Two friends alternate narration and struggle with grief and trauma after a violent murder.
Freerunners who fearlessly climb and jump through the city as an urban obstacle course, Holly, Savitri and Corey are nearly inseparable—Holly and Corey twins, Savitri and Corey dating, Holly and Savitri best friends. But then a gunman murders Corey and gravely wounds Holly. Comatose Holly dreams that a snake man, Kortha, claims Corey for the Shadowlands. Phillips’ masterful dream illustrations, marked by fluid, bold lines and strong angles that create impeccable clarity and movement, provide intermittent graphic-novel segments. The strategically deployed illustrated sections pack major narrative and emotional punches. Upon waking from her coma, Holly can’t let go of her dreams. She latches onto her favorite comic-book character, a vengeance-bound superhero named Leopardess. Meanwhile, Savitri struggles to support the ever more distant and erratic Holly at the cost of dealing with her own needs. The two desperately try to make meaning of Corey’s death and find his killer. The girls are sympathetic in different ways, and their development as characters is natural, logical and seamless. Avasthi deftly weaves story elements and narrative techniques—two narrators, the graphic portions and even a flawlessly executed second-person passage—to create a rich portrait of friendship and the depths of reality-shattering grief.
Haunting, mesmerizing and intense.
(Graphic fiction hybrid. 13 & up)
Shakespeare’s tragic lovers receive star treatment in this spellbinding graphic-novel production.
Hinds as director, set designer and writer has expertly abridged the original text while embellishing it with modern sensibilities. His edition retains the flavor and poetry of the 1597 play and its memorable and oft-quoted dialogue. It is in the watercolor and digitally illustrated panels that he truly presents a stunning visual reading. Juliet and the Capulets are from India. Romeo and the Montagues are from Africa. Thus, the political rivalries of Verona become contemporary and more meaningful to 21st-century readers. The Capulets are dressed in reds and the Montagues in blue—all against the finely rendered lines of Verona’s buildings and Friar Laurence’s monastery. Beautiful shades of blue infuse the night sky as the two lovers swear their eternal devotion. The panels vary in size to control the pace of the plot. Sword fights pulse with energy and occasional karate thrusts for added drama. The most moving image—a double-page spread without words—is depicted from above in shades of gold and brown stained red with blood as Romeo and Juliet lie dead and immortalized in each other’s arms.
As thrilling and riveting as any staging.
(Graphic drama. 12 & up)
“Everybody’s so full of shit,” declares the epigraph of this heart-pounding and heartbreaking novel, setting the tone of the narrative: cynical, disappointed and slyly funny.
Gerald “the Crapper” Faust has not yet outlived the notoriety he achieved at age 5 by defecating on the kitchen table during their stint on Network Nanny, a “reality” television show that edited out most of the truth about his dysfunctional family life. Gerald has struggled to manage his anger in the 12 years since with the help of a few compassionate adults at school and work, but at its root, his rage remains unmitigated. In suspenseful flashbacks, Gerald details the damage wrought by his oldest sister, Tasha, a spoiled sociopathic despot. When he meets Hannah, a troubled beauty who sees him as he is instead of as he was, he cannot resist the possibility of genuine connection, despite the dangers. King deftly depicts the angst of first love in all its awkward, confusing glory. Even when she trots out the archetypical road-trip-as-journey-to-self-discovery, King writes with an honesty that allows Hannah and Gerald to call each other on their bullshit and ultimately arrive at an intimacy that feels neither forced nor false.
This is no fairy-tale romance, but a compulsively readable portrait of two imperfect teens learning to trust each other and themselves.
(Fiction. 14 & up)
A beautifully written story of friendship and the strength required to rise above limiting circumstances.
Darius is a writer. Twig is a runner. Best friends since they were 9, the two 16-year-olds struggle with growing up in Harlem and, even more so, with making a better future for themselves. Through Darius’ poignant first-person narration, readers will sympathize with his feelings of hopelessness and being trapped in a life he doesn’t want, though Twig’s success on the track gives him faith that he might one day succeed as a writer. Darius also finds solace imagining himself as a falcon named Fury, soaring far above all of the problems that plague him. But the challenges Darius faces are constant and threaten to pull him back to earth—from bullies to his depressed mother and absent father to his own feelings of being overwhelmed, especially as the consequences of his past choices threaten his future. Darius and Twig’s conversations are both lyrically poetic and endearingly heartfelt as they fight to forge a brighter future than the limited options they see before them. Set in opposition to the bullies who make their lives difficult, Darius and Twig exemplify true friendship—two people who have been fortunate enough to find each other, who encourage one another and push each other to do their best—and the life-altering difference having a true friend can make.
