The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Joel has always only wanted one thing: to be a Rithmatist, one who can animate chalk drawings, and defend against the Wild Chalklings at Nebrask. Rithmatists are revered in society, given the best education, offered compensation beyond his imagining, but this isn't his motivation. Joel is motivated by true interest and curiosity, something he inherited from his father.

One of the reasons Joel was not chosen to be a Rithmatist was due to the tragic, and untimely, death of his father. At the age of 8, all children are brought before the Master and tested. Too busy at his father's sick bed, Joel missed his inception ceremony, and ended up having a makeshift one months later, after all the ones for the year had already been chosen. This didn't prevent him from learning all he could about anything and everything Rithmatic. He even stole into the Rithmatic classrooms whenever he could to listen in on lectures. The Headmaster of Armedius Academy generously donated Joel's tuition after his father's passing, hoping it would encourage him to make something of himself.

Disappointed by the lack of stimulating material in the "normal" classes, Joel proves to be less than a model student. His punishment? He's assigned to be Professor Fitch's research assistant for the summer term. This is Joel's ideal consequence, as this means he gets to work with a Rithmatist scholar! Unfortunately, it is due to Fitch's demotion. Challenged to a duel by the newest teacher, Nalizar, (recently returned from the front at Nebrask) Fitch is flustered, and fails to defend his position. As dictated by school code, Nalizar takes over Fitch's classes...much to the dismay of a large portion of the faculty. Their summer project, in addition to tutoring Melody (a student in serious need of both remedial drawing help, and a friend), is to find the culprit kidnapping Rithmatic students.

Each scene has included a mark unknown to either Fitch or Joel, and they are unsure if it is Rithmatic in nature. There is evidence of a struggle, and small amounts of blood...it almost seems as though Wild Chalklings have made their way onto campus, but how could that be? Together with the police, they begin to get a clearer picture of who it could be. Joel suspects Nalizar. The third crime scene holds valuable clues, including a drawing of the suspect. Can Joel and Fitch (and Melody) discover the meaning of this new symbol, and discover the mystery of the kidnapped children before it's too late?

*Library Link*
“The most dangerous kind of man is not the one who spent his youth shoving others around. That kind of man gets lazy, and is often too content with his life to be truly dangerous. The man who spent his youth being shoved around, however … When that man gets a little power and authority, he often uses it to become a tyrant on par with the worst warlords in history,” (Sanderson, 2013). 
If you liked this, check out:

The Rithmatist, Book 2 is scheduled for publication in 2015.
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff (Lotus War, Book 1)
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Sanderson, Brandon, & McSweeney, Ben. (2013). The Rithmatist. New York : Tor.

The Warrior's Heart by Eric Greitens

Eric grew up like a lot of Midwestern kids: reading adventure books, learning about heroes and history, and working towards college. That was where the "real world" started, and his adventures would begin. Offered a full ride to Duke University, he couldn't wait to begin. Unfortunately, what he learned in his classes fell short of his expectations. Where were the pools of wisdom to solve the world's problems?

He knew he had to make his own adventures. His first stop: China. He spent a summer teaching English in China, and studying martial arts. This was shortly after the Tiananamen Square protests, and he met some of the student activists who had been there. They were curious about America's Bill of Rights, and Constitution. That innocent conversation led to his interrogation by the police later that week.  He began to see what kind of danger these kids had truly faced, and what danger he could have faced if the police had been serious. One of the students gave him film of the June 4th protests to develop. It was these that sparked his love of photography.

His next adventure took him to Croatia where he worked with the Bosnian and Serbian refugees. It was there that he realized what was upsetting him. So many were willing to help, but not until it was too late. These people had suffered ethnic cleansing, and the world had sat back and watched. Our aid came to the survivors. These people needed heroes willing to step in before all this tragedy.

In Rwanda, he saw the flaws in the system. So much corruption, vice, laziness...but also the generosity, and the unflappable spirits of the people unwilling to give up. In Santa Cruz, he saw the despair. Children living on the streets, abandoned by their parents, or runaways trying to escape the abuse brought on by abject poverty and substance abuse. Many turned to drugs themselves as a way to escape their reality. There were also the kids of Mano Amiga, rich in spirit and imagination, rich in friendship and education.

What did all of this mean? In his heart, he knew that he would only be happy serving people, making a difference. He turned to the Marines, and their SEAL program, knowing that they had the most difficult military training in the world. Could he do it? He was about to find out.

Greitens writes an uplifting story of overcoming obstacles, utilizing resources, and using his talents and education to give back to others. He writes about the inspiration he gained from these people who suffered, but kept going, and how he wanted to do more. Adapted from his best-selling  book for adults, this has a great message for young people: you can make a difference if you're willing to work for it.

*Library Link*
"When I reflect back on it now, I realize that my hardest moment was also the only time in all of Hell Week when I was alone, focused on my own pain. It was the only moment when I began to think that things were unfair, when I started to feel sorry for myself.
We woke to chaos. They might have been firing blanks again, or it could have just been screaming and bullhorns. We stumbled into the sun, and they made us run for the surf.
Most of the men in the class were still half-asleep and clumsy and tight and pained. When we were shoulder-deep in water, they told us to run south. We ran an awkward floating race in the ocean, making little progress.
All the warmth in my body fled. I looked back, and the faces of the men in my class wore expressions of pain. I can't remember if I starred to sing a song or yell for our class or shout defiance at the instructors, but I remember booming at the top of my lungs, and the class joining me in an outburst of some kind. The attitude of the class turned - as if we all decided to stand up at once after being knocked down - and soon we were shouting with joy," (Greitens pg. 213-214, 2012).
If you liked this, check out:

I am a SEAL: Team Six Warrior by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin
Navy Seal Dogs by Michael Ritland, Gary Brozek, and Thea Feldman
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Greitens, Eric. (2012). Warrior's Heart: Becoming a man of compassion and courage. S.l.: Houghton Mifflin.

Trafficked by Kim Purcell

When Hannah is approached with an offer to travel to America, she is overjoyed. America! The land of rich people and opportunity...not like Moldova. Ever since her parents were killed, her future had become menial labor and dead ends. Even her uncle Vladi had run off, and no one had heard from him.

Los Angeles, and the promise of $400 a week: what she could do with that! She could send money for her Babulya's surgery, learn English, and save up to study for medical school. Her dreams of becoming a doctor could come true! This chance had fallen into her lap, and she wasn't about to let it go. Besides, her aunt knew the agent. She would be a nanny for a family. It wouldn't be like those horrible ads for trafficking she always saw around the city.

Making her way into the country was nerve wracking, and the agent who met her at the border was exactly the kind of person she had feared. He took something from her that she can never get back. At least she had her fake passport, and her airplane ticket, and a vague idea of how to get through customs. She only had to get there, and everything would be okay. Right? The family would be okay.

Hannah arrived in Los Angeles, and was driven in a BMW to a two-story house in a perfectly normal looking neighborhood. This couldn't be a brothel, she told herself. There were teenagers living next door! While her apprehension is clear at first, it seems her own awkwardness is the cause for any ill will she garners from the mother of the house. She shouldn't have let the little girl eat chocolate. Ok, so it's true they aren't paying her what they promised...and she must now pay them back for her passage, but it did seem too good to be true to find a free ticket. It does make sense to stay inside, away from prying eyes. She wouldn't want to get picked up by the police and thrown in jail. It seems clear that Lillian is jealous of her, and expects her to make a play for her husband - but Hannah isn't like that! If only she could make her see...

At least she isn't one of those girls who is getting raped everyday. She is lucky to live with a family who cares for her, at least she thinks they do...if only she could get her letters to her Babulya and best friend. Communicating with people from home would do so much good.

It isn't the typical image of what we think of as a slave: she lives with them, cares for their children, cooks their meals, cleans their house...but what does she get in return? She is denied basic freedoms like leaving the house, spending money, any wages for her work, communication with the outside world or anyone from her old life, and soon the treatment gets worse. Two million people are affected by human trafficking worldwide each year. The author opens our eyes to a very real global issue in a new way. What does a slave look like?

*Library Link*
"The list went on. 'Number four-no telephone use. You don't have friends here, and it's too expensive to call Moldova.'
Surely she'd make friends, Hannah thought, but whatever. She'd find a pay phone.
Number five-she could not take the children out of the house without permission, and she had to get permission if she wanted to leave the house herself.
That was crazy. She should be free to go if the work was done. 'Why?'
'We don't want you wandering around the neighborhood, announcing your presence. You are illegal, remember? If the police find out about you, they'll put you in jail.'
If she'd known about the fake documents from the beginning, she never would have come. 'Will I be able to go to school?'
'School? The student visa was only to get you in the country, and anyway, you've lost it. You didn't really think you'd have time to go to school, did you?' Lillian asked," (Purcell pg. 86, 2012).
If you liked this, check out:

Sold by Patrica McCormick
The Queen of Water by Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango
Be the Change: Your Guide to Freeing Slaves and Changing the World by Zach Hunter

Purcell, Kim. (2012). Trafficked. New York: Viking.

The Infects by Sean Beaudoin

Nick is going nowhere fast. He works at the Rebozzo chicken plant, the same place that fired his dad years ago (who never managed to find another job). He keeps food on the table for his sister, and somehow manages not to flunk out of high school. He pines for the beautiful Petal, but never quite manages to get up the courage to really talk to her. He seems to get a break when they promote him, but it almost feels like a punishment at times. One day, the stress and exhaustion just get to him, and all hell breaks loose. He cuts himself, chickens are going everywhere...next thing he knows, he's on a bus to some juvvy camp for mini-convicts. No more Nick, now he's Nero.

All the boys on his bus have some handle to go by. He just wants to keep his head down and get through this. It isn't until he sees the girls' bus (with Petal on it) that he starts to hope. Split up again, they counselors pile on one more indignity: they withhold the chicken they promised on the way up. Not all the campers are as compliant as they should be, and the next morning, several are no longer eating chicken. They're eating each other. Both counselors, and anyone who ate the chicken seemingly, have gone totally zombie apocalypse.

The boys decide they need to warn the girls, and make their way to the other camp, suffering casualties along the way. The weirdest part for Nero? No, not the zombies...it's probably the voice that sounds like Dwane "The Rock" Johnson giving him advice (or at least doing a running commentary in his head). He knows he has to get to Petal, and back to his family. Eventually the remaining boys end up in some kind of ski lodge where the remaining girls have already set up fort. Good news: the girls let them in; bad news: Petal's been bitten. She hasn't turned, but they have her tied up in the basement.

Nero isn't sure where to go from here. He's seen enough zombie movies to know that the contaminated chicken must have infected half the town (if not more) by now, and that doesn't bode well for their chances of survival. "The Rock" keeps giving him snarky advice, some of which is annoyingly helpful. Can he somehow get Petal and the rest of the juvenile delinquents to safety? Does that even exist anymore?

I love books that transcend their genre, and have something bigger to say. This is so smart and funny, with actual social commentary on our obsession with fast food, and maybe even our reliance on mass produced goods, but in a way that doesn't sound preachy or condescending. It's thought provoking, action-packed, awkward in the right places, and relatable (if a zombie apocalypse based on infected chicken can be). If this doesn't convince you, at the end of the book, Beaudoin has a zombie nickname list including: "Braindrain," "Them Thangs," "Baked Ziti and Flesh Sauce"...you get the idea. Hilarious.
"ZOMBRULE #2: After a fight, avoid turning away from a fallen zombie to hug your girlfriend with relief. Under no circumstances fail to tag that zombie again, or while you have your PTSD face buried in her shampoo-smelling hair, said zombie will stand up offscreen, give the audience time to scream, and then take a big ol' hunk of rob eye out of your back," (Beaudoin pg. 124, 2012).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
Undead by Kristy McKay

Beaudoin, Sean. (2012). The Infects. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press

Reality Boy by A.S. King

Gerald has grown up in the public eye. One might even say he's the boy from TV...except he's not. "Reality" TV is anything but. As a small child, his mother wrote in to one of those nanny shows. You know the ones, where some lady comes in and acts like she can fix all the problems in your family within a year or less. What they never showed on Network Nanny, and what Gerald's mom never wanted to admit, was that his older sister Tasha was the real problem. 

Tasha was abusing Gerald, his older sister Lisi, and his mom. Hitting them, yelling, manipulating to get her way. She probably could have used some help from Nanny, but instead, it was all about Gerald, the Crapper. To try and draw attention to his sister's behavior, to try and draw any attention from his mother and father, he did what any 5 year-old would do: he acted out. Maybe he shouldn't have started pooping on things (ok, he definitely shouldn't have started doing that...), but it got results. 

The backlash of course was that he was known as The Crapper for the rest of his childhood into adolescence. His anger management problems followed as well, until he snapped and took things too far. Since then, he has tried to keep to himself, retreating to Gersday (his perfect daydream) whenever he can. Living in a house with Tasha is intolerable. His mother continues to ignore her behavior, making excuses for everything. His dad had retreated into himself, and his sister Lisi - his one source of comfort - has abandoned him for college in Scotland. He doesn't really blame her, he can't wait to get as far away from here as he can, but she could at least call. 

Then he meets Register Girl #1. He works at Register #7, always, no exceptions. He's in SPED classes, even if he doesn't really need to be, his anger management coach always told him to stay away from girls because they are more trouble than they're worth..but she might be worth it. They start to get to know each other, they set some ground rules. (No saying retarded, no talking about reality TV, no touching for two months) Turns out she's in therapy too. Slowly they begin to build a friendship, and more, that allows them to challenge their abusers, and ask for more.

This is an interesting commentary on reality TV and what we as a society are doing to our perceptions, as well as to the participants. We are being fed an ideal that a few days can rectify a lifetime of mistakes, and that behaviors can be modified quickly. Reality is very different, and as shown in the book, the scars inflicted by his sister and mother -compounded by the television show- will probably follow him into adulthood. What is the price of entertainment? How far are we willing to go? King is one of my favorite authors writing today. She seamlessly blends magical realism into her novels without making it too fantastical. Highly recommended.
"'What are your demands, Reality Boy?'
My reflection doesn't have any demands.
All demands have been removed from my refelction. Roger, my professional demand-remover, has done a spotless job.
Should is a dirty word. No one should do anything for you. You deserve nothing more than what you earn. Reality boy is still angry, though. Because Reality Boy knows he deserves all kinds of shit he never got.
The longer I stare at myself in the mirror, the more I want to punch myself. Right in the face. I want to break my nose. Split my lip. Bite a hole in my cheek. I want to beat some sense into me. Instead, I punch the toilet stall door. It swings in and slams into the toilet-paper holder. My hand is numb. But not as numb as the rest of me," (King pg. 152, 2013).
*Library Link*
King, A.S. (2013). Reality Boy: A Novel. New York : Little, Brown and Company.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Marcus aka "W1n5t0n" may be only 17, but he is far from stupid. When he hears that his favorite ARG (alternate reality game) is about to release a new clue, he knows he'll do whatever it takes to get out of class. Once upon a time, that may have meant slipping past a security guard. In today's age of modern technology, it involves fooling the gait recognition software (putting rocks in your shoes, check), deactivating RFID signals that may be emitting from your friend's library books (teacher's lounge microwave, check), distracting your arch enemy (flooding his phone with enough data to nearly brick it, check), and they were out! Harajuku Fun Madness was the best ARG ever made, and the grand prize was a trip to Japan.

