (BOOK 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 4-7. After numerous close calls in The Black Dragon (2016), Daniel Woo is still trying to uncover the truth behind his parents’ deaths. What’s more, the Forty-Nine, a murderous criminal group, seems to be targeting members of his old circus troupe, the Mysterium. Danny gives his aunt the slip to rejoin the recently reformed troupe in Barcelona, feeling angry and betrayed that no one told him they were mounting a new show—not even his close friends Zamora and Sing Sing. Tensions rise as Danny digs for information about his parents’ final days, and trouble dogs his every step. Meanwhile, a woman in a green coat is spotted at the scene of several dangerous accidents, and Danny is sure she’s involved in the circus’ streak of bad luck. Sedgwick keeps the pages turning with nonstop action; daring circus stunts; light mystery; and an interesting, multiethnic cast of characters. An abrupt ending signals more high-stakes adventures for Danny Woo and the Mysterium.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
Following the events of series opener The Black Dragon (2016), 12-year-old Chinese-English orphan Danny Woo is once again running for his life, but this time he is not the only one in danger.When the magical traveling circus, the Mysterium, decides to reopen, Danny fears that there is a traitor among the performers. He travels from Hong Kong to Barcelona to warn them, but once there he discovers that the stakes are much higher than he imagined. Even his godfather, Major Zamora, cannot protect him when a hired assassin begins playing a deadly game of cat and mouse. Danny will need the skills he learned from his circus-performer parents as well as the street smarts he has acquired since a mysterious explosion forced him from his boarding school and into a dangerous game he does not yet understand. This fast-paced mystery is packed with exotic locations, a multicultural cast, code-breaking, high-speed chases, and masterful magic tricks. Readers unfamiliar with the series will have a challenge initially, but the payoff is there. At times cohesion and clarity are sacrificed for intensity and drama, but the effect is pure heart-stopping adventure. And while Danny’s sleight-of-hand and acrobatic ability give him an edge, his logic, his loyalty, and his determination are what will ultimately serve him best. Chaos barely contained makes for a thrilling read. (Adventure. 8-11)

About the Author

Born in rural East Kent in 1966 Julian Sedgwick resolved to become a writer at an early age. He and his brother (writer Marcus Sedgwick) relied on their imaginations, and each other, to entertain themselves – inspired by their father’s love of cinema, theatre and storytelling.

Julian took a long detour whilst working out what and how to write – via a degree and a half at Cambridge University reading Oriental Studies and Philosophy, dying his hair various ill-advised colours, working as a bookseller, painter, therapist and researcher for film and TV – before moving into screenplay development and writing.

A lifelong interest in the arts and culture of China and Japan has influenced much of his work, as has his fascination with performance, street art and circus.

Julian lives near Ely, Cambridgeshire, with his wife and two sons, waiting impatiently for it to get cold enough to go Fen skating.

Her website is http://www.juliansedgwick.co.uk.

Around the Web

The Palace of Memory on Amazon

The Palace of Memory on Goodreads

The Palace of Memory on JLG

The Palace of Memory Publisher Page

Bull by David Elliott

Bull by David Elliott. March 28, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 200 p. ISBN: 9780544610606.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

SEE THE STORY OF THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR
IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT

Minos thought he could
Pull a fast one
On me,
Poseidon!
God of the Sea!
But I’m the last one
On whom you
Should try such a thing.
The nerve of that guy.
The balls. The audacity.
I AM THE OCEAN!
I got capacity!
Depths! Darkness! Delphic power!
So his sweet little plan
Went big-time sour
And his wife had a son
Born with horns and a muzzle
Who ended up
In an underground puzzle.
What is it with you mortals?
You just can’t seem to learn:
If you play with fire, babies,
You’re gonna get burned.

Much like Lin-Manuel Miranda did in Hamilton, the New York Times best-selling author David Elliott turns a classic on its head in form and approach, updating the timeless story of Theseus and the Minotaur for a new generation. A rough, rowdy, and darkly comedic young adult retelling in verse, Bull will have readers reevaluating one of mythology’s most infamous monsters.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Bestiality

 

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Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. This striking reexamination of the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur maintains the bones of the original story: Minos, King of Crete, angers sea god Poseidon, who exacts his revenge not on the king but on the king’s wife. Queen Pasiphae, seduced by a bull, births Asterion, the famed future Minotaur, who is ultimately locked in a labyrinth and killed by hero Theseus. Elliott focuses this novel in verse on Asterion and the women in his family, painting them in a particularly sympathetic light. Rotating first-person narrations appear in a variety of poetic forms. Poseidon takes on the role of irreverent, anachronistic narrator, as he raps the story (“Life’s not for wimps. / Sometimes gods are gods / And sometimes they’re pimps”); Pasiphae grows increasingly nonsensical; Asterion speaks in childlike rhymes; Daedalus, labyrinth builder, is ever the architect with rigid, four-line stanzas; and princess Ariadne’s flowery language is imbued with a clever slant rhyme that belies her coquettish facade. When Theseus the hero finally struts onto the page, it’s with significant frat-bro swagger (“Ariadne! What a rack! / I knew I’d get her in the sack / As for her bro? / He won’t outlive me. / No sweat. / In time they all forgive me”). Effective both for classrooms and pleasure reading, this modernization brings new relevancy to an old story. It’s a conceit that easily could have floundered; in Elliott’s capable hands, it soars.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
There’s little grand or heroic in Elliott’s clever verse version of the classical story of the Minotaur: its title, Bull, is topically and colloquially apt. The story unrolls in the voices of seven characters, each with his or her own poetic form (an appended author’s note details them), but it’s the god Poseidon who determines the tone—as instigator, manipulator, and despiser of humankind. His raunchy, derisive take on humans (“Man! / That guy’s a dick!” he says of Minos) is a spreading stain that permeates even the innocence of Asterion the bull-headed boy, maternal Pasiphae (who “take[s] refuge in madness”), and valiant Ariadne. The sympathetic heart of Elliott’s story is Asterion/the Minotaur: Elliott presents him as a physically deformed youth, suffering cruelly from his hateful father’s abuse. But Poseidon’s voice comments on all, and Elliott characterizes him as despicable, misogynistic, and sexually prurient. Raplike wordplay, rhymes with coercive predictability, unpleasant intensity—it’s horribly effective, culminating in the god’s conclusion: “the things you mortals do: / Ridicule. / Follow orders. / Stay passive. / Betray. / What a pity! / It could have gone another way.” Such is the matter of the Greek myths. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

