2017 Teen Nutmeg Nominees

The Night Gardener

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Koryta, a widely praised veteran of cross-genre tales, has upped his game with this stand-alone’s seamless blend of western-wilderness thriller and mainstream crime fiction, with a prickly dab of horror. Ethan Serbin, an elite survival-skills instructor during his Air Force career, now runs a similar program for troubled teens in the Montana wilderness. Without warning, a former student reappears, pleading with Ethan to take on a special student. Jace Wilson witnessed the terrifyingly calculating Blackwell brothers committing murder, and he’s in hiding until he can testify. In Ethan’s camp, the former student reasons, Jace will be off the grid and protected by one of the few men certain to help him survive. Ethan agrees, and once the teens arrive that summer with Jace hidden among them, it’s not long before the brothers come for him, flaunting their mystifying ability to manipulate the authorities attempting to keep Jace’s location secret. Unmatched in weapons and brutality, Jace; Ethan; his wife, Allison; and a young fire watcher named Hannah Faber battle to survive a raging wildfire and the murderous intent of a creepy pair of killers rivaling the deadly preacher in The Night of the Hunter. A must-read for fans of C. J. Box and Nevada Barr. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Combine Koryta’s existing fan base, the current vogue for wilderness thrillers, and an aggressive marketing campaign, and you get a novel certain to attract a whole lot of eager readers. –Christine Tran –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Turn Left at the cow

Turn Left at The Cow by Jonathan Auxier

“Family secrets, an unsolved bank robbery, summer on a lake, a treasure island and a first romance are the ingredients for this inviting middle-grade mystery. . . . A promising fiction debut.”
Kirkus

From Booklist

When Travis Stoiska runs away from his lovey-dovey mother and stepfather in California and heads to his grandmother’s house in Middle-of-Nowhere, Minnesota, he thinks he is undertaking a quest to learn about the father he never knew. He gets much more than he bargained for, though, and lands headfirst in a 14-year-old mystery involving a bank heist, missing money, and a town full of people who believe his father did it. Trav befriends next-door-neighbor cousins Kenny (a smiling giant of a football hero) and Iz (the freaky girl with a special something), and the three set out to solve the mystery and claim the reward, which means something different to each of them. Bullard has a good sense of family and community dynamic and articulates complex conflict and resolution with honesty and humor. Her characterizations breathe with life, and she paints the setting, all church-basement hot dishes, patriotic parades, and live-bait vending machines, with affectionate respect. With a warm narrative, careful plotting, actual danger, and the beginnings of romance, this adventure has something for everyone. Grades 4-7. –Thom Barthelmess –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The Iron Trial
The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare

From School Library Journal

Gr 5–8—All his life Callum Hunt has been warned by his father that practicing magic is a guaranteed death sentence, the only certain way to make sure he doesn’t reach his 18th birthday. When Call is summoned to attend the entrance exams for The Magisterium, a more-sinister version of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, he promises his father he will deliberately fail the test to avoid the dangerous lure of magic school. Unfortunately, magic is in Call’s blood, and though his permanent limp and sarcastic attitude do not appear to serve him well during testing, he is selected with two other “Iron Years” to be a pupil of the greatest mage of all, Master Rufus. Black and Clare have created a unique world in The Magisterium, adroitly sidestepping reader fatigue with the many post-Harry Potter “magical academy” fiction series. The underground school’s labyrinthine tunnels, mysterious caverns, and strange rivers are an alternately wondrous and creepy setting for this hero’s quest. The diverse main trio’s multidimensional portrayals leave aside easy characterizations in favor of complex motivations which add depth to each character. Best of all, a late-stage reveal of the novel’s true hero and villain neatly turn fantasy tropes on their heads.—Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, Darien Library, CT –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Swagger

Swagger by Carl Deuker

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up-Jonas Dolan never thought he’d go to college-his parents can’t afford it. But Coach thinks he has a real shot at a scholarship with a Division Two school. Sure enough, Monitor College wants his point guard skills if he can improve his academics. When his dad gets laid off, the family relocates to the Seattle area. Jonas keeps his basketball skills sharp through the summer, when he befriends Levi, and they are joined by 20-something Hartwell. As Jonas starts his senior year, it’s evident that his new coach sees things differently from Coach Russell. Jonas is relegated to second string by Coach Knecht, who favors old-school basketball with no fancy handiwork. The guys are thrilled when Hartwell is hired on as the assistant coach, but even he cannot convince the elderly head coach to change his philosophy. Jonas sees his chances at a scholarship slipping away. When Knecht collapses at a game and Hartwell steps up to head the team, he allows them to play more assertively, leading to several victories. As Harding High’s fortunes improve, Jonas notices that Levi is increasingly sullen and withdrawn. Eventually, Levi admits that Coach Hartwell has been sexually molesting him, but refuses to let Jonas tell anyone. Jonas confronts the assistant coach, but Hartwell threatens blackmail. Jonas must decide if he will protect himself and keep his scholarship secure, or protect potential victims. Deuker’s ability to create fully realized characters who wrestle with moral dilemmas while incorporating plenty of game action raises his novel above typical sports fiction by several notches. This one will satisfy the author’s longtime fans and win him many new ones.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VAα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journal. LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
memoirs of an imaginary friend
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks
“An incredibly captivating novel about the wonder of youth and the importance of friendship, whether real or imagined. Delightfully compelling reading.” ―Booklist

“[A] fun read and engaging exploration of the vibrant world of a child’s imagination.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Quirky and heartwarming” ―Kirkus

“Funny, poignant . . . Budo’s world is as realistic as he is imaginary. We would all be lucky to have Budo at our sides. Reading his memoir is the next best thing.” ―Library Journal

 

sure signs of crazy

Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington

From School Library Journal

Gr 6-9–Sarah Nelson is dreading the seventh-grade family tree project and hoping her alcoholic father, a college professor, will move them from Garland, Texas, by summer’s end. That has been their pattern whenever local acquaintances discover, usually through a resurfacing news story about two notorious court trials, that Sarah is the sole survivor of her mother’s attempt to drown her two-year-old twins 10 years earlier. With a plant as her only confidante, she conducts imaginary conversations with her dead brother and looks for signs of insanity in herself as she puzzles over the twice-yearly cryptic greeting cards from her mother, a patient in a home for the insane in Wichita. An end-of-sixth-grade letter-writing assignment has Sarah sharing her loneliness and confusion with an idealized father, Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird. But at least her own father has agreed to spare her a boring summer with her grandparents in Houston, deciding instead to leave her in the charge of a college student. Charlotte’s romantic preoccupations, benign neglect, and attractive brother who shares Sarah’s love of words start her on a road to self-discovery and give her the courage to challenge her father’s well-intended but misguided attempts to shield her from her past. Sarah is an introspective protagonist whose narrative, interspersed with letters and word definitions, keeps readers absorbed. The horrific premise is not belabored, and the focus remains on the plight of a girl juggling the normal challenges of adolescence with a complex family situation. Secondary characters add interest and texture to this compelling novel.–Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NYα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
the mark of the dragonfly
The Mark of The Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
“This magnetic middle-grade debut…[is] a page-turner that defies easy categorization and ought to have broad appeal.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred

 “Heart, brains, and courage find a home in a steampunk fantasy worthy of a nod from Baum.”– Kirkus Reviews, Starred

A fantastic and original tale of adventure and magic…Piper is a heroine to fall in love with: smart, brave, kind, and mechanically inclined to boot.”—School Library Journal, Starred

A complex and impeccably developed plot—there is plenty to recommend in this novel.”—The Bulletin

“Appealing characters and lots of action make it a good choice for young adventure readers.”—Booklist

far far away
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

A National Book Award Finalist
An Edgar Award Finalist
A California Book Award Gold Medal Winner

From School Library Journal

Gr 6 Up-McNeal spins a tale fluctuating from whimsy to macabre in such a beguiling voice that-like Hansel and Gretel-readers won’t realize they’re enmeshed in his dangerous seduction until it’s too late. The book is narrated by the ghost of Jacob Grimm (yes, that one), unhappily caught in the Zwischenraum (a plane of existence between life and death). For now, he is the nearly constant companion of Jeremy Johnson Johnson, who can hear Grimm’s voice when he presses a finger to his right temple. He’s also heard the voices of his dying mother and grandfather. This ability has made him an object of derision for many in his little town, though-thrillingly-not to the electrifyingly vibrant Ginger Boultinghouse, who is more than happy to lure Jeremy into more trouble than he’s ever encountered. Grimm tries to be the voice of reason-to keep Jeremy safe-but few things are as they initially seem in the town of Never Better and it’s difficult to know the difference between hazard and opportunity. It’s also hard to know the good folk from the bad and that’s because so many of McNeal’s characters are complex and have conflicted motivations. When is a bully not so bad? Where’s the line between justifiable grief and parental neglect? Can an older man love a teenager in a way that’s not creepy? How do stories nourish us? At what point do they stifle us? All these questions, and many more, are raised in this folklore-inflected, adventurous, romantic fantasy. Whether readers connect more deeply with the suspense, the magical elements, or the gloriously improbable love story, they will come away with a lingering taste of enchantment.-Miriam Lang
endangered
Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up-Fourteen-year-old Sophie rescues Otto, a young chimp, while spending the summer at her mother’s bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. When the president is assassinated and war breaks out, Sophie has a chance to return home to the United States but cannot bear to leave Otto. Their journey to safety takes them into the bonobo enclosure, but the real danger begins when they venture out and risk encountering rebel soldiers. Schrefer excels at imbuing the bonobos with individual personalities and endearing quirks. The bond between Sophie and Otto is so expertly depicted that it almost seems like a parent/child relationship, and readers will readily relate to the anguish the girl feels as she debates leaving her pet behind. The novel tackles tough ethical dilemmas without offering easy answers and delves into racial politics (Sophie’s mixed racial heritage influences how others treat her), giving the book a nuanced tone. Schrefer portrays painful scenes in unflinching detail, and his powerful use of language drives the story forward. However, Sophie often seems preternaturally skilled for a teenager who has spent limited time in the Congo. Several moments stretch plausibility, such as when she rescues Otto from a group of soldiers or when she becomes leader of the bonobo tribe. Additionally, because Sophie is recounting the story as an adult looking back, her voice is often far more mature and polished than most adolescent protagonists. Yet despite the flaws, this is a poignant and moving story.-Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journalα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
a time to dance
A Time To Dance by Padma Venkatraman

From School Library Journal

Gr 6 Up—Despite the pressure from her parents to become an engineer, Veda dreams of being a dancer. She studies the classical Indian dance, Bharatanatyam, and has reached the competition finals. Impressed with her graceful lines and skill, the judges award her first place, and Veda is ecstatic. After posing for pictures, she is injured in an accident on the way home and her leg has to be amputated below the right knee. Devastated, she lies in her hospital bed devoid of hope until one day her doctor introduces her to a specialist from America. He sparks optimism in her because he understands that she needs to dance. Eventually Veda receives a prosthetic limb that allows her to walk and dance once again. She finds a new teacher for whom dance is more than a technical performance; it is an art form. Veda is placed with a student teacher, Govinda, who not only supports her as she relearns and strengthens her dancing but also becomes her friend. This exceptional novel, told entirely in verse, captures beautifully the emotions of a girl forced to deal with a number of challenges and how she overcomes them on her way to becoming a confident young woman. It is sure to appeal to readers who are also trying to find their place in the world.—Laura Fields Eason, Henry F. Moss Middle School, Bowling Green, KY