Teen readers have probably already heard buzz about E. Lockhart’s much-anticipated We Were Liars and Danielle Paige’s revisionist take on Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz. But that’s not all. The following fiction and nonfiction titles, from Justin Somper’s first foray into YA (Allies & Assassins) and Gail Jarrow’s gruesome Red Madness to Sally Green’s witchy Half Bad and Tess Sharpe’s poignant murder mystery (Far From You), offer teens a plethora of captivating and attention-worthy narratives. For more of what’s hot in YA, read on.
Armentrout, Jennifer L. Don’t Look Back. 384p. Disney-Hyperion. Apr. 2014. RTE $16.99. ISBN 9781423175124; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9781423187738.
Gr 7-10–From the very first page, readers are thrust into the mind of confused amnesiac Samantha, who finds herself at the center of the mysterious disappearance of her best friend, Cassie. The protagonist was the last person known to see Cassie alive; the problem is that the teen remembers nothing of their last night together and, for that matter, nothing of her life at all. With the help of her brother and the compelling and handsome Carson Ortiz, Samantha figures out that the old Sam might be one that’s worth forgetting. Popular, powerful, and mean, she and her best frenemy Cassie had ruled the school and put down anyone in their path. The action-filled plot and the shocking revelation of the murderer’s true identity will leave fans of suspense and mystery thoroughly satisfied.–Joanna Sondheim, Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, New York City
Bassoff, Leah & Laura DeLuca. Lost Girl Found. 216p. chron. further reading. glossary. maps. Groundwood. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781554984169; ebk. $14.95. ISBN 9781554984183.
Gr 8 Up–This poignant and gripping story follows Poni, a young girl growing up in a Sudanese village. The emotional tale depicts the challenges of Poni’s everyday life before the war. Against all odds, she must find a way to stay in school, deflect any young boy’s attention, and fight for her life to survive malaria. After her entire village is wiped out following an airstrike and her family is presumed dead, she must flee Sudan with a group of refugees to the safety of a refugee camp far away. Once she gets there, she discovers the horrors going on at the refugee camp and must escape. After she’s free, a nun in Nairobi offers her shelter, the continuing education the teen has been longing for, and, ultimately, help getting to America. This short, quickly paced narrative will stay with readers for the rest of their lives.–Candyce Pruitt-Goddard, Hartford Public Library, CT
Benoit, Charles. Cold Calls. 288p. Clarion. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544239500; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780544239111.
Gr 7 Up–Eric, Shelly, and Fatima are three teens from different schools and backgrounds who have only one thing in common: a midnight caller who knows their secrets. Secrets the teenagers are desperate to keep hidden. So desperate in fact that they agree to do as the caller demands. The mysterious antagonist’s demands are simple: bully selected targets at their schools. When the protagonists meet at an anti-bullying class and realize what they have in common, they set out to discover just who their mutual foe is and stop their secrets from being shared before their lives are ruined. With a quick pace, this psychological thriller takes readers for a ride, providing clues to the secrets the characters are trying to hide but without disclosing all of the information until later chapters.–Heidi Grange, Summit Elementary School, Smithfield, UT
Brezenoff, Steve. Guy in Real Life. 385p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Jun. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062266835. LC 2013021584.
Gr 9 Up–After some late night drinking at a heavy metal show, high school sophomore Lesh Tungsten literally runs into senior Svetlana Allegheny when her bicycle crashes into him. What begins as an accident evolves from wariness to friendship, especially after Lesh discourages an unwanted admirer of Svetlana’s. They soon discover their mutual interest in gaming—he, online, and she, role-playing—and as they navigate their differences, the teens learn that the roles they play aren’t as important as who they really are, especially when together. Whether reading it as a brief glimpse into the world of gaming and MMOs (massively multiplayer online games), a romance, or a tale of self-discovery, Brezenoff’s novel works on many levels, and its depth and humor will appeal to many readers. For fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (St. Martin’s, 2013), gamers, and readers in-between.–Audrey Sumser, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Mayfield, OH
Cooper, T & Allison Glock-Cooper. Drew. 288p. (Changers Series: Bk. 1). Akashic/Black Sheep. 2014. pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781617751950. LC 2013938807.
Gr 9 Up–Ethan wakes up on his first day of high school to discover that he is no longer the same person he was when he went to sleep—overnight he was transformed into a beautiful girl. His parents inform him that his father was a Changer and that this is the first of four transformations. He will experience each year of high school in a new body, and at the end of his senior year, he will get to choose which body he will live in for the rest of his life. The premise is similar to David Levithan’s Every Day (Knopf, 2012), except in this universe the character experiences each identity for an entire year. The imaginative premise is wrapped around a moving story about gender, identity, friendship, bravery, rebellion vs. conformity, and thinking outside the box. By the end of this book, readers will be invested in this character and will want to know what Ethan’s future holds and how he will physically and emotionally transform over the next installments.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library
De la Cruz, Melissa. The Ring & the Crown. 384p. Disney-Hyperion. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781423157427.
Gr 9 Up–In an alternate 20th century, the world is controlled by a united Franco-British Empire and backed by a Merlin. Aelwn Myrddyn, the beautiful and powerful daughter of Merlin, returns from exile to find that her childhood friend, Marie-Victoria, the sickly daughter of the Empire’s Queen, will be engaged to Prussia’s Prince Leopold in order to solidify a peace treaty. Isabelle of Orleans, royalty from the formerly independent France, is forced to break off her engagement to Leopold. The royal engagement has made London’s coming-of-age season all the more glamorous, and for Ronan Astor, it means a chance to marry rich and save her family’s decaying status. Bestselling author de la Cruz expertly writes from five different perspectives, allowing readers to emotionally invest in the protagonists’ lives. This character-driven novel has fabulous balls, glitzy gowns, and plenty of drama and plot twists, making it hard to put down.–Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ
Fama, Elizabeth. Plus One. 384p. Farrar. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374360078.
Gr 9 Up–In the alternative reality of Fama’s plot-driven latest, American society has been divided into “Smudges,” people who are awake at night, and “Rays,” privileged individuals who get to live during the day. Sixteen-year-old Sol le Coeur is a factory-working Smudge who is willing to risk everything to make sure her ill grandfather holds his great granddaughter before he dies. Her plan lands her in the care of a young Ray medical apprentice, handsome D’Arcy Benoît. Sol’s mission goes awry when she accidentally kidnaps the son of the Night Minister. She and D’Arcy are thrown together on a romance-laced adventure that takes them from the caves of a nature preserve to the steam tunnels of Chicago University. With this title, it’s the breakneck-paced story, which takes place over the course of a few days, and characters such as the Noma (F-bomb-dropping, heavy-makeup wearing rebels) that will keep readers invested until the cliff-hanger ending.–Chelsey Philpot, Boston University, MA
Fantaskey, Beth. Buzz Kill. 368p. Houghton Harcourt. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780547393100. LC 2013011423.
Gr 7-10–Millie Ostermeyer writes for her school newspaper, hangs out with her friends, worries about her widowed father, and wonders about the new guy at school. She’s a lot like her literary heroine, Nancy Drew. Millie and her mother would read the mysteries together, while the latter was dying of cancer, and now the books have a special meaning as the teen tries to deal with her grief. When the head football coach at her school is found dead, Millie’s detective skills kick into high gear. As Chase helps her look for clues, they soon become friends, taking tentative steps toward a romance. The narrative emulates the “Nancy Drew” series (Penguin) formula: short chapters with cliff-hangers endings. For readers who want a solid mystery with a dollop of romance.–Diana Pierce, formerly at Leander High School, TX
Flood, C. J. Infinite Sky. 256p. S. & S./Atheneum. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481406581; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481406604. LC 2013023281.
Gr 7 Up–It’s the start of summer and 14-year-old Patrick (aka Trick) arrives with his family in their caravan and illegally camps on the edge of the paddock near Iris’s house. The boy and his family are Irish Travelers, and while 13-year-old Iris is intrigued by the visitors, her dad wants them off his land. While tensions escalate between the two families, Trick and Iris develop a secret friendship which soon blossoms into first love. Tragedy strikes—readers have been forewarned as the opening prologue features the narrator contemplating a coffin—and Iris is forced to confront the confusing intersection of love, loyalty, and culpability. Told in the first person, this is a moving story of a young English girl’s coming-of-age.–Ragan O’Malley, Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn, NY
Gavin, Rohan. Knightley & Son. 272p. Bloomsbury. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781619631533; ebk. $11.99. ISBN 9781619631540.
