24 February 2011

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I'd like to recommend The Handmaid's Tale because it is so good.  It is about the future and how a girl wants to get away from the present society.  Basically, only few people can give birth to babies, so they are transferred from house to house.  The main character is one of these girls and she misses her daughter and husband. 

Reviewed by Neha.

22 February 2011

Magic and Misery by Peter Marino

This isn’t your typical love triangle.  TJ loves her best friend, Pan ; Pan loves TJ, but he’s gay.  He’s also jealous of TJ’s developing relationship with new boyfriend, Caspar.  Nice-guy Caspar is on the football team, but TJ and Pan have pretty much always been outcasts.  In fact, neither one of them really had any friends before Pan moved into town.  Pan is gay and his name is short for “Pansy,” a clever nickname developed by some of the more clever high school students.  And TJ basically spends most of her life working or helping her parents take care of her baby brother – unfortunately.  Both want to be accepted by others, but neither would think of giving up their self-respect just to be included.  When Caspar shows an interest in TJ, she might actually be able to get just that, but Pan fears he’ll get left behind to fend for himself.

While it might be tough at times to gauge the extent of everyone’s emotional baggage – I mean, attachments – readers can follow along based on what each character tells them.  Everyone is very honest in this novel, both with themselves and each other.  It may not be completely relatable or likely, but it certainly is refreshing not having to constantly second-guess the motivations around each response or reaction.  Recommended to readers who like their coming-of-age fiction to be straight-forward and non-manipulative.
Call number: YA MARINO (Teen Room)
Reviewed by kate the librarian

19 February 2011

Writing Contest for YA Authors!

The Gatekeepers Post is hosting a contest for YA authors on Wattpad.com!

Here’s How It Works!

Round 1: Post the first 50 pages of your YA novel onto Wattpad by March 30th. The top 100 entries with the most votes by March 30th will be read by The Gatekeepers Post Staff. The story cannot have been started on Wattpad before February 1st, 2011.
Round 2: Those writers selected by The Gatekeepers Post staff from Round 1 will be invited to post the next 50 pages of their novel onto Wattpad by April 30th. Top editors and agents (check out the list below!), will read and select the nominees for Round 3.
Round 3: The nominees selected in Round 2 will be invited to post the remainder of their work onto Wattpad by May 30th. A winner will be announced on June 25th.

Prize: $500 cash prize to the grand prize winner!

To be considered for the contest, please tag your story: Gatekeeper.
Must be at least 13 years of age to enter and a member of Wattpad. The story cannot have been previously shared on Wattpad before February 1st, 2011. The most popular stories will be determined from an entry’s most popular chapter. Stories cannot be rated higher than PG-13.

Judges Include:
Barbara Lalicki (SVP and Editorial Director at HarperCollins Childrens)
Sara Megibow (Literary Agent, Nelson Agency)
Selena James (Executive Editor, Dafina Books)
Anica Rissi (Executive Editor · Simon Pulse)
Sarah Shumway (Senior Editor Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins)
Caryn Wiseman (Literary Agent, Andrea Brown Literary)
Jean Feiwel (Senior VP and Director, Macmillan Children's Publishing Group)
Jennifer Klonsky (Editorial Director, Simon Pulse)
Claudia Gabel (Senior Editor at Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins)
Jenny Bent (Literary Agent, The Bent Agency)
Evette Porter (Editor, Kimani Tru / Harlequin)
Ann Behar - (Literary Agent, Scovil Galen Literary)
Brenda Bowen (Literary Agent, Sanford J. Greenburger)
Jen Rofe (Literary Agent, Andrea Brown)
Stephen Fraser (Literary Agent, Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency)
Andrew Karre (Editorial Director, Carolrhoda Books)
Suzie Townsend (Literary Agent, FinePrint Literary Management)
Jessica Sinsheimer (Literary Agent, Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency)
Alyssa Eisner Henkin (Literary Agent,Trident Media Group)
Andrea Somberg (Literary Agent, Harvey Klinger Inc.)
Stephen Barbara (Literary Agent,Foundry Literary + Media)
Tamar Rydzinski (Literary Agent, Laura Dail Literary Agency)
Irene Kraas (Literary Agent, Kraas Literary Agency)
Sara Crowe (Literary Agent, Harvey Klinger Inc.)
Elana Roth (Literary Agent,Johnson Literary)
Mary Kole (Literary Agent, Andrea Brown Literary Agency)
Jamie Weiss Chilton (Literary Agent, Andrea Brown Literary)
Amy Tipton (Literary Agent, Signature Literary)
Kevan Lyon (Literary Agent, Marshal Lyon Literary)
Leticia Gomez (Literary Agent, Savvy Literary)
Laurie McLean (Literary Agent, Agents Savant)
Jodie Rhodes (Literary Agent, Jodie Rhodes Literary)
Sarah Barley (Associate Editor, HarperCollins Children's)
Kendra Levin (Associate Editor, Viking Books)
Christina Hogrebe (Literary Agent, Janet Rotrosen Agency)
Nancy Mercado (Executive Editor, Roaring Brook Press)
Brendan Deneen (Editor, Thomas Dunne Books)

16 February 2011

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick

I cannot get enough of Amber Appleton.

There has been quite a bit of discussion on this book, and some people seem to think that Amber Appleton's voice is irritating.  Well, I listened to this entire book on CD, so I can officially tell you that this is not true.  Amber Appleton is a lot of things, but irritating is not one of them; it just isn't fair to her.  She's hopeful.  She's generous.  She seriously loves her mom, her friends, and her dog, Bobby Big Boy.  She also loves Franks, the rest of the Five, Door Woman Lucy, Ricky Roberts, Donna, Private Jackson, the KDFC, Father Chee, and Old Man Linder, and even Joan of Old.  And then some.  And they all love her back.  She's like a frickin ray of sunshine.

She also lives on a school bus after moving out of her mom's latest boyfriend's apartment.  She's lucky Donna let's her shower at her house and sometimes feeds her (and BBB) dinner.  Usually Mom isn't lucky enough to eat at all.  And when something absolutely horrific happens, Amber Appleton is done with everyone.  She's done with hanging out with her friends, done with living life, and done with being Amber Appleton.  

This story is really about what it's like to be a good person.  Maybe Amber Appleton is "too good" to be believable, but I don't think so.  I think she's perfect just the way she is.  She makes no excuses, and she does things (good and bad) simply for the sake of doing something (usually good).  And when she loses herself, those she's loved along the way are there to drag her back up into the real world.  Through her own kindness she gains strength.  Through haikus she gains peace.  And through this story, you'll gain a heck of a great read.  Better yet, a great listen.  (But don't take my word for it.  Meet Amber Appleton and make up your own mind.)
Call number: YA QUICK; YA CD QUICK (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

Parent Swap by Terence Blacker

Thirteen-year-old Danny Bell is just plain bored and generally dissatisfied. Since his mom moved to focus on her career, his dad – a washed-up British “rock star” – refuses to take care of the house, himself, or the kids. When Danny finds a flyer offering the opportunity to choose his family, he can’t resist the urge to discover more about ParentSwap. While staying with his first “new family,” Danny becomes suspicious that ParentSwap might be hiding something. He sees camera crews in the strangest places, notices security monitors throughout his “new home,” and overhears bits of hushed conversations. Finally recognizing ParentSwap for what it is – an attempt at reality television – Danny decides to get revenge for being taken advantage of and lied to. He leaves the first new family and chooses his next family – a wannabe-famous actress, her knighted husband, and their twins. With the help of his friends from back home and the support of the Queen of England, Danny manages to unmask KeepItReal Productions, revive his dad’s old band, and pull his real family together. While a suspension of belief is necessary and foreshadowing is obvious, this book is a humorous look at family life and the popular reality TV culture. This is a unique pick especially suitable for reluctant boy readers.

Call number: YA BLACKER (Teen Room)

The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Cynnie is thirteen years old and dealing with more than she can handle. Her mother is an alcoholic, and Cynnie must take care of her three-year-old brother, Bill, who has Down syndrome. After her grandparents take her brother to live with them, Cynnie soon turns to alcohol to help her cope with her loss, insecurity, and hopelessness. After she tries to kidnap Bill and gets in a car accident, she is required to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. It is here that she is able to form relationships with caring, responsible adults, and she begins to gain the freedom she needs to focus on her own emotional and physical recovery. For troubled teens, this book can be both a reflection of the pain of addiction as well as hopeful inspiration for recovery. The characters do not always sound authentic, but the emotion portrayed is real. Also, pair this story with books like Nancy Werlin’s Rules of Survival as examples of young people overcoming abuse and hardship for the sake of themselves and those they love.

