Tag Archives: secrets

Nothing Left to Burn by Heather Ezell

Nothing Left to Burn by Heather Ezell. March 13, 2018. Razorbill, 320 p. ISBN: 9780448494265.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 660.

The autumn morning after sixteen-year-old Audrey Harper loses her virginity, she wakes to a loud, persistent knocking at her front door. Waiting for her are two firemen, there to let her know that the moment she’s been dreading has arrived: the enormous wildfire sweeping through Orange County, California, is now dangerously close to her idyllic gated community of Coto de Caza, and it’s time to evacuate.

Over the course of the next twenty-four hours, as Audrey wrestles with the possibility of losing her family home, she also recalls her early, easy summer days with Brooks, the charming, passionate, but troubled volunteer firefighter who enchants Audrey–and who is just as enthralled by her. But as secrets from Brooks’s dark past come to light, Audrey can’t help but wonder if there’s danger in the pull she feels–both toward this boy, and toward the fire burning in the distance.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Marijuana, Arson, Animal abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. The morning she’s evacuated from her Orange County home to escape an approaching fire, Audrey Harper is already nearing the brink of collapse. After what seemed like the perfect summer romance with her boyfriend, mysterious, brooding Brooks, the autumn has left her with too many questions about who Brooks really is—and who she’d be without him. Unfolding over the course of a single day, the narrative manages to mix the ticking-clock tension of the approaching, unforgivable fire with flashbacks that pull back the curtain on a mystery without slowing the pace. First-time author Ezell has perfectly captured the disquieting feeling inherent to the dawning realization of an undesirable truth. She avoids assigning Audrey’s multilayered pain a neat set of labels or causes, allowing the character space to explore them. This is a gripping novel about finding out who you are under the worst circumstances, and still maintaining hope that your new sense of self will carry you through to better times.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
The Sunday morning after she loses her virginity, white 16-year-old Audrey Harper is home alone when the evacuation order arrives.A wildfire rages in the nearby canyons, and it’s spreading, moving toward the gated Orange County community where she lives with her mother, father, and 13-year-old sister. Audrey’s boyfriend, Brooks, a volunteer firefighter, is creepily euphoric about the prospect of fire; he seems to look forward to it. As Audrey acts to save some of her family’s most cherished belongings, including her sister’s secret pet kitten, and to find a safe place to wait out the fires, she reflects on her sometimes-rocky relationship with Brooks. The story is deftly punctuated with flashbacks of the past several months—from Audrey’s meet-cute with Brooks to falling in love to their ill-fated three-month “anniversary”—showcasing events leading up to the present. As the story moves forward, and the fire moves closer to home, Audrey discovers Brooks hasn’t told her the whole truth about his past. Is he the tortured soul he’s led her to believe he is, or is he a manipulative liar? Clues throughout hint at the fire’s origins; observant readers will have it figured out in no time. Audrey is aware that her gated community is “painfully whitewashed and lacking in diversity”; to that end, characters are assumed white. A decently entertaining story of love, loss, and hope. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

A Southern California native, Heather Ezell was evacuated for a fire at the age of three and subsequently grew up with an obsessive fear of wildfires. She has been chasing reprieve from California’s heat ever since–from the Rocky Mountains to Interior Alaska. Heather graduated from Colorado College with a degree in English literature and creative writing, and she currently lives in the Pacific Northwest where she writes, practices amateur ballet in the forest, and obsesses over the weather.

