Teen Crime, Mystery, and Suspense

Here are my reviews and comments of the books I tagged as Teen and Crime, Mystery, and Suspense. Scroll down to see the actual reviews and comments but here is the list. 

Abrahams, Peter. Reality Check
Beaudoin, Sean. You Killed Wesley Payne
Beitia, Sara. The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon
Berk, Josh. The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin
Black, Holly. Red Glove
Blundell, Judy. Strings Attached
Blundell, Judy. What I Saw and How I Lied
Carter, Ally. Uncommon Criminals
Choyce, Lesley. The Book of Michael
Cross, Sarah. Kill Me Softly
Damico, Gina. Scorch
David, Keren. Almost True
DeKeyser, Stacy. Jump the Cracks
Deuker, Carl. Payback Time
Ferguson, Alane. The Dying Breath
Green, John. Paper Towns
Hahn, Mary Downing. Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls
Haines, Kathryn Miller. The Girl is Murder
Harmon, Michael. The Chamber of Five
Harvey, Alyxandra. Haunting Violet
Henderson, Lauren. Kiss Me Kill Me
Henry, April. The Night She Disappeared
Hiaasen, Carl. Scat
Hodkin, Michelle. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Hodkin, Michelle. The Evolution of Mara Dyer
James, Brian. Thief
Jarzab, Anna. All Unquiet Things
Johnson, Maureen. The Name of the Star
Kern, Peggy. No Way Out (Bluford)
Kincy, Karen. Other
Lane, Andy. Death Cloud
Lee, Y.S.. The Traitor in the Tunnel
Lee, Y.S.. A Spy in the House
Littlefield, Sophie. Hanging by a Thread
Lyga, Barry. I Hunt Killers
Mac, Carrie. Jacked
Mackall, Dandi Daley. The Silence of Murder
McClintock, Norah. Masked
McClintock, Norah. Guilty
McClintock, Norah. I, Witness
McNeil, Gretchen. Ten
Miller, Kirsten. Inside the Shadow City
Monaghan, Annabel. A Girl Named Digit
Northrop, Michael. Gentlemen
Oliver, Lin. Sound Bender
Olsen, Sylvia. Middle Row
Poznanski, Ursula. Erebos
Reger, Rob. The Lost Days (Emily the Strang)
Resau, Laura. The Indigo Notebook
Revis, Beth. Across the Universe
Rocks!, Misako. Detective Jermain Volume 1
Rosenfield, Kat. Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone
Ross, Jeff. The Drop
Sandler, Karen. Tankborn
Schrefer, Eliot. The School For Dangerous Girls
Silvey, Craig. Jasper Jones
Singleton, Linda Joy. Dead Girl Dancing
Smith, Alexander Gordon. Lockdown
Springer, Nancy. My Sister's Stalker
Tullson, Diane. Riley Park
Valentine, Jenny. Double
Valentino, Amanda. Invisible I
Wells, Dan. I Am Not A Serial Killer
Westerfeld, Scott. So Yesterday
Whaley, John Corey. Where Things Come Back
Willingham, Bill. Down the Mysterly River
Wooding, Chris. Malice
Yovanoff, Brenna. Paper Valentine
Zevin, Gabrielle. All These Things I've Done

Abrahams, Peter                 
Reality Check                 

     Peter Abrahams has long been a favorite for his adult suspense novels but try as I would, I could never get into his Echo Falls series. His latest suspense novel, a stand alone young adult mystery keeps the reader guessing all the way through while throwing out clues that do add up. Sixteen-year-old injured football star Cody drops out of high school in rural eastern Colorado when he is benched for injuries and his wealthy girl friend is sent to an exclusive boarding school in Vermont. Wanting what is best for Clea, Cody breaks up with her so she can have a fresh start at her new school. When she goes missing, Cody hops in his car and heads east to join the search. Cody and Clea are great characters -- full of character and readers willing to put up with the beginning slowness of accelerating action will be amply rewarded with an entertaining read. This could be the best YA Crime/suspense novel of the year. Watch Readers Advisor Online late in April to see if this finalist for the Young Adult Edgar Award takes the winning slot.

Beaudoin, Sean                 
You Killed Wesley Payne                 
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

     Hard boiled noir featuring a teen detective. By the end I didn't like any of the characters even though I had stuck with it to see how the mystery would unfold. I did like the dialog. OK. So last night I woke up thinking about this book and realized the reason I didn't like the characters was because they made me feel the same way I feel about John Irving's and Ann Tyler's characters. Just because I don't like them doesn't mean that you won't enjoy the books. Goodness knows that lots of people love books by Ann Tyler and John Irving even though I find their characters mean spirited. Now, I wanted to like the book. Someone I'm very fond of is in the acknowledgments which makes me think that Sean Beaudoin is a cool person.  Remember - no two people ever read the same book.                                   

Beitia, Sara                 
The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon                 
                  Albert Morales has just moved to a small town in Idaho when he meets Lily Odilon, the town wild child and a second year senior who comes to his aid as he is being harassed in the school cafeteria. That starts a steamy romance. When her parents are away Albert and Lily spend the night together but she goes for a drink in the middle of the night and never returns. Albert becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance or murder. Trying to clear his name he breaks into her house and finds her diary which may shed light on the horrible event that kept her from graduating the previous year and might lead to her whereabouts but her younger sister Olivia discovers him. Olivia and Albert become partners in trying to find and save Lily in this story told through three alternating timelines. It could be confusing but typography indicates which timeline is which while the rapid shifting builds suspense. This would be a good readalike for John Green’s Paper Towns and is a welcome new mystery in a year of great mysteries for teen readers and all fans of good YA lit.                 

Berk, Josh                 
The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin                 
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

                  I know I wrote up a review for this but somehow lost it. I have a very hard time remembering the exact title so thank goodness for being able to just type in Hamburger Halpin and still find it. The cover has made it very difficult to "sell" to teens but fortunately a few in the bookclub did take the chance on it and loved it. When Will Halpin starts attending a different high school he knows he has a couple of strikes against him. For one he is big, some might consider him fat, and for another, he is deaf. The laugh out loud humor, vulnerable and wonderful Will, the friendship with Smiley, and murder mystery plot all work well together to make a satisfying read.                 

Black, Holly                 
Red Glove
Margaret K. McElderry Books

                  How Holly Black can combine a noir murder mystery with a boarding school story and magical powers while making it all believable is nothing short of amazing. The world she has created in the two Curse Workers books is gritty and ugly but still she lets the goodness in people show through. Cassel Sharpe is being recruited by the Feds to find his brother's murderer. Meanwhile his mother is conning the governor who is trying to bring new testing and discrimination to bear against workers. I would love to hear from someone who reads this without having read White Cat  first to see if it stands alone. It looks like it could to me but then I did read and love White Cat.                 

Blundell, Judy                 
Strings Attached                 
Scholastic Press                 

     National Book Award winner, Blundell has done it again and presented readers with a suspenseful tale of noir featuring a complex and conflicted teen protagonist and illuminating an era with verisimilitude while at the same time making it real and true for contemporary readers. Seventeen-year-old Kitty, one third of the Corrigan triplets, runs away to New York where she does earn a bit part in a clunker of a Broadway show. Her longtime boyfriend now ex and her brother have enlisted in the Army and will probably be sent to the Korean War. When the ex's dad an attorney for the mob offers her a rent free apartment and helps her land a nightclub job she doesn't really know what she is getting into. Rich, lush, compelling, and mysterious Kitty's story thrusts the reader into the seedy side of teen life in 1950. Adults who enjoy Robert Fate's Baby Shark series will enjoy it.  Interestingly enough there was a story in the news yesterday about the family of a woman trying to get visitation rights with triplets whose birth resulted in her massive brain damage much like the birth of the Corrigan triplets in the novel and their mother's death.                 

Blundell, Judy                 
What I Saw and How I Lied                 
Scholastic Press                 

     This National Book Award winner is slow going at first but its accelerating pacing makes it quite riveting if one sticks with it long enough and long enough is more than twice the 40 or 50 pages I usually allow for a book to snag me. Fifteen-year-old Evie adores her glamorous mother, Bev, and recently returned from World War II step-father, Joe. When the family suddenly heads to Palm Beach, Florida after Joe receives repeated phone calls from a former comrade in arms they wind up in a hotel in the nearly deserted off season town with a wealthy attractive couple called the Graysons befriending them. Soon Peter, a gorgeous 23 year old who served in the war with Joe turns up and Evie falls hard for him. Rich in historical detail, this suspenseful coming of age tale makes its era as well as its heroine come to life as she witnesses anti-Semitic behaviors, the life styles of the rich, and experiences a court trial that makes her family life appear tawdry.                 

Carter, Ally                 
Uncommon Criminals

                  Fun, enjoyable caper story featuring Kat Bishop, a born grifter who decides to be on the side of good. She steals a legendary emerald to restore it to the elderly daughter of the archaeologists who had uncovered it decades ago only to discover she had been conned. Together with a likable coterie of young relatives and friends she sets out to right the wrong. Very cinematic in feel, this would make a great movie along the lines of Oceans 11, etc. While this is the second in a series that started with Heist Society I can honestly say it stands on its own as I didn't read the first book.      

Choyce, Lesley                 
The Book of Michael                 
Red Deer Press                 

     Six months into his sentence after being convicted and imprisoned as an adult for the murder of his girlfriend, sixteen-year-old Michael is exonerated by the confession of the real murderer and released from prison but his life has been unalterably changed. The plot may snare reluctant readers and it will be interesting to see if they will stick with it through Michael's introspective healing as he examines and tries to get on with his life.                 

Cross, Sarah                 
Kill Me Softly                 

                  This entrancing contemporary take on fairy tales reminds me of  Bill Willingham's graphic novel Fables series with the grittiness  of the original tales preserved and with vividly evoked images that bring the Disney versions to mind. When orphaned Mira, who had been raised by her two godmothers, runs away from home seeking the graves of her parents who died in a fire at her christening, she meets brothers Felix and Blue who live in a casino resort in the city. Blue is antagonistic from the get go but Felix, who is the 20 something manager of the casino and too old for her, provides her with a room and a pass key as long as she promises to never go to room 3031. She meets an assortment of local teens who are all modern archetypes of fairy tale characters and discovers that something momentous is approaching along with her sixteenth birthday.  Palpable suspense, endearing characters, and sly wit combine in a delightful confection that may get readers interested in reading other takes on fairy tales both familiar and more obscure. "Donkeyskin" is mentioned and readers may want to explore Deerskin by Robin McKinley and discover some of her other fairy tale inspired novels.

Damico, Gina                 

     An enjoyable read in the Grimsphere as Lex and Driggs fall in love while trying to track down a serial Damner. Croak sees political unrest and the junior Grim Reapers end up going to Las Vegas-like DeMyse.                 

David, Keren                 
Almost True

                  The second half of the story that started with When I Was Joe continues the compelling story about Ty/ Joe/ Jake who is in the British version of the Witness Protection Program. Ty's growth as a human is subtle but real as he meets relatives he never knew he had, discovers family secrets, and faces the consequences of his own actions. This brief review doesn't do it justice as it is a compelling and memorable read.                 

