Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti (9781534426979)
Sydney is the daughter of the famous Lila Shore, an actress who did an iconic sex scene. Sydney lives most of the year in Seattle attending a private school, living in a dorm, and visiting her grandmother. But over the summer, Sydney heads to San Francisco to spend months with her mother, who never seems to actually have time to spend with Sydney. Lila lives in Jake’s house, dating him and staying for free. It’s a house near the beach with cliff views, a house that is often fogged in, a house full of secrets and violence. Jake pays a lot of attention to Sydney, as does a construction worker at a neighboring house. Sydney is creeped out by the sudden attention to what she is wearing, how she looks and innuendos about what she does. However, she doesn’t mind the attention from Nicco, a sweet boy she meets on the beach, who captures lines and moments from each day in his journal. As the summer goes on though, the tension grows towards a foreshadowed tragedy that is almost inevitable.
In this slow burn of of thriller mystery, Caletti focuses on how unwanted male attention impacts teen girls, both in the way they act but even more importantly on the way they view themselves. With an even brighter light than our general society, Caletti uses the intensity of fame to capture society’s objectification of women and finding value in the physical rather than the internal.
The book works on several levels with the thriller being steadily foreshadowed by the court documents listed at the beginning of each chapter. The mystery of what happened, the steadily build of tension, and the intensity of the revealing scene. It also works as a deep work of feminist literature, insisting that the reader notice what is going on, notice the impact that male attention has, and notice that something must be done to change this.
An intense feminist novel for teens that insists on being noticed. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Simon Pulse.
Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart (9780385744775)
Written by a master YA novelist, this book is deliciously dark, wonderfully deceptive and completely intoxicating. Imogen is an heiress, adopted as a child from poverty into New York money. She lives a life that is glamorous, easy and often nasty. Jule is Imogen’s friend, who trails along with Imogen as she heads around the world. But the police are onto Jule, who knows she can stay one step ahead of them as she runs from her past. Jule longs to stay in the bubble of wealth that Imogen lives in, but it’s not easy particularly when Imogen disappears. As the story unwinds and unravels, there is blood and murder revealed.
Lockhart writes an almost-classic tale here that will enthrall teen readers. Carefully crafted with a series of reveals that steadily expose the truth, the book is completely captivating. Readers will attempt to unravel what has happened, but Lockhart writes with a control that is exceptional, holding the story and her readers right where she wants them.
While Imogen lives a charmed life, it is the character of Jule who is impressively drawn on the page. She is complicated and calculating and still somehow, even though readers will have mixed feelings about her throughout the book, she is a heroine. She is a girl who flees her past, creates her own present and plans for a new future. She is not waiting to be handed things, but taking them. Fearless, hardened and fantastic.
Get this into the hands of those who loved We Were Liars as Lockhart takes readers on another amazing ride of a read. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from ARC received from Delacorte Press.
The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno
Molly has memory problems, she will awaken driving her car on the highway miles from home. She will find herself on the couch watching a show on TV with her little sister when she had just moments earlier been at school. She wakes up with her homework half finished and she doesn’t remember even starting it. So when an unknown boy crashes his motorcycle in front of her and then calls her by name, Molly knows that there is more to her blackouts than she might have thought and that it is time to come clean about them with her parents and therapist. As she starts to sort out what happens to her when she isn’t there, Molly meets Sayer, the brother of the boy who crashed and someone who seems to know more about Molly than she does. Molly has to figure out not only what is happening to her but how she is connected to Sayer and his brother.
In this debut novel, Leno skillfully crafts a book of psychological suspense and mystery. Cleverly, it all takes place in a single person who can’t remember it at all. The result is a riveting read, one that is emotional and raw. Molly is a great example of the unreliable narrator, one who knows that she doesn’t have the facts but also one who is incapable of putting it all together. Readers may guess what is happening in the novel before Molly realizes it herself, but the book won’t let you go until it is revealed in its entirety.
Leno’s writing is noteworthy too. She beautifully captures falling in love through physical, tangible reactions and poetic language. She also gracefully shows the physical reactions of Molly as she struggles to live a normal life, such as this passage from the beginning of Chapter 8:
The next day at school I move through the hallways like they’re flooded. Like I’m swimming through them, coming up every so often for air and clawing my way through seaweed that would hold me down, choke me, suffocate me. My lungs burn with the effort of breathing. What I wouldn’t do for gills.
This startling puzzle of a psychological thriller will have readers riveted from the very beginning. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and HarperTeen.
Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn
Jamie and his sister Cate were adopted by a wealthy couple whose own children died. But money can’t fix everything. Two years ago Cate was sentenced to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbors horse barn and injuring a girl. Now Cate is free and she’s returning to Jamie’s life though he wants nothing to do with her. When Jamie had first heard of the barn burning down, his arms went completely numb and non-functional. He’s gotten better in the last two years, but hearing that his sister is returning and looking for him specifically has his arms going numb again. Cate bears a truth that Jamie might finally be ready to hear, and Jamie knows that there is something about the fire at the barn that just isn’t right. This tense and twisting thriller will keep readers enthralled right to the incredible ending.
Kuehn won the William C. Morris Award for her first book, Charm & Strange. Her skills is on display here too as this second book is a completely engrossing read that is one wild ride. Told entirely from the point of view of Jamie, readers can only guess at what he is hiding from himself. Tension builds as Jamie starts to piece together clues about Cate and what she was doing the night the barn burned and then why she turned herself in days later. As Cate starts to call Jamie and provide hints herself, the tension creeps up higher. The explosive ending will confirm some reader’s guesses but will also stun with its revelations.
Skillfully written and plotted, this novel explores mental illness in a very close and personal way. Jamie is a wonderfully flawed narrator, filling the pages with his unique point of view that readers know from the beginning is skewed though they are not sure exactly how. That is part of the brilliance of the book, that there are many ways in which Jamie can be misunderstanding his sister and his past. That’s what keep readers turning the pages, the need to know what in the world is the truth.
A riveting and breathtaking read, this is a perfect summer read to share between friends. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley and Macmillan.
Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff
Boy Nobody enters schools, follows his orders, identifies his target, and completes his mission. He is a soldier, working for The Program. He is invisible, just another teen, but he is so much more. His life changed when he was taken into The Program at age 11. The Program fixed him, turning him into someone who can notice the smallest things, who can kill silently, and who has no emotions. But when Boy Nobody is asked to do the fastest and most dangerous mission of his life, he discovers that he does have emotions. And that is perhaps the most dangerous thing of all.
I have deliberately given a vague summary above, since a large part of the pleasure of this read is piecing things together. Written in the first person, the reader gets to see the world from Boy Nobody’s skewed point of view. This adds to the immediacy of the read, making it all personal, particularly the violence. And there is violence, fights and murder, done with a coldness that makes it all the more sinister. Throughout, you have Boy Nobody’s voice explaining just why it is all alright and how his life works. Then as he begins to feel again, that voice changes and expands. It is subtle but also powerful.
This book is written with pacing in mind, the entire book reading like a movie script that plays before your eyes. There is no hesitation here, little lengthy prose, just vibrant details that are necessary to hurtle the novel forward. It makes for a read that is riveting and a joy to read.
The ideal beach read for teens, this book has a thrilling combination of contract killing, subterfuge, and intelligence. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from ARC received from Little, Brown.
Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon
Noa woke up on a table, an IV in her arm. She had no memory of how she got there. Years earlier, she had managed to escape from the foster care system by hacking computers and creating a fake family. She is tough and smart. That is what saves her when she makes a harrowing escape from the warehouse where she awoke. But men are following her and nowhere is safe. The only chance she has is to survive in that shadow world where there is no record of her existence. But she needs access to cash and a computer to pull it off. That’s where Peter comes into the story. A wealthy kid, he watched his brother die from the mysterious disease that kills teens. When Peter sniffs around his father’s files, he stumbles upon one that has men chasing him as well. So he needs a great hacker to help him find out more. That person is Noa. Now the two of them know just enough to get them killed and the only option they have is to trust each other and keep running.
Gagnon creates a future world here that is just a few years ahead of our own. From the raging disease that is striking down an entire generation to the mysterious people who are using teens for experiments, this is a world that is darker and wilder than our own. At the same time, it’s a world that is close enough to ours to make it understandable and almost reality. Gagnon writes about hacking as a beautiful mental exercise, something that the wild and intelligent teen would do simply as a challenge.
Noa is an amazing heroine. Though she doesn’t have super powers of any kind, she is frighteningly strong mentally and gutsy as can be. For those looking for a strong heroine, Noa is a modern and fascinating one who offers complexity and vulnerability too. Peter is another interesting character with his hacking hobby that is used for good and his disturbingly distant parents. The two of them together are dynamite.
Thrilling and fast paced, this book will appeal to teens who love computers as well as those looking for a riveting read. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.