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.
2016-17 Iowa High School Award Winner
Sam Hopkins is the son of a preacher so he is often not treated the same as other kids, but he is not immune to bullies either and on one particular day while running he inadvertently draws the attention of three of the biggest bullies in school. He refuses to back down to them and ends up joining their gang for a short while and they teach him how to steal cars. Eventually he comes to his senses and realizes that he could get himself into real danger, but just as he’s telling them he won’t steal actual cars with them he sees them pick on Jennifer, who is an unusual girl in school who often speaks of demons and other strange things. The bullies are about to go after her when Sam steps in and allows her to escape while he himself takes a terrible beating. Afterward, everyone praises him for saving “poor, crazy” Jennifer and Sam begins to realize that all of her “premonitions” might in fact be real. Can he convince anyone that she might really be telling the truth about her visions? Will he continue to get into more trouble if he keeps staying involved with her?
This story is difficult to describe without giving the heart of the story away. Sam is confused by Jennifer and her condition, which makes the reader confused as well. Meanwhile, everything that happens to Sam does eventually come together to make an interesting and complete story, but for a long time several of the pieces do not seem to go together at all. Sam is a well crafted, complex character who is easy to identify with even if the reader has nothing in common with him. For those who stick with the story past the beginning they will be pleasantly surprised by the action and fast paced resolution.
# of Pages: 473
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Mystery
Iowa High School Award Winner 2016
Rory is thrilled when she gets accepted into the prestigious Theden Academy, an all expense paid prep school with an excellent reputation. Shortly before she leaves, she learns that her mother, who died in childbirth, also attended Theden and left her a symbolic necklace. This story is set in the future where everyone is dependent on their smart phones and uses an app called Lux that makes literally every decision for them from what to major in to what to eat for breakfast. As Rory settles in she meets a young barista at a nearby coffee shop and he helps her see what a disadvantage it is to always have an app make decisions for you. She begins using Lux less and less and in the process notices more around her, including the shady practices of her new school. Is someone out to get her? What really happened to her mother and did she actually die during childbirth?
This is a fun, fast paced story that fans of futuristic fiction will enjoy. The story is detailed and has many revelations that unfold in a timely way. The characters are all well developed and it’s easy for the reader to see each of their motivations. Despite there being quite a market for futuristic dystopian-esque books this one is unique enough to stand out and will keep readers engaged.
# of pages: 277
Jillian does not believe in paranormal activity, but yet she works running her father’s paranormal investigation firm ever since he left her to fend for herself and her dying mother. She tells clients what they want to hear in order to earn money to pay the electric bill, but that does not stop her from judging those who do believe in the paranormal. When a high school classmate offers to pay big money for her to find her missing boyfriend, Jillian jumps at the chance until the mysterious new student, Sky, inserts himself into the investigation claiming that there is supernatural activity at work here. As Jillian and Sky work the case she faces the possibility that supernatural occurrences might actually exist.
Fans of mysteries and fantasy will enjoy this light, fun story about a teenage girl trying to do it all. There is a lot about Jillian’s backstory that has not been uncovered yet, including a mysterious obituary she finds of herself dated six months in the future listing a sister among her family whom she’s never heard of. There’s plenty more stories Jillian can and probably will tell in future volumes.
# of Pages: 360
2016 Iowa High School Award winner
Jazz is the only son of a notorious serial killer named Billy. Billy reportedly murdered over 200 people and Jazz is struggling with the doubts that he could end up just like him. He does not want to become a killer, but he worries it’s already inside him waiting to come out. When he hears of a murder in his small town he goes to the scene to help out since he “knows how serial killers work.” The police reject his help, but eventually come back to him when it’s discovered this new murder is mimicking one of Billy’s early murders. Who would be recreating his father’s grisly murders and why? Can Jazz help the police before more people lose their lives? Can Jazz prove to everyone and even himself that he is not going to follow in his father’s footsteps?
Fans of mystery books will enjoy this title because it has a good amount of plot twists, suspense, and colorful characters. Jazz is truly battling with himself because he will always be the son of the infamous Billy Dent and he needs to figure out what that means for the rest of his life. He does not want to be like his father, but having been raised by him he sometimes does not see life situations the same way that others do. Luckily, he has a small but powerful support system that is helping him realize that he is capable of valuing human life. There is a bit of gore in this title, but nothing worse than an episode of CSI or Criminal Minds.
# of Pages: 248
Miss James “Mori” Moriarty has been living a tough existence since her mother died several months before. Her father has become a heavy drinker and often takes his frustrations out physically on her and her three brothers. She knows she needs to do something to protect her brothers but she isn’t sure what at this time. Meanwhile, she becomes friendly with a strange boy at her school, Sherlock Holmes. They encounter a murder in the nearby park and are shocked to see the police are severely inept and make terrible and lazy assumptions. They decide to investigate on their own in order to find the true killer and are horrified to discover this was merely one amongst several similar murders. There is a serial killer out there the police aren’t even looking for! Can Mori find the killer and save her family from an increasingly bad home life?
This is a fun mystery story for fans of mystery fiction and TV shows. Sherlock Holmes is impressive in his deductions and observations as always and it’s refreshing to see a different take on the character of Moriarty. There is a bit of violence in it and Mori’s father is definitely a force to contend with in her life, but Lock and Mori try very hard to never lose hope that they can in fact prevail as long as their intentions and resolve are strong enough.
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Mystery
# of Pages: 340
Riley witnessed the couple she was babysitting for get murdered and has never been the same since. She blames herself for not doing more to help them. She has tried multiple counselors and the latest one has suggested she come to a weekend-long retreat with other troubled teens. They are not there very long, however, when masked men come in and declare they are holding them hostage until a wealthy teen’s dad pays a hefty ransom for them. Things begin to go wrong almost immediately and it quickly becomes obvious that they may not leave alive. Riley is now getting her chance to see if she were in a life threatening situation again if she would run or stand and fight.
Fans of mystery thrillers will enjoy this title because it is a lot more than it first appears. The beginning even lags a bit as they struggle to find a way to defeat their kidnappers, but then things take a turn when everything Riley thought was happening is completely turned on its head. For the most part any inconsistencies in the motivations of the characters are explained away and the resolution is exciting and captivating. Fans of mystery books and shows should check out this title.