Alex London’s thriller Proxy propels the reader into a not-so-distant dystopian future in Colorado. An orphan teen living in the Valve, the slum of Mountain City, Sydney Carton is forced to take on years of debt just to secure his meager existence. And like many orphans, he’s repaying this debt by serving as a proxy, made to take any physical punishments intended for his patron. Unfortunately for Syd, his patron is the incorrigible, spoiled Knox Brindle, son of the wealthy head of SecuriTech.
Throughout their lives, Knox has been forced to watch Syd suffer the painful effects of the electro-muscular disruption (EMD) stick, used to deliver physical discipline. But since they’ve never met and he’s always watched onscreen, it’s been easy to remain detached. Now it seems Knox is responsible for the death of a young woman, and Syd will have to pay with his life. An unusual turn of circumstance throws the teens together in the same place at the same time, and it turns out that nothing is as it seems. Syd’s life may be worth more than anyone realizes.
Baltimore native London has created a detailed science fiction world that takes our current technology and debt-driven society to a whole new level. He manages to put a fresh spin on some time-honored storytelling tropes, creating an exciting, fast-paced novel that makes for a great summer teen read. Proxy is rife with both big thoughts and big action, as London explores the complex nature of friendship, sacrifice and the value of human life.
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.
Jennifer Smith’s new teen novel This is What Happy Looks Like is an inventive romance that will make a great beach read. The novel begins when teen celebrity Graham Larkin mistakenly sends an email to Ellie O’Neill, a girl from a small coastal town in Maine. Ellie replies to the email letting Graham know about his mistake. The two immediately feel a connection and continue emailing for months. Graham is a young Hollywood star, constantly followed by the paparazzi, and he enjoys having regular conversations with Ellie, which is only possible since they have never exchanged names. Ellie, on the other hand, feels a deeper connection with Graham than she does with any of her Maine friends.
As their virtual friendship grows, Graham begins to fall for Ellie, and he convinces his latest movie crew that Ellie’s small beach town is the perfect place to film. Graham hatches this elaborate plan so that he can meet Ellie: the only problem? Ellie still doesn’t know that she’s emailing the one and only Graham Larkin. When he shows up in Maine, Ellie is frustrated that her wonderful town is infiltrated by film crews and his followers, and that everyone seems to have gone crazy over Graham’s arrival in town. Graham knows where Ellie works, and goes looking for her, and while another case of mistaken identity delays their first encounter, they eventually meet, and their relationship grows beyond email.
Ellie and Graham face unique challenges as their relationship moves out of the digital world and into a world filled with Graham’s fame, the paparazzi, and secrets Ellie’s not prepared to share with anyone. Told through a mix of emails between the two teens, and traditional prose, This is What Happy Looks Like is a fun summer read.
Appearances can be deceiving. Author David Levithan has explored identity before in such highly-praised books as Every Day and Will Grayson, Will Grayson. He has teamed up with another celebrated author, Andrea Cremer, for Invisibility, a fantastical tale of those intangible somethings that make people attracted to one another. Sixteen-year-old Stephen is alone in the world. His father abandoned him long ago, and his mother died nearly a year ago. He is also invisible, the victim of a mysterious curse at his birth. He makes his way, day by day, on the very edges of existence. One day he meets Elizabeth and is astonished to discover that she can see him. As she attempts to help him find a "cure", they grow closer, inevitably since she is the first person who has ever been able to truly see Stephen. Will they be able to lift the curse, and will they still love each other when nothing is hidden?
Invisibility is a mash-up of two dissimilar styles that works because of these talented authors. Levithan and Cremer have created an extremely likeable and sympathetic character in Stephen, and readers will root for him in his quest to find his identity and reveal himself to the world. A magical urban fantasy masquerading as realistic fiction, Invisibility will appeal to fans of both genres.
Michaela MacColl’s Nobody’s Secret, based on Emily Dickinson’s poem, “I’m nobody! Who are you?” creates a fictional story as background for the poem. In doing so, MacColl tells an intriguing story that is part historical fiction, part mystery, and filled with allusions to Dickinson’s poetry.
In 1846 when Nobody’s Secret begins, Emily is laying in a field trying to get a bee to land on her nose when she is approached by a man she’s never seen. The two have a brief conversation discussing the best ways to get a bee to land on Emily’s nose, after which he departs. They never exchange names, only referring to themselves as Mr. and Miss Nobody. The two run into each other the next day, and Emily’s fascination with the enigmatic stranger grows. They discuss their families without revealing too many details. She even confesses her deepest secret—that she writes poetry. The real mystery begins when Mr. Nobody turns up dead in the Dickinson’s pond the following day, just two days after he and Emily first met. Having never exchanged names, Emily is determined to find out his identity so he can have a proper funeral. During her investigation, she realizes that his death was no accident, and then she sets out to find the killer.
MacColl’s fictionalized Emily Dickinson is a fascinating character, whose determination is admirable. Readers are quickly charmed by Mr. Nobody’s relationship with Emily, leaving them rooting for her to figure out who he was, and why he was murdered. Nobody’s Secret is a great pick for teens interested in historical fiction and mysteries, while those who enjoy poetry will enjoy the bits of Emily Dickinson’s poems interspersed throughout the novel.
Two new books for teens unleash anger, revenge, and, well, fury of mythological proportions. Both are based on the ancient Greek characters Erinyes, better known as The Furies. These three, Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone, embodied anger, jealousy, and vengeance, and, in myth, made sure justice was meted out by whatever means necessary. In Vengeance Bound by Justina Ireland, teenager Amelie Ainsworth is near death after being manipulated by a conniving psychiatrist, who also caused the death of the rest of her family. Amelie prays for guidance, when unexpectedly, the Furies answer her call. A few years later, rechristening herself as Cory Graff, she reappears at another high school and with the help of the Furies, plots her revenge on the mad doctor. Handsome Niko, a classmate at her new school, is a calming influence to the fury she feels, but Cory is hard-pressed to explain her otherworldly "assistants" to him. Short chapters and incredible situations fuel this paranormal novel to its shocking conclusion.
Furious, by Jill Wolfson, finds three wronged classmates, Meg, Stephanie, and Alix, under the spell of Ambrosia, a charismatic popular girl who has her own rage issues to contend with. After Ambrosia has convinced the three of their Furies status, the group becomes unstoppable in wreaking havoc and vengeance on those that deserve their comeuppances. Overwhelmed with the power that they now possess, the trio must wrangle with managing both vengeance and justice in equal measure. Their friend Raymond provides grounded counterbalance and hilarious asides to the spiraling intensity of the angry group. Satire, witty humor, and surprisingly well-handled issues of bullying and appropriate retribution make for a winning combination in this contemporary take on classic characters from mythology.
Take the Cinderella story, stuff it into the bottle with the genie, add a healthy helping of absurd humor, and shake well. The result is the twistedly funny Gorgeous by screenwriter/playwright Paul Rudnick. Eighteen-year-old Becky, the literal embodiment of the term "trailer trash", is a pop culture junkie. She devours tabloids and news of all things Hollywood with near reverence. When her mother dies, she receives a mysterious offer that lands her in front of the world’s top designer, who will create three dresses that will change her life. All she has to do is say yes. Soon she is gracing magazine covers and mingling with the rich and famous. But deep inside, who is real -- "trailer trash" Becky, or "Hollywood It-girl" Rebecca?
Rudnick’s visual style plays heavily into Gorgeous, and the descriptions of the lavish and decadent celebrity lifestyle bring it to life in the mind’s eye. He discusses the transformative powers of fashion in an interview with NPR: "I love the idea of endowing clothing, or high fashion, with the power that we almost wish it had. I love taking that final step, of saying, 'OK, you're gonna put on this dress, and it's gonna do everything you could ever hope for and beyond.'" The true magic of Gorgeous is not in the fabric of these gowns, but rather in Rudnick’s ability to cut through this superficial world and find the true inner beauty in us all. Recommended for fans of Meg Cabot, though it does include some content for mature teen readers.
Teri Terry’s Slated opens in a London hospital, as Kyla, the novel’s heroine is about to be released. Kyla has no idea who she is because she has been Slated—her memory has been erased by the government as a result of a crime she can no longer remember committing. In Slated’s dystopian world, the government has given teen criminals a second chance at life; rather than sending them to prison, the government wipes their memory and controls their emotions with a device called a Levo, so that the former criminals are unable to commit future crimes.
After an extended stay at the hospital to level her mood out, and relearn basic human functions, Kyla is sent to live with a new family. As she moves in with her new family, her new sister Amy (who has also been Slated) helps Kyla learn about the world she once knew. As she adjusts to her life as a Slated, Kyla begins to have nightmares about her old life, something Slateds are not supposed to be able to do. As she tries to ignore her returning memories, Kyla finds friends, who end up helping her discover more about her former life. When some of her friends and classmates begin to disappear, she realizes there is more going on than she previously thought and she must decide what she’s going to do about it.
Slated is a fast-paced dystopian novel set in a future that is not that hard to imagine. Terry has created a story that leaves readers eagerly awaiting its sequel, Fractured, which comes out in September. Kyla’s story is one that fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent series are sure to enjoy.
Revenge might be a dish best served cold, but for Celia Door it will certainly feel warm and comforting when it finally arrives. In The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door, Karen Finneyfrock dives headfirst into the high school arena of mean girls and hidden truths. Celia was a normal teenager—average student, slightly unsure of herself but relatively happy—until two events occurred that upset her world. The first was the "trial separation" of her parents and the subsequent relocation of her father to Atlanta. The second was a mean-spirited prank by two popular girls that has socially-damned Celia, causing her to withdraw into herself and go dark, wearing only black and speaking to as few people as possible. As she silently plans her revenge, a new student named Drake, with a few issues and secrets of his own, slowly breaks through the cracks in her darkness.
Celia channels her feelings into her poetry notebook, and her poems add to the mood of the story in addition to playing an important piece of the novel’s plot. Author Finneyfrock is a Seattle-based poet, branching out here with her first novel, and is a promising new voice in realistic fiction for young adults. Poetic yet painful, The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door is highly praised by best-selling authors Sherman Alexie and Ruta Sepetys.
Bridget Zinn’s Poison is an entertaining teen fantasy novel about Kyra, a sixteen year-old potions master who is on the run after attempting to kill the princess. Before her failed assassination attempt, readers learn that Kyra ran away from home as a child, and discovered not only was she gifted at making potions, but she also had the power to see the future, which she has since kept as a closely guarded secret. Thanks to her skill at potion brewing, Kyra is hired by the Queen to teach Princess Ariana the art of cosmetic potions, and the two become instant friends. They remain friends for years, until Kyra has a vision of Ariana bringing ruin upon the kingdom. Kyra sees it as her duty to save the kingdom by killing her best friend.
When Kyra’s usual steady shot misses, she must run from the royal army, as she continues to search for a way to stop ruin from befalling the kingdom. She enlists the help of Rosie, a magic pig, to sniff out the princess’s hiding place, hoping her shot won’t miss a second time. As she and Rosie journey across the countryside, trying to find the princess, they meet a young man, Fred. Fred joins Kyra and Rosie as they travel, though he has no idea who Kyra is, or that she’s trying to kill the Princess. As they move through the kingdom, Kyra and Fred run into witches and other fantastical beings and creatures, making their journey all the more difficult. Despite her best efforts, Kyra begins to fall for Fred, almost distracting her from her mission. A mix of fantasy, romance, and adventure, readers will enjoy following Kyra as she tries to save the kingdom in Poison.