Most Anticipated Reads | July 2016

july2016I am waaaayyyyyy behind with everything in the blogosphere and the book community. *sobs* But even though it’s half way through the month already, it’s still worth sharing my most anticipated reads for July!

Signs of You by Emily France
Publication: July 19th 2016 by Soho Teen

27272341Since sixteen-year-old Riley Strout lost her mother two years ago, her saving grace has been her quirky little family in the grief support group she joined as a freshman. Jay, Kate, and Noah understand her pain; each lost a loved one, and they’ve stuck together in spite of their differences, united by tragedies only they understand.

When Riley thinks she spots her mother shopping in a grocery store, she fears she is suffering some sort of post-traumatic stress. Then Jay and Kate report similar experiences. Only Noah hasn’t had some kind of vision, which is perhaps why he’s become so skeptical and distant.

When Noah disappears, Riley fears she’s lost another loved one. As they frantically search for him, she, Kate, and Jay are drawn into the mystery surrounding a relic that belonged to Jay’s dead father and contains clues about the afterlife. Riley finds herself wrestling with her feelings for both Noah and Jay—which have become clear only in Noah’s absence. If Riley is to help those she loves, and herself, she must set things right with the one she’s lost.


Cruel Heart Broken by Emma Haughton
Publication: July 1st 2016 by Usborne

29920139Laurie is a good girl – so everyone thinks. But seven months ago she did something that she can’t undo and it’s tearing her apart.

Charlie used to be her best friend. He’s done something he regrets too…and now someone has died.

Two impulsive decisions. Two toxic secrets. Too many hearts broken. Partly inspired by a true story, this is a heart-wrenching novel about impulsive mistakes, and their devastating consequences.


The Killer in Me by Margot Harrison
Published July 12th 2016 by Disney-Hyperion

26095500Seventeen-year-old Nina Barrows knows all about the Thief. She’s intimately familiar with his hunting methods: how he stalks and kills at random, how he disposes of his victims’ bodies in an abandoned mine in the deepest, most desolate part of a desert.

Now, for the first time, Nina has the chance to do something about the serial killer that no one else knows exists. With the help of her former best friend, Warren, she tracks the Thief two thousand miles, to his home turf—the deserts of New Mexico.

But the man she meets there seems nothing like the brutal sociopath with whom she’s had a disturbing connection her whole life. To anyone else, Dylan Shadwell is exactly what he appears to be: a young veteran committed to his girlfriend and her young daughter. As Nina spends more time with him, she begins to doubt the truth she once held as certain: Dylan Shadwell is the Thief. She even starts to wonder . . . what if there is no Thief?


What the Dead Want by Norah Olson
Publication: July 26th 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books

2721729716 -year-old Gretchen takes photographs to understand the world around her, a passion her mother Mona fostered and encouraged when she was still around. Since her mom disappeared years ago, Gretchen and her dad have lived on their own in New York City, haunted by Mona’s absence.

When Gretchen’s great aunt Esther calls unexpectedly to tell her that she has inherited the pre-Civil War mansion on her mother’s side of the family in upstate New York, Gretchen understands nothing except that her aunt needs her help. But what she finds there is beyond her imagination. The house is crumbling apart, filled with stacks of papers and journals from decades, even centuries past, and it’s crawling with rodents. It’s also full of secrets and a legacy of racism and violence so reprehensible that the ghosts of the past are exacting revenge on the living.

Somehow the mystery of Mona’s disappearance and the atrocities that happened on the land during the Civil War are inextricably intertwined, and it’s up to Gretchen to figure out how…before even more lives are lost.


P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Publication: July 26th 2016 by Point

25486998 (1)What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery?

While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has written back to her on the desk! Soon enough Lily and the mystery student are exchanging notes, and lyrics, and even sharing secrets. When Lily finds out that her anonymous pen pal is a guy, she’s flustered — and kind of feels like she’s falling for him. She and her best friend set out to unravel the identity of the letter writer — but when the truth is revealed, the guy is the LAST person Lily could have ever imagined it to be. Now that Lily knows the truth, can she untangle her feelings and gather the courage to listen to her heart?

From beloved author Kasie West (The Distance Between Us) comes an utterly charming story about mixed messages, missed connections, and the magic of good old-fashioned secret admirer notes.


The Lost & Found by Katrina Leno
Published July 5th 2016 by HarperCollins

23253261A charming and imaginative new novel about getting lost before you can be found.

LOST:
Frannie and Louis met in an online support group when they were both younger. They have never met face-to-face. They don’t even know each other’s real names. All they know is that they both have a mysterious tendency to lose things. Well, not lose them, exactly. Things just seem to…disappear.

FOUND:
They each receive news in the mail that sets them off on a road trip to Austin, Texas, looking for answers—and each other. Along the way, each one begins to find, as if by magic, important things the other has lost. And by the time they finally meet in person, they realize that the things you lose might be things you weren’t meant to have at all, and that you never know what you might find if you just take a chance.

The Lost & Found is a bighearted novel about connections (missed and found), family (the kind you’re born with and the kind you make for yourself), and unexpected journeys (on the road, and of the heart), from an author who Publishers Weekly called “a fierce new presence.”


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
Publication: July 31st 2016 by Arthur A. Levine Books

29056083Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a new play by Jack Thorne, is the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. It will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on 30th July 2016

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.


Share your July TBR in the comments!
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Cover images link out to respective Goodreads page.
Click and add them to your shelves.😉
Book description and cover image from Goodreads

Book Review | The Merciless by Danielle Vega

1595147225Title: The Merciless (The Merciless #1)
Author: Danielle Vega
Publication: June 12th 2014 by Razorbill
Format: Finished copy in Paperback
Source: Provided by the publisher
ISBN: 9781595147233

Are You Still There


synopsisForgive us, Father, for we have sinned

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.

Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.

Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .

In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?


reviewreceived a finished copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review. By no means have my review been affected and/or influenced.
The Merciless is a different kind of thriller that will make you stop and *cringe* with it’s vivid and uberly detailed story telling.
The moment I saw The Merciless, I immediately had second thoughts about reading it. But the cover got me really curious in knowing what’s it about. If I’m not already creeped out, I already knew that the symbol involves something “religious”. Also, I haven’t read a lot of books in that theme so I just had to give it a go.
The story started of as a normal contemporary with slight hints of weird. It then transitioned into a dark thriller loaded with gore. I really wasn’t expecting the detail loaded exorcism torture scenes. I did skip a lot a few pages because of how vivid everything was. The Merciless was more of a psychological thriller than a horror. It’s not really something that will not make you sleep at night but it’s something that will make you lose your appetite.
One thing I noticed in The Merciless though is the amount of cliché used in the whole story, particularly with the characters. There was the typical “new girl in school” set up that I wasn’t surprised to see and then there’s the almost Mean Girls spin off set of characters. I’ve been seeing a lot of reviews comparing it to the movie that I can’t help but think that it’s a spin off of Mean Girls.
Overall, The Merciless didn’t really scare me that much but it scarred my thoughts with it’s brutality. It’s a fast paced read with an ending you will not expect.
Rating:

3


end

Book description and cover image from Goodreads

Blog Tour | The Girl I Used To Be by April Henry [Review + Excerpt + Giveaway]

23018249Title: The Girl I Used To Be
Author: April Henry
Publication: May 3rd 2016 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Format: Advance Reading Copy
Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley
ISBN: 9781627793322

How Hard Can Love Be? (Normal, #2)


synopsis

When Olivia’s mother was killed, everyone suspected her father of murder. But his whereabouts remained a mystery. Fast forward fourteen years. New evidence now proves Olivia’s father was actually murdered on the same fateful day her mother died. That means there’s a killer still at large. It’s up to Olivia to uncover who that may be. But can she do that before the killer tracks her down first?

review

I received a digital review copy of this book from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group via NetGalley for my participation in this blog tour. By no means have my review been affected and/or influenced.
I really like books where the title alone already tells something about the story, especially when it comes to mystery reads. And that’s exactly what The Girl I Used To Be did for me.
Olivia Reinhart is an emancipated teen, but prior to that, she was little Ariel Benson, daughter of Naomi Benson and Terry Weeks. She never had a real family after her mother was murdered some 14 years ago, and it was believed that her father did it and fled. But when a new evidence resurfaced that her father was also a victim, she sets out to Medford, the town where her mother grew up, to find out what really happened to her parents.
The Girl I Used To Be was a quick and easy read in terms of the writing style. Although, there were two things to consider why it is so. First, it only has 240 pages. Second, it’s obviously a page turner, (almost every mystery/thriller book is). The chapters were kept short which I really liked, but the pacing was a bit slow. I keep turning each page waiting for something to happen but there really wasn’t much going on.
There were also some things I noticed that bothered me a little bit and it’s how Olivia easily has access to everything she needs to know. All she had to do is ask around and the people will just tell her willingly. She’s a total stranger who’s hiding her real identity for crying out loud. You don’t just answer to people when they ask you about your friends or a murder of a friend, do you? So that’s just some rant. Anyway…
The mystery  in this book is ever present. I like how it didn’t take long to tell what I’m supposed to be uncovering. The book drops the bomb right at the beginning, but as the story goes on things just plateaued out. The suspense was just lacking for me, most of the story is just Olivia trying to figure things out.
Speaking of figuring things out, something I noticed about mystery books is that when it comes to the MC’s hunt for whodunit, they’re always pressing the suspicion on a particular character that is obviously some red herring. And of course, The Girl I Used To Be used that in the plot. The good thing is that it did not spoil the surprise when it comes to the actual reveal. My heart was actually beating so fast when the moment came. But I have to admit, it didn’t last long. I’m not saying I’m disappointed. The Girl I Used To Be is actually a good mystery book but it just lacked in some aspects.
Rating:

3h


excerpt

The Girl I Used To Be
by April Henry
Copyright © 2016 by April Henry
CHAPTER 1
SCATTER MY BONES
The only sound I can hear is my own panicked breathing. I’m running flat out through the forest. Then my toe catches a root, and suddenly I’m flying.
Until I’m not. I come down hard. With my hands cuffed in front of me, I can’t even really break my fall. Despite the plastic boot on my left leg, I’m up again in a crazy scrambling second, spitting out dirt and pine needles as I start sprinting again.
Running like my life depends on it. Because it does.
Three weeks ago, I was living in Portland. Working in a supermarket deli. Slicing turkey breast and handing out cheese samples on toothpicks.
Now I’m hurtling through the Southern Oregon woods, being chased by a killer. And no one knows I’m here.
Because of the handcuffs, I can’t pump my fists. Instead, I have to swing them in tandem. Trying to avoid another fall, I lift my knees higher as the ground rises. I can’t hear my pursuer, just my own panting breath.
If I don’t come back, will Duncan ever know what happened to me? These woods can hide things for years. Will animals scatter my bones, plants twine around my remains?
When I reach the top of the hill, I don’t slow down. Instead, I try to lengthen my stride. It’s impossible to maintain a rhythm. I leap over a log, splash through the silver thread of a creek. My mouth is so dry. It tastes of dirt and the bitterness of fear.
A Steller’s jay startles up from a branch, squawking. If only I could take wing and fly. But I’m stuck here on earth, legs churning, staggering over this uneven ground.
I can’t stop or I’ll die.
The reality is that I’m probably going to die anyway. And if that’s so, I’m going to go down fighting.

abouttheauthor

aprilI write mysteries and thrillers. I live in Portland, Oregon with my family.
If you’ve read one of my books, I would love to hear from you. Hearing from readers makes me eager to keep writing.
When I was 12, I sent a short story about a six-foot tall frog who loved peanut butter to Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He liked it so much he arranged to have it published in an international children’s magazine.
My dream of writing went dormant until I was in my 30s, working at a corporate job, and started writing books on the side. Those first few years are now thankfully a blur. Now I’m very lucky to make a living doing what I love. I have written 13 novels for adults and teens, with more on the way. My books have gotten starred reviews, been picked for Booksense, translated into six languages, been named to state reading lists, and short-listed for the Oregon Book Award.
I also review YA literature and mysteries and thrillers for the Oregonian, and have written articles for both The Writer and Writers Digest.
www.aprilhenrymysteries.com
Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads 

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Win (1) finished copy of THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry
Open to US/CAN Residents Only.
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This blog post is part of The Girl I Used To Be Tour hosted by
The Fantastic Flying Book Club.
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Most Anticipated Reads | May 2016

maymar2016.jpg

Warning: This list can have you end up book hoarding. (Who says it’s such a bad thing?)
This is my longest list yet!

The Crown (The Selection #5) by Kiera Cass
Publication: May 3rd 2016 by HarperTeen

26074181Prepare to be swept off your feet by The Crown—the eagerly awaited, wonderfully romantic fifth and final book in the Selection series. Eadlyn didn’t think she would find a real partner among the Selection’s thirty-five suitors, let alone true love. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and now Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more difficult—and more important—than she ever expected.

Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
Publication: May 17th 2016 by HarperTeen

22297294Maguire is bad luck.

No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the rollercoaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid meeting new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away is harder than she thought.

From author Paula Stokes comes a funny and poignant novel about accepting the past, embracing the future, and learning to make your own luck.


The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Publication: May 3rd 2016 by Roaring Brook Press

25028285This is what it means to love someone. This is what it means to grieve someone. It’s a little bit like a black hole. It’s a little bit like infinity.

Gottie H. Oppenheimer is losing time. Literally. When the fabric of the universe around her seaside town begins to fray, she’s hurtled through wormholes to her past:

To last summer, when her grandfather Grey died. To the afternoon she fell in love with Jason, who wouldn’t even hold her hand at the funeral. To the day her best friend Thomas moved away and left her behind with a scar on her hand and a black hole in her memory.

Although Grey is still gone, Jason and Thomas are back, and Gottie’s past, present, and future are about to collide—and someone’s heart is about to be broken.


Edge of Wild by Danika Stone
Publication: May 1st 2016 by Stonehouse Publishing

27851112Transplanted from New York City to the tiny mountain town of Waterton, Alberta with the task of saving a floundering new hotel, Rich Evans is desperate to return to the city as soon as he can. The locals seem unusually hostile towards his efforts, or maybe even menacing, and was that a cougar on his door-step last night? As Rich begins to wonder whether his predecessor disappeared of his own accord, he finds himself strongly drawn to Louise Newman, the garage mechanic who is fixing his suddenly unreliable BMW, and the only person in Waterton who doesn’t seem desperate to run him out of town. As Rich works on the hotel, the town is torn apart by a series of gruesome, unsolved murders. With Louise as his only ally in a town that seems set against him, Rich can’t help but wonder: will he be the next victim?

The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude
Publication: May 3rd 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers

25897757Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night.

Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.


Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake
Publication: May 3rd 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers

23197843Hadley St. Clair’s life changed the day she came home to a front door covered in slips of paper, each of them revealing the ugly truth about her father. Now as her family falls apart in the wake of his year-long affair, Hadley wants everyone-her dad most of all-to leave her alone.

Then she meets Sam Bennett, a cute new boy who inexplicably “feels like home” to Hadley. Hadley and Sam’s connection is undeniable, but Sam has a secret about his family that could ruin everything.

Funny and passionate, Suffer Love is a story about first love, family dysfunction, and the fickle hand of fate.


Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider
Publication: May 3rd 2016 by Disney-Hyperion

22537367Warm Hawaiian sun. Lazy beach days. Flirty texts with her boyfriend back in Seattle.

These are the things seventeen-year-old Sloane McIntyre pictured when she imagined the summer she’d be spending at her mom’s home in Hawaii with her twin brother, Penn. Instead, after learning an unthinkable secret about her boyfriend, Tyler, and best friend, Mick, all she has is a fractured hand and a completely shattered heart.

Once she arrives in Honolulu, though, Sloane hopes that Hawaii might just be the escape she needs. With beach bonfires, old friends, exotic food, and the wonders of a waterproof cast, there’s no reason Sloane shouldn’t enjoy her summer. And when she meets Finn McAllister, the handsome son of a hotel magnate who doesn’t always play by the rules, she knows he’s the perfect distraction from everything that’s so wrong back home.

But it turns out a measly ocean isn’t nearly enough to stop all the emails, texts, and voicemails from her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, desperate to explain away their betrayal. And as her casual connection with Finn grows deeper, Sloane’s carefree summer might not be as easy to find as she’d hoped. Weighing years of history with Mick and Tyler against their deception, and the delicate possibility of new love, Sloane must decide when to forgive, and when to live for herself.


Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein
Publication: May 3rd 2016 by Random House Books for Young Readers

26067503When Harry Met Sally for YA romance readers. This opposites-attract love story is perfect for fans of Huntley Fitzpatrick, Stephanie Perkins, and Jenny Han.

June wants high school to end and real life to begin. Oliver is soaking up senior year’s glory days. They could have coasted through high school, knowing about—but not really knowing—each other.

Except that their moms have arranged for Oliver to drive June to school. Every. Single. Day.

Suddenly these two opposites are fighting about music, life . . . pretty much everything. But love is unpredictable. When promises—and hearts—get broken, Oliver and June must figure out what really matters. And then fight for it.


The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry
Publication: May 3rd 2016 by Christy Ottaviano Books

23018249When Olivia’s mother was killed, everyone suspected her father of murder. But his whereabouts remained a mystery. Fast forward fourteen years. New evidence now proves Olivia’s father was actually murdered on the same fateful day her mother died. That means there’s a killer still at large. It’s up to Olivia to uncover who that may be. But can she do that before the killer tracks her down first?

