Audrey, 14, is on a long, slow upswing from disabling anxiety disorders that resulted from the vicious abuse of bullies at school.
Under the guidance of thoughtful Dr. Sarah, Audrey begins to deal with her inability to make eye contact—or even to leave the house—by crafting videos of her quirky, near-farcical family, a nifty narrative device that especially shows off her “twitchy” mom. Audrey's brother Frank is determined to win an online gaming championship with his team, in spite of their mom's frenetic attempts to remake the family based on newspaper advice—which, sadly for Frank, includes giving up computers. Complicating this is the fact that Frank's team includes sensitive Linus, who delicately, tenderly navigates Audrey's vividly portrayed roadblocks. As their relationship blossoms, Audrey gains both strength and courage. The counterpoint of absurd humor against Audrey's uncertain progress toward healing, graphically depicted in her appealing and slightly ironic first-person voice, is compelling. Since the nature of the bullying is never fully revealed, it can readily represent the experiences of other victims. It's only as the narrative approaches its conclusion that the true source of the dysfunction in Audrey's family is revealed: all of them have become victims in myriad ways.
An outstanding tragicomedy that gently explores mental illness, the lasting effects of bullying, and the power of friends and loving family to help in the healing.
Claire’s parents are keeping secrets that could kill her.
Sixteen-year-old Claire Takata is a spirited, inquisitive amateur locksmith and sleuth. Claire and her brothers have always believed their father died of a heart attack 10 years ago and that their mother met their stepdad after he died. But when Claire finds an old letter in her father’s journal and pictures locked away in her stepdad’s desk that reveal otherwise, she is determined to find out the truth. Why have her mom and stepdad lied to her? Why does her mom never want to talk about her father? And what really happened to him? Through letters Claire has written to him over the decade since his death, Claire’s father has served as her confidant, an outlet for her grief, frustrations, and longings. The author also makes smart use of these letters, interspersing them between chapters to deliver important back story. Claire’s grief and sense of loss are compounded when she eventually discovers that her father had been a member of the yakuza, transnational Japanese organized crime syndicates—and then her sleuthing attracts the attention of someone tied to her father's past....The romantic tension between Claire and her best friend, Forrest, plays out authentically in a subplot, and the novel’s twists and turns will keep readers riveted and guessing even after they finish the book.
This fantastic debut packs a highly suspenseful blend of action, intrigue, and teen romance.
(Thriller. 12 & up)
When 16-year-old Braden Raynor’s father is arrested for a hit-and-run accident that leaves a police officer dead, every hidden secret is dragged into the light.
Braden’s father is known for his aggressive stance on his evangelical radio show, but what plays well on the airwaves can be horribly destructive at home. The anger and abuse that drove Braden’s older brother, Trey, away have driven Braden to be the perfect son. But in spite of his stellar talent on the pitcher’s mound, his exemplary performance in school, and his strong faith in God, Braden fears he will never be enough. When Braden is called to testify on behalf of the defense, he must decide if the truth is worth risking his entire world. While the mystery of what really happened on the foggy stretch of highway is the driving force behind the narrative, it is Braden’s unfolding story that will captivate readers. His father’s incarceration forces Braden to admit that the father he loves is also the monster he fears. There are no easy answers. Love is both beautiful and cruel. God is both loving and mysterious. And family is both comforting and suffocating.
Both hopeful and devastatingly real.
(Fiction. 14 & up)
A handful of Danish teens takes on the occupying Nazis is this inspiring true story of courageous resistance.
Unlike Norway, which was also invaded on April 9, 1940, the Danish government did little to resist German occupation. Some teenagers, like 15-year-old Knud Pedersen, were ashamed of their nation's leaders and the adult citizens who passively accepted and even collaborated with the occupiers. With his older brother and a handful of schoolmates, Knud resolved to take action. Naming themselves the Churchill Club in honor of the fiery British prime minister, the young patriots began their resistance efforts with vandalism and quickly graduated to countless acts of sabotage. Despite the lack of formal organization and planning, this small band of teenagers managed to collect an impressive cache of weapons and execute raids that would impress professionally trained commandos. The Churchill Club was eventually captured and imprisoned by the Germans, but their heroic exploits helped spark a nationwide resistance movement. As he did in Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (2009), Hoose tells this largely unknown story with passion and clarity, providing exactly the right background information to contextualize events for readers. He makes excellent use of his extensive interviews with Pedersen, quoting him at length and expertly interweaving his words into the narrative to bring it alive.
A superbly told, remarkable true story and an excellent addition to stories of civilian resistance in World War II.
(photos, bibliography, chapter notes)
A fiercely realized teen uses astrological skills to solve a heartbreaking mystery.
Joanne Crowe, an astrologer so accurate and empathetic that clients became obsessed with her, knew her days were numbered. She’d always insisted on the truth of her impending “eventuality” to her daughter, Avicenna, but when Joanne goes missing, it’s still a shock. As Avicenna embraces her own ability to read destinies in the stars and planets to unravel the mystery of her beloved mother’s disappearance, her skills introduce her to both unlikely allies and revolting, violent foes across Melbourne’s most luxurious and down-at-the-heels neighborhoods. Avicenna is a revelation: prickly and brilliant—she’s the first student in years to ace the entrance exam at a highly competitive magnet high school—she pursues the truth doggedly even as the likelihood of her mother’s death forces her to re-experience the physical and emotional trauma of the fire that took her father’s life 10 years prior. Lim throws class differences into high relief and highlights the casual, cruel racism multiracial people still face in modern Australia. Her taut, assured thriller weaves together astrology and mythology, poetry and poverty, and several generations of mothers whose love can’t protect their children from humanity’s ugliest tendencies.
Teen and adult readers who like their mysteries gritty and literary, with a touch of magic: seek this one out.
(Mystery. 15 & up)
Pennies, glass bottles, a parking meter, and a kick line: how a police raid became a community’s symbol of freedom.
June 28, 1969: the night the gay bar Stonewall was raided by the police for the second time in a week to stop a blackmail operation. What began as a supposedly routine police raid ended with over 2,000 angry, fed-up protesters fighting against the police in New York’s West Village. Bausum eloquently and thoughtfully recounts it all, from the violent arrest of a young lesbian by the police to an angry, mocking, Broadway-style kick line of young men protesting against New York’s Tactical Control Force. Bausum not only recounts the action of the evening in clear, blow-by-blow journalistic prose, she also is careful to point out assumptions and misunderstandings that might also have occurred during the hot summer night. Her narrative feels fueled by rage and empowerment and the urge to tell the truth. She doesn’t bat an eye when recounting the ways that the LGBT fought to find freedom, love, and the physical manifestations of those feelings, whether at the Stonewall Inn or inside the back of a meat truck parked along the Hudson River. Readers coming of age at a time when state after state is beginning to celebrate gay marriage will be astonished to return to a time when it was a crime for a man to wear a dress.
Enlightening, inspiring, and moving.
A nerdy boy and a queen-bee girl become stepbrother and -sister in this comedy/drama.
Hilarity ensues when 13-year-old Stewart learns that he and his dad are moving in with Caroline and her 14-year-old daughter, Ashley. Stewart copes well enough, thanks to his outstanding intelligence, precocious emotional maturity, math skills, and the calm outlook with which he assesses his successes and failures. He’s excited to have a sister. Ashley, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about school and wants nothing to do with her new almost-stepbrother—who, to her mortification, has been bumped up a year and is now in her class. She’s also terrified that people will learn her estranged dad is gay. Ashley scores big when she lands the handsome Jared as a boyfriend, but Stewart knows Jared is a bully because he’s trapped in physical education class with him. The psychodrama is narrated by the two kids in alternating chapters, leavened with constant, wry humor that should keep readers chuckling even as the story grapples with serious emotional issues. Stewart comes across as absolutely adorable. He knows he’s a complete geek with imperfect social skills. His disarming honesty about his intelligence and especially about his weaknesses holds the entire book together, allowing readers to take self-absorbed Ashley with a grain of salt as she goes through what her mother terms the “demon seed” stage.
