All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven (Knopf)
High school seniors Violet and Theodore meet on the ledge of their school’s clock tower, both considering suicide. Their alternating narratives reveal complicated characters who struggle with love, loss, grief, loneliness, and mental illness. The author’s writing is heartbreaking, funny, philosophical, poetic and honest, and as complex as the characters’ she develops.
The Accident Season , Moira Fowley-Doyle (Kathy Dawson Books; Listening Library audio narrated by Colby Minifie )
Seventeen-year-old Cara and her family are girding themselves for the accident season when “bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom” randomly. Mystery, menace and magic, specters and secrets, make it difficult to tell the real from the fantastical as the gripping plot twists and turns.
I Am Princess X,Cherie Priest (Scholastic)
Adventure, mysteries, tech trouble and a graphic novel combine in this fast-read. When May’s best friend Libby dies in a car crash, she’s also lost the co-creator of Princess X. When Princess X graffiti appears all over Seattle, May, now 16, knows Lily is not dead and is determined to find her friend.
Black Dove, White Raven, Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion)
Once again Wein shows her gift for grounding YAs in history with her well-rounded characters and compelling plots. This time her story is set primarily during the 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Emilia and Teo’s mothers are fellow barnstormers, Black Dove and White Raven. Their children, like their brave mothers, are “in the soup together.” That soup has ingredients of prejudice, grief, war, and the loyalty of soulmates whose love endures.
Carry On, Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s Griffin; audio from Macmillan Audio read by Euan Morton)
Fans caught only glimpses of Simon Snow and his nemesis, Baz, in Rowell’s “Fangirl.” Now these characters are fully realized in the story of their eighth and last year at Watford School of Magicks. It’s a year that is unpredictable in love, heroes, magic and villains. Rowell transforms clichés and tropes into fresh opportunities for humor and reimagining. And no one writes about first love like this author.
Don’t Fail Me Now , Una LaMarche (Razorbill; audio from Listening Library read by Adenrele Ojo)
17 year-old Michelle has heartaches aplenty. Left with two younger siblings as her mother succumbs to drug addiction. Michelle learns her deserting father is dying. She sets off in a beat up car with her siblings, a half-sister and her brother. A dying car is the least of their problems as the travelers cross the U.S. They face shifting moods, clashing personalities, discordant dynamics and racial and economic divides.
The Emperor of Any Place, Tim Wynne-Jones (Candlewick; audio from Brilliance; read by Todd Haberkorn)
The author transitions facilely between characters, times and places in a book that twines two narratives. Evan, a high school student, is stunned by his father’s sudden death and its possible connection to a mysterious book recounting a WWII story of enemy soldiers stranded on a small Pacific island. His somber numbness contrasts with angry sarcasm when his cantankerous 90-year-old ex-Marine grandfather arrives.
Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon (Delacorte; audio from Listening Library read by Bahni Turpin and Robbie Daymond)
Maddy, a biracial 18-year-old with severe combined immunodeficiency, doesn’t leave home. Her physician mother and Carla, her nurse, are Maddy’s only company. Until Olly moves in next door. These engaging characters fall quickly into a deep friendship that’s honest and flirtatious and bound for a love that’s worth taking risks for, and has more twists and turns than either can imagine.
The Hired Girl, Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick; audio from Recorded Books read by Rachel Botchan)
The story unfolds in the youthful journals of Joan, a 14-year-old girl whose 1911 farm life consists of caring for three unappreciative brothers and a cruel father. Her passion for learning leads her to run away, and she is hired into a wealthy, intellectual Jewish home. Joan’s naivety, romanticism, imagination and impulsiveness add up to an character who amusing, engaging and ultimately, endearing.
Illuminae Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff’(Knopf)
Innovative in narrative and artistic design, “Illuminae” invites readers to reconstruct a series of disasters through a collection of documentary fragments – email exchanges, medical reports, personal logs and more. Science fiction fans will recognize plot threads reminiscent of “Ender’s Game,” “Battle Star Galactica,” “2001: A Space Odyssey” and every zombie story ever written, but the authors weave something new out of these familiar plots and tropes. The robust action, strong female protagonist, and clever method of storytelling will leave readers anxious for a promised sequel.
Kissing in America, Margo Rabb (Harper; audio from Blackstone)
Eva still feels “griefy” two years after her father has died in a plane crash, that and her romantic nature leads her to follow her boyfriend across the country with her best friend Annie. The book is love story, road trip, mother-daughter conflict and coming of age all rolled into one. But it’s the emotional plot that shines as Eva struggles to find peace with her father’s unknowable ending, understand herself and her family, and the nature of loss and love.
Orbiting Jupiter Gary D. Schmidt (HMH, audio from Audible read by Christopher Gebauer ) Gary Schmidt’s sparseness sings with rhythms and repetitions that soften the story’s difficult subject: 12-year-old narrator Jack’s innocence is sometimes sparked, and other times strained, by the arrival of his 14-year-old foster brother, Joseph. Joseph has been abused by his father and the social system and only wants to find his baby daughter. This book is short in length and long on heartbreak.
There Will Be Lies, Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)
17-year-old Shelby Jane Cooper is a sheltered, homeschooled young woman whose biggest problem seems to be her overweight, overprotective single mother. Then she’s hit by a car, her mother propels them into flight, and she’s drawn into “the Dreaming,” a mystical world. These are only the first shifting realities in this book—each providing half-truths and confusion, tension and mystery that create a driving force that tests Shelby’s strength and shows her growth.
Wolf by Wolf , Ryan Graudin (Little Brown, audio from Audible, read by Christa Lewis)
At 6, Yael is selected by a cruel commandant at a concentration camp for Experiment 85 and given a series of shots that result in her ability to shape shift. After Hitler has won WWII, 17-year-old Yael assumes the identity of an Aryan girl and must win a cross continental motorcycle race for an opportunity to assassinate Hitler. Physical dangers, intrigues, and betrayals make for fast-paced action. Continuous plot and psychological twists increase the book’s compelling quality, but the author’s lyricism also shines.
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