I won the Fearless Fifteeners jackpot this week, getting to read not one, but two of my fellow 2015 debut authors' books in advance. (Well, technically I received the ARC of BREAKING THE ICE on its release day…) I'm pleased to report that they both exceeded my already high expectations!
And in case you haven't noticed, this is an ongoing theme with these Fearless Fifteeners books. With each one I read, I'm more and more grateful and humbled to be in their company. 2015 is going to see the debut of some really talented authors on both the YA and MG fronts, and I'm so excited to be sharing this experience with them.
Now, on to the books. First up was Kelly Loy Gilbert's CONVICTION, the gut-wrenching and beautifully written story of a boy who has to question everything he's ever believed when his Christian talk radio host dad is arrested and charged with vehicular homicide. Even worse, Braden finds out he'll be called as a witness in his dad's trial—and his court date is just before he's due to play against the deceased man's nephew in an intense rivalry baseball game. Since Braden's father is in prison and Braden's status as a key witness means they can't be in contact, Braden's older brother, Trey, shows up to care for him. Trey left home almost a decade ago, and hasn't been in touch since, so their brotherly dynamic is tense, to say the least. All of those puzzle pieces come together into one of the most taut and emotional reading experiences I've had in a while. As the story careened toward the climactic courtroom moment and the evidence stacked up against Braden's father (who is admittedly not a very nice guy), I couldn't stop turning pages. This is a book about faith and family, and the way things can fall apart in an instant, exposing the cracks that were there all along. I have no doubt that CONVICTION is going to make a big splash in the YA world this year. It's out in May!
Next up, I read a book that is pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum. Gail Nall's BREAKING THE ICE (out now!) is a delightful middle-grade novel about Kaitlin, a competitive figure skater who ends up at the worst skating club in town after an out-of-character post-competition tantrum turns her into a pariah. But landing at the Fallton Club—mockingly nicknamed the Fall Down Club by the area's more elite skaters—might just be the best thing that could have happened, since it gives Kaitlin a fresh start and a chance to find the passion and heart that were missing from her programs before. Can she learn a new program before Regionals and redeem herself in front of the judges and her peers? This one is ideal for kids who like sports stories and for kids who don't, because Kaitlin's journey is so relatable and fun.
So now, the eternal end-of-blog-post question: What are you reading now? Anything I should check out?