YA Mystery

POWERLESS by Matthew Cody

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When Daniel and his family move to a new town to take care of his aging grandmother, Daniel immediately notices something odd about the kids of Noble’s Green.  At first he excuses the strange things he sees as tricks of his mind.  Mollie couldn’t possibly move as fast as he thought she did.  Certainly the bully Clay couldn’t be strong enough to hurl him that far through the air.  But when Eric rescues him from a would-be-fatal fall and flies him up to their secret hide-out, Daniel has to face the truth.  The kids of Noble’s Green have superpowers.  Most of them choose to use their powers only for good and to hide their abilities from the adults.  But one thing is universally true: the powers disappear on your thirteenth birthday.  Your old talents vanish, and with them your memories of your childhood adventures and even of your friendships.  Some of the kids have accepted this change as destiny, and watched their older friends drift away from them, knowing it would one day be their turn.  But Mollie suspects that something else might be going on.  Unfortunately, any kid who tried to figure out the truth in the past lost their powers prematurely.  But Daniel has no superpowers, and his talent at detective work makes him the perfect man for the job.  It is all up to Daniel to discover who or what is stealing the superpowers of Noble’s Green, before the supers lose another friend.

I just picked this book up when I was browsing, and boy am I glad I did!  This is a great adventure mystery, built on themes of growing up and changing relationships that we can all relate to.  It will probably appeal most to upper elementary and middle schoolers.   A truly fun, imaginative read–I highly recommend it!

If you liked Powerless, you might like Sidekicks by Jack D. Ferraiolo.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman

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The man Jack had always completed his assignments thoroughly and efficiently.  His knife dispatched the man, the woman, and the little girl before even a scream could pass their lips.  So it comes as a great surprise to him when he discovers that the toddler has somehow escaped into the night.  The man Jack follows the little boy’s scent up the hill and into the graveyard, but there he loses the trail as a mysterious, black-velvet-clad man named Silas escorts him from the graveyard, persuading him that he never saw the child there in the first place.  The inhabitants of the graveyard, the ghosts of all of those laid to rest within its gates over the centuries, offer the child their protection.  The ghosts Master and Mistress Owens adopt the child, whom they name Nobody (Bod), and Silas, who is neither living nor dead and can therefore leave the graveyard to procure food for the child, agrees to be his guardian.  Bod is given the freedom of the graveyard, seeing as the dead see, moving through walls, fading into shadow, and exploring worlds on the border between life and death.  He grows up safe inside the graveyard, but outside its gates, the man Jack has not abandoned his search for child.

The Graveyard Book won the 2009 Newbery Medal, which is somewhat surprising given the book’s subject matter–the dark, fantastical world stands out from typical Newbery winners–but fully deserved.  Gaiman builds a vivid world in the graveyard and explores themes of life, death, family and friendship, love and loyalty, identity, and morality.  He weaves these themes into his brilliantly imagined storyline, which keeps readers engaged in characters and plot from beginning to end.  Fair warning: you will reach a point in the story where you will become unable to put this book down.  Plan your time accordingly.

I highly recommed this book for upper elementary, teen, and adult readers who can handle dark fantasy and murder mysteries. I also cannot recommend highly enough Neil Gaiman’s audio book performance of this book!  It is one of my top two favorite audiobooks of all time–an absolutely stunning performance.  It is great to listen to, whether you are experiencing the book for the first time or reading it again.  You should definitely check the audio book out!

FOUND by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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The letter only had six words, and though they didn’t mean anything to Jonah, he found them somehow disturbing: “You are one of the missing.”  When he learns that his friend Chip received the same letter, they realize that something strange is definitely going on.  As more mysterious letters arrive, the two friends and Jonah’s sister, Katherine, begin to investigate the situation, which seems to have some connection to the FBI, and the fact that Jonah was adopted.  But if things weren’t strange enough, level-headed Katherine claims she’s seen a ghost, and Jonah may have seen a mysterious intruder vanish from his bedroom.  As matters get increasingly complicated, the teens begin to suspect that they are caught up in something much bigger than they realized, and perhaps beyond anything they ever imagined to see in this world.

Found is a suspenseful sci-fi mystery that starts off Haddix’s “The Missing” series.  It is followed by Sent and Sabotaged, and four more books are likely to join the series in the coming years.  It’s a fast, fun read for teens!

THE DEATH COLLECTOR by Justin Richards

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“Four days after his own funeral, Albert Wilkes came home for tea.”  This sentence begins a novel that is part mystery, part historical fiction, part science fiction, and part horror–with a healthy dose of Victorian London fog.  Although few people believe the widow who claims her dead husband came home for a visit, Albert’s coworker George soon begins to suspect that someone murdered the old man to get their hands on a fragment of a scientist’s diary.  A top-secret organization recruits George to help them investigate the situation, but George begins doing some sleuthing on his own as well, with the help of a theatrical young woman named Elizabeth, who met when they both had their wallets stolen by a plucky young pickpocket.  Eddie, the pickpocket, of course gets mixed up in the mystery as well.  The trail of their individual investigations always seem to lead back to the same sinister old man in his mansion.  And there may be more than one zombie on the prowl.  The question is: can they figure out what is really going on before the maniac’s henchmen catch up with them?

The premise of this book is admittedly outrageous, but the story is truly engaging.   I definitely recommend it to those readers who are willing to put the absurdity aside and enjoy a great steampunk suspense story.  I know I did!

I listened to the audio book, narrated by Steven Pacey, which was a great performance!