The Alan Review
Editors:
Wendy Glenn, Senior Editor
Ricki Ginsberg, Assistant Editor
Danielle King, Assistant Editor
thealanreview@gmail.com
Volume 40, Number 1
Fall 2012


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Clip & File YA Book Reviews


Burn by Heath Gibson
Flux, 2012, 264 pp. $9.95

Coming of Age/Family
ISBN: 978-0-7387-3095-0

Wee Wee Tucker appears to be the stereotypical preacher’s son who is growing up in the predictability of small town Alabama. However, William’s life is complicated by a didactic father who hides in Biblical references; an alcoholic mother who buries herself in the bottle; and Steve, his younger brother, who is determined to come out at the Homecoming Dance. Then Samantha Johnson arrives from Iowa and becomes his black best friend, although he has difficulty buying into her social justice plans and subsequent actions. He is too busy trying to impress his childhood crush, popular and pretty Mandy.

Will is a short guy, and his dreams of dating Mandy appear to be doomed until his volunteer firefighter escapades earn him praise and respect. Will the single spark that can cause a destructive blaze be able to help him find solutions to all these problems, especially who he really is?

Judith A. Hayn
Little Rock, AR

Catch & Release
by Blythe Woolston
Carolrhoda Books, 2012, 216 pp., $13.99

Realistic/Drama
IBSN: 978-0761377-55-9

Polly Furnas’s plan was college, career, and babies. That was all before MRSA, a lethal and drug-resistant strain that disfigured her face and took her eye. And as far as Polly’s concerned, took her future, too. No friends visited her in the hospital, not even her boyfriend, Bridger. But Odd Estes did hang out with her; then again he was already there. MRSA stole his leg and his dreams of a football career. They had that in common, that and fishing.

Once out of the hospital, Odd and Polly embark on a fly-fishing trip. The two MRSAtouched teens begin a road trip where they face their new futures, futures that are unfamiliar and uncertain. Through grappling with their alienation and fears, Polly and Odd start to realize who they really are. Their pain and discoveries create a compelling and beautiful tale of trials and triumph.

Meghan Anderson
Nashville, TN

BZRK by Michael Grant
Egmont, 2012, 386 pp., $17.99

Fantasy/Science Fiction

ISBN: 978-1-60684-312-3

Sadie and Noah are caught up in the fight to control the world. After being recruited for the freedom-fighter organization BZRK, these two must help battle against the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation. The AFGC is using nanotechnology in attempts to unify the human race and bring peace and cooperation to all mankind. BZRK works against AFGC, using biots to fight the nanobots in order to preserve humans’ “freedom to be miserable.” Sadie and Noah must learn how to fight both in the “micro” – inside the human body—and in the “macro”—the real world.

Grant weaves together elements of modern times and his own inventions to create a world in which humans battle for control on a microscopic level. What happens outside of the view of human eyes could change the fate of the entire world population. It rests on the shoulders of Sadie and Noah to decide.

Zachary Oswanski
Sylvania, OH

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney
Amulet Books, 2010, 217 pp., $13.95

Realistic Fiction/Humor
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0223-5

Gregory Heffley strikes again in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever. His latest moneymaking scheme goes awry and he’s in big trouble. Only this time, he’s innocent . . . kind of. The authorities are closing in when a blizzard hits and snows him in. While the blizzard promises temporary reprieve from life on the run, it also threatens something much worse—quality time with his family.

Cabin Fever successfully highlights the eccentricities of early adolescents without creating a caricature of a whiney tween. Jeff Kinney’s witty prose and sidesplitting comics give life to his self-centered, imprudent, and completely relatable protagonist. Cabin Fever will keep readers on their toes, when they’re not rolling on the floor laughing. A must-read for fans of Kinney’s hapless hero.

Molly Druce
Nashville, TN

Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers
Amulet Books, 2012, 288 pp., $16.95

Realistic Fiction/Friendship
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0165-8

Karl Williamson is in a predicament. His girlfriend, Fiorella, wants him to write her letters about himself, in order for her to get a better understanding of who he is. However, what she does not know is that Karl is dyslexic. On top of that, he also does not really know who he is, but he will do anything to impress his girlfriend. So he decides to enlist the help of her favorite author to help him write the letters, which the author agrees to.

