Today’s Quick Picks nominees are filled with thrills and chills.
Breaking by Danielle Rollins
Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Charlotte has never been a top student at her prestigious, expensive, academically rigorous boarding school. Her best friends Ariel and Devon, however, are true Weston Prep material – freakishly smart and incredibly talented at a multitude of things. Understandably, Charlotte is reeling after they both commit suicide within weeks of each other – they were pretty much her only real family. Then she discovers a clue… and realizes that Ariel has left her a trail of breadcrumbs right to the answer to all her questions. If she’s brave enough and clever enough to figure out the puzzle, what she learns will change everything. Breaking is a companion novel to Rollins’s first book, Burning, and reading them in order may provide more details and context about situations mentioned in Breaking, but it is not strictly necessary.
Breaking travels at breakneck speed through a winding trail of problems, deaths, twists, and revelations. It’s a little bit sci-fi, a lot of suspense, and a heap of seriously dysfunctional parenting and adulting. Reluctant readers will appreciate the fast pace and razor-sharp language, and lots of teenagers will identify with the pressure Charlotte and her classmates feel to do better and be more, both from their parents and themselves. The darkly cynical tone carries some humor despite the creepy, often violent situations the characters find themselves in, and characters not prone to too much deep introspection make the plot’s wild ride easier to follow. A twisted story with a “to be continued…” ending, Breaking is perfect for fans of TV shows like Pretty Little Liars or the new Teen Wolf, plus titles such as Lauren Oliver’s Replica, Suzanne Young’s The Program series, and the Virals series by Kathy Reichs.
— Allie Stevens
Dream Fall by Amy Plum
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
The cover alone is enough to pique the interest of teens with a fascination for horror. What follows is a psychological thriller/sci fi story that will keep readers guessing until the very end.
Cata is one of seven teens who have severe sleep issues. These racially and geographically diverse characters have been invited to become part of a study that is designed to change their brain patterns with the ultimate goal of relieving them of their sleep disorders. That’s the plan. Plans can change. A power surge in the medical room means that now the seven teens must survive their nightmares in order to survive the treatment.
Plum’s thriller is told from three perspectives: Cata, Fergus, and Jaime. Cata and Fergus are test subjects, and while Cata has survived abuse sufficient to leave her with PTSD, Fergus is a rich kid with a history of carefully concealed sadism. Jaime is a lucky med school intern who gets to participate in this study, and it is his perspective that narrate the events transpiring outside the subjects’ comatose dream state.
Plum has tapped into the horror genre to create nightmares that can kill subjects in both their dream and waking state, and it is that instant recognition of those horror tropes that will raise delicious goosebumps for teen readers. The cliffhanger ending sets this short tale up for a sequel that is likely to be equally well received, since subject 7 appears to be a killer, and the ending suggests the killer’s identity. Just when readers think they know their characters, it turns out, they may have to rethink their preconceptions. Teens who have shown an interest in Stephen King thrillers like It, and Christine, or who have enjoyed Gordon Alexander Smith’s Lockdown series or Michael Grant’s Gone series will find this an easy, but spine tingling, read.
— Jodi Kruse
Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Cemetery Dance Publications
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
It’s 1976, and our protagonist is Gwendy, a teenager in a small Maine town. One day a stranger gives her a mysterious box with buttons to press. Pressing the buttons causes good things to happen to Gwendy, but as time passes she begins to suspect that there may be a sinister cost to her good fortune. Gwendy’s story is a coming of age tale, full of mystery and horror with a frenzied climax. Stephen King and Richard Chizmar have crafted an eery story, reminiscent of King’s Eyes of the Dragon. Readers will be drawn in by the Stephen King brand, a short 164 page story, and the promise of a haunting tale.
Recommended for fans of horror who want a quick read.
The Special Ones by Em Bailey
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: July 18, 2017
How special is it to be stolen from your life and forced to live in isolation, taking on the identity of someone else under pain of punishment or worse? How special to have to train, again and again, young frightened girls who have been ripped from their homes to become someone else – to look and dress like another person from another era, to talk like them and be them while being watched at every moment and terrified to slip up?
The Special Ones are four young people who must live in a fantasy world created by a monster – known to them only as him. He steals them, imprisons them on a farm that’s like something from the 1940s, gives them daily instructions – and punishments. Every night they go into the special room with the computers and talk to the thousands of lost souls who believe in them, giving them advice and validating their worries and fears. Until, finally, one of them sees a way out.
Fans of Stephen King and Gail Giles will love this creepy, unbelievable and yet somehow very believable tale about a group of imprisoned kids fighting for survival and desperate for freedom.
The Possible by Tara Altebrando
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Kaylee is a relatively ordinary teenager, playing on a softball team and crushing on boys… until a podcast journalist runs a series on her imprisoned birth mother, Crystal. Rumors spread like wildfire…does Crystal really have telekinetic powers that resulted in the death of Kaylee’s two-year-old brother thirteen years ago? After Kaylee pitches a perfect game and some other unusual occurrences seem to follow her, friends and teammates begin to believe Kaylee herself has telekinetic abilities.
The cover design illustrates a girl encased in a lightning bolt-filled snow globe. The composition of varied textures includes a glossy circular laminate surface that mimics the glass of a snow globe, definitely catching the eye and focusing viewers on the lightning. Teens will instantly be engrossed by the idea of possible telekinetic powers, and will keep turning pages as the pacing intensifies. While Kaylee and her adoptive parents are believable enough characters who are easy to like, Crystal is seriously twisted and readers will loathe her on the spot. Kaylee is haunted by the past, especially her birth mother. With the podcast series bringing up old ghosts, nothing is certain anymore.
This title will appeal to admirers of books with telekinetic or other paranormal activities, such as Pulse by Patrick Carman or Burning and companion book Breaking by Danielle Rollins. Additionally, hand this to devotees of some prototypical book to film adaptations such as Matilda by Roald Dahl, Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander H. Key, or Carrie by Stephen King.