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Places No One Knows    by Brenna Yovanoff Amazon.com order for
Places No One Knows
by Brenna Yovanoff
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Not too many YA titles cross the line into magical realism, but Places No One Knows does it with ease. Brenna Yovanoff has made a name for herself with dark fantasy, but here she proves she has a knack for something lighter, too.

Waverly Camdenmar is on top of the popularity chain at her school. Her best friend, Maribeth, has been scheming their social takeover since middle school, and now as high school juniors, they have definitely arrived. Waverly is careful about her outward social appearance, always knowing what to say and how to act, but there is a secret Waverly no one knows, one who wants to speak her mind and be herself. These warring Waverlys lead to insomnia that Waverly can only cure by running. One night, though, she tries a meditation method she found online, lights a scented candle, and actually drifts off to sleep, dreaming she is at a party with Marshall Holt, one of the stoners in her Spanish class.

After a few more of these nighttime encounters, she discovers they may not actually be dreams, but it is too late because she has already let Marshall see the real Waverly. But the daytime Waverly is not ready to unmelt her heart for someone like Marshall. Daytime Waverly, though, does make a new friend on the track team. Nonconformist Amber can see through Waverly's hardened exterior and starts to pull Waverly out of herself. As Waverly struggles with who she really is versus who the world sees, she finds herself desperately clinging to the last little bit of candle, the last of her connection to Marshall, for she fears that once it melts, her new life will be gone.

Places No One Knows might have strong elements of teen romance, but it is really a story about friendship and finding your place. Waverly is a very strong character the reader may not always like her actions but will keep rooting for her until the end. Marshall is also a very complex character who has his own hurdles to overcome. Yovanoff has made both realistic, often defying the expected actions of characters in contemporary YA. The plot, too, is realistic (for being magical realism), but never really hits those highs that make a good novel great.

Fans of Brenna Yovanoff's books will get something a little different, but equally as good, with Places No One Knows. Hopefully, Yovanoff will delve more into magical realism because YA fiction can use some more good ones.

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