Dying to Know You is a story about two people who form an unlikely friendship and learn a lot about each other and themselves along the way. Chambers tells an insightful and touching story about self-discovery, growth, love, and friendship through the eyes of a 75-year-old author who is helping a young boy in love.

La’Toya Wade
Nashville, TN

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Egmont, 2012, 329 pp., $17.99

Fantasy/Supernatural
ISBN: 978-1-60684-169-3

In her novel Every Other Day, Jennifer Lynn Barnes builds a gripping story narrated by a sarcastic and gutsy protagonist that readers will enthusiastically cheer for. On some days, Kali D’Angelo is just a normal teenage girl. She goes to high school, takes exams, and deals with the snide remarks of popular people. Most important, she’s human. But every other day, she’s not. On these days, Kali is essentially indestructible, and she chooses to hunt and eliminate supernatural creatures in her spare time. One day though, Kali notices that one of the popular girls at school has been marked for death and realizes that she only has twenty-four hours to help her. As Kali races against time to save the girl, though, she uncovers a larger and much more sinister plot that just might destroy herself and everyone that she loves.

Diana Liu
Nashville, TN

Every Me, Every You by David Levithan
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2011, 245 pp., $16.99

Realistic Fiction/Suicide/Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-37586-098-0

In the suburban area Evan lives in, news gets around quickly. When Ariel’s problem goes public, he becomes the boy that is friends with the crazy girl. He was never very loud, but he locks himself in his mind. He shuts himself down. Then, when he starts receiving pictures of himself with Ariel he never knew existed, his wounds are reopened. Who is sending him these pictures? Why is this mystery man tormenting him? How do they know what had happened?

Evan and his close friends work quietly to find out the mystery man’s identity and end all of the pain they have caused. After breaking into Ariel’s room and finding mysterious pictures, they question if they were even really close to Ariel. Did they really know her? This novel illustrates the multiple personalities we all have. No one can ever know the whole you; sometimes even you can’t know every you.

Henry Robinson,
Baton Rouge, LA

Fish in the Sky by Fridrik Erlings
Candlewick Press, 2012, pp. 288, $16.99

Coming of Age/Family
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5888-7

Josh Stephenson is 13, and the world around him seems to be falling apart. He lives with his single mom and yearns for his dad’s love, although Dad has a pregnant girlfriend living in the countryside. His 17-year-old cousin Trudy comes to stay and his bedroom is her corridor to the bathroom. Josh’s obsession with a lovely classmate and his fear of showering after gym class lead him to fake an excuse for missing school; his adventures on his own adds to the reader’s enjoyment and empathy.

This is an appealing coming-of-age story that speaks to every teenage guy, plus a wealth of information for the teen girl seeking to understand those mysterious creatures. Erlings is a multi-talented Icelandic artist whose novel, recently translated into English, delineates with humor and poignancy that difficult journey from adolescence to manhood. Highly recommended for anyone 12 and up.

Judith A. Hayn
Little Rock, AR

Getting over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald
Candlewick, 2012, 336 pp., $16.99

Relationships/Self-Empowerment
ISBN: 978-0-76365-507-5

When Sadie and Garrett meet at a coffeehouse, she is sure she’s met her soulmate. She changes her tastes and appearance to fit his tastes, and before she knows it, her identity is interwoven with his. Despite these efforts, Garrett regards her as his best friend while falling in love with others. During the two years of their friendship, Sadie has helped Garrett recover from more than one broken heart, but when he falls in love once again while at camp, Sadie is ready for change. With the help of her former friend and her new co-workers, she embarks on a recovery program to break her addiction to Garrett and reclaim her identity. The book is filled with many amusing passages while delivering a much-needed message about giving away too much of ourselves during romances. Like Sadie, readers may realize that they need not define themselves solely through a love relationship.

