Moonrise by Sarah Crossan
Bloomsbury / Bloomsbury YA
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Joe hasn’t seen his brother Ed in over 10 years, before he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. With just a few months to go until Ed’s execution date, Joe moves to Texas to spend as much time as he can with his brother. In the meantime, Joe is grappling with some big questions: Did Ed do it? Is Ed still the same brother that Joe grew up admiring? What are the limits of forgiveness, and how do you say goodbye to someone forever?
Crossan’s Moonrise asks some big questions and tackles thought-provoking topics in a sparsely worded story told in verse. The desperation of both Joe and Ed’s situations is clearly conveyed, and readers will find their hearts breaking for Joe and his family as they question whether or not Ed is a monster deserving of the sentence he’s been given. Very short chapters and a small but intriguing cast of characters coupled with bits of humor and levity lend buoyancy to a dark, emotionally dense narrative.
Readalikes for Moonrise include What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee and Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.
— Kay Hones and Allie Stevens
Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis
HarperCollins / Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: May 1, 2018
After Tiffany’s mom is diagnosed with cancer and dies, she is sent across the country to live with a father and four sisters she has never met. When another man claims to be Tiffany’s father, she nervously tries to find common threads with each man to determine which one is her true biological father while waiting on DNA results.
From the opening scene of Tiffany’s distressing airplane ride, readers are drawn in to this #ownvoices story by an author who also deals with anxiety. A deceased mom, a father and sisters she has never met, paternity questions, a strict religious household, and alopecia means quirky, loveable Tiffany has some MAJOR adjustments to her new normal. Some tough topics are touched upon, including autism, religious beliefs, and the fact that Tiffany feels different from her lighter-skinned sisters. Her friendship with neighbor Marcus flourishes, as he also feels like a misfit of sorts. The banter-filled dialogue lends humor to otherwise emotionally tense situations.
Other selections featuring characters with anxiety or feeling like they don’t fit in would pair nicely with this book. Try Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert or How We Roll by Natasha Friend, which also highlights a character with alopecia.
— Lisa Krok
Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll
Macmillan / Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Doris works as a sorter at Unclaimed Baggage, a store that buys lost luggage from airports and sells the contents and the bags. She is content to work alone as a distraction from her grief at losing her aunt, the only person that really understood her in her small Alabama. However, her boss offers her a raise and a promotion to hire some more people over summer to help get through the backlog. She hires Nell, a new girl from Chicago who is missing her boyfriend and her big city life and Grant, the football quarterback who is worried he may have a drinking problem. They become unlikely friends and help each other face their problems.
The quirky setting of the Unclaimed Baggage store, based on a real store in Alabama is a great hook that leads into a heartwarming story about the power of supportive friendships. This title has a lot of humor, from the story of the purple leopard-print bag to Doris’ sassy banter. The author deals with Grant’s issues with both beer and football-related concussions seriously but hopefully, while maintaining the book’s uplifting tone. The romance in the story is sweet, but doesn’t distract from the central story of friendship.
Gilmore Girl fans will enjoy quirky setting and strong friendship bounds. It is also similar to the friendships and light romance of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Leah on the Offbeat.
— Cassandra Cuppy
When Life Gives You Demons by Jennifer Honeybourn
Feiwel and Friends / Swoon Reads
Publication Date: July 17, 2018
Shelby Black is a typical teenager who just wants to pass geometry and get her crush to notice her. There is only one thing standing in her way – her after-school job as an exorcist-in-training. Mentored by her great-uncle Roy, who also happens to be a Catholic priest, Shelby must learn how to be a successful demon expeller in order to stop the influx of demonic activity invading her town, all the while keeping her extracurricular activities a secret. The cause of the demonic possessions? Shelby’s missing exorcist mother, who disappeared mysteriously months ago. Shelby must find her missing mother before the possessions spread further.
Honeybourn lures readers in immediately with the opening exorcism-in-progress scene and keeps them entranced with Shelby’s quick wit and the many humorous action sequences involving demon expulsion, including the exorcism of Shelby’s own English teacher. Teens will relate to Shelby’s juggling of family expectations, high school follies and social anxieties. The concise length and breezy narrative flow will charm readers until the last demon expulsion.
Give to viewers of Stranger Things or Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a lighter alternative. Readers of Meg Cabot’s Mediator Series or Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series will find Shelby’s humor and wit appealing.
— Kaitlin Troch
Impostors by Scott Westerfeld
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Frey was born to be expendable but deadly. She is an identical duplicate to the “real” successor to her father’s monarchy, which is why it’s easy to send her to Victoria to become a hostage in a potential alliance. Frey is not as biddable as her father thinks, though, and Col might just be worth the risk to her father’s empire.
An explosive hook will engage readers when from page one, Frey must protect her sister from potential assassins while remaining completely unrecognized. The relationship between the two sisters is compelling, as is Frey’s latent desire to develop her own identity separate from her sister. The inequities between societies and Frey’s observations of her father’s ruthlessness present themes of social justice and the need for teens to look closely at their cultural biases. Although it references the world of the Pretties and the Specials, one does not have to have read that series in order to enjoy the story.
The fast-paced plot and references to Westerfeld’s Uglies series will resurrect interest in those perennial favorites. Hand this to fans of Dualed by Elsie Chapman, Partials by Dan Wells, or the Starters series by Lissa Price.
— Jodi Kruse