Archive for the 'Award Winners' Category



Beastly by Alex Flinn

Genre:  Fantasy/Fairy Tale

# of Pages 304

RAC Book:  Yes

2011 Iowa Teen Award Winner

Kyle Kingsbury is attractive, popular, and rich.  He is also a major jerk who loves to hurt other people.  When he decides to play a cruel trick on an outcast at school he is punished by getting transformed into a beast.  He has two years to find true love in order to be changed back into his handsome self and Kyle believes that is an impossible task.  His father does not even want to be around him because he is too horrified by his appearance and Kyle is sent to live by himself with a maid and a blind tutor.  Despite the hopelessness of the situation, Kyle begins to thrive and change.  So much so that when he finally comes in contact with a girl again he feels he might be able to love her…if only she could love him back.

This retelling of Beauty and the Beast is modern and old fashioned at the same time.  The story of Kyle and Lindy is heartwarming and hopeful so that the reader naturally wants them to get together and break the spell.  Readers will notice some symbolism with the roses and some of the character traits.  The characters are well developed and interesting to read about and many readers will enjoy the story, but especially those that enjoy books like Once Upon a Marigold.

Boost by Kathy Mackel

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Sports

# of Pages:  248

RAC Book:  Yes

2011-2012 Iowa Teen Award Winner

Savvy is a very talented basketball player who despite only being 14, makes the under 18 travel team.  She has to prove herself from the beginning, however, because not everyone welcomes her onto the team.  Plus, she is new in town after her family suffered some financial hardships in their hometown and were forced to come stay on their relative’s sheep farm.  Savvy wants to fit in and prove herself more than anything.  Meanwhile, her sister Callie is having a hard time fitting in on the cheerleading squad she so desperately wants to join.  The stress of the move encouraged Callie to put on a bit of extra weight and because of that her career as a “flyer’ could be in jeopardy.  Both of the girls want to “boost” their game, but what will they be willing to do in order to succeed?

Boost follows a family who is making a transition and hoping for the best.  They all want to support each other, but they are all going through difficult challenges as well.  As Savvy and Callie try to find their way in this new town they are faced with challenges and temptations that may or may not be in their best interest.  In the end, they realize they must support each other no matter what because there is nothing more important than family.  A good sports fiction story that fans of Dairy Queen will enjoy.

Iron Heart by Brian Boyle

Genre:  Sports Autobiography

# of Pages:  248

RAC Book:  Yes

2011 Iowa High School Award Winner

This remarkable true story follows Brian Boyle’s recovery from a horrendous car accident he was in when he was eighteen.  He was preparing to go to college on a swim scholarship and instead spent two months fighting for his life.  He had multiple surgeries and countless hardships ahead of him, but he made the choice that he wanted to fight for his life.  His parents were there to support him every step of the way as he slowly worked toward the same goals he had made prior to the accident.

This story is told in Brian’s words so the writing is not very technical or complex, but his words are very powerful.  Most teens will be able to relate to his feelings of helplessness as his dreams and aspirations after high school slip away.  They will also be able to identify with his perseverance and will to fight when no one thought he could.  The story is uplifting and heartwarming and will interest most teen readers, but especially readers who like reading about athletes.  Reading this story will give teenagers a lot to think about regarding their own futures and the choices they plan to make, but also the present and how they want to live for today.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Genre:  Science Fiction

# of Pages:  355

RAC:  Yes

In this futuristic society abortion is illegal, but children can be “unwound” between the ages of 12 an 18.  This means that the child’s body is used as spare parts for other people in need of transplants.  It is believed the child will live on through these other people, but the process of unwinding is vague and not discussed until the end.  Connor is sentenced to be an unwind by his parents, but he finds out and runs away before the unwind police can come get him.  Risa was born an orphan and has been raised by the state.  She has practiced classical piano, but is not the best one in the state home and is subsequently sentenced be unwound.  Lev is a tithe, which means his family’s religion believes that a child should be sacrificed for the greater good.  All three of these teens end up on the run and must fight to save their lives and prove they are worthy of living.

