Friday, March 31, 2023

I Will Find You Again by Sarah Lyu - HIGH

I Will Find You Again
by Sarah Lyu,
304 pages. Simon & Schuster BFYR. 2023. $20 

Language: R (43 swears 84 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (Underage prescription drug addiction (Focentra/Adderall), thoughts of suicide, lingering kiss);  Violence: PG (Suicide by drowning) 



17yo Chase is an overachieving senior in Meadowlark who struggles with depression to the point that she’s suppressing memories. She misses her ex-best friend and girlfriend, Lia, and she’s confused about why they’re not together or talking anymore. Little by little, as she’s looking to understand, she discovers that she’s been through trauma. Chase also learns that she does need to rely on others and she needs their help and support. The truth will help her heal or completely break her. 

This story is a mystery tied to the trauma and overwhelming stress of two high school students. The unraveling of the mystery surrounding Chase and Lia is very interesting. The author includes a resource list for anyone needing help or knowing someone who needs help for suicide or mental health struggles. I appreciate Chase’s honesty and the sisterly bond she has with her younger sister The ethnicity is mixed with Korean, Italian American, White, Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Dutch and French. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta HS Librarian

Blood and Moonlight by Erin Beaty - HIGH

Blood and Moonlight by Erin Beaty,  448 pages.  Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (BYR/Macmillan CPG). 2022. $11.

Language: PG (8 swears 0 's'); Mature Content: PG (drug use mentioned, brief kiss, gentle kisses, urgent nondescript kiss). Violence: PG-13 (Catrin finds a dead body that’s bloody and broken. Description of a bloody death, implied sexual assault) 



17yo Catrin finds a woman’s dead body that’s been mutilated by a murderer, so she becomes the main witness in helping Simon solve the case. Simon is the nephew of the Comte in charge of keeping justice in Londunium but he wants to keep his son Oudin out of suspicion, so he assigns Simon to the case. The murders continue and several suspects come to light. Catrin uses her newly found magic that appears in moonlight to try to stop and prevent any more murders from happening and she receives the last thoughts of the fatally wounded women that will help find the killer. Catrin is adamantly protective of those she loves and does her best to stop the violence and the person behind it. 

The intensity of the mystery kept me riveted. The explanation of magic and the world building are written out nicely. I love Catrin, the main character because of her strength, loyalty to those she loves, bravery, and intelligence. The characters are predominantly White. 

LynnDell Watson,  Delta HS Librarian

Tell Me What Really Happened by Chelsea Sedoti - HIGH

Tell Me What Really Happened by Chelsea Sedoti, 416 pages. Sourcebooks Fire, 2023. $19.

Language: R (74 swears, 21 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



Five high schoolers go on a camping trip, each with their own agenda. But something goes terribly wrong. Only four get to the police department to report what happened, and none of them want to admit the whole truth.

Sedoti tells the story after the fact as each of the characters are being questioned by the police. Readers, in the position of the police, get the story piece by piece from four different perspectives. The story is suspenseful and engaging, and I was surprised that the piecemeal development of the story didn’t feel choppy—it felt right. This is one of those books that you finish and wish you could read again for the first time.

John is Black, and it is implied that Maylee, Petra, Nolan, and Abigail are white because of how John is treated. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, innuendo, and mentions of drugs, rape, sex, and partial nudity. The violence rating is for blood, gun use, and mentions of murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Daughter of No Worlds by Carissa Broadbent - HIGH

Daughter of No Worlds (War of Lost Hearts Vol 1) by Carissa Broadbent,
506 pages. Broadbent. 2019. $33.

Language: R (85 swears 58  'f'); Mature Content: R (Mention prostitution, non-sexual and sexual nudity, one scene of explicit and detailed sex); Violence: R (Bloody and intense fighting, killing briefly discussed rape, mentioned suicide) 



It seems that everyone 21yo Tissanah loves, she is bound to leave. First her mother when Tissanah was first taken into slavery, and now eight years later, when an attempt to buy her freedom turns sour, she must leave her best friend. But she must go, she will not leave him there. To help her fellow slaves, Tissanah needs backup and the magical Orders of the country Ara is the perfect solution. However, to gain the respect of the Orders she must put up with her stubborn and frustrating (and annoyingly attractive) mentor, Max, in order to pass the test and join the Orders. Max just wants to live out the rest of his life alone, surrounded by his garden and silence. Initially, Tissanah is an unwelcome nuisance, but as they become friends, Max gains a strong respect and admiration for his apprentice. She is nearly as stubborn as he is and a fiery determination that he finds invigorating. She will do anything to reach her goal. 

Broadbent is one of those authors that everything I have read by her is simply masterful! She balances character development and world-building along with plot pacing satisfyingly. She also has created such an interesting and unique plot! (This one was a mix of Shadow and Bone and Venom if that makes any sense.) One of my favorite things about her is that she can immerse you in the story from the very first chapter and you already feel connected to the characters and invested in the plot. Naturally, the book does contain some heavy themes. As a slave, Tissanah experienced rape, abuse, and prostitution but none of these themes are lingered on along with Max's suicidal past. There is one brief explicit sex scene but it is one that focuses on the love they have for each other's souls and does not focus on carnal or lusty aspects. Many characters are albino, as it is one of the forms that power is manifest. Most characters are white. Serel is gay. 

Sierra Finlinson, High School Teacher 

The Epic Story of Every Living Thing by Deb Caletti - HIGH

The Epic Story of Every Living Thing
by Deb Caletti,
403 pages. Labyrinth Road. 2022. $19.

Language: R (100 swears 50 'f'); Mature Content: R (mentions of having had sex, teens drinking, mention of sexting) Violence: PG13 (mention of sexual assault)



Harper’s life seems perfect (boyfriend, social media following, grades, future plans), until the end of her junior year. Unexpectedly dumped, she also discovers that her anonymous sperm donor father (who her mother has always refused to discuss) has also fathered at least 42 others. These major events lead Harper to Hawaii with some of her newfound half-siblings, in search of answers about their elusive father. What they find will change every single one of them, and the entire world, for the better. 

Although there is a LOT of swearing, the storyline is compelling and the characters are so real that readers will be drawn in almost immediately. Besides the obvious themes of wrestling with what makes us who we are - is it DNA, or is it something else? - are other broad and powerful themes. Woven throughout are subtle lessons about being addicted to the “likes” of social media, becoming buried in our phones, and how to be present in our modern world. Crippling anxiety is another recurring theme, along with how to come to terms with being unable to control everything. Personal growth, finding resilience and bravery within ourselves, refusing to let others define and limit us, the beauty and majesty of every living thing on the earth, and the complicated definitions of what makes a “family” are just a few of the reasons readers will find Harper’s journey so profound and personal. Absolutely moving, this is one of my favorite reads in a long, long time. Most of the main characters are Caucasian, but there are multiple side characters from many different cultures, orientations, and backgrounds. LGBTQ relationships mentioned.

Tammie H, Librarian

On Air with Zoe Washington (Zoe Washington #2) by Janae Marks - ADVISABLE

On Air with Zoe Washington (Zoe Washington #2)
by Janae Marks
, 304 pages. Katherine Tegen (HarperCollins). 2023. $18. 

Content: G. 



Zoe is now 14 - Marcus, her birth dad has been exonerated and is out of prison. But he’s having a hard time getting on his feet. With no job and no credit for more than a decade, he’s getting by with 2 part-time jobs and is living at his mother’s house. Zoe wishes the two of them could start a restaurant together, but no bank will give him a loan, yet. It’s hard to restart your life if you’ve been in prison. So, Zoe reaches out to Boston Public Radio to see if they will do a series on exoneree and how difficult life after prison is for them. When they turn her story idea down, Zoe decides to start a podcast of her own, to raise awareness and hopefully kickstart the restaurant. 

I loved “From the Desk of Zoe Washington,” and “On Air with Zoe Washington” is just as good. Zoe is still tenacious and intentional. There’s some best-friend drama, as Maya and Trevor have discovered they like each other. I love that Zoe is tackling an adult problem and that Janae Marks has made it thought-provoking and completely age appropriate. Although Zoe is 2 years older, I would still recommend for upper elementary as well as middle school. Zoe is Black. 

Lisa Librarian 

A Breath of Mischief by MarcyKate Connolly - ADVISABLE

A Breath of Mischief by MarcyKate Connolly, 224 pages. Sourcebooks Young Readers, 2023. $17.

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



Aria is a windling, living in her cloud castle with her parent, the Wind, and her gryphling friend, Gwyn. But then they wake up one morning with cloud castle on the ground and no breeze to be felt. They must find the Wind and nothing is going to stop Aria from completing her quest.

Each element is a parent in this story, and Connolly’s imaginative personification of them in Aria’s world is breathtaking. Aria’s self-imposed quest highlights the pros and cons of her determination, teaching readers valuable lessons alongside the characters.

Aria is depicted as white on the cover, but she is described as “pale” but with a “faint bluish tinge” in the text. The violence rating is for fantasy violence.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Underground Fire by Sally M. Walker - ADVISABLE

Underground Fire: Hope, Sacrifice, and Courage in the Cherry Mine Disaster
by Sally M. Walker
, 220 pages. Candlewick. 2022. $25. 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (Mining injuries, mild descriptions of burned bodies, peril, death). 



On November 13, 1909, inside the Cherry Mine in Illinois, kerosine lamps dripped on a mine cart full of bales of straw and caught fire. As the ventilation fans circulated air, they also supplied oxygen to the fire. By the time mine supervisors realized it was out of control, evacuating the miners was difficult and over 300 miners were trapped inside the mine. For the next several days, the miners who were safe from the fire were stranded in areas with bad air and little to no light, no food, and almost no hope of rescue. Above ground, the families desperately waited for news of their loved ones, while mine management tried to control the fire and make it safe for rescuers to retrieve the dead and find the living. 

Sally M. Walker (Written in Bone, Blizzard of Glass) is a master storyteller, tying all her well-researched information together into a heart-wrenching narrative non-fiction. I loved all the captioned photographs, the maps of the mine, and the insight into the miners and their families provided by family photos. Especially poignant were the quoted passages from notes written by the miners themselves as they awaited either death or rescue. In addition to the excellent photographs, Walker has included source notes and an index. Underground Fire would be a great addition to your non-fiction section. Most of the miners are immigrants from Europe. 

Lisa Librarian

Finally Seen by Kelly Yang - ADVISABLE

Finally Seen
by Kelly Yang,
304 pages. Simon and Schuster. 2023. $18 

 Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: G (reference to racial based bullying). 



Lina was left in China with her grandmother when her parents and younger sister moved to the states so Lina’s father could get his college degree. She hasn't seen her family in 5 years, but Lina's grandmother is moving to a care facility, so Lina needs to join her parents and sister in California. New to the country, and with limited English skills, Lina discovers that her family wasn’t honest about their situation in California - they are struggling to make ends meet. Entering 5th grade with limited English skills, Lina finds herself struggling to make friends, and even communicate. Lina’s art skills put her in direct competition with Jessica, the class “mean girl,” and the boy who is supposed to help translate only speaks menu Chinese. 

I love all the book mentions! "Swing it Sunny", "Pie in the Sky", "The First Rule of Punk" and several others. I loved her sessions with the ELL teacher. I love that the kids saw lessons in the books they were reading. There's a "book challenge" within the story - I love that Yang used a fictional book for this one. "Finally Seen" would be a great read aloud for a class needing to build empathy, or as a recommendation for a bilingual student who can read it on their own - I hope Simon and Schuster translates into several different languages. Lina is Chinese. 

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The Queen's Secret by Melissa de la Cruz - OPTIONAL

The Queen's Secret
by Melissa de la Cruz,
 320 pages. G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers. 2021. $12 

Language: PG (4 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (Implied sex, gentle kissing, urgent nondescript kiss) PG-13 (Bloody deaths by stabbing and falling; messy, bloody death of a horse) 



In the imaginary world of Avantine, 19yo Lilac is now married to King Hansen. The kingdom’s citizens blame her for the odd and scary events that take place. They believe she’s a witch with dark magic. Strange deaths shake the balance in the kingdom and when her mother’s palace is destroyed, no one and nowhere feels safe. Cal and his cohorts have to work quickly to solve the problem and help rebuild their kingdom’s safety. 

The repeated mentions of past events became tedious. The relationships fell into place too conveniently and quickly toward the ending of the book. I would have liked to have more background on Jander and the demon wreaking havoc in the kingdom because that would have made the world-building stronger and the story more interesting. The unwanted marriage between Lilac and the king overshadowed everything. The ethnicity is mixed. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta HS Librarian 

AWOL by Marla Lesage - HIGH

by Marla Lesage
, 220 pages GRAPHIC NOVEL Orca. 2022. $20 

Language: G (1 swear); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 



Leah is an 11yo and lives on an army base. She knows what it's like to move around a lot, but this year her best friend is leaving, her sister is going to be a counselor at summer camp and her mother will be in reserve training. This leaves Leah home with her dad who just returned from deployment, and his moods have been unpredictable. 

 This would be a good read for kids whose parents are in the military as well as giving insight for the rest of us into some of their challenges. Leah's father is suffering from PTSD and that makes things difficult for their family. Although this is a fast read, it addresses some deeper topics of loss and relationships and mental health. Leah and her family are Caucasian. 

Michelle in the Middle

Monday, March 27, 2023

Missing Clarissa by Ripley Jones - OPTIONAL

Missing Clarissa by Ripley Jones
, 256 pages St. Martin's Press/Wednesday Books 2023. $18 

Language: R (51 swears 4 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (off-page sex, nondescript brief kissing, underage drinking, and underage drinking and driving);  PG-13 Bloody gunshot wound, purposely run off the road by another vehicle, Mention of sexual assault on a high school student by the teacher)



16yo best friends, Cam and Blair, are making a podcast about the twenty-year-old cold case of Clarissa Campbell, who’s been missing since the night of a senior graduation party in the local woods of Oreville, Washington in 1999. Clarissa was a popular cheerleader dating a popular football player and her life seemed perfect to outsiders. Mr. Park, the journalism teacher, has assigned a project to his students and that’s why Cam came up with the cold case podcast idea. Blair and Cam are dealing with their own personal struggles but become devoted to figuring out Clarissa’s story. They soon realize they’re in over their heads and that they’re in danger themselves. 

The story is so interesting that I didn’t want to put the book down. Overly political statements are a bit confusing when Cam’s friend Sophie blurts them out. I enjoyed the character development throughout the story. The ethnicity is mixed and includes Black, Mexican American, Korean American, white, and Filipino. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta HS Librarian

The Woman in the Woods and other North American Stories, edited by Kate Ashwin, Kel McDonald and Alina Pete- OPTIONAL

The Woman in the Woods and other North American Stories
, edited by Kate Ashwin, Kel McDonald and Alina Pete,
136 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Iron Circus Comics. 2022. $15 

Language: G (1 swear);  Mature Content:G; Violence: G 



The Woman in the Woods is a collection of short stories from various Native American Nations. They involve a trickster rabbit, shapeshifters, and things hiding in the woods. 

 The beginning was a little weird. There is a woman telling stories to a school and she has a teen perched on her lap clutching her. As an educator, that would be code for, "I want to be fired," so it seemed an odd beginning. Some of the stories were really good, but it's an uneven mix. That said, there is a dearth of Native American stories. I just wanted more depth because I think Native American stories are beautiful. Story authors include: Milo Applejohn, Mercedes Acosta, Jordaan Arledge, Elijah Forbes, Rhael McGregor, Maija Ambrose Plamondon, Alice Rl and Izzy Roberts.  One story contains a same-sex attraction.

Michelle in the Middle

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu - HIGH

Stars and Smoke (Stars and Smoke #1) by Marie Lu, 336 pages. Roaring Brook Press, 2023. $20.

Language: R (60 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



At 19yo, Winter Young is selling out concerts and features in headlines every day. His popstar status gives him everything he wants, but something is still missing. When Winter’s post-concert car is hijacked by two strangers claiming that they need Winter to become a temporary spy to prevent another world war, he has to wonder if this is the opportunity he’s been looking for.

The superstar-turned-spy premise was as fun to read as I wanted it to be, though I was surprised by how intense the situation became as Winter and his partner carried out the mission and navigated the not-small-hiccups that arose. I expected the story to be on the light-hearted side of intrigue up until one of the characters was murdered. A new awareness of the stakes for character—and readers—made it all the more exciting—and this is only the first of Winter’s adventures.

Winter is Chinese American, Sydney is white, Dameon is Black, Leo is Hispanic, Sauda is Muslim, and Claire is described as having “dark” skin. The mature content rating is for mentions of drugs, alcohol use, illegal activity, innuendo, and partial nudity. The violence rating is for gun use, mentions of suicide, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Moonlight Blade by Tessa Barbosa - OPTIONAL

The Moonlight Blade by Tessa Barbosa, 368 pages. Entangled Teen (Entangled Publishing), 2023. $19.

Language: PG (4 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13



A life as traveling merchants has taken Narra (17yo) all over with her sister and mother – except for the city where she was born, Bato-Ko. Her mother told Narra never to go to Bato-Ko, and maybe she would have listened if her mother had returned from her last trip to the city. But now Narra will do whatever it takes to find her mother, even impersonate her sister to enter a competition that could cost her life.

