Tag Archives: secrets

Even If I Fall by Abigail Johnson

Even If I Fall by Abigail Johnson. January 8, 2019. Inkyard Press, 352 p. ISBN: 9781335541550.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A year ago, Brooke Covington lost everything when her beloved older brother, Jason, confessed to the murder of his best friend, Calvin. Brooke and her family became social pariahs, broken and unable to console one another. Brooke’s only solace remains the ice-skating rink, where she works but no longer lets herself dream about a future skating professionally.

When Brooke encounters Calvin’s younger brother, Heath, on the side of the road and offers him a ride, everything changes. She needs someone to talk to…and so does Heath. No one else understands what it’s like. Her brother, alive but gone; his brother, dead but everywhere. Soon, they’re meeting in secret, despite knowing that both families would be horrified if they found out. In the place of his anger and her guilt, something frighteningly tender begins to develop, drawing them ever closer together.

But when a new secret comes out about the murder, Brooke has to choose whose pain she’s willing to live with—her family’s or Heath’s. Because she can’t heal one without hurting the other.

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

 

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Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. True to form, Johnson (The First to Know, 2017) brings to life a family in distress along with a tantalizing mystery in her latest novel. Brooke Covington is trying to be the glue her family needs her to be in the wake of disaster. With her older brother, Jason, in jail for murdering his best friend and her parents and younger sister each isolating themselves in their own way, Brooke is prepared to give up her dream of ice-skating professionally to keep everyone from spiraling apart. But a burgeoning relationship with Jason’s late best friend’s younger brother makes things even more complicated. Captivating and emotional, this story creates a beautiful tapestry of secrets and lies and explores how a family goes on when the unthinkable is a coldhearted reality. Brooke’s story is a real page-turner, with fully fleshed-out characters and naturally flowing dialogue. Johnson’s latest is a great choice for fans of character-driven stories and complex family dynamics, with a mystery that readers will try to uncover right alongside the protagonist.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
The one person who completely understands what Brooke is going through is the one person she’s not supposed to talk to. After her brother, Jason, is convicted of murdering his best friend, Cal, life has stopped for Brooke and her family. Ostracized throughout their small Texas town, the only person she socializes with is newcomer Maggie, a half-Korean, half-white beauty vlogging teen. But Brooke doesn’t tell Maggie the cause of her mother’s hypervigilance, her father’s retreat into work, or her sister’s reticence. Brooke too, has let Jason’s conviction imprison her, derailing her dream of ice skating professionally. When she sees Heath, Cal’s younger brother, stranded on the side of the road, she gives him a ride into town and chances a connection with someone she knows is just as, if not more, broken. Through a mix of emotions, Brooke and Heath continue to meet in secret and slowly develop a friendship that threatens to become more even though they both know it cannot be. And when Brooke learns that there may be more to Cal’s murder than they all know, she can’t let this knowledge go even though it has the potential to cause even more pain to their families and shatter Brooke and Heath’s fragile understanding. Johnson (The First to Know, 2017, etc.) spins a tale of broken people and stirring complexity. With the exception of Maggie, characters are white. Emotional page-turner. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Abigail was born in Pennsylvania. When she was twelve, her family traded in snow storms for year round summers, and moved to Arizona. Abigail chronicled the entire cross-country road trip (in a purple spiral bound notebook that she still has) and has been writing ever since. She became a tetraplegic after breaking her neck in a car accident when she was seventeen, but hasn’t let that stop her from bodysurfing in Mexico, writing and directing a high school production of Cinderella, and becoming a published author.

Her website is abigailjohnsonbooks.com

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Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore. October 9, 2018. Fiewel + Friends.  375 p. ISBN: 9781250162717.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Sisters Blanca and Roja del Cisne have grown up understanding their family’s curse. Long ago, their ancestor bargained with the swans for a daughter. Every generation, the Del Cisnes have two daughters, but eventually, the swans always take one back. Roja, fierce and willful, has always believed she’d be the sister turned into a swan, while graceful, compliant Blanca would remain a girl. But if there’s anything Blanca is willing to fight for, it’s her sister. As their days together wane, two boys with curses of their own enter their lives. Barclay Holt, once the son of a wealthy, treacherous family, who has been trapped for a year in the body of a bear; and his best friend, Page Ashby, child of apple farmers, who identifies as a boy but finds that the pronouns she and her fit comfortably as well. As the four come closer together, their fates may become unalterably linked. In her fourth novel, McLemore (Wild Beauty​, 2017) is at her finest; she twines Latino folklore through the fairy tales of Swan Lake and Snow White & Rose Red to create a story that is wholly original. She writes openheartedly about families found and families given, the weight of expectation and the price of duty, and in the end offers up something that’s vibrant, wondrously strange, and filled to the brim with love of all kinds.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2018)
Blanca and Roja, the del Cisne sisters, have grown up knowing their family is cursed as a result of a bargain made generations ago, and that eventually either Blanca or Roja will be trapped in the body of a swan and live among them. Blanca, fair-haired and sweet, and Roja, flame-haired and difficult, spend their lives trying to become more like each other so that they will be intertwined and ultimately impossible to separate when the swans finally arrive to claim their due. When a bear who is also a boy called Yearling arrives on their doorstep, followed by his friend Page (who uses both he and she pronouns), their story becomes more complicated and their fates much less clear. This tale reimagines Snow White and Rose Red as young Latinx women, and it mixes their stories with details and themes from “The Ugly Duckling,” Swan Lake, and “The Wild Swans.” Depth of character is sometimes sacrificed in order to incorporate so many threads (e.g., Yearling’s story of dealing with family corruption is less well drawn than other narrative elements). But McLemore’s vivid descriptions create a tale rich with visual detail, and readers will be compelled to keep reading to find out the fate of these sisters. christina l. dobbs

About the Author

Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, raised in the same town as the world’s largest wisteria vine, and taught by her family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. Her debut novel The Weight of Feathers was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults book, and a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award.

Her website is author.annamariemclemore.com.

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Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak. October 9, 2018. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 544 p. ISBN: 9780375945595.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 650.

The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance.

At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge–for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle.

The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome?

Written in powerfully inventive language and bursting with heart, Bridge of Clay is signature Zusak.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Underage smoking, Domestic abuse, Sexual harassment, Homophobia

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 10-12. Here are the five Dunbar brothers: reliable Matthew, the oldest and the eloquent narrator of this extraordinary book; incorrigible Rory; Puck, with a pair of fists; Henry, who—with a talent for making money—knows the odds; Clay, the fourth son and protagonist, is “the best of us,” according to Matthew; and youngest Tommy, the animal collector. Their mother is dead, and their father has fled, until, one day, he returns to ask for help building a bridge. Only Clay agrees to help, and their bridge quickly assumes symbolic value. Zusak (The Book Thief, 2006) offers up a narrative that is really two stories: one of the present, the story of the bridge and of Clay’s love for the girl across the street; and the second of the past, occupied by the boys’ childhood and stories that Clay loves—The Iliad, The Odyssey. The tone is sometimes somber and always ominous, leaving readers anxious about the fates of these characters whom they have grown to love. Zusak pushes the parameters of YA in this gorgeously written novel: a character has scrap-metal eyes; rain is like a ghost you could walk through. In the end, it always comes back to Clay, that lovely boy, as a neighbor calls him. A lovely boy and an unforgettably lovely book to match.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2018)
Years after the death of their mother, the fourth son in an Australian family of five boys reconnects with his estranged father. Matthew Dunbar dug up the old TW, the typewriter his father buried (along with a dog and a snake) in the backyard of his childhood home. He searched for it in order to tell the story of the family’s past, a story about his mother, who escaped from Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall; about his father, who abandoned them all after their mother’s death; about his brother Clay, who built a bridge to reunite their family; and about a mule named Achilles. Zusak (The Book Thief, 2006, etc.) weaves a complex narrative winding through flashbacks. His prose is thick with metaphor and heavy with allusions to Homer’s epics. The story romanticizes Matthew and his brothers’ often violent and sometimes homophobic expressions of their cisgender, heterosexual masculinity with reflections unsettlingly reminiscent of a “boys will be boys” attitude. Women in the book primarily play the roles of love interests, mothers, or (in the case of their neighbor) someone to marvel at the Dunbar boys and give them jars to open. The characters are all presumably white. Much like building a bridge stone by stone, this read requires painstaking effort and patience. (Fiction. 16-adult)

About the Author

Markus Zusak is the author of six books, including The Book Thief, which spent more than a decade on the New York Times bestseller list, and has been translated into more than forty languages.

Zusak’s books The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting the Girl, I Am the Messenger, and The Book Thief have received numerous honors including literary prizes and readers’ choice awards.

In 2013, The Book Thief was adapted to film by Twentieth Century Fox. In 2014, Zusak received the American Library Association’s Margaret Edwards Award, for his body of work.

Markus Zusak grew up in Sydney, Australia, and still lives there with his wife and two children.

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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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All the Wind in the World on Amazon

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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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Jane, Unlimited on Amazon

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Jane, Unlimited Publisher Page