This is an interesting and thought provoking story that will inevitably bring up issues about abortion and dying.  The characters are likable and easy to identify with, even in these terrible circumstances.  The book moves along at a nice pace and the journey of the teens twists a bit which makes it unpredictable and exciting.  There is a lot of action and some gore as these three try to save their lives.  Fans of The Hunger Games and Girl in the Arena will enjoy this title.

The Year We Disappeared by Cylin and John Busby

Genre:  Nonfiction

# of Pages:  329

RAC Book:  Yes

2010 Iowa High School Award Winner

In this father-daughter memoir Cylin and John Busby tell the story of how John was targeted and shot on his way into work in 1979 and the course of their lives changed forever.  It was not an accidental shooting and John was in fact targeted for a recent arrest he had made.  John did not die from the multiple gunshots to his face and underwent multiple surgeries in order to restructure his face, learn to eat, and learn to talk again.  Meanwhile, the family was under intense police protection because it was unclear if they were safe from any subsequent attacks.  The overall stress of John’s injuries and their virtual imprisonment in their own home takes a toll on all of them.

The story is told in alternating chapters between Cylin and her dad.  This format really helps the reader to understand the situation from multiple perspectives.  The fact that it is a true story will interest young readers because it seems so outlandish that something like this could happen in any community.  There are some gory descriptions of John’s injuries, but most students will not mind this.  Overall, many readers will find this a page-turner and will want to recommend it to their friends.

Quad by C.G. Watson

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  296

RAC Book:  No

This story focuses on high school students from different cliques being thrown together in fear as an unknown shooter begins to take out students in the quad.  The six students all have their fair share of insecurity and have battled in high school antics, but they have trouble deciding who they think has snapped and brought a gun to school.  As accusations and fears fly they all must evaluate their own behavior as well as the behavior of others in the school.  They quickly realize that more than one person has reason to bring a gun to school.  Will they survive this threat?

This is a very accurate portrayal of the different cliques present at most high schools.  Along with the cliques comes the cruel treatment and calculated bullying and insults.  While accurate, parts of this story are difficult to read and may bother some students.   Quad is not the best bullying book out there, but would work well in combination with others such as Hate List and Wish You Were Dead and would be interesting to reluctant readers.

Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen

 

 

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  281

RAC Book:  Yes

2010 Iowa Teen Award

Holly writes her story in a diary style format as she escapes from an abusive foster home and goes on the run.  She describes how she travels, finds food, and avoids capture from police.  The life of a runaway is more difficult than many teens probably realize because many shelters will not help you unless you are accompanied by an adult.  As Holly weighs her possible choices, her main focus is always on survival from starvation, bullies, and even the haunting memories of her drug addicted mother who left her in this position.

Life on the street is much harsher than most teens realize and this book accurately describes what it would be like to have to fend for yourself at the age of 12.  The reasons for why Holly chooses to live on the street instead of a foster home are made clear as well as her fears of asking anyone for help.  The details begin to feel a little long at times as the reader waits for things to change for Holly.  The ending is satisfying, albeit a bit too easy after such a difficult journey.  Readers who like journal style entries like in Go Ask Alice will find this interesting.  Also, fans of A Child Called It will enjoy this quick read about a similar topic.

Elephant Run by Roland Smith

 

Genre:  Historical fiction

# of pages:  318 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Iowa Teen Award 2010

Nick Freestone is living with his mother in London during 1941.  When the blitz begins she sends him to live with his dad in Burma, only life isn’t much better there as the Japanese invade his father’s plantation.  Nick is held captive and forced to work as a slave and his father is sent to a prison camp.  Mya, a native girl whose family has always worked the plantation, is trapped as a slave with Nick because her brother has been sent to a prison camp as well.  When life begins to get worse for them on the plantation they decide to make a clever, but risky escape attempt in order to save Nick’s father and Mya’s brother.