Please Don’t Tell by Laura Tims
Publication: May 24th 2016 by HarperCollins

17933522Joy killed Adam Gordon—at least, that’s what she thinks. The night of the party is hazy at best. But she knows what Adam did to her twin sister, Grace, and she knows he had to pay for it.

What Joy doesn’t expect is that someone else saw what happened. And one night a note is shoved through her open window, threatening Joy that all will be revealed. Now the anonymous blackmailer starts using Joy to expose the secrets of their placid hometown. And as the demands escalate, Joy must somehow uncover the blackmailer’s identity before Joy is forced to make a terrible choice.

In this darkly compelling narrative, debut author Laura Tims explores the complicated relationship between two sisters, and what one will do for the other. It’s a story that will keep readers turning pages and questioning their own sense of right and wrong.


Wanderlost by Jen Malone
Publication: May 31st 2016 by HarperTeen

26244548Not all those who wander are lost, but Aubree Sadler most definitely is on this novel’s whirlwind trip through Europe. A romantic and charming YA debut perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Jenny Han.

Aubree can’t think of a better place to be than in perfectly boring Ohio, and she’s ready for a relaxing summer. But when her older sister, Elizabeth, gets into real trouble, Aubree is talked into taking over Elizabeth’s summer job, leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe.

Aubree doesn’t even make it to the first stop in Amsterdam before their perfect plan unravels, leaving her with no phone, no carefully prepared binder full of helpful facts, and an unexpected guest: the tour company owner’s son, Sam. Considering she’s pretending to be Elizabeth, she absolutely shouldn’t fall for him, but she can’t help it, especially with the most romantic European cities as the backdrop for their love story.

But her relationship with Sam is threatening to ruin her relationship with her sister, and she feels like she’s letting both of them down. Aubree knows this trip may show her who she really is—she just hopes she likes where she ends up.


Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood
Publication: May 3rd 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire

27015393The summer before Ivy’s senior year is going to be golden; all bonfires, barbeques, and spending time with her best friends. For once, she will just get to be. No summer classes, none of Granddad’s intense expectations to live up to the family name. For generations, the Milbourn women have lead extraordinary lives—and died young and tragically. Granddad calls it a legacy, but Ivy considers it a curse. Why else would her mother have run off and abandoned her as a child?

But when her mother unexpectedly returns home with two young daughters in tow, all of the stories Ivy wove to protect her heart start to unravel. The very people she once trusted now speak in lies. And all of Ivy’s ambition and determination cannot defend her against the secrets of the Milbourn past….


The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson
Publication: May 17th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin

26114524Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West–and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing–down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben’s, including give up sleep and comic books–well, maybe not comic books–but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it’s time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie’s for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben’s best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben’s cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie’s best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they’re on–and they might not pick the same side.


The Unexpected Everythingby Morgan Matson
Publication: May 3rd 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

17838528Andie had it all planned out.

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check.

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks)

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.

Because here’s the thing – if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected.

And where’s the fun in that?


If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Publication: May 3rd 2016 by Flatiron Books

23947922A big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. She’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him in. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself–including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

Will the truth cost Amanda her new life–and her new love?

If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different–and a love story that everyone will root for.


Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Publication: May 3rd 2016 by Simon Pulse

25756328Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then Lina is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept from Lina for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.


The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne
Publication: May 31st 2016 by Dial Books

27155350Meg Cabot meets Glee in this breezy, hilarious, deceptively smart YA about privilege, pretense, and realizing that every story needs a hero. Sometimes it’s just not you.

When her best friend Hannah comes out the day before junior year, Daisy is so ready to let her ally flag fly that even a second, way more blindsiding confession can’t derail her smiling determination to fight for gay rights.

Before you can spell LGBTQIA, Daisy’s leading the charge to end their school’s antiquated ban on same-sex dates at dances—starting with homecoming. And if people assume Daisy herself is gay? Meh, so what. It’s all for the cause.

What Daisy doesn’t expect is for “the cause” to blow up—starting with Adam, the cute college journalist whose interview with Daisy for his university paper goes viral, catching fire in the national media. #Holy #cats.

With the story spinning out of control, protesters gathering, Hannah left in the dust of Daisy’s good intentions, and Daisy’s mad attraction to Adam feeling like an inconvenient truth, Daisy finds herself caught between her bold plans, her bad decisions, and her big fat mouth.


The Beautiful Pretender (Thornbeck #2) by Melanie Dickerson
Publication: May 17th 2016 by Thomas Nelson

25891581What happens when a margrave realizes he’s fallen in love with a servant?

The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble-born ladies from around the country to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.

Avelina is only responsible for two things: making sure her deception goes undetected and avoiding being selected as the margrave’s bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.

Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?


Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand
Publication: May 17th 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

13260524THINGS FINLEY HART DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT

• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
• Never having met said grandparents.
• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)

Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real–and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.

With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.

Reality and fantasy collide in this powerful, heartfelt novel about family, depression, and the power of imagination.


Share your May TBR in the comments!
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Click and add them to your shelves.😉
Book description and cover image from Goodreads

ARC Review | The Foxglove Killings by Tara Kelly

23293956Title: The Foxglove Killings
Author: Tara Kelly
Publication: September 1st 2015 by Entangled: Teen
Format: Advance Reading Copy
Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley
ISBN: 9781633751651

The Foxglove Killings


synopsisGramps always said that when the crickets were quiet, something bad was coming. And the crickets have been as silent as the dead. It started with the murdered deer in the playground with the unmistakable purple of a foxglove in its mouth. But in the dying boondock town of Emerald Cove, life goes on.
I work at Gramps’s diner, and the cakes―the entitled rich kids who vacation here―make our lives hell. My best friend, Alex Pace, is the one person who gets me. Only Alex has changed. He’s almost like a stranger now. I can’t figure it out…or why I’m having distinctly more-than-friend feelings for him. Ones I shouldn’t be having.
Then one of the cakes disappears.
When she turns up murdered, a foxglove in her mouth, a rumor goes around that Alex was the last person seen with her—and everyone but me believes it. Well, everyone except my worst enemy, Jenika Shaw. When Alex goes missing, it’s up to us to prove his innocence and uncover the true killer. But the truth will shatter everything I’ve ever known about myself — and Alex.

 

reviewI received a Digital ARC of this book from Entangled Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. By no means have my review been affected and/or influenced.
Books like The Foxglove Killings are the reason why I really enjoy reading YA Mysteries-slash-Thrillers. I was totally absorbed by this book right off the bat.
Nova is drawn to a series of killings that involves her small town. When she and her friend Alex finds a dead deer on a playground, she becomes intrigued. Not only that it appears to be intentionally displayed there, a foxglove was on its mouth seeming to convey a message.
After the discovery of the dead deer, more people gets killed and yes, with a foxglove on their mouths. But is it just a coincidence that the victims are those who Nova dislikes? And what about the timely letters from a mysterious admirer she keeps receiving? Seriously, I had those questions with me that really made me turn after page.
I actually didn’t feel that scared for Nova because it was apparent that whoever is doing the killings wasn’t targeting her but, it did let me experience a different kind of fear. The thriller aspect of The Foxglove Killings is inclined more in the fear of knowing who the killer is rather than the fear of having the main character, you know… killed. Because the main character never dies! But of course, I’m speaking for myself. Still, this book kept me on my toes the whole time.
There’s also the diary entries between each chapters that appears to be written by the killer. It added more “chill” in the books whole setting especially when you read what’s going on inside the suspects mind.
Aside from the mystery, there’s also a touch of romance in this book. I love how this book made me feel the feels but yet didn’t really revolve in Nova and Alex’s complicated relationship. Although, I really wouldn’t mind if it did.
But what left me uber speechless is whodunit’s identity. Why didn’t I see it coming??? It’s not like there weren’t enough clues. There are! Well, there is one that almost gave it away but I had to let it go because of the red herring that got me thinking someone else is the killer. I still remember what I felt while I was reading the part where I though I knew who the suspect was already but NO. Just when you think you already know it, something will just explode on your face then boom, gotcha. (I can hear the author laughing at me right at that moment 😛 ) The actual motive was kind of meh but actually, he/she (not gonna spoil you!) is a psycho so whatever the motive is, it is what it is.
The Foxglove Killings didn’t disappoint, the suspense was ultimately worth it. And for a mystery/thriller junkie like me, this one is a must read.
Rating:

4


whatiliked

  • The Title – The title alone sold me this book. I mean, The Foxglove Killings? Who wouldn’t pick up a book with that title? It literally emits an eerie and intriguing vibe.
  • Unpredictable – This book got me. I fell for the bait. Who I thought was the killer turned out to be innocent. Whodunit’s identity was really a surprise and you’ll only find out who it is if you really really really paid attention to the tiny details. For the record, I suspected this one character (the real suspect) because of one diary entry that narrowed down the suspects for me but the amount of foreshadowing in the following chapters convinced me otherwise. Although, there were some predictable parts, if you look at it on a larger picture, The Foxglove Killings is a book that will keep you guessing till the end.
  • Feels Wringer – OMG this book!!! I know this is more of a Mystery/Thriller book but the romance in it is just— *dead* Nova and Alex’s complicated relationship made me feel all sorts of emotions and drained it all off of me. I had one of those puts-down-book-gathers-feels moment. Just AAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHH! My heart, my poor heart…

end

Book Description and Cover Image from Goodreads

ARC Review | A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

24376529Title: A Madness So Discreet
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Publication: October 6th 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Advance Reading Copy
Source: Provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
ISBN: 9780062320865

