Wednesday, September 4, 2013

YA Fiction by Debut Authors

Both Johanna and Rachael did such a great job of highlighting the new series releases that are coming out this fall that I don’t have too many more to write about.  So, since I have an affinity for debut authors this fall, I thought I would point out a few YA releases that are by unknown names.  There will always be a following for the Roths and Riordans of YA lit; but these titles, and their authors, have caught my attention, and I’m hoping to get a chance to read them.

Since I haven’t read them yet, however, a disclaimer: all the review material I am posting is borrowed from either our WyldCat state library database, or from the Novelist book review database.

45 Pounds (More or Less), by K. A. Batson. Sixteen-year-old Ann has a big problem. She has just two months to get into a bridesmaid dress for her Aunt Jackie's wedding. She needs to lose 45 pounds, which would be hard enough without the complications of a new job, a cute boy, a mean group of girls, and blended families that leave her caught in the middle-and left out. Her mother is obsessive about her own weight and as the summer wears on, Ann begins to see just how troubled her families are. Telling the story in Ann's wry, realistic voice, this debut author effectively captures society's preoccupation with size and the resulting alienation of an overweight teen. With a chain-smoking grandmother whose language is peppered with "fat-ass," relatives and friends who are slyly disparaging about her weight, and a mother who constantly prods her about dieting, the message could be heavy-handed. But Barson lightens the tone with almost cinematic humor, ensuring that even the most painful scenes have a slapstick edge. (from School Library Journal; review by Martha Baden)

Mila 2.0, by Debra Driza. Everything seems normal as 16-year-old Mila attends a new school in Minnesota, hangs out with her new friends, and starts to get to know another new student Hunter, a handsome, quiet surfer from California. Suddenly, though, Mila starts to get flashes of visions that send shudders down her spine: she pictures men in lab coats conducting cruel experiments in a cold room. Who are they? Why does she keep picturing these scenes? According to her mother, Mila is suffering from trauma due to her father's fiery death. But when Mila discovers that her mother may not be telling the truth, core identity issues heat up the plot. Driza's fast-paced, action-packed science fiction/thriller debut about identity, will, artificial intelligence, nature versus nurture, and man versus machine will satisfy fans of the Jason Bourne series, the Hunger Games trilogy, and Jennifer Rush's Altered. (from BookList; review by Candice Mack)

Ostrich, by Matt Greene.  After brain surgery to stop his seizures, a brilliant twelve-year-old boy, enlisting the help of a female classmate, investigates why everyone around him, including his parents and hamster, are acting oddly. (from WyldCat library database)

OCD Love Story, by Corey Ann Haydu. Haydu's debut novel for teens is not for the emotionally faint of heart, but those who can withstand it won't ever regret accompanying Bea, a high school senior recently diagnosed with OCD, on a profoundly uncomfortable and frenetic journey dominated by her increasingly manic compulsions. When Bea kisses a strange boy during a blackout at a school dance, it's clear she's a little eccentric, but it isn't until her therapist slips several pamphlets about OCD into Bea's hands that readers will recognize her more extreme tendencies for what they truly are. Haydu is a masterful wordsmith, and readers will likely find themselves ready to crawl out of their skin as Bea's need to perform certain rituals, even at the risk of alienating those she loves, becomes all-consuming. The one bright spot in Bea's life is a budding romance with Beck, the boy from the school dance, who resurfaces in Bea's group-therapy sessions. He's plagued by issues of his own, and Bea finds comfort in a new relationship with someone who also has "one foot outside the border and into crazytown." They are about as dysfunctional a pair as two people could be, but they're also heartbreakingly sweet and well-suited for one another. A raw and well-crafted alternative to run-of-the-mill teen romances that also addresses tough mental health issues head-on. (from Kirkus Reviews)

Brianna on the Brink, by Nicole Mcinnes. Despite coming from a dysfunctional family and not having much money for the type of clothes her friends wear, Brianna is a popular cheerleader. A night out clubbing with her best friend-and a fake ID-ends with a one-night stand with a man who dies of a heart attack. Adding to this tragedy, Brianna soon finds out that she is pregnant and that the man was her English teacher's husband. Her sister, with whom she is living, kicks her out of the house, and Brianna finds herself onthe streets. In a strange turn of events, Jane, her English teacher, offers her a home in return for assistance with an aging father and helps Brianna decide what to do about the baby. While the story line itself is rather predictable, it does have some interesting twists and turns-and it isn't preachy or didactic. In this debut novel, McInnes has managed to make Brianna a realistic 16-year-old without resorting to stereotypes. Jane, although almost a caricature of an English teacher, is a sympathetic character who, despite dealing with her own grief and negative feelings toward Brianna, follows her conscience and does what she feels she needs to do. The crux of the book is the concept of family and what it really means. (from School Library Journal; review by Janet Hilbun)

Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal. (Darcy’s note:  McNeal is not a debut author, but this is his first YA novel, and it sounds intriguing.)  "Listen, if you will," whispers the ghost of Jacob Grimm to Jeremy Johnson Johnson and to the readers of this delightful, modern-day fairy tale. Jeremy has the rare ability to sense the spectral presence of those caught in the Zwischenraum between mortal life and the hereafter. Jacob Grimm has been a constant presence since Jeremy was 6, a stand-in for Jeremy's absent mother and his absent-minded father. Jacob takes his role as mentor and protector seriously, although his attempts to help Jeremy are not always successful. Jeremy's social standing is a little dubious--what teenager stands a chance with pretty girls when he spouts curses in German? But Ginger Boultinghouse falls for Jeremy after eating the village baker's enchanted Prince Cakes. The two get up to some pranks that lead them to one adventure after another. Things aren't what they seem in the village of Never Better, where kids have gone missing and evil is afoot. The tone of Jacob's narration captures the flavor of the Grimms' tales while blending humorously with Jeremy's ordinary, befuddled, teenage life. The boy and his spectral companion are a charming pair of storytellers with great mutual affection. Readers who love spotting allusions will appreciate this intelligent book's robust vocabulary, its inclusion of French, German and Swedish words, and the real scholarship behind it. (from Kirkus Reviews)

All Our Yesterdays, by Cristin Terrill. Time travel done right. Narrator Em and her boyfriend, Finn, escape from their totalitarian future, time traveling back four years to commit a heart-wrenching assassination of a loved one in order to prevent time travel from being invented and the future from turning so wrong. The future's hinted-at horrors are threatening but expertly backgrounded, avoiding dystopia-fatigue. The clever, accessible time-space treatment isn't weighed down by jargon. Em and Finn's proactive mission means the characters are the hunters instead of the frequently seen on-the-run teen protagonists. The other side of the storyline, taking place in the past that Em and Finn travel to and starring their past selves, is narrated by Marina (Em, in this timeline) and involves her brilliant yet interpersonally challenged best friend (and crush) James and his friend Finn, who annoys Marina, as they deal with a tragedy in James's family. The believable, complex relationships among the three characters of each respective time and in the blended area of shared time add a surprise: A plot ostensibly about assassination is rooted firmly in different shades of love. Perhaps richest is the affection Em feels for Marina--a standout compared to the truckloads of books about girls who only learn to appreciate themselves through their love interests' eyes. Powerful emotional relationships and tight plotting in this debut mark Terrill as an author to watch. (from Kirkus Reviews)


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