Posts Tagged 'lies'

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.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Genre: Realistic Fiction

372 p

2019 Iowa High School Book Award

Dill Early, Jr. is struggling in his town where he is now famous for being the son of the preacher who was convicted of having child pornography on his computer.  He and his mom are struggling under all the legal bills and he doesn’t see how he can ever really get out of this small town.  Lydia, his sarcastic friend, is also a bit of an outcast because she refuses to conform to traditional norms.  She has a fashion blog where she showcases unique stores all around their area and encourages everyone to be themselves at all costs. Their other friend, Travis, is a large red haired senior who loves a fantasy book series and often carries a staff with him.  The three of them are often ridiculed in their community and if they didn’t have each other to lean on their lives would be truly miserable.  Lydia, at least, has very supportive parents at home who are not living hand to mouth and can afford to spoil her a bit.  Dill and Travis, on the other hand, have parents who do not seem to like who they are very much and keep trying to change them.  All three of them have aspirations for after high school but do they have the courage to go for them? Do they have the strength to break away from the expectations that have been set for them?

This powerful story gets more and more powerful as it goes on.  The character development is so well done that the reader really feels like he or she knows these people and is living alongside them.  There are many issues these teenagers are dealing with that seem especially unfair for people so young, but these situations exist all over America and it’s time we all start addressing it.  Travis and Dill feel like they are trapped and have no way out of the life set for them by their parents, while Lydia is counting down the days until she can leave this town far behind. In the end, they all must find the courage to do what they need to in order to not only survive, but thrive in their own lives.

 

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.

The Girl I Used To Be by April Henry

Genre:  Suspense/Mystery

229 pages

Iowa Teen Award Winner 2018-19

Olivia was born with the name Ariel, but it was changed after her mother was murdered in the forest while their family was looking for a Christmas tree.  Olivia was only three at the time and everyone believed her father killed her mother and then dropped her off at a Walmart and disappeared.  She’s never been able to remember anything about the attack, but life has not been easy as she was passed around to foster homes and even suffered a failed adoption before deciding to emancipate herself.  Everyone is shocked when it is discovered that her father actually died the same day as her mother.  So who killed them and why did they release Ariel?  Could they still be out there waiting to finish her off if she starts asking questions?

April Henry does it again with a fast, suspenseful mystery story where Olivia tries to find out what happened to her parents all those years ago.  Coming back to her home town is overwhelming at first and she decides she doesn’t want anyone to know her true identity, but eventually she finds that it’s really nice to reconnect with her roots.  There are many characters to keep track of that are not particularly developed, but could all be potential suspects.  Olivia is very strong, motivated, and independent which makes her a good protagonist.  Reluctant readers and mystery readers will enjoy this title.

Free to Fall by Lauren Miller

free to fall

# of Pages:  473

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Mystery

RAC:  Yes

Iowa High School Award Winner 2016

Rory is thrilled when she gets accepted into the prestigious Theden Academy, an all expense paid prep school with an excellent reputation.  Shortly before she leaves, she learns that her mother, who died in childbirth, also attended Theden and left her a symbolic necklace.  This story is set in the future where everyone is dependent on their smart phones and uses an app called Lux that makes literally every decision for them from what to major in to what to eat for breakfast.  As Rory settles in she meets a young barista at a nearby coffee shop and he helps her see what a disadvantage it is to always have an app make decisions for you.  She begins using Lux less and less and in the process notices more around her, including the shady practices of her new school.  Is someone out to get her?  What really happened to her mother and did she actually die during childbirth?

This is a fun, fast paced story that fans of futuristic fiction will enjoy.  The story is detailed and has many revelations that unfold in a timely way.  The characters are all well developed and it’s easy for the reader to see each of their motivations.  Despite there being quite a market for futuristic dystopian-esque books this one is unique enough to stand out and will keep readers engaged.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

red rising

Genre:  Science Fiction/Fantasy

# of Pages:  400

RAC:  Yes

Darrow is a “red” in a caste society where reds work below the surface of Mars trying to terraform the planet for other life forms to eventually come live on the surface.  The work is hard and thankless and they are compensated with hardly any food and poor living conditions.  Darrow’s wife, Eo, believes there is more than the “golds” are telling them and thinks they should revolt in order to get to the truth.  Darrow lost his father when he peacefully protested their work conditions and does not want to lose anyone else.  When Eo defies the golds anyway, she is publicly hanged and Darrow refuses to let this go.  He eventually gets a makeover to make him look like a gold so that he can infiltrate the golds to take them down from the inside.  He learns that the golds have been hiding a lot about the actual development of the planet Mars in order to keep them in a lowly position.  He vows revenge for his entire family who are starving and slaving so that others can grow fat and rich.  Will they discover he is not truly a gold?  Will he find any compassion for the golds he has come to despise?

Fans of futuristic fiction will enjoy this title because there is a lot of violence and colorful characters.  The story eventually evolves into a competition similar to the Hunger Games that will keep even reluctant readers’ attention.  Many questions are left unanswered and there is currently one sequel already.  While it is similar to other titles out there it is unique enough that it is finding an audience of supporters who desperately want to know what will happen to Darrow.

Full Ride by Margaret Peterson Haddix

full ride

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of page:  322

RAC:  Yes

Becca Jones and her mother just want anonymity after Becca’s father is sentenced to ten years in prison for multiple counts of conning people out of their life savings so that his family could live a very privileged life.  Becca is about to start high school and completely humiliated by her father’s actions.  Becca and her mother flee Georgia and run to a small town in Ohio where they live very humble, simple lives trying to avoid anyone knowing who they really are.  Three years later Becca is an A student and ready to apply to colleges.  She has tried tirelessly to prove how hard she is willing to work for her future and that she’s not a cheater like her father.  Yet, when she asks her mother for help on financial aide forms her mother gets paranoid and says it won’t be safe for her to do anything online where someone could find them.  Eventually, Becca learns that her mother is harboring a terrible secret about the real reason they fled Georgia in the first place.

This book is written in a way that any young adult girl reading can truly identify with Becca and how she must feel learning about her father’s transgressions and being forced to deal with that humiliation.  Becca and her mother are written very well and have multiple dimensions and motivations for all of their actions.  Becca’s friends start a little flat, but eventually they start to have some real personalities and genuinely seem to care for Becca.  The plot definitely has some twists and turns that readers might not be expecting, but the ending is handled very quickly and neatly.  Overall, an exciting read that reluctant readers will enjoy.

The List by Vivian Siohban

thelist

 

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

333 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

2014-2015 Iowa High School Award Winner

Every year a list is posted the Monday before Homecoming listing the four prettiest and four ugliest girls, one for each grade respectively.  Each chapter follows one of the eight girls and how they cope with the existence of this list.  Danielle, the ugliest freshmen, must deal with the fallout of how her boyfriend handles the news that she was voted on this list.  Meanwhile, Abby, the prettiest freshmen faces possibly not being allowed to go to the dance at all due to grades.  The “ugliest” sophomore is actually a cute, but very mean girl who is deemed “ugliest” on the inside.  The “prettiest” sophomore girl is a girl who has been home-schooled for her entire life and is trying to find independence from her mom with great difficulty.  The prettiest junior, Bridget, feels pressured into an eating disorder in order to maintain her image while the ugliest junior reacts quite strongly and refuses to shower or change her clothes for the entire week after the list comes out.  The ugliest senior is the first ever to earn that particular honor for all four years of high school and she pretends she is totally fine with it.  The prettiest senior feels the pressure to follow in her sister’s footsteps who was the prettiest senior the year before and seemed to fall apart afterward.  Each chapter follows a different girl as she navigates through this very difficult week.

This book has earned many awards for good reason.  This book delves into many serious issues for high school girls including insecurity, the fear of being excluded, worrying about what others think, eating disorders, dating problems, academic trouble, lying, and problems at home.  No one on the list finds happiness no matter which side of the list she is on.  While the circumstances around the list may seem unbelievable, the issues surrounding it are completely believable and exist at every high school.  A great book to recommend to high school girls, especially ones who are having trouble adjusting.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Genre:  Science Fiction

# of Pages 398

RAC Book:  Yes

Amy must make the very difficult decision of whether or not to cryogenically freeze herself with her parents.  They have been chosen for their elite skills to lead a new planet in 300 years.   Amy can choose to wait 300 years to continue her life on a new planet with her parents or she can stay and live the rest of her life without them.  She chooses to get frozen, but is unexpectedly awoken 50 years early by someone wishing to cause harm to frozen people.  Amy feels it is her responsibility to protect her parents from the person trying to hurt the frozen people, but how?  Meanwhile, Elder, the future leader of the ship, is trying to learn what it will take to lead one day from Eldest, the current leader of the ship.  Eldest is tyrannical, oppressive, and difficult to work with.  Worst of all, as Elder soon learns, he has no problem with lying to the passengers of the ship.  Can Elder become the kind of leader the ship needs?  Will he go along with the lies they currently believe just to make Eldest’s life easier?

Fans of Glow and Divergent will enjoy this title.  The plot is interesting, even for those who have read similar titles.  Although the plot can be predictable it is also clearly thought out and multi-layered.  Some difficult issues are discussed or displayed such as suicide and sexual assault, so beware of younger readers.  All in all, it was an interesting, enjoyable read.

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Apocalyptic Society

# of Pages:  465

RAC Book:  Yes

Alex goes into the woods against the wishes of her aunt and doctors in order to distribute the ashes of her parents before her brain tumor kills her.  While she is in the woods there is an electromagnetic wave that sweeps the country and maybe the world.  The pulse kills most people instantly and leaves others either saved or in a zombie-like state.  She meets a young girl, Ellie, who is unharmed, and a teenage boy, Tom.  Tom is a former U.S. soldier from Afghanistan.  Together the three of them try to survive, but keep finding more and more challenges to finding food and staying safe.  Will they ever feel safe again?  Will they all survive this disaster?

This story is engaging and students who like survival and futuristic type stories will enjoy the action.  The characters all have secrets that they are reluctant to share, despite their close relationships they eventually form.  There are many unanswered questions by the end of the story and the ending itself may frustrate some readers who are looking for more of a resolution.  Hopefully, some of these questions will be answered in the inevitable sequel.

In Too Deep by Amanda Grace

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  228

**Special Review**

Samantha has had a crush on her best friend for as long as she can remember, but since he is unavailable she decides to try and strike up a conversation with Carter at his senior party.  Carter is the unofficial king of the high school and everyone loves him.  However, when Sam approaches him she is met with embarrassment and ridicule.  As she stumbles out of Carter’s room a girl sees her disheveled and crying and comes to the conclusion that Carter raped her.  Soon the rumors start flying and Sam is caught unawares until it is too late.  At that point several girls come forward and reveal that he has done heinous things to them as well, but never to the point of physical or sexual assault.  Sam is unsure how to stop the terrible rumors that everyone was quick to believe and she wonders if she owes it to his previous conquests to keep up the facade.  Meanwhile, Sam starts getting threats toward her by the small inner circle that believes Carter’s story.  Will Sam reveal that although he was cruel, Carter did not attack her physically?  Will Sam be able to face her small town if she comes clean?

This is an almost haunting book because it is so believable.  This misunderstanding could easily happen and once the rumors start it can be hard to stop.  Carter’s character is deplorable in many ways and he has done terrible things to many girls in the school, but is that a reason to let him suffer for something he didn’t do?  The reactions of everyone around Sam are believable and the ending is accurate, which many readers may struggle with.  Fans of Thirteen Reasons Why will love the harsh truth and reality of this story and will find themselves thinking about it long after they have finished.  However, readers looking for a fun romance should keep looking.  Recommended.

Between by Jessica Warman

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Mystery

# of Pages:  454

RAC Book:  Yes

Elizabeth Valchar wakes up to find her own dead body, but she can’t remember anything before she died.  As she watches her friends and family move on from the tragedy she realizes that her life was not as perfect as everyone thought it was.  She had already suffered the loss of her mother at a very young age, and of her father’s hasty remarriage afterward.  She did truly love her boyfriend, Richie, which is why it’s so hard to see him suffer after her death.  She has a ghostly companion in Alex, a boy in her high school who died a year before Elizabeth.  He was very unpopular and people did not react to his death the way they do hers, which makes for an uncomfortable situation.  Can Elizabeth find out what happened to her so that she can be free?

This story grabs readers right from the beginning because there is so much that Elizabeth does not know.  The more she remembers about the months before she died the more confusing it gets.  She is surrounded by a bunch of questionable characters who could either be on her side or working against her.  Her circle of friends is particularly mysterious as they appear vapid, but some of them know more than they are saying.  Fans of The Everafter, Elsewhere, and Thirteen Reasons Why will enjoy this book, but there are some heavy issues discussed.

Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick

Genre: Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  264

Age Level:  13 and up

RAC Book:  Yes

San Lee has been the new student on many occasions since his family has moved so much.  With each new school San would try to create a new image or persona in order to survive, since he is a geeky Asian kid who frequently gets picked on.  This time things are a little different because San is now alone with his mother and he is angry with his father for their current situation. 

On his first day of school he meets a young lady who calls herself Woody and plays the guitar at lunchtime for money.  He decides he wants to get close to her because she seems like someone who could appreciate different and unique people.  In his history class they begin talking about Zen Buddhism and before he knows it he has led the class to believe that he has practiced this religion for years.  It definitely makes him unique and original, but can he keep it up without hurting his new friends and his mother? 

This story uses Zen Buddhism to illustrate how life in most situations, but especially high school, could be improved if people really thought about their actions and words.  By using Zen, San basically creates a new way to remind students of how to treat each other and live life to the fullest.  Unfortunately, San’s failure to be honest with Woody about his past and true ambitions leads him into trouble.  Once again, Sonnenblick has created a realistic high school character who can be selfish and self-serving, while also showing the ability for c0mpassion and friendship.  The supporting characters are rich and developed to make the story engaging and even a little inspiring.


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