A Madness So Discreet


synopsisGrace Mae knows madness.
She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.
When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

reviewI received a digital review copy of this book from HarperCollins via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. By no means have my review been affected and/or influenced.
A Madness So Discreet tells of the story of Grace, a young woman from a prominent family kept in an asylum not because she is insane but because of her pregnancy.
The beginning had a gothic and dark vibe to it. How Grace was being treated in the asylum could be a little violent but not to the point that I was put off but otherwise, intrigued. The storytelling was on point as well that it almost appears like a scene in a movie playing in my head.
But…
I have to admit that I was a tiny bit disappointed when the book turned out to be something different from what I was expecting. The cover did give me the impression that it was a paranormal/thriller/horror book. It does have the creepy vibe, doesn’t it? I mean, look at that hand on her feet, that was the first thing I noticed! So yeah, my spine-chilling expectation for this book was kind of high. But here’s how it went for me:
*Light spoilers ahead*
The story begins with Grace in an Asylum.
Me: Asylum? This is kind of eerie.
The story mentions Grace and “a growing life” in her belly.
Me: Is she gonna have a monster baby??
Things get violent in the Asylum. The baby dies. Grace gets locked up.
Me: Ohhh. So it’s not about a monster baby, hmm, what then is it about?
Thornhollow appears. He takes Grace with him in another asylum. Together they become the Sherlock-ing duo.
Me: Eh? What just happened to something spooky?
So then, the story shifted and became a mystery instead. And it’s not the guessing game kind of mystery that I typically love reading but something I’d call a “sit and read” type. There really isn’t much effort given for the readers to figure out the identity of the culprit since it’s not really the major plot (or is it?) of the book. Don’t get confused, the story did spend a lot of time revolving around the hunt for the mystery killer but after the mystery is solved, another plot thickens and it doesn’t have anything to do with what just happened but played a big part in terms of Grace’s sanity.
The transitions in the book did have a nice flow, it went a little plateau in the middle but how the different aspects were blended in the plot made me feel like I’m watching 3 different episodes of a series.
A Madness So Discreet, EP 01: The Asylum
A Madness So Discreet, EP 02: Sherlocking at Midnight
A Madness So Discreet, Finale: A Mad Revenge
Even though story was much different from my expectation, I still enjoyed reading this book. The vibrant characters did keep me from reading this story. Also, I’m gonna give some credits for the good storytelling.
Rating:

3h


whatiliked

  • Grace and Thornhollow – They have this dynamic I just can’t explain. They’re like pieces from 2 different puzzles that somehow fit together. They really complement each other and just them being together had a great influence on their own character development.
“This is where we’re different, Doctor,” Grace said quietly, her fingers tracing their chalk notes. “We both look upon things that no one should see and yet do not flinch. I see the blood and think of the person it’s leaving while your mind is only on the one who spilled it. My thoughts are on the people and yours the puzzle.      “And that is exactly why I need you.”
  • “Colorful” characters – The characters in this book aren’t the typical kind. Most of them are deemed insane for different reasons and I have to say they were the bright lights of this dark read.
  • The dialogues and banters – One thing I enjoyed in this book are the dialogues. I  did pick up quite a few and bookmarked some pages (which I rarely do when reading). Even though the whole book was written in the 3rd POV and set in 1890, the author’s writing style made it light and easy to read.

end
Book Description and Cover Image from Goodreads

Most Anticipated Reads | October 2015

oct2015

So many October book releases, so little time… and money!
I’ve been eyeing most of the book in this list since I can remember and some are newly discovered gems that I just had to add on this list!

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Publication: October 6th 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin

23734628Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.

It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt
Publication: October 6th 2015 by Sky Pony Press

24693907Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She’ll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?

But with each changing moment, RJ’s life begins to unravel, until this self-proclaimed queen bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast. Too quickly, RJ finds herself back in limbo, her time on Earth once again up for debate.

RJ is a snarky, unapologetic, almost unredeemable, very real girl. Her story is funny and moving, and teens will easily connect with her plight. Prepare to meet the Grim Reaper, who’s cuter than you’d expect; Hawaiian shirt–wearing Death Himself; Saint Peter (who likes to play Cornhole); and Al, the handler for the three-headed hound that guards the gates of Hell. This cast of characters accompanies RJ through her time in the afterlife and will do their best to gently shove her in the right direction.

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Publication: October 20th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

23395680This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.


A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
Publication:  October 6th 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books

24376529Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.


Weird Girl and What’s His Name by Meagan Brothers
Publication: October 13th 2015 by Three Rooms Press

24694256In the tiny podunk town of Hawthorne, North Carolina, seventeen-year-old geeks Lula and Rory share everything—sci-fi and fantasy fandom, Friday night binge-watching of old X-Files episodes, and that feeling that they don’t quite fit in. Lula knows she and Rory have no secrets from each other; after all, he came out to her years ago, and she’s shared with him her “sacred texts”—the acting books her mother left behind after she walked out of Lula’s life. But then Lula discovers that Rory—her Rory, who maybe she’s secretly had feelings for—has not only tried out for the Hawthorne football team without telling her, but has also been having an affair with his middle-aged divorcee boss. With their friendship disrupted, Lula begins to question her identity and her own sexual orientation, and she runs away in the middle of the night on a journey to find her mother, who she hopes will have all the answers.

My Secret To Tell by Natalie D. Richards
Publication: October 6th 2015 by Sourcebooks Fire

24827938There was blood on his hands. Where was the guilt in his eyes?

Emmie’s had a crush on her best friend’s brother forever. Deacon is the town bad boy who’s always in trouble, but she sees his soft side when he volunteers with her at the local animal shelter. She doesn’t think he’s dangerous…until he shows up in her bedroom with blood on his hands.

Deacon’s father has been violently assaulted and Deacon is suspect number one. Emmie’s smart enough to know how this looks, but she also knows Deacon’s biggest secret—he’s paralyzed by the sight of blood. She’s sure he didn’t do this. Or did he? Because even Deacon’s own sister thinks he’s guilty…


Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul
Publication: October 27th 2015 by Balzer + Bray

18336982Mattie shouldn’t be at the bonfire. She should be finding new maps for her collection, hanging out with Kris, and steering clear of almost everyone else, especially Jolene. After all, Mattie and Kris dropped off the social scene the summer after sophomore year for a reason.

But now Mattie is a senior, and she’s sick of missing things. So here she is.

And there’s Jolene: Beautiful. Captivating. Just like the stories she wove. Mattie would know; she used to star in them. She and Jolene were best friends. Mattie has the scar on her palm to prove it, and Jolene has everything else, including Hudson.

But when Mattie runs into Hudson and gets a glimpse of what could have been, she decides to take it all back: the boyfriend, the friends, the life she was supposed to live. Problem is, Mattie can’t figure out where Jolene ends and she begins.

Because there’s something Mattie hasn’t told anyone—she walked away from Jolene over a year ago, but she never really left.


The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow & David Ostow
Publication: October 13th 2015 by Soho Teen

24836226Winnie Flynn doesn’t believe in ghosts. (Though she wouldn’t mind a visit from her mom, explaining why she took her own life.) When her mysterious aunt Maggie, a high-profile TV producer, recruits Winnie to spend a summer working as a production assistant on her current reality hit, Fantastic, Fearsome, she suddenly finds herself in the one place her mother would never go: New Jersey.

New Jersey’s famous Devil makes perfect fodder for Maggie’s show. But as the filming progresses, Winnie sees and hears things that make her think that the Devil might not be totally fake after all. Things that involve her and her family. Things about her mother’s death that might explain why she’s never met Aunt Maggie until now.

Winnie soon discovers her family’s history is deeply entwined with the Devil’s. If she’s going to make it out of the Pine Barrens alive, she might have to start believing in what her aunt is telling her. And, find out what she isn’t.


Trust Me, I’m Trouble (Trust Me #2) by Mary Elizabth Summer
Publication: October 13th 2015 by Delacorte Press

Untitled-8Staying out of trouble isn’t possible for Julep Dupree. She has managed not to get kicked out of her private school, even though everyone knows she’s responsible for taking down a human-trafficking mob boss—and getting St. Agatha’s golden-boy Tyler killed in the process. Running cons holds her guilty conscience at bay, but unfortunately, someone wants Julep to pay for her mistakes . . . with her life.

Against her better judgment, Julep takes a shady case that requires her to infiltrate a secretive organization that her long-gone mother and the enigmatic blue fairy may be connected to. Her best friend, Sam, isn’t around to stop her, and Dani, her one true confidante, happens to be a nineteen-year-old mob enforcer whose moral compass is as questionable as Julep’s. But there’s not much time to worry about right and wrong—or to save your falling heart—when there’s a contract on your head.

Murders, heists, secrets and lies, hit men and hidden identities . . . If Julep doesn’t watch her back, it’s her funeral. No lie.


Red Girl, Blue Boy (If Only… #5) by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Publication: October 20th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

23848094Sixteen-year-old Katie and Drew really shouldn’t get along. After all, her father is the Republican nominee for President of the United States while his mother is at the top of the Democratic ticket. But when Katie and Drew are thrown together in a joint interview on a morning talk show, they can’t ignore the chemistry between them. With an entire nation tuned into and taking sides in your parents’ fight, and the knowledge that—ultimately—someone has to lose, how can you fall in love with the one person you’re supposed to hate?

A Step Toward Falling by Cammi McGovern
Publication: October 6th 2015 by HarperTeen

24605853Emily has always been the kind of girl who tries to do the right thing—until one night when she does the worst thing possible. She sees Belinda, a classmate with developmental disabilities, being attacked. Inexplicably, she does nothing at all.

Belinda, however, manages to save herself. When their high school finds out what happened, Emily and Lucas, a football player who was also there that night, are required to perform community service at a center for disabled people. Soon, Lucas and Emily begin to feel like maybe they’re starting to make a real difference. Like they would be able to do the right thing if they could do that night all over again. But can they do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt the most?


Diamonds are Forever (The Secret Diamond Sisters #3) by Michelle Madow
Publication: October 27th 2015 by Harlequin Teen

23168396It’s cold outside, but the drama is hot!

The Diamond sisters jet to the mountains for spring break, and Savannah’s flirt-mance with an international pop star heats up as her pursuit of stardom succeeds. But is this romance meant to be, or has the right guy been in front of her all along? Meanwhile, Courtney takes the next step with her secret boyfriend—and future stepbrother—and as their parents’ wedding approaches, the pressure’s on to reveal their relationship.

Peyton’s figuring out a plan for her future, but she still feels guilty about getting her former bodyguard fired and wonders if she can get over him in the arms of someone else. But the biggest bombshell will change everything once again, because Madison’s ready to tell the huge secret she’s uncovered. And with the boy who betrayed her but who could be the love of her life fighting for his own life, she might need the Diamond sisters more than ever.


Share your October book recommendations in the comments!
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Book descriptions and cover images and  from Goodreads

ARC Review | Are You Still There by Sarah Lynn Scheerger

25361860Title: Are You Still There
Author: Sarah Lynn Scheerger
Publication: September 1st 2015 by Albert Whitman & Co.
Format: Advance Reading Copy
Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley
ISBN: 9780807545577
Are You Still There

synopsisAfter her high school is rocked by an anonymous bomb threat, “perfect student” Gabriella Mallory is recruited to work on a secret crisis helpline that may help uncover the would-be bomber’s identity.
Gabriella Mallory, AP student and perfect-daughter-in-training, stands barefoot on a public toilet for three hours while her school is on lockdown. Someone has planted a bomb and she is hiding. The bomb is defused but the would-be-bomber is still at large. And everyone at Central High School is a suspect. The school starts a top-secret crisis help line and Gabi is invited to join. When she does, she is drawn into a suspenseful game of cat and mouse with the bomber, who has unfinished business. He leaves threatening notes on campus. He makes threatening calls to the help line. And then he begins targeting Gabi directly. Is it because her father is the lead police detective on the case? Is the bomber one of her new friends? Could it be her new boyfriend with his complicated past? As the story unfolds, Gabi knows she is somehow connected to the bomber. Even worse, is she part of his plan. Can Gabi reach out and stop him? Or will she be too late?

reviewI received a Digital ARC of this book from Albert Whitman & Co. via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. By no means have my review been affected and/or influenced.
Are You Still There was a surprising read. This book had me first by its synopsis. But as I started reading, it was beyond what I’ve expected.
The book starts off with what seems like a diary entry called Stranger’s Manifesto. Then it shifts to Gabi’s POV as she’s hiding in the school bathroom after a lockdown when a bomb was discovered to be planted in their school. (Want a sneak peek? Check out the first 2 chapters here) Right from that scenario, I already knew that I was going to enjoy this book. The execution was spot on and captivating. It was as if I was in the public toilet too, hiding, scared for my life.
After that incident, the school initiates a crisis helpline for the students and Gabi is recruited to be part of it. Her experience in the helpline opened her eyes in the reality of what’s going on around her school and how she tends to overlook everything. Through the helpline, she met new people and learned about the students more than she thought she knew.
Then, the bomber starts calling and threatens that there will be another attack.
It gets creepier when Gabi receives direct threats (?) in the form of playing cards with disturbing drawings she keeps finding. It seems like the bomber is targeting Gabi specifically. So, the big question is why her and who is doing it.
The mystery behind the Stranger’s identity kept the suspense running for the whole book. At first, I wasn’t really a fan of how there weren’t enough clues to the culprit’s identity because I’m really into the guessing game whenever it comes to mysteries and thrillers but then I realized how it really works well with the plot. The Stranger was someone who wanted to be noticed, but in his/her high school, he/she was invisible and that was the clue itself. He/she is invisible.
Are You Still There is an eye-opening book about the realities of high school and what do some of the students go through. Sometimes, people are just looking for someone who is willing to listen.
Rating:

4

Also, check out my interview with Author Sarah Lynn Scheerger!

whatiliked

  • Stranger’s Manifesto – A penny for Whodunit’s thoughts? You got it. It’s among my favorite parts in the book. The Stranger gives the readers a piece of his/her mind and it’s even done in a creative way!
  • Unputdownable – The combination of an uncommon plot, straight-forward narrative and quick pacing had me reading this book in one seating. I just couldn’t put it down until I finish it. It’s that good.

end
Book description and cover image from Goodreads

Most Anticipated Reads | September 2015

sept2015WARNING: Long list of MUST READ BOOKS ahead! Got your Can’t-Wait-For-September-Book-List ready? ‘Cause I surely got mine!

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Publication: September 1st 2015 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

18692431My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.


Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian
Publication: September 1st 2015 by HarperCollins

23718736Will Caynes never has been good with girls. At seventeen, he’s still waiting for his first kiss. He’s certainly not expecting it to happen in a drunken make-out session with his best friend, Angus. But it does and now Will’s conflicted—he knows he likes girls, but he didn’t exactly hate kissing a guy.

Then Will meets Brandy, a cute and easy-to-talk-to sophomore. He’s totally into her too—which proves, for sure, that he’s not gay. So why does he keep hooking up with Angus on the sly?

Will knows he can’t keep seeing both of them, but besides his new job in a diner, being with Brandy and Angus are the best parts of his whole messed-up life. His divorced parents just complicate everything. His father, after many half-baked business ventures and endless house renovations, has started drinking again. And his mom is no help—unless loading him up with a bunch of stuff he doesn’t need plus sticking him with his twin half-sisters counts as parenting. He’s been bouncing between both of them for years, and neither one feels like home.

Deciding who to love, who to choose, where to live. Whichever way Will goes, someone will get hurt. Himself, probably the most.


The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett
Publication: September 22nd 2015 by Greenwillow Books

22595271For most of her life, Lirael has been training to kill—and replace—a duplicate version of herself on a parallel Earth. She is the perfect sleeper-soldier. But she’s beginning to suspect she is not a good person.

The two Earths are identical in almost every way. Two copies of every city, every building, even every person. But the people from the second Earth know something their duplicates do not—two versions of the same thing cannot exist. They—and their whole planet—are slowly disappearing. Lira has been trained mercilessly since childhood to learn everything she can about her duplicate, to be a ruthless sleeper-assassin who kills that other Lirael and steps seamlessly into her life.

An intricate, literary stand-alone from an astonishing new voice, The Unquiet takes us deep inside the psyche of a strong teenage heroine struggling with what she has been raised to be and who she really is.


Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa
Publication: September 8th 2015 by Balzer + Bray

24039396Mira is starting over at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby.

Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting this blond, lanky boy with mischief glinting in his eye.

Sebby, Mira’s gay best friend, is a boy who seems to carry sunlight around with him. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives.

As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.


The One Thing by Marci Lynn Curtis
Publication: September 8th 2015 by Disney-Hyperion

18369372Maggie Sanders might be blind, but she won’t invite anyone to her pity party. Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie’s rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal.

Now Maggie has a probation officer. But she isn’t interested in rehabilitation, not when she’s still mourning the loss of her professional-soccer dreams, and furious at her so-called friends, who lost interest in her as soon as she could no longer lead the team to victory.

Then Maggie’s whole world is turned upside down. Somehow, incredibly, she can see again. But only one person: Ben, a precocious ten-year-old unlike anyone she’s ever met.Ben’s life isn’t easy, but he doesn’t see limits, only possibilities. After awhile, Maggie starts to realize that losing her sight doesn’t have to mean losing everything she dreamed of. Even if what she’s currently dreaming of is Mason Milton, the infuriatingly attractive lead singer of Maggie’s new favorite band, who just happens to be Ben’s brother.

But when she learns the real reason she can see Ben, Maggie must find the courage to face a once-unimaginable future… before she loses everything she has grown to love.


Are You Still There by Sarah Lynn Scheerger
Publication: September 1st 2015 by Albert Whitman & Co.

25361860After her high school is rocked by an anonymous bomb threat, “perfect student” Gabriella Mallory is recruited to work on a secret crisis helpline that may help uncover the would-be bomber’s identity.

Gabriella Mallory, AP student and perfect-daughter-in-training, stands barefoot on a public toilet for three hours while her school is on lockdown. Someone has planted a bomb and she is hiding. The bomb is defused but the would-be-bomber is still at large. And everyone at Central High School is a suspect. The school starts a top-secret crisis help line and Gabi is invited to join. When she does, she is drawn into a suspenseful game of cat and mouse with the bomber, who has unfinished business. He leaves threatening notes on campus. He makes threatening calls to the help line. And then he begins targeting Gabi directly. Is it because her father is the lead police detective on the case? Is the bomber one of her new friends. Could it be her new boyfriend with his complicated past? As the story unfolds, Gabi knows she is somehow connected to the bomber. Even worse she is part of his plan. Can Gabi reach out and stop him? Or will she be too late?


The Foxglove Killings by Tara Kelly
Publication: September 1st 2015 by Entangled Teen

23293956Gramps always said that when the crickets were quiet, something bad was coming. And the crickets have been as silent as the dead. It started with the murdered deer in the playground with the unmistakable purple of a foxglove in its mouth. But in the dying boondock town of Emerald Cove, life goes on.

I work at Gramps’s diner, and the cakes―the entitled rich kids who vacation here―make our lives hell. My best friend, Alex Pace, is the one person who gets me. Only Alex has changed. He’s almost like a stranger now. I can’t figure it out…or why I’m having distinctly more-than-friend feelings for him. Ones I shouldn’t be having.

Then one of the cakes disappears.

When she turns up murdered, a foxglove in her mouth, a rumor goes around that Alex was the last person seen with her—and everyone but me believes it. Well, everyone except my worst enemy, Jenika Shaw. When Alex goes missing, it’s up to us to prove his innocence and uncover the true killer. But the truth will shatter everything I’ve ever known about myself — and Alex.


Your Voice Is All I Hear by Leah Scheier
Publication: September 1st 2015 by Sourcebooks Fire

22082098Everything about Jonah is unexpected. On the first day of school, he sits next to April, when he could have chosen to sit with the popular girl. He turns down an invitation to join the school team and declares he’d rather paint. He encourages April to develop her musical talent and shrugs off the bullies that torment them.

April isn’t surprised to find herself falling for Jonah. The unexpected part is when he falls for her too.

But the giddy happiness of their first romance begins to fade when Jonah’s unpredictability begins to take a darker turn. April understands that her boyfriend is haunted by a painful memory, but his sudden mood swings worry her. She can’t explain his growing fear of cellphones, electric keyboards, and of sounds that no one else can hear. Still, no matter what happens, April is sure that she’ll always stand by him.

Until Jonah finally breaks and is committed to a psychiatric ward.

Until schizophrenia changes everything.

Though everyone urges her to let him go, April stays true to Jonah. But as the boy she adores begins to disappear in front of her, she has to face her worst fear: that her love may not be enough to save him.


Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Publication: September 1st 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers

23719270When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there’s room for love in a heart so full of hate.

Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt
Publication: September 1st 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin

23848212A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.

Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much — except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There’s too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.


Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith
Publication: September 1st 2015 by Poppy

23369370On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan only have one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they’ll retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night will lead them to friends and family, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson
Publication: September 22nd 2015 by HarperTeen

23245337Odea Donahue has been able to travel through people’s dreams since she was six years old. Her mother taught her the three rules of walking: Never interfere. Never be seen. Never walk the same person’s dream more than once. Dea has never questioned her mother, not about the rules, not about the clocks or the mirrors, not about moving from place to place to be one step ahead of the unseen monsters that Dea’s mother is certain are right behind them.

Then a mysterious new boy, Connor, comes to town and Dea finally starts to feel normal. As Connor breaks down the walls that she’s had up for so long, he gets closer to learning her secret. For the first time she wonders if that’s so bad. But when Dea breaks the rules, the boundary between worlds begins to deteriorate. How can she know what’s real and what’s not?


What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler
Publication: September 22nd 2015 by Harper Teen

20922826Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone’s house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early—the feeling that maybe he’s becoming more than just the guy she’s known since they were kids.

But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question: Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?


The Next Together by Lauren James
Publication: September 3rd 2015 by Walker

23266378How many times can you lose the person you love?

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?

Maybe the next together will be different…


Walk on Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson
Publication: September 22nd 2015 by Greenwillow Books

17564519Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?

The Wanderers by Kate Ormand
Publication: September 1st 2015 by Sky Pony Press

22070953Flo lives an eccentric life—she travels with a popular circus in which the main acts star orphaned children with secret shape-shifting abilities. Once Flo turns sixteen, she must perform, but she’s not ready. While practicing jumping a flaming hurdle in a clearing beside the circus, she spots a dark figure in the trees and fears he saw her shift. The news sends the circus into a panic.

In Flo’s world, shifters are unknown to humans with the exception of a secret organization—the EOS, referred to as “hunters.” Hunters capture and kill. They send some shifters to labs for observation and testing—testing they don’t often survive—and deem others useless, a danger to society, and eliminate them. To avoid discovery, shifters travel in packs, constantly moving and keeping themselves hidden. Up until now, the circus was the perfect disguise.

Believing she has brought attention to the group, Flo feels dread and anxiety, causing her to make a mistake during her performance in front of the audience—a mistake that triggers a violent attack from the hunters.

Flo manages to flee the torched circus grounds with Jett, the bear shifter who loves her; the annoying elephant triplets; and a bratty tiger named Pru. Together they begin a new journey, alone in a world they don’t understand and don’t know how to navigate. On the run, they unravel secrets and lies that surround the circus and their lives—secrets and lies that all point to the unthinkable: Have they been betrayed by the people they trusted most?


Share your September book recommendations in the comments!
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Author Interview | Sarah Lynn Scheerger ft. Are You Still There + Excerpt

25361860Author Sarah Lynn Scheerger talks about her upcoming novel Are You Still There, which character from her book can she relate to the most and more. Plus, read on for an excerpt that will surely make you ask for more!

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From writing picture books for young readers, you also now write as a YA authorWhat were the changes you encountered while writing for a different demographic?
Writing and revising a novel takes significantly more time than that of a picture book, but I find that the plotting and character development comes more naturally for me. There are also so many different ways a story can progress, so that makes it easier to write something unique.
There are so many brilliantly creative picture books out there in the world, and I find it challenging to come up with a new idea. Picture book text is also so sparse, so the author has to be able to convey so much with very few words. It’s an amazing, poignant, and challenging art form.
I have really enjoyed the process of writing my easy reader series. Much of the story is told through dialogue, and the characters are so silly that the writing process is particularly enjoyable.
Interestingly, my Young Adult work tends to come out edgy and dark, which is different from my day-to-day personality. Hmmm. What does that say about me?
What other genres would you want to explore in writing YA/Teen novels?
I think I’m a realistic fiction kind of girl. I don’t think I’m creative enough to write science fiction or fantasy. I also prefer to read realistic fiction. That’s just what resonates with me. I do like writing for younger kids though, and I hope to do more of it.
Now, tell us something about your upcoming YA novel, Are You Still There.
In the aftermath of a threat of massive school violence, a group of kids sets out to make things better. They train for and work on a crisis helpline. Gabi, an AP honors student, joins the helpline and suddenly her world expands. She realizes that there’s so much more out there in the world besides her textbooks. She has her first dating experiences, she expands her friend group, goes to her first “real” party, and changes the way she thinks. As a listener on the line she also learns how many kids are struggling out there. To spice things up, there’s a love triangle, conflictual relationships and tons of mystery. Everyone’s a suspect. The perpetrator of the threat, Stranger, is calling the Line, leaving messages for Gabi, and seems to be watching her. Stranger’s going to strike again. Is Gabi a part of the plan? And can she stop Stranger before it’s too late?
I’ve read that you were actually a part of a real helpline. How did it help in writing the character of Gabi who is also part of a crisis help line in your book?
Yes! My second year of undergrad, I trained and tried out for a crisis helpline. At that time in my life I was still figuring out my major, and to be honest, I was still trying to figure where I fit in. I’d had a wonderful circle of friends in high school, but we all went separate directions for college, and my university campus was so enormous that I felt lonely in a sea of people. Once I started training for Helpline, I knew I’d found my people. First of all, they were just about the coolest group of people I’d ever met, but second of all, we had a mutual purpose. We all bonded over the idea of helping other people. Ultimately this led me to a career in social work. The helpline I’ve created is fictional, but we did have a secret office with a secret code on the door. There were several Helpline romances that developed over time… even a Helpline marriage. We all still keep in contact today.
Give us an insight about Stranger. What/Who inspired you to write such an intriguing character?
I, like many others, am so concerned about the acts of school violence in our communities and on our campuses. So often the act is done by someone who flies under the radar. As a school social worker, I provide counseling to at-risk kids, but I only see the students who are referred to me. What about the kids who are struggling and angry and desperate that no one notices? I feel like our schools and our society in general need to find more ways to reach out to the people who are suffering in silence.
Is there a particular character you see yourself in your novel? If yes, who and why?
Yes. The character most similar to me is Gabi. As a teen, I was definitely a pleaser. I wanted to please my parents, get good grades, and I didn’t start dating until later high school.  I was pretty naïve, for sure. I also remember moments when I felt like I was letting my parents down by having a social life. I remember one particular lecture when my dad was talking to me about “my priorities”. He just wasn’t used to having me be so social. Now as a grown up looking back, I think being social is an important part of a well-rounded life.  In college I was a listener on a real helpline, and as I’ve said before, it was the most amazing and best experience. It expanded my world and gave me a sense of purpose.
Any recent projects?
Yes! My early chapter book series debuted in the spring: The Boulder Brothers: Meet Mo and Jo. Low word count, easy to sound out words, lots of humor, silly pictures and concepts. The art is amazing. Check it out here.
What’s the most difficult part to write in Are You Still There?
This is a great question. Warning, Spoiler Alert: I just couldn’t make Stranger an entirely evil sociopath. I could not get into that kind of person’s head.  However, the misunderstood kid in pain—I know kids like that, we all do. So I channeled that kind of character. Perhaps I could write about an entirely evil character like that in the third person, because there’s more emotional distance that way.
Also in all my manuscripts, the hardest part for me is cutting text. I tend to be wordy, so slimming it down is sometimes painful.
Hope you enjoy the book!

