In the town of Steeple Chase, Pennsylvania, there’s not much for a poor farm girl other than a life of looming drudgery. And this is why, in The Hired Girl, the farmer’s daughter wises up and escapes the farm toil, striking out on her own to push back against the societal, cultural and patriarchal confines that threaten the rest of her days.
Chloe was born a teenager and will always be one. Like her sisters, the middle-aged Serena and the elderly Xinot, she exists only to spin, measure and cut the threads of human lives. Chloe and her sisters are the Fates of Greek mythology, living and working on an island far from human entanglements—until a desperate teenage girl, Aglaia, seeks shelter in the Fates’ home.
Willowdean Dickson is fat and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about it. But she’s growing up in Clover City, Texas, where the church, high school football and the annual beauty pageant are all equally revered. Will’s mom is a former pageant queen who begins to tune her out as the event draws near. But with two potential boyfriends, a shaky relationship with her BFF and the usual crap from bullies, Will has nowhere to turn for advice.
Madeline hasn’t left her house for 17 years and only comes in daily contact with her mother (who is, coincidentally, also her doctor) and her nurse Carla. Madeline suffers from SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease), making her essentially allergic to being outside. As a result, her home is sterile, with a special air filtration system, an air lock at the front door and a decontamination treatment for anyone who needs to visit her. She reads a lot of books and does all of her schooling via Skype. She has made peace with her life as she knows it—until a new family moves in next door.
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.
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.