Barbosa is Filipina-Canadian, and I loved reading the Filipino influence in the culture and language of Narra’s story. The premise was intriguing, and it’s always nice to have a determined heroine who fights against the odds, but I found myself skimming several times. There was a lot of expository-style writing that kept me from being engaged in the action of Narra’s story.

Everyone described is nonwhite. The mature content rating is for partial nudity. The violence rating is for blood, knife use, mentions of suicide, fantasy violence, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

By Water: The Felix Manz Story by Jason Landsel - OPTIONAL

By Water: The Felix Manz Story by Jason Landsel, 126 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Plough Publishing, 2023. $20.

Language: PG (5 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13



Felix Manz believed that some of the widely-accepted church practices in the 1500's were wrong and set about to introduce reforms for the people that would be closer to the teachings of the Bible. He found allies and made enemies, but Manz did not let opposition or betrayal stop him from preaching what he believed to be right.

Martin Luther’s actions are widely known because his actions sparked changes that changed the western world. Manz’s story has been overshadowed, though he, too, set about to change the corruption of the church and improve the lives of the people. Landsel introduces a lot of interesting information in this book (and in the end notes), but the story itself is not very engaging, and I found the organization confusing.

All of the characters are European and depicted as white, though there is a brief mention of America and a depiction of Native Americans. The mature content rating is for partial nudity. The violence rating is for disturbing images, mentions of murder, and martyrdom.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Seen and Unseen by Elizabeth Partridge and Lauren Tamaki - ESSENTIAL

Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams's Photographs Reveal about the Japanese American Incarceration
by Elizabeth Partridge and Lauren Tamaki
, 123 pages. NON-FICTION Chronicle/Blue Apple. 2022. $22 

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (protesting resulting in people shot and 1 death). 



After the Japanese Military bombed the American base at Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese and Japanese Americans along the west coast of the United States were gathered up and imprisoned in camps for the duration of the war. Lange, Miyatake and Adams were photographers who documented this experience. 

The text on the pages is brief, with the pictures telling the bulk of the story. I loved that one perspective was Japanese, and that Lange and Adams had differing opinions about the imprisonment. Tomaki's illustrations are great, my favorite is when she finished a photograph, showing the reader what wasn't in the picture the public saw. A great book for a student who wants to learn more - easily accessible for upper elementary, or could easily be used in a class to introduce this element of WWII. 

Lisa Librarian

The Wild Journey of Juniper Berry by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown - ADVISABLE

 The Wild Journey of Juniper Berry by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown, 246 pages. Shadow Mountain, AUGUST 2023. $19 

Content: G 



11yo Juniper Berry loves her life in the woods – her parents moved to nature-based life when they were young and now have three lids. But when Juniper’s little brother gets really sick, they need to stay close to the hospital. Not only do they find out their mother has a brother, but they also have two cousins! The family has to be in town long enough that their dad decides to enroll them in school – a place probably as deadly as the woods if you act like prey instead of predator. 

I really like Juniper’s comparison of humans to chickens – peck at the one who is different or injured – at least when it comes to the mean kids at school. Some kids, the kind ones, will see themselves here and continue to be kind. The kids who really need this message won’t ever see themselves, at least not without a lot of coaching and introspection. I Juniper’s journey – the highs and the lows. If you want an updated Stargirl, share this with your teachers. 

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher, MLS 

Friday, March 24, 2023

A Song for the Unsung: Bayard Rustin by Carole Boston Weatherford, Rob Sanders, and Byron McCray - ADVISABLE

 A Song for the Unsung: Bayard Rustin, the man behind the 1963 March on Washington by Carole Boston Weatherford and Rob Sanders, illustrated by Byron McCray. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Henry Holt (Macmillan), 2022. $20. 9781250779502 



As the morning dawns on the day of the March on Washington in 1963, no one yet has arrived, except for Bayard Rustin, who was instrumental in organizing the rally. As he looks back on the life and the events that brought him to that place, slowly people start to arrive, until the crowd is 250,000 strong. Even though as a gay, black man he is forced into the shadow, his fighting spirit and his hope have never been diminished. 

Weatherford and Sanders sprinkle the text with key song titles for the Civil Rights Movement – I can see playing at least snippets of each song as it appears. The book is quite text heavy, So either a long period read or spread out over a couple of days. It does mention that Bayard was gay and how that affected his acceptance into the civil rights movement. 

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher, MLS 

Where Butterflies Fill the Sky by Zahra Marwan - ADVISABLE

 Where Butterflies Fill the Sky: a story of immigration, family, and finding home by Zahra MarwanPICTURE BOOK. Bloomsbury, 2022. $19. 9781547606511 



The girl loves her home with her aunties close by, the beautiful, blue waters, the butterflies – home. But, her family has been kicked out of their home and have landed is much different, new place. Eventually, she discovers a sense of community and belonging, while still longing for her old home and her family. 

Marwan’s epilogue is a must read – she brings light to one of the ways that people become homeless and need to leave what they thought was their home. If your school has a refugee and/or immigrant population, if you address immigration, nations-statehood, refugees in your curriculum, you could easily share this to add ore dimension to any discussion. Marwan’s illustration are unlike anything I remember seeing before – they are whimsical and concrete simultaneously – everything is dreamlike, but also identifiable. Her color palette enhances that dichotomy in only the best ways. 

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher, MLS 

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Hoops by Matt Tavares - ADVISABLE

by Matt Tavares
, 222 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Candlewick. 2023. $23 

Language: PG (4 swears. 0'f')  Mature Content: G Violence: G 



Friday nights in Warsaw see the community come together to watch boys' basketball. The girls finally get a chance to start their own team, but they don't get much support. They have no transportation, uniforms, or a place to practice at the high school until after all the boys' teams are done. The girls want more support, but what will it take to get it? 