This savvy, insightful take on the modern family makes for nearly nonstop laughs.
When walking corpses—and worse—show up in the city, a teen discovers family secrets and ancestral powers.
Sierra’s summer plan is to paint an enormous mural on an abandoned, unfinished five-story building. On an older mural nearby, unnervingly, a painted face changes expression and weeps a tear that glistens and drops. Grandpa Lázaro, mostly speechless from a stroke, grasps a lucid moment to warn Sierra, “They are coming for us….the shadowshapers.” Abuelo can’t or won’t explain further, and Sierra has no idea what shadowshapers are. Her regular world explodes into a “mystical Brooklyn labyrinth” shimmering with beauty but deadly dangerous. Walking corpses with icy grips and foul smells chase her, and a throng haint—a shadowy phantom with mouths all over—almost kills her. In Bed-Stuy, Prospect Park, and Coney Island in the middle of the night, Sierra fights to stay alive and to decipher her role in this chaos. This story about ancestors, ghosts, power, and community has art and music at its core; Sierra’s drawing and painting turn out to be tools for spirit work. Sierra’s Puerto Rican with African and Taíno ancestors; her community is black and brown, young and old, Latin and Caribbean and American. Sometimes funny and sometimes striking, Older’s comfortable prose seamlessly blends English and Spanish.
In a Bronx neighborhood of the near future, it’s no secret that at least one person has taken advantage of the Leteo Institute’s new medical procedure that promises “cutting-edge memory-relief.”
Reeling from his discovery of his father in a blood-filled bathtub, there are lots of things that Aaron Soto would like to forget—the smile-shaped scar on his own wrist attests to that. Puerto Rican Aaron meets a boy named Thomas from a neighboring (and sometimes rival) project who shares his love of comic books and fantasy fiction. The two develop a friendship that makes Aaron wonder if he’s a “dude-liker,” leading to a breakup with his girlfriend. When Thomas doesn’t reciprocate, Aaron considers the Leteo procedure for himself. This novel places a straightforward concept—what if you could erase unwanted memories?—squarely within an honest depiction of the pains of navigating the teen years and upends all expectations for a plot resolution. Debut author Silvera has an ear for dialogue and authentic voices. He scatters references to his characters’ various ethnicities in an unforced manner—of a midnight showing of a movie based on their favorite fantasy series, Thomas says “I was the only brown Scorpius Hawthorne.” Thomas is the foil to Aaron’s conviction that there’s an easy way out in a multifaceted look at some of the more unsettling aspects of human relationships.
A brilliantly conceived page-turner.
(Speculative fiction. 13-17)
Two teens find the 1969 Woodstock music festival a life-changing event.
Michael, 18, knows what he doesn’t want—to go to college or be drafted to fight in Vietnam—it’s what he wants that confuses him, and would-be doctor Cora, 17, ponders transgressing cultural expectations for girls. Overcoming their inauspicious meeting in the medical tent, the two are drawn together—along with plenty of baggage. Michael drags his feet on breaking up with his hypercritical girlfriend. Cora longs to get over paternalistic Ned, who’s broken up with her. Michael’s passionate about music but feels like a slacker. Country girl Cora, unlike her brothers, has a nightly curfew and feels torn between her conservative father—proud veteran of two wars—and her anti-war siblings, one fighting in Vietnam. Not all that goes down is benign, but this is no cautionary fable. Sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll unapologetically prevail amid the muddy chaos, where strangers feed one another, concertgoers stand in line for hours to use the payphone, and iconic musicians play generational anthems. Against a turbulent backdrop of war, divisive social change, and awful weather, half a million people celebrated peace, love, and music together. Woodstock remains a resonant cultural marker, documenting the brief triumph of hope over experience, and Tash takes ample advantage of the moment.
A positive portrait of a much-maligned era, this optimistic, exuberant tale is recommended for readers who’ve wondered why the ’60s were so great.
(Historical fiction. 12-18)