Tag Archives: friendship

And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin

And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin. June 6, 2017. Dial Books, 416 p. ISBN: 9780803740723.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

Let’s not die today. Not even to make things easier for our parents.

When a building collapses around five teenagers—and they just barely escape—they know something strange is going on. Little by little, the group pieces together a theory: Their parents are working together to kill them all. Is it true? And if so, how did their parents come together—and why? And, most importantly, how can the five of them work together to save themselves? With an unlikely group of heroes, sky-high stakes, and two budding romances, this gripping murder mystery will keep readers guessing until the last page.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 8-12. Five teens at a private school are invited to a Leader’s Club orientation at a dilapidated campus building, and then the roof falls in—literally. Someone, maybe plural, is trying to kill them, but what does this unlikely group have in common? Except for Antoine and Evangeline, they barely know each other—although Saralinda does have a crush on Caleb. Those two are the alternating narrators, and from them we learn that diabetic, physically challenged Saralinda lives with a smothering mother who would like her daughter to be dependent on her. Caleb’s father is a celebrity psychiatrist who has convinced his son that the boy is a bad seed, a danger to everyone around him. Although the psychology of the kids—and their parents—is a huge part of the story, it’s the nonstop action that sweeps readers along. People are on the run, bodies are piling up, and murder is in the air. Up until the last moment, it’s not clear who is going to make it out alive. Over the top, definitely, but also a compulsive read.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2017)
After a three-book detour through the fantasy genre (Impossible, rev. 9/08, and sequels), Werlin (The Rules of Survival, rev. 9/06) returns to her mystery/thriller roots for another psychological page-turner. Five students at a private boarding school are called together under mysterious circumstances to a remote, dilapidated building on campus. The building collapses, and they all survive, but one of them dies shortly afterward in an automobile accident. The remaining students band together, pool their information, and come to a horrific conclusion: each of their parents is involved in a conspiracy to murder them. Werlin simultaneously deepens characterization and unfolds the plot in alternating narrative voices from two of the teens, Saralinda and Caleb; they are attracted to each other but slow to act on it. Saralinda has diabetes–and a cane–but she is a hopeless romantic and a keen observer of her classmates. She loves her overbearing single mother but wishes for a greater measure of freedom. Caleb is aloof and harbors a dark side, but is fiercely loyal to his friends; his second-person narration is unsettling and underscores the notion that he might have sociopathic tendencies. His famous psychiatrist father has cowed both Caleb and his mother, and harbors a mean streak of his own. The other three teens, Antoine, Evangeline, and Kenyon–along with their parents–are similarly complex. Indeed, the entire cast is also notable for its diversity (in terms of ethnicity, sexuality, ability) in ways both organic and incidental to the plot. And if that plot occasionally strains credulity, it taps into a deep-seated teen paranoia that adults are out to get them. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Nancy Werlin has written 10 young adult novels, including New York Times–bestselling fantasy (Impossible), Edgar-award winning suspense (The Killer’s Cousin), and National Book Award-honored realistic fiction (The Rules of Survival). Her newest book is And Then There Were Four, a suspense thriller that marks her return to suspense after writing the fantasy trilogy Impossible, Extraordinary, and Unthinkable. Nancy grew up in Peabody, Massachusetts, received her bachelor’s degree in English from Yale, and now lives with her husband near Boston.

Her website is nancywerlin.com

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In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan. August 15, 2017. Big Mouth House, 432 p. ISBN: 9781618731203.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 800.

The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border ― unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and ― best of all as far as Elliot is concerned ― mermaids.

“What’s your name?”
Serene.”
Serena?” Elliot asked.
Serene,” said Serene. “My full name is Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle.”
Elliot’s mouth fell open. “That is badass.”

Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands.
It turns out that on the other side of the wall, classes involve a lot more weaponry and fitness training and fewer mermaids than he expected. On the other hand, there’s Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, an elven warrior who is more beautiful than anyone Elliot has ever seen, and then there’s her human friend Luke: sunny, blond, and annoyingly likeable. There are lots of interesting books. There’s even the chance Elliot might be able to change the world.

