The Hit by David Baldacci

The Hit

If you like suspense, action and lots of twists, then you will like this book. It’s basically the story of two master assassins that the government calls in to get their worst enemies. Will Robie and Jessica Reel are considered the best of the best. The story starts out with Reel turning on members in her own agency, which in turn forces the agency to send Robie out to kill her. There are a lot of cat and mouse traps. Questions arise through the action as to who exactly the bad guys are, and Robie starts to ask questions about Reel’s motives. The story also reflects on how these two assassins’ backgrounds led them to become trained killers. The final answers are surprising. I would recommend this book because it’s quick and full of suspense.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners

If you’re into mystery and suspense, and you aren’t worried about potentially getting creeped out and/or ending up with nightmares, this could be the book for you!  Evie O’Neill has a gift — she can “read” people’s pasts just by touching an item they’ve used.  The only problem is that Evie used this gift as a party trick, and she ended up making a local big shot very angry.  Her parents decided that the easiest course of action would be to ship her off to live with her Uncle Will in New York City until things blew over.  Little did they realize that Evie was thrilled to be heading out of Ohio and into a big city where her flapper style and sassy attitude would be better appreciated!

Uncle Will, aside from being Evie’s new guardian, also happens to be the the curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (a.k.a. the “Museum of the Creepy Crawlies”).  Because there’s an occult-based serial killer on the loose, Will’s expertise is called upon by the NYPD.  When Evie manages to tag along to one of the crime scenes, she ends up touching a shoe buckle of the victim and sees something about the murderer.  She is sure that her gift could be used help in the investigation… but how can she help without revealing her secret?

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

What I Saw and How I Lied

15-year-old Evie Spooner is a bit awkward and wishes she could grow up a little bit a lot faster.  She wishes she could be more like her mom, Beverly, whom she sees as a beautiful (albeit over-protective) mother and housewife who is capable of making practically anything look elegant.  Being a housewife is more of a recent thing for Beverly, though.  During WWII, Beverly had to work in a local department store to help support her family, but her husband/Evie’s step-father is back from the war and is able to take care of his family again.  Joe’s appliance stores are doing really well, and he is happy to be back home in Queens, but the sudden appearance of a war buddy [Peter Coleridge] gets Joe acting strangely.  Apropos of nothing, he decides to take Evie and Beverly to Palm Beach.  The town is mostly shut down because they’re there during the wrong season, but they manage to find a room at Le Mirage — where they end up meeting a glamorous couple, Mr. and Mrs. Grayson [also from New York City].  Secrets slowly unfold, as Evie sees and hears things she shouldn’t…  But, by the time Evie figures out what’s going on, she is already caught in the middle of a web of lies.  This is a great mystery, especially for people who enjoy historical fiction.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Wonder

August “Auggie” Pullman was homeschooled for all of elementary school.  And, although it was technically because he was born with major facial deformities, it wasn’t because his parents worried about his being teased.  It was actually because his many doctors appointments and surgeries would have caused him to be absent so often that it wasn’t worth enrolling him.  Even though his mother wasn’t a certified teacher, she did so well with homeschooling that he was not only at grade level but excelled in most subjects.  When it came time for Auggie to start middle school [in 5th grade], his mother felt that he would benefit from attending school with his peers and convinced Auggie [and his dad] that he should give it a shot.  Knowing how cruel 10- and 11-year-old kids can be, I cringed to think what could happen… and was sad to listen as it sometimes played out as expected.  Luckily, this story was about much more than the negativity Auggie dealt with; it was about his zest for life and how contagious it could be to those around him!

Side note: I sometimes get frustrated and/or confused when a story is told by more than two narrators, so I can understand if that aspect of this story has you worried.  Let me reassure you that Palacio’s writing [and the multiple audiobook narrators!] gave each of the characters a unique enough voice that it worked.  In fact, I think it was very helpful to be able to experience this story from multiple perspectives — including Auggie, his teen sister, her boyfriend, and one of his friends from school.  While there were certainly points in the story where I found things to be depressing, there was plenty of hope and joy to balance it out.

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

This Dark Endeavor

Victor Frankenstein and his twin brother, Konrad, have shared in many adventures with their cousin, Elizabeth, and their friend, Henry.  On one such adventure, they discovered the Dark Library — filled with ancient books about dark magic and alchemy.  When their father found out, he forbade them from entering the library again.  After Konrad fell ill with an unidentified malady that the doctors’ treatments and medicines could not cure, nevertheless, Victor decided to seek an ancient remedy in the books of the Dark Library.  Full of action, adventure, and mystery, this back-story to Shelley’s Frankenstein is a gothic thriller that will probably even appeal to reluctant readers.

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

The Brides of Rollrock Island

This book was *so* creepy, but so well done.  Imagine Stepford wives drawn, by magic, from the bodies of seals.  The basic storyline is that the men of Rollrock Island hire a witch named Miskaella who uses her magic to “make” them wives from the seals who visit their beach.  Once the woman has been drawn out of the seal, her husband only needs to keep her seal skin hidden away so that she cannot leave.  The seal-women are beautiful and obedient, but they desperately miss their lives and families in the sea.  The human-born women all leave the island in disgust, but the men don’t seem to be fazed because they would rather have the beautiful creatures who bow to their every whim.  I loved how the story was told from the perspectives of multiple people, including Miskaella herself.  Not quite as dark as Lanagan’s Tender Morsels, but a dark tale nonetheless.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium

Imagine a world in which people were promised a “cure” that could take away all heartache.  Peace and happiness for all as long as everyone has a simple procedure?  If it sounds too good to be true, that’s probably because it is.  Lena has been raised to believe that love is a disease [Amor Deliria Nervosa] and that life without love is the safest and most stable way to live.  People don’t fall in love and get married anymore — they get paired based on government-imposed ratings and compatibility of interests.  It’s safer and easier to just fall in line, but Lena has a hard time forgetting the mother who could not be cured and whose last words to her, before committing suicide, were “I love you.”  Only a few months before her own procedure, Lena has a chance encounter with a young man named Alex.  Despite government assurances that all “invalids” [non-cured people living outside of society] have been taken care of, she’s pretty sure Alex *is* an invalid.  And when she starts experiencing symptoms of the Deliria, she also starts to question everything she’s ever taken for granted.  Is love really a disorder?  Does the government really have everyone’s best interests at heart?  And, most importantly, should Lena go ahead with her own procedure or follow her heart?

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand by Gregory Galloway

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand

Adam Strand can die; he’s killed himself plenty of times, and in plenty of different ways…  He just can’t manage to stay dead.  Doctors can’t figure it out, and the people in his town have actually gotten so used to Adam trying to kill himself that it seems to register as more of a nuisance than a shock when someone finds him dead.  People basically throw him in the back of their car or truck, schlep him home, and leave him in the care of his parents until he wakes up alive again.  The thing I found most interesting is that Adam wasn’t necessarily depressed so much as he just didn’t care enough to think life was worth the bother.  It’s pretty impressive that Galloway managed to write such a philosophical story without coming off as pretentious.  If you’re into dark humor and books that make you think, you should definitely acquaint yourself with Adam Strand.

Z : A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Z

Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald were the embodiment of the Jazz Age.  With the newest adaptation of The Great Gatsby  showing at movie theaters recently, I thought this book would be interesting. The author writes as if Zelda herself is telling the story of her life that pre-dates her meeting Scott, her courtship and then marriage and their resulting married life, with the many ups and downs they have. They lived life as large as they could, often without the money to back that up and consequently were in debt to friends, family and banks, waiting for the next great book to be written by Scott. That was hard to accomplish though when they were expected at so many parties, often drinking to excess, making any work on future novels impossible for Scott. And while Scott had successes, there was no way to keep up with his voracious drinking and carousing with women to sustain any normal family life. Zelda had her work cut out for her, especially after the birth of their daughter, Scottie. Zelda tried at different points in their marriage to write as well, but Scott was often jealous of his wife’s accomplishments and made sure to squash any attempts she made. Sadly, Zelda also had struggles with her mental health and spent long periods of time in sanitariums. I would highly recommend this book, and enjoyed the way the author spoke in Zelda’s voice. It really gave the reader a new take on this famous couple’s life.

Period 8 by Chris Crutcher

Period 8
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Period 8 is a class like no other.  Regardless of how they get along outside of class, everyone is equal in Period 8.  The teacher, Mr. Logsdon [a.k.a. Logs], has a lot to do with that.  His only rules are that everyone has to be honest and that nothing leaves the room.  Students are encouraged to share or discuss anything they wish, but they are also allowed to just listen to the others if they don’t wish to talk.  When one of the Period 8 students — Mary “Virgin Mary” Wells — goes missing, everyone is worried.  She never misses school, and her dad is known for being insanely strict, so the fact that she went missing AND that her dad waited three days to report her missing has people feeling very unsettled.  Paulie Baum [a.k.a “Paulie Bomb”] is acting strangely too.  And even though Paulie is known for ALWAYS telling the truth, Logs can tell he is holding something back.  Could Paulie know something about Mary’s disappearance?  And, if he does, why wouldn’t he say?

If you’re looking for a story that relates to teens’ lives without talking down to them and seamlessly combines everyday situations with a mystery/thriller scenario — while appealing to guys and girls alike, no less! — look no further.  This book was everything fans of Chris Crutcher have come to expect with a little extra thrown in — fast paced, lots of action, and so many twists and turns that I honestly couldn’t guess them all before the story’s conclusion.

Her : A Memoir by Christa Parravani

Her

This was a fascinating memoir written by the author about her identical twin sister, Cara. I was drawn to this book because I had heard that the two girls had been raised and went to school in the Capital District and there are certainly many references to local landmarks. As you may imagine, the girls are more than close growing up and share many interests. However, Cara veers down a different path as she spirals into drug abuse. She also is the victim of rape and that also serves to send her into further descent. Christa tries to help her sister over and over again with various results. Unfortunately her sister dies of a drug overdose and leaves Christa behind to try and pick up the pieces. Christa then sees all too clearly that the odds are not in her favor of surviving – over 50% of surviving twins don’t live past 2 years after their twin dies. Christa then has her own struggles as she tries to reconcile what happened to her sister and slowly but surely fights back to live in the present. This is a powerfully written book, at times funny and heartbreaking but ultimately shoings how strong the human spirit is.

Before You Go by James Preller

Before You Go

It’s the summer before senior year and Jude has a job at the local beach.  It sounds like a pretty sweet deal, but flipping burgers can be pretty tedious no matter the locale.  Apart from working at the beach, Jude doesn’t do much else.  His mother is still extremely depressed over the loss of his little sister, Lily, who drowned in the family swimming pool seven years ago, and trying to deal with his own grief while walking on eggshells around his mom is practically full-time work.  Jude has some friends with whom he sometimes hangs out, and he occasionally plays guitar, but he usually finds escape in running.  Unlike his father, who has gadgets to help him precisely track his running, Jude likes to run barefoot and without a plan.  Running away from it all seems to be the only way he can find happiness… That is, until he meets Becka.

The grief in this book is so biting and real that I actually found myself flashing back to when I lost people I loved and cared about.  Aside from simply being a really well-written story, I think this book would work well as bibliotherapy for teens who are dealing with grief of their own or trying to understand someone else who is grieving.