Karen Rivers

you are the everything


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Algonquin Books for Young Readers


Can you want something—or someone—so badly that it changes your destiny?

Elyse Schmidt never would have thought so, until it happened to her. When Elyse and her not-so-secret crush, Josh Harris, are the sole survivors of a plane crash, tragedy binds them together. It’s as if their love story is meant to be. Everything is perfect, or as perfect as it can be when you’ve literally fallen out of the sky and landed hard on the side of a mountain—until suddenly it isn’t. When the pieces of Elyse’s life stop fitting together, what’s left?

You Are the Everything is a story about the fates we yearn for, the fates we choose, and the fates that are chosen for us.


Kirkus:  This is a complicated story that explores unfulfilled dreams and ideas of what might have been.  Well-written and emotionally resonant, this is an unusual and poignant story.

School Library Journal (starred review):  This is good choice for those who enjoyed E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars or books with pieces that only fit together after a surprising ending. ­  Fans of unreliable narrators and twist endings will clamour for this story of romance and survival.

“Karen Rivers uses the [second person] perspective to brilliant effect. Grounded firmly in the fragile consciousness of its teenage main character, Elyse Schmidt, the haunting, enigmatic narrative works so well that the only circumstance under which you will want to avoid reading it is if you are actually in flight . . . You take this harrowing yet beautiful journey with her. You see the pieces fall into place. Together, you figure it out.”
—The Chicago Tribune

“Philosophical readers will find much to love here; Rivers picks apart the nuances of friendship and romance, with their attendant loyalties and conflicts . . .  You Are the Everything is an unusual and compelling novel that skillfully plays with narrative perspective.”
Booklist, starred review

“It’s the powerful, moving, and thought provoking YA read you need this fall.”
—Hello Giggles

“Trauma comes in many forms, and we in our society and our art are only recently learning how to deal with it in ways that are ultimately helpful. This story of a survivor feels relevant in a time when trauma of various kinds is being brought into the light in ways unfamiliar to past decades. Rivers’ story of a survivor, a girl trying to figure out her place in the world, feels necessary and helpful in our current climate. Elyse’s world is heartbreaking and lovely, terrifying and quiet.

Readers who enjoy books with deep meaning, shifting understanding, and gentle humor will find much to love about this book. Highly recommended for teens who have either suffered a trauma or know someone who has, adults who are trying to understand the young people around them, or anyone who simply likes a well-told, beautiful story.”

— New York Journal of Books

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all that was

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) 

Two best friends. The boy who loves them both. What happens when there is only one girl left?

Piper and Sloane are best friends. They grew up together, dress alike, and never do anything without each other. To Sloane, Piper has always been extraordinary: fierce and pretty and powerful. The only thing that makes Sloane special is that Piper chose her for a sisterhood that was supposed to last forever. That is, until Piper caught Sloane kissing Piper’s boyfriend, Soup—and the next day, Piper is found dead, washed ashore on a beach. 

As Sloane and Soup relive their deep, sometimes painful histories with Piper and face a future without her, they are racked by questions: Who is to blame for Piper’s death? How do you make amends for hurting someone you love if that person is no longer around? And how can you ever move on and love again? Told from alternating perspectives in Karen Rivers's signature lyrical prose, All That Was is a story about the complexity of friendships, forgiveness, and growing up.

Voya (starred review):  “Keeps readers on the edge of their seats.” 

Publishers Weekly:  “[A] gripping novel.” 

Kirkus:  “The layered plotting, in which key moments seem to spiral toward one another through the disjointed timeline, adds intriguing complexity . . . Emotionally dark and keenly observant.” 

Booklist:  “The descriptive prose is lovely and insightful, reading more like free verse than straight narrative. . .In the end, a shocking account emerges, rewarding patient readers with a portrait of a dangerously close friendship.” 

The Globe and Mail:   "The term "frenemy" usually implies a shallow relationship of faux pleasantries and gossip. But what do you call a best friend you both deeply adore and despise? What do you call a best friend who brings both comfort and destruction? Seventeen-year-old Sloane Whittaker is forced to reckon with this contradiction after the violent death of her best friend, Piper. To make matters more complex, Sloane is also in love with Piper's boyfriend. Yes, it's a soapy set-up, and there are ample Instagram filter metaphors and indulgent stream-of-consciousness musings that create some distance from the tragic circumstances of the plot. But Sloane and Piper's friendship is the gem of this book. It's irresistibly lush and insidious, with Piper playing both cruel puppet master and insecure coward. This disturbingly realistic power dynamic lays the foundation for an unsettling murder mystery full of grief and survivor's guilt.

before we go extinct


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Grief can sometimes feel like being caught in the jaws of a great white shark.

J.C., who goes by the nickname Sharky, has been having a hard time ever since his best friend died in front of him in what might or might not have been an accident. Shell-shocked, Sharky spends countless hours holed up in his room, obsessively watching documentaries about sharks and climate change―and texting his dead friend.

Hoping a change of location will help, Sharky’s mom sends him to visit his dad on a remote island in Canada. There, Sharky meets a girl who just may show him how to live―and love―again.

Kirkus:   March, 2016

"The author skillfully pulls together the disparate parts of JC’s life through his deeply felt, sometimes humorous, first-person narration.  JC’s voice, spoken and unspoken, rings with a note of authenticity."

Readerly:  May 5, 2016 

"Published as part of Macmillan’s ReaLITy Reads program, Before We Go Extinct has no easy answers. Rivers’ characters are complex – sometimes cruel, and other times child-like in their innocence – and she does not condescend with a tidy conclusion that ties up all the plot threads. With elegiac prose that moves seamlessly in and out of poetry, Before We Go Extinct is an absorbing riff on grief, teenage love, and great white sharks. Poignant and thought-provoking, Rivers’ autopsy of a suicide underscores the fragility of life and its many, messy complications."

TeenReads.com:  June, 2016 

"Without a doubt, BEFORE WE GO EXTINCT was great. The book was different and unpredictable, and Sharky --- as both a character and a representation of those experiencing grief --- was a perfect example of a character whose story could very well have been a biographical experience. BEFORE WE GO EXTINCT was truly an eye-opening read."

what is real

What is real? Are you? Am I? Is anyone?

Dex Pratt’s life has been turned upside down. His parents have divorced and his mother has remarried. When his father attempts suicide and fails, Dex returns to their small town to care for him. But he’s not prepared for how much everything has changed. Gone are the nice house, new cars, fancy bikes and other toys. Now he and his wheelchair-bound dad live in a rotting rented house at the back of a cornfield. And, worse, his father has given up defending marijuana growers in his law practice and has become one himself.

Unable to cope, Dex begins smoking himself into a state of surrealism. He begins to lose touch with what is real and what he is imagining. And then there are the aliens…and the girl-of-his-dreams…and the crop circle…

  Booklist - August 1, 2011

"Rivers writes in a first-person present-tense narrative that is true to a young stoner's wild, muddled viewpoint...Even if teens skim over some passages, the story's central dramas will hold them: a lost kid, angry and loving, who cares for a disabled parent as he tries to block out secrets and lies."

  CM Magazine - June 24, 2011

"An intriguing read...The reader is left with interesting thoughts to ponder upon—what's real and what's a dream? Highly Recommended."

  Readingtimbits.blogspot.com - August 10, 2011

"An edgy and surreal teen read...Rivers challenges readers to think about their own perceptions of reality, to think about the validity and reliability of memory, and most of all, to ask the question that makes up the title of this book—what is real?"

  Library Media Connection - November 1, 2011

"A tale of teenage angst exceptionally written in lyrical, hallucinogenic prose...Interspersed throughout the novel, Dex breaks from first-person narrative to a screenplay outline. This method of storytelling eloquently conveys the out-of-body distancing Dex employs to not only avoid pain, but to embrace and digest his roiling emotions...This novel satisfies as a realistic young adult title and soulful rendering of teenage foibles. It will appeal to reluctant readers."

  Southwest Ohio and Neighboring Libraries (SWON) - August 25, 2011

"Rivers has a unique voice and uses this talent to create a complicated novel about the possible dangers of teen drug abuse....The novel's themes of expectation and change are very well handled."

  BC Bookworld - September 1, 2011

"One of the most compelling aspects of this novel is that, just like Dex, the reader cannot fully decipher what is real...Rivers' prose is splintered and abrupt, just like human thoughts can be, and her writing style creates a sense of immediacy and confusion by throwing the reader into the middle of the action...Rivers has capably illuminated the teenage struggle to cope with life's challenges: losing loved-ones, being neglected, realizing you may not achieve your dreams and dealing with failure."

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x in flight

X — short for Xenos — is 17, tough but shy. He’s a decent golfer, but his mother thinks he’s the next Tiger Woods. One night, X is shocked to discover that he can fly. Is he a superhero? An angel? Or just really screwed up? X’s girlfriend, Cat, is pierced, mean, angry — and afraid. Ruby watches them both in silence. X admires her, but Ruby thinks she’s going crazy. Their lives intersect one terrifying night at a school dance, when X’s powers are the only way to save Ruby’s life. Does he believe in himself enough to do it?

