Over on Book Riot this week:
- A look at the bookish life of none other than Britney Spears
- This week’s “3 On A YA Theme” was all about farm kids.
Faith Sunderly and her family are moving temporarily to the island of Vane, where her natural scientist father has been hired to help excavate a dig site. The Reverend Erasmus Sunderly made headlines years ago when several of his fossil finds appeared to verify Biblical stories, something much of the British public desperately needs in this time when Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is making waves in the scientific community. But more recently, Faith’s father’s work has come under more scrutiny, and though he tries to hide it from his family, most scientists now consider him a fraud.
Faith is fourteen and hungry for two things: scientific knowledge and her father’s affection. The former cannot come with the latter, however, because Faith’s father is of the common mindset of the time that women and girls are incapable of deep thought and scientific study. So Faith collects her knowledge in private, secretly opening her father’s trunks and sneaking out at night to see what mysterious plant he is keeping in the cave by the sea.
But then the unthinkable happens – Faith’s father is found hanging limply over a tree limb, dead. The people of Vane begin to whisper that he killed himself, but Faith is sure it was murder, and she’s determined to prove it – to unmask the murderer herself and get justice for her beloved father. And she means to do it with the assistance of the plant in the cave, the Lie Tree, a tree that thrives in the dark and will give hazy truths to anyone who feeds it – and the world – lies.
Faith is smart, sometimes scarily so, and her scheme begins as planned. She wants the Tree to reveal the murderer of her father, but in order for that to happen, according to her father’s papers, she must convince the world of a lie. The more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that will be revealed to the liar. Faith is an astute observer of men, so she knows that the easiest lie is one that people want to believe. But Faith is blind about many things too. This book is not just about the lies we tell others, but the lies we tell ourselves.
It’s also about women and girls, then and now. Faith is not an astute observer of women, and watching her interactions with her mother are often painful as an adult reader. Faith herself has bought into the mindset of her father in subtle ways, though she does not realize it. And while the rest of the world has underestimated her, to their detriment, she has underestimated its women, to her cost.
It’s about relationships, too, not just those between parents and children, but between friends, in particular the burgeoning friendship between Faith and a local boy named Paul. It’s such an interesting friendship, one that begins antagonistically and slowly transforms into a partnership, with neither person particularly caring if the other likes them. One of the book’s greatest scenes is between Faith and Paul near the end of the book, where what they’ve shared together has finally bonded them in a lasting way and they reveal their own truths – pieces of themselves – to each other.
The Lie Tree, aside from exploring these often heavy themes I’ve described above, is also a cracking good mystery and revenge story with a fascinating fantasy twist. I was unsure about the identity of the murderer (and even the murder itself) up until the final reveal. It’s a satisfying ending that puts all the pieces together and gives greater meaning to all that came before. And by the end of the book, Faith is fundamentally different from who she was at the beginning, though she is still inimitably herself.
The Lie Tree won the Costa (formerly Whitbread) Book of the Year Award in the UK, one of the few book awards I know of that pits children’s books against adult books. With all the trash articles about young adult literature being published now, it’s not hard to surmise that few adult readers would place a children’s book above an adult book, no matter its quality. But The Lie Tree was chosen, and this fact further illuminates how truly remarkable it is, beating out books by Kate Atkinson and Anne Enright, among others.
I’ve been participating in my workplace’s Mock Printz considerations, and this one is at the top of my list right now. It’s a masterpiece of a book, one that shares something new with each page turned. It’s a book I wish I had written, a book I wish I had read when I was fourteen. Hand this to readers who want a feminist book, who love their genres well-blended, who want their leisure reading to make them think deeply while also telling a hell of a good story.
As promised, here’s the second Debut YA post in August. This time, it’s for YA debuts that hit shelves this month.
Like always, this round-up includes debut novels, where “debut” is in its purest definition. These are first-time books by first-time authors. I’m not including books by authors who are using or have used a pseudonym in the past or those who have written in other categories (adult, middle grade, etc.) in the past. Authors who have self-published are not included here either.
All descriptions are from WorldCat or Goodreads, unless otherwise noted. If I’m missing any debuts out in August from traditional publishers — and I should note that indie/small presses are okay — let me know in the comments.
As always, not all titles included here are necessarily endorsements for those titles. Get ready to get reading.
Cherry by Lindsey Rosin
Four best friends make a pact to lose their virginity before they graduate high school.
Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia
High school senior Reshma Kapoor will stop at nothing to gain admission to Stanford, including writing a novel.
Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
As she struggles to recover and survive, seventeen-year-old homeless Charlotte “Charlie” Davis cuts herself to dull the pain of abandonment and abuse.
Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West
Sixteen-year-old Bristal discovers she is a shapeshifter, one of three remaining elicromancers tasked with guarding the realm of Nissera against dark magic while manipulating three royal families to promote peace.
The Monster on the Road Is Me by JP Romney
In Japan, a teenage boy with narcolepsy is able to steal the thoughts of supernatural beings in his sleep, and uses this ability to defeat a mountain demon that’s causing a string of suicides at his school.
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
When her unusual powers mark her as the one destined to lead the war against the seven Ancients, Henrietta trains to become the first female sorcerer in centuries–though the true nature of her ability threatens to be revealed
Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin
The three Babcock sisters must travel to a Mexican clinic across the border so their mother, ill with leukemia, can receive alternative treatments. The sisters’ world is about to shatter under the weight of an incomprehensible betrayal. . . an illness far more insidious than cancer that poisons their home
The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.
Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.
Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.
Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?
Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.
And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.
Unscripted Joss Byrd by Lygia Day Peñaflor
Joss Byrd, Americas most sought-after young actress, navigates the personal pressures of working on a new film and staying true to herself.
Whatever by S.J. Goslee
Junior year is going to be the best ever for slacker Mike until he loses his girlfriend, gets roped into school activities, and becomes totally confused about his sexual orientation after sharing a drunken kiss with a guy.
Over on Book Riot this week (& last):
When I was a teen, the idea of a young adult political thriller was unknown to me. That genre belonged squarely in adult fiction, in the realm of books by people like Tom Clancy who wrote about old (read: anyone over 35) men traveling across the world to wrangle dictators or stop submarines from launching missiles. Of course, Ellen Emerson White’s series The President’s Daughter was around, but my teenage years fell squarely between the release of the third and fourth books, so they just weren’t on my radar.
In recent years, though, I’ve seen an uptick in political thrillers for the YA market. I suspect it has a bit to do with Scandal, though I’m unsure how many teens actually watch that show. Several of the books below have been marketed as “Scandal for teens.” But today’s teens are also perhaps more politically aware, at least on a surface level, than previous generations thanks to the saturation of social media, where political memes are legion and a willing audience exists for the discussion of any and every political ideology.
I’m speculating about the reasons for the rise in these sorts of novels, but I’m certain that the books on this list (four of which I’ve read myself) are treats for politically-minded teens. Though none of the protagonists are of voting age, they all find themselves involved in national or international politics in some way – their parents are diplomats or politicians, or they find themselves accidentally in possession of a dangerous piece of information. Most touch on current political events broadly (terrorism, corruption, inequality, globalization), though they also tend to stay away from more specific details, which gives them a more perennial shelf life.
Descriptions are via Worldcat.
Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton
A seventeen-year-old aspiring reporter decides to write a scathing exposé on an elite Washington, D.C., private school, but her life changes when her subject comes to her for help
The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
When her grandfather develops dementia, sixteen-year-old Tess, who has been keeping his Montana ranch going, is whisked away to Washington, D.C., by a sister she barely knows and thrown into a world of politics, power, wealth, love triangles, and family secrets. | Sequel: The Long Game | Kimberly’s reviews
All Fall Down by Ally Carter
There are many powerful people along Embassy Row who want Grace to block out all her unpretty thoughts. But Grace will not stop until she finds out who killed her mother and make the killer pay. | Sequel: See How They Run | Kimberly’s reviews
Zero Day by Jan Gangsei
Eight years after being kidnapped Addie Webster, now sixteen, resurfaces under mysterious circumstances, significantly changed, and her childhood best friend, Darrow Fergusson, is asked by a national security advisor to spy on her to uncover whether she is a threat to her father’s Presidency or the nation.
The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall
When sixteen-year-old Avery West learns her family is part of a powerful and dangerous secret society, and that her own life is in danger, she must follow a trail of clues across Europe. | Sequel: Map of Fates
Sekret by Lindsay Smith