Author: Marissa Meyer
This is the first book in the Lunar Chronicles series and tells the story of Cinder, a talented mechanic and cyborg who lives and works in New Beijing with her stepmom, who never wanted her. When Prince Kai enters her life asking for help repairing an android, her life is turned upside down. Soon after his visit, her sister becomes sick and Cinder is “volunteered” to help find a cure, a quest that leads to the discovery of Cinder’s true identity. For her own safety, though, she cannot tell anyone, including Kai.
The story is a unique take on the classic Cinderella fairytale and is full of romance and humor as Cinder tries to save her sister and her home while coming to terms with who she really is.
-Marisa, grade 12
Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Thirteen Reasons Why is a fast-paced, tragic story of discovering the reasons behind Hannah Baker’s suicide. Before her death, she recorded her story on cassette tapes to get passed among the thirteen people who contributed to her suicide. Through the eyes of the main character Clay, we go through the journey of learning how each individual betrayed Hannah while Clay desperately clings to his last remaining memories of Hannah while simultaneously trying to figure out why he made the list.
Asher creates a life-changing story of heartache as he handles the dark subject of suicide. Not only is this book a good read, but it is deeply emotional and changed my outlook on life.
-Marisa, Grade 12
Title: The One Safe Place
Author: Tania Unsworth
The One Safe Place is a great book to read and I would recommend it especially for people who like reading dystopian fiction. When reading this book you will be always on your toes from the start until the very end. You really get into the main character’s shoes straight away and feel very sad at times or feel for others in the book as well.
The main character in the story is Devin. First off when you get in the story he tells you about his grandma and how she died and there’s only his grandpa here to help on the farm. Then, Devin’s grandpa dies and now he can’t take care of everything on the farm himself. He goes to the city where his grandpa once told him the rich live. Devin goes there to get some help on the farm. He meets a mysterious girl named Kit who has a very sad and harsh background story like Devin. Once in the city Devin can’t find any help, so he stays with Kit and gets to be friends with her. On the streets they meet a boy named Roman. He tells them about a place where abandoned children get cared for as well as getting free food and clothing. Kit doesn’t believe Roman, but later when Devin wants to go to the place Kit hops right in with him. Is this place real? Do they really take care of children as Roman said? If you want to find out, read The One Safe Place. You will want to find out all of the secrets in the book!
-Krystian, grade 8
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: I Am Princess X
Author: Cherie Priest
Libby and May met in fifth grade and soon became best friends, bonding over a comic they created together. May wrote the stories and Libby drew the pictures for Princess X, a sword-carrying, Chucks-wearing, crime-fighting princess. They were best friends right up to the moment when Libby died. In a terrible accident, Libby’s mom drove off a bridge, and Libby’s body washed up down the river days later.
Years pass, and May is shocked to stumble upon Princess X once again. There’s an online comic, merchandise, a whole fan base. The thing is, she and Libby were the only two people who knew about Princess X. Did somebody somehow discover their old creations? Can Libby possibly be alive?
May looks a little closer and realizes there are clues hidden within the comics. With the help of her computer-geek neighbor Patrick, she starts investigating online and irl. They quickly discover that they aren’t the only ones looking for Princess X – and that the other person will stop at nothing to unravel the mystery.
This is Cherie Priest’s first YA novel, but she’s probably a familiar name to older teen readers of speculative fiction. There’s no science fiction or fantasy going on here except within the Princess X comic. What we have is a great story about friendship, and the lengths someone will go to in order to help a friend. There’s plenty of suspense, and watching May untangle the clues within the comic is very cool. Pages of the comic itself are interspersed within the novel, so the reader can see exactly what May sees. Finally, a case could be made for considering Seattle as another character in the book. I was not surprised to learn that Priest had lived there because the city is presented in great and loving detail.
P.S. How awesome is that cover design? It took me a second to realize it wasn’t just a photo of a sticker.
-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
Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
An Ember in the Ashes is an epic story. It’s Game of Thrones set in the Roman Empire. The story is narrated in turn by Laia and Elias. Laia is a slave and Elias is a soldier, but no one is truly free in the Martial Empire.
When Laia’s brother was taken by soldiers, she went to the Resistance and offered her services in exchange for their help in freeing him. She risks her life daily as a slave, a spy, and a saboteur in Blackcliff Military Academy.
Elias is one of the elite. trained from an early age at the Academy. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce, but in the Empire, defiance means death.
An Ember in the Ashes is a first novel that is bold, thought-provoking, and pulse-pounding. Book two, A Torch Against the Night, comes out August 2016.