Let’s just get this straight: I do not set foot outside during the daylight hours of August unless I absolutely have to. Fortunately for me (and you) there are some fabulous books to spend the day with in air conditioned comfort.
Most of the fun is taking place in the SF side this month, starting with The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June, by Robin Benway. Three sisters (April, May and June) with very different personalities–and extremely different ways of dealing with a new school and their parent’s recent divorce–unexpectedly each develop supernatural abilities one day. (Redevelop, actually.) One can disappear, one can see the future, and one can read minds. Their abilities help them navigate the hell of high school, but when April gets a vision of disaster, they must band together to save the day, and bring peace to their strained family.
This is a paranormal for readers who don’t automatically reach for paranormals. It has magic, but it’s not aboutmagic. Or rather, it’s about the magic of family and sisterhood, and rediscovering those bonds. I adored all three sisters, who take turns narrating the tale. The tone is fresh and funny, but also heartwarming and delicious. (August 3 from Razorbill.)
Dead is Just a Rumor, by Marlene Perez, is the fourth installment in the YA paranormal series that started with Dead is the New Black. Teen psychic detective Daisy Giordano lives in the town of Nightshade, where supernatural creatures abound–and so do mysteries. As Nightshade readies to celebrate it’s 200th anniversary, ominous blackmail letters start arriving, threatening the secrets of the supernatural folks in the community. Daisy sets out to investigate, though her life is complicated by an overprotective dad who doesn’t like her werewolf boyfriend. (Go figure.) Mix in a temperamental celebrity chef named Circe Silvertongue, a pet pig, a lots of surprises and scares, and you have another rollicking tale from this popular author.
There are elements of continuity that build on previous books, but the mystery itself stands alone, so you should be able to pick up Dead is Just a Rumor even if you haven’t read the rest. Daisy is feisty and fun, and narrates these nicely plotted books in a breezy, sassy style. Make sure you check out the book trailer! (August 23 from Graphia.)
Telling you about Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins, is like telling you to watch out for the sea if you go to the coast. If you go to the YA section of the store, you will see this book. It concludes the series she started with Catching Fire–a book that did, indeed, catch fire when Stephen King gave it a glowing review. At this point, you probably want to go back and pick up the series from the beginning. But you should–it’s action-packed sci-fi gladiator rebellion goodness. Boys who will read a female protagonist will likely enjoy this series. Most everyone who reads it does. (August 24, from Scholastic.)
Black Hole Sun, by David Macinnis Gill, got a great quote from Suzanne Collins, which does my summary work for me: “The sins of his father weigh heavily on Durango, an outcast teen mercenary who’s trying to eke out a living on tomorrow’s gritty, trigger-happy Mars. Fortunately, he is armed with an AI implant, a crew of colorful misfits, and an unshakable sense of humor. [Gill] rockets readers to new frontiers in this imaginative, action-packed tale.” Starred review from Booklist and super buzz on this one, all of them saying “action packed” and “buckle your seatbelts.” I’m sure girls will like this, too, but I’m always hearing how there are “no books for boys.” And so I present this offering to appease the testosterone youth faction. (August 24 from Greenwillow)
Winter Longing, by Tricia Mills, is a lovely novel that deals with heartache and loss, but also healing and love. Winter Craig, in one tragic moment, loses her long time best friend Spencer, just days after she confesses her feelings for him and learns they are returned. Now she must cope with devastating loss that turns her perfect life upside down, until she heals with the help from an unexpected source.
The sensitive tone and excellent characterization, plus touches of levity, draw the reader into the roller coaster journey that is growing up fast when bad things happen, and how you go on from that when you have your whole life ahead of you. And it is (thank goodness), an ultimately hopeful tale. Mills touches on the different ways people grieve, and the changing nature of relationships, both with the living, and those we’ve lost. (August 12 from Razorbill)
YOU, by Charles Benoit, is not necessarily a book I would pick up for light summer reading, but it is getting the most amazing buzz from youth librarians and educators. Kyle is a “hoodie”–We called them slackers in my school–an antisocial underachiever who wears all black, can’t be bothered to do his homework and thinks his young sister is the only decent person on the planet. Hoodies, when you see them, and we all have, are destined for a tragic end.
YOU is written in second person, which gives it an intimacy and immediacy. You really get into Kyle’s head because within the covers of the novel he is you and you are him and… Well, this is probably the reason reviewers have mostly talked about the impact of the book rather than its plot. Click here to read what my friend Jenny says about it. She’s not alone in her enthusiasm. “Powerful, poignant, devastating, haunting…”Many comparisons to Speak (by Laurie Halse Anderson) in its impact and the way it addresses problems that people in High School don’t speak about. (August 24 from HarperTeen)
On the lighter side, there is Rose Sees Red, by Cecil Castellucci. Set in 1982 (yet somehow still really cool, because it’s Cecil Castellucci), the book is a teen caper novel, sort of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (or maybe Breakfast Club) meets White Knights. Two ballet students (one American, one Russian) sneak out of their apartment windows and embark on a night-of-a- lifetime adventure in New York City. Set in the middle of the Cold War, the two not only have to avoid the normal authorities but also the KGB and CIA agents. My comparisons may sound flippant, but this is a story about how everything can change in one night, and how nothing changes–war emphasizes our differences when we’re really so much the same inside. (August 1 from Scholastic)
And yes I did save the book released first until the last, just to end on an upbeat note. This way I can, without irony, wish you…