Fifteen Seconds of Normal by Alex Marestaing

fifteen-seconds-of-normal

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Romance

# of Pages 292

**special review**

Kaeya is a recent transfer who is hiding the fact that she has Tourette’s from her classmates.  She wants people to accept her for who she is and not the disease she deals with daily.  Thatcher learns that his father has left his mother when he finds his mother crying inconsolably and he has to take his sister to school without even taking the time to shower or comb his hair.  Unfortunately, it is picture day at school and he takes the worst photo of his life.  Even more unfortunate for him is that a classmate makes a meme out of the picture and it goes viral.  As Kaeya desperately tries to fit in and earn a date with her crush, Thatcher wonders if he’ll ever survive this humiliation.  Through unexpected circumstances they come together and begin getting to know each other.  Could they be exactly what the other person needs?  Could this be the beginning of something special?

This book tackles issues that many other books don’t, such as the influence of social media on teenagers and Tourette’s, which is a syndrome many teens probably do not know much of anything about.  Yet, the focus of the book is not on hate, judgment, or humiliation but instead on love, patience, and kindness.  Kaeya and Thatcher are extremely engaging characters and their thoughts and emotions are carefully crafted so that the reader wants to know more about each of them and how their relationship will continue to develop.  This is a really engaging, unique story that will take teens by surprise.  Recommended.

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

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Genre:  Romance/Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  343

Emmy and Oliver were best friends as young children because they lived next door to each other.  Then, one day Oliver’s dad kidnapped him after school and life was never the same for either of them.  Oliver moved around quite a bit with his father and was led to believe his mother did not want him anymore.  Emmy’s parents responded by becoming very overprotective and barely letting her out of their sight.  At the beginning of Emmy’s senior year she hears the news she has both wanted and dreaded:  Oliver has been found.  What will he be like?  Will he remember her?  Will they still be friends?  How will this change everything yet again?

This book was very enjoyable and properly explores the difficulties for both Emmy and Oliver surviving an ordeal like this.  Oliver’s emotional health is probably not discussed in as much length as would be realistic, but it is also told through Emmy’s perspective so she wouldn’t necessarily know everything he’s going through.  The events of the story eventually build to a head and are resolved very acceptably.  The story has an interesting concept, but does not rely on that and instead relies on the fulfilling development of the characters to truly carry the story.  Fans of Sarah Dessen will enjoy this title.

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti

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Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  546

A group of teens who all have unexplained talents have found each other one by one and formed a group they call the Zeroes.  They all have different ideas for how to handle their bizarre powers, however.  Bellweather can take the energy of a group and focus it on one goal and he believes they should stick together and try to do important things with their powers.  Flicker is blind, but can see using other people’s eyes.  Scam has a mysterious voice that will say whatever it takes to get him what he wants and often has disastrous results.  Crash has the ability to crash electrical devices and because of that has struggled to find a place where her powers are anything but destructive.  Anonymous can disappear and be forgotten in any situation, which has led to a lonely life.  Finally, Mob can change the energy of a crowd to feel whatever she wants it to.  Scam had previously distanced himself from the rest of the zeroes when they had a disagreement, but it forced to call on them for help when a video of him using his voice goes viral and he is hauled in by cops for answers about a local bank robbery.  Can the zeroes come together to help one of their own or will the situation just get worse as they try to con their way out of it?  Will the situation bring them together or drive them further apart?

This has been on my reading list for awhile and it took a little bit to get into the characters, but eventually the story really takes off and readers enjoy a lot of adventure and action.  The talents of the characters take a lot of explaining as some are more complicated and require examples to fully understand.  All in all, fans of fantasy adventures such as the Michael Vey series or Blackout will enjoy the first in this series.

The Infinite In Between by Carolyn Mackler

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Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  462 p.

This novel focuses on five students (Mia, Jake, Whitney, Gregor, and Zoe) who are all placed together in a freshmen orientation group.  They all have to have a bonding experience so they end up deciding to write letters to their future selves, hide them in the school, and then promise to meet in four years to open them.  The rest of the book shows how each of their high school experiences go and how even though they are not best friends their lives all touch at times throughout high school. Zoe is living with her aunt since her movie star mother is in rehab.  Jake is dealing with the fallout from admitting he’s gay.  Whitney is struggling to understand why her popular friends act like they do while also navigating her parents’ divorce.  Mia is struggling to find her identity vs. what everyone wants her to be.  Gregor is a band nerd who desperately wants to find the courage to talk to Whitney.  Eventually, their lives all intersect again at graduation.

