Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Doodleville by Chad Sell - ADVISABLE

Doodleville by Chad Sell, 288 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2020. $13.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

When Drew and her friends in art club go to the Art Institute, they take away inspiration to make something new. But Drew’s project quickly takes on a mind of its own, wreaking havoc on the other creations. With her doodles creating so many problems, can Drew recover from losing both her art and her friends?

Drew’s doodles are magical, and I love that everyone in the book takes it in stride as if it’s totally normal -- which makes me wonder what the rest of the world looks like as imagined by Sell. I also love that Drew has a great support system around her. The conflict in this book stems from Drew’s internal battles, and the depiction of depression, or at least a depressive episode, was beautifully done. A message to take away from all of this is when we reach out for help from those who love us, our inner demons can be overcome.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen
 

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom - OPTIONAL


A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom, 275 pages. Poppy, 2017. $18.

Language: R (99 swears, 7 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Mel is holding it together, but it’s been getting more difficult since her brother, Nolan’s, death. Mostly, she ignores the biggest problem to address other issues, and that works for her. Until one secret gets out and starts breaking down the walls Mel has built.

Mel has bipolar disorder, which is a big part of the story (and I love how Lindstrom conveyed her states of mind by writing her stream of consciousness differently depending on the mood), but the book is not just about issues specific to her disorder. As I read, I didn’t know what I liked so much about the book -- it’s pretty unremarkable, story-wise. However, Lindstrom has written about Mel and her loved ones in a way that made me care about them. I wanted to see them resolve their issues and succeed. They felt real to me, and I wanted to keep reading despite not knowing where the story was going. In the end, I felt understood and less alone as I read about how hard life is and about how we all keep going the best we can. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, drug use, and mentions of sex and genitalia; the violence rating is for mentions of death of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen - HIGH

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen, 448 pages. Balzer + Bray (Harper), 2019. $20.

Language: R (86 swears, 2 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (unmarried pregnancy mentioned); Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Emma’s father has just remarried and she couldn’t be more happy for him. Her mother, Waverly, died 5 years ago, failing to deal with demons from a trauma years earlier. While he and her stepmother are on their honeymoon, Emma is supposed to stay with her best friend, Bridget. But there is family trouble and Emma instead goes to stay with her mother’s family - people whom she hasn’t seen since she was four. Her family has been told to treat her like a guest, but Saylor, as this family calls Emma, is determined to learn her mother’s story and about the other half of her history. It dredges up hard memories for everyone, especially when Saylor makes some poor choices.

Dessen continues to write rich stories - life’s many facets that have a romantic component, but are really about family and self.

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher

Monday, February 24, 2020

Downfall by Inio Asano - NO

Downfall by Inio Asano, 240 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. VIZ Media, 2020. $14.

Language: PG (2 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Fukasawa doesn’t know what to do now that he’s finished his manga series. Without selling more manga, everything starts to fall apart around him. The only solution is to sell more manga -- right?

I found a lot of Fukasawa’s story confusing but especially the beginning and the end. I’m not really sure how everything turned out because there seemed to be some time skipping at the end. Overall, though, this story simply wasn’t fun to read because Fukasawa is an unlikable character. I was sick of listening to him whine after the first chapter, and I only got more frustrated because of the poor choices he was making. Furthermore, the nudity in this manga horrified me; it's basically pornography. The mature content and violence ratings are for prostitution, vaginal and oral sex, and rape.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Super Sisters by Chistophe Cazenove - OPTIONAL

Super Sisters by Chistophe Cazenove, 92 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Papercutz, 2020. $15.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Wendy and Maureen save the world with their powers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get on each other’s nerves. When Maureen develops a new power, she uses it to get her way and annoy Wendy. Luckily, this new power might also be just the thing to defeat the latest villain.

We first meet Wendy and Maureen in a few shorts that come before the main episode. I enjoyed that opportunity to understand their characters before jumping into their adventure. Cazenove cleverly makes this super-sister-duo relatable for readers with siblings and uses their sister dynamic to the advantage of the heroines. The mature content is for revealing outfits on some of the female characters, and the violence rating is for hero and villain battles (without gore).

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend - ESSENTIAL


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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Morrigan and Hawthorne join the other 7 new members of the Wundrous Society with their different talents for training and a wundrous education. While the others have intriguing classes, Morrigan is stuck every day in one class - the History of Heinous Acts of Wundrous Acts. But someone is blackmailing the group - threatening to expose Morrigan’s secret if each group member doesn’t complete a task. There is even more to worry about, because people are disappearing, including people close to Morrigan.

I am so late reading this, but I am so glad I finally did. I love the Wundrous creations that Morrigan discovers, even the creepy ones! What a marvelous fantasy world to inhabit!

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Runaway Princess by Johan Troianowski - ESSENTIAL

The Runaway Princess by Johan Troianowski, 266 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Random House Graphic (Random House Children’s Books), 2020. $13.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Robin runs away from her princess etiquette class to attend a festival in another part of the kingdom, making friends along the way. After returning to the castle, Princess Robin stumbles upon more adventures near and far. Help her escape evil witches, find her way through mazes, and more, so she and her friends can get safely home -- again!

Princess Robin's adventures are a delight to read! While they don't use much logic, I see their nonsensical nature as a strength. With the book encouraging silliness, readers' imaginations are freed from normal bounds and allowed to accept the unexpected surprises Troianowski offers. My favorite parts are the interactive bits -- I got funny looks for going along with the instructions, but helping the princess and her friends gave me so much joy that I didn't care!

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The White and Gold People by Segun Starchild - NO

The White and Gold People by Segun Starchild, 301 pages. Akasha Publishing, 2019. $10.

Language: R (102 swears, 45 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: R

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

When the dress goes viral, the world divides into two kinds of people: black and blue versus white and gold. This divide is all fun and games, until the white and gold people start evolving into a higher race. A silly argument becomes war, and no one can see the end.

Starchild’s idea to take this real event with the dress and turn it into a fantasy novel was intriguing, but I am not impressed with the outcome. Several elements made the story hard to read. Structurally, the fluid point of view was hard to follow and Starchild seemed to struggle with how to get the characters into their next big scene, which gives readers unnecessary, filler details. Content-wise, I was annoyed by constantly having to skip scenes for the inappropriate sexual content. While there is a lead in for a sequel, I will not be subjecting myself to this story any longer. The mature content rating is for nudity, sexting, fondling of genitals, vaginal and oral sex, and threesomes. The violence rating is for battle scenes and persistent murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend - ESSENTIAL


Content: G (2 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (kidnappings, some violence)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Morrigan is a Cursed Child, and as such she is supposed to die at Eventide, the end of the current Age. But when that time arrives, she is offered a way out and she finds herself in a whole different world and at the Wundrous Hotel Deucalon, run by her savior, Jupiter North. Morrigan also learns that she is special; she is a Wundersmith, able to use Wunder on her own to create. But Wundersmiths are feared, so she must keep this secret, even as she competes for one of only nine spots available each year in the Wundrous Society.

I am SO sorry I hadn’t read these yet! What a great adventure! I’m am right on to reading #2 and I am so excited for #3! There will be a #3, right? Townsend’s world building will delight every fantasy  reader.

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Future Will Be BS Free by Will McIntosh - HIGH

The Future Will Be BS Free by Will McIntosh, 332 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House Children’s Books), 2018. $18.

Language: R (107 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Seventeen-year-old Sam and his buddies have a product that’s going to make them all rich, as soon they can get a prototype together. Their portable, infallible lie detector is going to change the world. They aren’t wrong, but it comes at a greater price than they expected.

I enjoyed reading this story set in a futuristic America for a few reasons. First of all, Sam’s story includes a lot of action as he and his friends are forced to flee several times before facing the main antagonist, and the excitement of it all makes it easy to stay engaged. But another reason was more alluring: pondering the repercussions of everyone knowing the truth all the time. Sam and his friends run into several unintended consequences of their invention, and the thought experiment it gives to readers was my favorite part. I wonder which of Sam’s friends I most relate to and why; I wonder what this invention might do to our modern-day America. Do you want a world where everyone has to be honest? The mature content rating is for nudity and a peeping tom incident, innuendo, and mentions of sex; the violence rating is for theft, torture, gun violence, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom - HIGH

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom, 369 pages. Feiwel and Friends Book (Macmillan Publishing Group), 2017. $19.

Language: R (181 swears, 66 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Gwendolyn has lived around the world, but she’s never experienced anything like this before. When her dad doesn’t come home from work, Gwendolyn learns that he’s been lying to her about his government job. Now with him missing and no one doing anything about it, Gwendolyn takes it upon herself to get him back. No matter what.

Reading about Gwendolyn’s story was fun but not in a light-hearted way. I enjoyed reading this book because I was fascinated and intrigued; I couldn’t get enough of it. The premise and how Bergstrom shaped the story felt real -- real enough to be plausible and get lost in. I loved Gwendolyn’s inner conflict, how she resisted the changes to her life but also felt that she had to keep going for her dad. I felt that her slow descent and gradual concessions to become the hardened person she needed to be was more accurate than most YA books tend to portray this intense character arc. Plans to get the sequel into my hands have already been put in motion. The only reason this book is optional instead of advisable is because of the language rating. The mature content rating is for drug use and mentions of pornography, prostitution, sex trafficking, rape, and oral sex. The violence rating is for mob violence and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Last Lie by Patricia Forde - ADVISABLE

The Last Lie (The List #2) by Patricia Forde, 288 pages. Sourcebooks Kids, August 2020. $17

Language: G (1 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content:G ; Violence: PG (danger, fighting)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Lotta and the Creators may have defeated John Noa, but that hasn’t meant freedom for Ark.Amelia has taken over Noa’s work and is more brutal than he was. When a spy infiltrates the safe house, most of the Creators are captured, but Letta and Marco escape to the forest. There they find out the true depravity of Amelia’s plan -taking babies and raising them without language. She will need to gather and convince allies in order to free both Ark and the babies.

Younger students who want to read the Hunger Games but aren’t quite ready for the brutality will very much enjoy Forde’s duology.  Any teacher will find ripe fruit for discussion along many different paths. It is especially a great place to discuss why slave owners refused to allow their slaves to learn to read. Knowledge, words, hold so much power.

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher

Friday, February 21, 2020

Lola by J. Torres - OPTIONAL

Lola by J. Torres, 102 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Oni Press, 2020. $13.
Language: PG (1 swear, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG
BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL
AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE
Back in the Philippines for his lola’s (grandmother’s) funeral, Jesse is unsettled to be visiting again. No one knows that Jesse takes after his lola, that he inherited her gift. Jesse would be happier without it, though -- to him, it feels like a curse.
Having personal experience in the Philippines, I love how this book stays true to the culture there and includes words and illustrations that give good insight to the setting. Story-wise, I think the title and cover are somewhat misleading because, while Jesse interacts with ghosts, he does not see his grandmother’s ghost as I expected. Apart from the initial confusion, the story was alluring, and it was fun to learn about Filipino mythology.
Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Fox and the Little Tanuki by Mi Tagawa - OPTIONAL

The Fox and the Little Tanuki, Volume 1 by Mi Tagawa, 159 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Tokyopop, 2020. $13.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Senzou, a powerful bakemono, has been locked away for 300 years. He plans to continue in his ways after being released, but Senzou didn’t know that he would have to train a new tanuki. His troubles and penitence are just beginning.

Full of cool Japanese mythology, the start Senzou’s story was interesting to read. It’s a simple story about doing good to right the wrongs done and learning to be better from the inspiration of an innocent kid. Being the first volume, the ending is a cliffhanger, and the story is not compelling enough that I feel I need the sequel, but I would read it if it was conveniently available.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte - OPTIONAL

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte, 288 pages. Scholastic, March 2020. $19

Content: G (kidnapping)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Mary, 11yo, may be deaf, but her life on Martha’s Vineyard in 1805 is is as normal as everyone’s. In fact, because about one in four people in her village are deaf, everyone uses signs as part of every day conversation. When a stranger, Andrew Noble, comes to town to study them, in order to find the cause of deafness, he says, all welcome him cordially.  After a short time on the island, however, he kidnaps Mary and drags her off to Boston, treating her as a thing, not a human - a specimen for his research.  Without access to pen and paper, Mary has no way to communicate with any one to let them know that inside her deaf body is a human being.

