Once again I turn to Elizabeth, my 13-year-old colleague, for some of her favorite new tween and young-adult novels of the last year or so. (None are very new in hardcover at this point, but on the bright side, many are just coming out in paperback!) Without further ado:
Bloodline Rising, by Katy Moran. Written more as a "companion" than a sequel to Moran's earlier British Dark Ages tale Bloodline, this novel tells the story of Cai, a clever young thief in seventh-century Constantinople. With his father away at war, he is betrayed by a rival and sold as a slave to a ship heading north, to Britain—which happens to be where his parents come from. He is taken in by a lord who clearly knew his parents and put to work as a spy amid major political intrigue...but soon finds that the man who took him in may have had something to do with his parents' departure from Britain.
Elizabeth's take: This book was suspenseful and had complex, believable characters. I couldn't put it down and could barely believe the twist in the ending! I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories full of danger, tension, and action.
Virals, by Kathy Reich. The first work for young readers by this forensic anthropologist, the novelist behind the TV series Bones, and the initial entry in a new sci-fi/suspense series, Virals is about 14-year-old Tory (she's the niece of Temperance Brennan, the character played by Emily Deschanel on the TV show), who must go live with the marine-biologist father she's never known on a small South Carolina island after her mother is killed in an accident. She soon finds a similarly scientific-minded group of kids to hang out with, and before long they've noticed something strange about the nearby Loggerhead Research Institute. But after they rescue a wolf-dog puppy from the laboratory, they're exposed to a canine virus that changes their DNA, heightening their senses and reflexes—which turns out to come in handy, since they end up with a cold-case murder on their hands.
Elizabeth's take: This sci-fi mystery was amazing! The action and creepy science projects kept me engrossed from beginning to end. I've already recommended this book to several of my friends.
The Eternal Ones, by Kirsten Miller. Tennessee teenager Haven has always had visions of a past life, in which she was a girl named Constance whose doomed love for a boy named Ethan ended in disaster and death. But when she sees tabloid-TV coverage of an infamous celebrity named Iain Morrow, she is certain that she recognizes Ethan, and so when she turns 18 she heads up to New York City to find him. She finds that Iain feels their connection as well, and a love affair soon begins between the two...but soon Haven has doubts: Is Iain really Ethan, or could he be the person behind the deaths of Constance and Ethan in that past existence? Enlisting the help of a secret society with knowledge of reincarnation, Haven determines to find out the truth without reliving every detail of Constance's past.
Elizabeth's take: I loved this book! It was impossible to put down once I'd started. The author keeps you guessing constantly about the characters, their motives, and their intentions. The plot twists and bittersweet ending make it one of my favorite books.
Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine. This winner of the 2010 National Book Award for Young Readers is about Caitlin, a 10-year-old girl with Asperger's syndrome whose older brother has been killed in a school shooting. Told with remarkable sensitivity and insight from Caitlin's own perspective, it takes the reader through her attempt to deal with the tragedy herself, and to help her devastated father to weather the grief as well.
Elizabeth's take: This book was really touching, and offered an interesting point of view. It is refreshing to see things from the perspective of a person who doesn't view things the same way as most people.
[Cover images courtesy of Candlewick Press (Bloodline Rising) and Penguin USA (others).]