Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Two Good Choices from the Young Adult Shelves: Kimberly Derting, THE BODY FINDER, and Eric Luper, BUG BOY

It's a new genre, but right from the first moment I heard of it, I've been fascinated by YA -- that is, "young adult." The classification arose through librarians frustrated in finding the right books for teens who were adult in their reading levels, but who weren't really interested in some of the crises that adult novels focus on. When you're in the midst of breaking away from home while also hanging onto it, depending on your friends but also sometimes hating them, scared about what you're going to do for the rest of your life but determined that it won't be the same as what you've seen around you ... well, those are good times to read YA books. Come to think of it, we're all in that boat sometimes, no matter our ages.

A really good read for mystery lovers who enjoy a hint of the paranormal (but without vampires) is Kimberly Derting's THE BODY FINDER. Violet Ambrose has always sensed death -- even the deaths of the mice that cats kill -- and can follow the imprint of a particular death on the killer, too. Her family knows; they've always protected her from exposure, and cared for her emotionally. But when a serial killer terrorizes her small town, at the same time that her feelings for Jay Heaton are turning her insides upside down, her family can't completely shield her from the consequences of being different. And of being needed to help find the killer. Derting holds the plot strings, tense and tough, and everything depends on Violet's choices. Share this with the teens you like best.

Eric Luper's BUG BOY isn't exactly a mystery -- and yet there's death, extortion, and ohmigosh dieting (you'll never guess how jockeys trim off weight in a hurry to ride the best horses), all in the Great Depression summer of 1934 as Jack Walsh scrambles for a career at the racetrack in Saratoga, New York. Jack's family is the opposite of Violet's: He's almost entirely on his own, or worse. And at age fifteen, he's a lot less experienced than he realizes in terms of dealing with really nasty characters and pressures. There are some striking surprises here, and Luper shows in his second novel that he knows how to dig into the past for a tale that resonates with today's choices in the recession. This one will be better for younger teens, or for anyone who's "horse crazy." A good find, and a good summer choice.

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