Tag Archives: suspense

Great Falls by Steve Watkins – this is what you get when good writing meets compelling topic.

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Great Falls by Steve Watkins – this is what you get when good writing meets compelling topic.

Great Falls is an intense read that had me from the first lines.  I think that it is our responsibility to see the toll war takes on our soldiers, and this book does that in such a remarkable way and through such an engaging and perceptive perspective  I gave Great Falls five stars because it is a book that handles tough issues with a deft and subtle hand and the story has an appeal that transcends age and gender.  Fans of books like The Things We Carried and Chris Lynch’s YA Vietnam series will be particularly happy with this read.

The ebook is available now, but the hardback is not on sale until April 26, 2016.

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Goodreads Summary

One brother home from war. The other desperate to save him. A gripping journey together to the river’s end.

Shane has always worshiped his big brother, Jeremy. But three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their toll, and the easy-go-lucky brother Shane knew has been replaced by a surly drunk who carries his loaded 9mm with him everywhere and lives in the basement because he can’t face life with his wife and two small children. When Jeremy shows up after Shane’s football game and offers to take him to the family cabin overnight, Shane goes along — both to get away from a humiliation on the field and to keep an eye on Jeremy, who’s AWOL from his job at Quantico and seems to have a shorter fuse than ever. But as the camping trip turns into a days-long canoe trip down the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, Shane realizes he’s in way over his head — and has no idea how to persuade Jeremy to return home and get the help he needs before it’s too late. In a novel at once gripping and heartbreaking, Steve Watkins offers a stark exploration of the unseen injuries left by war.

My Thoughts

This powerful read is exactly what I look for in a book for my classroom library.  It is engaging as it is meaningful.  I only meant to peruse the first chapter, but the next thing I knew, it was reading the acknowledgements.  Shane is an easy narrator to connect with, and the feeling of powerlessness he exudes is palpable and understandable.  So is the tension.  Shane is desperate to help his brother but the delicate shift and balance is continual, and that makes even the most mundane interactions gripping.  The journey they take together is unexpected and at times hard, but it is a journey I can’t regret taking with them.  I cared about these characters, and I think other readers will as well.  This book is certain to appeal to many of my high school students, particularly the guys, so it is definitely going on my classroom library wishlist.  There is some language, but nothing that would stop me from recommending it to grades 9+.  Adult readers will find it just as engaging.

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

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This is Where it Ends is an intense and disturbing YA about the unthinkable tragedy of a school shooting

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This is Where it Ends is an intense and disturbing YA about the unthinkable tragedy of a school shooting

School shootings are not my favorite topic in YA literature, but I think it is important to look at the issue rather than to ignore it.  While I felt this book had good intentions, I found it more frightening than anything.

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Goodreads Summary

10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03
The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05
Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

My Thoughts

I have mixed feelings about this book because I was really engaged, but I was left feeling a little helpless.  This book covers a school shooting from the perspective of various intertwined high school characters.  Initially, the shift from character to character is confusing, and it did take a while for me to get everyone sorted out.  Even after I got the narrators straight, I still struggled with siblings and parents because it was such a vast cast.  The  tweets that were interspersed throughout the narrative were confusing and I couldn’t always identify the characters who were sending or receiving them (probably because I’m old).  Despite that difficulty, I found the book very compelling.  There are too many characters to list, but the shooter’s sister, her girlfriend, and the shooter’s ex girlfriend all contribute memories and impressions that form a picture of a disturbed boy who crosses a line into madness without clear warning.  I found myself drawn into this story for that picture.  The first and last question anyone has about a school shooting is always “Why?”  This book does a good job of answering that question, but it also left me feeling a little like there was no way to predict or prevent this incident and I was left wondering what the message was here.  The topic is given the appropriate gravity and handled with sensitivity while maintaining a nightmarish realism, but there just wasn’t anything I took away from the book other than the horror and shock of a terrible tragedy that probably couldn’t have been prevented or stopped.  I understand that some books are about character development, and this book has a lot of that – characters find their courage and have epiphanies about love, life and sacrifice that will change them forever, but I think this book has the potential to simply make readers afraid of their school more than anything else.  As a teacher who has been trained for an active shooter crisis, this got even my anxiety levels up, so I think the situations and violence make this most appropriate for mature high school readers.

