Quick Hits: 6 Books for Teens this Fall

These new books span everything from disability and difference to grief and homelessness—for starters. They're important books, and gripping reads.

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thejusticeproject

The Justice Project, by Michael Betcherman

Publisher: Orca Books

Recommended ages: 12 and up

About the Book

High-school football star Matt Barnes was on the top of the world until a freak snowboarding accident ending his promising sports career and left him with a permanent limp. As he struggles to accept his changed body, Matt becomes depressed and isolated. Instead of college football camp, he faces a summer job at the local golf club. Then by chance Matt lands an internship at the Justice Project, an organization that defends the wrongly convicted. The other intern is his high-school nemesis, Sonya Livingstone, a quick-witted social activist with little time for jock culture. The two slowly develop a friendship as they investigate the case of Ray Richardson, who was convicted of murdering his parents twenty-one years ago. Matt and Sonya are soon convinced that Ray is innocent—but how will they prove it? Unravelling the cold case takes them on a journey filled with twists, turns, deception and danger. It will take dedication, perseverance and courage to unmask the real murderer. Can those same qualities help Matt move on to a life not defined by football?

What People Are Saying

"Issues are successfully blended into a well-rounded novel that, in tandem with interesting characters and a thrilling murder mystery, will grip readers’ attention until the very end.” —Booklist

"A gripping, multi-dimensional work, deserving of a place in senior high school library fiction collections." —CM: Canadian Review of Materials

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The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster, by Cary Fagan

Publisher: Tundra Books

Recommended ages: 10–14

About the Book

Who is Gretchen Oyster? The discovery of a series of mysterious handmade postcards distracts Hartley from trouble at home. A poignant novel for fans of Rebecca Stead and Holly Goldberg Sloan.

Hartley Staples, near-graduate of middle school, is grappling with the fact that his older brother has run away from home, when he finds a handmade postcard that fascinates him. And soon he spots another. Despite his losing interest in pretty much everything since Jackson ran away, Hartley finds himself searching for cards in his small town at every opportunity, ignoring other responsibilities, namely choosing a topic for his final project. Who is G.O. and why are they scattering cards about the town?

What People Are Saying

"A funny, beautifully illustrated coming-of-age novel that will leave young readers thinking about where art begins and what it can do to change lives." —CM Magazine

"A charmingly eccentric tale of briefly intersecting lives making meaning from art." —Kirkus Reviews

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Safe Harbour, by Christina Kilbourne

Publisher: Dundurn

Recommended ages: 12–15

About the Book

As crazy as her father’s plan sounds, sticking to it is easy for Harbour—until it isn’t.

Fourteen-year-old Harbour is living in a tent in a Toronto ravine with her dog, a two-month supply of canned tuna, and an eccentric reading list. She’s not homeless, she tells herself. She’s merely waiting for her home—a thirty-six-foot sailboat—to arrive with her father at the helm. Why should she worry when the clouds give her signs that assure her that she’s safe and protected?

When her credit card gets declined, phone contact from her father stops, and summer slips into a frosty fall, Harbour is forced to face reality and accept the help of a homeless girl named Lise to survive on the streets. Lise shows Harbour how to panhandle and navigate the shelter system while trying to unravel Harbour's mysterious past. But if Harbour tells her anything, the consequences could be catastrophic.

What People Are Saying

"A gritty, highly engaging, realistic mystery that captures the harsh realities of homeless teens in crisis. This plot-driven novel with well-drawn characters will pull readers into a devastating tale of intrigue and redemption." —Kirkus Reviews

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Love Heather, by Laurie Petrou

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Recommended ages: Teens

About the Book

Award-winning author Laurie Petrou makes her YA debut with this atmospheric thriller exploring the addictive pull of revenge.

What you see isn't always what you get.

Stevie never meant for things to go this far. When she and Dee—defiant, bold, indestructible Dee—started all this, there was a purpose to their acts of vengeance: to put the bullies of Woepine High School back in their place. And three months ago, Stevie believed they deserved it. Once her best friend turned on her, the rest of the school followed. Stevie was alone and unprotected with a target on her back. Online, it was worse.

It was Dee's idea to get them all back with a few clever pranks, signing each act Love, Heather—an homage to her favourite 80's revenge flick. Despite herself, Stevie can't help getting caught up in the payback, reveling in every minute of suffering. And for a while, it works: it seems the meek have inherited the school.

But when anonymous students begin joining in, punishing perceived slights with increasingly violent ferocity, the line between villain and vigilante begins to blur. As friends turn on each other and the administration scrambles to regain control, it becomes clear: whatever Dee and Stevie started has gained a mind—and teeth—of its own. And when it finally swallows them whole, one will reemerge changed, with a plan for one final, terrifying act of revenge.

What People Are Saying

 "An engaging, emotionally raw tale of social torment and explosive reactions." —Kirkus Reviews

"A well-told tale of teenage revenge . . . Readers will keep turning the pages to see how the inevitable emotional explosion plays out." —Publishers Weekly

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The Stone Rainbow, by Liane Shaw

Publisher: Second Story Press

Recommended ages: 13–18

About the Book

Jack Pedersen is finding life complicated ever since he came out to his mom. Even though she’s been doing her best to understand, it’s obvious to Jack that his mom still wants to cry every time she says the word gay.  

Complications go into overdrive when a new student named Benjamin arrives at his high school, and Jack starts experiencing feelings he’s never allowed himself before. When a near tragedy turns life upside down, Jack realizes that it’s time to stop hiding and to stand up—for Pride, for Benjamin, and for himself.

What People Are Saying

"Stone Rainbow is an engaging and inspiring story about resilience, confronting fear, and overcoming trauma, even when it seems impossible. Shaw’s newest novel is an important addition to any school, classroom, or public library collection ... Highly recommended." —CM Magazine

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The Ghost Collector, by Allison Mills

Publisher: Annick Press

Recommended ages: 10 and up

About the Book

Ghosts aren’t meant to stick around forever ...

Shelly and her grandmother catch ghosts. In their hair.

Just like all the women in their family, they can see souls who haven’t transitioned yet; it’s their job to help the ghosts along their journey. When Shelly’s mom dies suddenly, Shelly’s relationship to ghosts—and death—changes. Instead of helping spirits move on, Shelly starts hoarding them. But no matter how many ghost cats, dogs, or people she hides in her room, Shelly can’t ignore the one ghost that’s missing. Why hasn’t her mom’s ghost come home yet?

Rooted in a Cree worldview and inspired by stories about the author’s great-grandmother’s life, The Ghost Collector delves into questions of grief and loss, and introduces an exciting new voice in tween fiction that will appeal to fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Louisiana’s Way Home and Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls.

What People Are Saying

“Poignantly haunting.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Mills has created a gentle, understated story about grief and loss through a paranormal lens. This is a necessary book that is sure to have readers. Highly recommended.” —School Library Journal, *starred review

“An original paranormal tale.” —Kirkus Reviews

September 12, 2019
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