Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fashion Kitty and the B.O.Y.S. (Ball of Yellow String)

Fashion Kitty and the B.O.Y.S. (Ball of Yellow String) by Charise Mericle Harper (NY: Disney Hyperion, 2011). Reviewed from e-galley provided by publisher via

In this exciting installment of the Fashion Kitty series, Kiki Kittie's superhero alias Fashion Kitty attracts the jealous wrath of the mean-spirited Leon Lambaster the III, who hatches a vicious plan to entrap her. Kiki is transformed into her superhero alterego after a stack of fashion magazines knocks her unconscious on her birthday. Suddenly she can sense fashion emergencies and must fly off to save the unwitting victims. Leon knows her modus operandi and uses it to lay his trap. He's from a family of inventors of yellow objects, most of which don't work very well. One of them is a ball of slimy yellow string that sticks to anyone who handles it unless that person is wearing special gloves. The idea is to spray the string with special supersticky spray, tie it in a not, then spray it with 6-hour spray that will keep the knot in place for six hours. Unfortunately, the spray lasts six days, so it's no good....until Leon decides to use it to make a net to catch Fashion Kitty. He's mad because all the other kitties like Fashion Kitty so much. His own family has constructed a statue of Fashion Kitty out of marshmallows. Leon decides to hide the t-shirts for the t-shirt fashion show at school. This gets Fashion Kitty's attention and she flies in to save the day but gets caught in the slimy net. Luckily, Leon's nice twin Lester realizes the danger Fashion Kitty is in and distracts Leon, who then gets tangled in the string himself and can't spray the net. Fashion Kitty uses her x-ray vision to melt Leon under a pile of marshmallows, then the net dissolves and she escapes. Hurray!

I love Fashion Kitty, and so do lower elementary students, especially girls. Fashion Kitty packs the power of fashion with a fun story and cute graphic novel elements that entice even the most reluctant readers. Highly recommended for ages 6 & up.


Frost by Wendy Delsol (Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2011). Reviewed from Kindle ARC provided by publisher via

In Stork, Katla moves from California to Minnesota and discovers she's part of a mystical union of women (aka Storks) with special soul-gathering and -dispersing powers. She also meets and falls in love with Jack, a descendent of Jack Frost, gifted with his own weather-controlling powers. Now that's a power couple. As Frost begins, Katla wishes for a white Christmas and Jack overdoes it with a snow storm so powerful it attracts the attention of world-renowned (and drop-dead gorgeous) climatologist Brigid Fonnkana, who expeditiously arrives from Greenland and installs herself in the lab of Katla's mother's fiance, Stanley. More dauntingly, Jack quickly becomes wrapped up in the research as well and seems to be pulling away from Kat in favor of Brigid. Soon, Jack is spending less and less time with Kat and more and more time in the lab--with Brigid. Then he gets invited to go on a special expedition to the North Pole with Brigid and a select group of researchers. In the meantime, Kat feels jealous of Brigid but is also wrapped up in her own activities, like dancing in the school production of The Snow Queen, helping her bed-ridden, pregnant mother, and heading the Storks while the usual leader, Hulda, is mysteriously ill. Still, she feels there's something off about Brigid's attention to Jack, and she ends up heading to Iceland with her grandfather while Jack becomes lost with Brigid in the frigid north.

Frost continues the excellent blending of Norse legends, magic, fairy tales, and romance established in Stork. The frigid landscape forms the perfect backdrop for the story, and the ordinary venues such as Kat's grandfather's store and the high school play make the extraordinary scenes of Iceland and beyond all the more amazing. Kat is a lively, engaging heroine with an authentic teen voice and a lot of pluck. Whether she's worrying about her guy, dissing Brigid, or fretting over her outfit, Kat is funny, real, and likable. The story delivers excitement and adventure as well as some mystery as Katla uses her powers to rescue Jack from the clutches of evil. Recommended for ages 12 & up.


Demonglass by Rachel Hawkin (NY: Hyperion, 2011).

