Tag Archives: Mystery

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus. May 30, 2017. Delacorte Press, 368 p. ISBN: 9781524714697.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little LiarsOne of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

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

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 9-12. It’s a murder mystery, Breakfast Club–style: five students from different social spheres walk into detention. Only four walk out. Simon, the outcast at the helm of the high school’s brutal (and always true) gossip app has been murdered, and he had dirt on all four students in detention with him. Brainy good-girl Bronwyn knows she didn’t kill Simon, and she doesn’t think drug-dealing Nate, everyone’s favorite suspect, did either. Simon knew something that could ruin homecoming princess Addy’s perfect relationship, but Addy’s always been so timid. And baseball superstar Cooper has a secret, but it’s not what Simon said, and everyone knows Simon was never wrong. Trailed by suspicion, the four team up to clear their names—and find the real ­killer—even as proving their innocence becomes increasingly more difficult. Told in alternating perspectives among the four, this is a fast-paced thriller with twists that might surprise even the most hardened mystery reader. An engaging, enticing look at the pressures of high school and the things that cause a person to lose control.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
Detention takes a dark turn when the student behind Bayview High’s infamous app About That dies from a peanut allergy—and every witness has a different reason for wanting him gone.Although McManus’ debut initially feels like a rehashing of The Breakfast Club, with five teens from disparate social circles brought together through detention, there is no bonding through library dance parties or atypical lipstick application. Instead, Bronwyn, Nate, Cooper, and Addy witness Simon collapse and ultimately die after taking a sip of water. When police discover the drink was laced with peanut oil—and that Simon was going to reveal life-ruining secrets about all four students on his gossip app the next day—they go from unfortunate witnesses to top murder suspects. With each teen (“brain,” “criminal,” “jock,” and “princess,” respectively; “walking teen-movie stereotypes,” as Simon says) narrating alternating chapters, the novel offers insights into common adolescent struggles—from the pressure to succeed to an alcoholic, out-of-work father—as well as an unlikely romance and opportunities for self-reflection as the investigation escalates. Although their suburban San Diego high school is a multicultural place, with the exception of Latina Bronwyn, the principal cast is white. Although the language and plot sometimes border on cliché, this fast-paced blend of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and classic John Hughes will leave readers racing to the finish as the try to unravel the mystery on their own. (Thriller. 14-18)

About the Author

Karen M. McManus earned her BA in English from the College of the Holy Cross and her MA in journalism from Northeastern University. When she isn’t working or writing in Cambridge, Massachusetts, McManus loves to travel with her son. One of Us Is Lying is her debut novel.

Her website is www.karenmcmanus.com.

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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.

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Overturned by Lamar Giles

Overturned by Lamar Giles. March 28, 2017. Scholastic, 352 p. ISBN: 9780545812504.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Nikki Tate is infamous, even by Las Vegas standards. Her dad is sitting on death row, convicted of killing his best friend in a gambling dispute turned ugly. And for five years, he’s maintained his innocence. But Nikki wants no part of that. She’s been working on Operation Escape Vegas: playing in illegal card games so she can save up enough money to get out come graduation day.

Then her dad’s murder conviction is overturned. The new evidence seems to come out of nowhere and Nikki’s life becomes a mess when he’s released from prison. Because the dad who comes home is not the dad she remembers. And he’s desperately obsessed with finding out who framed him—and why.

As her dad digs into the seedy underbelly of Vegas, the past threatens everything and Nikki is drawn into his deadly hunt for the truth. But in the city of sin, some sinners will do anything to keep their secrets, and Nikki soon finds herself playing for the biggest gamble ever—her life

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Alcohol; Smoking; Gambling

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. If she knows anything, Vegas native Nikki Tate knows cards. She’s trying to earn enough money to escape Vegas after high school, and she comes by the trade honestly: her casino-owning father, Nathan Tate, was a big deal, until he was convicted of murder five years ago. Now, though, that conviction has been overturned, and Nathan Tate joins a long line of wrongly convicted black men. But the man who returns is not the father Nikki remembers, and the circumstances surrounding the murder he was imprisoned for have not disappeared. As Nathan digs into the past, Nikki, too, becomes more entangled in Vegas’ seedy underbelly, and the stakes are higher than she’s used to. Giles deftly imagines the tense, sinister atmosphere of underground Vegas, while grappling with the issue of race in the justice system. Nikki’s friendships and burgeoning relationship with the son of a rival casino titan are three-dimensional, and she herself is a tough-talking, sometimes impulsive heroine who’s smart even when she’s scared. A fast-paced, endlessly intriguing mystery.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2017)
A fast-paced mystery uncovers a truth hidden by the bright lights of Las Vegas.To bankroll her future escape from Las Vegas, Nikki plays illegal poker games, using her natural skill and training from her father, Nathan “The Broker” Tate. Those skills also help her run the family’s failing casino, which languishes because her father is on death row for murdering his business associate. After five years, though, her father’s conviction—like so many other black men, he’s found to be wrongfully convicted—is overturned and he returns home. Nathan is determined to reveal who framed him, only to quickly end up dead. So Nikki takes up her father’s quest and tries to untangle the mystery. Even her blossoming relationship with Davis Carlino—son of local magnate Bertram “Big Bert” Carlino—won’t get in the way of finding the truth. Then Nikki discovers how Big Bert and her father are connected…and that Davis could be part of it, too. Is Nikki about to become another Vegas cautionary tale? Nikki is a totally appealing character: gutsy, practical, and strong, at the head of a cast of well-drawn supporting characters. The interracial romance between Nikki and Davis, who is white, is handled deftly, as is Giles’ skillful evocation of the townies-vs.-tourists nature of Las Vegas. An utterly compelling whodunit. (Mystery. 14-18)

About the Author

L. R. Giles hunts monsters. When he catches them, he locks them in stories. His work has been featured in the Dark Dreams anthology series, he’s won the prestigious Virginia Commission for the Arts Fiction Fellowship, and he was a Top 10 Finalist in the international SciFi Now/Tor UK War of the Words competition. He resides in Chesapeake, Virginia with his wife.

Her website is www.lamargiles.com.

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Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Korman

Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Korman. March 7, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062300058.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

The thrilling finale to the New York Times-bestselling Masterminds series from middle grade star author Gordon Korman. Perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and James Patterson.

After a serious betrayal from one of their former friends, the clones of Project Osiris are on the run again. Now separated into pairs, Eli and Tori and Amber and Malik are fighting to survive in the real world.

Amber and Malik track down the one person they think can help them prove the existence of Project Osiris, notorious mob boss Gus Alabaster, also known as Malik’s DNA donor. But as Malik gets pulled into the criminal world—tantalized by hints of a real family—his actions put him and Amber into greater danger.

Part of Series: Masterminds (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 4-7. Korman’s action-packed caper series comes to a satisfying close in this final installment. After facing a surprising double-cross at the end of the last book (Criminal Destiny, 2016), Eli and Tori get separated from Amber and Malik, but that doesn’t stop each pair of kids from continuing to follow clues to track down the criminals from which they were cloned. They have good intentions, but they can’t help but use their inborn skills, and soon they all begin to feel lured in by the ease of breaking the law. But as the cinematic plot, laced with red herrings, daring escapes, and mostly harmless minor crimes, trundles on to a tropical resort, where the foursome confronts the mad scientist responsible for their existence, the kids realize that their loyalty to one another and the skills they’ve learned from each other are enough to keep them on the straight and narrow (for now, at least). With a masterful balance of humor, thought-provoking questions, and adventure, this finale offers just the right closing note to an entertaining trilogy.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
In this trilogy closer, the four escaped clones from Project Osiris are still on the run, trying to avoid capture, discover the truth behind their criminal origins, and rescue the rest of the clones from the clutches of the evil Dr. Hammerstrom.Amber and Malik travel to Chicago to question Malik’s DNA donor, crime boss Gus Alabaster. Posing as his long-lost son, Malik is able to infiltrate his inner circle, but other than the confirmation that he is Gus’ clone, the trip is futile. Meanwhile, Tori and Eli go to California to visit serial killer Bartholomew Glen. There, they find that the Osiris conspiracy is bigger than they imagined. The four use a combination of their innate criminal abilities and their learned kindness to survive. Whether it is stealing a car, selling stolen Girl Scout cookies, or hacking computers, they will do whatever it takes to find the truth. This final installment in the trilogy that began with Masterminds (2015) is packed with surprising twists, high-speed chases, and plenty of near misses. Though the novel sidesteps racial differences, the question of nature versus nurture adds a thoughtful layer to a book that relies heavily on some convenient coincidences and improbable scenarios. (The dimly lit cover depicts the kids as either white or ambiguous.) Fans of the series will not be disappointed. Action-packed, high-speed fun. (Adventure. 8-12)

