March 22, 2016 Debuts

Keep calm and make it to prom night—without a legit panic attack.

For seventeen-year-old Bree Hughes, it’s easier said than done when gossip, grief, and the opportunity to fail at love are practically high-fiving her in the hallways of Belmont High.

When Bree’s crush, Sean Mills, gives her his phone number, she can’t even leave a voicemail without sounding like a freak. Then she’s asked to be on Prom Court because Maisey Morgan, the school outcast nominated as a joke, declined. She apologizes to Maisey, but it’s too late. After years of torment and an ugly secret shared with their class’s cruel Pageant Queen, Maisey commits suicide. Bree is left with a lot of regret…and a revealing letter with a final request.

With Sean by her side, Bree navigates through her guilt, her parents’ divorce, and all the Prom Court drama. But when a cheating-love-triangle secret hits the fan after a night of sex, drinks, and video games, she’s left with new information about Sean and the class Pageant Queen. Bree must now speak up or stay silent. If she lets fear be her guide, she’ll lose her first love, and head to prom to avenge the death of the school outcast—as a party of one.


When Sarah wakes up dead at the Mall of America, she learns that not only was she murdered, her killer is still on the loose. I WOKE UP DEAD AT THE MALL is a terrifically fun & voicey YA novel that tackles some of life’s – and the afterlife’s – biggest questions.
  
When you’re sixteen, you have your whole life ahead of you. Unless you’re Sarah. Not to give anything away, but . . . she’s dead. Murdered, in fact. Sarah’s murder is shocking because she couldn’t be any more average. No enemies. No risky behavior. She’s just the girl on the sidelines.

It looks like her afterlife, on the other hand, will be pretty exciting. Sarah has woken up dead at the Mall of America—where the universe sends teens who are murdered—and with the help of her death coach, she must learn to move on or she could meet a fate totally worse than death: becoming a mall walker.

As she tries to finish her unfinished business alongside her fellow dead teens, Sarah falls hard for a cute boy named Nick. And she discovers an uncanny ability to haunt the living. While she has no idea who killed her, or why, someone she loves is in grave danger. Sarah can’t lose focus or she’ll be doomed to relive her final moments again and again forever. But can she live with herself if she doesn’t make her death matter?

"Sarah’s conversational, quick-paced, first-person narrative, full of “deadly” puns and idioms, recounts how she and her new BFFs (even in death?) work together. And when Sarah finds love in the process, she realizes she’s only learned how to live by being dead."
-- Kirkus
"This sparkling debut pulls out all the stops: sweet, sad, hopeful, funny, and romantic in turn, it’s a story bound to make readers laugh even as they cry."
-- Booklist starred review

the-way-i-used-to-be.jpg

In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault.

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.

"This is a poignant book that realistically looks at the lasting effects of trauma on love, relationships, and life."
-- School Library Journal starred review
"It’s painful to watch Eden disintegrate but also true to the double burden she carries—the violation of the rape and the weight of carrying the secret. The long-term view Smith takes of Eden’s story makes it all the more satisfying when she does find her voice."
-- Publisher's weekly

My review: I had a chance to read an ARC of Amber Smith's THE WAY I USED TO BE.

This is a beautiful, powerful book about the long-term affects of rape on a girl's life. Eden is a fantastic, realistic character, and watching her story unfold over four years is both painful and enthralling. That's four years of trauma and secrets, self-destruction and growth, fear and courage, lost trust and strained families, through friendships and relationships broken and reformed, all of it told as though we are right there with Eden, who is so much stronger than she thinks she is, going through everything she goes through and feeling all of it. 

It's a heartbreaking story, but ultimately hopeful, and so incredibly important. I definitely recommended it.