THE FEARLESS FOURSOME

Insecure girl meets mean girl—and learns to be herself—in this appealing tale.

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In this YA novel, a student discovers that honesty is indeed the best policy.

It’s the beginning of summer, and Sara Hawthorne, a high school freshman, joins a club called the Fearless Foursome in hopes of becoming popular. She and her fellow club members—trouble-making, boy crazy Laurel Atwater; studious Adalynn Stevenson; and Sara’s best friend, Ella Taylor—have their first official meeting and sleepover at Ella’s house. After receiving a mysterious note, the girls sneak out of the house around midnight to meet a group of popular jocks—aka the Warriors. Unfortunately, one of the guys falls and breaks his leg. The boy gets help, but a policeman escorts the girls back to Ella’s house—and two angry parents. The next day, Ella’s mother informs Sara that she must tell her parents what happened. Unable to bring herself to confess, Sara is in agony. To make matters worse, Ella and Adalynn are hanging around with big mouth Laurel all the time. One bright spot in Sara’s life is one of the Warriors, Matt, who seems to like her a lot. And while volunteering at the zoo, she meets a new friend, Kristen, who’s too busy being herself to care about being popular. Nelan’s fast-paced novel is packed with perfectly cute characters and young teen angst—when Matt goes on a family vacation for two whole weeks, conniving Laurel follows him. For the most part, the dialogue flows smoothly and realistically portrays teen anxieties. For example, while talking to Sara, Kristen exclaims: “I’ll probably go all through high school without a boyfriend, so I might as well enjoy it when it happens to my only friend!” Though Laurel is supposed to be the bad girl, Sara is not very thoughtful herself—she lies to Kristen and ditches her party to attend Ella’s bash. Later, Sara regrets her choice. A sweet side story is the special relationship the teen has with her grandmother.

Insecure girl meets mean girl—and learns to be herself—in this appealing tale.

Pub Date: May 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-973657-69-9

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

SUMMER RENTAL

A fun and scary slasher thriller.

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A Fourth of July celebration turns deadly for a group of teens in Ross’ YA psychological thriller.

Eighteen-year-old Riley March and four girlfriends—Cam, Val, Nia, and Blake— are off on a celebratory Independence Day weekend away, their last before they all leave for college in the fall. Their destination is the exclusive and remote Palm Key Island, the perfect location for wealthy kids to spend their leisure time. Some of their other friends from school are there, too, including Riley’s crush, Sebastian. Riley needs to make sure no one finds out her biggest secret: She really doesn’t belong in this group, as she is not rich like her friends. Their weekend of sun, booze, and partying starts to go wrong when Val disappears after a night out clubbing—she’s presumably off with a boy—and warnings of an approaching hurricane sour the mood. As the group (joined by some male friends) hunkers down, trapped inside their rental with no internet or electricity while waiting for the storm to pass, tensions build and relationships start to unravel. They learn why their summer house rental is so cheap as casualties begin mount. The author’s compelling, fast-paced thriller pays homage to slasher movies and serial killer lore with a fun hook: “Things no longer seem fun and light anymore as I remember we’re about to be trapped in a hurricane—and in a murder house, no less. The only thing worse than that is being trapped in a hurricane, in a murder house, in complete darkness.” As the scares spiral, Ross maintains a tight focus on the complex, complicated relationship dynamics within the group of teen girls, all conveyed from Riley’s outsider/insider’s perspective. Still reeling from a close friend’s death by suicide the year before, the group’s secrets start to spill out, unveiling a history of bullying, competition, and privilege in a well-balanced narrative arc.

A fun and scary slasher thriller.

Pub Date: June 13, 2023

ISBN: 978-0988256828

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Ic13 Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023

AMISH GUYS DON'T CALL

A funny and engrossing romance.

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In this debut novel, a whip-smart teen grapples with her out-of-touch mother, catty classmates, a proclivity for shoplifting, and first love.

As Samantha Stonesong enters her junior year in high school, her budding friendship with the pretty and popular Madison Caulfield gives her a shot at joining the Sherpas, a Mean Girls–esque clique led by Hillary Markham. Sam’s need for acceptance is understandable: her father cut off contact two years prior, and her mother is the kind of woman who sports zebra-print fake nails and would rather discuss her sexcapades than Sam’s college plans. But that all becomes less important when Sam falls for a charming but slightly odd boy named Zach. Given the book’s title, it is easy to guess the source of his peculiarity. However, Sam’s ignorance is plausible—after all, Zach is nothing like the suspenders-clad boy with missing teeth from whom he saves her at a cornfield party. Amusing dramatic irony ensues as Sam tries to reason away Zach’s lack of a driver’s license, unfamiliar vocabulary, and curious phone habits. Then, once he discloses his Amish upbringing, the pace quickens. Sam seeks relationship advice from Madison but inadvertently alienates her (“That makes me a prissy Saint Sam, and I guess you’re the wild slut”), and the Sherpas lash out accordingly. Meanwhile, a family emergency threatens to return Zach to the Amish fold. As everything comes crashing down, Sam devises the ultimate shoplifting challenge to regain some sense of control. Sam is blunt, self-aware, and prone to doubt and regret. Despite her insecurities, she has a firm sense of self as a movie buff, math nerd, vegetarian, and fashionista. Dodds leverages these traits well—for instance, the couple's conversations about horror films parallel the progression of their relationship, from surface-level “What’s your favorite movie?” talk to exchanges requiring deep trust. The author writes with specificity, and though a few instances of slang in this virtually all-white cast feel forced (one party is described as “off-the-hook-CRAZY”), the tale’s messages about remaining vulnerable, honest, and forgiving ring true.

A funny and engrossing romance.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-988279-43-5

Page Count: 275

Publisher: Blue Moon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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