middle grade

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

October 11, 2016 debuts

Since her mom died, Andie’s family has crumbled. Instead of working, her dad gambles away insurance money, while her sister, Paige, has put her future on hold in order to pick up extra waitressing shifts. Andie’s afraid of what will happen if people find out just how bad things are. She’s not sure how long she can hide the fact that there’s no food or money in the house...or adults, for that matter.

When her science partner suggests they study paranormal activity, Andie gets an idea. She wants a sign from her mom—anything to tell her it’s going to be okay. Maybe the rest of her family does too. So she starts a project of her own. Pretending to be her mother’s ghost, Andie sprays perfume, changes TV channels, and moves pictures. Haunting her house is Andie’s last hope to bring her family back into the land of the living.

"Clasen sensitively depicts narrator Andie’s navigation of her new reality as she attends group-therapy sessions at school, allows herself to get to know her mother through her mother’s journals, and embraces new friends."
-- Kirkus reviews

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disorder, almost triumphed once; that was her first suicide attempt. 

Being bipolar is forever. It never goes away. The med du jour might work right now, but Zero will be back for her. It’s only a matter of time.

And so, in an old ballet-shoe box, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its living death on her again. Before she goes, though, she starts a short bucket list. 

The bucket list, the support of her family, new friends, and a new course of treatment all begin to lessen Catherine’s sense of isolation. The problem is, her plan is already in place, and has been for so long that she might not be able to see a future beyond it. 

This is a story of loss and grief and hope, and how some of the many shapes of love—maternal, romantic, and platonic—affect a young woman’s struggle with mental illness and the stigma of treatment.

"Catherine's acerbically witty narrative voice is razor sharp and often raw, and the confessional tone of her present-tense narration makes clear how overwhelming her pain is... An honest, informative, and ultimately optimistic novel about living with mental illness. "
-- Kirkus reviews

Some secrets are better left at the bottom of the ocean.

Sixteen-year-old Bridey Corkill longs to leave her small island and see the world; the farther from the sea, the better. When Bridey was young, she witnessed something lure her granddad off a cliff and into a watery grave with a smile on his face. Now, in 1913, those haunting memories are dredged to the surface when a young woman is found drowned on the beach. Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her Granddad to leap has made its return to the Isle of Man.

Soon, people in Bridey’s idyllic village begin vanishing, and she finds an injured boy on the shore—an outsider who can’t remember who he is or where he’s from. Bridey’s family takes him in so he can rest and heal. In exchange for saving his life, he teaches Bridey how to master her fear of the water—stealing her heart in the process.

But something sinister is lurking in the deep, and Bridey must gather her courage to figure out who—or what—is plaguing her village, and find a way to stop it before she loses everyone she loves.

"While first-time novelist Marsh draws heavily on standard paranormal tropes (the enigmatic love interest, for example), her evocative setting, memorable characters, and use of obscure folkloric elements all contribute to the novel’s strong sense of place."
-- Publishers Weekly

My review: Oh, what a lovely book this is! Set on the Isle of Man in the early 20th century, FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP is utterly steeped in the island's superstitions, folklore, and culture. The island and its people come alive in these pages--nosy neighbors, dangerous seas, old stories and all--and I just love how rich it all feels, with a real sense of history and community. 

I also adore the main character Bridey, to determined to protect her loved ones and her home in spite of her fears and her dreams of traveling the world, and her relationship with her family, her friends, her home. The sense of connection and shared history between all the people in this isolated little town feels so strong--both the good, between friends, and the bad, when it comes to long-harbored suspicions and rumors. 

I am not saying anything about how great the sea monsters are, because to say that would be to spoil things that are best left unspoiled, so rest assured there are sea monsters and they are great. Sometimes with lots of teeth.

Reading this book felt like taking a trip into a magical, occasionally terrifying past, all described is beautiful detail, and I enjoyed every page. I can't wait to read whatever Sarah Glenn Marsh writes next--whatever it is, I'm sure it will once again feel like immersing myself into a weird and wonderful place I can only visit through her words.


