Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spies, Thieves, and Secret Societies

Don't we all just love a good mystery? I grew up reading Nancy Drew and it's exciting to read new books that bring back that nostalgia for cloak-and-dagger writing. Here are three books coming out in early 2010 that will have you thinking black jumpsuits, Mission Impossible music, and magnifying glasses.

Heist Society by Ally Carter
(Hardcover, Disney Hyperion, February 2010)

Ally Carter is well-known for her Gallagher Girls series, featuring junior spy Cammie the Chameleon. In Heist Society, Carter turns her attention away from spies toward thieves. Kat's family have been thieves and con men for generations. When Kat tries to leave the family business and lead a normal teenage life, she finds herself pulled back into the con world when she has to assemble an all-teenage crew and steal a painting to save her dad. Filled with excitement, cross-continental mayhem, and Carter's trademark humor, Heist Society is going to give the Gallagher Girls a run for their money.

The Naughty List by Suzanne Young
(Paperback, Razorbill, February 2010)

Tessa is captain of the cheerleading team, a team that also happens to be a group of spies. Tessa and the other girls work undercover to catch the school's cheaters. Responding to text alerts, the squad investigates all boyfriends suspected of cheating. Even though this sounds silly, the book does a great job of examining fidelity and trust in relationships. The spy squad is a bit over the top at times, but readers will find themselves rooting for Tessa when her own boyfriend makes the list of suspected cheaters. Be prepared for somewhat of a cliffhanger ending though as there is a planned sequel, So Many Boys, due out in Summer 2010.

The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy
(Hardcover, Egmont, April 2010)

Jess Parker has always lived on the fringes of high school popularity so when she's invited to join an exclusive club called The Cinderella Society, she doesn't hesitate. She soon learns that this secret society has world-reaching goals, the primary one being to triumph over the Wickeds, an evil group that torments innocent high school girls. The Cinderella Society is an interesting twist on high school cliques and Jess Parker is feisty and likeable. Although I have never been interested in sororities, this book was a fun read.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephart Book Review

The Heart Is Not a Size by Beth Kephart
(HarperTeen, Hardcover, March 2010)

Georgia and Riley have been best friends for years.  So when Georgia sees a flyer for a community building trip to Juarez, she has no trouble enlisting Riley to join her.  Both girls convince their parents that this trip is a good idea, a way to build not just a community, but character.  However, in Juarez, Georgia finds that not everything can be carefully managed and secrets can't always be kept.

Georgia lets us slowly into her life, revealing little details about herself and about Riley and they secrets they keep from each other.  I read The Heart Is Not a Size in one sitting; I couldn't put it down until I knew whether Georgia would overcome her panic attacks or whether Riley would admit she had an eating disorder.  I also loved that Georgia and Riley reminded me so much of me and my best friend in high school.  One smart and serious, the other beautiful and bubbly.  For me, this book is a novel about friendship, about the sacrifices we make for our friends, and about how important it is to have that one person you can count on.

The Heart Is Not a Size is also about a border town called Juarez and Georgia's experiences there.  I've never been to Mexico, but it was easy to close my eyes and picture the town.  Kephart effortlessly transports the reader to a gritty town inundated with sun and sand.  The descriptions of Juarez and it's people are so vivid, and Georgia's desire to help them comes across on every page.  The trip is as much an adventure as it is a learning experience for her and for the other teens in her group.

Like all of Beth Kephart's books, The Heart Is Not a Size is a must-read for teens and for anyone working with teens.  Kephart isn't afraid to tackle the big issues like parental pressure, anorexia, and death, and she does it all with compassion, honesty, and beautiful writing.