FICTION TOP 10 (or so)

Book Cover:
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Forge. New York: Atheneum, 2010. 978-1-41696-144-4. 297p. $16.99. Gr. 5-9.
Using well-researched historical detail Anderson has crafted a winning sequel to the much acclaimed novel Chains. Former slave Curzon is on his own and finds himself enlisting in the Continental Army where he and other soldiers endure the hardships during the Valley Forge winter of 1777. While Curzon’s narration gives a detailed account of the wretched conditions that soldiers endured including frostbite, filth, and lack of food, it is his personal story that gives heart to Forge. Friendship, cruel racism, longing for Isabel, and a dangerous escape will engage readers. Historical quotes at the beginning of each chapter parallel Curzon’s account and add authenticity. An appendix with historical questions and a glossary of vocabulary words add value for curricular tie-ins. An enthusiastic recommendation from one who is anxiously awaiting Ashes, the final installment of the Seeds of America trilogy.
Historical Fiction, Valley Forge (PA),African Americans, Slavery, American Revolution Ro Becker – Springfield Township Middle School
Avasthi, Swati. Split. New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2010. 978-0-375-86340-0. $16.99. 282p. Gr. 9-12.
Split is a taut, psychological thriller for young adults about two brothers abused at the hands of their father who is a respected judge. Older brother Christian escapes to a new life with the help of a neighborhood family and leaves a much younger Jace behind to bear the beatings meant for his mother. But after years of enduring psychological torment and physical abuse, during which Jace lives a lie, the final straw is reached. Jace discovers his father has beaten his mother yet again and in his frenzied anger, Jace punches his father knowing he will be kicked out. With Christian’s address given to him by his mother, Jace flees to a brother he has not seen or heard from in years. Split is such a great title on so many levels about the brothers’ past and present and how they feel -split- not whole. Teens will be lining up for this drama filled book about the all too real issue of abuse in families.
BJ Neary- Abington Senior High
Bacigalupi, Paolo.Ship Breaker. New York: Little Brown Books, 2010. 978-0-316-05621-2. $17.99. 336p. Gr. 9-12.
In his first YA novel, Bacigalupi presents a dystopian look at a future that could come true. The reader is plunged into the world of Nailer, a young boy who works on the light crew. The light crew is the group that works on the salvaging copper wire and other light materials from ships. They have to make their quota or they are kicked off the crew, which is a fate as bad as death. There is no other work in this poverty ridden community and Nailer’s father is an abusive, drunk, so having this job is important. This fast moving adventure touches on many issues such as oil reserves, the BP disaster, poverty, and the differences between the haves and have-nots.
Dystopia, Adventure, Fantasy, Friendships, Loyalty. Sandra Krieg- The Haverford School
Bognanni, Peter. The House of Tomorrow. New York: Amy Einhorn Books, 2010. 978-0-399-15609-0. 354p. $24.95. Gr. 9-12.
Sebastian is a quirky, socially awkward teenager who resides in a geodesic dome with his eccentric grandmother, Nana. Jared is a punk-rock-loving, sardonic sixteen-year-old who recently had a heart transplant and causes his mother constant anxiety. These two misfits connect when Jared and his mother take a tour of the dome and Nana promptly suffers from a stroke. From there, Sebastian is brought into the dysfunctional home of Jared, his overly-anxious mother, and his mysteriously seductive sister. Among many things, Sebastian is introduced to grilled cheese & grape soda, young lust and the independent philosophy of punk rock. Though there is strong language, the off-beat humor, intriguing characters and tender message of this novel make it a true delight and very worthy of the Alex Award.
Coming-of-age Mary Schwander – New Hope-Solebury High School
Chayil, Eishes. Hush. Walker Books for Young Readers, 2010. 0802720889. 368p. $16.99. Gr. 8+.
Chayil offers us a rare peek into the life of a young woman in an insular, Chassidic Jewish community in Brooklyn. Through the current narrative and flashbacks of Gittel, who is 17 at the opening of the novel, we slowly explore the hushed story of the incest and rape that led to the suicide of Gittel’s friend, Devory. In the present action, Gittel is realizing her best possible fate—to be married to a good man. Gittel struggles to reconcile her faith and her commitment to the community she loves with the truth she witnessed. Readers may have trouble with the frequent Yiddish words, unfamiliar customs, and this community’s fear of anything gentile (goy). A glossary follows the story. This is a haunting and powerful tale, both in its views of the family life and customs of Chassidic society and in its explorations of faith, justice, and gender issues.
Realistic fiction. Jewish fiction.
Joyce Valenza- Springfield Township High School
Childs, Tera Lynn. Oh.My.Gods. New York: Speak, 2009. 978-0-14-241420-0. 264p. $7.99. Gr. 8-12.
Phoebe is eager to finish her senior year and go to USC on scholarship for her fantastic running abilities. Things take a drastic change for the worse when her mother announces that she is re-marrying and they are moving to a Greek island. Besides having to get used to a new stepfather, a new place, and a new track team, Phoebe has to deal with arrogant students at her new school, who are almost all descendants of the ancient Greek gods, and who hate her for not being “one of them.” Still, Phoebe perseveres with her running, finds a few true friends, a hot boyfriend, and ultimately, she finds out some surprising things about herself as she overcomes the obstacles that are thrown in her path. A fun read and a good romance.
Romance Nancy Chrismer - Juniata High School
Christopher, Lucy. Stolen. Chicken House, 2010. 978-0-5451-7093-2. 304p. $17.99. Gr. 9+.
