YA FIC – Neanderthal, Echoes, Little Do We Know

Norton, Preston. Neanderthal  Opens the Door to The Universe. Disney Hyperion,  2018. 978-1-484-79062-5. $17.99. 410 p. Grades 10+.

Cliff Hubbard, the gargantuan 250 pound social reject known as Neanderthal, is suspended from school after he gets into a fight with the popular star of the football team who continually harasses and torments him.  Cliff is beyond surprised when Aaron Zimmerman shows up on his doorstep a week later with a List from God. Aaron, recovering from a brain injury that put him in a coma for a few days, swears he saw God, who gave him a list of five things to fix at Happy Valley High School.  God also told Aaron that Cliff is the person he needs to help him out with this task. When Aaron tells Cliff that life is a door to the universe and that God has the voice of Morgan Freeman, it seems to Cliff to be a direct message from his beloved older brother, Shane, who died the year before. Cliff reluctantly agrees and the two boys are off to stop some bullies, connect with a cantankerous teacher and hopefully make their school suck less.  Some of the plot developments in the novel are a bit too coincidental and convenient to ring true.  The quick transition of the boys’ relationship from mortal enemies to best friends and Cliff’s social transformation from bullied loser to hero test the bounds of credibility. Many of the characters are stock stereotypes –the misunderstood loner, the jock jerks, the uptight small-town Christian teens, and the rebellious and tough girl with a heart of gold. However it is still an enjoyable and touching read, exploring so many issues that an American teenager in a small town might face –dysfunctional families, grief, popularity and fitting in, acceptance and connection. And the main character Cliff is so thoughtful, his ruminations  and abundance of terrific quotes and pop culture references provide insight and hope about his depressing circumstances.

THOUGHTS: Funny and honest, edgy with foul language and a dark comedic side, recommended for older teens.  

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

Reeds, Alice. Echoes. Entangled Publishing. 2018. 978-1-640-63248-6. $9.99. 400 p. Grades 10+.

Fiona remembers the crash and, despite her hatred of Miles, is thankful that he survived as well. The question now, is how do they get off this island? Or maybe the question should be, what is trying to kill them on this island? It eerily becomes clear that this is no accident and that something is happening to them, and it is happening on purpose. A plan to do what to them? Kill them? Fiona realizes that Miles may be the only one she can trust in this whole situation. They need to work together to get off this island and from whatever is out there trying to get them.

THOUGHTS: This book was captivating, with twists and turns throughout the entire book. At one moment, you feel as though you know what is going on, only to realize that you are still not quite sure what is happening. This would be a great YA novel for teens.

Thriller, Mystery          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Stone, Tamara Ireland. Little Do We Know. Disney Hyperion, 2018. 978-1-484-76821-1. 304 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Ever since former best friends Emory and Hannah said things they couldn’t take back, they haven’t spoken or crossed the 36 steps separating their houses.

Emory is preparing for the lead role in her school’s production of Our Town and spending time with her boyfriend Luke before they go to separate colleges. With UCLA drama department auditions and Luke’s lacrosse games to fill her time, Emory doesn’t seem to notice Hannah’s absence.

Hannah begins to question her faith – the one thing she could always count on – when she learns about her family’s financial crisis. She listens to her father’s sermons differently and can’t seem to get Emory’s words out of her mind. When Hannah helps Luke in unexpected ways, all three teens begin to rethink their paths.

THOUGHTS: Beautifully written with dual narrators, Little Do We Know is about losing yourself, your best friend, and your faith, then trying to find your way. Readers will appreciate the honest portrayal of these characters and their parents, who demonstrate that not every decision is the right one. Mature relationships are included, making this book most suitable for high school readers.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Hannah and her life-long best friend and next door neighbor, Emory, have shared every moment of their lives. But when the girls have a serious argument, they both say things they can never take back and as they head into their senior year their friendship seems to be over.  Hannah throws herself into her work at the Christian school her father runs and Emory is focused on her nearly perfect boyfriend, Luke, and her upcoming audition for UCLA’s acting program. After a freak accident, Luke nearly dies and Hannah is the one who is there to save his life. As Luke recovers he tries to make sense of his near death experience and he finds that Hannah is the only person he can relate to.  With Luke and Hannah becoming closer, and Emory concerned over her growing distance from him, the two girls are forced to face each other to come to terms with their own relationship. All of the characters are believable and nuanced, the connection that Emory and Luke have is so positive and caring and gives a great example to teens on what a healthy relationship can be. The situations are realistically portrayed as Hannah, Emory, Luke and their families navigate some serious issues such as questioning faith, sexual harassment and forbidden attraction.

THOUGHTS:  A solid tale that examines friendship, family and romantic love. Overall a good choice for fans of realistic fiction and romance.  

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Summers, Abington SD

MG – Be Prepared, Breakout, Hurricane Child

Brosgol, Vera. Be Prepared. First Second, 2018. 978-1-626-72444-0. 244 p. $22.99. Grades 5-8.

Vera, whose family moved from Russia to the United States when she was five, has never quite fit in with her American friends. When she learns of a Russian summer camp in Connecticut, she begs her single mom to let her and her younger brother attend. But camp isn’t quite what Vera expects: the older girls are really mean, there’s no running water but plenty of bugs, and worst of all she has “to poop in a hole!” Despite her pleas to return home, two weeks turn into four after Vera’s mother lands a promising job interview overseas. Will Vera find her place at summer camp — and maybe even make a friend — or will the misery continue? Vera Brosgol, author of the well-received Anya’s Ghost (2011), writes in her Author’s Note that she consolidated her two summers at camp into one more eventful story. Her artwork is marvelously expressive, with illustrations in white, black, and olive green that perfectly match the natural surroundings. Behind her oversized round glasses, Vera’s eyes are a window into her roiling preteen emotions.

THOUGHTS: This graphic mostly-memoir is a great read for anyone who has had (or covets) the true summer camp experience: often uncomfortable, sometimes transformative, always memorable.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Readers who have grown to love the heart found in graphic novels from Holm and Tegelmeir are sure to adore Brosgol’s true experiences from summer camp. At home she yearns to fit in, but none of the students relate to her Russian culture. She wishes that she could have opulent parties like students from school. When she learns about the camp at church, she begs her mom to let her attend. The artwork is accented by a green ink color.

THOUGHTS: Be Prepared to have plenty of students borrow this book. Readers can compare experiences in from their summer to the memories shared by the author for a great extension project.

Graphic Novel          Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area SD

Growing up in a somewhat strict Russian family, Vera has always felt like an outsider. Her classmates are sent to the nicest summer camps, but it’s not something her single mother can afford. Then Vera discovers a Russian summer camp and is determined to go. But camping is not the perfect experience Vera imagined. She has to deal with catty bunkmates, terrifying outhouses, and nonstop Russian history lessons. Brosgol’s artwork jumps off the page and will have middle grade readers giggling through Vera’s camping misadventure.

THOUGHTS: Graphic novels rule in my library, and Anya’s Ghost is one of the most popular. Be Prepared is proving the same. Students seem to gravitate to Brosgol’s words and artwork and are excited for the next tale which is teased at the end of this book.

Graphic Novel          Victoria Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Messner, Kate. Breakout.  Bloomsbury, 2018.  978-1-681-19536-0.  420 p.  $16.99  Gr. 5-8.

Messner’s ripped-from-the-headlines story of a sleepy New York town that suddenly becomes the epicenter of a manhunt when two felons escape from prison is told entirely through documents.  Letters, photographs, poems, text messages, comics, news stories, and even recipes, are all collected and assembled by Nora, a local middle schooler, for the town’s time capsule. Nora, who is White, has always considered her town friendly and welcoming, but when she meets Elidee, a Black girl who has recently moved to the area, she begins to see things from a different perspective. Moreover, for the first time, Nora, whose own father works at the prison, starts to wonder why most of the prison inmates are Black, while nearly all of the prison workers and town residents are White. Elidee, whose brother is one of the inmates, writes poetry to help make sense and meaning of her world, using well-known poets of color as her models and inspiration. Meanwhile, the entire town is constantly under a cloud of fear and worry.  There are police blockades everywhere, the news media has descended on the town like a wolf pack, and alarms–sometimes false, sometimes real–are constantly being sounded.

THOUGHTS: Breakout is part mystery/adventure story, and part social justice discourse. Kids will be drawn in by the unusual format and the exciting plot, but will come away with much more. A must-buy for middle schools.

Realistic Fiction, Mystery Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Summer vacation plans for best friends Lizzie and Nora get derailed when two inmates break out from the local prison, a source of employment for many in the town. The town initially assumes the inmates, one white, one African American, will be caught quickly, but when days go by with no success, the mood of the largely white town subtly (and not no subtly) changes. Lizzie and Nora become more attuned to the racial overtones to the prison break when they attempt to befriend Elidee Jones, an African American classmate who recently moved to town with her mother to be closer to her brother, incarcerated in the prison. The story is told through the alternating voices of the three girls as they write letters to be included in a time capsule. Elidee’s letters, often to her brother, provide a counterpoint to Lizzie’s and Nora’s experiences. Prickly and defensive, Elidee refuses to go along with the culture of the town. As the three girls develop an alliance, working towards a friendship, Lizzie and Nora begin to see their casually racist town through Elidee’s eyes and experiences. In turn, Elidee lets down her defenses a bit to enjoy the friendship Lizzie and Nora offer. The voices of the three girls are clear and true as they chronicle the tense two week period through letters, news articles, texts and recorded conversations. Elidee in particular makes the book shine, as she begins to  experiment with poetry (while reading Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming) and even throws in some Hamilton inspired raps.

THOUGHTS: A must-purchase. Inspired by real events, this story is a masterpiece at gently pointing out how even well-intentioned people can be casually and thoughtlessly racist,  and how fear can bring out the worst in everyone.

Mystery/Realistic          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Callender, Kheryn. Hurricane Child.  Scholastic, 2018.  978-1-338-12930-4.  214 p.  $17.99  Gr. 4-7.

12-year-old Caroline, who lives in the U.S. Virgin Islands, has every reason to believe that being born during a hurricane is, in fact, unlucky.  Everyone at her school hates her, and her beloved mother left without saying goodbye . . . or why. Prone to fits of anger, and gifted–or cursed–with visions, Caroline is not interested in making friends anyway (or so she tells herself). But when she meets Kalinda, everything changes. Everyone loves Kalinda, and Caroline doesn’t think she has a chance with her, but somehow, they become best friends.  As their friendship deepens, Caroline desperately wants to tell Kalinda how much she loves her, but she is afraid she will destroy their friendship if she does. Additionally, Caroline is determined to find her mother, even if it means abandoning her father . . . and Kalinda.

THOUGHTS:  This beautifully written, moving story of a child unintentionally hurt by a mother with mental illness is realistic fiction with a hint of magical realism woven in.  Would be highly recommended in any case, but the age-appropriate LGBTQ content moves this into the must-buy category.

Realistic Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Elem – All That Trash, Kitten Construction Company, Rosetown, Baby Monkey, Dude!, The Flying Girl, Even Weirder & Cuter

McCarthy, Meghan. All That Trash: the Story of the 1987 Garbage Barge and Our Problem with Stuff. Simon & Schuster, 2018.  978-1-481-47752-9. Grades 2-5.  $17.99.

Meghan McCarthy has created yet another creative nonfiction book with her latest offering.  In her distinctive style, she tells the story of the 1987 Islip garbage fiasco in a way that is engaging to the reader.  On the first page, she humorously sets the scene by pointing out that 1987 was known for “a speedy white car (from Miami Vice), boxy-looking computers and big hair.”  McCarthy explains it all began with Lowell Harrelson, a North Carolina waste management CEO, who had the idea to take the garbage from an overflowing New York landfill and transport it on a barge to North Carolina, where it would be allowed to decompose and create methane gas to use as energy.  This plan quickly fell apart when a reporter in a helicopter saw the barge and reported it. This led to an inspection by an environmental official who determined that toxic waste was on board. The captain was prohibited from docking there and the other locations he subsequently tried, such as New Orleans, Mississippi, Alabama and Mexico.  Months later, the barge returned to Islip where the trash was incinerated, after it was found that the trash was just plain old garbage, some of which could have been recycled. McCarthy’s illustrations add an even more humorous element to this story. For instance, the barge captain is always pictured with flies buzzing around his head. There are pictures of various government officials and news personalities who comment on the crisis in speech bubbles.  A harbor police official states, “This is a pain in the neck,” while Harrelson observes, “We are trying to keep a sense of humor about this to keep from getting angry.” Although the author discusses the topic in a humorous way, it is clear that she is sending a message that trash is an environmental hazard and that we must work to find ways to reduce the amount of items that go into a landfill. Her drawings of the trash include items with which young readers can identify, such as dolls, bicycles and even a jack-o-lantern, showing them that they can help solve this problem as well. The back matter contains more information about the barge and its captain and crew and their photographs.  There are also some interesting facts about garbage and recycling and a few crafts ideas using found objects. Readers will be fascinated to learn that some of the Islip garbage was packaged and sold as a novelty item for ten dollars!

THOUGHTS: This book is a great example of narrative nonfiction and will make a great read aloud, especially for Earth Day. This can lead to a discussion of how to solve the trash problem. Even if your library already owns the equally entertaining Here Come the Garbage Barge! by Jonah Winter, librarians will want to add McCarthy’s work to their collections.

363.72 Refuse and refuse disposal or
386 Commerce, Transportation – Inland Waterway and Ferry Transportation

Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

Green, John Patrick. Kitten Construction Company: Meet the House Kittens. First Second, 2018. 978-1-626-72830-1. 70 pp. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

Marmalade has designed an exceptional new mansion for the Mayor of Mewburg, but unfortunately the city planner won’t approve the project because Marmalade is “just too adorable to be taken seriously.” The admittedly adorable kitten is dismayed but not deterred. She teams up with Sampson (an electrical engineer turned grudging dishwasher) and Bubbles (a plumber) to start an all-kitten construction company. They’re ready to prove that they’ve got the smarts and skills to earn respect, but what will it take to make everyone forget how darn cute they are? Maybe a competitor’s catastrophe will turn into the House Kittens’ golden opportunity, if only Bubbles can avoid distractions like laser pointers and balls of yarn!

THOUGHTS: Appealing artwork, bustling cityscapes, and friendly faces will draw elementary schoolers to this winning graphic novel. With a nod to respect and equality in the workplace, John Patrick Green has crafted a … yes, adorable addition to library shelves!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Rylant, Cynthia. Rosetown. Beach Lane Books, 2018. 978-1-534-41277-4. $16.99.149 p. Grades 2-4.

For Flora, things have just not been going well. Living in her small town of Rosetown, Indiana in 1972, things should have been okay entering her 4th grade year, but things are not well. With her parents separated, she has to live between two houses. It does not help that her dog Laurence has passed away as well, making the hole seem bigger. Despite these changes, Flora finds comfort in the reading of her favorite purple velveteen chair in Wings and a Chair Used Books where her mother works part time. It is here and in the comfort of change that Flora begins to find a new balance, learning that life has both gives and takes. As new friendships bloom and her new change begins to take a hold, Flora learns that even in the hard times of life, things can become good.

THOUGHTS: I felt as though this book had a very peaceful and content feel to it. The changes and discovering of a new balance is something that many people go through, and many children can relate to the experiences of figuring out who they are and the balance in their life. This book is about family, friendships, pets, life and death, all discussed in an age appropriate way for children.

Realistic Fiction; Historical (1972)          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Selznick, Brian, and David Serlin. Baby Monkey, Private Eye. New York: Scholastic Press. 2018. 978-1-338-18061-9. $16.99. 192 pages. Grades K-3.

The premise is as simple and adorable as the title and introduction: “He is a baby. He is a monkey. He has a job…” What follows are 5 chapters, each with a case to solve and a predictable pattern for beginning readers. Selnick brings his usual amazingly detailed pencil crosshatch drawings, enhanced by red for specific details. Every chapter has a theme with several classic references shown, such as great Italian works in the “Case of the Missing Pizza” or moon landing images connected to the “Case of the Missing Spaceship.” Each chapter also brings the humor, both subtly from the looks of the characters, and overtly when the Private Eye needs to get his pants on! This hybrid format beginning reader and comic chapter book will disappear from shelves constantly.

THOUGHTS: Did I mention how ADORABLE that baby monkey is?! The predictable pattern makes it successful for early readers and builds confidence for struggling readers. The length and format also make this a quick pleasurable fit for all ages. Obviously, for older readers it would be a great gateway into the longer narratives of Selnick’s collection.

Fiction / Early Chapter         Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD

Reynolds, Aaron, and Dan Santat. Dude! New York: Roaring Brook Press. 2018. 978-1-626-72603-1. $16.99. 40 pages. Grades K-2.

Dude! This book takes one word and brings it repeatedly to life through several beach dwellers with adventurous and humorous results. A beaver and a platypus head out surfing (Ha! Great start!!). When a lonely, shy shark comes along, they need to improvise and connect. What comes with each obstacle is a lesson in attitude and nonverbal cues, all told through one bodacious word: Dude! Reynolds and Santat bring their approachable and unique work together for the hit story of summer!

THOUGHTS:  Please connect readers who love this book with the other works of Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat, as books like Carnivores! and Are We There Yet? would make for great comparisons. Also, see how many interpretations can you and the oral readers come up with for expressing the range of emotion from saying, “Dude!”

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD

Engle, Margarita. The Flying Girl: How Aida de Acosta Learned to Soar. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2018. 978-1-481-44502-3. $17.99. unpaged. Grades 2-4.

Aida de Acosta was the kind of girl who saw a man doing something – flying for example- and believed that she could too. Overcoming family expectations and social norms for the early 1900s, that is exactly what she did. In this rarely heard tale, Aida became the first woman to fly a motorized vehicle, a balloon that was airborne in Europe months before the Wright Brothers.This tale speaks to perseverance, patience, and self confidence for girls and boys. Margarita Engle writes a free flowing poetic narrative with beauty and simplicity. The message is clear: “Sometimes,” Aida said to Alberto, “all it takes to change the whole world is one wild dreamer’s soaring example.”

THOUGHTSThe informational endnotes help see into this pioneer’s life a little better. Comparing her to other female aviators and groundbreakers would make an interesting research project. This would be an easy read aloud to inspire and discuss.

Nonfiction/ Biography          Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD

Even Weirder and Cuter (series). Bearpoint Publishing. 2018. $17.95 each. set of 8. 24 pages. K – 3.

Brigham, Marilyn. Dik-Dik. 978-1-68402-466-7.
Bryant, Laura. Pangolin. 978-1-68402-465-0.
Giannini, Alex. Coconut Crab. 978-1-68402-521-3.
Merwin, E. Highland Cattle. 978-1-68402-525-1.
Merwin, E. Matamata. 978-1-68402-522-0.
Merwin, E. Orchid Mantis. 978-1-68402-520-6.
Oldfield, Dawn. Aye-Aye. 978-1-68402-526-8.
Vasilyeva, Anastasiya. Velvet Ant. 978-1-68402-519-0.

No matter how strong your animal collection and knowledge may be, chances are you have little information on these weird but fascinating animals in this Bearpoint Press series. The Pangolin, for example, is a mammal with huge claws, armored scales, and an appetite for insects. They are also, as advertised, quite cute! The Dik-Dik and Aye-Aye and Matamata are so fun and funky that you need to say their name twice! Try the large print words and easy to read nonfiction text features inside each title to learn more about the lesser know critters in our kingdom.

599 Animals          Dustin Brackbill State College Area SD

YA FIC – The Great Alone, #MurderTrending, Hidden Pieces

Hannah, Kristin. The Great Alone. St. Martin’s Press, 2018. 978-0-312-57723-0. 448 p. $28.99. Grades 10+.

The Great Alone, a remarkable family drama, is the latest novel from Kristin Hannah, author of The Nightingale. In 1974, thirteen-year old Leni Allbright’s father has just returned to the U.S. after six torturous years as a Vietnam POW. Ernt inherits a small cabin in off-the-grid Alaska, and moves his wife Cora and daughter there for a fresh start. But the Allbright family is woefully unprepared for the upcoming Alaskan winter, and the months of darkness reveal a darkness within Ernt. Leni, for her part, embraces life in tiny Kaneq, attending a one-room schoolhouse and finding a friend in Matthew Walker, a third-generation Alaskan. Hannah lovingly unspools the years, interweaving Leni’s coming-of-age with her parents’ passionate but violent marriage. Several fraught survival scenes remind readers of the many ways to perish in Alaska, but finding out what happens to the inimitable Leni (and her beloved mother Cora) is what truly keeps those pages turning.

THOUGHTS: Readers will hate to see this lengthy crossover novel come to an end!

Historical Fiction          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

McNeil, Gretchen. #MurderTrending. Freeform, 2018. 978-1-368-01002-3. 352 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Dee Guerrera wakes up in the middle of a nightmare. She’s been sentenced to live out the remainder of her days (which won’t be many) on Alcatraz 2.0, a modern reality app where convicted criminals are sent to be hunted by one of many authorized serial killer personalities. With a reality television star elected President of the United States and the Department of Justice sold to the highest bidder, convicted criminals have little hope of surviving until an appeal date. Initially Dee isn’t hopeful, but as things seem to go her way, she aims to prove her innocence. On an island of serial killers hunting down convicted criminals, is there anyone Dee can trust or anyone who will believe her?

THOUGHTS: Teens hungry for fast-paced, serial killer fiction will rejoice with this YA title. #MurderTrending is an essential purchase where horror books are requested. Gruesome descriptions of death throughout the novel make this suitable for mature students.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Stokes, Paula. Hidden Pieces. HarperTeen, 2018. 978-0-062-67362-6. 448 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Worried that everyone eventually will leave her, Embry doesn’t share all of herself with many people. In fact, there’s only one person who really knows her, and he’s her best friend’s ex-boyfriend. Immense guilt over choices she’s made and things she’s done prevents Embry from telling the truth to those she loves. When Embry begins to receive anonymous messages threatening to expose her biggest secrets and hurt the people she loves, Embry spirals into constant paranoia, suspecting everyone.

THOUGHTS: At the heart of this page-turning mystery, readers will find one girl’s many insecurities – about friendship, family, love, and future plans. Desperate to solve the mystery and anxious to know the damages, mystery fans will fly through this one. Underage drinking, descriptions of sex, and language make this suitable for most high school readers.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Strongheart, The Itchy Book, I Can Be Anything, Pet Pals (Series NF)

Fleming, Candace. Illustrated by Eric Rohmann. Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2018. 978-1-101-93410-4. 245 p. $17.99. Grades 3+.

As a puppy, Etzel was plucked from his family and taken to a Berlin police kennel where he was transformed into a snarling, snapping guard dog. Far away, in the Hollywood Hills, film director Larry Trimble thinks the time is right to launch the career of a movie star dog. A worldwide search leads him to Etzel, and with each passing day “Strongheart” grows more trusting, playful, and affectionate. And from his very first on-screen appearance in 1921’s The Silent Call, Strongheart is a star! Magazine covers, endorsements, and blockbuster movies follow, but an apparent attack on a young fan jeopardizes Strongheart’s future. This fictional story is based on true events, and a brief author’s note clarifies “The Truth Behind This Tale.” Eric Rohmann’s black and white oil paint illustrations bring Strongheart’s adventures, unique characteristics, and “dog wisdom” to life on almost every page.

THOUGHTS: Strongheart is a top-notch choice for dog lovers, historical fiction fans, and budding film buffs. Today’s readers will fall in love with Strongheart just like movie audiences did in the 1920s!

Historical Fiction (1920s)          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

Pham, LeUyen. The Itchy Book. Hyperion, 2018. 978-1-368-00564-7.  64 p. $9.99. K-3.

This latest entry into the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! series is the story of some anthropomorphized dinosaurs who have a problem with itchy skin.  All they want to do is to scratch, but are cautioned against it by a dinosaur wearing glasses. He points to some words carved on a rock which state that “Dinosaurs do not scratch.”   As each dinosaur approaches the sign, the first dinosaur (of an unknown species) admonishes the others not to scratch because they are tough. The triceratops, pterodactyl, brachiosaurus, and even a Tyrannosaurus Rex still beg to be allowed to scratch.  The first dinosaur wants to show the others how tough he is, so he asks them to make him itchy, by tickling him with a feather, covering him with cut grass, sand and even “hair from his last haircut.” All of the dinosaurs, clearly experiencing a worsening itchy discomfort, reluctantly acknowledge their toughness.  Then a turtle standing near the rock, moves and reveals the final word- alone, which leads to a scratchfest. The reason for the rule becomes clear and the turtle, now alone, has no one to help him scratch his own itch. The message is about understanding that one can question a rule when it makes no sense and Pham has literally shown that rules are not always “written in stone.” Her comical illustrations will be appreciated by young readers and their facial illustrations are priceless.  

THOUGHTS:  School libraries will want to add this text to their collections.  When read aloud, this book will produce a lot of laughing and scratching, no doubt. Pham’s work is a great starting point to discuss the reason for rules.

Picture Book (Easy Reader)          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

Dillon, Diane.  I Can Be Anything! : Don’t Tell Me I Can’t.  Blue Sky Press, 2018.  32 p. 978-1-338-16680-3. $17.99. Grades 1-4.

Zoe is a young girl who dreams of her future and what she will be when she grows up.  With each thought, a little voice plants a seed of doubt by pointing out her lack of skills or the risks of that career. The girl acknowledges that she “is not grown up yet” and may not be prepared to be a veterinarian, scientist, artist or a host of other professions right now, but that she will be someday.  Zoe explains that she can get ready for the future by reading “about all the things I can be.” In her own strong voice, she challenges the little voice by saying “Don’t tell me I can’t.” This book has a timely message in this era of career awareness initiatives. While the author states that you can have any career, she acknowledges that one must read and learn about that profession.  The other important theme is that one should not allow fear or discouraging thoughts to keep you from reaching your goals. Dillon’s illustrations are soft and muted and make for a dreamy atmosphere, which fits well with the story. An illustration appears on each page with the text below. The little voice’s statements are done in italics and in a reddish-brown color, which sets them apart. On the back cover are listed a number of careers.  One small quibble is the use of the word “fire girl” rather than firefighter, because this book has value for the universal child, male or female.

THOUGHTS: This book is a valuable addition to elementary collections and should be a first purchase. Counselors or teachers will find this useful for career awareness lessons. Even though the main character appears to be five or six years old, this story could easily be used with all elementary grade levels to introduce students to the world of possibilities and to give them some words of encouragement.

Easy Picture Book          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

Jacobs, Pat.  Hamster Pals. Crabtree, 2018.  (Pet Pals series).  978-0-778-73560-1. 32 Pages.  $20.75. Grades  2-5.

Jacobs, Pat. Guinea Pig Pals. 978-0-778-73552-6.
Jacobs, Pat. Cat Pals. 978-0-778-73550-2.
Jacobs, Pat. Dog Pals. 978-0-778-73551-9.
Jacobs, Pat. Rabbit Pals.  978-0-778-73561-8.

This series on pets does indeed do what it claims on the front cover and provides the young reader with “everything you need to know about your best pal.”  Jacobs has packed a lot of useful information in these slim volumes. Readers learn about choosing and feeding a pet, creating a home, pet behavior and other topics.  In Hamster Pet Pals, children can read about how to safely give their pet a treat, grooming tips and how to keep it from escaping.   The information is given in a text box style in a large font size. The pets themselves speak to the reader in “Pet Talk.”  For instance, the guinea pig says, “Please feed me at the same time every day. I may not have a watch, but I know when it’s dinner time!”  There is a glossary and index in the back, as well as a quiz based on the text. Suggested readings and websites are also given. However, the PBS link is no longer active and the veterinarian site contained a commercial ad. The photographs are engaging and done on a large scale.  

THOUGHTS: Librarians should make room on their shelves for this pet series, especially if your 600 section needs some updating. Pet lovers everywhere will enjoy reading about their pets. It is unlikely these books will stay on the shelves for long. The texts on rabbits, dogs and cats were not seen by this reviewer.

636  Pets Nonfiction          Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

YA Graphic Novels – Dead Weight, Bingo Love

Blas, Terry, Molly Muldoon, and Matthew Seely. Dead Weight: Murder at Camp Bloom. Oni Press, 2018. 978-1-62010-481-1. 166 pp. $19.99. Grades 7+.

Welcome to Oregon’s Camp Bloom, a health and fitness camp for overweight teens. Jesse would rather be at a summer fashion program, so she sneaks out one night to enjoy a contraband candy bar and search for a cell phone signal. Returning camper Noah follows her into the woods, where they witness the moonlit murder of popular counselor Cory. With just a few blurry photos on Jesse’s phone to go on, the two team up with fellow campers Kate and Tony to analyze evidence, investigate suspects, and (hopefully) crack the case before the murderer can strike again. This lightning-paced graphic novel mystery contains some genuinely fun plot twists and even some convincing red herrings. The artwork is colorful and appealing; violence scenes are appropriately rendered for the format and target audience. Plenty of diversity is represented through each character’s ethnicity, body shape, and sexual orientation.

THOUGHTS: Positive depictions of gay, genderqueer, and overweight teens make Dead Weight an especially important addition to graphic novel collections. Even better, it’s a page-turning whodunnit that readers will inhale in one sitting!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

Franklin, Tee, Jenn St-Onge, and Joy San. Bingo Love. Image Comics, 2018. 978-1-5343-0750-6. unpaged. $9.99. Grades 9+.

In 1963, teenagers Hazel and Mari meet at a church Bingo event. A close friendship blossoms into physical attraction and a kiss, but the stern disapproval of their families leads to a fifty-year separation. Each goes on to marry a man and have children, but after reconnecting (at Bingo!) “Elle” and Mari decide they have waited long enough to be together. Bingo Love is a beautiful, vibrant depiction of young and not-so-young love, with a powerful message for readers: “There are so many various love equations and none of them are wrong. Love is love is love is love.” A heart-tugging twist at the novel’s ending puts a new spin on happily-ever-after.

THOUGHTS: True love trumps all in this read-it-in-one-sitting graphic novel from Tee Franklin. This is one to read, share, and read again!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

YA NF – I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Chasing King’s Killer, Educated: A Memoir

McNamara, Michelle. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. Harper, 2018. 978-0-06-231978-4. 328 pp. $27.99. Grades 11+.

Michelle McNamara, author of TrueCrimeDiary.com (and wife of comedian Patton Oswalt) had not yet completed I’ll Be Gone in the Dark when she passed away suddenly in 2016. With the help of her editor and two of her fellow crime researchers, the book was eventually completed. In it, the authors chronicle the crimes of the “Golden State Killer” (GSK), formerly known as the East Area Rapist and/or the Original Night Stalker. A prolific serial criminal, the GSK committed at least fifty rapes and twelve murders in California between 1976 and 1986. He left a maddeningly broad swath of clues, yet even after the advent of DNA profiling the case was never solved. Detectives possessed a DNA profile for “the responsible” (McNamara’s preferred term), which enabled them to connect crimes across California to one perpetrator, but they had no identity to attach it to. The case remained unsolved for over thirty years. But as McNamara warned the GSK in her chillingly prophetic epilogue: “A ski mask won’t help you now … This is how it ends for you.” Indeed, an arrest was made just months after the the release of her book.

THOUGHTS: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a masterful, deeply compassionate true crime narrative that is destined to be a classic of the genre. It also necessarily includes descriptions of sexual violence and brutal murders. It’s appropriate for older teens who appreciate Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, are interested in criminal justice, or who are just intrigued by the recent arrest of a suspect in this case. 

True Crime (364.15)          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

Swanson, James L. Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassin. Scholastic Press, 2018. 978-0545723336. 374 pp. $19.99. Grades 7+.

Outstanding historical nonfiction author James L. Swanson returns with a riveting look at the life, last days, death, and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Swanson opens the book with the little-known 1958 attempted murder of King by a mentally ill woman named Izola Curry. King healed from his stab wounds, but the assassination attempt changed him; he realized the dangers of leading the Civil Rights movement, but King persisted in his cause. Swanson then focuses on the ten years leading up to King’s 1968 murder. This tumultuous decade included the Montgomery Bus boycott, the Freedom Riders, the March on Washington, the death of John F. Kennedy, and the beginning of the Vietnam War (which King strongly opposed). Intertwining King’s final years with the movements of a small-time criminal named James Earl Ray, Swanson skillfully depicts their “deadly collision course.” A chapter on April 4, 1968 entitled “The Last Day” includes a heart-stopping, minute-by-minute overview of King’s final hours. The book’s gripping final section, Manhunt!, covers the FBI’s two-month search for Ray. Photographs, diagrams, and meaningful captions enhance nearly every page of Chasing King’s Killer. Extensive back matter includes an essay on Civil Rights landmarks to visit, a chronology of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day federal holiday, and a timeline of James Earl Ray’s arrests, prison record, and escapes.

THOUGHTS: April 4, 2018, marked the 50-year anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. There could be no better time to read this excellent piece of nonfiction for young adult readers!

Biography, True Crime (92)          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

Westover, Tara. Educated: A Memoir. Random House, 2018. 978-0-399-59050-4. 334 pp. Grades 10+.

In her memoir, debut author Tara Westover brings readers along on her journey from her childhood as “an ignorant girl who’d crawled out of a scrap heap” to the upper echelons of academia. She grew up on a mountain in rural Idaho called Buck’s Peak, the youngest of seven children in a family headed by her survivalist father and midwife mother. Her parents were so dedicated to staying off the grid that their younger children had no birth certificates, no visits to the doctor (despite several severe injuries), and no formal schooling. Tara’s homeschooling experience was unstructured at best, and she spent most of her childhood lending a hand at her father’s scrapyard. Eager to escape an abusive older brother, Tara began to eye college as a possible route to a different kind of life. After four years at Brigham Young University, where she often felt like a fish-out-of-water, Tara began graduate studies at Cambridge in England. Through education, her worldview expanded exponentially: “I felt an animating surge of adrenaline, of possibility, of a frontier being pushed outward.” Tara Westover is a gifted writer, vividly depicting her early years on Buck’s Peak, her adolescence, and her journey into a future that is different from her past. She also takes a loving, nonjudgmental approach in portraying her extremist parents, even as she rejects the pain and violence associated with their way of life.

THOUGHTS: This is a top-notch choice for a school-wide read, and it’s a must-have for every library’s biography section!

Biography (92)          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

YA FIC – Legendary, Nine, The Opposite of Here, Tradition, The Way You Make Me Feel

Garber, Stephanie. Legendary. New York: Flatiron, 2018. 978-1-2500-9531-2. 464 p. $18.99. Gr. 7-12.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval, the grandest show by land or by sea… Sisters Tella and Scarlett barely survived the last Caraval, an extravagant, surreal show that blurred the lines between fantasy and reality. After Tella plunged to her death, Scarlett used her winning wish to bring her back to life. And the two should live happily ever after, free of their abusive father and Scarlett’s disastrous arranged marriage. But Tella’s initial deal with Caraval’s mysterious Master Legend comes with a few strings attached, and she ended up making a seemingly impossible deal with a criminal in order to find the whereabouts of her missing mother. Tella is given the five nights of the next Caraval to discover Legend’s real name, and if she doesn’t, she could lose everything – and everyone – she loves. Before Caraval, Tella is warned that this time, the game is real, and with death courting her once more, she soon finds herself falling deeply into a twisted game, and maybe even deeply into love.

THOUGHTS: An excellent follow-up to last year’s Caraval, this series is a unique blend of mystery, fantasy and folklore. Recommend this series to readers too young for The Night Circus or Water for Elephants.

Fantasy          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Hines, Zach. Nine. HarperTeen, 2018. 978-0-062-56726-0. 352 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Enter a futuristic world that is eerily similar to our own except for one major difference – humans have nine lives. As they burn through their lives on a government sanctioned schedule, humans are reborn into new bodies with physical and mental upgrades. Burning through lives too quickly, though, can cause rebirth sickness (most similar to dementia). After seeing his own mother become unrecognizable with rebirth sickness, Julian is not interested in burning; in fact, he’s one of the oldest ones in his school. With pressures from his peers and a desire to help his family, Julian joins the Burners, the schools secret suicide club that makes a mockery of burning through lives in an ostentatious manner. Not all is as it seems, though, and as Julian advances through lives, he begins to question the society in which he lives, determined to protect his family and find answers about what happened to his mom.

THOUGHTS: This standalone will be great for fans of dystopians, looking at a unique new approach. Trigger warning: Group suicide is explicitly described (and encouraged) throughout this book. Specific, often graphic, and attention-getting methods are used, making this a mature high school read.

