up the next installment in this series.
Ages 13–up. Agent: Emily Van Beek, Folio
Literary Management. (May)
★ Free to Fall
Lauren Miller. Harper Teen, $17.99 (480p)
It’s 2030—handhelds are tinier, Gnosis
is society’s current technology juggernaut,
and people rely on a program called Lux to
maximize happiness for their every decision, down to ordering coffee. Like most
people, Rory Vaughn consults Lux every
chance she gets, but she has a secret: she
suffers from “the Doubt,” an inner voice
that supposedly marks a person as crazy.
After Rory is accepted to the exclusive
Theden Academy, she begins searching for
answers about her long-dead mother, who
also attended the school. While there, the
Doubt only grows stronger, and Rory’s
Lux consultations diminish. Then Rory
falls for North, a sexy, antiestablishment
barista-hacker, who has her back as she’s
drawn into a complex web of secrets and
lies. Miller (Parallel) offers an intricately
plotted, intellectually rich thriller that
will please a range of readers, from those
searching for a page-turner to those wishing to thoroughly engage the mind.
Mathematics and Milton’s Paradise Lost
serve as additional drivers pushing Rory
toward the truth in this boarding school
murder-mystery with a near-future SF
twist. Ages 13–up. Agent: Kristyn Keene,
★ Girls Like Us
Gail Giles. Candlewick, $16.99 (224p) ISBN
Following graduation from their high
school’s special education track, two girls
become wards of the state and are placed
in an apartment where they live independently and cook and clean for their neigh-bor/employer, an older woman named
Elizabeth. Sharp-tongued and aggressive,
Quincy is defensive about her learning
difficulties and the physical scars left by
the source of her brain damage, “when my
mama’s boyfriend hit my head with a
brick.” Sensitive Biddy, who describes
herself as having “moderate retardation,”
overeats to mask past traumas, which include having given up her baby. Giles’s
(Dark Song) background teaching special
education students informs this blunt,
honest, and absorbing story about two
young women overcoming challenges
that have less to do with their abilities to
read or write than with how society views
and treats them. In short, alternating
chapters, the girls narrate in raw and distinct voices that capture their day-to-day
hurdles, agony, and triumphs. The “found
family” that builds slowly for Quincy,
Biddy, and Elizabeth—with no shortage
of misunderstandings, mistrust, or
tears—is rewarding and powerful. Ages
14–up. Agent: Scott Treimel, Scott Treimel
Life by Committee
Corey Ann Haydu. HarperCollins/Tegen,
$17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-229405-0
Life has gotten weird for 16-year-old
Tabitha. Her parents are expecting a baby
and fighting about her father’s pot use;
her best friend dumped her when a late
puberty surge put Tabitha in the “hot”
column; and she’s flirting with a guy who
has a girlfriend. This is all happening in a
small Vermont town where everyone
knows everyone, and the whole school has
a stake in the opposites-attract relationship between Joe, the jock Tabitha likes,
and his girlfriend, an arty, sad-girl type.
Then Tabitha discovers the website Life
by Committee. Its anonymous members
trade in secrets, and their M.O. is escalation: tell a secret, get an assignment, then
repeat. Tabitha reveals that she kissed Joe,
and her assignment is to do it again. Haydu (OCD Love Story) gets at the push-pull
between wanting to keep and to divulge
secrets, as well as the way that anatomy
can feel like destiny. While the school-wide obsession with Joe’s girlfriend seems
overstated, Haydu keeps a multi-strand
plot moving, and the climax, a kind of
12-step meeting meets high-school assembly, is cathartic. Ages 14–up. Agent:
Victoria Marini, Gelfman Schneider. (May)
Amanda Maciel. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray,
$17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-230530-5
Inspired by a real-life case of bullying
and suicide, editor Maciel’s debut novel
depicts a harsh environment of name-calling, both face-to-face and via social media, and girls policing other girls’ behavior. When new student Emma seems to
have eyes for Sara’s boyfriend, Dylan, Sara
Goodnight Songs Margaret Wise Brown, illus.
by Jonathan Bean, Carin Berger, Sophie Blackall,
et al. Sterling, Mar.
The Odd One Out Britta Teckentrup. Candlewick/Big Picture, Mar.
The River Alessandro Sanna, trans. from the
Italian by Michael Reynolds. Enchanted Lion, Feb.
Ziggy’s Big Idea Ilana Long, illus. by Rasa Joni.
The Blood Guard Carter Roy. Amazon/
Two Lions, Mar.
A Death-Struck Year Makiia Lucier. Houghton
Mifflin Harcourt, Mar.
Game Over, Pete Watson Joe Schreiber, illus.
by Andy Rash. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Mar.
Hope Is a Ferris Wheel Robin Herrera.
Lizzie! Maxine Kumin, illus. by Elliott Gilbert.
Seven Stories/ Triangle Square, Mar.
★ The Mark of the Dragonfly Jaleigh Johnson. Delacorte, Mar.
Nil Lynne Matson. Holt, Mar.
The Riverman Aaron Starmer. Farrar, Straus
and Giroux, Mar.
Petra K and the Blackhearts M. Henderson
Ellis. New Europe/ Young Europe, Mar.
Screaming at the Ump Audrey Vernick.
and her best friend Brielle label Emma a
slut. Maciel isn’t telling Emma’s story—
she’s telling Sara’s, in sections that alternate between the escalating bullying and
the aftermath, with Emma dead and Sara
stuck in summer school and her lawyer’s
and therapist’s offices. It’s hard to be with
Sara as she insists that it’s Emma’s fault,
that “No one hung the rope for her,” but
as Maciel reveals Sara’s desperate efforts to
hang onto a social viability that’s tied to
Brielle and Dylan, the pressures of her
world become clear. It’s to the author’s
credit that she doesn’t make Sara immediately sympathetic, but the end, with Sara
moving forward in a way that incorporates what happened rather than denying
it, although welcome, feels rushed. Ages
14–up. Agent: Holly Root, Waxman Leavell
Literary Agency. (May) ■