Friday, June 30, 2023

Love Unseen by Rachel Kelley Stones - ADVISABLE

Love Unseen by Rachel Kelley Stones, 248 pages. Covenant Communications, 2023. $16.

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



Despite lingering effects of an illness that make her family believe the contrary, Hannah (22yo) is sure that she can continue to live her life without being a family embarrassment. Even if she never marries. Jonathan (26yo) is the son of a merchant who worked hard to be successful, raising his family into the gentry. But the transition is only accepted by those who ignore him and look at his wealth.

Stones wowed me from the very beginning—I had to read the first chapter twice because it was so well done. The twists and turns of the story were unexpected and often adorable. Furthermore, Hannah and Jonathan’s story shows readers that capabilities and dreams are only limited by what we tell ourselves. 

The characters are English. The mature content rating is for mentions of alcohol and for sexual harassment.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Always Isn't Forever by J.C. Cervantes - HIGH

Always Isn't Forever
by J.C. Cervantes,
 384 pages. Razorbill. 2023. $19 

Language: R (152 swears 6 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (passionate kissing) Violence: PG (drowning; non-bloody fighting) 



Hart and Ruby, both 17yo and Latinx, are a couple of teens living in El Celio, California who are deeply and truly in love and they see a wonderful future ahead of them. Ruby wants to travel the world and Hart is a natural musician. Ruby has this ominous feeling that something terrible is going to happen. When tragedy strikes, everything changes and unusual complications arise. An Angel allows Hart’s spirit to occupy another teenager’s body but with the conditions that he can’t tell people who he is and that his memories of his past will fade a bit each day until they’re completely gone. This is pure torture to Hart, especially when he sees how sad Ruby is. Will Ruby be able to move on? 

The intensity of suspense about what’s going to happen to the characters kept me riveted. I love the cute relationship between Hart and Ruby. I like how the author keeps the reader hoping throughout the story. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Librarian

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Mapmakers and the Enchanted Mountain by Cameron Chittock and Amanda Castillo - ADVISABLE

Mapmakers and the Enchanted Mountain
 by Cameron Chittock, illustrated by Amanda Castillo
, 234 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL RH Graphic (Random House). 2023. $22 

Content: G 



Alidade is continuing her adventure as a Mapmaker as she tries to save the world from the sinister Night Coats. With her companions, Lewis and Blue, she is excited to explore the world outside her own and perhaps even find other Memris, the guardians who should have stopped the Night Coats. When the explorers are taken to a hidden mountain village, they discover more about Memris and another culture, but could be a danger to others since the Night Coats are following fast. There is some cool world-building and just enough clues to make the reader want to know more about the Night Coats and their agenda and why Mapmakers and Memris are a threat to them. Lewis notes that they have to not be afraid of things they don't understand, which seems a good life lesson. 

While this book helps us discover more of Alidade's world, it doesn't address much in the way of the larger conflict between the native peoples and the Night Coats. The ending points that way and will leave you wanting some resolution. There are several different cultures in this fantasy realm. 

Michelle in the Middle

The Quiet and the Loud by Helena Fox - OPTIONAL

The Quiet and the Loud
 by Helena Fox, 400 pages. Dial Books. 2023. $13 

Language: R (212 swears 44 'f'); Mature Content: PG (kissing, mention of alcoholic parent) Violence: PG-13 (angry, yelling alcoholic parent which is emotional abuse) 



Living in Sydney, Australia, George, 19yo and white, has learned to be quiet about things that she’s dealing or struggling with. She puts herself last and everyone else first. Eventually, she feels like she’s suffocating from everyone else’s problems and thoughts because they’re consuming her and not giving her a chance to take care of herself. She finally confides in her loved ones after things become too difficult and too much for George. As George adjusts to her new perspective, she’ll need her friends and family more than ever. This is a healing, cathartic story. 

Helena Fox does a wonderful job of explaining the balance between taking care of others and ourselves if given ourselves a voice, and learning about the perspectives of others. I enjoyed the personalities of George, Calliope, Mel, and Gramps. George is white and Calliope is black. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Librarian

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

We Are Going To Be Pals! by Mark Teague - ADVISABLE

We Are Going To Be Pals! by 
Mark Teague
. PICTURE BOOK Beach Lane Books. 2023. $19. 9781665911863 



An egret lands on a rhinoceros. He introduces himself and talks about how they are going to be in a symbiotic relationship or pals. The egret continues to talk, talk, and talk to the Rhino about how they can help each other. The rhino says nothing. The egret tries riding on the rhino's horn but is thrown off. The egret then talks to the rhino about respecting personal boundaries, and how that makes a friendship work. The egret continues to talk and make jokes to the rhinoceros while the rhino stays silent. One day the egret wanders off and gets stuck in quicksand. The rhino comes over and lifts out the bird with his horn. The egret talks about how kindness, loyalty, and honesty are what pals are all about. 

