"This Thing Called the Future"
By J. L. Powers
Cinco Puntos Press, 208 pages, $16.95
Ages 13 and up
Khosi is a 14-year-old girl living on the edge of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. She has no luxuries in her life. She lives a small shack with her elderly grandmother and younger sister while her mother works in the city. She knows she must continue to attend school and walk long distances to fetch her grandmother herbal potions from an ancient Zulu healer, but these treks are becoming more difficult as men have started noticing her. She struggles with the constant threat of rape on every outing she must take through her poor shantytown. Khosi has also started wondering whether the money they give to the healer might be better off spent on a medically-licensed doctor. As an intelligent girl who loves science, she is increasingly confused by her grandmother's old ways of life, which seemingly cannot coexist with the facts she is learning in school.
When Khosi's mother becomes ill, clearly with AIDS, the girl must do what she can to salvage her family. Bolstered by her friendship with a boy in her class, Khosi tries to mesh the spiritual aspects of her life her ability to channel her ancestors and her desire to heal through traditional Zulu practices with the practical side of modernity that might help her mother. This novel offers an intimate glimpse into the challenges of being a contemporary teenage girl in South Africa.
By Adele Griffin
Alfred A. Knopf for Young Readers, 224 pages, $16.99
Ages 12 and up
Even though the sultry days are coming to an end, it's not too late to enjoy one final summer-themed tale. And this one is a true chiller that will keep you shivering all the way through Halloween. 17-year-old Jamie has reluctantly agreed to spend her summer on a New England island acting as an au pair for Isa, a strange, wealthy child. Still struggling with an illicit relationship gone awry as well as a bad athletic injury, Jamie arrives on the island, nursing her mental wounds and addicted to painkillers. Taking care of Isa is more of an afterthought just a way to kill the time and make a little cash while boarding in the girl's family's gorgeous island mansion.
Jamie soon learns that Isa's former babysitter died the previous summer in a mysterious airplane crash with her boyfriend. After being told more than once that she resembles the dead girl, Jamie starts investigating the couple's life. As the hot days meld together, Jamie starts to believe that she can see their ghosts and tries desperately to uncover their secrets. Yet, as Jamie pops more and more pills, can she be trusted as a narrator? This thriller has a truly unexpected, creepy ending.
"The White Devil"
By Justin Evans
Harper, 384 pages, $24.99
Ages 14 and up
Andrew Taylor has been shipped off to The Harrow School, a 400-year-old private British institution for privileged boys. He has not been sent here to pay homage to the acclaimed school's rich history or famous alumni, such as Lord Byron or Winston Churchill, he is here simply because it is far away from his discipline troubles back home in the United States. Andrew's angry father thinks Harrow will provide his son with one last chance at college, and the onus is on Andrew to avoid distractions and succeed.
When Andrew is tapped to play Lord Byron in a school play, he becomes obsessed with the poet and finds himself returning over and over again in his dreams to a very different and dark time at Harrow School. Night after night, a pale boy visits Andrew in his dreams and tries to lure him to the school's basement. Soon Andrew finds himself struggling with his grasp on reality. When his classmates start falling ill from an ancient incurable disease, he begins to suspect the culprit is a dead and angry ghost that strange pale boy who has mistakenly fixed his sights on Andrew. Author Justin Evans ("A Good and Happy Child"), who attended the real Harrow School, has conjured a moody and chilling ghost story rich with forgotten literary history.
By Judy Blundell
Scholastic Press, 320 pages, $17.99
Ages 14 and up
Another lush historical novel from the National Book Award-winning author of "What I Saw and How I Lied." Kit Corrigan thinks she has what it takes to succeed as a chorus girl in 1950s Manhattan. She is beautiful, a great dancer and has a lush singing voice. But talent alone can't help a girl pay her bills. Since she walked away from her family back in Rhode Island, 17-year-old Kit has barely been able to make enough money from her appearance in a small show to eke out a brutal existence in the rough city. But suddenly her ex-boyfriend's father, Nate, has appeared on the scene and he's willing to polish up her life in exchange for a handful of favors.
Despite her concerns that she might be unwittingly entering a deal with a member of the Mafia, Kit eagerly moves into the gorgeous apartment Nate offers her. He helps her land a great nightclub audition, and soon she's living a glittery life full of perks, fancy clothes and plenty of food. Yet, Nate's demands to spy on her ex-boyfriend and on strange men at the bar are starting to wear her down. In an sudden rush of violence, Kit realizes too late how desperately she has compromised her once-promising future.
By Jennifer Brown
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 368 pages, $17.99
Ages 15 and up
For as long as anyone can remember, Alex has been best friends with Bethany and Zack. They live near each other, go to high school together and are even planning a huge road trip to Colorado together. Life is good and a lot of fun for Alex. When a handsome new guy named Cole ends up being her new pupil in the tutoring room, Alex is over the moon. He pays attention to her, tells her she's beautiful and soon asks her to be his girlfriend. He even acts a little jealous around Zack, which Alex finds kind of flattering at first.
Cole very quickly forces himself to be No. 1 in Alex's life, making it clear to her and her friends that he will not tolerate her spending time with anyone else. Alex isn't crazy about this situation, but she's in love, and she's always heard there must be compromise in any relationship. She even excuses Cole when he starts to pinch and push her. However, when his jealous rages morph into serious abuse, Alex knows she needs to get out. But how? She has long since alienated her friends and family; Cole is the only one left. This good, albeit slightly generic, story does a nimble job capturing how easy it can be for some girls to get ensnared in an abusive relationship and how difficult it is to escape them.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun