By Kit Peel.
Oct. 2016. 200p. Groundwood, $16.95 (9781554983575).
Orphan Wyn currently lives with a kindly
pastor and his family in a small English village,
but she’s acutely aware of not fitting in. Climate change has created a winter without end,
which means that Wyn needs to hide the fact
that she is never cold, as well as try to ignore
her untested telekinetic powers and strange
memories of things that should be impossible,
like flying. When otherworldly creatures appear, sparking Wyn’s hidden memories, she
realizes her true identity and her responsibility
to end winter and save the world. Peel blends
current realities like climate change with a
mystical natural world, in which nature’s forces
are strong enough to fight human destruction.
Readers’ initial confusion over the various magical creatures should settle fairly quickly, while
Peel’s richly detailed descriptions of the landscapes and the creatures that rise from them
create a magic of their own. Though clearly
British in origin, the concerns are global. It
may not be subtle, but Peel’s debut has the
satisfyingly predictable appeal of a fairy tale.
By Tara Sim.
Nov. 2016. 368p. Skyhorse/Sky Pony, $17.99
(9781510706187). Gr. 9–12.
Danny, a 17-year-old clock mechanic living in an alternate 1875 London, narrowly
escapes death when a clock tower in which
he’s working is bombed. It takes some time
to regain his nerve, and he is distracted by an
impossible romance, his mechanic father’s entrapment behind an impenetrable time-wall,
and ongoing attacks on clock towers all over
the English countryside. First-time author
Sim has constructed a mild combination
mystery, LGBTQ romance, and supernatural
tale of clock spirits and sabotage that explores
how far people might go for those they love.
Its strongest elements are the time-related mythology and the supernatural gay romance;
the mystery is inconsistently developed, and
its resolution seems rushed. There is a hint—
dropped and quickly gone—that this is the
first of more books to do with young Danny
and his friends. An author’s note indicates
changes to real historical London of 1875 and
addresses technology and inventions, the role
of women, and homosexuality. Try this with
A. J. Hartley’s Steeplejack (2016) for the unusual occupation angle. —Cindy Welch
Under Rose-Tainted Skies.
By Louise Gornall.
Jan. 2017. 336p. Clarion, $17.99 (9780544736511).
Imagine this: your groceries have been de-
livered to your home, because you don’t go
shopping. Inconveniently, they have been left
just outside against the house, where they sit
in the sun. If you are Norah, this is a catastro-
phe, since venturing out of the house alone
is terrifying. Luckily, however, she gets unex-
pected help from Luke, the new guy next door.
Normally, she wouldn’t be welcoming, but
Luke is interesting. When her mother ends
up in the hospital, leaving her temporarily in
charge of battling her demons on her own,
Norah and Luke, who has his own issues, take
realistic baby steps toward each other. Debut
author Gornall, who based Norah’s illness on
her own experiences, allows readers open ac-
cess to Norah’s tormented mind. Describing
anxiety, Norah observes, “It’s the brassy bitch
at school that I don’t like, but being her BFF
makes me popular. . . . I don’t know how to
be safe without it.” Pair this with John Corey
Whaley’s Highly Illogical Behavior (2016) for a
complementary story about a teen boy experi-
encing agoraphobia. —Diane Colson
The Crystal Ribbon.
By Celeste Lim.
Jan. 2017. 352p. Scholastic, $17.99 (9780545767033);
e-book, $17.99 (9780545767057). Gr. 4–7.
Eleven-year-old Li Jing adores her baba,
but she doesn’t understand why he sacrifices
precious crops to the Great Golden Huli
Jing, the village’s tutelary fox spirit, or why
he doesn’t prevent her from being sold to the
Guo family as a tongyang xi (nursemaid-wife)
for their three-year-old son. Although Jing
attempts to be a dutiful daughter-in-law, the
Guos and their bratty daughters treat her as
a servant. One evening, a spider jing asks for
help rescuing her egg sac from Jing’s sister-in-law’s bedroom. As a token of gratitude, the
spider weaves a crystal-like ribbon that can
be burned as a call for help. And Jing desperately needs help after the Guos sell her to a
chinglou, or courtesan house. Jing is a compassionate character who shows spirit in resisting
unjust treatment. As often happens with child
narrators, she seems a bit too articulate for
her age. This minor criticism aside, this is a
delightful debut featuring lovely prose and a
refreshingly unique setting of China during
the Song dynasty. —Michelle Young
The Friendship Experiment.
By Erin Teagan.
Nov. 2016. 256p. HMH, $16.99 (9780544636224).
Ever since Maddie’s scientist grandfather
died, she’s been carrying on his traditional ap-
proach to problem-solving: there’s a standard
operating procedure (SOP) for everything.
Maddie writes down her step-by-step solutions
in her trusty science notebook, and they’re for
everything from “How to Survive a Needle”
(she and her sister, Brooke, have a hereditary
blood disease that requires plenty of trips to
the doctor) to “How to Be Friendly” (Maddie’s
best friend switched schools, leaving Maddie
alone at lunch). But these days, the SOPs aren’t
doing their job. Brooke isn’t taking their ill-
ness seriously, and Maddie doesn’t know how
to convince her. Then there’s Riley, the new
science-obsessed girl who just moved to town
and is trying to be Maddie’s friend—if only she
weren’t so annoying. Practical Maddie has a lot
to learn about other people, and her journey
will be an eye-opening one for many. Science-
minded readers will cheer to meet their match
in Maddie as she conquers her demons and
learns what exactly it means to have—and
be—a friend. —Maggie Reagan
The Infinity Year of Avalon James.
By Dana Middleton.
Oct. 2016. 224p. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99
(9781250085696). Gr. 4–6.
Now that they’re 10 years old, hot-tempered
Avalon and even-keeled Atticus believe that, as
longtime best friends entering their “Infinity
Year,” each will be granted a special power for
a time. Avalon, whose father
was incarcerated last year, is
hoping for a skill that will
help her deal with Elena,
a dagger-tongued bully at
school. Fifth grade doesn’t
start well, but for every
negative (enduring a messy,
upsetting Halloween prank),
there’s a positive (earning a place at the regional
spelling bee), and Avalon can always count on
Atticus, who helps maintain a delicate emotional balance. When she inadvertently hurts
him and he withdraws, though, Avalon feels
wretched and knows that she can’t count on
magic to put things right. Revealing her negative traits as well as more admirable qualities,
Avalon’s first-person narrative is forthright and
engaging. Easy for readers to forget but always
a background factor, her thoughts about her
father and their relationship resurface to the
fore from time to time. This offers a number
of realistically drawn characters, both kids and
adults, portrayed as complex people who interact and cope with their troubles in individual
ways. A well-knit first novel with an involving,
affecting story. —Carolyn Phelan
Kyle Finds Her Way.
By Susie Salom.
Oct. 2016. 256p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $16.99
(9780545852661); e-book, $16.99 (9780545852685).
Navigating middle school on day one is
daunting for any incoming sixth-grader, but
Kyle Constantini is off to a particularly terrible start. She is in a different section than
her two best friends; gets lost and is almost
late for her first class; punches a class bully
for nearly stepping on her new friend Marcy’s
hearing aids; is assigned by the principal to
participate in the school’s NAVS (
Negotiating Actions and Values for Solutions) team;
and rides Marcy’s bus rather than her own. Of
course, she gets in trouble with her parents
for these faux pas, and as new dilemmas crop
up, she can’t seem to explain her way out of
them—no matter how honorable or naive her
intentions have been. Resolutions are reached,
and with each, Kyle matures. Sixth-grade female angst rings true in this debut novel.