Foreword Reviews

Eight Great Young Adult Titles for Spring 2016

Adventures, Anomalies, Abysses, Blitzes, and More


With so many great books coming out, it’s often tough to decide what should be next on your to-read list. We’re here to help. Check out this fantastic selection of eight young adult works, from fast-paced science fiction featuring genetically engineered sea monsters (The Abyss Surrounds Us) to poignant explorations of love, loss, and family identity (Red Ink).

The McVentures of Me, Morgan McFactoid

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

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Mark S. Waxman
Sky Pony Press
Hardcover $15.99 (192pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

In this delightful coming-of-age tale, 13-year-old Morgan “McFactoid” McCracken tackles bullies, new inventions, and unexpected celebrity. Morgan, who resorts to reciting strange facts when flustered, is dealing with the unwanted attention of the school bully, Brad Buckholtz, a cavemanesque nemesis who picks on Morgan because of his new (and unwanted) facial hair. A natural inventor, Morgan decides to come up with a product that can stop his facial hair from growing—and instead comes up with a product that helps hair grow. Launched suddenly and hilariously into celebrity, Morgan must navigate his new world and relationships with care. Will he now become friends with the suddenly friendlier Brad Buckholtz? Will he defeat the thieves who wish to steal the formula from him for their own profit? Will he choose fame or the affection of the beautiful and intelligent girl next door? You’ll have to read to find out, but you’ll enjoy this witty, tongue-in-cheek journey just as much as the destination.

The McVentures of Me, Morgan McFactoid is a quick and enjoyable read, filled with fun and endearing little facts that are as quirky as the narrator.

STEPHANIE BUCKLIN (February 29, 2016)


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Sadie Turner
Colette Freedman
Hardcover $17.95 (336pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

In a dystopian future, 15-year-old Keeva Tee travels to Monarch Camp, where she’ll be “imprinted” with her new life partner. Keeva lives in a world where disease, war, and conflict have been eradicated and replaced with a body called the Global Governance. To fit in is to prosper in this society—which is why Keeva is devastated when she arrives at the camp and finds out that she is an anomaly, one of the citizens who cannot be imprinted. Now, Keeva must seek answers: what makes her different, and why? To help her, she only has a few mysterious clues, including a message carved beneath her bed. Is conformity the only way, or even the right way? Can Keeva carve out an identity for herself separate from her role as a member of the Global Governance?

Anomalies is a book that asks tough questions about a future where peace comes at the cost of liberty, and security at the cost of individuality. In this smart, fast-paced work, Turner and Freedman view a dystopian regime through the eyes of a narrator who won’t accept the destiny handed to her, and who will fight to be heard, no matter what the risks.

Perfect for readers who are seeking high-stakes science fiction, where tough issues are wrapped inside a powerful story.

STEPHANIE BUCKLIN (February 29, 2016)

The Abyss Surrounds Us

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Emily Skrutskie
Softcover $11.99 (288pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

17-year-old Cassandra Leung has worked her entire life to become a Reckoner trainer, one of those entrusted with managing the “ruthless killing machines” used in her world to protect boats as they navigate pirate-infested waters. The Reckoners are genetically engineered beasts, or sea monsters, whose care and maintenance have become something of a family business for the Leungs. But, just as Cas takes on her first solo mission, the pirate queen Santa Elena captures her, spiriting her back to her boat. For the pirate queen has other plans for Cas—namely, fighting Reckoners with Reckoners. She wants Cas to help raise a genetically engineered “pup” and teach the monster to fight for the pirates, threatening that Cas’s blood will be spilled next if she refuses.

The Abyss Surrounds Us is richly drawn, a science-fiction universe with its own set of laws and customs. A strong and fierce narrator, Cas struggles to find her own identity even as she battles for survival. Emily Skrutskie’s work asks how one young woman might redefine herself when new challenges push her to her limits.

STEPHANIE BUCKLIN (February 29, 2016)

The Blitz Next Door

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Cathy Forde
Floris Books
Softcover $9.95 (208pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

When Pete moves from London to Clydebank with his family, he starts hearing voices through one of the walls. Though his parents dismiss him—too preoccupied with other family problems—Pete is insistent, and soon realizes he has stumbled onto an even greater mystery than he first realized. In the garden of his new home lies a real bomb shelter with a time travel portal to World War II, where a young girl named Beth needs Pete’s help solving a mystery.

Blitz Next Door moves along at a fast clip, though it is still a while before Pete and Beth first meet. Once they do, the children struggle to connect, each pulled back into their own worlds where they are dealing with very different, but very deep, issues. Beth is in a dangerous war zone, while Pete is navigating family difficulties centering around his younger sister, Jenny. Through their relationship with each other, they both navigate their respective journeys and seek their peace on the other side. Blitz Next Door is not just about World War II and time travel, but about suffering, family, and friendship. It is sure to appeal to readers who are interested in quiet, emotional tales.

STEPHANIE BUCKLIN (February 29, 2016)

Red Ink

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Julie Mayhew
Hardcover $16.99 (320pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

15-year-old Melon Fouraki is left alone after her mother is killed by a London bus, her only family an Auntie Aphrodite hundreds of miles away in Crete. As Melon struggles to navigate in her new reality, she leans on The Story, the Fouraki family fairy tale, to help her make sense of her world. Melon is an honest, forthright, and even prickly narrator who refuses to accept the pat comforts or attentions of those who try to help her after her mother’s death, including her social worker (and mother’s ex-lover), Paul. The novel jumps around in time, before and after the day that Melon’s mother passed away. As such, the narrative has the dreamlike feeling of a myth, particularly where it is interspersed with chapters from The Story. As Melon explains, the Fourakis have a family curse: they all die young.

Through the course of the novel, Melon’s relationship with her mother, and by extension her family, is analyzed and deconstructed. Melon fashions a new identity for herself, one in a world where she is now alone. By rebuilding these ties and this mythos around her, she finds comfort in a resonant web that connects her to past generations.

Red Ink is a thoughtful, ambitious look at one young girl’s search for identity, connection, and family, in a world defined as much by its stories as by its truths.

STEPHANIE BUCKLIN (February 29, 2016)

The Time Box

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Leon Capetanos
Owl Canyon Press
Hardcover $18.95 (239pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Twelve-year-old Thomas Adkins Johnson finds his world changed forever when he goes on a sixth grade field trip to a local planetarium. Expanding and contracting, the field trip marks his transition into a new adulthood full of issues involving relationships, identity, and beliefs. Along with the help of his friends, and his crush, Mignon, Tommy navigates a tragic accident in his life and learns to create new meaning.

Tommy is a thoughtful, straightforward, and earnest narrator, who contemplates the size of the universe and his role in it with genuine fascination. The Time Box itself is a work that is frank and candid, exposing Tommy’s emotional journey with delicacy, warmth, and sincerity. The book focuses especially on the deepening and developing relationships that Tommy has with others around him, who are also experiencing the same journey of growth and transformation into the next phases of their lives.

Tommy’s introspection and transformation will be sure to resonate with young adults on similar paths.

STEPHANIE BUCKLIN (February 29, 2016)

A Fierce and Subtle Poison

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Samantha Mabry
Algonquin Young Readers
Hardcover $17.95 (288pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

With a dark, fairytale quality, A Fierce and Subtle Poison works like an ethereal spell, weaving together the story of a young man and a mysterious, cursed girl. “I met Marisol on a Sunday night,” the first chapter begins, “two days before her body washed up on Condado Beach.” Lucas, the narrator, is the seventeen-year-old son of a developer in Puerto Rico, who spends his summers on the island in a cocoon of privilege. Just days after beginning to date Marisol, she disappears, and Lucas begins receiving mysterious letters from Isabel—the cursed girl from the haunted house nearby. Soon, Lucas is drawn into a strange and magical world, one that it becomes increasingly hard to escape.

A Fierce and Subtle Poison is a young adult novel with elements of magical realism, romance, and even horror, which subtly touches on issues of wealth, race, and privilege even as it focuses on the haunting story of Isabel and Lucas. The work is for more mature audiences, with some cursing and mild explicit material.

With lyrical and evocative prose—author Samantha Mabry likens cracks in exterior plaster walls to “the veins in an old woman’s legs”—A Fierce and Subtle Poison is sure to appeal to readers who appreciate their romances with just a touch of magic … and poison.

STEPHANIE BUCKLIN (February 29, 2016)

Behind the Waterfall

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Molly Best Tinsley
Fuze Publishing
Softcover $14.99 (228pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

In a compact and powerful novel, Molly Best Tinsley describes the family dynamics and escalating conflict of the Eaglemans. Twins Chetan and Nashota Eagleman are tired of moving to a different town every year, as is their sister Shyla. But when their mother chooses to uproot them to Bison, South Dakota, they find themselves embroiled in a new set of problems—ones that risk not only their family’s safety, but the world’s.

Behind the Waterfall is a novel of special powers and hidden secrets, of criminals and dark plots. Far from being only an action novel, the work focuses on the changing family dynamics of the Eaglemans, who struggle to maintain their family unit in a world that seems to be tearing them farther and farther apart.

Tinsley’s prose is her shining accomplishment here, representing, in snapshots, the mysterious depths of the tight-knit Eagleman family, with a mixture of both nostalgia and dreamlike wonder. From the intriguing, mysterious prologue to the surprising conclusion, her quiet reflections on the characters’ journey help to show not only their triumph over outside forces, but their inner transformations as well.

Perfect for those looking for young adult novels with heart, Behind the Waterfall is a quiet but forceful novel with a little bit for everyone, from strong action and character growth to themes of family, love, and purpose.

STEPHANIE BUCKLIN (February 29, 2016)

Stephanie Bucklin

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