Books by Gail Giles

GIRLS LIKE US by Gail Giles
YOUNG ADULT
Released: May 27, 2014

"A respectful and winningly told story about people too often relegated to the role of plot device—bravo. (Fiction. 12-18)"
Two "Speddies"—special ed students—graduate high school and move in with a kind but sometimes misguided older woman. Read full book review >
NO RETURNS by Gail Giles
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 12, 2014

"The first movement in an ambitious song cycle of a tale which, despite a few sour notes, offers entertaining characters."
Giles (Dark Song, 2010) and Vanasse (Out of the Wilderness, 2013) team up for a paranormal novel, the first in a series featuring three teenage musicians in an unwitting Faustian bargain, a mysterious librarian and a supernatural James Cagney wannabe. Read full book review >
DARK SONG by Gail Giles
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Sept. 7, 2010

The queen of YA thrillers does it again with another gripping page-turner in which love and danger meet. Always the good girl to her rebellious best friend, Ames leads a privileged life in Boulder, Colo., with private school, designer clothes and no responsibilities. It all slams into a wall when her broker dad is fired for scamming from clients and gambles away the rest of the family savings. Feeling angry and betrayed, the teen starts to unleash the "Wild Thing" inside her. The rumpus intensifies when the family is forced to move into a rental home, last used as a drug flophouse, in Texas, and she meets Marc, a mysterious loner who collects guns and wants to protect Ames from any more pain. The initial excitement of her first boyfriend, and a bad boy no less, gives way to doubt and fear when Marc begins to control her actions and asks her to make the ultimate sacrifice. Stock characters and rushed plot fillers will not deter readers' hearts from thumping from the puzzling beginning to the fast-paced conclusion. (Thriller. YA)Read full book review >
RIGHT BEHIND YOU by Gail Giles
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

When Kip was nine, he set Bobby Clarke on fire and then spent the next four years in a mental ward for dangerous juveniles. Guilty of the worst crime on his ward, Kip is the most civilized and intelligent child there, and at 13, he is freed. In a new place with a new name, Kip can start afresh, but he'll never succeed in a normal life if he doesn't learn to manage the crushing guilt of his past. Neither Kip nor any of his psychiatrists tackle the unanswerable question of whether a nine-year-old can be held responsible for cold-blooded murder. Instead, they focus on moving forward, on living a worthwhile life despite an unforgivable past. Guided by Chris Crutcher-style helpful adults, Kip's journey gains context from the adolescent traumas of the teenagers he meets. This powerful and moving novel of self-discovery gives no easy answers, except inasmuch as it's too easy to have Kip be an entirely sweet, well-intentioned young man, unscarred by anything but guilt after four years of incarceration. Thought-provoking and heart-wrenching. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
WHAT HAPPENED TO CASS MCBRIDE? by Gail Giles
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Nov. 1, 2006

In this harrowing, brutal mystery, college student Kyle Kirby believes a snarky rejection letter written by popular Cass McBride may have driven his younger, love-thirsty nerd of a brother to hang himself. To avenge his death, Kyle drugs Cass, kidnaps her and buries her in a wooden box underneath the ground. He inserts a plastic tube from the surface into the box for oxygen, and maniacally waits for her to talk. All of this happens within the first 20 pages and what unfolds next are the thoughts, fears and memories running through the minds of Kyle and Cass as the terrible evening unfolds. If the plot alone isn't disturbing enough to yank readers up by their bootstraps and catapult them headfirst into the horrors that are about to befall the two, Giles's jagged, terse, just-the-facts narrative only amplifies their claustrophobically dire situation. There is no light shed on the human condition, no touching moments of patient understanding. There are hardly any characters for teens to look up to, and, in true Giles form, nothing ties up neatly. It's just plain chilling, and that's what makes it brilliant. A damn scary read. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
PLAYING IN TRAFFIC by Gail Giles
FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

An intelligent, mature, but repressed high-school senior puts himself into increasing danger through his romance with a disturbed girl in this realistic and hard-hitting story. Matt deliberately fades into the background socially, looking forward only to college when Skye, a girl in the Goth culture complete with sex, drugs, and rock and roll, chooses him for herself. With family problems of his own, enticed by the lure of excitement and especially of sex, Matt finds Skye impossible to resist, although he eventually realizes that she's only using him in her attempt to commit a terrible crime. Written in short segments that will appeal to reluctant readers, this in-depth exploration of adolescent psychology highlights the real danger often involved in alternative lifestyles. Giles simply allows her story to unfold without trying to shock and, in doing so, makes her final shock all the more effective. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
DEAD GIRLS DON’T WRITE LETTERS by Gail Giles
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: March 1, 2003

A creepy psychological thriller offers a slick update to the parable of the returning prodigal. With her mother sunk deep in depressive lethargy, and her father indulging in alcoholic binges, 14-year-old Sunny has become the only functioning member of her family since the accidental death of her brilliant, beautiful older sister Jazz. Tossing a bombshell into this corrosive family circle is a letter from Jazz, announcing that the reports of her demise have been greatly exaggerated. But the Jazz who arrives is an imposter; or so Sunny insists, and her father grudgingly concedes, even though her mother accepts her with painful joy. But this Jazz seems to know too many intimate family details, and fit in far too well—or maybe that's just what Sunny, so often outshone by her sister's glamour, and the victim of her secret spite, wants to believe. Lies pile upon lies, and secrets upon secrets, in a twisty narrative that turns in on itself so often that the reader is left not knowing quite what is real. Giles (Shattering Glass, 2002) here shows the same acute psychological observation and masterful sense of pacing of her sensational debut, but without the same depth and subtlety. While Sunny is drawn with a sensitive hand, the rest of the characters are too over-the-top to be convincing, and the plot has the feel of a drawn out short story. Still, teen readers will love having their preconceptions continually turned topsy-turvy, and will endlessly debate the tale's maddeningly ambiguous conclusion. Another winner. (Fiction. 12+)Read full book review >
SHATTERING GLASS by Gail Giles
FICTION
Released: March 1, 2001

A grimly comic debut novel revisits the dark hell of high-school cliques. The ruling posse at BrazosVale High includes the usual suspects: rich, well-connected "Young" Steward; smooth stud "the Bobster" DeMarco; dumb jock "Coop" Cooper; and the exquisitely cool and charismatic alpha male, Rob Haynes. As a demonstration of power, Rob decides to elevate the school outcast, dweeby Simon Glass, to the heights of popularity. While Simon seems pathetically eager for any crumb of attention, he eventually reveals an agenda all his own. As Simon exposes their hidden vulnerabilities, the agents of Rob's whims explode into shocking violence. While grownups might cavil at the ubiquitous adult cruelty and cluelessness, most teens will nod with recognition at the adolescent characters. Giles skates the fine edge of stereotyping, but manages to give his characters authentic voices; the narrator Young is particularly well realized, with his sardonic wit, his artist's sensitivity, and his tightly wrapped rage. As much provocateur as victim, Simon subtly goads the reader into compliance with his eventual murder. Even though the denouement is known almost from the outset—Young is sent to prison for the crime—this narrative device actually heightens tension as the reader struggles against its awful inevitability. Most intriguing are the quotes heading each chapter, revealing the perspectives of the characters five years later, and which raise questions of justice, mercy, and individual responsibility. A sure-fire hit for book discussion groups, from a writer to watch. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
BREATH OF THE DRAGON by Gail Giles
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 14, 1997

A young village girl in Thailand is introduced to early sorrows when her father is branded a thief and shot by police. In shame, her mother flees to America, leaving the unknowing Malila in the care of her wise grandmother. Malila joins her grandmother in threading a garland of orchids and jasmine for the san phra phum, the spirit house. This marks the beginning of Grandmother's reverential guidance in the many traditions of their country. When her father is pronounced suay, or unlucky, Malila is an outcast, and finds her own way through her love of drawing and her grandmother's life lessons, from listening to the voice of the river to attending a kite contest. When her grandmother dies and Malila has to leave for America, she carries with her the inner strength to gain sanouk, the joy of living. Strong, sympathetic characters and the evocative Thai setting are an integral part of this well-told story with the universal theme of overcoming adversity; it's a quick read, but a rich one, and a humble obeisance to the uncertainties of growing up. (b&w illustrations, not seen, glossary) (Fiction. 8-11) Read full book review >