Archive Page 2

Hooper by Geoff Herbach

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Sports

323 pages

Adam lived in a Polish orphanage after his mother died and his father couldn’t take care of him until he was adopted by an American professor and brought to the U.S.  He has since learned that he has strong basketball skills, but his social skills have lagged behind a bit.  He only has one friend, who is otherwise a total outcast, and he doesn’t even interact with the other players on his team because he never knows what to say and is self conscious about his accent.  When he is offered the chance to try out for an elite basketball team he is both excited and nervous because it’s obvious the other teammates don’t think he belongs there.  It is only after he proves himself both on and off the court that he begins to realize that he is capable of making friends and being happy.  When an incident with the police threatens to tear his new team apart he realizes that others are dealing with just as many issues as he is and he must decide if he will stand up for them or focus on his own hardships.  Can Adam find a way to fit in with a new team, family, and country after getting saved from an orphanage overseas or will his insecurities keep him from enjoying life?

Fans of sports stories will like this one because it has a lot of basketball action, but the story is also well developed and interesting.  Adam has many insecurities he is dealing with, but he’s afraid that talking about them will show weakness or open him up for more bullying than he already gets.  It’s only after he begins to open up a bit that he truly feels like he can make friends and be happy.  Recommended for readers looking for stories about sports.

The Losers Bracket by Chris Crutcher

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 250

Annie has a difficult family to say the least.  She was bounced in and out of foster care until she turned 8 and her mother got in yet another altercation and her foster family said they would take her back as long as they could make it permanent.  Her foster father in particular does not like Annie seeing her biological family because he thinks they are a bad influence.  So, Annie, a skilled basketball player, has learned that if her family happens to show up during her games there is not much anyone can do about it.  In tournaments she gets her team to lose the first game on purpose so that they can then work their way up through the losers bracket and have more games and chances for her family to come.  As time goes on, however, her family manages to find even more obstacles for her to deal with and she’s not sure how she can keep her foster family and biological family separate.  Is it unrealistic that she should be able to have both families in her life?

This story tackles the tough issue of foster care and the difficult positions that puts everyone in.  Annie’s family has some strong feelings about foster care, but Annie cannot deny it’s given her opportunities she would not have had otherwise.  That does not mean she wants to turn her back on her family completely, however, so it becomes very complicated.  Throughout there is a lot of sports action too, for readers who like to read about sports.  The issue of foster care is not treated as an easy fix and all sides are presented to show how complicated this can be.  There is always hope, though, for helping kids who are in terrible situations.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Genre: Fantasy

# of Pages: 538

Zelie can still recall how her mother used to do magic when she was a child.  Since she too was born with the signature white hair of someone who will one day possess magic, she can’t wait until she can begin to feel the magic move within her.  However, the king has decided that those who do magic are dangerous and he has found a way to restrain all of them, which is how Zelie watches her mother die in a terrible execution.  As she grows up she is ridiculed for her white hair and her family is forced to pay steep taxes simply for having her in the family.  One day in the market, she literally runs into a girl running from the royal soldiers who begs her for help.  Against all odds, the two manage to escape the soldiers and only then does Zelie learn that Amara, a princess, has stolen a precious artifact from the palace that everyone believes could help bring back magic.  They end up setting off on a quest, with Zelie’s brother, to find the other two relics they need in order to reconnect magic to the world.  There are many people chasing them such as Amara’s brother, who is hiding a secret of his own.  Can they fulfill their quest in time? How many will be lost along the way?

This is a powerful and sometimes violent story because Zelie and Amara are fighting a war against those people who do not believe magic should exist and are willing to do anything to stop it from coming back.  Zelie has seen how her people have been treated without it, however, and she believes it is their right to claim what is naturally theirs.  The book, although a bit lenghtly, is so engaging that even reluctant readers will get hooked as long as they give it a try.  There is a sequel to this story.  Recommended for fantasy lovers.

Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Romance

# of Pages:  300

Simi is an Indian American girl who very much wants to grow up to be an artist, not a matchmaker like her mother and grandmother.  They believe she has the matchmaking gift that they have been doing in their family for generations based on personality traits, values, and much more.  Simi’s friend, Noah, wants them to step out of their comfort zones and get noticed during their sophomore year of high school, which is why he suggests they team up with Simi’s brother (a coder) to create a matchmaking app to bring Simi’s mother’s business into the modern age.  Simi reluctantly agrees and they create and launch a matchmaking app for just their high school.  It is naturally a big success as people begin seeing past their previously set cliques to see people they might be compatible with in the school.  Even the artwork Simi designed for the app is a hit.  The only problem is that one popular girl did not get paired with the guy she believes she’s meant to be with and therefore she’s causing trouble for Simi and Noah.  Is a matchmaking app based on ancient matchmaking ideals a good idea?  Will it bring people together like it’s supposed to or tear them apart and make Simi’s sophomore year a disaster?

This is a fun story that honors the matchmaking culture in a way that shows why it was originally established and how for many people it truly is about finding happiness for lonely people and not about making connections or dowries.  There are many different factors that Simi must consider as she launches this app at her school, but overall her intent is to make people happy and not to make money or benefit in any other way.  Along the way Simi finds several potential love interests and one challenges her personal beliefs (she reacts true to herself, which readers will find refreshing).  Recommended for fans of light romances such as Jenny Han, Sarah Dessen, and Susanne Colasanti.

The Girl Before by Rena Olson

Genre: Suspense

# of Pages: 314

Clara is shocked and frightened when a swat team bursts into her home and forcefully drags her and her daughters away.  She quickly learns that her husband is under investigation, but she doesn’t understand what for.  She knows he would be very upset with her if she talked to the police so she refuses to speak or eat until the police bring her a note in her husband’s handwriting telling her to eat.  Eventually, Clara begins to open up about her life in the hopes of helping clear her husband’s name, but in talking to her therapist she begins to wonder if that would be a good thing at all.  Throughout the book it flashes back to earlier times in her life depicting the many struggles and abusive relationships she has faced in her very young life.  Despite all she’s been through, Clara cannot come to terms with the fact that the investigators working with her believe she is actually a young girl named Diana who was kidnapped at an early age and brought into a world of lies and violence.  Is it possible she could have failed to see the danger she was in when she felt so loved and looked after?  Did she willingly participate in the crimes of her husband or was she too blind to see what was really going on?

This suspenseful story follows Clara as she struggles to learn the truth about her life, her husband, and the entire way she was raised.  Readers will quickly realize that she’s actually a part of a human trafficking ring, but she’s been so indoctrinated into the cause that she really believes the people around her care about the young girls they are raising.  As the realization of her entire life dawns on her she begins to feel the weight of the decisions she has made or at least allowed to happen in front of her.  The story uses many flashbacks to put the pieces together, which does build suspense, but may be confusing for some readers.  Characters are fully developed and engaging and it’s easy to see how Clara ended up in the predicament she is in.  Recommended for fans of mysteries such as The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl.

Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Genre: Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 390 p.

Sawyer was raised by a single mother because her mother’s wealthy family disowned her when she announced her pregnancy at 17.  Due to the estrangement, Sawyer has not ever met her mother’s family and is shocked when her grandmother shows up unexpectedly one day to offer her college tuition in exchange for living with her for a year and participating in the debutante season.  Sawyer doesn’t have a lot of options at the moment to go to college so she agrees to go and secretly hopes she might be able to figure out who her father is.  Shortly after arriving, Sawyer learns that her cousin is being blackmailed by another debutante and she agrees to help, but little does she know that is just the beginning of the crazy debutante season!

This book balances a little mystery with Sawyer discovering who her mother’s family is and sorting out everything she thought she knew about them.  Fans of Barnes’s other titles will enjoy this one as well.  The story is engaging and the characters are fun.  There are several red herrings in the hunt for Sawyer’s father, but there’s so much going on it’s best to just enjoy the ride through the debutante year.  There is a sequel available for those who want to know more about these debutantes.  Recommended for those looking for a light, fun read.

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Poetry/Autobiography

Iowa High School Award Winner

# of Pages: 291

This powerful memoir written in poetry format depicts Laurie Halse Anderson’s early life and the many difficulties she faced, including getting raped at 13.  Despite the many hardships she faced, she always had hope and dreamed of a brighter future, but as she got older she was often prevented in fully speaking her truth because adults didn’t believe young adults could handle it.  Sadly, she quickly learned that many young adults had their own hardships to share and those that didn’t should be enlightened instead of shielded.  She also spoke about how she was inspired for many of her popular books.

During a time when people are speaking out more than ever for equal rights and justice for those who have been taken advantage of, this book is very important for young adults to read.  Anderson’s original bestseller, Speak, has remained popular for several decades and there’s a reason why it speaks to readers year after year.  Anderson isn’t afraid to talk about difficult situations that do occur, whether adults want to admit it or not.  She believes it’s very important to speak up in order to defend and protect those who find themselves in positions where they feel they have no power.  Highly recommended.

Verify by Joelle Charbonneau

Genre: Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 307

Meri lives in a world where everyone lives harmoniously in a beautiful city where there is no waste since people do everything digitally.  In fact, her mother was an artist who worked on the city beautification projects all around the city.  Meri and her father are still reeling from her mother’s tragic death and Meri thinks her mother left a message in her unfinished paintings in her studio.  Meri stares at the paintings for weeks trying to figure out what her mother was trying to tell her.  Then, one day she sees someone get arrested for having a piece of paper and she can’t stop thinking about it.  She starts investigating and learns there are a lot of things the government has done in order to ensure peace and beauty, including eliminating any form of protest or uncertainty in the community.  Is it possible that her government has taken the ability or desire to find truth or to substantiate facts? Will Meri be okay knowing that her rights have been violated or will she find a way to do something about it?

This book has been compared to Fahrenheit 451 because it deals with government restrictions on information.  The book itself, though, has a fresh and new take on what seems to be a very possible future if people do not try to safeguard choice and truth.  It is very believable that people could be persuaded to let these things go when promised with safety, beauty, and stability.  Recommended.

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Genre: Romance/ Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 440

Emma Saylor hasn’t spent much time with her mother’s family since she was little due to her parent’s divorce and then her mother’s death when she was ten.  Her father tried really hard to shield her from the pain he knew she felt from her mother’s absence.  When her dad gets remarried, Emma is supposed to spend time with a close friend while he goes on his honeymoon, but plans change and she finds herself without anywhere to go for several weeks.  After exhausting every possibility, Emma goes to stay with her mother’s family who call her Saylor (which is what her mother called her).  They run a hotel next to a lake and Emma finds herself learning the importance of hard work and family as she throws herself into the family business.  She also realizes that she really doesn’t know much about her mother’s family at all and enjoys hearing how memories and seeing family photos.  As she gets to know her grandmother, aunts, and cousins she starts to realize that she wants to get to know them more even after the summer is over.  Meanwhile, there is a little romance between her and a local boy.

Anyone can relate to this story about feeling torn between two different worlds.  Emma was always a part of her father’s elite upper middle class world, but she feels she belongs just as much to her mother’s working class family first world.  Can she find a way to balance both?  Can she find a way for her two worlds to connect?  Recommended for fans of Dessen’s other titles or Jenny Han books.

I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

Genre: Realistic Fiction

247 pages

Lena and Campbell are two very different students at the local high school. Lena has grown up in this community and is very popular.  Campbell is new this year and is struggling to fit in her senior year.  One night they are thrown together in a concession stand at the high school football game when a riot breaks out.  Even though they do not know each other, they are forced to try and find a way home through the chaos and dangers of a tough neighborhood.  Lena knows the neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean she thinks it’s a safe place to be.  They encounter some scary situations and find it’s nice to have each other to lean on.  Can they both make it home safely?  Will there be any lasting damage from this fateful night?

Fans of The Hate U Give and All American Boys will like this title about racial tension challenging young people.  It’s written by two different authors which helps give each protagonist an authentic voice.  Fans will probably want to know more about what happens to these characters after this memorable evening and the aftermath they are sure to face.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Iowa High School Award Winner 2020-21

Genre: Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  234

Marin ran away to college after a terrible tragedy befell her and she hasn’t told anyone about it, even her best friend Mabel.  Despite her effort to outrun her past, however, Mabel has come to visit Marin in her dorm over Christmas break.  Mabel is determined to find out why Marin ran away and if there is any way to rekindle their friendship.  As the weekend goes on Marin begins to face the terrible truth she ran from, but she also begins to realize that she is going to have to face her past eventually.  Can they be as close as they once were?  Can Marin learn to deal with her reality as it is?

