May 27, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

YA: Dangerous Aristocrats, Hijinks in Berlin, and an Asexual Romance | February 2018 Xpress Reviews

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Bennett, M.A. S.T.A.G.S. 304p. Delacorte. Jan. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525578468.

Gr 9 Up –In the opening line of this debut thriller, Manchester native Greer MacDonald reveals that she might be a murderer. She’s excited to land a scholarship to elite S.T.A.G.S.—St. Aiden the Great School—until she’s targeted by a clique of aristocratic bullies—the Medievals. When ringleader Henry de Warlencourt invites her and fellow outsiders Chanel and Shafeen to his palatial estate for the weekend, the “huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ ” trip quickly turns deadly. They’re singled out because they don’t fit in: Greer isn’t rich, Chanel’s money comes from her father’s invention of a smartphone instead of inherited wealth, and Shafeen, although descended from Indian royalty, has the “wrong” skin color. The Medievals turn their guns on these three “savages” because they’ve dared to rise above their social station. Bennett creates a chilling atmosphere on every page. She describes the gorgeous grounds of Longcross, the de Warlencourt home, in rich detail, but never allows readers to relax for long. A threatening servant or an explosion of gunfire always lurks around the corner. The absence of modern technology at Longcross increases the sense that Greer is isolated and in danger. She frequently compares the weekend’s bizarre incidents to scenes from classic movies that emphasize the drama. The book reads like a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or an Agatha Christie mystery for modern teens. VERDICT Hand this suspenseful study of British aristocracy to fans of spooky boarding school stories like Robin Talley’s As I Descended.–Amy Duffy, Chicago Public Library

Brown, Kevin. Darkskin and Redbones. 186p. (Hard Knocks High: Bk. 2). Jank Publishing. Oct. 2017. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780984557219.

Gr 8 Up –In this latest installment of the gritty young adult series, readers are introduced to Mahogany Brown, a 16-year-old student of Bronx High who is grappling with colorism and peer pressure in her high-stakes and unforgiving neighborhood. After getting jumped by a lighter-skinned girl, Mahogany is rescued by Karisma, a streetwise classmate who frequently cuts school and shoplifts. Karisma introduces sheltered Mahogany to the fast pace of the streets, where “thugs” and “thug-divas” entice and excite. The protagonist desperately hates her dark skin and wishes for a lighter complexion and longer hair with the hopes of attracting a boyfriend. When she meets Makai, a boy from across the street who takes an interest in her, Mahogany begins to question her morals and strict religious upbringing. This is a very familiar cautionary tale that is sure to please fans of Midnight by Sister Souljah and Cassandra Carter’s Fast Life. VERDICT This may be well received in a collection where street literature circulates heavily.–Christina Vortia, Hype Lit, Land O’Lakes, FL

Carrillo, Dominic. The Unusual Suspects. 214p. Amazon/CreateSpace. Jan. 2018. pap. $13. ISBN 9781548972202.

Gr 8 Up –What do a 14-year-old Bulgarian American girl, an 89-year-old World War II veteran, and a now-dead creepy attacker have in common? They are all aboard the same train and are linked in a madcap adventure. When Nia decides to ditch school to travel by train to Berlin, Germany, from her home in Sofia, Bulgaria, she has no idea that her mission to seek revenge on her ex-boyfriend and reverse The Epic Devastation would result in hijinks with her new friend Kurt, an elderly American with a mission of his own. After Kurt and Nia bond over an event best left unmentioned, Nia convinces Kurt to accompany her to Berlin to complete her mission. While dodging police and border agents, Kurt and Nia teach each other that although they are very different, they can learn from one another and form a bond that neither expected. Told from the alternating perspectives of Nia and Kurt, this fun, fast-paced novel will appeal to fans of contemporary coming-of-age stories about finding family in the most unexpected of places. VERDICT A fun contemporary adventure for teens clamoring for a road trip gone wrong with a Murder on the Orient Express vibe; an additional purchase.–Jayna Ramsey, Douglas County Libraries, Parker, CO

Gallagher, Brian. Pawns: Ireland’s War of Indepence. 240p. Dufour Editions. Oct. 2017. pap. $15. ISBN 9781847178930.

Gr 6-8 –The year is 1919, and the place is Ireland. The Irish War of Independence from the British has just begun. Johnny is an orphan spying for the Irish Republican Army. Alice’s mother owns the Balbriggan Mill Hotel and is trying to appease people on both sides of the conflict, and Stella is the Canadian daughter of a British officer. Despite the children’s differences, their shared love of music has created a bond of friendship. But can it survive when bullets start flying and people must choose sides? Despite the outlined differences of these characters, there is very little nuance of personality to set them apart. And because the author spends very little time establishing the background of this story, readers unfamiliar with the struggle this book illustrates will have a hard time understanding the motivation of the characters and will not grasp the extent of the violence that occurred. The tragedies are mostly witnessed or discussed by the protagonist, and because all of this is peripheral, it dilutes the tension of the plot. When, at the end, the climax peaks, the resolution occurs off-screen—again, teens don’t experience what happens but hear about it after the fact. This novel has promise, but it ultimately fails to execute. VERDICT For a class studying the Irish War of Independence, this book would complement the curriculum, but as a standalone novel, it falls short.–Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO

Gant, Gene. King Geordi the Great. 180p. Harmony Ink. Jan. 2018. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781640800922.

Gr 10 Up –What’s more horrifying than your dad walking in on you masturbating? Your dad walking in on you masturbating, discovering you’re gay, and then throwing you a surprise Coming Out party—outing you to all your relatives and friends. This is life for Geordi with his well-intentioned but too-involved father. Geordi’s parents mean well, but he just wants a little space, and he doesn’t go about asking for it very well during a big fight with his dad. Meanwhile, Geordi’s best friend, Toff, is over the moon that Geordi is gay because Toff’s been in love with Geordi for a year. Toff’s had a hard life, and when some miscommunication leads him to believe that Geordi is in love with him, too, Geordi goes along with it because he doesn’t want to hurt his best friend. But when Toff’s father disappears for several days, Geordi and his friends go looking for him, and what they find makes them all consider their relationships and have honest talks with the people they love. This YA novel contains some overtly sexual content, but overall Gant writes a fast-paced story about a teenage boy living in the suburbs of Memphis trying to be honest with himself while doing right by the ones he loves. Lessons about love and communication are gently folded into this story about a teenager with good friends, raging hormones, and annoying parents. VERDICT A warm story of friendship and sexuality sure to reach any teenager.–Sara Jurek, Children’s English Library, Stuttgart, Germany

Golden, Christopher. Runaways. 352p. Marvel. Jan. 2018. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781484782019.

Gr 7 Up –What’s a teen to do after stopping your evil parents from taking over the world? For the group known as the Runaways, a much-needed break is in store. After finding out their parents are part of the evil cabal known as “The Pride,” Nico, Karolina, Gert, Chase, and Molly (along with Gert’s pet dinosaur), want to do the things that normal teens do: go on dates, hang out at the mall, and keep track of their social media. However, the life of a reluctant superhero is never done. Clues start popping up around Los Angeles that their parents might not exactly be vanquished. Fans of the popular “Runaways” comics as well as the new Hulu series of the same name will devour this new adventure about their favorite reluctant superhero misfits. Strong characterization is present throughout. Golden, a veteran of several film/TV/comic adaptations, tells a story that devoted fans and newcomers will enjoy (a brief synopsis of the previous events are included in the first chapter). A miniature version of the first issue of the 2017 Runaways comic (written by YA favorite Rainbow Rowell) is included in the back matter. VERDICT Those who enjoyed the source material will not run away from tis thrilling story. A great choice for YA collections.–Christopher Lassen, BookOps: The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library

Kann, Claire. Let’s Talk About Love. 288p. Feiwel & Friends/Swoon Reads. Jan. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250136121.

Gr 9 Up –Alice’s first year at college did not go the way she planned. First, her parents kept pressuring her to declare prelaw as her major, then her best friends changed plans at the last minute and got an apartment off campus for themselves. By the end of the year, she’s still undeclared, and her roommate-turned-girlfriend turned ex-girlfriend has reenforced Alice’s fears that no one will stay with her once they find out she’s asexual. When she shows up to work one day to meet the beautiful and sweet Takumi, Alice is blown away by her feelings toward him but terrified of being hurt again. This story, originally published online, is undoubtedly, but not heavy-handedly, focused on Alice’s sexual identity. While side story lines add some depth to Alice and offer up a diverse cast of supporting characters, they are mostly underdeveloped or tangential. Alice’s relationship with her best friends Feenie and Ryan, who are a couple, alternates between charming and troublesome. They, along with a few others in Alice’s life, are often unfairly or aggressively demanding of her, but the book rarely addresses it as more than overzealous love. Despite that, Alice and her struggle to grow while maintaining her identity are heartfelt and real. Alice is black, biromantic, and asexual, and her relationship with Takumi is genuine and fun. VERDICT A light, enjoyable asexual romance with outstanding representation. Recommended for any teen collection.–Amy Diegelman, formerly at Vineyard Haven Public Library, MA

Lorson, M.F. Delinquent. 222p. Amazon/CreateSpace. Dec. 2017. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781544036519.

Gr 7 Up –High school is difficult under the best of circumstances. Kate is a 15-year-old newbie at Huntley and Drake, a private boarding school in Oregon. All of the students are hand-picked delinquents. Students are motivated to do well so they can stay on campus. None of them want to be sent home. They must succeed academically and develop a special talent or skill. Students who don’t will be cut. Kate doesn’t want anyone to know her criminal past. Most of the other students feel the same way. Kate craves friendship, and she starts eating lunch with Robyn, and they develop a tenuous bond. Kate struggles with her homework and turns to Hadyn for help. Kate isn’t sure that she even has a special talent or skill that she can hone. When she sees Jordan running, she realizes that running could be her special talent. She asks for Jordan’s help, and they begin training. Just when Kate starts to get settled in, trouble begins in earnest: someone on campus is attacking female students. Kate isn’t sure who she can trust. She realizes she doesn’t even know Robyn, Hadyn, and Jordan all that well. Kate’s character is well developed, and readers will want her to succeed. Unfortunately, the ending resolves several plotlines too neatly and quickly. VERDICT An additional purchase for larger YA collections.–Michelle Hakanson, Warren Easton Charter High School, New Orleans

This article was published in School Library Journal's February 2018 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Dermed sagt kan jeg sagtens sætte pris på hans interessante produkter og karisma. Der er nemlig ingen tvivl om, at denne mand er fuld af karisma og samtidig formår at fremstå som en sympatisk person med begge ben forankret på jorden.

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