With Darryl, Van, and Jolu in tow, the team made their way to the Tenderloin to find their clue. Everything was going great...until the earth moved. The sound was deafening, and massive clouds of smoke were rising from the Bay. There had been an explosion! Sirens were going off. Tinned voices repeated, "Report to shelters immediately." Where were shelters? The BART! The street was in chaos. As they made their way to the transit station, someone in the crowd stabbed Darryl! Is this really happening? After trying to flag someone down for help, a military-type vehicle stopped, but not to help. They were thrown on the ground and tied up, heads covered...and all piled into the back of a semi. Along with a bunch of other schmucks. Their captors didn't look like Al Qaeda, they looked like they were from Nebraska. Some of them even wore U.S. military uniforms. What was going on?

After only a few days of this treatment they are released, all but Darryl, with the caveat that they keep their mouths shut about what went on. Marcus is so afraid of being locked up again, he convinces Van and Jolu to stay quiet as well. That doesn't mean he wants to roll over and die. At home, he realizes his laptop has been compromised, and that is what inspires him to start using Paranoid XBox. It's a way for he and his friends to get online without their data being monitored. He starts sharing discs, and pretty soon, Xnet's gone viral. His new handle M1k3y has become the face of the teenage tech revolution.

After the bombing, Homeland Security puts cameras in schools, starts profiling people's public transit passes for "aberrant behavior," monitoring FasTrak toll tags to track citizen locations, all in the name of safety. People are getting stopped for taking the train to a place out of their routine "too often," and being accused of an alleged crime. The police and a lot of older generations are touting this as crime prevention. M1k3y and the XNetters just see this as a blatant violation of their civil rights. Haven't the terrorists won if we are all living in fear of each other?

Soon, the XNet is a target. Teenagers are a target. How far will it go? Even the media seems involved in the coverup of the abuses of Homeland Security. Can a few teenagers really make a difference? Marcus isn't even sure who to trust anymore. He's lost friends over this already. He isn't the leader of an army, he's just a kid...right?

I was inspired to finally write this blog by San Francisco. The city chose this title as their citywide One City One Book title for this past fall. As you can tell from the synopsis, it's a pretty subversive book. It challenges the reader to take a closer look at our government and hold them accountable. It asks hard questions about how we are handling the new threats our society faces. It asks our children to stand up to us because we may be too set in our ways. We may have forgotten that many people gave up their safety (and their lives) to secure our freedom. If the city in which this novel was set can choose this as their One City One Book, I have hope. For anyone interested, you can obtain a free copy (from the author) in ebook format just by clicking on the cover above.
"'The Yippies loved to say, 'Never trust anyone over thirty.' They meant that people who were born before a certain time, when America had been fighting enemies like the Nazis, could never understand what it meant to love your country enough to refuse to fight the Vietnamese. They thought that by the time you hit thirty, your attitudes would be frozen and you couldn't ever understand why the kids of the day were taking to the streets, dropping out, freaking out.  
'San Francisco was ground zero for this. Revolutionary armies were founded here. Some of them blew up buildings or robbed banks for their cause. A lot of those kids grew up to be more or less normal, while others ended up in jail. Some of the university dropouts did amazing things - for example, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who founded Apple Computers and invented the PC," (Doctorow pg. 177-78, 2008).
*Library Link*

 If you liked this, check out:
Homeland by Cory Doctorow (Little Brother, Book 2)
1984 by George Orwell
Feed by M.T. Anderson

Doctorow, Cory. (2008). Little Brother. New York: Tom Doherty Associates.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle, Book 2)

*Spoiler Alert!! This is the second book in a series!*

Having woken the ley lines surrounding Cabeswater, Adam, Ronan, Gansey, and Blue are one step closer to solving the mystery of Glendower. They all want to find the dead king for different reasons. Blue's prophecy, that her first kiss will signal the death of her true love, hangs over her head. Could Glendower be the answer to changing her fate? Adam's connection with the king, and his desperate desire to make something of himself, to be more than his father, drives him on an almost reckless path. Gansey's obsession has brought them all on this journey, and his relentless pursuit has held them together thus far. It's a deep magic that holds more for him than his privileged upbringing could ever promise. Ronan has been lost since the death of his father, but he seems to have developed a new talent: he can take things from his dreams. Is this something passed down from his father? Is this the ley lines? He isn't sure, but he knows this is another secret he needs to keep.

The Gray Man arrives in town, looking for the Greywaren. He isn't the only one looking, but suddenly he has competition. Something has alerted the others to the location, and the hunt is suddenly more relevant, more urgent, and that more dangerous to the raven boys. Declan, Ronan's brother, has a run in with the Gray Man, and tries to warn Ronan, but Ronan's never been one to listen.

None of it seems to matter anymore when on their return to Cabeswater, it's gone. Gone away.

It's then that Ronan's dreams begin to invade their reality with increasing frequency. That's when they decide to go against his father's dying wish, and visit the Barns, Ronan's childhood home. What they find there answers a lot of Ronan's questions, but it raises just as many more.

Going to Fox Way, and Blue's family for advice, the boys get a crazy answer to a crazy problem. Could Cabeswater be a dream place? Could that be the connection?

The Gray Man also makes a stop at Fox Way, and begins a strange sort of relationship with Blue's mother. As he circles closer and closer to the raven boys, questions he hasn't had to ask himself before - especially in his line of work - are being asked. Is there another path for him? What would it mean to give over the Graywaren? Not just for him, but for the world?
"There are three kinds of secrets. One is the sort everyone knows about, the sort you need at least two people for. One to keep it. One to never know. The second is a harder kind of secret: one you keep from yourself. Every day, thousands of confessions are kept from their would-be confessors, none of these people knowing that their never-admitted secrets all boil down to the same three words: I am afraid.And then there is the third kind of secret, the most hidden kind. A secret no one knows about. Perhaps it was known once, but was taken to the grave. Or maybe it is a useless mystery, arcane and lonely, unfound because no one ever looked for it.
Sometimes, some rare times, a secret stays undiscovered because it is something too big for the mind to hold. It is too strange, too vast, too terrifying to contemplate," (Stiefvater pg. 1, 2013).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Cycle, Book 1)
Raven Cycle Book 3 by Maggie Stiefvater (expected publication 2014)
The Diviners by Libba Bray (Diviners, Book 1)
The Death Catchers by Jennifer Anne Kogler

Stiefvater, Maggie. (2013). The Dream Thieves. New York, NY : Scholastic Press.

Butter by Erin Jade Lange

It's another day, and "Butter" (or at least that's what everyone calls him - including himself) is surrounded by his normal snacks: M&Ms, ice cream, Doritos, and a meatball sub, to name a few. He hears the story of a woman who looks to weigh about 90 pounds telling the reporter self-righteously that she thinks it's perfectly fair for overweight people to have to pay for two tickets on planes. "Why should the rest of us have to share the seats we paid for with people who can't lay off the snacks before dinner?" (Lange pg. 4, 2012).

At 16 years old, he is over 400 pounds. Ostracized at school, tiptoed around at home, depressed, isolated..the only thing that brings him any solace is his saxaphone. And Anna. He logs on to chat, and there she is: but he knows even that isn't all true. He told her he goes to private school, and refuses to send her a picture or meet up with her.  Anna goes to his school, and if she knew who "J.P." really was, she wouldn't give him the time of day.

It's all too much. He decides to end it all. He creates a webpage: butterslastmeal.com. On New Year's Eve, he's going to eat himself to death, live via webcam. That's what they all want anyway, right? It started as almost a joke, but the next day the comments just keep coming and coming. At school, people come up to him asking if he's for real. The popular kids adopt his cause. He creates a password for the site, and they spread the rumor that it's all a joke. Pretty soon he's sitting at the table with the jocks. They're all discussing what he'll be eating, making bets and almost acting like he's one of the guys. Almost...

As the day approaches, Butter visits his doctor. He needs to find out if eating himself to death is even possible. His diabetes is definitely a factor, and his allergy to strawberries. The doc unwittingly gives him some tips. The days pass and no one tells a teacher, no one tries to stop him, no one asks him if he really wants to go through with it. It's a new form of bullying: egging on the self harm.

His family won't really care. His dad quit talking to him long ago, and his mom only know how to communicate through food. This is better for everyone. He's going to do it. He's made up his mind. Everyone at school has made it clear they aren't going to stop him. Can he really go through with it?

This is a disturbing look at peer pressure, and the lengths we go to fit in. In our media saturated society, our youth are being raised in a world where the internet is the norm. Aesthetics are given a high priority, and in Butter's case, sometimes over a life. Lange writes a believable narrative about a boy in pain, just trying to fit in, and the lengths he's willing to go to do it.

*Library Link*
"My chest went hot. Didn't these guys realize I was going to kill myself? This wasn't a game.
Then it occured to me; maybe they did think it was a game. Maybe they couldn't wrap their brains around the fact that the big kid they'd befriended was actually going to go away. Maybe they thought the whole thing was a joke to begin with, but a crazy enough joke that they admired it and wanted to be friends with the prankster who was pulling it off. Mayber they were just playing along, with menu items and bets and bucket lists, because ButtersLastMeal.com was still the hot topic for everyone who mattered at Scottsdale High.
Maybe," (Lange, pg. 136, 2012).
If you liked this, check out:

Skinny by Donna Cooner
Break by Hannah Moskowitz
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

Lange, Erin J. (2012). Butter. New York: Bloomsbury.

Boy21 by Matthew Quick

Finley has been playing basketball for as long as he can remember. It's his escape from all the violence and drama going on around him: the gangs, the drugs, the Irish mob. It's even how he met his girl. Most of all, it's his ticket out of this place. He's the starting point guard, and this is his senior year. He may not be NBA material, but he's pretty sure he can at least get a scholarship to a community college. This is his year.

That is until Coach takes him aside and tells him there's something he needs him to do. There's a new boy, Russ, and his parents were killed. He's apparently a hot shot player, scouted by the top schools in the country, and almost certainly bound for a career with the pros. Coach tries to prepare Finley for how things are going to be when they meet, tells him that Russ is taking things pretty hard and he thinks Finley could be a good influence, maybe even a friend. He tells him that Russ likes to be called Boy21.

Nothing could have prepared Finley for the reality: Boy21 greets him with a question. "You are an Earthling?" His room is decorated with constellations of stars. Russ tells Finley that he is a test model sent to Earth to gather information on emotions, and his parents will soon be back to retrieve him. Finley asks him about basketball, and while Boy21 responds that he has been programmed to excel at the sport, he doubts he will be around long enough to play.

When Russ starts school, he's dropped the space act. He follows Finley around like a puppy, though, and Finley isn't sure how he feels about it. He wants to do what Coach says, he always has before, but there's a thought building in the back of his head. If this kid is as good as everyone's saying, Finley just lost his starting position on the team.

When basketball season comes around, Coach starts getting pretty aggressive with Finley about making sure Russ comes to tryouts. Russ isn't showing any interest in playing, and Finley is a little relieved actually. If Russ wanted to play, if Finley was the one having to face losing his position, would he still be making the effort to be his friend? Still be doing what Coach wants him to do? They're tough questions, and he's not very confident about the answers.

Boy21 is a poignant look at friendship and loss, and how we all deal with grief in our own way, in our own time. It also explores the difficulties of growing up in a low-income area, and the pressures kids face just to keep to themselves. Sports has become an outlet for many youth, and this is a great example of using it to grow and become the person that you want to be.

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Forgive Me Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Pena

Quick, Matthew. (2012). Boy21. New York: Little, Brown and Co.

Slide by Jill Hathaway

Sylvia, or Vee, has a secret. While everyone else thinks she has narcolepsy (like, she falls asleep randomly all the time), she really slides into other people's heads. She can see through their eyes. It's not the same as living through them, she can't hear their thoughts or manipulate their body, only see what they can see...and usually it's something she doesn't want. Obviously she has to keep this on the DL, or everyone will think she's cuckoo.

Vee tried telling her dad when she was younger, and his first reaction was to send her to a shrink. That was the last of that! Since then, a lot has happened: her mom died, her friends turned their backs on her, and she made maybe the best friend she's ever had in Rollins...but she still hasn't shared her secret. How could she risk her only friend?

Life seems to be relatively normal until the day she slides into Sophie, her sister's best friend, or thinks she does...but then she realizes she's above Sophie. All she can see is blood, everywhere. If she isn't inside Sophie, who else is there?! The person is holding a knife in her hand, and is looking down on the scene. It can't be Sophie! When the news comes out the next day, her sister is devastated, thinking their cruel prank led to Sophie's suicide. Only Vee knows the truth.

In the midst of all this horror, she finds solace in the arms of the new boy, Zane. With all the people keeping secrets - her father, her sister, Rollins, and even herself - she needs someone to just be there for her without any pretense. She may not be able to be completely honest with him, but at least she knows her feelings for him are real, and that has to mean something.

The killer could be so many people. How is Sylvia going to discover who it could be? Especially when everyone thinks it was suicide? When another girl is killed, Sylvia begins to fear for her sister. The stakes are so high. Can she find a way to control this power and discover the murderer?

*Library Link*
"Something in my pocket pokes me. I pull it out and smooth it against my jeans. It's the page from the calendar that Sophie taped to our door earlier. I start to feel woozy, like I might slide. Oh no. Not again. My vision pulses, and my knees go out, and I fall deep, deep down, into a hole. 
I'm sitting at a white desk, a pad of fancy stationary angled before me. Words crawl like spiders across the page, flowing from the pen in my gloved hand.
Who am I?
And why am I wearing gloves?
The words I'm writing say: I don't deserve this.As I stand I notice the pink walls and the pictures of ballerinas. Sophie's room," (Hathaway pg. 52, 2012).
If you liked this, check out:
Imposter by Jill Hathaway (Slide, Book 2)
Dark Eyes by William Richter
The Diviners by Libba Bray

Hathaway, Jill. (2012). Slide. New York, NY: Balzer + Bray.

The Final Four by Paul Volponi

The Trojan War has come to the Final Four: the Michigan State Spartans are set to take on the Cinderella-underdog Trojans from Troy University. For the first time in the small school's history, they've not only won a game in the tournament, but nearly made it to the final game!

The Spartans aren't planning on going home early, however, and their hot-shot freshman Malcolm "One and Done" McBride is there to impress NBA scouts for the upcoming draft. He's made no secret of his disdain for the NCAA experience, but it's all about the game right now. Can he pull his team to victory?

Michael "MJ" Jordan, as his name suggests, grew up in the shadow of a living legend. Never quite able to live up to his namesake, he still made it to MSU on scholarship, and he's here at the tournament to make his mark. His true hero? Barack Obama: a man who overcame all the odds, and keeps going anyway. Can he come off the bench and make a difference tonight?

Croatian-native Roco "Red Bull" Bacic leads the Trojans, and they aren't backing down. With a group firmly rooted in teamwork, they have an answer for the Spartans nearly every time down the court. He's playing for his uncle who first turned him onto basketball, and taught him the importance of working hard. The score stays close throughout the game, and as the clock ticks down, it's all tied up with two minutes to go.

Crispin, the Trojans' big man, is playing for more than just a win. Earlier in the tournament, he proposed to his girlfriend, varsity cheerleader Hope, now dubbed 'Hope of Troy,' the modern-day equivalent of Helen. The two are the good luck charm for the team, and they haven't lost a game since the announcement, but are they as solid as they seem?

As the last seconds count down, it looks like they're going into overtime. Neither team is ready to quit yet!

What a fun ride. Volponi weaves a great basketball story with the backgrounds of four of the essential players, two very different coaching styles, and a thought provoking discussion on amateurism, without ever losing site of the adrenaline ride of the game. Highly recommended for sports fans.

*Library Link*
"'I wish the NCAA could make allowances for low-income families. After all, let's be honest, this is a business,' said a parent who wished to remain anonymous. 'Maybe years ago when the dollar figures were much less, a free college education was an equal trade-off. But nowadays, with the money the schools and the NCAA are making on the talents of our kids, it's a rip-off. They shine that light o being an amateur on you; meanwhile the professionals who run the behind-the-scenes of college basketball are in the dark somewhere counting their money,' (Volponi pg. 94, 2012).
If you liked this, check out:
Rucker Park Setup by Paul Volponi
True Legend by Mike Lupica
Night Hoops by Carl Deuker

Volponi, Paul. (2012). The Final Four. New York: Viking.

Croak by Gina Damico

Lex has a violence problem. In the last few years, she has gone from a straight A student with little to no behavioral issues to the town menace.  She pulls no punches (pun intended) regardless of social status: nerds, jocks, gays, goths, even the kid int the wheelchair isn't safe! Teetering on expulsion, her parents agree to send her to her uncle's for the summer. Her twin Cordy, her best (and only) friend, is truly upset. Her parents are too, but they are at their wits' end.

Arriving in Croak, Lex is in for a serious surprise. Far from the farming town she expected, her uncle informs her about the true purpose of the town. They are, essentially, reaping souls and sending them to the afterlife. She's being recruited. Her reaction? "You Kill people? What's that supposed to mean?" (Damico pg. 37)

There isn't really a good way to ease into it, so the next day, she's thrown into the melee. Separating souls from their bodies, while bizarre, actually does curb her violent tendencies. Lex is matched with another junior partner, who also (annoyingly) happens to have sexy brown eyes that she hardly even notices. She gets her very own scythe, and loves her trips through the ether. The act of actually taking a soul is painful for her, something that seems unique to her, so she keeps it to herself mostly.

There's a whole group of juniors that she falls in with quickly, and it's legal to drink in Croak. This town is really starting to look amazing. There's one big issue: on their shifts, she and her partner Driggs start noticing unexplained deaths. Even the Smacks don't know why these people are dying. They start to suspect that there's a rogue Grim on the loose. Since this all started around the same time that Lex showed up, a lot of people think she has something to do with it. Can they get to the bottom of the white eyed mystery deaths?

This was a light-hearted look at what could have been a really morbid book. I enjoyed the fun little touches, and the imagination was apparent. I didn't guess the ending, which is always a plus.

*Library Link*
"'What is this? A knife?'
'Nope,' Uncle Mort said, his eye glinting. 'A scythe.'
Lex just stared.
'Allow me to explain.' Uncle Mort sat on the ground and leaned against the Ghost Gum. 'The nothingness - or rather, everythingness - from which we just returned is called the ether,' he said as the two girls joined him on the grass. 'It is the method of transportation that we use to transfer souls from this life to the next.'
Lex listened, engrossed. She hadn't blinked in minutes.
Uncle Mort was pleased with her reaction, as it was finally not one of disgust or outrage or both. 'We always work in pairs, because there are two types of Field jobs - Killers and Cullers. You and I are Killers,' he said plainly. 'With a single touch, a Killer officially ends the life of a human being by releasing the Gamma or soul, from the body.'
'That was a soul?' Lex said in awe, (Damico pg. 58, 2012). 
If you liked this, check out:
Scorch by Gina Damico (Croak, Book 2)
Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers
Crewel by Jennifer Albin

Damico, Gina. (2012). Croak. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando

Mary has one last shot to make some high school memories with her best friends. She wants it to be special, she wants it to be different than everything else. She wants to be daring and even reckless. She wants to break out of her underdog "also-ran" stereotype, and walk away with the Yeti as the victors of the unofficial Senior Scavenger Hunt. This is their last chance to shove something in that jerk Barbone's face, and to prove to herself that she is more than just the girl who almost won class VP, who almost got into Georgetown...this isn't just a dumb scavenger hunt, ok? This is her legacy. Hell, she snuck out for this!

Teaming up with her best friends Patrick, Dez, and Winter, they get the list from last year's winners, headed up by the enviable Leticia: former class prez. Some of the stuff on list will be easy, but others? "Put your name in lights - 150, A scratch 'n' sniff that smells like piƱa colada - 35, A stone-cold lady near the lake in the sky will amaze you with a clue - 1" They aren't even sure what some of these mean...time is ticking away, so they are off. First stop: Home Depot. Dez's dad hooks them up, and even runs some interference after they leave. "Shuck a Mary on the half shell - 100," Mary not only knows what that means, but she knows where to find one. The question is, should she take a family heirloom? Tonight is about being reckless and living a little, right? It's not like she won't bring it back.

They're doing pretty well until a confrontation with Team Idiot leaves Dez in need of a trip to the hospital. After ensuring that he is okay, and getting his blessing to continue, they are more determined than ever to stick it to Barbone and his team of apes. Round one complete, it's on to Round two. They think they're on to one of the big clues which could mean serious points in the end, or it could mean nothing if they can't figure it out. Not to mention the serious drama going on between her crush Carson, and her best friend Winter. After breaking up with his girlfriend between rounds, Carson joined their team. At first, Mary thought there might be sparks between them, but as the night wears on, it soon becomes clear that things are much more complicated.

There are moments when it seems the entire group is just going to split up and never talk to each other again. Why doesn't anyone else think this is as important as she does? Don't they realize that this is their last shot at making memories and changing people's opinions of them? Why is Patrick being so weird!? Can they really pull this off, and stick it to Barbone and his crew? One last blast of high school before the summer begins in earnest. Will they walk away with the Yeti? I guess they'll find out soon enough.

This is a fun read, and really made me want to throw a scavenger hunt. There's some coming of age, along with some life lessons, but nothing too overwhelming. This is the last blast of high school in book form. Remember the good, let go of the bad, and accept the things you are never going to change.

*Library Link*
"And then I wondered what sort of stuff I didn't want to forget, then I wondered how much of any of this I would remember in the end. Like if I lived to be as old as Eleanor. I sort of hoped that I'd forget most of what I'd already experienced of life. Not because it was so bad, but because it was so ordinary. I hadn't ever left the country, or made love, or gotten married, or skydived. Not that I was sure I ever would skydive but if I did - if life presented the opportunity and motivation - I hoped I'd remember that when I was old - the feeling of flying, of free-falling, of total liberation - and not this awkward conversation with a boy who was once my best friend. I wanted to remember Italy and Paris, rip cords and parachutes. Love, too. Even loss.
But not this," (Altebrando pg. 62, 2012).
If you liked this, check out:

Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando
From What I Remember by Valerie Thomas and Stacy Kramer
Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham

Altebrando, Tara. (2012). The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life. New York: Dutton Books.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Rory is over the moon for her year at an elite boarding school in London. Born and raised in Louisiana, she knows she's in for some culture shock. What she didn't anticipate was a Jack the Ripper copycat murder practically the same day she arrives! It has all of London in the grips of "Rippermania," especially when the police can't see the killer on security cameras. It almost seems like a doctored video, with the victim's body being pulled into the air seemingly by magic.

Her boarding school, Wexford, is a pretty insular community, and for a while Rory is able to avoid all the Ripper drama. Her crush, however, is both a Ripper fan, and an aspiring reporter. He convinces her to sneak out on the anniversary of the night of the final attack. To date, the copycat killer has followed the Ripper's original pattern. Sneaking back into her dorm with her roommate, she sees someone. Rory can't explain what it is about him that unnerves her, but he is definitely giving off the "creepy vibe." The weird part comes in when her roomie Jazza says she can't see him.

After a body is found on campus the next day, both Rory and Jazza realize how close they came to real danger. Rory decides she has to tell the police what she saw, even if it means getting in trouble for breaking curfew. Initially she answers their questions, and nothing comes of it, but another officer follows up. This officer strikes Rory as someone wearing a costume. There's something about him that tells her he just isn't a real cop. He's asking weird questions too...questions the other cops didn't ask. He even seems to believe that Jazza didn't see the strange man. What does it all mean?

Soon the twosome becomes a threesome when Jazza and Rory get another roommate. Boo almost follows her around! It's Boo that first alerts her to the idea that she may have an ability that allows her to see something others can't...but just what does that mean? There's something really weird going on... Does Rory have a way to help catch the Ripper killer?

It starts slow, and focuses a lot on Rory's personal life. If you are hoping for a fast-paced thriller, you'll have to get through half the book first. It's a fun read, but it struggles to fit into a specific genre. There's a lot of school, and some romance before you move into the paranormal thriller.


*Library Link*

“Fear can't hurt you," she said. "When it washes over you, give it no power. It's a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you,” Maureen Johnson, 2011.
If you liked this, check out:

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson (The Shades of London, Book 2)
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood, Book 1)
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle, Book 1)


Johnson, Maureen. (2011). The Name of the Star. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan and Wendy...but what about Peter's first love: Tiger Lily? Told from the perspective of Tinkerbell, the otherwise mute pixie, the author weaves a story of magic, mystery, legend, and fear.

Tiger Lily is the adopted daughter of the Shaman, Tik Tok. She has always run wild, but she is allowed her freedom in large part because of who her father is, and because she can take care of herself. She can hunt as well as any boy, and fight too. She falls short of the expectation of a tribal girl, however, and she knows it.

A fateful rescue has far-reaching consequences. A human ship crashes against the rocks, but Tiger Lily is unable to let him die. Her people fear humans for their "aging disease," but Tiger Lily's kind heart won't let her abandon him. His miraculous recovery becomes a double edged sword, however, when his conservative Christian god threatens her own father's authority.

Meeting Peter in the woods after all the warnings scares her, but it fascinates her too. There is something about him that makes her think they are equals in a way. He skirts her boundaries, but he doesn't cross them...and he's the only one who's ever been able to sneak up on her. Slowly, Tiger Lily becomes a part of the Lost Boys' universe. She is stealing away in the night to see them and go on adventures. During the day, she attempts to maintain her outwardly appearance of tribal princess. All the while, Tink watches on.

Meanwhile, Captain Hook is on a relentless quest to find the boys. Rather than the polished gentleman pirate we know from Barry's tale, this Hook is a broken drunk. His obsession with Peter borders on mania, and his abuse doesn't stop with the boys. His crew know to give him a wide berth, or be caught in the crossfire.

We know the story doesn't end with the two together forever. The journey is soul-searching, and insightful. Their love is intense and passionate in a way that cannot be sustained. Tink's narration is a stroke of genius, and it paints the tale of Peter and Wendy in a whole new light. As a die hard Tinkerbell fan, I really enjoyed this book. The plot is secondary to the characters, but not in a way that is overbearing. If you are looking for a light-hearted tale, this is not for you. If you want a book that will explain the bittersweet joy and heartbreak of first love, this could be right up your alley.

*Library Link*
"A faerie heart is different from a human heart. Human hearts are elastic. They have room for all sorts of passions, and they can break and heal and love again and again. Faerie hearts are evolutionarily less sophisticated. They are small and hard, like tiny grains of sand. Our hearts are too small to love more than one person in a lifetime. Aside from rare instances, like in the case of my father, we are built to mate for life. I went back to the burrow many nights, and watched Peter. I tried to talk sense into my hard little heart. But it had landed on Peter, a creature two hundred times my size and barely aware of me, and there was no prying it loose," (Anderson pg. 105, 2012).
If you liked this, check out:

Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry
Hook by Terry Brooks

Anderson, J. L., & Barrie, J. M. (2012). Tiger Lily. New York: HarperTeen.

Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

Noa's always been a loner, well...at least since the day her parents were killed. In and out of the foster system, she took the smart way out at 15, and created a "family" for herself. She was tired of being abused, neglected, and ignored. When she wakes up on a silver operating table though...that's a whole 'nother story. It's clear someone has cut her open, but the cause is still a mystery. Her natural distrust for authority comes in handy, because she doesn't buy their b.s. story that she was in an accident. With some quick thinking, and a little luck, she finds her way out...but then what?

Jason's biggest accomplishment in life is his hacktivist group, Alliance. They've helped bring down guys like a social worker with kiddie porn on his computer. Or a shampoo company that was testing on animals. He's not afraid to say he has some skill. Snooping around on his dad's computer is just a routine matter, or so he thinks. He starts hacking into a file called AMRF, and suddenly goons in black show up, bust in the door, take his computer, and give him a message for his parents. "Tell them Mr. Mason said hi, and we'll be back to fix the door before morning." What kind of thief repairs the evidence of their presence? Confronting his parents doesn't bring any answers either, and actually leads to more questions. What are they involved in?

Jason naturally turns to Alliance for help. He reaches out to one of the best hackers on the site, Rain. Noa (Rain) just happens to be in need of some fast cash; thus their fateful meeting. Noa gets more than she bargained for when she hacks into the site and finds Project Persephone. One of the files she uncovers is labeled with her name. Jason does too, when his entire site (including the domain name) disappear overnight. Someone is serious. Things escalate as guys in black come after Noa as well, and Jason gets kicked out of the house.

With no one left to turn to, the two meet up and swap information. It seems they are unwittingly entangled in the same story: the company who runs AMRF is using kids to find a cure for PETA, an epidemic killing teenagers. Whoever is responsible is smart enough to find them through pretty tech savvy means, and has the money and clout to back it up. They are going to need some help. Do two hacker kids really have a chance?

*Library Link*
“For most people, home was represented by four walls and a roof. Not for Noa. She preferred a motherboard to a mother, a keyboard to house keys. Nothing was more comforting than the hum of a spinning hard drive,” (Gagnon, 2012). 
If you liked this, check out:

Don't Look Now by Michelle Gagnon (Don't Turn Around, Book 2)
Starters by Lissa Price (Starters, Book 1)
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid (Insignia, Book 1)

Gagnon, Michelle. (2012). Don't Turn Around. New York: Harper.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina shines as a court musician, sometimes too brightly for her own good. She knows that keeping herself out of sight, and deflecting attention are important. It isn't until that fateful day of the funeral that she realizes how important. As if things aren't bad enough with Prince Rufus being found without a head... tensions between humans and dragons are always high, but this? This could threaten the peace treaty, now approaching its' 40th year.

More than anyone else, Seraphina knows how much there is to lose. Since her most recent discovery, her otherness has truly set her apart. Without Orma, there is no way she could ever have found a way to manage it all. Ah, Orma - who is both her teacher, and her link to all things dragon.

In Goredd, there exists a peace between the two races, but it is tenuous. The humans believe themselves to have subdued the dragons, who even take human form. The dragons know they have submitted somewhat willingly. Humans fascinate them, and they wish to learn more about this race. Despite their ability to mimic technical perfection, dragons cannot seem to achieve what humans call "art." Seraphina unknowingly gives valuable insight to the Princess Glisselda as they grow closer, and through her, she meets Prince Kiggs. The two form an unlikely partnership to uncover the possible rogue dragon in their midst. Could it be who Seraphina thinks it is?

Through it all, she must maintain her secrecy surrounding her identity, and the identity of her "garden companions." As Kiggs and Seraphina grow closer, she must remind herself that a closer bond is impossible. If he knew the truth, not only would he want nothing to do with her, it could mean the end of everything, and not just for herself. Can they find the source of the conflict without throwing the entire realm into outright war?
“He did not know the truth of me, yet he had perceived something true about me that no one else had ever noticed. And in spite of that—or perhaps because of it—he believed me good, believed me worth taking seriously, and his belief, for one vertiginous moment, made me want to be better than I was,” (Hartman, 2013). 
*Library Link *

If you liked this, check out:

Lirael by Garth Nix
Eon by Alison Goodman
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Hartman, Rachel. (2013). Seraphina. New York: Random House.
Hartman, Rachel & Williams, Mandy. (2013). Seraphina. New York: Listening Library.

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

In futuristic Brazil, the ritual of the Summer Kings is nothing new: they are chosen wakas, bursting with life and love, who bloom through the year and are sacrificed before Winter. It is a truth June learned firsthand when she was eight years old. This practice of sacrifice has been part of Palmares Tres for thousands of years, and while other cities decry its barbaric nature, those who understand it, who know why these young men give their lives, rejoice in the light that burns brightest before being extinguished.

June and Gil know their lives are forever changed from that first night with their Summer King. Enki is crowned, and instantly sweeps Gil off his feet. Their romance is on everyone's lips, much to the chagrin of the Aunties (and the Queen). When June is named as a finalist for the Queen's Award, she knows she has to do something big. With Enki's help, she knows it will be something worthwhile too. He isn't just a pretty face to her, he's another artist.

Enki has fought his way to the top: the exotic boy with the inky black skin. His mother fled from Salvador when he was only a child, and gained entry to Palmares Tres. He's given so much of himself: getting all the mods which allow him to talk to the city, risking the Aunties enmity to bring the truth of the Verde to light, and (last but not least) sacrificing himself. 

They plan a huge project, one that blends all their talents, one that will challenge even the Aunties themselves. She fears she may not even be able to claim this as her own work, for the risk that it puts her in, and the exhiliration warms her. She shares a moment with Enki, and wonders why it can never be more between them. Why did he choose Gil that first night?

As the weeks pass, it seems their art is no longer enough for June. She wants more of Enki, she wants more of the matriarchal society that has raised her, she wants the grandes to be responsible for their actions. Is it too much to ask? Maybe it is...
To love light, you have to love dark. I'm not trying to be profound, I know you'll understand. I don't mean that you have to hate to love, or that you have to die to live.
I mean that sometimes, you turn out the lights just to turn them back on
," (Johnson, 2013.)
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Zombies vs. Unicorns editted by Black and Larbalestier ("Love Will Tear Us Apart" by A. Johnson)
When We Wake by Karen Healy
The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

Johnson, Alaya D. (2013). The Summer Prince. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books.

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper (Montmaray Journals)

Sophie has just received the most beautiful journal from her older brother Toby. He is away at school, and also happens to be heir to the throne of Montmaray. Did I mention she is also a princess? Not the kind of princess you think of from fairy tales. They do live in a castle of sorts (though Veronica, her cousin, is quick to point out that it's a 'fortified house'), but they aren't surrounded by finery and servants. In fact, the island holds only the three girls when you add her little sister Henry (Henrietta, but don't call her that), her uncle King John, the housekeeper Rebecca, and a handful of villagers (at least at first).
Things start to get interesting when a Nazi boat lands on shore. A historian tells them he is there doing research, but later that night he is found sneaking around their library! His companion is not so lucky, having run into King John (who, if you must know, is pretty batty). Sophie and Veronica take a harrowing midnight trip, knowing what could happen if the Nazis were to discover the truth. The next day, reinforcements arrive looking for their comrade. Otto Rahn himself is treated to King John's hospitality, and while Otto suffers only humiliation (and a dog bite), John has a stroke. They vow revenge, and rush to seek medical treatment for Otto.

Soon enough, the king is dead, and arrangements are being made for the girls to leave Montmaray. They fear retaliation from the Nazis. The girls don't want to leave, especially Veronica. At the funeral and coronation of Toby, Rebecca comes out with some shocking news. Could it be true? Is there another heir?

Sophie's journals follow the tales of the FitzOsbornes from their relative childhood into their young adulthood. Each is forced to grow up, frequently through adversity. While not the most original of stories, it does hold with adventure stories of old, and will keep the attention of most readers. Recommended for middle school, early high school.
"After Toby went away to school, Veronica and I mostly taught ourselves out of the library. Veronica, of course, proved to be much better at improving her mind than I was. (One could argue that this was because she had a better mind to begin with. However, one could also point out that I've squandered countless hours reading romantic novels, planning my future trousseau and daydreaming about Simon, hours that could have been far better employed learning French grammar or reading Plato,)" (Cooper, 2009).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper (Montmaray Journals, Book 2)
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak

Cooper, Michelle. (2009). A Brief History of Montmaray. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Cooper, Michelle & Bering, Emma. (2010). A Brief History of Montmaray. [sound recording] New York: Random House.

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick

Amber Appleton is a lot of things, to a lot of people. At school, she is the leader of the Franks Freak Force Five: a group of misfits thrown together who became fast friends, and manage to survive high school by hiding out in Mr. Franks Marketing Class. She is the staunch defender of the weak, and proud of her friends.

After school, she becomes an honorary KDFC (Korean Diva for Christ) at St. Dymphna's. In an effort to teach Korean immigrants English, she has resorted to using soul music. The ladies in her group use their Korean-English dictionaries to translate The Supremes Complete Songbook, and every week they come back for more.

At the Methodist Home, she's the Princess of Hope as she battles Joan of Old to cheer up everyone in the place. Joan comes at her with every nasty, pessimistic, depressing thing she's got (Nietzsche is a favorite), but every week Amber still manages to make her smile. The battles give the old folks something to look forward to, something to believe in.

At Donna and Ricky's, she's a constant companion and cook: keeping Ricky company after school, coming over early to cook breakfast, and staying later to cook dinner. Even though Donna insists she doesn't have to, Amber loves cooking for them, and feels like it's a small thing to repay all they do for her.

For Private Jackson, she is a pen pal, a companion, and a haiku writer.

At home, she's the proud owner of Bobby Big Boy, a mangy mutt she found abandonded and half-starved. She nursed him back to health, and they've been together ever since.

For the last several months, Amber and her mom have been living in Hello Yellow, the school bus her mom drives. She knows that things are starting to get desperate, but she won't let it get her down...until the unthinkable happens. What becomes of the princess when she loses her hope?

Written in a catchy style that teens will like, Quick captures a spirit and an idea. We all have a breaking point; how do we move on? Amber is a great character, and really fun to read about - I liked watching her succeed (oh c'mon, it's not like you really believed she wouldn't overcome in the end).
"'Here's a little secret between old friends,' Donna says, and then bends down to whisper into my ear. 'Most people-even adults, even grown men-are like teenage boys, only they pretend they are not.' Donna stands up and winks at me. 'People like you and me need to tell them what to do, so that the world won't get too messed up. They want you to give them instructions. They need you to do this. And you know what needs to be done, because you have a good heart-and you have courage. I've seen your good heart at work time and time again over the years. You're all good. One hundred percent. So trust your instincts, and speak your mind tonight. Be brave,'" (Quick pg. 69, 2010).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick August 2013
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Quick, Matthew. (2010). Sorta Like a Rock Star: A novel. New York: Little, Brown.
Quick, M., Holloway, C., & Listening Library. (2010). Sorta Like a Rock Star: A novel. [sound recording]. New York, N.Y: Listening Library.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

It's 1938. Maddie, is enchanted by the new planes. Being mechanically minded, she hangs about at the local air field. It's there that she first meets Dympna - the first female pilot she's ever met. After that, every Saturday is spent at the Aerodrome. In October of that year, the Civil Air Guard is formed, offering free flight training to those who qualify! It doesn't hurt her chances that everyone knows her, and soon enough, she is flying solo. In a year, she has her pilot's license. Then the war hits, and all civilian flights are grounded.

Enlisting in the Women's Auxilary Air Force (WAAFs), soon Maddie's an Aircraftwoman, directing traffic and coaxing planes down to the runway. It's there that she first meets Queenie, the only German speaker on base. A German pilot sends out a distress signal asking for directions to land, mistaking his location. With Queenie translating Maddie's instructions into German, the two manage to get the enemy bomber on the ground after dumping his remaining ammunition, where he is remanded into custody. They are fast friends.

Interspersed with the story of their meeting, the writer of this account shares with us her situation: she has been captured by Nazi agents and tortured for information. Against her better judgment, she is sharing this true account of airfields and plane models. Along with the codes to the 11 radios found in her wrecked plane. She knows that when her account comes to an end, they will kill her. No one escapes from the Nazis.

Maddie eventually makes it to the ATA (Air Transport Auxilary), and begins transporting planes all over Britain. Even to a secret location. One night, a familiar face surprises her. Queenie! Could it be? She, too, is involved with the Secret Ops? "Careless talk costs lives," is all she will say. Then it's that fateful night, when they are paired together for an unauthorized mission to France, and everything goes all wrong. They are separated, and then Queenie disappears. Maddie fears the worst - she could be dead, or worse, captured.

Part two: Maddie's side of the story. After their crash, she's stuck in France with no ID, living in fear. There's no official word for when they'll be able to get her back home, and still nothing about Queenie. The Resistance may be on their side, but she'd prefer they kept their hands to themselves! To say nothing of her bed, if you can call it that, in a crawlspace under the eaves. What is to become of a grounded pilot, and a captured spy?

Masterfully written, and suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat, this historical espionage novel is cleverly disguised as a tale of two girls meeting and becoming the best of friends. I can't wait to read the companion novel! This author will be on my radar. It won the Prinz Honor for 2012.
"It's awful, telling it like this, isn't it? As though we didn't know the ending. As though it could have another ending. It's like watching Romeo drink poison. Every time you see it you get fooled into thinking his girlfriend might wake up and stop him. Every single time you see it you want to shout, 'You stupid ass, just wait a minute,' and she'll open her eyes! 'Oi, you, you twat, open your eyes, wake up! Don't die this time!' But they always do.
I wonder how many piles of paper like mine are lying around Europe, the only testament to our silenced voices, buried in filing cabinets and steamer trunks and cardboard boxes as we disappear-as we vanish into the night and the fog?" (Wein 174, 2012).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (Companion to Verity) Sept. 2013
Violins of Autumn by Amy McAuley
A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper (The Montmaray Journals)

Wein, Elizabeth. (2012). Code Name Verity. New York: Hyperion.

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

Amelia has angst. She's 15 and in love with a 21 year old. He's everything she's ever wanted...funny, cute, smart, deep, clever, goes to uni, thinks she's interesting. There's only one problem: he's 21. She knows that it's impossible, that he'll never look at her the way he looks at Kathy, the 22 year-old who attends the same uni as Chris, and is pretty, uninterested, and the subject of an on-again-off-again crush known as "the Kathy virus."

What's the use? So she enjoys the time she has with him. She treasures the moments they get to talk at the registers, rejoices every time he stays after his shift to help her with her homework, or invites her out after work. Amelia pines away for the boy she will never have, falling hard.

Chris has his own issues: he's focusing on Kathy to try and push Michaela out of his head. That entire situation was too messed up to even mention, except when he's too lubricated to use good sense, and his true emotions come out onto the page in waves of bitterness only too easy to relate to, and maybe a little to close to home at times. Amelia figures into his story in flashes, bits and pieces here and there. In his Search for the Perfect Woman, however, she doesn't make the cut. Let's face it, he's desperate, but not that desperate.

As time passes, these two come into closer orbit, sharing stories, and life views. They begin to connect in a way that even he recognizes as meaningful. It doesn't change the circumstances, or the fact that she's a high schooler on her way up. He's about to finish uni and still in some kind of holding pattern, with no real direction for his life. They are in different places, this can't possibly happen.

Then there is that horrible night when she is so drunk, and that other boy from checkout comes on to her. It's just a kiss, what's the big deal. Amelia didn't know Chris could be such a dick! Teasing her mercilessly, calling her out in front of everyone - why does he even care? Does he care? Feelings are so complicated...

The story flips back and forth between diary-style narratives, letting each tell their side. Buzo accurately captures both ages and voices very well. It was a love story, but not the kind you see on TV. It was so authentic. I will look for more by this Aussie author. Her prose is refreshingly real.
"I just got back from a thoroughly enjoyable evening in the company of Amelia, whose cult following is gaining momentum. If I were less of a prick, I might feel a bit guilty about the way I've been torturing her this week. But I think we all learned something. I took her for pizza after work and let her drink Big Girl drinks. I know, I know, but if I don't lead her astray, who will?
Somehow I ended up telling Amelia about Michaela. I really must have forgotten that she is a youngster and should be treated as such. Being the gentleman I am, I walked her home. When we got to her house, she peeked through the front curtains before letting herself in. That's what reminded me of Sophie from The BFG.
I really like talking to her. I like how she turns everything over and over in her mind, and that she doesn't censor herself. Being with her is easy. I seem to laugh....
1 a.m.
If she were even just two years older, she'd be leading the Field," (Buzo pg. 116, 2010).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo (currently only available in Australia)
Not Exactly a Love Story by Audrey Couloumbis
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman
How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

Buzo, Laura. (2012). Love and Other Perishable Items. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.