YA Romance

All book covers link to the book’s Tattered Cover page.

betterofffriendsBetter Off Friends, by Elizabeth Eulberg
This is a sweet read — sweet mostly in terms of how the main characters interact with each other and the secondary characters. I like the loyalty both show to each other and their other friends, and I like how Macallan learns that one of her friends, at least, perhaps doesn’t deserve the level of loyalty she’s been showing. Levi comes across as a typical guy while still remaining thoughtful and caring, and the relationship between he and Macallan grows at a realistic rate. Just a sweet, nice read. The story: Macallan and Levi meet in 7th grade and become friends. Levi’s mom steps in and helps Macallan with her grief after her mom’s death, and their friendship grows as one might expect for young teens. As they enter high school and begin maturing, they also struggle with their changing feelings (keeping them to themselves, of course) and wonder about how romance could perhaps ruin their friendship. (YA contemporary romance, released 2/14, publisher: Point)

Andy SquaredAndy Squared, by Jennifer Lavoie
I enjoyed this quite a bit. I liked the setting, and I really liked Ryder and Andy and their growing understanding of each other and their own feelings. Andrea was tough to like because she was pretty controlling, and the parents were a little two-dimensional — but all the teen characters seemed pretty real. I also enjoyed how the story wasn’t only focused on Andy’s changing awareness of his own sexuality but on other aspects of his life, as well. The ending seemed a little ‘pat’, but overall, I thought it was an entertaining and engaging read. The story: Andy and Andrea, twins, have done most things together, including their dreams of soccer glory. However, lately Andy hasn’t been as keen to pursue soccer beyond high school, and now that they’re seniors and Andrea is choosing colleges for both of them, Andy is forced to take a stand. At first, though, his sister refuses to listen. Andy is frustrated, and as his friendship with new kid Ryder begins to change into something more, he finds himself slipping further away from his twin…until she discovers Andy and Ryder in a compromising position and things spiral out of control.

7 clues to winning you7 Clues to Winning You, by Kristin Walker
This is a fun read! I so enjoyed Kristin’s first book (A Match Made in High School), and this was just as good. I liked how Blythe made her own way in the new school and how she fought to be herself. The humor really lightened some of the more angsty situations, and the romance was sweet. I also thought the original situation (where an embarrassing picture of Blythe is spread) was very realistic — and I appreciated how the characters all learned from that. As with Kristin’s first book, the characters are not only true to life, they help the reader see truths in general about people and families. The story: Blythe is spending her spring break planning the best senior year ever when her dad shares his news — he’s being considered for a promotion, which means the family will have to move. The move puts Blythe into her rival school (as the principal’s daughter, no less), and because of a prank played the previous year, the entire school has seen an embarrassing picture of Blythe. When the seniors learn that Blythe is joining their school, the picture spreads even further, and Blythe’s first days are a mishmash of humiliation and loneliness. At first, Blythe only wants revenge, and she uses guilt to convince her principal dad to cancel the Senior Scramble. But when her ‘old’ friends (ladies at a nursing home) show Blythe that she’s being petty, she decides to help the Senior Scramble continue — underground (ie, as a secret). Things spiral out of control, however, when Blythe’s friends from her previous school get jealous at the amount of time she’s spending with her new friends– and when Blythe inadvertently uses on of them to help out her new school…and now the revenge is on her and will jeopardize Blythe’s dad’s position, along with Blythe’s burgeoning relationship with a senior. (YA romantic comedy?, released 4/12, publisher: Razorbill)

just your average princessJust Your Average Princess, by Kristina Springer
This was great fun! I really liked Tina’s first YA too (The Espressologist), and this was just as good. I liked Jamie’s character. She was a good person, and even when pushed to the point of doing something stupid, she worked hard to make up for that. I really felt for her — in fact, I wanted to hold her and comfort her when she was going through the worst of her struggles (especially with her dad) — she’s definitely a sympathetic character. The romance was sweet, and I also liked how Milan’s witchiness was explained (it was realistic). This is a sweet and nice book, clean and good for even younger girls. The story: Jamie’s life is filled with hard work and small town living, but she’s good at doing what needs to be done. And she’s accepted that things are what they are (like her dad’s silence and inability to be outwardly supportive of her). But when her cousin Milan comes to stay with them, and Jamie sees her parents doing everything they can to show their concern for Milan (and not Jamie, who continues to work hard), it becomes too much — especially as Danny, the boy Jamie’s crushed on forever, also seems to be taken by Milan’s charms. Jamie wants to know why Milan dislikes her and why she’s even *there*, in the first place – and when digging, she finds some dirt. Now she has to decide how far to take it and what kind of person she really is. (YA romantic comedy, released 10/11, publisher: FS&G)

howtheymetHow They Met and other stories, by David Levithan
I ‘discovered’ this book when surfing the library catalog 🙂 As a huge Levithan fan, I had to get it — and I loved it! Although most of the stories are either G or L based, all are about teen love, and as a ‘straight’ person, I could easily relate to the emotions and trials of every one of them. It’s a great collection about the challenges of teen crushes, first loves, true connections, etc. I’d highly recommend it to any romantic out there 🙂 For those who are more sensitive to sex, although not graphic, there are sexually charged scenes. The stories: With love, requited or not, at the focus, these stories follow various teens through their experiences. (YA romance/short stories, GLBT, released 12/09, publisher: Knopf)

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YA Adventure

All the book covers link to the Tattered Cover bookstore page for that book.

coldfuryCold Fury, by T.M. Goeglein
This is a very interesting look at what might have brought the Mafia so much success (ie, paranormal activity). I like the insights into the mafia world, and I like the main character’s transformation from an innocent to someone who desperately wants to get her family back (and who is willing to do what it takes). The romance is mild and not as believable as it could (ie, Sara Jane’s reasons for choosing him), but it doesn’t detract from the intensity of the story. There are two more in this series, and I’m already partway through the second. The story: Sara Jane’s 16th birthday doesn’t go how she expects when she leaves her first dance in a huff and goes home to find her house destroyed and her family missing — and then people are chasing after her, as well. Sara Jane follows clues left for her by her dad, only to discover that her dad and his ancestors before him is part of the Mafia…a huge part. Now Sara Jane must walk a fine line between the innocent girl she once was and a confident mobster — all without letting the rest of the Outfit learn that her father is missing and without being killed, herself. (YA adventure/suspense, released 6/13, publisher: Speak)

emeraldgreenEmerald Green, by Kerstin Gier, transl. by Anthea Bell
I so loved this! It’s a great finale, even though I wasn’t quite sure why Gwen acted toward Gideon as she did in a couple places. Still, the romance was lovely, the intrigue was heart-pounding, the characters were fun — it is all good! 🙂 The story: Although heart-broken by Gideon’s duplicity, Gwen continues her role in time-traveling society. She wants to learn why Lucy (her cousin) and Paul (Lucy’s husband and a Guardian) stole the other chronograph — and she needs to know why Gideon appears to have betrayed them all. Leslie, her best friend, and Xemerius (the ghost demon) continue to help…and soon Gwen learns that her role is both crucial and terrifying — and that Gideon will do almost anything to stop her from being hurt. Can the two of them stop the Count and save them all? (YA time travel/mystery, released 10/13, publisher: Henry Holt)

infinityglassInfinityglass, by Myra McEntire
I really liked this. Interestingly, I read the first one a couple years ago and wasn’t thrilled — but this one totally sucked me in (which means, of course, that I’ll now have to go back and read both the first two). I liked the characters, I liked the romance, I like the mystery — and I loved the premise of the different dimensions (in time). The story: The Hourglass group has been looking for the Infinityglass for a long time, but things are crucial now that they’ve interrupted the flow of time by saving a loved one from death (in the past) and changing the future/present. Because of that, Rips in time (which include people) move from the past into the present. But now they’ve learned that the Infinityglass is a person, and the member of the Hourglass group chosen to go and get her has to persuade her to help them. It’s complicated even further when Dune, the chosen one, realizes he’s attracted to Hallie (the Infinityglass)…and her mom is the one standing in their way. (YA paranormal/time travel, released 6/13, publisher: Egmont)

united we spyUnited We Spy, by Ally Carter
I loved this too, although it felt a little tired to me. (Not tired as in ‘done before,’ but tired as in ‘this is the 6th book and I might be out of things to say’). Still, especially when taken with the other five Gallagher Girl books, this is an amazing and clean story with strong and compassionate characters — a win-win, in my view. Cammie is such a fighter, but she also has compassion and is willing to think about the consequences of her actions. I’ve loved Zach since day one, so it’s wonderful to see more of him and learn more about his backstory. Bex, Macie, and Liz are also great characters — and it was fun to see Liz have a bit more of the spotlight this time. Many things come together here, and although I did think the plot itself was on the thin side, it was good to see a wrap-up (and not everything is resolved — Macie, especially, has some open threads). The story: Cammie and her friends are seeing the light at the end of their spy school tunnel, as they’re only months away from graduation. But the Circle of Cavan isn’t interested in their piddly lives and continue to wreak havoc…in fact, their havoc is of the world war kind. Cammie’s mom begs the girls to leave it to the professionals, but when Preston (one of Cammie’s and Macie’s friends) is taken, the girls know they can’t simply sit back and wait. So they do what they do best and throw themselves into the fray — and when Cammie’s mom and Joe Solomon disappear, Cammie knows it all depends on what they, a group of four spy trainees (and Zach, of course), can do to save them all. (YA adventure/spy thriller, released 9/13, publisher: Disney-Hyperion)

sapphire blueSapphire Blue, by Kerstin Gier, transl by Anthea Bell
Yes, the second in this trilogy is just as good as the first, imo. The tension has increased, the mystery has increased, and Gwen is just as spunky and enjoyable as in the first book. Also, she finally tells people about her gifts, so that’s one mystery somewhat solved. The ending is kind of cliff-hangery, though, so if you can wait until October before reading this, you’ll have number three (Emerald Green) to read right away (I couldn’t wait, clearly, and now I’m chomping at the bit — however, I actually ordered Emerald Green for myself, an indication of how much I love this trilogy). I’m definitely not happy with Gideon, but I’ve been informed that Gier does redeem him (by someone who can read German, so she has already read the final book). And who knew that a favorite character could be the ghost (demon) of a gargoyle?? But yes, Xemerius is wonderfully unique and charming, and Lesley is still amazing. I’m looking forward to seeing how Charlotte handles the resolution of things, as well — all in all, just a well-rounded and exciting trilogy. The story: Gwen now has to prepare for a ball with the Count, and after their first (and only) meeting, when he tried to choke her with his mind, she’s not exactly looking forward to it. Her mom, who had insisted that Gwen stay out of the dangerous stuff, is also not happy. Gwen is sure Gideon thinks she can’t pull it off, and it doesn’t help that most of the secret society thinks she’s a traitor…and she wonders herself what’s going on when she breaks rules to meet with her grandfather (who is currently dead) — and his support of Paul and Lucy is unwavering. And to add insult to misery, Gwen finds herself falling for Gideon, even though she still doesn’t completely trust him…. (YA time-travel/adventure, released 6/12, publisher: Henry Holt)

ruby redRuby Red, by Kerstin Gier, transl by Anthea Bell
I loved this! I love the time-travel element, I love Gwenyth (man, she’s spunky), I love Lesley, and of course, Gideon is a nice, romantic side-kick. I also love that I can’t really tell it’s a translation — that’s huge. The last book I read which was translated was very clunky (even though the plot was good), but this one is pretty seamless. The plot is intriguing (though I definitely picked up on the clues dropped throughout — that’s okay, though; I like when clues are dropped, as long as they’re brought to fruition, and I’m assuming they will be by the final book), and even though I was a little annoyed with Gwenyth’s refusal to tell *anyone* about her ability (with no good reason, imo), enough time is spent on other things that it’s okay. And yes, I’m already halfway through Sapphire Blue (and loving it too). 🙂 The story: Gwenyth knows about her family’s time-traveling genes, but she thinks (as does everyone else) that it must be her cousin Charlotte who has the gene. In fact, Charlotte has spent her entire life preparing for the work of a time-traveler. Gwenyth, otoh, has spent her life like a normal kid — well, aside from the fact that she can see and talk to ghosts. However, when Gwenyth suddenly finds herself in the past, she realizes that someone made a mistake…or someone lied. Turns out, it was her mom who lied to everyone about Gwenyth’s birthday, and Gwenyth truly is the girl with the gene (and now the huge responsibility). Gwen is taken to the Lodge, where the Guardians try to give her a crash course on time traveling — and she meets Gideon, her partner in crime (the male time traveler). Gideon is gorgeous, but his arrogance turns Gwen off (mostly). Then, despite the annoyance of having to plan times to travel (or her body will do it anyway), Gwen discovers a mystery: the two previous time travelers stole one of the Chronographs (which help them regulate their travel). Without them, the Circle of Twelve cannot be completed and…well, Gwen’s not sure what will happen, but everyone assures her it’s serious. Can she do her part, even without knowing all (or any, really) of the details? And what’s going on with Gideon and Charlotte, anyway? (YA science fiction/adventure, released 4/11, publisher: Henry Holt)

perfectscoundrelsPerfect Scoundrels, by Ally Carter
I read all of this, and I did enjoy it very much. The only reason it didn’t get a full five stars is because the con was tricky enough that I didn’t pick up on what was happening until the very end. And yes, that’s probably a good thing, but it meant that I didn’t feel like things were being resolved as much as I personally prefer. Also, I felt like the resolution of Hale’s personal life didn’t quite happen — and it shouldn’t, totally, since he’s grieving. But because Kat constantly mentioned (in her internal narrative) how worried she was about him, I wanted to see a little more about how he was handling things. *shrugs* I’m sure it’s a personal preference thing, but I didn’t sense the closure that I think could have been there. Still, I enjoyed it very much and read it feverishly. 🙂 The story: When Hale’s grandmother dies unexpectedly, her will reveals some huge surprises — like Hale inheriting the family business (a multi-million dollar corporation). His trustee is also a surprise…so much so that Kat and her friends are asked to look into it. Kat doesn’t know how much to involve Hale, as he’s grieving, and soon she’s in over her head. Plus, Hale is struggling, and Kat feels like she’s failing him on every level — can she save him and his family’s work? And will Hale forgive her when he realizes how much she’s done behind his back? (YA adventure/mystery, released 2/13, publisher: Hyperion)

out of sight, out of timeOut of Sight, Out of Time, by Ally Carter
I loved this! There are so many reasons this series is at the top of my list for great girls’ reading: 1) Cammie is strong and vulnerable at the same time (and this book deepened that — it wasn’t nearly as light as the others, but she still persevered and showed her inner strength); 2) Just as Cammie gets older and matures, so do the emotions and circumstances deepen; 3) Despite the growing tension and struggles, it’s still a ‘clean’ read (meaning, even tween girls can read this, and although they may not understand some of the deeper feelings, there’s nothing here they shouldn’t be reading); 4) All the relationships are growing with Cammie, and I love how they’re portrayed. Yeah, I just really loved it 😀 It sounds almost like the next one could be the last (or at least, the last in this series — the great thing about this idea is that Carter can definitely continue writing Cammie and her friends — they’ll simply get new goals or problems to overcome). The story: Cammie wakes up in a convent at the end of September — the problem is, she remembers yesterday as the last day of spring term (ie, June). She’s in bad shape physically, and worse, she can’t remember a single thing about her summer. Once back at Gallagher Academy, everyone wants to know what happened to Cammie. Soon she and Zach and her friends are trying to retrace her steps. Along the way, the Cavan seems to know more than they should, and they try to capture Cammie more than once — and her memory doesn’t seem to be returning…but she knows it has something to do with her dad and his death. Cammie’s memory continues to fail her, and she feels like she’s failed everyone and doesn’t know who to trust. (YA adventure/suspense, released 3/12, publisher: Hyperion)

Uncommon Criminals, by Ally Carter
I’m such a fan of Carter’s books — and this was no exception! I really enjoyed the second in her Heist Society series (which opened with Heist Society). It’s not only Kat but the entire group which make this story sing! Of course, I can’t help but root for Hale, and I also love Gabrielle and the twins — and the return of an old ‘friend’ adds even more tension, in my opinion. The story: Kat has been stealing art to return to those who should own it, but now she’s been asked to steal the Cleopatra Emerald — and when things appear to go off without a hitch, Kat learns she’s been had…and that’s so not on. (YA adventure, released 6/11, publisher: Disney-Hyperion)

Only the Good Spy Young, by Ally Carter
It amazes me how I like each one of these better than the last — and I loved the first one (I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You)! This one is very good, with the mystery and spy stuff increasing nicely. The story: After surviving the last attempted kidnaping, now Cammie is stunned to learn that her favorite teacher is supposedly one of the ‘bad guys’ — and she and her best friends work to undercover the truth, which is still related to her dad’s death. (YA adventure, released July, publisher: Disney-Hyperion)

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YA Verse

All book covers link to the Tattered Cover bookstore page for that book.

The Day Before, by Lisa Schroeder
I really enjoyed this. I loved the poignant feel, the wisdom the two share with each other, the compassion in their bravery. As always, Lisa’s ability to express many emotions with only a few words made it that much more powerful. As with Lisa’s other books (I Heart You, Far From You, and Chasing Brooklyn), the story and characters find their way into your heart as you read. The story: Amber takes a day to go to the beach, even in winter, because she needs a way to gather strength to do what she has to do. There, she meets Cade, another who is gathering strength. Together, they build each other up and share their fears and courage. (YA verse contemporary, released 6/11, publisher: Simon Pulse)

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YA Paranormal/Magical Realism

All the book covers link to the Tattered Cover bookstore page for that book.