Roland Smith always does a nice job of telling unique stories from different cultural places and times.  Elephant Run is no exception as Smith delves into WWII from an angle many adults and students do not usually hear about.  The invasion of Burma by the Japanese will be interesting to young readers studying this time or who just like adventure books.  The cultural aspects of life in Burma are described well and the characters are well developed.  A very unique adventure story that will keep Roland Smith fans coming back to find out what he will write about next.   

Waiting For Normal by Leslie Connor

 

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  290

2010 Iowa Teen Award Winner

RAC Book:  No

Addison and her mother have just moved into a trailer because her mother divorced Addie’s stepdad and he got custody of her two little sisters.  Dwight, her stepdad, promises to check up on her and bring the girls to visit, but Addie is not convinced that this will happen.  She misses them so much because she knows that life with her mother is unpredictable and hard.  As time goes on, Addie befriends the two people who work in the mini-mart across the parking lot.  Her mother disapproves, but Addie enjoys hanging out with them and knows she can always count on them.  Addie’s mom starts spending more and more time away from the trailer working on a new “business” and Addie begins to wonders when she’ll ever have a normal life and a normal family.  She begins to think she should stop thinking about it in case it never happens. 

Addie’s story is very believable as there are many young people out there who live in unstable homes with unreliable parental figures.  Due to the fact that Addie is very responsible, her mother takes advantage of her and treats her like another adult instead of like a child.  The characters are compelling and interesting.  Addie’s problems continue to get worse and it’s easy to see how she might begin to feel hopeless, but there is always a glimmer of hope and the story has a satisfying ending that will leave young readers happy.   Highly recommended for late elementary and junior high readers.

Shooting the Moon by Frances O’Roark Dowell

 

Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  163 p.

2010 Iowa Teen Award Winner

RAC Book:  No

Twelve-year-old Jamie is excited when she hears her older brother, T.J., has enlisted in the Army.  Their father is a Colonel and they have lived all of their lives on army bases.  She would love to go fight for her country too if they would let her.  She is surprised when their father does not want T.J. to go to Vietnam.  He does everything he can to convince her brother to back out of his enlistment agreement, but T.J. persists and is sent to Vietnam almost immediately after basic training.  He sends generic letters home to his parents, but he sends rolls of film to Jamie.  She learns how to develop film by herself so that she is the first one to see the prints and she is surprised by the content of the film.  First of all, the war does not look at all as glamorous as she thought it would.  Secondly, there are many pictures of the moon, which make her wonder what her brother is trying to show her with the pictures.  Jamie soon decides she is not so thrilled about her big brother fighting in the war anymore. 

This Vietnam tale is a great way to introduce the Vietnam War to students this age.  Jamie’s perspective of the young child who sees war as glamour and heroes quickly changes when she starts seeing what is going on over there.  Her father is a well-written character as he is the one who describes some of the errors in the strategy used in the war.  The emotions and feelings of soldiers and families help the reader to truly get into the story and feel what it would be like to be in their position.  A very well-written book on a very difficult topic.

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  375

RAC:  Yes

Iowa Teen Award 2010

Josh and Sophie are fifteen-year-old twins who are thrust into a crazy adventure when they see some golems or “mud men” attack Josh’s bosses, Nicholas Flamel and his wife, Perenelle.  Nicholas and Perenelle have been hiding out for hundreds of years because they have possession of the Codex, which is a famous book that contains many spells including one for immortal life.  Dr. John Dee created golems to help him steal the Codex from Nicholas and ends up getting all but two pages of it and kidnaps Perenelle because she is very familiar with magical spells.  Nicholas is positive it is not a coincidence that Josh and Sophie were present at the time of the attack because twins are prophesied in the Codex.  He believes they have strong magical powers and do not even realize it.  Can he help them awaken and learn their powers in time to save the world from imminent disaster?

This fantasy story contains a lot of background knowledge and characters that actually existed.  The author provides a lot of information at the end about which facts are true and which are fabricated, which is fun for readers to learn after finishing the story.  The adventure moves quickly as Nicholas and the twins are attacked by many different mythical creatures.  The ending is very exciting, unique, and will leave readers wanting more.  Readers who like The Lightning Thief or Alfred Kropp will want to pick up this title.

