Books by Neal Shusterman

THE TOLL by Neal Shusterman
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: Nov. 5, 2019

"Long but strong, a furiously paced finale that reaches for the stars. (Science fiction. 14-adult)"
The sins of the founding scythes now reap terrible rewards in this trilogy conclusion. Read full book review >
DRY by Neal Shusterman
YOUNG ADULT
Released: Oct. 2, 2018

"Mouths have never run so dry at the idea of thirst. (Thriller. 13-17)"
When a calamitous drought overtakes southern California, a group of teens must struggle to keep their lives and their humanity in this father-son collaboration. Read full book review >
THUNDERHEAD by Neal Shusterman
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: Jan. 9, 2018

"Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls. (Science fiction. 14-adult)"
Death proves impermanent in this sequel to Scythe (2016). Read full book review >
SCYTHE by Neal Shusterman
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: Nov. 29, 2016

"A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)"
Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world. Read full book review >
UNBOUND by Neal Shusterman
YOUNG ADULT
Released: Dec. 15, 2015

"A competently produced set of stories that will send fans over the moon and swiftly intrigue newcomers. (Dystopia. 12-16)"
The Unwind world is thoroughly explored in this companion piece. Read full book review >
CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 21, 2015

" An adventure in perspective as well as plot, this unusual foray into schizophrenia should leave readers with a deeper understanding of the condition. (author's note) (Fiction. 14 & up)"
Fantasy becomes reality in an exploration of mental illness based partly on the experiences of the author's son, who is also the book's illustrator. Read full book review >
UNDIVIDED by Neal Shusterman
YOUNG ADULT
Released: Oct. 14, 2014

"Everything culminates in an action-packed, heart-wrenching conclusion guaranteed to chill readers to the bone. (Dystopian adventure. 12-15)"
The grisly conclusion to the Unwind Dystology. Read full book review >
TESLA'S ATTIC by Neal Shusterman
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 11, 2014

"A wild tale in the spirit of Back to the Future, with a hint of Malamud's The Natural tossed in. (Science fiction. 8-14)"
In Book 1 of the Accelerati Trilogy, Nick Slate cleans out his attic, holds a garage sale and changes "the very course of human existence." Read full book review >
UNSOULED by Neal Shusterman
YOUNG ADULT
Released: Oct. 15, 2013

The third book of Shusterman's best-selling series finds legendary "Akron AWOL" Connor and former tithe Lev making their way across the country to Ohio to find a woman who may be able to help them stop the Unwinding forever. Read full book review >
SHIP OUT OF LUCK by Neal Shusterman
YOUNG ADULT
Released: June 13, 2013

"Nevertheless, a highly enjoyable ride. (Fiction. 12-18)"
Teenager Antsy Bonano gets into an amazing amount of trouble while spending a week on a luxurious Caribbean cruise ship in this agreeable companion to The Schwa Was Here (2004). Read full book review >
UNWHOLLY by Neal Shusterman
YOUNG ADULT
Released: Aug. 28, 2012

"A breathless, unsettling read. (Science fiction. 12 & up)"
After surviving the attack on the Happy Jack Harvest Camp, the heroes from Unwind (2007) lead the revolt against the Unwind Accord. Read full book review >
EVERFOUND by Neal Shusterman
FICTION
Released: May 3, 2011

"Rich in detail, with exceptional characterization and shot through with unexpected (and very necessary) humor, this is an engrossing and thoroughly satisfying ending to a unique saga of life after death. (Science fiction. 12 & up)"
Shusterman ends his provocative trilogy with a rock-solid adventure that manages to examine deep questions of faith and morality. Read full book review >
BRUISER by Neal Shusterman
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: July 1, 2010

Shusterman's latest is an unlikely love story. Twins Tennyson and Brontë—both parents teach literature, force feed their children vocabulary words and fight incessantly—don't have much in common, but when Brontë starts dating the Bruiser, they find themselves pulled into something unimaginable. Because if Brew loves you, he'll steal your pain—heartache, as well as bruises and broken bones. He has always held himself apart to keep himself safe, but the price is unimaginable loneliness. Brontë has always had her eye out for things and people in need, while Tennyson thrives on his anger, but Brew's power turns everything around. It flattens emotions, because none of the bad stuff ever hurts and life is lived in mental padding. Told in four voices—Tennyson and Brontë, Brew and his younger brother, Cody—this is a wrenching but ultimately redemptive look at how pain defines us and how love, whether familial, romantic or friendly, demands sacrifice and brings gifts of its own. Once again, Shusterman spins a fantastic tale that sheds light on everyday life. (Science fiction. 12 & up)Read full book review >
EVERWILD by Neal Shusterman
FICTION
Released: Nov. 10, 2009

