Saturday, April 12, 2014

New YA Mystery, Worth Reading: ASK ME by Kimberly Pauley

Kimberly Pauley shouldn't need much reassurance -- her track record (mostly for teens) already shines and sings. But her author website ( has the feel of someone still hesitant to trust the fates.

She should probably just relax and enjoy what she's earned. ASK ME is a tight, intriguing, and totally teen-ready mystery with just the right amount of paranormal and a balanced blend of not belonging and suddenly finding a first boyfriend. Or two.

Right from the start, it's clear Aria has a "gift." Her grandparents, who gave up their comfy retirement home in order to find a more rural place to raise her after her mom deserted her, know she has this "prophecy" ability. It's no surprise: So did her grandmother when she was a girl (in that case, the gift ended at puberty, though). And Aria's grandfather is still hopeful that this newest truth-speaker in the family will find a way to persuade the unruly prophetic streak to come up with something to help the household finances ... say, the winning animal at the races.

But prophecy, for this line of "Sibyls," isn't one of those things you get to just push the button on. And in Aria's case, things are dire. Because any time someone asks a question, no matter what, she has to answer it. So she's learned to wear headphones and listen to music to keep from hearing others, and when she does hear their questions -- and people ask a stunning amount of questions every day -- she tries to mumble the answers. Being compelled to reveal truthful answers has already brought her way too much trouble (like, answering where a straying husband is, or what a boy sees in another girl, ouch!) As Aria comments about her lack of friends at school, "Who wants a friend who only speaks the truth?"

So it's a complete and surprising accident when one of the most popular girls in school asks a question that Aria can't help answering, a reply to Jade's despair: "Some things can only be confided to the earth." Not that Aria knows what that's supposed to mean (prophecies are often metaphorical or weird). But Jade seems to get it, and for a moment, school isn't such a desperate place.

Until Jade is found missing, then dead, and Aria -- of course -- can't help replying if people ask her about the death. Soon the police and then Jade's two boyfriends are after Aria, and at least one of them may have a dangerous motive for calling her and inviting her into something she barely grasps.

Go ahead, buy a copy for the "young adult" in your life. (It's from Soho Teen, sibling to Soho Crime.) Just make sure you have enough time to read it yourself, before you give it away.

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