March 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Girl Power, High Fantasy, and Unconventional Lit | What’s Hot in YA

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Fans of Kristen Cashore’s “Graceling” books (Dial) and Robin LaFevers’s “His Fair Assassins” novels (Houghton Harcourt) will find their next go-to series in Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen, Arwen Elys Dayton’s Seeker, and Sabaa Tahir’s An Amber in the Ashes. These new YA titles will slake readers’ thirst for empowered female leads and fascinating world-building.

An interesting trend of highly illustrated and out-of-the-ordinary narratives is continuing to emerge: Me Being You Is Exactly as Insane as You Being You by Todd Hasak Lowy (a novel made entirely of lists), Susan Juby’s The Truth Commission, and Erin Claiborne’s A Hero at the End of the World are just a few examples.

For readers of more informational fare, check out nonfiction titles about environmental subjects, biographies about African American heavyweights, and much more.

The original reviews of the following works appeared in SLJ’s January print magazine.


Albertalli_SimonAlbertalli, Becky. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. 320p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062348678; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780062348692.

Gr 8 Up –Simon Speir, high school junior, walks away from his computer at school for just a moment, and that is when his biggest secret is discovered. He has been emailing a boy in his grade anonymously ever since a poetic waxing on his high school’s gossip Tumblr caught his eye, and now Martin Addison has taken a screenshot and has a powerful way to blackmail Simon into getting his friend, Abby, to date him. Rife with realistic, high school relationships and drama, with a laugh or two at every turn, this is a coming-of-age, coming-out, and defying-the-odds story with which many teens will identify. With a very tidy, feel-good ending, the book will appeal to readers who enjoyed Tim Federle’s [books] and will find a familiar, slightly more mature home with Simon.–Brittany Staszak, St. Charles Public Library, IL

Alexander, Shannon Lee. Love and Other Unknown Variables. 352p. Entangled Teen. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781622664672; ebk. ISBN 9781622664689.

Gr 9 Up –Charlie believes that all problems can be solved using science and math, and his experiences at the Brighton School of Math haven’t changed his perspective at all. His classmates are used to tormenting the English teacher, who is driven away each year by pranks that are somehow ignored by an administration that places little value on the subject. On the first day of his senior year, however, everything changes when he meets a beautiful stranger at Krispy Kreme and discovers that her older sister is the new English teacher. Charlotte of donut shop fame begins to hang out at his house with his younger sister Becca, both of whom attend a different high school and have become good friends, which is a surprise to everyone who knows how anxiety interferes with Becca’s social life (or lack thereof). Charlie’s plan to focus on his goal of attending MIT comes to a crashing halt when he finds himself falling hard and fast for a girl who has a fatal problem he can’t solve. Alexander creates a believably confused adolescent frustrated by his feelings and his lack of control over the cancer that is destined to take Charlotte. Perfect for fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Lurlene McDaniel’s fiction.–Kerry Sutherland, Akron-Summit County Public Library, OH

Alloway, Kit. Dreamfire. 352p. St. Martin’s Griffin. Feb. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250063663; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781466869677.

Gr 9 Up– In this intriguing fantasy, unlikely heroine Josh Weaver is a child prodigy among the society of dreamwalkers of which she and many in her family and close friends belong. They have special talents and training that allows them to enter dreams to help stop nightmares, which if not checked, may have an emotional toll on the world. As she celebrates her 17th birthday, she is assigned an apprentice to train. Josh accepts the charge unwillingly since she made a mistake in the past that caused her to lose a loved one. The newcomer knows nothing and she must teach him how to resolve a nightmare, convince the dreamer to awaken, or to terminate the mission, all without being hurt or even killed. In their travels, the two enter into a nightmare where somehow the rules have changed and danger abounds. Alloway’s writing is rich and vivid, and the dynamics within the close-knit cast of characters make the danger even more delicious as readers watch for the outcome. This title and the sure-to-be written sequels will be welcome additions to the fantasy section.–Jane Hebert, Glenside Public Library District, Glendale Heights, IL

Tight Rope WalkersAlmond, David. The Tightrope Walkers. 336p. Candlewick. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763673109.

Gr 9 Up –Dominic Hall is the son of a shipbuilder, living in modest conditions in mid-20th century England. As he grows up, he finds himself torn between two influences—the dreamy intellectual artist girl next door and the brutal outcast boy who seems to cultivate a darker side of Dominic’s nature. His coming-of-age is marked by the ramifications of his choices between the two. The Tightrope Walkers is a tour de force. Almond’s gifted prose sets readers firmly in the grim, gray-skied setting of a post–World War II British town inhabited by deeply layered and well-crafted characters. Dominic’s development takes place among moments of overwhelming bleakness and his experiences with the redemptive powers of human connection and art. The balance between these is precarious and realistic, and the span of years encompassed by the book flies by. The novel is by turns reminiscent of classic bildungsromans yet it retains a distinctive heart and voice of its own. An absolute must-have.–Erinn Black Salge, Saint Peter’s Prep, Jersey City, NJ

Red QueenAveyard, Victoria. Red Queen. 400p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062310637.

Gr 9 Up –Seventeen-year-old Mare Barrow lives in a world where one’s lot in life is determined by the color of one’s blood. She was born a Red and has to make a living by pickpocketing and trying to dodge “the conscription” and being sent off to fight an ongoing war. Mare’s resigned herself to the fact that she’ll always serve the Silver, a genetically gifted group of people with supernatural abilities. A chance encounter with the prince causes Mare to suddenly find herself at the royal palace as a servant, where she discovers in front of everyone that she also has a unique gift. She is Red and Silver, and could be just the spark the Reds need to rise up against the oppressive Silvers. The king and queen quickly cover up Mare’s anomaly by presenting her to the rest of the Silvers as a long-lost princess and betroth her to their second-born son. Now Mare is torn between playing the part of a Silver, and helping out the Scarlet Guard rebellion. The story has touches of the usual dystopian suspects. However, it’s formulaic elements are far outweighed by the breakneck pace and engaging characters. A solid debut from Aveyard and a welcome addition to the plethora of speculative teen lit.–Kimberly Castle-Alberts, Hudson Library & Historical Society, OH

Banash, Jennnifer. Silent Alarm. 336p. ebook available. Putnam. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399257896.

Gr 10 Up –Lunchtime will never be the same. What sounded like cherry bombs, were actually gunshots exploding throughout the halls of Plainewood High School where Alys Aronson and her brother, Luke, were students. A violinist in the making, Alys was trying to master a piece by Brahms, Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, while her classmate Miranda studied for a history test nearby, when Luke entered with a rifle in hand. After witnessing her brother kill Miranda, Alys tries to come terms with the terrible event in this gripping narrative. In between the unbearable grief and feelings of being ostracized by her friends and the community, the teen learns to accept herself as someone more than the sister of a murderer. A captivating portrait of a family torn apart by jealousy and neglect.–Keisha Miller, South Orange Public Library, NJ

Brewer_CemeteryBrewer, Heather. The Cemetery Boys. 288p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062307880; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062307903.

Gr 9 Up –Forced by financial stress to leave his mother behind in a mental health institution, Stephen and his father reluctantly move to a tiny town to live with his bitter, unhappy grandmother. Stephen’s summer starts to look brighter when he meets cute outcast Cara and her fun-loving brother Devon. As the townspeople reveal their bizarre local mythology, Stephen slowly discovers that Devon’s gang is up to something more sinister than just drinking in the cemetery, but it may be bigger and darker than he can imagine. Stephen is a well-developed character, with the right amount of snark, lust, and angst for an honest portrayal of a 16 year old. The dark, mysterious tone combined with a surprise ending bolster the book’s thematic warning on the danger of belief. This supernatural mystery will please readers looking for less paranormal, and more quiet horror.–Hannah Farmer, Austin Public Library, TX

Buxton, Jamie. Temple Boys. 224p. Roaring Brook. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626720367.

Gr 7 Up –Flea, a teenaged orphan living on the streets of Jerusalem during year zero, convinces his gang, the Temple Boys, to rob a famous magician visiting the city for Passover who can reportedly change water to wine and raise the dead. The Temple Boys learn that this magician, Yeshua (Jesus), may be the Chosen One prophesied to free the Jewish people from poverty and foreign rule. Yet, Flea remains skeptical so Jude (Judas Iscariot) hires Flea to circumvent the plan of other disciples to sacrifice Yeshua to ignite a revolution. Shortly after receiving this assignment, a terrifying man called the Results Man forces Flea to betray Yeshua to Roman forces and witness his crucifixion—a graphically violent scene. Caught up in the machinations of rival adults, Flea searches frantically for a way out of danger and struggles to define his own beliefs. Buxton writes a fast-paced action story with a modern voice and a vivid, ancient setting. Conservative Christian communities may react poorly to the characterization of Jesus Christ as a charlatan, albeit with good intentions. Those communities should stick with Elizabeth George Speare’s The Bronze Bow for a teenage male perspective of the last days of Jesus Christ’s life. Regardless, those who know the New Testament well will find it hard not to be impressed with how Buxton uses and recasts Jewish scripture and traditions in this suspenseful thriller.–Mariah Manley, Medway Public Library, MA

HEAP-HOUSECarey, Edward. Heap House. illus. by Edward Carey. 416p. (The Iremonger Trilogy). ebook available. Overlook. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781468309539; pap. ISBN 9781471401596.