A great read. Historical fiction, this story is based on the 1976 Warsaw High School girls' basketball team.  A graphic novel works well in presenting the story and you will find yourself cheering for these girls. The art is bright and colorful and the frames are easy to follow. You may find yourself dumbfounded at girls who play games in tee shirts with electrical tape for numbers. This would be great for women's history month or for anyone interested in sports or succeeding against all odds. Though hard to tell from just the graphic art, the characters seem to be diverse as well as Coach Montez. 

Michelle in the Middle

Nikhil Out Loud by Maulik Pancholy - ADVISABLE

Nikhil Out Loud
by Maulik Pancholy
, 320 pages. Balzer/Bray (HarperCollins). 2022. $18 

Content: G. 



13yo Nikhil is the voice of Raj in a popular cartoon series. When his grandfather is ill, his mother decides that they need to move to Ohio for a while to stay with them. Nikhil’s mom and grandfather don’t get along. Nana is always telling her what to do, and how disappointed he is. Moving to Ohio makes Nikhil start 8th grade at a new school, and by the end of the first day, kids have already figured out who he is. He’s made a small friend group, and they are all auditioning for the musical, so he tries out too. But his fame and ability to work an audience and outshine his new friend DeSean and Raj is cast in the leading role. When he’s interviewed by the school paper, Nikhil talks about himself and lets the reporter know he’s gay. While everyone at school seems supportive, there is a parent who is not, and doesn’t want Nikhil to be the lead in the musical. 

Solidly set in middle school, Nikhil Out Loud was a great book. There were no bullies, which was refreshing, and the principal, when confronted by the angry parent, did all the right things. I loved Nikhil's supportive mom and the drama teacher who was perfectly over the top. It was fun that Pancholy, who voices a cartoon character, created a story around a boy who does the same. Nikhil is Indian, DeSean is Black, Monica is Korean and Mateo is Mexican. 

Lisa Librarian 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Parachute Kids by Betty C. Tang - ADVISABLE

Parachute Kids
 by Betty C. Tang
, 288 GRAPHIC NOVEL graphix Scholastic. 2023 $13 

Language: G;  Mature Content: G: (teen cigarette use) Violence: PG: (kid gets beat up).  



Feng-Li is excited to come to America from Taiwan for a dream vacation.  She and her older brother and sister are stunned when the vacation turns into living in America.  Feng-Li gets an American name: Ann.  Due to problems with their visas, Ann's parents have to return to Taiwan, leaving the three siblings on their own.  The three must come together in order to survive and to adjust to a new culture and new schools as Ann drops into 5th grade and her brother and sister high school.  They also need to run a household and make new friends, all while learning a new language.  

The happy cover is a bit deceptive. This graphic novel tackles some serious issues. I had never heard of parachute kids before, but it refers to children from Asia who have been "dropped off" with friends or relatives in foreign countries while their parents stay behind. Ann's brother falls in with some rough kids and there is a moment when he tries to kiss another boy. Interesting read about family and coping. 

Michelle in the Middle

I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman - HIGH

I Was Born for This
by Alice Oseman
, 384 pages. Scholastic Press (Scholastic). 2022. $19. 

Language: R (100+ swears 99 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (some kissing, talk of being sexually active - not descriptive, teen alcohol use); Violence: PG13 (Described knife would, suicide threats) 



18yo Fereshteh "Angel" Rahimi is obsessed with the boy band “The Ark.” They are finishing out their current tour in London, and Angel is meeting her friend Juliet in person (after a years-long online friendship) to attend the concert - they even have tickets to a meet and greet. Angel's favorite is Jimmy Kaga-Ricci. He is one of the band members and is a trans boy. The Ark has been a band for about 5 years. When the boys were just 13, their youtube video went viral, and now they are the most popular band in the country with a huge fan base. Jimmy is feeling the pressure of signing a new contract, and there's some social media drama happening as well, with fans wondering if Jimmy is more than just best friends with bandmate Rowan. During the "Meet and Greet" an angry fan attacks Rowan, and Jimmy ends up hiding in a restroom - when he meets Angel (well, he pulls a knife on her) and she talks him down from his panic attack. When his people find him, he realizes he left the knife behind - a special one his grandfather gave him.  Now he's got to find that girl again and get it back. Fortunately, Angel reaches out and DMs Jimmy.  He agrees to meet up to get back the knife, and the two spend the day together.

Told in alternating perspectives, Angel's story of meeting a friend for the first time in real life, and things not going exactly as she imagined, is a great story on its own. Adding Jimmy's POV, with the highs and lows of just a few days with the band, made "I was Born for This" a book I just couldn't put down. It's upbeat, yet serious. I loved Angel's phone conversations with her dad, who wasn't excited that she chose to take this trip into London. I loved the realistic look at superstardom, and how difficult it is for young people to maintain the pace, the friendships, and their view of themselves. Angel is Muslim. All of the characters are British. 

Lisa Librarian 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Occulted by Amy Rose, Ryan Estrada and Jeongmin Lee - ESSENTIAL

Occulted  by 
Amy Rose, Ryan Estrada and Jeongmin Lee
, 172 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Iron Circus Comics. 2023. $15 

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



Amy Rose was only three years old when she arrived at the temple in 1997. She grows up there feeling something is off about her community. She is forbidden to go to school or even go outside because the world is about to end. When tragedy befalls a neighboring compound, Heaven's Gate, Amy learns a new word that puts a definition to her world: cult. 

Occulted is a graphic novel memoir based on a true story. Though there is a lot of psychological abuse and manipulation, Amy's story may help young readers understand that not all adults are trustworthy and identify some of the steps that cultists or abusers use, like separating members from friends and family. While haunting and disturbing, it is ultimately a tale of hope and the ability to move on and make choices. This is a quick read you will finish in one sitting that addresses some serious but timely themes. Amy's family and the cult seem to be Caucasian. 

Michelle in the Middle

HANGED! Mary Surratt & the Plot to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln by Sarah Miller - ESSENTIAL

HANGED! Mary Surratt & the Plot to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln
 by Sarah Miller,
333 pages. NON-FICTION Random House Studio (Random House). 2022. $19 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13 (death of Lincoln, hangings) 



Mary Surratt will go down in history as the only women hanged for treason by the United States Government for her role as a conspirator in the death of Abraham Lincoln. Was she truly the evil villain the press painted her out to be or was she a victim of proximity and the power of public perception? 

 Meticulously researched, all dialogue in the book is from primary source documents. This is a fascinating look at civil rights during a perceived threat. The reader is left to determine for themselves whether they think Mary is innocent or guilty. Anyone who is a fan of history, cold cases, or the miscarriage of civil rights, will find this a gripping read. The only downside is the book's length, which is longish. Well written, this is an engaging story of an intriguing woman during a difficult time in history. 

 Michelle in the Middle

Monday, March 20, 2023

Silver in the Mist by Emily Victoria - ADVISABLE

Silver in the Mist by Emily Victoria
, 358 pages. Inkyard Press, 2022. $19 

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



16yo Devlin is part of the spy network for her country, but is working under her mother. All she wants is mother’s approval and acceptance ,which has been difficult to attain since her father's death. Devlin gets sent to the enemy country to steal a great source of magic to help fight against the ever growing Mist which is filled with dangerous monsters called the Phantoms. Lochlan, Devlin's best friend, encourages her to give herself freedom while she is gone and Devlin struggles with understanding what that means for her personally. During this time, Devlin starts to uncover secrets and learn more about herself. Can she follow through with her task or will she give in to the pressure of how dangerous and difficult it actually is?

I liked the growth of the characters in the book and how their relationships evolved. I feel that teens will be able to connect to Devlin and how she feels about her mother and her mother's expectations of her because I felt the same at that age too. The overall story flowed nicely and made sense with progression. Devlin and her mother are both fair skinned with dark hair and blue eyes. Alyse is fair skinned with blonde hair. Lochlan has auburn hair and is references as they throughout the novel. That is all explained of most of the character.

Lexus Merrill, MS Visual Art Teacher 

Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez - NO

Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
, 384 pages. Delacorte Press (Random), 2022.

Language: R (100 swears, 80 ‘f’); Mature Content: R (Rowdy partying, excessive drinking, and brief mentions of drugs. A 17yo boy and an 18yo girl are filmed having sex and is described vividly. Alcohol abuse is a common theme in the book) ; Violence: PG-13 (Fights, bloody noses, girl drowning in the ocean and falling off a cliff, rape is a common theme).



12th graders Jessica and Jake are the couple of the century; everybody at school adores them and loves the idea that Jessica "changed" him. Until Jake begs Jessica to come to a end of summer party. The same party Jake's ex girlfriend, Tegan is hosting. And turns out Tegan is still madly in love with Jake. At the party, loyalties will be tested and relationships will be changed forever, all because of a summer party. Keep your friends close but your enemies closer right?

Friends Like These is very similar to Lies Like Wildfire, which I have read. Think high school drama to the extreme. The plot was extremely fast paced and had elements of murder, drugs and sex. The characters seemed flat to that of high school stereotypes. I would not recommend this book to anyone, but it was entertaining. Jake is described as tan with brown hair, Caucasian. Jessica is described as white as well. All the side characters are also white.

Kenzie Hoehne Reviewer 

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Garvey in the Dark by Nikki Grimes - ESSENTIAL

Garvey in the Dark by Nikki Grimes
, 170 pages. Wordsong, 2022. $18

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: ; Violence: PG (George Floyd video described)



Garvey, who is Black, is a teenage boy who loves music, but not sports. He is living in California when the Covid-19 pandemic shuts the world down. Through his poetry, we come to learn what online learning and isolation looked like for him. We also see his reaction and anger at the George Floyd video and following protests, and we also get to watch him experience one of his parents getting sick with Covid.

I loved that Garvey’s story was written in Tanka poetry. I also liked that it was written about a recent historical event. Students will get to see and compare their experiences of the global pandemic through someone else's eyes. I thought it was great.

Mallory Birch, ELA Teacher 

The Hope of Elephants by Amanda Rawson Hill - OPTIONAL

 The Hope of Elephants by Amanda Rawson Hill, 475 pages. Charlesbridge, 2022. $18

Language: G (1 swear, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G



12 yo Cass’s dad has had cancer almost every other year throughout Cass’s life. On her 12th birthday she finds out that not only does her dad have cancer again, but he has Li-Fraumeni syndrome which means he will continue to get cancer throughout his life. After reading a pamphlet the doctor gives her, Cass learns that she has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the mutation. She also learns that not only do elephants have the p53 gene that can help fight cancer, but 20 of them. With that knowledge she goes to the zoo and finds an emotional connection to the elephant there while wondering how the elephant could potentially help her and her dad. Cass struggles to figure out if she should get tested to see if she also has the syndrome. Cass wants to live a life with hope for the future, but often has a hard time throughout the book living in the moment and remaining optimistic.

Hill does a good job at showing the perspective of a white, Christian, 12 year old girl who has a family member experiencing cancer. The Hope of Elephants is written is a novel in verse, which makes it a fast read. Hill, however, never really digs deep into various plot areas - like Cass’ struggle with getting tested or the hope the elephants bring to Cass. Hill does well in showing that there can be various support for people and their family members going through cancer. Since Hill showed so many though, it feels like she never was able to deepen Cass’ connection with any certain group, making some relationships not fully developed.

Jaime Tuttle, Librarian

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Vicious by V.E. Schwab - HIGH

Vicious  by V.E. Schwab,
364 pages. Tom Doherty Associates 2013 $19 

Language: R (51 swears 16 'f's); Mature Content: PG (Implied sex, kissing)  Violence: PG-13 (Suicide, fighting, blood, revenge) 



Are superheroes real? And if not the heroes themselves, what about just the powers that manifest under extreme stress like when someone manages to lift a car in an emergency? To medical student Eli Cardale, this is the perfect thesis topic, and his roommate, Victor Vale, is no less interested. Ambition is a power of its own and they discover a way to induce these abilities. As their research moves from theoretical to experimental, disasters occur and ten years later, Victor wants nothing more than vengeance on the person who used to be his best friend in the world. 

"Vicious" jumped through time, illustrating what happened when the two boys were in school, the day of vengeance, and the events leading up to it. Characters are ridiculously well developed and are all extremely intelligent. The author walks you through their reasoning very well. Schwab also demonstrates beautiful, introspective writing and story-telling! I really enjoyed this novel, and would certainly recommend it to most people! Mature content includes implied sex, brief kissing, suicide (but not suicidal-ness), much blood and violence, and a decent amount of F-words. All characters are white or implied white. 

Sierra Finlinson 

The Queen's Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz - ADVISABLE

The Queen's Assassin
 by Melissa de la Cruz,
 384 pages. GP Putnam’s Sons/Penguin. 2020. $12. 

Language: PG (2 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (Brief passionate kissing and implied sex.); Violence: PG-13 (Repeated stabbing) 



In the imaginary kingdom of Renovia, an assassin is after the Queen and her daughter, 18yo Princess Lilac. Caledon is the Queen’s assassin and protector. Shadow wants to be a Guild spy working for Renovia but her family is against the idea; Shadow is upset and unknowingly wanders into danger. Caledon saves Shadow’s life by protecting her from an assassin that turned out to be a member of the royal family. Cal was arrested and Shadow disguises herself as a stable boy so she can infiltrate the prison yard and free him. The two work together to find the scrolls that will protect their kingdom. They start to truly care for each other as they pose as a Lord and Lady to infiltrate the rebellion against the Queen of Renovia and more secrets will be revealed that will change their course and the kingdom’s future. 

Shadow’s stubbornness frustrated me at times but her personality created needed friction in the story. Cal is a very interesting character and my favorite in the book. I enjoy the unraveling of the mystery. The ethnicity is mixed. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta H.S. Librarian

Friday, March 17, 2023

We Are All So Good At Smiling by Amber McBride - HIGH

We Are All So Good At Smiling by Amber McBride , 283 pages.  Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. 2023. $18. 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (Suicidal thoughts (nondescriptive) and clinical depression). Violence: PG (talk of cutting, undescribed) 



Two depressed teens, 18yo Whimsy and Faerry, meet at a mental hospital and then become neighbors and attend high school together. They’re both suffering from depression and memory loss from when they were young children. They’re not sure what they’re not remembering but it’s bothering both of them to the point of despair. They become friends that want to help each other and understand each other’s problems. They need each other to process the trauma they’ve been through and to help the lost information resurface. 

The writing is metaphorical and beautiful. I was intrigued by the mystery surrounding the story. I like Whimsy and Faerry, the two main characters. The two main characters are black and they attend a predominantly white school. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta HS Librarian

The Noh Family by Grace K. Shim - OPTIONAL

The Noh Family by Grace K. Shim, 378 pages. Kokila (Penguin Random House), 2022. $19

Language: PG (5 swears); Mature Content: PG (Creepy guy flirts with her); Violence: G.



Chloe Chang has recently graduated from high school. Although she has been accepted into a fashion design school, she and her mom can’t afford the tuition. When Chloe’s friends give her a 23andMe DNA kit, Chloe is contacted by a cousin and she is invited to Korea to meet her father’s family and what follows is a K-drama type storyline. Chloe is impressed by all of her father’s family’s money, but more importantly Chloe wants more information about her father and a connection to her grandmother. Chloe naively and slowly over the course of the ENTIRE book realizes that her family only wants her because she is a donor match for a sick uncle.

Who doesn’t love a little K-drama romance story? Which is what got me into this mess of a book. Chloe is likable enough, at first. Then it quickly digresses to Chloe making desperate “like me” decisions with a family she has only known for two weeks. Chloe disregards her mother, who as a single parent raised Chloe by working hard as a nurse, not to mention the plot flaw of her mother not sharing anything about her father or his family without a viable reason, setting up Chloe’s naivety. I could continue, but you get the idea. Ridiculousness abounds, and I won’t even mention the lame last paragraph of the book, which is what–setting up a second book? Chloe is Korean-American.

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Flowerheart by Catherine Bakewell - ADVISABLE

Flowerheart by Catherine Bakewell, 352 pages. HarperTeen (HarperCollins Publishers), 2023. $20.

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



Having been through several attempted apprenticeships already, Clara is losing hope that she will ever control her magic well enough to be recognized as a witch. When Clara accidentally curses her father, she is desperate to save him – desperate enough to promise her estranged best friend all of her magic in exchange for his help.

I loved Clara’s magic and all the flowers that randomly popped up to give insight into how Clara was feeling and how her magic worked. The story was engaging and hopeful, even as Clara struggled with a voice we have all heard: the voice in our minds telling us that we can’t, that we always mess up, that we will never be good enough. Bakewell introduces a magic system that is based heavily on confidence, which forces Clara to live with – but not be controlled by – her doubts. My one hang up with the story was that Xavier is said to be 16 years old, which means Clara is about that age as well, but they were introduced as having so much history together that I couldn’t imagine them to be that young by the time age was finally mentioned.

Clara is depicted as white on the cover, Madam Ben Ammar has “deep brown” skin, and Robin has “golden-brown” skin. The language rating is for use of a British swear word, the mature content rating is for alcohol use, and the violence rating is for fantasy violence and curses.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Night Spinner by Addie Thorley - ADVISABLE

Night Spinner (Night Spinner #1) by Addie Thorley, 400 pages. Page Street Publishing, 2020. $19.

Language: PG13 (15 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



Once lauded as Enebish the Warrior, Enebish (18yo) is now hidden away in a monastery by the grace of her older sister, Ghoa – kept far away from the people that now know her as Enebish the Destroyer. When Ghoa visits and gives Enebish an inch of freedom, Serik convinces Enebish to take a mile – and doing so will change the course of her life yet again.

Enebish’s story has abundant conflict but is unclear about which parties are “good” and “bad.” Thorley writes in such a way that we know that more lurks beneath the surface of what Enebish (and the reader) sees, and we turn pages desperately in order to find the missing information. I love the magic system and the complicated characters, I love that the once powerful and confident Enebish is now limping and ashamed and has to discover how to regain the confidence that was once taken for granted, and I love that her story is not over yet.

Enebish describes herself as having “dark” skin, and Temujin is described as having “polished copper” skin. Skin colors of all shades are mentioned. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, innuendo, and illegal activity. The violence rating is for weapon use, mentions of child abuse and murder, and fantasy violence.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Carnival Quest by Brandon Mull - ADVISABLE

Carnival Quest (The Candy Shop War #3) by Brandon Mull, 400 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2023. $20.

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



When a carnival comes to town, it’s obvious that magic is involved – and there are rumors that not all of it is fun and games. Nate, Summer, Trevor, and Pigeon (now 6th graders) are able to go through the magic barrier that surrounds the carnival to investigate where their magician friends cannot. But every secret they find leads to more – can they stop the malevolence before it stops them?

While I’m sure that reading the prequels makes the magic candy more relevant, I enjoyed this conclusion to the trilogy even without that context. I love the concept of the magic carnival and the secrets around every turn that felt natural in such a chaotic and mischievous setting. The characters are clever and dedicated to their quest, even as they tease and try to be home in time for curfew. Mull has put together a fun magical adventure that is enjoyable for all ages.

Nate, Summer, and Trevor are depicted as white on the cover, though skin tones were not mentioned much in the text. The violence rating is for mild fantasy violence.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway by Ashley Schumacher - HIGH

The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway by Ashley Schumacher, 320 pages. Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press), 2023. $20.

Language: R (48 swears, 3 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: G



Coming up on the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death, rising 12th grader Madeline just wants to spend the summer remembering, especially since she and her dad are at her mom’s favorite Ren faire. But new management has changed everything about the faire, and there is a bard calling Madeline “Gwen” for no apparent reason, and he insists on taking up all the time that Madeline was going to spend by herself. The bard is making himself important to Madeline, and she is desperate to stop him.

Once again, Schumacher has crafted a brilliant story that addresses grief. Watching Madeline struggle to remember her mother and to push away anyone else that fate might take away from her next time is painfully relatable. However, Schumacher uses Madeline’s story to also address issues of body image and self-consciousness for both boys and girls. Fate rolls the dice for each of us, but it’s our decision to treat the result as a curse or a blessing.

Madeline/Gwen, her father, Arthur, and Tim are white. Martin is described as having a “dark brown complexion,” Adelina has “brown” skin, Noah has “olive” skin, and Bre has “dark brown” skin. Fatima is implied non-white. The mature content rating is for innuendo and mentions of sex and alcohol.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Eight Nights of Flirting by Hannah Reynolds - HIGH

Eight Nights of Flirting
by Hannah Reynolds
, 393 pages. Razorbill Riverhead (Penguin). 2022. $20.

Language: R (74 swears 2 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (described kissing, teen drinking games, hard flirting); Violence: PG (talk of a beheading (as part of a play about the prophet Judith)). 



16yo Shira is spending the Hanukkah holiday at the family home in Nantucket. She has a huge crush on Isaac, who is an intern to her great uncle, but her experience with having a boyfriend is nil. She’s never even been kissed. Well, she tried to get her neighbor 18yo Tyler to kiss her when she was 14 (and he was 16) but he shut her down. Now, desperate to catch Isaac, she’s made a deal with Tyler, if he will teach her how to flirt, she will get him a meeting with her uncle, and give him to opportunity for the prized internship. But lessons on flirting with Tyler, get more serious than Shira expected - maybe she needs to rethink who she really likes. 

Eight Nights of Flirting is a really cute romantic comedy. Tyler is sweet and respectful, and Shira is naive, but he doesn't take advantage. I loved seeing the family traditions surrounding Hanukkah, and the interplay between all the cousins as the extended family gathered for the holidays. A side plot involving the grandparents was unnecessary and ended the book quite abruptly (I thought I was missing pages or something.) Overall, I would recommend it. Reynolds doesn't over-explain the Jewish foods or practices, so a reader without that background knowledge feels like a guest at the party. Mature content doesn’t go beyond making out, but it’s certainly on the page. Shira and her family are Jewish. 

Lisa Librarian

Midnight Strikes by Zeba Shahnaz - HIGH

Midnight Strikes by Zeba Shahnaz, 448 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House), 2023. $20.

Language: R (89 swears, 30 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



This ball is the best chance for Anaïs to solidify a marriage that her parents want for her, but Anaïs is tired of being looked down on for her culture and magic. The night only gets worse when bombs go off at midnight and Anaïs dies after having watched everyone else die. Anaïs wakes up from her nap before the ball and lives the horrific night over again. Every night, Anaïs dies; and, every night, Anaïs grows less confident that she can stop the cycle.

While this story is fun and enjoyable, those words don’t encompass the depth of Anaïs’s story. She struggles with the never ending cycle of death, with reasons for attempting to save the people who conquered and look down on her people, and with building relationships that no one else remembers. The secrets and plots that she uncovers go deep, and she can’t do it alone – but what if Anaïs can’t find a perfect solution? When do you choose to accept mistakes you can live with and let time move forward?

Anaïs is implied white, but skin tones and cultures throughout the book are not explicit. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, innuendo, intense makeout scenes, partial nudity, and implied sex. The violence rating is for gun use, fantasy violence, blood and gore, suicide, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen