by Jennifer Walkup
4 stars (out of 5)
Twisting through past and present is a chilling experience for two teens on a quest for truth. Walkup's Second Verse edges between Agatha Christie and Tony Hillerman, with themes touching on alienation, rebirth, the occult and destiny, setting the scene with intensifying turns of strangeness and familiarity while leading us deeper into the evil that lurks among us. Sixteen-year-olds Lange and Vaughn are drawn to each other, and yet there's something eerie about their relationship. There's also something puzzling about their families: an absent father who mysteriously dies and a mother who moves with Lange into a 200-year-old house haunted by mass murders; adoptive parents who give Vaughn ample spending money and free reign to come and go. It's almost Halloween and while the other students attending Preston Academy of Arts in Shady Springs, Penn., are engrossed in the century-long annual tradition of uncovering a fake murder, Lange and Vaughn are hunting down a real case that's not quite shut to them despite being "solved" 80 years ago. Hang onto your seat as pages turn. Billed as a young adult novel by Carmel-based publishing house Luminis Books, Second Verse is grippingly fine for "senior citizen" me.
by Tracy Richardson
The Field is a compellingly honest slice of life with fully dimensional characters whose struggles and triumphs matter and touch you deeply. Richardson is a worthy heir to Madeleine L'Engle, whose 1962 fantasy fiction novel, A Wrinkle in Time, introduced serious scientific concepts in a book for young adults, and to boot placed a girl in the center of the story. While L'Engle unfolds concepts of space and time and thrusts her characters into an unknown fifth-dimension, Richardson's characters physically stay put yet intellectually travel beyond ordinary consciousness to delve into concepts of dark energy, collective [un]consciousness and universal energy fields. Misfits who effectively hide their inner strangeness, Eric and Renee grow into an understanding of how being different is not an impediment to living well. The Field is an effective metaphor linking Eric's place as a soccer team member and as a subject in physics research.