David Elliott is the author of The Cool Crazy Crickets and The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle. He says of And Here’s To You!, “My neighbor’s rooster and I were having a disagreement. I wanted to sleep in the morning; he wanted to crow. The rooster won, of course. The first verse of And Here’s To You! is a tribute to his victory and to the joys found in simply following your nature.”

Her website is www.davidelliottbooks.com.

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The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. May 2, 2017. Philomel Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9780399547010.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 640.

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: One instance of self-harm, mild sexual themes

 

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Booklist starred (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. A sufferer of anterograde amnesia, 17-year-old Flora has not been able to create new memories since doctors removed a brain tumor. Every day, she wakes up forgetting everything after age 10 and must use a complex array of notes, phone messages, and maps to negotiate the world. But something happens on the night of Drake’s going-away party. She remembers meeting him on the beach, and she remembers kissing him. Desperate to know how and why, Flora assembles a plan—one Post-it note at a time—to travel from England to Svalbard, an island near the North Pole, where Drake works as a research assistant. What follows is a remarkable odyssey of an atypical unreliable narrator—one who cannot rely on herself. Barr has crafted an enthralling story reminiscent of the film Memento, placing readers in the position of Flora’s memory. We follow what happens to her across scenes, yet are forced to watch her continually lose sense of time and place. One of the book’s driving forces is the hope that Flora will break out of these cycles, using both her ingenuity and grit. The one message that cannot be erased—a tattoo on her hand—encapsulates the book and the character perfectly: Flora, be brave. A deftly, compassionately written mystery.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
A white British girl with anterograde amnesia travels to the Arctic to chase after a boy whose kiss has stayed in her memory when nothing else has.Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks cannot remember anything that happened before she was 10 years old, when doctors removed a tumor from her brain. Her memory resets itself every few hours, and ever present written reminders help orient her to her reality. Until one evening, when her best friend’s boyfriend, Drake (also white), kisses her, and she finds that she can remember every detail of their brief time together. The next day Drake leaves to study abroad in Norway, leaving Flora clinging to her singular new memory and the desperate hope that Drake holds the key to her recovery. When her parents inadvertently leave her home alone, she takes matters into her own hands: she travels to Norway to look for Drake. Despite difficulties and delusions, she meets charming strangers who help her along the way and ends up discovering hidden parts of herself amid the icy, beautiful Arctic. Slowly, memories of her past begin to filter through and puzzle pieces fall into place, revealing that there is more to Flora’s story than she realizes. Flora’s voice is frank and childlike, yet her verve and determination help to drive forward a necessarily cyclical plot. An affecting portrayal of living with amnesia and discovering one’s own agency. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Emily Barr worked as a journalist in London, but always hankered after a quiet room and a book to write. She went travelling for a year, writing a column in the Guardian about it as she went, and it was there that she had an idea for a novel set in the world of backpackers in Asia. This became Backpack, which won the WH Smith New Talent Award. She has since written eleven more adult novels published in the UK and around the world, and a novella, Blackout, for the Quick Reads series. Her twelfth novel, The Sleeper, is a psychological thriller set on the London to Cornwall sleeper train.

In 2013 she went to Svalbard with the idea of setting a thriller in the Arctic. The book that came out of it was The One Memory of Flora Banks, a thriller for young _adults

Her website is www.emilybarr.com.

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Guys Read: Heroes & Villains by Jon Scieszka

Guys Read: Heroes & Villains by Jon Scieszka. April 4, 2017. Walden Pond Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9780062385611.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.2.

Heroes and Villains, the seventh volume in Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read Library of Great Reading, is chock-full of adventure featuring an array of characters—with and without capes.

Featuring ten all-new, original stories that run the gamut from fantasy to comics to contemporary adventure to nonfiction, and featuring eleven of the most acclaimed, exciting writers for kids working today, this collection is the perfect book for you, whether you use your powers for good—or evil.

Authors include Laurie Halse Anderson, Cathy Camper and Raúl Gonzalez, Sharon Creech, Jack Gantos, Christopher Healy, Deborah Hopkinson, Ingrid Law, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Lemony Snicket, and Eugene Yelchin, with illustrations by Jeff Stokely.

Part of Series: Guys Read

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence

 

 

 

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Guys Read: Heroes & Villains on Amazon

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