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Behind Mansion Walls

posted by: November 27, 2012 - 8:01am

The InnocentsSisters Charlie and Alice Flaherty are The Innocents in Lili Peloquin’s gripping debut that mixes a splash of The Great Gatsby with a dash of Gossip Girl. The duo arrives in posh Serenity Point, a beach town on the Connecticut coastline to spend the summer before heading off to boarding school. Their lives have changed drastically, and a mansion in Serenity Point is a long way from their tiny apartment in Cambridge. But in the span of just a few months, their parents divorced, their father moved across the globe, and their mother married the uber-rich Richard Flood.


The sisters approach their new life differently. Alice, the elder by one year, is more introspective, while Charlie is a free spirit looking for fun. Charlie becomes fast friends with the hard-partying, maybe-couple Jude and Cybil, while Alice is drawn to Tommy, the handsome son of a scandalized physician. The country club is a world full of secrets and Alice and Charlie grow increasingly shocked as they learn more about their stepfather, his family, and even their own mother. Just one year ago, Richard’s wife died from cancer and their sixteen year old golden girl daughter, Camilla, committed suicide soon after. Alice is intrigued by inconsistencies surrounding Camilla and starts investigating, but the truth proves to be highly disturbing. Things get really creepy when Alice finds photos of Camilla and realizes she is a dead ringer for the dead girl. And what about Alice’s clandestine boyfriend Tommy? Turns out he was Camilla’s boyfriend at the time of her death.   


The Innocents is the first in a new series which has something for everyone – mystery, romance, and good old-fashioned drama. Readers won’t have long to wait to learn what happens next with these compelling teens as the sequel, This Side of Jealousy, is scheduled for summer 2013.


Departures and Arrivals

posted by: November 6, 2012 - 8:11am

Ask the PassengersAsk the Passengers, by A.S. King, is a unique, yet highly relatable coming-of-age story set in a small Pennsylvania town. Astrid Jones’ life is complicated, to say the least. She may very well be the most responsible member of a household that includes a dad with substance abuse issues, an overbearing mom who only sees things her way, and a popular younger sister who teeters on the edge of perfect. Astrid’s holding down a job at the local Mexican restaurant, while navigating the demands of high school academia and the social scene as defined by her particular group of friends. She’s trying to come to terms with her own secret--she is increasingly attracted to a girl at work. She keeps her clandestine encounters with Dee hidden from everyone.


Who can Astrid open up to? As strange as it may seem, she sends her thoughts and love to the people on the airplanes that pass over. Surely they won’t share the same small-minded attitudes of everyone around her. Astrid lies on the picnic table in her yard in an almost meditative state, telepathically communicating with the passengers. King intersperses their stories throughout the narrative, making this novel an especially intriguing read. Teens will be instantly drawn to the acerbic Astrid, an immensely likable character surrounded by more than her share of drama. Known for her Printz- honor book Please Ignore Vera Dietz, and the critically-acclaimed Everybody Sees the Ants, King has become a favorite go-to author for well written, insightful realistic teen fiction.


Is Anything More Important than Being Popular?

posted by: November 6, 2012 - 8:01am

SpeechlessChelsea Knot is superficial and selfish, a major gossip and a snob. There is actually very little to like about the main character in Hannah Harrington’s novel, Speechless. After lying to her parents to attend a party, and blackmailing a classmate for a fake ID, she drunkenly stumbles into a room where two guys are making out. In typical Chelsea fashion, she runs to tell her best friend, but this time spreading a rumor leads to horrific ramifications and one of the boys ends up in a coma, the result of a severe beating.


Against the wishes of her friend, Chelsea reports the jocks responsible for this act of violence, sacrificing her status in the popular crowd by turning in their peers. After reflecting how her words have been responsible for almost getting a classmate killed, Chelsea takes a vow of silence in order to refrain from hurting anyone else. At school she finds herself ostracized and bullied by those she once considered her friends. She endures the constant ridicule and abuse with the assistance of an unlikely support system.


The author crafts an amazingly heartfelt story about the true meaning of friendship and how kindness and generosity can help heal. With an authentic voice, Harrington depicts the metamorphosis of a self-centered teen as she discovers how it feels to care about others. Without saying a word, Chelsea is able to forge honest relationships while learning to forgive herself. What will it take for her to start talking again? Will it result in the old Chelsea returning? Will her new friends still like her? This story is one of soul searching, personal growth, and courage. Speechless compellingly represents the advantages of being your own person.


Fifty Shades of Crime

posted by: October 23, 2012 - 8:01am

CrusherHigh school dropout Finn Maguire spends his days selling pseudo-food at the Max Snax and his nights watching tv with his stepdad, an unemployed actor trying to write his own perfect role. When Finn arrives home from work one night, he finds his stepfather bludgeoned to death with his 1992 Best Newcomer award. The pursuit of the killer drives the story in Crusher, the debut novel by Niall Leonard. 


In working-class London, corruption is rampant and Joseph McGovern (a.k.a. The Guvnor) rules the streets with an iron fist. Finn’s stepfather was using The Guvnor as a springboard for his script, spinning a loosely-fictional yarn about the crime lord and his subordinates, one of whom plots a violent takeover. The police seem doggedly-focused on Finn as the main suspect in the murder, so he decides to launch his own investigation. He fears that the script may have hit too close to home, so he begins at the Guvnor’s mansion. Playing dumb, he bumbles his way into a job so that he can keep searching for clues. He soon begins uncovering secrets and revealing connections that turn his world upside-down.


Leonard, husband of best-selling author E. L. James, has written for many British television series including Wire in the Blood and Ballykissangel. He packs Crusher with heart-pounding action, leaving the reader as breathless as a boxer in the final round of a bout. The raw language and violence make the novel an appropriate read for older teens and young adults. Recommended for fans of true crime or gritty realism such as Sons of Anarchy.


While You Were Sleeping

posted by: October 9, 2012 - 8:01am

Anything But OrdinaryAnything But Ordinary, by Lara Avery, is a candid, touching story of a girl who needs to create a new identity for herself while struggling to cope with how everyone close to her has moved on with their lives, while she was sleeping. Seventeen-year-old Bryce’s promising future as a high diver is tragically derailed due to an accident that occurs during her Olympic diving trial. Her family, friends, and a greater portion of her hometown turn out to support her during the diving meet. They witness as the dive goes horribly wrong and she cracks her head on the concrete platform. When Bryce awakens in the hospital she learns that she has been in a coma for five years, and everything in her life has forever changed. There is no Olympic gold medal in her future, her best friend and boyfriend have finished college and are backpacking across Europe. Her parents now have a strained and distant relationship and her younger sister acts angry at the world.


Tired of being kept in the hospital under observation, Bryce neglects to tell her doctors about the stabbing headaches or the shooting pains down her back. Nor does she mention the flashes of visions she periodically gets of things that occurred while she was in the coma and sometimes even of future events. Although alarmed by this, she refuses to let it impact her recovery. Readers will admire and possibly envy Bryce’s inner strength as she fights to regain her mobility, combat loneliness, and cope emotionally with the changes that have taken place in those she loves. While reclaiming her life, she assists her family in the rebuilding of their relationships. Bryce discovers her world may not be the vacuum she initially believed when she first wakes up. This is an inspirational and poignant story that will leave you wanting to cherish each and every day.


Online Voyeurism

posted by: October 9, 2012 - 7:55am

ButterJournalist Erin Jade Lange turns to fiction to shine the spotlight on the epidemic of childhood obesity in Butter. Alternately chided by his mother for being too heavy and then for not eating enough, teenaged Butter cannot win the battles in his life. Worse than the bullying is the way his classmates, teachers, and even his father seem to look past him rather than at him. One day, a news story about an airline charging obese fliers for 2 seats prompts a reaction in Butter. Tired of being invisible, he decides to do what he does best…he will eat and eat and eat until he dies, and he invites his classmates to watch online.


The reaction to Butter’s announcement is swift and unexpected. Rather than prompting more taunting, the "event" gains him a morbid popularity. Everyone is talking not just about him but to him. He no longer sits alone at lunch, and everyone wants to wish him luck and make suggestions to his last meal menu. For the first time, Butter has friends, and it is intoxicating. If only things could be this way all of the time. But as his self-imposed deadline approaches, can he go through with it?


Lange’s writing is very matter-of-fact and her tough honesty blends well with her dry humor. She has created a fascinating character in Butter, who is by turns hilariously witty and tenderly heartbreaking. He gives voice to all of the geeks, nerds, and fat kids of the world who just want to be seen and heard.


Another Opening, Another Show

posted by: October 2, 2012 - 8:11am

DramaFans of graphic novelist extraordinaire Raina Telgemeier will be thrilled to get their hands on a copy of her latest work, Drama. Seventh grader Callie’s life revolves around the annual school theater production, and this year it’s the musical Moon over Mississippi. Callie’s not an actress; she’s all about the set design. Told in a traditional comic panel style and rendered in vivid full color, Drama follows Callie and her production crewmates as they navigate relationships both onstage and off. Intended for a slightly older audience than the autobiographical Smile, this graphic novel addresses not only the complexities of boy-girl relationships, but also those of boy-boy.


