Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
“The dead have stories to tell. They just need the living to listen.”
Rowan Chase and William Tillman have stories to tell. Rowan lives in present day Oklahoma. William Tillman was a seventeen year old living in 1920s. Their stories intertwine when skeleton bones are discovered in Rowan’s backyard. Rowan, along with her best friend James, investigates. Together they solve a mystery, a murder and learn more about the Tulsa race riots of 1921.
Told in alternating viewpoints, Rowan delves deeper into solving the mystery, while William is carefully crafting his story. Together Rowan and Will’s stories tell of family history, secrets, race, social inequalities, and injustices.
Dreamland Burning, by Jennifer Latham, is a page-turner. Readers will love the short chapters with cliff-hanging endings that will keep them reading until the end. Latham adds enough surprises, twists, and turns in the story to keep readers engaged while learning some history. Latham’s description of time and place, both historic and contemporary, helps readers to make connections with the past and the present. Both Rowan and William are incredible characters, displaying strength and courage during some very dangerous and life-threatening times. Yes, William told his story and Rowan listened. Teens who read this story will be listening, too.
Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork
Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date: September 26. 2017
What started out as a typical work day in November for best friends Sara Zapata and Linda Fuentes did not end typical. On that day, Linda Fuentes disappeared.
In Juarez, Mexico, crime, corruption, kidnapping, and drugs are regular concerns for Sara, Emiliano, her brother, and other citizens. Sara, a reporter for El Sol, the local newspaper, writes profiles about the missing girls, including Linda. It is a promise she made to Linda, to remember her and others who have disappeared. However, when Sara receives an email threatening her and her family, Sara decides to find out who is kidnapping all these girls.
Meanwhile, Emiliano, who works hard selling his folk art, is considering a proposition to work with some unsavory businesspeople. Emiliano is attracted to Perla Rubi, the daughter of a wealthy lawyer, and if Emiliano accepts, he and Perla can possibly be together.
But something happens forcing Emiliano and Sara to make a decision. A decision that will irrevocably change their lives forever.
Francisco Stork’s suspenseful and powerful story brings readers up close and personal to the poverty, corruption, and greed in Juarez, Mexico. But even more, Stork makes readers aware of the global issue of missing women and the people who risk their lives to find them.
Keys to Freedom by K. D. Gennaro
Saddleback Educational Publishers
Publication Date: September 17, 2017
“What a week. I caught my mom using heroin. My boyfriend dumped me for some slut. Burning with desperation, I agreed to Genie’s plan to steal a car.”
Not just any car, a Rolls Royce. This decision to steal a $400,000 car costs Darlene’s freedom. She and Genie were caught. Genie lied to avoid prosecution. Darlene, however, was sent to a minimum security correctional facility in Ohio.
Darlene’s first few days in the facility is worse. She meets Sophie, a bully, and a handsome correction officer name Darius. She gets into a fight with Sophie and is thrown into solitary confinement. Then she gets the news that her mom is in the hospital and that her brother Jesse is taken into foster care. Now, more than ever, Darlene is determined to do whatever it takes to get her freedom and be united with her family.
K. D. Gennaro, who has taught in correctional systems in Ohio, writes an authentic story about incarceration. Teens will love reading this action-filled, fast-paced story, with lots of drama and believable characters. Reading this book is a good decision!
I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Gen and Ava, who are inseparable BFFs, move across the country from each other for college. The two girls begin to figure out who they are as mostly independent adults, and what that means about who they are to each other. As it turns out, long distance relationships are really hard, even when they’re not romantic.
Label-resistant Gen frequently calls Ava out on her insensitive comments about gender and sexuality, and Ava suffers from an anxiety disorder, so the book doesn’t shy away from heavy subjects but deals with them in a realistic and non-sensationalized way. I Hate Everyone But You is at times both raucously funny and deadly serious. The quick format of text conversations interspersed with emails of various length keeps pages turning quickly, and there is some of every type of drama that comes with freshman year at college. This one is sure to be a favorite for many older teens.
Killers Series by Nicole M. Taylor
Publication Date: 2017
#freenattypage – ISBN: 9781680764857
No Faith in Cats – ISBN: 9781680764871
Our Lady of the River’s Mouth – ISBN 9781680764888
Reconstructed – ISBN:9781680764895
The Extra Girl – ISBN 9781680764840
The Hunting Party – ISBN 9781680764864
EPIC Press has been churning out some substantive hi-lo books since its inception. A publishing house that has been willing to push the boundaries of YA lit, their editors have selected authors who write stories that are accessible enough for reluctant readers and engaging enough that even my AP students who try them have to admit the books are good.
