Fiction, March 2020

One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus

One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus. January 7, 2020. Delacorte Press, 375 p. ISBN: 9780525707974.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 740.

The highly anticipated, #1 New York Times bestselling sequel to One of Us Is Lying! There’s a new mystery to solve at Bayview High, and there’s a whole new set of rules.

Come on, Bayview, you know you’ve missed this.

A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

Until now.

This time it’s not an app, though—it’s a game.

Truth or Dare.

Phoebe‘s the first target. If you choose not to play, it’s a truth. And hers is dark.

Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.

But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it’s that they can’t count on the police for help. Or protection.

Simon’s gone, but someone’s determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there’s a whole new set of rules.

Sequel to: One of Us is Lying

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Homophobic slur; Mild sexual themes; Sexual assault; Strong language; Underage drinking; Violence; Sexual harassment; Alcohol abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. A year ago, in One of Us Is Lying (2017), Simon Kelleher, infamous creator of a gossip app, died during detention at Bayview High. Since then, the students in detention with him—nicknamed the Bayview Four—have all been cleared of his murder, graduated, and moved on. But Bayview remembers. At the high school, lesser copycat apps come and go, but nothing sticks until the game arrives as a mass text. The rules are simple: it’s truth or dare. When Phoebe, the first target, doesn’t pick one, her worst secret is leaked. As she teams up with Maeve, the sister of one of the Bayview Four, and her friend Knox, the game intensifies: the dares are getting dangerous, but everyone wants to keep their secrets. McManus offers a companion that, while set in the same sphere as her hit debut, takes entirely different cues, leaving readers new and old with a dizzying array of fresh twists. A nonlinear narrative and breakneck pacing, combined with the tech element and the already-intense high-school atmosphere, make this a thrilling read.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2019)
A dangerous texting game comes to Bayview High in this sequel to One of Us Is Lying (2017). Last year in a San Diego suburb, a gossip app led to a death and inspired weak copycats. Now an anonymous person is sending Truth or Dare messages to the students of Bayview High, and this time no one is safe. If you choose truth (or don’t respond), one of your secrets is revealed. Complete a dare and you’ve passed. The game mostly causes an entertaining stir—until a student winds up dead. Was it an accident, or was it murder? High school juniors Maeve, Phoebe, and Knox find themselves caught up in the mystery of who’s behind the texts. The Bayview Four make appearances, but the compelling heart of the story is the three main characters’ family drama and personal struggles. Maeve thinks she’s having a leukemia relapse, Phoebe slept with her sister’s boyfriend, and Knox interns at a legal aid firm whose staff members are receiving death threats. Shifting perspectives keep the pace steady while McManus (Two Can Keep a Secret, 2019, etc.) deftly weaves in commentary on the justice system, bullying, and slut shaming. Plenty of secrets and surprises will keep readers captivated until the satisfying end. Knox and Phoebe are white, Maeve has Colombian ancestry, and Bayview is a diverse community. A can’t-put-down read. (Thriller. 14-18)

About the Author

Karen M. McManus earned her BA in English from the College of the Holy Cross and her MA in journalism from Northeastern University. She is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying, its sequel One of Us Is Next, and Two Can Keep a Secret. Her work has been published in more than 40 languages.

Her website is www.karenmcmanus.com

Teacher Resources

One of Us is Next on Common Sense Media 

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Fiction, March 2020

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha. October 15, 2019. Ecco, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062868855.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A powerful and taut novel about racial tensions in Los Angeles, following two families–one Korean-American, one African-American–grappling with the effects of a decades-old crime

In the wake of the police shooting of a black teenager, Los Angeles is as tense as it’s been since the unrest of the early 1990s. But Grace Park and Shawn Matthews have their own problems. Grace is sheltered and largely oblivious, living in the Valley with her Korean-immigrant parents, working long hours at the family pharmacy. She’s distraught that her sister hasn’t spoken to their mother in two years, for reasons beyond Grace’s understanding. Shawn has already had enough of politics and protest after an act of violence shattered his family years ago. He just wants to be left alone to enjoy his quiet life in Palmdale.

But when another shocking crime hits LA, both the Park and Matthews families are forced to face down their history while navigating the tumult of a city on the brink of more violence.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Violence; Racial slur

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
When Grace Park’s mother, Jung-Ja Han, is targeted in a drive-by shooting, Grace discovers the truth about her family’s pivotal role in the 1992 L.A. riots. Amid growing tension between South Central’s Asian shop owners and their African American customers, Grace’s mother shot and killed Ava Matthews, a teenage girl Grace had accused of shoplifting and assault, despite the later discovery of only two dollars clutched in Ava’s lifeless hand. Jung-Ja’s light sentence and the Rodney King trial ignited rioting. Fleeing backlash, Jung-Ja changed her name to Yvonne Park and hid in the suburbs. Shawn, Ava’s younger brother, has rebuilt his life after emerging from prison and leaving his fellow Crips gang members behind. Shawn’s cousin Ray has finally been released from prison, too, and Shawn is optimistic about Ray’s reunion with his community-activist mother, his wife, and the teenage twins Shawn has helped raise during Ray’s absence. But the past won’t go away, and Shawn and Ray face police scrutiny for Jung-Ja’s shooting. In addition, Ray has been keeping secrets. As Grace and Shawn desperately try to hold their families together, community outrage over another teen’s shooting places them—and Ava’s tragic death—back in the media spotlight. A gripping, thoughtful portrayal of family loyalty, hard-won redemption, and the destructive force of racial injustice. Cha, author of the Juniper Song PI series, offers a strong contender for the summer’s blockbuster read.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2019)
A real-life racial incident is transfigured into a riveting thriller about two families’ heartbreaking struggles to confront and transcend rage and loss. It is the late summer of 2019, but no matter how many years have passed, Shawn Matthews, a black ex-convict now working for a Los Angeles moving company, is burdened by memories of the early spring of 1991, when his teenage sister Ava was shot to death by a Korean woman who mistakenly believed she was stealing from her convenience store. The shooting and the resulting trial—in which the woman was convicted and received no jail time, after which she relocated to another part of LA—fed into racial tensions already festering back then from the Rodney King trial. And the city’s reactions to a present-day shooting death of an unarmed black teen by a police officer indicate that those racial animosities remain close to the boiling point. In the midst of the mounting furor, Grace Park, a young Korean woman, is shaken from her placid good nature by the sight of her mother being wounded in a drive-by shooting. “What if she is being punished?” her sister Miriam says, revealing a shocking fact about their mother’s past that Grace hadn’t known. An LAPD detective asks Shawn if he has an alibi for the drive-by (which he does). Nonetheless, the most recent shooting upends his fragile sense of security, and he starts to wonder where his cousin, Ray, himself just released from prison, was when Grace’s mother was shot. Cha, author of the Juniper Song series of detective novels (Dead Soon Enough, 2015, etc.), brings what she knows about crafting noir-ish mysteries into this fictionalized treatment of the 1991 Latasha Harlins murder, blending a shrewd knowledge of cutting-edge media and its disruptive impact with a warm, astute sensitivity toward characters of diverse cultures weighed down by converging traumas. Cha’s storytelling shows how fiction can delicately extract deeper revelations from daily headlines.

About the Author

Steph Cha is the author of Your House Will Pay and the Juniper Song crime trilogy. She’s an editor and critic whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. A native of the San Fernando Valley, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two basset hounds.

Her website is stephcha.com

 

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February 2020, Fiction

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. October 8, 2019. Flatiron Books, 458 p. ISBN: 9781250313072.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

The mesmerizing adult debut from Leigh Bardugo, a tale of power, privilege, dark magic, and murder set among the Ivy League elite

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug-dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. In fact, by age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Their eight windowless “tombs” are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street’s biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Mild sexual themes, Sexual assault, Strong language, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
Bestselling YA author (and Yale alum) Bardugo’s first adult novel follows Galaxy “Alex” Stern, a survivor who has won a place at Yale because of her ability to see ghosts. She’s the newest initiate of Lethe, the ninth of the university’s notorious secret societies, responsible for oversight whenever magical rituals are conducted by the other eight. As Lethe’s new Dante, Alex is supposed to learn how all the societies operate, make sure they’re not breaking the rules, keep ghosts from interrupting arcane rites, and take a full load of courses and keep up the appearance of being a normal first year student. Then Alex’s mentor disappears and a townie with connections to several societies is murdered. Alex’s violent past hasn’t necessarily prepared her for the academic and arcane rigors of Yale, but she finds she is admirably suited to the role of tenacious detective as she works to understand how all the puzzle pieces fit together. This atmospheric contemporary novel steeped in the spirit of a mystical New Haven is part mystery, part story of a young woman finding purpose in a dark world, and is the first in a potential series.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2019)
Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story. Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who’s a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt. With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

About the Author

Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse (coming soon to Netflix) which spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, The Language of Thorns, and King of Scars—with more to come. Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer and Ninth House(Goodreads Choice Winner for Best Fantasy 2019) which is being developed for television by Amazon Studios.

Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Southern California, and graduated from Yale University. These days she lives and writes in Los Angeles.

Her website is leighbardugo.com.

Teacher Resources

Ninth House on Common Sense Media

Ninth House Reading Group Guide

Around the Web

Ninth House on Amazon

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Ninth House Publisher Page

February 2020, Fiction

Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer

Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer. November 19, 2019. Tor Teen, 304 p. ISBN: 9781250165084.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 820.

How much does the internet know about YOU? A thought-provoking near future YA thriller that could not be more timely as it explores issues of online privacy, artificial intelligence, and the power and perils of social networks.

Because her mom is always on the move, Steph hasn’t lived anyplace longer than six months. Her only constant is an online community called CatNet―a social media site where users upload cat pictures―a place she knows she is welcome. What Steph doesn’t know is that the admin of the site, CheshireCat, is a sentient A.I.

When a threat from Steph’s past catches up to her and ChesireCat’s existence is discovered by outsiders, it’s up to Steph and her friends, both online and IRL, to save her.

Catfishing on CatNet is a surprising, heartfelt near-future YA thriller by award-winning author Naomi Kritzer, whose short story “Cat Pictures Please” won the Hugo Award and Locus Award and was a finalist for the Nebula.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism, Strong sexual themes, Misgendering, Stalking, Domestic violence, Kidnapping

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. Steph’s life isn’t easy. Her mother keeps moving her from town to town every few months to evade her father, who may or may not be a dangerous kidnapper. Meanwhile, Steph finds friendship in an online forum for cat-lovers, known as CatNet. But after she moves to New Coburg and manages to find some real-life friends, she gets involved in a hacking prank that goes awry. In the aftermath, Steph begins to find out more and more disturbing information about her past, and her father just might have enough information to track down her online friends—and maybe even her. Although the narrative style seems to struggle with understanding what it wants to be (the AI’s introspection is a bit too on the nose), Kritzer manages to keep the plot from going entirely over the top. In her first foray into YA literature, she explores social anxieties around technology and automation, artificial intelligence, and gender and sexuality, all while also providing readers with a captivating and mysterious near-future thriller.