Fans of John Green will enjoy this title.  The characters are vivid and the plot is revealed at an appropriate pace.  Many difficult issues are discussed so readers looking for lighter reads will probably want to keep looking.  This has been named an Iowa Award Winner for next year.

 

Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry

Genre:  Suspense

Told from multiple viewpoints, six teenagers struggle to survive when masked men open fire in a shopping mall at Christmas time.  Grace, watched in horror as her mother became the first victim.  Miranda had been looking for ways to earn extra cash to support her new habit.  Javier had been working as a janitor in the cafeteria.  Amina had been working retail in a local clothing shop.  Cole was near the food court when the shooting happened and tried to get as many people as possible into a local store before the metal grate closed.  Finally, Parker had been reluctantly babysitting his little sister while messing around with his friends and lost track of her in the chaos.  He finds himself in the middle of the action while trying to find her.  All of these teenagers come from different backgrounds and have different issues to deal with, but ultimately they all have the same goal of survival.  They come up with a plan for how to help the hostages, but not everyone will make it out alive.

April Henry has once again created a fast paced suspenseful novel in which the characters are engaging.  Reluctant readers will enjoy this title as it is full of action and very little downtime.  The ending does contain a few surprises, but most are set up throughout the story and should not be a huge surprise.  A very entertaining read.

This is Not the End by Chandler Baker

Genre:  Realistic Fiction apart from one futuristic element

376 p.

Lake Devereaux survived the car accident that killed her best friend and her boyfriend.  She has less than a month until she turns eighteen, at which time she can resurrect one person, but only one.  To make matters worse, she had already promised her resurrection to someone else who isn’t even dead yet. Everyone is pressuring her to use her resurrection for their personal family member and she is getting frustrated and overwhelmed.  Then, after therapy she meets a boy from her past who does not care who she chooses and therefore she sees him as someone she can confide in. He has strong feelings against resurrections, though, which makes their relationship difficult.  Who will Lake choose?

This book manages to set up a premise that seems totally believable and yet impossible for Lake all at once.  Her relationship with her brother, boyfriend, and best friend are all described in avid detail as you see why she is struggling so hard with this resurrection decision.  The periphery characters are also well described and their motivations are all understandable.  The ending will surprise most readers, but not in the way they will probably think.  The book manages to sustain a very interesting premise throughout the entire book.

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

# of Pages: 356

Sylvie, Vincent, Jules, and Sam are all lured to a late night escape room they believe to be mandatory for team building at their lucrative investment firm.  All of them have places they’d rather be, but after losing two major clients recently they are all concerned about their positions going forward.  Once they arrive, they soon get stuck in the elevator in the abandoned building and they quickly find a few clues that makes them realize the elevator is actually the escape room.  It’s very hot and dark, however, so they struggle to find clues.  They soon realize that there is no getting out of here unless they find their own way out and each clue reminds them of what they have given up and who they have hurt on their way up the corporate ladder.  Who is behind the escape room and will these four escape alive?

The person behind the escape room becomes clear fairly quickly in the story, but the why and the how take awhile to unfold.  Each of these people has a complicated backstory and it takes awhile for everything to come out.  Fans of mysteries such as The Woman in the Window and the Woman in Cabin 10 will enjoy this fast paced, high energy mystery story.  Even once the reader figures out who is behind the escape room, there are still many surprises ahead.

Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Romance

# of Pages: 282

2019 Iowa High School Book Award

Morgan has become increasingly frightened to leave her apartment ever since the mass shooting at her high school.  It’s gotten to the point where she can’t even step outside her apartment door without everything starting to go fuzzy.  When Evan moves in next door she begins to want to explore the outside world again.  She misses her friends and her swim team and she hates the burden she’s put on her single mother and brother.  Her father is largely absent and isn’t much of a role model when he is in the picture. With the help of her therapist, Morgan must make the choice to fight her fears or else she may never leave her apartment again.

This book truly helps readers see what it would be like to be agoraphobic.  Morgan’s fears and her subsequent fight to get better are not portrayed as easy or trivial in any way.  As the story goes on, Morgan is also forced to see that others were also negatively challenged by the shooting, but have struggled in other ways.  It’s also nice to see how Morgan’s family copes and remains relatively happy and supportive of each other despite all that they have been through and the fact that they are not rich.  Evan is a fun character for Morgan to interact with, but ultimately this is Morgan’s story to tell.


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