Genre: Realistic Fiction
# of Pages: 462 p.
This novel focuses on five students (Mia, Jake, Whitney, Gregor, and Zoe) who are all placed together in a freshmen orientation group. They all have to have a bonding experience so they end up deciding to write letters to their future selves, hide them in the school, and then promise to meet in four years to open them. The rest of the book shows how each of their high school experiences go and how even though they are not best friends their lives all touch at times throughout high school. Zoe is living with her aunt since her movie star mother is in rehab. Jake is dealing with the fallout from admitting he’s gay. Whitney is struggling to understand why her popular friends act like they do while also navigating her parents’ divorce. Mia is struggling to find her identity vs. what everyone wants her to be. Gregor is a band nerd who desperately wants to find the courage to talk to Whitney. Eventually, their lives all intersect again at graduation.
For readers looking for truthful, engaging writing that does not hold back from issues that many teens do deal with in high school this would be a great pick. It does not go into detail on many life changing events for its characters, but the purpose of the story is not to spend too much time on any one character but instead to show how people from all groups and cliques in a high school still connect in different ways throughout their four years.
Genre: Realistic fiction/mystery
# of Pages: 372 p.
Tess has lived with her grandfather ever since her parents died in a car accident when she was small. Her older sister, Ivy, went away to college and never really came back so Tess knew things were about to unravel when Ivy showed up at her grandfather’s ranch. Despite her best efforts, Tess could no longer hide her grandfather’s dementia from the world and Ivy had come to put him in a treatment center while Tess was forced to pack her bags and come to D.C. to live with the sister she hardly knew. Only after she gets to D.C. does she realize what her sister actually does for a living: she’s a fixer for wealthy and powerful people who have serious problems. Tess is expected to be a fixer like her sister when she starts her new school by the children of wealthy and powerful people who attend, but Tess is not interested in following after her sister’s example. Then, a supreme court justice suddenly dies and a girl at her school confides to Tess that she does not think it was an accident. Can Tess find out what’s really going on in D.C. without alerting her sister or anyone involved? Will Tell and Ivy ever mend their relationship?
This is a fun novel for mystery or spy fans (fans of Ally Carter will enjoy this title). The characters are fun and getting more developed all the time and no doubt will continue to do so as the series continues. The mystery was exciting and provided a satisfying ending. The idea of “fixers” has only started getting discussed in the last five years or so and it’s fun to see a young adult series focused around such an interesting career.
Genre: Romance/Realistic Fiction
# of pages: 438
Cather does not like to go out drinking like most college freshmen she knows. Instead, she likes to stay in and write fan fiction for a fantasy series she is obsessed with. Meanwhile, her identical twin has tried very hard to distance herself from Cath so that they can start anew in college. Cath slowly assimilates to college including getting used to her unusual roommate and her friendly male friend who seems to be in Cath’s room a lot. There is a fair share of drama in Cath’s life (including a father who is struggling with his new empty nest), but the one thing that always balances things out is her love of writing, which is why she’s so excited for her fiction writing class. Unfortunately, even that does not go exactly as planned…
Fans of John Green or any of Rainbow Rowell’s other books will become obsessed with these characters. The story is interesting enough, but it’s the characters that make it hard to put this one down. Cath is very relatable to anyone who’s ever been new to a place and trying to find your way. She has trouble knowing who to confide in, who to trust, and who to run from. Eventually she starts gaining more confidence in her new life and starts making proactive choices instead of reactive ones. It’s a very compelling coming of age story that will leave readers wanting more.
Genre: Futuristic Fiction
# of Pages: 432
Jess lives with her military father, pregnant mother, and three sisters. Due to the fact their mother is a commoner, her father was never allowed to legally marry her, but he has always taken care of them like they were legally his family. Secretly, Jess likes to run the court of fives, which is an intricate and physically grueling competition that involves different challenges in a variety of patterns to figure out. Jess knows that if her dad ever found out she was doing this he would be furious, which is why she’s kept it a secret. The day before Jess is scheduled to compete in her first match, her father unexpectedly returns from war and insists on taking them to the competition. She is forced to sneak out and compete or else she’ll lose her entrance fee that took her a year to save. She is forced to throw the match at the end because winners must take off their masks and she cannot risk her father learning her secret. However, she does not realize the attention her actions will bring to her family and the ferocity in which someone with power will work to destroy everything she holds dear. Ultimately, it is the court of fives she must do in order to bring respect to herself and her family, but will it be enough?
Fans of futuristic novels like The Testing will love this book. It is full of plot twists, excitement, and adventure. A main part of the story even features an Indiana Jones’ type adventure that is hard to put down. Jess loves training for the court of fives partly because it encourages her to think strategically, but in the end she is forced to use that kind of thinking in order to protect her family from a vicious adversary. It is a fast paced, exciting story.
Genre: Futuristic Fiction
# of Pages: 358
Violet was pulled away from her family three years prior to the beginning of the story because she tested positive for a specific gene that made her desirable in their community. After completing three years of training she is to be sent to auction to be sold to a rich and powerful royal family to be a surrogate for a royal child. Violet would rather return home to her family, who resides in the marsh, in order to live in poverty than to be a plaything for the royals whilst living in true luxury. Once Violet is purchased she does not know what to make of her new owner, her owner’s ungrateful son, or her owner’s absent husband. Plus, she begins to discover there are lots of secrets in the Jewel, where the royal live. She finds herself struggling not to rebel against those around her, but they really do have all the power over her. Can she keep her beliefs intact while everyone around her views her as an object to be owned and manipulated?
Fans of The Selection and Divergent will enjoy the first in this series. Violet is tough and smart, but there is so much she does not know that the reader gets to find out the true nature of her situation along with her. There are some very intriguing supporting characters including the man who helped her prepare for her auction, her best friend who went to auction at the same time as her, and the royal women who scheme and gossip behind each other’s backs. All in all, an intriguing premise that will hold your interest until the surprising last page.
2016-17 Iowa High School Award Winner
Sam Hopkins is the son of a preacher so he is often not treated the same as other kids, but he is not immune to bullies either and on one particular day while running he inadvertently draws the attention of three of the biggest bullies in school. He refuses to back down to them and ends up joining their gang for a short while and they teach him how to steal cars. Eventually he comes to his senses and realizes that he could get himself into real danger, but just as he’s telling them he won’t steal actual cars with them he sees them pick on Jennifer, who is an unusual girl in school who often speaks of demons and other strange things. The bullies are about to go after her when Sam steps in and allows her to escape while he himself takes a terrible beating. Afterward, everyone praises him for saving “poor, crazy” Jennifer and Sam begins to realize that all of her “premonitions” might in fact be real. Can he convince anyone that she might really be telling the truth about her visions? Will he continue to get into more trouble if he keeps staying involved with her?
This story is difficult to describe without giving the heart of the story away. Sam is confused by Jennifer and her condition, which makes the reader confused as well. Meanwhile, everything that happens to Sam does eventually come together to make an interesting and complete story, but for a long time several of the pieces do not seem to go together at all. Sam is a well crafted, complex character who is easy to identify with even if the reader has nothing in common with him. For those who stick with the story past the beginning they will be pleasantly surprised by the action and fast paced resolution.