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Ten Miles One Way

Patrick Downes. Philomel, $17.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-399-54499-6

Although Nest is in a coma after driving a car into a tree, she is very much present in this painful and often beautiful exploration of mental illness. Three years earlier, when Nest and her friend Isaac Kew (nicknamed “Q”) were 17, they took an epic walk across New York City; Nest, who is bipolar, frequently takes such walks during manic states, but this was the first time she let Q come with her. Downes (Fell of Dark) frames the novel as Q’s record of that walk, switching between Q’s grounding commentary (“Just over the bridge comes the part of the city where everything necessary gets done”) and Nest’s narrative, a wilderness of ideas, memories, and reflections on the “Chimaera” of her illness (“She’s the Equator and the South Pole. She’s a desert and the bottom of the ocean. Completely wild. A bit deadly”). Q is fascinated by Nest’s seemingly boundless imagination and more than a little in love with her, but Downes doesn’t cloak the depth of Nest’s suffering nor offer false promises about love’s ability to rescue or redeem. Ages 14–up. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Spindle Fire

Lexa Hillyer. HarperTeen, $17.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-244087-7

In Hillyer’s (Proof of Forever) inventive take on Sleeping Beauty, 16-year-old Princess Aurora of Deluce cannot speak or feel, and her older half-sister, Isbe, is blind—these senses were “tithed” by fairies when they were babies. Aurora is to be married to Prince Phillip of Aubin, forging an alliance between their kingdoms, but when Philip and his brother Edward are murdered, it’s suspected to be the work of the faerie queen Malfleur, who is planning war. Aurora will now be wed to a third prince, William, and Isbe is to be sent to a convent. When Isbe runs away, Aurora goes after her, happening upon a cottage where she pricks her finger on a spindle and is transported to a dreamland called Sommeil, while a sleeping sickness sweeps her own kingdom. Now Isbe must save Aurora. Aurora and Isbe are no delicate flowers, and Hillyer’s depiction of Isbe’s blindness is especially resonant. There is romance, but it’s the devotion between these sisters that makes this story sing and that will leave readers eager to continue their story. Ages 14–up. Agent: Stephen Barbara, Inkwell Management. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Last to Die

Kelly Garrett. Poisoned Pen, $10.95 trade paper (206p) ISBN 978-1-929345-30-4

Six high school students plan and carry out robberies of each other’s homes for kicks in Garrett’s debut novel. Narrator Harper Jacobs, 16, is bright, athletic, sarcastic, and bored. She and five wealthy friends—her boyfriend Gin, as well as Sarah, Alex, Benji, and Paisley—take turns robbing one another’s homes, though they establish ground rules from the start, designed to limit their actions to mostly harmless mischief (“we wouldn’t steal anything that insurance and an AMEX card couldn’t replace”). When Alex suggests burgling the home of a student outside their group, things quickly go wrong, and Harper realizes that it’s no longer a game. The decision to end the game becomes moot after Sarah dies from an overdose, but is it suicide, an accident, or murder? Garrett’s teens are realistically (if one-dimensionally) self-involved, though Harper and some of the others have flashes of insight that point toward their evolving maturity as things spiral out of control. A second death paves the way to an unexpected conclusion in this quick-moving thriller. Ages 14–up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Get It Together, Delilah

Erin Gough. Chronicle, $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4521-5187-8

Year 11 has not been kind to Australian teenager Delilah Green. Jilted by popular student Georgina, Delilah becomes the target of near-constant harassment. With her mother away with her new boyfriend, and her father off trying to find himself, Delilah is left to fend for herself. Avoiding school and dodging a persistent teacher, Delilah focuses on saving the failing family cafe with the help of her fickle-hearted friend Charlie and her not-so-secret crush, Rosa. Cynical and strong-willed, Delilah knows who she is and what she wants. It’s her frustration with less self-aware people around her that creates the majority of the conflict in Gough’s debut novel, originally published in Australia. Delilah’s interactions and conflicts with her family and friends feel deeply real, but the romance between Delilah and Rosa is disappointingly shallow. Delilah’s openness about her sexuality and Rosa’s fear of coming out is addressed candidly and thoughtfully, but the characters lack meaningful chemistry. It’s Delilah’s complex relationships that give the story its depth. Ages 14–up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The End of Our Story

Meg Haston. HarperTeen, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-233577-7

Haston (Paperweight) focuses on breakups, grief, and letting go in a story that alternates between the perspectives of Bridget “Bridge” Hawking and Wilson “Wil” Hines, childhood best friends who fell in and out of love but aren’t quite ready to move on. The novel opens after Bridge and Wil have spent a year apart from each other after she cheated on him, but the shocking murder of Wil’s father brings them back into contact. The effort to rekindle their friendship proves rocky, not only because of the breakup but because Wil had already been dealing with family problems even before his father was killed, namely domestic violence. Bridge has her own troubles, including a drinking problem and a depressed single mother, but Wil’s emotions are raw and unpredictable, and his situation takes center stage. Haston barely touches on the question of who killed Wil’s father until the very end. Instead, the source of the novel’s tension comes from Wil and Bridge’s attempts to figure out how to address their fractured relationship and whether their futures will involve each other. Ages 14–up. Agency: Alloy Entertainment. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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You’re Welcome, Universe

Whitney Gardner. Knopf, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-399-55141-3

