James Liddell’s life should be easy: he’s smart, athletic, and well liked; he has a tight-knit group of friends, a loving family, and a beautiful sort-of girlfriend. His mom even tells him how glad she is that he’s “normal”— unlike his classmate Aaron, the victim of homophobic violence. What no one seems to realize is that James doesn’t want the life, or the girlfriend, that could so easily be his: his heart is stirred by boys. When someone steals the never-to-be-sent letters that James has secretly been writing to the people closest to him to express this hidden part of himself, however, it’s clear that everyone is about to discover his secret. Kenneth Logan’s True Letters from a Fictional Life (Harper Teen, $17.99) is a beautifully complex portrayal of one teenager’s journey out of the closet and into his nonfiction reality. Ages 14-18.
In September 1970, 15-year-old Anna boards what she expects will be just another flight taking her away from her military family, currently stationed in Bahrain, and towards her British boarding school. It turns out, however, that she couldn’t be more wrong: terrorists belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijack her plane and divert it to the Jordanian desert. They hold all of the passengers and crew hostage for four seemingly interminable days, during which food and water slowly dwindle as a terrible uncertainty looms over the captives’ heads. Miriam Moss’s own experience as a Girl on a Plane (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99) hijacked by the PFLP imbues this heart-stopping novel with heightened realism and depth. Ages 14-18.
When Vic Bennucci arrives in Hackensack, New Jersey with little more than an urn filled with his father’s ashes, his prospects are not very bright. But then he meets Mad, a scarred girl with her own secrets, who initiates him into a group of semi-homeless young people with traumatic histories. As the Kids of Appetite (Viking, $18.99) help their newest member carry out his father’s wishes regarding the scattering of his ashes, Vic falls hard for Mad— and another of their number is falsely accused of murder. David Arnold’s latest novel is a gripping look at what happens when innocent young people fall through the cracks of society. Ages 14 and up.