Sunday, March 31, 2019

Swap'd by Tamara Ireland Stone - ESSENTIAL

Swap'd by Tamara Ireland Stone, 323 pages. Disney Hyperion, 2019. $17. 9781484786963.
Language: G (1 swear, 0 'F'); Mature content: G; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Allie's newest assignment in Computer Science challenges her to mix up and reuse code from a variety of different projects--hers and friends--to create something new. With her CodeGirls friend, Courtney, she creates a new app called Swap'd that allows kids at school to buy and sell things in an auction-based game. Swap'd is an overnight success and Allie thinks it could make her a shoo-in for the summer Hackathon program--if she can finally decide to apply. The money from Swap'd will help her bring Courtney out for a visit during the Game Con weekend, and she might even be able to use the app to finagle a meeting with the cute boy she's flirted with on the bus! Everything seems to be falling into place--until it becomes apparent Allie hasn't actually thought of everything to make all these perfect plans work.

I loved Stone's first book featuring Allie and the CodeGirls--Click'd--and this one is no different. Its a great story that will appeal especially to a rising generation of computer coders, but really any young reader can appreciate it. I also really love that the book is totally clean (there is only one super tame swear toward the very end) and feels very realistic in its telling. I hope she writes more!

Reviewer: TC

Strange Days by Constantine Singer - NO

Strange Days by Constantine Singer, 422 pages, G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin), 2018, $17.99.

Language: R 100+ swears, 100+ “f”; Mature Content: R (descriptive sex scenes, teens smoking); 
Violence: R (descriptive account of teen killing a person, blood, gore);

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Alex Mata doesn’t believe in aliens. A true teenager, all he wants is hang with friends, play his guitar, and skateboard. One morning as he gets ready for school, his head is filled with phantom music that makes it hard for him to think. He sneaks home from school in time to see an alien kill his parents. Suddenly he is a believer. He follows directions from a voice he hears inside his head and a letter from himself that he doesn’t remember writing and is lead to the one group that knows about the aliens and is trying to save the world. He becomes a glide in the witness program and helps this company who is trying to overcome the aliens. Or are they? Alex meets the resistance and quickly becomes aware that the aliens are in charge of the witnessing program, and he is helping them take over the world. He is torn between staying in the program and saving his fellow witnesses, and saving the world. What will he do?

As I read about Alex and his fellow characters in this book, I felt the potential for teens to make an amazing difference in the world. This is a good story. The explicit sex scenes, graphic portrayal of teens killing people, and excessive swearing did not add to the story line and end up with me not wanting to encourage teens to read this book.

Reviewer: Clara Pickett

The Second Life of Ava Rivers by Faith Gardner - OPTIONAL

The Second Life of Ava Rivers by Faith Gardner,  361 pages. Penguin, 2018. $18.

Language: R (100+ swears, 1 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13;

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Ava and Vera are not only twins, but best friends. On Halloween when the girls are 6, Ava disappears. This alters the course of the family’s lives. Fast forward to Vera’s 18th birthday party– she has felt the loss of her sister, family and self. Imagine her surprise when Ava suddenly reappears. Vera sacrifices much to rebuild the twin relationship, but Ava is lost and unable to share her memories and struggles. Tragedy strikes again. Old leads are followed, and a new history is written. Who is Ava? Once again it is Vera’s heart that is forgiving and generous.

This easy read, intriguing book does not have an original plot, but is compelling and full of ideas that leave the reader searching for answers that do not have solutions. The characters come alive and are easy to believe with problems that are real and beg to be corrected. The twist at the end wants to have a sequel. It has so many swears and teen smoking that I didn’t want to finish reading, but was compelled to find out what happens next.

