Though this novel begs inevitable thematic comparisons to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (2012), it stands on its own...

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ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

A frequently hysterical confessional from a teen narrator who won't be able to convince readers he's as unlikable as he wants them to believe.

"I have no idea how to write this stupid book," narrator Greg begins. Without answering the obvious question—just why is he writing "this stupid book"?—Greg lets readers in on plenty else. His filmmaking ambitions. His unlikely friendship with the unfortunately short, chain-smoking, foulmouthed, African-American Earl of the title. And his unlikelier friendship with Rachel, the titular "dying girl." Punctuating his aggressively self-hating account with film scripts and digressions, he chronicles his senior year, in which his mother guilt-trips him into hanging out with Rachel, who has acute myelogenous leukemia. Almost professionally socially awkward, Greg navigates his unwanted relationship with Rachel by showing her the films he's made with Earl, an oeuvre begun in fifth grade with their remake of Aguirre, Wrath of God. Greg's uber-snarky narration is self-conscious in the extreme, resulting in lines like, "This entire paragraph is a moron." Debut novelist Andrews succeeds brilliantly in painting a portrait of a kid whose responses to emotional duress are entirely believable and sympathetic, however fiercely he professes his essential crappiness as a human being.

Though this novel begs inevitable thematic comparisons to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (2012), it stands on its own in inventiveness, humor and heart. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0176-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

This one goes to the head of the class.

THE DEMON CATCHERS OF MILAN

From the Demon Catchers of Milan series , Vol. 1

To the recent crop of strong debuts in an overcrowded literary arena add this series opener, a tale of demonic possession and a centuries-old family trade in exorcism.

Life in Mia’s loving, if overprotective, Italian-American family is upended when a horrifying demon enters and nearly kills her. After Giuliano Della Torre and his grandson Emilio, long-estranged relatives from Milan, arrive and drive it out, they talk Mia’s reluctant parents into letting her return to Italy with them. For her safety, she’s sequestered in the family’s home and adjacent candle shop. Studying Italian history and language, Mia comes to love her family (including some of its ghosts) and heritage, even the scary bits, but she increasingly resents confinement, longing to explore this rich new world. Cliché-free characters—patriarch Giuliano, his wife Laura, gorgeous Emilio and his sister, Francesca, especially—appear to have lives of their own beyond serving the needs of the plot. The demons themselves are haunting, multifaceted creatures that are both pathetic and extremely dangerous; the evil they project is complex and pain-ridden. Fortunately Mia demonstrates a strong gift for the family trade, which, like the novel’s other elements (the food will have readers salivating), is portrayed in exquisite, affectionate detail.

This one goes to the head of the class. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60684-314-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Egmont USA

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

If you haven’t discovered this series yet, get going; if you’re already a fan, why are you even reading this review? (Urban...

BLACK HEART

From the Curse Workers series , Vol. 3

The conclusion to Black’s brilliant and unusual Curse Workers trilogy lives up to its predecessors.

After everything he’s been through, it’s hard to believe Cassel has any more tricks up his sleeve: He's figured out the truth about himself and signed on as a Fed-in-training, as has his charming and utterly unreliable older brother. But of course things don’t go as planned; there are a lot of long cons Cassel has set in play or disrupted whose ripples are still being felt. And there’s Lila, Cassel’s best friend and the love of his life, who is also the rising head of a crime family—and who hates Cassel’s guts. Black’s gotten the world of her novel down perfectly, a fascinating alternate Now in which the debate over curse workers (magic wielders) feels uncomfortably familiar (corrupt government, dispossessed citizens), and Cassel’s voice never falters. If this volume has a bit less punch than the previous two, it’s only because readers know to expect the unexpected, not because the plotting is any less tight and twisty. And the conclusion, which is happier than might have been expected but not ideal and certainly not pat, is the perfect end to this gem of a trilogy.

If you haven’t discovered this series yet, get going; if you’re already a fan, why are you even reading this review? (Urban fantasy/thriller. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0346-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

Pulse-pounding thrills leavened with laughter.

GIRL OF NIGHTMARES

A satisfying conclusion to ghostly Anna’s terrifying story comes with more heart-thumping suspense and clever quips as Cas tries to save her from an undeserved, dreadful fate.

In the outstanding Anna Dressed in Blood (2011), the ghost, Anna, saved Cas, the ghost-killer, by dragging the voodoo monster, Obeahman, down into Hell. Now she’s back, asking Cas to rescue her, and he’s determined to do it despite all advice to the contrary. This sequel takes Cas and his friends to Britain and a secret cult that wants Cas’ athame, the magical knife that kills ghosts. There he meets Jestine, who believes she should be the next athame warrior, although unlike Cas, she wants to kill ghosts whether or not they’re dangerous to humans. She joins Cas for the final showdown against the Obeahman, who ate both Cas’ cat and his father and now holds Anna hostage. Blake provides enough background explanation to bring new readers into the story, but for full appreciation, readers should start with book one. This new author has a serious talent for action but also for delicious dry humor (“I’ve sort of been slacking off in my voodoo studies. I’ve got trigonometry, you know?”). The exciting conclusion leaves the coast clear for a whole series starring Cas or for something entirely different, whatever the author wishes. Either way, Stephen King ought to start looking over his shoulder.

Pulse-pounding thrills leavened with laughter. (Paranormal thriller. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2866-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

As the clock ticks down on Heidi's soul, readers will be rooting for both Jerome and Heidi with all their hearts.

DEVINE INTERVENTION

Jerome is no teen angel.

A hell raiser when alive and killed by his cousin in eighth grade in an unfortunate archery accident, he has spent his afterlife in Soul Rehab assigned to Heidi in an attempt to win his way into Heaven. Not that he's very committed to the notion; he lost his "Guardian Angel's Handbook" pretty much right away, but he sort of tries. Heidi has more or less enjoyed Jerome's company, though he could sometimes be annoying. When Heidi, having experienced unendurable humiliation in a high-school talent show, ventures onto thin ice and falls through, Jerome does his best to save her soul—as much for her own sake, he's surprised to find, as for his. Brockenbrough devises a devilishly clever narrative, alternating Jerome's first-person account with Heidi's tightly focused third-person perspective. Tying both together are commandment-by-commandment excerpts (often footnoted) from Jerome's lost handbook, each stricture slyly informing the succeeding chapter. The rules governing Jerome's afterlife lead to frequently hysterical prose. He can't swear, of course, so he substitutes euphemisms: "… if I weren't so chickenchevy"; "It was a real mind-flask." Beneath the snark, though, runs a current of devastatingly honest writing that surprises with its occasional beauty and hits home with the keenness of its insight.

As the clock ticks down on Heidi's soul, readers will be rooting for both Jerome and Heidi with all their hearts. (Paranormal adventure. 12 & up)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-38213-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

The exactly right conclusion eschews easy resolution, though there’s plenty of hope as they flounder into the future.

LOVE AND OTHER PERISHABLE ITEMS

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)

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-87000-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

Fearlessly foul, this consistently comical series should be required reading for all teenage boys and anyone else with a...

CALL THE SHOTS

It’s nice guy Sean’s turn to shine in this hilarious follow-up to Swim the Fly (2009) and Beat the Band (2010). 

Sean isn’t initially swayed by his crazy friend Coop’s idea to make himself, Sean and their third amigo Matt into millionaires by shooting a low-budget horror film. But after his parents announce that they are having another baby and there is no money for a bigger house, Sean decides to sign on as screenwriter to avoid moving into his mean twin sister’s room. However, writing the movie is the least of his problems. Sean also finds himself embroiled in a terrifying romantic four-way with his new, Swiss-cheese–smelling, stalker girlfriend Evelyn, his drama crush Leyna and his sister’s best friend, the enigmatic Nessa. Sean’s well-intentioned attempts to juggle his relationships, school and the movie shoot result in the kind of outrageous mishaps that fans have come to expect from author Calame, who once again does not disappoint, with grade-A gross-outs that include a colossal bird-crap bombing and a chorizo-and-chili projectile-vomiting incident.

Fearlessly foul, this consistently comical series should be required reading for all teenage boys and anyone else with a strong stomach and highly sensitive funny bone. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5556-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Though hamstrung by a depressingly chick-lit-y cover, this total-immersion emotional experience is one readers will both...

BETWEEN YOU & ME

A girl in love with the theater tells the story of her first great love in the form of a script.

The entire tale unfolds as a present-tense confessional addressed to the titular (and never-named) “you” by her best friend, the dramatic Phyre. Phyre sets her scenes by describing what “you” is doing or telling “you” about what has happened in her absence, folding in snippets of dialogue. The action takes place over the course of the fall semester, as Phyre falls head over heels for Mia, their charismatic new theater instructor. It’s a textbook crush: Phyre seeks out opportunities to catch Mia alone and then muffs them (her running criticism of her social gambits is hysterical), and she interprets the slightest gesture as freighted with meaning. Her fascination is so intense she barely pauses to wonder that the object of her desire is a woman, instead throwing herself wholeheartedly into her exhilaration. The direct-address/script format works beautifully for her story; her self-absorption is so extreme that she can’t see what’s going on with “you,” but readers do, in those bits of dialogue Phyre records but does not reflect on. The play within a play that Phyre stars in (under Mia’s direction) is a tad metafictively obvious, but the device does introduce action and an intriguing and revelatory subplot.

Though hamstrung by a depressingly chick-lit-y cover, this total-immersion emotional experience is one readers will both recognize and thoroughly enjoy. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-758-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

Tart, funny and fast-moving, with a touch of rueful realism and a lot of heart.

LIA'S GUIDE TO WINNING THE LOTTERY

Lia Latimer is more than ready to take her future in her own hands when she wins £8 million in the lottery. She’ll drop out of school, buy a flat, leave her annoying family behind. What could go wrong?

Plenty, of course, and watching it unfold in this astringent, insightful satire is a major treat. Her father’s struggling bakery needs a cash infusion; her mother would like a boob job; sister Natasha longs for singing lessons. Jack (the winning ticket was his 16th-birthday present to Lia) wants an Italian motorbike; his mother demands half Lia’s winnings. Some seek support for worthy causes, but unlike Shazia, who won’t let Lia give her anything (Islam rejects gambling), most classmates expect presents. Financing their shopping spree (£7,000) doesn’t prevent a Facebook-fueled anti-Lia movement. Her romance with mysterious, gorgeous Raf is a bright spot—unless he’s just after her winnings. Lia (self-centered control freak, yes, but smart, honest and likable) makes a refreshingly assertive heroine for affluenza-ridden times, discovering that too many choices can be almost as immobilizing as having none. The text is peppered with British terms and cultural references, but readers raised on Harry Potter should have no problems.

Tart, funny and fast-moving, with a touch of rueful realism and a lot of heart. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-84780-331-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

Readers will learn much about the war in Afghanistan even as they cheer on this feisty protagonist.

MY NAME IS PARVANA

From the Breadwinner Quartet series , Vol. 4

In a follow-up that turns the Breadwinner Trilogy into a quartet, 15-year-old Parvana is imprisoned and interrogated as a suspected terrorist in Afghanistan.

When her father’s shoulder bag is searched, Parvana’s captors find little of apparent value—a notebook, pens and a chewed-up copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. Parvana refuses to talk; her interrogator doesn’t even know if she can speak. The interrogator reads aloud the words in her notebook to decide if the angry written sentiments of a teenage girl can be evidence of guilt. Parvana is stoic, her keen mind ever alert as she has to “stand and listen to her life being spouted back at her,” a life in a land where warplanes are as “common as crows,” where someone was always “tasting dirt, having their eardrums explode and seeing their world torn apart.” The interrogation, the words of the notebook and the effective third-person narration combine for a thoroughly tense and engaging portrait of a girl and her country. This passionate volume stands on its own, though readers new to the series and to Ellis’ overall body of work will want to read every one of her fine, important novels.

Readers will learn much about the war in Afghanistan even as they cheer on this feisty protagonist. (author’s note) (Fiction. 11 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-55498-297-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

An uplifting story that convincingly celebrates the power of perseverance.

PINNED

Two unlikely teens find a connection despite the reluctance of one and the vastly different life obstacles they confront.

Autumn Knight is good at several things: She's a great friend, a terrific cook and a fiercely competitive wrestler, the only girl on her team. She is not good at reading or most of her other school subjects. Despite this, she is drawn to the smartest boy in school and determined that he will like her in return. Adonis Miller, severely physically disabled since birth, wants no part of Autumn. She is everything he hates: “I despise her. Nothing about her appeals to me. All those muscles. Not to mention her IQ. I’m sure it’s exceptionally low.” Since he was a little boy, he has striven to be the best at whatever he attempts, from academics to school leadership. His role as manager of the wrestling team often brings him into contact with Autumn, and he has trouble reconciling the successful athlete with the irritating girl who haunts his dreams. This brilliantly realized story is told alternately in their two distinctive voices, and readers will cheer Autumn’s spirit and Adonis’ drive. The narrative is further enriched by intriguing secondary characters, including Autumn’s best friend Patricia (aka Peaches), who has her own secrets, and the loving parents and caring teachers of both teens.

An uplifting story that convincingly celebrates the power of perseverance. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-05718-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for preteens and teens, a surefire hit.

DON'T TURN AROUND

From the Don't Turn Around series , Vol. 1

Teenage hackers Noa and Peter band together for vengeance and discover an inconceivable conspiracy.

Sixteen-year-old computer whiz Noa Torson has escaped the Child Protective Services system by creating a fake foster family that includes a reclusive, freelance IT-guy of a father who draws a tidy salary working “from home”; she thinks she’s safe. When she wakes up in a hospitallike operating theater with no memory of how she got there, she doesn’t take the doctors’ lame explanation that she was in a car accident and uses her smarts to escape. Meanwhile, Boston child-of-privilege Peter pokes around his father’s files and is interrupted by armed thugs who break down the door and storm off with his computer (leaving a warning for his parents). Peter enlists his hacktivist group /ALLIANCE/ (of which Noa is a member) to, first, research the subject of those files and then to attack his attackers via the Net. The attack only serves to dig the teens in deeper when they uncover a frightening conspiracy of human experimentation and corporate malfeasance that could mean a quick death for them both. Adult author Gagnon’s YA debut is a pulse-pounding scary-great read. The strong characters and dystopian day-after-tomorrow setting will have teens begging for more. The slightly open end leaving the possibility (but not necessity) of a sequel will rankle some; others will just breathlessly smile.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for preteens and teens, a surefire hit. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-210290-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

While in the end there are some plotlines left untied in slice-of-life fashion, the bittersweet resolution of the main...

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME

A novel with alternating narrators takes an unusually interesting twist due to one of the character’s habitual tendency toward self-delusion.

Self-proclaimed misfit and outspoken manifesto-author Jesse deals daily with the hazards of being out and proud in high school. She's also carrying on a secret affair with image-conscious Emily, the girlfriend of a popular boy at school. Meeting weekly in the bathroom of the local public library, the two experience an inexplicable chemistry, even though Emily will barely acknowledge Jesse at any other time. Switching perspective among Emily, Jesse and a third girl, Esther, this heartbreaking tale is powerfully raw in its exploration of attraction and shame. Jesse hides her relationship from her warmly quirky and accepting parents not because it is with a girl, but because she knows they will disapprove of its secrecy. Readers will ache for her, and they will be torn between rage and pity toward Emily, so intent on forcing herself into a normative role that she cannot admit the truth even to herself. Clever phrasing, a decided political bent against big-box stores and characters who gently poke fun at various stereotypes round out this work of contemporary fiction.

While in the end there are some plotlines left untied in slice-of-life fashion, the bittersweet resolution of the main conflict is deeply satisfying. (Fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-01128-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

Green seamlessly bridges the gap between the present and the existential, and readers will need more than one box of tissues...

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THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

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)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-525-47881-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

An uncommon (to say the least) coming-of-age, retraced with well-deserved pride but not self-aggrandizement, and as...

THE WARRIOR'S HEART

BECOMING A MAN OF COMPASSION AND COURAGE

Selecting high and low points from his experiences as a child, college student, teacher, refugee-camp worker, amateur boxer, Rhodes scholar, Navy SEAL and worker with disabled vets, Greitens both charts his philosophical evolution and challenges young readers to think about “a better way to walk in the world.”

Revising extracts from his memoir The Heart and the Fist (2011) and recasting them into a more chronological framework, the author tells a series of adventuresome tales. These are set in locales ranging from Duke University to Oxford, from a low-income boxing club to camps in Rwanda and Croatia, from a group home for street children in Bolivia to a barracks hit by a suicide bomber in Iraq. Prefacing each chapter with a provocative “Choose Your Own Adventure”–style scenario (“What do you do?”), he describes how similar situations ultimately led him to join the military, impelled by a belief that it’s better to help and protect others from danger than to provide aid after the fact. What sets his odyssey apart from Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin’s I Am a SEAL Team Six Warrior (2012) and most other soldiers' stories is an unusual ability to spin yarns infused with not only humor and memorable lines (SEAL training’s notorious Hell Week was “the best time I never want to have again”), but cogent insights about character and making choices that don’t come across as heavy-handed advice.

An uncommon (to say the least) coming-of-age, retraced with well-deserved pride but not self-aggrandizement, and as thought-provoking as it is entertaining. (endnotes, bibliography [not seen]) (Memoir. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-86852-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

A WORLD AWAY

This sensitive debut grabs hearts right away and doesn’t let go.

Eliza, a 16-year-old Amish girl, struggles against the restrictions of her culture. She loves her family and friends but yearns to see the modern world. She gets her chance when a visiting woman offers her a summertime nanny job, but she must convince her reluctant mother to agree. Amish teens are allowed a “rumspringa,” a time of some freedom before they decide to accept baptism and join the permanent community, but her mother's vision of this "running-wild" time is very different from Eliza’s. At last Eliza’s mother consents, and the girl moves with a modern wardrobe to Chicago, where she encounters the wonders of movies, computers and microwaves. Soon she meets Josh and begins dating, also entering the world of modern girl rivalries. Later, Eliza will meet someone from her past and learn more about her mother than she could have imagined. Throughout, Eliza faces a terrible choice: Which world will she join, and which will she leave forever? The author writes with simple sentences that fit Eliza’s simple way of life and convey her innocence. Readers experience their own world through the girl’s naïve eyes, marveling at technology, experiencing new relationships and worrying through her difficulties. Grossman’s love for her story seeps into every page, locking readers into the narrative. She produces a heartfelt tale that will be difficult for readers to resist.

Simply lovely. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: July 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5153-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

A superb offering—and therefore a shame that its cover design of a boy and girl in a clinch makes it look like a run-of-the...

GIRL MEETS BOY

This conceptually unique collection of short story pairings by a constellation of teen-literature stars explores a variety of relationship types as the respective male and female involved in each one experience them.

In the first, a witty teen seeking to stop cheating on his girlfriends is drawn into a messy sexual relationship with a troubled (but hot) girl who is an abuse survivor. In another, a likable, tough girl muscles in on a bully who is harassing the object of her crush. In the third, a gay 17-year-old agrees to an in-person meeting with an online-chat buddy in a tale both sad and sweet. Two separate stories examine the strain felt by couples of different ethnic backgrounds as they struggle with prejudice and familial expectations. Finally, a boy re-encounters someone with whom he’s long been enamored, only to discover she’s undergone a transformation. Common themes—that are less about gender-based perceptions than they are about teens struggling to be seen and loved for who they truly are—knit these stories together. Each of the authors excels at creating vibrant, sympathetic, honest characters with voices that will appeal to older teens, male and female alike.

A superb offering—and therefore a shame that its cover design of a boy and girl in a clinch makes it look like a run-of-the mill romance, which may limit its appeal. (Short stories. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4521-0264-1

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

Aside from the too-anxious-to-eat valorization, fresh as a daisy and sharp as a tack.

HAVE A NICE DAY

Biting wit makes this quest for suburban normalcy in the face of depression and anxiety both laugh-out-loud funny and immensely intelligent.

In Get Well Soon (2007), Anna spent three weeks in a mental hospital, unwillingly. Now she faces her first three weeks back at home—Dad retaining his “classically trained dick” attitude, Mom riddled with “wuss issues”—and back at school. She’s insecure about where she’s been and fears the in-class panic attacks and bowel symptoms that plagued her earlier. She postpones writing to hospital romance Justin, unsure what to say. Instead, Anna focuses on art class, funky clothing and her peers in outpatient therapy. Her first-person narration brims with humor and raunchiness: “The dark wood that made up the library’s décor screamed 1976 academia, but the dainty sentiment of ‘EB sucks cock’ scratched into the wood brought a modern feel.” As life improves, she questions sharply which aspects of treatment—or life—are really helping. Anna finds Holden Caulfield (Halpern employs layered and alluring Catcher in the Rye references); boys find her. Characters and observations are impressively original. The only staleness is relentless textual insistence that Anna’s weight loss—born of “crappy mental hospital cafeteria food, depression, [and] anxiety”—is crucial to, and the same thing as, her recovery.

Aside from the too-anxious-to-eat valorization, fresh as a daisy and sharp as a tack. (Fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-60660-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Readers will definitely want to have, know or be Maggie’s brothers—but she herself proves to be no slouch when it comes to...

FRIENDS WITH BOYS

Nervous, home-schooled by her absent and much-missed mom and saddled with three adored older brothers—and a ghost—Maggie starts high school.

Largely but not entirely left by her doting upper-grade sibs (who had “first days” of their own) to sink or swim, Maggie starts off in lonely isolation but quickly finds two great friends in Mohawk-wearing, multiply pierced, exuberantly logorrheic classmate Lucy and her quieter (but also Mohawk-topped) brother Alistair. Simmering complications soon reach a boil as Maggie discovers that Alistair and her own oldest brother Daniel have some sort of bad history, and on a more eldritch note, a woman’s ghost that Maggie had occasionally seen in the nearby graveyard takes to floating into her house and right up to her face. Filling monochrome ink-and-wash panels with wonderfully mobile faces, expressively posed bodies, wordless conversations in meaningful glances, funny banter and easy-to-read visual sequences ranging from hilarious to violent, Hicks crafts an upbeat, uncommonly engaging tale rich in humor, suspense, and smart, complex characters.

Readers will definitely want to have, know or be Maggie’s brothers—but she herself proves to be no slouch when it comes to coping with change and taking on challenges. (Graphic fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-556-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: First Second/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

B95 is a 4-ounce, robin-sized shorebird, a red knot of the subspecies rufa. Each February he joins a flock that lifts off...

MOONBIRD

As he did in The Race to Save the Lord God Bird (2004), Hoose explores the tragedy of extinction through a single bird species, but there is hope for survival in this story, and that hope is pinned on understanding the remarkable longevity of a single bird.

B95 is a 4-ounce, robin-sized shorebird, a red knot of the subspecies rufa. Each February he joins a flock that lifts off from Tierra del Fuego and heads for breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic, 9,000 miles away. Late in the summer, he begins the return journey. Scientists call him Moonbird because, in the course of his astoundingly long lifetime of nearly 20 years, he has flown the distance to the moon and halfway back. B95 can fly for days without eating or sleeping but eventually must land to refuel and rest. Recent changes, however, at refueling stations along his migratory circuit, most caused by human activity, have reduced the available food. Since 1995, when B95 was captured and banded, the rufa population has collapsed by nearly 80 percent. Scientists want to know why this one bird survives year after year when so many others do not. In a compelling, vividly detailed narrative, Hoose takes readers around the hemisphere, showing them the obstacles rufa red knots face, introducing a global team of scientists and conservationists, and offering insights about what can be done to save them before it’s too late.

Pub Date: July 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-30468-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

Rich in voice, humor and dazzling imagery, studded with edgy ideas and wildly original, this multicultural mashup—like its...

THE CHAOS

Noted for her fantasy and science fiction for adults, Hopkinson jumps triumphantly to teen literature.

Scotch’s womanly build and mixed heritage (white Jamaican dad, black American mom) made her the target of small-town school bullies. Since moving to Toronto, she’s found friends and status. Now both are threatened by the mysterious sticky black spots on her skin (she hides them under her clothes, but they’re growing). When a giant bubble appears at an open-mic event, Scotch dares her brother, Rich, to touch it. He disappears, a volcano rises from Lake Ontario, and chaos ripples across city and world, transforming reality in ways bizarre and hilarious, benign and malignant. A lesbian folksinger with Tamil roots becomes a purple triangle with an elephant’s trunk; jelly beans grow teeth; buried streams resurface. Scotch searches for Rich across a surreal, sensual cityscape informed by Caribbean and Russian folklore. Although what they represent and where they come from are open to interpretation, the manifestations are real to everyone and must be dealt with. Hopkinson opens her YA debut conventionally but soon finds her own path, creating a unique vocabulary with which to explore and express personal identity in its myriad forms and fluidity. Anything but essentialist, she captures her characters in the act of becoming.

Rich in voice, humor and dazzling imagery, studded with edgy ideas and wildly original, this multicultural mashup—like its heroine—defies categorization. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4169-5488-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

A wonderfully crafted and deeply satisfying novel, full of detail that provides texture and meaning.

A CERTAIN OCTOBER

Scotty’s world is turned upside down when an accident leaves her brother severely injured, an acquaintance dead and Scotty feeling responsible.

In the fall of Scotty’s junior year of high school, it appears all she has to worry about is reading Anna Karenina and the homecoming dance. Scotty, who has been a vegetarian since last year’s visit to a dairy farm, describes her reality: “My life is like tofu—it’s what gets added that makes it interesting.” The most unusual thing about Scotty is her autistic, 7-year-old brother, Keone, who likes to steal cookies and run naked through the neighborhood. Her father and stepmother handle her brother without fanfare, as does Scotty, so it was normal for her to take him to the doctor and return home on the train. It is there that a tragic accident leaves Scotty injured, Keone in a coma and two students dead. Suddenly, levelheaded Scotty, healing from the physical injuries, cannot let go of the guilt she feels about the loss of one student in particular. It is only when she finds a way to reconcile two of her friends and open herself to the attention of another that she takes tentative steps toward emotional peace. Printz Award winner Johnson (The First Part Last, 2004) tells this moving story of grief and guilt with clarity and unsentimental honesty. Scotty, with her rich interior life, is realistically drawn and surrounded by a cast of well-rounded secondary characters.

A wonderfully crafted and deeply satisfying novel, full of detail that provides texture and meaning. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-689-86505-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

Deeply moving and fast-paced, this life-affirming effort is a worthy addition to the bookshelves of sturdy readers.

FOURMILE

Key (Alabama Moon, 2006, etc.) has crafted another powerful, riveting coming-of-age tale that doesn’t stint on violence to advance the action.

Middle schooler Foster and his mother have been barely getting by since his father’s death a year ago. The farm in Fourmile, Ala., is going to ruin around them without a man’s help, and now Mother has begun a relationship with dangerous, unpleasant Dax, a man she seems powerless to keep from abusing both Foster and his dog, Joe. Then Gary shows up, hiking along the rural road. He's a young man with a secret past but is nevertheless kind, hardworking and ultimately heroic. Foster, desperate to find some steady ground in his life, connects to Gary immediately, even though in his heart he’s aware that whatever is in Gary’s past likely dooms the relationship. After Foster’s mom spurns him, Dax begins an escalating and tragic campaign of retaliation. Foster’s first-person voice is richly authentic as he gradually acquires the wisdom that will eventually lead him to a believable though heart-wrenching resolution to some of the crushing conflicts in his life. Confrontations between Dax and Gary are vivid and violent enough to disturb some readers, the violence expertly serving to define yet distinguish their characters.

Deeply moving and fast-paced, this life-affirming effort is a worthy addition to the bookshelves of sturdy readers. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-35095-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Astrid's parents moved both her and her sister away from their New York City home years ago to a small town symbolically...

ASK THE PASSENGERS

Big-town girl stuck in a small-town world full of lies falls for another girl.

Astrid's parents moved both her and her sister away from their New York City home years ago to a small town symbolically called Unity Valley. Since then her mom has drunk the society Kool-Aid, and her dad takes mental vacations in the garage to smoke weed. Astrid doesn't feel like she fits in anywhere. Two friends keep her sane: her closeted BFF, Kristina, and Dee, a star hockey player she met while working for a local catering company. Sparks fly between Astrid and Dee, causing Astrid to feel even more distanced and confused. Meanwhile, Kristina and her boyfriend/beard Justin use Astrid as cover for their own same-sex sweethearts, adding more fuel to the fire. King has created an intense, fast-paced, complex and compelling novel about sexuality, politics and societal norms that will force readers outside their comfort zones. The whole town—even the alleged gay characters—buy into the Stepford-like ideal, and King elegantly uses Plato’s "Allegory of the Cave" to help readers understand life inside and outside of the box. Only Astrid knows what she wants. She’s in love with Dee, but she's not sure if she’s a lesbian. She’s ignoring all of the labels and focusing on what she feels. Quite possibly the best teen novel featuring a girl questioning her sexuality written in years. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Quite possibly the best teen novel featuring a girl questioning her sexuality written in years(Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-19468-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Prescient writing, fully developed characters and completely, tragically believable situations elevate this sad, gripping...

SEE YOU AT HARRY'S

Sit back in a comfortable chair, bring on the Kleenex and cry your heart out.

Seventh-grader Fern, in pitch-perfect present tense, relates the dual tragedies of her family. Her high school freshman older brother Holden has come to the place in his life where he’s acknowledged that he’s gay and is taking the first painful, unsteady steps out into a less-than-fully-accepting world. Fern offers him support and love, but what she can give is not always what he needs. Their older sister, Sara, spending a frustrating gap year after high school supposedly helping with the family restaurant, makes life hard for everyone with her critical eye and often unkind comments. And then there’s 3-year-old Charlie, always messy, often annoying, but deeply loved. Fern’s busy, distracted parents leave all of the kids wanting for more attention—until a tragic accident tears the family apart. The pain they experience after the calamity is vividly, agonizingly portrayed and never maudlin. Eventually there are tiny hints of brightness to relieve the gloom: the wisdom of Fern’s friend Ran, the ways that Sara, Fern and Holden find to support each other, and their thoughtfully depicted, ever-so-gradual healing as they rediscover the strength of family.

Prescient writing, fully developed characters and completely, tragically believable situations elevate this sad, gripping tale to a must-read level. (Fiction. 11 & up)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5407-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

Hauntingly beautiful.

THE DISENCHANTMENTS

Colby and Bev plan to forgo college in favor of a brief tour with Bev’s band, The Disenchantments, followed by a year traveling through Europe. But only hours into the trip, Bev makes an announcement that changes everything.

Even among their alternative, artsy friends, Bev and Colby’s decision to chase their dreams is a bold move. Following in his father’s and his uncle’s musical footsteps, Colby borrows Melinda, his uncle’s beloved van, to ferry The Disenchantments from one seedy venue to the next. As they travel, the band mates are forced to face some difficult truths about each other and themselves. Each member of the band chronicles their trip in a unique way: journaling, taking photographs, drawing, even with a tattoo. Colby’s continued devotion to the self-centered and dishonest Bev is at times irritating, but it is also completely real. Long-held secrets strain friendships and forge new bonds. The old friends quickly realize that dreams are a combination of holding on and letting go. Quirky characters, each with his or her own story, are woven into the narrative, creating a rich tapestry that will make readers confident that they are in the hands of a master storyteller.

Hauntingly beautiful. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-525-42219-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

A dark journey well worth taking—engrossing, disturbing, illuminating.

IN DARKNESS

A tale of two Haitis—one modern, one historic—deftly intertwine in a novel for teens and adults. 

Readers first meet Shorty under the rubble of the recent earthquake, as he struggles to make sense of his past, present and future. Through flashbacks, they learn of his gangster life in a dangerous Port-au-Prince slum, where he searches for his twin sister, Marguerite, after they’ve been separated by gang violence. In his stressed state, Shorty communes with the spirit of Toussaint l’Ouverture, leader of the slave uprising that ultimately transformed Haiti into the world’s first black republic. Lake adeptly alternates chapters between “Now” (post-earthquake) and “Then” (circa turn-of-the-19th century). His minimalist, poetic style reveals respect for vodou culture, as well as startling truths: “In darkness, I count my blessings like Manman taught me. One: I am alive. Two: there is no two.” While the images of slavery and slum brutality are not for the faint-hearted, and Shorty’s view of humanitarian workers may stir debate, readers will be inspired to learn more about Haiti’s complex history. Timed for the second anniversary of the Haitian earthquake, this double-helix-of-a-story explores the nature of freedom, humanity, survival and hope.

A dark journey well worth taking—engrossing, disturbing, illuminating. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-743-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

An astonishing, wrenching achievement.

MY BOOK OF LIFE BY ANGEL

The tragedy of discarded children is skillfully explored in this stunning novel in verse.

Angel, 16, pretends she lives at the mall, helping herself to shoes on display. She falls prey to a pimp named Call, who watches her shoplift, buys her meals and gives her “candy” (crack). Knowing that “it’s the ones from good homes / who follow orders best,” Call persuades Angel to do him a favor with chilling ease. Turning tricks on a street corner in Vancouver, she meets Serena, who teaches her to fend for herself with “dates” and encourages her to write her life. When Serena goes missing, Angel vows to clean up her act. Dope sick, she slowly wakes up to Call’s evil, weathering the torments of her captive life with courage. The deliberate use of spacing emphasizes the grim choice confronting Angel when Call brings home a new girl, 11-year-old Melli. Leavitt’s mastery of form builds on the subtle interplay between plot and theme. “John the john” is a divorced professor who makes Angel read Book 9 from Milton’s Paradise Lost, inadvertently teaching her the power that words, expression and creativity have to effect change. Passages from Milton frame the chapters, as Angel, in her own writing, grasps her future. Based on the factual disappearance of dozens of Vancouver women, this novel of innocence compromised is bleak, but not without hope or humor.

An astonishing, wrenching achievement. (author's note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-35123-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

An awe-inspiring, thought-provoking reminder that love reaches beyond physical appearances or gender.

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EVERY DAY

From the Every Day series , Vol. 1

Imagine waking up in a different body every day.

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)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-93188-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

A smart and rewarding ode to literature.

A BREATH OF EYRE

From the Unbound Trilogy series , Vol. 1

This richly satisfying tale of first and last love transcends its genre—not another breathless, fan-fiction take on a literary classic but an intertextual love letter.

Raised by a distant father and ex-debutante stepmother, shy, bookish Emma misses the mother she barely remembers. At Emma’s 16th birthday party, her mother’s college roommate, Simona, gives her a copy of Jane Eyre. Emma finds Simona’s son, Gray, disturbingly attractive, but he dates an A-list girl at Lockwood, the boarding school Emma, a scholarship student, attends. The alliance she forges with her new roommate—fellow scholarship student and Haitian science whiz Michelle—heartens both until, struck by lightning, Emma wakes up to find herself Jane Eyre. Though her world is comforting at first, Mr. Rochester’s controlling ways trouble Emma, who feels deepening compassion for Bertha Mason. (Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea is clearly a referent here.) She fights her way home, but unresolved issues and mysteries, especially the connection between Jane’s world and Emma’s mother, draw her back. With evocative settings and compassionately drawn characters, this trilogy opener offers affectionate insight into the gifts literature gives readers. If treasured books have the power to change us, it’s a two-way street. As we change, so does our relationship to those books and so, in a sense, we change them.

A smart and rewarding ode to literature. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7582-6948-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

Intense, keenly insightful, nuanced and affecting.

TWO OR THREE THINGS I FORGOT TO TELL YOU

At the heart of Oates' riveting and poignant story of three teenage girls in crisis is the notion that a "secret can be too toxic to expose to a friend."

In part 1, it's mid-December of their senior year at Quaker Heights Day School, a prep school in an affluent New Jersey suburb. Merissa, "The Perfect One," has just been accepted early admission at Brown, with more good news to come. When she desperately needs a release—from the pressures to succeed, hypocrisy and her parents' disintegrating marriage—she secretly embraces cutting. Part 2 flashes back to 15 months earlier, when smart, funny, edgy, unpredictable Tink, a former child star, transfers into their junior class and changes everything. Part 3 picks back up in the winter of their senior year and focuses on Nadia, who falls prey to sexts and cyberbullying. Tink's suicide is revealed early on, and yet she remains a believable and critical touchstone for Merissa and Nadia, part of the girls of Tink Inc. The author is a master at portraying the complex, emotional inner lives of these teens, and their contemporary adolescent voices and perceptions (and misperceptions) ring true. The psychological dramas, though numerous, are deftly handled. What appears at first to be a bleak worldview does in fact make room for healing, change and standing up for what's right.

Intense, keenly insightful, nuanced and affecting. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-211047-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

This smart, stylish series opener raises the bar for paranormal fiction, leaving readers impatient for the next installment.

BURN MARK

Crime noir meets paranormal romance in this addictive thriller about two London teens in whom the fae awakens, conferring abilities at once exhilarating and harshly stigmatized.

Glory exults in her strong powers, although Auntie Angel warns her to hide them from the organized-crime covens ruling their hardscrabble neighborhood; otherwise, she could be forced to marry Wednesday Coven–heir Troy Morgan. (Powerful witches are rare, and the gift runs in families.) To Lucas, whose ancestry includes England’s most distinguished inquisitors, his awakening fae feels like a door slamming on his future and his father’s career as Chief Prosecutor of the Inquisitorial Court. Asked to investigate who’s sabotaging an important legal case, Lucas jumps at the chance, working with a skeptical Glory. In this alternative contemporary England, witches have achieved some rights and can even have careers, provided they’re “bridled” (fitted with magic-preventing iron). Still, stake burning remains legal, though regulated; growing popular movements advocate witch genocide. Political intrigue and class warfare, inquisitorial office and coven politics are densely detailed without overwhelming the characters or slowing the pace as the narrative builds to a tense climax so cinematic that readers will find themselves mentally casting the film version.

This smart, stylish series opener raises the bar for paranormal fiction, leaving readers impatient for the next installment. (author’s note) (Urban fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: June 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-843-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

A story that, like Finley, expresses a lot in relatively few words.

BOY21

In a town partially controlled by the Irish mob, a quiet friendship develops between two basketball players.

Finley doesn't say much, and his basketball teammates fondly call him White Rabbit, both for his quiet demeanor and for being the only white player on his high school team. He is surprised but willing when his coach introduces him to Russ Washington and asks Finley to look after him. Russ, a nationally recognized athlete, is experiencing post-traumatic stress after the murder of his parents. While there are hints that something in Finley's own past makes this assignment particularly relevant, Finley quietly but firmly refuses to discuss his own history with other characters or with readers. Instead, they see the friendship among the two boys and Finley's girlfriend, Erin, gently unfold and the mysteries surrounding Russ deepen. Does Russ want to play basketball or not? Does he really believe he is an alien called Boy21? The answers here are satisfying but never simple, and the setting, a working-class town where asking too many questions can have deadly consequences, is a bleak, haunting foil to the boys' comfortable silence. Family relationships are well-drawn, and foreshadowing is effective without being predictable.

A story that, like Finley, expresses a lot in relatively few words. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: March 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-12797-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

THE CHILDREN AND THE WOLVES

Two wayward teens fall under the evil thrall of a third in this disturbing tale by the Printz Honor–winning author of Punkzilla (2009).

Fourteen-year-old amoral honors student Bounce convinces two socially challenged and drug-addicted seventh-graders, Wiggins and Orange, to kidnap a 3-year-old girl and imprison her in Orange’s basement. Then the three manufacture posters of the girl they have dubbed the Frog and use them to collect “donations” for the missing child. In reality, Bounce is saving up to buy a gun, which she intends to use on a local author who offended her during a class visit. Orange is all in, but sensitive Wiggins, who imagines his soul as “a little perfect crystal egg floating in your chest,” begins to question the plan, especially when Bounce hints that the Frog’s time is running out. Though the slim novel’s premise is profoundly unsettling, Rapp’s poetic use of language makes for a brutally beautiful read. There is a drug dealer with “a face like a rubber shark” and buildings that “look perfect, like they got baked in a oven with some brownies.” The author continues to push the boundaries of fiction for teens by providing an unrelentingly real and intensely powerful voice for the disenfranchised youth who dangle on society’s edge, forgotten until they commit random acts of violence because they have been shown no other way. Hard to read, impossible to forget. (Fiction. 14 & up)

 

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5337-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

Though the portrayal of Rob’s deteriorating mental state is raw and often uncomfortable, in the end, the honest, uncensored...

THIS IS NOT FORGIVENESS

A dark and dangerous thrill ride pushes teen readers to the brink of their comfort zones when it comes to issues of love, lust, politics, family and war.

Despite repeated warnings, Jamie can’t resist the sexy and mysterious Caro. He would do anything for her, and she knows it. What he doesn’t know is that Caro and his older brother Rob have a secret past. Rees revels in an unapologetic exploration of extremes in this smart and well-crafted novel. The brothers are perfect foils for each other, with Jamie an eager-to-please, typical teen, and Rob a menacing and tragic war veteran prone to terrifyingly violent outbursts. Though Caro’s manipulations of the brothers for her own political gain drive the action of the story, the relationship between the two siblings provides its molten emotional core. As Rob becomes increasingly unhinged, Jamie’s desperation to claim Caro as his own and to assert himself in his relationship with his brother becomes a matter of life and death.

Though the portrayal of Rob’s deteriorating mental state is raw and often uncomfortable, in the end, the honest, uncensored storytelling makes this a tale that will stay with readers long after the final page is turned. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-776-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

This book won't make readers proud to be Jewish. It will make them proud to be a pool player in a porkpie hat, a tattooed...

SONS OF THE 613

This is a book every bar-mitzvah boy will want to steal.

"What's the first thing you say up there onstage during your bar mitzvah?" asks Josh. Josh is holding his brother Isaac over his head. Josh is taking a break from his wrestling scholarship at NYU and taking care of Isaac while their parents are in Italy. Isaac is supposed to say, "Today, I am a man." They both think that's pretty stupid. "Are you a man?" Josh asks. Isaac: "Um...no?" Josh: "No, you're not. You're still a boy." This may be the least interesting statement in the book, because every bar-mitzvah boy already knows it. But no parent will ever give this book as a bar-mitzvah gift because of the bar fights, the strippers and the vomit. Josh has decided to turn his brother into a man, and he's decided to do it in the three weeks before Isaac turns 13. Isaac will meet Josh's friends: strippers, an African-American pool player in a porkpie hat and Patrick the Meth-Dealing Punk. Parents will expect a bar-mitzvah book to inspire their child, teach him something and make him proud to be Jewish. Surprisingly, this novel accomplishes two out of three.

This book won't make readers proud to be Jewish. It will make them proud to be a pool player in a porkpie hat, a tattooed punk or anyone who survives all the way to 13. Everyone should read it the moment he becomes a man. (Fiction. 13-17) 

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-61216-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Far more than a summer romance, this is a tribute to those left behind.

AFTER ELI

Daniel (E.) Anderson looks back on the summer he fell in love and finally came to terms with his soldier brother’s death.

After Eli died in Iraq, Daniel added his initial to his own name and began compiling a Book of the Dead, a binder filled with his research on famous deaths. Three years later, still angry at his brother for joining the Army, the 14-year-old still keeps his book. Relevant entries, ranging from the princes in the Tower to Isadora Duncan and the 9/11 victims, begin each chapter of this poignant novel. Danny’s father is detached and displeased by everything; his mother, silent and withdrawn. But in the course of an idyllic summer spent with the beautiful Isabelle and her younger twin siblings, visiting from New York, Danny comes to terms with his brother’s death, finds a new, true friend in his dorky, formerly despised classmate Walter, and discovers that working on an organic farm is something he’s good at and cares about. Danny’s nostalgic first-person narration includes interestingly quirky information as well as sweet moments. Middle school readers will see the inevitable end of this first love long before Danny faces it, grieving his new loss but grateful for his healing.

Far more than a summer romance, this is a tribute to those left behind. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5810-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

Meticulous pacing and finely nuanced characters underpin the author's gift for affecting prose that illuminates the...

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ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE

A boring summer stretches ahead of Ari, who at 15 feels hemmed in by a life filled with rules and family secrets.

He doesn't know why his older brother is in prison, since his parents and adult sisters refuse to talk about it. His father also keeps his experience in Vietnam locked up inside. On a whim, Ari heads to the town swimming pool, where a boy he's never met offers to teach him to swim. Ari, a loner who's good in a fight, is caught off guard by the self-assured, artistic Dante. The two develop an easy friendship, ribbing each other about who is more Mexican, discussing life's big questions, and wondering when they'll be old enough to take on the world. An accident near the end of summer complicates their friendship while bringing their families closer. Sáenz's interplay of poetic and ordinary speech beautifully captures this transitional time: " 'That's a very Dante question,' I said. 'That's a very Ari answer,' he said.… For a few minutes I wished that Dante and I lived in the universe of boys instead of the universe of almost-men." Plot elements come together at the midpoint as Ari, adding up the parts of his life, begins to define himself.

Meticulous pacing and finely nuanced characters underpin the author's gift for affecting prose that illuminates the struggles within relationships . (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0892-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Yes, many teens face more compelling problems than those of a smart, attractive daughter of affluent and loving, if...

THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

A smartly observed novel rises above its apparently easy structure.

Although her mother has made peace with the situation, Hadley is still angry and hurt that her father left them for an Englishwoman. Rebooked on the next flight after missing her plane to London, where she’s to be a bridesmaid in their wedding, Hadley is seated next to the English boy who helped her in the terminal. He comes to her rescue again after she confesses she suffers from claustrophobia. A good-looking Yale student, Oliver is smart, funny and thoughtful, though evasive about the purpose of his trip. Their mutual attraction is heightened by the limbo of air travel, but on arrival, they’re separated. With just minutes to get to the wedding, Hadley—resentful, anxious, missing Oliver and above all jet-lagged—makes her way to the church and the father she’s avoided seeing for a year. Narrative hooks and meet-cute often seem designed to distract from less-than-compelling content. Here, the opposite pertains. Its one-day time frame and “what are the odds?” conceit bookend a closely observed, ultimately moving tale of love, family and otherwise.

Yes, many teens face more compelling problems than those of a smart, attractive daughter of affluent and loving, if estranged, parents; but Smith’s acute insights make Hadley’s heartache and loss as real as the magical unfurling of new love. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-12238-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Poppy/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

The magic is entirely pragmatic; the impossible, extraordinarily true.

THE RAVEN BOYS

From the Raven Cycle series , Vol. 1

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)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-42492-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Brava! (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava! (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

DOUBLE

What are the odds of two identical missing boys? The possibility will haunt readers in this British import by Morris Award finalist Valentine.

When 16-year-old runaway Chap, named by his reclusive grandfather, gets locked up for fighting in a London hostel, detectives are certain that they’ve found missing Cassiel Roadnight, who disappeared two years ago on the firework-filled Hay on Fire fall festival. Longing for a real family, Chap assumes Cass’ identity and tries to ingratiate himself with the Roadnights as he moves into their home. Weighed down by his lies and the family’s doubts (“Your eyes used to be blue”), his ruse is not as easy to carry out as he imagined. Chap’s spare, first-person narration intensifies this taut, psychological thriller as he also begins to wonder why and how Cass disappeared. Flashbacks, fraught with identity, loss and betrayal, fill in the back story on Chap’s own life, which is just as mysterious as Cass’. Piecing together clues from his and Cass’ lives, Chap can’t help but believe that he may be living with Cass’ killer. With the next Hay on Fire quickly approaching, will Chap meet the same fate as Cass? Readers who like the quick pace of Gail Giles’ mysteries and the dark, finely crafted suspense of Kevin Brooks will find the perfect combination here. (Thriller. 12 & up)

 

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-4714-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

The issue is seldom front and center in books for teens, but Vivian refuses to falsify or avoid the uncomfortable realities...

THE LIST

This riveting exploration of physical appearance and the status it confers opens a cultural conversation that’s needed to happen for a long time.

Every year during homecoming week, a list is posted anonymously at Mount Washington High naming the prettiest and ugliest girls in each class. Abby, who finds it easier to get credit for her looks than hard work, and Danielle, whose swimmer’s physique gets her labeled “ugly,” are this year’s freshman duo. The list confers instant status, transforming formerly home-schooled sophomore Lauren from geeky to hot while consigning her counterpart, pretty-but-mean Candace, to pariah. But what the label mainly confers is anxiety. Prettiest junior Bridget despairs that she’ll ever be thin enough to merit her title; Sarah takes refuge in anger, vowing to earn her ugly label big-time. Jennifer, four-time “ugliest” winner, tries to relish the notoriety. Margo’s title should make her the slam-dunk choice for homecoming queen, but will it? Whether clued in or clueless to the intricate social complexities, boyfriends reinforce the status quo, while moms carry scars of their own past physical insecurities.

The issue is seldom front and center in books for teens, but Vivian refuses to falsify or avoid the uncomfortable realities that looks alone confer status, and their power is greatest when obscured by the pretense that “looks don’t matter.” (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-16917-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

No simple coming-out story, this many-layered effort is gritty, warm and ultimately hopeful.

STREET DREAMS

Compassionate, thoughtful and expressive, this New Zealand import traces a Maori teen's journey through friendships, family, work and the realization that he is gay.

Modest, practical, local-hip-hop–loving Tyson spots a confident, young, white street promoter in a basketball jersey and for the first time feels something he thinks might be love at first sight. Tyson spends his life caring for others: He works nights as a dishwasher to support his mother and two younger brothers, and he looks out for his best mate Rawiri, loyally ignoring the bruises Rawiri sometimes receives at home. Propelled by two friends' encouragement to follow his dreams and his growing interest in the figure he thinks of as “the white homeboy,” Tyson begins to make changes. He calls a gay hotline for support and allows himself to be pulled into a crew of street artists who respect his drawing talents even while their leader spews homophobic bile. Each character is carefully drawn, and the sense of family among the street crew and the racism in the gay community are palpable without the author ever telling readers what to think. The language, though inflected with regional slang and the names of local hip-hop artists, is both accessible and lyrical.

No simple coming-out story, this many-layered effort is gritty, warm and ultimately hopeful. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60282-650-2

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

A moving, honest and hopeful story. (Fiction. 14 & up)

BENEATH A METH MOON

Fifteen-year-old Laurel attempts to understand and move past a year of her life when addiction to methamphetamine nearly cost her family and her life.

Laurel and her family suffered devastating loss when her mother and grandmother were victims of a terrible storm (probably Katrina, from the timeline) in Pass Christian, Miss. Finally, they seem to be settling into a new life, in a new town, with new friends. Laurel joins the cheerleading squad and catches the eye of the school’s star athlete. Unfortunately, he is a methamphetamine, or “moon,” user. Before long, she joins him and begins a downward spiral that results in painful estrangement from all she loves. Life on the streets brings her into the path of Moses, who has known his own loss and uses his artistic ability to pay tribute to young people who are caught in the drug snare. Margaret A. Edwards Award winner Woodson crafts a story of powerful emotional intensity through her poignant portrayal of a young woman lost and in pain. The depiction of small-town life, with its Dollar Store, Wal-Mart and limited economic opportunities adds texture and authenticity. This is beautifully written, with clear prose that honors the story it tells: “Hard not to think about not deserving this kind of beauty, this kind of cold. This…this clarity.” Most of all, it is populated with fully realized characters who struggle to make sense of tragedy. Laurel’s friend Kaylee urges her to “[w]rite an elegy to the past…and move on.”

A moving, honest and hopeful story. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-25250-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

Heartbreakingly honest.

CATCH & RELEASE

Eighteen-year-old Polly recounts her road trip with Odd, a fellow survivor of the disease that killed five others from their small town, in D’Elegance, his Gramma’s old baby-blue Cadillac.

Fishing is ostensibly the purpose of their outing, and it symbolically charts the way the two teens process their disabilities. Polly once had a boyfriend and a sense of a normal future, and she now calls her former self "Polly-That-Was," since Bridger has vanished with the disfigurement of her face and loss of an eye from MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Odd Estes lost a foot as well as some football buddies, and although the two barely knew each other before, they both now struggle to accommodate their good fortune in surviving and their misfortune of disability. Swearing, booze and weed are along for the journey, which takes them from their hometown somewhere near Yellowstone toward Portland, Ore. Neither teen is particularly articulate, but Polly’s first-person narration is as snarky and devastatingly honest as she is. Odd and Polly move from isolation to a mutual connection that helps them deal with their pain. This is not a romance, but a tale of two people thrown together after their world has been turned upside down. Each is unique, vividly complicated and true. Engaging writing and characters lift this above the typical clichéd story of disabled teens.

Heartbreakingly honest. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-7755-9

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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