In Other Lands is the exhilarating new book from beloved and bestselling author Sarah Rees Brennan. It’s a novel about surviving four years in the most unusual of schools, about friendship, falling in love, diplomacy, and finding your own place in the world ― even if it means giving up your phone.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, War, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
Four years in the life of an unloved English schoolboy who’s invited to a secret magical school and learns that even in fantasyland, real life is messier than books.If Elliot’s story seems familiar, the impression fades quickly. Ginger-haired, white Elliot, an undersized nonpracticing Jew, is a total brat. When the 13-year-old crosses into the Borderlands and sees he’s more intelligent than most of the other kids—and adults—he’s quick to say so. He doesn’t form a circle of friends so much as an alliance of distrustful mutual advantage. With Luke Sunborn, a flaxen-haired, blue-eyed, white golden boy, Elliot tutors Serene, an ethereally beautiful elf with “pearl-pale” skin, who’s determined to excel twice as much as any other student. Elliot’s initial interest in Serene is despicable; he aims to fake friendship until she grows to love him. But over the course of four years training among child soldiers, Elliot, unsurprisingly, grows up. His slow development into a genuinely kind person is entirely satisfying, as is his awakening to his own bisexuality and to the colonialism, sexism, and racism of Borderlands society. Only one human character, the beautifully and sparingly drawn Capt. Woodsinger, appears to be a person of color. A stellar, if dense and lengthy, coming-of-age novel; those with the patience to sit through our hero’s entire adolescence will find it a wholly rewarding journey. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Publishers Weekly Annex (August 7, 2017)
Elliot Schafer is a small-for-his-age 13-year-old who is prone to being bullied-largely due to his personality, which slots somewhere between insufferable know-it-all and sarcastic jackass. When Elliot’s class travels to a “random field in Devon, England” for a supposed scholarship test, he instead winds up in a strange world known as the Borderlands, which are filled with elves, mermaids, and other creatures. So begins Brennan’s hilarious, irreverent, and multilayered coming-of-age fantasy, set over several years. Elliot quickly befriends (and falls for) Serene, a fierce elven warrior, and arranges a reluctant truce with Luke Sunborn, the son of one of the Borderland’s founding families. All three-along with every young person there-are training in war or as councilors, charged with protecting the fragile barrier with the human world. Amid shifting relationships, the threat of war, and substantial growth among the characters, Elliot’s razor-edged wit and general inability to keep his mouth shut make for blissfully entertaining reading. Smart explorations of gender stereotypes, fluid sexuality, and awkward romance only add to the depth and delight of this glittering contemporary fantasy. Ages 13-up. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary.

About the Author

Sarah Rees Brennan is Irish and currently lives in Dublin. For a short stint, she lived in New York and became involved with a wide circle of writers who encouraged and supported her, including Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. She has developed a wide audience through her popular blog, mistful.livejournal.com, where she writes movie parodies, book reviews and some stories.

Her website is sarahreesbrennan.com

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The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein. May 2, 2017. Disney-Hyperion, 326 p. ISBN: 9781484717165.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 860.

Before Verity…there was Julie.

When fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital, she knows the lazy summer break she’d imagined won’t be exactly like she anticipated. And once she returns to her grandfather’s estate, a bit banged up but alive, she begins to realize that her injury might not have been an accident. One of her family’s employees is missing, and he disappeared on the very same day she landed in the hospital.

Desperate to figure out what happened, she befriends Euan McEwen, the Scottish Traveller boy who found her when she was injured, and his standoffish sister, Ellen. As Julie grows closer to this family, she experiences some of the prejudices they’ve grown used to firsthand, a stark contrast to her own upbringing, and finds herself exploring thrilling new experiences that have nothing to do with a missing-person investigation.

Her memory of that day returns to her in pieces, and when a body is discovered, her new friends are caught in the crosshairs of long-held biases about Travellers. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them from being framed for the crime.

