YA Realistic FIC – Rocks Fall…; Run; Female of Species


Ribar, Lindsay. Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies. New York: Kathy Dawson Books, 2016. 978-0-525-42868-8. 323 pp. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Aspen Quick can reach inside of people and steal almost anything: thoughts, feelings, memories, or physical attributes. It’s a family trait the Quicks of Three Peaks, New York, have always used to perform the “triad ritual” that repairs dangerous fault lines in the cliff looming over their town. And sure, maybe Aspen occasionally uses his ability to make his life a little better (e.g., manipulating his crush into breaking up with her boyfriend and falling for Aspen instead). Following his cousin Heather’s death, Aspen becomes a regular member of the ritual. But he notices something strange afoot in seemingly idyllic Three Peaks; local teens still talk about Heather in the present tense, and one of them seems immune to Aspen’s abilities. The novel’s interesting structure, with scenes from “Before” closing each chapter, adds context even as the holes in Aspen’s memory are revealed. THOUGHTS: With Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, Lindsay Ribar has stirred up a singular brew of summer love, magical realism, and family secrets. It’s a satisfying stand-alone that readers of Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap will enjoy.

Magical Realism      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School Library



Keplinger, Kody. Run. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.  978-0-545-83113-0. 295 pp.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

Bo Dickinson and Agnes Atwood could not be more different.  Bo comes from a family of drunkards, drug addicts, and criminals and has a reputation for being wild.  Agnes, on the other hand, goes to church with her parents every week and always follows the rules.  Because she was born legally blind, Agnes has lived a very sheltered life.  When Bo suddenly enters her life, Agnes is curious about the world outside her small circle, and the two become best friends.  That’s why Agnes doesn’t hesitate when Bo asks her to run away from their small, rural town with her.  Told in alternating perspectives, Agnes explains how their friendship formed while Bo relays the events of their road trip.  Throughout the course of the book, the two will share secrets and new experiences, break rules, and form an indestructible bond.  A solid story of friendship, this book has some edgy topics that will be relatable to many teens: bisexuality, sexual experiences, disabilities, dysfunctional family dynamics, underage drinking and more.  THOUGHTS: This book really opened my eyes to what life can be like for those who are blind and how refreshing it can be for others to treat them like normal people (as Bo does for Agnes) rather than treating like they are handicapped.  For that reason, I could see this book pairing well with Blind by Rachel DeWoskin or with books about other disabilities or abnormalities, such as R.J. Palacio’s Wonder or Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind.  I would warn purchasers, however, that the book contains some graphic language and edgy content, so it may be more suited for older readers.

Realistic Fiction       Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School



McGinnis, Mindy. The Female of the Species. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2016. 978-0-06232-089-6. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Three years ago, Alex Craft’s sister Anna was found in pieces in the snowy woods. Without enough evidence to convict the killer, Alex watched her sister’s murderer walk free. Now she watches and waits, and becomes what she thinks and feels; violence and vengeance. With her own crime unpunished, Alex retreats from her family and peers, afraid to unleash the violence buried deep inside her. While volunteering at an animal shelter for her senior project, Alex meets Peekay, the local preacher’s daughter, and an unlikely friendship blossoms. Now venturing into the high school social world, Alex also meets Jack, who begins to chip away at her hard exterior and see the person underneath- but with that person also comes darkness and anger. Told through Alex, Peekay, and Jack’s alternating perspectives. McGinnis expertly taps into the often uncomfortable yet realistic world of teenage drinking, drugs, and sex, as well as the social pressure that accompanies it. THOUGHTS: While the ending seemed a bit rushed and dramatic, McGinnis is an excellent storyteller who expertly unravels Alex and Anna’s story over the course of the book. Jack, Peekay and Alex are far from the perfect teen, which makes them all the more relatable to teen readers.

Realistic Fiction     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

YA Fantasy – HP & the Cursed Child; Labyrinth Lost; Ghosts


Rowling, J.K., John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. New York: Scholastic, Inc, 2016. 978-1-33809-913-3. $29.99. 343 pp. Gr. 6-12.

The eighth book in the Harry Potter series is set nineteen years after the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, taking readers back to the enchanting world of wizards. Harry, Ron and Hermione all work at the Ministry of Magic, balancing careers with their family life; all have children attending Hogwarts. In his first year at Hogwarts, Harry and Ginny’s youngest son, Albus, is sorted into Slytherin, and instantly befriends Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpious. The two seclude themselves from others and grow up mostly as outcasts. As Albus enters his teen years, he struggles with having famous Harry Potter as a father, and Harry struggles to understand his adolescent son. Meanwhile, a time-turner is uncovered at the Ministry of Magic, and Amos Diggory pleads with Harry to travel back and save his son Cedric. Fans of the original series will love the journey back in time, happy to meet old characters and new. THOUGHTS:  The play format might seem sparse to seasoned Harry Potter readers, but fanatics and fans alike will love traveling back to Hogwarts to see what Harry, Ron, and Hermione are up to.

Fantasy        Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School



Córdova, Zoraida. Labyrinth Lost. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Fire, 2016. 978-1-4926-2094-5. 324 pp. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Alejandra just wants to be a normal Brooklyn teenager who hangs out with her friends, goes to concerts, and definitely does not come from a long line of brujas (witches). Instead, she’s a burgeoning encantrix whose Deathday ceremony (a chance to connect with and be blessed by her ancestors) is fast approaching. So Alex, who hates her magic, devises a risky plan to perform a spell that will cast out her powers. When the spell backfires, Alex’s whole family disappears into the spirit realm of Los Lagos. With the help of cute but mysterious Nova, Alex opens a portal to Los Lagos so she can rescue her family. Suddenly, everything depends on the powers she’s never bothered to hone. It’s truly a bruja‘s odyssey, complete with challenges, obstacles, and tricksters. The cliffhanger ending will either frustrate readers or entice them to read the forthcoming sequel. THOUGHTS: Cordova has crafted a fully realized world and a beguiling mythology that more than compensates for the novel’s slightly slow start (Alex’s family doesn’t disappear until nearly a third of the way into the book’s 300+ pages).

