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Twenty Questions for Gloria

Martyn Bedford. Random/Lamb, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-553-53939-4

With an eye for adolescent introspection, Bedford (Never Ending) sets this story in present-day England, where 15-year-old Gloria has just returned to her parents after having run away for two weeks with new student Uman Padeem. How their unauthorized adventure came about is revealed in flashbacks and through direct questioning about their escapade by a detective inspector. For Gloria, Uman's impulsivity, passion, and fearlessness embodied everything she felt was missing from her normal, public school life. And so one day, the two simply walked away from it all. The story initially focuses on Uman's possible whereabouts after Gloria's return, yet Bedford's narrative is less a mystery and more a portrayal of an adolescent grappling with existential dilemmas. The transition from the events of Gloria's disappearance to the present day builds suspense and raises questions about whether adulthood requires settling into conformity. Uman's character is underdeveloped, but readers will empathize with Gloria's desire for escape while hoping that she can find a middle ground that allows for adventure without recklessness. Ages 14–up. Agent: Tina Wexler, ICM. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Railhead

Philip Reeve. Capstone/Switch, $16.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-63079-048-6

Reeve (the Mortal Engines series) sets this exciting science fiction adventure in a far-future universe where humans inhabit 1,000 worlds connected by K-gates, portals that allow inexpensive and virtually instantaneous travel across the galaxy. The only way to pass through a K-gate is by riding sentient and often eccentric trains, "barracuda-beautiful, dreaming their dreams of speed and distance as they race from world to world." Zen Starling is a young "railhead," a train aficionado, who supports his disabled mother through petty theft on a variety of worlds until he's approached by Nova, a strong-willed android, and Captain Malik of Railforce, the agency that polices the interstellar network. Nova wants to hire Zen to work for a mysterious revolutionary known as Raven; Malik accuses the bewildered Zen of already being so employed. A wild chase ensues across many planets, involving numerous spectacular train battles. Featuring gorgeously described alien landscapes, sharply drawn characters (some not even vaguely human), and genuinely awesome technology, this thrilling and imaginative escapade will captivate the Carnegie Medal–winner's many fans. Ages 14–up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Glass Sword

Victoria Aveyard. HarperTeen, $19.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-06-231066-8

In this startling follow-up to her debut, Aveyard sends readers hurtling back into the world of Red Queen with a fierce battle scene, reunions with old friends, and a story arc fraught with deception and betrayal. The powerful Silvers continue their reign, but the Red rebellion is rising, led by Mare Barrow. She plans to track down other mutant "newbloods" like herself to form an army capable of defeating the crown. Collecting newbloods is dangerous work, and the death toll mounts in a race against King Maven, a manipulative man who is slaughtering the mutants in a bid to force Mare back under his control. The story exposes painful truths about real-life bias and bigotry as well as the brutal costs of war, and children are not always spared gruesome fates. At the epicenter, Mare is an exquisitely flawed heroine who at times gives into her basest desires for revenge, raising questions about her own morality and revealing striking similarities to Queen Elara, whom she so despises. A cliffhanger finale should leave fans anxiously awaiting the next installment. Ages 13–up. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary & Media. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 04/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Keep Me in Mind

Jaime Reed. Scholastic/Point, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-545-88381-8

Ellia Dawson and Liam McPherson were madly in love until Ellia had a terrible accident while on a morning run with Liam, losing her memory and sense of identity. Now, two years later, high school junior Ellia has no idea who Liam is. In chapters that alternate between the perspectives of both teens, Reed (the Cambion Chronicles) uses Ellia's retrograde amnesia to test the depth of their romantic bond, à la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. As Ellia tries to move forward with her life, Liam sits down and writes the entirety of their love story, which Reed includes in lengthy italicized passages in Liam's chapters. Though there are hints of racial tension between their families (Ellia is black; Liam is white), Reed focuses more on how Ellia's parents blame Liam for their daughter's accident. With many fits and starts, Liam and Ellia eventually find their way toward a new beginning in this touching if predictable romantic drama. Ages 12–up. Agent: Kathleen Ortiz and Danielle Barthel, New Leaf Literary & Media. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Ultimate Truth

Kevin Brooks. Pan Macmillan (IPG/Trafalgar Sq., dist.), $11.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-4472-3896-6

Thirteen-year-old Travis Delaney is certain that the car crash that claimed the lives of his private investigator parents was no accident, and he is determined to uncover the truth. First, he has to look into their unsolved final case: the disappearance of a teenage boxer named Bashir. The more Travis learns, the more danger he's in: MI5, the CIA, and a mysterious agency called Omega are also interested in Bashir, who may have ties to a terrorist organization. Assembling an unconventional team of allies, including his retired military intelligence grandfather and a local gang, Travis is propelled by his relentless pursuit of information and his desire to avenge his parents. First released in England in 2014, this thriller marks a solid opener for the Travis Delaney Investigates series, setting up the resourceful hero and his myriad friends. Brooks (The Bunker Diaries) never forgets that his protagonist is a relatively inexperienced teenage boy up against ruthless adults, and delivers a fast-paced, entertaining adventure that keeps the odds relatively even and the stakes high. Available simultaneously: The Danger Game. Ages 10–14. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X.

Frank Beddor, with Adrienne Kress. Automatic (PGW, dist.), $17.99 (408p) ISBN 978-0-9912729-2-1

Fans of Beddor's Looking Glass Wars novels will delight in this first book in a prequel series focusing on Hatter Madigan, the Mad Hatter–inspired bodyguard from the earlier books. As the book opens, Hatter has just turned 13, and tradition dictates that he enter the Millinery Academy to train to become one of Wonderland's guardians. Hatter's class is the first to use a state-of-the-art training simulator built by combining science and the imaginative power of caterpillar thread. Code-named H.A.T.B.O.X., it provides tangible holograms for cadets to fight. As Hatter moves up the ranks, he begins to notice cadets acting oddly and holograms appearing where they shouldn't. Not knowing whom to trust, Hatter and his friends work together to find out what's behind the aberrations and save the day. Beddor and Kress introduce a wealth of entertaining new characters and keep things moving with fight scenes and fascinating worldbuilding. Readers new to the larger world of Beddor's series might be a bit lost, but both new readers and existing fans should be left anticipating the next book. Ages 9–12. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Tale of a No-Name Squirrel

Radhika R. Dhariwal, illus. by Audrey Benjaminsen. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4814-4475-0

Originally published in India as The PetPost Secret, Dhariwal's intriguing but convoluted debut opens as a sinister cloaked cat, the Colonel, murders his former mentor in pursuit of the key needed to read the mysterious Map of Brittle. The action then switches to Squirrel, a message-delivering slave in this world of animals, whose fate changes when he drinks a glass of forbidden wine. With the help of his friends, Squirrel learns that the key to the Map of Brittle is locked away in his mind and can be freed only by drinking a series of elixirs. As the animals unravel the clues that lead them to each drink, they are pursued by the Kowas, assassin crows working for the Colonel. Whoever gets the key and map first has the power to be free of slavery, which Squirrel longs for, but in the wrong hands they could be used to enslave everyone. The plot can feel Byzantine and some of the worldbuilding details are corny, but the story is filled with action and twists as it explores friendship, family, and individuality. Benjaminsen's handsome charcoal portraits further flesh out Dhariwal's world. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Deadly 7

Garth Jennings. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $13.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-05275-9

British film and music video director Jennings makes his children's book debut with this globe-trotting, playfully preposterous, mystery-adventure. Nelson, a shy 11-year-old, sees his life unravel when his older sister, Celeste, goes missing during a school trip to Spain. Nelson is sent to stay with his eccentric Uncle Pogo, a handyman, while his parents attempt to locate her. Paranormal chaos ensues as Nelson and Pogo, working on a plumbing problem at St. Paul's Cathedral, discover a secret room where Nelson falls onto a contraption that triggers the seven deadly sins inside his soul; they manifest as a crew of misfit monsters who accompany him everywhere. The creatures and their unusual talents play an integral role as Nelson embarks on his own search for Celeste. Jennings weaves magic, humor, and a generous amount of suspense into a story that, at its heart, focuses on familial love and loyal friendship. The silliness of the plot is amplified by Jennings's wiry black-and-white line art, and a peek at the key characters' whereabouts at book's end suggests that another outing could be in the offing. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Change Up

Derek Jeter, with Paul Mantell. S&S/Jeter, $16.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-4814-6445-1

Jeter follows The Contract and Hit & Miss with a third baseball book based on his own childhood, using straightforward storytelling to explore another one of his "10 Life Lessons" (in this case, "Deal with Growing Pains"). Derek, now 10, can't wait for this year's Little League season; his father has finally agreed to coach him and his two best friends will be his teammates. But when Gary, Derek's nemesis from school, shows up on the same team determined to prove that sports are "a complete waste of time," Derek sees his championship dreams vanishing. Insult is added to injury when Derek's father ignores Gary's antics and bad attitude while penalizing Derek for not being a better teammate. Derek's "do the right thing" can be grating, and the overall focus on teaching readers a principle to live by feels preachy. Jeter is at his best when he focuses on baseball action, the camaraderie of kids who live and breathe to play the game, and the magic of being part of a team. In that regard, loyal readers of this series will not be disappointed. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Follow the Moon: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles

Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson, illus. by Meilo So. Chronicle, $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4521-1241-1

In a gently empowering story about grassroots activism and facing problems head-on, environmentalist Cousteau and author Hopkinson (Knit Your Bit) introduce Viv, a shy girl who gets to know her new South Carolina schoolmates and environment though a class assignment. Viv and her peers are asked to find a problem facing the community, make a plan to fix it, and take action. After finding a dead baby sea turtle on the beach, Viv learns that turtle hatchlings instinctively follow the moonlight to the water, and the bright lights from beachfront vacation homes can lead them inland. Viv takes the lead on the project, calling it "Lights Out for Loggerheads," canvassing residents and requesting that they shut off outside lights and close curtains after dark. The operation is successful, and the children watch the turtles "scurrying, scurrying over the sand and into the shimmering sea." So's (Otters Love to Play) airy watercolor, pencil, and ink artwork creates a distinctive sense of place, bringing the essence of breezy, coastal evenings to the pages. Ages 5–8. Authors' agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. Illustrator's agent: Sally Heflin, Heflinreps. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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