While traveling with her parents on a vacation to Vietnam, 16-year-old Gemma is drugged and kidnapped at a layover at the Bangkok airport. She awakens from her drugged fuzziness in a house in the remote Australian outback and discovers she is the captive of 25-year-old Ty. As the full story unravels, Gemma learns that Ty has been stalking her in London for years, working on a plan to abduct and keep her. After a nearly tragic failed attempt, Gemma soon comes to recognize that escape is impossible. Ty, a complicated and handsome character, nearly wins us (and Gemma) over with his sad childhood, his gentle treatment of his captive, his practical capabilities, his art, and his appreciation of the landscape and the creatures that populate the outback. Christopher plays with the story of Eden and uses the capture and taming of a female camel to echo Gemma’s own captivity. In the end, we discover that the book is composed in the form of a letter to Ty, now facing trial for his crimes. The letter format allows us to observe as Gemma grapples with the complicated nature of good and bad, as she deconstructs what she experienced. This complex, eerie, and lyrical debut novel will immediately grab your girl readers, especially those for whom bad boys have appeal.
Realistic. Romance. Joyce Valenza - Springfield Township High School
Cohn, Rachel & David Levithan. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares . New York: Knopf, 2010. 978-0-375-86659-3. 272p. $16.99. Gr. 9-12.
A red Moleskin notebook with mysterious clues left on a shelf at the Strand Bookstore in New York City launches a scavenger hunt, and possibly a Christmas romance. The book is narrated by two sixteen-year-olds: cynical Dash and optimistic Lily, who flirt, fight, and learn about themselves and each other through the notes they leave one another in the notebook. Their adventures sometimes border on the absurd, but teens will eat this one up—it’s adorable.
Mary Fran Torpey—Friends’ Central School
Collins, Suzanne. Mockingjay. New York: Scholastic, 2010. 9780439023511. 400p. $17.99. Gr. 7+.
Suzanne Collins makes another great sequel in Mockingjay, but even though it has intense action, it puts a lot of emphasis on connecting to the reader in a more emotional way. After being rescued successfully from her second Hunger Games, an emotionally scarred Katniss is struggling to survive with being the “Mockingjay” for the rebellion, and the realization that she may never see Peeta again. But after seeing what the Captol has done to her District, Katniss finds that once again she’ll need to take a leadership role in finally overthrowing the Capitol. Doing so will result in agony, pain, and heartbreak, but it is something a “Mockingjay” must do. The action is intense and well written as seen throughout all of Collins’ books, but this one is noticeably sadder than previous ones. The emotion doesn’t feel forced though, because doubtlessly readers have forged bonds with the characters, and this sadness humanizes the characters even more. Though it is difficult to say goodbye to the characters that have made such an influence on us, Katniss could not have gone out in a better book.
Fantasy, Adventure A.B. The Haverford School
Condie, Allyson. Matched. New York: Dutton Books, 2010. 978-0-525-42364-5. 384p. $17.99. Gr. 7+.
Cassia lives in a Society that controls everything—who you love, where you work, and when you die. She has always trusted that the Society knows what is best, especially when she is matched with her best friend Xander as a life partner. But she starts to doubt the their choice when she looks for more information about her match on the matching screen, and sees Xander’s picture flicker and a picture of another boy replaces it. Cassia’s doubt about which one is her true match leads to serious consequences. This is a great (clean) romance and dystopia for students who loved Twilight or the Hunger Games.
Mary Fran Torpey—Friends’ Central School
De Goldi, Kate. The 10 p.m. Question. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2010. 978-0-7636-4939-5. 245p. $15.99. Gr.7+.
Frankie Parsons is a twelve year old who worries about everything, out loud and subconsciously, all day, every day, and every night, when he goes into his mother’s room and pours out his fears and questions. Frankie’s family has some issues which make them crazy and with his best friend, Gigs and Frankie speak Chilun, their complicated language of pig Latin, inverted syllables, truncated words-and bits of Russian (BongaSwetso means “goody”). And then one day, a new girl comes to school, becomes Frankie’s best friend and asks too many questions, but this friendship will begin to free Frankie’s insecurities and shake up his very circumscribed world. Funny, heartbreaking and complex, Goldi does a superb job of sorting out Frankie Peterson’s world of humanity. Young adult readers will learn about the language, idioms, and nuances of New Zealand.
Family life-New Zealand BJ Neary – Abington Senior High
De Quidt, Jeremy. The Toymaker. New York: David Fickling Books, p2010, c2008. 978-0-385-75181-0. 357p. $14.44. Gr. 6-9.
In this spine-chillingly grim and creepy tale, a hapless boy named Mathias continually gets caught in the clutches of an assortment of malevolent characters, all of whom covet something that he has the great misfortune to have in his possession. A prologue introduces us to the sinister toymaker, who doesn’t appear again until much later in the story, and readers will form their suspicions regarding the connection between him and poor Mathias’s tribulations. This book is not for the faint-of-heart who favor cheerier fare, but it is highly recommended for middle schoolers with an appetite for the dark and gruesome.
Horror Patricia Fischer, Edward Hand Middle School, Lancaster
Dogar, Sharon. Annexed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. 978-0-547-50195-6. 341p. $17.00. Gr. 7-11.
You know the story of Anne Frank in the Secret Annex. Annexed is a beautiful book presenting a fictionalized account of Anne's friend Peter Van Pels. Believably rendered, Peter is traumatized, frustrated, loves and hates his parents and is initially completely annoyed by Anne. Peter's expression of sexuality has made the book slightly controversial, but it is authentic to a 16-year old male voice. Dogar skillfully tells the story by contrasting Peter's voice during his time in the Annex and after the 8 members of it are betrayed, when Peter is in Auschwitz and later on death marches. This is a worthy addition to Holocaust literature, as it adds a previously unheard voice to the discussion and highlights the heroism of flawed people.
Sheila May-Stein-Karen Rachel Herwitz Library Community Day School
Donoghue, Emma. Room. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010. 978-0-316-09833-5. 321p. $24.99. Gr. 9+.
The world of Jack and Ma consists solely of Room: a single space containing simple furnishings such as Wardrobe, Bed, Rug, and Table. Ingeniously told through the five-year-old voice of Jack, we gradually understand that he and Ma are held captive in Room, and Ma is doing all she can to make Jack feel safe, protected and loved. When Ma realizes that escape from Room is imperative, a risky plan is put into action and Jack is surprised to learn that Outside actually exists. Although this is an unsettling and disturbing read, the author manages to tell Jack’s story in a touching, emotional manner. Very deserving of the 2011 Alex Award.
Kidnapping Mary Schwander- New Hope-Solebury High School
Draper, Sharon. Out Of My Mind. New York: Atheneum, 2010. 978-1-416-97170-2. 295p. $16.99. Gr 5-12.
Draper's book was awesome. Definitely different from all of her other books---getting into the mind of a girl with cerebral palsy is just the kind of book EVERYONE needs to read. Melody is feisty, she loved Mrs. V, she is very smart, but she cannot speak, she can’t walk, and she can’t write. Her teacher, Mr. Dimming, was horrible not giving Melody a chance. It was heartbreaking when they all conspired--even her friend,Rose---to leave her behind, yes I know what they all said, but their actions spoke louder than words, and I was rooting for Melody when she confronted them, then whirled around in her chair and sped off when she gave it to them! This book should be read by all teens from 5th grade on up---it would be a great form of sensitivity training---just by reading a book!
Disabilities BJ Neary – Abington Senior High
Elkeles, Simone. Rules of Attraction. New York: Walker & Company, 2010. 978-0-802-72086-3. 324p. $16.99 Gr 10-12.
This book was so intriguing, I couldn't put it down. It involves a Mexican American teen, Carlos, who is shipped from his family home in Mexico, and placed under his brother Alex's watchful eye in Colorado. He is assigned a peer guide to help him the first week of school and Carlos mercilessly taunts this girl, Kiara by snubbing her, being rude to her and mocking her every chance he can. But Carlos also has a soft, vulnerable side; he protects people, he has a strong sense of family loyalty and when he is interested in a girl, watch out! Carlos is framed with drugs in his book bag and then recruited to sell drugs and if he won't his family in Mexico and Kiara's family will suffer. Kiara is a nice girl from a wonderful family (imagine that???) who loves a challenge, fixes cars, got text-dumped by her boyfriend, has a gay best friend Tuck, and is falling for Carlos, despite his attitude, his Mexican ideas of macho and whatever he can do to turn her on and then turn her off. There are alternating chapters of Carlos and Kiara, this book will not disappoint and I think the reluctant readers and urban teens will enjoy the drug/gang connection.
Multicultural, Romance BJ Neary – Abington Senior High
Ferraiolo, Jack D. Sidekicks. New York: Amulet Books, 2011. 978-0-8109-9803-2. 309p. $16.95. Gr. 6-9.
Scott Hutchinson, a.k.a. Bright Boy, has, since early childhood, been the sidekick to superhero Phantom Justice. Now that he has reached adolescence, those yellow tights he has been required to wear have become not only embarrassing, but downright obscene. When Scott discovers that his arch-nemesis is one of his classmates, the two sidekicks team up to rebel against their superpower “dads.” Although it seems to start out as a Batman and Robin knockoff, there are original developments to the plotline. This book will appeal to fans of comic book heroes, and there is a love angle for those who enjoy a little romance mixed in with the action.
Action Adventure. Patricia Fischer - Edward Hand Middle School, Lancaster
Flood, Nancy Bo. Warriors in the Crossfire. Honesdale, PA: Front Street, 2010. 978-1-59078-661-1. 142p. $17.95. Gr. 5-9.
During World War II, the Pacific island of Saipan became a battle site between Japanese and American forces, leaving the island natives, as the title denotes, in the crossfire. In this heartrending story, twelve-year-old Joseph, who hopes to one day be a Samurai, leads his family to safety and helps them survive during the violent weeks of the invasion. A historical note following the narrative presents information and statistics regarding the number of people killed during battles on Saipan and other Pacific islands and recounts the tragic history of “Suicide Cliff.”
Historical Fiction Patricia Fischer - Edward Hand Middle School, Lancaster
Flores-Galbis, Enrique. 90 Miles to Havana. New York: Roaring Brook, 2010. 978-1-596-43-168-3. 292p. $17.99. Gr. 5-8.
In an effort to keep their children safe from the dangerous political environment during the Cuban Revolution, Julian’s parents send him and his older brothers to a refugee “camp” in Miami as part of Operation Pedro Pan. Here the boys are victims of severe bullying as well as the loneliness of refugee children. Enrique Flores-Galbis draws on his boyhood experience of being evacuated from his homeland to offer a heartfelt and gripping story. Julian’s increasing maturity help him to become a risk-taker and a responsible contributor in a dangerous rescue mission. Highly recommended.
Historical fiction, Refugee Camps, Cuba Ro Becker – Springfield Township Middle School
Frazier, Angie. Everlasting. New York: Scholastic Press, 2010. 978-0-545-11473-8. 329p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.
In 1855, when 17-year-old Camille sets sail with her father for one last voyage before her wedding, she expects that it will be a typical enjoyable voyage for her. What she doesn’t expect is to get shipwrecked and lose her father, nor does she expect to find that in order to save her father’s business, she must marry a man she doesn’t love. Oscar, the young sailor who saves her life, is the only person she can depend upon. As Camille experiences many adventures, she finds her true love. This is an exciting adventure featuring a heroine who does not want to be constricted by the society of her time.
Romance/Adventure/Historical Fiction
Nancy Chrismer, Juniata High School
Friesner, Esther. Sphinx’s Queen. New York: Random House, 2010. 978-0-375-85657-0. 352p. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.
When young Nefertiti is falsely accused of crimes she did not commit, she escapes with her slave, Nava and the young prince Amenophis to go to Dendara to tell the Pharoah, who is married to her aunt, what really happened. The three survive life-threatening events on their journey, only to discover that Nefertiti’s accuser, crown prince Thutmose, has arrived before her, and has the Pharoah convinced that she is truly guilty. Nefertiti is determined to prove her innocence with the help of the one who loves her, Amenophis, brother to Thutmose, and her loyal former slave, Nava, but is thwarted at every turn by her evil aunt who wants her to beg the Pharoah’s forgiveness and marry Thutmose, whom Nefertiti hates. Justice triumphs in an interesting way, and the reader will be very satisfied with this book. Excellent historical fiction set in Egypt in the time of the Pharoahs.
Historical Fiction Nancy Chrismer, Juniata High School
Fussell, Sandy. White Crane. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2010. 978-0-7636-4503-8. 237p. $15.99. Gr. 5-8.
Fussell, Sandy. White Crane. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2010. 978-0-7636-4503-8. 237p. $15.99. Gr. 5-8.
This is the first book in the series Samurai Kids, which is about a group of children, who each have some type of adversity to overcome while training to become samurai at a school run by a wise old sensei. This installment is told from the point of view of Niya, a boy with one leg, whose spirit totem is the white crane. The kids encounter various adventures during their training and on their journey to the annual Samurai Games. The story, enhanced by Rhian Nest James’s illustrations, is a charming testament to the power of friendship The subject matter will appeal to manga fans, who may be enticed to expand their horizons past the graphic novel shelf.
Adventure Patricia Fischer - Edward Hand Middle School, Lancaster
Gidwitz, Adam. A Tale Dark and Grimm. New York: Dutton, 2010. 978-0-525-42334-8. 256p. $16.99 Gr. 5-8.
Hansel and Gretel’s adventures expand beyond the witch’s house in this tounge-in-cheek take on many of Grimm’s fairy tales, including Faithful Johannes, The Seven Ravens, Brother and Sister, The Robber Bridegrom, and The Devil and his Three Golden Hairs. Gidwitz provides almost Monty Python-esque commentary—regarding Hansel and Gretel, he warns the reader: “They show up. And then they get their heads cut off. Just thought you’d like to know.”— that will surely elicit giggles and gasps. At root, though, these re-tooled fairy tales have morals that will resonate with modern readers.
Mary Fran Torpey—Friends’ Central School
Gill, David Macinnis. Black Hole Sun. New York: Green Willow Books, 2010. 978-0-06-167304-7. 340p. $16.99. Gr 8-12.
Gill has created a very humorous, action-packed novel, set on Mars with Durango as the young Regulator who commands a team of mercenaries who risk their lives for meager pay because it is “their duty” to protect. Along with Durango as the Chief is his loyal sidekick, Viene, who he has growing feelings for, and Mimi, whose brain waves are implanted in Durango to control the nanobots in his body and however many other regulators he hires for each job. The reader enjoys a novel full of action, humor, and what life is like in this futuristic dystopian novel. You will laugh out loud with the constant bickering and repartee between Durango and his crew.
Science Fiction BJNeary – Abington Senior High School
Godbersen, Anna. Bright Young Things. New York: Harper, 2010. 978-0-06-196266-0. 389p. $15.29. Gr. 10+.
The glamour and glitz of 1929 New York City is too tempting for best friends, Letty and Cordelia. The two leave their small town in Ohio, with Letty chasing dreams of becoming a famous singer and Cordelia hoping to find her estranged father, a famous, wealthy bootlegger named Darius Grey. After a falling out, the two are off to chase their dreams alone. Letty discovers that making it in New York is a lot harder than she anticipated, while Cordelia is thrust into a high society life with Astrid, an upper class party girl, as her guide. Late night clubs, fancy dresses, handsome men, and an unspeakable tragedy teach the two that sophistication does not equal class or kindness and not to trust the smooth words of strangers.
Romance, Prohibition Historical. Melissa Daugherty – Sharon-Middle High School
Holm, Jennifer. Turtle in Paradise. New York: Random House, 2010. 978-0-375-83688-6. 191p. $16.99. Gr. 5-8.
As the housekeeper’s daughter, eleven-year-old Turtle has never had it easy. But life is difficult for most everyone in 1935. When Turtle is sent to the Florida Keys to live with family, she doesn’t expect much. She finds an economically strapped town full of family and history that give her the sense of belonging she never had. Her discoveries include pirate’s treasure, people she can relate to, a grandmother she thought was dead, and possibly her father. When her mother and new step-father come to take her to a new life, her step father runs off with Turtle’s money. Turtle and her mother decide to stay in Key West. Life isn’t easy, but it’s much more enjoyable with family.
Newbery Honor book. Historical Michelle Stone-Sandy Run Middle School
Hyde, Catherine Ryan. Jumpstart the World. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. 978-0-375-86665-4. 186p. $16.99. Gr. 10-12.
Elle’s world changes when at age 15, her mother makes her live alone in an apartment in NewYork City, because the new man in her mother’s life doesn’t want Elle around. Always a loner, Elle now knows what true loneliness is, until she befriends a couple in the apartment next door, and makes friends with a few people at school. Elle inexplicably finds herself very attracted to the neighbor, Frank, but her world tilts once again when she finds out Frank’s big secret. Only when a tragedy happens does Elle realize how she truly wants to relate to Frank, and to the rest of the world. This is an excellent novel that deals with current-day issues.
Realistic Fiction/Coming-of- age Nancy Chrismer, Juniata High School
Johansen, K. V. The Shadow Road. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 2010. 978-1-55469-165-4. 216p. $12.95. Gr. 7-12.
Johansen, K. V. The Shadow Road. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 2010. 978-1-55469-165-4. 216p. $12.95. Gr. 7-12.
