Mapping the Bones by Jane Yolen
What’s it about: It’s 1942 in Poland, and the world is coming to pieces. At least that’s how it seems to Chaim and Gittel, twins whose lives feel like a fairy tale torn apart, with evil witches, forbidden forests, and dangerous ovens looming on the horizon. But in all darkness there is light, and the twins find it through Chaim’s poetry and the love they have for each other. Like the bright flame of a Yahrzeit candle, his words become a beacon of memory so that the children and grandchildren of survivors will never forget the atrocities that happened during the Holocaust.
Andrea’s thoughts: I read and loved Jane Yolen’s book Briar Rose, a Sleeping Beauty retelling set during the Holocaust. When I saw this book, a Hansel and Gretel retelling also set during the Holocaust, I knew that I had to read it. Suspenseful, hopeful, and tragic are just some of the words that I would use to describe this book. Chaim and Gittel’s journey from a Polish Ghetto through the forest with Polish resistance fighters to finally be caught and sent to a Nazi labor camp was, at times, hard to read. The book switches back and forth between Chaim’s perspective at the time of the event and Gittel’s recollection as a grown woman. Chaim’s poetry is also dispersed throughout the book as he takes on the responsibility of bearing witness to the struggles and atrocities he and others face. The parallels between this story and Hansel and Gretel is very subtle at first but become more obvious as the story settles at the Nazi labor camp. This was a beautifully written book that, although fiction, could be based on the real stories of millions of people. I would recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
Nemesis by Brandon Reichs
About: Brendan Reichs, co-author of the popular Virals series delivers a new dystopian sci-fi series for fans to sink their teeth into. Every other year Min, a street smart teenager living in a trailer park is brutally murdered by a man in a black suit, and then promptly returned back to life. Her mother and therapist shrug it off as imaginary. There is also Noah, a popular rich kid who has been having the same experiences, and shares the same therapist as Min. Simultaneously, asteroids threatening all existence are bound for Earth! Coincidence?
Audrey’s thoughts: Nemesis will appeal to teens that enjoy fast paced novels that culminate action, references to current events, dystopian, and science fiction. A formula that strikes a chord with some, but can leave other readers wanting more. Min and Noah’s voices narrate in alternating chapters. There isn’t much depth to the character’s development making their voices fall flat, and occasionally hard to differentiate. There is also a strategically placed love triangle. Tack is Min’s best friend, sidekick, and has been crushing hard since elementary school. Their relationship will most likely be playing a major role in the upcoming installments. Though aspects of this book and promising new series seemed contrived, I still enjoyed it and will definitely be reading the rest of the series.
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson – YA F JOH (NEW)
The setting is Ellingham Academy, a prestigious private school for gifted teens located in a remote section of Vermont. Our protagonist is one Stevie Bell, who has immersed herself in crime for years. (Learning about crime; not necessarily being a criminal… ) Her ambition is to be a detective, work for the FBI and help people by solving mysteries. Her obsession is the unsolved case that occurred at the Academy in the 1930s involving the founder’s wife and daughter and a murdered student. Stevie never anticipated that her admissions essay would actually be taken seriously – but she is accepted as a student at Ellingham. As bits and pieces about the original crime are revealed, new mysteries and threats surface at the school that threaten Stevie and her new friends. Will Stevie be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together before history repeats itself?
Roben’s thoughts – I thought this one started out at just a teeny bit slow. While most of the story is about Stevie there are sections that are presented as narration and evidence from the original crime. But once the writing appears on the wall (literally) you will have a hard time putting the book down. AND – this is the first in a trilogy! Not all questions will be answered at the end of this book and book 2 is scheduled for 2019. I’ll be waiting for it!
Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones – YA F JON (currently in NEW)
What it’s about: As our story opens, sixteen-year-old Annis has just learned that her beloved father has mysteriously died while away on one of his frequent “business trips.” Annis and her Aunt Cassia are left virtually penniless. Cassia believes Annis’ only option is to become a governess but Annis rebels. She wants to become a spy (like her father) and uncover who murdered him. Unfortunately she can’t convince the War Office that she is spy material so she disguises herself as an elderly French dressmaker and uses her magic to sew ball gowns (with the help of her assistant, Millie). In no time, secret messages, code names, and knife fights are flitting in and out of ballrooms and dressmakers’ shops. Technically a Regency tale since it is set in 1818, this story has very little romance but tons of girl power and Annis proves that bravery and style can go comfortably hand-in-hand, especially if she has designed the outfit (with secret pockets to conceal their knives!).
Roben says: Historical mystery with a bit of magic thrown in? What is there not to like? While on the surface the story seems to be a bit fluffy and nonsensical, there are undercurrents of seriousness dealing with violence against women and the limitations placed on both girls and women in the early 1800s. This is the author’s first book but hopefully we will hear more from Annis and Millie.