Gr 7 Up–Darkus Knightley’s father has been in a coma for four years. During that time, Darkus went through his detective dad’s files and began trying to solve unfinished cases. His father suddenly wakes up and strangely enough, his recovery coincides with an uptick in crime. The crimes seem to be related to people reading a book called The Code. The elder Knightley is worried about including his son in his investigations; he is convinced that all of the little schemes and crimes are linked into a nefarious network he calls The Combination. Can they figure out the connection between all of the seemingly random crimes? Gavin has created a fun “Sherlock Holmes”–style adventure, with modern twists and a bit of humor. This is a quick and fun read; a great choice for choice looking for a new mystery to dive into.–Saleena L. Davidson, South Brunswick Public Library, Monmouth Junction, NJ
Green, Sally. Half Bad. 416p. Viking. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780670016785.
Gr 8 Up–Good witch or bad witch? This is the question that plagues 17-year-old Nathan, the product of two witches, one white, and one the infamous, hated black witch, Marcus. Readers will be intrigued by this work from the very beginning, as it opens in medias res, with Nathan living in a cage but attempting at every opportunity to escape, being submitted to beatings and ill treatment from a strange woman. Nathan’s feelings of self-loathing that grow as a result of the ostracism he experiences from those around him, coupled with a yearning to know more about Marcus, will resonate; the first-person narration expertly conveys his anguish and alienation, as well his search for a sense for identity. Some of the violence (beatings, bullying, and even torture feature here) may be off-putting to more sensitive readers, but lovers of dark fantasy should enjoy this energetic, gripping volume.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal
Han, Jenny. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. 368p. S. & S. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442426702; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442426726. LC 2013022311.
Gr 7-10–In this lovely, lighthearted romance, high school junior Lara Jean writes never-to-be-mailed letters to every boy she’s ever liked. The teen falls for Josh, the boy next door. The catch: he’s her older sister’s very recent ex-boyfriend. But when her letters are accidentally sent out, the protagonist is desperate to convince Josh that she’s over her crush. Peter, a popular boy at school, also received one of Lara Jean’s love letters, and—hoping to make his ex-girlfriend jealous—agrees to be her “pretend” beau. Once older sister Margot leaves for college in Scotland, Lara Jean’s interactions with Josh are more complicated. Family traditions are skillfully woven into the first-person narrative, including some from the mother’s Korean heritage. Readers will be intrigued by the narrator and Peter’s complicated relationship. Does she really love Josh, or is Peter the one for her? Readers will remember the Song sisters and the boys in their lives long after the final page turn.–Miranda Doyle, Lake Oswego School District, OR
Hawkins, Rachel. Rebel Belle. 352p. Putnam. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399256936.
Gr 7 Up–Harper Price is not your typical Southern belle. When the ancient powers of a Paladin are passed on to her during Homecoming, her life changes instantly. According to the legend of Charlemagne, a Paladin is a guardian charged with protecting a particular being. In Harper’s case, this being is none other than her sworn enemy, David Stark. As her new abilities grow, they threaten to ruin her relationships with her parents, her boyfriend, and her best friend. With Rebel Belle, Hawkins provides a soft place for readers of her “Hex Hall” series (Hyperion) to land. Rife with legendary beings and their accumulated lore, the novel presents a worthwhile heroine in Harper Price.–Colleen S. Banick, Westport Public Schools, CT
Haydu, Corey Ann. Life by Committee. 304p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062294050; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062294074.
Gr 9 Up–Tabitha has hit puberty, gaining new curves, and has gotten a little boy crazy. Her best friends, feeling she has changed too radically, have dropped her cold. Searching for friendship, she stumbles onto an online community called Life by Committee that makes her feel brave and a part of something. LBC members share secrets and are given assignments by the group’s leader, tasks they say will help one grow as a person. Tabitha’s secret is that she kissed someone else’s boyfriend. Her assignment is to kiss him again. Haydu captures the wild emotions of adolescence: the surging hormones, the power of getting people to pay attention because of your body, and the confusion over how that makes you feel. The narrative includes plenty of current teen concerns: online safety, gay friends, first love and sexual experience, drugs, sibling jealousy, and school achievement pressure—all culminating in a final scene pulled straight from the movies.–Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT
Klise, James. The Art of Secrets. 272p. Algonquin. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781616201951.
