Warm Books for Cold February Days (and nights) – New in YA


Wittenstein, Vicki Oransky. For the Good of Mankind? The Shameful History of Human Medical Experimentation.  Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2014. 96 p. 978-1467706599. $27.00 Gr. 7 and up.

A short but powerful book, illuminating unethical medical practices justified as research from earliest times through today.  Wittenstein excels at opening chapters with tales of sobering experiments with such horror that the reader is left to question the truthfulness of any medical personnel.  Although medical research codes of ethics govern researchers’ behavior today, “the rules in place are only as effective as those who practice them” (96).  The book covers a variety of experiments, from sterilization to the well-known Tuskegee studies, from Dr. Walter Reed’s ‘informed consent’ experiments eventually leading to a yellow fever vaccine, to uninformed patients, at times slaves or prisoners, being injected with radioactive elements. Wittenstein devotes one chapter to the Nazi experiments and resultant Nuremburg trials.  She shows how many years of suffering (and at times, success) were needed before medical ethics were established that protected a patient’s human rights before medical or wartime needs.  Questions abound: Is any experiment justified for national security? How do researchers balance safe studies with need for financial support?  Is compensation enough to ensure justice, or does it limit the volunteer pool?  Is the human genome map, with potential to reveal personal information about disease, a practical help or an emotional hindrance for individuals or family planning?  An excellent beginning source on biomedical ethics.  Critical Analysis, Source Notes, Bibliography, Further Information, Glossary, and educational resources online at lernersource.com.   
174: Medical Ethics                                 Melissa Scott, Shenango High School



Crossan, Sarah. The Weight of Water. New York, Bloomsbury, 2013. 9781599909677. 211p. $16.99. Gr. 7-10.

Kasienka is a twelve year-old girl living in Gdansk, Poland. Her father (Tata) has abandoned her mother and her, so they live with her grandmother (Babcia). When they receive a check from Tata with a clear postmark from Stansted, Great Britain, that is all the encouragement her mother needs. She takes Kasienka, and they immigrate to Great Britain carrying along their meager belongings in one suitcase and a laundry bag. Kasienka is enrolled in school, but they put her in with eleven year olds because she can’t read English. When she is finally moved to the seventh grade, she is befriended by Clair, the resident mean girl. At first Clair is nice to her, but as time goes by Clair becomes increasingly hostile towards “Kassie.” Kassie becomes the victim of Clair’s bullying tactics, including a haircut in a student assembly. Kasienka is a very good swimmer, and she swims at the local pool when she is not in school or helping Mama look for Tata by going door-to-door. Kanoro is their neighbor, and he befriends both Mama and Kasienka, and he gives Kasienka an address for her Tata. Kanoro advises Kasienka to go alone, and she does. She finds he has a new girlfriend and another child, but he wants to see her, he wants to have her over for dinner, he even signs a permission slip for Kasienka to go to compete in a swim meet that her Mama won’t sign. Kasienka doesn’t know how to resolve this situation, so she decides to tell Mama. Mama is engulfed by sadness and takes her anger and frustration out Kasienka. She isn’t violent; she is seething with anger, and ignores Kasienka. Kasienka gives her some time to come to terms with the fact that Tata loves someone else, and eventually Mama becomes more like her old self. Kasienka likes William who is a diver, and she draws some strength from this relationship, because he believes she can help herself. Another breakthrough comes when Lily enters the school and Kassie volunteers to be her partner, Lily smiles at her and that is the beginning of a real friendship for Kassie. Clair is powerless against this new empowered Kassie. This is a novel that I believe if students give it a chance they may see things from a different perspective. The immigrant angle may interest some, but they will be confused by some of the references in the book such as July 7 (a reference to the 2005 bombings in London’s transport system); something a teenager may scarcely remember. Glossary included.

Novel in Verse                 Kathryn Gilbride, North Pocono High and Middle Schools



Young, Suzanne. The Program. New York: Simon Pulse, 2013. 978-1-44244-580-2. 416 p. $16.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Young’s first volume in this new dystopian series will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium and Ally Condie’s Matched series.  Sloan Barstow is a 17-year-old living in a world that is experiencing an epidemic, teenage suicide.  To combat the problem one town in Oregon has set up a six week program established to help teens with their depression and reintroduce them to society.  Sloan and her friends try to keep their feelings a secret to stay off the radar and avoid The Program.  Teens going into The Program come back different with no memories of their prior life.  The only person Sloan can truly be real with is Jamie, her boyfriend but soon even he can not help her hide her feelings.  When Jamie is taken away for treatment in The Program Sloan’s emotions begin to show and she is also sent away to The Program.  The story is told in three parts from Sloan’s view, before The Program, during The Program, and after The Program.  Sloan retains one memory of life before The {rogram and it is this memory that sets up the series for future books.  The sequel, The Treatment, is set to be published April 29th.  A rich story that is sure to be a hit for fans of dystopian stories.

Dystopian, Science Fiction                Robin Burns, Salisbury High School




Bryce, Celia. Anthem for Jackson Dawes. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. 978-1-59990-975-2. 240 p. $16.99. Gr.7 and up.