Followers of The Warlocks of Talverdin will relish this fourth book, while those new to the series can jump right in with very little confusion and become fans themselves. Readers will be hooked from the first few pages when the main character, Nethin, awakens from poison-induced dreams to find himself imprisoned in a coffin. His captors compel him to use his powerful magic to craft the spell which will open the Shadow Road, but doing so could have catastrophic consequences.
Fantasy Patricia Fischer - Edward Hand Middle School, Lancaster
Johnson, Maureen. Scarlett Fever. New York: Point, 2010. 978-0-439-89928-4. 336p. $14.44. Gr. 7+.
Johnson, Maureen. Scarlett Fever. New York: Point, 2010. 978-0-439-89928-4. . 336p. $16.99. Gr. 7-12.
In this sequel to Suite Scarlett, Scarlett Martin is back and still dealing with the demanding Mrs. Amberson, who is insisting that Scarlett help her with her talent agency. Scarlett is still working in her parents’ rather seedy art deco hotel but there are many more problems cropping up. She must deal with her brother’s sudden fame as an actor, her sister’s love life, an ex-boyfriend with whom she is obsessed, a selfish starlet that Mrs. Amberson insists Scarlett be nice to, and her lab partner Max, whom she thinks is out to make her completely crazy. It is humorous and insightful, and readers will enjoy meeting Scarlett again.
Kwok, Jean. Girl in Translation. New York: Riverhead Books, 2010. 978-1-59448-756-9. 293p. $25.95. Gr. 9+.
At the age of eleven, Kimberly emigrates with her mother from Hong Kong to Brooklyn, New York. With enormous pressures to fit in at school, perform well in classes, and help her mother at the sweatshop, Kimberly’s translation into a young American woman does not happen without tears, pain, and hardship. This new author, a Hong Kong emigrant herself, tells a powerful coming-of-age story with an emotional and unexpected ending. This stirring novel is very deserving of ALA’s Alex Award.
Immigrants/Coming of Age Mary Schwander - New Hope-Solebury High School
Larkin, Jillian. The Flappers: Vixen. New York: Delacorte Press, 2010. 978-0-385-74034-0. 421p. $15.29. Gr. 9-12.
Larkin, Jillian. The Flappers: Vixen. New York: Delacorte Press, 2010. 978-0-385-74034-0. 421p. $15.29. Gr. 9-12.
This novel follows three young girls as they enter a life style of short dresses, fringed hair, smooth men, and speakeasies in the roaring 1920’s. Gloria, a seventeen year old socialite, knows that there is more out there than her impending marriage to the prim and proper banker, Sebastian Grey. Clara has been exiled to help her cousin Gloria plan her wedding, much to Gloria’s disgust. Really, she is posing as a stuffy, country girl in attempts to hide from her dangerous and questionable past as the most popular flapper in New York City. All Lorraine wants is a boy she’ll never have and for everyone to stop goggling over her best friend, Gloria. The girls’ lives shift when Gloria breaks away from her good girl ways and not only starts singing at a speakeasy, but falls for her piano player, Jerome, who is black. Lorraine struggles to keep her jealousy in check and get her guy, Gloria juggles planning the wedding of the century and keeping her flapper life a secret, and someone from Clara’s past is out to expose her. This new series is similar to a 1920’s version of Gossip Girl. Light and slightly unrealistic, but very enjoyable. The next book, Ingenue, is set to be release August 9, 2011.
Prohibition/Historical Melissa Daugherty – Sharon-Middle High School
Larson, Kirby. The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2010. 978-0-545-22418-5. 313p. $12.99. Gr. 4-8.
Larson, Kirby. The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2010. 978-0-545-22418-5. 320p. $12.99. Gr. 4-8.
This recent addition to the Dear America series begins in November 1941, shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Seventh grader Piper Davis is the daughter of a Baptist minister in Seattle whose congregation consists of Japanese-Americans. When the members of his congregation are sent to a “relocation camp” in Idaho for “their own safety,” he and Piper also make the move to Idaho. The details of Piper’s everyday existence – eating her favorite Sky Bar candy, listening to 78 records, receiving censored letters from her brother in the Navy – bring to life the world of a teenager living in the early 1940s, while the events depict a regrettable segment of American history. Included at the end of the book are historical notes, photographs, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech to the U. S. Congress on December 8, 1941. (The audio book features a recording of the speech). This book is
recommended for its engaging story and appealing characters.
Historical Fiction Patricia Fischer, Edward Hand Middle School, Lancaster
Lupica, Mike. Hero. NY: Philomel, 2010. 978-0399252839. 289p. $17.99. Gr. 5-9.
Mike Lupica, known for his YA sports books, ventures into the world of adventure and fantasy. Fourteen-year-old Billy Harriman’s father works for the President of the United States and often goes on secret missions. Billy’s father is killed on his last mission and suddenly strange things are happening around him. Shadowy figures are attacking him and he manages to fend them off, a strange wizard type man appears and tells Billy that he has super powers, as his Dad had, and his Uncle John is acting strangely. After reading this, your students will be clamoring for a sequel. Adventure/Fantasy, Family Sandra Krieg – The Haverford School
Morrison, Boyd. The Ark. New York: Touchstone, 2010. 978-1-4391-8179-9. 420p. $24.99. Gr. 9-12.
In this action-packed thriller, Dilara Kenner, a renowned archeologist, is contacted by an old family friend who tells her that her missing father has found the real Noah’s Ark. When the friend is murdered right before her eyes, and attempts are made on her own life, Dilara embarks on a quest to find the truth. What she finds is a plot by religious fanatics to take over the world and kill off all humanity except themselves in brutal acts of bio-terrorism. Dilara is aided in her quest by Tyler Locke, a former combat engineer and modern-day James Bond. Together they must save the world, find the truth about what happened to his father and his archeological discovery of the Ark, and catch the bad guys. This story is intriguing and addicting, and will have readers turning pages as fast as they can.