Gr 6-10–A suspicious fire, possibly a hate crime, destroys Saba Khan and her family’s apartment and possessions. The Khans rely on the generosity of their neighbors and donations from Saba’s school, a prestigious private school near downtown Chicago. Siblings Kendra and Kevin Spoon, two of the teen’s classmates, decide an auction would be a great way to raise money to help the Pakistani American family. Soon the Spoons find a unique piece of artwork for the auction, and the event becomes big news that everyone wants in on. The art goes missing, and anyone involved in the auction is a suspect. This novel is told in variety of formats, including journal entries, email, text messages, newspaper stories, and police reports. Ten different characters share their points of view, leaving readers to work out exactly what happened and who might be guilty. For fans of realistic fiction with plot twists, mysteries, and epistolary-type novels.–Natalie Struecker, Rock Island Public Library, IL
Kwaymullina, Ambelin. The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf. 384p. ebook available. Candlewick. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763669881.
Gr 7 Up–This debut YA novel and series opener by indigenous Australian Kwaymullina is set in a postapocalyptic Australia where humanity’s abuse of the environment has caused a societal and environmental chaos called the Reckoning. Ashala Wolf is one of many young people who have developed strange abilities, such as causing earthquakes, manipulating clouds and the weather, and traveling through time and space in dreams. The government fears people with these abilities, who are referred to as Illegals, and rounds them up for detention in facilities rumored to host terrifying experiments. This is a creative take on some well-worn tropes of the genre: repressive government, youth with unusual powers. The world-building is particularly interesting, as the author incorporates elements of the aboriginal creation story of the Dreamtime and Grandfather Serpent into the protagonist’s visions. Give this one to dystopia fans who are looking for a unique perspective.–Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ
Lockhart, E. We Were Liars. 240p. Delacorte. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385741262; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375989940; ebk. ISBN 9780375984402.
Gr 9 Up–Cadence Sinclair Easton comes from an old-money family, headed by a patriarch who owns a private island off of Cape Cod. Each summer, the extended family gathers at the various houses on the island, and Cadence, her cousins Johnny and Mirren, and friend Gat (the four “Liars”), have been inseparable since age eight. During their 15th summer however, Cadence suffers a mysterious accident. She spends the next two years—and the course of the book—in a haze of amnesia, debilitating migraines, and painkillers, trying to piece together just what happened. The story, while lightly touching on issues of class and race, more fully focuses on dysfunctional family drama, a heart-wrenching romance between Cadence and Gat, and, ultimately, the suspense of what happened during that fateful summer. The ending is a stunner that will haunt readers for a long time to come.–Jenny Berggren, formerly at New York Public Library
Lucier, Makiia. A Death-Struck Year. 288p. Houghton Harcourt. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544164505; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780544306707.
Gr 8 Up–Seventeen-year-old Cleo Berry frets over an uncertain future devoid of plans, dreams, and ambitions. However, when the Spanish influenza strikes her hometown of Portland, Oregon, she does not hesitate to volunteer for the American Red Cross. Lucier’s vividly accurate description of the 1918 pandemic will make readers tremble over the teen’s fate, wondering whether she will be next on the list of victims. Cleo faces the ultimate dilemma: Given a choice between herself and others, who will she choose in the face of calamity? The pace of the writing is swift, and the author spares little in her account of those afflicted and others who sacrificed their own lives to help save them: loved ones and strangers burying individuals on their own without burial societies, members of the Red Cross going door-to-door in search of the sick, and young people dying as easily as their elders from the disease. In the same vein of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793 (S. & S., 2000), Lucier’s debut novel deserves a place in all high school collections.–Etta Anton, Yeshiva of Central Queens, NY
McCahan, Erin. Love and Other Foreign Words. 336p. ebook available. Dial. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803740518.
