• The Testing

    by Joelle Charbonneau Year Published:

    Like almost every 16-year-old in the United Commonwealth, Cia Vale hopes to be called for the Testing, her ticket out of rural Five Lakes Colony and into the University in Tosu City. Cia's father was selected, but only vaguely remembers the experience in nightmares. Her four older brothers were passed over. Just when she has resigned herself to life as a mechanic or farmer, she gets word that she is one of four students selected from Five Lakes and is expected to board the skimmer to Tosu City the next day, most likely never to return. The bulk of the book is taken up with the Testing-devious exercises to identify those with superior leadership skills as society has suffered through Seven Stages of War and desperately needs to repair the damage to living creatures and the environment. The mental and physical trials will weed out 80 percent of the candidates, leaving several maimed or dead. Cia teams up with Tomas for both practical and romantic reasons. She is independent and smart for the most part, and Tomas seems almost too good to be true. There are double-crosses, mutant life-forms, and booby traps to navigate before 20 hearty souls receive word that they have passed. Cia's story is expected to span a trilogy. The influence of The Hunger Games is obvious, and The Testing will satisfy readers who want similar dystopian adventures.-Maggie Knapp

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  • The Girl Who Was Suppose to Die

    by April Henry Year Published:

    Henry fans will be pleased with her latest thriller (Holt, 2013). Cady wakes up not knowing who she is or what has happened to her. Two of her finger nails have been pulled out and she's being held captive by two men who want her dead. Over the next 48 hours, she must unravel the mystery of who she is, try to save herself and her family, and bring down a biological weapons scheme. With only one ally, Ty, a teen whom she meets while on the run, the odds are not stacked in her favor. The plot is solid and moves quickly. Some details seem to be given too readily by the enemy, but listeners will forgive this because of the fast action and believable characters. Cristina Panfilio's narration helps to build suspense and she represents all of the characters with varying inflections. Give this title to fans of Henry's Girl, Stolen (Holt, 2010) or Caroline B. Cooney's Code Orange (Delacorte, 2005).–Rebecca Flannery

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  • Tandem

    by Anna Jarzab Year Published:

    Sixteen-year-old Sasha Lawson can’t believe her good fortune: überpopular Grant Davis has asked her to the prom. But her ecstasy is short-lived when she finds herself transported to Aurora, Earth’s parallel universe, by Grant’s analog Thomas to impersonate Princess Juliana. Although Juliana is betrothed to Prince Callum in order to ensure a peaceful union between warring countries Aurora and Farnham, she has disappeared, leaving the treaty in jeopardy. Sasha, Juliana’s analog, must convince the country and her betrothed that she is the real princess—or risk her own safe return to Earth. The first title in the Many Worlds trilogy is a fascinating premise made more so by Jarzab’s use of parallel universe theories of physics. Sasha is spirited into Aurora through the tandem, a force field that moves one analog into another universe. Strange but plausible science weds old-fashioned legends of princesses trapped in towers, along with contemporary teen concerns. It’s a great mix, and fortunately, Jarzab leaves readers with the enticing and reassuring promise, “Not the end; only the beginning.” Grades 8-12. --Frances Bradburn

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  • SYLO

    by D.J. MacHale Year Published:

    Maine islander Tucker Pierce is sitting on the bench at a high school football gamewhen the star running back drops dead. Before Tucker knows what's happening, he's been introduced to Ruby, a mysterious substance that changes the user into a superhuman. It also killed his teammate. Shortly after, a mysterious military force, Sylo, invades the island and people are rounded up or killed outright. Tucker and Tory, a lobsterman's daughter, realize something is terribly wrong and they must reach the mainland so the rest of the world can hear what's happening. Mysterious planes engage the U.S. Navy in wild battles, Tory gets shot, and they have a wild ride through a naval blockade. There are minor plot holes, some strong language, and the main characters use the same exclamations a bit too frequently. None of these detract from how gripping the story is, thanks in large part to Andrew S. Bates's excellent narration.—John R. Clark

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  • Rogue

    by Lyn Miller-Lachmann Year Published:

    Kiara's mother is living in Montreal launching her career as a musician so her father sets his musical aspirations aside to be his daughter's caregiver. The eighth-grader's Asperger's syndrome does little to help her adjust to or understand her unsettled family situation. Mr. Internet is her go-to for black-and-white answers to the complexities of life. On the Net, Kiara also delves into a fantasy world of superhero personas and takes on the alter ego of Rogue. While she is academically successful, she is socially shunned. When she joins the popular girls' table-uninvited-she is ridiculed and publicly rejected. It does little for her case when she hauls off and slams her lunch tray into another girl's face. Now Kiara is friendless and expelled from school. She befriends her new neighbor, Chad, whose home is a meth den where he is forced to collect ingredients for his parents' lethal concoctions. Kiara spends lots of time trying to be Chad's friend and steer him in a better direction; he spends lots of time trying to survive the horror of his home life and being nasty to Kiara. Chad's and Kiara's fathers play music together in the backyard, so it's hard to believe that Kiara's dad doesn't notice how weird things are. The dangerous neighborhood happenings seem to completely escape him until there is a major explosion in the meth lab. Too much happens in this novel and too little of it revolves around Kiara.-Alison Follos

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  • Rapunzel Untangled

    by Cindy C. Bennett Year Published:

    “She’d always been told her life depended on staying in her rooms, and hadn’t thought about what lay outside her door, knowing only it had the potential to be fatal to her.” Not until her late teens does Rapunzel get a computer for her studies—and then the real world emerges for the rather clueless young beauty. Kept prisoner in a tiny apartment within her mother’s mansion, the girl believes she has an immunodeficiency disorder and would wither away in the outside world. Of course, the reader knows that Mother Gothel is up to something, what with the story’s prologue and the diabolical hints. When Rapunzel reaches out on Facebook (where else?) to the local high school, she friends a handsome student intrigued by this sheltered mystery girl and determined to get to her. A suspenseful mix of romance, adventure, and dark arts, Bennett’s fun take on the fairy tale might have been a bit more subtle with the bad guys’ missteps, but still compels readers to want to find out Rapunzel’s backstory as much as she does. Grades 6-9. --Anne O'Malley

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  • Prisoner B-3087

    by Alan Gratz Year Published:

    "If I had known what the next six years of my life were going to be like, I would have eaten more. I wouldn't have complained about brushing my teeth, or taking a bath, or going to bed at eight o'clock every night." Yanek Gruener was 10 years old when the German army invaded Poland in 1939 and trapped his family inside the walls of the Jewish ghetto in Krakow. Over the course of World War II, he saw his parents deported by the Nazis and survived 10 different concentration camps. Through Gratz's spare, persistent prose, the story of the boy's early life unfolds with the urgency and directness necessary for survivor stories. While some liberties have been taken, with the permission of Gruener and his wife, Ruth, also a survivor, the experiences and images come directly from the Grueners' collective memories of the war. An author's note provides further biographical information. A powerful story, well told.-Sara Saxton

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  • Pivot Point

    by Kasie West Year Published:

    Growing up in Compound, a secret facility where people with paranormal abilities reside, Addison Coleman knows no other life until her parents divorce and she has to decide whether to stay with her mother in Compound or move to Texas with her father and live in a world filled with Normals. Addison's talent is that of a Divergent, the ability to see into the future and determine which path she should take. With the help of her best friend, she looks forward six weeks and uncovers not only the chance of finding love in both futures, but also the possibility that danger, secrets, and obsession may destroy the lives of those she cares about the most. West has created an intricately woven story of two possible futures, with chapters that alternate between Addie's choices-to stay or to leave. Initially, the two plotlines are fairly divergent, but as the climax builds, the characters and stories begin to merge and the two worlds overlap. This debut novel, while not breaking new ground in the popular field of paranormal teen fiction, will appeal to those who enjoy the genre, and it is a welcome change from vampires and zombies. It will appeal to readers who enjoyed Libba Bray's The Diviners (Little, Brown, 2012) and Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall (HarperCollins, 2010).-Jane Henriksen Baird

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  • Mila 2.0

    by Debra Driza Year Published:

    Thirty days ago, Mila's mother moved them to the quiet Clearwater, Minnesota, to make a new start after the tragic death of her husband. Despite her grief, Mila is doing her best to find a place for herself, but it's hard to move on when she can't remember details of her past-including the fire that killed her father. When she injures her arm in an accident, she discovers a network of wires and tubes beneath her skin that hints at a history more incredible than she could have ever imagined. Mila doesn't remember her previous life because she doesn't have a past: she was created in a top-secret laboratory for the government. Now she and her mother are running for their lives and nothing makes sense-all she has are questions. Who is her mother? Did her father ever actually exist? Why was she created? And who is chasing her? In this cross between Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity (Richard Marek, 1980) and Mary E. Pearson's The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Holt, 2008), Mila's identity crisis and the resulting questions about what it means to be human could be the start of an interesting discussion. And while this first book in a planned trilogy is nearly 500 pages long, the action-packed plot will quickly propel even reluctant readers to the end.-Heather M. Campbell

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  • Marie Antoinette: Serial Killer

    by Katie Alender Year Published:

    All Colette Iselin wants is to be accepted by perfect, icy Hannah and her slightly sweeter sidekick, Pilar. This means pretending that her family still has money and being mean to her brother, her mother, her unpopular classmates, her teacher, and pretty much anyone else who crosses her path. However, on a class trip to France, Colette gets distracted from her quest to be cool. First, she starts seeing Marie Antoinette's ghost (which would distract most people) and begins to fall for her nerdy-cute French tour guide. Colette realizes that the ghost is killing people and that she is next on the list, due to her family's heretofore secret role in the French Revolution. None of this is very believable, and even the realistic elements don't always ring true, as Colette and her classmates rarely step out of their stereotypes. The plot strands come together, complete with an Eiffel Tower kiss and a party held at Versailles. That said, the story moves along at a steady clip and every so often devolves into delicious, campy mayhem. This is a good choice for teens who want to dip their toes into historical fiction (emphasis on the fiction) without giving up cinematic pacing or romance. Colette transforms through the course of the novel, realizing the value of loyalty over prestige, and though that process might not be believable, many readers will find her story enjoyable.-Gesse Stark-Smith

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  • Inhuman

    by Kat Falls Year Published:

    Following a cataclysmic plague, the eastern U.S. has been quarantined behind a massive wall extending from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Crossing the wall is a capital offense, so 16-year-old Lane is horrified to learn that her father has gone over the barrier and headed to the East. At the behest of the authorities, she is sent after him and quickly finds her life in danger from the Feral—vicious, hybrid beings who are half human and half animal. Happily, Lane finds help from two fearless young men: Everson, a guard, and Rafe, a soldier-of-fortune type. In between swashing and buckling, both take time to fall in love with Lane, who is being pursued by a tiger-man who wants to eat her heart. Yes, life is complicated in the East, and more than a tad melodramatic. Fans of dystopian fiction, however, will find a good deal to like in this fast-paced mash-up that includes elements of romance and horror and, no surprise, an inconclusive ending that promises a sequel. Grades 8-12. --Michael Cart

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  • A Matter of Days

    by Amber Kizer Year Published:

    Few have survived the BluStar plague. This book opens on Day 56, when Nadia pulls a quilt over her dead mother and helps her younger brother finish packing the Jeep so they can hit the road. Nadia isn't quite old enough to drive, but since the virus has killed almost everyone in the world, traffic isn't a problem. They plan to drive from Washington state to West Virginia, where relatives may still be alive. Nadia and Rabbit are somewhat prepared, thanks to their soldier father (who was killed in Afghanistan) and their uncle, a military doctor who encouraged them to play first-person-shooter video games and purchased camping gear for them. They are smart about how to scavenge gasoline and food and sniff out safe places to sleep. They adopt an injured dog and join forces with Zack, a streetwise older teen they meet on the way. This is a first-rate survival story, as the travelers use their wits to negotiate shopping malls, abandoned railroad stations, and deserted towns. Occasional violence and a few four letter words make the likely audience a little older than readers of Susan Beth Pfeffer's "The Last Survivors" series (Harcourt). Fans of Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave (Putnam, 2013), S. D. Crockett's After the Snow (Feiwel & Friends, 2012), or Cormac McCarthy's adult novel The Road (Knopf, 2006) will find this a satisfying read. The plot tension is excellent, with just the right pacing of desperately needing something and finding, stealing, or making it. The story comes to a satisfying conclusion on Day 100, while leaving the door open for a sequel.-Maggie Knapp

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