Everlost is where children go when they die, if they miss their chance to go into the light or are just not ready to transition into the hereafter. It's a world between, where lost souls search for safety, for permanence or just a feeling of belonging (not unlike real life). Mary seeks to trap children there forever as her loyal—but unwitting—followers. Nick, the Chocolate Ogre, has already discovered how to send these lost souls into the light and is determined to fight Mary before he turns completely into a chocolate statue. Allie can move back to the real world by hijacking the body of a living being, but she can't move on into the light, even if she wanted to. In this sequel to Everlost (2006), Shusterman has once again created a world that is beautiful and imaginative yet increasingly eerie and grim. Each character grows, developing new aspects of their personality and finding out just how far they'll go to achieve their aims, whether anyone else likes it or not. Everlost is turning into Everwild, right before readers' eyes. A fascinating read penned by an expert hand. (Fantasy. 12 & up) Read full book review >
ANTSY DOES TIME by Neal Shusterman
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2008

Antsy Bonano of The Schwa Was Here (2004) continues his trend of befriending boys named after vowel sounds and diacritics, when he strikes up a strange relationship with classmate Gunnar Ümlaut. When Gunnar casually reveals that he's dying of Pulmonary Monoxic Systemia, Antsy just as casually offers Gunnar a month of his own life. But the friendly offhand gesture prompts other students to follow suit, in a trend which soon spirals out of control, leading to school-district-sponsored rallies and door-to-door time collection. Meanwhile, Antsy struggles with his attraction to Gunnar's gorgeous older sister, Kjersten. Though Antsy's feel-good realizations ought to feel saccharine, they fit perfectly into this tragicomic romp which runs from a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade raccoon-balloon disaster to a chorus of the Swedish national anthem and Abba's "Dancing Queen" sung—simultaneously—in a sketchy Catskills casino. Silliness balances out the maudlin, keeping Antsy's story from either bathos or antic excess. (Fiction. 11-13)Read full book review >
UNWIND by Neal Shusterman
Released: Nov. 6, 2007

Shusterman's Everlost (2006) dealt with death and children with a sense of innocence, redemption and even humor. None of that is present here. In a time not far distant, life is deemed to be sacrosanct from the instant of conception until the age of 13. From 13 to 18, however, parents and guardians have the opportunity to have children "unwound." Technically, life doesn't end, but every part of the child is "harvested" to be parceled out and passed on to the highest bidder. In this gruesome age of organ harvest, readers meet Connor (doomed to be unwound by his parents), Risa (doomed as a ward of the state due to overcrowding) and Lev, a tithe, conceived for the express purpose of being unwound and "donated" to society. Their story of escape and struggle to survive in a society that lauds itself on the protection of life, but which has reduced human body parts to market commodities, unrolls against a bleak background of indifference, avarice, guilt, regret, loss, pain and rebellion. Well-written, this draws the reader into a world that is both familiar and strangely foreign, and generates feelings of horror, disturbance, disgust and fear. As with classics such as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, one can only hope that this vision of the future never becomes reality. (Science fiction. YA) Read full book review >
EVERLOST by Neal Shusterman
FICTION
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

Death isn't an easy subject to write about, but Shusterman handles it deftly, as he explores what happens to two children who are "lost" on their way "towards the light." Nick and Allie have never met, but both are involved in a fatal car accident. They find they are neither living nor spirit; they now exist in Everlost. Learning to cope with their new state of being, they arrive in New York City, where a band of lost children have taken up residence in the Twin Towers, which still stand tall in Everlost. Led by Mary, the Queen of Snot, threatened by the Great McGill and his pirate band, these children have come to accept that this is where they belong and will always be. But Nick and Allie know there must be something—somewhere—else, and they are determined to find out what and where that is. A quirky sense of humor pervades, which helps to lighten what would otherwise be a disturbing concept. But the overall message (that there is existence after life and purpose to that existence and a destination when one is finally ready for it) is one of comfort. For anyone who has lost a friend or loved one at an early age, this is a good read. (Fiction. 12-15)Read full book review >
FANTASY
Released: March 1, 2006

