Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: 5 New Titles Coming from Simon & Schuster

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Publisher’s Description:There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.”

Note: Historical fiction, ghosts,and a good book to add to help us all meet our active goal of trying to make sure our collections and TBR piles have more diversity.

Publishes by McElderry Books on August 5, 2014. ISBN: 9781442483583

Rumble by Ellen Hopkins

Publisher’s Description: “Eighteen-year-old Matthew Turner doesn’t believe in much. Not in family—his is a shambles, after his brother’s suicide. Not in so-called friends who turn their backs when the going gets rough. Certainly not in some omnipotent master of heaven and earth, no matter what his girlfriend, Hayden, thinks. In fact, he’s sick of arguing with her about faith. Matt is a devout atheist, unafraid of some Judgment Day designed by decidedly human power brokers to keep the masses in check. He works hard, plays hard, and plans on checking out the same way. But a horrific accident—one of his own making—plunges Matt into a dark, silent place where the only thing he can hear is a rumble, and eventually, a voice. And what it says will call everything Matt has ever disbelieved into question.”

Note: I recently mentioned that one of the authors I hear YA librarians they have to replace a lot is Ellen Hopkins. She writes very gritty, realistic novels – in poetry. This latest title deals with a teenage boy who proclaims atheism as his belief system. The topic of atheism has been getting more coverage in the press, so this is a timely novel. And no doubt for many it will be controversial. In other words, awesome and classic Hopkins.

Publishes on August 26, 2014 from Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 9781442482845

In Deep by Terra Elan McVoy

Publisher’s Description: “Ultracompetitive Brynn from The Summer of Firsts and Lasts craves swimming victory—and gets in over her head—in this irresistible novel from Terra Elan McVoy.

Swim.
Push.
Breathe.
Swim.

Nothing else matters to Brynn as she trains her body and mind to win. Not her mediocre grades and lack of real friends at school. Not the gnawing grief over her fallen hero father. Not the strained relationship with her absent mother and clueless stepdad. In the turquoise water, swimming is an escape and her ticket to somewhere—anywhere—else. And nothing will get in her way of claiming victory.

But when the competitive streak follows Brynn out of the pool in a wickedly seductive cat-and-mouse game between herself, her wild best friend, and a hot new college swimmer, Brynn’s single-mindedness gets her in over her head, with much more than a trophy to lose.”

Note: I was at a S&S event last year at ALA annual where I watched teens vote between two covers for this title. This is the cover that won.

Publishes July 8, 2014 from Simon Pulse. ISBN: 9781481401364

Trouble by Non Pratt

Publisher’s Description:In this dazzling debut novel, a pregnant teen learns the meaning of friendship—from the boy who pretends to be her baby’s father.

When the entire high school finds out that Hannah Shepard is pregnant via her ex-best friend, she has a full-on meltdown in her backyard. The one witness (besides the rest of the world): Aaron Tyler, a transfer student and the only boy who doesn’t seem to want to get into Hannah’s pants. Confused and scared, Hannah needs someone to be on her side. Wishing to make up for his own past mistakes, Aaron does the unthinkable and offers to pretend to be the father of Hannah’s unborn baby. Even more unbelievable, Hannah hears herself saying “yes.”

Told in alternating perspectives between Hannah and Aaron, Trouble is the story of two teenagers helping each other to move forward in the wake of tragedy and devastating choices. As you read about their year of loss, regret, and hope, you’ll remember your first, real best friend—and how they were like a first love.”

Note: Received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly 5/01/2014

Publishes June 10, 2014 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781442497726

The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by Jessica Lawson

Publisher’s Description: “In 1860, eleven-year-old Becky Thatcher is the new girl in town, determined to have adventures like she promised her brother Jon before he died. With her Mama frozen in grief and her Daddy busy as town judge, Becky spends much of her time on her own, getting into mischief. Before long, she joins the boys at school in a bet to steal from the Widow Douglas, and Becky convinces her new best friend, Amy Lawrence, to join her.

Becky decides that she and Amy need a bag of dirt from a bad man’s grave as protection for entering the Widow’s house, so they sneak out to the cemetery at midnight, where they witness the thieving Pritchard brothers digging up a coffin. Determined to keep her family safe (and to avoid getting in trouble), Becky makes Amy promise not to tell anyone what they saw.

When their silence inadvertently results in the Widow Douglas being accused of the graverobbery, Becky concocts a plan to clear the Widow’s name. If she pulls it off, she might just get her Mama to notice her again and fulfill her promise to Jon in a most unexpected way . . . if that tattle-tale Tom Sawyer will quit following her around.”

Note: Received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly 5/05/2014, for Middle Grade readers ages 8 to 12.

