Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just "cute" and "adorable," but as she's gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like "loser" and "pathetic" appear, and those words bubble up and itch. And then there are words like "interesting," which she's not really sure how to feel about.
Now, at age twelve, she's starting middle school, and just when her friends who used to accept and protect her are drifting away, she receives an anonymous note saying "I know who you are, and I know what you're dealing with. I want to help." As Elyse works to solve the mystery of who is sending her these notes, she also finds new ways to accept who she is and to become her best self.
"The unsteady emotions of middle school are palpable in Cooper's debut, from trying on identities to believing moments that pass like a blush will last forever; even teachers learn to grow... Elyse's struggles toward self-confidence will resonate with fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012) and all readers learning how to be comfortable in their own skins."
"Self-acceptance is the key in Cooper's debut, but Elyse's struggle to get there is painfully realistic. Her interior thoughts and monthly letters to herself reveal a healthy sense of humor ("Holy high heels, he had eyeballs! That was a surprise considering he was such a furry guy"), but it's Elyse's kindness, perseverance, and smarts that help her rebuild her self-esteem."
Megan McKnight is a soccer star with Olympic dreams, a history major, an expert at the three Rs of Texas (readin’, ridin’, and ropin’), but she’s not a girly girl. So when her Southern belle mother secretly enters her as a debutante for the 2016 deb season in their hometown of Dallas, she’s furious—and has no idea what she’s in for.
When Megan’s attitude gets her on probation with the mother hen of the debs, she’s got a month to prove she can ballroom dance, display impeccable manners, and curtsey like a proper Texas lady or she’ll get the boot and disgrace her family. The perk of being a debutante, of course, is going to parties, and it’s at one of these lavish affairs where Megan gets swept off her feet by the debonair and down-to-earth Hank Waterhouse. If only she didn’t have to contend with a backstabbing blonde and her handsome but surly billionaire boyfriend, Megan thinks, being a deb might not be so bad after all. But that’s before she humiliates herself in front of a room full of ten-year-olds, becomes embroiled in a media-frenzy scandal, and gets punched in the face by another girl.
The season has officially begun…but the drama is just getting started.
"Austen fans will enjoy recognizing classic Pride and Prejudice moments and appreciate the message about staying true to oneself."
Seventeen-year-old Nina Barrows knows all about the Thief. She’s intimately familiar with his hunting methods: how he stalks and kills at random, how he disposes of his victims’ bodies in an abandoned mine in the deepest, most desolate part of a desert.
Now, for the first time, Nina has the chance to do something about the serial killer that no one else knows exists. With the help of her former best friend, Warren, she tracks the Thief two thousand miles, to his home turf—the deserts of New Mexico.
But the man she meets there seems nothing like the brutal sociopath with whom she’s had a disturbing connection her whole life. To anyone else, Dylan Shadwell is exactly what he appears to be: a young veteran committed to his girlfriend and her young daughter. As Nina spends more time with him, she begins to doubt the truth she once held as certain: Dylan Shadwell is the Thief. She even starts to wonder . . . what if there is no Thief?
"Harrison expertly shapes a sharp, tense narrative, told alternately in Nina and Warren’s points of view, as Nina confronts terrifying personal truths and must fight for everything she holds dear. Taut storytelling and believable characters make this a standout mystery, with paranormal notes adding another layer of complexity."
My review: This is a wonderfully creepy, super intense, fast-paced psychological thriller that kept me guessing with its twist and turns. The impact of what Nina is going through--seeing a serial killer's actions every night when she dreams--is visceral and emotional, and her determination to do something about it had me cheering for her the whole way (even when I was also yelling OH MY GOD GIRL YOU ARE IN SO MUCH DANGER WHAT ARE YOU DOING!??!?).
I loved the descriptions of the desolate desert landscapes, loved the page-turning pace, loved the emotional and psychological uncertainty hanging over everything like a threat, loved the unrelenting build-up of tension and questions and doubts, all of it leading to a very satisfying ending.
Highly recommended. This will make perfect get-yourself-lost-in-a-book vacation reading when it comes out in summer 2016.