Readers who enjoy murder mysteries will encounter intrigue, secrecy, and surprises in McCormick Templeman’s new book, The Little Woods.  Set at St. Bede’s Academy, an upscale boarding school in California, the novel features 17 year old Calista Wood (Cally) who claims membership in the “dead family members and drunken moms” club.  A mid-year transfer student looking for opportunity, Cally escapes her dead end home life inPortland and undertakes the Cally Wood Social Integration Project, but she struggles to find solid footing among the hipster debutantes and sybaritic males; the catered breakfasts and competitive natures of these privileged, Yale and Harvard bound students are just notRead More →

   What  would it be like to lose both of your parents and then to live under the guardianship of a greedy, conniving, and cold-hearted aunt and uncle who threaten to uproot you from the familiarity of place?   Barbara Mariconda answers those questions in The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons, the first installment in a trilogy of middle grade fantasy novels.  Set in 1906 New England, Voyage is not only a fantasy, adventure story featuring lore and legends of the sea but also the tale of Lucille Prudence Simmons and her family’s house—her father’s “ship on shore” that turns out to be both menacing andRead More →

Because Sarah Lean’s first novel features an Irish wolfhound, who looks like he would go to the ends of the earth to save his master, A Dog Called Homeless is a dog story, but it is also a ghost story, a coming-of-age story, and a story somewhat reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, which also features a female protagonist whose selective mutism follows personal tragedy.  Because Lean’s tale embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences, the book also deserves a look by the Schneider Family Book Awards committee.  With all of its identities, this author’s first novel has multi-audienceRead More →

Readers of Carl Deuker’s sports stories will likely enjoy T. Glen Coughlin’s latest book.  One Shot Away: A Wrestling Story follows the narratives of three wrestlers in Molly Pitcher, New Jersey, during their senior year: Jimmy O’Shea, Diggy Masters, and Trevor Crow. Although not the typical wrestler’s build at 6’2”, Jimmy is ranked best 160 pounder in the county and slated for the Wall of Champions if he can avoid the distraction of his dad’s dastardly deeds.  Mr. O’Shea’s PhD in post hole digging, predilection for thievery, and passion for alcohol threaten to jeopardize Jimmy’s goals. At 152 pounds, Diggy is living in the shadowRead More →

The Right and the Real by Joëlle Anthony contains the typical adolescent girl themes: romance, friendship, and finding one’s own voice or identity, but it transcends those themes to explore the impact of poverty, addictive personalities, and religious organizations that border on cultish behavior.  Seventeen-year-old, Jamie Lexington-Cross fears being sent back to her drug addicted mom when her alcoholic dad stops attending therapy and trades one addiction for another, the Right and the Real church. Brainwashed by the petite Mira whom he takes as his bride and by the loud and certain preacher who considers himself Jesus, Robert Lexington-Cross evicts his pragmatic daughter from theirRead More →

Set on an island near both Thailandand Cambodiain 1974 during the Vietnam War, Lost Girls by Ann Kelley is Lord of the Flies on estrogen.  Although Kelley borrows heavily from William Golding’s tale—down to wild boars and broken glasses—she doesn’t perform the rich psychological study of her predecessor.  Still, in fourteen-year-old protagonist Bonnie MacDonald, readers note traits of both Piggy and Ralph, and in Hope, we see a blending of Piggy and Simon.  The twenty-something redhead Layla Campbell and her cohorts, the Glossies, reflect Jack and his minions. Bonnie’s family is from Scotland, transplanted in southeast Asia by the war.  Members of the Amelia EarhartRead More →

Readers who enjoyed King of the Screwups by K.L. Going (Harcourt, 2009) will find a similar theme and characters in Kody Keplinger’s A Midsummer’s Nightmare, which features a female protagonist.  On her first night in Hamilton, Kentucky, recent Indiana high school graduate Whitley Johnson argues fashion choices with fashionista, Harrison Carlyle, who offers to be her best friend, but Whitley doesn’t “do” friends.  In her experience “friends turn on you, abandon you, and lie about you” (61).  Because Whitley sees friends as a waste of time, selfish and fake, she decides she’s better off being a loner, with tequila as a best friend to makeRead More →

 Michelle Gagnon’s first novel for young adults, Don’t Turn Around is unquestionably a thriller, certain to resonate with social activist readers and those who know the power of computers to perform invasive functions.  With echoes of the hacktivism but not the dystopian angle from Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, Gagnon takes on shady big business, the issue of government cover-ups, and the very real plight of children in the foster care system. Gagnon tells her story primarily through the parallel threads of two adolescent lives whose paths cross and eerily connect.  Sixteen-year-old Noa Torson, who lost her parents when she was just an infant, spent severalRead More →

New York City resident Sarah Beth (Sethie) Weiss is seventeen years old and obsessed with food and fat.  From Sethie’s perspective, lanky Janey won the genetic lottery and Sethie lost; even her 49 year old mother Rebecca looks better in a bathing suit.  Sethie’s two favorite words, svelte and lithe, are etched on her bedroom mirror, along with the mantras: Don’t Eat and Bones Are Beautiful.  5’4 Sethie weighs 111 pounds but she still sees fat on her boney frame.  Rules and definitions, order and control, rituals and routines govern Sethie’s life, unlike best friend Janey and almost boyfriend Shaw, who stroll through life unhurried.Read More →