The high-stakes conclusion of Meg’s quest to become an Amusementist and find her missing grandfather.
Resourceful Meg overcame her low station in The Legacy of the Clockwork Key (2013) and defeated naysayers as an Academy apprentice in Rise of the Arcane Fire (2014), but her possible future—be it in the Order or marriage—won’t matter if the mysterious man with the clockwork mask gets her first. Meg’s classmates rally to help; they find a lead not just to her longtime antagonist, but also potentially to her grandfather. Two obstacles would prevent her from chasing the lead. First, there are matters of propriety and the potentially irreparable damage that can be done to a young lady’s reputation through misadventure. The second challenge is temporal. To follow that critical lead, she must travel from London to France—but just six days hence, the man with the clockwork mask sails for America from England and she must attend the New Year’s Eve Amusementist meeting to swear her oath to the Academy or risk losing her spot as an apprentice (and future as an Amusementist). Meg’s personal ambitions and yearnings for freedom prevent the romantic storyline from devolving into a love triangle, and her frustrations with societal conventions make her sympathetic while adding drama and upping the stakes.
Clever machines, well-drawn relationships of varying constellations, literal death traps and world-threatening intrigue, headlined by an aspirational heroine, make this a winner.
(Steampunk. 12 & up)
Transplanted Southerner Rory must once again save London, but this time her foes aren't all completely dead.
Upon a less-than-graceful exit from Wexford, her posh London boarding school, Rory is now on the run with the Shades, a clandestine band of police who attend to supernatural phenomena. Stephen, a member of the Shades (and her last kiss), hangs in a precarious state between life and death. With her amplified abilities to both see the dead and possess the power of a mystical stone, Rory could help Stephen. Unfortunately, Jane, a crazed occultist and Rory's ex-therapist, wants to harness Rory's powers and use them to perform the Rites of Demeter in hopes of defeating death and resurrecting two powerful magicians. Rory's London is one where death is but tenuously separated from life, and she must use her abilities to save not only her own friends, but now the city at large. This deftly plotted and richly developed third installment skillfully weaves together the plotlines from its predecessors, creating a carefully and engrossingly built world. Moving away from what could have easily been a predictable, cookie-cutter ghost-busting template in every book, the series has gracefully evolved into a heady mix of ghost story, myth, conspiracies and history.
Creepy, tense and wonderful: Don’t expect to put this down once it's begun—but be sure to begin with The Name of the Star (2011).
(Supernatural thriller. 13-18)
Gratuity “Tip” Tucci doesn’t see why her mom won’t let a 13-year-old who saved the world take an off-planet vacation.
Two years after saving the world in The True Meaning of Smekday (2007), biracial Tip and her extraterrestrial best friend, J.Lo, need a holiday. They jet off to New Boovworld (otherwise known as Saturn’s moon Titan) in Slushious, their flying car. J.Lo’s wanted on New Boovworld for his part in the near-destruction of Earth two years ago, but he’s sure everything will be fine if he just explains things to the HighBoov-for-life, Capt. Smek. The situation on New Boovworld is complicated: The Boov are holding elections for HighBoov. In election season, every politician loves an enemy of the state, and so J.Lo is recast as the Squealer, condemned to imprisonment in eternal silence. Only Tip can save him, with the help of a bubble-blowing bee named Bill, Funsize the garbage man and the imagined ghost of her old friend the Chief. It's a little less quirky than the last adventure (the Boov’s seven magnificent genders are paid lip service, with important characters either male or female and even following Earth stereotypes), but still, plenty of gleeful ridiculousness adorns this outing, which is illustrated with Rex’s own fanciful comics. The book is out just in time for the release of the movie adaptation of Book 1 (as Home, due out spring 2015).
This sequel shares the strengths of its predecessor: the loving friendship between Tip and J.Lo, the respect for the absurd, and the social consciences of the teen protagonist and her ET BFF
. (Science fiction. 11-15)
The second half of the race started in Fire & Flood (2014).
Tella’s made it through the jungle and desert, leaving ocean and mountain still to come in the four-ecosystem Brimstone Bleed. The winner will receive the Cure for the loved one infected by the race organizers to provide incentive for the selected Contenders to cooperate. Tella’s secondary agenda is love interest Guy’s plan to join, infiltrate and destroy the organizers after the race. Their romance hits major obstacles early on, primarily in the form of Guy’s belief that Tella needs to be saved and protected—he’s OK with that, but Tella isn’t. She resolves to stand up to him instead of blindly following, and she does so not just to gain his respect, but to respect herself. The next legs of the race lead to team-ups with familiar faces and newcomers of varying trustworthiness. The genetically engineered, intelligent companion animals with superpowers—the Pandoras—develop further as individual characters, causing nail-biting moments as they face dangers that in some cases outstrip those of their Contenders. Readers will fear for side characters, as they should: The organizers have mined the course with dangerous traps. Aside from a few moments of repetitive exposition in the first act, the prose is so tense that even in the characters’ few moments of rest, readers will twitch with anticipatory anxiety. The ending devastates.
Art, activism, individuality: the spectrum of queer youth, speaking in their own words.
Smith presents her artwork as a photographic essay exploring the amazing diversity among young people (all 14 to 24 at the time of their photographs) identifying themselves as queer, gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual or questioning. Originally displayed in 2007 at the opening of the then-new campaign headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign as “Pride/Prejudice: Voices of GLBT Youth,” all the photographs for this collection were taken against a white background. The subjects were asked to write something, anything, about themselves, their opinions, viewpoints or experiences in the white space of the photo. Some feature only the photo and words originally written. Others feature a few sentences to a paragraph contributed seven years later. A few aren’t totally legible, but ranging from a simple declaration to a manifesto, the words of the subjects are illuminating. The collection features a foreword by Candace Gingrich, who saw and was moved by the original art show, and an afterword by Graeme Taylor, who at 14 spoke to his school board about supporting LGBTQ students and won awards when that speech went viral. This presentation simultaneously highlights the individuality of the subjects and proves to those who may be isolated by geography or culture that they are not alone.
An important work for queer youth and those who support them as the future they represent.
(Nonfiction. 13 & up)
A mix of the mundane and the magical permeates this slender portrait of a girl in pain.
After a childhood bouncing between her mother, possibly a witch and probably unstable, and her father, whose presence made it possible for Lacy to see magic and beauty everywhere, Lacy’s mother, Cheyenne, disappeared. Her mother’s influence gone, Lacy’s darkness blossomed into light and kindness. But her father has died, and although stepmother Anna wants to keep her, Cheyenne returns to drag Lacy back to Sacramento. Lacy narrates in lush, almost magical prose: “Smoke billows out and bits of glowing ember consume the creases of the paper like growing things, red mushrooms in a sped-up video.” This lyricism exists side by side with gritty realism: slut-shaming and mean girls, childhood abuse suffered by classmate Martin, and the nonstop emotional and physical neglect and abuse Lacy endures from her own mother. Sometimes horrifying and sometimes charming, this is a powerful if uneven novel. Lacy sees herself as a battleground between light and dark, and she must find her own way even as she deals with levels of grief and pain she’s almost unable to face; readers may be left uncomfortable when that way seems to forgive her mother, but they will rejoice in the confirmation that we are what we make ourselves, regardless of the darkness that surrounds.
The summer before Maya and Nikki’s senior year of high school brings new challenges as their previously all-black neighborhood becomes attractive to other ethnic groups.
The twins, while still close, have been changing in recent years and now find they have very different views about the changes. Nikki is delighted with improvements in their surroundings, but Maya is concerned they come at too steep a price. When their best friend’s family is displaced, the rift deepens: Maya wants to maintain their connection to Essence, while Nikki has become close to newcomer Kate. Nikki may even be abandoning their long-held plan to attend Spelman College together. Their new principal appears willing to sacrifice many of the traditions the African-American students hold dear. And though Maya and Devin are a long-established couple, Maya finds herself drawn to Kate’s brother, Tony, despite her misgivings about interracial dating. Eventually, the students find a way to reach across the divides and honor the community’s past while embracing its changing present. Maya’s straightforward narration offers an intriguing look at how families and young people cope with community and personal change. Maya and her friends are well-drawn, successful characters surrounded by a realistic adult supporting cast. Readers may be surprised to find this multicultural story set in Portland, Oregon, but that just adds to its distinctive appeal.
Here’s hoping Watson’s teen debut will be followed by many more.
Hallelujah thought that if she kept her head down, pastor’s son Luke, the popular boy she once crushed on, would stop bullying her and spreading humiliating lies about what happened between them.
Instead, her refusing to defend herself has allowed Luke’s lies to go unchallenged and estranged Hallie from her friends. Compounding her isolation, her naïve, deeply religious parents accept Luke’s account of her behavior and enroll her in a church-sponsored, spring-break camp in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, where Luke’s bullying continues. Mistrustful, immobilized by despair, Hallie avoids former close friend Jonah and rebuffs friendly overtures from a new girl, Rachel. When Rachel quits a contentious hike (no cellphones allowed) to return to camp, Hallie and Jonah join her. Inexperienced in the wilderness, they head in the wrong direction, then—in a heavy rain squall—lose the trail altogether. No one’s brought a flashlight; provisions are lunch leftovers, water and a can of soda. They move instead of staying put, fail to recognize poison ivy, freeze at night. The struggle to survive is terrifying but galvanizing, even cleansing. In calmer moments, they ponder life’s unanswerable questions, and faith (there are no atheists in foxholes) is proven a power in its own right. Readers will root for Hallie, a compelling original, to find faith in herself.
Vivid, gripping and believable from beginning to end—a strong debut.
Horror grips San Francisco when a murderous ghost eludes the Helsing Corps, a famed band of monster hunters.
The last descendant of the Van Helsing of Dracula fame, Micheline disobeys her father when she runs alone into a haunted hospital, convinced she can exorcise the violent ghost that’s taken over the pediatric ward. Instead, the ghost overpowers her, inflicting her and the three young colleagues who follow with deadly soulchains that will kill them all in seven days. Worse, the ghost knows Micheline’s name. Escaping after her dad confines her to her room, she gathers her team and embarks on a mission to trap the ghost—a particularly strong one—by capturing it on film. Racing against time and the progression of the soulchains, Micheline and three other Helsing reapers desperately devise new methods to combat the ghost, even as other monsters get in their way. When Luca, a denizen of the plane between life and death called the Obscura, appears to Micheline with dubious advice on how to proceed, she has even more decisions to make. Alameda keeps the fear dripping from the walls as she plunges headlong into this full-scale thriller. She invents threatening and gruesome monsters, packs her heroes into seemingly inescapable plights, and adds mystery with the introduction of Luca and the identity of the terrifying ghost. There’s even a bit of forbidden romance.
An honest, revealing portrait of the famed entertainer and activist who was born into extreme poverty and became an international iconic star of the Jazz Age.
Growing up in squalor in East St. Louis, sickly, unschooled, pushed by her mother to find work at the age of 7 and married at 13, Baker’s future looked bleak, but she was determined to leave her grim life behind. Her natural comedic ability got Baker work in vaudeville, and she quickly proved herself a gifted dancer and singer and found increasingly lucrative work. At 19, Baker was performing in Paris and, in a few short years, became an international sensation. Caravantes discusses how Baker used her fame to spy for the Allies during World War II and devoted time to entertaining troops. She also chronicles Baker’s work as a civil rights activist, using her clout to demand integrated audiences at her performances, publicly condemning racism in the United States, and adopting her Rainbow Tribe, 12 children representing different nationalities, ethnicities and religions in an effort to prove racial harmony possible. This warts-and-all portrait reveals that Baker was a complex, enigmatic personality who could be as selfish as she was generous, as mean-spirited as she was compassionate, and as inconsiderate as she was thoughtful.
A fascinating, compelling story of a remarkably resilient woman who overcame poverty and racial prejudice to become an international celebrity.
(source notes, bibliography, index)
After receiving a heart transplant, 17-year-old Georgie finds that the rhythm of her heartbeat is not the only thing that is different.
Following the surgery, Georgie’s memories begin to disappear, replaced by other memories that are not her own. At first the memories are of eating strawberries and falling in love, but they quickly darken. In order to find the identity of the girl whose heart she carries around inside her and the circumstances of her death, Georgie must step away from her life of privilege and walk in Jane Doe’s shoes. The memories draw Georgie into a dangerous world filled with drugs, violence and sexual exploitation. But they also lead her to Nate, someone trying to make a difference and someone Georgie might be able to love. Inspired by FAIR Girls, an organization dedicated to stopping sex trafficking, this story is a powerful call to action. Yet even with its obvious motivation, it is never preachy. Strong characters, a well-developed mystery and a budding romance all come together to make this a story worth reading. Admirably and appropriately, Maggi refuses to shy away from what Georgie uncovers, including drug use and graphic scenes of sexual violence against children.
Dark reality for sturdy readers.
(Suspense. 14 & up)
Having previously interpreted The Merchant of Venice (2008), King Lear (2009) and Romeo and Juliet (2013), Hinds turns his pencil to the Scottish Play.
In a palette that alternates between gloomy Highlands grays, greens and blues and firelight russets that modulate easily to blood, Hinds evinces a medieval Scottish setting, giving his graphic-novel production a traditional feel. Macbeth is darkly Celtic, Lady Macbeth a Gaelic redhead and Banquo a burly Norseman, neatly capturing Scotland’s ethnic mix. From an opening spread that combines a map and dramatis personae, the action plays out in Hinds’ characteristically clean and thoughtful panels, with Shakespeare’s language largely intact. Many lines have been cut, but those that remain preserve the feel of the original in diction and syntax, only a few words judiciously massaged. Perhaps the biggest change—the recasting of much of the play’s iambic pentameter into speech-bubble–friendly prose—is aurally almost indistinguishable from the original. Scenes that rely on acting rather than dialogue to carry meaning, such as Banquo’s murder, unfold lucidly, although the porter scene may mystify more than it amuses, Shakespearean humor being particularly reliant upon acting for its success. Copious backmatter, including seven pages of notes explaining various artistic and directorial choices, provides fascinating insight and will be particularly valuable in a classroom setting.
An adaptation both respectful and daring that should please all but the most ardent traditionalists.
(Graphic drama. 12 & up)