cover image ZACH'S LIE


Roland Smith, . . Hyperion, $15.99 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0617-1

Zach Granger has to tell many lies; for one, his name is really Jack Osborne, and for another his parents aren't divorced—rather, his father, a pilot, is in prison for transporting drugs for a ruthless cartel. When his father agrees to cooperate with the DEA, his family goes into a witness protection program, with new names and a new home in Elko, Nev. Will they be safe from the cartel? Smith (Thunder Cave; Jaguar) paints a realistic picture of Zach's complicated emotions: he misses his father and his old life, he's nervous about making a mistake and he is uncomfortable lying, especially to his new girlfriend, Catalin. He also takes to his new surroundings, especially Catalin's grandfather's sheep camp in the mountains, and the friendly hotel that's home to Sam, the warm and wise custodian of Zach's school. Smith keeps the tensions high: readers will suspect right away that the detailed journals Zach keeps are going to lead to trouble, and will understand the hero's anxiety when lines from it begin to appear on his classroom's chalkboard. Drug lord Alonzo Aznar is a stereotypical bad guy (he has a ponytail, dresses all in black and "likes getting his hands dirty from time to time") and Sam's confession that he is a former KGB spy feels too convenient. But these are small caveats; readers are sure to be caught up in Zach's suspenseful adventure. Ages 10-14. (June)