This fabulous sequel to Hex Hall has the indomitable Sophie Mercer, who has recently discovered she's a demon, traveling to London for the summer to live with her father, also a demon. Sophie is sort of sad to leave Hex Hall, the juvie for Prodigium (literally monsters, but encompassing magical creatures of all sorts--shapeshifters, fairies, witches, warlocks, etc.) she got sent to for some over-the-top magic. There she meets--and crushes on--Archer Cross. Their first kiss would have been great if Sophie hadn't actually seen that Archer bore the mark of the secret society sworn to kill all Prodigium! After other events involving her demon great-grandmother, Sophie believes that she should go through the Removal--a grueling, life-threatening process that would strip away her powers--so that she won't kill anyone since that's what demons are made to do. Her father does not want her to go through this procedure because he needs Sophie with her powers intact to help him battle unknown enemies who appear to be summoning demons and attempting to undermine the Council for Prodigium, of which he's head. Even as she's coming to terms with all of this, Archer shows up. What should Sophie do? Well, we don't find out everything in this novel because of the cliffhanger ending! Yikes!

I liked Hex Hall a lot, so I couldn't wait to read Demonglass, which turned out to be even better than its predecessor. I loved the way Hawkins developed Sophie's relationship with her father, and the English setting (the country estate and London) is spectacular. There's not so much romance in this novel as in the first, largely because Archer isn't around as much until the very end. But what this story lacks in romance, it makes up for in exciting plot movement as Sophie explores her magical powers and her feelings about them. There's also a mystery to solve and more magical journeys. This novel has by far the best cliffhanger I've encountered in a long time! If you like your paranormal romances punched up a notch with spine-tingling action, this is a good read for you. Recommended for teens, 13 & up. Mild sexual situations, alcohol.


Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini (NY: HarperTeen, 2011).

Shy Helen Hamilton leads an isolated life on Nantucket with her dad. She keeps to herself except for her long-time friend Claire and a few others--the ones who don't think she's weird. She feels weird most of the time, too tall, too strong, too everything. She just wants to hide. Then a new family moves onto the island and suddenly things get even weirder. Helen is having vivid dreams about blood-weeping crones out in a desert and is hearing incessant murmurs and noise. Worse, she makes a fool of herself at school when she tries to strangle new boy Lucas Delos, and she can't even explain why she hates him so much since she had never set eyes on him. Her usual defenses are breaking down and her isolated life no longer seems possible as she has to decipher the meaning of the dreams and Lucas's crucial role in her destiny, a destiny she had no idea she would have to face so soon.

Angelini spins an excellent tale, rife with romance of epic proportions. There are a few loose ends that bothered me, however. First, Helen has no clue that she's beautiful, which seems pretty impossible. She's supposed to have the most beautiful face in the world, yet she needs Lucas (among others) to point it out. And she thinks the other kids at her school consider her ugly? Nonsensical. Second, Helen and Lucas solve the issue of the muttering fates a bit too readily, to the point where the decree of the Fates seems too easily dismissed. Hello, Fate is supposed to be unavoidable, as in not something that can be changed. Helen and Lucas can't get around some of their fate, but once they manage the first bit, it seems more likely they'll find another loophole (in the sequel, no doubt). Third, Helen has a necklace given to her by her mother that she's worn all her life, and all of a sudden she notices that everyone sees it as something different. Unlikely! There are some details about Helen's mother that are irksome as well, but for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I won't go into them. In any event, they didn't spoil the novel for me; I enjoyed the story a lot, especially the romance between Helen and Lucas. Yes, it's somewhat cliched, but it's still a thrill ride, and they have to battle all sorts of obstacles. This is an excellent choice for fans of Riordan's Percy Jackson series who want their mythology mixed with a bit more love and lust. Recommended for ages 13 & up.

Where She Went

Where She Went by Gayle Forman (NY: Dutton, 2011).

It's been three years since Mia broke up with Adam, and he's still suffering. She has fully recovered from the accident that killed her whole family and nearly killed her, too. Adam begged her to wake up from her post-accident coma (as documented in the gripping If I Stay), even promising to let her go if that's what she wants. They're an unlikely couple to begin with--she's a classical cellist on her way to Julliard, he's a heavy metal guitarist in an up-and-coming rock band. He helps her recover, but then she drops him without explanation right after she moves to New York. At first Adam retreats from everything, but then he channels his pain into a bunch of songs that rocket him and his band into the rock-and-roll stratosphere. Despite his instafame, and all the accouterments, Adam feels cut off and alone, often lashing out at his manager and bandmates, or even strangers, like reporters who want the inside scoop on his wild life with his celebrity girlfriend. By chance, Adam is in New York the night of Mia's first concert in Carnegie Hall. They're both about to launch huge tours, but they have one night to settle things. Can Adam get the closure he needs? Or does he need something different? And what will Mia have to say? Together, Adam and Mia travel around New York on an emotional odyssey.

Forman's sequel to If I Stay hums with raw emotion. Adam's grief is palpable in his every word and action. Forman deftly shows how close to the edge of self-destruction Adam is dwelling after the break-up and even three years later. This is easily the high point of the novel, its truly powerful foundation. Adam has tried to avoid his pain to an extent through sex, drugs, and antisocial behavior. Yes, he has a girlfriend, but even he recognizes that it's more about his public image than a true connection. He still misses Mia every single day. Since the novel is more about Adam than Mia, it's somewhat understandable that Mia is less developed in this novel, but this makes the second half of the novel somewhat lacking, especially compared to the power of the first half. In the end, every reader will have to judge for him or herself if Mia's reasons for her actions are adequate for the amount of grief she caused Adam. I'm still not sure, but this novel is definitely worth reading. Recommended for older teens. Sex, drugs, alcohol, language.


S'Mother: The Story of a Man, His Mom, and the Thousands of Altogether Insane Letters She's Mailed to Him by Adam Chester (NY: Abrams Image, 2011). Reviewed from Kindle ARC and e-galley, both provided by publisher via

This hilarious memoir is kind of the mom version of $#*! My Dad Says, in that Adam Chester preserves the crazy letters his mother has sent him since he moved away to go to college. Chester's mom, Joan, happens to be a lot less vulgar than Halpern's dad, but just as funny! There are non sequiturs galore, and the Chester's book includes plenty of scans of the letters--in case you can't believe some of the stuff she's written, or just to showcase the wackiness of some of the letters. (As a side note, the scans were not readable on my Kindle!)

Chester lost his dad at age 8, and as he says in his Foreword, his mom should've come with a warning label about her crazy-making potential. This is true. It's easy to laugh at Joan's insane missives, but hard to imagine living with this deluge of madness. This memoir is largely restricted to her letters and their immediate context, but there must be some wacky stories, too, about Joan's interference in Adam's life when he was a kid, beyond the few completely hilarious tales provided in the foreword. After his dad died, Chester and his mother moved to Florida. Joan cut Adam off from all his paternal relatives, saying they hated her and were crazy. She also gave him dire warnings about her own relatives, like her mother and half-brother Michael (also deemed crazy). She starts writing letters to him after he moves to California for college. The topics range all over the place, but Joan has a few themes. One of them is death, specifically her death, and associated topics, like life insurance policies. She has some off-the-wall pet names for Adam, too, including poppy-seed, pussy cat, and dolly poo-poo.

One of my favorite non sequiturs appears in two points appended to a letter about miscellaneous financial and personal issues. "1. Don't drink rain-water. 2. There's a resistant form of gonorrhea going around--Use a condom" (p. 56). Yikes! Can you imagine getting letters like that? Chester claims he has hundreds. He stopped reading them, but saved them all.

Despite the crazy-making potential, Chester clearly loves his mother dearly, and she's very much a part of his life. She has to be considering that she lives only 20 minutes away from him, but even aside from that--she's still writing letters! Chester includes a few of his own musical career highlights, but keeps the focus on his mother's engaging, if wacko, letters. Highly recommended for adult audiences!

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson (NY: Lerner Publishing Group, 2011); reviewed from Kindle e-galley supplied by publisher via

In one of 16-year-old Alison's first memories, she's begging her mother to keep making the pretty gold stars, for that is what Alison sees when her mother is clanking utensils together in the kitchen. Her mother's horrified response and admonition to never, ever tell anyone what she sees, lets Alison know that there's something wrong with her, something she can't reveal to anyone else. She can see colors for numbers, objects, and noises, and experiences tastes for shapes and names. Lately, she can sense a bitterness when someone is lying to her. Worse, if she herself lies, she becomes violently nauseated. And when she wakes up in a psychiatric ward, she initially encounters some lies, or at least half-truths, about the tough time she's had the past couple of weeks that she's been there. Not that she remembers. But the police thinks she should remember something about a missing girl, Tori Beauregard. Apparently, before her mental breakdown, she confessed to killing Tori. But how could that be? Alison had little if anything to do with the popular kids at school, and Tori was one of the most popular girls in her class.

