Tag Archives: paranormal

What You Hide by Natalie D. Richards

What You Hide by Natalie D. Richards. December 4, 2018. Sourcebooks Fire, 369 p. ISBN: 9781492657187.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 610.

Mallory didn’t want to leave home, but it wasn’t safe to stay. So she sleeps at her best friend’s house and spends the rest of her time at the library, doing her online schoolwork and figuring out what comes next. Because she’s not going live in fear like her mother.

Spencer volunteers at the library. Sure, it’s community service for a stunt he pulled, but he likes the work. And it’s the perfect escape from his parents’ pressure to excel at school, at ice hockey, at everything. Especially after he meets Mallory.

Then there is a tragic death at the library. Suddenly, what was once a sanctuary turns sinister. Ghostly footprints, strange scratching sounds, scrawled messages on bulletin boards and walls… Mallory and Spencer don’t know who or what is responsible, but one thing is for sure:

They are not as alone―or as safe―as they thought.

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. Spencer’s privileged family expects him to go to college and live a life of wealth and prominence. Mallory comes from a lower-income home, where her stepfather is controlling and manipulative. Scared about the future for different reasons, the two discover their own escapes: Spencer climbs mountains (or anything else he can find), while Mallory evades her stepfather by running away. Mallory and Spencer meet under stressful circumstances, but it’s not long before they start to help each other through their problems and lead their own lives. Richards’ latest is particularly intriguing; like her previous novel, One Was Lost (2016), it also features a chilling, small-town mystery. Though both teens face difficult dilemmas, in the present and looking forward, it is likely Mallory who readers will feel for most as she tries to escape an abusive home environment. This page-turning story of teens helping each other through dilemmas will attract and inspire readers.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2018)
Two teens with different life circumstances are drawn together in this thriller featuring a mystery set in their Ohio town’s public library. When privileged, funny, and kind Spencer gets busted for breaking a library window while climbing the outside of the building, he winds up doing community service there to make amends. It doesn’t take him long to notice smart, self-possessed Mallory, who spends long hours in the library since leaving home due to the unsettling behavior of her domineering stepfather. In short chapters that alternate between the two in first-person narration, their story unfolds, blending with an eerie subplot about strange and frightening occurrences that happen largely after hours within the library. Though there’s never much doubt that they will become romantically involved, care is taken to develop both characters, including their places within their families—Spencer, adopted by loving and extremely wealthy parents, acutely feels the weight of their expectations, while Mallory’s heart-rending experience of being homeless and worrying about her mom, who’s pregnant, is poignantly told. Spencer is described as having bronze skin, which differs from his adoptive family’s pale blondness. Mallory is implied white. There is some ethnic diversity among secondary characters, including Mallory’s best friend, Lana, whose Venezuelan family is struggling following her dad’s and brother’s deportations. A taut, compelling mystery and a compassionate realistic fiction novel all in one. (Thriller. 14-18)

About the Author

Natalie D. Richards won her first writing competition in the second grade with her short story about Barbara Frances Bizzlefishes (who wouldn’t dare do the dishes.) She later misplaced her writing dreams in a maze of cubicles and general office drudgery. Natalie never forgot about Barbara or those dishes, and eventually she found her way back to storytelling, following the genre of her heart, teen fiction. When she’s not writing or shopping her manuscripts, you can probably find her wading through the towers of dog-eared paperbacks that have taken over her bedroom.

Natalie lives in Ohio with her amazing husband and their three children, who inspire her every day to stick with her dreams.  Her website is www.nataliedrichards.com.

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Melmoth by Sarah Perry

Melmoth by Sarah Perry. October 16, 2018. Custom House, 273 p. ISBN: 9780062856395.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

For centuries, the mysterious dark-robed figure has roamed the globe, searching for those whose complicity and cowardice have fed into the rapids of history’s darkest waters—and now, in Sarah Perry’s breathtaking follow-up to The Essex Serpent, it is heading in our direction.

It has been years since Helen Franklin left England. In Prague, working as a translator, she has found a home of sorts—or, at least, refuge. That changes when her friend Karel discovers a mysterious letter in the library, a strange confession and a curious warning that speaks of Melmoth the Witness, a dark legend found in obscure fairy tales and antique village lore. As such superstition has it, Melmoth travels through the ages, dooming those she persuades to join her to a damnation of timeless, itinerant solitude. To Helen it all seems the stuff of unenlightened fantasy.