It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite.

When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, she realizes how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn. 

"In Soria’s quick-paced third-person narrative, threats gather and mysteries deepen, failing or succeeding, but the girls’ mutual loyalty and trust never waver. Energetic and original, this alternative history, fantasy, and mystery mashup with its pair of smart, resourceful, flawed but engaging heroines never disappoints."
-- Kirkus starred review

October 4, 2016 debuts

Young mouse Calib Christopher dreams of becoming a Knight of the Round Table. For generations, his family has led the mice who live just out of sight of the humans, defending Camelot from enemies both big and small.

But when Calib and his friend Cecily discover that a new threat is gathering—one that could catch even the Two-Leggers unaware—it is up to them to unmask the real enemy, unite their forces, and save the castle they all call home.

"Leung creates a fascinating parallel world of mice living alongside Camelot’s famous human inhabitants and neatly laces the action-driven plot with colorful animal and legendary Arthurian characters... A winning new adventure featuring a stalwart warrior mouse, heroic knights, and magical Camelot."

-- Kirkus reviews


Flynn's girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn's girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can't answer, and her friends are telling stories that don't add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January's boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January's disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

"Debut novelist Roehrig peoples his sensationalistic, twisty mystery with credible characters, especially narrator Flynn, whose struggles with coming out will resonate with young gay teens in more mundane circumstances. Witty, realistically foulmouthed dialogue and the suspenseful, well-laid mystery will keep pages turning, as will the budding romance between Flynn and Kaz. Readers won’t be able to put it down."

-- Kirkus starred review

My review: Caleb Roehrig's LAST SEEN LEAVING is a wonderfully dark and twisty mystery that is absolutely riveting from beginning to end. I was so tense following along as Flynn slowly uncovered what was going on, peeling back layers and layers of January's life, and realizing a lot of uncomfortable truth about her and himself in the process. 

The mystery is incredibly well done--so many twists and turns! so many plausible possibilities!--but what I really adore about this book are the two main characters. Flynn is wonderful and genuine and believable in both the good and bad choices he makes, the assumptions about himself and others he is forced to confront, and the way he learns that what people see of the world is always colored by their own experiences and perceptions. His process of admitting and accepting his sexuality and the charming romance that follows are realistic and touching.

And January--I know it sounds strange to refer to the character who is by definition not present as the other main character, but she really is. I know the description of the book makes it sound like a girl character is fridged to give the boy character a story, but that's... really not how the plot plays out. But it's impossible to explain without spoiling literally everything about the mystery, so I'll just say that January is a wonderfully complex character with a great deal more agency than the one-line description suggests, and while the story deals very extensively with sexism and misogyny faced by teenage girls, the narrative itself is free of the usual sexist trappings one is braced to expect from "missing troubled girl"-type thrillers. 

Definitely recommend this one. I enjoyed the hell out of it. It's fast-paced and tense and really quite stressful at times, but in the best way, and it's made me eager to read whatever the author comes up with next.

October 1, 2016 debuts

At seventeen, Adam Rhodes is famous, living on his own, and in a downward spiral since he lost the girl he loved. Marybeth—stage name Sunshine—was his best friend from the days they were foster kids; then she was his girlfriend and his band mate. But since her accidental death, he’s been drinking to deal with the memories.

Until one day, an unexpected visitor, Dr. Elloran, presents Adam with a proposition that just might save him from himself. Using breakthrough cloning and memory-implantation techniques, Dr. Elloran and the scientists at Project Orpheus want to resurrect Marybeth, and they need Adam to “donate” intimate memories of his life with her.

The memory retrieval process forces Adam to relive his life with Marybeth and the devastating path that brought them both to fame. Along the way, he must confront not only the circumstances of her death but also his growing relationship with the mysterious Genevieve, daughter of Project Orpheus’s founder. As the process sweeps Adam and Marybeth ever closer to reliving the tragedy that destroyed them, Adam must decide how far he’ll go to save her.

