Never Forgotten by Kelly Risser

Never ForgottenClean Teen Publishing, 2014

Meara’s only ever had her mom, no dad or siblings, no grandparents. Then, the summer before Meara’s senior year Mom finds out that her cancer is back and it’s everywhere. Now Meara and her Mom are leaving Wisconsin to live with Meara’s grandparents in Nova Scotia. Meara was born there, but she doesn’t remember anything about the place or the people. She hasn’t seen either since she was a baby. When Meara and Mom return, Meara learns that many of the things she believed about her family and her life were lies, and the truth about who she is–it’s mind blowing.

In Nova Scotia Meara finds the family and the home she’s never had. She finds friendship and romance. But in the end Meara will have to face the biggest decision of her life.

I enjoyed this story about good people and bad decisions. It’s easy to feel empathy for Maera who is thrust into so many new things at once and losing her only anchor. I loved the setting, too. Nova Scotia has long been on my list of places to visit. The weather and the sea and the people pervaded Never Forgotten. They made me feel as if I’d been there and that I’d like to go back again.

I read Never Forgotten as a digital ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Clean Teen Publishing.

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

girl at midnightRandom House Children’s Books, 2015.

Echo is a young runaway and accomplished pickpocket who was discovered late one night deep in the public library and introduced to a world other humans know nothing about. After her discovery Echo is taken in by an Avicen leader and raised with the young Avicen in a secret society that can magically travel the world. Soon Echo is embroiled in a quest to end the war between the Avicen and their deadly rivals. Can Echo save the world for the warring races and for humanity as well? What will be the cost?

I think I picked this book by title and cover alone – both are awesome! So when I began to read I was rather dismayed that this was a book about bird-people. I like books about magic; I’m generally good with fantasy; but bird people, ugh. I guess it’s the feathers. At any rate, my dismay didn’t last long. Echo is a tough and loveable character. She’s cocky enough to love and damaged enough to provoke sympathy. I was rooting for her the whole way. (And her adopted bird-mama is pretty awesome, too). Echo’s adventures and moral dilemmas drew me in, and Grey raised enough interesting emotional questions to have hooked me for the long haul, even if some of the characters have feathers and others have scales.

This is an engrossing young adult fantasy with enough adventure and romance to keep you reading. There’s a certain darkness to the world that reminded me of Gabriel Finlay and the Raven’s Riddle, which is for middle grade readers but also from Random House. It’s got bird people, too.

I read The Girl at Midnight courtesy of NetGalley and Random House Children’s Books. It looks to be the start of a series. I’ll start looking for the next installment next spring.

Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt

Hold Me Like a BreathBloomsbury USA Children’s Books 2015

Penny Landlow has almost everything. She lives in a fancy walled estate with a pool, a conservatory, and a garden. She has parents who buy her whatever she fancies. The only thing she doesn’t have is freedom. She dreams of going to New York City, but because of a rare blood disorder, she must be protected from the tiniest of bumps and bruises, and her parents refuse to let her leave the estate. Fortunately, her father’s business, organized crime involving organ donations, provides her with a medical clinic and a doctor on the premises. Unfortunately, that ensures that she never has any excuse to leave. When Penny finally gets the opportunity to live in the real world, her experience isn’t anything like her dreams. It’s exactly the opposite of her coddled former life, suddenly Penny’s got to fight to survive.

I read straight through this suspenseful story. Penny is a sympathetic and likeable character. Her medical problems made it dangerous for people to touch her with all but the lightest touch. It’s easy to sympathize with her need for love and for experiences away from her sheltered home and her frustration with trying to make her family and the Family treat her as anything other than a fragile doll. Penny has spunk, though, along with a great deal of naivete.

Readers will do some breath holding, too, as they follow Penny through her thrilling and terrifying adventure. This book comes out May 19th. It would be a great vacation or beach read. Don’t start it on a night you’ve got homework and school the next day — just sayin’.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Harper Collins, 2005.

Ginny Blackstone’s on a secret mission of her aunt’s devising. In contrast to Ginny’s rather ordinary mom, Ginny’s aunt is artistic, the one who sometimes leads her bohemian artist’s life in New York and sometimes disappears for long stretches of time. Now Ginny’s been challenged to leave her own comfortable New Jersey life and follow her aunt’s directions in a crazy chase across Europe. She doesn’t know how much money she’s got or even what her next task will be, and the kicker is she’s got to cut herself off from home and friends if she’s going to follow her aunt’s rules. As she travels, Ginny learns a lot about her mysterious aunt and even more about herself.

It seems to me Ginny’s story is every 17-year-old’s fantasy and nightmare rolled into one. Ginny doesn’t feel ready for the adventure that’s being foisted upon her, but who could turn down the mystery–not to mention the all expenses paid trip to Europe? But with the excitement comes the challenge of traveling alone, managing Aunt Peg’s crazy tasks, and muddling through when things don’t go as planned.

Ginny is a delightful character. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing her journey and wished I could meet Aunt Peg and the people she’d touched. This is a great summer read that left me wanting to pack my bags and hop a plane with nothing more than a few little blue envelopes to show me the way.