John Clark sharing some of the great young adult fiction titles recently published. There have been so many, I can’t keep up with them, although not for lack of trying. Here are thumbnail reviews of recent reads that impressed me.
Game Changer by Neal Shusterman
Reading the author’s acknowledgement at the end of this book solidified my first impression of the story. Double the amount of imagination one finds in most books were poured into this one. It starts out innocently enough with Ash hitting the opposing team’s quarterback hard. Nothing unusual about that, until an icy sensation is followed by things suddenly being different. In the first world shift, stop signs are blue. Every time he lands a hit in a subsequent game, it creates a new world. It takes him a while to figure out what’s happening, in part thanks to some very odd skateboarders. How he manages to pull his world into a semblance of normal (if there is such a state) makes for a gripping read. I particularly liked how certain other characters changed in each shift. The end result isn’t pretty, but is extremely satisfying. In the world we currently occupy, this might not be as fantasy-like as we think. Thank you Neal for a terrific book.
The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
Mindy has never left me disappointed and I’ve real all her books. This is no exception. Swirling questions, a girl who can’t/won’t remember what happened the night her best friend’s parents vanished, mean and plentiful fallout afterward, a drunken and ultra-mean grandfather, a town still ruled by the ghosts of a small number of families. All that plus a plot that builds like the wall Tress is creating in the cellar of an abandoned house in an insane, but desperate effort to get answers. It ends in a swirl of ambiguity, but that’s going to sweeten the pot while we await the second book. A winner!
The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
If you take three teens who have all been severely hurt by parents, drop them into a complex friendship that also involves romantic ties, then put them in the lobby of a bank for a seemingly uneventful deposit of funds from a charity event, you’re at the start of this incredibly good story. Two bank robbers start what becomes a back and forth look at Nora’s, Iris’ and Wes’ lives leading up to the soon to go south event in the bank. While most of the earlier chapter events focus on the insanely complicated and confusing years that Nora and her mother (if you could call her that)ran cons, what happened to the other teens also factors into how everything shakes out. It’s tension-filled, painful, and forces you to keep reading, even when you’re cringing at just how awful Nora’s earlier years were. In sum, one heck of an adventure.
I also highly recommend her first book Far From You which came out in 2014.
Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher
Two teens haunted by ghosts of those they loved. Amelia’s best friend Jenna died in a car crash shortly after a painful situation that left them estranged. Reclusive and mysterious Nolan, a famous author while still a teen, is haunted by his two younger sisters. Amelia’s haunting seems to be propelling her in an unimaginable direction while Nolan’s are holding him in a very painful stasis. Her obsession with his two books about a magical world called Orman is heated by the arrival of a limited edition copy of the two books, sent from an obscure book store in a small Michigan town. What follows is magical, painful at times, and ultimately beautiful. Reading this was like waking after a particularly vivid dream, one that haunts you in a very emotional way. A terrific read!
Seventh Sun by Lani Forbes
A rich, but cruel world, Customs that bind everyone, especially those in the nobility and a selection process where those not chosen are condemned to be sacrificed to appease the gods. No wonder it’s difficult for Princess Mayana to remain sane. She cares about most of the other princesses who make up her competition for the emperor’s hand, while also suspecting their society is based upon lies. Following her through the marriage selection process makes for fascinating reading and the book ends just beyond one major cliffhanger. I’m so glad I ordered the sequel as soon as I closed the cover on this one.
Jade Bones by Lani Forbes
Bad news/good news to begin. I finished the first book just days ago and immediately ordered this. Upon reading it, I realized my impression that this was a duology was wrong and another book will come sometime down the road. That’s the bad news. The good news is that this is a seamless transition from the end of the first book, is smooth as glass, and introduces not only a new player, but adds some very interesting twists. Mayana and Ahkin weave a very tortuous way through the underworld, one that is filled with frightful challenge after frightful challenge. Meanwhile on the surface, Yemania has been conscripted for a new role, while meeting a young man she should hate and fear. Instead, her natural goodness and impulse as a skilled healer take over. It’s as good a middle book as one could ask for. I just wish I could get my hands on the third one ASAP.
A Curse of Ash and Embers by Jo Spurrier
Imagine your dad died and your stepfather detests you. All you get is verbal abuse and the dirty jobs. Then a letter arrives and you find you’ve been hired at a mysterious place far away. When you arrive, ghosties and beasties come after you and you discover your new job is as a helper for a witch who just semi-vanquished the one who taught her. A dandy fantasy. At first, the use of contemporary language seemed odd, but that changes quickly. Both Elodie and Aleida are great characters, there are beasties aplenty, a magical orchard, dandy fights and a very smooth plot flow. I’m so glad I ordered the sequel before I finished as I’m raring to read it.
Daughter of Lies by Jo Spurrier
As good a sequel as you could ask for. Elodie’s basic goodness and compassion slowly force Aleida to not only look inside, but realize that change toward, shall we say, chaotic good isn’t such a terrible thing. Sly humor, interesting new players and plenty of action make this a fast and very enjoyable read.
Girl From Shadow Springs by Ellie Cypher
You get just enough about the world away from the icy wasteland to frame it and that’s done nicely. So is the Flats and it becomes as much a character as Jorie and Cody the deeper they go into it. The story is extremely well crafted and one that’s easy to visualize in your head while reading it. Plenty of action and interesting use of different ways of using the same language between the two teens adds authenticity. Endless action and tension, coupled with a nifty plot reveal made this one of those books I had to read in one sitting. I’ll be very much interested in subsequent books by this author.
Cousins by Karen McManus
Twisty, involved, with diabolical aspects both current and in the past. Three cousins who haven’t seen each other in years are summoned to the island owned by the reclusive grandmother who disinherited their parents ages ago. Why have they been offered cushy resort jobs and why won’t she meet with them? Add in twisty secrets their parents have and you’re set to go. It’s a very satisfying read with some unexpected surprises (for me, at least) near the end. It’s the kind of book I’ve come to expect and enjoy from this author.
Savage Cinderella by P.J. Sharon
A fast and intense read about a girl who is the ultimate survivor and the boy who finds her in a mountainous forest in Georgia. Plenty of suspense, a human monster and an inhuman savior. Edge-of-your-seat finish. A very good book tor teens liking adventure, but equally good as bibliotherapy for those dealing with the trauma of kidnapping or sexual assault.