MG – Deadman’s Castle

Lawrence, Iain. Deadman’s Castle. Margaret Ferguson Books, 978-0-823-44655-1. 247 p. $17.99. Grades 4-7.

Igor Andrew Watson does not remember his original name because he has had so many. In fact, no one in his family has their original name because every so often, they are assigned new names and a new home by The Protectors, an organization that helps keep Igor’s family safe. All Igor knows is that when he was a child, his father witnessed a horrific crime. When his father testified in court, the criminal was put in jail, and Igor’s dad made an enemy that Igor only knows as “The Lizard Man.” After their next move to escape the Lizard Man and his vengeance, twelve-year-old Igor grows frustrated with having such an odd life. He longs to go to a regular school and have real friends. After much bargaining and begging, his parents finally agree that he can attend the local middle school as long as he does not tell anyone anything about his identity or lifestyle. Igor makes two close friends and starts to live a somewhat normal life. As he explores his new neighborhood with his friends, Igor has flashbacks of memories. He thinks he has lived in this place before… and he starts to doubt that the Lizard Man even exists.

THOUGHTS: This novel’s interesting plot and cliffhanger chapters will be appealing to middle grade readers looking for a suspenseful thriller. I believe this will be a fan favorite in libraries where mysteries/thrillers are often requested.

Mystery          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

YA – Firekeeper’s Daughter

Boulley, Angeline. Firekeeper’s Daughter. Henry, Holt, and Co. 2021. 978-1-250-76656-4. $18.99. 496 p. Grades 9-12.

Daunis Fontaine, a recent high school graduate and former hockey star, lives in two different worlds. Set in Michigan’s upper peninsula, her Fontaine world includes her mother, grandmother, and recently deceased uncle, but she’s also half Anishinaabe. Her father was a part of the nearby Ojibwe tribe, and although she’s not an official member, the family and friends she has there mean just as much to her. After witnessing the murder of her best friend, Daunis decides to go undercover and help with a criminal investigation in order to save her tribe members from any further corruption. As the mysteries of the investigation unfold, she discovers some awful truths about the people she thought she knew and trusted, and it will take all of her strength to persevere without ruining her own life and relationships in the process.

THOUGHTS:  This debut novel gives readers a glimpse into modern, Native American culture along with traditions and beliefs unique to the Anishinaabe people, specifically an Ojibwe tribe located in the upper peninsula of Michigan. The author shines light on both the positive and negative aspects of life among the tribe, specifically a methamphetamine problem and the effect the drug is having on their community. Firekeeper’s Daughter is a thrilling and intense story that touches on sensitive issues including murder, addiction, grief, and sexual assault and a complex, main character who must find the strength to overcome the many obstacles in her life.

Realistic Fiction          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

YA – History of Crime and Punishment (Series NF)

Harris, Duchess. History of Crime and Punishment. Abdo Publishing, 2020. $26.00 ea. $156.00 set of 6. 112 p. Grades 8-12.

Capital Punishment. 978-1-532-11917-0.
For-Profit Prisons.
The History of Criminal Law.
The History of Law Enforcement.
The Juvenile Justice System.
The US Prison System and Prison Life.

This reviewer had the opportunity to read For-Profit Prisons. Concise and to the point, this title is broken into eight chapters on the major topics of for-profit prisons. The chapters highlight youth incarceration, prison labor, private and publicly funded prisons, inmate care, the politics of prisons, immigration detention centers, and the future of for-profit prisons. Additionally, the book includes essential facts, a glossary and index, source notes, additional resources and information about the authors. This title is part of the History of Crime and Punishment collection.

THOUGHTS: Complete with discussion starters in each chapter, color photos, and easy to read text, this book is recommended for high school libraries who do not have any sources on for-profit prisons.

300s          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

YA – Conspiracy: Nixon, Watergate, and Democracy’s Defenders

Pearson, P. O’Connell. Conspiracy: Nixon, Watergate, and Democracy’s Defenders. Simon & Schuster, 2020. 978-1-534-48003-2. 277 p. $17.99. Grades 7-12. 

The Watergate scandal and resignation of President Nixon was a seminal moment in 20th century American History. Conspiracy relates information about the Watergate events and personalities in an accessible and straightforward manner that is highly readable. The book is arranged chronologically, starting with the Watergate break-in on June 17, 1972. Subsequent chapters follow the unfolding events and investigative process that ultimately revealed numerous abuses of power carried out by the Nixon administration. A major focus of the title is examining the role of Watergate heroes, individuals like reporters, judges, lawyers, elected officials, and average Americans, who worked to reveal the truth about Watergate-related criminal activity and cover-up attempts and to defend the rule of law. Key legal terms and governmental concepts/procedures are defined within the text. Back matter includes a bibliography, timeline of events, and cast of characters.

