Children’s and Young Adult Newsletter 13: February 2016


When high school junior India Maxwell’s mother gets engaged to a man India’s never met, they move from the wrong side of the tracks in California to one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Boston. India’s used to being one of the most popular girls in school, a good cover for what a mess her life really is at home, but suddenly she has to climb up from the bottom rung of the social ladder among the children of Boston’s elite. Forced into a new family and a new school all at once, India faces a chilly reception from her soon-to-be stepsister Eloise, Eloise’s boyfriend Finn, and all their friends. As India struggles to find some control in her life, she stumbles across secrets Eloise and Finn, the school’s golden couple, have been hiding from everyone, secrets that birth an understanding and a new bond between the three of them and return India to her place among the in-crowd. If they can just make it through these last two years of high school, they’ll be able to head off to college and put their pasts—and family pressures—behind them. But when India and Finn grow closer, their friendship evolves into something more, which threatens to unravel the façades that are holding each of them together. As India opens herself up to other people for the first time, she learns that everyone’s life is more complicated than she could ever have imagined and that sometimes you need to trust people if you want to build a life worth living. THE IMPOSSIBLE VASTNESS OF US, the contemporary YA debut of New York Times bestselling adult romance author Samantha Young, is a story of friendship, identity, love and acceptance that will break readers’ hearts and leave them yearning for more. (Please note, Lauren Abramo is the agent on this project.)

Leigh Sanders is fifteen, half Asian, half white, and absolutely certain about one thing: when her mother committed suicide, she turned into a bird. The only person who believes Leigh is her Taiwanese grandmother, Wai Po, whom she’s just met for the first time. When Leigh’s father disappears, she and Wai Po follow him through a magical plume of smoke into the Lower Sky—the realm of spirits—where she hopes to find both her parents. Leigh and Wai Po traverse the mystical realm by following memories stored in the form of objects. Accessing those memories—not just her own, but her mother’s, Wai Po’s and others—allows Leigh to see her maternal family’s history, helping to complete what has always been an unfinished picture of her origins. But a rogue demon terrorizing the Lower Sky threatens to crack the realm apart before Leigh can recover her father and answer the questions her mother left behind. If they don’t stop the demon and escape in time, they may destroy both worlds. Alternating between realism and fantasy, past and present, romance and despair, UPPER SEA, LOWER SKY by Emily X.R. Pan is a beautiful, lyrical debut novel about finding oneself through family history, connecting three generations of women across time and space. (Please note, Michael Bourret is the agent on this project.)

“Nanny Paws looks after the twins. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for her girls.” Yes, she’s a poodle, but from the moment the twins wake up, Nanny Paws is there to see to their needs. She washes their faces (with her tongue), walks them to school (on her leash), and cleans up after them (by burying their toys). But at the end of the day, when it comes time for their bath, the twins are nowhere to be found—where could they be? Nanny Paws looks high and low as the reader comes to realize it just might be the twins taking care of Nanny Paws, not the other way around! Author/illustrator Wendy Wahman‘s ( first book, Don’t Lick the Dog was a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, and she brings her same vibrant, colorful illustration style to NANNY PAWS, along with her perfect understanding of how dogs and young children interact. Readers of all ages will be charmed to watch Nanny Paws attempt to take care of her charges as only a most loyal, loving dog can do. (Please note, John Rudolph is the agent of this project.)

When sixteen-year-old Lily Michaels-Ryan ditches her ADHD meds, her erratic behavior at school lands her detention with Abelard, the boy with Asperger’s who she accidentally hit in the face with her lunchbox in first grade. Abelard intrigues Lily—he seems to always be 30 seconds behind everyone else whereas she feels 30 seconds ahead of them. After spontaneously kissing him—because, let’s face it, Lily off drugs is nothing if not spontaneous—she decides that school might not be so bad and Abelard might just balance her out in exciting, unexpected ways. It doesn’t hurt that he is brilliant and beautiful. Problem is, she can’t figure out how to talk to him. When Abelard posts an online ad seeking a girl of ‘surpassing beauty and purpose among you,’ Lily recognizes it as a quote from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, a 12th century tale of love and tragedy that her father read to her before he disappeared. Lily’s convinced Abelard is looking for her. Their mutual ability to quote ancient love letters back and forth via text joins them together, and the two fall for each other. Hard. But will that be enough to bridge their neurological differences when Abelard and Lily meet up again in person? THE LOVE LETTERS OF ABELARD AND LILY is a beautiful YA debut from author Laura Creedle about two unbelievably lovable, neurodivergent teens. Part Eleanor & Park, part Marcello in the Real World, this is a funny, romantic, moving work from a truly exciting new talent. (Please note, Jim McCarthy is the agent on this project.)

When twelve-year-old Annie Berger finds a ripped-up letter from the father she never knew, it makes her realize that her life until now has been one huge lie. She becomes determined to run away and find him. Her dad’s upcoming parole hearing in downtown Oakland, CA is Annie’s one shot at seeing him—if, that is, she can ditch her school field trip and reach the courthouse in time. It all goes smoothly until Duncan Jimenez,  a sixth grader with ADHD and a plan of his own, decides to tag along. With her mom and stepdad on her heels, about to ruin her dream, Annie has to keep running if she’s ever going to get the answers she has been looking for her whole life. Playing out against a multi-cultural Bay Area backdrop, RULES FOR RUNNING AWAY is a tense, touching Middle Grade urban adventure story. Author Rachel Sarah was one of the 125 writers chosen to be mentored in the last PitchWars. She was assigned to My Seventh Grade Life in Tights author Brooks Benjamin, and under his guidance has produced this suspenseful debut novel. Her previous book, Single Mom Seeking: Play Dates, Blind Dates, and other Dispatches from the Dating World, was published by Seal Press, and has been optioned by 20th Century Fox for a TV series. (Please note, Eric Myers is the agent on this project.)

The night before Danielle’s teenage body was found floating face down in the Lake of the Isles, Emily had seen her former best friend—the one who usually dates the rich, Porsche-driving guys—hanging adoringly on the arm of a homeless street kid. Although police questioned three of the gutter punks who were with Danielle that night, investigators eventually ruled the seventeen-year-old’s death an accidental drowning. But Emily doesn’t buy it. Emily learns that the autopsy shows Danielle had heroin in her blood, something they’d sworn to never touch. In addition, the night before her death, Danielle had reached out to Emily for the first time in months, leaving a distraught voice mail. In an effort to uncover what really happened to her friend that night, Emily decides to infiltrate the band of homeless street punks. It doesn’t take long before she is increasingly drawn to the boy Danielle was with the last night she was seen alive—a charismatic, movie star handsome, poetry-spouting gutter punk named Raven. While Emily knows that spending time getting Raven to trust her is the key to finding out what really happened to Danielle that fateful night, she soon finds herself over her head and in increasing danger because of her growing obsession with the dark underworld of Minneapolis street kids. GUTTERPUNKS is a dark commercial contemporary novel that explores realistic themes in a convincing way. Author Kristi Belcamino is a former crime reporter and adult fiction author whose novels have been nominated for several awards. This is her first novel for young adults. (Please note, Stacey Glick is the agent on this project.)

Gwendolyn Lockheart has been a student at Fairwoods Academy for Troubled Girls longer than any other, and with her penchant for breaking and entering, she believes there isn’t a secret at the private reform school she hasn’t found out. When she’s stuck rooming with a new student with no records, Gwen begins to dig herself into a world she never knew existed. Belinda Reddington—aka Red—wants nothing more than to stay at her NYC penthouse and peacefully weather the inexplicable blackouts she suffers. But when her grandmother mysteriously goes missing, Red is forced into Fairwoods Academy where the never-seen headmistress—known as The Ghost—is her last living relative. Then a student vanishes in the massive Fairwoods Forest and all signs point to the new girl. Red starts to wonders if she’s been doing terrible things without realizing it. She turns to her boundary-pushing roommate, Gwen, for help and the two race to clear Red’s name, ultimately exposing the real threat to the girls of Fairwoods: The headmistress herself. FAIRWOODS ACADEMY FOR TROUBLED GIRLS by A.J. Brooks will delight fans of The Raven Boys and Mara Dyer, twisting together multiple fairytales into a gothic horror of magic and mystery. (Please note, Sharon Pelletier is the agent on this project.)

In the Land of Remember, people carry their memories in balloons. James loves to learn about his grandpa’s balloons, balloons filled with stories about his grandpa’s summer days spent on a farm and his favorite dog, Stix. But grandpa’s been having a hard time in the Land of Remember lately. Balloons will slip from his hand and float away, and James will rush after them, trying to catch the memories before they’re lost among the clouds. And then one day, James’ grandpa loses the silver balloon, the one with James’ name in it. Jessie Oliveros‘ THE REMEMBER BALLOONS is both a heartbreaking and uplifting picture book that will teach children how to see the good in the bad with its poignant, beautiful ending. (Please note, Mike Hoogland is the agent on this project.)

Eleven-year-old washer girl Mabel dreams of headlining in the Royal Bertram Brothers Circus, as her trapeze artist father did before he plummeted to his death. For now, though, her hands are not callused by a trapeze bar—instead they’re burnt with lye from forever scrubbing the performers’ costumes. But Mabel’s rightful place as the next circus headliner is usurped when 11-year-old Anjali arrives with her trapeze artist family. Worse still, pampered Anjali doesn’t even seem to like being a star. Mabel remains determined to become the best trapezist the circus has ever known. But when she accidentally destroys the bear handler’s costume, she knows that she will lose her post and have to leave the circus forever—that is, until the circus bear speaks to her and convinces her to release him, thus distracting from her own mistake. But once released, the bear attacks a woman in the nearby village, and Mabel is dismissed anyway. What’s more, the villagers evict the circus and set out to kill the bear. But if Mabel can find the bear and bring him back before the circus leaves, perhaps she can salvage her place in the only home she’s ever known. When Mabel’s search crosses paths with Anjali’s own escape from the circus, Mabel has to decide whether trusting the trapeze artist will allow her to experience the weightlessness of flight or bind her to the earth forever. Told in alternate sections of Mabel’s prose and the verse of Anjali, debut author Joy McCullough-Carranza‘s DANCING WITH BEARS is a gorgeous work of historical fiction with a magical twist calling to mind the works of authors like Margi Preus and Anne Ursu. (Please note, Jim McCarthy is the agent on this project.)

Miguel Sandoval is tall, hot, and one hell of a dancer, and he knows it. At 17, he’s at the top of the professional program at one of the most respected flamenco schools in North America, and his latest solo performance might just land him a spot in the largest company in the country. After his grandfather dies unexpectedly, Miguel’s focus begins to waver. Looking for inspiration, he starts wearing his long-dead father’s flamenco boots and finds he’s never danced better. He becomes so entranced by his regained focus and increasing skill, he even refuses to pay close attention to the excruciating pain he feels when he stops dancing, and which disappears the moment he takes off the boots. He even tries to ignore the string of terrifying accidents that start threatening people around him. But when fellow dancer Sereine Sinclair takes an unusual interest in Miguel, she suggests that his dad’s boots could be cursed—and that they may be connected to the explosion that put his grandma in a coma. It’s getting harder for Miguel to ignore that the accidents only happen when he takes off the boots. But if he leaves them on, the agony keeps getting worse. Only dancing provides relief. And no one can dance forever. DUENDE, a debut Magic Realist YA thriller by Gloria Mendez Santa Anna, is a dark re-twisting of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale The Red Shoes. Its depiction of the flamenco art form will attract readers who have enjoyed Caridad Ferrer’s When the Stars Go Blue, while the healthy dose of supernatural suspense in the story will appeal to fans of Katie Alender and Kenneth Oppel. All of this is permeated with an undercurrent of romance and subliminal allure that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever seen a flamenco performance. (Please note, Eric Myers is the agent on this project.)

When Eli’s flight crashes in a fierce February snowstorm, he’s saved from freezing to death by an odd, super tall girl named Sam, who claims to have no way to help him get home. Instead, Sam takes Eli to a sprawling underground hospital, and while he’s not exactly a prisoner, he’s certainly not at liberty, either. Exploring one night, Eli discovers caverns full of strange, half-human Beasts, like a woman with huge glossy wings instead of arms and a boy who seems to be half-wolf. He’s in the domain of Dr. Moreau, a famous bioengineer who was disgraced after unethical research practices and is now continuing his controversial studies in secret, altering humans with animal DNA. Moreau invites Eli to join him in his research, and at first, Eli overlooks his moral quandaries in his eagerness to work on world-changing science. The two are on the verge of a breakthrough that could change the way genes are used to treat disease when Eli begins to suspect Moreau may have more sinister plans for him. Knowing he cannot ignore the grim truth of Moreau’s work any longer, Eli escapes into the caverns to rally the Beasts against the Creator they revere. Their final showdown will decide not just Eli’s fate but the future of the Beasts, too, if Eli can put an end to Moreau’s evil experiments once and for all. Action-packed, atmospheric, and compelling, MOREAU by Tamara Linse is a retelling of H.G. Wells’ classic The Island of Dr. Moreau sure to thrill readers who love the work of Scott Westerfield and Danielle Paige. (Please note, Sharon Pelletier is the agent on this project.)

Jeanette’s not royalty, nor even nobility; she’s a young woman of the Weaver’s Guild. But destiny brings her to Castle Wilde to meet the spoiled Princess Aurora on her sixteenth birthday: the day when Landry de Chance, the lonely, outsider son of the Bad Fairy, casts everyone into an enchanted hundred-year sleep. Jeanette’s fate is now entwined with that of the headstrong princess. A century later, brave, upright Prince Tobin rebels against his controlling father and breaks the curse. When he does, he mistakes Jeanette for Princess Aurora—waking her first, promising her his love and loyalty before learning his error. And when Castle Wilde is roused from the hundred-year slumber, the threat of civil war awakens along with it. What follows is a clash of wills, swords and hearts that endangers everything Jeanette holds dear. To save the ones she loves, will Jeanette do the unthinkable, and request a wish from the fairy who caused all this trouble in the first place…Landry de Chance? And what might Landry demand from her in return? Bridget Hodder will make her highly-anticipated Middle Grade debut this fall with The Rat Prince (Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG), a witty revisionist re-telling of the original Cinderella story; now she takes her fairy tale talent into the YA realm with SPUN: A TALE OF THE SLEEPING BEAUTY. (Please note, Eric Myers is the agent on this project.)

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