Dark, deep, and dramatic, X in Flight is a bold departure from the humorous Haley Andromeda series, but it shows Karen Rivers at the height of her powers. Here, she proves her matchless ability to create and understand today's teens and their complicated lives, and to tell intense stories with honesty, humor, and intelligence. 

"In its most basic form, X In Flight is a story of teen love and relationships: X loves Cat, X feels rejected by Cat, X turns to Ruby. However, in the hands of Karen Rivers, the narrative delves into the heart of these three characters, giving each a richness and depth that will resonate with most readers on some coming of age issue, such as self-esteem, first love, first sex, loss, jealousy, envy, or identity. The voices are authentic and engaging, and X, Cat and Ruby are given the opportunity to be honest both with themselves and the reader."

- CM Magazine

y in the shadows

Yale knows she’s a freak - one of those weird loser kids that everyone ignores. She’s not pretty or popular. She doesn’t have nice hair or good friends. People tend to look right through her, like she were invisible. Yale’s not too happy about that.

But then Yale discovers something: if she tries hard enough, she can actually make herself disappear. And then she can move undetected among the people who made her feel like she didn’t exist. Only this time she’s listening. Watching. Planning what to do with her newly discovered power. The question is: will she use it to help ... or to hurt?

"Y in the Shadows will appeal to those teens, male or female, who have questioned their place in social or peer groups and families. Give this story to those who explore questions of physical and emotional appearances and self-identity. Which is probably most of us."

- CM Magazine

 what z sees

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Zara is really close to her brother, Axel. Not just the usual brother-sister close, but so close that she can actually see his thoughts. It’s a little weird, even for twins. Then, after she has a horrible accident, Zara can see what everyone is thinking. Her mother. Her best friends. Even total strangers. At first it’s really pretty cool. Who doesn’t want to know what everyone's thinking about them? But Zara can’t turn off her strange new power, so hanging out with friends now means drowning in a sea of their thoughts, from the excruciatingly trivial to the things she’d really, really rather not know about.

Now Zara’s trapped between wanting to know her loved ones’ most intimate secrets and wanting to block it all out . . . Where does she draw the line? Zara may be blessed with supernatural powers, but her dilemma — where to set boundaries — is one that rings true with all young readers.

"...What Z Sees will appeal to an audience that thrives on character development over action or suspense (more of which was presented in Y in the Shadows). But Rivers hits the themes of first love, body image and the need for self-determination dead on with tones of honesty, humour and self-deprecation, and it is for this reason that the book, and the trilogy, succeeds."

- CM Magazine

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the healing time of hickeys

Haley Andromeda is 16, and in her last year of high school - "The Greatest Year of My Life," or TGYML. Haley likes to think she's just a normal girl, plagued with all the normal doubts of a too-smart-for-her-own-good, slightly hypochondriac, hickey-prone teenager. But part way through the year, disaster strikes: Haley comes down with chickenpox; her best friend Jules won't speak to her; the object of her affections, a boy named J. T., won't even look at her; and worst of all, her harmless hippie Dad is in some mysterious trouble with the law. In desperation, Haley turns to the Ouija board and tries to communicate with the Other Side, but this leads to a further, unexpected complication: Why does the dead boy she channels seem more attractive than the real boy who wants to spend time with her?

The Healing Time of Hickeys, written in diary form, takes the reader on a compelling, wryly funny journey to discover the answer to this question, and several more that Haley thinks she keeps hidden from everyone.

"This book will have you laughing out loud. Haley is a completely loveable and completely crazy character. You'll find yourself relating to everything she goes through - even if she goes through it with more dramatic trauma than a Young and the Restless episode. Her quirky thoughts are so much fun to read and her adventures in dating (or lack of), will have you giggling until your sides ache. Most of all, you'll probably feel better about yourself, your quirks, your family, your crushes and your friendships - because, hey, at least it's not as bad as Haley's life."

- KidzWorld

the cure for crushes (and other deadly plagues) 

This follow-up to The Healing Time of Hickeys covers the second half of hapless Haley Andromeda Harmony’s last year of high school. Haley likes to think she's just a normal girl, plagued with all the normal doubts of a too-smart-for-her-own-good, slightly hypochondriac, hickey-prone teenager. In the first book devoted to her semi-glamorous life, she faced chicken pox, puzzled over her dad’s mysterious job, and documented in her diary the indifference of the object of her affections, J. T. Now, in her final months of high school, she must face the inevitable question: What happens next?

Finding the answer isn’t easy. For one thing, she has a real boyfriend now, but that doesn't stop her from having crushes on nearly every other boy she meets. Plus, her dad has moved his Much Younger Girlfriend (MYG) into their ramshackle house. From bungee jumping in winter to supporting best friend Jules at auditions for the TV show “Who's the Prettiest of Them All?” Haley’s TGMYL 2 (“the greatest year of my life, part two”) — recorded as diary entries channeled through award-winning author Karen Rivers — has more than its fair share of misadventures.

Stellar Award finalist, 2007-8.

"We've all had our fair share of red-faced moments, and that's why it's so easy to relate to the accident-prone Haley. Her quirky accidents and comical thoughts are the best part of the book cuz they'll make you laugh until your stomach hurts!

If you liked Bridget Jones' Diary (the book, not the flick), then you'll love The Cure for Crushes. Just like Bridget, Haley Harmony is clumsy, sweet and obsessive, and she'll definitely help ya discover the cure for crushes."

- KidzWorld

the quirky girls' guide to rest stops and road trips

A high school graduate, wannabe writer, and proud owner of a VW van, Haley decides to hit the road in search of good material — after, of course, getting her driver’s license. Finally, license in hand, she concocts a story for her hapless, hippie dad and heads to California with her enemy-turned-friend, Izzy Archibaud. Along the way, they break down, get lost, end up in strange towns with even stranger people, and discover that "Life with a capital L" may be complicated, but it’s never boring.

Written as a shared travel diary, The Quirky Girls' Guide to Rest Stops and Road Trips is both a road novel and a coming-of-age story. As she’s forced to make her own decisions, Haley’s voice gradually shifts from that of a vain, anxious adolescent to a slightly-less-vain, slightly-less-anxious young woman. From realizing that her first boyfriend isn’t the one to recognizing that her friends are beginning to have their own lives, Haley’s journey is one that resonates with young adult readers.

 "No one gets seriously hurt, but the story is full of wrong turns, bad hair days, and typical Haley hilarity (which usually finds her on the receiving end of the latest mishap). Fans of the Haley Harmony books (The Healing Time of Hickeys and The Cure for Crushes) will definitely enjoy the conclusion of the trilogy. Yes, it’s chick lit... but it’s fun, perfect for a quick read over the holidays, maybe even on a road trip! Buy it for your young Haley wanna-bes, and make sure that you have the two preceding volumes for those who like to read a complete series."

- CM Magazine

 surviving sam

This is a courageous and gripping novel about overcoming grief and depression after the loss of a sibling. The "Sam" in Surviving Sam is a 16-year-old boy who dies in a mountain-climbing accident. His twin sister, who was also involved in the accident but lived to tell about it, is the survivor. The gritty but fulfilling story is about the unthinkable death of a beloved sibling, and how one teenage girl copes with her numbness, depression, and grief -- and learns, slowly but surely, how to live again.

White Pine award finalist, 2003.

"Rivers' compelling prose takes this novel beyond the level of a typical "issue" novel. Highly recommended for all libraries serving teens and needing more contemporary, realistic fiction. "

- Kliatt

"Especially convincing is the depiction of the painfully slow but effective treatment that eventually helps Pagan begin to feel better, to admit to herself that her brother is dead...the book is plausible, heartfelt, mature, and hopeful."

- School Library Journal

 dream water

When a trainer falls into the killer-whale pool at the Victoria Seaquarium, spectators, including a class of elementary school-children, are horrified as they watch the whales drown the young woman.   Dream Water takes up the story of Cassie and Holden, two of the children who witnessed the tragedy, several years later as they each struggle to deal with the effects of what they saw.

Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Award finalist, 2000.

"...a compelling book for older teens."

- CM Magazine


miss kiss

Unglücklich verliebt, von der Katze zerkratzt, eine verkorkste Frisur, zwei Veilchen und fünf Kilo Übergewicht. Für die 16-jährige Haley kann es eigentlich nicht schlimmer kommen. Aber dann trifft sie Brad und ausgerechnet der verpasst ihr die riesigsten Knutschflecken aller Zeiten. Und Haley merkt: Knutschflecken sind für alle superlustig, nur nicht für die Geknutschte...


Время лечить засосы

Дневник шестнадцатилетней канадской девушки Хэйли Андромеды Хармони. Хэйли одержима множеством подростковых комплексов: ей кажется, что она очень некрасива, что одноклассники над ней насмехаются, что ее никто и никогда не полюбит. От отчаяния Хэйли теряет над собой контроль и решается на несвойственные ей поступки...

Увлекательная история превращения Гадкого Утенка в Прекрасного Лебедя.