Archive for May, 2010

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  174 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Iowa Teen Award 2010

This WWII story is based on true accounts of a boy named Helmuth who lived in Germany when Hitler took office and was forced to join the Hitler Youth.  As he got older he began listening to an illegal radio and was shocked to find out how much the German media was keeping from the people.  He decided to create some pamphlets informing citizens of the actual losses Germans were suffering in the war.  He was caught for his crimes and faced trial and a possible death sentence for what he had done.  Helmuth had to come to terms with the fact that he may die at a young age and wondered if he felt it was worth it for standing up for what he believed in.

This chilling story based on true facts moves quickly and provides a different view of WWII.  Bartoletti helps young readers to see what it was like to be a German during this time, how they were lied to, how afraid they were, and the kind of torture the Nazis were capable of doing even to their own citizens.  Fans of books from this era will enjoy this and want to know more about this person.  The only criticism would be that fans will want to know more about Helmuth than is provided in the story.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Genre:  Science Fiction

# of Pages:  265

RAC Book:  Yes

Iowa High School Award Winner 2010

Jenna Fox was in a horrible car accident and wakes up a year later in a different part of the country with no memory of the previous year.  She lives with her mom and grandma and her dad is back home.  No one will tell her why they moved or why she has no memories of her life.  They assure her it will take time to recover and remember who she was.  In this book, it is possible to replace organs or create clones, but it is illegal to do so.  As Jenna starts piecing together bits of information that do not make sense she starts to wonder what her parents were willing to do in order to save her.  How far would a parent go to save a dying child?

Students who like Jodi Picoult books will enjoy this one, because it moves quickly and has several twists and turns in the plot.  There are also many moral issues discussed as the society struggles with the previous overuse of antibiotics that have annihilated several species of plants and animals on earth.  What scientific measures are appropriate if the intentions are good?  When does it go too far?  An interesting futuristic story that will leave the reader thinking about the possibilities the future could hold if we do not monitor some of our ways today.

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  400

RAC Book:  Yes

2010 Iowa High School Book Award

Jena and her four sisters use a secret portal to sneak into the woods to dance with the magical creatures every full moon.  When Jena’s father gets ill and is sent away to recover, she is left in charge and her cousin Cezar begins to take over.  Cezar believes that women are frail and need to be looked after by men.  As Jena struggles to take care of her sisters, their home, and her father’s business she always has her best friend, Gogu, by her side.  Gogu is a talking frog that only she can hear.  As Cezar becomes frantic trying to control the five sisters, Jena starts to worry that all is not well in the wildwoods either.  Can she protect her sisters and everyone else she cares about from a power hungry dictator?

This fantasy story begins a little slowly as the characters are introduced, but accelerates quickly as the family battles Cezar on a daily basis.  There are some twists and turns along the way, but a few are fairly easy to predict.  The end will leave readers wanting more.  Highly recommended for fantasy lovers.

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  287 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Katarina Bishop is the daughter of a notorious thief, but has decided to get out of the business in order to go to a prestigious boarding school.    When she is kicked out of the school for a crime she did not commit, she finds out that a powerful man has decided to target her father as the culprit for some paintings of his that were stolen.  If she is not able to find and return the missing paintings to him then he will hurt her father.  One way or another she finds herself back in the world of heists and cons.

For those who loved the Gallagher Girls books this will be another winner.  The characters are fun, the plot twists and turns, and there is room for a sequel.  Recommended for those who enjoy heist books or are simply looking for a fun summer read.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  170

RAC Book:  No

2010 Iowa High School Award Winner

“Alice” recounts the story of how she was abducted by a pedophile named Ray and forced to live with him for several years and follow his rules.  For example, Ray starves her so that she will stay little and seem like a little girl.  She considers herself dead inside and wishes he would just kill her and get it over with.  The only reason she never tries to run or tell someone is that he threatens to kill her family if she does.  When Ray suggests they look for a new little girl to live with them Alice agrees because she desperately wants to leave this situation, even if it means he will kill her.  As she starts helping him on his quest she wonders if it is really in her to subject a new child to the horrors she has been through.

This book is very detailed and graphic.  Alice’s life is beyond unimaginable and her spirit has long been crushed.  Despite the fact that there have been stories like this that end happy with a family reunion, there is a sense of hopelessness in Alice’s case like she has given up.  The content of this book is very serious and will bother many students.

Boot Camp by Todd Strasser

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  235 p.

RAC Book: Yes

2010 Iowa High School Award Winner

Garrett is forcibly taken from his home and transported to Lake Harmony, which is a reform school for teens.  His parents basically signed their rights away and give the boot camp the right to use whatever force they feel is necessary in order to steer their child down the “right path.”  Garrett believes that some of the decisions he has made are ones he would make again and that his parents just can’t handle the publicity of having a difficult child.  As he struggles not to succumb to the torture, beatings, and humiliation he comes to the terrible realization that he may never get out unless he bends to their will.  As he looks around he sees those who have thrived in this school and appear brain washed because of it and those who refuse to give in and look beaten down and exhausted.  How can he survive without losing who he is and what he believes in?

Todd Strasser has put the spotlight on these teen bootcamps that are more plentiful in the U.S. than anyone might think.  Parents pay thousands of dollars to have their child straightened out, but often the tactics used by these places are unconstitutional.  These places work by cutting any trust or communication between parents and their children so that no one thinks they have any choices, but to let the school do what it thinks it best.  This is an issue that teens and parents should be aware of and this is a fast paced, exciting story that all teens will love, but especially teen boys.

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas

Genre: Fantasy

# of Pages:  411 p.

Iowa Teen Award Winner 2010-2011

RAC Book:  No

Conn has been living on the streets getting by picking locks and pickpocketing.  One day Conn pickpockets from a powerful wizard named Nevery and he responds by taking Conn as his apprentice.  In order to be a wizard you have to have a powerful stone called a locus magicalicus and Conn is only allowed 30 days to find his  or else he won’t be allowed by the council to remain an apprentice.  Meanwhile, Nevery has been called back to town in order to help resolve the problem of the declining magic supply.  The levels of magic have drastically gone down and no one knows why.  Magic is used in all aspects of this town and the town would die without it.  Somehow, Conn believes he and Nevery must work together to solve the problem of the missing magic.

This is a fun, light-hearted fantasy story with many interesting characters and plot twists.  Many junior high and upper elementary students will love to step into this world.  It would be fun to do with small groups as well.  Anyone who enjoys Harry Potter will find these delightful.