sacrificeSacrifice, by Brigid Kemmerer
I loved this one (like all the others)! This is Michael’s story, and it was neat to get some insight into his personal struggles. As with all the others, I also enjoyed getting to know Hannah (the woman Michael loves) here. The angst and tension (and intensity) was again high, and when I’m in the mood for that, these books fit everything so perfectly. The romance is always satisfying (to me), and I loved the growing tension in the plot, as well. Although I’m ready for this series to be completed, this is another great installment.
The story (in a nutshell): The Guardians are stepping up their plans, and Michael feels helpless as they go after his brothers, himself, and even Hannah…and he must decide how best to fight back if he wants to save them all.
Kensington, 9/14

unmadeUnmade, by Sarah Rees Brennan
This is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. I think I enjoyed this trilogy so much because of Cami, the heroine. She’s fiesty while still being vulnerable — and she’s clever and loyal and generous. She’s a great person, someone most people would enjoy knowing IRL. The tension in the story was well done, the pacing solid, and the romance sweet and emotional. All in all, I think this is a great trilogy, and I can’t wait to see what Brennan comes up with next!
The story: Cami and her friends fear that their town will be lost for good — especially when Cami’s mom appears to have defected to the Linburn side of things. Cami continually worries about her friends — and Jared, who still resists letting Cami get too close. Cami realizes that her courage and determination may be all they have, but will it be enough?
Random House BFYR, 9/14

lostinthoughtLost in Thought, by Cara Bertrand
I enjoyed this very much, despite some awkward narrative moments (a few too many ‘telling’ moments for my personal taste). The main character is likable and thoughtful, and her reactions to the new world she discovers seem realistic. The romance is very nice (though it got a little weird at the end), and the tension kept me reading throughout. I’m looking forward to the next installment, and I hope some of the uneven writing becomes a little more fluid…though honestly, Betrand’s ability to keep the tension high despite that is pretty impressive. 😉 The story: Lainey thinks she’s going crazy, but when she gets accepted as a Legacy in a private school (after years of homeschooling from her aunt), she becomes involved with a group of teens who appear to have similar craziness…and she soon discovers that her craziness is actually an ability to sense death. Lainey’s not thrilled to have such a depressing gift, though it gets worse when she learns the boy she thought liked her (and whom she likes in return) was ‘assigned’ to her. Plus, as she grows in her gift, more mysteries are revealed, and some of the classmates are just as un-thrilled as she at her presence in their lives. What will happen when the biggest secret of all is revealed — can Lainey live with the weight and responsibility of her past? (YA paranormal, released 4/14, publisher: Luminous Books)

splitsecondSplit Second, by Kasie West
I enjoyed this just as much as the first one — in fact, I probably liked it more because this time around, I know the world better and wasn’t nearly as confused. Plus, in this one, Addie has already chosen between the two paths (that she viewed in Pivot Point, the previous book), so it’s a more linear tale. I liked the continued world building (though now it’s more like world solidifying), and I like the increased role of Laila here. Also, Trevor continues to be a swoon-worthy character here, and even though he doesn’t know Addie this time around, Addie is doing what she can to change that. It’s nice that Laila gets someone decent to focus on too, a character with his own tragic backstory. I’m guessing there will be another? (It ends with the possibility but no cliff-hanger, thankfully.) The story: Addie is now living the path she chose in the previous book, and as she leaves the Compound (where all the paranormals live), she’s surprised to recognize a boy in her dad’s Normal town. The boy doesn’t know her, and Addie realizes he must be from her other path — the path she didn’t choose and the path she no longer has the memories of…since Laila Erased them. Now, Laila works to restore Addie’s memories, and Addie works to restore a relationship that never happened — all as the Compound sets up a series of tests for Addie’s loyalty. (YA paranormal suspense, released 2/14, publisher: Harper Teen)

secretSecret, by Brigid Kemmerer
This is my favorite of the Elemental series to date, though I’ve loved all of them. Here, however, we see Nick, the ‘quiet’ twin, dealing with his ability and his secrets. I really like Nick and Quinn, and I enjoyed the dual POV where we got to see how both of them were handling their challenging lives. I also loved Adam, and I felt like he and Nick fit together so nicely. As always, the angst factor in these books is HIGH, but the characterization is good, and I feel like seeing into the hearts of these various characters is a nice indicator of how perspective (and walking a mile in someone else’s shoes) can really change our own hearts. I can’t wait for the next one! The story: Now that Silver (one of the Guides) has failed in his assignment to kill all the Merricks, another Guide has come to town to finish the job. Always on edge, the Merrick brothers have to keep on living, however. Nick, now burdened with the realization that he’s gay, doesn’t know how to tell his brothers. Quinn, his girlfriend, suggests she can be his ‘beard’ to keep his brothers from knowing that he’s actually spending time with Adam, Quinn’s dancing partner. But then Tyler, another Elemental, comes into play. Tyler and Nick have never gotten along (and Tyler believes that Mike, Nick’s older brother, killed his sister). But when Tyler develops a bond with Quinn and begins helping her out, he and Nick are forced into closer contact and must deal with the animosity between them. And when Nick’s secrets come out, his brothers have to decide if they’re going to support him (as he’s always done for them) or not — and the Guide makes his move, endangering not only the brothers but everyone they love. (YA paranormal/suspense, released 1/14, publisher: Kensington Teen)

never fadeNever Fade, by Alexandra Bracken
I really enjoyed this. In many ways, I thought it was better than the first book, as Ruby is more solid in her character now. I loved how tough she was while still retaining her humanity and struggling for goodness. I love Liam (of course), and even though I understand why Ruby did what she did (in the previous book), it’s painful seeing how she and Liam are struggling now. In some ways, this is truly a horror series: what happens to some of these kids is truly horrifying. But I like how that part is mentioned and dealt with without showcasing it too much. The story: Ruby has returned to the League and has been trained well. Still, she wants nothing more than to know that Liam is safe and well, and when Liam’s brother appears and gives Ruby a special assignment involving Liam, Ruby agrees immediately. One of her new team joins her, a teen named Jude, a yellow. The result of this mission could take down the League and help inform the public of what’s really happening to Psi kids, and Ruby has to focus on that as things don’t go as planned. When she finds Liam, sick and weak, in a camp of rogue Blues, Ruby has to figure out how to save him and free the other kids, as well…and as her own abilities continue to grow and focus, she mostly has to discover how to use her talents without hating herself after. What will happen when a supposed cure is found, when Clancy returns with his own agenda, and when one of Ruby’s own appears lost forever? (YA paranormal suspense, releases 10/13, publisher: Disney-Hyperion)

spiritSpirit, by Brigid Kemmerer
I loved this. I’ve loved all of the Elemental books, though each one is sooooo angsty! Kemmerer has a real gift in her ability to tap into the teenage angst and those feelings of unworthiness and drama. Each book makes me ache for the main characters. This book is about Hunter, the Fifth who’d originally hoped to get Becca on his side (her story meshes with Chris’s in Storm). I like Hunter; I like his compassion and his struggle. I definitely feel for him, as he watches his own family seem to turn their backs on him. The disconnect between his own outward behavior and his inner struggle is very realistic, as well, I think. This book is sadder than the first two, as Hunter experiences some true tragedy in his quest to figure out his own abilities as a Fifth and how that meshes with the Elementals and the Guides in this world. However, I like the ending, and I think it’s true for Hunter’s story (and perhaps opens the door for another secondary character to find some peace too). At the end of the version I read (an e-galley), there’s a peek into Nick’s story (which I hope is next) — and wow, that looks amazing! The story: Hunter believes his father, a Guide, wanted him to find and destroy the Elementals. But now that his father is dead and his mother’s grief seems to have pulled her from Hunter’s side, Hunter has to rely on his own insight…and his gut is telling him to befriend the Merricks, not to destroy them. Plus, the first girl who ever showed friendship to him — Becca — clearly trusts the Merricks, as well. Then Hunter discovers another Fifth, a girl named Kate, who appears to also be after the Merricks, and Hunter has to decide between his gut and his memory of his father’s dedication — not to mention his own supposed purpose as a Fifth. It doesn’t help that he’s attracted to Kate, and despite her apparent passion in wanting to destroy the Elementals, she also seems attracted to Hunter. But Hunter’s own inability to trust anyone quickly gets in the way of his instinct, and soon, he feels abandoned by everyone and must find his way all on his own, with nothing but his own unreliable memories of his dad to guide him. (YA paranormal, releases 5/13, publisher: K-Teen)]

nobodyNobody, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
This was an enjoyable (though angsty/sad) read. I liked both Nix and Claire, and it was hard to see them so unhappy. But the world-building was intriguing (though it took me a bit to figure it out and feel comfortable in their world), and I thought the concept of Nulls versus Normals versus Nobodies was pretty creative. I’m guessing there will be another book (there’s certainly room for one), and if so, I’ll definitely pick it up. The story: Claire wonders why no one ever seems to notice her, not even her own parents. Nix is sent to kill Claire, after being told she’s a Null, a person who has no conscience and can bend the will of others to herself. But when Claire sees him and is able to avoid his attempts, he begins to realize something is wrong. Only Nobodies can see other Nobodies…but Nix has been taught he’s the *only* Nobody. Eventually, the two come together and talk, and Claire learns of the truth of herself, and she and Nix join forces to try and take down the Society, the group which engineers the balance of Nulls, Nobodies, and Normals…and soon they discover that the Society is actually manipulating things for reasons they don’t understand. Will two Nobodies be able to take the whole thing down — and still have each other (when neither has ever had someone before)? (YA paranormal, released 1/13, publisher: Egmont USA)

unspokenUnspoken: The Lynburn Legacy, by Sarah Rees Brennan
I really enjoyed this. I like Kami, most of all. She’s such an irrepressible personality, and her ability to square her shoulders and keep going was truly charming. At the same time, I ached for her when she felt the sting of rejection — and the tension between her and Jared was remarkable (and hard to read, at times). The only reason this didn’t get five stars is because the ending was a serious cliff-hanger — but I want to add that, in this case, I realize it’s necessary. The book was quite well-paced, imo, because we saw the resolution of the main mystery, we understood what was really going on in Sorry-in-the-Vale, and we knew that things were just beginning…thus, the need for at least one more book (I’m guessing it’ll be a trilogy, perhaps?). What I like about this (especially in light of completing the Matched trilogy recently) is that it’s quite apparent that book two will NOT be a placeholder. It can’t be, and things are already set up for something important to happen. Hopefully (oh, I so hope), Jared will find some peace! (Oh, and I also love the realistic mix of romance — gay and straight). The story: Kami has an imaginary friend with whom she talks in her head — until the day he turns up in her village, in her school, and she has an actual body with a face and a physical voice she must now relate to. And that’s only the beginning of the strangeness, as Kami believes there are some ritual animal killings going on — and then a girl (an ex-friend of Kami’s — a girl who ditched her when she heard Kami actually talked to someone in her head) is murdered. Kami doesn’t want to believe it has anything to do with Jared or his family, but things aren’t looking good. Kami starts investigating with the help of her circle of friends (and Jared and his cousin Ash), and when Kami is threatened, secrets come pouring out. Kami realizes she will have to make some choices about her link with Jared — choices that he might not agree with, choices which will change their relationship in ways they can’t imagine. (YA paranormal/mystery, released 9/12, publisher: Random House)

Spark, by Brigid Kemmerer
I really enjoyed this. I liked the first one too (Storm), and this had many of the same positives — the tension between characters, the tension within the plot itself, the overall strength of pacing, likable and relate-able characters, great romance, etc. I thought this one was better simply because the angst wasn’t quite so overwhelming. In the first book, both Chris and Becca had so many issues that it was hard for me to get through the book, even though the plot was intriguing. This one avoided that — even though Layne’s life wasn’t perfect, her angst wasn’t as overwhelming. That meant I had room in my angst bank (ha) for all of Gabe’s struggles without feeling swamped. And the rest of the Merrick brothers — and Hunter — were just as intriguing as usual. It looks like the next book will be about Hunter, and I’m looking forward to that, as well! The story: Gabe is struggling to control his ability with fire. It doesn’t help that he feels like his weakness injured his twin — and that his brothers seem capable of handling their gifts while he’s not. Then Hunter, a Fifth, starts to show signs of friendliness and begins taking Gabe to fires. Gabe is able to move through the flames, feed that burning need in himself, and rescue anyone trapped inside…but when arson is suspected for the series of house fires, Gabe becomes a suspect. And when the arsonist goes after Layne, the girl Gabe is trying his darndest NOT to fall for, Gabe has to find a way to stop the person — and to control his own abilities before a Guardian is called to deal with him and his brothers for good. (YA paranormal, released 8/12, publisher: K-teen)

the markedThe Marked, by Inara Scott
I couldn’t wait for this to come out — I’ve been waiting for it since I read the first one (Delcroix Academy: The Candidates). And yes, I did love this! There were some rough spots, however. 1) The pacing wasn’t as smooth as I remember it being in the first book, and some of the relationships seemed to move in skips and jumps. 2) Dancia was an idiot about one thing through much of the book — and although it was a minor detail (in some ways), I couldn’t see why she wouldn’t just talk to Cam about it. 3) I’m not sure about Jack’s journey…so much of his life is now off-stage, and yet, he remains a central figure in Dancia’s life. (I feel like we need to be seeing more of what’s really going on with him.) Anyway, I truly enjoyed reading this, but those few things did niggle at me throughout. I’d definitely recommend it, however, especially if you loved the first as much as I did. I’m hoping there will be another (and who knows? Maybe we’ll learn more about Jack there…). The story: Dancia is now a part of the Program, but despite her outward show, she’s still unsure of everyone’s motives. The training techniques are tough too, and Dancia doesn’t understand why they’re pushing her so hard. Her relationship with Cam is great, but they’re both holding onto secrets…and Jack keeps calling her and questioning everything. Dancia doesn’t know who to believe, but when the Irin come after Cam, she has to make a stand, one way or another. (YA paranormal, released 4/12, publisher: Hyperion)

carrier of the markCarrier of the Mark, by Leigh Fallon
I definitely enjoyed this book. A couple of things which I thought were done especially well: 1) no love triangle, yet still romantic tension; 2) a solid ending, even though this is clearly the first book of a series (or at least two books). I liked how Megan never wavered in her feelings for Adam, though at the same time (minor nitpick here), I kind of wished there’d been some more history there. They fell ‘in love’ so quickly (which is very much typical teen), and with the story elements which tried to either keep them together or pull them apart, sometimes it seemed like there wasn’t enough foundation to justify the depth of their feelings. Still, I really liked that they remained true to one another! Another minor quibble: I didn’t quite get the power of the Order (won’t say more to avoid spoilers). I think a little more history (not just being told, btw, but *seeing* it) could have helped there too. Anyway, a very enjoyable read, despite a few wobbles 😀 The story: Megan and her dad move to Ireland for his new job, and Megan is hoping to actually make friends this time. Right away she gains the attention of Adam, a mysterious boy who apparently avoids everyone. When Megan begins to build a friendship with Caitlin and Jennifer, she discovers more about Adam — but both girls tell her not to bother: not only is he arrogant, but he’s creepy, as well. But Megan can’t seem to stay away, and when Adam admits he’s intrigued by her too, the two slowly become friends and more…and Megan learns that Adam’s ‘creepy’ weirdness is something she has too — in fact, that weirdness might have a role in bringing them together in the first place. Not only that, but it’s attracting attention from the wrong sort of people, people who will stop at nothing to keep Megan from loving Adam and his family. (YA paranormal, released 10/11, publisher: Harper Teen)

Forgotten, by Cat Patrick
This is excellent! I was totally engrossed, and I read the entire book in two chunks. The overall concept is cool, and Patrick pulls it off so well. I loved Luke; I loved London and her challenges. I loved how everything was ‘normal’ with this little added twist. I have no doubt this will be one of my top five reads of the year! The story: London Lane isn’t quite like everyone else — she remembers tomorrow, not yesterday. With her mom’s help, London manages to get through life by taking copious notes on today’s events so that when her memory resets in the early morning hours, she will be able to find her way. With her ability to ‘see the future’, she knows about the trials and pains those around her will face — until she meets Luke, a boy she can’t recall from the future. Luke, however, refuses to stay away, and before long, London and Luke have been dating for months. At the same time, something about Luke has triggered aspects of London’s ‘memory’, and London finds herself in the midst of a mystery regarding her long-absent dad — as well as trying to discover why she can’t remember Luke, even though he’s by her side every day. (YA magical realism?, released 6/11, publisher: Little, Brown)

always a witchAlways a Witch, by Carolyn MacCullough
I enjoyed this even more than the first (Once a Witch)! Tamsin is a great character — spunky, vulnerable, sympathetic. As always with time travel stories, there were a few issues which confused me, though not enough to ruin my enjoyment of the book. I liked how Tamsin figured out what she had to do and did it — and how protective she was of Gabriel. I also liked how he was protective of her (one of my tiny nits is about this, however: I wanted to see more of what Gabriel had to go through to find Tam). I thought there was some nice tension, though I must admit that I never really felt Tam was in dire danger — until the end. All in all, it was a fast, well-paced, intriguing story! The story: Tam is delighted with her Talent after thinking she didn’t have one for most of her life. But when a stranger Travels into their home and takes over Tam’s uncle, they all realize something has gone horribly wrong. Tam is determined to figure it out, but she wants to keep Gabriel out of it, hoping he’ll be safer staying in his own time. When Tam uses the Domani to Travel back to the time right before her family binds the Knights’ power (the rival and much more evil family), she finds herself stuck in that time — and she can’t find any of her family! She does manage to find the Knights, but when she discovers what they’re doing, she learns things are even worse than they all thought…. (YA paranormal, released 8/11, publisher: Clarion)

witch eyesWitch Eyes, by Scott Tracey
I definitely enjoyed this. I liked Braden, and I found his world fascinating. What I thought Tracey did really well: the reasons behind Braden’s secretiveness with Trey; the tension between so many characters; the mystery (part of which is solved by the end, and part of which isn’t). A couple things which were a little frustrating: I couldn’t quite get a strong handle on the world-building; Trey seemed a little too rigid in his beliefs (actually, he went from rigid to almost-naive), and that weakened his character bit for me. Overall, however, I really liked the suspense and the romance, and I’ll definitely be finding the next one! The story: Braden has the power to see and use magic in an unusual way — but it all stems from his ‘witch eyes.’ He wears sunglasses to keep from overloading, but when he sees a vision of future danger to his uncle, he runs away to the one place his uncle’s always tried to keep him from…and immediately, he’s thrown into a long-time feud between the reigning families in the town. And on the day he learns he’s a member of one of those families, he also falls for the son of the rival family — and that’s the least of his troubles! (YA paranormal suspense; GLBT; released 9/11; publisher: Flux)

beyond the graveBeyond the Grave, by Mara Purnhagen
The final (I think) book in this series/trilogy is very good! Like the first one, this had a strong mystery and was nicely creepy throughout. I liked Charlotte in all three books, but in this one, she really expressed her strengths and vulnerabilities well. The ghost aspect was very creepy and the stakes were high — as it appears as though the bad ghost (the Watcher) is coming after Noah, Charlotte’s boyfriend. There were some things which weren’t explained that well in places, but other things were not only clear but pretty cool (like the Protectors — even though I didn’t completely get the mechanics of it). All in all, a solid and enjoyable read! The story: Charlotte’s life hasn’t gotten any easier in the four months since the attack on her mom. Although her mom is still alive (barely), and despite the fact that everyone claims Charlotte got rid of the Watcher, Charlotte can tell something is not right — her first clue being the bruise on Noah’s neck which won’t go away. Then, as Noah begins his senior year, his behavior becomes more and more erratic, and Charlotte is terrified that she’s losing him…and her mom’s coma is deepening. Charlotte, along with two new friends, begins looking for the answers — and is shocked and terrified at what she finds. She can only hope her determination to save those she loves is enough. (YA paranormal/ghost, released 8/11, publisher: Harlequin)

Delcroix Academy: The Candidates, by Inara Scott
Oh, I really liked this! It could have been written for me — a boarding school-type situation, paranormal activity, a mystery, romance…loved it! (And yes, it’s been added to my to-buy pile.) I also loved that the MC realized that although two boys appeared to be interested in her, she really only felt romantically inclined toward one of them (yay), and she was true to that throughout (well, emotionally true — there was a brief kiss with the other, but she felt appropriately guilty for it). I can’t wait to read the next one! The story: Dancia is recruited as a freshman to attend the fancy, private high school in her home town (to her shock). She has no outstanding abilities, but they still want her, and she fears it’s because they know about things she’s tried to hide her entire life. Complicating things even more are two boys who couldn’t be more different: Cam, the perfect junior; and Jack, the troubled freshman. (YA paranormal mystery; released 8/2010; publisher: Disney-Hyperion)

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YA Urban Fantasy

All the book covers link to the Tattered Cover bookstore page for that book.

the huntThe Hunt, by Andrew Fukuda
I definitely enjoyed this. I thought the premise was intriguing, and even though I’m not a fan of vampire/zombie-type stories, that premise kept me going. I liked Gene, and I found it interesting which aspects of his humanity he retained as he pretended to be like the others. I suspected Ashley June’s secret pretty early on, but I thought her actions at the end were surprising (in a good way). I liked how the focus of the story slowly changed, and I’ll definitely pick up the next one. The story: Gene lives alone after his father was infected a few years before. He remembers all the protections his father insisted he memorize, and he’s careful to never let anyone see that he’s not a vampire like they are. But when the Hunt once again comes into play, Gene’s number is chosen, and he finds himself away from those protections and surrounded by blood-thirsty vampires intent on killing the hepers…and Gene is convinced they’ll realize he’s also a heper. Every moment holds tension and life-changing decisions, especially when Gene meets the hepers he’s supposed to ‘hunt.’ (YA urban fantasy, released 5/12, publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin)

destinedDestined, by Aprilynne Pike
This is a great end to the series, and like the others (beginning with Wings), it’s very clean and sweet (yes, there is some romance and a touch of violence, but it’s not graphic). I liked how Laurel slowly accepted her role as a faerie rather than as a human. And I found the resolution to the particular love quartet (ha) very realistic and satisfying. I would’ve liked a little more about David and the adjustments he was facing, but I thought the Author’s Note regarding him was insightful and beneficial. Really, although this is clearly the end of Laurel’s story (this section of it, that is), I could see having more books about Avalon and how they recover from this battle and the upheaval it brought to their entire society and its structure. I found the caste system (my term) of winter ruling over the other seasonal faeries to be very interesting, and I would be interested in reading more about it (especially more in depth about it). Still, this is a satisfying conclusion. The story: Laurel, David, Chelsea, and Tamani have captured Yuki, the winter faerie, but are no closer to discovering her goals or plans for Avalon. Before they can get anything out of her (other than her feelings for Tam), she escapes with Klea’s help, and the only safe place for the four teens is Avalon. However, humans aren’t allowed in Avalon…but when the exception is made, they discover that there has been at least one human — Arthur — and his sword remains, a sword which can only be wielded by a human. Using Excalibur, David joins the faeries as they prepare to fight for Avalon, though soon Klea’s trolls and her skills with poisonous potions bring the battle to an end…unless Laurel can find the counter-poison (especially challenging, as Tamani’s life hangs in the balance). (YA paranormal/urban fantasy, released 5/12, publisher: Harper Teen)

spell boundSpell Bound, by Rachel Hawkins
This is a great followup to the last one, and I enjoyed it thoroughly! Okay, maybe I wasn’t totally thrilled with the losses (ack), but I felt like it was realistic for the story. I also liked the twists with the Brannicks, Sophie’s mom, and learning more about the Eye and the Prodigium. Sophie’s kick-butt attitude is great, and I also enjoyed Elodie’s way of dealing with things (though I felt for Cal and Archer when Elodie got her hands on Sophie). The ideas behind the different magical abilities and the ways in which demons work becomes clearer here, as well — so for me, it strengthened the world-building even more. I felt like this tied up the current plot lines nicely, but there’s still room for more (I haven’t heard if there will be more or not?). The story: Sophie finds herself with the Brannicks after her escape (at the end of Demon Glass) — and her mom is there! Things are not going well, and Sophie is worried about her dad (whose powers have been revoked), Cal and Jenna, and of course, Archer. Worse still are her own bound powers (and Elodie’s insistence on ‘possessing’ Sophie for her own plans) and the new revelations about her mom’s relationship with the Brannicks — and what’s truly going on with the Prodigium and Lara’s plans for the demons. Although it looks like some things might be improving, then Sophie is ‘sucked’ back to Hex Hall — but a Hex Hall which is falling apart…and with magic dampening spells in place, even the reappearance of Archer (who’s being tortured), Cal, and Jenna can’t cheer Sophie up for long. She really needs her powers back… (YA paranormal, released 3/12, publisher: Hyperion)

endureEndure, by Carrie Jones
I enjoyed this! I think my favorite part was how Carrie handled the ‘love triangle’ between Tara, Nick, and Astley. I liked how realistic it was and how Tara’s feelings were true to the situation rather than based on the ‘typical’ teen momentary emotion (I know, that probably doesn’t make a ton of sense, but I don’t want to list spoilers). Anyway, the pixie situation was also interesting, and the twists were well done and the pacing strong. The story: Tara has found Nick and brought him back from Valhalla, but now that he realizes she’s a pixie, she fears he’ll never be able to love her again. While Tara struggles with her feelings of abandonment, she continues to search for Betty, who’s been in her tiger form since her friend Nix was killed — and as more people disappear, Tara and Astley realize they must find a way to end this struggle once and for all. (YA paranormal, released 5/12, publisher: Bloomsbury)

luminousLuminous, by Dawn Metcalf
I got to read this before publication, and I always enjoy seeing those manuscripts again as a book. One of the beautiful aspects of Dawn’s writing is her lyrical sense with words and phrases. I feel like I’m swimming in a lake of words when I read her writing, and when they’re as luscious as hers are, it’s a good thing! The story itself is unusual — and I like that too. I love the sweet and subtle romance (sweet but not at all passionless). I like the complexity of Tender, V, Bones — okay, all of them. I really liked the whole concept of the Flow and their work there. It’s just a unique story through and through, and although there’s some violence (and serious angst in places where my heart hurt for the various characters), there’s also an acceptance (at least for me) which moves throughout the book. The story: Consuela discovers she can remove her skin and go into a ‘between-the-worlds’ type place called the Flow, where she meets a number of unique ‘people’ with unusual gifts which protect the ‘real’ world. Her gift involves speaking to humans (in their thoughts) — those who are about to die. She is able to replace her human skin with various other materials (such a cool concept), as well. Before she’s settled in much, however, she discovers that someone is killing those who live in the Flow and perhaps even working to destroy the Flow — and she might be the only one who can stop it, even though her efforts could keep from ever returning home. (YA urban fantasy/magical realism, released 6/11, publisher: Dutton)

trialTrial by Fire, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
I loved this just as much as the first (if not more)! I thought the characters were strong, the story was arc was tense and well-paced, and the emotions were right there for me to feel with them! I loved the whole pack mindset and how Bryn and Chase still had their moments even within that. I loved the stakes and how Bryn had no easy choices. And honestly, I really liked the ending (which I won’t give away, of course), because even though I suspected that Bryn might make that kind of decision (I’m talking the very end, here), it still came as a surprise. The story: Bryn and her pack are settling into their new status with Bryn as the alpha, even though she’s only human. However, strange dreams coincide with a were stumbling onto her land — and this were came from the one person who hates her most (who also happens to be her second-in-command’s older brother). But Bryn doesn’t think she can refuse to care for the boy, and despite the cryptic ‘help’ from Callum, she pushes her way through — only to learn that Lucas is just the tip of the iceberg, and that her dreams will become all too real…and she doesn’t know who can survive, including herself. (YA urban fantasy, released 6/11, publisher: Egmont USA)

raisedRaised by Wolves, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Why did I love this? It’s truly a feel-good story. I enjoyed the mystery, and I loved the sweet romance between Bryn and Chase. Like many of Barnes’ characters, Bryn is strong and sweet together, and I definitely like that. Chase is also very sweet, and the two of them together make a great couple! Of course, there’s tension, as well, and the story was compelling. The story: Bryn lives with wolves — werewolves, that is. Her parents were killed in front of her when she was small, and she was adopted by the alpha of the pack. But things are changing, and the new boy in town, Chase, is proof of that change. Not only that, but he seems to know something about her parents, and Bryn is determined to learn all she can — even if it alters everything. (YA urban fantasy, released 6/10, publisher: Egmont USA)

Demonglass, by Rachel Hawkins
I enjoyed this one even more than the first (Hex Hall). I really like how Sophie is struggling with her heritage (as a demon) and how she remains true to herself and her longings throughout. I also like how she uses her head — all too often, it seems, characters do something that everyone can see is stupid, and it’s explained away because of their teen emotions. Well, Sophie has strong emotions, but she tries to do the right thing, despite what she really wants. I also like how clean these books are — there’s little to no swearing, and the violence is distanced (rather than graphic). And now I can’t wait for the next one! The story: Sophie agrees to go to England with her dad, although she’s still determined to have the Removal. Her dad begins working with her to control her demon powers, but he’s distracted by the two other demons living in the castle with the Council — demons who shouldn’t exist. Before long, Archer resurfaces, and Sophie is torn between her continued feelings for him and her father’s goals for her and the Council. But above all, they need to discover who is creating the new demons — and soon, Sophie discovers that her loyalties can’t be as obvious as she’d hoped. (YA urban fantasy/paranormal, released 3/11, publisher: Hyperion)

The Demon’s Surrender, by Sarah Rees Brennan
I so enjoyed this final book in the trilogy (which begins with The Demon’s Lexicon). At first, I struggled to get into it because I’d been hoping it would be in Jamie’s POV (um, even though I now recall reading that it wouldn’t be) — BUT once I got into it, I really liked it! Sin is a wonderful narrator, and we do get to see a fair bit of Jamie (and Seb). Brennan is so good with humor and tension and magical world building…it was a joy 🙂 The story: Sin and Mae are competing with each other to lead the Goblin Market, and Sin discovers that she has deeper feelings than she realized before for Mae’s friends Alan and Nick. At the same time, she fears Mae’s younger brother Jamie, who has joined the Magicians and appears to be consumed with power (and greedy for it). Sin fears when she’ll have to sacrifice, but it’s not her sacrifices which matter in the end. (YA urban fantasy, released 6/11, publisher: Margaret K. McElderry)

Defiance, by Lili St. Crow
I definitely enjoyed the fourth book in this series(which opens with Strange Angels). I really like the world-building and the way Dru is growing and changing — not to mention the shifting loyalties at the Schola. I feel for her, as she really can’t tell who to trust, at this point — so I’m definitely looking forward to the next one. The story: Dru wants only to find Graves, but Christophe prefers that she train and strengthen her skills — then he says they can look for both Graves and Anna (the other svetocha). But while Dru listens at first, when strange things begin to happen — and when she senses that there’s more to the story than she’s being told — she finally loses patience and takes off on her own, desperate to gain some control in her life and get Graves away from those she fears could be killing him. (YA urban fantasy, released 4/11, publisher: Razorbill)

Stork, by Wendy Delsol
I really enjoyed this! I liked the bits of mythology thrown in. I didn’t realize (until I’d finished) that it was loosely based on The Snow Queen, so if I did some research (as I’m not that familiar with the story), I’d probably understand more of what happened at the end. But I still enjoyed the characters (including the character of the town) and the plot — and definitely the passionate and sweet romance between Katla and Jack. There seemed to be a lot of symbolism in this too, and I always love books where I can figure out stuff 🙂 I’m guessing there might be another one coming? (There’s room for more, although this story comes to a satisfying ending.) The story: Katla moves to her mom’s childhood town after her parents’ divorce. Once there, she’s pulled into a strange (bizarre, really) group of older women who call themselves Storks. Katla begins having dreams about a baby, and along with the other Storks, she has to learn how to give the baby the right mother. On top of that surreal twist, Katla learns that she almost died the last time she was in the town — and that a boy named Jack tried to save her (and almost died, as well). Her reaction to him is stronger than she’s ever experienced, and she has to wonder what’s really going on in this small, Minnesota town… (YA paranormal/mystery, released 10/10, publisher: Candlewick)

Haven, by Kristi Cook
This is a very engrossing book (especially for my type of reader). It has the boarding school; it has the strange abilities; it has a cool romance. The only thing I didn’t LOVE was the vampire aspect, BUT I felt she did a nice job of adding something new to it. The story: Violet chooses a private school when her step-mom gives her the option between that and moving to live with her gran. Violet would love a new start and a chance to hide her ‘freakiness’, but to her surprise, the others at her new school begin asking about unusual abilities right off — and when Violet attracts the attention of a hot boy, she learns more than she ever expected about her own abilities and the world around her. (YA paranormal/urban fantasy, released 2/11, publisher: Simon Pulse)

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YA Boy Books

All the book covers link to the Tattered Cover bookstore page for that book.

stormStorm, by D.J. McHale
This was an enjoyable sequel to the first (Sylo). I thought the tension continued throughout, and the look at the new world after the destruction of the U.S. was very interesting. Tucker and his friends continue to find devastation, and they’re unsure whom to trust. I liked the back-and-forth they all experience, but I did find the teenage romance a little annoying (Tucker was very young in his approach to relationships — which is true to his age — and that part didn’t always fit in with the rest as seamlessly as I would’ve liked). Other than that, this is an entertaining and intriguing book. The story: Tucker and the others continue their journey to discover what’s really going on as two branches of the U.S. military appear to be fighting each other — and destroying the world as they knew it, in the process. Worst yet, Tucker discovers there’s a traitor in their midst — perhaps more than one. He struggles with knowing where to turn and what to believe…and in the meantime, the world continues to fall apart around them. (lower YA sci-fi/adventure, released 3/14, publisher: Razorbill)

michaelveyMichael Vey Battle of the Ampere, by Richard Paul Evans
Like the other two, this is a very quick read, with the plot spinning quickly out from the start. As always, I enjoyed Michael and all his friends, and the death of one of them was truly sad (and made me teary-eyed). The suspense kept me reading, and the next adventure sounds just as intriguing. The story: Michael has to find the rest of his friends, although they are spread throughout the Peruvian jungle. But then he learns that they’ve been put in jail, awaiting trial for terrorism after they all shut down the power plant (which used Elgin power). Hatch is still out there, looking for them and fighting to take over the world. Michael risks it all to save his friends, and only then do they learn of the true threat. (YA adventure/suspense/science fiction, released 8/13, publisher: Simon Pulse)

the darkest pathThe Darkest Path, by Jeff Hirsch
Whew, talk about an emotional roller coaster! This is truly dystopic (ie, the worst-case scenario of the future), and my heart hurt for Cal throughout his struggle to make sense of his life. I liked Cal’s loyalty and his ability to think through the circumstances around him. He made some hard choices, and some of them didn’t turn out well — but he learned from those mistakes, and I thought that was good. His connection with Bear (a dog) really humanized him, and I thought that was one of the best aspects of the book. It’s a dark tale, though, and although the end is hopeful, I suspect there are many more struggles ahead of Cal before he finds his parents. The story: Cal and his brother were taken by the Path six years ago. Now 15, Cal is discovering many sides to the Path (a religious group) that he finds unsavory, but his younger brother (who can’t really remember much of his life before the Path) has become quite the acolyte. Cal simply wants he and his brother to be citizens so they don’t have to do the grunt work anymore. For this purpose, Cal agrees to help the leaders of the Path take over a small town — and in the process, he is beaten (to make it look realistic). When Cal sees the Path murder many of the town’s inhabitants (including children), he’s had enough…and then, he and James aren’t even granted citizenship. Cal decides right then he’s done with the Path, but James won’t leave with him. Soon, Cal and Bear (a dog he rescued from the Path) are on their own, trying to navigate their way from the Path states (in the southwest) to New York, where Cal hopes their parents still reside. But the U.S. is united no longer, and if the Path doesn’t have control, the feds do (with help from many different European nations). The world is in turmoil, and everywhere Cal ends up, people are fighting for power — and dying. In the end, Cal has to decide if he’s willing to free everyone from the Leader of the Path or just make his own way…can he let others fend for themselves or can he take a stand? (YA dystopic, released 9/13, publisher: Scholastic)

boy nobodyBoy Nobody, by Allen Zadoff
This was intriguing. I liked the short bursts of chapters and the slowly revealed information. I liked the flashbacks too, and although I was frustrated for a bit, by the end, I was mostly just intrigued. I’ll definitely look for the next book, because I want to know where this is going. The story: ‘Ben’ is surprised to receive his new job because it’s a rush. Usually he has a couple of months to infiltrate his target’s life before he must kill him/her. But this time, he has only five days. On top of that, when he meets the target — the mayor of NYC — he’s thrown back into memories of his own father, his old life (the life before he became an assassin) and he cannot make the kill. His reluctance then changes his assignment, and he finds himself faced with killing the mayor’s daughter — a girl he’s strangely drawn to, a girl who has secrets of her own. Will Ben be able to complete his assignment? Will he learn what truly happened in his own family? And how will he handle the truths which are slowly revealed? (YA suspense, released 6/13, publisher: Little, Brown)

the paladin prophecyThe Paladin Prophecy, by Mark Frost
I really enjoyed this — so much so that I immediately handed it off to my husband to read, as well! I think D will enjoy it too, and although it’s tense in places (and has some violence), I don’t think it’ll be beyond what he can handle, even at 10. One of my favorite aspects (besides the basic plot, which was nicely put together) is the overall pacing. The story starts slow, and we meet one character at a time. At no point did I feel overwhelmed or like there were too many people to pay attention to. Interestingly, we don’t even find out what ‘paladin’ means until a good halfway through the thick book, but it didn’t bother me. I was caught up enough in Will’s story and his own personal mysteries that I didn’t think to wonder about the title of the book. It wasn’t a huge surprise, once revealed, as many hints had been dropped (and I suspected where it was heading); however, knowing what was probably coming (in that sense) didn’t in any way reduce the enjoyment I experienced. Truly, this is one of my favorite reads of the year, and I can’t wait for the next one! The story: Will has been taught to ‘fly under the radar’ by his parents, and with all the moving they’ve had to do because of his father’s job, he’s gotten pretty good at keeping his extraordinary abilities under wraps. However, one standardized test later, and he’s suddenly caught the attention of one of the top (and most secret) boarding schools in the nation. Normally, he and his parents would never allow Will’s involvement, but the same day someone from the school comes to meet him, strange men in black caps begin trailing Will — and they do something to his mom, something which makes her ‘different.’ Will doesn’t know what to do, and when his dad doesn’t return from his latest business trip, Will finds himself alone, relying only on the list of rules his dad has taught him throughout his life. Eventually, he ends up at the elite school and meets four other teens who also seem to have some special abilities…and the mystery and danger increases from there. (YA sci-fi thriller, released 9/2012, publisher: Random House)

rise of the elginMichael Vey: Rise of the Elgin, by Richard Paul Evans
I enjoyed this sequel. It was fast-paced, and I liked the whole cast of characters (electrical and non-electrical). It’s a little blood-thirsty in places, and I feel like the ‘bad’ guy isn’t as three-dimensional as I personally prefer (nor are a couple of his teen minions), but there’s definitely some nice tension, and I was reading feverishly throughout. Be forewarned — it’s a cliff-hanger! The story: Michael and his team of electrical kids are on the run from the Elgin. To make things worse, they discover the Elgin are going after their families — and keeping them in South America. Plus, they have some way of tracking the non-electrics who are helping Michael. Will Michael find his mom in time? And how will they deal with the compound and the electrical rats? (YA suspense/thriller, released 8/12, publisher: Simon Pulse)

The False PrinceThe False Prince, by Jennifer A. Nielsen
I loved this! It reminds me (in all the best ways) of The Lost Prince, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s definitely more contemporary than that, however (I have reread TLP many times, but I couldn’t get my son to read it even once because of the small print and detailed ideas). I loved Sage’s humor, I loved the changing interactions between Sage, Roden, and Tobias, I loved Mott’s loyalty, and I loved how it all was resolved in the end. Did I suspect the underlying truth from the beginning? Well, yeah. I was fairly certain from page one about the truth, but I think that’s because I *have* read TLP so many times. Still, it’s a sign of a great book that even though I suspected, and even once it was revealed (about 2/3 through), I still couldn’t put it down and had to see how everything played out. My only (extremely minor) complaint has to do with the vagueness of the final scene (not how the book ends, but the actual setting of the scene) — for the only time during the book, I couldn’t picture what was going on, and it seemed like everything (and everyone) faded to the background a bit while the plot was figured out. Still, very minor, and it didn’t detract from my delight in the book at all! When I used to read TLP, I’d imagine what it would be like if there was a sequel — and as this book says ‘Book one’, I’m guessing there is more to come — yay! 🙂 The story: Sage is plucked from his orphanage and taken, with three other orphan boys, to a noble’s land. This noble, Conner, has a plan to ‘restore’ their country’s security — or so he claims. Sage has no interest in restoring anything, and he wants nothing more than to find his way from Conner…but soon, Sage is concerned for the other boys. For Conner’s plan is to replace a dead prince with one of them — and Conner can only take one. The others are disposable, and Sage fears that their involvement means certain death for the boys who aren’t chosen. He begins to work his own plan within Conner’s, and soon things are more complicated and tricky than he expected — is it more than a pick-pocket and thief can manage? And what if he’s chosen to be the false prince, what will he do then? (lower YA/Tween fantasy, released 4/12, publisher: Scholastic)

the tomorrow codeThe Tomorrow Code, by Brian Falkner
I really enjoyed this! I liked many things: 1) the Michael Crichton feel; 2) the creative challenges and ideas; 3) the Maori influence; 4) the ending (which was a little open-ended, yet not really). I love many of Crichton’s books, and finding a teen version of that style of writing is wonderful! I liked the characters; I liked their growth and smartness; I liked the setting. It was just a great book from beginning to end! The story: Tane and Rebecca discover a strange code when Rebecca is doing a gamma ray search on Tane’s computer. When they begin figuring out the clues, the results are astonishing — someone is sending them information from the future. Although skeptical at first, Rebecca’s desperate situation (she and her mom are kicked out of their apartment with little money to survive) calls for serious risks, and the two begin following the ‘tomorrow code.’ Soon Tane’s older brother, Fatboy, is involved, as well, and things heat up as the world around them begins going insane. When their home town of Auckland is threatened and the lives of everyone there are at risk, Tane, Rebecca, and Fatboy frantically try to solve the problem and figure out how to save humanity. (YA thriller, released 7/09, publisher: Ember)

michaelveyMichael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25, by Richard Paul Evans
I was surprised by this one — mostly because Evans is well known for writing completely different books than young adult (I believe this is his first YA). However, although there were aspects which had some rocky rhythm (to my writing eyes), I definitely enjoyed the plot and the characters. In fact, I once wrote a book with a similar premise (yikes) — although my characters weren’t electrified 😉 The story: Michael likes Idaho okay, except for the fact that he’s always bullied because of his small size and his tics. However, when he tires of the actions of the other kids and fights back (using his electrical skills), he gains the attention of one of the cheerleaders — who has some secrets of her own. Soon Michael, Taylor, and Ostin (Michael’s best and only friend) are working together to solve the mysteries behind their unusual abilities — until the wrong people discover them, and those they love are threatened. (YA science fiction, released 8/11, publisher: Mercury Ink)

brain jackBrain Jack, by Brian Faulkner
I really liked this one! I liked the thriller feel to it; I loved the computer jargon. I liked Sam and Dodge too. Interesting concept, definitely. The story: Sam hacks into a huge telecommunications company to order the latest rage in computers — the neuro-headsets, which allows people to be the computer themselves. When he’s caught, days later, he’s taken to ‘prison’ — which he learns is the just the first step in working for the ‘good’ guys and taking his hacking to a new level…hopefully in time to save the world from a dangerous computer threat. (YA spy/dystopic, released 9/10, publisher: Random House)

i am number fourI Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore
I quite liked this. It had some cliche-ish moments, but overall, I liked the MC, the subplots, the mysteries (though many went unsolved) and the plot. I haven’t seen the movie, and I suspect the movie isn’t nearly as good as the book, so I might hold off. I’m assuming there will be more books, since it kind of left off in the middle of the story. Speaking of — the story: Four (also known as John Smith) and his ‘dad’ Henri, are on the run again. They stop in Paradise, Ohio, and Four meets Sarah — and falls in love for the first time. However, Four knows it probably won’t be a long-term relationship, since he and Henri are from another planet (Lorien) and have crazy aliens (the Mogadariens) chasing them. In fact, the bad guys have already found three of the nine special kids, and as they have to go in order, Four knows he’s next. This time, though, he really wants to stay in Paradise with Sarah and his new friend (his first friend?) Sam…but the bad guys have their own agenda, and it involves doing to earth what they did to Lorien…so Four knows the stakes are higher than ever. (YA science fiction, released 8/10, publisher: Harper Collins)

carters big breakCarter’s Big Break, by Brent Crawford
Okay, so I thought there was no way this would be as funny as the first one (Carter Finally Gets It — which was laugh-out-loud funny, and I laughed so hard I cried) — and it wasn’t as constantly funny, it’s true. However, I still spent a good portion of the book chuckling and even guffawing out loud at Carter’s sarcastic and oh-so-boyish outlook on life. A very entertaining read! The story: Carter gets cast in the main role of a movie set in his home town, right after his girlfriend dumps him. He loves acting, but much of the stuff he experiences overwhelms him, and through it all, he continues to pine over Abby. (YA contemporary/humor, just released, publisher: Disney-Hyperion)

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YA Science Fiction/Dystopic

The book covers link to The Tattered Cover (our local indie) page for that book.

mortaldangerMortal Danger, by Ann Aguirre
I really liked this. I found both Edie and Kian very intriguing characters, and hearing how they both suffered in the past makes them very sympathetic. I also like how Edie grew throughout the book. Although the ending is something of a cliff hanger, I knew going in that this would be at least a three-book series, so I felt this first part was well developed and nicely resolved. The entire premise is fascinating.
The story (in a nutshell): Edie plans to kill herself because of her misery — but a mysterious (and gorgeous) young man stops her (Kian). Then he goes further and offers her the opportunity for amazing revenge, if she agrees to give a favor in return. Edie makes the deal…and then has to decide how to handle everything which comes next.
Feiwel & Friends, 8/14

findmewhereFind Me Where the Water Ends, by Rachel Carter
This is a satisfying and interesting conclusion to the trilogy. Although I didn’t read the second one, I was easily able to ‘catch up’ with Lydia and the others through the beginning of this one. I thought the time-travel elements were handled really well, and the paradoxes seemed understandable rather than confusing (which can easily happen in these types of stories). There were some great (and unexpected) twists in this, and I like how Lydia had to risk so much to try and make things work out…very intriguing ideas here.
The story (in a nutshell): Lydia must travel through time to stop the Mantauk Project from destroying all she holds dear (assuming she *can* stop them, of course).
Harper Teen, 7/14

afterlightIn the Afterlight, Alexandra Bracken
This is a great (and satisfying) conclusion to the trilogy. Ruby has grown through the series, but she’s still a fighter and stronger than the reader might suspect. I also like her vulnerable sides, as well — and her loyalty to Liam (and his to her) is one of the best parts of both their characters. There were losses in this part that were painful, but I felt like, overall, this was well done and thoughtful. All in all, it’s not only enjoyable but hopeful and well worth reading.
The story (in a nutshell): Ruby continues to fight for the freedom and lives of all the children affected by the virus. Things become more complicated when it appears the vaccine might do more damage than good…and Ruby realizes she might have to give up everything to save those she loves.
Disney-Hyperion, 9/14

fallstheshadowFalls the Shadow, by Stefanie Gaither
This was an intriguing look at cloning and the social and moral implications of having human ‘copies.’ I liked Cate, and I liked Violet, as well. I felt like Gaither did a great job showing what makes someone human, and watching the scientists working to exploit the clones definitely seemed inhumane. Overall, a very interesting and entertaining read.
The story (in a nutshell): Cate struggles in school because she and her sister have clones waiting for when they die — and it gets worse when Violet (Cate’s sister) does die, and their parents bring home her clone to replace her. Then, another student is murdered, and everyone seems to believe it must be Violet (the clone)…and it’s up to Cate to figure out what really might have happened. But what will she do if Violet is guilty — or if she discovers that the clones aren’t as human as she always hoped they were?
Simon & Schuster BFYR, 9/14

worldswemakeThe Worlds We Make, by Megan Crewe
I enjoyed this and found it a realistic and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. I think Kaelyn grew realistically throughout the trilogy, as well, and her courage and fortitude were endearing. I also really like her determination to find a way to help everybody, if possible — and her compassion for all sides. Although I hated to see the sad parts (those who died of the virus), I think that was also necessary for the story. All in all, the trilogy is gritty and hopeful at the same time and definitely worth reading.
The story (in a nutshell): Kaelyn continues to be determined to find a way to get the vaccine to the CDC, even as others (both organized and not) try to stop her. Personal losses batter her, but she digs deep to find that core of steel…and then she has to decide if it’s worth it — and if it will work out, in the end.
Disney-Hyperion, 2/14

fire & floodFire & Flood, by Victoria Scott
After a slow start, this was very nicely paced. I liked the tension throughout, and the compassion Tella had for her fellow competitors. I did think she waited an awfully long time to question the circumstances which brought all of them to the Bleed, but for a first book (clearly) in a possible trilogy or series, this was definitely engaging and intriguing. I thought Tella’s strength of character was one of the best aspects of the story. 🙂 The story: Tella’s brother is sick, and Tella wants only for things to return to how they were before, when he was healthy and they lived a ‘normal’ life. But her parents have moved the whole family to Montana, and her brother seems to be getting sicker…until Tella receives a mysterious invitation to participate in the Brimstone Bleed, a survival competition where the winner is given the cure to any illness. Tella sneaks away from home to join the Bleed, and soon finds herself in over her head as she’s dropped in the jungle and forced to find food and shelter while racing to an unknown destination. Will she make it — and if she does, how will she feel about beating out others who are there for the same reason she is (to save a precious loved one)? (YA sci-fi/dystopic, released 2/14, publisher: Scholastic)

landry park Landry Park, by Bethany Hagen
This was a very intriguing and unusual look at a possible future for the U.S. In this view, something similar to a caste system has been brought to the new U.S., with monetary/financial status being assigned based on each family’s use to the new world. Madeline, a member of the Gentry, is close to her coming out, but all she really wants is to attend university and learn. However, her father, who heads up their family’s very lucrative business (and the one which employs the Rootless, those at the bottom of the ‘caste’ system), wants Madeline to marry well. The tension which builds throughout the book is not intense but rather a gentle unfolding…however, the courage Madeline must show to change her future is astonishing. One of my favorite aspects is how well-portrayed her choices were. I could clearly see how hard it would be to go against the system and could therefore sympathize with Madeline throughout. The story: When Madeline begins to question the history of her world — and therefore her own future in it — the consequences might be more than she ever imagined. And how will that involve David, the boy she’s unwittingly fallen for? (YA sci-fi/dystopic, released 2/14, publisher: Dial)

countdownCountdown, by Michelle Rowen
I enjoyed this. It’s a mix of paranormal and science fiction/dystopic, though the focus is on neither of those. In fact, very little time is spent on world-building at all, and for this tale, it works. I liked the pacing and the many mysteries (which were resolved — something I really appreciate). I really liked Rogan and the growing attraction between him and Kira. The paranormal aspects seemed a little auxiliary and a touch convenient, but it wasn’t enough to ruin the story. The story: The main character (Kira) is thrown right into the game (Countdown), which happens to be a television show — with many twists. Kira, who’s been on her own for two years (since the murder of her family), has never heard of the show…or the boy who’s been chosen to play as her partner. Right away, the digicam (kind of like a talking camera) tells lies about both Kira and Rogan for the television audience — who are those who pay (on the black market) for the privilege of watching the show. Kira must figure out the truth about not only Rogan but also the show itself and its purpose. At the same time, she must find a way to survive and keep Rogan alive, as well, despite his status as a murderer, or they both ‘fail’ the game. (YA dystopic/paranormal, released 9/13, publisher: Harper Teen)

erasedErased, by Jennifer Rush
I really enjoyed this sequel. I liked the action and the revelations, though I will say that I wish the previous relationship Sam had with Dani was a little clearer…I couldn’t help feeling like the nebulousness of that relationship cast a bit of pall over Anna’s and Sam’s growing connection. Still, the romance is sweet, even though both Sam and Anna keep things from the other. The pacing is solid, making this a quick and frantic read too, which is always nice. At the end, there are still some unanswered questions, leaving room for a sequel. The story: Anna and the boys are still on the run, but a chance run-in at a drugstore reveals that Anna’s sister, Dani, is still alive. Not only that, but Dani claims they have an uncle, who is also alive. Anna seeks him out, despite the reservations of the others, but things don’t quite go as planned. Not only that, but Anna’s memories are slowly returning — along with the memories of the other boys — and the revelations of her previous life uncover things that completely change Anna’s understanding of herself and each of the boys. Can she save all of them? (YA science fiction, released 1/14, publisher: Little, Brown)

curedCured, by Bethany Wiggins
This is a very enjoyable companion/sequel to the first one (Stung). I actually liked it better mostly because the world building is complete in this one, so I could focus more on the characters and the growing story arc. This one is just as gruesome, but I really like how the cure is working for the Beasts and how the power struggle has slightly shifted. Also, there were some interesting twists in this that kept me engaged a bit more — plus, the romance was still very sweet. The story: Jacqui leaves home, determined to find her older brother Dean. She finds Fiona, who agrees (along with Bowen) to help — though Jacqui discovers they have their own motives. Fiona’s brother Jonah, who used to be a Beast, also comes along, and soon they find another member — a young man named Kevin, who has secrets of his own. Before long, Jacqui is not only fighting for the possibility of seeing her brother again, but for a cure which has become important to her and a world that might become a better place to live. (YA dystopic/science fiction, released 3/14, publisher: Walker Children’s)

hordeHorde, by Ann Aguirre
I enjoyed the conclusion to this trilogy. I liked the strategic approach Deuce took to the problems they faced, and I liked the compassion she and the others showed. The romance, as it has been from the beginning, is solid and sweet, as well. I think my favorite part was the ending (I can’t recall if it’s called an epilogue, but it had that feel). The story: Deuce and Fade continue to fight to save their world and each other, as Fade has his demons, and Deuce is worried about her family, to boot. Plus, the different groups need to unite, and she’s not sure how to corral them to fight against their mutual enemies. (YA dystopic, released 10/13, publisher: Feiwel & Friends)

stungStung by Bethany Wiggins
I enjoyed this! It’s a quick read, and although the humans-turned-Beasts are both sad and horrifying, the focus really is on Fiona and the years she’s missing. The romance between Fiona and Bowen is nicely done (though it happens very quickly — over the course of a few days), and both Fiona and Bowen are likable characters. The world set-up here is also pretty horrifying in a standard sci-fi kind of way: the scientists worried about the dwindling bee population and created a modified bee…which promptly killed all the remaining natural bees and somehow produced a bee-flu virus which turned people into Beasts. 😀 Anyway, it’s both tragic and sweet (in a strange way) to see how Fiona deals with this new world. I’m thinking there might be a sequel? The story: Fiona wakes up in a strange world that barely resembles the world she recalls falling to sleep in. Eventually, she realizes that years rather than hours have passed, and when a human-like beast comes after here — and she recognizes her twin brother in that beast — Fiona flees. Through some help, she finds herself in a military-like camp being guarded by a boy she used to know. But that boy now looks like a man, and when he discovers she’s a girl (and a girl he knew), he decides she’s worth protecting at any risk to himself…even though she has the mark which indicates she’s been infected with the virus that can turn her into a beast at any moment. As they run, they discover the governor wants Fiona too — wants her dead, that is. (YA science fiction/dystopic/horror, released 4/13, publisher: Walker Children’s)

graduationdayGraduation Day, by Joelle Charbonneau
I loved this finale to the trilogy. I think my favorite aspects are the intelligence shown by the main characters. Unlike many other current dystopics, this series focuses more on the strategies and skills involved to solve problems (rather than brute force or war). There is a rebellion, but Cia works with her group to keep the fighting down — to prevent a coup, really. I like the philosophic approach, as well, along with all the internal dialogue around justifying death (or not, as the case may be). Although this is the end, I think the door is open for more from this world, and I’m hoping Charbonneau will continue giving us a window into how Cia’s world came to be and where they’ll go from here. The story: Cia now knows that Dr. Barnes wants to keep the president from stopping the Testing procedure, and it’s up to here to do something about it (as the head of the rebellion is actually working with Dr. Barnes). She worries about the responsibility, however, when she realizes that stopping the vote might — and probably will — involve death of those currently in charge of the Testing. Can she figure out how to stop them without playing right into Dr. Barnes’ plan? (YA dystopic, releases 6/14, publisher: HMH Books)

tandemTandem, by Anna Jarzab
This is an enjoyable read, although I did feel that part of the book was unnecessarily detailed (the slow unfolding of the circumstances in the parallel universe, for example). Still, once I hit the halfway point, I stopped skimming and was completely engaged. I really liked how Sasha was such a likable and good character compared to her alter, Julianna, who was cowardly and selfish. They weren’t the only contrast, though I’m curious to see how Thomas and Gavin might compare in future books. I’m glad there’s more to come, as I found myself loving the parallel world ideas and execution here. The story: Sasha finds herself pulled into a parallel universe where her alter (double) is actually a princess getting ready to marry a rival prince to bring peace. Of course, it’s not nearly that uncomplicated, and there are many factions who don’t want the marriage to go through — and Sasha has no wish to marry some stranger in a universe which isn’t even her own, anyway. Still, as she gets to know Thomas, the boy who brought her here, she begins to care more than she wanted to; plus, her feelings (which began with pity) for Callum, the prince, also change to sympathy and friendship, and when she realizes that there are those who wish him ill, she suddenly finds herself more involved in this new world than she ever thought…and then her alter appears, and the complications and danger increase. (YA science fiction, released 10/13, publisher: Delacorte Press)

independentstudyIndependent Study, by Joelle Charbonneau
I loved this even more than the first (which I also loved). Cia is a great heroine, imo — she’s strong, smart, and willing to think things through. I like her compassion, as well, and the fact that she’s not afraid to rely on other people, even when she knows they could get hurt (a pet peeve of mine in some stories). Cia lets the people around her make their own choices, and I like that. Her relationship with Tomas continues to be sweet and yet complicated, as both deal with their supposedly-forgotten memories of the Testing period. I liked the new characters introduced in this one, as well, and the tension was fantastic (and makes me really wish the last book was out already)! The story: Cia is moving on to her next line of study, and not only is her assignment unexpected, it puts her in contact with some of the most powerful people in their land. Now Cia must learn how to succeed while still keeping her awareness of the truth — a truth which becomes more horrible every moment — under wraps. In the end, will she have the determination and intelligence needed to rid their world of Dr. Barnes and his horrible plan? (YA dystopic, released 1/14, publisher: HMH Books)

intostillblueInto the Still Blue, by Veronica Rossi
I think this is my favorite of the trilogy. I enjoyed the first one, I mostly liked the second one, but I loved this third one. What made it so strong? Well, the world building isn’t as surprising in this one — in other words, I had a firm grasp of their world. Plus, Perry and Aria had truly proven their love for each other, and their relationship continues to grow in a realistic manner. The friendships in this third one are fulfilling to read about because they do seem realistic and solid. I also like that there were a few surprises still in store — and the tension rose throughout the book, even though some of the earlier conflicts (from the first book) had been resolved. I think Rossi did a great job keeping readers invested in the people and their world. The story: Perry and Aria know their world is coming to an end, and they must find a way to the Still Blue. But sadly, Cinder has been taken, and they realize that trying to fetch him back will put them all in danger of Sable’s and Hess’s crazy plans. However, they have little choice…and the battles that arise when they come face to face with Liv’s killer and the remainder of the Realm challenge them more than they ever thought. (YA dystopic/science fiction, released 1/14, publisher: Harper Collins)

enclaveEnclave, by Ann Aguirre
I enjoyed this, mostly because of the tight world-building and fierce characters. Deuce is a strong heroine, and her slow understanding of emotions and how to deal with them made her extra likable. And Fade’s vulnerability, which he tries so hard to hide, comes through almost from the get-go, making him especially sympathetic. Their forays into the old world topside is intriguing, and the ideas behind what caused the apocalypse can be a touch frightening. Overall, it’s an exciting read. The story: Deuce comes into her name and is assigned to be a Hunter, all she’s wanted for years. But when she and Fade, her partner, are given an unusual task — and discover some startling news — they end up being cast out of their underworld community and must return to the topside. Fade lived there before, but even his support doesn’t help Deuce’s fear…though soon her determination to survive kicks in, and she and Fade — along with a couple others they pick up along the way — begin making their way out of the desecrated city and to possible safety…if such a thing exists anymore. (YA dystopic, released 8/12, publisher: Square Fish)

doomedDoomed, by Tracy Deebs
This was intriguing from the very first page. I felt for Pandora from the start, and I found the brothers equally interesting. The entire mystery was pretty captivating, and even though it became a little repetitious (and there were some definite flaws in research leading to some inaccurate details near the end), I still enjoyed the entire storyline. The story: Pandora receives a birthday message from her dad which isn’t at all what it seems — and soon she learns that by clicking on it, she’s unlocked a virus which has shut down all the technology (including electricity) around the world. Working with her new neighbors, Pandora must find a way to unravel the game her dad has included with the virus (to Pandora only) and stop him from destroying the modern world. (YA science fiction/suspense, released 12/13, publisher: Walker)

uninvitedUninvited, by Sophie Jordan
I really enjoyed this, although I did feel like Davy showed a little too much indecision near the end. Her waffling was frustrating, and it made her final decision seem weak (to me). Still, the entire premise is fascinating (and scary), and the book held my attention throughout. I will add that, as a parent, there’s no way I would behave as Davy’s parents did (as passively) — but then, if she had me for a parent, the story would never happen (ha). I loved Sean, of course. The story: Davy is on her way to Julliard (in her senior year of high school) and has led a charmed life, it seems. But everything changes abruptly when it’s discovered she has the HTS gene — which means she will one day be a killer. Davy’s yanked from her private school and sent to the dungeons of the local public school. Not only that, but she’s carefully monitored, and when she reacts like a normal teen to her boyfriend’s betrayal, her life gets even more complicated. Then things take a serious turn for the worst when other HTS youth shoot up a mall — and all HTS carriers around the country are locked up. How will Davy handle her new life? Can she make it work for her, or does she need to find a new plan? (YA suspense/dystopic, released 1/14, publisher: HarperTeen)

