Seventeen-year-old Penny loves dancing at the Grande Teatro, a school where she and eleven other girls are training to become the best dancers in all of Italy. She loves to dance. And she loves the Master, the handsome owner of the school. Or…does she?
When Penny starts seeing flashes of a life she doesn’t remember living, she starts asking questions, which lands her in trouble with the Master. But Cricket, the kitchen boy, helps her and she realizes that her life is not what it seems. Desperate to find out the truth, Penny searches for answers, but the Master is one step ahead of her every move. If she does not find the answers she seeks, her memories will be stolen from her forever.
The Midnight Dance starts off when Penny first notices something strange, and the reader sees everything through her eyes, sharing her confusion and fear. This dark novel is both captivating and creepy, told in alternating timelines as the Master’s past is revealed. Penny struggles with the mystery and with the pain of having her memories removed, but she keeps fighting despite the overwhelming odds. I enjoyed this very much, and am looking forward to more from this author.
As if being 16 weren’t bad enough, Krista is still dealing with the death of her mother. Her father has moved his new girlfriend in and wants Krista to start acting normal again and find something to do. Her best friend is going to Maine for the summer. And Krista feels like she has no one to talk to about her pain.
So, she spends her time in a tent on top of the house, shoplifting, and watching a mysterious house. She’s not ready to act normal again. Then she meets Jake, who works at the store she shoplifts, and her dad tells her that her grandfather, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, is coming to visit. Krista starts to feel better, but if she never deals with the past, will she ever feel normal again?
The House at 758 took me by surprise. First, I feel like Krista is my spirit animal. Living in a tent on top of the house because you don’t want to be around people? Sign me up for that! Krista is hurting desperately, but she doesn’t want to ask for help. She’d rather brood and act like everything is okay, because shouldn’t people know what she’s going through? Dealing with dark emotions like grief, anger, and guilt isn’t easy, and Krista fights against it for a long time, until she starts to realize that there is more than one side to every story. This was an engrossing read that drew me into Krista’s head and kept me rooting for her to make a breakthrough and start to see light again.
Kathryn Berla is the author of Dream Me, Twelves Hours in Paradise, Going Places, and The Kitty Committee. The House at 758 is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Amberjack Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Julia Jaynes is part of a group of highly-evolved humans living in Austin, Texas. Rich, beautiful, and powerful, they keep to themselves and try not to draw more attention to their media-popular circle. Then Julia saves her sister from drowning, and the media attention she causes makes her powerful father punish her by sending her to public high school.
There Julia meets John, a tennis prodigy and a nice, regular guy. When Julie discovers she can read his mind—sometimes—she uses the power to encourage John, and her feelings start to grow. Living with the regular humans isn’t as bad as she thought, but Julie is desperate to get back in her controlling father’s good graces, before their circle disappears from society for good.
So…the cover of this book is what caught my eye first, and the premise is fantastic. I read all of it, but Julia was a bit too erratic for me. Does she hate her father? Does she love him? Does she want to stay with the super humans? Does a life of freedom with the regular humans sound more appealing? What is really going on with the evolved humans and Julia’s powerful father? And why did he separate the younger members and try to destroy the more powerful ones’ talents?
I don’t actually know the answers to any of these questions, and that bothers me. Julia can’t make up her mind, and a first-person narrative should have some insight into the character, but it doesn’t. (I saw several comparisons to Twilight in other reviews, and that is sadly accurate.) I loved the premise of this book, but the execution and character development was lacking.
Despite her name, Marit Weisenberg is only a quarter Norwegian. She lives in Austin, Texas. Selectis the first book in the Select series.
(Galley provided by Charlesbridge Teen via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Matt Wainright has lived in the same cul-de-sac as long as he can remember. His best friend, Tabby, has always lived just across the street. They’re inseparable, and Matt can’t imagine anything ever changing. Except his feelings for Tabby. Matt never saw that coming, and he has no idea how to tell her, but he will. Probably. Until a senior basketball star falls for Tabby, and suddenly everything changes.
Now his best friend is always too busy, and instead of shining on the JV basketball court, Matt finds himself fumbling. Even his younger brother is driving him crazy. Only his favorite class, creative writing, seems to make any sense. Then a tragedy occurs, and Matt can’t make sense of anything, as his life spins out of control and he teeters on the edge of self-destruction.
I was not prepared for this book. At all. I loved Matt’s voice from the very beginning. (With that movie-director voice in his head, of course he’s going to be a writer.) He has grand visions of himself, but his follow-through doesn’t always live up to his hype. This book captures the hope and the confusion of high school, as well as the gobsmacked feeling of first love. I laughed, I hoped, and I cried, right along with Matt. You MUST read this! I’m looking forward to seeing what Jared Reck writes next.
Life in Clearhaven is all Hanna has ever known, so her father’s four wives and her fourteen siblings are normal to her. In Clearhaven, all the young men leave town, and the girls, at age 18, marry men old enough to be their fathers. In one week, Hanna will be 18, and she’ll take her place as the fifth wife of a wealthy man.
Then Hanna meets Daniel, a boy her age who makes her question her life in Clearhaven and what she wants for herself, and her mother tells her a secret—one that Hanna can scarcely believe. Hanna doesn’t want the life she sees around her, but is she strong enough to leave behind the sister she adores and the only life she’s ever known?
Clearhaven and its customs creeped me out on a lot of levels. I know there are communities/cultures like this, but I don’t want to have anything to do with them. However, they are vividly portrayed in the book, and the characters leap off the page with startling intensity. Hanna is both easy to relate to—her love for her sister, her confusion over what she wants from her life—and mysterious. I rooted for Hanna for the entire novel, eager for her to escape the future laid out for her and grasp her fate in both hands.
Sixteen-year-old Annis Whitworth just found out that her father is dead and all his money is missing. With the social season in London looming, Annis and her aunt are on the verge of the horror of all horrors: having to find jobs. When Annis finds out her father was a spy, she decides to follow in his footsteps. But the spymasters are not so sure.
After learning she can sew glamours, magical disguises, Annis moves to a small town and starts her double life as Madame Martine, seamstress extraordinaire. She must succeed in her new role if she is ever to find out who killed her father—and earn aplace as a spy herself.
Murder, Magic, and What We Wore is a fun Regency-era tale of a girl discovering who she truly is as she seeks her place in life. Annis finds out there is far more going on around her than she ever imagined, and she has talents she never suspected. This is a light, enjoyable read, with quirky characters and a fantastic setting.
Kelly Jones is the author of Murder, Magic, and What We Wore.
(Galley provided by Knopf via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Harley lost her mother a few months ago, and she hasn’t even begun to recover. But it’s summer now, and summer is a time of change. So, Harley sets off on a road trip to come to terms with her loss, find out more about her mother’s past, and scatter her mother’s ashes. Her best friend, Dean, goes along for the ride, but Harley doesn’t know what to do about their relationship—which caused her to shut Dean out when they became more than friends.
Soon enough, Harley realizes she’s pregnant with Dean’s child. Hiding her secret as she learns more about her mother’s life, she realizes her mother faced the same choices she now does. If she is ever to know what the right decision for her is, she’ll have to find out the truth about her mother’s past.
From the first page, Harley’s voice drew me into this story. She’s hurting so badly from her loss, and she’s shut everyone out as a result, but she wants to change. Her internal journey is as compelling as it is painful, and the reader is dragged along for the ride, over the bumps and through the bruises, until Harley finds clarity.
Ark is the last safe place on Earth, and every resource is utilized fully. After the polar ice melted and the seas rose, the world changed, and Noa was smart enough to create Ark and hold it in his iron fist. He doesn’t allow art. Or music. And there’s a list of 500 words that are the only ones allowed to be used.
Letta is an apprentice Wordsmith, and can read all words, not just those on the list. When her master vanishes and Letta is made the new wordsmith, she’s told to cut even more words from the list. Then Letta meets a boy who knows all the old words, and he warns her that Noa intends to take language from people forever. Letta must decide between fighting for words and art and music, or facing banishment in the wilds.
As an avid reader and writer—and as a former environmental biology major—the premise of The List horrified me. The environmental disasters that led to the changed world are not far-fetched to me, but the idea of forbidding almost every word is horrifying beyond belief. While I’ve seen a lot of comments that this book is middle-grade, I don’t really agree with that. It’s not written on a middle-grade reading level, and it deals with much deeper issues than most middle-grade books I’ve seen. I would classify it as solidly YA, and while the premise isn’t totally unique, the worldbuilding and characters are solid enough to make it worth reading…even if the idea of someone who controls spoken words is terrifying.
Patricia Forde lives in western Ireland and has written children’s books, plays, and television drama series. The Listis her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Sourcebooks via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Jillian Eldridge has lived next door to Max Holden for years. They grew up together, going through life as friends who just happened to live close. But lately, they haven’t been so close. Not since Max’s dad had a stroke, and Max took a dark detour as he struggled to deal with the way his life has changed. When Max climbs through her window one night, lost and looking for a friend, Jill just can’t turn her back on him, and her dad catches them kissing.
Jillian knew it was a terrible idea even before her dad caught them. Max has issues. And a girlfriend. But the lost look in her friend’s eyes made her forget all of that. Her parents are fighting all the time and she has a new sibling on the way, so Jillian needs someone she can turn to. She’s not sure Max is the right person for that, but she’s not sure she can resist finding out.
A lot of people think YA books just deal with romance and popularity contests, but that just isn’t the case. Kissing Max Holden does have romance, of course, but it deals with deep issues: family tragedy, troubled marriages, hard decisions. Jillian is a great character, driven and determined, who faces obstacles to her dreams that she never imagined. Max is struggling with almost losing his father and the immense changes in his family, and he copes by turning to things he knows he shouldn’t. Max and Jillian help each other with the battles they face, as their friendship turns to something more. Sweet with the spice of adversity, Kissing Max Holden is a great read that will keep you turning the pages long after you should be sleeping (ask me how I know).
Jessa Gray is seventeen, with a boyfriend she loves, a few friends, and a place she belongs. At least, a place she looks like she belongs: living with her mom and hanging out with her boyfriend’s crowd. But inside, Jessa is a mess, suffering horrible panic attacks that medication and therapy haven’t helped, and always feeling like an outsider. When a terrible accident leaves Jessa with a brain injury, she sees bruises and scars on everyone around her, and thinks she must be going crazy for real. The chance to move to Colorado with her dad and start over is Jessa’s lifeline.
Instead of being the haven she was looking for, the move makes Jessa’s anxiety worse, until she meets Marshall, the quirky boy with a heart defect who makes her see life a whole new way. Though Jessa starts to feel like she belongs in this new life, she still sees wounds on everyone around her, and wonders if she’ll ever be “normal” again.
I’ve never suffered from anxiety quite like Jessa did, although I do have the occasional panic attack that sends my brain into a frenzy and throws the world into chaos. All Things New captures the pandemonium of anxiety and panic attacks, and shows readers just what if feels like to live with these issues. More importantly, it shows what it’s like to survive with them, and to grow. Jessa is entirely relatable, she doesn’t think she’s normal, but she is: everyone is dealing with something, which she eventually learns. Marshall is funny and sweet, and he helps Jessa look at the world without the veil of her anxiety. Both humorous and heart-wrenching, All Things New is an enthralling read, bursting with vivid life.
Lauren Miller grew up in Georgia, studied at Yale, and now lives in California, where she writes and works. The author of Parallel and Free to Fall, her newest novel is All Things New.
(Galley provided by Three Saints Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)