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

THE BOOK OF BLOOD AND SHADOW

Here's something refreshing: a religious-historical thriller with a nifty Mobius strip of a plot—think Nancy Werlin channeling Dan Brown—serving up shivery suspense, sans fangs or fur.

Battered by family tragedy, high school senior Nora has been sleepwalking through life in her chilly New England town. Knowing her facility in Latin, Chris and his roommate, Max, talk her into helping translate letters relating to Edward Kelley, a prominent 16th-century alchemist. Sidelined into working on his daughter’s letters, Nora learns of the Lumen Dei (the alchemical MacGuffin), sought down the centuries by religious fanatics. Pairing up, Max and Nora form a bond with Chris and his girlfriend, Adriane, that’s severed when Chris is brutally murdered. Adriane, the only witness, is catatonic, and Max has vanished, leaving Nora on her own until Chris’s cousin Eli arrives to collect Chris’s effects and keep an eye on her. A cryptic message from Max sends Nora, joined by the semi-recovered Adriane and stalked by Eli, to the mean streets of Prague. The teen designation feels less content- than market-driven. While depictions of violence and sexuality are more muted than the title suggests, Nora’s sensibility, casual independence and vocabulary are entirely adult. A classy read that repays reader effort. (historical note) (Thriller. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86876-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

Setting and plot are the heart and soul of this ripping space thriller, and they’re unforgettable.

A MILLION SUNS

From the Across the Universe series , Vol. 2

Opening soon after the bleak ending of Across the Universe (2011), this captivating middle volume takes Godspeed’s 2,763 residents through commotion, twists and game-changers.

Sixteen-year-old Elder (he refuses the title Eldest, despite being the ship’s leader now) learned in the trilogy opener that Godspeed’s weakened engine offers no chance of planet-landing for many decades. But Elder’s been studying physics, and he’s newly skeptical. Confronting the Shippers who physically run Godspeed begins a string of surprising reveals and so does a set of clues left by a cryogenically frozen rebel. Among this population that’s been shipborn for generations, Earthborn Amy sticks out like a sore thumb (in race-coded ways that are troubling when examined closely). Amy wants off the 10 square miles of this metal-walled spaceship. The environment (levels; elevators; fields under a solar lamp; crammed stacks of city buildings) gives the plot (food hoarding, rape, riots, revolution) an acute tension. Amy and Elder alternate narrating in first person. Their voices aren’t distinct, their actions and characterizations frustrating in many ways, but it hardly matters: Revis’ shining brilliance is the fierce tension about survival (is Godspeed deteriorating? can people survive terrorism inside an enclosed spaceship?) and the desperate core question of whether any generation will ever reach a planet.

Setting and plot are the heart and soul of this ripping space thriller, and they’re unforgettable. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59514-398-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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

Rich with detail and emotion, a sophisticated read for teens and adults alike.

THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST

Set in rural Montana in the early 1990s, this lesbian coming-of-age story runs the gamut from heart-rending to triumphant, epic to mundane.

The story opens just after Cameron's first kiss with a girl and just before the life-changing news that Cameron's parents have died in a car accident. Cam is 12 when readers first meet her, but several years pass over the course of the book's nearly 500 pages. Carefully crafted symbols—a dollhouse into which Cam puts stolen trinkets and mementos, the lake where her mother once escaped disaster only to die there 30 years later—provide a backbone for the story's ever-shifting array of characters and episodes, each rendered in vibrant, almost memoirlike detail. The tense relationship between Cam's sexuality and her family and community's religious beliefs is handled with particular nuance, as are her romantic and sexual entanglements, from a summer fling with an out, proud and smug Seattlite to an all-encompassing love for a seemingly straight female friend. Even when events take a dark and gut-punchingly inevitable turn, the novel remains at its heart a story of survival and of carving out space even in a world that wants one's annihilation.

Rich with detail and emotion, a sophisticated read for teens and adults alike. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-202056-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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

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

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

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

A stirring and thought-provoking account of an unsung figure in 20th-century American history.

NO CRYSTAL STAIR

A DOCUMENTARY NOVEL OF THE LIFE AND WORK OF LEWIS MICHAUX, HARLEM BOOKSELLER

Lewis Michaux provided a venue for his fellow African-Americans to have access to their own history and philosophy at a time when the very idea was revolutionary.

Michaux’s family despaired of him, as he engaged in petty crime and was obviously headed in the wrong direction. He began to read, however, and discovered a connection to the writings of Marcus Garvey and others, and he determined that knowledge of black thinkers and writers was the way to freedom and dignity. With an inventory of five books, he started his National Memorial African Bookstore as “the home of proper propaganda” and built it into a Harlem landmark, where he encouraged his neighbors to read, discuss and learn, whether or not they could afford to buy. His clients included Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni. Nelson, Michaux’s great-niece, makes use of an exhaustive collection of interviews, articles, books, transcripts and FBI files, filling in the gaps with “informed speculation.” Brief entries arranged in mostly chronological order read seamlessly so that fact and fiction meld in a cohesive whole. Michaux’s voice blends with those of the people in his life, providing a full portrait of a remarkable man. Copious illustrations in the form of photographs, copies of appropriate ephemera and Christie’s powerfully emotional free-form line drawings add depth and focus.

