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ALA Midwinter: The ARCs (April)

Well, you probably thought I was never going to get back to it. And yet, here they are: a look at some of the titles coming your way in April 2012. Hang on to your seat because there are a lot of them. Remember, these are just brief overviews to help you get an idea of what you want to look for not actual reviews (unless otherwise noted).  This is not, of course, a look at everything that is coming out, just the stuff I got ARCs for at ALA.

Belles by Jen Calonita

Front cover blurb: Two Southern girls. One life-changing secret.
Back cover blurb: “Jen Calonita keeps it fresh and funny!” – Meg Cabot, author of the Princess Diaries
First lines: Isabelle Scott kicked her legs, propelling herself to the ocean surface with a final burst of adrenaline even as her lungs screamed for air.

Jen Calonita is the author of the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series, so you know this is indeed going to be fresh and funny (who is going to argue with Meg Cabot?).  Isabelle Scott is taken from living life on the boardwalk of North Carolina to live with a long-lost uncle, and his privileged Southern family, after tragedy strikes.  Her and her cousin, Mirabelle Monroe, do not get along. But what happens when they find out that they aren’t really cousins, but sisters? 

Poison Most Vial: A mystery by Benedict Carey

Back cover blurb: Murder in the lab!
First lines: Squirming her shoulders like a penguin, head down under a spray of yellow hair, Ruby Rose pushed through the tangle of legs, arms, and backpacks at the door and tripped down the steps of DeWitt Lab School, annoyed about something but not sure what it was.

This year the SRC theme in Texas is mysteries, so I am looking high and low for new teen mysteries. It’s harder then you would think in the sea of fantasy and paranormals that currently dominate the market.  In this mystery, Ruby Rose’s father is the prime suspect when a famous forensic scientist turns up stone-cold dead. Ruby Rose may be the only one who can clear his name. Benedict Carey is a science reporter for the New York Times and is the author of Island of the Unknowns, which made the TXLA Lone Star Reading List.

Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers

Back cover blurb: From one of the most celebrated writers of young adult fiction comes an unforgettable novel of love, identity, and finding one’s voice. With a node to Cyrano de Bergerac, the story follows the romance of Karl, a shy, likable plumber’s assistant, and Florella, the just-out-of-reach girls he hopes to impress.
First lines: “Could I talk to you?”

Aidan Chambers is a multiple award winner, including the Michael L. Printz award for Postcards from No Man’s Land. And just in time for National Poetry Month, there are some poems inside the novel.  Fiorella is an aspiring writer and she asks Karl to bare his soul to her in letter form. Karl in turn convinces her favorite novelist to write the letter for him.  Can the two of them ever come together?

13 Hangmen by Art Corriveau

Back cover blurb: Some people won’t believe any of this story. You might be one of them. But every single word is true. Tony diMarco does catch a murderer, solve a mystery, and find a treasure – all in the first few days after he moves, unexpectedly, to 13 Hangmen’s Court in Boston. The fact that he also turns thirteen at the same time is not a coincidence.
First lines: Tony DiMarco kicked his sneakers off at the backdoor mat, as usual. He flung his book bag onto the kitchen table, as usual. But he didn’t raise the fridge for a slice of leftover cake as usual. It wasn’t an as-usual kind of day.

Tony DiMarco inherits a townhouse in Boston with the stipulation that only he is allowed to inhabit the house’s top floor. The house is not what they expect and to make matters even worse, he learns that someone was murdered in the very bed he is now sleeping in. The night before his 13th birthday he sets a baseball cap on a shelf, and wakes up in what appears to be 1939. In a mystery that spans several decades, Tony and Angelo search for a treasure hidden in the house while trying to avoid others who will stop at nothing to find it for themselves.  This book should appeal to J and younger teens looking for a good mystery or interested in sports.

Son of a Gun by Anne de Graaf

Back cover blurb: I was crazy. Crazy mad. That’s how I felt when I turned in my AK-47 rifle. The commanding officer’s growl still haunts me: “This gun is your god. You listen to the voice of your god and go where your gun tells you.”
First lines: Do you wonder who this boy is? This boy who is telling you this story? This boy is my brother.

In an opening piece, author Anne de Graff talks about the civil war in Liberia and how children are forced to fight in this war, being called upon to hurt others. She says that parts of this story will be hard to read just as they were hard to tell.  This is the story of Lucky (8) and Nopi (10); they are kidnapped and made to become child soldiers in Liberia’s 14-year-long civil war. This story is based on the true stories of former child soldiers interviewed by Anne de Graaf.  This will be an important multicultural title to help tweens and teens understand what it is like to live in a country torn by civil war where children are forced to be soldiers.

Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn

Back cover blurb: Tomorrow will be the last day of Nora’s junior year. Nora heads for the party in the park, laughing and chatting with her friends, eager to leave her usual quiet, careful self behind. Other kids are drinking beer, flirting, pairing off, dancing. Even the hostile presence of a jealous ex-boyfriend can’t spoiled the fun. In a few hours, though, Mister Death will make his move.
First lines: He opens his eyes. It’s still dark, way before dawn. He’d willed himself to wake at 3 a.m., and he’s done it. He hadn’t dared to set the alarm. What if someone heard it go off? No, he and his brother must leave the house without anyone knowing. Not his family. Not the neighbors.

Mary Downing Hahn can always be counted on for an eerie ghost story; here she writes a novel inspired by true crime and “of the real-life ghosts who have haunted her for most of her life.” This will be a must have.

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad (Full review here)

Back cover blurb: It’s been decades since anyone set foot on the moon. But three ordinary teenagers are about to change that – and their lives – forever.
First lines: “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Mia Nomeland said, giving her parents an unenthusiastic look.
It seems like the opportunity of a life time. A chance, as a teenager, to go to the moon. But according to the back cover, there is something sinister waiting on the dark side of the moon and “no one is coming to save them.” There are some eerie black and white pictures inside the book and great chapter titles like “silence” and “contact”. And I love that it appears to be a straight Sci Fi book as opposed to fantasy (which I love also, it’s just that the Sci Fi genre – like many other genres these days – is being pushed aside in favor of the fantasy/paranormal market).

Lyga also gets the award for best packaging – ever!
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (Full review here)
Back cover blurb: What if the world’s worst serial killer . . . was your dad?
First lines: It was a beautiful day. It was a beautiful field. Except for the body.

Jazz is a likable teenager. He is also the son of one of the most prolific and notorious serial killers, now serving 32 consecutive life terms in prison for murdering more than 100 people.  He taught Jazz everything he knows, conditioning him from a young age to take over the family business. Jazz is trying very hard to find another way, so when a body ends up in a field he knows it is a new serial killer and he wants to use everything his father taught him to help solve the crime. I have read the first 100 pages of this book and it is sooooooo good. Lyga really knows how to build characters and turn phrases and crank up the mystery. A twist is coming.  This is a must read.

Side note – This title contains one of my favorite descriptions of a house:
The Dent house, a rickety colonial in a state of disrepair, sat along this drive like an afterthought, equisdistant between the McMansion and the main road. Everything about the house said, “Oh, that’s right, now I remember . . .” as though the house were slowly forgetting itself into nonexistence . . . Right here in the very middle of Middle America, hell had been born and suckled and matured. (Page 61)

Racing California by Janet Nichols Lynch

Back cover blurb: What if you had a chance to race with the pros?
First lines: Ouch! I rise out of the saddle to stomp on the pedals and my quads scream in pain.

Evan has the chance to cycle in the Amgen Tour of California with a Tour de France winner. Janet Nichols Lynch began her writing career as a cycling journalist and is herself a cyclist so this should have tons of authentic action. And it is great to see a sports book on the ya market that looks at cycling.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Back cover blurb: A bold plot leads an orphan on a terrible journey . . . to the brink of treason
First lines: If I had to do it all over again, I would not have chosen this life.

In a kingdom on the verge of civil war, a contest is held to find a young man to impersonate the king’s son.  All may not be what it seems in this fantasy adventure and Sage must discover the truth and save himself and his land.

The Storm Makers by Jennifer E. Smith

Back cover blurb: Enter the world of the Storm Makers, where there’s magic behind every forecast.
First lines: Only Ruby knew about the stranger in the barn.

Strange storms keeping happening on the farm and a stranger comes and tell twins Ruby and Simon that Simon is a storm maker; he is part of a group of people who are entrusted with controlling the weather. Soon Simon is in grave danger as he tries to master his powers in time to stop a rogue Storm Maker’s deadly plans.  Storms and weather are a popular theme right now in J/Tween lit it seems so this will be a good title to add to the collection.  Jennifer E. Smith is the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and this title is geared to the upper end of the J/lower end of the YA market.

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart

Back cover blurb: Long before there was a Mysterious Benedict Society, there was a brilliant young boy named Nicholas Benedict
First lines: The train station at Pebbleton, dark and sooty though it was, glistened in the mist.

The Mysterious Benedict Society is a wildly popular mystery series, and rightfully so. Here young readers are invited to learn about the beginning of the society and the enigmatic Mr. Benedict himself. This is a must have. Pair it with one of my other favorite mysteries: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.
Next ARC preview: May 2012

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