Mystery/Thriller Nancy Chrismer, Juniata High School
Mulligan, Andy. Trash. New York: Fickling, 2010. 978-0-385-75214-5. 232p. $16.99. Gr. 6-10.
Raphael, Rat and Gardo live in an unnamed South American garbage dump the size of a city. Their house is made of trash and they spend their days picking through mountains of it for valuable recyclables. When Raph finds something unusual one day, scores of police show up offering pesos in exchange for information. Raph is canny enough to know that if the corrupt police department wants something, he should hold on to it. Raph, Rat and Gardo live by their wits, and it is at this point in the story that their adventure begins. Through neighborhoods of unimaginable wealth to some even poorer than their trash dump home, through third world prisons and missions set up to help the indigent, the three boys search for clues about the importance of what they found. On The Day of the Dead, the mystery is dangerously revealed. This story is an eye-opener to Americans living in a world of comfort and safety. The three kids depicted are heroes for their ability to think on their feet and care about those around them. A wonderful ending makes Trash satisfying and enlightening, and useful in discussions of third-world politics, ecology and the gap between rich and poor.
Sheila May-Stein-Community Day School
Myracle, Lauren. Shine. New York: Abrams, 2011. 978-0-8109-8417-2. 359p. $16.95. Gr. 10-12.
16-year-old Cat is horrified when her friend Patrick is left to die, beaten and tied to a gas pump, with the nozzle stuffed in his mouth. Cat and Patrick had been friends for years, until Cat was victimized by another teen and isolated herself from Patrick and everyone else. She feels like she has failed him, and after his attack, she sets out to find out who did it, since the small-town sheriff doesn’t seem very interested in solving the crime. Cat stirs up some big trouble, and doesn’t realize what she is going to find when she starts shining the light on the dark secrets of others in town. Cat surprises herself with her own courage, and finds out some surprising things about her own brother, as well. This book is destined for top billing on teen book lists.
Teen Fiction Nancy Chrismer - Juniata High School
Nelson, Jandy. The Sky is Everywhere. New York: Dial Books, 2010. 978-0-8037-3495-1. 276p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.
When Lennie's sister, Bailey, dies suddenly, Lennie tries to make sense of a world that was once safe and secure, to a world where she, her Gram and Big exist but don't talk. Lennie has never been popular , just a band geek who plays 2nd chair clarinet but with the loss of Bailey, Lennie now surprisingly finds comfort in the arms of Bailey's boyfriend, Toby and in the new boy, Joe Fontaine, an awesome trumpet player who visits her house every day, bringing comfort to Gram, Big and Lennie, dragging them back to life. How can these two guys help Lennie believe that life can go on without Bailey and that Bailey will still be everywhere, like the sky is everywhere?
Grief Fiction. BJ Neary -Abington Senior High
Oliver, Lauren. Before I Fall.New York: HarperCollins, 2010. 978-0-061-72681-1. 470p. $17.99. Gr 9-12.
Samantha Kingston is a popular girl who is a big follower of her best friends Lindsay, Elody and Ally. One night as they leave a party, there is a car accident caused by their carelessness and drinking. Sam loses it all and dies but awakes the next morning and the next, and the next, until she replays her last day 7 times! Each time she awakens she really goes through a myriad of changes until she finally gets why she is granted this reprieve and how she needs to make things RIGHT. I really enjoyed how she went from a mean girl to the nice girl she was back when she was a child and was friends with Kent. Each time she wakes up, Sam works hard to help herself and those she has wronged over the years. Her redemption involves saving Juliet Sykes, befriending Tara, Courtney and Bethany, and warning Anna and Bridget about their two timing boyfriend.
Death BJ Neary – Abington Senior High
Park, Linda Sue. A Long Walk to Water. New York: Clarion, 2010. 978-0-547-25127-1 121p. $15.99. Gr. 5-8.
Based on the inspiring true story of Salva Dut, who was separated from his family during the Sudanese civil war in 1985, when he was eleven years old. Salva walks with others through Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya, facing many dangers, including starvation and crocodiles. After immigrating to the United States in 1996, Salva founds Water for Sudan, an organization that drills wells in Southern Sudan. His story is told in alternating chapters with the story of Nya, a Sudanese girl who spends eight hours each day fetching water for her family. This is a moving tale with lots of potential for curricular tie-ins on Sudan, refugees and immigrants, serving others, and perseverance.
Mary Fran Torpey—Friends’ Central School
Pierson, D. C. The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To. New York: Vintage Books, 2010. 978-0-307-47461-2. 226p. $18.46. Gr. 9-12.
Soon after Darren and Eric become friends in high school, Darren learns that Eric has a secret “thing”. He can’t sleep. OR, as Darren would rather think of it, he doesn’t HAVE to sleep. This would imply that Eric has a superpower, and if Eric has a secret superpower, well that means just about anything is possible! As the two boys join forces to write a screenplay for a sci fi series, they also perform experiments to explore Eric’s sleepless abilities. Although this novel itself is a work of science fiction, it feels more like an insightful and witty coming-of-age novel. Use caution when recommending this Alex Award winner as it is interlaced with profanity and sexual escapades.
Science Fiction / Coming-of-age Mary Schwander, New Hope-Solebury High School
Preus, Margi. Heart of a Samurai. New York: Amulet Books, 2010. 978-0-8109-8981-8. 301p. $15.95. Gr. 5-8.
Fourteen-year-old Manjiro dreams of someday being a samurai. But, alas, one must be born into the proper station, and a fisherman’s son could never become a samurai. However, the winds of fortune are as unpredictable as the storm winds that shipwreck Manjiro and his fishing companions. After they are eventually rescued by an American whaling ship, the captain takes Manjiro to America, where he becomes known as John Mung, attends school, rides a horse and learns to farm. Yet, he longs to one day return to his beloved homeland and family. Based on a true story, this book offers up a rollicking whaling adventure, a moving tale of coming-of-age in a strange new world, and a glimpse into the Japan of the mid 19th Century.
