sweet sixteens

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 27, 2016 debut

Otis and Meg were inseparable until her family abruptly moved away after the terrible accident that left Otis’s little brother dead and both of their families changed forever.

Since then, it’s been three years of radio silence, during which time Otis has become the unlikely protégé of eighteen-year-old Dara—part drill sergeant, part friend—who’s hell-bent on transforming Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be. But when Otis learns that Meg is coming back to town, he must face some difficult truths about the girl he’s never forgotten and the brother he’s never stopped grieving.

As it becomes achingly clear that he and Meg are not the same people they were, Otis must decide what to hold on to and what to leave behind. Quietly affecting, this compulsively readable debut novel captures all the confusion, heartbreak, and fragile hope of three teens struggling to accept profound absences in their lives.

"Readers will find Otis relatable and endearing in his first-person perspective of first love and heartbreak, as well as his unwavering loyalty to his friends. Meg and Dara round out a cast of well-developed characters who have extensive troubles of their own."

-- School Library Journal starred review

My review: Oh, this is a completely lovely book! The characters are so complex and layered, the writing is stunning, and the story is both heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. It's the story of families and individuals learning to go on after terrible tragedy, but it's never dark or overwhelming. 

Otis is the most darling main characters ever, and all the people around him are completely fascinating. His friendship with Dara is one of the most complicated and beautiful and frustrating friendships I've read anywhere--not just in YA, not just in contemporary YA, not just in m/f friendships. ANYWHERE. It's that good. I am so jealous of how well the author captures those difficult, fraught, often painful, often rewarding relationships damaged, hurting people have with each other. 

I will read anything Paula Garner writes in the future. Then I will cry, and read it again, and curse her name to the skies, and cry some more.

September 20, 2016 debuts

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she's shocked when instead of being executed, she's invited to train as one of Her Majesty's royal sorcerers.

Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.

But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one. As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

"In a strong opening to the Kingdom on Fire trilogy, debut author Cluess makes the most of her setting, never shying from gritty details, such as the “burned and ravaged” London outside the wards that protect the sorcerers; the contentious history between sorcerers and magicians adds heft. Henrietta is pragmatic and bitingly funny, and she more than holds her own in a man’s world. Cluess gamely turns the chosen-one trope upside down in this smashing dark fantasy."

-- Publishers Weekly starred review


Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

"In taking on the subject of this famous 19th-century serial killer, Maniscalco is treading well-worn fictional territory, but she has created a serious, sharp-minded, and forward-thinking protagonist in Audrey Rose, whose fearlessness in the face of the decaying and the dead—while still navigating the social norms of the day—will endear her to readers looking for an engaging historical thriller."

-- Publishers Weekly

"An entertaining debut full of twists and turns, perfect for fans of historical fiction and mystery."

-- School Library Journal


Ripple by Heather Smith Meloch

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

With her impossible-to-please grandmother on her back about college and her disapproving step-dad watching her every move, Tessa would do anything to escape the pressure-cooker she calls home. So she finds a shot of much-needed power and confidence by hooking up with boys, even though it means cheating on her boyfriend. But when she’s finally caught red-handed, she’ll do anything she can to cover up what she’s done.

Jack is a prankster who bucks the system every chance he gets—each transgression getting riskier and riskier. He loves the thrill, and each adventure allows a little release because his smug smile and suave demeanor in the face of authority doesn’t make life at home with his mom any less tough. He tries to take care of her, but the truth is he’s powerless in the face of her fragile mental health. So he copes in his own way, by defacing public property and pulling elaborate pranks, though he knows in the end this’ll only screw up his life even more.
 
As they both try not to let their self-destructive patterns get the best of them, Tessa and Jack gravitate toward one another, discovering the best parts of themselves in the process.

September 15, 2016 debut

Bristal, a sixteen-year-old kitchen maid, lands in a fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she has elicromancer magic in her blood. Elicromancers are an ancient breed of immortal people, but only two remain in Nissera. Bristal joins the ranks of Brack and Tamarice without knowing that one of them has a dark secret . . . Tamarice is plotting a quest to overthrow the realm’s nobility and take charge herself.

Together, Bristal and Brack must guard Nissera against black elicromancy. There are cursed princesses to protect, royal alliances to forge and fierce monsters to battle—all with the hope of preserving peace.

"Greatly influenced by the likes of “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Hua Mulan,” and arguably Harry Potter, debut author West mixes fairy-tale charm with contemporary mysticism to create a world both terrifying and wonderful."

-- Kirkus starred review

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, 2017 young adult debuts

The Cat King of Havana by Tom Crosshill

Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Lolcats. Salsa dancing. Unrequited love. Tom Crosshill's smart and witty debut teen novel treads a colorful coming-of-age journey from New York City to Havana that will appeal to fans of books by Matthew Quick and Junot Díaz.

When Rick Gutiérrez—known as "That Cat Guy" at school—gets dumped on his sixteenth birthday for uploading cat videos from his bedroom instead of experiencing the real world, he realizes it's time for a change. So Rick joins a salsa class... because of a girl, of course. Ana Cabrera is smart, friendly, and smooth on the dance floor. He might be half Cuban, but Rick dances like a drunk hippo. Desperate to impress Ana, he invites her to spend the summer in Havana. The official reason: learning to dance. The hidden agenda: romance under the palm trees.

Except Cuba isn't all sun, salsa, and music. As Rick and Ana meet his family and investigate the reason why his mother left Cuba decades ago, they learn that politics isn't just something that happens to other people. And when they find romance, it's got sharp edges.

"The breezy pace and descriptions of Cuban culture soften the serious issues at hand—supply shortages, imprisonment, and secret police. Despite an improbable ending worthy of a viral video itself, Crosshill’s big-hearted novel shines."
-- Publishers Weekly

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.
 
Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland’s brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.

"An emotionally engaging and draining debut."
-- Kirkus reviews
"Eloquently conveying the complexity of love and grief, debut novelist Sutherland creates a story filled with intriguing and memorable characters."
-- Publishers Weekly

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 30, 2016 debuts

All her life, sixteen-year old Piper has been content to go along with her ultraconservative family’s mission to warn the heathens of the impending judgment of God through anti-gay protests. So when she’s cast as Romeo in her school’s production of Romeo & Juliet, Piper is as shocked as everyone else. The production proves to be vastly different than her other on-stage experiences— previously limited to playing “AIDS Girl” in her church’s annual “Hell House”— and Piper soon discovers not only does she love acting, she’s also pretty talented.

The school principal, influenced by people like Piper’s dad, demands that the part of Romeo be recast “appropriately” or the show cannot go on. Now, Piper faces a choice: become the figurehead to appeal the principal’s decision— in direction opposition to her family and everything she’s ever believed—, or accept the message the administration’s ultimatum sends to gay students, including someone she has come to call a close friend. Namely, that they should be ashamed of who they are or whom they happen to love.

For the old Piper, it would have been a no-brainer. But being Romeo has affected her in ways she never imagined, and so has her new friendship. Now Piper finds herself face to face with the real cost of all her family’s efforts, and it challenges everything she thought she knew about life. And God.


Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people do in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you. 

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge. 

A deeply moving portrait of a girl in a world that owes her nothing, and has taken so much, and the journey she undergoes to put herself back together. Kathleen Glasgow’s debut is heartbreakingly real and unflinchingly honest. It’s a story you won’t be able to look away from.

"Glasgow skillfully juggles multiple difficult topics (homelessness, self-harm, etc.) without dipping into melodrama. Charlie’s intimate first-person narration places readers deep within her experience while maintaining awareness of the outside world and the people in it."
-- Publisher's Weekly
"Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together."
-- Kirkus reviews