Dystopian          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Altebrando, Tara. The Opposite of Here. Bloomsbury YA, 2018. 978-1-681-19706-7. 256 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

After losing her boyfriend to a tragic accident, Natalie’s parents take her and her three best friends on a “sail-a-bration” cruise to distract her and help her move on. Not feeling the party vibe, Natalie takes a break on deck and meets someone, but she doesn’t catch his name before losing track of him. When rumors about someone going overboard surface, Natalie worries she knows who it was. Caught up in her feelings and what happened to the mystery guy, Natalie can’t enjoy herself until she knows the truth.

THOUGHTS: Readers will want to know the outcome and find out who Natalie’s mystery guy is and if he’s okay. The premise of the “sail-a-bration” cruise and the lack of transparency with the passengers seems far-fetched. An additional purchase where mysteries are popular.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Kiely, Brendan. Tradition. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2018. 978-1-481-48034-5. 352 p. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Fed up with Fullbrook Academy, legacy student Jules just wants to finish her senior year and move on from her ex and her ex friends. Transfer student Jamie doesn’t feel like he belongs right from the start. A fresh chance to play ice hockey where nobody knows his past is the break his family has been waiting for.

Through a mutual distaste for Fullbrook’s traditions and a shared desire to stay somewhat under the radar, Jules and Jamie become friends. Living with the pressure to perform in an intense academic environment isn’t always easy. When school traditions hit close to home, Jules and Jamie have to decide where they stand and in what they believe.

THOUGHTS: With unique perspectives on double standards in our society (and how they’re encouraged at a young age), Kiely challenges traditions, whether at a private prep school or in society in general. Having read several prep school and assault books recently, Tradition is a powerful addition with strong characters – both male and female – who take a stand. Casual sex, assault, drinking, and drug use make this suitable for mature readers.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Goo, Maurene. The Way You Make Me Feel. Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books, 2018. 978-0-374-30408-9. 352 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

With a young father who feels very chill and never follows through on punishments, Clara is known for pulling off epic pranks. When one goes too far and Adrian is called into the principal’s office with other parents, he’s ready to lay down the law. Instead of roaming free for the summer, Clara will spend it working on the KoBra, Adrian’s food truck. To make matters worse, Clara’s arch nemesis Rose will be joining her. If things don’t go well, Clara can kiss her end of summer trip to visit her mom in Tulum, Mexico goodbye.

Forced to work together in a confined space, Clara begins to see that Rose might not be so bad. Does being friendly with Rose mean she can’t be friends with Felix and Patrick, and what about the coffee cart guy Hamlet? He’s not Clara’s type – at all!

THOUGHTS: Readers will be hungry for LA’s food truck cuisine after devouring this one. The Way You Make Me Feel is a fun and lighthearted summer read about growing up and features a great father-daughter relationship. With older characters and references to prom, it will be a hit in high schools, but it could be appropriate for younger readers too.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA FIC – The Secrets We Bury, One Small Thing, People Like Us, Not If I Save You First, Time Bomb

Ramey, Stacie. The Secrets We Bury. Sourcebooks Fire, 2018. 978-1-492-65420-9. 320 p. $10.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Dylan is on the run; he only has a few months until he can decide for himself that he’s not attending the school for psychologically challenged students where his family wants him. Though he lacks survival and hiking experience, Dylan decides the Appalachian Trail is the perfect place to hide. A few months of hiking until he’s 18 is nothing, right?

Most people that know Dylan would say his issues would get in the way of hiking the Trail, but Dylan finds himself at home and able to think of others for the first time. Dylan isn’t the only one hiding on the Trail, though, and others need the serenity as much as he does. When it comes to survival in his carefully, yet unpredictable world, will Dylan be selfish or put the needs of others before his own.

THOUGHTS: Readers that like a character-driven novel will root for Dylan as he tries to remain anonymous. As more details are made available through his hike, readers come to understand why he’s in the situation he is. Readers looking for a realistic adventure with a bit of mystery and a subtle love interest will devour Ramey’s newest work to see if Dylan can make it.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Watt, Erin. One Small Thing. Harlequin Teen, 2018. 978-1-335-01727-7. 384 p. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Beth feels trapped in a cage – her house – ever since her older sister died tragically. Fed up with not being seen or heard by either of her parents, Beth is looking for a little taste of control in her life. Sneaking out to a party in the next town and hooking up with a guy she meets is just what Beth needs. Afterwards, though, she begins to realize how monumental her decision was, and part of her feels regret. Luckily, she’ll never see him again.

Now out of juvie and determined to live life under the radar, Chase attempts to assimilate with his former life. A welcome home party and a pretty girl who throws herself at him is just what he needs.

It isn’t until Beth and Chase realize who the other is that they truly realize the impact of their connection. Forbidden from being together yet drawn to the other, Beth and Chase struggle with their feelings as well as with grief, guilt, and loss.

THOUGHTS: Initially drawn in by the cover and the title, One Small Thing left me feeling torn. As a parent, I can understand wanting to protect your child, but Beth’s parents take protection to a suffocating level. Teens will devour this story of first love, desperate to know the outcome for Beth and Chase. Underage drinking and mature relationships make this more suitable to high school readers.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Mele, Dana. People Like Us. G.P. Putman’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-1-524-74170-9. 384 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Bates Academy was Kay Donovan’s ticket out of her old life. Being at the top of the social food chain has had its advantages for Kay. She’s a soccer star, has a great group of friends, and has plans to earn a college soccer scholarship.

When a classmate is found dead the night before a major scouting tournament, games are cancelled and Kay begins to panic. A mysterious email from the deceased classmate that arrives the following day sets Kay on a path to make sure her long-hidden secrets stay that way. Though she’s been enjoying life at the top, Kay will do anything to get what she wants.

THOUGHTS: This deceptive, fast-paced scenario will leave readers racing ahead to see if Kay stays on top or is ruined by her past secrets. As she fights the clock to solve the mystery, Kay becomes more involved and more suspect. Fans of mystery fiction (especially those with a small town and/or private school flare) will enjoy this read. Underage drinking and casual descriptions of sexual relationships make this more suitable for mature readers.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Carter, Ally. Not If I Save You First. Scholastic Press, 2018. 978-1-338-13414-8. 304 p. $18.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Maddie and Logan don’t live the typical 10 year old’s lifestyle. In their spare time, they find secret ways to get from one place to the next – in the White House. Together they enjoy escaping the adults and the high profile lifestyle they live as the President’s son and the President’s Secret Service agent’s daughter.

Life changes drastically after shots are fired during a botched kidnapping attempt. Maddie and her dad leave DC behind and move to Alaska, where there isn’t another person around (or any way other than written letters for Maddie to contact one) for miles. In Alaska Maddie learns a new skill set to help her survive the harsh wilderness. Though she misses her best friend and writes him daily, Maddie gradually moves on and accepts her life.

Flash forward six years, and Logan hasn’t been the model First Son. He’s now being shipped to Alaska (and back into Maddie’s life) to learn a lesson. Before Maddie has the chance to give Logan a piece of her mind, they are attacked in the woods, and Logan is dragged off. Maddie wants Logan dead, but she also wants the pleasure of getting her own revenge.

THOUGHTS: Fans of survival and mystery stories will be delighted by the treacherous Alaskan setting. A strong female heroine shows that girls can have brains and beauty. Readers will be disappointed that this Carter book isn’t part of a series.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Maddie and Logan were best friends until the fateful night when terrorists gained access to the White House, and Maddie’s dad was shot. Now, six years later, Logan is back in Maddie’s life, but it’s not the life she had. Before her dad was shot, Maddie lived in Washington D.C., and her best friend was the president’s son. Now, she lives in the wilderness of Alaska with no friends, no school, and a dad who’s away for work often. Logan’s return to Maddie’s world brings back all of her anger towards him and his disregard for their friendship after she left. But when Logan is kidnapped by a henchman of “the Wolf”, the man who six years prior infiltrated the White House, Maddie must bury her anger and save her friend before the Wolf or Alaska kill him. Will Maddie’s wit and knowledge of the Alaskan wilderness be enough to save Logan and out maneuver a terrorist seeking revenge, or will Alaska win before Maddie has a chance to save Logan first?  

THOUGHTS: This is another fast-paced adventure from Ally Carter author of the Embassy Row and Heist Society series. The strong female protagonist will appeal to all readers because of the relationship between Maddie and Logan and the relatability of the two. Highly recommended for middle school and high school readers.

Adventure          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Charbonneau, Joelle. Time Bomb. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-0-544-41670-3. 352 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Each in school for different reasons, characters take a turn as the lead suspect when the radio announces one of them is the bomber. Narrated by a diverse cast of characters, seemingly innocent and not connected to each other, Time Bomb will grab readers right from the beginning and hold them hostage as the seconds tick by.

THOUGHTS: Loving character-driven, multi-point of view narratives, I knew right from the description (and author) that Time Bomb was going to be a book for me. Reminiscent of Karen McManus’s One of Us Is Lying‘s Breakfast Club style cast of characters, readers will be hooked from the beginning. Hand this one to fans of Hate List by Jennifer Brown, This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp, and Violent Ends by various authors. Though intense in topic, this book is still suitable for younger high school readers, especially given recent national events.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA FIC – I Have Lost My Way, All We Can Do Is Wait, The Beauty That Remains

Forman, Gayle. I Have Lost My Way. Viking Books for Young Readers, 2018. 978-0-425-29077-4. 304 p. $10.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Meet Freya, a teen singing sensation who has attracted fans and is about to finish her debut album – until she loses her voice. Meet Nathaniel who is hiding something and seems directionless since arriving in New York. Meet Harun who struggles internally to live the life of his dreams instead that of his family’s. Each character is on the brink of self-discovery, but it is only when brought together that they will find the strength to face their greatest fears.

THOUGHTS: I requested an ARC of I Have Lost My Way because I’ve enjoyed other books by Gayle Forman, the description intrigued me, and I love multi-narrator books. While it wasn’t my favorite Forman book, readers will become invested in the characters and read on to see the outcome for each.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Lawson, Richard. All We Can Do Is Wait. Razorbill, 2018. 978-0-448-49411-1. 288 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.

Following a fatal bridge collapse in Boston, five teens meet in a hospital waiting room while anticipating news of their loved one(s). Jason and Alexxa are siblings waiting to hear about their parents. With the exception of last summer when they were able to put their differences aside, this brother and sister haven’t had the best relationship and they need each other now more than they realize. Scott is waiting to hear about his girlfriend Aimee. He is desperate to hold on, even as Aimee is looking towards her future. Scott knows if given the chance, he can show Aimee that theirs is a love that will last. Skyler’s sister Kate has always been her rock, and Skyler needs the chance to repay Kate for always being there.

While desperate for news, each teen relives his or her recent interactions with loved one(s), and readers are given a glimpse into what their lives are like. Each has some reason, some regret, or something to tell his or her loved one(s), and one at a time each is given news that will change his or her life forever.

THOUGHTS: Readers will devour the story, desperate to know the outcome for each character. The pacing of this novel was fantastic, and the alternating perspectives will keep the pages turning. Many issues and insecurities are addressed, but to name them would give away the surprise. Mature readers will devour this story of regrets and desperate wishes for one more conversation.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Woodfolk, Ashley. The Beauty That Remains. Delacorte Press, 2018. 978-1-524-71587-8. 352 p. $10.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Grief takes center stage for each of the narrators in The Beauty That Remains. Autumn doesn’t know how to return to school and her friend group after her best friend’s death, Shay is lost without her twin sister, and after the death of his ex-boyfriend Logan no longer can write out his emotions in a song. Each character has a connection to music, one band specifically.

While each narrator unravels in his or her own way, music plays an integral role in calming him or her. Readers will root for these characters to learn how to live again, even after suffering the life-changing loss of a loved one.

THOUGHTS: Fans of compelling, grief-stricken books will appreciate the experience of each teen who is learning to live with a close loss. I’ve read a lot of sad books over the past year. Give this one to fans of Zentner’s Goodbye Days, Armentrout’s If There’s No Tomorrow, Ramey’s The Sister Pact, Biren’s The Last Thing You Said, Hart’s After the Fall, Brashares’s The Whole Thing Together, and Bateman’s Someone Else’s Summer. Some drug use and underage drinking make this title more suited for high school readers.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD