MG – When You Trap a Tiger

Keller, Tae. When You Trap a Tiger. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-524-71570-0. 287 p. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

Lily, known as Lily Bean to her mom, and Eggi in her Halmoni’s stories, and her family suddenly pack up and move to Washington one rain soaked evening. They are moving in with her Halmoni, a storyteller, and the story she shares with Lily from many years ago is about how she stole the stars from the sky and bottled up the bad stories which angered a tiger. Lily is intrigued by her story, and when a tiger suddenly appears in the middle of the road one rainy night, Lily is convinced everything is real. But time is of the essence, as Halmoni is showing signs of illness – could it be a consequence of her stealing the stars? With the help of Ricky, a boy Lily meets at the library across the street, the two devise a “hypothetical” tiger trap. Little did Lily know that the Tiger would make her an offer that can help her Halmoni, but with consequences. Lily wants answers and to find a way to help her Halmoni before it’s too late. But can a QAG, short for quiet Asian girl, really find the truth? Can she rescue her family before it’s too late?

THOUGHTS: Readers will not be disappointed with the characters in this book – they are full of heart, determination, love, and curiosity, even if one of them is a tiger. This title is perfect to add to your collection of diverse books, as it shows the struggle of an Asian family and how their history and heritage affect their lives today. I truly enjoyed reading this story and believe it is the perfect story to capture how storytelling and reading books can truly be art.

Fantasy          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Change is happening in Lily’s life. With little notice, her mother has uprooted her daughters from their California home to their halmoni’s (grandmother’s) home in Sunbeam, Washington. Lily does her best to be the invisible, accommodating, “QAG” (quiet Asian girl) while her older sister, Sam, finds every reason to voice her displeasure to their mother and often rebukes Lily. Lily both chafes under and finds comfort in her invisibility. Lily’s many worries worsen when she (and only she) sees a tiger in the road as they approach their halmoni’s home. Her grandmother has shared countless Korean folktales with Lily and Sam, often with a dangerous tiger involved. When Lily discovers that her grandmother is ill and facing death, she’s determined to convince the tiger to use its magic to cure her grandmother, despite admonitions from her mother and sister that dissuade her from believing the “silly” stories have any power in their lives. The library across the street provides hope and friendship for Lily, who teams up with Ricky to build a tiger trap in her grandmother’s basement. Can she convince the tiger to help, and can she convince her family that the stories are real and useful?  Will the stories save her grandmother and her family?

THOUGHTS: This is a tale of a young girl growing up and deciding who she will be, while she comes to terms with death. The targeted age level seems to increase through the story as Lily matures, and this may not quite work for readers. The grief, anger at moving, and the sister difficulties between Lily and Sam smooth a bit too perfectly by the story’s end. I found myself wishing for more scenes with the interesting, enigmatic tiger.

Magical Realism          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD
Korean Folktales

YA – Ready to Fall; Thunderhead

Pixley, Marcella. Ready to Fall.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2017. 9780374303587. $17.99. 360 p. Gr. 8 and up.

After the death of his beloved mother, 16-year-old Max Friedman struggles with his spiraling depression and an unhealthy obsession with an imaginary brain tumor.  Withdrawing from his grieving father and completely unable to cope at his public school, he is given the opportunity to switch to a progressive private high school.  The school matches new students with a student fellow and a faculty mentor, and so Max meets Felicia, the pink-haired free spirit who goes by the name Fish and the demanding professor Gates. The change is a lifeline for Max.  With the help of his new circle of creative friends, some inspiring teachers and his supportive father and grandmother, Max hopes to lift the heavy veil of his depression and make a fresh start. Many of the characters in the book are intriguing;  well-developed and flawed or struggling in some way and Max’s relationships with all of them ring true. The writing is emotionally charged and Max’s grief is palpable. Pixley peppers the pages with scenes from Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, writings that mirror Max’s pain and depression, but also help him come to terms with his own struggles. THOUGHTS: Could be used as a contemporary companion piece for classes studying either of these classic works.

Realistic Fiction       Nancy Summers, Abington School District

 

Shusterman, Neal. Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe Book 2).  Simon and Schuster, 2017. $18.99. 504 p. 9781442472457. Gr. 7 and up.

Thunderhead, the second novel in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, is a compelling sequel to the boldly original Scythe. The series is set in a dystopian future in which the Thunderhead, an omniscient, advanced AI system, has solved most of humanity’s problems including war and mortality.  The Scythdom was created to maintain a sustainable population and scythes are the individuals selected and trained to be the benevolent guardians of death, gleaning people as necessary to prevent overpopulation.  But now within the Scythdom, the Old Guard and the New Order factions are at war with each other. Cintra, as Scythe Anastasia, is revered as an inspiring Junior Scythe, respected for her adherence to the Old Guard principles.  Rowan, who has been denied his initiation, has assumed the mantle of Scythe Lucifer, a vigilante out to bring justice to the New Order scythes who relish their power and the perks of their positions. The Thunderhead itself features as a narrator and provides us with glimpses into its consciousness, objectives, and motivations as the defacto government head and deity. As the two sides of the Scythedom fight for control,  the Thunderhead is forbidden from intervening in their struggle and is unable to resolve the battle between the noblest and basest instincts of individual human beings. THOUGHTS: Yet another winning series from Shusterman, the master storyteller; readers will be eagerly awaiting the final book in this trilogy. A recommended purchase for all YA collections.

Science Fiction, Dystopian     Nancy Summers, Abington School District

Picture Books – Masterpiece Mix; Bizzy Mizz Lizzie; Bob, Not Bob!; La La La

Munro, Roxie.  Masterpiece Mix.  Holiday House, 2017. 978-0-8234-3699-6. $16.95. Unpaged. Gr. K-3.

The first person narrator gets ready to make a new painting but is at a loss as to what kind of painting to make:  still-life, portrait, landscape? The gorgeously illustrated pages show examples of each type of painting, introducing youngsters to well-known paintings by famous artists. Our artist’s resultant painting, a double-page spread at the end of the story, is a Where’s Waldo type cityscape, cleverly incorporating all the paintings in the story. The afterward pages provide a key to the 37 paintings used in the book, as well as a brief introduction to the artists responsible.  THOUGHTS: The simple, sparse text of the book is geared to a young reader, but the key at the back of the book is written for a much older reader. This is a lovely book and fine introduction to art, best used as a shared journey between adult and child.   

Picture Book        Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

 

Shannon, David.  Bizzy Mizz Lizzie. Blue Sky Press, 2017.  978-0-545-61943-1. $16.99. Unpaged. PreK – 2.

Little Lizzie is one busy bee. She studies hard, plays hard, and crams her life full of activities, at which she strives to excel. Her best friend, Lazy Mizz Daizy, encourages Lizzy to slow down and smell the flowers, but Lizzie just can’t relax. However, Lizzie finally takes on one task too many. Striving to win the spelling bee and meet the Queen Bee, she studies and studies without break, until she falls asleep during the bee. Waking up three days later, Lizzie finally goes to the garden with Daizy, where the two little bees meet the queen, who teaches Lizzie that taking time to do nothing makes one a better bee. THOUGHTS:  A gentle tale with a message that is always good to hear, but without the rollicking humor, one expects from Shannon’s books.   

Picture Book     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District

 

Vernick, Audrey, Elizabeth Scanlon, and Matthew Cordell. Bob, not Bob! Disney-Hyperion, 2017. 978-148472302-9. $17.99. Unpaged. Gr. K-2.

When the subtitle states, “To be read as though you have the worst cold ever,” the readers should know they are in for a humorous sick day. Indeed, Little Louie is feeling lousy, and all he wants is his mother. Alas, yelling for mom sounds a lot like a call to the faithful pet, a dog named Bob! The confusion continues until Louie is able to find the cure he needs and include Bob and Bob (Mom!). While the text is clever and quick, the illustrations by Matthew Cordell prove to be the perfect ink and watercolor compliment. The frustration of Louie mixed with the confusion of Bob and the exhaustion of Mom leads to plenty of real entertainment. The endpapers and the font choice (with a heart in the Bob for Mom) show details that encourage repeated reading and enjoyment for the ill and healthy alike.  THOUGHTS: Would work to compare well with Martha Speaks books, and the illustrations of William Steig or Quentin Blake. Also allows readers to practice reading with meaning, with expression, and with humor!

