Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus
Delacorte Press / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
After their mother is sent to rehab, Ellery, a true-crime enthusiast, and her twin brother Ezra move in with their grandmother, who lives in Echo Ridge. This small town in Vermont with a history of unsolved cases involving missing and murdered teenage girls, includes the disappearance of their mother’s identical twin sister over two decades ago. When new threats emerge targeting the homecoming queen and yet another girl goes missing, Ellery enlists the help of Malcolm, the younger brother of prime murder suspect Declan Kelly, determined to solve the mystery.
Meticulously plotted, McManus delivers a suspenseful page-turner with plenty of twists to keep readers engaged. The novel features strong characterization as both Ellery and Malcolm are likeable and relatable with detailed family lives and histories. The alternating first-person narratives of Ellery and Malcolm provide added insight into the mystery as it unfolds. The characters are diverse – Ellery and her brother Ezra are biracial, Ezra is gay, and Malcolm’s best friend Mia is Korean-American and bisexual – and secondary characters and suspects are complex and layered, adding further clues and depth to the mystery. The final act is filled with thrills and danger that will have readers on the edge of their seat and the resolution to the mystery is surprising, but satisfying, tying together all the clues discovered throughout the course of the novel.
Hand to fans of McManus’s debut novel, One of Us is Lying, as well as readers who enjoy other thrillers and mysteries by April Henry, Karen Thomas’s The Cheerleaders and Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious.
–Laura Giunta and Alicia Abdul
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
Delacorte Press / Random House
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Living underground on the planet of Demetrius and scorned as the daughter of a coward, Spensa is among the last of the human race fighting for survival against the alien race of Krell. Now, years later, Spensa has applied to flight school to become a pilot, hoping to clear her father’s name.
Skyward is an action-packed and adrenaline-charged science fiction novel. Sanderson expertly designs a detailed world complete with its own culture, government, military, technology, history, and mythology. As a protagonist, Spensa is a strong, determined character, evolving over the course of the story from a girl who is brash and full of bravado to a talented pilot who truly learns what it means to be brave. Spensa’s classmates are also diverse and multi-dimensional and the character of M-Bot, a humorous, sentient spaceship that Spensa discovers as a wreckage, is an especially fun and unique addition. The subjects of war, sacrifice, courage, and camaraderie are all proficiently explored. The battles are briskly-paced and high-energy, reminiscent of the dogfights in the Star Wars movies, and the characters are engaging, so readers will celebrate when the young pilots succeed and grieve with the characters when there are casualties. While there are some questions that remain unanswered for the already planned sequel, much is resolved, providing for a satisfying conclusion.
Hand to both middle school and high school fans of science-fiction, whether they enjoy classics like Ender’s Game, sci-fi anime like Gurren Langan, or the Star Wars franchise.
–Laura Giunta and Jodeana Kruse