Publishes July 22, 2014 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781481401500

Memorial Day Reads

Today is Memorial Day.  Today is a day to honor the men and women who have served and died in the U.S. Military. I come from a military family, the Air Force. Every three years we moved to a new military base. Twice members of my family were stationed overseas. My brother was born on an Air Force base in Japan. Thankfully, no member of my immediate family ever served in a war. But I do have a couple of friend’s whose husbands served in our recent wars. Those men, they came back haunted. Some of them are missing body parts. But they all seem to be missing a piece of them, they all seem so different. I have seen those marriages end as these men (and in this case, they were men) tried to re-adjust back to life as a civilian. Some of them were depressed. Some of them were angry. But they all seemed haunted in one way or another. We don’t do enough to honor our commitments to those who serve, especially in regards to their mental health. So when you pick up a book to read today, read one of these YA titles and get a look into life for the people who have served and the people that love them.

 
 
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson


Hayley’s dad is so haunted by memories of Iraq that he can’t find a place to stay, a place where he feels safe. This means a lot of moving around for Hayley. But then the return to her dad’s hometown, a place that may help him heal – or make everything worse.

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

Quin has kissed a guy who isn’t her boyfriend, the local hero Carey. Carey is serving in Afghanistan. Now everyone is telling secrets about Quinn, shunning her for her betrayal, but they don’t know the truth. Secrets, shame, and small towns take center stage.

  

In Honor by Jessi Kirby

Honor receives her brother’s last letter 3 days after she learns he has died in Iraq.  He sends her on a quest to tell his favorite singer, Kyra Kelly, that he was in love with her.  A touching road trip through grief.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Travis returns from Afghanistan to to find that his parents have split up, his brother has stolen his girlfriend and his car, and life just isn’t the same. In fact, Travis isn’t the same after losing his best friend and suffering from PTSD. This is Travis journey to creating a life that might be something like normal.

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

Private Matt Duffy wakes up in a military hospital and is awarded the Purple Heart.  But the memory of a young boy’s death haunts him.  He worries that he is somehow responsible.


Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie

Matt’s older brother is killed in Iraq. When he gets his brothers personal effects, he makes a shocking discovery that rocks his world and makes him question everything he thought he knew.

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

Even if you give it a fancy name, a patriotic name – say Operation Iraqi Freedom – to the soldiers fighting on the front lines it’s all still the same. No matter what you call it, it’s still a war. And for those soldiers fighting that war, even your war with a fancy inspirational name, it’s still gunshots and fear and sometimes even death. These men and women on the front lines, like the young man named Birdy from Harlem, sometimes after they get there and see what war is really like, sometimes they’re not sure they really want to be there. Because as they say, war is hell, no matter what kind of a name you give it.

The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt

Levi’s brother Boaz has returned home from the war, but things are not okay. Boaz is different. These are the things a brother just knows. So when Boaz leaves again, Levi follows him. Together they learn things that only a brother knows.

 

All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg

 
Matt Pin was airlifted out of Vietnam during the war.  He now lives in the US with an adoptive family.  But he is haunted by secrets.  A powerful, moving debut from 2009.

 

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

There are 2 things I really loved this book: 1) It has a very spot on depiction of poverty and the emotions and barriers that a child living in poverty face and 2) it has a very accurate depiction of what military life is like for the child. I particularly related to the getting orders and having to move quickly feelings expressed. This is also a really compelling story about friendship, discrimination, and the life of a boy growing up on a Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975.

And One to be on the Lookout For . . . 

Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian

This book is not out until later this year, but make a note. Sean Norwhalt is navigating his senior year of high school. His family is falling apart, he’s been dumped, and he knows that there aren’t a lot of good options out there for him. His only hope seems to be the Marine Corps, which no one believes he will really join. Well, that, and this thing happening with Neecie Albertson, whatever this thing may be. Mesrobian is the Morris finalist for her debut novel Sex & Violence, which won a ton of accolades and appeared on a lot of best of 2013 lists. PGWB captures the voice of a lost young man perfectly. It also provides some very detailed insight into the journey into military life. I have a lot of teens that come in asking for books about the military and I thought this captures the emotional and technical journey into military life quite well. This book resonates emotionally.

 
What are your favorite titles about soldiers and the military?  Share with us in the comments. You can find some additional lists here, here and here.

5 Things I’d Like You To Know About My 2014 YA debut, Let’s Get Lost (by Adi Alsaid)

This Isn’t Just Leila’s Story

Coming from Harlequin Teen August 2014
Let’s Get Lost is four coming of age stories linked together by a mysterious girl named Leila. Yes, Leila’s the protagonist of the book, and we are following her journey from Louisiana to Alaska to go see the Northern Lights. But it’s not just about her. We only see Leila through the characters that she meets along the way.
So it’s not just her story. It’s the story of what Hudson treasures in Mississippi, and what Bree does to feel alive. It’s Elliot’s story of heartbreak, and Sonia’s story of recovering from grief. Each part of Leila’s journey is different because it’s not told through her eyes, it’s told through the lens of someone else’s story.
I’ve always enjoyed telling stories with multiple perspectives. I think since I was a kid I’ve wanted to know what’s going on in everyone’s heads, not just my own. I’ve always appreciated fiction’s ability to put me in other people’s shoes, and it’s no surprise that when I start writing my instinct is to try out as many voices as a given story will allow.
I wanted to tell Leila’s story but leave room for other characters to have their share of the spotlight. The result, I hope, is that the book has a little bit of something for everyone: romance, mystery, adventure, humor.

