A nerdy boy and a queen-bee girl become stepbrother and -sister in this comedy/drama.
Hilarity ensues when 13-year-old Stewart learns that he and his dad are moving in with Caroline and her 14-year-old daughter, Ashley. Stewart copes well enough, thanks to his outstanding intelligence, precocious emotional maturity, math skills, and the calm outlook with which he assesses his successes and failures. He’s excited to have a sister. Ashley, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about school and wants nothing to do with her new almost-stepbrother—who, to her mortification, has been bumped up a year and is now in her class. She’s also terrified that people will learn her estranged dad is gay. Ashley scores big when she lands the handsome Jared as a boyfriend, but Stewart knows Jared is a bully because he’s trapped in physical education class with him. The psychodrama is narrated by the two kids in alternating chapters, leavened with constant, wry humor that should keep readers chuckling even as the story grapples with serious emotional issues. Stewart comes across as absolutely adorable. He knows he’s a complete geek with imperfect social skills. His disarming honesty about his intelligence and especially about his weaknesses holds the entire book together, allowing readers to take self-absorbed Ashley with a grain of salt as she goes through what her mother terms the “demon seed” stage.
This savvy, insightful take on the modern family makes for nearly nonstop laughs.
A not-so-bad villain fighting against a not-so-good hero teams up with a spunky shape-shifting heroine in a cleverly envisioned world.
Nimona, a plucky, punk-tressed girl, is determined to be the sidekick of the nefarious (in name only) Ballister Blackheart, the sworn enemy of the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics and their sporran-sporting champion, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. Blackheart, intrigued by Nimona's moxie and ability to shape-shift, takes her on, and the two decide they're going to take down the Institution. Nimona and Blackheart learn that the supposedly benevolent Institution has been hoarding a great quantity of a poisonous plant, jaderoot. As they delve deeper into its inner workings, they soon find that the lines that separate good and evil aren't simply black and white. Stevenson's world is fascinating: an anachronistic marvel that skillfully juxtaposes modern conventions against a medieval backdrop. Imbued with humor, her characters are wonderfully quirky and play with many of the archetypes found in comics. The relationships among her characters are complex and compelling: for an antihero, Blackheart dislikes killing and mayhem, while Goldenloin is not averse to cheating and trickery. Stevenson's portrayal of the relationship between good and evil is particularly ingenious, as is her attention to detail and adroit worldbuilding.
If you’re going to read one graphic novel this year, make it this one.
(Graphic fantasy. 13 & up)
An unwilling accomplice to petty theft organized by his dim friends, English teen Ben Fletcher is annoyed that he was the one busted when he collided with a crossing guard.
Probation requires him to keep a journal using a template, which he considers beneath him, as he’s been keeping a diary for years. But he soldiers on, hilariously recounting the details of the “Great Martini Heist” and its aftermath. He’s also required to take a community college class. The pathetic choices include car maintenance, taught by his father, a mechanic who’s always trying to get Ben (not a sports fan) to go with him to soccer matches. Ben opts for knitting because he has a crush on the teacher. When it turns out she’s actually teaching pottery, he’s stuck with knitting and stuck in a lie, unable to admit to his father and friends what he’s up to. It turns out that he’s a natural at knitting, able to appreciate the mathematical precision of the patterns and create his own. When Ben’s coerced into entering a knitting contest, the jig is up. Despite some unnecessary Americanization of the text, this wonderfully funny novel is infused with British slang, including dozens of terms easily understood in context.
Wacky characters, a farcical plot and a fledgling romance are all part of the fun in this novel that will appeal to fans of Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging
. (Fiction. 12-16)
Audrey, 14, is on a long, slow upswing from disabling anxiety disorders that resulted from the vicious abuse of bullies at school.
Under the guidance of thoughtful Dr. Sarah, Audrey begins to deal with her inability to make eye contact—or even to leave the house—by crafting videos of her quirky, near-farcical family, a nifty narrative device that especially shows off her “twitchy” mom. Audrey's brother Frank is determined to win an online gaming championship with his team, in spite of their mom's frenetic attempts to remake the family based on newspaper advice—which, sadly for Frank, includes giving up computers. Complicating this is the fact that Frank's team includes sensitive Linus, who delicately, tenderly navigates Audrey's vividly portrayed roadblocks. As their relationship blossoms, Audrey gains both strength and courage. The counterpoint of absurd humor against Audrey's uncertain progress toward healing, graphically depicted in her appealing and slightly ironic first-person voice, is compelling. Since the nature of the bullying is never fully revealed, it can readily represent the experiences of other victims. It's only as the narrative approaches its conclusion that the true source of the dysfunction in Audrey's family is revealed: all of them have become victims in myriad ways.
An outstanding tragicomedy that gently explores mental illness, the lasting effects of bullying, and the power of friends and loving family to help in the healing.
It’s not easy being normal when the Chosen One goes to your high school.
High school senior Mikey Mitchell knows that he’s not one of the “indie kids” in his small Washington town. While they “end up being the Chosen One when the vampires come calling or when the Alien Queen needs the Source of All Light or something,” Mikey simply wants to graduate, enjoy his friendships, and maybe, just maybe, kiss his longtime crush. All that’s easier said than done, however, thanks to his struggles with anxiety, his dreadful parents, and the latest group of indie kids discovering their “capital-D Destinies.” By beginning each chapter with an arch summary of the indie kids’ adventures before returning to Mikey’s wry first-person narration, Ness offers a hilarious—and perceptive—commentary on the chosen-one stories that are currently so popular in teen fiction. The diverse cast of characters is multidimensional and memorable, and the depiction of teen sexuality is refreshingly matter-of-fact. Magical pillars of light and zombie deer may occasionally drive the action here, but ultimately this novel celebrates the everyday heroism of teens doing the hard work of growing up.
Fresh, funny, and full of heart: not to be missed.
(Fantasy. 13 & up)
A gay teen comes out to friends, family and classmates after his secret correspondence with another boy is discovered.
Ever since he discovered a post about being gay on his school's unofficial Tumblr, Simon has been corresponding with its author, an anonymous gay classmate who calls himself Blue. Their conversations, which readers see interspersed with prose chapters written from Simon's point of view, are heartfelt, emotionally intimate and increasingly flirtatious—enabled, perhaps, by the fact that neither boy knows the other's identity. Simon is impulsive, full of heart and not always as careful as he should be. When he leaves himself logged into Gmail at the school library, a boy named Martin reads Simon's emails with Blue and uses the threat of outing Simon to insinuate himself into a relationship with one of Simon’s female friends. Simon's social landscape is carefully and seemingly effortlessly drawn. Through light and often humorous detail, readers see clearly not only each individual character, but also the complex set of group dynamics at play in Simon's loving family and circle of friends. While Simon is focused on Blue, other characters go on journeys of their own, and the author is careful not only to wrap up Simon's story, but to draw attention to the stories the romance plot might overshadow in lesser hands.
Funny, moving and emotionally wise.
A dark comedy follows the misadventures of a boy trying to get rid of the devil that has moved into his basement.
Yes, Max starts the book by doing something bad: He steals a silly toy for his sick mom. Then he indulges his paleontology obsession by digging a hole on the hill that looms over his town, only to open a huge, apparently bottomless crater. Sadly, it seems that Max’s decision to embrace the criminal life is enough to bring the powers of hell down upon his head—or rather, into his basement. Upon returning home from his excavation efforts, he finds an actual devil named Burg happily snacking on junk food and declaring himself a permanent resident in Max’s home. Seeing a possible advantage in his new supernatural housemate, Max makes a deal: the constantly wisecracking Burg will cure his mom’s critical heart disease if he can find Burg a free mansion with a hot tub. Lore, a girl who understands Max’s dilemma only too well, teams up with him to try to appease Burg before he starts killing people. Damico, who explored the lives of teenage grim reapers in her Croak trilogy, writes with wry wit and constant dark humor. She mixes in a bit of possible romance, as Max wonders if he has any chance with the vastly different Lore, also to great comic effect.
What would it feel like to wake up normal? It’s a question most people would never have cause to ask—and the one 14-year-old Adam Spencer Ross longs to have answered.
Life is already complicated enough for Adam, but when Robyn Plummer joins the Young Adult OCD Support Group in room 13B, Adam falls fast and hard. Having long assumed the role of protector to those he loves, Adam immediately knows that he must do everything he can to save her. The trouble is, Robyn isn’t the one who needs saving. Adam’s desperate need to protect everyone he loves—his broken mother, a younger half brother with OCD tendencies, and the entire motley crew of Room 13B—nearly costs him everything. Adam’s first-person account of his struggle to cope with the debilitating symptoms of OCD while navigating the complexities of everyday teen life is achingly authentic. Much like Adam, readers will have to remind themselves to breathe as he performs his ever worsening OCD rituals. Yet Toten does a masterful job bringing Adam to life without ever allowing him to become a one-dimensional poster boy for a teen suffering from mental illness.
Readers be warned: like Augustus Waters before him, Adam Spencer Ross will renew your faith in real-life superheroes and shatter your heart in equal measure.
(Fiction. 12 & up)