Gr 7-9 –Welcome to Heap House, a sprawling, dark, dingy mansion, situated in the middle of a vast pile of junk. It’s home to the Iremongers, a strange and reclusive extended family. They intermarry to preserve their bloodlines and consider themselves almost royalty. People with partial Iremonger blood are their servants. Their identities are tied to “birth objects,” commonplace things that represent and shape who they are from birth. Clod Iremonger is 15, with a bath plug for a birth object. He is unhappily engaged to his cousin Pinalippy. Clod has a skill that makes him seem odd in the eyes of the other Iremongers; he can hear the birth objects speaking. They only speak their names, but their voices are always with him. He is resigned to his dreary life until he meets Lucy Pennant, an orphan who is told she has a little Iremonger blood and forced to work at Heap House. Lucy changes the way Clod sees his world, but her arrival sets off a chain of events that might mean the end of Heap House. Black-and-white illustrations are as deliciously unsettling as the text. Characters are rich with personality. Some colorful language makes this most suitable for older middle grade and teen readers. Stories don’t get much weirder, but that’s precisely what makes it so magical.–Mandy Laferriere, Fowler Middle School, Frisco, TX

hero-at the end of the worldClaiborne, Erin. A Hero at the End of the World. illus. by Jade Liebes. 308p. Big Bang. 2014. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9780990484400.

Gr 9 Up –Ewan Mao was destined to save the world. Prophesied as slayer of the evil Duff Slan, he has spent most of his life reaping the benefits of being the “chosen one:” namely, skipping school and flouting the rules of magical law enforcement. But when the time comes, it isn’t 16-year-old Ewan who completes his gargantuan task— it’s his best friend, Oliver Abrams. Seven years later, the two are living very different lives. Oliver is working a dream job at the Serious Magical Crimes Agency and living up to his full “hero” potential, while Ewan is sulking as the barista of a rundown coffee shop and living with his parents. When Ewan (accidentally) joins an evil cult with destruction in mind, the estranged pair must reunite in order to save the universe. This hilarious twist on the magical boarding school genre is excellently done, embracing familiar tropes while simultaneously turning them on their heads. Claiborne manages to create characters who are imperfect, but not unlikable. With equal parts action and wit, this novel will hook fans of fantasy and snark alike. Liebes’s graceful illustrations perfectly complement the beauty, and the danger, lurking in this mythical Britain.–Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal

Cross, Julie. Whatever Life Throws At You. 320p. Entangled Teen. 2014. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781622664047.

Gr 10 Up –Bone cancer ended his professional baseball career during his rookie season, but when Jim Lucas is offered the opportunity to become a pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals, life changes overnight for his 17-year-old daughter, Annie Lucas. Annie quickly learns the other side of pro baseball–families that smile and appear wholesome before the camera, but hardly speak to one another off camera, with media constantly in tow looking to catch players’ kids doing something wrong. Annie finds true friendship in Lenny London, the daughter of a Royal, and Jason Brody, a 19-year-old rookie pitcher with a scandalous past. When Annie’s father discovers that she and Jason have been secretly dating for months, he orders Annie to end all communication with him. While characters are likable and the plot allows readers an all-access pass into the lives of professional athletes and their families, the numerous anf frank sex scenes between Annie and Jason make this a pick best suited for older teens.–Nicole Knott, Watertown High School, CT

Dawson, Delilah S. Hit. 336p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481423397; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481423410.

Gr 9 Up –For teens who have been lectured on the importance of saving money, this book will serve as a sober reminder. Buried in debt, the U.S. government has been purchased by Valor National Bank. But the new creditor-nation wants payback right away. Customers are given two choices: pay back the debt by becoming bounty hunters who gun down other debtors, or be killed on the spot. Seventeen-year-old Patsy becomes one of those bounty hunters in order to cover her mother’s debt. Armed with a state-issued handgun, a postal service truck with GPS, a basket of fake flowers to lure her 12 unsuspecting victims to open the door, and a uniform with built-in camera, Patsy sets about on her grim assignment. After Wyatt, (the son of the second victim, whose younger brother is also on the list) tracks her down and demands answers for what is happening, he becomes Patsy’s partner and backup. Each “job” becomes increasingly complicated as Patsy discovers that they all have a personal connection to her past life, including her missing father. The plot moves along quickly with chapters ending in cliff-hangers. The author slows the plot down long enough, however, to allow the relationship between Patsy and Wyatt to develop at a believable pace. The book’s subtle commentary on the country’s credit industry and buying habits, in addition to its violent themes, make it most suitable for mature teens.–Anne Jung-Mathews, Plymouth State University, NH

SeekerDayton, Arwen Elys. Seeker. 352p. Delacorte. Feb. 2015. lib. ed. $21.99. ISBN 9780375991486; Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780385744072; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385378574.

Gr 8 Up –A life of honor, using her training for the good of humankind—that’s what Quin Kincaid has been promised. Under the watchful eye of her father she has learned to use the tools of the Seeker: the “whipsword” with its deadly ability to assume the form of any weapon, and the “athame,” a stone dagger that can slice through the threads of time, space, and matter, transporting the user to almost any destination. But upon taking her oath, she finds that her father’s idea of the honorable work of a Seeker leads her to commit terrible acts. When a fiery siege is launched on their compound, Quin takes the opportunity to escape. Now she and her training partners, John and Shinobu, must come to terms with the dark deeds of their past, reclaim the honor of their families, and determine the true and proper duties of a Seeker. This novel combines all of the modern components for a successful young adult novel. Dayton has created a complex and intriguing set of characters here. Fans of Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” (HarperCollins), Marie Lu’s “Legend” (Putnam), and Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games” (Scholastic) series: your next obsession has arrived.–Sara Saxton, Wasilla Public Library, Wasilla, AK

Eulberg, Elizabeth. We Can Work It Out. 320p. Scholastic/Point. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545654616; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545654630.

Gr 9 Up –Despite founding a popular club centered on female friendships and boy-free Saturday nights, Penny Lane Bloom has found time to recover from her recent heartbreak and begin dating. However, the popularity of the Lonely Hearts Club has increased her commitments and she refuses to compromise the rules of the club, thereby reducing her time with her new boyfriend, Ryan, to small, insignificant snippets. While Ryan’s patience for her apathy toward him begins to wane, Penny Lane is also confronted by the judgment of her best friend, also Ryan’s ex-girlfriend, Diane, who insists that ignoring him is a mistake Penny Lane will regret. It isn’t long before her rocky relationship and the stress of the Lonely Hearts Club events take their toll on her health. This follow-up to Eulberg’s The Lonely Hearts Club (Scholastic, 2009), easily stands alone, but readers may enjoy it more after reading the previous volume. The upbeat premise of girls taking charge of their own happiness rather than succumbing to the angst of mean girl drama or the pressures of teen dating is a welcome addition to young adult fiction.–Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD

flynn misshapesFlynn, Alex. The Misshapes: The Coming Storm. 304p. Polis. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781940610313; ebk. ISBN 9781940610122.

Gr 7-10 –Sarah Robertson is one of the many residents of Doolittle Falls with supernatural powers. She dreams of attending the nearby Hero Academy where she can learn to control her weather-altering abilities alongside her crush, Freedom Boy. When the rejection letter arrives from the Academy, Sarah fears she’ll be labeled a “Misshape,” the derogatory name for teens with sub-standard powers. This disappointment—on top of the recent disappearance of her mother and an impending threat to all Misshapes—forces Sarah to reexamine what’s really important in her life. There is much here for fans of “Harry Potter” to enjoy: a school for teens with super powers, a dramatic sporting event called Harpastball, and humorous characters such as Butters, a boy whose super power is summoning a ghostly singing group that broadcasts his thoughts musically (he hasn’t mastered sending them away yet). And for romance fans, there’s a love triangle brewing here, too. Readers will … become lost in this imaginative, action-packed series opener.–Alison O’Reilly Poage, formerly at Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library, NY

Galante, Cecilia. Be Not Afraid. 352p. Random. Apr. 2015. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780385372756; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385372749; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385372770. LC 2014009301.

Gr 7-10 –Ever since her mother’s suicide a year ago, Marin has had a unique ability: she can see the pain of others as brightly colored shapes. This can be overwhelming in crowds, so Marin spends most of her days at her Catholic high school wearing darkly shaded sunglasses and keeping a low profile. The spotlight is focused on her, however, when during mass a classmate has what appears to be a seizure and then lasers in on Marin, whispering, “You…It’s You.” Marin can see a black shape inside the girl like no pain she has ever seen before. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that the two girls have dabbled in the occult, and they later call on the local priest to perform an amateur exorcism. The inclusion of a tame romantic interest in the classmate’s older brother will hold their attention. Recommended for fans of the author and Katherine Howe’s Conversion (Putnam) and Danielle Vega’s The Merciless (Penguin, both 2014).–Leah Krippner, Harlem High School, Machesney Park, IL

Gier_DreamGier, Kerstin. Dream a Little Dream. tr. from German by Anthea Bell. 336p. (The Silver Trilogy: Bk. 1). ebook available. Holt. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627790277.

Gr 9 Up –Liv Silver has lived all over the world, but upon her arrival at her new home, the 15-year-old is shocked to learn that not only does her perpetually single mom have a serious boyfriend, but that their families plan to “merge.” She and her little sister have to move to their stepfather’s London home and be students at an exclusive preparatory school that stepsiblings Grayson and Florence attend. Grayson runs in a conspicuous quartet of fellow handsome upper-class boys at “Frognal Academy”—Arthur, Henry, and Jasper. When Liv falls asleep in a borrowed sweatshirt, she finds herself in a vivid dream with Grayson, Henry, Arthur, and Jasper. The protagonist learns that the boys, along with Arthur’s ex-girlfriend Anabel (who has since moved away), conjured a demon that grants wishes and allows access to shared dreams. For the “magic” to work, at least one of the five members must be a virgin. Anabel was the only virgin of the original group, but when that changed, the girl’s beloved dog died, presumably as punishment. Liv can fill the virgin void and does not believe in demons anyway, so she takes the blood oath and makes one (clever) wish. Gier’s series opener offers the right ratio of closure to still unanswered questions (a rare feat in today’s vast pool of sequels). Plot twists, dream make-out sessions, a touch of humor, and a scary culmination make for a thoroughly enjoyable read. Give to fans of light paranormal romance.–Tara Kehoe, New Jersey State Library Talking Book and Braille Center, Trenton

endangeredGiles, Lamar. Endangered. 288p. Harper Collins/HarperTeen. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062297563.

