Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills; Henry Holt, 312 pages ($17.99) Ages 12 and up.
A high school production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is the backdrop for this beguiling coming-of-age novel exploring family, friendship and romance from the author of “First & Then” and “This Adventure Ends.” After Claudia accidentally overhears the breakup of Paige and Iris, classmates at the private Prospect-Landower School for Girls, Claudia dreads retribution from intimidating, prickly Iris. The two are thrown together, against their will, first on a school paper and then in the school play, Iris cast in a minor role, Claudia working on costumes. The play throws them in close proximity to Paige, who is starring as Titania, and to handsome and loveable Gideon Prewitt, as Oberon. Iris’ obsession with a boy band called TION (This Is Our Now), Claudia’s love for multiplayer fantasy game Battle Quest are incidentals in what turns out to be a thoughtful and poignant examination of the perils of navigating the turbulent waters of high school, of the difficulty both of learning to value yourself and learning to truly connect with others. Claudia makes an entertaining tour guide into the world of her ultra-rich classmates, musing on the varying degrees of having a Boatload of Money, “kids whose parents are doctors or lawyers,” “kids whose families own something, invent something or are the CEOs of something.”
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate; Feiwel and Friends, 211 pages ($16.99) Ages 8 to 12.
Red, a stately red oak, is the neighborhood “wishtree”: kids and adults write their wishes on scraps of cloth and paper and hang them in the branches. Red watches over the human activity in the neighborhood but Red’s branches and hollows are also home to an assortment of critters including a crow named Bongo. A recent arrival in the neighborhood, a Muslim girl named Samar, discovers the magic of the tree, coming outdoors late at night to sit in its shelter and commune with the creatures. But then one day, a vandal carves an ugly word in the tree’s trunk, and a neighbor decides it’s time to call in the chainsaws and eliminate Red once and for all. This unusual book, from the author of Newbery Medal-winning “The One and Only Ivan” is narrated by the tree itself, and while it is sweet, it’s not saccharine and there is plenty of gentle humor along with the rather pointed message.