Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

Portia falls into that category of girls who are considered woebegone. Having been orphaned (of a sort) at a young age, and sent off to live with Mister at McGreavey's Home for Wayward Girls, she was never accustomed to a typical household. Her father left after a chance encounter with a travelling circus when she was nine, and after her less-than-favorable treatment at Mister's hands, she longs to follow in his footsteps. She vows to stay in Mister's care, however, until she can find her "File." It is rumored to contain information about the whereabouts of her extended family, and possibly the location of her father.

Then something happens to move up the timeline. No longer can Portia stay with this odious man, and plots her escape. Fortuitously, she receives a card showing the next several stops of the circus, and makes her way there to meet them.

Encountering the circus folks, she is enchanted by their way of life. Portia is recruited to work on the Midway as a "talker" due to her natural propensity for storytelling. Jackal, known as "the best talker in the game" takes her on as his assistant. Her job will be to talk up the side show, better known as "The Freaks": the Wild Albinos of Bora Bora, the Bearded Lady, the World's Smallest Man, and Irish Giant, the Fat Lady (800 lbs)...and last but not least, the Siamese Dancing Twins (did we mention they dance in the nude?)

Portia reveals that some of her motivation for joining up was to look for her long-lost father. It stands to reason, as he left so soon after visiting the circus with her all those years ago. While she may not have always harbored desires of joining the circus, she truly enjoys it. This misfit group of weirdos starts to feel like a family. Until that day when Mister's goons show up to take her back...

This is a fun, whimsical novel with elements of darkness, full of the weird and wonderful. If you like quirky, this could be for you. It has elements of historical fiction that keep this story grounded, and also lend an air of believability to a ridiculous setting. Recommended for high school.
"'Doesn't matter, my dear. What matters is what we say we have, and how well we say it. Remember that when you're on the line.'
'The what?'
'The stage, my dear!' He dropped his arm from her shoulders and clapped his hands. 'You are now in the noble business of the ballyhoo.' Then he reached for her hand, shook it, and announced, 'We start in the morning," (Barnaby pg. 101, 2012).

If you liked this, check out:

Barnaby, Hannah R. (2012). Wonder Show. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments, Book 1)

It's just a normal night at the Pandemonium Club. Clary and her best friend Simon are regulars. But tonight, something's off. Clary sees some suspicious looking people running into the back, and she follows them. What she witnesses defies explanation...as the dead body of some guy just disappears after three tattooed teenagers kill him! She is even more confused on why she's the only one who can see them, but that isn't the last time she sees them.

After a fight with her mom, she and Simon hit the local diner, and who should she see but the boy from the other night: the hottie with curly blonde hair. No sooner does she confront him than she receives a panicked call from her mother. Rushing home, she comes face to face with a demon, and manages to kill it, but is injured.

It was a Ravener demon, she learns later, as they begin to explain everything to her. The teens she saw are Shadowhunters: decendents of the Angel Raziel. They call themselves Nephilim, and are sworn to protect our world from demons, and other supernatural threats. Clary can only see them because she has the Sight that allows her to see through glamours. Suddenly a whole new world is opening up to her, and she's not sure if she likes it.

Most of all, she wants to find her mom. The demon that attacked her mentioned the name Valentine, and the Shadowhunters are familiar with him. Apparently, he once led an attack on the Clave who runs the Shadowhunters with a group of followers called The Circle. They also seem to think that her mother was one of them, and that she was married to Valentine! How could her mother have hidden so much from her?

With no place to go, she stays at the Institute with the Nephilim. As time passes, she begins to befriend Jace, Isabelle, and Alec...but it is clear that she feels a connection with Jace. She is drawn to him, like no one she's ever known. Could she really be a Shadowhunter? Does she want to be part of this world? Days pass, and the chances of finding her mother seem hopeless at times. Will they ever find Valentine?

I admit, I dragged my feet on reading this one. My teens love it, so I hardly ever have to push it. It sells itself to boys and girls alike, but I wasn't feeling too hot and ended up blazing through the first three books in one day. That should tell you something: I couldn't put it down. This is coming out as a movie in 2013, and I recommend it to fans of the growing "fallen angel" trend. But don't worry, there are plenty of werewolves, vampires, and fairies too.
“'Don't stop there. I suppose there are also, what, vampires and werewolves and zombies?'
'Of course there are. Although you mostly find zombies farther south, where the voudun priests are.'
'What about mummies? Do they only hang around Egypt?'
'Don't be ridiculous. No one believes in mummies,'” (Clare, 2007). 

If you liked this, check out:

Clare, Cassandra. (2007). City of Bones. New York: M.K. McElderry Books.

Unwholly by Neal Shusterman (Unwind series, Book 2)

SPOILER ALERT: This is the second book in a series!

It's been a year since the Admiral left Connor in charge of the Graveyard. In that time, he's learned a lot about the Anti-Divisional Resistance's disorganization, miscommunication, and general lack of support for it's rescuees. While the incident at Happy Jack Harvest Camp gained support for unwinds initially, the backlash has been severe from people who have made unwinding into big business.

New legislation is passed preventing 17-year olds from being unwound, but in response, marketing campaigns are revved up to encourage people to unwind their children "for the good of society". The text is interspersed with advertisements encouraging "the divided state" and the role of helping other injured humans.

Much like its predecessor Unwind, Shusterman follows the story of several characters on their path to being unwound. Miracolina is a tithe: born to provide harvestable parts for her older brother, she has always known her destiny. She looks forward to being unwound, and even spurns her parents when they begin to doubt their decision. The biggest shock comes when she is kidnapped the day before her procedure, and whisked away to a facility keeping tithes from being unwound. Their "patron saint" is none other than Lev! While the other kids at the secret facility are for the most part happy to be free, Miracolina is resistant to all their "anti-brainwashing" techniques. She truly believes in the sacrifice for her brother, and you begin to be sympathetic to her point of view.

Starkey is a stork. He was left on the doorstep of a family, and by law, they were forced to raise him. Never one to be subservient, he has always held a certain amount of resentment for his so-called family. He didn't make much of an effort to stay on their good side, and was always teased as a child. As he grew into adolescence, he made an effort to be too big and mean to tease, but he's still surprised when they come to take him away. Channelling Connor, he shoots his Juvenile Officer with his own gun and manages to escape. He finds his way to the resistance, and to the Graveyard. There he begins his insidious, cunning rise to power, creating a "Stork Club" and building a group of kids loyal to him by playing on their insecurities as storked children.

Camus Comprix (read: Caymoo Compree), or Cam, is a composite human created exclusively of unwound parts from 99 different unwinds. He is made up of the smartest, fastest, most diverse group imaginable to become the ultimate new advancement in medical science. While he embodies all the elements of unwinding, he is also an abomination to many. His face is a literal quilt of different skin colors, and his first conscious moments are an exercise in patience as his mind begins to make connections between all his neural pathways. He has existing knowledge from the previous owners of his elements, but he must learn how to access this knowledge. Roberta is his mother, his teacher, his confidante in this endeavor, and she acts as his handler to the rest of the world. It is she that introduces him to the media.