DeKeyser, Stacy
Jump the Cracks                 

                  On her way to visit her dad in New York City, fifteen-year-old Victoria inadvertently kidnaps a toddler and absconds with a drug dealer's cash. Traveling across several states while trying to do the right thing she finds herself in danger. Great thriller for younger teens with lots of potential for discussion. What would you do if you found a bruised toddler seemingly abandoned?                 

Deuker, Carl                 
Payback Time                 
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

                  Mitch True, short, round, and nicknamed after the Michelin man for his own "spare tire" goes into his senior year of high school planning to make a name for himself as a journalist. He wasn't elected editor of his Seattle HS paper but sports writer. Paired up with a hot Korean girl photographer, they stumble onto a mystery surrounding a new football player. Great pacing, Deuker's masterful character development, and a believable mystery make for a great read. I didn’t care for the detailed football scenes which would probably be a major plus for many readers.                  

Ferguson, Alane                 
The Dying Breath

                  Seventeen-year-old Cammie has it bad for Justin, the young deputy sheriff. Meanwhile Kyle is back and doing some serious stalking. The forensic elements revolve around two celebs who drowned without water while sitting in a Durango eatery and a reclusive eccentric in Silverton.                  

Green, John                 
Paper Towns                 
Dutton Juvenile                 

     Loved it! It is full of Awesome. Lots of Rat's Saw God feel to it. When they were little Margo Roth Spiegelman was Q’s best friend. Now a month before high school graduation she has disappeared after taking Q on a night of pranks. Worried she may have committed suicide, Q and his friends start tracking her down using clues she has left behind.                 


Hahn, Mary Downing                 

Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls                 
Clarion Books

                  It is an interesting book but seemed very slow paced. Hahn did a terrific job with the characters and I really liked that Nora spent time trying to figure out what she believed. I think that what kept me from loving this book is that it was too real, it went on and on like life does. The ending, when Nora is approaching 70,  made it seem more to me like a book of interest to adults rather than to teens. I've had this available to the Bistro teens for quite some time and none have them have read it.                  

Haines, Kathryn Miller                 
The Girl is Murder
Roaring Brook Press

                  It's 1942 and Iris and her dad have moved down in status and position after he lost his leg at Pearl Harbor and Iris's German born mother committed suicide. Now there is no money and Iris is going to a tough public school while her dad tries to build a business as a private investigator. Fans of the 1940s will enjoy the slang and vivid view of what life looked like then. I didn't find the characters or the story compelling but once again, I'll add the Bistro Book Club mantra -- "no two people ever read the same book." Folks I respect have loved it so give it a try if you like mysteries set in the 40s.                  

Harmon, Michael                 
The Chamber of Five                 
Knopf Books for Young Readers

                  Set in a private school for gifted kids, seventeen-year-old Jason Wetherby, the son of a congressman knows what’s expected of him. He just doesn't agree with it. The school is populated by incredibly smart scholarship students and the children of the rich and powerful. "You were either gifted at Lambert, or your parents gifted Lambert." It is run by an elite group called the Chamber of Five and when Jason is chosen to be a member of that group he gets up close and personal with how the school and much of society actually operates. This look at ugly politics is not for the fainthearted but it will keep readers turning the pages to see how Jason deals with the systemic abuses at Lambert School. Issues that resonate with the truthful way they are depicted include sexual harassment, child abuse, bullying, and politics. Jason joins with Brooke, a member of the Youth Leadership Group, and Talbot "Elvis" Presley, who is freakishly intelligent to turn things around while facing deadly consequences. I am a fan of Michael Harmon. The characters in his books always seem real and his stories are always compelling. He is a true storyteller. All of his previous books have been ones I could use to turn reluctant readers into real readers.

Harvey, Alyxandra                 
Haunting Violet                 

                  Violet's mother is a medium in London in the later half of the nineteenth century. Violet and her sort-of-foster-brother help her mother who is a scammer trick the people who pay her to contact their dead loved ones. At an extended house party in the country Violet sees a girl dripping water with bruises around her neck and wrists and realizes she is seeing the spirit of a murdered girl. This entertaining read features a peek into another time and society, nice ghostly touches including a ghost dog, a dysfunctional family, a romance, a tale of doomed love, and a mystery.                  

Henderson, Lauren                 
Kiss Me Kill Me                 
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

                  Loved the set up but it kept going and going. I have problems with a mystery that isn't solved, that only confirms that there really is a mystery by the end.

Henry, April                 
The Night She Disappeared                 
Henry Holt and Co.

                  Terrific suspense novel. The format of using multiple perspectives was perfect for the story. The relationship between Gabie and Drew also played out in a very real way and the climax was thriller-perfect. I am going to love book talking this to teens. When my son was a college freshman in a city 300 miles away he had a pizza delivery job. We were called at 2am by his roommate who told us he had gone out on a delivery about 10pm and hadn't come back. This was before he had a cell phone and the address turned out to be impossible to find. Fortunately it turned out that as he drove around trying to find an obscure address on a rural road he got lost and eventually ran out of gas. Nothing dire, just had to spend a frigid night eating cold pizza and shivering. In the time between receiving that horrifying call and the next morning when he was found I knew exactly the terror Kayla's parents felt.                 

Hiaasen, Carl                 
Knopf Books for Young Readers                 

     I've been a major fan of Hiaasen's since Tourist Season was first published. I love a book that makes me laugh out loud and I love quirky characters. Readers who haven't read a lot of Hiaasen should really enjoy this. When Nick and the rest of his science class are on a field trip in the Black Vine Swamp a fire breaks out and everyone heads back to the school except Mrs. Starch, a rather vicious teacher who goes back for a girl's inhaler and subsequently disappears. When the fire is discovered to be arson, Smoke, Truman School's resident juvenile delinquent is suspected. Meanwhile, a very stupid rich guy's son is trying to get rich on his own (using dear old dad's money to start up) by drilling an oil well in a protected area of the swamp so the government will pay him to keep from fully developing it. The only problem with the scenario is that there isn't really any oil on his land but he has a plan to pipe it over from the adjacent federal land. Typical Hiaasen. Funny. Endearing characters. Unfortunately he just keeps writing the same thing over and over again. I would love to see him stretch a bit.

Hodkin, Michelle             
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing               

     Mara Dyer has moved to Florida after her three friends in Rhode Island died in the collapse of an abandoned asylum. She was the only survivor but has no memories. Because of her fragile emotional and mental state her parents move the family to southern Florida where her lawyer father has been invited to take over a high profile criminal defense case. At her new private school in Miami, Mara immediately annoys the school mean girl and her muscle bound sidekick while capturing the interest of Noah, the hot boy everybody wants. Mara has hallucinations of her dead friends calling out to her. She "sees" her dead boyfriend walking around. She "sees" a man whom she had reported for abusing a dog and then he turns up dead. Strange and mysterious happenings begin accumulating as her mental state goes further in doubt and she and Noah try to delve into the strangeness that surrounds her.
      This is a difficult book to synopsize, as teen members of the Bistro Book Club have repeatedly told me as they gushed about how good it is. And they are right. This complex thriller, complete with accelerating pacing is a riveting read with surprising twists and turns. Not to be missed.   

Hodkin, Michelle             
The Evolution of Mara Dyer      
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

                Not wanting to give anything away spoiler-wise, all I can say is that this is a worthy sequel, the plot thickens, and Hodkin leaves me wondering what is going to happen next. I like the unpredictability of it.          

James, Brian      

                Kid, is a foster kid living in New York with an older foster sister and an evil foster mother who takes in the kids to have them go out and steal for her. As a former foster mother myself, I couldn't imagine this kind of a situation existing but I did talk to some of my former foster kids and they assured me that it could happen and knew people who had been in the situation. The relationships between Kid, Alexi, and Dune are complex and believable. The message about creating family is powerful.            

Jarzab, Anna      
All Unquiet Things         
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

                A year after the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Neily begins to believe that perhaps the wrong person has been sent to prison. After the murder, Carly's uncle, the father of her best friend/ cousin Audrey, was convicted. Neily and Audrey, are both outcasts now at Brighton Day School, Neily because some think he killed Carly and Audrey because her dad was convicted of the crime, join forces to find out who shot Carly and why.

After a somewhat leisurely start the action picks up and it turns into a non-stop page turner. One of the best teen mysteries I've read in some time with complex characters and motivations.             

Johnson, Maureen           
The Name of the Star    
Putnam Juvenile

                Amazingly enthralling story of Rory from a small town in Louisiana who heads to boarding school in London when her parents move to Bristol. Her arrival coincides with a Jack the Ripper-like killing on the anniversary of the original Ripper killing. As the city and school hunker down amidst a media frenzy she becomes friends with her roommate as she acculturates to the new school and city. Sneaking back into the dorm one night a strange man talks to her. She may have seen the Ripper. A young constable, an underground engineer, and an additional roommate make her life even more exciting as the city tries to figure out how the Ripper can kill without being caught on the ubiquitous cameras that are all over London. Terrific characters, a setting that feels real, a touch of the paranormal, and an edge of the seat mystery combine to make this one of the best books of the year.  

Kern, Peggy       
No Way Out (Bluford series)      
Townsend Press

                I really like the Bluford series. Each book I've read shows real kids in gritty situations who end up dealing with their problems. This outstanding series is one that turns reluctant readers, particularly those who have tough lives of their own into real readers. In No Way Out,  orphaned high school freshman Harold gets involved in a drug dealing ring after his grandmother suffers injuries in a fall with complications related to her diabetes. Discovering that the part time job at the corner grocery won't begin to make a dent in the bills he takes up the offer of a neighborhood thug but finds he can't destroy lives in good conscience.              

Kincy, Karen     

                There are two kinds of Others, those who inherit their otherness and those who are infected by a bite or sexual transmission. The infected are usually vampires and werewolves. Gwen is half pooka. Her birth father was one of the faerie kind who could shape shift and Gwen fights her own urges to transform into a horse, an owl, or a cat. She feels like an outsider in her small Washington town and wishes she knew more Others. When she and her boyfriend find a couple dead in a pond she suspects they are water sprites and as other deaths are in the news she begins to believe perhaps a serial killer is targeting Others. A good combination of fantasy, mystery, and romance.               

Lane, Andy        
Death Cloud     

                With his father off to India, his brother Mycroft at work in London, and his mother and sister having issues, 14 year-old Sherlock Holmes is sent off  to the county home of an uncle and aunt he had never met for his holiday from school. He meets Matty, an orphan, who travels the waterways on his own, Virginia, a fascinating American girl, and becomes the student of Virginia's father, Amyus Crowe, an eccentric American. Sherlock and company stumble across a couple of unexplained deaths that entice them into some dangerous sleuthing that takes them far beyond homicide to an international plot. This delightful, if rather gory and blood soaked, mystery is true to the Doyle canon and offers an entertaining and exciting peek into Sherlock's teen years.            

