1920s New York thrums with giddy life in this gripping first in a new trilogy from Printz winner Bray.
Irrepressible 17-year-old Evie delights in her banishment to her Uncle Will’s care in Manhattan after she drunkenly embarrasses a peer in her Ohio hometown. She envisions glamour, fun and flappers, but she gets a great deal more in the bargain. Her uncle, the curator of a museum of the occult, is soon tapped to help solve a string of grisly murders, and Evie, who has long concealed an ability to read people’s pasts while holding an object of their possession, is eager to assist. An impressively wide net is cast here, sprawling to include philosophical Uncle Will and his odd assistant, a numbers runner and poet who dreams of establishing himself among the stars of the Harlem Renaissance, a beautiful and mysterious dancer on the run from her past and her kind musician roommate, a slick-talking pickpocket, and Evie’s seemingly demure sidekick, Mabel. Added into the rotation of third-person narrators are the voices of those encountering a vicious, otherworldly serial killer; these are utterly terrifying.
Not for the faint of heart due to both subject and length, but the intricate plot and magnificently imagined details of character, dialogue and setting take hold and don’t let go. Not to be missed.
(Historical/paranormal thriller. 14 & up)
A Sherlock Holmes–style adventure featuring the egotistical and eccentric R.F. Jackaby and his bewildered but invaluable assistant, Abigail Rook.
Inspired by her father’s paleontological expeditions and frustrated by her mother’s expectations of femininity, Abigail arrives in the New England city of New Fiddleham with a suitcase of inappropriate attire and a need for money. She finds employment with the oddball supernatural investigator Jackaby, whose previous assistants have met unfortunate or fowl ends (literally). Aiding Jackaby, flirting with the secretive Detective Charlie Cane, and trying to avoid the wrath of Chief Inspector Marlowe and Commissioner Swift, Abigail discovers that the world is stranger and more dangerous than she ever imagined. Although Abigail is not a seer like Jackaby, able to pierce the glamour of New Fiddleham’s fairy-tale and folklore inhabitants, she learns that to “see the ordinary is extraordinary indeed.” Abigail’s attention to the everyday serves as a foil to Jackaby’s paranormal perception and makes her a refreshingly realistic and agreeable heroine. Secondary characters—including Jackaby’s house—are equally enchanting and well-drawn. Ritter’s debut skillfully blends science with the supernatural and balances whimsy with violence. The smartly paced plot wraps up neatly, but the rich world of this debut demands sequels.
A magical mystery tour de force with a high body count and a list of unusual suspects.
(Paranormal mystery. 12-18)
After being dumped by her boyfriend, rejected by her girlfriends and humiliated by her classmates, Ruby Oliver, a 15-year-old moderately popular girl turned pariah, reassesses her history and her actions. Ruby’s tool for this task is her newly made compilation of “all the boyfriends, kind-of boyfriends, almost-boyfriends, rumored boyfriends and wished-he-were boyfriends” in her life. It’s a clever gimmick and author Lockhart uses it as a prism through which Ruby, with help from her therapist, can view her life and herself. Slowly, Ruby and the reader begin to understand that she’s not the total victim she appeared to be initially, and while she hardly deserved the cruelty that’s been heaped upon her, she had a distinct hand in her fate. The issues Ruby deals with are serious, but the first-person narrative is amusing and the overall tone is light. Although the gimmick gets tedious and repetitious in spots, Lockhart shines at depicting the all-encompassing microcosm of school social life, and wisely eschews an unrealistically happy ending, instead offering hope and honest growth. (Fiction. 12-14)
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 fantasy world influenced by Indian mythology, a young princess lives in scorn because of the horoscope that decrees she will marry “death and destruction.”
But adversity breeds strength, and “dusky-complexioned” Maya has spent her childhood and adolescence reading mythology and history, spying on her father’s councils, and weaving magical stories for her beloved half sister. When her father asks her to sacrifice her life to save their kingdom, Maya has no choice. And then, at the moment she is to drink poison, a mysterious, handsome stranger appears and whisks her away to the Otherworld, the place of demons and magic. What follows is a play on the classic love-betrayal-redemption arc of Cupid and Psyche or Beauty and the Beast. Chokshi’s rich, descriptive writing weaves a lush web that almost hides the lack of character development; this is a book exclusively concerned with telling, and style overwhelms substance throughout. But a swoony romance, betrayal, and a journey to power and self-affirmation, with a slightly wicked, slightly funny animal sidekick in the best tradition (think Garth Nix’s Mogget as a crimson-eyed horse), work together to create a spell that many readers will willingly succumb to, flaws and all.
Richly imagined, deeply mythic, filled with lovely language with violet overtones: this is an author to watch even if she’s not there yet.
(Fantasy. 12 & up)
This latest novel from Hartley (Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, 2014, etc.), his debut for teens, is social commentary masquerading as crime fiction masquerading as fantasy.
The book opens with a murder and a mystery: the invaluable luxorite stone that lights the Beacon at the heart of Bar-Selehm is stolen, and Berrit, a young Lani boy, is found dead at the bottom of a spire. Hartley’s fictional world is dense and rich. Though heavy with exposition in the beginning, the plot deftly explores the economic and political entanglements of the native black Mahweni, the white settlers from Feldesland, and the brown Lani people the Feldish brought as servants. Determined to get justice for her would-be apprentice, Lani steeplejack and narrator Anglet Sutonga discovers that Berrit’s death is but a small part in a larger conspiracy to gain wealth and power at any cost. The diverse cast of characters reflects the varying classes and races that intersect and clash in the post-colonial city. The close first-person perspective keeps readers’ hearts pounding as Anglet draws ever closer to the truth. The tension stays taut throughout the book, heightened with each precipice Anglet climbs: if she falls, the city goes to war.
Smart political intrigue wrapped in all the twists and turns of a good detective story makes for a rip-roaring series opener.
(Fantasy. 13 & up)
She was born in Honolulu’s Chinatown late in the Hawaiian monarchy, but the only home Nix has known is the Temptation, the ship her father, Slate, and his crew sail through time to destinations real and imaginary, seeking a way into the past—before her mother died giving birth to Nix.
Nix is unsure what will happen if they succeed. Will she cease to exist? Other concerns include her emotionally volatile father’s opium addiction and her own growing attachment to her friend and crewmate Kashmir. Nix longs to learn Navigation—the secret craft her father’s mastered that allows him to follow maps anywhere, even through time. Though he refuses to teach her, Slate can’t Navigate without Nix’s help. He’s devastated when a map long sought leads them to 1884 Honolulu, years too late. To Nix, Oahu’s almost home (and it contains Blake, the young white American who shares his love for Hawaii with her). She’s fascinated by elderly Auntie Joss, who cared for her as an infant and knows more about Nix’s past, present, and future than she lets on. Meanwhile, her father demands her help when he’s drawn into a plot to rob the royal treasury (an event drawn from an unconfirmed, contemporary account). As narrated by Nix, it’s a skillful mashup of science fiction and eclectic mythology, enlivened by vivid sensory detail and moments of emotional and philosophical depth that briefly resonate before dissolving into the next swashbuckling adventure.
A nonstop time-travel romp.
(author’s note; maps, not seen)
There will be upheavals in the human and fantasy worlds of elves and witches, with drastic consequences, and Tiffany, with only a frying pan for a weapon, is caught in the middle. In an effort to rescue her spoiled, candy-loving baby brother whom the Elf Queen has stolen with the temptation of endless sweets, Tiffany enlists the aid of the Wee Free Men. The baby’s rescue is accomplished with unrelenting drama, large servings of Pratchett’s ironic humor, and a unique cast of characters. This includes an imperfect heroine who has inherited “First Sight and Second Thoughts” and who feels guilty because she did not truly love her whiney brother. The Wee Free Men are six-inch-tall blue men with a robust enthusiasm for stealing, fighting, and drinking. Set in a chillingly unrecognizable “fairyland,” this ingenious mélange of fantasy, action, humor, and sly bits of social commentary contains complex underlying themes of the nature of love, reality, and dreams. The Carnegie Medal–winner’s fans will not be disappointed. (Fantasy. 12+)
A dystopian adventure from Australia breaks the mold.
Betrayed, then captured by Connor, a Detention Center enforcer posing as a sympathizer to the so-called Illegals, Ashala steels herself for harsh questioning. The center is rumored to have a new tool, a machine that can pull and search memories from the minds of prisoners. Ashala’s terrified she’ll expose the Tribe that depends on her—children born with extraordinary powers into a world that sees them as a threat to the precarious ecological Balance that’s endured since a cataclysm nearly ended life on the planet. Most children with these abilities are forced into lifelong detention, their powers muted. Ashala was able to hide her Sleepwalking abilities; her little sister, a Firestarter, wasn’t so lucky. The inferno that ensued killed her and their parents and prompted Ashala’s escape to the grasslands and forest beyond the city. Ashala has depended on the counsel and friendship of Georgie, who sees possible futures; Ember, whose complex gift involves working with memory; and Connor, whom she trusted. But as the machine does its work, Ashala finds unexpected strength inside what she re-experiences. All is not as it seems as the plot unwinds into the past. The indigenous Australian author draws from a vast, rich cultural tapestry that will be new to many readers.
If an “exhilarating dystopia” strikes you as oxymoronic, this vivid, original debut just might change your mind
. (Fantasy. 12-18)