Monthly Archives: September 2012

Keeping the Castle – Review


Title: Keeping the Castle

Author: Patrice Kindl

Ten years is waaaay too long to wait for a new book from Patrice Kindl. I can’t believe it’s really been that long. Anyhow, Keeping the Castle was well worth the wait. In a nutshell, it’s a cross between Pride and Prejudice and I Capture the Castle.

Althea is 17 years old, and the financial future of her family rests on her slim, elegant shoulders. In order to provide for her sweetly ineffective mother and maintain the crumbling family home for her four-year-old brother, not to mention her selfish and miserly stepsisters, Althea must marry – and marry quite well. Fortunately, she is considered to be an exceptional beauty; unfortunately, marital prospects are slim in their remote corner of England. The future brightens quickly when Lord Boring and his entourage arrive in the neighborhood, but Althea’s campaign does not go exactly as planned.

If you’ve read as many Regency romances as I have, you won’t find the plot to be terribly innovative. However, Althea is a charming and witty protagonist. Her observations on the pragmatic business of marriage and her increasingly desperate efforts to bring Lord Boring up to scratch are thoroughly entertaining. Despite the fact that Althea’s original plans do not succeed, the story ends happily for everyone – well, almost everyone – and it kept me smiling the whole way through.

-Lisa, Teen Librarian

Mysteries for Teens


Every summer an honors English class at one of our high schools has to read a novel of psychological suspense by an American author. Every fall, seventh graders have to choose a mystery for outside reading. It took me long enough, but I finally managed to compile a list of mysteries in our YA collection that helps the kids and my fellow librarians. It’s not a complete list, but it’s a good start.

Bullet Point by Peter Abrahams
The only thing Wyatt knew about his biological father was that he was serving a life sentence, but circumstances and a new girlfriend bring them together and soon Wyatt is working to prove his father’s innocence.

Reality Check by Peter Abrahams
A knee injury destroyed Cody’s college hopes, so he dropped out and got a job in his tiny Montana town, but when his ex-girlfriend disappears from her Vermont school, he travels cross-country to join the search.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Hannah committed suicide, and there are 13 reasons why. Clay Jensen can’t believe he’s one of them, but he’ll find out by listening to the tapes she left behind.

Split by Swati Avasthi
Thrown out by his abusive father, Jace travels from Chicago to Albuquerque to live with his older brother, who ran away from home five years ago to escape the abuse – and left Jace behind.

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
A sophisticated thriller set just after World War II. Fifteen-year-old Evie grows up quickly when she realizes her beloved parents are not all they seem to be.

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown
When 17-year-old Alex starts dating Cole, a new boy at her school, her two best friends become increasingly suspicious of him as their relationship gets serious.

Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Valerie must come to terms with the fact that her boyfriend Nick went to school and killed seven people before killing himself. Shades of Columbine.

The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Dark secrets linking two Alabama families and their Welsh ancestors slowly come to light when 17-year-old Sylvie spends a month with a cousin she barely knows in her father’s ancestral home.

Shelter by Harlan Coben
Mickey Bolitar witnessed his father’s death and had to send his mom to rehab. Starting over with his uncle seems okay – until his new girlfriend disappears.

Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook
Isobel’s life is falling apart fast. Either she’s losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or else she’s seeing ghosts.

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
After her older sister runs away, 16-year-old Caitlin decides to make a major change in her own life and begins dating a boy who is brilliant, mysterious, and dangerous.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
After a major terrorist attack in San Francisco, Marcus is rounded up without cause and interrogated for days. Released into what is now a police state, he decides to use his expertise in computer hacking to set things right.

I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan
After high school graduation, four teens are involved in a hit-and-run accident – and then they cover up their crime. But someone knows what really happened that night….

The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson
Cameryn works as an assistant to her coroner father. When her friend is killed, she’s able to use her knowledge of forensics to search for the killer – but that puts her in danger. The series continues with The Angel of Death and The Circle of Blood.

The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks
When a teenaged girl with a bad reputation is murdered in New York’s Central Park after a party, her childhood friend is determined to solve the mystery of who killed her.

The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee
Sixteen-year-old Rinn is confronted with surreal events that force her to fear that her past mental illness is resurfacing.

Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters by  Gail Giles
Sunny is stunned when a total stranger shows up at her house posing as her older sister Jazz, whio supposedly died in a fire out of town months earlier.

What Happened to Cass McBride? by Gail Giles
What happened? Well, she’s been buried alive by Kyle Kirby, who holds her responsible for his brother’s suicide. Extremely intense!

Paper Towns by John Green
Quentin has been secretly in love with his popular, unstable neighbor for most of his life. When she disappears (again), he’s determined to figure out where she went and why.

Amandine by Adele Griffin
A powerful novel about a magnetic, mentally unstable freshman and her hold over the new girl in town.

Tighter by Adele Griffin
This update of Henry James’s classic The Turn of the Screw retains the chills and horror of the original while adding new psychological dimensions.

The Girl Is Murder by Kathryn Haines
It’s 1942 in New York City, and Iris is grieving her mother’s recent death while secretly helping her dad with his detective business – help he needs after losing a leg at Pearl Harbor.

Girl, Stolen by April Henry
Cheyenne is sick and sleeping in the back of her mom’s car when it is stolen. Theft turns into kidnapping, and Cheyenne has to escape before the crime turns into murder.

The Night She Disappeared by April Henry
Gabie was supposed to do the pizza delivery, but Kayla went instead. Now Kayla is gone, and someone may still be after Gabie.

Shock Point by April Henry
Before Cassie can expose her stepfather’s dangerous drug experiments on his teen patients, he sends her to a brutal boot camp for troubled teens.

Dark Angel by David Klass
When his older brother is released from prison after six years because of a technicality, Jeff’s family secret is revealed, causing upheaval in his home, school, and love life.

Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman
High school is rough, so Abby withdraws from friends and family, spending all her time online with her new Internet friend, Luke, who is not who he pretends to be.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
What if the world’s worst serial killer was  your dad? He’s in prison, but bodies are piling up again. In an effort to clear his own name from the copycat crimes, Jazz joins the hunt for a new serial killer.

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Willa seems to have the perfect life until the father she barely remembers murders his new wife and children, then heads toward Willa and her mother.

The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci
High school junior Torey Adams struggles with doubts and questions surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the class outcast.

Following Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci
Legally blind college reporter Mike Mavic hopes to get a story about a body believed to be that of long-missing Christopher Creed, but finds something odd about the town, including Justin Creed’s obsessive drive to learn what really happened to his older brother.

Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn
Sixteen-year-old Violet is spending the summer in Japan while her artist father works on a big commission. When his clients are the victims of a theft, Violet is determined to track down the missing artwork.

Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield
Becca has big plans for the future, but the discovery of a dead girl sends her whole town into a tailspin. Soon, Becca finds herself unable to move forward for the first time in her life.

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman
Strange things start to happen when 16-year-old twins Tennyson and Bronte befriend a troubled and misunderstood outcast nicknamed Bruiser.

Blood on My Hands by Todd Strasser
When Callie discovers her friend’s dead body, she becomes suspect number one. Who killed Katherine, and why did they blame it on Callie?

Kill You Last by Todd Strasser
Girls start to go missing, and the only thing they have in common is having professional photographs taken by Shelby’s father. Can she help clear his name? Is he really innocent?

Black Mirror by Nancy Werlin
Frances is sure her brother’s death was murder, not suicide, so she begins her own investigation into the suspicious activities at their elite boarding school.

The Killer’s Cousin by Nancy Werlin
Acquitted of murder, 17-year-old David moves in with relatives to escape the media glare and soon realizes that something is very wrong with Cousin Lily.

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
A dark but hopeful tale about trying to survive and escape an abusive mother, as narrated by 17-year-old Matt.

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld
An entertaining thriller about the hunt for a missing person that also takes a thought-provoking look at consumer culture.

The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams
When the body of a classmate is discovered in the woods, Evie’s lies wind up involving her with the girl’s best friend, trying to track down the killer.

Stupid Fast – Review


Title: Stupid Fast

Author: Geoff Herbach

Felton Reinstein, aka Rhinestone, aka Squirrel Nut, has always been a nobody. He’s got one good friend, and he gets picked on a lot because he’s small for his age – or at least, he used to be small for his age. In the couple of months leading up to his 16th birthday, Felton has had a massive growth spurt, adding 6 or 8 inches and almost 50 pounds to his frame.

On the outside, Felton’s now a powerful athlete who’s got football and track coaches begging him to join their teams. On the inside he’s still the same kid with a piano-prodigy little brother who’s obsessed with their father’s suicide and a mother who is slowly losing her grip on reality.

Stupid Fast manages to be funny while tackling some fairly serious issues. Felton is confused by a lot of what’s going on around him, and in true teenage fashion he does his best to ignore everything until it blows up in his face. The book ends on a positive note, and Felton’s story continues in Nothing Special.

–Lisa, Teen Librarian

The Night She Disappeared – Review


Title: The Night She Disappeared

Author: April Henry

Gabie is a good girl. She’s quiet, gets excellent grades, drives a cute little Mini Cooper, and works at a pizza place mostly to get out of her big, empty house. When bright, bubbly Kayla asks to switch shifts one night, Gabie agrees. Then Kayla disappears, and Gabie finds out that the guy who called in the pizza delivery asked for the girl in the Mini Cooper. Was Gabie actually the intended victim? Is Kayla already dead?

Gabie becomes obsessed with Kayla’s disappearance and enlists the help of Drew, the co-worker who took the phone order that sent Kayla out that night. Gabie’s convinced that Kayla is still alive, but that time is running out.

Different characters take turns narrating the story, so we get to know what’s going on with Gabie, Drew, Kayla, and even the kidnapper. The chapters are also connected by newspaper clippings, phone transcripts, and other ephemera, which is a neat touch. The one thing that threw me off a bit was the little hints of psychic connection between Gabie and Kayla.  It’s a bit too woo-woo for a straight mystery, but not enough to qualify as a seriously paranormal story. That’s a minor quibble, though, and by and large I really enjoyed this short, intense book.

–Lisa, Teen Librarian

The Last Dragonslayer – Review


Title: The Last Dragonslayer

Author: Jasper Fforde

Jennifer Strange is a 16-year-old orphan who manages an employment agency for magicians. Business is slow because magic has been drying up over the last few decades. Once-powerful magicians have been reduced to attempting modest home improvements and delivering pizzas via magic carpet, until one of the magicians starts having visions of Big Magic. In the visions, someone is going to kill the last dragon, and it looks as though that someone is Jennifer. Is Jennifer really the last dragonslayer?!

Jasper Fforde is best known for his fantastical mystery series featuring literary detective Thursday Next. This is his first book for teens and also the first in a trilogy. The approach is very matter-of-fact; I mean, is there a more pedestrian name than Jennifer? And yet our practical, responsible young heroine does indeed turn out to play a major role in the upheaval facing her country. It’s a fun, quirky book with plenty of slapstick, puns and wordplay, and the best sort of dry British humor. And a dragon, of course.

–Lisa, Teen Librarian

Beat the Band – Review


Title: Beat the Band

Author: Don Calame

Summer’s over and Matt, Sean, and Coop are ready to rock their sophmore year of high school. The problem? Coop’s been paired with epic loser “Hot Dog” Helen for a semester-long project on safe sex. How will he survive this social death sentence? By entering and winning the school’s battle of the bands contest. The thing is, the boys’ band, Arnold Murphy’s Bologna Dare (kind of an inside joke), is more theoretical than actual. Sure they rock Guitar Hero, but real instruments? Not so much. Coop is unstoppable, though, and whether they like it or not, Matt and Sean are along for the ride.

Beat the Band is every bit as funny as Swim the Fly. This time Coop tells the story, and he’s terrific as he wise-cracks his way through the book. There are tons of laugh-out-loud moments, although the scene in the library with the epic gas attack nearly killed me. As soon as you finish this, you’ll want to run – not walk – to get Sean’s story in Call the Shots.

–Lisa, Teen Librarian

Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Review


Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Author: Laini Taylor

I’ve struggled with how to summarize this, so I’m throwing up my hands and posting the publisher’s summary: 

AROUND THE WORLD, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth has grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

MEET KAROU. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands;” she speaks many languages — not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers — beautiful, haunted Akiva — fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

After I finished reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I alternated between hugging the book to my chest and stomping around in a fit because I had to wait for the second in the trilogy. The story elements are familiar (angels, romance, star-crossed lovers, etc.), but Taylor puts such a fresh spin on them. Her writing is so richly descriptive, you feel like you’re right there on the streets of Prague or Marrakesh, and the romance is absolutely swoontastic. Days of Blood and Starlight comes out November 8, 2012 – hooray!

–Lisa, Teen Librarian

Where Things Come Back – Review


Title: Where Things Come Back

Author: John Corey Whaley

This book got glowing reviews, but I didn’t buy it when it first came out because I didn’t think a first novel about a kid in small-town Arkansas had much to offer my patrons up here in Connecticut. Then it went and won some serious awards and I had to pay attention – and I’m so, so glad I did.

Where Things Come Back is difficult to describe but easy to read. Here’s the first sentence: “I was seventeen years old when I saw my first dead body.” Intriguing, right? But, that’s still not as eventful as what happens to Cullen Witter over the course of the summer before his senior year of high school. The writing is simple, but there are multiple plots and points of view, and it all adds up to a deceptively sophisticated novel.

-Lisa, Teen Librarian

Bruiser – Review


Title: Bruiser

Author: Neal Shusterman

Tennyson and Bronte are 16-year-old twins, and while they’re not super-close, Tennyson is annoyed that his sister has started dating the school loner Brewster, aka Bruiser, aka “the kid most likely to go to jail.” Bronte convinces her lacross-playing brother that Brewster is just misunderstood, and eventually the boys become friends, too.

Soon, the twins realize that whenever they’re around Brewster, their cuts and bruises disappear, and that he’s covered in new hurts. Somehow he takes on the physical and emotional pain of the people he cares for. Clearly, being a loner is easier for him to handle, but that’s out the window now.

The story is narrated in turn by Tennyson, Bronte, Brewster, and his little brother, Cody, and Shusterman juggles the different voices very well. Tennyson is particularly witty, and it’s a pleasure to follow his transformation from borderline bully to a more sympathetic young man.  It’s difficult to describe Bruiser in a nutshell, but the story is compelling, and your heart goes out to each of the characters in the book (except, of course, for Brewster and Cody’s horrible uncle).

–Lisa, Teen Librarian

Tokyo Heist – Review


Title: Tokyo Heist

Author: Diana Renn

Violet’s lame summer has just taken a quick turn for the better. Her artist father has been commissioned to create a mural for a big company in Japan, and she gets to go along for the ride. Goodbye, Seattle; hello, Tokyo!

The same clients who hired her dad were recently robbed of some Van Gogh sketches, and rumor has it that the thieves were after an even bigger score – an actual Van Gogh painting.  Violet’s new plan for the summer is to explore Tokyo, work on the manga story she’s started writing and drawing, and maybe do a little searching for the mysterious painting on her own.

Fans of manga and all things Japanese will enjoy this, and so will mystery lovers, too. There’s even a teeny bit of romance mixed in, although the mystery is definitely the main attraction here.

–Lisa, Teen Librarian