Adolescence is a time when everything seems as if it couldn’t be worse. Peer pressure can seem insurmountable and kids have problems at home and school. Reading about teens who have even more difficult issues can help students look at their own lives with a different perspective. Feeling responsible for the death of your best friend’s mother is a huge burden to bear. Witnessing your family’s murder when they refuse to tell a gang the location of their well brings grief beyond measure to a child alone in a drought-filled country. The knowledge that a dead body couldn’t possibly be your older sister causes a young girl to stumble upon murderous criminals. Reading the following new fiction novels can minimize a middle school student’s own fears while shedding light on worlds outside their own.
CROWDER, Melanie. Parched. Houghton Harcourt. 2013. ISBN 9780547976518. JLG Level: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).
Sarel is a girl who learned from her mother the secrets of plants―which can heal, nourish, or hold water. Nandi is the dog that saves Sarel from being seen when her family is murdered for the location of their secret well. She can also sense that the boy who has the power to save them all is near. Musa can sense the flow of underground water sources. His gift causes him to be kidnapped by a gang and forced to search for water after being beaten, starved, and handcuffed. These three survivors must find a way to locate water in a brutal desert before they run out of time. In her debut novel, Crowder tells the powerful story of the courage of two kids who use what they do well to work together and survive in a harsh world.
LARSON, Kirby. Hattie Ever After. Delacorte. 2013. ISBN 9780385906685. JLG Level: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).
After Hattie pays off her IOU for Uncle Chester’s debt, she finds herself wondering if life in Montana and marriage to Charlie is what she really wants. When a traveling theatre troupe offers her a job which will take her to San Francisco, she jumps at the chance. This could be her opportunity to make a real career choice―journalism! The problem is that in 1919, women clean offices; they don’t work in them. Hattie must use her courage and desire to write to conquer stereotypes and win a spot on the front page. The sequel to Hattie Big Sky (Delacorte, 2006) allows Hattie to take her dabbling with a hometown newspaper column to a professional level in the fast and furious big-city life at the cusp of the Roaring Twenties.
MELOY, Maile. The Apprentices. Putnam. 2013. ISBN 9780399162459. JLG Level: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).
Math and science have always been easy for Janie. When she is falsely accused of cheating on a math test, the young researcher is expelled. Without access to her experiment, Janie won’t be able to finish extracting salt from her saline solution. She hoped to find a way to produce drinkable water from the ocean. Unfortunately, her equipment is stolen. In the meantime, her friends are scattered around the world. Benjamin and his father are in the jungle, trying to survive a war. Pip is on hiatus from making his television show. Jin Lo has returned to her childhood home to face the ghosts of her murdered family. As these teens struggle with their own problems, they unite for the common cause, as apprentices to the great Apothecary. Meloy’s sequel to The Apothecary (Putnam, 2001) smoothly takes four storylines and blends them into one high-powered race to save the team and fight their enemies.
PATTERSON, Valerie O. Operation Oleander. Clarion. 2013. ISBN 9780547244372. JLG Level: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).
Jess is not an orphan, but as the child of a soldier, her sense of duty and responsibility draws her to create a way to support her father and the orphans in Afghanistan. Though her friends Meriwether and Sam help with Operation Oleander, not every person feels that the Army should be involved in war in Kabul. When a bomb targets the jeep that is taking their supplies to the orphanage, Jess’s dad is severely wounded. Meriwether’s mother is killed. After an investigation ensues, Jess worries that it’s their fault. Sam’s dad is the Commander in Chief of the base; he must decide the future of their project. Conflict strains relationships to unbearable limits. Patterson’s heartfelt novel explores how even good intentions can have unexpected consequences.
TIMBERLAKE, Amy. One Came Home. Knopf. 2013. ISBN 9780375969256. JLG Level: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).
Georgie refuses to believe that her sister is dead. Anyone could have taken that dress. Full of courage and anger, the thirteen-year-old girl talks her neighbor Billy into providing her with a horse to find Agatha. She never expects him to trick her into riding on a mule and taking him with her. Together they follow clues that lead them to believe that Georgie’s gut feeling was not unfounded. Unfortunately they stumble into a dangerous ring of counterfeiters in the process. Can they solve Agatha’s mystery without causing another death? With turns of the tale at every bend in the road, Timberlake weaves secrets into a plot that makes you laugh and breaks your heart.
Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com.
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