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Belzhar.

Wolitzer, Meg (author).
Sept. 2014. 352p. Dutton, hardcover, $17.99 (9780525423058). Grades 9-12.
REVIEW. First published August, 2014 (Booklist).

When Jam suffers a terrible trauma and feels isolated by grief, her parents send her to the Wooden Barn, a boarding school for “highly intelligent, emotionally fragile” teens. Once there she is enrolled in a class with only five specially selected students where they exclusively read Sylvia Plath. Sound angsty? Of course it is (check out the Joy Division T-shirt on the cover), but beneath the depressive trappings is a moving story of emotional growth in the face of catastrophic loss. All of Jam’s classmates are similarly grief-stricken, and Plath’s work, as well as magical journals that transport each student into the blissful moment before his or her loss occurred, help them move on and appreciate their resilience. Wolitzer handles Jam’s increasingly complex psychological state with delicate, nonjudgmental nuance—the first-person narrative slowly reveals the sticky circumstances of her trauma as well as her growing realization that living in the past is paralyzing. While the conclusion is a touch heavy-handed, older teen readers, especially rabid Plath fans, will relish Wolitzer’s deeply respectful treatment of Jam’s realistic emotional struggle

HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Older teen fans of Wolitzer’s New York Times best-selling adult novel The Interestings (2013) will likely flock to her YA debut.— Sarah Hunter

School Library Journal

E-Rate’s New Era: A Triple Win in the Effort To Close the Connectivity Gap |Editorial
Diverse and passionate feedback helped shape the new scope of E-Rate—warts and all. Nonetheless, important work lies ahead. More will be required to ensure that the process and formula works, that money follows the promise of funding, and that these resources are fully and well utilized.

Fan Fiction Takes Flight Among Teens
Teens write fan fiction to experiment, explore, and interact with fellow writers they admire and respect.

Fall 2014 Graphic Novels Are Out of This World
Aliens visit from outer space, the real world intrudes in an online game, a city boy goes to the country—many of this season's teen graphic novels feature strangers in strange lands. Whether you prefer fact or fantasy, there's plenty of good reading here to curl up with as the days grow shorter.

Library Journal

A Mystery Daphne du Maurier Might Have Written | RWA 2014
I always get such a kick when a little-known author that LJ has covered suddenly gets wider recognition in the literary world. Linda Lappin's Signatures in Stone, an atmospheric mystery that I reviewed last year, was honored this past weekend with the 2014 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.

End Your Summer Reading Some Firsts | Wyatt’s World
Johansen's debut is already on its way to becoming a movie franchise, Jones delivers a suspenseful blend of genres, McNeal evokes the Big Easy of the 1960s, Owen's setting is spellbinding, Thomas's sweeping family saga is leisurely paced

Sports, July 2014 | Best Sellers
From The Boys in the Boat to Why Soccer Matters to The Magnificent Masters

Kirkus Reviews

A HALLOWEEN SCARE IN OHIO
Book Cover

Unless readers are familiar with cities and towns in Ohio, the conceit falls flat in this arbitrary, rhyming tale of what happened one Halloween.

A boy recounts his fantastical Halloween adventures in rhyming couplets that occasionally work in a name or two from the Buckeye State. “The creepies were crawly, the crazies were crazed, / The zombies from Athens had eyes that were glazed. / The ogres from Dayton were ugly as sin, / With big bulging noses and warts on their chin.” Although the text scans relatively well, the illustrations do little to add to the story. The type has a jittery aspect that changes size and boldness yet does not consistently add valuable emphasis. Even when the slim plot takes a turn—the narrator is awarded the prize for “The Best Costume in Ohio”—the story lacks overall appeal. One of 25 titles meant to provide localized Halloween fun, it is only barely passable in that niche. Other locales include California, the Carolinas, Chicago, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New England, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. All of Canada is encompassed in another, and there is a generic A Halloween Scare in My House for everyone else.

Pass on this bland offering unless you are desperate for a Halloween book that mentions places near you. (Picture book. 4-7)

GUILTY PARTIES
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This year’s collection of two dozen new stories by members of the Crime Writers' Association (Guilty Consciences, 2012, etc.) shows just how far familiar recipes will take the contributors—and when they need to go the extra mile.

Take the familiar tale of the murderer passing on a criminal legacy to a more-or-less unsuspecting accomplice. Ricki Thomas and L.C. Tyler both develop this story generationally; Laura Wilson, making her crook and his legatee about the same age, finds something deeper in it. Bernie Crosthwaite, Kate Ellis and Peter Lovesey all avail themselves of a famous cliché indelibly associated with Agatha Christie, but Lovesey’s sly tale of murder in a monastery is the most successful of the three for reasons that have nothing to do with the cliché. Carol Anne Davis, Jane Finnis, Kate Rhodes, Yvonne Eve Walus and Paul Freeman all tackle the demanding form of the short-short story— Freeman’s Chaucerian pastiche is written in verse, Finnis’ entry is only two pages—and all but Freeman’s pack quite a punch. As their titles indicate, Phil Lovesey’s “The Last Guilty Party,” Ragnar Jónasson’s “Party of Two” and Paul Johnston’s “All Yesterday’s Parties” use a series of reunions to dramatize the disastrous declines of their characters; Lovesey and Jónasson produce highly finished anecdotes, Johnston, in the best story here, a fable so drastically compressed that it moves off to entirely more original territory. Originality also seems to be a matter of degree (the third degree, presumably) rather than a got-it-or-doesn’t quality in the contributions by John Harvey, Christopher Fowler, Frances Brody, N.J. Cooper, Judith Cutler, Christine Poulson, Chris Simms, C.L. Taylor, Aline Templeton and editor Edwards.

Though Johnston’s story is the standout, the others are never less than professional and surprisingly varied, even when they’re working the very same conventions.

THE DEVIL'S CHAIR
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A four-year-old child vanishes so completely that rumor has it the devil took her.

Drunken Tracy Walsh has an argument with her boyfriend, Neil Mansfield; snatches her screaming daughter, Daisy, from her bed; and takes off up the Burway toward the Devil’s Chair, an area of England long associated with witchcraft and strange happenings. Early the next morning, an unidentified caller reports a crashed car with a woman inside. Tracy is rushed to the hospital in critical condition, but a massive search turns up no trace of Daisy save one of her slippers. Leading the case is DI Alex Randall, whose wife is mentally ill. He’s made coroner Martha Gunn his sounding board on tough cases even as they fight their attraction for each other. The police leave no stone unturned. Re-examining the empty cottage from which the emergency call was made, they find another slipper that hadn’t been there when they first searched. The owner of the cottage, who’s been out of the country, has a checkered history: Years before she’d been accused of murdering her entire family with poisonous mushrooms. Neil, always much more loving and engaged with Daisy than her mother was, is having an affair with a client who desperately wants a child. When Tracy dies, her estranged family takes a sudden interest in the beautiful Daisy because it appears they might make some money from her tragic story. The enigmatic clues someone is providing the police lead nowhere until Martha dredges up an old memory that will help crack the mystifying case.

Masters (Smoke Alarm, 2012, etc.) provides another entertaining procedural whose twists will keep you guessing.

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