Wait For Me by Sara Shepard

Genre: Mystery

Casey has always been gifted academically and therefore is now a sophomore in college even though she’s only 17. Her father is very sick and her stepmother doesn’t really want her around and has suggested she live in the dorms this year. Casey really likes her roommate, her part time job, and her new boyfriend, Marcus. It feels like things are going really well for her, but when she meets Marcus’s dad for the first time she hears a mysterious voice tell her she’s “been a bad girl” and she starts to spiral a bit. She finds herself in a small town she knows she’s never been to before, but yet people recognize her and she definitely knows her way around. Is it possible she was here in another life? She starts to think she might be having flashbacks to the life of someone named Becky who died mysteriously the year Casey was born. Is it possible Becky is trying to tell her something about the way she died? Will she ever find out any answers or will people always suspect she’s got a mental illness?

This suspenseful mystery is unique in that the main character keeps getting visions from what she thinks is a previous life, but she doesn’t know what is real and what isn’t. She also lost her mom in a tragic fashion so it’s possible she is struggling to deal with that by making stuff up in her head. There are many people around her who all claim to want what is best for her, but it’s difficult to tell who is telling the truth and who should not be trusted. Fans of Shepard’s previous works will enjoy this fast paced title and it’s exciting conclusion. Recommended for those looking for a light read.

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

Genre: Action/Mystery

Nora O’Malley was raised by her con artist mother until her sister rescued her and tried to give her a more stable life. Her friends know very little about her dubious past, but when they are held up at gun point in a bank robbery, Nora’s mind immediately begins to think like a grifter to find a way out for them. The book then flashes back to difference identities Nora had when she was running cons with her mother, including name and appearance changes for each one. Nora was groomed by her mother to act differently in every situation so that they could ensnare their mark, who was always wealthy but sketchy enough that the odds they would report thefts to the police were slim. It’s obvious things fell apart at some point because Nora’s mom is now in jail, but what part did she play in getting her mom convicted? Is she safe from her past crimes or are there still people looking for her? Can she explain to her friends why her behavior is so calculated as she tries to free them from this bank heist?

This entertaining story grabs the reader’s attention right from the beginning, but keeps it by dangling mysterious facts about Nora’s past. It’s easy to care about her current predicament in the bank robbery, but also to want to know more about the things she did under her mother’s orders as a child. Also, what happened to bring it all crashing down? The story is well described so that it’s easy to follow despite the timelines jumps and develops characters in each situation that are fully realized and memorable. Readers looking for fast paced action will enjoy this title, but be advised there is some mature language and content.

Indivisible by Daniel Aleman

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Mateo is a typical NYC teen who goes to school, works at his father’s bodega, and dreams of being on Broadway one day. His parents fully support his dreams and want him to have opportunities they never had. Everything is turned upside down, however, when both of his parents are arrested for being in the U.S. illegally and suddenly Mateo feels like his Broadway dreams feel so insignificant now that he’s facing how to finish high school, take care of his little sister, and keep his father’s business going until he can hopefully return. The bills start piling up quickly, and as much as he doesn’t want to lose the only home he’s ever known, Mateo isn’t sure he can keep paying the rent on their apartment. Mateo is too embarrassed to tell his two closest friends what is going on and tries to handle everything himself. Eventually, it all starts to weigh on him and he must consider the possibility that his parents are never coming back. How will he ever finish school if they get deported? How will they survive in a country they have not lived in for 20 years? How will his little sister cope with their new circumstances?

This story tells a very accurate portrayal of how disruptive immigration policies can be to families. In Mateo’s case his family is just trying to make a decent living so that they can give the next generation opportunities that simply aren’t available in Mexico where they are from. Each character reacts to the situation differently and it’s easy to see where each person is coming from. Mateo’s embarrassment over his family’s situation is also very relatable to teens who get embarrassed by their families for anything they feel makes them stand out. It’s nice that Mateo’s family finds some support during this difficult time, but ultimately they know their lives will never be the same again. Recommended for those looking for a true depiction of this difficult issue.

Today Tonight Tomorrow

Genre: Romance

Rowan and Neil have battled throughout high school in everything from grades to class elections. Now it is the last day of senior year and they are both eager to hear who will come out on top for valedictorian. This is also the day where seniors can compete in a very challenging scavenger hunt for bragging rights and a nice cash reward. Despite their differences, they quickly realize that if they pair up for the race they have a better chance of winning. Their group of friends has grown a bit tired of their exhausting feud, but wants to support them as best they can. As the day goes on they begin to learn things about each other that they never knew and it changes how they see each other. Is it possible they wasted their high school years hating someone they should’ve been friends with? Now that they’re both going to different colleges is there still a chance they could form a relationship?