"Using this thought-provoking framework, debut author Koosis leads readers through a labyrinth of moral, spiritual, and emotional dilemmas explored through complex characters grappling with loss... Koosis’s philosophical tale thoughtfully examines the ambiguity of what makes us who we are."
-- Publishers Weekly

Oliver, the meek son of a wealthy British industrialist, discovers the identity of a notorious thief, a man who has been skillfully evading Scotland Yard and snatching priceless artifacts for sport: Mr. Scant, his family butler. After first fearing for his life, Oliver discovers Mr. Scant's secret within a secret: the butler's crimes are actually a series of strikes against an underground group of business tycoons trying to master black magic. 

September 13, 2016 debuts

What if your teacher could read your mind just because she was born on a Thursday? Or the kid next to you in class could turn back the clock just because he was a Wednesday?

In the quirky town of Nova, all of this is normal. Poppy Mayberry, an almost-11-year-old Monday, should be able to pass notes in class or brush her dog, Pickle, without lifting a finger. Poppy's Monday telekinesis ability has some kinks and that plate of spaghetti she's passing may just end up on someone's head. If that's not hard enough, practically-perfect Ellie Preston is out to get her and Principal Wible wants to send Poppy to remedial summer school to work on her powers! It's enough to make a girl want to disappear. If only she were a Friday.


Anne has spent most of her thirteen years dreaming of the day she and her best friend Penelope will finally leave Saint Lupin's Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children. When the big day arrives, a series of very curious happenings lead to Anne being charged with an epic quest.

Anne, Penelope, and new questing partner Hiro have only days to travel to strange new locales, solve myriad riddles, and triumph over monstrous foes--or face the horrible consequences.

"Featuring a colorful and diverse cast of characters (including the academy’s cat headmistress) and sometimes ridiculous yet nail-biting action, this is a highly distinctive, smart take on the fantasy novel."
-- Kirkus reviews

The Reader by Traci Chee

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive.

The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

"This work is deftly rendered in beautiful prose, narrated through three shifting time lines woven into an interconnected history of duty, honor, and magic. Chee provokes some resounding questions: What is there left to be remembered of us after death, and what must we do to be worthy of remembrance?"
-- School Library Journal starred review
"Chee’s debut is an intricate, multilayered reading experience, but the author avoids leading readers along too transparently, trusting them to puzzle together the pieces surrounding the mystery of Sefia’s past."
-- Publishers Weekly starred review

My review: THE READER is a glorious epic fantasy adventure with magic and pirates and assassins and secret societies and warring island nations and gloriously imaginative mythology. I got swept up right away--there's so much going on, so many distinctive characters, so many settings, but it's not confusing. It feels like you've been dumped into this fascinating world and sent off on an adventure, and what a great ride it is. 

Sefia is a fantastic main character. She's complex, tough, compassionate, stubborn, and interesting, and the depth of her backstory and life experience is built up so wonderfully. But so many of the other characters are just as amazing, even when they're not in the center. The pirates! The assassins! The librarians! There are so many layers to this world, and so many people to inhabit it. I can't wait to read the sequel not just to find out what happens next, but to have a chance to spend more time in this glorious fantasy setting.

But what I really love most of all is how smartly all the stories-within-stories and myths-within-myths are layered and interconnected. It's no easy feat to make a book about stories--about reading, writing, remembering, vastly important but not exactly action-pact acts--into such a heart-quickening adventures, but Chee pulls it off like it's the easiest thing in the world.


LaToya Williams lives in Montgomery, Alabama, and attends a mostly white high school. It seems as if her only friend is her older brother, Alex. Toya doesn’t know where she fits in, but after a run-in with another student, she wonders if life would be different if she were . . . different. And then a higher power answers her prayer: to be “anything but black.”

Toya is suddenly white, blond, and popular. Now what?

