sweet sixteens

March 11 at Mysterious Galaxy

Join me and fellow YA authors Elizabeth Briggs and Emily Skrutskie this Saturday, March 11, 2017, at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego! It's part of Elizabeth's tour to launch her novel FUTURE THREAT, and we'll be talking about speculative fiction world-building in a changing world, writing kickass female characters, and the ups and downs of being an author. 

Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore

March 11, 2017 at 2 p.m.

5943 Balboa Avenue, Suite #100, San Diego, CA 92111

December 27, 2016 debut

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, a legendary bounty hunter—that is, until her father is murdered. The alleged killer is none other than Cohen Mackay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart.  

She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a force to be reckoned with.

"Debut author Summerill makes use of familiar story elements—avenging a parent’s death, a potential betrayal by an estranged first love, a main character with unrealized power—but incorporates them into an richly described world populated by engaging characters."
-- Publishers Weekly

December 6, 2016 debut

If anyone saw the prom boards Amelia Blanco makes on her favorite fashion app, they'd think Ethan Laurenti was her boyfriend. They wouldn't know that all the plans she's made for them are just dreams, and that she's the girl who watches him from the kitchen while her parents cook for his famous family. 

When Amelia's abuelita enrolls her in a month-long fashion internship in NYC, Amelia can't imagine leaving Miami--and Ethan--for that long. As soon as she gets to New York, however, she finds a bigger world and new possibilities. She meets people her own age who can actually carry on a conversation about stitching and design. Her pin boards become less about prom with Ethan and more about creating her own style. By the time she returns to Miami, Amelia feels like she can accomplish anything, and surprises herself by agreeing to help Ethan's awkward, Steve-Jobs-wannabe brother, Liam, create his own fashion app. 

As Liam and Amelia get closer, Ethan realizes that this newly confident, stylish girl may be the one for him after all . . . even though he has a reality TV star girlfriend he conveniently keeps forgetting about. The "new and improved" Amelia soon finds herself in between two brothers, a whole lot of drama, and choice she never dreamed she'd have to make.

December 2, 2016 debut

Ellery wants to die. Nothing is going right. Her younger sister is dead, and her family is in a shambles. But on the day that she tries to end it all, even the gun won't work. When she tries to return it, she's intercepted by a security guard who also happens to be a boy in one of her classes, Colter Sawyer.

Colter recognizes Ellery's desperation and begins working hard to earn her trust. Why does this cute boy care about my worthless life?, Ellery wonders. But as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Colter has very good reasons for his vigilance, deep, personal reasons. And whether Ellery likes it or not, he won't let go. 

"Ellery’s voice is engaging and authentic... Sadness gives way to redemption and an unforced hope in this thoughtful read."
-- Kirkus Reviews

November 29, 2016 debut

Everyone in Phoebe Ferris’s life tells a different version of the truth.

Her mother, Meg, ex-rock star and professional question evader, shares only the end of the story—the post-fame calm that Phoebe’s always known. Her sister Luna, indie rock darling of Brooklyn, preaches a stormy truth of her own making, selectively ignoring the facts she doesn’t like. And her father, Kieran, the co-founder of Meg’s beloved band, hasn’t said anything at all since he stopped calling three years ago.

But Phoebe, a budding poet in search of an identity to call her own, is tired of half-truths and vague explanations. When she visits Luna in New York, she’s determined to find out how she fits in to this family of storytellers, and maybe even to continue her own tale—the one with the musician boy she’s been secretly writing for months.

This soul-searching, authentic debut weaves together Phoebe’s story with scenes from the romance between Meg and Kieran that started it all—leaving behind a heartfelt reflection on family, fame, and finding your own way.

"McNally is a polished storyteller, her prose alive with vivid descriptions, the excitement of romance, and an artist’s yearning to create."

-- Publishers Weekly

My review: This is such a beautiful book! It's the story of a family told past and present, from the points of view of both a daughter and a mother, It's like being invited to spend one dreamy, lyrical week with this family of poets and musicians. They're a complicated, fractured family, sure, with problems and rifts pushing them apart, with secrets and misunderstandings, and they all feel so incredibly REAL. 

The way McNally writes them and their relationships with each other is stunning. I love the different versions of each person they see, the different stories they all remember and cling to, and the fact that they're all carrying their own version of the truth. They're people who have hurt and disappointed each other, but there is so much love and hope and understanding here too.

I don't even know how to explain it except to say that reading this book feels good. It feels like wandering through a beloved city on a summer afternoon, or listening to a favorite record on scratchy vinyl, or sharing a starlit walk with a loved one. It's that kind of feeling, warm and so full of life, and I am in awe of Janet McNally for capturing it so well.

November 22, 2016 debut

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile kingdoms. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a land where magic is forbidden.

