The Alan Review
Editors:
Wendy Glenn, Senior Editor
Ricki Ginsberg, Assistant Editor
Danielle King, Assistant Editor
thealanreview@gmail.com
Volume 39, Number 3
Summer 2012


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Clip & File YA Book Reviews


A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle
Amulet Books, 2012, 206pp., $16.95

Contemporary Fiction/Moving On
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0168-9

Mary O’Hara has heard a billion times that the past lives on, but it isn’t until she meets the ghost of her great-grandmother, Tansey, that she realizes just how true this is. Doyle’s A Greyhound of a Girl is a novel that explores death and moving on through the lives of four generations of women. It revolves around a tragedy, Tansey’s unexpected demise, and its effect on her 3-year-old daughter, Emer. Now, with Emer on her deathbed, Tansey comes back to comfort her and, in the meantime, forever change the lives of her descendants Mary and Scarlett.

The combination of Mary’s playful dialogue and Tansey’s matter-of-fact attitude toward death make A Greyhound of a Girl at once utterly heartbreaking and wildly amusing. Although intended for young adults, this exquisite novel deals with death and moving on in a way that can be enjoyed by people of any age.

Molly Druce
Ponte Vedra, FL

Beneath a Meth Moon: An Elegy
by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Young Readers Group,
2012, 208 pp., $16.99

Addiction/Recovery/Family


ISBN: 978-0-399-25250-1

Life brightens briefly for Laurel once her family moves from Jackson, Mississippi, to the small Midwest town of Galilee. She’s a cheerleader and dating the high school’s basketball star. But T-Boom introduces her to meth, and Laurel quickly comes to crave its effects. Meth helps her forget the family she left behind in August 2005 before Hurricane Katrina’s arrival. But it also makes her forget the things that matter. She ends up on the street, begging for change to pay for her meth and becoming invisible to passersby.

Laurel’s poignant story is told in a series of remembrances of her once-happy life and the losses she has experienced. While her recovery is uncertain, clearly she is making the effort, thanks to supportive family and friends like street artist Moses. This is a gripping, honest account of life’s pleasures and pains and what it takes to survive.

Barbara A. Ward
Pullman, WA

Bloody Chester by J. T. Petty (writer) and
Hilary Florido (illustrator)
First Second Books, 2012, 143 pp., $18.99

Identity/Courage/Morality

ISBN: 978-1-59643-100-3

Set in the wild frontier, Bloody Chester is a tale of a young man coming of age and struggling to carve out an identity for himself. At its core a bildungsroman (or journey novel), Bloody Chester encapsulates the very best traditions of quality adolescent literature: identity formation, development of an ethical code (even at the expense of personal gain), and learning the differences between lust and love. While there are elements that may, at first glance, seem taboo and that warrant caution and close reading—references to sexuality, suggestive language, violence—these elements are contextualized in the time period and not sensational or gratuitous. Bloody Chester at times reads like a (much better written) Catcher in the Rye. Overall, these taboo elements help to keep the voice of the narrative authentic in the vein of some of the best and most revered stories of the old frontier.

Brian Kelley
New York, NY

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip
by Jordan Sonnenblick
Scholastic, 2012, 304 pp., $17.99

Baseball/Photography/Alzheimer’s

ISBN: 978-0-545-32069-6

Incoming freshman Peter Friedman and his best friend AJ have everything planned out. They’ll use their baseball prowess as tickets to success and popularity in high school. After a devastating arm injury precludes playing baseball, Pete feels lost without the sport around which his identity has been based. Using the camera equipment his grandfather gives him, he realizes that there is much truth revealed from behind the lens, but whose truth is it—the subject’s or the photographer’s? Pete’s life becomes complicated by Angelika, a classmate who shares his passion for the camera but demands honesty with himself and others.

Pete is also concerned about how Alzheimer’s is robbing his grandfather of his most precious memories. Although Pete does, indeed, lose his grip on life at several points, he regains his equilibrium and shows readers the benefits of self-honesty. Filled with humor, pathos, and insight, this page-turner is another homerun.

