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Chimera – YA SciFi for fans of Red Rising and Ender’s Game

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Chimera – YA SciFi for fans of Red Rising and Ender’s Game

I think that fans of Ender’s Game and the Red Rising Trilogy will enjoy N. J. Tanger’s Chimera.  The main characters are underdogs destined to save the society who has spent the last several generations trying to atone for a debt that got them kicked off of planet Earth.  It is ripe with oppression, intrigue, and some kids getting schooled the hard way.  This is the first in a pair that has already been published, so when you get to the end, and scream “Noooooo” into the night, you can just download the next one and proceed with the adventure.

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Goodreads Summary

On the verge of extinction, the Stephen’s Point colony must take desperate measures to save themselves. Without communication or resupply from Earth for the last fifteen years, the colony has but one chance to survive: restore the ancient starship Chimera and train a young crew to pilot her. The fate of the entire colony rests on the shoulders of a pair of misfits: Theo Puck, a sixteen-year-old hacker with a gift for speaking to machines, and fifteen-year-old Selena Samuelson, a brash but talented pilot with a dark secret in her past.

To Theo, the Mandate to crew the Chimera seems like a game—one he isn’t invited to play. A brutal murder changes everything. Left with no choice, Theo has to complete the Selection training and make it aboard the Chimera or face terrible consequences.

Selena wants to do what she does best—fly. Piloting her father’s ore trawler is the only life she’s known before a horrifying accident strands her aboard the Hydra, the station responsible for rebuilding the Chimera. Forced into the Mandate testing against her will, Selena encounters an unexpected ally, forever changing the way she sees the Chimera and herself.

Forced to make brutal choices in order to survive, Theo and Selena’s fates intertwine. But behind the scenes, someone else sets into motion events that could destroy everything they’re fighting to protect.

My Thoughts

The first fifteen percent just didn’t really grab me, but I’m glad I stuck it out.  Essentially there are two characters the book follows – Theo and Selena.  They are pretty typical for underdog characters – loyal to the ones the connect with, betrayed by the ones they believed in, and reluctant to take up the mantle of greatness fate seems to hold in store.  I liked them both, but it is the foul mouth Selena I found most intriguing.  She is tough and determined and she doesn’t think she needs anyone.  She is a bit of a flat character, and it feels like she plays second fiddle to Theo’s storyline, but I just have a feeling she is going to be the key in the end.  I liked the concept of the story as well, but I was surprised that the big event I expected – flying off in the Chimera – doesn’t happen in this book.  Instead, this volume essentially establishes setting and characters, and, while there is plenty of action, I anticipate that the biggest events are left to appear in the follow up books.  I found that there were a lot of surprises I didn’t see coming in the story, so just when it seems on a predictable route, things get shaken up.  Overall, it was engaging and I am curious enough that I will pick up the next book.  There is some language, but it is suitable for high school readers.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Siren’s Song is exactly the conclusion readers want from Mary Weber’s Storm Siren trilogy

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Siren’s Song is exactly the conclusion readers want from Mary Weber’s Storm Siren trilogy

If you like Marie Lu’s The Young Elites, I think you will enjoy Mary Weber’s Storm Siren trilogy.  They have similar elements and similar feels, though they ultimately head in completely different directions.  The best part, though, is that Weber’s trilogy is finished (and each ebook only costs $5.99).  The final book, Siren’s Song, published this month, and I think it was the best of the three.  However, you have to read this series in order.  The first book is Storm Siren and the second is Siren’s Fury.   The third book, Siren’s Song, is exactly the ending that the Storm Siren trilogy needs.  If you have read the previous two books, it would be a big mistake to miss this resolution.

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Goodreads Summary

Nym and Draewulf prepare to face off in a battle destined to destroy more lives than it saves.

With the loss of Tulla still fresh in mind, Rasha’s fate unknown, and Lord Myles taken over by the dark ability, Nym and the few Bron soldiers rush to warn Cashlin’s queen. Only to discover it may already be too late for the monarch and her eerie kingdom. As the Luminescents are sifting through Nym’s past memories and the queen is reading into her future, Nym is given a choice of how to defeat Draewulf, but the cost may be more than she can bear. And even then there are no guarantees.

With that reality burrowing into her bones—along with the guilt of the lives she will sacrifice—Nym returns to her homeland of Faelen to raise an army of peasants through promises of freedom. But when the few friends she has left, along with the world and citizens she loves, are staring down the face of a monster and his undead army, will Nym summon every element her blood is capable of controlling . . . or surrender to a different strength—one of sacrifice?

