Freya by Matthew Laurence
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Sixteen-year-old Sara Vanadi has been hiding out in a quiet little hospital where she gets three square meals a day and is basically left alone. Her peace is shattered when Garen, an agent of a vicious corporation that is abusing forgotten deities, comes to her with an offer she wants to refuse: work for us or die. Suddenly outed as Freya, Norse goddess of love and war, Freya turns on the charm, enlists a hapless orderly (Nate), and goes on the lam. Since deity power is fueled by worship, Freya charms herself a job as a Disney Princess where she is able to gain power from the adoration of little fans visiting Disney World. Alas, her escape is short-lived, and before she knows it, Garen has trundled her off to the hidden corporate compound where he tempts her with unlimited adoration and power. The more she learns about the corporation, the more determined Freya is to bring it down.
Freya is a delightfully surprising first novel in a series. From Garen’s violent debut at the care center to Freya’s covert forays into the innards of the corporation, the action is nonstop. Reluctant readers will be drawn to the pacing that mimics that of an explosive superhero/action movie as well as to the capricious, but tough, character of Freya. This is a great readalike for fans of Cashore’s Graceling series, Sanderson’s Steelheart trilogy and Childs’ Sweet Venom trilogy.
Little Monsters by Kara Thomas
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
After Kacey moves into her new home with her blended family, she desperately wants to make friends and be part of a group. New besties Bailey and Jade convince Kacey and her younger sister to participate in a séance at the site of an old massacre in a local barn. When Bailey goes missing, fingers point in different directions…some of them at Kacey, who finds herself trying to explain some pretty sketchy behavior to the police.
The plot is gripping from beginning to end and is sure to entice reluctant readers with the disturbingly dramatic and creepy premise. The cast of characters range from likable and flawed to twisted and snarky. Plot turns presented in short, nail biting chapters, keep readers in suspense as to who the real Little Monsters are in this psychological thriller. Cynics who think they’ve figured out “whodunit” will find themselves reading way too late at night—with the lights on—just to see if they’re right. Think along the lines of a young adult version of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn or Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Hand this one to fans of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis, and selections by Neal Shusterman.
–Lisa Krok and Jodi Kruse
The Rains by Gregg Hurwitz
Publication Date: October 8, 2016
Chance Rain and his older brother Patrick live in a small town. Everything is peaceful and a little boring, until one night everything changes. All the adults turn into horrifying monsters. Nobody over the age of 18 is unchanged. Now Chance and Patrick must help their fellow youths survive a world where monsters are trying to kill them.
On top of that Chance is chaffing at constantly being compared to his older brother. Patrick is tall, athletic, kind, and cool. And Patrick has a beautiful girlfriend, Alex, that Chance happens to be in love with. But with Patricks 18th birthday only weeks away, Chance must put all that aside in a bid to end this apocalypse before his brother gets turned into a mindless monstrosity.
Full of body horror, action, and daring feats of survival layered on top of a complex sibling bond this book is a riveting entry into the survival/horror genre. Ideal for a teen who likes action, body horror, complex characters, and a bit of a plot twist.
What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
David Drucker is socially awkward, so much so that his older sister, Miney, has helped him create a notebook of classmates he can trust and classmates he can’t. Kit Lowell is David’s opposite. Popular and friendly, pretty much everyone at their school likes her, but that popularity is strangling. Kit’s father was killed in a car accident, and all of her worried friends are asking questions she just doesn’t want to answer. That need to get away provides the meet-cute for Kit and David. He’s so shocked that he blurts the first thing he can think of that relates to her: your dad is dead. The bald declaration is refreshing to Kit whose other friends are tiptoeing around the monumental absence. As the story unfolds, David offers to help Kit fill in the blanks of her dad’s fatal accident, but his brilliant calculations and tenacious persistence provide answers that Kit isn’t sure she wants to face.
Buxbaum brilliantly captures both grief and Autism in this tenderly written story that is as much about family relationships as it is about discovering love. Reluctant readers will be drawn to both the characters and the situation, the humor of the interactions between characters is an added bonus. This is perfect for fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and is a little less explicit than (but equally as humorous as) B. T. Gottfred’s The Nerdy and the Dirty.
Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Wren Clemmens has found herself on a path of self-destruction without quite understanding why – she only knows there’s a deep underlying unhappiness that colors her days and her actions. She finds herself being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and shipped off to a desert survival camp for troubled teens. Angry and bitter, Wren resists the lessons to be learned for as long as she can go without fire for cooking and warmth.
Van Draanen builds a tale of self-discovery that is as dry and gritty as the desert itself. Painstaking details of the landscape make the reader realize what heroes are out there who take on damaged kids and teach them how to get through the night, to depend on themselves and to want to help others. Wren sobers up both physically and emotionally, and learns that she can shape herself into a person she can live with. This is part family drama, part survival tale, and part celebration of the desert and its denizens. It’s sad and uplifting, disturbing, edifying, and impossible to put down.