“Black Widow: Forever Red” by Margaret Stohl

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Eight years ago, Natasha Romanoff is sent to Ukraine to kill Ivan Somodorov, the man who trained her to become a Black Widow. S.H.I.E.L.D. has discovered that Ivan was trying to create more Black Widows, and cannot let that happen. Natasha rescues a young girl, Ava Orlova, from Ivan’s hideout before the base explodes. Natasha promises young Ava that she will always watch over her because they are both “Ivan’s girls”. Fast forward to the present and Ava Orlova is now a teenager who lives on the streets after escaping from a S.H.I.E.L.D. safe house. She has dreams of a boy named Alex Manor, and she goes to a fencing competition in Philadelphia to attempt to meet him. When she meets him, he doesn’t recognize Ava at all, and she wonders why she is having dreams of him. When she tries registering for the competition, the lady running the registration table turns out to be Natasha, and she tells Ava that Ivan has sent men to kidnap her because he wants to continue testing on Ava. They go to the roof to escape from the men when Alex Manor appears because he was concerned about Ava. The three of them get to safety, and Alex joins Ava and Natasha to finish Ivan off once and for all.

Teens that are fans of Marvel comics or the Marvel cinematic universe will enjoy this story about the Black Widow. Marvel fans will pick up on the subtle references to the Avengers that other teens may not; those who have never seen a Marvel movie or have never read a Marvel comic may want to do a little research if they are interested in picking up this novel. Stohl’s version of Natasha Romanoff is up to par with the Natasha Romanoff portrayed in the Marvel cinematic universe and the comics, and the bits of Russian spoken by the characters make them seem even more realistic. Each chapter starts off with an excerpt of an interrogation of Natasha Romanoff by S.H.I.E.L.D., and they are meant to tell Natasha’s reflection on the events that have occurred in the novel. The ending will contain unexpected events, and it will be heart wrenching for some readers. Teens who want more Marvel stories should check this book out.

Check this book out or put it on hold

-Caylee P.

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“Museum of Heartbreak” by Meg Leder

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Penelope Marx wants what most teenage girls want: a dream boyfriend. At seventeen, she’s never been kissed, and Penelope and her best friend Audrey fantasize about what they want in their perfect boyfriend. On the first day of school, Penelope meets Keats, an attractive boy who at first glance seems to embody all of the characteristics of Penelope’s dream boyfriend. She develops a crush on Keats and starts dating him after getting close to him at a party he hosted. Meanwhile, Audrey and Eph, Penelope’s two best friends, start hanging out with other people. As a result, Penelope goes to a fair by herself and meets Grace and Miles, two members of Nevermore, the school’s literary magazine. Penelope joins the Nevermore staff and reads the pieces that students have submitted for consideration. She recognizes one of the anonymous submissions as Keats’s, and she is torn whether to include it since she does not like the story. Keats has also started treating Penelope with disrespect, and hanging out with Cherisse, Penelope’s archenemy. Penelope is then faced with a tough decision: stay with Keats and be disrespected or be without a boyfriend. In addition, her friend Eph is becoming more attracted to her, and she is afraid that if they date their friendship won’t be the same.

Penelope is very socially awkward, quiet, and quirky, which readers can pick up on through her dialogue and her actions. Many teenage girls will be able to relate to the social awkwardness Penelope has when she first meets Keats. Penelope also lives in New York City, and Leder uses her personal knowledge of the city to create a descriptive setting that includes eclectic coffee shops, thrift stores, and flea markets. To go along with the title, Museum of Heartbreak, each chapter has an illustration of an object adjacent to a museum-style description in place of a chapter title, and the chapter that follows reveals why the object is included in Penelope’s museum. That was a unique touch to the novel that connected to the overall museum theme. Teens who like novels that feature friends, love, and heartbreak should check out Museum of Heartbreak.

Check this book out or put it on hold

-Caylee P.

“Famous Last Words” by Katie Alender

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Willa and her mother have moved from Connecticut to California to live with her new stepfather, Jonathan, who is a movie director based in Los Angeles. While not excited to live in Los Angeles, Willa accepts the fact that it is the only way to move on from the death of her father. She regularly tries to contact his spirit using a method she found in an old book, but she does not receive any response. After she tries to contact her father’s spirit in her stepfather’s house, she starts seeing things that no one else can see. Her stepfather’s mansion was owned by Diana Del Mar, an actress who died in the house, and Willa assumes that the ghost of Diana is causing all of the strange occurrences that she is witnessing. At the same time, Los Angeles is being struck by the Hollywood Killer, a serial killer who kidnaps young girls and poses them in reenactments of famous movie scenes before murdering them. Willa meets a boy named Wyatt who is obsessed with the Hollywood Killer, and she believes that he is somehow connected to the case. When Willa’s friend Marnie goes missing and the paranormal activity in the house increases, Willa and Wyatt set out to get to the bottom of both mysteries.

Famous Last Words is a mixture of mystery and ghost story, Alender combines the characteristics of paranormal activity with a good old-fashioned murder mystery. Willa is a character who wants to connect with her father’s spirit and initially is afraid of the paranormal activity she appears to have unleashed upon herself, but by the end of the novel she accepts it and is less afraid of it. She is driven to solve the mystery of the Hollywood Killer, and the strange clues that she finds do not deter her from her search. Like a true mystery novel, the plot contains details that came together by the end of the novel to reveal the true identity of the murderer, while also containing elements that would only be found in Los Angeles such as private schools filled with children of rich parents and movie premiers. Teens should check out Famous Last Words if they like solving mysteries before reaching the end of the novel or if they just want to follow along on a new mystery.

Check this book out or put it on hold

-Caylee P.

“The Cemetery Boys” by Heather Brewer

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Stephen and his father move to Denver, Colorado, after his dad loses his job. They are forced to move in with his grandmother back in his dad’s tiny hometown of Spencer, Michigan. Stephen instantly feels out-of-place in this small Michigan town where everybody knows everybody until he meets twins Cara and Devon. He is instantly attracted to Cara and so Stephen joins Devon’s group of boys who hang out in the cemetery, known locally as the “Playground”, during the night. They tell Stephen local stories of the Winged Ones: large, black flying birds that supposedly cause Spencer to go through bad times if they are not appeased with a human sacrifice. Stephen does not take this myth seriously, but as the summer goes on he finds that Devon and the group seem to think the Winged Ones actually exist. Stephen begins to question the group’s actions and starts to wonder if it is his new friends that are causing all of the mysterious accidents that are happening in Spencer.

The Cemetery Boys is geared towards teens that prefer reading mystery novels. The prologue at the beginning of the book hooks the reader in, with the main character Stephen in peril, which makes the reader want to continue reading to find out more. Brewer also created a voice for Stephen that is generally sarcastic and curious while being skeptical of the existence of the Winged Ones. The small town history and description of Spencer makes it an interesting town and setting. However, Brewer could have possibly elaborated on the town’s back-story a little more, even though the current back-story provided would satisfy most readers. The mystery element of the novel kept building from the beginning to the end, and very few readers will see the plot twist that comes towards the end of the novel. The ending of the novel was more abstract and unique than other young adult books, which allows readers to interpret the ending in their own way. The Cemetery Boys is a book that should be checked out by teenage readers who like getting to the bottom of mysteries.

Check this book out or put it on hold

-Caylee P.