Gardner’s debut novel opens with high school junior Julia Prasad getting expelled from the Kingston School from the Deaf after getting caught spray-painting an elaborate graffiti mural on the building. Julia, who is deaf herself, struggles to let people in and is suspicious of everyone around her, instead devoting her time and attention to her art, specifically the graffiti she paints on whatever public space she can get away with. Gardner’s glimpse into the world of a deaf teenager is fresh and compelling. Julia’s drawings pepper the story, the images representing her graffiti (which feature her tag, “HERE”) and the ASL signs she teaches a new friend, whom she nicknames YP (for Yoga Pants). Julia’s willingness to trust YP unfolds little by little, hitting bumps major and minor, in a satisfying story about trust, forgiveness, hard work, and friendship. Less central but equally rewarding is Julia’s relationship with her mothers, both of whom are deaf, and who do their best to support their daughter at every turn. Ages 12–up. Agent: Brent Taylor, Triada U.S. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Piper Perish

Kayla Cagan. Chronicle, $17.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-4521-5583-8

Debut author Cagan has created a lively and memorable protagonist in Piper Perish, a young artist full of angst, joy, hope, and creativity. Piper has long dreamed of getting out of Houston, her hometown, to attend a competitive arts conservatory in New York City with her best friend, Kit, and boyfriend, Enzo. Cagan upends Piper’s world throughout the novel, first when Enzo breaks up with Piper by revealing he’s gay, in spectacularly public fashion. Even as Piper reels from Enzo’s announcement, she wants to support him. Soon Piper is dealing with more crises—her difficult older sister is pregnant, and Kit and Piper’s friendship is tested when their New York plans fall apart. Throughout these challenges, Piper’s art sustains and centers her, as does inspiration in the form of quotations from famous artists (especially Andy Warhol) and encouragement from her art teacher. The first-person, diary-style narrative is candid and thoughtful; readers will be sad to let go of Piper but eager to see what Cagan does next. Ages 12–up. Agent: John Cusick, Folio Literary Management. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Viva, Rose!

Susan Krawitz. Holiday House, $16.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8234-3756-6

Set in 1915, Krawitz’s first novel combines the world of a storied revolutionary with that of Russian Jewish immigrants who settled in the west. Thirteen-year-old Rose Solomon is enraged to discover, via a newspaper photo, that her older brother, Abraham, has not left their Texas home to be a cowboy, but rather to be “a low-life bandit in a cowboy hat,” alongside outlaw Pancho Villa. Rose is herself tempted to run from her traditional, conservative family, but when she ventures off to mail her brother a piece of her mind, she is kidnapped by Villa’s men. Her eyes are opened wide living with revolutionaries at Villa’s bandido camp, where she learns to ride a horse, the truth about her brother, and the complexities of the Mexican Revolution. Readers will enjoy Rose’s fiery personality and equally brash narration in this engaging historical adventure. Yiddish and Spanish glossaries and an author’s note detailing how her story sticks to and diverges from actual events (Rose and Abe are based on Krawitz’s own relatives) are included. Ages 10–up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Lonely Mailman

Susanna Isern, trans. from the Spanish by Jon Brokenbrow, illus. by Daniel Montero Galán. Cuento de Luz (Legato, dist.), $16.95 (28p) ISBN 978-84-16147-98-4

A badger mailman rides his bicycle through the forest all day, delivering letters to the local animals. Through the letters, the animals—handsomely dressed in sweaters, button-down shirts, and eyeglasses—resolve misunderstandings, exchange invitations to dinner or tea, and form friendships. One letter reveals that Rabbit is eager to join Bear at the lake but doesn’t know how to swim. “Dear Rabbit, I’ve had a great idea for when I’m bathing in the lake,” begins Bear’s reply. “You can climb up on my back, just as if I were a big old boat.” Back in the badger’s den, readers learn that the mailman is actually writing the letters. In lush, richly rendered paintings, Galán (It’s a Pain to Be a Princess!) creates a enchanting forest community; crisp blue day gives way to a spectacular sunset and a night lit by candles that cast a furious orange glow. Though readers may have logistical questions about the mailman’s altruistic scheme and how he’s so aware of the animals’ needs and troubles, Isern (Bear Wants to Fly) makes plain that the first steps to building community can be as simple as reaching out. Ages 6–8. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Town Is by the Sea

Joanne Schwartz, illus. by Sydney Smith. Groundwood (PGW, dist.), $19.95 (52p) ISBN 978-1-55498-871-6

In an author’s note, Schwartz (Pinny in Summer) explains that until the 1950s, boys who grew up in Canadian coal towns knew that their futures lay at the bottom of their local mine. Her young narrator takes readers through a typical day, describing a quiet, unchanging life. Smith’s (The White Cat and the Monk) expressive, evocative spreads contrast the light-soaked landscape above with the night-black mine below, and the boy’s varied activities with his father’s fixed routine. In the morning, the boy stands in his underwear and gazes out the window toward the sea. A page turn reveals inky darkness: “And I know my father is already deep down under that sea, digging for coal.” The boy plays and does errands as his father toils far below. “One day,” the boy concludes, “it will be my turn.... In my town, that’s the way it goes.” In Schwartz’s lyrical, wistful account, there’s no sense of injustice or complaint—only a note of resignation. It’s a sensitive way of helping readers understand that, for some, the idea of choosing a career is a luxury. Ages 5–9. Illustrator’s agent: Emily van Beek, Folio Literary Management. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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