The Moon and More

Dessen, Sarah. The Moon and More. New York: Viking Juvenile, 2013. 978-0670785605. 384 p. $19.99. Gr. 9-12.

Spending time with a book by Sarah Dessen is like spending time with your best friend; you know what to expect, but enjoy it nonetheless. In The Moon and More, Dessen once again takes her readers to the lovely beachside town of Colby described in her novel Along for the Ride. Our protagonist, Emaline, has lived there her entire life. She is content living with her mother, stepfather and two sisters. Her boyfriend Luke has been a constant in her life since 9th grade. She never thought of needing much more until her biological father, with whom she communicates mostly by email, convinces her to apply to Columbia University. He promises to pay for her schooling but then rescinds this offer as soon as she receives her acceptance letter. Emaline agonizes over his lack of contact, but is happy enough attending the local university, and prepares to spend her final summer after senior year working for the family’s beach house rental business. That is, until a documentarian and her cute young assistant Theo rent out the most expensive house in the area. They convince Emaline that she must help them make contact with local artist Clyde Conaway, who gave up art long ago to return to Colby and live in anonymity. Theo believes that Emaline deserves better than her simple life in Colby, and soon Emaline herself is questioning her path in life. When her father shows up with her younger half brother in tow, Emaline’s summer is suddenly not what she expected it to be. Dessen grabs the reader from the beginning with Emaline’s authentic, yet mature, perspective, leading the reader to understand the nervousness of a young adult on the cusp of a new life. I highly recommend this title to any Sarah Dessen fan, or to those looking for a good, comfortable read.

Realistic                                 Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School


I was a late-bloomer Sarah Dessen fan, and discovered her while I was in college. I devoured her books one by one, and now eagerly await each new novel, and follow her on Twitter (I highly recommend following as many YA authors as you can. They are all hilarious, and Twitter provides a wonderful opportunity to hear from our favorite authors on a daily basis!). Sarah Dessen generally writes about young women just about ready to cross the line from high school to college or beyond. Usually I find that Sarah Dessen fans are in tenth and eleventh grade, but this year I am endeavoring to promote her books to our seniors.


Our English 12 teachers typically have one independent reading project, for which the students select a book and then share their thoughts about the book in a Goodreads discussion group. Most of the students in English 12 are not avid readers, so it does take some time to convince them 1) that reading is valuable, and 2) that they can find something that they will enjoy. Sarah Dessen’s books, with their themes of growing up and experiencing life after high school, are engrossing, easy reads with mature themes that are perfect for young women in grade 12. Her characters are usually authentic, and their thoughts are mirrored in many young women ready to graduate high school. I hope to persuade many young women ready to graduate to give Sarah Dessen a try. Hopefully, they will discover how awesome her books are a few years earlier than I did!

New YA Science Fiction (and a Riding Camp) 2013


Dashner, James. The Eye of the Minds. New York: Delacorte Press, 2013. 9780385741392. 310 p. $18.99. Gr. 7-12.

Michael and his best friends Bryan and Sarah, met in the VirtNet, which is where they spend a large part of their day hanging out at coffee shops and discussing the best way to ‘code’. The VirtNet is a gamers paradise where ‘players’ are able to participate in some of the most sophisticated video games ever invented. Unfortunately, one ‘gamer’ has gone too far and has learned how to manipulate the minds of the ‘players’ to the point that if a gamer dies within the VirtNet, they are truly dead. Michael and his friends must use their best hacking skills to locate the source of this destruction before it gets worse.

Science Fiction; Suspense            Krista Goodzinski, Riverside MS




DiSclafani, Anton. Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. New York: Riverhead, 2013. 978-1-59448-640-1. 388 p. $19.95. Grades 10 and up.

Fifteen-year-old Thea Atwell is sent to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, a combination summer camp / finishing school for affluent girls, in the summer of 1930 after a tragic event rocks her family.  Due to her father’s profession, a doctor in rural Florida, and her mother’s inherited citrus groves, Thea’s family is sheltered from the harsh effects of the depression allowing her more freedom and opportunities than most girls her age.  The book appears to have everything a teen girl would wish for in a good book: a captivating time period, strong female character, romance, and drama. However, drawn-out flashbacks leave the reader feeling bored instead of filling her with suspense. Also, Thea’s sexual explorations and desires might be too graphic for teenagers. Leave this one for matures readers to find on their own and pass on putting it on your library’s shelves.