Gr 8 Up–Josie Sheridan, 15.4 years old, knows a lot about social language. With a schedule that involves both high school and college courses, she has learned to adapt her communication style in order to fit in with both groups. However, Josie can’t seem to wrap her head around the language of Love. To the precocious teen, all-consuming love is scientifically impossible. Her best friend, Stu, is the “love ‘em and leave ‘em” type, and her school friends make lists of the guys for which they could fall. When her older sister Kate gets engaged, it only furthers her misunderstanding of the matter. The protagonist finds Kate’s fiancé to be intolerable and makes it her mission to break them up. Meanwhile, Josie attempts to decode the meaning of love for herself and see just what all the fuss is about. These coming-of-age moments add a nice bit of heart to Josie’s journey. Give this to cerebral teens who want a quirky love story.–Kimberly Castle-Alberts, Hudson Library & Historical Society, OH
Maciel, Amanda. Tease. 336p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062305305; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780062305329.
Gr 9 Up–Who is responsible when a bullied teen commits suicide? Sara and her friends find themselves embroiled in a legal nightmare after new classmate Emma hangs herself following months of their ruthless harassment. In Sara’s mind, Emma was at fault: she stole Sara’s boyfriend, so retaliation was fair game, and suicide was an unwarranted overreaction. That the story is told from a bully’s perspective adds complexity to this compelling, ripped-from-the-headlines novel. The characters are three-dimensional and nobody is completely right or wrong in this realistic exploration of how bullying-related suicide affects everyone involved. Family bonds and a tentatively blossoming romance play a vital role in Sara’s journey to self-awareness. This nuanced look at a controversial topic will keep readers hooked until its satisfying conclusion and makes great fodder for discussion among high school students.–Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA
MacColl, Michaela. Always Emily. 282p. Chronicle. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452111742.
Gr 7 Up–Based on the Brontë family of writers, MacColl’s story is filled with life and death, mystery, and witty humor. The main premise involves Emily and Charlotte uncovering Branwell’s nefarious activities and exposing a local mill owner, Master Heaton. The strong-willed sisters join forces to uncover Branwell and Heaton’s secrets and to reunite a family. Charlotte and Emily are the most richly drawn characters, and their often-contentious relationship is engaging. Their personalities are balanced by the supporting characters, including their father, the house manager, and a young man Emily finds on the moor. MacColl succeeds in creating a vivid sense of place with her intricate details about Masonic rituals and the lush descriptions of the moors, Emily’s place of sanctuary. Readers will be satisfied with the ending, and their curiosities will be piqued to read more about the Brontë family.–Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY
Matson, Morgan. Since You’ve Been Gone. 464p. S. & S. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442435001; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442435025. LC 2013041617.
Gr 7 Up–Emily is bereft when her bubbly and energetic best friend, Sloane, leaves without saying goodbye at the beginning of what should have been the best summer of their lives. Sloane was the one who planned their adventures and befriended everyone they met, and Emily is feeling more than a little lost when a letter arrives from Sloane containing a list of tasks for Emily to do over the summer. Hoping that the list contains clues to Sloane’s whereabouts that will become clear as she crosses items off, Emily tackles the challenges, making new friends, overcoming her fears, and gaining confidence as the summer goes on. This is a thoroughly enjoyable book with a terrific romantic subplot and an ending that ties up the loose ends believably and satisfyingly.–Stephanie Klose, School Library Journal
Miller, Lauren. Free to Fall. 480p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062199805; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062199829.
Gr 9 Up–When Rory Vaughn, 16, gets accepted to a prestigious boarding school, she’s elated. Even Lux, her decision-making app, tells her that Theden Academy is the best way to assure her perfect future. Yet, within her first few days there, Rory finds so much more than what she’d expected on the surface, and inconsistencies about her own birth lead the teen to question her own past, present, and vision for the future. With friends and teachers who encourage her to follow the illustrious path of Theden alums, she wonders why she finds herself so drawn to the rebellious hacker North and his outsider, anti-Lux lifestyle. Engaging and thought-provoking, Free to Fall should appeal to a variety of readers with its blend of action, secrecy, and romance, and it provides excellent discussion opportunities.–Jessica Miller, West Springfield Public Library, MA
Paige, Danielle. Dorothy Must Die. 464p. HarperCollins/Harper. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062280671; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062280695.