"Pink isn’t afraid of being provocative (Jesus makes regular appearances), and the book dives into thorny issues of identity, self-image, and the internal effects of racism in a strikingly frank way."

 

-- Publishers Weekly

My review: Randi Pink's INTO WHITE is heartfelt, painful, profound, and incredibly important--an exploration into racism, sexism, and classism in modern America, an unflinching look at the bigotry and prejudices that wear people down from the outside and gnaw at them from the inside, but ultimately hopeful--about people, about the world, about the fact that things can get better. It's about faith and family and a loving, gentle look at where strength comes from. 

It's also really, really, really funny. I feel like that might be easy to overlook when reading the cover copy and descriptions, because the subject matter is so important and sensitive and the story itself absolutely heart-wrenching, and the observations it makes about the world frequently brutal, but oh my god, people, this book is so damn funny. The narrator's voice is beyond fantastic. I was laughing out loud on every page--even when I was also crying and raging at how bad things could be. I don't know how Randi Pink gets that balance, but she does, and I adore the result.

I want Toya (or, barring that, the author) to come sit next to me and chat FOREVER because I would never get tired of the razor-sharp and hilarious way she has of looking at her world and the people in it, with humor and cleverness even when that world and those people are causing her a great deal of pain, or when she's lashing out to cause pain for others. 

One more thing: It also has one of my favorite relationships between a sister and brother that I've read in YA in a long time. There's nothing wrong with my own real life genius older brother, but I'm going to pretend Toya's brother Alex is my *other* real life genius older brother for a while, if nobody minds, because he's just that lovely.

September 6, 2016 middle grade debuts

“What’s with the get-up? Is that the company uniform or something?”
“This? All P.I.s wear a trench coat.”
“Dude, that’s a brown bathrobe.”
I shrugged and straightened out my sleeves. “First rule of private investigation, Ivy: work with what you’ve got.”

Twelve-year-old Howard Wallace lives by his list of rules of private investigation. He knows more than anyone how to work with what he’s got: a bathrobe for a trench coat, a makeshift office behind the school equipment shed, and not much else—least of all, friends. So when a hot case of blackmail lands on his desk, he’s ready to take it on himself... until the new kid, Ivy Mason, convinces him to take her on as a junior partner. As they banter through stakeouts and narrow down their list of suspects, Howard starts to wonder if having Ivy as a sidekick—and a friend—is such a bad thing after all.

"Engagingly blending the fictional world of dames and private eyes with keen insights about adolescent friendship, Lyall’s debut is a winner."
-- Publishers Weekly

My review: HOWARD WALLACE, P.I. is the hilarious and delightful story of a lonely, well-meaning kid who desperately wants to be the Sam Spade of his middle school--and manages it, more or less, with varying degrees of success ranging from actual success inevitable disaster. 

I laughed out loud several times, and I was cheering for Howard and Ivy's friend (and detective partnership!) to work out all the way. The mystery is suitably light-hearted, with enough characters of all ages to make guessing at the answers fun. Howard's family is wonderful, and his relationships with other kids at the school are just perfect--both the good and the bad. Also: The noir detective voice and tropes are so playfully and hilariously deployed.

And above all, the whole book is just so funny and heartwarming and charming. Reading it made a bad day get so much better.


Sam knows she wants to be a drummer. But she doesn’t know how to afford a drum kit, or why budget cuts end her school’s music program, or why her parents argue so much, or even how to explain her dream to other people. 

But drums sound all the time in Sam’s head, and she’d do just about anything to play them out loud—even lie to her family if she has to. Will the cost of chasing her dream be too high?  

An exciting new voice in contemporary middle grade, Mike Grosso creates a determined heroine readers will identify with and cheer for.

"Author Grosso is a musician and teacher, and his passion for music comes through in his writing. Readers will feel Sam’s desire to play and sympathize with her decision to sneak around in order to pursue her dream. VERDICT A great read for middle graders with their own obsessions and dreams."
-- School Library Journal

"This is a worthy and entertaining read about how talent develops and what the potential consequences of pursuing it are: drumroll, please, for a fine homage to spirited single-mindedness."

-- Kirkus reviews


Eleven-year-old Thelma Bee is never bored. In fact, she has curiosity and adventure in her blood. She spends her time running science experiments, practicing Spanish, and daydreaming about exotic landscapes.

But Thelma gets more than she bargained for when a strange woman sells a jewelry box at her father’s antique shop. That night, a ghost kidnaps her father, and the only clues are the jewelry box and a word the ghost whispered in her ear: “Return.” Now it’s up to Thelma to get her dad back, and it might be harder than she thought—there’s someone wielding dark magic, and they’re coming after her next. 

"Black-and-white illustrations add visual dimension to Thelma’s peculiar haunting, punctuated by secrets from the past, paranormal happenings, diverse and devoted friends, and a fiery finale. Such humorous details as a car named Gary Indiana and the bickering of Thelma’s friends in the Riverfish Valley Paranormal Society keep the tone light. An inventive debut ghost story starring a contemporary girl with ancient powers."
-- Kirkus reviews

Thirteen-year-old Lissa Black is anything but happy when her parents force her to move from New York City, the perfect home for an aspiring writer/director/actress, to Freeburg, Pennsylvania, nowhere capital of the world. There’s not much for Lissa to do there, except play Monsterville, a Candyland-esque quest to survive, which Lissa’s little sister, Haylie, has becomed obsessed with, and hang out with her new neighbor, Adam, who is intent to prove to her that Freeburg is a great place to live.

But even Lissa can’t call her new home totally boring when a trek into the woods lands her face-to-face with a sea monster looking for brains to eat and then a Sasquatch that moos! With Adam’s help, she discovers a monster secret . . . or maybe just a monster: a poor little goblin they name Blue, who’s fled the world Down Below, desperate to decide on his scary form.

And what do you do with a creature that can be literally anything? You make monster movies, of course! Lissa is convinced that Blue will be the secret to her big break.

But when Haylie goes missing on Halloween, Lissa, Adam, and Blue must venture Down Below to stage a rescue—and face the real Monsterville, which is anything but a game.

August 23, 2016 debuts

The Prince of the Rats is changed into Cinderella's coachman on the night of the big ball. Now he and Cinderella must work together to vanquish her wicked stepmother and save the Kingdom of Angland from a terrible threat. With courage, heart, and a dash of magic, can they also find a happy ending? The spell ends at midnight, and the clock is ticking...


Hollywood critics agree. Joss Byrd is "fiercely emotional," a young actress with "complete conviction," and a "powerhouse."

Joss Byrd is America's most celebrated young actress, but on the set of her latest project, a gritty indie film called The Locals, Joss's life is far from glamorous. While struggling with her mother's expectations, a crush on her movie brother, and a secret that could end her career, Joss must pull off a performance worthy of a star. When her renowned, charismatic director demands more than she is ready to deliver, Joss must go off-script to stay true to herself.

"Although the young protagonist makes the story seem exclusively for middle graders at first glance, sympathetic Joss' journey delves into themes like living with learning disabilities, dealing with celebrity culture, sexual precocity, and understanding the difference between actors' public and private selves, broadening its audience. Engaging behind-the-scenes look at a lonely young Hollywood star's tragedies and triumphs."
-- Kirkus reviews

August 2, 2016 debuts

Yuriko was happy growing up in Hiroshima when it was just her and Papa. But her aunt Kimiko and her cousin Genji are living with them now, and the family is only getting bigger with talk of a double marriage! And while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and since the Japanese newspapers don’t report lost battles, the Japanese people are not entirely certain of where Japan stands.

Yuriko is used to the sirens and the air-raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home. When the bombs hit Hiroshima, it’s through Yuriko’s twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror.

This is a story that offers young readers insight into how children lived during the war, while also introducing them to Japanese culture. Based loosely on author Kathleen Burkinshaw’s mother’s firsthand experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The Last Cherry Blossom hopes to warn readers of the immense damage nuclear war can bring, while reminding them that the “enemy” in any war is often not so different from ourselves.
 

"Told with reverence and authenticity, Yuriko’s journey is inspired by the author’s mother’s real-life experiences growing up in Hiroshima and surviving that tragic day on Aug. 6, 1945."
-- Kirkus reviews

"War colors all aspects of the lives of Yuriko and her classmates as they practice wielding bamboo spears in gym class, fighter planes fly overhead, and Yuriko’s best friend hides a contraband jazz record after Western products are banned.... The eventual bombing of Hiroshima proves nightmarishly horrifying, and readers will readily empathize with Yuriko’s losses and will to survive."

-- Publisher's Weekly


Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

Disney Hyperion

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

I'm your protagonist-Reshma Kapoor-and if you have the free time to read this book, then you're probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor's dream. She's the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What's a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent's help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she'll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she's convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she's already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success-a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can't always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she'll have to decide just how far she'll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It's pretty far.)

"Kanakia’s mordantly funny story of an overachiever who takes “write what you know” to new extremes will give college-bound readers (and their parents) a gentle wake-up call that success can come in a variety of forms."
-- Publisher's Weekly

July 12, 2016 debuts

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."
-- Kirkus starred review
"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."
-- Publisher's weekly

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."
-- Publisher's Weekly

The Killer in Me by Margot Harrison

Disney

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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."
-- Publisher's Weekly starred review

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.

July 5, 2016 debuts

Twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne is a girl with a past--if only she could remember what it is. Found alone in a rowboat as a child, clutching a shard of the rare starshell needed for spell-casting, she's spent the past years keeping house for an irritable magician and his obnoxious apprentice, Peter.

When Brine and Peter get themselves into a load of trouble and flee, they blunder into the path of the legendary pirate ship the Onion. Before you can say "pieces of eight," they're up to their necks in the pirates' quest to find Magical North, a place so shrouded in secrets and myth that most people don't even think it exists.

If Brine is lucky, she’ll find her place in the world. And if she's unlucky, everyone on the ship will be eaten by sea monsters. It could really go either way.

"A robust debut, well stocked with heroic exploits, monsters, pirates, explosions, magical transformations, and life-changing adventures, and a promising series starter."
-- Kirkus starred review

An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Maybe not kill-all-the-dinosaurs bad, but at least kill-everyone-in-California-and-wipe-out-Japan-with-a-tsunami bad. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been recruited to aid NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster.

The good news is Yuri knows how to stop the asteroid--his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize if there's ever another Nobel prize awarded. But the trouble is, even though NASA asked for his help, no one there will listen to him. He's seventeen, and they've been studying physics longer than he's been alive. 

Then he meets (pretty, wild, unpredictable) Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he's not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and live a life worth saving.

"The science Kennedy weaves throughout the story is fascinating and accessible, and Yuri and Dovie’s gentle romance is pitch-perfect. This novel is made to savor—readers will want to catch every nuance of Kennedy’s multidimensional characters."
-- Publisher's Weekly starred review

My review: Oh my goodness this book is SO FREAKING ADORABLE. Yuri is a darling. Yuri's adorableness is 900000% of the reason this book works so well. He's a genius and he's totally gonna save the world, but he's still so young and awkward, and saving the world is kind of difficulty when adults are so frustrating and girls are so confusing and Americans are so baffling.

I love the friends Yuri makes almost as much as I love him. ALMOST, but not quite, for in these pages my love for Yuri has no equal. He is surrounded by some pretty great characters, especially Dovie and Lennon and their family, who are all the kind of people I would love to spend some time hanging out with. (I would bring my own baked goods, though.)

LEARNING TO SWEAR made me laugh and it made me sigh happily and then it made my heart grow three sizes. Such a fun book!