Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, July 1, 2011


Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers: The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman

From My Shelf

William Morrow & Company: Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams / The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Mira Books: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison

Miss Independence

It's Independence Day weekend, which you knew, and a time for a little reading independence for me, which you did not. Every six months (roughly July 4th and December 25th) I give myself a holiday from keeping up with the latest reads and indulge in whatever appeals. Sometimes that's masses of P.G. Wodehouse, sometimes it's a pile of thrillers, sometimes it's a revisited classic like Anna Karenina or Far from the Madding Crowd. The titles don't really matter, of course; what matters is that I'm free to choose.

My semiannual declaration of independence has me thinking about what that word means for the publishing industry. Don't get me wrong; I'm not about to launch into a business screed. This is a newsletter for readers. However, as readers, we should all be aware of what the various iterations of "independent" mean for books. So let me say what that word means in some contexts--and what it doesn't mean.

An independent press means that that publishing company is privately owned and doesn't have to answer to corporate directives--but it doesn't always mean that it's small, or quirky, or necessarily more devoted to authors or readers.

An independent bookstore means that the shop is privately owned and doesn't have to answer to corporate directives--but that doesn't mean it can do whatever it wants and ignore what's going on with corporate publishers.

An independent author means that the writer has decided to pursue the path of self publishing--but that doesn't mean he or she is any more or less talented than an author who has chosen the more traditional route to publication.

In other words, independence means that everyone--not just newsletter editors--is free to choose different routes to getting books to readers. But what does it mean to be an independent reader? Well, that's up to... you. Happy Independence Day, fellow book lovers! --Bethanne Patrick


Akashic Books: Me by Tomoyuki Hoshino


Bookselling News

Planning the American Writers Museum

Retired businessman Malcolm O'Hagan, "an Irish engineer with a love for great literature," is working on a plan to open the American Writers Museum in Chicago. The Tribune reported that O'Hagan is optimistic about raising funds for his ambitious project. 

"We don't underestimate the difficulty of the undertaking, but it will get done," he said. His initial idea was to house the museum in New England, but "the more we thought about it, we realized it needs to be in a destination city for both tourists and conventioneers, and it needs to be in a large metropolitan city with a rich literary tradition and culture. We've settled on Chicago because we think that's where it belongs."


Fabled Films: The Nocturnals by Tracey Hecht - 11 Fun summer boredom buster activities!


Great Reads

Further Reading

This week a book that's already delighted readers in other countries makes its U.S. debut. The Map of Time (Atria) by Felix Palma is a little steampunk, a lot paranormal and even more historical fantasy. The historical H.G. Wells is the book's ultimate star, but its multiple story arcs and many layers of ideas will make Palma's work intriguing to fans of many different genres.

 

If you enjoy The Map of Time and want more:

Literary mystery, try Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind. This popular 2004 release may be the most bookish novel of suspense ever written. Its large scope and vibrant characters are similar to Palma's. While Zafon's later novels haven't lived up to this one's promise, Shadow of the Wind is big and smart enough on its own.

 

Victorian England, try Charles Palliser, The Quincunx. An odd and hefty 800-page puzzle, this novel reads almost faster than the slimmest James Patterson thriller. It's the story of a young man who wants to learn about his origins--very Dickensian. The best part? The puzzle isn't solved (or is it?) until the very last page.

 

Paranormal suspense, try Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. It's not just the Europeans who know how to build a complicated and engaging sci-fi thriller, and it's not just the 19th century that makes a good setting. Murakami's 1993 tale of a high-tech infowar takes place in near-future Tokyo.


Akashic Books: Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach, illustrated by Ricardo Cortes


Literary Lists

Summer Reading Mega List

Every year, David Gutowski, aka Largehearted Boy, collects as many excellent summer reading lists as possible in one blog post. This year's can be found right here and includes online lists from newspapers, blogs, publishers, e-tailers, television stations, magazines, radio stations and websites. 


Silver Dolphin Books: Kisses for Kindergarten by Livingstone Crouse, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan



Crown Publishing Group: The Little French Bistro by Nina George


The Guardian's Top 10 Historical Fiction Titles

Andrew Miller, author most recently of Pure, chose his top 10 historical novels for the Guardian, noting that "at its best, historical fiction is never a turning away from the Now but one of the ways in which our experience of the contemporary is revived. Janus-like, such books look both to the past and to the present, and there is no need to laboriously draw out the parallels for they suggest themselves, inevitably and plentifully.

