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Missing

By Kelley Armstrong

Doubleday Canada, 384 pages, $21.99

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Bestselling Ontario author Kelley Armstrong is back with a second pulse-pounding mystery thriller where it's impossible to guess who the bad guys are and why they're being so bad. High-school senior Winter Crane lives in a Kentucky trailer park in a dead-end town. She often has to hunt in the nearby woods just to keep herself fed. Things get frightening in those woods when she finds a beaten, unconscious (and handsome) boy in a tree and they start being stalked by a psychopath. Don't read this for realism; it's perpetually too dark for anyone to identify perps; police and parents constantly brush off requests for help; and teens find time to stop mid-chase for long looks, deep convos and the occasional smooch. Read Missing for the twists and turns, the constant adrenalin spikes and a really scary pack of feral dogs.

Me and Me

By Alice Kuipers

HarperTrophy, 288 pages, $14.99

Seventeen-year-old Lark is canoeing on her first date with Alec when tragedy strikes. Alec hits his head underwater at the same time that a mother screams for help for her young child. Both are drowning, but Lark can only save one. Who should she choose? From here, the novel splits in two, detailing the aftermath of each decision. Kuipers creates tension in each of Lark's parallel lives by having them receive mysterious texts, but the supernatural SMS feels clunky and disjointed from the literary, dream-like tone of the novel. A jarring incident with one character near the end also negates most of the ambiguity around Lark's choice about who to save. A high-concept plot involving parallel lives demands a highly skilled execution, and while this one fumbles, it bends the brain enough to qualify as an entry-level mind-freak.

Beck

By Mal Peet and Meg Rosoff

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Candlewick Press, 272 pages, $21.99

British author and Carnegie Medal winner Mal Peet died of cancer before he could finish Beck. His dear friend (and fellow Carnegie Medal winner) Meg Rosoff finished it for him. In this cohesive joint endeavour, Beck is born in Liverpool in 1907 to a black father and white mother. After being orphaned, he's sent to a Christian Brothers school in Canada, where a string of terrible abuses begins. Beck struggles to survive the Depression, spending most of his time in Ontario before travelling west. He barely speaks along the way, but Peet and Rosoff use such poignant and stark language that readers can feel the power and shifting meaning of his different silences. In the end, it's a love story; not about how two people fall in love, but how one person – despite startling hardship – can finally feel worthy and open enough to accept love.

Funding for school libraries in Canada is woefully inadequate and children at high-needs elementary schools are paying the price. Read Between the Lines, a documentary produced by the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, captures the importance of early literacy and the challenges we face in Canada by underfunding school libraries.
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