“The first time Uncle Charlie came to live with us he was alive.
The second time he came, he was dead.”
~ from Avi's School of the Dead
School of the Dead by AviHorror. Tony's Uncle Charlie has always been odd -- it's one of the things he has in common with seventh-grader Tony, who shares his offbeat interest in the supernatural. After Uncle Charlie dies suddenly, Tony is so heartbroken that he's actually comforted when he starts seeing Uncle Charlie's ghost. Less comforting is Tony's new school, where students go missing, spirits haunt secret passageways, and no one is what they seem. Pairing a suspenseful plot with otherworldly chills, School of the Dead is just creepy enough to please fans of mystery and horror alike.
The Underdogs by Sara HammelMystery. A murder at a fancy tennis club shakes up an otherwise boring summer for 12-year-old Evie and her best friend Chelsea. Both of them could use some distraction from their own troubles: Evie is bullied and treated like an outcast because of her weight, while Chelsea is still dealing with the abuse in her past. Shadowing the police detectives assigned to the case, the two girls search for hidden clues and uncover disturbing secrets, revealing a multi-layered puzzle that will keep even the most savvy mystery readers guessing all the way to the end.
Mayday by Karen HarringtonFiction. Before the crash, Wayne couldn't shut up. He'd fill in any awkward moments (and he has plenty) with bits of memorized trivia. But after surviving a plane crash on the way home from his uncle's funeral, Wayne temporarily loses his voice. This newfound silence spurs changes in his relationships with his disappointing dad, his sorta-kinda-girlfriend, and his drill sergeant grandpa (who may turn out to be an unexpected ally). Even when he can't speak, Wayne's funny, sarcastic voice comes through loud and clear in this story about "survival, heroism, and the search for strength" (School Library Journal).
This Is All Your Fault, Cassie Parker by Terra Elan McVoyFiction. It only takes one cringe-inducing incident to bring Fiona's social life to a crashing halt. When a group of mean girls read her diary out loud on the bus, Fiona is mortified, but the real sting comes later, when her best friend Cassie gives her the cold shoulder. Now, Fiona is facing a summer full of drama -- dealing with her family, her crush, and her attempts at making new friends -- without the one person she can confide in. Relatable, diverse characters add authenticity to this heartfelt companion book to Drive Me Crazy. For another earnest look at middle school friendships, try Rebecca Stead's Goodbye Stranger.
The Rig by Joe DucieThriller. Located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, the Rig is an international high-security prison for dangerous juvenile offenders. It's also the new home of 15-year-old Will Drake, who's already managed to break out of three prisons…soon to be four, if he has his way. While figuring out how to get past the armed guards and tracking devices, Will begins to suspect that the Rig may be more than just a prison. How else can he explain the missing inmates or his new friend Irene's strange powers (not to mention the mutated sharks)? Action-movie pacing and intriguing characters make this science fiction thriller a standout.
Thirteen by Tom HoyleThriller. Although he doesn't know it at first, ordinary British 13-year-old Adam is the only thing stopping a crazed cult's rise to power. "The People" believe that they'll be rewarded if they kill 13 boys born on New Year's Day, 2000. They've already murdered 12 boys, and Adam is meant to be the 13th -- a fact he discovers only after the cult starts gunning for him. With his parents, friends, and all of London in the line of fire, Adam frantically fights to stay alive and take down The People. Older readers who crave violent, plot-driven action won't want to miss Thirteen (and may also enjoy Pittacus Lore's I Am Number Four).
I Am Princess X by Cherie PriestThriller. Princess X, the sword-swinging, sneaker-clad comic book superheroine created by fifth-grade friends May and Libby, died on the day that Libby was killed in a car crash. So why is May, now 16, suddenly seeing stickers and graffiti featuring Princess X? It all leads back to a recent underground webcomic about the princess – a webcomic full of cryptic details which indicate that Libby might be alive, in danger, and purposefully leaving clues for May to find. Alternating between Princess X's illustrated exploits and May's investigation (both on the internet and in real-life Seattle), this techno-thriller is short, smart, and satisfying.
The One Safe Place by Tania UnsworthDystopian Thriller. In a bleak, dusty future ravaged by climate change, Devin is lucky to grow up on one of the world's few remaining farms. But after his grandfather's death, Devin is unable to survive on his own. He winds up in the Gabriel H. Penn Home for Childhood, a luxurious orphanage where everything seems perfect...too perfect. Richly descriptive writing and steady pacing ramp up the tension as Devin uncovers the home's chilling secrets. This dark, gripping read is a solid choice for dystopian fiction fans and mystery readers alike. Older readers looking for a more horrific twist on a similar tale should try Clive Barker's The Thief of Always.
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