Growing up in a strict, orthodox household, I'd say I was pretty good at going through the motions and routines handed down to me by my elders. I never questioned why I couldn't drive in a car or watch television on the Sabbath or partake in the all-American pursuits of pouring cheese doodles or Lucky Charms cereal down my gullet. Until about the age of 12, while living in Brooklyn, although my adolescent experiences were certainly influenced by the fabric of the eighties pop culture– I wore shoulder pads, wished upon Madonna's lucky star and was enamored with Michael Jackson's Thriller, I certainly never felt truly understood in my desire to straddle both my religious upbringing with the seductive allure of secular America culture. In a sense I guess I felt trapped- in a world that I was born into, where (in my personal experience) one's facade seemed to be more valued than one's character.
Then, one afternoon sitting in my basement browsing through books which didn't make the living room bookshelf cut; whose pages were mostly yellowed, dog-eared and ripped, I found a copy of J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. To say that reading it had a profound effect on me, would probably be an understatement. It was more that I felt like Holden Caulfield was me; besieged by adults and practices he found unbearable and phony, wishing he could escape but being a kid- was pretty much powerless to do so.
Never had I felt such a kinship with a character, who seemed to articulate all that my immature 12-year-old vocabulary couldn't. More so, the fact that the author JD Salinger, as an adult, was the one writing about this character- filled me with a sense that eventually I would be okay and find a soft place where I could land; nervous breakdown and all.
I'm sure I'm just one of millions of readers who felt an almost spiritual connection with Mr. Salinger and his books (yes after reading Catcher in the Rye, I devoured Franny and Zooey , Raise high the roof beam, carpenters and Seymour: an introduction (1963)) and for that I am eternally grateful.
Girl Wonder by Alexa Martin (Hyperion) Ages: 13 and up; Price: $16.99
It's senior year and Charlotte Locke has just transferred to a new high school. With no friends, a terrible math SAT score, and looming college application deadlines, the future starts to seem like a black hole. Then Amanda enters her orbit like a hot-pink meteor, offering Charlotte a ticket to popularity. Amanda is fearless, beautiful, and rich. As her new sidekick, Charlotte is brought into the elite clique of the debate teamâ€”and closer to Neal, the most perfect boy she has ever seen. Senior year is finally looking up. . . . or is it? The more things heat up between Charlotte and Neal, the more he wants to keep their relationship a secret. Is he ashamed? Meanwhile, Amanda is starting to act strangely competitive. Could Charlotte's new BFF be hiding something? A riveting debut novel full of magnetic characters, romantic intrigue, and dark humor, Girl Wonder is a poignant story of first love, jealousy, and friendship that will keep readers rooting for Charlotte until the very end.
Alexa Martin (www.alexamartin.com) holds an MFA in Writing and Literature from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She lives near Seattle and complains about the weather a lot (although she secretly likes the rain). Initially, Girl Wonder was a story about a horse, which just goes to show you that art is what happens when you are making other plans.
Mercy by Rebecca Lim (Disney-Hyperion) Ages: 12 and up; Price: $16.99
Mercy in an exile from heaven with shattered memories of who she used to be. She's doomed to wake repeatedly on earth in a new body, each time assuming a new life. During the day she survives in the human world on instinct and at night her dreams are haunted by her lost love, who pleads with her to find him. But this time is different. When Mercy wakes up she meets Ryan, an eighteen-year-old reeling from the loss of his twin sister, Lauren, who was kidnapped two years ago. Only Mercy and Ryan believe his sister is still alive. For the first time since she can remember, Mercy has a purpose: she can help. So she doesn't understand why the man in her dreams cautions her not to interfere. But as Ryan and Mercy come closer to solving the mystery of Lauren's disappearance, danger looms just one step behind. Will Mercy be able to harness her extraordinary power in time? The first in a dazzling new series, Mercy masterfully weaves romance, mystery and the supernatural into a spell-binding tale that readers will devour.
Rebecca Lim (http://www.facebook.com/mercybooks) worked as a commercial lawyer for several years before leaving to write full-time. She is the author of ten other books for children and young adults. Rebecca lives in Melbourne, Australia.
Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi Hyperion Ages: 14 and up; Price: $16.99
In the spring of her senior year, Donna Parisi finds new life in an unexpected place: a coffin. Since her father's death four years ago, Donna has gone through the motions of living: her friendships are empty, she's clueless about what to do after high school graduation, and her grief keeps her isolated, cut off even from the one parent she has left. That is until she's standing in front of the dead body of a classmate at Brighton Brothers Funeral Home. At that moment, Donna realizes what might just give her life purpose is comforting others in death. That maybe who she really wants to be: a mortician. This discovery sets in motion a life Donna never imagined was possible. She befriends a charismatic new student, Liz, notices a boy, Charlie, and realizes that maybe he's been noticing her, too, and finds herself trying things she hadn't dreamed of trying before. By taking risks, Donna comes into her own; diving into her mortuary studies with a passion and skill she didn't know she had in her. And she finally understands that moving forward doesn't mean forgetting someone you love. Jen Violia's heartfelt and funny debut novel is a story of transformation how one girl learns to grieve and say goodbye, turn loss into a gift, and let herself be exceptional…at loving, applying lipstick to corpses and finding life in the wake of death.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Jen Violi (www.jenvioli.com) has now staked her claim in Portland, Oregon, where the greenery is plentiful, the creative spirit palpable, and the fresh coffee available every few feet just how she likes it. Thanks to the Universities of Dayton and New Orleans, Jen got to study English, theatre, theology, and creative writing. With reverence for the healing power of stories, Jen runs her own business, offering creative writing coaching, workshops, and retreats.
Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade (Disney-Hyperion) Ages: 12 and up; Price: $16.99
After being sent back from the light, Alona Dare – former homecoming queen, current Queen of the Dead – finds herself doing something she never expected: working. Instead of spending days perfecting her tan by the pool (her typical summer routine when she was, you know, alive), Alona must now cater to the needs of other lost spirits. By her side for all of this – ugh – helping of others is Will Killian: social outcast, seer of the dead, and someone Alona cares about more than she'd like. Before Alona can make a final ruling on Will's friend or more status, she discovers trouble at home. Her mom is tossing out Alona's most valuable possessions, and her dad is expecting a new daughter with his wicked wife. Is it possible her family is already moving on? Hello! She's only been dead for two months! Thankfully, Alona knows just the guy who can put a stop to this mess. Unfortunately for Alona, Will has other stuff on his mind, and Mina, a young (and beautiful) seer, is at the top of the list. She's the first ghost-talker Wills ever met aside from his father and she may hold an answer to Will's troubled past. But can she be trusted? Alona immediately puts a check mark in the clearly not column. But Will is – ahem – willing to find out, even if it means leaving a hurt and angry Alona to her own devices, which is never a good idea. Packed with romance, lovable characters, and a killer cliffhanger, Queen of the Dead is the out-of-this-world sequel to The Ghost and the Goth.
Stacey Kade (www.staceykade.com) is an award-winning corporate copywriter and successful adult sci-fi romance writer (as Stacey Klemstein). She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and three retired racing greyhounds. The Ghost and the Goth was her first YA novel. She is hard at work on Book Three of the Ghost and the Goth trilogy.
by Katie Alender Disney-Hyperion Ages: 12 and up; Price: $16.99
Alexis is the last girl you'd expect to sell her soul. She already has everything she needs–an adorable boyfriend, the perfect best friend, and a little sister who's finally recovering after being possessed by an evil spirit, then institutionalized. Alexis is thrilled when her sister joins a club; new friends are just what Kasey needs. It's strange, though, to see how fast the girls in The Sunshine Club go from dorky and antisocial to gorgeous and popular. Soon Alexis learns that the girls have pledged an oath to a seemingly benevolent spirit named Aralt. Worried that Kasey's in over her head again, Alexis and her best friend Megan decide to investigate by joining the club themselves. At first, their connection with Aralt seems harmless. Alexis trades in her pink hair and punky clothes for a mainstream look, and quickly finds herself reveling in her newfound elegance and success. Instead of fighting off the supernatural, Alexis can hardly remember why she joined in the first place. Surely it wasn't to destroy Aralt…why would she hurt someone who has given her so much, and asked for so little in return?
Katie Alender (www.katiealender.com) is a graduate of the Florida State University Film School and lives in Los Angeles, where she works as a producer/writer. When she's not writing novels or producing TV shows, she can usually be found in her sewing room, making things for her friends or her dog (or her friends dogs). She also enjoys reading, eating delicious high-calorie foods, and hanging out with her husband, Chris, and her very spoiled Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Winston. Bad Girls Don't Die was her first novel.
by Ally Carter Disney-Hyperion Ages: 11+; Grades 11 and up; Price: $16.99
Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life. Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she's simply been known as the girl who robbed the greatest museum in the world. That's why Kat isn't surprised when she's asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners. There are only three problems. First, the gem is owned by the most secure auction house in the world. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long, and in Kat's world, history almost always repeats itself. But it's the third problem that makes Kat's crew the most nervous and that is simply the emerald is cursed. Kat might be in way over her head, but she's not going down without a fight. After all she has her best friend the gorgeous Hale and the rest of her intrepid crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the world, realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time. Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules. Critics and fans alike have fallen for Heist Society (no conning necessary). With more mystery, non-stop action, romance and humor, this second novel in the hit series is just as irresistible.
Ally Carter (www.allycarter.com) is the New York Times bestselling author of Heist Society and the Gallagher Girls series, including I'd Tell You I'd Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You; Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy; Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover; and Only the Good Spy Young. She lives in Oklahoma, where she's busy masterminding her next big heist.
by Kristen Tracy Disney-Hyperion Ages: 12 and up; Price: $16.99
When Wick, fifteen-year-old Enid's boyfriend, suddenly announces that he wants to take a break her carefully constructed life in Vermont begins to crumble. As Wick abandons Enid for a trip to Annapolis with their friends from twin studies, she lets her wildest fears take over. Five hundred and forty miles later, Enid realizes she's acting desperate as she spies on Wick, his twin, her twin, and the rest of the boys from twin studies. That doesn't stop her from following them aboard a yacht and hiding in the bathroom. But then the boys take the yacht out into a storm a storm which leaves everyone adrift in the ocean without food or water and Enid discovers a new definition of desperate. With sharks circling and no help in sight, Enid and the twins must find a way to trust each other in order to survive and face the fact that they might not make it home. Critically-acclaimed author Kristen Tracy delivers a riveting high-stakes story of romance and survival that is by turns hilarious and harrowing. Readers will be on the edge of their seats until the very last page.
Kristen Tracy (www.kristentracy.com) lives in a fog bank in San Francisco. She is the author of the young adult novels Lost It, Crimes of the Sarahs, and A Field Guide for Heartbreakers, as well as the middle grade books Camille McPhee Fell Under the Bus and The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter. When not writing, she tutors at 826 Valencia and volunteers as a gardener on Alcatraz.
by Victoria Schwab Disney-Hyperion Ages: 12 and up; Price: $16.99
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely and always looking for company. And there are no strangers in the town of Near. These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger a boy who seems to fade like smoke appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him. As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi's need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy. Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab's debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won't soon forget.
Victoria Schwab (www.victoriaschwab.com) is the 23-year-old product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a Southern upbringing. She currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is working on her second novel.