1) "Gemma" by Meg Tilly
A series of sexual crimes against a wayward girl are put under a microscope.
Twelve-year-old Gemma Sullivan seems like a familiar victim. Her father disappeared years ago, and her alcoholic mother is ill-equipped emotionally and financially to raise a child. Her mother’s boyfriend, Buddy, begins molesting Gemma when she is eight, more and more frequently and hideously as time passes. When Gemma is 12, Buddy begins pimping her out to his friends. Her first “client,” Hanzen, rapes Gemma and becomes obsessed with her. The bulk of the novel details the kidnapping and brutality perpetrated against Gemma at the hands of Hanzen. The graphic depictions of the brutality that Gemma must endure are enough to turn the stomach of the most hardened reader. In the early going, it’s an effort to keep flipping the pages and endure Gemma’s suffering. Tilly, an actress best known for her screen roles in Agnes of God and The Big Chill, successfully captures Gemma’s wounded voice. The story is told from the point of view of both Gemma and her captor, and Tilly is equally proficient at conjuring up a revolting and consummate villain. The account of Gemma’s happy rescue sucks some of the power from this work, as Gemma is adopted by a kindly policewoman with a troubled past. Tilly has talent, but it remains to be seen whether she will find an audience willing to take on this unsettling subject.
A haunting tale of abuse that may leave readers queasy.
2) "Reality Check" by Peter Abrahams
After his adored ex-girlfriend Clea disappears from her ritzy Vermont boarding school, Cody—a working-class boy who, after a devastating knee injury, went from high-school football star to high-school dropout—travels to Vermont to find her, and becomes embroiled in a dangerous mystery. Cody may be from the wrong side of the tracks and have limited scholastic ability, but he possesses love, loyalty and his own kind of dogged smarts. The setup feels unnecessarily protracted, but once Cody arrives in Vermont, the thriller/mystery angle kicks in and the material becomes much more absorbing. After a series of nicely plotted twists and subterfuges, Cody ends up working at the Dover Academy, where he meets Clea’s classmates, some of the school’s staff and various locals, who may or may not have had a role in her disappearance. The climax is unexpected and not enormously credible, but it doesn’t matter, because by that point readers will be frantically turning pages and fully invested in Abrahams’s message of true love conquering all obstacles.(Mystery. 12 & up)
3) "Locked Inside" by Nancy Werlin
From Werlin, a meaty tale of self-discovery, wrapped in encounters between two computer gamers and a dangerously unstable kidnapper. Poster child for passive-aggressive behavior, hyper-wealthy orphan Marnie has blown off her studies in favor of spending hours online as the sorceress Llewellyne, battling monsters and a sharp rival known as Elf in virtual Paliopolis. Closed-off and hostile since the death of her unwed mother, Skye (a gospel singer turned author of uplifting bestsellers), Marnie pays the price for her self-imposed isolation: Leah, a teacher from her exclusive private school, kidnaps her, imprisons her in a windowless cellar room, and tremulously informs her—at gunpoint—that they are secret half-sisters. Enter Elf, actually a shaved-head prep school senior named Frank, who dashes to the “rescue” just in time to bollix Marnie’s escape, becomes another hostage, then sticks around afterward to teach her about friendship. Although the kidnapping, for all its high-pitched drama, adds a measure of suspense, this is more about Marnie’s learning how to let her mother go, which she does, but not before Leah shoots herself, Frank exhibits some endearing vulnerability beneath a veneer of macho rebellion, and brutal revelations about Skye’s past emerge. Leaving much between the lines, Werlin concocts a thriller for thoughtful readers. (Fiction. 12-15)
4) "Captive" by A.J. Grainger
The 16-year-old daughter of the U.K.’s prime minister is kidnapped by terrorists.
Robyn Knollys-Green, daughter of the PM and descendant of old money, doesn't particularly enjoy being a politician's daughter. Just a few months ago she and her father were shot at in Paris, and Robyn's still terrified. Besides, her parents' marriage is suffering from her mother's hatred of the limelight. Robyn's worst fears seem to come true when radicals from Action for Change, a "radical anticapitalist and animal rights group," kidnap her. The AFC activists want to trade Robyn's freedom for the alleged Paris sniper, the brother of their vicious leader, Feather. Though her kidnappers are masked, Robyn can see their eyes—and from her first glimpse of the "bright green eyes" of the kidnapper code-named Talon, it's clear she's destined for a hefty dose of Stockholm syndrome. Sure enough, over the two weeks of her captivity, Robyn grows ever fonder of Talon. The kidnappers, meanwhile, behave inconsistently: they eat rather a lot of dairy for radical ecoterrorists furious about treatment of animals and the Earth; they are careful to keep their faces covered in front of Robyn but repeatedly reveal their real identities in conversation. Meanwhile, Robyn learns hard truths about her father's actions in office.
What better forbidden romance than with a man who chloroforms a girl and zip-ties her to a bed?(Thriller. 12-14)
5) "Now You See Her" by Jacquelyn Mitchard
6) "Accomplice" by Eireann Corrigan
7) "Feathered" by Laura Kasischke
A spring break in Cancun goes horribly wrong. Anne and Michelle flee the teen binge scene and head into the jungle to explore Mayan ruins with a male stranger as their guide. Michelle’s worries evaporate as she walks the ancient, sacrificial grounds, entranced by images of the god Quetzalcoatl (the Plumed Serpent), eviscerated hearts and dying virgins. The following morning, Michelle is missing and Anne stumbles out of the jungle, bloody and alone. Kasischke spreads her poetic wings, using lyrical language and lucid imagery to create a transcendent novel. Readers will be enchanted by remarkable poetic conceits and narrative devices. Feathers, scales, blues and greens appear as talismans, signaling readers to look for meaning in the novel’s periphery. Bright flashes of horror, exaltation and folklore draw teens into the thick Mexican jungle, and into Anne and Michelle’s story. (Fiction. YA)