But, unaware, as she wanders the cobblestone streets Helen is being watched. And then Karel disappears. . . .

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Grotesque imagery

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Like the Wandering Jew, Perry’s nightmarish Melmoth the Witness ranges the earth recording horrors wrought by humankind. She watches and tracks individuals (who feel hairs prick on their neck and search the shadows for visions) whose sins cannot be forgiven, upon whom she preys with flashes of magical realism, recalling the imagery in Perry’s The Essex Serpent​ (2017). The nonlinear time line of historical events and the nested stories involving wide-ranging and complex characters may sometimes make readers feel uneasy or even lost. But once we gain our sea legs, this stylized, postmodern work by a masterly writer compels us to see genocide, war, deportation, and even compassionate deadly crimes through new eyes that reflect the characters’ perspectives. Helen Franklin is a young British woman working as a translator in Prague, where she and her new friends, Karel and Thea, discover a shocking document describing the wanderings of the mythical Melmoth. Later, after reading the unforgettable horrors detailed in the document, Helen breaks down, seemingly unable to withstand the starkly upsetting images, thrumming inevitability of remembrance, and the guilt we all share in some way. This is a sobering, disturbing, yet powerful and moving book that cannot fail to impress. The stories-within-stories and the Jewish themes recall Dara Horn’s The World to Come (2006) and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (2013), although Melmoth presents different kinds of nightmares.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2018)
Haunted by past misdeeds, a self-exiled English translator encounters the uncanny in snow-covered Prague. Helen Franklin doesn’t deserve joy, so she arranges her own “rituals of discomfort: the uncovered mattress, the unheated room, the bitter tea,” the modern-day equivalents of wearing a hair shirt. When one of her few friends, the scholar Karel Pražan, stops her on the street to share his discovery of a strange manuscript, Helen begins to suspect her past has caught up with her at last. The manuscript contains tales from many sources, and they all detail horrors in various degrees: a young Austrian boy who gets his neighbors sent to concentration camps during World War II, a 16th-century Protestant in Tudor England striving to retain her faith in the face of persecution, a 19th-century Turkish bureaucrat responsible for writing a memo used to justify the detention of Armenian families. In each of these tales lurks the spectral figure of Melmoth, a witness “cursed to wander the earth without home or respite, until Christ comes again.” But why does steady, practical Helen Franklin feel Melmoth’s “cold gaze passing at the nape of her neck”—and what misdeeds from her past have pushed her to the brink of exhaustion? While Helen’s friends—the sharp, wry Thea, a former barrister, the cranky landlord Albína, and the saintly Adaya—worry, the beseeching hand of Melmoth grows ever closer. In rich, lyrical prose, Perry (The Essex Serpent, 2017, etc.) weaves history and myth, human frailty and compassion, into an affecting gothic morality tale for 2018. Like David Mitchell and Sarah Waters, Perry is changing what a modern-day ghost story can look like, challenging her readers to confront the realities of worldwide suffering from which fiction is so often an escape. A chilling novel about confronting our complicity in past atrocities—and retaining the strength and moral courage to strive for the future.

About the Author

Sarah Perry was born in Essex in 1979, and was raised as a Strict Baptist. Having studied English at Anglia Ruskin University she worked as a civil servant before studying for an MA in Creative Writing and a PhD in Creative Writing and the Gothic at Royal Holloway, University of London. In 2004 she won the Spectator’s Shiva Naipaul Award for travel writing.

She currently lives in Norwich, where she is completing her third novel.

Her website is www.sarahperry.net/

Teacher Resources

Melmoth Discussion Questions

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Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk

Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk. July 31, 2018. Graphix, 272 p. ISBN: 9781338139228.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Lexile: 340.

Sixth grade was SO much easier for Danielle. All her friends were in the same room and she knew what to expect from her life. But now that she’s in seventh grade, she’s in a new middle school, her friends are in different classes and forming new cliques, and she is completely lost.

When Danielle inherits a magical sketchbook from her eccentric great aunt Elma, she draws Madison, an ideal best friend that springs to life right off the page! But even when you create a best friend, it’s not easy navigating the ups and downs of relationships, and before long Danielle and Madison are not exactly seeing eye-to-eye.