Football Genius by Tim Green

2010 Iowa Teen Award Winner

Genre:  Sports Fiction

# of Pages:  244

RAC: No

Troy believes he can predict football plays if he watches games closely and understands the pattern of the plays.  When his mom gets a job with the Atlanta Falcons he tries to tell the defensive coach his gift so that his favorite team can win a game, but instead he is escorted off the field by security.  In the process of trying to help his team, he gets himself and his mother into a lot of trouble.  His only hope is to somehow contact the linebacker, Seth Halloway, and get him to believe in his unusual skill so that he can help the Falcons win.  Meanwhile, Troy is having trouble with his own football team because the class bully’s dad is the coach and refuses to let Troy play, despite the fact he is the best quarterback they have.  Can Troy ever get anyone to recognize his talent and passion for football?

This fun football story will engage even the most reluctant male readers.  There is excitement, drama, family turmoil, strong friendsip, and of course a lot of football action.  The age level is a big too low for my school, but the story is fun and the characters are engaging.  Sports fans will enjoy this quick read.

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  174 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Iowa Teen Award 2010

This WWII story is based on true accounts of a boy named Helmuth who lived in Germany when Hitler took office and was forced to join the Hitler Youth.  As he got older he began listening to an illegal radio and was shocked to find out how much the German media was keeping from the people.  He decided to create some pamphlets informing citizens of the actual losses Germans were suffering in the war.  He was caught for his crimes and faced trial and a possible death sentence for what he had done.  Helmuth had to come to terms with the fact that he may die at a young age and wondered if he felt it was worth it for standing up for what he believed in.

This chilling story based on true facts moves quickly and provides a different view of WWII.  Bartoletti helps young readers to see what it was like to be a German during this time, how they were lied to, how afraid they were, and the kind of torture the Nazis were capable of doing even to their own citizens.  Fans of books from this era will enjoy this and want to know more about this person.  The only criticism would be that fans will want to know more about Helmuth than is provided in the story.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Genre:  Science Fiction

# of Pages:  265

RAC Book:  Yes

Iowa High School Award Winner 2010

Jenna Fox was in a horrible car accident and wakes up a year later in a different part of the country with no memory of the previous year.  She lives with her mom and grandma and her dad is back home.  No one will tell her why they moved or why she has no memories of her life.  They assure her it will take time to recover and remember who she was.  In this book, it is possible to replace organs or create clones, but it is illegal to do so.  As Jenna starts piecing together bits of information that do not make sense she starts to wonder what her parents were willing to do in order to save her.  How far would a parent go to save a dying child?

Students who like Jodi Picoult books will enjoy this one, because it moves quickly and has several twists and turns in the plot.  There are also many moral issues discussed as the society struggles with the previous overuse of antibiotics that have annihilated several species of plants and animals on earth.  What scientific measures are appropriate if the intentions are good?  When does it go too far?  An interesting futuristic story that will leave the reader thinking about the possibilities the future could hold if we do not monitor some of our ways today.

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  400

RAC Book:  Yes

2010 Iowa High School Book Award

Jena and her four sisters use a secret portal to sneak into the woods to dance with the magical creatures every full moon.  When Jena’s father gets ill and is sent away to recover, she is left in charge and her cousin Cezar begins to take over.  Cezar believes that women are frail and need to be looked after by men.  As Jena struggles to take care of her sisters, their home, and her father’s business she always has her best friend, Gogu, by her side.  Gogu is a talking frog that only she can hear.  As Cezar becomes frantic trying to control the five sisters, Jena starts to worry that all is not well in the wildwoods either.  Can she protect her sisters and everyone else she cares about from a power hungry dictator?

This fantasy story begins a little slowly as the characters are introduced, but accelerates quickly as the family battles Cezar on a daily basis.  There are some twists and turns along the way, but a few are fairly easy to predict.  The end will leave readers wanting more.  Highly recommended for fantasy lovers.



Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 166 other followers