He’s in remission from the osteosarcoma that took one of his legs. She’s fighting the brown fluid in her lungs caused by tumors. Both know that their time is limited.
Sparks fly when Hazel Grace Lancaster spies Augustus “Gus” Waters checking her out across the room in a group-therapy session for teens living with cancer. He’s a gorgeous, confident, intelligent amputee who always loses video games because he tries to save everyone. She’s smart, snarky and 16; she goes to community college and jokingly calls Peter Van Houten, the author of her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, her only friend besides her parents. He asks her over, and they swap novels. He agrees to read the Van Houten and she agrees to read his—based on his favorite bloodbath-filled video game. The two become connected at the hip, and what follows is a smartly crafted intellectual explosion of a romance. From their trip to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive Van Houten to their hilariously flirty repartee, readers will swoon on nearly every page. Green’s signature style shines: His carefully structured dialogue and razor-sharp characters brim with genuine intellect, humor and desire. He takes on Big Questions that might feel heavy-handed in the words of any other author: What do oblivion and living mean? Then he deftly parries them with humor: “My nostalgia is so extreme that I am capable of missing a swing my butt never actually touched.” Dog-earing of pages will no doubt ensue.
Green seamlessly bridges the gap between the present and the existential, and readers will need more than one box of tissues to make it through Hazel and Gus’ poignant journey. (Fiction. 15 & up)
A clever, scary, little-bit-sexy beginning to a series that takes Louisiana teen Rory to London.
Rory's parents are teaching for a year at the University of Bristol, so she gets to spend senior year at Wexford, a London boarding school. She recounts her story, from mining her colorful relatives for stories to wow her English classmates, coming to grips with heavier course loads and making a couple of fairly adorable friends. But London is soon caught up in fear, as a copycat killer has begun recreating Jack the Ripper's bloody murders in gruesome detail. Johnson fearlessly takes readers from what seems like a cool innocent-abroad-with-iPod story to supernatural thriller, when Rory sees a man no one else does on campus the night of one of those murders. Enter a trio of young folks who are ghost hunters of a very specific sort. The tension ramps up exquisitely among cups of tea, library visits and the London Underground. The explosive ending is genuinely terrifying but never loses the wit, verve and humor that Rory carries with her throughout. While this tale does conclude, it does so with a complicated revelation that will have readers madly eager for the next installment.
Nice touches about friendship, kissing, research and the way a boy's curls might touch his collar fully integrate with a clear-eyed look at a pitiless killer.
(Supernatural thriller. 12-18)
A is a 16-year-old genderless being who drifts from body to body each day, living the life of a new human host of the same age and similar geographic radius for 24 hours. One morning, A wakes up a girl with a splitting hangover; another day he/she wakes up as a teenage boy so overweight he can barely fit into his car. Straight boys, gay girls, teens of different races, body shapes, sizes and genders make up the catalog of A’s outward appearances, but ultimately A’s spirit—or soul—remains the same. One downside of A’s life is that he/she doesn’t have a family, nor is he/she able to make friends. A tries to interfere as little as possible with the lives of the teenagers until the day he/she meets and falls head over heels in love with Rhiannon, an ethereal girl with a jackass boyfriend. A pursues Rhiannon each day in whatever form he/she wakes up in, and Rhiannon learns to recognize A—not by appearance, but by the way he/she looks at her across the room. The two have much to overcome, and A’s shifting physical appearance is only the beginning. Levithan’s self-conscious, analytical style marries perfectly with the plot. His musings on love, longing and human nature knit seamlessly with A’s journey. Readers will devour his trademark poetic wordplay and cadences that feel as fresh as they were when he wrote Boy Meets Boy (2003).
An awe-inspiring, thought-provoking reminder that love reaches beyond physical appearances or gender.
(Fiction. 14 & up)
“I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged. Now, if you please.” From those arresting first lines to the very last word, readers will find themselves enthralled by 17-year-old Briony as she spins a tale of guilt, mystery, betrayal and, above all, love. Briony lives at the literal end of the line in the Swampsea with her developmentally delayed twin sister, Rose, and her clergyman father (her beloved Stepmother has recently died of arsenic poisoning—a suicide?). Mr. Clayborne, an engineer, who has been sent to drain the swamp so the railroad can go through, and his son, Eldric, who sports “a long, curling lion’s smile,” have just moved into the parsonage. The Boggy Mun of the swamp doesn’t care to be drained, though, and he will exact his revenge. Billingsley takes the time to develop a layered narrative adorned with linguistic filigree—she is one of the great prose stylists of the field, moving from one sparklingly unexpected image to the next and salting her story with quicksilver dialogue. She sets the tale in a gently alternate turn-of-the-20th-century England in which Mr. Darwin, Dr. Freud, witches and the Old Ones coexist. Briony, hugely likable despite her dismal self-hatred, is devilishly smart and funny, and readers will root for her with every turn of the page. Delicious. (Fantasy. 14 & up)
If extinct woodpeckers can come back, can people, too?
