Posts Tagged 'friendship'

The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

Genre: Mystery and # of Pages 383

Stevie and her friends, head to a summer camp as camp counselors, but really they are there to try and solve the unsolved case of four teenage camp counselors who were murdered at that same camp in the 1970s. What happened to them has become legend over time and the new camp owner would like to have the case solved so the town can move on and try to start forgetting the terrible tragedy. Stevie soon learns that back in the seventies four teenagers snuck into the woods late one night and were not seen alive again. One of the boys was found on the path to the woods as if he’d been running for help when he was struck down and the other three were stacked neatly in a box in the woods. Stevie finds that while the case was several decades ago, the biggest challenge is that many people still remember it vividly and are having trouble with yet another person digging it all up again so she makes it her mission to solve it this time. Shortly after they arrive there is another murder and Stevie knows that someone out there definitely knows more than they are sharing. Can she find who killed those teens back in the 70s and learn why? Can she solve the murder of the recently discovered victim?

Fans of the Truly Devious series will enjoy this title since it features many of the same characters and it’s all wrapped up in one book this time. The story has a campy Halloween horror movie feel for readers, which many readers will enjoy. The town is full of colorful characters who all bring something to the solving of this case. This is a fun, suspenseful mystery for mystery lovers. Hopefully we will see more of Stevie and her friends in future mystery stories.

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Genre: Sports Fiction

Number of Pages: 445

Gene Luen Yang has always been fascinated by comics and as an adult loves to draw his own in addition to being a high school teacher. He never got why so many people liked sports, however. He wasn’t very good at any sports and often got hurt in some way while trying to participate in them. Eventually he gave up on sports altogether. That all changes when he starts hearing about the basketball team at his Catholic High School, called the Dragons, and their wish to become the California State Basketball Champions. Once he starts digging into this story he learns that it has been many decades in the making, which is partly why the school is so revved up for this season. He decides to write a graphic novel explaining not only the school’s history but also documenting what they are hoping will be a monumental season. He even writes about his struggle to properly depict some of the more difficult incidents from the Dragons’ past that have led to this moment. Can the Dragons finally make it all the way to the end?

This graphic novel is unique, compelling, and enthralling whether a reader likes sports or not. It’s easy to see how Gene Luen Yang got caught up in the excitement of a school desperately wanting that state championship, but like many sports stories he discovers there is a lot of history with this team. A lot of people can relate to this story for one reason or another, but in the end it’s easy to want a team like this to succeed. Highly recommended, but especially for sports readers and reluctant readers.

The Secret Recipe for Moving On by Karen Bischer

Genre: Romance

Number of pages: 280

Ellie Agresti was blindsided when her boyfriend of 8 months dumped her on the first day of senior year. Ellie had been a semester transfer the year before and therefore hadn’t made many friends of her own once she met Hunter and she joined his group of friends. Now, she is facing a horrible reality of starting school alone yet again. To make matters worse, she is in Home Ec with Hunter and his new girlfriend, Brynn, and they seem to make it a mission to rub their relationship in her face. She ends up with a bizarre group of students for her home ec group, but as time goes on Ellie begins to realize they all have their strengths. Slowly, her home ec group starts to work together and fight to be the champion group by the end of the semester. One member of the group, Luke, started out really annoying Ellie but she grows to find him funny, smart, and helpful. The only problem is that Luke has been dating a girl for awhile and she is determined to never do to anyone else what happened to her. Can her and Luke find a way to be together where it doesn’t feel like she broke them up? Can her home ec group master the skills required for life and beating the other home ec groups in her class? Can Ellie find a way to be happy in this new school on her own, without the help of a boyfriend to tell her what to do or who to hang out with?

This book is fun and funny as Ellie struggles with very relatable high school issues such as dating and group projects. She definitely has a lot to juggle and often mistakes are made, which many readers will be able to identify with. She is quick to apologize if she is wrong and willing to take responsibility for her actions, even when provoked. The romance between Luke and Ellie is slow building and exciting as they truly get to know each other and find ways to support each other in their own ways. Fans of romances by authors such as Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen will enjoy this title.

Baby and Solo by Lisabeth Posthuma

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Romance

Number of Pages: 406

Joel has had some difficult struggles in his life and he is hoping for a fresh start when he gets a part time job at a video rental place (this book is set in the 90s). Everyone at the store adopts movie names and he becomes Solo. His first day on the job he meets Baby and he is immediately intrigued by her. She asks him to help her with a huge favor, and he realizes that everyone has stuff they are dealing with. As their friendship develops, Baby starts to get frustrated that he knows so much about her and she doesn’t know anything about him, but he is afraid she’ll never look at him the same way again if she knew about his past. He knows, eventually, everyone will find out about “the bad thing that happened” but until that time comes he wants to just be Solo and enjoy having friends and a normal life for once, especially as things at home deteriorate even further than they already had. Can he ever move on from the terrible events in his past? Will his friends stand by him if they knew everything he has been through?

This book has a fun 90s nostalgia being set in a video store. Even readers too young to remember traditional video stores will be able to clearly see why they were so popular and why a group of teenagers would have so much fun working here. Baby and Solo both have some serious issues they are dealing with and often they lash out either verbally or physically as a means to cope with what is happening. The side characters are all well developed too and it’s easy to see why they would both be more comfortable at times with the employees at the video store than with their parents at home. Readers will find themselves drawn in by the characters and trying to find out Solo’s secrets before Baby does. Fans of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park will enjoy this story about two people meeting under the wrong circumstances who still manage to be there for each other during tough times.

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Enchanted Jones dreams of one day becoming a professional singer, which is why she sneaks off to an audition she knows her parents would say no to. Even though she is not cast for the role she auditioned for, she is noticed by one of the judges, R&B singer Korey Fields. She is immediately swept up in his attention and believes he really wants to help her make a record and improve her singing talent. Korey even convinces her parents to let her travel with him on tour, but things quickly turn sour when Enchanted realizes Korey is not the man he claims to be. At this point, she isn’t sure how to break away from him, though. She’s given up so much for this life and he has convinced her she deserves to be treated the way he treats her. Is there anyone out there who can help her get away from this terrible situation? Anyone who would believe the truth about Korey Fields?

This powerful, timely story is relatable to so many young girls who have had their dreams cast aside by powerful men who believe they can take what they want in life. This book does not shy away from difficult topics such as abuse and rape, but it is done in a way that seems respectful to the main character being forced to go through this. This is a story that will be hard for some readers, but it’s important to have this kind of book available so students are aware of different ways grown ups can take advantage of kids. Fans of The Hate U Give, or similar titles that delve into tough topical issues, will enjoy this title.

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 387 p.

Ash is a typical football player in his high school when one day he takes a big hit and wakes up to a changed world. The changes aren’t big at first, stop signs are now blue and no one but him remembers them ever being red, etc. As he tries to make sense of these changes, though, he knows that with each big hit he could potentially see bigger changes, which is exactly what happens. He quickly learns that there are infinite possibilities for what his world could become and in a lot of ways he just wants to go back to where he started, but isn’t sure how to do that. Meanwhile, his best friend suffers some devastating losses in the new realities and he desperately wants to help him. Can he find a way to fix the world that has become so fragmented? Can he find out why this is happening?

Each reality brings major changes to Ash’s world and several big issues are discussed such as wealth, race, gender, and abuse. Ash’s character is remarkably open and mature to the changes he sees every time he takes a big hit and he seems determined to try and make his world a better place. His shock every time someone tries to intimidate him into doing something against his moral compass is not surprising. The ending will satisfy readers and leave them thinking a lot about different realities in their own world.

The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of pages: 326

Alina has been studying ballet for 10 years and has plans to make a career out of it when a devastating injury brings her dream crashing down. With therapy, she is able to walk and resume normal functionality, but her dreams of ballet dancing are over. She must learn to engage fully in her high school and begin to heal and make new friends. She quickly learns that many of the high school peers had previously seen her as standoffish as she never spoke to anyone and only focused on ballet. Now, that she is going to school full-time and not splitting her time with ballet she has to find a way to be happy and start to deal with the grief she feels over the loss of ballet. One way her parents convince her to move on is to try out for the school musical and she ends up getting a dancing part. She comes to find that there are several great people who try out for the play, but every time she starts to forget about her past her best friend texts her to see how she’s doing. She knows her best friend is just trying to stay close and has the best intentions, but she finds herself feeling dread every time she gets a text. She does not want to know what is happening at her own studio now that she is not there, but she knows it isn’t her friend’s fault that she got hurt. Can she overcome the sadness of losing ballet in order to appreciate the good things she has in life? Can she make true friends at her school who will support her even when she acts irrationally? Can she stay friends with someone who still does ballet when she can’t?

Alina’s story will resonate with many teenagers simply because many are trying to reach a difficult goal and often face obstacles such as injury that stand in the way. Alina is fortunate to have so many people who want to help and support her, but it’s hard to accept help when you’re not ready for it. The book does touch on some racial biases in the world of ballet as well, which is something readers may not be aware of. Family is another topic that is mentioned as Alina must reconnect with the sister she left behind on her quest to dance. This story emphasizes the importance of family and friends in life to help you get through the tough times, but to be by your side for the good times. Recommended for fans of Jenny Han or Suzanne Colasanti.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Genre: Fantasy

Number of Pages: 418

Deka has been dreading her purity ceremony for her entire life since she has always felt like an outsider. A purity ceremony is when a village tests the blood of all girls who have turned 16 to see what color it is. If a girl’s blood turns red, she is welcomed into the community, but if it doesn’t she is considered unnatural and put to death. On the fateful day, some monsters attack the villagers at the ceremony and Deka steps up to help, but in doing so shows that she has the ability to communicate with them. One of her friends, horrified by what he saw, stabs her to see what color her blood is and it runs gold. She is then tortured for weeks while they figure out what to do with her, but then a mysterious woman comes and offers her the chance to come with her and fight with girls just like her against a powerful foe of the kingdom. This may be her only chance to escape a life of torture and regret. Does she have the strength to fight for a people that would hate her based on the color of her blood? Can she find a way to get to the truth of who she really is?

Deka’s story is engaging from the beginning as it is so easy to identify with a girl who just wants to fit in and make her father proud. Unfortunately, things are not that easy and instead she faces pain, both physical and emotional, as she watches everyone she ever loved turn against her. The history of these magical people, or Alaki, takes awhile to be revealed, but in the process Deka learns a lot about the many girls who came before her and the sacrifices they made. The ending is especially satisfying as it is revealed who she can really trust and who has betrayed her. Fans of Children of Blood and Bone and Grace and Fury will enjoy this title.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Genre: Sci/Fi

Number of Pages: 303

Klara is an artificial friend who loves looking out the window at her store hoping that one day she’ll find a family to go home with. Klara is very observant and notices a lot about the people and places around her. This is why she catches the eye of Josie, a young girl who has a stilted walk who comes to the city once in awhile and talks to Josie through the window. She knows she is meant to take Klara home, but it takes her awhile to convince her mother. When Josie finally gets to take Klara home she is blessed to become part of the family, even if Josie does get sick from time to time which causes great stress to the household. Klara feels it is her responsibility to look after everyone and truly wants the best for everyone around her. As Josie’s health deteriorates, Klara feels it is up to her to try and find a way to make her well, but what does she know about such things? Her never-ending hope begins to rub off on those around her and they begin to think that Josie may have a happy ending after all. Can Klara help heal Josie? If Josie grows up what will become of Klara?

This unique story follows an observant, but neutral narrator who truly tells it like she sees it as she doesn’t have any feelings clouding her judgment. It takes awhile to a clear picture to come out about the world this is set in and what tough decisions humans have to face regarding new technology. The characters are all interesting, but the reader only knows as much as Klara can observe so they are not always well developed. Fans of futuristic stories will enjoy this title and find it truly different than other novels.

Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson

Genre: Fantasy

Number of Pages: 325

Isda was rescued from a well at birth after being cast aside by her mother for being a gravoir. A gravoir is someone who can maniupulate other people’s memories when they sing and it is illegal to raise a gravoir, which is why her mother tried to kill her. Cyril, the owner of the opera house, kept her in the shadows her entire life so she could manipulate the memories of the opera guests in a way they would remember the shows more fondly and want to buy more tickets. She always felt like Cyril did his best toward her and even cared for her, until she met a new janitor by the name of Emeric. Not only was Emeric’s voice mesmerizing, but when he sang his memories were vibrant and colorful and Isda was immediately drawn to him. She knew he had potential to be an amazing opera star with a little training and she convinces him to let her train him so that she can have a hand at putting someone on the stage, even if it can’t be her. As they grow closer, Isda knows that if Cyril or anyone else finds out her entire existence could be put into jeopardy. Plus, she begins to think there are skills she may have that Cyril has not told her about. Is she capable of more? Who can she really trust: Cyril or Emeric? How much trouble would she really be in if she were discovered?

Fans of musicals and the stage will be captivated by this tale of an outcast simply wanting to fulfill her dreams, including finding a friend. As the story develops, the action really takes off and you can’t help but root for the main characters to find truth and happiness. The rules for this world are fully developed and explained as the story goes on, which is why some aspects of the ending are so powerful. There are many plot twists in this creative setting and fans will want to see more from this world. Highly recommended for fantasy readers.

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.

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.

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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