Posts Tagged 'trust'

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.

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The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  287

Iowa High School Book Award 2018-19

Adam Spencer Ross is a high school student who wants to be there for everyone who needs him, but he has OCD and therefore some tasks can be difficult for him.  He goes to counseling one on one and in a group every week and this does seem to help him cope with his OCD symptoms.  He often finds himself worrying about his group members, his stepbrother who has anxiety, and his mother who is getting death threats to the point where he simply cannot think about his own symptoms which then get worse.  Meanwhile, a new girl joins their OCD group and he’s immediately drawn to her.  He worries it’s a bad idea to get involved with someone who also has OCD tendencies, but he can’t seem to help himself.  Robyn feels the same way and they begin a sweet romance, but soon all the stresses in his life begin to make it impossible to ignore that his OCD tendencies are making it almost impossible to get through the day and Robyn’s seem to be going away.  As much as he cares for Robyn he worries that his being near her as she improves might actually hurt her recovery.  Does he have the strength to let her go for both of their sakes?

Fans of Eleanor and Park and The Fault in Our Stars will love this romance between two unlikely teenagers.  The characters are all engaging and despite the superhero nicknames, each teen in his OCD group gains depth and personality throughout the story.  The topic of OCD is described accurately and can help readers understand how this condition truly affects teens their age and in different ways.  This book also shows that although people with OCD have a lot to deal with they are also very loyal to those they care about.  The book has several plot lines that all come together nicely and realistically in the end.  Once readers make the choice to try this one they won’t be disappointed.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  453

Iowa Award Winner 2018-19

From the author of the Lunar Chronicles series comes a story about the Queen of Hearts before she became the Queen of Hearts.  Catherine wants to open a bakery with her best friend and marry the new court jester, but her parents are insistent that she pursue the King who has shown great interest in her.  She does not want to disappoint them in any way, but she feels strongly about her desire to create pastries for a living and despite never having worked for a living she feels she could be successful at it.  Her best friend and maid is good with numbers and they hope to someday use Cath’s dowry to open their dream bakery.  Cath realizes she has had a privileged life, but also has never stopped dreaming and hopes she never has to.  When the new court jester comes to court she is instantly dazzled by his tricks and ability to show her amazing things she could never have imagined.  She hopes she has the courage to give up everything she has ever known in order to pursue her dreams, but she has no idea the many obstacles that lay before her.

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles series will enjoy this fun title.  Cath’s character is well developed and easy to identify with.  Jest is mysterious, magical, and brave in a way that makes it easy to see how Cath would become enamored with him.  The king, by contrast, is silly, weak, and refuses to deal with the new beast who has begun terrorizing the kingdom.  The world captures a lot of the magic from Alice and Wonderland but adds new modern twists as well.

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.


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