Maren just turned sixteen when her mother suddenly abandons her. Scared and alone, she hitchhikes around the Midwest searching for a place to call home while hiding a deep, dark secret. When she meets Lee in a Walmart parking lot, she is instantly relieved, because it is clear that they are cut from the same bloody cloth. They begin watching out for each other and hiding their secret from the world while becoming closer and closer. But can they live off love alone? Especially when their hunger is insatiable? It’s hard to not be coy about this book, but if you are at all intrigued by what you’ve read so far, never fear: Maren’s secret is revealed on the first page (hint: they are NOT vampires). While there were just a few too many convenient coincidences in the plot, the romantic vibes ares strong (especially with that smoking Timothée Chalamet movie poster cover). This on-the-road love story felt like a mash-up of Let the Right One In and American Honey, and even though I am comparing it to films, was a book before it was this so dark and decadent-looking movie. I’ll leave it up to you which one you want to dish up first!
With candy-colored hues and deconstructed panels, creator Rachel Smythe brings the first part of her popular webtoon Lore Olympus to the full-color print page. In a modern metropolis where the Greek gods run high power businesses, drive cool cars and party in slick nightclubs, young goddess Persephone is a cotton-candy colored country mouse. Sheltered by her protective mom Demeter, she has little understanding of the politics, gossip and corruption of the big city. Luckily she has worldly Artemis to show her around her first grown-up party. It’s there she is spotted by Hades, who’s undone by her otherworldly beauty. After a series of godly misunderstandings, Persephone ends up spending the night on Hades’ Underworld sofa and charming his vicious dog Cerebus. In short order they are both smitten, but unsure how the other deity feels. Complications of both the godly and mortal ensure, ending in an emotional mess of a romantic cliffhanger. If you were one of the many devoted fans of Circe by Madeline Miller or Lore by Alexandra Bracken, then you are sure to fall deeply in love with Lore Olympus! And if you can’t wait to find out what happens next, Vol. 2 & 3 are available now 🙂
Have you ever felt like you woke up in the wrong body? That’s how M feels, except she KNOWS it’s the wrong body: suddenly she exists when only a moment before she felt nothing at all. When she opens her eyes for the first time, she is told by her creator, Dr. Frances Ai, that she is Maura–Frances’s sister, who died in a lab accident. Frances was able to work her scientific magic to bring Maura back from the dead–except, despite being in her body, M doesn’t remember being Maura at all. Luckily, Maura still exists as a ghost, appearing to M through mirrors, instructing her on how to act and what to say, so that M can convince Frances that she has Maura back. But Frances knows something is wrong, and M does too. How can she truly enjoy being alive when her life is not her own? And if she tells Frances the truth, will the doctor make good on her claim to take M apart and start over? This character-driven, Frankenstein-adjacent take on self and sisterhood is moody, broody and deeply felt. M’s painful realization that it isn’t enough to just be somebody, that she must be herself no matter what, will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt like they were stitched up in the wrong skin. Debut author/illustrator Talia Dutton‘s sweeping black, white and deep teal tones and classic comic style effectively portray Frances’s determination, Maura’s verve and M’s shifting sense of self. M might be for monster, but it’s also for marvelous.
High school history nerd Gabe’s summer job leading the Island Ghost Tour at Island Amusements in Toronto has been pretty boring so far. Long hours in the sun entertaining tourists? Check. Bratty kids who interrupt his stories? Check. But when real ghost Rebecca Strand materializes and tells him she is the murdered daughter of a lighthouse keeper who was also killed by a vengeful ghost named Viker who’s planning nothing less than world domination, his summer takes a sharp left turn into the supernatural! After Gabe and his band of corporeal friends sign on to help Rebecca, they are quickly thrown into a paranormal adventure of the creepiest order, including grave robbing, seance stealing and ghost blasting. But the bloodthirsty Nicholas Viker, who fortifies his strength by consuming other ghosts, keeps foiling their best efforts and won’t rest until he’s swallowed Rebecca whole and drained the life out of Gabe. Does this scrappy band of buddies stand a chance against one of the greatest evils the world has ever seen? This rollicking occult thriller is chock full of the humor, the black arts, and fascinating facts from Canadian history, with a little romance tossed in just for fun. Nicholas Viker is the scariest ghost since Naughty John, and I couldn’t stop turning pages to see if he was successfully vanquished. Ignore the overly tween-y cover and get this one ASAP from your local bookstore, e-reader or library.
Florian (actually Flora) is a pirate-in-training, a young girl who must disguise herself as a boy in order to survive working for the ruthless Nameless Captain. She works hard and observes closely in order to keep herself and her foolish older brother Alfie alive and under the Captain’s radar. Evelyn is royalty, a member of the Empire’s ruling class, and utterly hopeless at being a lady. When Florian and Evelyn meet on board the Dove, a pirate ship masquerading as a passenger boat, their destinies become intertwined and they pull everyone around them into their star-crossed orbit, including Rake, the Nameless Captain’s righthand man who is hiding a desperate secret; The Pirate Supreme, the noble king (or queen) of all pirates who is determined to bring the Nameless Captain to justice for all of his crimes against the Sea; and finally, the Sea Herself, a mighty, living entity who holds a stake in the survival of all of the above. Meanwhile, an international war is brewing between the island countries of the Empire that could bring a crushing end to life as Sea’s citizens know it. Easy to read, but hard to explain, this finely wrought fantasy delicately weaves themes of colonialism, gender identity, rebellion and romance into a crackerjack plot full of shadowy intrigue, dubious double crosses and grisly maritime murders. Let the Sea sweep you away to a world you could have never imagined in Maggie Tokuda-Hall‘s brilliant debut novel!
Harry Potter meets Scooby Doo in this delightful romp through ghost-ridden London, that was originally published in 2013, and that I took much too long to pick up. In this alternate universe, London is besieged by ghosts, both benign and malevolent, that disrupt everyday life and require constant supernatural maintenance. These tenacious shadows can only be dispatched by young folks, who have both the imagination to see them and the physical capability to do whatever it takes to vaporize them. Enter Anthony, Lucy and George, otherwise known as Lockwood & Co., a three- member, teenaged “psychic investigations agency” who make up in style what they lack in numbers. In this introductory volume, Lucy and Anthony bungle a tricky assignment, which leaves them in monstrous debt and almost out on the street. Luckily (or perhaps not) they are enlisted by a well known and wealthy iron magnate to cleanse his famously haunted country house of ghosts. This job is so big it would not only wipe our their debt, but also allow them to grow their small but scrappy business. But why does this titan of industry want them instead of one of the more established agencies? Too worried about the bottom line to wonder, Anthony, Lucy and George take the case. After all, they just have to make it through the night, and their bill is paid. But what awaits them on the other side of the Red Room door just might have Lockwood & Co joining the ranks of the restless dead before they even have a chance to lay down their salt circles! This rollicking tale is full of fun wordplay and genuine scares. And if you fall for Lockwood & Co, there are four more books in the series, enough to distract you all mask-wearing-summer long.
In Patrick Ness‘s fascinating alternate historical fiction, dragons and humans co-exist in an uneasy truce, each side mostly keeping to themselves, until an ancient prophecy threatens to ignite an age old war.
It’s 1957, three years into the Cold War between the United States and Russia. Sixteen year old Sarah Dewhurst and her father Gerald struggle to keep their family farm in Washington state afloat after the death of her mother from cancer. Their lives are made even harder by Deputy Kelby, a racist police officer who harasses Sarah constantly for having a white father and a black mother, and for her friendship with Jason Inagawa, whose family farms nearby and whose mother died in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. But things really come to a head when Sarah’s father hires a dragon to help them with the farm work. The dragon is carrying a secret meant only for Sarah that involves an apocalyptic prediction, a swiftly approaching assassin, an FBI investigation and the launching of a Russian satellite. Confused? So is Sarah, but the situation becomes clear pretty quick in this rocket-paced, utterly inventive novel. And just when you think you have a grasp on what’s happening, Ness flips the story again, in the most pleasurably shocking way possible. I “burned”through it in a few days flat, and you will too!
This prequel to the super popular Hunger Games Trilogy reveals the diabolical origins of Panem president Coriolanus Snow, and how he evolves into the tyrannical despot we love to hate. (Note: this post assumes pre-knowledge of the Hunger Games books and/or movies. If you have no clue what those are, click here) Coriolanus Snow was once just an eighteen year old boy, desperate to keep his genteel poverty a secret. The Snows were a powerful family before the war. But now with both his parents dead, and the unpaid taxes on the family’s penthouse building up, he needs a miracle to keep himself, his cousin and grandmother alive. Enter Lucy Gray, a sly and talented tribute from District 12. The government has decided to assign promising Academy students as mentors to the tributes of the 10th Hunger Games, and Coriolanus is tasked with guiding Lucy. Since she is small and young, he doesn’t have high hopes for her at first. But as the two of them start to strategize, he begins to admire, and then fall for her beautiful singing voice and strong will to live. He even convinces the powers that be to add betting privileges, along with food and water pledges to the bare-bones Game structure in order to help Lucy survive longer. Is it possible for Coriolanus to win the Games and Lucy too? Perhaps, but devotees of the series know it won’t be easy. There is no room for love or mercy in the brutal Capitol of Panem, where the snakes don’t just come in reptile form! While this tome was a bit too bleak for me during our current crisis, fans will likely be gratified by the grimly satisfying ending.
It happens quickly. One spring day, everything in Anaya’s hometown of Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, is fine. The next, jagged, coarse black grasses start growing everywhere, choking out the all the local vegetation and emitting a poisonous pollen that makes people sneeze and cough. Anaya’s father, a botanist with the Ministry of Agriculture, suspects the terrible plants may be biologically engineered weapons. But if so, who unleashed them? Because it’s not just Salt Spring Island that’s infected, it’s the entire globe. All across the world the black grass is growing and morphing, turning into killer lilies that shoot bullet-like seeds, and buried flesh-eating pods that lurk beneath the soil, ready to open and swallow down unsuspecting souls in a single gulp. Anaya’s dad believes he knows a way to destroy the killer grass. But he has to travel to a remote island in order to create the antidote. Meanwhile, Anaya and her friends Petra and Seth have discovered that the bizarre plants don’t seem to make them sick the way they make everyone else. In fact, they seem impervious to the grasses’ deadly pollen and acid sap. And suddenly the Canadian military is very interested in their surprise immunity. What does it all mean? Where did the killer grass come from? Why are three random Canadian teenagers immune to this global terror? And can Anaya’s dad find the cure before being eaten alive? While some of these questions are answered, many more are raised in this jaw-dropping, bio-horror series opener by master of suspense Kenneth Oppel. For those of you who prefer to immerse yourself in books that reflect our current situation instead of escape it, this page-turning, fast-paced pandemic thriller is for you. I flew through it, gasped at the cliff-hanging ending, and then rejoiced when I saw that I only had to wait until this fall to see what happens next. Run, don’t walk to your nearest e-reader or local library website to give this Bloom a sniff (just don’t get too close!)
CONCLUDING-BOOK-IN-A-SERIES-SPOILER ALERT! This is the LAST book in the Diviner series, if you have not read books 1, 2 & 3 STOP NOW and go treat yourself. If you are prepared to wade into the multi-layered plot of book 4, then carry on!
The Diviners have overcome great odds to come together in order to defeat the slippery and scary King of Crows. But they are losing their mojo and their mentors. Uncle Will has been murdered by the terrifying Shadow Men, and Sister Walker’s been arrested. Having discovered slick businessman Jake Marlow is keeping the door between the living and the dead open with his terrible Eye gadget, fueled by Diviner energy (poor Sam!) Evie, Henry, Jericho, Ling, Memphis, Isiah and Theta decide to confront him at Sarah Snow’s memorial in Times Square and make him see that the Eye spells nothing but destruction. But before they can, Jake Marlow places a bounty on their heads, and now everyone is looking for the Diviners. They scatter with a hasty plan to meet up in Bountiful Nebraska, where a girl named Sarah Beth has appeared in a vision to Isiah, asking for the Diviner’s help. On their far-flung, split-up travels to Bountiful, Ling and Jericho follow a band of all-female barnstormers; Evie, Theta, Sam and Isiah join the circus; while Memphis and Henry get stuck in a flood along the Mississippi River. And always at their heels: the dead. The hungry, angry ghosts who do the King of Crows’ bidding. Who will win the final showdown between the army of dead and the army of Diviners? Only this crackerjack of a conclusion can tell, and does, in great epic sweeps of twentieth century American history and folklore. Action-packed and utterly decadent, this last volume satisfies on all accounts, and was well worth the wait. I’ll say no more, and leave it up to you to enjoy!
Adolescence isn’t fun for anyone. But it’s particularly awful for the girls of Garner County, a rural community that seems vaguely colonial or dystopian. Sixteen year old girls are sent away from home and forced to endure the “Grace Year,” twelve months of living rough in the wilderness with little access to fresh food, water or bedding. In addition, they must also avoid the Poachers, a shadowy group of disenfranchised men whose favorite activity is to hunt down Grace Year girls, dismember them and sell their appendages on the black market. Supposedly their teenage bodies “emit a powerful aphrodisiac,” and are therefore highly prized as “medicine” by the lovelorn and love scorned. Families willingly send their daughters out into certain danger because they believe that the fear and deprivation ensures the girls will “release” their “magic,” returning docile and ready to marry. But Tierney’s not having it. A tomboy who’s been indulged by her father and scolded by her mother, she’s hurtling head on into the Grace Year, determined to understand its secrets and take away its power. But what she quickly comes to see is that within the boundaries of the Grace Year, the usual rules don’t apply. Not only are friends enemies, and enemies friends, but Tierney discovers there are powerful factions who are deeply invested in maintaining the violent Grace Year tradition, not matter what the cost. And Tierney’s life may very well be the price.
This complex, haunting novel pays lovely homage to The Handmaid’s Tale, Lord of the Flies, The Lottery and A Clockwork Orange while still managing to be it’s own truly original beast. And beastly it is, with poachers waiting to pounce and gory death lurking behind every tree trunk. But it also overflows with fascinating flower lore, forbidden love and fierce feminism. I finished this one in a lather, dying to know Tierney’s fate. Startling truths come to light in nearly every chapter, and the final one’s a shocker! Kim Liggett ties up each plot twist in a neat, if bloody bow, and I found the conclusion exceedingly satisfying. Devotees of Holly Black, Kelly Link and Libba Bray will want to snatch up The Grace Year when it comes to a library or bookstore in September 2019.
Dear Teen Peeps,
Some of you may have noticed that I did not post to RRÂ AT ALLÂ the whole month of January. No, it wasnâ€™t because I was hibernating or binging Russian Doll while the slush piled up and the temperatures flip-flopped. It was because I was working on this tidy round up of some of the latestÂ YA fantasy for the New York Times.Â Bickering gods, assassin nuns, passionate freedom fighters and aristocratic spies await within the pages of these epic alternate histories! We call it “crossover” because these books have appeal for both teen AND adult reader. So take a peek at the reviews and let me know–do you think these titles fit the bill? All four fantastical tales can be snatched up NOW at your local library or bookstore.
A full FIFTEEN YEARS (!) after the publication of her romantic fantasy EAST, author Edith Pattou has written a swoony sequel (aptly entitled WEST, natch) in which Rose hits the road again looking for her lost love. (Spoiler alert: this is a true sequel. If you haven’t read EAST, head over hereÂ or your nearest library and check it out before reading further.) Three years have passed since Rose married her enchanted white bear, now a handsome gent named Charles. They have a tiny, smart baby named Winn, and are entirely, deliriously happy. Cue the storm clouds. Happiness never made a good story better, so Rose’s old nemesis, the Troll Queen (who was supposed to be dead, but as we know from every Bond movie EVER, villains always get one more life) has pulled herself together and is orchestrating the end of the world from her newly formed ice castle. But first she must assuage her broken heart by busting Rose’s. In short order, Charles is lost at sea and Winn is kidnapped, both acts the result of the Troll Queen’s black magic. Once again, Rose must travel to the four corners of the earth to rescue her baby, retrieve her lost love and also save the world from Aagnorak (Trollish for “apocalypse,” and probably a creative take on this word.) CAN SHE DO IT? All signs point towards yes, as this sequel is just as comforting, approachable and gently told as it’s predecessor. If this old world is getting you down and you need a soft pillow of escapism, you could do much worse than curl up with EAST and WEST and have yourself a nice little fantasy-fest. For all those white bears out there and the girls who love them, this one’s for you. 😉
Jane McKeene, daughter of a white woman and a black man, is learning the fine art of zombie killing at Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls in Baltimore County. Ever since the dead rose up at the Battle of Gettysburg, the States quit fighting each other and began fighting the revenants. The government then created “combat schools,” where black and brown-skinned teens are taught etiquette and sword play in order to become dutiful “Attendants” for wealthy white families and protect them from zombie attacks.Â Jane is thisclose to graduating with honors and returning to her beloved home in Kentucky, when she and her arch frenemy Kate Deveraux are forced to take on a “special assignment” in the wild, uncivilized western frontier. There they learn that the fragile national peace wrought by the bloody efforts of their peers and comrades is in serious jeopardy, and that zombies are actually the last things they should be afraid of. With all of this going on, Jane has absolutely no business falling for two boys who couldn’t be more different. But the heart wants what the heart wants, as they say, and if Jane survives the rapidly amassing zombie herd, she’ll have decide which boy (if any) gets her still-beating ticker. If I sound cagey or mysterious, that’s because it’s almost impossible to write about this compulsively readable alternate history series opener without giving away the secrets at its core. Ireland spins a page turning tale, while also weaving in lots of subtle and not so subtle allusions to our country’s past and present problems with race, power and corruption. Wielding her fictional pen like a critical sword, Ireland scrutinizes and excoriates the real fake science intended to dehumanize black people, the real boarding schools that were set up to “civilize” Native American children, and how Reconstruction morphed into Jim Crow after the Civil War. Readers who come for the zombies will stay for the sharp social commentary and gleeful skewering of stereotypes. Dread Nation is KILLER.
Near the end of Beatrice’s senior year at posh boarding school Darrow-Harker, her talented, funny boyfriend Jim was found floating facedown in the local reservoir. Ultimately ruled a suicide, the tragic death and devastating aftermath busted up Beatrice and her tribe of besties: cunning Whitley, brainy Martha, cavalier Kipling and master hacker Cannon. Without Jim, they all drifted apart freshman year of college. Now, over a year later, Whitley has called them all back for a birthday bash at her family’s posh mansion. Against her better judgement, Beatrice decides to go, even though she knows it’s bound to stir up old memories and open new wounds. But she can’t help herself. Maybe together they can finally figure out what really happened to Jim that last night. EXCEPT…(and no spoilers here, this all happens in the first 50 pages and is mentioned on the back cover) they drink too much, get in a terrible car accident and die. THE END? Not quite. Turns out they have all landed in a bizarre time loop called the Neverworld Wake, stuck between life and death. Only one of them is allowed back into the land of the breathing, but how can they make that impossible decision? While they argue and flounder, living the same day over and over, Beatrice sees a chance to discover what really happened to Jim once and for all. But she just might have to die in order to finally know the truth. FRIENDS, this wild book is a offbeat, out-of-the-box mind bender that surprised and delighted me at every turn of the twisty plot. It’s both sci-fi and a mystery, a romantic tragedy and a tragic romance. Perhaps that’s to be expected from the author of the peculiarÂ Special Topics in Calamity Physics, but I couldn’t finish that book despite my best efforts, while this one=MIND BLOWN. If you are looking for something fresh to shake up your reading routine, YOU’RE WELCOME.Â (And if you’re so inclined, please come back and tell me what you thought about it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.)