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Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby (HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray)
With light magic realism, Ruby relates the strange disappearance of Polish immigrant Roza, which leaves two brothers, who loved Roza for different reasons, at serious odds.
The Brides of Rollrock Island. By Margo Lanagan. 2012. Knopf, $17.99 (9780375869198). Gr. 9–12.
Rather than an Illinois flyspeck, Lanagan situates her story in a tiny fishing village, where numerous men fall in love—and death—with witchy selkies. Though kindred to Bone Gap in its focuses on desire and disappearance, this is a read-alike of tone: there’s a phantasmagorical lilt to Lanagan’s writing that fits alongside that of Ruby.
Teeth. By Hannah Moskowitz. 2013. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, $17.99 (9781442465329). Gr. 9–12.
Though more dire than Ruby’s novel, Moskowitz’s tale of Rudy and “Teeth,” a foul-mouthed, yet sympathetic, half boy, half fish abused by local fishermen, recalls the relationship of the brothers of Bone Gap—or perhaps the lovers of Bone Gap, depending on how you read Moskowitz’s dark but wondrous stream-of-consciousness prose. Both novels refuse to fit into any shape of box.
The Twelve-Fingered Boy. By John Hornor Jacobs. 2013. Carolrhoda/Lab, $17.95 (9780761390077). Gr. 9–12.
Ruby’s handling of relationships gets the most plaudits, but it’s the disturbing, dodgy threat of the faceless man that instills Roza’s incarceration with such menace. Jacobs’ trilogy starter introduces a villain of similar enigmatic politeness, Mr. Quincrux, whose acts, though unsavory, contain their own twisted logic.
The Ghosts of Heaven, by Marcus Sedgwick (Roaring Brook)
Sedgwick’s third Printz-recognized novel comprises four interconnected novellas that stretch from the earliest humans to futurist space pioneers, with each tale concerned with spiraling concepts of fate and infinity.
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. By A. S. King. 2014. Little, Brown, $18 (9780316222723). Gr. 9–12.
While Sedgwick is measured and science-minded, King tends toward dry-wit absurdity. But both are flip sides of the same structurally experimental, making-connections-across-time-and-space coin. Here, King telescopes Sedgwick’s scope, as a toxic bat-smoothie gives Glory glimpses of a misogynistic future hell, even as she struggles with here-and-now dilemmas.
The Obsidian Blade. By Pete Hautman. 2012. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763654030). Gr. 8–12.
Nothing feels like The Ghosts of Heaven—hence its value—but Hautman’s wacked-out sf series opener, in which Tucker slips through “diskos” to time-hop from Jesus’ Golgotha all the way to humanity’s vanishing point, comes the closest. Like Sedgwick, Hautman is concerned with Big Ideas: the uses/disuses of faith, historic repetitions, and our future digital destruction.
Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials. By Stephanie Hemphill. 2010. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $16.99 (9780061853289). Gr. 7–12.
Each quarter of The Ghosts of Heaven deserves its own read-alikes (do you prefer cave people, insane asylums, or spacefarers?). The second section, which focuses on a blinkered European witchfinder, recalls Hemphill’s ominously ambiguous novel-in-verse update on The Crucible. No one, Sedgwick and Hemphill agree, is entirely innocent.
Out of Darkness, by Ashley Hope Pérez (Carolrhoda/Lab)
Pérez’s slow-burning tragedy places the powder keg of an interracial relationship alongside the greatest school disaster in American history: the 1937 school explosion in New London, Texas.
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. By Gary D. Schmidt. 2004. Clarion, $15 (9780618439294). Gr. 7–12.
Winner of both Printz and Newbery Honors, this novel, based on true events, is uncanny in how it mirrors Out of Darkness’ plot. Like Pérez’s Naomi, Schmidt’s Turner has moved to a rural town where disputes between communities lead to horrific consequences. But it’s Schmidt’s style that most echoes that of Pérez:detailed, lyrical, and heavy with a sense of impending doom.
Scowler. By Daniel Kraus. 2013. Delacorte, $16.99 (9780385743099). Gr. 9–12.
The sibling and romantic relations in Pérez’s story are gentle and tender. The final act, however, is full-bore horror, as Naomi’s father figure gives in to his most violent urges. Kraus’ midwestern gothic is this section of Pérez’s book writ larger, starring Marvin Burke, a man who deals with a disobedient family in gruesome, relentless fashion.
Trafficked. By Kim Purcell. 2012. Viking, $16.99 (9780670012800). Gr. 9–12.
Purcell’s novel may take place in modern-day L.A., and her protagonist may be Moldovan, but there’s no questioning how Hannah’s situation as a human-trafficked maid runs parallel to that of Naomi’s. Both are forced to keep house under threatening authority figures while grasping at moments of solace wherever they can.
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