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.


Awake by Natasha Preston

AwakeSourcebooks Fire, 2015

Scarlett Garner’s doesn’t remember anything about her life before she turned four. She knows a fire forced her family to move, but she can’t remember their first house or even their town. The fall she is fifteen a new boy enrolls in school and Scarlett is swept into a romance. Everything is wonderful until a concussion from a car accident begins to shake loose her early memories. Those memories start her life on a new, terrifying course. Suddenly, everyone close to Scarlett seems to be lying to her and the only thing she knows for certain is that she’s fighting for her life.

Fast-paced and romantic, Awake moves quickly and got me reading faster. I’m never one to enjoy being kept in suspense too long. The themes of betrayal and protection loom over the book and make for a compelling story. I found the pacing satisfying until the very end. The final chapter felt tacked on and hurriedly written and could be skipped. There’s the perfect thread here for a sequel and I’d love to read it to find out what happens.

This story is filled with the emotions and questions adolescents face: How do I know I’m in love? When is lying okay? What do I believe? What decisions can one person make for another? This should prove a popular library read.

I read this book as an electronic advanced reader copy courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley.

The Astrologer’s Daughter by Rebecca Lim

The Astrologer's DaughterText Publishing, 2015.

Avicenna’s mother is gone and it’s time she reported her missing. It doesn’t make Avi feel any better that her mother foretold this day. Avi faces the police questions bravely; she even gets herself to school. She feeds herself and copes, but in the endless, airless nights she’s driven to panic at her solitude. She lights up the apartment and flings wide the door in hopes of getting air. It’s during those airless nights that her mother’s role as an astrologer begins to haunt her, as her mother’s clients, and even the police, look to Avicenna for answers.

Avicenna is a main character to love. She’s strong, smart, and a bit of a wise ass. Her life has been hard, but she’s always had the benefit of a truly loving mother. It is easy to root for her and to hope that she, too, has her mother’s skills in astrology. There’s plenty of action here, and the stakes are high enough to keep readers turning the pages.

Existential questions are sewn through this plot, adding even more interest. How much do you want to know about your future? Do you really want to know the time and manner of your death? If you know your fate, can you alter it? How will knowing change you? How do we recover from the loss of a loved one? Who will fill the gap?

Set in Melbourne, Australia, The Astrologer’s Daughter is a thought-provoking read. It will be out June 9, 2015.

I read The Astrologer’s Daughter as a digital ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Text Publishing.

Smoke by Ellen Hopkins

Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013.

This book is a sequel to Burned, Hopkins’ second novel, so if you haven’t read that one, you may want to stop reading here. Burned presents Pattyn Von Stratton as she attempts to navigate her growth as a teenager and her developing sexuality within the confines of her very difficult life in an abusive household within a misogynistic Mormon community.

Smoke follows Pattyn and Jackie, her younger sister, in the wake of the violence that ended Burned. Taking her mother’s advice, Pattyn is on the run from the law and Jackie is left at home. Both young women are suffering from post-traumatic stress and yet must still navigate their complicated lives. I dare not divulge more for fear of spoiling the story.

As always, Ellen Hopkins puts characters in impossibly difficult, but believable, situations. But her characters are struggling with universal teen concerns, too: Am I loveable? Will I be kissed before my 16th birthday? Who am I going to be? She is masterful at presenting characters that the reader quickly becomes invested in. The verity of her characters, the beauty of her verse, the underlying current of hope, and the fear of what might happen kept me reading Smoke late—too late—into the night.

Smoke presents and examines a lot of hard topics including abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual), rape, poverty, misogyny and other abuses of power, and illegal immigration. It also shows the characters and the readers that respectful and loving relationships, both platonic and romantic, are a choice that even victims can make. The characters consider who they want to be as adults and struggle with finding the lines between attraction, lust, and love. The best and worst of human behaviors are examined in Hopkins’ spare and enticing verse.

I’ve read that Hopkins’ books are often favorites of reluctant readers, and I can see why. She enlists sympathy immediately, uses strong imagery, few words, and a driving pace. This book is highly recommended, though you’ll want to read Burned first.