After the Fall.
By Kate Hart.
Jan. 2017. 336p. Farrar, $17.99 (9780374302696). Gr. 9–12.
Matt is always there for Raychel. He’s the
kind of best friend who carries her on his back
for three miles after she twists her ankle. But
Matt only sees the parts of Raychel that he
wants to see, unlike Matt’s brother, Andrew.
Fun-loving Andrew is the perfect counterpart
to responsible Matt, and when sparks of attraction fly between Raychel and Andrew, Raychel
instinctively tries to hide them from Matt. This
choice, along with Matt’s inability to see the
truth, leads to a terrible tragedy, and Raychel
and Matt have to learn how to pick up the pieces of their lives and move on. Hart’s poignant
debut novel unfolds slowly, alternating between
Raychel and Matt’s points of view, which allows
readers to experience their respective emotional journeys. Thought-provoking moments
regarding such issues as female sexuality, racial
microaggressions, and class differences add
depth to the characters. Recommend to fans of
character-driven novels such as Sara Zarr’s How
to Save a Life (2011) or Jennifer Niven’s All the
Bright Places (2015). —Diane Colson
At the Edge of the Universe.
By Shaun David Hutchinson.
Feb. 2017. 496p. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, $17.99
(9781481449663). Gr. 9–12.
The universe isn’t expanding anymore—it’s
actually shrinking, and Florida high-school senior Ozzie is the only one who remembers it
differently. He’s also the only one who remembers Tommy, his best friend since childhood
and boyfriend since the eighth grade. Tommy
has vanished, both from Ozzie’s life and from
the memories of everyone around him. As
graduation approaches and Ozzie’s world becomes literally smaller, he struggles to find
Tommy with increasing desperation, even as
he grows closer to Calvin, the quiet, elusive
boy in his physics class. Occasionally nihilistic
but never completely hopeless, the narrative
supports multiple topics with grace: gender
and sexual identities, mental illness, and the
inevitable grief that comes with learning to
move from one phase of life to another. A few
familiar faces from Hutchinson’s We Are the
Ants (2016) make cameo appearances, and fans
will recognize similar motifs—Hutchinson
writes variations on a theme, to be sure, but it’s
a rich theme. Wrenching and thought-provoking, Hutchinson has penned another winner.
Because of the Sun.
By Jenny Torres Sanchez.
Jan. 2017. 272p. Delacorte, $17.99 (9780399551451);
lib. ed., $20.99 (9780399551468); e-book, $17.99
(9780399551482). Gr. 9–12.
Dani has never had a great relationship with
her abusive, seemingly unloving mother. But
when a horrible accident claims her mother’s
life, a numb Dani is sent to New Mexico to live
with an aunt she never knew existed. Used to
a life on the move, prickly Dani doesn’t know
how to interact with her newly discovered
relative, pushing everyone away and secretly
fearing that she was partially responsible for her
mother’s death. As she gets to know her new
town, she meets Paulo, an aspiring filmmaker
who works at the local gas-station market. As
Dani also gets to know her aunt, she slowly
learns about her family’s history and the abuse
that her mother and aunt suffered from their
own parents. Readers should note that, while
this novel contains incidents of physical vio-
lence and emotional abuse, it is a beautiful
and moving tale that accurately captures the
complications and dysfunctions of different
families and examines how to slowly rise above
the past and create a future. —Candice Mack
By Your Side.
By Kasie West.
Feb. 2017. 352p. Harper Teen, paper, $9.99
(9780062455864). Gr. 8–11.
After one quick trip to the library bathroom at closing time later, and Autumn finds
herself locked in a building closed down for
the weekend, right before she is supposed to
take off with friends for an overnighter (“I
was locked in the library, trying not to panic.
Literally locked. As in no escape”). Her backpack—and cell phone—is already in the car.
It’s cold. It’s scary. And she’s not alone. A mysterious loner from school, Dax Miller, is also
locked in, although he planned it that way to
escape his abusive foster family. Readers might
be skeptical of Autumn’s inability to contact
the outside world, but that would take away
the more compelling Breakfast Club backdrop
of this evolving romance. When a shocking
explanation reveals why Autumn’s friends, and
even her parents, do not come back to find her,
this engaging story takes off. West skillfully ze-roes in on peer pressure, a complex labyrinth
of friendships, and Autumn’s anxiety issues and
conflicted feelings about boyfriends in a realistic and insightful way. —Anne O’Malley
The Careful Undressing of Love.
By Corey Ann Haydu.
Jan. 2017. 288p. Dutton, $17.99 (9780399186738).
Haydu’s reimagined 2008 New York City
houses Brooklyn’s Devonairre Street and the
urban legend that women living on this street,
especially girls, will bring death to any male
they love. When Times Square was destroyed
in a bombing seven years ago, narrator Lorna
lost her beloved father; since then, she and best
friends Delilah, Charlotte, Isla, and Cruz have
shared rituals (wearing necklaces of keys, not
cutting their hair, drinking lavender tea) in an
effort to overcome the curse. It’s an eerie world
where magic runs headlong into reality, as the
girls both court and flee the rituals that have
sustained them. Death is constant through-
out, both in the girls’ histories and present-day
events, inspiring Lorna’s mother to cut ties to
Devonairre Street. The title is taken from Carol
Ann Duffy’s poem “Valentine,” and beautifully
foreshadows the delicate revealing of Lorna’s
secrets. Both straightforward and lyrical, this is
a compelling read and a decidedly ambiguous
portrayal of love that will resonate with those
tired of formulaic romances. —Debbie Carton
Daughter of the Pirate King.
By Tricia Levenseller.
Feb. 2017. 320p. Feiwel and Friends, $17.99
(9781250095961). Gr. 7–10.
Alosa, fierce daughter of the pirate king Kal-ligan, is sent to be captured by a rival pirate
clan so she can search their ship for a missing
map fragment, which should point the way
toward an island ripe with treasure. The kidnapping goes well, as does the sneaking about
to find the map; what is unplanned is falling in
love with the first mate, being kidnapped by a
different pirate crew, and having the secret of
her special abilities revealed. First-time author
Levenseller has a tendency to tell rather than
show the action, which at times prevents the
reader from delving deeply into the story. An
occasional lapse into present-day idiom—for
example, “you’re messing with my mind”—
also detracts from the reading experience. She
does, however, create a memorable character in
half-human, half-siren pirate princess Alosa,
whose cheeky attitude and confidence let readers know that she will never be in real danger,
and the romantic tension between her and rival
Riden is well paced. —Cindy Welch
By Jennifer Latham.
Jan. 2017. 370p. Little, Brown, $18.99
(9780316384933); e-book, $10.99 (9780316384940).
Rowan wants to enjoy one day of summer
before her internship begins, but that ends
when contractors working on her house find a
skeleton in an outbuilding.
Suddenly she’s caught up in
the mystery of who the dead
man was, why he was killed
almost a century before, and
how his death relates to a
brutal race riot that wiped
out the black Tulsa neighborhood of Greenwood in
1921. Latham masterfully weaves together the
story of two well-off, mixed-race teenagers—
Rowan, in the present, and Will, who lived
in Tulsa in 1921—in this fast-paced, tension-filled look at race, privilege, and violence in
America. Both struggle to do the right thing,
even as Rowan tries to look past her family’s
wealth, and as the Klan begins to bear down
on Will and his family. Latham skillfully
uses the chapter-by-chapter narrator switch
to ratchet up tension, all the while keeping
readers guessing as to the true identity of the