Gr 9 Up–In this edgy update of Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz, Kansas teen Amy Gumm gets sucked into a complex assassination plot to dethrone the megalomaniac and magic addict Dorothy. Oz is no longer the cheerful Technicolor world made popular by the Judy Garland–starring film, and it has been drained of its fairy-tale glimmer by the red shoe–wearing despot and her crew of twisted friends. Roles are reversed as good and evil witches band together in the revolutionary group of the Wicked to train Amy to kill Dorothy. Debut author Paige doesn’t hold back in this fast-paced action novel, and the body count mounts as the tale progresses. Teens will identify with the heroine’s insecurities and feelings of abandonment caused by her parents’ divorce and her mother’s subsequent drug abuse. Plot twists will keep readers guessing, and Amy’s affinity to her pet mouse Star will garner some chuckles. Give this cinematic upper-YA novel to fans of A. G. Howard’s Splintered (Abrams, 2012), Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars (Dial, 2006), and TV shows such as Once Upon a Time and Grimm.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal
Pakkala, Christine. Jasmine and Maddie. 192p. Boyds Mills. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781620917398.
Gr 6-10–Jasmine has moved from New Hampshire to Clover, Connecticut, looking for a fresh start. Her father’s death from cancer filled her with a rage that culminated in a physical assault on a girl where she used to live. Now her mother is working two jobs and they live in a trailer park, which Jasmine finds humiliating. Her anger smolders. In contrast, Maddie appears to have it all—caring parents, three siblings, a beautiful home. Yet Maddie has her own issues—she harbors a one-sided sibling rivalry exacerbated by an identity crisis, and she is further humiliated when she doesn’t make the soccer team and her best friend does. Maddie and Jasmine’s Emily Dickinson project brings the two girls together. Over the course of the story, both girls act out, seek forgiveness, and then turn around to repeat the same mistakes. This is a sometimes painful story tempered with honesty, growth, and a true effort to move on in an imperfect world.–Kathy Cherniavsky, Ridgefield Library, CT
Sharpe, Tess. Far from You. 352p. Disney-Hyperion. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781423184621; ebk. ISBN 9781423187844.
Gr 9 Up–The day Sophie is released from rehab starts the “now” of this story, which alternates with flashbacks from the past. Readers learn that the teen has had two close calls with death, the first in a crippling car crash with her friend Mina and Mina’s brother Trev. The second was when Mina was murdered in front of her in what is assumed to be a drug deal gone bad. Now that she’s free, Sophie is obsessed with finding Mina’s killer. Somehow she must overcome everyone’s belief that her relapse caused Mina’s death and enlist help in solving the crime. As readers follow Sophie’s sleuthing, they learn that Mina was more than just her best friend; she was also her first love. This romance is full of struggle and strong emotions, likely to find an appreciable YA audience.–Genevieve Feldman, San Francisco Public Library
Sitomer, Alan Lawrence. Caged Warrior. 224p. Disney-Hyperion. May 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781423171249; ebk. $15.99. ISBN 9781423186595.
Gr 9 Up–In run-down Detroit, 16-year-old McCutcheon Daniels’s mother has left, and his druggie, lowlife father is training him to be a champion in a mixed martial arts ring. The teen is forced to compete in these bloody and dangerous matches for the Mafialike Priests, where life and limb are at risk as his father racks up thousands in gambling dollars. McCutcheon gets a pittance in return that he uses to lovingly care for his five-year-old sister, Gemma, in a shabby apartment. Despite all his challenges, the protagonist is likable and tries to be a good guy, and when his science teacher gets him into a competitive, highly academic charter school, he knows he is at a crossroads. This fast-paced, engrossing, and intense story balances repulsive behavior, profane language, and even child prostitution with gentler moments where McCutcheon cares for Gemma and is attracted to a nice girl out of his league. Mature readers of Tap Out by Eric Devine (Running Pr., 2012) will be drawn to this book.–Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, CO
Somper, Justin. Allies & Assassins. 496p. ebook available. Little, Brown. May 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316253932. LC 2013017968.
