By: Barnabas Miller
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Publisher: Soho Teen
Audience: Teens - Grades 9 & Up
*AUTHOR WE LOVE!*
Seventeen-year-old Theo Lane has been hiding half of her face from the public ever since “The Night In Question,” a night that left her with a long, disfiguring scar, an unquiet mind, and no memory of what happened. An aspiring documentary maker, she uses her camera to keep the world at a safe distance, shooting hours of secret footage with a hidden button cam on her jacket collar. But when Andy Reese, a forlorn and mysterious “Lost Boy,” wanders into her frame, he becomes the unknowing star of her latest project. Her unhealthy obsession with him tears her from that sheltered life behind the camera, pulling her into a perilous, mind-bending journey through Andy’s world. But is it really Andy’s world she’s investigating? Or is it her own?
Barnabas Miller is a seriously underrated author. His latest novel is everything that a good mystery/thriller should be. Readers kind of, sort of, maybe have an idea of what's going on but have no idea how exactly all the pieces fit together to create the big picture. In addition to a plot that keeps readers turning those pages, Miller's characters are all wholly original and avoid the cliche machine that often accompany YA thrillers. The main protagonist, Theo, is a compelling character and her inner monologue and asides never distract from the flow of the narrative but rather enhance it. Additionally, her voice is equal parts authentic and entertaining making her a character that readers will want to get behind. The addition of the "record" documentary film scenes was also a nice touch in terms of not only providing more insight into Theo as a character but also setting a mood that works perfectly with the mystery/thriller genre. The only aspect of this novel that prevents a full five star rating is due large in part to the ending. Everything felt a bit rushed and tied up too quickly. As a reader there were several questions relevant to Andy, the plot, and the ending left unanswered. Beyond that, this is an impressive and necessary addition to the YA Mystery/Thriller genre.
By: Martine Leavitt
Release Date: November 17, 2015
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Audience: Teens – Grades 9 & Up
*AUTHOR WE LOVE!*
In this latest novel from National Book Award finalist Martine Leavitt, a schizophrenic teen believes that Bill Watterson can save him from his illness if he creates one more Calvin & Hobbes comic strip.
Seventeen-year-old Calvin has always known his fate is linked to the comic book character from Calvin & Hobbes. He was born on the day the last strip was published; his grandpa left a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib; and he even has a best friend named Susie. As a child Calvin played with the toy Hobbes, controlling his every word and action, until Hobbes was washed to death. But now Calvin is a teenager who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Hobbes is back—as a delusion—and Calvin can't control him. Calvin decides that if he can convince Bill Watterson to draw one final comic strip, showing a normal teenaged Calvin, he will be cured. Calvin and Susie (and Hobbes) set out on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie to track him down.
Hmmm…What an utterly fascinating and unique story. At 192 pages, Leavitt is somehow able to fit everything in without readers wanting or needing more, creating magic in this novel’s sparseness. Additionally, it has this amazing fable-like feeling as readers travel with Calvin, Hobbes, and Susie on their pilgrimage to meet Bill Watterson. Naturally, this novel requires some suspension of disbelief, but that’s what helped to give the story a dream-like quality. In addition to the dangers faced traveling on the icy terrain of Lake Erie you have beasts like snow goons and “Jenny Greenteeth’ to contend with. The people the trio encounters also seemed otherworldly in that fable-like context making them and the stories they told the novel’s band of young travelers utterly enchanting. Initially, fans of the comic strip may not completely understand what they’ve gotten themselves into. But stick with it, because you will quickly appreciate the parallels between Watterson’s original characters and Leavitt’s. Also, there are several references to the original comic and in the context of teenagdom it’s actually a pretty wonderful homage. It’s hard to say who the audience is exactly or how teens will respond. There’s no foul language, or sex beyond kissing, or overt violence. Rather Calvin is highly intelligent and introspective particularly as it pertains to his illness and his dialogue and inner monologues often reflect that. Additionally, his declarations air on the side of esoteric but at the same time there’s enough teenage boy there for teens to be able to relate to him. The same things ring true for Susie. Overall, there are definite moments of introspection mixed with humor and a sweet romance. It deals with the topic of mental illness in a truly new and unique way making it a worthy read and an interesting discussion piece, particularly in tandem with the original comics.