For readers looking for truthful, engaging writing that does not hold back from issues that many teens do deal with in high school this would be a great pick.  It does not go into detail on many life changing events for its characters, but the purpose of the story is not to spend too much time on any one character but instead to show how people from all groups and cliques in a high school still connect in different ways throughout their four years.

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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Genre:  Realistic fiction/mystery

# of Pages:  372 p.

Tess has lived with her grandfather ever since her parents died in a car accident when she was small.  Her older sister, Ivy, went away to college and never really came back so Tess knew things were about to unravel when Ivy showed up at her grandfather’s ranch.  Despite her best efforts, Tess could no longer hide her grandfather’s dementia from the world and Ivy had come to put him in a treatment center while Tess was forced to pack her bags and come to D.C. to live with the sister she hardly knew.  Only after she gets to D.C. does she realize what her sister actually does for a living:  she’s a fixer for wealthy and powerful people who have serious problems. Tess is expected to be a fixer like her sister when she starts her new school by the children of wealthy and powerful people who attend, but Tess is not interested in following after her sister’s example.  Then, a supreme court justice suddenly dies and a girl at her school confides to Tess that she does not think it was an accident.  Can Tess find out what’s really going on in D.C. without alerting her sister or anyone involved?  Will Tell and Ivy ever mend their relationship?

This is a fun novel for mystery or spy fans (fans of Ally Carter will enjoy this title).  The characters are fun and getting more developed all the time and no doubt will continue to do so as the series continues.  The mystery was exciting and provided a satisfying ending.  The idea of “fixers” has only started getting discussed in the last five years or so and it’s fun to see a young adult series focused around such an interesting career.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Genre:  Romance/Realistic Fiction

# of pages:  438

Cather does not like to go out drinking like most college freshmen she knows.  Instead, she likes to stay in and write fan fiction for a fantasy series she is obsessed with.  Meanwhile, her identical twin has tried very hard to distance herself from Cath so that they can start anew in college.  Cath slowly assimilates to college including getting used to her unusual roommate and her friendly male friend who seems to be in Cath’s room a lot.  There is a fair share of drama in Cath’s life (including a father who is struggling with his new empty nest), but the one thing that always balances things out is her love of writing, which is why she’s so excited for her fiction writing class.  Unfortunately, even that does not go exactly as planned…

Fans of John Green or any of Rainbow Rowell’s other books will become obsessed with these characters.  The story is interesting enough, but it’s the characters that make it hard to put this one down.  Cath is very relatable to anyone who’s ever been new to a place and trying to find your way.  She has trouble knowing who to confide in, who to trust, and who to run from.  Eventually she starts gaining more confidence in her new life and starts making proactive choices instead of reactive ones.  It’s a very compelling coming of age story that will leave readers wanting more.

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

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Genre:  Futuristic Fiction

# of Pages:  432

Jess lives with her military father, pregnant mother, and three sisters.  Due to the fact their mother is a commoner, her father was never allowed to legally marry her, but he has always taken care of them like they were legally his family.  Secretly, Jess likes to run the court of fives, which is an intricate and physically grueling competition that involves different challenges in a variety of patterns to figure out.  Jess knows that if her dad ever found out she was doing this he would be furious, which is why she’s kept it a secret.  The day before Jess is scheduled to compete in her first match, her father unexpectedly returns from war and insists on taking them to the competition.  She is forced to sneak out and compete or else she’ll lose her entrance fee that took her a year to save.  She is forced to throw the match at the end because winners must take off their masks and she cannot risk her father learning her secret.  However, she does not realize the attention her actions will bring to her family and the ferocity in which someone with power will work to destroy everything she holds dear.  Ultimately, it is the court of fives she must do in order to bring respect to herself and her family, but will it be enough?

Fans of futuristic novels like The Testing will love this book.  It is full of plot twists, excitement, and adventure.  A main part of the story even features an Indiana Jones’ type adventure that is hard to put down.  Jess loves training for the court of fives partly because it encourages her to think strategically, but in the end she is forced to use that kind of thinking in order to protect her family from a vicious adversary.  It is a fast paced, exciting story.