Myers at his impassioned best
. (Fiction. 13 & up)
Awkward, prickly teens find deep first love in 1980s Omaha.
Eleanor and Park don’t meet cute; they meet vexed on the school bus, trapped into sitting together by a dearth of seats and their low social status. Park, the only half-Korean fan of punk and New Wave at their high school, is by no means popular, but he benefits from his family’s deep roots in their lower-middle-class neighborhood. Meanwhile, Eleanor’s wildly curly red mane and plus-sized frame would make her stand out even if she weren’t a new student, having just returned to her family after a year of couch-surfing following being thrown out by her odious drunkard of a stepfather, Richie. Although both teens want only to fade into the background, both stand out physically and sartorially, arming themselves with band T-shirts (Park) and menswear from thrift stores (Eleanor). Despite Eleanor’s resolve not to grow attached to anything, and despite their shared hatred for clichés, they fall, by degrees, in love. Through Eleanor and Park’s alternating voices, readers glimpse the swoon-inducing, often hilarious aspects of first love, as well as the contrast between Eleanor’s survival of grim, abuse-plagued poverty and Park’s own imperfect but loving family life.
Funny, hopeful, foulmouthed, sexy and tear-jerking, this winning romance will captivate teen and adult readers alike.
(Fiction. 14 & up)
When you’re surrounded by death, anything can look like a good opportunity.
Death is all around 17-year-old Richie Casey. Diagnosed with cancer, he’s spending his final days in hospice care in upstate New York. He’s weak. He can’t eat. He’s also a wiseass with a biting sense of humor, and he’s persuasive enough to convince even the toughest nurse to let him do what he wants. Seamon’s debut for teens follows Richie over 10 days leading up to his 18th birthday. His ne’er-do-well uncle breaks him out for a wild, cathartic, drunken, lust-filled night on the town in a wheelchair to celebrate Cabbage Night (the night before Halloween). He pursues his girlfriend down the hall, Sylvie, who is also dying from cancer. Each character is vividly drawn, with a sharp, memorable voice that readers will love and remember. While there is plenty of death to go around, the novel’s tone shifts from dark to light when opportunity presents itself to narrator Richie. Both the characters and readers empathize with his urge to break out and experience life despite his constraints and the consequences that might befall him. His ups and downs are what power the plot, and readers come to learn that Ritchie isn’t full of joie de vivre. Instead, he’s full of fight, and that’s what makes him so admirable and memorable. A fresh, inspiring story about death and determination. (Fiction. 14 & up)
A fresh, inspiring story about death and determination(Fiction. 14 & up)
The Time Traveler’s Wife meets Lost in this chilling exploration of love and memory.
A dystopian start to the novel finds journalist Eric on remote Blessed Island in the extreme north in the year 2073. Tasked with gathering information on a rare orchid that is rumored to stop the aging process, he feels instant attraction to native islander Merle. As Eric drinks a strange tea brewed from the orchid, he begins to forget his life on the mainland yet remembers feelings for Merle. But how and when did he know her? Seven linked stories progress backward across centuries, following Eric and Merle’s relationship as it takes on many forms, such as father/daughter or brother/sister, throughout time. Presented as different cycles of the moon, the stories feature various genres, from realistic and war stories to stories about ghosts and Viking vampires, ending with a hint of mystery to be revealed in subsequent chapters. This form, as well as the novel’s reliance on adult protagonists, is a rarity in literature for teens. Inspired by Swedish artist Carl Larsson’s controversial painting, Midvinterblot (translated as midwinter sacrifice), Sedgwick crafts these seven treats with spare, exact prose in which no word is unnecessary. Together, their reoccurring motifs of orchids, moons, blood and language—to name a few—reinforce Eric and Merle’s enduring love.
The second installment of Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle is as mind-blowingly spectacular as the first.
