Author: Katherine Howe
When girls at an elite Boston-area private school start falling victim to a wide range of physical and mental ailments, senior Colleen Rowley doesn’t pay much attention at first. It quickly becomes apparent that school administrators and local health officials are at a loss for what is causing the crisis, and when the media catches wind of the situation, chaos descends on the suburban town of Danvers, Massachusetts. Colleen and her friends are busy obsessing over college admissions, last-minute interviews, and so on, but when she gets anonymous texts urging her to look closer, she does.
Conversion was published a couple of years ago. I had heard lots of buzz at the time, but didn’t get around to reading it until now, and I’m glad I finally did. It’s smart and sophisticated. Howe tells two stories simultaneously. The main story is told from Colleen’s point of view, which lends itself to a certain sense of claustrophobia and confusion. After all, as a teen she’s not privvy to official meetings, reports, etc. Interspersed throughout the book are sections of a story narrated by Ann Putnam in 1706, recounting her role in the events that led to the Salem Witch Trials years earlier.
As people speculate about the mystery disease – environmental? reaction to a vaccine? academics-induced hysteria? – Colleen begins to notice parallels between the present and the events of 300 years earlier. After all, Danvers used to be called Salem Village. About halfway through, I wasn’t sure if I was reading a horror novel, a medical mystery, or an indictment of the contemporary college arms-race. It’s all of the above and more, deliciously creepy and compulsive reading at its best.
–Lisa, Teen Librarian
Title: Silver in the Blood
Author: Jessica Day George
Dacia and Lou are cousins and best friends. Dacia is bold and outgoing, while Lou is more cautious and not remotely a thrill-seeker. The two are very close, though, and depend on each other for love and support. The book begins as they are traveling separately from Gilded Age Manhattan to their mothers’ ancestral home in Romania. Dacia and her chaperone arrive in Bucharest under a certain cloud of scandal because of her shenanigans in England, and Lou arrives soon after with her mother, father, and twin brothers.
All sorts of mystery surrounds the family’s plans for introducing the girls to their shared heritage, and the girls quickly realize that All Is Not As It Seems with their Romanian relatives.
The narrative switches perspective between the two young women, and there are letters, diary entries, and telegrams interspersed throughout the text. The girls start out as pawns in a larger story, but wind up taking control of their shared destiny. This is a sprawling story with loads of characters to keep track of, but everything ties together so neatly. Mystery! Magic! Romance! Yum!
I’m pretty sure I’ve read everything Jessica Day George has written. I’d be surprised if there’s a book of hers that has escaped me, whether YA or middle grade. This one steps out of the retold fairytales trope (Twelve Dancing Princesses, Cinderella, etc) that she has used in her previous YA books and shifts sideways into retold fantasy trope. I’m being cagey to avoid spoilers, but All Shall Be Revealed should you choose to read Silver in the Blood.
P.S. I love this cover! It’s a real throwback to the gothic romances of the sixties and early seventies.
–Lisa, Teen Librarian
Author: Jon Skovron
As a shallow and superficial person, I had noticed and disregarded this book on many occasions because of the not-so-exciting cover. Sadly, I am all about judging books by their covers. It often comes back to haunt me, but have I learned from my many mistakes? No. Anyhow, I saw yet another rave review of Misfit online, and decided I really should give it a go – lucky me!
Hiding underneath this cover is an amazing story. Jael is the daughter of a demon and an ex-priest – although she never knew her mother, who died when she was a baby. Because she’s a half-breed, demons consider her an abomination and want to destroy her, so her father has kept the two of them on the run and under the radar for years. As Jael turns 16, her powers begin to manifest, and the world may never be the same.
Between the mythology and the action, Misfit should easily appeal to older fans of the Percy Jackson books. The story wraps up nicely, but the world-building and backstory are so rich that there’s plenty of room for a sequel (or two?). It doesn’t look as though Jon Skovron has any plans to continue the story in a full-length book (there are a couple short stories out there), but we can hope….
-Lisa, Teen Librarian
Title: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
Author: Lish McBride
Nineteen-year-old Sam is stuck in a dead-end job flipping burgers and hanging out watching old movies with his slacker friends in Seattle. A late-night prank brings some uncomfortable attention from Douglas, a powerful and malicious necromancer, and then Sam and his friends are violently attacked. Turns out Sam has the makings of an equally powerful necromancer, which his mother has been suppressing for years in order to protect him. It’s too late to hide, though, and Douglas has plans for Sam that alternate between slavery and death. Good thing Seattle is full of weird creatures, because Sam needs all the supernatural help he can get to unleash his powers and escape a very unpleasant, very short future.
This is a debut novel, but you’d never know it. The book is well-written, fast-paced, and switches back and forth from seriously scary to laugh-out-loud funny at the drop of a hat. A great book for older teens.
–Lisa, Teen Librarian