To make matters worse, Danielle has drawn the head of her favorite (and totally misunderstood) cartoon villain, Prince Neptune. He’s also come to life and is giving her terrible advice about how to make people like her. When she rejects him and he goes on a rampage during a school pep rally, Danielle and Madison have to set aside their differences to stop him!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Cartoon violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Dany is an awkward seventh-grader navigating her way through the perilous world of middle school when she stumbles upon her great-aunt’s enchanted sketchbook; suddenly, her talent for drawing gives her the amazing ability to create friends out of thin air. But Dany’s creations start to turn on her; first her perfectly engineered best friend, Madison, begins to search for meaning in her own life. Then Prince Neptune (the disembodied head of the handsome villain of Dany’s favorite show, the Sailor Moon-esque Solar Sisters) plots his evil reign over Connecticut. At once cringeworthy and delightfully absurd, Making Friends, much like middle school itself, is somewhere between teenage cynicism and a childlike mastery of fantasy. Although Gudsnuk’s characters are sometimes suspiciously wise beyond their years, and her stylized visual references perhaps a bit too meta-referential for some younger readers, they will certainly recommend this story to readers for whom middle school is a distant and painful memory. Middle-schoolers, meanwhile, will appreciate Gudsnuk’s light touch in bringing an empathetic, joyful, and judicious treatment to those tough in-between years.

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2018)
Making friends is tough in a new school; could a magical notebook be the answer? Seventh grade is not beginning well for Dany; her two besties are not in any of her classes, and not only is she having a tough time making new friends, she is also being bullied. One day, Dany inherits an unusual sketchbook from her recently deceased great-aunt. While sketching her favorite evil prince from the beloved anime Solar Sisters, she discovers that anything she draws in the notebook becomes real. Dany then creates for herself the perfect best friend: Madison Fontaine, a trendy new girl from New York City who is knowledgeable about trends, sassy, and fun. However, Dany soon learns that even if you tailor-make your own BFF, how you treat them still matters. This charming graphic novel features full-color, manga-inspired illustrations and a breezy plot that blends wish fulfillment and fantasy with an approachable and contemporary storyline. With a broad brush, Gudsnuk hits many of the angst-y issues of middle school, including popularity, bullying, family relationships, body image, and fandom, creating appeal for a large swath of readers. Main character Dany is white and seemingly comfortably middle-class, as is her creation, Madison. Secondary characters offer a bit more inclusivity, portraying different races, ethnicities, and orientations. A nifty pastiche of middle school matters. (Graphic fantasy. 7-12)

About the Author

Kristen Gudsnuk is a comics writer and illustrator. She got her start with the webcomic Henchgirl, which was later published by Scout Comics in single issue and Dark Horse Comics as a collection. Her newest works include the middle grade graphic novel Making Friends, from Scholastic Books, and Modern Fantasy, a miniseries from Dark Horse (written by Rafer Roberts). Gudsnuk also illustrated the VIP series by Jen Calonita, published by Little, Brown. Originally from Shelton, CT, she now lives in Queens, NY with her boyfriend and dog.

Her website is kristengudsnuk.com

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Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. June 26, 2018. Saga Press, 287 p. ISBN: 9781534413498.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 700.

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.

Part of Series: Sixth World (Book #1)

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

 

