March 8, 2016 Young Adult Debuts

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic.  For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female.  

Amani Al’Hiza is all three.  She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.

Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew. 

Rebel of the Sands reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally, at long last, embracing her power.

"Amani’s adventures through this immersive alternative landscape continually veer off into unpredictable detours, looping back to an almost overstuffed climax that manages to deliciously satisfy while dangling tempting hints for a sequel. Romantic, thrilling, hilarious, and just plain great fun."
-- Kirkus starred review
"This atmospheric fantasy combines magic, mythology, and the Wild West to create a riveting tale. Amani is a strong heroine who is witty and willful. The supporting cast of characters is well drawn, and the story is full of surprising twists that will leave readers satisfied yet still eager for a sequel. "
-- Booklist starred review

What if you discovered that Kurt Cobain was not only alive, but might be your real father? This nuanced and bittersweet YA debut will keep you guessing until the end.
Nico Cavan has been adrift since her mother vanished when she was four—maternal abandonment isn’t exactly something you can just get over. Staying invisible at school is how she copes—that and listening to alt music and summoning spirits on the Ouija board with her best friend and coconspirator in sarcasm, Obe. But when a chance discovery opens a window onto her mom’s wild past, it sparks an idea in her brain that takes hold and won’t let go. 

On a ferry departing Seattle, Nico encounters a slight blond guy with piercing blue eyes wearing a hooded jacket. Something in her heart tells her that this feeling she has might actually be the truth, so she follows him to a remote cabin in the Pacific Northwest. When she is stranded there by a winter storm, fear and darkness collide, and the only one who can save Nico might just be herself.

 "Nico (in true ’90s style) is depressed, resilient, and eccentric, and debut author Manzer has drawn intense characters, warts and all, on a canvas of Cobain biographies and set to the music of Cobain and his contemporaries. Manzer’s melodic writing keeps this sad, compelling story rocking along, making this book a real boon to teen music-lovers everywhere."
-- Booklist

My review: Jenny Manzer's SAVE ME, KURT COBAIN is a lovely, sad book about a girl looking for answers and facing grief and learning about the mother she barely knew. It's also about music and how important it is to us, in so many different ways, and how the music that matters is part of the fabric of life. 

I feel like the book's description doesn't quite do it justice--although it's factually accurate--but I also don't know how I would improve it to really capture what the book is about. It's not the kind of story that lends itself to a two-paragraph summary. The main character Nico is lost and sad and struggling, even though she thinks she's getting by in life, and her evolution through grief and hope and loss and healing is incredibly touching. The book is so much more mournful and thoughtful and emotionally complex than I expected from the description and subject, and so stunningly atmospheric and steeped in its Pacific Northwest setting, and the writing is beautiful. 

Definitely worth a read, just make sure you've got Nirvana's discography dialed up and ready to go, because every page is going to put a musical craving in your head.

In Seven Ways We Lie, a chance encounter tangles the lives of seven high school students, each resisting the allure of one of the seven deadly sins, and each telling their story from their seven distinct points of view.

The juniors at Paloma High School all have their secrets, whether it’s the thespian who hides her trust issues onstage, the closeted pansexual who only cares about his drug-dealing profits, or the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal. But it’s Juniper Kipling who has the furthest to fall. No one would argue that Juniper—obedient daughter, salutatorian, natural beauty, and loyal friend—is anything but perfect. Everyone knows she’s a saint, not a sinner; but when love is involved, who is Juniper to resist temptation? When she begins to crave more and more of the one person she can’t have, her charmed life starts to unravel.

Then rumors of a student–teacher affair hit the fan. After Juniper accidentally exposes her secret at a party, her fate falls into the hands of the other six sinners, bringing them into one another’s orbits. All seven are guilty of something. Together, they could save one another from their temptations—or be ruined by them.

Riley Redgate’s twisty YA debut effortlessly weaves humor, heartbreak, and redemption into a drama that fans of Jenny Han and Stephanie Perkins will adore.

"Redgate writes with much insight into the complicated world of contemporary high school, revealing both its hard edges (the taunts of jocks toward an eccentric outcast, vicious rumor mills) and its tender underbelly (the loyalty of friends, the pain of a broken first love, the excitement of new romance). By book's end, readers will feel like they have seven new friends."
-- Publisher's Weekly

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.
He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.
Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.

"Zentner explores difficult themes head on—including the desire to escape the sins of the father and the fragility of happiness—while tempering them with the saving grace of enduring friendship."
-- Publisher's Weekly starred review
"Characters, incidents, dialogue, the poverty of the rural South, enduring friendship, a desperate clinging to strange faiths, fear of the unknown, and an awareness of the courage it takes to survive, let alone thrive, are among this fine novel's strengths. Zentner writes with understanding and grace—a new voice to savor."
-- Kirkus starred review

My review: This is a beautiful, heartbreaking novel with three fantastic main characters and a whole lot of very smart, very important things to say about growing up as a depressed teenager in an oppressive family situation, about learning that you are more than the sum of your parents' mistakes and expectation, that your life is not theirs to control, and most of all about finding the courage to make your own choices and find your own path. It made me cry and it made me smile, and I'll be thinking about these kids for a long time.