Book Reviews

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

A twofold story about storytelling, Scott Westerfeld’s new novel alternates between the story of two teens.. In oe, we meet Lizzie: a typical teenager, to begin with, who’s too busy texting to notice the start of a terrorist attack.

Lizzie wakes up eventually. As quietly as she can, she calls 911 as the bullets fly by. The operator on the other end of the telephone tells Lizzie her best bet is to play dead. She awakens in another world. There, in the land of the no longer living—a grayscale place where “the air [tastes] flat and metallic”—she promptly is drawn to an appealing psychopomp.

These terrorists had tried to kill me but I’d gone to the land of the dead and now could see ghosts and apparently had acquired dangerous new powers and this boy, this boy had touched my fingertips—and they still tingled.

Enter, Yamaraj, “a hot Vedic death god” “modeled [...] on a Bollywood star” by his teenage writer Darcy Patel.

Westerfeld devotes every other chapter of Afterworlds to Darcy—who is the author of the novel-within-a-novel in which Lizzie learns about love and the afterlife. Written in a rush some time before the framing fiction begins, Darcy’s debut has already been purchased by a publisher, and for a staggering sum. She uses much of this money to buy herself a new author life.

She moves to New York and makes an array of new friends, each of whom is involved in the business of literature in some sense. Amongst such company—including a few famous faces—it’s no wonder that Darcy starts to second guess her own story. In no time at all she’s behind on her rewrites and she still hasn’t started the sequel stipulated in her contract. Then, like Lizzie, she meets someone special. Her name is Imogen, and her superpower is... wordplay

That there are such similarities between Darcy’s half of the narrative and her central character’s chapters is no surprise, and given the wilful way Westerfeld interweaves their worlds, I dare say the resonance is intended. The two tales don’t ever come together—Lizzie never meets her maker in the manner I imagined she might—but Westerfeld builds in a bunch of story beats that repeat to excellent effect at the same time as evidencing exactly what sets Afterworlds’ paired protagonists apart.

I enjoyed this book in spite of it's length, although I kept waiting for the two separate stories to meld together.

Rating 4 out of 5

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin
Sarah is in a the Center, head clamped into a halo, waiting for the drilling to begin. She knows this is all part of the process for her and others in the hospital suffering from PTSD.

Sarah doesn't know her past very well because they are being erased one at a time to ease her PTSD...or is that what's happening? The Center is creating a tabula rasa experience, a blank slate, but this is only the surface of what the Center does for its patients.

At first she only knows bits and pieces, but slowly she realizes why there are people slowly hunting her down, who will stop at nothing to see her dead. But Sarah will a formidable alliance against the adults tracking their every move through stealth and state-of-the-art devices.

New YA author Kristen Lippert-Martin writes a story filled with action, plot, motive and deceit. This book will attract readers who love high intensity situations.

Full review on the YABAM blog (link below)


Naomi Bates

Northwest High School Justin TX 76247


Crank by Ellen Hopkin

In Crank, Ellen Hopkins chronicles the turbulent and often disturbing relationship between Kristina, a character based on her own daughter, and the “monster,” the highly addictive drug crystal meth, or “crank.” Kristina is introduced to the drug while visiting her largely absent and ne’er-do-well father. While under the influence of the monster, Kristina discovers her sexy alter-ego, Bree: “there is no perfect daughter, / no gifted high school junior, / no Kristina Georgia Snow. / There is only Bree.” Bree will do all the things good girl Kristina won’t, including attracting the attention of dangerous boys who can provide her with a steady flow of crank.

My Review:

I was actually pretty excited to start this book. For one I’m a huge fan of poetry and used to write it all the time when I was younger. I haven’t read poetry in just as long, but the idea of mixing poetry and a story in a novel is such a cool concept and the great reviews just pushed me even more over the edge.

But for a few reasons this just fell kind of flat for me and didn’t end up being what I was expecting. Since this is my first in-verse book I kind of had some pre-conceived assumptions about what it would be like. The biggest one was that the poems would be more standalone poems that string together in a more symbolic manner rather than pretty much just a regular novel written in small poems.

What I mean is that the poems go from moment-to-moment and day-to-day in Kristina/Bree’s life and even everyday normal things were described like in a novel. So it was written in a way I wasn’t really expecting.

The other thing was that it was a little annoying to read in the format that it was written in. Not so much the poems but the “designs” that were made from the words. Sometimes the words were typed out to look like shapes or just various designs and I found it to be a bit distracting without really adding anything to the story itself.

Aside from the format I found it really hard to connect with Kristina/Bree. I have never been addicted to crack so that might be one reason for the issue. But I found her reasons for going that route in life to be a little bit weak and selfish. Also, since crack is so addictive it isn’t what I would call a recreational drug (in my opinion). Therefore, is it really so popular that nearly everyone she comes into contact with is doing it? That seemed a bit unrealistic. Anyways, by the end of the book I felt like she kind of got off a little easy with things falling into place a little too nicely considering all the bad choices she’s made.

Which leads me to my final issue with the book (that I can think of at the moment at least). That is that it ended rather abruptly. The book seemed to be building up and building up and then some “consequences” happen which I felt weren’t really consequences of using the drug itself but of some of her other choices. Anyways, then the past fifty pages or so go by quickly and then it’s just done. I see that there’s a few more books in the “series” but it didn’t feel like it wrapped up good enough on its own.

In the end I was not a huge fan of this book and I’m not entirely sure if it’s the style (in-verse) or if it’s the author. I will probably try another few in-verse books I already have on my to-read list before I write off the genre all-together, but I probably won’t read anymore books by this author. I decided to go with three stars instead of two because it is a creative way of writing a book and it’s a subject that I think could be relatable for those who have been through or are going through a similar situation


We read Crank as a Book Club book. None of the participants had finished the book.
They did feel that the book made some valid points and the verse form didn't seem to bother
them as much as it did me. It was a quick read, but I didn't feel that it was a book which
grabbed you from the first page.

Jackaby by Willim Ritter

2014, Algonquin Young Readers

All Abigail Rook wants is to live the life of adventure her father instilled in her. When she leaves Europe to come to America in 1892, she finds more than she could have imagined….

Nearly penniless and without a place to stay, Abigail sets foot into the city of New Fiddleham hoping work is plentiful but finding nothing except the oddest man she’s ever met. People tell her he’s a sham, others say he has a gift, still others won’t even say his name…Jackaby. Abigail tends to believe what they say when her first encounter with him involves him seeing all sorts of fairy creatures hiding within the folds of her skirt. With what little money she has, she finds a room for the night hoping the next day will prove more fruitful.

When she wakes up, the day proves just as dismal as her entrance, with little to no job offers available until Abigail notices an ad for an assistant for an investigative service. Immediately going to the address all she can hope is that the job isn’t filled. When Abigail rings the bell of the odd house she’s standing in front of, Jackaby appears on the other side. It's explained to her he can solve mysteries and crimes using not only the power of deductive reasoning, but also his skills at detecting creatures from ghosts to trolls to banshees and more. Both of them are uncertain about the other (Is he off his rocker? Can she handle the duties involved with the job?) but a murder of dire concern needs his utmost attention, and Abigail follows along, hoping to impress her potential employer.