Video Review

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
It is the near future, and a cataclysmic flood has drowned two thirds of the planet. The bulk of the remaining land is the Dinétah, home of the Navajo (known among themselves as the Diné). When the Big Water rose up, so did the gods and monsters of the old stories, who now roam freely through Dinétah alongside clans, families, and gangs. Maggie Hoskie is a monster hunter, trained and then abandoned by the immortal Neizghání. She hunts alone, tormented by her painful past, believing she is almost a monster herself. When a different type of creature begins appearing, Maggie knows she must find its source before it puts the Diné at risk. She reluctantly teams up with an enigmatic medicine man to face down the witch behind it all. Roanhorse is an exciting new voice in speculative fiction, and her depictions of Navajo legends and culture make for a fascinating read. This cross between Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Mad Max: Fury Road will leave readers wanting to know what Maggie does in the next series installment.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2018)
After the Big Water, Maggie Hoskie’s monster-slaying clan powers have woken up. She’s going to need them on a journey culminating in the kind of battle fantasy readers will relish. In Roanhorse’s hard-hitting debut novel, most of the world has perished, and Dinétah (the Navajo Nation) has risen. A wall has been built to keep the Diné safe from what remains, but little can keep them safe from the monsters that have woken up inside those borders and the witches who work to destroy what life is left. Little except Maggie, whose grandmother was murdered in front of her, who was abandoned by the god Neizghání, who’d saved her. Maggie has been left to hunt monsters alone, hoping for the return of the god she loved like a father and wanted as a lover. In walks the troublingly sexy Kai, whom she reluctantly takes along to hunt monsters and who has medicine big enough to perhaps heal the Earth from the Big Water. As her quest grows, Maggie and Kai battle immortals and mortals alike, and Maggie ends up wondering whom to trust. Propelled by the Coyote god Ma’ii, Maggie confronts her past, her love, and her own power in a war where the stakes are higher than she ever imagined. Roanhorse, the first Indigenous American to win a Nebula and a finalist for a Hugo, has given us a sharp, wonderfully dreamy, action-driven novel. Here’s hoping that the next two in this trilogy will deliver more heart-racing, heart-rending prose.

About the Author

Rebecca Roanhorse is speculative fiction writer and Nebula, Hugo, and Sturgeon Award Finalist. She is also a 2017 Campbell Award Finalist for Best New Science Fiction and Fantasy writer. Her novel Trail of Lightning is the first book in the Sixth World series, followed by Storm of Locusts in 2019. She lives in northern New Mexico with her husband, daughter, and pug.

Her website is rebeccaroanhorse.com/

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Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir

Archival Quality  by Ivy Noelle Weir. March 6, 2018. Oni Press, 280 p. ISBN: 9781620104705.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 380.

After losing her job at the library, Cel Walden starts working at the haunting Logan Museum as an archivist. But the job may not be the second chance she was hoping for, and she finds herself confronting her mental health, her relationships, and before long, her grasp on reality as she begins to dream of a young woman she’s never met, but feels strangely drawn to. Especially after she asks Cel for help…

As Cel attempts to learn more about the woman, she begins losing time, misplacing things, passing out—the job is becoming dangerous, but she can’t let go of this mysterious woman. Who is she? Why is she so fixated on Cel? And does Cel have the power to save her when she’s still trying to save herself?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Alcohol, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Harsh realities of asylum life

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. The Logan Museum is creepy, but Cel is desperate for a job since she lost her old library position under ambiguous circumstances. Despite an awkward interview, Cel becomes the archivist and spends the night shift cataloging materials from the Logan’s collections. But bumps in the night and weird dreams of a girl in an asylum set Cel on edge, especially since she’s worried about her own mental health. But the ghost girl’s hints that something suspicious is going on with the secretive board are hard to ignore. With the help of librarian Holly and curator Aba, Cel sets out to solve the mystery of the girl and perhaps get to the heart of the museum’s purpose. Steenz’s blocky, thick-lined artwork depicts a refreshingly diverse cast of characters in a wide variety of skin tones and body shapes. Though the pace drags in the middle, and the mysterious origins of the museum are disappointingly underdeveloped, Cel’s ultimate decision to finally seek out professional help for her mental illness is satisfying.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2018)
In another time and in different societies, librarians and people with psychosocial disabilities held similar positions: namely guardians of human knowledge. The author, one of the American Library Association’s 2015 Emerging Leaders, reclaims this in Celeste “Cel” Walden, a woman of color fired from her library assistant job due to her multiply diagnosed mental illness. She interviews—and is hired—for an archivist gig at the Logan Museum, an 83-year-old institution housing “one of the largest collections of antique medical photographs, documents, and books,” according to the museum’s exceptionally groovy purple-and-blue–haired librarian, a black woman named Holly Park. With the job comes an apartment that archivists are strongly encouraged to live in due to the overnight hours. The museum also has an aloof, black chief curator named Abayomi Abiola, a history of use as a health facility of many sorts, and a mysterious board of directors…and a ghost connected to the time when the museum served as an asylum for people diagnosed with mental illness. The ghost spurs Celeste to seek justice for her and, in the process—with help from Holly and eventually Abayomi—helps Celeste seek wholeness for herself in terms of her condition. The author and illustrator bring a warm honesty, visually and narrativewise, to the characters, who are mostly people of color, as they navigate the complexities of mental illness, sexuality, love, and social responsibility. In their appealing protagonist, Weir and Steenz return both librarians and people with mental and emotional distress to their original, esteemed roles as keepers of truthful history. (Graphic fantasy. 12-adult)

