June 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Hollywood Starlets, Charming Con Men, & Lethal Assassins | What’s Hot in YA

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.

Whether it’s a cunning grifter with a heart of gold, or an aspiring actress with stars in her eyes, the protagonists in these latest books for teens will inspire, infuriate, and tug at the hearstrings (and nerves) of young adults. From Ally Condie’s Atlantia to Jason Reynolds’s The Boy in the Black Suit, the following titles are sure to get readers’ attention.

Axelrod_Law of Loving OthersAxelrod, Kate. The Law of Loving Others. 240p. Penguin/Razorbill. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781595147899; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698164956.

Gr 10 Up –Emma’s first semester of junior year at prep school has just ended and she arrives home for winter break to find her mother acting uncharacteristically agitated, paranoid, and distracted. Within a matter of days, she is found collapsed in a parking lot. It isn’t until she’s been admitted to the hospital’s psychiatric ward that Emma’s father informs her that her mother is suffering from a schizophrenic episode and this is not the first time it’s happened. Emma not only fears that her mother may never recover, but that she herself may have inherited the same disease. Feeling lost and adrift, she unexpectedly runs into a casual acquaintance whose twin brother is in the same institution as her mother, but their budding relationship only compounds Emma’s problems. Axelrod has created a convincing portrait of a teen newly experiencing the step-by-step process of learning how to cope with a family member’s mental illness.–Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA

Berman, Ali. Misdirected. 288p. Seven Stories. Nov. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781609805739; ebk. $18.95. ISBN 9781609805746. LC 2014010183.

Gr 6-10 –Ben’s parents believe that private schools provide better educations, so, despite being part of a nonreligious family, he has always attended a Catholic school. The summer before his sophomore year, the family relocates and the teen is enrolled in Christian Heritage Academy. He is totally unprepared for the fundamentalist Christian beliefs that define every student and aspect of life at the Academy. Ben deals by focusing on maintaining a high GPA, believing college will be his ticket out of the narrow-minded town. He is tasked with supporting creationism over evolution, and he’s unwilling to sacrifice scientific evidence to what he believes. When his well-documented paper receives an F and he is subsequently physically accosted by the school bully, his frustration boils over into a tirade of expletives and Christian-bashing aimed at students and teachers. Berman tackles religious intolerance from an unexpected angle that will hit close to home for many and spark interesting discussion.–Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA

Scandalous SisterhoodBERRY, Julie. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place. 368p. Roaring Brook. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781596439566; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781596439573.

Gr 6 Up– In this Victorian boarding school murder mystery, seven young women find themselves gloriously free from adult supervision when their judgmental, penny-pinching headmistress and her good-for-nothing brother die suddenly during dinner. Rather than alert the authorities and risk having the school shut down and all the students sent home, the girls decide to keep things under wraps and proceed as if the late headmistress and her brother were still alive. But first they’ll have to bury the bodies in the garden without attracting the notice of busybody neighbors, potential suitors, a suspicious housekeeper, and a host of charmingly annoying villagers with a penchant for showing up at the worst possible moment. Each girl at Saint Etheldreda’s School is defined largely by an adjective that precedes her name: Dear Roberta, Disgraceful Mary Jane, Dull Martha, Stout Alice, Smooth Kitty, Pocked Louise, and Dour Elinor. The nicknames are illustrative of the insidious ways in which women and girls were pigeonholed and denigrated in the patriarchal society of 19th–century Great Britain, and over the course of the story, the characters prove that their supposed weaknesses are often the sources of great strength and ingenuity. Overall, this is a well-researched, clever, and deliciously dark comedy with an emphasis on female empowerment.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

Birdsall, Bridget. Double Exposure. 304p. ebook available. Sky Pony. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781629146065.

Gr 9 Up –After Alyx is attacked by the school bully, her mother decides they need a fresh start, and Alyx is ready. Born with ambiguous genitalia, Alyx has lived her life as a boy, but knows that her true identity is a girl. Her parents chose to do nothing when Alyx was a baby, not wanting to choose her identity for her. A move to Wisconsin gives her the opportunity to be her true self, a complicated undertaking. Patti, nicknamed “Pepper” because of her hotheadedness, befriends the young woman and encourages her to join the basketball team but quickly starts bullying the teen. When Alyx’s identity is called into question, her past comes to light and threatens her basketball eligibility. The protagonist’s feelings and conversations about her identity are poignant. This is an important addition to the small field of books featuring an intersex character.–Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Apollo High School Library, St. Cloud, MN

Mortal GodsBlake, Kendare. Mortal Gods. 352p. (The Goddess War: Bk. 2). ebook available. Tor Teen. Oct. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765334442.

Gr 9 Up –Aphrodite has killed the boy she loves, and now all that Cassandra wants is vengeance. Except Aiden was not just some boy. He was Apollo, the immortal god of the Sun. Cassandra is not an average teen girl from Kincade, New York, but rather the prophetic Cassandra of Troy, born again. And more, she has the power to exact her revenge as a Weapon of Fate—the young woman has the ability to kill a god with the slightest touch of her hands. Despite her hatred for Athena, the heroine has decided that joining forces with her historical enemy is the best way to find and destroy Aphrodite. The Goddess War has begun, and together Cassandra, Athena, and their allies intend to win no matter the cost. The second book in Blake’s Greek mythology series, this novel picks up soon after the end of Antigoddess (Tor, 2013) and continues to expand upon the world of the immortal Olympian gods and returned heroes of the Trojan War. Like the previous installment, the author expertly brings these ancient characters into the modern world and provides a fun story for readers who enjoy the supernatural, swordfighting, and larger-than-life heroes and heroines.–Ryan F. Paulsen, New Rochelle High School, NY

Brauning, Kate. How We Fall. 304p. ebook available. Adams Media/Merit. Nov. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781440581793.

Gr 10 Up –After Jackie moves to a sleepy farming town, her life feels like someone else’s. Her best friend, Ellie, has been missing for months, and Jackie has begun a romantic relationship with her own cousin, Marcus. She can’t control the depth of the relationship, which intensifies as the police search for Ellie’s body. Jackie decides that she and Marcus should see other people. Heartbreaking and well paced, this mystery novel challenges readers to look past preconceptions and get to the know characters, rather than focus on an uncomfortable taboo. Brauning’s characters are well developed and their story engrossing. An intriguing thriller, this title will raise eyebrows and capture the interest of teens.–Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ

Brown, Jaye Robin. No Place to Fall. 368p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062270993.

Gr 10 Up –In the atmospheric mountains of western North Carolina, high school junior Amber Vaughn is the peacekeeper in the family. She’s pretty sure that her daddy has a sweetie on the side, her momma seems afraid to lose weight and venture outside of her safe home, and her sister Whitney married drug dealer and rock-star-wannabe Sammy when she found herself pregnant. Amber is determined to make something of herself. She has true musical talent, but is afraid that her voice will never go beyond Sunday gospel solos. When the teen learns of a scholarship to a prestigious arts school, Will, the brother of her best friend Devon, offers to help her audition. The more they work together, the more obvious it becomes that they should be a couple. Then, her sister’s legal crises and her own misjudgment while trying to help another friend threaten to destroy everything that she’s worked so hard to build. Debut author Brown is off to a wonderful start with authentic characters who speak in true voices. Realistic treatment of social pot smoking, some drinking and (safe) sex make this title appropriate for mature teens.–Susan Riley, Mamaroneck Public Library, NY

Carey_BlackbirdCarey, Anna. Blackbird. 256p. HarperCollins/ HarperTeen. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062299734; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062299758.

Gr 9 Up –Fast-paced second-person narration places readers squarely in the head of an amnesiac teen girl who only knows that she has a blackbird tattoo on her wrist and that someone is trying to kill her. Quickly adopting the nickname Sunny, the main character soon finds herself framed for theft. Not trusting the police, she manages to find sanctuary among a group of wealthy Los Angeles teens. Romantic tension builds between the protagonist and Ben, her rescuer. Sunny soon discovers abilities she didn’t know she had: being able to dodge assassin’s bullets and also excelling in close hand-to-hand combat when cornered by pursuers. Inspired by Richard Connell’s classic short story, “The Most Dangerous Game,” the novel draws to a satisfying close but leaves plenty of room for a sequel.–Madigan McGillicuddy, Atlanta-Fulton Public Library, Atlanta, GA

Cherry, Alison. For Real. 320p. Delacorte. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385742955; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375990861; ebk. ISBN 9780307979926.

Gr 9 Up –Eighteen-year-old Claire has always lived in the shadow of her outgoing and popular older sister, Miranda. Studying and watching reality TV has been an escape from actual reality for the cripplingly shy protagonist. So when Miranda discovers her boyfriend cheating on her, Claire comes up with a revenge plan that involves the two sisters beating him in an Amazing Race–type show. Of course, reality TV is not exactly what Claire expected once she’s on the other side of the cameras. Her hopes for a summer of bonding with her sister seems destined for failure when she finds herself embroiled in an onscreen romance. Cherry pulls off a deep, enjoyable narrative. Readers share Claire’s coming into her own, through her experiences in the race and her relationship with her sister. Though the experience is very different from the teen’s initial expectations, her goals of revenge and sisterly unity are achieved with fun and flair once she discovers for herself what’s For Real. With just enough romance and drama to please, this novel will find a wide audience.–Genevieve Feldman, San Francisco Public Library

AtlantiaCondie, Ally. Atlantia. 320p. Dutton. Oct. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525426448; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698135604.

Gr 9 Up –A fast-paced fantasy adventure tale in a richly drawn dystopian future. Despite her lifelong dream of living Above, recently orphaned Rio has promised her twin sister, Bay, that she’ll stay in their underwater city of Atlantia when they come of age. In one shocking moment, however, Bay is headed Above, and Rio is left alone, separated from the last person who knew the secret of her hidden siren voice and loved her anyway. As Rio tries to find her own way to get Above, she also discovers pieces of Atlantia’s hidden past and its uncertain future. Complex characters, including Rio’s antihero aunt, and a realistically slow and subtle first romance make this a book teens will relate to, even non-genre fans. A slowly unfolding backstory perfectly complements all the action. This is a title that’s sure to be immensely popular with teens, especially those who enjoyed Condie’s “Matched” trilogy (Dutton).–Sunnie Lovelace, Wallingford Public Library, CT

coyle_vivian appleCoyle, Katie. Vivian Apple at the End of the World. 272p. Houghton Harcourt. Jan. 2015. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9780544340114; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780544453289. LC 2013050206.

Gr 9 Up –The reclusive leader of the Church of America has declared that the Rapture will occur in late March of an unspecified 21st-century year. While Believers prepare as they’ve been instructed, others host or attend Rapture’s Eve parties. Sixteen-year-old Vivian Apple and her best friend Harpreet Janda fall into the latter category, but Vivian’s parents are devout Believers. The morning after Harp’s party, Vivian goes home to find her house empty. She searches, but there’s no message from her parents: only two person-sized holes in the roof above their bedroom. Certain that her parents haven’t really been “raptured,” the teen sets out to drive across the country in search of them, along with Harp and the mysterious Peter, whom they met at the Rapture’s Eve festivities. As their journey progresses, the trio discovers that post-rapture America has become paranoid, insular, and most of all, dangerous. The plot moves slowly at times but keeps readers fully immersed in this bleak story.–Marlyn Beebe, Long Beach Public Library, Los Alamitos, CA

Crowder, Melanie. Audacity. 400p. glossary. notes. Philomel. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399168994.

Gr 7 Up –Written in verse, this novel is loosely based on the life of Clara Lemlich Shavelson, the leader of New York shirtwaist strike of 1909. Clara and her family are Jewish Russians who flee the anti-Semitism of turn-of-the-century Russia to find a better life in America. However, Clara still experiences gender and religious oppression in New York. She is unable to gain the education she desires, because she is forced to work in a sweatshop, and she can’t rise above her given status as an immigrant worker because foreign women are taught only rudimentary English. Clara proves that she has the audacity to do the impossible for a female and a Jew: organizing a woman’s union and ultimately having her voice heard. The verse form of the narrative lends lightness to an otherwise bleak topic and moves the story along quickly, while artful formatting of the text creates and sustains mood. With historical notes, interviews with Clara’s family members, and a glossary of Yiddish terms, Audacity is an impactful addition to any historical fiction collection.–Brittany Staszak, Glencoe Public Library, IL

Damico_HellholeDamico, Gina. Hellhole. 368p. ebook available. Houghton Harcourt. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544307100. LC 2013042827.

Gr 9 Up –Max is a good kid, and he does one bad thing: he steals a silly glittery cat bobble head from the convenience store where he works to give to his seriously ill mother. This small act of “evil” accidentally releases a demon named Burg. His friend Lore understands because she experienced a similar incident (for a white lie) and was forced by her demon to do horrible things, causing her much heartbreak until it mysteriously disappeared. The teens struggle to send Max’s devil away, but Max is also determined to force the spirit to heal his mother, who is on the waiting list for a heart transplant. Damico draws readers into this quirky novel with well-written prose, believable characters, and an evenly plotted story line. More than a farce-comedy adventure with silly demons. it will appeal to teens who enjoy literary works with some humor and an exploration of the nature of evil.–Saleena L. Davidson, South Brunswick Public Library, Monmouth Junction, NJ

Echols, Jennifer. Perfect Couple. 320p. (The Superlatives). S. & S./Simon Pulse. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442474499; pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781442474482; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781442474505.

Gr 10 Up –When Harper and Brody are voted “The Perfect Couple That Never Was” during their senior year at their Florida high school, they find that it’s hard to resist exploring if their classmates are right. Challenges to their potential relationship include Harper’s actual boyfriend, Kennedy. While flirtatious Harper may not always be likable or the best role model, the teen is a realistic protagonist and this narrative is engaging and fun with a bit of football, drama, and photography. The author’s portrayal of high school antics and images are spot-on. Teens looking for an easy read or an edgy romance will be entertained. Angst continues to surround Tia and Will from Biggest Flirts (Bloomsbury, 2014), but they play minor characters in this installment. Even reluctant readers will get sucked into the drama of this year’s Perfect Couple.–Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

Ellis, Kat. Blackfin Sky. 304p. Running Pr. Teen. 2014. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780762454013; ebk. $9.95. ISBN 9780762455546. LC 2014933663.

Gr 9 Up –Sixteen-year-old Skylar Rousseau is late to class, which is no surprise. The real surprise comes when she’s told by her shocked friends and family that she’s been dead for more than three months. Skylar is adamant that this is all a practical joke and that she remembers the past 97 days just fine—then she begins having dreams of lying with her own dead body in a coffin. Ellis creates a tone that is playful yet eerie, drawing readers into the oddities of the town of Blackfin one bit at a time. It becomes evident that Sky’s life has always been peppered with the occult, from the way her home (enigmatically called Blood House) seems to speak to her in code, or how she sees faces in the wooden panels of her wall. The town residents are a colorful bunch, and Ellis deftly captures teenage dynamics and mannerisms while maintaining each character’s trademark eccentricity. The work ends with an explosive resolution, alongside plenty of questions and tales to be explored. This page-turner is sure to keep teens who love spooky sleuth novels up well into the night.–Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal

FICKLIN, Sherry. Queen of Someday. 262p. (Stolen Empire: Bk. 1). Clean Teen. Oct. 2014. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781940534909.

Gr 9 Up –Upon her arrival at the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst immediately begins her quest for the hand of Grand Duke Peter, heir to the Russian throne. Marrying the prince will secure her family’s lands and titles and save her from an unwanted marriage to her uncle. Surrounded on all sides with potential enemies, lovers, and political allies, Sophie struggles to reconcile her duties with her desires. This historical fiction tale provides a compelling, if fanciful look at the early years of Catherine the Great. An entertaining, racy read that will spark an interest in the history of Catherine the Great.–Sara Saxton, Wasilla Public Library, AK

Graudin_Walled CityGRAUDIN, Ryan. The Walled City. 448p. Little, Brown. Nov. 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316405058; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316405041.

Gr 9 Up –Dai has 18 days to find a way out of Hak Nam Walled City. Once a fort the space is now a lawless outland occupied by gangs, vagrants, and prostitutes. Each day is a fight for survival for most residents of the Walled City. Dai is from the City Beyond. Consigned to the Walled City for his actions he spends his time planning his escape. To do this, he must infiltrate the Brotherhood, the most feared and powerful gang in the Walled City, and steal from its leader, Longwai. He’ll need the help of Hak Nam’s fastest runner, Jin Ling, and Mei Yee, one of the whores in Longwai’s brothel. Jin Ling sees her involvement as a way to search the brothel for her missing sister, sold into prostitution by their father two years ago. But each has their own dark secrets, which could jeopardize not only their chance of success but their very lives. This dark and gritty thriller doesn’t pull any punches, taking readers into a world of fear, danger, and deprivation. Vivid descriptions add color and infuse the story with realism. This complex, well-written novel is full of tension, twists, and turns, and teens will not be able to put it down.–Heather Miller Cover, Homewood Public Library, AL

Griffin, Bethany. The Fall. 432p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Oct. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062107855; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062107879.

Gr 8 Up –Griffin offers an alternative take on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Instead of assuming the viewpoint of an outsider, as in the source material, readers get into the mind of Madeline Usher—the girl buried alive in the original tale. The author uses flashbacks to flesh out the missing details and provide backstory. This is an engrossing, creepy tale of a haunted house and its inhabitants. Altogether, the narrative’s even pacing and thorough character development will keep teens engaged. The updated, supernatural spin will have savvy and reluctant readers hooked. An interesting addition to the “twisted tales” genre, for librarians looking for back doors to lead teens into the classics. Fans of the author’s Masque of the Red Death (HarperCollins, 2012) will especially appreciate this title.–Saleena L. Davidson, South Brunswick Public Library, Monmouth Junction, NJ

Jay_PRINCESS_THORNS_Jay, Stacey. Princess of Thorns. 400p. Delacorte. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385743228; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375991011; ebk. ISBN 9780307981431.

Gr 9 Up –Set in a well-drawn fantasy kingdom that is home to humans, fairies, ogres, and witches, Princess of Thorns chronicles the early life of Princess Aurora, the briar-born child next in line to inherit her deceased father’s kingdom of Norvere. Unfortunately, Aurora’s grandfather chose an ogre as his third wife. After conspiring to bring about the demise of her husband and her son, Queen Ekeeta imprisons the rest of the family. Aurora’s mother sacrifices herself so that Aurora and her brother Jor can escape, and they spend 10 years in hiding with the fey, but a disturbing ogre prophecy requiring a briar-born child makes the ogres hunt them tirelessly. When the prince is captured, she’ll stop at nothing to save him, but doing so requires a risky journey across lands rife with spies and traitors. Compelling and action-packed, Princess of Thorns weaves in elements of classic fairy tales, such as “Sleeping Beauty,” “Rapunzel,” and “Swan Lake,” while still telling a unique and compelling story of its own. The combination of adventure; lovable, complex characters; and a touch of romance make this a book that teens will be drawn to, especially those who appreciate strong female protagonists. –Sunnie Lovelace, Wallingford Public Library, CT

Lindner, April. Love, Lucy. 304p. ebook available. Little, Brown/Poppy. Jan. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316400695; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316400657. LC 2013042984.

Gr 9 Up –In exchange for enrolling as a business major for her first year in college, Lucy Sommersworth is treated to a summer backpacking trip across Europe. There, Lucy meets Jesse Palladino, an enticing musician who is living his dream as a traveler, not tied down to anything or anyone. Jesse and Lucy quickly become entangled in a vacation romance, but before long, Lucy has to go back home to start college, while Jesse stays in Italy. Will she ever see him again? Lucy faces dilemmas and challenges that most young people can relate to: fighting with friends, standing up to parents, breaking up, and balancing obligations and desires. A contemporary romance with surprising depth in its coming-of-age elements, this modern update of E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, and Lindner’s reimagined classics.–Eden Rassette, Kenton County Public Library, KY

Lynch_Killing TimeLynch, Chris. Killing Time in Crystal City. 240p. S. & S. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442440111. LC 2013043299.

Gr 9 Up –After an encounter with his father that results in a broken arm, Kevin runs away to Crystal City in the hopes of reconnecting with his estranged uncle. Kevin’s life has been unsettled since his parents divorced, and getting away from his boring town cannot happen soon enough. Meeting Stacey, who is antagonistic and flirtatious, and Molly, whom they save from a potentially disastrous hookup at the bus terminal, introduces him to the local teens of Crystal City. Kevin’s uncle welcomes him but makes it clear that he will tolerate no foolish behavior. Stacey and Molly find shelter at a Catholic youth hostel, which has strict curfew hours and a mandatory Mass attendance requirement. Kevin’s father sends pleading emails asking Kevin to contact him and return home. Casual sex is mentioned but not in detail, and the violence near the end of the story is shocking but not gratuitous. The boredom and lack of opportunity and amusements for young people in a decaying town are accurately depicted. This is a grim and unsettling look at teen aimlessness and homelessness in a down-on-your-luck town. Recommended for fans of the author or readers who enjoy dark, angsty reads and character-driven novels.–Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA

Lyons, C J. Watched. 320p. Sourcebooks Fire. Nov. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781402285486.

Gr 9 Up –Sixteen-year-old Jesse has been a virtual prisoner for four years. Monitored and watched through his phone and computer, he has been blackmailed into performing horrible acts by the man he knows as King. Jesse has also been taken advantage of by his own uncle, the town hero and firefighter. Finally, King asks the unthinkable and Jesse has nowhere to turn and no reason for hope until an envelope arrives with a simple note saying “I can help.” Fourteen-year-old Miranda, her own life destroyed by King and suffering from crippling agoraphobia, has made it her mission to bring the evil man down and she has three days to do it before he sets his sights on her again. Jesse and Miranda’s only chance to regain control of their lives is to work together and conquer their emotional and real-life demons. Their desperation for each other’s help is the heartbeat of this story. While a difficult and somewhat depressing novel at times, this is an excellent book and well worth the emotional investment.–Erik Knapp, Davis Library, Plano, TX

Mann, Elizabeth. Little Man. 208p. Mikaya. Oct. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781931414494; pap. $8.95. ISBN 9781931414500.

Gr 4-7 –A charming story of a Caribbean middle school boy named Albert. Small for his age, Albert is dubbed Little Man by schoolmates. Lonely after his best friend moves and feeling out of sorts in a new school, Albert is not quite feeling like himself. While attending his father’s music gig, the boy is introduced to a group of Mocko Jumbies, or stilt walkers. He is invited to join in and learn their craft. He soon begins an exciting journey of self-discovery and faces his fears. This slim novel begins slowly, but quickly picks up steam and carries the momentum all the way to the last page. Albert is a likable and relatable character. The setting is an integral part of the story and is clearly explained without feeling like a geography lesson. Overall, a well written and enjoyable tale with Caribbean flair and the wonders of childhood discovery.–Elizabeth Speer, Cisco College, TX

MARNEY , Ellie . Every Breath. 352p. ebook available. Tundra. Oct. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781770497726. LC 2014933493.

Gr 9 Up –Seventeen-year-old neighbors Rachel Watts and James Mycroft find the murdered body of a homeless man they know. Mycroft is convinced that there is more to the murder than the police believe and persuades Watts to help him investigate. This story is, in part, a homage to Sherlock Holmes and follows all the traditions of a whodunit. However, it’s also a tale of a friendship and developing romance of two grieving teenagers. Rachel hates the city of Melbourne and longs for her family’s outback farm, lost to foreclosure. Mycroft lives with an uncaring aunt and is still suffering from the loss of his parents in a car crash. The book begins with the aftermath of a fight—Watts and friend Mai mopping up Mycroft’s blood. The author develops the characters into authentic, sympathetic individuals while keeping the mystery sustained and the plot moving forward. This is a well-written novel that should satisfy confident, thoughtful readers who don’t mind Australian slang and brand names.–Michelle Anderson, Tauranga City Libraries, New Zealand

murgia_forest-of-whispersMurgia, Jennifer. Forest of Whispers. 328p. ebook available. glossary. Spencer Hill. 2014. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781937053567.

Gr 8 Up –Sixteen-year-old Rune has been raised since birth by Matilde, the crone who lives in the cottage just beyond the Hedge that separates the village from the foreboding Schwarzwald. Until now, the Black Forest has protected Rune from the terrible events of the past. But those long-ago secrets—whispers of magic, witchcraft, and murder—soon replace the safety and comfort of the forest with menace and evil. The teen begins to hear her dead mother, rumored to be a powerful witch, speaking to her. Laurentz is the son of the Electrorate. A chance meeting with the protagonist reveals dark secrets in his own family. Certain he has been bewitched, Laurentz is no longer sure whom to trust. Murgia’s dual narration makes this historical fantasy a compelling read. The plot-driven text quickly moves the story forward, and the vivid descriptions of 17th-century southwestern Germany pull readers in. A solid novel for fans of historical fantasy that are looking for a fast-paced, action-filled tale.–Elaine Baran Black, Georgia Public Library Service, Atlanta

Myers_On a Clear DayMyers, Walter Dean. On a Clear Day. 256p. Crown. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385387538; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780385387545; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385387552. LC 2013046708.

Gr 7-10 –Myers dips his toe into a genre not typically found in his canon with this futuristic dystopian series opener. Eight corporations (C8) have taken over the world and society is strictly classified between the haves and the have-nots. A team of eclectic characters band together to stand up to the corporations and ultimately fight a global terrorist. Effort has clearly been made to diversify this cast, including a smart Dominican female lead. The first-person narration propels readers forward. Fans of Myers’s work will welcome his characteristic themes of class, gender, and race. Reluctant readers, however, will be attracted to the slim size and easy-to-follow plotline.–Carrie Shaurette, Dwight-Englewood School, Englewood, NJ

Northrop, Michael. Surrounded by Sharks. 224p. Scholastic. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545615457.

Gr 5-7 –Stuck in a hotel room with his parent and younger brother, Davey decides anywhere on the tropical island resort his parents brought him to is better than his room. He sets off to find a quiet place to read, until his family is up and moving. Deciding the lure of the water is too strong, he wades in too far and gets sucked out into the ocean by a riptide. Hoping for a rescue, Davey clings to a water cooler bottle to stay afloat, only to find himself in the company of sharks. The climax steadily builds as readers are pulled through the narrative via multiple points of view, including that of Davey; a tiger shark; and Brando, his adventurous younger brother. Overall, this story strikes a balance of suspense and action, all while interweaving intriguing facts about sharks. –Stephanie Charlefour, Wixom Public Library, MI

Oatman, Linda. Teeny Little Grief Machines. 252p. (Gravel Road). ebook available. Saddleback. 2014. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781622508839.

Gr 9 Up –Issues of teen pregnancy, drug use, self-harm, alcoholism, autism, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrom all shape High’s verse novel. Narrator Lexi, 16, lives with her previously incarcerated father, a vacuous and uneducated stepmother, and a brother who is severely autistic. Her mother was a stripper and saddled Lexi with what her a classmates call a “stripper” name. The verse form serves the voice of Lexi well, and the poems feel authentic. When the teen’s life burdens become too much to bear, she goes to a psychiatric hospital, is healed, and eventually emerges strong enough to survive in her relatively unchanged circumstances. A quick read and a useful one, with some interesting examples of concrete verse, especially, “Life Eats Me Alive,” which screams Lexi’s anguish in varied fonts.–Nina Sachs, Walker Memorial Library, Westbrook, ME

Olson, Norah. Twisted Fate. 272p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062272041; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062272072.

Gr 9 Up –Allyson and Sydney Tate may be sisters, but they are hardly alike. Allyson dresses like a model from the L.L.Bean catalog and spends her free time baking muffins, while Sydney skateboards, smokes pot with her friends, and listens to punk rock. Then Graham Copeland moves in next door. Graham is an artist and his medium is film; he quickly and easily loses himself behind his ever-present camera. Graham is cute and seems a little shy, but Syd knows that something about him is off. She just doesn’t know if she can convince Ally in time. Set in present-day coastal Maine, Olson’s first young adult novel is an exploration of drugs, mental illness, individual perception, friendship, and familial relationships. The work cycles through the perspectives of Ally, Syd, Graham, and a few others, with consecutive chapters that often convey the same scene from two different points of view. A great addition to any YA realistic fiction collection, this thriller that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.–Maggie Mason Smith, Clemson University R. M. Cooper Library, South Carolina

boyinblacksuitReynolds, Jason. The Boy in the Black Suit. 256p. S. & S./Atheneum. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442459502; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442459526. LC 2014001493.

Gr 7 Up –Matt’s mother just died, and his dad isn’t coping well, hanging out with the local drunk and downing whiskey, which results in his getting hit by a car and landing in the hospital. Matt is also grieving his mom’s death and now he’s on his own, until he lands a job at the local funeral home: $15 an hour and Mr. Ray as his boss. Attending other people’s funerals helps the teen come to grips with his own grief. Hearing mourners express their real thoughts of suffering at each funeral allows Matt to figure out his own feelings. Amid all this, Matt meets Lovey, the girl of his dreams, who is smart, funny, gorgeous, and tough. Written in a breezy style with complex characters who have real lives, this is another hit for Reynolds, fresh off the success of his When I Was the Greatest (S. & S., 2014). The author’s seemingly effortless writing shines in this slice-of-life story. The realistic setting and character-driven tale keeps readers turning the pages of this winner.–Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, San Leandro, CA

SAUERWEIN, Leigh. River Music. 132p. ebook available. Namelos. Oct. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781608981861; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781608981878. LC 2014941719.

Gr 7 Up -The music referred to in the title refers to the chorus of voices that narrate this elegiac story set in North Carolina in the years following the end of the Civil War. At the center of the story is Rainy, a 10-year-old girl who knows very little about her personal history. Abandoned on a doorstep as a baby, she lives peacefully with Will, a kind farmer, and his son, Ben, but when a series of valuable gifts (that are seemingly meant for Rainy) begin to appear, she wants to know more. Using different persepectives from people, black and white, whose lives are inextricably tangled and period details to enrich her story, Sauerwein provides a glimpse into lives touched by war and displacement. Narrators include Gabrielle, Rainy’s birth mother who had a relationship with another man while her husband was fighting in the Battle of the Wilderness, and Robert Ray, an older man who befriends Rainy and knows the truth about the young girl’s life. The passages from Will’s point of view are especially moving. He is an inherently good and trustworthy person and his instinct to protect Rainy in the midst of his own despair is poignant. A meditation on loneliness, loss, and love.—Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA

Famous-in-Love-Rebecca-SerleSerle, Rebecca. Famous In Love. 336p. ebook available. Little, Brown/Poppy. Oct. 2014. Tr $18.00. ISBN 9780316366328. LC 2013043744.

Gr 9 Up –As an aspiring actress in Portland, high schooler Paige doesn’t expect to land the role of a lifetime when she auditions for a movie. Jake, Cassandra, and Paige, the three stooges, have been best friends since they were in diapers. Paige leaves her family and fellow stooges for the beaches of Hawaii, where the latest best seller young adult novel is being filmed—starring her. Committed to months of work, Paige wonders if Jake and Cassandra will move on without her. She also worries about whether she will be good enough for such a high-stakes film. If that isn’t intimidating enough, Paige will be acting with two of young Hollywood’s hottest men. She never expects that chemistry on-set will turn into real chemistry off-screen, creating a love triangle. The author humanizes the characters in the novel, beyond the image of perfection and glamour of young stars, offering a bit of depth. Teens looking for romance and pop-culture should enjoy this novel.–Mindy Whipple, West Jordan Library, UT

Shusterman, Neal. Undivided. 480p. (The Unwind Dystology: Bk. 4). S. & S. Oct. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781481409759; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481409773. LC 2014003060.

Gr 9 Up –In the final book of the “Unwind Dystology,” everything comes full circle. Shusterman expertly reminds readers about the characters and their current situations without distracting from the current plot. Teens gain information on all of the key players, and each well-crafted narrative moves at a refreshing pace. Connor and Risa are together again in Sonia’s house, with Grace in tow. They have found a way to change people’s minds about unwinding by providing other options. Lev is on the reservation but cannot contain his need to fight for what he feels is right. Cam is back with Roberta, and though they try to affect his thoughts and memories, they cannot suppress his genuine contempt for Proactive Citizenry and his creators. Starkey and his storks, on the other hand, are leading a revolt that only makes things worse for the unwinds. Characters old and new are integrated into the story line, providing insight and closure. The story is intriguing: a wonderful end to a unique and noteworthy series.–Kristyn Dorfman, The Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn, NY

Edge of NowhereSmelcer, John. Edge of Nowhere. 154p. Leapfrog. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781935248576.

Gr 7 Up –Sixteen-year-old Seth Evanoff mourns his mother’s unexpected death. For comfort, he eats more than his share of junk food and escapes from life through a portal of video games on his tablet. Seth works with his father on a commercial salmon fishing boat in the Prince William Sound, and during a storm, he and his loyal dog, Tucker, are tossed into the drink. So begins the coming-of-age journey of Seth and Tucker as they toil and swim among a chain of remote islands toward home. Seth uses wisdom from his Native Alaskan culture and common sense to survive a summer season of challenges. Smelcer’s prose is lyrical, straightforward, and brilliant. This is an example of authentic Native Alaskan storytelling at its best. Readers are drawn immediately into this realistic modern-day vision-quest scenario and easily identify and empathize with the characters. Not to be missed.–Naomi Caldwell, Alabama State University, Montgomery, AL

swaySpears, Kat. Sway. 320p. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250051431; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781466852198.

Gr 9 Up –Jesse Alderman, aka Sway, can get you what you want, no matter what. Drugs, popularity, money, anything, but it comes at a cost. After his mom chased some prescription drugs with vodka and ended up dead on the bathroom floor, Jesse doesn’t care about much, as long as he gets paid and people live up to their end of the bargain. But that all ends when school bully Ken Foster asks him to convince Bridget Smalley, an all-around wonderful person, to go out with Ken on a date. Jesse thinks this is just another business transaction until he meets Bridget and finds himself falling in love with her. However, the more he feels for Bridget, the more he attempts to pull away from her and anyone who might care about him. And, now that the protagonist has made Ken appear like a nice guy in Bridget’s eyes, she starts to pull away from Jesse, as well. At first glance, this novel seems like a typical Cyrano de Bergerac–type story, but it is much deeper than that, touching on topics such as parent abandonment, disabilities, bullying, and love. The main character’s transformation and personality are well developed and believable, and readers will root for him along the way, even though he makes it difficult. A engaging story that will stay with readers long past the final page.–Traci Glass, Eugene Public Library, OR

Whispering SkullStroud, Jonathan. The Whispering Skull. 448p. (Lockwood & Co.: Bk. 2). Disney-Hyperion. 2014. lib. ed. $17.99. ISBN 9781423164920; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781484711460.

Gr 5-8 –In this spine-chilling sequel to The Screaming Staircase (Hyperion, 2013), Stroud again demonstrates his ease in the world of the macabre and truly frightening. Lucy works for Lockwood & Co., one of many agencies dealing with The Problem. Fifty years ago, for no apparent reason, the dead rose and began to walk among the living. Agencies employ psychic children to help dispatch the dead permanently. In this second installment, the group (Lucy, leader Anthony Lockwood, and bumbling researcher George) finds themselves drawn deeper into the mystery of The Problem. A supposedly simple job dispatching an unruly cemetery ghost leads to the discovery of black markets, obsessive cults, mysterious collectors, and a bone mirror that drives anyone who looks into it completely mad. The plot gallops along at a breakneck pace, giving little respite from the horrors within. For fans of scary fare, this page-turner is a dream (or nightmare) come true.–Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, Darien Library, CT

Voisin, Mandy Madson. Star of Deliverance. 320p. Cedar Fort/Sweetwater. 2014. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781462114542.

Gr 8 Up –Emi, slave and outcast, is an apprentice healer for her people. Upon the discovery of an ancient disease, Emi leaves her village in search of a cure. Her journey takes her to the place where her people are hated most of all—the capital. Once Emi arrives, she winds up entering a competition to become the bride of the Crown Prince and the capital’s next queen. Hoping to use the time to find a cure for the deadly diease ravaging her people, Emi stays in the race, despite the dangers. Star of Deliverance is a fantastical romance with enough mystery to draw in readers. Deeper themes around slavery and human rights are intermingled with this “Cinderella”-like story.–Brittney Kosev, Dave Blair Elementary School, Farmers Branch, TX

Williams, Michael. Diamond Boy. 400p. Little, Brown. Dec. 2014. pap. $18. ISBN 9780316320696; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316320665. LC 2013042071.

Gr 9 Up –Patson Moyo’s life is perfectly ordinary. He is on the cross-country team with his best friend, Sheena. His father, a teacher, is often a little dreamy but a wonderful storyteller. His perky little sister, Grace, loves to play games on his cell phone. Patson never would have guessed that his smart, university-graduate father, who had won the Outstanding Teacher Award four years in a row, can barely make ends meet, due to government corruption and the massive devaluation of the Zimbabwean dollar. Egged on by Patson’s stepmother, Sylvia, the Moyos decide to improve their situation by traveling to Marage where Sylvia’s brother lives and it is claimed that there are “diamonds for everyone.” The power of Patson’s story is rooted in the very mundane rites of daily life that even modern American teenagers will find familiar—the emoticon-filled texting between Patson and his sister, the angst and anxiety of a kiss between friends—juxtaposed with the real and menacing danger of the brutal whims of corrupt army officers and traitorous fellow miners. Readers new to Williams’s fiction will be similarly engrossed by his deft, unflinching prose. Teens will be left haunted by Patson’s harsh yet essentially hopeful journey, where greed, despair, luck, and wonder intertwine on the diamond fields of Marage.–Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

yeh_truth about twinkieYeh, Kat. The Truth About Twinkie Pie. 352p. Little, Brown. Feb. 2015. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316236621; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316236591. LC 2013042076.

Gr 6 Up –GiGi (short for Galileo Galilei, a name given in the hope that she would one day become a scientist) moves in with her sister DiDi (short for Delta Dawn) after DiDi wins one million dollars in a cooking show contest. DiDi, who, in the aftermath of their Mama’s death, functions as a mother figure for GiGi, is a school drop-out hairstylist. She wants the best for GiGi, so she pulls up their trailer park roots and replants them in expensive New York where brainy GiGi can go to the best private school. GiGi expects to be out of her element in this new environment, until she literally trips her way into a friendship with the coolest boy in school. Trouble is, that friendship also earns her the enmity of mean girl Mace. GiGi’s voice keeps the story light and humorous, in spite of seventh-grade drama and misperceptions. Sprinkled with comfort food recipes and down-home commentary, the plot moves at a steady pace. Endearing characters will keep readers engaged throughout as more than one character learns the true meaning of family and friendship.–Katherine Koenig, The Ellis School, PA

Graphic Novels

Atangan. Patrick . Invincible Days. illus. by Patrick Atangan. 128p. NBM. Oct. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781561639014. LC 2014940888.

Gr 7 Up –Throughout this charming graphic novel compilation of childhood memories, stuffed animals narrate experiences primarily taken from Atangan’s life. The vignettes feel like miniature picture books. Narratives are arranged in approximately chronological sequence; each is a separate self-contained story. Page design consistently follows a rigid nine-grid layout. Flat, expressionless animal faces mask the emotionally laden themes explored throughout the collection. These characters serve as voice for a shy Filipino boy baffled by Western culture and living in a house full of sisters. The sting of racism is ever present. Filipinos are referred to as “dog eaters.” Not surprisingly, the author shuns many aspects of popular American culture and is repulsed by food such as hot dogs, pizza, and “Happy Meals.” Most stories are accompanied by text that explains and often elaborates personal experiences and their effect on Atangan. These simple-looking images explore such thoughtful concepts as lessons of childhood, experiencing guilt, coping with cultural dissonance, reflections on humanity, and death.–Barbara M. Moon, Children’s Literature Consultant, Bellport, NY

gaiman_the-graveyard-book-2Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel, Vol. 2. adapted by P. Craig Russell. illus. by P. Craig Russell et al. 176p. HarperCollins/Harper. Oct. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062194831.

Gr 5 Up –Starting off where the first volume (2014) of Russell’s graphic novel adaptation of Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (2008, both HarperCollins) ended, this title covers the second half of the original book. Orphan Nobody “Bod” Owens continues his education with the help of the ghostly graveyard residents, but soon experiences growing pains as he interacts more and more with the outside world of the living. His guardian Silas enrolls Bod in a human school, where the boy’s sense of right and wrong battles against his instincts to remain forgettable to his classmates and teachers. In the following segment, Bod is reunited not only with his childhood friend Scarlett but also with the murderous Jack, responsible for his family’s deaths. Now a teen, the protagonist grapples with feelings of revenge, honor, and even puppy love, all leading up to the work’s climax. A bittersweet and hopeful conclusion will tug at the hearts of readers and followers of Gaiman and Russell’s work. Essential reading for fans of Gaiman’s original and those who enjoyed the first entry.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Urusawa_monsterUrasawa, Naoki. The Perfect Edition. illus. by Naoki Urasawa. 426p. (Monster: Vol. 1). Viz Media. 2014. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781421569062.

Gr 8 Up –Soviet-era spy mystery meets medical drama in this manga about a young doctor struggling to navigate the world of professional politics and murder. Dr. Tenma is the third son in a family of doctors, who left Japan years ago to work under his idol in a hospital in Dusseldorf, Germany. His brilliance in surgery is matched only by his kindness to his patients, and his sense of obligation to everyone who comes through the door. He’s on the fast track to promotion and power, until he refuses the hospital director’s order to leave the victim of a brutal crime on the table and go help the mayor instead. Suddenly he goes from the cusp of a bright future to a grunt. His fiancée leaves him, his promotion is given away, and his patients are removed from his care. But when the men who took everything from Tenma wind up suddenly dead, he’s set down a path that will change his life forever. This volume will please manga fans who crave history and humans over fantasy and fighting. The art is well done; characters are clearly defined from each other, with exaggerated features (noses, eyebrows, hair) that look perfectly in place in a 1980s flashback. –Clair Segal, Horace Mann School, New York City


For those interested in nonfiction, take a look at these stellar offerings subjects as diverse as a memoir about a teen with special needs, ghost-hunting stories, and guide to party-planning.

Berne, Emma Carlson. World’s Scariest Prisons. 112p. glossary. photos. reprods. Scholastic. 2014. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780545680233.

Gr 4-6 –This well-designed title gives readers an inside look at some of the world’s most horrifying prisons, past and present. A quick overview at the beginning of each chapter titled “Behind the Bars” provides each prison’s name (current and former), location, years of operation, number of prisoners, and notable inmates who served time there. Well-known prisons include the Tower of London, the Roman Coliseum, Attica, Sing Sing, and Alcatraz. Lesser-known ones, ghost stories, and information on escapees are covered, too. A large typeface and well-sized photos add to the appeal, and the text is simple and straightforward. Reluctant readers in particular will enjoy this brief look at the big house.–Janene Corbin, Rosebank Elementary School, Nashville, TN

best party book everChildress, Kim & Karen Bokram, eds. Best Party Book Ever!: From Invites to Overnights and Everything in Between. 160p. (Faithgirlz!). Zonderkidz. 2014. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780310746003.

Gr 5 Up –A fun resource for tweens and teens planning a party. Filled with theme ideas, decorations, recipes, and activities, the book outlines more than 20 different kinds of parties. There are ideas that will please parents and kids alike. Party-planning time lines and etiquette are offered. Themes include spa, birthday, garden, holiday, and sleepovers, as well as glamping parties (a combination of glamor and camping), clothing swap parties, and ice cream socials. The author presents some nontypical ideas, such as giving mini terrariums or potted plants as party favors. An impressive collection of ideas and plans that lives up to its title.–Cynde Suite, Bartow City Library System, Adairsville, GA

Donovan, Sandy. Movies and TV Top Tens. ISBN 9781467738408. LC 2013037867.

––––. Music and Theater Top Tens. ISBN 9781467738439. LC 2013046317.

––––. Sports Top Tens. ISBN 9781467738422. LC 2013042051.

––––. Technology Top Tens. ISBN 9781467738415. LC 2013049732.

ea vol: 32p. (Entertainment’s Top 10). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. Nov. 2014. lib. ed. $26.60.

Gr 4-8 –Fans of lists, particularly those of the top 10 variety, will appreciate these slim entries to the field of pop culture record-holders. Four major subjects—movies and television, music and theater, sports, and technology—are represented in this series, and within each volume, there are five lists that document the top record holders for such standard fare as “Highest-Earning Movies of All Time” (Movies and TV Top Tens) as well as quirkier, unexpected categories (“Highest Scorers in the WNBA” in Sports Top Tens). Donovan explains the criteria she used when ranking the items in each list, using facts and statistics to make the determinations. These are springboards for readers to create their own top 10 lists. For young enthusiasts of the “Guinness World Record” books.–Audrey Sumser, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Mayfield, OH

halls_ghostly evidenceHalls, Kelly Milner. Ghostly Evidence: Exploring the Paranormal. 64p. bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Millbrook. Oct. 2014. lib. ed. $20.95. ISBN 9781467705936. LC 2013042294.

Gr 5-8 –Skeptics and believers alike will enjoy this ghoulish and informative exploration of ghosts and the paranormal. Halls is no stranger to the genre, and her newest tome is similar in scope. She chronicles ghostly phenomena throughout American history, starting with a selection of historical ghost stories from different cities across the country. She provides details on exactly what a ghost is, ghost-hunting best practices, notable haunted locales, and ghostly communication hoaxes. Chapters contain an introduction and quickly launch into well-researched anecdotes or notable stories related to the topic at hand. Color images and quirky photo effects offer riveting and somewhat creepy imagery throughout. This engaging work will appeal to those looking for deeper information on ghosts and the paranormal and could also be used for school assignments.–Amy M. Laughlin, Darien Library, CT

Kacer, Kathy. The Magician of Auschwitz. illus. by Gillian Newland. 32p. Second Story. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781927583463.

Gr 4-6 –When Werner Reich, a young boy on his own, arrived at Auschwitz concentration camp, he slept at the top of a wooden three-tiered bunk (no mattress, no bedclothes). He stood in a line of men to be counted or did push-ups or meaningless back-breaking labor for endless hours each day and received a daily ration of “watery soup with two small potato pieces and a slice of bread made from flour and sawdust.” Levin, Werner’s bunkmate and only friend in the camp, became a father figure to the boy, calming him when he was upset and offering wise counsel. Werner soon learned that Herr Levin had a special talent that the prison guards sought out at night: he was a magician whose fingers deftly manipulated playing cards, coins, and string. The guards demanded more and more, causing the man to fear for his life should his tricks fail to please them. Newland’s soft, mostly gray-and-black illustrations, which appear to be drawn with pencil and pastels, reflect the somber tone of this true story. Kacer’s story introduces the Holocaust in a straightforward manner that children can grasp.–Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, OH

McPherson, Stephanie Sammartino. Arctic Thaw: Climate Change and the Global Race for Energy Resources. 64p. bibliog. ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Twenty-First Century. Oct. 2014. RTE $34.60. ISBN 9781467720434. LC 2013025164.

Gr 6 Up –An important case study and source of current information for serious students of climate change. Drawing almost exclusively from recent documents and news reports, McPherson surveys the ambitious, conflicting, and increasingly hostile claims that the major countries circling the Arctic have made on the polar region’s major oil and gas resources. Along with showing how melting ice has already opened both the Northwest (over Canada) and the Northeast (over Russia) Passages to shipping, she frankly explores the ecological and economic challenges faced by indigenous peoples and by Greenland, which is inching its way toward independence over vast and increasingly accessible reserves of oil, rare earths, and other potentially lucrative natural resources. Revealing maps and small but often telling color photos underscore the idea that serious climate change isn’t just coming to this region; it has already arrived.–John Peters, Children’s Literature Consultant, New York City

Matthews, Jenny. Children Growing Up with War. photos by Jenny Matthews. 48p. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Candlewick. Oct. 2014. RTE $17.99. ISBN 9780763669423. LC 2013955679.

Gr 5 Up –Photojournalist Matthews has compiled many of her recent photos, sensitively shedding light on the effects of children growing up with war. The book begins with an overview of how Matthews became a photographer, the challenges of working in conflict zones, and some material on the photographic equipment she uses. The author incorporates images from a variety of situations: refugees in Gaza, children in Kurdistan who fled Iraq, and a training school for midwives in Afghanistan, among others. The stories of disruption, stress, pain, and misery brought about by war are clear and strong. The photographs are powerful and well captioned. Realistic and somber, they give readers an illustration of the true face of war without verging on graphic or gruesome. An important work that many should see.–Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library, Holt, MI

Palacio_365 DAys WonderPalacio, R. J. 365 Days of Wonder. 432p. notes. Knopf. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780553499049; lrg. prnt. $17.99. ISBN 9780553499056; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780553509038.

Gr 3-7 –Palacio’s masterpiece, Wonder (Knopf, 2012), has spawned a nonfiction companion featuring precepts, or words to live by, from Beecher Prep’s beloved teacher Mr. Browne. The book opens with Mr. Browne discovering his love of precepts in a line from a book written by his namesake, the 17th-century English author Thomas Browne: “We carry within us the wonders we seek around us.” What follows is an incredible collection of sayings, many that emphasize the importance of kindness. Presented in calendar format, including the month and day, though not the year, the 365 precepts are collected from great literary efforts, the annals of history, and the contributions of child readers of Wonder, chosen by Palacio herself. Each month concludes with a written offering from Mr. Browne, with intermittent input from Wonder’s most important characters. These salutary compositions fill in missing details from the original story, provide an update for the characters, and expand on the meaning of the precepts. What seems by description a novelty item is in fact anything but. The quality of the selections, the closure obtained from the added Wonder details, and the thought-provoking opportunities for teachers, parents, and students make this a recommended purchase for libraries where Wonder is popular.–Cindy Wall, Southington Library & Museum, CT

Riordan, Rick. Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods. illus. by John Rocco. 336p. further reading. index. websites. Disney-Hyperion. 2014. RTE $24.99. ISBN 9781423183648. LC 2013034612.

Gr 3-7 –Riordan takes the classic guide to Greek myths and makes it his own, with an introduction and narration by beloved character Percy Jackson. With 19 chapters, this oversize hardcover includes a variety of stories, from the early tales of Gaea and the Titans to individual tales of gods readers encounter in the “Percy Jackson” series (Hyperion), such as Ares, Apollo, and Dionysus. Percy’s irreverent voice is evident from titles such as “Hera Gets a Little Cuckoo,” “Zeus Kills Everyone,” and “Artemis Unleashes the Death Pig,” and the stories are told in his voice with his distinctive perspective. The format and illustrations are fairly traditional, considering the tone, featuring painterly depictions of the gods and their world. The stories make for fun reading. This original and wildly entertaining spin on Greek mythology is bound to be popular among fans of the series.–Heather Talty, formerly at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, New York City

Sundquist_We should hang outSundquist, Josh. We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story. 336p. Little, Brown. Jan. 2015. Tr $18.00. ISBN 9780316251020.

Gr 9 Up –Sundquist, a motivational speaker, author, and Paralympic ski racer (he lost his left leg to Ewing’s sarcoma at age nine), has had terrible luck with the ladies. In this laugh-out-loud memoir, he attempts to figure out why he can’t catch a break, exploring the matter scientifically by analyzing and hypothesizing about each of his failed relationships, starting with his first girlfriend in the eighth grade. Sundquist tracks down the various women he’s dated and interviews them to test his hypotheses. Each section of the book is dedicated to a different girlfriend and time period in Josh’s life. His various theories are often illustrated through hilarious charts and graphs, adding to the lab report feel of the book. This is a unique, earnest, and funny coming-of-age story about Sundquist’s experiences as a cancer survivor, amputee, Paralympic ski racer, and motivational speaker.–Annalise Ammer, City of Rochester Public Libraries, NY

From the Adult Books 4 Teens blog

And from SLJ’s Adult Books 4 Teens blog, the following titles are perfect for teens looking to cross over to adult books.

bernstein_burning down the houseBERNSTEIN, Nell. Burning Down the House: The End of Youth Prison. 319p. Free Press. 2014. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781595589569. LC 2013043709.

Bernstein outlines the history of juvenile “reform” schools, the rise and fall of the rehabilitative model, and the reality of what happens behind bars to already traumatized teens: further physical, sexual, and mental abuse. The author takes a look at solitary confinement practices, “therapeutic prisons,” and juvenile reentry. Using solid teen developmental theory and research, United Nations findings, and trauma informed care, this title articulately sets forth the argument against the imprisonment of children. A passionate advocate for young people, Bernstein highlights teen voices and experiences throughout the book, adding humanity and insight to the statistics. Burning Down the House does for young people what Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow (New Press, 2010) did for adults: brings this issue to national attention. Readers meet influential adults such as Jerome Miller, who closed down the entire system in Massachusetts in the ‘70s, and Gladys Carrion, Chief Commissioner of New York, who not only closed down 18 state facilities by 2012 and halved the number of incarcerated kids, but also diverted $74 million to support community-based alternatives to incarceration. Teens interested in history, social sciences, and one of the biggest issues facing young adults in the U.S. will find lots to love in this book.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

duffy_dreamless deadDUFFY, Chris, ed. Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics. illus. by various. First Second. 2014. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781626720657. LC 2014029047.

In this haunting graphic novel, editor Duffy has collected 25 poems written during World War I—most by the so-called “Trench Poets,” men who fought and in some cases died in the trenches of Western Europe—and asked some of today’s finest comic artists to illustrate them. While the vast majority of the poems can be categorized as anti-war, their tones and styles range from the lyrical, contemplative verse of Thomas Hardy (at 74 years old decidedly not a trench poet) to the densely bitter barrages of Wilfred Owen. And the illustrations show a similar range of styles. Most of the artists opt for fairly traditional panelled cartoons, though the art can range from grittily realistic to more traditional comic mannerisms. And some artists, such as George Pratt and Stephen R. Bissette abandon panels entirely to create darkly expressionistic backgrounds for their spreads. In addition to the primary poems, Duffy includes several soldiers’ songs—popular, often bawdy, and irreverent songs sung by soldiers in the war—all illustrated in a jokey comic style by Hunt Emerson. The result of this hodgepodge of techniques and tones is nothing short of a masterpiece: at once a reimagining and reinterpretation of some of the great poetry of the early 20th Century for those who have already encountered it, and an ideal introduction to the facts and the literature of World War I for teens who have not.—Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA

See also: A Dose of Family Drama | Adult Books 4 Teens


The original reviews of the above works appeared in SLJ’s October print magazine.

SLJTeen header

This article was featured in our free SLJTeen enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you twice a month.

Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.