Johnson, Lindsey Lee. The Most Dangerous Place on Earth.

NY: Random House, 2017.

The “most dangerous place”? According to the author, that’s the American high school — and in this instance, at least, she makes a good case. This isn’t a YA novel, though, but a reminiscence about the high school experience from various perspectives, both teenage and adult. The school in question is in Mill Valley, one of the wealthiest enclaves in upscale Marin County.


Published in: on 15 June 2020 at 8:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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Mills, Emma. Foolish Hearts.

NY: Henry Holt, 2017.

Mills is another above-average author of Young Adult fiction, and this is one of her best. The themes here are not just romance, though there’s plenty of that, both straight and gay, but also the real meaning of friendship.


Allison, John. Giant Days. Vols. 1-12 + Early Admission [prequel].

Los Angeles: BOOM! Box, 2015-20.

This is one of the most entertaining and real-world-funny graphic novel series I’ve seen in some time, following three young British women through their careers at university, one term at a time. Susan Ptolemy is pre-med, doesn’t have much use for boys (with a couple of special exceptions), and has a tongue like a sardonic buzz-saw when she’s provoked — and she provokes easily.


Wibberley, Emily & Austin Siegemund-Broka. Always Never Yours.

NY: Penguin Books, 2018.

This is a better-than-average young adult novel and it appears to be the authors’ debut.The protagonist and narrator is Oregon high school senior Megan Harper, who thinks of herself as “the girl before.” She’s had plenty of boyfriends — all of whom broke up with her because they soon made a connection with someone else, someone who became their One and Only — and all those guys have stayed with those girls, so Megan can’t even hate them for it.


Published in: on 20 February 2020 at 8:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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Biren, Sara. Cold Day in the Sun.

NY: Abrams, 2019.

Except for swimming and track in high school, I was never much of an athlete and contact sports just don’t do a thing for me. Especially ice hockey, which isn’t that big a thing here in the Deep South anyway. Nevertheless, I was completely caught up in the adventures and tribulations of Holland Delviss, known (against her wishes) as “Dutch,” one of the stars of the varsity hockey squad of her northern Minnesota high school.


Blount, Patty. Send.

Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2012.

Dan is starting his senior year in a new high school and his recent life has been pretty awful. Part of that is his own fault, which he knows, but part of it isn’t. He did something reprehensible five years ago that resulted in another student committing suicide, and Dan was behind bars for nearly a year.


Strohm, Stephanie Kate. It’s Not Me, It’s You & The Date to Save.

NY: Scholastic, 2016.
NY: Scholastic, 2017.

Many YA novelists seem to feel an obligation to teach a lesson, either in how to deal with the ordinary trials of growing up or in coming to grips with major tragedy. Which is fine, and some of the books I’ve read of that sort are very good indeed. But Strohm’s intent is mostly to entertain, to make her readers laugh, and she accomplishes that goal very successfully. These two books focus on events in two successive years at San Anselmo Prep, a small but high-powered private school in Marin County, California, and there’s some overlap in characters, so I’ll review them together.


Tilney, Alexander. The Expectations.

NY: Little, Brown, 2019.

This is Tilney’s debut novel and it’s a doozy — funny, emotional, redolent of the 1990s, and deeply involving. The St. James School in New Hampshire is one of the top prep schools in New England and Ben Weeks’s father, grandfather, and all his other male relatives have attended there since the first class of six graduated in 1856.


Published in: on 31 October 2019 at 10:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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Schlereth, Thomas J. Victorian America: Transformations in Everyday Life, 1876-1915.

NY: HarperCollins, 1991.

I’ve been fascinated by history since adolescence, and I ended up with a couple of degrees in it, but my preference has always been for social history and material history. Not kings and treaties and the broad sweep of anonymous events but intimate, everyday, “people next door” history. And that also laps over into the areas of local history and genealogy, and also archival management, in all of which I spent most of my career.


Kenneally, Miranda. Stealing Parker.

Napierville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2012.

This is one of the early entries in this author’s “Hundred Oaks High School” YA series, all of which are set in Franklin, Tennessee, near Nashville. It’s typical small-town Tennessee, with way too many fundamentalist churches, which is an important part of the plot this time.