"The books listed here share the essential virtues of all good fiction: the renewal of our sense of the world, of ourselves, of language, the extension of ourselves across time and space. And how odd it would be, how dull, if novelists and readers confined themselves, in the name of some dubious notion of relevance, to the events and style of one particular period." 


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Lake House by Kate Morton


Mixed Media

Book Candy

If Lord of the Rings were set in Brooklyn. Noelle Stevenson "illustrated a gaggle of endearing hipsterfied LOTR images," io9 reported.

----

The Huffington Post offered its choices for "Coolest Book Covers 2011: The Year's Best So Far," noting, "it's not easy to make a cool book cover. The designer usually has a million different people weighing in, each with a separate need that can potentially tie creativity in a knot."


Trailer of the Day: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

So you've read John Le Carre's classic Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and you've watched the brilliant 1979 BBC miniseries adaptation starring Alec Guinness. Now you need to see the 2011 film, coming out in the U.K. this fall, for two simple reasons: Colin Firth. Benedict Cumberbatch. Here's the trailer for your enjoyment.


Harry Potter: Sneak Peek at Gringotts Bank Break-in

Entertainment Weekly featured a film clip from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2--"a behind-the-scenes look at a key scene from early in the film in which Harry, Ron, and Hermione sneak into Gringotts Bank in search of one of the final Horcruxes containing a piece of Voldemort's soul. (Warning: For those who want to see the film spoiler-free, this clip is not for you.)"

Other behind-the-scenes featurettes were available at io9, "including a new look for Bellatrix Lestrange."


Book Review

Fiction

The Artificial Silk Girl

by Irmgard Keun, trans. by Kathie von Ankum


The Artificial Silk Girl depicts a scrappy 19-year-old's pursuit of stardom (or, if that fails, a generously-funded ingénue-dom) in 1930s Germany. With little education and zero resources, Doris must manipulate her natural sexual appetite to survive. A deft deployer of the "sensual look," Doris is also prone to vengeful thievery, but only the most moralistic reader could be totally unsympathetic to her rationalizations. Who could resist the shrewd humor of a young woman who adorns her bra with rusty safety pins to avoid her dates' pawing?

At once a tale of ambition and a sentimental education, The Artificial Silk Girl is also a triptych of moods. The first section's "dear-diary" format recounts the indignities of marginal female employment in the provinces, followed by some episodic romping among vicious theater types in Berlin. The middle achieves a more sustained tone via the jazzy, second-hand descriptions of city life Doris relates to her blind neighbor. ("I unpack my eyes for him," is Keun's version of Isherwood's "I am a camera.")

The ending is a bit thinner, as Keun submits her heroine to a stark education--it's as if the author's narrative skill matures in parallel to her heroine's transformation. Despite its late-Weimar timing, The Artificial Silk Girl is less a novel of national politics than a riff on love and sexual doublethink. For Keun's sardonic take on creeping Nazi politics, see After Midnight, the novel she published in exile. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts

Discover: A heartrending tale of a precocious young woman who struggles to fashion a glamorous or even a decent life for herself in the murkier corners of Weimar Berlin.

Other Press, $14.95, trade paper, 9781590514542

The Girl in the Blue Beret

by Bobbie Ann Mason


Pilot Marshall Stone was grounded twice: first, at 23, crash-landing his B-17 bomber in January 1944 in a Belgian field; then at 60, the mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots, reluctantly facing the end of his career. In her novel based on her father-in-law's World War II experiences, Bobbie Ann Mason (In Country, Feather Crowns) seamlessly travels between the soldier's crash and rescue and the 60-year-old's quest for details of that time and the heroes who saved him.

Stone returns to Europe and finds the résistance families who aided the Americans. Following a reunion in Belgium, he travels to Paris. "His stay with the Alberts in 1944 overlapped his visit now, as if he had jumped over time and might still be hiding behind an armoire or in a haystack with a cat.... he could almost believe the girl with the blue beret would be waiting when the train pulled into the station."

