04 October 2013

Me, Him, Them, and It by Caela Carter

Since her mom and dad decided to split up and then get back together for her sake, Evelyn's entire existence has changed. She hates spending time in the "Silent House," with parents who divide their time between her, each having assigned evenings to eat dinner with their daughter, each having different roles of designated separate responsibility in her life. Evelyn isn't even really a piece in her family's whole anymore. So, Evelyn becomes "Bad Evelyn," because she can do whatever she wants without caring.

The first things she does is start drinking and having sex with her steady non-boyfriend guy. And, whoops, Bad Evelyn and Good Evelyn both are pregnant.

Unlike some stereotypical teen novels, this story is not seeped in drama, but rather it follows the emotional and psychological journey of Evelyn as she struggles to figure out the "right thing" to do. She struggles with what is right for her, right for the baby, and right for her family, while also trying to figure out where she stands with the baby's father, with her closest friend, and with her new extended family of aunts and cousins who are stepping up with support, guidance, and love -- even when they are not wanted.

This story is recommended to everyone, though high school girls (and parents of) will probably get the most out of it. Evelyn has a pretty incredible internal voice, and the story is full of the reality of the gray areas of life.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Leonard Peacock is pretty unhappy. And his depression has led him to a couple of conclusions: Asher Beal, his former childhood best friend, needs to die. And he would be much happier if he, himself, wasn’t alive anymore either.

But first, it’s Leonard’s birthday and he wants to give each of his four best friends a gift to say goodbye. The first gift is for his very best friend, the old man with whom he watches old Humphrey Bogart movies on days he skips school. The second is for a friend who isn’t really a friend; the rare fellow student with whom he has a relatively positive relationship, but maybe that’s only because they don’t really know anything about each other. The third is for the girl that he really, really wants to kiss, but who is inherently wrong for him (and him for her). And the last is for Herr Silverman, his Holocaust teacher and the only person in his life that invites him to speak and seems to really want to hear what he has to say. He also leaves a wrapped present for his mother (though he wonders why he bothers).

And he saves one final thing for himself: the P-38 pistol that his grandfather saved from Nazi wartime.

Recommended to all high school readers, and all adults, too. This novel is designed to make you think, and Leonard’s story is presented in such a way that we are not only rooting for someone to save him, but we are hoping that he - and all those who are hurting - can figure out a way to save himself, because all futures are worth having.

07 September 2013

The Program by Suzanne Young

Teenage suicide has become an international epidemic, ending in the death of one out of every three teens in the United States, and as a result a few larger cities have been trying out a new solution to end the killing. Even London is moving towards instating the Program.

The Program is a place that teens can go to be cured of all of the things that cause them to be upset, distraught, depressed, and desperate to end their lives. When teens go into the Program, they are in a very bad place, and when they come out they are calm and peaceful - and they remember almost nothing of their life "before." 

Sloane, her boyfriend, and their friends are terrified of the Program, knowing that it leaves the cured as blank versions of themselves. So they hide their grief (because all life is a natural balance of joys and pains) as best they can, but when the Program starts to come after those they love, they might not have the power to stop it. 

Sloane narrates this story, and being able to see all sides of the program is a special treat. Readers will root for the characters every step of the way, through their love, their hurt, and their love again. The worst thing about this story is that the sequel, The Treatment, isn't scheduled to be due out until 2014! :)

Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

As a little girl, Anna loved her life with her mom. But as she started to grow up, the cycle of men in and out of their new home (after new home) was confusing and frustrating. Her mom spent less and less time with her, and more time away with her new husband when things were good and away at work when things weren't so good. When boys at school started to pay attention to Anna, she found ways to feel good about herself - and ways that she allowed them to make her feel good, too. It seems like overnight she grew a reputation, but she never quite seems to lose just who she is at heart.

She has one girlfriend in her life that she cares deeply about, but Toy is always off with a different man who is treating her to all of the wonderful things in life, and Anna can't understand why she isn't good enough. And then Sam changes everything. 

This book is recommended to high school girls, who will meet a seriously strong female character who might be a little lost but who is never untrue.

05 September 2013

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Rafe is a pretty average gay high school kid. He doesn't get bullied, he doesn't get beaten up, and his friends and family accept him just the way he is. The problem is that what he IS seems to equal the fact that he's GAY, and that's all anyone sees. He's Rafe, the gay kid. So he decides to go off to the faraway east coast to an all-boys prep school, un-gay. He's not straight all of a sudden, but he decides that he's not going to "be" gay either.

Unfortunately, Rafe falls in love with one of his new friends, a guy that quickly becomes one of the best friends he's ever had in his whole life. And when their relationship starts to get, um, intense, Rafe know he needs to come clean. But he also knows that telling the truth could cost him his happiness. Or is it the lies that have cost him everything?

Recommended to anyone - there is enough humor here to balance out the harshness of the situation, and everyone is forced to answer the question of self-acceptance. 

Period.8 by Chris Crutcher

Period .8 refers to Mr. Lodgson's class, where honesty is the best policy and everything is confidential, where you can talk about anything or nothing, and where you can skip without getting in trouble, but nobody ever does. Period .8 is the "safe place." Mr. Logs has respect for his students, and they have respect for each other. Everybody trusts that what they see is the truth.

Everything starts to go to hell when Paulie admits to his girlfriend Hannah that he cheated on her. He loves her and wants to explain himself, that it really isn't what she thinks, but she won't give him a chance at redemption. She's pissed, and he should definitely have known better. But as the story begins to unravel, more and more questions are raised without any clear answers. There's one guy, Arnie Stack, who seems to want to reassure everyone that everything is fine, and Paulie is convinced that Arnie knows more than he's letting on. And when Arnie sets his sights on the now single Hannah, Paulie sets out to prove it.

This is a mystery of a different sort, combining the traditional with the psychological, and mixing our emotions up all along the way. There's really intrigue here, and more than anyone's fair share of danger. It seems that nobody and nothing is off limits. 

Recommended to high school readers. There are lots more titles available from classic YA author Chris Crutcher.

26 August 2013

Invisibility by Andrea Cremer & David Levithan

Stephen is invisible. In his 16 years, he has never not been invisible. No one has ever been able to see him - not his mom before she died, not his dad who moved away and started a new life, not the doorman to his building, not anyone. He's never been to school, and he's never had a real friend. He's been an observer in a world that doesn't know he exists. . . . Until someone does know. He doesn't know how and he doesn't know why, but Elizabeth can see him. And soon, they both become determined to find out both how and why. Against all odds, Stephen and Elizabeth take on the world that they soon discover is more dangerous than anything they've ever encountered. 

I'll admit, David Levithan, an author I respect and enjoy deeply, disappointed me with this publication. (The co-author, Andrea Cremer, is the author of the Nightshade series.) The story is just "good enough" and the writing quality is lacking, making it all-in-all not at the top of my recommended reads. But it fits the bill for light, quick fare for those who enjoy magic and fantasy and a fluffy, dramatic romance. It's a quick read, so - if only for the sake of an author who almost always gets it right - give it a try!

13 August 2013

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Allyson Healey isn’t very spontaneous. She generally follows the rules and done what is expected of her. On the European tour that was a graduation gift from her parents, she’s one of her tour guide’s favorite students. But a few days before she’s due to fly back home, she is convinced to skip out on seeing a professional Shakespeare production and instead attends an underground version of Twelfth Night. She is immediately intrigued by actor Willem (and, frankly, so are we). She’s even more intrigued when he invites her to go to Paris, just for a day. And that day winds up changing absolutely everything for Allyson. She has the most exceptional 24 hours that she has ever dreamed of having. But just as suddenly, Willem leaves her without word, and everything comes crashing down. Her adventure is over and she flies home to her family, her friends, and her own life . . . and she is completely alone. The kind of alone that prevents you from being with other people without hurting.

