February 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Newest from Stiefvater, Lyga, and Napoli | Fiction Grades 9 & Up

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


See our complete list of
November 2014 SLJ Stars.

redstarGibbons, Faye. Halley. 208p. NewSouth. 2014. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781588382900; ebk. ISBN 9781603063289. LC 2014933020.

Gr 7 Up –As this historical novel opens, the title character, a 14-year-old girl living in the mountains of Georgia, is recording her father’s recent death in the family bible. After this sad start, things only get harder for Halley, her younger brother, and their mother Kate. They move in with Kate’s parents: a cruel preacher, his put-upon wife, and their youngest son. Kate takes a dangerous job at the local mill, while every action Halley tries to improve their lot—taking on sewing jobs to raise money to buy a gravestone for her father, trying to get accepted to a boarding school for farmers’ children—is thwarted by her vicious grandfather. He steals her savings, whips her brother, intercepts her mail, and tries to stop his children from marrying the people they love. Gibbons perfectly captures the cadences of Georgia hill country speech; it is rhythmic and lovely, even when the characters are speaking of hard, rough things. The narrative is peppered with bits of true history—there is a woman photographer based on Dorothea Lange, an African American family making their living as potters, and Halley applies to attend Berry College, a real school, started in 1902. Although somewhat predictable, the plot is compelling as the author adeptly covers loss, coming of age, and small-town attitudes and values without sugarcoating. Gibbons expertly depicts the complexity in “simple” mountain life. Just as Janet Taylor Lisle’s Black Duck (Philomel, 2006) showed an unusual side of Prohibition, this work gives a peek at an unusual side of the Great Depression. With shades of Richard Peck in this novel’s DNA, Gibbons’s tale features a strong and unique voice.–Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT

redstarHowell, Simmone. Girl Defective. photos by Henry Beer. 320p. ebook available. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442497603.

Gr 9 Up –Australian author Howell brings stateside her intriguing story of a coming-of-age summer for 15-year-old Skylark Martin. The teen lives above the family record store in a small Melbourne suburb with her home-brewing, stuck-in-the-past father, and endearing younger brother, Gully, whose social issues have manifested as an obsession with being a detective and near-permanent wearing of a pig-snout mask. Sky is blunt in her depictions of them and her mother, who left the family to reinvent herself as performance artist Galaxy Strobe (“What can you say about your mother in darkness, wearing an outfit fringed with seventy thousand tampons?”). Flawed but likable Sky is drawn to the 19-year-old, enigmatic, worldly Nancy, who introduces her both to recreational drugs and underground parties. There’s an element of mystery to the story, with posters around town of a girl who died and has some connection to both those parties and the record store’s attractive new hire, Luke. But while Nancy is outrunning her past, and Luke seeks to make sense of his own, Sky finds a future that holds some promise. Howell’s writing is engaging and well suited to the pacing of the story, and the Aussie references are part of the charm.–Amanda Mastrull, Library Journal

redstarLyga, Barry. Blood of My Blood. 480p. (I Hunt Killers: Bk. 3). ebook available. Little, Brown. 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316198707. LC 2014003643.

Gr 9 Up –Jasper “Jazz” Dent is locked in a storage locker with two dead bodies, trying to nurse his own bullet wound in the dim light of a fading cellphone. Picking up (without pause) from the cliff-hanger ending in Game (2013), Lyga’s series about the 17-year-old who was first introduced in I Hunt Killers (2012) as the son of escaped killer Billy Dent continues as he tries to aid the police in his father’s recapture. Unaware that his girlfriend Connie has been lured by Billy to a Brooklyn tenement house and imprisoned with Jazz’s mother, and that his hemophiliac friend, Howie, has been attacked, Jazz faces his demons alone—including repressed memories with sexual undertones, and the creepy voice of Billy educating his son on the acumen required to be a good serial killer (appearing in italics). The worrisome genetic factor plagues Jazz yet propels him in the right direction to foil some copycat killers and elude authorities long enough to solve his own life’s mysteries. Obstructing the law, the teen follows clues that take him back home to Lobo’s Nod for the chilling climax and surprise ending, despite red herrings thrown in the readers’ path at every turn. Connie and Howie continue to play major roles in this episode, often providing their own points of view, as do officers Hughes and Tanner as bumbling but likable authorities. As a trilogy wrap-up, this gory winner with raw appeal requires having read the first two titles.–Vicki Reutter, State University of New York at Cortland

redstarNapoli, Donna Jo. Hidden. 384p. bibliog. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442483002.

Gr 7 Up –Readers who enjoyed Donna Jo Napoli’s Hush (S. & S., 2007) and wondered about the fate of eight-year-old Brigid finally have their answers. The author uses her amazing ability to find the bare bones of an old story and flesh them out into a rich, living tale. This time, it is the story of Alfhild, feared female pirate of 10th-century Norse lore. Brigid survives her plunge into icy waters when escaping the slave ship she and her sister Melkorka were aboard. Upon realizing that Mel did not escape with her, she is determined to find her sister, no matter the long odds. But how to find one beautiful slave girl possibly traded anywhere in Europe? Brigid, or Alfhild as she comes to be called, ponders this question as she learns, grows, and thrives. Over several years, her circumstances change, allowing her to gain new skills as she travels from town to town, family to family, and between social classes. Her sister, her blood family, is the reason Alfhild continues her search, but the many adoptive families she becomes part of strengthen her to continue her quest. Brigid is a fictional character but Alfhild is an actual historical figure—this blending to fit a historical framework produces continued good fortune, which lends the work a folktale feel at times. Napoli seamlessly weaves cultural, mythological, and historical information together, immersing the readers in Norse life.–Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library, Holt, MI

redstarShepherd, Megan. A Cold Legacy. 400p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062128089; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780062128102.

Gr 9 Up –The final volume of the “Madman’s Daughter” series (HarperCollins) accomplishes something too often lacking in trilogies—a third volume that is as compelling and well-written as the first installment. In this entry inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Juliet, Lucy, Montgomery, Balthazar, and Edward have escaped from their pursuers to the Scottish estate of Juliet’s friend and benefactor, Elizabeth von Stein. They find the isolated estate inhabited by a number of young women and girls, “wards” of Elizabeth, and one very strange male child named Hensley, Elizabeth’s son. Juliet also discovers that the secrets of the rich woman’s ancestor Victor Frankenstein have been preserved by the family, and with no legitimate heirs, Juliet has been chosen to receive the knowledge of “Perpetual Anatomy.” The heroine wonders if she can use this knowledge to save Edward, but the complicated process is fraught with danger. Intrigue, the growing fear of discovery by their pursuers, romances between Elizabeth and Edward as well as Juliet and Montgomery, danger from within the house and its inhabitants, and secrets abound. In addition to the outer turmoil, Juliet continues to worry whether or not as her father’s daughter she, too, has the “madness” gene. The skillfully drawn and well-developed characters face their emotional upheavals and outside dangers with aplomb. Shepherd’s adroit weaving of the Frankenstein story line into the already complex world of Dr. Moreau’s daughter, brings an exciting new twist and a satisfactory ending to the trilogy. Fast-paced and romantic, this page-turning volume results in mixed emotions—contentment with the ending, but still a desire for more.–Janet Hilbun, University of North Texas

redstarStiefvater, Maggie. Blue Lily, Lily Blue. 400p. (The Raven Cycle: Bk. 3). Scholastic. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545424967; ebk. ISBN 9780545662901.

Gr 9 Up –Having inhaled the first two installments in this thrilling series about four Virginia schoolboys on a quest to find a legendary Welsh king, teens will be anxious to see where Stiefvater next leads Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah. The volume picks up directly after The Dream Thieves (Scholastic, 2013) and the quest takes some bizarre and dangerous twists. Blue Sargent and the psychically talented women of 300 Fox Way take center stage this time. Blue’s mother Maura has disappeared, and it’s not immediately clear if she wants to be found. Despite the fact that “time and space were bathtubs that Maura splashed in,” Blue and Mr. Gray, Maura’s ex-hitman boyfriend, begin to think she’s underground and in trouble. Informed by several mystical and live sources that there are three ancient sleepers in the nearby mountain caves, one of which is not to be awakened, the young people are hurled toward a subterranean encounter of the weirdest kind. Throughout, the prose is crisp and dazzling and the dialogue positively crackles. The supernatural elements—magic, a mirrored lake, an evil curse, the appearance of Owen Glendower’s 600-year-old daughter—are completely organic and suspension of disbelief is effortless due to the nuanced and affecting characterization. Blue and the Raven Boys come into their own over the course of the novel and realize their individual strengths and the power of their collective bonds, making them unstoppable. It’s a good thing, because it seems as though all hell is about to break loose in the final volume.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

Graphic Novels

redstarDavis, Rob. The Motherless Oven. illus. by Rob Davis. 160p. SelfMadeHero. 2014. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781906838812.

Gr 9 Up–In a bizarre, topsy-turvy world where children make parents, and knives rain from the sky, Scarper Lee’s deathday looms before him like a ticking time bomb. The teen has resolved himself to his fate—even if his hairdryer mother and makeshift wind-powered brass sculpture father haven’t quite yet—when new girl Vera Pike arrives and throws a wrench into the status quo. When his father disappears (though he’s usually chained in the shed), Scarper, Vera, and new friend Castro Smith (a boy who speaks in lucid riddles and has a knack for repairing kitchen gods) escape their daily routine to find him. During their journey, they face a field of abandoned mother creatures, a gaggle of elderly police officers, and their own mortality. In an Odyssey-like quest, the trio searches for the fabled Motherless Oven, where humans were supposedly first fashioned, and hopefully the answer to all of their prayers. Heady topics such as existentialism, destiny, religion, and love make this a quirky title rife for discussion. Davis’s dark and shadow-filled art appropriately mindbends and illuminates the text. The variation in panels quickens and pulls back the pace in this enigmatic tale, with the right amount of imagery left open for interpretation. For fans of Farel Dalrymple’s The Wrenchies (First Second), David Almond’s novels, and teens who enjoy graphic novels that are disturbing and beautiful all at once.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue:

Adrian, Susan. Tunnel Vision. 320p. St. Martin’s Griffin. Jan. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250047922; ebk. ISBN 9781250047915.

Alameda, Courtney. Shutter. 384p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250044679.

Bao, Karen. Dove Arising. 336p. (Dove Chronicles: Bk. 1). ebook available. Viking. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780451469014. LC 2013041198.

Bliss, Bryan. No Parking at the End of Times. 272p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062275417.

Brockmann, Suzanne & Melanie Brockmann. Night Sky. 496p. ebook available. Sourcebooks Fire. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492601449.

Brugman, Alyssa. Alex As Well. 224p. Holt. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781627790147.

Calhoun, Bonnie S. Thunder. 432p. (Stone Braide Chronicles: Bk. 1). ebook available. Revell. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780800723767.

Carey, Janet Lee. In the Time of Dragon Moon. 480p. Penguin/Kathy Dawson Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803738102; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781101593851.

Carter, Ally. All Fall Down. 320p. (Embassy Row: Bk. 1). Scholastic. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545654746; ebk. ISBN 9780545654784.

Cook, Eileen. Remember. 320p. ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481416962.

Cross, Sarah. Tear You Apart. 384p. Egmont USA. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781606845912; ebk. ISBN 9781606845929.

Dickerson, Melanie. The Princess Spy. 304p. ebook available. Zondervan. 2014. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780310730989.

Dunn, Patricia. Rebels by Accident. 320p. ebook available. Sourcebooks Fire. Dec. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781492601388.

Falkoff, Michelle. Playlist for the Dead. 288p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062310507; ebk. ISBN 9780062310521.

Farr, Richard. The Fire Seekers. 364p. (The Babel Trilogy: Bk. 1). Amazon/Skyscape. Nov. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781477847732; ebk. ISBN 9781477897737.

Ford, John C. The Cipher. 320p. ebook available. Viking. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780670015429.

Forman, Gayle. I Was Here. 288p. Viking. Jan. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780451471475; ebk. ISBN 9780698170544.

Garcia, Kami. Unmarked. 400p. (The Legion: Bk. 2). Little, Brown. 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316210225; ebk. ISBN 9780316210232.

Gottesfeld, Jeff. Meet Alana/Meet Kaylee. 316p. (Stripped: Bk. 1). ebook available. Saddleback. 2014. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781622507689.

Graudin, Ryan. All That Burns. 464p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Feb. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780062187437.

Grover, Lorie Ann. Hit. 224p. Blink. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780310729501.

Hale, Samantha. Everything Changes. 264p. Bold Strokes/Soliloquy. 2014. pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781626393035.

Hand, Cynthia. The Last Time We Say Goodbye. 400p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Harper. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062318473.

Harmonious Hearts: A Harmony Ink Press Anthology. 294p. Harmony Ink. 2014. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781632161864; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9781632161888.

Holmes, Kathryn. The Distance Between Lost and Found. 320p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Harper. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062317261.

Hutchinson, Shaun David. Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. illus. by Christine Larsen. 304p. ebook available. S. & S. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481403108.

Isbell, Tom. The Prey. 416p. (Hatchery: Bk. 1). HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062216014; ebk. ISBN 9780062216045.

Johansson, J. R. Cut Me Free. 304p. ebook available. Farrar. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374300234.

Kantor, Melissa. Better Than Perfect. 336p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062279231.

Kaufman, Amie & Meagan Spooner. This Shattered World. 400p. (Starbound: Bk. 2). Disney-Hyperion. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781423171034; ebk. ISBN 9781423187790.

Kelly, Lee. City of Savages. 416p. ebook available. S. & S./Saga Pr. Feb. 2015. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781481410304. LC 2014001540.

Khoury, Jessica. Kalahari. 368p. ebook available. Penguin/Razorbill. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781595147653.

Kontis, Alethea. Dearest. 288p. (Woodcutter Sisters: Bk. 3). ebook available. Houghton Harcourt. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544074071. LC 2014000737.

Larson, Sara B. Ignite. 304p. Scholastic. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545644747; ebk. ISBN 9780545644754.

Laurie, Victoria. When. 336p. Disney-Hyperion. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484700082.

Lidh, Jessica. The Number 7. 272p. Adams Media/Merit. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781440583063; ebk. ISBN 9781440583070.

Livingston, Lesley. Transcendent. 352p. (Starling Saga: Bk. 3). HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062063137; ebk. ISBN 9780062063168.

Lundquist, Jenny. The Opal Crown. 352p. Running Pr. Teen. Nov. 2014. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780762454228.

McArthur, Shallee. The Unhappening of Genesis Lee. 352p. Sky Pony. Nov. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781629146478; ebk. ISBN 9781632202291.

McKinley, Mary. Beau, Lee, The Bomb & Me. 241p. Kensington/KTeen. Nov. 2014. Tr $9.95. ISBN 9781617732553.

McKinney-Whitaker, Courtney. The Last Sister. 232p. (Young Palmetto Books). ebook available. Univ. of South Carolina. 2014. Tr $39.95. ISBN 9781611174298; pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781611174304; ebk. ISBN 9781611174311. LC 2014008465.

Monir, Alexandra. Suspicion. 368p. Delacorte. Dec. 2014. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375991363; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385743891; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385372503.

Myers, Suzanne. Stone Cove Island. 280p. Soho Teen. Nov. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781616954376; ebk. ISBN 9781616954383.

Nichols, Amy K. Now That You’re Here. 304p. (Duplexity: Bk. 1). Knopf. Dec. 2014. lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385753906; Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385753890; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385753913.

Oliver, Lauren. Vanishing Girls. 368p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Harper. Mar. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062224101.

Payne, Mary Jennifer. Since You’ve Been Gone. 216p. Dundurn. Feb. 2015. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781459728189.

Perl, Lila. Isabel’s War. 224p. Ig/Lizzie Skurnick Bks. Nov. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781939601360; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781939601278.

Roberts, Jeyn. The Bodies We Wear. 368p. ebook available. Knopf. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385754125; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780385754101; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385754118. LC 2013042352.

Salisbury, Melinda. The Sin Eater’s Daughter. 320p. Scholastic. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545810623; ebk. ISBN 9780545819732.

Santopolo, Jill. Love on the Lifts. 272p. (Follow Your Heart). Penguin/Speak. Jan. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780147510938.

Stetz-Waters, Karelia. Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before. 304p. Ooligan Pr. Nov. 2014. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781932010732.

Stine, R.L. Party Games: A Fear Street Novel. 288p. ebook available. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250051615.

Stirling, Tricia. When My Heart Was Wicked. 192p. Scholastic. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545695732; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545695756.

Strayhorn, Willa. The Way We Bared Our Souls. 336p. Penguin/Razorbill. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781595147356; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698137240.

Thorne, Bella with Elise Allen. Autumn Falls. 224p. Delacorte. Nov. 2014. lib. ed. $21.99. ISBN 9780375991615; Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780385744331; ebk. ISBN 9780385385237.

TOMP, Sarah. My Best Everything. 400p. Little, Brown. Mar. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316324786; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316324762. LC 2013039870.

Van Diepen, Allison. On The Edge. 304p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062303448; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062303462.

Waltman, Kevin. Slump. 304p. (D-Bow’s High School Hoops: Bk. 2). Cinco Puntos. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781941026007; pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781941026014; ebk. ISBN 9781941026021. LC 2013026452.

Warga, Jasmine. My Heart and Other Black Holes. 320p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062324672; ebk. ISBN 9780062324696.

West, Carly Anne. The Bargaining. 416p. ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442441828.

Wilkinson, Lili. Love-shy. 314p. Allen & Unwin. Dec. 2014. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781742376233.

Yancey, Rick. The Infinite Sea. 320p. Putnam. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399162428; ebk. ISBN 9781101599013. LC 2014022058.

Graphic Novels

Ashihara, Daisuke. World Trigger. Vol 1. 192p. VIZ Media. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421577647.

Parker, Jeff. Meteor Men. illus. by Sandy Jarrell Kevin Volo. 128p. Oni Pr. 2014. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781620101513; ebk. $14.99. ISBN 9781620101520.

Shouoto, Aya. Kiss of the Rose Princess. 180p. VIZ Media. Nov. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421573663.

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA

Do you want to ensure that your library’s collections are diverse, equitable, inclusive, and well-read?

Do you want to become a more culturally literate librarian and a more effective advocate for your community?

We've developed a foundational online course—with live sessions on February 28 & March 14—that will explore key concepts essential to cultivating and promoting inclusive and equitable collections.