About the Author

Korman wrote his first book, “This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall”, when he was 12 years old, for a coach who suddenly found himself teaching 7th grade English. He later took that episode and created a book out of it, as well, in “The Sixth Grade Nickname Game”, wherein Mr. Huge was based on that 7th grade teacher.

Korman moved to New York City, where he studied film and film writing. While in New York, he met his future wife; live in Long Island with their three children.

He has published more than 50 books.

His website is gordonkorman.com.

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Masterminds: Payback on Amazon

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A Good Idea by Cristina Moracho

A Good Idea by Cristina Moracho. February 28, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 368 p. ISBN: 9780451476241.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Can the right kind of boy get away with killing the wrong kind of girl?

Finley and Betty’s close friendship survived Fin’s ninth-grade move from their coastal Maine town to Manhattan. Calls, letters, and summer visits continued to bind them together, and in the fall of their senior year, they both applied to NYU, planning to reunite for good as roommates.

Then Betty disappears. Her ex-boyfriend Calder admits to drowning her, but his confession is thrown out, and soon the entire town believes he was coerced and Betty has simply run away. Fin knows the truth, and she returns to Williston for one final summer, determined to get justice for her friend, even if it means putting her loved ones—and herself—at risk.

But Williston is a town full of secrets, where a delicate framework holds everything together, and Fin is not the only one with an agenda. How much is she willing to damage to get her revenge and learn the truth about Betty’s disappearance, which is more complicated than she ever imagined—and infinitely more devastating?

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

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. Calder Miller confessed to the murder of Betty Flynn. Yet, as a minor without a present lawyer—and the son of Williston’s manipulative mayor—he walked free. But Finley Blake, Betty’s best friend, is ready to settle the score. Slitting tires, sparking fires, and doggedly interrogating classmates and locals alike, Finley demands nothing short of the truth: why did Calder do it? While her perilous ploys successfully bring Betty, a “mercurial” force with a long tarnished reputation, to the forefront of Williston’s clouded memory, they also unearth a series of startling secrets. Finley soon finds herself—and those she cares most about—haunted not only by danger but also boundless uncertainty. Finley’s brooding first-person narrative, precocious and often deluged with drug use, doesn’t always accommodate deep secondary-character development. Still, Moracho’s setting, a sleepy coastal town swathed in superstition and sea, shines. Edgy, atmospheric, and sometimes steamy, this is a thoughtful portrait of grief and an engaging examination of the risks we take for the ones we love. Ideal for mystery enthusiasts and noir newcomers.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
A young woman returns for the summer from her mother’s in New York City to her dad’s house in a small Maine town, intent on uncovering what actually happened to her best friend, who is only officially recognized by the police as missing even though her ex-boyfriend confessed to—but then recanted—having killed her. Finley is set to begin at NYU in the fall, but the loss of her troubled friend Betty drives her back to insular Williston to spend one final summer there in the late 1990s. An incredibly tangled web immediately presents itself, and she meets Serena, whom Betty met when her parents sent her to a religious summer camp and to whom Finley develops an intense attraction. Together, they do all they can to force the truth to come to light. Lushly evocative writing sets an atmospherically dark and foreboding tone from the start, and secrets are harbored by nearly every character, all of whom appear to be white. Finley is a distant narrator, tough and smart, and though she spends a fair amount of time downing pills, drinking, and having sex with both the town drug dealer, Owen, and Serena, her grief and anger over Betty are believable motivating forces that keep her asking questions and seeking revenge. A discomfiting, gripping mystery with plenty of sharp edges. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Cristina Moracho is a novelist and freelance writer/editor. Her debut novel was Althea & Oliver (Viking). She lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where she makes all the bad decisions.

