Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, June 12, 2015

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

A Judy Blume Event

As Judy Blume's new novel, In the Unlikely Event, opens, Miri Ammerman is nervously boarding a flight to New Jersey. She is returning to her hometown of Elizabeth for a ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of three successive plane crashes that occurred there during the winter she was in the ninth grade.

In the Unlikely Event (Knopf, $27.95) is Blume's first novel for adults in more than 15 years, but it's been on her mind for more than five decades. Like Miri and several other characters in the novel, Blume was a teenager in Elizabeth, N.J., when, in fact, three unrelated airplane disasters between December 1951 and February 1952 killed some 100 people, shut down Newark Airport for nearly a year, and frightened and confused an entire city.

Blume has long been beloved (and occasionally banned) for her children's and young adult fiction. In the Unlikely Event is only her fourth adult novel, and while she's not known for historical fiction with multiple viewpoints and dozens of characters, it's less of a departure than one might imagine. Yes, it's about how a town is affected by a series of disasters, but more than that, it's about how everyday life goes on despite those disasters, and about how the personal concerns of teenagers tend to occupy most of their attention, regardless of what's happening around them.

Miri and her friends talk and speculate about the crashes, but they also talk about boys. They go on dates, fall in love, fear accidental pregnancy. They worry about their families and argue with their parents. They are growing up in uncertain times and trying to make sense of them. These are things that Blume has always written about, and In the Unlikely Event's setting and circumstances don't change that. The events that resonate most in this novel are the events that are not unlikely at all. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R'sBlog: Reading, 'Riting, andRandomness

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Kamel Daoud: Exploring the Lack of Freedom

photo: D.R.

Kamel Daoud is an Algerian journalist who lives in Oran. The Meursault Investigation, his debut novel (reviewed below), revisits Albert Camus's The Stranger, and the death of the unnamed Arab, as narrated by his brother. The book won the Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman and the Prix François Mauriac, and is translated from the French by John Cullen.

Your novel has been referred to as a corrective, a response, or a rebuke to Albert Camus's The Stranger. How do you envision your novel?

The book is both an homage to Camus and a way to analyze the present. It interrogates a writer and interrogates the present through his works.

While reading your book, I paused to reread The Stranger. Did you refer back to the book often while writing?

No, I didn't consult the book again. I wanted to write about an Algerian who remembers reading The Stranger as a love story, as an idea, as a living character.

The grief that the mother of Musa "the Arab" experiences over the death of her son and her desire for revenge manifests in less than subtle ways with her living son. Is this reflective of Arab culture? Or universal mother/son relations?

It isn't a mother/son relationship that is specific to the Arab world. There are many examples in literature of fathers and mothers who deny their grief and let their beloved children bear the burden of their pain

Your book braids moral, political, social and philosophical issues. There's a sentence mid-book that seems to tie them together: "The Other is a unit of measurement you lose when you kill." Can you elaborate on that?

"The other" both reflects who we are and also stands as a limit that can't be violated. When we kill, we also kill a part of ourselves, there is a dimension that disappears, there is no longer a frontier between self and other. Killing brings to the fore that big question of what is life. When we kill someone, we become free, but this freedom is totally useless.

Is it possible to be a writer in Algeria and not write about politics? Do you think it's the duty of a writer of literature to address politics? 

The question of politics has not been resolved in the Arab world. There is no legitimate power in Algeria, and the question of what is freedom hasn't been resolved yet. The writer therefore explores this lack of freedom and examines politics in its most absolute and profound sense. Politics is what grants us the right to love, to defend ourselves, to create. How can you love in a forest on fire?

An Islamist imam of questionable stature issued a Facebook fatwa against you for offenses he perceived in the book. Has that changed the way you write or your freedom of movement in Algeria?

I am much more careful than I used to be, but I don't want fear to intoxicate my life, nor be so vain as to believe I am a martyr. --George Carroll

Book Candy

Books for the Beach, for Hiking, for Travel

Beach blanket bookfest: Offering a list "that'll take you from the beach to a mountaintop to the outback to Paris, all in a matter of pages," the Huffington Post suggested "23 books that everyone with wanderlust should read." The "29 books you should definitely bring to the beach this summer" were recommended by Buzzfeed's subscribers.


Bustle packed "11 books to read while hiking that are totally worth their weight in your backpack."


Mental Floss showcased "21 famous authors' favorite books."


Martyn Ford, author of The Imagination Box, chose his "top 10 fantastical pets in children's literature" for the Guardian.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

Vincent Bugliosi, the former prosecutor turned crime author, who died last Saturday at age 80, was best known as the Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who prosecuted Charles Manson and three followers for the Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969. The gruesome case riveted the country, and soon after the trial, Bugliosi and Curt Gentry wrote the definitive book about the murders and trial, Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. Published by Norton in 1974, the book won an Edgar for best fact crime book of the year and went on to sell more than seven million copies. Helter Skelter was made into two TV films, one in 1976 and the other in 2004, and it was the basis for the 2008 movie The Strangers. It's touted as "the bestselling true crime book in history," selling even more copies than Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. No wonder: like the best true crime, Helter Skelter is simultaneously gripping and frightening as it presents the stories of unsuspecting victims, brutal murderers, hard-working detectives and a terrorized community.

Bugliosi went into private practice, and wrote and co-wrote more than a dozen other books, including Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got Away with Murder, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder and Divinity of Doubt: The God Question. Still, he'll always be remembered best for his first, harrowing title, Helter Skelter. --John Mutter, editor-in-chief, Shelf Awareness

Book Review


The World Is a Wedding

by Wendy Jones

At the close of The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals, all seems well in tiny Narberth, Wales. Wendy Jones's debut concluded with a hard-won resolution, but in The World Is a Wedding, the author returns to Narberth to find that the state of affairs wasn't entirely tranquil, and the residents of the sleepy village are changing at the breakneck pace of the world around them.

Set in the U.K. in the 1920s, the novel traces the parallel stories of Wilfred Price and Grace Reece, his former fiancée who has since embarked for London, pregnant, unwed and ostracized from her family. As in Jones's previous work, it's a testament to her magnetic characters that the details she inserts, like the upstairs/downstairs politics of Grace's employ at the London Ritz-Carlton, don't overshadow the intimate dramas at the forefront of the story. As titillating as it is to meet bobbed-haired hotel aristocrats like suffragist Lady Lytton, the subtler tensions between Wilfred and his new wife, Flora, are equally compelling. The sensuous details of time and place embroider the conflicts that propel the story from small town to big city and back again.

At the novel's close, Wilfred's and Grace's affairs seem sorted, and this time, one gets the sense that they've truly taken stock of their own lives, for better and for worse. In fiction and in life, joy comes paired with sorrow, and sweetness tastes all the better after a bitter dose of truth. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer

Discover: A return to 1920s Narberth, Wales, where residents contend with changing social mores and the dramas of marriage, parenthood and fulfillment.

Europa Editions, $16, paperback, 9781609452674


by Jonathan Galassi

Part satire, part fantasy and unabashed in its affection for the world of traditional publishing, Farrar, Straus & Giroux president and publisher Jonathan Galassi's first novel, Muse, is a captivating roman à clef, written with the insight and wit of a true insider. An accomplished poet, Galassi (Left-Handed) effectively deploys both his knowledge of that art form and of the business of producing books in this clever story.

From its seedy offices on Union Square to the outsized personality of its founder, Homer Stern, the "scrappy but consequential" publishing house Purcell & Stern is a clear proxy for FSG, where Galassi has worked for the last 30 years, and its iconic leader, the late Roger Straus. Homer, a scion of the German-Jewish aristocracy, has spent his career locked in professional combat with Sterling Wainwright, owner of Impetus Editions and a certified member of the WASP establishment.

Whether it's a trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair ("carnivorousness at its most rapacious, with a genteel European veneer") or a dinner with the founder of an Amazon-like e-tailer, aptly named Medusa, Galassi delivers realistic glimpses of pressures that loom over the traditional book business today. Equally pleasurable are his flights of fancy: a world where first editions of poetry books sell 750,000 copies and where the death of a beloved poet spurs the president to declare a national holiday.

For all the wistfulness of its backward-looking glance, Muse is anything but a nostalgia trip. Instead, this gentle, wry novel should reinforce the belief of anyone who loves books that the survival of the world Jonathan Galassi portrays is worth fighting for. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Industry insider Jonathan Galassi's first novel, a sharp and affectionate look at the contemporary publishing business.

Knopf, $25, hardcover, 9780385353342

Things You Won't Say

by Sarah Pekkanen

Jamie Anderson knows the risks of being a cop's wife: her husband, Mike, faces danger on the job every day. But when Mike's partner is seriously wounded in a shooting, Jamie watches helplessly as Mike becomes mired in guilt and grief. After Mike goes back to work, he's involved in the death of a Hispanic teenager--but this time Mike is the shooter. As the story hits the local news and he withdraws deeper into himself, Jamie struggles to keep their family afloat.

In her sixth novel, Things You Won't Say, Sarah Pekkanen (Catching Air) touches on the sensitive subjects of police brutality and racial profiling. But Mike's motives are never in question. Instead, Pekkanen takes the incident as a starting point to explore the effects of the shooting on Mike's family, which includes not only Jamie and their children but Mike's flighty ex, Christie, and her teenage son. Meanwhile, Jamie's younger sister, Lou, must figure out how to help the big sister who has always taken care of her.

Pekkanen's strength as a writer lies in her exploration of the complicated bonds between women. The fraught relationship of Jamie and Christie--who both love Mike and his son, Henry--feels particularly true to life. While Lou, a socially awkward zookeeper, is an appealing character, she feels more like a type than a distinct personality, as do Jamie's younger children.

Written in Pekkanen's signature energetic style, Things You Won't Say is a compelling look at complex family dynamics in the face of tragedy. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A timely, sensitive novel exploring the effects of a shooting on a police officer's wife and family.

Washington Square Press, $16, paperback, 9781451673555

If You're Not the One

by Jemma Forte

Perhaps as a result of her years as a TV host, Jemma Forte (Me and Miss M) has a knack for writing quirky dialogue and believably awkward scenarios. As her new novel, If You're Not the One, opens, 38-year-old Jennifer is attempting to seduce her husband, Max, but her efforts go sadly awry. Humiliated, Jen runs out of the house, only to get hit by a car.

As Jen's body lies in a coma, Jen's mind takes a long journey. She reflects back on the three serious loves she had before Max, and what her life would be like today if she'd stayed with one of them. Would she and the hot, pot-smoking Aidan be living in an Australian surfer's paradise? Would her billionaire ex-boyfriend Tim, inventor of a popular social media site, have lavished her with everything she wanted? Or could sweet but sappy Steve the plumber, the boyfriend she dumped for Max, have been The One?

Anyone who's ever wondered what could have been if they'd settled down with someone else will enjoy If You're Not the One. With its unusual structure (told in alternating flashbacks from 1994 until the day before the accident), and its very unexpected ending, If You're Not the One is not run-of-the-mill chick lit. Using a lot of humor, and a few surprisingly deep moments, Forte analyzes the nature of happiness, the exhaustion of parenting, the struggle of a midlife crisis and the tricky balance of love and friendship. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A woman in a coma gets a glimpse at the paths her life could have taken if she'd married any of her ex-boyfriends.

Sourcebooks Landmark, $14.99, paperback, 9781492607892

The Meursault Investigation

by Kamel Daoud, trans. by John Cullen

When Algerian author Kamel Daoud wrote The Meursault Investigation, a mesmerizing sequel to Albert Camus's The Stranger, few might have guessed it would cause him so much trouble. The New York Times reported that a radical Islamist preacher in Algeria issued a fatwa (on Facebook) against Daoud and his book for the "war he is leading against God and the prophet." Despite this attack, the book has gone on to garner wide critical acclaim internationally and win prizes, including the Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman. The novel is now available to English-language readers, thanks to John Cullen's accomplished translation.

In Camus's tale, his anti-hero, Meursault, shoots and kills a nameless Arab on a beach. Daoud gives him a name--Musa--and imagines he is the brother of The Meursault Investigation's narrator, Harun. Daoud picks up the story 70 years later. Playing off the opening line of The Stranger (Meursault says, "Mother died today"), Daoud's novel begins with, "Mama's still alive today."

Harun is in a bar telling his story to another customer, but it's as if he's talking to the reader. He says it's "no normal story... you're like everyone else, you've read the tale as told by the man [Camus] who wrote it. He writes so well." Daoud also writes a shooting into his book, but with vastly different results. At the heart of Harun's meditative personal account is his religion and his country's anguished chronicle of colonialism and finally independence from France. Daoud's unusual, plaintive exploration of literature and history results in a thoughtful and illuminating book. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A controversial, reflective novel that dares to criticize one of the seminal novels of the 20th century.

Other Press, $14.95, paperback, 9781590517512

Make Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread

by Chuck Palahniuk

After 14 books, including his hugely popular first novel, Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk is bringing out his first collection of short stories, Make Something Up. Most possess the snarky, transgressive quality his books have become famous for, but a few show a bit of a warm side.

In "Knock-Knock," a boy inspired by Patch Adams's work with sick children tries to save his dad, who's dying of cancer, with jokes. Then there's the outrageous "Toad Prince," in which a young man serves as his own guinea pig in the art of genital modification. "Inclinations" is about an adolescent girl who equates getting pregnant with an ATM card. Her pro-life parents give her new cars to deliver the babies; her collection of vehicles grows along with the size of her bust.

One of the best stories is the enigmatic "Expedition," which alludes to being a prequel to Fight Club. Felix M. is a young writer who roams Hamburg's seedy streets at night. Fatherless, he needs to "grow guns in place of arms and a loaded cannon for a mouth." One evening he meets a man who speaks in an "attic faux-cabulary" (prithee and forsooth). His eyes have a "spark of orange mania," and he invites Felix to meet a "most loathsome monster."

There's plenty of irreverence here to match the enfant terrible quality Palahniuk fans enjoy, but he includes incisive, sensitive pieces in this collection as well. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A collection of snarky, caustic and surprisingly sensitive short stories from Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk.

Doubleday, $26.95, hardcover, 9780385538053

Drawing Fire

by Janice Cantore

Janice Cantore's 22 years of experience working for the Long Beach, Calif., police department lends authenticity to her romantic suspense novels, including Drawing Fire, the first in a series focusing on cold cases--unsolved murder investigations that are reactivated years later.

Cantore presents Abby Hart as a sympathetic character with a complicated history. The 30-something, Long Beach homicide detective has earned the nickname "Superglue" because of her tenacity in pursuing justice for the dead and closure for families. When Abby was six years old, she was rescued from a restaurant fire that claimed the lives of her parents. Although it proved the defining moment of Abby's life, the mystery surrounding the blaze was never solved. When a slew of homicides involving elderly women claims a beloved aunt of the governor, a man formerly connected with Abby's parents long before his political reign, Abby is eager to speak with him about the murder, and for the opportunity to discuss her parents' case. But does he seem tight-lipped? Amid Abby's pursuit, Luke Murphy--an annoying yet handsome private investigator--becomes embroiled in the "Granny Murders," and also seems invested in Abby's personal quest. Does he have information about the string of homicides, and might they somehow tie in with Abby's suspicions about her parents' death?

Cantore's well-drawn characters employ Christian values and spirituality to navigate them through tragedy, challenges and loss. However, layered upon the underlying basis of faith is a riveting police-crime drama infused with ratcheting suspense and surprising plot-twists. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A homicide detective's search for a serial killer reactivates an investigation into her parents' death.

Tyndale House, $14.99, paperback, 9781414396682

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Water Knife

by Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi's The Water Knife is his first book for adults since his 2009 debut novel, The Windup Girl, swept most of the major science fiction awards. In between, he published well-regarded young adult and middle grade books, including the 2010 National Book Award finalist Ship Breaker. Throughout his varied career, Bacigalupi has focused on extrapolating present-day ecological concerns into semi-dystopic future scenarios. The Water Knife may be the apotheosis of his pessimistic vision.

The Water Knife takes place primarily in Phoenix, Ariz., a shadow of its former self thanks to the relentless drought plaguing the American Southwest. The narrative switches among a trio of viewpoints that include a reporter struggling to rise above the level of journalism colloquially referred to as "implosion porn"; an immigrant from now-desolate Texas scheming desperately to stay alive; and the titular water knife, Angel Velasquez, whose occupation involves stealing water from struggling communities and redirecting it to his employer in Las Vegas. Bodies are dropping in Phoenix and, in a vaguely noir-esque setup, Angel is sent to investigate.

The Water Knife is haunted by the specter of looming catastrophe and, even worse, by the idea that people could have stopped it. Catherine Case, Angel's cynical employer, muses early on: "There's a theory that if we don't have the right words in our vocabularies, we can't even see the things that are right in front of our faces." Bacigalupi tries to find the words, even as his own book suggests that it will all end in dry riverbeds and blood. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: A dystopic Dust Bowl that makes Grapes of Wrath look like a pleasant ride in the country.

Knopf, $25.95, hardcover, 9780385352871

Food & Wine

The World on a Plate: 40 Cuisines, 100 Recipes, and the Stories Behind Them

by Mina Holland

"When we eat, we travel," Mina Holland observes in the introduction to her first book, The World on a Plate. "As Proust noted on eating a petit madeleine with his tea, food escorts us back in time and shapes our memory." A food writer and the editor of Guardian Cook, the newspaper's weekly food supplement, the British-born and well-traveled Holland takes readers on a tour of 40 world cuisines.

"A cuisine is the edible lovechild of both geography and history," Holland asserts. Beginning with France and its famous vineyards, she gives readers an overview of food cultures on six continents, accompanied by lists of pantry essentials and recipes for 100 iconic dishes. Instead of focusing on trendy meals or the flavors of a certain city, Holland spotlights several regions of each country, such as France's Loire Valley and Provence or Italy's Veneto, Lazio and Calabria. She includes several maps of key ingredients that tie together the foods of a culture: grapes for France, spices for the Middle East, chili peppers on nearly every continent.

Sprinkled among Holland's exploration of each regional fare are her memories of eating its food: the borscht made by her childhood friend's Polish grandmother or the tortilla she learned to make from a Spanish chef. Holland writes with particular affection of her native British cuisine, which she calls "my love in a cold climate." Mixing culinary history with recipes and cultural commentary, Holland serves up a varied and mouthwatering feast. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Food writer Mina Holland's first book explores 40 world cuisines through 100 iconic recipes.

Penguin, $20, paperback, 9780143127659

Biography & Memoir

Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents

by Bob Morris

Bob Morris (Assisted Loving; Crispin the Terrible) loved his parents very much, even if he was not always the ideal son. His older brother, Jeff, played that role; Bob was less reliable.

When his mother died, her last garbled word was his name: Bobby. As his father died several years later, he cried out: "Wonderful!" As Morris relives and reconsiders those difficult experiences--caring for each of his parents (more or less), witnessing and helping to make decisions about the ends their lives--he pairs those final words to make the title of his searingly candid memoir, Bobby Wonderful.

Morris is on a much-needed vacation in Scotland, tasting whiskies and forgetting his cares, when he gets the call to come home for his mother's last days. His first reaction is resentment; the scarf he brings her as a souvenir is a knockoff of the first one he considered. Still, he was there, with Jeff. In the years that follow, Morris helps his father learn to date again and encourages his independence, in part because Morris is busy trying to enjoy his own life. When his father attempts suicide, though, Morris is forced to face uncomfortable questions about his father's end-of-life wishes, his own devotion and what it means to be a good son.

Morris's struggles are sensitively told, deeply moving and highly relevant in a world where more and more people face situations like his. Bobby Wonderful is a gift of a book: an often funny but also perfectly serious contemplation of living and dying well. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A son's memoir of love and endings, despite his shortcomings and mistakes.

Twelve, $25, hardcover, 9781455556502

Children's & Young Adult

Ice Cream Summer

by Peter Sís

Who says an obsession with ice cream can't be good for you? The red baseball–capped boy hero of this irresistible picture book follows his passion into historical research, math story problems, cartography and more.

Peter Sís (Madlenka) frames the story as a letter from the boy to his grandpa, describing his "delicious summer." In the boy's bedroom, festooned with dessert-accented shapes, a teddy bear plays a cone-shaped guitar, wall and desk lamps look like ice cream cones, even birds come in winged cone shapes. At the beach, cone-shaped planes fly "ice cream" banners and ships bear cone-shaped smoke stacks. Ice cream flavors expand the boy's vocabulary: "I am conquering big words like tornado and explosion," he writes, in reference to "cherry tornado" and "mango explosion." With the encyclopedias Grandpa gave him, the narrator is "diving into world history." He traces the first ice cream back to ancient China 2,000 years ago (made of snow, milk, rice and fruit). Marco Polo carries the recipe along the Silk Road from China to Italy, bringing ice cream to Europe; Quakers get credit for carrying it from Europe to America. Sís depicts its embrace by three presidents--George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison--on the sails of a three-masted schooner ("The Founding Fathers and I have a lot in common!" the boy writes to his grandfather).

Sís fills his text with fun puns ("I always take a break on sundaes") and his pages with ice cream–tinted watercolors, outlined in chocolate sprinkles. Delicious indeed. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An ice-cream lover's obsession leads him to explore history, math, cartography and more.

Scholastic, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780545731614

What James Said

by Liz Rosenberg, illus. by Matt Myers

The team behind Tyrannosaurus Dad presents a picture book that probes a misunderstanding between two best friends. 

The girl narrator's mood comes through in Matt Myers's (A Is for Musk Ox) portrait of her slouched under the weight of disappointment, anger and sadness. A splatter of blue and purple paints offer evidence of her having thrown down her paintbrushes, along with crumpled papers. James, who appears opposite on the right-hand page, peers out from an angry smattering of the paints from her cast-aside brushes. The narrator traces the telephone game that led to her upset: "James told Aiden, who tells everything to Hunter,..." through a line of a half-dozen others, "that I think I am perfect." This line of overlarge type also peeks out from an angry splash of violet paint. Liz Rosenberg charts the overlong day for the lonely narrator without her best friend to share it. Throughout the pages, James persists in trying to find out what's wrong. Myers magnifies the friends' emotional states by rendering them in realistic watercolors while painting their surrounding bus passengers and classmates in monochromatic watercolor images. James's persistence finally pays off, and the narrator realizes that the game of telephone twisted what began as a compliment into an insult.

This short book delivers a big life lesson: a true friend stays his or her course no matter what, and has faith that the truth will win out. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A probing picture book about a misunderstanding between best friends in which truth prevails.

Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781596439085

Tiny Pretty Things

by Dhonielle Clayton, Sona Charaipotra

This thriller set in the cut-throat world of New York ballet functions as a microcosm of societal hierarchy when gifted African American dancer Gigi arrives from California to upset the lily-white world of the American Ballet Conservatory.

The story alternates between the first-person narratives of Gigi, Bette (who looks "like a ballerina from a music box"), and June, Gigi's roommate, whose Korean mother danced in the ABC and whose white father remains a mystery to June. Waiting for the cast list of The Nutcracker to be posted, Gigi thinks, "After one month here at school, the first major casting makes me feel my skin color like a fresh sunburn." All of the girls compare themselves to "Queen Bette," who casts a blonde, blue-eyed spell over her peers. When Gigi not only wins the roles Bette covets but also the affections of her longtime "on-again-off-again" boyfriend, Alec, Bette takes action. Some blame Bette for the unraveling of the company's previous prima ballerina and warn Gigi to "be careful." But Bette is not the only dancer who feels threatened by Gigi's talents. "The boys like the competition. We thrive on it. Makes us work harder," Alec tells Gigi, adding, "The girls make it dark, full of drama... They let it get to them and act crazy."

Sona Chariapotra and Dhonielle Clayton layer in boy-on-boy crushes, girl-on-girl crushes, and stage mother dramas as readers try to discover who's behind the latest prank on Gigi. There's no shortage of motives here, and enough chemistry and love triangles to keep the pages turning. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A thriller set in the cut-throat world of New York ballet.

HarperTeen, $17.99, hardcover, 448p., ages 14-up, 9780062342393

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