Reality Check by Peter Abrams

Searching for September
The selections for this month are centered around searching: for who you really are, for a solution to a problem, for a friend who disappeared, for a way to the next level. Each offers a unique perspective illustrating that life (and sometimes the afterlife) is not a destination, but a journey.
It was Very difficult to pick a favorite for this month, so I went with the title that most embodied the theme.

Cody's world revolves around two things: football and his girlfriend, Clea. But she just happens to be the daughter of the richest man in town, and he has plans for his daughter. When Clea gets sent away to boarding school, he decides it's best (for her) for them to break up, but she is never far from his mind. He plans to get a football scholarship to a good school, maybe one near her. He throws himself wholeheartedly into football. Junior year is the most important for scouts, after all. Then a cheap injury causes an ACL tear, and he's out for the season. Academics was never his strong suit, and now that there's no reason to keep his grades up, he doesn't. Finally, he drops out and starts working full time. It seems he's doomed to repeat the patterns of working class society just like his dad, until he sees a headline: "Local Girl Missing".

Clea is missing! How can she be missing? He just got a letter in the mail from her. Suddenly, all he can think about is saving her. He quits his job, packs a bag, and starts driving. He shows up and blends in with other local teens in a search party. Something tells him to keep quiet about his relationship to Clea. People begin to tell him things, confiding in him about the circumstances of her disappearance, but he isn't buying their story. An experienced horse rider like Clea wouldn't have fallen off her horse, or gotten lost in woods. Something else is going on.

The police chief isn't buying his act. He runs his plates, makes a few calls, and calls him out. His punishment: he enlists Cody's help as a man inside. Cody takes a job at the stable, and is able to keep a close eye on what goes on around the school. The more he learns about the town, the more suspicious he is of everyone. Will he find Clea before something happens to her? Or before something happens to him?

It's an easy read, with a twist you don't see coming at the end. It will probably appeal more to male readers, although girls will enjoy it as well. There is something about trying to piece together the parts of a mystery that will always entertain me.
"He found he was shaking; the letter was like a message from the... But no: He pushed that thought away, refused to allow his mind to even think it, not once. He reread the letter, kept coming back to those two lines: One or two I don't like at all. It's hard to know who to
trust sometimes.
Could they now be considered some kind of...evidence?" (Abrams pg. 91-92, 2009).

If you liked this, check out:
Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrams

Abrams, Peter. (2009). Reality Check. New York, NY: Laura Geringer Books, HarperTeen.

Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley

Charlotte often feels like no one can see her. She is tired of hearing, "sorry I didn't see you...". She has a plan. All summer she has been working out, dieting, honing in on fashion and beauty tips, and practicing for cheerleading tryouts. Charlotte knows this is her year, her last year at Hawthorne High, to get Damen to notice her.

It seems her dreams are coming true when Damen is not only paired up with her in Physics, but even asks her to tutor him! That's when things start to go downhill. She's so excited she chokes! Charlotte chokes to death on a gummy bear.

It turns out death is not the end of high school. Before she knows it, Charlotte is the newest member of the Dead Ed class. She is surrounded by teens who--even though they're dead--still have to graduate. She is issued a Deadiquette handbook, given a room at Hawthorne Manor, learns that she must give up her past, and learn from her mistakes in order to move onto whatever comes next. But Charlotte just can't let go.

Since she is now officially invisible, she decides to spy on Damen and his girfriend, Petula. Surprisingly, only Petula's sister, Scarlet, can see and hear Charlotte. The two strike up a friendship, but Charlotte has ulterior motives. She wants to possess Scarlet's body so Damen will take her to the Fall Ball.

Will her selfishness and unwillingness to let go put all of Dead Ed in jeopardy? Will Scarlet finally say enough is enough, and refuse to help her? Sometimes the search for popularity can leave you feeling empty. Hurley's book is not only entertaining, but visually stimulating. The illustrations throughout will entice reluctant readers, and delight those with a slightly goth sensibility.
"Perception vs. reality. In high school, they are pretty much the same thing. We put on makeup and football helmets, buy nose jobs and fast cars, all to reinforce perception and keep reality at bay. There might, in fact, be much more to someone than meets the eye, but in order to make such a discovery, you have to be willing to dig beneath the surface. Most people aren't, because it would upset the social order; but a few, very few, are,"(Hurley pg. 212, 2008).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Ghostgirl: Homecoming by Tonya Hurley
Eighth Grade Bites: The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer
Dead is the New Black by Marlene Perez

Hurley, Tonya. (2008). Ghostgirl. Little, Brown and Company: New York, NY.

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

Zanna is starting to get suspicious. Strange things keep happening around her--even her best friend Deeba is beginning to notice. One day they see a cloud that is alarmingly similar to Zanna's face, people keep calling her "Schwazzy", and lots of animals seem to be recognizing her! Things take a dangerous turn when smoke comes out of nowhere and attacks them. That night Zanna and Deeba follow what seems to be a moving umbrella into a sewer. Zanna turns a spigot, and they are suddenly somewhere very unlike London.

In fact, they are in UnLondon where strange creatures abound. It seems Zanna's the Schwazzy, or the chosen one, sent to save UnLondon from the Smog. The Smog is like smoke with a brain, and all it wants to do is burn everything up. Along with its followers: the Hex, the Smombies, the Stink-Junkies, and many more, it wants nothing more than to stop the Schwazzy. In an adventure to remember across UnLondon, the girls meet a colorful cast of characters that deliver them safely to the Propheseers. It seems the story of the Schwazzy, or Zanna, has been prophesied for a long time. They have been waiting for her arrival. In her first battle, however, Zanna is defeated. Sick with worry, Deeba gets her back to London with the Propheseers help, but leaves a very confused group of UnLondoners behind.

When Zanna wakes up, she doesn't remember anything about their trip. Deeba is alone in her knowledge. She tries to go back to her normal life, but something isn't right. After some investigating, she discovers that one of the leaders against the Smog may not be who he says he is. Determined not to leave UnLondon defenseless, she finds her way back. This time things don't go as smoothly. No one believes her story! She finds unlikely help from a half-ghost, Hemi, and the Book of prophesies (who no longer believes he is worth anything). They begin to find an alternative way of saving the city, but will they make it in time?

For anyone who loves alternative realities, this is a great story. Deeba has to search for the key to saving UnLondon, and also to find her place as the UnSchwazzy. She learns that you have to stand up for what you know is right.
"Where did you come from?" Margarita said. "Lost Angeles? Baghdidn't?"
"I'm not from an abcity," Deeba said. "I climbed in from London."
"London?" The woman narrowed her eyes. "A young thing like you? You expect me to believe you climbed all that way? Straight up? Did you have any trouble from wordcrows? None of the warrior booktribes of the Middle Shelves?"(Mieville pg. 154, 2007).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Looking for Jake: Stories by China Mieville
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Mieville, China. (2007). Un Lun Dun. Ballentine Books: New York, NY.

Paper Towns by John Green

The author of the Prinz Award-winning novel Looking for Alaska has done it again. Masterfully written, intriguing and hard to put down, Paper Towns is already on several "Best" lists.

Quentin is nobody special. He tries to stay under the radar. He follows the rules, makes good grades, has psychiatrists for parents who are so proud of his being well-adjusted. Maybe the most exciting thing about him is his next door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman. She is a force of change, a spot of brilliance in his life. She is beautiful, popular, independent, spontaneous, known for her escapades--everything he is not. They shared an unforgettable moment with Q when they were children--together they found a dead body in their sub-division.

That was about the end of Q and Margo's friendship. Now they are in high school, and she kidnaps him for a great adventure. They get revenge on Margo's ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend for hooking up behind her back. They sneak into SeaWorld just because. The next day Q expects everything to have changed, and strangely many things do. But suddenly, Margo is gone.

She leaves him clues as to where she has gone. The search for her becomes an obsession. The more they search, the more they learn that Margo isn't who they thought she was. Her secret self doesn't fit into her public persona. Why all the secrets? Quentin starts to learn some things about himself through searching for her, including what it takes to be a good friend. Pick this up, you won't be disappointed.
"I stand in this parking lot, realizing that I've never been this far from home, and here is this girl that I love and cannot follow. I hope this is the hero's errand, because not following her is the hardest thing I've ever done," (Green pg. 304, 2008).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Impossible by Nancy Werlin
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Green, John. (2008). Paper Towns. Dutton Books: New York, NY.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Frankie, or Bunny as her mom calls her, has never been one that stands out. She's always been the one that follows the rules, does what she's told, and is a good girl. Over the summer, she "blossoms" into the hot girl with curves in all the right places. Suddenly, the most popular boy on campus at her upscale boarding school is taking notice.

Matthew is the boy of her dreams, and his group of friends are the friends of her dreams. Sophomore year couldn't be going better, until Matthew begins to put his friends before her, over and over. She starts to suspect that it's more than just "hanging with the guys".

One night, when he blows of a date, she follows him. Frankie witnesses a meeting of the Loyal Order of Basset Hounds. She happens to know a former member, her dad. Apparently, the Basset Hounds is a secret-male only-society, known for its pranks on campus. She overhears their plans for the annual Halloween prank, and immediately has an idea. Why should the boys get to have all the fun?

In her own way Frankie is rebelling against the hierarchy that, until this year, has always kept her in the shadows. She is tired of being left out, labeled, and lied to. She is searching for her place in a world that has already decided where she should fit in, and she is ready to create herself a new place. Lockhart avoids the dangers of falling into a boring 'school' or romance novel through her ingenuity and intelligence. It is truly a brains over brawl tale, and one you won't be able to put down.

"I, Frankie Landau-Banks, hereby confess that I was the sole mastermind behind the mal-doings of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. I take full responsibility for the disruptions caused by the Order–including the Library Lady, the Doggies in the Window, the Night of a Thousand Dogs, the Canned Beet Rebellions, and the abduction of the Guppy," (Lockhart pg. 1, 2008).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Dramarama by E. Lockhart
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Lockhart, E. (2008). The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Hyperion: New York.