Sixteen-year-old Quinn Roberts is officially hiding from the world.
Six months after the death of his beloved sister, Annabeth, Quinn’s house remains preserved as a shrine to the father who walked out on his family voluntarily and the daughter whose exit was anything but. “Without the vision and silent encouragement of [his] sister,” Quinn is ready to renounce his dreams of writing screenplays, yet he cannot help but view the world cinematically. The juxtaposition of Quinn’s scripted version of events with what actually occurs enables readers to experience the flawed goofiness of the real world while enjoying Quinn’s ideal of how it should be. In his first novel for teens, Federle (Better Nate Than Ever, 2013, etc.) crafts a poignant and thoroughly convincing portrait of a teenager who is acerbic and self-deprecating, astute enough to write piercing observations about his own life yet too self-involved to discern obvious truths about those closest to him. Quinn’s supporting cast of characters, both minor and major, are wonderfully flawed and nuanced, from Amir, the college boy upon whom Quinn has a crush, to Mrs. Roberts, who cannot bear to throw away her deceased daughter’s favorite junk food. Quinn’s epiphanies about his sister and himself are distinctively less cinematic than he would like them to be. The journey he takes to arrive at them, however, is hauntingly authentic and consummately page-turning.
A Holden Caulfield for a new generation.
(Fiction. 15 & up)
A bright, prickly teenager struggles to find her place while spending a summer exploring the contradictions of Hollywood, replete with beautiful actors, has-been pop stars, and the specter of the Manson girls.
Umminger's debut novel follows 15-year-old Anna, a smart, cynical white girl who escapes a complicated home situation by "borrowing" her stepmother's credit card to run away to Los Angeles. There, she reunites with her actress sister for the summer and is recruited by her sister's dubious director (and ex-boyfriend) to research the Manson girls for his film project. The more time Anna spends tagging along on TV and film sets, the more she begins to notice the surprising ways in which the subtle yet pervasive emotional violence in her own life and the lives of those around her mirror the personal histories of the Manson girls, who were, after all, once "regular" girls. Setting her tale against the glittery, gritty backdrop of modern-day Los Angeles, the author deftly weaves together multiple story strands to create a razor-sharp commentary on our culture, observed with keen wit from the perspective of one honest and complex American girl.
An insightful, original take on the coming-of-age story, this novel plumbs the depths of American culture to arrive at a poignant emotional truth.
(Fiction. 14 & up)
In a desperate effort to save his stricken father, naïve young Wulliam sets off down a river strewn with deadly hazards…to tackle the sea monster at its mouth.
The quest quickly becomes an intense bildungsroman as darkly comical as it is terrifying and violent. Hopelessly unready to take over on his upcoming 16th birthday the family job of keeping a stretch of the icy Danék free of floating corpses and navigational hazards, brown-skinned Wulliam resolutely shoves off in a small boat with his beloved father—rendered a fretful zombie by a bohdan, a watery parasite that eats its victims slowly from the inside out. As Wulliam travels, his hope of killing the massive mormorach, a mythic, ship-crushing creature from myth that may cure his father, grows increasingly forlorn. He is also joined willy-nilly by three quarrelsome, mysterious fellow travelers. All three are show stealers, but chief among them is the Falstaffian Tillinghast, an outsized, blue-skinned homunculus with an irrepressibly libidinous line of banter and a murderous hit man hot on his trail. Stewart shows a dab hand at crafting memorable characters and thoroughly frightening opponents for them to face. Leaving several supporting storylines up in the air, he navigates the quixotic main mission to a solid resolution that leaves Wulliam truly prepared at last to take up his riverine duties.
A rich debut: Huck Finn meets Moby-Dick.
Mystery, magic, religion, and feminism swirl together in Hardinge’s latest heady concoction, set amid the scientific ferment following the publication of The Origin of Species.
When the Rev. Sunderly, famed natural scientist, abruptly moves his family from England to a small island, his 14-year-old daughter is surprised and then heartbroken as she realizes they are fleeing scandal; her remote but beloved father faked the fossil discovery that assured his fame. When he dies shortly after their arrival, Faith—whose plain, obedient exterior has always hidden a brilliant mind and daring spirit—is the only one who suspects murder. She turns to a secret plant her father has nurtured, which feeds off lies propagated in the world and delivers to the liar a truth-bearing hallucinogenic fruit. The tree exerts a malevolent force, but it also unleashes the true Faith as she navigates complex social and political machinations, with only the reluctant aid of the son of the local clergyman. In lesser hands, this might be crowded; instead, Hardinge creates a fierce, unlikable heroine navigating a rapidly changing world and does it all with consummate skill and pitch-perfect prose, drawing readers into Faith’s world and onto her side and ultimately saying quite a lot about the world.
After a snowmobile accident leaves her boyfriend in a coma, a girl must confront her memories before she can make a life-altering decision.
High school sweethearts Taylor and Scott grow distant after he moves away to attend college. Everything seems fine, though, until Taylor discovers she’s pregnant. Distraught, she considers suicide, but when she confides in Scott, he reprimands her for her selfishness. Disturbed by his response, she decides to break up with him, but he whisks her away to their favorite little snowy island in northern Minnesota and surprises her with a proposal that she can’t bring herself to turn down. Tragically, on the way back, their snowmobile crashes, leaving Scott with a fractured skull, lost in a coma. Now Taylor waits at his bedside, still undecided about the baby and with a secret engagement ring in her pocket. She can’t help but wonder if this is all her fault—did she swerve? Did she have a death wish? She can’t remember, but the process to finding out what really happened, and who Scott really was, grows increasingly complicated each day he doesn’t wake up. Ever confident in her choices and blessed with a trenchant narrative voice, Taylor makes for an engaging, strikingly unsentimental portrait of a teen girl facing tragedy head-on. Her path is fraught with all the messy, painful truths no one should face so young, and it’s both heartbreaking and beautiful in its resolution.
An intricately crafted story of teen pregnancy helmed by a bold, achingly real protagonist determined to decide her own fate.
Recently suspended twice for school fights, 17-year-old Abraham grapples with a propensity for violence.
The Latino teen’s grandmother can’t seem to bear his fighting anymore and decides that “Abram needs to learn how to be a man.” She enlists the help of Claudio, Abraham’s boorish, hostile uncle. With Uncle Claudio’s impending return, Abram fears the worst. Although his mother’s absence and his father’s death—a topic not broached in his family—also gnaw at him, he finds solace in his relationship with almost-girlfriend Ophelia, who urges him to root out the source of his aggression. “If you keep fighting….Nothing good can come from this, Abraham.” In his debut for teens, Jiménez (The Possibilities of Mud, 2014) explores shades of manhood and all it entails with a deft, poetic hand. Utilizing a second-person narration, the author revels in offering intense sensory details, portraying a firm sense of Abram’s inner turmoil. Uncle Claudio’s arrival marks the beginning of an ill-fated path for his nephew. After taking him to the gym to hone his strength, Uncle Claudio wants to prepare Abram for a career in boxing. Falling deeper for Ophelia, Abram considers his uncle’s offer as he muses on the “prospect of bills and a job and a family to lead.” When Uncle Claudio signs him up for dubious fighting matches, it all comes crashing down on Abram. Revelations come in disorienting wallops.
A moving, almost-suffocating, haunting exploration of what defines manhood.
(Fiction. 14 & up)
Eighteen-year-old Cliff Sparks promises “one sweet-ass mother lode of a gripping tale” of his times at his New Jersey high school.
“I’m going to spin a tale,” Cliff tells readers. Though his is a character-driven tale, he doesn’t feel up to hooking readers with his charisma and charm. Yet without a plot to pull the story along, he is all readers have, and he proves to be a character readers will want to spend time with—a funny, smart, nice boy telling his story with spirit and panache, sometimes lying, sometimes even bursting out of his story to “raise your disbelief from the dead.” He is an ordinary teenage boy, though on the bookish and artistic side, with a single-minded infatuation with Jillian and her breasts, and “coming of age” in his take on the classic theme means losing his virginity—preferably with her, but he’s flexible about that. Not much really happens—there are few Cliff-hangers, so to speak—but readers will relish clever wordplay, fantasies, and a major secret. In a genre full of barely likable teenage protagonists, Cliff is a charmer, and readers will be cheering him on to finally come of age.
Cliff is a character driven to fulfill his quest, and readers will be with him every step of the way.
A teen faces down hostility, making her own decisions about loyalty, respect, and gender.
Sixteen-year-old Pen (not Penelope) has always been butch, including her habit of wearing her brother’s clothes even though her mother says it makes her look like a “punk druggy.” Old friend Colby, who accepted her gender presentation when they were 9, now insists that everyone around him prove loyalty through service: one guy procures weed, another does Colby’s homework, and Pen’s his wingman with girls. Pen’s awkward, volatile, and abrupt—and confused about loyalty—but Colby’s a real jerk. Then a girl named Blake with “crazy blond hair…and a lot of black makeup” falls for Pen, and they have a hot romance. To Colby’s menacing fury, Pen also befriends his most recent castoff, Olivia, even accompanying Olivia to her abortion. Pen’s parents say the ongoing gender persecution she endures is her own fault, castigating her in (italicized) Portuguese and broken English, making home life unbearable—until Pen decides for herself what respeito (respect) really means. The good things in her life, she realizes, are Blake, Olivia, video games, the supportive older brother who helps her leave home—and her gender identity, which (though unlabeled) is squarely in the nonbinary range. Pen’s family is Portuguese and, like most other characters, presumably white; Olivia’s “Asian” with no further designation.
A strong genderqueer lesbian character, imperfect, independent, and deserving of every cheer.
(Fiction. 14 & up)
An evangelical lesbian in a small Southern town stumbles on the road to true love—but not for the expected reasons.
Rome, Georgia, may be “where queer girls go to die,” but out-and-proud Joanna Gordon is spending her senior year there to make her radio preacher father (and his new wife) happy. Although she won’t go into the closet, Jo promises to “lie low” in exchange for her own on-air ministry. But how can she keep her word when her classmate Mary Carlson makes Jo’s heart ache...and the feeling just might be mutual? Funny, thoughtful, compassionate Jo is a delightful narrator; as she struggles to live her faith, she never considers her sexuality to be sinful. Despite their disagreements, Jo’s father and stepmother are loving and supportive; even her wild-child best friend can suffer the consequences of bad choices without being vilified. The frank portrayals of swearing, sexual activity, underage drinking, etc., neither titillate nor condemn; they just depict teens being authentic teens. While Jo and Mary Carlson are white, the rest of their friends display considerable diversity—in not just race and sexual orientation, but also religion, social class, developmental ability, family structure, and personal attitudes—portrayed with nuance through each character’s words and actions.
A sweet, sexy, honest teen romance that just happens to involve two girls—all the more charming for being so very ordinary.