Black OutBlack Out, by Robison Wells
This book totally grabbed my attention. I read it in one day (yesterday), and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Of course, it’s the first in a trilogy. I liked the multi-POV, and I like the building mystery. I liked both Jack and Aubrey, and I found the rest of the characters easy to follow. The set-up was intriguing, and I think Wells nailed it in terms of where he started the story (in some ways, we come in midway through the action, but it works) — I knew just enough to not be confused but not so much that I was already bored. The story: Terrorists have attacked the U.S., but they’re working in ways the government and military don’t quite understand. Targeting landmarks rather than specific people or groups, the terrorists have created havoc in a number of cities. Meanwhile, Aubrey is just a teen girl, trying to stay afloat in her high school. But six months ago, a strange and frightening phenomenon hit her — she can disappear. And when the military comes for all the teens from her town (during a high school dance), Aubrey is terrified it’s because of her. When they’re all taken to a ‘testing’ facility, the military informs the kids that they’ve been infected with a virus — and this virus is behind the terrorist attacks around the country. Aubrey manages to fake her test results, but her old friend Jack is quarantined as a ‘positive.’ Aubrey risks everything to go and save him, but she gets caught…and soon she and Jack discover that the military wants to use them to fight the terrorists — as they all have similarly strange abilities. Aubrey’s ability works well with Jack’s (which was dormant until now)…but whom can they trust? What if the terrorists, who are also other teens, have infiltrated the military’s effort? Aubrey and Jack struggle to keep their heads above water as the country sinks further into chaos, knowing that they can’t trust anyone, but they have to find a safe haven if they want to survive. (YA science fiction thriller, released 10/13, publisher: Harper Teen)

linkedLinked, by Imogen Howson
This was really intriguing! It reminded me of both Louise Lawrence (B is for Butterfly) and H.M. Hoover (Children of the Darkness) — and since I loved both those books as a teen, I really took to this one too. Elissa is a good person, and that’s definitely part of what drew me in. Her life is challenging, but she quickly realizes that as hard as she thought it was, it was nothing compared to what her twin, Lin, has experienced. Cadan is a wonderful character, and although I could tell from the get-go that he was more than Elissa realized, it was fun getting to know him through her eyes. I also liked how Lin grew throughout, and although the author led us a bit more than necessary (ie, she explained too much about the character changes in everyone), I still enjoyed it. The story: Elissa and her parents have finally found a doctor who can cure her strange dreams and weird bruises (her body seems to manifest the pain from the dreams). However, the day before the surgery, Elissa discovers that her dreams are actually someone else’s life — she’s been experiencing someone else’s pain. Elissa seeks out this other girl, and when she finds her, she’s astonished to see her own face looking back at her. The other girl claims she’s not human, that she was ‘discarded’ and taken into science because Elissa was the human twin. Elissa can’t believe this, however, and she begins fighting for this girl…a fight that takes her away from her parents and into a planet-wide struggle. Elissa quickly realizes that she must get ‘Lin’ (Lissa’s twin) away from the people who want to continue hurting her, and she runs to her brother. When her brother’s unavailable, she settles for his best friend, a boy named Cadan, who’s long been Elissa’s unrequited crush. But as they escape Sekoia (their planet), more mysteries come to light…and the Sekoian government shows that they’re not ready to let go of their darkest secret. (YA science fiction, released 6/13, publisher: Simon & Schuster)

alteredAltered, by Jennifer Rush
I loved this! 🙂 (Disclaimer: I got to read the first couple of chapters for Jen before she found her agent. I loved it then too.) The boys are all intriguing, and I thought Jen did a great job keeping them unique (as we’re meeting all of them together). I loved the underlying feelings of wrongness — and I loved when those come to light. Anna is a likable character, and her determination to do what’s right is admirable — especially as we learn how much she’s been manipulated. I like the relationship between Anna and each of the boys, and although Sam is delicious, I suspect we might see more of Anna and a different boy in the end (just a guess). Either way, I will be looking for Erased next January! The story: Anna and her dad work for the Branch, a secret government lab which uses chemical manipulation to alter humans. Anna’s dad is in charge of four boys — who live in Anna’s basement. For the past five years, Anna has been helping her dad, and she’s built relationships with each of the boys (although that’s frowned upon). One of them, Trev, is her best friend; and another, Sam, is the boy she loves. When the Branch comes to take the boys back for the next step in their training, Anna finds that she can’t let them go — and when Sam instigates a resistance, Anna’s dad begs them to take Anna too. Soon Anna finds herself on the run with the boys, confused and terrified…but the mystery has only begun, and when Anna discovers her role in the Branch and each of these boys’ lives, how will she find her center then? (YA science fiction suspense, released 1/13, publisher: Little, Brown)

SYLOSYLO, by D.J. McHale
This was very enjoyable. D loves McHale’s mg books, so I didn’t even hesitate to pick this one up when I saw it. The plot is tense and the pacing well done. Plus, I like Tucker (he’s a very likable character). My only real complaint is that it ends abruptly (and right in the middle of the mystery) — but I know that’s the pattern these days. *sigh* I’ll definitely be picking up the next one here (not only to learn more about the mystery of Sylo, but also because I like spending time with Tucker). The story: Tucker loves living on Pemberwick Island, but when a strange virus kills to of their residents, the American government sends a secret branch of the military to quarantine the island. If that wasn’t strange enough, Tucker and his best friend Quinn begin to realize something else is going on. They witness an inexplicable explosion over the ocean and discover that a new ‘energy’ pill has dangerous side effects — and then, they see the Sylo group (the military force) kill a couple of people who try to leave the island. The virus doesn’t seem very dangerous (as none of the Sylo men wear bio-suits), so why would they kill to enforce the quarantine? Unfortunately, when Tucker and Quinn take their concerns to the local sheriff, the head of the Sylo group overhears. Soon, Tucker and Quinn are being sought — and as they skirt the edges of the island to avoid Sylo, they discover their own parents working on the Sylo civilian team. Can they escape? What caused the explosion, and why are other military branches seeming to target Sylo? Even more, why can’t they contact the mainland? (YA science fiction, released 7/13, publisher: Razorbill)

the 5th waveThe 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey
This was pretty enthralling! From the beginning, I was pulled into Cassie’s story. I also like the multi-POV (though it’s mostly Cassie’s tale). The twists and turns are well done, and the tension slowly increases throughout the book. By the end, I was reading frantically — and now I can’t wait for the next one! It is a bit of a cliff-hanger, btw…but enough of the story is resolved that I didn’t feel robbed at all. I also really like how Ben, Evan, and Cassie grow throughout (though Cassie is very strong from the beginning — her growth, imo, is more about relaxing a bit and learning to trust and love). The story: Cassie is one of the only survivors left (she thinks she might be the very last). The Others came and wiped out humanity in four waves — and now, those remaining wonder how they’ll survive the 5th wave (or even what it will entail). Cassie is determined to find her younger brother, though — he was taken away by soldiers. As for Ben, he needs to find his way after running from his family during one of the earlier waves. Evan has his own unique struggles, and the three of them slowly learn the truth behind everything happening on earth now and where they fit in this new world (if they can survive the 5th wave, that is). (YA science fiction, released 5/13, publisher: Putnam)

the testingThe Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau
I loved this! I read it feverishly (one day), and I loved every single detail. I can’t wait for the next one, which is tough, considering this one hasn’t even come out yet (beginning of June). I thought the world building was solid, I enjoyed the characters, I liked the mystery surrounding their government — everything piqued my interest, to be honest. I have my suspicions about how certain aspects of the story arc will develop and ultimately turn out (ie, the romantic portions), and I’m certainly interested in finding out if I’m right. 🙂 I tend to like different kinds of details than many readers, so I’m also curious to find out (once the book comes out) how many people like the testing aspects. I actually wouldn’t have minded even more details — but I really enjoyed the pacing overall, as well. It was simply good, good, good — just what I look for in a book: exciting, tense, romantic, intriguing. The story: Cia has been chosen for the Testing, the government’s way of deciding who gets to attend University to further the country’s growth. Cia’s tiny town has had no candidates for years, even though Cia knows for a fact that her older brother should have been chosen based on his gifts. But then, right before she leaves, Cia’s father (who was a Testing candidate himself) reveals some horrifying secrets about the Testing process…and Cia realizes that maybe being chosen isn’t the positive thing she always thought. She has no choice but to comply, however, and when she arrives at the Testing site, she learns right away that her dad may have been correct — and that her Testing is less about passing at the top of the class and more about actually surviving. As she goes through the various trials, Cia’s goals change, and soon she’s simply hoping she can get through it all with her mind and body (and life) intact. (YA dystopic suspense, releases 6/13, publisher: Houghton Mifflin)

lightLight, by Michael Grant
This is an enjoyable end to the series. One thing I felt Grant did better in this book was to give a little summary of each character — there are so many of them, each time I start a new book, I’ve forgotten the roles of all but the most obvious characters (Sam, Astrid, Caine, Diana). So that was nice, and the summaries were quite brief, so they didn’t interfere with the story (imo). I also like how Sam got a bit of a break, so to speak. I mean, he still had work to do and responsibility, but the weight of the world (or the FAYZ) no longer sat wholly on his shoulders. I also thought Astrid was better in this book — not as intense and annoying. 😉 All in all, it was a solid finish, and I like the overall story arc too (ie, the entire six books) — plus, the ending was pretty satisfying. The story: Even though the kids now know the real world has gone on and their parents are right outside, they have no way to get beyond the border. And now, people are watching them, and they can see that everyone has food and hot water, and they’re starving and living in filth. Add to that, Gaia is gaining strength, and they know they have to kill ‘her,’ even though she looks like Diana’s child (who’s growing so fast she’s not a child for long). All this…and kids are still dying. Sam and Caine join forces to go after Gaia while the others work on finding food for the survivors — and Little Pete and Gaia begin their own war. All Sam and Astrid want is peace and to be together. Will it ever happen for them or anyone? (YA horror/dystopic, released 4/13, publisher: Katherine Tegan Books)

when we wakeWhen We Wake, by Karen Healy
I really enjoyed this. I read it in one day (two sittings?), and the plot and characters were very intriguing. I liked the idea of Tegan’s life not being her own — mostly because she had volunteered for the procedure on a whim and then had to live with it (very teen-like). I liked the friends she makes in her future, and I like the complicated situation (with the religious challenges thrown in too). The story: Tegan meets her best friend and new boyfriend for a protest — and ends up being killed. Over a hundred years later, she’s unfrozen, the first successful revival. Not only has she lost everyone and everything she knew, she now finds herself the property of the military — and she doesn’t like it. Plus, everyone knows about her, and the world has gotten worse since she last lived. Tegan finds herself surrounded by a small group of teens who are willing to rebel with her, and soon they’re working to figure out what’s truly going on in their world (and the plans for the future). (YA science fiction, released 3/13, publisher: Little, Brown)

renegadeRenegade, by J.A. Souders
This was pretty intriguing. What I found unique was the world-building — it was limited to the scope of the story. There were hints of what happened before and of the outside world, but it was definitely narrower than I’m used to. Interestingly, it was enough for me. I am curious about what brought them to that point and about what could happen next, but the story (and its time period) was captivating enough that I didn’t mind not knowing more. Some other pros: Evie was a strong and unique heroine. I liked how Souders made it apparent very quickly that Evie was being brainwashed (or something similar), so I knew right away that things were crawling beneath the surface. And Gavin was a great counterpart to her. He was also strong, but he was clearly at the disadvantage, and I liked how he was forced into the position of helper — and he did help Evie. Mother was nicely evil, and yet, there are hints to the reasons behind her madness (which is always appreciated), and in the end, I did feel sorry for her. The story: Evie lives in the perfect world. She’s being groomed as the Daughter to the People in a land beneath the sea where everything and everyone flows with happiness…and yet, something isn’t right. When Evie begins to realize that her memories are being altered, and when hints of her past continue to surface, she fights her conditioning. Then, a Surface Dweller discovers their home, and Evie finds herself helping him as if it’s natural and instinctive — when it should be everything but. However, as Evie continues to struggle mentally, and as pieces of her memory return, Mother begins tightening the net around her — and around Gavin, the boy Evie is trying to save. Do they have any hope of escape when Mother has eyes and ears (and weapons) everywhere? (YA science fiction/suspense, released 11/12, Publisher: Tor Teen)

the lives we lostThe Lives We Lost, by Megan Crewe
I really enjoyed this! I got to read it pre-publication, as well, and I always enjoy seeing how the manuscript evolves between the two. But even without that glimpse into this middle novel of the trilogy, I would still have enjoyed learning more about Kaelyn’s journey. This middle book is definitely darker, and you can almost feel their hope dwindling throughout the story. Yet, Megan does a great job keeping it alive just enough that you feel like they could make it. It’s hard to see Gav struggling; and Kaelyn’s own doubts and determination are truly the driving force of the book. Her ability to focus on the possibility of the vaccine even amidst the death and craziness they experience brings light into the dark world. I also enjoyed the changing relationships between her and Gav and her and Leo. Her loyalty is just as fierce as her determination. This does end with a cliff-hanger (of sorts), so be prepared. 🙂 But I imagine anyone reading this trilogy will be wanting the third book desperately, regardless. The story: Kaelyn, Gav, and the others are forced to leave their island, though Kaelyn had planned to go, anyway. She discovered a vaccine and some notes by her father which could be the key to counteracting the horrible virus which is slowly taking over North America. Traveling through a disease-ridden countryside in the winter is no easy task, and it doesn’t help that someone lets it slip that they have a possible vaccine. Although Kaelyn believes doctors can be found in Toronto, they struggle to even reach that city — and renegades who want the vaccine for their own purposes are right on their trail, forcing them to either switch vehicles (not an easy task with little gas available — plus, they have to find the keys, as well) or go on foot. Plus, there’s always the threat of the virus, itself…and time seems to be running out. (YA science fiction/dystopic, releases 2/2013, publisher: Hyperion)]

middle groundMiddle Ground, by Katie Kacvinsky
I really enjoyed this! It’s the second book in the Awaken series, and I loved Awaken (scroll down for that review, near the end). This one is definitely a bit darker than the previous book. In that way, it reminds me of the Wake trilogy (interesting, no?). But I really like Maddie. She’s courageous and perhaps a bit impetuous, but she feels everything so deeply. I like Justin still too, although he’s quite intense. The story: After helping Justin and his group lead the revolution against the digital schools (which Maddie’s father started), Maddie is living away from her parents — and away from Justin, to her dismay. When she lets her brother turn her into the Detention Center (“let” because she has helped others escape), at first she’s not certain she can survive their brutal brainwashing methods. However, with the support of a new friend (Gabe) and her old friends, including Justin, she decides to stick it out for the six-month mandatory period. In that time, they work on finding a way to free all the ‘inmates’ — and Maddie discovers that her father didn’t actually know what happened in the DCs (even though he’s supported them from the beginning). Can she and Justin lead more teens into a non-digital world — and will Maddie have the strength to face the brutal choice her father puts before her? (YA dystopic/science fiction, released 11/12, publisher: Houghton Mifflin)

poisonprincessPoison Princess, by Kresley Cole
This was truly intriguing! I didn’t think I’d like it, tbh, because it’s a little horrific in places, and the prose (like with Reached) is on the ambiguous/symbolic side. However, I couldn’t put it down. In fact, when I realized it was due at the library, I thought I’d skim to the end — but I couldn’t skim! I read every word, and although I wouldn’t say I adored it (mostly because of the HUGE cliff-hanger ending), I very much enjoyed it. Do be forewarned, the angst is unbelievably high in places, and none of it gets resolved (at least, none of the aspects I was looking for), so you’ll have to get the next one (which probably won’t be out for at least another year). However, the world-building is really intriguing, and although I’m not completely sold on why Evie wouldn’t just tell the truth, I wanted to stick with her, regardless. The story: Evie is one of the elite in her southern town, but her life has already shown signs of faltering. For example, her mom sent her to a mental home for her summer vacation — and although Evie hopes she’s ‘cured,’ it doesn’t take long for the debilitating nightmares to return…even when she’s awake. The red-haired witch in her ‘dreams’ haunts Evie, and she worries when she also hears the voice of a boy — Matthew — even during the day. Then, her nightmares come true in one horrifying period, and the world and everyone in it is almost completely destroyed as water is vaporized and the earth can no longer grow living things. Those who survive are changed, as most of the females were killed (and Matthew claims the ‘Arcana’ will now rule — people, like Evie and Matthew, who have unusual abilities). Evie turns to Jackson, a boy from the wrong side of the bayou, because he’s still human (rather than a zombie-like creature or an Arcana), and begs for his help. Jackson, who has long been attracted to Evie, agrees. But he wants to know her secrets, and as their world crumbles even further — and they meet more Arcana, not all of them friendly — Evie’s not sure how many of her secrets he can handle (especially as she can control plants and even make her own fingernails turn to thorns)…she falls for him, but will he still want her when he learns the horrific truth? (YA dystopic/horror, released 10/12, publisher: Simon & Schuster)

the way we fallThe Way We Fall, by Megan Crewe
Yep, it’s here — the first five-star book of the year! I’m not surprised, as I had the privilege of reading this before publication, and it was excellent then. What I especially like about this story is the ebb and flow of emotions — it doesn’t simply get bad and then worse and worse. Instead, it gets bad, then gets a little better, then gets bad again, then there’s an uplift — you get the idea. I didn’t feel submerged in hopelessness, even though the topic is a frightening one. The characters are real and likable and relatable. The pacing is strong, and the tension, despite the reprieves, builds pretty steadily throughout the book. I can’t wait for the second one! The story: Kaelyn begins writing in her journal like she’s writing to her estranged friend Leo right after he leaves their Canadian island for the big city (New York). At first, she writes about how she wants to change and be a better person (ie, the type who wouldn’t let a friend like Leo go), but soon a strange sickness begins infecting residents of their town. Then, as Kaelyn’s dad is a research scientist with special training in viruses, he gets involved — and people start dying from the sickness. Panic rises, and people start doing stupid things…and before long, Kaelyn’s mom is sick, her young cousin is living with them (after her dad is shot), and her brother is trying to find a way to sneak off the island. Kaelyn and a couple of friends seek answers, hoping against hope that there’s a way out of the mess (other than death). (YA science fiction, released 1/12, publisher: Hyperion)

monument 14Monument 14, by Emmy Laybourne
I enjoyed this very much. First, it’s set in Monument, CO, which I loved. Second, it’s a natural disaster fic (which I also love). And third, it’s a male POV and an intriguing story. I liked Dean and his brother, and I liked how the teens interacted and were forced to make adult choices (even those who were self-centered). It’s set up for a sequel (though I don’t know if that’s the plan), and I’ll be looking for the next one. The story: Life seems normal when a freak hail storm with grapefruit-sized hail pommels Dean’s town, and Dean and the others on his bus are saved only because the middle-elementary school bus driver gets them into a local department store as shelter. Even so, a few of Dean’s peers die, and soon he and 13 others (including the survivors from the middle-elementary school bus, like Dean’s brother) are having to work together to make it. At first, they assume their parents will come and get them, but when they finally find an old television (as the internet is down) to get information, they learn that the hail storm was triggered by an enormous tsunami which has destroyed much of the East Coast. Dean and the others have more to consider when the nuclear reactor in their town is damaged in the storm, and the leaking substances alter the behavior of people depending on their blood types. Dean’s type ends up in a crazy rage, killing and destroying everything and everyone who moves against them…and the teens have to protect themselves from the outside air completely if they have any hope of surviving. (YA science fiction/dystopic, released 5/12, publisher: Feiwel & Friends)

insurgentInsurgent, by Veronica Roth
I very much enjoyed this, as well. Although it wasn’t quite as gripping as Divergent, it definitely doesn’t suffer from the ‘middle book’ syndrome (imo). The book picks up right where the last left off, which I appreciated (especially as I’d forgotten a fair amount). The relationship between Tris and Tobias continues to be challenging — but I LOVE the fact that there is no triangle in sight! 🙂 Their issues are just between them and their struggles in this world — I cannot tell you how refreshing that is! The mystery of the factions deepens, and the pacing is strong. I like what Tris learns about herself throughout the book, and although she seems distant in places, I felt like her character was consistent…and although I’m not a huge fan of cliffhangers, the ending has a solid impact which makes me long for the next book (which is exactly what should happen, no?). The story: Tris and Tobias have to figure out what to do now that the Abnegation have basically been wiped out — and now that they realize how traitorous the Erudite truly are. However, the differences between the factions are stark, and those in Amity don’t mix well with the Dauntless. When Tris and the other Dauntless are betrayed, they find their way to the factionless — only to discover a supposedly-dead leader and much more organization and planning than they’d realized. When it appears that the Erudite aren’t done yet (and are working to find simulations which will overcome the Divergent along with everyone else), Tris has to choose between Marcus and Tobias — or between finding the truth and eradicating the Erudite and perhaps all factions. (YA dystopic, released 5/12, publisher: Katherine Tegan Books)

unravelingUnraveling, by Elizabeth Norris
This is very enjoyable. I thought the concept was original, and I loved the twists and turns along the way (although I suspected the first twist — but I liked that even though I was right, I wasn’t completely right). I thought the various sci-fi aspects were cool and nicely done. I liked how the various pieces of the puzzle kept dropping into place. My only complaint: it ended pretty abruptly. I’m hoping this means there will be another one to kind of finish Janelle’s story — the story arc definitely concluded, but her personal arc is the one which just ends, and I’d love to see how she does after. Ben is a great love interest, very intense and sweet. I never quite got Elijah, and he’s another whose story I’d like to see more of. In many ways, this made me think of the first book in a series (as it was very much an introduction to this world and all about world building). It’s a good set-up, though, and the tension (with the countdown) is handled pretty well. The story: Janelle is hit by a truck, and she’s positive she died — and then a classmate heals her. But when she’s fully conscious, no one else believes her, and she begins wondering if she imagined it. In the meantime, her dad (an FBI agent) is swamped with an on-going case which borders on the very strange. And her mom, who’s bipolar, is even less reliable than usual, so Janelle is playing parent to her younger brother. She chases down Ben (the boy who brought her back) and tries to find out what happened, but he’s also very close-mouthed — however, she thinks he’s lying and keeps pursuing it…and before long, she and her best friend discover a countdown, and Janelle realizes her dad’s case, Ben’s unusual behavior, and this countdown are all connected — but will they figure out how in time? (YA sci-fi suspense, releases 4/12, publisher: Balzer & Bray)

