I admit it: In junior high I had the soundtrack from Les Misérables on permanent replay. I saw the musical on Broadway and even read the unabridged book by Victor Hugo, all 1,500 pages of it. So when I heard that adult author Susan E. Fletcher’s debut YA novel would retell this classic novel from Eponine’s point of view, I jumped at the chance to review it.
A wonderful, brilliant mother—who dies. An adoring, protective father, who remarries—and then dies. A beautiful but nasty stepmother, two conniving, vapid stepsisters—this is starting to sound familiar, isn’t it? However, Betsy Cornwell’s Mechanica is anything but another lifeless “Cinderella” retelling. And Nicolette, filled with her mother’s inventiveness and her father’s determination, is anything but another princess waiting to be rescued.
Throughout the politically charged 1970s, Ror’s father had been slowly going crazy. Raging against “the man,” he insisted that his family squat on secluded Staten Island property and avoid contact with “normals.” Ror, a gifted artist, was able to live with her Dado in relative peace, trusting his vision of the world. This abruptly ends the night Dado sets a fire and burns their home to the ground.
Dan Cereill (say “surreal,” not “cereal”) was OK with being an outsider—one best friend and two parents ought to be enough for anyone, right? But when his father comes out as gay and leaves Dan and his mother penniless, starting over in a new home and new school is too much, too soon. His crush on new neighbor Estelle is just one more of the Six Impossible Things he has to face before life begins to even out.
Novels- and memoirs-in-verse are always welcome additions to the young adult canon, especially those that show world history through diverse voices. In Enchanted Air, poet Margarita Engle introduces readers to her “Two countries / Two families / Two sets of words” and her own “two selves.”
After her parents' divorce, Zoe Webster must move from an “almost good part of Brooklyn” to River Heights, “a small city in the armpit of upstate New York.” She is friendless, unless the annoyingly enticing company of Digby can be counted. Digby’s modus operandi is to pop into Zoe’s life with a vaguely adventurous plan that could as easily end in assault charges.
Dave and Julia are best friends. They have feelings for each other, but neither has admitted it. When they find a list of “cliché” things they vowed never to do in high school, they decide to spend the remaining weeks of senior year checking off items. With this setup, Adi Alsaid’s novel Never Always Sometimes follows one of the most familiar high school plotlines, luring young readers into familiar territory for a quick, satisfying and eventually surprising read.
Caught between her Patron father and her Commoner mother, Jessamy’s entire life is a balancing act, yet she yearns for the freedom to become whomever she wants. She relishes her secret sessions on the Fives court, where she trains for the intricate, dangerous athletic event that could someday bring her glory. But when Jes’ family is endangered by cruel Lord Gargaron, she must focus on saving them from a fate worse than death.
For as long as Cara can remember, the month of October has meant avoiding knives and wearing extra layers of clothing, not for warmth, but for protection against trips and falls. For Cara’s family, October is “accident season.” Sometimes those accidents are just burned fingers or stubbed toes; sometimes people die.
Set in the urban slice of fictional East Bridge, Bright Lights, Dark Nights is a charismatic tale of two teens wrapped up in the innocence of first love while reluctantly fighting racial tensions and parental overprotection.