Giulia is bright, curious and a gifted artist, born to a noble father and his humble mistress in 15th-century Renaissance Italy. Now her fate rests with her father’s widow, who’s sending Giulia to a Padua convent.
Desperate to avoid a cloistered life, Giulia obtains a talisman that’s promised to deliver her heart’s desire: marriage to a good man and a home of her own. Convent life is hard. Highborn nuns enjoy freedom; others, like Giulia, labor at menial tasks. When her artistic talent’s discovered, she’s invited to join the close-knit group of artist nuns whose renowned work helps support the convent. Guided by Maestra Humilità, daughter of a famous artist, Giulia begins to learn this exacting craft with tasks like mixing egg tempera. Artists create their own colors, their recipes closely guarded secrets. Humilità’s precious passion blue is one; its beauty draws Giulia like a flame. So do visions of love and freedom beyond convent walls. But stealing away to meet handsome Ormanno, another talented artist, is risky. Fantasy elements and a historical setting rich with sensuous detail are satisfying, but it’s Giulia’s achingly real search for her heart’s desire that resonates most today, when millions of girls still have limited choices.
A rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion.
(Historical fantasy. 12 & up)
While staying true to the science fiction and romance at the core of Matched (2010) and Crossed (2011), the trilogy’s breathless finale blossoms into a medical thriller too, adding breadth and resonance.
Cassia, Ky and Xander are far apart. Ky unenthusiastically flies air ships for the Rising, an enigmatic organization poised to overturn the Society. The Rising sends Cassia to work from the inside, so she sorts data for the Society, awaits the Rising’s instruction and trades poetry underground. Xander’s a Society medical Official who uses his position to subtly immunize infants against the forced-forgetfulness tablets that the Society regularly gives adults. The three take turns narrating in first-person present, revealing tantalizing information gaps: What does one character wonder while another knows? What do readers not know yet? A plague breaks out, mutates and becomes a pandemic—which aspects were intentional, and on whose part? Poems (Tennyson, Dickinson, Thomas) and a painting (Sargent) figure heavily and beautifully on both symbolic and literal levels. Is the Rising trustworthy? Can a living human also be an archetype? Condie’s prose is immediate and unadorned, with sudden pings of lush lyricism. Her protagonists are no run-of-the-mill romance triangle, her forms of activism (art, medicine) rich. Each character is differently strong and differently wounded.
With reveals seeming to arrive on almost every page, prepare to stay up all night. (author’s note referencing poems and paintings) (Science fiction/romance. 13 & up)
A slim, elegant retelling of the classic Faustian fable, with an inspirational twist.
Victorian adolescent Sarah may be a menial drudge, but she never forgets that she is also the last of the arrogant aristocratic Trevelyans, now fallen into shameful penury. So she cannot refuse Lord Azrael, the current owner of her ancestral Darkwater Hall, when he offers proper work, real learning and even a chance to win back everything her family lost; all she has to risk is her soul. One hundred years later, Tom is another destitute and bullied teen, who would give anything to attend the elite school at Darkwater Hall—anything but the ghostly presence of his twin brother, Simon. When he meets a weird (but oddly mature) girl named Sarah, she warns him away from the new teacher, Azrael—who has just tempted Tom with the education he craves. While not as dense or subtle as her more recent work, this reissue of an early Fisher novel displays her spare lyrical prose and evocative sense of place. (This is its first U.S. publication.) The characters may be paper-thin and their motivations opaque, but they serve as effective players for a morality tale. Readers acquainted with Goethe, Milton or alchemical lore will be rewarded by a plethora of allusions both obvious and sly; but even those unfamiliar with the legendary source material will appreciate the layered symbolism and uplifting message.
A dark but graceful parable of temptation, pride, revenge and hope; ideal for classroom reading.
The continuing, shambolic adventures of Rhode Island’s rockingest trumpet-and-ukelele–based quintet finds plenty of sweet to balance out the sour (Lemonade Mouth, 2007).
It’s summer, and although each of the band’s five members—Olivia, Charlie, Mo, Wen and Stella—have jobs, they compose and record new songs in their friend Lyle’s garage studio. Their performance at Cranston’s Chowder Fest attracts the attention of legendary agent Earl Decker, who tries to mold the group into a chart-topping indie phenom, paying for an expensive, moody photo shoot and studio time. He also secures them an audition on American Pop Sensation, where the gutsy teens stand up to the mean-spirited judges. When video of their judge-scolding incident—sure to inspire the many compulsive watchers of Simon Cowell to punch the air in solidarity—goes viral and combines with their philosophical objections to being Photoshopped in a sponsor’s ad, Lemonade Mouth fires Earl in favor of remaining true to their convictions. The band’s independent, quirky journey is conveyed through the diary entries, letters, transcribed interviews and screenplay excerpts that form the narrative—and that promise at least one more chapter in the band’s imaginary history.