For the third entry in his Dark Fusion series, Shusterman gives another familiar tale both a contemporary setting (with some magic thrown in) and an ingenious, eerie twist. Cara De Fido, unfortunate in more than just name, is so hideously plain that her face literally shatters mirrors and camera lenses—her cruel, jeering peers in the town of Flock's Rest dub her the "Flock's Rest Monster." Her simmering resentment comes to a boil after a mysterious note sends her out into the hills in a storm; she wakes up in a beautiful valley, amid beautiful people who are guarding the veritable Fountain of Youth. With one splash, Cara is transformed—and eager to go back to Flock's Rest on a table-turning expedition. Her beauty comes at a steeper cost than she imagines, however. Shusterman takes some shortcuts, but only in service to the story, and in casting Cara with believable mixes of toughness and vulnerability, of spite and good sense, he sets her up as a (sort of) sympathetic figure. Nicely disquieting. (Fantasy. 12-15)Read full book review >
DARK FUSION by Neal Shusterman
FAIRY TALES, FOLKTALES AND MYTHS
Released: Oct. 1, 2005

Shusterman's second Dark Fusion outing follows Dread Locks (April 15, 2005) in adding folktale elements to a contemporary teen horror tale. Here, 16-year-old Red finds himself wrestling with conflicting loyalties after he joins the Wolves, a werewolf street gang, as a spy for his werewolf-hunter Grandma. Set on fictional mean streets (one significant encounter takes place at the corner of Andersen and Grimm) and featuring a melting pot cast that includes the Crypts, a rival gang of female vampire shape-changers led by Red's former babysitter, this page-turner winds briskly into a suspenseful battle beneath the full moon, and ends with multiple twists. Fine fare for a solitary evening's reading, and middle range on the gruesomeness scale. (Fantasy. YA)Read full book review >
DREAD LOCKS by Neal Shusterman
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2005

Goldilocks and the Three Bears doesn't blend well with the story of Medusa, but suspense keeps this thriller going until the end. Ultra-rich Parker Baer has everything he could ever want, except an escape from ennui. Perhaps new neighbor Tara will provide some excitement. Tara Herpecheveux, whose head is covered with glowing, golden, dreadlock-like curls of hair, wants Parker to introduce her to kids all over school. Oddly, the students who are granted Tara's attention become lethargic, gray and apathetic. Tara seems to be sucking the life from them, even while she grants new energy and charisma—and curls of hair like her own—to Parker. Parker's new snakelike coiffure gives him power, but also gives him a terrible vampiric hunger for human life. Though there's nothing appealing about the thoroughly flat characters, the tension-filled climax puts a fascinating twist on the traditional way to defeat a gorgon. (Fantasy. 11-14)Read full book review >
THE SCHWA WAS HERE by Neal Shusterman
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2004

Calvin Schwa is special, see? Well, no, because you can't see him at all. The Schwa is disturbingly unnoticeable. For years he has been marked absent in school, and he has certainly never managed to make friends. When—with great difficulty—he intrudes upon the consciousness of Antsy and friends, the boys try to codify what they call "the Schwa effect." Will the Schwa be noticed spying in the teachers' lounge? Thumbing his nose at the principal? Standing in the boys' bathroom, wearing a Day-Glo orange sombrero, and singing "God Bless America" at the top of his lungs? Amidst their antics, Antsy and the Schwa come to the aid of a cranky and rich old man with a beautiful blind granddaughter, start national graffiti trends, and explore the Schwa's (quite interesting!) paperclip collection. It's all fun and games until friendships dissolve. Will the mysterious Night Butcher provide the Schwa with clues to his unwanted invisibility? The presence of stock characters and subplots doesn't detract from the cleverness and humor of this tall tale. (Fiction. 11-15)Read full book review >
FULL TILT by Neal Shusterman
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 2003

In this not-very-thrilling magical thriller, 16-year-old Blake comes to terms with old fears. Blake's younger brother Quinn is a reckless pest. Blake, on the other hand, is careful and studious: a Volvo driver who sorts his pencils. When a mysterious woman slips Blake an invitation to a theme-park rave, Blake chooses not to go—until Quinn swipes the invitation, and slips into a coma. Blake and two friends rush to the rave to save Quinn from whatever magical force has befallen him. If Blake defeats seven of the enchanted rides before dawn, he rescues Quinn; if he fails, they'll be lost forever. Blake conquers some challenges through cleverness, some through personal epiphanies, and others through dumb luck. Each success for Blake brings all of the main characters closer to self-knowledge. Since only Blake has any depth of character, it's not much of a trip. (Fiction. 10-15)Read full book review >
SHATTERED SKY by Neal Shusterman
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: June 1, 2001

"Fans will wish to investigate, and it might tempt some of the Lahaye & Jenkins crowd; otherwise, this erratic and sometimes wearisome vampire variant has little to offer."
Apocalyptic just-about-independently-intelligible final installment of Shusterman's Star Shards trilogy (Scorpion Shards, 1995, and Thief of Souls, not reviewed, were both published as YA titles). When the Scorpion Star exploded, six children were born on Earth, each with a shard of star power: Dillon's restorative capabilities are so extraordinary he can even bring back the dead; Winston regrows lost limbs and causes deserts to bloom, etc. The Vectors, however, living embodiments of another reality's dimensions, have arrived on Earth; their universe is dying, so its soul-eating inhabitants need a new home—and Earth is just bulging with yummy souls. The evil Okoya, one of the soul-eaters Dillon attempted to destroy previously, offers a bargain: if the soul-eater invasion succeeds, they'll kill Okoya, so he demands personal survival as the price for his help. To defeat the Vectors, all six Shards must work together. Unfortunately, Michael's dead; Deanna is also, marooned between universes; Tory's ashes have been scattered over half of Texas; and Lourdes has gone over to the dark side, preferring to use her coercive powers to assist the Vectors. Another complication arises when rich defense contractor Elon Tessic captures Dillon in pursuit of his own personal agenda. . . . Details aside, it's obvious where all this must end up: signs of fresh or analytical thinking are few. Read full book review >
THE SHADOW CLUB RISING by Neal Shusterman
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 2001

Coinciding with the re-release of Shusterman's first novel (The Shadow Club, 1988), this sequel addresses the lingering consequences of hatred and revenge. Ninth-grader Jared Mercer wants desperately to be just another kid; but as the ex-leader of the Shadow Club, infamous for terrorizing outstanding students with nasty practical jokes, he remains the focus of lingering suspicion, resentment, and (most disturbing) admiration. His guilt over his actions turns to apprehension when superstar student Alec Smartz arrives, for Alec's competitive drive evokes as much jealousy as popularity. Sure enough, the pranks start up again—harmless at first, but progressively more sinister—and everyone, even his parents, is convinced that Jared is to blame. In order to protect Alec and clear his own name, Jared must become the monster that everyone assumes he already is. In one of those rare sequels that surpass the original, Shusterman delivers thrilling suspense through probing the dark side of the adolescent psyche. Nuanced characterization ensures that there are no clear-cut villains or heroes; even the upbeat ending has a disturbingly creepy edge. As a remorseful former menace, Jared is a less provocative character than the vengeful bully of the first novel, but he is also much more self-aware and likable. His wry observations on how good people can delude themselves into justifying the most appalling acts seem particularly timely. The mystery and nonstop action will draw teens in; but the uncomfortable questions raised about guilt and responsibility will linger on. (Fiction. 11-15)Read full book review >
DOWNSIDERS by Neal Shusterman
Released: June 1, 1999

Shusterman (The Dark Side of Nowhere, 1997, etc.) twines suspense and satire through this ingenious tale of a secret community living deep beneath the streets of New York City. The boundaries of Lindsay's lonely, friendless world expand suddenly when she meets Talon Angler, an oddly clad teenager who claims to have come from "Downside" in search of medicine for his sick little sister. Against his better judgement, Talon takes Lindsay on a forbidden tour of his own world, a subterranean maze of tunnels and chambers where he and 5,000 others live in peace and comfort, knowing "Topside" only from old tales and occasional peeks through street drains. Spinning Downside's origin from actual events in New York history, Shusterman creates a plausibly complex society with its own art, customs, and assumptions, then turns to view Topside culture, both through Downsider eyes and with a more general, broadly comic, vision. Despite frequent doses of social commentary, the pace never flags; their isolation breached by a Topsider aqueduct project, the Downsiders respond by cutting off all utilities (oblivious, New Yorkers respond with a huge block party), then, under Talon's leadership, filling upper levels with natural gas and setting it off. Urban readers, at least, will be checking the storm drains for peering faces in the wake of this cleverly envisioned romp. (Fiction. 11-15)Read full book review >
SCORPION SHARDS by Neal Shusterman
FICTION
Released: Nov. 1, 1995

Shusterman (The Eye of Kid Midas, 1992, etc.) turns the pitfalls of adolescence into a landscape of nightmares, demonstrating that anyone can become a hero just by confronting old fears. Each of the six teenagers in this novel are misfits, suffering from deformities the author mines from the depths of teenage angst: Lourdes is so obese she develops her own gravitational field; Tory is scarred by rampant acne; Dillon is driven to wreck things; Michael lives in a state of frantic, insatiable sexual arousal, etc. More disturbing is the realization that unless they discover the reason for their freakish problems, they will eventually be destroyed by them. The dramatic finale where the six confront their personal demons is more disturbing and satisfying than the infamous prom scene from Stephen King's Carrie (1975). In fact, the evocation of epic scenes demands big-screen treatment. Shusterman's dead-on portrayal of teenage phobias and his engaging, sympathetic characters combine in a haunting but ultimately reassuring novel. (Fiction. 12+) Read full book review >
THE EYES OF KID MIDAS by Neal Shusterman
CHILDREN'S
Released: Dec. 1, 1992

A terrifying, somewhat confused reworking of a familiar theme: When Kevin Midas, smallest kid in class, finds a talisman that grants wishes but can't reverse them, events quickly escape his control. Inspired by a legend of magic, Kevin, his friend Josh, bully Bertram Tarson, and Bertram's brain-free sidekick Hal race to the top of a mountain. Kevin, who arrives first, finds a pair of sporty sunglasses that give him anything he wants, from a Lamborghini to forcing Bertram to jump into the lake. There are, however, insidious side effects: like a drug, the shades bring both exaltation and increasing exhaustion; worse, they undermine the structure of reality so that 2+2=3, the sun sets in the east, and only the original four (three, after Kevin, in a fit of rage, tells Bertram to go to hell) notice anything unusual. Horrified, Kevin takes the glasses back to the mountaintop, where the original race is re-created with a different, disappointingly innocuous, ending: our familiar universe is reconstituted and everyone forgets the whole episode. The story resembles Beatrice Gormley's tales of magic gone wrong, but it's much more sobering: The frequent gags and gaffes seem pale compared to the nightmarish plot; and it's hard to know whether to laugh at—or be chilled by—Kevin's predicament. (Fiction. 11-13) Read full book review >
WHAT DADDY DID by Neal Shusterman
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: May 1, 1991

Readers won't need to know the true story behind Shusterman's latest; as fiction, the premise of a boy's coming to grips with his mother's murder by his father is compelling stuff. And while the novel doesn't fulfill its promise, that premise will keep YAs involved to the last. Preston Scott knows his family is in turmoil—his parents have nightly fights—but he is understandably shocked when his father borrows a gun and kills his mother. Not until the end of the book does Preston learn of the circumstances surrounding the ``accident,'' although his reconciliation with his father has already begun. Any fictionalization of the hard-core reality of a murder runs the risk of trivializing. Here, whether the events are reconstructed or imagined, the narrative is never really grounded in the characters' reasons for behaving as they do: Preston's mother is reduced to being a cold boaster; her parents are so fervently religious that they deny their feelings; Preston's forgiveness of his father is one-part spiritual, one-part shrug. Though the story is based in truth, it doesn't feel true; fiction or fact, that's a crime. (Fiction. 11+) Read full book review >
SPEEDING BULLET by Neal Shusterman
Released: Jan. 1, 1990

In a well-told melodrama, heroism is thrust on an N.Y.C. teen-ager who must then bear its consequences. Nick envisages years of failure as his future until he saves a child who has fallen onto the subway tracks and, shortly after, risks his life to rescue an old man from a smoke-filled building. Each event is presaged by intense foreboding; even more peculiar, every coin Nick flips comes up heads. Does Nick have a mission, or has he been touched by God? His loyal, not-too-bright friend Marco has no doubt. Meanwhile, Nick wins notoriety plus the attention of Linda Lando, daughter of a rich builder, who is fascinated to find something she can't control. The rescues continue; and while Nick tries to sort out his feelings, Marco spreads exaggerated tales of his feats and suggests that Nick has healing hands—and Linda tries to manipulate events. Shusterman dishes out some wildly funny scenes here, plus a few brutal surprises: Nick learns that Linda has staged several of the "rescues"; Marco, trying a rescue of his own, is trapped under tons of steel; and Nick, trying to get to his friend, acts so crazy that a shopkeeper shoots him. The characters are particularly well drawn; surprisingly, Shusterman manages a reasonably happy ending for this page-turner. Read full book review >