In this YA coming-of-age novel, a disabled boy goes to live on his grandfather’s farm, meets a mysterious clan, and discovers special powers.
All Moojie wants to do is belong, but he never seems to fit in. Discovered as a foundling in a small California coastal town in 1892—with the name “Moojie” scrawled on his forehead—he’s adopted by the Littlemans. As a very small child, he can make objects fly using only his mind, among other unusual abilities. But he “didn’t talk or walk when he should have,” and “his left arm seemed only half-awake”; he needs crutches and leg braces as well, which disappoints his Papa. Moojie grows up lonely with only one friend: a deaf cat named Phineas. His warm, loving Mamma dies when he’s 8, and Papa takes the boy and his cat to his father Pappy’s place, St. Isidore’s Fainting Goat Dairy in the Valley of Sorrows. Although he’s warned against Hostiles in the surrounding wilderness, Moojie—now a teenager—glimpses a barefoot girl stealing eggs, and he’s determined to know more: “He ached for friendship, to be a valued member of something. That girl couldn’t have been alone.” He seeks out her clan; they come from far away, speak in riddles, address Moojie as “my lord,” and have much to teach him. He falls for Babylonia, the beautiful egg-stealer, and discovers within himself the ability to heal animals and people—but when trouble brews on several fronts, Moojie faces a difficult choice. Gregory’s debut novel weaves together familiar elements, such as an outcast with special powers, in unexpected ways. Moojie is endearing and sympathetic but never infantilized because of his disability. Despite the book’s many serious themes, which Gregory handles well, it also has a light touch. The author’s verbal playfulness adds to the book’s fun, as when an aunt swallows Moojie “in a pentamorous hug, her body all tentacles and suction.” The book’s mysticism is lucidly presented, and its magical realism is effective, moving, and heartening.
A lively, original take on a story of a boy with more limits—and more magic—than most.
A debut coming-of-age novel, set on the Jersey Shore, follows a teenager who falls in love with a thief.
High-achieving Vivian is bemused rather than frightened when a fellow teen holds up the Dunkin’ Donuts where she works. A few days later, the handsome lad shows up on his motorcycle and they have their first date. Despite notable differences in their ambition levels (Vivian dreams of attending Princeton; Jake plans his next robbery, the sites chosen for the lack of nutrition they promote rather than material gain), the two share a sense of loss. Vivian’s beloved father died recently, and she and her Southern belle mother, Ivy, are clashing for the first time as they navigate their new reality. Jake’s alcoholic mother, Wendy, deserted him and his father, Sonny, to become a cocktail waitress in Atlantic City. Jake’s formidable anger and sense of abandonment—intensified by his diabetes—are palpable. Vivian is drawn to his vulnerability, but Ivy sees him merely as bad news. Vivian’s academic and musical perfection (she plays the clarinet) falter as she spends time with Jake, intensifying the disapproval of Vivian’s best friend, Hailey, and Ivy. Then a bad decision threatens Vivian’s future and her relationship with Jake. Hilton’s secondary players—Sonny, Wendy, Hailey, and Ivy—are just as complex and developed as the main characters. At one point, Sonny turns philosophical: “Wendy had once told him that a group of seagulls was called a flurry, and while Sonny wasn’t normally a person fascinated by words, this was an image he grew to appreciate. A flurry of snow that made it impossible to fly…A flurry of events that made it difficult to put one foot in front of the other.” The tale’s setting, primarily the Jersey Shore town of Belmar, is virtually a character itself, informing and infusing the protagonists in diverse ways. Vivian has no desire to return to her parents’ hometown of New Orleans, but Jersey-raised Hailey finds her spiritual base in the Deep South. Vivian and Jake’s love story may provide the foundation for this book, but it is more than a teen romance. While it is a coming-of-age story for the three teenagers, the parents also learn lessons about love and loss. Eloquently written, the novel transcends ordinary genres and is a work of literary fiction.
A remarkable, deeply nuanced tale about growing up, even for readers who are already adults.
A teenager works through her emotional turmoil while waiting to become a sacrificial offering to aliens in this sci-fi melodrama.
In the near future, Earth has been conquered by 9-foot-tall, telepathic, flying vulture-demons who swoop down and eviscerate people with their razor-sharp talons and beaks—neither bullets nor bird shot nor nuclear bombs slow them down. They call themselves the Over, in honor of the Übermensch figure lionized by the philosopher Nietzsche. The Over impose a peace treaty, allowing humans to run their own affairs as long as they deliver a yearly quota of teens to the demons’ “Summer Program.” This sleep-away/death camp features canoes and cabins but also armed guards, mean counselors, numbers instead of names, and mind-numbing group therapy/brainwashing sessions. It culminates with campers being assigned to 1) getting eaten by the Over, 2) getting impregnated by other teens many times and then getting eaten, or 3) becoming a “seed” in the parasitic Over reproductive cycle. Dragooned into the program, 14-year-old rebel Jordan Fontaine continues her habitual, sarcastic defiance of authority, flinging wisecracks at officious counselors; subtly fencing with Heaven Omalis, a beautiful, sympathetic human Liaison working for the Over; carving her name into her flesh; and finally making contact with a Resistance leader who wants her to undertake a mission against the feathered Overlords. “They’re winning because they are smarter, and they are smarter because we’ve let them dumb us down,” the leader says. Ingram (Eat Your Heart Out, 2015, etc.) gives a nightmarish twist to the familiar YA formula of teenagers facing martyrdom by an oppressive society. The Over, who mainly glare balefully at people, are a distant, ominous presence in a novel that is mostly about human relationships roiled by their demands. The atmosphere of adolescent angst develops around fraught conversations, from Jordan’s anguished exchanges with her parents to her sullen mouthing off in group therapy; the result feels like a mashup of The Hunger Games, “The Lottery,” Girl, Interrupted, and Auschwitz, with malevolent buzzards thrown in. It’s also a lesbian story: Jordan gravitates toward a first girl-love with a cabin mate but melts down when Heaven starts sexually teasing her. Heaven, meanwhile, has her own affair with mysterious stripper Marla Matheson. Jordan is a believable girl in an impossible situation; despite the pulpy elements, Ingram gives her story a realism and emotional depth that make the reader care about her protagonist’s fate.
An absorbing and poignant YA dystopian fantasy with a convincing heroine.
A grand misunderstanding disrupts the lives of high school sweethearts in this YA novel.
Sophy Sharpley has to concoct a case study for her social studies class. But her best friend, Julie, has bigger problems, like the list of pros and cons about her boyfriend, Freddie, who she contemplates breaking up with. Sophy’s relieved that her relationship with Russ is thriving, believing they “will get married (someday) and live happily…and sensibly (one child, one cat).” She figures out a swell case study: she’ll examine teen dating habits, starting with Julie’s messy list. But when the list falls into Russ’ hands, he becomes convinced that Sophy wrote it about him, expressing her displeasure (“Not a good kisser!!!”). He embarks on a campaign to change her mind. He writes his own list about Sophy (“Bossy”), which his sister Angelica steals. At school, Russ tries to parse the list that he thinks Sophy wrote, showing it to Darren and Mark. They add to the confusion by telling him that the last item, McRib, is not a sandwich but a fetish. Julie provides her list to Freddie, the bully Bonce steals Russ’ list from Angelica, and Mark plasters fake lists around the school. When the list about Sophy is unfurled as a banner in the auditorium, chaos ensues as she dumps Russ, and the token of apology Freddie purchased (a cactus) becomes a symbol of revenge. The former lovers fall into a dating free-for-all until the truth comes out. Then the parties must decide whether to embrace their pros and cons to find happiness. Sophy’s class project appears throughout as case studies of certain couples, although the comedy of errors that befalls the heroine is far more intriguing. Sharman (Ignorance Risk Hope, 2016, etc.) offers many characters to keep track of, but the plot gallops along with a perfect mix of inside jokes and hilarious high jinks (Freddie reinvents himself as The Gladiator, with cactuses his signature weapon). In this delightful, quirky book, Sophy’s parents are present enough to illustrate that these teens’ lives don’t exist in a vacuum. The multiple narrators sometimes cause confusion (it’s unclear who Tekfin is), even as they amusingly profit from said lists. But the heartwarming and original final chapter focuses on the novel’s heroes, Sophy and Russ.
A zany and satisfying story for fans of YA tales that pack as much humor as they do heart.
This first installment of a projected paranormal fantasy series chronicles the adventures of a 14-year-old boy who, after dealing with the disappearance of his mother, moves to another state.
Shortly after his mother’s blood-stained jacket is found in the mountains of Colorado, Jason Lex’s life is irrevocably changed forever. The sheriff’s office presumes she’s dead, the victim of a mountain lion attack. Then Jason’s shaken father decides to uproot the family and transport himself and his three children to a small town in Idaho. With no friends or family nearby except his Grandma Lena, Jason is shocked when he discovers that the local crazy guy—who is obsessed with filming the sky—turns out to be his mother’s twin brother. The young protagonist finds his life upended yet again when Uncle Alexander shares a bombshell revelation: namely that Jason’s ancestors have been secret guards charged with sustaining an energy field that maintains the balance between humans and cryptids (beasts like Bigfoot and the Chupacabra, whose existences haven’t yet been proved). Could Jason’s mother still be alive? Soon he is forced to unravel an outlandish mystery involving his mother, his seemingly insane uncle, and a family legacy that involves nothing less than saving the world from cryptids. Terrien’s narrative voice captures Jason’s teen angst perfectly. Insecurities involving forging a self-image and finding one’s place in the world and more serious issues, like losing a parent, are examined with compassion and insight. At one point, Jason muses about suicide: "But is that what kids do when their moms disappear? Or die? Or whatever? Wasn’t it enough to feel like you’re dragging a bag loaded with rocks? Like you’re always fighting to keep from crying?" The cast of authentic and endearing characters is one of the novel’s many strengths, along with the brisk pacing, action-packed narrative, and creation of the fascinating creatures known as Skyfish. The cryptozoological thread, which subtly blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, gives this volume a wonderfully strange undertone. In a subgenre laid low by clichéd characters and conventional storylines, this paranormal fantasy tale is not only wildly entertaining, but also undeniably unique. Both adult and YA audiences should find this book appealing.
A delightful novel that delivers a tightly plotted, character-driven story about a hero confronting wondrous creatures.