H T YOUTH Older Readers Dan versus Nature.
By Don Calame.
Apr. 2016. 384p. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763670719).
Sixteen-year-old comics artist Dan Weekes
and his nerdy best friend, Charlie, are headed
for a week-long wilderness survival adventure
with Hank, his mother’s fiancé; she wants the
trip to be a “bonding” experience between
son and future stepdad. Her track record with
men is not promising, however, and Dan is
worried about Hank’s commitment. Charlie,
on the other hand, senses opportunity: this
wilderness jaunt is the perfect time to sabotage
the relationship and upcoming marriage via
lots of diarrhea, vomiting, body odor, embarrassing questions, and, well, the unexpected
survival realities of a lost wilderness guide,
a people-tracking black bear, and a crashed
rescue plane—think Gary Paulsen meets Captain Underpants. Technology in the form of a
perversely adapted Baby-Real-A-Lot (a lifelike
doll that mimics a real baby), scatological and
reproductive humor, and teenage boy sexual
fantasies team up with tense backwoods situations to create a perfect middle-school read.
Be prepared for lots of in-the-stacks snickering. —Frances Bradburn
The End of FUN.
By Sean McGinty.
Apr. 2016. 416p. Disney/Hyperion, $17.99
(9781484722114). Gr. 9–12.
Aaron O’Faolain wants no more FUN in
his life, but there’s a catch. In order to get rid
of FUN—the augmented reality chip he had
implanted into his skull to directly stream
social media—Aaron has
to complete the ominous-sounding Application for
Termination. That’s no simple matter, and it’s further
complicated by the suicide
of his grandfather, a mysterious search for hidden
treasure, and a beautifully
strange girl. As Aaron learns, there are resisters out there rebelling at the concept of the
Big Brother–like chip, and McGinty ably
describes a system that appears to be free
of charge but which costs dearly in terms of
understanding what’s important IRL. The
not-too-distant-future setting and slightly
dystopian bent provide plenty of fodder
for social commentary on the overreach of
technology, the complex business of doing
business, and even bird flu. Reminiscent of
M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002)—with a touch
of John Green’s Paper Towns (2008)—this is
wildly funny, bittersweet, and wholly original. Moreover, it’s perfectly pitched to a teen
audience that has grown up being targeted
by media in increasingly specific and sophisticated ways, is intimately familiar with
virtual friends (and enemies), and knows
firsthand what it’s like to be addicted to a
device. — Teri Lesesne
The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever.
By Jeff Strand.
Mar. 2016. 256p. Sourcebooks, paper, $9.99
(9781492628149). Gr. 6–9.
Three teenage filmmakers find the road to
fame and fortune thoroughly unpaved in this
epic tale of ambition and mischance. With
three YouTube shorts beneath his belt, director Justin feels ready to make a film that
doesn’t suck. It’s going to have an actual
script—not to mention a budget! He only has
a month to shoot, which is difficult with both
a part-time job and final exams to deal with,
but those are just the initial challenges; he
must collar a loan from his shark-like grandma, entice a wayward cast with glittering
promises and false pretenses, and enlist help
from several feckless friends. Though Strand
piles on complications, ranging from no-show zombie extras to a catastrophic fire and
broken bones, in the end a film is made—one
which leads, in a particularly circuitous way,
to a career breakthrough. Readers will come
away not only with stomachs aching from
laughter but with the stars in their own eyes
a little brighter for following Justin’s rocky
progress. —John Peters
By Jesse Andrews.
Apr. 2016. 336p. Abrams/Amulet, $18.95
(9781419720789). Gr. 10–12.
Andrews follows up his heartstrings-tugging
best-seller turned movie, Me and Earl and the
Dying Girl (2012), with an uproariously funny addition to the teen road-trip canon. Wes
and his best friend Corey are
attending jazz camp, and—
let’s be blunt—they aren’t
exactly standout musicians.
But when they meet the
mysterious Ash, who is driv-
en by the beat of her own
internal drummer, and have
an epic jam session, they do
what any teenager at a band camp wishes they
could do: take off on a road trip for an unoffi-
cial tour. The three of them venture to various
seedy venues in the South, cycling through
all the highs and lows of a more established
band: hookups, heartbreaks, unanticipated
nudity, and drug-induced crazy times. Are
some of the circumstances of the story pre-
posterous? Quite possibly. But readers will be
sucked into this story, a raunchy bromance
in the vein of Superbad, which celebrates
friendship and adventure. Andrews’ knack for
quippy, smart, and never-too-clever dialogue
is a perfect match for this voice-driven book.
Intertextual asides, whether lists of poten-
tial band names, fake Wikipedia entries, or
screenplay-like flashbacks, only enhance this
very of-the-moment novel. Effortlessly read-
able, deeply enjoyable, and, given the years
since Andrews’ fantastic debut, well worth the
wait. —Jennifer Barnes
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Andrews’
debut made a big splash, and with a full
schedule of promotions on the dockets, it’s
likely this one will be just as much of a hit.
How to Capture an Invisible Cat.
By Paul Tobin. Illus. by Thierry
Mar. 2016. 272p. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (9781619638402).
Delphine Cooper is the only member of her
sixth-grade class who seems to notice Nate
Bannister, a genius with too much intellect
and not enough social skills. On each Friday
the thirteenth, he schedules himself to do three
foolish things, and this time around, he has
enlarged his mother’s cat beyond all reasonable
size. And turned said cat invisible. And, as he
and Delphine try to control the giant invisible cat, he also lets loose the news that there
is an international crime syndicate, the Red
Death Tea Society, that is trying to destroy
him—and now Delphine, too. Delphine’s mo-tor-mouthed narration carries readers along as
she tries to keep up with Nate and the rapidly evolving absurd disasters he perpetrates in
the name of science. What she doesn’t know
about science, she makes up for by being his
friend and helping him experience life beyond
the predictability of equations and probability.
This odd couple proves that teamwork works,
and news of a sequel will likely be met with
applause. —Kara Dean
Jonny Jakes Investigates the
Hamburgers of Doom.
By Malcolm Judge. Illus. by Alan Brown.
Mar. 2016. 240p. Capstone, paper, $8.95
(9781496526809). Gr. 4–7.
Jonny Jakes is the rogue reporter behind the
banned school newspaper the Woodford Word.
Unable to unmask Jonny’s true identity, the
principal resigns, and in his place, the school
hires Mr. Jones, an alien from Huurl who is
too good to be true. He hands out candy to everyone, but Jonny and a couple friends know
something’s fishy and refuse to eat it. After a