Archive for February, 2008

Doppelganger by David Stahler Jr.

Genre:  Fantasy

Age Level:  14 and up

# of Pages:  258

RAC Book:  Yes

The main character in this book is a doppelganger.  Doppelgangers try to survive in this world through a human body.  In order to get a human body they must kill a human and take on his or her form.  They are not able to hold forms forever, though, and must eventually find a new body. 

When the main character, who has no name, is turned out by his mother as a teenager to fend for himself he finds he has difficulty killing humans.  He finds an old man and takes his body first.  Then, one day some teenage boys decide to pick on the old man and he ends up killing a teenage boy.  He decides to become the boy, Chris, in order to see what it’s like to be a normal teenage boy.  “Chris” soon learns that life is not as perfect as he had seen on television.  His family has numerous problems including domestic abuse, his girlfriend seems to hate him, and he is supposed to be a football star and he knows nothing about it.  “Chris” must learn what it means to be human and whether or not it is worth all the trouble.

This fantasy has many unusual elements related to the doppelgangers, but they are all explained clearly by the author.  There is also a lot of violence, but it is not too graphic or disturbing.  The scenes with Chris’s family are very serious, but interesting for students to read because they have many problems but there is still hope for them to be happy together.  Mystery and fantasy readers will enjoy this title.


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.


Black and White by Paul Volponi

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Sports

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages:  185 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Eddie and Marcus have been best friends for so long that no one even qusetions the fact that Eddie is white and Marcus is black.  In fact, since they are a dynamic duo on the basketball court they actually have the nickname “black and white.”  Unfortunately, they get the idea to hold people up in order to get extra cash and a man accidentally gets shot.  As the cops slowly start to put the pieces together they need to decide just what it means to be a good friend.  Does it mean taking the blame together or keeping your mouth shut and letting your friend walk away free?

This story discusses the differences in how African American and Caucasion people are treated in the court system.  This story is based on interviews conducted by the author with people who have been caught in similar situations.  Students will like this story because it discusses friendship as well as choices.  At our school we stress how important it is for students to be aware of the choices they make because each one can change the course of your life. 

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages:  259

RAC Book:  Yes

Matthew writes a letter to his younger sister, Emmy, about what life was like with their physically and emotionally abusive mother.  Matthew wants Emmy to understand why he and their sister Callie ended up looking for ways to leave their mother.  He recounts how he and Callie constantly tried to protect Emmy from their mother’s outbursts and mood swings and how certain incidents escalated to physical danger and neglect at times.

In many ways this letter was meant to help Matthew understand what happened in his childhood as well.  He is not even sure he will ever give it to Emmy, but he wants to have a clear account of the home they left behind just in case Emmy ever expresses confusion about leaving her biological mother.  Simply by writing it, Matthew forgives himself for some of the measures he took to ensure their safety and for some of the people who were hurt along the way.

Students who found A Child Called It interesting will also want to read this story.  Since there is more emotional than physical abuse, they worry about trying to leave home because they fear they will get split up or immediately returned to their abusive and unpredictable mother.  A realistic portrayal of life with someone who has mental issues.

Can’t Get There From Here by Todd Strasser

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of Pages:  198

RAC Book:  Yes

2008 Iowa Award Winner

Maybe lives on the street with several other teens.  They have all been forced into a life on the street and survive by panhandling and digging through dumpsters.  Every time they are approached by someone who wants to help them get off the street they ignore the help and choose to stay in their position.  Due to the extreme circumstances and bitter cold they start dying one by one. 

Tears is a twelve year old girl who was kicked out of her house when she reported that her stepfather was abusing her and her mother failed to believe her.  Maybe begins to see how living on the streets is not a choice after all, but the final solution when the other choices have been exhausted.  She decides to make sure that Tears does not face the same fate as many of the other teens.

This book tries to show teens what it’s like to live on the street with the cold, panhandling, disease, and the way people mistreat the homeless.  Although many of them have had terrible people take advantage of them in their lives and feel like they can take care of themselves, it still seems unbelievable that these teens would choose to freeze under a bridge instead of going to a shelter when the opportunity arises.  The lives of these homeless and abused teens are so far from what many students know that I’m not sure they will be able to really understand these characters.

Sold by Patricia McCormick

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of Pages:  263

RAC Book:  Yes

Lakshmi is a child living in Nepal.  Due to poor farming conditions and a gambling stepfather, she is sold into prostitution.  Her and her mother believe she is going to work as a maid in a nearby city in order to send money home to her family.  When she makes the difficult journey and learns that she is to be held against her will in a house full of prostitutes, she tries to escape.  Lakshmi quickly learns, however, how difficult it is to break out of this situation.

McCormick did a lot of research on this situation in India and spoke to girls who have escaped.  This is a real issue that many students are not aware of.  In this fictional story, the reader is not shielded from the horrors of this young girl’s life, but there is a sense of hope as well.  Not all students will want to read about such a serious topic, but those who do will learn a lot.  Well written.

Hard Ball by Will Weaver

Genre:  Sports Fiction

Age Level:  12 and up

# of Pages:  240 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Billy Baggs has been enemies with King Kenwood ever since he can remember.  They are both strong baseball players, but Billy lives on a farm far out of town and King lives in town in a big house.  Their fathers have clashed for many years and they both have a crush on the same girl.  There are numerous reasons why they have failed to see eye to eye over the years. 

Right before they begin high school they get into a big fight and their baseball coach says they have to spend one entire week together or else he won’t let them on the team.  When King stays on the farm he pitches in and helps with the chores.  He begins to see how difficult life is for a kid on a farm.  He has to get up early and do chores before getting on an hour long bus ride to school.  He does it all with minimal complaining, however. 

When Billy stays in town he sees that life isn’t as easy for King as he thought.  His mother drinks and his father works long hours, so King is responsible for making all the meals in the house and cleaning.  Also, his father puts a lot of pressure on him to work out and practice baseball in the hopes of getting a scholarship someday.

Both boys end up finding that they need to understand more about where the other one is coming from before passing judgment.  They also learn how to work together in order to improve their current situations before they both crack under all the responsibilities heaped upon them.  A good book about sports and high school.

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