A Girl Named Digit
by Annabel Monaghan
Houghton Mifflin, 2012, 187 pp., $16.99
Young Adult Fiction/Espionage
Farrah Higgins has a secret. She seems like your average teenager, but she’s actually Digit, math genius extraordinaire. When her supersonic brain became a problem in middle school, though, Digit went into hiding. Now a senior, Farrah’s goal is to lay low until she can join her mathematically inclined peers at MIT. One afternoon, while watching television, she stumbles onto a number sequence, throwing herself into the center of a terrorist plot. As she and John, her dreamy FBI caretaker, navigate the world of espionage, Farrah realizes that maybe she didn’t need to hide Digit all this time. But now, Farrah has bigger problems. She has to stay one step ahead of the terrorists, because they don’t care if she’s Farrah or Digit—they just want her dead. Annabel Monaghan seamlessly weaves together quirky characters, clever dialogue, and non-stop action in this exciting novel.
Break My Heart 1,000 Times
by Daniel Waters
Hyperion, 2012, 352 pp., $16.99
In the aftermath of The Event, which extinguished the lives of millions of people within seconds, ghosts have become commonplace images among the living. Indeed, every morning Veronica briefly sits down to breakfast with her father, who has been dead for years. Every day she and her mother are forced to relive losing him, their hearts broken again and again.
One of Veronica’s high school teachers, Mr. Bittner, also struggles with loss, but he copes differently, seeking a new victim through whom he might resurrect his dead daughter, Eva. As the anniversary of Eva’s death once again approaches, he becomes convinced Veronica will be the perfect host for his beloved child. Veronica and her new crush, Kirk, embark on a project to investigate the appearance of ghosts around town and must unearth the mysteries of Mr. Bittner’s past, lest Veronica become just another ghost by his hand.
Castle of Shadows
by Ellen Renner
Houghton Mifflin, 2010, 390 pp., $15.99
Princess Charlotte Augusta Joanna Hortense of Quale, or Charlie to her friends, has not seen her mother in five years since her mysterious disappearance. Now, her father spends all his time shut up in his bedroom, building card castles while the kingdom is beginning to plot rebellion. One day, Charlie finds a valuable clue to where her mother may be, but her freedom is limited under the hateful eye of Mrs. O’Dair, the castle’s housekeeper. She does not know whom she can trust within the castle walls, but will have to find out soon or face the consequences.
Charlie speaks with the straightforwardness of a child, and her quest to find her mother becomes a journey to find her own self-worth and identity. Her courage is inspiring as she risks her own safety to save those around her.
North Brunswick, NJ
by April Lindner
Brown/Poppy, 2013, 320 pp., $17.99
Relationships/Romance/Obsession/ Classics Little,
A tragic yet undying love is at the center of this edgy modern retelling of Wuthering Heights (Brontë, 1847), as the story alternates between Catherine and, 20 years later, her daughter Chelsea. After Chelsea finds a hidden letter from her long-missing mother, she travels to The Underground, an exclusive club in New York that belonged to her grandfather and where her mother grew up and fell in love. Upon her arrival, Chelsea is befriended by budding musician Cooper who works at the club, but she fears its owner, Hence, because of his violent fits of anger. While staying in her mother’s old room, Chelsea finds her mother’s diary describing the growing closeness and passion between her and Hence. The misunderstanding that severs the lovers’ bond seems quite likely, and the impulsive reactions of Hence and Quentin, Catherine’s brother, seem true to their natures, possibly inspiring a search for copies of the original love story on which this one is based.
Barbara A. Ward
Come August, Come Freedom: The Bellows, The Gallows, and the Black General Gabriel
by Gigi Amateua
Candlewick, 2012, 240 pp., $16.99
A slave named Gabriel is unable to both defend the love of his life and earn the money to buy her freedom, so he makes a decision. Freedom for just his own family is not enough. Using the forge to turn pitchforks into swords and his eloquence to turn dreams into rallying cries, Gabriel plots a rebellion involving thousands of slaves, free blacks, poor whites, and Native Americans.
Amateua’s storytelling is outstanding in this book as she tells the story of a slave showing how horrible slavery was. Everything that Gabriel goes through becomes a driving force behind his starting a Revolution to bring liberty to those who have been wronged in their lives. This story shows Gabriel putting everything on the line to achieve freedom for everyone he cares about. After reading this book, I think that Gabriel is a true hero.
Baton Rouge, LA
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel
by Jeff Kinney
Amulet Books, 2012, 224 pp., $13.95
Bestselling author Jeff Kinney has done it again. The seventh episode of his Diary of a Wimpy Kid series brings hilarious joy to any reader as his cartoon illustrations successfully resurrect the memories of our middle school days.
It’s February and you know what that means. Love is in the air, and Greg Heffley is stuck in the middle of it all. The upcoming Valentine’s Day dance has turned Greg’s world upside down as he and his best friend, Rowley, scramble to find dates for the dance. An unexpected twist soon grants Greg a partner, and Rowley is left the odd man out. However, the night has just begun and things are about to change. Who will find love? Kinney’s heartwarming story, filled with twists-and-turns, is guaranteed to transport any reader to a state of a pure delight.
by Margaret Wiley
Carolrhoda LAB, 2012, 288 pp., $17.95
It was a simple plan, really. But sometimes, the best-laid plans can go terribly wrong. After being tormented by golden boy Chase Dobson for so long, Katie, Nate, and Renata decide that they’ve finally had enough. Together, the three best friends create a plan to kidnap Chase. All they want to do is scare him a little so that he’ll leave them and their secrets alone. At first, their plan seems to be working, but soon things take an unexpected turn, and they find themselves in way deeper with Chase than they ever thought they would be. Weaving together mysterious journal entries, vivid graphics, and fascinating characters, Margaret Wiley has created a riveting story that will have readers turning pages until the very end. Four Secrets is a unforgettable book that will leave readers questioning the fine line between well-deserved justice and cold-hearted revenge.
by Lana Krumwiede
Candlewick Press, 2012, 309 pp., $15.99
In the great walled city of Deliverance, where everyone possesses telekinetic abilities called psi, being different is dangerous. Twelve-year-old Taemon possesses a unique form of telekinesis that allows him to send his mind into objects to see how they work. When Taemon gets into an unfortunate accident, he loses his psi. People without psi are banished to the Powerless Colony. So now Taemon must hide his lack of psi if he wishes to continue living with his family in Deliverance. But in a society where simple tasks such as eating and brushing your teeth are done using psi, hiding this secret will prove to be an impossible task.
Krumwiede successfully incorporates the idea of telekinesis into her novel to make the fictional society appear to be realistic. She incorporates sports, family, conflict, and morality into a thought-provoking story that most readers will enjoy.
Baton Rouge, LA
Henry Franks: A Novel
by Peter Adam Salomon
Flux, 2012, 288 pp., $9.99
Peter Adam Salomon’s dark and suspenseful debut novel Henry Franks: A Novel depicts the journey of 16-year-old Henry Franks as he struggles to solve the mysteries of his past. He can’t seem to discover who he truly is behind his thousands of scars caused by a near-fatal accident, or at least that’s what his peculiarly distant father says. Having only a scrapbook filled with unfamiliar faces and events, Henry is forced to rely on the help of his therapist and his affectionate next-door neighbor to uncover the facts. Are Henry’s disturbing dreams about murder and names he doesn’t recognize in any way connected to the long list of serial murders on St. Simon’s Island?
While Henry doesn’t let the other characters or the reader into the depths of his thoughts, he proves to be a likeable character through his simple conversations and struggle for self-discovery. Salomon creates a mysterious and creepy story with unexpected plot twists sure to keep the reader feeling uneasy and guessing until the last page.
by Ryan Inzana
Dutton Books, 2013, 288 pp., $17.99
After completing high school with an impeccable GPA, sheltered Allyson Healey goes on a European tour as a graduation gift. But Europe isn’t what she’s expecting. It’s somewhat lackluster—that is, until she meets a charismatic actor, Willem, at an underground Shakespeare performance. When the two meet again by chance, Allyson becomes “Lulu” and decides to visit Paris for a day with this charming stranger. They spend an unforgettable 24 hours together, but the next morning, Willem is gone, leaving her questioning everything she knows about herself. As Allyson begins college, she finds herself embarking on a new kind of journey, one of self-discovery, evolving friendships, and ultimately, finding love. In Just One Day, Gayle Forman paints a breathtaking story filled with rich imagery and deeply flawed characters. After reading this stunning novel, readers will eagerly await Just One Year, its companion novel.
