WRECKED

By Maria Padian

Algonquin, 2016

357 pages, $17.95

ISBN 978-1-61620-624-6

Award-winning Brunswick author Maria Padian has already written three young-adult novels that address touchy subjects: a girl with a big mouth; teen athletes struggling with anorexia; and high school racial conflicts.

Padian’s latest YA novel, “Wrecked,” bravely explores the trauma and emotions of sexual abuse and binge drinking on a small New England college campus.

This is Padian’s boldest effort yet to expose and explain serious problem behavior that can adversely affect so many young lives. This is not a soft, squishy, feel-good book. Rather, it is a powerful, dramatic story with strong messages for high school and college students and their parents.

Haley is a freshman at MacCallum College, a smart girl about to face her biggest life challenge. Her roommate, Jenny, is traumatized after being raped by a male student at a drunken “hook-up” party, and Haley must support and defend Jenny’s emotional vulnerability from embarrassment, salacious gossip and harassment.

Richard is a sophomore whose roommate is the accused boy. Richard wants no part of the scandal, but is unwittingly maneuvered into participating in the boy’s defense as the college investigates the rape allegation. Complicating matters is the tenuous romantic relationship between Haley and Richard, each sworn to secrecy but tempted to share what they know.

Padian creates a palpable air of tension on campus as potential witnesses are questioned, evidence is gathered, and students fear their participation in under-age drinking, promotion of alcohol abuse and their cavalier attitude toward casual sex will derail their own college careers.

The bright spot in this painful tale is Dean Hunt, the man who investigates the charge, using patience, compassion and clever detective skills to separate the truth from the lies.

This is a grim, cautionary portrayal of college life, and the ending might surprise you.

GHOST HUNTER’S HANDBOOK: SUPERNATURAL EXPLORATIONS FOR KIDS

By Liza Gardner Walsh

Down East Books, 2016

95 pages, $15.95

ISBN 978-1-60893-570-3

English poet Samuel Coleridge (1772-1834), when asked by a lady if he believed in ghosts, replied, “No, madam, I have seen too many ghosts to believe in them.”

Well, 50 percent of Americans believe in ghosts, according to author Liza Walsh.

“Ghost Hunter’s Handbook” is a fun and educational romp through ghost-ology, geared toward kids aged 6-12, but equally enjoyed by adults. This is a primer on ghost hunting — how to find ghosts, how to be a good ghost hunter, equipment needed, the ghost hunter’s code of conduct and how to tell a good ghost story. And if you are really worried about ghosts, she also includes a section on how to protect yourself from them (magic charms are helpful).

Filled with ghost facts, myths and creepy stories, the handbook offers a smart history of ghosts, types of ghosts, likely places to find ghosts (graveyards are popular), signs you’ve seen a ghost and what questions to ask a ghost when you do finally meet one (who’s willing to chat).

Walsh describes the ghostly definitions of orbs, mists, residual ghosts and poltergeists, explaining that ghosts are “restless spirits of the dead who haven’t finished up their earthly business.”

The subject might seem scary, but the book isn’t. Walsh encourages kids and adults to be patient, observant, open-minded and curious. Her best advice: If while ghost hunting you get scared, run away!

Learn why poltergeists are ghost baddies; why Ouija boards are not toys; why a sigil, a white candle and a bundle of sage herb can protect you; and why Fort Knox, in Bucksport, is a good place to find ghosts.

And here’s a final thought from Michael Ende: “Maybe all the people who say ghosts don’t exist are just afraid to admit that they do.”

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.