Now Denna has to learn the ways of her new kingdom while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine, sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, they discover there is more to one another than they thought—and soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

"Dennaleia and Amaranthine’s narratives combine to create a powerful and exquisite love story that also provides incisive political commentary and cautions against zealotry, vengeance, and intolerance. The central mystery is intriguing, Coulthurst’s worldbuilding is excellent, and the book’s explosive conclusion both thrills and satisfies."
-- Publishers Weekly starred review

My review: Oh, my heart! This book! My heart! I love this book so much. It's intriguing fantasy with magic and politics and ponies, all wrapped around a ridiculously satisfying slow-burn romance between two fantastic characters. The world feels realistic and lived-in, with just the right amount of world-building detail to make it easy to follow all the political strains and alliances and dangers. 

I especially love the magic--it feels small and subtle at first, a little thing that hardly seems worth all the fuss various political/religious groups are making over it, but then... it isn't so small and subtle anymore, for reasons which I shall not divulge because SPOILERS, and then all at once this world's magic is terrifying. AND I LOVE IT.

But most of all what I adore about this book are the main characters, Denna and Mare, and their relationship. It's such a delight to watch these two young women who are very different people from very different lines, with very different sets of expectations and burdens on them, slowly come to like and appreciate each other, to see each other's strengths and flaws clearly, and to work together when all kinds of forces are trying to push them apart--and, of course, to fall in love, which happens so naturally and so perfectly I barely even noticed when I shifted from "aw you'll like each other eventually" to shouting JUST KISS ALREADY at the book every three pages. And sometimes I would mix it up and shout NO REALLY YOU LIVE IN A VERY DANGEROUS WORLD JUST KISS ALREADY.

So, yes, it's the kind of book that had more shouting a lot because I was REALLY VERY CONCERNED for these characters and their dangerous, magical world, right up until the end when I wasn't shouting anymore but sighing a deep sigh of happy satisfaction, because literally every single thing about this book is fantastic. Including the horses. I love it.

November 15, 2016 debut

Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium—the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.

But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it.

My review: Crushing oppression, sci fi adventure with a hint of magic, weird geology, terrifying creatures, and an entire planet that is trying to kill you? What's not to love?

I had a lot of fun reading FLASHFALL, even though it's the kind of sci fi post-cataclysm adventure that's about a world that's been wrecked and all manner of terrible things happening to people who really don't deserve it, which doesn't sound fun AT ALL, but there's so much action it works out. The world-building is delightfully nasty and imaginative--there are critters that make my skin crawl!--and there are constant obstacles thrown up every time our beloved characters make any progress. 

But I was rooting for them! Especially Orion, who is so determined to kind a better life for herself and her loved ones, even in the face of a system that is rigged to defeat her at every turn. 

All in all a really enjoyable sci fi (with a bit of weirdness that may or may not be magic) book that takes place in a world I find endlessly fascinating but absolutely do not ever want to visit under any circumstances. EVER.

November 8, 2016 debuts

It all started with a harmless prank. But now high school junior Lawrence Barry is one step away from reform school unless he participates in a mentorship program. His mentee? Spencer Knudsen, a Norwegian exchange student with Spock-like intelligence but the social skills of the periodic table.

Then disaster strikes. Homecoming Week. When someone dressed as the school Viking mascot starts destroying the fairytale-inspired floats, all suspicion falls on Lawrence. Add to the mix a demon Goth girl, a Renaissance LARPing group, an overzealous yearbook editor, and three vindictive chickens, and Lawrence soon realizes that his situation may be a little out of control. But Spencer seems to have some answers. In fact, Spencer may be the one friend Lawrence never knew he needed.


In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

"Part mystery and part romance, this fantasy novel delves into what it means to grow up and make important decisions. With an easily relatable main character struggling to fit in, the novel has a realistic and contemplative voice. "
-- School Library Journal

My review: A sad broody boy who needs a million hugs, a sweet romance that made my heart grow three sizes, and a whole pile of really interesting wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey world-building, and some mystery too? WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT. Nothing more. You don't want anything more. TIMEKEEPER is utterly delightful. 

I confess that when I picked up this book I was a teensy eensy little bit worried that rumors of its adorableness would be greatly exaggerated. But I am delighted to report that I had nothing to fear! It is every bit as adorable as promised! MAYBE EVEN MORE SO. Specifically: Danny is every bit as adorable as promised, and very soon I will succeed in figuring out a way of making myself fictional and traveling back in time so I can give him those million hugs he so desperately needs. And the forbidden romance he has with his charming clock boy (just... go with it, it makes sense in context) is so incredibly sweet and lovely. 

The bizarro time-controlling time-shifting time-stopping aspects of the world-building are so cool. Not going to try to explain it here. There's this whole rich mythology and a whole bunch of implications and... it's really cool stuff, and it makes for really great context for a whole bunch of shenanigans and dangers and cleverness that's so much fun to follow. 

AND. I just now noticed, as I went to post this review, that there is a Timekeeper #2 AND a Timekeeper #3 listed WHICH MAKES ME SO HAPPY. The ending of this one is perfectly satisfying, but I love these (ADORABLE) characters so much I am very excited to see what happens next. It will probably make me want to hug them more. That's my prediction. I'm just putting it out there.

November 1, 2016 debuts

Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth

Disney-Hyperion

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Emma Allen couldn't be more excited to start her sophomore year. Not only is she the assistant stage manager for the drama club's production of Hamlet, but her crush Brandon is directing, and she's rocking a new haircut that's sure to get his attention. But soon after school starts, everything goes haywire. Emma's promoted to stage manager with zero experience, her best friend Lulu stops talking to her, and Josh--the adorable soccer boy who's cast as the lead--turns out to be a disaster. It's up to Emma to fix it all, but she has no clue where to start.

One night after rehearsal, Emma stays behind to think through her life's latest crises and distractedly falls through the stage's trap door . . . landing in the basement of the Globe Theater.

It's London, 1601, and with her awesome new pixie cut, everyone thinks Emma's a boy--even Will Shakespeare himself. With no clue how to get home, Emma gamely plays her role as backstage assistant to the original production of Hamlet, learning a thing or two about the theater, and meeting an incredibly hot actor named Alex who finds Emma as intriguing as she finds him. But once Emma starts traveling back and forth through time, things get really confusing. Which boy is the one for her? In which reality does she belong? Will Lulu ever forgive her? And can she possibly save two disastrous productions of Hamlet before time runs out?

"First-time author Booth captures the thrills of the theater in two eras while providing an striking portrait of Shakespeare and the Chamberlain’s Men through Emma’s eyes... As enlightening as it is enjoyable, this whimsical novel deserves applause of its own."
-- Publishers Weekly starred review
"Emma’s narration includes enough minutiae to please theater-loving readers. Her transitions between times are handled fairly smoothly, Emma employing her knowledge of Elizabethan English to communicate successfully in the 17th century. This entertaining and original novel deals not just with growing up, but with a fresh and different interpretation of 'to be or not to be.'"
-- Kirkus starred review

Future scientist Madeline Little is dreading the start of middle school. Nothing has been right since her grandfather died and her best friend changed schools. Maddie would rather help her father in his research lab or write Standard Operating Procedures in her lab notebook than hang out with a bunch of kids who aren’t even her friends. Despite Maddie’s reluctance, some new friends start coming her way—until they discover what she’s written in that secret notebook. And that’s just part of the trouble. Can this future scientific genius find the formula for straightening out her life?

"First-time author Teagan underscores the importance of compassion and forgiveness as she provides thoughtful insight into a girl working hard to try to maintain control over a life filled with unwelcome developments."
-- Publishers Weekly

"Teagan offers a smart, breezy narrative that is both clever and approachable, offering a fresh twist on the familiar topic of middle school angst. Her characters are realistic and funny as they fumble through early adolescence and grapple with the reality of change. "
-- Kirkus starred review

October 18, 2016 debuts

Lou Lou Bombay and Peacock Pearl have been best friends since first grade. Every Friday afternoon, they get together in Lou Lou's backyard garden for their PSPP (Post-School Pre-Parents) tea party. They chat about school, discuss Pea's latest fashions, and plot the weekend's activities.

But all plans go out the window when a series of small crimes crop up around El Corazón, their quaint and quirky neighborhood, right before the Día de Los Muertos procession. First, Pea's cousin's quinceañera dress is tragically ruined. Then Lou Lou's beloved camellia bush, Pinky, suffers a serious blow. And that's just the beginning! When clues start to appear in El Corazón's outdoor murals, the best friends join forces, using Lou Lou's floral expertise and Pea's artistic genius to solve the mysteries.


To twelve-year-old Molly Nathans, perfect is:

—The number four
—The tip of a newly sharpened No. 2 pencil
—A crisp white pad of paper
—Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines

What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are sometimes broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Poetry Slam Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with white tablecloths. Molly is sure her mother would never miss that. Right…?

But as time passes, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly's world from spinning out of control. In this fresh-voiced debut novel, one girl learns there is no such thing as perfect.

"Getting an insider’s view of Molly’s downward spiral is both painful and enlightening. Readers need not be familiar with the psychological terms to recognize the damaging effects of Molly’s thinking and how it is wreaking havoc on her relationships. While Molly’s situation becomes quite dire, her courageous decision to communicate her fears and seek help pave the way for a comforting resolution. "
-- Publisher's Weekly

For three ten-year-old girls, their once simple worlds are starting to feel too big. Painfully shy Grace dreads starting fifth grade now that her best friend has moved away. Jada hopes she’ll stop feeling so alone if she finds the mother who left years ago. And Malia fears the arrival of her new baby sister will forever change the family she loves.

When the girls each find a mysterious treasure box in their library and begin to fill the box with their own precious things, they start to feel less alone. But it’s up to Grace, Jada, and Malia to take the treasures and turn them into something more: true friendship.

"Just right for sensitive tweens, this is a sweet story of friendship and learning to cope with common fears and life changes."
-- School Library Journal
"An endlessly endearing story of three girls’ pursuit of friendship and the beauty and challenge of what it means to be 10. "
-- Kirkus starred review