My post from last spring about middle grade debut authors was pretty popular, so I thought I would revisit the topic of debuts. This time let’s look at teen fiction.
Jennifer Longo sets her debut novel, Six Feet Over It, in a cemetery. That probably sounds pretty dark and forbidding. It certainly doesn’t sound that great to Leigh, our main character, who is stuck selling graves in the office after school. If this novel is dark at all, it’s darkly funny. As she helps people care for the their loved ones’ last needs, Leigh is dealing with a grief of her own, and she feels like she is surrounded by death. Her sarcastic wit is aimed at keeping people away. In the end, this coming-of-age story is moving and memorable. (9780449818718. August 2014. Gr. 9-12)
Annie Cardi’s debut novel, The Chance You Won’t Return, has received two starred reviews for its honest portrayal of mental illness in a family. At the beginning of the book, Alex’s mom is acting strangely. It’s little things at first: dressing differently, making comments that don’t make sense, poring over maps in the middle of the night. It’s weird, but life goes on as normal because there’s no room for anything outside of normal. When Mrs. Winchester makes a scene at Alex’s school, it’s clear that ignoring the problem isn’t going to work anymore. Her mother needs help. Alex’s first person narration makes clear her anxiety level about her mother’s illness and her own desire to keep it a secret from her friends. There are no easy answers in this emotional story. (9780763662929. April 2014. Gr. 9-12)
In The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton doesn’t shy away from difficult topics. She writes in sensual prose that reads like a fairy tale or a fable. The story of Ava Lavender begins with Ava’s grandmother Emilienne’s journey from France in the 1920’s to Ava’s mother Viviane’s childhood in Seattle. By the time that Ava is born into this unusual family, the book has already established itself as magical in many ways, so it comes as no surprise to readers that Ava might be born with wings. Teens or adults looking for a magical story that examines love in all its forms will find this a beautiful, if often sorrowful, story. (9780763665661. March 2014. Gr. 9-12)