Reviewer: Clara Pickett

The Tomb by S. A. Bodeen - OPTIONAL

The Tomb by S. A. Bodeen, 249 pages. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2018. $18

Language: PG: (7 swear, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (some descriptions of mummifying a person and doctor related surgeries); Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Kiva knows only her life in ancient Alexandria.  She goes to school, helps her mom, and is apprenticing to become a doctor.  When Seth shows up at school, Kiva is surprised to see him. Seth was her best friend but when his mom died, he left school and she hasn’t seen him since then.  Kiva wishes things could be different. When there is a major earthquake and Seth is killed, Kiva’s mother tells her that she has been chosen as Seth’s companion as he moves into the Underworld.  When Kiva wakes, everything is different. Seth finds her and tells her they aren’t in the Underworld and everything she believes about her life in Alexandria is false. The truth is she has been living in virtual reality and they are actually on a ship that left Earth long before they were born.  They have never even been to Earth.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book.  It’s a quick, easy read, and I like science fiction.  There are ships, possible space pirates, a mystery, virtual reality, and a great cover.  The ending, however, wasn’t quite a cliffhanger but it sure felt like the story hadn’t ended.  There were too many new people and situations introduced in the last 20 pages, and too many holes throughout to give it a satisfying ending.  I’d sure like to see a sequel to clear up those loose threads and give it a stronger ending.

Reviewer: RB

Poison in the Colony: Jamestown 1622 by Elisa Carbone - OPTIONAL

Poison in the Colony: Jamestown 1622 by Elisa Carbone, 297 pages. Viking (Penguin), 2019.  $18.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (deaths mentioned, dogs hanged)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Virginia was the first baby born in the Jamestown colony.  She was three when Pocahontas was taken prisoner by the settlers and six when the renamed Rebecca died on her only visit to England.  While there has usually been peace with the natives and the settlers, but the policies of the ever-changing colonial governor and the arrogance of the noblemen towards their plantation slaves (criminals from England, indentured servants, and blacks purchased from slavers) are always creating tension. Virginia has always been able to keep her visions secret from everyone but her family, but what if she sees something that could affect the entire colony?  Is that worth being hanged?

I think it always worth working hard with the Language Arts department or Social Studies department to make sure the historical fiction books in the library get used.  The addition of Virginia’s gift make this a little more mystical than historical, but there is plenty of great history included. I liked learning more of the details of the colonists’ lives.  

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Love Me, Love Me Not by SM Koz - NO

Love Me, Love Me Not by SM Koz, 327 pages. Swoon Reads (Macmillan), 2018. $18. 9781250137838      

Language: R (40 swears, 11 ‘f’); Mature Content: R (teen casual sex); Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

17 year old Hailey has bounced around in the foster care system. Her greatest desire is to find a safe place where she can finish high school and then move on. The perfect family has finally come into Hailey's life. Hailey is finally making friends and feeling secure in her foster placement but realizes her feelings for her foster brother Brad are moving beyond friendship. Or will it be worth the risk?

I didn't care for the very descriptive casual sexual encounters. It could have been a great book for kids who have been or are in foster care to read about possible shared experiences.   

Jeri Albrecht, Teacher Librarian

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Tin Heart by Shivaun Plozza - OPTIONAL

Tin Heart by Shivaun Plozza, 336pages.  Flatiron Books (Random House), 2019.  $19.  

Content: Language: R (101 swears; 6 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Ever since Marlowe has gotten a heart transplant she has wanted to make contact with her donor’s family, but they have asked not to be contacted.  Marlowe finds her way to a website where donors and donor families can reach out to each other, and Marlowe puts some clues together to find who she thinks is her donor family.  As Marlowe befriends the sister of a boy that she thinks donated his heart to her, she starts to feel more like herself but it is clear that the sister is still deeply grieving.  

I enjoyed this book and felt empathy for the characters.  I love the light it shed on organ donation and the layers of emotion found throughout.  There are other side stories going on besides the heart donation, including a spat with the cute boy next door, her friends struggles and a little brother who doesn’t follow conventional societal rules.  The content includes bullying, a homophobic character and make out sessions.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

The American Indian Rights Movement by Eric Braun - ADVISABLE

The American Indian Rights Movement by Eric Braun, 32 pages. NONFICTION. Lerner Publishing Group, 2019. $28. 9781541523333.


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

This nonfiction book gives an overview history of the fight for Civil Rights by American Indians throughout US history. There is some discussion of how the US government made treaties and then broke those, and the various aspects of equality American Indians have protested and fought for even until the present day.

I think this is an important book to have in libraries. When we discuss civil rights we so often focus solely on the 1960's movements with Martin Luther King, Jr. and that is ignoring large swaths of America's people. I liked the simple way this story was written--clearly an elementary or low middle level--and the number of pictures included. There are also individual activists highlighted throughout. This is a short read but valuable to introducing young readers to the American Indian Rights movement.

Reviewer: TC

Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn - ADVISABLE

Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn, 291 pages. Bloomsbury, 2019. $12.

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS  - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Cat just finished 5th grade. She is excited for the trip to Atlanta where her mom will teach a writing class for a few weeks. Cat (Caterpillar) is always looking out for her younger brother, Chicken. When her brother was born, Cat thought he looked like a chicken. The name stuck. Chicken has some problems, but Cat can always make him feel better and she understands him. They live in San Fransisco with mom. Dad died of cancer and they all miss him. Instead of seeing her friend in Atlanta, Cat and Chicken are dropped off at Gingerbread Island with a grandma and grandpa they do not know.            

This was a most wonderful book, and I could not put it down. Gillian McDunn writes 11 year old girls so well! Cat is bright, hardworking and does her best to please the grown ups in her life. She will do anything to watch and protect her young brother, no matter how difficult it is or how much she just wants to do what girls her age do. She is great. The adults in the book are also great, and I liked the way they helped Cat and allowed her to sometimes just be a young girl. This is a heartwarming story. The way Gingerbread Island is described it made me want to visit there some time. It is an island off the coast of North Carolina.      

Ellen-Anita, Librarian

All the Stars Denied by Guadalupe Garcia McCall - ESSENTIAL

All the Stars Denied by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, 322 pages. TU Books (Lee & Low), 2018. $20. 9781620142813.


Content: Language: PG (8 swears, 0 'F'); Mature Content: PG (racism, racial slurs); Violence: PG (off-page beating, forced/illegal deportations)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Teenage Estrella and her family live in rural Texas at the height of the Great Depression. The white community has begun to turn on the Mexican Americans and Mexicanos who live in the area, and one night Estrella's family is abruptly dragged from their home and forcefully "repatriated" (deported) across the Mexican border--despite being American citizens. Now Estrella faces a truly daunting challenge of caring for her mother and little brother in a country not her own, reuniting with her missing father, and finding a way home to the actual land of her birth.

This is a fantastic piece of historical fiction that I hated reading for the horror of its true story. Estrella and her family are great characters and the story is hard to put down once you get into it. I appreciated the Spanish words that are sprinkled throughout the novel without any translation--it made Estrella and her experiences seem even more real. This would be an especially good pick for communities that have a large Latinx population but is a book that should be read and appreciated by everyone who seeks to better understand the long history of race discrimination in America's history.

Reviewer: TC

The Second Life of Ava Rivers by Faith Gardner - OPTIONAL

The Second Life of Ava Rivers by Faith Gardner, 361 pages. Penguin (Random House), 2018. $17.99

Language: R (100+ swears, 1 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13;

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Ava and Vera are not only twins, but best friends. On Halloween when the girls are 6, Ava disappears. This alters the course of the family’s lives. Fast forward to Vera’s 18th birthday party – she has felt the loss of her sister, family and self. Imagine her surprise when Ava suddenly reappears. Vera sacrifices much to rebuild the twin relationship, but Ava is lost and unable to share her memories and struggles. Tragedy strikes again. Old leads are followed, and a new history is written. Once again it is Vera’s heart that is forgiving and generous.

This easy read, intriguing book does not have an original plot, but is compelling and full of ideas that leave the reader searching for answers that do not have solutions. The characters come alive and are easy to believe with problems that are real and beg to be corrected. The twist at the end wants to have a sequel. It has so many swears and teen smoking that I didn’t want to finish reading, but was compelled to find out what happens next.

Reviewer: Clara Pickett

Friday, March 29, 2019

Period Power by Nadya Okamoto –OPTIONAL

Period Power by NadyaOkamoto. 354 pages, Simon, 2018 $20

Language: PG ; Mature Content: PG; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS –OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Intended as a manifesto on menstruation, the author presents information on how periods are misunderstood and those who menstruate are often discriminated against. Interwoven is information about menstruation itself, from biology to the use of period products. Readers also learn strategies about how to change the status quo and to feel confident as menstruaters in today's world.

