Friday, May 31, 2024

Ultraviolet by Aida Salazar - ESSENTIAL

Ultraviolet by Aida Salazar,  304 pages. Scholastic Press, 2024.  $19.

Language: PG (12 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (references sex-ed, adolescent sexual development - both male & female, toxic masculinity, cyberbullying, briefly mentions online predators); Violence: PG (one physical altercation, repeated cyberbullying);



Written in verse, Ultraviolet is an intimate look at what it means to grow up and be a man for 13 yo Mexican-American Elio Solis. There is a lot happening at the start of 8th grade - puberty, girlfriends, big emotions, and surviving a culture of toxic masculinity. When a situation at school gets out of hand and lands Elio in the hospital, will he learn his lesson in time?

This is a book that adults will love more than kids. I still argue that it is an essential book for any school library because it’s targeted at middle grade boys and it deals with all the things that boys need help with but are too scared to ask. This was a great look at the intersection of toxic masculinity, social media, and growing up in middle school. It could be a nice one to pair with Long Way Down to compare what masculinity means in different communities, both in a poetic format.

Kiera, ELA teacher #BookswithBeddes  

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Spell Bound by F.T. Lukens - OPTIONAL

Spell Bound by F.T. Lukens,  336 pages. Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster), 2023.  $20.  

Language: R (70 swears, 34 “f”); Mature Content: G ; Violence: PG (mild fantasy violence); 



Non-magical Rook wants to belong to the only world he’s ever known. When his magical grandmother passed away, he was torn away from the magical world by the powers that be. He convinces Antonia, the most powerful mage in the world, to hire him, if only to be next to magic again. They frequently cross paths with another mage, Fable and their apprentice, the prickly non-binary Sun. When the shady and self-serving magical governing body, the Magical Consortium, comes after Antonia and Fable, it’s up to Rook and Sun to save their mentors and fight back.


I love Luken’s work. I get drawn in by the pretty covers, but then the stories are just such great adventures. This story was particularly interesting worldbuilding, and everyone was such a unique character. Other than a couple of annoying quirks, like Rook repeating that he’s a genius or Antonia repeating how powerful she is, I thought everyone was so fun, and interesting. I was invested in Rook & Sun’s budding relationship from the start and feel like it’s a great addition to your LGBTQIA fantasy shelves, aside from some language.

Kiera, ELA teacher #bookswithbeddes

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Threads That Bind by Kika Hatzopoulou - HIGH

Threads That Bind by Kika Hatzopoulou, 352 pages. Razorbill (Penguin Random House), 2024. $20.

Language: R (80 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



Io (18yo) is the third sister in a set of moira-born, which means she’s a cutter—one who can cut the threads of others, including lifethreads. One day, Io sees a woman whose lifethread has been severed. But the woman isn’t dead. The woman, in fact, murders someone else. Something that shouldn’t be possible.

The world Io lives in is ordered chaos, made up of tenuous relationships with herself, her powers, her sisters, her community, and the governing bodies. In its simplest form, Io’s story is a fantasy murder mystery suspense novel, but Io is just as much in conflict with herself as the world around her is in conflict. I was swept away by Io, the world’s magic system, and a need to uncover the reasons behind the murders. The pages could not be read fast enough, and I am eager to start the sequel.

Hatzopoulou’s characters—main characters as well as side characters—are diverse in skin tone and sexual orientation. The mature content rating is for illegal activity; mentions of drugs, alcohol, sexual harassment, prostitution, and nudity in art; and innuendo. The violence rating is for assault, gun use, blood and gore, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Warrior Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino - ADVISABLE

Warrior Genius (Rebel Geniuses #2) by Michael Dante DiMartino, 347 pages. Roaring Brook Press, 2018. $17.

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



With the Compass in hand, Giacomo (12yo) and his friends are on the run from Supreme Creator Nerezza, who wants to take the Compass from them and get the other Sacred Tools before they can. When they find a safe place to hide, they become optimistic about finding the Straightedge, until the friends are separated, forcing them to fight Nerezza separately—or continue to flee.

Keeping a fast pace, it feels like a lot of ground—literally and metaphorically—is covered in this second installment in the series. The various points of view keep readers engaged in the big picture while hanging in suspense waiting to get back to the smaller pieces involved. DiMartino uses a combination of text and illustration to tell Giacomo’s story clearly, showing the readers what words alone have difficulty describing. I hope the next book is on its way to address the problems as yet left unsolved.

Giacomo and Milena are depicted as fair skinned on the cover. Skin tone in the text and illustrations are unclear, though there does seem to be lighter and darker tones shown in the pictures. The mature content rating is for alcohol use. The violence rating is for assault, gun use, mentions of torture, battle scenes, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

If Something Happens to Me by Alex Finlay - ADVISABLE

If Something Happens to Me by Alex Finlay, 336 pages. Minotaur Books (St. Martin’s Press), 2024. $28.

Language: R (99 swears, 28 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



When Ryan and Alison were on the cusp of leaving for college, their last rendezvous on Lovers Lane was interrupted. Alison was never seen again, and Ryan, the suspected killer, left town and changed his name. Five years later, the case is reopened when Alison’s vehicle is found and The Monster, as Ryan has always thought of him, reappears.

The twists and turns of this story are seamless, unraveling in a natural way as readers get glimpses of the story from several points of view. Both protagonists and antagonists are relatable—I was definitely rooting for one of the antagonists by the end—and Finlay concludes all of their stories satisfactorily in the last pages. An all-around enjoyable crime fiction read.

Most of the characters are implied White, though Chantelle is Black and Ziggy is described as having “olive” skin. Also, it is heavily implied at one point that a couple of main characters are gay. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, including underage drinking; mentions of drugs, condoms, nudity, prostitution, and rape; sexual harassment; and innuendo. The violence rating is for bullying, assault, mentions of child abuse and torture, gun use, suicide, and murder. 

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, May 27, 2024

Finally Heard by Kelly Yang - ESSENTIAL

Finally Heard (Finally Seen #2) by Kelly Yang
, 339 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2024. $19. 

Language: PG (9 Swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G (mature meanings of some emojis are eluded to, but not identified; Lina is beginning to mature and is very self-conscious about her changing body.); Violence: G. 



10yo Lina and her friend Carly seem to be the only 5th graders without a phone. But when Lina's mom discovers that social media can help grow her business, Lina gets a phone to help film videos for her. She soon discovers the allure of social media, and wants desperately to join Discord, and be part of a group chat. She soon discovers that her friends act differently in a group chat, saying things online they would never say in real life. 

I so want my 12-14yos to read Finally Heard, and I hope they won't be turned away by the ages of Lina and her friends. Yang's story is engaging and relevant and I loved that their teacher was fostering discussions about brain chemistry and why the children are becoming addicted to social media. The author's note, including essential research on social media and kids, is directed more to parents and teachers than the intended readers. It's almost as if Yang anticipated Finally Heard as a class novel and included a teacher study guide. While it continues Lina's immigration story,  reading Finally Seen is not necessary, although highly recommended. Lina is Chinese. 

Lisa Librarian 

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Poetry Comics written and illustrated by Grant Snider - ADVISABLE

Poetry Comics written and illustrated by Grant Snider, 96 pages.  GRAPHIC NOVEL.  Chronicle Books, 2024.  $19.

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



Poetry Comics is a graphic novel poetry collection that explores big moments and small over the course of the year, throughout all four seasons. It’s a clever way to illustrate the nature of poetry and the fickleness of creativity.

I find Snider's work to be very charming. This collection of visual poems exploring how to write poetry was very meta and also just *chef's kiss*. This would be a great mentor text in an ELA poetry unit for elementary, middle school, or high school.

Kiera Beddes, ELA teacher #bookswithbeddes

A Crane Among Wolves by June Hur - ADVISABLE

A Crane Among Wolves by June Hur
, 368 pages. Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan), 2024. $18

Language: PG-13 (31 swears, 1 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (kissing); Violence: R (repeated bloody deaths)



A young woman in 1504 Korea, 17yo Iseul, and her older sister are orphaned by soldiers who killed their parents on orders from the king. They live with their grandmother until 1506 when the king collects the eldest for one of his own concubines. Iseul will do anything to save her sister, but she has to learn patience and observation skills to do it wisely and as safely as possible. An investigator for the soldiers is helping her gain these skills, even though it will mark him as a traitor. Iseul unexpectedly meets Prince Daehyun and eventually they help each other as the Prince plans a coup to take down the tyrant king.

Full of intrigue and determination! I appreciate the research the author took the time to do for this book about a dark part of Korean history. Magnificent character development and world building. I fell in love with Iseul and the prince.

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian, Delta, Utah 

Saturday, May 25, 2024

The Girl Who Fought Back by Joshua M. Greene - ADVISABLE

The Girl Who Fought Back by Joshua M. Greene
, 142 pages. NON FICTION. Scholastic, 2024. $19. 

Language: G (0 swears, 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13 (Shooting, burning, exploding, gassing, all other war deaths).



Valda Meed is a Jewish teenager during WWII. She works at a sewing factory in the Warsaw ghetto. Then she becomes a smuggler because of her looks. She goes around buying weapons and food for her people. She is in constant danger from Nazi soldiers looking for Jews, and from unfriendly Polish people.

I liked how it made you feel the same sadness as the Jews in the ghetto. I didn't really like how brutal the truth was, but I loved how it was exciting and appreciated how truthful the book was.

EC 7th grader, Student Library Advisory Board 

Friday, May 24, 2024

Deepfake by Sarah Darer Littman - ADVISABLE

Deepfake by Sarah Darer Littman, 352 pages. Scholastic Press, 2020. $11.

Language: PG13 (18 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG



Dara, the prospective valedictorian, is as shocked as the rest of the school when a video goes around of her accusing Will, the prospective salutatorian and her boyfriend, of cheating on his SAT retake. Words Dara swears she never said. With Will’s college acceptance and their relationship on the line, both of them are determined to find out where the video came from.

With a story about some high school sleuthing and intrigue, Littman illustrates how technology can be used for bad intentions, raising awareness of the dangers of technology and to be mindful of our online activities. While the plot is spread out, bookending the flashbacks, the slow mystery kept my interest. I also love that the adults in this book are willing to listen to the kids and aren’t portrayed as authoritative figures that have to be circumvented in order to help catch the bad guys.

Dara is depicted as white on the cover, and the majority of characters are implied white. Amir is implied Middle Eastern. The mature content rating is for kissing and illegal activity. The violence rating is for assault.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Thursday, May 23, 2024

I Wish You Would by Eva Des Lauriers - OPTIONAL

I Wish You Would by Eva Des Lauriers, 288 pages. Henry Holt and Co. (Macmillan), 2024. $20.