More is Coming!

If you haven’t heard much about Let’s Get Lost, you’re not alone. The promotional efforts are just gearing up now. The only thing we’ve really announced is that the book will be released in August 2014. Teen Librarian Toolbox, is probably the first site other than my own blog (http://www.somewhereoverthesun.com) where you can find much about my YA debut.

But rest assured, more is coming.

We’ll be rolling out a slew of promotional materials throughout 2014, leading up to the release of the book: bookmarks, videos, postcards, and, of course, ARCs. We’ve been working on a lot of fun stuff, and I’m excited to share, but all in due time.

I will be attending the ABA Winter Institute in Seattle this January as well as the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. If there are any librarians and booksellers out there who will be attending, come by and say hello, I’d be happy to chat about my book or anything else, really. Food. I like talking about food. I expect plenty of ARCs to hand out at those conferences and more throughout the year.

And as soon as I get my hands on some definitely expect a few contests and giveaways on my site. For cover reveal, blurbs, reviews, giveaways, appearances, and more updates, follow me on Twitter (@AdiAlsaid) and Facebook (facebook.com/adialsaidauthor). 

Traveling and #LetsGetLost

It’s always hard for me to say what inspired a certain piece of writing. Most of my ideas come from a variety of sources, or they come from nowhere at all, just a thought that shows up in the middle of the night and begs to be written down. Especially with a book like Let’s Get Lost, which aims to be about more than one thing, it’s hard to point at a facet of my life and say, “That’s where the inspiration came from.”

That being said, it’s hard to argue with the fact that my own traveling and wanderlust helped shape the story.  Like that urge to see into others’ heads, I was born with the impulse to see new places. After getting the opportunity to do just that—I spent some time in Israel when I was eighteen and have taken a couple cross-country road trips in the U.S—I’ve become convinced of travel’s ability to make you a little more yourself. That, in my opinion, makes traveling the best backdrop to a coming of age story.

After writing the book, I’ve been sharing some of my own travels on Twitter, Instagram (@uhhdee), and my blog (http://www.somewhereoverthesun.com). Readers can search for #LetsGetLost to not only find out more about the book, but to read about and see pictures from my trips. And since I like traveling so much I’ll even do it vicariously, I hope readers will share pictures from their travels, too.

In an interesting twist, Let’s Get Lost actually inspired me to visit a few places this past summer that I hadn’t been to yet, recreating a few scenes from Leila’s journey. I’ll wait until ARCs are making the rounds to share what specific scenes I’m talking about, but suffice it to say that swimming in the Mississippi is quite a bit of fun.

Who is Likely to Enjoy Let’s Get Lost

Fans of John Green, The Spectacular Now, Eleanor & Park, and other contemporary YA literature should enjoy Let’s Get Lost. If you like a variety of characters trying to figure themselves out with a dose of adventure and maybe the occasional heartbreak, then hopefully this book is for you.

If you’ve ever been on a road trip and a car passed by your window and you started to imagine who the people inside were—where they were headed and where they were coming from, what their day-to-day worries might be, and how those worries compared to your own—you’ll probably enjoy Let’s Get Lost. 

More About Me

Since Let’s Get Lost is my YA debut, you probably don’t know much about me. Let me introduce myself.

I was born and raised in Mexico City to Israeli parents and attended an American school, where I slowly but surely fell in love with the English language. I’ve been writing stories since the sixth grade, when a homework assignment to use vocabulary words in a sentence led me to discover the joy found in making stuff up on paper (I don’t remember the exact word or sentence that did it, but I remember it was something very typically 12-year-old boy, something about a sniper rifle). I wrote throughout high school and college, mostly unfinished short stories and rambling entries in notebooks.

In January of 2010, after attending the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, I packed up my apartment into my car and drove to the California coastline to become a writer. Since then, I’ve returned to my hometown of Mexico City, where I write and coach high school and elementary basketball. I’m often guilty of the sin of taking pictures of food and sharing on Twitter and Instagram, but I can’t fight the fact that I’m in love with food and it loves me back. I’m a huge fan of music, too, but as anyone who’s ever heard me sing will attest, music does not love me back.

My favorite kind of books are character-driven, with the kind of writing that elicits a physical response: laughter or tears or a confused look around the room wondering why no one else seems to be affected by the words in front of you. It doesn’t really matter what genre the book is (or considered to be), if I’m shaking my head or smiling or furrowing my brow while reading, that book has done its job. And those are the kind of books I wish to write.

Adi Alsaid on Goodreads and Twitter

Book Review: Permanent Record by Leslie Stella

She’s peeling what’s left of some green nail polish off her pinkie. She says, “Bud, I’m still worried. You know, about that letter. That douche bag Dylan was telling his idiot friends that you were a weirdo- I heard him in History. And what about Trevor? He was whispering with his little pack of panting dogs that he thinks you wrote it, and you’re trying to mess with the paper because you’re jealous of him.”

“You don’t think I really wrote it, do you?” I ask.

