“The girl in the picture” Alexandra Monir

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published November 15, 2016. Delacorte Press. 260 p.

TheGirlInThePictureNicole Morgan had spent her entire life practicing her violin in hopes of someday getting a scholarship to attend Juilliard, and hadn’t given any thought to relationships. She and Chace seemed to have some sort of electricity that drew them together. With him she felt loved, wanted and alive. Her world shattered when he was found murdered.

Beautiful and rich Lana Rivera spent her whole life living up to her Congresswoman mother’s version of the perfect daughter. She was used to having a certain role in their political life so, when her mother suggested she start dating a rival Congressman’s son to find out family secrets, she did as asked but didn’t realize how hard she would fall for handsome Chace Porter. With Chace she felt loved, wanted and alive. Her world shattered when he was found murdered.

As Lana and Nicole’s relationship grows from being strangers, to roomies, besties and, finally, to mortal enemies, the story of what happened to Chace is slowly unraveled. Their voices speak in alternating cliffhanger ending chapters, which leap from the past to the present. Each of them are suspects in Chase’s murder but, with additional clues, more suspects are added to the drama. Readers find themselves thinking they know whodunit – only to find out they were wrong. The surprise ending will come as a huge shock.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Finding Hope” Colleen Nelson

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published April 12, 2016. Dundurn.

FindingHopeFifteen-year-old Hope can’t express herself except through poems she scrawls on her body, the wall, scraps of paper or any handy surface.

Something awful happened to Eric so, from anger, sadness and frustration, he turned to the sweet release of meth. Now an addict, cast out from his family and adrift on the sea of despair, he nurses revenge along with his broken dreams.

By transferring to a boarding school, Hope is sure she can transform herself and forget about Eric and his problems. Instead she gets involved with The Ravens, a popular group of girls who have their own plans for her. Their constant belittling and bullying soon leaves Hope drowning in her own sea of regret and loneliness, ready to throw away everything good in her life.

In alternate voices brother and sister tell their individual stories of loss, loneliness, despair and fear. Nelson’s short, cliffhanger chapters will keep teens reading until its very satisfying conclusion.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

“Secret of the Sevens” Lynn Lindquist

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. EBook. Flux. Published June 2015.

SecretOfTheSevensEighteen-year-old Talan Michaels is about to graduate from the Singer School for poor, unwanted and troubled children. Having been there since he was 7 years old, his housemates, house parents and friends are the only family he’s ever known. Upon graduation he will face a future of homelessness and uncertainty, which fills him with fear. Thus when an invitation comes to join the Sevens, a secret society at the school, Talan is ecstatic. He is sure the Sevens’ promise of riches will be his ticket to freedom after graduating.

Talan knew that William Singer’s wife, founder of the school, had died under mysterious circumstances. He also knew that William Singer and five of the original Sevens had also died, with the Sevens accused of his murder. He and his house sister Laney embark on a series of secret missions destined to save the school from someone who knows what really happened to William Singer, his wife and the original Sevens. Talan and Laney will have to be careful, or they will share the same fate. With time running out, the two will have to pull out all the stops to save their school before it’s too late for everyone.

The plot twists and mysteries hidden in “Secret of the Sevens” had me mesmerized. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next to the new group of Sevens. Lindquist will keep readers on the edges of their seats.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“The Tragedy Paper” Elizabeth Laban

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Alfred A. Knopf (Random House). 312 pp. (Includes “Mr. Simon’s tips on avoiding a tragic ending to your Tragedy Paper” and “A conversation with Elizabeth Laban”).

TragedyPaperTim was a senior transfer at the Irving School in Westchester, New York. On his way there he was snowed in at the airport where he met Vanessa, a senior who also attended Irving. They quickly bonded and he fell in love with her, but knew their involvement would be short-lived because her boyfriend Patrick was jealous and because he was an albino.

When the school year started Duncan was not happy to be given the room in which Tim had spent his senior year. He was also not happy that the treasure each senior was supposed to leave behind for the new occupant turned out to be a bunch of CD’s.

Duncan knew Mr. Simon assigned the seniors in his English class a type of thesis called a Tragedy Paper where students had to define a type of tragedy. When he read Tim’s note referencing Mr. Simon’s upcoming paper, he was ready to listen to the CD’s knowing he had no idea what to write for his paper.

Through Tim’s and Duncan’s alternating voices, readers learn of Tim’s love for Vanessa, his troubles as an albino, problems with Patrick, and how much he wanted to be “normal.” The terrible, real-life tragedy in which he found himself also involved Duncan as intertwined with Tim’s past was Duncan’s present troubles with Daisy. He loved her but was afraid to approach her, plus he had problems trying to continue the senior tradition that went so badly for Tim last year.

Just as Tim’s story kept Duncan glued to his earphones, “The Tragedy Paper” will keep readers glued to its pages. I couldn’t put it down, and read it in one sitting.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.

Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

“Sex & Violence” Carrie Mesrobian

Rated 3 stars *** 2013. Carolrhoda Lab (Lerner Publishing). 294 pp. Finalist for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) 2014 Morris Award.

Sex&ViolenceSeventeen-year-old Evan has been dragged all over the country by his father’s jobs. He uses his New Kid status to scout out girls who’ll Say Yes with the least amount of trouble, knowing he’ll soon be gone and won’t have to form any attachments. While at a boarding school in North Carolina Evan meets Collette, a beautiful girl on the track team. They begin a secret relationship that is ruined when Tate and Patrick, two jealous classmates, viciously assault him.

His father decides to move them to his old family home on a lake in Minnesota, to help Evan heal. Evan begins to see a psychiatrist to work through his issues and, on her advice, begins writing letters to express himself addressing them to Collette, who we soon find out had also been assaulted.

As Evan learns to work through his trauma and sexual issues, he begins calling himself “Dirtbag Evan” as he remembers the many one-night stands of his life and fluctuates between his old persona and trying on a new one with a group of friendly teens who take him under their wings. In “Sex & Violence,” readers gain insight into the mind of a young man trying his best to unlearn his violent sexual past and reinvent a calmer future.

I was disappointed that the boys who assaulted him and Collette did not get their “due,” as readers were left with a nebulous court date and no closure on the crime. It was also a bit discomfiting to see “you’re” for “your” and “they’re” for “their” several times in a book that was not an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). If the book gets a second edition run it would be nice to see these misspellings corrected as well as a chapter or two describing a trial that would send Tate and Patrick to jail for an indeterminate amount of time for their crimes.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.

“Charm & Strange” Stephanie Kuehn

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. St. Martin’s Griffin. 213 pp. Winner of the 2014 William C. Morris YA Debut Author Award.

Charm&StrangeWho is Win? Who is Drew? Win is the present, while Drew is the past.

Win changed his name, avoided making friends, exiled himself from his family, and has lived in a boarding school for years. Now, at the age of 16, Drew is catching up to him.

Through flashbacks, readers get insight into Drew’s 9-year-old self. He looks up to his kind 14-year-old brother Keith and loves his 7-year-old fun-loving sister Siobhan. Little by little, readers notice their behavior beginning to change as Drew becomes angry enough to hurt himself and others, while Keith turned bitter and mean, and Siobhan became fearful.

Drew’s anger and confusion is still within Win who believes he has a wolf within himself and will change with the right full moon. Torturing himself with past memories, unable to deal with the past while unable to live in the present, Win is at the end of his rope. It takes the help of two classmates who look beyond their own needs to show Win there is light at the end of his tunnel.

Kuehn’s debut novel is deep, strong, powerful and will make her readers think long and hard. It will be remembered long after its pages are closed, and was an excellent choice for the 2014 Morris Award.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Hush” Stacey R. Campbell

Rated 3 stars *** ebook. 2012. Lakeview #1. Green Darner Press.

HushPrincess Olivia Cosimo of Tamura has been sent, in disgrace, to give birth to the child she conceived with a commoner. Whisked away to a family in the United States, she is given the name Blakely Henry.

Seventeen years later, Lord Winslow Byron had the entire royal family of Tamura murdered, believing his family deserved the throne. With no heirs, he is poised to become the next King of Tamura.

As these events unfolded, Max Ryder, a student in Investigative Reporting at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, finds out his aunt used to be Princess Olivia’s nanny. His curiosity leads him to discover the Princess’ long-lost secret. Excited at the thought of getting a good grade for a research project, he goes undercover at Blakely’s Canadian boarding school to find out if she really is the unknown princess and heir to the Tamuran throne.

Max followed clues to discover the identity of Blakely’s birth parents, but did not expect to fall in love with her and to enjoy himself at Lakeview Academy. Unfortunately, not everyone is happy to discover there may be a new Tamuran princess. It is only a matter of time before Blakely’s life is in danger.

Many girls fantasize about being long-lost princesses, rescued by a handsome knight in shining armor. Campbell’s “Hush” modernizes this beloved fantasy of theirs with a few twists of fate.

Recommended for ages 12 and older.