teen

NeverSaid

NeverSaid
Author: Carol Lynch Williams
Publisher: Blink
Genre: Teen
ISBN: 978-0-310-74661-4
Pages: 304
Price: $16.99

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Sarah doesn’t know what has happened to her fraternal twin sister, Annie. Until a year ago, Annie was always the beautiful and popular one. But now she’s dropped out of the beauty pageants and gained weight. Annie won’t say what’s wrong, and Sarah is too caught up in her own problems to really worry much about it. But in one week, everything changes, as the sisters spend more time talking and listening to each other.

NeverSaid alternates between Sarah and Annie’s viewpoints. Sarah tells her story in first-person narrative, while Annie only speaks in poetry. Just as Sarah is kept guessing, so is the reader, until all is finally revealed. Several current issues are explored in this coming of age book, including fat shaming, self-esteem, bullying, and social disorders. As both girls come face to face with the crisis at hand, they finally realize they have the power to change things and move their lives forward in a positive direction.

Although Annie has had to deal with something traumatic, I felt her extreme behavior was not quite believable. Through most of the time this situation was happening to her, Annie was willing and happy to go along with it, so it didn’t seem natural that she would act out the way she did. But if the reader can accept this behavior as normal, this is an interesting and absorbing read.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

mystery, teen

Mr. Samuel’s Penny

Mr. Samuel's Penny
Author: Treva Hall Melvin
Publisher: The Poisoned Pencil
Genre: Mystery / Teen
ISBN: 978-1-9293-4504-5
Pages: 264
Price: $10.95

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Lizbeth Landers is spending the summer of 1972 with relatives in Ahoskie, NC. Soon after arriving, she finds herself at the Danbury Bridge, looking on in horror as Mr. Samuel and his baby girl are pulled from his submerged car. His hand clutches a penny, which mysteriously vanishes from the police evidence the next day. The two deaths are determined to be murder.

Collecting pennies is Lizbeth’s passion, and she realizes this particular penny is special. After witnessing Mr. Samuel’s widow’s grief at losing her husband and baby, Lizbeth is determined to find the missing penny and discover the murderer. There are plenty of places to search for pennies, and she won’t rest until it’s in her possession.

Mr. Samuel’s Penny is not just a clever murder mystery, but also gives the reader a glimpse of the south during a time of racial unrest. As a black girl, Lizbeth feels discriminated against by some of the white members of society. Over the summer, she discovers that not everything is exactly as it seems.

Full of interesting plot twists and side stories, Mr. Samuel’s Penny is an enjoyable read. I look forward to reading more books in this new Elizabeth Parrot Landers mystery series.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

romance, teen

Summer by Summer

Summer by Summer
Author: Heather Burch
Publisher: Blink
Genre: Teen / Romance
ISBN: 978-0-310-72963-1
Pages: 288
Price: $12.99

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Summer is working as a nanny for a couple vacationing in Belize. When their oldest son, Bray, arrives, Summer takes an instant dislike to him. Bray is a college party guy, and Summer is a conservative and modest girl. Their values are far too different.

When a violent storm strands them alone together on a remote island, they’re forced to get along in order to survive. Both discover hidden depths in each other as they work through challenges in finding food, water and shelter. As the weeks progress, they find themselves falling in love.

Being a teen romance, Summer by Summer is full of drama and physical attraction between Bray and Summer. Since their whirlwind romance takes place over a mere month, there is little substance to their relationship. Summer’s faith in God and a purity promise hold them back from taking things too far, but Bray has no such restrictions, other than his respect for Summer.

Maybe I’m just a little too old for teen romances, or maybe the drama in this book is a bit too much. But although this is a fast and engaging read, the story left me feeling unsettled at the end. Summer and Bray are both too immature to be making a lifetime commitment.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

teen

Hit Count

Hit Count
Author: Chris Lynch
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Genre: Teen / Sports
ISBN: 978-1-61620-250-7
Pages: 368
Price: $17.95

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Arlo Brodie is obsessed with football from the moment he puts on his junior varsity uniform in high school. Determined to make varsity by sophomore year, he trains hard and hits harder. By the end of his freshman season, he’s made a name for himself.

But Arlo, or “Starlo” as his teammates taunt him, doesn’t know when enough is enough. Now possessed by the idea of making it to a Division I college and the NFL, he thinks of nothing else. Pushing his girlfriend, his friends, and his family aside, he keeps on training and hitting hard.

Hit Count addresses concussions in contact sports, and Arlo soon racks up several. Although his mother warns him about constant head injuries, Arlo brushes off her concerns, choosing to deal with the after-effects on his own, with little complaint. But when his hit count gets too high, there will be consequences.

Maybe it’s just because I’m female and have never played contact sports, but I had a very difficult time relating to Arlo. I can’t fathom why someone would punish his body relentlessly the way Arlo did, and how easily it became such an obsession for him. But I suspect teen boys would probably enjoy this hard-hitting book.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

teen

Lois Lane: Fallout

Lois Lane - Fallout
Author: Gwenda Bond
Publisher: Switch Press
Genre: Teen
ISBN: 978-1-63079-005-9
Pages: 304
Price: $16.95

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Lois Lane has just moved into Metropolis after her army father is transferred once again. Determined to make this a better visit than her last, she vows not to interfere in anything that’s none of her business. But with her nose for news and determination to stick up for the oppressed, she’s doomed from the start to fail.

As soon as she checks into her new school, Lois learns of a group bullying a student through some sort of mind control. When the principal shows no interest in stopping them, Lois uses her status as teen reporter at the Daily Planet to step in. Are the students really the problem, or is there some kind of mastermind behind their unusual behavior?

