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 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.