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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: YA Mysteries, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 7 of 7
1. Thursday YA book review: I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

From the publisher:

protect the diamonds
survive the clubs
dig deep through the spades
feel the hearts


Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That's when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That's when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who's behind Ed's mission?


My thoughts:

Although The Book Thief is Zusak's hit novel, I really like his earlier books. It's hard to find YA with a strong guy protagonist, and Zusak nails these every time.

I Am The Messenger is gritty, and would technically fall in the New Adult category here in the States (Ed has graduated high school, even if he sort of stalled out since). I liked the mystery of the cards, of the messages, and of the muscle dudes coming to beat Ed up. There's plenty of humor, and the whole novel hinges on character, which is what makes it so great.

Loved Ed's dog, the Doorman.

I Am The Messenger is one of those books that transcends genre classifications like YA, mystery, whatever. It's just a great book. Highly recommend for anyone over fourteen.

0 Comments on Thursday YA book review: I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak as of 2/12/2015 2:09:00 PM
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2. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

cover of I Hunt Killers by Barry LygaNo one in the town of Lobo’s Nod wants to believe that the dead girl in the field was the victim of a serial killer.

Jazz knows better.

Spying on the cops and crime scene tech gathering evidence, his father’s words echo in Jazz’s mind.

Most of these guys, they want to get caught. You understand what I’m saying? I’m saying most of the time, they get caught ’cause they want it, not ’cause anyone figures ’em out, not ’cause anyone outthinks ’em.

Anything that slows them down—even if it’s just by a few minutes—is a good thing, Jasper. You want them nice and slow. Slow like a turtle. Slow like ketchup.

Always check the hands and feet. And the mouth and ears. You’d be surprised what gets left behind.

And Jazz is sure that, despite the sheriff’s insistence otherwise, Lobo’s Nod has another serial killer on its hands. After all, Jazz knows the signs, knows how serial killers think—because his father was the most notorious serial killer of the century, and Billy Dent liked to share his wisdom with his young son.

Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers is one twisted, yet morbidly compelling, book. (Especially for one that was “accidentally” created!) The mystery aspect of tracking down the serial killer is very good, but what really elevates the book is Jazz and all his contradictions. He has a couple of troubling, misogynistic thoughts, yet it’s easy to see why, with Billy Dent as his father and teacher, he might think in such a way. Jazz knows how to read people and how to manipulate them, and takes advantage of this—just like his father. Even though he fears that most people think he’ll end up like his father. And deep down, he’s afraid they’re right.

Other readers have compared this book to the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsey (which I haven’t read or watched) and Dan Wells’ John Cleaver series (only read the first book), but I really think I Hunt Killers has a ton of appeal to fans of Chelsea Cain’s Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series. (Speaking of which, Cain’s newest book, Kill You Twice, is coming out next month.) I mean, the charisma of Billy and Gretchen, the grotesqueness of their crimes and their perverse genius, Jazz and Archie’s inner turmoil and the fact that their connection to Billy/Gretchen is public knowledge…

But getting back to I Hunt Killers, many of the crimes are gruesome and disturbing, and described as such. Not in a sensational way, but serving in part to emphasize how Jazz’s childhood—brainwashed into being an assistant of sorts to his serial killer father—continues to affect him.

Book source: public library.

Cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire.


Filed under: Fiction, Reviews 1 Comments on I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, last added: 7/31/2012
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3. Reality Check by Peter Abrahams


reality checkIn spite of its abrupt ending, I enjoyed Reality Check, Peter Abrahams’ new YA mystery. While the voice occasionally struck me as being more like that of a middle grade novel than YA (and this is definitely a YA novel), it’s very easy to read, with a likable protagonist. I’ll be recommending it to teens, and not just those looking for a mystery.

High school classes are just a means to an end for Cody. He needs to pass his classes to play football, and said classes aren’t worth the effort of trying to get good grades when he finds it hard to comprehend much of what is being taught. Staying eligible is all that matters, especially now that sophomore year is over. Junior year, after all, is when Cody can really catch the attention of college football coaches.

Cody’s girlfriend, on the other hand?

“I got a B in calc,” Clea said.

“Wow,” said Cody. There were two kids taking calc in the whole school, Clea—a sophomore like Cody—and some brain in the senior class. No one thought of Clea as a brain. She was just good at everything: striker on the varsity soccer team, class president, assistant editor of the lit mag; and the most beautiful girl in the school—in the whole state, in Cody’s opinion.

But a real person, as he well knew, capable of annoyance, for example. When Clea got annoyed, her right eyebrow did this little fluttering thing, like now. “Wow?” she said.

“Yeah,” he said. He himself wouldn’t ever get as far as calc, not close. “Pretty awesome.”

She shook her head. “I’ve never had a B.”

For a second or two, Cody didn’t quite get her meaning; he’d scored very few Bs himself. Then it hit him. “All As, every time?”

She nodded. (p. 5)

After a cheap shot injures Cody’s knee and ends his football season, Cody drops out of school and starts working full-time. One morning, the local newspaper’s headline catches his attention: “Local Girl Missing.”

Clea’s rich father has sent her to a boarding school in Vermont, and though Cody broke up with Clea, he is still worried. The next morning, Cody receives a letter in the mail. Clea sent it before she disappeared, and there’s something about the letter that bothers Cody. Is he reading too much into the letter, or is it really a clue? Determined to find Clea, Cody decides to go to Vermont himself in order to find her.

The mystery element of Reality Check does take a while to develop, but in the meantime, Abrahams fleshes out Cody, making him sympathetic and giving readers a great deal of insight into his character. I particularly liked how Cody doesn’t think of himself as a smart guy. Unlike many of the sleuths in children’s and YA mysteries, who are obviously bright and/or overachievers, Cody is an average guy—below average, academically—who gets involved in the investigation because of how much he cares for Clea. And where Cody’s poor grades and decision to drop out are concerned, the tone of the narrator is pretty matter-of-fact; they’re not presented as negatives or something to be ashamed of, just as part of who Cody is. (Okay, and the story wouldn’t work if Cody was in school, because then he couldn’t go to Vermont in the middle of a semester.) Once the mystery surrounding Clea’s disappearance emerges, it is suitably suspenseful and the motivations of the main players’ plausible. While I don’t think this is a great book, I did like it and would also like to see more YA books similar to it.

Among the reviews: The Compulsive Reader, Oops…Wrong Cookie, Reading Rants!, The Undercover Book Lover.

Book source: library.

1 Comments on Reality Check by Peter Abrahams, last added: 8/21/2009
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4. Come See Me Over At Sleuth, Spies and Alibis


I'm the new kid on the (cell) block over at Sleuths, Spies and Alibis, a group blog all about YA and MG mysteries. Cool, right? Come say hi and check out the blog; there's lots of good stuff to read.

Oh, and the best part? No one has warned them to hide the silver yet, so shhh....

0 Comments on Come See Me Over At Sleuth, Spies and Alibis as of 1/1/1900
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5. Cat Girl’s Day Off by Kimberly Pauley

You don’t have to be a cat person to get a kick out of Kimberly Pauley’s Cat Girl’s Day Off. It’s a comedic mystery, a bit like Michele Jaffe’s Jas Callihan, only without the footnotes and with a haughty pink cat.

Natalie Ng’s real Talent is being able to understand what cat’s are saying, but she often feels like invisibility is her unofficial talent. That all changes when Oscar, one of her best friends, shows Nat a video on YouTube. Sure, the video is hilarious…if you don’t understand what the cat in the middle of it is saying.

Someone is impersonating a famous celebrity blogger. Nat is the only one who realizes it, but would the police really listen to a teenager whose only evidence is the howls of a cat? Oscar and Melly, her other best friend, insist that Nat must do something, however. Together, the three of them manage to kidnap the cat and try to figure out the identity of the impersonator.

Overall, Cat Girl’s Day Off is an enjoyable and very funny mystery. Nat herself is a likable and self-deprecating narrator, and some of her interactions with various cats are a hoot. That said, I do think the book is overlong—it dragged in places and could have been shorter without losing any of its effectiveness. Still, it didn’t make the book any less funny. I also would have appreciated more context about how Talents work, especially since {semi-spoiler! highlight to read! ** part of the mystery aspect hinged on different Talents ** end semi-spoiler}. Still, I’d definitely hand this teens looking for a humorous mystery (it’s not a YA cozy, but close) or to teens needing a break from the darker, heavier mysteries.

Book source: public library

Total 48 Hour Book Challenge time spent reading/reviewing: 6 hours 4 minutes


Filed under: Asian-Americans in YA Lit, Fiction, Reviews 1 Comments on Cat Girl’s Day Off by Kimberly Pauley, last added: 6/10/2012
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6. Why Birmingham Is Where It's At

I've been a bit quiet around here lately, as you may have noticed. I'd like to say that I'm off having summer fun, but it's more like I've been hiding out from the HEAT. July is hitting me full force here in ol' Mississippi. I'm catching myself saying things like, "Lord, have mercy," and "It's a scorcher, y'all."

It's a little frightening, I know.

But I thought I'd come out of air-conditioned hiding for a moment to tell you about a cool event in Birmingham this October: the Southern Breeze chapter of SCBWI is having their annual fall conference (Writing and Illustrating for Kids) October 19-20.

And I'll be on the faculty with a workshop on YA and MG mysteries. It'll be fun, so I hope you'll consider coming to Birmingham. I know, it's hot in Alabama too, but I hear it's lovely in October...

Get the scoop on the Southern Breeze Writing and Illustrating for Kids conference here.


1 Comments on Why Birmingham Is Where It's At, last added: 7/29/2012
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7. Trisha’s June-September roundup


Or, some comments on a few noteworthy books I’ve read but haven’t reviewed since May.

Impossible by Nancy Werlin
cover of Impossible by Nancy WerlinBetween my lukewarm reaction to Impossible and my review of Perfect Chemistry, I won’t be surprised if people start to think I have really bad taste. Because as over-the-top as Perfect Chemistry is, I adored it. And though I can see why people liked, or even loved, Impossible, it didn’t do much for me.

Publisher’s description:

Lucy is seventeen when she discovers that the women of her family have been cursed through the generations, forced to attempt three seemingly impossible tasks or to fall into madness upon their child’s birth. But Lucy is the first girl who won’t be alone as she tackles the list. She has her fiercely protective foster parents and her childhood friend Zach beside her. Do they have love and strength enough to overcome an age-old evil?

So here’s my big problem with Impossible: I could believe Lucy and Zach loved each other, but Werlin didn’t have me believing that they were both actually *in* love until there were only about 50 pages left in the book. That was far, far too long after we were first told that they had feelings for each other, especially considering how essential their romantic relationship is in completing the quests to overcome the curse. And all that telling—about how Zach was in love with Lucy or how Lucy saw Zach without his shirt on and suddenly realized he was hot—did not make me believe they were in love. I think it’s partly due to the third-person omniscient narration (which can be done successfully in romance; see Joan Wolf’s A London Season) as Werlin used it in Impossible, which I felt detracted from the romance. Maybe it’s because when it comes to romances in YA lit, I’m so used to first-person narratives and all the intimacy and emotion it entails, but I just didn’t believe that Lucy and Zach were truly in love for a long time.

Dream Girl by Lauren Mechling
cover of Dreamgirl by Lauren Mechling Claire Voyante has long had dreams in which the images she saw “were usually stupid and meaningless, like Henry holding a green umbrella with a frog on it or, say, a bright pink lock—things that I’d see later in front of me but that never lead me to anything groundbreaking.” Call them premonitions, call them extremely vivid dreams, but lately they’ve started to take over her life. Claire’s been dreaming every night only to wake up still exhausted, distracting her from school. Although the things she’s seeing in her dreams are becoming stranger, they might just be what she needs to help a friend.

The mystery aspect was predictable, yet it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. Dream Girl has an appropriately dreamy quality, particularly when it comes to the setting, and I actually wouldn’t mind if we end up seeing another book starring Claire.

Death By Bikini by Linda Gerber
cover of Death by Bikini by Linda Gerber For some reason, when i started reading Death By Bikini, I was under the impression that it took place on a Caribbean island. So when Aphra and Hisako started talking about noni, kava, and kukui nuts, I said, huh, that’s interesting. Then when Junior, the resort’s head of security, started talking in pidgin (excuse me, Hawaii Creole English, for the linguistic sticklers), I got even more confused. I had to flip through the first couple of chapters to see if Aphra mentioned where, exactly, the island is. And she never did.

Anyway, the story is about Aphra Behn Connolly, who lives with her father at the luxury island resort he manages. A family appears at the resort in the middle of the night with no reservations and Aphra’s father begins acting strangely. When the girlfriend of a rock star is strangled, Aphra is determined to solve the crime and discover the truth about their mysterious visitors.

Aside from my initial confusion, Death by Bikini was a pretty entertaining read. Not outstanding, but I have no problem recommending it. Plus, it’s the start of a mystery series for teens, which is nice to see since there’s a dearth of teen mysteries.

Unspoken by Thomas Fahy
cover of Unspoken by Thomas Fahy Allison receives an email one day, a forwarded newspaper article about the death of a boy she knew. Harold Crawley drowned and was found dead in Meridian, North Carolina. Some people might see it simply as a tragedy that a person died so young. Not Allison. She knows that what Harold feared more than anything else was drowning. Because Allison and the five other children had lived with their parents at Jacob Crowley’s Divine Path cult, and Jacob had warned Allison that in five years, “Your greatest fear will consume you.” After Allison and the other children burned the cult’s compound down, killing all the adults, the kids are separated and taken in by foster families in different states. And five years later they each receive the same email as Allison. Allison worries that Jacob Crowley’s prophecy is coming true, but how can she convince the others, and how can they save themselves?

Unspoken has one abrupt ending. There are a few rather gruesome scenes, but overall, the horror is more psychological. I didn’t find it particularly scary, but it did keep my interest long enough to finish the book in one sitting.

The Mystery of the Fool & the Vanisher by David and Ruth Ellwand
cover of The Mystery of the Fool & the Vanisher by David and Ruth Ellwand I love Fairie-ality, so I have to admit to being a bit disappointed that this was not like Fairie-ality. It’s darker, atmospheric, more moody. A man is walking in the woods one day when he finds a stone with a hole in the center of it. Looking through it, he sees a ball of light and follows it to a clearing. He finds a chest with unusual things in it, left by a photographer who was trying to prove the existence of fairies. I think it would appeal more to fans of the -ology books than Fairie-ality fans.

Lots of great reviews of this one, especially at A Fuse #8 and Writing and Ruminating.

The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson
cover of The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson To start with, I LOVE the cover! It’s perfect for the book, an alternate history set in Scotland. Alfred Nobel still invented dynamite, but Napoleon won at Waterloo, and European powers are engaged in a constant power struggle. In order to support Scotland’s security, IRYLNS (the Institute for the Recruitment of Young Ladies for National Security, pronounced “irons”) takes the best and brightest of Scotland’s female students to “supply Scotland’s leaders (members of parliament, captains of industry, doctors, ministers, and so on) with the highly competent assistants they needed.”

Sophie lives with her great-aunt Tabitha, who helped found the program and has considerable power of her own. Sophie supposes she’ll enter IRYLNS after her schooling is complete, but for some reason great-aunt Tabitha doesn’t want that to happen. Meanwhile, an unknown person or group sets off a bomb outside Sophie’s boarding school, and the psychic hired for great-aunt Tabitha’s recent seance is murdered.

As I said, I loved the cover, and the story is great, too. Sophie is believably awkward and the intrigue is actually intriguing. The tone is suitably foreboding and the worldbuilding excellent. First in a trilogy, I believe, which makes me happily impatient, if such a thing is possible. (Or should that be impatiently happy?) I’m looking forward to the next book, at any rate.

      

1 Comments on Trisha’s June-September roundup, last added: 11/2/2008
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