About the Author

Ivy Noelle Weir has been writing stories for her entire life, and her essays on art, pop culture and librarianship have appeared in a variety of outlets. In addition to her writing, Weir is a visual artist and former librarian who studied photography at Parsons the New School for Design, art history at Goddard College, and holds an MLIS from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. A native of Philadelphia, she currently works in publishing and lives on a crooked old street in an apartment full of Halloween decorations with her partner and tiny dog.

Her website is www.ivynoelleweir.com.

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Strange Star by Emma Carroll

Strange Star by Emma Carroll. March 20, 2018. Delacorte Press, 240 p. ISBN: 9780399556067.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.3; Lexile: 590.

From the critically acclaimed author of In Darkling Wood comes a spine-tingling novel inspired by Frankenstein with more than a hint of mystery and suspense. 

One stormy June evening, five friends meet at Villa Diodati, the summer home of Lord Byron. After dinner is served, they challenge each other to tell ghost stories that will freeze the blood. But one of the guests–Mary Shelley–is stuck for a story to share.

Then there’s an unexpected knock at the front door. Collapsed on the doorstep is a girl with strange scars on her face. She has traveled a long way with her own tale to tell, and now they all must listen.

Hers is no ordinary ghost story, though. What starts as a simple tale of village life soon turns to tragedy and the darkest, most dangerous of secrets. Sometimes the truth is far more terrifying than fiction . . . and the consequences are even more devastating.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Some gruesome imagery, Death of a parent, Inhumane treatment of animals

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 4-7. On a dark summer night in Switzerland, Lord Byron challenges his friends to tell ghost stories, while Felix, a servant boy told to stay out of sight because of his dark skin color, listens at the door. One guest, Mary Shelley, struggles with the challenge. Then, a knock at the door: a half-dead girl named Lizzie with strange scars has appeared on the doorstep, and she has a chilling story of her own. A comet—some say a bad omen—passed over Lizzie’s village, and a lightning storm changed her life for the worse. Her inquisitive sister keeps getting into trouble, and a mysterious scientist keeps appearing in the graveyard. As all these seemingly unconnected things come to a head, Lizzie faces an incredible journey, carrying a story that, perhaps, Mary Shelley needs to hear. Frankenstein’s influence is clear in this Gothic-infused middle-grade novel—though knowledge of it is certainly not a prerequisite—and Carroll (In Darkling Wood, 2017) is adept at crafting tense, atmospheric backdrops. Effective as an introduction to a classic or as stand-alone horror-lite.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2017)
’Twas a dark and stormy night in 1816 when several literary luminaries gathered at a Swiss villa to spin tales of unearthly terror. Beginning with their host, Lord Byron, the participants—who include Percy and Mary Shelley—embark upon their evening’s entertainment but are soon interrupted by the dramatic arrival of a blind English girl, famished and bearing mysterious scars. She has a shocking story of her own to tell, one that includes a comet that portends misfortune; the arrival in Somerset of a reclusive woman scientist, Francesca Stine; a ravening beast preying on livestock in the night; an arrogant cloaked gentleman lurking in graveyards; visions of imminent death; and horrific experiments in the name of science. The sole nonwhite character, Felix, is a former American slave who somehow acquired his freedom and sailed to Europe, where he was hired by Byron’s housekeeper. The inclusion of a courageous young person of color who is respected by the white people around him is a welcome novelty in historical fiction. Against the backdrop of the central mystery, the texture of daily life in Georgian England and some of the pressing social issues of the day are vividly portrayed. Suspenseful and atmospheric, the book features an afterword by the author about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and her inspiration for the characters and plot. An adventure story packed full to the brim with drama—and just the right amount of shivery, fearsome delight. (Horror. 9-14)

About the Author

After years of teaching English to secondary school students, Emma now writes full time. She graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University’s MA in Writing For Young People. In another life Emma wishes she’d written ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier.

She lives in the Somerset hills with her husband and three terriers. Her website is emmacarrollauthor.wordpress.com/

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Strangers by David A. Robertson

Strangers by David A. Robertson. October 10, 2017. HighWater Press, 216 p. ISBN: 9781553796763.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 630.

