BY ABBIE TUSCHMAN
Though summer may conjure up images of beaches, heat waves and sunburns, one can always escape the wrath of the season for much lower of a price than a plane ticket to New Zealand. There’s always the option of curling up on a beach towel (or indoors with the luxury of sweet, sweet air conditioning) with a novel.
- One of Us Is Lying
Picture this: the Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars.
The YA thriller novel “One of Us Is Lying” may not feature Molly Ringwald being taunted by the infamous “A,” but it might be the next best thing. Five teenagers – a beauty, a brain, a jock, a criminal and an outcast – walk into detention. However, in this scenario, the outcast isn’t a shaggy haired girl that pours Pixie Stix onto Wonder Bread and makes art with her dandruff. Instead, it is a boy named Simon that is known for being the creator of the high school’s gossip app. By the end of detention, Simon is dead, no one knows what happened, and the four remaining students become suspects in a murder case.
The plot may seem like an overdone whodunit scenario with a handful of forgetful characters tossed in for good measure, but this book is far from cliché. By introducing the characters as their stereotypes from the get-go, the lively and complex personalities, revealed slowly throughout the text, are bound to surprise the reader. Not only are each of the high-schoolers drastically different from their counterparts, but the diversity in race, background and sexuality is a refreshing change from the cookie cutter personas that are frequently found in the pages of teen books. Aside from the characters, the mystery itself is a page-turner on its own.
Die-hard fans of James Patterson or Agatha Christie might be able to piece together the clues before the truth is revealed, yet for most, author Karen M. McCanus will keep everyone guessing right up until the very end.
- Words in Deep Blue
Cath Crowley’s contemporary YA novel had a memorable take on the unrequited-adolescent-love dilemma.
The story captures the beautiful scenery of Australia as well as the well-developed and life-like personalities of the two main characters. Rachel is a teenager that is in love with her best friend Henry Jones, who she is forced to move away from. Henry’s parents own a second-hand book shop called Howling Books. Though it is clear that he does not feel the same way, Rachel tucks a love letter in his favorite book from the store on the day before she moves away. Three years pass and without any calls or messages from Henry over that time, 18-year-old Rachel comes back to town and gets a job at the Jones family’s bookstore. Rachel is covertly struggling. She has her own secret tucked within her: her younger brother Cal drowned to death just months ago. The book is told in the alternating perspectives of Rachel and Henry, which allows the reader to become completely immersed in each of their lives.
Although the novel certainly has a strong plot and characters, the best part of the book would be its focus on the power of words. The novel is peppered with beautiful prose and features the amazing Letter Library. Crowley’s unique idea for this section of Howling Books presents bound volumes that are not available for purchase or check-out, yet free to use for a much more fulfilling undertaking. Visitors are encouraged to write notes in the margins, underline quotes and even pen letters on the thin pages for others to stumble across. Any word lover will wholeheartedly appreciate this book about books and the love that exists between their lines.
- The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
Seriously, for a novel that takes place in the 18th century, it feels anything but dated. Numerous aspects of the plot and characters, such as struggles with stigmatization and self-acceptance, are so refreshingly modern. Henry “Monty” Montague is a young man in British high society that defies all expectations placed upon him by spending countless nights drinking, gambling and getting to know both women and men. These vices develop from deep-seated self loathing and doubt. Henry’s father is disapproving of such behavior and expects his son to eventually take over control of the family’s estate. Like setting a puppy loose in a yard to tire it out, Henry’s father sends him on a yearlong Grand Tour of Europe involving stops in Paris, Venice and Rome. Henry’s travel companions include his feisty and inquisitive sister Felicity as well as his secret-love-slash-best-friend Percy.
The plot is no doubt exciting (any historical fiction including being held hostage by pirates is exciting in my book) but, what really makes the novel worth the read is the diverse bunch of characters that author Mackenzi Lee brings to the table. Felicity is strongly resemblant of Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger through her wit, determination and the discrimination she faces. Hermione may have been tormented for being a “Mudblood” rather than for her gender, but both are constantly underestimated and driven by the goal of proving their doubters wrong. Percy also faces no lack of discrimination in the forms of racism, homophobia and ableism. Life isn’t easy for a biracial, gay and epileptic man in the 1700s.
Although this is a highly enjoyable and compelling read, I would not recommend going into it with the hopes of learning more about the places in Europe mentioned or a completely accurate depiction of that time period. The historical aspect of the novel seems to come second to the fiction.