Just One Day
by Gayle Forman
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2012, 112 pp., $19.95
Although much has been written about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while he was in Memphis, little has been written about the sanitation strike itself. This book provides intriguing, little-known details about the time period and how the city’s mayor refused to budge from his practice of sending the sanitation workers home with little pay during bad weather or refusing to pay them overtime. In fact, he treated them like garbage, the collection of which was quite unpleasant in those days. The bleakness of poverty and lack of dignity as well as lives without hope made the strike almost inevitable.
Readers will shake their head in dismay at the stubbornness, short-sightedness, and racism that resulted in costly expenditures for police overtime and weapons rather than paying $44 for lost rainy-day wages. Archival photographs and reliance on primary sources lend a “you-are-here” element to the engaging narrative.
Marching to the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights, and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Hours
by Ann Bausum
Holiday House, 2012, 215 pp., $16.95
Young Adult Fiction/Romance/Traveling
In the near future, London becomes a city that faces frequent energy problems and is separated into two worlds. The privileged Citizens are rich in material possessions and live comfortable lives, but they are restrained by a strict ID censor system and are under the control of a military government and Kossak soldiers. The favela, home of the Outsiders, though lacking in possessions and safety, grants its residents freedom. Hunter Nash, a Citizen boy whose father works for the government, yearns for the freedom of the Outsiders and accidentally steps in their world because of an Outsider girl, Uma. In order to protect a package that contains important data about the Outsiders’ revolutionary organization, Hunter and Uma venture around London to find the new Keeper. Though they endure a Kossak attack and suffer from the forced betrayal of friends, they manage to keep the data safe, and Hunter decides to become an Outsider.
Barbara A. Ward
by Saci Lloyd
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012, 119 pp., $16.99 I
Civil Rights/History/Poverty/Social Justice
June was supposed to have the perfect summer swimming in the lake, exploring the woods with her friend Luke, and entering her pie in the Champlain Valley Fair. If only her Mom weren’t planning on marrying Eva right after the civil union law was passed. If only everyone in town wasn’t making a huge deal out of everything. June just can’t see how they can be nice to her and then hate her family. And Eva’s upfront attitude isn’t helping either—like any other parent, she puts June in awkward social situations. Amidst mixed feelings about Eva, friendship crises, and objections from the townspeople, June gains the courage to stand up for what is important. She is just a typical 12-year-old, trying to make sense of the world, be accepted by her friends, and spend some quality time with her Moms.
Ka Yuen Cheung
My Mixed-up Berry Blue Summer
by Jennifer Gennari
Amulet Books, 2012, 259 pp., $15.95
Julio “Flinch” Escala is a student of Thomas Knowlton Middle School. He has to deal with his challenging double identity, teachers who always pick on him, and the unfriendly principal who labels him as a juvenile delinquent. Secretly, Flinch is an agent for N.E.R.D.S., the National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society, whose mission is to save the world. His superpower is hyperactivity, and he acquires it from candy bars and sugary sodas. Flinch and his teammates save Paris from bombing, Manhattan from shrinking, and Hollywood from extermination.
They soon find out that the giant head of Heathcliff, a former member of NERDS who turned into a villain but was defeated, is the source of all the troubles: Heathcliff’s nanobyte is the Villain Virus that changes everyone into villains. Flinch, the only agent who is immune to it, finally defeats Heathcliff with the help of a group of juvenile delinquents.