This book has some incredible information both about the body and society. My favorite part was the history of the tampon. It gave me a turn when it made me realize I never thought about those who were experiencing their period in poverty! However, there are a couple of issues with this book that I think would be a significant deterrent for the target audience; first it is just way too long and too wordy. I think the information, as fascinating as it is, could be presented more succinctly. Second, its present in novel type format, I think it would have been way more appealing in a better non-fiction type format with lots of photographs, glossy pages, and interesting layouts.  

Reviewer: Stephanie MLS & Author.


Tilly and the Crazy Eights by Monique Gray Smith –OPTIONAL


Tilly and the Crazy Eights by MoniqueGray Smith. 214 pages, Second Story Press, 2018 $20
Language: PG13 (15 swears; all B); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: ADULT –OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Tilly’s marriage isn’t happy and she doesn’t know why its going wrong. When she asked to drive eight native elders from Canada to the Gather of Nations Pow Wow in New Mexico, she makes the snap decision to go. Each member of the group has a bucket list item for the trip from the redwood forest, a tulip festival, and more. During the journey members of the group find themselves confronting the past, re-examining current relationships, and building friendships. Tilly has to come to some hard realizations herself if she wants to save her marriage.

This book would be more appealing to adults than younger readers, as the themes and characters are all very much adult. Many of the topics are related to being a senior citizen and looking back on your life, which I even had trouble relating to. For me it was just an ok read –some of the elderly women characters had a similar feel, so they all kind of blurred into one or two characters. I thought the references to native culture were fascinating and added quite a bit to the story. 

Reviewer: Stephanie MLS & Author.


Kate's Ring by Donna Grassby - ESSENTIAL

Kate's Ring by Donna Grassby, 267 pages. Fitzhenry Whiteside, 2018. $15        

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (suicide, alcoholism); Violence: PG-13 (mother commits suicide)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS  - ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Thirteen year old Kate lives in Cape Breton right by a big steel mill. She has five younger sisters and brothers. Her mother has tuberculosis (consumption) and dad is an alcoholic, who sometimes works in the steel mill and other times in a logging camp, if he is not drinking.  Kate has to stop going to school to take on more responsibility at home, caring for her sick mother and siblings. Will she be able to keep her family together and take care of all the responsibility given to her?         

This is a very sad book, and so good.  I enjoyed reading it, getting to know Kate and her family and "living" through the struggles with them. I could not put this book down because I had to find out what happened to Kate and her three brothers and two sisters. The characters are well developed and the book shows how families that stick together can help each other through adversity and devastatingly hard times.  It shows what impact chronic illness and alcoholism has on, not just close relatives, but also extended family. The story is based on the author's own family history and is told from the point of view of Kate.            

Ellen-Anita, Librarian

Prince Charming by Rachel Hawkins - OPTIONAL

Prince Charming (Royals, #1) by Rachel Hawkins, 296 pages.  Penguin, 2018.  $11.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (72 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Daisy is a typical sixteen-year-old girl who enjoys hanging with her best friend and working as a grocery store cashier, but her life changes drastically when her sister becomes engaged to the Prince of Scotland.  Quickly Daisy finds her summer plans reconstructed to include a trip to Scotland to meet her sister’s soon-to-be in-laws.  The good news is there are a lot of hot royal teen boys in Scotland, the bad news is that the press likes to alter the real story to always look like a scandal.  Daisy has to be on her best behavior, but what happens when she might really fall for a Scottish boy.  

This book is a fun light read with humorous dialogue and cute characters.  This book was previously published under the title: The Royals.  The content includes a make-out session, some crass comments, same sex relationship, fist fight and underage drinking.  Although a second book is coming, this book can stand on its own.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey - ADVISABLE

We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey, 256 pages.  Crown Books (Random House), 2019.  $17.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (attacks)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Earth has been destroyed and only a few hundred survivors have made it off safely in a few prepared ships and tried to make a go of it on Mars.  As the conditions on Mars worsen, they have made contact with Planet Choom, a place about 20 years away, populated by four groups of non-humanoid creatures, and Choom has volunteered to take them in.  After 20 years of hyper-sleep, the group arrives, but now the government has changed hands and Choom doesn’t want them.  The ship’s governing council has managed to talk the planet into taking one family as a test – just for a few days – and Lan, her sister, and her parents are it.  When the cards are stacked against them does Lan’s family have a chance to prove their worth?

This alien framed look at xenophobia is a tense adventure novel that upper elementary and middle school kids will like, even if they don’t get the deeper meaning.  The descriptions of the alien groups are well-crafted and full of interesting details.  Totally great choice for a read aloud.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Bright Shining Moment by Deb Loughead - OPTIONAL

Bright Shining Moment by Deb Loughead, 170 pages. Second Story Press, 2018. $8  

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (bullying; teacher hitting student hands with a stick/belt)          

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

The story takes place in Canada during the winter 1942-1943. We meet Aline, a 12 year old girl and her family. They live in a stone house her dad built by himself. They are poor, and Aline is constantly remind of how poor they are. Aline feels bad she cannot bring any money to the school to be donated to the poor and needy. One day she steals a dime from her mom's purse. When she comes to school it is too late to donate. Aline is torn with what to do now with the dime. Her decisions haunt her for a long time and she starts seeing her life, and other people's life in a different way.

I liked this book, and I felt for Aline. She is a very believable character and I could picture her and feel her torment as she goes through the winter months of that year. The second world war is raging and this book describes another war - the war inside of Aline. The story is heartwarming and a great feel-good story. This would be a wonderful read-aloud in a classroom as well as a good read for students to read on their own. I would recommend this book to students grade 3 -   7.       

Ellen-Anita, Librarian

The Triumphant by Lesley Livingston - OPTIONAL


The Triumphant (Valiant, #3) by Lesley Livingston, 409 pages.  Razorbill (Penguin), 2019.  $19  

Content: Language: PG-13 (24 swears); Mature Content; PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Fallon and her gladiatrix are much loved by Caesar and she enjoys the glory of victory, but she is mortified when Cai loses his position and is turned into a gladiator.  While Fallon tries to help Cai, there is political unrest in Rome and Pontius has it out for Fallon and her friends.  When Caesar is murdered and the republic starts to fall apart, Fallon has to help get Cleopatra to safety and try to help those she loves.  

This is the final book in the Valiant trilogy and I enjoyed being back with these characters.  The book has a full story line with lots going on, but sometimes I felt like the relationship development between Cai and Fallon was forgotten.  I enjoyed the satisfying ending and the historical setting, so if you have kids who enjoyed the beginning of this series this is worth grabbing.  The content includes violent fighting with descriptive injuries and a make-out session.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Camp Average by Craig Battle - OPTIONAL

Camp Average by Craig Battle, 234 pages.  Owl Kids, April 2019.  $17.  

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Mack, 11, and his camp friends are looking forward to another year of fun, unrelated to sports, at their favorite place – the one they call Camp Average.  Their preferred chant is “We’re number two”.  They junior campers have a new director this year though, who has changed camp to mold it into a real, competitive sports camp. The Boys, led by Mack, have other ideas. They want the canoes, the camping, the hiking, and the swimming – not the hours and hours on the field.  It's an epic battle of wills between the immovable object and the irresistible force.

I actually do love sports books, but the tug-of-war in this just felt off to me. It wasn’t until the boys have to play in the playoffs and decide that they will play to win that there is anything that I truly loved.  I think I’m tired of these “adults are evil and kids are smarter and stronger” books. I am by no means a fan of the meathead sports mentality, but I prefer a sports book that is about sports – not an “we’re going to take down the adults” book.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr - OPTIONAL

Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr.  306 pages. Candlewick Press, 2009; U.S. 2018. $17                 

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Astrid is the only child in her small community in Norway. She lives in Glimmerdal with her mom and dad. Mostly her dad, because her mom's work keeps her away sometimes. Astrid's best friend is a 70-something man. He builds fantastic sleds and Astrid loves to test run the sleds for Gunnvald. Gunnvald has been keeping secrets and one of those secrets will really  strain their friendship. A family with children visit the community and Astrid loves playing with children her own age. Another visitor comes that Astrid does not know, but all the grown-up knows.             

Having grown up in Norway myself this book brought back many childhood memories. Of course I loved the story. It was an easy read, and a good translation from Norwegian. I loved how Astrid always looked on the positive side and she was never afraid to give it everything she got. She is a believable character, and the reader is with her in good times and hard times. Astrid sounds like a fun kid and I feel like I know her and Gunnvald after reading this book.   I have recommended this title to several students at my school, and have only heard positive comments back.             

Ellen-Anita, Librarian

Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young - HIGH

Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young, 393 pages.  Simon Pulse, 2019.  $19. 

Language: R (22 swears, 25 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Mena and her friends are close to graduation from the very exclusive Innovations Academy.  On a field trip to the local botanical garden, the group stops at a gas station and Mena meets the handsome Jackson, whom she finds very intriguing.  But there is little to no chance of seeing Jackson again, unless she breaks some rules. If she gets caught, she could be subjected to impulse control therapy – she’s already been through that once and doesn’t ever want to repeat the experience.  One night, though, she forgets to take her vitamins and in the morning things seem a little different.  Were those dreams she had or are they actually memories?  Something seems to be off about the Academy.  But Mena and her friends are just girls – they exist to be decorative and supportive.  They couldn’t actually change the world – right?

Being a child of the 60’s I could mention a movie and you would know where this is going – but I'm remaining mum on that, because I want you to discover this for yourself.  I can’t tell you too much.  But you will keep reading and reading because you want to keep uncovering the secrets layered within Young’s newest book. The mature content is for some frank talk, mention of an LGBT relationship.  The violence is for a death and Mena’s treatment under impulse control therapy.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

All is Fair by Dee Garretson - OPTIONAL

All is Fair by Dee Garretson, 273 pages.  Swoon Reads (Macmillan), 2019.  $18.  

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (mention of an unwed pregnancy); Violence: PG (some war violence mentioned)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Lady Mina Tretheway knows of the war – her brother Crispin is missing, for one thing.  But when he father summarily summons her home to a mystery, Mina takes a chance to dive in to help the war effort with both feet. She may not be supposed to go to Germany on the secret mission, but she knows that the American, Lucas, won’t succeed without her.  Plus she wants to prove to him that she isn’t the spoiled upper class girl he thinks she is. But is she really ready for a mission that will put her life in mortal danger – over and over again?

Unfortunately it takes bout half of the book to build the tension up to a place that will grab a student’s attention.  Up until then it’s a fairly tame historical fiction novel.  If you have an active collection of historical fiction, then make room for this one.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Last of the Name by Rosanne Perry - OPTIONAL

Last of the Name by Rosanne Perry , 322 pages.  Carolrhoda (Lerner), 2019.  $18.

Language: G (2 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (rioting and implied beatings)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When their Grandmother dies on the ship on the way to America in 1863, Kathleen and Daniel are the only two left of their whole family.  Kathleen is desperate to keep Daniel out of the hands of the recruiters for the Army, which is fighting the Civil War in the South, and she needs to keep both of them off the streets.  Luckily she finds a place as a housemaid, but she can only bring her “sister” as a cook’s helper.  Danny is disgusted by the ruse, especially when the mistress of the house hears his singing and insists that “Mary” be a star of her upcoming musical evening.  As preparations continue, no one knows the wild days that are coming as Irish community becomes angry about the large proportion of them who are having their names dawn in the draft, because they can’t afford to buy their way out, like the rich, and Irish lives don’t seem to be worth as much as a black.

This is only the third novel I have seen about the New York Draft riots (Isabelle Holland’s Behind the Lines and Walter Dean Myers Riot).  The tale is told from the point of view of Irish Americans, which I liked, especially since Irish and Catholics were not really “accepted” until JFK won the presidency – another 100 years later. Neither the title nor the cover will help this find readers, though.  

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

My So-called Superpowers by Heather Nuhfer - OPTIONAL

My So-called Superpowers by Heather Nuhfer, 246 pages, Imprint (Macmillan), 2018. $14.

Language: PG (5 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Middle school is not going well for Veronica.  She would really like to be an “ests,” one of the smartest, prettiest, fastest, instead of walking around feeling invisible.  So she has come up with a plan to try new activities to get noticed, and she is bound to be good at one of them, right? Her friend, Charlie, doesn’t understand why she wants to be an “ests”, they’re all so mean and snobbish.  Of course, Charlie is perfectly ok with who he is, quirks and all. After a miserable day of failing to become an “est”, Veronica wakes up and something is different. When she wishes she would shrink out of sight, she does, when she wishes she would disappear, she does.  What is happening! Charlie thinks her new superpowers are great, but Veronica isn’t so sure.

The idea of waking up with superpowers sounds awesome and I like that the author made it realistic and hard.  Veronica found that it took time and practice, and life is more complicated now that it was before. Unfortunately the whole thing fell a little flat, and was confusing, at times.  Sometimes it would read young and other times more middle school. And a few things I had trouble accepting. I know Veronica is a middle schooler with superpowers, but it still seemed a bit much to have her out all night by herself decorating for the school dance.  In the end Veronica learned a few things about herself and what makes a true friend. 

Reviewer: RB

The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena - ESSENTIAL

The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena, 354 pages.  Farrar, Straus, Giroux (Macmillan), 2019.  $18.

Language: PG (22 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (teen smoking, drinking); Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL, HS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Susan and her mom have just moved from Saudi Arabia to Canada; Dad is supposed to join them, but he seems to keep making excuses to postpone his arrival.  Malcolm has been acting out since his mother died of cancer and his Dad remarried.  The two are drawn to each other, but every relationship in their lives is complicated and has added dimensions of complexity to Susan and Malcolm’s interactions. Love might be possible in the long run, but they must discover themselves.

I started and finished this in one afternoon.  Bhathena doesn’t rely upon overdramatized plot points or tropes to further the plot – but Susan and Malcolm’s tale unfolds with the right amount of drama and complications to keep me wrapped up within it.  It breaks pretty much every common trick I’ve come to expect from a YA book (copious swearing, described sex, heavy drug use, cringe-worthy betrayal), and instead gives us a healthy look at a teen relationship that still includes incidents that read believable.  I loved it – I hope my students will love it too. Even though the characters are seniors in high school, I think this can read down to 9thgrade. By the way - though some of the characters are Zoroastrian and I think some other religions, they just are that -- it is not a religious book in that it feels like it has to explain all of the how-to's and why-for's.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman - HIGH

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman, 368 pages.  Hyperion (Disney), APRL 2019.  $19.

Language: R (39 swears, 8 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG(mention of bisexual couples); Violence: PG-13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Something is wrong in Four Paths – three bodies have surfaced.  The magic wielded by the Founders to keep the Gray under control is no longer able to keep the Beast in check. When Violet and her mother come back to town, the parents tell the teen family members of the Founders to leave her alone, but the teens no more than their parents think.  Even though all of them have secrets, the cards and the winds tell them that Violet is important.  

Noice!  Modern gothic at its best.  All of the spine-tingling delight of the best spooky stories with teens that our high school readers will be drawn to.  It looks like there is a second book coming – I hope it maintains the high level of tension and horror without resorting to excessive violence or sex as a vehicle.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Monday, March 25, 2019

No One Here is Lonely Sarah Everett - HIGH

No One Here is Lonely Sarah Everett, 343 pages. Alfred A. Knopf, 2019. $17.99.

Language: R (100+ swears, 18 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Eden and her best friend of 14 years, Lacey, have the whole summer ahead of them. But after Eden’s crush of many years dies just one week before graduation, everything begins to change for Eden. The summer bucket list that Eden and Lacey were supposed to do before heading to college is off because suddenly, and without no known reason, Lacey doesn’t want to be with Eden all the time. On the day of graduation, Eden finds out that Will was a cognitive donor with “In Good Company”, meaning that his personality is saved on a computer program and she can talk to him whenever she wants. Without Lacey by her side, Eden only feels like half a person, but as she starts to fall in love with this Will, she feels happy again and starts to do their bucket list with Will. 

I really enjoyed this book about truly finding yourself. The language felt high school typical, which sadly made this book R for language. The content was mature due to teens using alcohol and marijuana, but it is not seen as glamorous by Eden, which I liked. There are so many themes that teenagers can relate to: loneliness, losing friends, feeling different, death, family problems, figuring out who your real friends are, and most of all learning to love yourself. The author showed great ingenuity with her invention of being a cognitive donor. It felt very realistic, yet showed the reader the problem with being too connected to virtual reality. 

Reviewer: J. Rosskopf

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden - OPTIONAL

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden, 535 pages. First Second (Roaring Books Press), 2018. $22. 9781250178138.

Language: R (100+ swears, 50 ‘F’); Mature Content: PG (homosexual relationships, dangerous situations); Violence: PG (bullying, minor battles/fights)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL



AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


Mia meets Grace during her freshman year of boarding school and the two immediately hit it off and eventually become a couple. Before year’s end, Grace’s family abruptly arrives and takes her home; Mia is held up and unable to actually tell Grace goodbye. Following graduation, Mia gets a job with a refurbishment crew who travel around space refurbishing a variety of old buildings. It is at one refurb job that has connections to the mysterious area The Staircase where Mia finally opens up to the crew about her secret wish to travel to The Staircase and seek out her friend, Grace. The crew, it turns out, has connections to The Staircase and to Grace, so they willingly go along on the dangerous mission. And it is at The Staircase where we face the remaining questions—Will they find Grace? Why doesn’t Ell speak? And will they actually make it back from this quest?

This book was originally a web comic and now in paperback it really suffers from being too long—too many panels of art that do not add much to the story. The story itself could be told in half the number of pages you have in the book. The lack of men in the story is never explained—every character is LGBTQIA+ in someway, which makes this a nice pick for those looking for books specifically for that audience. The actual graphic illustrations are pretty intense though the coloring is all very dark. I found the story interesting enough (maybe a bit too vague in its explanations of space magic at times) but I imagine it would be more appealing to a teenage reader who feels like an outsider. I had to rate it optional due to the atrocious language, but probably still would have rated it optional anyway. It’s a fine graphic novel—the author is clearly a talented artist—but nothing here really blew me away.

Reviewer: TC  

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Speed of Life by Carol Weston - OPTIONAL

Speed of Life by Carol Weston, 329 pages. Sourcebooks, 2017. $16.99

Language: R (56 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Death is unavoidable, but you aren’t supposed to have to deal with your mother dying while you’re in middle school. Nevertheless, that is Sofia’s reality. As Sofia navigates this new world without her mother—and everything her mother would have done and would have said when her dad seems to be clueless—Sofia learns that not all change is bad, even when it is unexpected.

Speed of Life is about how life continues to change without regard for time. Sofia goes through challenges that we all have to face at some point, and I found myself relating to this 15-year-old, even though I thought I had moved passed those days. Self-doubt, family problems, and making difficult decisions in general are real struggles at every age and reading Sofia’s story gave me comfort regarding my own problems. Also, I love Sofia’s unique comparisons and epiphanies that help her (and me) find solutions and peace.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams - ADVISABLE

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams, 364 pages. Atheneum (Simon and Schuster), 2019. $18.

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (self harm)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

13 year old Genesis doesn't like herself. In fact, she keeps a list of all the reasons. When Genesis was in 6th grade, some girls gave her a note with a list of why they don't like her, and she's been adding to the list ever since. Most of all, Genesis doesn't like that she looks more like her dark skinned father than her light skinned mother, so she's constantly trying new things to lighten her skin and improve her hair. 

Genesis' situation is heartbreaking – she is always hearing that she is not good enough, even from her father and her grandmother. A kind teacher compares her to Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, but Genesis thinks it’s a physical comparison. Themes of bullying, racism, alcoholism, friendship, poverty, colorism – so much going on, but the plot doesn’t feel cluttered. A great book for building empathy, an amazing read to empower black girls and others.

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice by Bryan Stevenson - ESSENTIAL


Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice (Adapted forYoung People) by Bryan Stevenson, 244 pages.  NON-FICTION  Delacorte Press, 2018.  $19  

Content: Language: PG (3 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ADVISABLE; HS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

This book starts out with a young lawyer named Bryan Stevenson deciding that he is going to spend his career helping minorities and the poor who have been wrongfully convicted or have been given harsh sentences.  One of the major cases followed throughout the book is about a man named Walter who was sentenced to death row for a murder that he never committed.  Bryan helps Walter and demands that the evidence be reconsidered.  The book also follows multiple other cases that bring to light the harshness of the U.S. justice system. 

This book made me cry because it hurt my heart.  I think everyone would benefit from the empathy and awareness that this book exposes.  The stories are succinct and powerful and will keep young adults’ interest, while hopefully at the same time making them aware of social injustices.  The content does include reference to rape, sexual abuse, animal abuse and other upsetting acts of violence.  None of these acts are described in detail but they are upsetting.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson