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, May 23, 2014

Mila 2.0

Mila 2.0
by Debra Driza
From the publisher:
"Mila 2.0 is the first book in an electrifying sci-fi thriller series about a teenage girl who discovers that she is an experiment in artificial intelligence.

Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past—that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.

Mila 2.0 is Debra Driza’s bold debut and the first book in a Bourne Identity-style trilogy that combines heart-pounding action with a riveting exploration of what it really means to be human. Fans of I Am Number Four will love Mila for who she is and what she longs to be—and a cliffhanger ending will leave them breathlessly awaiting the sequel."

This was a welcome relief after going through several duds in the YA category. I really enjoyed it and found it refreshingly unique. It was my first android book (I haven't read Cinder yet), but the main character felt more human than some of the supporting characters. It had a lot of action, a little romance, and a very interesting plot. I really liked the main character and loved how hard she tried to keep a hold on her humanity. However, I didn't feel like I made a connection with any of the secondary characters, aside from her mom. I didn't like the insta-love at the beginning, and quite frankly I have no feelings for the guy except quite a bit of distrust. The best friend went from best friend to psycho in about a minute. I was also left with a lot of questions (Sarah?! - Why didn't her mom TELL her anything?!). I'm sure those will be answered in the next book/books, but I would have liked to have a little to go on. That all being said, I really liked it and am interested to see what happens in the next one.

Areas of concern: A handful of cuss words.
A lot of violence towards the main character and loved one. The main character is forced to use violence, but hates that she has to and tries to control herself to do the least amount of damage when it is necessary.

Suggested ages:
Kirkus Reviews - Ages 12+
School Library Journal - Grades 7+

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


by Vince Vawter
From the publisher:
"An 11-year-old boy living in Memphis in 1959 throws the meanest fastball in town, but talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering, not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend's paper route for the month of July, he knows he'll be forced to communicate with the different customers, including a housewife who drinks too much and a retired merchant marine who seems to know just about everything.

The paper route poses challenges, but it's a run-in with the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, that stirs up real trouble--and puts the boy's life, as well as that of his family's devoted housekeeper, in danger."

Oh Newbery, I'll never understand you. I just checked and I have to go clear back to 1997 to find a Newbery winner or honor book that I really LOVED ( Belle Prater's Boy ) . I haven't read them all, by any means, but the ones I have read have been kind of blah. This one was good, but I didn't find anything outstanding about it. It felt like it was trying to be too many things. A book about a child with a disability. A book about sports (although that was hardly mentioned - just that the main character loved baseball and had quite an arm). A book about race relations. A book about growing up in the 60's... Now if all of those things had meshed, it would have added up to a really good story, but it was like the author all of a sudden said, "Oh, I'd better put something about race relations in here now", instead of it being seamlessly woven into the story. I enjoyed parts of this book, and it was inspiring that it had a lot to do with the author's real life, but I'm not sure how much it will get checked out in our middle school library.

Areas of concern: A handful of swear words. Scary violence towards the main character and one of his loved ones. A woman who drinks excessively and has a man other than her husband come to her house, and then she gets hit by him.  A character finds out that his father isn't his biological father.

Suggested Ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 10+
School Library Journal - Grades 6-9

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Loop

The Loop
by Shandy Lawson
From the publisher:
"Ben and Maggie have met, fallen in love, and died together countless times. Over the course of two pivotal days—both the best and worst of their lives—they struggle again and again to resist the pull of fate and the force of time itself. With each failure, they return to the beginning of their end, a wild road trip that brings them to the scene of their own murders and into the hands of the man destined to kill them.

As time circles back on itself, events become more deeply ingrained, more inescapable for the two kids trapped inside the loop. The closer they come to breaking out, the tighter fate’s clutches seem to grip them. They devise a desperate plan to break free and survive the days ahead, but what if Ben and Maggie’s only shot at not dying is surviving apart?"

I chose to read this book because of the synopsis in the front cover. It sounded like it could be similar to All Our Yesterdays , by Cristin Terrill, which was mind-blowingly awesome. Sadly, this one didn't even come close to the imaginative world-building and intensity of plot that was the hallmark of All Our Yesterdays . The loop was never explained fully, the characters weren't fleshed out very well,and although there was non-stop action, a lot of it was accompanied with question marks on my part. So while it wasn't terrible, it just wasn't as good as I was expecting, and I didn't really care too much about what happened to the characters. But it will probably appeal to middle school students because of the action and the brevity of the book (only 198 pages).

Areas of concern:
A handful of the *s* word and at least one of the *a* word. A couple of mild kisses. One character accidentally sees the other naked in the hospital. There is quite a bit of violence, since the whole premise of the book is that these 2 teenagers stuck in a loop where they get murdered at the end. In trying to get out of the loop, the teenagers did some illegal things like stealing a car.

Suggested Ages:
Booklist - Grades 7-10
Kirkus Reviews - Ages 12+

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Escape from
Mr. Lemoncello's Library

by Chris Grabenstein
From the publisher:
"Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.

In this cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and A Night in the Museum, Agatha Award winner Chris Grabenstein uses rib-tickling humor to create the perfect tale for his quirky characters. Old fans and new readers will become enthralled with the crafty twists and turns of this ultimate library experience."

I enjoyed some things in this book, and I was annoyed by some things in this book. I loved all the literary references, but they felt kind of forced and show-y, and the target audience won't understand most of them. Although since this book is technically a love letter to librarians, maybe that is really the target audience and not middle schoolers. (Audience is not the word I'm looking for, but I can't think what it is. Target readers?) And I found it a little disturbing that a book about libraries didn't really have much to do with the love of reading. The love of gaming was more apparent. There was one character who loved to read, but it was made to sound like she read because she had no friends and once she made friends she stopped having her nose in a book all the time. Those are my feelings, but I'm hoping middle schoolers who love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will love this. It has the same kind of stereotypical mean, rich kid; the same kind of know-it-all kid; the same good, honest, loyal-to-friends kid... And maybe it will cause some readers to look into the books that are mentioned (and mentioned, and mentioned).

Suggested ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 9-12
School Library Journal - Grades 4-7