As Alison's memory slowly returns, she recalls talking to Tori on the afternoon of her disappearance. But all she remembers is that Tori suddenly disintegrated before her very eyes. Which is impossible. So impossible she must've driven herself crazy enough to confess to a murder and land herself in the loony bin. She doesn't want to talk to her shrink about any of this, not Tori, not the extraordinary colors and sounds that fill her world. Then a different psychiatrist, Sebastian Faraday, shows up who gives a name to her condition--synesthesia--and tells her that she's not crazy or a freak, she's a gifted person who can help him.

Ultraviolet is a highly unusual novel--it starts out paranormal but then veers into science fiction and fantasy. Allison's journey is developed skillfully, and her time in the mental hospital is particularly well developed with an interesting cast of characters. Anderson does a wonderful job of describing Allison's sensory condition of seeing, hearing, and even tasting ordinary objects so that it sounds both beautiful and frightening. The same is true for the psychiatric hospital, itself both interesting and terrifying with its group of troubled teens. Allison's relationships with her mother, best friend, fellow inmates, and psychiatrists are realistic and well done. Particularly interesting is the quasiromance between herself and Sebastian. Once the science fiction aspect of the story takes over, there's plenty of action, so this really is a novel with something for everyone! Recommended for ages 14 & up. Intense and sexual situations.


Hereafter by Tara Hudson (NY: HarperCollins, 2011); reviewed from Kindle e-galley supplied by publisher via

Eighteen-year-old Amelia has meandered aimlessly for a long time. She remembers the dark waters and has relived her horrible death regularly. She recognizes the general environs of the Oklahoma town but not much else. She can see and hear people, but they can't see or hear her. It's not what she expected from the afterlife. Not at all. Periodically she loses consciousness and has the drowning nightmare, then wakes up in a graveyard to being her wanderings again. Until something different happens. She's in the water, but she sees a boy. He's been thrown from his car into the river while she's there. She screams and tries to wake him. She can even hear his heart slowly petering out. A final scream and he miraculously opens his eyes, and even more amazingly he can see her and touch her. Awake, he struggles to the surface as she hovers near him, silently urging him on. Suddenly her afterlife is changed. She hears the boy's name, Joshua, and he later comes to find her, unflinchingly accepting what she is and his ability to see and hear her.

is a ghost story, so it's haunting, but hauntingly sad and lovely because it's also a love story, as unlikely as that sounds. Amelia is an interesting character who wakes up from her lethargic wanderings with the help of a boy who not only sees her but risks loving her. Together they solve the mystery of Amelia's life and death and then have to start thinking about what the future holds for their seemingly untenable union. Recommended for ages 14 & up. Intense & sexual situations, alcohol, language.


After by Amy Efaw (NY: Viking, 2009).

This is an absolutely gripping story about what happens to a girl who dumps her newborn baby in the trash. We've all read that story in the paper and wondered how anyone could do that to a baby. Efaw's novel gives one highly plausible answer.

Fifteen-year-old Devon didn't even know she was pregnant. That may seem hard to believe, but the story makes it clear that she truly did not know and makes her denial seem realistic. All of a sudden she's violently ill and gripped by horrendous pain. Then the blood starts flowing and after endless hours of suffering, out comes a Thing. And it's still attached to her. She gets it off. With nail clippers. It looks like a blob of bloody white rubber, but then it starts making noise. Devon needs it to be quiet. She wraps up all the bloody mess of her ordeal, puts everything in a trash bag, and carries it to a dumpster. Then she wraps herself in a blanket and retreats to the sofa, drifting in and out of consciousness, knowing that she's missing school, but also knowing there's no way she can go today. Her mother comes home from work and finds her, but just keeps talking. Something about a cute cop out in the alley. A knock on the door and soon Devon is being arrested, but taken to the hospital for treatment first before being locked up at a juvenile detention center.

In addition to all these shocking details, there's background about Devon's life before: her mad skills as a soccer goalkeeper, her excellent grades, her coaching, her babysitting. There's also her flighty mother who's constantly involved with low-life guys, herself a teen mom who managed to get a GED and now works at a grocery store and a bar--mainly night shifts. Devon has been taking care of herself for years, and she has her sights set on a better future for herself. A soccer scholarship at a Division I school. How could she have ended up in juvie? And worse, looking at the possibility of being tried for attempted murder as an adult? How?

Yes, there are gruesome details, but there's also a great story here about a girl who's trying so hard she can't see what's right in front of her eyes. Efaw convinces the reader that it really is possible to deny a pregnancy and hide it from everyone. In the end, Devon is wholly sympathetic and her tragic story is rendered in a manner that's completely believable. Highly recommended for teens, ages 14 & up.

Inside Out

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder (NY: Harlequin Teen, 2010).

Seventeen-year-old Trella is a scrub, aka a lower, which means she spends her ten-hour shifts cleaning the pipes and ducts of all four levels of the insular world she inhabits. She hates the crowded space allotted to scrubs on the lower two levels of Inside, so she's the "Queen of the Pipes," and spends most of her time, including her off-hours, crawling around the shafts. She's skeptical when her only friend, Cog, takes her to listen to yet another prophet proclaiming there's a better place Outside. But then Trella gets involved in locating some disks the prophet has hidden in the ducts above his room in his upper level dwelling before he was beaten and paralyzed by the Pop Cops and dumped in the lower levels. Trella starts out thinking she'll disprove the prophet, but ends up leading a rebellion that involves all the scrubs fighting against the ruthless uppers and their domination of the lower levels through brute force and propaganda.

Snyder has fashioned a fascinating dystopia, and Trella is a great character. While it lacks the outlandish displays of power that make Hunger Games so memorable, Inside Out has plenty of action that keeps the plot moving along. Trella has to grow as a character and learn to trust others. She also has to overcome her resistance to the leadership role that has been thrust upon her. There's a bit of romance, as Trella becomes involved with an upper named Riley, but it's fairly muted, so the novel will appeal to both boys and girls. Recommended for ages 12 & up.

Falling Under

Falling Under by Gwen Hayes (NY: New American Library, 2011).

The gorgeous cover of this novel enticed me to carry it home from the library, and it was worth the effort! Theia Alderson's father has kept her isolated in England for much of her life. Her mother died when she was born, though for some reason Theia thinks her father blames her mother's lifestyle for her death. Now Theia and her father are living in California, and while her father still tries to control her every move, Theia has made a few friends and has slightly more freedom.

Then she sees the burning man. He falls right past her window, and she quietly, though somewhat hesistantly, runs down to his aid. He should be dead, right? But instead they have a brief conversation before he d incinerates to dust right before her eyes, leaving only a small scorch mark on the lawn. As if this isn't weird enough, Theia starts having dreams about an odd timeless place where skeletons cavort to haunting music and a devilishly handsome boy wearing an old-fashioned suit asks Theia to dance. Weirder still, the boy, Haden, shows up at her school! Theia feels so drawn to him, she doesn't know what to do. Her friends, especially Donny (short for Donatella), try to give her romantic advice, but Haden is giving out mixed signals. He even tells her to stay away from him, for her own sake.

Falling Under has some of the same evil-creature-trying-to-resist-naive-girl plot elements as Twilight, but it attempts to rise above them. Theia proves to be less naive than she initially appears, and she tries to figure out what is going on with her dreams and Haden's odd behavior. Her father's character remains largely undeveloped, but Theia's best friend Donny, is quite well done and very funny, especially her comments about the snotty rich kids, whom she calls "sneetches," after the eponymous Dr. Seuss characters who feel entitled to the best because of their star-bedecked bellies. It's a bit odd that Theia is supposedly so sheltered, but she manages to get out of the house relatively easily because of her father's long work hours. Overall, this is a good but not great read, though the cover is superb. Recommended for ages 13 & up. Mild sexual content, alcohol, creepy situations.