At the scene of the murder, Jackaby realizes this isn’t just a murder, but one involving a dangerous creature others cannot detect. Clues left behind are important, but more important are the auras Jackaby sees, leading him further down the dark and dangerous path to find the creature who is craving new victims and the reason behind it. Along with a young police officer named Charlie, who hides a secret of his own, the trio begins this supernatural investigation that could lead to their untimely demise. All isn’t what it seems and Abigail learns not only more about Jackaby and his peculiarities, but also something about herself as well.

This is a brilliant book that entwines historical fiction with hints of mystery and fantasy all blended into one amazing adventure the reader becomes a part of right from the start. The author, William Ritter, uses descriptive language to create a dark mood and setting but has the ability to use his main character for a slight comedic break from the dark and dangerous, creating a balance of edge-of-your-seat action with those smiles that occur when Jackaby shows his quirks and curiosities (for some reason I can SO see Johnny Depp playing this character :). Along with the plot, Ritter creates a character with architecture as well, creating a mansion Jackaby lives in that more than meets the eye and mirrors his quirks and personality. With all of this combined, it makes for a quick read and a hope that there are other adventures Jackaby and Abigail will share with new fans. YA readers, meet historical New England's freshest new breed of Holmes and Watson! Recommended 7-12 grades

Book pairs:
Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

Book Review by Naomi Bates

THE FALL OF FIVE by Pittacus Lore

The Fall of Five is the fourth novel in the New York Times bestselling I Am Number Four series by Pittacus Lore. The Garde are finally reunited, but do they have what it takes to win the war against the Mogadorians?

John Smith—Number Four—thought that things would change once the Garde found one another. But he was wrong. After facing off with the Mogadorian ruler and almost being annihilated, the Garde know they are drastically unprepared. Now they're hiding out in Nine's Chicago penthouse, trying to figure out their next move.

The six of them are powerful, but they're not strong enough yet to take on an entire army—even with the return of an old ally. To defeat their enemy, the Garde must master their Legacies and learn to work together as a team. More important, they'll have to discover the truth about the Elders and their plan for the Loric survivors.

And when the Garde receive a sign from Number Five—a crop circle in the shape of a Lorien symbol—they know they are close to being reunited. But could it be a trap? Time is running out, and the only thing they know for certain is that they have to get to Five before it's too late.
Cover DescriptionEdit

I thought things would change when I found the others. We would stop running. We would fight the Mogadorians. And we would win.

But I was wrong. Even though we have come together, we barely escaped from the Mogadorians with our lives. And now we're in hiding, trying to figure out our next move.

The six of us are powerful—but we're not yet strong enough to take on their entire army. We haven't discovered the full extent of our Legacies. We haven't learned to work together. And there's still so much that we don't know about the Elders or their plan for us. Time is running out, and there's only one thing we know for certain: We need to find Number Five before they do.

They caught Number One in Malaysia. Number Two in England. And Number Three in Kenya. I am Number Four. I was supposed to be next. But I'm still alive.

This battle is far from over.

Review from Wikepedia

When you stumble on a great comedy novel for teens, it should be one you have in the library because really, there isn't that much out there. And this is a GEM!

Henry is admittedly a geek, but he's a superstar geek. His story is on the big screen, he has a beautiful girl by his side and he survived Strongwoods Survival Camp. This is how it happened....

Henry's dad, after seeing a video on Youtube featuring Max (think screaming sergeant from any war movie you've ever seen) telling him he could make a man out of your son, tries to convince his son it would be a GREAT experience.

Strongwoods Survival Camp looks as mean as Max does. Five boys meet for the first time and are
1. stripped away of all electronic devices
2. given barely edible and non-recognizable food to eat
3. given an outhouse, which may or may not contain a creature in the hole

But then Mr. Grand shows up…

I'll admit, when reading this book, kids would give me the weirdest stares but I could NOT help but laugh all the way through this book!

I dare you not to laugh!! J Why haven’t I heard about this author before? Now I want to read his previous books!

Full review:


I don't if any of you have read this book, but it is INCREDIBLE. It's
written in verse (of which I do not care for), however, I LOVED this book.
The words were beautiful, insightful, and revolutionary. The voice of 13
year old Tula of colonial Cuba is one that will live in my mind and my
heart for quite some time.

"The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist" by Margarita Engle

Devera M. Chandler
Auburn Public Library

Roomies by Zarr

Elizabeth lives on the East Coast and can't wait to get away from her annoying mother and loser boyfriend (who just broke up with her). As an only child, she's ready for an adventure!
Lauren lives on the West Coast and can't wait to get away either. She wants to escape the stress and noise of a houseful of brothers and sisters and find peace and calm. She's never had a boyfriend, but little does she know romance is blossoming.
Elizabeth and Lauren will be roomies and their email exchange begins. But as people say, you can't read emotions in text, you can only assume, which is what happens to these two girls. Miles apart and out of context, they aren't sure if they're the perfect roomies or frenemies. Their lives are so different, and while each girl peels away the layers, they sometimes find something they don't exactly agree on.
And when they finally arrive on campus...
What a great story about two teens' lives after high school! They're in that transition period between high school graduation and college move-in day, and Sara Zarr captures those emotions perfectly! The two voices blend together but are distinctly different not only in life, but in emails, which makes this novel not only endearing, but hitting that unknown so many teens are facing this summer. Little Brown, 2013

Dorothy Must Die
Amy Gumm doesn't have many friends. Living in the state of Kansas in a trailer park, she navigates through high school as best as she can, which includes taking care of herself when her mother's on a bender. But that's all about to change...
A tornado blows into town and Amy's trailer is lifted out of Kansas and plunked down in the middle of Oz. And when Amy opens the door, she doesn't even recognize the place. Everything looks faded and dead. The only thing vibrant is the yellow brick road, but it's not a road anyone travels on much's too dangerous.
Finally when finding friends, she discovers the true reason Oz is so faded and lifeless. Dorothy's stealing as much magic as she can to feed her addiction to it. Every life is in jeopardy, but how does Amy stop it?
With the help of the witches from almost all points on the compass, Amy goes into full-on magical battle training so she can face not only Dorothy, but the bloodthirsty lion and the mechanized and mutilated Tin Woodsmen (you'll have to read it to find out about the scarecrow.
Urban fantasy meets classic fantasy with a twist that is both imaginative and unique. Danielle Paige takes the reader further into Oz and the horror that's happened from the flying monkeys to the munchkins. HarperCollins, 2014

Richie’s Picks: THE FREEDOM SUMMER MURDERS by Don Mitchell, Scholastic Press, April 2014, 256p., ISBN: 978-0-545-47725-3

“Here’s to the state of Mississippi,
For underneath her borders, the devil draws no lines.
If you drag her muddy river, nameless bodies you will find.
Oh, the fat trees of the forest have hid a thousand crimes.
The calendar is lying when it reads the present time.
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of”
-- Phil Ochs (1965)

“The government of Mississippi felt so strongly about the need to protect segregation, it created its own spy agency to deal with the threat of integration. By an act of the Mississippi legislature, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission was created on March 29, 1956. The new organization was granted extensive investigatory powers. Anyone, black or white, who expressed support for integration, was involved in civil rights, or even has suspect political affiliations was a fitting target for commission investigators. The Sovereignty Commission exercised far-reaching authority on the people of Mississippi. It banned books, censored films, and closely examined school curriculums. It even censored national radio broadcasts and television programs.”