article 5Article 5, by Kristen Simmons
I really enjoyed this! I had to take breaks here and there because the tension kept building, but there were small releases here and there. The challenge was in the relationship between Chase and Ember — even when their story had a breather, their relationship was still fraught with…well, many things. I liked Ember, but I have to admit that I thought she was pretty unaware throughout most of the book. It was frustrating to watch her not really see Chase and what was truly going on — but at the same time, it did fit with her life and how it had always been just her and her mom. The story is terrifying, as it seems plausible in many aspects; I could see our country coming to something like this, eventually. The ending was definitely satisfying, though I’m glad there will be a sequel (and man, she’d better treat Chase well in that one!). The story: Ember and her mom are separated because of ‘Article 5’ in the new morality laws — the section which indicates a child cannot be born outside marriage. The biggest shock is when Chase, Ember’s old boyfriend, is one of the soldiers who comes to take her mom away. When Ember arrives at the ‘rehabilitation’ facility, her only thought is escaping and rescuing her mom…but she soon discovers nothing is that easy. The entire country has been taken over by the FBR (fanatics who dictate society’s every move), and the women and soldiers at the facility are brutal. Ember manages to blackmail one of the soldiers to help her, but when it all goes wrong, only Chase can get her what she wants…and she doesn’t know if she can trust him or not. (YA dystopic, released 2/12, publisher: Tor Teen)

under the never skyUnder the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi
This was very enjoyable. It had a slow start (so slow that I skipped to the end and began working my way backward — until I reached a key point where I knew I could then make it from the beginning again). So my reading experience was unusual here, but one of the things I liked about the book so much was the characterization. Perry was wonderful! I loved his fierce loyalty, his ability to (usually) look to the bottom line and disregard the rest, his capability for love and devotion. Aria took longer for me to love, but I did end up liking her quite a bit. She was more of the type who let things happen to her, but it seemed like she was ready to fight for her choices by the end. The world-building was very interesting, and I never felt lost (which is a plus), even though I didn’t completely understand everything. I thought the ending was lovely (though I want more — good thing there’s a sequel!). The story: Aria lives underground, safe from the destructive Aether which destroyed the world decades before. She and her friends enjoy the ‘Realms’, a virtual world where they can experience everything without dealing with the emotional repercussions. But when Aria’s mom disappears, Aria’s desperate to find her and follows a boy she knows she can’t trust into a disabled Pod — and all hell breaks loose. The result is that Aria is kicked out of the Realms and left Outside to die. Perry has always lived outside. His brother is the Blood Lord of their tribe, and although Perry knows he will eventually have to fight his brother to gain that title, he’s waiting because of his nephew. But when his nephew is kidnapped and taken to the Pods, Perry discovers he’ll do just about anything to get him safely home — even work with a girl from Inside. He runs into Aria, and the two join forces (very reluctantly) to achieve their separate goals…only to learn that they have more in common than they could have imagined. (YA dystopic/science fiction, released 1/12, publisher: Harper Collins)

Divergent, by Veronica Roth
Wow!! Okay, this marks the third book I’ve read this year which I’ve loved sooooo much…I’m almost speechless (which wouldn’t quite be the point in a book review). To me, this is better than Hunger Games — and here’s why: 1) Tris is much more likable than Katniss (to me), even though she’s just as tough (but she’s also more vulnerable); 2) the love story is wonderful (and NOT a triangle); 3) the mystery is really well done; 4) the world building is credible and unique and intriguing; 5) although this is clearly the first book in a series (a trilogy?), I didn’t feel at all left in the dark; everything was explained for this section of the story, and all that’s left is moving on to what’s next; 6) did I mention the cool romance??; 7) it’s not as brutal (yes, it’s still pretty brutal, but to me, it didn’t seem as in-your-face as HG. So, yeah, I loved it! The story: Tris and Caleb (her brother) have reached the day when they’ll make the choice between the five factions in their city (that which used to be Chicago). They are expected to choose their home faction (Abnegation), but Tris is having doubts. It doesn’t help that her testing was inconclusive (very rare — and Tris is warned not to tell anyone about that). When Tris chooses Dauntless, her life changes in every way — and soon, it’s not only that she’s expected to risk her life and put up with brutal fighting, it’s all about her own ambition and desire to truly be Dauntless…until she starts to see that the Dauntless have just as many faults as those in Abnegation. Plus, something is stirring in their world, and Tris fears her old faction (where her parents still live) might be the target. And on top of everything, Tris is falling in love, and she wonders if that will be the greatest test of her courage to date. (YA dystopic, released 5/11, publisher: Katherine Tegan)

legendLegend, by Marie Lu
I definitely enjoyed this, as well. My only real complaint (which is pretty lame) is that I didn’t like how Day and June were at odds. I understood it (in the context of the story), but it frustrated me. 🙂 Still, the pacing was pretty strong throughout, and I loved the mystery and the dual-POV. The story: Day is infamous as a criminal mastermind against the Republic — and June is one of its heralded soldiers. However, when Day seeks medicine for his sick brother, he runs across June’s older brother — and the resulting altercation brings June and Day together. June wants revenge for her brother’s death, but her guilt and confusion about Day’s role in it all grows…until she’s not sure what really happened or whom she should trust. (YA dystopic/science fiction, released 11/11, publisher: Penguin Putnam)

awayAway, by Teri Hall
I enjoyed this one (sequel to The Line). Rachel is a sympathetic character, and in this book, she definitely seemed older and more thoughtful. The pacing is fast, to the point that I wondered if all that much had actually happened when I finished the book — but then, when thinking back, I realized that quite a bit had taken place, really. It did feel a little rushed in places, but overall, I liked the resolution (which was very nice). The story: Pathik takes Rachel to his home beyond the Line, and Rachel meets the leader of their small group (Pathik’s grandfather). She immediately asks about her dad, who disappeared when she was a toddler. Pathik’s grandfather admits that her dad was taken by one of the other groups, and they don’t know if he’s still alive. However, using a strange hybrid creature, Pathik’s dad is able to catch glimpses of Daniel (Rachel’s dad). Soon, a rescue attempt is underway, but finding her dad and hoping to get him back alive only leads to discord in their group — and soon Rachel and Pathik must decide whether to stay and fight for their homes or whether to go even further Away. (YA dystopic, released 9/11, publisher: Dial)

Ashes, Ashes, by Jo Treggiari
I actually started this in the bookstore, and as I didn’t have any book-buying funds at the moment, I went ahead and asked the library to purchase it — which they did! I definitely enjoyed this. It has many elements that I love — the ‘natural’ disaster(s), the plague-type illness, the strong girl who’s vulnerable underneath, the sexy guy, a good mystery, etc. Although I suspected what was going on (as far as the plague went) early on, I still enjoyed reading more about it. Not all the mysteries were solved (as far as I could see), but I felt there was a solid ending. I liked Lucy and Aiden, and I really liked the tension and pacing throughout. The story: Lucy is surviving on her own after the plague and then a series of natural disasters have destroyed her world and killed her family. She’s heard of others living in groups, but she’s never managed to leave the little camp she’s made for herself — until the dogs come after her, and a boy (Aiden) saves her. He tells her about the place where he lives with some others, and when the rains lead to another tsunami, Lucy makes the choice and runs for the supposed safety of their group. However, she isn’t there long before the Sweepers come and take some of the members, and when two of the stolen return, something isn’t quite right. Lucy doesn’t want to return to living on her own, but she’s suddenly not sure who she can trust, and as more lies are revealed, she and Aiden decide they have to find the kidnapped, come what may. (YA dystopic, released 6/11, publisher: Scholastic)

awakenAwaken, by Katie Kacvinsky
Well, after all my ranting about not finding a book which could really suck me in, this one did! First off, I really like Madeliene, the MC. She’s spunky and stubborn and fiercely loyal (even to those who don’t quite deserve it). Second, I thought the premise was unique enough (in a world filled with dystopic books) to stick with throughout the book. In fact, it got more interesting to me as it went on (I sometimes find that dystopics have a great hook but it’s built on a shaky foundation). Third, Justin (the rebel leader) was portrayed through Madeliene’s eyes so well — he was confident and passionate and vulnerable and dedicated…their experiences together were intense and lovely and pretty realistic (imo). I loved that Madeliene was challenged in her ways of thinking and that she grew and matured — but she also remained true to intrinsic ideas she held dear. And I especially loved how she challenged Justin in his ways of thinking. I think it’s neat that I could see the truth in both their eyes, even though it seems contradictory some of the time. I’m hoping there will be a sequel, even though (for me), I could see this ending right where it did…I’m a sap for a happy ending, and I think the two of them finding a way through the muddle in their world and through their own opposing ideals for individual humans would be fantastic! The story: Madeliene is trapped in her father’s world of digital control. After rebelling a few years earlier, she’s now on ‘probation’ until she turns 18. But now, with less than a year left, she’s growing impatient with his leash — and when an online acquaintance asks her to meet him in a face-to-face study group (unheard-of these days), Madeliene agrees to go…and everything changes. She quickly learns to crave experiencing things in person, rather than online. And the rebellion she once knew makes its way to the surface again…though everything is complicated by her growing feelings for Justin, his insistence that he needs to go along his path alone, and her father’s increasing power in the digital world. (YA Science Fiction, released 5/11, publisher: Houghton Mifflin)

Plague, by Michael Grant
Yeah, I like this series (Gone, Hunger, and Lies). It’s a little surprising, since it’s fairly horrific, but still…the tension with the kids, the way they have to stretch themselves to survive — it’s all still there. This is like a science fiction Lord of the Flies, so it’s not lightweight. I’m hoping the next book will be the final book (time to answer some questions, already). And poor Sam really needs a break 😉 The story: Sam and Astrid are fighting, and Sam takes up Albert’s task to find water. He, along with a couple of the other freaks, head out of town right when a horrible plague seems to find everyone else. Along with the sickness, flying snakes release eggs onto victims which result in parasites making their home in kids’ bodies (this is some of the horror part — very gross). With Sam away, Edilio decides to involve Caine again (Sam’s half-brother)…as all this happens, Little Pete floats in and out of consciousness and Astrid must decide if she can sacrifice her brother (who appears to be in control of the FAYZ) for everyone else. (YA science fiction/horror, released 4/11, publisher: Katherine Tegan books)

Human.4, by Mike A. Lancaster
I enjoyed this very much! I love the creepy blend of sci fi and mild horror (not in a gross way, but more in the mood). It’s a fast, easy read, and I liked the pacing, as well. I also enjoyed the mystery which unfolded throughout the book — the main mystery as well as the relational mysteries. Even though the ending was a tad nebulous, I liked how the characterization hinted strongly at what had happened. The story: Kyle lets one of his friends hypnotize him at the local talent show, but when he wakes up, he discovers that the rest of the village (with the exception of the four who were being hynotized) have changed — drastically. Kyle and the other three band together to find out what happened to them and to their now-estranged families…and what they learn changes their outlook on their past and their future. (YA science fiction, released 3/11, publisher: Egmont USA)

Ashfall, by Mike Mullin
I really enjoyed this book. I liked Alex and Darla, and I liked the very realistic setting. It was definitely grim (and gory) in places, but for me, that added to the reality of it all. In many ways, it reminded me of Susan Beth Pfeffer’s trilogy Life As We Knew It. The story: Alex is thrilled when his parents agree to leave him home while they go and visit his uncle for the weekend, but his delight turns to horror when the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone erupts — and his home is destroyed. After spending the first couple of days with neighbors (one of which completely freaks out), Alex decides he has to find his family. With all the ash, no cars will work, and Alex sets out to walk. The few hour drive is a multiple-day walk, made longer and more difficult by the increasingly bad weather conditions and the half-crazed people wandering about. Alex finally meets Darla and her mom and they begin working together — but more tragedy awaits. Alex has to dig deep to find the determination to continue on, always keeping his family at the forefront of his hopes and dreams. (YA natural disaster/futuristic, releases 10/11, publisher: Tanglewood)

Across the Universe, by Beth Revis
This is another very enjoyable read! I really liked how it was different from what I expected (that’s always fun), and I also liked the alternating POV. Elder is a wonderful character, and Amy’s frustration and fear are very realistic. The mysteries on the ship were compelling, as well. I kept waiting for something a little more, and it never quite came. I can’t even explain what I was looking for, but I felt like there was another level that never quite poked through…despite that, I still liked it very much, and I’m passing it along to my husband (who will also enjoy it, I’m certain). The story: Amy is cryo-frozen (my term) along with her parents and put on a ship which is finding a new planet. Strangely, Amy is able to think while frozen (though she’s not sure how much of it is dreams), and she’s aware when someone thaws her. Meanwhile, aboard the ship, a couple of centuries have passed, and the leader of the ship is training his successor, Elder. Elder is fascinated with Amy, and when she’s thawed, he befriends her — but everyone else on the ship finds her a freak (with the help of Eldest, Elder’s mentor). Soon, another person is thawed, but this one is left to die. Amy and Elder work together to find the killer — and in the process, discover more secrets than either ever suspected. (YA science fiction, released 1/11, publisher: Razorbill)

Matched, by Ally Condie
Why did I love this? So many reasons — including an actually well-done love triangle (where the world-building fully supports the tension there), great world-building (and world-unfolding — I love how each chapter offers a new glimpse into all the tension beneath the surface), very sympathetic characters (from Cassia, Xander, and Ky to Cassia’s family and Ky’s parents), wonderful pacing and tension — and although room is clearly left for the next book in the series, this story had a satisfying ending (to me) and felt complete. The story: Cassia is Matched to her best friend, an almost unheard-of event in their society (where most girls are matched with boys they’ve never seen before) — but even more unusual, Cassia is given two matches, and she knows the other one, as well. He’s an Aberration, which means he wasn’t supposed to be in the Match pool, but now that Cassia knows, she can’t help but be curious…and soon she and Ky are developing a friendship which seems to threaten their Society in ways Cassia can’t even imagine. (YA dystopic, released 11/10, publisher: Dutton)

Wither, by Lauren DeStefano
This is a very engrossing read! I started it yesterday afternoon and could hardly make myself stop to do anything else. It would probably be a five-star for me, but it was a little gruesome (which isn’t my personal taste), so I skimmed some of those parts. The story: In a dismal future, all diseases have been obliterated and parents can practically build their children in the lab — but a strange virus is sweeping through these perfect children, causing the boys to die at 25 and the girls at 20. After decades of this loss, society desperately seeks a cure; in the meantime, girls are stolen from the streets and married off as young as 13 to be used as incubators for more children. At 16, although orphaned, Rhine has been able to escape the Gatherers — until now. She finds herself in a mansion far from home, drugged and terrified. Within a day of waking, she’s married to a young man, as one of three girls who will attempt to take the place of his dying First Wife (who’s only 20). Rhine meets Gabriel, a boy near her own age, who’s also a prisoner of the house, and with him, rather than her ‘husband’, she begins to learn about loving another person — but will it be enough? Can they escape their prison? (YA dystopic, releasing later this month, publisher: Simon & Schuster)

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YA Mystery/Suspense

All covers link to the book’s Tattered Cover page.

getevenGet Even, by Gretchen McNeil
This was a great book! My only complaint was that I had no idea it was part of a duo, so I wasn’t prepared for the cliff-hanger…still, I couldn’t put this down once I’d started. I thought all four main characters were both intriguing and sympathetic, so the multi-POV was well done throughout. I especially like the growing relationship between the four…and the hints of what might come in the sequel. The next book comes out in the summer of 2015, and I can wait that long. 😀
The story (in a nutshell): Four high school girls get together to work against the bullies in their school while trying to keep their identities a secret…something which becomes very challenging when the principal starts up a group of vigilantes to out them.
Balzer & Bray, 9/14

madeforyouMade for You, by Melissa Marr
I found this very enjoyable. It’s very much like a traditional romantic suspense, and I thought the paranormal addition fit the overall pacing and tension quite well. Eva is likable and thoughtful, my favorite type of heroine. I also enjoyed Nate and the murderer’s POV (as I generally enjoy multi-POV stories). Overall, despite some mysteries left at the end (such as why Eva can’t see her mom’s death experience), this is a highly entertaining read.
The story (in a nutshell): Eva gets hit by a car, and when she wakes, she discovers that she can ‘see’ a person’s death if they touch her. Things get even trickier when the visions reveal that her ‘accident’ is tied to other murders (and attempted murder) — and Eva finds herself trying to protect the ones she loved from someone who seems determined to kill them all.
Harper Collins, 9/14

whenWhen, by Victoria Laurie
I loved this! Maddie is such a sympathetic characters, and in the best way, challenge after challenge comes her way. It’s hard to read in places (I felt so sorry for her and wished I could step into the book and hug her), but those who do champion her stand out that much more because of it. I think one of my favorite aspects was that the romance portion was kind of dwelling in the background so we got to focus on the suspense parts (while still having the possibility of romance). Overall, highly recommended!
The story (in a nutshell): Maddie can see deathdates on everyone’s forehead, but when she tries to warn a woman about her son’s upcoming death, the FBI thinks she’s involved in his murder…and the ensuing investigation turns Maddie’s already challenging life upside down even more.
Disney-Hyperion, 1/15

astrayAstray, by Amy Christine Parker
This was intense and highly satisfying. I’d say it’s a definite read for those who read the first (Gated — see below). Lyla continues to struggle here, but her growth is also apparent, and her determination not to hurt those around her is commendable. I felt like many of the characters had very realistic reactions, though some of the self-centeredness was hard to see. The kindness of other characters, however, made up for many of the less desirable types. Overall, this is highly recommended.
The story (in a nutshell): Lyla is considered a traitor by the Prophet, and he attempts to ‘lure’ her back to the fold for punishment. With all the other followers still brainwashed by the man’s teachings, Lyla feels more alone than ever…and she must find a strength she didn’t believe she had if she’s going to survive and keep him from hurting more people she loves.
Random House BFYR, 8/14

killerinstinctKiller Instinct, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
I really enjoyed this second installment in the series (more than the first, in fact). The characters are more solid this time around, and the mystery is complex and engaging. Cassie is still a little naive, but she’s less so than before, and I like her impulsiveness and her desire to help and protect those she cares about. I also like her growing relationship with the other Naturals, each one unique. The romance is good, as well, and I enjoyed how it’s growing realistically complicated. The story: A girl is murdered, and it looks like a copy-cat of Dean’s father’s killings — but he’s still in prison (and will be for the rest of his life). The group want to protect Dean, but they also want to help solve the case so Dean can forget about his father and move on. Of course, it’s never as easy as the FBI hopes to keep them out of the limelight, and soon Dean has been called in to actually visit with his father to look for clues. Cassie agrees to help him, and they somehow gain the attention of the killer…until even the agents ‘protecting’ them are also under fire. Can Cassie do her job and still keep everyone safe, especially herself? (YA suspense, releases 11/14, publisher: Disney-Hyperion)

gaspGasp, by Lisa McMann
This was a nice conclusion to the trilogy, although I found it fairly rushed in the last half or so. Plus, because I figured out how Jules ended up with the ‘curse’ in the first book (about halfway through, even), the time spent on that speculation was a little frustrating (and made Jules look kind of ignorant). Still, it’s a satisfying rush, and I love Sawyer and Jules’ siblings (and Ben, Jules’ brother’s love interest). The story: Jules knows that since she passed the curse to Sawyer when she saved him, then he must have passed it along to one of the survivors after he saved them…but how can they find which one? Even worse, once they do find her, what if she doesn’t want to (or can’t) help? Jules, her siblings, Sawyer, and Ben team up to try and do their part to save the next victims…but what happens if the curse simply goes on? Can it be stopped? (YA paranormal suspense, released 6/14, publisher: Simon Pulse)

bangBang, by Lisa McMann
I really enjoyed this. As with McMann’s other books, the angst is strong, but she also does a good job of relieving the tension and giving the characters an emotional break from time to time. I definitely liked the suspense of this mystery, and I thought the ending was fascinating (plus, I’m excited that Jules’ brother will perhaps get his chance at romance next. Sawyer is wonderful, as always, and I love the different types of strength he, Jules, and her siblings all portray. Can’t wait for the next one! The story: Jules somehow passed her ‘gift’ along to Sawyer, and now he’s seeing a horrifying vision. As the details become clearer, Jules works to help Sawyer nail down where it will take place so they can perhaps prevent it. But the strain on their relationship and their families grows, and before long, Jules’ dad breaks and she has to make some decisions. Sawyer also continues to struggle with his abusive home life, and Jules longs to help him. Soon, they find themselves in the midst of the vision — which doesn’t go quite as they’d hoped — and everything comes crashing down. (YA suspense/paranormal, released 10/13, publisher: Simon Pulse)

The NaturalsThe Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
I definitely enjoyed this! I really liked the mystery and the revelations throughout the book. There are still mysteries left at the end, and that makes me want to read the next one (I’m trusting there will be more). There’s a hint of a love triangle, which isn’t always my favorite thing (as you all know), but in this instance, the relationships are just beginning. Cassie is attracted to both Dean and Michael, but all three have baggage, and Cassie is mostly trying to figure out who she is and what that can mean in any relationship (friendship and beyond) — so it’s not so much a love triangle as an attraction triangle. I’m more okay with that, since it’s a pretty common phenomenon. This book is a bit darker than some of Barnes’ books, but Cassie remains pretty thoughtful and sweet, despite her challenging past and current life. The story: Cassie has been chosen by the FBI to be trained as a ‘natural’ profiler. With the memory of discovering her mom right after her murder, Cassie accepts and leaves her extended family (who have been caring for her since her mom’s death). Cassie meets four other ‘naturals’ at the training center, all of which have troubling pasts of their own (not that they share them with Cassie). Soon, however, Cassie learns the horrifying truth about her fellow profiler, Dean, which further complicates her confused feelings about him and their peer natural, Michael. As a current case (being worked by their teachers, not by the teens) heats up, Cassie becomes convinced that it somehow ties into her mother’s murder…and one of the people living in their house. (YA suspense/mystery, released 11/13, publisher: Miramax)

Dangerous GirlsDangerous Girls, by Abigail Haas
This was chilling and fascinating. Anna comes across as a fairly normal teen girl (read: self-centered) who only wants the usual stuff from her life — friends, family, love, etc. But when she’s accused of killing her best friend Elise on a spring break trip to Aruba, her life is turned upside down. She and her boyfriend Tate are both arrested, but Tate (who comes from a very wealthy family) is soon released. Anna finds herself not only stuck in the small Aruban jail but on trial for Elise’s murder. As the book goes along, the story is told in flashbacks which coincide with the questions the prosecution is asking Anna or other witnesses on the stand. The courtroom parts are pretty interesting, but even more interesting is the fact that the entire drama unfolds through Anna’s lens. The prosecution accuses, and Anna ‘recalls’ that scene in her life. In the end, things are revealed which I found pretty surprising (and I actually went back and dug through some of the memories to see if I could see the clues). Definitely an intriguing read. The story: Anna, her boyfriend, her best friend Elise, and a few others travel to Aruba for a week of drinking and fun. Elise is determined to pick up a local for her fun, but Anna just wants to be with Tate. However, early into their stay, Elise is found (by the others) murdered. With the body lying in their beach house, it’s quickly concluded that it was most likely an inside job — and Anna and Tate are pegged for the killers. However, Tate is released not long after this, and Anna (who lost her mother to cancer only a few months earlier) is on her own, sitting trial for murder in the first degree. (YA suspense/thriller), released 7/13, publisher: Simon Pulse)

gatedGated, by Amy Christine Parker
This was definitely intriguing. It captured my attention right off, and I like how Parker very quickly moves into the confrontational part of the story. I think the portrayal of folks who might follow a cult leader is pretty accurate, and I like how Lyla questions and then berates herself for questioning — that seemed realistic too. It reminded me a bit of The Chosen One (Carol Lynch-Williams), although I think this had a lighter feel to it (perhaps because she wasn’t born into the cult like the MC of the other book). The story: Lyla and her community are preparing for the end of the world. They’ve built an underground bunker, and their leader, Pioneer, has spent years helping them train. Lyla loves her life, but she doesn’t like the idea of fighting. She wonders if the people outside are simply ignorant — and when she meets the sheriff’s son, those ideas take even deeper root. Lyla can’t believe that Cody is a bad person, but when Pioneer pushes up the date of their departure (to the underground bunker), Lyla’s time runs out. During a final supply run to town, and after being ‘punished’ with her friends (for sneaking out during the night), Lyla is hit by a car and taken to the local hospital — where questions begin to open Lyla’s eyes to some of Pioneer’s manipulations. Will she have the strength to save her parents, her friends, and herself? (YA suspense, released 8/13, publisher: Random House)

dead silenceDead Silence, by Kimberly Derting
I really enjoyed this, although it took me a while to get into it. I’ve loved her previous books in this serious, so I kept at it…and around 1/4 of the way through, something clicked and I couldn’t put it down. I loved the info on Violet’s grandma in this one, and the history of not only Violet’s gift but their entire group (including Rafe). I also like the continued loyalty between Violet and Ben. I have a feeling I know what’s coming in their relationship, so I’m anticipating the next book. In some ways, this book skimmed the surface of the mystery and spent more time with Violet and how she’s handling things. That was okay with me, in all honesty. I still enjoyed it. 🙂 The story: Violet is having a tough time dealing with her echo, even though she knows she didn’t have any choice if she wanted to escape her kidnapper. Still, it’s challenging, and everyone is worried about her. At the same time, she is drawn to a new death — or deaths, as she discovers. An entire family is murdered in their home, one of which doesn’t have an echo somehow — but the oldest daughter is missing. Violet and her team begin working on the mystery, even as she struggles to share her feelings with Ben and to keep her friends from knowing what’s going on…made more difficult when Rafe shows up at Violet’s school as a new student — and when it appears that one of Violet’s classmates is involved in the family murder. (YA paranormal suspense, released 4/13, publisher: Harper Collins)

spirit and dustSpirit and Dust, by Rosemary Clement-Moore
I really enjoyed this, and I’m hoping there will be more about this unusual family. Daisy is a hoot, and I enjoyed her spunky personality throughout. The romance was sweet and complicated, and the whole premise was right up my alley (FBI with paranormal abilities). Also, this has a slight Amelia Peabody feel to it, as well, and that simply enhanced what was an already enjoyable, suspenseful, and complicated mystery. All in all, a very fun and smart read — it would be wonderful to have a book per cousin, perhaps (especially with little updates about what’s happening to the others we’ve already met, right?). Plus, I’d enjoy simply another book with Daisy at the forefront. The story: Daisy can see and communicate with dead people (well, the echoes of their souls left behind). Because of her talent, the FBI often calls her in to help with cases with little evidence or few leads — so Daisy’s not surprised when she’s called to investigate a missing coed…but when she’s kidnapped herself by the coed’s family, the case quickly becomes much more complicated and terrifying as the girl’s dad (a mob boss) threatens the lives of Daisy’s own family if she doesn’t find his daughter alive. Throw in some strange Egyptian artifact (which has some kind of power over death), a sexy ‘bodyguard’ for the family, and even some magic, and Daisy has to overcome a lot more than she’s used to. Can she pull it off without endangering the entire spirit world? (YA paranormal suspense, released 5/13, publisher: Delacorte BFYR)

crashCrash, by Lisa McMann
Yay, my first five-star read (and it’s March, ack)! I’m definitely a fan of McMann’s books (I’ve loved all but one), so when I heard she had a new one coming out, I put myself on the list. It came in this weekend, I picked it up yesterday afternoon, started reading around 6:30, and finished by 8:30. I couldn’t put it down, and that’s always so much fun. 🙂 I liked how the suspense and pressure built, how Jules’ desperation heightened, how she fought it and then accepted it. There’s a nice underlying mystery (how did Jules end up having visions all of a sudden?) too (which I’m pretty sure I know part of — there are hints, and with the huge clue at the end, I’m thinking this is a nice set up…though I’m curious to see how it plays out in the next book). I think my favorite part is how Jules tells Sawyer, even though she knows he won’t believe her — even though she suspects it will only make things so much worse for her. I also like the ‘real-life’ drama going on in the background. Jules is dealing with a lot of crap with her dad too. The story: Jules has a normal life — well, except for the visions. She sees the same scene playing out over and over — on billboards, on the TV, on her computer; and even worse, there are dead bodies at the end. She fears she’s losing her mind (even scarier when she takes into account her family history of mental problems). But then, when the visions begin taking over, Jules decides to fight back. Maybe she can do something about this — and her determination increases when she sees that one of the dead bodies belongs to Sawyer, the boy she’s loved for years (unrequited). Even though Sawyer is her family’s enemy (their families both own Italian restaurants), Jules decides she must tell him, warn him…but when she does, things seem to get even worse. The visions intensify, Sawyer’s family has a fit, Jules’ dad is furious, and Sawyer looks like he’s pitying Jules…and Jules has to find the solution on her own — but at what cost? (YA thriller, released 1/13, publisher: Simon Pulse)

don't turn aroundDon’t Turn Around, by Michelle Gagnon
I really enjoyed this, and the only reason it’s not a solid five stars is because I almost put it down a few times near the beginning. But once I got into it, and definitely by the final third of the book, I couldn’t put it down! Once Gagnon got going, the pacing was strong; and from the very beginning, the story intrigued me. I liked the world-building, and I liked Noa’s skills. I’m not as fond of Peter — his characterization isn’t quite as developed — but by the end, he’d grown on me. I’m definitely curious to see what the next book holds! The story: Noa finds herself in an abandoned warehouse, and once she escapes, she discovers she’s been cut open and sewn back up — not a pleasant discovery! Add to that, she is still homeless and now has to wonder who’s after her and if they can trace her steps. She uses her computer skills to contact a group who has advocated for those in need before, and through that, she agrees to help Peter. But Peter’s problems seem so minor compared to hers…still, once she takes his money, she feels obligated to help — and to her shock, she discovers they’re struggles are related (though what a rich boy like Peter and a homeless girl like her could have in common…). The mystery deepens when both teens are targeted, along with anyone who appears to help them — can Noa get herself out of this new mess? And will Peter be able to help her? (YA suspense, released 8/12, publisher: Harper Collins)

tenTen, by Gretchen McNeil
I really enjoyed this. I couldn’t put it down, and even when I had to take breaks, I still finished it in one day. I think it’s loosely based on Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, though I don’t recall enjoying that one as much as this one. My only minor complaint involved all the characters — there were simply too many (and others kept being brought up) to keep track of. Of course, they were all needed by the end, and everything came together and was nicely explained (my favorite kind of mystery). I also didn’t guess the killer (I made a guess, but I was wrong), and since that rarely happens, I liked it. 🙂 I did think T.J. was awfully forgiving, and the ending seemed a tad rushed — still, it was a fun and fast read, and I enjoyed it! The story: Meg agrees to go with Minnie to the party of the year out on an island. Minnie gave up her popularity for Meg, after all, so Meg still feels like she owes her. When they arrive to only eight others, however, Meg starts to wonder if she was foolish to agree — especially since her parents think she’s safe on the mainland. Things get worse when a storm takes out their electricity — and when one of the girls kills herself during the night. But that’s only the beginning, and soon the remaining teens are wondering who will die next — and who’s doing the killing. (YA suspense, released 9/12, publisher: Balzer & Bray)

ghost flowerGhost Flower, by Michele Jaffe
I definitely enjoyed this, and I must say (for all you romantic suspense lovers out there), that it was a lovely homage to Mary Stewart. 🙂 In fact, I guessed the majority of the mystery elements within the first fifteen pages, because I knew it was just like one of Stewart’s books! I liked how she used some of the same elements (the Old Man like the ivy tree, secret relationships, one person playing the part of someone else, horses, etc). What was interesting to me was how much more complex Jaffe made this mystery — in places, almost too complicated, imo. Still, I definitely enjoyed it, and I liked that there were both gay and straight relationships — and I especially liked that the MC found the person she really wanted. It was a good mystery, and for those who love Mary Stewart, I bet you’ll enjoy the comparisons and differences as much as I did (Jaffe manages to trick us using those differences). The story: Aurora disappeared three years ago after her best friend committed suicide (by jumping off the side of a cliff). Now, Aurora’s cousins want Eve to pretend to be Aurora, since she looks uncannily similar — for a portion of Aurora’s inheritance. Eve, who’s spent too long on the street, needs the money and decides it can’t be that big of a deal…right? Soon, however, she’s being haunted by the dead best friend and finding that being Aurora is both harder and easier than it should have been — and too many people aren’t happy to see Aurora return. (YA suspense, GLBT themes, released 4/12, publisher: Razorbill)

the last echoThe Last Echo, by Kimberly Derting
Oh, I so enjoyed this. The suspenseful feel is strong throughout (and reminds me of good adult writers, like Linda Howard or Kay Hooper), and the complex relationships continue to deepen. I love how Violet is fighting to remain loyal to Jay (who clearly loves her) — how she doesn’t even want to consider Rafe…but as we learn more about Rafe and his past, he becomes more and more of a sympathetic character, and I’ve got to admit that part of me is hoping that Violet will find a way to care for him too. And that’s what I enjoy about this series — Derting takes what I love and expands it to change my hopes for the characters. The story: Violet has started working with Sara’s special task force, which includes other teens with unusual gifts. Violet struggles to handle her gift, as she feels helpless to do anything to prevent the heinous crimes. Still, she feels she has to try and bring the murderers to justice — but an unusual case has put her in one particular murderer’s path, and soon Violet will be doing more than trying to match imprints — she has to try and avoid becoming an imprint herself. (YA suspense, released 4/12, publisher: Harper Collins)

Rosebush, by Michele Jaffe
I definitely enjoyed this mystery, and for once, I didn’t guess the would-be killer before the reveal (well, not too much before the reveal, that is). Of course, practically every person in the story was a little bit insane (and some more than a little), so there were plenty of suspects 😉 I liked the tension and the way the story was structured, and I liked the intriguing look into the MC’s character (and her relationships). The only quibble I had, really, was that all the guys mentioned in the story seemed to have a thing for her — and that always strikes me as so completely unrealistic that it bugs me. Even though we learn that many of them have ulterior motives, it still seemed a bit much…and there’s no doubt that she was truly a terrible judge of character! Still, an enjoyable read! The story: Jane wakes up in the hospital to find herself paralyzed. At first, she has no memory of what happened to her, but as time moves on, she begins to remember bits and pieces and soon realizes that someone — someone she knows well — tried to kill her. Soon she’s examining her friends and their relationships with her in a completely different light, even as they visit her, and wondering which of them hated her enough to do this. (YA suspense, released 12/10, publisher: Razorbill)

Desires of the Dead, by Kimberly Derting
I definitely enjoyed this. The tension between Violet and Jay is still there, along with the lovely chemistry. I liked how Violet’s ‘gift’ is progressing. I think the main reason I didn’t love it as much as the first is that this feels a bit like a transition book. Yes, there are things going on and a mystery to solve, but by the end, I really wanted to read more about what had been set up throughout the rest of the book (I’m guessing this is what book three will touch on). And I’m very excited about the next book now! The story: Violet continues to struggle with being able to sense those (animal or person) who have met with a violent death, and when she feels an echo at a shipyard and anonymously calls it in, it draws attention she never expected (and isn’t sure how to handle). At the same time, one of her best friends has a crush on a new boy at school, and Violet is torn between her duties as friend, her growing passion for Jay, and the tugs of echoes of the dead. (YA paranormal mystery, releasing 3/11, publisher: Harper Collins)

The Bodyfinder, by Kimberly Derting
Why did I love this? It’s one of the few (that I’ve discovered, anyway) romantic suspense books for teens. I liked the mystery (even though I had my suspicions); I loved the romance; I liked the paranormal aspects. I can’t wait for the next one (see above).
The story: Violet can sense death, and when she finds the body of a girl from her town, soon everyone is worried about the murderer on the loose. Violet realizes she might be able to sense the killer, as well, but her parents and her best friend (Jay, whom Violet is slowly realizing she has more than friendly feelings toward) are worried about her safety. Indeed, they should be, as the killer soon discovers she’s a threat. (YA paranormal mystery, released 3/10, publisher: Harper Collins)

Cryer’s Cross, by Lisa McMann
I really liked this! The only reason I didn’t love it was because of the creepy factor (which will definitely appeal to many), and the overall mystery was a little vaguer than I appreciate. But still, a really great read. So what did I love about it? First, I think McMann does a great job with romantic tension and attraction. The second Jacian appears, I felt the tug between him and Kendall. Second, I like the overall mood of her books — they’re all appropriately creepy and mysterious, and I feel the pending something. The story: Last spring, one of Kendall’s classmates disappeared; this fall, Kendall’s best friend (and sort-of boyfriend) goes missing, as well. In a small town like theirs, each loss is felt by everyone, and Kendall is determined to figure out what’s happened to Nico, even as she struggles with her torn feelings regarding the new kid, Jacian. (YA paranormal/horror mystery, released 2/11, publisher: Simon Pulse)

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YA Fantasy

The covers link to the Tattered Cover page for the books.

shatteredShattered, by Mari Mancusi
This is a great sequel to Scorched, and I enjoyed the twists and turns as Trinity learns more about raising a dragon (and being bonded to a dragon). The twins continue to grow, as well, although watching their ‘past’ is also painful in some ways. Trinity’s sense of duty is pretty strong, and I think that makes her sympathetic throughout all the challenges. I also like how there are no obvious solutions in this world, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.
The story (in a nutshell): Trinity and the twins continue to try and save the future of the world by protecting Emmy from those who would exploit her…a task which grows ever harder as more people are introduced into the scene — people with their own agendas and challenging pasts.
Sourcebooks Fire, 9/14

the bitter kingdomThe Bitter Kingdom, by Rae Carson
I really did love this — and all of the trilogy. Elisa is such a wonderfully human and humane queen. Her courage and determination are inspirational — she’s exactly whom I’d like my daughter reading about! And of course, the supporting cast is also amazing: I love Hector’s loyalty and bravery; Red is so feisty and faithful; Mara is fierce and strong; Belen is vulnerable and courageous; and Storm is the perfect enemy turned faithful servant. I feel invested in all these fictional folks — it’s like I’ve visited Elisa’s kingdom, met all of them, gotten to sit and chat, and now they’re family. Truly a wonderful trilogy! The story: Elisa will not allow Hector to be killed — so she travels across the land to find him and rescue him. As she does so, she worries about her own kingdom which has been taken over by a traitor. She also worries about the sister kingdoms — and being Elisa, she begins to hatch a plan to save all of them from any Invierno or other challenges for years to come. Of course, she has to actually accomplish all of this, and finding Hector turns out, as always, to simply be the first step in a very long climb. (YA fantasy, released 8/13, publisher: Greenwillow Books)

the crown of embersThe Crown of Embers, by Rae Carson
Okay, I loved this one as much as the first. 🙂 Carson definitely shows how to make the middle book in a trilogy compelling, and I loved the new challenges (and romance) which comes Elisa’s way. Truly, I just love Elisa, period. She continues to surprise and remain strong, no matter what comes her way. She learns how to lead and how to gain the confidence of her people, and the reader gets to travel right along with her. I love how Carson puts us so deeply into Elisa’s head that we feel everything she’s feeling, and yet it doesn’t take away from the plot at all. I thought the tension grew just the way I wanted it to — and I love, love, love the romance. It’s so consistent with not only Elisa’s character but also her world and her past. I can’t wait for the third! The story: Elisa is now the queen of Brisadulce, but her people don’t have the confidence in her they should, and as parts of her large kingdom begin to rebel, she has to prove herself to the small ruling council along with all the people. As the Invierne continue to rise, Elisa doesn’t know whom to trust — and on top of it all, she’s being forced into a marriage which will benefit her people right as she begins to fall in love…with someone whom Ximena believes is not right for her. Will Elisa be able to overcome the challenges and prove herself as a ruler — along with keeping her love — in time to save her kingdom from the Invierne and an internal traitor? (YA fantastical/historical/suspense, released 9/12, publisher: Greenwillow Books)

girl of fire and thornsThe Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson
I really enjoyed this too — another five-star read! I think what I liked most about this was the combination of genres: it felt like both a historical and a fantasy. I loved Elisa’s growth and her complete lack of helplessness (especially when she makes no excuses for her weight and her love of reading and studying). I love her practical approach to just about everything, and I like that she’s not your typical heroine (in that, she’s not skinny and gorgeous). If I had to list a complaint, it might be the complicated plot point regarding the godstones…but even with that, the story was quite compelling, and I read it in one day, as well. I’m picking up the second one this week! The story: Elisa is being married off to the king of a neighboring nation, even though she’s the second princess and has no desire to rule. But things aren’t what she’s been told, and she quickly learns that something deeper is going on when their traveling group is attacked on route to her new kingdom. Not only that, but her new husband (who was a widower and has a son) is keeping their marriage — indeed their entire ‘relationship’ — a secret. Elisa begins to realize that there are many secrets, not the least of which involves her godstone, the jewel imbedded in her belly button. Before she can learn more, however, she’s kidnapped and taken across the desert…and finds herself embroiled in a rebellion which shows her the weaknesses of her new husband. Along the way, she also falls in love with one of the rebels — and now she needs to figure out how best to help the people and deal with her godstone too — (this isn’t a great summary — it speaks to the complexity and layers of the story that I can’t even begin to do it justice). (YA fantasy, released 8/12, publisher: Greenwillow Books)

pledgeThe Pledge, by Kimberly Derting
I really enjoyed this! I was entranced within the first chapter (so rare, these days), and I not only liked the MC, but the supporting characters were also interesting. I think one of the reasons I got hooked so quickly had to do with the unusual premise. The setting comes across very historical (old European), yet it’s not! That mystery right there kept me going, trying to figure out what had happened in this world to bring it to the point of this story. I liked the magical parts (which were woven into the story in almost a magical realism way — ie, there was no real legend or mythology, it just was), and I liked the intrigue and mysteries. There were a few things that didn’t feel completely resolved to me (and I don’t know if there’s going to be another set in this world or not) and a few inconsistencies in characters, but for the most part, I was quite satisfied when I finished. I would love to read another book set in this world…maybe a book with Angelina as the MC? 🙂 The story: In Charlie’s country, it all comes down to class and language. The classes are distinct, even to the point of having their own language — and no one can speak or understand any language except their own class’s…except for Charlie, a member of the vendor class. She understands all languages, and that secret is one she’s kept to herself her entire life. But one night at a club, a stranger guesses her secret when Charlie overhears a new language, one never spoken before in her presence. The stranger, a man named Max, takes an interest in Charlie. He’s persistent, and she’s intrigued since he speaks this before-unheard language, but she knows it’s more important to keep her secret — and her younger sister’s secret. Both girls have special gifts, and Angelina doesn’t speak and needs Charlie’s protection. The country is in turmoil because the Queen grows old and frail and has no female heir — and both She and the Resistance search for any female descended from royal blood. In the meantime, the Resistance continues to attack, aiming to weaken the Queen even further as she tightens her control with more executions. Charlie wants nothing more than to live her life in her class, safe with her family — but when Max’s attentions continue and Charlie senses he has his own secrets, Charlie’s pulled into the limelight, garnering interest from both the Resistance and the Queen. (YA…dystopic? adventure? suspense? fantasy?, released 11/11, publisher: Margaret K. McElderry)