We Are Going to be Pals is a creative and clever book about a symbiotic relationship between an egret and a rhinoceros. The text uses large words and concepts, and the narrative may be above the understanding of small children. Older children and adults will catch Teague's clever humor and lessons on how to be a good friend. The illustrations are well done and enjoyable. 


The Lake House by Sarah Beth Durst - HIGH

The Lake House
by Sarah Beth Durst
. 368 pages. HarperTeen, 2023. $18 

Language: PG-13 (14 swears 0 'f');  Mature Content: PG (brief kiss, survival struggles such as hunger and dehydration); Violence: PG-13 (finding a body killed by shooting, being shot at, being held at knife point, suicidal death by gunshot with no details) 



Claire has been sent on an enrichment retreat by her parents. She meets Reyva and Mariana who have also been sent to “grow through experiences” at The Lake House summer camp. The three soon discover that nothing is what they expected. The danger builds along with the creepy foreboding. The teens learn that they have to run and hide to save themselves because no one is coming to help.

I enjoyed the whole mystery of the story. I like how ominous the reveal was. The three main characters grew on me. Claire is white and Reyva is Latinx, their ages are not stated.. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Librarian

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Legends and Liars by Morgan Rhodes - HIGH

Legends and Liars (Echoes and Empires #2)
by Morgan Rhodes
, 352 pages.  Razorbill. 2023. $20 

Language: R (78 swears 0 'f') Mature Content: PG (brief kiss with no details)  Violence: PG-13 (bloody fighting to the death)



17yo Joss, Prince Elian, Viktor, and Jericho are hiding from the Queen after escaping the palace. Prince Elian wants to be cured of his beastly curse, Viktor wants to help his brother Jericho, and Joss wants to learn more about magic in the kingdom, and all of them want to be free. The more Joss learns about magic, the more she wants to know. She’s learned that everyone is born with magic but they’ve been deceived by the royal family for centuries to believe magic is dangerous and anyone found with magic will be sentenced to death. The queen has been using magical people secretly for her own benefit all along and Joss wants the world to know, even though she’s risking her life and those she cares about to expose the deception. 

Legends and Liars is a fun read. I enjoyed the mystery surrounding the kidnapping of Celina. The character growth blossomed in this book. Joss, Jericho, Viktor, Prince Elian, and Celina are white. Other characters are described as having light brown skin. 

 LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Librarian

Monday, June 26, 2023

The Polter-ghost Problem Betsy Uhrig - ADVISABLE

The Polter-ghost Problem
by Betsy Uhrig,
278 pages.  Margaret K. Mc Elderry Books (Simon and Schuster). 2022. $18 

Content: G.



Middle schoolers Aldo, Pen, and Jasper, are just beginning their summer vacation when they follow a slightly transparent boy into a hedge and discover the long-abandoned Grauche Orphanage for Orphans, which turns out to be the very definition of a haunted house. The ghosts need help to get free from a violent poltergeist. In order to help out, the boys must investigate the orphanage's past, evade Aldo's big brother, and try not to get dinged by an angry entity. 

The boys are fun characters, and Aldo narrates as he tries to turn their adventure into a collective journal for a summer writing assignment, which gives added voice to the narrative. Despite the ghost theme, the book is more of a mystery and the boys solve it with enthusiasm, while disagreeing about almost everything. Humor, adventure, ghosts, and the possibility of being grounded for eternity make for a great read. The race of the main characters isn't fully delineated, but the cover art indicates they could be from several different ethnic backgrounds. 

Michelle in the Middle

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Finally, Something Dangerous: The One and Onlys and the Case of the Robot Crow by Doug Cornett - ADVISABLE

The One and Onlys and the Case of the Robot Crow (
Finally, Something Dangerous #2) by Doug Cornett, 228 Middle Grade Alfred A. Knopf Random House. 2022 17 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content:G; Violence: G; 



The One and Onlys - Shanks, Peephole, and Paul - are beginning their 6th grade year but are anxious to solve another mystery. Happily, a mysterious robot crow sends them on another quest to figure out what weird and wacky things are happening in their home town, and there seems to be plenty going on. 

 This is book two in a series and can be read independently of the first one, though reading the first one may help. Told with humor, the characters are relatable, as is the struggle between holding on to tradition and making way for something new as the town adjusts to change.  The ending is guessable, but the journey is fun and young readers who want to solve mysteries will enjoy it. The three protagonists aren't clearly any particular race or culture, but a classmate who helps them is Black. 

Michelle in the Middle

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Ghostlight by Kenneth Oppel - ESSENTIAL

by Kenneth Oppel,
400 pages. Knopf (Random House). 2022 $18.

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G (1 teen kiss); Violence: PG (ghost hunters, evil ghost which devours other ghosts, described violence of "blowing up" ghosts, peril, fright.). 



Gabe works at an island amusement park where he tells ghost stories and gives a lighthouse tour. The story he tells is about Keeper Strand and his daughter Rebecca. Then, much to his surprise, he accidentally summons the ghost of 16yo Rebecca Strand, and she needs his help. A powerful dangerous ghost names Viker has consumed her father and grows stronger, and she's needs Gabe's help to stop him. So, with his best friend 16yo Yuri, who is a pretty good inventor, and Ghost blogger Callie, Gabe and Rebecca look for answers in the present to clues from the past, and a special ghostlight which can destroy Viker . . . unless Viker finds it first! 

Engaging and exciting from the first chapter - I loved that all the teens had family drama of one sort or another. The building romance - though unlikely, between Gabe and Rebecca, was adorable. Gabe's friends add just the right amount of humor and reality, that perfectly counters the scary parts. I also loved the nod to the indigenous people of Canada, and that not all ghosts are from this era. A really good scary ghost story for readers who don't need all the blood and guts and terror. Although the characters are 16, the content is more middle grade than high school. Gabe is Greek, Yuri is Russian and Callie's father is from India. 

Lisa Librarian 

Friday, June 23, 2023

Spy Camp the Graphic Novel by Stuart Gibbs and Anjan Sarkar - ESSENTIAL

Spy Camp the Graphic Novel
(Spy School) by Stuart Gibbs, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar,
312 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Simon and Schuster. 2023. $23. 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (peril, guns, explosions). 



SPYDER is back and has another evil plan. Ben is being openly recruited and the CIA seems to be full of double agents. It's up to the kids from Spy School to intercept.

I love that Gibbs is reworking the Spy School novels as graphics! Sarkar's illustrations are fantastic, and the story is action-packed and fast-paced. My middle graders are going to love this. Ben is white, other characters are a mix of different races and cultures. 

Lisa Librarian 

Thursday, June 22, 2023

If I See You Again Tomorrow by Robbie Couch - OPTIONAL

If I See You Again Tomorrow by Robbie Couch, 336 pages.  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2023. $20.

Language: R (72 swears, 6 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (teenage hijinks e.g. non-graphic skinnydipping, joyriding, a couple instances of teenage drinking); Violence: PG (some verbal fights)



High school senior Clark is stuck repeating the same day, Sept 19th, over 300+ times. He has done all the things (as you can imagine) but regardless of his actions, he restarts the day again every Sept 19th at 7:15 a.m. Until, one day (day 310) he meets Beau, who enters Clark's life with appreciated novelty. After a delightful day unlike all the others, Clark wants to have more tomorrows with Beau, but how can he when he is still stuck in his never-ending today?

I really loved this book. I was fully invested in the time loop mystery. I appreciated the lessons Clark learned from living each day over and over again, especially the idea of how important it is to make our lives meaningful and to make connections with those around us. The author talked in the acknowledgements about the loneliness of COVID isolation as the inspiration for this book and that was such an interesting lens to reflect with. There is also the underlying message of hope for queer kids, and for all their future tomorrows, which I highly appreciated. Diversity note: Clark is white of Western European descent, and Beau is biracial, half-Black, half-white.

Kiera, ELA Teacher

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Exploring Civil Rights-The Movement: 1960 by Selene Castrovilla - ADVISABLE

Exploring Civil Rights-The Movement: 1960
by Selene Castrovilla
, 96 pages. Middle Grade, NON-FICTION Scholastic Press (Scholastic). 2022. $12 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (discrimination, racial tension) Violence: PG (violence along racial lines) 



Covering the year 1960 during the Civil Rights Movement, this year sees more young adult Black women and men becoming peaceful protesters by organizing sit-ins and bus protests, as well as a brief look at Ruby Bridges, the first Black first grader to integrate into the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. 

Well laid out and easy to read, this book covers some difficult subject matter in a concise and logical format. Would make a great resource without being too daunting to students. The layout almost feels like a Scholastic reading magazine but is interesting and informative. 

 Michelle in the Middle

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Exploring Civil Rights-The Movement: 1957 by Susan Taylor - ADVISABLE

Exploring Civil Rights-The Movement: 1957
by Susan Taylor,
96 pages.  NON-FICTION Scholastic Press (Scholastic). 2022.  $12 

Language: G: (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (discrimination, racial tension) Violence: PG (abuse against protesters) 



A brief look at the year 1957, one of the pivotal years of the civil rights movement. This year saw the Little Rock Nine try to integrate into white Central High School in Arkansas and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957. 

A brief and fast read about 1957, the layout is colorful and appealing. It would make for a great resource in teaching about the Civil Rights Movement. Facts are easily accessible and key vocabulary words are highlighted. There is also a colorful timeline at the back with pictures that is a helpful overview. 

Michelle in the Middle

Monday, June 19, 2023

The Firefly Summer by Morgan Matson - ESSENTIAL

The Firefly Summer
by Morgan Matson.
388 pages. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2023. $19 

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



11yo Ryanna Ryanna has her summer all planned out with her dad and stepmom. Then they receive a letter that changes everything. Ryanna's grandparents, whom she has not seen since her mother's death when Ryanna was 3, write to invite Ryanna to spend the summer with them at their summer camp. Ryanna agrees to go, hoping that she can learn more about her mom from her grandparents. The summer camp, in the Pocono Mountains, closed several years ago but the family still goes every summer to spend time together. At the camp, Ryanna meets her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Along with her cousins, she stumbles on a real treasure map left behind by her mother. The cousins hope that the treasure map will lead them to what they need to save the camp from demolition. The summer is full of eating s'mores, swimming in the lake, adventures, family, and friendship. 

I loved how this book has it all, big family drama, as well as showing how families pull together. There are also summer adventures, treasure hunts, mystery, and for Ryanna, self-discovery. I also liked how Ryanna was able to learn more about her mom from her aunts and uncles and process some of the grief from losing her at such a young age. Ryanna is white. Ryanna's step-mom Ginger is Korean American. Cousin Max and Uncle Byron are described as Black. Uncle Neal and cousin Diya are described as South Asian. 

A. Snow 

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Every Day: The Graphic Novel by David Levithan, illustrated by Dion MDB - ADVISABLE

Every Day: The Graphic Novel by David Levithan, illustrated by Dion MDB, 208 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Knopf Books for Young Readers (Penguin Random House), 2023.  $25.

Language: G (2 swears); Mature Content: PG-13 (some kissing and laying in bed with clothes on, suicidal ideation, depictions of drugs/alcohol on page with minor characters); Violence: PG-13 (some evidence of past abuse (bruises), one on-page fight, some verbal abuse.



'A' is a teenager who wakes up every day in a new body, never the same body twice. One day, they inhabit the body of Justin and spend a perfect day with Justin's girlfriend Rhiannon. 'A' is drawn to Rhiannon again and again, in different bodies, eventually telling her what is happening. But can they ever have a relationship when nothing stays the same?

I was immediately sucked into the story. The plot device of ‘A’s character allows for a fascinating look at dozens of different lives - different races, genders, and mental health. As far as a classroom library would be concerned, it does feature a variety of sexualities (good LGBTQIA rep), but with just minor instances of making out or lying in bed with clothes on. This happens regardless of gender or sexuality. There is one storyline of a character struggling with suicidal ideation that could be triggering, but I do think was treated well with respect. This could also be a really interesting text for an ELA class - I'm just thinking of all the writing projects you could do with it.

Kiera, ELA Teacher

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Fallout by Steve Sheinkin - ESSENTIAL

by Steve Sheinkin.
342 pages. NON-FICTION Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan). 2021. $20

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 F); Mature Content: PG (danger, espionage) Violence: PG (political assassinations, deaths (not explicit)



The United States and the Soviet Union are on opposite sides politically and as tensions increase, the two nations begin a nuclear arms race. Bombs, spies, submarines with nuclear warheads, and missiles aimed at each other, the world stands on the edge of a knife that could lead to World War III or the end of the world as we know it. 

Sheinkin is a master at making history come alive. I was sucked in from the first page and couldn't stop until I finished. It was fascinating to see how world leaders and individuals reacted to the threat of nuclear war and how close we came. This book humanizes a defining moment in history and proves that facts told the right way are more fascinating than any fiction. A must-read for anyone interested in history and not on high blood pressure medication. 

Michelle in the Middle

Friday, June 16, 2023

A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner - ESSENTIAL

A Work in Progress
by Jarrett Lerner
, 360 pages. Aladdin Simon and Schuster. 2023 $18. 

Language: PG (1 swear 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: G (bullying language). 



When Will Chambers was in 4th grade, Nick Fisher, an angry bully called him Fat. He spat the work at him, and while, yes, Nick was a big kid, up to that point he'd never considered his size a problem. But now, Will is in middle school. He hates himself, he hates what he looks like, he wears baggy clothes, hides during lunch, and consoles himself with food at home. But Markus, a new boy at school who skateboards behind the auditorium treats Will like a possible friend, and Will is determined to lose weight. But are his measures too drastic? 

Oh my! A body image book about a boy - I loved it! Written in the style of a doodle book, Will's story is told like a journal with plenty of drawings. Wimpy Kid readers will relate. It's not heavy-handed, but honest and poignant, yet hopeful. Will is a big bully to himself, with all his negative thought and drawing himself as a monster. Written in verse, the text flows beautifully - I can hear Will's internal struggle. "A Work in Progress" would pair well with Fipps "Starfish". Will's parents do step in with help when they discover what is going on. A great mental health read. Certainly buying for my library, but probably not for everyone. Will is white. 

Lisa Librarian 

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Julieta and the Romeos by Maria E. Andreu - OPTIONAL

Julieta and the Romeos by Maria E. Andreu, 400 pages. Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins Publishers), 2023. $20.

Language: PG (17 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (one teenage house party with alcohol, and one non-graphic instance of teenage sensuality); Violence: G



Argentinian-American soon-to-be senior Julieta is spending her summer divided between a summer writing workshop and working at her parent’s struggling restaurant. One of her writing projects is to publish online, and soon she has a mysterious online co-writer. Could this mystery person be the start of Julieta’s own happily ever after between three possible choices: Lucas - the childhood BFF, Calvin - the quirky boy next door, or Ryan - the rich boy with surprising depth? Will Julieta find her Romeo or something entirely different?

This book was pretty middle of the road for me. Some of the passages were pretty, but as a whole, fairly average fluffy romcom material. Some of the content could have had more depth - Julieta’s family’s struggles post-pandemic, or more self-reflection on Julieta’s own hopes and dreams. The bulk of the text deals with these three boys and the issue of are-they-the-mysterious-co-writer-or-not wasn’t very high stakes. So what? Why does it matter who it turned out to be in the end? Overall, if you need a cute romcom to add to your library, this one has some nice representation for the Argentinian community.

Kiera, ELA Teacher

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Three Drops of Blood by Gretchen Mcneil - OPTIONAL

Three Drops of Blood
by Gretchen Mcneil. 
318 pages. Hyperion. 2023. $18.

Language: R (100 swears 45 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13  (affairs, sex innuendos, and brief descriptions of drinking). Violence: PG-13 (A middle-aged man sexually abuses a minor. Description of someone getting murdered with a gun.) 



Kate is a high school Senior (12th grade). Growing up, Kate fantasized about being on the big screen and even as a child she memorized Shakespeare and daydreamed about one day reciting those lines in front of an audience. Until one day, her dream comes true. She is given her big break, granted, it is a Netflix teen tv show that is a far cry from Shakespeare, but Kate is allowed to act and express herself. Until, her co-star 17yo Belle, is found having a sexual relationship with the director of the show, Dex, a 35-year-old man. With this scandal ever present in the show's reputation, it is shut down for good. Forced to leave her dream behind, Kate starts working as an office assistant. At first, it was mundane work chores, but as Kate listens in she realizes that drama is not only for the big screen but can occur in real life. 

Three Drops of Blood tries to be a murder mystery but comes off as boring and predictable. The main character, Kate, is portrayed as an 'every'/'average' girl but comes across as overbearing and annoying. The overall plot was bland and very rushed when it came to finding clues and discovering issues. Kate is described as White and so is Belle. 

Kenzie Hoehne Reviewer 

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

The Love Report by BéKa and Maya - ADVISABLE

The Love Report by Beka and Maya, 192 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Astra Publishing House, 2023. $20.

Language: PG (1 swear, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG



Best friends Grace and Lola don’t understand love, so they decide to interview students at their middle school who do. Except maybe nobody knows. Maybe relationships – romantic or otherwise – are more complicated than that.

While initially the focus is on romantic love, I appreciate that Lola and Grace’s project expands to include friends and family, too. The relatable story and colorful illustrations convey the ups and downs that can happen in every relationship.

Grace and her family are depicted as Black, and Lola and her family are depicted as white. The majority of other characters are also depicted as white. The mature content rating is for groping, and the violence rating is for slapping.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, June 12, 2023

Starlings by Amanda Linsmeier - OPTIONAL

Starlings by Amanda Linsmeier, 336 pages. Delacorte Press (Random), 2023. $19.

Language: R (57 swears, 7 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



Kit (17yo) grew up believing her father was the only living member of his family. After her father’s funeral, she learned it was a lie: her grandmother was still alive. The trip to meet her grandmother in Rosemont during winter break sounded like a good idea, but, the longer Kit and her mother stay, the less likely it looks like they’ll be able to leave.

The unknown lurks in every shadow, hints of the secrets that Rosemont is built on. Linsmeier carefully layers the unexplainable with hints to the truths Kit—and the reader—seeks in this surface-perfect town that gaslights its newest visitor. Betrayal, demons, secret codes that could have been more helpful—Kit’s story has a little bit of everything.

Kit is portrayed as white on the cover. The majority of characters are White. The mature content rating is for alcohol use and innuendo. The violence rating is for discussion of cannibalism, implied suicide, scary elements, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White - NO

Hell Followed With Us
by Andrew Joseph White
, 448 pages  Peachtree Teen 2022 $12 Language: R (151 swears 72 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (underage drinking, implied oral sex, abusive relationship); Violence: R (bloody deaths and gore) 



16yo Benji, born a girl, wants to be a boy (transgender), likes boys, and is the Angel’s weapon to purge the Earth. Benji escapes and befriends the rebels becoming even more conflicted on top of identity struggles and dysphoria. Benji meets an LGBTQ+ group and joins the center keeping the fact of being a weapon a secret. Much violence takes place and loyalties are broken and built. A true mix of dystopian and horror. 

Hell Followed With Us contains too much swearing. I struggled to follow the confusing circumstances because the author shoved a lot into one story. There’s too much going on to fall into the world and enjoy the storyline and it also kept me feeling distant from the characters. I do appreciate the author’s notes about the story’s origins and reasons and also content warnings. The made-up pronoun, xem, added to the confusion. Benji is presumed white. The other ethnicities are quoted as "more non-white than white". 

LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Librarian

Saturday, June 10, 2023

You Will Do Great Things by Amerie Raissa Figueroa - ESSENTIAL

You Will Do Great Things
by Amerie Raissa Figueroa
. PICTURE BOOK Roaring Brook Press. 2023. $16 



The story follows a young boy of mixed race. (The mom is depicted as Asian. The dad is depicted as Black.) While the boy is looking at photos of his family, his imagination pulls him into a magical journey. He explores new worlds, overcomes challenges, helps others, and discovers the love and connection of those who have come before. 

I was immediately taken in by the beauty of this book. It reads like a love letter from a parent to a child. The writing and illustrations complement each other and form an uplifting message of encouragement that you can and will do amazing things. When I finished reading the story, I knew I couldn’t wait to share it with others. This story can be enjoyed by all ages. 

Tia - Elementary Librarian

Friday, June 9, 2023

Echoes and Empires by Morgan Rhodes - HIGH

Echoes and Empires
by Morgan Rhodes
400 pages. Razorbill. 2022. $12. 

Language: R (115 swears 0 'f') Mature Content: PG-13 (Brief, passionate kissing and underage drinking); Violence: PG-13 (Bloody kicking, bloody shooting, and bloody death).



17yo Josslyn lost her father, the Prime Minister, to an assassin a year ago during the Queen’s Gala. She’s attending the current Gala to support 18yo Celina, her best friend and the first daughter of the present Prime Minister, and to help Celina gain confidence. While at the Gala, Josslyn wanders to the art treasures display and accidentally absorbs magic when an artifact opens during the robbery she walked into. The robber, 19yo Jericho, knows the magic will cause swift action and punishment for Josslyn if the Queen finds out because she has completely banned all magic, so the two of them run and end up in the Queens prison after they search for help in removing the unwanted magic and discover they have something in common: the same assassin that killed Josslyn’s father, Lord Banyon, also killed Jericho’s parents. The magic Josslyn absorbed shows her Lord Banyon’s memories from sixteen years ago when he was being tortured and she continues to have these memories in full force, showing her a side of Lord Banyon that isn't cruel at all. Lazos is the prison overlord and also a warlock who used to be the queen’s magic advisor, so Josslyn and Jericho ask him to get rid of the unwanted magic, but he strikes a deal first; Jericho must kill the beast in the prison before Lazos will help them. When the beast is discovered, many more secrets are revealed and the danger has just begun. 

Echoes and Empires is such a fun read! I enjoyed the humor and sarcasm. There's plenty of action. The story is entertaining almost immediately and I loved the twists. Josslyn is white, the queen is white, Overlord is olive-skinned, and all shapes, sizes, and skin tones at the Fight Club.

LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Librarian

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo - ESSENTIAL

Siege and Storm
by Leigh Bardugo,
  448 pages. Henry Holt and Co.  2013. $15.

Language: PG-13 (18 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (A brief kiss and a gentle kiss); Violence: PG-13 (Bloody death by stabbing). 



18yo Alina and Mal have escaped the Fold but soon they’re under the Darkling’s clutches again. They sail to find the sea whip to use as an amplifier for Alina’s power but she isn’t satisfied and wants to find the Firebird to use as a third amplifier. She's beginning to crave more power. Alina learns that the amplifiers were not discovered, but created, which makes their safety more questionable and makes them even more of a mystery. Lives are lost and some are forever changed in the battle with the Darkling. 

I enjoyed the world-building and the unsureness of what lies ahead. The characters are dynamic. I like how Bardugo changed Alina to let the magic become part of who she is. The ethnicity is full of mixed races in the Grishaverse. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Librarian

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo - ESSENTIAL

Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #1) 
by Leigh Bardugo
, 368 pages. Henry Holt and Company. 2012. $13.

Language: PG (6 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (prolonged kissing) Violence: PG (Creatures killing and eating people, sounds described -The Cut made with magic that slices people in two. Bloody injury). 



Orphans and best friends, 18yo Alina and Mal, stick together as much as possible. Alina's powers are discovered when the two of them are being attacked by creatures of the Fold while on duty. Alina glows like the Sun, the creatures are pushed away, and she becomes the savior of their kingdom. Alina and Mal are separated but both continue to work towards helping their kingdom. They fight to stay strong amidst danger and deception.

The story enveloped me from the first page. I adored the characters of Alina, Mal, and Genya. The world building is flawless. Ethnicity is full of mixed races 

LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Librarian

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Miles Morales Suspended: A Spider-Man Novel by Jason Reynolds - OPTIONAL

Miles Morales Suspended: A Spider-Man Novel
by Jason Reynolds
, 310 pages. Simon and Schuster. 2023. $20. 

Language: PG (12 swears 0 F); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 



16yo Miles is spending a day in in-school suspension, What starts out as a relatively simple detention turns into something far more sinister. Even though Miles' crush is also in in-school suspension, his spider senses tell him that danger is near. 

I pretty much love anything Jason Reynolds. However, I had a hard time getting into this book. It's a cross between poetry and novel, which didn't seem to fit the action genre and there seemed to be a lot of unnecessary schoolwork exposition. While it's beautifully written, it was confusing in places and the action didn't pick up until a third of the way in. Miles is Black Puerto Rican. 

Michelle in the Middle

Monday, June 5, 2023

You're Invited to a Creepover: The Show Must Go On! by J.P. Night - ESSENTIAL

The Show Must Go On!
You're Invited to a Creepover)by J.P. Night. 150 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL,  Simon and Schuster. 2023. $21 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG (scary images); Violence: G 



Bree Hart has always wanted to be in a play even though she is shy and she gets cast as the lead in a creepy play called "The Last Sleepover." The play seems to attract problems and may even be cursed and Bree's life may be in danger. 

The artwork rocks and really helps carry the story. A dark house, empty school, and dark auditorium make for creepy settings and Bree is a likable character trying to achieve her dream. This book will hook you in and you'll finish wanting another one. Bree is African American. 

Michelle in the Middle

Sunday, June 4, 2023

The One and Only Ruby by Katherine Appplegate - ADVISABLE

The One and Only Ruby
by Katherine Applegate
. 240 pages. HarperCollins. 2023. $20.

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (elephant death, poaching, violence against elephants - not graphic but the themes and stories are there). 



Young Ruby is the youngest elephant of her herd at the Wildlife Sanctuary. Her tusks are starting to grow, and she's worried about the coming-of-age ceremony her "aunts" are having for her called her Tuskday. So, she finally shares her memories of her life in Africa with Ivan and Bob. 

I have loved this series and The One and Only Ruby is no exception. I loved that she worried about growing up. The connections she made with other elephants, humans, and even Ivan and Bob felt genuine and heartfelt. There are some sad parts, and Applegate counters them beautifully with her skillful writing and storytelling. An advisable purchase as a stand-alone, but as a set, a must-buy if you have the other two. 

 Lisa Librarian

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Thirty to Sixty Days by Alikay Wood - OPTIONAL

Thirty to Sixty Days by Alikay Wood, 320 pages. Amulet Books, 2023. $20.

Language: R (25 swears, 3 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG



Hattie, a compulsive liar; Albert, a cancer survivor; and Carmen, a perfectionist teacher’s pet, happened to be in the same wrong place at the same wrong time. They were exposed to a parasite with the potential to kill them in the next thirty to sixty days. They have to make the choice to either spend their last days being tested in the hospital or attempt escape and live while they still can.

From boat hijacking to turtle-napping to being pepper sprayed, these three teenagers really do live life to the fullest, though most of it is unintentional. The real  life experience comes from their less exciting moments of working together, admitting truths, and asking for forgiveness. Life is all around us, just waiting for us to open our eyes and count the things that matter, a point that Wood conveys through this humorous story with surprisingly heartfelt moments.

Hattie is implied white, Albert is Chinese, and Carmen is Mexican. The mature content rating is for mentions of drugs and sex, underage drinking, criminal mischief, and illegal activity. The violence rating is for fistfighting.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, June 2, 2023

Kismat Connection by Ananya Devarajan - OPTIONAL

Kismat Connection by Ananya Devarajan, 304 pages. Inkyard Press, 2023. $19.

Language: R (29 swears, 6 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: G



The stars hold our destinies—a fact that Arjun (17yo) finds comforting and Madhuri (17yo) finds confining. In order to prove that the stars are wrong and that Madhuri can, in fact, control her life, she asks Arjun to help her with The Kismat Experiment: they will agree to a beginning and ending date for a romantic relationship together. When their relationship ends, Madhuri will have broken the stars’ prediction—but if their relationship doesn’t end as planned, then Arjun will prove the stars right.

Devarajan showcases the beauty of Indian culture in the midst of the confusion and willful misunderstandings of being a young Indian-American. Our circumstances and the ways that others treat us are as malleable to us as are the stars, and, as with the predictions of the stars, we can shape our lives by deciding how we react. As Devarajan’s characters illustrate, it’s not always easy, but knowing that we have the power in our lives will make all the difference.

Arjun, Madhuri, and their families are Indian/Indian-American. The mature content rating is for underage drinking.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Along a Breton Shore by Arlem Hawks - OPTIONAL

Along a Breton Shore by Arlem Hawks, 368 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2023. $27.

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



The French Revolution has torn families, communities, and the country apart for the sake of unifying under a new government. Armelle (20yo) and Maxence (25yo) meet on opposite sides of a musket but help each other anyway—a moment of compassion that results in weeks of consequences. While they stubbornly defend their political beliefs, the two must find a way to reconcile if they are to reach their destination.

Armelle and Maxence appear to be very different people, but they share several qualities, including throwing verbal barbs in anger. Most of the development of their relationship felt like a constant back and forth of saying something mean and then apologizing until the next time, which became tiring for me as a reader. I love Hawks’ attention to historical detail, though. The things I learned from her notes in the back of the book and in doing some story-inspired research was fascinating.

The characters are mostly French, with a couple being Caribbeans. Armelle is described as white, and Maxence is described as having “olive” skin. The language rating is for French swears; the mature content rating is for alcohol use and innuendo; the violence rating is for gun use, mild battle scenes, and discussion of war casualties.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Enlightened by Sachi Ediriweera - OPTIONAL

Enlightened by Sachi Ediriweera, 304 pgs. GRAPHIC NOVEL Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2023. $23. Content: G



Prince Siddhartha lives a charmed life in a beautiful palace with all his needs and whims met. However, he is frustrated as his father, the king, will not allow him to leave the palace as he claims the outside world is too dangerous and holds nothing for the prince. No longer able to accept his perceived imprisonment, Prince Siddhartha leaves his life of privilege, wife, and child to seek out an understanding of suffering and overcoming humanity’s cyclic existence. 

Although above the title on the cover in tiny font there is the statement, “a fictionalized tale,” this version of Buddha’s history is presented in a way that makes it appear as fact rather than one of the many stories of his origin. The story that the author has chosen to retell is one that is mythical and so the presentation as fact could lead to misinforming and confusing readers who have no previous knowledge of Buddha or Buddhism. If a reader supplemented this reading with other non-fiction books and/or guidance from someone with knowledge of Buddha and Buddhism, it could be worthwhile.