Posts Tagged 'friendship'



The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

# of Pages:  403

2019 Iowa High School Award Winner

Canaan is meant to be a perfect city in which people live in peace and harmony without the distraction of technology, money, or competition.  Every twelve years the town breaks into chaos and then their memories are erased.  The only way they know who they are is by reading the book that is tied to them at all times.  Nadia did not forget her memories during the last forgetting and therefore knows some of the things people chose not to include in their books, including people, they hoped to forget.  She has no idea why she didn’t forget her memories, but it definitely didn’t make her life any easier since her mother and sister treat her like she doesn’t belong in their family.  Meanwhile, Nadia has begun slipping over the walls of the town in search of food, answers, and adventure.  She is caught by the glassmaker’s son and he demands she take him with her.  As they explore outside the walls they learn there are many things about how their town was set up that no one ever passed down, despite her suspicions that not everyone is losing their memories every twelve years.  Will anyone ever believe them about their discoveries?  Will it be enough to save them from this terrible fate of forgetting who you are every twelve years?

This story has a dystopian feel similar to The Giver, The Testing, and Matched.  It takes awhile to fully invest in Nadia and her quest to find answers about her town.  Once she begins finding answers the book’s pace picks up and takes off while many obstacles rise up to try and stop her from sharing the truth of their existence with others.  The main characters are well developed and everyone’s motivations and actions are adequately explained by the end.  Readers who enjoy these dystopian books will be curious for more, but it isn’t quite as engaging as some of the other titles in this genre.

Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau

Genre:  Mystery

# of Pages: 340

This book focuses on 6 high school students who all have their stereotypical characteristics.  Diana is the senator’s daughter who always looks and acts perfect.  Frankie is the star football player who goes out of his way to prove there are no rules for him. Tad is another football player who is biracial and has also recently come out as gay and is struggling to get people to see him as he is.  Cas is a lonely, overweight girl who feels like she won’t ever fit in anywhere.  Z recently lost his mother, but all people see in him is a colossal screwup who will never get his life together.  Rashid is a Muslim who struggles to be seen as a person and not as religion by those around him.  They are all at school for different reasons days before the actual start to the school year when a bomb goes off and they are all trapped.  As they try to find a way out more bombs go off and the police are clearly scared to enter to try and find survivors.  Then, they find a radio and learn that the police believe the bomber is one of the students trapped with them in the building.  Could it be one of them??

This one has done very well in my school media center.  Some very avid readers were initially bored by the seemingly stereotypical characters, but quickly became intrigued when their personalities came out and most readers were surprised by the ending which is always a plus with a mystery.  The story itself moves quickly as each character reveals intimate details about what led him or her to be in the school that fateful day.  Recommended for fans of thrilling mysteries.

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Genre: Historical Fiction

# of Pages: 372

Iowa Teen Award Winner 2018-19

In 1845 Sammy, a Chinese American teenager flees her town after her father unexpectedly dies and she realizes there is no one else she can trust.  She’s hoping to chase down her father’s business partner who recently departed for California on the Oregan Trail.  She convinces Annamae, an African American slave to join her on the run. They disguise themselves as boys since the Oregan trail can be so dangerous with gangs and other threats.  Annamae is hoping to find her brother who was sold separately from her and she has not seen for many years.  Even as they befriend three young men on the trip and manage to avoid thieves, disease, and even wild animal attacks they know eventually they will have to go their separate ways and at this time they are the closest thing to family each of them has.  Can they find a way to survive the Oregan Trail?  Will they find what they are looking for?

This historical fiction book tackles an area that students have probably never seen before and that is what it would have been like to be on the Oregan trail at all, but also for those people who were labeled as minorities at the time.  How would that make life harder for them than everyone else?  How would they know who they could trust?  Sammy and Annamae have a really difficult road ahead of them, but they stick together and never give up which helps them to survive.  Even though it is a historical fiction book I think fans of survival stories would also enjoy this title.  The characters are multi-dimensional and well developed which helps the readers truly understand their motivations.  Recommended.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Genre:  Futuristic

# of Pages: 433

2018-19 Iowa Teen Award Winner

Citra and Rowan live in a world where all human problems have been eradicated including hunger, disease, and poverty.  Science has even made it possible to revive those who have died in accidents so that they can continue living without any complications or injuries.  Therefore, in order to curb population growth the governing entity has created scythes whose entire job is to glean, or kill, those they see fit.  Scythes are supposed to take their job very seriously and act with honor and compassion to those they glean, but there have been some rising up who seem to enjoy killing people and this has the traditional scythes very concerned.  Citra and Rowan are both chosen to be Scythe Faraday’s apprentices which means they will train with him for an entire year, but then only one will be ordained a scythe and the other will return to their regular lives.  At the first scythe conclave they go to, however, one of the more progressive scythes challenges Faraday’s choice to take two apprentices and proposes that the one who wins must glean the one who loses and the scythe rulers agree.  This puts Citra and Rowan in a tough spot because as they train together they become closer and closer and neither is sure if they could glean the other.  Is there a way for them both to exist in this “perfect” world?

Shusterman has done it again with this unique and engaging story.  The premise seems far fetched and yet the reader is pulled in almost immediately when Scythe Faraday is introduced.  All of the characters are well developed and make the reader want to know more about their intentions and motivations, while also watching them react to various plot twists.  Recommended for anyone from reluctant reader teens to adults who want something fresh and new.

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.

Zero Day by Jan Gangsei

Genre: Mystery/realistic fiction

# of Pages:  359

2018-19 Iowa High School Award Winner

Addie Webster was kidnapped from her home when she was 8 and there has been no trace of her ever since.  Then, after her father becomes president of the U.S. she mysteriously shows up again and claims to have escaped from her terrible captors.  The head of the NSA finds her story troublesome and enlists her former best friend, Darrow, to keep an eye on her and see if she does anything unusual.  Darrow is offended at first, but unfortunately has some deeds in his past he would prefer did not become public and agrees to keep an eye on Addie.  He is surprised to find that she does exhibit some unusual behavior, such as being able to hack and take down a video posted by a bully in a threatening manner.  He’s happy she did it of course, but where did she get such computer skills if she was raised in a compound with no connections to the modern world? What is she up to and how far will she go to get what she wants?  Most importantly, is any part of her still the Addie he remembers playing board games with as children?

This book is fun, surprising, and fast paced.  Readers will enjoy the unusual set up, but will most likely see through some of the lies that take Addie awhile to figure out.  It is set up to continue and I’m sure that readers will want more after the exciting ending and subsequent cliffhanger.  Many of the characters are not fully developed, but as the series continues I’m sure they will develop further.  This would be a popular title to share with reluctant readers, not because of its length, but because of its ability to grab the reader from the very beginning and keep him or her guessing until the very end.

 

Flashfall by Jenny Moyer

Genre:  Futuristic Fiction

# of Pages:  342

Iowa High School Award Winner 2018-19

Orion works digging in the treacherous mines of Outpost Five.  They are mining for cirium, which is the only thing that protects humans from the radiation poisoning due to the flash curtain that has sent most humans under the protection of the cirium protected city.  If Orion and her partner, Dram, can mine 400 grams of cirium they will earn their freedom into the protected city, but so far no one has ever lived long enough to do that.  Orion is special in that she can hear the cirium calling to her and she ends up finding a huge deposit that she knows will ensure her freedom, but there are forces trying to keep her from succeeding.  Then, newcomers come to Outpost Five and many of the things they tell Orion make her question everything she has ever known.  Who can she really trust and who, in fact, is out to make sure she fails in everything she tries?

Fans of Red Rising will like this title because it has an unusual setting and plenty of action.  The author does not shy away from killing off characters so it’s hard to predict who will live and who will die.  The struggles of Outpost Five are terrible and neverending, but without Orion none of the Outpost community would stand a chance at survival.  There are many surprise twists in the plot as they try to find out what the government is really up to and how they can go about changing the terrible fate they have been dealt.  Readers who want action/survival should definitely check this series out.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Genre:  Fantasy

Holly Chase was a wealthy, beautiful, egotistical daughter of a movie director who lived to judge others.  Therefore, it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise when she was visited on Christmas Eve by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.  Yet, Holly chose not to take this experience seriously and laughed it off as a joke despite the ghosts’ warnings that she would die soon if she didn’t change her ways.  Shortly after her disastrous Scrooge experience she is hit by a car and dies.  She wakes up in the office of the company who choose the “Scrooge” each year and she is now required to work here to prepare for each Christmas Eve, but then must also act the role of Christmas past.  She thinks she’ll be stuck in this existence forever until one year her Scrooge is a teenager just like her, and unfortunately, she can see the similarities between herself and her new Scrooge and for the first time she begins to feel bad about the kind of person she really was when she was alive.  Can she save him from the same fate even if she has to break a few rules?

Anyone looking for a fun Christmas read should check this one out.  Holly is brash, bratty, insensitive, and sympathetic all at once.  She’s trying to do better, but doesn’t really know how.  The supporting characters are all fun and colorful, but the focus is definitely on Holly and most of the other characters are not as developed.  The story itself is fun and the reader wants to root for Holly despite her difficult personality.  Recommended.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  398

There is an island that is almost totally cut off from the rest of the world where a set of triplets are born every generation.  The queen immediately knows what power each of the girls will have and when they are a few years old they are separated so that they can hone their craft.  When they come of age they must compete in a bizarre set of rituals in which only the last one alive can become the next queen.  Katherine is a poisoner, but she while she has become adept at administering poisons she has not yet become immune to them herself.  Arsinoe, the naturalist, has not yet found her familiar, which is like her animal soul mate, but she has been very happy growing up alongside her best friend, Jules, who is a very talented naturalist.  Finally, Mirabella, the elementalist, is very gifted and can easily manipulate water and fire.  It is expected she will easily take the crown over her weaker sisters, but once the games begin everyone has a few surprises in store for the waiting spectators.  Who will end up with the crown?  Whom can the sisters really trust in this process?  Who will get hurt along the way?

This series has received a lot of attention from my students, but it did take me awhile to get into the story and the characters.  Once I did become immersed in the characters I not only wanted to finish the first one right away but wanted to read the second one as well.  It’s definitely a unique story that does not rely on plot details seen in other fantasy series.  There is still a lot that needs to be revealed about these characters, their motivations, and the ultimate outcome which will keep readers engaged for a long time to come.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Genre:  Mystery

# of Pages:  360

Five students are mysteriously sent to detention after they are caught with cell phones in class that they claim aren’t theirs.  Once they get to detention they see that they are from completely different circles in the school.  Bronwyn is an honor’s student who hopes to go to Yale.  Cooper is a pitcher who is being courted by several universities.  Addy is dating a jock and one of the more popular girls in school.  Nate is the school rebel and is rumored to be on probation for dealing drugs.  Finally, Simon is a bit of an outcast due to a blog he writes in which he always manages to reveal everyone’s worst secrets.  Shortly after the five of them get to detention there is a fender bender in the parking lot and their teacher rushes out to help.  While he’s out of the room, Simon gets himself a cup of water from the science lab station sink and collapses shortly after.  Nate frantically digs through Simon’s bag for his epi-pen but can’t find it.  Cooper runs to the nurse’s office but comes up empty there as well.  Helplessly, they all watch as the paramedics arrive and aren’t able to revive Simon who dies shortly after from anaphylactic shock.  As horrible as this is, it gets even worse when these four become the prime suspects in the police investigation when it is revealed that Simon was about to post life changing secrets about all four of them the next day on his blog.  Could one of them really have done it?  How will they ever survive the suspicions and accusations being thrown at them?

This book contains quite a few language and sexual references, but the story itself is very powerful and will draw teen readers in.  The ending will be satisfying as well as unexpected, but before they get to that all four of the suspects will have quite a few difficult days ahead of them as they are chased by reporters, questioned by police, and realize for the first time who they’re real friends are.  The reality of the life teens live now with social media and everyone always looking to reveal everyone’s innermost secrets for their own entertainment is unfortunately all too real, but this book shows how no matter how advanced technology gets teens still need friends and family they can count on, especially when things get tough.

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill

Genre:  Historical Fiction Mystery

# of pages:  349

Piper is living on the outskirts of 1920s Chicago.  As she nears the end of her senior year she is startled to learn that her best friend, Lydia, is suffering from seizures and her own family has not told her about them because they do not want to upset her.  Piper has witnessed two of these episodes and both have frightened her terribly.  She’s not that surprised when Lydia arrives on her doorstep one afternoon distraught because her parents want to send her to the Mayo Clinic mere weeks before graduation.  Piper is sad to see Lydia leave, but understands why her parents feel she needs medical attention.  She watches Lydia walk the short distance to her house and waves at her from her white picket fence and that’s the last Piper sees of her best friend before Lydia’s family notifies her that Lydia never came home.   As the police begin investigating Lydia’s murder Piper can’t help but begin investigating herself a bit by retracing Lydia’s last steps and finding that not everyone is telling her the truth about that night.  Many people around Piper believe she should leave the crime solving to the police and act more like a traditional lady, but Piper believes she may be the only one who can truly find out what happened to Lydia that fateful day.

This mystery is well written and engaging.  The 1920s backdrop is fun as Piper tries to become a more modern woman at a time when that earned you a ruler to the back of the hand in school.  When it counts, Piper’s family support her even if they don’t approve of her behavior all the time.  There are many intriguing characters which helps to keep the mystery more difficult for Piper to solve.  The mystery itself holds up as everything is properly explained in a plausible way, but it is still challenging for Piper to solve.  Highly recommended.

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

Image result for once and for all

357 p.

Genre:  Romance/Realistic Fiction

Louna works for her mother’s successful wedding planning business, but after having her heart broken a year prior she is not sure there is such a thing as a happy ever after.  Her mother and her mother’s business partner, William, also feel this way and Louna worries they are getting too pessimistic and jaded.  Then, they meet Ambrose who is the crazy optimistic little brother of a bride and nothing ever seems to get him down.  At first Louna sees this as simply shirking responsibility and not caring about his future, but after he lands a summer job working alongside her, she begins to see he is just hopelessly helpful and always hopeful that everything will work out positively.  Eventually, Louna realizes she wants to be more like that, but will that mean officially “getting over” the terrible thing that happened in her past relationship?  Will she ever really have a chance at another true love?

Fans of Sarah Dessen will enjoy this new title, but the characters don’t quite stick with the reader the way they do in some of her other books such as The Truth About Forever.  The way Louna’s previous relationship ended definitely adds a unique twist that will surprise readers.  Overall, a fun, fast story for readers who love romances.

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  403

Anna was born into an elite Luminate British family, which means her family has access to magic, which is strictly restricted from anyone not in the Luminates.  There is an uprising building up to break the binding spell that restricts magic away from anyone considered unworthy and Anna is shocked to learn her own father is a sympathizer.  He believes the binding is in place merely to keep the wealthy in power and not to protect those who simply do not know how to use magic and could hurt themselves or someone else.  When Anna comes of age, however, her ceremony to practice magic goes poorly and she is believed to be barren, which means she’ll never really be accepted by the Luminates or those outside the Luminates.  One power she does seem to have is to break other people’s spells, which is why her family forbid her from coming to her sister’s coming out party.  She sneaks in anyway and accidentally ruins her sister’s coming out.  Partly as punishment, partly as protection from those who wish to study Anna’s unusual capability of breaking other people’s spells, she is sent away with her grandmother to Hungary.  Upon arrival, Anna meets some interesting people and begins to see that those who possess magical tendencies but at outside the Luminates are treated abominably in order to keep them in their place.  She begins to wonder if she should use her one power to break the binding so that magic would be available to anyone who wishes to use it.  Is she powerful enough?  Would it cause chaos and catastrophe like the Luminates predict?

Fans of fantasy stories will enjoy this title.  The truth about Anna’s condition eventually comes out, but it may confuse some younger readers.  The story meanders a bit when Anna first goes to Hungary, but once the new characters are properly introduced the story picks up again for a satisfying ending.  Recommended for students who have already found other fantasy series they enjoy.

Forever, Again by Victoria Laurie

Genre:  Mystery

# of Pages:  360

When Lily Bennett moves with her mother to  a new town before her junior year of high school she tries to remain optimistic, but in reality her mother is fleeing her cheating husband and his pregnant girlfriend and Lily is fleeing her cheating father and the boyfriend who cheated on her with her best friend.  They are both looking for fresh starts and unfortunately, that involves living on her wealthy grandmother’s property.  Ever since she was a child Lily has had a bizarre recurring dream where she’s running on a big field that has caught fire and she approaches a teenage boy’s body in the middle of it.  It has scared her since she was little, but normally she only has this dream a few times a year.  Since she moved she has had this dream every single night and it’s beginning to take a toll.

Amber was a teen living in the same town Lily just moved to in the 1980s.  Her boyfriend, Spence, was murdered on the football field of their school and the police investigator believed that Amber committed the murder.  Four days later Amber was stabbed to death and it was ruled a suicide.  Could Amber be trying to send Lily a message all of these years later about what really happened to her and Spence?  What is Lily’s connection to Amber’s death?

Fans of Victoria Laurie’s mystery When will enjoy this title as well.  It has many great plot twists, sinister characters, and red herrings.  The idea that Lily could be the reincarnation of Amber is a unique twist you do not often see in YA mystery novels.  The book itself moves quickly and will keep even reluctant readers engaged.

Parallel by Lauren Miller

parallel

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Romance

# of Pages:  423

Abby Barnes wakes up one day to find that everything she thought was true about the last year of her life had been changed dramatically.  Instead of taking a drama class and eventually earning a role in a movie, she ended up taking an astronomy class and ended up attending Yale.  Her relationships with her best friend and two possible boyfriends were also affected with this switch.  Her best friend, who’s also a science genius, traces the change to the day that a major worldwide earthquake occurred and believes her life has been blurred with that of a parallel life.  Abby struggles to learn what that in fact means and if this disturbance  can keep affecting her life.  Every morning she wakes up to assess if her parallel has done anything to change her current present.   Meanwhile, she tries to keep her “double life” a secret so that no one knows just how crazy she believes she is.  Will this ever get fixed or will she be doomed to live this challenging life forever?

The idea of parallel lives is complicated and challenging, but Lauren Miller writes the story in a way that is absolutely understandable and even intriguing without being confusing.  There are many characters and while some feature more heavily than others they all impact Abby’s overall story.  The story gains momentum near the end and readers will want to see what ultimately happens to Abby and if she ever gains control of her life back.


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