Prequel to:  Code Name Verity

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Those who had their hearts broken by Julie in Code Name Verity (2012) will relish this prequel opportunity to meet the brash girl who grew into the brave spy. Julie, almost 16, is returning for the final cleanup of her family’s Scottish estate, about to be turned into a boy’s school to pay off its debt. Before her mother knows she’s returned, Julie is conked on the head and winds up in the hospital, missing a few days of memory. Out of this singular event come knotted ropes of story that overlap and intertwine. One strand is the introduction of siblings Euan and Ellen, locally despised Travellers who enlighten and complicate Julie’s life. Another is the disappearance of a cache of glowing river pearls originally found in the estate’s waters. Hanging over everything, like a moldering net, is the death of a scholar cataloging the estate’s holdings, a death Julie may have witnessed. Yet, for all the story’s mystery and history—some of it quite ancient—two other elements take hold: the intriguing characters, brimming with life, and the evocative language seeded with Scottish words and phrasings that forces the audience to read the book as carefully as it deserves. A finely crafted book that brings one girl’s coming-of-age story to life, especially poignant for those who already know her fate.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
Wein’s fans will revel in the return of Julie Beaufort-Stuart, the co-narrator of Code Name Verity (2012). Billed as a prequel to that Printz Honor book, this is no mere back story to Julie’s role in World War II but a stand-alone mystery. The 15-year-old white minor noble returns from boarding school in the summer of 1938 to the Scottish country estate of her late grandfather, the Earl of Strathfearn. Her luggage lost, Julie dons “a mothy tennis pullover which left my arms daringly bare and a kilt that must have been forgotten some time ago by one of my big brothers….I was David Balfour from Kidnapped again, the way I’d been the whole summer I was thirteen.” After a blow to the head leaves her unconscious, Julie becomes tangled up in a web of events that includes a missing antiquities scholar, a body found in a river, and the theft of the family’s heirloom river pearls, all seemingly connected to a band of Travellers with ancestral ties to Strathfearn reaching back as far as Julie’s. Well-developed characters highlight the class differences that Julie chafes against while struggling with her family’s place in a changing world. Her plainspoken, charming narrative voice establishes her own place with the same strength of character, on a smaller scale, that she showed in Code Name Verity. Another ripping yarn from a brilliant author. (Historical fiction. 13-adult)

About the Author

Elizabeth Wein was born in New York City, grew up abroad, and currently lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She is an avid flyer of small planes, and holds a PhD in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. Elizabeth is the author of Code Name Verity, winner of the Edgar Award in the Young Adult category and a Printz Medal Honor Book; Rose Under Fire, winner of the Schneider Family Book Award; and Black Dove, White Raven, winner of the Children’s Africana Book Award.

Her website is www.elizabethwein.com

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The Pearl Thief

Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman. May 2, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 350 p. ISBN: 9781492646860.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves .

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

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. Anise has few needs in life. Just the surf, her board, and her tight-knit posse of friends. Then Anise’s aunt is in a terrible car accident and needs them to come help care for her children in landlocked Nebraska. One place her younger cousins enjoy is the skate park, where Anise meets a handsome black skater boy, Lincoln. After Anise claims that surfing is harder that skateboarding, Lincoln challenges her to give skating a try. It’s a fiasco, but Anise becomes determined to learn to skateboard, and Nebraska slowly grows on her. Debut novelist Silverman realistically captures Anise’s love for her surfing life and the terrible sacrifice she makes when leaving it behind for a whole summer, and her relationships with her family are bittersweet and loving, giving her depth of character. Meanwhile, Lincoln is a charmer, and thanks for Silverman’s excellent portrayal of a boy who is not defined by his disability, like Anise, readers will easily forget that he is missing an arm. Hand to fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
Silverman’s debut offers several takes on a good question: “Why do so many people equate growing up with leaving?” Unlike her mother, who enters and exits her life at whim, white, 17-year-old Anise has lived—and surfed—in Santa Cruz her whole life. Her easygoing father and a diverse group of friends provide stability—especially Eric, her white best friend, who’s turning into something more. As the friends plan their last summer together before college, Anise’s plans are shattered. Her aunt has been in a car accident, and Anise and her dad will be spending the summer in Nebraska caring for her aunt and high-spirited cousins. Anise’s reluctance to leave, rooted in worries of forgetting home and being forgotten, will resonate with readers who’ve ever been homesick. While babysitting her cousins, she meets Lincoln, a black, smart, handsome, witty one-armed skateboarder whose personality quirks are rattled off in lists rather than revealed through interactions. As Anise trades surfing for skating, she gradually matures, feeling a responsibility to her cousins and sympathy for her aunt and father. Nomadic, nature-obsessed Lincoln, whose only flaws seem to be a messy glove compartment and an inability to sing, is an ever patient teacher, showing Anise how to adapt to new places and call them home. A quick summer read to reassure teens who worry about college or blooming where they’re planted. (Romance. 14-18)

About the Author

Laura Silverman is a writer, editor, and publishing consultant. She is a lover of all things bookish. Silverman suffers from chronic pain and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Her website is laurasilvermanlovesbooks.tumblr.com

 

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In 27 Days by Alison Gervais

In 27 Days by Alison Gervais. July 25, 2017. Blink, 352 p. ISBN: 9780310759058.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Hadley Jamison is shocked when she hears that her classmate, Archer Morales, has committed suicide. She didn’t know the quiet, reserved guy very well, but that doesn’t stop her from feeling there was something she could have done to help him.

Hoping to find some sense of closure, Hadley attends Archer’s funeral. There, Hadley is approached by a man who calls himself Death and offers her a deal. If Hadley accepts, she will be sent back 27 days in time to prevent Archer from killing himself. But when Hadley agrees to Death’s terms and goes back to right the past, she quickly learns her mission is harder than she ever could have known.

Hadley soon discovers Archer’s reasons for being alone, and Archer realizes that having someone to confide in isn’t as bad as he’d always thought. But when a series of dangerous accidents starts pushing them apart, Hadley must decide whether she is ready to risk everything – including her life – to keep Archer safe.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Suicide

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Online))
Grades 8-11. As Hadley Jamison mourns a classmate who committed suicide, a man calling himself Death offers her a unique opportunity: go back 27 days into the past to prevent Archer Morales from taking his life. Hadley is suddenly jerked backward in time and finds that her mission is far from simple—Archer’s anger toward the world pushes her away. Even more treacherous is Hadley’s discovery that Death isn’t the only eternal being with its eyes on her. Gervais transitions her hit Wattpad story into a fleshed-out novel, managing to retain the energy that earned it more than two million readers. The book’s centerpiece is plucky Hadley herself. Despite all efforts to thwart her, Hadley remains resolute in her mission to save a stranger from an untimely death. In doing so, she must confront how her own seemingly perfect family is far more dysfunctional than she’d like to believe. This is a fun, quick, yet emotional read that readers will have a hard time putting down.

School Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Gr 7 Up-Sixteen-year-old Hadley Jamison is strangely troubled by the suicide of one of her classmates. Though she knew Archer only from sitting next to him in English class two years earlier, she wonders whether she could have done anything to keep the quiet, surly boy from killing himself. After Archer’s funeral, a man known as Death approaches Hadley and offers her the opportunity to go back in time 27 days to save Archer. Hadley accepts, and over the next several weeks, she forces her company on Archer, convincing him to tutor her in geometry and working at his family’s coffee shop. She becomes close with his family, soon spending all her free time with them, in stark contrast to her usual routine of evenings alone in her Upper East Side apartment. Slowly, Hadley learns the truth about what led Archer to commit suicide. Her stubborn refusal to leave him alone seems noble in the context of a lifesaving mission but in reality would be disturbing. Repeated violations of personal boundaries should not be romanticized. The message that one teenager should take on total responsibility for preventing another’s suicide is also troubling. VERDICT Fast-paced and filled with romance, this would likely appeal to some reluctant readers. However, the immature writing style, the clumsy and heavy-handed delivery, a tone that is too light for the subject matter, and unhealthy messages for teenagers should make librarians pause before adding this to their collections.-Liz Overberg, Zionsville Community High School, IN

About the Author

Watty Award-winning author Alison Gervais has been writing for as long as she can remember. In 2011, she began posting her work on Wattpad.com and has been active on the site ever since. If she’s not writing, she can be found re-reading Harry Potter, watching Supernatural, or trying to win the affection of her two cats, Kovu and Rocket.

 

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Point Guard by Mike Lupica

Point Guard by Mike Lupica. April 4, 2017. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781481410038.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 810.

Gus and Cassie have always been on the same team off the field, but in this third novel in New York Times bestselling author Mike Lupica’s Home Team series can they stay friends when they’re on the same court?

Everyone assumes that Gus, whose family is from the Dominican Republic, is a baseball guy. But this year Gus is even more excited about basketball than any other sport he’s ever played. He’s been practicing some new moves and lately he’s more surprised when he misses his shot than when he scores. Plus now that he’s convinced his friend Teddy to try out for the team and Jack’s shoulder is healed, it looks like Walton’s home team will be unstoppable.

But this isn’t going to be the season Gus expected, because their team is getting a new player—and she just happens to be one of his best friends. Gus knows Cassie is more than good enough to compete on the boys’ team, and besides they really do need a point guard, so why isn’t he able to shake the feeling that she belongs on their bleachers rather than their bench? And to make matters worse, with their center Steve Kerrigan constantly making comments about his Dominican heritage, and Steve’s dad voicing his views on immigration as he runs for office, Gus is starting to wonder if he really belongs in Walton after all.

Can Gus find a way to bring the home team together both on and off the court, or will all these prejudices block their shot at a winning season?

Part of Series: Home Team

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. Lupica trots his Home Team ensemble out onto the court for a whirl of fast-break hoops action threaded with provocative personal issues. Gus Morales is upset when his intensely competitive friend Cassie tries out for the boys’ town basketball team. To Cassie and everyone else, his disturbance reads as a case of prejudice—an accusation he stoutly denies. Cassie’s vitriolic refusal to talk things out and some of her behavior after she makes the team only solidifies Gus’ suspicion that she’s out to win at any cost rather than be the best teammate (or friend) that she can be. Is he right or just rationalizing? Is her attitude justified or just a sign of selfishness? Lupica leaves it to readers to decide (and perhaps give their own buried attitudes a fresh once-over) as he carries the Walton Warriors through a series of dramatic last-second wins and losses. A subplot featuring racially charged local and student elections that directly mirror 2016’s ugly presidential campaign will, hopefully, become less topical over time.

About the Author

Mike Lupica is the author of multiple bestselling books for young readers, including the Home Team series, QB 1HeatTravel TeamMillion-Dollar Throw, and The Underdogs. He has carved out a niche as the sporting world’s finest storyteller. Mike lives in Connecticut with his wife and their four children. When not writing novels, he writes for Daily News (New York) and is an award-winning sports commentator.

His website is www.mikelupicabooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Point Guard Reading Guide

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Lucky in Love by Kasie West

Lucky in Love by Kasie West. July 25, 2017. Scholastic, 333 p. ISBN: 9781338058017.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 520.

Can’t buy me love…

Maddie’s not impulsive. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment—

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun…until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
A teen discovers that winning the lottery has an inescapable downside. Maddie’s one of nature’s caretakers, a worrier with plenty to worry about. Money’s tight at home; her unemployed dad and overworked mom fight all the time; her college-dropout brother sleeps all day. On her 18th birthday, a convenience-store clerk talks her into buying a lottery ticket, winning her a $30 million payout. Keenly aware her wealth’s unearned, Maddie’s impulse is to make generous gifts to her parents and brother. A relative she’s never met solicits investment in his real estate deal. As news of her win spreads, a popular classmate persuades her to buy a sports car from her dad, curating Maddie’s makeover and stylish do with blonde highlights. Maddie’s old friends feel discarded, but she’s overwhelmed as her generosity’s met with envy, resentment, demands, and betrayal, even from family. Money can’t fix what’s broken. Only Maddie’s friendship with Seth Nguyen feels uncorrupted. Artistic, genial, observant, confronting cultural bias with pointed humor, he’s her romantic anchor. Seth’s an American kid of Vietnamese-American, U.S.–born parents, a rarity in teen literature, but in their California region, where 20 percent of residents have Asian roots, he and white Maddie inhabit the same cultural mainstream. The romantic cover photo positions both side to, but while Maddie’s race, with her long blonde hair and fair skin, is clearly conveyed, black-haired, olive-skinned Seth’s is more ambiguous—it’s disappointing this Asian-American romantic hero isn’t firmly announced as such. There’s a wealth of profoundly topical, thematic territory to explore in lottery wins; this iteration, with its cast of culturally and economically diverse characters, is especially resonant. (Fiction. 12-16)

School Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Gr 8 Up-Maddie’s world is about to change. She’s a senior in high school, waiting for college acceptance letters to start rolling in. UCLA, Stanford, San Diego State–Maddie expects to get into them all. She has been doing nothing else but studying and working for all of high school, and now she’s ready for her efforts to pay off. And pay off they do: on her 18th birthday, on a whim, Maddie plays the lottery and wins! The money-$50 million -solves a lot of problems, such as college tuition and her family’s financial troubles. But with this windfall comes a cost. It’s hard to stay focused on what matters, and it’s even harder to know whom to trust. Practical Maddie is torn between the easy life and the life she has worked so hard to make for herself. In the end, she finds a balance-friends, family, college, money, and the Boy-with a few stumbles along the way. A quick read with lots of dialogue, the story is sweet and safe, and Maddie’s stumbles are swiftly remedied. VERDICT Lighthearted, romantic but never gratuitous, and honest without being overbearing. Fans of Susane Colasanti, Jennifer E. Smith, and Jenny Han will enjoy this smart girl protagonist dealing with the typical (and not-so-typical) drama that senior year of high school brings.-Jennifer Miskec, Longwood University, Farmville, VA

About the Author

Kasie West is the author of several YA novels, including The Distance Between UsOn the FenceThe Fill-in BoyfriendP.S. I Like YouLucky in Love, and By Your Side. Her books have been named as ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and as YALSA Best Books for Young Adults. Kasie lives in Fresno, California with her family.

Her website is www.kasiewest.com

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Quicksand Pond by Janet Taylor Lisle

Quicksand Pond by Janet Taylor Lisle. May 16, 2017. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 256 p. ISBN: 9781481472227.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

Newbery Honor winner Janet Taylor Lisle’s gorgeous and profound new novel about a pivotal summer in two girls’ lives explores the convictions we form, the judgments we make, and the values we hold.

The pond is called Quicksand Pond.

It’s a shadowy, hidden place, full of chirping, shrieking, croaking life. It’s where, legend has it, people disappear. It’s where scrappy Terri Carr lives with her no-good family. And it’s where twelve-year-old Jessie Kettel is reluctantly spending her summer vacation.

Jessie meets Terri right away, on a raft out in the water, and the two become fast friends. On Quicksand Pond, Jessie and Terri can be lost to the outside world—lost until they want to be found. But a tragedy that occurred many decades ago has had lingering effects on this sleepy, small-minded town, and especially on Terri Carr. And the more Jessie learns, the more she begins to question her new friendship—and herself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild sexual themes, Murder, Domestic violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 5-8. When Eddie Carr was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, the family dairy folded, the family barn burned to the ground, and the family name, too, suffered irreparable damage. In fact, five decades later, 12-year-old Terri, Eddie’s great-granddaughter, is still paying the price, living at the west end of Quicksand Pond with her abusive, alcoholic father. But Jessie Kettel, a vacationing outsider, hasn’t heard the rumors. And when a mysterious old raft appears at the water’s edge, the two girls work to repair it, developing a profound, if precarious, friendship. As town gossip and the Kettel family’s judgment simmers in the background—and long-misunderstood local Henrietta Cutting staggers into the foreground—Jessie comes to a most unsettling conclusion: the closer she gets to Terri, the closer she could be to unknowable danger. Deftly navigating a diverse array of socioeconomic statuses and the discriminatory nature of the justice system, Newbery Honor Book author Lisle crafts a stirring story that raises crucial questions about the assumptions we make, the distances we keep, and the vulnerable voices we often fail to hear. As Lisle details Terri’s determination to cease a vicious cycle, Henrietta’s resolve to remedy an unjust past, and Jessie’s aching ambivalence between the cautionary advice of others and her own hard-won revelations, readers are sure to listen. Striking, enigmatic, and haunting all around.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
A summer beside Quicksand Pond on Rhode Island’s coast transforms a reluctant 12-year-old white girl. When Jessie arrives at her family’s rental cottage, she’s in “a separatist mood.” Immediately drawn to the pond, Jessie’s content to stand, “breathing in the place, listening and watching.” Discovering an abandoned raft, Jessie explores on her own until she encounters Terri, also white, a local outcast with an abusive, dead-end father. Bonding quickly, Jessie and Terri spend quiet days on the raft. Terri tells Jessie about the boys who disappeared in the pond and the family murdered years before whose surviving child, Henrietta, is now an elderly woman still living in the big house by the pond. Indeed, Henrietta stealthily watches Terri and Jessie using the raft she built as a child. When Terri’s suspected of stealing Jessie’s father’s laptop, Jessie adamantly defends her friend, but after Terri’s blamed for setting a fire in Henrietta’s garage, where the girls had borrowed some tools to repair the raft, Jessie’s support for Terri wavers. Unfolding slowly in simple, quiet prose, this sensitive, compelling story alternates between Jessie’s present experiences and Henrietta’s befuddled memories until they collide in a disturbing, pivotal climax. A suspenseful, realistic, finely crafted story exploring friendship, trust, and how we judge others. (map) (Fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Janet Taylor Lisle’s books for young readers have received the Newbery Honor Award (Afternoon of the Elves), the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction (The Art of Keeping Cool), Holland’s Zilveren Griffel, and Italy’s Premio Andersen Award, among other honors. A graduate of Smith College and former journalist, Janet lives in Rhode Island and often draws on Rhode Island history in her work.

Her website is JanetTaylorLisle.com

Teacher Resources

Quicksand Pond Group Reading Guide

Around the Web

Quicksand Pond on Amazon

Quicksand Pond on Goodreads

Quicksand Pond on JLG

Quicksand Pond Publisher Page

Marlena: A Novel by Julie Buntin

Marlena: A Novel by Julie Buntin. April 4, 2017. Henry Holt & Co., 288 p. ISBN: 9781627797641.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 970.

The story of two girls and the wild year that will cost one her life, and define the other’s for decades

Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat’s new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter until she meets her neighbor, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat is quickly drawn into Marlena’s orbit and as she catalogues a litany of firsts―first drink, first cigarette, first kiss, first pill―Marlena’s habits harden and calcify. Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby. Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try again to move on, even as the memory of Marlena calls her back.

Told in a haunting dialogue between past and present, Marlena is an unforgettable story of the friendships that shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull oneself back from the brink.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Underage drinking

 

Video Review

Reviews

Publishers Weekly (November 14, 2016)
In her impressive debut novel, Buntin displays a remarkable control of tone and narrative arc. In a keenly observed study of teenage character, narrator Catherine, 15, is miserable in the ramshackle house her newly divorced mother has bought in the dismal town of Silver Lake in northern Michigan. When she meets Marlena, her glamorous 17-year-old next-door neighbor, Cat is smitten with the euphoria of having a best friend. Buntin is particularly sensitive to the misery of adolescent angst, and Cat’s growing happiness in Marlena’s friendship runs like an electric wire through the narrative. Marlena is dangerous, however: she runs with a bad crowd, and her father cooks meth. From the beginning, we know that Marlena is irresistible, reckless, and brave; she’s a mother substitute for her forlorn younger brother-musically talented, beautiful, and doomed to die young. It’s only later that Cat understands that Marlena is the needy one in their relationship. Her bravado hides desperation; she fears she’ll never get out of Silver Lake, that she has no future, and that “there were kids like us all over rural America.” Almost 20 years later, living in New York with her husband and working at a good job, Cat is still damaged by losing Marlena. Crippled by “the pain at the utter core of me,” she takes refuge in alcohol and memories. The novel is poignant and unforgettable, a sustained eulogy for Marlena’s “glow… that lives in lost things, that sets apart the gone forever.” Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment. (Apr.)

