Yeah, I hear it's that time of year. You're donning your backpacks weighed down with textbooks and homework and bidding your beach gear goodbye. Woe! I mean, I bet you're kind of excited to see friends you haven't seen in a while, right? Or maybe that crush you meant to call all summer but never actually, um, got up the nerve? (Totally been there.) I get it, though. School can be a bummer. I don't think I know anyone who likes homework, even for their favorite class. So I thought I'd share a few reads with you that could lend a little perspective. At least you're not starting the school year in one of these books.
SHADOW HILLS by Anastasia Hopcus (Egmont 2010)
Persephone "Phe" Archer has been having dreams since her sister died. Nightmares, really. And when she found out that her sister had been having them, too, Phe knew where she had to go: Devinish Prep in Shadow Hills. Her sister had written about it in her journal, had even requested information from the school. And Phe just knows that there are answers there, answers she can't find at home in California. But as soon as she steps foot on campus, she knows this isn't your average boarding school. For one, the nearby cemetery is just a little too nearby. As is the hospital. And when she meets Zach, a strange, beautiful boy who seems to attract metal like a magnet, Phe falls hard -- and her curiosity is intensified. When Zach finally confesses what Phe already suspects -- he's different, descended from the people who survived the epidemic that wiped out Shadow Hills in the 1700s -- he puts her in danger. But Phe isn't exactly average either, and as her visions -- and her feelings for Zach -- intensify, she realizes that even if it kills her, she's going to uncover what's going on in Shadow Hills. This paranormal mystery will have you guessing until the very end, and while I wouldn't want to go to school in Shadow Hills, I absolutely can't wait to visit Devinish Prep again in a sequel. (Please?!)
MY SO-CALLED DEATH by Stacey Jay (Flux, 2010)
Karen Vera has been transported from her fabulous position atop a cheerleader pyramid to DEAD High. She'd known there were risks to being a "flyer," but she didn't imagine that she'd die -- let alone become "genetically undead." Now Karen has to deal with things like her weirdo roommate who mostly cries and performs goth-y rituals under a blanket. And then there's the snacking on animal brains to prevent rot. And, oh yeah, someone in school has been harvesting her fellow student's brains and way too many signs are pointing to crushworthy Gavin. This hilarious mystery will have you hooked from page one, with its fabulously imagined world in which the teenage undead can play, complete with plenty of zombie puns. I'm really hoping that Stacey Jay will continue Karen Vera's story as a series, even if I'm not inclined hang out at the DEAD High campus any time in the near future.
CANDOR by Pam Bachorz (Egmont 2009)Candor is the perfect city where perfect teens live perfect lives and make their perfect parents proud. Oscar knows why -- his father, the founder, developed technology that makes even the most rebellious teens conform. Oscar gets kids out…for a price. Then he meets Nia, an artist and a rebel, and he finds himself smitten. Oscar wants to change – he wants to save Nia, whether that means getting her out or hiding her in plain sight. But the powers that be are stronger than even Oscar realized, and soon he is asking himself what sacrifices he is willing to make for love. Candor is terrifying and heartbreaking, a story that clearly resonates a Stepford vibe and keeps the reader guessing through the last page. It will make you feel a little crazy. There is nothing in the world that could make me register for classes at a high school in Candor. But this book is gripping, stunning, and the twisted sort of read that makes you want more.