He does find the girl, Annette, then a teenager who slyly escorted him past Nazis and to a safe escape, and now a warm, generous widow who slowly reveals her story of those years. Together they transcend their war memories.

Mason deftly builds her novel; our affection for Stone grows as he responds to the stoic survivors who risked their lives for him, and Annette personifies the clever, brave résistance and their ordeal. Her research is apparent but never overbearing; the sense of place is palpable; and we feel Annette and Marshall's sorrow as the details surface, and their joy at the peace they come to savor. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller

Discover: An evocative novel about a WWII pilot who reunites with his rescuers from the French Resistance 30 years later.

Random House, $26, hardcover, 9781400067183

Summer Friends

by Holly Chamberlin


This thoughtful novel by Maine author Holly Chamberlin (One Week in December; Tuscan Holiday) chronicles the friendship of Delphine Crandall and Maggie Weldon, who spent summers together in Ogunquit, Maine, from the time they were nine. Though they were inseparable in the summers, kept in touch during the school year and roomed together in college, they've hardly spoken since graduation--until Maggie returns to Ogunquit, seeking to reconnect with the friend who walked away from her with no explanation 20 years ago.

Chamberlin traces the women's rocky path to reconciliation, juxtaposing their present-day journey with flashbacks from each phase in their friendship. At every stage, Delphine and Maggie make an unlikely pair--from their family backgrounds to their dreams for adulthood. Predictably, they choose divergent life paths, though both end up rather dissatisfied--stylish Maggie with her barely there marriage and high-powered career, workhorse Delphine with her stale love life and her job running her family's farm. Upon meeting again, they circle each other warily, unsure if it's wise or even possible to pick up the threads of an old friendship.

As they reflect on their shared past and the choices leading them to the present, both friends are forced to ask questions that will resonate with readers. How much should you be willing to sacrifice for your family? Is living in your hometown a form of failure or can it be an act of bravery? And is it ever too late to pursue the life you once dreamed of? --KatieNoahGibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A tale of two childhood friends, now grown up and reconnecting after 20 years apart.

Kensington, $15, trade paper, 9780758235077

Love Child

by Sheila Kohler


Sheila Kohler's (Becoming Jane Eyre) Love Child centers on the theme of domestic complications. This novel packs a lot of story into its pages: Bill is a South African woman in the pre-apartheid years, a relatively recent and relatively young widow with two teenage sons in boarding school. Her late husband left her very well provided for, and her lawyer is now urging her to make a will of her own. He assumes it will be a simple thing, with her sons as primary heirs and possibly smaller bequests to her siblings and servants. He assumes incorrectly.

Bill's lawyer is unaware of her short-lived, impulsive first marriage--the one that required her parents' consent because she was still underage. And almost no one knows the highly unusual circumstances surrounding her second marriage, matters that wind up affecting what might become of her estate. Plus, her siblings have become financially reliant upon Bill, and things are much more complicated than anyone could have imagined.

Aside from some references to the "color bar," the South African setting and its racial climate at the time don't factor heavily into Kohler's novel, a personal story could be set almost anywhere. While Kohler's spare prose doesn't really evoke a sense of place, it does create an interesting emotional landscape, and the novel's nonlinear chronology piques the reader's curiosity. Despite an ending that feels a little too neat and a sense that some elements could have been fleshed out more, Love Child is an intriguingly messy story with an unusual perspective on family dysfunction. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R'sBlog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

Discover: An emotional and evocatively written novel about family secrets and stories.

Penguin, $15, trade paper, 9780143119197

This Is Not Your City: Stories

by Caitlin Horrocks


The 11 stories that make up Caitlin Horrocks's debut collection are distinct, but loneliness, love and guilt ache through each of them. A teenager held captive by her mother's illness befriends an Amish girl. A young, desperate teacher controls her third graders with unscrupulous methods as the classroom animals sicken and die. On a cruise ship held captive by Somali pirates, a Midwestern mother dutifully writes postcards to her severely disabled son, who will never be able to read them.

