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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
A kick-ass pirate heroine gets into and out of (mostly into) trouble in this invigorating fantasy.
Within the first five pages of this debut, Ananna of the Tanarau ditches her wedding, meant to ally her pirate clan to the Hariri. She may escape this unwanted bond, but she finds herself in another, far more powerful one when she saves the life of Naji, the assassin hired by the Hariri to bring her back or kill her. Now magically connected to the scarred blood magician, she attracts the collateral attention of malignant Otherworldly powers. If she wants any chance at a future that includes her own ship—hell, any future at all—she must quest with Naji for a cure to the curse that binds them together. Clarke’s debut harkens back to the best in fantasy/adventure, offering rock-solid worldbuilding, satisfyingly perilous obstacles and a protagonist whose charismatic ’tude goes way beyond spunk. Ananna’s voice grabs readers from the beginning (“I ain’t never been one to trust beautiful people, and Tarrin of the Hariri was the most beautiful man I ever saw”) and doesn’t let go. Her wry, agreeably foulmouthed (“Sure, sirens are a pain in the ass”) narration is equally smart and funny, incorporating both trenchant observations and frankly beautiful phrasing that never misses a step (“I hadn’t even recognized the hope for what it was until it got dragged away from me”).
A ripsnorting series opener; may the sequels arrive soon. (Fantasy. 13 & up)
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)
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.
Instead of finding Happily Ever After with their princesses, four Princes Charming (Prince Duncan insists they pluralize the noun, not adjective) must team up on a farcical quest to save their kingdoms.
The bards have the story details wrong, and each Prince Charming that rescues a princess actually has a name. Bold, party-crashing Cinderella wants adventure more than sheltered Prince Frederic does. Prince Gustav's pride is still badly damaged from having needed Rapunzel's teary-eyed rescue. Through Sleeping Beauty, Prince Liam learns kissing someone out of enchanted sleep doesn't guarantee compatibility, much to the citizens of both kingdoms' ire. Although she loves wacky Prince Duncan, Snow White needs some solitude. The princes-in-turmoil unite to face ridiculous, dangerous obstacles and another figure underserved by bards' storytelling: Zaubera, the witch from Rapunzel's story. Angered at remaining nameless, she plots to become infamous enough, through ever-escalating evil, that bards will be forced to name her in their stories. The fairy-tale world is tongue-in-cheek but fleshed out, creating its own humor rather than relying on pop-culture references. In this debut, Healy juggles with pitch-perfect accuracy, rendering the princes as goobers with good hearts and individual strengths, keeping them distinct and believable.
Inventive and hilarious, with laugh-out-loud moments on every page.
(Fantasy. 8 & up)
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)
When a weird midnight rite in a museum brings a hunky Incan mummy back to life, teenage Staci has a decision to make.
Tall, dark, chiseled and gifted with magical powers to boot, the stranger who introduces himself as Pachacutec, or "Chuck," puts Staci on the horns of a dilemma: Though they have instantly and thoroughly clicked, even he admits that his reanimation is dangerous and unnatural. Furthermore, Staci has a set of erstwhile friends who have been dabbling in magic, and they are so eager to drain the Incan prince of power that they've put a vicious hex on Staci to pressure her into betraying him. Even minor figures are distinguishable characters in Nourigat's monotone ink-and-wash art, and both their emotional tides and the increasingly suspenseful dramatic action are ably conveyed in the small but clear panels. The climactic face-off takes place in the can't-miss setting of an after-hours fair and leaves the would-be witches thoroughly chastened and Chuck still around for romance—plus, there's a closing "interview" in which he reveals that he's actually based on a historical figure.
True to this series' winning formula, an enjoyable mix of terror, comedy and romance.
(Graphic paranormal romance. 12-14)
A romp of a Regency romance told through the discerning voice of a witty teenage beauty whose family needs her to marry for money.
Lovely Althea Crawley, 17, lives with her kind but clueless twice-widowed mother in Crooked Castle, a drafty white elephant perched precariously on the Yorkshire coast. Althea’s 4-year-old brother, who’s heir to the castle, and her self-centered older stepsisters, Prudence and Charity, round out the household. With few funds to make ends meet, Althea, unlike so many fictional heroines who go off on unlikely adventures, accepts that she must marry for money. Prospects look up with the arrival in the neighborhood of handsome, young Lord Boring. When Althea launches her campaign, described in military terms, to secure his affections, not all goes as planned. As she pursues him, her occasional outspokenness raises a few eyebrows but also attracts admiration from an unsuspected quarter. Kindl respects the conventions of the genre while also gently mocking it. Althea observes, for example, that their ancient butler, Greengages, correctly pronounces the name of neighbor Doctor Haxhamptonshire as “Doctor Hamster.” Readers will enjoy Althea’s entertaining forays into the marriage market, secure in the belief that all will end well.
While the happy ending comes as no surprise, the path to it is funny as well as satisfying, with many nods to Jane Austen along the way. (Fiction. 13 & up)
(Fiction13 & up)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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.