LaCour N. (2017). We Are Okay. New York: Dutton Books for Young Readers.
We Are Okay‘s entrancing cover with a girl standing on her bed looking out into the ocean is perfect for this psychological mystery told through flashbacks. Marin is at university in upper state New York, having fled from California and the very people who love and want to support her following her Gramps’ death. Truly an orphan now, it’s turns out to be the secrets Marin encountered, slowly revealed to us, that made her abruptly leave home and cut off all ties.
When the story begins Marin is staying on an isolated college campus over winter break. Her roommate, Hannah, just left for Christmas, and now she is expecting a visit from her best friend, Mabel. As you may imagine, the December New York setting is stark, cold, and isolated, ready to match Marin’s depression. We aren’t privy to the background of Marin and Mabel’s relationship, yet like the rest of the story it Continue reading
Werlin, N. (2017). And Then There Were Four. New York: Penguin Random House.
Five prep school kids are tossed together under mysterious circumstances. When one is murdered, they begin talking and piecing together what they know about their families, and a terrifying idea surfaces. What if they are all targets? The premise is classically entertaining, mimicking Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, when a group of strangers are assembled on a remote island only to be murdered one by one.
The chapters alternate between two of the five friends, Saralinda and Caleb, she speaking in the present tense, he in the past for some reason, but both pushing forward the pace of the story. Nancy Werlin knows how to create complex characters whose voices captivate us. We become swept up into the mystery as they go on the run from their cloistered, island-esqe school to an actual island, Fire Island in New York. Here there are no cars, only dirt paths through tall grass, and little Continue reading
Hardinge , F. (2015). The Lie Tree. New York: Amulet Books.
Costa Book Award for Children’s Book (2015)
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction (2016)
Andre Norton Award Nominee Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy (2016)
Carnegie Medal Nominee (2016)
Costa Book of the Year (2015)
YA Book Prize Nominee (2016)
Faith Sunderly’s family flees Kent, England for a small and unknown island in order to avoid social gossip surrounding her father’s work, thus providing a dreary backdrop. Historical fiction from the Victorian Era, The Lie Tree takes the adventure story and flips it on its head with a feminist twist. Gender stereotypes are annoyingly prevalent, yet Faith is a strong, intelligent character (“When every door is closed, one learns to climb through windows.”), reminding me much of the young, budding scientist, Calpurnia in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jaqueline Kelly. Except The Lie Tree is a fantastical fairy tale. Let me explain.
Faith’s father is a natural scientist and is found murdered on the island shortly after the family moves. Investigations lead Faith to discover Continue reading
Lockhart, E. (2008). The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. New York: Hyperion Book CH.
National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature (2008)
Michael L. Printz Award Nominee (2009)
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E.Lockhart, showcases Frankie, our highly intelligent heroine, who arrives as the new kid at private school her father used to attend, where he participated in a super secret society, the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. The esteemed society intrigues Frankie to no end and she suspects her new boyfriend, Matthew Livingston, of not only belonging but also being president. Frankie has quickly raised her social status by dating Matthew, who is wildly popular and good looking, but their relationship is nowhere near perfect. Matthew is arrogant, secretive and he transparently puts his friends’ needs above Frankie’s.
Frankie longs to make her mark, and becomes quietly outraged that girls have historically been excluded from the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. She’s disappointed that the boys seem only interested in partying and their reputations, and she determinedly sets off to figure out the club’s oldest, forgotten secret. Frankie’s sleuthing around at night and single handedly pulling off extreme, brilliant pranks around campus are the really fun parts of the book. However, the true strength of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is the straightforward and interesting manner E. Lockart presents issues of power, gender, and risk taking.
Fox, J. (2016). The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle. New York: Viking.
When I was reading this book I couldn’t keep my eyes off it, to the point where I was so immersed, everything else was ignored. The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle is an enchanting mystery of a young girl and her siblings when they were sent off to an eerie Scottish boarding school during World War II in order to avoid the London Blitz. Soon they hear stories that the castle is haunted, and while the main character, Kat, begins to realize something very strange is happening in Rookskill Castle – ghosts, mechanical screeches, Continue reading
Altebrando, T. (2016). The Leaving. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Out of the blue six kindergarteners disappear one day, and if that isn’t enough of a mystery, five of them magically reappear eleven years later. At sixteen years old, they return to their homes and are expected to adjust to a normal life, yet they can not even remember where they’ve been, what’s happened to them, or why their friend, Max, is not with them anymore.
The story is told from varying points of view and does become discombobulating. The forced romance doesn’t help to clear anything up either, but The Leaving remains addictive until Continue reading