But the standout of the collection is "Steal Small," a slow-creeping chiller of a story narrated by the young wife of a man who sells dogs for medical experiments on the sly. The two of them steal the dogs by posing as a couple in want of a pet, and then cage the howling dogs in kennels in their yard. The narrator is proud of her imperviousness to their suffering. "I bet Leo'd never find anyone who could listen to dogs cry the way I can," she tells us. "They call out and I can turn over and not even hear them." Her disturbing, almost willful apathy is slowly and brilliantly contrasted with her repressed guilt over her younger sister's sexual abuse as a child, which the narrator didn't try to stop.

Burdened by heavy consciences--or a disturbing absence of conscience--the women of This Is Not Your City are all terribly isolated, either geographically or personally. But in Horrocks's masterful prose, there is redemption and hope. --Hannah Calkins, blogger at Unpunished Vice

Discover: An outstanding debut collection of 11 thoughtful, incendiary short stories.

Sarabande Books, $15.95, trade paper, 9781932511918

The Beginners

by Rebecca Wolff


Teenage girls, with their fevered manias and languorous depressions, are unreliable narrators who rarely make sense out of their hormone-addled decisions until decades later. Hence, most coming-of-age novels wisely capture the inelegant state of growing up from a reasonable distance. In The Beginners, however, first-time novelist Rebecca Wolff tells her heroine's story from inside the bubble of passioned youth, and the result is a coming-of-age novel shot through with the same heady mix of conflicting perceptions as adolescence itself. With remarkably straightforward prose from this trapped-in-a-teenager's-head perspective, Wolff crafts a novel as intriguing, confusing and awash with dread as the dawn of adulthood itself.

Wick, an isolated, old mill town in the witch-burning region of Massachusetts, has a reservoir that was created by flooding neighboring towns. There, 15-year-old Ginger Pritt and her best friend, Cherry, are inseparable dreamers. But Ginger can feel the sickening onset of Cherry's boy craziness begin to forge a distance between them. The Motherwells, an outrageous, randy and unpredictable couple, drop into Wick and draw the two girls into their hypnotic world of adult conversation, sangria and indolence.

What are these rootless and urbane people doing in Wick? And why are they so interested in two teenage girls? Wolff's great accomplishment here is that the creeping sense of menace and mystery emanating from the Motherwells is tempered with a youthful innocence that thinks, hey, maybe they're just really cool people. 

Loosely plotted and occasionally as still as the small-town summer days it depicts, The Beginner moves along to its disturbing dénouement on a cloud of obsession, abandon, confusion and regret. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: A dark, subtle story awash in adolescent angst and sexuality in a spooky Massachusetts town.

Riverhead Books, $26.95, hardcover, 9781594487996

Mystery & Thriller

Death at the Château Bremont

by M.L. Longworth


Everyone in the town of Aix-en-Provence thinks it's odd when Étienne de Bremont, a local nobleman known for his athletic abilities, falls to his death from a window in his château. Judge Antoine Verlaque is suspicious--perhaps Bremont was pushed. There is no physical evidence, but le juge enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend, a childhood friend of Étienne, as he probes into the secrets of his life. The château caretaker? The grieving widow? The playboy younger brother? The list of suspects seems to keep growing, even as others try to convince Verlaque that it was simply an accident.

The star of this first Verlaque & Bonnet mystery, Antoine Verlaque is a wealthy cigar connoisseur with an eye for beautiful women, as well as a powerful judge with a few secrets in his own past. His ex-girlfriend, the lovely law professor Marine Bonnet, is trying to move on from their failed relationship, and yet she cannot quite resist the seductive charm of the elusive Verlaque. The dialogue is occasionally slightly stilted, but you can't help but root for Marine and Verlaque to both solve the crime and fix their relationship as they dash about the south of France in their attempts to discover the answers to their questions.

Author M.L. Longworth has lived in the south of France since 1997, has written essays and articles about the region and teaches writing at N.Y.U. in Paris. She brings her extensive knowledge of the area to Death at the Château Bremont, her engaging first novel. --Jessica Howard, bookseller, Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

Discover: The secrets to a dark mystery hiding in the deceptively sunny south of France

Penguin, $14, trade paper, 9780143119524

Breaking Silence

by Linda Castillo


The third in Castillo's Amish Crime series finds Police Chief Kate Burkholder facing a horrific scene as the three adults of the Slabaugh family are found, dead or dying, in their pigs' deep cesspit. It seems an accident--one person slipped in, the other two went in to help but were asphyxiated by methane--until the autopsy reveals head and finger traumas suggesting force. This is but one set of crimes confronting Burkholder. In rapid order, she faces a slaughter of sheep; a young man stripped, beaten and left tied to his buggy in the snow overnight; and--when a barn arson includes a death--murder. Believe it or not, those are just of a few of the dark doings in the town of Painter's Mill. Each new hate crime slams the very small law enforcement team as the plot escalates with multiple suspects, motives and exposures of dark family secrets old and new.

