P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Genre:  Romance

# of Pages: 329

Iowa High School Award Winner 2018-19

Lily comes from a big and crazy family where chaos rules their house most of the time.  She likes to dress in a unique style, has unruly hair, and enjoys alternative music choices.  She even tries to write her own songs, but lately that hasn’t been going so well. She has a best friend, Isabel, who loves her for all her quirks but desperately wants her to find someone to date so they can have couple’s outings.  At school there is a boy she likes, Lucas, who doesn’t seem to notice her existence, and a boy, Cade, whom she despises and finds to be arrogant and rude at every turn.  After she gets her notebook taken away for writing music lyrics in chem class, she begins writing right on the desktop and to her surprise, someone writes a response and they have the same taste in music as her.  They begin exchanging notes back and forth and she really starts to open up to this person, but then becomes anxious about who her pen pal might be.  Could it possibly be the boy she’s been admiring or could it be the boy she dislikes with every fiber of her being?

Fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han will love this sweet romance about two people who think they know everything about the other only to find out they really don’t know anything at all.  Lily’s family is humorous in the background, but the heart of the story is really the romance between Lily and her pen pal.  Recommended for anyone who loves teen romances.

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The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  287

Iowa High School Book Award 2018-19

Adam Spencer Ross is a high school student who wants to be there for everyone who needs him, but he has OCD and therefore some tasks can be difficult for him.  He goes to counseling one on one and in a group every week and this does seem to help him cope with his OCD symptoms.  He often finds himself worrying about his group members, his stepbrother who has anxiety, and his mother who is getting death threats to the point where he simply cannot think about his own symptoms which then get worse.  Meanwhile, a new girl joins their OCD group and he’s immediately drawn to her.  He worries it’s a bad idea to get involved with someone who also has OCD tendencies, but he can’t seem to help himself.  Robyn feels the same way and they begin a sweet romance, but soon all the stresses in his life begin to make it impossible to ignore that his OCD tendencies are making it almost impossible to get through the day and Robyn’s seem to be going away.  As much as he cares for Robyn he worries that his being near her as she improves might actually hurt her recovery.  Does he have the strength to let her go for both of their sakes?

Fans of Eleanor and Park and The Fault in Our Stars will love this romance between two unlikely teenagers.  The characters are all engaging and despite the superhero nicknames, each teen in his OCD group gains depth and personality throughout the story.  The topic of OCD is described accurately and can help readers understand how this condition truly affects teens their age and in different ways.  This book also shows that although people with OCD have a lot to deal with they are also very loyal to those they care about.  The book has several plot lines that all come together nicely and realistically in the end.  Once readers make the choice to try this one they won’t be disappointed.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Genre:  Futuristic

# of Pages: 433

2018-19 Iowa Teen Award Winner

Citra and Rowan live in a world where all human problems have been eradicated including hunger, disease, and poverty.  Science has even made it possible to revive those who have died in accidents so that they can continue living without any complications or injuries.  Therefore, in order to curb population growth the governing entity has created scythes whose entire job is to glean, or kill, those they see fit.  Scythes are supposed to take their job very seriously and act with honor and compassion to those they glean, but there have been some rising up who seem to enjoy killing people and this has the traditional scythes very concerned.  Citra and Rowan are both chosen to be Scythe Faraday’s apprentices which means they will train with him for an entire year, but then only one will be ordained a scythe and the other will return to their regular lives.  At the first scythe conclave they go to, however, one of the more progressive scythes challenges Faraday’s choice to take two apprentices and proposes that the one who wins must glean the one who loses and the scythe rulers agree.  This puts Citra and Rowan in a tough spot because as they train together they become closer and closer and neither is sure if they could glean the other.  Is there a way for them both to exist in this “perfect” world?

Shusterman has done it again with this unique and engaging story.  The premise seems far fetched and yet the reader is pulled in almost immediately when Scythe Faraday is introduced.  All of the characters are well developed and make the reader want to know more about their intentions and motivations, while also watching them react to various plot twists.  Recommended for anyone from reluctant reader teens to adults who want something fresh and new.

Stone Rider by David Hofmeyr

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  323

Adam lives in Blackwater where jobs, food, and everything else are scarce and life is hard.  He lives with his disabled brother and harbors a secret crush on Sadie Blood, the girl who runs the bike repair shop.  Every year there is a brutal bike race and the winner gets to go to Sky-Base, the amazing city where there is plenty of everything including food and opportunities.  Adam would love to abandon this hard life for the easy one in Sky-Base, but he always worries about leaving his brother and Sadie behind.  Also, there is a group of thugs who enjoy terrorizing everyone around Blackwater and Adam isn’t sure he has what it takes to beat them.  Then, tragedy strikes and Adam knows that his only shot is to race and win.  Does he have what it takes?

This book is action packed and full of suspense as Adam navigates this dangerous track and competition.  Fans of The Maze Runner series will really enjoy this title as it has similar exciting plot twists and dangerous actions.  It’s easy to get engaged with the characters as they fight for their lives on an hourly basis in this tough town.  The ending will leave readers wanting more.   Recommended for reluctant readers.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  370

Jude, her twin sister, and their older sister were whisked away when they were seven to the land of faeries after their parents were savagely murdered before their eyes.  Jude’s older sister is actually her half sister and her father is from that land so she fits in well, despite not wanting to.  Meanwhile, Jude and her twin are picked on everyday since they are mortal and do not have some of the powers everyone else has.  They even have to wear protective charms because other can control them with glamours.  Jude is very headstrong and refuses to back down and comply when she is bullied and it often gets her into more trouble.  Prince Cardan, in particular, seems to truly despise Jude and makes it his daily mission to make her life a living hell.  When Jude is presented with an opportunity to raise her social status and protect herself from the likes of Prince Cardan, she jumps at it without really thinking about what she is getting into.  The King has announced he will be stepping down and choosing one of his six children to succeed him.  She knows this is a time when much can go wrong, but despite all her preparations she is unprepared for the treacherous plans already in motion.  Can she save herself and her family from those trying to destroy everything they hold dear?  Will she put her faith in the right person?

This book is immediately engaging and the characters are multifaceted.  Since it came out it has been constantly checked out and word of mouth is definitely spreading on this popular new fantasy.  There are many twists and turns in the plot and it’s difficult to predict how different characters will react to different situations.  This is a must have for young adult libraries.

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 449

Iowa Award Winner 2018-19

Emily and Sloane have been best friends ever since Sloane moved to town. They do everything together and Emily feels braver and more adventurous when she’s with Sloane, which is why it’s so hard when Sloane disappears one day. She stops answering her phone and her house suddenly seems abandoned.  Meanwhile, Emily’s parents have become suddenly absorbed in a new play they are writing and she feels she has no one to talk to.  Then one day Emily receives a list in the mail from Sloane of crazy things to do this summer and she thinks that if she does them she’ll somehow find Sloane.  Along her journey through the list she gets a job where she meets a new friend, and gets to know a boy from school she previously thought was too good for her.  She also does many crazy things she never thought she’d have the courage to do.  As she moves and changes, though, she still misses her best friend and hopes to find out where she’s gone.

This coming of age story about friendship is relatable to any high school student who has needed help finding their true personality as they grow up.  It’s easy to get caught up with what friends like or don’t like, but eventually we all have to find our true self and be brave enough to share it with others.  Emily’s story shows how intimidating that can be while also revealing how amazing the results can be when you put yourself out there. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han will love this story and will not be disappointed by the ending.  The list is fun, but it’s the characters who really shine.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  453

Iowa Award Winner 2018-19

From the author of the Lunar Chronicles series comes a story about the Queen of Hearts before she became the Queen of Hearts.  Catherine wants to open a bakery with her best friend and marry the new court jester, but her parents are insistent that she pursue the King who has shown great interest in her.  She does not want to disappoint them in any way, but she feels strongly about her desire to create pastries for a living and despite never having worked for a living she feels she could be successful at it.  Her best friend and maid is good with numbers and they hope to someday use Cath’s dowry to open their dream bakery.  Cath realizes she has had a privileged life, but also has never stopped dreaming and hopes she never has to.  When the new court jester comes to court she is instantly dazzled by his tricks and ability to show her amazing things she could never have imagined.  She hopes she has the courage to give up everything she has ever known in order to pursue her dreams, but she has no idea the many obstacles that lay before her.

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles series will enjoy this fun title.  Cath’s character is well developed and easy to identify with.  Jest is mysterious, magical, and brave in a way that makes it easy to see how Cath would become enamored with him.  The king, by contrast, is silly, weak, and refuses to deal with the new beast who has begun terrorizing the kingdom.  The world captures a lot of the magic from Alice and Wonderland but adds new modern twists as well.


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