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison (NY: Delacorte, 2010).

The novel starts out with a bang with Jenny Cooper, Jane Austen's cousin, having to save Jane from dying of a terrible fever while they're both practicially imprisoned at a horrifyingly grim boarding school. They end up back at Jane's country home, and Jenny feels very fortunate to be there. Her parents have died and her brother and his wife need the money that is supposed to go for Jenny's upkeep. Jenny keeps a journal to record all her feelings and all the happenings in the exciting Austen household, especially the antics of her witty cousin Jane. Soon enough, Jenny has fallen in love, but will a secret keep her from the happiness she deserves?

This is a lovely story in so many ways. Harrison researched Austen and the period extensively and weaves historical facts seamlessly into the fiction. Austen fans will recognize characters and situations that find their way into her novels. And of course it's wonderful to read about what Austen might have been like as a girl growing up in a large family of relatively poor means. Jenny's romance with the handsome Captain Thomas Williams is well done and fun to read, but even more fun is Jane's dramatizing of it, for she tends to be melodramatic.

Highly recommended for Austen lovers young and old. Fine ages 11 & up.

Going Too Far

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2009).

Meg has dyed-blue hair and a penchant for bad behavior. That's how she ends up drunk on a railroad bridge with the town rich-boy drug dealer in the middle of the night. And she's even gotten a pair of goody-two-shoes classmates to join in the fun. Luckily, the train misses them; unluckily, they're all arrested--by a driven young cop who constantly patrols the bridge to keep teens from getting killed. The rich boy's lawyer dad gets him out of trouble, but Meg and the others have to do community service over spring break, and Meg is royally peeved about that because she had planned to go the beach for the very first time! Instead, she has to spend her vacation on night shift with the very cop who arrested her plus work her usual day shift (for free, as usual, too) at her parents' greasy spoon diner.

Echols is clearly trying for an edgier, more realistic novel than her usual fluffy romances here, but for me it falls flat. First off, Meg's character relies on physical totems, like dyed hair (but not the brow piercing displayed on the cover), to signal interior traits. But we're also supposed to ignore that and believe that Meg is a good girl who has suffered mightily. In the end, this maybe turns out to be true, but it's not revealed to the very end, which makes for an uneasy reading ride. She's nasty to her parents and it seems that the only reason for that is because they're poor and she has to work for free. Instead, she ends up sounding spoiled and whiny. The second stumbling block, for me, was the character of John, the cop. We're supposed to believe that a nineteen-year-old boy who just graduated from high school is a hard-nosed cop. Even more unbelievably, Meg had had a class with him the previous year and didn't recognize him at all because apparently he grew a bunch of muscles and cut his hair. Like Meg, John has a hidden agenda for his actions, but it's not revealed until the very end.

Many readers will likely be able to ignore these issues, but I could not. The novel starts out fast and just continues. Meg is a curious character with some funny lines which help the story out a lot. The romance is a bit forced and obvious, but it does move the story along. It seems far-fetched (oops, a third problem!) that Meg would be allowed to ride along with such a young cop, but it creates interesting situations and opportunities for growth for this seemingly selfish girl. You'll have to be the judge of whether the revelation of the reason for her actions justifies them.

Sexual situations, intense situations, alcohol, drugs. OK for ages 14 & up.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Other Girl

The Other Girl by Sarah Miller (NY: St. Martin's Griffin, 2011).

Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn introduces Midvale Academy, a ritzy East Coast prep school where Gideon has just started. Unbeknownst to him, a girl on campus can hear all his thoughts, from the moment he enters the grounds. This girl turns out to be scholarship student Molly McGarry, who has come to love Gideon after spending so much time in his head. Gideon and Molly are a couple now--and Molly's still inside Gideon's head. This is not a totally bad thing. She can give him just what he wants, and he thinks she's amazing. But then Gideon happens to focus Pilar Benitez-Jones, the most beautiful girl on campus, at a tender moment with Molly, and she abruptly dumps him. But what to do about their mind connection? Problem solved when Gideon actually kisses Pilar, until Molly discovers she's now inside Pilar's mind. And it's pretty weird. Molly realizes fairly quickly that she's made a mistake in dumping Gideon, and the whole mind connection thing has seriously messed up other parts of her life, too.

The Other Girl lacks the intense mystery of the first Midvale Academy novel--not knowing who was inside Gideon's mind really propelled the plot, though just the premise of a girl finding out firsthand about what guys really think made for an engrossing tale. This novel develops Molly's character nicely and has its own plot twists and turns, but nearly gets dragged down in some of the standard aspects of prep school novels--sex, drugs, pranks. Molly, however, is a wonderful, buoyant girl whose liveliness and tenacity make this story well worth reading. Recommended for ages 14 & up. Sex, alcohol, drugs, language.

The Last Little Blue Envelope

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson (NY: HarperTeen, 2011).

This novel picks up where 13 Little Blue Envelopes left off. Ginny Blackstone has returned to her home in New Jersey after her European adventure following a series of enveloped instructions from her recently deceased artist-aunt Peg. Ginny's backpack--and all the envelopes--had been stolen in Greece, but she had read all but one and was able to complete the tasks, or so she thought. But as she procrastinates about writing her college application essays, she receives a message from a guy in London named Oliver who happened to purchase her stolen backpack and has her letters, including the last one. Ginny has to go to London and get it, which leads to another adventure. She's hoping her romance with actor/playwright Keith can pick up where it left off, but she soon finds that he has a girlfriend. And the guy who has her letter won't give it back to her unless she'll make a deal with him about the art this new adventure will yield.

Johnson delivers another fine story of travel and personal growth. Ginny's awkward reunion with Keith is well rendered as is her nascent relationship with Oliver. Recommended for ages 13 & up. Mild sexual situations, alcohol.


Moonglass by Jessi Kirby (NY: Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2011).

Seventeen-year-old Anna loves the ocean, the soothing tidal rhythms, the blue water, the shifting sand. She loves running on the beach and looking for sea glass, something she used to do with her mother. She still combs the shore hoping to discover new, colorful treasure. It helps her remember her mother, despite the sadness of knowing her mother left her by walking into the salty waters and never returning when Anna was only seven.

Anna doesn't really want to move when her beach supervisor dad gets a promotion and transfer to a different town--the town where he met Anna's mother when she was just a teen. Anna worries about the memories this will stir up for both of them, but also that she won't fit in at the new high school attended by the town's many wealthy residents. But their new cottage on the beach is cozy and immediately feels like home. And there's a lifeguard who immediately catches her eye, too. Plus, one of the rich girls, fashionista Ashley, befriends her and persuades Anna to go out for the cross country team, where she and the senior leader challenge each other.

As Anna becomes acclimated to her new home, she also starts learning about the town's history--as well as her mom and dad's history. And she finds there are some secrets, including in the abandoned cottage next door.

This novel starts out languidly with the story unfolding gradually but steadily--a mellow pace that manages to avoid being dull because of Anna's introspection about her dead mother, her still somewhat grieving father, and her own memories and curiosity about her mother's youth and what could have led her to eventually leave her young daughter. The romance adds some interest to the story, and Anna's friend Ashley shoots in some humor. All in all, this is a fine summer read. Recommended for ages 14 & up. Sexual situations, alcohol, drugs, language.


Clarity by Kim Harrington (NY: Point, 2011).

Clarity "Clare" Fern considers herself a freak. Actually, her whole family is freakish. She's a psychic--one touch and she has a vision. Her mother is a telepath, and her brother is a medium. They make a living in their Cape Cod tourist town of Eastport by giving readings. They're popular with the tourists, but with their fellow townsfolk, not so much, so Clare doesn't have a lot of friends and has only recently had a boyfriend--who ended up cheating on her. As the summer season begins, a teen-aged girl is found dead--murdered--in a hotel room, and Clare's brother turns out to have been the last person to see her alive. Clare has to join forces with her cheating ex and a hot new boy in town, who happens to be the son of the new police detective, to suss out the truth and help her brother.

Tired of paranormal romances that follow the same old plot line? Want something a little different to pop in your beach bag? This novel fits the bill. Yes, there's some romance, but there's also an ocean front setting and a murder to solve. Recommended for ages 14 & up. Sexual situations, drugs, alcohol, language.