Her website is www.cristinamoracho.com.

 

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Secrets & Sequences by Gene Luen Yang

Secrets & Sequences by Gene Luen Yang. March 7, 2017. First Second, 112 p. ISBN: 978162676185.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.0.

Stately Academy is no ordinary school: it was once home to an elite institute where teachers, students, and robots worked together to unravel the mysteries of coding. Hopper, Eni, and Josh won’t rest until they’ve learned the whole story, but they aren’t the only ones interested in the school’s past. Principal Dean is hot on their trail, demanding that the coders turn over their most powerful robot. Dean may be a creep, but he’s nothing compared to the guy who’s really in charge: a green-skinned coding genius named Professor One-Zero.

Sequel to: Paths & Portals

Part of Series: Secret Coders (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Coding Lessons

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2017)
The series’ overarching plot ramps up in the third entry of the Secret Coders series.With Professor Bee still stuck at the mercy of the villainous Principal Dean and his rugby goons in the cliffhanger that ended Paths and Portals (2016), friends Hopper (mixed race, Chinese/white), Eni (black), and Josh (light-skinned but racially ambiguous) must first program their way out of danger. After that situation is resolved, Hopper receives a warning that the principal is quite evil and that Hopper’s mom might be in danger—but their mother-daughter communication still falters. Bee gives more coding lessons and also teaches the kids about his first students, among whom were Hopper’s missing father and Pascal, a brilliant pupil who ended up building an army of robots for world domination. Although Bee, Hopper’s father, and their team stopped him, Bee now worries that Pascal is back. Soon enough, Dean has Hopper’s mom at gunpoint to force the coders to find a flying turtle that takes them right into the lair of a villain far worse than Dean. The coding principles focused on—parameters and Ifelse (if else) statements—are well-explained and -illustrated, which is necessary for readers to follow along with the characters’ actions. The cliffhanger puzzle is an especially snazzy way to end this outing. Nearly every element (especially the bad guys) escalates wildly and successfully in this nifty comp-sci romp. (Graphic science fiction. 8-14)

About the Author

Gene Luen Yang is currently serving as the Library of Congress’ fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His 2006 book American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Award. It also won an Eisner Award. His 2013 two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints was nominated for the National Book Award and won the LA Times Book Prize. Gene currently writes Dark Horse Comics’ Avatar: The Last Airbender series and DC Comics’ Superman. Secret Coders, his middle-grade graphic novel series with cartoonist Mike Holmes, teaches kids the basics of computer programming.

He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his lovely wife and children and teaches at a Roman Catholic high school.

His website is http://geneyang.com.

Teacher Resources

Secret Coders Downloadable Activities

Around the Web

Secrets & Sequences on Amazon

Secrets & Sequences on Goodreads

Secrets & Sequences on JLG

Secrets & Sequences Publisher Page

Hideout by Watt Key

Hideout  by Watt Key. January 10, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 p. ISBN: 9780374304829.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.2.

In this riveting middle-grade adventure, the son of a Mississippi policeman finds a boy living on his own in the wilderness. Twelve-year-old Sam has been given a fishing boat by his father, but he hates fishing. Instead he uses the boat to disappear for hours at a time, exploring the forbidden swampy surroundings of his bayou home. Then he discovers a strange kid named Davey, mysteriously alone, repairing an abandoned cabin deep in the woods. Not fooled by the boy’s evasive explanation as to why he’s on his own, Sam becomes entangled in his own efforts to help Davey. But this leads him to telling small lies that only get bigger as the danger increases for both boys and hidden truths become harder to conceal.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: References to marijuana use

