Behind Closed Doors.
By Miriam Halahmy.
Apr. 2017. 208p. Holiday, $16.95 (9780823436415);
e-book, $16.95 (9780823437924). Gr. 9–12.
Josie and Tasha, two almost-16-year-old
classmates running in totally different cliques
(or in Josie’s case, no clique at all), have more
in common than they think. Josie’s house has
always been a nightmare maze of the junk her
mother stacks floor to ceiling. Tasha’s home
has just started feeling unsafe, as creepy looks
from her mother’s younger boyfriend have
multiplied. When Tasha ends up on Josie’s
doorstep, looking for a place to stay, new people and perspectives force them to consider
alternative futures for themselves. Halahmy’s
(Hidden, 2016) novel is a compelling read for
the high stakes and heavy topics it addresses
alone. The protagonists’ struggle to reconcile
their love for people who keep disappointing
them, as well as the idea that the one place
they thought they should be safe isn’t a haven,
rings true. Sometimes the dialogue feels awkward and forced, making the interactions read
like an after-school special. Still, this quick
read is one that will stay with readers long
after they finish the last page. —Molly Horan
By Blake Nelson.
June 2017. 368p. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, $18.99
(9781481488136). Gr. 9–12.
Nelson’s latest captures the slow transformation of high-schooler Gavin Meeks from
popular tennis player to budding photographer. Gavin never noticed new-to-town fellow
sophomore Antoinette, until her older brother
commits suicide. Out of curiosity, he bikes
over to her house and watches, transfixed.
He and Antoinette circle each other as Gavin
takes small steps outside his crew of beautiful
people, ultimately developing a friendship and
then crush on the mysterious girl, who follows
the beat of her own drummer. But it’s photography that becomes Gavin’s true focus, as he
apprentices with a local photographer, slowly
building a portfolio and ultimately applying
to art school, much to his lawyer dad’s dismay.
This covers a lot of ground time-wise—three
years—which has the unfortunate effect
of leading to too much telling rather than
showing. Still, much like Richard Linklater’s
acclaimed film Boyhood, this is a study of the
slow changes that accrue over time, and the
way the arcs of our lives often defy our expectations and intentions. —Jennifer Barnes
Dark Breaks the Dawn.
By Sara B. Larson.
May 2017. 320p. Scholastic, $17.99 (9781338068696);
e-book, $17.99 (9781338068764). Gr. 7–10.
Evelayn has always known she will be queen,
but she hopes it’s a long way off; after all, she has
only just come into her full power. As princess
of the Light Kingdom, the magical abilities she
inherits at age 18 are even stronger than those
of her subjects. Evelayn’s mother, the queen,
fights on the front lines of a recently ignited
war with the Dark Kingdom, led by a mad king
who hungers for violence, and Evelayn worries
every day that she will lose her only remaining
parent to the war. As the dark king schemes,
Evelayn struggles to master her powers—
especially the ability to shape-shift into a swan,
which eludes her—and finds herself reluctantly
drawn to the mysterious Lord Tanvir. Despite
a slow start and some incomplete world building, this reimagination of Swan Lake features a
plucky heroine, a sinister, surprise villain in the
wings, and plenty of battle action. As for that
plot? It certainly picks up—a clever cliff-hanger
ending will have readers demanding the sequel.
Deacon Locke Went to Prom.
By Brian Katcher.
May 2017. 400p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $17.99
(9780062422521). Gr. 9–12.
Almost seven feet tall and terminally awkward, Deacon has never been to a school
dance. But the senior prom is coming up, and
he reluctantly decides to go. Unfortunately,
the girl he wants to ask is already taken. Bummer. But then he has a brainstorm: he’ll invite
his best friend—wait for it—his grandmother
Jean! Happily, she says yes, and Deacon agrees
to take dance lessons, where he meets the
beautiful Soraya, whom he begins to date.
