Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

Portia falls into that category of girls who are considered woebegone. Having been orphaned (of a sort) at a young age, and sent off to live with Mister at McGreavey's Home for Wayward Girls, she was never accustomed to a typical household. Her father left after a chance encounter with a travelling circus when she was nine, and after her less-than-favorable treatment at Mister's hands, she longs to follow in his footsteps. She vows to stay in Mister's care, however, until she can find her "File." It is rumored to contain information about the whereabouts of her extended family, and possibly the location of her father.

Then something happens to move up the timeline. No longer can Portia stay with this odious man, and plots her escape. Fortuitously, she receives a card showing the next several stops of the circus, and makes her way there to meet them.

Encountering the circus folks, she is enchanted by their way of life. Portia is recruited to work on the Midway as a "talker" due to her natural propensity for storytelling. Jackal, known as "the best talker in the game" takes her on as his assistant. Her job will be to talk up the side show, better known as "The Freaks": the Wild Albinos of Bora Bora, the Bearded Lady, the World's Smallest Man, and Irish Giant, the Fat Lady (800 lbs)...and last but not least, the Siamese Dancing Twins (did we mention they dance in the nude?)

Portia reveals that some of her motivation for joining up was to look for her long-lost father. It stands to reason, as he left so soon after visiting the circus with her all those years ago. While she may not have always harbored desires of joining the circus, she truly enjoys it. This misfit group of weirdos starts to feel like a family. Until that day when Mister's goons show up to take her back...

This is a fun, whimsical novel with elements of darkness, full of the weird and wonderful. If you like quirky, this could be for you. It has elements of historical fiction that keep this story grounded, and also lend an air of believability to a ridiculous setting. Recommended for high school.
"'Doesn't matter, my dear. What matters is what we say we have, and how well we say it. Remember that when you're on the line.'
'The what?'
'The stage, my dear!' He dropped his arm from her shoulders and clapped his hands. 'You are now in the noble business of the ballyhoo.' Then he reached for her hand, shook it, and announced, 'We start in the morning," (Barnaby pg. 101, 2012).

If you liked this, check out:

Barnaby, Hannah R. (2012). Wonder Show. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments, Book 1)

It's just a normal night at the Pandemonium Club. Clary and her best friend Simon are regulars. But tonight, something's off. Clary sees some suspicious looking people running into the back, and she follows them. What she witnesses defies explanation...as the dead body of some guy just disappears after three tattooed teenagers kill him! She is even more confused on why she's the only one who can see them, but that isn't the last time she sees them.

After a fight with her mom, she and Simon hit the local diner, and who should she see but the boy from the other night: the hottie with curly blonde hair. No sooner does she confront him than she receives a panicked call from her mother. Rushing home, she comes face to face with a demon, and manages to kill it, but is injured.

It was a Ravener demon, she learns later, as they begin to explain everything to her. The teens she saw are Shadowhunters: decendents of the Angel Raziel. They call themselves Nephilim, and are sworn to protect our world from demons, and other supernatural threats. Clary can only see them because she has the Sight that allows her to see through glamours. Suddenly a whole new world is opening up to her, and she's not sure if she likes it.

Most of all, she wants to find her mom. The demon that attacked her mentioned the name Valentine, and the Shadowhunters are familiar with him. Apparently, he once led an attack on the Clave who runs the Shadowhunters with a group of followers called The Circle. They also seem to think that her mother was one of them, and that she was married to Valentine! How could her mother have hidden so much from her?

With no place to go, she stays at the Institute with the Nephilim. As time passes, she begins to befriend Jace, Isabelle, and Alec...but it is clear that she feels a connection with Jace. She is drawn to him, like no one she's ever known. Could she really be a Shadowhunter? Does she want to be part of this world? Days pass, and the chances of finding her mother seem hopeless at times. Will they ever find Valentine?

I admit, I dragged my feet on reading this one. My teens love it, so I hardly ever have to push it. It sells itself to boys and girls alike, but I wasn't feeling too hot and ended up blazing through the first three books in one day. That should tell you something: I couldn't put it down. This is coming out as a movie in 2013, and I recommend it to fans of the growing "fallen angel" trend. But don't worry, there are plenty of werewolves, vampires, and fairies too.
“'Don't stop there. I suppose there are also, what, vampires and werewolves and zombies?'
'Of course there are. Although you mostly find zombies farther south, where the voudun priests are.'
'What about mummies? Do they only hang around Egypt?'
'Don't be ridiculous. No one believes in mummies,'” (Clare, 2007). 

If you liked this, check out:

Clare, Cassandra. (2007). City of Bones. New York: M.K. McElderry Books.

Unwholly by Neal Shusterman (Unwind series, Book 2)

SPOILER ALERT: This is the second book in a series!

It's been a year since the Admiral left Connor in charge of the Graveyard. In that time, he's learned a lot about the Anti-Divisional Resistance's disorganization, miscommunication, and general lack of support for it's rescuees. While the incident at Happy Jack Harvest Camp gained support for unwinds initially, the backlash has been severe from people who have made unwinding into big business.

New legislation is passed preventing 17-year olds from being unwound, but in response, marketing campaigns are revved up to encourage people to unwind their children "for the good of society". The text is interspersed with advertisements encouraging "the divided state" and the role of helping other injured humans.

Much like its predecessor Unwind, Shusterman follows the story of several characters on their path to being unwound. Miracolina is a tithe: born to provide harvestable parts for her older brother, she has always known her destiny. She looks forward to being unwound, and even spurns her parents when they begin to doubt their decision. The biggest shock comes when she is kidnapped the day before her procedure, and whisked away to a facility keeping tithes from being unwound. Their "patron saint" is none other than Lev! While the other kids at the secret facility are for the most part happy to be free, Miracolina is resistant to all their "anti-brainwashing" techniques. She truly believes in the sacrifice for her brother, and you begin to be sympathetic to her point of view.

Starkey is a stork. He was left on the doorstep of a family, and by law, they were forced to raise him. Never one to be subservient, he has always held a certain amount of resentment for his so-called family. He didn't make much of an effort to stay on their good side, and was always teased as a child. As he grew into adolescence, he made an effort to be too big and mean to tease, but he's still surprised when they come to take him away. Channelling Connor, he shoots his Juvenile Officer with his own gun and manages to escape. He finds his way to the resistance, and to the Graveyard. There he begins his insidious, cunning rise to power, creating a "Stork Club" and building a group of kids loyal to him by playing on their insecurities as storked children.

Camus Comprix (read: Caymoo Compree), or Cam, is a composite human created exclusively of unwound parts from 99 different unwinds. He is made up of the smartest, fastest, most diverse group imaginable to become the ultimate new advancement in medical science. While he embodies all the elements of unwinding, he is also an abomination to many. His face is a literal quilt of different skin colors, and his first conscious moments are an exercise in patience as his mind begins to make connections between all his neural pathways. He has existing knowledge from the previous owners of his elements, but he must learn how to access this knowledge. Roberta is his mother, his teacher, his confidante in this endeavor, and she acts as his handler to the rest of the world. It is she that introduces him to the media.

My typical synopsis would give too much away. These character sketches will have to do enough to intrigue you. READ THIS BOOK! You won't be disappointed. All your favorites are back too: Connor, Risa, Lev, and even Roland play parts. The way this story begins to unfold puts a new spin on the value of human life. What is it that makes us human exactly?
“The sad truth about humanity, Risa was quick to realize, is that people believe what they're told. Maybe not the first time, but by the hundredth time, the craziest of ideas just becomes a given,” (Shusterman, 2012).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
UnSouled by Neal Shusterman (Unwind series, Book 3) Expected publication 10/15/13

Shusterman, Neal. (2012). UnWholly. New York: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers.