Variety reading abounds for young adults

There’s a variety to choose from in new middle-grade and young adult novels!

A brilliant student is caught up in a murder mystery as a murderer begins to kill people involved with her and leave her clues in the personals section in “Nearly Gone” by Elle Cosimano.

Nearly is trying to rise about her lower beginnings and not have to work the kind of jobs her mom does to survive after her dad left them. She is in AP classes and is vying against several classmates for a substantial scholarship which would be her ticket out of town. In order to qualify for the scholarship, she must perform community service – in her case tutoring. But soon, every student assigned to her ends up dead, and strange clues that only Nearly notices begin to appear in the personals section of the newspaper. The police suspect she is involved, and Nearly just wants to stop the killer before someone else ends up dead. Her only tutoring student who hasn’t met a grim end is the new student in school who has a criminal record and seems to want to charm Nearly. Is he involved or does he want something else entirely?

This is a great pulse-pounding thriller that will keep readers guessing until the very end. There is a slight paranormal aspect to Nearly that really wasn’t needed – she could have been an ordinary super-smart teenager trying to solve a crime and the story would have still been effectively scary. There’s plenty of twists and no characters are safe or beyond suspicion.

“Nearly Gone” is published by Penguin. It is $17.99 and for ages 14 and up.


Jane Nickerson gives the fairy tale Tam Lin a Civil War South-era twist in “The Mirk and Midnight Hour.”

Violet is still mourning the death of her twin brother as her father is getting ready to go off to war, leaving her with her two house servants, or so she thinks. Unexpectedly, he announces that he is remarrying, and she will now have a stepmother and stepsister, and a distant younger cousin is coming to live with them. Violet soon finds that her new stepmother Elsa is a laudanum addict, her stepsister Sunny is a coquettish fool, and her younger cousin, Seeley, while delightful, comes with a charming roguish older cousin named Dorian. Violet found a Northern soldier’s horse and a dead soldier nearby, and fears the war is coming closer to home. When she and Seeley go exploring, they find the horse’s owner – a young Union soldier named Thomas. He is injured and is being kept in a nearby cabin by the mysterious VanZeldts, known voodoo practitioners. Violet and Seeley begin visiting Thomas, and soon Violet begins to have feelings for him. But danger is surrounding them – both by forces at home and possibly otherworldly ones. Will their love survive?

I enjoy Nickerson’s twists on traditional fairy tales, though I’m not as familiar with the Tam Lin story. Violet is a sympathetic main character, surrounded by a well-fleshed out cast of secondary characters.

“The Mirk and Midnight Hour” is published by Alfred A. Knopf. It is $16.99 and for ages 14 and up.


A 13-year-old boy finds his world changed forever in Carter Roy’s “The Blood Guard.”

Ronan Truelove believes he’s got an ordinary family and ordinary problems, with the exception of having the first name Evelyn. (Good thing his middle name is Ronan.) His mom’s idea to stop the bullies is for him to enroll in not only gymnastics but pretty much every version of martial arts possible. When his mom picks him up at school one afternoon, Ronan thinks she’s just driving him to gymnastics, but the next thing he knows they are involved in a high speed chase, she is telling him his father’s been kidnapped, and she is a member of the Blood Guard, warriors sworn to protect 36 noble souls that will save the world. Ronan is thrust into this new world, as his mom tries to find his father on her own. Ronan will have young companions too, a tough girl from school named Greta and a teenage pickpocket named Jack. Can he and his companions help save the world?

This is an adventurous tale with a bit of magic and mystery that will thrill middle-grade readers.

“The Blood Guard” is published by Two Lions. It is $16.99 and for ages 10 and up.


A teen must survive when a deadly virus breaks out among her locked down boarding school in “The Well’s End” by Seth Fishman.

Mia was once “Baby Mia” – the little girl who fell down and well and survived, and received a lot of media attention after. Her father now works in Fenton, Colorado, doing some sort of top secret work, and Mia is one of the “townies” attending Westbrook Academy boarding school. When the sirens go off one day, Mia calls her father wanting to know what’s going on and he tells her to get to him immediately. But she and the other students are ushered into the gymnasium and told that no one is leaving – they are on lockdown. One of the faculty members is sick, a strange illness that begins passing to students and faculty, aging people beyond years and killing them in am atter of hours. Mia knows her only chance for survival is escaping and finding her father – but what does his mysterious work have to do with this?

This is a taunt thriller that will keep pages turning through the night.

“The Well’s End” is published by Penguin. It is $17.99 and for ages 12 and up.

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