Barbara A. Ward
Pullman, WA

Guilty by Norah McClintock
Orca Book Publishers, 2012, 219 pp., $12.95

Realistic Fiction/Mystery
ISBN 978-1-55469-989-6

Finn may not have liked his stepmother, but that doesn’t mean he likes watching her be shot in front of his house. His father reacts and kills the gunman, which launches Finn’s journey through his past once he learns it was the same man who killed his biological mother when he was a child. At the same time, Lila, the daughter of the killer, learns that her newly-released-from-prison father is dead. She has barely had time to get to know him, and he is already gone. She tries to figure out the truth, leading Finn to question everything he knows.

The pretense for the story implies excitement and intrigue, but while the characters do experience it, the reader does not. McClintock writes a tale that should be suspenseful but isn’t, and while the novel is an enjoyable read, it does not fulfill its potential.

Kate Mitchell
Cape Elizabeth, ME

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012, 272 pp., $16.99

Romance/Art/Self-Expression
ISBN: 978-0-37586-953-2

Senior year has ended, and Lucy and her friends spend the night in pursuit of Shadow, the elusive street artist she desperately wants to meet. After all, they have much in common since she, too, is a glassblowing artist. Inevitably, the girls pair off with some locals. Lucy ends up with Ed, who is nothing like Shadow. Or is he? Things are awkward at times, but the three couples also experience moments of closeness as well. The author alternates the story through the voices of Lucy and Ed as well as interspersing poetry from Ed’s friend Leo. While teens often bond through music, these teens connect through images, colors, and poetry. The book’s sometimes edgy tone hinting of underlying violence is leavened by its humor. Older teen readers will cherish these quirky characters for their independence and for the secrets they’re hiding. One important night foreshadows possibilities for each character.

Barbara A. Ward
Pullman, WA

Hollyweird by Terri Clark.
Flux Publishers, 2012. 240 pp., $9.99

Paranormal
ISBN: 978-0-7387-1925-2

Hollyweird embodies the popularity of the paranormal fiction Terri Clark writes for teens. Constant struggles between good and evil are central to her work. Romance, intrigue, trickery, and mythology surround the main characters: Aly King, bff Des, pop culture idol Dakota Danvers (son of Lucifer), and Dakota’s assistant Jameson (a fallen angel).

Aly has won a trip to meet Dakota for a week of photo shoots and more She invites Des, but is encumbered by an older sister “chaperone” with her own agenda. Jameson’s preordained responsibility and his last chance at redemption is to prevent Dakota Danvers from completing his evil scheme to free all of Hollywood’s preternatural creatures in disguise. Frequent plot twists and a text-messaging God keep the adventure moving and make this a satisfying read for fans.

Maggie Freeburn
Denver, CO

Hope and Tears: Ellis Island Voices by Gwenyth Swain
Calkins Creek Books, 2012, 115 pp., $ 17.95

Immigration/Families
ISBN: 978-1-59078-765-6

Ellis Island, a small island near New York City, served as an entry point into this nation for twelve million immigrants from 1892 to 1954. Relying on oral histories collected there, the author creates letters, diary entries, poems, monologues, and dialogues to channel the imagined voices of those who passed this way, beginning in 1500 with a Lenni Lenape boy and concluding in 2012 with a National Park Service employee. The six chapters detail the island’s history and offer intriguing anecdotes about the contributions some immigrants made to their new home. For instance, an immigrant named Guastavino used 28,832 terra-cotta tiles to cover the ceiling of the Registry Room in 1918. When restoration work began decades later, only 17 tiles had to be replaced. Many of the stories are inspiring yet haunting, perfect for performance pieces. The accompanying photographs show excitement over new beginnings mingled with fear of the unknown.

Barbara A. Ward
Pullman, WA

I Am (not) the Walrus by Ed Briant
Flux, 2012, 288 pp., $ 9.95

Adventure/Suspense/Realistic Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-7387-3246-6

Set in the 1990s in Great Britain, Briant’s new novel, I Am (not) the Walrus, has it all—adventurous characters, well-tuned humor, music for the rock soul, and mystery of the past.