In Lily, Ark., “the land that time forgot,” cynical 17-year-old Cullen Witter, who likes to jot down titles for books he intends to write and pines for Ada Taylor (Lily’s “black widow” because all of her boyfriends have died in accidents), narrates his unforgettable summer after senior year. Following the overdose death of his cousin, some “ass-hat” ornithologist claims that the Lazarus woodpecker (based on the Lord God Bird) has resurfaced after 60 years of extinction. It’s hard for Cullen to enjoy the frenzy and hope it brings his small town when the woodpecker receives more media coverage than his younger brother, Gabriel, who has inexplicably disappeared. Alternating chapters with Cullen’s account is a third-person narration about Benton Sage, an 18-year-old missionary to Ethiopia. He discovers the Book of Enoch, an ancient text not included in the traditional Bible, which describes Archangel Gabriel’s role of ridding Earth of fallen angels. Benton’s secret journal about Enoch falls into the possession of his college-freshman roommate, Cabot Searcy, whose curiosity turns into an obsession. In a build-up that explores the process of grief, second chances and even the meaning of life, Cullen’s and Cabot’s worlds slowly intersect and solve the mystery of Gabriel’s disappearance in this multilayered debut for sophisticated readers.
Booth returns to the gritty and dangerous Bronx projects to pick up the memorable story of Tyrell seven months after the conclusion of Tyrell (2006).
With his father out of jail, the now 16-year-old Tyrell has mixed feelings about having him back. “Two men in one house don’t work.” Tyrell tried keeping his family together while his pops was locked up, but he failed: Troy, his younger brother, is living in foster care. “…I know I fucked up,” he confides to readers. Booth packs a lot into this story: Tyrell’s guilt about Troy, his resentment toward his irresponsible father, his blossoming romantic relationship with friend Jasmine who is living with a 40-year-old man and his anger over his mother’s infidelity. The author captures the dangers of inner-city life as readers follow a teen trying desperately to be a man as he watches his friends and, especially, his father, make right or wrong choices. Despite the multitude of negative influences, Tyrell, who is no saint, attempts to make a better life for himself. Tyrell’s fresh voice and his frank talk about sex, drug use and violence give authenticity to the dismal urban setting.
This book can stand alone, but the cliffhanger ending begs another installment; readers who have been with Tyrell from the beginning as well as those meeting him for the first time will be utterly invested in his future. (Fiction. 14 & up)
A sweet and scathingly funny love story (kinda) from Australia.
Amelia is thoroughly crushed out on Chris. Chris pines for Michaela, though he does think Amelia is interesting. Amelia lives for her evening and weekend shifts at the local supermarket, aka “the Land of Dreams”; Chris lives for his post-work and -class benders and the hope of sex. As Chris says, “[Y]ou are fifteen and I am twenty-two, we have nothing in common socially and are at completely different stages in our lives.” Well, they are and they aren’t. Amelia is “in [the] no-man’s-land between the trenches of childhood and adulthood,” and really, so is Chris. About to finish his sociology degree, he still lives with his parents and avoids planning beyond university. Amelia tells her side of the nonromance in a smart, wistfully perceptive present tense, while Chris’ story unfolds in his journals, written with savage, self-deprecating, foulmouthed ferocity. These accounts are interleaved, though staggered chronologically so readers move back and forth in time as the relationship develops—a brilliant juxtaposition. Alcohol-drenched encounters outside of work are, with one exception, almost irredeemably sordid (though as funny as the rest of the book); the Land of Dreams becomes a weird haven for them both, where they discuss Great Expectations and school each other in third-wave feminism.
The exactly right conclusion eschews easy resolution, though there’s plenty of hope as they flounder into the future.
(Fiction. 14 & up)
A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.
Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.
This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes
. (Science fiction. 12-14)
This smart, textured and romantic Southern Gothic takes place in Gatlin, S.C., where cheerleaders and the basketball team run the high school and the Daughters of the American Revolution and Civil War re-enactors run the town. Ethan Lawson Wate, raised by his authoritative and spiritually inclined housekeeper Amma in the months since his mother’s death, can’t wait to leave Gatlin’s predictable monotony. Then Stonewall Jackson High’s first new student in years, headstrong, vulnerable and expressive Lena Duchannes, shows up driving her reclusive uncle’s hearse, and Ethan recognizes her from his dreams. Compelled to explore his connection to the new girl, Ethan learns that Lena’s family are magic Casters and that Lena’s supernatural fate will be chosen for her when she turns 16. Community outrage, emotional tension and Lena and Ethan’s doomed search for a way around her uncertain destiny build to a boil in the expansive but tightly plotted march toward Lena’s 16th birthday. Ethan’s wry narrative voice will resonate with readers of John Green as well as the hordes of supernatural-romance fans looking for the next book to sink their teeth into. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)
An ancient Welsh king may be buried in the Virginia countryside; three privileged boys hope to disinter him.
Meanwhile, 16-year-old Blue Sargent, daughter of a small-town psychic, has lived her whole life under a prophecy: If she kisses her true love, he will die. Not that she plans on kissing anyone. Blue isn't psychic, but she enhances the extrasensory power of anyone she's near; while helping her aunt visualize the souls of people soon to die, she sees a vision of a dying Raven boy named Gansey. The Raven Boys—students at Aglionby, a nearby prep school, so-called because of the ravens on their school crest—soon encounter Blue in person. From then on, the point of view shifts among Blue; Gansey, a trust-fund kid obsessed with finding King Glendower buried on a ley-line in Virginia; and Adam, a scholarship student obsessed with his own self-sufficiency. Add Ronan, whose violent insouciance comes from seeing his father die, and Noah, whose first words in the book are, "I've been dead for seven years," and you've got a story very few writers could dream up and only Stiefvater could make so palpably real. Simultaneously complex and simple, compulsively readable, marvelously wrought. The only flaw is that this is Book 1; it may be months yet before Book 2 comes out.
The magic is entirely pragmatic; the impossible, extraordinarily true.
(Fantasy. 13 & up)