Archive for the 'Award Winners' Category



What The Night Knows by Dean Koontz

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Genre:  Suspense/Mystery/Fantasy

# of Pages:  442

RAC:  Yes

Many years before the book starts, a terrible serial killer named Alton Turner Blackwood murdered four families within mere weeks.  He was only stopped because he was killed by the final survivor in the final family who was a fourteen-year-old boy.  Years later that boy grew up to be a detective and he has a family of his own.  Now, he feels very strongly that a recent murder resembles the first murder by Blackwood all those years ago.  He is not the detective on the case, but the more he looks around the more the resemblance is uncanny.  If he is right, other families will be murdered very quickly and his will be the final as the killer’s unfinished business.  The question he struggles with is how this is happening as the original killer was murdered and many of the facts in the case were sealed.  Is it a copycat or has Blackwood somehow returned to finish the job he started?

Fans or mystery and suspense will enjoy this very intriguing story.  Early on, all of the family members feel something is wrong and question their safety.  It’s unusual they do not discuss these fears with each other, however.  The ending is very satisfying and exciting as everything comes together quickly.  This title has been named an Iowa Award winner for 2013-2014.

Fire by Kristin Cashore

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Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  461

RAC:  Yes

In this companion to Graceling, Fire is half human and half monster.  She is amazingly beautiful and has the ability to control people’s minds, but due to the horrible things her father had done she chooses not to use her abilities and often covers her multi-colored hair.  She lives in a remote area with her best friend, Archer.  The Kingdom Fire lives in is in great turmoil as other kings are trying to take control of King Nash’s land.  After offering a warning Fire sensed to Nash’s mother he extends an invitation for her to come to the castle and help him identify other possible threats.   Fire chooses to go to the castle even though she is terrified of how people will react to her after the heinous deeds her father committed because she believes she must help save the kingdom she has grown to love.  As time goes on, however, it appears that whoever is out to get the king also wants her.  Can she save them all from certain destruction?

Fans of Graceling have enjoyed this title since its release and it has been named an Iowa Award Winner for 2013-2014.  Fire’s story is compelling as she struggles against a reputation she did not earn simply because of who her father is.  She is surrounded by strong, open minded people who yearn to overcome their bias of her, which is refreshing.  The plot is fast paced and involved an elaborate plot that most readers will not figure out too early.  The ending is very satisfying.  Recommended.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  318

RAC Book:  Yes

Augustus “Gus” and Hazel meet at a Cancer support group.  Hazel has thyroid cancer that forces her to use oxygen 24/7 and despite a new miracle drug, has always been given a short life expectancy.  She has adjusted to her relatively simple life, but that changes when she meets Gus, who lost a leg to Cancer, but has been Cancer free ever since.  They begin talking and exchanging favorite books.  Gus makes a huge gesture for Hazel so that a dream of hers can come true.  It isn’t until afterward that Hazel realizes how much he really gave to give her that experience.  As these two begin to fall in love they cannot help but wonder how long they really have and what they should do to make every day count.

This story is well-written and engaging.  Hazel and Gus’s story will resonate with young readers because of their sheer honesty and willingness to never give up.  The issues they have to deal with seem so heavy compared with other love stories, but it comes across as uplifting and life affirming instead of depressing.  Highly recommended.

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

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Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  328

RAC Book:  Yes

Tennyson and Bronte are siblings whose parents are English professors.  Tennyson feels very protective of his sister, Bronte, which is why he is upset when he learns she is dating Brewster who is known as Bruiser around their high school.  Tennyson tries intimidating Brewster and even follows him to try and get him to leave his sister alone, but what he ends up finding is that Brewster is covered in bruises and other injuries.  This leads Tennyson to believe that Brewster is being abused at home, but upon further inspection he realizes that Brewster’s situation is a whole lot more complicated than that.  Brewster, through no effort on his part, takes on the pain of anyone he cares about.  As Tennyson and Bronte start to get to know him they start to like having him around and vow never to tell Brewster’s secret.  The problem is that this unusual power is killing Brewster and he does not know if he can stop it before it’s too late.  What will he have to give to protect those he loves?

This story is very different and unique which is why it is so captivating and engaging.  Shusterman creates a set of characters that any reader can empathize with.  The chapters alternate between Bronte, Brewster, and Tennyson, which also helps the reader to see the situation through multiple perspectives.  This book is recommended for everyone, but could be especially useful with reluctant readers.

Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee

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Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  276

RAC:  Yes

Iowa Teen Award Winner

     Rosemary has struggled with her weight for a long time, but whenever she gets upset she turns to food.  Her aunt constantly reminds her to lose weight, which doesn’t seem to help inspire her either.  One New Year’s she decides she is ready to take control of her life and begins dieting and exercising, not always in the best manner.  As she begins to lose weight she finds more confidence than she ever knew she had before.  It isn’t long before she has a new best friend, a boyfriend, and overall happiness.  That all comes crashing down when she learns that her mother is battling Cancer.  Her mother is not the best at opening up and sharing her feelings, which makes it all the more difficult for Rosemary to discuss the matter with her.  Can she help her mother cope with this devastating disease?  Can she do it without falling back into her bad eating habits?

     Rosemary’s story is something any teenager could relate to because she has many insecurities and things she would like to change about herself.  She reaches the point where she is mature enough to realize she has the power to take control and make changes to her life if she wishes, but is not ready to deal with truly tough issues yet.  Rosemary’s romance is sweet because her boyfriend likes her for herself and not what size she wears.  There are references to his family that shed light on his endearing personality.  Rosemary goes from wishing she could stop eating sweets to finding ways to help her mother during this difficult time.  It is a coming of age story that readers will enjoy.

Red Glass by Laura Resau

Genre:  Multicultural Fiction

# of Pages: 275

RAC Book:  Yes

2011 Iowa Teen Award Winner

Sophie lives with her mother and stepfather and is known to be cautious.  Her family is surprised one night by a phone call from a local hospital.  The hospital had a small boy whose parents were killed crossing the border into the U.S.  The boy had Sophie’s stepdad’s business card in his pocket.  Although, they have no idea why the boy had the business card they felt it was up to them to take the boy home and care for him until they could find his extended family.  Pablo is slow to interact with the family, but eventually tells them his name.  They are able to contact his grandmother and tell her they will bring Pablo to visit over summer break.  Sophie knows that if Pablo chooses to stay in Mexico they will let him, but she does not want to lose her new found brother.  Sophie, her Aunt, her aunt’s boyfriend, and his son all accompany Pablo into Mexico to find his family, but along the way Sophie finds much more than that.

This story is a wealth of knowledge about life in Mexico and Central America. The characters are all true to their beliefs and find ways to help Sophie find her way in the world.  Sophie is a complex character who must face several hard truths in the story, but never fails to rise to the challenge.  Pablo reminds the reader of the innocent children who live in Mexico and South America and struggle due to the pressures of modern day economies and technology.  The book celebrates the life and customs of those who refuse to adapt to 21st century ways.  The story raises questions about how homogenized we have become as a global society yet at the same time how we ignore how people struggle in developing countries.  A very good read.

The Batboy by Mike Lupica

Genre:  Sports fiction

# of Pages:  246

2011 Iowa Teen Award Winner

RAC Book:  Yes

Brian Dudley is thrilled when he learns that he will be a batboy for the Tigers Major League Baseball Team.  He is also excited when he hears that his baseball hero, Hank Bishop, will be playing on the team after getting suspended for steroid use.  Brian loves baseball and loves working with the Tigers.  He strives to be the best batboy he can be and is shocked when Hank Bishop does not appreciate his efforts.  Meanwhile his father, who is a retired major league pitcher whom he hasn’t seen in over a year, comes to town to scout some players for Japan.  Brian hates to admit it, but secretly hoped this connection to baseball would bring them together again.   Can Brian earn Hank’s respect?  Will he ever reconnect with his father?  Will he still love baseball after a summer of working for the Tigers?

This book is for anyone who loves baseball.  Brian truly loves the sport in every way and his excitement is infectious.  Lupica definitely has an upbeat, positive writing style in which characters often seem a bit simplistic.  This won’t stop young readers from devouring his stories, however.  The sports aspects are well described and there’s always a lot of action and character conflict.  Recommended for sports lovers and reluctant readers.



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