Fall into a young adult novel, and leave worries behind. These new teen reads are every bit as exciting, absorbing and brimming with timely tops as those aimed at older audiences.
"The Suffering Tree" by Elle Cosimano; Disney-Hyperion; 368 pages; $17.99.
Elle Cosimano recently won praise for "Holding Smoke," having been nominated for a Bram Stoker award. Her latest novel proves to be just as intelligent and fascinating. It begins when Tori Burns and her family leave Washington, D.C., for small-town Chaptico, Maryland and they inherit a house that is named appropriately. Things immediately aren't normal, and Tori witnesses a young man crawl out of his grave under the gnarled oak tree in her new backyard. She then proceeds to fall for him while digging for the property's twisted truth, and she tries to break the curse in the tangled branches of the Slaughter family tree.
The paranormal plot coupled with voodoo magic, a slave ship, a family with generations-old secrets and a flawed Elle who struggles with self-harm make "The Suffering Tree" an edge-of-your-seat nail-biter. Cosimano seems to be a prolific, exciting, new YA author to keep an eye on for more fantastic reads.
"Geekerella" by Ashley Poston; Quirk Books; 320 pages; $18.99.
The perfect fangirl novel for Comic-Con season is Ashley Poston's completely modern and timely tale starring geek girl Elle Wittimer, who is obsessed with a classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her dad. She discovers a contest whose winner will receive an invite to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball starring the main actor of the series' remake, so she scrapes together tips from her job at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother's back. You get where this is going; the parallels to a modern "Cinderella" are ripe. But the teen actor set to play the Federation prince is less than thrilled about ExcelsiCon. It turns out the Starfield fandom has written him off as a heartthrob and not a true actor, and he's had it with autograph requests and photo sessions.
As in any Cinderella tale, there's got to be a romance. And things look up considerably for Darien when he meets Elle.
Part truly fun ode to nerd culture, part light love story, part homage to a classic fairy tale, "Geekerella" is a fun ride for those who believe in the magic of fandom. In facts, fans of Ashley Poston can find her on the internet hanging around geek-related tweets as @AshPoston.
"The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas; Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins; 444 pages; $17.99.
A hard-hitting plea for equality in the battle against police brutality and racism is perfectly timely. Angie Thomas' gut-wrenching novel is stunningly penned and humanly brilliant. Her story centers on 16-year-old Starr Carter, who lives in two worlds: the poor black neighborhood where her home is and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. When she witnesses the tragic shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer, Starr is the only witness and the only one to stick up for Khalil as the police ignore the case.
New author Thomas does a brilliant job portraying the ongoing strength of a girl who comes of age under extraordinary circumstances that could endanger her life. Her novel is searingly honest in the way it unflinchingly addresses these real issues with intelligence and heart.
"Gap Life" by John Coy; Feiwel & Friends/MacMillan; 215 pages; $17.99.
A refreshing look into one young man's decision to delay college for a year should reassure teens that there's never just one path to success and happiness. About the same time Cray doesn't feel right about immediately attending the same college his father did, he meets a girl taking a gap year who helps him find a passion. Cray learns a lot about himself and others at his first job, a home for developmentally disabled adults, including how the real world can be more satisfying than any university, and much more difficult.
A tragedy, a new friend, real-world experience and the chance to grow up a bit help Cray to eventually move on with his life. Readers, especially boys, will relish the take-your-time approach to John Coy's story. Bottom line: Teens should never feel pressure and uneasiness about traveling a different path that's in their hearts.
"American Street" by Ibi Zoboi; HarperCollins; 336 pages; $17.99.
Award-winning author Ibi Zoboi draws upon her own experience as a young Haitian immigrant to present this exploration of America with magical realism and Voodoo culture. Fabiola Touissant's mother is detained by U.S. Customs and Immigration after the pair leave Haiti, and Fabiola must navigate her new home in Detroit with loud American cousins, a new school and a surprising romance. With comparisons to "The Outsiders" in that the book is about young people losing and finding their way, "American Street" could be the story of any young immigrant.
Made exciting and absorbing are Zoboi's storytelling gifts full of wandering spirits, magic and mystery. A beautiful book about a girl's struggle to find her way amidst new surroundings, "American Street" is a must-read.