Saturday, November 14, 2015

What we're reading: Adult fiction appealing to teens

Although I found Canary, by Duane Swierczynski, on the adult New Fiction shelf, after reading it all I could think was that someone should nominate it for an Alex Award, because it's also the kind of book I think high school teens or "new adults" would love. (Please note that there are mature themes, so high school and college are the appropriate ages to read this.)  It reminded me of The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton, one of my Alex Award-winning faves that was also highly rated by high school book club.

Sarie Holland is a 17-year-old honors student in her first year of community college. She has so far avoided the "party hearty" habit of most freshmen, instead working on keeping up her grades and hanging out with her dad, who hasn't been the same since her mom died. But towards the end of the semester, she is persuaded into attending a party, where she makes a connection with D., a charismatic guy she has admired from afar. When he asks her for a lift home, even though it's way out of her way, she says yes; then he asks if she can make a stop along the way, so he can "pick up a book from a friend." She realizes that he's actually using her to make a drug run, but by the time she figures this out, he has taken off, leaving his drugs in her car to be discovered by a lurking policeman. She is (foolishly) loyal to D., so she refuses to give him up; the cop, a Philadelphia narcotics officer named Ben Wildey, is looking to bust somebody higher up the chain, and thinks if he can keep his claws in her and threaten prosecution (five years for possession), she'll rat out her "boyfriend," who will lead him to bigger players. Instead, Sarie turns herself into the perfect Confidential Informant (C.I.) by scouring Philly to find alternate people from the drug trade to sacrifice to Wildey. As he continues to hound her, she lets her desperation make her take risky chances that bring her to the attention of all the wrong people...

Some of the events of this book are so crazy that you find yourself saying "C'mon! Really?" as you read it. And yet, it's so well plotted, with such a fresh voice, that you keep reading anyway. It has multiple points of view done well, lots of twisty turns in the plot, and an explosive, unexpected ending--a real page-turner!

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