MG – The Last Cuentista

Higuera, Donna Barba. The Last Cuentista. Levine Querido, 978-1-646-14089-3. 320 p. $17.99. Grades 5-9.

In the year 2061, a comet has been knocked off course and is hurtling to planet Earth. While the majority of earth’s citizens will die as the comet collides with the planet, a small group of citizens are selected to travel to space and prepare to make a new home on planet Sagan. Petra, her brother Javier, and her scientist parents make the cut, but her beloved grandmother Lita does not. Petra and her grandmother have a special relationship, strengthened by the cuentos, or stories, that Lita tells her. Petra lives for these moments with her grandmother and vows that she will remember every single one of her grandmother’s cuentos so she always has a piece of her to share with others. After boarding the ship that takes them away from Earth, Petra and her family are frozen for 380 years inside stasis pods until they reach Sagan. While frozen, each person receives a brain download that inputs all kinds of knowledge so they are fully educated and ready to colonize a new planet when they arrive at their destination. Hundreds of years later, as Petra is taken out of her stasis, she realizes very quickly that she is the only one that remembers anything about Earth – and the plan for colonization has changed. A group called The Collective has taken over the ship and has plans to erase everything relating to Earth and its human inhabitants. According to them, the humans of Earth have made a lot of mistakes, and they do not intend on repeating (or remembering) those mistakes on their new planet. Petra realizes that if she wants Earth’s cuentos to live on, she must fight The Collective from the inside.

THOUGHTS: This book has received a slew of awards, including this year’s Newbery Medal. The Mexican-American main character is a strong female hero that readers will root for. It is a beautiful story filled with loss and hope, which makes it a perfect cuento. A must-purchase for middle grade libraries.

Science Fiction            Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Series – Fairest and An Ember in the Ashes


Meyer, Marissa. Fairest. New York: Rampion Books, 2015. 978-1-250-06055-6. 220 p. $17.99. Gr. 6-12.

What makes someone a monster? Queen Levana’s dark, twisted and somber history is finally revealed in the companion book to the wildly popular Cinder series, and she is much more than a typical villain. Years before Cinder is even born, Levana is in an accident that leaves her permanently disfigured. Gifted in “glamour”, Levana changes her physical appearance and finds herself second in line to the Lunar throne after her parents are murdered. Horribly self-conscious and in love with palace guard Evret, Levana glamours him too, and he and his daughter Winter move into the palace. Soon, her older sister, Princess Channary, becomes Queen and produces an heir, Selene, while Levana’s relationship with Evret becomes increasingly strained. After the unexpected death or Channary, Levana finds herself Queen Regent, and after sitting on the throne, realizes she craves the crown, and devises a dark way to become Queen. Readers will finally discover the grim, selfish actions that created the jealous, vain, and cruel Queen Levana, as well as some background into the childhood of Selene and Winter. As a bonus, readers will be delighted to find the first 3 chapters of Winter at the end of the book.

Fantasy, Science Fiction            Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School


Tahir, Sabaa. An Ember in the Ashes. New York: Razorbill, 2015. 978-2-59514-803-2. 446 p. $19.95. Gr. 9-12.

Tahir’s strong debut easily stands out as one of the best young adult novels of 2015. Laia lives with her brother and grandparents in an oppressed, brutal world where swearing loyalty to the Empire is the only way to stay alive. When a masked force invades Laia’s home, kidnapping her brother and murdering her grandparents, Laia decides to risk her life and join the rebellion to save her brother. She enters Blackcliff Academy, the military school where the empire’s assassins are trained, and meets Elias, one of the elite students, whose dedication to the school and it’s ruthless leader, the Commandment, strongly waver. Through dueling narratives, Tahir brings Laia and Elias to life, and creates a glittering line of hope and love in a dark, eerie world. Interweaving political intrigue, incredible world-building, and nods to historical cities like Rome, Tahir creates action and drama that will make readers have trouble putting this one down. The success of this debut has lead to a sequel, which will be publish in Spring 2016. Give this one to fans of The Winner’s Curse or Red Queen series.

Dystopia, Fantasy      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Love and Global Warming – Who knew?


Block, Francesca Lia. Love in the Time of Global Warming. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2013. 978-0-8050-9627-9. 230 p. $16.99. Gr 9-12.

After an Earth Shaker, or earthquake destroys Los Angeles and possibly more, 17-year-old Pen embarks on an epic quest to find her missing parents and younger brother, Venice. Pen navigates a dark world with a copy of The Odyssey as her guide, finding that evil creatures and humans now lurk around every corner. With beautifully lyrical prose and a touch of magical realism interspersed throughout the story, Pen makes friends and discovers her own identity, which she had questioned in the time before the Earth Shaker. Teens will identify with Pen’s realistic emotions and reactions throughout the story; she is scared and determined, but grounded in the reality of a devastatingly beautiful world after disaster.

Dystopia, Fantastical Realism          Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School