My Unfair Godmother, by Janette Rallison
This is a fun, fun book! I loved the humor, and the contrast between Tansy’s angst and her sarcasm was nice. Another well-done ‘fairy tale’ book by Rallison. The story: Tansy does what she can to show her dad how much she hates that he left them, but when her ‘boyfriend’ takes her on a vandalism date — and then leaves her at the scene to be arrested — Tansy realizes she might have gone too far. She wishes things would change, and her fairy godmother appears, but Tansy’s unaware of Chrissy’s rotten track record, so when she makes her first wish and Robin Hood and his Merry Men appear (and begin looting the town), Tansy’s problems only get worse. When Tansy tries to use her next wish to rid the town of RH, an innocent bystander is also taken back — but have no fear: Chrissy will be sure to mess up and send Tansy back in time, as well (um, along with her entire family and their modern-day house). In the end, Tansy has to figure out the moral of her own story in order to save everyone and get them all back home. (YA fantasy, releasing 4/11, publisher: Walker)

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YA Contemporary

All book covers link to The Tattered Cover book page for that book.

bridgefrommeThe Bridge from Me to You, by Lisa Schroeder
This is a very sweet and enjoyable read. The two main characters are explored in a gentle way, and although I wouldn’t have minded a little more depth into their personal stories, the gentleness suited the overall feel of the book. Both people were likable, thoughtful, and struggling to find themselves in a realistic manner. I liked how their relationship progressed, as well. My only complaint (a minor one) was how quickly everything resolved at the end — that’s actually a compliment, as well. I was invested enough in their stories that I wanted more! 🙂
The story (in a nutshell): Lauren (the new girl) and Colby (the hometown football hero) both have secrets they hope to keep hidden. However, as events in their lives unfold, they must find the strength to reveal the truth or risk losing themselves altogether.
Point, 7/14

redRed, by Alison Cherry
Once I realized the satirical nature (which took very little time), this became a pretty enjoyable tale. It’s a little annoying at first because the main character is kind of shallow…but as her internal dialogue becomes more prevalent, I found her more likable too. The satirical feel is clever here, and I liked the underlying message and tension. Overall, though slightly predictable and a tad on the shallow side, it’s definitely entertaining and worth reading, imo.
The story (in a nutshell): Felicity’s mom has been prepping her for the Miss Scarlet pageant all her life — including dyeing Felicity’s strawberry blonde hair into a richer red (making Felicity an ‘artie). This secret is one Felicity has guarded her entire life, but now, as the pageant starts rolling, someone is blackmailing Felicity, claiming they not only know her secret but will reveal it to all if Felicity doesn’t do as the blackmailer asks…Felicity has to rely on strength she didn’t realize she had if she wants to make it out of this without losing everything and everyone important to her.
Ember, 10/13

breatheannieBreathe, Annie, Breathe, by Miranda Kenneally
I liked this better than Catching Jordan. I think Kenneally’s writing has strengthened, and her gift for characterization has only improved (though it was good, in the first place). I found Annie very sympathetic and realistic, and I was so thrilled for her when she was able to forgive herself and move on in life. I’m a trail runner (jogger?), so I also related well to the ‘sport’ at hand here (more than I did to football, ha). I enjoyed the romance, as well, and I appreciated the realistic outlook on lust versus love and the inherent risk involved with caring for another person. The supporting characters were also very strong, and it was nice to see Jordan (and Henry and Ty) here again. Kenneally’s books truly are like being invited into this small Tennessee town and being a part of life there as you read. The story: Annie is determined to learn to run so she can run a marathon in Kyle’s name. She knows it’s her fault Kyle is dead, and she thinks this is what she must do to help make amends. Falling in love with another guy is not part of the plan, and although Annie is attracted to Jeremiah (and it’s clear he feels the same), she can’t betray Kyle’s memory like that. Plus, she needs to focus on her running…but it isn’t long before she begins to question her ability to succeed — at any of it. (YA contemporary, released 7/14, publisher: Sourcebooks Fire)

licensetospillLicense to Spill, by Lisi Harrison
I enjoyed this. It’s not a deep book, but I definitely think the multi-POV showcases how self-centered the average teen is. It’s not that they’re bad people, but they’re so unaware of anything outside their own selves — and that was very clearly shown here. It also shows the impulsiveness that most teens have, as well as their versatility. The story: The five continue to try and figure out their lives, all of them struggling with honesty and trying to maintain their social positions. Still, some have serious problems, and the tension rises as those problems grow. (YA contemporary, released 6/14, publisher: Poppy)

pretendersPretenders, by Lisi Harrison
This is definitely compelling, but it has a huge cliff-hanger. I loved the multiple POV, and I found it pretty easy to follow the different voices here. The characters are interesting, and I think hearing from the five different students is a great way to truly see beyond the masks so many put up. I wish more of the story had been developed in this first book, however. The story: Five students’ journals are ‘released’ to their classmates, and we read along as the first part of the year unfolds through their eyes. Things are definitely not as they seem, however, and tension builds as various world collide and the different students begin to see that they’ve misjudged one another. (YA contemporary, released 10/13, publisher: Poppy)

who i kissedWho I Kissed, by Janet Gurtler
This, like all Janet’s books, is very good. Janet knows how to tap into that teen angst, and I spent the entire book aching for Sam and wishing I could talk to her about her guilt and her struggles. It was very hard (incredibly hard) to watch as Sam made some pretty big mistakes as she tried to work through things — and although I got frustrated, that’s also an area that I admire in Janet’s writing: she can let her characters be completely foolish, just as many teens truly are. I also wanted to shake Zee and tell him to pull his head out (ha). All in all, this is an emotional, painful story, but the resolution is sweet and satisfying and (imo) very realistic. The story: Sam is the new girl in school, but she’s made some friends over the summer through the swim team. However, when she attends a party early in the school year, she kisses one boy (Alex) to make another boy (Zee) jealous — and then Alex dies from an allergic reaction. Sam is quickly ostracized as the girl who killed Alex with a kiss, but even worse are her own feelings of guilt and culpability. She can’t forgive herself for being so careless as to eat a peanut butter sandwich before attending the party…and those feelings quickly overwhelm her. She quits the swim team to punish herself, and she starts dating a boy she doesn’t even like that much to hide from her pain. Sam knows she needs to face this — and needs to face Zee (Alex’s best friend) and Alex’s family, but she can’t even face herself in the mirror…how will she get past this tragedy? (YA contemporary, released 10/12, publisher: Sourcebooks)

pizza love and other stuffPizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous, by Kathryn Williams
I really enjoyed this, as well. I loved all the food issues (loved them), and the behind-the-scenes stuff was also very intriguing. I like Sophia, and I thought the other characters were interesting and complex, as well. I really liked Sophia’s family too. If I had one complaint, it was that the ending/resolution felt a little rushed. I could seriously have spent another 50+ pages with these characters and their circumstances, so it was a little disappointing when everything seemed to speed toward the ending. Still, I liked this (and the diversity of characters was also great — loved the inclusion of Stan). 🙂 The story: Sophie’s best friend convinces her to enter a contest for a teen cooking reality show, and to her shock, she gets in. However, the show is more fiction than fact, and although Sophie feels like she’s learned a great deal, she’s not sure she likes how the producers are presenting her. Plus, the contestants are mic-ed all the time, and the camera crew not only overhears more than Sophie wants, but someone is trying to create friction between the teens. In the end, Sophie has to decide how badly she wants to win and what the overall experience should mean to her — and how it will affect her family and her best friend, as well. (YA contemporary, some gblt, released 8/12, publisher: Henry Holt)

take a bowTake A Bow, by Elizabeth Eulberg
This has tons of elements which I love: performing arts, multi-POV, intriguing characters, tension, etc. I really enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down. Why didn’t it get 5 stars? Well, I had a couple minor disappointments with it. One, I didn’t understand why Ethan’s POV didn’t do more to give us insight into his heart…it was obvious how he felt about certain people, but I didn’t understand why his actions didn’t seem to match that, and there was no real explanation during his scenes (though an explanation was given, at the end, through another person’s POV). Two, I saw little growth in Sophie — and while that’s realistic, having her POV as one of the group made me want to see something change in her. However, other than those two things, I absolutely loved this! Emme and Carter were amazing characters, and I loved getting into their heads a bit. I found Ethan fascinating too (which is why I was disappointed a bit with the lack of revelation). The story: Emme, Sophie, Carter, and Ethan are students in a performing arts school. Their senior year is filled with competition and stress, and as Emme’s and Sophie’s friendship stretches to the breaking point, so does Emme’s understanding of herself and what she’s capable of. At the same time, Carter is realizing that he no longer has any desire to be ‘famous’ but isn’t sure how to escape the trappings…and Ethan must find a way to be true to himself without any crutches. (YA contemporary, released 1/12, publisher: Point)

from what i rememberFrom What I Remember…, by Stacey Kramer & Valerie Thomas
I enjoyed this. It was my week for multi-POV, perhaps, though I always love story-telling from many perspectives. I really liked the insights into the various characters here, and it made the reading experience solid and enjoyable throughout. I felt like some of the sections could have been streamlined a bit, and I had trouble relating to Max. He was a distant character, and even during his POV, I didn’t always get a sense that he was being open with the reader. It made his growing relationship with Kylie hard to grasp (though I still found it romantic and sweet, especially from Kylie’s POV). I also loved Will (how could you not?). I thought the insights into Lily gave a nice additional dimension to the story too. I think one reason I didn’t find it a 5-star read was because aspects of it seemed a little glib, but it was still good. The story: Kylie and Max are given a last-minute assignment, which Max wants to blow off but Kylie insists they do. Since they’re not friends, Max considers blowing her off anyway, but Kylie’s persistent — and when a pick-pocket takes off with Kylie’s backpack (with her laptop in it), Kylie is determined to get her work back. Unfortunately, this takes Kylie and Max into Mexico (when they get trapped in the van filled with stolen goods) where Kylie meets someone who knew her dad as a boy. One thing leads to another, and soon Kylie and Max are partying it up (and getting a tad drunk) and getting to know one another for the first time in six years of schooling together. They quickly discover how much they like each other, and when their ride shows up (Will), he takes off with someone else (another guy, as Will has not met a gay guy his age before)…and they end up barely making it back for graduation — where Kylie must give the valedictorian address, Max must break up with his perfect girlfriend, and Will must find a way to keep Juan with him. (YA contemporary, some gltb, released 5/12, publisher: Hyperion)

shut outShut Out, by Kody Keplinger
This was very good. I really liked the language (though graphic, at times) because it wasn’t over the top (for me), and yet it definitely sounded authentic. I loved how the girls actually began talking about their sexual experiences, and how they discovered that sex really is something which was beyond most of them. I loved how the book hints at the fact that sex is more than just the act — it’s an intimacy that very few (if any?) teens are really capable of (as I think it needs that underlying commitment and dedication to the other person), and because of that, it will be extremely rare for teens to truly understand it. I also loved that some of the girls were able to speak up and admit they weren’t ready for all that — I just liked the whole idea of frank conversation! Another realistic aspect (imo): Randy kept saying he ‘loved’ Lissa, and she admits she was ‘in love’ with him too…and yet, their actions spoke quite differently. Very authentic teen (and no, I’m not saying teens don’t know what love is — but it’s definitely true that teens, and even some adults, confuse sexual intimacy — or even affection — for love). The story: Lissa is tired of her school’s inner rivalry, soccer players versus football players. When her boyfriend Randy admits he was part of a group who led to the injury of a soccer player, Lissa decides she’s had enough. She gets the other girlfriends together (from both groups), and they agree to have a sex strike. Soon, though, the strike brings up many other issues about intimacy, affection, what sex really is and means — and loyalty between boyfriends and girlfriends. Lissa doesn’t know what to do as things start getting out of hand and Randy humiliates her in front of everyone — and Cash, a hot soccer player, seems to be the friend (and more?) Lissa’s always wanted. Lissa has to figure out what the strike is really all about — and how to truly end it and the rivalry. (YA contemporary, released 9/11, publisher: Poppy)

the survival kitThe Survival Kit, by Donna Freitas
I loved this, even though I cried throughout much of it. Freitas is officially one of my favorite authors, now that I’ve read her three books (this one, This Gorgeous Game, and The Possibilities of Sainthood) and loved each of them! This story is so touching, so brave, so filled with depth and beauty. Things I loved: Rose — she was strong, vulnerable, hurting, loving; Krupa — what a great best friend; Will — a beautiful boy, also hurting yet coming out on the other side; Kecia and the cheerleaders — I liked the positive take on this group which is so often maligned. Yes, the characters made this book. Each one felt real to me, and I especially liked how they were all *good* people. The story: Rose’s mom dies, and Rose and her brother and father have to figure out how to continue on. Rose is mostly alone, as her brother is off at college and her dad has turned to drinking. She finds a Survival Kit (something their entire family used to make for those who needed help) from her mom, and she begins to work her way through grief using the supplies from her mom. Along the way, she discovers Will, a boy who’s been right in front of her for years, but whom she couldn’t see until now. Throughout the year following her mom’s death, Rose must find her own, new path…and maybe even bless those around her at the same time. (YA contemporary, released 10/11, publisher: FSG)

if i tellIf I Tell, by Janet Gurtler
I really enjoyed this! I had the privilege of reading this before it was published, and I loved reading it again and seeing how it’s changed and tightened. I think Janet does a great job with something that often bothers me in other books: Jasmine has a secret, and she can’t tell — and it’s not only realistic that she wouldn’t tell, but the struggle between telling and not telling is also realistic (and not at all convenient). I also like Jasmine’s conflict over her black-white heritage and her changing relationship with Jackson. All in all, it was a compelling book! The story: Jasmine sees her mom’s boyfriend making out with Jasmine’s best friend — and before she can tell her mom what’s happened (so her mom can break up with the loser), her mom informs Jasmine that she’s pregnant. Now Jasmine feels trapped, and soon the pressure of knowing this secret, combined with the daily struggles in being one of the only mixed-heritage girls in her school and her growing feelings for a new boy with a shady past, get to Jasmine. She begins to lash out, but when her mom has the baby and things are not going well, Jasmine has to learn when a secret works more harm by being kept than it does out by being known. (YA contemporary, released 10/11, publisher: Sourcebooks)

Rival, by Sara Bennett Wealer
I loved this book! Shall I count what I loved? 🙂 1) the dual POV — I really like getting into the heads of both girls and seeing not only their strengths and weaknesses, but also how the same situation looked so differently in each set of eyes; 2) the singing — this took me back to my own high school days so completely; 3) the depth of all the characters, including periphery ones — I felt like I’d been dropped into this world, and everyone there was real and complex. The story: Kathryn and Brooke are rivals, although they were once friends. Mistakes on both their parts, along with jealousy, tore them apart, and now, for the first time since then, they are up for the same scholarship (even though one is a soprano and one an alto). Past grievances fuel both of them, and soon they must face their own fears and weaknesses. (YA contemporary, releasing 3/11, publisher: Harper Teen)

puttingmakeupPutting Makeup on Dead People, by Jen Violi
I really liked this book. I liked how the main storyline focused on Donna’s struggles with her father’s death, but the subplots pulled in her family and friends. Donna’s very sympathetic — she’s hurting, struggling, and yet she’s strong and fights for what she wants. I really like her! I also like the realistic relationships around her — she and her mom don’t see eye to eye, but they’re not out-and-out nasty to each other, either. The battles are subtler, and for me, that makes them that much better. There’s some realistic language and sexual situations in this book too (fyi), but for me, everything fit the story and only made it stronger. The story: Donna’s almost ready to graduate, but high school has been a blur of fading into the background as she reels from her father’s death years before. A new girl, Liz, begins pulling Donna out of her shell. When Donna attends the funeral of a peer, her fascination with death intensifies — and soon she’s decided to follow that fascination professionally — as a mortician. Her mom opposes her choice, but Donna’s certain this is the path for her…even as she struggles to understand death and how to make a new life for herself in the aftermath. (YA contemporary, released 5/11, publisher: Hyperion)

Prom & Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg
This is a fun, clever ‘retelling’, where marriage is prom and birth standing is a private school. I enjoyed seeing how Fulberg changed the original to fit a contemporary setting (though she kept some of the quaint speaking styles), and it would have been five stars (easily) except that I was a little disappointed with the ending. It wasn’t quite swoon-worthy enough to me — however, it’s still a fantastic read and kept me engrossed as I flew through it. The story: Lizzie Bennett is a scholarship student at the prestigious finishing school Longbourne. She’s shunned by most of the girls at the school, except for another scholarship student (Charlotte) and Jane, her roommate. When Jane’s possible boyfriend (Charles Bingley) returns from a semester in London with his best friend (Will Darcy), Lizzie’s life gets more complicated as she struggles to discover why Darcy would be so prejudiced against her (and all scholarship students), to learn why Wick flirts and laughs but doesn’t seem to do much more, and to understand why Charles — who so clearly cares about Jane — would turn aside his affections when prom is looming. (YA contemporary, released 1/11, publisher: Point)

Five Flavors of Dumb, by Antony John
This is a great book! The only thing which keeps it from being a five-star read (for me) is that I really didn’t like Piper for at least half the book. She’s very prickly, and although I can understand why, it didn’t make her any more likable. However, as she grew and we start to learn more about the other members of the band, the story pulled me in more and more. By the end, I definitely liked Piper and felt like we’d gotten beyond her barriers — plus, I found Ed a lovely person 🙂 The story: Piper (who’s deaf) kind of falls into the position of manager for a school band called Dumb. Before long, she recruits her friend Ed (a drummer) to help the three members of the band learn to keep rhythm…and then pretty girl Kallie is pulled in, as well, even though she can’t actually play an instrument. Piper promised she’d get the band paying gigs, but their internal struggles — along with Piper’s own challenges with her family — keep interfering. (YA contemporary, released 11/10, publisher: Dial Books)

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