19 December 2012

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

The ideal selection for all middle grade readers excited about spies, magic, and science:

Sharks and Boys by Kristen Tracy

Enid THINKS she has problems. Her parents are in counseling because her father is a cheater, and Enid is having a lot of trouble forgiving him his indiscretions. She and her brother don't have nearly the kind of close connection as the others in their Twin Study Group. And her handsome, smart, and funny boyfriend wants a "break" from her. She feels like her world is spinning out of control and she's trying desperately to reel it back in to a place of calm and comfort.

But when she follows her brother, her boyfriend, and their friends to another state to spy on a party to find out if her boyfriend is cheating on her, she finds anything but calm. She finds herself on a sinking boat as a stowaway in the middle of a storm . . . in the middle of the ocean.This story is full of turmoil, and the group of friends must figure out a way to survive. They won't all be able to make it. And for those of them who do make it to the next day, what comes next?

Recommended to all middle grade and high school ages, though the fluffy title and cover might not prepare readers for the worst.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

12 December 2012

a + e 4ever by I. Merey

This graphic novel overflows emotion, anxiety, passion, and curiosity from pages that contain a Japanese/manga personality (if not format). Many of the characters are drawn with feminine features, despite the gender, with slim bodies, girlish facial features, and longer hair . . . unfortunately for Ash.

Asher is a boy who has always been sensitive and quiet, and sort of looks like a girl. Eulalie is a tough girl with a thick skin and a rough attitude. They become fast friends, the sort of friends who have mutual experiences with bullying and being outcasts. Unfortunately for Eu, it only takes a few months of their friendship for her to admit that she likes Ash. And Ash response that he has a crush on the cutest boy in their high school. But it turns out that Ash doesn't only like boys; he just doesn't want a relationship with Eu.

From first sexual experiences (bad) to first kisses (good) and late nights (bad) to early afternoons (good), this stunning literary experience takes readers through some of the darkest times of teenage angst, confusion, anger, and love. And leaves us breathless. (The characters are as stunning as the pictures portray them to be.) Definitely for older teen readers, though.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

08 December 2012

Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Grave robbing. Secrecy. Torture. Sickness. Pain. Hope. Family.

When Joey's mom dies and he is sent to rural Iowa to live with a father about whom he knows nothing, Joey is not hoping for the best. But when he finds "Dad," also known around town as The Garbage Man, who disappears for days at a time in the middle of the night, has little food and too many books, and couldn't care less about caring for Joey, he resolves to just take care of himself. But the extreme bullying he encounters at high school breaks him more than he thought possible, and his father ultimately can't ignore the kid in his life.

So Ken Harnett and Joey Crouch begin a journey that neither thought they'd take together. Harnett is one of a small group of successful grave robbers that exist in the country. They are rivals and family alike, each working alone to score the treasures that exist in graves and to strive to, in their own ways, restore dignity to the dead. But Joey gets caught up in too much emotion that he can't handle, a lifestyle that he struggles to understand, and a family dynamic that both doesn't - and does - include his beloved mother.

This is an intense and dark read, with a smattering of hope - enough to ensure that there will be an equal amount pain. Recommended for high school readers and older, especially those with a liking for books with an edge, stories that are slightly creepy, or simply for an out-of-the-box exploration of family and loyalty. (Those who like this title might also like The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs.)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

The Blood Lie by Shirley Reva Vernick

On September 22, 1928 in Massena, New York, the Jewish Community is eagerly preparing for and anticipating the solemn holy day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It's also Jack Pool's sixteenth birthday and he's got his eyes on a driver's license and a pretty girl; unfortunately for Jack, the driver's license is the only thing that might be within his reach. Emaline Durham is Christian, so being friends is the only thing they can ever be, even if they both long for more.

It only takes a moment for everything to change. Emaline's little sister Daisy never arrives back at home and Jack Pool is accused of murder. The townspeople get wrapped up in a lie that the Jews collect the blood of a Christian child to use in their holy day ritual, and neighbors begin to distrust neighbors in an attempt to explain the disappearance of missing Daisy. Jack is caught in a whirlwind of adult irrational behavior and discovers for the first time in his young life the complete destruction that can result from intolerance.

This is a short mystifying novel about a very real Jewish experience in American history. An eye-opening author's note at the conclusion of the story relays an important message to all middle great readers.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

02 December 2012

The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall

In small-town Grain, Ohio the murder of high school baseball coach, John Johnson, is very big news. And the only suspect is Hope Long's brother, 19-year-old Jeremy. Jeremy's lawyer thinks that their only defense is a "Guilty by Insanity" plea, but Hope is absolutely positive that her brother is innocent.

Jeremy has always been special, and even more so since the age of nine when he became selectively mute. Since then Hope has been both best friend and caretaker of her older brother. Their mom, Rita, has more important things to take care of -- like get drunk, go out on dates, and keep secrets. Hope knows that it's up to her, the only one who truly believes that Jeremy could never commit murder, to convince both her brother's lawyer and the jury of her brother's innocence. But she may uncover more information than she bargained for, and she may also learn more about those around her than she really wanted to know.

This mystery is perfect for middle grade and older readers. The story is smooth, but it's the characters that really move the novel along. Jeremy is a highly memorable character, and Hope brings him to life. This is an Edgar Award-winning title.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.