The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale Margaret Lea leads a reading life in her father’s antiquarian bookstore, making a modest living writing short biographies of interesting, if little known, dead people. Then the famously reclusive author, Vida Winter, asks her to write Winter’s own biography. Margaret is puzzled by the invitation. The solitary woman is known for her habit of publishing conflicting accounts of her life, all of which have been proven to be utterly fictitious. Still, Margaret is intrigued, so she accepts the challenge of teasing the truth out of Vida. As Vida begins to spin a Gothic tale of an insane mother, a set of feral twins, a ghostly gardener, and a tragic fire, Margaret begins to question whether or not she’s being told the truth. She wants to believe Vida, but her own deep, dark secret, also having to do with damaged siblings, makes her question the writer’s every word. Can Margaret trust Vida’s story? And as the tale grows more grisly, does she even WANT to? This wonderfully chilling suspense novel, a 2007 Alex Award winner has a slow build and a stunning conclusion. This book reminded me of Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and of course, the now classic Flowers in the Attic. Go ahead, try and put it down after the first chapter–I dare you!

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages

The Green Glass SeaDewey Kerrigan is an eleven-year-old budding Einstein. The other girls in her class, with their giggling and boy talk, don’t interest her half as much as the experiments she reads about in The Boy Mechanic. Now her scientist dad has taken a top-secret job in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Dewey is going to join him. She has no idea what he’s working on, all she knows is that her father and his colleagues are developing a “gadget” that is supposed to end the WWII. No one knows the details, but anything that will end the war has got to be good, right? Even if you think you know how this story goes, Klages’ creative, thought-provoking ending will haunt you. And I wasn’t the only one who was impressed! Klages scored the 2007 Scott O’Dell award for best historical youth fiction.

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

Mena can’t believe it. In one fell swoop, she’s lost all her friends, been banned for life from her church youth group, and forever grounded by her parents. Why? Because she dared to do the RIGHT THING (more on that later). Only two things are getting her through her miserable days at school: her new hot lab partner, Casey (he of the swoon-y eyes and curly dark hair) and her radical science teacher, Ms. Shepard (she of the rumpled suits and venti Starbucks). Ms. Shepard’s interesting lectures on evolution and Darwin have really got Mena’s brain cells blazing. There’s just one problem—her former church friends. Every time Ms. Shepard mentions the “e” word, they all turn their chairs in protest. Mena is miserable. Just because she believes in God, does that mean she can’t believe in evolution? And if her old friends are such good Christians, why can’t they forgive her for doing the RIGHT THING (sorry, you’re just going to have to read the book to find out what that was—but it involves Mena helping an LGBT kid who refuses to bow to Christian peer pressure to “reform”) In EM & OFN, Robin Brande explores what it means to have faith—in God, in nature, in friendship, but most of all, in yourself. This is one articulate, well-written debut. Bravo to Brande for writing such a balanced, timely tome that humorously and sensitively addresses the current debate between intelligent design and evolution. 4 stars!

Heaven Looks A Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass

Heaven Looks A Lot Like the Mall Sixteen-year-old Tessa gets smacked in the head with an orange volleyball during gym class and suddenly she’s airborn, moving toward that bright light in the sky, which bears a striking resemblance to the local mall. It makes sense that Tessa’s heaven would look like the mall, since that’s where she experienced most of the seminal moments of her life: buying her first bra, scoring her lucky red t-shirt, trying on prom dresses. But it’s also where she shoplifted, cheated, and lied to friends. When Tessa takes a trip to the sweet mall hereafter, she is forced to deal with the fact that she hasn’t always been the nicest person. Can this committed mall rat change her wicked ways? Or is she doomed to wander the wide waxed corridors of heaven forever? While Tessa isn’t always a character you can root for, she is always one you can empathize with. Wendy Mass’s sharply observed verse novel looks a lot like a winner. Ride this escalator all the way to the top!

How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot

How to Be Popular When Steph Landry discovers a dusty old self-help book in a friend’s attic called How to be Popular, she believes she’s found the answer to all her problems. Ever since 6th grade, when she accidentally spilled a Big Red Super Big Gulp on Queen Bee Lauren Moffat’s white D&G skirt, Steph has been branded as a loser. Lauren has even gone as far as to make the whole school refer to any mistake made as “pulling a Steph.” Now it’s the beginning of junior year, and Steph is determined to make a new start. With a little help from “the Book,” her kindly (and wealthy) grandpa, who loans her enough money for a new wardrobe, and a winning attitude, Steph manages to create and organize a successful school fundraiser, woo away Lauren’s boyfriend, and collect a new batch of cool friends, all in the first week of school! But when she ends up alienating all her old friends, (especially Jason, her BFF, and possibly more) and her new crowd puts pressure on her to host a kegger on her grandpa’s property, Steph has to decide if being popular is really worth all the hassle! Using her trademark gentle humor and John Hughes-like understanding of teen angst, Meg Cabot has penned yet another enjoyable chick lit that reads quickly and goes down easy.

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Just Listen Annabel Greene’s life looks perfect. She has loving parents, a gorgeous house, and two beautiful older sisters who work with her in a local modeling agency. Her best friend Sophie, rules the school as Queen Bee Extreme, and Annabel goes along for the ride to all the best parties with all the coolest people. But looks can be deceiving. Annabel hates modeling and wants to quit, but doesn’t want to upset her depression-prone mom. One of her perfect older sisters has an eating disorder. And Sophie dumped Annabel hard last year after accusing her of trying to hook up with Sophie’s boyfriend. Annabel stuffs it all down, hoping that if she doesn’t acknowledge what her perfect life has become, it will all go away. Enter indie-music outsider Owen Armstrong. Owen gives Annabel a ride home from school after a particularly nasty Sophie attack, and slowly begins to pull Annabel out of her shell with his brassy, opinionated personality. There’s only one problem. Owen is a truth-teller. And the last thing Annabel wants to tell, or hear, is the truth. Slow, thoughtful, and thought-provoking like all of Sarah Dessen’s marvelous chick lit, Just Listen is a quiet story of a girl in crisis who learns that life is about taking charge even when it seems like you have lost all control.

Avalon High by Meg Cabot

Avalon High What if King Arthur, his lady Guinevere, and his best friend Lancelot were reincarnated as teenagers in an affluent suburb of Washington D.C.? And what if all the drama of Camelot was being played out again in the hallways of Avalon High, where new student Elaine arrives just in time to fall for Arthur (known in this life as Will) and stop the forces of darkness from destroying him again? Is Will really the latest version of the mythical ruler? Elaine doesn’t believe it, but almost against her will, she is slowly pulled into the timeless story of love, jealousy, and betrayal and given her role to play. Elaine may think she’s only helping a new friend, but she just may be saving all of mankind! Meg Cabot re-casts the Arthurian legend with quarterbacks and cheerleaders, class presidents and track stars, and the result is one funny, romantic romp that will leave readers believing that heroes really can rise again and you don’t have to be a princess to win the heart of a king!

Prom Anonymous by Blake Nelson

Prom Anonymous Laura Truman, Jace Torres and Chloe Thomas were best friends all through junior high. Then, high school happened, and they grew apart. Now, it’s time for their senior prom, and Laura wants to bring the three”T’s” together again for old times sake. There’s only one problem: the T’s couldn’t be further apart in the high school social strata. Laura’s a popular beauty, Jace is an accomplished athlete, and Chloe is, well, just Chloe. But when Laura decides to mobilize, nothing stands in her way, not even the fact that Chloe doesn’t have the remotest possibility of snagging a date. Somehow, someway, with lots of miscommunications, coy conversations, and phone calls to total strangers, Laura not only gets Chloe a date, but also plans and manages to pull off the perfect prom night for everyone – except herself. Full of hilarious dialogue, romantic tension, and back-stabbing high school politics, this modern comedy of manners will resound with anyone who a) went to prom, b) skipped prom, c) went and wished they didn’t, or d) skipped it and wished they went.

Boy Proof by Cecil Castelucci

Boy Proof Victoria doesn’t believe in boys. They just exist to break your heart. That’s why she’s adopted the completely boy-proof persona of her fav sci-fi movie star, Egg. Egg is bad, bald, and tougher than nails, so when Victoria is wearing her Egg cloak, she feels sufficiently protected from the slings and arrows of that troublemaker Cupid. That is, until just the right boy comes along with the ability to crack Egg’s shell wide open…yes, this is that “girl meets boy, girl hates boy, then girl crushes on boy” book. But with a fun twist—unlike many of the pink-lipsticked gossip gurls in bookstores these days, Victoria is a science fiction geek with a professional movie monster maker for a dad, and a failed scream queen actress for a mom. This makes for all sorts of interesting secondary situations that add to Victoria’s boy hating angst. Boy Proof is just different enough to draw your attention away from those 50 thousand other pastel-jacketed teen chick lit books vying for your allowance dollars.

Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson

Prom High school senior Ashley Hannigan isn’t anybody’s idea of a princess. She’s just a normal girl from a working class family in Philly, with too many brothers and not enough privacy. Her dad and brothers decorate the house according to the sports season, while her mom drives a city bus and thinks that Madonna’s Like A Virgin phase was, and still is, high fashion. Ashley just wants to graduate and get the hell out of her parent’s crowded house. So how does this blue-collar Cinderella end up not only with the requisite pink dress and “fairy” godmother,(her best friend’s Russian immigrant grandma, who doesn’t speak English) but also being in charge of the entire senior prom?! Well, it’s not easy, and it’s not magic, either! Written in response to readers asking for a story about a “regular girl” who isn’t super rich or a wannabe pop princess, Laurie Anderson’s Prom is a well-crafted tale of a girl who is neither victim or wonder. Just like a girl you know—or are.

Deep by Susanna Vance

Deep Birdie is a selfish, self-involved thirteen year old who practically defines the word, “spoiled.” Morgan is a brooding, dark seventeen year old who has lived her life at sea and scarcely knows how to talk to people. How in the world do these two people, as opposite as they can be, not only become friends but end up saving each other’s lives? It has something to do with beans, pirates, moonlit beaches, and a whole lot of drama. Getting to the bottom of Deep is well worth the literary swim. Take deep breath and dive in!

Jinx by Margaret Wild

Jen is pretty depressed. Not just one, but two people very close to her have committed suicide in a short time. The only thing she can do is wear her pain very publicly on her sleeve by forcing people to call her Jinx instead of Jen, because it’s obviously bad luck to know her. Lovingly supported by her mom, friends, and intuitive little sister, Jinx will have learn how to make her way back to being Jen. Told in spare verse format, Jinx is a story that very powerfully illustrates the old adage that the things that don’t kill us make us stronger.

Amandine by Adele Griffin

Amandine Delia is the woeful “new girl” at school, so she’s pretty much fishing around for someone, ANYONE to be friends with. Unfortunately for her, the only person who bites is Amandine, an admittedly strange girl obsessed with stage and screen. Amandine wears a different costume to school everyday, and can mimic any of their classmates to a tee. But usually her impersonations are so cruel that Delia feels uncomfortable laughing at them, and she hates the way Amandine insists on having her own way all the time. So when Delia decides that this friendship is just not meant to be, Amandine uses all her superior acting ability to trap Delia in a lie that could harm Delia’s entire family. A chilling, thrilling story of a friendship gone wrong—REALLY wrong!

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

Have you ever felt like you just might EXPLODE from lust? Sophie does—and you can read all about it in her secret verse diary. Each poem reveals Sophie’s feelings about all the men in her life—sexy Dylan (who’s not terribly bright) chat-room Chaz (who may be faking her out) and finally, nerdy Murphy (who just might be her knight in shining armor). Girls, give this one to your guy friends if they want to know how the female mind REALLY works. A tremendously real (and really well-written) read.

Sights by Susanna Vance

SightsBaby Girl lived in her mother’s womb for over 9 months and as a result, has the Sight. She can see everyone’s future but her own, and that’s probably a good thing, since her father keeps trying to kill her. He tries drowning and putting bleach in her water until B.G.’s mom gets wise and spirits them off to a new town. There, B.G. learns her true talent as an accordion player, gets her first kiss, and finally confronts her murderous pappy once and for all. A funny , folky read that will win your heart with its sweetly strange heroine.