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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 […]

Review of Genuine Fraud

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart High School    Delacorte    265 pp. 9/17    978-0-385-74477-5    $18.99 Library ed.  978-0-375-99184-4    $21.99 e-book ed.  978-0-385-39138-2    $10.99 As soon as Lockhart’s latest intoxicating psychological thriller (We Were Liars, rev. 5/14) opens in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, readers will be perversely enamored of eighteen-year-old narrator Jule. She’s cold — sociopathic, even — […]

Review of Long Way Down

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds High School    Dlouhy/Atheneum    306 pp.    g 10/17    978-1-4814-3825-4    $17.99 e-book ed.  978-1-4814-3827-8    $10.99 Fifteen-year-old Will, immobilized with grief when his older brother Shawn is shot and killed, slowly comes to mull The Rules in his head. There are three: don’t cry, don’t snitch, and “if someone you love / gets […]

Review of Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen

Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence; illus. by Elizabet Vuković Primary    Farrar    115 pp. 7/17    978-0-374-30410-2    $15.99 Paper ed.  978-0-374-30834-6    $5.99 e-book ed.  978-0-374-30412-6    $4.25 Jasmine’s favorite holiday is New Year’s. Relatives gather at her home in Los Angeles to celebrate, and her beloved Obaachan comes all the way from Japan to visit. […]

Review of You Bring the Distant Near

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins High School    Farrar    305 pp.    g 9/17    978-0-374-30490-4    $17.99 e-book ed.  978-0-374-30491-1    $9.99 In 1973 the Das sisters, Tara and Sonia, with their mother Ranee, join their father in New York City. Ranee is determined that her family will take advantage of the opportunities America offers even […]

Review of Jane, Unlimited

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore Middle School, High School    Dawson/Penguin    451 pp.    g 9/17    978-0-8037-4149-2    $17.99 When her guardian, Aunt Magnolia, dies, Jane is left untethered and financially insecure. Then Kiran, an old acquaintance, invites Jane to Tu Reviens (“you return”), Kiran’s family’s island mansion. Aunt Magnolia had told Jane unequivocally that “if you’re invited […]

How to deal

For the protagonists of these recent YA novels, school variously serves as a source of anxiety and a means to cope (healthily or otherwise) with turmoil in other parts of their lives. In Posted by John David Anderson, the administration of Branton Middle School bans cell phones, and a new, old-fashioned idea comes along: sticky […]

Review of Us in Progress: Short Stories About Young Latinos

Us in Progress: Short Stories About Young Latinos by Lulu Delacre; illus. by the author Intermediate, Middle School    Harper/HarperCollins    242 pp.    g 8/17    978-0-06-239214-5    $16.99 e-book ed.  978-0-06-239216-9    $9.99 This collection opens with “The Attack,” an all-too-timely account of a young Latino man with a disability being mistreated by the police. The twelve tales are […]

Review of Landscape with Invisible Hand

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson Middle School, High School    Candlewick    149 pp.    g 9/17    978-0-7636-8789-2    $16.99 Parable, satire, dystopic sci-fi — Anderson’s take on a near future in which alien “vuvv” have colonized America’s economy, land, and airspace has so many shiveringly close resemblances to the contemporary world that it might also […]