N.E.R.D.S.: The Villain Virus
by Michael Buckley
Candlewick, 2012, 128 pp., $15.99
Back in 1998, Matthew Shepard was beaten and left for dead in a rural part of Wyoming, an event that received widespread media coverage. This collection of 68 poems from different perspectives offers up ruminations on that tragic October event. The author examines the thoughts of the fence where Matthew was tied, the rope with which he was tied, the pistol with which he was beaten, and the truck in which he was driven out of town. Although there are many lines that will make readers sigh and weep over the inhumanity of humans, there are also passages that celebrate the essential goodness of humankind, offering hope for the future.
Back matter includes notes on each poem, an explanation of the poetic forms the author uses to tell Matthew’s story, and a resource list. This is a stunning reminder of what is lost as the result of bigotry and hatred.
Ka Yuen Cheung
October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard
by Leslea Newman
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013, 352 pp., $17.99
Newly graduated Rebecca Muir is ready to begin college in New York City, fulfilling her dreams of studying architecture and working for a large firm. As she dithers over those plans and her romantic relationship, her beloved father drops a bombshell. Although he just moved the family across country from their Puget Sound home to a New Jersey mansion, he is in love with another woman. Shaken by his betrayal, Reb questions everything she thought was true. When her maternal grandfather provides tickets to Hawaii, she and her family travel there to heal, and Reb realizes that she has been living out her father’s dreams and not her own.
Several of the passages are beautifully written, evoking a sense of place and establishing Reb as a protagonist who actually does something. This book is an excellent choice for many teens who are too reliant on their significant others for their own identities.
Barbara A. Ward
Return to Me
by Justina Chen
Point, 2012, 260 pp., $17.99
Two things have been haunting Ever Davies since her mother’s death five years ago: her weight and Skinny, a terrible voice that narrates all of her classmates’ disgusted thoughts. After years of distancing herself from the world, Ever makes the choice to undergo a risky surgery in order to take back her life. It is a success, and encouraged by her newfound confidence, Ever decides to audition for the school musical. But soon, she finds herself being pulled back by Skinny’s poisonous presence. It isn’t until Ever remembers how much she loves singing that she realizes she must stand up against Skinny, once and for all, in order to break free from the vicious voice that has silenced her for so long. In her debut novel, Donna Cooner tells the powerful story of a young woman who adamantly fights for the right for her voice to be heard.
Barbara A. Ward
by Donna Cooner
Abrams/Amulet Books, 2013, 384 pp., $17.95
Hardly the typical teen, Alyssa Gardner can hear the thoughts of insects and plants just like her hospitalized mother can. Her father has finally given permission for shock treatment to help her mother recover from her delusions, but Alyssa realizes that the voices she hears aren’t delusions at all. On the night of the school prom, desperate to prevent the shock treatments, she is lured through the looking glass by Morpheus, someone she remembers from her childhood. Amid confusion over who is friend and who is foe, Alyssa is expected to repair all the problems when her ancestor, the original Alice from the Lewis Carroll stories, entered the rabbit hole. The author has created a credible world through which Alyssa and hunky neighbor Jed move,; it is by turns alluring and horrifying. Wonderland evokes more fear than wonder, and yet, it is there that Alyssa discovers romantic possibilities and her own true nature.
by A. G.
Holiday House, 2013, 115 pp., $16.95
Young Adult Fiction/Body Image
“First Kids” Cammie, Tessa, and their cousin Nate prove that life in the White House is never boring when they attend the Museum of Natural History’s grand opening of its new dinosaur exhibit, and a recently discovered dinosaur egg cracks open on the spot! When the egg reveals a baby ostrich instead of a dinosaur, the First Kids set off on a new adventure (with the help of their always energetic dog Hooligan) to find the missing dinosaur egg belonging to the exhibit.
In this far-fetched but enjoyable tale, Cammie, Tessa, and Nate are launched into a political mystery as they investigate the goings-on at an Embassy of a certain nearby nation, visit an ostrich farm, and hunt for clues around the museum—all the while fulfilling their duties at the White House Easter Egg Roll.
Barbara A. Ward
The Case of the Missing Dinosaur Egg
by Martha Freeman
Hyperion, 2012, 488 pp., $17.99
Howard Fantasy/Romance/Inspired by Classics
In the not-too-distant future, a disease known as Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration, or IAAN, will wipe out a majority of America’s young adult population. The survivors will be labeled as the Psi—a generation endowed with uncontrollable and frightening powers of telekinesis. In response, the federal government develops rehabilitation camps for anyone exhibiting symptoms. After six years inside Thurmond, the most notorious of the rehab camps, Ruby escapes and joins a band of non-psi kids who are also on the run.
Ruby is well aware of the dangers her gifts pose to her new friends and how valuable they are to the anti-government agencies still hunting her. Somehow Ruby must find a way to control her powers and learn who she can and cannot trust. Bracken tells a compelling story of friendship, betrayal, and survival inside a new community of American adolescents.
The Darkest Minds
by Alexandra Bracken
Egmont USA, 2012, 368 pp., $16.99
Set a thousand years after the end of Lancaster’s previous work, this is the story of Peter Vincent, the son of the man who invented the electric bee. Peter’s life is a perpetual flood of incoming data from the Link, which every human is hard-wired into at all times. Over the course of his tale, Peter encounters ghosts in pictures, altered memories, and a cult on the trail of an ancient conspiracy. All are in pursuit of the answer to a dangerous question: can the Link be trusted?
Lancaster plays with some of the well-known tropes of the genre, but also uses some shockingly Lovecraftian storytelling. Along the way, he challenges our modern overreliance on technology and what it means to be human in a world where the lines between technology and its users are blurred.
Human.4: The Future We Left Behind
by Mike A. Lancaster
Amulet Books, 2012, 304 pp., $16.95
Maya Parson wants nothing else but to go on an expedition and be a part of history in the making, much like her anthropologist mother does. When a mysterious expedition coincides with Maya’s spring break, Maya accompanies her father on a paleontology dig to the Canadian Arctic. As chaos begins to break out on the expedition, Maya is forced to act on her own to fight for what she believes is right.
Along with her friend Kyle, Maya schemes her way to uncovering the mystery surrounding the expedition and makes a choice that could jeopardize the entire trip. Throughout the adventure, Maya will learn lessons in responsibility, compassion, and human nature, all the while growing up. Who can you trust to do the right thing?
The Icarus Project
by Laura Quimby
Candlewick, 2012, 176 pp., $22.99
When winter comes unexpectedly early in 1897, eight whaling ships and 300 sailors are stranded in the Arctic ice. Although a whaling station owner and some of the indigenous peoples provide shelter and food, there is little doubt that supplies will run out before warmer weather arrives. This engaging nonfiction title describes the journey of three men who traveled across the frozen Alaskan territory driving herds of reindeer ahead of them, a sort of Meals on Wheels (or Hooves) to bring food to the whalers. The courage of David Jarvis, Samuel Call, and Ellsworth Bertholf, the three stalwart men who risked their lives so that others might survive, will impress teen readers. Photographs and brief vignettes describing what happened to the men after the mission add to the story’s appeal. Readers will marvel at the stoicism of the dog teams, while also pondering recent environmental changes in the Arctic region.
The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure
by Martin W. Sandler
Feiwel and Friends, 2013, 464 pp., $17.99
Fantasy Adventure/Science Fiction
The Lunar Chronicles surprisingly combine elements of fairy tales and science fiction, with this second installment introducing Scarlet Benoit, who lives in the rural part of France where she grows vegetables with her grandmother. The red-haired and red hoodie-wearing Scarlet is worried about her missing grandmother. When she meets a fierce street fighter named Wolf with a strange tattoo, she accepts his help despite her misgivings, and they set off for Paris. Meanwhile, Linh Cinder, a Cinderella-like character who happens to be a cyborg, manages to escape from prison and look for links to her past.
Readers will race through the book’s pages to find out how the paths of these two strong female characters intersect, and to see whether Emperor Kai can stymie the treacherous Queen Levana. Filled with fascinating characters and twists, turns, and romantic possibilities, this book will leave readers desperately awaiting the next two promised titles.
Barbara A. Ward
The Lunar Chronicles: Scarlet
by Marissa Meyer
Cinco Puntos Press, 2012, 231 pp., $16.95
This collection of personal narratives documents the effects of war on children. Spanning decades across the globe, firsthand accounts are told from the perspectives of sons, fathers, friends, and sisters. “A Talib in Love” humanizes a young Taliban member as he searches for identity in the context of genuine ignorance. “Half a Continent, Step by Step” details the courageous survival of a Rwandan teen escaping genocide, only to be faced with despair as he traverses African borders. From the streets of Nazi-occupied Holland, to the chaos of El Salvador’s civil war, the sights and smells of death, resistance, and endurance come to life.
That Mad Game illuminates the astounding reach of war across generations. Themes of loneliness, doubt, and hope draw the reader closer to otherwise distant experiences. One cannot help but be transformed by these emotional journeys of survival, promoting dialogue that will empower peace for the future.
Barbara A. Ward
That Mad Game
edited by J. L. Powers
Orca, 2013, 222 pp., $12.95
Fairy Tales/Science Fiction/Romance
In addition to navigating life as a high school student, Tamar Robinson struggles to find her identity after losing her younger twin sisters in a tragic car accident. The grief affects each of her family members differently. Her dad begins to drink and becomes withdrawn, while her mom tries to make sense of the tragedy through yoga. How is Tamar dealing with the loss of two family members? She loses all her hair for no medical reason.
This is the story of how a once-typical teenager deals with normal high school events such as finding a first job, participating in the school play, attending prom, and questioning feelings for a best guy friend—all while her family unit slowly unravels. Readers will find themselves enamored by Tamar’s witty personality and her unwillingness to give up when faced with life’s struggles.
The New Normal
by Ashley Little
Houghton Mifflin, 2012, 146 pp., $15.99
Fourth grade was supposed to be Anna Wang’s best year yet, but when her best friend Laura shows up to school with a pair of new friends, things begin to go downhill. As if things weren’t bad enough, her mother decides that this will be the year that Anna finally learns Chinese! Saddened by Laura’s betrayal and frustrated by Chinese’s waytoo- complex characters, Anna retreats into her books. They are a cherished escape, leading her away from boredom and sadness to wonderful new worlds with adventures aplenty. But soon, tragedy strikes, and Anna must learn what it means to be a real friend. Interweaving multidimensional characters, familiar novels, and interesting bits of Chinese culture in The Year of the Book, Annabel Monaghan creates a wonderful story about a young girl navigating the ups and downs of friendship with a little help from some books.
The Year of the Book
by Annabel Monaghan
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, 267 pp., $16.99
Portia Remini loves nothing more than telling stories—especially to her father, Max. But when he goes away, just like her gypsy relatives, and leaves Portia with Aunt Sophia, Portia must adjust to a much less imaginative world. Aunt Sophia soon realizes that giving Portia a home is too great a challenge for her child-management skills, she resorts to an alternative method: the McGreavey Home for Wayward Girls, with its sinister director, Mister. If Portia ever wants to find Max, she knows she must escape Mister’s eerie control. What better route than the circus?
Wonder Show blends fairy-tale charm, history, and the quirks of life into an unorthodox novel. A fantastic journey of myth and murder, eccentricity and empathy, Portia’s adventures lead her in search of home. Portia may be a natural-born storyteller, but only by living her own story can she understand where she has been, and where she may go.
by Hannah Barnaby
Harry N. Abrams, 2013, 176 pp., $24.95
Perhaps most famous for her relationship with Beatle John Lennon, Yoko Ono was also an artist and musician in her own right. As is often the case with celebrities, fans of her husband’s band regarded her as a hanger-on, basking in reflected glory. Nothing could be further from the truth. The child of wealthy parents, Yoko led a privileged life in Japan where she attended the country’s best schools. Her own creative spirit prompted musical and artistic experimentation. Readers will gain a new appreciation for this complicated, determined woman compelled to push boundaries. Filled with insight about Yoko’s inspirations and acknowledgement of her character flaws, the text leaves readers curious and filled with admiration for how she faced down sexism, racism, and ageism. This biography must be savored while listening to some of her music and browsing through some of the book’s photos of the artist and her original artwork.
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