Kirkus Reviews starred (September 15, 2019)
Dual narrators—a cat picture–loving AI and a teen with a dangerous past—develop a friendship. Steph’s spent her whole life constantly on the move, never in one town or school long enough to make friends, as her mother keeps them carefully hidden from Steph’s abusive father. Her realest connections are her online friends from an internet community called CatNet. CatNet is secretly run by one of those friends—username CheshireCat—a powerful AI that uses the community for cat pictures and to counter loneliness. When Steph and her friends hack her new school’s sex ed–instructing robot (to give actual, correct answers to questions instead of “You’ll have to discuss that with your parents!”), the resulting hilarity and scandal attract unintended media attention, leading to worries that Steph’s father will be able to use the story to find them. Preemptive digging into her father reveals worrying inconsistencies in what Steph thinks she knows, kicking off a tense, fast-paced thriller storyline. The believably applied near-future technology grounds the wilder plot elements. The personhood elements of the AI narrator’s story complement identity themes among the cast at large—though the new town is nearly all white (with one biracial black/white character), the characters offer positive, realistic LGBTQIA+ representation—especially nonbinary identities and characters still exploring their identities. Refreshingly, the characters also feel like generally-woke-but-still-imperfect humans. Wickedly funny and thrilling in turns; perfect for readers coming-of-age online. (Thriller. 13-adult)

About the Author

Naomi Kritzer has been making friends online since her teens, when she had to use a modem to dial up at 2400 baud. She is a writer and blogger who has published a number of short stories and novels for adults, including the Eliana’s Song duology and the Dead Rivers Trilogy. Her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” won the Hugo Award and Locus Award and was a finalist for the Nebula. Naomi lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her family and four cats. The number of cats is subject to change without notice.

Her website is www.naomikritzer.com.

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Fiction, January 2020

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher. October 1, 2019. Saga Press, 399 p. ISBN: 9781534429574.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

When a young woman clears out her deceased grandmother’s home in rural North Carolina, she finds long-hidden secrets about a strange colony of beings in the woods in this chilling novel that reads like The Blair Witch Project meets The Andy Griffith Show.

When Mouse’s dad asks her to clean out her dead grandmother’s house, she says yes. After all, how bad could it be?

Answer: pretty bad. Grandma was a hoarder, and her house is stuffed with useless rubbish. That would be horrific enough, but there’s more—Mouse stumbles across her step-grandfather’s journal, which at first seems to be filled with nonsensical rants…until Mouse encounters some of the terrifying things he described for herself.

Alone in the woods with her dog, Mouse finds herself face to face with a series of impossible terrors—because sometimes the things that go bump in the night are real, and they’re looking for you. And if she doesn’t face them head on, she might not survive to tell the tale.

From Hugo Award–winning author Ursula Vernon, writing as T. Kingfisher, The Twisted Ones is a gripping, terrifying tale bound to keep you up all night—from both fear and anticipation of what happens next.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Cruelty to animals, Strong language, Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 2))
Mouse goes to rural North Carolina to clean out her dead grandmother’s house, finding an unsettling, hoarder mess. Amidst the garbage, she finds her step-grandfather’s journal, which describes horrors in terrifying detail, and which Mouse and her dog also begin to experience. Told with a “found book” frame and an intense first person narration, this folk horror novel begins with the unease of Mouse telling readers how her life was forever tainted by the experience she is about to recount. The tale is as tightly twisted and menacing as the carvings she finds in the woods. Readers will stand back in awe as it all unravels, slowly at first, and then with great and terrifying speed. This is a modern retelling of Arthur Machen’s seminal weird fiction tale, “The White People,” a story that greatly influenced H.P. Lovecraft, but readers won’t need that context to enjoy The Twisted Ones. Kingfisher brings this brand of horror to a new generation, and the book will appeal to readers of Lovecraftian adaptations by Caitlin Keirnan, Matt Ruff, and Paul La Farge.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2019)
A woman realizes she’s not alone while cleaning out her late grandmother’s remote North Carolina home. Freelance book editor Melissa, aka “Mouse,” can’t say no to her father when he asks her to clear out her grandmother’s house. Unfortunately, the house, which has been locked up for two years, is a hoarder’s paradise, but Mouse digs in with her beloved coonhound, Bongo, at her side. One day bleeds into another as she hauls junk to the nearby dump and makes friends with her kind and quirky neighbors, Foxy, Tomas, and Skip. When she finds a journal belonging to her stepgrandfather Frederick Cotgrave, things get creepy. The prose sounds like the ravings of a man unhappy in his marriage to a woman who wasn’t a very nice person, but the mention of something called the Green Book is intriguing, and the line “I twisted myself about like the twisted ones” gives Mouse the chills. While walking Bongo in the woods, Mouse stumbles on a strange gathering of stones on top of a hill that shouldn’t exist. After discovering a gruesome deer effigy hanging in the woods, Mouse confides in Foxy, who tells a few strange tales of her own. Something is lurking just outside Mouse’s house, and that effigy isn’t of this world, but just when she’s ready to leave, Bongo disappears. And Mouse isn’t going anywhere without Bongo. Kingfisher effortlessly entwines an atmospheric and spooky “deep dark woods” tale with ancient folklore and pulls off more than a few very effective scares. Mouse is a highly relatable and frequently funny narrator who is also refreshingly willing to believe her own eyes. The charming supporting cast is a bonus, especially the glamorous, 60-something Foxy, who goes above and beyond the call of duty to help Mouse when she needs it most. Read this one with the lights on.

About the Author

T. Kingfisher, also known as Ursula Vernon, is the author and illustrator of many projects, including the webcomic “Digger,” which won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story and the Mythopoeic Award. Her novelette “The Tomato Thief” won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette, and her short story “Jackalope Wives” won the Nebula Award for Best Story. She is also the author of the bestselling Dragonbreath, and the Hamster Princess series of books for children.

Her website is ursulavernon.com

Around the Web

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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

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December 2019, Fiction

The Institute by Stephen King

The Institute by Stephen King. September 10, 2019. Scribner, 561 p. ISBN: 9781982110567.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of ItThe Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Suicide, Underage drinking, Underage smoking, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
Over a prolific 40-year writing career most authors only dream about, King has turned almost every one of his novels into a bestseller on the strength of his ability to create sympathetic protagonists facing life-threatening and often otherworldly challenges. Following the tender and mysterious fable, Elevation (2018), King’s latest supernatural yarn stays true to his signature focus by featuring a 12-year-old genius named Luke Ellis who’s kidnapped and transported to a secret facility known simply as the Institute. As the shock of capture wears off, Luke discovers his fellow inmates are all other adolescents like himself with latent psychic powers—powers that are exploited and enhanced by a team of abusive researchers. When Luke befriends a disenchanted housekeeper, he quickly seizes the opportunity to escape and reveal the Institute’s undertakings to the outside world. King devotees will, of course, devour this latest suspenseful page-turner, but any reader looking for a smart thriller about an unusual black ops organization will find this compelling and rewarding. With his usual blend of plot twists and vividly drawn characters, King remains at the top of his game. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Abducted psychic teens, a black ops mission, and narrative magnetism ensure the usual King fever. Be prepared.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie. Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was”). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps. King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

About the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than sixty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes The InstituteElevationThe OutsiderSleeping Beauties (cowritten with his son Owen King), and the Bill Hodges trilogy: End of WatchFinders Keepers, and Mr. Mercedes (an Edgar Award winner for Best Novel and an AT&T Audience Network original television series). His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller. His epic works The Dark Tower and It are the basis for major motion pictures, with It now the highest grossing horror film of all time. He is the recipient of the 2018 PEN America Literary Service Award, the 2014 National Medal of Arts, and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.  His website is www.stephenking.com.

Around the Web

The Institute on Amazon

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The Institute Publisher Page

Fiction, November 2019

His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler

His Hideous Heart: 13 of Edgar Allan Poe’s Most Unsettling Tales Re-imagined edited by Dahlia Adler. September 10, 2019. Flatiron Books, 470 p. ISBN: 9781250302779.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Thirteen of YA’s most celebrated names reimagine Edgar Allan Poe’s most surprising, unsettling, and popular tales for a new generation.

Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.

Contributors include Dahlia Adler (reimagining “Ligeia), Kendare Blake (“Metzengerstein”), Rin Chupeco (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”), Lamar Giles (“The Oval Portrait”), Tessa Gratton (“Annabel Lee”), Tiffany D. Jackson (“The Cask of Amontillado”), Stephanie Kuehn (“The Tell-Tale Heart”), Emily Lloyd-Jones (“The Purloined Letter”), Amanda Lovelace (“The Raven”), Hillary Monahan (“The Masque of the Red Death”), Marieke Nijkamp (“Hop-Frog”), Caleb Roehrig (“The Pit and the Pendulum”), and Fran Wilde (“The Fall of the House of Usher”).

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Transphobia

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2019)
A genre-bending collection of 13 twists on Edgar Allan Poe’s works. Editor Adler (contributor: It’s a Whole Spiel, 2019, etc.) does Poe proud with this creepy and atmospheric set of stories inspired by a handful of his most well-known works. All are well worth reading, but there are quite a few standouts, including Rin Chupeco’s (contributor: Hungry Hearts) ebullient “The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Boracay,” in which an effervescent Filipina trans woman joins up with her dashing new half-French, half-Filipino boyfriend to solve the baffling murders of two American tourists on the island of Boracay. Lamar Giles’ (The Last Last-Day-of-Summer) unsettling “The Oval Filter” features African American football star Tariq, whose dead girlfriend’s distorted images appear on his phone—and they seem to be trying to tell him something. “The Fall of the Bank of Usher” by Fran Wilde (The Fire Opal Mechanism) is an adrenaline rush of a tale about assumed white orphans Rik and Mad, brother and sister twins, who must hack their way out of an intimidating Scottish bank for a life-changing prize—a challenge many before them have failed. Strong feminist themes appear throughout, and genres run the gamut from futuristic to gothic and lots in between. Diversity in race, gender identity, and sexuality is well represented. As a bonus, all of the original stories and poems are included. Poe’s ghost happily haunts this fresh, delightfully dark collection. (author bios) (Anthology. 14-adult)

Library Journal (September 1, 2019)
Thirteen of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous works are reimagined by YA authors in this compilation of delightfully shivery tales with strong adult crossover appeal. Tessa Gratton’s “Night-Tide” reworks “Annabel Lee” in a story about family obligations and a lost love between two teen girls. Kendare Blake’s “She Rode a Horse of Fire” recounts an act of dark vengeance enacted by a ghostly woman to a callous young man. “Happy Days, Sweetheart,” by Stephanie Kuehn is a retelling of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” with a jealous high-school student as the guilty killer of her rival. In “The Oval Filter,” by Lamar Giles, a high school football player seeks the answer to who killed his crush, a social media influencer. This collection shines in getting readers to view Poe’s work in a new light, featuring characters from diverse ethnic backgrounds, queer protagonists, and other perspectives not represented in the earlier texts. Packaged in the book are the original stories, making comparisons between the old and the new works easy for readers. VERDICT A solid collection of thoroughly modernized Poe classics, recommended for YA shelves and classrooms or for die-hard Poe scholars.-Jennifer Mills, Shorewood-Troy Lib., IL

About the Editor

Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of Mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teens and LGBTQReads by night, and a writer of Contemporary YA and NA at every spare moment in between. She’s the author of the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting, the Radleigh University series, and Cool for the Summer (Wednesday Books, 2021); a contributor to anthologies All Out, The Radical Element, and It’s a Whole Spiel; the editor of the anthologies His Hideous Heart and That Way Madness Lies (2021).

She lives in New York with her husband, son, and overstuffed bookshelves. Her website is www.dahliaadler.com.

Teacher Resources

Collection of Edgar Allan Poe Lesson Plans

Around the Web

His Hideous Heart on Amazon

His Hideous Heart on Barnes and Noble

His Hideous Heart on Goodreads

His Hideous Heart on LibraryThing

His Hideous Heart Publisher Page