One of Us is Lying
by Karen M. McManus
(Puffin, $21)

This American thriller is misleadingly titled because, as events play out, you discover each of the four main characters is lying in one way or another. What starts out as a Breakfast Club-esque scenario with jock, bad boy, brainiac, outsider and prom queen thrown together in detention, results in one of them ending up dead. The remaining four are our unreliable narrators, with the mystery of school gossip site operator Simon's death unfolding from their individual perspectives. McManus paces the story nicely and builds the tension as we discover that it was no accident that all five were in detention together and that each of the survivors has at least one dark secret that Simon was about to reveal.

Still Life with Tornado by A.S King (Text Publishing, $26)
Still Life with Tornado by A.S King (Text Publishing, $26)

Still Life with Tornado
by A.S King
(Text Publishing, $26)

Mental problems and dysfunctional US families seem to be a staple of many teen books.

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They're in plentiful supply in this tale of 16-year-old Sarah, who suffers an existential crisis and stops going to school. While it's easy to be cynical about the ingredients for this novel, King uses them skilfully to examine the effect domestic violence and psychological warfare can have on families. The reasons behind Sarah's disintegration are slowly revealed, book-ended by a dimly remembered holiday in Mexico and a mortifying episode with her art teacher. Told mainly from Sarah's perspective with some short chapters in her mother's voice, this sometimes-bleak tale of domestic disharmony is teased out in a strangely satisfying fashion.

Pieces of You By Eileen Merriman (Penguin Books, $20)
Pieces of You By Eileen Merriman (Penguin Books, $20)

Pieces of You
by Eileen Merriman
(Puffin, $20)

Auckland writer Merriman takes on some tricky topics with self-harm, sexual assault and suicide but manages a sympathetic and engaging novel that revolves around 16-year-old, ginger-haired Rebecca, newly arrived on the North Shore from Dunedin. The fish-out-of water scenario is not new but the characters are well-drawn and relatable, especially to Kiwi teens. When a chance encounter with a boy at the beach goes horribly wrong, Rebecca begins cutting herself to deal with the shame and humiliation she cannot share with others. Her saviour is boy-next-door Cory, who shares Rebecca's love of literature. He seems like a popular, sporty boy but as the story progresses, and he and Rebecca become closer, we discover he is dealing with inner demons.

Taupo Blows! by Doug Wilson (Bateman Publishing, $19)
Taupo Blows! by Doug Wilson (Bateman Publishing, $19)

Taupo Blows!
by Doug Wilson
(Bateman Publishing, $19)

Eruptions and earthquakes set in motion this enjoyable fantasy adventure, which sees two kids and their dog embarking on an epic journey to save themselves and the rest of the country. Young teens will enjoy the antics of 12-year-old Rachel and her 10-year-old brother Sam, who, along with their dog Choky, are cut off from family when the Central North Island is riven by eruptions and earthquakes. It looks like the kids and Choky will be toast until Guld, a strange creature seemingly carved from rock, is spewed out of a volcano and lands on their doorstep. He convinces them that the only way to save themselves and the country is to enlist the help of various spirits and head to the heart of the volcano.

Short takes - teen reads, reviewed by Graham Hepburn.
Short takes is a weekly round up of books from specific genres and appears on Saturdays in the NZ Herald's books section.