My typical synopsis would give too much away. These character sketches will have to do enough to intrigue you. READ THIS BOOK! You won't be disappointed. All your favorites are back too: Connor, Risa, Lev, and even Roland play parts. The way this story begins to unfold puts a new spin on the value of human life. What is it that makes us human exactly?
“The sad truth about humanity, Risa was quick to realize, is that people believe what they're told. Maybe not the first time, but by the hundredth time, the craziest of ideas just becomes a given,” (Shusterman, 2012).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
UnSouled by Neal Shusterman (Unwind series, Book 3) Expected publication 10/15/13

Shusterman, Neal. (2012). UnWholly. New York: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steivfater

Puck Connolly never expected to be running the race, but her brother Gabe hasn't left her much choice. He's announced he's leaving the island, and taking with him an income, stability, and a person she loves. The only thing she can think to do is ask him to stay until after the race, and stubbornly announces she's riding. After their parents were killed by the capaill uisce (say "copple ooshka"), she wanted nothing to do with the monsterous creatures: half-horse, half-sea. She still doesn't, and plots to break tradition and ride her own mare Dove.

Sean Kendrick has horses in his blood, and the island too. There's nothing for it, but to ride. His capaill uisce Corr has been with him for four years, an unheard of amount of time for the restless breed who barrel out of the sea around this time of year. It's part of the island's tradition, culminating in the Scorpio Races on November 1st. Any man brave enough to have found himself a steed, and foolish enough to ride, joins the melee on the beach for a chance at the ultimate prize: a fat cash prize, and the honor of the island.

The two seem fated to meet as Puck knows nothing of the race, and Sean has won it these past four years. If anyone could convince her to ride a capaill uisce, it would be him, but in a straight up race, he loses a horse to the sea, and she comes out the victor. It seems decided: she will race Dove, and become the first woman to take part in this ancient race. Sean agrees to help her train, for without it she has no chance of winning. Every day they grow closer, as they race along on their respective steeds.

There are plenty of humbling moments when other riders are less fortunate, or don't practice enough caution. Casualties are commonplace in this race. No one would think of discontinuing the tradition however, the island relies on the business it brings in to survive. The riders, too, come from far and wide to test their mettle. Both Sean and Puck have a necessary reason driving their desire to win: Puck wants to pay off their house, and Sean wants to buy Corr from her true owner, his employer. Only one can emerge victorious.

Will Sean crush the competition as he has in years past? Will Puck overcome all the odds, and show the island something new? Beautifully written, I appreciated the gradual attachment that grows between these characters. So often in YA the protagonists fall instantly in love, and this was a breath of fresh air. The storyline is compelling, and the mythology behind it will draw fans of Celtic lore. Highly recommended.
"'It's easy to convince men to love you, Puck. All you have to do is be a mountain they have to climb or a poem they don't understand. Something that makes them feel strong or clever. It's why they love the ocean.'
I'm not sure that is why Sean Kendrick loves the ocean.
Peg continues, 'When you're too much like them, the mystery's gone. No point seeking the grail if it looks like your teacup.'
'I'm not trying to be sought.'
She purses her lips, 'All I'm saying is that you're asking them to treat you like a man. And I'm not sure either of you want that,'" (Steifvater pg. 253, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater
Green Rider by Kristen Britain
Ash by Malinda Lo

Stiefvater, Maggie. (2011). The Scorpio Races. New York: Scholastic Press.

The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen

October is "I Read What I Want!"
With so much required reading (off the clock of course), I get burned out. This month, I'm taking a little break and enjoying some titles I really want to read! *Mwa haa haa* That being said: These are pretty awesome books. Some are sequels that I've been anticipating for a long time!

It's always been Mason and his mom, he's never known his father. After a horrible accident as a child, his mother gives him a DVD of a man reading a children's book and tells him it is his father. This is the only link he has to the man.

As he approaches his senior year in high school, Mason starts to ask more and more questions. Why does his mom hate TroDyne so much that she doesn't want him to pursue a scholarship opportunity? He doesn't need her anyway, just a copy of her signature to forge...but looking through her papers yields more secrets than he anticipated. There's some serious dirt here! His mom has a master's degree - and she used to work for TroDyne?!
Heading up to the rest home she works at, The Haven of Peace, he again finds more than he bargained for: there are kids here, kids like him...just staring off into space. What could have happened to them? A fight with his mom doesn't get him any answers, but the beautiful blonde girl has his full attention. On a whim, he plays his DVD for her, the one with his dad reading. Against all odds, she suddenly wakes up! Can this be happening? She doesn't seem to know how she got here or who she is, but she does know one thing: she needs to get away from here before the Gardener realizes she's awake.

Dazed and confused, Mason plays the hero and kidnaps this strange girl with the help of his friend. They make their way to his cabin to decide their next move, and discover that maybe there's something to her claims. Someone is definitely following them...

They run to Seattle to ask a former TroDyne employee what she knows, but nothing could prepare them for what she knows. First off, the "girl" (as they had been calling her) is named Laila. Second, TroDyne developed a project to solve the inevitable hunger crisis: humans who don't rely on food, or autotrophs. Worst of all? Laila's one of them. This beautiful girl in front of him isn't really human...and the Gardener is hardly going to let one of his subjects just go free. There's too much at stake. Who is the Gardener? Can Mason find a way to help Laila escape them, and free the others under TroDyne's control?

Fast paced, and a quick read, Bodeen has another winner. Raises some interesting questions about environmental issues and ethics, which could spur some interesting debate. How far is too far? Decent sci-fi for middle school and up.
"'The arrival of the Gardener was met first with the trembling, then with a shared stirring, as if we were all awakening at once. We knew the arrival meant the stimulating part of our existence was about to occur.
The Gardener moved to the front; the odd accompanying squeaks were familiar sounds to me. In anticipation, my heart beat faster. I waited for what I needed. Craved. Desired. And then, with a loud clank, the Gardener pulled the switch up front, and the light came.'
God, it was so weird, like she was watching a movie, narrating it. I glanced around to see if anyone noticed. A woman and a little kid were looking at books nearby, but they weren't paying any attention to us.
'As one, our heads turned upward to the false sun. A murmur rose, like one big satisfying Ahhhhhhh....'" (Bodeen pg. 111, 2010).

If you liked this, check out:

Bodeen, S. A. (2010). The Gardener. New York: Feiwel and Friends.

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Alex doesn't suffer from your traditional teenage angst. No, she has real problems, like the fact that both her parents died in a helicopter crash three years ago, and that her body is slowly killing her with a brain tumor. So when she takes off for the hills, it's not on a whim. She's making her peace with the future. The last thing she ever expected was for things to get worse.

First, there is the pain. It's fire in her brain, so intense that she watches a man she just met spit blood, and sag to the ground, dead. Birds fall from the sky, deer catapult themselves over the cliff. What is going on? When the pain stops, there is a little girl trying to revive her Grandpa...and she's suddenly pushed into survival mode. She can't just leave this poor kid alone in the desert. She tries to piece together what could have happened...and suddenly realizes she can smell. It was one of the things the tumor had killed, how is this possible?

Down to business, they need to get out of here and find out if this is an isolated problem. Their electronics are all fried, even the stuff that wasn't on: radios, cell phones, mp3 players - all dead. What does it mean? Her only plan is to get to the ranger's station for some help. Kid in tow, they make their way, until they are attacked by some rabid campers she had seen on her way down. They've gone full on zombie, and are out for blood. The other weird part? All the attackers are kids. Like a hero in the movies, Tom comes out of nowhere and rescues them. Now they are three.

They begin to piece things together. The "zap," as they're calling it, must have been some EMP. It wiped out all the electronics, and killed everyone but kids and old people - and most of the kids are changing. Alex isn't sure why she and the others were saved, but she feels better than she has in forever. Her sense of smell has almost gone supernatural, and she has a little family. If it wasn't for the seeming apocalypse, things might be ok. They begin to make their way to Rule, a town that seems to have some sort of order. Will they find safety? Will they turn? Can there possibly be an explanation for everything that is going on?

Good suspense, and an interesting plot twist toward the end. Curious to see where they take the rest of the series, but not too sure I'll keep reading them.
"'A word of advice. You two and that little girl? There's a lot of anger out there, and fear. People'll either shoot you, or decide you're worth your weight in gold.'
'What do you mean?'
'I mean, you're an endangered species. I don't know about the rest of the world, but we had eight kids in our group when we started and not one survived. So you be careful.' Larry clapped Tom on the shoulder again. 'Go on now. I'll wait until you're gone.'" (Bick pg. 205, 2011)
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick (Ashes Trilogy, Book 2)
The Maze Runner by James Dashner (Maze Runner series, Book 1)
Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (Benny Imura series, Book 1)

Bick, Ilsa J. (2011). Ashes. New York: Egmont USA.

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan (Heroes of Olympus, Book 3)

SPOILER ALERT! This is the 3rd book in a series!

The gang's all here! Finally, the Romans and the Greeks are working toward a common goal. Jason, Piper, Leo, Annabeth, and Percy are in the Argo II on the way to Camp Jupiter. They know they must forge an alliance to complete the quest to save the world from Gaea, who is slowly awakening. While their initial meeting goes well, and Reyna begins to trust them, something goes awry. Someone is firing on the camp! Of course, the Romans believe they've been double crossed, and they're soon in such a frenzy, there's no telling them otherwise.

The crew, with the addition of Hazel and Frank, manage to climb back aboard and make their hasty retreat. It seems they'll have to go it alone. The prophecy always told of seven...so maybe they aren't doing everything wrong. They make their way across the country, meeting some noteworthy company along the way. It seems the gods aren't doing so hot with Rome and Greece fighting. The two sides of their natures are at war, and most are struggling to keep it together. The demigods don't have much hope for any celestial assistance. Their goal is Rome, where they will face the giants. While still unsure of what awaits them, Piper's prophetic knife isn't showing good news.

Annabeth, meanwhile, has been charged with a task by her mother. She must recover the Athena Parthenos, a famous statue lost to the ages. Many children of Athena have tried to find it, and failed. She knows, however, that it holds the key to reuniting the Greeks and Romans, and hopefully to helping the gods get a hold of themselves!

While leaving the U.S. puts them out of the legion's way, they know that the Roman camp will turn their anger on Camp Half-Blood. It's a terrible choice, but they will have to trust their friends. Having outrun Camp Jupiter as they approach the old world, the terrors start afresh. Gaea never tires of throwing obstacles in their way. They are on a collision course with her children, the giants, if they can make it that far. The sea isn't without its dangers, and neither is the sky.

They encounter Narcissus, Athena as Minerva, Hercules, Bacchus, some relatives of Chiron, and more. This is another great one by Riordan, leaving me saying "are you kidding!" at the ending. Fans of mythology will be in thrall, and fans of adventure may soon become fans of mythology after reading this series. Highly recommended.
"'If you let Gaea drive our camps apart,' Annabeth said, 'the giants have already won. They'll destroy the Romans, the Greeks, the gods, the whole mortal world.'
'Don't you think I know that?' Reyna's voice was as hard as iron. 'What choice have you left me? Octavian smells blood. He's whipped the legion into a frenzy, and I can't stop it. Surrender to me. I'll bring you back to New Rome for trial. It won't be fair. You'll be painfully executed. But it may be enough to stop further violence. Octavian won't be satisfied, of course, but I think I can convince the others to stand down.'
'It wasn't me!'
'It doesn't matter!' Reyna snapped. 'Someone must pay for what happened. Let it be you. It's the better option.'
Annabeth's skin crawled. 'Better than what?'
'Use that wisdom of yours,' Reyna said. 'If you escape today, we won't follow you. I told you - not even a madman would cross the sea to the ancient lands. If Octavian can't have vengeance on your ship, he'll turn his attention to Camp Half-Blood. The legion will march on your territory. We will raze it and salt the earth,'" (Riordan pg. 251, 2012).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The House of Hades by Rick Riordan (Heroes of Olympus, Book 4) Fall 2013
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (Heroes of Olympus, Book 1)
The Fire Thief by Terry Deary (Fire Thief Trilogy, Book 1)
The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley-Archer (Gideon Trilogy, Book 1)

Riordan, Rick. (2012). The Mark of Athena. New York: Hyperion.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Cas is continuing the family profession: killing the dead. Not to brag, but he's never failed. This time, however, he may have met his match. "Anna Dressed In Blood" they call her, the vengeful spirit who's throat was slit, causing blood to cascade down her front. She kills anyone who steps foot into her house. Cas has his athame, inherited from his father, passed down through the ages. With it, he intends to lay Anna to rest. His first visit to the house doesn't go as expected. He ends up getting whacked over the head by some jealous high schoolers, and barely escapes with his life. It's almost as if she spared him...but that isn't possible is it? She has no problem tearing his new acquaintance into four pieces. It's not exactly the outcome he expects.

Too many people saw Mike die...Cas can't go about this alone, like he usually does. He's being followed around by some kid who thinks he's a witch, the most popular girl in school, and Mike's football cronies. It's turning into some kind of supernatural ghost buster killing party.

Despite everything, Cas is inexplicably drawn to Anna. He wants to know her story. He knows that she isn't a normal ghost, she is stronger than any other he has faced, and a normal cut with his athame won't kill her. Fascinated by her, he visits the house again. Again she spares his life. There is something about him that is different. She tells him she can't control her bloodlust; he's the first one she hasn't been forced to kill in a horrific way. After exploring his options, and getting his butt kicked around a bit, he finally conceeds to some help. This rag-tag group of demon hunters is going to attempt to exorsize her from the house.

The group witnesses the night of her death in detail, watching as her mother forbids her from leaving, growing increasingly angry and finally revealing her true nature, she binds her spirit to the house. Reliving it must be horrible for Anna, but not as horrible as the ghosts of all the dead she has killed. They are tied to the house as well. It's a cursed place. Do the kids have a chance at freeing Anna's spirit? Once they do, will Cas be able to kill her? He and Anna have a connection unlike any he's had with a living person before. When the time comes, will he be able to say goodbye?

Well written and compelling, it's Supernatural meets Scooby Doo. There's a little romance maybe, lots of blood, and even some personal growth. I enjoyed this one a lot.
"I look at Anna, facedown on the floor, terrified but not nearly scared enough. I watch this girl, struggling to escape, not just from Elias's grip, but from everything, from this stifling house, from this life like a weight around her shoulders, dragging her down and planting her in dirt. I watch this girl as her mother bends over her with a kitchen knife and nothing but anger in her eyes. Stupid anger, baseless anger, and then the blade is at her throat, dragging across skin and opening a deep red line. Too deep, I think, too deep. I listen to Anna scream until she can't anymore," (Blake pg. 204-205, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood, Book 2)
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Grisha Trilogy, Book 1)
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Cycle, Book 1)

Blake, Kendare, & Tor (Firm). (2011). Anna Dressed In Blood. New York: Tor.

The Kill Order by James Dashner (Prequel to Maze Runner trilogy)

SPOILER ALERT! This is the 4th book in a series!

The day everything fell apart started pretty normal. It wasn't until later in the day that the flares struck. Sun flares torching everything, and everyone. The only reason they survived is because they were underground. They've been running ever since, first through the subway tunnels, then they ran from other survivors, then they ran from the scorched city, and just when they think they can stop...the people in the green suits come with their darts...and the horror starts all over again.

First, it's only the people who have been hit that die. Then it becomes apparent that what infected them is contagious. Others start to act strangely, the disease is mutating, taking longer to affect its victims. After the first week, it almost seems like the survivors could be okay, but one by one they begin to succumb to the horrifying illness. No longer just killing quickly, it is warping their minds. The infected begin acting aggressive, violent, crazy, even causing hallucinations...and soon they are mobs of people with "the Flare". That's what they're calling this mysterious disease.

The gang started with Mark and Trina, Lana and Alec, Darnell, the Toad, and Misty. Mark and Trina are still teenagers, barely 16 when the sun flares changed everything. Lana and Alec are former military, and their training has saved them all countless times. Darnell, Toad, and Misty are about the same age, and they thankfully provide some much needed humor and entertainment. When the people in suits come, Darnell goes down first. One by one, they all start to show symptoms.

On a mission to find the people responsible and find a cure, they travel toward the location of the Berg they saw carrying the PFC: Post-Flare Coalition. Along the way they meet a young girl, Deedee. She's been abandoned by her village as they all slowly succumb to the sickness and insanity. They bring her along, how could they leave a child? She can't be more than three years-old.

Catching up with the rest of her village, it is clear they are past help. They talk of demons, blaming Deedee for the evil that has befallen them. Mark and Alec learn that Deedee's village was attacked months before their camp, and it seems that the girl truly is immune. She could be the key to everything! They are separated from Trina and Lana, and do whatever they need to do to get them back. Who are the people in the green suits? Can they escape the contagion? There must be a cure right? It's the only thing keeping them going as one by one they start to feel the unsettling pain in their heads, a sign that it's only a matter of time...
"It was as if a mental hospital had released all its patients. There was no order to the madness that Mark witnessed below him. Here he saw a girl lying flat on her back, screaming at no one. There he saw three women beating two men who'd been tied together, back to back. In another spot, people were dancing and drinking some kind of black liquid out of a pot that boiled over a makeshift fire pit. Others were running around in circles, still others stumbling about as if drunk.
But then Mark saw the worst thing of all. And he no longer had any doubt that the people who'd gathered there were beyond any kind of help.
A small group of men and women were fighting over something that looked like it had once been a person, their hands and faces covered in blood," (Dashner pg. 243, 2012).

If you liked this, check out:

Dashner, James. (2012). The Kill Order. New York: Delacorte Press.

I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

September is Overcoming Issues
I've been reading the nominees for the Missouri Gateway Award, and let me tell you, some of these books are depressing! The good news is that all of these have a mostly happy ending. We are all faced with tragedy and hardship, but it is how we overcome it that makes us who we are; who will you be?

Thanks to their crazy fugitive father Clarence, Sam and Riddle have been on the run for virtually their entire lives. Their father kidnapped them at a young age, and hasn't stopped moving since. They never stay anywhere long enough to put down roots, so neither boy has attended school really. Clarence mostly leaves them to fend for themselves while he goes off committing petty thievery.
It may seem appalling to you, but it's all they've ever known. Sam looks out for his little brother with a ferocity. Riddle is special. He's always been on the sick side, and doesn't quite act like other people...but he's smart. His favorite thing to do is to draw strange and intricate drawings. Paper isn't always easy to come by, so he uses an old phone book. He never goes anywhere without it.
At first, it seems like this new town won't be any different than the others. Sam visits the local church to hear the music, that's his church: music. While he's there, he catches the eye of a soloist. She's not a very talented singer, but there's something about her that captivates him. He catches up with her outside the church and they share a moment.

Maybe Sam doesn't consciously decide to change, but he takes Riddle to get a free haircut. It's possibly the first real haircut they've had. It goes so well, they decide to use the "before" and "after" pictures for their ad! That's how Emily learns his name...Sam Smith. It doesn't mean anything until she runs into him at IHOP. They make plans to meet up.

That's how it starts. Soon Sam and Riddle are stopping by Emily's house regularly. Emily's parents practically adopt the ragamuffin boys (after an initially chilly reception), and it seems like everything could be changing for them both...but it's only a matter of time until Clarence finds out. Sam knows what comes next: moving. But this time it's different. Clarence is listening to the voices in his head, and there's no telling what will happen next. Will Emily's parents be able to help the boys? Can the police do anything to find people who have spent their lives being invisible?
"Sam took small nails from one of the rusty cans of nuts and bolts and metal crap that his father kept in the back of the packed truck. He hammered the nails into the plywood so that the sharp points poked through. Then he carefully layered the worn river sticks on top, attaching them to the points of the nails.
In the end, he'd made a heart from many, many pieces of worn wood, weathered by wind and rain, the bark long gone, with only the smooth parts touching, like limbs.
It was a heart exposed.
And then Sam couldn't stop himself. In the middle of the night, he left it on her back doorstep," (Sloan pg. 73, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas
Stealing Henry by Carolyn MacCollough

Sloan, Holly Goldberg. (2011). I'll Be There: A novel. New York: Little, Brown.

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin (Birthright, Book 1)

In 2083, chocolate and caffeine are illegal. Paper is hard to find, and water is rationed. New clothes are a thing of the past. Anya Balanchine is the oldest daughter of the notorious chocolate crime boss, or perhaps more accurately, his orphaned daughter. Both her mother and father were killed for their mob connections, and her older brother received permanent brain damage in the crash that killed their mother. While their legal guardian is their Nana, she is too old and sick to do much of anything, making her the defacto guardian to her brother and younger sister, Nattie. Not exactly the typical 16-year old's life.

Her entire life has been devoted to her family obligations, so when she meets Winn Delacroix - son of the new assistant DA - she knows she needs to stay far away. He has other ideas, and slowly starts to win her over in spite of herself.

Suddenly her life is turned upside down when her creep of an ex comes down with a case of chocolate poisoning...from her family's illegal chocolate. She's brought in for questioning, and thrown into Liberty Children's Facility. Anya learns that a name isn't really just another word when she gets hosed down, scrubbed raw, and thrown in solitary confinement for a week. Soon cases of chocolate poisoning are popping up all over the city, and it's clear that the supply has been tainted.