With crisp writing, deft plot turns, wholly unexpected revelations and tight control of the storyline, Castillo's Kate Burkholder series is a welcome addition to the genre. Kate wrestles her personal demons, while having been raised Amish enables her to understand the culture without either patronizing or demonizing it. The supporting characters are more than mere placeholders, and include Burkholder's colleague and occasional lover John Tomasetti, officers Glock and Pickles, Doc Colblentz and Mona the dispatcher. In Castillo's work, each character plays an integral part in a tight, impressive novel that will keep the reader turning pages for hours. --Judith Hawkins-Tillirson, proprietress, Wyrdhoard Books, and blogger at Still Working for Books

Discover: Murder in Amish country in a taut, well-crafted page-turner that will keep the reader up into the night.

Minotaur, $24.99, hardcover, 9780312374990

Romance

Rapture Becomes Her

by Shirlee Busbee


Shirlee Busbee first appeared on the romance scene in the late 1970s, when historical romances boasted intricately researched backgrounds, expansive plots and forceful heroes. Since modern historicals tend to focus more on the romance and offer more sensitive male leads, today's readers might hesitate to pick up a novel from one of the genre's early icons. However, in Rapture Becomes Her, Busbee proves she has moved ahead with the times while still retaining her lyrical voice.

Emily Townsend, daughter of a British squire, is in "a spot of bother," as the British say. Her father has died, leaving Emily and her stepmother, Anne, under the dubious protection of her profligate cousin Jeffery. Jeffery has mismanaged the estate to the point that Emily resorts to smuggling French goods in order to feed herself and the family's staff. Jeffery is determined to rid himself of Emily and Anne, even if it means a compromising marriage for one of them.

Into this turmoil strides a handsome American, Barnaby, who has come to England to claim the title of Viscount Joslyn under a cloud; he suspects he is marked for murder but can't pinpoint the culprit. His world is turned upside down by Emily's beauty and spirit, and together they will face mortal danger even as they find themselves overwhelmed by love.  

Busbee deftly evokes both the genteel manners and the class snobbery of the English Regency era, as well as the growing horror the British felt as the French Revolution came to a head. Emily and Barnaby's larger-than-life personalities and believable chemistry make their unfolding love a delight to watch. --Jaclyn Fulwood, graduate assistant, University of Oklahoma Libraries

Discover: An action-packed new novel from romance icon Shirlee Busbee.

Zebra, $14, trade paper, 9781420118421

Nonfiction

The Chairs Are Where the People Go

by Misha Glouberman, Sheila Heti


If you're searching for a gift for that student who is ending her academic career or about to take a job in a strange new city, you could do worse than this modest, idiosyncratic version of an urban survival manual. According to his collaborator, Sheila Heti, The Chairs Are Where the People Go is an attempt to capture everything Misha Glouberman, a Canadian "instructor in improvised music and theater," knows. On the evidence of what's contained here, this slim volume only scratches the surface of his fertile mind.

The book offers 71 short selections on an eclectic assortment of topics, from an imaginative and highly satisfying solution to the conundrum of whether to give up a seat on a crowded subway to helpful tips for making new friends as an adult to an unusual method of quitting smoking (it involves wearing a suit). Glouberman is consistently reasonable, self-effacing and creative as he poses at least tentative solutions to these dilemmas, while discoursing on thornier and more abstract subjects, like whether monogamy is a trick or how we might go about creating meaningful ritual to serve a secular society.

If you are not a fan of the game of charades or don't participate in courses on improvisation, you may find this volume a bit skewed toward those topics. But even the frothier pieces contain small gems of wisdom, like this advice to students who don't feel up to attending one of his classes: "If I can convince them to come to the class, they inevitably overcome their self-diagnosed state of not being in the right mood for it." --Harvey Freedenberg

Discover: Improvisation expert Misha Glouberman offers thoughtful and entertaining glimpses into solving a few of the conundrums of modern urban life.

Faber & Faber, $14, trade paper, 9780865479456

Children's & Young Adult

Back to School Tortoise

by Lucy M. George, illus. by Merel Eyckerman


Lucy M. George, a newcomer to these shores, presents the common emotional reaction of a child beginning preschool, with just the right amount of repetition to convey his growing anxiety.

Tortoise is worried. It is the first day of school. What if he trips and falls? What if lunch is peas? Tortoise doesn't like peas. What if he trips and falls and the children laugh at him? What if he doesn't like lunch and the kids are mean to him? Eyckerman's cartoonish watercolors gently depict a variety of creatures: a blue-jacketed squirrel sporting a yellow tie, a robin with a blushing breast and a class clown frog. The double-page illustrations draw the reader's eye to finely rendered details of fluttering oak leaves, a well-appointed classroom and patterned linoleum tiles. In a new twist on the ubiquitous "first day of school" books, Tortoise begins replacing his fearful thoughts with positive imaginings. What if there were cupcakes for lunch? And what if he made lots of new friends? A satisfying back-to-school tale with a surprising-to-a-four-year-old ending: Tortoise is the teacher! --Lisa Von Drasek, librarian at Bank Street College of Education's School for Children

Discover: A reassuring and comical back-to-school story with a surprise ending.

Albert Whitman, $15.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-up, 9780807505106

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have)

by Sarah Mlynowski


There are certain things teenagers are not supposed to do: live alone, buy a hot tub, throw a wild party. April does these and more in the newest novel from Sarah Mlynowski (Gimme a Call; Magic in Manhattan series). When April's father and stepmother tell her of their plans to move from Westport, Conn., to Cleveland, Ohio, in the middle of her junior year, she immediately decides, "If I didn't leave Westport to move to Paris with Mom... I wasn't leaving to move to Cleveland with them." April proposes moving in with her friend Vi so she can finish out the school year. Meanwhile Vi's single mother has landed the lead role in a national tour, leaving Vi on her own. The girls hatch a plan to assure April's father that Vi's mom will be there, while promising Vi's mom that April's father is fine with them living alone.

Two teenage girls on their own quickly run into trouble. The problems range from funny, such as April's first attempt to run the dishwasher, to more serious, such as the complications that arise after losing your virginity. Flashing between her life with Vi and the years before, the book reveals April slowly becoming more mature. Independence forces April to come to terms with her insecurities and question what she wants for the future. This light, entertaining summer read deals with some surprisingly serious issues. To Mlynowski's credit, the morals come across without preaching at the reader. The author captures the voice of a teenage girl perfectly while creating a cast of lovably imperfect characters. --Kyla Paterno

Discover: An entertaining novel for mature teens about a 16-year-old who lies to her father to live alone with a friend, paving the way for adventures and heartaches.

HarperTeen, $16.99, hardcover, ages 14-up, 9780061701245

Anya's Ghost

by Vera Brosgol


The Anya of this debut title is our narrator, and she probably wouldn't believe someone wrote a whole book about her if she knew. She thinks she's fat, has worked her whole life to fit in and to disguise the fact that she comes from an immigrant Russian family, and generally thinks her life is boring and friendless. But that all changes when she falls down a well and meets a ghost, who comes with her when she's rescued. Anya's life gets much better. After all, who wouldn't want a ghost to sneak around the classroom to help find the right answers for a test or to feed you lines when you're talking to your crush? Things are good until it becomes clear that the ghost has more on her mind that being Anya's sidekick. And, at the same time, Anya realizes that the changes the ghost has helped her with might not be so great after all.

Brosgol's simple and evocative art is the perfect accompaniment to the strong story, and she uses silent panels to move the story forward incredibly well. This is a great book for reluctant readers (though there's some content that makes it more suitable for teens), as a lot of the action can be understood without any words at all. But all will like this book's lively combination of everyday gym humiliation and ghostly manipulation. --Stephanie Anderson, manager, WORD Brooklyn

Discover: The classic careful-what-you-wish-for story with a modern twist and a main character with whom readers will identify.

First Second, $15.99, trade paper, 9781596435520

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