I was fascinated by LeZotte’s descriptions of the whole community on Martha’s Vineyard and their easy acceptance and community-mindfulness of inclusion.  It wasn’t until 1817 that the first deaf school opened in America. LeZotte also delves into relationships with the Wampanoag Nation in a limited way.  Because this is historical fiction, it won’t be picked up by many on its own, but those that do will certainly find it interesting.

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher

Thursday, February 20, 2020

She Did It! 21 Women Who Changed the Way We Think by Emily Arnold McCully - ADVISABLE

She Did It! 21 Women Who Changed the Way We Think by Emily Arnold McCully. NONFICTION. Disney, 2018. $22. 9781368019910

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

A collection of biographies, this book introduces readers to some women who they may never have heard of before. Each woman’s biography includes an illustration and a synopsis of her life, before covering childhood years, contributions to the way we think, and pertinent historical context. 

I have read and enjoyed a lot of similar books of anthologies of women, but the thing that this book offers is a more in-depth look at the woman, her life, and the history that surrounded her. I did not care for the illustrations, which were pastel and depicted the head larger than the body. I think the fact that most of these women will be new to readers is good, but it does have the disadvantage of not providing a comfortable starting place for readers who often look for a familiar name. 

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao - ADVISABLE

Song of the Crimson Flower (Rise of the Empress 2.5) by Julie C. Dao, 288 pages. Philomel Books (Penguin), 2019. $19
                    
Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG (Characters wounded or killed in battle)                       

BUYING ADVISORY:  MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE       

Lan stares out the window and dreams of her true love, Tam, and their upcoming marriage.  Being the daughter of a wealthy nobleman, Lan would please her family greatly if she were to marry him for he is the son of the town physician.  Lan soon learns that Tam is not actually the boy who has been playing the flute outside her window, but Bao, the poor physician's apprentice.  When Lan rejects Bao's love, he sails away on his boat until a spell is placed upon him which can only be broken by true love. Bound by the spell, Bao and Lan must journey across the continent while encountering many royal people along the way.  War is raging all around them as they try to break the spell, find Bao's family and stop the war.     

Dao writes a captivating and enchanting fantasy full of love, war and betrayal.  I was drawn into it from the start.  Dao doesn't leave you in suspense long which is why this is such a quick read.  Secrets and deceptions are revealed quickly which keeps the reader eager to find out more.  Forbidden love is always enthralling to read about while the reader is continually wondering how the two characters with ever get together.  Lan and Bao have an exciting ending that could lead to another book.       

Jessica Nelson Librarian      
                                              

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis - ESSENTIAL

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell 211 pages. Lee and Low, 2019. $19.

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

10 yo Regina Petit is Umpqua, and has lived on her Grand Ronde Tribe's reservation her whole life. But when the Federal Government terminates her tribe in 1954, Regina's father signs up for the Indian Relocation Program and the family is moved to Los Angeles. Suddenly she is "Indian No More." The other children in her neighborhood have never met a real Indian, and are confused when she isn't like the Indians they've seen on TV. Faced with racism and misconceptions, Regina, her grandmother and her family must now adjust to living as "Americans." 

I did not know about this terrible injustice, and am so pleased to see McManis' story. I loved seeing modern day Indian relocation through a child's eyes, I loved that her grandmother was part of the household - a connection to the traditions and stories.  There is an extensive appendix at the end, including a glossary with thorough definitions; an author's note from Charlene McManis complete with photographs and a short history of the Termination Act. 

Lisa Librarian

Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno - ADVISABLE

Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno, 225 pages. Knopf (Random), 2018. $16.99.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Cora (12yo) and her family are homeless.  Her dad died a couple of years ago and since then everything has been hard.  Cora, her mom, and her sister, Adare, have stayed in several placement houses, and even a few of their friend’s houses, but nothing permanent yet.  Cora’s mom said that Adare was born special so Cora’s main job is to take care of her sister. That means Cora is trying to juggle a new school, remedial math, new friends, and taking care of Adare.  She is also trying to find ways to connect with her dad so she doesn’t forget him and all the things that he loved.  

Such an important topic and so nicely handled.  We get a glimpse of the many emotions Cora has, pressure to succeed in school,  hopelessness, frustration that her mom seems to be making things harder, her inability to fix things, loneliness for her dad, confusion about her sister and so much love.  Although not everything wraps up nicely, Cora does begin to realize there is still hope for the future. While I rooted for Cora and her family and wanted to love this book, it was a little light on plot and I struggled to stay engaged.    

Reviewer: RB

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Stargazing by Jen Wang - ESSENTIAL

Stargazing by Jen Wang, 214 pages, GRAPHIC NOVEL, Scholastic, 2019, $13.

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Christine and Moon are unlikely friends.  Even though both girls are in the same Chinese-American suburb, they are vastly different.  Christine has more traditional Chinese-American parents who have high expectations for her. Moon only has her mother and they are struggling to make ends meet.  Moon’s exuberance and brash personality draw Christine to her, although Moon also has a reputation for beating people up.  Moon claims she can see celestial beings in the stars.  Those visions stem from something dangerous though and Christine has to work through what it means to be a friend to Moon when her life is at risk. 

Addressing themes of friendship, diversity and resilience, this book is a fun ride.  
Ages are never specified, so students from either upper elementary or middle school would enjoy this book.  Moon and Christine and their friends are believable and once you start, you’ll just have to finish. 

Michelle in the Middle

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai - ESSENTIAL

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai, 380 pages. Henry Holt & Co. Publishing (Macmillan), 2019. $25.

Language: PG; Mature Content: PG Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Jingwen, 11, and his little brother Yanghao, 6, move to Australia knowing very little English and feel like they are betraying the memory of their dead father; who always dreamed of moving there. Instead of trying to learn English and fit in at the new school, home, and friends; Jingwen decides to focus on making all of his father’s recipes for cakes from the “Published (1909)
 Pie in the Sky” dream bakery book, in secret at night while their mother works. As Jingwen refuses to accept his new life, Yanghao embraces English and is happy and learning to read, speak and making friends. As the distance between the brothers grows, Jingwen feels more and more alone and is forced to deal with his grief and the real reason he is making the cakes - he feels like his father’s death is his fault.

Pie in the Sky captures the confusion, fear, and anger that immigration to a new country with a new language and way of life can unearth. The “martian” language Jingwen hears and how he believes that everyone is talking about him and calling him slow is heartbreaking. The relationship between the brothers and calling one another booger and fighting but being each other’s only friend is a great and well written friendship. Lai’s writing is clear and concise and will bring middle school readers into her story and keep them there easily.

Dina W. - ELA teacher

Monday, February 17, 2020

Chosen by Kiersten White - OPTIONAL


Language: PG-13(29 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (gore, lots of fighting)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

After Leo helps Nina get her Slayer powers back and then sacrifices himself for her, Nina can barely pick up the pieces.  The Watchers’ castle is now a refuge for hurt demons, but there is little harmony or joy within its walls, especially since Nina’s twin sister, Artemis, has run away with her girlfriend, Honora.  When Nina hears rumors of new supernatural problems – all the growing signs point towards Artemis and Honora as the source.  How can Nina save her sister and the rest of the world at the same time.

I love Buffy so much that I persisted through the chaos and my growing anger at Artemis.  I did like the introduction of more characters from the Buffy-verse. And that the mysterious stalker is finally reveled in the end. Students who read #1 will of course want this.  I am curious to hear how much students have been actually reading it.

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher

Dig. by A.S. King - OPTIONAL

Dig. by A.S. King 392 pages. Dutton Books Penguin, 2019 $18.00

Language: R (100+ swears 87 'f's); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13.

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

5 teenagers - The Shoveler, Malcolm, the Freak, Loretta and CanIHelpYou are connected to each other. Each is the subject of their own plot-line, eventually coming together, they are cousins, part of a family with a lot of secrets. Each is deeply troubled, but doing the best they can under the circumstances. One's father is dying, another sells pot while working the drive up window at Arby's, on the brink of what feels like madness, one is the ring mistress of a flea circus, the 5th lives in a world disconnected from reality. 

The story is difficult to explain; that's part of the beauty of A.S. Kings Printz medal winner. It is a very difficult read. Tragic is putting it mildly. Full of issues - racism, sexuality, grief, illness, mental health - King doesn't cut any corners and addresses them head on. I hated the damage the grandparents caused, I hated how this dysfunctional family passed their problems to the next generation and the next. My heart hurts for the kids. For that reason I think I liked it - it made me feel something, it made me think, it made me angry and worried and heartbroken. 

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, February 16, 2020

What the Other Three Don’t Know by Spencer Hyde - OPTIONAL

What the Other Three Don’t Know by Spencer Hyde, 209 pages. Shadow Mountain, 2020. $18.

Language: G (8 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (animal abuse)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Indie has absolutely no desire to spend a week rafting through Hells Canyon – the same place her mother died on her job as a river guide. When she meets her companion – the jock, the queen bee, and her oddball neighbor from the trailer park – she is even less interested. It isn’t until the river turns dangerous and the kids open up that not only Indie, but all the others start revealing their secrets.  When the river becomes deadly, they will need to hold onto that fragile trust.

This reads like the author read Downriver by Will Hobbs and decided to try to one-up the master. Unfortunately there is no real emotional hook until halfway through – long enough that most readers will have already pulled out. Hyde's Waiting for Fitz was so good, I don't why this one went wrong.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Bluebeard by Metaphrog - OPTIONAL

Bluebeard by Metaphrog, 175 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Papercutz, 2020. $20.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Life in the village requires hard work, but Eve and her family are happy. But then change comes: first with a huge storm, and then with an invitation from the wealthy and feared Bluebeard. How will Eve uncover the mysteries surrounding Bluebeard and escape his grasp?

Simple story line that it is, Eve’s story was a nice read. The beginning felt choppy and somewhat pointless, maybe because the details shared felt unrelated to each other, but the second half was more engaging. Metaphrog breaks the stereotypes of typical fairy tales, encouraging readers to overcome their hardships -- with or without a knight in shining armor.  I also enjoyed the unique illustration style; though I was not sure I liked it in the beginning, the style grew on me as I became entranced by all the strong colors.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Undercover Thief by H. T. King - HIGH

Undercover Thief by H. T. King, 278 pages. Glass Slipper Publications, 2019. $12.

Language: R (49 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

After being abandoned by her parents years ago, Pam was forced to adapt to stay under social services’ radar. Now 14 years old, Pam has a new family, and they have honed their skills to provide for themselves through heist jobs. But their routine is about to be interrupted: the parents are back.

Unrealistic in the most fun way, I hung onto every word of Pam’s story from the very beginning. Starting this book before bed was the wrong move because I couldn’t put it down -- my morning alarm came too soon after finishing. Somehow, King created an engaging character who can seemingly do everything without feeling like a Mary Sue. I felt Pam’s resentment, and I wanted her to succeed. Yes, there were cheesy parts and cliches, but I was so entertained that I didn’t care; I was simply having fun reading Pam’s adventure. I’m looking forward to the sequels. The only reason this book is labeled “optional” instead of “essential” is the swear count.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

XL by Scott Brown - OPTIONAL

XL by Scott Brown, 310 pages. Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2019. $16.

Language: R (282 swears, 13 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Will is 15, going on 16, and still stands under five feet tall. This vertical challenge is hard on any guy, but especially on a basketball-loving and shorter-than-his-crush guy. Then -- miracle! -- Will starts growing with no sign of slowing. Everything is changing. That’s a good thing, right?

I wasn’t a huge fan of Will’s story (no pun intended). While I appreciated the difficulty I had in predicting what would happen, I also felt a separation from the story; I didn’t relate, and I wasn’t engaged. Readers could learn a couple lessons from this book, like how the grass isn’t greener on the other side or how everyone has issues to deal with, but maybe you should just take my word for it and read something else. Overall, Brown’s story was well written but not fun to read. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, alcoholism, mentions of masturbation and rape, partial nudity, sex between animals, and sex between people. The violence rating is for blood, mentions of suicide, and death.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, February 14, 2020

Street Magic by Taylor S. Seese - NO

Street Magic by Taylor S. Seese, 358 pages. Austin Macauley Publishers, 2019. $14.

Language: R (93 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Flynn, now in his late 20s, has always loved magic, which is why he is willing to live in an attic off the meager earnings he gets as an illusionist at the park. But when a mime starts winning an undeclared competition for his territory in the park, Flynn has to admit to himself that his passion has faded. Should Flynn continue following his dreams or finally settle down into something more practical?

The ideas that Seese presents are good and have lots of potential, but the way that they were executed made them difficult to enjoy. I think the biggest problem for me was how wordy the story is; Seese does a lot of telling and not enough showing. As Flynn’s monologues continued for pages, getting off topic -- to the point that other characters called him out on losing focus -- I found myself wondering how many more pages I had left (more than 200). Also, the technical aspect of writing got in the way as Seese chose to forgo the organization of chapters, or even page breaks, and used confusing dialogue notation that wasn’t consistent. By the time I made it to the end, I was mentally checked out. And, on top of everything, I was disappointed in the ending itself. I have a difficult time accepting the characters’ decisions in the last couple scenes because of the negative message it sends to readers. The mature content rating is for mentions of sex, and the violence rating is for blood and attempted suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Jane Eyre (Manga Classics) art by SunNeko Lee - ADVISABLE

Udon Entertainment, 2016. $27. 9781927925652

Language: PG (5 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Jane was thrilled to leave her unloving aunt’s house for school, and she becomes excited again with the opportunity to leave school to be a governess. Upon arrival at Thornfield, Jane meets her lively pupil but finds the master absent. With haunting noises around the house and comments about oddities of the master, Master Rochester’s return will bring the unexpected.

The original version of Jane Eyre is hard to read because of how flowery the wording is, extending the story much longer than it needs to be. With the graphic novel version being forced to focus on the most important parts of the story, I found that I prefer this version. I love being able to see the characters and understand more visually in this version than in the wordy book (the graphic novel makes the story feel more romantic), and the graphic novel keeps all the best parts (including my favorite line), so this seems to be the best of both worlds.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, February 13, 2020

What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume - OPTIONAL

What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume, 304 pages. Peachtree Publishing, 2020. $18.

Language: R (106 swears, 16 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Discovery: Maisie, 16yo, is not thrilled about this vacation. Evidence: Ms. Singh assigned homework over the break in the form of a daily discovery journal -- a journal that Maisie’s mother is going to check on every day. Also, Maisie’s dad didn’t come on their annual Christmas trip, which Maisie is pretty sure is a sign of impending divorce. Meanwhile, Maisie’s best friend Anna did come on the trip, which should be a good thing, but Anna is totally flirting with Maisie’s crush Sebastian! Oh, and Maisie has terrible self-esteem, but that’s always been there.

Guillaume highlights all the reasons that I don’t love journal-style novels. Maisie introduces topics and skips over scenes in the moment to fill in the readers later, making the story more choppy and quasi-suspenseful than is preferred. While I love the message of Maisie’s story -- that we need to love ourselves regardless of how we physically compare to others and the current standard of beauty -- the execution of Maisie’s journal and a lot of Maisie’s choices on the way to that important realization is mediocre. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, innuendo, implied sex, and nudity.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Count of Monte Cristo (Manga Classics) art by Nokman Poon - ADVISABLE

The Count of Monte Cristo (Manga Classics) art by Nokman Poon, 401 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Udon Entertainment, 2017. $27. 9781927925614

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

After receiving promotion to captain and less than two hours from marrying the love of his life, Edmond Dantes is arrested. Edmond spends the next several years in prison, learning from a fellow prisoner while nurturing his desire for vengeance on those who wronged him. When the death of his fellow prisoner allows Edmond to escape, Edmond inherits the dead man’s fortune and uses it to punish those who took everything away from him.

The Count of Monte Cristo is an enthralling tale full of amazing feats and impossible achievements. I understand that fitting all the details into a shortened graphic novel version of the story would equal one of said impossible achievements; still, it was a little disappointing that so much of the story had to be removed. Enough of the story remains to be exciting and make sense, but it doesn’t have the same captivating feel because there are fewer reasons to understand Edmond’s point of view and fewer details of his plans to be awestruck by. I admit, though, that the artwork is beautiful and allows for readers to both better understand the time jumps and better keep the characters straight. Furthermore, the need to use pages and dialogue more wisely in the abridgment forced the graphic novel to make some nuances more clear than the original does, which I actually appreciated. I hope that this manga version of the story inspires more people to pick up the original.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen