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)
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)
Torture and treasure, treason and trust, and the triumph of true love: All come to fruition in the stirring conclusion to this epic fantasy series.
Raisa ana'Marianna has claimed the Gray Wolf throne, but her grip is tenuous: Every faction—clans, wizards, army, flatlanders—both within and without the Fells hates all the others, and each pushes Raisa to accept its preferred candidate for consort. Meanwhile, Han Alister has taken his seat on the Wizard Council at the queen's command, but every other member secretly wants to use him or kill him. Furthermore, there are the mysterious murders of wizards, marked with Han's old streetlord sign; all this disarray signals a weakness that encourages invading armies from the South. Together, Han and Raisa seek the long-lost Armory of the Gifted Kings as the only way to avoid re-enacting a 1,000-year-old tragedy; but to wield such a weapon may well trigger an even greater catastrophe. Chima manages to resolve this impossibly tangled skein of politics, intrigue, history, prejudice and passion with style and grace. Grim scenes of shocking violence alternate with moments of tenderness and humor, and the high body count is balanced by the almost fairy-tale–romantic conclusion. While some of the depth and complexities of the supporting characters—along with the nuanced subtleties of their conflicting worldviews—are sacrificed to help demonize (or valorize) their respective positions, nothing can overshadow the cathartic satisfaction for those caught up in this sweeping saga.
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)
While staying true to the science fiction and romance at the core of Matched (2010) and Crossed (2011), the trilogy’s breathless finale blossoms into a medical thriller too, adding breadth and resonance.
Cassia, Ky and Xander are far apart. Ky unenthusiastically flies air ships for the Rising, an enigmatic organization poised to overturn the Society. The Rising sends Cassia to work from the inside, so she sorts data for the Society, awaits the Rising’s instruction and trades poetry underground. Xander’s a Society medical Official who uses his position to subtly immunize infants against the forced-forgetfulness tablets that the Society regularly gives adults. The three take turns narrating in first-person present, revealing tantalizing information gaps: What does one character wonder while another knows? What do readers not know yet? A plague breaks out, mutates and becomes a pandemic—which aspects were intentional, and on whose part? Poems (Tennyson, Dickinson, Thomas) and a painting (Sargent) figure heavily and beautifully on both symbolic and literal levels. Is the Rising trustworthy? Can a living human also be an archetype? Condie’s prose is immediate and unadorned, with sudden pings of lush lyricism. Her protagonists are no run-of-the-mill romance triangle, her forms of activism (art, medicine) rich. Each character is differently strong and differently wounded.
With reveals seeming to arrive on almost every page, prepare to stay up all night. (author’s note referencing poems and paintings) (Science fiction/romance. 13 & up)
War has been declared, and the young, royal, exiled FitzOsbornes are immediately in the thick of things as Cooper's Montmaray Journals trilogy comes to its conclusion.
Their island kingdom of Montmaray was captured by the Nazis several years earlier, and they have been living in London ever since. Teenagers at the start of the war, they are flung headlong into adulthood; Simon and King Toby are in the Royal Air Force, Princess Veronica does something secret in the Foreign Office, and Princess Sophie works in the Food Ministry, where she churns out information regarding rationing. It is her voice, as true and clear as ever in her long-running journal, that paints a detailed and nuanced portrait of life in the madness of war, with its deprivations, bombings and disruptions; devastating damage to life, property and spirit; constant fear, heartbreaking loss and brief moments of giddy laughter. The family is foremost in the narrative, but the wider cast of characters includes Churchill, the Kennedys and several other historical figures. Seamlessly weaving fiction with fact, Cooper makes it all personal. Modern readers, whether or not they know more than a few basic facts about that era, will be completely caught up in Sophie’s nightmare and will gain an understanding that only the best historical fiction can provide. (Readers are advised not to peek at the family tree, as it contains spoilers.)
A steampunk adventure in which an omniscient narrator delves into multiple heads and a quartet of friends take lurid risks to save their fifth counterpart.
Fin de siècle London meets New York when Finley, Griffin, Emily and Sam take passage on a dirigible after a local villain, Dalton, absconds with their friend Jasper. Cross (The Girl in the Steel Corset, 2011, etc.) deftly weaves storylines together, fostering each character’s romantic aspirations and nicely complicating them with low social station, part-machine composition or some other hindrance to bliss. The titular girl is Mei, and the collar she wears is one of many newfangled inventions readers can explore. Several others come through the vehicle of supporting cast member Nikola Tesla, whose gadgets come to life with Griffin’s paranormal powers. It is, of course, an uncanny invention that impels Dalton to kidnap and exploit Jasper in the first place, as well as the familiar desire for riches. The juxtaposition of polar-opposite settings—rough-and-tumble Five Points and the opulence of the Waldorf Astoria, for instance—makes for playful diversity among characters and intriguing sources of tension. Cross nails the old dialects of New York, England and Ireland, imbuing her world with texture and authenticity.
Surprising, vivid and cohesive—the work of a pro.
(Steampunk. 13 & up)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
Readers who get past the generic title and an off-puttingly generic cover will discover a fabulous fairy-tale mashup that deserves hordes of avid readers.
Sunday Woodcutter is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, living in the shadow of the memory of her eldest brother, Jack Junior, who disappeared on a cursed quest of his own. Sunday’s siblings each have their own fates and secrets. Her sisters range from twins Monday and Tuesday (Tuesday was danced to death) to Friday, who works magic with a needle; among her brothers is Trix, who is a changeling. It is Sunday, however, who becomes fast friends with a talking frog, and it is Sunday’s kiss that frees him—except she doesn’t know. Kontis has deeply and vividly woven just about every fairy-tale character readers might half-remember into the fabric of her story: the beanstalk, the warrior maiden, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and some darker ones, too. She does this so seamlessly, and with such energy and good humor, that readers might miss a few references, caught up instead in Sunday’s cheer and vivacity, or in Grumble-the-Frog/Rumbold-the-Prince’s intense romantic nature (and his longing for his long-dead mother, the queen).
Absolutely delectable; if it has more fripperies and furbelows than are strictly speaking necessary, it makes up for that in the wizardly grace of its storytelling. (Fantasy. 12-18)
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)
In an alternate ancient British Isles, an intrepid heroine may save the kingdom from its wicked ruler.
Marillier’s deep knowledge of folklore and the early-medieval period shine through, but never overwhelm, her latest. In Alban, the Good Folk (widely varied, magical creatures) have occasionally intermingled with humans, and as a result, some humans are “canny.” Canny Neryn can see the Good Folk, which may only be the beginning. But tyrannical King Keldec has turned Alban into a realm of fear and hatred where canny folk are killed or used as weapons. Neryn and her father have fled the king’s Enforcers for years, haunted by their village’s massacre. When a mysterious stranger saves Neryn from her father’s drunken gambling and an Enforcer raid, Neryn finds herself journeying toward Shadowfell, the secret rebel enclave she hopes exists. Neryn’s struggles—to exist day to day, to make peace with the tragedies of her past and the uncertainties of her present, and above all, to grasp and even use her own terrible power—ground this tale. The slightest thread of a blossoming relationship winds throughout, while magic imbues everything but feels real; the Good Folk are other, but not, in this carefully detailed world, fantastic.
Proper fantasy, balanced between epic and personal; this promises to be an engrossing series, with intimations of bigger things ahead.
(Historical fantasy. 13 & up)
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)
It’s been six months since readers first met 17-year-old Lena Haloway, desperately in love in a world that considers such feelings an infection to be permanently and irrevocably “cured.”
This much-anticipated sequel to Delirium (2011) picks up right where the first novel left off, with Lena and Alex’s only partially successful attempt to escape to “the Wilds.” Lena, alone, heartbroken and near death, must reach deep within herself to find the strength and the will to survive. “Step by step—and then, inch by inch,” she is reborn. The story of Lena’s new life as a rebel Invalid, determined to honor the memory of Alex by fighting for a world in which love is no longer considered a capital offense, is told through a series of flashbacks and present-day accounts that will leave readers breathless. The stakes only get higher when Lena realizes she has feelings for someone new. The novel’s success can be attributed to its near–pitch-perfect combination of action and suspense, coupled with the subtler but equally gripping evolution of Lena’s character.
From the grief-stricken shell of her former self to a nascent refugee and finally to a full-fledged resistance fighter, Lena’s strength and the complexity of her internal struggles will keep readers up at night.
(Dystopian romance. 14 & up)
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.
(Urban fantasy. 12 & up)
Her name—Frenenqer—means "restraint" in "some language or other," and she is the only child—creation, really—of a man for whom affection is unspeakable: Pfft.
Expatriates, Frenenqer and her parents have lived many places but called none of them home. The teen’s world now is comprised of three boxes: her family's apartment, her school and the car that takes her from one to the other within the dusty, isolated oasis. When, much to her father's displeasure, Frenenqer rescues a large cat she finds caged in the souk, she liberates a "Free person," a shape-shifting being "born without rules." His are the wings she "borrows" when he nightly takes her in his arms and flies her around the world and into the realms of the Free people. With Sangris, Frenenqer feels free for the first time in her life—but can freedom accommodate love? Rossetti’s lush language is highly metaphorical and often sensuous, befitting the unfurling of Frenenqer’s stunted soul: "And when I came back up the air was still fresh and calm-smelling,…and the palm trees rustled in faint applause." Her earthy, often funny exchanges with Sangris represent freedom for both Frenenqer and readers from her cold, controlling father, whose "words have a way of shaping the world around him."
Infused with an urgent hope, this glimmering love story exhilarates and refreshes.
(Magical realism. 12 & 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)
Giulia is bright, curious and a gifted artist, born to a noble father and his humble mistress in 15th-century Renaissance Italy. Now her fate rests with her father’s widow, who’s sending Giulia to a Padua convent.
Desperate to avoid a cloistered life, Giulia obtains a talisman that’s promised to deliver her heart’s desire: marriage to a good man and a home of her own. Convent life is hard. Highborn nuns enjoy freedom; others, like Giulia, labor at menial tasks. When her artistic talent’s discovered, she’s invited to join the close-knit group of artist nuns whose renowned work helps support the convent. Guided by Maestra Humilità, daughter of a famous artist, Giulia begins to learn this exacting craft with tasks like mixing egg tempera. Artists create their own colors, their recipes closely guarded secrets. Humilità’s precious passion blue is one; its beauty draws Giulia like a flame. So do visions of love and freedom beyond convent walls. But stealing away to meet handsome Ormanno, another talented artist, is risky. Fantasy elements and a historical setting rich with sensuous detail are satisfying, but it’s Giulia’s achingly real search for her heart’s desire that resonates most today, when millions of girls still have limited choices.
A rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion.
(Historical fantasy. 12 & up)
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)