One of EPIC’s practices is to have the same author write the entire series. It works to good effect, because readers can pretty much predict the quality of the story they will get, and murder most foul is generally a topic of high interest among my reluctant readers. Nicole M. Taylor skillfully plays with format, time period, and perspective in these six thrillingly gory tales. #freenattypage explores the obsession of two teen girls with Natty Page, a murderer who hacks his extended family to bits Lizzie Borden style, through the use of documentary scripts, interviews, and the social media postings of the girls themselves. In No Faith in Cats, readers get the story from the murderer herself as she proudly explains how she killed her husband. Our Lady of the River’s Mouth is narrated alternately by one of the recently deceased serial killer’s victims and by Frannie, a determined eighteen year old waitress who won’t let the disappearance of a transient girl go uninvestigated. Andrea Ward, an African American young woman who helps with crime scene investigation by using her art skills to create age-progression photos of missing children, narrates her search for her kidnapped brother in Reconstructed. In The Extra Girl, Miller brings the challenges young women in Hollywood faced to light as Mona McKee’s murder is investigated by a precocious doctoral student and his unwanted sidekick. Finally, The Hunting Party rounds out the series with a chilling story set in Madalane, Kansas in 1872 and told in the alternating perspectives of Emmaline Drake–the brilliant sociopathic prodigy of a murderous adoptive family–and Lawce Gibbon, a young man who is coming of age in a time of suspicion of foreigners.
Each of the books is labelled with a warning about explicit content, and though the publisher indicates the interest level between grades 6 and 12, the descriptive nature of the murders combined with some strong language and protagonists who are generally in their upper teens make this series more developmentally appropriate for older readers. Perhaps just as blood curdling are the Author’s Notes that conclude each book in which the author lets readers in on a secret: each of these books has been inspired by real events. The covers may look innocuous, but readers who venture into this series will be hooked from the first chapters.
Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Roaring Book Press
September 19, 2017
Vivian Carter is tired…tired of disrespect, “bump and grabs,” and a principal who turns a blind eye to her school’s glorified football players, who treat girls inappropriately. When Vivvy finds an old shoebox full of evidence from her mom’s feminist exploits as a teen, she is inspired to start her own Moxie girl rebellion.
This issue-oriented, timely topic of sexism and fighting back grabs the reader’s attention immediately. When spunky, spirited Vivvy creates anonymous zines to place around school, her entourage of Moxie girls grows with each peaceful protest. From showing solidarity with designs marked on their hands, to wearing bathrobes to school over their clothes to protest the dress code, each act becomes more edgy and thought-provoking. When the Moxie girls stage a walkout, an unlikely supporter joins their ranks.
Funny, irreverent, and inspiring, Moxie is an anthem of sorts for strong females. Perfect for classroom discussion, both boys and girls can dig deep into the issues. This would also be a fantastic mother-daughter book club choice.
Scary Out There edited by Jonathan Maberry
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Asked “What scares you?” twenty-one writers of horror responded with stories and poems demonstrating their personal ideas about the meaning of terror. The contributors include well-known authors, such as R. L. Stine, Neal and Brendan Shusterman, and Ellen Hopkins; the topics range from supernaturally creepy to realistically trauma. Readers should have no problem finding something to enjoy–and to keep them lying awake at night.
Some stories include depictions of violence, but there’s little gore. Recommended for high school fans of Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series.
The Boomerang Effect by Gordon Jack
Publication Date: November 8, 2016
When high school junior Lawrence Barry learns that he will be mentoring a new student in order to not be expelled, he figures it will be an easy task to phone in and get the principal off his back. But Lawrence is assigned to Spencer Knudsen, an exchange student from Norway who is more robot than human. The relationship turns out to be mutually beneficial as they navigate their way through a high school full of bullies, a rogue band of vengeful renaissance LARPers, a prankster in the school’s Viking mascot costume, trying to secure dates for the homecoming dance and an affectionate chicken named Mr. Winkles.
Lawrence narrates this laugh-out-loud farce with a cool and snarky voice, and the situations he gets into skate the line between realistic fiction and farce. Fans of authors like Gordon Korman and Andrew Smith will enjoy the fast-paced absurdist humor.
The Road to Winter by Mark Smith
Text Publishing Company
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Finn is a survivor–he has managed to stay alive all by himself in this future weather-ravaged Australia after everyone he knows and loves is taken by a deadly virus. At fifteen, he and his dog Rowdy spend their days combing the beach for useful items to wash up, hunting rabbits and diving for clams. Once a month they make the trek to trade with Ray, the only other survivor they know. Then one day he hears something he barely recognizes – a girl’s voice. From that day on, everything changes.
This post-apocalyptic survival adventure moves along as fast as Finn himself can run–he doesn’t ever think of himself as a hero, but he’s incapable of turning his back on anyone who needs his help, which could turn out to be a fatal flaw.
Fans of series like The Fifth Wave and Ship Breaker will appreciate the unique setting and characters.