A former high school drama performer herself, Telgemeier stays in touch with her inner theater geek, perfectly capturing the immersive nature of working on a school production. Can inexperienced Callie pull off an incredible set design (including a real working cannon and a leaf-shedding tree) on a bare-bones budget? What will the new guys at school, twins Jesse and Justin, lend to the show? And will Callie ever find her very own leading man?


Drama is rife with in-the-know backstage details, from the somewhat creepy costume vault to the lighting cues and the set change challenges. Callie is a likeable, fully-realized girl who readers can’t help but root for. Telgemeier populates Eucalyptus Middle with a diverse group of passionate, relatable friends. Her drawing style portrays both expression and depth, realism layered with comic conventions. Drama stands out as an appealing, addictive graphic novel, a book that will no doubt be read, re-read, and passed from friend to friend.


Free As We’ll Ever Be

posted by: September 18, 2012 - 7:55am

Pushing the LimitsDebut author Katie McGarry’s edgy new contemporary novel Pushing the Limits was written for older teens, but it is also attracting the attention of Romance readers.


Echo Emerson and Noah Hutchins are high school seniors brought together by Mrs. Collins, the new social worker who has taken on their cases. Each of them is facing serious struggles. During Noah’s freshman year, both of his parents died, and he and his two younger brothers were placed in separate foster homes. He hates the system and is desperate to find a way to bring his family back together. Echo is dealing with the loss of her brother Aires, a Marine killed in Afghanistan. She is also trying to understand another event that rocked her world. During Echo’s sophomore year, something happened while she was visiting her mother. What happened that day left Echo’s arms badly scarred, but she can’t remember anything about it. No one will tell her the whole truth, and a restraining order now prevents her from having contact with her mother. Rumors about what happened to her have made her a social outcast at school. As Echo and Noah fall in love, they both search for the truth and work to repair their own lives.


This novel takes on loss, mental illness, and family dynamics. Echo and Noah are both damaged people, but despite their unusual circumstances, they are also both relatable characters. The narration alternates between their points of view, giving each of them a unique voice and perspective. Pushing the Limits marks Katie McGarry as a hot new author to watch.


Hey Jude

posted by: July 17, 2012 - 7:55am

Before You GoThe summer before senior year is a season of firsts for Jude. He begins his first job at a food shack on the beach, and there he meets the girl who will become his first love. He also breaks with family tradition, and for the first time talks to someone about the darkness that surrounds them -- the accidental drowning of his sister in the backyard pool. Jude’s long-suppressed emotions come to the surface in Before You Go by James Preller.


The beauty of this book is in the drawing of the teen characters. The friendships between the boys are realistic and the dialogue is believable. No one is overly-pathetic or incredibly cool; these are everyday kids growing up in an ordinary town doing what teens do. They work “undesirable” part-time jobs, drink a little, get bored sometimes, explore dating and relationships, distance themselves from their parents, and start to realize that life may not work out the way you plan it.


Preller is the author of the Jigsaw Jones series and the children’s fiction title Bystander. He makes his teen fiction debut with Before You Go. Although it begins with a fatal car accident, this book is not action-packed. Readers drawn to emotional stories with subtle character development will enjoy this novel.



Pretty or Not?

posted by: July 3, 2012 - 1:49pm

The ListIt’s a given: high school, angst, and a painful self-consciousness go hand in hand for everyone except the “in-crowd,” right? Or maybe not. Siobhan Vivian takes a probing look at high school students in her new novel, The List, and explores the impact of being one of the infamous eight girls named on a cruel, anonymously authored cataloging of the prettiest and ugliest in each grade.


Being listed as the prettiest would seem to guarantee a charmed life for a high school girl and initially, ninth grader Abby revels in the extra attention garnered due to her appearance. Senior Margo feels somewhat entitled to be in the prettiest category, as was her older sister a few years back. Sophomore Lauren is surprised by her inclusion especially as this is her first year of public school, having been homeschooled previously. Struggling with a blooming eating disorder, junior Bridget rationalizes that making the prettiest list means her weight loss was—and is-- necessary.


On the flip side, receiving the label of ugliest should be devastating and for eleventh grade Sarah, always a nonconformist, the list pushes her to an extreme. Jennifer, hiding a secret, decides to celebrate her notoriety as a 4-time “winner” while beautiful queen-bee Candace is certain that her name was placed on this side of the sophomore list in error. Freshman varsity athlete Danielle just hopes her new boyfriend isn’t bothered by her being tagged as “Dan the man.”


Taking place in the week leading up to the homecoming dance, each girl has the opportunity to look at friendships and family in a new light; each must also decide if she embraces the label thrust upon her or forge her own identity independent of The List. Fans of realistic fiction will enjoy this title which reminds us to look inside not only others but ourselves, too.



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