A stirring and thought-provoking account of an unsung figure in 20th-century American history. (author’s notes, source notes, bibliography, index) (Fictional biography. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-6169-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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 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

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

AFTER THE SNOW

Debut author Crockett’s poetic first-person narrative depicts an adolescent’s coming-of-age amid wartime havoc and an unforgiving, possibly post-apocalyptic winter.

When Willo’s family vanishes from their wintry cabin, he sets out on his own to find them, leaving his home in the hills for the nearby town, which is undergoing a Nazi-like occupation. The war is a nebulous monster; though Crockett alludes to World War II, she never fully explicates the novel’s time frame, which may frustrate some readers. Willo’s inventive argot is part-urban vernacular and part-forester twang, and though it offers no clues as to setting or time, it conveys exceptional metaphors that evoke nature and the elements. People Willo has trusted betray him in the face of scarce food and the authorities’ hunt for a faceless resistance, but he perseveres, seizing opportunities to earn his bread and doggedly pursuing information about his father. On his journey, he meets a young girl who turns out to possess unexpected significance in the political landscape, figuring even in his own legacy, a thing he discovers in his difficult search. Willo endures cruel brutality, but Crockett renders in him an intense psychological transformation that is authentic to his character and his circumstances, culminating in discovery of his own voice and vision. A sentimental tale of hardships, resilience and first-time experiences that illustrates a universal truism: Hope springs eternal in the young. (Fiction. 12 & up)

 

Pub Date: March 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-64169-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

A thorough and absorbing recreation of the ill-fated voyage.

TITANIC

VOICES FROM THE DISASTER

In what’s sure to be a definitive work commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, Hopkinson offers a well-researched and fascinating account of the disaster.

On Monday, April 15th, 1912, the magnificent Titanic sank after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Of the 2,208 people on board, only 712 survived. It’s a well-known story, though maybe not to young readers, who, if anything, might have seen the movie. Hopkinson orchestrates a wealth of material here, using a third-person narrative voice to tell the story while incorporating eyewitness accounts of people on the “most luxurious ship the world had ever seen.” A huge number of archival photographs and reproductions of telegrams, maps, letters, illustrations, sidebars and even a dinner menu complement the text, yielding a volume as interesting for browsing as for through-reading. The voices include a stewardess, a science teacher, a 9-year-old boy, the ship’s designer, the captain and a mother on her way to a new life in America. Best of all is the author’s spirit: She encourages readers to think like historians and wonder what it would have been like on the Titanic and imagine each character’s story. Fifty pages of backmatter will inform and guide readers who want to know even more.

A thorough and absorbing recreation of the ill-fated voyage. (Nonfiction. 8-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-11674-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

From the grief-stricken shell of her former self to a nascent refugee and finally to a full-fledged resistance fighter,...

PANDEMONIUM

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)

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-197806-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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

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

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 impressive blend of biography and magical realism.

RADIANT DAYS

A 20th-century teen artist and 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud transcend time and place in this luminous paean to the transformative power of art.

In September 1977, 18-year-old Merle leaves rural Virginia to attend the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C.  Her drawings catch the eye of drawing instructor Clea, who initiates a romantic relationship with Merle. Overwhelmed by the sophisticated urban art scene, Merle drifts out of school. When Clea drops her, a homeless Merle desperately spray-paints her signature sun-eye graffiti across the city until she encounters a mercurial tramp who mystically connects her with the visionary Rimbaud, in the bloom of his artistic powers at age 16. Incredulous over their stunning time travel, Merle and Rimbaud recognize they are kindred spirits who live to create. Hand deftly alternates between Merle’s first-person, past-tense story and a third-person account of Rimbaud during the Franco-Prussian War of 1871-1872, laced with excerpts from his poems and letters. Suffused with powerful images of light, this intensely lyrical portrait of two androgynous young artists who magically traverse a century to briefly escape their equally disturbing worlds expands the themes of artistic isolation and passion Hand first introduced in Illyria (2010).   

An impressive blend of biography and magical realism. (author’s notes; select bibliography) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-01135-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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

While readers who long for concrete answers may be frustrated, those willing to go along with this captivating exploration...

ABOVE

In a world where "Sick's the same as Freak Above," only below is Safe.

Safe is both adjective and noun in Matthew’s world, both the feeling and the subterranean haven built by claw-handed Atticus. Matthew is the Teller of Safe, the person who keeps everyone's stories and retells them. Its denizens are those unwanted Above: the mentally ill, the marginal—and the Cursed. He loves the fragile, honey-haired Ariel, whom he found on patrol in the sewers around Safe and who turns into a honeybee when under stress. Bobet starts her surreal fable/adventure explosively, with a catastrophic raid by the terrifying shadows that kills leader Atticus and scatters Safe's residents. Matthew, Ariel and two others make their way alone to a sympathetic doctor Above to regroup and, they hope, retake Safe. Above, Matthew finds his received history continually under challenge. Having been the first child born in Safe, Matthew sees it as the only reality. Occasionally interspersing Matthew's tightly filtered, present-tense account with the Tales of Safe, the author rarely gives readers an opportunity to see what may be objectively "real," making for a slightly claustrophobic, normality-inverting experience.

While readers who long for concrete answers may be frustrated, those willing to go along with this captivating exploration of both individual and collective identity will find themselves pondering its implications long after the last page . (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-29670-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

This epic has everything readers can ask for: great characters and a truly spectacular plot filled with romance, suspense,...

FROI OF THE EXILES

From the Lumatere Chronicles series , Vol. 2

With this, the second of the Lumatere Chronicles, fans will be delighted to learn more about this fantasy world and their favorite characters from Finnikin of the Rock (2010).

Set three years after Lumatere was freed from the Charynite occupation, the story revolves around Queen Isaboe’s decision to send Froi to assassinate the infamous king of Charyn. Froi, petty thief and former slave from the land of Sarnak, has developed (beyond all expectations) into a skilled fighter, farmer and pupil of history and language. The quick-start plot grabs attention right off, and the steady buildup of tension—fueled by abductions, political machinations, regicide and political chaos—will keep people reading through this long book. Characters, always Marchetta’s strength, grow and develop as the story progresses, while the land of Charyn, portrayed with telling details, cleverly supports the tale’s suspense. An epilogue reveals that there’s much more to come. For fans, this is a must-read; newcomers to Lumatere’s story will dive in with enthusiasm.

This epic has everything readers can ask for: great characters and a truly spectacular plot filled with romance, suspense, friendship and betrayal. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4759-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

Brilliant: a vision of history before the victors wrote it.

THE WICKED AND THE JUST

Two girls of very different degree are brought together unwillingly by the English conquest of Wales.

Cecily is in a pet at having to leave the home of her youth—where her mother is buried—and relocate to the Welsh frontier, but her father is a younger son. He will take a burgage in Caernarvon, recently conquered by Edward I. In exchange for a home, he will help to keep the King's peace. Cecily hates Caernarvon. She hates its weather, its primitive appointments and its natives, especially Gwinny, the servant girl who doesn't obey, and the young man who stares at her. It would be easy to dismiss this book as a Karen Cushman knockoff; Cecily's voice certainly has a pertness that recalls Catherine, Called Birdy. But there's more of an edge, conveyed both in the appalling ease with which Cecily dismisses the Welsh as subhuman and in Gwinny's fierce parallel narrative. "I could kill the brat a hundred different ways." Never opting for the easy characterization, debut author Coats compellingly re-creates this occupation from both sides. It all leads to an ending so brutal and unexpected it will take readers' breath away even as it makes them think hard about the title.

Brilliant: a vision of history before the victors wrote it. (historical note) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-68837-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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

A page turner—with grace.

GRAVE MERCY

From the His Fair Assassin series , Vol. 1

Fiction and history coalesce in a rich, ripping tale of assassinations, political intrigue and religion in 15th-century Brittany.

When the pig farmer who paid three coins to wed Ismae sees the red scar across her back, he cracks her in the skull and hurls her into the root cellar until a priest can come “to burn you or drown you.” The scar shows that Ismae’s mother poisoned her in utero; Ismae’s survival of that poisoning proves her sire is Mortain, god of death. A hedge priest and herbwitch spirit Ismae to the convent of St. Mortain, where nuns teach her hundreds of ways to kill a man. “We are mere instruments of Mortain….His handmaidens, if you will. We do not decide who to kill or why or when. It is all determined by the god.” After Ismae’s first two assassinations, the abbess sends her to Brittany’s high court to ferret out treason against the duchess and to kill anyone Mortain marks, even if it’s someone Ismae trusts—or loves. Brittany fights to remain independent from France, war looms and suitors vie nefariously for the duchess’ hand. Ismae’s narrative voice is fluid and solid, her spying and killing skills impeccable. LaFevers’ ambitious tapestry includes poison and treason and murder, valor and honor and slow love, suspense and sexuality and mercy.

A page turner—with grace. (map, list of characters) (Historical thriller. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-62834-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

Part science fiction, part adventure, part mystery, but every bit engrossing; be sure to start the hold list for the sequel

THE OBSIDIAN BLADE

From the Klaatu Diskos series , Vol. 1

Vivid imagination and deft storytelling make for refreshing speculative fiction in this time-travel tale.

Tucker Feye is an ordinary teenage boy, leading an ordinary, near-idyllic small-town American life—but that's before he starts seeing the "disks." Once the mysterious shimmering phenomena appear, Tucker's preacher father vanishes, then returns with a strange teenage girl and without his faith; Tucker's mother loses her sanity, and eventually, both parents disappear. After moving in with his (previously unknown) Uncle Kosh, the really weird stuff starts happening. However, after a riveting opening scene, the narrative seems to slow to a crawl, but the thorough characterization and careful worldbuilding pay off spectacularly once Tucker discovers that the disks are gateways through time and space. Hautman doesn't make things easy for his readers: As Tucker bounces through historical crisis points past and future, short chapters and steadily ratcheting stakes present life-threatening situations and bizarre personages at a dizzying pace (most of them already-familiar characters with new names or under different guises). That this remains intriguing rather than confusing is a credit to the sure-handed plotting and crisp prose, equally adept with flashes of snarky wit and uncomfortable questions of faith, identity and destiny. Less satisfying are the climactic cliffhangers, which reveal that the entire story is but a setup for the rest of the series.

Part science fiction, part adventure, part mystery, but every bit engrossing; be sure to start the hold list for the sequel . (Science fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5403-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

Written with the authority of a fine writer with an inquiring mind, this dramatic story is history writing at its best.

MASTER OF DECEIT

J. EDGAR HOOVER AND AMERICA IN THE AGE OF LIES

In fascinating detail, Aronson tells the story of America during J. Edgar Hoover’s reign as head of the FBI and “the nearly fifty years of criminal activity that was his legacy.”

For today’s students, communism and anti-communism are “just terms that appear on tests, like the Whig, Greenback, or Know-Nothing parties,” but this volume brings alive the drama of the Cold War period and demonstrates its significance for readers now. Taking his title from Hoover’s 1958 work on the dangers of communism, Aronson writes about the dangers of a “security at all costs” mentality during the Cold War and, by extension, our post-9/11 world. He covers a large slice of history—the Palmer raids of 1919, the gangster era, the Scottsboro case, World War II, the Rosenbergs, Joseph McCarthy, the civil rights movement and Watergate—but this is no mere recitation of the facts; it’s a masterpiece of historical narrative, with the momentum of a thrilling novel and the historical detail of the best nonfiction. With references as far-flung as Karl Marx, Stalin, Wordsworth, American Idol, The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings, this is as much about how history is written as it is about Hoover and his times. Extensive backmatter includes fascinating comments on the research, thorough source notes that are actually interesting to read and a lengthy bibliography.

Written with the authority of a fine writer with an inquiring mind, this dramatic story is history writing at its best. (Nonfiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5025-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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

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

Inventive and hilarious, with laugh-out-loud moments on every page.

THE HERO'S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM

From the Hero's Guides series , Vol. 1

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)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-211743-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

Space battles! Political intrigue! Engineered warriors! Techno-wizardry! Assassins! Pirates! Rebels! Duels! Secrets, lies,...

A CONFUSION OF PRINCES

Exuberant and insightful, this science-fiction bildungsroman grapples with the essential question: "Who am I?"

After 16 years of intensive training and superhuman augmentation, Khemri is ready to take his place as Prince of the mighty intergalactic Empire. Alas, he immediately finds out that his status isn't quite as exalted as he had always thought. To start with, there are tens of millions of Princes, and most of them are out to kill him. Khem must negotiate a deadly maze of military training, priestly recruitment and even Imperial interest, never knowing whom he can trust. He can rely only on himself—and all the mechanical, biological and psionic enhancements that far-future science can provide, until the day even that is stripped from him….From the riveting opening sentence to the final elegiac ruminations, this is rip-roaring space opera in the classic mold. Add a perfect protagonist: Overprivileged, arrogant and not nearly as clever as he thinks, Khemri's first-person narration is also endearingly witty, rueful and infinitely likable. Perhaps his account relies a bit too much on "had I but known" foreshadowing, and the secondary characters are thinly sketched accessories to the hero's personal journey. But the rocket-powered pace and epic worldbuilding (with just the right amount of gee-whiz technobabble) provide an ideal vehicle for what is, at heart, a sweet paean to what it means to be human.

Space battles! Political intrigue! Engineered warriors! Techno-wizardry! Assassins! Pirates! Rebels! Duels! Secrets, lies, sex and True Love!  What more can anybody ask for?  (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-009694-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

Absolutely delectable; if it has more fripperies and furbelows than are strictly speaking necessary, it makes up for that in...

ENCHANTED

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)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-64570-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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

THE DROWNED CITIES

In the visceral and deeply affecting companion to the Printz Award–winning Ship Breaker, Bacigalupi returns to a dark, war-torn dystopian future in which severe climatic change and years of political upheaval have left the United States a bloodied and ravaged landscape.

Bands of child soldiers roam from village to village, raping, pillaging and brutally murdering, all in the name of endless civil war. Against the backdrop of this blood-soaked chaos, two unlikely allies, a crippled teenage “war maggot” and a half-man/half-beast genetically altered killing machine, risk their lives and their freedom to save a boy forced into servitude by rebel soldiers. Mahlia and Tool (whom readers may recognize from Ship Breaker) venture deeper and deeper into the Drowned Cities, each fueled by unwavering loyalty. As they do, readers are given glimpses of proof that love and humanity can shine through even the most unimaginable darkness. Arguably, the novel’s greatest success lies in the creation of a world that is so real, the grit and decay of war and ruin will lay thick on the minds of readers long after the final page. The narrative, however, is equally well-crafted. Told in the third person, the novel alternates between Mahalia's and Tool’s stories, allowing both characters the time and space to imprint themselves on readers’ hearts.

Breathtaking. (Dystopian. 14 & Up)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-05624-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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

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

Devastating and heartbreaking, this will be a disappointment for readers looking for a conventional happy ending. But those...

BITTERBLUE

From the Graceling Realm series , Vol. 3

Building on the plots and themes of the award-winning Graceling (2008) and its companion Fire (2009), this rich and poignant fantasy grapples with the messy aftermath of destroying an evil overlord.

Nine years after Bitterblue took the crown, the young queen and her realm are still struggling to come to terms with the monstrous legacy of her father, the insane, mind-controlling Leck. How can she "look forward," as her advisors urge, when she cannot trust her memories of the past? Sneaking out of her castle, Bitterblue discovers that her people have not healed as much as she has been told. While "truthseekers" are determined to restore what Leck destroyed, others are willing to kill to keep their secrets hidden. Gorgeous, textured prose is filled with images of strange beauty and restrained horror. It propels an intricate narrative dense with subplots and rich in characters familiar and new. Weaving them together are all the lies: conspiracies and ciphers, fakes and false testimony, spies and thieves, disguises and deceptions, mazes and puzzles. They are lies spun from greed, shame, strategy, fear, duty—even kindness. And it is Bitterblue who, trapped in this net of deceit, must draw upon all her courage, cleverness and ferocious compassion to reveal the truth—and to care for those it shatters.

Devastating and heartbreaking, this will be a disappointment for readers looking for a conventional happy ending. But those willing to take the risk will—like Bitterblue—achieve something even more precious: a hopeful beginning. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3473-9

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

This cracking good mixture of magic and place will leave readers eagerly awaiting the sequel

DUST GIRL

From the American Fairy Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A mixed-race girl in Dust Bowl Kansas discovers her long-lost father isn't just a black man: He's a fairy.

Callie has been passing as white her whole life, helping her Mama in run-down Slow Run, Kan. But now it doesn't seem to matter that she keeps her "good skin" out of the sun and softens her "coarse" hair, because it seems everyone's left the dust-choked town. Even Mama is gone now, vanished in a preternatural dust storm that summoned a strange man who tells Callie secrets of her never-met father. Soon Callie's walking the dusty roads with Jack, a ragged white kid. If Callie's dad is a fairy, then the two young'uns will just have to go to fairyland to find him. Callie and Jack dodge fairy politics and dangers, from grasshopper people to enchanted food to magic movie theaters—but the conventional dangers are no less threatening. Plenty of run-of-the-mill humans in 1935 Kansas don't like black girls or beggars, hobos or outsiders. With a historical note and a Woody Guthrie soundtrack, this novel does a fine job of blending a splendidly grounded Dust Bowl setting with a paranormal adventure. It's really too bad that the cover art depicts a white girl with flyaway hair, rather than Callie as written, a mixed girl who stops passing as white halfway through the story. Callie learns to be open about herself but her own cover art doesn't. 

This cracking good mixture of magic and place will leave readers eagerly awaiting the sequel . (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86938-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

While the happy ending comes as no surprise, the path to it is funny as well as satisfying, with many nods to Jane Austen...

KEEPING THE CASTLE

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)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-01438-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

A vivid, disturbing and all-too-real topical story.

A TROUBLESOME BOY

When 14-year-old Teddy is classified as troublesome, disrespectful and defiant of authority, his despised stepfather sends him off to St. Ignatius Academy for Boys, an isolated Roman Catholic boarding school.

St. Iggy's is run by priests who ruthlessly enforce discipline through intimidation and abuse. Narrator Teddy befriends the wisecracking, Wordsworth-loving Cooper. The boys use their wits and humor to cope, but the endless beatings and humiliations take their toll, especially on the fragile Cooper. He reaches his breaking point when he becomes the victim of Father Prince, a pedophile. Teddy watches helplessly as Cooper withdraws into his own private nightmare, and Prince targets Teddy himself as his next victim. The only positive adult relationship the boys have at school is with the janitor, who takes them to his farmhouse outside of town on Saturdays to enjoy a brief period of normalcy. The priests are either bullies or predators; even Brother Joe, who seems sympathetic to Teddy, betrays his trust. Although set in a well-realized 1959, Vasey's brisk, sharply written, riveting narrative transcends any time period.

A vivid, disturbing and all-too-real topical story. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-55498-154-0

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 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

Surprising, vivid and cohesive—the work of a pro.

THE GIRL IN THE CLOCKWORK COLLAR

From the Steampunk Chronicles series , Vol. 2

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)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-373-21053-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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

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

This commingling of comedy, brutality and fantasy evokes a rich alternate universe with a spitfire young woman as its...

THRONE OF GLASS

From the Throne of Glass series , Vol. 1

A teenage assassin, a rebel princess, menacing gargoyles, supernatural portals and a glass castle prove to be as thrilling as they sound.

Being the most feared assassin in Adarlan is a notoriety 17-year-old Celaena considers an honor, even though it has landed her in a slave-labor prison no one has ever survived. A year into her sentence, the Crown Prince offers to sponsor Celaena in a competition with 23 other criminals and murderers that, should she win, will result in her freedom. The only catch? She’ll become the king’s personal assassin for four years, the same dark-hearted king who sentenced her to imprisonment. Woven in the vein of a Tolkien fantasy, Celaena’s world is one where magic is outlawed and power is snatched through greed and genocide. The third-person narrative allows frequent insight into multiple characters (heroes and villains alike) but never fully shifts its focus from the confident yet conflicted Celaena. And though violent combat and whispers of the occult surround her, Celaena is still just a teenager trying to forge her way, giving the story timelessness. She might be in the throes of a bloodthirsty competition, but that doesn’t mean she’s not in turmoil over which tall, dark and handsomely titled man of the royal court should be her boyfriend—and which fancy gown she should wear to a costume party. 

This commingling of comedy, brutality and fantasy evokes a rich alternate universe with a spitfire young woman as its brightest star. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-695-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Thorough, deeply researched and stylistically clear, this is a necessary, exemplary book.

BEYOND COURAGE

THE UNTOLD STORY OF JEWISH RESISTANCE DURING THE HOLOCAUST

In a book that is the very model of excellence in nonfiction, Rappaport dispels the old canard that the Jews entered the houses of death as lambs led to the slaughter.

Although "[t]he scope and extent of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust cannot possibly be contained in one book," Rappaport offers an astonishing and inspiring survey. By shining a spotlight on individuals and their involvement in given situations—Kristallnacht, deportations, guerrilla resistance, among others—throughout Europe, she creates intimate personal snapshots of the years of the Nazi occupation. She tells of people who committed acts of destruction as well as those whose resistance was in the simple act of celebrating and maintaining their faith in impossible conditions. Well-known events—the escape from Sobibor, the battle for Warsaw—share space with less-familiar ones. Short biographies introduce readers to those involved, some of whom the author has interviewed. Archival images help readers envision the people and places that are mentioned: partisan forest hideaways, concentration camps, the ovens, barracks, groups of people on their way to death, diagrams of camps and more.

Thorough, deeply researched and stylistically clear, this is a necessary, exemplary book. (pronunciation guide, chronology, notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-2976-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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

An engrossing exploration of how a murder affects a community.

MISTER DEATH'S BLUE-EYED GIRLS

The high school year is almost over, there’s a party in the park, and Mister Death will soon be there, rifle in hand.

It’s June 1956, and the kids in the park are dancing to Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and the Platters. Mister Death is there too, a boy in a tree, rifle in hand. Two girls, Cheryl and Bobbi Jo, never make it to school the next day, their bloody bodies found in the park where they were shot. Hahn’s well-constructed story traces the effects of a crime on everyone involved, including Buddy Novak, accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Multiple perspectives offer readers a chance to view the crime from various angles. A third-person narration follows the machinations of Mister Death, while a first-person voice is perfect for developing narrator Nora Cunningham’s character, a 16-year-old girl full of questions and doubts and who ultimately doesn't believe the gossip mill that pins the blame on Buddy. Diary entries, letters and first-person accounts from secondary characters add depth and sophistication to the tale, letting readers figure out for themselves what really happened.

An engrossing exploration of how a murder affects a community. (Historical thriller. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-76062-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

Who knew the biography of a germ could be so fascinating? (acknowledgments, picture credits, index [not seen]) (Nonfiction....

INVINCIBLE MICROBE

TUBERCULOSIS AND THE NEVER-ENDING SEARCH FOR A CURE

Murphy and Blank chronicle the story of the tuberculosis microorganism, the greatest serial killer of all time.

Tuberculosis has been infecting people for millions of years and has killed over a trillion humans. This fascinating tale unfolds as a biography of a germ, an account of the treatment and search for cures, and a social history of the disease. As Murphy treated yellow fever in An American Plague (2003), this volume offers a lively text complemented by excellent, well-placed reproductions of photographs, drawings, flyers, woodcuts, posters and ads. The images include an Edvard Munch painting depicting the death of his 16-year-old sister of tuberculosis, a flyer for a Paul Laurence Dunbar poetry reading with a discussion of how minorities were denied proper medical care, a drawing showing death coming for Irish-born author Laurence Sterne and a photograph of Anne, Emily and Charlotte Brontë, all of whom died of tuberculosis. The broad focus of the slim volume allows it to be about many things: medical discovery, technology, art and how people from all walks of life have dealt with a deadly disease that pays no attention to social distinctions. The bibliography is thorough, and even the source notes are illuminating.

Who knew the biography of a germ could be so fascinating? (acknowledgments, picture credits, index [not seen]) (Nonfiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-618-53574-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

Laugh-out-loud funny, heart-wrenchingly sad and fist-pump-in-the-air triumphant, this sparkling gem proves that vampires,...

TEAM HUMAN

Both lovers and loathers of teen vampire romance will revel in this hilarious satirical take on the genre.

Mel might not exactly have her own life sorted out, but she’s always been there for her BFFs, Cathy and Anna. She indulges Cathy’s passion for history, ruins and old things in general; that is, until Francis Duvarney enrolls in their high school. Vampires may be both dead and deadly, but they are also a legally tolerated minority and even tourist attractions—and Francis, with his mesmerizing good looks and stuffy arrogance, is irresistible to an old-fashioned girl like Cathy. Meanwhile, Anna sees Francis as an unbearable reminder of the collapse of her parents' marriage. Mel knows her duty to both of them: prove that Francis is up to no good, whether the clues lead her into the city's terrifying vampire district, the school's rat-infested basement, or even the arms of a cute guy. While primarily an affectionate parody of the genre, filled with clever allusions and devastating snark, the story also sympathetically illuminates the allure of vampire romance, for characters and readers alike. In an unexpectedly poignant turn, it becomes a celebration of love in all its forms: crushes and spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, families born and created, and above all, friends tested and true.

Laugh-out-loud funny, heart-wrenchingly sad and fist-pump-in-the-air triumphant, this sparkling gem proves that vampires, zombies and even teenagers…at heart, we're all on Team Human. (Fantasy. 12 & up.)

Pub Date: July 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-208964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

Working with the darker threads of Barrie’s bittersweet classic, Anderson weaves an enchanting tale.

TIGER LILY

It’s no paradise—white-sand beaches and spectacular sunsets come with mud, mosquitoes and croc-infested swamps—but guided by fragile, insect-size faerie Tink, readers are drawn into this richly re-imagined Neverland anyway.

Tink is obsessed with Tiger Lily, whose tribe avoids pirates and Peter Pan’s lost boys, believed to carry the aging disease. (Neverlanders stop aging when some life-defining event occurs.) Adopted daughter of shaman Tik Tok, Tiger Lily is proud and competitive, kept at a wary distance by her peers except for gentle Pine Sap, whose unconditional love she appreciates but doesn’t return. Athletic Tiger Lily, nonathletic Pine Sap and Tik Tok, whose identity doesn’t match his gender, share a bond that’s shaken after Tiger Lily rescues an English shipwreck survivor, then falls in love with Peter, following him into an emotional wilderness as intoxicating and dangerous as Neverland itself. Equally strong passions rule psychotic Smee, alcoholic Hook and, especially, Peter, with his need to be best—from winning games to protecting the lost boys. He’s irresistible; even mermaids, with their long hair and sharp teeth, aren’t immune. Tink’s love and helplessness (faeries read thoughts but cannot speak) become a source of tension and metaphor in this post-colonial fable that covers a lot of ground: wilderness and civilization, gender and power, time and change.

Working with the darker threads of Barrie’s bittersweet classic, Anderson weaves an enchanting tale. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: July 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-200325-6

Page Count: 300

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

Dragon books are common enough, but this one is head and talons above the rest.

SERAPHINA

From the Seraphina series , Vol. 1

In Hartman’s splendid prose debut, humans and dragons—who can take human form but not human feeling—have lived in uneasy peace for 40 years.

The dragons could destroy the humans, but they are too fascinated by them. As musician Seraphina describes it, attempting to educate the princess, humans are like cockroaches to dragons, but interesting. As the anniversary of the treaty approaches, things fall apart: The crown prince has been murdered, anti-dragon sentiment is rising, and in the midst of it all, an awkward, gifted, observant girl unexpectedly becomes central to everything. Hartman has remixed her not-so-uncommon story and pseudo-Renaissance setting into something unexpected, in large part through Seraphina’s voice. By turns pedantic, lonely, scared, drily funny and fierce, Seraphina brings readers into her world and imparts details from the vast (a religion of saints, one of whom is heretical) to the minute (her music, in beautifully rendered detail). The wealth of detail never overwhelms, relayed as it is amid Seraphina’s personal journey; half-human and half-dragon, she is anathema to all and lives in fear. But her growing friendship with the princess and the princess’ betrothed, plus her unusual understanding of both humans and dragons, all lead to a poignant and powerful acceptance of herself.

Dragon books are common enough, but this one is head and talons above the rest. (cast of characters, glossary) (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86656-2

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

Infused with an urgent hope, this glimmering love story exhilarates and refreshes.

THE GIRL WITH BORROWED WINGS

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)

Pub Date: July 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3566-8

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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 solid addition to what is turning into a swell series.

THE GIRL IS TROUBLE

Teen detective Iris Anderson struggles to solve parallel mysteries while coming to terms with her Jewish identity in World War II–era New York City in this engrossing follow-up to The Girl is Murder (2011).

It’s only been a month since Iris helped her gumshoe dad solve the disappearance of one of her classmates. Now her father is reluctantly allowing her to assist him on cases, but when Iris finds some disturbing crime-scene photos of her deceased mother in his office, she almost regrets her decision. Iris had been told her mother committed suicide. The photos indicate foul play, though, and Iris is determined to find out the truth. Meanwhile, she has also been hired by the Jewish Student Federation at school to uncover who is leaving anti-Semitic notes in members’ lockers. The investigation stirs up Iris’s feelings of guilt over her own Jewish heritage, which she has essentially ignored. Emotionally distraught and personally involved in both cases, Iris is a prime target for bad-boy Benny’s romantic overtures. But are his intentions as sweet as they seem? Or is Iris flirting with danger? Haines delves deeper into Iris’ intriguing character in this compelling, self-contained sequel while doing a bang-up job of maintaining the ace period setting.

A solid addition to what is turning into a swell series. (Historical mystery. 12 & up)

Pub Date: July 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-610-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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

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

Among the most historically and culturally significant battles ever fought, Marathon gets righteous due—and so does its...

MARATHON

Retold in expressionistic blurs of action, this account of the battle of Marathon chronicles at once a glorious win for the underdogs and an awe-inspiring personal achievement.

Cruel Hippias, former king of Athens, is on his way back with a huge army of Persians to reclaim the throne and crush Athenian democracy. As the city’s squabbling and much smaller forces hustle to meet the invaders, Eucles, Athens’ best runner, is charged to race the 153 miles to Sparta in hopes of finding an ally. Battling heat, sun, bandits and pursuing enemy troops, Eucles makes the trek, then makes it in reverse with the dismaying news that the Spartans will not be coming in time. He joins the savage fight and then runs 26 more miles over rugged mountains to Athens—dying on arrival but not before both announcing the victory and warning of an impending surprise attack by sea. Using sepia washes to indicate present time and black and white for flashbacks, Infurnari fills patchwork panels with glimpses of rugged faces, slashing swords and jumbles of martial action with “KLAK” “CHK!” sound effects. Yakin draws from ancient historical and legendary sources but adds invented incidents to round out Eucles’ character and elevated dialogue to heighten the epic atmosphere: “The gods have laid a feast both bitter and sweet before me.”

Among the most historically and culturally significant battles ever fought, Marathon gets righteous due—and so does its greatest hero. (Graphic historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: June 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-680-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: First Second/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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

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

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

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

A well-written, compelling trip to a past not often portrayed in children's literature.

FIRE IN THE STREETS

The Black Panthers seem to have the answers for Maxie and her friends, so when a traitor to the group is suspected, she is determined to find who is leaking information to the Chicago police.

Maxie and her brother Raheem are deeply involved with the Black Panther Party. The shooting of a close friend and ongoing conflicts with the Chicago police make the radical group seem like the only protection they can count on. Problems at home—their mother’s unemployment, drinking and various boyfriends—make the Panther office a refuge for Maxie, and she presses to become a real member: armed, trained and patrolling the streets like her brother. She is deemed too young, so when Maxie hears there may be a traitor in the Panthers, she decides to discover who it is and prove she is ready to take a real place in the organization. The discovery changes everything and forces Maxie to face almost unbearable truths. In this companion to award-winning A Rock and the River (2009), Magoon explores the role the Black Panthers played in urban communities during the tumultuous times of the late ’60s. Maxie is a believable and feisty character. Her interactions with her brother and his efforts to be the parent their mother seems incapable of being both ring true, as does her relationship with Sam, still grieving the death of his brother. Historical moments such as the riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention strengthen the sense of time and place, but this is primarily an authentic story of a young person attempting to grasp where she will stand in the struggle.

A well-written, compelling trip to a past not often portrayed in children's literature. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2230-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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

A standout sequel and engrossing ghost story.

SUCH WICKED INTENT

From the Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series , Vol. 2

He failed to save his twin brother through alchemy, but young Victor Frankenstein eagerly delves back into the sinister sciences in this sequel to 2011’s This Dark Endeavor.

Three weeks after Konrad’s death, Victor plucks a mysterious box from the still-warm ashes of the books of the Dark Library. Demonstrating tremendous hubris, Victor aims to return Konrad to the living world and still win Elizabeth, Konrad’s grief-stricken love and the boys’ childhood friend. When Victor uncovers a way into the spirit world, he finds that Konrad is in neither heaven nor hell but in an alternate version of the house, where eons collide, a ravenous mist lurks outside, and groans arise from below. Elizabeth and Henry Clerval soon join Victor on his journeys to the other realm and on his mission to build a body for Konrad, based on ancient drawings and monstrous bones discovered in caves beneath the castle. As in the first book, the trio realizes the high cost of their quest too late. Victor is a fascinating if sometimes unlikable character, ambitious, brooding, reckless and obsessive in his pursuit of knowledge and power; Printz honor winner Oppel skillfully portrays him as both a troubled teen and the boy who would become Frankenstein. Addictions and lustful encounters add another layer of sophistication to the gothic melodrama.

A standout sequel and engrossing ghost story. (Horror. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0318-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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

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

More! More! (Science fiction. 12 & up)

BE MY ENEMY

From the Everness series , Vol. 2

In this exciting first sequel to outstanding series opener Planesrunner (2011), 14-year-old science whiz Everett Singh continues to outthink his enemies while navigating the multiverse searching for his dad, lost in a parallel universe.

Everett’s enemies multiply in this installment. There's still the marvelously imagined villain Charlotte Villiers, with her impeccable 1940s style and the confidence of genius, but now Everett’s “alter,” Everett M, his double from another parallel-universe Earth, has been made into a cyborg instructed to eliminate Everett. Add to those a new threat: sentient advanced technology gone bad. The quirky crewmates on their rogue airship, especially Sen, the wonderfully original Airish girl with her enjoyably distinctive dialect, keep the conversations lively as they dodge death at every turn. McDonald roots Everett's heroism in his intelligence. Everett knows mathematics, physics and Punjabi cooking. He wins because he outthinks his rivals, not because he’s faster or stronger, like his alter. Stuffed with science, this series has the potential to fascinate young readers as William Sleator’s books did, tackling concepts on the slippery edge of current understanding. Science causes danger, but it’s also the weapon that combats those terrors. Smart, clever and abundantly original, with suspense that grabs your eyeballs, this is real science fiction for all ages.

More! More! (Science fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61614-678-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Pyr/Prometheus Books

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Proper fantasy, balanced between epic and personal; this promises to be an engrossing series, with intimations of bigger...

SHADOWFELL

From the Shadowfell series , Vol. 1

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)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86954-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

From the gripping first line, a fast-paced, thought-provoking and stirring story of sacrifice.

VESSEL

When a summoning goes awry, Liyana must try to save her people and learn how to live for herself, in this sweeping adventure.

Chosen as a “vessel” to host the Goat Clan’s goddess, Bayla, and abandoned when Bayla doesn’t come, Liyana finds herself alone in the desert. Korbyn, god of the Raven Clan, rescues Liyana and provides her with a purpose: find the four other vessels who are also missing deities. Soon, Liyana and Korbyn pick up stalwart Fennik (horse god Sendar), princess-y Pia (silk goddess Oyri) and angry Raan (scorpion goddess Maara). Besides the desert’s many dangers, the ragtag group faces the massed army of the Crescent Empire, led by a young Emperor and his malicious magician, Mulaf. The tribes need their gods to save them from illness, starvation and drought, but the gods need to possess vessels to work magic—an arrangement whose logic several characters begin to question. Liyana is self-sacrificing but not a saint; stubborn, loyal and curious, she finds new reasons to live even as she faces death. Durst offers a meditation on leadership and power and a vivid story set outside the typical Western European fantasy milieu.

From the gripping first line, a fast-paced, thought-provoking and stirring story of sacrifice. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2376-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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

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

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

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...