MS Fiction – Guitarist Wanted; Snow & Rose; Well That Was Awkward; Rosemarked

Brezenoff, Steve. Guitarist Wanted (Boy Seeking Band Series) Capstone Press, 2017.  978-1-4965-4448-3. 96 p. $19.54. Gr 5-8.

Finding just the correct members for a band is challenging for Terence Kato. Moving is difficult enough, but now he needs to add members to the band that have different skills or backgrounds. The book concludes with trivia regarding music terms to see if you would make the band.  THOUGHTS: Students will appreciate the fast pace story and look forward to  reading the Boy Seeking Band series.

Realistic     Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

 

Martin, Emily Winfield. Snow and Red. Random House, 2017. 978-0-533-53818-2. $17.99. 224 p. Gr. 4-7

Life drastically changes when their father never returns from the woods. Their mother is distraught, and their lavish lifestyle is exchanged for a little dwelling in the woods. While in the woods the sisters come across a goblin. Snow’s birthday wish is for everything to go back to the way it was before. Shortly after, Snow and Rose save a bear stuck in a hunting trap. Also in the woods, they meet The Librarian of unique objects and Ivo, an underground dwelling boy. What objects will they find and what happens to their new friends?  THOUGHTS: The illustrations and enchanting chapter artwork are sure to draw in the most reluctant reader and add additional excitement to the readers that are naturally drawn to fairy tales.

Fantasy, Fairy Tale    Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

 

Vail, Rachel. Well That Was Awkward. Viking, 2017. 9780670013081. $16.99. 314p. Gr. 5-8.

Gracie and Sienna are best friends. Gracie realizes she has feelings for a classmate, AJ, and is upset to find out through their good friend, Emmett, that AJ likes Sienna. Emmett and Gracie have known each other since they were young, and Gracie doesn’t realize that Emmett has a crush on her. All she knows is that her friend, Sienna, needs her help crafting the perfect witty texts to AJ. It breaks Gracie’s heart to help her friend build a relationship with the boy she has a crush on, but she does it because she is a good friend. It makes her feel even worse when AJ’s return texts are romantically funny. Unbeknownst to them, Emmett is the one writing AJ’s return texts because AJ doesn’t know what to say. To complicate matters, Gracie is living in the shadow of a sister, Bret, that passed away before Gracie was born. She feels tremendous pressure to be the perfect daughter and keep her parents happy.  THOUGHTS: This is a great middle-grade retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac. I’m always looking for good books for my 7th graders, and I was happy to have found this one that has realistic banter and situations.

Realistic Fiction            Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Blackburne, Livia. Rosemarked. Hyperion, 2017. 978-148478855-4 390p. $17.99.  Gr. 6 and up.

Zivah is the youngest healer her village has ever seen.  When an outbreak of the Rose Plague breaks out among the soldiers stationed in her village, of course, she has to help.  When she becomes infected, she survives but is “Rose Marked,” meaning she will live for only a short time longer and is contagious.  Dineas is a soldier who was captured by the Amparans and tortured.  He also gets the plague, but survives as “Umber Marked.” He is immune to the Rose Plague.  Zivah and Dineas meet under stressful circumstances and do not like each other, yet they take on a mission to go to the capital city to try to help overthrow the Amparans.  There is much intrigue and deception involved.  THOUGHTS: This is a very smart book that made me marvel at its cleverness at how quickly I was involved in this world.  Fans of The Ember in the Ashes will enjoy this one.

Fantasy      Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

 

Blackburne, Livia. Rosemarked.  Hyperion. 2017. 978-1-48478-855-4. 390 p.  $17.99. Gr. 6 and up.

A tale of political intrigue and espionage told in the alternating voices of two teens living under an oppressive regime.  Zivah is a gifted healer who has trained her entire life to reach the level of a master.   As she celebrates her achievement, a battalion of the occupying Amparan Army falls ill with rose plague, the contagious disease that kills most who contract it within a few days.  A lucky few survive for a few more years, but they are “rosemarked“ with red blotches,  contagious and forced to live apart from the general population.  The luckiest few survive the disease and become “umbertouched”, covered with dark spots that indicate the person is completely cured and immune to further infection.  Zivah herself falls to the disease, rosemarked and destined for a lonely and uncertain future. But she is remembered by the Amparan general whose life she saved; he rewards her with an offer to live in the capital and train with the medical experts there.  As she ponders that offer, she meets Dineas, a young warrior from the rebel Shihadi tribe, who has escaped from the Amparan prisons.  Umbertouched after his bout with rose plague, he is now on a quest for vengeance against the Amparan leaders. The two teens, so different in temperament and outlook are brought together by their tribal leaders to fight against the empire. Together, they travel to the capital to spy on and sabotage the rulers. They come to rely heavily on each other and a strong attraction begins to form as they work on their dangerous mission. Rosemarked is the first book in a new political fantasy/adventure series.  The novel is slow to start but builds in intensity as the teens go deep undercover to strike against the oppressive regime. The novel explores such themes as social and racial prejudices, medical ethics and the fight of a conquered people against oppression.  There is solid character development with heroes and villains who are nuanced and fully fleshed out individuals, each with positive and negative traits that humanize them and make them believable.  THOUGHTS: Recommended for fans of tales such as The False Prince or Ember in the Ashes. The cliffhanger ending will leave readers waiting eagerly for the next volume.  

Fantasy; Adventure           Nancy Summers, Abington  School District

YA FIC – A Long Way Down; When Its Real; Turtles All the Way Down

Reynolds, Jason. A Long Way Down. Atheneum, 2017. 978-1-4814-3825-1. 306 pp. $17.99. Gr. 8 and up.

The day before yesterday, Will’s older brother Shawn was shot and killed. Will experiences intense grief: “the new empty space, / where you know / a tooth supposed to be / but ain’t no more.” But, Will lives by the neighborhood code: don’t cry, don’t snitch, get revenge. So he retrieves his brother’s gun from its hiding place and heads for the elevator, prepared to seek justice for Shawn’s death. Most of the novel takes place over the roughly one-minute, eight-story elevator ride that follows. At each floor, the elevator stops and someone from Will’s past steps on. First is Buck, wearing his own RIP Buck t-shirt. Next is a girl, Will’s friend Dani who was shot and killed when she was just eight. As the elevator descends, and the Will’s deceased friends and family members join him, he begins to question the necessity and wisdom of vengeance. The book closes on a chilling note, leaving readers to ponder some big, unanswered questions.  THOUGHTS: In this poetic, thought-provoking, and intriguingly structured novel-in-verse, Jason Reynolds depicts the ripple effects of violent crime on the young man left behind.

Realistic Fiction       Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

 

Reynolds, Jason. Long Way Down. Antheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2017. 978-1-481-43825-4. 320 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

The rules in Will’s neighborhood are simple: 1. Crying, don’t. 2. Snitching, don’t. and 3. Revenge, do. But Will’s decision to avenge his brother’s murder is anything but simple. As Will travels down the elevator with Shawn’s gun (Shawn had a gun?!) tucked into his waistband, he is prepared to murder his brother’s killer. New passengers slow his ride at each floor. Readers will quickly understand each of these passengers is dead, he or she is connected to Will, and they each have something to tell him before he steps off on the ground floor.  THOUGHTS: Having recently listened to All American Boys and a Jason Reynolds interview about his writing, I knew I had to read Long Way Down. Readers of all types will be drawn into Will’s story and devour this fast-paced novel in verse. Though tough topics and violence are depicted, this is a book for many readers, especially those who are reluctant.

Realistic Fiction     Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

 

Watt, Erin. When It’s Real. New York: Harlequin, 2017. Print. 978-0373212521. 416 p. $18.99. Gr. 9-12.

This novel starts out like a Disney channel movie, which is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on your view of Disney made-for-TV movies, and, like most Disney movies, the novel ends up being a sweet romance that will capture the attention of any teen girl or boy who enjoys teen dramas. Oakley Ford has been breaking teenage hearts since he landed on the music scene as a young adolescent. But, in his older teen years, he has hit a rut and needs something in his life to get him motivated to write and perform. His publicists decide that he needs a “wholesome” girlfriend to change his image in the media. Enter Vaughn Bennett, whose sister works at the media firm and who catches the eye of Vaughn’s team. They tell her they will pay her to be Oakley’s girlfriend, and since she and her sister are raising their younger brothers after the death of their parents, she decides it’s something she must do for her family. The usual ensues- Oakley annoys and intrigues Vaughn, Vaughn annoys yet arouses something in Oakley that makes him want to write music again. The characters are interesting if a bit predictable, and the plot suffers from the same misfortune, but teens will eat up the romance between Oakley and Vaughn. There is drinking, drug use, and sexual references, which does cause the novel to venture out of the realm of the chaste Disney film. THOUGHTS: This is another romance to add to your collection for those who love Sarah Dessen but are looking for a more exciting location and a variety of characters not generally found in Dessen’s novels. Recommended for high school libraries.

Romance     Lindsey Meyers, Shadyside Academy

 

Green, John. Turtles All The Way Down. New York; Dutton Books, 2017. Print. 978-0525555360. 304 p. $19.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Anything with John Green’s name on it will cause excitement among young adults everywhere, whether they read his books or watch his humorous, yet instructional, videos. Turtles All The Way Down does not veer far from his standard fare of engrossing teen dramas, but it does offer a unique and honest glimpse into the life of one dealing with severe anxiety and OCD, and how her struggle affects those around her. Aza Holmes is our tragic hero, trying to manage her OCD and anxiety while living a “normal” life. She spends time with her mom (her dad passed away when she was younger), hangs out with her friend Daisy, and does well in school. She also, however, constantly changes a bandage on her hand, fears catching bacteria, especial C.Diff, and tumbles constantly into “thought spirals.” When billionaire Russell Picket goes missing, Daisy convinces Aza to help her investigate the disappearance, mostly to acquire the $100,000 reward. Aza knows his son from a summer camp when they were younger, and a chance meeting rekindles their friendship and begins to lead to something more. But, can Aza maintain a relationship while managing her OCD?  John Green does an excellent job of portraying Aza. Her inner dialogues perfectly exemplify one with OCD, and the constant state of helplessness one finds oneself in when dealing with intrusive thoughts and irrational actions. THOUGHTS: John Green has once again given us an intriguing story of a unique (or is it?) teen experience. Highly recommended for young adults and adults who deal with teens struggling with mental health issues.

Realistic Fiction       Lindsey Meyers, Shadyside Academy

 

Green John. Turtles All the Way Down. Dutton Books, 2017. 978-0-525-55536-0. 286 p. $19.99. Gr 9-12.

John Green’s long-awaited new novel is here, and it’s his best one yet. Sixteen-year-old Aza and her best friend Daisy take notice when local billionaire Russell Pickett disappears. The reward for information in his case is a hundred thousand dollars, and Daisy is sure their sleuthing will lead to clues and ultimately to the reward. After all, Aza spent summers at “sad camp” with Russell’s son, Davis, after his mom and her dad died, so reconnecting with the Pickett family isn’t hard. As Aza and Davis reconnect and begin to fall for each other, Aza’s always present anxieties and compulsions begin to spiral, and readers are shown what it’s like to live every day consumed by claustrophobic, obsessive thoughts. Aza’s voice is raw and heartfelt, and Green also throws in a hefty dose of nerdery and humor that will win over teen and adult readers alike. THOUGHTS: Green’s latest is an unflinching, honest look at mental illness that is at times challenging to read, but will linger with readers long after finishing.  If you buy one book this year, it should be this.

Realistic Fiction      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School