Contagion – Erin Bowman

This is one of the best YA books I’ve ever read! It’s heart pounding action from beginning to end and not the mindless kind with no character development. Althea Sadik is working as an intern for renowned microbiologist Dr. Lisbeth Tarlow when circumstances force them to answer a distress call from a drill operation on a distant planet which never rotates to face the sun. On dark Achlys, they discover a missing crew with only the body of an engineer and a cryptic message scrawled in blood. Desperate to find her father stationed on the planet, the captain orders a search despite the crew’s reluctance. What they find are corpses and a lone minor whose survival is too good to be true. This is a two book series and I can’t wait for the sequel as I haven’t read as exciting a last fifty pages since Michael Crichton’s The Lost World. Equal parts Aliens and Resident Evil, the intricate plot, spare yet effective character development, world building and escalating pace make for a truly exceptional novel. 

Advertisements

Orphan Monster Spy – Matt Killeen

This is a sensational young adult book; a unique take on an old theme. Stories about WWII aren’t my favorite, maybe because Nazi behavior is so extreme, but enter a new heroine named Sarah-a smart, sassy, blue-eyed blonde Jew struggling to survive in 1939 Germany. The action starts right away when Nazi’s shoot Sarah’s mom at a checkpoint. Fifteen-year-old Sarah escapes, meeting a mysterious yet kind man with a luxurious Berlin apartment. Using her ingenuity, she quickly learns he’s part of the Resistance. Rage at what’s happening in Germany prompts her to accept his assignment to befriend the daughter of a top Nazi scientist at an elite boarding school to discover what’s going on behind the well-guarded walls of their estate. Sarah’s classmates prove vicious, trained to prop up Third Reich ideology. She’s soon in yet another battle to survive, but woe to anyone who underestimates this cherubic looking girl. The book’s premise is farfetched but there were teenage spies during WWII, and the pacing’s so smart it’s never a problem. You’ll quickly find yourself rooting for Sarah to beat the Nazis at their own game. My highest recommendation.

 

The Great Alone – Kristin Hannah

Leni has it hard. Her dad, Ernt, a Vietnam POW, and her mom, Cora, who gave birth way too young, have a tie as intense as it is toxic. Ernt can’t hold a job and is always moving the family as he chases the next big idea. The one enduring constant in Leni’s life is the love she shares with her mom. When Ernt finds he’s been left an Alaskan homestead he thinks their problems are solved. Cora and Leni are less certain given the remoteness. Unprepared for Alaska’s long cold, isolating winters, they learn to adapt with the help of locals, including Matthew-Leni’s first real friend. Unfortunately, the harsh conditions bring out the worst in Ernt whose paranoia dominates their lives. The book follows Leni from teen years into early adulthood as she copes with her father’s increasing violence and her mom’s refusal to leave. It’s both a love song to Alaska, and the bond between mothers and daughters. A shorter beginning would have improved pacing, and the end is too neatly resolved, but like every Hannah book it sucks you in and leaves you wanting more when finished.

Carve The Mark – Veronica Roth

If you like YA Dystopian, this book’s for you. Written by the author of Divergent, it’s more sci-fi than what we’ve come to expect, but there are plenty of fantasy elements to placate the faithful. Cyra is Shotet; sister of the violent brutal leader. Akos is from a prominent family of the opposing Thuvhe tribe. Akos is kidnapped as a child to prevent Cyra’s brother from meeting a dismal fate predicted by planetary oracles. In this universe, people are gifted with various powers. Cyra’s gift, killing by touch, causes her a great deal of pain. Akos is given to Cyra because his gift is able to counteract hers. Cyra has spent her life trying to survive her sadistic brother. Akos’s only goal is to escape. As their relationship flourishes, Cyra joins forces with rebels attempting to overthrow her brother to help him get away. Although the plot in this book seems unnecessarily complex, Roth has not lost the ability to pen a page-turning story with compelling lead characters, romance and adventure aplenty.

Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon

everything-everything

Maddie is allergic to everything in this complex Young Adult Novel – a bubble girl so sick she can’t leave the sterile environment her mother has created at home. The only other person allowed inside is Carla, the nurse. At seventeen, Maggie has accepted her fate, until a moving van pulls into the driveway next door. From her window, she sees a guy her age dressed all in black. Maddie knows she’s going to find a way to meet him, just as she knows it isn’t going to end well. Soon enough, she’s furtively messaging Olly. Then she convinces Carla to let him in the house. When her mom finds out, she brings the hammer down firing Carla and putting Maddie on restriction. Maddie has to decide if living is worthwhile given her condition, or if she’d rather throw her life away for a brief taste of normal with Olly on the outside. This is an excellent, well-written book, good enough to get a major push from Random House Teens.

Twisted – Laurie Halse Anderson

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-9-40-48-amHigh school senior Tyler Miller was a nerd until he got busted for graffiti and given outdoor community service. Now 6’3 and built, he attracts the interest of the girl he’s always crushed on, queen bee Bethany Milbury. She’s also the daughter of his father’s boss and the sister of a bully. Tyler is dazzled until Bethany proves less than loyal and their relationship ends. When her nude picture shows up on the internet, Tyler is the obvious suspect because of their fight and his criminal background. The fall out has him questioning his newfound popularity (now on the skids), school in general and the dynamics in his dysfunctional family.  An interesting read by a terrific YA author who writes imperfect yet relatable characters.

Wintergirls – Laurie Halse Anderson

9780142415573I’ve been in a Young Adult phase, but there are so many good books in this genre it’s hard to go back to staid Adult Lit. One of the better authors is Laurie Halse Anderson. She scores with Wintergirls, which is older, but excellent nonetheless. Lia and Cassie are best friends, competing to be thin. Lia is haunted by Cassie after she dies and wracked with guilt for not being there for her at the end. Although she is in “recovery,” Lia begins to backslide. Divorced parents don’t help. High expectations don’t either. Lia’s father is a professor and author; her mother a cardiac surgeon. Each is so busy, neither notices at first when Lia starts restricting food and cutting. This sounds like a depressing book about a subject that’s been well covered. It’s sad, but the writing is so immediate, it’s hard to put the book down. Lia is a real character who leaps off the page; one you root for to conquer her devastating illness.

Glow – Amy Kathleen Ryan

glowMany of the Young Adult dystopian novels that came out after The Hunger Games were disappointing to say the least, but this book explores the theme of totalitarianism better than most. In outer space, two ships are on the way to populate a distant planet after Earth’s collapse, except onboard the New Horizon the women are all sterile. Desperate to procreate, the crew mount an attack on their sister ship, Empyrean, killing all the adults and kidnapping the female children. Held captive, fifteen-year-old Waverly wages careful resistance. Onboard the Empyrean, her captain-in-training boyfriend, Kieran, fights to get her back with nothing more than a crew of boys to man the ship. Can Kieran, who uses to religion to maintain strict control, fend off the brilliant Seth who is of a much more liberal mindset? Which boy will Waverly prefer if rescued? There’s a depth to this book not present in most YA novels. The author masterfully weaves in themes of religion, good versus evil, and reproductive rights, while still managing to provide a thrilling, technically proficient Sci-Fi adventure.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares

sisterhood-of-the-traveling-pants-book-coverFour girls, best friends, are about to spend their first summer apart in this charming Young Adult novel. Just before they separate, they find a magical pair of jeans which unbelievably fits each of them perfectly. The jeans are passed back and forth all summer as the girls deal with their issues. Shy, beautiful Lena travels to Greece to visit her grandparents and learns to assert herself when she falls in love with a boy despite a family feud. Bridget, the athlete, goes to soccer camp where she pursues one of her coaches romantically, trying to find love in the wake of her mother’s death. Cynical Tibby, left at home, develops an unlikely friendship with a younger girl with leukemia who teaches her life might not be so bad. Carmen visits her father only to discover he is about to remarry a women with two teenagers very different from her and her Puerto Rican mom. Carmen’s journey is about self-acceptance. This heart-warming tale was made into a movie, launching careers for all the actresses.