After taking last week off from book reviewing (you understand, right? I just had that pesky book launch of my own to deal with…), I'm back with FOUR fabulous Fearless Fifteeners books. Two YA, two middle-grade. Three very serious (with two making me cry…a lot…), and one really, really funny. So what are they?
First up, I read Maggie Lehrman's THE COST OF ALL THINGS. This book is about grief and lies and friendship and ambition—and magic. The story takes place in a world where hekamists operate illegally, selling spells that help people get what they want. The only thing Ari wants is to forget her boyfriend, Win, who just died. But forgetting her pain has a cost: she loses her ability to dance, and thus her planned future with a ballet company. Meanwhile, Win's best friend Markos is struggling with his own grief, and Ari's best friends Diana and Kay (who has some hekamist-related secrets of her own) are growing apart. As Ari, Kay, Markos, and Win each share their side of the story, the tangled web of spells starts to become an angry knot. The end of this book felt like a train speeding toward inevitable disaster. THE COST OF ALL THINGS is a page-turner about the consequences of the decisions we make and the lies we tell. It's out May 12!
Next up, I got Michelle Levy's NOT AFTER EVERYTHING—which made me cry. I mean, I *wept* at this book. Multiple times. It's about Tyler, a football star whose mom kills herself. His grief sends him into a downward spiral, but his struggles aren't just internal. He's also stuck living with an abusive, alcoholic father who blames him for his mom's death and forces him to pay for everything from his own food to his own toilet paper. Tyler starts senior year unable to focus on football, his girlfriend, or the friends who once took up all his time. Then he gets a job working alongside Jordyn, a childhood friend who's now an angry goth girl. Jordyn hates everything Tyler has become—and isn't afraid to tell him, despite the fact that everyone else is walking on eggshells around him. But her brutal honesty might be the only thing that can get him to let go of the guilt he feels about his mother's death and open up about the abuse he faces every day at home. If you're in the mood for a dark, painfully real story and don't mind shedding a few tears, grab this book when it comes out in August!
Next, I read Dan Gemeinhart's THE HONEST TRUTH, which is a powerful middle-grade novel about a boy, Mark, who runs away from home—and his recurring cancer treatments—to climb Mt. Rainier. Most of the story is from Mark's point of view, as he journeys toward the mountain with his faithful dog, Beau, by his side. But Mark's chapters are separated by scenes about his best friend, Jessie, as she struggles with deciding whether to tell his parents and the authorities what she knows about Mark's disappearance. Mark encounters a lot of obstacles on his journey—on top of being a very sick kid—and it's hard not to read this book with a knot in your gut, expecting the worst to happen at any moment. But Mark's story is also about friendship and hope. And yes, the end of the book—especially a scene with Beau the dog that I won't spoil—made me cry. THE HONEST TRUTH is on bookshelves now, so you can buy your very own copy!
Finally, I just finished MY NEAR-DEATH ADVENTURES (99% TRUE) by Alison DeCamp. This is a hilarious historical middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old boy, Stan, who travels with his mom and granny to live at a logging camp for the winter. The year is 1895. Stan is a sweet kid with an overactive imagination and a tendency to find himself in all sorts of trouble. He wants nothing more than to find his long-lost father. But first, he has to deal with his snarky cousin, Geri—who aspires to be a doctor and won't stop playing practical jokes on Stan—and dodge Stinky Pete, the possibly murderous lumberjack who has the audacity to play games with Stan and ask him about his day. Stan's voice is hysterical, and the book is illustrated with images from Stan's scrapbook that provide lots of extra laughs. This book just came out on Tuesday, and I can see it making a big splash with young readers!
Phew. That's all she wrote. Until next week…