Megan Bright is only thirteen when she arrives at the children’s ward at her local London hospital for cancer treatment.  As one of the oldest patients she finds herself not only battling a brain tumor but also to not been seen as a child.  Jackson Dawes a teenager also battling cancer quickly becomes her confident and her rock as they both progress through their treatments.  Megan is like any other person facing a major illness asking why some people get sick while others never seem to suffer.  The death of Jackson causes Megan to spiral out of control and learn to lean on family and friends for support.  Although the novel has many British slang terms readers should be able to relate to the universal story.  Fans of John Green’s Fault in Our Stars will find similarities with the storyline and content but will enjoy the story for its own unique examination of a life.

Realistic                                          Robin Burns, Salisbury High School


starry nights

Whitney, Daisy. Starry Nights. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. 978-1-61963-133-5 288 p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Julien is a Parisian teenager who has free run over the Musee d’Orsay in Paris which his mother runs.  Late one night Julien believes he sees dancers leaving Degas paintings and peaches falling out of a Cezanne painting.  Soon paintings at other museums are mysteriously burning, flooding, and fading off of the canvas.  This story weaves together art history and ancient mythology into a modern day love story.  Clio, a muse,leaves a Renoir portrait she has been trapped in for centuries to roam the museum at night with Julien.  Together Julien and Clio must find out what is happening to the paintings before all the masterpieces are ruined.  Whitney does a great job of telling a love story and providing detailed information about famous artworks and the painters throughout the novel.

Fantasy (Mythology)                            Robin Burns, Salisbury High School



Black, Holly. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013. 419 p. $19.00. Gr 9-12.

Tana is a pretty average teenager– except in her world, humans and vampires reside in quarantined cities called Coldtowns. One night after a wild party, Tana wakes in the bathtub to find the rest of the house littered with corpses. Soon she stumbles upon her ex-boyfriend Aidan– freshly bitten and on the edge of infection– as well as the handsome and alluring vampire Gavriel. A heart-pounding series of events lead her to the nearest Coldtown, on the hunt for the most destructive vampire of all time in order to save Aidan, Gavriel and herself, as well as her closest friends and family. Black’s writing is impeccable as she weaves Tana into a fierce, powerful teenager ultimately in charge of her own destiny. She would leave Twilight’s Bella shaking in her boots. Quite graphic and gory at times, this one is best recommended for older teens.

Horror, Paranormal                          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School


King, A.S. Reality Boy. New York:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013. 978-0316222709. 353p. $18.00. Gr. 9-12.

Ever wonder just how much is not real on a reality show? If you ever stopped to think about how much is not true, and what happens to the children involved, then this book is for you. Over 10 years have gone by since Gerald became known as The Crapper since he left his crap in a variety of places around the house to show his anger at his dysfunctional family who is starring in a reality show called Network Nanny. Gerald is now 16 going on 17 and still cannot get rid of the rage surrounding his family and life and the ever present nickname. This story explores his hopeful journey to normalcy as he begins a relationship with Hannah an equally troubled teen with her own issues. All of the students who read this book really liked it and although the sexual content and language was a bit explicit and strong, all thought that there was nothing that students haven’t read or heard about before.  One student liked how both teens were from totally different backgrounds and were still so messed up and confused with both teens hoping that one day they would be able to leave their troubles behind. Another student commented on how the parents and adults in this story were so single-focused and irresponsible that their actions caused even more problems for themselves and the children.  The heart of this book is all about family dynamics and no matter whether it is out there for all the world to see or kept hidden, its lasting effects are still very much felt by all those involved.

Realistic                                    Marian Kohan, Erie School District



Whitman, Sylvia. The Milk of Birds. New York: Atheneum, 2013. 978-1-4424-4682-3. 363p. $16.99. Gr. 8 and up.

If you walk, you can dance; if you can talk, you can sing. Sweet sayings like this are sprinkled throughout The Milk of Birds by Sylvia Whitman, a story of two fourteen year old girls, one a Sudanese refugee and the other an American teen in Virginia, told through letters. As the story progresses readers learn of the troubles and hardships that each teen endures, from destroyed villages to divorcing parents. Through it all both girls stay strong and serve as positive role models through their long-distance friendship. Although it can be predictable at times, readers are sure to be motivated to do something positive for others.

Realistic                                  Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area HS



Cass, Kiera. The Elite (Selection Book 2). New York: HarperTeen, 2013. 978-0-06-205996-3. 323p. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

American Singer swore she was only entering this love contest to help her family financially. But now she’s made it into the Elite, the top six in Illea’s search for the next princess and her worst fear is coming true…she’s starting to have feelings for Prince Maxon. All of a sudden she’s sorting out her new emotions and battling the old now that her ex has been assigned as a palace guard. Will her self-doubt and quick temper get in the way of her being with the one she loves and becoming Princess America?

Dystopian; Romance               Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area HS



Barson, K.A. 45 Pounds (More or Less). New York: Viking, 2013. 978-0-670-78482-0. 264p. $16.99. Gr. 7-10.

When Ann Galardi’s aunt asks to her to be a bridesmaid, she thinks it’s the perfect time to shed 45 pounds. She’s quiet to spend $80 on a gimmicky diet program, but will the pounds disappear as easily? Ann has two weeks of frozen food that tastes like the cardboard it came in, an exercise DVD, and the hopes of becoming the fun and popular skinny girl she’s always dreamed of. Barson does a great job tapping into the mind of an overnight teen giving readers a glimpse of the insecurity, paranoia, and heartache many teens face on a daily basis when dealing with their body image.

Realistic                                  Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area HS








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