February 1, 2016 Booklist 51 www.booklistonline.com
“City of Angels,” about a would-be screenwriter who falls for her starlet roommate in 1945
L.A.; and Robin Talley’s “The Whole World
Is Watching,” a chillingly timely depiction of
the 1968 Democratic National Convention
protests in Chicago. Each individual story
is thoroughly researched, and each includes
an author’s note explaining the context.
The heroines are tough and memorable and
full of heart, and the concept is irresistible.
Stock up—this one will practically sell itself.
By Lisa Maxwell.
Feb. 2016. 352p. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, $17.99
(9781481432047). Gr. 9–12.
Once again, Gwen and her eccentric artist
mother have moved. For Gwen, it’s hard to
accept being repeatedly uprooted, especially
since it’s possible that her mother is actually
losing her mind. With senior year and college
looming ahead, Gwen wants this move to be
different, but when she starts seeing and hearing things no one else does, she wonders if
her mother might not be crazy after all. When
Gwen is kidnapped by dark creatures, she is
only slightly relieved to be rescued by a pirate
captain with a mechanical arm and a crew of
young boys, recognizable as the characters
from Peter Pan. The longer she stays in Nev-erland, however, the less she remembers, and
the more fictional characters she meets, the
less she believes in the original tale. Maxwell,
who first established herself with Sweet Unrest
(2014), successfully shifts gears to tackle this
adventurous fairy-tale retelling. This new take
on the classic isn’t the traditional once upon a
time, and that alone will hook many readers.
The Way I Used to Be.
By Amber Smith.
Mar. 2016. 384p. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K.
McElderry, $17.99 (9781481449359). Gr. 9–12.
Eden McCrorey’s life before the incident
was textbook awkward. A band geek and good
student, she harbored a secret crush on her
beloved older brother’s best friend. But her
life is overturned when, in her freshman year,
that best friend rapes her late one night in her
own bed—and threatens to kill her if she tells
anyone. She keeps the secret and soon finds
herself using sex and boys to gain control over
her own body. Slut-shamed at school, she
distances herself from her best friend and a
loving boyfriend while losing interest in music, academics, and her own future. Smith’s
debut novel is divided into four parts, one for
each of Eden’s years in high school, and follows a believable continuum of self-loathing
as she struggles to process and eventually
share the truth of what happened to her. It’s a
difficult, painful journey, but teens who have
experienced rape and abuse will be grateful
for this unvarnished and ultimately hopeful
portrait. Eden’s shell-shocked narrative is an
excellent conduit for what Smith has to say.
By P. W. Catanese.
Mar. 2016. 320p. Aladdin, $16.99 (9781481438001).
The wordplay of the title is intentional:
12-year-old Donny Taylor, trapped in a burning building, makes a bargain with a beautiful
woman, Angela Obscura, and winds up in
Sulfur, aka hell. This hell currently forces souls
to travel into the Caverns of Woe, a place
where they revisit the worst memories of their
lives. Angela, determined to fight the council
faction that wants to return to forcing souls
into the even worse Pit of Fire, has “recruited”
Donny to help her. Catanese’s world building
alludes to the common tenets of physical hell,
fire, and damnation, while constructing a
more psychological eternal torment involving
living with the memories of the pain one has
caused others. Sulfur is populated with a variety of strange creatures, some harmless, others
terrifying, and all tasked with the mission of
moving souls through their predetermined
fate—which Donny quickly realizes is his father’s fate as well. Which hell is preferable is
a question that warrants further contemplation; thankfully, Catanese has indicated more
Donny is on the way. —Frances Bradburn
The Luck Uglies: Rise of the Ragged
By Paul Durham. Illus. by Petur
Mar. 2016. 304p. Harper, $16.99 (9780062271563). Gr. 4–7.
A reckoning is imminent for Rye, Harmless, and the village of Drowning in the final
volume of this entertaining and original series. Having escaped death more times than
seems possible, Harmless prepares for a final
showdown with Slinister, the leader of the
Fork-Tongue Charmers, for the right to be
called High Chieftain of the Luck Uglies. But
with the Luck Uglies scattered, Bog Nobbins
have overrun Drowning, leaving the village a
terrorized, mostly abandoned place. Rye once
again finds herself in the middle of the action,
and as she and her friends battle to save the
village, her breathless recklessness will either
doom or preserve them. Durham has infused
such life into Rye’s world over the course of
this series that watching it teeter makes for
a heart-stopping reading experience. But as
Harmless says, “Sometimes, when you get to
the end, you realize that the journey was the
best part,” and Rye O’Chanter’s journey from
ragamuffin to heroine has been nothing less
than exhilarating. —Kara Dean
My Life with the Liars.
By Caela Carter.
Mar. 2016. 288p. Harper, $16.99 (9780062385710).
YA author Carter (Me, Him, Them, and It,
2013) has written a gripping middle-grade
debut about a girl born and raised on a cult
compound and what happens to her when
she is removed by her natural father, days
before her thirteenth birthday. Zylynn has
never known life on the Outside, which Fa-
ther Prophet tells her is a
place of greed and decep-
tion, and that prolonged
exposure will lead not just
to spiritual corruption but
physical agony as well. Zy-
lynn is determined to find
her way back home before
her thirteenth birthday so
that she may take part in her Ceremony, a
rite of passage that will judge her worthy by
Mother God. Zylynn is a fiercely strong and
unexpectedly self-aware character, especially
as she has been manipulated the entirety of
her young life. The Outside is disorienting,
and the incongruities between what she has
been taught and what she is witnessing for
herself confuse her. While readers will suspect
the truth behind Father Prophet and life in
the Compound, revelations come as Zylynn
herself discovers them, through her often
claustrophobic first-person point of view. It is
a compelling reading experience, and one that
will not be quickly forgotten. —Kara Dean
By Lauren Myracle.
May 2016. 335p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $16.99
(9780062342065). Gr. 4–7.
According to local tradition, Wishing Day for
Natasha comes three months and three nights
after her thirteenth birthday. Under a full
moon, she reluctantly, indecisively climbs the
hill to the willow tree, presses her palm against
the trunk, and silently makes three wishes.
One is predictable, given that her mother
disappeared seven years earlier. The second is
frivolous, and the third is heartfelt. While two
of the wishes come true within the narrative,
readers can only hope that the third will be resolved before the planned trilogy is complete.
Meanwhile, there’s plenty to enjoy in Natasha’s
immediate story of family, friends, and the first
stirrings of romance. Portraying characters in
ways that make them immediately easy to differentiate and ultimately memorable, Myracle
lets the reader decide whether magic is really
coming into play. The touch of fantasy seems
more believable because the story is so firmly
grounded in realistic details of setting, character, and plot. Reminiscent of Wendy Mass’
popular Willow Falls series, beginning with 11
Birthdays (2009), this novel will intrigue the
same audience. —Carolyn Phelan
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A five-city
tour, parenting outreach, promo giveaways,
and more reiterate that this is Myracle’s narrative sweet spot.
All We Know.
By Linda Ashman. Illus. by Jane Dyer.
Mar. 2016. 40p. Harper, $17.99 (9780061689581).
Elements of nature instinctively know what