So, ultimately, she makes a choice. She returns to Europe and she is determined to find Willem and uncover some answers. Or maybe, she’s off to find herself.

This is a romance that goes far beyond tradition. It is hopeful and terrifying, and completely fulfilling. Keep your eye out for the sequel, Just One Year, available in October 2013.

13 May 2013

The Diviners by Libba Bray

With every read -- A Great and Terrible Beauty, Going Bovine, Beauty Queens -- I am reminded that I truly and utterly adore author Libba Bray.

And now I also truly and utterly adore Miss Evie O'Neill. Evie has a secret, and a powerful one at that. Just by holding an object that belongs to you, she can tell you what you had for breakfast that day, or she can reveal your deepest secret. She doesn't flaunt this power, but sometimes when she's had a bit to drink and is trying to liven up a party, she might sneak in a reading or two. And this is precisely what gets her kicked out of Ohio.

Fortunately for her, her parents have sent her to live with her uncle in Manhattan. Manhattan! Where the world comes alive with speakeasies, flappers, dapper men, music, drinks, and glorious madness. And what also comes along with Manhattan, apparently, is a ghostly murderer.

The Diviners begins an intricate series that involves a group of individuals who each have special powers that they do not understand, and they do not know that others like them exist. This historical, supernatural mystery is fascinating in its storytelling, unbeatable in its character development, and completely intriguing in every way. You'll be left breathless for more! Recommended for high school and older.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.
And don't miss out on some amazing sights to see: http://thedivinersseries.com

15 April 2013

In Search of Sasquatch by Kelly Milner Halls

For believers and skeptics, this densely-packed quick read is all about questions that just can't seem to be answered. What is Sasquatch? Learn the history and the theories, uncover sightings, and follow around those who spend their free time trying to catch an ounce of proof of this great being's existence. Science can't quite prove that Big Foot exists; but neither can they disprove it.

Space, Stars, and the Beginning of Time : What the Hubble Telescope Saw by Elaine Scott

For all middle school science fans, this title is a great overview of how we view the world beyond our planet.From the first telescope to the incredible Hubble Space Telescope, though the Big Bang, and all of the black holes, stars, planets, and astronauts in between, there is much to learn about space!

12 April 2013

Beyond Bullets : A Photo Journal of Afghanistan by Rafal Gerszak with Dawn Hunter

Many could not understand why Rafal Gerszak would actually want to volunteer to tag along with the American military in war-torn Afghanistan, let alone insist on returning to the country to live among its citizens, unprotected by any official organization. But, the author's photographs display pretty clearly the connections that kept (and continue to keep) bringing his mind and heart back to the Afghan people.

The first part of this photo-journal offer an inside look at the life of an American soldier in Afghanistan, with notes from the author and his comrades about life on the front lines, as well as the downtime filled with laughter, frivolity, and -- always -- fear. The second half of the book represents the time that the author spent living in Afghanistan as a civilian, showing both the side of war and destruction, as well as the beauty of the land, the culture, and the people of the country.

This cross-section of war and hope in an almost completely devastated country is a heartbreak and an inspiration, and is certainly recommended to all readers.
Reviewed by kate the librarian.

The Elephant Scientist by Caitlin O'Connell & Donna M. Jackson, with photograhs by Caitlin O'Connell & Timothy Rodwell

As the largest land mammals, elephants are fascinating creatures, and Caitlin O'Connell, a photographer, scientific researcher, teacher, and non-profit advocate, strives on these pages to tell and show the readers what really makes elephants tick. O'Connell studies elephants in their natural environments and tracks various behaviors of individual elephants, as well as groups of families and groups of males who often travel separately. In particular, she and her research team have learned a tremendous amount about how elephants communicate, most notably through ground vibrations, allowing the animals to detect and notify others about danger or food sources from very far distances. 

With beautiful images and simple-to-understand (but not simplified) text, this nod to elephants is perfect for any middle school student (or adult with a love of elephants!). Also try: Elephant Talk : The Surprising Science of Elephant Communication by Ann Downer.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy

Who would have thought that an intertwining history of bicycling and women's rights would be simply fascinating? Sue Macy presents a comprehensive early history of how the bicycle was created, from the original concept of a two-wheeled "running machine" in 1817, through to the late 19th and early 20th Centuries when bike riding became a more widely accepted method of transportation, exercise, and recreation. While that information, in Macy's text and accompanying pictures and anecdotes, is simply interesting enough to carry the reader on a swiftly-paced journey, the author also ties the evolution of bicycles into the social and political history of the American woman.

At a period in history during which many women were tied to their duties as wives, mothers, and, well, women, bicycles presented a very direct avenue toward freedom and independence. Apparently many girls, who were otherwise always chaperoned, were allowed to go on bike rides alone with groups of friends, including boys. Bicycles were difficult to ride in hoop skirts or long dresses, and so an entire industry began to adjust to split skirts, pants, and shorter wardrobes. Bicycles caught the attention of everyone from Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, as well as male and female lawmakers, advertisers, manufacturers, and entertainers.

The freedom that many women take for granted in America today often doesn't exist in
other countries. In many ways, this book exists as a nod to the bicycle for changing the way women were treated and the way women behaved in American history, but it also begs for the inclusion of bicycles in everyday life in places like Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya in Africa as encouragement to young girls to keep moving forward . . ..

Reviewed (and highly recommended!) by kate the librarian.

Requiem : Poems of the Terezin Ghetto by Paul B. Janeczko

Paul Janeczko is an award-winning author for youth and is best known for his lyricism and poetry, as well as his ability to tackle harsh topics with a simple hand.

Requiem takes on the lives of those who fought and suffered during the Nazi war era in Czechoslovakia. Verses based upon real incidents of cruelty, love, oppression, and innocence are told in a straightforward voice, and the various perspectives of war are gracefully acknowledged. Though this title may not have appeal to all readers, it's another important look at how the horrors of war affect all ages, abilities, religions, and sides.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

19 March 2013

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

This novel opens up with a quote from Death Cab for Cutie: Love is watching someone die. But while you should probably prepare yourself for a tearjerker, there are also a number of layers to this story that might surprise you.

Taylor Edwards and her family used to always spend summers at the lake in Pennsylvania, at least until after the summer she was twelve. The summer of the botched romance, the fallout with her best friend, and the inability to confront any of her fears. But this year, they are going back to spend one last season all together at their summerhouse. With the news of late stage cancer, this will likely be her dad's last summer ever.

There are certainly a lot of "issues" packed into this thick novel, but the story manages to be touching and frustrating at all the right times, and even if it doesn't resonate with every reader, there is value in the message that lives are meant to be lived, not avoided. Morgan Matson also wrote the beloved Amy & Roger's Epic Detour.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

UnWholly by Neal Shusterman

I don't typically used this blog to mention books that are part of a series (unless it's the first book), but this sequel to the cult favorite, Unwind, is certainly worthy of that mention, especially since there are five years between the two publications.

UnWholly picks up right where Unwind left off, with Connor running the AWOL Graveyard, where Risa is serving as the primary medic. Lev is under house arrest, allowed out only under the supervision of his brother Marcus or Pastor Dan. Readers also become acquainted with Starkey, as stork with a major chip on his shoulder who is brought to the Graveyard, and with Cam, the culmination of parts pieced together from a total 99 unwinds.

A network of twists, turns, and uncovered mysteries are revealed in this bridge from the original Unwind to the forthcoming and much anticipated Book Three, UnSold, due out in October 2013. In the meantime, take a peak at Lev's untold story, UnStrung, available digitally. Buy it for Kindle, Nook, and Apple.

