Tokuda-Hall, Maggie, and Lisa Sterle. Squad. Greenwillow Books, 2021. 978-0-06-294314-9. 224 pp. $14.99. Grades 9-12.
Becca’s single mom recently moved to Piedmont, California, so Becca could graduate from an outstanding high school and enjoy a safe, upper-class community. To her own surprise, Becca is befriended by Piedmont High’s most elite “squad” of girls, led by ultra-rich Arianna. But these girls have a secret, alluded to in the graphic novel’s vibrant cover art: they are werewolves. Becca loves belonging to a tight clique, but their collective hunger has a price. On the full moon they must feed, usually on the overly aggressive boys they meet at parties. When Becca accidentally kills one of Piedmont’s own (Arianna’s unfaithful boyfriend Thatcher) the squad risks exposure, and everyone’s loyalty is put to the test. Squad features ethnically diverse characters (Becca is depicted as Asian American, fellow squad member Mandy is Black), a healthy dose of camp, and delightful snark. Arianna helpfully informs Becca, for example, “You’re way too pretty to be dressing like a Santa Monica basic.” Comparisons to Heathers, Teen Wolf, and Riverdale are all well-earned!
THOUGHTS: Beneath Lisa Sterle’s fabulous jewel-toned artwork readers will discover powerful messages about consent and the perils of following the pack.
Adele always has been surrounded by the dark forest around her village Oakvale. It seems that the dark forest continues to creep closer and closer to her small village, despite the watchmen and guardians trying to protect the town. Adele always has felt a small calling to the woods, even though it is filled with terrifying monsters and many don’t make it out alive. Little does she know, there are other protectors of the forest, and she is one of them. Adele will need to make hard decisions between doing what is right for her or for her entire village in order to keep everyone safe.
THOUGHTS: This novel is a fun spin on the idea of Little Red Riding Hood. A charming story that will make you want more!
Monster Histories is a non-fiction series chronicling the evolution of famous monsters. This reviewer read Frankenstein’s Monster, a hi-lo illustrated text sure to engage young readers. Beginning with a brief biography of Frankenstein’s Monster writer Mary Shelly along with a brief description of the monster’s origin. Subsequent chapters elaborate on the story of Frankenstein’s Creature as it was written by Shelly (also known as the Queen of Horror) over two hundred years ago. Scattered throughout the text are various images of the monster as depicted in various films and comics over the years. Finally, readers are treated to a brief but interesting look at the impact of the monster on modern popular culture from cartoons to Halloween and even as the first tale of the horror genre. Young fans of horror, monsters, and the paranormal instantly will be hooked. Back matter includes a glossary, index, trivia challenge, and a thought provoking writing/research prompt.
THOUGHTS: Engaging and modern while full of popular culture and literary history, I would add Frankenstein’s Monster and the rest of the Monster Histories to any elementary or middle grade library in need of an update in this nonfiction department. (Title Reviewed: Frankenstein’s Monster)
001.944 Monsters and Phenomena Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD
Stiefvater, Maggie. Sinner. New York: Scholastic Press, 2014. 978-0-545-65457-9. 357 p. $18.99. Gr 9 and up.
Maggie Stiefvater returns to her beloved Wolves of Mercy Falls series with this companion novel that spotlights two of the previous books’ supporting characters, Cole St. Clair and Isabel Culpeper. Cole, last heard from over a year ago when he passed out onstage with Narkotika (his band), has cleaned up and resurfaced in Los Angeles to sign on with a web reality series and record a new album. His real reason for being in L.A., though, is to reconnect with Isabel, whose family has relocated to California. Isabel loves the attention but is never sure if she can trust Cole to stay faithful, sober, and … human. Cole and Isabel are always circling each other warily (like wolves, maybe?), not exactly trusting but not wanting to back away, either. Stiefvater has brilliantly brought this series out of the high school years, allowing the characters to mature along with her readers. She works the reality TV angle and L.A. culture to great effect. While the wolf element is still very important to Sinner, overall it has a more realistic tone than the previous installments. It’s a must-purchase for libraries with readers who enjoyed Shiver, Linger, and Forever.
Fantasy Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School
Jumping in with Sinner might leave readers confused about the past events that are referenced throughout, so reading the entire series is recommended. And truly, no one should be deprived of the great joy of getting to know Sam, Grace, and the wolves of Mercy Falls!