Her website is www.heatherezell.com

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The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan. March 20, 2018. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 462 p. ISBN: 9780316463997.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Leigh shatters after her mother’s suicide—who wouldn’t?—but when a huge, beautiful red bird appears and calls her name in her mother’s voice, she doesn’t think she’s hallucinating; she’s sure the bird is actually her mother, and not “some William Faulkner stream-of-consciousness metaphorical crap.” When the bird brings Leigh a box of letters and photos from her mother’s childhood in Taiwan, she convinces her white father to take her to Taipei to meet her mother’s estranged parents for the first time. There she digs into her family’s past, visiting her mother’s favorite places and keeping an eye out for the bird, which grows ever more elusive the longer Leigh searches. In Leigh’s strong, painterly voice and with evocative, fantastical elements, Pan movingly explores grief and loss, as well as Leigh’s meaningful search for connection to her secretive mother and her exploration of the many facets of her identity. Particularly laudable is Pan’s sensitive treatment of mental illness: Leigh learns many heartbreaking things about her mother’s life, but those moments are never offered as explanations for suicide; rather, it’s the result of her mother’s lifelong struggle with severe, debilitating depression. Dynamic, brave Leigh emerges vividly in Pan’s deft hand, and her enthralling journey through her grief glows with stunning warmth, strength, and resilience.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2018)
“My mother is a bird,” declares Leigh, a mixed-raced (hun-xie) Taiwanese American teen. She has seen her mother reincarnated as a large red bird and knows that Mom is trying to guide Leigh in understanding the reasons for her tragic suicide. (Leigh also must contend with the crushing guilt of kissing her best friend, Axel, on the day Mom died.) Leigh travels to Taipei to stay with her maternal grandparents, with whom she can barely communicate. There she embarks on a fervent and grief-stricken odyssey riddled with insomnia and confusion, piecing together her mother’s past by lighting magical incense sticks that allow her to witness fragments of others’ memories. Pan portrays Leigh as a talented visual artist, telling her story with a vividness punctuated by a host of highly specific hues: a “cerise punch” to the gut, “viridian spiraling” thoughts, a heart “bursting with manganese blue and new gamboges yellow and quinacridone rose.” Some readers might be put off by the abundant imagery, but it—along with the threads of Taiwanese mysticism and her mingling of ghosts (gui) with the living—creates a hypnotic narrative. roxanne hsu Feldman

About the Author

Emily X.R. Pan currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, but was originally born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. She received her MFA in fiction from NYU, where she was a Goldwater Fellow. She was the founding editor-in-chief of Bodega Magazine, a 2017 Artist-in-Residence at Djerassi, and is co-creator of FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology.

Her website is exrpan.com.

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Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli. April 24, 2018. Balzer + Bray, 343 p. ISBN: 9780062643803.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended

Part of Series: Creekwood (Book 2)

Sequel to: Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda

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

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Leah Burke takes center stage in this sequel to Albertalli’s Morris Award–winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (2015). It’s senior year, and Leah’s friends can’t stop talking about college, prom, and long-distance relationships. Simon and Bram are as cute as ever, Leah’s got college lined up, and goofy Garrett obviously has a crush on her. But Leah can’t quite get into it. She feels like a third wheel (even at home, now that her mom is dating someone new); she doesn’t really care about prom; and when her friend and bandmate says something racist, Leah’s content to just break up the band and get on with her life. Plus, she’s nursing a wicked crush on her friend Abby, and she’s worried that if she does anything about it, she’ll blow up their whole friend group—let alone the fact that no one knows she’s bi. Albertalli has a fantastic ear for voice, and it’s beautifully on display in Leah’s funny, wry, and vulnerable first-person narrative. She gets to the core of Leah’s hang-ups about money, her body, her place among her friends, her reluctance to let anyone get too close, and her perfectionism without a trace of heavy-handedness, and she leavens the poignant emotional growth with snarky teen banter, hilarious mishaps, and swoonworthy (but never saccharine) romance. Everything Albertalli already did so well in Simon, she’s improved upon here, and fans of the first book will be utterly smitten with Leah.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2018)
Leah Burke is perched on the precipice of change in the final months of senior year, before everyone in her diverse friend group scatters off to become their college selves. Leah, Simon Spier’s best friend in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (2015), takes center stage in this sequel. She knows she’s bisexual, but she’s only out to her mom, not her friends, not even to Simon, who is gay. Leah’s cynical and socially awkward but also confident in herself. She’s unapologetically fat. She’s a talented artist and a ripper on the drums. She’s also fierce when called for. When a white friend implies that their classmate Abby Suso only got accepted to her college because she is black, Leah, also white, calls out her bias directly (Abby is not present for this conversation), sparking a nuanced subplot on racism and white allyship. Mostly, though, senior year is characterized by Leah’s aching crush on Abby, the oh-so-beautiful and oh-so-straight girlfriend of Leah’s good friend Nick. When the prom-scene ending finally arrives, even the most Leah-worthy cynics will be rooting for her. With complex characters, authentic dialogue, and messy-but-beautiful friendships, this sequel is more than capable of standing on its own.   A subversive take on the coming-of-age romance that will leave readers feeling like witnesses to a very special moment in Leah’s life and filled with gratitude for sharing it. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Becky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, DC. These days, she lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons, and writes very nerdy contemporary young adult fiction.

Her website is www.beckyalbertalli.com.

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The Summer of Broken Things by Margaret Peterson Haddix

The Summer of Broken Things by Margaret Peterson Haddix. April 10, 2018. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 393 p. ISBN: 9781481417648.  Int Lvl: YA.

Fourteen-year-old Avery Armisted is athletic, rich, and pretty. Sixteen-year-old Kayla Butts is known as “butt-girl” at school. The two girls were friends as little kids, but that’s ancient history now. So it’s a huge surprise when Avery’s father offers to bring Kayla along on a summer trip to Spain. Avery is horrified that her father thinks he can choose her friends—and make her miss soccer camp. Kayla struggles just to imagine leaving the confines of her small town.

But in Spain, the two uncover a secret their families had hidden from both of them their entire lives. Maybe the girls can put aside their differences and work through it together. Or maybe the lies and betrayal will only push them—and their families—farther apart.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. When the father of rich, athletic 14-year-old Avery Armisted invites 16-year-old Kayla Butts, an old childhood friend, on their summer trip to Spain, Avery could not be less thrilled. But for Kayla, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, taking her far from her small-town life, where her closest friends are the geriatrics at the nursing home where her dad, an injured veteran, lives. Once in Spain, the girls are rocked by the revelation that 14 years ago, Kayla’s mother was the gestational carrier for Avery when her biological mother couldn’t become pregnant. Short chapters alternate between the girls’ points of view as they reel from the exposure of the long-held family secret. Madrid constitutes a worthy backdrop for this summer of self-discovery and questioning, as Kayla and Avery sort out their own histories amid a growing understanding of the larger world. Despite probing some of the same themes as Robin Benway’s Far from the Tree (2017), Haddix’s story doesn’t carry quite the same emotional heft. Still, it shines a light on surrogacy, a topic rarely discussed in YA fiction.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2018)
For two American teens, a summer trip to Europe turns out to be far more complicated than they ever expected.Avery doesn’t want to go to Spain with her dad—she’ll fall behind in soccer and he’ll just be working all the time. When she finds out that he’s already chosen a “friend” to accompany her—Kayla, an older girl she used to play with as a little kid—the summer feels even more doomed. But for Kayla, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime, a huge gift her family could never afford. In Spain, the two white girls struggle to find their places among the locals and their language class friends as a jaw-dropping revelation changes their relationship forever. It takes a near tragedy to make them realize that while they might not have chosen this path, how they move forward is their choice. Through chapters told in alternating points of view, Haddix offers a fully realized portrayal of teen girls dealing with the vagaries of their parents’ lives. Spain forms a vivid backdrop to the girls’ confusion and revelations, and Avery and Kayla are each so completely sympathetic that it’s hard to choose whom to root for when they’re at war. The trip to Spain you wouldn’t wish on anyone, except in the form of this terrific book. (Fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Margaret Peterson Haddix grew up on a farm near Washington Court House, Ohio. She graduated from Miami University (of Ohio) with degrees in English/journalism, English/creative writing and history. Before her first book was published, she worked as a newspaper copy editor in Fort Wayne, Indiana; a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis; and a community college instructor and freelance writer in Danville, Illinois.

Haddix and her husband, Doug, now live in Columbus, Ohio, with their two children. Her website is www.haddixbooks.com

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People Like Us by Dana Mele

People Like Us by Dana Mele. February 28, 2018. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 384 p. ISBN: 9781524741709.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.

The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Suicide, Homophobic language, Inappropriate relationship between teacher and student

 

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Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. Murder, mayhem, and unreliable friendships take center stage in Mele’s debut novel. Kay Donovan, a popular girl known for her soccer skills and her biting humor, gets more than she bargained for when she and her friends go to the lake, after a night of dancing, and a girl’s body turns up, frozen and with her wrists slit. When Kay gets an email the day after, things take a dark turn, and she ends up ruining the lives of former friends and classmates in an effort to assuage her own guilt. As she embarks on the digital scavenger hunt in an effort to clear her name, Kay starts to wonder who is actually behind it all. To some extent, the pacing is inconsistent, and certain characters are static in the end, which may lead readers to wonder how certain relationships came to be. Mele, however, manages to weave a tale of mystery, intrigue, and revenge in the style of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why (2007), but with its own twists to keep readers on their toes.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2017)
For some girls, it’s a killer getting into Bates Academy. For others, attending the elite prep school means getting killed.When Kay Donovan and her popular senior classmates uphold the tradition of skinny dipping in the lake after the Halloween dance, they’re surprised to find the dead body of Jessica Lane, a fellow student. But it’s not the first time Kay has seen a dead body—and someone knows it. As she, her friends, and other acquaintances begin answering questions for the police, the teen also receives an email from Jessica’s account that takes her to a revenge website. There, Kay receives instructions to take down all her friends—this one for doping, that one for sleeping with a professor—or her own secrets will be revealed. The debut novel has all the tropes one would expect from a prep school mystery: plenty of backstabbing, predominantly white young socialites (except for Brie with “smooth brown skin”), and frequent parties with alcohol and sex. Yet this intertwined mystery that has readers figuring out Jessica’s murderer and Kay’s secrets (and their possible connections) is more than these clichés. The characters and their relationships are nuanced, especially bisexual Kay, who has intimate encounters with males and females. The blend of predictable prep school elements with unpredictable suspense makes this a fizzy read for fans of the genre. (Mystery. 14-18)

About the Author

Dana Mele is a Pushcart-nominated writer and a work at home mother. A graduate of Wellesley College, she is a former actor, lawyer, musician, and briefly, associate producer. She prefers tea to coffee, snow to sand, and stars to sunshine, and she lives in the Catskills with her husband and toddler.

Her website is www.danamele.com

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All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry

Al the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry. October 10, 2017. Algonquin Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9781616206666.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 750.

Sarah Jacqueline Crow and James Holt work in the vast maguey fields that span the bone-dry Southwest, a thirsty, infinite land that is both seductive and fearsome. In this rough, transient landscape, Sarah Jac and James have fallen in love. They’re tough and brave, and they have big dreams. Soon they will save up enough money to go east. But until then, they keep their heads down, their muscles tensed, and above all, their love secret.

When a horrible accident forces Sarah Jac and James to start over on a new, possibly cursed ranch called the Real Marvelous, the delicate balance they’ve found begins to give way. And James and Sarah Jac will have to pay a frighteningly high price for their love.

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

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. Lakes have dried up, the earth is dying, and Sarah Jac and James flee southwest, leaving behind a gritty Chicago to harvest maguey in the desert. Surrounded by other transient workers, they hoard their money, hiding their love and scamming other workers while they dream of a different future. After an accident forces them to flee, the two find themselves working at the Real Marvelous, a ranch that’s rumored to be cursed. The owner of the ranch has two daughters, and Sarah Jac, who knows her way around a horse, is asked to give the youngest, timid and angry Bell, riding lessons. At the same time, James catches the eye of the eldest, fierce and beautiful Farrah, ill with a mysterious, terminal disease. As Sarah Jac and James are inexorably drawn into this family and their secrets, strange and magical things begin to happen at the Real Marvelous—things no con in the world can overcome, things that even their love may not be able to withstand. In aching, luminous prose, Mabry (A Fierce and Subtle Poison, 2016) crafts a story impossible to forget, infused with southwestern folklore and magical realism. The harsh desert is exquisitely, painfully rendered, and the characters are flawed and wholly real. A gripping, fablelike story of a love ferocious enough to destroy and a world prepared to burn with it.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2017)
In a dangerous, post-apocalyptic America, Sarah Jac and her boyfriend, James, keep their relationship a secret as they work at a mysterious farm. After environmental collapse, the western half of North America is desert. Seventeen-year-old Sarah Jacqueline Crow, aka “Sarah Jac” (who’s mixed-race), and fellow orphan James Holt (who’s white) specialize in picking the maguey plant for violent overseers and profit-hungry ranch owners whose harvests turn into pulque, mescal, and tequila. After a fatal accident during a dust storm, Sarah Jac is accused of murder, and the two stow away on a train that leads them to the Real Marvelous, a ranch in Texas that’s rumored to be cursed. To protect themselves, Sarah Jac and James pretend to be cousins, fearing that if they’re open about their love, they’ll expose themselves to blackmail or worse. Soon, Sarah Jac is commanded to provide equestrian lessons to the owner’s younger daughter, Bell, while James is commissioned to work in the big house as a groundskeeper—and ends up catching the eye of Bell’s sickly but beautiful older sister, Farrah. A complicated series of plagues, prophecies, and love triangles ensues. The author’s prose is rich and lyrical, but the worldbuilding is lacking, leaving readers wondering about details rather than immersed in the story. In a reverse of most romantic story arcs, the love story goes from initially swoonworthy to deeply unsatisfying. Mabry’s mix of magical realism and dystopia doesn’t live up to its promising start. (Science fiction. 14-17)

About the Author

Samantha was born four days before the death of John Lennon. she grew up in Dallas, playing bass guitar along to vinyl records in her bedroom after school, writing fan letters to rock stars, doodling song lyrics into notebooks, and reading big, big books.

She spends as much time as possible in the West Texas desert. Her website is samanthamabry.com

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Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore. September 19, 2017. Kathy Dawson Books, 453 p. ISBN: 9780803741492.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 740.

If you could change your story, would you?

Jane has lived a mostly ordinary life, raised by her recently deceased aunt Magnolia, whom she counted on to turn life into an adventure. Without Aunt Magnolia, Jane is directionless. Then an old acquaintance, the glamorous and capricious Kiran Thrash, blows back into Jane’s life and invites her to a gala at the Thrashes’ extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.”

What Jane doesn’t know is that at Tu Reviens her story will change; the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But every choice comes with a price. She might fall in love, she might lose her life, she might come face-to-face with herself. At Tu Reviens, anything is possible.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. When Jane receives an invitation to attend a gala at the island mansion Tu Reviens, she accepts—not because she wants to go, but because her adored (and recently deceased) Aunt Magnolia made her promise to visit Tu Reviens if she ever got the chance. Bizarre personages and events fill the palatial home, including art theft, kidnapping, a secret organization, flirtations, and seemingly impossible twists of fate, all of which the impetuous Jane faces with a devoted basset hound sidekick. It’s the story’s structure, however, that’s most noteworthy, as Cashore (Graceling, 2008) applies the concept of a multiverse to Tu Reviens, following Jane down five possible paths during her stay. Yet, it’s not until the second half of the book, where things go increasingly off the rails, that the story truly blossoms. Art forms a constant backdrop to the narrative, and in all versions of Jane’s story, she finds respite from her grief and uncertain future through artistic expression. Creation, compassion, and choice repeatedly emerge as themes in this ambitious, mind-expanding novel.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
When her guardian, Aunt Magnolia, dies, Jane is left untethered and financially insecure. Then Kiran, an old acquaintance, invites Jane to Tu Reviens (“you return”), Kiran’s family’s island mansion. Aunt Magnolia had told Jane unequivocally that “if you’re invited to Tu Reviens, go.” So Jane ends up at the exotic mansion, a place where staffers are not what they say they are, and the wealthy patriarch is a depressive recluse. What’s going on? Jane wonders, watching the household prepare for a gala party and noting the priceless Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Brancusi works on display. Then the story splits into five alternate scenarios. As Jane follows first one inhabitant and then four others in parallel narratives, she moves from the romantic confection the novel first seems to multiverses of surreality, science fiction, art theft, and Espions sans Frontieres (Spies Without Borders). The clues to the story’s fantastical nature are playful and sly. As scenarios multiply, the story becomes light on character development and rather plot-heavy, but Cashore’s glee, wit, and inventiveness are unflagging. With its references to works ranging from Doctor Who to Rebecca to Winnie-the-Pooh, this is pleasantly peculiar and unpredictable. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

Kristin Cashore grew up in northeast Pennsylvania and has a master’s degree from the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. She lives in the Boston area. Her epic fantasy novels set in the Graceling Realm—GracelingFire, and Bitterblue—are all New York Times bestsellers and have won many awards and much high praise, including picks as ALA Best Books for Young Adults, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Booklist Editors Choice, and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. In addition, Graceling was shortlisted for the William C. Morris Debut Award and Fire is an Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Winner.

Her website is kristincashore.blogspot.com

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13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough. October 3, 2017. Flatiron Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9781250123855.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Natasha’s sure that her friends love her. But does that mean they didn’t try to kill her?

Natasha doesn’t remember how she ended up in the icy water that night, but she does know this—it wasn’t an accident, and she wasn’t suicidal. Her two closest friends are acting strangely, and Natasha turns to Becca, the best friend she dumped years before when she got popular, to help her figure out what happened.

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you’re a teenage girl, it’s hard to tell them apart.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking, Slur against mentally disabled people

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. Becca and Tasha were childhood best friends, but now, in sixth form, Tasha is the ringleader of a trio of popular mean girls Becca dismissively calls the Barbies. Yet when Becca hears that Tasha is in the hospital after being revived from near drowning, she goes to see her former friend. Oddly, Tasha now wants to reconnect with her, even confiding in Becca that she suspects the Barbies are complicit in Tasha’s brush with death. The intrigue unfolds through a third-person narrative that alternates with snippets from therapy sessions, text conversations, news reports, and Tasha’s diary entries. Although the tone and vocabulary of these narrative voices could be interchangeable, it’s a device that facilitates some dandy plot twists. Pinborough gets the overwrought drama of teen friendships right, capturing both Becca’s intense feelings and her keen intelligence as she struggles to make sense of a string of seemingly unrelated tragic events. Readers drawn to the kind of debauched chicanery made popular in novels such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (2012) will tear through this edgy thriller.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2017)
Tasha doesn’t remember the circumstances following her near drowning, so she enlists Becca’s help in investigating whether foul play was involved.Tasha’s the undisputed queen of the trio of sixth-form girls known around school as the Barbies for their focus on appearances and their general mean-girl behaviors. So it’s surprising that it’s Becca, Tasha’s former best friend, ostracized years ago for her weight, whom Tasha gathers to her side after the drowning. That a near-death experience might cause Tasha to re-examine her friendships seems plausible, especially considering the suspicious behaviors of the other two Barbies, Jenny and Hayley. Transcripts of the girls’ text messages even reveal—to readers—that Jenny and Hayley are far from real friends to Tasha. This initially detracts from the suspense as readers will quickly decide Jenny and Hayley are guilty. But soon Becca and Tasha’s investigation into the world of white, middle-class teen insecurities, betrayals, manipulations, sex, and drug use becomes darkly fascinating on its own. Characters’ desperation for attention lead them to accept treating others badly as the cost of winning Tasha’s affection (or at least avoiding her scorn). And when another student’s sudden death prompts Becca to take the investigation in a surprising new direction, the mystery’s tension ratchets up again. Red herrings lead to a satisfying conclusion in this British import. (Mystery. 14-18)

About the Author

Sarah Pinborough is the award-winning, New York Times and internationally bestselling author of Behind Her EyesBehind Her Eyes was praised by Stephen King, Joe Hill, Harlan Coben, and The New York Times Book Review, among others. 13 Minutes has been optioned by Netflix.

Sarah lives in London. Her website is www.sarahpinborough.com

Around the Web

13 Minutes on Amazon

13 Minutes on Goodreads

13 Minutes on JLG

13 Minutes Publisher Page

Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

Little Monsters by Kara Thomas. July 25, 2017. Delacorte Press, 336 p. ISBN: 9780553521498.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

Kacey is the new girl in Broken Falls. When she moved in with her father, she stepped into a brand-new life. A life with a stepbrother, a stepmother, and strangest of all, an adoring younger half sister.

Kacey’s new life is eerily charming compared with the wild highs and lows of the old one she lived with her volatile mother. And everyone is so nice in Broken Falls—she’s even been welcomed into a tight new circle of friends. Bailey and Jade invite her to do everything with them.

Which is why it’s so odd when they start acting distant. And when they don’t invite her to the biggest party of the year, it doesn’t exactly feel like an accident.

But Kacey will never be able to ask, because Bailey never makes it home from that party. Suddenly, Broken Falls doesn’t seem so welcoming after all—especially once everyone starts looking to the new girl for answers.

Kacey is about to learn some very important lessons: Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes when you’re the new girl, you shouldn’t trust anyone.

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

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. Ever since Kacey’s social worker brought her to Broken Falls to live with her estranged father and his family, she’s developed a tight-knit friendship with Bailey and Jade, two misfit girls desperate to escape their small Midwestern town. Kacey is finally feeling comfortable with her dad, stepmom, stepbrother, and half sister, so when Bailey goes missing and Kacey becomes a suspect, she’s worried that, among other things, this new family she’s come to love will abandon her, too. But swirling around Kacey’s anxieties are truly insidious secrets, and Thomas unspools the truth at a tantalizing pace, turning suspicion for Bailey’s ever-lengthening disappearance from character to character. Occasional entries from Bailey’s diary reveal her disturbing motivations, which Kacey gradually uncovers as she starts her own investigation. Thomas keeps the atmosphere taut and suspenseful by incorporating a menacing urban legend and plenty of red herrings to throw readers off the scent, while Kacey’s compelling character and narrative keep the story firmly grounded in her complicated emotional reality. This gritty page-turner will easily hook a broad range of readers.

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
The new girl in town teases apart a web of lies in the wake of her friend’s disappearance.White teen Kacey Young ran away from a volatile relationship with her mother to a new home in Broken Falls, Wisconsin, with the father she never met, a kind stepmother, and two new siblings. But it’s best friends Bailey and Jade, both also white, who become Kacey’s close-knit circle. The girls text constantly, and Bailey shows up at Kacey’s house even if she declines to hang out. One night, the girls attempt a séance in a haunted barn, and something spooks Kacey’s little sister, Lauren, who tags along. That night sets off a domino effect: Lauren is traumatized, Bailey and Jade give Kacey the cold shoulder, and then Bailey disappears. Kacey begins to investigate, and the more clues she stumbles upon, the more the police suspect her involvement. Rumors swirl, and Kacey learns that Bailey left a foundation of lies in her wake—lies that put their entire friendship into question. Thomas seems to be aiming at a chilling exploration of how far a teenage girl will go for revenge, but she doesn’t succeed. Red herrings make for a frustrating mystery that comes together in a rush, with too little buildup to make the shocking reveal believable. Too bent on keeping readers in the dark to allow for true mystery. (Thriller. 14-18)

About the Author

Kara is the author of THE DARKEST CORNERS, coming April 2016 from Random House/Delacorte. She is also the author of the Prep School Confidential series from St. Martin’s Griffin under the pen name Kara Taylor. Kara has written for Warner Brothers Television and currently writes full-time on Long Island, where she lives with her husband and rescue cat.

Her website is www.kara-thomas.com

Around the Web

Little Monsters on Amazon

Little Monsters on Goodreads

Little Monsters on JLG

Little Monsters Publisher Page

In the Shadow of the Sun by Anne Sibley O’Brien

In the Shadow of the Sun by Anne Sibley O’Brien. June 27, 2017. Arthur A. Levine Books, 336 p. ISBN: 9780545905749.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.0; Lexile: 700.

North Korea is known as the most repressive country on Earth, with a dictatorial leader, a starving population, and harsh punishment for rebellion.

Not the best place for a family vacation.

Yet that’s exactly where Mia Andrews finds herself, on a tour with her aid-worker father and fractious older brother, Simon. Mia was adopted from South Korea as a baby, and the trip raises tough questions about where she really belongs. Then her dad is arrested for spying, just as forbidden photographs of North Korean slave-labor camps fall into Mia’s hands. The only way to save Dad: get the pictures out of the country. Thus Mia and Simon set off on a harrowing journey to the border, without food, money, or shelter, in a land where anyone who sees them might turn them in, and getting caught could mean prison — or worse.

An exciting adventure that offers a rare glimpse into a compelling, complicated nation, In the Shadow of the Sun is an unforgettable novel of courage and survival.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Harsh realities of life under the North Korean regime

 

Reviews

Booklist (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 5-8. Mia and her brother, Simon, are on the run in North Korea. That’s dangerous enough on its own, but they’re also in possession of a cell phone containing pictures of atrocities in a North Korean labor camp. They’re not sure where it came from, or why their father was taken by North Korean police, but they know they must get out of the country, fast. Relying on their own quick thinking, Mia’s knowledge of Korean language and culture, and a handful of kind strangers, they embark on a harrowing journey from Pyongyang through the mountainous forests to the China border. O’Brien weaves plenty of information about the country through the story, and interspersed sections describing the experiences of some of the North Koreans they meet on their trip add depth. Mia, who was adopted from South Korea by a white American family, offers some thought-provoking insight into the experience of interracial adoption. This fast-paced and tense survivalist thriller, made all the more compelling for its fascinating setting, should find broad appeal.

Kirkus Reviews (April 15, 2017)
A family holiday goes badly awry, leaving two siblings racing for freedom in a totalitarian nation armed with little more than an outdated guidebook and a few packets of airline peanuts. Adopted from South Korea as an infant by a white Connecticut family, 12-year-old Mia has grown up feeling conspicuously different from her family and peers. To help heal the rift from a serious fight with her older brother, Simon, and to encourage Mia to connect with her cultural roots, the teens travel with their father to North Korea, a country he knows well as a foreign aid worker. Mundane sightseeing gives way to danger following Mia’s discovery of a cellphone containing shocking photos from a prison camp and her father’s abduction by authorities. Simon and Mia embark on a daring cross-country journey in an effort to reach safety and alert authorities to their father’s plight. The action is punctuated by short profiles of individual (fictional) North Koreans, tantalizingly pulling back the veil of secrecy, but readers are soon plunged back into a thrilling and immersive experience reminiscent of the best spy and wilderness adventure stories. Character development is not sacrificed to action, as the siblings mature in their relationship, gaining insight into family and racial dynamics, culture, and identity. Opening information from the fictional tour agency gives readers enough background about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to fully understand the peril the family is in. An author’s note illuminates O’Brien’s strong personal ties to Korea and gives suggestions for further reading. A riveting work that will appeal to a wide range of readers. (Thriller. 9-13)

About the Author

Anne Sibley O’Brien grew up in South Korea as the bilingual and bicultural daughter of medical missionaries. She has written or illustrated thirty-five picture books, and frequently speaks in classrooms across the country and in international schools around the world. In the Shadow of the Sun is her first novel. Anne lives on Peaks Island in Maine.

Her website is www.annesibleyobrien.com

Teacher Resources

 

Around the Web

In the Shadow of the Sun on Amazon

In the Shadow of the Sun on Goodreads

In the Shadow of the Sun on JLG

In the Shadow of the Sun Publisher Page