Lee, Y.S.               
The Traitor in the Tunnel           
Candlewick Press

                The third book in Lee's fascinating trilogy The Agency, does not disappoint. Readers who like Mary Quinn's quick thinking, intelligence, and talent as a secret agent will enjoy her foray into Queen Victoria's household in Buckingham Palace. Sent in to uncover the perpetrator of some petty thefts, Mary in the guise of a maid, is on hand when the Prince of Wales gets into a scrape in an opium den that leaves his companion dead but that also may provide Mary with clues about her missing father. Meanwhile, young engineer James Easton is in the vicinity working on a project to improve the sewage tunnels that could put the palace in danger. The Victorian London setting is so real one can smell it and the mundane details of Mary's work ring very true. A secret agent's life isn't all action, danger, and glamor but she doesn't stint on them either. Readers who didn't read the first two books should have no trouble reading this as a stand alone but Mary is such an interesting character and the London details are so enticing that most will want to read all three.            

Lee, Y.S.                A
Spy in the House             

     Set in the 1850s, Mary, a twelve-year-old orphan is saved from being hanged and then is educated at an unusual school that places her, at age seventeen in an upper class household as companion to a young lady. As she searches for clues about smuggling and fraud, she keeps running up against a young engineer. Set next to the stinking Thames, the river and the city of London come alive in all their 19th century filth and danger.

Littlefield, Sophie           
Hanging by a Thread   
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

                Had absolutely no idea this was part of a series, so yes, it definitely stands alone. Clare has just moved back to the small coastal California town where her family lived before her parents' divorce. She is psychometric, she has the ability to hold objects of clothing and see visions as if through the eyes of the wearer. She encounters lots of interesting clothing items because she is a talented designer who remakes vintage clothing. As the fourth of July weekend approaches the town is on edge because two years ago a boy was killed in a hit and run on the cliffside road and the previous year a popular teen disappeared. People are worried that another tragedy will strike and Clare's childhood best friend has received a cryptic threat. And Clare, she has touched a jacket that has let her see through the eyes of the missing girl but will she see enough to solve the mystery and stop a murder? Thoroughly entertaining fun.   

Lyga, Barry        
I Hunt Killers
Little, Brown and Company

                So excited that I get to take this one to R-5, the alternative high school, this week. Could not put it down (well not until it crashed into my face last night and I had to close it and go to sleep but woke up at 5:30am so I could finish reading it).  I've had so many kids who loved Dan Wells' series that started with I Am Not A Serial Killer and who want more along those lines who will be thrilled. Watching Jazz's thought process really hooked me and I very much enjoyed his friendships and romance.    

Mac, Carrie        

                When Zane is car jacked by a ski mask wearing gunman he is willing to give up his beloved car or even his driver's license. This brief, easy to read story packs in quite a bit making it a great read for struggling readers, reluctant readers, or just those who have a very limited time to read.               

Mackall, Dandi Daley     
The Silence of Murder  
Knopf Books for Young Readers

     Entertaining, better than watching TV.            

McClintock, Norah          

                I always enjoy the books from Orca Soundings. They are fast paced quick reads. Perfect for when there isn't a lot of time to read. Masked starts when Daniel visits a convenience store with nefarious purpose. Meanwhile, in the apartment upstairs, Rosie, beautiful and petulant is preparing to run away with her egotistical ex. Summoned to the store by her father, the store owner, Rosie and Daniel are both present when a masked man with a gun comes in. Taking Rosie hostage, he robs the store but then secrets, lots of secrets are exposed when Daniel recognizes the voice of the masked man. Dealing with real life issues, domestic abuse, abusive boyfriends, lying, guns, and more, this story is quick and to the point but still, Norah McClintock, makes her characters seem real. A great choice for reluctant or new adult and teen readers.  

McClintock, Norah          
Orca Books

                Right from the beginning I knew who was responsibly and had an idea of why but McClintock kept me hooked as Lila and Finn piece things together. By the end, I really cared for both of them. I'm looking forward to sharing this with the teens at the alternative high school and the correctional facility who have loved other books by this author.         

McClintock, Norah          
I, Witness           

                Pushing myself to read graphic novels. Grim and gritty, I know several teens who would love this one.   

McNeil, Gretchen            
Balzer + Bray    

    Page turner that reads like a slasher horror movie. A pastiche of Christie’s Ten Little Indians.

Miller, Kirsten  
Inside the Shadow City

                A very odd but entertaining book featuring renegade girl scouts, a mysterious girl who comes out of a sink hole, a princess, an exclusive school, rats, and the secret tunnels under New York. This is first in the Kiki Strike series.  

Monaghan, Annabel       
A Girl Named Digit
Houghton Mifflin

                A seventeen-year-old math whiz discovers terrorist messages being broadcast via a popular teen tv show and goes into  hiding with a hunky/nerdy young FBI agent while they cross the country trying to unravel a terrorist plot and stay alive. Quirky and different.         

Northrop, Michael          
Scholastic Press               

     Life changes for a group of four sophomore boys on the day a hated teacher asks Tommy, who finds pronunciation of any word starting with the letters thr impossible, the square root of nine. Tommy explodes, throwing his desk and when he leaves the classroom he disappears. Later, in English class where they are working on Crime and Punishment, Mr. Haberman, who always calls them "Gentlemen" has everyone in the absurdly small class (14 students) hit the side of a barrel with a fish hammer and try to guess its contents. After class Micheal, Mixer, and Bones help move the still hidden contents of the barrel which they guess is road kill to the trunk of his car. When Tommy turns up missing they begin to believe that perhaps it was his body they moved. The characters, except for Micheal (of the unfortunate spelling) never really come to life but the dilemma he faces and how he handles it at the end is well done.           