Now that the ley line near Henrietta, Va., has been woken, strange currents race through the town. There’s too much electricity—or none at all. The four Raven Boys—Gansey, Adam, long-dead Noah and Ronan—continue to search for the grave of the Welsh king Glendower, but now Ronan is starting to pull objects out of his dreams. Small ones, like the keys to Gansey’s Camaro, and larger, lethal nightmare creatures. But his greatest nightmare can’t be grasped—how do you hold onto home? Not-quite-psychic Blue Sargent realizes that Gansey might really be her true love—and if she kisses him, he’ll die—and meanwhile, her wholly psychic mother is dating the hit man come to steal Ronan. Stiefvater’s careful exploration of class and wealth and their limitations and opportunities astounds with its sensitivity and sophistication. The pace is electric, the prose marvelously sure-footed and strong, but it’s the complicated characters—particularly Ronan, violent, drunk, tender and tough—that meld magic and reality into an engrossing, believable whole. Remember this: Ronan never lies.
Haunting, chilling and achingly romantic, Sutton’s debut novel for teens will keep readers up until the wee hours, unable to tear themselves away from this strange and beautifully crafted story.
Elizabeth Caldwell can’t feel emotions, yet she sees them everywhere, human in appearance, standing alongside their “summons.” Guilt and Worry flank the mother of a dying friend. Resentment grips the shoulder of her bruised and battered mother. Elizabeth can see them, acknowledge their power and even speak to them, but ever since the night of a terrible car accident when she was 4, the only sensation Elizabeth is capable of mustering is a numb nothingness. The only emotion that still bothers to come calling is Fear, a menacing and surprisingly seductive suitor who seems as determined as Elizabeth to uncover the truth behind who and what she truly is—no matter what the cost. Elizabeth may not be able to feel, but her novel-long dance with Fear is as sexy and intense as any couple’s in recent memory. This is a testament to Elizabeth’s brilliantly crafted narrative voice. Reminiscent of Death in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, she shares her story with the cold detachment of the emotionless yet still manages to convey the urgent and desperate nature of her search for the truth.
Chills and goose bumps of the very best kind accompany this haunting, memorable achievement.
(Paranormal romance. 14 & up)
Narrator Em and her boyfriend, Finn, escape from their totalitarian future, time traveling back four years to commit a heart-wrenching assassination of a loved one in order to prevent time travel from being invented and the future from turning so wrong. The future’s hinted-at horrors are threatening but expertly backgrounded, avoiding dystopia-fatigue. The clever, accessible time-space treatment isn’t weighed down by jargon. Em and Finn’s proactive mission means the characters are the hunters instead of the frequently seen on-the-run teen protagonists. The other side of the storyline, taking place in the past that Em and Finn travel to and starring their past selves, is narrated by Marina (Em, in this timeline) and involves her brilliant yet interpersonally challenged best friend (and crush) James and his friend Finn, who annoys Marina, as they deal with a tragedy in James’ family. The believable, complex relationships among the three characters of each respective time and in the blended area of shared time add a surprise: A plot ostensibly about assassination is rooted firmly in different shades of love. Perhaps richest is the affection Em feels for Marina—a standout compared to the truckloads of books about girls who only learn to appreciate themselves through their love interests’ eyes.
Powerful emotional relationships and tight plotting in this debut mark Terrill as an author to watch.
(Science fiction. 12 & up)
Kevin Phifer, 13, a black seventh-grader in 1990s Richmond, Va., and hero of this sparkling debut, belongs in the front ranks of fiction’s hormone-addled, angst-ridden adolescents, from Holden Caulfield to the teenage Harry Potter.
Kevin wants a fade, thinking the stylish haircut will bolster his shaky standing in the cutthroat world of middle school, where he’s just one friend away from eating lunch alone. But his mother, a church secretary and solo parent studying for a nursing degree at night, won’t even try. Expressing his frustration leads to a week’s grounding. Tyrell and his entourage of bullies make Kevin’s life miserable at school. In science lab, Aisha, girl of Kevin’s dreams, points out his “mushy tushy.” Sandbagged by dizzyingly abrupt mood shifts, Kevin hurtles from altruism to craven self-interest, mature self-knowledge to wild fantasy. His anchor in rough seas is Uncle Paul, a quiet, manly museum security guard. Weary of hiding his sexual orientation, Paul’s recently come out to family and friends but has yet to tell Kevin, for whom “faggot” is the worst insult there is. Paul’s perspective, with its temporal and social context, enriches and deepens the narrative, offering an effective contrast to Kevin’s volatile reality, where “now” is all that counts.
Original, hilarious, thought-provoking and wicked smart: not to be missed.
(Historical fiction. 12 & up)