Archive for August, 2007

Death at Deacon Pond by E.M. Alexander

 

Genre:  Mystery

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages: 189 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Kerri believes that she has psychic visions from time to time, many of which include visions of her now deceased father who died under mysterious circumstances.  Her father, a police officer, was believed to have killed himself, but everything Kerri believes coupled with her psychic visions tells her otherwise.  Unfortunately, no one wanted to hear about her psychic visions at the time and the experience was so painful she has tried to block them out ever since.

Kerri’s luck does not improve as she accidentally stumbles over a body in the woods one night.  She believes the man looked at her and asked for help before she passed out.  The police confirm that he was murdered, but several hours before Kerri found him which means he couldn’t have talked to her.  Kerri decides to use her powers for good and tries to investigate the crime more carefully.  She is convinced her visions will help her solve the murder and maybe give her some closure on her father’s case as well.

This book has an exciting ending, but it seems a bit rushed at times as the mytery unfolds and ties everything neatly together.  Also, it is a little ambiguous as to how much help her visions actually were in the solving of this crime.  There is some closure given to the characters at the end, but it still seems a little unclear as to how everyone around her can move on so easily after everything they have been through.  Fans of mysteries will enjoy it, but don’t expect too much depth or surprise.

 

Vandal by Michael Simmons

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age level:  14 and up

# of pages:  173

RAC Book: Yes

From the author of Finding Lubchenko comes this story about Will and his brother, Jason.  Jason has gotten into trouble repeatedly for most of his life.  Will, his parents, and his sister have tried a variety of ways to help Jason get his life straight, including family therapy, but nothing seems to work.  Will’s favorite hobby is to play guitar in a KISS cover band.  As the band grows in popularity, Will decides to offer his brother a job carrying equipment.  His parents have concerns and make Jason stay out of trouble for an entire month before they agree to it.  Unfortunately, Jason’s first night on the job yields a fight during a KISS Forever performance and much, much worse.  Jason appears truly sorry for everything he does, but continues to act without regard for people or property.  Will must evaluate his expectations for a future relationship with Will.  He must also decide if Will is maliciously hurting his family or if he really is unable to control his actions, each option is disturbing in its own way. 

 This novel does not have the clever persona telling the story that Finding Lubchenko does, which is a little disappointing.  Will seems to truly understand what it means to forgive even when it is difficult, but many readers will wonder how he can always support his brother as he continues to make poor decisions.  The fact that Jason seems unable to control himself is disturbing since everyone continues to cover for him and support him throughout the story.  It is difficult to see how he will ever be a responsible person with this safety net around him.  This book would be good for leading discussions on forgiveness and taking responsibility for ones own actions. 

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Genre:  Fantasy

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages:  275

Award Winner:  2007 Iowa Teen Award

RAC Book:  Yes

Fifteen year old Liz Hall is riding her bike to meet her friend at the mall when she is hit by a car and killed.  Liz goes to Elsewhere, which is the afterlife in this book.  In Elsewhere Liz meets her grandmother, who died before she was born and many other people who have also died.  Despite all the help she is offerred, Liz has a difficult time adjusting to life in Elsewhere.  She spends all of her time at the “observation deck” where she becomes obsessed with watching her family and friends all day long.  Eventually, Liz realizes that life does go on, just in a different way on Elsewhere and she needs to accept it and move on.  She finds a job and begins to learn about what life will be like for her while she is in Elsewhere.  There are still a few matters of unfinished business that Liz must take care of, however, which leads to trouble since contact with humans is strictly prohibited.

Elsewhere provides an interesting idea of what the afterlife could be like.  Zevin creates a unique place in which people and animals can converse and people get younger instead of older.  This book could spark insightful discussions with students about what they found most interesting or most difficult to understand.  The afterlife is something that no one can know for sure about, but this story provides a scenario that could lead students to ponder and evaluate their own beliefs.

 

Dead Connection by Charlie Price

Genre:  Mystery

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages: 225

 

This story is told from many different perspectives.  First, there is Murray who can speak to dead people when he sits on their graves.  As a social outcast, he thinks of these people as his friends.  One day, though, he hears an unfamiliar voice that appears to be lost.  He begins to wonder if she was murdered and if so, how he can help her without ending up in the psych ward.  Other characters include Deputy Gates who is trying to solve the case of a missing high school girl, Mr. Janochek, the caretaker of the cemetary, and his daughter, Pearl, and Robert Barry Compton who was recently released from a mental facility and is trying to get on with his life.  Robert feels that he may have seen something in the past that he should tell someone, but his meds make it hard for him to remember.

The idea of talking to the dead is not new, but this story puts a new spin on it as Murray must go to the grave in order to see and hear the people buried there.  He is not psychic, but has a way of reaching beyond to talk to these people.  The characters in this story and well developed in a short amount of time so that you know who they are, what their motives are, and why they act the way they do throughout the story.  The mystery takes longer to solve than it first appears and will keep readers guessing right up until the end.

 

The Braid by Helen Frost

   

Genre:  Poetry and Historical Fiction

Age Level:  Age 14 and up

# of pages: 88

RAC Book: No

The Braid is set in Scotland during the 1850s.  During this time, landowners in Scotland found out they could make more money by using their land for grazing than for renting it out.  Many families were told to evacuate overnight.  In this story, Sarah and Jeannie are the oldest two children in a family told to evacuate.  On their last night together, Sarah braided some of their hair together so that they will each have a piece when they start their separate journeys.  Jeannie evacuates with the family and Sarah stays with her grandmother.  The braid they each carry binds them through their difficult times ahead.  The story alternates between sisters and integrates the use of poetry.  Even though they are separated they will still influence each other’s lives over the years due to their connection with the braid of hair.

This story accurately portrayed the hardships of the times through its depiction of evacuation, sea travel, sickness, unwed mothers, and homeless families.  Through it all there is always a ray of hope as the two girls remain optimistic and strive to reach outside their comfort zones in order to stand up for what they feel is right.  Despite the hardships both girls endure, they never stop hoping that things will work out for themselves and their sister.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Genre: Fantasy and Mystery

Age Level:  12 and up

# of pages:  759

RAC Book: Yes

Other books in the series:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of  Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

         In this final installment of Harry Potter, Harry is on the run trying to find the remaining horcruxes that will enable Voldemort to die.  Ron and Hermione accompany him, after they all attend Bill Weasley’s wedding.  At this time, the wizarding world is a dark and desolate place to live as everyone constantly lives in fear.  Snape is now the Headmaster of Hogwarts, which makes life hard for everyone Harry has left behind.  As Harry begins to put together the past that makes up Voldemort he begins to learn a lot about his own past as well.  The life Harry has chosen for himself this year is very difficult due to the constant danger, frustrations, and isolation.  Also, he is always unsure of who he can trust.

     Rowling shows that the wizarding world is ready to defend itself against the imminent threat of evil and reveals the inner strengths of all the characters, some of which have not been tested before.  Some favorite characters are not depicted as much in the book as some readers would like, but their contributions to the outcome are meaningful.  The ending is exciting, surprising, suspenseful, and gratifying all at once.  Readers will come away from this story feeling happy about how they are leaving life in this magical world.  Rowling manages to pull everything together into a lovely, if not maybe a little too long, story. 

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

 

Genre: Fantasy   

Reading level: 12 and up

# of pages:  629

RAC Book: Yes

Other books in the series:  Twilight and New Moon preceded this third installment

      Eclipse, the third book in this series follows Bella and Edward as they finish off their senior year.  Bella is determined to do whatever it takes to be with Edward forever, even if that means having to undergo the difficult and painful transformation into a vampire.  Jacob, her best friend who also happens to be a werewolf, is trying desperately to make up with Bella so that she might consider him as a possible choice as well.  Edward wants her to go to college and have more human experiences before undergoing the transformation.  He does see her as joining his family of vampires in the future, but doesnot want her to rush the process.  Bella must make some very difficult decisions this year as she decides what to do after graduation.  Plus, there have been a series of mysterious murders in nearby Seattle where Edward’s family believe some young vampires are loose.  This book continues Bella’s story flawlessly making everything continually more complicated.  Meyer does a great job of making the reader feel sympathy for everyone involved in this crazy love triangle.  Definitely introduce this series to your students or friends.  Once you start, you cannot put it down!