This fantastic debut packs a highly suspenseful blend of action, intrigue, and teen romance.

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    Best Books Of 2015

INK AND ASHES

Claire’s parents are keeping secrets that could kill her.

Sixteen-year-old Claire Takata is a spirited, inquisitive amateur locksmith and sleuth. Claire and her brothers have always believed their father died of a heart attack 10 years ago and that their mother met their stepdad after he died. But when Claire finds an old letter in her father’s journal and pictures locked away in her stepdad’s desk that reveal otherwise, she is determined to find out the truth. Why have her mom and stepdad lied to her? Why does her mom never want to talk about her father? And what really happened to him? Through letters Claire has written to him over the decade since his death, Claire’s father has served as her confidant, an outlet for her grief, frustrations, and longings. The author also makes smart use of these letters, interspersing them between chapters to deliver important back story. Claire’s grief and sense of loss are compounded when she eventually discovers that her father had been a member of the yakuza, transnational Japanese organized crime syndicates—and then her sleuthing attracts the attention of someone tied to her father's past....The romantic tension between Claire and her best friend, Forrest, plays out authentically in a subplot, and the novel’s twists and turns will keep readers riveted and guessing even after they finish the book.

This fantastic debut packs a highly suspenseful blend of action, intrigue, and teen romance. (Thriller. 12 & up)

Pub Date: June 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62014-211-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tu Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist.

SHE'S GONE

Seventeen-year-old Hunter Gifford has no memories of the car accident he was in the night of the homecoming dance with Chloe Summers, his now-missing girlfriend.

In the small southern Kentucky city of Bentley, comments on social media condemn Hunter as responsible for Chloe’s disappearance. When he attends the community vigil for her, Chloe’s mother publicly accuses Hunter of obstructing the investigation. Hunter’s own mom died when he was 15 and his sister, Olivia, was 12. Their dad has awkwardly attempted to pull his weight as a solo parent, and Hunter has stepped in and nurtured Livvy. Small but mighty Livvy is an ardent defender of her brother and is fiercely in love with her girlfriend, Gabriela. To make things worse, childhood friend Daniel informs Hunter that he’s making a true-crime documentary about Chloe. Hunter is upset, especially since it makes him look like a prime suspect, and a subsequent dramatic event draws more attention to the video. Hunter and Chloe met in creative writing club, and he knew she kept a journal—but it’s missing. Enter the sleuthing team of Hunter, Livvy, and Gabriela, who hatch a plan to find it. The dynamics between Hunter and Livvy and Livvy and Gabriela are endearing and will charm readers, who will root for them to solve the well-executed mystery. Main characters default to White; Gabriela is Mexican American.

This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72825-420-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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Exactly what the title promises.

BETTER THAN THE MOVIES

A grieving teen’s devotion to romance films might ruin her chances at actual romance.

Liz Buxbaum has always adored rom-coms, not least for helping her still feel close to her screenwriter mother, who died when she was little. Liz hopes that her senior year might turn into a real-life romantic fantasy, as an old crush has moved back to town, cuter and nicer than ever. Surely she can get Michael to ask her to prom. If only Wes, the annoying boy next door, would help her with her scheming! This charming, fluffy concoction manages to pack into one goofy plot every conceivable trope, from fake dating to the makeover to the big misunderstanding. Creative, quirky, daydreaming Liz is just shy of an annoying stereotype, saved by a dry wit and unresolved grief and anger. Wes makes for a delightful bad boy with a good heart, and supporting characters—including a sassy best friend, a perfect popular rival, even a (not really) evil stepmother—all get the opportunity to transcend their roles. The only villain here is Liz’s lovelorn imagination, provoking her into foolish lies that cause actual hurt feelings; but she is sufficiently self-aware to make amends just in time for the most important trope of all: a blissfully happy ending. All characters seem to be White by default.

Exactly what the title promises. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6762-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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