When Cole Harper is compelled to return to Wounded Sky First Nation, he finds his community in chaos: a series of shocking murders, a mysterious illness ravaging the residents, and reemerging questions about Cole’s role in the tragedy that drove him away 10 years ago. With the aid of an unhelpful spirit, a disfigured ghost, and his two oldest friends, Cole tries to figure out his purpose, and unravel the mysteries he left behind a decade ago. Will he find the answers in time to save his community?

Strangers is the first novel in The Reckoner series by David Alexander Robertson, award–winning writer, and author of HighWater Press’ acclaimed children’s book When We Were Alone.

Part of Series:  The Reckoner (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2017)
A YA fantasy tells the story of a teen returning home to seek redemption. High school basketball star Cole Harper hasn’t been back to his Canadian hometown of Wounded Sky in 10 years. But when a friend from childhood asks him to return, he can’t bring himself to refuse. When he arrives, it becomes clear that it isn’t just Cole who has been harboring ill feelings in the intervening years. Many members of his First Nation band are still angry at Cole over how he survived the school fire that killed others long ago—and who he helped save during it. When Cole confronts Ashley, the friend who begged him to return, he learns that it was actually someone else using Ashley’s phone: an anthropomorphic coyote spirit who goes by the name of Choch. As surprised as Cole is to have a coyote talking to him, he recognizes that Choch is the same figure who appeared to him during the previous tragedy, offering him the power to save his friends at the cost of the deaths of others. Now he has a new offer for the teen: death is coming to Wounded Sky, and it will claim everyone in Cole’s band unless he can find a way to stop it. Aided by his two best friends from childhood as well as the ghost of another classmate and the coyote spirit himself, Cole must try to redeem his past by preserving the future for as many people as he can. In this series opener, Robertson (When We Were Alone, 2016, etc.) writes in a taut prose that harnesses sensory details to subtly accrue tension: “Sounds were more intimate inside the rink: the shred of metal against ice, the snap of wood against rubber, the collision of body against body, then body against board; and finally, the crowd and its fickle crescendo.” The tone deftly oscillates between moodiness and humor, capturing the angst of the tale’s teens without becoming self-serious. Though this is very much an archetypal story, the blend of Native American fantasy elements and a noirish Canadian setting make this a memorable addition to the genre. A promising first episode of a new series with a striking hero and a coyote spirit.

About the Author

David A. Robertson is an award-winning writer. His books include When We Were Alone (Governor General’s Literary Award winner, McNally Robinson Best Book For Young People winner, TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award finalist), Will I See? (winner Manuela Dias Book Design and Illustration Award Graphic Novel Category), and the YA novel Strangers. David educates as well as entertains through his writings about Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, reflecting their cultures, histories, communities, as well as illuminating many contemporary issues.

David is a member of Norway House Cree Nation. He lives in Winnipeg. His website is www.darobertson.ca.

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The Altered History of Willow Sparks by Tara O’Connor

The Altered History of Willow Sparks by Tara O’Connor. March 6, 2018. Oni Press, 152 p. ISBN: 9781620104507.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 300.

What happens when you can finally get everything you ever wanted?

Willow Sparks and her best friend Georgia Pratt are at the bottom of the social ladder at Twin Pines High School, just trying to get through each day relatively unscathed. But when Willow finds a mysterious book that allows her to literally change her life, it feels like her luck is finally turning. As she becomes more and more popular with each entry into the book, her old life, including her friendship with Georgia, seems miles away. Yet as Willow will discover, every action has a reaction, and the future has unusual—even dangerous—ways of protecting itself

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Underage drinking, Bullying

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
Relentlessly bullied by the popular clique, the titular protagonist discovers an unexpected way to change her future.Plagued with tragically uncool hair and unfortunate acne, Willow Sparks certainly is not a member of the popular crowd. However, her two best friends, Georgia and Gary, are loyal, and together the trio navigates the social atrocities of their high school. While at her job at the local library, Willow finds herself cornered by her mean-girl nemeses and, after a violent episode, unearths a secret library within the library that’s filled with unusual books. She finds a mysterious tome bearing her name that allows her to write her own future—but with devastating effects. While the semi-Faustian trope certainly is not new, O’Connor’s graphic-novel spin on it is fun and captivating. Her art is expressive and deftly captures all the angst and action through a cinematic lens. However, as Willow’s self-conceived plans unravel, the plotting goes with it, leaving the strong beginning floundering through a hasty resolution. While Willow is fully fleshed out, the secondary characters—including best friend Georgia and Willow’s librarian boss—are frustratingly not as well-developed. Despite these quibbles, O’Connor’s offering is an enjoyable and quick dip into the dark side of wish fulfillment. Main character Willow is white, as is Gary, and Georgia is Asian. An intriguing and incisive plot that starts promisingly but ultimately falls flat. (Graphic fantasy. 12-16)

Publishers Weekly (November 20, 2017)
Willow Sparks just wants to get through high school without students in popular cliques harassing her and teachers embarrassing her. After bullies show up at the library where she works and push her down a flight of stairs, she discovers a secret underground wing-and a book with her name on it. By writing in the book, she can reshape her future, and soon she’s ditching her best friends Georgia and Gary to hang out with the cool kids. The pale lavender-gray coloring of O’Connor’s two-tone cartooning fits the eerie, brooding atmosphere of this magic-inflected cautionary tale. But although O’Connor’s talents as an artist aren’t in question-the torments that Willow and her friends face in gym class, school bathrooms, and elsewhere feel painfully real-the overall story is rushed and too-tidily resolved. Even considering the influence of the magical book, the speed with which Willow drops her friends is jarring, and their own subplots get short shrift (Georgia is moving out of town, and Gary is nervously starting to come out to family and friends). It’s an intriguing story that doesn’t have enough space to reach its full potential. Ages 13-up. (Feb.)

About the Author

Tara is a cartoonist currently residing in the New Jersey wilderness. When she’s not drawing comics, she’s teaching them. She drinks way too much tea and coffee, and on any given day there’s a 90% chance that every meal she had was cereal.

 

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A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge. October 17, 2017. Amulet Books, 416 p. ISBN: 9781419725722.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 800.

This is the story of a bear-hearted girl . . .

Sometimes, when a person dies, their spirit goes looking for somewhere to hide.
Some people have space within them, perfect for hiding.

Twelve-year-old Makepeace has learned to defend herself from the ghosts which try to possess her in the night, desperate for refuge, but one day a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard.

And now there’s a spirit inside her.

The spirit is wild, brutish and strong, and it may be her only defence when she is sent to live with her father’s rich and powerful ancestors. There is talk of civil war, and they need people like her to protect their dark and terrible family secret.

But as she plans her escape and heads out into a country torn apart by war, Makepeace must decide which is worse: possession – or death.”

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, War, Animal cruelty, Murder, Death of a parent, Misogyny

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 7-12. In her first novel since The Lie Tree (2016), Hardinge again summons history and fantasy, intermingling them in a most unusual way. Set against a backdrop of the English Civil War, the story opens in a small Puritan village, where a girl named Makepeace wrestles with vivid nightmares. When her mother is accidentally killed, the girl is sent to her father’s family, of whom she knows nothing. The Fellmottes, it turns out, are an old aristocratic clan with an insidious secret—they are able to “house” the spirits of the dead, a gift they have twisted, and the inherited cause of Makepeace’s clawing nightmares. The narrative opens slowly as Hardinge lays deliberate groundwork and conjures a palpably eerie atmosphere, which mounts in horror as the story progresses. It picks up after Makepeace, now 15, has spent two years as a kitchen girl at the Fellmotte estate, gathering information about the family. The plot becomes populated by spymistresses—whose ranks Makepeace fleetingly joins—and vengeful spirits, and is punctuated by her escape attempts and wartime battles. Yet much of the action unfolds in Makepeace’s head, as she acquires her own coterie of ghosts, most memorably that of an ill-treated bear. Hardinge’s writing is stunning, and readers will be taken hostage by its intensity, fascinating developments, and the fierce, compassionate girl leading the charge.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2018)
Hardinge’s (The Lie Tree, rev. 5/16) latest tour de force is set during the reign of King Charles I against the backdrop of the 1600s English Civil War and is, as unlikely as it sounds, something of a mash-up of The Wizard of Oz and Get Out. When the orphan Makepeace is sent to live as a servant in the stronghold of the aristocratic Fellmotte family (she’s an illegitimate relation), she realizes that she shares the family’s ability to house the spirits of the dead–which the Fellmottes use to extend the lives and power of their Elders. Makepeace has already unwittingly absorbed the ghost of a young bear, whose “wild brute” behavior causes her difficulties at first. When her half-brother and only friend James runs away to join the regiment, taking the royal charter that grants permission for the nefarious Fellmotte “traditions” with him, and is then made an unwilling vessel for the Elders, Makepeace sets off to rescue him–and find the charter. On her fraught-with-perils journey, she collects more “passenger” ghost companions, from a doctor to a soldier to a mysterious and seemingly sinister noblewoman. Makepeace is a resourceful, brave, and intelligent protagonist, and readers will root for her and James’s triumph over the Fellmotte ghosts. The visceral immediacy of Hardinge’s prose (at times almost painful in its plethora of sensory details and its bleakness) can sometimes be unsettling, but the prose itself is always original and invigorating: “Lord Fellmotte was not a man. He was an ancient committee. A parliament of deathly rooks in a dying tree.” martha v. parravano