07 March 2013

Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

As his best friend Ariel once told him, Evan understands that you can't ever know everything. He knew Ariel, but Ariel was someone else when she wasn't with him. Sometimes she was someone else even when she was with him. And he was someone else when he wasn't with her. But now that she's gone, he struggles to understand if he ever knew her at all.

Ariel has gone away and Even is struck with tremendous guilt over whether or not it was his fault that she's no longer here. And his anxiety becomes even more overwhelming and troublesome when he begins to receive photographs of Ariel. He knows that she can't be delivering them herself . . . but what if she is?

This novel is extraordinarily unique in its storytelling, and it is worth fumbling through every page and every struggle to uncover the answers as only David Levithan would reveal them. Recommended to high school readers. Reviewed by kate the librarian.

06 March 2013

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Sixteen-year-old Rhine knows that she only has four more years left to her life. What was once thought of as the miracle of modern science took a dangerous turn with new generations, and now males only live to age 25, and females to age 20, no exceptions. To keep the population from dying out, young women are forced into polygamous marriages. Rhine and her twin brother Rowan vigilantly kept an eye out for Gatherers, but Rhine was kidnapped anyway and forced to live in matrimony with the wealthy Linden Ashby, in a mansion where even just stepping outside is a restricted privilege. The gate surrounding the home keeps everyone under lock and key.

Over the next year, Rhine's main focus is that of escape and ultimate freedom. But over the course of time, she also can't help but develop relationships with those around her: her nineteen- and fourteen-year-old sister-wives; the help, including the handsome Gabriel; her powerful and horrifying father-in-law; and even her husband, who shows her kindness and genuine affection.

This is the first in the Chemical Garden Trilogy, and it is a mixed bag of terror, uncertainty, and enchantment. Recommended to all high school readers. Reviewed by kate the librarian.

21 February 2013

Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury

Agnes Wilkins has little interest in her upcoming debut into society. She'd rather be listening in on the secrets of the house than being measured for ribbon to adorn her fancy new dress. And she'd much rather be reading than humoring the supposedly-amusing advances of high society men.

In the middle of entertaining the interest of one very highly-regarded prospect, Agnes finds herself in the middle of a much more interesting mystery. She has found something that it seems someone is going to great -- possibly violent -- lengths to recover, and if she doesn't figure out the final pieces of the puzzle first, there might be great consequences. 

This story is mixed with a great deal of mystery, romance, and history (both that of ancient Egypt and of the notorious Napoleon), not to mention thrilling adventure. Absolutely recommended to all. (Note: a few suggestive scenes might limit the novel to an older teen audience.) (And another note: The story gets off to a slow start, but it pays off to get through the first few chapters. You need the foundation in order to get wrapped up in the real meat of the novel.)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Amy isn't sure that she agrees with her parents' decision to be frozen for 300 years in order to board a spaceship that is venturing out to colonize a new planet. Her mom's expertise with genetic biology and Dad's military background make them "essential" to the future colony's success. Amy has been given special clearance to accompany her parents as "nonessential cargo." And though she doesn't necessarily agree with the decision, she can't imagine NOT going with her parents . . .

But 250 years later, aboard Godspeed, Amy is woken unexpectedly, prematurely, and perhaps accidentally. Now she's on a spaceship that isn't even going to land for another 50 years, and she feels completely alone. She's frustrated by the weird structure of the population aboard the ship, especially the unbalanced dictatorship of the Eldest. But little-by-little, she learns a bit about the life of those whose entire existence is breathing recycled air, never setting foot on real soil or seeing real stars. And little-by-little she is even more convinced that this life just isn't right.

Across the Universe is the first in a trilogy, completed with A Million Suns and Shades of Earth.
Reviewed by kate the librarian.

12 February 2013

Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott

Everyone loves Abby's sister Tess. Tess is smart and beautiful and happy, and she is always the sister that everyone wants to be around . . . even now that Tess is in a coma. Abby is left constantly responding to friends and neighbors asking after Tess, or saying how much they miss her and how wonderful she was. Abby refuses to talk about Tess in past tense, and spends virtually every second willing Tess to wake up and get back to her life. As long as Tess stays in a coma, Abby will forever be in her shadow.

Unfortunately, there's nothing new here, and readers will always be a few steps ahead of Abby, willing her to just catch up already. Elizabeth Scott has done some really great work; consider trying Love You Hate You Miss You or The Unwritten Rule instead. Mature readers who can handle intense topics should also pick up the beautifully written story of very painful experiences of a young girl, Living Dead Girl.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Exposed by Kimberly Marcus

Liz defines much of her life by two things: she's a photographer and she's Kate's forever-best friend. Sure, she's got her sights on college and she enjoys her boyfriend Brian, but viewing life through a camera lens and sharing everything with Kate are really the things that shape how she sees the world and who she is.

Following a lame fight during their monthly sleepover ritual, Liz doesn't understand why Kate is still avoiding her . . . until Kate tells Liz about the rape. Liz's brother denies it, saying that "it was only sex." Liz is torn between wanting what's best for Kate and for her brother, and eventually even for herself.

While there isn't much new to find in this novel in terms of content and characters, first-time author, Kimberly Marcus, wins the reader over with her poetic, endearing, and captivating storytelling.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

07 February 2013

The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff

Daphne is the daughter of Lucifer. Yup, that Lucifer. 

Life in Hell isn't truly as bad as it might seem, but Daphne's brother Obie has fallen in love with a human girl on earth and decides that he cannot stay in Hell, even if living on earth full-time is absolutely forbidden. When he leaves Hell - for good - Daphne knows that his life is in danger and vows to go to (and stay in) earth until she can make sure he's safe. But she doesn't know exactly where he is, and her only clue is a young man named Truman Flynn. 

Since his mother's death, Truman has been desolate, depressed, and self-destructive. It was Daphne's brother who saved his life, despite his own efforts to end it. But it is for Daphne, not her brother, that Truman ultimately agrees to help find Obie. Perhaps because of, rather than in spite of, the twists and turns of the demon world, both Daphne and Truman begin to wonder if love can overpower cruelty, and if hope can exist in a world full of pain and sadness.

Recommended to all readers, though the topics of suicide, sacrifices, and torture might limit to readers who can reflect maturely about both life and death.
Reviewed by kate the librarian.

28 January 2013

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Jack the Ripper is one of the -- if not THE -- most famous serial killers of all time in London. And it appears that there might be a copycat, but officials can't seem to grasp hold of any leads whatsoever.

Rory has just come from New Orleans to attend boarding school in London while her parents are working in Bristol. In the wake of a string of murders, the school decides that students are safest on campus, so there they remain. Things start to get pretty creepy when one of the murders takes place on school grounds -- on the same evening that Rory meets a strange man while sneaking back into her dorm. This strange man might lead to the killer, except no one else can see him.

Recommended to all high school readers, mystery lovers and general fiction readers alike.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Doug's life is not fun. Home life consists of his amazing mom, his distant and abusive father, his bully older brother, and another brother who is off fighting in Vietnam. School consists of bullies and a few close friends. When Doug's father decides to move the family to Marysville in hopes of a better job (one that won't fire him), Doug even loses those few friends. Now school consists of students and teachers who think that Doug's brother is a thief and that Doug's no good either. Good thing for Lil Spicer or life might be just about the most miserable that it could be.

You might not think that a pretty girl, Audubon's Birds of America, baseball, and Jane Eyre have a whole lot in common, but in this case you might be wrong. Those few things might be the best things in the whole wide world. At least for one teenage boy who is just trying to find some good in the world.

Recommended to all middle grade readers. This title is great for boys who might not love to read, and who also aren't necessarily into sports or cars or other "guy stuff." But all ages and all interests are sure to get something out of Doug's experience and his perseverance.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

21 January 2013

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

When you move around a lot and don't really want anyone to ask you questions about your life "before," or get to know you too well before you up and leave again, it could be a challenge or an opportunity. Mclean Sweet is determined to take advantage of her semi-nomadic life with her dad and create new opportunities in every down, including new names, new wardrobes, and new personalities along with new schools and new friends.

