ALAN v41n2 - Clip & File YA Book Reviews

Volume 41, Number 2
Winter 2014

Clip & File YA Book Reviews

Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus
Amulet Books, 2013, 304 pp., $16.95

Historical Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0424-6

Sick by Tom Leveen
Amulet Books, 2013, 288 pp., $16.95

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0805-3

Espen, along with his family and friends, have watched the Nazis come and occupy their country. The war against the Germans was short, and the royal family has fledNorway for the allied countries. It would seem that all hope is lost, but Espen wants to find a way to fight the Nazis. His wish is granted as he becomes a courier for the secret resistance. After some time of doing this without failure, tragedy strikes and Espen takes a bigger role in the resistance. As the Nazis tighten their grip on the Norwegians,Espen’s job gets more complicated and dangerous. Could a teenager help end the Nazi occupation of Norway? Can Espen become a hero and still stay alive to see his countryagain? He will have to hide from the Shadow on the Mountain.

Margi Preus has crafted a historical fiction piece with such excellence, you will feel like you are in Norway and running around as a secret spy.

Clay Welch
Somerset, KY

“The ER has been blocked off by police at this time. Patients are being asked to go to other local hospitals. . . .” Brian and his friends are the bad boys of the school. They skip class, intimidate others, and get into an occasional fight. But when a mutatingzombie-like outbreak reaches their school, Brian and his best friend Chad find themselves stuck with art geeks and drama weirdos in the theater department. Brian’ssister and ex-girlfriend are somewhere else in the school and likely in danger. These“bad kids” must team with the drama kids to go on a rescue mission. Can they get to the girls before it is too late? Better yet, will they all survive or will they become Sick ?

Tom Leveen’s first venture into the horror genre will take you on a ride through the mind of a teenager and lead you to see hidden bravery and hope in the next generation.

Clay Welch
Somerset, KY

Skylark by Meagan Spooner
Carolrhoda Lab, 2012, 333 pp., $17.95

Science Fiction/Dystopia
ISBN: 978-0-7613-8865-4

The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford
Identity Scholastic Press, 2013, 256 pp., $17.99

Studying Abroad/Romance/Cultural
ISBN: 978-0-54533-481-5

Lark Ainsley should have been harvested of her Resource years ago, but still, she waits for her name to be called on Harvest Day. Finally, her turn comes, but soon she realizes that hers is no ordinary harvest. She believes herself to be one of the few Renewables;those who can regenerate the Resource after being harvested. Lark is certain that she wants no part of a life that forces her into being a source of power for the rest of those within the Wall.

Lark’s journey takes her outside the Wall, a place that has always been forbidden, and is determined to fight for her life. She encounters strange pockets of Resource as well as “shadow men” who threaten her life and are never too far behind her. Spooner weaves a compelling story of survival and human nature twisted with a bit of magic.

Adrienne Fehringer
Nashville, TN

Intrigued by Russia, Laura Reid spends a winter semester abroad in Leningrad in 1982. She and her classmates tolerate the bad food, the brutally cold weather, and suspicious Russians. Laura’s chance meeting with Alyosha on the bridge near her dorm prompts friendship and romance as he introduces her to the real Russia—places that only someone born in the country would know. Things move fast between the couple, and she skips classes and misses curfew in order to spend time with him. As her friends warn her that Alyosha may have ulterior motives for his quickly professed love, doubts and suspicions assail her. At some points, teen readers may be just as confused as Laura is when it comes to knowing who to trust or believe. This compelling story, where desperate situations often lead to desperate solutions, will evoke shivers at the endings readers consider what Laura has lost and gained.

Barbara A. Ward
Pullman, WA

The Incredible Charlotte Sycamore by Kate Maddison
Holiday House, 2013, 282 pp., $17.95

Historical Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-8234-2737-6

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle
Amulet Books, 2013, 336 pp., $17.95

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0793-3

Charlotte Sycamore, the daughter of the surgeon to Queen Victoria, is none too pleased about her impending arranged marriage to the much older Nelson Abercrombie. Seeking some freedom, Charlotte abandons the safety of her home at Buckingham Palace for a night of sword fighting with her two best friends when they are suddenly attacked by rabid mechanical dogs. In order to save the lives of her friends as well as the Queen,Charlotte must find who is responsible for the monsters and put a stop to it any way she can.