Oliver, Lin          
Sound Bender  
Scholastic Press

                I really liked Sound Bender because it is an adventure filled and thought provoking read for the youngest end of the YA spectrum. Recently orphaned brothers are wrenched from their Manhattan apartment to live with their billionaire step-uncle in a huge warehouse in Brooklyn. The eldest brother discovers that when he touches some things he hears sounds that give him visions of occurrences related to the objects. As he and his friend, a genius, investigate the crates of valuable "artifacts" they find a dolphin head shaped helmet that makes Theo?? feel horrible when he touches it. Investigations in a record store lead them to the other side of the Earth where they uncover a diabolical experiment that caused immense pain to a pod of dolphins and that someone may be trying to start up again. Fast moving adventure, heroic thirteen-year-old, interesting science and wildlife information combine to make this an enjoyable read particularly for those hard to entice to reading middle school boys.       

Olsen, Sylvia      
Middle Row       
Orca Book Publishers

                When seventeen-year-old Vince, the son of white bigots, falls in love with Raedawn, a girl from the Rez, he is drawn into a mystery. Raedawn is determined to find out what happened to Dune who has been missing since the first day of school. He was a quiet artist without any friends who always sat in the middle of the bus, not with either the First Nations kids at the front or the white kids at the back.
     I really like the Orca Soundings books because they are good stories, well told that great for teen readers who don't have good reading skills, yet. I'm sure that some of my reluctant readers who are struggling with reading will be drawn to this by the marijuana leaf on the cover then stick with it because of the well drawn characters and suspense.    

Poznanski, Ursula           
Annick Press

                Not quite sure how to rate this. There were aspects of it I really liked but as a thriller it moved too slowly. I've enjoyed other books set in computer games and I did like the tasks assigned in the game world that had to be accomplished in the real world.            

Reger, Rob         
The Lost Days
HarperCollins    Somehow I had missed Emily the Strange up until now. When a girl wakes up with no memories she picks the name Earwig and discovers she is in the town of Blackrock even though not a single black rock is in evidence. It turns out that this pint sized goth girl is actually thirteen years old. As she tries to figure out what is going on in Blackrock she finds a posse of four black cats, discovers the pockets in her black dress can hold just about everything, finds out she has built a beautiful golem, communicates with a dead relative, meets her doppelganger, has lots of nightmares, and acts against a stationary traveling medicine show. Great fun to read and the book itself as an object is a joy to experience. Lots of illustrations, semi-glossy pages and a cover that just begs to be stroked with its high gloss black, white, and red embossed art on a matte black background to delight the senses.   

Resau, Laura     
The Indigo Notebook
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

                Zeeta's fifteen years have been spent traveling the globe with her mother, Layla, an itinerant English teacher and free spirit. On the flight to Ecuador they interact with Wendell a teen boy who looks like an Otavaleno, but talks and walks like an American, and Jeff, who personifies everything Zeeta has always wished for in a "normal father." After settling in in Otavalo, Zeeta makes friends in the marketplace and runs into Wendell again who needs an interpreter. Adopted as an infant, he has traveled to Ecuador seeking his birth parents. Zeeta teams up with him to translate the letters he has written to his birth parents over the years and to help him in his quest to find them. A crystal that had been wrapped in his blankets when he was delivered to his real parents, the parents who raised him, is his only clue. Meanwhile Zeeta discovers why it is essential to be sure what one wishes for is what one truly wants.
This amazing book blends coming of age, romance, mystery, and a little mysticism to build an enticing story. The characters become real and I hated to turn the last page and leave them.             

Revis, Beth        
Across the Universe

                Enjoyable but predictable. Amy is cryogenically frozen along with her parents for a voyage that will take 300 years. Elder who is slated to rule the population of the ship hundreds of years into the voyage discovers Amy has been unplugged and is able to save her life. Meanwhile someone is secretly unplugging the settlers and killing some of them. While trying to solve the mystery Amy and Elder uncover some really ugly secrets.         

Rocks!, Misako  
Detective Jermain Volume 1      
Henry Holt and Co. BYR Paperbacks

                I'm not the best graphic novel reader as the pictures slow me down, a lot. I liked this story up until the end. It definitely isn't very original but I did like the characters and Misako Rocks' drawing style.            

Rosenfield, Kat 
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone
Dutton Juvenile

                Just after having sex in a farm field on graduation night, Becca is dumped by her boyfriend. The next day a young woman is found dead on the road nearby. This leisurely paced story has the kind of lush prose fans of literary fiction like. It is not my cup of tea but I would have no reservations about giving it to older teen readers who enjoyed Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey   

Ross, Jeff             
The Drop            
Orca Book Publishers

                Alex lives to snowboard. That is why it is so important for him to become a member of the Backcountry Patrol, a group that in my mind is like Search & Rescue. The Patrol is adding snowboarders for the first time and four accomplished teen boarders want the job. Being trained by a Sam, a snowboarding legend, they jump out of a helicopter on their snowboards for back country testing. The first night out they are hit by a blizzard and Bryce, the son of a billionaire disappears. Sam is curiously not concerned and possibly drunk so Alex, Hope, and Dave spend the day hunting for Bryce. Things really heat up when Hope and Alex find a clue and head out on their own, sure that Bryce was kidnapped. I imagine this page turner will appeal to lots of teen readers, especially in my area where many snowboard. The suspense is edge of the seat and Alex is an enjoyable character. In addition to teen readers who like or need the easy to read level, I imagine snowboarders who don't take much time to read may enjoy it because it is such a fast read. The cover is terrific, too.       

Sandler, Karen 
Tu Books

                Science fiction is definitely experiencing a renaissance. Kayla and Mishalla are GENs, Genetically Engineered Non-humans, best friends who know that when they reach fifteen they will probably never see each other again. After things on Earth fell apart, a colony of settlers moved to another planet. They instituted a strict caste system based on those who funded the migration and the people who indentured themselves to go. Several decades before the story starts, The Infinite(the GENs' deity) inspired a trio of prophets to create the GENs to do the work that had been done by low-borns and infused them with animal DNA to enhance the skills they would use in working. Mishalla has been sent off to care for low-born orphans but they keep disappearing, taken away in the night. Kayla, who has extremely strong arms is sent to care for an elderly trueborn man who strangely enough has a tattoo similar to the tattooed dataports on the GENs cheeks. Sandler deftly weaves strands of race, privilege, politics, greed, and romance into a fascinating culture. The young protagonists are very real and exhibit great strength of character. Another book that I enjoyed that used tattoos to signify caste was The Diary of Pelly D. by L.J. Adlington  (Strangely enough, the German title for The Diary of Pelly D was Gen-Tattoo.)

Schrefer, Eliot   
The School For Dangerous Girls              
Scholastic Press               

An intriguing premise, an interesting plot, lots of potential, but ultimately it fizzled for for me. Angela Cardenas is sent away to Hidden Oak boarding school, a last chance for wealthy girls who are out of control and a school that her cousin Pilar is attending. Restricted and censored communications, constant surveillance, and torturous teachers in a remote, decrepit campus with a mysterious history are enticing ingredients but the setting and direness of the situation ring false. As a Coloradoan it is obvious that the author knows nothing about the state.       

Silvey, Craig      
Jasper Jones     
Knopf Books for Young Readers

This multiple award winning novel from Australia is beautifully written but even though it is published in the U.S. as young adult (which makes it historical fiction as the setting is the mid 60's) it seemed much more to me like an adult literary novel (not my favorite genre). It has been likened to To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye but it actually "felt" more like Stephen King's novella "The Body" upon which the movie Stand By Me  was based. Thirteen-year-old Charlie Bucktin is lured out of his bedroom late one night by the town's bad boy legend, Jasper Jones. Jasper takes him deep into the bush where the body of Laura Wishart is hanging from a great old tree. Jasper has sought Charlie's help to dispose of the body because he knows that he will be the suspect if the body is found because he is Jasper Jones who is always blamed for every bad thing that happens in Corrigan.
Like many of Stephen King's works I can appreciate the artistry although the story doesn't really appeal to me (although King's books completely suck me in and this didn't). While I thought the sentiments and banter of Charlie and his Vietnamese immigrant friend Jeffrey was very believable the swearing didn't ring true for the time period. I did however like that both boys were very bright and used their extensive vocabularies and engaged in word play with puns. Charlie's romance with Eliza Wishart was nicely done but there was a remove, something that kept me from being immersed in their lives.     

Singleton, Linda Joy       
Dead Girl Dancing

                In her second "Dead Girl Walking" adventure, Amber wakes up not in her own body but in that of Eli's 21 year-old college sister who is suffering a massive hangover and about to embark on a Spring Break road trip with a couple of friends. Unfortunately Sharayah is haunted by both a stalker and a recurring nightmare and somewhere along the line she has turned from a conscientious premed student to a wild party girl. Another page turner that leaves the reader eagerly awaiting the third book in the series and wondering if Amber and Eli will ever be able to proceed with their budding romance. Amber and Eli are both great characters anyone would love to have for friends.             

Springer, Nancy               
My Sister's Stalker         
Holiday House

                This slender page turner features Rig, a high school sophomore, an artsy kid who lives with his polyanna-ish artist mother in the city. Four years earlier, when their parents divorced, he went with his mom and his beloved older sister, Karma called Kari, stayed with their dad in the small town where he runs a business employing half the population. When Rig comes across a web site filled with pictures of Kari, now a college sophomore, he realizes a stalker is after her and that starts him on a wild trip that brings him face to face with the stalker who has a knife and isn't afraid to use it. I could see this being popular with reluctant readers who like lots of action and little description. A satisfying quick read.            

Tullson, Diane  
Riley Park          

                Corbin and Darius are best friends, hockey team mates, and rivals for Rubee, a gorgeous girl who works at Safeway but has a boy friend with an expensive car. At a party at Riley Park, Corbin and Darius jump the gap, a daredevil plunge into the frigid river and find Rubee has shown up to the party precipitating a fight between them. When Rubee picks "Wildman" Darius, Corbin drinks until he passes out only waking up hours later after everyone, except Darius who has waited to make sure he can get home ok, has left. Suddenly they are attacked from behind by three assailants wielding lengths of rebar, Darius going down, and Corbin grabbing one of the bars and beating them away. The night ends in tragedy but that is only the beginning of this brief fast-moving read.       

Valentine, Jenny              
Hyperion Books

                Chap is on the run. He has no one, no friends, no family. During a cold autumn in London he checks into a youth shelter and one of the staff members recognizes him as Cassiel who went missing two years earlier. At first he denies it but after seeing his face in a photo decides to assume this Cassiel's identity and have a nice normal life. He had been raised by his Grandad until he was ten and put in foster care. At "home" with his mother, sister, and much older wealthy banker brother Frank, Chap tries to find out what happened to Cassiel. He meets Floyd who is very surprised that "Cassiel" is not dead. He was convinced that he had been murdered by Frank. Taking place over the course of only a couple of days, the suspense builds as the reader tries to discover who Chap really is, what happened to Cassiel, and if further disaster can be averted.              

Kantor, Melissa
Invisible I           

                With a real Veronica Mars sensibility the beginning title in The Amanda Project introduces Callie, whose astronomer mother has disappeared and whose depressed father has taken up drink and lost his job, Hal, former art nerd turned hottie, and Nia, labeled a loser back in middle school. The three are called together by the assistant principal who wants to know their relationship to Amanda Valentino who has disappeared after turning his car into a hippie era inspired art work.    .               

Wells, Dan          
I Am Not a Serial Killer
Tor Books

                John Wayne Cleaver lives in a mortuary, knows he is a sociopath, is fascinated by serial killers, but doesn’t want to be one. He has rules for himself to stay on the straight and narrow but when a real serial killer turns up he has to unleash some of his own inner monster.

Westerfeld, Scott             
So Yesterday    

                A couple mornings ago I woke up thinking about Connie Willis’s Bellwether, an absolutely fabulous book that I read several years ago that was full of truth and humor about fads and trends. It is not uncommon for me to wake up thinking about a book. I do it all the time but this seemed rather peculiar since it had been a long time since I had read it (like four years). Anyway I grabbed a book at random from the TBR bookcase and it was Westerfeld’s So Yesterday. Now I adored his Midnighters so I was expecting another sf/paranormal type read. What I found instead was another look at the phenomena that Willis explored in Bellwether. Hunter Braque, a Cool Hunter, sees some interestingly tied shoelaces on the shoes and feet of Jen Jones. It turns out Jen is an Innovator or in Willis language a bellwether. Her clothing is logoless and may appear to be nondescript but to Hunter’s appraising eye she is obviously one who starts trends not one who follows. When they go to a meeting with his boss, Mandy,  near Chinatown she doesn’t show but when Hunter tries to call on her cell phone Jen hears it ringing behind a plywood barricade starting them on a high energy hunt for Mandy and a fall into adventure. Very smart. Very clever. Very nicely done.  I didn’t want it to end. Westerfeld rocks!   

Whaley, John Corey        
Where Things Come Back          
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

                I love a book that keeps me guessing all the way through.             

Willingham, Bill              
Down the Mysterly River            

                Max the Wolf, who is really not a wolf but a boy scout, discovers himself in wilderness with no memory of how he got there. He remembers previous mysteries he solved but not the last things he was doing before losing his memory. The woods look like the Pacific northwest where he is from but different all the same. As a boy scout, he is prepared. He has in his pockets his tiny survival kit and his boy scout knife. Soon he meets Banderbrock, a fierce talking badger warrior. As they camp for the night a howling monster of a feral cat, McTavish, is chased into their camp by a sword wielding Blue Cutter. The Cutters have magical swords that change people, that make them conform to how the Cutters want them to act and what they want them to believe. After heaving the Cutter's blue sword into the woods, Max and B join forces with McTavish and soon add a fourth companion, a large black bear named Walden. They all seem to be from different worlds, worlds in which their different species don't have the ability to talk to each other. Chased by the Cutters, with Walden severely wounded and all on the brink of capture, they meet up with the Egg Man of whom the Cutters and their slavering hounds are afraid. They travel with him while Walden heals but part ways so they can go off to see the wizard whose estate will be sanctuary for them. Along the way they have adventures, tell stories, and fight ferocious battles.
This charming fantasy has a feel of classic timelessness. The characterizations are top notch, and I don't usually like talking animals. Willingham incorporates so many classic stories that even though it is fantasy it rings with truth. The ending is perfect for bibliophiles.             

Wooding, Chris

                Amazing adventurous action novel that combines text with passages from a graphic novel features a secret graphic novel that features characters who look like teens and children have gone missing. When his friend goes missing, ????, hunts down a copy of Malice and performs a ritual that summons Tall Jake who sends him into Malice where clockwork monsters terrorize and kill the readers who have been sucked in.                

Yovanoff, Brenna             
Paper Valentine              

                This page turner is an amazing combination of ghosts, serial killers, romance, and several issues, including eating disorders and survivor's grief.   

Zevin, Gabrielle               
All These Things I've Done
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

    This started with an amazing premise and promise. Sixteen-year-old Anya, the orphaned daughter of a mafiya kingpin, is a good girl. She attends a Catholic school and takes care of her older brother who was left developmentally disabled in the car crash that killed their mother, her younger sister, and her dying grandmother who is their guardian. In the future, New York and the world have changed. There are shortages of paper, books are rare, and water is rationed. One has to pay for the water and paper towels to wash hands. Coffee and chocolate are illegal but there is no drinking age for alcohol. Like the prohibition of alcohol and drugs have had in our world, the prohibitions on coffee and chocolate have led to violence and organized crime. Anya's extended family is one of five chocolate manufacturing families in the world. In their apartment, guns and chocolate are kept in a safe. After Anya's ex-boyfriend is poisoned she is taken off to Liberty, a dismal youth correctional facility built into the base of what was once the Statue of Liberty. After being brutalized and starved, the new assistant DA has her released. Anya's lab partner, Win, has fallen hard for her, and because he is the ADA's son was able to plead for her release. It didn't hurt that it had been discovered that hundreds who had used illicit chocolate had also sickened pretty much proving her innocence. As Anya and Win fall in love, complications arise but the pacing of the book slows leading to an end that makes it all look like a setup for the next book.                         


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