“From where I watch you” Shannon Grogan

Rated 2 stars ** 2015. Soho Teen. 291 p.

FromWhereIWatchYouSixteen-year-old Kara is angry with her dead sister and with her mother. When Kellen died, her father left home and her mother retreated into a shell until she found religion. Her newfound faith changed her into a Holy Roller, offering advice and words of hope to strangers in her new cafe, while ignoring her own daughter. Kara doesn’t mourn Kellen because she hated her, hinting at something Kellen did which was unforgivable.

Kara bakes all sorts of baked goods to forget her problems, spending time alternately hurting and loving Charlie, the only boy who’s ever been nice to her, and trying to ignore scary notes randomly left on a daily basis by a stalker. Despite numerous opportunities to take others into her confidence, she continually assures herself she could handle the situation. By the time she realizes she’s in over her head, it’s almost too late.

In alternating chapters readers take a very slow ride through Kara’s memories growing up with Kellen, leading up to the unveiling of her stalker. However, I was not impressed. I found Kara to be annoying because of the countless excuses she gave for not seeking help as the notes got progressively worse. Always second-guessing herself, she also didn’t have any self-confidence. The most interesting character in the book was Charlie.

Thus I will leave it up to you readers ages 14 and older to decide if you want to read it or not. I seem to be on a bad roll, as this is the fourth book in a row that didn’t thrill me.

“Bang” Barry Lyga

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. To be published April 18, 2017. Little Brown. 295 p.

BangFourteen-year-old Sebastian has never forgotten that, when he was four years old, he accidentally shot and killed his four-month-old baby sister. Everyone knows he’s a murderer, and have judged him for it. His best friend’s parents look at him funny, people whisper behind his back, and his father walked out because of what he did. He and his mother can’t seem to talk about it, and part of him is glad they don’t.

Despite what his therapist has said, Sebastian knows it was entirely his fault, but has plans to make it right. When he’s gone his mother can be normal again, and everyone will be happy. He’s been planning this for awhile so, with his best friend away for the summer, the time is ripe – until he meets Aneesa.

Aneesa is a distraction, helping him become a YouTube cook, and allowing him to think of something other than his guilt. However, despite everything, Sebastian knows it’s only a matter of time before he answers the voice that’s always there to remind him he doesn’t deserve to be happy. He knows the voice speaks the truth.

Sebastian’s struggles, along with those of Aneesa, are heart rending and real. Both experience things no one should have to struggle through but which, unfortunately, occur and need to be discussed. This is Lyga at his most brilliant.

At the recent American Library Association (ALA) conference, I refused to pick up any ARC’s (Advance Reading Copies) because I had too many to plow through from past conferences. However the cover and summary caught my eye, and “Bang” became my only ARC from that conference. I’m so glad I picked it up because I could not put this book down. Neither will you.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Die for you” Amy Fellner Dominy

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published November 8, 2016. Delacorte Press (Random House). 292 p. (Includes “Author’s Note” and “Resources.”)

dieforyouAfter Emma’s mother leaves her father for another man, Emma moves across town to be with her dad and help pick up the pieces of his life. Starting her senior year at a new school is rough, but meeting Dillon helped erase the darkness of hating her mom and seeing her dad’s pain. With Dillon she is able to love and be loved.

Emma and Dillon are so happy. They’ve promised to always be there for each other, to take care of each other, and to be together forever. However, it doesn’t take long before Emma finds that “forever” is more than just a word to Dillon. He always follows through on his promises. Always.

Dominy’s fast paced novel about what happens when relationships turn bad is sure to be an eye opener for many readers. The Author’s Note and Resources sections hold information that could unlock the cages of many relationships, making “Die for you” a book that needs to be on the shelves of every high school and public library.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“The other boy” M.G. Hennessey

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 20, 2016. Harper. 234 p.

theotherboyShane and his best friend Josh are in sixth grade. Video games and baseball consume their every waking moment, and girls are making an appearance. Even though his dad hasn’t made too many attempts to be part of his life or to come for visits after his parents divorce, Shane is doing just fine without him. When he and his mom left San Francisco for Los Angeles three years ago, Shane never looked back. With his days filled with baseball, his friendship with Josh, and designing his very own graphic novel, he is finally getting to become the person he always knew he should be.

Despite his rosy outside life, Shane is hiding a secret that would change everything about his life if anyone ever found out about it. With his secret getting closer to exposure every day Shane will soon learn that truth comes with a price, and will have to decide if he is willing to pay it.

Once I started reading “The other boy” I couldn’t put it down, and finished it in one sitting. Hennessey’s young readers have the opportunity to learn about the many difficulties and challenges, as well as the hopes and fears, faced by transgender boys and girls. Through reading Shane’s story in this finely crafted novel, it is hoped they will learn acceptance and tolerance. Every middle school and public library should have a copy of “The other boy” in its collection.

Highly recommended for ages 11-14.

 

“Try not to breathe” Holly Seddon

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Ebook. Published February 23, 2016. Ballantine Books.

TryNotToBreatheAmy Stevenson was 15 years old in 1995 when she went missing. She was found three days later savagely beaten, sexually assaulted, with multiple broken bones and severe brain damage. No suspect was ever found.

It is now 2010 and Alex Dale is writing about a brain doctor’s work in a neuro-disability ward with patients often typecast as “vegetables.” While on a tour of the facility she discovers Amy among the patients, which sets off her curiosity as to what happened fifteen years ago. Alex wants to dig into Amy’s past to locate clues, but her own past stands in the way. Her inability to stay sober has cost more than her marriage and job, as her self-esteem is at an all time low. If she manages to save Amy she may save herself.

As Amy’s foggy brain begins to sift through the events leading up to her attack, Alex tries to conquer her alcoholic demons. Through flashbacks and the present time, Seddon masterfully winds a path of intrigue, which will lead readers to a truth that will leave them reeling in disbelief.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“The girl on the train” Paula Hawkins

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. To be published January 13, 2015. Riverhead Books (Penguin). 323 pp.

TheGirlOnTheTrainRachel is unable to reconcile herself with her inability to have children and her subsequent divorce from Tom, the love of her life. No amount of constant pleading and whining will jar him away from Anne, the woman who is now the mother of his child. As a result of turning to drinking to ease her pain Rachel has turned into a lonely, uncontrollable drunkard, managing to get fired from her job.

Not wanting her roommate to know of her joblessness Rachel continues to take her daily commuter train ride into London, pretending to go to work everyday. From her seat she regularly watches a couple who appear to be so in love on those brief train window glimpses that Rachel makes up her own version of their life. She is shocked when she finds out the woman has vanished and is feared dead. Rachel saw something the day before the woman disappeared and wants to tell the police, but would they believe her? Could a drunken woman at the end of her own rope make a difference in someone else’s life?

Megan was bored with her life with Scott. She loved him but he wanted more than she was willing to give. He wanted children but she wanted to be free. She never meant for the affairs to go as far as they did, but soon things got out of hand with one guy after another. Scott is starting to get suspicious, but Megan knows how to handle him. She is used to being the one in charge, but one lover is making things very difficult. Neither Megan nor Scott like things to get difficult.

Anne was proud of her life with her new husband Tom and their little daughter Evie. She is all set to make him forget about his ex-wife, but finds it hard because she continues to stick her nose in their business. She is fed up with her interference, and Tom’s inability to make her go away. Anne has her own plans for how to handle women who interfere in her marriage, and what she has in mind won’t be pretty.

Rachel, Megan and Anne. Three women. Three lives. Each separate, yet connected. They have a story to tell. Reality is mixed with fantasy in their minds, but will the truth of the missing woman come out before it’s too late?

I was thrilled to be selected to receive an Early Reviewer’s Copy of “The girl on the train” from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer’s Group in November. I received it a few days ago, and began reading it on the 13th. It was so exciting I could hardly wait to finish it, as it’s a page turning whodunit with an ending that left me gasping in shock. This is Paula Hawkin’s debut novel, and she has entered the literary world with a BANG!

Highly recommended for Adults.

“Tunnel Vision” Aric Davis

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2014. Thomas & Mercer (Amazon).

TunnelVision

Betty Martinez is bored with her high school life. Despite being a junior, her two moms have grounded her for sending a bikini photo to Jake, a boy she doesn’t even really like. Betty just wanted some excitement when she sent the photo, but her moms don’t understand.

Betty and her best friend June love listening to Indie bands, and plan to have a great time sneaking out to attend a concert. However everything goes onto the back burner the day she learns June’s aunt Mandy, a prostitute and heroin addict, had been murdered fifteen years ago by her former boyfriend, Duke Barnes, who has been incarcerated for her murder.

Neither girl had ever been aware of the crime and, with the moms and June’s mom doing everything they could to keep it quiet, Betty and June decide to do the opposite. With their teacher’s help, they arrange to do a research project on the murder and search for clues, which will prove whether or not Duke is innocent or guilty. Knowing the crime is a cold case makes it more exciting, but meeting a strange new boy named Nickel who makes Betty’s pulse race is even more fun. Nickel appears to be very hardened, but neither girl questions his sincerity in also wanting this crime to be solved.

Little do they know that the further into the case they get, the more tangled will be the web of deceit that has been woven around Mandy’s death. As they get closer to finding out what happened to Mandy fifteen years ago, none of their lives will ever be the same. Betty will soon see that excitement is overrated.

With multiple suspects to keep Betty, June and Nickel’s heads spinning, Davis brings readers onto a roller coaster ride which will leave them gasping with incredulity when the mystery of Mandy’s murder is finally solved. Despite having a very boring cover which doesn’t do justice to the action in the story, and having Nickel managing to accomplish many acts which will leave readers scratching their heads since he’s just a teenager, “Tunnel Vision” is an excellent read.

This is only his second book, but Aric Davis is an up and coming author. Keep your eye on him! I look forward to reading an earlier book with more information about Nickel titled “Nickel Plated,” as well as any further offerings along this same genre.

Recommended for readers aged 16 and older.