Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial by Rabia Chaudry

St. Martin’s Press, 2016.adnans-story

During his senior year in high school, Adnan Syed, an honors magnet program student and EMT with hopes to become a doctor was arrested for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Evidence was circumstantial at best and terribly thin. Nevertheless, Adnan was found guilty and sentenced to life plus thirty years. This compelling account, written by family friend Rabia Chaudry, fills in many of the gaps left by popular podcasts about the case, namely Serial and Undisclosed.

Though this book is marketed to adult audiences, I’m including it here because many students are exposed to Serial in the classroom. I imagine that, like me, many of the students who listened to Serial would crave even more details. So many of the people involved as witnesses were simply ordinary teenagers in suburban Baltimore, and events centered around typical teenage activities and the high school that Adnan and Hae attended.

I came to this book after listening to both Serial and Undisclosed, so I feel like I must qualify this review. I loved the narrative here, Chaudry’s descriptions of the Muslim community in Baltimore, her inside scoop not only on Adnan, but also his family. I did know a lot about the case before reading this, so I might have missed holes in this narrative–certainly there are far too many details to this story to include in one book.

I spent a week eagerly reading this in my spare time. It’s a compelling story, a satisfying read, and a sobering account of our justice systems and prisons. This would be a great addition to a classroom or school library for students who are captivated by the story and want to learn more. I recommend it highly.

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ASP of Ascension by B. R. Myers

asp-of-ascensionBlue Moon Publishers, 2017.

Sixteen-year –old Nefertari (Terry) Hughes is stuck in another new high school in a town where her dad’s got yet another temporary job. It’s been that way since Terry recovered from the terrible accident took her mother’s life and almost took hers. But Terry doesn’t want to be in this high school. She may officially be American, but as the daughter of two Egyptologists, Egypt is truly home to Terry.

Terry’s managed to escape the notice of the other students at the last few schools she’s attended, but somehow that’s proving impossible in Devonshire, especially since her dad’s in charge of the big new Cleopatra exhibit at the museum, and the history teacher’s acting like a Nefertari groupie. When Terry catches the attention of Zach, the star basketball player, she’s really in trouble. His cheerleader girlfriend tends to be jealous, and she’s got a mean streak a mile long.

Before she knows it, Terry’s got more than social problems on her plate. There’s a snag in the opening of the exhibit, and it looks like Terry’s going to have to be the one to solve it before it’s too late and her life changes forever.

This was such a fun read! The mystery’s intriguing and there’s plenty of room in the story for heartwarming friendships, nefarious motives, and a tingly romance. It looks like there are more Nefertari Hughes mysteries coming up, and I’ll definitely be looking for them. This is one sleuth I’ll be glad to follow!

I received an electronic review copy of ASP of Ascension from NetGalley and Blue Moon Publishers.

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

seven-days-of-youLittle Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017

Sophia has only seven days left in Tokyo. Seven days before she faces a senior year back in the United States. Seven days to revisit her favorite places and say goodbye to her best friends. Seven days of kombini shops, tiny ramen restaurants, and karaoke. But Jamie changes everything she thought the last seven days would be when he returns to Tokyo just as she is leaving and stirs up Sophia’s emotions even more.

Seven Days of You is a love story: to Tokyo, to young love, to family, to the swirling tornado that is adolescent emotions.

I loved this story for its insight into expat life in Tokyo, its sweet, but not unrealistic teen romance, and its hot mess of characters. I knew these kids in high school—confident and capable on the outside, a hot mess of emotions on the inside, spending their days trying to navigate all the many relationships that make up their lives. A great book for armchair travelers and not-too-sappy-romance lovers alike.

I received an electronic advance reader copy of Seven Days of You courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage

beautiful-broken-girlsFarrar, Straus, and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2017

When sisters Mira and Francesca are found drowned in the bottom of the town’s old quarry, the citizens of the Boston suburb where they lived are horrified—especially since the accidental death of their cousin only a few weeks earlier. The town is reeling. The newspapers suggest a teen suicide trend. In fact Ben’s parents are watching him like hawks, afraid that somehow his one-time girlfriend’s suicide will spur Ben to take his own life. But Ben doesn’t want to die, he just wants answers: Why did Mira become so distant? What was going on in her head during the month before she took her own life? Did their father’s overprotective ways push the girls to do something drastic?

Ben’s first thought when he sees the letter in Mira’s handwriting is that she’s alive, but he knows better. Instead, before Mira died, she left Ben a series of messages hidden in the places that they touched. Each message explains a little bit more about what happened and why. But the messages are cryptic, and don’t always contain the information Ben is longing for. In order to find the answers his heart needs, Ben will have to navigate an ever more complicated labyrinth of locations past friends and adults who have their own agendas, suspicions, and fears.

Beautiful Broken Girls is a page-turner of a book and an eerie, New England tale. I zipped through it quickly, eager to discover what exactly had happened to Mira and Francesca. Ben is a sympathetic character, and I felt his frustration as he tried to piece together the clues to the mystery. Through flashbacks from Mira’s point of view, the reader also gets to know the girls in their last days.

I felt that many of the characters in this story did not have clear motivations. I would have liked to come away with a better understanding of the motivations of the adults in the story. Perhaps since the story was told entirely from the point of view of teens, this makes sense, but I would have liked a little more insight into their decisions and motivations.

A quick and engaging read, Beautiful Broken Girls comes out on February 21.

I received an advanced reader copy of Beautiful Broken Girls from Netgalley and the publisher, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.