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

The Killing Jar by Jennifer Bosworth is bizarre but never bland

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The Killing Jar by Jennifer Bosworth is bizarre but never bland

This is one of the strangest books I’ve encountered in YA.  It was full on weird, and, yet . . . I still read it in a single sitting.  Maybe the breathtaking cover mesmerized me.  Maybe I just can’t resist a weird twist.  Whatever it was, I was compelled to read on.  Ultimately, it was a three star read for me, but I can’t say I don’t remember it months later.

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Goodreads Summary

“I try not to think about it, what I did to that boy.”

Seventeen-year-old Kenna Marsden has a secret.

She’s haunted by a violent tragedy she can’t explain. Kenna’s past has kept people—even her own mother—at a distance for years. Just when she finds a friend who loves her and life begins to improve, she’s plunged into a new nightmare. Her mom and twin sister are attacked, and the dark powers Kenna has struggled to suppress awaken with a vengeance.

On the heels of the assault, Kenna is exiled to a nearby commune, known as Eclipse, to live with a relative she never knew she had. There, she discovers an extraordinary new way of life as she learns who she really is, and the wonders she’s capable of. For the first time, she starts to feel like she belongs somewhere. That her terrible secret makes her beautiful and strong, not dangerous. But the longer she stays at Eclipse, the more she senses there is something malignant lurking underneath it all. And she begins to suspect that her new family has sinister plans for her… .

My Thoughts

Kenna is an engaging protagonist with complex feelings and the little bit of a dark side needed to make her feel like a real person more than a character.  The first person point of view gives readers plenty of insight into her inner workings, but it does leave the secondary characters feeling a little flat.  I don’t think that is necessarily a negative thing because it does leave readers guessing about everyone’s intentions and it plays into the ominous atmosphere.

The story is well paced to hold reader interest and develop Kenna’s internal conflicts.  It does seem move quickly when it comes to external conflict, especially at the end when it starts to slam readers with action.  I don’t think it will bother many readers because most of them will be left puzzling out the rather bizarre explanation behind Kenna’s abilities. It was certainly unique.  This is one of those books that drags out the mystery until the last possible moment. Readers are given clues that allow them to make some inferences, but, ultimately there is a lot of delay and “we can’t tell you anything too revealing just yet” going on.

I thought the book was definitely something I hadn’t seen before, but ultimately readers will be able to guess what it all comes down to because, well, cult.  I enjoyed the story and found it engaging.  It was creepy but not necessarily scary.  There was suspense galore, and I really wasn’t sure how the story would pan out – I just knew it wouldn’t be bland.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers (light sensuality, drug-like abuse of substances, and violence).

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

Sanctuary Bay – you think you know what is going to happen in this YA, but you really, really don’t

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Sanctuary Bay – you think you know what is going to happen in this YA, but you really, really don’t

Sanctuary Bay is a psychological thriller/mystery with a lot of elements I’d seen before, so I was very surprised at how unpredictable the plot turned out to be.  I really expected to see a bunch of rich mean girls demoralizing the poor kid with pluck, and I was quite happy that the story didn’t go in that direction.  And there is a secret society involved, so, of course I knew they were going to torture her in some horrible way.  Instead, Sarah is embraced in her new world, but her new world really feels too perfect to be true (so, of course, it is).

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Goodreads Summary

Will Sarah Merson’s shiny new prep school change her life forever or bring it to a dark and sinister end?

When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.

My Thoughts

Sarah is a narrative voice that most readers will relate to, and she has some pretty insightful revelations about judging others and embracing opportunity.  I was pretty pleased with that extra depth in a story of this genre.  The secondary characters in this story were also surprisingly dimensional, and that is kind of a rarity in a YA were secondary characters are often archetypes who offer little beyond a posse for the protagonist to hang out with.  These were unique individuals, and they each served to move the plot further along.

As far as plot goes, I don’t want to ruin the fun, so I won’t talk much about it other than to say I really wanted to know how this mystery would play out, so much so that I read it in a single sitting.  It was a pretty action packed ride, and it was not as predictable as I really thought it would be.  That isn’t to say that it wasn’t logical, because it is, but the author chose to twist situations in ways I didn’t anticipate.  I’m not going to lie. This is still a pretty surface read that is more about entertainment than improving your mind, but I enjoyed it.

The real stars in this book are the atmosphere and the setting.  There was a juxtaposition of a beautiful facade with something rather terrible running underneath.  I thought the unease the author managed to convey to readers was well done.  I, like Sarah, knew there was something wrong with Sanctuary Bay, but as soon as I got really worked up about it, something totally normal would convince me I was just being paranoid.  I’ll admit it was a bit of front loading to have an island cut off from the real world that had once been home to an insane asylum as well as a Nazi prisoner of war camp, but I was willing to suspend my disbelief and just enjoy the show.

Overall, I found this book compelling and engaging.  I think my high school readers will enjoy unraveling this mystery, especially those who enjoy a creepy atmosphere.  I’m adding it to my classroom library wish list.  There is a little horror element to the story that I thought was surprisingly intense and there is some drug/alcohol use as well as some light sensuality, so this is most appropriate for high school readers.

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

Erin Jade Lange’s Rebel Bully Geek Pariah – is it really The Breakfast Club meets Breaking Bad? Maybe. Maybe not, but it sure was a wild, fast and fun read.

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Erin Jade Lange’s Rebel Bully Geek Pariah – is it really The Breakfast Club meets Breaking Bad?  Maybe.  Maybe not, but it sure was a wild, fast and fun read.

When a book is promising to be The Breakfast Club meets Breaking Bad, it sets a pretty high bar.  I don’t think that is the perfect description, but it isn’t too far from the mark, either.  The story centers around a strange alliance formed when four very different individuals unwittingly find themselves involved in more crimes than they can imagine. It’s a bit of a wild ride, but I enjoyed it.  Four stars.

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Goodreads Summary

“The Breakfast Club” gets a modern, high-stakes reboot in this story of four very different teens and a night that changes them forever.

The Rebel: Once popular, Andi is now a dreadlocked, tattooed wild child.
The Bully: York torments everyone who crosses his path, especially his younger brother.
The Geek: Tired of being bullied, Boston is obsessed with getting into an Ivy League college.
The Pariah: Choosing to be invisible has always worked for Sam . . . until tonight.

When Andi, York, Boston, and Sam find themselves hiding in the woods after a party gets busted by the cops, they hop into the nearest car they see and take off—the first decision of many in a night that will change their lives forever. By the light of day, these four would never be caught dead together, but when their getaway takes a dangerously unpredictable turn, sticking together could be the only way to survive.

With cinematic storytelling and compelling emotional depth, critically acclaimed author Erin Jade Lange takes readers on literary thrill ride.

My Thoughts

I think the charm of seeing these socially diverse characters finding connections is a big selling point for this book.  They are awful to each other and kind to each other and find comfort in learning that they all aren’t as alone in their isolation and private pain as they believed.  The relationship dynamic is a bit predictable, but at the same time readers struggle to decide which characters are trustworthy.  The plot moves quickly and, though it has quite a bit of action, there is care taken to develop characters and relationships.  I did feel the relationships were a bit superficial, and I wasn’t convinced that they would stand the test of time, but, Hey, if they survive this experience, the bond might just hold.  I think some readers will think there is just the right amount of emotional depth in this book, but more discerning critics will point out that this really lacks the emotional impact of The Breakfast Club.  What this story maybe lacks in meaningful depth, it makes up for in style.    I particularly liked the way the story incorporated a fluid use of present and past to add insight at key moments and to increase suspense throughout.  Overall, I enjoyed this quick and fast paced read, and I think my high school students will as well.  I think it would be a great book for reluctant readers, and it is going on my classroom library wish list.  Language and situations are most appropriate for high school readers.

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

Kim Savage’s After The Woods is a creepy and compelling YA psychological thriller for the fan of the unexpected twist

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Kim Savage’s After The Woods is a creepy and compelling YA psychological thriller for the fan of the unexpected twist

I am every mystery author’s nightmare.  I can guess the ending of almost any book, probably because I’ve read a bunch of books, but it might be my freaky superpower. Your choice.  Either way, I just didn’t see this one coming, and that means After The Woods might just give you a jolt in the end, too.  It wasn’t a perfect read, but I thoroughly enjoyed the reading, so it is a solid four star book in my mind.

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Goodreads Summary

Would you risk your life to save your best friend?

Julia did. When a paroled predator attacked Liv in the woods, Julia fought back and got caught. Liv ran, leaving Julia in the woods for a terrifying 48 hours that she remembers only in flashbacks. One year later, Liv seems bent on self-destruction, starving herself, doing drugs, and hooking up with a violent new boyfriend. A dead girl turns up in those same woods, and Julia’s memories resurface alongside clues unearthed by an ambitious reporter that link the girl to Julia’s abductor. As the devastating truth becomes clear, Julia realizes that after the woods was just the beginning.

 My Thoughts

This was one surprise of a book.  I wasn’t expecting the narrative voice to be so unlike a victim.  Julia’s horrible experience should have left her a quivering mess (I certainly would have responded that way), but the author chose to portray her as the victim who goes the other direction, and I appreciated that.  She is smart and strong and determined to dig deep in the muck of what led up to her kidnapping.  I liked Julia’s perspective from the start, and though she sometimes sounded more like an adult than a teen, she had the impulsive nature and eye rolling attitude that convinced me she was, indeed, sixteen.

The other surprise was where this plot went.   It brings out the monsters that hide in their mother’s basements and get swept up in fantasy worlds fueled by the internet, but it also drags forward the monsters who sit next to you in church and at the country club.  I thought I knew what this story was about all the way through. I had a good idea of what the resolution would reveal, but I have to say that seeing the whole thing laid out at the end was rather breathtaking and shocking. It was a Gone Girl/We Were Liars/The Sixth Sense kind of a moment.  I love those moments!

Clearly, I enjoyed this book, but there were times when the narrative felt disjointed on the first read through.  It caused a little confusion, but it didn’t really keep me from enjoying the book.  As I stated earlier, Julia didn’t always talk like a real teen, and I found that a little off putting, particularly at the beginning of the book.  Overall, I thought this was a compulsively readable book, and I didn’t want to put it down until the end.  I think my high school readers will enjoy it as well, so it is going on my classroom library wish list.  I would recommend it to readers who enjoy psychological thrillers and psychological horror.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers, but adults can enjoy this book as well.

I received an ARC 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.

The Girl Who Fell will entertain you, but it brings an important YA issue to light

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The Girl Who Fell will entertain you, but it brings an important YA issue to light

The Girl Who Fell is a very suspenseful YA psychological thriller that had me turning pages even as I wanted to put it down to avoid the inevitable nightmare that the prologue promised me.  It reminded me quite a bit of the teen screen thrillers of the 90’s – True Crime with Alicia Silverstone in particular.  I enjoyed it, and I thought it was a compelling way to introduce the topic of dating violence without getting preachy.  I gave it four stars.

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Goodreads Summary

His obsession.
Her fall.

Zephyr is focused. Focused on leading her team to the field hockey state championship and leaving her small town for her dream school, Boston College.

But love has a way of changing things.

Enter the new boy in school: the hockey team’s starting goaltender, Alec. He’s cute, charming, and most important, Alec doesn’t judge Zephyr. He understands her fears and insecurities—he even shares them. Soon, their relationship becomes something bigger than Zephyr, something she can’t control, something she doesn’t want to control.
Zephyr swears it must be love. Because love is powerful, and overwhelming, and … terrifying?

But love shouldn’t make you abandon your dreams, or push your friends away. And love shouldn’t make you feel guilty—or worse, ashamed.

So when Zephyr finally begins to see Alec for who he really is, she knows it’s time to take back control of her life.

If she waits any longer, it may be too late.

My Thoughts

This book made it very clear how a perfectly normal person could find themselves cornered into a controlling relationship.  Zephyr, the protagonist and narrator, has vulnerabilities that make her a target, but she isn’t some shrinking violet who lets others take charge of her life, and she still finds herself in this situation.  And, after reading about how the relationship evolved, I can’t honestly say I wouldn’t have fallen into the same trap myself.  It’s easy to see people in relationships with abusers as weak and easy prey, but this book puts the scenario into perspective.  I think this book could be an important voice for YA readers because, while it is packaged as an escape read, there is truth to be learned about dating violence, psychological abuse, and the shame that keeps this topic from being discussed.  The plot is seamless, the suspense grows gently to develop the creeping horror, and the character voices feel real.  I will say that the plot veered a little towards the extreme at the end of the book, but I didn’t doubt that the characters were capable of the actions, so while it is certainly a dramatic ending, anything less would have been a disappointment.  I think adult readers would have a hard time saying this wasn’t as engaging as an adult book of the genre.  Some language and several scenes of sensuality make this book most appropriate for older YA readers – grades 10+ at least.

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

Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Naturals – the best dollar I’ve spent in a long, long time.

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Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Naturals – the best dollar I’ve spent in a long, long time.

I get a lot of books from publishers in exchange for review, but that doesn’t stop me from browsing.  When I saw that a book from the same author as The Fixer , and noticed it was only 99 cents today, I went into high alert. The blurb sounded like a go, and the price was unbelievably right, so I bought it before I even sampled it.  I’m so glad I did.  Think Criminal Minds, and add in a little teen angst, and you’ve got yourself a YA read that, while a bit unbelievable, is compelling and entertaining.

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Goodreads Summary

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides—especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

My Thoughts

I thought this was a very engaging book with enough suspense and suspects to keep me guessing.  Right up until the big reveal, I kept changing my mind.  That speaks well for this suspense/mystery/thriller because that doesn’t happen very often in a head so full of plots and predictions.  I liked the characters, who represented a variety of personality types with their white, black, and gray sides.  I liked the concept.  No,  I didn’t really believe the concept could happen, but I was able to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the ride.  The plot moved quickly and there were no noticeable lulls, but there were some sketchy relationships.  That might be due to the fact that these kids are all suppose to be masters of deception and detection and thus made themselves really hard to read, or it might be the fact that I smelled a more than awkward love rectangle early in the game.  I honestly wasn’t bothered by the Anita Blake/Stephanie Plum they are going to pass each other around relationship set-up, but I would have enjoyed a more clear-cut romance.  Don’t want to write it myself, though, so I’ll take what I can get.  I particularly appreciated the fact that Cassie wasn’t forced to join the team and we didn’t have to listen to her sullen resentment – it is a breath of fresh air in the YA genre.  She did pull some tern pouting when she didn’t get her way, but nothing on the scale I expected.  Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I think my high school readers will as well, particularly those who enjoy watching Criminal Minds or just interesting if implausible teens hunting murders read.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school, but as an adult reader of YA, I got a kick out of it as well.

This book is available in the MHS library.

Becca Fitzpatrick’s Dangerous Lies is a surprisingly satisfying YA contemporary, especially since or despite the fact that I think her Hush,Hush series is unreadable

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Becca Fitzpatrick’s Dangerous Lies is a surprisingly satisfying YA contemporary, especially since or despite the fact that I think her Hush,Hush series is unreadable

I wasn’t a fan of this author’s paranormal books, but I really enjoyed this YA Suspense/Thriller.   I thought that there was a nice complexity to the plot, characters, and conflicts. Underlying themes of family, friendship, responsibility and guilt added depth.  I think fans of Becca Fitzpatrick will be pleasantly surprised, and her naysayers will be pretty surprised as well.  I recommend this book to readers who enjoy YA contemporary mysteries rand romance as well as those who enjoy small town life and all the complexities that accompany it.

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Goodreads Summary

A teen is forced to make a fresh start after witnessing a violent crime—but love and danger find her anyway in this novel from Becca Fitzpatrick, the New York Times bestselling author of the Hush, Hush saga.

Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.

After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.

But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.

As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks…

My Thoughts

As a narrative voice, I liked Stella, and she felt like a real teen dealing with the big issues of being ripped out of her own life.  She is initially bratty, but I think most of us would act in the same way (let’s be real – I pout when there aren’t any cold cokes in the fridge or when the lunch menu at school is wrong, so leaving my past, present, and planned future behind would probably involve an all out temper tantrum).   Once readers start peeling her layers back, it is clear that she is not a bad person, but a girl who desperately is clinging to the only security she has had for the last few years.  She cares about people and has a righteous anger when she thinks someone is being a bully.  It is that characteristic tendency that plays havoc and creates both internal and external conflict that I thought was both believable and compelling.  Chet is the love interest in the story, and most readers will fall quickly and hard for this reformed bad boy of a cowboy.  He isn’t too country, and he has a backstory that let’s you know he can get up to some antics, but he is the guy you want to cuddle up with in the back of a pick up truck.  While there is some concern about a love triangle, the other guy is in the Witness Protection Program, too, and readers are told up front that Stella won’t be able to contact him ever again, so the battle between the boys really takes place in Stella’s mind – I honestly didn’t really consider this a love triangle at all. The story was nicely paced to develop relationships and allow time for a believable epiphany, but it also maintained a nice tension by giving Stella an adversary in her new setting in addition to the drug dealer who wants to snuff her out back in Phillie.  There are some characters I wanted to know a little more about, but I thought the resolution was satisfying, and I think most readers will as well.  I started this book late at night, and two hours had passed when I looked up again!  Clearly, it reads easily and the story and characters are absorbing.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers, but I think adult readers of YA will enjoy this book as well.

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