Game of Fear by Gledé Browne Kabongo

game-of-fear2016

Abbie has a secret, a secret that’s buried so deep that she’s just about forgotten it. She also has a plan. She’s an excellent student at a prestigious private school. According to her plan, next year she’ll be at Princeton, and then she’ll move on to Harvard or Stanford for medical school. She’s working really hard senior year to set her plans in motion. But Abbie didn’t plan on the new and exciting romance that’s sweeping her off her feet. She also didn’t expect to be stalked and blackmailed because of her nearly-forgotten mistake. If she doesn’t find and stop the stalker fast, her new romance, her plan, and everything she’s worked so hard to achieve, will be gone.

This is a suspenseful thriller wrapped up into a boarding school story. Gledé Browne Kabongo has a good sense of teen’s motivations, friendships, and hormone-controlled thrill rides. The plot twists and turns and the stakes are high. Readers who love auspicious wealth, designer name dropping, and high stakes plots will enjoy this story.

I must say that as a feminist, I found this story hard to stomach at times. Abbie Cooper is definitely a strong female character, but the trope of the (mostly) good girl choosing the bad boy because of his astonishingly good looks and his charisma, despite the terrible way he’s treated girls in the past bothers me. Other similar details large and small abound in the story. For example, when the friends come to Thanksgiving dinner, the boys end up in the family room playing video games while the girls help Mom in the kitchen. Many, many clichés also made it into the book, and at times they made me long for fresher word choices.

On the whole, this is a fun, fast paced book with a twisty plot.

I received a copy of Game of Fear courtesy of the author and Kate Tilton’s Book Bloggers 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.

 

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

serafinaDisney Hyperion, 2015

Biltmore, the Vanderbilt’s fine mansion stands grand and tall in the mountains of North Carolina. Its halls are filled with fine furniture and art, its dining rooms with delicacies, but deep in the depths of the basement Biltmore has a secret. Serafina, the girl that no one knows about—no one, that is, except her father. Serafina’s father maintains the machines of the estate, including the new electrical system. Unbeknownst to the Vanderbilts, Serafina’s father doesn’t have a home to go to each night; instead, he and Serafina live secretly in the boiler room of the estate.

Serafina longs for friends and a more public life. She wanders the halls of the mansion at night and keeps the estate clear of rats. One night while she’s roaming the halls Serafina finds more than rats, she finds terror as she watches a man in a black cloak chase and absorb a young guest of the Vanderbilts. As more children disappear, Serafina must find a way to stop the black cloak.

Deliciously creepy, filled with mystery and magic, Serafina and the Black Cloak will keep you reading. It’s a shivery good story that includes both magic and a historical glimpse of life in the Golden Age.

Beatty built suspense throughout the story. It kept me reading and interested, though I found that in one mystery in the story the teases were frequent and the clues frustratingly thin. Overall a great read, suspenseful, creepy, and yet full of hope.

I read Serafina and the Black Cloak as an electronic ARC courtesy of Disney Hyperion and NetGalley.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were LiarsDelacorte Press, 2014.

Four friends, three of them cousins, one a poor city mouse, meet each summer on a private island. They are called the Liars. They name each summer with their age. Together they explore privilege,  their friendship, forbidden love, and the mythology and reality of being a Sinclair.

Summer 15 something big happened, if only Cady could remember what. I can’t tell you any more without spoiling the book. But I can say, I usually steer away from books about these sorts of privileged kids. They turn me off. This one didn’t.

We Were Liars kept me up late reading. The suspense and clues seemed perfectly balanced. I was engaged in wanting to know what happened. I received enough information to avoid being frustrated but not so much information that I guessed the end far in advance.

I got We Were Liars from the local library because I remembered how much buzz it had generated and how many agents have been using it as an exemplar of what they’re looking for. I’m glad I read it. Read it yourself. I think you will be glad you did.