The Abyss Surrounds Us.
By Emily Skrutskie.
Feb. 2016. 288p. Flux, paper, $11.99 (9780738746913).
Decades before Cassandra Leung was
born, the world flooded and countries and
continents separated, leaving everything covered in water and forcing a new way of life
upon all who came after. Cas was raised as
a Reckoner trainer, destined to bond with a
Reckoner (a genetically modified sea monster)
named Durga, whom she will lead in battle
against pirates that are part and parcel of life
on the sea. But their first time out, Durga is
killed and Cas kidnapped by a pirate queen
for her skills with the monsters, even though
she should have sunk to the bottom of the
NeoPacific. Under the threat of certain death,
she must train a new Reckoner, named Bao,
to defend the pirates against anyone they consider an enemy. She might gain friends, or she
might die trying. This is a solid, well-crafted,
new adventure story with an interesting, unusual hook. Cas is a tough heroine worth
rooting for, and the sea monsters themselves,
not the most common of beasts, are sure to
pull interest. —Stacey Comfort
By Kaitlin Ward.
Feb. 2016. 256p. Adaptive, $17.99 (9780986448485);
e-book, $9.99 (9780996488716). Gr. 9–12.
As Lea and her friend exit a cemetery,
they make an ominous discovery: they have
stepped onto blood. Looking closely, they realize blood is seeping into the grass, covering
the roads, lapping the sidewalks. The earth itself is bleeding, and this is only the beginning.
As the blood levels rise, it becomes mixed with
hair and bones. Eventually schools and businesses close—travel is too treacherous—and
everyone is confined to home, rationing food
and water. Inevitably the worst of human
nature surfaces. Debut author Ward paints a
horrific, Bible-inspired Bloodpocalypse, but
the secondary story line is just as interesting:
Lea and her girlfriend, Aracely, exploring their
feelings for each other in spite of the terror
around them. Lea is a typical teenager—
obnoxious, rebellious, and determined to be
with her friends, regardless of the danger. It’s
a situation that begs for resolution, though
some readers may find this one frustrating.
Still, expect plenty of chatter around this, as
well as suspicious glances at squishy ground.
By Will McIntosh.
Feb. 2016. 320p. Random, $17.99 (9780553534108).
In Hugo Award winner McIntosh’s first YA
novel, people can improve their lives—grow
stronger, smarter, more attractive—by burn-
ing colored spheres found hidden all over the
Earth. Each of the 43 colors does something
different, and the rarer the color, the greater
the ability conferred. The spheres’ origins are
a mystery, but since their appearance, people
are obsessed with finding, selling, trading,
and collecting them—not to mention using
them. When high-schooler Sully, a small-
time sphere dealer, and Hunter, a homeless
sphere hunter, team up to search out-of-
the-way locations, they find their big score
submerged in a water tower: a new color. If
they can hold onto it long enough to sell it,
they will be millionaires, but business mogul
Alex Holliday will stop at nothing to steal it.
The story makes a turn into B-movie territory
that could have been better integrated, but
it’s entertaining nonetheless, and the ending
is hasty but satisfying. Sci-fi stand-alones for
teens are rare, and with a fascinating premise
and likable, underdog protagonists, this is a
winner. —Krista Hutley
Can You Keep a Secret?
By R. L. Stine.
Apr. 2016. 288p. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, $18.99
(9781250058942); e-book, $18.99 (9781466892958).
Stine’s fourth title in the highly successful
Fear Street reboot takes us straight to the pet
cemetery, where Emmy’s volatile boyfriend,
Eddie, is a gravedigger. One night, Eddie,
Emmy, and four of their friends gather in the
Fear Street woods for an overnight camping
trip, and Eddie and Emmy uncover a bag
stuffed with hundred-dollar bills hidden
in a tree trunk. Eddie convinces the group
to let him bury the money in the pet cemetery, with the plan that after a suitable time
passes, they’ll divide it among themselves.
Meanwhile, Emmy is haunted by dreams of a
bloodthirsty blue-eyed black wolf—and then
such a wolf appears in the woods, attacking
both dogs and humans. It may be formulaic,
but it sure is fun, with every chapter ending
with a hook. There are jump scares galore, secret identities, and Stine’s patented delicious
final line. Stine goes straight for the nose in
this one: the sour, putrid odors of decay in
the cemetery and elsewhere lend a marvelous creepy flavor in which horror fans will
delight. —Debbie Carton
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This is currently Stine’s flagship series, which means it
will end up on the plates of all the hungriest
The Girl Who Fell.
By S. M. Parker.
Mar. 2016. 368p. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, $17.99
(9781481437257). Gr. 10–12.
Zephyr goes into her senior year know-
ing what she wants: a spot at her dream
school, Boston College, and maybe even a
place on their field hockey team. Most of
all, she wants to get out of her small town,
and that means no distractions. But when
Zephyr meets Alec, she is willing to give a
high-school romance a try. Soon, though,
Alec reveals himself to be a jealous boy-
friend, and with that jealousy comes danger.
Parker takes well-tread themes, like small-
town suffocation and love, and twists them
into something fresh, if ugly. The mounting
suspense and pervasive sense of fear during
the scenes when Alec becomes violent smack
of the best kind of thriller, and the novel’s
well-drawn characters add dimension to its
taut atmosphere. The result isn’t a caution-
ary tale so much as a heart-pounding portrait
of what it takes to escape from an abusive
relationship. Teens who like edgier realis-
tic fiction will be drawn to Zephyr’s story.
Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend.
By Alan Cumyn.
Mar. 2016. 416p. Atheneum, $17.99 (9781481439800).
“Eighteen? He didn’t look a day less than
sixty-five million.” A pterodactyl crash-landing on the track outside Valley View High
marks the beginning of a turbulent and
charged senior year for the student body chair,
Sheils. Prior to Pyke’s arrival as the school’s
newest and, OK, oddest transfer student,
Sheils is happily dating Sheldon, an academically inclined equal, and ready to apply
to college, bound to follow in the footsteps
of her physician parents. But Pyke awakens something in her, both physiologically
and philosophically, and forces her to question the construct of her life. In spite of its
out-there premise—ahem, dino romance—
Cumyn’s tale rests rather firmly in the familiar
coming-of-age territory with the questions it
raises. Part romance, part paranormal romp,
part classic contemporary, this hybrid novel’s
strengths lie in its strong relatable characters
and unique concept. Already an author with
a wide range—from middle grade to YA to
literary adult fare—Cumyn shows off his
wingspan with this engaging, offbeat novel.
The Incident on the Bridge.
By Laura McNeal.
Apr. 2016. 336p. Knopf, $17.99 (9780375870798); lib.
ed., $20.99 (9780375970795). Gr. 10–12.
Acclaimed author McNeal’s latest is a literary thriller reminiscent of Celeste Ng’s
Everything I Never Told You (2014). When
Clay rejects and then humiliates high-school
junior Thisbe at a party, she decides to take
her revenge by stealing his car. But when
his car is recovered on a nearby bridge with
Thisbe nowhere to be found, a local mystery
enwraps the citizens of Coronado, California.
Was Thisbe depressed? Did she jump? And if
she didn’t, where is she? In a taut, controlled
third-person narrative, McNeal carefully un-spools the mystery surrounding Thisbe’s fate,
as it is experienced by those close to her and