Charlotte’s father always tells her, “be truthful to yourself and your beliefs,” and she attempts to do just that. The events Charlotte faces force her to decide what it is she believes in and how to be true to herself. She learns to stand on her own and risks everything to fight for what she believes to be right.

Adrienne Fehringer
Nashville, TN

Wren has always done exactly what her parents want, including studying to get into Emory’s pre-med program and avoiding dating. As she graduates high school, she disappoints her parents with her decision to work in Guatemala instead of going to college in the fall. For once, she needs to make choices completely on her own.

Then Wren meets Charlie. As they fall in love, Charlie learns that not everyone will abuse him as his mother and ex-girlfriend, Starrla, did. Wren and Charlie grow together over the summer as they experience the newness and steaminess of first love. The excitement of their discoveries of themselves and of each other emphasizes the possibilities opening to them. Readers will wonder if Wren and Charlie will stay together beyond the summer as they grow away from the people who have made decisions for them and grow into themselves.

Laura Cockman
Fishers, IN

The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, 182 pp., $16.99

Historical Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-547-80743-0

The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferriolo
Amulet Books, 2012, 208 pp., $15.95

ISBN: 978-0-8109-9725-7

With more wisdom and insight than the typical Cuban teenage girl, Tula longs for a life different than the one her family and society force upon her. Tula refuses to believe that girls are not fit for an education. She refuses to accept the husband her mother “buys”for her. She also refuses to believe slavery is a good thing for her country. Frustrated with familial and societal expectations and beliefs, Tula turns to writing to help her process everything she endures. Only when Tula writes does she experience feelings of freedom. Over time, Tula learns how to use her writing to help others experience freedom as well.

This novel is a series of poems written from Tula’s perspective and the perspectives of others she encounters. The entire work is inspired by the real life and work of abolitionist poet Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, whose childhood name was Tula.

Laura Wilczek
Eden Prairie, MN

Franklin Middle School is a typical noir scene. It has its crime lord, Vinny, who runs gambling on basketball games, its shady businessmen, a set of twins who make their own blend of addictive pixy sticks, and its hall monitors trying to keep everything straight. When a popular cheerleader is taken to the “outs,” the irredeemably unpopular clique, via a squirt gun shot, private eye Matt Stevens must figure out who is mounting a takeover of the school underworld and how the plot relates to a tiny box everyone seems anxious to find.

This sequel to The Big Splash stands on its own as mystery readers try to figure out whodunit alongside junior high detective Matt. Plot twists abound as suspects reveal secret motives, hidden identities, and fall into the “outs.” Matt becomes increasingly entangled in mystery as he learns the roots of this crime twist around his own family.

Laura Cockman
Fishers, IN

The Twelve-Fingered Boy by John Hornor Jacobs
Lerner Publishing Group, 2013, 264 pp., $17.95

ISBN: 978-0-7613-9007-7

Time between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
Hyperion, 2012, 384 pp., $17.99

Fiction/Romance/Time Travel
ISBN: 978-1-4321-6840-9

Shreveport Justice Cannon is doing comfortable time at Casimir Pulaski Juvenile Detention Center in Arkansas, manipulating wards and pushing candy. Everything changes,though, when his new cellmate Jack arrives. He’s not quite normal in many ways, most notably in that he has twelve fingers and is hiding a huge secret that will lead him and Shreve on the journey of a lifetime.

Jacobs’s first YA novel is a fast-paced, twisted narrative told from the perspective of a juvenile delinquent who gains some mysterious powers after a chance encounter.The combination of realism and science fiction makes for an unusual and engaging retelling of a classic “good vs. evil” storyline about humanity and the monsters we hide within ourselves.

Olivia Gail Drake
Sewanee, TN

Growing up in 1990s suburbia, Anna Greene is a pretty normal teenager. She goes to school, runs cross-country, and works in her family’s bookstore. But one day, everything changes when Anna notices a shaggy-haired boy watching her on an earlymorning run. One moment, he’s there; the next moment, he’s disappeared into thinair. Anna is perplexed at first, but once she runs into the mysterious boy at school, shequickly realizes that her life will never be the same again, because Bennett Cooper hasa secret—a secret that will not only bring them together, but can also tear them apart.In her debut novel, Tamara Ireland Stone weaves together a captivating story thataddresses the classic question of whether or not love can truly stand the test of time.

