Monday, June 18, 2012

5 teen thrillers to keep you guessing

List by Danielle

There are times when fear is good. It must keep its watchful place at the heart's controls.
~Aeschylus

Some of you may not know that we have not just one lovely library trove of new titles goodness, but TWO! Not only can you visit the library website and browse your way through a parade of new books, movies and music in all their pretty colour-covered splendour, but you can also sign up to an RSS feed and get new books in an assortment of flavours dropped into your inbox daily -- including teen fiction! Just my cuppa tea. How else am I going to know if the current love for dystopias is holding strong, or what the newest paranormal hottie is (tooth fairies! goblins! banshees!)? The answers are in my email each morning. *happy sigh*

I have found some gems lately, too. The sort of books that keep me up past my sensible bed time, make the morning bus ride a sheer pleasure (though too short), and cause actual pangs of agony when the lunchbreak ticks to a close.

Losers in space / John Barnes
It is the year 2129 . . . and fame is all that matters. Susan and her friends are celebutantes. Their lives are powered by media awareness, fed by engineered meals, and underscored by cynicism. Everyone has a rating; the more viewers who ID you, the better. So Susan and her almost-boyfriend Derlock cook up a surefire plan: the nine of them will visit a Mars-bound spaceship and stow away. Their survival will be a media sensation, boosting their ratings across the globe. There's only one problem: Derlock is a sociopath. Breakneck narrative, pointed cultural commentary, warm heart, accurate science, a kickass heroine, and a ticking clock . . . who could ask for more?

There is a lot of science in this science fiction, and I have to be honest, for me it sometimes derailed what should have been a fast-paced and exciting plot. Granted, the author chose a novel way of inserting the science into little asides that you could choose to skip - they were clearly flagged as such - but there was still an awful lot of plot that depended on at least a basic comprehension of gravity. So I'd recommend this to anyone, like the heroine, who carries at least a fragment of 'science geek' inside. And for those not so sciencey, the characters were cool, and there were some good lessons about not taking people at face value. I loved seeing some of the characters that the heroine had written off as dumb, whiny and useless grow and blossom as they developed some real skills. The heroine had to transform, too, from a shallow 'celebutante' who cared only about her social status, to someone more formidable... and actually, a bit scary.

Legend / Marie Lu
In a dark future, when North America has split into two warring nations, fifteen-year-olds Day, a famous criminal, and prodigy June, the brilliant soldier hired to capture him, discover that they have a common enemy.

The opener for a new dystopian series that may well appeal to people looking for their next life-or-death thriller after The Hunger Games. Both lead characters are believable products of their very different childhoods, and June's eye-opening experiences as she sees how the Republic treats its poorer workers are particularly vivid. This book doesn't pull a lot of punches when it comes to showing how a ruthless government deals with people living in poverty, and those who choose to rebel.

Variant / Robison Wells
Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life. He was wrong. Now he's trapped in a school that's surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive. Where breaking the rules equals death. But when Benson stumbles upon the school's real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape - his only real hope for survival - may be impossible.

I'm going to spoiler the end for you: 'End of Book One'... what?! I overstayed my lunch break to find out what happens and now I have to wait for stinkin' Book Two?? Variant is serviceably if not stunningly written, but the central mystery - what is going on at Maxfield? - powers the story along like a jet engine. A real boy' own adventure story with potentially lethal paintball games and a Lord of the Flies type premise.

Still waters / Emma Carlson Berne
Hannah can't wait to sneak off for a romantic weekend with her boyfriend, Colin. He’s leaving for college soon, and Hannah wants their trip to the lake house to be one they’ll never forget. But once Hannah and Colin get there, things start to seem a bit...off. They can't find the town on any map. The house they are staying in looks as if someone's been living there, even though it's been deserted for years. And Colin doesn’t seem quite himself. As he grows more unstable, Hannah worries about Colin’s dark side, and her own safety. Nothing is as perfect as it seems, and what lies beneath may haunt her forever.

A really well-written romantic thriller with plenty of atmosphere, a nice flair for dialogue and great characters (mildly dorky heroines ftw!). The author's descriptions of Pine House, Colin's family hideaway in the woods - as well as the tiny town going through its death throes a few miles away - are spot-on and totally creepy. She is an expert at picking out the little details that add a sense of realism, as well as a growing disquiet. The only problem I had with the book was with what felt like a weak ending to me, but I loved the author's style enough to slap a hold on anything else she'd written (Hard to Get and the upcoming Never Let You Go, which has a tantalising excerpt at the back of Still Waters).

Dark Eden / Patrick Carman
While hiding out in a bomb shelter, Will Besting uncovers shocking secrets about nearby Fort Eden, a mysterious, remote treatment center where Will and six other fifteen-year-olds were sent for radical treatments to cure their phobias.

It was the recent sequel to this, Eve of Destruction, that was on the new titles feed, but it made me search out Book One and I was so glad I did! This was the one that made me want to keep turning pages till I knew all the secrets and the book was done. Dark Eden was one of those 'rollercoaster reads' that just keeps coming with suspense and surprises. Highly recommended. Characters are normally the thing that make me love a book, and these are a little underdeveloped - stock types that you barely get to know, really - but the main character, Will, is likeable and flawed enough to root for, and the gothic setting and suspense are enough to carry the story. Plus - and this is a big plus - Dark Eden comes with an app that gives you all sorts of audio/video goodies to go with the story, and Eve of Destruction shows you some of the key moments from Dark Eden in a creeeepy website! Extra extra bonus: brilliant illustrations between each section of the book add to the atmosphere. 

3 comments:

Andy said...

Hey thanks Danielle for these posts and lists. Brilliant

Danielle said...

You're welcome! These ones were heaps of fun to read, and I managed to score a copy of Carman's 'Skeleton Creek' at a book sale, looking forward to that, too!

Thrillers said...

When the victim of a corporate scam finds himself deep in hostile Africa, his discovery of a rare-earth mineral sparks a chase for evil riches; greed and lust must be overcome to keep an arcane tribal secret from revelation.

The catalyst is a corporate fraud. An innocent man on the run where danger of every kind lurks – and where brutal love joins a pair of fugitives in a quest to hide a shocking discovery from being exposed to corruption and greed.
An exciting thriller with lots of twists and turns in a forbidding landscape.