‘S.T.A.G.S.’ by M. A. Bennett Is a Thrilling Young Adult That Will Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats

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In “S.T.A.G.S.” by M. A. Bennett, the reader is introduced to the life of the rich and elite through the eyes of a scholarship student who attends a posh British boarding school.

Greer MacDonald, a middle-class girl, is the one token scholarship student attending the $50,000 a year private school attended by Britain’s ultra-wealthy, ultra-upper-class teens. Also attending the school are others who don’t quite fit in with the snobbish students,  especially the group of power students, the Medievals, who practically run the school.

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‘Truly Devious’ by Maureen Johnson Is a Thrilling Mystery

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“Truly Devious” by much-loved young adult author Maureen Johnson is a fabulous novel. It begins as a mystery about a murder that took place over 80 years ago at an elite private school in Vermont.

The novel is really two stories combined into one mystery. There is the decades-old mystery of Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter, who disappeared while on a car ride. The wife’s body was found, but there has been no trace of the three-year-old daughter, and what happened to her remains a mystery. The kidnappers did contact Ellingham, demanded a huge sum of money, and escaped with the money.

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‘Unearthed’ by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner Is a Thrilling Young Adult SciFi Ride

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It’s being billed as a cross between Indiana Jones and Star Wars, and “Unearthed” by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner comes close. It’s the story of a future Earth when climate change has destroyed much of our planet. Scientists on Earth find a message from an extinct alien race that explains how to build a portal to Gaia, another planet, where the astronauts find a piece of technology that powers a clean water supply for all of Los Angeles. Then the astronauts are killed while exploring one of the temples there.

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‘How to Disappear’ by Sharon Huss Roat Is a Beautifully Written Story of the Invisible, the Individual, and the Power of Social Media

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“How to Disappear” by Sharon Huss Roat is a book that once begun, is difficult to put down. It starts innocuously enough with the story of a girl with severe anxiety. Vicky can’t function at high school and must disappear into the stall of the bathroom when she just can’t bear going to class and facing others. Since her best friend moved away, she’s been trying to disappear completely, since that’s easier than actually talking to people and making new friends.

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‘Prince in Disguise’ by Stephanie Kate Strohm: Lovely YA RomCom

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“Prince in Disguise” by Stephanie Kate Strohm is a lovely retake of every novel (or fairytale) in which a prince tries to find true love by going about in disguise so that someone might fall in love with him for his own person, not the fact that he is a prince.

In this sweet retake, the main character Dylan’s older sister has fallen in love with a Scottish lord through the arts of a reality TV show called, of course, “Prince in Disguise.” While Dylan keeps reminding everyone that Dusty is not marrying a prince but rather a lord, no one cares. Dusty is everything that Dylan thinks she is not — beautiful, graceful, outgoing, sophisticated, and comfortable in front of the camera. Their mother is the star of a morning show on the local network, so she also is camera-friendly. Continue reading

“La Belle Sauvage”: Lyra’s Return

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Philip Pullman’s latest beguiling novel,“The Book of Dust, Volume One, La Belle Sauvage,” marks Pullman’s return to the strange, eerie, beautiful world of Lyra Belacqua. Readers all over the world (OUR world) who loved the previous Lyra trilogy, His Dark Materials, will surely be profoundly moved and satisfied by this volume — because the novel is, indeed, profoundly moving and satisfying. Continue reading

‘Wild Bird’ by Wendelin Van Draanen Is the Emotional Story of a Young Girl Out of Control

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Wendelin Van Draanen knows how to write a story that packs a punch. She did it in “Running Dream,” a story about a high school runner who tragically loses her leg in a crash, and how she learns not just how to walk with a prosthetic, but how to really see others in spite of physical differences. In “Wild Bird,” Van Drannen offers up the story of Wren, a girl who lost her way and ended up involved in drugs.

The story begins when Wren is awakened in the middle of the night and whisked off to a juvie camp in the Utah desert for wilderness therapy for 60 days. It’s a last-ditch effort to rehab Wren, who has proven resistant to therapists, counselors, and every other kind of help her parents tried to get for her.

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‘Warcross’ by Marie Lu Is a Fast-Paced Scifi Thriller

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“Warcross” by Marie Lu features a young girl who is a bounty hunter in a world where virtual reality has eclipsed real life. Hooked yet? Read the first chapter and you’ll be drawn into the life and struggle for survival along with Emika Chen, whose ability to hack into the virtual world and fight in the real world have helped her survive — barely — in New York.

Emika’s mother bailed on Em and her father when Em was young, and her father died before Em was a teenager. She’s a loner who has had to rely on herself and only herself. She hasn’t paid her rent for months, and the eviction notice is on the door. If she can just bring down one big bounty, she’ll be set. But things don’t work out, and Em doesn’t know what to do.

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‘A Poison Dark and Drowning’ by Jessica Cluess Is a Fabulous Sequel to ‘A Shadow Bright and Burning’

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Just like the first book in the series by Jessica Cluess, “A Shadow Bright and Burning,” the second book, “A Poison Dark and Drowning” grabs the reader from the first few pages. As in the first book, this middle book in the trilogy continues to showcase Cluess’s ability to combine just enough description, just the right dialogue, and plenty of plot to keep the pages turning quickly as the reader anxiously races to the end.

In many series, there are so many characters that when the second book is released a year later, readers must reread the first book to familiarize themselves again with who everyone is. That’s not the case here. The various sorcerers, the friends, the Ancient monsters — they all are mentioned with enough detail to enable readers to jump right into this book.

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‘Blood Rose Rebellion’ by Rosalyn Eves is the first in a YA fantasy series

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It’s difficult to create a fantasy series that is unique in light of the plethora of fantasy series aimed at young adult readers. Rosalyn Eves’ “Blood Rose Rebellion” will remind the reader of other fantasy series wherein the main character lives in a world where magic rules.

In this world, those who have magic and are allowed to use it, the Luminate, are limited to the upper class. Anna Arden was born into this class, but when she was eight years old, at her Confirmation (when children are tested and allowed the connection to be able to use magic), it was discovered that she was Barren. She did not have the ability to use magic. Because of that, her chances at finding a husband or even being accepted by polite society were slim.

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‘A Torch Against the Night’ by Sabaa Tahir: Sequel to NYT bestseller ‘An Ember in the Ashes’

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Sabaa Tahir, in “A Torch Against the Night,” the sequel to “An Ember in the Ashes,” manages to write a fabulous second book. The story of Elias, his best friend and now-enemy Helene, and Laia continues, laced with magic, adventure, and mystery.

This tale set in ancient Rome features soldiers with silver masks that become part of their faces, the silver melding with their skin. There are creatures who live for thousands of years, magical silver that is coveted by a jinn to avenge a past wrong, and characters willing to sacrifice all to defeat evil.

Tahir creates an antagonist who is pure evil. Marcus, one of Elias’ peers in the first book, becomes Emperor, and his cruelty knows no bounds. This is not a bad guy with shades of gray — he is evil through and through down to his coal-encrusted heart. Helene, Elias’ good friend, on the other hand, is out to kill Elias and Laia, but she is conflicted. She knows Elias is honorable and good, but Marcus is blackmailing Helene, threatening someone she loves. She has also promised to be true to “the Empire,” or Rome. And surely that means doing what the Emperor commands her to do — even if it is repugnant.

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