Whyman, Matt. Goldstrike.
It's been a while since Icecore (2007), so I didn't think this would be a sequel; the subtitle (A Carl Hobbes Thriller) should have tipped me off! Still, this could be read alone. Carl and Beth, having escaped Camp Twilight at the Arctic Circle and faked Beth's death, and settling into a working class life in London. Beth is working at a perfume counter at Heathrow Airport (even though she has some gold bullion tucked away), and Carl gets a job at Sphinx Cargo. Because they ship priceless artifacts, Sphinx has a sophisticated computer system, named Cleopatra, that controls all functions of the building. Carl gets a job as a night watchman there, and starts to turn the computer to his bidding, trying to program it to protect him and Beth. Things go awry when Beth chafes at being unable to steal more bullion and is put in the sites of a bounty hunter who wants to turn Carl over to the CIA.
Strengths: Lots of action and suspense; excellent computer hacking. The descriptions of the computer system and the building are extremely cool!
Weaknesses: Is Carl becoming more evil? Beth certainly is. And what is their relationship? I'm just as glad it's not discussed more. A sequel could be interesting! Hope it doesn't take four years.
Kantor, Melissa. The Darlings are Forever.
Love, love, love Girlfriend Material, but something about this book did not entice me to pick it up. Once I started, however, the twee title made sense (recently deceased and very dear grandmother called them that) and I enjoyed the book. Three friends who have gone to elementary school together must go separate ways in high school. Jane goes to a performing arts school, Natalya goes to a posh private school, and Victoria is more concerned with her father's political campaign than fitting in to her new school. The three carve out some time to be together, but the story follows their separate problems. A sequel The Darlings in Love is already in the offing.
Strengths: More good stuff from this author, and the NYC setting is always exotic for my students. Like the realistic portrayal of separated friends who still try to remain together.
Weaknesses: Could have done without the safe sex week demonstration of putting a condom on a banana, but there wasn't anything really sexual about it, so I think it will be okay.
Lee, Y.S. The Agency: The Body at the Tower.
Mary Quinn is back, and her latest assignment from The Agency is to go undercover as a young boy working at the building site at the Houses of Parliament to discover why a man has fallen to his death from the clock tower. She must cut her hair, wear boy's clothing, live in a seedy rooming house, and work as a bricklayer's assistant. Not only does she uncover personal drama and corrupted business practices, but she is brought together with James Easton again, after his return from India, and the two continue their flirting relationship.
Strengths: Why is Victorian London so appealing? Lee's background is in this are of history, so the details are exquisite and realistic. The mystery is well-developed, and the characters are fun.
Weaknesses: Mary was found out a little too soon and too frequently for my taste, and while this propelled the plot forward, made me wonder about her suitability for the Agency. I'll look forward to the last book when it comes out!
Archer, E. Geek Fantasy Novel.
Ralph is glad to be free of his boring parents for the summer after receiving airline tickets and an invitation from family in England. His parents have always insisted that he never make a wish, and he finds out why-- many members of his family have died that way, and he soon finds himself imperiled on a quest of his own, fighting an evil aunt and thrust into a world that more resembles Ruinscape (Okay, RUNEscape, although the effect that it has on my son's motivation to do anything else is ruinous!) than anything else. Snarky asides and deep investment in hard core fantasy themes sets this apart.
Strengths: Fantasy fans will adore this, from the geeky Ralph to his exploits with exploding bunnies.
Weaknesses: This is not for the casual fantasy reader. No maps, but presupposes deep love of fantasy. (Meaning: I didn't care for it, but Surly Teen Boy loved it.)
Also looked at Thanhha's Inside Out and Back Again, which sounded good (in 1975, girl moves from Vietnam to Alabama) until I realized it was a novel in verse. Students really, really dislike novels in verse, and since this is also historical fiction, this would just gather dust in my library. This, of course, practically guarantees it a Newbery mention; Fuse 8 already has waxed lyrical about it. The Page Turn details all the recent love.