Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Category: YA Mystery/Thriller (Page 1 of 5)

Book Review: You Were Never Here

You Were Never Here – Kathleen Peacock – HarperTeen – Published 20 October 2020

 

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Synopsis

Cat hasn’t been to Montgomery Falls, the town her family founded, since she was twelve years old. Since the summer she discovered she could do things that no normal twelve-year-old could do. Since she had her first kiss with Riley Fraser. Since she destroyed their friendship.

Now, five years later, she’s back and Riley has disappeared.

For the last three months no one has heard from or seen Riley. And while there are all sorts of conspiracy theories about where he went, neither the police nor his parents are any closer to finding him. When Noah, Riley’s brother, asks for help in discovering what happened, Cat is torn between wanting to learn the truth and protecting the secret that she’s been guarding ever since that summer she and Riley stopped speaking.

But then a girl is discovered floating in the river, barely alive with no knowledge of who attacked her or why. With the possibility that someone out there is hunting teens, Cat must make a choice: Use her unusual ability to discover the truth and find Riley or keep running away from a power she can’t control. Only one choice will put her in a killer’s sights…

My thoughts

Let’s hear it for books about murder and mystery and teenage investigators and slightly paranormal skills. You Were Never Here is an atmospheric mystery that hooked me right from the start. Fans of The Body Finder (and wow, do I have a lot of those fans in my library) are just going to adore You Were Never Here.

Cat hasn’t been to Montgomery Falls since she was twelve. Now her father is sending her there to stay with her aunt. Cat is dreading the summer, but it becomes a lot worse when she learns that her ex-best friend Riley has been missing for three months. Written off as a runaway, the police and town have no leads. Riley’s brother asks Cat to help discover what really happened, and after Cat and her new friends discover a girl floating half dead in the river, Cat agrees. But there is something most people don’t know about Cat – she can discover a person’s worse secrets just by touching them.

This book has so many things going for it. Alongside the mystery of the missing or hurt teenagers, the reader is also given the mystery of what happened last term at school that caused Cat to be so secretive about it and for her father to send her to Montgomery Falls, completely cut off from the world. There is also, of course, Cat’s unusual ability. How she got this ability is never explained, aside from the women in her family having special gifts for generations. Her father refuses her to talk or acknowledge it and while her aunt has her own gift, she too has been forbidden to speak of it. That’s okay, though, as the focus is not on the how or why of Cat’s gift, but rather  far more on her acceptance of it and how she might use it to help find Riley. And really, she uses her intellect and sleuthing to find the clues more than her ability.

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Book Review: The Infamous Frankie Lorde – Stealing Greenwich

The Infamous Frankie Lorde: Stealing Greenwich – Brittany Geragotelis – Pixel+ink – Published 6 October 2020

 

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Synopsis

Frankie Lorde and her dad have been a team for as long as Frankie can remember. Being a tutor under the man responsible for some of the world’s biggest heists has given Frankie a unique perspective on the world. And a special set of life skills. Frankie can spot an FBI agent in a second. Pick a lock in two seconds. Steal a Bugatti in three. Then dad is arrested.

Frankie is sent to live with her uncle, her dad’s brother who she barely knows, and is, ironically a cop. Now Frankie has to go to middle school, learn what suburban kids wear and eat. But also ironically, Frankie is in Greenwich, CT, one of the richest towns in America. Seeing the starkness of super rich and the super not rich who support the community gives Frankie an idea. How to use her skills for doing good, to even the score…

My thoughts

Looking for a middle grade heist novel? Stealing Greenwich is a whole lot of fun and Frankie Lorde might just be the heroine you are looking for. She’s smart, clever, very good at disguises and knows how to run a con. This is the first book in a new and exciting series. With a good moral understory to justify the heists, this is a fun story for middle-grade readers, perfect for fans of Ally Carter’s Heist Society and heist novels.

Frankie Lorde and her dad are a team, taking on heists all around the world. When her father is captured and jailed, Frankie is sent to live with her uncle. Her uncle who is a cop. He has just a few house rules, one of which is no illegal activity. For Frankie, the plan is to stay off everyone’s radar, survive middle school and wait until her dad is released. But when her uncle takes a case that seems horribly unfair, Frankie decides to do a bit of investigating. Maybe she can turn her skills to a good cause?

I really enjoyed this novel. It is clearly the first in a series and sets up what we need to know about Frankie. The heist action doesn’t start until much later in the story. I did like that, while Frankie and her dad steal for profit, the case Frankie takes on in Greenwich is for the greater good, with no personal gain for herself. It raises a point about morals – stealing from the rich to benefit the poor, stealing from someone who is corrupt, opens up some great points that would be perfect for discussion.

