Tag Archives: Fiction

The Law of Finders Keepers by Sheila Turnage

The Law of Finders Keepers by Sheila Turnage. September 11, 2018. Kathy Dawson Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780803739628.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.3; Lexile: 580.

Pirates, family, and the truth about Mo’s Upstream Mother collide in the conclusion to the Newbery Honor and New York Times bestselling Three Times Lucky 

When the Colonel and Miss Lana share the clues about Mo’s watery origins that they’ve been saving, it seems the time is finally right for the Desperado Detectives (aka Mo, Dale, and Harm) to tackle the mystery of Mo’s Upstream Mother. It’s the scariest case Mo’s had by far. But before they can get started, Mayor Little’s mean mother hires them to hunt in her attic for clues to Blackbeard’s treasure, which could be buried right in Tupelo Landing. Turns out, the Desperados aren’t the only ones looking. A professional treasure hunter named Gabe has come to town with Harm’s estranged mother–and soon the race is on, even though the treasure’s rumored to be cursed. As centuries- and decades-old secrets are dragged into the light, there isn’t a single person in Tupelo Landing quite prepared for all that they uncover. Especially Mo.

The fourth and last book in the Mo & Dale Mystery series and the long-awaited conclusion to Three Times LuckyThe Law of Finders Keepers is a heartbreaking, heartwarming, honest, and hilarious adventure that you can read right after you finish Three Times Lucky.

Sequel to: The Odds of Getting Even

Part of Series: Mo and Dale Mysteries (Book #4)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Criminal Culture

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 4-6. It’s a rare snowy day in eastern North Carolina when a bombastic out-of-towner arrives in Tupelo Landing to hunt for Blackbeard’s treasure. Sixth-graders Mo, Dale, and Harm form a rival team of searchers with the advantage of local knowledge, friends, and relations. Meanwhile, new clues emerge regarding Mo’s “Upstream Mother.” Pulled from a nearby river during a hurricane flood as an infant and taken in by her beloved “family of choice” (Miss Lana and the Colonel), Mo yearns to know about her blood kin. Mo, Dale, and Harm follow up every lead that might help uncover her past. As readers learned in the previous series volumes, beginning with Three Times Lucky (2012), Turnage’s fine-tuned talent for storytelling is as evident as her understated, irrepressible humor and her creative ability to turn a phrase, such as Mo’s description of an unsympathetic character after a disappointment: “his face going as soft and pale as raw dumplings.” While the plot and subplots veer off in unexpected directions, they intertwine at points before the satisfying conclusion. The large, intergenerational cast of idiosyncratic characters enriches this first-person narrative at every turn. Amusing, dramatic, and tender, this memorable chapter book is the final volume of the Mo & Dale Mystery series.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2018)
In this fourth entry about Mo and Dale (beginning with Three Times Lucky, rev. 7/12), sixth graders Mo LoBeau, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, and Harm Crenshaw are still operating their world-famous Desperado Detective Agency. This time up, they have two mysteries to solve. The first brings new evidence concerning Mo’s continuing search for her biological mother, and the second plays on North Carolina lore as they pursue Blackbeard’s lost treasure. Having previously introduced the various inhabitants and setting of Tupelo Landing and established the main characters, here Turnage is free to concentrate on plot and her signature down-home Southern language. Characters grow and reveal their own complexities throughout the course of the novel: Harm must come to grips with his relationship with his mother, Mo needs to think about her mixed feelings for Harm, and Dale requires kissing lessons in preparation for Valentine’s Day. But the heart of the novel is the mysteries, and the solution to both involves more sophisticated detective work than the Desperados have employed before. This is a sit-back-and-let-the-story-carry-you kind of novel, but one that leaves questions of family and community for readers to ponder after the last page is turned. betty carter

About the Author

Sheila Turnage is from eastern North Carolina, just like Miss Moses LoBeau, the protagonist from the Mo & Dale mystery series that began with Three Times LuckyThree Times Lucky is a Newbery Honor Book, a New York Times bestseller, an E. B. White Read-Aloud Honor Book, and an Edgar Award finalist. It has been nominated for nineteen state awards, including the Texas Bluebonnet Master List, and has been licensed in five countries. Her follow-up book, The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, also a New York Times bestseller, received five starred reviews and was a SIBA Winter 2014 Okra Pick and a Junior Library Guild selection. Sheila is also the author of two more books in the Mo & Dale Mystery series, The Odds of Getting Even and The Law of Finders Keepers, and the nonfiction adult books Haunted Inns of the Southeast and Compass American Guides: North Carolina, as well as one picture book, Trout the Magnificent, illustrated by Janet Stevens. Her website is www.sheilaturnage.com

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Dive Smack by Demetra Brodsky

Dive Smack by Demetra Brodsky. June 19, 2018. Tor Teen, 336 p. ISBN: 9780765396952.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

Theo Mackey only remembers one thing for certain about the fire that destroyed his home: he lit the match.

Sure, it was an accident. But the blaze killed his mom and set his dad on a path to self-destruction. Everything else about that fateful night is full of gaping holes in Theo’s mind, for good reason. Maybe it’s better that way. As captain of the Ellis Hollow Diving Team, with straight A’s and solid friends, he’s only one semester away from securing a scholarship, and leaving his past behind.

But when a family history project gets assigned at school, new memories come rushing to the surface, memories that make him question what he really knows about his family, the night of the fire, and if he can trust anyone—including himself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Marijuana, Mild sexual themes, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Strong language, Underage drinking

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (May 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 17))
Grades 8-11. In this strong psychological thriller, a school assignment sends golden boy Theo Mackey down the rabbit hole of his family’s twisted history. Theo is careful to appear confident, easygoing, and reliable, the way a popular, straight-A student and star athlete should. Inside, though, he’s still wracked with guilt over the only thing he remembers about the night his mother died: he started the fire that killed her. When his teacher assigns a family history project senior year, Theo has few resources. His father died last year, leaving his family’s history in only two hands: his alcoholic grandfather’s and his father’s best friend’s, a psychiatrist who’s treating Theo for PTSD. Both of them seem to be working harder to keep Theo in the dark than help him learn the truth. Theo’s search dredges up buried memories, accompanied by scarily accurate premonitions of danger. Brodsky’s debut combines an engaging school story, filled with best-friend shenanigans, first love, and a fascinating look at competitive diving, with a tense psychological mystery that pivots reasonably well into the paranormal.

Publishers Weekly (April 23, 2018)
In this amnesia-driven psychological thriller, an athlete is haunted by the slowly returning memories of the fire that destroyed his home and killed his mother, a fire he believes he started. Springboard diver Theo just wants to master his mother’s favorite dive in the hope that this accomplishment will help get him into Stanford. However, as he works with several classmates, including his crush, Iris, on a family-history project for school, he discovers numerous mysteries surrounding his mother’s life and death, and he starts to wonder if his adoptive uncle, Dr. Phil Maddox, may know more than he lets on. Furthermore, Theo’s increasingly frequent visions of imminent events are eroding his performance in both school and on the diving board. With Iris’s help, Theo tries to uncover the truth linking his lost memories and the glimpses he receives of the future before things spiral out of control. In an impressive debut, Brodsky injects her teen drama with ambiguity, and a subtle hint of paranormal phenomena, leaving readers to guess at what’s really going on. Strong characters and a compelling mystery make this a real page-turner. Ages 12-up.

About the Author

Demetra Brodsky is an award-winning graphic designer & art director turned writer. She has a B.F.A from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and lives in Southern California with her family of four and two lovable rescue dogs. She is a first generation Greek-American and a member of International Thriller Writers. Dive Smack, her debut novel, is a 2018 Junior Library Guild Selection, a January 2018 ALAN pick, and a Buzz Books 2018: Young Adult Spring/Summer notable mention. It’s also dedicated to Pumpkin, the monarch butterfly she once saved from the brink of death. Once you read the book, you’ll understand why.

Her website is www.demetrabrodsky.com

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Takedown by Laura Shovan

Takedown by Laura Shovan. June 19, 2018. Wendy Lamb Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9780553521429.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.2; Lexile: 610.

“You’re only as good as your partner.”

Mikayla is a wrestler; when you grow up in a house full of brothers who are die-hard mat heads, it’s in your DNA. She even has a wrestling name: Mickey. Some people don’t want a girl on the team. But that won’t stop her. She’s determined to work hard, and win.

Lev is determined too–he’s going to make it to the state championship. He’s used to training with his two buddies as the Fearsome Threesome. But at the beginning of sixth grade, he’s paired with a new partner—a girl. This better not get in the way of his goal.

Mickey and Lev work hard together, and find a way to become friends. But at States, there can only be one winner.

This warmhearted, engaging novel by the author of the highly praised The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary explores competition among athletes, how it influences family and friendships, and what happens when one girl wants to break barriers in a sport dominated by boys.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Grades 3-6. Along with best friend Kenna, Mikayla is joining her first traveling wrestling league. Preferring to wrestle under the name Mickey, she’s angry when the coach of the Eagles, the team her brothers wrestled with, declares he won’t accept girls, and Kenna admits that she wants to join the drama club instead. With limited options, Mickey joins the Gladiators team. Lev, a Gladiator, is determined to make it to state championships this year and plans to train hard. However, he feels his goals are hampered when Coach pairs him with Mickey—a girl! Shovan has written a sports book that will appeal to all genders and non-sports-fans alike, who will be drawn into Mickey’s struggle to be seen as a wrestler (not a “female” wrestler) and Lev’s grappling with the realization that wrestling may not be his true passion. As the chapters alternate between the characters’ perspectives, readers will quickly become invested, particularly when the tweens’ goals eventually merge and they discover that a true wrestler is anyone with the courage to step on the mat.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2018)
Sixth-graders Lev and Mikayla are both wrestlers. They narrate in their own voices in alternating chapters, often overlapping in time and perspective, allowing readers into their thoughts and concerns, for they are wrestling with middle school friendships and family dynamics as well as on the mat. Mikayla believes that her divorced father spends all his time on her big brothers’ wrestling practices and tournaments. If she joins a team, maybe he will value her more. The prejudice of her brothers’ coach forces her on to a different team, the Gladiators. There she meets Lev, who reluctantly becomes her training partner. Lev is haunted by his failure last year to make the state tournament and is determined to get there this year. Lev is Jewish, and his best friend is a Chinese boy who loves music. Mikayla is a white Christian whose best friend is a biracial brown girl who loves to work with theatrical makeup. Their diversity is treated matter-of-factly, accepted as part of what makes them unique. Although the jargon of wrestling is not always clearly defined, readers will find the action exciting. The characters, both adults and children, are well-developed and likable. Not everything is wrapped up neatly, but there are some twists that will satisfy readers. Mikayla and Lev are winners. (Fiction. 9-12)

About the Author

Laura Shovan’s debut middle-grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, was a NCTE 2017 Notable Verse Novel and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year, and won a Cybils Award for poetry, as well a Nerdy Book Club award. Her son’s experiences as a member of a travel wrestling team were the inspiration for Takedown. Laura and her family live in Maryland, where she is a longtime poet-in-the-schools for the Maryland State Arts Council.

Her website is laurashovan.com/

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The Agony House by Cherie Priest

The Agony House by Cherie Priest. September 25, 2018. Arthur A. Levine Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9780545934299.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Denise Farber has just moved back to New Orleans with her mom and step-dad. They left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and have finally returned, wagering the last of their family’s money on fixing up an old, rundown house and converting it to a bed and breakfast.

Nothing seems to work around the place, which doesn’t seem too weird to Denise. The unexplained noises are a little more out of the ordinary, but again, nothing too unusual. But when floors collapse, deadly objects rain down, and she hears creepy voices, it’s clear to Denise that something more sinister lurks hidden here.