Warmhearted and innocently wild, this stand-alone sequel will find appreciative fans among teen music obsessives and social activists. (Fiction. 12-15)
The engaging final installment in the series that began with Immortal Beloved (2010) reveals new information about the world of the immortals and ties up loose ends.
After running away with her manipulative ex-friend Innocencio against everyone's better judgment, recovering immortal socialite Nastasya has returned to the West Lowing, Mass., rehab center called River's Edge. Although Nastasya's narrative voice is still glib, prickly and often cynical, she has changed since the trilogy's beginning: “I was far gone enough to admit that, yes, I really did need help....more than I needed to be proud, or brave, or cool, or even just not gut-wrenchingly humiliated.” River, the kindly and more-ancient-than-most immortal who runs River's Edge, never gives up on Nastasya, but as her less-trusting siblings begin to arrive from around the world, suspicion about Nastasya's intentions and behavior grows. Meanwhile, Nastasya and fellow immortal Reyn alternately kiss and fight; Nastasya starts a project to revitalize West Lowing's mostly abandoned downtown; and destructive Terävä immortals wage an international war to seize power. As usual, the story's most compelling aspect is Nastasya's emotional growth, aided by River's kind, patient and nonjudgmental tutelage. The sly, slangy narrative voice keeps the story moving, and flashbacks fill in some of the gaps around Nastasya's and other immortals' pasts.
Chicago schoolgirl Joan Wehlen was known for her writing skills—quite correctly, as her always-entertaining 1937-1942 diary proves.
Fourteen when she began recording her thoughts and day-to-day activities in her diary, Joan had an eye for detail and an intelligent sense of the importance of events that were occurring in the world around her. Her entries, while often funny and frequently self-deprecating, presage the inevitably coming war: “We are no different: every generation has been burdened with war….It is just that this is my generation.” Fear of the impending war is a common theme in her life; it haunts Joan’s dreams. But in spite of those concerns, she remains upbeat and enthusiastic. The diary reveals her amusement at wearing “a horrid but glamorous” color of lipstick, mild flirtations with “B.B.B. in B.,” the “Beautiful Blue-eyed Boy in Biology,” and her efforts to manage homework at the kitchen table. She tries to sort out her feelings on religion and the inevitability of death but chuckles over repeatedly counting the steps—“One-two-three-four, one-two-one-two”—during an awkward dance. In sum, readers will likely be surprised by just how much like them Joan is, in spite of her having written her work 75 years ago.
A fine, insightful and sometimes moving journal composed by a wholly likable young woman—better than fiction.
(period photographs, editor’s note)
Sixteen-year-old Dov Howard, a self-proclaimed emo kid, has gotten used to living in the shadow of his older brother, Brian, the local football hero. Enlisted in the National Guard in 2001, Brian suddenly finds himself on a peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, and once again, Dov can’t measure up. Dov’s heartfelt and evenly paced first-person narration incorporates authentic dialogue and issues that matter to teens. He absorbs the problems of his fellow emo friends, braces against school bullies and wonders about new classmate Scarlett, who arrives with troubles of her own. After his family hears their worst fear—that Brian has been injured in an attack—they are relieved to discover that he survived the explosion. Dov is the first to notice the golden boy’s dark homecoming when Brian begins secretly drinking, experiences sleep disturbances, becomes depressed and exhibits other signs of PTSD. When his brother’s symptoms become life-threatening, Dov immediately takes control of the situation to get Brian the help he needs. Intermittent news headlines from the time foreshadow Brian’s downward spiral, as does Dov’s progressively ailing pet gecko. The author, also a neuropsychologist, emphasizes the strengths of talking through problems without being didactic.
Learning to focus on others, even in times of stress, Dov shows that bravery comes in many forms.
(Fiction. 13 & up)
A Victorian teen becomes dangerously ensnared in the sinister world of a fraudulent medium in this well-constructed, thoroughly researched tale set in London in 1900.
A “quick and intelligent girl” with no family to support her, Velvet works long hours under dreadful conditions at Ruffold’s Steam Laundry. A year ago, Velvet’s drunken, abusive father fell into the river while chasing her, and she did nothing to save him. Guarding her guilty secret, Velvet abandoned her old life and childhood beau, fled to London and changed her name. When the famous clairvoyant Madame Savoya hires Velvet, she’s thrilled to live in Madame’s posh house and quickly develops a crush on Madame’s handsome assistant, George. Initially grateful and in awe of Madame’s seemingly incredible ability to communicate with spirits of the dead and bring comfort to grieving survivors, Velvet gradually discovers Madame’s skills are not all they appear to be. By including descriptions of Madame’s private sessions with individual clients, Hooper clues readers in to Madame’s fraudulent schemes long before Velvet realizes the appalling truth. Vulnerable and credible, Velvet tries to expose Madame, but not before a shocking revelation. Packed with fascinating period details about the Victorian spiritualist craze, Hooper’s suspenseful tale delivers authentic characters, bizarre encounters, plot twists and romance.