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Book Review: None Shall Sleep

None Shall Sleep – Ellie Marney – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 1 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

In 1982, two teenagers—serial killer survivor Emma Lewis and US Marshal candidate Travis Bell—are recruited by the FBI to interview convicted juvenile killers and provide insight and advice on cold cases. From the start, Emma and Travis develop a quick friendship, gaining information from juvenile murderers that even the FBI can’t crack. But when the team is called in to give advice on an active case—a serial killer who exclusively hunts teenagers—things begin to unravel. Working against the clock, they must turn to one of the country’s most notorious incarcerated murderers for help: teenage sociopath Simon Gutmunsson. Despite Travis’s objections, Emma becomes the conduit between Simon and the FBI team. But while Simon seems to be giving them the information they need to save lives, he’s an expert manipulator playing a very long game…and he has his sights set on Emma.

My thoughts

Well that was terrifying. None Shall Sleep is a scary, psychological thriller for teens (or older teen readers, at least), perfect for crime and mystery fans.

Set in 1982, two teens are recruited to help the FBI interview teenage serial killers. Emma Lewis survived a serial killer. Now the FBI want her to work for them, interviewing convicted killers to help them catch new offenders. Her partner is Travis Bell, training to be a US Marshal and whose father was killed by Simon Gutmunsson, a convicted serial killer. But when teenagers continue to be killed, in horrific ways, Travis and Emma find that their interviews may have insight into the case.

If you are squeamish, this is not the book for you. If, however, you like murder, clues, lots of twist and turns, teamwork, a heroine survivor who isn’t afraid to take on some really bad guys, detective work and teenage sociopaths (coz they are lots of fun (in books, of course)) then this is the perfect book for you.

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Book Review: The Inheritance Games

The Inheritance Games – Jennifer Lynn Barnes – The Inheritance Games #1 – Little, Brown Books, – Published 1 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

My thoughts

And once again Jennifer Lynn Barnes proves why she is one of my top favourite authors. The Inheritance Games just grabbed me right from the first page and didn’t let go until, before I knew it, the book was over, my mind was blown and I wanted to start all over again.

Mystery, secrets, hidden passage ways, billions and billions of dollars, murder, revenge, cute boys (who are, thankfully, not Avery’s half-brothers) and a treasure hunt that promises answers…maybe.

Avery Grambs knows how to stay invisible. Do well in school but not so well that people notice her or notice that she is currently sleeping in her car to stay away from her sister’s boyfriend. She has a plan for college and a secure job for the future. Then a mysterious boy appears and demands her presence at a will reading. She has been left an inheritance by one of the richest men in America. He has left his billions of dollars to her and not his two daughters or four grandsons. To claim her inheritance, Avery must live for a year in his massive mansion, complete with more secret tunnels, passageways and compartments than a girl knows what to do with, and a family who would rather see her dead than living in the house they thought was theirs.

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Book Review: The Con Code

The Con Code – Shana Silver – Swoon Reads – Published 25 August 2020

 

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Synopsis

By day, seventeen-year-old Fiona Spangler runs small cons for her ritzy prep-school classmates: getting them out of tests and forging fake hall passes. But by night, Fiona joins her dad on riskier heists: stealing back the clue-filled forgeries her mom scattered across the country before she disappeared. Fiona desperately hopes that her mother will be waiting at the end of the scavenger hunt she left behind.

And they are SO close. Just three more heists remain, but then disaster strikes when Fiona’s dad is captured by the FBI. Desperate to finish the job and save what’s left of her family, Fiona assembles of crew of teen criminals: a master of disguise who can transform into anyone, a talented hacker who only communicates in glares, and a rival con artist with a vendetta against—and possible crush on—Fiona.

My thoughts

The Con Code brings together mystery and action in a fast-paced race to find and solve the clues while trying to outrun the FBI. How do you do that? Recruit your enemy of course and try not to fall for him. The Con Code will be great for YA mystery fans looking for a light read with lots of disguises, romance and heist hijinks.

Fiona Spangler knows how to run a con. Her parents trained her well. Now she and her father are trying to track down and steal forgeries her mother left scattered around the country before her disappearance. If Fiona and her dad can piece together the clues, they have a chance to find her mother before the FBI. But when the FBI Director’s son joins Fiona’s high school and her father is arrested, Fiona has no choice but to finish the mission herself – recruiting both her friends and her number one enemy. Continue reading

Book Review: All Eyes on Her

All Eyes on Her – Laurie Elizabeth Flynn – Imprint – Published 18 August 2020

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Synopsis

You heard the story on the news. A girl and a boy went into the woods. The girl carried a picnic basket. The boy wore bright yellow running shoes. The girl found her way out, but the boy never did….

Everyone thinks they know what happened. Some say Tabby pushed him off that cliff— she didn’t even like hiking. She was jealous. She had more than her share of demons. Others think he fell accidentally—she loved Mark. She would never hurt him…even if he hurt her.

But what’s the real story? All Eyes On Her is told from everyone but Tabby herself as the people in her life string together the events that led Tabby to that cliff. Her best friend. Her sister. Her enemy. Her ex-boyfriend. Because everybody thinks they know a girl better than she knows herself.

My thoughts

If you like gritty, edgy novels about sex, the teenage party scene and a little bit of murder (maybe?) you’ll love All Eyes On Her.

Tabitha went into the woods for a hike with her boyfriend, Mark. Tabby made it out alive. Mark didn’t. Everyone thinks they know what happened. Everyone thinks they know what kind of girl Tabby is and they fondly remember Mark. But what really happened that day?

I would be amiss in not first discussing the writing style and layout of the book. Each section is written from the perspective of many different characters, main and side characters. All except Tabby and Mark themselves. This works perfectly for emphasising the message of perspective, assumptions, labels and making up your own mind about what happened and why, but also being aware of the things that impact this decision. Honestly, it would make a perfect book for group discussion. While the ending does provide some closure, which I was happy about, because if it was an open ending I was going to be be mega cross! But there is room for doubt. The author at no point gives a final retelling, or she does but you still have to decide what you believe. You have all the stories and truths and lies to wade through, so it would be perfect for getting a group to decide themselves and argue about why they think that.

Speaking of plot, the author does a superb job of piecing together the story, bringing in clues just when you need them. The middle section is a bit slow and repetitive, but a bombshell twist caught my attention again just in time.

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Book Review: The Girl in the White Van

The Girl In the White Van – April Henry – Henry Holt and Company – Published 28 July 2020

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Synopsis

When Savannah disappears soon after arguing with her mom’s boyfriend, everyone assumes she’s run away. The truth is much worse. She’s been kidnapped by a man in a white van who locks her in an old trailer home, far from prying eyes. And worse yet, Savannah’s not alone: Ten months earlier, Jenny met the same fate and nearly died trying to escape. Now as the two girls wonder if he will hold them captive forever or kill them, they must join forces to break out—even if it means they die trying.

My thoughts

Girl in the White Van is exactly the kind of book I am always on the lookout for to add to our mystery/thriller YA collection. It is an engaging, quick read, with strong characters. Girl in the White Van is a thrilling book. Scary but hopefully, dark and gritty but full of empowerment and a sense of justice.

Savannah is just waiting until she turns 18 and she can escape her mother’s toxic pattern of moving in with random guys. While she doesn’t love living with her mother’s latest boyfriend, she is enjoying living in Portland. She loves her Kung fu class and is just getting to know one of her classmates, Daniel. But on the way home from class, Savannah is grabbed by a man in a white van. Drugged, hurt and confused, Savannah wakes in an old trailer home. But she isn’t alone. Jenny was taken nine months ago.

While the majority of the chapters are written from Savannah’s perspective, there are also chapters from Jenny, Daniel, Jenny and Savannah’s parents’ perspective and a variety of other side characters, including the suspects. The reader is given an insight into the person responsible, but the mystery of who they are remains and builds the tension.

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Book Review: All Your Twisted Secrets

All Your Twisted Secrets – Diana Urban – HarperTeen – Published 17 March 2020

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Synopsis

Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

My thoughts

Well, that’s how you start a book. Talk about getting hooked. All Your Twisted Secrets, as the title implies, is a thrilling book told in now and then sections about the secrets six teens will reveal when faced with a life-threatening situation. This book is compelling, addictive and shocking – I know teen readers will soak this up.

When six teens are invited to a prestigious dinner as scholarship recipients, they are shocked to discover they are locked in the room with a bomb, a syringe filled with deadly poison and a choice – kill one person or all be killed. Amber knows there must be another way to get everyone to safety, if she could just get the others to stop fighting. But as the clock ticks down, the six must face the events of the past year, and reveal the secrets they have kept hidden.

This book is thrilling from beginning to end. The short countdown chapters are perfectly spaced between the longer flashback sections. I won’t say too much about the characters or plot because the book is so brilliantly done I don’t remember what I didn’t know at the start and what I learnt as each fragment and detail is revealed throughout the book. I desperately wanted to flip to the back of the book to see how it would end and I’m so glad I didn’t. The build up and reveals are worth it. Stay away from spoilers if you can and enjoy the journey Diana Urban has masterfully created. With some important messages about friendship, bullying and social justice, this book has heart as well as guts.

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Book Review: The Finder

The Finder – Kate Hendrick – Text Publishing – Published 1 August 2018

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Synopsis

When Lindsay meets Elias the signs aren’t promising. She’s a grungy introvert who doesn’t want to talk to anyone. He’s a teen fashionista who can’t shut the hell up.

But since Lindsay tracked down a runaway kid, word’s got around that she knows how to find people. And Elias is looking for his birth mother. And he has money, and Lindsay’s perpetually broke… So that’s how this oddest of odd couples teams up.

But the thing is, Lindsay wasn’t actually trying to find the runaway. It’s just how she looks at the world. Not idly, like most people, but really looking. Scanning every house, every face, every car. That’s because someone is missing in Lindsay’s life: her identical twin Frankie, who disappeared when they were eight. Since then, her parents have kept themselves busy. And angry. And Lindsay has been…looking.

My thoughts

The Finder is a light mystery with plenty of heart. I recently read and loved Lost and Found by Orson Scott Card, so I was delighted when I discovered The Finder has a similar tone, with a very Aussie setting. Family, friendship and mystery combine in this book to provide a remarkably uplifting story about loss and the people left behind.

Lindsay has spent her life looking. It’s how she survived since her twin sister went missing when they were kids. Now with a family full of younger siblings, a busy mother and an absent father, Lindsay craves silence. She’s not surprised when she accidentally finds teen runaway, but she is surprised when it brings teen fashionista, Elias to her door asking for her help in locating his birth mother. She agrees, just as an excuse to get out of her crowded house. But even though Elias drives her crazy with his overly styled hair and non-stop chatter, Lindsay finds it comforting to finally have someone to look with.

The Finder brings such a delightful mix of humour and light-hearted joy combined with sorrow and grief. The themes touched upon in the story are quite deep. Lindsay’s discovery of Vogue and being asked to join in Elias’ search bring to the forefront the continued grief and guilt she carries from her twin sister’s disappearance. The trauma tore her family apart. Now her mother is busy with all Lindsay’s new siblings, her father is constantly at work and angry in those rare times he is home and Lindsay is forbidden from even mentioning her sister. This grief has been bottled up and Lindsay is ready to explode. The book captures the raw emotions Lindsay and her family are experiencing. There is also some mystery surrounding what transpired in Lindsay’s sister’s disappearance.

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Book Review: Jane Anonymous

Jane Anonymous – Laurie Faria Stolarz – Wednesday Books – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Then, “Jane” was just your typical 17-year-old in a typical New England suburb getting ready to start her senior year. She had a part-time job she enjoyed, an awesome best friend, overbearing but loving parents, and a crush on a boy who was taking her to see her favorite band. She never would’ve imagined that in her town where nothing ever happens, a series of small coincidences would lead to a devastating turn of events that would forever change her life.

Now, it’s been three months since “Jane” escaped captivity and returned home. Three months of being that girl who was kidnapped, the girl who was held by a “monster.” Three months of writing down everything she remembered from those seven months locked up in that stark white room. But, what if everything you thought you knew―everything you thought you experienced―turned out to be a lie?

My thoughts

Jane Anonymous is a thriller that explores both the emotional trauma of being kidnapped and surviving captivity and the fallout and struggle and pressure to return to ‘normal’ post escape. It’s a heart wrenching book that made me want to slap the adults in Jane’s life. It’s a story about the power of emotions. It’s a story about fear and trust and starting over.

One morning, while stopping in early at work to grab her best-friend’s birthday present, Jane Anonymous is kidnapped. Shoved into a car trunk, drugged and then taken to a small, white room, she is given food, a list of instructions and little hope for escape. Fast forward seven months, Jane has escaped, but share carries the physical and mental scars of her captivity.

Jane Annoymous is written as if Jane herself is reliving her story, sharing it with the reader. The book is divided into Now and Then sections, flipping between the two. This gives readers the opportunity to experience Jane’s fear and torment of the kidnapping as it happened, and at the same time, understanding the struggle she has with returning to her old life and the expectations that are placed upon her. Thanks to the power of Jane’s emotions and little details, like the names and place names used—Jane Anonymous, No Name High School—it is all too easy to image this is a retelling of true events.

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