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.

 

The Sister Pact by Stacie Ramey

Sourcebooks, Inc., 2015

When Allie’s sister Leah commits suicide, Allie is devastated—who wouldn’t be? But Allie takes the death especially hard because Leah and Allie had made promises, in fact, they had a suicide pact. Now Allie is utterly bereft and can’t understand why Leah would go without taking her adoring younger sister with her. With her parents a mess and all the usual high school confusions with friends, enemies, and loyalties—not to mention the pressures of getting into college—will she ever be able to put together the pieces of her sister’s last days? And what about her own shattered life? Can she put it back together again?

Stacie Ramey does a masterful job of presenting Allie’s myriad of emotions in an incredibly turbulent time. The Sister Pact is a ride through dark days, rays of hope, and the return to despair. Allie is making hard decisions in every aspect of her life. Her decisions are often bad ones, mistakes that anyone might make as a teenager, but most especially a grieving one. And Allie seems to be the last one to know that despite it all, she is strong, stronger than her sister ever was.

I loved this book for the unshirking portrayal of Allie’s pain, and that of the people around her. I loved it for the realistic ways the teenagers failed one another and tried to save one another. It is a book I would have loved as a teen because the story gives the reader a chance to examine each decision, each emotion, each solution with Allie and evaluate whether that choice would work for them. It left me cheering for Allie and I think it’ll leave you cheering, too.

I received a free electronic advance reader copy of The Sister Pact from Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Scarlett UndercoverLittle, Brown Books for Young Readers, May 19, 2015.

Scarlett’s an orphan. Her father was murdered. Her mother died of cancer. Her sister’s caught up in medical school. But don’t waste time feeling sorry for her; Scarlett’s anything but pitiable. She’s smart – graduated high school at 16. She’s enterprising – started her own detective agency. She’s tough – a wise-ass and martial artist who carries an old police baton into dangerous neighborhoods. She’s a typical teen – not sure if she wants to practice her parent’s religion, distracted by a certain boy, determined to avoid anything that will curtail her freedom.

I love a mystery, and if it comes with a smart-ass detective, even better. Scarlett really won me over, as did the nod to hard-boiled detective stories of the past. Scarlett’s character is compelling. She’s tough but she’s compassionate. She wants to save the world and kiss a boy, but most of all: she wants to solve her father’s murder.

I love that Scarlett is Muslim. She and her sister each make their own decisions about faith and traditions. Will they pray every day? Will they pray 5 times every day? Will they wear a hajib? There’s more tradition than religion here, and though it felt reasonable to me, I don’t know if it’s a realistic portrayal of Muslim life. I hope it is. It certainly felt good to read story about a Muslim teen.

Scarlett Undercover involves the murder of Scarlett’s father and the suicide of a teen, so it may not be for all readers. I expect most readers who like a good detective/adventure story will like this book. There is a culty supernatural element thrown in that may not appeal some readers. I hope there will be more Scarlett books.

I read Scarlett Undercover as an electronic ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.