Answers may lie in an old comic book Denise finds concealed in the attic: the lost, final project of a famous artist who disappeared in the 1950s. Denise isn’t budging from her new home, so she must unravel the mystery-on the pages and off-if she and her family are to survive…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 7-10. Following up on a successful collaboration with Kali Ciesemier in I Am Princess X​ (2016), Priest pairs with O’Connor to neatly weave together the history of comic books and contemporary concerns about gentrification into an eerie ghost story set in a ramshackle house that’s as much a character as the people living in it. Denise, her mom, and her stepdad have just moved into a nearly destroyed, once-beautiful house in New Orleans, and almost right away, Denise starts noticing odd things. First, they’re harmless, if creepy, but later, unexplained, dangerous accidents happen as the family renovates the house. But the comic book manuscript Denise finds carefully hidden in the attic (pages of which appear throughout the novel) is the key to the source of the poltergeists. Meanwhile, Denise’s neighbors are uneasy about outsiders capitalizing on cheap property in New Orleans, and Priest does a great job of skillfully including the important conversations Denise and her family have with their new community. At its heart, though, this is a ghost story, and Priest excels at building palpable atmosphere: Denise’s parents’ anxiety about their shoestring budget, the sweltering New Orleans summer heat, the disrepair of the house (“soggy plaster fell from the studs like wet cake”), and the increasingly terrifying haunting. Dynamic characters and a surprising mystery round out this sharp, satisfying, and engrossingly spooky story.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
A white family’s attempts to renovate a storm-wracked Victorian New Orleans house are complicated by bitterly contending ghosts. The resident spirits aren’t particularly reticent either, readily manifesting not only to 17-year-old Denise and her newlywed mother and stepfather, but to visiting neighbors as well—as a whiff of perfume, creeping shadows, a falling ceiling, and other ominous portents. But rather than being a stereotypical screamer, Denise has much in common (characterwise, at least) with intrepid, gun-toting Lucida Might, girl crime fighter and star of a 1950s manuscript comic Denise finds in the attic. Priest (Brimstone, 2017, etc.) ably weaves contemporary issues and a feminist strand into this fantasy as, while briskly fending off ghostly visitations and searching out clues to the house’s violent past, Denise makes new friends and encounters pushback from some St. Roch neighbors rightfully leery of white gentrifiers. Highlighted by a wonderfully melodramatic climax, the author brings her plotlines to upbeat resolutions with a thrilling discovery, a revelation about the comic’s author, and a degree of general community acceptance of Denise and her family. Nearly every character’s race, white or black, is carefully but unobtrusively specified. O’Connor (The Altered History of Willow Sparks, 2018) inserts multiple pages from the comic and atmospheric stand-alone illustrations all printed in haint blue. Conflicts, ectoplasmic and otherwise, laid to rest in a deliciously creepy setting. (Graphic/novel hybrid ghost fantasy. 11-13)

About the Author

Cherie Priest is the author of I Am Princess X, her debut young adult novel which earned three starred reviews and was a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. She is also the author of more than a dozen adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels, including Boneshaker, which won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Her website is www.cheriepriest.com/

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Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer

Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer. September 25, 2018. Scholastic Press, 305 p. ISBN: 9780545655057.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Before humans, and before human history, there were the apes.

Snub is a young gorilla, living in the heart of what will eventually be known as Africa. She is jealous of her mother’s new baby . . . and restless in her need to explore. When a natural disaster shakes up her family, Snub finds herself as the guardian of her young sibling . . . and lost in a reshaped world.

Snub may feel orphaned, but she is not alone. There are other creatures stalking through the woods — a new form of predator, walking on two legs. One of their kind is also orphaned, and is taken in by Snub. But the intersection of the human world and the gorilla world will bring both new connections and new battles.

In his boldest work yet, two-time National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer shows us a riveting, heartbreaking early encounter between ape and man — told from the ape’s point of view. It is a journey unlike any other in recent literature.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence and death among animals in the wild

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2018)
The last entry in a quartet by Schrefer (Mez’s Magic, 2018, etc.) chronicles an imagined early encounter between a human child and a gorilla family. The setting is Africa’s Great Rift Valley 600,000 years ago, when volcanic eruptions changed the landscape, bringing early humans into contact with apes for the first time. The story is written in free verse from the point of view of a young female gorilla, Snub, whose family group consists of Mother; Brother; baby brother, Breath; two older females, Wrinkled and Teased; and Silverback, the alpha male. A volcanic eruption disrupts the little group, and Snub becomes a leader, in charge of baby Breath and Brother, as she negotiates a perilous, rapidly-changing landscape in search of hospitable habitat for her family. The main threat comes not from the volcano but from the “not-gorillas,” early humans who, although physically weaker, have superior skills and use rocks as tools and missiles to attack the gorillas. The titular orphan is a young girl who befriends the small gorilla family and helps to protect and defend them with her human abilities. Scientific accuracy paired with lyrical, subjective language describing the young gorilla’s impressions of her surroundings and bodily needs make this book an imaginative, eloquent evocation of a little-known era in prehistory from an animal’s viewpoint. A plausibly authentic account skillfully avoiding risk of excessive anthropomorphism. (Novel in verse. 12-16)

School Library Journal (October 1, 2018)
Gr 4-7-In this fourth installment in Schrefer’s quartet, early humans make contact with apes many thousands of years ago. Written in verse, the story centers on Snub, a young female gorilla who lives with her extended family in Africa’s Great Rift Valley. When a natural disaster strikes, Snub is left as the head of her family and she must protect the younger apes from violence by the “not-gorillas” (the humans). Snub eventually befriends an orphaned human girl who uses her unique skills to help the ape family. Schrefer’s deep knowledge and passion for biology, geology, history, and geography is on full display in this emotionally complex tale. Each word is intentional and every shift in the narrative filled with dramatic (though never heavy-handed) purpose. The ways in which Schrefer explores the meaning of home and how it evolves through the introduction of humans is breathtaking. Schrefer’s ability to articulate an anthropological rendering of a gorilla’s first experiences with humans is both beautiful and brutal. Embedded within the narrative is the story of a daughter taking on the role as head of household and developing confidence in herself, her perspective, and her decisions. The integration of the gorilla’s own language is brilliant and elucidates ineffable moments. VERDICT Filled with deeply resonant moments that move and challenge; highly recommended for all middle grade and young adult collections.-Alpha DeLap, St. Thomas School, Medina, WA

About the Author

Eliot Schrefer’s Endangered and Threatened were named as finalists for the National Book Award. He is also the author of RescuedThe Deadly SisterThe School for Dangerous GirlsGlamorous Disasters, and The New Kid. He lives in New York City.

His website is www.eliotschrefer.com/

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The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White. September 25, 2018. Delacorte Press, 304 p. ISBN: 9780525577973.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

The Frankenstein legend as you’ve never seen it before, as told by New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White! You will not be able to put down this stunning and dark reimagining of the Mary Shelley classic told from the point of view of Elizabeth, Victor Frankenstein’s adopted sister, timed for the 200th anniversary.

Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything–except a friend.

Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable–and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable.

But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. Elizabeth Lavenza knows her place: she’s the calming influence over Victor Frankenstein’s violent moods, and if she stops being useful to the Frankensteins, she’ll have nowhere to go. When Victor stops writing letters from university in Ingolstadt, Elizabeth, who’s terrified of becoming unnecessary, sets out to track him down. What she finally discovers is gruesome, albeit awe-inspiring, but her instinct to protect him is impossible to fight. As Victor’s actions become more deranged, however, Elizabeth can’t bring herself to be a willing accomplice. In this clever retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, White neatly undercuts the original by making Victor’s narrative wildly unreliable. Elizabeth, who’s a minor character in Shelley’s novel, takes center stage here, and her development is the emotional heart of the story. After enduring years of gaslighting by both Victor Frankenstein and his father, she gradually comes to realize her own strength and becomes powerful in her own right. While readers of the original might get more out of it, this character-driven novel with a healthy amount of gore should appeal to horror fans, too.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2018)
White’s (Bright We Burn, 2018, etc.) timely retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is told from the point of view of 17-year-old Elizabeth Lavenza, ward of the Frankensteins and caretaker of Victor Frankenstein. Elizabeth’s childhood was full of loss and despair. In the Frankenstein home she was cared for as long as she socialized Victor and kept him calm, but he has gone off to study and fallen out of contact. Without him, she feels her future is uncertain, as he was the reason for her existence in his family’s home. Fearing that she will be once again destitute, Elizabeth convinces her friend Justine to travel with her to find Victor and bring him back. What Elizabeth finds rocks her to her core, and, fearing for Victor’s safety and future, she does all she can to protect him. But what if the monster she truly fears is not the misshapen monstrosity of Victor’s creation but something with a more human form? White creates an exciting tale with strong, witty, and certainly flawed, white female protagonists. Readers will ponder whether monsters are beings that are outwardly frightening or if it is one’s soul, or lack thereof, that makes one a true monster. Those familiar with the original story will enjoy the references to it scattered throughout. An all-around win for readers who enjoy (not too scary) horror, thrilling tales, and contemplating the deeper meaning of life. (Fiction. 15-18)

About the Author

Kiersten White is the New York Times bestselling author of many books for teens and young readers, including And I Darken, Now I Rise, Bright We Burn, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and Slayer.

She lives with her family near the ocean in San Diego, where she perpetually lurks in the shadows. Her website is www.kierstenwhite.com

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Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. August 28, 2018. Dial Books, 316 p. ISBN: 9780525552963.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 710.

Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understands that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Mild language, Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 8-11. Darius Kellner has more than his share of teen troubles to manage: racist bullies, clinical depression, complications with his father, and feeling like a misfit. So he does not expect much when his family travels to Iran to visit his maternal grandparents. Darius is a keen observer of life and very much aware of his emotional mechanisms. He is loving, sensitive, and a connoisseur of tea: steeping, drinking, sharing with family. He views the world through analogies to Star Trek and the Lord of the Rings trilogy in ways that are sometimes endearing and other times cumbersome. The trip to Iran opens new places of tenderness as Darius connects with people, places, and history that feel simultaneously familiar and new. But most significant is his friendship with Sohrab, which is tinged with an intimacy that suggests it is something more than platonic. This is a refreshing bildungsroman and an admirable debut novel that will leave readers wanting more. Hand to readers of Sara Farizan’s Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel​ (2014) and soul-searching teens.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2018)
Sophomore Darius Kellner doesn’t fit in at his Oregon high school, where he’s bullied by Trent Bolger and his “Soulless Minions of Orthodoxy.” But Darius also doesn’t fit comfortably in his own life due to clinical depression, confusion about his half-Persian heritage, and constant awareness of his white “Übermensch” father’s disappointment in him. Darius has only met his mother’s family over Skype, but when the news comes that his grandfather is dying, the family embarks on an extended trip to Iran. Here the book ripens into an exploration of understanding one’s identity—both personally and culturally. When Darius meets his grandparents’ neighbor Sohrab, a Bahá’í young man, in Yazd, a tender and natural friendship begins. Unlike the “Level Seven Awkward Silences” he shares with his stern father, the teen feels comfortable and safe with this virtual stranger: “I could be silent with Sohrab. That’s how I knew we were going to be friends.” Khorram’s debut novel is an affectionate portrait of Iran: the food and aromas, the rich traditions and eclectic culture; the somewhat choppy first-person narrative also explains Farsi phrases and their complex etymology. As Darius’s palpable discomfort begins to give way, readers will understand that home can be more than the physical place you live, and that people who make you feel at home can come into your life unexpectedly.

About the Author

Adib Khorram is an author, a graphic designer, and a tea enthusiast. If he’s not writing (or at his day job), you can probably find him trying to get his 100 yard Freestyle under a minute, or learning to do a Lutz Jump. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where people don’t usually talk about themselves in the third person.

His website is adibkhorram.com/

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Someday by David Levithan

Someday by David Levithan. October 2, 2018. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 336 p. ISBN: 9780399553066.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: 4.1; Lexile: 720.

Teenage witch Cam isn’t crazy about the idea of learning magic. She’d rather be no witch than a bad one. But when a trio of her mother’s wicked witch friends decide to wreak havoc in her high school, Cam has no choice but to try to stop them.

Esmerelda is the mean girl of the witches. Valda likes to drop anvils on people’s heads. And Malkin—well, Malkin is just plain terrifying. Their idea of fun is a little game—they each pick a student from Cam’s high school and compete to see who can make their teen the most miserable. But Cam suspects one of the witches may have an ulterior motive…which means someone at school could be in worse danger yet.

Now Cam’s learning invisibility spells, dodging exploding cars, and pondering the ethics of love potions. All while trying to keep her grades up and go on a first date with her crush. If the witches don’t get him first, that is.

Can’t a good witch ever catch a break?

Sequel to: Another Day

Part of Series: Every Day (Book #3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Discussion of domestic abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Here is the third thought-provoking novel about Levithan’s intriguing character A, the 16-year-old boy (or is he a boy?) who wakes up each day in a different body. As before, he is in love with a girl named Rhiannon, but, given his here-today-gone-tomorrow condition, he wonders how anything could come of his love for her. Accordingly, he has cut off contact and she misses him terribly so she—in concert with Nathan, whose body A had once occupied—begins to search for him. Unfortunately, someone else is also searching for him: X, a psychopath who had previously occupied the body of the evil Reverend Poole, who is now dead. Happily, Rhiannon and Nathan find A first and he and Rhiannon reconnect. But there is much to think about in their reunion. What does the word relationship mean for them? Can they maintain their connection? A also questions his condition of being, the ethics of occupying someone else’s body, and whether or not there are others like him (there are, and Levithan takes readers inside their lives). Things become even more complicated when X, whose condition is identical to A’s, finally tracks him down. Like the other two books about A, this is a novel of ideas that challenges readers to wonder if someday there will be another novel about these wonderful characters. One hopes so.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2018)
In Every Day (rev. 11/12) and Another Day (rev. 7/15), we learned that A wakes up each morning in a different person’s body. Someday alternates between A’s point of view and the perspectives of those affected by A (love interest Rhiannon; former “host” Nathan) as well as other “body travelers”—including X, who inhabited Reverend Poole in the earlier books. X has learned to game the system, controlling how long he stays in each new body and treating the bodies’ original inhabitants with disregard, at best. (Though A is gender-neutral, X identifies as male even on days he presents as female.) X’s creepy quest for power adds tension without sacrificing the series’ emphasis on character; the more-considerate A offers insights into each day’s host. The presence of multiple body travelers also brings perspective on how the traveling works and how it intersects with personal identity. Some preachiness combined with an “Equality March” on Washington make the continued themes of people’s commonalities and the need for understanding of differences easy to spot, but at the same time, suspense makes it easy to keep turning pages.

About the Author

David Levithan (born 1972) is an American children’s book editor and award-winning author. He published his first YA book, Boy Meets Boy, in 2003. Levithan is also the founding editor of PUSH, a Young Adult imprint of Scholastic Press.

His website is www.davidlevithan.com/

Around the Web

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Someday Publisher Page

Wildcard by Marie Lu

Wildcard by Marie Lu. September 18, 2018. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 341 p. ISBN: 9780399547997.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

All bets are off. This time the gamble is survival.

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems—and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

Sequel to: Warcross

Part of Series: Warcross (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Underage drinking, Violence

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Bounty hunter turned reality game superstar Emika Chen thought she had her hands full when she became an internationally known competitor in the virtual-reality-game Warcross​ championships. But that was before she learned the truth about her one-time love Hideo Tanaka, a young billionaire and creator of Warcross​—and the inventor of an algorithm that puts everyone who uses his high-tech lenses under his control. Sure, Hideo’s not trying to rule the world or anything—­this all started as a war on crime, after his little brother went missing years ago—but Emi can’t agree with his methods. But she’s got even bigger plans: there’s a bounty on her head now, and if she’s going to escape the assassins who are after her, she has to turn to Zero, the infamous, if not exactly trustworthy, hacker and his team. But they’ve got motives of their own, and Emi might get so tangled in a web of subterfuge that she can’t break free. There’s plenty of high-stakes double-crossing here, and this finale moves along at a breakneck clip. Series fans will be only too happy to zoom along for the ride.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2018)
The fate of free will hangs in the balance as Emika must choose a side in this sequel to Warcross (2017). In the days after Japanese Hideo triggered the algorithm in the NeuroLink enabling him to control 98 percent of its users (all except those using the beta lenses), people are turning themselves in for crimes en masse, and some child molesters and murderers are even killing themselves. Those still using beta lenses—like Emika Chen, who is implied Asian-American, and her multicultural teammates—have a little more than a week until the beta lenses will download a patch and convert to the algorithm. The tight timeline has Emika dwelling on the team-up offer from Zero—which her friends are against as he’s a terrorist—until her hand is forced by assassination attempts and Zero brings her into the secretive Blackcoat organization and into the know about his identity. Emika struggles with the Blackcoats’ extreme ends-justify-the-means stance but goes along with their plan while teasing out the truth of what happened to Hideo’s brother, Sasuke, all those years ago. The plotting is exquisite, with tiny details connecting back to the first book, big twists that never feel forced, and emotional power drawn from character growth. The flawlessly rendered characters anchor the sophisticated themes and world-altering stakes right up to the end game. A fast, intense, phenomenal read. (Science fiction. 13-adult)

About the Author

Marie Lu is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Legend, Prodigy, and Champion, as well as The Young Elites. She graduated from the University of Southern California and jumped into the video game industry, working for Disney Interactive Studios as a Flash artist. Now a full-time writer, she spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing Assassin’s Creed, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California (see above: traffic), with one husband, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

Her website is www.marielu.org.

Around the Web

Wildcard on Amazon

Wildcard on Barnes & Noble

Wildcard on Goodreads

Wildcard Publisher Page

Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens edited by Marieke Nijkamp

Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens edited by Marieke Nijkamp. September 18, 2018. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 320 p. ISBN: 9780374306502.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

This anthology explores disability in fictional tales told from the viewpoint of disabled characters, written by disabled creators. With stories in various genres about first loves, friendship, war, travel, and more, Unbroken will offer today’s teen readers a glimpse into the lives of disabled people in the past, present, and future.

The contributing authors are awardwinners, bestsellers, and newcomers including Kody Keplinger, Kristine Wyllys, Francisco X. Stork, William Alexander, Corinne Duyvis, Marieke Nijkamp, Dhonielle Clayton, Heidi Heilig, Katherine Locke, Karuna Riazi, Kayla Whaley, Keah Brown, and Fox Benwell. Each author identifies as disabled along a physical, mental, or neurodiverse axis―and their characters reflect this diversity.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. The 13 stories in this brilliant anthology feature teenagers with physical disabilities, mental illness, anxiety disorders, or autism. The authors of the stories are all people with various disabilities as well, and the stories themselves cover a range of genres. In the realistic “Britt and the Bike God,” by Kody Keplinger, a girl with retinitis pigmentosa rides the “stoker,” or back seat, of a tandem bicycle in her father’s biking club, and she’s both thrilled and horrified when her crush, a boy she thinks of as the “bike god,” is assigned to be her “captain.” Katherine Locke’s “Per Aspera Ad Astra” features a girl with agoraphobia who must overcome her disorder to save her planet. An abandoned carnival is the setting for the creepy “The Leap and the Fall,” by Kayla Whaley, with a protagonist in a wheelchair who must summon the will to rescue a friend, while Dhonielle Clayton’s advice columnist heroine in “Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing of Love” learns to not let her irritable bowel syndrome control her life. The stories feature wide variety and high quality, but most important, none of the teens at the center of the stories are defined by their disabilities. Teens disappointed by the lack of nuanced depictions of disability in YA fiction will cheer for these compassionate, engaging, and masterfully written stories.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2018)
Thirteen realistic, fantasy, and science-fiction stories starring disabled teenagers. These tales feature teens with different mental illnesses and physical, sensory, and intellectual disabilities, but all share common threads: no overcoming disability, magical healing, or disability-as-metaphor; just kids shaped by their bodies and minds, their experiences, and the worlds they inhabit. The #ownvoices tales (all by disabled authors) feature a few standouts. Schneider Award winner Francisco X. Stork’s (Disappeared, 2017, etc.) protagonist is a cognitively disabled Mexican immigrant who hears voices and who makes a friend. Dhonielle Clayton’s (The Belles, 2018, etc.) heroine, a black girl with gastrointestinal disease, pens an advice column. William Alexander (A Festival of Ghosts, 2018, etc.) offers a cane-using Latinx boy with chronic pain who accidentally animates the spirit of Richard III. Disability drives the plots at different levels: Corinne Duyvis’ (On the Edge of Gone, 2016, etc.) cursed wish-granter, a 17-year-old girl who likes girls, may not even be noticeably autistic to some neurotypical readers, while the anxiety of Katherine Locke’s (The Spy with the Red Balloon, 2018, etc.) programming heroine might prevent her from saving her city during an extraplanetary attack. Heidi Heilig’s (For a Muse of Fire, 2018, etc.) heroine has mania and depression in ancient China, where her condition is seen as bad fate. For intersectional representations of disabled kids leading complex lives—sometimes painful, sometimes funny, never sentimentally inspirational—a vital collection. (Anthology. 13-17)

About the Editor

Marieke Nijkamp is the #1 New York Timesbestselling author of This Is Where It Ends. She is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, and geek. 

She currently resides in her home country, the Netherlands. Her website is www.mariekenijkamp.com/

Around the Web

Unbroken on Amazon

Unbroken on Barnes & Noble

Unbroken on Goodreads

Unbroken Publisher Page