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The Lovely Reckless

Kami Garcia. Imprint, $18.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-07919-0

Frankie Devereux is plagued by PTSD after witnessing the fatal beating of her lacrosse captain boyfriend, but the details of Noah’s death are foggy. After a DUI jeopardizes her Ivy League future, Frankie moves from her upper-class Maryland neighborhood of the Heights to the grittier Downs with her father, an undercover cop. She immediately falls for the first bad boy she sees, an inked-up brawler, and the story leaps headfirst into their melodramatic love story as Frankie swiftly trades her obsession with finding Noah’s killer for her infatuation with the smoldering Marco. Garcia (Unbreakable) gives her characters enough backstory to make them three-dimensional, and themes of class struggle are threaded throughout the novel, but the narrative is so clouded by Frankie’s yearning that other characters, relationships, and plotlines seem to fall away as the story careens toward a too-neat finale. Overblown dialogue, including trite warnings from Marco that he is no good and cheesy promises that their love is “the always kind,” further weakens an exciting but overly formulaic romance. Ages 15–up. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Replica

Lauren Oliver. Harper, $19.99 (544p) ISBN 978-0-06-239416-3

Oliver (Vanishing Girls) sacrifices substance for style in a novel told from two perspectives: flipping the book allows readers to read the full story from the point of view of the two main characters, Lyra and Gemma. Lyra, a replica (clone) at the Haven Institute research facility, and Gemma, a loner who has spent her life in and out of hospitals due to various medical troubles, have surprisingly similar stories—both live in relative captivity. When Haven is destroyed, Lyra escapes and crosses paths with Gemma. Gemma, the daughter of one of the men who initially funded Haven, decides to help Lyra and another replica, 72; in the process, she slowly begins to discover the mysterious mandate of the Haven Institute. This ambitious project requires patience during some of the more repetitive parts of these interlocking stories, even as Oliver explores thought-provoking ethical and existential terrain. The pieces of Oliver’s story all fit together, but the novelty of the storytelling approach doesn’t quite compensate for a less-than-compelling plot. Ages 14–up. Agent: Stephen Barbara, Inkwell Management. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Glitter

Aprilynne Pike. Random House, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-101-93370-1

The series opener from Pike (the Wings series) dazzles and enchants, blending Baroque-era sensibilities with futuristic realities. Danica Grayson, 17, lives in the 22nd-century country of Sonoman-Versailles, which consists of the French palace at Versailles. Now owned by a multinational conglomerate, the palace and its grounds act as the company’s headquarters and the last bastion of courtly life. It’s a place of contradictions, where robots handle mundane tasks, overseen by a frighteningly efficient AI, and the residents adopt the dress and social structure of a bygone age. Blackmailed into an engagement with the 19-year-old king, Danica is desperate to escape. The only way she can flee the king’s wrath and her mother’s tyranny is to become someone else, which requires money, so she turns to selling a powerful drug that’s infecting the streets of Paris. Mixed into cosmetics, it becomes wildly popular, but Danica’s downfall is as swift as it is gripping. Beautifully detailed scenes serve as the foundation for Danica’s ethical quandaries and illuminate the fantastical world in which she lives. Ages 14–up. Agent: Mandy Hubbard, Emerald City Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Stand-In

Steve Bloom. Carolrhoda Lab, $18.99 (360p) ISBN 978-1-5124-1023-5

A pity date with a friend’s rich cousin leads high school senior Brooks Rattigan into a lucrative line of work, escorting young women to formal events. His clients are generally high-society nerds and social outcasts, a stark reminder of Brooks’s blue-collar New Jersey upbringing and the future at Columbia University he’s desperate to secure. In his debut novel, screenwriter Bloom gives Brooks a strikingly irreverent narrative voice, weaving a tale built around standard rom-com moments. As a classic antihero, Brooks proves himself to be shallow and deceptive time and again. His infatuation with gorgeous Shelby Pace is the stuff of teenage fantasies, but he’s at his best with faux-date Celia Lieberman, who storms into his life like a cyclone. “Pretend you like me!” she pleads, worried her classmates will find out the truth about her date with Brooks. “I can’t!” he protests. “It’s beyond my range!” Heightened antics abound, but the jokes begin to languish as Bloom ticks off familiar boxes, including a makeover for Celia and a final scene of prom-night dance-floor harmony. Ages 13–up. Agent: Beth Davey, Davey Literary & Media. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Messenger

Carol Lynch Williams. S&S/Wiseman, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4814-5776-7

Williams’s engaging, supernatural-tinged novel opens in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., on Evie Messenger’s 15th birthday—the day that Messenger women are traditionally bestowed with a special skill that determines their life path. When no new ability presents itself, Evie assumes that the “Messenger Gift” has skipped a generation. After a few days, though, she realizes that Tommie—the intrusive girl who has dogged her ever since her birthday party—is a ghost, and that Evie isn’t just able to communicate with spirits but is expected to help them cross over. Being a teenager is difficult enough without having to tackle the dead’s unresolved issues, too. Can Evie strike a balance, or will her gift render normal life impossible? Relatable characters and a down-to-earth narrative carry Williams’s story to a pat yet emotionally gratifying conclusion. The plot is slight, but clever twists and efficient worldbuilding keep the pace swift, and Williams (Never Said) makes smart use of her premise to encapsulate what it’s like to straddle the line between childhood and adolescence. Ages 12–up. Agent: Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Fear the Drowning Deep

Sarah Glenn Marsh. Sky Pony, $16.99 (310p) ISBN 978-1-5107-0348-3

In this atmospheric historical fantasy, set in 1913 on the Isle of Man, a young woman has to confront her fear of the ocean in order to deal with the mythological monsters terrorizing her community. Bridey Corkill has avoided the sea ever since something lured her grandfather into its depths, and no one would believe her tales of the supernatural. All she wants is to travel far from the island, but when people from her village start to disappear—just as an amnesic and gravely wounded young man washes up on shore—Bridey realizes that she may be the only person willing to fight whatever is preying on her friends and family. With the handsome, mysterious Fynn and cantankerous local witch, Morag, as her only allies, she sets forth to discover the truth about what dwells in the ocean. 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. Ages 12–up. Agent: Christa Heschke, McIntosh & Otis. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Cloudwish

Fiona Wood. Poppy, $18.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-24212-7

Van Uoc Phan’s hardworking parents, refugees from Vietnam, have a dream for her in Australia: they want her to become a doctor and expect her to focus on her studies at her prestigious Melbourne school. She wants to be an artist, however, and spends a great deal of time fantasizing about her crush, athletic ladies’ man Billy Gardiner. When her wish to be noticed by him mysteriously comes true, she suspects that magic is afoot, especially after Billy seems to want more than friendship. The question of whether Billy is actually spellbound or truly falling in love creates suspense throughout the novel, as Van Uoc begins to enjoy being swept off her feet. Besides tracing the excitement and anxiety associated with first love (real or imagined), Wood (Six Impossible Things) offers insight into conflicts emerging from the clash of old and new values, the traumas refugees face, and the struggles of the children of first-generation immigrants. It’s an inspiring story with a sympathetic heroine, who will especially appeal to those who feel pressured to follow paths they don’t want to travel. Ages 12–up. Agent: Cheryl Pientka, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Dreidels on the Brain

Joel ben Izzy. Dial, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8037-4097-6

It’s 1971, and 12-year-old Joel, seeking a Hanukkah miracle, begins a conversation with God that spans the eight-day holiday. A number of things weigh heavily on Joel: being the only Jewish family at his California private school, his father’s poor health, the family’s money struggles, and Joel’s crush on Amy, an old friend who helps out with the magic shows he performs. Things get more complicated when Joel’s father falls into a coma, and Joel and his family are asked to teach his school about Hanukkah, something Joel dreads. Joel tries to find meaning amid the chaos, and a seemingly random interaction on a bus proves to be the miracle he was seeking. In a story loosely inspired by his upbringing, ben Izzy (The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness) shares warm, humorous musings on and explanations of Jewish culture (“Nobody can agree on the rules, which is how you know it’s a Jewish game,” he says of spinning the dreidel), though these can sometimes overshadow the scant plot. A meandering but moving coming-of-age journey. Ages 10–up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Cloud and Wallfish

Anne Nesbet. Candlewick, $16.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-7636-8803-5

Nesbet’s (The Wrinkled Crown) author’s note (“Some books live on the history shelves, and other books are fiction—but Cloud & Wallfish has deep roots in both”) captures the essence of this intricately detailed story of an American boy forced to move to East Berlin in 1989. Eleven-year-old Noah Keller is shocked when his family abruptly relocates to communist-controlled Germany and even more surprised when his parents change his name and birthday. Before entering the city, his parents lay out important rules, including “Don’t ever talk about serious things indoors” and “Don’t call attention to yourself.” Noah’s self-described “Astonishing Stutter” isolates him until he meets his adventurous neighbor, Claudia. With her help, Noah unravels why his parents are acting strangely and what happened to Claudia’s dead parents. Through Noah’s innocent but perceptive eyes, readers receive a first-hand look at this secretive and highly controlled world. Post-chapter “Secret Files” provide fascinating historical context, but the story’s heart lies in the friendship between Claudia and Noah, and in the lengths loved ones will go to in order to break down even the most formidable walls. Ages 10–14. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle

Gabrielle Kent. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-545-86929-4

Alfie Bloom is a lonely city kid, dreading the summer before middle school, when he is unexpectedly declared the heir of Hexbridge Castle. Now he has a butler, a bearskin rug named Artan that can talk and fly, and two dear cousins nearby. But the castle’s enchanted walls harbor secrets, and Alfie soon discovers that his inheritance includes guarding an ancient and powerful magic, traveling through time, and battling evil dragons and dreaded headmistresses. A well-developed voice and exuberant sense of adventure carries through Kent’s debut, first in a series. Fantasy and magic play prominent roles in the plot but never mask themes of empathy, loyalty, and doing the right thing. Alfie and his friends quickly learn how easily power can be corrupted or used for evil, making the reluctant and even-keeled boy the perfect custodian for the castle and its gifts. Scenes of death, violence, and peril are just frightening enough to keep readers racing ahead, and Kent’s story holds an enduring truth for young and old: “The more you discover, the less you realize you know.” Ages 8–12. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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