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Review of Tumble & Blue

Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley; illus. by the author Intermediate    Dial    392 pp. 8/17    978-0-525-42844-2    $17.99 e-book ed.  978-0-698-18907-2    $10.99 Way back when, there were strange things done in the Okefenokee Swamp. A plot was set in motion by two bad people, horse thief Walcott Montgomery and murderer Almira LaFayette. Their descendants, especially a […]

With friends like these…

Like Malinda Lo’s A Line in the Dark, each of these YA mysteries masterfully employs structure to keep readers guessing as to characters’ true natures — and on the edges of their seats — until the shocking final reveal. Eighteen-year-old Jule, protagonist of E. Lockhart’s intoxicating psychological thriller Genuine Fraud, is cold, tough, and in […]

Five questions for Malinda Lo

In Malinda Lo’s new YA thriller A Line in the Dark (Dutton, 14 years and up), four teenage girls — narrator Jess, her best friend and longtime secret crush Angie, Angie’s brand-new girlfriend Margot, and Margot’s bestie Ryan — must carefully navigate volatile dynamics of friendship and romance. And that’s before somebody winds up dead. […]

Review of A Line in the Dark

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo High School    Dutton    282 pp.    g 10/17    978-0-735-22742-2    $17.99 Jess’s feelings for her best friend Angie are strong and complicated — a mix of longstanding affection, mutual dependence, protectiveness, and unrequited longing. Jess and Angie are both queer and out, but have never been together. When Angie […]

Graphic-novel friendships and family

These realistic graphic novels (and one graphic memoir) offer a reminder to upper-elementary and middle-school readers that they are not alone when it comes to dealing with school and/or family drama. In her graphic memoir Real Friends, author Shannon Hale recounts her elementary-school years, focusing on the theme of childhood friendships. Young Shannon feels a […]

Review of The Wrong Train

The Wrong Train by Jeremy de Quidt; illus. by Dave Shelton Middle School    Fickling/Scholastic    209 pp.    g 7/17    978-1-338-12125-4    $18.99 e-book ed.  978-1-338-12126-1    $11.99 This unsettling collection of eight ghost stories, framed by a ninth, will surely delight fans of the eerie and the macabre. A British boy hurriedly boards a train one night, but […]

Review of Elizabeth and Zenobia

Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller; illus. by Yelena Bryksenkova Intermediate, Middle School    Amulet/Abrams    202 pp.    g 9/17    978-1-4197-2724-4    $16.99 Elizabeth’s father is gloomy since her mother left; Witheringe House, his childhood home to which he returns with his daughter, is gloomier. Elizabeth’s main company is Zenobia, a vivacious, morbid, obsessed-with-clairvoyance friend who, although no […]

Review of The War I Finally Won

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley Intermediate    Dial    388 pp.    g 10/17    978-0-5254-2920-3    $16.99 This sequel to Bradley’s Newbery Honor–winning The War That Saved My Life (rev. 1/15) begins with high drama: surgery for London-slum-born Ada to correct her clubfoot; the news that abusive Mam has died; Ada’s mistaken belief that she’ll […]

Family curses, grief, and fate

These recent books for middle graders dip into the supernatural (ancestral curses, spectral mothers, ghost frenemies, growing skeletons) to raise larger questions about family, friendship, memory, grief, and love. In Lauren DeStefano’s The Girl with the Ghost Machine, ten-year-old Emmaline Beaumont and her father Julien are devastated by Emmaline’s mother’s sudden death, and grief drives […]

Supernaturally good scares

From a collection of ghost stories-within-a-ghost-story to classic tales of the macabre reimagined for a new format, these new books offer a fresh take on the usual suspects of supernatural horror. Graphic novelist Gareth Hinds adapts three of Edgar Allan Poe’s poems (“Annabel Lee,” “The Bells,” and “The Raven”) and four stories (“The Masque of […]