Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill

The story of the girls of the Salem Witch Trials never fails to make a cold chill creep down my spine. The idea that mob mentality can decide life and death is a personal fear that I live with ... and yet these girls did it initially for attention, and subsequently because they were pressured by family and friends ... or so the version written by Hemphill alleges.

In this verse style account, each character tells their personal view of the happenings. From the first accusations, to the first arrests, to the first trials, to the first death ... you see the reactions and the decisions through the eyes of the girls. 

For those of you unfamiliar with this story, the first person accused of witchcraft is a black maid. It seems that her "home remedies" of fortune telling and herbal concoctions are suspect enough to make the story viable. Of course, the girls involved want to shift blame away from themselves. They tell everyone that she is the one who made them do it, she is the evil one. 

One witch accusation is enough to send the town into a tizzy of finger pointing and allegations. The girls involved are suddenly small town celebrities, children who want to bask in the attention. Another is accused, and another. The girls start to have fits, claiming the devil pinches them, the witches visit them in the night and hurt them. More girls suddenly fall sick to the witchcraft. Soon the whole town is caught up in the story.

To deny the accusation is impossible, for what proof is there outside of the girls' testimony? To stand up and ask for reason becomes taboo, as it calls into question the authority of the church (the leaders of which support these girls). From whispers behind closed doors, it soon becomes clear that the girls are not the only ones who stand to gain from this. 

Hemphill weaves a dangerous tale of morality and mob mentality. Lies spiral out of control, and soon snowball. Each girl's tale holds a touch of reality and validity that makes the history behind the tale even more chilling.

*Library Link*
"The spirit reminds us all: do not forget what happened here," (Hemphill pg. 406, 2010).
If you liked this, check out:
Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill
A Break With Charity by Ann Rinaldi
The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Hemphill, Stephanie. (2010). Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Balzer + Bray.

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

It's always been just Abilene and Gideon, her dad. They ride the rails from city to city, Gideon takes on odd jobs, and they figure out a way to survive. This time, she's on her own. Gideon has sent her back to his hometown of Manifest, Kansas for the summer of 1936. Her only tie to the place is in the form of an old newspaper article in which she keeps Gideon's prized pocketwatch. Manifest is a place unlike any she has been before. She stays with Pastor Shady, who is only the interim pastor, and also the local saloon owner. In her room at Shady's, Abilene discovers a box of keepsakes and letters, one of which warns of "THE RATTLER". She meets Mrs. Hattie Mae, the author of the 1917 article she treasures, and learns that Hattie Mae still writes her daily column all these years later. She befriends Lettie and Ruthanne, cousins who join her in her quest for an adventure.

Practically her first day she's getting in to trouble. She misplaces her dad's watch, and finds it on the porch of the local "diviner," or fortune teller, but she gets so spooked she ends up breaking one of her pots and runs off. Returning the next day, she strikes a deal with Miss Sadie, owner and proprietor, to return and do odd jobs to pay off her debt. In exchange, Miss Sadie tells her the history of the objects she has found in her room - and slowly, the story of Ned and Jinx unfolds.

While Lettie and Ruthanne help her discover clues, they search for the identity of "THE RATTLER". Abilene slowly learns the history of Manifest, and its heritage as a mining town. She hears the stories of the large number of immigrants that lived there, and begins to see connections from the past to today. Ned is an orphan who was adopted by members of the town, Jinx is a wanderer who stops in Manifest and decides to stay a while. The two become fast friends, and are always in the middle of some mischief. Jinx is the consumate con artist, and even uses his powers for good now and then.

The story is told from multiple perspectives, and from two time periods (1917-18 and 1936). One perspective is Abilene's, one is told through Hattie Mae's column (both past and present), Miss Sadie tells the story of Ned and Jinx in the past, and one perspective comes from the box of letters and keepsakes Abilene has found. These threads are woven together to create a story that will stay with you long after you have run out of pages to read. It's no wonder this is the 2011 Newbery Award Winner, and I'm proud to say it was written by a woman from my hometown.
"It is not down on any map; true places never are," (Melville quoted in Vanderpool pg. 1, 2010).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
The Wonder of Charlie Anne by Kimberly Newton Fusco

Vanderpool, Clare. (2010). Moon Over Manifest. New York: Delacourt Press.

Freaks and Revelations by Davida Wills Hurwin

Two stories in 1970s America.

One has grown up with an abusive father, a passive mother, absent siblings. Brother Carl is shot by a bad guy. This neighborhood isn't safe. The white people have to look out for themselves, that's what mom and dad say. It was a nigger ...
Drinking in the basement with Carl after they catch the guy, drowning the pain of a new DIY tattoo, only 13 years old. It's nice hanging out with Carl, even if he gets too cool when his friends are around.

The other has grown up in a big family, surrounded by Grandma and Grandpa, laid back stylish dad, beautiful disciplined mother ... until the day when his brother Paul takes off and doesn't come back. Then they are moving out, and mom and dad are getting divorced. They have to go to Catholic school, and Mom becomes severe, disciplined, very religious. The only highlight is dance class on Saturdays, where the most beautiful guy in class kisses so soft.

One gets high on whatever is around, drinking and smoking are easier than dealing with what goes on inside. It's not like Mom and Dad ever do anything about it. The only thing that helps is punk. The punk scene, the music, the fashion, the violence, the anger, the people, the shows, the rebellion! Finally something to relate to, to express himself.

One can't belive it how everything is falling apart. Jason decides he knows what will bring everyone together: he will break down the walls of lies with his truth. He will come out to his family, and they will open up to each other ... only that isn't what happens. His father walks out, his mother locks the door behind him, and he is left to fend for himself at 14.

Doug is in a band, they're gonna be famous. They are going to feel something, do something, BE something! Some punk cuts his hair, but he doesn't care. He's gonna do a mohawk, start clubbing for real, MEET people .. like chicks, because Doug is no fag. He's 6'4" and 140 pounds of angry, ready to stand up to anyone and anything, violence is so punk rock.

Jason doesn't know what to do, or where to go. All he can remember is the perfection of Castro Street, how boys and men could hold hands in public, and be themselves. It seemed like the only place he could go. But once he's there, he doesn't know what to do. He finds a little alley, a nook he can call his own, and falls asleep. In the morning he starts to learn how to fend for himself, asking for change, eating someone's left overs, and he starts to hang with the other boys who are making a living working the streets.

Two boys who are lost, fending for themselves in a cruel world ... surrounded by bad influences and people looking to use them. Their families don't care, their friends don't seem to know what is good for them ... their lives are on a crash course. Where will they end up? Such a powerful (and true) story about prejudice and the dangers of passing on your hate to your children, your friends, your enemies.

"I never saw a kid that night;
I saw a creature, an enemy, taking something that belonged
to me. That's not an excuse, I know - there is no excuse
no good reason. It's not an apology either. Apologies
don't really help. The thing is done. I did it,"

(Hurwin pg. 3, 2009).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
A Time for Dancing by Davida Wills Hurwin
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
Love Drugged by James Klise
Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers

Hurwin, Davida Wills. (2009).  Freaks and Revelations. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Notes From the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick

So maybe he made some poor decisions...like drinking a fifth of whiskey, stealing his mom's car, and driving to confront his father for abandoning them to run off with his third-grade teacher. Okay, several very bad decisions ... which resulted in wrecking the car by hitting a lawn gnome, puking on a cop's shoes, a concussion, and alcohol poisoning. As you might have guessed, "Sarge" was less than thrilled. Alex is brought up on charges of drunk driving as a minor, and sentenced to community service at a local nursing home. His mother is a nurse at this particular nursing home, and assigns him one of their "challenging" residents, Mr. Lewis.

Mr. Lewis (Sol) is Jewish, and uses his considerable Yiddish skills to berrate Alex at every turn. In fact, one of his favorite phrases is "Gotcha!" Despite frequent protests, the judge is unwilling to reassign him to another patient. Sol even pulls one over on Alex's best friend Laurie (or as Sol calls her "Alex's wife"). As the days pass, and Alex begins to get to know Sol better, he finds they have something in common. Sol likes when Alex plays his guitar. Alex plays in the school jazz band, and is thrilled that they have something to share. A friendship grows between these unlikely two.

Meanwhile, Alex's parents are still at each other's throats ... and it looks like Alex's dad may be moving away. His mom keeps going on dates, and he just tries to keep his head down, hoping that he can get through it. For New Year's Eve, he and Laurie plan to throw a little party for the folks at the nursing home, and then have a sleepover. Sounds like a good plan, right? Of course, nothing goes quite as planned. Soon it becomes clear that things between Alex's parents are even more complicated than he thought ... and Sol found out about his mandatory community service, so he's mad too. All around a crummy night ...