“You know I don’t, but listen: you don’t want these guys on your bad side. They can make life really unpleasant for people they don’t like.”

“Unpleasant?” I laugh. It’s a harsh, barking sound. “Unpleasant? Don’t forget who you’re talking to, Nikki.”
“I know it was bad at Sullivan, but these guys can be ruthless.”

Then it comes.

Not the panic attack. It’s the rage, and it’s on slow burn.

“Ruthless,” I say, “is being cracked in the face with a cafeteria tray, and the teachers on patrol don’t notice because they’re busy calling the riot police to break up a gang fight. Ruthless is being beaten with a golf club on a public sidewalk underneath the Safe School Zone sign. Ruthless is seeing towelhead and sand nigger Sharpied on your locker. Ruthless is watching am ambulance cart away a dead fourteen-year-old as you wait for the bus.” I tell her, “I can handle Magnificat’s brand of ruthless.”

She watches me. Those eyes are an astounding shade of green, and I have to turn away.
“All that?” she asks. “All that happened . . . to you?”

“To me.”

Sixteen-year-old Badi Hessamizadeh has been through everything: trying to find himself in a world that hates his heritage, dealing with depression and panic attacks, and bullying that goes far over into abuse. When he’s pulled from his public school and placed into Magnificat Academy under a new Americanized name, he tries to take things slow but is placed into the role of social outcast and starts to pull small acts of resistance to deal with the changes.  When strange letters to the editor of the school newspaper appear hinting at tragedy for the school, all eyes shift to the newcomer, and while Badi and his friend Nikki try to clear his name and find the real culprit, Badi’s situation starts spiraling out of control. 

Permanent Record tells the story through Badi/Bud’s voice, and you have to realize that he’s an unreliable narrator, but his story is so gripping and real to anyone who knows what huge high schools can be like.  Horrible abuse (too much to call bullying) happened to Badi at his old school culminating in his striking back (revealed later in the book) and Badi was withdrawn, much to the shame of his family.  His second chance is the private Magnificat Academy- as Bud Hess.  Yet it’s obvious to Badi from the start it’s a no win situation: his shoes are wrong, as is his backback; he sits at the reject table; he doesn’t have a sport. Finally joining the newspaper after his father demands he have a school activity, he finds two friends- Nikki and Reggie.  And as soon as Badi/Bud shows up, mysterious letters to the editor start appearing, all being attributed by the student body as being written by him.  And all hinting at all the things going wrong at the school, and horrible things that will happen if things can’t be fixed. The mystery, added to Badi/Bud’s already complex character, make this a gripping novel. 4 out of 5 stars.  As of March 16, 2013, Goodreads has Permanent Record listed as 4.25 stars. 


NOTE: There is strong language, some graphic violence, and reference to rape in this book.  

I tore through this book, couldn’t put it down. Badi (I hate to think of him as Bud) and his whole story really got to me: I wanted to know WHY he was released from the previous school, and WHAT had happened to make it so bad. I wanted to know HOW he was going to cope/not cope at his new school, and then when the mysterious notes started cropping up that we knew were not Badi I had to know WHO they were written by.  And I loved the fact that I had no clue who was doing it- I had guesses, and was totally wrong, which is wonderful (it’s like a Moffat Sherlock episode!).  

What I adored about this book is that it didn’t tone down the abuse (and it IS abuse- if this happened outside of an educational setting to an adult in a workplace there would be arrests) that Badi suffered at his first school. Nor did it tone down the situation at his new school: the all-out push for sports against everything else (currently happening in a host of areas across the country in the wake of budget cuts), the uselessness of the teacher, the reaction when he refuses to sell the chocolate. 

At first his revenges are small, and easy. He refuses to sell the school chocolates. He refuses to blend in. Then as he shares what happened to him at his old school, he starts standing up for himself at his new school, and things start snowballing.  On a second read, I understand why he gets more manic/ragey (huge spoiler so I won’t go into it but definitely worth another read) but I can’t help but wonder if someone should have noticed his actions at the climax sooner. The fact that he realized the actions were wrong, and changes them at the last minute makes for a stronger ending. I have hope for Badi.

Another faction that I loved was his family interaction and the shame that he’s made to feel for having depression and panic attacks.  Part of it is his cultural heritage, but part of it is also the stigma we as a society have against depression. This is so extremely painful it hurts, and it’s all to real for anyone who has mental illness of any type.  When you have depression and/or panic attacks, it’s a double stigma, because in life everyone is supposed to be happy and be able to deal with everything, and when you’re not, take a pill and get off the couch. It doesn’t work that way, and add in the fact that you’re shaming the family as well as dealing with your own issues is a double whammy. 

I thought it was a really well written and thought out book, and would not have any hesitation recommended it to my older teens.

Book Review: Dare You To (Pushing the Limits 2) by Katie McGarry

Dare You To ISBN:
9780373210633

” I dare you . . .”