Toby and Zack, two high school students, are about to hit it big with their first public appearance playing as a new cover band for The Beatles. While repairing an electric bass guitar, Toby recovers an old, faded note with a plea to return the stolen instrument to its owner. He realizes that the bass may be worth thousands of dollars if it is one of the Fenders that was in the hands of George Harrison. Bewildered by this discovery, Toby shares his concerns with his best friend and band mate, who suggests forgetting about the note and keeping the instrument. His new girlfriend, Michelle, however, convinces Toby to begin a search for the bass’s owner.

Leylja Emiraliyeva-Pitre,
Baton Rouge, LA

Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Amulet Press, 2012, 295 pp., $16.95

Young Adult Fiction/Humor
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0176-4

Greg Gaines is many things: a “surprise Jew,” a self-made filmmaker, and an honest friend who just wants to survive high school, but a novel writer he is not (or so he says). As he tries to avoid the awkwardness of high school and get by with being everyone’s (and therefore, no one’s) friend, he gets a little more attention than he wants when he starts to hang out with a girl who has cancer. It will take the honesty of his true friends, like Earl, and more discomfort than he could imagine to get him to appreciate what he has to offer.

Throughout the book, it’s as if you’re being tickled for a little too long: you laugh so hard you want to cry, even though it hurts a little. Andrews could not have done a better job making a charming, witty, self-deprecating commentary on the high-school human condition.

Claire Holman
Fairfax, VA

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
Graphia/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010, 174 pp., $8.99

Anorexia/Fiction/Fantasy
ISBN: 978-0-547-34124.8

Lisabeth Lewis is Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Having just lost her best friend to terrible accusations, about to lose her boyfriend, struggling to ignore the Thin voice’s whispering, and warring with her hunger daily, Lisabeth is startled to hear Death knocking on her door. What follows after her confused, drug-induced acceptance of his golden scales is a tale of great power and even greater courage.

Though Lisabeth’s control teeters on a precipice, cloaked all in black while atop her horse, she relishes the immensity of her power as Famine. While Death walks Lisabeth through her journey, War and her vicious red steed lurk around every corner, rousing a battle from which neither the troubled teen, nor Famine, can turn away.

Jackie Morse Kessler weaves a story of despair, hope, and unbelievable power through a seventeen-year-old’s painful journey with anorexia.

Kirstin Slitt
West Hartford, CT

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Quirk Books, 2011, 352 pp., $17.99

Fantasy/Adventure/Love
ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

A strange “accidental death” in the family and a strange message from his dead grandfather lead the 16-year-old Jacob to a mysterious island off the coast of Wales. When there, he attempts to find the orphanage his grandfather lived in during WWII after escaping Germany. He finds it, old and decrepit in the middle of a bog. When he goes inside, though, he steps into a portal, travelling back in time into a “loop” where the same day repeats over and over but the rest of the world goes on. There he meets the kids his Grandfather grew up with, only they are still no older than 18 or 19.

He becomes enamored of the past, instead of the modern world. Follow Jacob as he attempts to find out the truth about these very peculiar children and his own grandfather.

Henry Robinson,
Baton Rouge, LA

Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie
Candlewick, 2012, 352 pp., $16.99

Relationships/Loss/War/Abuse
ISBN: 978-0-76365-527-3

Reeling from his older brother T.J.’s death during the Iraq war, seventeen-year-old Matt Foster happens upon passionate letters and photographs that offer clues to his brother’s secret life. Matt becomes convinced that he must follow their lead to Wisconsin where he might make sense of T.J.’s death and meet a child possibly fathered by T.J. Borrowing a car from his best friend Shauna and putting their budding romantic relationship on hold, he leaves Pennsylvania looking for answers and to deliver an unopened letter from T.J. Once he reaches Madison, what he finds is not what he had imagined, and readers’ hearts will ache for what might have been. This is an important story, another aspect of the consequences of war and of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that encouraged dishonesty. Told with grace and empathy by a skillful novice author, this title lingers in a reader’s mind and steeps us in loss mingled with possibilities.

Barbara A. Ward
Pullman, WA

Outlaw by Stephen Davies
Clarion Books, 2011, 289 pp., $16.99

Fiction/Adventure
ISBN: 978-0-547-39017-8

Jake Knight has the heart of an adventurer, but he is trapped in a suffocating British boarding school while his father, the British Ambassador to Burkina Faso, and the rest of his family lead far more exciting lives in Africa. After getting caught sneaking out of school, Jake gets suspended and is on the first flight out to Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, anxious to begin new adventures.

Suddenly, Jake finds himself on more of an adventure than he bargained for when he is kidnapped and must fight for his life. Drawing on his own ingenuity and using every survival skill he has, Jake tries desperately to stay alive. He quickly realizes that his kidnappers aren’t who they appear to be, but can he discover the truth before it’s too late? Based on his own experiences living in Africa, Davies weaves a clever and suspenseful tale that will engage readers until the very end.

Caroline Wilson
Houston, TX

Plunder by Mary Anna Evans
Poisoned Pen Press, 2012, 296 pp., $14.95

Mystery/Environment/Family
ISBN: 978-1-59058-931-1

An oil spill is a disaster on its own. Throw in an archaeology project in danger, a double murder, and a greedy family, and things just become a mess. That is the allure of Plunder. The murder mystery is engaging and the greedy characters make for great entertainment. The author seems to be very knowledgeable about archaeology and the environment and incorporates these into the story well.

As a native of Louisiana, seeing stereotypes of the state in books, movies, and television can get quite tiring. These seemed to pop up often in Plunder. The babysitter practiced voodoo and people daydreamed of Mardi Gras balls when it was still April; despite the media’s portrayal, these things don’t happen as often in real life as people expect them to. For those who don’t mind this, though, or who love fiction about archaeology or the environment, Plunder is a good read.

Kirkley Norton
Baton Rouge, LA

Stand Up! How to Stay True to Yourself by Christine Laouenan
Amulet Books, 2012, 80 pp., $12.95

Self-help
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0198-6

Stand Up! How to Stay True to Yourself focuses on an issue with which many young adolescents struggle—standing up for themselves. It addresses the pressures of adolescence that come from parents, authority figures, friends, and even from one’s self. Stand Up! encourages its readers to establish and affirm their own beliefs, values, and individualities. While it may seem important to fit in, children should learn from a young age that it is more rewarding to be comfortable and confident in one’s own skin.

Stand Up! emphasizes the importance of respecting one’s self while also maintaining respect for others; even while saying no, one should be patient, logical, and kind. In expressing their own emotions, adolescents should also be cognizant of the emotions of those around them. Overall, Stand Up! asserts that saying no is not synonymous with rejection, but rather it is significant in maintaining one’s independence and self-respect.

Victoria Cortes
Nashville, TN

The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald
Candlewick Press, 2011, 280 pp., $16.99

Fiction/Teen
ISBN: 978-0-7634-4956-2

“It was supposed to be freaking perfect,” Bliss thinks as she prepares for her high school prom. Prom night is filled with dresses, dancing, and dates; however, for Bliss Merino, Jolene Nelson, and Meg Rose Zuckerman, it becomes a night they will never forget. With a popular girl, an outcast, and a wallflower, the three girls team up to seek revenge on the boyfriend and best friend that have ruined this night for Bliss. After discovering a journal that belongs to the best friend, the three girls attempt to carry out their revenge, but their plan backfires. Despite spending an entire night together, the girls find themselves dealing with drama that could potentially lead to an end to their friendships. They discover how much they would be willing to sacrifice for someone they barely even know.

Libby Byrnes
Alpharetta, GA

Sweet, Hereafter by Angela Johnson
Simon & Schuster, 2010, 118 pp., $16.99

Identity/Tragedy/Romance
ISBN: 978-1-4169-9865-5

A lost soul just trying to find her way, Shoogy can’t seem to figure out this thing called life or where she belongs in it. School definitely isn’t her thing, she just can’t make it work with her family, and the one thing she remembers a psychic telling her is that she was destined to come and go. In this world of uncertainty, the only thing that seems to be constant is her relationship with Curtis. Curtis and Shoogy might not be able to understand anything else, but they understand each other, and that is what gets them through this life haunted by war, prejudice, and trauma.

