Disclaimer: Not exclusively for girls by any means, but these will draw more readership and appeal for girls.
All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) by Ally Carter
After three years’ absence, Grace Blakely is coming back to live with her grandfather, the U.S. ambassador to Adria, on Embassy Row. The last few years have left her searching for her mother’s killer, a man with a scarred face, in every person. Upon arriving back in Adria, Grace can’t help but notice the tiny details that remind her of her mother, and the girl that left Adria couldn’t be more different than the girl that returned. Grace’s old friends find her distant, and Grace makes new friends who accept the half-wild, manic daredevil that she is now. On her crusade to find her mother’s murderer, Grace experiences a transforming journey for herself as well as coming closer to finding justice for her mother, but since this is Embassy Row, one undiplomatic move could mean an international incident, possibly even war.
If you’re used to Ally’s other novels, this one is more intense and exposes the traumas of PTSD.
Personally, I didn’t like this one as much as I have some of her other books…perhaps the confusion of the PTSD was hard as a reader to follow the action and that may draw away from it’s appeal for teens.
Miss Mayhem (Rebel Belle #2) by Rachel Hawkins
In this second book of the Rebel Belle series, Harper Price is balancing her romance with David and her duties as David’s Paladin, not to mention working alongside her ex, Ryan, who is David’s Mage. At the end of the last book, Harper’s best friend Bee had been taken by the Ephors, a mystical group who wanted to kill David. However, as Harper and Ryan manage to secretly block the terrifying visions of a more powerful David, David is lured to a meeting with Alexander, the spokesperson of the Ephors, who surprises them all with another challenge. Harper is not a true Paladin yet, as she must complete the Peirasmos, a month long ordeal to come into her potential, but if she fails, she dies and it is her best friend Bee who is her reluctant Paladin backup. Harper tries to keep everything together, but things are just too complicated. Ultimately, the strain of the Paladin/Oracle relationship breaks David and Harper’s romance. Harper’s involvement causes a meltdown for Ryan and his girlfriend Mary Beth. Bee struggles to overcome the forgetting spell Ryan had placed on everyone when she went missing. David discovers how he will change and is burdened by the knowledge. All of this occurs as Harper and Bee compete in a prestigious pageant and attempt to responsibly fulfill their duties for school. Despite Harper’s relentlessly hopeful ‘can do’ attitude, she is utterly blind to the possibility that she can’t control everything.
Though I was mildly intrigued by Rebel Belle, this second one becomes rather annoyingly complex in character relationships and is bogged down by the jargon and drama-inducing fluff conversation. Fans of the series will like it, probably middle grade girls, but older or more advanced readers won’t be drawn in as easily. I really may have to convince myself to read more, though I liked her other series.
The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall
Avery West has spent her whole life moving from place to place with her mother, and her mom has just told her they’ll be moving again because of the mysterious “mandate”, which Avery thinks is some sort of military decree. Normally, she’s always against making friends, joining clubs, etc. because the pain of leaving is inevitable. However, since it’s basically her last two days there and it conveniently happens to be junior year prom, something Avery doesn’t much care about, she decides to live a little and go, just this once, nevermind that her mom said no as she’s going out of town for a bit. Jack, her new boy crush who invited her, is there, as is a mysterious new older boy, Stellan. Suddenly Avery’s unconventional but fairly normal life turns upside down.
Jack and Stellan belong to two families of the Circle of Twelve, a secret elite group of families who basically run the world, though they’re opposed by the Order, another secret society who doesn’t believe in their purpose. Avery, who has never known her father, suddenly is somehow part of one of these families and must submit to their wishes, flying halfway across the world to Paris and then to Istanbul in a serious of crazy adventures. But her life is in great danger, as she could be part of a secret prophecy and either the families will use her for their own gain or the Order will have her assassinated. You won’t want to miss every bit of the twists and turns that this book reveals and make sure you suspend your belief, otherwise you’ll be sure there’s a secret family living in the Louvre and the next President was set up by his/her family ties…
Out of all three of these books, this last is undoubtedly my favorite. I am absolutely on board to read book 2! Despite the premise that sounds outlandish (I know, my little summary just couldn’t do it justice and I didn’t even include how many possible spoilers and intricate plot revelations), Maggie Hall seems to pull it all off! The love triangle seems unintended and yet believable while Avery herself is instantly likeable to teens as she is so normal but determined to survive and come out on top despite the impossible odds. Forgive my caricatures, but Avery is a compellingly untrained heroine with Jack as the forbidden classic boy-next-door and Stellan as the chip-on-his-shoulder mysterious bad boy, and she needs all of them to work together if they are going to survive both the power of the Circle and the murderous intent of the Order. The one thing that I don’t like about this book is that it draws into the “just another girl in a pretty dress” vibe that is trending with YA right now, and this book clearly is more than that. Teenage fans of The Da Vinci Code and fans of Ally Carter will absolutely love this book, and any new readers who love action thrillers, royal/court intrigue, or “Chosen One” novels will be hard pressed not to feverishly read.