Saturday, March 24, 2018

Fall of Innocence by Jenny Sanchez - OPTIONAL

Sanchez, Jenny Torres Fall of Innocence, 448 pages. Philomel (Penguin), JUNE 2018.  $19.  Language: R (65 swears, 25 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (rape mentioned); Violence: PG-13 (suicide)

When Emilia was a little girl she was attacked by Jeremy, an older mentally challenged boy at her school.  All these years she has struggled to keep it together, even after her father left.  With the help of her friend, now boyfriend, Ian, and her mother and brother, she has built a safe space.  Then comes the day that the police detective comes around again – someone else has confessed to the attack and knows details only the attacker could now.  Jeremy will be let out of the facility he has been living in and the real attacker is dying – he only has a short time to live.  Emilia’s life is shattered.  She’s trying to deal with these new revelations, putting on a brave face, but she is failing inside where it counts.  The birds that guarded her thoughts the first time around are back – this time their presence may not be able to stop the sinking.

My heart aches for Emilia because she never got the help that she really needed.  The book is both spooky and heartbreaking.  Older students who appreciate a bit of darkness and depth will appreciate the journey, even though the end will make them cry.

HS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

I am Still Alive by Kate Marshall - OPTIONAL

Marshall, Kate I am Still Alive, 352 pages.  Viking (Penguin), JULY 2018.  $18.  Language: PG-13 (37 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: R.

Jess was happy and content with her life with her mother – until the terrible car accident that killed Mom and left Jess with a devastating leg injury.  She has recovered somewhat, but her leg will never be the same again.  Then comes the crushing blow – she must go to live with the father she doesn’t remember in a small Alaskan town.  However, when she journeys there with her father’s friend, they bypass Alaska and go to an even more remote place in Canada.  Now Jess is stuck with, pain, anger, and no desire to learn the survival skills her father insists she will need to find her place in this wilderness.   The friend won’t becoming back for months, so Jess reluctantly starts to learn.  Then her father’s past catches up to him in the form of angry men, a gun, and her father’s death.  The cabin is set a flame.  How will Jess survive now?  And where will help come from any way?  The men will be back. 

On the whole, Marshall writes a taut novel alternating between Jess’s present day survival and flashbacks.  Jess has a lone dog as companion and makes plenty of mistakes – more mistakes than I was comfortable with – it made Jess look like she was incapable of thinking ahead and learning caution from past mistakes.  Violence-wise Jess’s father is graphically murdered as Jess watches from a safe spot and months later she has to dig up his body (think on that).  I do think this is a great addition to any list that includes Hatchet.

MS, HS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert - PUBLIC

Colbert, Brandy Little & Lion, 327 pgs. Little, Brown and Company (Hachette), 2017. $18. Language: R (85 swears, 55 ‘f’); Mature Content: R (teen sex, drug use, alcohol); Violence: PG-13.

16-year-old Suzette has come home to Los Angeles after a year at boarding school.  She leaves drama at school - she was romantically involved with her roommate - it didn’t end well, and comes home to drama - her family is working through her brother’s recent mental illness diagnosis. She’s torn about her sexuality because she likes both her long time friend Emil, but also has feelings for her brother’s new girlfriend.

The storyline is all over the place, but mostly because Suzette is also all over the place - Jewish, black, bi or pan sexual . . .  It’s not about any one issue, as much as it is a very involved summer vacation for a young girl (and it’s not even the whole summer!) This book has a lot: sexuality, racism, religion, diversity, bullying, family dynamics, as well as sex, drugs and alcohol.   Too much for a school library.


Twice Dead by Caitlin Seal - OPTIONAL

Seal, Caitlin Twice Dead, 336 pages.  Charlesbridge, SEPTEMBER 2018.  $18.  Language: PG (10 swears); Mature Content:  G; Violence: PG (death, battle)

Naya has been trying to find a place for herself at her father’s side, helping him with his contacts at the various ports he visits in his sailing adventures.  She is running an important errand for him at their latest port, when she is struck down and killed.  When she regains consciousness, she has become a wraith – a spirit given form through necromancy.  Necromancy is anathema in Naya’s own country, but her it is common place.  As she tries to come to terms with her new existence, her father’s contact has a spying job for her.  Everything is a confusing, but she has a huge learning curve and if she doesn’t figure this out, her option will permanent death.

As much as I enjoyed following Naya’s story, I caught myself about 2/3rds of the way through wondering – what’s the point?  The book is mostly character development – well-written character development – without a plot to hang it on.  Well, there is some plot, but it is served up in little bits, which makes it feel unimportant.  I am thinking there will a second book – hopefully it will be a better balance of plot and character.

MS, HS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Worlds Apart by James Riley - OPTIONAL

Riley, James Worlds Apart (Story Thieves #5), 479 pages.  Aladdin (Simon), 2018.  $18. Content: PG (some fighting)

Nobody has torn the fictional and non-fictional worlds apart, leaving Owen and all other nonfictionals without any imagination, a splitting Brittany into her two selves.  Fictional Brittany is reveling in being free from nonfictional Brittany’s caution, but she is losing her battle against nobody’s machinations.  Nobody has a sinister plan to take control of both worlds once and forever.  Owen and Brittany will need every one of their friends and foes to defeat the master plot and save both worlds.

Personally, I lost interest after book three as the plots became cluttered with characters and ever convoluted.  Kids, of course, will want to read to the end.  Heavy on exciting action, but short on character development.

EL, MS – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Friday, March 23, 2018

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Abawi Atia - ESSENTIAL

Abawi, Atia  A Land of Permanent Goodbyes  278 pages. Philomel Books (Penguin Random House), 2018. $7 (paperback).  Language: G; Mature Content: PG; Violence : PG

Tareq’s family has a wonderful life until the Syrian Civil conflict comes showering down on their heads.  Of the family Tareq, his father, a younger brother and a younger sister are the only survivors and they work to make their way to Europe, specifically Germany. The going is really hard; Tareq’s family tries to do everything legally in a situation where no one else recognizes any laws.  The book teaches about empathy and understanding.  We wonder why refugees don’t go home, we need to realize for some there is no home to go back to.

I read a prepublication copy, at times it switched to first person and then went back to a narrative.  It was a bit confusing, but I felt the book was worth reading and would definitely buy it for my library.

MS – ESSENTIAL; HS – ADVISABLE.  Reviewer: Lisa Moeller; Language Arts Teacher/Librarian