School Library Journal (July 1, 2017)
When Catherine was a teenager, she moved to the small, economically depressed town of Silver Lake, MN, following her mom’s divorce. Now in her 30s, Catherine is still haunted by her past. Even a good job and a great husband can’t compensate for a pain that won’t fade completely and a powerful drinking problem that arose as a result of her best friend’s death by drowning. Catherine is consumed by the memory of a girl who made having nothing seem like everything. As chapters deftly alternate between the protagonist’s adult life and her adolescence, readers encounter teenage Cat: angry at her dad and unappreciative of her mom’s efforts, the 15-year-old is primed for reinvention. A bookish girl on partial scholarship at a private high school, Cat meets Marlena, a force of nature: blonde, sexy, and unapologetically brash and worldly. Cat is soon ditching school to hang out with her friend, who’s looked down on by many: Marlena is the daughter of a menacing meth cook who is not above trading his daughter’s sexual favors to a drug partner. Drinking, pills, smoking, sex-all the staples of Marlena’s life, once glamorous to Cat, become routine as Marlena’s sketchy friends and dangerous behavior affect both girls. This searing work from debut author Buntin adroitly captures the dark side of friendship and the turmoil of young adulthood. VERDICT Hand this unflinching tale to savvy teens starting to look beyond Ellen Hopkins or to readers who appreciate gritty fare, such as E.R. Frank’s Dime.-Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Gwinnett County, GA

About the Author

Julie Buntin is from northern Michigan. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Cosmopolitan, O, The Oprah Magazine, Slate, Electric Literature, and One Teen Story, among other publications. She teaches fiction at Marymount Manhattan College, and is the director of writing programs at Catapult. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Marlena is her debut novel.

Her website is www.juliebuntin.com.

Around the Web

Marlena on Amazon

Marlena on Goodreads

Marlena on JLG

Marlena Publisher Page

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Windfall  by Jennifer E. Smith. May 2, 2017. Delacorte Press, 417 p. ISBN: 9780399559396.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

Alice doesn’t believe in luck–at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday–just when it seems they might be on the brink of something–she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. Luck isn’t something that 18-year-old Alice is familiar with. When she was 9, her parents died just months apart from each other, and Alice moved to Chicago to live with her aunt and uncle. Alice honors her parents by volunteering and dreaming of Stanford, though her longing to return to California is tempered by her close relationships with her cousin Leo and her best friend, Teddy, whom Alice secretly loves. On Teddy’s eighteenth birthday, Alice jokingly buys him a lottery ticket—and he wins. Teddy, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his single, overworked mother, seems like the luckiest guy in the world. But as much as Alice wants to believe that this newfound wealth won’t change him, a rift grows between them. Smith, no stranger to romance (Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between, 2015) crafts another thoughtful story about a girl on the brink of major change. Alice’s struggles are relatable, and her feelings for Teddy ring true. Particularly well-developed secondary characters put the finishing touches on this lucky find. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: When it comes to teen romance, Smith is quickly becoming one of the big dogs; an extensive marketing and publicity campaign will only increase the buzz.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
When the lottery ticket Alice gives to Teddy, the boy she’s secretly loved for years, wins him a fortune, they discover money really does change everything. Orphaned at 9, Alice has grown up in Chicago with a loving family: her dad’s brother, Uncle Jake; his Latina wife, Aunt Sofia; and their son, Leo. Uncle Jake—white and fair, like Alice, is a painful reminder of her dad. Struggling to live the life she believes her parents would have chosen, remembering them as passionate altruists, Alice tutors an orphaned foster child and volunteers at a soup kitchen, refusing emphatically when Teddy, who is also white, tries to share his winnings with her. For years, since his gambling-addicted father wiped out their savings, Teddy and his mother have shared a cramped apartment. Generous and impulsive, spending lavishly, Teddy enjoys his new fame. Leo, who feels unjustifiably blessed, having lucked out with great parents (they even made coming out as gay easy), views Teddy’s win as just compensation for a bad-luck childhood, whereas Alice refuses to see good or bad fortune as anything but random. Now, unable to prevent the changes fortune brings, she must learn to weather them. While the feel-good ending feels forced—a shoe that doesn’t quite fit—this compelling read, gracefully told, raises issues seldom explored in popular fiction. How can we rationalize life’s inequalities? What do we owe, and to whom, when blessed with good fortune? Smart and entertaining, as to be expected from Smith. (Fiction. 12-17)

About the Author

Jennifer E. Smith is the author of seven novels for young adults, including The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and her work has been translated into thirty-three languages. She lives in New York City.

Her website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

Around the Web

Windfall on Amazon

Windfall on Goodreads

Windfall on JLG

Windfall Publisher Page