Because in the end, death may be more merciful for them all.

My Thoughts

Fans of the series will be quite pleased with the mix of action, danger and thwarted romance.  Yes, I said thwarted romance – Bron is free of the Draewolf, but he could be a ticking time bomb, and Nym can’t really take the chance, especially since she is the final puzzle piece in the prophecy.  According to Bron, at least. Gah.  This is only one of many sacrifices Nym may be faced with making, and as the stakes get higher, it becomes apparent that she might have to sacrifice everything if she is going to give her people a chance at survival.  That threat is present and real all the way through this journey, and the suspense makes for a great read.   Seriously, the more questions the story answered, the more uncertain I became about the fate of Nym, her friends, and her world’s survival.  I enjoyed this series, and this final book is really the best of the three.  This series is engaging and the romance is compelling, but I love the fact that it doesn’t have any language or situations that compromise my ability to add it to my classroom library. It is appropriate for grades 7+, but adults will enjoy it as well.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Girl Last Seen is a YA mystery that will keep you guessing

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Girl Last Seen is a YA mystery that will keep you guessing

A twisty mystery for the reader who enjoyed Gone Girl and When We Were Liars.  Lies and truth becoming increasingly scrambled as two teens accused of kidnapping and presumably killing a local YouTube star try to prove their innocence.  Honestly, I even got a few surprises out of this one, so I gave it four stars.

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Goodreads Summary

Kadence Mulligan’s star was rising. She and her best friend, Lauren DeSanto, watched their songs go viral on YouTube, then she launched a solo career when a nasty throat infection paralyzed Lauren’s vocal chords. Everyone knows Lauren and Kadence had a major falling-out over Kady’s boyfriend. But Lauren knows how deceptive Kadence could be sometimes. And nobody believes Lauren when she claims she had nothing to do with the disappearance. Or the blood evidence As the town and local media condemns Lauren, she realizes the only way to clear her name is to discover the truth herself. Lauren slowly unravels the twisted life of Kadence Mulligan and sees that there was more to her than she ever knew. But will she realize she’s unknowingly playing a part in an elaborate game to cover up a crime before it’s too late?”

My Thoughts

Even the most reliable voices in this book become questionable, and that makes for some surprising revelations and some unexpected turns.  While many readers will be certain they’ve figured it all out long before the final curtain call on this one, I’m willing to bet they won’t see the whole picture until the very end.  I got a real sense of the frustration these characters were feeling because the author was able to convey that place where kids know things that adults don’t, and the nuances that every YA will recognize as threatening are lost on the authority figures who only get the whitewashed version of people.  I felt like that made for well drawn characters, and it helps create themes about bullying and kindness that add some depth to story.  I didn’t love the romance angle – I’m a little weirded out by love blossoming in the middle of this particular situation, but the author took care to develop the relationship believably. Overall, this was an engaging read,  I think many of my high school readers will enjoy this book.  I’m adding it to my high school classroom library wish list, and I can’t wait to start sharing it with my mystery readers.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 8+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood – the YA read that I became obsessed with in 2015

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I have been waiting ages to introduce Inherit the Stars to other people.  It is one of my favorite books from this past year, and I spent those months between receiving my ARC and blogging about it rereading it a number of times (ok, so I read it eleven times, and while that is probably strange, it shows how much I really did enjoy it).  I can’t guarantee that you will be as obsessed as I obviously am, but if you are looking for a love story that is subtle and believable, you will definitely want to give this book a shot.  I thought this was a five star read.

Inherit the Stars is publishing Tuesday, December 8, 2015.  If you can’t wait, there is a free kindle short story (12 pages) called “Inherit the Stars: Reprieve,” and you can download that today.

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Goodreads Summary

Three royal houses ruling three interplanetary systems are on the brink of collapse, and they must either ally together or tear each other apart in order for their people to survive.

Asa is the youngest daughter of the house of Fane, which has been fighting a devastating food and energy crisis for far too long. She thinks she can save her family’s livelihood by posing as her oldest sister in an arranged marriage with Eagle, the heir to the throne of the house of Westlet. The appearance of her mother, a traitor who defected to the house of Galton, adds fuel to the fire, while Asa also tries to save her sister Wren’s life . . . possibly from the hands of their own father.

But as Asa and Eagle forge a genuine bond, will secrets from the past and the urgent needs of their people in the present keep them divided?

My Thoughts

I love this book.  Asa is sweet and unbelievably selfless and sincere. She doesn’t read others well because she thinks they are just as good as her on the inside, so part of the fun is interpreting other’s reactions through her unreliable perspective.  Eagle, the love interest,  is a bit of a mystery and a wounded, silent warrior.  I would have liked more clarity about his motives, but he had my number almost from the start.  New book boyfriend, anyone?  Yes, please.

The plot was well paced to develop a meaningful relationship that could believably blossom into love. It kicked off with good, solid action, and it drew me in and kept me reading.  This was a one sitting, straight through book for me.  Good thing I fed the kids before I started, or they might have had to graze until I finished!

The politics of the society are clearly explained and develop a nice tension as they grow more and more complex throughout the story.

Some of the narrative jumps are a little abrupt, but I think that is more of a formatting issue in my ARC than anything, and they didn’t disrupt my enjoyment.  The narrative is also a bit like a stream of consciousness, and that isn’t as easy to follow, but with a little practice, it isn’t hard to relax into the style.  There is some confusing action when things got really heated, especially in the first action sequence when I wasn’t really sure what was going on, but it was mid-battle, so some chaos is expected.

I won’t tell you this is a perfect book, but I enjoyed every second of it.  I think readers will enjoy the premise, the intrigue, and the romance, so this one is definitely going on my high school classroom library wish list.  Language and situations are appropriate for all ages, but high school students will enjoy this the most.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Nightfall is YA fiction with an intriguing premise that is hard to resist

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Nightfall is YA fiction with an intriguing premise that is hard to resist

Nightfall is a light horror/mystery and full of action that is probably going to be most engaging for the middle school reader. The characters come across as too naive, and it did lack some depth, but it managed to surprise me with its twists and turns.  It wasn’t exactly what I wanted or expected, but you might be hard pressed not to give it a try once you read the premise – all I could think was The Village, and I couldn’t resist!  Three star read.

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Goodreads Summary

The dark will bring your worst nightmares to light, in this gripping and eerie survival story, perfect for fans of James Dashner and Neil Gaiman.

On Marin’s island, sunrise doesn’t come every twenty-four hours—it comes every twenty-eight years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold and the shadows are growing long.

Because sunset triggers the tide to roll out hundreds of miles, the islanders are frantically preparing to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night.

Marin and her twin brother, Kana, help their anxious parents ready the house for departure. Locks must be taken off doors. Furniture must be arranged. Tables must be set. The rituals are puzzling—bizarre, even—but none of the adults in town will discuss why it has to be done this way.

Just as the ships are about to sail, a teenage boy goes missing—the twins’ friend Line. Marin and Kana are the only ones who know the truth about where Line’s gone, and the only way to rescue him is by doing it themselves. But Night is falling. Their island is changing.

And it may already be too late.

My Thoughts

Nightfall is a book that will draw a wide range of readers with its intruiging premise, but, as I said, it will probably be most satisfying to a middle school crowd.  The narrative is shared by three teens who have been left behind in the bustle of an exodus of their village from an island.  This island goes dark every fourteen years, and as the night gets closer, the villagers engage in some strange rituals that have been part of their migration for hundreds of years.  While readers will quickly guess what nightfall on the island brings, the young protagonists don’t.  The fact that they don’t put the pieces together until the answer is staring them right in the face is one of the many reasons that they come across as younger than expected.  Their character arcs, too, are fairly simple.  Growth seems small in comparison to their experiences through the course of the novel, and that left me a little disappointed in the end, especially since the biggest epiphany is one that I guessed at nearly the beginning of the story.  I think middle school readers will be less bothered by this because they will probably be focused on the action and the atmosphere more than character growth.  There is a lot of action once the story gets rolling, and there is certainly enough threat to the characters to keep readers engaged.  I honestly couldn’t predict what was going to happen next, and I wasn’t certain how this would end until it drew to a close.  I enjoyed it for what it was, a fast and light adventure with a side of menace, but I was left a little disappointed by the character development.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Fire Sermon – dystopian post apocalyptic YA that is definitely smarter than it first appears.

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The Fire Sermon – dystopian post apocalyptic YA that is definitely smarter than it first appears.

If you like dystopian and post apocalyptic books, The Fire Sermon is one you should consider adding to your To Be Read list.  The premise sounds ridiculous, but this is a pretty smart read, and I’m definitely looking for the second book when it comes out in February 2016.  I paid $13.99 for the ebook, which is beyond reprehensible (curse you, sample read, for pulling me in so thoroughly), but I found an affordable copy of a hardback used on Amazon for the classroom library because it is one I definitely want to share with other readers.

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Goodreads Summary

The Hunger Games meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in this richly imagined first novel in a new postapocalyptic trilogy by award-winning poet Francesca Haig.

Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair one is an Alpha – physically perfect in every way – and the other an Omega burdened with deformity, small or large.
With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world’s sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: Whenever one twin dies, so does the other. Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side by side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.

 
My Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was well written, thoughtful, and gripping. For the most part, it is action packed, with only a lull near the beginning, but it was an necessary lull, so stick it out. Cass is a strong female protagonist whose only liability is her world view, which is actually her strongest asset. There is a romantic element to this story, but I will say it wasn’t blatant in its sensuality, so it isn’t full of hot moments but plays more of the companionship angle. I actually liked the concept of the twins. Though I thought it was going to be a ridiculous when I read the blurb, it worked really well. The ending might have a few readers crying foul, but I thought it made sense. My only complaint is the price. $13.99 for an ebook is ridiculous (yeah, I’m gonna bring that up again), and even though I feel I got my money’s worth, I almost didn’t read it on principle alone. I’m glad I overcame my impulse and read it anyway.
This book is available in our classroom library.

Rat Runners is a lot of what you love in your futuristic SciFi but is still inexplicably unique

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Rat Runners is a lot of what you love in your futuristic SciFi but is still inexplicably unique

I really wish there was a book trailer for Rat Runners by Oisin McGann because it is hard to get a real sense of what the book is about from either the title or the cover. Street smart kids outwit the mob bosses who coerce them into committing crimes in a 1984esque future. But that falls flat, too. It is tense and smart and full of high tech spy gadgets. You should read it. That is really the best I can do, boys and girls. For those of you not in the womb during the mid nineties, it reminded me of Hackers. Do you remember that? It had young, young Angelina Jolie and Johnny Lee Miller and it was about teen hackers outsmarting the adults. I felt so subversive just watching it!
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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. In the future world, the only people who can escape the intense scrutiny of the government surveillance system are young teens. Mob bosses use these rat runners to carry out jobs through coercion and fear. When one group of runners discovers an invention that could change everything, they decide to use their street smarts and tech skills to keep it out of the hands of their boss, but the boss has more than just a few kids on his side, and he is willing to kill to get what he wants. While I initially struggled with this book, it became much more engaging once all of the players were introduced. The teens in this book were smart and resourceful, and, despite their association with illegal activities, they had a sense of right and justice. I think YA readers of both genders will enjoy this book. While the overall plot is not like Alex Rider, the Bourne books, or Mission Impossible, the secret and covert missions carried out are just as tense and the bad guys are just as threatening. Readers who enjoy books along that line and are willing to stick through the introductory chapters will be glad they did. The language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

Don’t believe me and my “old lady” (read: mid thirties) opinions? See what a real YA had to say. http://www.teenreads.com/reviews/rat-runners

If you could see someone’s death date, what would you do with that knowledge?

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If you could see someone’s death date, what would you do with that knowledge?

A contemporary YA suspense with a touch of the supernatural. Perfect for fans of Lisa McMann’s Wake and Crash series.

Goodreads Summary
Maddie Fynn is a shy high school junior, cursed with an eerie intuitive ability: she sees a series of unique digits hovering above the foreheads of each person she encounters. Her earliest memories are marked by these numbers, but it takes her father’s premature death for Maddie and her family to realize that these mysterious digits are actually death dates, and just like birthdays, everyone has one.

Forced by her alcoholic mother to use her ability to make extra money, Maddie identifies the quickly approaching death date of one client’s young son, but because her ability only allows her to see the when and not the how, she’s unable to offer any more insight. When the boy goes missing on that exact date, law enforcement turns to Maddie.

Soon, Maddie is entangled in a homicide investigation, and more young people disappear and are later found murdered. A suspect for the investigation, a target for the murderer, and attracting the attentions of a mysterious young admirer who may be connected to it all, Maddie’s whole existence is about to be turned upside down. Can she right things before it’s too late?

WhenWhen by Victoria Laurie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first half of this book was slow going for me. It was just full of despair, and I felt real fear for Maddie. It wasn’t until the second half that I began to really enjoy the book because there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the main characters. I had no idea who the killer was until Maddie did, yet it was a believable twist, and I was impressed because I usually figure it out quickly, especially in YA suspense. The death dates were a concept I had never encountered before, and, though I usually like to understand why someone has a special ability, I was glad the author didn’t come up with an explanation and just played it off as a wonder of the universe. There were interesting themes in this book that I think a YA crowd will respond to — having to be the parent when your own parent falls short is a more common problem than most people probably realize. I thought the depiction of bullying was spot on. As much as I was frustrated by Maddie’s lack of response, it was true to her character and to many victims of bullying. I liked the way the author chose to end the book, and I wasn’t prepared for the final bit of serendipity, but I was pretty pleased when I turned the last page. I think my students will enjoy the book, and I am adding it to my classroom library wish list. The language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.
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The Book that made me Horrifyingly Nostalgic About My Awkward Teen Love Life

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The Book that made me Horrifyingly Nostalgic About My Awkward Teen Love Life

I attempt to block out most of my own teen years, but every once in a while, something slips past my defenses and I find myself waxing nostalgic: the “Teen Spirit” video plays, an episode of The Wonder Years shows up, my Doc Martin’s surface from the closet at my mom’s house. We Should Hang Out Sometime was one such stealth attack. It isn’t a perfect book, but I thought it was a funny, honest, and heartfelt narrative. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized I was thinking about a certain seventh grade kiss-that-was-planned-but-never-meant-to-be. It was suppose to happen on the small bridge that spanned the toxic waste-filled creek flowing through the apartment complex next door to my house. Super romantic. It didn’t happen. I decided the romance was going nowhere and broke it off the next day in the choir room at the junior high. Seriously. Grown Woman thinking about junior high. Anyway, this was an ARC I received from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for my honest review. I honestly liked it a lot.
We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true storyWe Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Told in an engagingly humorous narrative voice, Josh rehashes his awkward attempts at romance from his early teens to his young twenties to decipher exactly where he went wrong and how he managed to be twenty before his first kiss. This is such a funny and endearing little nonfiction read. There are hilarious infographics and a faux scientific method charting his continued failures at connecting with the girls he loved. I was delighted and sympathetically laughing all the way through, cause this guy just couldn’t read a signal to save his life! I don’t ever willingly read nonfiction, and I didn’t realize this was nonfiction until I was hooked, but this book was worth every minute I spent reading it. It evokes nostalgia in me, a former awkward dater, but I think my high school students will find this funny and inspiring and comforting in a world were they believe everybody is hooking up and they are the only ones who can’t seem to get it right. This is a clean read — like I said, first kiss at twenty, so it is appropriate for grades seven and up. I’m adding it to my high school classroom library wish list
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Suspicion has a lot of atmosphere, but not much else. Try to resist that cover, though!

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Suspicion has a lot of atmosphere, but not much else. Try to resist that cover, though!

Suspicion by Alexandra Monir was a bit of a disappointment. It promised Downton Abbey meets something else I adored, but it really didn’t deliver that. Instead, it was more Rebecca meets The Princess Diaries with a magical element I hadn’t bargained for. Which still sounds good, right? Well . . . I think if you are a discerning reader, you could pass this one up, but most of us are not able to resist such a pretty cover, so prepare yourself for a lukewarm suspense in a nicely developed atmosphere. I rated it four out of five stars because I think that it is a well paced, light YA suspense that many of my high school students will enjoy, but most adult readers will probably find it lackluster and silly.

SuspicionSuspicion by Alexandra Monir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

In 2007, a tragedy took Imogene far from the life of nobility she was born into; in 2014, a tragedy brings her back home as the new Duchess. As she wrestles with her new station, Imogene also struggles with powers that seem to come alive when she sets foot on her new estate. Questions about her cousin’s death haunt her as she works to uncover the mysteries surrounding the origins of her powers. The strength of this novel is really the atmosphere, which manages to be lightly dark and menacing. Readers will understand why Imogene is troubled by what she encounters in her new home, but it seems perfectly reasonable that she doesn’t feel overwhelmingly threatened and seek out help. It evoked memories of one of my favorite British suspense reads, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (which I can never get any of my high school students to read, even when I promise them it is going to rock their world). The plot is far-fetched, even for a book with supernatural elements, and most of the twists were predictable, but it moves along at a nice pace. Imogene is a fairly well developed protagonist, though the other characters are rather one dimensional. I enjoyed reading Suspicion and I think my high school students will as well. Though I didn’t think this was a perfect read, none of the flaws diminished my enjoyment. This is a YA thriller, written for a YA audience, so the intensity is dialed down. It is a light read with a haunted note that I enjoyed curling up with for a few hours of escapism on a cold and rainy afternoon. Language and light sensuality appropriate for 13+.

 

This book is available in the MHS library.

 

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Someone deserves a raise for this cover art!