About the Author

Frances Hardinge spent her childhood in a huge, isolated old house in a small, strange village, and the two things inspired her to write strange, magical stories from an early age. She studied English at Oxford University and now lives in Oxford, England.

Her website is www.franceshardinge.com

 

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Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorarfor. October 3, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 477 p. ISBN: 9780670785612.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book.

Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysteries town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity.

Sequel to: Akata Witch

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Underage drinking, Smoking, Language, Hazing, Bullying, Racial slur

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 7-10. This highly anticipated sequel to Akata Witch (2011) begins a year after Sunny unearthed secrets pertaining to her heritage and joined the secret Leopard Society. Plagued by strange dreams, Sunny endeavors to increase her magical powers by studying with her demanding mentor, and she continues to grapple with secrets that lie within her peculiar and wondrous Nsibidi book. However, the fate of humanity rests on her shoulders and time is not a luxury she has. Soon, she must step into her destiny and fight a looming, apocalyptic battle. If she loses or isn’t up to the task, it will spell catastrophe for all. While the story’s beginning is a bit jarring and doesn’t immediately sweep you away, the feeling is fleeting. A few chapters in, the reader gets tangled up in Sunny’s journey in the most delicious of ways. The lush world and high-stakes plot are fun, imaginative, timely, and authentic. Sunny as a character is beautiful, strong, and resilient, and her host of friends and allies are well-drawn and compelling, adding to the magic of the story. Okorafor’s novel will ensnare readers and keep them turning pages until the very end to see if and how Sunny fulfills the tremendous destiny that awaits her.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
Ekwensu, the supernatural “masquerade” whom Sunny and her coven defeated in the first installment in this contemporary Nigeria-set fantasy series (Akata Witch, rev. 5/11), is pushing back through into this world, and when she does, she ruthlessly rips Sunny’s spirit face away from her. Separated from their spirit faces, most Leopard People would die, but Sunny’s visions of a city of smoke guide her and her coven to a place in Lagos where the living world and the wilderness (the spirit world) coincide. There Sunny and her now-independent spirit face, the ancient spirit Anyanwu, can take on Ekwensu before she destroys the earth. Although the plot reaches its destination by a circuitous route, each episode works on its own, and the detours do eventually tie into the story arc. Sunny, who endures discrimination because of her albinism, grows stronger physically and emotionally in this volume, showing off new soccer skills and choosing to break Leopard Society rules for a greater purpose. Reader assumptions about Nigeria will be broadened by details showing, yes, traditional ceremonies but also flat-screen TVs, while the centuries-old (but-still-new-to-most-readers) West African mythological foundation will satisfy fans eager for more of Okorafor’s signature brand of magic. anita l. burkam

About the Author

Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian American author of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults and a professor at the University at Buffalo, New York. Her works include Who Fears Death, the Binti novella trilogy, the Book of Phoenix, the Akata books and Lagoon. She is the winner of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards and her debut novel Zahrah the Windseeker won the prestigious Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature.

She lives with her daughter Anyaugo and family in Illinois.  Her website is www.nnedi.com

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Akata Warrior on Amazon

Akata Warrior on Goodreads

Akata Warrior on JLG

Akata Warrior Publisher Page