Adversity wears many hats and can come in the form of the Iraqi war, or in the form of a tragic loss. But,the real question for Curtis, Shoogy, and every other young person, is: how will you live in spite of the adversity?

Jeuel A. Davis
Clemson, SC

The Catastrophic History of You & Me by Jess Rothenberg
Dial Books, 2012, 400 pp., $17.99

Romance/Fantasy
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3720-4

Sometimes love hurts, but is it really possible to die from a broken heart? As Brie Eagan is about to discover, the answer is yes. When her boyfriend breaks up with her, her life ends with the literal splitting of her heart. Soon, she finds herself in heaven where she meets Patrick, a funny but mysterious boy who helps guide her through the five stages of grief. As she makes her way from denial to acceptance, Brie not only receives a crash course in all things related to the afterlife, but also lessons in life and love. In her novel, The Catastrophic History of You & Me, Jess Rothenberg weaves together a creative and funny story about a girl who must pick up the broken pieces of her heart and learn to love again.

Diana Liu
Nashville, TN

The Children and the Wolves by Adam Rapp
Candlewick Press, 2012, 160 pp., $16.99

Darkness/Violence/Poverty
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5337-8

In this psychological thriller, you experience an urban community through the eyes of three teenagers and the three-year-old they kidnap. Bounce is a smart, tough girl that won’t stand down from a fight no matter how big, and has a good grip of what the world is, not what it is cracked up to be. She technically lives with her parents, but never sees them. Orange lives with his physically and arguably mentally disabled father. Wiggins lives with his marijuana- and heroin-addicted mother. The only intelligent teen out of the three is Bounce, making her the de facto leader of their trio. They decide one day to steal Frog, a three-year-old girl, and keep her in the unsanitary basement of an apartment building. Frog plays a game called The Children and the Wolves, which oddly mirrors the circumstances she and the trio go through. Follow the trio through murder, sexual deviance, and crime. Experience Wiggins’s inner debate—to be a part of the life of crime and immorality he knows, or to do what he knows is right.

Henry Robinson,
Baton Rouge, LA

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Dutton Juvenile, 2012, 313 pp., $17.99

Fiction / Illness
ISBN: 978-0-525-47881-2

Hazel Grace Lancaster has terminal cancer. On top of her life-sustaining oxygen tank and doctor visits, she attends weekly Support Group meetings to help deal with her illness. It is at one of these meetings where she meets Augustus Waters, a cancer patient in remission. Using Augustus’s leftover make-a-wish, the two set off for answers about Hazel’s favorite book, finding companionship and love along the way.

John Green tells the story of two teenagers with cancer struggling to find their place and purpose in the world. Holding little back in his depiction of this ailment, he allows for his characters to grow through their shared hardships and triumphs. Hazel and Augustus meet in Support Group, but they gain far more than support. They gain a sense of purpose and find out what it means to be not dying of cancer but living with it.

Zachary Oswanski
Sylvania, OH

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
Scholastic Press, 2011, 278 pp., $17.99

Dystopian Fiction/Identity
ISBN: 978-0-545-29014-2

Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn has grown up in a world without hope. Ravaged by war and disease, America has been transformed into a rugged wasteland filled with desperate, violent criminals. As Stephen and his father struggle to stay alive, they encounter a band of slave traders; in the ensuing tussle, Stephen’s father is gravely wounded and Stephen is left to fend for himself. By some stroke of luck, Stephen runs into a group of survivors clinging to remnants of pre-war America. In their seemingly utopian society, Stephen has the opportunity to start afresh. Will Stephen’s fear and skepticism prevent him from achieving happiness or will these traits save his life and the lives of everyone around him?

Jeff Hirsch paints a chillingly convincing picture of post-apocalyptic life in America. Although the world Stephen fights against seems distant, his struggles—for survival as well as for love and happiness—seem surprisingly real.

