Tag Archive: thriller


girls of no return

The Girls of No Return by Erin Saldin

Released February 1, 2012.

A tense, riveting tale told in flashbacks, this book hints from the beginning about terrible things that aren’t fully revealed to the reader until the very end.  The result is a book that is tinglingly tantalizing and has you jumping at shadows. 

Lida has been sent to the Alice Marshall school where troubled girls are sent to try to rehabilitate.  It’s located at the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area in northern Idaho, where the students are surrounded by nature and removed from the temptations of modern life.  They live in cabins with bunk beds.  Lida lives with several other girls, including Boone who is something of a legend as she terrorizes the new students.  There is also Jules, who is so sweet and friendly that Lida can’t guess what she could have done wrong to be there.  And finally the luminous Gia, whose friendship is addictive and elusive.  Lida refuses to talk at first, drawing more and more deeply inside herself, but slowly she starts to reveal herself to the other girls and to the reader.  As the tension in the story mounts and secrets are revealed, readers are caught in the web of truths, lies, and betrayals.

Saldin’s debut is a book that mixes juvenile detention with nature, combining it all with a swirl of illicit drugs and alcohol.  The characters are all complex, especially when the reader thinks they have that character pegged, they will reveal even more of themselves.  The setting is gorgeously described from the lake to the mountains.  It serves as an important plot device throughout the book with its isolation. 

Saldin does the near impossible here, not revealing the horrible truth of what happened until the very end of the book.  Twenty pages from the end, the tension was so thick that my eyes could not read the words quickly enough.  Yet at the same time, I didn’t want this exquisite read to end.  Even better, the ending really works, offering no easy solutions to the complexity of the storyline.

The writing is vibrant and creative, the plot inventive and revealing.  This book is a stellar read that would make a great book talk.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.

au revoir crazy european chick

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

Released October 25, 2011.

Perry’s band has gotten their first big break, a gig in New York City.  Unfortunately, his parents are insisting that he take their foreign exchange student, Gobi, to prom that same night!  Perry thinks that if he manages to leave prom early, he can still make it to his gig on time.  Little does he know that his entire night is about to explode, literally.  Perry is caught up in an assassination attempt, taken hostage in his own father’s car, and forced to speed through the night in Manhattan.  This is one wild ride through a dark city that you won’t want to end!

Schreiber has written a book that reads like a movie.  The pace is fast even at the beginning of the book but becomes almost breakneck speed by the middle.  The ending is wild and blazing.  This book is not about character development, though there are moments of growth in Perry especially where he realizes the truth about his father and his own relationship with him.  In some respects it is a gun-filled story of a boy turning into a man in one amazing night.

This book comes in at 192 pages, which is sure to appeal to reluctant teen readers.  Add the appeal of guns, fast cars, explosions, assassins, and romance and you have a book that readers will race right through.

The movie rights to this book have already sold to Paramount, which makes perfect sense given a book that reads so much like it’s already on the screen.   Get this in the hands of reluctant readers who will enjoy the action and the humor of this thrilling read.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group.

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Cryer’s Cross: Thrilling Fun

cryerscross

Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann

The tiny community of Cryer’s Cross has been witness to a tragedy when Tiffany disappears without a trace.  Because the town is so small, 16-year-old Kendall knew Tiffany though she was several years younger.  Returning to their one-room high school, Kendall needs to tidy the desks and room before a new school year begins thanks to her OCD.  Kendall returns to her areas of comfort, playing soccer, dreaming about leaving Cryer’s Cross for Juilliard, and her boyfriend Nico.  When Nico begins acting strange and then disappears, the community enforces a curfew.   After Nico disappears and soccer is cancelled, Kendall’s OCD becomes much worse.  She only finds relief when playing soccer with Jacian, a new boy in school who manages to both bother and intrigue Kendall.  When Kendall starts hearing Nico’s voice when she sits at his desk and receiving messages through the graffiti scratched into its surface, she is drawn into the horror that lives in her small town.

This thriller has great teen appeal.  It is creepy, frightening, but not fully horror.  Just right for teens who want a little scare but not too much.  The romance is nicely built in the book as well.  I liked that it was not instantaneous but rather built as they got to know one another better. 

The pacing is well done, drawing out the scary moments and allowing the story time to build.  I found it nearly impossible to put down, my mind kept working on unraveling the mystery even when I was not reading.   The conclusion was exciting, frightening and great fun to read.  It was also nicely foreshadowed in the book, making it very satisfying.

A thrilling, fun read that is sure to appeal to McMann’s fans.  The cover is eye-catching and will welcome additional readers too.  Get this in the hands of teens who want a jolt of terror in their reads.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon Pulse.

Also reviewed extensively throughout the blogosphere.

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Across the Universe by Beth Revis

What a pleasure to read some great science fiction for teens!  At age 17, Amy joins her parents on the trip of a lifetime, or many lifetimes, as they are frozen for a voyage of 300 years to a colonize a new planet.   Flash ahead several hundred years and the ship Godspeed that carries the frozen bodies has created its own society over the centuries.  16-year-old Elder is the next leader of the ship, chosen from when he was an infant to lead.  He has been raised and taught by Eldest, the current leader.  But something is going wrong.  There are secrets everywhere he turns, and no one will give him the answers he needs to be the next Eldest.  To make things worse, someone has begun attacking the frozen people, and it just might be the people Elder trusts most.  This taut thriller of a novel marries mystery, science fiction and romance into a gripping read.

Revis has written a genre-bending novel that will attract many different types of readers.  Her building of the world inside the ship is amazing in its attention to detail.  The complexities of this small world flying through space are solid and fascinating.  Readers will slowly come to understand the secret horrors of life aboard the ship and are guaranteed feel claustrophobic as the metal walls seem to close in. 

Amy is a heroine with plenty of spunk and attitude.  Elder is a more subtle hero, filled with self-doubt and sometimes self-loathing, he is a complex character who has been living with lies entire life.  It is Elder that is the amazing creation in this novel.  A boy who is destined to lead but doesn’t see how. 

I do have one quibble with the book, but it comes so close to the end that I don’t want to ruin the novel for anyone.  It was one twist too many for me and a breaking of literary conventions.  I came away frustrated by the ending but blown away by the novel itself.

An enticing blend of genres, this book would be an ideal book talk choice for librarians looking for a title that will appeal to most teens.  It has an amazing opening chapter that makes it impossible to put down.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Penguin.

Blank Confession

blankconfession

Blank Confession by Pete Hautman

This book begins with Shayne Blank entering a police department to confess a murder.   The question for readers is how this kid who is new to school got into the situation.  Mikey is a kid whose mouth always gets him into trouble.  Though he thinks he wants to blend in and be invisible at times, he dresses in secondhand suits that make him stick out from the regular high school crowd.  When Shayne seems interested in being his friend, Mikey has just ticked off his sister’s boyfriend, drug dealer Jon by dumping a bag in order not to be caught in a sweep of the school.  Jon now says that Mikey owes him $500 and that he will pay it back.  As the tension grows throughout the novel and the damage done by Jon and others gets more intense, readers will be caught in flashbacks looking for the trigger to the murder.  A riveting and tense story about truth, friendship and what one is capable of, this slim novel will hook many readers.

Hautman has written a novel with a structure that creates tension all on its own.  Add in some evil drug dealing teens, a mouthy unusual teen who tells the bulk of the book in his voice, and the natural vibe of the police department, and this is one pulse-pounding book.  Additionally, Hautman puts the characters in situations where murder is not only possible but likely.  This adds to the taut nature of the book even further.  The characters are interesting, especially Shayne who is very bright, very tough and a complete mystery.  Mikey is a character who would be easily unlikeable but because much of the book is shown through his perspective becomes understood at least by the reader. 

That said, the book is not perfect.  The ending was brilliant, twisting away from the twist I had expected to my great delight.  But the book should have ended a chapter earlier than it does.  It should have left us hanging a bit, figuring it out for ourselves.  With the final chapter added in, the mystery of Shayne is revealed and it is all a bit too neatly resolved.  I’d have much preferred the mysteries and questions to remain.

A book that teens will relate to and be unable to put down, this is a tense and thrilling ride from confession to deed.  Appropriate for ages 16-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

Accomplice

Accomplice by Eireann Corrigan

This book will be released in August 2010.

It was a perfect plan, but then it all went wrong.  When their college prep advisor tells them that it takes more than good grades and community service to get into the best schools, Finn and Chloe decide to make themselves and their college essays very special.  They stage Chloe’s kidnapping, hiding her in the basement of Finn’s grandmother’s house because she is out of town.  It was supposed to be simple, but their carefully staged deception starts to wear on Finn as she is forced to lie to everyone, carefully staging her emotions and reactions to not only keep the lie going but to make sure that they get enough attention from the media.  When CNN shows up to cover the kidnapping, Finn and Chloe know that it cannot end the way they had planned and are forced to make dreadful choices.  Don’t pick up this page turner without clearing your day first, it is impossible to put down!

With a great premise, the book opens with Finn in the midst of the situation already.  There is little time to draw breath as readers are immediately plunged into a faked kidnapping staged by two very smart but very naive girls.  The drive to have a bit of fame combined with the pressures of college applications make for a potent combination for a book. 

The story is told from Finn’s point of view as she deals with attending school and lying to everyone in her life, including Chloe’s parents and her own. Finn is in denial about a lot of things throughout the book, facing complicated feelings about her best friend.  This tension about their relationship and what is at the heart of it makes the book even more compelling as Finn tries to navigate a situation of her own making.

This riveting novel is tightly written.  The book builds tension as Finn struggles with her emotions and with the fallout from the kidnapping.  It is not breakneck paced, rather it is woven into an intense read. 

Ideal for booktalking to teens, this book will have everyone right from the premise.  It completely lives up to its promise as a thrilling look at lies and fame.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The only thing Thomas remembers when he wakes up on the lift is his name.  When the doors open, he is in the Glade where he is greeted by many other teen boys who also don’t remember anything beyond their names and the Glade.  The Glade is a community based on order and structure. Every morning the doors open to the maze, every evening they close.  Though some boys have been there for years, they have never solved the maze and found an exit.  There are monsters in the maze, creations of flesh and metal that roam the maze and attack any boy they find there.  Thomas finds himself wanting to be a Runner, one of the boys who tries to solve the enormous maze, even though commonsense tells him not to do it.  The day after Thomas arrives, everything changes when an unconscious girl arrives on the lift, and deep inside Thomas recognizes her though he can’t remember anything else.  Could she be the key to the maze?  Could he?

Grippingly written, this book grabs the reader from the moment the lift doors open and never lets go.  Dashner has created a wonderfully conceived compact world that really works well.  The reader knows no more than Thomas, making it a book with constant questions and tensions.  One of the only issues I had with the book was Thomas himself.  I would have enjoyed a more regular protagonist rather than a boy who is braver, stronger, and more clever than any of the others.  The book has great pacing which is headlong and wild, fitting the subject perfectly.  And though Thomas may be a bit to super, his character has a strong inner voice that works well.  The setting is written with such clarity that readers will feel they know the space well by the end of the novel. 

Highly recommended, the next book in the series will be eagerly awaited by those who read it.  Recommended for fans of The Hunger Games series, this book is appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from library copy.

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