Picture Book     Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

 

DiCamillo, Kate. La La La. Candlewick Press, 2017: ISBN 978-0-7636-5833-5. 72pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

This nearly wordless picture book begins with a small girl standing in a spotlight. She sings a single note: La. She continues singing for a bit, until she realizes she’s singing all alone. Some falling autumn leaves catch her attention and draw her outside where she continues her song. She sings to the leaves, but there is no response. She also tries singing to the pond, the plants, and the trees but still receives no answer. Feeling discouraged and alone, she goes inside, but when the moon rises, she tries singing to it too. Even though she waves her arms and climbs a ladder to be closer to the moon, it doesn’t respond. The lonely girl falls asleep but is awakened by a resounding La: the moon’s triumphant answer. Under a sky full of stars, the girl and the moon call back and forth, each savoring the sense of connection with another. This simple story is brought to life through Jaime Kim’s gorgeous digitally rendered watercolor and ink illustrations. The full bleed spreads – especially the nighttime ones – are saturated with color and fully capture the joy that a sense of belonging brings.  THOUGHTS: Even the youngest readers will pick up on the idea of needing to be heard, so this book will be good for sparking discussions about self-expression. It may also work well with guidance units about loneliness and forming connections with others. Classroom teachers could also ask students to think about ways they express themselves. This could lead to discussions about singing, dancing, drawing, writing, or many other outlets.  

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

YA Realistic FIC – She, Myself, & I; Love, Hate, & Other Filters; American Street; Alex Approximately

Young, Emma. She, Myself, and I. Amulet Books, 2017. 978-1-4197-2570-8. 336 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Paralyzed and slowly dying from a degenerative disease, 18-year-old Rosa longs for a normal life.  Brain-dead after an accident while trying to help a friend, 18-year-old Sylvia’s family is left with no hope of her ever regaining consciousness.  Their young lives are about to intertwine in ways never thought scientifically possible.  A brain transplant will give Rosa a new body and Sylvia the legacy of a lifetime.  The physical recovery will be long and difficult for both Rosa and her family as well as Sylvia’s parents and friends.  As Rosa learns how to live in her new body, she becomes deeply preoccupied with the person whose tragedy that gave her the ability to walk again.  She needs to know who Sylvia was before the accident, whether a part of Sylvia still lives on in her, and if she will ever feel like “herself” again when she looks in a mirror and sees someone else’s face.  THOUGHTS:  A dying quadriplegic teenage girl is given the chance of a lifetime — to wake up in a new body with a new future.  How does she compromise who she used to be with who she is now?  What does she, and everyone around her, see when her face is no longer her own?  While the situation itself might seem unrealistic, medical technology is rapidly advancing and brain transplantation might not be far from the horizon.  Technology aside, the existentialism of Rosa’s situation and the ripple effect on Rosa’s and Sylvia’s families and friends are not often seen in YA literature and will resonate with teens as they embark on their own journey of discovery.

Realistic Fiction      Sandra Reilly, Pleasant Valley School District

 

Ahmed, Samira. Love, Hate & Other Filters. Soho Teen, 2018. 978-1-6169-5847-3. 288 p. $18.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Maya Aziz is torn between being the typical American high school senior and being the traditional Indian girl her parents wish for her to be. Maya’s parents emigrated to the U.S. with dreams; dreams that included for their daughter to have a future as a successful lawyer with a Muslim husband.  But Maya’s dreams are not her parents dreams.  She loves to make movies and has a crush on the star football player.  She is beyond excited yet also scared that she’s been accepted to NYU with a note saying they think her films “show promise”, and the star football player just might be interested in her, too.  As Maya frets over decisions that will shape her future, a terrorist attack at the state capital threatens to take it all away from her.  In the aftermath, Maya and her family must learn how to compromise their dreams with our nation’s reality.  THOUGHTS:  In sharing the story of 18-year-old Maya, born in America to parents that emigrated from India to a small Illinois town, Samira Ahmed has captured what it means to be anyone who is of Middle Eastern descent in the United States.  Ignorance and false information continues to feed racism in our country.  There are far too many Americans who conveniently forget that, unless they are American Indian, we ALL come from a long line of immigrants who were given a chance to build their own version of the American dream.  Ahmed also turns the spotlight on the issue of fear and anger stemming from the refusal to accept others as they are, particularly when the actions of one cast a suspicious net on others, and especially when religion is involved.  Oftentimes, people act out of ignorance and anger, not considering the lasting effects on all those around them.  The addition of an anonymous secondary narrator will make readers question their own preconceptions as the story weaves to its conclusion.  I would rank Love, Hate, & Other Filters right up there with Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and should be on every high school reading list.

Realistic Fiction     Sandra Reilly, Pleasant Valley School District

 

Zoboi, Ibi. American Street. Balzer+Bray, 2017. 978-0062473042. 326 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

American Street is a powerful debut novel, and one that should find its way to every library that serves young adults. Told from the point of view of a recent Haitian immigrant to the United States, the story highlights and expands on many current issues in our world regarding immigration and poverty in urban areas. Fabiola Toussaint travels from Haiti with her mother to live with her mother’s sister and her daughters in Detroit, Michigan. Yet, when they arrive in the States, Fabiola’s mother is detained by immigration officials and Fabiola is forced to travel on to Detroit alone. When she arrives, she is quick to realize that American life might not be like what she imagined. Her three female cousins are loud and brazen, and her aunt never seems to work or leave the house, situated on American Street in inner-city Detroit. Fabiola is despondent over the loss of her mother and unsure of how to act in this new American life, maintaining her faith in her voodoo practices to seek understanding. A new relationship lightens the story, but Fabiola must soon decide what is more important to her: the chaotic family who brought her to the United States, or a mother whose love has sustained her. This book realistically and honestly describes the immigrant plight, from one poverty-stricken area to another.  THOUGHTS: Highly recommended for high school students as well as adults. This author is one to watch.

Realistic Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy

 

Bennett, Jenn. Alex Approximately. Simon Pulse, 2017. 978-1481478779. 400 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Bailey Rydell has decided to join her divorced father in California, the other side of the country from her mother and her stepfather, who cannot seem to stop fighting. Not only will Bailey be able to spend time with her father, but she will also be in the same town as “Alex”, a boy whom she has been talking with on an online movie-lovers chat room for a long time. Bailey thinks that she and Alex might be perfect together, but she decides not to tell him that she is moving until she can do some detective work and find a little bit more about Alex in the flesh. Bailey is obsessed with old movies and movie stars and is excited when her father gets her a job at a local museum. The first day on the job she butts heads with Porter Roth, the son of a local surf legend and security guard at the museum. Soon, they realize that they each have experienced troubles in their pasts and try to move forward together. Will Alex get in the way of their budding relationship? This sweet story starts out slow, and Bailey can be a bit annoying at times. But, as she grows as a character she evolves into a strong young woman in her own right. The adult characters are numerous and realistic, and add a nice counterpoint to the teen viewpoint. THOUGHTS: Teens will find this novel fun yet introspective, a new-age take on the classic Shop Around the Corner (Bailey would know what this movie is, but I rather doubt most teens would!).

Realistic Fiction     Lindsey Myers, Shady Side

 

 

Upper Elem/MS Fiction – Effie Starr Zook…; Bubble; When My Sister Started Kissing; Click’d

Freeman, Martha. Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, 2017. 978-1-4814-7264-7. $16.99. 218 pp. Gr. 3-6.

Effie is a curious child who is not afraid to inquire and investigate. While staying at her aunt and uncle’s farm in rural Pennsylvania one summer, she doesn’t mean to dig into her family’s history, but before long that is just what she ends up doing. Along the way, questions arise about their wealthy inheritance, a longstanding feud with another family, and how to handle the angry goat in the yard. But problems with her parents’ expedition around the world and feeling unsure of her own place in the world leave Effie ready to ask some deeper questions and face the consequences of the answers.  THOUGHTS: Martha has explored a great variety of styles and genres over her career, and this work is among her best. I recently held a short interview with her and Amy (aka A.S.) King about connections between this book and Marvin Gardens and Me. Please feel free to read and share, and maybe build some new bridges of understanding!

Realistic Fiction      Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

 

Foster, Stewart. Bubble. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. 9781481487429. $16.99. 346 pp. Gr. 4-8.

What if your life was held within the confines of one room? It’s not because you are held hostage, but because of potential germs that your body can’t fight off. It’s not because you aren’t loved, because your sister, best friend, nurses and millions on tv all care for you, even though your parents are dead. Life in that one room becomes a whole lot more interesting when the idea of breaking out of the bubble seems possible, but there are huge risks and consequences. Come into Joe’s world through his narrative fiction and learn that what defines him is much bigger than four walls. This British novel will create empathy and curiosity in young readers as they meet Joe and those who surround him.  THOUGHTS: Looking for a novel to compete with Wonder for empathy and character and heartache? Look no further! I found the story to be fascinating, funny, and well-written, even though we are left out of some of the scientific details of his condition.  

Realistic Fiction     Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

 

Frost, Helen.  When My Sister Started Kissing.  Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017.  978-0374303037. 208 pp. $16.99. Gr. 4-7.

Claire and Abi are headed to the lake with their father to stay at their family’s cabin for the summer. Claire wants everything to be the same as it always has been, but she knows her world is about to change. Her new stepmother is coming with them, and a baby will be joining the family before the summer is over.  What’s worse, Abi seems more excited about boys than about swimming or canoeing.  Frost writes in verse, mostly from Claire’s point of view, but some of the poems feature Abi’s voice, and a few are written from the unusual perspective of the lake.  The styles of the poems are appropriate for each narrator. Claire’s are rhymed quatrains, reflecting her desire for tradition; the lake’s poems are written in a concrete style that mirrors its shape, while the lines in Abi’s poems continually stretch further forward, reflecting Abi’s eagerness to grow up.  Some of the poems also include hidden messages that students may enjoy finding.  THOUGHTS:  Both Claire and Abi are believable, likeable heroines. Their relationships with each other and with their father and new stepmother are sensitively portrayed. This is a beautiful and beautifully written story about the gap between childhood and adolescence, perfect for tween readers who are either not quite ready to make the leap, or have just recently crossed over it.

Realistic Fiction           Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

 

Stone, Tamara Ireland. Click’d. Disney Hyperion, 2017. 978-1-4847-84976. $19.99. 304p. Gr. 4-7.

Allie Navarro is a 12-yr old coding genius. Instead of spending the summer playing travel soccer with her best friends she went to CodeGirls summer camp at Fuller University. It was there that she developed an app called Click’d that was so well-received that she was entered into the G4G competition. If she wins the contest her game will be given financial backing to become a reality, and she has one week to make sure her coding is solid. Click’d is an app that matches you up with the top ten people who have common interests. Through the use of a leaderboard and scavenger hunt you get introduced to people you might not already know, but who you might “click” with. She decides to share her app with her closest friends to show them how she spent the summer, and her friends love it. Allie decides to open it up to her school just so she has real world data for the judges at this week’s competition. The app goes viral and her coding holds up except for one tiny thing, and it might not be so tiny. Allie has to race against the clock to try and find the problem, and the only person that can help her is her longtime nemesis. THOUGHTS: This book was a fun, fast read and I think I will be successful book-talking it to my 7th graders. Some of the story is predictable, like Allie’s app matching her up with her longtime rival, but that doesn’t detract from the story. The story takes place over the course of a week with some flashbacks to Allie’s summer at the coding camp. The timely subject matter of social media apps and the damage they can do and the wholesomeness of the characters make it a good book for the middle aged set.

Realistic Fiction      Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Alli’s had an amazing summer at CodeGirls camp, and though she’s excited to get back to her friends, she’s also sad to be away from her new friends that get her coding excitement. While at camp, she built her own app, CLICK’D, to help people meet each other and make new friends. She knows her app will be successful in this year’s youth coding contest, where she hopes to edge her competition and classmate Nathan. Allie’s school friends are so excited to try CLICK’D they convince her to release it before the contest.  At first CLICK’D is great, and it’s working exactly as Allie hoped, then the app seems to glitch. Allie has to decide if it’s worth the risk of keeping the app live while trying to fix the glitch or shut it down and risk losing her new found popularity.  THOUGHTS: Click’d takes a look inside the mind of a girl who is trying to navigate friendship while figuring out what really matters to her. Readers will be subtly cautioned about content on their phones and what they post for all to see. This was a lighthearted and fun read that shows girls it’s okay to like coding and be competitive.

Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

 

 

YA Realistic Fiction – Untwine; Drowning is Inevitable; This is Where It Ends; Placebo Junkies

untwine

Danticat, Edwidge. Untwine. New York: Scholastic Press, 2015. 978-0-545-42303-8. 303 p. $16.99. Gr. 6 and up.

Identical twins, Giselle and Isabelle, were holding hands in their mother’s womb before being born, and they continue to hold hands, literally and figuratively, through life and death. Giselle survives a horrible car crash, struggles through an other-worldly coma, during which she is initially identified as her twin, hears visitors to her hospital room, including her parents, relatives, doctors and nurses, and experiences the frustration of not being able to communicate. It is painful to read as she realizes, from what she hears, that Isabelle has died. Told through Giselle’s voice, we learn about the twins’ lives, their friends and family, their plans, hopes, crushes, similarities and differences. But, the relationship between identical twins is not the only kind of close relationship examined in Untwine. Before the accident, it is revealed that the twins’ parents are planning to divorce, so when Isabelle dies, Giselle is left wondering if her family is falling apart. Fortunately, her Aunt Leslie provides much needed support along with other relatives, including her Haitian grandparents who provide warmth, comfort and an example of lifelong love. This journey could be heart wrenching or sappy, but Danticat skillfully paints genuine portraits of all her characters and so avoids sentimentalizing the story. THOUGHTS: A lovely story of family, friends, loss and hope.

Realistic Fiction     Annette Sirio, Barack Obama Academy of International Studies

drowningisinevitable

Stanley, Shalanda. Drowning is Inevitable. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. 978-0-553-50828-4. 288 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Four friends, bound together by mutual trust and caring, negotiate a series of difficult circumstances, relying heavily on each other for support. Olivia, whose mother committed suicide by drowning herself when Olivia was an infant, is best friends with next door neighbor, Jamie, whose father is a violent alcoholic. Everyone in her small town knew Olivia’s mother, and now as Olivia nears her 18th birthday, the age at which her mother killed herself, she is acutely aware of the comparisons made between her mother and herself, particularly her tendency to take dangerous risks. When Jamie’s father is killed as a result of a physical fight that involved Jamie and Olivia, Jamie, Olivia, Max and Maggie get out of town, heading to New Orleans where Olivia’s estranged mother lives. Faced with evading the police while crashing at a drug dealer’s house, the four friends face an uncertain future. THOUGHTS: This entirely realistic novel of family dysfunction and friendship will definitely appeal to teen readers who often turn to their friends for help. Recommended.

Realistic Fiction     Annette Sirio, Barack Obama Academy of International Studies

 

whereitends

Nijkamp, Marieke. This is Where it Ends. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Fire, 2016. 978-1-4926-2246-8. 285 p. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

This story of a school shooting takes place at Opportunity High School in Alabama, but it could be Any Town, USA.  It’s the start of a new semester, and the principal gives a speech in the auditorium to start the year off.  Suddenly the doors are locked, everyone is trapped inside, and a student begins shooting.   The story is told from the perspective of four students, over the span of one hour, and also includes texts, tweet, and emails.  All four of the main characters knew the shooter well, but somehow no one knew that he was troubled enough to harm others.   THOUGHTS: A contemporary, quick read, I was glad to see students of different ethnic backgrounds, social status, and sexual orientation represented.  The characters were, however, not developed in a deep way, and seemed very easily placed into role of “victim” or “villain”.  

Realistic Fiction      Rachel Gutzler, Wilson High School

 

placebojunkies

Carleson, J.C.. Placebo Junkie. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. 978-0-553-49724-3. 298 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 & up.

Audie’s a professional human guinea pig.  She “volunteers” for as many clinical trials as she can to make as much money as she can: the more gruesome, the better, because that means more cash.  She doesn’t like the pain, but she doesn’t really have a choice. She has to pay for food and rent somehow because her parents are both long gone; not that they were much help when they were present.  Plus, she’s saving up for the vacation of a lifetime with her dreamy boyfriend Dylan, who is running out of time due to his rapidly spreading cancer.  But, after so many medical tests and treatments, Audie’s sense of reality becomes hazy.  Is it just the side effects of the drugs, or is it something more?  THOUGHTS:  Pair with other books that delve into medical ethics such as the Unwind series by Neal Shusterman or stories about psychiatric facilities such as It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini.  Some of the descriptions of the tests and subjects are downright disgusting, so this isn’t for the squeamish.  Multiple twists and turns makes the plot hard to follow at times, but readers are likely to be caught up in the drama regardless.  The prolific use of drugs and alcohol, casual treatment of sex, and copious profanity is essential for the development of the characters and setting, but reserve this for an older teen audience.

Realistic Fiction; Mental Disease     Kristen Rowe, Plum Senior High School