John Clark talking about YA fiction. It’s no secret I love the genre and read extensively in it. There are days I discover so many interesting new books, I despair of ever reading them all. My appetite for it is fueled not only by new books from favorite authors, but through discoveries I make when I swap books on www.paperbackswap.com, browsing through the shelves at Bullmoose in Waterville and various websites. One of particular note is YA Books Central http://www.yabookscentral.com/. There I can enter to win books, but equally important, I get to read about ones about to be published that sound really interesting.
For example, if you look at the current giveaways there, you’ll see the following which I put on my get later list:
THE WAY IT HURTS by Patty Blount Release date: August 1, 2017 Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire ISBN: 9781492632788
Lost Girls Paperback –by Merrie Destefano January 3, 2017, Entangled Teen ISBN: 9781633756052
Who Killed Christopher Goodman?:Based on a True Crime by Allan Wolf, March 14, 2017, Candlewick Press. ISBN: 0763656135
Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things Hardcover by Betsy Aldredge, Merit Press (August 8, 2017) ISBN: 9781507202807
Even the Darkest Stars Hardcover by Heather Fawcett, Balzer + Bray (September 5, 2017) ISBN: 9780062463388
Red Dirt Hardcover by Anna Jarzab, Harlequin Teen (August 29, 2017), ISBN: 9780373212514
The Breaking Light (Split City) by Heather Hansen, Skyscape (April 1, 2017), ISBN: 9781503942684
Here are two full reviews and two short ones I think some of you will like. Two are by the same author and feature the same protagonist. They stand out for two reasons. First, the main character is a strong female teen and in both books, she uses science to solve the crime in a way that makes it appealing and easily understandable, things I’d love to see more of in YA fiction geared for girls.
Short review #1: Daughter of The Pirate King, by Tricia Levenseller, Feiwell & Friends, 2017. ISBN: 9781250095961. Alosa is the daughter of the Pirate King. Raised to be tough and fearless, she’s captain of her own ship with a mostly female crew. When sent by her father to be captured by a rival cutthroat so she can search his ship for a piece of an ancient treasure map, she starts out fine, but soon becomes frustrated not only because the map fragment keeps eluding her nocturnal breakouts from the brig, but because she’s starting to wonder about how she feels toward the younger brother of her captor. Full of great dialogue, twists and turns, as well as a growing awareness that her life isn’t all she thought, it’s a dandy read and begs for a sequel.
In The BoyWho Killed Grant Parker by Kat Spears, you have a story that’s akin to being stuck on a hill with no way down while watching a runaway train headed for a collapsed bridge. You can only watch, cringe and hope for a miracle. After Luke Grayson got expelled from the private Washington, DC school, his fed up mom sends him to live with his Baptist minister father and evil stepmother in rural Tennessee. Coping with all the God stuff would be bad enough, but school is just as bad, particularly when he starts being stalked and bullied by football star Grant Parker. Grant can do no wrong in the eyes of townsfolk, but after a freak accident, Luke swaps places atop the social structure at school. How that happened, what goes on inside his mind, as well in reality, make this a very intriguing story.
Death Spiral: A Faith Flores science mystery by Janie Chodosh, The Poisoned Pencil; 1 edition (April 1, 2014) . ISBN: 9781929345007. Faith Flores has the deck of life stacked against her—Unknown father, addict (now dead) mom, fragmented education thanks to constantly moving, a distrust of most people and struggles with self-esteem and trust in general. One of the few things she had to hold onto was her belief that Mom was clean when she died, but when the death certificate states heroin overdose as the cause of death, her world takes a serious hit. Still, there was that scary rat-faced guy who threatened her mom just before she died.
Fast forward six weeks. Faith is now living with her Aunt T. It’s more stable, there’s real food in the house and her aunt isn’t an addict or unpredictable. Even so, Faith feels edgy and distrustful most of the time. Then things begin to happen that shake her world, leaving her wondering, a lot.
First, there’s Jesse, a new boy in her classes who is passionate, smart, a fount of trivia and not scared off by her hardness. The more he spends time with her, the harder it is for her to keep all her feelings and secrets from him. When she finds a note from her mom’s addict friend, Melinda, asking her to come talk to her (in the same decrepit, creepy neighborhood where Faith used to live), She’s torn, but after blurting an invitation to Jesse, which he accepts, they go to see Melinda, only to find her looking like Faith’s mother and hinting that the two women were involved in something mysterious at the methadone clinic that was treating them.
From there to the scary ending, readers are treated to several story lines that blend together. There’s Faith’s determination to find the truth, her agonizing ambivalence about trusting those who care about her and opening up, the very complex web of secrets surrounding what was happening at the clinic and why a bunch of researchers and doctors were involved, all culminating in a very gutsy act by Faith, Jesse, her friend Anj, along with Anj’s Scottish exchange student boyfriend, Duncan.
This is a dandy mystery with a gutsy and stronger than she realizes female protagonist. Teens (and adults) who like an intelligent mystery with strong teen characters will like it a lot.
Code Red: A Faith Flores science mystery by Janie Chodosh, Poisoned Pencil Press, 2017, ISBN: 9781929345281. Not long after Faith solves the mystery surrounding her mother’s death, she’s noticed for her science skills that were central to doing so. This results in her getting a pretty prestigious summer internship in New Mexico. While it means being away from her boyfriend Jesse, for six weeks, she’s really excited about getting a chance to bond with her inner science nerd. She’s also scared because she knows that Santa Fe is the last place her mysterious father was and that it’s likely he’s still there.
Her new batch of intrigue starts the day she arrives. Still using aloofness around strangers as a defense mechanism, she’s by herself, watching the other interns mingling when a tall and quite attractive guy starts talking to her. Enter Clem, who is not only local, but a violin prodigy, multiracial and knows the sting of an absent parent. He lives with his mother, a nurse, while his father lives in California and has a new family that always takes precedence when it comes to Dad time.
When Clem starts a conversation, two things are quickly apparent, he’s darn good looking and he’s not a jerk. In fact, the more they talk, the more Faith realizes that they’re kindred souls in numerous ways. Still gun shy following how she was perceived while living with her late mother, she has a difficult time sorting out what to tell him and what to hide. Her relationship with Jesse falls into the latter category.
Fortunately her internship sucks her in from the start. She’s working at a startup that’s trying to genetically modify chilies so they repel a pest that’s threatening to destroy the crops so many in the area rely upon for income. Not only does she catch on fast, but she gets her initial assignments done so quickly, she’s given more complex stuff to work on, like gene sequencing and comparison.
Then she learns what happened to her father, followed almost immediately by meeting a person who not only surprises the heck out of her, but changes her life in ways she couldn’t have imagined before coming to Santa Fe. That life change opens up not only new emotions, but huge new challenges.
At the same time, Faith starts wondering about what happened at a party where a girl died from an overdose of Liquid Gold, a hallucinogenic that used to come from the Amazon rainforests and be extremely expensive. It now seems plentiful and cheap. The more she digs, the more she starts wondering if the place where she’s interning has a hidden connection to bad things happening in New Mexico.
This second book builds on Death Spiral, but adds so much more. It continues to involve science in ways that readers will understand because it’s woven in so well and explained clearly. Not only does it allow Faith to grow both intellectually and emotionally, it presents her with several huge life challenges. While few teen girls will ever face as many as Faith does, lots will have to deal with being smart, liking science, figuring out screwed-up families or complicated/confusing attraction to the opposite sex. This book gives readers a look at all of these issues. In addition to being a dandy mystery, it’s a great look at the coming of age process and how family can be defined in many different ways.