Historical Fiction; Coming-of-age          Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area HS




Yancey, Rick. The 5th Wave. New York: Putnam, 2013. 978-0-399-162141-1. 480 p. $18.99. Gr 7-12.

Aliens invade the Earth in a series of waves, leaving darkness, infection and destruction in their path. 16-year old Cassie is alone in the apocalypse, haunted by fragmented memories of family members left behind. She has learned that the only way to survive is to trust no one, as the aliens kill or infect all humans they find. It’s when Cassie is brutally wounded that she must trust her rescuer- a mysterious, nurturing boy named Evan who may not be all he seems. Cassie’s narrating voice is authentic, funny and raw, which will keep teen readers on the edge of their seat as she navigates a desperate world and an unexpected blooming love. Readers of all genres will be satisfied with Yancey’s genre crossing novel that is solidly grounded in reality. This is the first of a planned trilogy.

Dystopia, Science Fiction                       Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Some Food (and other things) for Thought: New in Non-Fiction 2013

The Library of Tattoos and Body Piercings (series). San Diego: Reference Point Press, 2014.  80 p. $28.95 ea. Gr. 7-12.
Currie-McGhee, Leanne. Tattoos, Body Piercings, and Health. 978-1-60152-5642
Currie-McGhee, Leanne. Tattoos, Body Piercings, and Teens.  978-1-60152-5666
Hirschmann, Kris. Tattoos, Body Piercings, and Art. 978-1-60152-5628
Stewart, Gail B. A Cultural History of Tattoos. 978-1-60152-5604
Szumski, Bonnie and Jill Karson. A Cultural History of Body Piercing. 978-1-60152-5581

For thousands of years, tattoos and body piercings have both richly adorned human bodies AND brought disease and even death.  This series takes a comprehensive look at tattoos and body piercings from the perspectives of history, art, health and teen views.  The more celebratory titles are those focused on history and art (A Cultural History of Body Piercing; A Cultural History of Tattoos; Tattoos, Body Piercings, and Art); while the two focused on health and teenagers (Tattoos, Body Piercings and Health; Tattoos, Body Piercings, and Teens) really reinforce the possible negative consequences of tattoos and body piercings.  All five are inviting texts, interweaving factual data with personal stories (reasons why a person chose a tattoo as well as reasons a person now regrets the choice).  Young people are urged to “think before you ink” as most who regret their choices had the work done as teenagers.  One issue not covered prominently is the effect of tattoos and body piercings on personal relationships or employment.  Overall, the series evenhandedly shows the reasons behind interest in tattoos and body piercings and realistic health outcomes, physically and emotionally.  A worthwhile purchase that will attract teen readers.
617.9; Health                     Melissa Scott, Shenango High School


Kessler, David. Your Food is Fooling You: How Your Brain is Hijacked by Sugar, Fat, and Salt. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2013. 978-1596438316. 183 p. $9.99 Gr. 8 and up.
Kessler, pediatrician and former USFDA Commissioner investigates the burgeoning obesity crisis in America, in this readable young reader’s edition of his New York Times bestseller, The End of Overeating.  Here, he identifies factors that make food such a problem for the majority of us: the trifecta of fat, sugar and salt in most processed foods, food as entertainment are major reasons.  Within the industry, the push for profits leads to the push for irresistible foods and food experiences.  A desirable “mouthfeel” of certain foods leads many of us to want to repeat the eating experience, even if we’re overeating.  “Monster meals” increase the problem, as does eating mindlessly, with or without friends to help.  Fake food, fried food and more, Kessler has identified it, and made it into easy reading for young people and adults.  After targeting the food, he shifts to analyzing overeating, then blessedly devotes a section entitled “Food Rehab” to changing and improving our eating habits.  Tactics include knowing the industry tactics, retraining your brain, getting support, being ready with rules, and making it a lifestyle, not a diet.
613.2: Health                         Melissa Scott, Shenango High School


Parks, Peggy J.  Concussions (Compact Research: Diseases and Disorders).  San Diego: Reference Point Press, 2014. 978-1-60152-512-3. 96 p. $41.35. Gr. 8 and up.
This nonfiction selection gives a great general overview of the definition of concussions, diagnosis and treatment, the risks, and prevention.  Each chapter discusses the most current research and includes primary source quotes, charts, diagrams, and specific bulleted facts.  While the books states many reasons for concussions, the emphasis of this book is on sports-related concussions during the teenage years.  This book is great for a student who has suffered a concussion or one who might be doing research on the topic.
617.1; Health            Nicole Starner, Biglerville HS/Upper Adams MS
Parks, Peggy J.  Digestive Disorders (Compact Research: Diseases and Disorders). San Diego: Reference Point Press, 2014. 978-1-601-52514-7. 96 p. $41.35. Gr. 8 and up.
This nonfiction text brings to the forefront several disorders that are not often discussed, usually for fear of embarrassment.  The text sheds light on numerous statistics that show the amount of cases, the causes of the disorders, and the treatment.  Within each chapter, personal accounts of those dealing with a specific disorder are referenced, making this book easy to follow and associate with.  This book is great for a student conducting research or for the student who may be experiencing symptoms of these disorders.
Health                   Nicole Starner, Biglerville HS/Upper Adams MS
Grayson, Robert.  Revolutionary War (Essential Library of American Wars). Minneapolis, MN: ABDO, 2014. 978-1-61783-879-8. 112 p. $23.95. Grades 8 and up.
While there are already numerous books on the subject of the Revolutionary War, this book makes it easy to understand the sequence of events and the people involved.  The nine chapters in the book cover the reasons why the War began in the first place and discuss several major battles.  All chapters include several drawings and paintings of the scenes along with interesting facts in the margins.  The back of the book also contain a timeline, short comments on the famous people involved, and a glossary of terms.  Perfect for the student who would like a quick read on the entire scope of the war.
War; American Revolution   Nicole Starner, Biglerville HS/Upper Adams MS
Blohm, Craig E.  Catastrophic Events of the 2000s (Decade of the 2000s series). San Diego: Reference Point, 2014. 978-1-60152-522-2. $31.32. 96 p. Grades 8 and up.
 With clear pictures and succinct articles of disastrous events, this book will interest many readers who are reading for pleasure. This text covers killer events that span the weather, diseases, terrorism, and man-made catastrophes.  Some chapters include inserts that explain two different perspectives of the event, and others include inserts of historical facts.  Other features include a timeline of events and important people and words of the 2000s.
Natural Disasters           Nicole Starner, Biglerville HS/ Upper Adams MS
Netzley, Patricia D.  Terrorism and War of the 2000s (Decade of the 2000s series). San Diego: Reference Point Press, 2014. 978-1-60152-530-7. 96 p. $31.32. Grades 8 and up.
This text presents a good overview of terrorism that has occurred all over the world and the wars that have resulted from it.  Some concepts discussed include America’s War on Terror, hostage taking, suicide bombings, coordinated terrorist attacks, and internal civil conflicts.  Other inserts include different perspectives of negotiating with terrorists, how reducing poverty might help civil strife, and how to prevent terrorist attacks.
363.325 Terrorism               Nicole Starner, Biglerville HS/Upper Adams MS
Nazario, Sonia. Enrique’s Journey: The True Story of a Boy Determined to Reunite with His Mother. New York: Delacorte Press, 2013. 9780385743272. 273 p. $16.99. Ages 12 and up.

This is the story of Enrique and his heroic journey to be reunited with his mother, Lourdes, who decided to leave Honduras for the United States in hopes of making a better future for her children. Journalist, Sonia Nazario, tells the story of not only Enrique, but the many children that attempt the dangerous trip from Central America to the United States in search of mothers who had to leave their children behind to find work. Sonia decides to make the journey herself, which involves her train-hopping and enduring the risk of being beaten, raped, or even killed. This firsthand account of what children are willing to risk to be reunited with loved ones is touching and horrifying at the same time. This modern day story would be beneficial to add when studying the Underground Railroad or any other historic lessons taught about survival and risks taken by immigrants to make a better way for themselves and their families.

305.23 Children/Adolescence                           Krista Goodzinski, Riverside MS



Girls’ SportsZone series

Peters, Chris. Girls’ Hockey (Girls’ SportsZone series). North Mankato: ABDO Publishing, 2014. 978-1-61783-987-0. 48 p. $21.95. Gr. 3-6.

Williams, Doug. Girls’ Basketball (Girls’ SportsZone series). North Mankato: ABDO Publishing, 2014. 978-1-61783-984-9. 48 p. $21.95. Gr. 3-6.

Girls' Hockey              Girls' Basketball

There’s certainly no shortage on nonfiction sports books for kids but this series has something special to offer: books for girls about sports with a focus on female athletes.

These titles focus on the basics of each sport by profiling a skilled player and how she developed that particular skill, for example “Skating with Hilary Knight” and “Rebounding with Tina Charles.” Each chapter is divided equally between covering the profiled player’s life and her skill area, so this series will undoubtedly be interesting to any girl who closely follows a sport and knows the players, but may not be the best choice for a girl looking to learn the basics of the sport (rules, player positions, etc.).

My schools are in the Hershey area where hockey is very popular, so I’m sure that “Girls’ Hockey” in particular will fly off the shelves!

Each title includes a table of contents, glossary, index, “For More Information” section, and a diagram of the playing area (court or rink).

796.962: Hockey, 796.323: Basketball               Lindsey Long, Nye Elementary School


One book a…Thousand Words

Brown, Jennifer. Thousand Words. New York:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013. 978-0316209724. 288p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.


The premise of this book is so timely and appropriate for high school students today. High school sophomore Ashleigh loves her senior boyfriend and while drunk at a party, she is encouraged by her friends to send him something so he does not forget her at college. She decides on the spur of the moment to send him a full frontal nude photo of herself even though she is a virgin. What happens next is an absolute nightmare as the photo is sent out to practically everyone in the school as a result of a bad breakup and her friends who trash Kaleb’s house and truck. The story, told through her time working on her sixty hours of community service and flashbacks, really gets to the heart of the matter of the dangers of drinking and sexting and how it not only changes her life, but also the life of her ex-boyfriend who is charged with distributing child pornography. Ashleigh loses her parents’ trust, coach’s respect, friends, and reputation. We are there with her as she attempts to rebuild her life with the help of an unlikely new friend, Mack. The title comes from the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, but as Ashleigh also learns, it does not tell the whole story.

Realistic                               Marian Kohan, Erie School District

The book does not come off as overly preachy as it highlights an important issue that too many of our teens are engaging in and the possible worst case scenario that could result.  One of the students who read the book liked it but thought it seemed too contrived and went overboard on the consequences for the teens. Another thought that there was no way a girl who was not having a sexual relationship with her boyfriend, and really didn’t want one, would send a nude photo of herself—drunk or not. To her the story lacked a ring of truth but she did like how the story was told and wanted to read more about Ashleigh’s new relationship with Mack.

You Look Different…In Real Life

Castle, Jennifer. You Look Different in Real Life. New York: Harper, 2013. 978-0-06-198581-2. 355p. $17.99. Gr. 8-12.

Justine was six years old when she and four of her classmates were selected to be the focus of a documentary focusing on the lives of a typical group of kindergarteners.  Five years later, a follow-up film documented their evolving friendships, personalities, interests, hopes and dreams.  Now as the teens reach the age of 16, the time has arrived to document them for a third film.  Only this time, Justine is uncertain if she wants to participate in the project.  An outspoken youngster, she was the undisputed star of the prior documentaries.  But at 16, she is disappointed in the choices she has made and the boring direction her life seems to be taking.  She’s not the only film participant whose life hasn’t turned out the way they imagined.  The five teens, once close as children, now seldom speak.  Close friendships have broken and families have disintegrated.  Some of the five have embraced their minor fame, while others have sought to reinvent themselves in reaction to their portrayals in the films.  When filming on the third movie commences, the five teens are sent by the film directors on a weekend retreat.  Forced to once again interact, will the teens come to some type of understanding about the fracturing of their relationships and their future?
Realistic                       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

I would rate this book three stars (out of five).  The plot of the book seems to have been inspired by director Michael Apted’s Up documentary series which started in 1964 with a group of children and has revisited them every seven years until present day.  (In America, this documentary series is usually shown on PBS).  In a documentary film, it is relatively easy to follow multiple storylines.  In a novel, it becomes a bit more problematic.  Having to follow the evolving storylines of five characters did cause the plot to lose focus at times.  However, there were sections and scenes within You Look Different in Real Life that were quite powerful and affecting.  The reader does gain perspective on how participation in reality films/shows could alter the life of a child/teen and those around them.

YA Fiction 2013 – Starglass


North, Phoebe. Starglass. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013. 978-1442459533. 448 p. $17.99. Gr 7-12.


Terra has been raised aboard the massive Asherah, a space ship that holds what’s left of mankind after an asteroid destroys the Earth. With a passion of art, Terra is disappointed when on her 16th birthday, she is assigned a job as a botanist, securing an unsatisfying future. As the Asherah descends upon it’s destined planet, she finds her friends and family slipping away, as well as the life she knows, and wonders her path in life. One night wandering the ship, Terra witnesses a guard murdering an innocent man, and is swept into a secret rebellion that makes her question those she knows best, and those in power. North’s vivid writing and strong characters will delight dystopian fans of the City of Ember and Across the Universe series.

Science Fiction (Dystopian)           Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

YA Fiction 2013 – Splintered

Howard, A.G. Splintered. New York: Amulet Books, 2013. 978-14197-04284. 371 p.  $17.95 Gr. 7-12.

Alyssa Gardner is afraid.  As the great-great-great-granddaughter of Alice Liddell, or “Alice in Wonderland,” she’s spent her life knowing that her family is not quite right.  In fact, her mother has been institutionalized since Alyssa was five, after injuring Alyssa’s hands with scissors, cutting flower-tops while declaring “off with their heads!”  Now Alyssa is hearing—and desperately trying to drown out—the voices of ordinary insects and flowers, too.  She’s afraid she will share her mother’s fate, or worse.  But she catches enough of the voices to realize that if she can locate the door to Wonderland and go “down the rabbit hole,” she may be able to find the cure for the curse that is upon her family.  It could mean freedom for herself and her mother.  Sprinkle in Jeb, a devoted semi-boyfriend, and Morpheus, a dark new love interest in Wonderland, and you add romance to the spooky, surprising twists on a well-established favorite.  Buy where fantasy and romance are desired in one novel.

Fantasy (Alice in Wonderland); Romance                 Melissa Scott, Shenango High School


The Madness of YA Fiction 2013

Johnson, Maureen. The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, Book 2). New York: G.P. Putnam’s, 2013. 978-0-399-25661-5. $17.99. Gr. 7+.

In this follow-up to the Edgar Award nominee, The Name of the Star,  Rory Deveaux has survived her attack by “the Ripper”.   As Rory tries to adjust to life in Bristol, miles away from Wexford and her friends, she learns that her survival not only left her with a mean scar, but also a terminus.  Only this time the terminus is not a cell phone; she has become the terminus.  After weeks of therapy, Rory’s therapist suggests that she return to London and school to help with her healing.  Rory knows something’s up when, in the middle of the night, Stephen, head of the secret Shades police, takes her from Wexford to the London underground.  As Rory’s “gift” is displayed, an inner struggle begins, a struggle that leads her to Jane, a new therapist who helps Rory overcome herself, but does she really?  Maureen Johnson once again brings to life the paranormal world of the Shades, the secret ghost-fighting police force, while manipulating Rory’s teenage world of school, boyfriends, friendships, emotions, and growth.  This is a great novel to pair with exploration into the paranormal, cults, Greek mythology, and teenage maturation issues.

Fantasy (Paranormal)                         Erin Parkinson, Lincoln Jr/Sr High School, Ellwood City

I really enjoyed the first novel in this series, The Name of the Star.  I found Johnson’s grasp of character intertwined with the paranormal only added to her grasp of the plot and the conflicts within and around Rory.  Although I enjoyed this second novel, I did not enjoy it as much.  If I had to rate it it’s about a 4 out of 5 stars.  It was good, but it lacked the intrigue of the first novel.  The Madness Underneath focused more on character than plot. It was somewhat angsty, but still delivered enough interest in the characters and story to want to finish it.  I’m looking forward to the next installment in the Shades of London series because Johnson can really do something amazing, and I’m hoping she does.  Happy Reading!


Oh the HORROR. It’s SICK!


Leveen, Tom.  Sick.  New York: Amulet Books, 2013.  9781419708053.  288 p.  $16.95. Gr 10-12.

When Brian and the rest of his misfit friends skip out of school for lunch the last thing they expect to come back to is a zombie apocalypse.  A disease that starts out with flu-like symptoms has changed their friends and classmates into flesh eating beasts who maul anyone in sight.  After witnessing his friend brutally tear apart another friend, Brian and others find shelter in the theater arts building. His relief is short lived though as Brian fails to get in touch his younger sister and sort of ex-girlfriend, Laura, who has a paralyzing anxiety disorder.  Brian and his comrades struggle to formulate a plan to save their loved ones, escape the school, all while avoiding being killed, or even worse, turned.

Horror          Melissa Daugherty, Sharon Middle-High School