YA – Heartstopper #1

Oseman, Alice. Heartstopper # 1. Graphix, 2020. 978-1-338-61743-6. 288 p. $14.99. Grades 8-12.

Fans of romance and coming of age stories, go no further. Oseman’s volume one of the Heartstopper series will do just that: stop your heart. This light take on a young man coming out to his school before he was really ready, dives into male friendships and more within a school setting. The story is set in England and revolves around a rugby team so there is slang that might be lost on some readers. This is a great story of male friendship that broadens into something more. Although school isn’t always a safe place, Oseman reminds us that there are people to be safe with. It’s important to note that this is a story revolving around gay high school students and that includes the abuse, both physical and verbal that still occurs, especially for individuals who are trying to figure themselves out. Oseman leaves the reader hanging and ready for volume two.

THOUGHTS: This is a great addition to high school libraries who are looking to make their graphic novel collection more realistic. In addition, this is a great mirror into the thoughts and feelings adolescents may have while discovering their sexual preferences and navigating the rough seas of high school.

Graphic Novel          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

YA Historical FIC – Dreamland Burning; American Traitors; The Pearl Thief; Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue

Latham, Jennifer.  Dreamland Burning.  Little, Brown and Company, 2017.  978-0-316-38493-3. 371 p.  $18.99.  Gr. 8 and up.

In the early 1920s, Will Tillman is a teenage boy coming of age in Tulsa during the era of race riots and Jim Crow laws.  He wants to become a righteous man, but in order to do so, he must make some difficult decisions between the evening of May 31 and the afternoon of June 1, 1921, when white rioters loot and burn the African American section of Tulsa known as Greenwood.  Almost a century later, seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase begins asking questions when a skeleton is unearthed on her family’s property.  Through alternating narratives, readers learn how Will and Rowan are connected through time and how sadly, the negative attitudes of some people towards African Americans persevere even today.  THOUGHTS: This title is an excellent addition to any school where U.S. history is taught.  Not only does it present a gripping account of one of the most violent (and heretofore largely overlooked) racial conflicts in our country’s history, but it also raises monumental questions about how far we have come, or perhaps haven’t come, as a country.  While the book highlights the stark realities of the state of our country, it still manages to inspire hope and assure readers that the love and courage of a few unsung heroes far outweighs the evil and cowardice of others.  Pair this with other titles that expertly address the issue of racism, such as Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee, Paul Volponi’s Black and White, or Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Historical Fiction     Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

Landis, Matthew. The League of American Traitors. Sky Pony Press, 2017. 9781510707351. $16.99. 256p.  Gr. 7 and up.

The League of American Traitors takes place in the present, but there’s an alternate reality that’s been happening for the past 240-years between two secret societies: The Libertines and The League of American Traitors. These groups are made up of the descendants of America’s traitors and America’s patriots since the Revolutionary War and most of society has no idea that they have been dueling to the death for the past 240 years. The Libertines are determined to end the bloodlines of America’s traitors, and, unfortunately for Jasper, he is the last direct descendant of America’s most notorious traitor, Benedict Arnold. The story and action begins with the death of Jasper’s dad, not only making Jasper an orphan, but also putting him next in line to be convicted and condemned for his ancestor’s sins, which he finds out the hard way. Jasper, and the reader, go on a fast-paced journey to try and clear Arnold’s name and avoid having to duel. There is attempted kidnapping, a violent clash on the streets of Philadelphia, a boarding school that doubles as a dueling academy, and lots of history that both Jasper, and the reader, learn about. THOUGHTS: This book is touted everywhere as National Treasure meets Hamilton. I can’t speak to that since I haven’t seen either, but that might be a selling point when book-talking this to students. The author is a Social Studies teacher in my district, and he includes notes at the end discussing the accuracy of the historical information included in the book. Despite the dark theme (gun violence, dueling, murder), the book also has light-hearted realistic teen banter that made me laugh. The League of American Traitors is a book I will recommend to my middle school students (7th – 9th) who are fans of action-packed books from authors like James Dashner, Dan Brown, and Richard Paul Evans or students who like some history with their fiction.

Historical Adventure      Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Wein, Elizabeth. The Pearl Thief.  Hyperion, 2017. 978-148471716-5. 326 p.  $18.99  Gr. 8 and up.

The Pearl Thief, a prequel to Code Name Verity, features Julie Beaufort-Stuart a few years before she became a spy. For Verity’s legion of fans, it is especially poignant to witness Julie’s coming of age, since it is impossible to forget her ultimate fate. For those who have yet to read Verity, the book works just fine as a stand-alone. Fifteen-year-old Julie, a minor noble, returns to her ancestral home for the summer holidays and quickly finds herself at the center of a mystery when she is attacked and wakes up with no memory of the incident.  The local police are eager to blame the “Travellers,” an ethnic group (similar and somewhat related to Romany peoples) native to Scotland. But Julie is adamant that they are not to blame; in fact, a Travellers family rescued her. Julie develops a strong attachment to Ellen, a Travellers girl her own age. Their relationship not only foreshadows the deep bond that develops between Maddie and Julie in Verity, but also offers a subtle but deep subtext on issues surrounding sexual preference and gender fluidity. The appearance of a (rather macabre) dead body and the disappearance of priceless pearls heighten the mystery element, but this book is much, much more than a whodunnit.  THOUGHTS: The writing is elegant, nuanced, and complex, and the subject matter is appropriate for younger as well as older teens. Recommended for fans of Code Name Verity and any reader looking for something meaty and thought-provoking; a strong purchase for high school libraries; an additional purchase for middle school libraries looking to acquire books for students with higher reading levels.

Historical Fiction, Mystery           Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

 

Lee, Mackenzi. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2017. 978-0-0623-8280-1. 528 p. $18.99. Gr. 9-12.

Eighteen year old Henry “Monty” Montague is no stranger to scandal. As the son of an earl, Monty’s flagrant vices do not quite fit the gentlemanly life that’s expected of him. His love for drinking, gambling and cavorting with both men and women have gotten him expelled from school and infuriated his mean father, who often takes out his anger with his fists. So Monty looks forward to a year away with his best friend Percy, who he also happens to have a massive crush on, as they venture on their Grand Tour of Europe. But trouble always seems to find Monty, and soon he, his sister Felicity, and Percy are caught up in political scandal, pirates, and alchemy as they make their way across Europe. As Monty explores the countryside and opens up to his friends, readers will surely see a part of themselves in Felicity, Percy or Monty. THOUGHTS: While this story may seem just like any other YA romance, this is one of the few mainstream teen books to feature a bisexual protagonist. Lee creates an incredible enthralling and fast-paced story that hooks readers in the first few pages. Not only does Lee explore gender identity in the 1800s, but readers will also learn about race relations, disability, and feminism during the time period as well. A delightful, well researched read.

Historical Fiction      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

New Children’s Historical Fiction

warsavedlife

Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker. The War That Saved My Life. New York: Penguin Books, 2015. 978-0-8037-4081-5 316 p. Grades 3-6.

Ada, a young girl with a clubfoot, has been resigned all of her life in her apartment in London watching the world from her window. When World War II looms towards London, children are being sent to the country for safety.  Along with her younger brother Jamie, Ada, despite not being able to walk, decides to run away and go with him. Grudgingly adopted by Miss Susan Smith, Ada begins to learn of life outside of her window. From riding a pony to interacting with others and learning to read, she gradually learns to trust herself and others. Meanwhile Susan, a recluse in her own way, saddened by the loss of a dear friend, begins to open her heart again as well. Details of the war weave their way into this story of equal parts loss, love and hope.  THOUGHTS: This is a beautifully narrated character study. Ada is a unique narrator, accompanied by interesting secondary characters in Susan, her evil mother, and new friends. Fans of historical fiction will devour this; those new to the genre will most likely be hooked as well.

Historical Fiction       Lisa Weiss, Churchville Elementary School

Incinerator…Sequel to Crusher

incinerator

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