Call number: YA HYDE (Teen Room)

A Different Kind of Heat by Antonio Pagliarulo

Luz has just celebrated her first year anniversary living at St. Therese Home for Boys and Girls in New York City. She is a seventeen-year-old Peurto Rican female with gang affiliation, a background with drugs, and anger management issues. After her brother was killed by a police officer a year ago, she began to spin further out of control. With the support of St. Therese Home, she is finally beginning to come to terms with her brother’s death and with her own feelings of isolation, insecurity, and fear. The horrors of inner-city drive-bys, robberies, and disrespect are described through Luz’s journal entries, poetry, and conversations. Luz offers the authentic voice of a young minority who has been tested, shocked, and hurt by people and the world around her. As Luz forms relationships with adults and her peers, and as she matures as a person, she begins to come to terms with the violence that surrounds her, and ultimately recognizes her beloved brother’s participation in dealing drugs, and his role in his own destruction. While the presence of pain is obvious, the novel is not overwhelming, and it concludes with visions of acceptance, appreciation, and tolerance.

Call number: YA PAGLIARULO (Teen Room)

Grief Girl by Erin Vincent

In the style of a personal journal that reads like a novel, Erin Vincent recounts her emotional experiences as a fourteen-year-old girl, who has just lost both parents within a month of each other. One car accident leaves Erin, her older teenaged sister Tracy, and her toddler-age brother Trent alone. Tracy is awarded guardianship over her siblings, and the broken family must try to find a way support themselves, deal with their emotional pain, and continue living their lives. In present tense, Erin tells of her desolation and isolation – she is constantly reminded that she doesn’t have it as bad as her sister who has the burden of being the caregiver, and that she is also luckier than Trent who will barely remember his parents. She tells of day-to-day frustrations, of disappointment in self and family, and of guilt and fear. However, this memoir also includes loving neighbors, unfailing friends, and the value of perseverance in education, relationships, and faith. While there is a lot of grief packed into this memoir, there is movement towards accepting grief as well, making it sure to touch many who can relate to an extraordinary loss.

Call number: YA 155.9 VINCENT

Hitch by Jeanette Ingold

Seventeen-year-old Moss Trawnley’s main focus is providing for his family, despite what sacrifices he needs to make. The Depression has made times hard for everyone, and once he loses his job, Moss figures that the best way to help his family is to find his father who ran off years ago, deserting his farming business, wife, and children. He does find his father, only to find him drunk, jobless, and homeless. Moss realizes that he wants to do better for himself than his father has done, and when the opportunity comes along for him to join the Civilian Conservation Corps, he accepts it. During his six-month commitment to the Corps, he makes a diverse, loyal group of friends, and along the way, he is also faced with making choices that may save – or destroy – an entire community of people. In the midst of formidable conditions, Moss reminds his fellow enrollees, “we came here [to the CCC] and saw how, by working together, we’ve got the power to change things. You want to give that up?” Moss truly comes of age, having learned that he has a place in the world and that through hard work, dedication, and heart, a man can make a difference in the world.

Call number: YA INGOLD (Teen Room)

Unresolved by T. K. Welsh

In this historical novel, Welsh uses a supernatural flair to help describe the days following the tragedy of the General Slocum steamship disaster on June 15, 1904. Fifteen-year-old Mallory Meer is one of many residents of New York City’s Little Germany who died aboard the steamship on the East River. Mallory acts as the narrator as she finds herself in the spirits of others, knowing their memories, feeling their pain, and even recognizing their joys. She witnesses the townspeople as they struggle to find someone to blame for starting the fire that resulted in the destruction of the General Slocum. Most are quick to lay blame on Dustin, the young Jewish boy that shared in Mallory’s first kiss moments before her death. The time and place are well-drawn in this brief detailed novel, and the similarities of the pain and destruction in New York City between June 15, 1904 and September 11, 2001 are touching.  This story of the steamship disaster is told with a unique feel that readers will likely enjoy.

Call number: YA WELSH (Teen Room)

Face Value by Catherine Johnson

For a story that starts out slow, readers stumble into a world of drama and intrigue. The novel is told in alternating perspectives – between fifteen-year-old Lauren in present time and her guardian Nessa as a teenager years ago. Nessa was Paula’s best friend and she took over guardianship of infant Lauren when Paula committed suicide in prison. Lauren doesn’t understand why Nessa is so against Lauren engaging in the modeling industry like her mother did. Through the alternating dialogue the reader discovers that Paula had more experience as a prostitute than a model and was involved in an extremely dangerous life. The climax of the story arises when Lauren is kidnapped by a man who thinks he’s her father. The novel reads as though it could use a bit of editing, and the language of the characters is written with thick accents that can be distracting. However, the plot is suspenseful and the more you learn about the characters, the more you begin to care about how they are going to come out in the end. Lauren slowly begins her first romance, the relationship becomes stronger between the two females, and Lauren and Nessa discover a certain comfort in their lives.