Barbara A. Ward
Pullman, WA

Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett
Harcourt Children’s Books, 2011, 320 pp., $16.99

Juvenile Fiction/Mythology
ISBN: 978-0-547-58132-3

Ariadne and Theseus are like many teenagers. She loves her kind mother, simple brother, and garrulous friends. He loves his helpful stepfather and flighty mother. Life is a little different for them, however: Ariadne’s mother takes the form of a goddess for three days out of every year; her brother is confused for the murderous Minotaur; Theseus’s true father may be Poseidon or the king of Athens. For them to reach their fate, they may need to take away what is most precious to the other.

Barrett expertly weaves her story from the strands of both Ariadne’s and Theseus’s viewpoints to create a world both of its time and pertinent to now. Older teenagers who can appreciate discussions on the intersection of religion and politics, handle implied scenes of sex and violence, and enjoy new twists on often-told stories will find much to cherish here.

Walt Colt
Nashville, TN

Divergent by Veronica Roth
HarperCollins, 2011, 487 pp., $17.99

Dystopian Fiction/Identity
ISBN: 978-0-06-202402-2

Beatrice Prior must make a decision—one that will change the course of her life forever. On Choosing Day each year, 16-year-olds across dystopian Chicago must devote themselves to one of five factions, each committed to the cultivation of a particular virtue. On one hand, Beatrice can remain in Abnegation and live a quiet life with her family; on the other, she can be true to herself and join a rival faction. Regardless of her choice, Beatrice must be careful not to divulge a secret she has been warned to keep—a secret that can unravel society as she knows it.

Amidst budding friendships and oft-confusing romance, Beatrice struggles to come to terms with the decisions she has made and their unimaginable consequences. Despite its similarity to other dystopian novels, Divergent’s depiction of adolescence rings true. Growing up isn’t easy, and growing up with a terrible secret is just plain hard.

Alex Ivey
Brentwood, TN

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
First Second Books, 2012, 213 pp., $15.99

Friendship/Family/Identity
ISBN: 978-1-59643-556-8

After years of home schooling, Maggie’s mother abandons the family and leaves Maggie to navigate a local school system and its social structures. Having grown up in a house full of men, particularly three brothers with whom she always tried to fit in, Maggie regrets not interacting more with her mother and learning “girly things.” Maggie establishes her own circle of friends when she befriends a vocal and colorful Lucy and her brother Alistair (on whom Maggie develops her first crush). As Maggie attempts to deal with a spirit haunting her since she was a child, she learns that no matter what one goes through in life, forming genuine bonds with those on whom we can rely and from whom we can seek comfort should be our priority. The black-and-white coloring adds a nice somber tone to resonate emotional power, capturing a textual tone that moves from comedic to serious.

Brian Kelley
New York, NY

From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender
Hyperion, 2011, 448 pp., $9.99

Supernatural/Ghosts
ISBN: 978-1-4231-3471-8

This second installment of the Bad Girls Don’t Die series finds sisters in trouble with the spirit world. Kasey has made it home in time to start school after an evil spirit possessed her. Alexis begins to worry when Kasey slips into a strange group of girls called The Sunshine Club. Kasey and Alexis must work together to find a way to get rid of Aralt before the other Sunshiners learn of their plan. Throw in a breezy love interest who flits by in the first and last 50 pages, murderous plots, X-File-type government agents, and high school homework, and you get the gist.

Fans of the supernatural will enjoy this book. Young women will appreciate a cast of female characters who can take care of themselves and each other. While it is the second book of the series, reading the first book is not a must.

Sarah Cosey
Jackson, GA

Girl Meets Boy edited by Kelly Milner Halls
Chronicle Books LLC, 2012, 208 pp., $16.99

Fiction/Romantic Relationships
ISBN: 978-1-4521-0264-1

The age-old tale of “he said she said” never dies when it comes to romantic relationships. Especially the teenage ones. A clever compilation of six stories told through the eyes of the male and female, the dynamic YA authors who created the stories seek to expose the roadblocks and romanticism that stem from the various and sundry misconceptions of the adolescent mind. From a tortured soul searching for real love, to an interfaith couple defying their not so compliant parents, Girl Meets Boy is the perfect piece of literature to make you ask, “If I knew the other person’s point of view, could I be in a successful relationship?”

Cliché, but true, there really are two sides to every story. And at the end of the day, we can always learn from our differences. Whether they help us or hurt us, they will always make us stronger.

Jeuel A. Davis
Clemson, SC

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
Amulet Books, 2010, 274 pp., $7.95

Historical Fiction/Action
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0200-6

Stranded on an island with four companions in 1841, Manjiro’s fate quickly changes as an American whaling vessel passes near their island and takes the castaways aboard. Over the next decade, Manjiro becomes a whaler, traveling extensively throughout the Pacific and the Atlantic; however, he yearns to return to his small village in Japan and eventually become a samurai. Manjiro’s lifelong desire to become a samurai steadily guides his thinking, which allows him to make prudent choices in extreme nautical and interpersonal situations. But will his dream unlock a return path to his home?

Preus peppers this novel with periodic drawings of aquatic life as well as drawings rendered by the historical Manjiro. The book’s epilogue includes Manjiro’s biography and definitions of some Japanese words. The novel’s fast-paced action, illustrations, and historical details ignite the reader’s imagination and leaves them wanting more adventures with Manjiro and more information about US/Japanese relations.

Charles M. Owens, Jr.
Nashville, TN

Island of the Unknowns by Benedict Carey
Amulet Books, 2011, 265 pp., $6.95

Mystery/Detective Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-8109-9663-2

Lady Di Smith and Tom Jones are the only two kids in Folsom Adjacent that can figure out what happened to Malba Clarke. Nothing exciting ever happens living in Folsom Adjacent, but this mystery is one that can no longer be overlooked, and it will change the lives of the lazy folk forever. With the help of some fellow outcasts, they use their logical minds to solve their unfamiliar clues that involve math, wits, and courage.

Carey’s effort to ground math in the physical world involves allusions to famous mathematicians, secret societies and gangs, and some clever diagramming. The suspense carries you along until the very end, making you question everything that crosses their path and ache to solve the mystery along with them. It takes careful reading to follow along at times, but it’s worth the adventure to help learn and appreciate math in everyday life.

Claire Holman
Fairfax, VA

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
Graphia/Houghten Mifflin Harcourt, 2009, 351 pp., $8.99

Vampire Romance/Fantasy
ISBN: 978-0-15-206384-9

Lucius Vladescu is a vampire. Jessica Packwood is his vampire princess. But to this small-town Pennsylvania teen, getting through the school day is hard enough without a tall, dark, handsome vampire stalking her and calling her by her long forgotten Romanian name. It’s no secret that 17-year-old Jessica was adopted by free-spirited, vegan parents. But what they’ve hidden from her, an immortal destiny, will change her life forever.

Without warning, Jessica is plunged into a world of rumors, lies, and a fate she isn’t sure she wants to fulfill. As responsibility to her heritage overpowers her and Lucius’s kisses weaken her resolve, Jessica is faced with a choice between normalcy and unbelievable power. If only she has the courage to choose.

Beth Fantaskey’s first novel continuously grapples with the social ramifications of male and female power colliding, all wrapped up in the delicious vampire genre that has captured the nation.

Kirstin Slitt
West Hartford, CT

Money Boy by Paul Yee
Groundwood Books, 2011, 184 pp., $16.95

Adolescent Fiction/Coming of Age
ISBN: 978-1-55498-093-2

Ray has recently emigrated with his family from China because his father, Ba, believes there will be more opportunities available to them in Canada. However, after discovering his son’s homosexuality, Ba forces Ray out of the house and onto the streets where he must fend for himself. In a journey in which he discovers the different aspects of being a Chinese immigrant and a homosexual man, Ray sells his body on the streets in order to survive. Living away from home, he learns appreciation for both the values of his old life and those of the previously unfamiliar world outside of his family.

Yee’s novel explores a variety of social and moral issues, such as immigration, homosexuality, and the power of money. Through his naïve protagonist, Yee makes connections between wealth and virtues like honor and freedom, raising questions about what it means to truly possess these qualities.

Tory Cortes
Charleston, SC

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
Abrams ComicArts, 2012, 224 pp., $24.95

Graphic Novel/Memoir
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0216-7

Derf Backderf and his friends don’t know what to make of the new Jeffrey Dahmer. This previously shy loner is making a name for himself as a high school class clown with few inhibitions and a remarkable wit. Backderf’s friends, The Dahmer Fan Club, embrace (and exploit) Dahmer’s new public persona, but, faced with serious indications that Dahmer’s public displays are hiding something deeply wrong, they struggle to keep him at a safe distance.

Backderf is careful to reveal Dahmer as a tragic figure whose home life, sexual identity, and hidden thoughts and urges lead him down what seems an inexorable path of isolation and alcoholism. While Backderf does not excuse Dahmer’s behavior in high school or beyond, he asks a question that the reader can’t help but ask at every page, “Where were the damn adults?”

Jesse Gray
Nashville, TN

Out of Control by Rick Jasper
Lerner Publishing Group, 2012, 107 pp., $7.95

Fiction/Sports
ISBN: 978-0-7613-8538-7

“What would Dad say if I quit?” wondered Carlos “Trip” Costas as he contemplated his future baseball career. Since he was little, his father, Julio, taught him everything he knew about how the game of baseball is played. His father financially supported the team, ensuring they had the best of everything, including the nicest hotels for travel games and a part-time trainer. Believing Trip could make it in the big leagues, Julio pushed his son, at times too far, yelling from the stands at multiple games. Despite Trip’s pleas, his dad threatens to stop financially supporting the team if Trip decides to sit himself on the bench. Torn between trying to please his father and pursuing his passion for music, a tragic event teaches Julio about what is really important in life.

Libby Byrnes
Alpharetta, GA

Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011, 340 pp., $16.99

Realistic Fiction/Teen Pregnancy
ISBN: 978-0-15-206570-6

Eleanor Crowe is a very stubborn and rebellious 16-year-old girl who has been in and out of trouble. Now she’s pregnant. After announcing her pregnancy, Eleanor feels as though her world is crashing down around her, and everyone is slowly turning their backs on her when she needs them the most. Her parents are frustrated with her and have left for Kenya, her in-laws are not her biggest fans, her husband is not very supportive, and she’s not even sure if she wants to be married. On top of it all, she is stuck working at a camp for overweight children for the summer.

This story chronicles Eleanor’s journey as she wrestles with the decision of whether or not she should keep her baby. Han tells an insightful and compelling story about self-discovery, growth, and what it is like to be 16 and pregnant.

La’Toya Wade
Smyrna, TN

Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby
Walker & Company, 2012, 272 pp., $9.99

Realistic Fiction/Romance
ISBN: 978-0-8027-2298-0

Teenager Josephine “Jo” Foster is up close and personal with the world’s most famous celebrities on a daily basis—as a member of the paparazzi. Taking pictures of the stars to save up money for photography classes, Jo will do whatever it takes to get her money shot. That is, until she’s sent undercover to a rehabilitation facility to photograph teen heartthrob Ned Hartnett—the very celebrity that helped Jo get her start.

Suddenly, this feisty photographer finds herself posing as a patient in the treatment center, torn between doing the job that will finally enable her to pay for photography classes and her burgeoning friendship, and maybe even romance, with Ned. As she grows closer to Ned, Jo realizes that things aren’t always as they seem—in her life or in Ned’s—something that forces her to decide just how far she’s willing to go to achieve her dreams.

Caroline Wilson
Houston, TX

The Difference between You and Me
by Madeline George
Viking, 2012, 255 pp., $16.99

Realistic Fiction/ Romance

ISBN: 978-0-670-01128-5

Jesse is a fisherman-boot-wearing, self-proclaimed weirdo that fights for what she believes in. Emily is the J Crew-clad student council vice-president that always has a plan for everything, including her future. Both girls are harboring their secret relationship while carrying out their normal lives. When an issue comes up that divides the entire town and puts these girls on opposite sides, will they learn to compromise in order to maintain a relationship?

Madeline George spins an entertaining story that tells of two girls trying to find their way in the world of high school and in the world of relationships. The story of Jesse and Emily does a great job of demonstrating the importance of learning to decide what things in life are worth fighting for.

Courtney R. Morgan
New Braunfels, TX

The Farewell Season by Ann Herrick
Puddletown Publishing Group, 2011, 143 pp., $10.99

Sports/Relationships/Grief
ISBN: 978-1-61413-019-2

Football lovers and non-football fans will enjoy this compelling story. Eric Neilson’s enthusiasm for playing high school football is nearly stifled by the death of his supportive father. For Eric, everything changes, and he struggles to understand his mother’s erratic behavior. With the help of Glynnie, who is dealing with her parents’ divorce, Eric learns that he needs to deal with his grief, not ignore it. The realistic feelings and true-to-life characters provide a story with an important lesson about life and loss.

The reader empathizes with Eric’s pain as he tackles the most heartbreaking obstacle of his life, then rejoices when he resolves his grief and puts himself back on the playing field! This story crosses the “goal line”—both for teens who may face similar hurdles, and for those who wonder about such “what ifs” in life that may yet befall them.

Patricia D. Engelking
Lowell, OR

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Dutton Juvenile, 2012, 313 pp., $17.99

Fiction/Illness
ISBN: 978-0-525-47881-2

Hazel Grace Lancaster has terminal cancer. Along with her life-sustaining oxygen tank and doctor visits, she attends weekly Support Group meetings to help her deal with her illness. It is at one of these meetings where she meets Augustus Waters, a cancer patient in remission. Using Augustus’s leftover make-a-wish, the two set off for answers about Hazel’s favorite book, finding companionship and love along the way.

John Green tells the story of two teenagers with cancer who are struggling to find their place and purpose in the world. Holding little back in his depiction of this ailment, he allows for his characters to grow through their shared hardships and triumphs. Hazel and Augustus meet in Support Group, but they gain far more than support. They gain a sense of purpose and find out what it means to be not dying of cancer but living with it.

Zachary Oswanski
Nashville, TN

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Razorbill, 2011, 356 pp., $12.91

Fiction/Relationships/Destiny
ISBN: 978-1-59514-491-1

Set in 1996, Josh and Emma are not the constantly wired teenagers of today. Josh has just given Emma a free AOL trial cd rom for her new computer. Upon logging on, Emma sees a page that has all her personal information and pictures. Emma has stumbled onto herself 15 years in the future, on Facebook. Josh is there, too, but their profiles do not remain static, rather the smallest actions throughout their days cause ripples in time, where their Facebook profiles and subsequently their futures change with every click.

This novel not only examines how we write our destinies, but also to what extent our future is written in technology. Asher and Mackler’s compelling depictions force the reader to examine the simultaneous help and hindrance that lies in current technology, keeping the reader guessing about the future of Emma and Josh as well at the future of humanity.

Meghan Anderson
San Diego, CA

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Putnam Juvenile, 2011, 372 pp., $16.99

Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-399-25660-8

When Rory Deveraux’s parents take a sabbatical to England during her senior year, she chooses to spend it at boarding school in London. But it just happens to be the same time someone is copying Jack the Ripper’s famous 1888 murders near the very school Rory attends. The more London and all of England get swept up in “Rippermania,” the fewer leads the police have. But then Rory sees someone. Is he the new Ripper? Why did no one else see him? And what will happen to Rory now that she’s the only witness?

As Rory’s journey takes her above and below modern London in this exciting read, it’s easy to get swept up with her. From romance to mystery, humor to suspense, and everywhere in between, Johnson’s story of an American teen with amazing capabilities is a worthwhile read.

Kate Mitchell
Cape Elizabeth, ME

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
Hyperion Books for Children, 2011, 228 pp., $10.99

Fantasy/Family
ISBN: 978-1-4231-3787-0

A child is missing in the town of Near, a mysterious place that bears the legacy of witchcraft. Town leaders suspect a young male stranger whose arrival in Near coincides with the disappearance of the child, but Lexi Harris, a spitfire girl who is determined to find answers, befriends the young man, Cole, and is sure he has nothing to do with the kidnapping. As the nights go by, more children disappear from their beds and hostility grows toward the stranger. Lexi persists in her search for answers and discovers more about Near than she might like to know as she is led down a trail of history to the true story of the Near Witch.

Schwab’s storytelling is rich with descriptive detail, and students, particularly female students, will identify with Lexi, who is frustrated by the limits set upon her by the adults in her life. She is anxious to be free from stereotypes of what a girl “should” be.

Rachel Van Dyke
Nashville, TN

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
by Jennifer E. Smith
Poppy/Little, Brown, 2012, 236 pp., $17.99

Romance/Family Relationships
ISBN: 978-0-316-12238-2

The four minutes that cause Hadley Sullivan to miss her flight to London might change her life. As she waits for the next available flight, she meets Oliver, a Brit who is also on his way to London. They end up sitting together and sharing secrets that result in their bonding during the flight. After a kiss, they somehow get separated at Heathrow Airport. Although Hadley reluctantly heads off to her father’s wedding, she can’t get Oliver out of her mind, and once the ceremony is over, she relies on the only clues she has to where he might be. But just as Hadley’s father is starting a new life, part of Oliver’s life is ending, and Hadley arrives at the most inopportune moment. Fans of Anna and the French Kiss will relish this book about love, taking chances, and forgiveness, and may decide to book a flight to Europe.

Barbara A. Ward
Pullman, WA

The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis
Amulet Books, 2011, 402 pp., $18.95

Fantasy/Family Relationships
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0047-7

Seventeen-year-old Anna seems to be living in a fairy tale, and not a happy one. It begins when she finds a little doll with a dangerous owner who also has a gift for storytelling. A notorious drug dealer and outcast, Abel is everything that Anna is not. Drawn to him and his mesmerizing stories, Anna begins to discover more about the boy with the icy eyes and Micha, the little sister he would die to protect.

Is Abel truly dangerous? And how do his stories seem to predict the tragic events that are happening? As Anna falls deeper and deeper into Abel’s stories, the lines of reality blur and the stakes become higher. Michaelis deftly interweaves truths and tales as she explores the harsh reality of family, love, and desperation.

Grace Chee
Easley, SC

The White Assassin by Hilary Wagner
Holiday House, 2011, 242 pp., $17.95

Fantasy
ISBN-978-0-8234-2333-0

In this second book in the Nightshade Chronicles, Juniper and the valiant rats of Nightshade City are struggling against their nemesis, Billycan, and his army of swamp rats. The story takes the reader into the rats’ world as they attempt to subdue Billycan. Seemingly simple at its onset, the story becomes increasingly complex as the history of Billycan, Juniper, and the other main characters is revealed.

The theme of good vs. evil is interwoven throughout the story, but the complexity of the characters makes this book worthwhile. Deception and duplicity are vital elements, but so are redemption and forgiveness. The noblest characters are not immune to the inner turmoil that Billycan faces. Similarly, Billycan is not the cold-hearted killer that he appears. Wagner has succeeded in creating an imaginative world inhabited by rats, bats, and snakes, and has simultaneously delved into the age-old issues of identity, trust, and love.

Alec Woodhull
Nashville, TN

The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011, 160 pp., $15.99

Fiction/Friendship
ISBN: 978-0-547-68463-5

Friends, who needs them? You do not have to worry about being invited to go on ski trips or sleepovers or wonder if your friends like your outfit. Anna’s friends are the characters in the books she reads. They take her on their adventures without having to be asked. But, Anna soon realizes the benefits of having real friends and being a friend.

Chang introduces young readers into the world of a Chinese American girl who is struggling with finding her place in the both the Chinese and American cultures. The story includes references to Chinese words (and characters), traditions, calendar, and food. Readers will learn that friendship is important in all cultures.

Angela Draper
Nashville, TN

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein
by Kenneth Oppel
Simon & Schuster, 2011, 298 pp., $10.99

Fantasy/Classic
ISBN: 978-1-4424-0315-4

Who was Victor Frankenstein BEFORE he created his monster? What was he like as a teen? This Dark Endeavor provides a view into his possible past. Victor and his twin brother Konrad are nearly inseparable; they share a love of adventure. They discover The Dark Library filled with secret books of alchemy and ancient potions. The boys’ father forbids them to go into the Library, but that just makes Victor want to go in even more. Then Konrad becomes deathly ill, and Victor tries to save him with the Elixer of Life.

The journey to find the ingredients for the Elixer pushes Victor and his friends to the limit of their endurance; their desperation to save Konrad pushes them beyond even that. This novel provides a glimpse into the making of a scientist desperate to unlock the secrets of life; its connections to Frankenstein are thought-provoking in this excellent read.

Melanie Hundley
Nashville, TN

Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Egmont, 2011, 368 pp., $17.99

Werewolves/Family/Fantasy
ISBN: 978-1-60684-168-6

Bryn, the human Alpha of a pack of werewolves, is settling into her position as leader. She knows that she doesn’t fully understand werewolf politics and rules, but she does the best she can to figure out how to keep her pack together and safe. Pack safety is challenged with the arrival of a teenage werewolf named Lucas. He shows up on Bryn’s front porch, bleeding and injured, and wants Bryn’s protection. Is Lucas who he says he is? Does he have an ulterior motive for coming to Bryn’s pack?

Bryn has to choose between the safety of her pack and her humanity. She will have to face and fight her greatest challenge alone. Bryn, a strong, female, human Alpha, challenges the expectations of were society, and this novel challenges the expectations of the current vein of werewolf novels.

Melanie Hundley
Nashville, TN

Tris & Izzie by Mette Harrison
Egmont USA, 2011, 267 pp., $16.99

Magic/Teen Romance
ISBN: 978-1-60684-257-7

In many respects, Izzie’s life is already a fairy tale. She reigns as queen bee of Tintagel High with best friend Branna and perfect basketball captain boyfriend Mark always at her side. Beautiful, brainy, and beloved, Izzie seems to have it all. But Izzie has a secret. Beneath picture perfect appearances exists a mysterious, unpredictable world of magic. And when Tristan, a strikingly handsome stranger, arrives at Tintagel, Izzie’s two worlds collide, and a supernatural adventure begins.

One love potion, or “philtre” gone awry sets the tone for Harrison’s brew of high school drama mixed with a legendary love story. Izzie must face magical foes and heartache alike as she unravels the truth of her past. In so doing, she seeks her true place between two worlds.

Virginia Hornblower
Snowmass Village, CO

Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson
Carolrhoda Lab, 2011, 306 pp., $17.95

Mystery/Science Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-7613-7408-4

Shortly after waking up in a hospital, 16-year-old Alison is transferred to the Pine Hills Psychiatric Treatment Centre. At first her memory is hazy, but as she spends more time in Pine Hills, Alison realizes that she is the prime suspect in a bizarre murder case. Although she has confessed to murdering Tori Beaugrand, high school golden girl, the police cannot locate Tori’s body, and even Alison can’t quite explain how Tori managed to disappear into thin air.

Everything changes, though, when a mysterious scientist visits the center and takes an interest in Alison and the unusual sensory powers that she has had ever since her youth. With his help, Alison is not only able to figure out what really happened to Tori, but also discover the true capacity of her extraordinary abilities. Anderson builds her story up slowly at first; however, the plot’s many shocking twists will grab hold of readers and keep them guessing until the very end.

Diana Liu
Nashville, TN

Publishers who wish to submit a book for possible review should send a copy of the book to:
Melanie Hundley
1021 Delmas Ave.
Nashville, TN 37216-3630

To submit a review for possible publication or to become a reviewer, contact Melanie Hundley at melanie.hundley@Vanderbilt.edu.


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