Diana Liu
Nashville, TN

To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on an Untrue Story by Sonya Sones
Simon & Schuster, 2013, 496 pp., $17.99

Relationships/Verse Novel
ISBN: 978-0-689-87604-2

Trash Can Days by Teddy Steinkellner
Disney Hyperion Books, 2013, 352 pp., $16.99

Realistic Fiction/Friendship
ISBN: 978-1-4231-6632-0

A minor character from Sones’s One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies is thrown into the limelight in this novel in verse. Colette, who suffers from a “Daughterof-a-Famous-Movie-Star-Disorder,” is a pathological liar. Colette’s summer is ruined when her mother takes an acting role in the middle of nowhere and expects Colette to watch her little brother Will instead of going to France with girlfriends. The summer improves when Colette meets Connor, a young biker dude with orange and black hair,who falls for her instead of using her to get closer to her famous mother.

Anyone who knows anything about lying knows that one’s reality is affected by the lies, but what happens when a liar meets a liar? What happens when the lying starts getting people hurt, especially those you love? Readers will be smitten by Will—his innocence and lisp—and will learn a thing or two in the process.

Joan F. Kaywell
University of South Florida

Four middle-schoolers narrate Trash Can Days: Jake Schwartz, his sister Hannah, hisbest friend Danny, and aspiring writer Dorothy Wu. While Hannah concerns herself with being popular, Jake struggles to make friends in middle school. He and Danny drift apart as Danny becomes a basketball star and begins a secret relationship withHannah. Jake longs to fit in with Danny’s popular friends until he finds out being popular means joining a gang.

As gang violence increases, the friendship between Jake and Danny strains. Instead of following the crowd, Jake and Dorothy begin a writing club and learn they can be cool just by being themselves. The multi-narrator format of Trash Can Days demonstrates how each child deals with his or her own issues, but some of the topics and language might be too intense for the younger readers to whom this is recommended.

Laura Cockman
Fishers, IN

When You Wish upon a Rat by Maureen McCarthy
Amulet Books, 2012, 288 pp., $16.95

Fiction/Middle School
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0161-0

Who I’m Not by Ted Staunton
Orca Books, 2013, 186 pp., $12.95

Realistic Fiction/Mystery
ISBN: 978-1-4598-0434-0

What would you do if you were given the chance to perfect your life with three wishes?

For Ruth Craze, an overworked and misunderstood 11-year-old, changing her life sounds like a fabulous idea. What she really wants in life are more responsible parents, less obnoxious brothers, and true friends. So when Rodney the Rat, a stuffed animal from her favorite aunt, offers her the chance to create the perfect life with three wishes,Ruth jumps at the chance. But as Ruth quickly discovers, wishes don’t always workout the way you think they will, and soon she finds herself amidst a whole new set of misadventures. Maureen McCarthy weaves a charming tale that will leave readers asking themselves what they might wish for if they ever come across their own Rodney the Rat.

Diana Liu
Nashville, TN

Danny does not know who he is. However, he does know that he is not Danny. The real Danny is a boy who went missing three years ago, and who would be about his age if he were still around. Danny is the perfect persona to take on while he thinks of what to do next. He has been passed around from foster family to foster family for his entire life.

Now that Harley, his “guardian,” is dead, he has no one and nothing. All he has are the tricks of the con artist’s trade that Harley taught him, so he becomes Danny. While he is Danny, he finds a dysfunctional but loving family, a suspicious cop who does not buy his story, and a girl who he thinks is his lucky charm. Can he convince his new“family” and especially the cop that he really is Danny?

Amanda Brown
Nashville, TN

Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge
Amulet Books, 2013, 192 pp., $12.95

Graphic Novel / Identity
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0546-5

Wilhelmina, known as “Will,” has lived with her aunt Ella since the deaths of her parents. She stays busy creating lamps to avoid her fear of the dark and of her past. She cannot avoid the darkness, however, when Hurricane Whitney blows into town and knocks out all power, forcing Will to confront memories of the accident that killed herparents. “Whit” teaches Will that her friends and aunt support her, and Will uses this love to create art that uses light and dark to pay homage to her parents.

Will & Whit stands out for its use of entirely black-and-white pictures. Light and darkness play important roles, as drawings of Will’s shadow reveal feelings she hides. Will & Whit is charming and thought provoking as Will transitions from fear about her tragedy to acceptance.

Laura Cockman
Fishers, IN

by MB