Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub. Delacorte Press, 2013.
Three weeks after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, the Capulets and Montagues’ unstable truce has Verona on edge. A masked swordsman is attacking Montagues and Capulets alike, while the statue of Juliet erected at her grave site has been scrawled with the word “Harlot.” Juliet’s cousin Rosaline feels no loyalty to either side, since the Capulets have shown her little kindness since the death of her father and its accompanying financial ruin years before. When her Uncle Capulet agrees to Prince Escalus’s peace plan to unite Rosaline and the Montague Benvolio in marriage, Rosaline refuses to cooperate. Not only does she find Benvolio arrogant, her heart has secretly belonged to Escalus since she was a child. But Escalus blackmails Rosaline, giving her no choice but to agree. Rosaline then conspires with her betrothed: If the two of them can figure out who is stirring up trouble between the families, they won’t have to marry. To Rosaline’s surprise, she finds unexpected pleasure in Benvolio’s company as they investigate. And then it turns out Escalus’s heart is not as cold and calculating as she feared. Author Melinda Taub has spun a delightful new story on the foundations of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Her narrative sparkles with rich language, dialogue, plotting and wit. There is mystery, romance, treachery, and murder, not to mention a ferocious race against time. And there is Rosaline: smart, strong, feisty, and certain to follow her heart. A terrific authors’s note outlines where Taub took liberties with characters whose backgrounds and fates were left unexplored (or presumed differently) in Romeo & Juliet. (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Liar by Justine Larbalestier. U.S. edition: Bloomsbury, 2009.
Seventeen-year-old Micah has always felt her identity is ambiguous: she is mixed race (Black/white), she is a girl who can pass for a boy, she is a scholarship kid in a wealthy private school, she is a city girl who spends summers running free in the country. She even has a secret boyfriend, Zach—they never acknowledge one another during the school day. Justine Larbalestier’s structurally and psychologically complex story is told through vignettes “Before” and “After” Zach’s mysterious death in which Micah reveals more about their relationship, and about her personal and family history. But Micah also makes it clear she is a liar, so everything she says is suspect. As Micah’s narrative progresses, she exposes more and more of her lies but also—perhaps—more of her truth. Micah’s becomes a story of the fantastic when she explains the “family illness” she inherited. But is Micah really what she claims to be, or is the family illness really insanity? Micah is appealing and sympathetic and the desire to believe her is strong even as her story constantly changes in this astonishing novel in which the ground is forever shifting beneath readers’ feet. As the implications of Micah’s lying become increasingly disturbing, the richness of Larbalestier’s storytelling is more fully revealed in a story that demands discussion once the final page has been turned. CCBC categories: Fiction for Young Adults. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, 2009.
Seventeen-year-old Marcelo Sandoval is looking forward to a summer tending the ponies in his private school’s stables. But Marcelo’s dad wants him to spend the summer working at his law firm, and to attend public school in the fall. For autistic Marcelo, the idea of moving beyond the safety and security of familiarity and routine is scary, but he and his dad work out a compromise: Marcelo will work at the law firm and then decide for himself where he’ll go to school in the fall. “Marcelo is afraid,” he tells his mother. “I know,” she tells him. “That’s the point.” Francisco X. Stork’s debut novel is an astonishing look inside the mind of a teen with autism. Marcelo is a blend of acute awareness and naïveté, stating truths with frankness even as he struggles to understand the motivations behind much of what he sees. As he navigates new relationships and routines, Marcelo discovers that good and bad, right and wrong, can get muddied and complicated. Nothing illustrates this more than when he discovers his father’s firm is defending a company that was negligent, leading to the serious injury of a young girl. Marcelo’s growth is marked by his ability to move more assuredly through a world that is complicated for everyone, all the while remaining true to the voice inside himself. CCBC categories: Fiction for Young Adults. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center