Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New YA Titles for Fall: The Book of Broken Hearts, Falling Hard, and Countdown

Fall is here, school has begun and students find themselves with a lot of  required reading.  But there are many readers who want some fun quality "escapist" novels to complement what they are reading in class.  I have three such books to recommend. Sarah Ockler's The Book of Broken Hearts, finds Jude Hernandez hiring Emilio Vargas to help her Alzheimer's stricken father restore his beloved vintage motorcycle. Falling Hard is the first in Megan Sparks' series about Roller Derby girls and  Countdown by Michelle Rowen is a dystopian thriller for fans of The Hunger Games.

Sarah Ockler (Twenty Boy Summer and Bittersweet) has another winner with The Book of Broken Hearts.  When Jude Hernandez hires Emilio Vargas to help her father restore his vintage motorcycle, she knows she has to keep it a secret from her three older sisters. They made her swear in their Book of Broken Heats to stay away from Vargas men, who are notorious heartbreakers. But Emilio is the best man for the job and she is hoping the project helps stave off the onset of her father’s Alzheimer’s symptoms. Jude tells herself she can resist Emilio's charms; but as she struggles with her father's increasingly erratic behavior, Emilio is there for her and she finds herself falling for him.  The author provides realistic details about motorcycle restorations, as well as the trials of dealing with a loved one's deterioration when stricken with early onset Alzheimer's.  Jude, who should be at an age where she can focus on her own future, must think of her family first in every decision she makes.  Jude and Emilio's Hispanic heritage is reinforced with a sprinkling of Spanish phrases throughout the book which give it an authentic feel.
Falling Hard introduces Annie Turner who, after her parents' divorce, transfers from London to a high school in Liberty Heights, Illinois, where she must make a decision about what path to follow.  After a growth spurt Annie is now 5’11” and must give up gymnastics. She tries out for cheerleading in which she could use her gymnastics skills, but Roller Derby is what really intrigues her. If she chooses cheerleading, she will please her dad who wants her to take the safer route, and she might attract the attention of Tyler, the cute soccer star she is crushing on. But her new friends, punk rocker Jesse and artist Lexie, think she will be selling out.  In the sequel Hell's Bells Annie's roller derby team, the Liberty Belles, are finally winning, but Annie sprains her ankle and may not be able to play in the grudge match against their arch rivals. To make matters worse Tyler is flirting with other girls. However, Jesse seems to be there when she needs him. Annie is an amazing athlete and the details about roller derby tactics make this an informative, as well as fun series.
Finally, Michelle Rowen's Countdown was an adult book which her publisher convinced her to rewrite for a YA audience.  When I first picked it up, I thought it would be a rip-off of The Hunger Games, but I found it to be so much more.  Kira Jordan wakes up in an empty cell, chained to the notorious Rogan Ellis, who is suspected of murdering her family.  They live in a plague devastated city and she has been living on the streets, counting on her psychic abilities to keep her alive. He is scheduled to be sent to a maximum security prison for his supposed crimes.  Now she and Rogan are thrown into competing in a televised game that gives them tasks that must be completed in a specified amount of time in order for them to survive to reach the next level.  They can never be more than 90 feet apart and must cooperate to succeed.  As Rogan proves to be her savior in more ways than one, she begins to sense that his gory past crimes may have been trumped up to create drama for the TV show. If they win the game, he will be freed and she will be allowed to move into the domed city for the privileged class. As the powers that be manipulate what is happening to them, Kira has to decide whether to trust Rogan or think only of herself.