The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist

Four girls live on a tropical island where they attend school and are cared for by a man and a woman who are not their parents. The man and woman have told them that their parents died in a fiery plane crash and they are orphans. The four girls believe this to be true. The four girls each have a different name and a different hair color, but in thought and word they are almost identical. The four girls are happy, or at least believe they are. And then a fifth girl washes up on their shore. Her ship went down and she was the only survivor. She is different. Her skin is different, her hair is different, her voice is different. She also is different in that she believes nothing the man and woman tell her. She thinks for herself, and her thoughts are identical to no one’s. The four girls are confused. The four girls are intrigued.The four girls start questioning each other. The four girls start to question everything. And then everything changes. This mind-bending science fiction hurt my head in the best possible way. It is a fascinating puzzle of a book where you only know as much as Veronika, the red-headed girl. Her narrative voice is oddly formal and her cadence is strange. You have to read her words more than once and even then they don’t always make sense. But hidden in them are small clues that let you know these four girls are not what they seem. Clues like, “We never used Irene’s clips, because we needed our hair like it was, hanging down and wiped clean to catch the sun.” As I gathered the clues, I began to see that I was on an entirely different island than the one I had started with. And it was AWESOME. I was shocked. I was surprised. I was impressed. I knew immediately I was going to have to go back and read it again. I also knew it was going to be one of the most talked about books of the year. And so will you, when it comes to a library, bookstore or e-reader near you.


Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

“My mother’s a prostitute. Not the filthy, street walking kind. She’s actually quite pretty, fairly well spoken, and has lovely clothes. But she sleeps with men for money or gifts, and according to the dictionary, that makes her a prostitute.” In 1950’s New Orleans, Josie couldn’t be more different from her mother, a woman who cares about herself first and her daughter only when she manages to remember she has one. Luckily for Josie, her mother’s madam Willie, a smart, sassy businesswoman, has always looked out for Josie and kept her separate from her mother’s sordid life. But now Josie has graduated from high school and wants to be more than just a bookstore clerk and Willie’s sometimes housekeeper.  She dreams of attending Smith College in Massachusetts and escaping the sleaziness of the Big Easy forever. But when a wealthy tourist is murdered in the French Quarter and Josie’s mother and mobster boyfriend are fingered for it, Josie becomes caught up in a dangerous game of cat and mouse that could bring a messy end to her college dreams. And there is also the little matter of deciding between the two boys she’s grown up with and loves for different reasons: Patrick because he shares her passion for books and reading, Jesse because shares her feeling of being an outsider always looking in. Can Josie flee her painful past in order to forge a bright new future? Or will her illicit origins dog her footsteps for the rest of her life? Ruta Sepetys, author of the achingly sad Between Shades of Gray, has penned another unusual and provocative historical fiction that goes straight to the heart. But don’t expect heart-pounding action, this is a smart, slow-boiling thriller that focuses more on identity and relationships than strip teases and gun play. If you like the character-driven mysteries of Judy Blundell and Kathryn Miller Haines, then you’ll want to snatch this one up from your nearest library, bookstore or e-reader ASAP.

The Madness Underneath: Shades of London, bk. 2 by Maureen Johnson

Rory Deveaux can see dead people, and it’s no picnic in the park. After a run in with a homicidal ghost in the bathroom of her boarding school that almost made her ephemeral, (see Shades of London, bk. 1) Rory is back at Hawthorne and struggling to pick up the pieces of her academic and social life after being Exhibit A in the scandalous Ripper murders. And the worst part is not being able to tell anyone the truth about what really happened.”You cannot tell your therapist you have been stabbed by a ghost. You cannot tell her that you could see the ghost because you developed the ability to see dead people after choking on some beef at dinner. If you say any of that, they put you in a sack and take you to a room walled in bouncy rubber and you will never be allowed to touch scissors again.” But the past won’t leave her alone. When she discovers that the owner of a nearby tavern was brutally murdered under suspicious circumstances, she teams up with her old ghost hunting team: Steven, Boo and Callum to find out if the perpetrator was paranormal. Meanwhile, she’s trying to keep up her grades, maintain a romantic relationship with her crush object Jerome and deal with the fact that since her recent brush with death, she suddenly has the ability to zap ghosts into oblivion. Which makes Rory of great interest to the many different shady organizations around London who would like to harness her power for themselves. My only beef with this second book in the Shades of London series is that there wasn’t enough BLOOD. This time around there is much more about Rory and her relationships, which is great because I quite enjoy Rory’s sarcastic voice, but I did long for more, well, HORROR. However, the book ends on such a gruesome cliffhanger which promises more madness and mayhem to come, that I felt a bit better about the lack of glorious GORE. Intrigued? You should be, these books rock. All your questions will be answered when The Madness Underneath comes to a library, bookstore or e-reader near you February 2013.

2012 Top Ten

Once again, dear teen readers, it’s Top Ten time! Please note that there has been absolutely no attempt to balance this list by age, gender or genre. These are just my “from-the-gut” favorites of the books I read this year. (While I love all my Top Ten books the same, there just might be a slugfest going on in my heart between THE DIVINERS & SAILOR TWAIN:) Click on the title to go right to the review.

Bray, Libba. The Diviners.

Coats, J. Anderson. The Wicked and the Just.

Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars.

Griffin, Adele. All You Never Wanted

King, A.S. Ask the Passengers.

Lanagan, Margo. The Brides of Rollrock Island.

Laybourne, Emmy. Monument 14.

McCormick, Patricia. Never Fall Down.

Siegel, Mark. Sailor Twain or The Mermaid in the Hudson.

Strayed, Cheryl. Wild.