Fantasy Fiction        Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School Library



Telgemeier, Raina. Ghosts. New York: Graphix, 2016. 978-0-54554-062-9. $24.99. Gr. 6-12.

Cat and her family are moving to Northern California. The salty sea air there is better for her younger sister Maya, who has cystic fibrosis. While her family is excited for the change, Cat is sad to leave her friends back in Southern California and anxious about her new town which is said to be very haunted. Cat and Maya’s neighbor, Carlos, takes them on a ghost tour through town, and an encounter with the spirits leaves Maya hospitalized. Cat is determined to keep her sister safely away from the ghosts, but when Maya returns home, she is determined to see them again. Cat is scared, and not just of ghosts; Dia de los Muertos is coming up, and meeting with the many ghosts may be too much for Maya. Telgemeier once again creates an excellent middle grade graphic novel that explores tough issues through relatable text and beautiful illustrations. For those who loved Telgemeier’s previous books Smile, Drama and Sisters, this will be another popular graphic novel in your Middle School. THOUGHTS: An exciting opportunity to incorporate a supplemental text and a graphic novel into a language class that studies Dia de los Muertos. Students really relate to and love Telgemeier’s story and artwork. While relatable to tweens and teens, readers also get a chance to explore cultural traditions they may not be familiar with.

Paranormal Fantasy        Victoria Schoewbel, Friends’ Central School

Sublime by Christina Lauren


Lauren, Christina.  Sublime.  New York: Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2014.  978-1-4814-1368-8.  318p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9 and Up.

The first thing one notices about this book is its beautiful cover depicting a pale, ethereal, girl gazing up lovingly at a handsome but unconscious young man.  I was drawn to the book by its cover, and many students will borrow this book for the same reason.

The story opens with the beautiful and ghostly Lucy simply walking out of the woods at St. Osanna’s boarding school.  She doesn’t know why she’s there, but when she sees one of the students, Colin, she is immediately drawn to him.  Colin’s feelings for Lucy are similarly intense.  As time goes on, Lucy is revealed to be a ghost who haunts the school after she is murdered.  Colin is also revealed to be the young boy who saw Lucy being abducted and led authorities to her killer.  The yearning (obsession) between Colin and Lucy is difficult to comprehend.  Colin has been an adrenaline junkie for years. He and fellow daredevil, Jay, inadvertently discover that near–death experiences allow Colin to enter Lucy’s world in a physical sense.  Colin begins to take part in ever more dangerous stunts on the school’s icy cold lake, so he can simulate death and be with Lucy.  He begins to suffer physical effects from the frequent near-death experiences at the same time Lucy gains new vitality. It is almost as if she is sapping the life from him.

One of Colin’s later stunts gone wrong almost does kill him. St. Osanna’s nurse, whose experience with the “walkers” has taught her that there is an element of evil to these ghosts, orders Lucy to stay away from Colin. Lucy’s anger/ psychic force is so great that she causes a tray of surgical tools to injure the nurse.  For the first time, Lucy sees herself for what she really is and retreats into the lake to spend eternity.  Colin’s actions following Lucy’s disappearance are drastic.  Many readers and literary critics have taken issue with the ending, but the author hints throughout the novel that there can be no happy endings in ghost-human relationships.  This was a very different kind of ghost story and if the reader tries to keep in mind that it is not another Twilight, he/she may actually enjoy it.

Paranormal Fiction     Susan Fox, Washington Jr./Sr. High School

The Madness of YA Fiction 2013

Johnson, Maureen. The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, Book 2). New York: G.P. Putnam’s, 2013. 978-0-399-25661-5. $17.99. Gr. 7+.

In this follow-up to the Edgar Award nominee, The Name of the Star,  Rory Deveaux has survived her attack by “the Ripper”.   As Rory tries to adjust to life in Bristol, miles away from Wexford and her friends, she learns that her survival not only left her with a mean scar, but also a terminus.  Only this time the terminus is not a cell phone; she has become the terminus.  After weeks of therapy, Rory’s therapist suggests that she return to London and school to help with her healing.  Rory knows something’s up when, in the middle of the night, Stephen, head of the secret Shades police, takes her from Wexford to the London underground.  As Rory’s “gift” is displayed, an inner struggle begins, a struggle that leads her to Jane, a new therapist who helps Rory overcome herself, but does she really?  Maureen Johnson once again brings to life the paranormal world of the Shades, the secret ghost-fighting police force, while manipulating Rory’s teenage world of school, boyfriends, friendships, emotions, and growth.  This is a great novel to pair with exploration into the paranormal, cults, Greek mythology, and teenage maturation issues.

Fantasy (Paranormal)                         Erin Parkinson, Lincoln Jr/Sr High School, Ellwood City

I really enjoyed the first novel in this series, The Name of the Star.  I found Johnson’s grasp of character intertwined with the paranormal only added to her grasp of the plot and the conflicts within and around Rory.  Although I enjoyed this second novel, I did not enjoy it as much.  If I had to rate it it’s about a 4 out of 5 stars.  It was good, but it lacked the intrigue of the first novel.  The Madness Underneath focused more on character than plot. It was somewhat angsty, but still delivered enough interest in the characters and story to want to finish it.  I’m looking forward to the next installment in the Shades of London series because Johnson can really do something amazing, and I’m hoping she does.  Happy Reading!