excerpt

Are You Still There
Sarah Lynn Scheerger

Stranger’s Manifesto

Entry 1
I am a speck of dust
Invisible to the naked eye.
Unless the sun glances against me just so
And you see for a moment
That I am one of many.
Flecks. Floaters. Dust parachuters.
Dirt in the air.
Do you know
That you are bumping into me?
That you are surrounded by me?
That you are breathing me?
And then you are contaminated.
Infected by what is me.
We are not so different,
You and I.
You just don’t know it
Yet.
1
Early October
Barefoot, I step onto the cold toilet seat in the girls’ bathroom and it doesn’t even gross me out. I’d shoved my clunky sandals in my backpack an hour ago when this whole thing started. I knew I might have to hide. And if I had to hide, I couldn’t make a sound. My life depended on it.
Somebody is coming.
I hold on to the side of the stall to brace myself and try not to breathe. Well, try not to breathe loudly. Don’t panic, I tell myself. It’s probably just a drill. Maybe the resource officer is running around checking that all the teachers locked their doors, according to protocol. Maybe Principal Bowen’s voice will come back on the loudspeaker and tell us the lockdown has been lifted. That this was just a drill, and we all passed it with flying colors.
Even me. The idiot who picked the wrong time to pee. That’s why I’m stuck in this bathroom instead of hiding under a desk like everyone else at Central High. I can still hear the echo of Principal Bowen’s words, “Students, if you’re not already in a classroom at this time, do not attempt to return to one. You will be putting yourself at risk of harm. Stay put and take cover.” But exactly how do you take cover in a public bathroom?
Just a drill, just a drill, just a drill, I promise myself. But drills last fifteen minutes, max. They rush us through the protocol so that we can get back to the important business of solving quadratic equations and dissecting fetal pigs. It’s been way more than fifteen minutes. I’ve been hiding in the girls’ bathroom for over an hour.
I hear them again. Shushing footsteps against the concrete. Like someone’s trying to sneak up on me. Since the whole world has been flipped to mute, the shushing seems loud. My heart beats in my ears. Pulsing, thudding, pumping…echoing through my body. We used to make fun of my sister, Chloe, for saying strange things like that when she was little. “My elbow’s hungry,” she’d say. “My nose is afraid.” “My pinky toe wants a turn.”
Only now the thoughts of Chloe grip me and make the pulsing, thudding, pumping of my heart stop so suddenly that the blood pools in my veins. Because I know Chloe’s stuck somewhere on campus right now too. Hiding.
If she’s still alive.
***
I pee in my pants. Just a little. Not enough to soak through my jeans. But still. I haven’t done that since elementary. The shushing footsteps pass me by, move on down the hall, and I relax for a moment. Big mistake. Because that’s when I pee.
How ironic that here I am, standing in girls’ bathroom, hiding out, and here, of all places, I pee in my pants. I’ve been holding it since I got here. Because I got all freaked out about peeing. Like it’d make too much noise.
It’s been boring. I won’t lie. My legs ache from standing in the same position for so long. And all I can do is think, so it’s driving me crazy. Because I know how this plays out. I’ve watched the news. I’ve debated gun control laws in AP government. Some crazy kid with a revenge agenda plows down fifteen innocent students.
But I’m not supposed to be on this end of it. I’ve already sent in my early admission application to my top-five colleges and everything. I’m the kind of kid that’s supposed to be going somewhere in this world. Not the kind of kid to die in a bathroom stall.
Shushing steps. Many of them. They’re in the bathroom now. I can hear them breathing. They can hear me breathing. It is then that I realize something that sucks more than anything has ever sucked in the history of my seventeen years of life. This is not a drill. And I’m gonna die. On a grimy public bathroom floor.
The door to the bathroom stall slams inward. If I had not been standing on the toilet seat, it probably would have broken my nose. I grip the walls, paralyzed, and stare at the three cops pointing guns in my face.
They haul me off the toilet and pat me down, but I think they can tell right away that I’m not who they’re looking for. Maybe my tear-streaked face and blackout-worthy hyperventilation gives me away.
“Come with me,” the bald-headed cop whispers, grabbing onto my arm. “Don’t speak. Just walk quietly. We’re still in a lockdown situation.”
I walk with him because, come on, what am I going to do? Argue? He has my arm gripped so tightly that my fingers are losing circulation. The bright southern California sunlight blasts me with rays, and I squint.
This is the real deal. No drill for sure. The air feels thin, like we’ve somehow gained hundreds of feet in altitude and I can’t get enough oxygen in my brain.
The cop is ushering me toward an evacuation point and I think he’s more nervous than me. I wonder if he knows who my dad is. Most cops do. The campus is so quiet it has that eerie ghost-town feel. Maybe it’s the stress, but the corners of the buildings blur as I pass them, as if they’re all part of a painting and the artist is smearing the edges.
I hope I don’t pass out.
***
We all gather on the far end of the football field. Clustering like frightened refugees, huddling together for warmth because even though this October day is seventy-five degrees and clear, my bones are cold.
My ears are malfunctioning. Everything I hear is blunted, far away. Like I’m underwater. Bomb found on campus after anonymous tip. Bomb has been disarmed successfully. Police will conduct a thorough investigation. Safety precaution. Everyone will be released to guardians. One by one. Procedure will take hours. Be patient. Stay calm.
Everyone is milling about, stunned. I’ve gone to school with some of these kids since elementary, but in this moment I only care about one. I scan the crowds, searching for the purple streak in my sister’s thick, black hair. She’s got the kind of hair that tangles easily, so she only brushes it when she first gets out of the shower and it’s all conditioned up. She’s been wanting to cut it for at least a year, but Mom says short hair will make her face look too full, so Chloe settled for dying it black. Mom was not happy.
Back before the hair dyeing, people used to call us Irish twins. Thick, ropey red hair, green eyes with hazel flecks. People call Chloe’s natural color “strawberry,” but that makes no sense if you really think about it. Strawberries are truly red. Her hair is more the color of freckles. So Mom got all pissy when she dyed it black. The purple streak was just icing on the cake. How so totally Chloe. Same as sticking out her tongue with a big fat “Screw You” pierced through it.
Chloe’s shirt finds me before her face does. All black, but with little-kid rounded yellow letters. Pooh is my homeboy. As much as I’d tried to talk her out of it when I first saw her ordering that shirt on the Internet, for a moment I love Pooh. And Piglet and Tigger and everyone else in the Hundred Acre Wood.
Her face is red. That dark-dark mascara and eyeliner combo has smeared down into the hollows of her eyes, making her look like a Halloween character back from the dead. I run like I’m in a movie—all slow motion and hair flapping behind me—and bear-hug her, and she squeezes me back and buries her face in my neck.
“Gabi,” she whispers, her breath smelling like red licorice, “I thought I’d never see you again.”
I try not to cry and then I’m crying anyway, holding on to her like she might turn to sand and slip through my fingers.
And then it comes to me. I don’t think we’ve hugged like this since we were little girls.
2
Mom’s chin goes all taut when she’s tense. She’s thin anyway, but when she juts her chin forward, her skin has to stretch further and her whole face looks tight. Like an ad for plastic surgery gone wrong.
Chloe and I have parked ourselves at the kitchen table, eating grapes. “We’re okay, Mom. Relax. It’s over,” Chloe tells her and pops a couple grapes in her mouth. She never washed off the black makeup, so I can’t look straight into her eyes.
Mom sits perched on the edge of the kitchen chair, looking like a nervous little bluebird. “Dad won’t be home until late tonight. They’ve called him out to the school to help with the investigation.” She clasps her hands together and flexes and un-flexes her fingers. I’m tempted to reach over and place my hands on hers to make her stop, but I don’t.
“Okay, so Dad might get blown to smithereens, but he’s not around much anyway, so we won’t really notice.” Chloe gets this ridiculous half-smirk on her face like she thinks she’s hilarious. I kick her under the table. Mom’s hands flex. Un-flex.
“The whole thing’s probably just a hoax, Mom. Some stupid freshman on a dare,” I tell her, pulling a grape off the vine.
“Hey, hey!” Chloe complains. “Don’t knock freshman. Frosh rock.”
“Sorry. I forgot your boyfriend is a freshman,” I tease.
She throws a grape at me. It bounces off my shoulder. Mom’s not supposed to know Chloe had this thing for a little stoner boy…He’s actually her age but he got held back a grade. Quality dating material. She always picks winners.
“Oh. Uh, just kidding.” I mouth “sorry” to her when Mom isn’t looking.
Mom stands, her chin still stretched tight. “It’s late. I guess you’d better get dressed for clinic, Gab.” Flex. Un-flex.
Clinic. The low-fee medical clinic, my volunteer opportunity because it looks good for college apps. My stomach drops fast and hard. Don’t I deserve the day off?
“Uh. I don’t think my head’s in the game today, Mom. I’d rather just stay home with you guys.” Plus, I want to scream, I’ve already submitted my top-five early admission apps. Mom wants me to get into Brown University in the worst way. She had a brief stint there herself, but she dropped out junior year to marry my dad. I have no idea why she didn’t just finish her units in California when they moved here.
Not being conceited or anything, but my chances of getting in (to at least one of my top-five schools) are pretty high, what with my four AP classes, my rocking GPA and SAT scores, my place on the cross-country team, and my dizzying array of life-broadening volunteer experiences. Just saying.
Mom nods too fast, like she is disappointed but doesn’t want me to know. “Oh. Okay. Can they manage without you?”
“Yeah,” I say slowly, my stomach dropping again but knowing I will go. Because it’s the “right thing” to do. Good little Gabi Mallory, always does the right thing. Dependable. Responsible. Disciplined. Boring yes, and social life submerged in the toilet…but destined for success, preferably at an Ivy League school. Yuck.
Mom nods again, and I can see her breathe a tiny sigh of relief. She’s seriously got this internal master plan for me, and if I don’t follow the Perfect and Ivy-League-Destined Daughter rule book to a T, she thinks the world will crumble into dust.
I look at Chloe and set my grapes on the table. The black mess under her eyes is ugly but intriguing. She looks like a model for some kind of creepy artistic magazine.
“Oh, stay home. Rebel a little!” Chloe advises, her smirk back full force. “It’ll make your boobs grow.”
“Very funny.”
***
I survive a four-hour shift at clinic. Then I run on the treadmill (while listening to an audiotape of my AP government textbook) for fifty minutes. Good girl, Gabi.
I’m toweling my hair dry from my post-run shower when my cell vibrates on my dresser. I peek. Gabi, are you there? It’s my bestie and study buddy extraordinaire, Beth.
Yea. Just got back from clinic.
Can you believe today?
Not really.
Me neither. I’m not going to school tomorrow.
Seriously? You never miss school.
There’s a first for everything. What’s detective daddy say about all this?
Don’t know. I think he just got home. I’ll go eavesdrop.
I like the way you think.
I tiptoe over to the banister and lean against it. Little drips of water roll down my back from my still-wet hair.
My parents’ voices are low, rumbling, like they don’t want anyone to hear. Of course this makes me even more curious. “…clear message,” Dad is saying, his voice tired and soft. “…professional job.” Dad must be facing away from the stairs, because it’s hard to make out his words. Or maybe he just doesn’t want me or my sister to hear. “Took our best guys over an hour to ensure the bomb we found was disarmed.”
“Do they think it was a staff member?” Mom’s voice, somehow much clearer, and with a sharp edge. I can just imagine Mom facing him, arms crossed and demanding information.
“…not ruling it out…”
“Who else could it be? Who would want to do such a thing?”
“…looking into it…full investigation…possibly ex-employees or ex-students…could even be a current student, but the sophistication of the layout makes that unlikely…You never know though. Some of these kids are really bright.”
I creep down the top two stairs to hear better. I can see the light reflecting off Dad’s bald head. He’s still wearing his work clothes, which look a lot more like business clothes since he got promoted to lead detective.
Mom sighs and suddenly she sounds tired too. “Between this situation today, that note you found, and that poor girl who hanged herself after all that teasing, I’m beginning to think private school is a better option.”
Note? What note?
Wait—private school? No way! My ankle cracks as I shift my position.
Dad pauses for a moment but doesn’t turn. He’s no longer whispering. “Listen, Susan, these things happen at many large high schools. Westmont High had a suicide last year and a big drunk-driving accident with all those cheerleaders. And Blackbury had that six-hour lockdown last semester when there was a domestic shooting in the neighborhood. When you’ve got three thousand people on the same campus, you get exposed to all walks of life. It happens everywhere.”
“You’re not comparing apples to apples, Al, and you know it.” Mom’s voice sharpens. “What happened today is of a whole different caliber. This wasn’t just a bomb threat. There was an actual bomb on campus. We could’ve lost both our girls in one afternoon!”
I rest my head on the banister. My temples are starting to throb.
“Let’s not overreact. I don’t think this guy actually wanted to harm anyone.”
“How the hell do you know?”
I need to take some aspirin. I rub my fingers against the sides of my head.
“This is what I do for a living, Suze. If this guy wanted to blow the place to smithereens, he would’ve. He chose not to. He carefully orchestrated the whole setup so that the bomb wouldn’t go off. He wanted to send a message.”
“Why do you keep saying ‘he’?”
“Because nearly every perpetrator of school violence has been male. I study this crap, hon. I know what I’m doing.”
“It’s just…”
Suddenly his voice softens. “I know you were scared today.” I peek down and see him wrapping his arm around her shoulders. He’s facing me now, and I shrink back against the banister. “I was too. But early tomorrow morning I’m going to meet with the assistant principals, and we’ve got some plans about how to proceed.”
“What do you mean?”
“That part is highly confidential. But the school realizes they need to do some preventive outreach. The bomb threat and the note were warnings. We’ve got to catch the guy, and until we do, we have to hold him off by showing him his message was heard.”
“How exactly do you plan to do that?”
“Confidential.”
“Since when has that stopped you?”
“There are ears everywhere.” He dips his head to the right, toward where I am crouched, my hair dripping down and soaking into the carpet.
Damn. Sometimes I hate having a detective for a father.

abouttheauthor

sarahSarah Lynn Scheerger is the author of THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE and several books for younger readers. ARE YOU STILL THERE was inspired in part by her time volunteering for a helpline in college, an experience that led to her career as a clinical social worker. Today Sarah runs counseling groups for at-risk teens on middle and high school campuses. She lives and writes in Southern California with her family.

www.sarahlynnbooks.com
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25361860After her high school is rocked by an anonymous bomb threat, “perfect student” Gabriella Mallory is recruited to work on a secret crisis helpline that may help uncover the would-be bomber’s identity.

Gabriella Mallory, AP student and perfect-daughter-in-training, stands barefoot on a public toilet for three hours while her school is on lockdown. Someone has planted a bomb and she is hiding. The bomb is defused but the would-be-bomber is still at large. And everyone at Central High School is a suspect. The school starts a top-secret crisis help line and Gabi is invited to join. When she does, she is drawn into a suspenseful game of cat and mouse with the bomber, who has unfinished business. He leaves threatening notes on campus. He makes threatening calls to the help line. And then he begins targeting Gabi directly. Is it because her father is the lead police detective on the case? Is the bomber one of her new friends. Could it be her new boyfriend with his complicated past? As the story unfolds, Gabi knows she is somehow connected to the bomber. Even worse she is part of his plan. Can Gabi reach out and stop him? Or will she be too late?

Are You Still There

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