Kimberly Giarratano

Best friends Evelyn and Mina were 10 years old when they summoned a spirit to do their bidding. They wanted to clear Evelyn’s father of suspicion in the mysterious drowning deaths of three Long Island teenagers known as the Cliffside Trio. Six years later, the girls are still paying the price: Mina has a painful scar on her wrist in the shape of a sand dollar, and Evelyn’s family has collapsed. Even the girls’ friendship couldn’t survive the fallout. 

When Evelyn gets caught in an academic cheating scandal, she summons another spirit to salvage her college prospects, but the consequences are even more disastrous. The only person who can help Evelyn out of her supernatural mess is Mina, but it won’t be easy. The malevolent spirit not only haunts the girls but also draws power from tormenting the souls of the Cliffside Trio. Evelyn and Mina’s attempts to investigate and banish the spirit reveal secrets and cover-ups, not to mention a budding romance. It’s soon clear that they’ll have to risk everything to discover the truth.

In The Drowning Summer, Christine Lynn Herman’s elaborate ghost mythos departs significantly from typical haunted house narratives. The souls of the novel’s dead dwell in the ocean, where they can be called upon by the living to vanquish problems, as Evelyn and Mina did when they were children. Readers who enjoy detailed world building will find their appetites thoroughly satisfied by Herman’s creative framework.

In addition to a compelling ghost story, however, The Drowning Summer is a deft exploration of both girls’ grounded, authentic family dynamics. In a well-intended but misguided attempt to protect Mina from danger, Mina’s mother unintentionally puts her daughter in harm’s way. Meanwhile, Evelyn’s older sister, who is still reeling from their parents’ divorce and their mother’s abandonment, causes additional hurt to their suffering father.

Herman struggles at times to craft a mystery as absorbing as her story’s supernatural and interpersonal elements. For instance, the novel establishes that Evelyn’s father had the means to commit the Cliffside Trio murders, but never indicates what his motive would have been. Most mystery enthusiasts will nonetheless find the compounding clues and the novel’s resolution fulfilling.

Fans of Shea Ernshaw, Kerri Maniscalco or the CW’s “Nancy Drew” will love The Drowning Summer’s blend of supernatural thrills, cold-case mystery and sweet romance. It’s an empowering tale about working through family trauma and rising above expectations.

Christine Lynn Herman’s The Drowning Summer blends supernatural thrills, a cold-case mystery and sweet romance for a haunting tale perfect for fans of the CW’s “Nancy Drew.”

Rafael “Flaco” Herrera and his buddies, Magaña and Tiny, live in an impoverished Houston neighborhood where their choices for the future are limited. They can decide between working low-paying jobs or joining the military and possibly winding up dead, like Flaco’s cousin Carlos.

So when the boys have an opportunity to buy and fix up a rare 1959 Chevy Impala that Magaña’s godfather is storing in a barn in a south Texas town called Diamond Park, they jump at the chance. They plan to restore the car to its former glory and sell it for cash. Tagging along on the trip is Susi Taylor, a neighborhood girl Flaco has a serious crush on.

What starts as a youthful adventure quickly becomes a nightmare when a man is murdered and Susi is arrested for the crime. Feeling responsible, the boys embark on a journey into Mexico to clear Susi’s name. Their quest puts their lives and their families in jeopardy, but also transforms them into the men they have always hoped to become.

Author Phillippe Diederich, the son of Haitian exiles who grew up in Mexico City, has penned a poignant and powerful story about a compelling group of Mexican American teens. Flaco knows his mother wants more for him than the meager living she makes. He wants to become an artist, but she’s pushing him to study medicine or law. Magaña, whose father is in prison, worries that his only option will be to work at the local AutoZone. And despite his stellar grades, Tiny can’t apply to college because his parents entered the country without documentation when he was a child. Instead, he lives in fear of being discovered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and deported. Through their stories, Diederich offers a moving depiction of the injustice, poverty and trauma that many new Americans experience every day.

In Mexico, Flaco begins to find his way to hope when he reflects on how his life would have been different if his mother hadn’t come to the U.S. “It’s weird how one decision made by one person changes everything for everyone who comes later,” he thinks. There’s hope, too, when tough-talking Magaña has an epiphany of his own. “We need to shoot for more than what they expect from us,” he tells Flaco.

Tense, raw and gorgeously written, Diamond Park will resonate with any reader who, in a world filled with ample reason for pessimism, strives instead for optimism.

Tense, raw and gorgeously written, Diamond Park follows an adventure that becomes a nightmare when Flaco’s friend is falsely accused of murder.

On a cold January morning, the ghost of Todd Mayer watches as his naked, frozen body is discovered in a park by someone passing by. He listens as two police detectives question his family and private-school classmates about his whereabouts the night before. They don’t question his friends, though, because Todd doesn’t have any friends. Instead, the detectives focus their investigation on one of Todd’s male teachers, who took an unusual interest in him.

While Todd silently observes the aftermath of his death, a girl named Georgia, whose brother was one of Todd’s classmates, is dealing with issues of her own. Carrie, one of the most popular students at their all-girls’ school, has recently decided she and Georgia should be friends, but Georgia’s feelings about Carrie are decidedly more complicated than just friendship. Then Georgia realizes she might know something about what happened to Todd on the night he died, setting Georgia and Todd on a collision course with the truth.

Author Mariko Tamaki is best known for This One Summer, a graphic novel she co-authored with her cousin Jillian Tamaki that received Caldecott and Printz Honors. In Cold she creates a fast-paced mystery reminiscent of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones.

The novel alternates between Todd and Georgia, with Todd’s chapters in third person and Georgia’s in first. Tamaki gives Todd’s sections a fitting sense of detachment: “Todd didn’t want to see his dead body anymore. Not because it upset him. It just didn’t interest him anymore. Like a plate of cold, half-eaten food on the table after dinner.” Meanwhile, Georgia’s chapters brim with emotion as her feelings for Carrie conflict with her insecurities. Throughout, Tamaki nails the dialogue, peppering it with the perfect amount of slang and teenage witticisms.

Sharp and authentic, Cold doesn’t just take its title from the chill of a wintry day but also from the cruelty and isolation of adolescence. Readers who love intense, suspenseful storytelling will devour it in one sitting.

Sharp, intense, authentic and deeply suspenseful, Cold is a fast-paced mystery guaranteed to be devoured in one sitting.

What if the events in the fairy tales you heard as a child didn’t really happen that way at all? This is the question posed by Martha Brockenbrough’s Into the Bloodred Woods , a savage spin on happily ever after. 

The novel takes place in a mythical kingdom ruled by a king, his gold-spinning queen and their twin children, Ursula and Albrecht. Ursula, a serious and thoughtful princess, can transform into a bear, which gives her tremendous physical strength. She dreams of the day that she will become queen and can free other shape-shifters from the oppressive rules that limit their freedom. Cruel Albrecht fancies himself an inventor, but his horrifying creations often involve unwilling test subjects. When the king dies, his kingdom is divided between the twins until Albrecht invades Ursula’s half, usurping his sister’s land. To save her people and protect herself, Ursula must destroy her brother or die trying.

Brockenbrough offers a thoroughly feminist novel that reimagines many well-known fairy tales. In her versions, Little Red Riding Hood falls in love with the wolf, while Hansel and Gretel are kidnapped by Albrecht and forced into servitude. Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella and the Pied Piper are also referenced, but Brockenbrough reconfigures their stories so that they’re far less Disney and far more Grimm.

Toward the end of the novel, a character muses, “Why was it a crime to be more than one thing? Why could people not be exactly who they chose to be in the world? Who was harmed when people lived their own truths?” It’s a striking moment that will resonate with teens who have asked themselves similar questions about their own world. As potent an allegory as the fantastical stories upon which it draws, Into the Bloodred Woods reminds readers of the power such stories hold—and of their own power to rewrite them.

This savage spin on happily ever after offers a thoroughly feminist allegory as potent as anything the Brothers Grimm dreamed up.

In Carly Heath’s debut YA novel, set on a small Norwegian island in 1904, a trio of young people reject their community’s traditional values and strive to live together.

Asta Hedstrom, who is deaf in one ear, must either marry or face a future as an impoverished spinster. She has resigned herself to marrying Nils Tennfjord, a boy she does not love. Her friend Gunnar Fuglestad has just survived a horrific accident that killed his mother, concussed his brother and required that Gunnar’s arm be amputated. His family’s farm will also soon be lost because of unpaid taxes. Meanwhile, Gunnar’s boyfriend, Erlend Fournier, has been kicked out of his wealthy home for refusing to abandon Gunnar.

After a violent altercation leaves Gunnar with a spinal injury and unable to move his legs, Erlend purchases a cabin for the two of them to live in. With little money of her own and no employable skills, Asta rejects Nils’ proposal and joins them, deciding that she’ll learn the blacksmithing trade with Gunnar’s brother. The trio’s best chance at survival is to win a local horse race and its hefty cash prize, but they’ll have to go up against the best and most dangerous thoroughbreds in the region.

Alternating between Asta’s and Erlend’s points of view, The Reckless Kind explores the bravery and brutality required to carve out unconventional paths in a time in which otherness was shunned and people were rejected to the fringes of society because of their sexuality, mental illness, religious beliefs or disabilities. Heath takes great care in conveying Asta and Erlend’s optimism in spite of Gunnar’s harrowing physical challenges, even reassuring readers in an author’s note, “No tragic ending here.”

Readers who enjoyed the equestrian culture of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races will enjoy the heart-pounding horse race in the final act, but Heath’s thoughtful portrayal of headstrong teenagers who successfully defy the expectations of their time has broad appeal.

In this thoughtful tale, set on a Norwegian island in 1904, a trio of young people reject their community’s traditional values and strive to live together.

It’s 1958, and a serial killer is targeting the Midwest. Their crimes are dubbed the Bloodless Murders, because the victims are all found exsanguinated. The police are baffled by the absence of blood at the scenes, as well as the lack of any signs of struggle.

When the Carlson family is murdered in the small Minnesota town of Black Deer Falls, local police find a teenage girl, Marie Catherine Hale, in the Carlson home, drenched in their blood. They arrest her and charge her as an accomplice, certain that she couldn’t have carried out the murders on her own. But Marie is unwilling to talk to investigators.

Instead, Marie offers to tell her story to the sheriff’s son, Michael Jensen, an aspiring reporter. Thoughtful and unassuming, Michael is a receptive ear for the tale Marie has to tell, even if both a tenacious prosecutor and the townsfolk resent him for it. But as Michael begins to fall for Marie, he struggles to be both her confessor and her savior.

All These Bodies is narrated by Michael, so readers only see Marie through his eyes. Her confession is rife with deflections and uncertainty. It’s clear that she has experienced trauma, though she never reveals its details and is generally spare with information about herself. Readers will more readily connect with Michael’s best friend, Percy, who supports Michael’s dream of escaping their small town, even though he knows it will mean losing him. The two share a deep bond, and Percy is vehemently protective of Michael, sometimes at a great personal cost.

Author Kendare Blake is best known for her paranormal horror novel Anna Dressed in Blood and her dark fantasy series, Three Dark Crowns. All These Bodies, a historical mystery with touches of gothic fiction, crime and the paranormal, is a notable departure for her. Blake is sparse with historical details, which keeps the story moving but can also make its 1950s setting seem arbitrary. However, her depiction of Marie’s misogynist treatment by the press feels both accurate to the period and ripped from contemporary headlines. Readers who enjoy mysteries heavy with ambiguity and light on straightforward, spelled-out solutions should plan for Blake to keep them reading well past bedtime.

When the Carlson family is murdered in the small Minnesota town of Black Deer Falls, local police find a teenage girl, Marie Catherine Hale, in the Carlson home, drenched in their blood.

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