This book takes place in one day and yes a lot of plot happens as two high school seniors begin to learn about people they thought they knew pretty well. The setting is fun with the scavenger hunt and the characters are well developed so that it’s easy to care about what happens with these two. The mixed feelings they have about leaving high school are something many students can identify with. Recommended for those looking for a romance.

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Salahudin and Noor were best friends growing up, but when Noor expressed an interest in pursuing a romantic relationship things took a bad turn and they haven’t spoken much since. Salahudin’s mother has missed having Noor around and has been trying to get them to reconcile ever since. Salahudin’s mom is very sick and his dad is an alcoholic, which makes running their small hotel a challenge. When Noor relents and goes to visit Sal’s mom she is shocked to find her health has declined rapidly. She accompanies her to the hospital and fears the worst. Meanwhile, Noor is expected to work every hour she’s not at school at her uncle’s convenience store. He is not kind to her and blames her for the fact he had to quit college and raise her when her family was killed in an earthquake in Pakistan. He wants her to work at the store after high school so he can go back to college, but Noor wants more for her future even though she feels she does owe him for taking her in. The death of Sal’s mom brings him and Noor back together and Sal starts to realize that Noor is dealing with a lot at home and he isn’t sure how to help her. He’s also terrified they are going to lose the family business and contemplates taking some ill advised measures in order to keep that from happening. As Sal and Noor grow closer it becomes apparent that both of them are keeping secrets from the other and when they all come spilling out they are forced to deal with the terrible aftermath. Can they find a way to be together after everything that has happened? Can they make peace with a future they didn’t expect or plan?

This story connects the characters to the reader in a way that many readers will not expect. It’s easy to sympathize with the situations both Sal and Noor find themselves in and it’s easy to see why they would make questionable decisions based on the reality they have to deal with every day. Both characters want a good future for themselves, but also care about those around them which makes them very likable and believable high school students. Forgiveness is an important element as well because it’s the only way to relieve some of the anger and rage they have been dealing with due to their overall frustrations with their difficult lives. Poverty is another theme that is prevalent throughout and is written in a way that shows many of the myths about poverty are simply not true and it can happen to hardworking people who are trying their best. Finally, there are some great cultural references to the Pakistani community living in California and some of the challenges that brings. This is an Iowa High School Award Winner for 2023-24 and is highly recommended.

Stardust in their Veins by Laura Sebastian

Genre: Fantasy

This sequel to Castles In Their Bones follows the two remaining sisters, Daphne and Beatriz in the wake of Sophronia’s death. Daphne is still in denial that their mother could have had anything to do with her sister’s death and partly blames Sophronia for failing in the mission they have been trained to do since birth. Beatriz, meanwhile, has been imprisoned along with her husband for treason. Luckily, there are people willing to risk everything in order to help these sisters avenge Sophie and they do not want those efforts to be in vain. As Beatriz starts to explore the real possibility that she is an emphyrea she quickly learns that whatever her magical strength is is not a common one. Daphne is determined to find out exactly what happened to Sophie while also taking everything with a grain of salt, because up until now she has never had any reason to question what her mother tells her and it feels unnatural to stop trusting her now. As the stakes get higher, both sisters must choose where their loyalties lay in order to make the tough decisions they know are ahead. Can they get to the truth about their mother’s plan for them? How do the circumstances surrounding their birth explain their paths in life? Will they ever feel whole again without Sophie?

This was one of the most satisfying sequels that has been published in a while and fans will clamor for another installment. The plight of Beatriz and Daphne is so real and carefully created so that the reader cannot help but feel their anger, desperation, and pain as the true actions of their mother come to light. The action is so vivid that it’s easy to get caught up with both of their stories as the chapters switch between them. The characters are all really well described and despite how many there are, it’s easy to really become engrossed with what is happening with the supporting characters as well as the sisters. Highly Recommended.

Live Your Best Lie by Jessie Weaver

Genre: Mystery

Summer Cartwright is a very powerful social media influencer who has gathered secrets about those closest to her including her best friend, Grace, her ex-boyfriend, Adam, her former camp mate, Laney, and a sophomore who aspires to be just like her, Cora. Everyone has heard the news that Summer has secured a book deal and plans to release ALL of the secrets she has on everyone else. Therefore, everyone feels they need to be especially nice and accommodating so that she might change her mind. Summer is planning the biggest, splashiest Halloween party and insists these four come. However, shortly after everyone arrives they receive a strange text message that Summer will be dead in five minutes. The party guests assume it’s a murder mystery party and start looking for clues…but then Grace, Cora, Laney, and Adam stumble upon Summer’s body and they know it was all too real and that they will all be prime suspects. Who would kill Summer at her own party? How did they do it? Is there a way for them to clear their names before it’s too late?

This story covers a lot of issues including parental abuse, academic pressures, plagiarism, the dangers of social media, and even teen dating. Many readers will find something they can commiserate with as they get to know these characters. It’s told in alternating chapters so you get to see how each one of them feels about Summer and her murder, but it takes awhile before all of the secrets spill out and it becomes clear who the killer is. The ending is exciting and satisfying and will leave readers wanting to know more about these characters. Recommended for anyone who enjoyed One of Us is Lying.

Bluebird by Sharon Cameron

Genre: Historical Fiction

Eva arrives in New York City along with her friend, Brigit, who has suffered some mental trauma in the aftermath of the war. Both women know that there will be people who do not accept them due to their German accents, but there was nothing left for them in Berlin and Eva has a mission to find her father whom she believes is also in New York. The story alternates between Eva in New York after the war and Inge in Berlin during the war. It quickly becomes apparent why Eva desperately wants to find her father and the terrible deal she was forced to make in order to be able to come to America at all. They are fortunate to find people willing to help them acclimate to a new country by providing food and shelter, and mostly kindness. Eva has struggled to take care of Brigit for over a year now that she has reverted to a childlike state after her trauma. She’s hopeful she will be able to find a doctor who can maybe help her, but how can she hope to make her way in a country that sees her as the enemy? How can she prove to people that even though she was subject to Nazi teachings she no longer adheres to the doctrine? How can she fight against other Germans who still believe they are above others? How can she face her father again now that she knows the truth?

This historical fiction novel really illustrates what it was like for people living in Germany under Hitler’s rule and what it was like after the war when it all came crumbling down. As all the secrets and lies come spilling out there will always be people who don’t believe the truth or even still defend the teachings of the Nazis. It’s no surprise that Eva struggles to trust other people after what her life has been like thus far, but nevertheless she still has hope for humanity and desperately wants to do her best to right the wrongs of the past. This story shines a light on aspects of the war that aren’t discussed as much and fans of WWII fiction will very much enjoy the twists and turns of the plot.

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor

Jani and her sister, Zosa, have been on their own since their mother died and Jani definitely feels like she’s responsible for helping her sister find a fulfilling, happy life as a singer. When it’s announced that Hotel Magnifique will be coming to their town she is filled with hope that this could be the chance they have been waiting for. Hotel Magnifique is a magical hotel that appear in a different city every day and moves again at midnight. People are awarded entrance if they are lucky enough to be given a ticket. Each ticket is good for a two week stay and then they magically appear back in their town with no memory of the hotel at all apart from the fact they were there. Magic is deemed dangerous and unpredictable, so allowing those who contain magic to live and work in this hotel is supposed to help keep magic safe. Zosa is allowed entry to the hotel because of her singing voice, but Jani is denied both a ticket and a job and must remain behind. She refuses to allow Zosa to go without her and the hotel sends someone named Bel to collect her before the hotel moves at midnight. Jani ends up striking a deal with Bel and he agrees to get her a job as a maid on a trial basis. When they get to the hotel she is required to sign a contract, the same as everyone who enters, and she quickly learns that there are many things about this hotel that simply do not make sense. Every time she asks a question or sees something she shouldn’t, she is threatened with severe punishments. Plus, her sister is taken away and she has no idea how she is or how she’s being treated. As Jani’s friendship with Bel begins to grow, she learns that there are many secrets in this hotel that she would like to get to the bottom of before it’s too late to reconnect with her sister and she forgets her old life forever. Can she find out why they have hidden her sister away? What secrets is Bel hiding about both the hotel and himself? Why do the promises in the contract she is forced to sign seem to influence her differently than everybody else?

Fans of fantasy books will enjoy this very unique tale about a girl trying to unravel the many secrets of this magical hotel. There are many characters to keep track of, but they all end up being important to the story and its resolution. The ending has many big reveals and twists that readers will enjoy as they follow along with Jani on this crazy journey of discovery. Jani’s love for her sister is a central motivator for everything she does and it’s easy to see what motivates others along the way too and why they may or may not be willing to help her. This is really a very captivating fantasy story with a lot of surprising plot elements.

Two Truths and a Lie by April Henry

This suspenseful story begins with a group of theater students heading to a competition out of town. They are surprised by a blizzard and soon get off course and are forced to stop at a run down motel. The motel is pretty good size, but only has a handful of people who also got caught in the storm. The owner, Stuart, seems both defensive of his family’s motel as well as a little embarrassed by it. Nell, the main character is quickly drawn to Knox, a boy from another group of teens who seek refuge in this motel for the night. The two groups all agree to meet in the common room to play games and wait out the storm. They each write down two truths and a lie and throw it in a basket and as they draw them out they have to figure out not only who wrote it but which one is the lie. When it’s Nell’s turn she draws an unsettling entry that states this person has killed before and they all get spooked, especially when it’s revealed that 20 years ago there was a double homicide in this very hotel that lead to its decline. Will they all survive this storm or will they be picked off one by one? Who can they trust among this random group of strangers all stuck together in this storm?

Fans of April Henry will really enjoy this title because there are many plot twists that add to the suspense of being stuck in a remote hotel during a blizzard where it is impossible to seek help if needed. The characters include two groups of teenagers, their supervisors, and a handful of random male motorists who all claim not to know one another. Yet, they know that whoever is at the very least trying to scare them is among the few people at this hotel. Reluctant readers will especially enjoy this fast paced thriller that dives into the action very quickly in the story.

Secrets So Deep by Ginny Myers Sain

Genre: Mystery

Avril makes the bold decision to return to a summer theater camp that her mother drowned at 12 years prior. After her mother’s death, her father changed her name from April to Avril so no one initially knew who she was when she applied. It’s a very exclusive camp that only a small number of applicants get to go to. After arriving she makes some friends pretty quickly, but she also learns about the legends that the camp is haunted and calls people to the water. The story goes that at night a deep fog surrounds the camp and makes it difficult to navigate around and sometimes people lose hours where they don’t remember where they were. There’s also a rumor that in the fog you can hear voices calling to you that can lead you astray if you’re not careful. Avril doesn’t believe in ghosts, but does want to learn the truth about what happened to her mother that fateful night. The owner of the theater camp is famous for a play she wrote many years ago and that is the play they will be performing at the end of camp. Avril is thrilled when she gets the lead part and desperately wants to do it justice. She’s playing opposite the owner’s son, who seems to be keeping her at a distance. Those who knew her mother want to try and help her remember, but each story and artifact only brings up more questions in Avril’s mind about what she was like and what happened to her. Is this theater camp really haunted? Will she ever learn the truth about what happened to her mother? Who can she trust around her?

This slightly creepy mystery story was truly unique and the ending in particular will excite mystery fans who feel they have seen it all. The characters are well developed and there are enough suspicious happenings and characters that it is difficult to figure out the truth of what happened 12 years ago. The play is an interesting backdrop as it helps to piece together the mystery as well as to bring out a lot of emotions from the characters. Recommended for anyone looking for a good suspenseful mystery.

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

Genre: Fantasy

Corayne, the daughter of a pirate, has always known her absent father had Cor Blood, but never thought it would really impact her life. However, she has always felt the desire to leave her small town and see the world. Her mother, whose pirate name is Hell Mel, absolutely refuses to ever let her come on a voyage, however. So, when an Elder and an assasin make the journey to meet her she feels compelled to listen to what they have to say. Corayne learns that her father was killed by his once abandoned twin brother, Taristan, and that he is using a stolen spindleblade to cut holes into different realms and create an unstoppable army. As she also has Cor Blood, she is one of the few people in the world who can stop him, as long as she has her own spindleblade. She agrees to go on a mission to stop this destruction before it is too late, but Taristan is very determined to rule over all and will not be easy to stop.

This first installment is very compelling not only for the quest ahead of them, but for the very colorful characters they meet along the way. It’s easy to become invested in each character’s past as well as their motivations for helping Corayne complete such a difficult and dangerous mission. It takes a little while for all of the pieces to fall into place, but fantasy readers won’t mind because the setup is complex and unique. Aveyard’s fans will be clamoring for what happens next after the very dramatic ending. Highly recommended for fantasy readers.

The Locker Exchange by Ann Rae

Genre: Mystery/Romance

Brynn was leaving school late one night when she heard a cry for help and even though it was dark and eerie, she went to see what was going on. She was stunned to find a classmate’s body on the football field and in the distance she could see a hooded figure running away. Despite her witnessing someone fleeing the scene, police are convinced it was a tragic accident. She knows she must uncover the truth about what happened to this innocent girl. Meanwhile, her assigned p.e. locker opens directly into a boy’s locker named Kyler. Kyler is a popular jock on campus, but the two quickly become friends and decide to try and put together what really happened that day. Kyler is often privy to extra details because of his social status and is eager to share his findings with Brynn. However, there’s someone out there who does not want this incident investigated further and they realize they are putting themselves and their friends in danger. They also start to suspect that this terrible murder is actually a part of something much bigger and more sinister going on in their town. Will they get to the bottom of what is going on before it’s too late?

Brynn and Kyler are both very invested in solving this crime and do find themselves in some dangerous situations because of that. The ending has a few dramatic moments, but wraps up quickly. There are some interesting side characters that readers will want to know more about, but overall the story moves at a very brisk pace and some details come a little too easy for the characters. Recommended for fans looking for a quick mystery.

A Thousand Heartbeats by Kiera Cass

Genre: Romance

Princess Annika of Kadier knows it is her duty to marry someone she does not care for in order to secure the throne. She is more than willing to make this sacrifice for her people and their long term chance of peace. Meanwhile, Lennox is a Dahrainian and very much believes the throne was stolen from his people. He has done terrible things on the orders of his vicious stepdad in the hopes of proving his loyalty. When Lennox is given the chance to prove his worth as a leader he decides to sneak into Kadier and wreak havoc, but unexpectedly he comes across Annika (whose fiancee immediately flees and leaves her behind). Lennox takes Annika back to his home as a prisoner, but she is a lot feistier than anyone predicted and Lennox cannot help but feel respect for her. As their stories begin to connect they both start to realize they may not have all of the information about their countries’ respective histories. Can they trust each other? Can they trust those around them who may have been feeding them misinformation in order to control them? Can they move past their difficult pasts?

Fans of Kiera Cass will like this title even though it’s a touch predictable and tidy in places. The main characters are engaging and interesting and there are a few surprises in the plot, but many of the revelations won’t seem that astounding to readers. Nevertheless, it’s easy to root for these two as they try to find the truth and both truly want what is best for their people and that does not come without some steep losses for both of them. Anyone looking for a romance similar to Cass’s other books will enjoy this title.

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Genre: Fantasy

This exciting retelling of Rumpelstiltskin centers around Serilda, who lives alone with her father at their mill, as she intervenes one night to save two forest creatures from the dreaded Erlking. The Erlking can only hunt during full moons, but everyone is on high alert during these times as he has been known to kidnap children for his own amusement. Serilda can’t bear for him to get his hands on these forest creatures so she hides them and pretends she is gathering straw in the middle of the night to spin into gold, a gift she tells him she was given by a god. In reality, she was blessed by a god, but its the god of stories. Ever since she can remember she has always been able to tell fantastical stories to anyone who would listen. Unfortunately, many see her as a nuisance who brings bad luck in her wake. The Erlking believes her story at first, but returns in a month to force her to come to his castle to prove her ability to spin straw into gold. She knows if she cannot perform this feat by morning that he will know she lied and will torture and kill her. A teenage boy appears to help her, but only for a price. As she survives her first night she knows he will continue to summon her forever unless she can break the terrible spell that gives the Erlking his powers. How can she save those who have been tortured by him for centuries? What other secrets does this castle hold? Why can no one remember who lived in this castle before the Erlking?

Fans of Marissa Meyer’s books will not be disappointed with this new series. The characters in this story are multi-layered and often surprising as more of their background is slowly revealed. Serilda and most of the other characters are no stranger to loss and must persevere during difficult times, but as bad as things get they never lose hope completely and always hope for a better tomorrow. Serilda feels like she is the key to breaking the terrible spell that the Erlking holds over this castle and all the people around it, but doesn’t know how. The ending is particularly compelling and many will be eager to get to the next installment.