Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Teen Killers Club by Lily Sparks

Genre: Mystery

Signal Deere was convicted of murdering her best friend, Rose, but even though Signal woke up covered in Rose’s blood she knows she’s innocent. It does not help that she has been classified as a Class A, which is the most dangerous kind of criminal. Therefore, when she is approached about joining a new secret program where they take teenage Class A criminals and train them to be assassins she knows this is her only way out of jail for the rest of her life. The obvious problem here is that Signal is not a killer and has difficulty from the start with the trainings they make her do. The counselor in charge of them seems to be trying to make life particularly difficult for Signal. She quickly realizes that the other teens in the program do not have any issue with killing. Erik, in particular, notices right away that Signal really doesn’t belong there, but in order to survive she must try her best to succeed in the tasks before her. Things get more complicated when a man wearing a mask infiltrates their camp and the counselors won’t tell anyone who he is or what he wants. Can Signal survive a place where they are trying to make her a killer surrounded by other killers? Can she trust anyone around her? Will she ever be able to clear her name and find out who really killed Rose?

This book really takes off once Signal gets to the camp and meets the other teenage criminals. It becomes obvious that you can’t really classify people into nice, easy categories and Signal helps each of them to see that there is more to them than their past actions. She becomes increasingly aware of the dangers surrounding her in this place where she doesn’t know how to defend herself. Once it becomes clear they are in danger, the teens band together, but in the end they are not the ones in charge and things go sideways pretty quickly as they try to rebel. Signal’s backstory is explored, but readers will want to know more about what happened to Rose and how her death came to be. Readers will also be eager to see more after the exciting ending that leaves the future of these teens in question. Hopefully, there will be a sequel to continue Signal’s story. Recommended for fans of forensic mysteries.

The Ghost of Five Mile Creek by Payne Schanski

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of pages: 218

JB admits right away that he has been punished severely for getting caught breaking and entering into a large house in his town. He has not offered much in the way of an excuse, and appears to be taking his punishment without complaint. His mother even made him stop playing basketball for his entire freshmen year, even in his own driveway. Throughout the ordeal he has also lost his group of friends who scattered the second he got into trouble and all went their own way in high school. He has found himself sitting with an odd bunch of students at lunch who really have no one else to sit with so they have banded together. One of the people he sits with, Marty, is someone JB feels a lot of guilt about because when he was younger he used to torment him and purposefully leave him out of things. That’s partly why he agrees to go when Marty pitches the idea of them driving out to an abandoned house that is believed to be haunted. JB knows if he got caught again it would not go well for him, but he feels like he owes this to Marty, especially when it appears that everyone else will back out. Then, surprisingly his former best friend and a popular new girl in school offer to come along and suddenly they have a group of five people going to investigate this haunted house in the middle of the night. Will they encounter any supernatural activity? Will they form lifelong friendships? Will JB get his punishment extended into his sophomore year?

This coming of age story follows a group of high school students who all agree to go to a “haunted house” for different reasons. Once they are there, they all have to face some of the things they had been avoiding such as J.B.’s resentment toward his friends for abandoning him, Marty’s past bullying, and Jennie’s loss of her sister. The ending is realistic and satisfying for a story in which the main characters are not finished finding their way. Fans looking for scary/suspenseful stories might not find enough of that here, but fans who enjoy coming of age stories will want to know more about these characters once the story ends.

They Went Left by Karen Hesse

Genre: Historical Fiction

Number of Pages: 364

Zofia survived the Holocaust camps and now is on a mission to find her younger brother, Abek, whom she promised to find once the war was over. She knows the rest of her family will not be found simply because when they entered the camp they were all directed to go left and she went right because she was considered a useful worker. She knows they never left the camp and is focusing all of her energy on finding her brother. Zofia has been recovering in a hospital for several months once the camps were liberated simply because her body and mind are weak and she often has trouble remembering things. Her first goal is to go back to their family home, but she knows there is a good chance her brother will not be there and her home might not be there. There are many people looking for lost family at this time, but she is determined to keep looking until she finds out what happened to her brother. As she sets off on her journey she finds that there are many people along the way who are all coping with the war in different ways, but are all trying to start over. Along the way, Zofia is forced to face the horrors of her past that her brain has been trying to forget, but she knows that in order to truly move forward she must accept her past, as bad as it is. Recommended for readers who like the Holocaust and historical fiction.

Stamped by Jason Reynolds

Genre: Non-fiction

Number of Pages: 294

This non-fiction title is written as a non-history history book and starts back before the United States was even formed. Jason Reynolds took us through the major developments in this country regarding race, including strategies that were used both politically and socially to try and control the roles people played and the thought process they had regarding race. He really shows how the country’s thoughts and actions on race have been carefully sculpted by those people who had the power and control to do so. It shouldn’t be any surprise that money and power often controlled the events that transpired with race in our country. Reynolds does a nice job of explaining how the country came to be at the Black Lives Matters place we found ourselves in the summer of 2020. For anyone who has never studied the issue of race in the United States this book is very eye opening and encourages you to look at historical events with a different perspective. This book will stay with the reader long after reading it. Recommended.

I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson

Genre: Mystery

Number of Pages: 326

Ruthie grew up in Anchorage, but moved away with her mom three years ago. After her mom’s sudden death she is set to return to live with her dad, whom she hasn’t seen since he got sober, and his new wife and stepsister. Ruthie is very excited to see her best friend, Zahra, whom she hasn’t seen since she moved away, but when she texts her to let her know she’s moving back she is surprised not to get a response. When she arrives she goes immediately to Zahra’s house in order to see her, but learns she hasn’t returned home from a big party on Friday night. By Monday morning the entire high school is buzzing with the news that Zahra is missing and Ruthie thinks it’s her job to find her, even if that means skipping school, ditching her step sister, and going against her father’s wishes. As she tries to unravel the mystery of what happened to Zahra, Ruthie begins to learn that the girl she remembers has changed a lot and she isn’t sure why. Has Zahra really changed that much or does Ruthie remember her differently than she actually was? Will she be able to find Zahra before it is too late and what secrets will she stumble across along the way?

This psychological thriller will keep you guessing until the shocking conclusion. The pieces of the puzzle are all there, but it takes awhile to put them together as Ruthie goes on her quest to find Zahra at all costs, no matter who she has to step on in the process. Along the way, Ruthie encounters a variety of interesting characters who all know a little about who Zahra really is and what might have happened to her. Fans of mysteries will be satisfied with the exciting ending.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Genre: Romance/Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 406

Frank Li is Korean American and his parents are very serious about him marrying a Korean girl someday. This was especially made apparent when they shunned his older sister simply for marrying a black man. When he begins to like a white girl in his math class he knows it would be a problem if his parents ever found out, but his Korean friend Joy is in a similar situation with her boyfriend so they decide to form a fake relationship so that both of their sets of parents can relax and be happy. As time goes on, however, Frank begins to realize that he does in fact like Joy and he thinks it’s possible he never noticed before because he felt pushed toward her by his parents. He does not want to be with a Korean girl simply because his parents think he should be, but he can’t deny the fact that he has some chemistry with Joy. Meanwhile, he is dealing with other issues such as what college he’s going to get into, how he can better help his parents with their store, and if there is any way to reunite his parents with his sister (whom he misses terribly). Can he make his parents proud without reaching all of the high expectations they have set for him? Can he make his own way in America without losing his Korean heritage? Can he be happy with a Korean girl?

This book cleverly depicts how many pressures are on teenagers from different cultural backgrounds. They are trying to make their way through adolescence while adults around them all seem to have different expectations for them. Frank is trying to balance his Korean heritage with his American upbringing. He knows his parents’ expectations are unfair and at times judgmental considering there aren’t that many Korean families in his community, but he still wants to make them proud, especially once he begins to suspect they are keeping some big news from him. We do not see a lot of books about Asian American culture, so this is a welcome addition to the library collection.

What She Found in the Woods by Josephine Angelini

Genre: Mystery

Number of pages: 360

Magdalena is still recovering from something terrible that happened in her elite Manhattan private school almost a year ago. Her parents can’t bear to even look at her and have sent her to live with her grandparents for the summer. Lena has been put on several prescriptions to try and curb her depression and anxiety, but she is trying to make a fresh start. She begins volunteering at a women’s shelter and finds she enjoys the hard work. When she’s not volunteering she enjoys hiking in the woods for hours and hours. Eventually she meets a young man whose family has chosen to live in the woods for their entire lives. He is kind and does not trust many things in the western world, including her prescriptions. At the same time a few different women have gone missing from the women’s shelter and even though she didn’t know them, she is very bothered when they show up murdered in the woods. She also doesn’t really like the lead detective working the case. A new friend has confided in her that her grandfather, a retired police detective, has long suspected there is a serial killer in the woods but he was never able to find them. The only difference between the murders from the past and the current ones, is that they seem to be getting more violent. Is there any way her new love interest could be a part of these terrible crimes? He seems to caring and compassionate, but many of the clues point to his family. How can she find the truth without making herself the next victim?

Fans of psychological mysteries will enjoy this title. Lena has been through a lot and blames herself for all of it, which has taken quite a toll on her mind. In the end, she has a hard time deciding what is true and what is in her head, which makes solving the truth of what is happening in the woods that much more difficult. Despite her past, Lena is still determined to make better choices in the future and she is willing to fight to protect those around her that she cares about.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Genre: Historical Fiction

Number of Pages: 374

In 1890 Atlanta, Jo Kuan is trying to make her way in the world when people often look down on Asian American people. She had previously spent two years working as a milliner’s apprentice only to abruptly lose her job simply because the milliner said she made some people uncomfortable. With few options, she takes a job as a ladies’ maid for a cruel young lady named Caroline. Jo and the man who raised her secretly live underneath the house of a family who run a newspaper. Jo can hear through the floor that the newspaper is struggling and so she anonymously starts writing a ladies column under the pen name Miss Sweetie and starts leaving them under the door. So, by day she works as a maid in a thankless job and by night she secretly writes her column that isn’t afraid to touch on issues such as women’s rights and courting practices. As such, her column becomes an overnight sensation as everyone debates who Miss Sweetie could be. She knows if she is ever discovered she will be cast out because she is not meant to rise above her station in any way. Meanwhile, the adult son of the family who lives above her is very interested to find out who is writing the column for his now popular newspaper, but can he be trusted? Also, the man who raised her has been acting peculiarly and she thinks he is hiding something. Could he be trying to arrange a marriage for her?

Even though this book is set in 1890 there are many issues that relate to today. Jo Kuan is trying to find acceptance in a place where she is judged by her face and her name. She knows she has a lot to offer society, but isn’t sure they will ever let her. It’s a struggle for her to fight the prejudices about not only her race but also her gender and she desperately wants to find a way to make a difference. At the same time, she often shows kindness and compassion for those who have a lot more opportunity in life. She never takes her personal frustrations out on those who were simply dealt an easier lot in life. There are those around her who do try to treat her fairly, but it is difficult knowing how hard everything has to be for people of certain circumstances. This story is recommended for those who like historical fiction, but also those who like more contemporary books such as The Hate You Give. This title also leaves the reader with a lot to think about.

Hey Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka

Genre: Graphic Novel/Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 294

This book tells the compelling story of how the author was raised by his grandparents due to his mother’s struggle with addiction. His grandparents were not perfect either and he had some unusual family interactions growing up, but they were always there for him and wanted him to succeed in life. The special aspect of this book is that it is written as a graphic novel so the reader truly gets to see how the author remembers people and events from his childhood. He also isn’t afraid to discuss troubling issues that he had to deal with including family addiction, family fighting, and even a lack of faith in his own artistic abilities to carry him into adult life. The author’s attention to detail make it especially memorable because the drawings and dialogue really help the reader to understand the family that raised him when his mother no longer could. This coming of age story reflects that even though his childhood wasn’t typical, it was still important and worth telling and made him the person he is today. Highly recommended, especially for reluctant readers or students who are debating on an art or design career.

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Number of Pages: 313

Nannerl Mozart, Wolfgang’s real life sister, was also a very talented musician and composer, but due to her gender history would not remember her. In this fantasy retelling, she is desperate to get credit for her work and to be remembered for it. She strikes a deal with a fantastical princeling named Hyacinth from a strange land who promises her everything she wants in life, but first she must complete a few tasks for him in what she comes to know as the kingdom of back. The land is scary and mysterious, but she feels like she must do as Hyacinth says in order to get the life she knows is not possible for her under her father’s watchful eye. She starts to wonder, however, what this deal will truly cost her and her beloved younger brother she affectionately calls Wolferl. Can she complete the dangerous tasks Hyacinth has laid out for her? What are the repercussions for following Hyacinth’s instructions? Will she be able to truly share her gift with the world or forever be lost in Wolfgan’s shadow?

This retelling is fun, exciting, adventurous, and educational as many of the facts about the Mozart family are true. Nannerl is struggling to find her place in a world and a family where she has no voice. Nevertheless, as much as she envies the life her younger brother has before him she knows she would do anything to protect him. The many uncertainties of being a young lady during this time are very accurately portrayed and give the reader an idea of just how serious poverty, illness, and public opinion could be. Recommended for fans of historical fiction and fantasy.

Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes

Genre: Poetry/Memoir

Number of Pages: 325

Nikki Grimes retells the story of her childhood and the many hardships she endured in poetry form. Some of the challenges she faced included having a mentally ill alcoholic mother, being separated from her sister, having an abusive adult in her home, going into foster care, living in dangerous neighborhoods, and constantly feeling like no one appreciates her writing skills. The story itself is very powerful, but in the verse format the sheer feeling behind it really comes through and the reader can really feel how the author felt and how impressive it is for her to put this out in the world. This memoir really helps encourage students who might not otherwise want to read (or write) poetry to get interested and to see how powerful a medium it can really be. Highly Recommended.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 388

Emoni Santiago’s life has been difficult since she got pregnant as a freshmen in high school. Now, as a senior she is busy going to school, raising her two year old (with help from her grandmother whom she lives with), working, and honing her gift of cooking. She doesn’t know what the future will hold, but just wants to focus on getting through senior year. That is until she learns there is a new elective in culinary studies that includes a spring break trip to Spain to actually work with Spanish chefs. Even though Emoni has a lot on her plate she cannot resist the opportunity to work with a real chef. Unfortunately, she learns quickly that not everyone is as interested in her unique blend of spices that makes her food so special and she is penalized for not following recipes to the letter. She briefly even considers dropping the course, but something pulls her back and she learns that this could be a real career path for her if she works at it. Can she raise the money for her trip to Spain? Can she find a way to juggle school, parenthood, a job, and college applications? Or would it be better for her daughter if she just started working full time after high school?

Emoni’s story is so relatable to anyone who feels like they are being pulled in different directions by their obligations and their dreams. She often feels weighted down by the pressures on her and even though she is fortunate to have people who care for her and want to help her fulfill her dreams she knows a lot of these responsibilities fall on her. The focus on what it takes to become a chef is refreshing as well. This is not a topic you see in a lot of young adult books, but it is a great example of a very valid career path that many students do not think of. Recommended.

No Exit by Taylor Adams

Genre: Thriller Mystery

Number of Pages: 307

Darby is trying to get home to her sick mother before she goes in for emergency surgery, but is forced to stop at a rest stop in a blizzard with four strangers. They are resigned to the fact that they will be stuck there for the night, but when Darby tries to get a cell phone signal outside she inadvertently discovers that one of the cars parked outside the rest stop has a little girl trapped in a cage. She knows it is up to her to rescue this little girl from whichever of the strangers inside has her trapped. She has no idea who she can trust, however. With no cell service or any way to get help she must find a way to rescue the girl on her own. Can she save the girl and escape the blizzard without tipping off the person who took her? Can she get to her mother before it’s too late?

This thriller mystery packs several twists and turns as Darby tries to find out what the story behind the kidnapped little girl is. At first, she thinks it’s pretty straight forward, but nothing is ever as simple as it first appears and she must make some tough decisions if she wants to truly save the girl and hopefully herself. The ending is satisfying, but by no means tidy. Recommended for fans who like a little grit in their mysteries and aren’t afraid of a bit of violence.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Genre: Historical Fiction

Number of Pages: 451

The first in a series, Dread Nation follows Jane McKeene in an alternate post Civil War where a mysterious plague has swept the nation and the dead have begun to rise as zombies. Jane was taken from her home to study at Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls where she has been training to take on zombies for over a year. Jane has not heard from her mother in almost a year and is worried their home has been overrun, but until she knows for sure she dutifully keeps writing to her. Meanwhile, Jane is struggling in her studies. She’s an excellent combat fighter, but her etiquette skills leave something to be desired and one teacher in particular has taken a dislike to her, which isn’t helping. If she can graduate from this institution she is hopeful she can get a good job where she can dedicate her time to fighting these zombies, but if she gets expelled before that she won’t be able to find work anywhere. When a local family vanishes overnight a local friend asks Jane to help find out what happened to them, but the more Jane investigates the more questions she has. Worst of all, as she begins to uncover inconsistencies all around her she realizes she does not know whom she can trust. Can Jane survive long enough to get out of this place and find out what happened to her family? Can Jane help her friend find out what happened to the missing neighbors?

This alternative historical fiction book delves into several pertinent issues such as pandemics, politics, and race and gender equality that could be applied to today’s world. Jane is a complicated character who never promises to be perfect or totally truthful with her secrets. Nevertheless, she is quick on her feet and loyal to those she wants to protect. She knows she has a hard lot in life and she does not waste time feeling sorry for herself, but instead tries to do the best she can with the opportunities she has. Readers will be drawn into this exciting, fast paced story as Jane deals with a variety of injustices around her, least of all the zombies trying to attack her all the time. Highly Recommended.

The Dreamsinger by Edward Myers

Genre: Fantasy

Number of Pages: 201

This unique fantasy story revolves around a world where music contains power and is therefore controlled by the Masters. Allu is musically talented, however, and is invited by the Masters to train on how to properly yield its power. Allu meets a young man named Ned and everything changes as she realizes just how unjust their society is and how little control most people have over their own lives. Together, they begin a dangerous adventure in order to try and free everyone from the confines the Masters have set for them. Can they succeed in freeing the power of Music from the Masters? Will they be able to flee the long grasp the Masters have on the region?

This story is fun and exciting right from the beginning and readers will enjoy the interesting take on music being the source of all power. Allu and Ned are properly fleshed out so that it is obvious to see what their motivations and weaknesses are as they embark on such a dangerous mission and readers will want to know what happens to them on this journey. Recommended for male and female readers as well as fans of fantasy, adventure, and reluctant readers.


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