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Mystery & Truth
As we launch head-first into the busy holiday season, two family mysteries begin our week. The ever-popular Jodi Picoult is back with another title that mixes animal behavior and human drama. (I say “another” given 2012’s Lone Wolf, which we recommended here.) Leaving Time focuses on elephant research and a mother’s disappearance.
Diane Chamberlain is back with a second mystery with teen appeal. We reviewed Necessary Lies last year. In The Silent Sister she follows a young woman searching for the older sister she thought had died as a teenager.
Come back on Wednesday for the announcement of our Best Adult Books 4 Teens, 2014!!
Jenna, age 13, desperately wishes she could remember the details of her mother’s disappearance 10 years ago. What she does know is that her mother Alice, an elephant researcher, was found unconscious a mile from a dead body. She also knows that her mother regained consciousness in the hospital and vanished. Jenna spends a lot of time on missing person websites looking for some mention of her mother and wondering if she is alive and why she would leave her behind. She enlists the help of Serenity, a disgraced psychic, and Virgil, a police detective turned private investigator. Chapters told from the points of view of Jenna, Serenity, and Virgil, as well as excerpts from Alice’s research journals, reveal details of the elephant sanctuary as the trio joins forces to find the truth. Alice’s fascinating research focused on elephant mothering and behavior while grieving, a clear metaphor for the love and pain Jenna experiences throughout the novel. Captivating, engaging, and at times humorous, this book ends with some major surprises. Teens who are fans of Picoult, or those who love a well-written mystery with dynamic characters, will find much to savor and ponder here.—Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, Mill Valley, CA
Twenty-five-year old Riley is preparing to sell her childhood home after the death of her father. Her mother died years earlier, and years before that, her older sister Lisa’s suicide ended a promising career for the young violin prodigy, bringing with it years of devastating grief to her family. Feeling incredibly lonely, Riley reaches out to her brother Danny, an Iraq war veteran who is psychologically ravaged and angry, rendering him unable to connect with his loved ones. Now as the protagonist sorts through a myriad of household items she feels more alone than ever. When a neighbor hints that Riley was adopted, the young woman is certain that the claim is a lie, but when she finds an old box filled with news articles stating that Lisa murdered her music teacher and hinting that Lisa committed suicide in order to escape prison, Riley discovers that her childhood was built on lies; and in fact, there are strong indications that her sibling didn’t die. Determined to fill in the gaps of her childhood, and possibly find the sister she never knew, Riley begins a search for the truth. Told in alternating chapters, the story also includes Lisa’s point of view as Riley searches every clue to gain insight and understanding of her own identity. Teens will identify with Lisa, Riley, and Danny as victims of adult actions and decisions. The broad range of emotions that Riley faces ring true.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA
About Angela Carstensen
Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.
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