108 Booklist September 1, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
By Adwoa Badoe.
Sept. 2016. 192p. Groundwood, $16.95
(9781554988167). Gr. 9–12.
Charlotte Adom is enjoying her first year
at the University of Science and Technology
in Kumasi, Ghana. She has a vibrant social
life with her dorm girlfriends, and she is being courted by a rich businessman as well as
a handsome older student. At her professor’s
invitation, Charlotte becomes involved with
campus politics and later runs for secretary
of the student representative council. However, the thrill of leading her classmates takes
a sickening turn when she is interrogated
by minions of J. J. Rawlings’ Provisional
National Defense Council. The strength of
this book is its setting of 1981 Ghana, which
offers a refreshing change from western Europe, where so much YA historical fiction
takes place. It is fascinating—and horrifying—to be immersed in a world where
multiple coups d’état have disrupted everyday life and created an environment of fear
and paranoia. However, some flat characters
and uneven pacing (which does pick up near
the end) limit the story’s appeal to those
who are interested in recent world history.
By Sara Shepard.
Nov. 2016. 320p. Disney/Freeform, $17.99
(9781484742273). Gr. 9–12.
Fan-favorite Shepard turns to amateur
sleuthing in this new series starter. Obsessed with an online site for cold cases,
18-year-old Seneca is drawn to that of a
missing rich girl named Helena, who was
discovered murdered five years ago. Seneca
decides to solve the case herself after a call
for help is posted on the Case Not Closed
site from Helena’s sister. Over spring break,
Seneca works with two friends from the site,
Maddy and Brett, and Helena’s sister Aerin.
Together the group tries to uncover clues in
this unsolved mystery while also navigating personal relationship drama. Additional
complications are added to the mix with a
track-coach-turned-stalker and Aerin’s possible relationship with a local cop. Shepard
fills her cast with diverse characters, but this
backfires with many unfavorable mentions
of race and some stereotyped portrayals.
Even so, the mystery is sure to please fans
of Shepard’s previous titles, but savvy readers
may find themselves solving things along the
way. A decent series starter with a promising
future. —Sarah Bean Thompson
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Shepard’s
Pretty Little Liars series was a smash hit, so
this is likely to reach best-seller status.
Blood for Blood.
By Ryan Graudin.
Nov. 2016. 496p. Little, Brown, $17.99
(9780316405157). Gr. 9–12.
Yael’s job was supposed to be straightforward: join the Axis Tour motorcycle race
by pretending to be someone else, win, and
kill Adolf Hitler. While the world thinks she
succeeded, the Führer still
lives, having sent his own
to the victory ball. That
trickery alone is enough
to make Yael furious and
frustrated, but adding to
the pile is the mess she’s
made of her own life and
emotions. Yael, a skin-shifter, has been impersonating racer Adele Wolfe. Now on
the run from the SS, she is caught by this
year’s winner, Luka Lowe, who’s still in love
with the girl Yael has been pretending to be.
As the Resistance rages on, trying to make
Operative Valkyrie the new regime, Adele’s
brother Felix is kept captive in Japan, held
for information. These three stories intertwine and diverge in a truly inventive way,
making this alternate history novel feel distinctly real. Each primary character—Yael,
Luka, and Felix—is individual and distinct,
giving the reader a sense of adventure viewed
through different eyes. Graudin’s writing is
beautiful, her story exciting and consuming.
This sequel to Wolf by Wolf (2015) is not to
be missed. —Stacey Comfort
Caravaggio: Painter on the Run.
By Marissa Moss.
Oct. 2016. 360p. Creston, $16.95 (9781939547293).
Caravaggio is an ambitious painter during
the seventeenth century. Daring to be different, he prefers painting realistic pictures of
everyday people, but not everyone loves his
art, including the pope, who could have him
arrested for disobeying the church’s rules. In
Moss’ fictionalized biography of Caravaggio, from his early twenties to his death, at
38, readers will follow him as he works as
an apprentice and struggles to make a name
for himself by getting a commission for an
altarpiece for a chapel in St. Peter’s. While
a detailed, well-researched story, this book
might be a hard sell to teens, since Caravaggio, who narrates the novel, is an adult for the
entirety of the book. That said, his biography
makes art history seem far from dry: he was
regularly arrested for fighting, most of the
women he interacts with are prostitutes, and
he even killed a man. Teens already interested
in art history are probably the best audience
here, though interesting comparisons could be
made to novels about other characters fighting
oppressive regimes, as well. —Lindsey Tomsu
By Mike A. Lancaster.
Sept. 2016. 416p. Skyhorse/Sky Pony, $17.99
(9781510704046). Gr. 9–12.
Ani Lee, 15, is a proficient Internet hacker.
She and her pal Jack “Black Hat” McVitie’s
recent takedown of Facebook’s notorious
Farmville app made headlines nationwide. Joe
Dyson, 17, is a chip-enhanced undercover
operative for YETI, Britain’s classified, crime-fighting Youth Enforcement Task Initiative.
Initially independent agents, Ani and Joe are
brought together by a mystifying and malicious
new musical movement: X-Core. While its jarring audio frequencies are outwardly linked to
the disappearance of Lennie, Joe’s friend and
MP Victor Palgrave’s son, they may also be tied
to motivations far more insidious: alien life,
government conspiracy, armed mercenaries,
and a languid empire of mind-controlled teens.
Uniquely poised to resist the inexplicable lure of
these sinister “soundforms,” Joe and Ani must
squelch the noise—and whomever, or whatever, it came from. With charismatic protagonists,
sharply self-aware dialogue, and gut-wrenching
detail—particularly in the visceral portrayal of
X-Core’s adverse effects and Ani’s haunting recollections of her mother—this tale of ingenuity
in the face of insatiable evil is a deeply infectious one. —Briana Shemroske
The Female of the Species.
By Mindy McGinnis.
Sept. 2016. 352p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $17.99
(9780062320896). Gr. 10–12.
What would you do if your sister were
raped and murdered, but the killer went free?
Alex delivers her own brand of swift, ferocious
justice for her sister Anna, and then hides in
plain sight from the close-knit, rural Ohio town where
everyone thinks they know
everything. The community is surrounded by woods
that serve as a great place
to party—or, in her case,
run—from her mother, her
memories, and the fellow
classmates she can’t trust herself to be around.
While volunteering at the local animal shelter,
she meets Claire, known as Peekay (preacher’s
kid), who becomes her first friend, and as a
result, Alex begins to participate in senior-year activities. Chapters shift between these
characters and the local Casanova, Jack, creating three distinct perspectives as the story
unfolds. Alex may not be polite or even law-abiding, but she is truthful and loyal; she
won’t settle for an unwelcome advance toward
her or her friends, and she protects those she
loves with an unwavering vigilante fervor,
matching violence with violence. Whether a
catcall, an unwelcome touch, or more, sexual
aggression toward females happens daily;
McGinnis explores how one teen uses violence
for justice in this gripping story that should
be read and discussed by teens, as well as those
who work with them. —Karen Ginman