Fourteen-year-old Carey Blackburn can shoot a rabbit and cook it for dinner, raise her baby sister by herself, and survive freezing winters in an old camper without electricity, but can she handle attending high school? From the first page of If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch, it is obvious that this is not your typical teen coming of age story. Carey has spent the last ten years living in a secluded part of a national forest with her methamphetamine addicted mother. Raised on the story they had fled her abusive father and needed to hide to stay safe, her life in the woods have made her independent and strong. Her little sister Jenessa is the most important thing in her world and Carey’s every thought is about how to care for and educate her. Their mother leaves them alone for weeks at a time, until she ultimately abandons them altogether. The girls have endured countless difficulties, but can they manage in the civilized world once their camp is discovered by their father and a social worker.
This touching and powerful story is told from Carey’s perspective, with a backwoods dialect she tries desperately to lose. Her life experience means that she behaves much older than a typical 14-year-old; however these skills are of little value when it comes to fitting in at high school. She doesn’t know what a locker is, can’t understand teen fashion or cell phones, and has never spoken to a boy. Carey needs every bit of the willpower that ensured her survival to adapt to the new situations she encounters in the outside world. The reader cares deeply for the characters and gets invested in trying to learn what the secret of the “white star night” that has led to Jenessa’s inability to speak. If You Find Me explores the healing power of family and ultimately the definition of home.
Small town life, folklore, Norse mythology and a senseless murder are all threads skillfully woven together into the amazing literary work Little Wolves by Thomas James Maltman. A farming community, inhabited by descendants of the first German families to settle the area, is rocked when a troubled teen murders the town sheriff and then commits suicide. The boy’s father is left devastated and confused; unable to understand what possessed his son to perpetrate such an awful crime.
As the new pastor tries to help his congregation heal, his pregnant wife Clara struggles with the knowledge that she was also an intended victim. She believes herself to be haunted by the boy, who was a student in her English class at the high school. Clara, herself a student of ancient literature, focuses on Old English words and phrases to calm herself in times of stress. As a result, the novel is peppered with interesting vocabulary from a lost era, which adds an almost mystical element.
The mystery of what really brought Clara and her husband to this remote area from the city, as well as the unanswered questions from the shooting, keep the reader captivated. A reoccurring element of the story is the presence of the wolves. Wolves play an omnipresent role in the tales Clara’s father would tell her as a child, now wolves have started coming into the town at night; they haunt her dreams and fill the residents with fear. This is an intriguing novel, beautifully written and full of suspense.
A deadly allergy to the sun, and a sport which involves jumping off skyscrapers - what at first glance may appear to be a work of science fiction, is actually Jacquelyn Mitchard's new teen novel What We Saw at Night. Allie Kim and her two best friends, Rob and Juliet, have a rare disease known as Xeroderma Pigmentosum. This is an inherited genetic disorder which manifests as an extreme sensitivity to ultraviolet light, and in some cases neurological complications. The three teens must spend their waking hours at night because exposure to the sun can be lethal. It is an isolated kind of existence that fosters a tight bind between the friends. When Juliet, the most adventurous of the trio decides to take up Parkour, her friends join her in learning this extreme sport which involves climbing, jumping, and tumbling between buildings. A dangerous sport during normal daylight hours, it takes on a new level of risk as they work to master the techniques at night.
During one evening of building jumping, the friends see something that changes everything. After landing a particularly difficult jump onto the balcony of an apartment building, they see what appears to be a murder. Tension develops as Allie and her friends have different ideas regarding what was actually witnessed. The tone of the novel takes on a sinister feeling as Allie tries to uncover if a young woman was actually killed at the hands of a man in the vacant apartment. Her inquiries have attracted the attention of someone who could prove to be even more deadly than her disease. Learn what life is like with Xeroderma, discover the exciting sport of Parkour, and relish What We Saw at Night.
Dan Champion was an undercover cop with the NYPD, on fire with ambition and with no regard for overtime caps or departmental boundaries. While combing through old case files, he discovers references to the “Fat Woman,” a mysterious, legendary monster, responsible for countless human trafficking purchases and subsequent murders. His obsession with finding her and the consequences of this personal mission are the driving force of A Killer in the Wind by Andrew Klavan.
A sting operation Champion has arranged to bring down the Fat Woman falls apart, resulting in the loss of his job and exile to a sheriff’s office in rural New York State. During his pursuit of the Fat Woman he took a street drug as a sleep aid, and he has since been haunted by ghosts and hallucinations. These visions raise many disturbing questions for Champion. How does he know the ghost boy’s name is Alexander? Why is the woman in his vision so familiar that he believes he could be in love with her? His life is turned upside down when a woman’s body pulled from the river turns out to be the very woman from his visions. The only words she utters before falling unconscious are “They are coming for us.”
Klavan is an international best-selling author, gifted in writing all things action and adventure. A Killer in the Wind is fast-moving and adrenaline-charged as the author utilizes bursts of short sentences and strategically placed repetition to create an effect that propels the story forward by matching pace with the action. This adult thriller is just a step darker than his teen series The Homelanders, the first of which has been optioned as a feature film. In both cases, he proves to be masterful at sweeping readers up in a mysterious suspense-filled novel and taking them on a wild ride to the stunning conclusion.
Fitzgerald McGrath is a 15-year-old boy who lives with his mom in St. Paul, plays guitar in a band with his best friend, and has a crush on a pretty red head at school. On the surface, he appears to be an average teenage kid. However, readers soon find out that he has a turbulent, pain-riddled side to his personality, which has progressed to the breaking point. Fitz, by Mick Cochrane is a skillfully crafted novel which explores the impact and consequences of a boy who never had a father.
From childhood fantasies of a loving Dad who watches him from afar, to seething anger toward a man that has never been in touch, the reader easily identifies with Fitz’s anguish. Not knowing anything about his father, other than his once-a-month monetary contribution to the household, has gotten to be too much for Fitz to handle. Taking matters into his own hands, Fitz purchases a Smith & Wesson .38 Special and kidnaps his father. What follows is a day that will forever change both of their lives.
This bittersweet novel establishes characters the reader will completely empathize with, being in turn both hopeful and fearful regarding the story’s outcome. The steady and measured rhythm provides a perfect balance for the intensity of emotion experienced by both father and son. The climax of the story will have people holding their breath. In Fitz’s own words, “It feels like the longest day of his life. It also feels like the shortest” and there isn’t a reader who will want it to end.
There are some murder cases that just haunt you. Detective Stynes was new to his career in law enforcement when 4-year-old Justin Manning disappeared from a community park and was subsequently found dead several weeks later. The Hiding Place by David Bell is a multifaceted story exploring the lives and relationships of Justin’s family and their acquaintances. The title could reference the shallow grave where his body was discovered or the location where the truth to this clever puzzle resides.
After 25-years, there is renewed interest in the Manning case as the black man convicted of the crime is finally released from jail. Dante Rogers has always maintained his innocence and now with the case in the media spotlight, Stynes wonders if they actually arrested the correct person. Did the suspect’s race influence the police? Was the testimony of the children playing at the park that day 100% reliable? Not for the first time, the detective commences second guessing his actions during the investigation.
Janet Manning and her daughter Ashleigh have recently moved back into her childhood home in Dove Point Ohio. Late one night a mysterious man appears at her door announcing he knows some secret information about Justin’s death. A few short days later her childhood friend Michael reappears after a 10 year absence. He was with her that tragic day in the park and questions her with a strong intensity about what she remembers from that day. Even Detective Stynes meets with his retired partner to ruminate if they did everything they could to find the killer. With all of the second guessing going on it is a safe bet that there is more to this story than what was initially believed. Bell has constructed a clever novel that is labyrinthine in its twists and turns, dead ends and surprises. Just when the reader thinks they have the mystery figured out … think again!
Readers of the dystopian fiction genre will thoroughly enjoy Gennifer Albin’s debut novel Crewel. Albin has created a world which is fascinating and imaginatively detailed, with believable characters that are both likeable and imperfect. In the novel, the inhabitants of Aras are fortunate to have The Guild oversee their civilization. This governing body of men instructs the Spinsters in fulfilling the needs of its citizenry. Only the most gifted and talented girls are selected for the elite role of Spinster, whose job is to weave together substance and time. Through this process the population can be fed, sheltered, kept safe, and everyone’s life can run smoothly. 16-year-old Adelice Lewys is an extraordinarily gifted girl who would be an obvious selection for this elite role. However, since she was a young girl, her parents have secretly been training her to be clumsy and awkward in an attempt to hide her ability from the Guild.
If Adelice fails to prove she can weave during “testing” she can look forward to a life just like her mother’s. She will have a prearranged marriage, a job determined for her, possibly as a secretary or a teacher, but most important to Adelice, she will be allowed to maintain contact with her family. To pass the Guild’s test means being taken away to the Western Coventry, never to see her parents or sister again and unfortunately this is just the situation she finds herself in. Events take a tragic turn when her parents try to help her escape before the official retrieval.
Watch out Suzanne Collins, step aside Lois Lowry, there is a new author in town that will truly captivate your fans. Crewel is fast-paced, with an intense plot, and will grip readers from page one as Adelice discovers the truth behind the perfection.
Chelsea Knot is superficial and selfish, a major gossip and a snob. There is actually very little to like about the main character in Hannah Harrington’s novel, Speechless. After lying to her parents to attend a party, and blackmailing a classmate for a fake ID, she drunkenly stumbles into a room where two guys are making out. In typical Chelsea fashion, she runs to tell her best friend, but this time spreading a rumor leads to horrific ramifications and one of the boys ends up in a coma, the result of a severe beating.
Against the wishes of her friend, Chelsea reports the jocks responsible for this act of violence, sacrificing her status in the popular crowd by turning in their peers. After reflecting how her words have been responsible for almost getting a classmate killed, Chelsea takes a vow of silence in order to refrain from hurting anyone else. At school she finds herself ostracized and bullied by those she once considered her friends. She endures the constant ridicule and abuse with the assistance of an unlikely support system.
The author crafts an amazingly heartfelt story about the true meaning of friendship and how kindness and generosity can help heal. With an authentic voice, Harrington depicts the metamorphosis of a self-centered teen as she discovers how it feels to care about others. Without saying a word, Chelsea is able to forge honest relationships while learning to forgive herself. What will it take for her to start talking again? Will it result in the old Chelsea returning? Will her new friends still like her? This story is one of soul searching, personal growth, and courage. Speechless compellingly represents the advantages of being your own person.
Carla is pissed. She is a petulant, angst-riddled teen stuck in a stupid boring diner, in a stupid boring small town, in stupid boring West Virginia waiting for her mom, who is late, again. Out of nowhere POP, POP, POP! The three elderly men sitting at a table near her are executed, systematically shot in the head one after another. Thus begins A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller, the first novel by this Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
The main character is Belfa Elkins, the prosecuting attorney for the community of Acker’s Gap, who is also Carla’s mother. Bell, as she is known by her friends, was born and raised in Acker’s Gap and is all too familiar with the difficulties and crime particular to this rural and impoverished community. After completing her law degree, she returned to her hometown to try to help with the fight against crime. Similar to its big city counterparts, drugs have taken a stronghold in the region and there has been a steady increase in violent crime and death as a result.
This is a cleverly-written tale with as many twists and turns as the snakelike West Virginia mountain roads. Keller, who was born and raised in West Virginia, accurately depicts the harsh realities of the unemployed who reside between played out coalmines and towns where more businesses are closed than open. The complicated relationship between Bell and her daughter is poignantly realistic they forge a prickly path through the turbulent teenage years. Carla can identify the shooter and takes it upon herself to try to help with his capture, and this keeps the suspense building to a surprising climax. The combination of the family storyline and the mystery of the killer’s motive and identity make this a captivating read. Hopefully this won’t be our last visit to Acker’s Gap.
Just in time for Halloween, The Turning by Francine Prose will wind up your anxiety level and tighten you in the grasp of fear. This teen novel is a retelling of the classic Henry James novella The Turn of the Screw. The setting has been updated to take place in the present day, and is told through a series of letters exchanged between a teenage boy named Jack and his girlfriend Sophie. Sophie’s father has procured a summer job for Jack, babysitting two children for a considerable wage on a remote island. The couple realizes her father’s motivation is an attempt to end their romance, but in order for Jack to attend college with Sophie in the fall he has no choice but to take the position. When he is informed that there will be no phone service, television, or internet connection available he almost changes his mind. Through their correspondence, the reader experiences Jack’s loneliness and initial misgivings as they progress to outright distress.
During the boat voyage to the island, some elderly passengers recount the story of a tragic drowning death of a couple attempting to elope from the island years before. They also allude to some mysterious happenings in the more recent past, painting Jack’s destination in shadowy details. On his arrival to the children’s home, feelings of dread and foreboding emanate from the creepy gothic mansion painted funeral black. It is full of confusing darkened hallways and unused or locked rooms. The children themselves are unusual, formally polite, dressed in old-fashioned attire, and frequently exchange furtive glances alluding to secret confidences.
Ghostly apparitions begin haunting Jack: a tall menacing man watches him through the library window; a beautiful woman stares from across a field. No one else in the household seems aware of these spirits. Sophie grows increasingly alarmed as Jack’s letters reflect how the stress of the situation is taking a toll. This is a frightening tale, which pays homage to the original, and exposes a new generation of readers to some real creepy fun.