Published June 2, 2014
RAC , Realistic Fiction
Tags: abuse, ace, cab, confidence, dating, family, friendship, goals, loneliness, mission
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 357
Ed Kennedy has zero goals or aspirations for life. He works as a cab driver, lives with an old dog, and plays card games with his three underachieving friends. After witnessing the worst bank robbery he’s ever seen, Ed manages to help catch the robber sheerly by luck. Afterward, he is given quite a bit of notoriety, but more importantly he receives a playing card with three names on it. He quickly realizes that he needs to find ways to help the people named on the card and some are much more difficult than others. Each person changes Ed a little bit and he begins to wonder how many names there will be. He has evidence that someone is watching him to see if he is completing his tasks, but who? What is the purpose of these little missions?
This powerful story makes you think about the choices you make everyday. Ed never planned on making much of himself simply because he didn’t think he had any real potential or skills. These missions help him to learn that he can indeed make a difference in many ways. What is he meant to do? His friends are no more motivated than he is, but as he continues his journey he begins to discover that they all have secrets of their own. There is some sexual references and mild language, but the story will leave you thinking about the character and the message for days to come.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
RAC Book: Yes
2014-2015 Iowa High School Award Winner
Every year a list is posted the Monday before Homecoming listing the four prettiest and four ugliest girls, one for each grade respectively. Each chapter follows one of the eight girls and how they cope with the existence of this list. Danielle, the ugliest freshmen, must deal with the fallout of how her boyfriend handles the news that she was voted on this list. Meanwhile, Abby, the prettiest freshmen faces possibly not being allowed to go to the dance at all due to grades. The “ugliest” sophomore is actually a cute, but very mean girl who is deemed “ugliest” on the inside. The “prettiest” sophomore girl is a girl who has been home-schooled for her entire life and is trying to find independence from her mom with great difficulty. The prettiest junior, Bridget, feels pressured into an eating disorder in order to maintain her image while the ugliest junior reacts quite strongly and refuses to shower or change her clothes for the entire week after the list comes out. The ugliest senior is the first ever to earn that particular honor for all four years of high school and she pretends she is totally fine with it. The prettiest senior feels the pressure to follow in her sister’s footsteps who was the prettiest senior the year before and seemed to fall apart afterward. Each chapter follows a different girl as she navigates through this very difficult week.
This book has earned many awards for good reason. This book delves into many serious issues for high school girls including insecurity, the fear of being excluded, worrying about what others think, eating disorders, dating problems, academic trouble, lying, and problems at home. No one on the list finds happiness no matter which side of the list she is on. While the circumstances around the list may seem unbelievable, the issues surrounding it are completely believable and exist at every high school. A great book to recommend to high school girls, especially ones who are having trouble adjusting.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 328
Dane is a bully who is a mere few strikes away from expulsion, but he still can’t seem to keep his fists under control. One day he notices a boy with Down Syndrome following him to school and he decides to put him in his place, but surprisingly the boy immediately has an effect on him. His name is Billy D and he is Dane’s new neighbor. Billy D wants Dane to teach him how to fight and find his father and in return he will tell the Warden at school how much Dane is helping him navigate the new building and protecting him from other bullies. As Dane walks Billy D to and from school everyday they start to become friends and Dane helps Billy D solve the clues his father left for him in an old atlas. Billy D is sure that the clues will lead to his father’s location, but Dane is starting to grow concerned that this path to Billy’s father might end with him getting hurt in some way. Can Dane help Billy D long enough to avoid expulsion? Can Billy D solve the clues and do those clues lead to his father? What is the reason why he does not know where his father is?
Dane and Billy’s unlikely friendship pulls readers in as they try to follow the clues left by Billy’s dad. You can’t help but want to know about Billy’s backstory and all the things he doesn’t want to tell Dane about. Meanwhile, Dane is dealing with a single mom, an absent dad, and unexplainable rage issues. Can these two find a way to help each other grow? The characters are incredibly complex and sympathetic which fuels the entire story. Recommended for reluctant readers.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 391
Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road for five years as he worked for a trucking company, but he has decided to return to his home town so that she can go to a normal school. Unfortunately, Andy suffers from severe PTSD following his tours in Iraq. Due to this condition, Hayley is constantly watching out for Andy to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself or anyone else as he often uses recreational drugs to try and cope. Hayley refers to betrayals in her past that lead her away from trusting anyone now with knowing their troubles. When she meets Finn she realizes that there might be people out there who also have struggles at home and whom she might be able to confide in. Can she ever be a normal teenager who worries about boys and schoolwork or will she forever be the parent in her house? Can she open up to Finn and let him know the horrors she potentially faces each time she goes home?
Fans of Anderson’s titles Twisted and Speak will love this title. It is very current and relatable while also revealing characters with personality and depth. Many tough issues are discussed in this book such as domestic violence, drug use, suicide, and death, but they are all introduced in a way that does not feel forced. The ending may or may not satisfy some readers, but in life things don’t always end perfectly and Anderson’s ending rings true in that respect.
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Romance
# of Pages: 325
Park is a half Asian student who lives in a tough neighborhood of thugs and bullies, but has always managed to stay under the radar. Eleanor is a new student who has bright red curly hair and is a bit overweight. She immediately becomes a target for the bullies at school and Park takes pity on her and allows her to share his seat on the bus. They do not talk at first, but eventually they start sharing music and comics. Eleanor never talks about home, however, and as their friendship begins to shift toward a more romantic relationship Park begins to understand why she never discusses her family. Can Park protect her from the bullies in her life? Does he have the courage to do so?
This powerful modern day romance will connect with John Green fans who enjoy unique and truly memorable characters. There are many interesting descriptions used and information about both Eleanor and Park is revealed through surprising and yet realistic means so that the reader truly learns certain pieces of information at the exact moment that it occurs to the character. Highly recommended.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 231
Robie lives in the Midway Atoll with her family, but often goes to stay with her aunt in Honolulu. One summer, her aunt is called away unexpectedly and Robie decides to take the shuttle plane home to her parents. The phones are out so she cannot call her parents and tell them she is coming and in the commotion she forgets to get weighed before her and her bags climb aboard the plane. A major storm knocks out one of the engines and the plane goes down. Robie ends up struggling to survive in the middle of the ocean with only a raft and a few supplies. Can she survive out there by herself? Will anyone come to look for her?
This survival story realistically portrays exactly what it would be like to be drifting on a raft for days including symptoms of dehydration, starvation, and environmental dangers. The details of the region including geography, animal life, and weather are all perfectly accurate which helps this story to feel even more realistic. The story itself is very exciting and moves quickly so it is recommended for reluctant readers.
# of Pages: 229
This is the true story of Lopez Lomong and how he was kidnapped from church as a six-year-old and taken to be a child soldier. He later escaped and was taken to a refugee camp where he lived for ten years. When he was finally taken to the United States, it was through a program in which a number of “lost boys” were brought to the U.S. He was taken in by a loving family who introduced him to the modern conveniences of life such as light switches and beds. Ever since watching Michael Johnson race in the Olympics Lopez has hoped to achieve this goal someday. Will he have what it takes to make his dream come true? Will he be able to adjust to life in the U.S.?
This powerful story truly captures the plight of these “lost boys” from Sudan. Many were forced to be child soldiers and were treated terribly in the process. Even the ones like Lopez who managed to escape had difficult lives and very little education. Lopez outlines how family, support, education, and faith helped him to become the man he is today and now he’s dedicated his life to helping others out of the same situation. Recommended for reluctant readers and runners.
Genre: Futuristic, Mystery
# of Pages: 360
In the town of Claysoot all men are taken at midnight on the night they turn eighteen while the entire town watches. This has been happening since the beginning of the town’s existence, but no one knows what happens to these teens or who is behind it. After watching his brother Blaine get taken, Gray learns they are in fact twins. Therefore, he knows whomever is taking these teens did not know this or else he would’ve been taken too. He decided to take the deadly trip to climb over the wall that surrounds the town in order to find out exactly what is going on and who is controlling all of them. Emma, his childhood friend, follows him and climbs the wall too. What will they find on the other side of the wall? Will they live long enough to find out?
Another offering in the rapidly growing dystopian genre, this book will easily find an audience. The details of the rustic town they live in give the reader an idea of what life was like growing up in Claysoot. For example, Emma and her mother work as the town’s only healers. Many of their priorities and rituals seems a bit shocking, but this town is trying to survive without any adult men so simple ideas of getting married and having families suddenly become an impossibility. The characters that are introduced are colorful, multi-dimensional, and full of a desire to learn the truth no matter what the cost. My high schoolers are waiting in line for this title.
Published February 28, 2014
Mystery , RAC , Realistic Fiction , Romance
Tags: accident, aspirations, college, death, goals, parent/child relationships, scholarship, teenage relationships
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 277
Parker is a high school senior who has always followed the rules and done what she was supposed to, which is why she is currently a finalist for a prestigious scholarship that would give her a full ride scholarship to her dream school. Her best friend, however, feels she needs to break a few rules before graduation. The opportunity surprisingly arises when she is asked by a teacher to mail out notebooks full of wishes and goals written by a group of high school seniors ten years prior. As she gathers the notebooks to send out to these graduated seniors from ten years ago she comes across one for a Julianna. This is a big deal because Julianna died in a car accident with her high school sweetheart shortly after graduation. They have since been immortalized in the town as the “golden couple” who were meant to be together forever. Parker decides to open the notebook and read what Julianna’s last thoughts were in those weeks leading up to her death. What were her aspirations? Her dreams? When Parker starts reading the notebook, however, she is very surprised by Julianna’s words and it makes her question everything the town promotes about this girl. Was there more to that fateful night that led to the horrific car accident? Parker decides to investigate.
Fans of Sarah Dessen and Nicholas Sparks will devour this title. It is full of colorful characters, including Parker who is always pushed for greatness by her mother but deep down she doesn’t really know what she wants for her future. Meanwhile, Julianna’s notebook opens a flood of feelings and fears leading up to graduation that anyone could identify with. Plus, there is the added intrigue of finding out what exactly happened to Julianna and her boyfriend. It’s a fun romance story that will be popular with many young adult teens.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 405
Sloane and James live in a world where teenage suicide is suddenly very common and often unexpected. They are still reeling from Sloane’s older brother’s suicide, which they both witnessed. Despite having many mixed up feelings about all the loss and stress around them they feel compelled to act happy all the time for fear they will be sent to The Program. The Program is the government’s answer to all of these teenage suicides and so far the only answer available for stopping them. Teenagers believed to have suicidal warning signs are sent to this building for 6 weeks and when they emerge they are completely happy and oblivious to their old life regarding friends, appearance, and personality traits. Sloane and James are terrified of The Program because of how some of their friends have returned, but parents are truly terrified of losing their children to suicide and will call the authorities if they are at all nervous about their child falling prey to this epidemic. Can Sloane and James keep each other safe and out of The Program? What will The Program entail if they do get sent there and are they strong enough to resist?
There are several epidemic type stories that are popular right now such as Delirium and Blackout and this one will find an audience with fans of those books. The motivations behind the teenagers and parents are accurately portrayed so that the reader can truly identify with everyone and their fears and motivations. The setting itself is told in such a believable way that it is easy to imagine how a community could get to the point of instituting something like The Program. The relationship between Sloane and James proves to be incredibly strong throughout the book and reveals their true feelings for each other. Like many other YA novels this one leaves an opening for a sequel. Recommended for reluctant readers.
Genre: Science Fiction/Mystery/Adventure
# of Pages: 310
Michael enjoys playing video games, but he lives in a world where the best games are part of the VirtNet. In the VirtNet you can actually immerse yourself completely into the game and leave your body behind in your house. There are many types of games you can play, adventures you can try, and friends to meet in the virtual world. People like it because they can do things they wouldn’t normally do in real life and if they “die” they simply wake up safely in their own home. Recently, there have been reports about a gamer who has managed to hurt people both in the game AND in real life. Michael and his friends are enlisted to track this gamer down because they are very successful hackers and can see stuff others can’t. Michael and his friends learn quickly that this is no ordinary gamer and if they are not careful they will not come out of this alive. If they do not help the Virtual Authorities to catch this guy they will have all of their privileges revoked and can never game again. Can they face a life without gaming? Are they willing to risk their lives to keep gaming?
Fans of The Maze Runner series will enjoy this title as well. Like that series, this one has a fair amount of excitement and violence. The book is also set up as a series of tasks the characters must accomplish in order to be free. The tasks are very challenging and often scary, but the characters feel they have no choice but to press on and follow through. The ending is a bit of a surprise, but fans of Dashner would be surprised if there wasn’t a twist at the end. Video gamers, boys, and reluctant readers will enjoy this title.
Published January 17, 2014
Adventure , Mystery , RAC , Realistic Fiction
Tags: dating, drinking problem, family, murder, secret, trust, witness, witness protection
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 312
Meg and her sister, Mary, have been moved from one location to another multiple times over the past year since their family was placed in witness protection. Each time they must change their names and backstories so that no one has any idea where they came from. They do not know why they are in witness protection and Meg blames her father for whatever he did that landed them in this hellish situation. Mary has begun withdrawing and their mother has started drinking heavily. The reason for why they have to be moved so many times is elusive to them too and Meg has about had it with being ignorant about their own situation. When they move this time she vows to remain neutral and distant so that she does not become attached to anyone or anything, but that becomes very difficult when she meets Ethan… Can she stand to lose him if they get moved in the middle of the night again? How can she ever make him understand why she acts the way she does?
This book is highly exciting and engaging as you learn the reason for why Meg and her family are in witness protection in the first place. People are obviously looking for them and Meg often feels as if people are watching her. At the same time, she is beginning to feel angry and bitter about spending her senior year going from school to school, working an after school job to keep her family financially afloat, and taking care of her family emotionally. Once the reality of their situation is revealed, Meg feels responsible to fix their situation even if it means putting herself in danger to do so. The ending is very dramatic, but a tad quick. Most readers will be satisfied by the resolution at the end of the story. Recommended for everyone, but reluctant readers will enjoy.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 378
This book follows four girls who have spent five summers at camp together over the years. The first summer was when they were ten and the last is a reunion weekend when they are 17. When they go to the reunion they had not actually all four been together for three years. The last night of camp three years ago they all had secrets from each other that have been threatening to come out ever since. Will they still be as close as they were all these years later? How have things changed since they last saw each other?
Fans of friendship books such as The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Peaches will enjoy this title. Maddy, Jo, Skylar, and Emma are four completely different girls who inexplicably came together as best friends. The secrets they have from each other of course bubble to the surface, but their friendship is stronger than they even thought. The feelings and motivations of the girls are well described and it’s hard not to care about them even if it is a little hard to believe they would be this close from just interacting at summer camp. There are some tough issues addressed such as betrayal, sex, poverty, and divorce.
Published December 18, 2013
Adventure , Fantasy , Mystery , RAC , Realistic Fiction
Tags: betrayal, friendship, futuristic, government, trick, trust, violence
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Mystery
# of Pages: 344
Cia Vale lives in a very small farming community on the outskirts of their civilization. The civilization was once ravaged by the Seven Stages War and everyone left behind is simply trying to survive. Every year when the local school graduates a class of students everyone secretly hopes that someone from the government will arrive to invite someone to the Testing. The Testing is a super secret test that only the best and brightest are invited to. No one really knows what it entails, but if you do well you get to go on to higher education. Cia’s father underwent the testing in his youth and is a very accomplished scientist, but he does not remember much about the test and seems leery of wanting his children to have this same great opportunity. No one from Cia’s community has been chosen for years, which is why it’s so surprising when four are invited, including Cia. As Cia begins her journey she is warned to trust no one. What has she gotten herself in to? Will she ever return from the Testing?
This book is definitely similar to The Hunger Games and Divergent, but for readers who enjoy that type of novel it is still very engaging. Despite some of the similarities to other stories out right now many readers will care about the characters in this book and wonder what will happen to them through the course of this testing. The book does have a fair amount of violence, betrayal, and overall treachery so readers who prefer lighter novels should keep looking. Recommended for reluctant readers.
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Mystery
# of Pages: 307
Emma is a foster child who was abandoned by her mother at a young age. Sutton is Emma’s long lost twin sister she didn’t know she had until Sutton had already mysteriously vanished. Emma is lured to Sutton’s town thinking she is going to meet Sutton and instead she is threatened and told if she doesn’t pretend to be Sutton she will die. As Sutton begins to learn more about the kind of person Sutton is she wonders if this is some kind of elaborate prank or if something terrible really has happened to her twin. Whom can she trust among Sutton’s friends and family? Would one of them hurt her and threaten her twin into taking her place?
Fans of Sara Shepard will enjoy this title as much as her others. The story is intriguing, there are many characters who have reason to hate Sutton, and the plot constantly twists and turns. The only thing readers might not like it waiting for the next one in the series! Recommended for high school girls.