So much of life seems to start with a simple dare.  Ryan Stone and his friends are spending the evening daring each other to collect phone numbers when Beth walks in.  Beth looks hard, and there is no way that Ryan will get her phone number.  Beth, you see, is hiding a secret.  If people knew what her home life was like, they would take her out of it at once.  An uncertain future seems more terrifying than the things that are happening at home, no matter how bad they are.  Soon the two find themselves being drawn to each other in an intense, passionate romance but can they dare themselves to love and be open.

“You’re a lot like that bird in the barn. You’re so scared that you’re going to be caged in forever you can’t see the way out. You smack yourself against the wall again and again and again. The door is open, Beth. Stop running in circles and walk out.” – Dare You To

Dare You To is a companion novel to Pushing the Limits, this is the second book in this connected trilogy.  The books aren’t sequels per se, but they tell the stories of various characters.  If you haven’t read Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry, you should do so now.  It’s okay – I’ll wait here.  See? I told you – Pushing the Limits is an intensely awesome contemporary romance, and Dare You To continues in that same vein.

“I like you. I. Like. You. I’ll admit you’re annoying. Sometimes you agitate me to the brink of insanity, but you can throw it back at me like no one else. When you laugh, I want to laugh. When you smile, I want to smile. Hell, I want to be the one to make you smile.”  – Dare You To


Beth is a sarcastic, difficult character at first.  She has walls, but there are good reasons for them.  But she also is strong and loyal and, when she allows herself to, dreams big things.  In many ways Ryan is a typical jock who knows that he can melt girls like putty in his hands.  But Beth, that is a challenge.  As their relationship grows, they must each allow themselves to be open.

“How many more of us are faking the facade? How many more of us are pretending to be something we’re not? Even better, how many of us will have the courage to be ourselves regardless of what others think?”  – Dare You To


There is some beautiful imagery here: birds in barns, rain water.  I am not going to lie, I am not very romantic and it made me get a little weak in the knees.  But this is more than a romance, it is a powerful contemporary that looks honestly at teen lives and emotions. Crash into You, book 3 in the Pushing the Limits series, is scheduled for release in December 2013.  This series is HIGHLY recommended. Dare You To is scheduled for publication in May of 2013, that gives you plenty of time to read book 1 if you haven’t already.

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Book Review: Hooked by Liz Fichera

Hooked by Liz Fichera ISBN: 9780373210725

Seth leaned closer when I didn’t answer him. He lowered his voice. “Then let me say something.” He jabbed his forefinger at me, “First, don’t lie. I am not a tool. I know why you flaked out Saturday night. I saw you.” It was as if he’d prepared for this. “I saw what you did.”

I glared at him.
A glint of satisfaction settled on his face. “We both did.”
“Who?” I blurted. But then I remembered the truck, the one that had peeled away in the dark.
“Gwyneth. We followed your ass to Pecos.”
“You followed me?” My voice rose is disbelief.

Seth began to stutter. I hadn’t heard him do that in years either. It only happened when he got really pissed. “And, s-s-s-second…” He stopped and drew in a breath to steady his speech. “Do you realize that you’re screwing your life by hanging out with that Indian?”

My body froze. “Shut. Up. Seth,” I said through clenched teeth. “Just shut up.” By now, half of Homeroom was listening, or trying to. Fortunately, the overhead speakers were turned up pretty loud.
“What do you have in common with her, anyway? Have you thought about that? And have you forgotten that she’s the reason I’m off the g-g-golf team?” Seth began to stutter again. I knew that he also was itching to remind me how his dad had been killed, but thankfully, he left that unspoken.
“You know the only reason you’re interested in her is because it’ll piss off your dad. Admit it.” Seth’s eyes grew dangerously dark, daring a contradiction.

My breathing got louder as I drew it between my teeth, glaring back at Seth.
Seth lowered his voice. “Are you going to start hanging out on the reservation now, going to powwows and shit? Have you gone totally lame?”

The Review:

When Fred Oday gets the chance to start on the boys’ varsity golf team, she knows that it won’t be easy. She’s a girl, she lives on the Reservation, and she can barely afford the clothes, let alone the fancy clubs the other guys have. The chance on the team could lead to a scholarship to college, however, which is the only way out of her otherwise dead-end future. 

Ryan Berenger cannot understand how the coach has lost his mind- letting a girl take a spot on the varsity team, without a try-out? And now Coach expects him to be her partner?  Never mind that she has a good (well, awesome) game, it’s going to be impossible, not only on the green but also in school as well.
Liz Fichera’s Hooked is much deeper than a star-crossed love story.  High-schoolers Fred and Ryan go to the same school, and are in same classes, but are never in the same circles until the golf coach discovers Fred’s natural talent at golf, and convinces her that scholarships and college await if she joins the varsity team.  However, Fred knows going in that it will be a challenge:  taking someone’s spot, being female, and being from the Gila River Indian Reservation are all strikes against her. It’s the themes of bigotry and racism that make Hooked stand out from others.  From the start, Fred is called all sorts of racist names, and the economic differences between Fred and Ryan stand out starkly.  Unlike a lot of recent female characters, though, Fred never strikes back at her tormentors, which could possibly be a result of her abusive home life.  This is also a very realistic portrait of a shy sixteen year old girl.  Readers will get engaged in Fred and Ryan’s stories, realize that not everything is perfect in either world, and wish that they will find happiness with each other.  This definitely could be paired with books like Dairy Queen or Shut Out for the sports aspects, or Perfect Chemistry or Boy Meets Boy for romance. 3 out of 5 stars.  (Rated 3.67 out of 5 stars on Goodreads as of February 10, 2013- please be aware Christie is a hard grader.)
I really liked Hooked, and enjoyed the look at golf as a high school sport.  I liked the fact that Fichera took the time to show that no one’s families were perfect- while we knew from the start that Fred’s was a little screwed up, as readers we learned pretty quickly that Ryan’s picture perfect family was as fractured as a dropped water glass.  I also enjoyed the accurate depiction Fichera painted of the Gila River Indian Reservation- we’re always lacking POC in teen fiction, and to have it brought to the forefront is refreshing.  
I thought that Fred’s reactions to the racism and bullying that she received throughout school and the team to be quite on point for a contemporary teen.  I know that we, as teen services librarians, and me personally, always want to see strong female role models, but Fred reacted exactly how a teen would react- she wouldn’t bring it up to anyone because to bring it up would make it worse, especially to a coach who lectured for a good portion the first day on how they were lucky to have a girl on the team.  There were no adults that could make her situation better, and by standing up in her own way (not quitting the team, not giving in) she was making her stand against the bullies.  And she was being a role model for those to follow after.
Ryan I had less sympathies for, and was glad that he finally got his act together near the end of the book- I could wish that he would have stood up to his friends sooner, but again, this is completely normal for a high school boy trying to figure out where he stands. 

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Cover Reveal: Stained by Cheryl Rainfield

In this heart-wrenching and suspenseful teen thriller, sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for “normal.” Born with a port-wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It’s that—or succumb to a killer.
Sometimes you have to be your own hero.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sr0a8pw-csQ]

From the author:
Like I did with SCARS and HUNTED, I drew on some of my own experiences of bullying, abuse, and trauma to write STAINED and to give it greater emotional depth. Like Sarah in STAINED, I experienced abduction, imprisonment, periods of forced starvation, mind control, and having my life threatened. And like Sarah, I tried hard to fight against my abuser, keep my own sense of self, and escape. I hope readers will see Sarah’s strength and courage, and appreciate her emotional growth as she reclaims herself.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, November 19, 2013

Cheryl Rainfield is the author of several gripping, realistic novels for teens including:
Parallel Visions: Kate sees visions of the future–but only when she has an asthma attack.
Hunted: Caitlyn is a telepath in a world where having any paranormal power is illegal. Monica Hughes Award finalist
Scars: Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself before it’s too late. GG Literary Award Finalist, YALSA’s Top 10 Quick Picks. 
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Book Review: Sparks by S.J. Adams

Ten Commandments of the Holy Church of Blue
  1. Matters of the heart come first.  Especially someone else’s heart.
  2. Be thou not an asshole.  This is the point to all religion.  Everything else is just commentary.  But exceptions can be made for people who deserve it.
  3. Goest thou on holy quests- do amazing things.  Silly, helpful, and seemingly pointless things are also acceptable.
  4. Taketh thou any detours or side trips or odd suggestions that come up, for they will lead thee to knowledge, and to adventure, and bring thee closer to Blue.
  5. Never put thy words in the mouth of Blue. Thou knowest not what sort of Spark of Blue is inside of thee, or what sort is inside of others. The entire Church of Blue is an educated guess. Remember this. Don’t get cocky.
  6. Floss thy fucking teeth. Thou only getteth one set.
  7. Weareth thou no garment that costeth thou more than a tank of gas.
  8. Thou Shalt Not Maketh Thy Home in Nebraska (Nebraska is bluish hell).

Secretly hiding the fact that her best friend is the love of her life, Debbie Woodlawn is heartbroken to find out that her BFF has gotten a boyfriend- and even worse, it’s NORMAN.  Having joined the Active Christian Teens and devoted every Friday night to Full House re-runs, Debbie is desperate to figure out how to declare her love for Lisa, so that their relationship might blossom. Enter Emma and Tim, the devotees of The Church of Blue, who take Debbie on a “holy quest” to profess her love and see what may come of it.  But will the quests of Blue take Debbie closer to Lisa, or will Debbie find out that her spark of Blue is more for something else?

Sparks is a hysterical and irreverent read from the get-go.  Debbie has joined the ACTs in order to spend all her time with her BFF- and the result is subjourning herself into the tight little box that fits into both Lisa’s religion and her mom’s worldview:  squeaky clean television and activities  while washing out her thoughts lest someone with mind-reading abilities can pick up the dirtier bits.  When Lisa gets a boyfriend, Debbie’s carefully constructed world falls apart, because she’s in love with Lisa, but never said anything.  Yet, mysteriously, she finds Emma and Tim, who have created their own religions, Bluddiasm, where holy quests are everything, everyone has their own spark of Blue that resonates within their sole, and a checklist of things that need to be done.  Thrust into their topsy-turvy world and needing to profess her love before Lisa and Norman go past first base, Debbie criss-crosses the town, learning new things about her friends and herself.

An excellent read, one that I would pair with Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, or Dash & Lily’s Infinite Book of Dares for the humor.  But be forewarned, those that are extremely sensitive about their religion might not see the humor, and there are *naughty words*.  4 out of 5 stars.


I really enjoyed Sparks, and not just for the finding themselves theme that goes on within the book.  Yes, Debbie is a huge part who needs to find herself (and after 5 years of burying her personality, who wouldn’t), but we also discover a whole underground with Emma and Tim.  They start off more sidekicks to the story, but as Debbie starts on the road to Bluddism, their story fleshes out even more.  You learn that Emma has major self-esteem issues, and that has lead to (or come from) eating disorders and weight issues.  She and Tim are criss-crossed lovers, with Emma re-routing Tim’s messages from the Queen Bee because she’s scared that he’ll be with the prettier girl, while Tim just wishes that Emma would believe that she’s beautiful and special and the one he wants to be with.  The holy quest that Debbie, Emma and Tim go on is not just for Debbie, but also for Emma and Tim- like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, where I always thought the movie focus should have been about Cameron and his growth rather than Ferris and how he got out of everything.

The only thing I would hesitate about with Sparks is giving it to some of your teens that you know are ultra-religious.  It does poke fun of Christian group stereotypes, and some teens might not be able to see the humor.  Others, however, will lap it right up.  Sparks is definitely one of those books that I’ll re-read over and over.
Flux by S. J. Adamds.  Published by Flux, 2011. ISBN: 978-0738726762

Book Review: The Dead and the Buried by Kim Harrington

     “Jade. . .”
The voice came again. Sure now, I threw off the covers and padded into the hallway, wincing at the noisy floorboards. I peeked my head into Colby’s room. He was sleeping- fitfully. He groaned and rolled over, then back again. I tiptoed down to my parents’ room. Marie was sleeping on her side, one hand hanging off the bed. Dad was lightly snoring.
So who’d called me?
I turned slowly, now at the top of the staircase, and peered into the darkness below. This was where it had happened. Where Kayla fell . . . or was pushed.
I placed my hand on the banister, closed my eyes, and imagined Kayla placing her hand in the very same spot, trailing her fingers over the polished wood . . . then feeling her balance go out from underneath her. I imagined what she must have felt in the instant she realized she was falling through the air. The terror that must have gripped her heart. The panic rushing through her veins as she rushed toward the bottom.
I saw the floor coming up to meet her, fast and furious, but then realized in horror that I wasn’t imagining anymore. My hand no longer gripped the banister. I wasn’t picturing Kayla falling.  I was falling.
What happened? Did someone push me? Did I fall on my own?
I screamed but no sound came out. The air rushing at my face told me I was falling fast, but it seemed to be happening in slow motion. I tried to put my arms up, to soften the blow I knew was coming to my head, but I couldn’t move my limbs. I was paralyzed.

And then I hit bottom.

17 year old Jade has just moved to suburban Boston, and is concerned about fitting in with the huge high school and the crowds that have been together forever.  Little does she know that she’s just moved into a murder house- where the Queen Bee and Mean Girl, Kayla, died earlier in the year. Now Kayla’s ghost is haunting the house and threatening her little brother Colby, forcing Jade to find out who killed her before something dangerous happens to her family- or to Jade herself.  Drawn deeper into the mystery and Kayla’s clique of friends and frenemies, can Jade figure out who the murderer is, or will the ghost (or the murderer) win out and destroy Jade instead?


Jade is instantly the talk of the school- not for being the new girl, but for being the girl who moved into the “murder house”, which her dad and step-mom conveniently forgot to tell her about. Her little brother tells her about seeing a shimmery girl in his room, which is the ghost of Kayla- the girl who died under mysterious circumstances earlier in the year.  While Jade would rather try and go through senior year, Kayla has other plans- find her killer, or Jade’s family will suffer.  And the killer seems to be one of those who knew Kayla and felt she had it coming, because as readers find out from Kayla’s journal entries, she gives Regina George a run for her money.

The alternating format gives readers a huge chill and enormous insight into Kayla’s character and the possible motives behind each suspect, while Jade races to find out who the killer is before anything worse happens to her family.  The tension between her stepmother and Jade is extremely believable, and hits just the right note, as does the building of suspicions between suspects.  Will keep you on edge, but do NOT skip to the end of the book, no matter HOW MUCH you might be tempted!!!!  A good pair with Anna Dressed In Blood, although not nearly as much gore, and will go over well with those who like Kimberly Derting (Body Finder series).  4 out of 5 stars.


eARC, and was saving it for after committee readings, and then found it on the shelf at a local chain bookstore while browsing with some of my teenagers, and while they buried themselves in manga, I buried myself in this and read it cover to cover.  I love how Harrington built all of her characters- no one is shiny perfect, everyone has flaws and facets that revel themselves page by page. Jade has her tortuous relationship with her stepmother, as well as her struggle with fitting in and then finding the killer, while trying to figure out who to believe- let alone trying to figure out where she fits in her family and missing her mom. Alexa is wrapped up into her studies and everything has to be perfect, and when it’s not, then her emotions come up to the surface. The secrets are everywhere, and that’s never more apparent than Kayla’s writing.
You’re never quite sure who’s she’s talking about at first in her entries- she’s got people down as numbers instead of names (a little Gossip Girls twist), but little by little you get clues and hints. First from Alexa, then from Faye, Kayla’s supposed best friend, and from others along the way. I didn’t figure out who the killer was until the end, and that is always the sign of a good mystery to me. The reasoning was well thought out and extremely plausible as well- definitely not a “you darn kids” ending like YA mysteries can turn out to be at times.  Absolutely a get signed and save book.  
The Dead and the Buried is currently rated as 3.82 stars on Goodreads as of 1/5.  It is published by Scholastic, ISBN 978-0-545-33302-3.

Book Review: Tempestuous by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes

“Who cares what they’re doing as long as they’re at the other end of the mall?” Ariel seemed unperturbed. “We’re just in here for the night. What do we need with all that stuff, anyway?”

“Don’t you get it?” Derek answered. “We don’t know what’s happening out there with the storm. we could be snowed in here for days. What if we lose power/ This could turn into a survival game.:
“See?” I said to Caleb chidingly.

“It’s war. You’re involved now whether you want to be or not.”

“wait a sec,” Chad said, “before we get ahead of ourselves. . . Don’t we have bigger things to worry about? Like  oh, I don’t know. . . the computer store thief?”

“What about him?” I said with a shrug.

“They aren’t even real,” Caleb said. “We sell some just like those at Got Games.”

“Oh, they’re real,” Troy said.

“If they’re so real, how come I know the trick to get out of them?” Caleb said.
He twisted his wrist a few times even though it was clear there was no way he’d be able to get his arm out of them. He looked confused. I yanked back on my end of the handcuff.

Troy stuck his hand in his back pocket, this his front pockets.

“I. . . what the hell?. . . I can’t find the key. It was in my pocket,” he said. Caleb and I both looked at him expectantly, our irritation growing. “I’m serious.
He looked around the ground at his feet and everyone else did, too, but the key was nowhere to be found. Just brilliant. Brian, Rachel, and the Itneys were going all Lord of the Flies on us, a potentially armed criminal might or might not be somewhere in the mall, and Caleb and I were handcuffed together. What more could go wrong?


Forced into the pits of loserdom of working the mall food court to pay restitution for her crimes (and others as well), Miranda Prospero (sound familiar, English majors? Think very loosely of The Tempest) is trying to figure out how to survive the last few months of her senior year without gathering more attention from her former crowd, the Itneys. Yet life has other plans- in the form of a blizzard that shuts down the mall before Miranda, her co-worker Ariel, her ex Brian, her former BFFs Rachel, Whitney, and Britney,and other mall workers and mall rats can get home, and oh, yea- the THIEF who starts smashing and grabbing stores.  The preps and the nots set up camps at opposed ends of the mall, and Miranda sees her perfect chance for revenge- even while handcuffed to Caleb. Yet will Miranda discover herself or be focused on her revenge- and what about the thief?  

Tempestuous is the first of the author’s Twisted Lit series, and is extremely loosely based on The Tempest by Shakespeare- a few similar characters, everyone stranded together, a lot of learning about human nature.  It is a very fun and fast mystery, with a lot to hold readers and keep them immersed in the story.  There’s Miranda and her story, with not only her ex-friends and new friends, but Caleb and his backstory, Ariel and her growth; and a bit of fleshing out of secondary and third characters.  The mystery of the mall thief is a nice twist as well, as you’re not quite sure who it will be when people keep going in and out of the story line.  Definitely an entertaining read, one that I would pair with books by Louise Rennison or Rachel Cohn for the humor quotient.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

 SPOILER SPACE

I really enjoyed Tempestuous, it was amusing and catchy, and kept my interest throughout the book. I got invested in what would happen next- what would Miranda and Ariel do, and how would things progress between Miranda and Caleb, especially with the twists between the different cliques.  Askew and Helmes built a world could have come off as extremely superficial- instead, you could see how everyone fit in. And the reactions to the pranks and situations are not typical- the Itneys (Miranda’s old clique) react very different than what you expect to Miranda’s detailed revenge plans (including bunnies, henna, and hair dye gone rampant), and Ariel turns the tables on Miranda more than once.

Those that are expecting a hard mystery should look elsewhere- the focus is more on the development of character and discovering one’s self rather than finding the thief, although everything is neatly solved by the end.  It’s interwoven- don’t get me wrong, and adds tension, but it’s not a major focus point within the story until the last quarter of the book.
Tempestuous is the first of the Twisted Lit series, and part of the Merit Press new YA releases.  It has received an average of 4.06 stars on Goodreads (I am a hard grader, I admit) as of January 3, and was released on December 18, 2012.  ISBN: 9781440552649.