Archive for Suspense

Booktalk: Uncaged by John Sandford & Michele Cook

Uncaged cover

Here’s a suspenseful story for teens from John Sandford, an author who’s famous for writing suspenseful stories for adults.  Uncaged is the first in a series of books that Sandford wrote with his wife Michele Cook, about a brother and sister who get in over their heads trying to escape from a corporation that will do anything to stop them.

BOOKTALK:

Shay Remby and her brother Odin have had a hard life for the last several years, and now it’s getting worse.  First both of their parents died, and they spent a lot of time going in and out of foster care.  They were living separate lives but secretly keeping in touch on Facebook.

Then Shay gets a message from Odin saying that something bad just happened, and he is in a LOT of trouble.  It turns out that he was part of an animal rights group that broke into a lab to free the animals and ruin the experiments.  But what they found weren’t the kind of experiments they expected, and the company that runs the lab will do anything it can to silence them.  Odin escaped from the lab with some flash drives, a computer, and a very special dog.  He didn’t realize it when he rescued it, but the experiments they were doing on this dog make it very valuable … and very dangerous.

Shay, Odin, and X the dog all have a price on their heads, and they’ll have to be strong, smart, and lucky if they want to escape with their lives.

Booktalk: Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

Trouble is a Friend of Mine cover

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly has lots of different layers that move in and out of sync with each other.  Zoe is a believable, nuanced character who is experiencing frustration with her family, her school, and with the quirky boy who shows up on her doorstep.  It’s kind of a story about friendship, kind of a story about romantic tensions, and kind of a story about a missing girl and her possible connection to another missing girl.  It’s sort of a realistic fiction story, but it has enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing!

BOOKTALK:

Zoe Webster is a 16-year-old girl who was living a normal life in Brooklyn until her parents got divorced, and then she and her mother had to move to a small city in upstate New York.  She had to leave her friends and her school behind, and then start her life over again feeling completely alone.  Except she wasn’t alone for long, because a boy named Digby showed up on her doorstep on the first day of school.  Digby sounded like he knew all about her.  He sounded like he’d been watching her.  And he also sounded like a jerk.

This is the story of a girl named Zoe who unwillingly becomes friends with a boy named Digby, a strange boy with an even stranger reputation.  He’s definitely a bad influence, and he definitely gets her into trouble.  But he also gets her to help him solve a mystery involving the kidnapping of a local teenage girl.  He lets her into his world and his secrets.  And he shakes up her life in ways she never expected.

Booktalk: Jackaby by William Ritter

Jackaby cover

Jackaby by William Ritter is an awesome mix of historical fiction, suspense, and magic.  And since we’re in Women’s History Month, I should also mention that it features an awesome kick-ass heroine!

BOOKTALK:

Abigail Rook is new to the United States, and she’s new to detective work.  But she needs a job to keep a roof over her head, and that’s why she answered the ad to be an assistant for investigative services.  She didn’t realize until she went to inquire about the job that “investigative services” wasn’t a company but instead it was one man, R.F. Jackaby.  And she didn’t realize until she arrived at her first crime scene that there was a reason Jackaby had used the line “strong stomach preferred” in the ad.  The sight and the stench of a dead body, especially the body of someone who was killed so violently, would make most women faint.  But Abigail Rook isn’t most women.

Abigail has no idea that the kinds of crimes she’ll help to solve will be caused by both men and monsters.  She has no idea that Jackaby has the unique ability to see creatures that no one else can see.  She has no idea that working with Jackaby means that her life will be in more danger than ever before.  And she also has no idea about what happened to Jackaby’s LAST assistant.

Booktalk: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Darkest Part of the Forest cover

I’ve been a fan of fantasy books since I was a kid.  While I admit a certain fondness for high fantasy stories featuring princesses, castles, and unicorns, I have a special place in my heart for the stories where fantasy and reality blur.  Because (of course) those kinds of stories were more likely to really happen to me!

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black is an awesome fantasy story set in modern day featuring some characters that feel like they just stepped out of a fairy tale and others who feel like your childhood friends or the kid you used to be.  And because I always like books that cross genres because then I can use different hooks to appeal to different readers, I should also mention that this story blends fantasy with adventure and suspense AND it also features numerous romantic angles!

BOOKTALK:

The town of Fairfold seems like a modern place that fits into the 21st century.  But the town has very old roots, and those roots are filled with magic.  Most of the magic is invisible, but there’s one magical thing in the town that you CAN see.

That magical thing is a boy — a very unusual boy.  And tourists will come from miles around just to see him.  This boy has horns on his head and pointed ears, but other than that he looks human.  The boy is lying in a glass coffin in the woods.  It’s a very special coffin, because it can’t be opened and it can’t be broken.  The boy appears to be asleep … at least, no one’s ever seen him open his eyes.  And there’s one more unusual thing about the magical boy.  Even though he’s been there for as long as anyone can remember, he never gets any older.

Hazel and her brother Ben grew up in the town of Fairfold, so they both spent a lot of time hanging out in the woods and visiting the magical boy.  Like generations of kids before them, they’ve spent time talking to him and wishing he would wake up.  Hazel and Ben have seen pictures of the magical boy from years ago.  And in every picture he looked EXACTLY the same.

Hazel and Ben don’t know it yet, but the town of Fairfold is about to go through some major changes.  And one of those changes is that the magical boy is going to wake up.

Booktalk: Placebo Junkies by J.C. Carleson

Placebo Junkies cover

Placebo Junkies by J.C. Carleson is … mind expanding?  Yes.  Mind-altering?  Yes.  It’s also one of my favorite YA books of the year.  It’s hard to describe without giving too much away, but the best I can tell you for now is that it seems like realistic fiction but then again it might not be, depending on whose point of view and whose reality you’re talking about.  Seriously, though, this is a book you’ll want to read and then read again to see what you might have missed the first time around.

BOOKTALK:

May cause vomiting.  May cause depression.  May cause death.

That’s what it says on the labels of the pills that Audie takes.  You see, Audie is part of a group of people who volunteer again and again for pharmaceutical trials and medical procedures.  They don’t have “real” jobs, but instead they go from place to place signing up for different pills and procedures so that they can make enough money to get by.  Sometimes they get the real medicine, and sometimes they get placebos.  They never know if the medicine they’re taking is real or fake.  Sometimes they have no idea until they start throwing up, or rashes appear on their bodies, or their hair starts falling out.  It’s not the safest way to make money, but being a human guinea pig is easier than working … at least it usually is.

Now, the problem with going through all these procedures and taking all these pills is that sometimes things start happening to your body and your mind … and you don’t know why.  If you start having blackouts and losing your memory, is it because of the pills you took on Monday, or that injection you got on Tuesday?  Or are you having blackouts for another reason that has nothing to do with medical tests?

Audie and her friend Charlotte each have their own reasons for wanting to earn extra money.  Charlotte wants extra money so she can afford to move away and start over in a new place.  And Audie wants extra money so that she can plan a surprise for her boyfriend’s birthday.  But to earn that money, they’re going to have to sign up for even more medical tests than before.  And with every new test, they put themselves at an even greater risk.

May cause vomiting.  May cause depression.  May cause death.

Booktalk: The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks

The Bunker Diary cover

When I read The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks earlier this year, it was one of the most suspenseful YA books I’d ever read.  Teen in peril?  Edge-of-your-seat?  No idea what will happen next?  Our hopes repeatedly raised and then dashed to pieces?  YES to all of the above.

Give this book to fans of books like What Happened to Cass McBride? or any other realistic fiction that will keep them on edge!

BOOKTALK:

Linus woke up in a place he’d never seen before.  It was like an apartment with several rooms, but the more he looked around the more he realized that this was no ordinary apartment.  The walls were made out of concrete, and they were painted white.  There were no doors or windows leading outside, so he had no idea where he was or even if it was night or day.  The only connection between this concrete bunker and the outside world was an elevator.  An elevator that went … somewhere …

Linus spent some time exploring his new surroundings.  There was a bathroom, kitchen, elevator, and six identical rooms.  He thought … why would there be SIX rooms if he was the only person here?  And then he wondered if maybe he should expect some company.

Linus also spent some time thinking back on how he got here.  He remembered how he stopped to help a blind man who turned out not to be blind at all, a man who drugged and kidnapped him before bringing him to this mysterious place.

Linus doesn’t know it yet, but being kidnapped and brought here against his will isn’t going to be the worst thing that happens to him.  He doesn’t know it yet, but his nightmare is just beginning.

Booktalk: Nil by Lynne Matson

Nil cover

Nil by Lynne Matson is a suspenseful book that blends adventure, romance, and the challenge of survival.  I’m a big fan of books that open with someone being dropped into a strange environment and being forced to adapt to this strange new place and learn its rules in order to survive.  That’s why I would recommend this book to any readers who enjoyed House of Stairs by William Sleator or The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

BOOKTALK:

Charley went to Target to return a couple of skirts she’d bought the day before.  She parked her car in the lot, got out, and started walking towards the store.  But then she suddenly saw the air start shimmering in front of her.  It was like a wall of wavy glass, and that shimmering wall was moving towards her. Suddenly Charley felt a blinding, burning heat all over her body.  She tried to scream, but it was so hot that she couldn’t get enough air into her lungs.  Within seconds, she felt hot, and then she felt cold, and then she felt nothing.

Charley woke up somewhere, but she had no idea where she was.  She was lying in a huge field that was filled with red rocks as far as she could see.  The sun was shining down overhead, strong and hot.  Target was gone, the parking lot was gone, her car was gone … and her clothes were gone.  Charley was naked and alone, and she had no idea where she was or how she got there.

Charley is going to learn that she’s on an island called Nil, and it’s a place that doesn’t appear on normal maps.  She’s going to learn that there’s food and water on the island, so she’s not going to die … at least, not right away.  She’s going to learn that she’s not alone on the island, but that being around other people won’t always mean she’s safe.  She’s also going to learn that there are rules on this island, and one of those rules is that she has 365 days to escape, or else she’ll die.

The clock has already started ticking … but Charley just can’t hear it yet.

Booktalk: More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than This cover

More than This by Patrick Ness is a profound book that is difficult to categorize, in part because the reader doesn’t fully understand this world until it unfolds.  And even by the end of the story … well, let’s just say this book raises more questions than it answers.  It’s a richly rewarding story, and one that will have a strong impact on teens, especially on curious teens who enjoy taking their minds in new directions.

BOOKTALK:

Seth was dead, and then he was alive again.  The last thing he remembered was swimming in the ocean.  He remembered the pull of the undertow and how he was fighting against the waves, and that no matter how hard he tried to swim away from the rocks, he couldn’t.  He remembered the waves dashing him against the rocks.  He remembered the sound of his shoulder blade snapping in two, so loud that he could even hear it underwater.  He remembered drowning  … and then he remembered waking up here.  Wherever “here” is.

Seth doesn’t know if he’s dead, or alive, or dreaming.  He doesn’t know if he’s in heaven, or hell, or somewhere in between.  All he knows is is that he woke up in front of a house that looks vaguely familiar.  He doesn’t know exactly where he is, but when he steps inside the house it feels like he’s been here before, a very long time ago.  He also knows that wherever he is, he’s completely alone.  He listens carefully, but he can’t hear the sound of any people, or animals, or birds, or even insects.  This world is completely silent.

Seth doesn’t know what kind of place this is, or why it feels familiar, or what happened to everybody else.  He doesn’t have the answers to any of these questions … YET.

Booktalk: The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

Riverman cover

The Riverman by Aaron Starmer is a unique story for younger teens or older kids that balances on the border of fantasy and reality, the real world and an imagined one.  That’s just one of the reasons that this book reminded me of Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson — there’s the real/imagined world, but also the profound and powerful friendship between a boy and a girl.

The Riverman will keep readers guessing and hoping until the end of the story to find out what happened.  Some but not all of their questions will be answered, but since this is part of a trilogy, it’s setting up for a much larger tale.  The next book in the series, The Whisper, will be coming out in March!

BOOKTALK:

Fiona and Alistair are very unlikely friends.  Sure, they’ve grown up in the same neighborhood and their families used to hang out together when they were kids.  But now they’re different.  They’ve each grown up in different directions and they have different friends.  And then one day Fiona shows up at Alistair’s house and tells him that she wants him to write her biography.  Alistair thinks it’s a little weird, but still, he’s flattered to be asked.  It means she thinks he’s a good writer and he’s creative.

Fiona starts telling Alistair her life story, and that’s when things go from a little weird to VERY weird.  Fiona tells Alistair that she doesn’t spend all of her time in the real world.  That sometimes she visits a magical place called Aquavania, where all she has to do is wish for something and it comes true.  She can wish for the ability to fly, or for the sky to change colors, or for a magical talking animal to be her friend.  And whenever she visits Aquavania, even if she’s spent days or weeks there, when she comes back home it’s like no time passed at all.  But as wonderful as Aquavania is, it’s also dangerous.  Because there’s a creature there called the Riverman that steals the souls of children.  And when he steals their souls in Aquavania, they vanish in real life.

Little by little, Fiona tells her story to Alistair.  And little by little, Alistair comes to the conclusion that obviously she’s crazy … or she’s lying.  But the more he thinks about it, the more he realizes that something really IS wrong, and that Fiona might be in danger.  Whether it’s happening in the real world or in some imaginary place, SOMETHING is threatening Fiona.  And it will be up to Alistair to try to save her.

Booktalk: The Fall by Bethany Griffin

The Fall cover

This retelling of “The Fall of the House of Usher” is brought to us by Bethany Griffin, also known as the author of the YA novels Masque of the Red Death and Dance of the Red Death.  Although all of these novels are inspired by Edgar Alan Poe stories, the Red Death novels take Poe’s original story and extrapolate a dystopian future society, while The Fall is more of a traditional retelling.

In Poe’s original story we see the action from the perspective of an outsider who is coming to visit the cursed family, someone who’s coming in at the end of the story as the house is about to collapse.  But The Fall lets you imagine the fear and despair of what it would have been like if you’d spent your entire childhood growing up in that dark, creepy house with a curse hanging over your head.

The tagline on the cover is “Madness is in the very air she breathes,” which will give readers a good sense of the chilling, atmospheric story contained inside.

BOOKTALK:

Madeleine Usher is eighteen years old, and she’s just been been buried alive.  But that’s not where the story begins.

The story started generations ago, when the Usher family was cursed.  Ever since then, all of the Ushers died young, usually after being driven to madness.  Sometimes after trying to leave the house.  The house seemed to have a mind of its own … almost as if it didn’t want them to leave.  Madeleine’s parents sent her twin brother away to try to save him, which left Madeleine even more alone than before.  Now both of her parents are dead, because they couldn’t escape the curse, either.  The only Ushers that are left are Madeleine and her brother, and the curse might die with them.

Madeleine knows the house better than anyone.  She knows its moods and its secrets.  She has peered into its darkest and dustiest corners.  She knows that the house wants to protect her, but she also knows that it might kill her.

Madeleine Usher is eighteen years old, and she’s just been been buried alive.  That’s not where the story begins … but it might be where it ends.