What does this mean for Anya, and for the family business? It doesn't mean good things for her relationship with Winn, that's for sure. His father makes that very clear after meeting with her. As much as she wants to do what is best for her family, she can't deny that her feelings for Winn are very real. There is something fishy going on with the business, and it's important to protect her family from whatever dangers are out there. Anya has to choose.

This is well written, and takes a very slice of life look at the future, organized crime, and how it affects the little people. Anya's story is touching and relatable, without being too mushy or self-absorbed. Recommended for fans of quirky love stories with touches of dystopia.

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin (Birthright, Book 2)
Chime by Franny Billingsley
White Cat by Holly Black (Curse Workers, Book 1)

Zevin, Gabrielle. (2011). All These Things I've Done. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

Lucky never did anything to deserve Nader's attention. Just ran into him in the bathroom at a restaurant one day, and Nader peed all over Lucky's leg. That's how it started, and it never let up. From that day forward, Nader is his bully. The kid that never quit, never really got in trouble for what he did, all because Lucky keeps his mouth shut and tries to stay out of his way.

For a while, he even befriended Nader...which worked until his topic for social studies drew much more attention than he expected. It is just a stupid question, and a joke at that: "If you were going to commit suicide, what method would you choose?" Pretty soon, he is inundated with people asking about his social problems. He has meetings with the principal, the guidance counselor, the school district's experts...ugh...

There's one place that Lucky isn't the kid that gets picked on all the time. In his dreams, he visits his Granddad. Since before he was born, his dad's father has been listed as a POW/MIA from the Vietnam War. His grandmother was a vocal supporter of the cause until she died. It is just another part of his messed up life now, but many nights he tries to rescue Granddad. You wouldn't believe it, but sometimes he even wakes up with souvenirs of his adventures.

Back to reality, he must face his increasingly estranged parents. His dad is obsessed with cooking, his mom with swimming...and time together is growing scarce. Lucky isn't sure what to do or how to help. One day at the pool, Nader uses the rough concrete to peel off skin from his face. It's too visable, and sends his mom over the edge.

She decrees that they are both going to Arizona to spend time with her brother. On a forced exodus to soul crushing heat, combined with his hypocondriac wacky aunt, and his beefy uncle, Lucky isn't sure this is any better than being back at home. Will a summer away help him find some perspective? Will he finally save his Granddad? This non-traditional coming of age story looks at bullying without the rose colored glasses. It asks what we are doing to actually change the behavior. Clever, with elements of whimsy, at times painful and very real, King is a fantastic writer.
"I sit on my bed and think about Nader McMillan and wonder what I'm going to do. Ignore him. Stand up to him. Avoid him. Be "tough." I think of the stuff Dad has said over the years. How he finally gave up suggesting things. Why are you asking me this? I never figured out what to do about my own bullies. How am I supposed to know what to do with yours?
I tried all of his ideas. I even tried a few he never suggested. I tried sucking up to Nader and being his friend, which only worked for a little while during freshman year until I got him in trouble with the questionnaire. I tried talking to one of the guidance counselors last January, only to hear that Nader is a pain, yes, but the best thing to do is stay out of his way. 'He's probably a good kid underneath it all,' the counselor said, Which isn't true. But it meant Nader could keep treating kids like that, charming all the teachers with his perfect, whitened smile, and still play baseball in the spring. And it mean his lawsuit-happy father would stay off the school district's back," (King pg. 28, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Burn by Suzanne Phillips

King, A. S. (2011). Everybody Sees the Ants: A novel. New York: Little, Brown.

Clean by Amy L. Reed

They all took different paths, but ended up in the same place: rehab. They have a few things in common. They're all teenagers, all addicts, and all at rock bottom. They're here to get clean: Olivia, Kelly, Christopher, Jason and Eva.

Olivia: addicted to diet pills and exercising. She got started at age 14 when her mom got her doctor to write her a script. She's from a rich and powerful family. All her siblings, and family members are perfect, and the pills help with that. There's just too much to do, and not enough time. Can she please do her homework now?

Kelly: pretty girl addicted to alcohol and cocaine. She got started at age 13 when her 17 year old boyfriend got her drunk, and took her virginity. After that, she just knew the two things went together: alcohol and sex. Her younger twin sisters have Down's Syndrome, and got all the attention. Her parents were never anything but understanding and kind. Of course, there was always a boy to boost her self esteem, make her feel beautiful, and get her drunk or high. She's secretly kind of dating Jason...if you can call it that in this place.

Christopher: addicted to meth. He's a homeschooled, deeply Christian boy who lives alone with his very obese mother. He got started with cocaine at age 15 when his neighbor brought it by. Todd would sneak in his window, and Christopher's mom never even knew he came by. Pretty soon they had moved on to meth, and he was getting it for free...in exchange for sexual favors.

Jason: addicted to alcohol. He got started at age 9 when his dad gave him a beer, and told him to chug it. From then on, it was just the thing he did. That and beating kids up, being a tough guy just like his dad wants him to be. Pretty soon he was knocking back 6 or 8 drinks in one go. His parents both drink too much. Funny how when his mom collapsed from "dehydration" no one sent her to rehab.

Eva: addicted to prescription pain killers and weed. She got started at age 14 when some kids at school offered her a joint. It was the summer after her mother died of cancer. Her dad pretty much checked out after that. Doing drugs was her way of coping with the pain of it all. It's not like anyone was paying attention anyway, right?

This is a no-holds barred look at teenage addiction, with a in-depth look into some of the circumstances surrounding the why's and how's of it all. These kids are from all walks of life, all different family situations, and yet they still end up in the same place. Very powerful, moving, and realistic depiction of how addiction affects not just addicts, but those around them as well. Written in a few different styles, and from several different points of view, this is a quick read. Highly recommended.
"None of you ended up here by accident. We don't take in every kid who's snuck wine at a bar mitzvah or inhaled once or twice. Listen to me: You do not drink or use like a normal person. You have moved beyond the point where you can ever drink or use like a normal person. If you don't believe me, fine, go ahead and try to prove me wrong. We're always open. I'm sure your parents would love to pay for another stay here. Hopefully you'll make it back. Hopefully you don't need to keep testing to see if you're like the ones who don't make it, the ones who OD and die on the streets, the ones who end up in jail, the ones who end up crazy and alone and living in a carboard box," (Reed pg. 118, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you like this, check out:

Beautiful by Amy Reed
Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Smack by Melvin Burgess

Reed, Amy. L. (2011). Clean. New York: Simon Pulse.

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

August is Realistically Fantastic?
What does that mean? Well, I am a big fantasy fan, but many people struggle with the idea of a story taking place in a completely invented world. It can be difficult to relate to, and can turn off readers that would otherwise enjoy the story. These are fantasies that primarily take place in our world. There are quirks and tricks and trips into the past, faeries, cyborgs, angels and more!