Gr 9 Up –Lauren “Panda” Daniels likes to blend in. No one notices her, or suspects that she is responsible for the immensely popular anonymous photoblog that catches people from her high school in compromising positions. The teen considers herself “karma personified.” When an online secret admirer discovers her identity, Lauren is scared she will be busted. Instead, her admirer expresses an interest in photography and challenges Lauren to “top” a magnificent photograph. Lauren is intrigued, until the subject of her latest post is killed and her admirer emails Lauren a picture of the dead body. Lauren realizes that she may have to own up to her blog, face its ugly aftermath, and cooperate with the boy who ruined her high school life to prevent more deaths and catch a killer. Giles’s protagonist undertakes high-intensity, dangerous endeavors in a contemporary-realistic setting, but (refreshingly) does not escape very real, personal consequences. There is also some skillful character development in this book, as many of the assumptions that Lauren introduces in the beginning are slowly deconstructed and examined over the course of the story. Overall this book is a dynamic, dangerously suspenseful, contemporary adventure that also leaves room for introspective soul-searching.–Sara White, Seminole County Public Library, Casselberry, FL

None of the aboveGregorio, I.W. None of the Above. 352p. further reading. websites. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062335319; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062335333.

Gr 9 Up –Kristin Lattimer embodies the all-American teenage girl. She’s sporty, well-liked, cool but humble enough to be shocked when elected Homecoming Queen, with two loyal best friends and a loving boyfriend. Even in the wake of her mom’s death from cervical cancer, Kristin’s future is looking pretty bright. Until her first time having sex with Sam goes painfully awry, leading to a doctor’s appointment that reveals she is intersex. Suddenly, Kristin’s life is thrown wildly off-kilter as she struggles with her condition and its impact on her self-esteem, academic life, and most important relationships. The novel is engaging and well paced, with smart young characters. Gregorio’s helpful author’s note explains that numerous AIS perspectives and sources were consulted in the writing process; it is evident that research was done to give this fictional account realism and nuance. Links and resources about being intersex are provided for further reading. This book serves as a useful introduction to the discussion around intersexuality, particularly from a youth viewpoint.–Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal

Hasak-Lowy, Todd. Me Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being You. 656p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442495739.

Gr 8 Up –Three reasons Darren Jacobs is having a tough year: His parents have gotten a divorce and his dad reveals a truth that sends him reeling; his brother Nate has just moved out of the house to go to college, leaving Darren to deal with the fallout of his parents’ split on his own; and he’s torn between two girls—Zoey Lovell, who is a troubled, elusive, and artistic enigma who Darren can’t seem to get out of his mind and sweet, wholesome Rachel Madsen, who is supportive and cheerful. Hasak-Lowy’s debut YA novel is told entirely in lists—slightly disorienting at first, but which quickly becomes an integral part of Darren’s voice. In terse, engaging prose, this novel of lists traces the teen’s awkward yet heart-tuggingly true-to-life relationships with his parents, his older brother, and with the girls who are entering his life. Readers will relish and recognize the playful and profanity-tinged banter between the brothers as well as Darren’s conflicted feelings as he analyzes (and overthinks) each scenario and interaction he has with Zoey, Rachel, Nate’s college roommate, a new member of his band, his dad, and his mom. –Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

Howard, J. J. Tracers. 288p. Putnam. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399173738; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698188990. LC 2014031563.

Gr 9 Up –Cam has had it rough. His lowlife, ex-con father was stabbed to death in prison and his mother died after a long and virulent illness. Now he’s working as a New York City bike messenger, trying to settle his debt to Chinese gangsters who are threatening violence to anyone close to him. One day beautiful Nikki literally drops on him, causing him to wreck his bike. Nikki is part of a gang dedicated to parkour, or tracing, the art of moving rapidly through an urban environment, dodging obstacles with grace and strength. In pursuit of secretive Nikki, Cam is eventually drawn into the gang and finds they are also dedicated to crime, carrying out missions, including armed robbery, on behalf of the mysterious Miller. The central romance is an agonizing on-again/off-again. The action scenes are well plotted and the richly evoked environment—abandoned buildings, a parking structure, the Chinatown underworld—is unusual, more like a Hong Kong action film than a typical YA novel. Violence is frequent, but never overdone. A light read for older action lovers.–Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA

Truth CommissionJuby, Susan. The Truth Commission. 320p. Viking. Apr. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780451468772.

Gr 9 Up –Normandy Pale has grown up in the shadow of her bright, artistically talented, and temperamental older sister, who as a young teen began publishing a popular graphic novel series. Disconcertingly, “The Diana Chronicles” features warped, exaggerated, but identifiable versions of her family members. Normandy and her hapless parents were greatly relieved when Keira went away to college, but now she’s suddenly back, more volatile than ever, and not talking about her experiences or her latest book contract. Normandy is a junior at the Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design, her sister’s alma mater. As she and her two close friends reach out in the spirit of friendship and anti-gossip to their peers they learn more than they bargained for in the search for truth and justice. Normandy tells this story, and the more surreal and personal one unraveling at home, as a “narrative nonfiction” project, complete with footnotes, illustrations, and asides to her creative writing teacher. The narrative/book is smart, darkly funny, sad, and heartening as Normandy learns some hard truths, how to stand up for herself, and how to take charge of her own destiny. A surprising, witty, and compulsive read.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

Knowles, Jo. Read Between the Lines. 336p. Candlewick. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763663872.

Gr 9 Up –Knowles’s latest novel realistically depicts the intertwined lives of 12 individuals. From high school student to recently graduated new adult to teacher, these personal vignettes are achingly truthful and reveal the secrets and sorrows hidden behind everyday facades. As the stories unfold and the points of view begin to overlap, a complete picture begins to form. The short story format could tempt reluctant readers, and many young adults will see shadows of themselves in the well-drawn characters. Hand this one to fans of dramatic realistic fiction and those who enjoy slice-of-life novels.–Heather Miller Cover, Homewood Public Library, AL

Promgoer's  Interstellar McCoy, Chris. The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Excursion. 304p. Knopf. Apr. 2015. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375955990; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780375855993; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780375897115.

Gr 8 Up –Bennett thinks he has struck the jackpot when his longtime crush, Sophie, agrees to go to prom with him. A few moments after she accepts, however, Sophie is abducted by horned, red-furred aliens traveling in a wagonlike UFO. Bennett naturally wants his prom date back, and so he enlists the help of an extraterrestrial band visiting a local In-N-Out to follow Sophie around outer space. If it sounds implausible, it unabashedly is, but McCoy creates a fun, amusing, and heartwarming story out of the impossibilities. Readers will root for Bennett to get the girl and even for crusty band member Skark to accomplish his dream of becoming better than the one billionth and sixteenth band in the universe. Witty and action-packed, the plot boldly glazes over science-fiction details in favor of well-wrought characters.–Amanda C. Buschmann, Atascocita Middle School, Humble, TX

McCulloch, Amy. The Oathbreaker’s Shadow. 408p. ebook available. Flux. Feb. 2015. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9780738744056.

Gr 9 Up –Fifteen-year-old Raim lives in a world in which a promise is so binding that if it is broken, that promise leaves an irreversible stain on the oathbreaker, who is then cast out from the community and family for life. In Darhan, it is better to be dead than to be an oathbreaker. Raim has spent all of his life training to become an elite Yun warrior and guardian of his clan’s future king, and coincidentally, best friend Kareh. On the night of his acceptance into the Yun Guard, Raim unknowingly breaks a mysterious oath he has been carrying since before he can remember. Raim is forced to flee before he is killed. He escapes into the desert in hopes of making it to the city of Lazar, where all the oathbreakers are forced to live. He barely survives his first day in the open before a fierce tribe of desert people, known as Alashan, find him and vow to take him to Lazar. The Oathbreaker’s Shadow is easy to dive into and will keep readers engaged. Raim’s character arc is full of palpable highs and lows as he uncovers the mystery behind his fate. An excellent choice for those looking for a compelling and detailed fantasy novel.–Annalise Ammer, City of Rochester Public Libraries, NY

ForgettingMaggi, Nicole. The Forgetting. 352p. Sourcebooks Fire. Feb. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781492603566; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781492603573.

Gr 10 Up –Upon awakening from a heart transplant, Georgie Kendrick feels strange. Her heartbeat has an out-of-sync “catch” to it. She begins remembering parts of someone’s past that isn’t hers, and forgetting some of her own memories. Then Georgie learns that her new heart came from a Jane Doe who authorities believe committed suicide. Determined to stop the invasion of her memories, Georgie traces her heart’s previous owner to a rough neighborhood where sex trafficking is the norm. There she meets a young man named Nate who volunteers with FAIR Girls, an organization that helps trafficked and abused children. Georgie’s heart remembers and loves Nate, which makes untangling her own feelings for him tricky. With further investigation, Georgie becomes convinced that her heart’s previous owner did not commit suicide, and she embarks on a dangerous journey to uncover the truth. Before her time with FAIR Girls begins to transform Georgie into a more socially aware, empathic person, her “spoiled rich kid” family circumstances are exaggerated to the extreme. Teens will be drawn into its suspenseful, exciting story that sheds light on an important social justice issue not often addressed in YA fiction. This book is a solid purchase for its innovative subject matter.–Sara White, Seminole County Public Library, Casselberry, FL

AnastasiaMeyer, Carolyn. Anastasia and Her Sisters. 320p. ebook available. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481403269. LC 2014003498.

Gr 6-9 –This classic tale from modern Russian literature typically gets 10 minutes in some history classes, but the story deserves a wider audience. Here, retold by Meyer, it has strong potential to intrigue middle school historical fiction fans. It is told in Anastasia’s voice starting when she is 13 years old. On the cusp of World War I, her father is the last tsar and her family lives an opulent and epicurean lifestyle. Anastasia, her four sisters, and her parents are oblivious to warning signs that the tsar’s reign is under siege. When Anastasia starts reading her oldest sister’s diary in secret, she realizes that her world is in flux. She begins to notice the delicacies her family eats routinely that nobody else can procure. In a subplot, Anastasia has a crush on a young artist, but they are cruelly separated when her family is exiled. Meyer exceptionally captures Anastasia’s voice as she matures. The author strikes the right balance between detail and momentum to maintain readers’ attention. This book would be a fine addition to any middle school’s historical fiction collection and would pair nicely with Candace Fleming’s excellent nonfiction work, The Family Romanov (Random, 2014).–Amy Thurow, New Glarus School District, WI

Omololu, C.J. The Third Twin. 336p. ebook available. Delacorte. Feb. 2015. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375991714; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385744522.

Gr 9 Up –Twins Lexi and Ava have been playing a game since they were little girls: they have created an imaginary third twin, Alicia. As young girls, the sisters would blame naughty behavior on their imaginary sibling. Now as teenagers, the sisters vicariously imagine the free-spirited Alicia indulging in the wilder side of life: dressing provocatively, and with a cadre of attractive boyfriends. Then the game begins to have dangerous consequences—people are turning up dead. This compelling story filled with serpentine twists and turns will leave readers guessing at every step, and breathless at the climactic conclusion. Hand to readers who crave suspenseful, plot-driven thrillers.–Melanie Okadigwe, Greene Hill School, Brooklyn, NY

Parsons, Ash. Still Waters. 304p. Philomel. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399168475.

Gr 9 Up –Jason is a high school student who has grown up to be a fighter. The abuse he’s suffered at his father’s hands toughened him up so much that he solves more problems with his fists than with his words. Then Michael, one of the most popular boys in school, offers to pay him to hang out with his group of friends every day. Jason doesn’t understand why Michael wants this, but he does know that the money can help him and his sister achieve their dream of running away to start a new life. This is a provocative and suspenseful book, centering on a boy who’s difficult to like at first. But as readers get to know him and understand how and why he has that tough exterior, they will find themselves worrying about him more and more. Still Waters features well-drawn characters, realistic dialogue, and ethical dilemmas that many readers have already faced or might have to face in the future. A great choice for reluctant readers, fans of books with male protagonists, and lovers of survivor stories.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

fearlessPass, Emma. The Fearless. 368p. Delacorte. Apr. 2015. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375991684; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385744478; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385390149.

Gr 7 Up –Cass was just a kid when the invasion happened. The whole world was taken over and conquered by “the fearless”—unstoppable humans who feel no pain, have no feelings. At first, the serum was thought to be revolutionary—something to give to soldiers to do away with their PTSD symptoms. However, after rushing to give the serum to every soldier in every country on Earth, the creators soon realized that Neurophyxil caused side effects that no one expected. Unparalleled strength along with a loss of humanity, soon the fearless took over every country on Earth. Cass escaped with her pregnant mother to Hope Island, a safe haven purchased by the father of Cass’s best friend, Sol. Fast forward to the present: Cass’s baby brother Jori is now seven years old and Cass is 17. She’s annoyed by Sol’s affection for her, and now everyone on the island is up in arms because a boy her age named Myo has come from the mainland. That’s when everything goes wrong. Jori is captured by a fearless who somehow made it on to the island. With no support from her community or Sol, Cass is forced to trust the one person she’s not sure she can—Myo. This is a fun and fast read that will appeal to lovers of zombie invasions as well as books that feature strong females in a dystopian setting. Though the story feels familiar, it’s action-packed and the characters are developed enough to keep readers interested. Give to those who enjoyed Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Random, 2009).–Traci Glass, Eugene Public Library, OR

Preble, Joy. Finding Paris. 272p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062321305; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780062321329.

Gr 9 Up –Leo and Paris are sisters; very different personalities, fathered by different men, but bound together by their need for stability and support. Their mother, who has dragged them from town to town and man to man, now has them living with her latest acquisition, who seemed cool enough at first, but since moving to Las Vegas, has begun showing his true colors. Leo is fed up with their lifestyle, and is working hard to get into Stanford to study medicine. Paris, the artist, has no clearly defined plan beyond escaping her present circumstances. Late one night, Paris awakens Leo claiming that she’s in need of pie and sympathy. At the diner, she dares Leo to talk to an attractive young man seated at a nearby table. Shortly after Leo accepts the dare, Paris disappears along with the car and Leo’s cell phone. Max, amazingly accommodating for a stranger she’s just met, offers Leo his help, and together they locate a cryptic, hastily written note from Paris containing an obscure clue and a plea for Leo to find her. What follows is a scavenger hunt in which notes bearing clues to various locations lead to more notes. An intricate guessing game of sisterly devotion, romance, and quiet desperation.–Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA

Denton Little's DeathdateRubin, Lance. Denton Little’s Deathdate. 352p. Knopf. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553496963; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780553496970; ebk. ISBN 9780553496987.

Gr 9 Up –In a not-so-distant future, every person knows from tests performed on hair and blood at birth what day he or she will die. As the book begins, Denton knows that tomorrow is his deathdate and he is as ready as a person can be in this rather weird situation. His family has planned the funeral and the “sitting,” the wait for death to come. Denton attends the funeral, but as far as the sitting, he has other plans—time with his friends and girlfriends, some alcohol, smoking pot, sex—much better ways of spending his last day of Earth than just waiting. Then there is this strange purple rash with red dots that is spreading over his body, as well as the bodies of the people he has exchanged “spit” with—and the numerous near misses of his death when he’s almost hit by a car (twice) and is nearly shot. Denton’s deathdate gets stranger and stranger. This humorous story of mortality, friendship, family, and secrets is a strange, fun, and unusual read that keeps readers laughing, gasping, and quickly turning pages. Denton, a likable and well-rounded character, just can’t keep from getting in trouble. The plot is quirky and highly original. Denton Little just can’t win—but readers certainly do. While this seems to be a stand-alone novel, there is plenty of fodder for a sequel. Rubin’s is a new voice on the YA literature scene and is well-worth reading.–Janet Hilbun, University of North Texas

Ryan, Jeanne. Charisma. 384p. Dial. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803739666. LC 2014013425.

Gr 8 Up –Aislyn is cripplingly shy: she’s very smart and could have won the state science fair with her research on gene therapies, if only she’d been able to bring herself to talk to the judges about it. She’d love to talk to people and advocate for gene therapies as a treatment for various illnesses, like her brother’s cystic fibrosis, but she freezes up and can’t get words out. So when a researcher offers her a chance to overcome her social anxieties with an experimental gene therapy, Aislyn jumps at the chance. Her new gregarious self isn’t afraid to talk to the boy she’s been crushing on, or go to parties, or be a normal teenager. But some other teens have been given the treatment, too, and have collapsed. Then the symptoms start appearing in people who haven’t had the therapy. Charisma may not be the answer Aislyn was hoping for. Not a far step from Ned Vizzini’s Be More Chill (Hyperion, 2004), this novel features more current, realistic medical technology. The science is explained well enough for non-scientist readers to understand, and gives teens much to think about regarding medical ethics and experimentation.–Brandy Danner, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA

figSchantz, Sarah Elizabeth. Fig. 352p. ebook available. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481423588.

Gr 9 Up –Fig is six years old and spends a lot of time worrying about her mother, Annie. Her mother talks of fairy land, feral dogs lurking in the woods, and the importance of rituals. It is only after her mother attempts suicide that Fig learns the truth: her mother is schizophrenic. The story unfolds over the next 11 years, detailing the many ways Annie’s schizophrenia changes her and affects her family. She begins sacrificing trinkets, thinking this will somehow make her mother get well. She also sacrifices her own needs and creates a Calendar of Ordeals, dictating what she must refrain from each day. The teen exhibits many troubling behaviors and is eventually diagnosed with OCD, but her health is overlooked as the focus remains on her increasingly unwell mother. Fig is often left in the care of her icy grandmother and has no support system. When her uncle catches her cutting herself, she is relieved that someone finally sees her and will hold her accountable, but Fig never stops thinking she can save her mother. This beautifully written story is a painful look at mental illness. An element of fantasy weaves throughout the narrative, with Annie’s tenuous grip on reality and Fig’s magical thinking, and references to fairy tales. This dense, literary tale starts slowly, but builds to become an incredibly haunting story about mental illness and family bonds.–Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Apollo High School Library, St. Cloud, MN

Scott, Kieran. What Waits in the Woods. 288p. ebook available. Scholastic/Point. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545691116.

Gr 7 Up –Callie is the new girl, so when her new friends invite her on a camping and hiking trip, she can’t say no, even though she has never been camping. The trip starts out fine, although a few spooky stories and her lack of outdoor experience have Callie on edge. Things begin to go south when the group gets hopelessly lost and it becomes obvious that there is someone following them. When the group meets a solo hiker who claims to know how to get to a trail and a cabin, they agree to follow him. Yet things continue downhill as their food dwindles, their trust of one another and their mysterious guide wears thin, and whatever is stalking them is closing in and threatening their lives. Most chapters end on a cliff-hanger, and entries from the stalker’s “Recovery Journal” are interspersed throughout, so readers know that there is a killer but don’t know the identity. Scott builds constant tension, and the novel’s events unfold like a horror movie. This is a fast-paced thriller that will have readers on the edge of their seats.–Ellen Norton, White Oak Library District, Crest Hill, IL

Sise, Katie. The Pretty App. 352p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062195296; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062195326.

Gr 9 Up –Blake Dawkins is a stereotypical queen bee: beautiful, privileged, with deep-seated insecurities that make her lash out at less popular students and have caused her to lose friends. Blake and other teens across the country are excited when the Pretty App is released, which combines a beauty pageant with a photo-sharing app. Blake is soon voted the prettiest at her school and is then chosen as one of a dozen girls to take part in The Pretty App Live, a three-day reality TV show. The plot moves along with lightning speed–much like the pace of online life and reality television. Blake’s father is a major investor in the app and Blake suspects he may be rigging the voting in her favor. A mysterious transfer student shows up at Blake’s high school, woos her, then disappears just as she wins the contest. This is a frothy title with a protagonist who is not always likable but who garners sympathy because of her first-person perspective. Teens who read and enjoyed the first book may enjoy seeing Harrison High School from a mean girl’s perspective, and for teens who are hooked on apps like Snapchat, Whisper, and YikYak, this may feel familiar.–Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT

BeneathSmith, Roland. Beneath. 272p. Scholastic. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545564861; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545564885.

Gr 6-9 –Fans of the “Tunnels” series (Scholastic, 2008) will enjoy Smith’s latest. Pat and Coop were always close. Coop even let Pat help with his secret tunnel project under Washington, DC. But after an accidental gas explosion, Coop runs away. One year later, Pat receives a package with a recorder and a message that leads him on a mission to find and rescue his old friend. Smith spends much of the first 100 pages on backstory, though it is imperative to understanding the relationship between Pat and Coop had and why Pat is so motivated to travel alone to New York City to find him. The second half is better paced and action-packed. Beneath hits all the notes of an underground novel, with several allusions to classics such as Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine. Avid lovers of adventure fiction will enjoy this quick read.–Patrick Tierney, Dr. Martin Luther King Elementary School RI

Stevenson, Robin. The World Without Us. 240p. Orca Books. Feb. 2015. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781459806818; ebk. ISBN 9781459806825.

Gr 7-10 –In the opening scene of this problem novel about depression and suicide, 16-year-old Melody’s friend Jeremy jumps off a bridge. In flashbacks and forward, Melody wrestles with her guilt, her complicity in encouraging Jeremy’s darkness for its romantic nature, and her own fascination with death. The backdrop of autumnal Florida during a death row watch by Melody’s activist anti-capital-punishment mother provides rich context for the teens’ morbid curiosity, with a sweet counterpoint offered by Melody’s bright eight-year-old babysitting charge and her fascination with black holes. Stevenson skillfully plots the frequent scene changes through different time periods, revealing just enough at just the right times, and making her protagonist’s voice ring true as a smart, skeptical, white middle-class teen. These are characters who will continue to learn, grow, and change beyond the end of these concise pages. Not too intense or depressing for its subject matter, this will have most appeal to fans of Patricia McCormick and Sonya Sones.–Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

Ember in AshesTahir, Sabaa. An Ember in the Ashes. 464p. Penguin/Razorbill. Apr. 2015. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781595148032; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698176461.

Gr 9 Up –This strong debut novel is set in the Martial Empire, a fantasy world based on ancient Rome. Elias Veturius is the scion of a proud Martial military family and an outstanding soldier, but he dreams of escaping Blackcliff Academy, the elite military academy where he has nearly completed his training as a Mask, and his inevitable future as a ruthless killer. Elias and three fellow students will be facing the Trials, dangerous and rigorous challenges that will determine the next emperor. Laia is a Scholar, one of many oppressed groups living under the rule of the Martials. When nearly all of Laia’s family is killed and her brother is arrested for having a sketchbook depicting Martial weapons, she goes to the Resistance in desperation. The rebel leaders plant her as a spy at Blackcliff Academy, where she must pose as the personal slave of the Commandant, promising that in return they will rescue her brother. Tahir’s world-building is wonderfully detailed and the setting is an unusual one for fantasy novels. All of her characters, even minor ones, are fully realized. The author doesn’t pull any punches; her descriptions of torture, punishment, and battle are graphic and brutal, and her realistic depictions of the treatment of slaves include rape and physical abuse. For fans of Game of Thrones and of Melina Marchetta’s Finnikin of the Rock (Candlewick, 2010).–Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ

Thorne, Jean Marie. The Wrong Side of Right. 400p. Dial. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803740570.

Gr 9 Up –After her mother passed away in a sudden accident, 16-year-old Kate Quinn is left parentless and forced to move cross-country from Los Angeles to South Carolina to live with her uncle. Nearly a year later, while still in a haze of grief, she comes home to a yard full of reporters and the Republican candidate for president sitting in her living room—claiming to be her father. From that moment, she quickly finds herself in the national spotlight, living with a family that she has just met, and falling for a boy whom she can’t entirely trust. When she realizes that she may be campaigning for someone who does not share her beliefs, she must figure out how to stay true to herself while preserving her new family and life. Thorne’s debut novel is a smart and well-executed story that feels fresh and familiar. The relationship between the protagonist and the adults in her life are realistically complicated. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han will appreciate this well-crafted story about love and family.–Amanda Augsburger, Moline Public Library, IL

_Blues for ZoeyWeston, Robert Paul. Blues for Zoey. 312p. Flux. Feb. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780738743400.

Gr 9 Up –Kaz is saving the money he earns from his job at the laundromat—not for college, but to help his mother get treatment for a rare medical condition after his father dies. Working full-time during his summer vacation, his life is turned upside down when he meets Zoey. She is an enigma and readers will puzzle along with Kaz, trying to figure her out. Through his relationship with Zoey, Kaz is drawn into secrets, truths, and, ultimately, a dangerous situation. Weston builds tension through short chapters and a quickly paced plot, leading to a surprising ending. Those looking for a happy-ever-after conclusion will not find it here. Instead, the novel ends with a sense of possibility. Fans of gritty, realistic, and authentic works will find this novel an intriguing option. A diverse group of characters and the inner-city setting adds interest. Recommend this to fans of John Green’s Paper Towns (Dutton, 2008) because of the dark and honest portrayal of teenage life.–Stephanie Charlefour, Wixom Public Library, MI

Yansky, Brian. Utopia, Iowa. 336p. ebook available. Candlewick. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763665333. LC 2014939349.

Gr 8 Up –Jack would like nothing more than to be a normal senior in high school trying to get a date with his best friend, Ash, and hoping to one day become a movie producer. Unfortunately, his ability to see dead people is getting in the way of normal. Lately, the dead people that are appearing before him are demanding more and more of his time; they want to know how they died. Unable to avoid the demands, he finds himself at the crime scenes and under the suspicion of Detective Bloodsmith who refuses to believe that Jack has a sixth sense. Jack is a likable character set in a clever plot. Yansky’s writing is down to earth and entertaining. Readers will appreciate the movie references throughout as well as the story-within-a-story wherein Jack becomes Joshua Bell. While Jack is busy trying to help the dead, prove his innocence, and figure out what the angel in white wants, readers will be surprised when the plot takes an unexpected twist to bring the whole story together. Teens looking for a good mystery with a paranormal twist will enjoy this one.–Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

Zeiss, Joyce Burns. Out of the Dragon’s Mouth. 264p. Flux. Mar. 2015. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9780738741963.

Gr 7 Up –The Vietnam War changed the lives of countless people, many neither American nor Vietnamese. Mai Nguyen is the 14-year-old daughter of a wealthy Chinese rice exporter living in the Mekong River Delta. When Saigon fell to the communists, her family’s genteel life ended. She is forced to flee with another relative to Malaysia and petition for refugee status in hopes of being sponsored by a Vietnamese American uncle. Mai first finds shelter with a distant relative but is rejected when tragedy strikes. She moves to another small group of friends and begins a new “family,” but bad luck follows. She questions Buddha and fears the spirits she worships, making her religious outlook feel hopeless. Romance—both innocent and ill-fated—blossoms. Mai’s thoughts, fears, and emotions are genuine. Much of the book focuses on her life in the refugee camp on a small Malaysian island. The tedium of surviving and waiting slows the pace considerably, but it is understandable. The author uses this time to develop relationships between Mai and other characters. There are passing references to rape and other sexual behavior, but nothing graphic. Eventually, her name is called and she begins the exciting but confusing journey to America. Life in America is open to her, and the reader feels her hope. This well-written but slow-moving story puts emotions and a face to the word “refugee.”–Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library, Holt, MI

Zink, Michelle. Lies I Told. 352p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062327123.

Gr 9 Up –Fans of romance and a good heist will fall in love with Lies I Told. Grace is a foster child who has been adopted by a pair of con artists, and they are the closest thing she has to a real family. Her brother, another adopted foster child, is finding the life of constant deception increasingly unsatisfactory. He’s ready to get out, and he wants Grace to come with him. Parker’s entreaties would be more successful if Grace wasn’t falling irrevocably in love with their newest mark. Zink uses a fabulous vocabulary to build a tale of deception and mixed loyalties that effortlessly draws readers in and allows them to vicariously experience the tension of living a lie while trying to be completely transparent with a love interest. Zink liberally includes the palpitating hearts and more mature, steamy love scenes that many young adult readers have come to expect in an action-packed tale, but leaves her readers dangling with an ending that will leave them demanding more.–Jodeana Kruse, R. A. Long High School, Longview,WA

Graphic Novels

Jansson, Tove. Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition. illus. by Tove Jansson. 448p. Drawn & Quarterly. 2014. Tr $69.95. ISBN 9781770461710.

Gr 4 Up –Considered a national treasure in Finland but best known in this country for her “Moomin” novels, Jansson did it all: picture books, children’s fiction, adult prose, and, in the 1950s, a series of comics about her most famous creations, the Moomintrolls. In honor of what would have been Jansson’s 100th birthday, Drawn & Quarterly has released a gorgeous slip-covered collection of 21 of her best comics stories, including “Moomin on the Riviera,” “Moomin Builds a House,” and “Moomin and the Comet.” Written in comic strip form, but telling longer stories (most made up of 60-80 strips), the work introduces readers to many of the inhabitants of Moominvalley as the various stories unfold. The artwork and storytelling are sublime; concrete enough to appeal to children with a sophisticated wink that will grab teens and adult readers. The book’s introduction gives a brief overview of the history of Jansson’s comics as well as several testimonials written by current cartoonists on how influential her books were to them growing up. Recommended for libraries that have not already purchased the previously published individual volumes of the Moomin comics (Drawn & Quarterly).–Eva Volin, Alameda Free Library, CA

Teen TitansLemire, Jeff. Teen Titans: Earth One. illus. by Terry Dodson et al. 144p. DC Comics. 2014. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781401245566; ebk. $14.99. ISBN 9781401255947.

Gr 10 Up –In this reboot of the DC Comics series, readers learn the origins of the Titans as reimagined for a new DC universe called Earth One. Four teens living seemingly normal lives in suburban Oregon have their worlds turned upside down when super powers are thrust upon them. They quickly realize that they are experiencing similar visions that seem to be related to their new powers. The young people ban together to uncover the secret behind these visions and new abilities. Little do they know that this secret will change not only their lives but the entire course of human history. This revamp of Teen Titans will appeal to avid comic book fans and readers new to the genre, making it an excellent addition to any library’s graphic novel collection. Readers who have enjoyed other “Earth One” titles such as Batman and Superman, will surely enjoy this volume. It is also an excellent introduction to the those who are unfamiliar with comics and this franchise. The illustrations are vibrant and detailed. On each page, there are visual allusions to the secret which haunts each of the protagonists. The text and art will keep readers guessing until the very end. This first installment is an excellent opener to a promising graphic novel series.–Annalise Ammer, City of Rochester Public Libraries, NY

MacanudoLiniers. Macanudo: Vol. 2. tr. from Spanish by Mara Faye Lethem. illus. by Liniers. 104p. Enchanted Lion. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781592701698.

Gr 4-6 –Sweet and surreal, the latest entry of comic vignettes selected from the Argentinian newspaper La Nación explores existentialism and the human experience with trademark humor. In crayon, ink, and watercolor, Liniers brings characters such as Henrietta and her cat Mandelbaum, the Bovine Movie Critic, Z-25 the Sensitive Robot, and penguins into more philosophical debates and playful scenarios. The illustrations are colorful, clever, and executed with a keen sense of graphic efficiency. Parallels can be drawn between Macanudo and Calvin and Hobbes; the child-view of the world is refreshing, deep, and playful. Not all young readers will understand the jokes about the 90s, structure versus function, or Socrates, but they will be attracted to each page, which contains six brightly drawn comics without linear or connected narratives. Liniers is also a master of meta-jokes: characters talk about being drawn and the panels are often cinematic. This collection stands alone, so there’s no need to read the previous volume. This is one of those special books that won’t bump circulation but may change a young person’s life, as they inspire philosophical thought and urge readers to play and explore the world with open eyes while giggling at the gnomes in hats.–Lisa Nowlain, Darien Library, CT

Misfits of AvalonMcDonald, Kel. Misfits of Avalon: The Queen of Air and Delinquency. illus. by Kel McDonald. 176p. (Misfits of Avalon: Vol. 1). Dark Horse. 2014. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781616555382.

Gr 8 Up –The author of the webcomic “Sorcery 101,” brings to life a new incarnation of the tales of Camelot. Morgan, Elsie, Kimber, and Rae, four young women, each misfits in their own way—from a challenging home situation to not meeting parental expectations—are all “recruited” by Cu Sidhe, a man who can convert to a talking dog, to be guardians of Emain Ablach, or Avalon. These guardians have a specific mission, to retrieve a special “sword” (Excalibur) from someone only described as the latest reincarnation of the man who stole the sword. Strange creatures rise up around the girls’ town, and each takes a turn at being the “hero.” The protagonists are depicted in ways that don’t fit particularly within standard images of beauty, which feels appropriate to the story line. Each character is unique, and even in the black-and-white, illustrations, they stand out from the crowd. Some salty language makes this a more appropriate choice for older readers.–Sarah Knutson, American Canyon Middle School, CA

Mihara, Gunya. Kamen, Vol. 1. ISBN 9781939012142.

––––. Kamen, Vol. 2. ISBN 9781939012159.

ea vol: illus. by Gunya Mihara. 225p. Gen Manga. 2014. pap. $12.95.

Gr 9 Up –An unnamed warrior in a mask awakens. Immediately, a female general who fights to protect her people detains this potential savior. The mask is in itself an entity that speaks to and bestows great power upon its bearer, and while it prevents the man from speaking, we come to understand him through his actions. From the start, Kamen draws us in with its mysteries. The author refrains from answering for now, yet avoids frustrating readers by dispersing these questions throughout the immediate plot. This doujinshi (indie manga) has a natural flow that sweeps us over these distractions. Instead of emphasizing any fantasy elements, the author draws in a stark, reserved style befitting the historical qualities of this alternate Japan. Nations battle, politicians plot, and individuals have their own concerns, all of which makes this an exciting, and intriguing series.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ontario, Canada

honey bloodMitsuki, Miko. Honey Blood. tr. from Japanese. illus. by Miko Mitsuki. 192p. Viz Media. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421573373.

Gr 9 Up –Hinata Sorazono is one of the only girls around who isn’t fascinated by vampire stories. But then several vampire-related things happen at the same time that begin to change her mind. Numerous local girls are attacked and suffer an alarming amount of blood loss, and Hinata’s new neighbor, Junya, turns out to be the author of an extremely popular vampire romance novel. Junya’s behavior towards Hinata should set off numerous alarm bells even without the “is he or isn’t he really a vampire?” element, but the romantic tensions between them grow just the same. The story manages to be sexy and chaste at the same time—Hinata and Junya spend a lot of time sharing deep meaningful looks and holding each other close, but the biggest debate is over whether or not they should kiss. Mitsuki’s art reflects this strange balance; the front cover image is of Hinata and Junya embracing while wearing traditional kimonos, but the image featured on the back cover is of Hinata draped across Junya’s lap in a highly suggestive way. Most of the characters’ chemistry is reflected in their shining eyes and stylishly tousled hair, but as their relationship intensifies the imagery expands to include spilled and spattered blood, as well. This story is romantic, dramatic, and simply fun.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library redstar


For those interested in nonfiction, take a look at these stellar offerings with subjects as diverse as a biography on Josephine Baker, a medical mystery about Typhoid Mary, a visual look at water consumption, and the second volume in the “March” graphic novel series (Top Shelf) by Congressman John Lewis.

bullies of wall streetBair, Sheila. Bullies of Wall Street: This Is How Greedy Adults Messed Up Our Economy. 272p. chart. glossary. S. & S. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481400855; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481400879.

Gr 8 Up –In 2008 the United States suffered a financial crisis and recession unlike any other since the stock market crash of 1929. At the time of this crisis, Bair was the chairperson of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. According to the author, the prime reason for this crisis boiled down to too much borrowing. While not excusing individuals completely, the author sharply criticizes CEOs of large banks and their allies in government. Bair convincingly presents her case by first relaying six (fictional but based on actual people she encountered) stories of youths whose families were negatively impacted by the recession in one way or another (subprime mortgages, loan modifications, declining property values, loss of jobs.). Readers are given keen insight into the link between banking and the economy. An excellent selection that puts a human face on the economic crisis.–Jeanette Lambert, Nashville-Davidson County Schools, TN

Beetle BustersBurns, Loree Griffin. Beetle Busters: A Rogue Insect and the People Who Track It. photos by Ellen Harasimowicz. 64p. bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Houghton Harcourt. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780547792675.

Gr 5-9 –They arrived unseen, burrowed in wooden pallets, spools, and crates, aboard ships from China. The first group spotted in the United States, in Brooklyn, NY, was contained, and quickly taken care of, but since then infestations have been discovered from Massachusetts to Illinois, and as far north as Canada. They’re Asian longhorned beetles, pests with “powerful jaws and a taste for wood” and the frightening potential to eat their way through North American forests. Burns takes readers alongside a team of dedicated scientists and citizen volunteers working to eradicate this invasive species in a quarantined area in Worchester County, MA. Along the way, she explains how the creatures can go undetected for years (their life cycle begins inside trees, which keeps them heavily camouflaged) and offers information that early studies on the creature have yielded—not all of it hopeful. Abundant, close-up, color photos of the insect (from egg to pupa to mature adult), damaged trees, onsite workers, and informative labeled diagrams and maps help tell this disquieting story. Her questions about the method employed will leave readers asking some of their own—as they should. A timely, well-told story and a call to action.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

Caravantes, Peggy. The Many Faces of Josephine Baker: Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy. 208p. appendix. bibliog. index. notes. photos. reprods. Chicago Review. Feb. 2015. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781613730348.

Gr 6 Up –Josephine Baker, entertainer, ex-pat, and activist, is a unique and controversial figure of the Jazz Age. Admitting that verifying the truth of Baker’s life proves difficult, Caravantes offers a thorough biography. Where there is more than one version of a story, she is careful to explain the origin of the distortion—often Baker herself, as she rewrote her own history to better suit the image she wanted to project. A remarkable woman nonetheless, Josephine, illiterate most of her life, pulled herself out of extreme poverty and often disturbing conditions in the slums of East St. Louis to become the toast of Paris, where racial prejudice was less pronounced than in the United States. An adoptive mother of 13 children, she was recruited to spy for France during World War II. This is a straightforward biography, enhanced by photographs, sidebars, source notes, and bibliography. Recommended especially for collections in African American and women’s studies, but it may also be useful for history and entertainment buffs in general.–Katherine Koenig, The Ellis School, PA

Coste, Marion. Hawai‘i’s Animals Do the Most Amazing Things! illus. by Rena Ekmanis. 48p. bibliog. glossary. Univ. of Hawai’i. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780824839628. LC 2014014460.

Gr 5 Up –Coste goes well beyond expectations in this informative guide, drawing aspiring scientists into the fascinating realm of Hawaiian animals. Beginning with an introduction to Hawaii’s geography, geology, and evolution, including humans’ influence, Coste includes 12 endemic and indigenous animals, covering both rare and more well known creatures, such as the great frigate bird, fisher bird, fairy tern, pacific golden plover, Hawaiian green sea turtle, spinner dolphin, humpback whale, and mountain shrimp. Each entry is informative and insightful. Original decorative illustrations are appropriate and well placed. Middle school students will find useful material to extract for report writing, but the text is complex enough to entice older readers, too. A well-written overview of Hawaiian animals.–Nancy Call, Santa Cruz Public Libraries, Aptos, CA

Doeden, Matt. Whistle-Blowers: Exposing Crime and Corruption. 96p. bibliog. chron. ebook available. filmog. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Twenty-First Century. Apr. 2015. RTE $33.32. ISBN 9781467742092. LC 2014011850.

Gr 5 Up –This book looks at the most famous cases of whistle-blowing in the recent past. Doeden starts off by examining what kinds of protections have been put in place over time to help protect whistle-blowers from potential threats to their jobs or personal safety. Each chapter includes a different whistle-blower, such as W. Mark Felt, aka Deep Throat; Kathryn Bolkovac, who outed sex trafficking within the UN Peacekeeping Corps; Mike McQueary, a key witness in the Penn State child sex abuse; and Edward Snowden, who exposed the extensive surveillance by the National Security Agency. Because the author presents the cases from the perspectives of the whistle-blowers themselves, the book is somewhat biased in their favor, though there are some sidebars that present other views of the story (particularly with Snowden). Full-color photographs abound, and each image is well captioned, with additional information not found elsewhere in the chapter. There are also brief introductions to related films and books. A useful purchase.–Heather Massa, East Rockaway Public Library, NY

Thrift shoppingDonovan, Sandy. Thrift Shopping: Discovering Bargains and Hidden Treasures. 64p. bibliog. ebook available. index. notes. photos. websites. Twenty-First Century. Mar. 2015. Tr $33.32. ISBN 9781467757836. LC 2014020885.

Gr 7 Up –In this fun guide to thrift shopping, Donovan proves that anyone, anywhere, can take part in this trendy new activity. She lays out the ins and outs, letting readers know how to uncover bargains and unearth treasures from the trash. Whether you are looking for a specific item or just browsing the aisles at the flea market, there is plenty of opportunity for great finds. This upbeat title helps readers determine what’s a real deal, the best times and places (including lots of online resources) to shop, and how to sell upcycled goods (from yard sales to eBay selling). Filled with colorful photographs depicting beautifully styled scenes, this volume is a real inspiration.–Elaine Baran Black, Georgia Public Library Service, Atlanta

DuMont, Brianna. Famous Phonies: Legends, Fakes, and Frauds Who Changed History. 160p. ebook available. illus. index. notes. photos. reprods. Sky Pony. 2014. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781629146454. LC 2014022733.

Gr 4-9 –Think Confucius was a wise old man revered in his lifetime? Under the impression that George Washington was a great hero? Believe that Pythagoras came up with a theorem that changed mathematics forever? Prepare to be disillusioned as independent historian DuMont debunks many of history’s legends, both those who really existed and some who never did. The book’s lively, breezy style often descends to the snarky and sarcastic and may spark a healthy skepticism about textbook history. DuMont lists sources for each chapter, most of which are reliable, even excellent. A fun read.–Katherine Koenig, The Ellis School, PA

brilliant history of colorFinlay, Victoria. The Brilliant History of Color in Art. 128p. illus. index. reprods. Getty. 2014. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781606064290.

Gr 9 Up –Who knew that colors have such fascinating stories to tell? Finlay does a wonderful job of describing, in clear, accessible, witty language, how artists around the world, from prehistoric times to the present, have used natural materials, including charcoal, soot, plants, insects, shells, and gems and minerals, to produce magnificent paint and ink colors that continue to dazzle. Today, though, synthetic paints and even computers produce an astonishing range of hues. Browsers and cover-to-cover readers will find some tantalizing information here. The handsomely designed book includes 166 excellent reproductions of artworks, many from the collections of Los Angeles’s J. Paul Getty Museum. It is filled with illuminating captions and sidebars; reproductions have been placed to illustrate the author’s narratives; and a “brilliant history of color” is a compelling, readable account of humankind’s yearning to express itself beautifully since the beginning of time. An illustration list and lengthy index are included. Recommended for large public library collections and for school libraries; useful in art classes, particularly in units on art history/appreciation, drawing, and painting.–Carol Goldman, Queens Library, NY

Gormley, Beatrice. Nelson Mandela: South African Revolutionary. 256p. bibliog. chron. ebook available. glossary. index. photos. S. & S./Aladdin. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481420594.

Gr 5-8 –Rich in anecdotes, cultural background information, political events, and key people in South Africa’s history, this latest biography of Nelson Mandela is an illuminating read for middle grade students. Born in 1918 into the Thembu tribe in South Africa, Mandela spent his early childhood as a cow herder, absorbing the stories, culture, and customs of his people. At age 12, Mandela’s dying father arranged for his son to become the ward of the prosperous, educated tribal regent. Mandela’s life and aspirations changed as he was introduced to education, boarding school, city life, a legal career, and the injustices and oppression of the ruling white minority in South Africa. When the brutal apartheid system became law in 1948, Mandela emerged as a charismatic leader in the fight for human and civil rights, promoting freedom through nonviolent protest, enduring 20 years of imprisonment, and becoming president of South Africa after his release. Until his death at 95 in 2013, Mandela continued to speak out against violent conflicts, human rights abuses and the spread of AIDs in South Africa and neighboring countries. Gormley’s inclusion of Mandela’s personal experiences with discrimination, as well as details about his love of boxing and fine clothes, add a richer dimension to this larger-than-life icon.–Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts, NC

Higgins, Nadia. US Government Through Infographics. illus. by Alex Sciuto. ISBN 9781467734639. LC 2013041241.

Kenny, Karen Latchana. Economics Through Infographics. illus. by Steven Stankiewicz. ISBN 9781467734608. LC 2013037679.

––––. World Geography Through Infographics. illus. by Steven Stankiewicz. ISBN 9781467734615. LC 2013044300.

ea vol: 32p. (Super Social Studies Infographics). chart. ebook available. further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. notes. photos. websites. Lerner. 2014. lib. ed. $26.60.

Gr 5 Up –An attractive introduction to social studies in infographic form. The titles all begin with four questions designed to pique readers’ interest (“Do you wonder where people live in the world?”), and the text is divided into 12 brief chapters. Factual data is presented, such as dates and statistics, as well as more complex concepts, all presented comprehensibly. The colorful charts, maps, and illustrations that fill the pages of this series are sure to appeal to young readers who live in a high-tech, digital world.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Colls., Mt. Carmel

1501-Nonfic5up-JarrowJarrow, Gail. Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary. 176p. bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Calkins Creek. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781620915974. LC 2014948476.

Gr 5 Up –Just who was Typhoid Mary? Jarrow relates the account of Typhoid Mary, also known as Mary Mallon, and places it in historical context, explaining the devastating effects of typhoid fever. A symptomless carrier of typhoid, Mallon was a cook who inadvertently infected numerous people and was responsible for many deaths. Jarrow skillfully weaves Mallon’s story into that of two other key figures working to fight and contain the disease: George Albert Soper, a sanitation engineer and typhoid expert; and Sara Josephine Baker, a doctor working at the New York City Department of Health. Citing newspaper articles, courtroom documents, and the personal accounts of several doctors, Jarrow acts as a medical detective, following the lives of Mallon, Soper, and Baker while illuminating a fascinating chapter in public health history. The work of Soper and Baker led to a dramatic decrease in typhoid cases as well as other infectious diseases. A nonfiction page-turner relying upon extensive research and copious source notes, this is a fantastic addition to any library.–Ragan O’Malley, Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn, NY

Running DryKallen, Stuart A. Running Dry: The Global Water Crisis. 64p. bibliog. diag. ebook available. filmog. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Twenty-First Century. Feb. 2015. RTE $33.32. ISBN 9781467726467. LC 2014003223.

Gr 4-8 –This title provides a clear and concise look at the importance of fresh water in sustaining life on earth. An introduction explains where fresh water is available and where it is most needed, while subsequent chapters discuss how water is tainted and where, the concept of supply and demand, and our changing climate. Fast facts, statistics, and information on governmental policies and scientific innovations that may help save water are all presented, allowing readers a brief overview of this global issue. Both the length and format (comprised of short sections that shed light on various topics, such as water conservation, water rights, fracking, and the water cycle) of the book will appeal to those with little or no background on the subject. An excellent source for student research.–Denise Moore, O’Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD

Lauer, Brett Fletcher & Lynn Melnick, eds. Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation. 304p. Viking. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780670014798. LC 2014007144.

Gr 10 Up –This eclectic mix of poetry from some of the most up-and-coming poets provides a glimpse into contemporary life. Poems include the heart-wrenching and the hilarious, the bitingly sarcastic and the utterly stoic. Some titles may be familiar to fans of modern poetry, while others, such as “Talk,” will likely inspire readers to delve deeper. The poems tackle a variety of difficult topics, including sexual abuse, racial profiling, drug use, and family problems, as well as more hopeful subjects—“Tonight You’ll Be Able”—and highly relatable ones like “High School Picture Re-Take Day.” Appended are short biographies of each of the authors and their answers to insightful questions (the last book of poems they read, their idea of misery). Teens will find the afterword, where the editors explain their reason for creating the collection, a valuable bonus. The poems are not organized in a way that require readers to explore the titles in order, which will appeal to busy teens and reluctant readers. Those with an interest in poetry will devour these relatable selections.–Ellen Norton, White Oak Library District, Crest Hill, IL

Your Water FootprintLeahy, Stephen. Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use To Make Everyday Products. 144p. further reading. index. maps. notes. photos. websites. Firefly. 2014. Tr $35. ISBN 9781770854994; pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781770852952.

Gr 4-8 –With exceptionally clear and informative prose and an abundance of well-designed infographics, this book presents the shocking facts about our water usage. Quite simply, we are using too much water in our everyday lives and this consumption cannot be sustained. Consider, as Leahy points out, that it takes 634 gallons of water to produce a single cheeseburger or 660 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt. This title provides an impressive amount of data, making the issue of water use concrete and inescapable. Leahy helps readers understand the nature of the problem by highlighting what is important to know about our global, national, and local water consumption and why; explaining the significance of concepts such as water footprint (or the amount of water it takes to produce the goods and services consumed by an individual or community); emphasizing noteworthy ideas; and providing suggestions for making wise choices. The urgency of the situation is emphasized, but so, too, are the steps readers can take to address the crisis. Pair this book with Paul Fleischman’s Eyes Wide Open (Candlewick, 2014) to enlighten readers further about urgent water and ecology issues.–Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York

Turning 15 on the road to freedomLowery, Lynda Blackmon. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March. Elspeth Leacock & Susan Buckley retel. illus. by PJ Loughran. 128p. reprods. Dial. Jan. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780803741232. LC 2013047316.

Gr 5 Up –One of the youngest participants in the 1965 voting rights march in Alabama, Lowery provides a moving first-person account of her experience. Through this thought-provoking volume, the picture of an incredibly courageous young woman emerges. Lowery effectively conveys the enormity of the injustices in her world and the danger that those she knew encountered daily. Lowery shows what people, including children, are capable of when they stand together. Readers will appreciate what the author endured, including being jailed nine times before she turned 15. Lowery includes many intricate details, such as what the marchers ate and where they slept. The illustrations are a mix of photographs and cartoonish drawings, which bring a graphic novel–like feel to this memoir. This is an honest, powerful historical work, straight from the source.–Heather Acerro, Rochester Public Library, MN

Parker, Matt. Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension: A Mathematician’s Journey Through Narcissistic Numbers, Optimal Dating Algorithms, at Least Two Kinds of Infinity, and More. 320p. Farrar. 2014. Tr $27. ISBN 9780374275655; ebk. ISBN 9780374710378.

Gr 8 Up –For readers who haven’t balked at Stephen Hawkings’s A Brief History of Time (Bantam, 1988) or Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber’s The Quantum Moment (Norton, 2014), this sustained ramble through the thickets of mathematics offers similarly lucid but challenging insights into our universe’s deeper patterns and principles. Building not on a chronological but a conceptual framework outlined in the opening chapter, “Zeroth Chapter,” the author explores the historical evolution of mathematical tools, conjectures, and concepts from numbers and geometrical shapes to primes, knots, algorithms, multiple dimensions, computers from the Antikythera Mechanism on, probability, “ridiculous” (i.e., negative, transcendental, surreal, and the like) numbers, and infinities of diverse flavor. A stand-up comedian as well as a trained mathematician, Parker lightens the intellectual load considerably with zingers and everyday examples from bar bets to dating algorithms.–John Peters, Children’s Literature Consultant, New York City

BirdologyRusso, Monica. Birdology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Birds. photos by Kevin Byron. 128p. bibliog. index. photos. Chicago Review. Jan. 2015. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781613749494.

Gr 4-6 –One way to address today’s “nature deficit” is to focus on the birds outside almost every window. Observation activities set off in color text boxes are designed to develop observation skills and cultivate an understanding of bird behavior. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of birds, such as field marks, beaks and feet, wings, eyes and nests, and more. Feathers make birds unique, and the first chapter describes the different kinds. Color photos of wing and tail feathers highlight their different shapes, and photographs of birds in flight show how the feathers function. “Try This” boxes highlight such activities as bird feeding, walking like a heron, and building a small brush pile where birds can roost. An excellent glossary of “Bird Words” provides definitions, and the four-page index differentiates pictures from text with italics. Beautifully illustrated with full color photographs and sketches, this is sure to create new bird watchers.–Frances E. Millhouser, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA

yousafzai_iammalalaYousafzai, Malala with Patricia McCormick. I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World. Young Readers Edition. 224p. chron. glossary. maps. photos. Little, Brown. 2014. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316327930.

Gr 6 Up –In this young readers edition of Yousafzai’s best-selling memoir, the Nobel Peace Prize winner retells her experiences at home and at school and discusses the impact of the Taliban presence in Pakistan. Her strong voice and ideals come across on every page, emphasizing how her surroundings and supportive family helped her become the relevant figure she is today. Yousafzai highlights the importance of school and how it was the only space where she felt empowered. Although at times the transitions between personal accounts and historical background feel abrupt, Yousafzai effectively summarizes her story and her advocacy for girls’ education, peace, and human rights. Above all, she stresses that she doesn’t want to be known as the girl shot by the Taliban but rather as a young person who actively fought for education. A strong addition to social studies, history, and biography collections.–Sujei Lugo, Somerville Public Library, MA

Graphic Novels

HowtoonsGriffith, Saul & others. Howtoons: Tools of Mass Construction. illus. by Nick Dragotta. 360p. Image Comics. 2014. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781632151018.

Gr 4-8 –Interested in creating a marshmallow shooter? How about a kite? What about designing your own clothes with crayons or creating plush stuffed animals? Siblings Celine and Tucker, who are asked if they can make anything but trouble, are put to the test. These “makers” show readers how they can do it as well. The siblings take kids on their everyday adventures and point out ways to make things out of household items. This title illustrates how maker spaces don’t always have to be high tech. Originating at MIT, this is an engaging work that consists of many parts: instruction manual; graphic novel; science, art, math, and design book; and safety guide. It will motivate students to learn concepts and subjects such as physics, measurements, and lab safety through a fun, graphic novel format. The comic book–style artwork is well done and engaging. This should be read by teachers, librarians, and most importantly, students.–Mariela Siegert, Westfield Middle School, Bloomingdale, IL

Graphic Canon of Children's litKick, Russ, ed. The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature: The World’s Greatest Kids’ Lit as Comics and Visuals. 450p. Seven Stories. 2014. Tr $38.95. ISBN 9781609805302. LC 2014010178.

Gr 10 Up –The fourth volume of the critically acclaimedGraphic Canon” series is a high quality, visually stunning collection of more than 40 adapted works that cover a wide range of children’s literature illustrated by 21st century artists. Characters such as Alice, Dorothy, Goldilocks, and Harry Potter have a very definite look in our mind thanks to the media. This work transforms familiar and unfamiliar stories by putting them in comic form and reimagining the characters and settings: a rude and grotesquely drawn Alice, the city mouse as a man involved with the Russian mafia, or a young Chinese girl who sneaks into the home of three panda bears. The page layout, medium, and overall style of the art varies greatly, allowing each individual story to make an impression on readers. This work will make a worthy addition to library collections and will be most appreciated by older teens and adults interested in art, graphic novels as a format, and the deconstruction of stories. Highly recommended.–Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ

March Vol 2Lewis, John & Andrew Aydin. March: Book Two. 192p. Top Shelf. Jan. 2015. lib. ed. $33. ISBN 9780606365475; pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781603094009.

Gr 8 Up –In this second volume, representative Lewis continues describing his experiences with the civil rights movement. As in the first book, Lewis attends Barack Obama’s inauguration, flashing back to his life as a young man taking part in the fight that would make it possible for America to eventually elect its first black president. Lewis lays out his involvement with sit-ins and the freedom rides, as well as becoming chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and speaking at the March on Washington in 1963. Graphic in every sense of the word, this memoir puts a human face on a struggle that many students will primarily know from textbooks. Visually stunning, the black-and-white illustrations convey the emotions of this turbulent time, from Lewis’s fear and pain while in prison to Governor George Wallace’s sneering indifference during his “Segregation forever” speech. Powell’s use of light and dark is masterly, and the contrast between the joy of Obama’s inauguration and the obstacles faced back in the 1960s is effective. This insider’s view of the civil rights movement should be required reading for young and old; not to be missed.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

The other side of the WallSchwartz, Simon. The Other Side of the Wall. 112p. ebook available. Graphic Universe. Mar. 2015. lib. ed. $29.32. ISBN 9781467758406; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781467760287.

Gr 6 Up –In the opening pages of this graphic memoir, the author as a young child realizes that his neighbors and relatives are not free to move around. They live on the eponymous other side of the wall. Schwartz shares his story growing up in West Berlin and that of his parents’ lives in East Berlin as they grow increasingly disillusioned with the communist government of East Germany and face great resistance to their desire to immigrate. Depicted in black and white with a realistic style that portrays a grim history without being overly stark, this graphic novel shares an important view of recent history. Likely to have greatest resonance with high schoolers, this book would be appropriate for middle school as well.–Elizabeth Nicolai, Anchorage Public Library, AK

These reviews were excerpted from SLJ’s January print magazine.

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Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz ( 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.

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  1. I always look forward to reading the reviews of the upcoming books by the people who are supposed to promote them in the libraries. It is an important service. I know that I may not always want to read a book based on its content, characters or how it is described by the reviewer, but as I am against censorship (even when I don’t agree with the book’s subject, etc.), I still want the book available for all. It is an opportunity for discussing delicate topics. I can choose to read the book, or not. My decision.

    I am telling you this as I was really annoyed to read a statement at the end of a book review about how a particular group is going to react after reading the book, so they probably should “stick” to reading a different book. Yes, I identify with the group mentioned and yes, I am probably being a little sensitive.

    Please remember that when you speak about diversity in books and groups of people not formerly represented well, that word can also apply to people within a group or community. Please “stick” to reviewing books on this site and not making assumptions about how whole groups of people are going to react or feel. Those comments only reinforce negative feelings between people and actually drive more censorship. Also, If I was the author of this book, I would be greatly annoyed that you told a potential customer to go read a different book. The rest of the review was well done and I have added it to my wish list.