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
Larbalestier, J. (2016). My Sister Rosa. New York: Allen & Unwin.
What if your parents didn’t believe your little sister was dangerous, but you knew differently? My Sister Rosa, by Justine Larbalestier, is a captivating young adult thriller set in New York City that deals with mental illness. The cast of characters, as diverse and as the City itself, smoothly incorporates different economic classes, cultures, races, physical abilities, and sexual orientations. The story revolves around Che, a seventeen year old high schooler, trying to adjust after another one of his family’s moves. His home situation is definetly different – the parents are past hippies who don’t care much for hands-on parenting, the kids’ schooling is incredibly scattered since they relocate so much, and Che is often isolated with his anxiety about his ten year old sister, Rosa, who behaves inappropriately and dangerously when her parents aren’t looking. Che Continue reading
Reynolds, J. (2014). When I Was The Greatest. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
The language pulled me right in to this Brooklyn, New York story. Instantly transporting me to Ali’s neighbourhood and his stoop where he sits with his main man, Noodles, and Noodles’ brother, Needles. The three young teenagers discover what it means to have each other’s back as they negotiate entrance to an ultra hip party at MoMo’s.
Grittiness abounds their existence but Ali determinedly stays sweet. “A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing. When you one of Doris’s kids, you learn early in life that school is all you need to worry about. And when it’s summertime, all you need to be concerned with then is making sure your butt got some kind of job, and staying out of trouble so that you can go back to school in September.” The character development is convincing, especially when the boys are faced with a situation at the party when they need to rely on each other. From that night forward, the definition of family is challenged and redefined for them and their loved ones.
Gordon, G. (2013). Herman and Rosie. New York: Roaring Book Press.
A surreal and blatant love letter to New York City, the reader is plunged into the worlds of Herman and Rosie, who live close to each other but have yet to serendipidously meet. They both love the City with its cacophony of musical sounds, but they also both feel lonely in the midst of so many. It is postmodernist, as the characters make reference to each other before they meet. Furthermore, there are smaller separate stories told within the pictures, discovered with closer examination. Continue reading