THOUGHTS: The Watergate scandal unfolded over a period of years and ultimately encompassed not only the Watergate break-in, but numerous crimes. Therefore, it can be a complex topic to explore and explain. Pearson does an admirable job in presenting these concepts in an accessible manner that will enable secondary students to gain a full understanding of the events and key players. Student researchers will find this book to be an invaluable resource, and it will also be of interest to history fans.

973.924 American History          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

YA – They Wish They Were Us

Goodman, Jessica. They Wish They Were Us. Razorbill, 2020. 978-0-593-11429-2. 327 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

As a student in an exclusive private school on Long Island, Jill and her five best friends should be living their best lives as seniors and members of the elite group The Players. They have unlimited money and the world at their feet. But there’s a shadow hanging over their lives: the story of what happened to their friend, Shaila. During their freshman year, Shaila was murdered by one of their own – Graham, her boyfriend and a member of The Players. Three years have passed since her murder and most of The Players seem content to honor Shaila in their memories and move on. But Jill starts getting text messages from Graham’s sister, Rebecca, and she quickly realizes that there may be more to the story than she originally thought. Despite her better judgement, Jill contacts Rebecca and becomes consumed with finding out the truth of what happened to her best friend. Unfortunately, while her investigation might bring justice for Shaila, the truth could end up ruining Jill’s life and turning her perfect world inside out.

THOUGHTS: While at times a little predictable, Goodman’s book delivers a punch that will draw in young readers. The plot is full of drama, scandal, and a glimpse into the privileged lives of the young elite. High school librarians should purchase Goodman’s book as it will be a popular choice for young adult readers, especially those who are fans of One of Us Is Lying and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.

Mystery/Thriller            Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Elementary FIC – Gum Luck; Inspector Flytrap; Hilde Cracks the Case

Montijo, Rhoda with Luke Reynolds.  Gum Luck. Disney Hyperion, 2017. 9781423161172. 152 pp.

$14.99.  Gr. 1-3.

This is the second book in the illustrated novel series The Gumazing Gum Girl!  Gabby Gomez turns into Gum Girl by chewing bubble gum.  As Gum Girl, Gabby possesses superpowers and performs feats like stopping a car from careening into her school and helping a plane with a damaged wing to land. Unknown to Gabby, she has an archenemy named Robo Chef, who is determined to defeat her.  He robs a bank, and it is up to Gum Girl to save the town. This is a slight story with a limited word count, but has the humor and word play that will appeal to young and struggling readers. The characters are Hispanic and a few Spanish words are contained within the text. Robo Chef, hiding in a spatula factory, is an evil hapless character who cannot seem to catch a break.  The illustrations by Luke Reynolds are done in a cartoon style. The characters are drawn on a large scale and there is heavy use of the color pink. As if there is not enough silliness, the book has a bubble gum smell and the font style is Grilled Cheese BTN Condensed. THOUGHTS:  Even though Gum Luck is not a Newbery contender, its off the wall style will make it likely to fly off the shelves.  A suggested purchase for elementary libraries, especially if the first book is popular.

Humor, Fantasy              Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD


Angleberger, Tom and Cece Bell.  Inspector Flytrap in the Goat Who Chewed Too Much.  Amulet Books, 2017. 978-1-4197-0967-8. $5.99. 101 p. Gr. 1-3.

Inspector Flytrap seeks to become the World’s Greatest Detective, so he will only take the world’s Greatest Mysteries. However, detective work can be challenging when you’re a potted plant. After a multi-million dollar golden pickle paperweight is stolen, the inspector is on the case, aided by his trusty assistant Nina the Goat. But when Nina is arrested for the crime, Inspector Flytrap (movement-challenged now that Nina is in jail) must find the true criminal in order to free Nina. THOUGHTS:  Typical silliness from Origami Yoda Master Angleberger with plentiful illustrations by Bell (El Deafo). A satisfying mystery for the emerging reader.

Mystery     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District


Lysiak, Hilde and Matthew Lysiak. Hero Dog! Scholastic: 2017. 978-1-338-14155-9. $4.99. 89 p. Gr. 2-3.

Lysiak, Hilde and Matthew Lysiak. Bear on the Loose! Scholastic: 2017. 978-1-338-14158-0. $4.99. 87 p. Gr. 2-3.

Hilde, the pint-sized editor of the Orange Street News, is always on the lookout for a breaking story. In Hero Dog! she finds herself involved in a series of thefts or sabotage to entrants of the Bake-Off Bonanza. Next, Bear on the Loose! finds Hilde trying to verify reports of a bear in her hometown of Selinsgrove, PA. In both instances, Hilde’s reporting skills lead her to asking the questions that solve the mysteries. Written by the real-life reporting team of Matthew Lysiak and his daughter Hilde (who really does write the Orange Street News for Selinsgrove, PA) these entertaining Hilde Cracks the Case mysteries are both a satisfying detective story and an introduction to reporting skills and techniques. Plentiful illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (and a cute faux spiral bound notebook cover) add to the appeal of the books. THOUGHTS: Show student the website for the Orange Street News and you will quickly create reporters-in-training. A good addition to the early chapter book collection.  

Mystery     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District

YA Realistic Fiction – Truthers; Allegedly; Once and for All; We are Okay

Girard, Geoffrey. Truthers. Carolrhoda LAB/Lerner Publishing Group, 2017. 978-1-5124-2779-0. 360 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Katie never believed in her dad; he let her down too many times to count.  His bad combination of drugs and alcohol left Katie picking up his responsibilities all throughout her childhood, forcing her to learn that the only person she can depend on is herself.  When the police bring Child Services to her front door, Katie isn’t shocked, knowing it was only a matter of time.  What she didn’t expect was to hear her dad has been admitted to a mental institution due to a violent encounter with coworkers and claims of 9/11 conspiracies involving former vice president Dick Cheney.  Katie remembers her dad spouting “truther” conspiracies sporadically, mostly when he was either drunk or high.  But when her dad shares a dark secret with her, she finds herself thrust into a world of lies, half-truths, and corruption.  Now Katie must figure out if her dad could be telling the truth, which would shake up her world completely, or if he really is in the place where he belongs.  THOUGHTS: Girard’s novel had me riveted and horrified all at the same time.  Like many reading this review, I remember 9/11 very clearly.  I can tell you where I was when each plane crashed, how I felt when each tower crumbled before the world’s very eyes, and how my friends, family, and students were directly affected by what happened that terrible day.  To read this fictional character, Katie, explore all-to-real “truther” points-of-view, I was so upset by how plausible it all seemed.  I have never given credence to the “truther” movement before, and I cannot say this book has convinced me to believe in any way, nor was that the author’s intent, however I can see how easily it would be to get caught up in it all, just like Katie was.  I would recommend this to any high school teacher who is looking to get their students more involved in questioning the world around them, even if it means questioning their own government.

Realistic Fiction          Sandra Reilly, Pleasant Valley School District


Jackson, Tiffany D.  Allegedly.  Katherine Tegen Books, 2017.  978-0-06-242264-4. 387 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

After serving six years in jail for allegedly killing a three-month-old baby who was in the care of her and her mother, Mary Addison now lives in a group home and is on house arrest.  She volunteers at a nursing home, where she meets Ted and ends up getting pregnant with his baby.  When she realizes she won’t be allowed to keep the baby, she decides it is time to tell the truth about what happened that fateful night so that she may be exonerated.  Finding someone to believe her, however, may be more difficult than it seems, and in the end, the truth may not be clear and straightforward.  A searing portrait of relevant issues like mental illness, media bias, race, complicated family ties, and the criminal justice system, this novel is sure to spark debate among its readers.  THOUGHTS: I found myself unable to put this book down, as I desperately wanted to discover the truth about Mary and her mother.  Besides the suspense, the empathy and pity I felt for Mary, along with the plot twists along the way, kept me coming back for more.  I would recommend this title to fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Paula
Hawkin’s The Girl on the Train, or fans of the Netflix series Orange is the New Black.  An excellent addition to any YA collection.

Realistic Fiction     Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD


Dessen, Sarah. Once and for All. Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-0-425-29033-0. 368 p. $19.99. Gr. 9 and up.

With her mom, a famed wedding planner, Louna lives amidst many teen girls’ dreams, taking a ringside seat working at lavish weddings. Being part of the planning and execution, however, is not as glamorous as one may think. Though they make their livelihood on love, Louna’s mother Natalie and her mother’s business partner William don’t believe in it. In fact, their post-wedding celebration includes a bet on how long (or not) each marriage will last. Their cynicism is starting to rub off on Louna; she can feel it. With her own first love ending tragically last year, Louna feels like she missed out on her one and only. It takes meeting Ambrose, an impossible and annoying son-of-the-bride (and later brother-of-the-bride) to bring Louna out of her shell. With the support and distractions of her best friend Jilly, who is constantly taxiing her siblings around while her food truck parents work, Louna enjoys one last memorable summer of wedding planning.   THOUGHTS: Fans of Sarah Dessen’s sweet teenaged romance novels will swoon over this newest book. Set amongst a beautiful summer wedding season, it successfully looks at love and loss. Descriptions of sex and teen drinking may not be suitable for younger readers.

Realistic Fiction   Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

I look forward to each new novel by Sarah Dessen. While her newest release is not as strong as her previous titles, the story is still engrossing and will be heartily enjoyed by any young person interested in novels focused on relationships and personal growth. Louna has spent her life around weddings, since her mother and her mother’s best friend own one of the premiere wedding planning businesses in their town. Louna is an old hat at calming down a bride and finding an errant wedding guest. Yet, a previous heartache has caused her to question marriage and she has given up dating for the foreseeable future. The summer before college, she works at her mother’s business every day. When her mother hires the brother of one of their clients, she immediately questions this decision. Ambrose is annoying, loud, and constantly in search of his next date. Ambrose and Louna decide to make a bet- Ambrose has to date someone for longer than two or three dates, and Louna has to go on as many first dates as she can. The bet leads to some funny outcomes and interesting interactions between the two. The characters, as always, are engaging and likeable even with their faults, and the story moves back and forth between Louna’s present and the love of her past. THOUGHTS: While a bit cliche at times, this title will be enjoyed by many teens looking for a simple, easy lovestory.

Realistic Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy


LaCour, Nina. We Are Okay. New York, Penguin: 2017. Print. 978-0525425892. 240 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Nina LaCour has written a beautiful little gem of a novel about truly understanding one’s family and accepting the life we have to lead. Marin escaped from her home in California after a tragedy, leaving for her new collegiate home in rural New York. She cut herself off from her life and friends, not answering any texts from her best friend, Mabel. But, when the winter break comes around, Mabel comes to New York for a visit, and Marin must begin to confront her past and come to terms with the life she now must lead. The story jumps easily from Marin’s past and her life with her beloved grandfather, to her present, quiet existence at school. Marin and Mabel’s complex relationship slowly reveals itself, and LaCour shares their experience with compassion and grace. THOUGHTS: I highly recommend this novel for libraries with a vibrant teen collection.

Realistic Fiction     Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy

Incinerator…Sequel to Crusher


Leonard, Niall. Incinerator. New York: Delacorte, 2014. 978-0385743631 $17.99. 384 p. Grades 9 and up.

Incinerator is the follow-up novel to Crusher second book in the series, but lacks in plot and focus. Based in a suburb of London, Finn, an emancipated orphan has just bought a boxing gym with his former coach in the wake of his father and mother’s bloody deaths. His girlfriend floats in and out of his life.  Finn dove deeper and deeper into the underworld in the first novel but is now focused on finding his missing lawyer who incidentally has his extremely large inheritance with her. Faced with the dilemma of losing his newly acquired business, Finn once again jumps into the illegal crime world of the Governor, a crime boss who took him under his wing in Crusher. Ultimately, Finn will once again recover from the downward spiral of his chaotic life in an unbelievable ending. Educators may find this adventure-bound novel to be great for reluctant readers who want reckless abandon. Without real depth, the characters are flat, often begging for an explanation or at the least some feeling, focusing mainly on action and not details.  The book itself was confusing, recycling secondary characters from Crusher to become main characters in Incinerator. It stated the book was the second in a series, but could have been read without reading Crusher.

Adventure    Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central MS

Viewpoints…Cybercrime, Hacking,


Berlatsky, Noah Ed.  Cybercrime: Global Viewpoints. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2014.  978-0737769074. 209p. Gr. 9-12.

This compilation of articles about cybercrime is full of information that is also timely and thought provoking.  Written by experts in the field, it also contains very useful ideas and information for related research projects. The articles do an excellent job of defining what cybercrime is today and how it is affecting people here in the United States and around the world.  Topics include vulnerability to cybercrime, law and cybercrime, organized crime and cybercrime, and cyber espionage and cyberterrorism. This book is a must have for high school libraries.

Cybercrime  364.16         Marian Kohan, Erie School District



Haerens, Margaret and Lynn M. Zott Eds.  Hacking and Hackers: Opposing Viewpoints. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2014.  978-0737766578. 211p. Gr. 9-12.

This compilation of articles about hacking and hackers is full of articles that probably most know very little about. All of the articles are timely, thought provoking, and written by experts in the field. It also contains very useful ideas and information for related research projects. The articles do an excellent job of defining what hacking is today and how it is or is not a threat to individuals, companies, and government agencies. Topics include cybersecurity, wikileaks, cyberwarfare, scandals,  and hactivists. This book is a must have for high school libraries.

Hacking 364.16.8            Marian Kohan, Erie School District