You think that’s bad? Wait until you read the filthy slogan on which Sheriff Lawrence Rainey--a central figure in this story--ran for office in 1963.

Given this level of institutionalized racism, it is no wonder that more lynchings of black Americans took place under the fat trees of Mississippi than anywhere else in the country.

“I think of Andy in the cold wet clay
Those three are on my mind
With his comrades down beside him
On that brutal day
Those three are on my mind”
-- Pete Seeger

That brutal day, of which Pete Seeger sang, was fifty years ago today: June 21, 1964. It was on that day that Andrew “Andy” Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner were set up for execution by a Mississippi deputy sheriff and murdered by Klansmen. Why? Because they sought to help black Mississippi residents register to vote.

THE FREEDOM SUMMER MURDERS explores the lives and families of these three martyred activists. Until now, I knew what happened to them but I didn’t know them as individuals. Through reading about their upbringings and families, I now understand why the two young men from New York and the local kid from Mississippi were each inspired to risk his life in order to help change things for the better.

We also learn what a horrible and backward place Mississippi was. There were murderous racists hiding behind badges, segregationists representing the state in the U.S. Congress and Senate, and black Americans who were still being treated as if it were the 1800s.

One thing was for certain: If you supported integration or believed in blacks registering to vote, you were in danger in Mississippi.

“The looming Freedom Summer influx of outside activists and Mickey’s growing success served as a huge recruiting tool for the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Unbeknownst to Mickey, in March 1964, plans to kill him had been hatched at state and local Klan meetings. In late March, the Lauderdale Klan had voted to concur with the vote of state KKK officials to eliminate Mickey. Klan members subsequently watched Mickey closely after that, looking for an opportunity to murder him. With every initiative Mickey launched, the Klan’s determination to stop him increased.”

THE FREEDOM SUMMER MURDERS tells three intertwining stories. One is about the institutionalized racism that often reminded me of Mildred Taylor’s CSK medal-winning novel, THE LAND. The second is about the murders, the subsequent search to find the missing young men, and then the long struggle to hold the murderers accountable. And the third, the one that thoroughly moved me, brings to life these three young American heroes.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks

Richie’s Picks: EYES WIDE OPEN: GOING BEHIND THE ENVIRONMENTAL HEADLINES by Paul Fleischman, Candlewick, September 2014, 208p., ISBN: 978-0-7636-7102-0

“Oh mercy, mercy me
Ah things ain’t what they used to be
What about this overcrowded land
How much more abuse from man can she stand?”
-- Marvin Gaye

“Who would guess that Citizens for Recycling First is a coal industry front group promoting the use of coal ash in industry? The Greening Earth Society sounds green, but it’s in favor of CO2 emissions.”

EYES WIDE OPEN is about the global environmental issues that -- if not dealt with substantively -- will make Planet Earth uninhabitable for humankind.

But even more importantly, EYES WIDE OPEN is a book about information literacy. It shows how the world really works in the 21st century, and it repeatedly reveals how people are often duped into opposing their own best interests.

One of the most important concepts presented by Paul Fleischman is the need to understand and recognize vested interests:

“If you owned an energy-drink factory, your desire to make a profit would give you a vested interest in opposing laws that would keep your product out of school vending machines. You’d no doubt belong to a trade group that would hire lobbyists to fight such laws. Your trade group would hire public relations (PR) firms to improve the public’s opinion of energy drinks through ads, articles, Facebook posts, tweets, and the ‘talking heads’ you see interviewed on TV news. The information dispersed might or might not be accurate. Its goal isn’t truth but promoting energy drinks.
“This distinction is crucial. Impartial investigators have nothing to gain from their particular findings. They test and revise them in a continuing quest for accuracy. This is the model science follows. Vested interests’ prime goal is preserving their power, not seeking truth. The evidence is all around you. When powerful people or institutions are accused of misconduct -- from army massacres and police brutality cases to clergy sex-abuse scandals and cyclist Lance Armstrong’s use of performance-enhancing drugs -- the first reaction is almost always to refute the charge, no matter how accurate. If the truth is a threat to power, money, or reputation, there’s a strong motive to cover it up.”

In a past era, students were expected to memorize a limited body of information and regurgitate it during tests. But today, the forever-growing wealth of information makes it essential for students to learn how to efficiently search for, retrieve, and evaluate the information they need to answer questions and solve problems. EYES WIDE OPEN provides a common sense framework for understanding why we regularly encounter so much misinformation.

EYES WIDE OPEN is an apt title for this indispensable book. Issues of worldwide population growth, of increases in production of and consumption of stuff, of the race to exploit fossil fuels, of the need to produce larger and larger amounts of food, and the climate changes that result from all these other global issues don’t cause us to react in the same way that the 9/11 attacks did. Most of us are ignorant of the planet- and people-damaging processes through which our stuff and energy and food are produced. We can go on forever blind to what’s really going on, unless we begin to pay attention.

Throughout EYES WIDE OPEN, Paul Fleischman refers to dozens of other books and information resources, each of which will further enlighten readers about these environmental and information issues. One could readily build a comprehensive course of study around these references.

“‘History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.’”
-- Abba Eban (1915-2002), as quoted in EYES WIDE OPEN

Barring some nick-of-time miracle cure, our generation and the ones that follow are eventually going to be forced by Mother Nature to wise up and make some hard choices. Those who read EYES WIDE OPEN will have taken a giant step toward understanding these issues and the necessity for action.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks

Rule of Three by Eric Walters

It was a typical day at high school for Adam Daley. Driving is old 70s Omega to school, his thoughts were on trying to get his best friend to pass a class and mindlessly crushing Lori, who barely knows him. But something that happens today will change his life altogether...

When the electricity goes out, no one really thinks much about it. As the day goes on, Adam and his friends notice the little things making it even more complex and not quite right, leaving them with that doubt of fear in their minds.

Day Two brings on more chaos with people storming the grocery store and mild chaos beginning to read its ugly head. Day three becomes even more dangerous... No one knows when the end to this will happen, but they not only need to prepare for the inevitable, but need to keep others from taking it away from them. It becomes a strategic battle, and Adam becomes not only a player, but a pawn this game of survival.

Eric Walters is a prolific YA author, but this is by far my most favorite book he has written. His characters are the strong point. Walters deliberately builds slowly, opening layers to create curiosity and keep the pages turning. There are several things about this dystopia book that sets it apart from others. Read the full review on the YABAM blog:


Red Madness by Jarrow

In 1902, something deadly was happening to Americans living in the South. This illness affected young and old, sick and healthy, rich and poor. No one understood where it came from or how to get rid of it, but it had a name...pellagra...

Was it a disease or an infection? No one knew and pellagra became a mystery illness that would kill thousands of Americans. The symptoms were noticeable and recognizable. Pellagra was defined as the 4-D Disease.

It took a maverick who wouldn't give up to find a cure. Starting in these sanitariums, Joseph Golderberger was able to identify the main cause of pellagra. Golderberger began his research and ultimately found the cure that would change the face of food and nutrition that continues to impact us today.

always tell students that non-fiction books are the most interesting stories not told in a history textbook, and this is one of them. For 200 years, no one understood or could explain how pellagra came to be. This is a fascinating non-fiction book that will open the eyes of readers

Naomi Bates

I'll Be There by Holly Goldbery Sloan

This is a story about how people are connected. It is the story of two brothers who are basically on their own and how they develop skills that help them when they are needed. It is a story f first love, despair, loyalty, and hope, families and differences. It has many themes, several of which will capture the attention of any reader.

This is a book that I would recommend to young people and adults alike. They should read it to broaden their knowledge of how other people exist.

Review by Sherry Chaillou

Wintergirls by Laura Halse Anderson

Wintergirls is a book to read that puts you in a troubled teen's shoes. Lia and Cassie make a pact to see who could be the skinniest. Lia's thoughts, ideas and beliefs will surprise you and upset you. This seems to be a book showing how hard it is to be a teen today with all of the expectations that family and friends have for you. This is a hard read because of subject matter, anorexia, and a good read that tells the truth of how mistaken a persons realities can be.

Review by Sherry Chaillou

Strangelets by Michael Gagnon
Let me open this by saying I’m not a big science fiction reader, but this is one that I truly enjoyed! Booktalked it two weeks ago and haven’t seen it since.

Three teens living three very different lives have one thing in common, and it will be this commonality that will drive them together.
17 year-old Anat is an Israeli being trained as a soldier. She knows there will be consequences for her actions, but she doesn't care.

17 year-old Declan is a typical Irish teenager trying to make some extra cash. All he has to do is take a package from one place to another, which doesn't seem that hard.

17 year old Sophie lies in bed weak and exhausted. Her family hovers nearby and all she wants is for it all to end.

All three wake up in a hospital they don't recall ever seeing. It becomes even more confusing with the three venture upon three more people who have been there much longer than they have.

The world has changed. It's not safe outside, but every one of them realizes they must get out there if they are to escape this prison of a hospital. Six people who have to rely on each other for person could end their lives. Who can you trust?
Michelle Gagnon writes a science fiction book based on time continuum and parallels, which creates this strange new world readers will find themselves in without feeling lost. The sense the book evokes is more mystery blended with science fiction, and that is the pairing that makes this book a fast read.

Full review on YABAM J

The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascom
(how a team of spies and survivors captured the world’s most notorious Nazi). Arthur A Levine, 2013

World War II will always be remembered as the war that carved death and destruction throughout Europe. The Jewish people were the main target of this "Final Solution" and weren't safe in any country Germany overcame. Ghettos were created as temporary sites, then came the concentration camps...Auschwitz, Birkenau, Treblinka and more. Over 5 million Jews were sent to these death camps

The men that played pivotal parts in the "Final Solution" were a group of high-ranked Nazis, given the task to eradicate the Jews. Adolf Eichmann was one of those faces burned into survivors' memories. As head of operations for the "Final Solution, he showed no emotion as he lied to Jews and sent them to be killed

At the end of the war, Eichmann went into hiding and was never seen again...until thirteen years later...

Once Eichmann was identified, Israel began an incredibly detailed plot to find, capture and bring him to justice on Israeli soil. This is their story.

This is one of those non-fiction books that will reach out to YA readers and keep them riveted until the last page. And when they're done reading, this story will take them online to find out more. HIGHLY recommended.

Full review on YA Books and More ( )

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 (Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor (Awards))
by Phillip Hoose

from School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-Moonbird is a nickname scientists have given to a small Eastern shorebird known for both his unusually long life and his enormously long annual migration. Hoose intertwines the story of this bird's remarkable survival with detailed accounts of the rufa red knot's physical changes through its yearlong cycle of migrating from the bottom of the world (usually Tierra del Fuego) to its Arctic breeding grounds and back again at summer's end-a round trip of some 18,000 miles. Moonbird, known usually by the identifying label "B95" on his orange leg band, was first banded in 1995, when it was thought that he was at least three years old, and Hoose notes sightings of him through early 2011 just as the book was reaching completion. At that point it was estimated that over 20 years' time, B95 had flown "more than 325,000 miles in his life-the distance to the moon and nearly halfway back." The feat is particularly celebrated among bird scientists because this species is rapidly declining as humans use and misuse its feeding grounds and food supply. The threatened state of the species and the personal work being done by scientists and conservationists are strong themes throughout the book. Hoose describes his own experiences participating in study trips and introduces children and teens engaged in study, conservation, and lobbying projects in Canada, the United States, and Argentina. This deeply researched, engaging account is a substantial and well-designed package of information illustrated with handsome color photographs, ample maps, appended descriptions of the conservation work, and thorough source notes.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Bostonα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

"[A] deeply researched, engaging account…”--School Library Journal, starred

"Putting an actual beaked face to the problem of animal endangerment makes the story of the species’ peril all the more compelling, and only the truly hard of heart could resist cheering for B95 to make it through one more trip.”--BCCB, Starred

"With an effective mix of facts and conjecture, Hoose conveys B95’s wide experience, from the challenges of his first month in Arctic Canada 20 years ago to the physical demands of flying for three days straight. Hoose’s vivid prose and the book’s close-up photos give a sense of other red-knot talents, like fattening up for a long flight and sleeping while staying alert for predators. And there’s recent good news: B95 was photographed in late May, feasting on horseshoe crab eggs in Delaware Bay. "--The Washington Post

"Hoose’s fascinating account concerns much more than this one bird.”--Horn Book, starred

"...beautiful and vivid…”--VOYA

"Hoose's stature as a preeminent nonfiction author combined with the high-interest animal hook will generate hearty attention and enthusiasm for this one.”--Booklist, starred

"Readers will appreciate Hoose’s thorough approach in contextualizing this amazing, itinerant creature…”--Publishers Weekly, starred

"Meticulously researched and told with inspiring prose and stirring images, this is a gripping, triumphant story of science and survival. “--Kirkus, starred

by Rick Yancy

From Amazon
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother--or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

I tried reading this book several times and only ended up staring at the pages. I read about half of
the book while on vacation and could not bring myself to finish it. I found it repetitive and predictable.

My rating is 2 out of 10.

BY Ann Aguirre
(review from
In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first Deuce thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.

I’m sure you’re all sick of me going on and on about this but the foundations of a strong dystopian novel lie in its world-building. Unusual or disturbing events can’t just happen for shock value. They need to be rooted in the origins of the society, grounded in reason, meaning the reason of this world. This fundamental lack of reason within the world-building in “Enclave” left more than a few questions unanswered. The underground society Deuce lives in does not name its young, known as brats, until a specific age, which is never mentioned. Why? There doesn’t seem to be any specific reasoning behind this rule and seems too impractical to fit in with a world that works to prove itself as fundamentally practical. There are hints of a cult-like mentality to the ruling class of the world but it’s barely touched upon and leaves us with half-built reasoning. Children are sanctioned into one of three groups – warriors, builders or breeders – yet the reasons for specific grouping once again seem at odds with the necessary practicality & needs of this society. One breeder, Deuce’s friend, is seen as ideal for his calling because he is handsome, but I failed to see why this would be a relevant quality in a world where death & disease are rampant. Other extremely questions go unanswered – how does this enclave have clean water after generations underground? How does Deuce go from a lifetime underground to full on exposure to sunlight and only get slightly burned with no damage to her eyesight?

The writing itself is adequate, if simple, and has well-paced action scenes, although the overall pacing is erratic. Certain scenes are evident padding and clumsy plotting, which coupled with several under-developed plot points proves to be somewhat frustrating. No character other than the heroine is given adequate time to develop beyond basic tropes, although I did warm to Deuce somewhat throughout the first half of the novel. However, it is one particular character and how others react to him that soured things for me.

The aim of a good dystopian novel is to create a sense of dread. I have seen rape mentioned in other dystopian novels and within the constraints of this world where humans die young and need to reproduce quickly, it makes sense that a patriarchy dominated society would view women in such a manner. However, I have never seen rape used so casually and tossed aside so simply by a character and an author in a YA novel.

I don’t expect every book in the world to be a beacon of social justice and feminism; that would be stupid. What I do expect is for a book to follow the rules it sets for itself. “Enclave” fails on this thanks to its inconsistent and confusing choices in its world-building, which seem to exist more for shock value than any real sense of reason.

Ms V's comments
While I agree with much of what was said in this review, I did enjoy reading this standalone book. It is a quick read and has enough suspense to keep you turning each page. Unlike many of the dystopian novels, the ending is upbeat and positive. I also liked the fact that it is a standalone and I didn't have to wait until I forgot what the book was about to read the next one.

My rating: 7 out of 10


Cat Patrick

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
As a little girl, Daisy Appleby was killed in a school bus crash. Moments after the accident, she was brought back to life.

A secret government agency has developed a drug called Revive that can bring people back from the dead, and Daisy Appleby, a test subject, has been Revived five times in fifteen years. Daisy takes extraordinary risks, knowing that she can beat death, but each new death also means a new name, a new city, and a new life. When she meets Matt McKean, Daisy begins to question the moral implications of Revive, and as she discovers the agency’s true goals, she realizes she’s at the center of something much larger—and more sinister—than she ever imagined.

MY THOUGHTS from the
Revived has a fascinating premise, the idea of a super drug able to thwart death raising a series of intriguing questions for both us as readers as well as our young protagonist. How differently would we live our lives if the threat of death no longer had the finality it does now? While physically we would perhaps take greater risks—live louder, faster, harder—emotionally would be an entirely different story, something Revived brings to the forefront as Daisy settles into her new home in Omaha. We are presented with two different versions of death in this story–Daisy’s type of death wherein the loss of life is merely an inconvenience easily remedied, and then the type of death that leaves us feeling hollow, empty, and struggling for purchase as the world tilts and knocks us off balance—and we read with no shortage of anticipation as Daisy is forced to take a closer look at how death has irrevocably shaped her life.

From the first chapter in which we experience one of Daisy’s deaths with her, we find ourselves glued to the pages, unabashedly curious about a drug able to wrestle someone back from the clammy hands of death with no physical or mental consequences. Daisy in the beginning is content with her world, slightly put out at their nomadic lifestyle given they have to relocate after each of her untimely demises, but ultimately she doesn’t question her handlers or the Revive program itself. To our immense relief, meeting Matt and Audrey in Omaha ignites in her a desire to uncover the intricacies of the drug and the twenty-one other people in the program, and while we don’t uncover as many details as our eager minds might like, we at least find ourselves fully supporting Daisy as she starts asking the questions we’ve wished to give voice to from the beginning.

The romance with Matt is a sweet one, smiles plastered to our faces when we see them together, but theirs is not a relationship that has the paper pages acting as electrical conduits to shoot currents up and down our arms. We enjoy our time with them but aren’t necessarily swept up in the intensity thrumming between them, more like we can feel their phantom fingers wrap around our hearts but they never squeeze, instead we just take note of their pressure now and again as Matt and Audrey navigate a shared pain. While the romance is not the type to feel out of place or as though it’s been added perfunctorily, more interesting to read about than their love is how death affects the two of them individually, and how Matt’s visceral reaction to his loss makes Daisy reevaluate everything she’s ever known and experienced. It’s the juxtaposition of the two of them – the young woman for whom death is merely a new beginning and the young man for whom death is a messy, painful end—that makes Revived continue to play through our minds long after we’ve finished reading

Reached by Ally Conde

Matched Series Finale

In the recently released finale to the Matched trilogy, Reached, Cassia, Ky and Xander must face an unprecidented struggle for the salvation of their civilization. Society versus the Rising to control their world with unexpected results.

Beginning with Matched, this series is about a civilization at war. The Society is a tightly controlled world where people’s futures are laid out and planned right down to how much they eat and what jobs they take. At the age of sixteen, all people in the Society are Matched to a partner who they’ll court and eventually marry. Cassia's ceremony is a surprise--she ends up with two matches. Ky is the first--an Aberration who should not have been in the pool. She’s also Matched to her good friend Xander.Cassia soon finds she will have to decide which will be her future. Cassia, always thinking finds herself drawn more to outsider Ky, begins to see the flaws in the Society. She takes comfort in exploring outlaw poems, one originally given to her by her grandfather before he is "put to sleep" by law on his 80th birthday. In the second book, Crossed Ky is sent away and Cassia follows. They find the Rising, a revolution against Society, led by Pilot.

Crossed the final book, finds Cassia and Ky together again at the Rising. They have had many tension filled adventures to get there. They've found out many truths and lost many friends. Cassia ends up going back to Society to infiltrate and finds Xander after a long separation. Society begins to crumble and a plague spreads throughout the lands. Cassia continues to search for the lost arts of music, writing and art in spite of the terrible destruction all around.
Can they get out of this and survive? Read the trilogy and see.

Rating 10 out of 10

The Whisper (The Roar #2)
by Emma Clayton

Listen -- can you hear it? The explosive sequel to THE ROAR!
From a a scream!

Telepathic twins Mika and Ellie at last are reunited. But if they're ever to free the brainwashed, microchipped child soldiers, they must pretend to play along with the tyrant Mal Gorman's maniacal plan, even as they mind-read his every evil thought. Members of an elite squadron of mutants, the brother and sister have specialized skills that will enable them to steal the top-secret formula for an age-reversing drug developed by rebel scientists on the wild side of The Wall. Juiced by these potent pills, the cadaver-like Gorman foresees a future in which he'll be forever young - released from the machinery that now supports him.

Unless, that is, Ellie and Mika have a master plan of their own: to bring the all-powerful Gorman to his knees, and face-to-face with his greatest fear.(less)

I loved this book. It was a fast read and I couldn't wait to put it down. Of course, it follows the dystopian theme that many of the young adult books have. Could it really happen? You be the judge.

Rating 9 out of 10
Reading Next The Roar by Clayton

The Death Cure by James Dashner

The Death Cure is the third book in the Maze Runner trilogy.

Summary: WICKED can't be trusted and Thomas knows this. Wicked says the lying is finished and the Trials are completed. They must now rely on the Gladers with their full memory restored to complete their goal, to cure the Flare with a final test.ry test. 
What WICKED doesn't know is that Thomas has remembered far more than they think and he knows he can't believe a thing they say. The cure, however, is worse than anyone could imagine--will they survive?

Thomas and his best friend Minho are both immune, however, their best friend Newt is not. The three friends decide to opt out of memory restoration and they break out from WICKED headquarters and find their way to Denver. They become a part of the Right Arm, a rebel group. There are many questions of morality and choices.
The ending is realistic and gritty, and I was completely satisfied with it.
I really enjoyed this series and give it a 10 out 10.


NEVER FALL DOWN BY Patricia McCormick
Richie’s Picks: NEVER FALL DOWN by Patricia McCormick, HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, May 2012, 224p., ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

“With their hearts they turned to each other’s heart for refuge”

-- Jackson Browne, “Before the Deluge”

“The Khmer Rouge, they want the name, the background of everyone here. But the Khmer Rouge themself, they all the same. All black uniform. All grim face. All name ‘Comrade.’ Comrade Soldier. Comrade Elder. Comrade Cook.

“In my mind, I give them names. The one who steal is Comrade Wristwatch. And the one who all day clean the nails I call Comrade Lazy.

“But they only say ‘Comrade’ this and ‘Comrade’ that. Because they don’t want us to know the real name.

“Every day now, we all work in the field. Planting, digging ditch, hard work and in the sun. Everyone. Children, old people, everyone work together. Only time to rest is to use the latrine, maybe to get water from the stream. One time, when I take Munny to the bush to pee, I see, in the wood, big pile of dirt. A pile tall as a house. Fresh, like just dug. And not a good smell. Sweet and also like rot. Like nothing I ever smell before.”

Five years ago, I wrote about Gary Schmidt’s then-upcoming novel TROUBLE, a piece of historical fiction set in 1980s north-coastal Massachusetts. TROUBLE remains one of my personal all-time favorite reads.

The second most-central character in TROUBLE is Chay Chouan, a young man who survived the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge and has ended up in a nearby Massachusetts mill-town immigrant community. He carries the memory of witnessing his sister being shot in front of him and his brother being taken by force. In TROUBLE we get a sense of what it might have been like for Chay in Cambodia.

Here in NEVER FALL DOWN, one of this year’s National Book Award finalists, we get the full-fledged real deal: a work of fiction based on and told through the eyes of Arn Chorn-Pond, a real-life survivor who was an eleven year-old in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. Through Arn’s eyes, we are plopped down amidst the unspeakable massacre that went on and on there for years.

Fortunately, the tale is somewhat leavened by Arn’s being a mischievous and kind kid at heart – even if he has to hide/scab over/grow out of that part of himself in order to survive. As we learn from Arn, who ends up for a time as a favored musician for Khmer Rouge leaders, you have to either keep on keeping on, or figure on becoming part of the ever-growing pile of body parts:

“One old man digging a ditch, he fall down. He cry and say he’s too old for this hard work. A Khmer Rouge come to him, says, ‘You tired of working? Okay. We take you someplace you can rest.’

“Never again we see that old guy. But the dirt pile, it get bigger all the time. Bigger and worse smell. Like rot. And also like some kinda gas. And flies all over. That pile, now it’s like mountain.”

And that’s nothing. This is not a story for the squeamish. When I got to page 82, I had to take a break -- my toes were all clenched up and my stomach and arm muscles knotted tight because of what had just taken place.

“Now let the music keep our spirits high”

-- Jackson Browne

But I kept reading. Why? I don’t know. Thinking about it all begins to fry my brain. This is one of those exceptionally well-written stories that you wish had not been based upon something that has taken place in the real world. But the character Arn – who, when the story begins, is an innocent kid in a village filled with music – is a young Everyman in whose position we might (in our worst nightmare) imagine ourselves. And it is in the thoughts and actions of Arn -- the small kindnesses in the midst of unspeakably barbaric behavior around him -- that we find some hope, some salvation for humankind, and a good reason for reading this book.


Columbus by Demi

“Columbus Sailed the Ocean

(‘Pop! Goes the Weasel’)

All around the great wide world

Columbus sailed the ocean

To prove the world was big & round

That’s real devotion!”

-- Educational holiday song available on a bunch of online websites

“One of the [relief ship] captains was Christopher Columbus’s brother Bartolomeo. Upon arrival, he discovered that the Spaniards were exploiting the Indians. They were stealing from them, had cut off the ears of one man, and had put the Indian chief in chains. Violence spread and Columbus could not stop it. Columbus sent back four ships to Spain with five hundred Taino Indians who were sold as slaves on the European market. And he continued to practice slavery in the Indies.

“Every male over the age of fourteen had to pay gold every three months to the shaky government Columbus had set up. The males were forced to work for the Spaniards after giving up their land and belongings. Many began to die of exhaustion and European diseases, including smallpox, measles, and syphilis. Soon hundreds of thousands of Caribbean Indians died, and eventually only a handful survived.”

Thanks to today’s popularity of picture books for older readers, we have a steady flow of short-yet-revealing biographies like this one. Author-illustrator Demi does a terrific job of showing how Christopher Columbus “was one of the greatest navigators who ever lived,” that “his voyages had changed the face of the world forever,” and that he was at the same time a racist tyrant. Certainly many will come away from this book wondering why there is a U.S. national holiday in honor of a mass murderer.

Demi’s story about the life of Columbus makes so much sense. She details his years of extensive sailing experience up and down the European/African side of the Atlantic prior to his first attempting to cross the ocean (“sailing west to reach the East”). It was during these years prior to 1492 that he really came to understand the ocean and figured out that he could ride northeast winds off of the coast of Africa as he headed west and would be able to take advantage of westerly winds if he followed a more northerly route back to Spain.

When it came to seeking out gold and spices, this was one guy who persisted. He kept conning Ferdinand and Isabella into giving him one chance after another. He’d get another bunch of ships in order to go back yet again and seek the riches he believed were there.

“Landing on Venezuela’s Paria Peninsula, he became the first European explorer to set foot on the American mainland since the Vikings five centuries earlier. The land was so beautiful, Columbus was sure he had reached The Garden of Eden.”

That is another thing we learn from this biography: the manner in which Christianity was such a big political deal…just like it is today. You have Ferdinand and Isabella driving all of the Muslims out of Spain and then letting Columbus be Columbus…just as long as he converted all of the so-called heathens to Christianity (and kept seeking those riches).

Demi concludes that Columbus was “a magnificent failure” while, at the same time, she acknowledges his contributions. I find it to be a fair-minded and fascinating look at a guy responsible for so many great department store and car dealer sales every October.


Monument 14 by Laybourne

Fiewel and Friends, 2012
Dean didn’t say goodbye to his mom that morning. He watched is brother Alex, in eighth grade, get on his bus and he got on the one to high school in Monument, Colorado. It was an ordinary day for Alex – avoid the popular kids in back and try to be invisible.
But then the hail began….

It wasn’t ordinary hail, but huge crushing hail with stones and debris caught within the ice. It tore up cars and cracked windshields. Dean’s ride to school is now demolished outside the Greenway superstore. Kids are dead, and the hail is causing more injuries. Their savior is the bus driver of Alex’s bus, getting the survivors and crashing into the Greenway.
But now, the safety gates are closed, shut down and impenetrable to the outside. Inside are six high school students, two eighth graders and over a handful of elementary school kids. The Network is down and there is no communication to the outside world. First hail, then an earthquake…then the terrible news of a supertsunami…then the worst news of all…

On an old television, news has reached the Dean ,Alex and the others that NORAD’s chemical storage has leaked. And it’s turning people into monsters, building on their rage to kill. Other are affected different ways, and all the survivors in Greenway must do everything they can to contain the catastrophe happening on the outside.
Most of all, they wonder if their parents are still alive…and just how many survivors are left in the world that has come undone.
This is future survival fiction at its finest! At first, I was thinking how easy it would be to survive in a superstore, but then everyone knows about cabin fever. Emmy Laybourne does an excellent job of making sure the reader knows each and every one of the kids in this book and their experiences throughout this disastrous time, but it’s the situation that comes alive. The reader gets to experience how teens and children work to hold it together with the absence of all adults in a world full of danger and crazy people trying to get in. This book just works and works well. Look for a sequel to this incredibly fast read that will take you to the edge of your seat!


The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifwater
Blue Sargent is 16. She lives in Henrietta, Virginia, with her mother, a psychic, and several of her mother’s psychic friends and relations. Blue is a sensible girl with no ability to foretell the future. She works hard and, understandably, avoids boys, as it was foretold by several reliable women that Blue’s first true love would die from their first kiss. So there are no men in her life until she becomes involved with four boys from the pre-Ivy boarding school located in her town.

You think this book is going to be about Blue’s love life, but as the story gets deeper into the characters of the boys, you will remind yourself of the title of the book. As I read, I kept thinking of the recent thread on yalsa-bk regarding women writers and male points-of-view. Maggie Stiefvater, who with each book is coming closer to being my favorite YA author, excels at portraying these young men. Gansey comes from a long line of so much money that he consistently stumbles when trying to relate to anyone who isn’t rich. His friend Adam is a local boy attending the school on a full merit scholarship.
Like Blue, both boys have deep secrets that dictate their actions. There are more raven boys as well, and they have secrets too, but readers are not privy to their thoughts as we are with Blue, Gansey and Adam.

On the surface, this book is about magic, Welsh mythology, and ghosts.
Underneath it is about what all great YA books are about—the struggle to define oneself and one’s place in the world. Readers will love these characters and come to care deeply about their fates.


The Forbidden Schoolhouse by Jurmain
September 5, 2012

Richie’s Picks: THE FORBIDDEN SCHOOLHOUSE: THE TRUE AND DRAMATIC STORY OF PRUDENCE CRANDALL AND HER STUDENTS by Suzanne Jurmain, Houghton Mifflin, 2005, 160p., ISBN: 978-0-618-47302-1

“There were now enough students to make a real class. Prudence lectured. The girls concentrated on their reading and arithmetic. In the classroom it was calm and quiet. But if the girls stepped outside the front gate, boys tailed after them blowing horns, beating drums, and shouting insults. Someone smeared dung on the school steps and door handles, and the doors and windows were pelted by volleys of rotten eggs. Most of the shopkeepers stuck by their agreement and would not sell Prudence supplies. The milk peddler refused to deliver fresh milk, and a local newspaper accused Prudence of trying to ‘break down the barriers which God has placed between blacks and whites.’

“The troubles came so thick and fast, it was hard to count them all. Opening the school had been a hundred times harder than Prudence had imagined. Of course, she’d known that some people would object to black students. She’d expected some protests, but as she explained to the Reverend Jocelyn shortly after the school opened, ‘The thought of such opposition as has been raised in the minds of the people of Canterbury…never once entered into my mind.’ She had never imagined ‘that Christians would act so unwisely and conduct [themselves]…so outrageously.’ Nothing had prepared her for this ‘present scene of adversity.’ But she’d made up her mind. She wasn’t going to give up. ‘I trust God will help me keep this resolution,’ she wrote.”

In 1834, Prudence Crandall opened a school for young black women in Canterbury Connecticut. Her neighbors did everything under the sun to prevent Prudence from operating that school – and they eventually succeeded in literally destroying it.

One thing I really love about THE FORBIDDEN SCHOOLHOUSE – why I was so moved by it and why I want so much to get kids to read it -- is how there is such immediacy to the story. In reading THE FORBIDDEN SCHOOLHOUSE, it is so easy to imagine oneself as a citizen in the town of Canterbury, Connecticut and to wonder whether, if one was in that situation, whether one would have the combination of faith, stubbornness, and heart to stand up for what is right, to walk the walk, to support Prudence Crandall and her right to establish a school for young women of color in the community.

It is easy to agree with a crowd, no matter how evil and wrong-headed they may be, but it takes something far more to swim against the tide. Would I be one to swim against that tide and face threats of violence and ostracism with equanimity and perseverance, or would I let the bullies win? Would I open my mouth and say no, or would I play it safe and just tell myself that it doesn’t involve me, that I don’t need to get involved, that I should just thank God that I am not one of those (current) victims of prejudice and bullying

Prudence Crandall saw these young women as students hungering for knowledge and Prudence Crandall walked the walk. All that her neighbors could see was the color of her students’ skin. When Prudence opened her school in 1834, she was ahead of her time. She is a hero who, I am sure, far too few know of. But we all know about this sort of prejudice, this sort of ignorance and wrong-headedness, for this is a mindset that we still see everywhere today whether it be in the hallways of schools or in the speeches of politicians who appeal to the base xenophobic instincts of the ignorant to gain power and exclude those who look, or talk, or think differently.

Standing up for what is right in the face of ignorance and convention, standing up for those who are not being treated fairly, is an issue that never goes away. And that is why this well-written story of Prudence Crandall and her school will never become irrelevant.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks

Coming Soon I Swear by Lane Davis

I just ordered this book and can't wait to read it.

This review is from Richie's Picks

“She finally knew one thing for sure: Even if she went to Portland, even if she drove a hundred miles an hour and didn’t stop until she was standing on Aunt Laura’s doorstep, she could never outrun this pain. It would never end, unless she ended it.