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. From the author of Alabama Moon (2006) and Terror at Bottle Creek (2016) comes an exciting adventure set in Mississippi’s Pascagoula River marshlands. When 12-year-old Sam finds another boy, Davey, living alone in an abandoned fishing camp, Sam’s efforts to help him draw the attention of a trio of criminals. Emotionally reeling from a beating at school, Sam wonders if he’s been marked as a loser for good. He wants to do something brave, like his police chief dad, so he’s taken to piloting his boat in the bayou’s unmapped areas, where he finds Davey. Davey claims to be waiting for his father and brother, but as Sam begins sneaking him food and supplies, it’s clear Davey isn’t telling the whole truth. He’s hidden piles of money, which remind Sam of a robbery his dad is investigating. Sam’s struggles to fit in at school, to like himself, and to solve his own problems reflect middle-grade concerns. The boys’ survivalist adventures in the swamps are suspenseful, and the reassuring ending relies on supportive adult intervention.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
Key treads familiar territory in this tale of boys trying to be men, this time in the dangerous swampy bayous of Mississippi.Narrator Sam Ford has been beaten badly by two bullies at his new middle school. With a dad who has just become chief of police of Pascagoula, Sam tries to escape his humiliation by blaming his only friend, nerdy white Grover. Hoping to prove himself, Sam heads to the bayous in his new boat, a present for his 13th birthday, looking for a dead body that search and rescue hasn’t been able to find. Instead, Sam finds Davey holed up in a deserted and rotting old fish camp. Given the absence of racial markers, particularly in this Mississippi setting, readers are likely to conclude that both boys are white. With little heed to common sense, Sam begins to help Davey by taking him supplies he’s sneaked out of his house. The natural predators of the swamp and backwaters combine with human dilemmas to test the boys and their mix of loyalties. The ways they meet such frightening circumstances as thieves on the run highlight the difference that a loving and supportive family can make, and that has nothing to do with what money can buy. The boys are on the cusp of manhood, and navigating those waters is as treacherous as any swamp. It’s man versus nature as well as man versus man in this tale that will have strong appeal to Key’s fans and adventure lovers. (Adventure. 10-15)

About the Author

Watt Key received his BA from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama. He subsequently earned an MBA from Springhill College in Mobile, AL. While working as a computer programmer, he began submitting novels to major publishers in New York City. When he was 34 years he sold his debut novel, Alabama Moon, to publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Watt currently lives with his wife and three children in Mobile, Alabama.

Her website is www.wattkey.com.

Teacher Resources

Watt Key Common Core Guide

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Hideout on Amazon

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Hideout Publisher Page

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan. June 7, 2016. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 384 p. ISBN: 9780553524857.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

Julia has the unusual ability to be . . . unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses.

It’s a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public Cleansings. But it’s a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned–crime pays.

Her latest job is paying very well indeed. Julia is posing as a housemaid in the grand house of Mrs. Och, where an odd assortment of characters live and work: A disgraced professor who sends her to fetch parcels containing bullets, spiders, and poison. An aristocratic houseguest who is locked in the basement each night. And a mysterious young woman who is clearly in hiding–though from what or whom?

Worse, Julia suspects that there’s a connection between these people and the killer leaving a trail of bodies across the frozen city.

The more she learns, the more she wants to be done with this unnatural job. To go back to the safety of her friends and fellow thieves. But Julia is entangled in a struggle between forces more powerful than she’d ever imagined. Escape will come at a terrible price

Part of Series: Witch’s Child (Book #1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Alcohol