Alex Ivey
Brentwood, TN

The Knife and the Butterfly by Ashley Hope Perez
Carolrhoda Books, 2012, 264 pp., $17.95

Gangs/Family/Grief
ISBN: 978-0-7613-6156-5

After a violent confrontation with a rival gang, Azael wakes up in a juvenile detention center, an environment that he knows well. The familiarity of these surroundings, however, belies something much stranger and more profound than Azael could begin to expect from this experience—he isn’t allowed to call anyone, hasn’t met with a lawyer, and is made to observe a fellow inmate, Lexi, through one-way glass for hours at a time. Azael’s caseworker, Gabe, cryptically insists that there isn’t much time left for Azael to accomplish what he is supposed to do through these observations. As Azael pieces Lexi’s life together, he is struck by how familiar they both are with loss—home, family, friends, safety, and stability. Is this what Gabe wants him to figure out, or is there something else?

Perez gives the reader sympathetic yet critical insight into the world of gangs in Houston, Texas, and is careful to show the narratives of loss that drive so many young people to join them.

Jesse Gray
Nashville, TN

The Prisoner of Snowflake Falls by John Lekich
Orca Book Publishers, 2012, 266 pp., $12.95

Young Adult Fiction/Humor
ISBN: 978-1-55469-978-0

What would you do if thieves had raised you and you were homeless at age fifteen? Henry Holloway treats his “benefactors” as if he were a guest in their homes, and he loves his life and his privacy. With his mom gone to try and make an honest living, and his uncle’s dishonest teachings leading to the opposite, he’s happy to make ends meet on his own. This all comes to an end when he eventually gets caught, and has to make ends meet in a new town: Snowflake Falls. Henry learns through experience that gaining people’s trust makes you rise to their expectations, and helps those around you find happiness in unlikely places.

Lekich could not paint a more charming picture of likeable thieves. You’ll find yourself rooting for the unlikeliest of heroes and wanting to watch them until the very end.

Claire Holman
Fairfax, VA

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson
Peachtree, 2012, 176 pp., $19.95

Nonfiction/ Civil Rights
ISBN: 978-1-56145-627-7

This book describes the pivotal role of youth in keeping the 1963 campaign for civil rights alive through the voices of four participants: Audrey Hendricks, 9; Wash Booker, 14; Arnetta Streeter, 16; and James Stewart, 15. While readers will find the names of well-known civil rights leaders in the book’s 15 chapters, the children and teens are the stars here, brave enough to face violence on the streets of Birmingham and to volunteer to be arrested. Because so many young protesters were arrested as they marched through the city’s streets, its jails overflowed, and law enforcement officials couldn’t keep up with the mass onslaught. Accompanied by large archival photographs, the book features honest and raw narratives recalling the hope and determination of those times, a vivid reminder of the impact on change even the youngest may have. There is much food for thought here about events from almost 50 years ago.

Barbara A. Ward
Pullman, WA

Travel Team: Forced Out by Gene Fehler
Lerner Publishing Group, 2012, 115 pp., $7.95

Sports
ISBN: 978-0-7613-8533-2

Competition is the byword for the story of Forced Out. Zack Waddell is the starting second basemen for the ninth-ranked baseball team in the country for its age group. His cerebral approach to the game has made him a team leader and has aided in the formation of team chemistry. But with Dustin Conover, the son of a rich tycoon who has agreed to fund a team trip, joining the team, the team’s chances to win the tournament are put in jeopardy, as are friendships.

The book does demonstrate an excellent knowledge of the game of baseball and its intricacies. Fehler attempts to delve into the complex arena of teen friendships within the realm of sports, specifically baseball. This context provides a venue by which the reader can see sacrifice and selflessness in action, as he/she also reads about the action of the game.

Alec Woodhull
Nashville, TN

Publishers who wish to submit a book for possible review should send a copy of the book to:
Melanie Hundley
1021 Delmas Ave.
Nashville, TN 37216-3630

To submit a review for possible publication or to become a reviewer, contact Melanie Hundley at melanie.hundley@Vanderbilt.edu.


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