Middle school students have reading interests that run the gamut from Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Twilight. Sometimes as a parent it is hard to know what is age appropriate for your child. Through this blog, I will try to help parents make informed decisions about what is available in our library. I am hoping that this blog will be a resource for our parents, and that we can all work together to make our students life-long readers!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Ruby Red

Ruby Red
by Kerstin Gier
From the publisher:
"Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!
Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon—the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.
Kerstin Gier's Ruby Red is a young adult novel full of fantasy and romance."

I really enjoyed this book.  A lot of it is set-up, but it was very interesting.  I loved the heroine, Gwenny.  She's really spunky.  Her voice sounds a little young for her age of 16, but I liked that about her.  In most YA books, the heroine has a secret that she can't tell anyone, so the best friend is left in the dark with hurt feelings.  Not so in this book.  Gwenny tells her best friend, Lesley, everything about her secrets even though she isn't supposed to.  I kind of loved that about her, and I loved the character of Lesley.  The prologue starts the book off with a bang, which you don't understand until the very end.  I had to go back and re-read the prologue as soon as I finished the epilogue and then went, "ah-haaaaa".  I also appreciated that there was no insta-romance.  There were two very creepy characters and it will be interesting to see what evil they will be up to in the next books.
The writing in this book is wonderful.  The credit for that should go to the translator, Anthea Bell (who also translated the Cornelia Funke Inkheart books), every bit as much as the author, Kerstin Gier.  It never felt like a translation to me.  There were some "British-isms" in it, but I loved those, and anyway it was set in London so it was natural. I look forward to reading the next 2 books in the trilogy.

Areas of concern:  Around 10 uses of the "d" word, one use of the "a" word, a couple vulgarities.  Overall it was a pretty clean read.

Suggested ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 12+
School Library Journal - Grades 6+

Monday, March 25, 2013


by Jessica Brody
From the publisher:
"When Freedom Airlines flight 121 went down over the Pacific Ocean, no one ever expected to find survivors. Which is why the sixteen-year-old girl discovered floating among the wreckage—alive—is making headlines across the globe.
Even more strange is that her body is miraculously unharmed and she has no memories of boarding the plane. She has no memories of her life before the crash. She has no memories period. No one knows how she survived. No one knows why she wasn't on the passenger manifest. And no one can explain why her DNA and fingerprints can't be found in a single database in the world.
Crippled by a world she doesn't know, plagued by abilities she doesn't understand, and haunted by a looming threat she can't remember, Seraphina struggles to piece together her forgotten past and discover who she really is. But with every clue only comes more questions. And she's running out of time to answer them.
Her only hope is a strangely alluring boy who claims to know her from before the crash. Who claims they were in love. But can she really trust him? And will he be able to protect her from the people who have been making her forget?
From popular young adult author Jessica Brody comes a compelling and suspenseful new sci-fi series, set in a world where science knows no boundaries, memories are manipulated, and true love can never be forgotten."

I read this book right before I left for Spring Break and didn't have time to review it, which is unfortunate because now I can't remember it very well. It had a very interesting concept and exciting plot, but I just didn't get too involved in it for the most part.  However, I think my middle schoolers will love it.  It has probably the most literal cliffhanger you'll ever find at the end of a book. 

Areas of concern (that I remember):
2 cuss words (I marked those with tissue, so I wouldn't forget the content). I remember a handful of vulgarities. There is some violence and a mild romance.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Navigating Early

Navigating Early
by Clare Vanderpool
From the publisher:
"New York Times Best Seller Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool, Newbery Medalist for Moon Over Manifest, is an odyssey-like adventure of two boys' incredible quest on the Appalachian Trail where they deal with pirates, buried secrets, and extraordinary encounters.

At the end of World War II, Jack Baker, a landlocked Kansas boy, is suddenly uprooted after his mother's death and placed in a boy's boarding school in Maine. There, Jack encounters Early Auden, the strangest of boys, who reads the number pi as a story and collects clippings about the sightings of a great black bear in the nearby mountains. Newcomer Jack feels lost yet can't help being drawn to Early, who won't believe what everyone accepts to be the truth about the Great Appalachian Bear, Timber Rattlesnakes, and the legendary school hero known as The Fish, who never returned from the war. When the boys find themselves unexpectedly alone at school, they embark on a quest on the Appalachian Trail in search of the great black bear. But what they are searching for is sometimes different from what they find. They will meet truly strange characters, each of whom figures into the pi story Early weaves as they travel, while discovering things they never realized about themselves and others in their lives."

I'm so glad that I read this book. It is a sweet and lovely story of Early Auden (that strangest of boys) and Jack Baker (the son of a WWII naval captain), as they go on a quest right after the end of World War II. They are each searching for different things. In our time, Early would be called an autistic savant. He was obsessed with the number pi - the numbers told him a story of a boy named Pi. The story of Pi is interwoven with the story of the boys. It sounds confusing, but it is woven together seamlessly. The boys have many adventures that mirror the adventures of Pi. This book is moving and uplifting. I didn't quite want to hug the book when I was done, but it was close.

Areas of concern: No language, no sexual situations. Wilderness adventures that put the boys in danger.  A story of a man who lost an eye in a fight with a bear, and another man who was burned and scarred. A boy gets shot and killed.

Suggested ages:
Kirkus Reviews:  Ages 10-14
School Library Journal:  Grades 6-9

Thursday, March 7, 2013


From the publisher:

by Jennifer Rush
"They were made to forget. But they'll never forgive.

Everything about Anna's life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch, at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There's Nick, solemn and brooding; Cas, light-hearted and playful; Trev, smart and caring; and Sam . . . who's stolen Anna's heart.

When the Branch decides it's time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape. Anna's father pushes her to go with them, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs.

On the run, with her father's warning in her head, Anna begins to doubt everything she thought she knew about herself. She soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they're both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away."
This book was exciting, intense, action-packed and interesting. There were several unexpected twists and turns. The characters were appealing and well thought out. However, I never felt a connection between the main characters and there were several instances where these super-human people were just plain stupid. I expect more out of my super-humans.

Areas of concern: (See my rant on The Raven Boys.) The language was absolutely horrible, the "f" word was everywhere, not to mention all the other cuss words and vulgarities you can possibly think of. It was horribly violent, and not werewolf or alien violence, but people killing people violence. Blood splattering, vacant, staring eyes violent. There was also one pretty hefty make-out scene.
Suggested ages:
Booklist:  Grades 7-12
Kirkus Reviews:  Ages 12+
Publisher's Weekly:  Ages 12+
*Mrs. Duke says:  "Seriously?  Those suggested ages are what made me order the book for our library and I completely disagree with them.  Do I recommend this to adults? Only if any of the afore-mentioned things are okay with you. Do I recommend it for a 12 year old - apparently the intended audience? Definitely not."