Renee Kirchner

In Dana Reinhardt's second young adult novel, Harmless, three young girls tell a few harmless white lies to keep themselves out of trouble with their parents. This interesting premise allows the author to build a story in which the stakes keep getting higher as the girls dig themselves in deeper with each lie.

Fifteen-year-old freshmen Emma, Anna and Mariah attend a private school in Orsonville, New York. Anna and Emma have been friends for years, and when Anna starts hanging out with Mariah, Emma worries about losing her best friend. Everyone knows about Mariah, the girl with the older boyfriend from public high school. Anna and Emma soon realize that Mariah may be their ticket to popularity, and they agree to hang out with older high school boys to impress their new friend.

In a single defining moment, Anna and Emma lie to their parents and join Mariah in sneaking out with three older boys. Telling the first lie proves to be so easy, they do it again a week later. This time the girls get caught when Emma's mother attends the movie Emma claimed to be seeing. Rather than come clean, the girls concoct an even greater lie to keep themselves out of trouble but this time they go too far. In trying to take the easy way out, the girls threaten their friendship and shock their entire community. Woven into the story are subplots about the relationship each girl has with her parents and a budding romance between Mariah and Emma's brother, Silas.

Though Reinhardt's work is fiction, teen readers will find the situations realistic and believable. Lies, like a house of cards, are stacked one upon another until the whole stack comes crashing down to reveal the ugly truth. Original and provocative, Harmless has an honest ending that doesn't try to wrap all the loose ends into a pretty package. This novel is sure to be passed from teen to teen. Renee Kirchner is a freelance writer and educator in the Dallas area.

In Dana Reinhardt's second young adult novel, Harmless, three young girls tell a few harmless white lies to keep themselves out of trouble with their parents. This interesting premise allows the author to build a story in which the stakes keep getting higher as the girls dig themselves in deeper with each lie. Fifteen-year-old freshmen […]

Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's first young adult novel examines the all-too-common dark side of high school in which powerful groups of teens carry out cruel acts against students who threaten their reign of popularity and control. In Haters, the arrival of beautiful and confident Pasquala Rumalda Quinata de Archlete ( Paski ) at Aliso Nigual High threatens Jessica Nguyen, the leader of the haters. Jessica is especially upset when her boyfriend, Chris Cabrera, takes an interest in Paski.

Paski knew her life was about to change when her father returned home to Taos after a two-week business trip to Los Angeles dressed like a 20-year-old pop star. After slaving away as a starving artist for years, he gets his big break as the head of an animation team for a movie and announces that the family is moving to L.A. immediately. Paski loves her life in Taos, including her two best friends, her new boyfriend and her position as co-captain of the school's mountain bike team, and she doesn't want to leave.

Haters is a literary departure for Valdes-Rodriguez, who is known for her best-selling adult novels, The Dirty Girls Social Club and Playing with Boys. She creates a well-rounded and likable character in Paski, whose move to sunny Southern California thrusts her into an unfamiliar world filled with shiny cars, palm trees and shopping malls. Paski soon realizes that she doesn't fit in with the ultra-thin, beautifully dressed girls who dominate the culture at her school. In a difficult balancing act, she struggles to find her place while maintaining her own identity. Fresh, original and ultimately heartwarming, Haters will be passed from teen to teen as word of mouth spreads about this courageous coming-of-age story.

Renee Kirchner is a freelance writer and an educator in the Dallas area.

Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's first young adult novel examines the all-too-common dark side of high school in which powerful groups of teens carry out cruel acts against students who threaten their reign of popularity and control. In Haters, the arrival of beautiful and confident Pasquala Rumalda Quinata de Archlete ( Paski ) at Aliso Nigual High threatens […]

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