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 17))
Grades 9-12. Julia is the best thief and spy in Spira City. At 16, she knows every twisted alleyway and escape route it holds. She also has the ability to “be unseen”—not to become invisible, exactly, but to pull herself into gaps in the air. This unusual talent has proven dead useful in her line of work, which has been her lot ever since her mother was drowned as a witch (magic and folklore are illegal in the kingdom of Frayne). Home is now with her brother and the ragtag gang that contracts her jobs. This is how Julia has ended up posing as a maid in the house of Mrs. Och, but her snooping assignment is becoming more dangerous by the day. Strange meetings, secretive guests, and frightening sounds inhabit the house’s walls, while outside, a serial killer is on the loose. Egan nimbly builds a fantasy world resembling early modern Europe—with a class system, scourge survivors, prescribed religion, and witch hunts—and laces it with original mythologies to fuel the story’s action. Readers will find themselves immediately immersed in the narrative and invested in the fate of Julia, who is both feisty and flawed. There is a richness to this inaugural volume of the Witch’s Child trilogy, and readers will be hard pressed to put it down.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2016)
Julia is a thief in Spira City, sent by a mysterious employer to gather information from the wealthy Mrs. Och’s house. Though Julia has never understood her ability to turn almost invisible, that talent helps her spy and steal. Posing as a housemaid, Julia learns that Mrs. Och is defying the fervidly anti-magic government by secretly smuggling well-connected witches to safety. (Less-fortunate witches are drowned in public “Cleansings,” as Julia’s mother was years before.) Mrs. Och’s newest houseguests are a beautiful witch and her toddler son — a child with powers that interested parties would kill to claim. Julia is drawn into a battle encompassing her targets, a corrupt politician, and the terrifying forces behind her assignment. While this fantasy’s world-building, politics, and magical history are indeed interesting, these are surpassed by the daring criminal escapades and by Julia’s internal conflicts. Julia’s self-made family of thieves (including brother Dek and love-interest Wyn) is a likable crew that works together, even through the personal betrayals that add emotional complexity to the novel. The villains, too, are attractive in their wickedness. Following Julia and her comrades makes for a tricky, frightening, relentlessly exciting adventure colored with moral ambiguity and magical intrigue. The fast-paced plot concludes nicely, but with plenty of questions left open for further installments in the series. sarah berman

About the Author

My superpowers: high-kicking, list-making, simultaneously holding two opposing opinions

My weaknesses: fear of flying, excessive list-making, lame-ass mortality

My allies: The Canadian Mounties, my made-for-walking-in black boots, Mick, the English Language

My mission: the coexistence of ambivalence and joy.

Her website is www.catherineegan.com.

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The Inn Between by Marina Cohen

The Inn Between by Marina Cohen. March 22, 2016. Roaring Brook Press, 208 p. ISBN: 9781626722026.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.3; Lexile: 580.

The Shining meets “Hotel California” in this supremely creepy middle grade novel about the bizarre things that happen to two girls stranded at a desert inn.

Eleven-year-old Quinn has had some bad experiences lately. She was caught cheating in school, and then one day, her little sister Emma disappeared while walking home from school. She never returned

When Quinn’s best friend Kara has to move away, she goes on one last trip with Kara and her family. They stop over at the first hotel they see, a Victorian inn that instantly gives Quinn the creeps, and she begins to notice strange things happening around them. When Kara’s parents and then brother disappear without a trace, the girls are stranded in a hotel full of strange guests, hallways that twist back in on themselves, and a particularly nasty surprise lurking beneath the floorboards. Will the girls be able to solve the mystery of what happened to Kara’s family before it’s too late?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Dark subject matter including death; child abduction; and vivid depiction of hell; Grotesque imagery

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2016 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Long-time friends Quinn and Kara find their friendship sorely tested when Kara’s family moves to California and Quinn accompanies them on a road trip to their new home. An unexpected stop at a strange desert inn full of increasingly spooky disappearances reminds Quinn too vividly of how her younger sister, Emma, went missing earlier that year. When Kara’s parents and brother appear to vanish, Quinn is determined to solve the inn’s mystery. The employees have names that might tip off astute readers to the inn’s real nature—Sharon and Persephone, for instance. Eerie flashbacks to Emma’s plight haunt Quinn, who catches glimpses of the little girl at the inn, but always in places she can’t reach. In an attempt to escape, the girls face increasing terror—a subbasement of horror and a flight across a scorching landscape that further tests the way Quinn and Kara are linked. For readers who enjoy being scared silly, this will fit the bill while also providing them with a thought-provoking ending.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2016)
A haunted hotel seeks new victims in this middle-grade suspense novel. Eleven-year-old Quinn’s best friend, Kara, is moving. Quinn is having difficulty letting go, so she makes the trip from Denver to Santa Monica with Kara and her family. When Kara’s parents stop to rest at the Inn Between, a grand Victorian hotel in the desert, Quinn is unnerved by the hotel’s strange architecture, its isolated location, and the odd guests and even odder hotel employees. Kara’s parents and brother disappear after the first night. Knowing they aren’t safe, the girls resolve to escape, even if it means traveling through the hot desert with little food and water, but before Quinn can leave the Inn Between, she must wrestle with some demons–both literally and figuratively. Shifting between past and present as Quinn reflects on her difficult relationship with her younger sister, Emma, and her immediate dilemma with Kara and the Inn Between, Cohen’s emotionally gripping tale perfectly captures the essences of friendship and sibling love. Heavy themes are handled with sensitivity, offering a cathartic experience for readers who may be dealing with similar situations. Readers should not be misled by the book’s innocuous cover–the book deals with such dark subjects as death and child abduction, and the concept of hell is described in vivid, frightening detail. Readers looking for a mystery with heart, humor, and hairy moments will be captivated. (Supernatural fiction. 9-12)

About the Author

Marina Cohen grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, where she spent far too much time asking herself what if… She has an M.A. in French Literature and is the author of several horror and fantasy novels for kids and teens.

In elementary school, one of her favorite authors was Edgar Allen Poe. She loved stories like The Tell-Tale Heart and The Pit and the Pendulum and aspired to write similar stories. She is a lover of the fantastical, the bizarre, and all things creepy.

Her website is www.marinacohen.com.

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City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson. January 24, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 432 p. ISBN: 9780399547584.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling murder mystery set in Kenya.

In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Gangs

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 8-11. “If you’re going to be a thief, the first thing you need to know is that you don’t exist.” So begins Congo refugee and Kenyan street gang member Tina’s gripping narrative, a wonderfully twisted puzzle of a murder mystery. Six years ago, Tina’s mother, maid to wealthy Mr. Greyhill, was murdered in his study. Eleven-year-old Tina got her half sister Kiki (Mr. Greyhill’s daughter) a scholarship at a convent school and then disappeared into the streets of Sangui City, where she joined the Goonda gang. Here Tina refined her skills as a thief while carefully plotting revenge on Greyhill, whom she has good reason to believe murdered her mother. Now 17, Tina is ready to put the plan into action by blackmailing and then killing her mother’s assassin. Anderson, who has worked with refugee relief and development in Africa, addresses issues of race, class, and gender as intrinsic plot elements. Tina’s gay friend BoyBoy is an especially sympathetic and compelling character who refuses to join the Goondas, yet lends his computer skills to their many heists. Greyhill’s son Michael, Tina’s childhood playmate, is now both her captor and maybe her love interest, highlighting the tremendous gap between wealth and poverty and the resulting power dynamics. The nicely twisted climax is wholly believable, and readers will be sorry to leave Tina, whose fierce loyalty to family drives her courageous actions.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
Anderson’s debut mystery novel features a Congolese teenager bent on revenge.In fictional Sangui City, Kenya, lives 16-year-old Tina, a black Congolese refugee. Tina has two purposes in life: take care of her mixed-race half sister, Kiki, and avenge their mother’s death. Five years ago, Mama was murdered, and Tina believes the culprit can only be the rich and corrupt Mr. Greyhill, her mother’s white former employer and lover. To survive, Tina has embedded herself as the wiliest of thieves within the ranks of the Goondas, a powerful gang in the city. After a Goonda heist on Mr. Greyhill goes wrong, Tina finds herself in cahoots with his mixed-race son, Michael, to find the true murderer. Michael wants to prove it wasn’t his father, and Tina goes along with it so that she can resume her plan for vengeance. Along with her black tech genius partner in crime, Boyboy, they find themselves in the depths of Congo, looking for answers that could cost them their lives. The narrative is guided by Tina’s rules for survival, which reveal a strong yet vulnerable character. While much of the novel is fictionalized, it exposes both the very real corruption and greed of the mining industry in Congo and the women who pay the price. The novel is peppered with Swahili words and phrases, and Anderson makes an effort to paint a picture of the country. A story full of twists and turns, proving nothing is ever as black and white as it may seem. (glossary) (Thriller. 12-16)

About the Author

Natalie C. Anderson is a writer and international development professional living in Boston, Massachusetts. She has spent the last decade working with NGOs and the UN on refugee relief and development, mainly in Africa. She was selected as the 2014-2015 Associates of the Boston Public Library Children’s Writer in Residence, where she wrote her debut novel, City of Saints and Thieves.

Her website is www.nataliecanderson.com.

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City of Saints and Thieves on Amazon

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City of Saints and Thieves Publisher Page