The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks

Rain has no problem hanging at the back of the crowd in her posh Manhattan private school. Though she has had extensive speech therapy to overcome the cleft palate she was born with, she’s still insecure about her “mushmouthed and nasal” sounding voice.  But when her former best friend and notorious party girl Wendy is found strangled to death in Central Park, Rain finds herself coming forward to defend the needy girl who hid her pain behind her boisterous personality. She wants justice for Wendy, who the newspapers have reduced to the dead girl, “The girl  in Central Park.” So Rain forces herself to leave the audience and step into the spotlight. She starts questioning people about Wendy’s death: namely bad boy Nico Phelps, who Wendy stalked on Facebook, and his cold, classy girlfriend Sasha Meloni. She must also deal with the police’s questions about her own lapsed relationship with her ex-bestie, and confront a nosy reporter who seems bent on trashing Wendy’s already damaged reputation. As she circles closer and closer to the terrible truth about what really happened in the park that night, Rain discovers that in speaking up for someone else, she has finally found her true voice. But will she solve the case only to endanger herself? Partially inspired by the Central Park Preppy Murder, this unusual crime mystery with an unlikely and admirable sleuth at its center is a tight thriller that stands out from the rest of the pink-dust-jacketed pack.

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Mousy Nora can’t believe her luck when super cute Chris and his equally shiny girlfriend Adriane adopt her into their exclusive circle at Chapman prep. Even though she sometimes feels like a third wheel, it’s worth it to be able to call Chris her best friend. Then after graduation, Chris scores a cool after school job for them at his nearby college: using their mad Latin skillz to help a crabby old professor translate a coded book known as the Voynich Manuscript that supposedly holds the secrets to the universe if they can decipher it’s “incomprehensible symbols…broken only by elaborate illustrations of flowers and animals and astronomical phenomena that apparently have no counterpart in the real world.” Chris and Chris’s roommate Max work on The Book while Nora tries her hand at translating the accompanying letters of Elizabeth Weston, whose stepfather was an alchemist who claimed to have broken the code. As the long nights of translating commence, Nora finds herself falling for quiet, shy Max, whose geeky love of Latin and history matches her own, and soon the two are as lip locked as Chris and Adriane. But when Nora takes one of Elizabeth’s letters from the professor’s office without permission, she accidentally sets into motion a chain of events that ends in the horrific murder of one of her closest friends, and the ultimate betrayal of another. Nora has unwittingly unlocked a dark door to the past that now opened, will not be closed until someone–maybe even herself–has paid in blood. If you are a fan of The Da Vinci Code or the archeological adventures of Indiana Jones, then you are going to absolutely relish Robin Wasserman’s supernatural, theological thriller. I am especially fond of one of the novel’s most climactic moments that reminded me of this super scary & super grody (at least when I was a litte kid) movie scene. And I’m not the only one who says so—the fantabulous Libba Bray raves about the book on her blog along with a very entertaining interview with it’s smart, funny author. So what are you waiting for? Beat a path to your nearest library, bookstore or e-reader and lay your hot little hands on a copy now!

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

When Cheryl Strayed was twenty-six, she found herself essentially orphaned, divorced and struggling with a potential heroin addiction. Mourning the recent death of her mother, she decided that the best cure for her crippling depression was to hike the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail, a professional level mountain hiking trail that starts at the Mexican border, winds through the entire state of California and ends near Mount Hood in Oregon. Cheryl was not an experienced hiker, but through the kindness of strangers and her own iron will, she slowly and painfully became one, one blackened and lost toenail at a time. Her boots were too small, her pack too big and her knowledge of hiking limited to The Pacific Crest Trail guides, volumes 1 & 2. She quickly tired of her dehydrated meals and purified water, and began obsessively dreaming of the Snapple lemonade bottles that she could rarely afford on her limited budget stocked at each trail stop: “…there was both yellow and pink. They were like diamonds or pornography. I could look, but I couldn’t touch.” Besides Snapple emergencies, there were also bears, rattlesnakes, dangerous snowy passages and a few lecherous male hikers. But Cheryl powered through, the thought of her tough, cool, loving mom always spurring her on: “Where was my mother? I wondered. I’d carried her so long, staggering beneath her weight. On the other side of the river, I let myself think. And something inside me released.” Both humorous and incredibly touching, this soulful journey of self-discovery may be one of the best coming of age stories I have ever read. Strayed’s writing is luminous and accessible–whether you’re twenty-six, sixteen or sixty, you will be able to relate to some aspect of her inspiring account. I became so immersed in Cheryl’s story that I couldn’t stop talking about it to anyone who would listen—and neither will you when you get your hands on this terrific memoir from your nearest library, bookstore or e-reader.