But in Lakeview, it all starts when Mclean just won't stay hidden. Usually she easily transforms into Beth or Eliza Sweet, but this time she's Mclean. And then there are these friends that are basically finding her, rather than the other way around. And Dave, with whom she discovers she can actually have honest conversations -- and maybe even an honest relationship?

Also, try Dessen's Along for the Ride for your cravings of not-quite-fluffy chick lit.

Laddertop, volume 1 by Orson Scott Card and Emily Janice Card, illustrated by Honoel A. Ibardolaza

Years ago, aliens came to Earth and provided humans with advanced technology that could power the entire planet. There are four giant towers, called Ladders, that stretch high into space that must be maintained in order to keep the power on. And because of the small tubes and tight spaces, the job requires children. Only the best kids get accepted to Laddertop Academy, and from them only a few get selected to actually participate in going up to the Laddertop stations.

Azure and Robbi are eleven-year-old girls who are best friends, and both are selected into the Academy, where there are weird tests and training to determine who will be selected for the journey to the stations. Who are the aliens, why did they disappear, and why specifically do they need children for their work?

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

17 January 2013

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

If she knows nothing else, Jessica knows one thing for absolutely sure: She is a runner. Jessica lives for running, and is one of the best on her school's track team. She just beat her personal record in the 400 meter. But then, just a few days later, her team's bus was in an accident on the way home from a meet. One of their teammates was killed, and Jessica's leg had to be amputated.

Now Jessica doesn't know who she is. And she has no idea how she's supposed to figure it out while surrounded by well-meaning doctors, friends who don't know what to say to her, overbearing parents, and an irritating younger sister. Not to mention the guilt that she has over the financial troubles that her parents are having because of fighting insurance companies. But with the support of an undaunted best friend, her track team and coach, and something of a new cheering squad, Jessica begins to recognize that the finish line doesn't always have to be an ending, and she can finally see the new start that is unfolding in front of her.

Recommended for older middle grade readers and all high school girls. This is a fast-paced read with not only a positive message, but also really likable characters, which sometimes makes all the difference!

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Bad Island by Doug TenNapel

The absolute last thing that Reese wants to do is go on this family boating trip that his father is super enthusiastic about. Reese insists that he's responsible enough to stay home alone, and his father insists that this is a FAMILY activity.

So, they embark on the boat trip only to be shipwrecked on an abandoned island. When creepy things start to happen, Reese, his parents, and his little sister must figure out where they are and how to survive long enough in order to get back home. In a Lost-esque atmosphere, there is certainly a lot to learn about the island itself, as well as it's dangerous creatures who seem to be out to get them. But Reese and his family figure out a way to defeat the bad that seems to be part of the island's very groundwork?

Recommended to middle grade boys, with maybe a few exceptions

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Equal parts creepy and wonderfully mystical, this tale of peculiarities will surely take hold of any reader.

Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather's stories: of how he lost his family to the war, of when he took refuge from Poland in a children's home in Wales, of how he battled monsters, and of the wonderful special friends he made during his childhood. Of course, at sixteen years old, Jacob had long grown out of believing his grandfather's tales of his childhood friends who could levitate, become invisible, or grow fire from bare hands. And he had long grown out of believing that the monsters his grandfather supposedly battled were real.

But when Jacob finds his grandfather following some kind of mysterious vicious attack, and they share secret last words, his becomes determined to uncover his history, and to find what truth their might be behind the stories. With a trip to an isolated island of Wales, he uncovers more than any dreams are made of . . .

Recommended to all with a flair for the "different," the quirky, and the paranormal, for both children and adults.

Reviewed by kate the librarian

Book trailer from Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/gp/mpd/permalink/m1DU2ULOKGGNSS/ref=ent_fb_link

And there's more on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/MissPeregrine

Every Day by David Levithan

For as far back as memory goes, A has woken up as a different person every single morning. A does not become a different person on the inside, but inhabits a different body each day and must live according to that person's life. By accessing memories, A can interact, react, and get through the day leaving the host body's life relatively unaltered . . . most of the time.

But when A is in Justin's body and meets Rhiannon, all of the rules change. For the very first time, A discovers another person that makes moving on impossible. A wants to be with Rhiannon, not for just a day, but every day.

This is a story of friendship, of love, of self, and of faith. While new perspectives emerge with each and every body, and experiences of intense emotions from grief, to despair, happiness, fear, and peace are alternately overwhelming and thrilling, A does not get to hold onto any of this. None of it belongs to A. Until the experience of love.

Recommended to each and every reader. Well done in print and on audio.
Reviewed by kate the librarian.

One of my favorite paragraphs from the novel (p.107):


07 January 2013

The End of the Line by Angela Cerrito

We read this story in alternating chapters, both from Robbie's perspective. We learn about Robbie's current situation in real-time, while he also catches us up on the story that has lead to his arrival at the Great Oaks School. 

At Great Oaks, Robbie has his own room, but other than a desk, chair, paper, and pencil, he has nothing else. A bed is brought in when it is bedtime, and taken out when it is time to wake. His shoes and socks have been taken. His door remains locked from the outside. His only speaking company is Mr. Lester who has him make lists, but won't explain the rules. Great Oaks School is the End of the Line for Robbie . . . until he starts to unravel the mess of his life. But how does one begin to apologize for killing his only friend?

Recommended to most middle grade and older readers. This a poignant story from a first-time author, and it will make you sad, angry and frustrated . . . but ultimately, it will also remind you of the humanity that exists - and lapses - in all of us.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

04 January 2013

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

Karl Stern is a skinny kid who gets bullied by his high school classmates more than he would like, but he's always been able to hide in the background of life for most part. He's living in Berlin during the reign of Hitler and the Nazis, but having been raised in a family of no practicing religion, he certainly does not consider himself a Jew. And his fair looks do not broadcast his ethnicity either, something that separates him from his younger sister and her dark features.

But it doesn't take long for the fact that he is a Jew to get him expelled from public school, beaten, and even left for homeless. For a while he still has his boxing as a refuge, but even that gets taken from him eventually. Along with his parents and his sister, he must figure out how to survive even when it becomes harder and harder to believe that the injustice against Jews won't last forever . . ..

Recommended to mature middle grade and high school readers. Here is portrayed a unique perspective of Nazi-era history. The Berlin Boxing Club was named the 2012 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Teen Readers and was placed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Prisoners in the Palace : A Novel of Intrigue and Romance by Michaela MacColl

Liza has been raised as a lady, to enter into London society, to meet and marry a gentleman, and to live a life of relative comfort. When her parents die in an accident during her seventeenth year, she is left in solitude and with a large debt with which she has no means to pay. 

She is lucky enough to secure a position at Kensington Palace as a maid to sixteen-year-old Princess Victoria and her Baroness, even though such a position is inappropriate for a lady. Liza doesn't much enjoy bathing in cold dank quarters with the servants or wrestling with her own dresses. But because of her education and knowledge of languages, the Baroness asks Liza to spy on the princess's mother, and as a result Liza uncovers a very deliberate plot is brewing to keep the princess from establishing her own regency when she turns of age. Having empathy for the princess, as well as knowing that her mistress might be the only one who can restore Liza's financial independence, Liza reaches out to a few key players -- a spy with knowledge of the palace, a newspaper man, and the maid whose position she replaced -- and if all goes well everyone might end up getting exactly what they deserve.

This charming story of the pre-Victorian history of the London regency has it all -- colorful characters, espionage and trickery, kidnapping and murder, true friendship, and true love. Recommended to most middle grade readers.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.