Gr 9 Up–From the first page of this hefty volume, the Princedom of Archenfield is plunged into mystery, danger, and intrigue. Prince Anders, who has ruled the kingdom through just two peaceful years, has been found dead, and his 16-year-old brother Jared has automatically become Prince of All Archenfield. Though he is clever and kind, Jared is not prepared to assume the crown. Luckily, he has the Twelve; officers of the court whose job is to advise, teach, and protect him. But can Jared trust them? In the few days before his brother’s funeral and his own coronation, Jared and the clever young Physician’s Apprentice, Asta, investigate the mystery of Ander’s murder, keenly aware that the murderer may be targeting Jared as well. Somper keeps the mystery alive with many red herrings, surprises, and plot twists, while deftly setting up the scenario for a sequel. Fans of medieval adventure, murder mysteries, and romance will all find something to like here, and readers will eagerly await the continuation of the this engrossing saga.–MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School, Binghamton, NY
Stewart, Elizabeth. Blue Gold. 300p. further reading. websites. Annick. 2014. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781554516353; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781554516346.
Gr 9 Up–The human price of technology is explored from the perspectives of three teen girls in this character-driven, realistic fiction novel. Set in the present, the story is told from three viewpoints. Fiona, a middle-class Canadian teen, is concerned with her popularity and self-image, especially as it relates to communication and technology devices. A split-second bad decision haunts her virtually, and she learns a big lesson in digital responsibility. Half a world away, Sylvie is a Congolese refugee living in Tanzania, where maintaining basic needs is a daily battle. Coltan, a mineral used in the technology that helps power cell phones and computers, is a resource that her people have killed and died for, and Sylvie is desperate to save her family in the wake of her father’s death. In China, Laiping works long hours in a factory assembling cell phones, enduring conditions that have caused her fellow employees to develop serious medical conditions and in extreme cases take their own lives. The writing strikes a good balance between character development and action and uses a straightforward tone to deliver the story.–Samantha Lumetta, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH
Venkatraman, Padma. A Time to Dance. 320p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399257100. LC 2013024244.
Gr 6 Up–Despite the pressure from her parents to become an engineer, Veda dreams of being a dancer. She studies the classical Indian dance, Bharatanatyam, and has reached the competition finals. Impressed with her graceful lines and skill, the judges award her first place, and Veda is ecstatic. After posing for pictures, she is injured in an accident on the way home and her leg has to be amputated below the right knee. Eventually Veda receives a prosthetic limb that allows her to walk and dance once again. Veda is placed with a student teacher, Govinda, who not only supports her as she relearns and strengthens her dancing but also becomes her friend. This exceptional novel, told entirely in verse, captures beautifully the emotions of a girl forced to deal with a number of challenges and how she overcomes them on her way to becoming a confident young woman.–Laura Fields Eason, Henry F. Moss Middle School, Bowling Green, KY
Weitz, Chris. The Young World. 384p. Little, Brown. July. 2014. Tr $19. ISBN 9780316226295; ebk. ISBN 9780316226271. LC 2013022285.
Gr 9 Up–A postapocalyptic novel told from the point of view of three teens in New York City who have banded together after a mysterious sickness wipes out the entire population of children and adults. The survivors are faced not only with the breakdown of society but also certain death when their hormonal levels even out. When food dwindles in the neighborhood where their tribe has hunkered down, they decide to risk a trip to the main branch of the New York Public Library to find a scientific study that may explain the origins of the sickness. In the course of their journey lives are lost, bravery tested, and childhood relationships become something more. What they eventually find is a research island where secret experiments are being fiercely guarded, but the brainiac of the group is able to trick their captors into letting him try to find a cure. Chapters written from alternating perspectives offer the chance to see how the same situations are interpreted by either the boy next door, the sweet girl with the tough exterior, or the intellectual with traits common to people with Asperger’s. The action moves quickly, and the context of a broken NYC is so compelling that readers will find it hard to put this book down.–Sunnie Lovelace, Wallingford Public Library, CT
For those interested in nonfiction, take a look at these stellar offerings subjects as diverse as graffiti art, vernacular photography, and the live-entertainment industry.
Earl, Esther & others. This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl. 448p. Dutton. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780525426363. LC 2013035838.
