John Clark: We’re close to the midpoint of 2014 and thus far, I’ve read 122 books. Despite ramping up my reading from last year, my TBR pile has grown at an almost 2 to 1 ratio (two added for every one read) I have reached a couple of interesting conclusions. First, I’m beginning to hate series, particularly ones that are extremely good, because I am impatient and want that next book NOW, not next year. Second, there are so many amazingly intriguing young adult books being published these days, that I’ll never be able to read all those that interest me, no matter how long I live. I guess that’s far better than living in a world where the reading choices are very limited, but the decision as to which ones to pass up isn’t easy by any means. I may end up seeking out a self help group called Overreaders Anonymous.
Last week, James Hayman, Vicki Doudera and I did a program at the South Portland Public Library. I focused on some of the better YA books I’ve read in 2014, because that part of my professional life has been very active thus far in 2014. Below are some of the better reads from that list. I can assure you that sometime in September, I’ll have another list to share that’s equally as enticing. While not all are mysteries, there are several that fit the description very nicely and overall, the titles mentioned below cover most of the genres popular with teens today.
Far From You by Tess Sharpe, Hyperion, 2014. ISBN: 9781423184621. This is an amazing first book. It combines mystery, a girl’s struggle with addiction and a love story seamlessly as well as doing a very good job of making it next to impossible to figure out who the killer is. Sure there are sexual references and some strong language, but if you’re a librarian, do not let them prevent you from adding this book to your collection. This is a sweet, but sad love story blended with a dandy mystery. It will appeal to lesbian and bisexual teens in particular, but should have a much wider audience and serious consideration for a young adult Edgar nomination.
Thin Space by Jody Casella, Simon Pulse, 2013. ISBN: 9781582704357. What would you do if you felt responsible for the death of a twin and couldn’t let go of the guilt, especially if a dying woman told you there was a ‘thin space’ between worlds where if you were lucky enough to find it, you could cross over and speak to your dead loved ones. This is the dilemma Marsh faces while stumbling, zombie-like through life. When he meets Maddie, a newcomer to town, she agrees to help him find the thin space supposedly somewhere in her house. Part ghost story, part mystery with a little romance added in, there’s a really good gotcha at the end. I hope it gets an Edgar nomination next year.
And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard, Delacorte Press, 2014. ISBN: 9780385740579. A very sad girl, a dead boy, secrets slowly revealed via poetry. Older teens who have wrestled with grief, loss and guilt may find this book helps them to come to grips with unresolved feelings. Those who love poetry and a story with bits of mystery will also like this one.
The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry, Albert Whitman, 2014. ISBN: 9780807583692. Kate can’t accept her diabetes and when her boyfriend dumps her, she deals with it in subtle, but self-destructive ways., so much so that her behavior threatens her chance to room with her best friend, Jen at college in the fall. Aiden, Jen’s cousin, is dealing with his own wounds suffered while on duty in Iraq. He just wants to hide from life. When Jen twists Kate’s arm to come along on a pretend date with Aiden, her lack of a filter when she speaks, could have sabotaged things, but instead Aiden’s intrigued by her honesty and a quirky love story about two wounded teens begins. Jolene Perry and her co-author on numerous books Nyrae Dawn, write some of the best YA romance fiction available today.
Inhuman by Kat Falls, Scholastic Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780545370998. First book in a new dystopian series with mystery, monsters and violence mixed very nicely. Imagine that a major amusement park chain wanted to introduce new mutant creatures to spice up the experience, but the DNA went rogue, causing people to become part animal and all zombie. Now divide the U.S. With a 700 foot high wall stretching from the gulf to Canada, with everyone west of it scared to death that the mutant creatures will breach it and infect those who are still clean. This is what Lane McEvoy faces when she’s set up to have everyone believe she’s infected. Her blackmailers force her into the dangerous world east of the wall to find her father who is suspected of hunting for illegal artifacts. It had me turning pages well into the night and I can’t wait for the second in the series.
Slated, Fractured and Shattered by Teri Terry, (various publishers/editions), 2012-2014. Perfect trilogy for anyone experiencing Hunger Games angst. “ These are a tightly written trio of books that tell the story of Kyla, a girl in a future time who was slated, a process that wiped the mind completely clean of thought. It was developed by the British government after severe riots by young people years ago. It’s a supposedly more humane punishment, although some depressed teens and those lacking families request the treatment because those who are slated get happy new memories and another family. Kyla was supposedly a terrorist, but she starts having flashbacks to another life, something that should be impossible after being slated. She’s given a family with a sister who was also slated, and parents with powerful connections to the government, In fact, her new mother is the daughter of the prime minister who was killed by a terrorist bomb. She lost her own son in a similar terrorist attack.” Tightly written with evil, plot twists, a bit of romance, all set in a scary futuristic Great Britain.
Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Mattson, Simon & Schuster, 2014. ISBN: 9781442435001. Emily was a herd animal before the day she was running and Sloane stopped her because she was locked out of her house. For the next two years, they were joined at the hip with daring Sloan leading quiet Emily into adventures and helping her to experience life as she’s wanted to. When Em returns from a family trip, Sloan has vanished and now Em’s parents are wrapped up in writing a new play, completely ignoring her. Feeling completely lost, She grabs at the letter she gets in the mail like it’s a rope and she’s drowning. Instead of an answer as to why Sloan vanished, it’s a list of thirteen tasks: Kiss a stranger, go skinny dipping, steal something, break something, Penelope, ride a dern horse, ya cowpoke, 55 S. Ave, ask for Mona, the backless dress and somewhere to wear it, dance until dawn, share some secrets in the dark, hug a Jamie, apple picking at night, sleep under the stars. Em is scared to death of doing them on her own, but what other way does she have of getting her best friend back? Along the way, she finds herself, discovers someone who cares about her and solves the mystery of Sloan’s sudden disappearance.
Dreamer Wisher Liar by Charise Mericle Harper. Balzer and Bray, 2014. ISBN: 9780062026750. What do you do when your best friend is moving away and you’ve depended on her in ways that ordinary teens can’t understand? This is what Ashley’s facing. She has she has Prosopagnosia, a condition that makes her “face blind,” (she is unable to recognize people she knows when she sees them). And Lucy has always helped her when it hits. Ashley was looking forward to several weeks at camp before Lucy leaves, but her parents have agreed to take in a stranger seven year old, Claire, whose mother has died to give her father time to grieve. Ashley’s unclear on the connection between Claire’s late mother and hers, but when she discovers a mysterious jar in the cellar full of wishes written on crumpled bits of paper, something magical happens. When she sits in a particular chair and reads one, she is transported back in time where she can watch two girls about her age as they become friends and then have some difficult times. As she experiences more and more of these, they change how she sees Claire’s intrusion in her life. This is a neat blend of mystery, a little magic and some coming of age that will leave the reader with a feel-good experience.
The Secrets of Tree Taylor by Dandi Daley Mackall, Knopf, 2014. ISBN: 9780375868979. Tree Taylor is sitting on the front step one Sunday morning in her PJ’s, trying to come up with something to write about, when she hears a gunshot down the street. Her dad, the town doctor, hustles past her and tells her to stay put as he heads to where the shot was fired. Tree follows and from her hiding place, watches as their reclusive neighbor. Mrs. Kinney comes out of the house carrying a rifle. Her dad’s behavior is curious. He turns away from Mrs. Kinney and sits on the step. When she lowers the rifle, he takes it. He tells the sheriff that the shooting of Mr. Kinney in the shoulder, was accidentally self-inflicted. So begins a neat juvenile mystery that has some coming of age elements, a nice look at how people with concerns about the Vietnam War, early on had to navigate a tricky sea and how a young and smart teen girl learns that parents aren’t perfect, but are important.
The Chance You Won’t Return by Annie Cardi, Candlewick Press, 2014. ISBN: 9780763662929. Figuring out normal teen stuff is complicated enough for most kids, but what do you do when there’s a boatload of stuff the guidebooks never mention overwhelming you? That’s what Alex Winchester is facing. Her dad works for the post office. Her mom works at a dentist’s office, but does she any more? It wasn’t that long ago when Alex’s baby sister was born too prematurely to breathe on her own. She died shortly after birth, setting in motion events that leave Alex way over her head. If it wasn’t bad enough that she has to worry about her mother sliding into a delusional world where she thinks she’s Amelia Earhart, Alex has her own phobia about driving. She freaks every time it’s her turn to get behind the wheel for driver’s ed. When she steals pages from Amelia’s biography in the high school library, she becomes even more freaked out, especially when she realizes what Amelia’s ultimate fate was. This is a sad book that ends on a hopeful note. It’s one geared for mature teens, particularly those who are wrestling with grief or family mental health issues. It’s a worthy addition for both school and public libraries.
Pushing The Limits, Dare You To, Take Me On, Crash Into You by Katie McGarry (Harlequin Teen). These four books do edgy teen romance better than anyone. Katie takes a different supporting character from the previous book and makes them the main one in the next, something I’ve not seen done before. The life conflict issues and the suspense in them are perfectly done. We can’t keep them on the shelves.