Request this title from another BCCLS library!

Going Under by Kathe Koja

Siblings Ivan and Hilly have always been emotionally connected. They are home-schooled, but Hilly decides to volunteer for the public high school’s literary magazine. When a friend from the high school commits suicide, Hilly is forced into therapy. She becomes more withdrawn the more her psychologist and brother fight for control of her mind. Dr. Roland uses whatever means possible to try to use Hilly’s private writings for his own book, and Ivan is manipulated by the therapist to turn against Hilly. The novel is told in alternating voices, but the story really seems to be controlled by Ivan. While there is some lack of clarity in the writing, it seems to make the character’s voices even more realistic. The stream of consciousness voices are rhythmic, becoming almost poetic. There is certainly an underlying negativity, a heavy sadness that portrays a loneliness, a lack of understanding of people and the world, and a fear of the unknown. Even the very little bit of hope at the conclusion is described with the line: “Hell has a door.” However, this is a story that will surely resonate with teenagers who have felt despair and confusion, as well as those who have at any time kept their own thoughts and writings secret from others.

Call number: YA KOJA (Teen Room)

Eva Underground by Dandi Daley Mackall

An American professor brings his eighteen-year-old daughter to Communist Poland to assist in the underground freedom movement, and they have to watch each step they make so that the militia will not be suspicious of their reasons for being in the country. Although Eva misses everything back home in Chicago, she comes to understand why her father needs to help, and she eventually falls in love with Tomek. Despite all her misery at the beginning of the novel, Eva chooses love over the comforts of home when she is offered the chance to leave the struggles of Poland and return to her old life.

A love-beats-all-odds romance may attract teenage girls, though there is an assumed understanding of what life was like in Communist Poland, without further information to reinforce the story’s historical context. The inclusion of some Polish words adds to the authenticity of the setting, and a list of vocabulary is provided.

Request this title from another BCCLS library!

Mismatch by Lensey Namioka

Sue and Andy really like each other. Sue, a Chinese American teenager, doesn’t want it to matter that classmate Andy is Japanese American, and vice versa, but, unfortunately, their families do mind the cultural separation. When their high school orchestra takes a trip to Tokyo, the teenagers stay with host families and are able to learn about the Japanese culture firsthand, as well as learn to deal with the prejudice and stereotypes that they encounter. As Sue and Andy struggle with the conflicts that their ancestry presents, they learn a lot about themselves and each other as individuals. Their do-good and be-liked attitudes and the adolescent insecurities portrayed by Sue and Andy are often annoying but realistic, and the attitudes they encounter from others are too often universal. 

While the overpowering message of the story sometimes stands in the way of a true emotional bond between reader and characters, the story remains upbeat and enjoyable to read. Namioka is obviously sending a message to readers about the need to respect and appreciate cultural differences, as well as the importance of discovering and maintaining a sense of self. This is an easy read and it includes a lot of interesting anecdotal information about Chinese and Japanese culture and history.

Call number: YA NAMIOKA (Teen Room)

Burned by Ellen Hopkins

This poetic and powerful novel is an extraordinary piece of literature. Sixteen-year-old Pattyn begins the story with thoughts of suicide and readers follow her free verse narration through uncensored emotional ups-and-downs. Pattyn has been raised in a strict Mormon household, where women are taught to be subservient, and her alcoholic, physically abusive father maintains complete control. When Pattyn is found breaking religious and family rules, she is exiled to Aunt J’s house on a Nevada farm for the summer. There she falls in love with Ethan, who treats her with tenderness and respect. Supported by Aunt J and Ethan, she begins to regain trust in God and the goodness of life. But when she returns home, she realizes that home is dangerous and she decides to escape her father’s control. Tragedy follows and Pattyn swears revenge. There is a bittersweet and almost exaggerated realism found within the bleak negativity of this novel. Readers will become emotionally absorbed into Pattyn’s life and will undoubtedly be left broken-hearted.

Recommended to high school readers.
Call number: YA HOPKINS (Teen Room)

Thicker Than Water by Carla Jablonski

Kia is seventeen and has just moved to New York City to live with her father while her mother is in the hospital dying of cancer. Kia cuts herself to avoid dealing with her emotional pain, and while she is ashamed of her behavior, she feels that can’t confide in anyone and she doesn’t know how to stop cutting. When she meets Hecate in the hospital, the two girls become immediate friends, and Hecate introduces Kia to the underground goth club scene. It is here -- where the drink of choice is “bloodbath” and where she meets the strikingly beautiful Damon -- that Kia begins to feel accepted. Strange occurrences make Kia question whether or not the world of vampires is real.
Call number: YA JABLONSKI (Teen Room)

Free Stallion : Poems by Amber Tamblyn

Amber Tamblyn (actress "Joan of Arcadia," "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," and "House") reflects on politics, sexuality, feminism, and nature in this collection of poems written during her adolescence. Tamblyn, who credits Jack Hirschman as her literary mentor, seems to have impressive knowledge and experience that goes beyond her years. While poetic tributes to Thelonious Monk and Woody Guthrie may or may not specifically resonate with teens, images of love, loss, and the search for self surely will. What Tamblyn’s poetry does best is to emphasize her own passion; unfortunately, not much else is clear. The meaning of the words become lost behind Tamblyn’s attempts at putting together a sophisticated poem. Fellow poets may appreciate her use of style and phrasing.
Call number: YA 811.6 TAMBLYN

Queen Bee by Chynna Clugston

This classic teen girl theme shown often in movies and books is given a fresh feel in graphic novel format. Clugston depicts a wonderful imitation of middle school, full of cliques, boys, insecurities, and coming of age. The stark black and white images seem to show that individuals are actually more alike than they realize, but that their subtle unique characteristics make them special. As the new girl at a new school, Haley’s main goal is to make everyone like her, and she very quickly becomes the Queen Bee of the Hives, the most popular group of girls in school. However, when Alexa shows up as the next new girl, Haley discovers that they both share the same psychokinetic ability, and both girls realize that they can use their ability to hurt other people. With the help of true friends, like Trini and Jasper, Haley soon realizes that being popular is not as wonderful as it seems.

With detailed graphics and a lot of explanatory dialogue, this initial volume of the series is highly recommended for middle grade graphic novel readers.
Call number: YA GRAPHIC CLUGSTON (Teen Room)

The Nannies by Melody Mayer

In the form of popular chick lit, The Nannies tells of three teenage girls from different backgrounds who all have their own reasons for wanting a job as a nanny in California. Kiley, Lydia, and Esme form a support system, helping each other through situations with boys, their families, and traumatic teenage life experiences. While some readers will enjoy the sights and brand name clothes of Hollywood, others will see right through the unsympathetic characters and fail to be drawn into their world.

The perspective of each girl is revealed in alternating chapters, creating a light and quick read, and those who liked the Au Pairs, or who want a nicer version of the Gossip Girls, might request The Nannies. The Nannies has broad appeal for high school girls.
Call number: YA MAYER (SERIES) (Teen Room)

They Called Themselves the KKK : The birth of an American terrorist group by Susan Bartoletti Campbell

This title presents a perfectly accurate and unembellished account of life during the formation of the Ku Klux Klan.  While at times gritty with details, this is an unflinching look at the ideas of the nation during this time from all sides -- black, white, rich, poor, and political.  Susan Campbell Bartoletti seems to be the best at grasping slivers of American history and putting the words and pictures on paper that will glean the most understanding of the topic; she succeeds with The Called Themselves the KKK.  I listened to this brief book on audio, so I didn't have the included images, pictures, and visual representations in front of me, but I can only imagine how well they enhanced the text.  But I can also imagine that the visuals were unnecessary because the spoken text captured me fully.

Recommended to readers of every size and all ages, especially those with an interest in historical storytelling.
Call number: YA 322.4 BAR; YA CD 322.4 BAR (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

09 February 2011

Best Books!!

Check out the Best of the Best lists from the Young Adult Library Services Association.  You'll find great suggestions for audiobooks, graphic novels, nonfiction, and more!  Leave a comment naming your favorite book of 2010!

04 February 2011

Punkzilla by Adam Rapp

Punkzilla is not your typical road trip novel, and Punkzilla is not your average fourteen-year-old boy.

Through a series of letters – written from Jamie (AKA Punkzilla) to brother Peter; from Peter; from his mom; from his dad, the Major; from his other brother, Edward – Jamie tells a small portion of his life leading up to what got him on a Memphis-bound Greyhound.  At times readers may not be sure of the narrator’s reliability (though that may be the point), but they’ll stay onboard the journey anyway, mostly because Punkzilla is so darn interesting.  The writing style, especially the haphazard or nonexistent punctuation, takes a bit of getting used to, but he’s able to convey his voice so convincingly that the grammar blends into the background.  Punkzilla meets many interesting characters as he rides the Greyhound or hitches rides with well-meaning individuals.  Enough kind-hearted, if slightly strange, people help him out that he eventually does make it to his destination.  And it is in Memphis that he realizes that “home” and “family” are fluid and not always as black-and-white that others’ try to make them out to be.  Each person makes his or her own way in the world, and it’s the journey that’s the thing in the end.

Recommended to high school readers of all types, though this book just won’t be for everyone.
Call number: YA RAPP (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

02 February 2011

Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry

In Malheur County, Oregon, you’re either a soldier or a rancher, and both have their downfalls.  When Brother’s dad gets his orders, along with his entire 87th Transportation Battalion, to go to Iraq, it’s up to Brother and his grandparents to make sure that everything on the ranch runs smoothly.  Brother has four brothers (which is how he came to be called just “Brother”) but they are all older and away at school with their own lives.  Grandpa is tough, but he’s old, and Brother feels like most of the responsibility is on his shoulders.  So while he’s trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, and worrying about whether or not there’s an email from Dad that day, he’s also pretty busy trying to take care of all of the animals and people and land in his life. 

This is an endearing tale of a quiet life, unfamiliar to many, and it fits perfectly alongside the story of Brother, who is contemporary and real and strong.  I don't usually use this forum to review books published as children's books, but this story is recommended to everyone – young and old, rancher, soldier, and clergyman.  It will break your heart and then lift you up all in one grand swoop.  
Call number: J PARRY (Children's Room)
Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian

This is Emily’s last summer of high school (she’ll be a senior in September) and it’s going to be her first summer apart from her best friend Megan.  Emily will be taking some classes at the Philadelphia College of Fine Art.  Since her town of Cherry Grove, NJ is within commuting-distance to the college, she won’t be living away, but she’ll be on campus three days a week.  She’s super excited to get out of her town for a while, but she also has mixed feelings leaving her best friend, with whom she’s felt some distance since Meg got serious with boyfriend Rick.  When Emily arrives at the school, she’s overwhelmed by the “coolness” of many of her classmates, and she’s instantly intrigued by and attracted to Yates, the off-limits teaching assistant in her first drawing class.  Emily begins to get caught up in her art school world, especially when Fiona starts to pay attention to her.  Fiona isn’t afraid to stand out in a crowd, and Emily suddenly craves to be rid of her small-town, good-girl routine.

Emily isn’t entirely convincing, and it’s obvious how the author wants readers to feel about her characters, as well as how to view “Cherry Grove,” but Same Difference is a pretty quick read with a handful of twists and turns, and readers might end up cluing in sooner rather than later to what’s important in their own lives, and in themselves.
Recommended to girls who like art, relationships, or getting out of town.
Call number: YA VIVIAN (Teen Room)
Reviewed by kate the librarian.

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon

Thirteen-year-old Sam and older brother Stick are the sons of civil rights activist, Roland Childs, who is well-known for his work with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and their commitment to nonviolence.  The Childs family is pretty well-off, but they live in Chicago, a socially diverse community, and many of the black kids who go to school with Sam are caught up in trying to improve conditions for themselves and their families.  And even those who aren’t politically-inclined are still living with many of the consequences of their race.  Sam’s brother Stick is increasingly frustrated with how black people are treated, and when their friend Bucky is arrested for assaulting a white police officer (despite the eye-witness account from Sam that Bucky is innocent), Stick and his friends just can’t let the injustice go unanswered.  Ignoring his father’s plea for nonviolence, Stick believes more firmly in the Black Panthers’ methods of standing up for themselves.  Sam is caught in between loyalty to his brother and respect for his dad, and ultimately he realizes that he must find is own path – he can’t be both the rock AND the river.

Told from Sam’s point of view, the reader travels the distance from innocence to experience, and discovers that experience necessitates both losses and gains.  The background information about the civil rights movement of 1968 and the development of the Black Panther Party becomes timeless in Kekla Magoon's careful descriptions (including a short author’s note), and most readers will learn something as they get involved with the characters in the story.

Recommended to all middle grade readers, including those who might not think the topic sounds interesting – once you get this story started, you might not want it to end so soon.
Call number: YA MAGOON (Teen Room)
Reviewed by kate the librarian.