Lois has an online friendship with a teen boy she knows only as SmallvilleGuy. With SmallvilleGuy’s help, along with her new reporter friends, Lois is determined to get to the bottom of this bullying problem and put a stop to it. Lois Lane: Fallout is a fast, fun read that teens will enjoy.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

teen

The Walls Around Us

The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Algonquin
Genre: Teen
ISBN: 978-1-61620-372-6
Pages: 336
Price: $17.95

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Amber is living at a correctional facility for girls, surrounded by hardened criminals, murderers and drug dealers. After one bizarre evening, she suddenly acquires a new cellmate. But Ori isn’t like the rest of them, and the girls wonder at her story.

Violet is a ballet dancer, headed for Julliard. But three years ago, she was responsible for Ori being sent away. What really happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made of trees? Only Vi and Ori know.

The Walls Around Us tells Amber and Vi’s stories, weaving them together through their common bond with Ori. As their secrets come out, the reader sees their true motives and desires, and exactly what they will both do to accomplish them. This spooky psychological thriller is a page-turner with a surprising and satisfying conclusion.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

teen

Both of Me

Both of Me
Author: Jonathan Friesen
Publisher: Blink
Genre: Teen
ISBN: 978-0-310-73188-7
Pages: 256
Price: $16.99

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Clara has suffered a tragedy in London, and now she’s on the road, attempting to make peace with her past. When her bag is accidentally switched at the airport, she tracks it down to a boy named Elias who suffers from dissociative identity disorder (split personality).

Elias spends some of his time in the present and the Other One lives in a place he calls Salem. This Other One seems to see into Clara’s past, and Clara is determined to find out what he knows. The two determine that the only way for Elias to find out what keeps him living two different lives is to follow the Other One to Salem and see where it leads them. Their journey takes them east, looking for a Lightkeeper, with memory and the stars to guide them.

I really liked Elias, and I hoped that their plan was going to work. Both of Me really grabbed my attention and held me captive, wanting to know what happened next, but I felt sad and unsatisfied with the ending. Blink is a Christian publisher, but this book presented a very minimal Christian message.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

adventure, teen

Wade Boss: Hybrid Hunter

Wade Boss
Author: Marcus MacGregor
Publisher: Saddle Sore Entertainment
Genre: Teen
ISBN: 9781475239669
Pages: 242
Price: $9.99

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Wade Boss has a successful business working with exotic animals in Hollywood. So when a tiger is running loose, the police naturally call him in to help capture it. But what Wade finds is a hybrid tiger-lizard which is quickly picked up by the Genetic Anomalies Task Center – a division of Homeland Security.

Soon Wade finds himself caught up in the race to capture these hybrids, who keep appearing all over the country, before they seriously injure or kill people. The goal is to capture them alive, not kill them, but these missions test his skill in handling unpredictable and dangerous animals. While he’s caught up in his new volunteer job, his own business is suffering, and his love life is in shambles.

Wade Boss presents himself as one of the good guys. He cares about his animals and claims he generally wants to do the right thing. But his cavalier attitude toward his staff and the woman in his life make the reader wonder what really motivates him. When another attractive girl suddenly appears, he conveniently forgets he’s involved and schedules a date with the new lady. I found him arrogant and I really didn’t like him much.

The plot is also a bit of a mystery to me. Wade runs off several times chasing hybrids, but there is absolutely no reason given as to why they’re even out there. At the end of the book, a “bad guy” is identified, but that’s about all. Wade Boss is all about action and very short on substance.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

history, teen

Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson’s Flight from Slavery

Passenger on the Pearl
Author: Winifred Conkling
Publisher: Algonquin
Genre: History / Slavery
ISBN: 978-1-61620-196-8
Pages: 176
Price: $17.95

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In 1848, a schooner called the Pearl attempted to smuggle 70 slaves out of Washington D.C. Emily Edmonson and five of her siblings were on board when it was captured a day later. Passenger on the Pearl shares Emily’s story, as well as the rest of her family’s attempts to find freedom.

Emily was lucky to have been treated fairly well, but she experienced the horrors of seeing fellow slaves beaten and molested. Husbands and wives, as well as their children, could be separated and sold, without any thought to the devastation done to the families. But the purchase price for freedom was well outside the means of most slaves, and it remained only a dream. Emily had the support of her family, who did everything they could to come up with the ransom, and was finally set free.

Fascinating sidebars about important people and events during this turbulent time in United States history provide a background for the family’s story. Many photos and explanations of slave practices at the time are also included. It’s sad to remember that our great nation once treated a large segment of its population so barbarically, but as young adults read about Emily Edmonson and her family, they are reminded of this truth and can avoid making the same mistakes.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

mystery, teen

Death Spiral

Death Spiral
Author: Janie Chodosh
Publisher: Poisoned Pencil
Genre: YA Mystery
ISBN: 978-1-9293-4500-7
Pages: 312
Price: $10.95

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When Faith Flores finds her mother dead from what appears to be a heroine overdose, she can’t believe it. Her mom had been clean for weeks, and Faith insists that something else must have happened. A stranger had visited them the same day she died – a man who appeared to be threatening her mother – and Faith suspects foul play.

Once settled in at her Aunt T’s place, she never expects to hear from one of her mother’s junkie friends. But when Melinda tells her about the clinical trial she and Faith’s mom had participated in, Faith has to look into it. And what she finds out will ultimately lead her to the truth.

Growing up as the daughter of a heroin addict living in a run-down section of Philadelphia, Faith has few friends. As her investigation develops, she’s forced to let her best friend and love interest in on it, allowing them to see the parts of herself she normally keeps hidden.

Death Spiral is a wild ride from start to finish and I couldn’t put it down. Faith is fearless in facing dangerous situations head-on, giving little thought to personal safety as she attempts to clear her mother’s name. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this Faith Flores Science Mystery series.

Reviewer: Alice Berger