Gwen is a pretty typical British teen, goes to school, has a best friend. Her family, on the other hand, is a little less typical. The time travelling gene has been passed down through her family for who knows how long. Luckily, it's her cousin Charlotte who has the gene. That is, until she randomly travels through time! At first, Gwen hopes it was just a fluke. She can't possibly be a time traveler, but it happens again. It turns out everyone was wrong. All the preparation Charlotte has gone through, all the languages learned and history studied, is wasted. Her mother is afraid for her safety, and rushes her to The Temple, also known as the Lodge of Count Saint-Germain.

Gwen is suddenly caught up in an ancient secret society, and her reception is far from friendly. Her claims are met with skepticism and secrecy. The loudest outcry comes from her Aunt Glenda, Charlotte's mother, who insists that Gwen cannot be telling the truth: her birthday is on the wrong day! Long ago, the birthdays of all the twelve time travellers was foretold. It seems her mother intentionally forged her birth date to give Gwen a normal life - and besides, there was no guarantee that she would indeed inherit the gene.

Those at the Lodge are hesitant to accept Gwen's story because of some betrayal of her mother's long ago. She isn't clear at all on what happened, but no one seems to be willing to enlighten her. Finally, they decide that it is more important for her to be safe in the case of sudden time travel. They call Gideon, the other time traveler, to accompany her. They decide she should take a short trip to visit Count Saint-Germain, the founder of the Temple, and one of the time travelers from the past. Her mother seems very unwilling to acquiesce to this idea, without telling her exactly why, only that it's said that the Count has influence your thoughts if you let him.

She learns a little of the story of Lucy and Paul: they were responsible for stealing the chronograph, the device created by Saint-Germain to unlock the Secret of the Twelve. When the blood from each of the time travelers is read into the machine, the secret will be revealed. As to what that secret is, no one is talking. Apparently, Lucy and Paul feared the outcome, and stole away through time to escape.

This is a little much for Gwen to take in...it feels like her head might explode from the sudden influx of information. How can she be expected to behave as Charlotte's equal without any of the training? She isn't the only one who is skeptical either. Almost to spite them, she travels with Gideon to visit Saint-Germain. There is indeed something sinister about him.

Will Gwen be able to fill this new role? Can she hope to live up to the legacy of the twelve? What is the Secret of the Twelve...and who was that boy she was kissing when she traveled back in time? This is a whirlwind of a time travel adventure. The story pulls you into another world, and readers can't wait to learn the secrets. Highly recommended! (I can hardly wait for the second one!)
"The first pair Opal and Amber are,
Agate sings in B flat, the wolf avatar,
A duet-solutio!-with Aquamarine.
Mighty Emerald next, with the lovely Citrine.
The Carnelian twins of the Scorpio sign,
Number Eight is digestio, her stone is Jade fine.
E major's the key of the Black Tourmaline,
Sapphire sings in F major, and bright is her sheen.
Then almost at once comes Diamond alone,
Whose sign of the lion as Leo is known.
Projectio! Time flows on, both present and past.
Ruby red is the first and is also the last," (Gier pg. 95, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier (Ruby Red, Book 2)
Hourglass by Myra McEntire
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle

Gier, Kerstin & Bell, Anthea. (2011). Ruby Red. New York: Henry Holt.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Karou with the blue hair, the carefree art student, the collector of languages, and ever mysterious. Little do her friends know the truth about her life: she is an orphan, raised by monsters or chimera. The little doorway between their two worlds, the passage into Elsewhere, is her secret. It links her two lives. There is no way to get to Elsewhere unless the door is opened to her from the inside, but there is always someone waiting to answer her knock. There is Issa, the snake woman; Kishmish, the messenger and pet; Twiga, giraffe necked; and Brimstone, the Wishmonger...her stand-in father.

He is even more mysterious than Karou: collecting teeth in exchange for wishes. He sends her on errands to pick them up from all over the world, never telling her the purpose of her bounty. There is a distance between them. There are secrets he will not share with her, places he will not allow her to go.

In Prague where she attends art school, she has finally found a place to call home. She has friends, and even previously a boyfriend (scum), and her monster family to visit. Everything seems to be coming together...until she starts seeing the burned handprints on the doorways to Elsewhere. She means to tell Brimstone about it...

One night she returns to Brimstone's shop, after her first encounter with the Angel: their fight is rather one sided, and she barely manages to escape back through the portal. Arriving there, she is desperate for answers. Where is Brimstone? But he is through the forbidden door...and so she does the unthinkable, and she opens it. There she finds another world, completely unlike her own. There are bodies of chimera everywhere, all dead...or are they? When one grabs her wrist, she knows for certain. Brimstone rescues her, but at what cost? He handles her roughly, and shoves her back through the portal, back into her world...alone. She knocks, but the door doesn't open.

Battered and broken, she doesn't think things can get much worse. She hobbles home, barefoot. She avoids everyone for the weekend, and tries to heal. Who can she possibly go to for help? Zuzana comes to check on her, and there is no choice: she has to tell her the truth. Suddenly, Kishmish is flying towards her, on fire! He's carrying Brimstone's wishbone, the one he always wore around his neck, and a scroll burned beyond recognition. Rushing to the portal, she finds the doorway has been turned into an otherworldly inferno. She knows then, her chance at returning to Elsewhere has been stolen away.

Karou is hardly going to accept a fate that prevents her from ever seeing the only family she has ever known. She begins to investigate Brimstone's old contacts looking for a clue, any clue. She sees the Angel again, but this time he is different: softer, kinder, unwilling to fight her. Why the sudden change? The energy between them is changed too. There is something familiar about him as well, but how is that possible?

Who is this Angel in front of her, and how will she manage to reunite with her family? Taylor weaves a compelling story entertwining two worlds, and creating interesting characters you want to get to know. Readers will be drawn in to the evolving story. I must admit, I had hoped it wouldn't end with romance, but I'm a cynic.
"Home. The word always had air quotes around it in her mind. She'd done what she could to make her flat cozy, filling it with art, books, ornate lanterns, and a Persian carpet as soft as lynx fur, and of course there were her angel wings taking up one whole wall. But there was no help for its real emptiness; its close air was stirred by no breath but her own. When she was alone, the empty place within her, the missingness as she thought of it, seemed to swell," (Taylor pg 53, 2011).

If you liked this, check out:

Taylor, Laini. (2011). Daughter of Smoke & Bone. New York: Little, Brown.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder isn't your typical teen. In fact, she's not even fully human. She's a cyborg. After a terrible injury as a small child, much of her body was fitted with mechanized parts. Not long after, her adoptive father fell to the plague, leaving her with her adoptive stepmother and two stepsisters.

To earn her keep, Cinder works as a mechanic in the market, doing odd jobs here and there. She's gotten quite the reputation, but she is still shocked to see Prince Kai at her stall one day. It seems he is looking for someone to fix his droid.

There is a scare in the market when one of the vendors comes down with the plague. Cinder manages to stay far enough away, and she makes it home safe. She can't wait to tell her sister about meeting the prince! They run an errand together, to find a part for their hover, and Cinder is devastated when her sister comes down with the plague. Having to call for the emergency transport to take her away, she doesn't think things can get any worse until she gets home. Her stepmother has volunteered for her for the cyborg antidote testing. It's all over. No one survives the plague...

Meeting Dr. Erland is far from pleasant. He treats her like a lab rat, wasting no time injecting her with the latest plague antidote. Cinder may be the most surprised of all to find that she is still alive after. She is miraculously immune. How can this be? After another visit with Dr. Erland, she at least feels that a cure for her sister is possible. Could she be the key to saving everyone?

Returning home shocks her stepmother, but Cinder has bigger problems. She needs to find a way out of here, and quick, or her stepmother may hatch another crazy plan to sell her off for parts...like she did with her bot. Things start to get more complicated as she hatches a plan to escape from New Bejing entirely. Erland has her blood, he doesn't need her to create a cure. Then she runs into Prince Kai again, and he invites her to the ball. The ball she secretly wants to attend, even if she has nothing to wear, even if her stepmother would never really let her go, even if...but why wish for something that will never happen? She decides that will be the night she escapes, and that is the end of it, right?

Meanwhile, the King has contracted the plague, and the Moon Queen is demanding a very rare visit to Earth. She wants to marry the Prince, claiming it's a strategic move for Lunar-Earth politics...but there is something far more sinister lurking beneath her beautiful exterior.

Cinderella is one of the most prolific and far reaching of our fairy tales. Versions of it have shown up in myriad cultures. This one brings in some sci-fi, and jumps on the futuristic trend. It lacked some depth, and at times was a little too cliche Cinderella, but overall was a worthwhile read.
"Kai clered his throat. Stood straighter. 'I assume you are going to the ball?'
'I-I don't know. I mean, no. No, I'm sorry, I'm not going to the ball.'
Kai drew back, confused. 'Oh. Well...but...maybe you would change your mind? Because I am, you know.'
'The prince.'
'Not bragging,' he said quickly. 'Just a fact.'
'I know.' She gulped. The ball. Prince Kai was asking her to the ball. But that was the night she and Iko would be running away, if the car was fixed in time. The night she would escape. Besides, he didn't know who, what, he was asking. If he knew the truth...how mortified would he be if anyone found out?" (Meyer pg. 164, 2012).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles, Book 2) Feb. 2013
Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Book 1)

Meyer, Marissa. (2012). Cinder. New York: Feiwel and Friends.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Mackie isn't a normal kid. He's one of the unmentionable things about Gentry, the town where strange things happen. The town where babies are kidnapped and something else takes their place. Mackie is a replacement. He can't touch iron or steel, he can't walk onto consecrated ground, he's sickly in our modern world. No one really talks about it, not even his family. They just replaced the iron utensils with aluminum ones, and his preacher father created a daycare near the church outside the consecrated area. They tell him he must be careful to blend in, never stand out, never reveal that he's different...or he could end up like Kellan Caury: pulled out of his home and killed because people needed someone to blame.

Mackie's having a rough day, it's Blood Drive Day at school and the iron from the blood is nauseating. His classmate Tate is back in school after the death of her sister, and she keeps following him around trying to ask him questions he isn't allowed to answer. She wants to know what happened to her real sister, the one that was taken and replaced with the one who just died.

His condition is getting worse, not that he's ever been very healthy. Some guy approaches him, and tells him he knows how to help. He whispers the one phrase Mackie can't get over: "you're dying." What's he supposed to do? His sister Emma, the one who has always been there for him, brings home a friend from college. Instantly he knows that Janice is like him. When Emma brings home something Janice has mixed up for him, he drinks it, desperate to feel better...and he does! It's like a miracle! He doesn't remember ever feeling this good. He goes to a party and sees Tate, and again she tries to talk to him about her sister. There is something that draws him to her, he wants to open up and just talk about it with someone.

The drink Emma brought him wasn't free. The House of Mayhem wants a return on their investment. They will supply him with the analeptic if he will play with their band. They need the adoration, it's like a booster shot for them. The attention sustains them. If the Morrigan is to be believed, so do the blood sacrifices of the kidnapped children. In return, they protect the town, help the crops grow, and in general help the town prosper.

Tate is beside herself when she learns that her sister may still be alive. Mackie wants to help, but after meeting the Lady at the House of Mystery, he doesn't know what he can do. Can they stop her from completing her bloody task? Dark and creepy, this one draws you in. It's got plenty of plot, and even a little romance. Yovanoff knows how to spin a yarn.
"'We love the town as best we can, and they love us back, although they don't always know they're doing it. But it isn't enough for my sister. She needs sacrifice.'
She played with the flower behind her ear and said in a low, singsong voice, 'She takes their pretty babies, and in exchange, she leave them our own diseased flesh. Those are the ones who die, of course - almost always. It's nearly impossible to live outside the hill. So you see, we sacrifice our own too. But it's a small cost to give up the sick ones, the ones who are only going to die anyway. Except...'
'Except what?'
Her hand was small and hot when she reached for mine. She turned and smiled up at me, showing her jagged teeth. 'Except you didn't. Isn't that the most wonderful thing?'" (Yovanoff pg. 119-120, 2010).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa (Iron Fey, Book 1)
Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey

Yovanoff, Brenna. (2010). The Replacement. New York: Razorbill.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

June is Winning!
All of these books have won various awards. I admit to being an "award junkie." It takes away some of the guess work, because I know lots of people already like it! That doesn't always guarantee that I will enjoy it, but I sure enjoyed these!

Samantha Kingston has it pretty good. She's popular, has a hot boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and it's Cupid Day! The day everyone sends each other roses, and let's face it, it is a popularity contest. She, Lindsay, Elody, and Ally have carefully chosen their matching outfits to complement what will soon be their luscious bouquets. The day is off to a winning start as they snag the last parking spot on Senior Alley, edging out another senior. Then it's off to class to begin collecting their roses. Every hour brings another wave. It isn't until 4th hour that the rose from her boyfriend Rob arrives, reminding her of their big night...tonight is the night she will lose her virginity. She gets a rose from Kent, the dweeb who is like totally obsessed with her. He should get over it.

Instead of going to 5th hour, she and Lindsay skip out to TCBY. They spot Alex on their way, who is cheating on his girlfriend Bridget with skanky Anna. They can't resist giving them a hard time. Finally school is over, and the four of them get ready for the big party at Kent's. Sure he's a dork, but he's getting two kegs! Lindsay drives, because everyone knows she never gets drunk. Rob is there, already drunk. Juliet "Psycho" Sykes even shows up, and calls them bitches. It doesn't work, they throw drinks at her until she runs off. It's a successful day, even if she ditches Rob at the party. There's always tomorrow right? Until there is the sound of glass breaking and metal squealing, and then nothing. Nothing at all.

Then she wakes up, alarm going off next to her in her bedroom. Everything is fine! It must have been a dream...right? As the minutes pass, things start to feel way too de ja vu. It's not possible, right? She can't be reliving this day over...it's just a mistake. The sinking feeling in her stomach as all the events of yesterday keep cycling through her head gets worse. It's the little things she notices: Sarah gets their parking spot from yesterday and they are the ones who are late. She remembers something Elody said: little changes make big changes somewhere else. The day keeps happening, and there is nothing she can do to stop it. It all ends the same way, with broken glass and twisted metal and nothing.

Then she wakes up. Is this for real? She's reliving the same day over and over like some sick version of Groundhog Day? If that's true, then today she's going to do things differently. She isn't going to let it happen this time. She'll stay home, not go to the party, that will stop things right?

Then she wakes up. There's got to be a reason this is happening, right? There has to be a way to stop it. Maybe if she...

This book deals with a lot of issues: bullying, death, the impact we have on the people around us. It's well written, and hard to put down. Sam's character really shows dynamic change in a way that we all wish for ourselves. It may even inspire you to treat the people around you differently, to take the time to think before you act. Powerful, moving, and inspirational, Oliver delivers a hit. It's nominated for a Missouri Gateway Award, as well as being a YALSA Top Ten (among many others).
"Maybe when you die time folds in on you, and you bounce around inside this little bubble forever. Like the after-death equivalent of the movie Groundhog Day. It's not what I imagined death would be like-not what I imagined would come afterward-but then again it's not like there's anyone around to tell you about it.
Be honest: are you surprised that I didn't realize sooner? Are you surprised that it took me so long to even think the word-death? Dying? Dead?

Do you think I was being stupid? Naive?
Try not to judge. Remember that we're the same, you and me.
I thought I would live forever too," (Oliver pg. 131-132, 2010).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Oliver, Lauren.(2010). Before I fall. New York: Harper.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Sam is your average underachiever. He dropped out of college, and he works at the local fast food place, Plumpy's, with his three best friends. He lives in a crappy apartment, and skateboards whenever he can. Other than that, there isn't a lot to say...until a round of potato hockey in the alley behind the restaurant introduces him to Douglas.

Suddenly really really strange things start happening to him. He gets beat up by some crazy guy with talons for fingernails for no reason. Then his friend Brooke shows up at his door, as a living disembodied head! A visit to the zoo to meet Douglas (of course he's the one behind all this) introduces him to Tsing Ling...the living dead panda. Douglas is a necromancer AKA can bring people back from the dead. He tells Sam that Sam is a necromancer too - is this really happening? Given an ultimatum (join me or die), Sam goes looking for answers.

First up, he learns that the medicine bag he wears around his neck has been hiding his aura. That leads him to number two: the person who made the bag for him, his mom. After the initial shock, Sam is surprised that he believe the things everyone is telling him. He really is a necromancer, and he inherited it from his biological father (who then proceeded to take off). Some of the stuff his mom told him about binding his powers has him feeling really disconnected, and unsure of what to do. It's all a little much to take in, but Douglas gave him a week to think it over. He has some time to digest and decide on his next course of action.

Until Douglas decides that a week is too much time, and imprisons him in a freaky cage in his also freaky basement...with a naked girl. What?! Sharing his cage is a (after offering his shirt and boxers) slightly less naked, but still pretty hot, chick who tells him that she is a hybrid: half werewolf, half fey. She's also next in line to take over her pack, which makes her a prime commodity. Something is definitely going on.

Can Sam find a way to unbind his powers? Will they be able to get a message to someone who can help? McBride does a fantastic job of weaving paranormal with teen angst, without making it feel like every other book about the subject. It really is a funny book, and I loved the little touches: all the chapters are song lyrics. This book was a runner up for the debut Morris Award, and well deserved.
"I opened the box, then quickly dropped it and scrambled up onto the counter , making very difnified shrieking noises. Ramon stared. Frank came into the kitchen just in time to see the box bounce onto its side and its contents roll laxily out. Ramon tried to back up, but he was already agains thte wall. Frank managed a quick hop back as Brooke's head rolled to a stop in the middle of the floor. It had been severed cleanly at the neck, making her ponytail appear longer as it trailed behind like the tail on a grotesque comet. I couldn't see any blood. In fact, the wound looked cauterized, which didn't make it any more pleasant.
Nobody said a word.
Nobody but Brooke.
'Ow, cut it out, you guys!' Her blue eyes popped open and swung around until they found me. 'Ugh, so not cool. Really, Sam. You don't just drop somebody's head. Especially a friend's...." (McBride pg. 49, 2010).

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out
Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride (sequel to Hold Me) Sept. 2012
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst

McBride, L., Hall, T., & Henry Holt and Company. (2010). Hold me closer, necromancer. New York: Henry Holt.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Andi hasn't been herself for...well, about the last two years. Can it have really been two years since her brother Truman's death? It feels more like yesterday. She is in her senior year at St. Anselm's, a fancy prep school for genius rich kids in NYC, but the only thing she's paying attention to is her music class. The only thing she cares about is her music anymore, and her mom. When she gets home every night, she checks to see that her mom has enough paints, and something to eat. All mom does anymore is paint portraits of Truman...she's not really coping well, to say the least. At least she isn't throwing things anymore.

When St. Anselm's threatens to kick her out of school, and sends a letter home, she doesn't think anything of it. Until her dad flies in for a surprise visit. Suddenly her mom is institutionalized, and she's on a forced trip to Paris with him. He's a world famous geneticist, known for his work on the human genome. This visit to Paris is work related, namely he's been asked to verify if a heart - found in a jar - could possibly have belonged to Louis-Charles, the son of Louis and Marie Antoinette.

Andi wants nothing to do with the whole thing. It's too sad, not to mention Louis-Charles looks strikingly like Truman. She just wants to go back home and see her mom. The doctor won't even let her talk to her mom! So she makes a deal. She'll finish her thesis (which is a requirement for graduation), and in exchange, she can go home early. It's while she's rifling through G's papers that she finds the guitar, and it's a moment of frustration that leads her to try the key (Truman's key) in the lock. Andi uncovers a secret panel containing a diary...written at the time of the French Revolution. Could it really be over 200 years old?

Down on her luck, and out of cash, she meets Jules. Hungry and cold, they go to Remy's to play for their supper. It's there that she meets Virgil. "And...like, wow, but he's fine," (Donnelly pg. 125). They all play together, with Virgil MCing. He drives her home, and asks her to come out on Sunday...but she'll be on a plane back to New York by then. So what's the point, right? Until he calls early the next morning to let her know that she left her iPod in his car. They talk about music, and end up singing each other to sleep.

Determined to finish her thesis outline on time, Andi renews her research, but the diary keeps distracting her. It's written by a girl, Alexandrine, who is a companion to Louis-Charles, the prince. Could it be true? The diary tells of the Revolution, and of the horrible treatment of the prince, and of Alex's desperate attempt to save him. She becomes the Green Man, setting off fireworks to let Louis-Charles know that he is not forgotten. Andi starts seeing things, strange things, but it's probably just her meds. She needs to quit taking so much.

One night they end up in the catacombs, and that's when things get really weird. I loved this story, how complex it was (incorporating music, science, history), but so effortless to read. I loved the different voices of the characters, and the juxtoposition of the present day with Revolutionary France. This is a Missouri Gateway Award nominee, and I will be recommending it to everyone I can.
"If I had coal and fire
And metal fine and true
I'd make an iron band
An iron band for you
I'd pick up all the pieces
From where they fell that day
Fit them back together
And take the pain away," (Donnellly pg. 157, 2010).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Donnelly, Jennifer. (2010). Revolution. New York: Delacorte Press.