Historical Fiction Patricia Fischer - Edward Hand Middle School, Lancaster
Richards, Jame. Three Rivers Rising.New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. 978-0-375-85885-7. 293p. $16.99. Gr. 9-12.
What a great way to learn about the Johnstown Flood of 1889 by soaking up a novel in verse! Richards’s novel is powerfully told through protagonists Celestia, a young teen whose family are members of the prestigious South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club and Peter, who works summers at the club rather than joining his father in the mines in Johnstown. We learn about the rigid class system that exists in this society that would never agree to a relationship between Celestia and Peter. A compelling time in our history, Richards also includes an Author's Note, South Fork Dam Chronology, and Further Reading to bring this disaster to today's young adults. Highly recommended.
Floods BJ Neary -Abington Senior High
Sáenz, Benjamin Alire. Last Night I Sang to the Monster. El Paso: CincoPuntos Press, 2010. 978-1-933693-58-3. 239p. $16.95.
Gr. 9-12.
From the start of this gut-wrenching novel, we know just a few things about 18-year-old Zach: he has an alcoholic father, a clinically depressed mother and a violent, drug-addicted brother. When Zach woke up in a rehabilitation center for his alcohol addiction, he can’t remember (or chooses not to remember) how exactly he came to be there. Zach’s first-person narrative is poetic and compelling. He imagines that God writes words on people’s hearts to determine the type of person they will be and on Zach’s heart is written “sad”. He also imagines conversations with people which he is not brave enough to have in reality. This is a heart-wrenching novel with mature material and language. The realistic characters, Zach’s artistically brilliant personality, and his poignant, hopeful journey make this a truly unforgettable story.
Addiction / Relationships Mary Schwander – New Hope-Solebury High School
Schroeder, Lisa. Chasing Brooklyn. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. 978-1-416-99168-7. 412p. $15.99. Gr. 9-12.
Schroeder's 3rd book in free verse is achingly poignant as Brooklyn and Nico still mourn the death of Lucca. Brooklyn was madly in love when Lucca was taken from her and she is still missing him, writing him letters and buying their favorite comic books. Her mother has left with her two brothers and Brooklyn remains with her father. Nico was Lucca's younger brother, but they were very close. Nico's best friend, Gabe dies of an overdose and both Brooklyn and Nico are stunned. They knew he was suffering, but they were in pain themselves. Now Brooklyn has nightmares about Gabe and Nico is being haunted by Lucca to help Brooklyn. That is easy for a ghost to say since Nico is still running away to handle the pain. To honor his dead brother's wishes, he encourages Brooklyn to change, start running with him and participate in a marathon. I was compelled to read this book, I felt so badly for Brooklyn and Nico, Will they find that they can go on without their beloved Lucca? It has all the elements YA's will love--drama, suspense, fear, anger, loss and longing, a must read.
Death BJ Neary – Abington Senior High
Sedgwick, Marcus. Revolver. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2010. 978-1-59643-592-6. 204p. $16.99. Gr. 7-12.
A Jack London-like tale, set in 1910, but accessible for today's readers, in a style much like Gary Paulsen's. Fans of both will delight in this chilling tale, set 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Still reeling from the death of his father, Sig is ill prepared for the arrival of Gunther Wolff, who threatens Sig with the claim that his father stole gold from the man, and a colt revolver. Fast-paced and engrossing, this will appeal to even the most reluctant reader, and will be popular with teen boys.
Historical Fiction Pat Naismith – Springfield HS (Delco)
Stork, Francisco X.Last Summer of the Death the Warriors. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 2010. 978-0-545-15133-7. 344p. $17.99. Gr. 8-12.
17-year-old Pancho arrives at an orphanage in Las Cruces after his father’s recent death in a terrible work accident and the possible murder of his mentally disabled older sister, Rosa, who is found dead in a motel room. At St. Anthony’s he meets and is assigned to help D.Q., who is dying of a rare form of brain cancer. When Helen, D.Q.'s mother, forces him into experimental chemotherapy, the boys must stay as a Ronald McDonald-type residence, where Marisol--the light of D.Q.’s life (and Pancho’s too eventually)--works. While Pancho packs a gun and plots revenge on his sister’s married boyfriend, D.Q. tries to teach his new buddy the way of the Death Warrior—only when you love, do you truly live. The novel explores the nature of friendship, coming of age, Anglo-Mexican relationships, young love, faith, and how to die—while it subtly references Don Quixote. Stork knows how to create believable and memorable teen characters. A satisfying and beautifully written coming of age story.
Realistic fiction. Buddy novel. Joyce Valenza - Springfield Township High School
Stratton, Allan. Borderline. New York: Harper Collins, 2010. 978-0-061-45111-9. 320p. $16.99. Gr 9-12.
I loved Stratton's Chanda books and Borderline is another example of quality multicultural writing that teens will be drawn to. It has espionage, bullying and being Muslim in a private school. Sami has two great friends since fourth grade, Andy and Marty, yet he feels that his summer spent without them (his father wouldn't let him go on vacation with them) and having to return to his private school, has made Sami feel that his friends don't really need him. Things have been tense between Sami and his dad but when his father is arrested and charged with aiding in a terrorist plot; Sami begins his own investigation, and starts to find some damning evidence against his father. As Sami digs deeper and deeper he is bullied repeatedly in school and judged because he is Muslim. The plot thickens and the suspense is unnerving. With the help of Andy and Marty, Sami hatches a plot to get to the truth, and hopefully help his father. A gripping read about a teen who because of his religion is looked at differently when a life threatening situation develops. Stratton crafts a totally believable story about how unfair the legal system can be toward those with a different skin culture or culture. Keeping his wits about him, being beyond brave, and learning to find his voice, all describe Sami, who must rise above prejudice to save his family name.
Prejudices BJ Neary – Abington Senior High
Ward, Rachel. Numbers. New York: Scholastic (Chicken House), 2010. 0545143004. 325p. $17.99. Gr. 8-12.
Fifteen-year-old Jem Marsh has an eerie gift—the ability to see a person’s date of death when she looks into their eyes. Now a foster child, after the overdose of her drug-addicted mother, loner Jem reluctantly begins to build a relationship with another outsider, Spider--a tall and smelly misfit of a boy--despite the fact that she knows he is doomed to die soon. On a day trip to the London Eye ferris wheel, Jem realizes that a number of people in the line have the same date of death—that very day. Because they flee the scene, Jem and Spider are now suspects. They escape and are chased through the English countryside. This gritty page-turner, with convincing teen characters, ends with a clever twist.
Adventure. Realistic. Romance.
Joyce Valenza- Springfield High School
Wells, Rosemary. On the Blue Comet. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2010. 978-0-7636-3722-4. 329p. $16.99. Gr. 5-8.
A unique combination of historical fiction and time-travel fantasy, this book should appeal to boys who are fans of either genre, as well as those who like trains or model trains. Young readers of today will learn of the impact of the Great Depression on the lives of ordinary Americans, as well as the impact of Pearl Harbor on the citizens of the U.S. as well as meeting historic figures of those times. The protagonist, Oscar Ogilvie is immensely likable, and his time traveling adventures are filled with excitement and suspense.
Historic Fantasy Peter Olsho, Springfield Township Middle School
Wiles, Deborah. Countdown. New York: Scholastic, 2010. 978-0-545-10605-4. 400p. $17.99. Gr. 5-8.
Wiles, Deborah. Countdown. New York: Scholastic, 2010. 978-0-545-10605-4. 400p. $17.99. Gr. 5-8.
The first book in the Sixties Trilogy, Countdown is set in 1962 and centers around the drama in Franny Chapman’s life. She has typical issues for a pre-teen—a fight with her best friend, family troubles, and a crush on a cute boy—but her problems take on a more worldly tint at the beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis. A great deal of the interest and charm of this documentary novel come from the juxtaposition of the chapters with black and white photographs and excerpts of news articles and broadcasts from 1962. This context will make the story come alive for readers, even those who are not normally historical fiction readers. Back matter includes a note on the Cuban Missile Crisis and a “beginning bibliography” for readers who want to explore this era.
Mary Fran Torpey—Friends’ Central School
Williams, Carol Lynch. Glimpse New York: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, 2010. 978-1-416-97454-3.
496p. $16.99. Gr 9-12.
I read this novel-in-verse and couldn't put it down. It was compelling to see the main character, Hope, telling her story about her beloved sister, Lizzy, who attempts suicide and has been institutionalized. Hope doesn't know why Lizzie has done this and it is her process of getting to the truth that is particularly sad. Her conscious mind recalls a fairly normal life with her mother and Lizzie. It is only with her revelations as she recounts her life, that we see a mother who has truly been neglecting her kids (but Hope sees this as her normal life, the way it has always been). Hope's bond with Lizzie and vice-versa is truly unbreakable because they have always looked after each other although they do not talk about their dysfunctional mother. We come to root for Mrs. Freeman, who has watched the girls when their mother is "occupied" and hope Mrs. Freeman continues to be involved; even after the shouting match with her mother. This prompts Hope's mother to flee with Hope to live in a mobile home trailer, where there will not be "eyes" and judgments. You want Hope to open up to Dr. Martino, so they can find out why Lizzie tried to kill herself. It was a sad, depressing book and there is hope and resilience at the end, but at what cost? Two wonderful girls as children are like two wounded bird as teens; who did not deserve what "life" has given them in the form of a self-serving, lying, deceitful mother.
Prostitution BJ Neary – Abington Senior High
Williams-Garcia, Rita. One Crazy Summer. New York: Amistad, 2010. 978-0-06-076089-2. 218 p. $16.89. Gr. 4-7.
A month-long visit to California to see their mother who abandoned them seven years earlier offers hope to 11-year-old Delphine and her younger sisters for a rekindling of motherly love. They are met, however, with a cold, disinterested Cecile who cares more about her work as a poet and printer than she does about her daughters. With no food in the house, Cecile sends the girls for Chinese take-out and then will not allow them in the kitchen to eat because they may disturb her work. It is 1968, and Cecile (aka Sister Inzilla) is involved with the Black Panthers. She sends the girls to a Black Panthers’ summer camp where they learn about revolution. Delphine’s capacity to understand her mother and the needs of her sisters is greater than one would expect from a child her age. However, Williams-Garcia has expertly drawn her character with a maturity that has come from her experience as a substitute mother to her sisters. Poignant and touching, this novel belongs in every middle school library.
Historical Fiction
Ro Becker- Springfield Township Middle School
Yancey, Rick. The Curse of the Wendigo. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. 978-1-4169-8450-4. 424p. $17.99. Gr. 8-12
Yancey, Rick. The Curse of the Wendigo. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. 978-1-4169-8450-4. 424p. $17.99. Gr. 8-12.
The story of Will Henry and his guardian, the monstrumologist, continues as the two set forth to search for the monstrumologist's good friend in Canada. Could the Wendigo, a vampire-like creature, be responsible for his friend’s disappearance and the horrific death of his guide? This sequel to the Printz Honor Book, The Monstrumologist, does not disappoint in its suspense, horror and quality writing. Whether one is a reluctant or an avid reader, male or female, young or old, this book is sure to appeal to all!
Horror/Monsters Mary Schwander – New Hope-Solebury High School