But first Deacon and Jean go to the prom, and
videos are taken of them dancing and posted
on the Internet. The clips go viral, and suddenly Deacon and Jean are famous. Deacon is
even invited to become a contestant on TV’s
Celebrity Dance-Off. Happy days? Maybe. Yes,
Deacon and Soraya are dating, but Jean seems
to be losing her memory. And fame has a dark
side. How will Deacon handle all of this?
Readers will care about the answer because
Deacon is an appealing, empathetic character,
and Katcher’s story is always compelling. Shall
we dance? —Michael Cart
Definitions of Indefinable Things.
By Whitney Taylor.
Apr. 2017. 336p. HMH, $17.99 (9780544805040).
At 17, acerbic Reggie has a razor-sharp
understanding of the depths of depression.
“You feel equally alive and dead and have no
idea how that’s even possible. And everything
around you doesn’t feel so full anymore. And
you can’t tell if the world is empty or if you
are.” It’s a sentiment she doubts anyone else
can understand—not her too-nice thera-
pist or her God-fearing mom. But tattooed,
Prozac-popping Snake does. He, too, knows
clinical despair. And Reggie finds it annoying
(OK, and somewhat charming) that he un-
derstands. As the two begin to explore what
misanthropic romance may mean, they’re
confounded by a circumstance even more
troubling than their respective emotional un-
ease: Snake’s ex-girlfriend Carla is due with
his baby within weeks. As Reggie confronts
the boundaries she’s erected to protect her-
self, Carla sees an opportunity for an unlikely
camaraderie, all to Snake’s dismay. Taylor
crafts an improbable but irresistible love tri-
angle. This first novel is full of raw emotion,
biting wit, and—unexpectedly—pure heart.
—Lexi Walters Wright
By Amy Plum.
May 2017. 288p. Harper Teen, $17.99 (9780062429872).
While undergoing an experimental electroconvulsive procedure designed to cure
crippling insomnia, seven teenagers enter
a shared dream world when an earthquake
causes a brief power outage. To the doctors
pioneering the treatment, the sleepers appear
to be comatose, but they are actually trapped in
a series of nightmares, each one springing from
their deepest fears and secrets. Only a premed
student named Jaime, there to observe, thinks
something else is happening and researches the
patients’ lives, a contrived way to provide necessary backstory. Inside the dream world, Cata,
an abuse survivor with PTSD, and Fergus, a
narcoleptic, alternate first-person narratives,
while outside, Jaime is the focal character. The
situation takes another dark turn when the
teens learn that they can die for real, and when
Jaime learns that one of them is a killer. Light
on character, story, and credibility, this first in
a duology will nonetheless appeal to fans of
nightmarish fiction looking for an easy, but
scary, read with a relatable premise. After all,
who hasn’t had a nightmare? —Krista Hutley
Eliza and Her Monsters.
By Francesca Zappia. Illus. by the
May 2017. 352p. Greenwillow, $17.99 (9780062290137).
Eliza’s eponymous monsters are twofold:
they are the stars of her viral webcomic, but
they are also the anxiety and depression that
keep her identity as the
webcomic’s creator shielded
behind a wall of anonymity.
As LadyConstellation, she
has written and illustrated
Monstrous Sea, inspiring
a devoted online fandom
worldwide. At school, however, she’s just cripplingly shy
Eliza Mirk: an average student who prefers a
digital social life to a real one. She meets her
match when Monstrous Sea fan-fiction writer
Wallace transfers to her school and is too shy
to even speak out loud. Through simple, tender notes passed back and forth, the two form
a fast bond. But Eliza keeps her identity as
LadyConstellation a secret even from Wallace,
a decision that could cost her his trust forever.
In her sophomore novel, Zappia (Made You Up,
2015) gracefully examines Eliza’s complicated
struggle with anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts, as she recognizes, “The thought
is still there, but the seriousness of it comes and
goes.” In addition to a vibrant fictional fandom
akin to the Simon Snow following in Rainbow
Rowell’s Fangirl (2013), this is peppered with