Gr 7 Up–Through letters, journal entries, blog posts, stories, poems, and drawings, readers get to know the life and times of Esther Grace Earl, the young woman to whom John Green dedicated The Fault in Our Stars (Penguin, 2012). Although she died from cancer in 2010 at only 16, Esther (known affectionately as “Star” by her family) was a prolific writer, a “nerdfighter,” a “Harry Potter” enthusiast, and a deeply spiritual person. She inspired—and continues to inspire—several online communities and a dedicated Internet fan base. This unique title will be appreciated by fans of John Green and those looking for an uplifting and emotional tear-jerker.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal
Ganter, Chris. Graffiti School: A Student Guide with Teacher’s Manual. 176p. chron. diag. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Thames & Hudson. 2013. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9780500290972. LC 2012956283.
Gr 7 Up–This in-depth volume supplies readers with a lion’s share of knowledge on the often-marginalized art form of graffiti. Ganter supplies a brief background of the art form, from its historical presence in ancient Pompeii through the modern-day hip-hop movement. After defining specific graffiti terminology, Ganter examines different methods and styles. The art descriptions are nicely supplemented with clear instructions along with visual examples. Ganter notably addresses the issue of legality by outlining the parameters of where readers can practice this art form without breaking any laws. The author uses general sketches in red and black ink for the first half of the book to portray the various graffiti designs. The latter portion relies upon full-on color to illustrate the different spraying styles. Sample exercises for teachers to use in the classroom are also included. Consider purchasing for middle school and high school art classes, particularly in urban areas.–Keith Klang, Port Washington Public Library, NY
Handler, Daniel. Girls Standing on Lawns. illus. by Maira Kalman. 64p. photos. Museum of Modern Art. May 2014. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780870709081.
Gr 7 Up–Vernacular photography is, as this book describes, photographs taken without artistic ambition. The people and places are long gone, but these photographs of girls standing on lawns remain. Found, anonymous, and removed from their original context, these snapshots have now been given a new life. With text by Handler and paintings by Kalman based on snapshots from collection of the Museum of Modern Art, this is a short, beautiful, and nostalgic book. The spare text ponders the matter-of-factness depicted in the snapshots and the occasional colorful paintings are as playful as the original black-and-white source material. The minimal text has the rhythm and simplicity of a children’s book, but there is a thought-provoking complexity present that will appeal to teens and adults. This title can also help to inspire creativity, as the idea of using found photographs as the basis for a narrative provides endless possibilities for young adults, teachers, and programming librarians.–Billy Parrott, New York Public Library
Jarrow, Gail. Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat. 192p. bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Boyds Mills Press/Calkins Creek. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781590787328. LC 2013953464.
Gr 6 Up–This haunting insight into a little known epidemic from the early 20th century provides statistics, firsthand accounts, pictures, and an easy-to-follow narrative of the pellagra outbreak in the United States. The book details the baffling uprise of pellagra, a life-threatening disease characterized by weakness, rash, and insanity; the medical investigation that ensued; and the eventual changes that were made in America’s diet to combat both this sickness and other maladies caused by nutritional deficiencies. This title is descriptive and well researched, with a striking bold-red color scheme. An excellent addition to nonfiction collections in school and public libraries.–Tammy Turner, Centennial High School, Frisco, TX
Sylvester, Kevin. Showtime: Meet the People Behind the Scenes. 88p. diag. illus. photos. reprods. Annick. 2013. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781554514878; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781554514861.
Gr 6-8–Eleven individuals involved in the behind-the-scenes aspects of putting on a live show are introduced; a vocal coach, a promoter, even a long-haul trucker—all play important roles. Machiko Weston is a set designer, Hiro Miura makes instruments, and Al Domanski is a pyrotechnics expert. Each section describes the occupation, gives background information about professional, and ends by revealing the skills and education needed for the particular job. Having real people explain their work creates a personal, welcome feel. The book is colorful, with clear action shots and large type. A final chapter, “Welcome to the Show,” briefly discusses other positions, such as security guard and director of live entertainment. These jobs are more in tune with the actual performance night. This is an accessible read for teens interested in all aspects of the large-scale live-entertainment industry.–Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI
The original reviews of the above works appeared in SLJ’s April print magazine.