Language: R (155 swears, 52 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG



12th grader Sunrise is the last event of the summer, the first event for the upcoming senior class, and a day for Natalia to avoid her family drama. Unfortunately, there will not be any avoiding the drama with her best friend, Ethan, who ghosted her all summer. They haven’t seen each other since that awkward mess on prom night, and now their reunion will be in front of all their friends—and enemies—in their class.

I nearly quit reading in the first two chapters of the book because of the implied sex in chapter one and the promise of drama in chapter two. All of the conflict is a series of misunderstandings—though a few are purposeful misleadings—and poor choices, which is often annoying to read. I spent a significant portion of my reading time yelling at the characters to use their words. Despite my annoyance with the chosen style of conflict, I still got a feeling of satisfaction from the neatly tied conclusion.

Natalia is Latina, her mother is Latina, Ethan is described as “pale,” Leti is Latine, and Ms. Mercer is described as having “olive” skin. Leti, Sienna, and a couple other characters are part of the LGBTQ community. The mature content rating is for alcohol use including underage drinking, mentions of condoms and sexting, kissing, sexual harassment, partial nudity, and sex. The violence rating is for assault and joking about murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

We Can't Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon - OPTIONAL

We Can't Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon,  336 pages. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), 2021.  $20.

Language: R (97 swears, 39 “f”); Mature Content: R (frequent, descriptive on-page sex and other instances of teenage sexuality, multiple instances of underage drinking); Violence: G;



18 yo Jewish Quinn Berkowitz is a realist with OCD who currently works for her family-run wedding planning business; however, she doesn’t believe in romance - not anymore. She has a deep & abiding crush on Tarek Mansour, who helps out with his family’s catering business. 19 yo Egyptian American Tarek is a romantic who believes in grand gestures. As they interact again & again throughout a summer of weddings, will they finally manage to both adjust their expectations of love and romance in order to be together?

First of all, I think this is a New Adult book rather than a Young Adult book since all the characters are over 18 and graduated from high school. I did appreciate the honest depictions of clinical OCD, anxiety, and clinical depression as well as having the characters going to therapy and following prescribed treatment regimen. I also loved that the main characters were religious minorities, something that I don’t see a lot of. However, there was a lot of explicit swearing and so much graphic sex on-page. Fans of romantic comedies will like the story, but I don’t recommend it for a school or classroom library because of the language and mature content.

Kiera Beddes, ELA teacher #bookswithbeddes 

Here’s Where She Meets Prince Charming by Kristin Wright - OPTIONAL

Here’s Where She Meets Prince Charming by Kristin Wright, 263 pages. Owl Hollow Press, 2024. $15.

Language: R (187 swears, 5 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG



As a senior, this will be Natalie’s (17yo) last school musical, and she’s ready for the female lead. She doesn’t get it. But more surprising is that quiet Campbell (17yo) is cast as the male lead. Every interaction they have leaves Natalie with more questions than answers, and she’s determined to wheedle every detail of his life out of the reluctant Campbell.

Like Natalie, I, as the reader, came to respect Campbell and to see a perspective I have not often considered. Campbell’s secret inspired a variety of responses from the characters, and it was interesting to think about the actions I did and did not agree with. The story feels real and relevant, and I appreciate that Wright kept that feeling through the last page, giving her characters realistic solutions that did not make everything magically better.

Natalie is White (her mom is American and her dad is English), Noah is Black and is also gay, and Marisa is described as having “light tan” skin. The mature content rating is for underage drinking; mentions of drugs, condoms, orgies, and sex; groping; nudity; and innuendo. The violence rating is for assault.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The One and Only Family (The One and Only Ivan #4) by Katherine Applegate, - ADVISABLE

The One and Only Family (The One and Only Ivan #4) by Katherine Applegate,
262 pages. HarperCollins, 2024. $20.

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



Ivan and his mate Kinyani are parents! With no role models, Ivan relies on distant memories and instinct to be the best father he can be to his twins. But living in a zoo is very different from living in the jungle, and Ivan must learn that being a father is more than protecting his troop. 

I am always so happy to see Applegate has written another installment in the Ivan story. She acknowledges this as the conclusion, and it's the perfect wrap-up. All the characters make an appearance, some in mention only, like Tag, Ivan's sister, and Stella the old elephant at the mall. While "The One and Only Family" can stand on its own, readers should experience the series in order, as there's not much character-building at this point. A quick read as Ivan again narrates. Patricia Castelao's illustrations are great, the twins couldn't be cuter! 

Lisa Librarian

Monday, May 20, 2024

Dear Mothman by Robin Gow - OPTIONAL

Dear Mothman
by Robin Gow,
320 pages.  Abrams Amulet, 2023 $19. 

Language: PG (2 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G (kisses, hand holding); Violence: G (Peril - lost in the woods, sighting a cryptid) 



12yo Noah's best friend Lewis has died. Lewis was also a trans boy, and the two had been fast friends for years - only coming out to each other. Now Noah feels alone and writes notes to Mothman - a cryptid Lewis believed in, and now Noah does too. In fact, as a tribute to Lewis, Noah is planning to make "the existence of Mothman" his 6th grade science fair project. 

Dear Mothman is a novel in verse, but I feel the style made it choppy, and hard to connect with Noah. There's also so much going on! Noah is trans and comes out to various people throughout the book, he's also grieving, and autistic. Told through Noah's letters to Mothman (mostly, there are also a few letters to Noah from Hannah his girlfriend); Noah's autism is mentioned, but there's not a lot of context other than the fact that he meets with a counselor - which could be for grief counseling. There's a bit of magical realism as the children see signs of and possibly the cryptid itself. Noah defaults white, is on the autism spectrum, and identifies male. 

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Monstrous by Jessica Lewis - OPTIONAL

by Jessica Lewis
, 432 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House), 2023. $12

Language: R (100+ swears, 36+ 'f'); Mature Content: PG (Teenage kiss) ; Violence: R (Graphic beatings, murders, and fights--both human and fantasy violence; kidnapping, discussion of domestic abuse)



18yo Latavia is staying with her aunt and her cousin Jade over the summer in Sanctum, AL until she goes to college in the fall on a track scholarship. She quickly realizes something weird is going on in Sanctum, but no one will answer her questions. Latavia doesn’t have to wait long for answers, though--soon after arriving in town she is kidnapped and sacrificed to a giant talking snake in the forbidden woods behind the town. The snake has a deal with the town where they send monthly sacrifices in exchange for their lives, but they have broken the rules with Latavia's sacrifice. Latavia survives by making a new deal with the snake: she will help him destroy the barriers keeping him out of town, and in turn she asks the snake to kill the six people who sacrificed her--including her aunt.

The writing was a good mix between descriptive, colloquial, and fast-paced, and I enjoyed getting to know Latavia, who is a strong character and a queer woman of color. The book addressed race and LGBTQIA+ issues without being preachy. On the other hand, the plot (though fascinating) was ridiculous, and some important things go unresolved, leaving an unclear message. Latavia and her family members are Black; her love interest Allison and most other characters are white.

Lindsay Blowers, ELA Teacher 

Right Here, Right Now by Shannon Dunlap - OPTIONAL

Right Here, Right Now
by Shannon Dunlap,
  288 pages. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2024. $19

Language: R (52 swears, 17 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (drugs and smoking); Violence: PG (death)



Anna and Elise have been friends since they were very young. Now in high school, Elise annoys Anna because of her carelessness while Anna struggles to work hard to become a violinist. Liam is Elise’s cousin and this is the story that takes place in alternate universes involving these three young adults. Elise’s decision of whether or not to pass a vehicle in a sketchy situation splits the story into two parts; one where Elise lives and one where she doesn’t. Within these two universes, Liam and Anna deal with their grief over losing Elise or try to navigate life with Elise. The struggles of growing up and day to day life are portrayed well and with realistic developments; this story is food for thought.

The alternate universe storyline stretched my brain and I enjoyed having to reset every chapter change before I could start reading with focus. Anna is a strong character. The character development is done well. The ethnicity defaults to white.

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian, Delta, Utah 

Highcliffe House by Megan Walker - OPTIONAL

Highcliffe House by Megan Walker, 312 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2024. $17.

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



Anna (20yo), despite her family’s wealth and good name, is floundering socially. She needs her father, but he keeps getting distracted by Graham and his investment ideas. When Anna’s father gives Anna decision-making power over the next harebrained scheme, Anna willingly agrees to spend a week with Graham and his family to make sure Graham stays away from her father for good.

Despite using one of my least favorite tropes, Walker’s characters won me over, and I enjoyed the story. The enemies to lovers trope, in this case, opened readers to the magic of withholding judgment of others—and being humble enough to admit first impressions are not perfect insights to character. My favorite part was how Anna ends up describing her love through an analogy of investment and the perspective change it causes in the characters.

All of the characters are English. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, mild innuendo, and kissing. The violence rating is for a joke about murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Give Me a Sign by Anna Sortino - ADVISABLE

Give Me a Sign
by Anna Sortino
, 320 pages. G.P. Putnam' (Penguin), 2023. $12

Language: PG-13 (19 swears, 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (underage drinking, teenage kiss, innuendo; Violence: PG (police encounter where a character is injured and arrested)



17yo Lilah, a soon-to-be high school senior, is struggling with her identity as a Deaf person who has been raised in a hearing world. She struggles to follow conversations with her hearing friends, but she also doesn’t feel “Deaf enough.” The only time when she really fit in was at Camp Gray Wolf, a summer camp for the deaf and blind. She gets the opportunity to return the camp as a junior counselor. Camp Gray Wolf is staffed by a diverse group, including Isaac (who helped her learn ASL years ago) and Mackenzie (who is hearing and studying to be an interpreter). It’s not quite as easy to fit in now as it was as a camper, but Lilah does her best--with a little help from Isaac. On top of this, Camp Gray Wolf is out of money and might be shut down after this summer. Over the course of the camp, Lilah gains acceptance, falls in love, makes friends, learns responsibility, and gains empathy for the other campers and counselors.

I liked the representation of Deaf culture and that it was written by a Deaf author, the cute romance, the length of the book, and that it is kind of a Hi-Lo book at 720 Lexile. I didn't like that there were big consequences for breaking curfew ,but no one cared that the counselors went out drinking, including several who were underage. The swears also seemed unnecessary - thrown in to up the maturity. The main character is presumed white, but her love interest is part Dominican and speaks Spanish along with English and ASL. The head counselor is also hispanic. There are side characters with other races, disabilities, and sexual orientations.

Lindsay Blowers, Teacher 

Marcel's Masterpiece: How a Toilet Shaped the History of Art by Jeff Mack - ADVISABLE

Marcel's Masterpiece: How a Toilet Shaped the History of Art
by Jeff Mack
. PICTURE BOOK Henry Holt (Macmillan), 2022 $19. 9781250777164 



In the 1910's, Marcel Duchamp wasn't interested in that art that was - he wanted something different. So he took a urinal, turned it upside down and called it "Fountain" - entering it into a very prestigious art show and making some people mad and a lot of people think. Who decides what art is, anyway? 

A precursor and supported of dadism, Marcel's story is set off perfectly by Mack's multimedia illustrations. I know my art teacher will want to share this with her students. Marcel is white. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian 

Friday, May 17, 2024

The Diablo’s Curse by Gabe Cole Novoa - OPTIONAL

The Diablo’s Curse by Gabe Cole Novoa, 400 pages. Random House Books for Young Readers (Penguin Random House), 2024.  $20.

Language: R (66  swears, 4 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (stealing souls, one on-page non-graphic sex scene); Violence: R (frequent bloody & gruesome on-page deaths);



Dami - a nonbinary demon who longs to be human, Silas - a cursed boy who wishes to be free of his family curse, along with Marisol - a trans-fem girl shipwrecked on a magical murderous island, band together to hunt down Captain Kidd's pirate treasure. Will they each find what they are looking for, before the island kills them all?

I liked this LGBTQIA fantasy action story, with some romantic elements, but I didn't love it. I liked the BIPOC and queer representation in Dami and Marisol’s characters. I thought it was interesting how being a demonio allowed them to shift fluidly between how they presented themselves, depending on how they were feeling. I felt like there was too much happening with the plot and the worldbuilding. My biggest complaint was the violence in the story. The repeated violent and graphic deaths on page were jarring. I could see how the action and violence in the story might be appealing to some readers, but for me, it was too much.

Reviewer: Kiera Beddes, ELA  #bookswithbeddes

Never Never by Colleen Hoover - OPTIONAL

Never Never
by Colleen Hoover
, 416 pages. Canary Street Press, 2023. $12

Language: R (192 swears, 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (implied sex); Violence: PG-13( bloody death) 



Silas and 17yo Charlie have no memory of their lives. They become aware in class but don’t know who they are or who anyone else is. Charlie and Silas eventually talk and realize they’re both dealing with the same problem. They search and find some answers but within 48 hours, they’ve lost their memories again, which becomes a pattern. The two are desperate for answers and they won’t give up until they find them.

I enjoyed the clever humor. The character development was strong. Silas and Charlie are interesting and complex characters. Ethnicity cues to white.

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian, Delta, Utah 

An Ocean of Courage and Fear by Jerry Borrowman - OPTIONAL

An Ocean of Courage and Fear by Jerry Borrowman, 239 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2024. $27.

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



After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Salt Lake City participated in battles across the Pacific during WWII. From Lieutenant Commander Justin Collier on the bridge to Lieutenant Riley Bracken in a scout plane to Al Jowdy swabbing the deck, no one knew when the war would end—or whether they would live to see it.

Borrowman includes real events and first-hand accounts throughout the book (including Jowdy’s experiences), though the main characters (like Collier and Bracken) are fictional. Points of view from all over the Naval ship, and even a couple from different branches of the military, are included and give readers a good idea of what it would have been like to fight in WWII or be the loved ones left at home, even while Borrowman spares readers the gory details. While reading of the sacrifices can be heartbreaking, those who continued to move forward in doing their duty are all heroes.

The characters are American and Japanese. The mature content rating is for alcohol use and kissing. The violence rating is for blood and gore, assault, gun and bomb use, discussions of war, death, corpses, and mentions of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Beastly Beauty by Jennifer Donnelly - OPTIONAL

Beastly Beauty
by Jennifer Donnelly
, 336 pages. Scholastic Press, 2024. $17

Language: R (83 swears, 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (kissing); Violence: PG-13 (bloody fighting) 



19yo Beau rides with a group of thieves who saved his life and expects him to earn his way by stealing, even though he only wants to get away and retrieve his younger brother Matti from the orphanage. 18yo Arabella is a daughter of a Duke, living in a cursed castle with a dangerous beast that appears at midnight. When Beau and his group arrive at the castle, no one is around but the dining table is set for a feast. They eat until a beast arrives, then run, leaving Beau behind. What Beau finds, as he’s trapped in the castle, changes his life forever.

Donnelly’s story contains good messages. The clever names of the court ladies were fun to figure out. The romance could have been more developed. Beau is Spanish and Arabella is white.

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian, Delta, Utah

True True by Don P. Hooper - OPTIONAL

True True by Don P. Hooper
, 384 pages. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2023. $17 

Language: PG-13 (67 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (Subject matter. Smoking. Drinking); Violence: PG-13 (Bullying)



17yo Gil Powell lives in Brooklyn, NY. He is interested in robotics but there is no robotics program at his school. There is a private school in Manhattan that has an intense robotics program. Gil advocates for himself and gets accepted to Augustin Prep school and receives a scholarship. Also, Gil is a martial arts expert and participates in a neighborhood martial arts studio with local friends. Gil is targeted by a fellow student and "forced" to display his martial arts skills. He gets in trouble and is placed on probation. Other students of color at APS are isolated and they form a club and demonstrate against the inequalities at the prep school. Gil turns to the book The Art of War to devise a plan to keep his placement at APS. 

Gil is a likable character, and his work ethic is admirable. Some of the instances he has questionable ethics in his interpretation of what is allowable and not allowable. The angst between the neighborhood and friends and those at the prep school seem fairly typical. The students at the prep school work well together to create and devise plans to teach the prep school community about their racism from people and the institution. Gil is a second-generation Jamaican living in a Jamaican neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. He lives with his grandmother, who is suffering from dementia, and his mother. His father is in Jamaica trying to secure legal status in the US. 

Bryant Baird, Librarian 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Chasing Pacquiao by Rod Pulido - OPTIONAL

Chasing Pacquiao by Rod Pulido
, 272 pages. Viking Books for Young Readers, 2023. $19

 Language: R (100+ swears 3 'fs'); Mature Content: PG-13 (Bullying) Violence:  PG-13 (Boxing violence, Teenagers fighting) 



Agbayani Bobby is a gay, Filipino student at Westlake High School in Southern California. He keeps in the closet until he is outed by a fellow student. Rather than deny or cover up he decides to come out. He is bullied by fellow students who steal his bicycle. The bicycle is an important memento to Bobby as it was a gift from his deceased father. His best friend is Rosie, a quick witted, fierce, and loyal Latina friend. Bobby decides to counter the bullies by signing up at a local boxing gym. He gets a job there to pay for the fees. Luke, the owner of the gym, becomes Bobby's boxing coach and instructor. 

This is a heartfelt story of coming to terms with who you are and how to make your way in the world while navigating tricky events that occur. I loved that the chapters were called "Rounds". The story flows and is good. There is a lot of bullying. The plot seems predictable, and the characters are what might be expected. Bobby grapples with being gay in high school and culturally not acceptable. His hero the Filipino boxer, Manny Pacquiao, is running for political office and denounces homosexuals, which crushes Bobby. 

Bryant Baird, Librarian 

Seven Ghosts by Chris Priestley - ADVISABLE

Seven Ghosts by Chris Priestley, 135 pgs. Union Square Kids, 2019. $9

Language: G (no swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (mention of accidental deaths)



Every year, Grimstone Hall hosts a tour for finalists in their ghost story writing contest. As Jake, and the other finalists, are guided through the halls of the spooky manor, they are told about the seven ghosts that haunt the grounds. Jake feels that the tour guide is behaving suspiciously toward him while at the same time, he notices shadows that seem to be following him. When the tour winds to a close, he will realize that maybe the stories are not just stories.

A quick and spooky tale that weaves past misdeeds with present hauntings. A perfect story for Spooky Season, or any dark night, that will delight readers of all ages.


By Any Other Name By Erin Cotter - OPTIONAL

By Any Other Name by Erin Cotter, 464 pgs. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2023. $22

Language: R (100+ swears, no ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (minimal mention of alcohol consumption); Violence: R (sword play (bloody), murder (off page), poisoning deaths (on page), torture (off page), threatened execution, assault (bloody), person run over by a horse and cart (bloody), crossbow shootings (on page, bloody))



Will is a 16-year-old actor who has become too old to play the female roles and too young to be the male lead. Desperate for money, he asks his good friend, Kit Marlowe, for help. While meeting with Kit at a pub, he watches as his benefactor is brutally murdered in front of him. This will launch Will on an adventure of spying, royal intrigue, and love, as he seeks to avenge his friend.

Unfortunately, the only strong part of this book is the positive, although historically inaccurate, LGBTQIA+ relationship portrayal. Otherwise, the reader will find a plot with many characters and storylines that are underdeveloped, plot twists that fall flat, and biographical unease. The main characters read well above their stated ages with the main character’s story bogged down by numerous overdramatic inner monologues. 


Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Make Me A Liar by Melissa Landers - OPTIONAL

Make Me A Liar
by Melissa Landers
, 250 pages. Hyperion, 2023. $18 

Language: R (94 swears 1 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (mild crude talk and innuendo throughout book);  Violence: PG-13 (fighting, threats and use of stun gun and knife, no gore, mentions child abuse) 



Tia, a high school senior, is an immersionist which means she can head-hop into other people and take control of their body. After head hopping into a classmate to help with a bullying problem, she heads home to switch back into her body when she sees a special news bulletin. There has been a shooting on the steps of the courthouse and one victim has been confirmed dead. Then she sees her body kneeling on the ground, confessing and giving herself up to the police. Tia is momentarily paralyzed and can’t believe what she is seeing. Who took her body? As she races home to verify that her body is gone she wonders who would know where to find her body and how would they know she was head-hopping at that moment? There are not very many people who even know her secret and she’s pretty sure none of them would tell anyone. Now Tia has to decide who she can trust and solve the mystery to clear her name. 

Landers writes a mystery that unfolds at a good pace with a few surprises, and an added bit of science fiction, although I would have liked more background on Tia’s ability. That being said, the story is engaging with smart, clever characters, some romance and funny parts which all add up to a very satisfying read. One character is described as having dark skin, but most are not mentioned. 

RB reviewer 

Monday, May 13, 2024

Royal Scandal (Royal Blood #2) by Aimee Carter - APPEALS TO MANY

Royal Scandal (Royal Blood #2) 
by Aimee Carter
, 416 pages. Delacorte Press, 2024. $18 

Language: R (41 swears 0 'f');  Mature Content: G (Holding hands, hugging) Violence: PG-13 (bloody death)



18yo Evan is in the United Kingdom with her family, royal and not royal. She’s recovering from the assault by Jasper and has great support from her boyfriend Kit and her family. Evan is starting to feel more at ease with her royal surroundings until a shooter misses her and hits Kit as he protects her. Evan receives secret anonymous threats and she starts to hear voices that are threatening her also. Her mother has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and she’s worried she’s hallucinating since no one else sees or hears the threats. Each day the threats and danger build until Evan is terrified she will lose her life and the people she loves.

I love Evan and Kit and their relationship. The royal premise adds heightened intrigue to the mystery. This second book of the series is just as good as the first.  The ethnicity is predominantly white. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Sunday, May 12, 2024

I Hope This Doesn't Find You by Ann Liang - ADVISABLE

I Hope This Doesn't Find You
by Ann Liang,
309 pages. Scholastic Press, 2024. $20 

Language: PG-13 (60 swears 0 's'); Mature Content: PG-13 (underage drinking, intense kissing) Violence:  G 



Sadie, a senior in high school, has spent her life working hard to be at the top of her class. Her one hurdle is Julius. According to Sadie, he is arrogant and self-absorbed, and has been competing with her since they were 7 years old. It doesn’t help that he simply infuriates her. She would like to let him know how mad he makes her, but would also rather avoid any kind conflict. Instead, she writes him emails, but Julius isn’t the only person on the receiving end of her scathing emails. She furiously writes emails to plenty of other classmates and teachers. Of course, she doesn’t send the emails out. Until the day they do mysteriously get sent out to everyone at the school. Now everyone is upset with Sadie. 

This was a light, easy, romance with a healthy dose of humor and I was surprised at how much I liked Sadie. She was such a contradiction. So intense and driven on one hand, and trying so hard to be genuinely nice on the other. The author adds depth to the story with family and friend issues, although I found it a little vague on how easily the emails were sent out. Overall, it was a good read. The characters are Asian. 

RB reviewer 

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Plan A by Deb Caletti - OPTIONAL

Plan A
by Deb Caletti
,  402 pages. Labyrinth Road, 2023. $19.

Language: R (97 swears 33 'f'); Mature Content: R (abortion decisiuon, nudity); Violence: PG-13 (sexual assault mentioned.) 



Ivy, a 16yo junior from Texas, finds herself pregnant at the end of her junior year. With her mother's permission, Ivy has made a tough decision and embarks on a road trip to Oregon with the support of her boyfriend, Lorenzo, to stay with her grandmother while she undergoes an abortion. As they journey together, Ivy grapples with complex emotions, confronts societal stigmas, and ultimately finds empowerment in making her own choices about her future.       

I liked how supported Ivy was by her boyfriend and family. She received the emotional support she needed to make a decision that was best for her. I also liked how the author wove facts about abortion and women's history throughout the story. I didn't like that Ivy and her boyfriend roadtripped from Texas to Oregon so Ivy could receive the abortion. I can see some readers romanticizing the road trip. I also think the relationship between Ivy and her boyfriend is more mature than the majority of high school relationships actually are.           

Mary - Middle School CTE Teacher 

Friday, May 10, 2024

Wild Wishes and Windswept Kisses by Maya Prasad - OPTIONAL

Wild Wishes and Windswept Kisses by Maya Prasad
, 468 pages. Hyperion, 2023. $18 

Language: G (1 swear 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (Character mentions that she is no longer a virgin; birth control and a condom was used. Content also includes passionate kissing and hands under clothing. There is also underage drinking) Violence: G 



The Singh sisters, Nidhi, who has started college; twins Rani and Avani, seniors in HS; and 10th grader Sirisha, embark on a journey of self-discovery over the course of a single, wind-swept November day. Each sister confronts their diverging paths and dreams of the future. Together, they navigate the turbulent waters of love, loss, and the unbreakable ties that bind them. This narrative weaves a tale of embracing change, finding strength in sisterhood, and the enduring power of family. 

This narrative weaves a tale of embracing change, finding strength in sisterhood, and the enduring power of family. Loved reading about 4 South Asian American sisters. Each sister had a unique voice and the author did a great job detailing different challenges faced in romantic relationships. The book takes place in one day and the sisters stories move back and forth between chapters. I found that to feel a little rushed and chaotic. Nidhi, Rani, Avani, Sirisha and their father are South Asian American. Sirisha is queer. 

Mary- Middle School CTE Teacher 

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Dread Detention by Jennifer Killick - OPTIONAL

Dread Detention
by Jennifer Killick
, 200 pages.  Delacorte (Random House), 2022. $18 

Language: PG-13 (36 swears, 0 "F") Mature Content: G Violence: PG (bullying, spider attacks) 



Four 7th graders are assigned to a Saturday detention. Their detention turns deadly when their teacher disappears and they suddenly seem to be hunted by carnivorous giant spiders. If they don't set aside their differences and work together, they could be spider bait. 

The cover is fantastic. I really wanted to like this book, but the kids don't seem nearly traumatized enough. Their ability to crack jokes while being tracked by killer spiders seems out of place and loses the tension. Possibly the scariest part is that the students had to turn their cell phones in for detention, and had to face spiders without them. The four students come from a variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Hidden Yellow Stars by Rebecca Connolly - OPTIONAL

Hidden Yellow Stars by Rebecca Connolly, 274 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2024. $27.

Language: PG (1 swear, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



The longer the Nazis occupy Belgium, the more of Andrée’s students go missing—Jewish students. Ida isn’t a practicing Jew, but the Germans don’t care and still make her life difficult—despite Ida’s marriage to a non-Jew. Taking on false names and risking everything, Andrée (21yo) and Ida (40yo) join the Belgian resistance and hide Jewish children, taking them from their families to keep them safe—they hope.

Connolly highlights the experiences of these two remarkable women doing dangerous work amidst Nazi occupation, and the suspense is palpable—by the end, I became as paranoid as those in the resistance. The story feels more like a collection of experiences than a typical novel with a plotline, but I was still invested in wanting to know what would happen next. Honestly, I still want a couple more chapters talking about what happened next when the Germans pulled out of Belgium and how reuniting families was handled. The stories told are heart-wrenching and heartwarming, with enough details to get the reality—and cruelty—of the Nazis across without being graphic.

Most of the characters are Belgian, Jewish, both, or German—and a couple are even Jewish Germans. The mature content rating is for mentions of alcohol and for nudity. The violence rating is for gun use, assault, and mentions of war, bombs, child abuse, gas chambers/ovens, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

The Return of Ellie Black by Emiko Jean - OPTIONAL

The Return of Ellie Black by Emiko Jean, 320 pages. Simon & Schuster, 2024. $29.

Language: R (57 swears, 19 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



Then 17yo Ellie disappeared over two years ago, and Detective Chelsey Calhoun has never been able to let Ellie’s case go. And then Ellie turns up again. Despite Ellie shutting down every conversation with her, Chelsey presses forward, determined to close the case this time, and finds more than she thought possible.

Jean tells the story in alternating points of view, mostly giving readers just enough of the past and present to stay a step behind Ellie so that readers are in the same desperate state as Chelsey. The twists and turns that make the book thrilling were fun, even if I’m having a hard time buying into the final, climactic reveal. Despite that hang up, the conclusion is still a satisfactory ending.

Chelsey is Japanese, Daniel is Chinook (Native American), and Sam and Valerie are lesbian. The mature content rating is for alcohol use (including underage drinking); scary elements; illegal activity; mentions of drugs and overdose, nudity, and rape; and sex. The violence rating is for blood; gun use; mentions of domestic violence and suicide; assault; bomb use; and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, May 6, 2024

Starring Steven Spielberg by Gene Barretta and Craig Orback - ADVISABLE

Starring Steven Spielberg: The Making of a Young Filmmaker
by Gene Barretta, illustrated by Craig Orback
. PICTURE BOOK NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHY Christy Ottaviano (Little Brown), 2022. $18. 9780316338981 



Shy, skinny, anxious Steven grew up in a loving, creative family that gave him the tools to survive the bullying he experienced and the imagination to create worlds on film for others to also escape into. 

I love how Barretta weaves Steven's career into his childhood, so that we have a singular whole instead two different acts. Orback's illustrations feel flat, which is almost minor, considering how much Spielberg fans will enjoy his picture book biography. I love that Baretta shows the struggles and rejections as being an important part of the whole - sending the blockbuster movies as scenery, not the focus. Any school with a film class should have this biography. Steven is white and Jewish. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS 

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Small Shoes, Great Strides by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Alex Bostic - ADVISABLE

Small Shoes, Great Strides: How Three Brave Girls Opened Doors to School Equality
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by Alex Bostic
. PICTURE BOOK NON-FICTION Carolrhoda (Lerner), 2023 $20. 9781728419237 



Leona, Tessie, and Gail were the first three black students in New Orleans, Louisiana, to enter a previously segregated public elementary school. By the end of the first day, they were the only children left in the class, and by the end of the day, they were alone in the school. For the whole year they remained alone with their teacher. 

Nelson dives deep into the details of the three girls' first couple of years as the pioneers of desegregating New Orleans schools. The story continues in the extensive back matter, following their subsequent years and the horrors they faced each day. The text is particularly dense - this is not a casual read. But it is also important, as it gives a deeper look at the struggle and danger it was to integrate schools in extremely reluctant communities. While I doubt most students will read this on their own, if you are in a middle school or high school that covers the material, I would check this out to a teacher immediately. The main characters are Black, with some white protestors depicted. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS 

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Comet Chaser by Pamela S. Turner and Vivien Mildenberge - ADVISABLE

Comet Chaser: The True Cinderella Story of Caroline Herschel by Pamela S. Turner, illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger
. PICTURE BOOK NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHY Chronicle Books, 2024. $20. 9781452145433 



Though her mother wanted Caroline to stay home in Germany forever and be free drudge labor, her brother William, a musician and amateur astronomer, rescued her by inviting her to his home in England. Together the two fostered their love for mathematics and astronomy and went on the both being salaried by the King of England as professional astronomers. 

Caroline Herschel is a VIP in the world of astronomy - the first woman recognized for her contributions. She left behind 100's of discoveries, including the rings of Uranus and catalogs of celestial objects. Unfortunately, the text is long, the book is long (52 pages), and the illustrations are muddied colored and fell out of focus - so many drawbacks for such an important and interesting woman. I could forgive the length, if the illustrations were better quality. While I will add it to my collection, it will need to be hand sold to science or history teachers as part of a collection of picture books. Caroline is German. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS