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The Season of You and Me

Robin Constantine. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-243883-6

After Cassidy breaks up with her boyfriend, Gavin, she needs time and space to herself, so she decides to spend the summer three hours away from home at the Jersey Shore bed-and-breakfast run by her father and his new family. Working as a day-camp counselor and entertaining her younger stepbrother are welcome distractions for Cassidy; so is Bryan, a cute counselor and former surfer who is struggling to redefine himself after an accident left him partially paralyzed. He and Cassidy start out as friends, but their relationship soon takes a romantic turn. When Gavin contacts Cassidy, wanting to get back together, she has to decide whether to forgive him for his cheating or to create a new beginning with Bryan. With its dreamy beach setting and sympathetic heroine, this summer love story, alternately narrated by Cassidy and Bryan, will satisfy romance buffs. Readers will likely predict how things will turn out fairly early on, but Constantine (The Promise of Amazing) delivers believable dialogue, relatable dilemmas, and a sensitive exploration of disability—both its challenges and the occasional #wheelchairperk, as Bryan puts it. Ages 14–up. Agent: Tamar Rydzinski, Laura Dail Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Night Speed

Chris Howard. HarperCollins/Tegen, $17.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-241534-9

Howard (the Rootless trilogy) addresses the dangers of addiction in this adrenaline-packed near-future adventure, in which a 17-year-old girl infiltrates a gang of bank robbers in order to take them down. "Breaknecks" use a drug called tetra—which grants them short bursts of super speed, agility, and strength, but proves fatal to those over 18—to rampage through the streets of New York City, while the experimental Tetra Response Unit deploys runners to stop them. Alana West is one of the best active runners, but as her cutoff birthday approaches, she dreads forced retirement. Suspended after a run goes bad, Alana is secretly picked to go undercover to track down a renegade supplier. As she unexpectedly befriends her targets amid the exhilarating rush of freedom and the siren call of tetra, she struggles to stick to her mission. Howard creates a fast-paced story punctuated by highly cinematic action scenes and quieter emotional moments; the exploration of addiction isn't subtle, but this is still an engaging page-turner. Ages 13–up. Agent: Laura Rennert, Andrea Brown Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Tell the Wind and Fire

Sarah Rees Brennan. Clarion, $17.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-544-31817-5

Brennan (Unspoken) delivers an intriguing but uneven romantic fantasy loosely based on Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. In the near future, New York City is divided between the ruling Light magicians of Light New York, who theoretically represent the forces of good, and Dark magicians, who huddle in the slums of Dark New York. Lucie Manette, born in the latter, now lives in Light New York protected by her boyfriend, Ethan, son of Charles Stryker, one of Light New York's ironfisted rulers. Yet Lucie, known as "the Golden Thread in the Dark," is also an iconic figure for the "sans-merci," violent revolutionaries who aim to end the Light's tyranny over the Dark. Further endangering Lucie and Ethan is Carwyn, Ethan's illegal doppelganger, the product of Charles Stryker's use of magic to save Ethan's life. Though Brennan's prose is powerful, it can also be somewhat strained as she works to create parallels with the language of Dickens's Tale, and her magical system, which involves Light magicians needing to be drained of blood by Dark magicians, is overly complex and at times confusing. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here

Anna Breslaw. Razorbill, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-59514-835-3

After Scarlett's favorite TV show, Lycanthrope High, is canceled, the 15-year-old, who is deeply involved in an online fan-fiction community for the series, navigates her frustrations and real-life woes by creating a new spin-off story. She casts her nemesis, Ashley, as a robot drone and her crush, Gideon, as her love interest. Inevitably, worlds collide when Scarlett's fan fiction gets leaked, and she has to face up to reality. Scarlett's voice is smart and witty, laced with snarky pop-culture references and crackling one-liners à la Gilmore Girls ("Even after nine years of torture, though, Ashley's prettiness still stuns me like a manta ray... as if God designed her to provide a believable photo for catfishing people"). Like her beloved Lycanthrope High, Scarlett's story features a "diverse cast of wisecracking misfits" (Scarlett herself has a Jewish and Mexican background), respects its teenage audience, and perhaps cuts off too soon. As in Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, excerpts from Scarlett's fan fiction appear throughout, further highlighting the sharp-edged humor and questionable decision-making that make her such an entertaining narrator. Ages 12–up. Agent: Tina Wexler, ICM. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Without Annette

Jane B. Mason. Scholastic Press, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-545-81995-4

In her first book for teens, Mason (the Dog and His Girl Mysteries series) takes on peer pressure, same-sex relationships, and being a fish out of water. Josie and Annette have been dating since they were 12, and although nearly everyone in their Minnesota town accepts their relationship, Josie decides that they should apply to Brookwood Academy in Connecticut for their sophomore year. The idea is to get Annette away from her alcoholic mother, but the school isn't the refuge Josie pictured. Annette insists on keeping their relationship a secret, and she focuses her energy on being accepted by her roommate, Becca, one of the school's social elites, or "Soleets." Frustrated by Annette's increasing distance, Josie makes friends with the guys, joining them in exploring the steam tunnels below campus. Josie is an engaging narrator whose loneliness and worry are well drawn. The plot—which includes a lost-and-found shrunken head—gets rather elaborate, and Annette's difficulties trying to fit in are tied to a heavy dose of prep school stereotypes, but it's rewarding to watch Josie start to make decisions for herself. Ages 12–up. Agent: Josh Adams, Adams Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Wandmaker

Ed Masessa. Scholastic Press, $12.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-545-86174-8

In this imaginative fantasy—which is drawn from the world of Masessa's bestselling 2006 novelty title, The Wandmaker's Guidebook—11-year-old Henry Leach the Eighth learns that he is a wandmaker, capable of creating and using magical wands that confer various amazing abilities. After Henry (who has his own copy of The Wandmaker's Guidebook, naturally) accidentally transforms his younger sister into a hedgehog, he turns to the legendary sorcerer Coralis for help. The two siblings are promptly dragged into an epic confrontation between good and evil: an ancient villain named Dai She plans to destroy the world, and Henry and his allies embark on a perilous cross-country trip to find a way to thwart the apocalyptic plan. Masessa delivers a fast-paced, entertaining tale filled with humor and magical action, playfully referencing (and toying with) tropes popularized by Harry Potter (Voldemort never suffered half of the indignities that are perpetrated on Dai She, and Dumbledore never flew coach across the Atlantic). This is a clever, twisty story with plenty of potential for future installments. Ages 8–12. Agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt. (May)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Firefly Code

Megan Frazer Blakemore. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-61963-636-1

Twelve-year-old Mori narrates this suspenseful tale set in the not-so-distant future in Old Harmonie, a closed community founded by the Krita corporation on the outskirts of Boston. "We never stopped experimenting and innovating," says Mori of her home, "but outside they were just struggling to get by." On their 13th birthdays, children in communities like Old Harmonie learn their genetic code, discover whether they are "natural" or genetically "designed," and reveal their chosen "latency," a hidden aptitude that will then be released through surgery. When a new girl, Ilana, moves onto Firefly Lane, her presence disrupts the comfortable dynamics among Mori and her best friends, Julia, Theo, and Benji, who find something "just a little off" about Ilana, despite her easygoing manner. After their group coalesces into "The Firefly Five," the children's gradual realization of Ilana's true nature leads to shocking and painful revelations about their community, their parents, and themselves. In this gripping novel, Blakemore (The Friendship Riddle) creates a disturbingly ordered world in which questions about friendship and family offer courageous and heartwarming testaments to the human spirit. Ages 8–12. Agent: Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger. (May)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Camp Rolling Hills

Stacy Davidowitz. Abrams/Amulet, $8.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-4197-1885-4

Stephanie (aka Slimey) and Bobby (aka Smelly) learn a lot about relationships in this quirky debut novel, first in the Camp Rolling Hills series. Twelve-year-old Slimey has been a camper at Rolling Hills every summer for as long as she can remember, and she loves almost everything about it. Smelly feels like he has been thrown to the wolves, sent to camp so his parents can work out their marital problems. Moreover, he has to keep "Bizarro Bobby" ("the name he'd given to his anxiety, after Superman's Bizarro") in check, hidden from his welcoming and eclectic bunkmates. Slimey senses a connection with Smelly when they talk, especially after she discusses her father's recent death. When an epic miscommunication complicates the tenuous relationships Smelly has formed, he must rise to the challenge in order to make things right. Spot-on combinations of sweet adolescent romance and teenage angst round out an engaging summer read with plenty of energy and originality to keep kids tuning in for more. Available simultaneously: Crossing Over. Ages 8–12. Agent: Erica Rand Silverman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (May)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Mama the Alien/Mama la extraterrestre

Ren%C3%A9 Colato La%C3%ADnez, illus. by Laura Lac%C3%A1mara. Lee & Low/Children's Book Press, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-89239-298-8

In this bilingual tale, Sofía's mother, a U.S. resident, isn't the extraterrestrial kind of alien; rather, she's from an unspecified Spanish-speaking country and has a residence card that reads "ALIEN" at the top. While Laínez's attempt to make comedy of Sofía's misunderstanding is sometimes overwrought ("I saw Mamá's shadow on the wall. She stretched out her arms.... I found the courage to switch on the light"), the portrayal of a family member on a journey toward U.S. citizenship is a crucial story, especially for readers whose citizenship has never been called into question. Younger readers may not know that non-citizens are referred to as aliens, or that the children of non-citizens wrestle with unexpected questions: "Mamá was an alien. Papá didn't have a card, so he was not an alien. That meant I was half alien," Sofía reasons. By devoting more narrative energy to the idea that Sofía's Mamá comes from outer space, Laínez (¡Vámanos! Let's Go!) keeps the story from turning sanctimonious or didactic. In warmly colored paintings, Lacámara (Dalia's Wondrous Hair/El cabello maravilloso de Dalia) matches stylized, folk art–style humans with droll alien figures that feature a variety of arms, legs, antennae, and tentacles. Ages 6–9. (May)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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