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.