“Right now.

“Deep down inside, she knew that going to Aunt Laura’s would never do that. That was just the story she’d told herself to get her to the car in the garage. Going nowhere was the only real option. It had been her first idea, and now in the warmth of the garage, with the sound of the softly purring engine, and the song filling her ears, she decided it had been her best choice. In the end, it was the least complicated, and the only thing that would work for certain.

“As the exhaust began to tickle her nose, she laid her head back against the seat and closed her eyes.”

It is Labor Day, the official end of summer vacation, the dawning of yet another school year, and I’ve been escaping the triple-digits down here in Texas Aggie country with a red-hot read that officially releases tomorrow.

The new school year brings with it the opportunity for kids to grow and learn and prosper. It also brings kids the risk of becoming a target for those whose agendas reveal the worst in humanity as they torture and degrade their fellow students with name calling, rumor mongering, physical abuse and -- here in the twenty-first century -- cyber bullying.

Leslie Gatlin is so miserable that she has taken her own life, and I SWEAR is the story of the afterward from the point of view of those who loved and/or tortured the high school senior.


“No one lifted a fork, or a fry. All eyes were glued on Katherine. Even Macie was paying attention. ‘What did they tell your dad,’ she asked quietly.

“’They were hired by the Gatlins,’ Katherine said slowly. The smile and the iciness of her voice had fallen away. She was just giving us the facts now. ‘The Gatlins are claiming that Leslie killed herself because of unrelenting bullying. They are gathering evidence to file a civil suit for wrongful death. And they are discussing criminal charges with the district attorney.’

“The words dropped from Katherine’s lips and gently settled over the table like a thick layer of soot. Everyone else was looking at Katherine. I was looking at Macie.”

At the epicenter of the story are Jake and Macie.

Macie Merrick, daughter of a popular state senator, might well be the filthiest, most manipulative piece of humankind that I’ve ever encountered in young adult literature. This is one of those books where you want to go wash your hands after you read what this despicable young woman is capable of.

We learn that it began back at the time when they were all freshmen. Macie wanted Jake. But Jake wanted no part of her. Meanwhile, Leslie and Jake were good friends, and so Macie began a long and well-orchestrated campaign to make Leslie miserable and encourage her to kill herself. It began with Macie spreading the rumor that Leslie’s well-endowed chest was the result of surgery – surgery paid for through sexual favors.

Too far-fetched a rumor you say? All you need to do is read a few pages of Macie in action, and I guarantee that you will withdraw your objection.

Macie started on Leslie when all the characters were freshmen, and she has never once eased up on her victim.

Having the story come to revolve around the depositions that all of the characters are going to have to give under oath provides the perfect pressure cooker for our learning the inner-most thoughts and secrets of the clique of popular girls with whom Macie has systematically surrounded herself, the girls who figure that they’d better support Macie so as to not end up in the crosshairs like Leslie. These girls include a star gymnast, a successful beauty pageant participant…and Jake’s twin sister.

Well-known librarian Patrick Jones used to talk about how the ultimate works of young adult literature are those which come to be included in both a given year’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list and Best Books for Young Adults list (which, these days, is a fiction-only list). The intensity of this read, combined with the story’s significant bullying and cyber bullying aspects, make this a book that I heartily endorse for recognition on both of those book lists.

And remember, folks, you are either part of the solution or you are part of the problem.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks

A Blistered Kind of Love by Angela and Duffy Ballard

I have always been fascinated with hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, so when I was perusing through my teen collection and came across this book, which is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail through California, I had to read it. And . . . it has renewed my fascination and desire to do something like this. writes an wonderful review of this book.

An old pearl of wisdom says that two people wanting to know if they are truly compatible should take a long trip together. They will have the answer by the time they hit the end of the road.

The authors, a husband-and-wife writing team, took such a journey prior to committing to marriage: a 2,655-mile hike that extended from the California-Mexico border to the Canadian border. Their route-the famous Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail-would take them through the deserts and mountains of California, the Cascade Range of Oregon, and the dark green forests of Washington.

Tackling a hike this long and arduous is not for the weak, unprepared, or faint-hearted. Only 300 people a year even attempt to “thru-hike” the PCT, and, out of that number, only a small percentage complete it. The Ballards, both Easterners at the time they started it in 2000, wanted to see a part of the country new to them-”spectacular monotony,” as a fellow hiker described it-and they wanted a trek that wasn’t crowded. That prerequisite ruled out the older and more-publicized Georgia-to-Maine Appalachian Trail.

The book is a day-by-day journal of this five-month adventure. The entries include a history of the PCT, the characters encountered along the way, hiking buddies, frustrations, defeats and victories, discussions of gear selection, and the unique communities they would visit.

What made this book stand out from the growing ranks of other self-discovery hiking books was the dual authorship. Each writer wrote a separate account of a particular incident, providing a different perspective with results that sometime surprise the reader. For example, at one hostel, Angela Ballard found herself ignored by the male host, who seemed to act as if she were simply the chattel of her male companion.

The fear of an injury that would halt them both dead in their tracks was always lurking in the background. At one point, Angela Ballard reflected on her increasingly bum knee: “Despite my best efforts to grin and bear it,” she writes, “I’d found myself limping and slipping farther and farther behind with every passing mile. That’s when it crossed my mind that maybe it was over … During the ensuing two days I tried to mentally prepare myself for going home a failure.”

The knee cleared up, and Duffy Ballard had his own demons to fight. He was burning so many calories he was turning into a meatless skeleton with a receding hairline, which he attributed to dietary deficiencies.

“I’d become a stick man, the incredible shrinking man with the sloughing scalp,” he writes. “No matter how much blubber I ate in town, I still got thinner and thinner and balder and balder.”

Couples interested in embarking on a long hike together can learn some gender-related differences and biases from these observations. Angela Ballard, for example, noted that women like to communicate their feelings and work together as a team to achieve a goal. Men, however, tend to be more competitive, self-focused, and goal-oriented.

This well-researched nonfiction account is presented as a history lesson, a sociological study of hiker mores and folklore, and an exercise in self-discovery and personal growth. Readers learn of the State of Jefferson, a thinly populated region between northern California and southern Oregon whose inhabitants have felt since the 1940s that they were double-crossed by state representatives who ignored their needs. They actually lobbied to create a new state, so they could control their own destiny. The name was chosen in honor of Thomas Jefferson, a champion of states’ rights and independent thought. Today, according to the co-authors, hikers frequently see the “XX” or “double-cross” logo on graffiti, tee shirts, and bumper stickers in that region, keeping the dream alive.

After completing the hike in 2000, the couple returned to Philadelphia, where Angela pursued a career in freelance writing, including assignments for Men’s Health magazine. They married soon after Duffy completed his M.D. and master’s degree in bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania.

This book was such a page-turner that the co-authors would have been hard-pressed to write anything more exciting even if it had been a fiction thriller. The only question a reader is likely to have after finishing this book is what adventure the next adventure will be.

Rating 10 out of 10

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