Fiction, January 2020

All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell

All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell. October 29, 2019. HarperTeen, 293 p. ISBN: 9780062852595.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Sadie meets Girl in Pieces in this dark, emotional thriller by acclaimed author Saundra Mitchell.

Something happened to Ava. The curving scar on her face is proof. Ava would rather keep that something hidden—buried deep in her heart and her soul.

But in the woods on the outskirts of town, the traces of someone else’s secrets lie frozen, awaiting Ava’s discovery—and what Ava finds threatens to topple the carefully constructed wall of normalcy that she’s spent years building around her.

Secrets leave scars. But when the secret in question is not your own—do you ignore the truth and walk away? Or do you uncover it from its shallow grave and let it reopen old wounds—wounds that have finally begun to heal?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Rape, Strong sexual themes, Description of a corpse

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2019 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Seventeen-year-old Ava wants you to know that the rape she endured at age nine doesn’t define her actions: “I have damage, you have damage. Nobody knows what they’re doing while they’re doing it.” Yet as she tells the story of the winter night she finds a body in the woods, it’s clear that Ava’s carefully structured life has helped her hide her PTSD, rather than confront it. Instead of calling the police, Ava decides to protect the body, a young woman, from further humiliation, eventually investigating the murder with the victim’s online friend Nick. These thriller elements play out the backdrop of Ava’s enclosed, predictable life—shuttling between school and home, between her overprotective mother and her sole friend, Syd—as it starts to change and expand, especially as Ava falls for Hailey, the daughter of the policeman who handled her assault case. Mitchell mixes contemporary drama—the joy of first love, the pain of breaking friendships—with psychological thriller in this insightful, cathartic read. A moving author’s note and contact information for sexual assault helplines are included.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
A teen loner grapples with buried demons as she stumbles on someone else’s secret in the woods. In her latest novel, Mitchell again explores the sexual awakening of adolescent identities—this time against the backdrop of childhood sexual assault. Though hesitant to open up to anyone apart from her best friend, Syd, 17-year-old Ava Parkhurst reveals early on that she was raped at age 9 and visibly scarred for life when her attacker traced “a razor blade finger” down her cheek. As if Ava, a good student who strives to live in the present and not fixate on past trauma, doesn’t have enough challenges—Syd is keeping secrets from her; her father has moved out, leaving her and her mother on their own; and, for the first time, she’s finding herself physically attracted to the daughter of the policeman who, years before, handled her assault case—a walk in the woods one snowy Maine night leads to a harrowing discovery that dangerously tests the confines of Ava’s carefully guarded world. Mitchell’s roller-coaster confessional narrative runs the gamut from teen melodrama between friends and the throes of first love to reckoning with guarded secrets and the psychological fallout from astoundingly brutal acts. Most characters default to white; her love interest is biracial (white Jewish and Korean). A searing, fast-paced whodunit that addresses sexual assault head-on. (author’s note, resources) (Thriller. 14-18)

About the Author

Saundra Mitchell has been a phone psychic, a car salesperson, a denture-deliverer and a layout waxer. She’s dodged trains, endured basic training, and hitchhiked from Montana to California. The author of nearly twenty books for tweens and teens, Mitchell’s work includes SHADOWED SUMMER, THE VESPERTINE series, ALL THE THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK, a novel forthcoming from HarperTEEN and the forthcoming CAMP MURDERFACE series with Josh Berk. She is the editor of three anthologies for teens, DEFY THE DARK, ALL OUT and OUT NOW. She always picks truth; dares are too easy.

Her website is www.saundramitchell.com

Around the Web

All the Things We Do in the Dark on Amazon

All the Things We Do in the Dark on Barnes and Noble

All the Things We Do in the Dark on Goodreads

All the Things We Do in the Dark on LibraryThing

All the Things We Do in the Dark Publisher Page

December 2019, Fiction

Michigan vs. the Boys by Carrie Allen

Michigan vs. the Boys by Carrie Allen. October 1, 2019. Kids Can Press, 299 p. ISBN: 9781525301483.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

When a determined girl is confronted with the culture of toxic masculinity, it’s time to even the score.

Michigan Manning lives for hockey, and this is her year to shine. That is, until she gets some crushing news: budget cuts will keep the girls’ hockey team off the ice this year.

If she wants colleges to notice her, Michigan has to find a way to play. Luckily, there’s still one team left in town …

The boys’ team isn’t exactly welcoming, but Michigan’s prepared to prove herself. She plays some of the best hockey of her life, in fact, all while putting up with changing in the broom closet, constant trash talk and “harmless” pranks that always seem to target her.

But once hazing crosses the line into assault, Michigan must weigh the consequences of speaking up — even if it means putting her future on the line.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Homophobic slur; Mild sexual themes; Strong language; Underage drinking; Underage smoking; Violence, Sexual harrassment/assault

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Michigan’s entire life was hockey—when she was not conditioning and training, she was watching hockey movies and thinking about hockey. All of her hard work pays off when she is finally named Assistant Captain of her school team, but a few days later, the team is cut due to funding. Without rich parents to pay her tuition at a private school, she’s seemingly out of options. So, she tries out for the boy’s varsity team, which she easily makes, but her coaches and teammates aren’t happy about it. Michigan endures months of physical and emotional abuse and hazing without reporting it, focusing on her craft instead. Allen’s debut is a plot-driven novel that takes readers inside a misogynistic team and a school and town that allow that behavior to go unchecked. The book’s power comes from highlighting the pain and abuse that barrier-breaking women endure in a male-driven field, but the characters are thinly drawn and the ending is too tidy for such a complicated story. Our admirable heroine deserves more than that.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
Michigan wants to play hockey, which leaves one last audacious option—the boys’ team. Michigan Manning and her best friend, Brie, dream of victory as the new captains of their high school girls’ ice hockey team. Instead, Principal Belmont shocks them by announcing that budgets cuts will render the girls’ hockey team defunct. The close-knit hockey girls scatter—Brie to private school, the rest to other schools and other sports, but Michigan can’t afford private school tuition or long commutes. Inspired by Jack, a handsome, popular swimmer, and a brave girl on her brother’s AAA bantam team, Michigan shrugs off ridicule, taunts, and bullying to earn her way to a coveted center position on the boys’ varsity team. It’s an exhilarating run, as debut author Allen creates a wonderfully authentic hockey world. Determined, resilient Michigan fights for her right to play despite feeling abandoned by old friends and ostracized by her new team. However, readers may feel frustrated by the author’s portrayal of Michigan’s rationalizations and the alpha bad guy trope, which veers toward the cartoonish—after purposely injuring her, one bully “lowers his voice as if talking to a baby. ‘Are you going to be OK to play this weekend? Coach needs his widdle Michigan out there.’ ” The supportive relationships between Michigan and her brother, boyfriend, and father are beautifully written, and the on-ice experience is similarly nuanced and breathtaking. Most characters are assumed white. Nevertheless, a gritty and heroic athlete persists. (Fiction. 13-16)

About the Author

Carrie Allen is a Colorado girl who wears flip-flops year-round and never skips dessert. She is retired from sports medicine, and extra-tired from chasing around two kids and two dogs. She writes contemporary YA about girls who kick butt in sports.

Her website is www.carrieallenauthor.com

Around the Web

Michigan vs. the Boys on Amazon

Michigan vs. the Boys on Barnes and Noble

Michigan vs. the Boys on Goodreads

Michigan vs. the Boys on LibraryThing

Michigan vs. the Boys Publisher Page