With the help of two musical prodigies (the Cha-KINGS) from school, he begins to plan a benefit for Sol. He wants to make it up to him, and show that he really does care for the grouchy old man. After a lot of hard work, and a little awkwardness between he and Laurie, the big night comes. Of course, it wouldn't be an Alex evening without some unexpected developments. Sol is just full of surprises.

After an exhausing evening, especially for Sol, Alex has to face the facts that Sol is dying. Not today, but not very far in the future either. As the two grow closer, and learn more about one another, Alex tries to make Sol's one big dream come true. He learns a lot in the process, and causes a few goosebumps for readers. Touching, funny, awkward ... all the things a good teen novel should be - and a great book for boys.
"'Anyway, I read that book last year. Great, isn't it?'
'Who the hell are you? I've never seen you before in my life. Nurse. NURSE! Help! There's a thief in my room. I think he wants to -'
This was alarming. 'Mr. Lewis, wait! I'm just your ... um ... I'm Alex.'
'Help! Alex, the Um, is here to get me. NURSE!'
Claudelle came pounding through the doorway. 'Mr. Lewis, calm down. It's okay.' She gestured to me. 'This is just ...'
'Alex, the Um.' Then Mr. Lewis started laughing so hard I thought he might start choking again. 'Gotcha! Alex, the Um! Boy are you two gullible," (Sonnenblick pg. 56-57, 2006).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
The Schwa was Here by Neal Schusterman
The Juvie Three by Gordon Korman

Sonnenblick, Jordan. (2006). Notes From the Midnight Driver. New York: Scholastic.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Lucy's pretty average. She lives with her parents in London, the picture of a city girl. She has a crush on her best friend's boyfriend, she argues with her parents now and again, and they are going on holiday to Vietnam.

There is a boy, she recognizes him from the flight from London, and now he is here with them in Bangkok. After arguing with her parents, she just wants some space. She sees you in the coffee shop, and you offered to pay for her drink...they wouldn't take her British coins. You even offered to add sugar for her...she was so flustered, she hesitated, but you reassured her. The two of you sat down together, and she wanted to explore the secrets in your deep blue eyes. You were older than she first thought, but she liked the attention. Besides, what could happen in an airport? You chatted, asking her about herself, putting her at ease...then, everything slowed down and sped up at the same time. Suddenly, she was walking, following you...to her gate? No, to the bathroom. Everything was fuzzy, floating, and she was changing into new clothes. You were giving her something to eat, chocolate? Time became muddled, where was she? Then the pain, and the heat, and the swaying of a car.

Stolen. She had been stolen. Nothing was as it should be, why are you here? Where are her parents? How did this happen? "I had to take you," you said. (Christopher pg. 14, 2010). Why? What had she ever done to deserve this? Escape, she had to escape. But you keep telling her there is nothing out there, not for hours. Surrounded by desert, and sand, and more sand...how can this be happening? She runs, bolts out the front door - it wasn't locked - and you followed in the car, knowing that there is nothing and no one to find. Her anger is overwhelming, threatening to overtake her, she throws everything she can find, breaking bottles, screaming, biting kicking punching ... anything to keep from understanding what is going on. "'I won't kill you,' you said. 'I won't, OK?'" (pg. 22). How can she believe you?

You have been preparing for this for so long, the storehouse is full of non-perishables, supplies, how long are you planning to stay here? She has to escape, there has to be a way, there has to something out there. But it's a wasteland of sand and heat. She runs and runs ... and eventually you chase her, bringing her back.

You tell her stories of your past, of when you were stolen, of how your life together will be ... how you had to save her! You had to bring her away from the city with its noise and all the bad people. How she will learn to love the desert, how she will learn to love you ... how you are never going back, neither of you ... is it possible that you are not who she thought you were?

A powerful story told from Gemma's perspective. Recommended for fans of "issues" books like Ellen Hopkins, or Elizabeth Scott.
"I tried a letter, but couldn't get past 'Dear Mum and Dad.' There was too much to say. And anyway, I didn't know whether you would read it. So I wrote the only words I could think of: imprisoned, confined, detained, constrained, incarcerated, locked up, interned, sent down, abducted, kidnapped, taken, forced, shoved, hurt, stolen ... I scribbled lines over that piece of paper, too."
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Flyaway by Lucy Christopher (October 2011)
Nothing by Janne Teller
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Christopher, Lucy. (2010). Stolen. New York: Chicken House.