I've just read two more books: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, then Deviant by Adrian McKinty.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was brilliant. I had the completely wrong impression of it: I thought it would be written for middle-grade readers, and I thought it would be silly. After all, the pictures are rather circus-like...I expected the book to follow suit. (The pictures, of course, are the vintage "found" photos which inspired the story; there are 44 in all.) In fact, I read in an interview with Ransom Riggs that he imagined the book to be something like the Gashlycrumb Tinies, which is far more in line with what I expected. Oh, but it was so much more! I don't dare say what lest I give it away, but the book is wonderful--and although the main character is 16, it is hardly a young adult book.
The next book I read was a galley of Deviant by Adrian McKinty. Imagine that Arne Duncan described his dream school to Dean Koontz as Koontz was imagining Nancy Drew chasing a serial killer: this is perhaps the book that would result. Sound strange? Well, yes...it is rather, but also riveting! I couldn't put it down! A caveat: there is a rather graphic description of a cat being tortured in the opening chapter, and there are far less graphic descriptions of cats being disemboweled throughout the book. If you can make it through chapter one, you'll be fine. And a quirk: there are a number of contemporary references, including many mentions of the Obamas and a car that has a "McCain-Palin 2008" bumper sticker. I was surprised by this, as the book ends up being somewhat dated as a result. (Will my students want to borrow it in five years, or will they wonder who those people--especially McCain & Palin--are?!)