Posts Tagged 'high school'

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Genre:  Suspense/Mystery

# of Pages:  294

RAC:  Yes

This take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, features 10 teenagers who were lured to a weekend house on an island for a party that they find out was never happening.  Instead, they start getting killed off one by one in extremely odd fashion.  Meg accompanied her friend, Minnie, to the party even thought she had some reservations to begin with.  She is also the only one who tries to think of constructive ways to get off of this island.  All of her ideas are thwarted, however.  There is no power, Internet, phone service, radios, or any way to contact the outside world.  They have ascertained they are indeed alone on the island which means the killer is among them.  How can they survive if they do not even know who or what the threat is?

This mystery is still a lot of fun even with the updated characters.  They all have past issues that all teen readers can relate to and in most cases those issues contribute to why they are on this island.  There are some plot revelations that are fairly predictable, but the suspense and overall pacing of the story will keep readers interested all the way until the very end.  A fun mystery story.

The Unidentified by Rae Mariz

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  296 p.

RAC:  Yes

“Kid” attends a futuristic high school that is actually designed by corporations using an old mall.  In this world the government can no longer fund public education and therefore corporate sponsors have taken over.  Students ideally want to win a sponsorship so that they can enjoy money, free clothes, and tech gizmos.  Kid’s not interested in earning a sponsorship because she is fine being anonymous, but her mother does struggle to pay the bills.  When Kid witnesses an unusual rebellious act she is the only person who takes notice and brings it to people’s attention.  This immediately earns her fame and she is offered a chance at a sponsorship.  Can she take it when it could mean losing her privacy and creative rights to her music?  Can she not take it when it could mean an easier life for her mother?

Fans of futuristic stories will enjoy this title.  The setup of the corporate school system seems unbelievable and yet believable at the same time.  Hopefully the story will encourage teens to think about the affect of corporations and sponsors on our everyday lives.  The story also shows how willing people can be to give up everything in order to gain fame and fortune.  The end seems a bit rushed and might confuse some readers, but overall they will enjoy it and return to find out what happens in the next installment.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Romance

# of Pages:  402 pages

RAC Book:  Yes

Mclean has been moving around with her dad ever since her parents’ traumatizing divorce.  Her dad is a restaurant consultant who goes into struggling restaurants to help them turn it around before it is too late.  This is the fourth city Mclean has lived in over the past two years.  Her relationship with her mother is strained at best as she tries to constantly bring her home and Mclean resists.  One of the reasons Mclean likes moving with her dad is because she can reinvent herself each place they go.  When they reach this latest location, however, she finds it harder and harder to ignore who she really is.  She especially has trouble pretending she is someone else when she is with the next door neighbor boy.  Can Mclean come to terms with her parents’ divorce?  Can she find herself and be prepared for college the following year?  Can she keep aloof with her new friends and refuse to form true connections?

Fans of Sarah Dessen will devour this book as it has all of her trademark appeal.  The characters are multi-dimensional and true.  The story is believable and does not rely on over the top plot twists to keep readers interested.  The relationships are so honest that anyone can identify with someone’s situation.  Overall, another gem for Dessen.  Teenage girls will love it.

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  313

RAC Book:  Yes

The Sullivan family enjoys a nice lifestyle living in a big house with a very prestigious reputation.  Their grandmother is nicknamed Almighty because she has so much influence in society.  On Christmas Day Almighty announces that one member of the Sullivan family has offended her and the entire family will be cut off financially if that person does not confess.  The three teenage girls immediately write confessions and deliver them to Almighty on New Year’s Eve.  They all three believe they were the ones to offend Almighty and put their family’s future in jeopardy.  What would you be willing to admit if your financial security depended on it?

This story is very interesting as the three confessions weave together and the reader tries to figure out who was the person who actually offended Almighty.  The characters are well written and easy to identify with, which makes it easier to care about what happens to this family.  The Sullivan parents are vapid and uninvolved, but the kids are all unique and have a healthy dynamic with each other.  The ending is satisfying, but it’s the confessions that will interest readers the most as these girls admit what they have done without thinking about how these actions could influence the family.   Recommended.

Payback Time by Carl Deuker

Genre:  Sports Fiction

# of Pages:  298

RAC:  Yes

Mitch True is a reporter at his high school and is extremely unhappy when he is assigned the sports columns.  Mitch dreams of one day being a star investigative reporter who breaks open huge stories, like Watergate.  He really wants to work on the school paper, though, so he dutifully goes to the football and volleyball games.  At one of the football practices he notices a new kid, Angel, off to the side with an amazing throw.  When he asks the coach about Angel he is brushed off.  When the season starts he sees that Angel is hardly ever played despite his obvious skills.  The more Mitch investigates this student’s past the more confused he gets and he starts to wonder if this is his big story.  Can Mitch find out why Angel’s trying to downplay his skills to everyone, including possible talent scouts?

Carl Deuker is a master of writing sports fiction high school boys love to read, but this might be his best yet.  The football action is written in an exciting and easy to follow manner, but the mystery behind Angel’s past is almost more engaging.  Even reluctant readers will struggle to put this mesmerizing sports mystery down.  Highly recommended.

Hit and Run by Lurlene McDaniel

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  180

RAC Book:  Yes

When Analise does not return home from babysitting one night her parents immediately call everyone, including the police, to try and find her.  They have no luck until the next morning when her badly injured body is found off the side of a road, where they believe she was struck by a car when riding home on her bike.  Analise’s parents and boyfriend are determined to find out who did this, but as time goes on the leads begin to go cold.  Meanwhile, Laurie is horrified when she hears about the accident because she believes she might know something about it.  The problem is that she has to decide if she should come forward with this information or use it to better her own life by blackmailing someone.  Will Laurie make the right decision or will Analise’s attack go unsolved?

Lurlene McDaniel provides a gripping tale told in many perspectives as several different characters try to cope in the aftermath of this hit and run.  The motivations of the characters are clearly portrayed as the reader sees how they all react to this tragedy.  Teens will like this book because it is so easy for them to think of themselves in any one of these character’s shoes.  The book is a quick read and teens will find the ending satisfying.  McDaniel is not afraid of tackling difficult issues and this is no exception.

A Wind in Montana by Mitch Davies

**Special Review**

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of pages:  271

RAC Book:  Yes

This new book by Mitch Davies follows a high school student, Rory, through his senior year of high school.  He finds a passion in chemistry and decides to quit band in order to study harder for a big scholarship awarded at the end of the year.  This decision does not go over well with his band teacher who argues he just wants to spend more time with his girlfriend, despite Rory’s insistence that he really wants to focus on chemistry.  Meanwhile, he begins to spend more time with another person in the chemistry group named Victoria.  They always seem to have a lot to talk about and challenge each other in many ways.  As they begin to grow closer and Rory splits with his current girlfriend, they both try to decide what they want in their futures. 

Senior year is a stressful and exciting time as you try to decide what you will do after graduation and what kind of person you ultimately want to become.  Mitch Davies does an excellent job of conveying how these different feelings and pressures are put onto these young students.  The relationships between colleagues, teachers, and parents are written in a way that anyone can identify with.  The ending is satisfying and will cause a lot of discussion among teenage readers.  Recommended for all readers, but high school students will get a lot out of it as they are struggling with similar decisions and pressures, not to mention the excitement of young love.  There is a bit of language and sexuality, but it rings true to the characters. 

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  405 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

In this gripping novel, Valerie is shocked when her boyfriend, Nick, brings a gun to school and begins shooting students.  She tries to stop him, but ends up getting shot in the leg before he turns the gun on himself.  In the aftermath, a notebook is found at Nick’s house of a list of people the two of them kept whom they hated.  People were put on this list for a variety of reasons, but mainly because they bullied Nick or Valerie or encouraged it in some way.  As Valerie courageously returns to the school for her senior year, she must face the repercussions of Nick’s actions as some people blame her and believe she should be in jail.  Others seem to think she is a hero for trying to stop the shooting and want Valerie to move on, but can she forgive herself for not seeing this coming?

This story forces every reader to think hard about his or her actions.  Everyone knows what it feels like to be picked on in some way and can identify with Nick and Valerie, but at the same time must decide how bullying should be punished.  Also, this book asks us all to think about how bullying can be stopped in schools or if that is even possible.  Valerie’s psychiatrist asks her to look at things for what is there and not what appears to be there.  This is something we should all be a little better at, but unfortunately it is often difficult to see the reasons behind certain behaviors.  Highly recommended.

To Be Mona by Kelly Easton

mona

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 15 and up

# of Pages: 218

RAC Book: No

Sage Priestly wants to be just like the most popular girl in school, Mona. She wants to be her so bad that she highlights her hair, loses weight on a crash diet, and throws out all of her black clothes and starts wearing pastel colors. The problem is that her mother has undiagnosed bi-polar disorder and cannot be depended on to get a job, buy groceries, or do any motherly duties. Her best friend, Vern, lives next door and tries to take care of her, but does not like the new changes she has made. Despite his efforts to become more than friends, Sage does not want to date him. Worse yet, she decides to date the high school jock who forbids her to see Vern. As Sage tries to deal with her mother spiraling out of control, the abandonment issues of her father, and completely changing her life, she starts to wonder if she really wants to be Mona at all or if she is happy being Sage.

This story has a good message to share with young readers, but takes a slow path to get there. The book has a few characters who do not seem to ever fully develop and one character that uses some very derogatory language which may offend some young readers. The ending is a little abrupt and it is unclear how Sage’s life will continue from this point. Mona’s character is not at all what most readers will expect and is a nice surprise in an otherwise fairly predictable book.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of pages: 288 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Clay Jensen is shocked to find a box of 13 audio tapes in a package addressed to him on his doorstep one afternoon. The note says that the tapes are to go to 13 people and if someone fails to send them on to the next person on the list then another copy of the tapes will be released publicly. As Clay begins to listen to them he learns that they are spoken by Hannah Baker, a fellow high school student who recently committed suicide. Each tape discusses one of the reasons that led to her suicide and which people were involved. As Clay anxiously awaits to find out how he played a part in her suicide he can’t help but notice how terrible high school can be and how a bunch of little, seemingly insignificant, incidents can add up to a terrible high school existence for someone else.

This story is powerful and not for someone looking for a fast read. It reminds us all that sometimes when something is said or done to hurt another intentionally it can have lasting effects and can even lead to other major events in that person’s life. The theme of the story is that we are all responsible for our own actions.  Hannah never denies it was her choice to end her life.  However, there were many times where someone could have acted differently that may have changed that decision. Even though it is a fictional story, many students will identify with at least parts of Hannah’s high school career and may even know someone showing warning signs for suicide. A very good read with an important message that students will hopefully think about long after they are finished.

Crushed by Laura and Tom McNeal

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of pages: 308 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Audrey and her two friends grew up going to a very small school and feel uncomfortable finishing their education in a large high school where gossip and bullying are rampant. They all manage by supporting each other. All of that begins to change when a new boy arrives and begins giving Audrey special attention. He seems enamored with her big house and expensive clothes. Everything goes great until Audrey learns that her life is not as financially stable as she thought it was. At that point, the new boy’s interest in her begins to wane.  At the same time an underground gossip newspaper begins mysteriously appearing in the halls and revealing deep secrets of both students and teachers.

This book highlights some of the many issues facing high school students today such as gossip, bullying, dating, money, friendship, and status.  High school students often feel like nothing can hurt them and believe the best in everyone, but this is also the time when they start to experience how tough it can be to be an adult by facing harsh realities from their families, teachers, and peers.  Audrey thought the worst thing that could happen to her was bullying, but quickly learns that many of the aspects of her life she thought were stable were anything but.  Most high school students will be able to identify with some aspect of Audrey’s life whether it be an unstable homelife, bullying, trouble academically, and betrayal from those close to her.  A powerful, but realistic story.

 

November Blues by Sharon M. Draper

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 316 p.

RAC Book: Yes

In this sequel to The Battle of Jericho November Nelson is dealing with the death of her boyfriend after a hazing ritual went bad. To make matters worse, she discovers that she is pregnant. She was planning to spend the summer in an Ivy League summer program which would hopefully lead to a very productive senior year. When she tells her mother about her pregnancy she is understandably upset. November faces a lot of difficult decisions as she endures this pregnancy.

Meanwhile, Jericho, the cousin of the boy who died, is having an equally difficult time coping with his friend’s untimely death. He decides to try football in order to have something new to do instead of the band, which he previously loved but now feels is a painful reminder of his cousin. He tries to help November in any way he can, but is struggling with his own emotions as well.

This was a good story about teenage pregnancy and death, but addresses similar concepts to The First Part Last. The characters were complicated and interesting and were the strength of the story. Nothing these characters were dealing with was easy and was not portrayed that way. The ending took an unexpected turn, but was a little predictable nonetheless. Most readers will guess what November’s decision will be, but will enjoy it anyway.

 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 230

RAC Book: Yes

Junior is a young teen ready to begin high school on the reservation on which he and his family live. Junior was born with several health problems and had to have surgery on his brain at only six months old. Despite that he is incredibly smart, if not maybe a little skinny and dorky. His best friend is the town bully and he often protects Junior from getting beat up everyday. On the reservation there is a lot of alcoholism and poverty and he is always getting picked on by those around him.

After getting suspended by accidentally hitting a teacher with an old text book, he decides to commute the 22 miles to the next town in order to go to a better high school. He wants to go somewhere where the teachers are qualified and the text books are not the same ones his parents used when they were in school. By choosing to leave the reservation for school others on the reservation treat him like a traitor, especially his best friend who now hates him. When he gets to the new school he finds they completely ignore him, which is worse than getting picked on.

This humorous story follows a young boy who sees no opportunities around him and tries to go searching for some. He is courageous and tough as he tries to navigate these two worlds. His accounts of daily events are presented through his comics, which are very inciteful and funny. This story will amuse students while also shedding some light on racism and the true conditions of life on the reservation.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Reading Level:  12 and up

# of Pages:  271

RAC Book:  Yes

Naomi was late at school one day working in the year book office when she tripped down some stairs and suffered a blow to the head.  The result was that she forgot the previous four years of her life, including everyone she met during that time.  Naomi has a difficult time trying to discover why she liked yearbook, tennis, and even her boyfriend.  At the same time she must come to terms with her parents divorce and her father’s new fiancee.

Naomi chooses to make many changes in her life because she believes that she is changed and cannot be the person she was before.  Everyone around her is unbelievably patient and understanding to her situation and never pushes her to do anything.  That does not mean that those around her, specifically her father and best friend, do not get disappointed by her subsequent actions.

The idea of this book was creative and interesting much like Zevin’s previous novel, Elsewhere, but it lacked the follow through that  one did.  The middle lagged as Naomi struggled with discovering herself, and the end was anticlimactic and boring.  No one will dispute that going through something like that would be traumatic, but Naomi seems overly selfish and mean at times to those who have been so understanding to her through everything.  All in all, a bit of a disappointment.

 

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker

Genre:  Sports

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages:  313 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Mick Johnson wanted to be the starting running back on his football team from the moment his father put a football into his hands at the age of four.  Mick was raised to believe his father was a tremendous football player who played for the NFL, but later realizes he did not get the full story.  He vows never to make the same mistakes his father made.

In junior high Mick starts to really gain speed and agility, but finds he is not as strong as he would like.  He starts to lift weights constantly, but he has a difficult time exceeding his past personal goals.  His father offers to get him some time with a personal trainer at a nearby gym and Mick goes, despite his coach’s concerns that it would be better to work out with his own teammates.  His personal trainer, Peter, offers Mick some steroid enhancements that he refuses.  After Peter assures him that they are harmless and will give him unimaginable strength, he relents and vows to stop taking them when the football season begins.

Mick loves the power and strength he gets when he takes the steroids, but when it comes time to quit he wonders if he has the strength to do that.  Carl Deuker is one of the most popular sports writers around because he combines exciting sports moments with real people who have real problems.  His books are interesting for anyone, despite their athletic ability, and this one is another hit.  Recommended



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