Archive for the 'Award Winners' Category

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.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

i hunt killers

Genre:  Mystery

# of Pages:  360

2016 Iowa High School Award winner

RAC:  yes

Jazz is the only son of a notorious serial killer named Billy.  Billy reportedly murdered over 200 people and Jazz is struggling with the doubts that he could end up just like him.  He does not want to become a killer, but he worries it’s already inside him waiting to come out.  When he hears of a murder in his small town he goes to the scene to help out since he “knows how serial killers work.”  The police reject his help, but eventually come back to him when it’s discovered this new murder is mimicking one of Billy’s early murders.  Who would be recreating his father’s grisly murders and why?  Can Jazz help the police before more people lose their lives?  Can Jazz prove to everyone and even himself that he is not going to follow in his father’s footsteps?

Fans of mystery books will enjoy this title because it has a good amount of plot twists, suspense, and colorful characters.  Jazz is truly battling with himself because he will always be the son of the infamous Billy Dent and he needs to figure out what that means for the rest of his life.  He does not want to be like his father, but having been raised by him he sometimes does not see life situations the same way that others do.  Luckily, he has a small but powerful support system that is helping him realize that he is capable of valuing human life.  There is a bit of gore in this title, but nothing worse than an episode of CSI or Criminal Minds.

The Bridge From Me to You by Lisa Schroeder

bridge from me to you

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Romance

# of Pages:  327

RAC: Yes

Iowa Teen Award Winner 2016-17

Lauren has recently moved in with her aunt and uncle for reasons she would rather not discuss.  Being the new girl in the small football-obsessed town for her senior year can be difficult, however, because everyone automatically speculates about her background.  Meanwhile, Colby is also beginning his senior year as the star football player of their team who hopes to make it all the way to state this year.  The problem is that Colby would rather not play football in college, despite his father’s fervent hope that he will accept one of the scholarships he’s been offered.  Lauren and Colby meet unexpectedly one day and find they really like each other, but after a tragedy shakes Colby to the core he wonders if dating is such a good idea at this time in his life.  Lauren definitely wants to see more of Colby, but she’s also dealing with the demons of her past.  Will their timing ever be right?  Will they ever find the chance to get to know each other better or is it not meant to be?

This story is told in alternating chapters with Lauren’s being written in poetry format making her thoughts mirror her mixed emotions at living with her aunt and uncle instead of with her mom.  Colby’s story is told in prose which also reflects his thoughts and feelings as he walks the line between what he wants in life and what everyone else wants for him.  Recommended for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han.

The Roar by Emma Clayton


Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  481

RAC Book:  Yes

This Iowa Teen Award Winner for 2013-14 begins with Ellie trying to escape after being held hostage for several months on a strange space ship.  Her twin brother, Mika, feels that she is alive despite the fact that the government has told his family that she drowned.  Mika and his parents live in a the poor area of London that is now beneath the newer, brighter buildings that were built on top of the poor when land got scarce.  The wealthy literally walk on top of the poor people all day and dictate what happens to them.  The more Mika resists the acts of the government the more they try to knock him down.  When a new video game simulation is introduced to all of the 12-year-olds he is intrigued and feels instinctively that this is his way to finding Ellie.  Can he succeed enough at this game to find his sister and what really happened to her?  Will he discover the sinister plot the government has for these twelve-year-olds?

This book has a futuristic feel to it and will be popular with The Hunger Games crowd.  There isn’t much violence, but the plight of these poor people is very raw and realistic.  Mika must endure bullying, unfair punishments, and overwhelming guilt for trying to stand up for what he believes in and ask unpopular questions.  The revelation of the goverment’s plot is surprising and satisfying.  Each of the characters is well developed with clear motivations in the sequels that are sure to follow.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  563

RAC:  Yes

Ethan lives in a small town in the south that still holds very rigid beliefs about who should belong in the community and who should be shunned.  Lena is the new girl in school and the niece of the most notorious shut in in town.  Therefore, she is an outcast before she even begins school.  Ethan is immediately intrigued with Lena, and finds himself crossing paths with her often.  They begin to strike up a romance and learn they can communicate with each other simply using their minds.  Lena comes from a family of Casters and on her upcoming birthday she will either go Light or Dark.  She is terrified she will go Dark like her cousin, Ridley.  Ethan does not fully understand Lena and her family, partly because they keep a lot of secrets, but he knows he will do whatever it takes to keep Lena safe.

Fans of fantasy romance will enjoy this title because it has many interesting characters and plot revelations.  It is also very slow moving at times.  The book is over 500 pages and not all of it feels strictly necessary.  The length may scare away some reluctant readers who struggle to get through some of those slower moments.  The ending feels a bit rushed considering the overall length of the story and some readers may be confused by the outcome.  Fantasy lovers will enjoy, but others may struggle to care about these characters.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

name of the star

Genre:  Fantasy/Mystery

# of Pages:  372

RAC: Yes

Rory goes to England with her parents for her senior year of high school and enrolls in a private boarding school in London.  She hits it off with her roommate and finds that she fits in pretty well with their different classes and overall school schedules.  Shortly after she arrives, however, a terrible murder is committed mimicking Jack the Ripper’s first murder that occurred many years prior to this on the same date.  Despite London having over a million cameras throughout the city there is a shocking lack of evidence.  Rory and her new friends live close to where all of these murders occurred and therefore get caught up in the fear that sweeps over London.  Can they find the Jack the Ripper impersonator?  Will the murders continue and everyone be helpless to stop it?

This book was highly suspenseful, entertaining, and unique.  The idea itself captures most people’s interest as Jack the Ripper is one of the most famous unidentified serial killers and the hysteria that sweeps the public is completely believable.  The actual revelation of who is committing the murders is unique and yet plausible.  The characters are all likable and the ending sets up the series for many more titles to come.  This book was named an Iowa Teen Award winner for this year and is highly recommended.