A historical fantasy seamlessly intertwines the love stories of Alera and Shaselle, two young but incredibly strong teenage women, and their personal struggles to restore their medieval-esque kingdom, Hytanica, to grace.
This final installment in the Legacy trilogy picks up with the citizens of Hytanica recently conquered by their sworn enemies, the Cokyrians but determined to reclaim their nation. Chapters alternate between the fresh voices of Alera and Shaselle, providing readers a view of the struggle from behind the palace walls via Alera and on the city streets through Shaselle. Once Hytanica’s queen but now appointed Grand Provost, Alera is challenged with rebuilding Hytanica under Cokyrian rule, which she soon learns includes reconstructing not only buildings, but also the pride of her people. Feisty and more comfortable with horses than suitors, Shaselle scoffs at her role as a lady and insinuates herself into the plans of the Hytanican freedom fighters. Similar in their love of Hytanica, these two women are also linked by painful choices between the love of a man or the glory of their country.
Although true to its roots as a Harlequin novel, this tale rises above genre by including thought-provoking elements that examine the role of women, family allegiances and the damaging nature of prejudice.
The consequences of unintentionally kidnapping her rock-star hero reverberate through a misfit English teen’s life.
Grieving for her life-and-soul-of-the-party grandfather, Jody waits all day in line at the Cardiff Arena, desperate for a chance to interact with Jackson Gatlin, the dramatic lead singer of her favorite band, The Regulators. When they meet backstage, Jody is horrified to see the mask of stardom slip away, revealing a miserable, lost soul rather than the assured, sexy star she worships. Jackson, high and hallucinating, mistakes a shiny candy wrapper for a knife, leading Jody to bundle him off home in her best friend Mac’s car. Once Jackson realizes that he’s in what amounts to a secret location, he refuses to leave: Sick of fame, terrified of his sadistic manager and wanting to get sober at last, he’s ready for a normal life. Skuse lets readers see the entitled, self-centered and self-loathing side of international superstardom, slowly forcing Jody to face the reality that famous people are just...people. Jody and Jackson embark on an increasingly stable friendship, while Jody begins to see Mac—supposedly gay but secretly pining for her—as a true love interest. A bit of over-the-top silliness with a very determined local journalist and the cartoonish nastiness of Jackson’s manager are credulity-straining limitations, but these are minor flaws.
Overall, this engaging, surprisingly serious caper is rock-solid.
Rawly provocative, this anthology reflects its authors’ complex racial backgrounds and experiences. Like a photo mosaic, each piece stands alone while contributing to a bigger picture.
Originating with a Toronto community-center youth group, the project includes interviews of older, multiracial individuals offering historical perspective. Edgy layout, artwork and photos enhance stories and poems, amplifying the powerful emotions behind them. The assumption that racial heritage should be visible to all provokes pain and exasperation, as in Janine Berridge’s sassy poem about a hair stylist’s discomfort when confronted with hair she can’t “place.” Elizabeth Jennifer Hollo, Hungarian/Guyanese, eloquently describes how her father’s death severed her only connection to her European identity. Andrew Ernest Brankley presents a lively dialogue between his black and white selves. Native/Métis Montana Baerg wanted to dye her long dark hair but was afraid, she told her boss, that no one would know she was Native. The reply resonates: “What you look like doesn’t determine who you are. If you have purple or red hair, it doesn’t make you any less Native.” Navigating a racially essentialist world is especially challenging for multiracial teens, complicating developmental tasks like constructing identity beyond home and family. Whether visibly or invisibly multiracial (each has challenges), too often they’re labeled, stereotyped and sorted into categories determined by others.
This book’s empowering message is that how we identify and express our racial heritage belongs to us.
(Anthology. 12 & up)
Vegan vampires, Shakespearean actors, food–co-op aficionados and serious runners face off against old-school bloodsuckers and rapacious, forest-devouring builders in this follow-up to Out of Breath (2011) set in—where else?—Lithia (Ashland in disguise), Ore.
When not serving road warriors at Lithia Runners, Kat’s dating fellow vegan environmentalist Alex and only occasionally obsessing over actor Roman. He loves her but refuses to abandon his carnivorous ways—a deal breaker, since, like Alex, he’s a vampire. Sending Roman away, Kat enrolls in college, where she’s talked into auditioning for a role in the Bard’s Measure for Measure. Aware someone’s tracking her, Kat’s on edge. Running keeps her sane, though the woods are full of spirits—not just vampires, but ghosts. One appears to have something to tell her. Her post-alcoholic, ne’er-do-well father’s arrival and gainful employment cheers her. Good luck piles on: landing the role of Isabella then a staggering inheritance. Before she can enjoy any of it, Kat’s in big trouble, targeted by enemies—supernatural and all too human—and in danger of losing everything. Spunky Kat is good company; Alex and Roman are better defined this time around, but "most vivid character" honors go to the setting, whose tall evergreens and babbling brooks, shadowed by brooding mountains, enhance the sturdy plot.