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!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

All Fall Down (Embassy Row, #1)

All Fall Down
by Ally Carter
From the publisher:
"A new series of global proportions -- from master of intrigue, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter.

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her -- so there's no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can't control Grace -- no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down."

I was torn on this book, there were things I loved and things that kind of turned me off. The Embassy Row concept was really fun and very interesting. I wonder how realistic it was? Living in a foreign country surrounded by other embassies would be a unique way to grow up. However, I had a hard time really liking the main character, even though I appreciated the pain and mental anguish she was in. And I really didn't like the ending. But the book kept me enthralled and I did enjoy reading it. Although I had a hard time liking the main character, Grace, I liked the kids who befriended her. I bet all of their personalities will be even more fleshed out in upcoming books. And I'm still not sure whether I trust one of the adult figures. I think middle schoolers and above will like this and I will recommend it to them. I'm interested to see what happens in coming books.  This author already has a huge following in my library because of her Gallagher Girls series and her Heist Society series (which are awesome!).  This one should be popular.

Areas of concern:
*I don't remember any bad language.
*There are some scary moments where the main character feels like her life is in danger.
*Intense flashbacks to her mother's death.
*A romance is hinted at.

Suggested Ages:
Booklist - Grades 7-10
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 12+

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Iron Trial

The Iron Trial
by Holly Black &
Cassandra Clare
From the publisher:
"Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.

So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing.

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . ."

This book was recommended to me by some of my 8th graders who absolutely love it. I can't say that I loved it, but I mildly enjoyed it and can see why middle schoolers would love it. My main problem was that I didn't connect to the main character. I thought he was obnoxious and unsympathetic (like Dark Harry in The Order of the Phoenix .... no, Harry was much less obnoxious and much more sympathetic). Could it have been my annoyance with his name? Callum.... pronounced Cal-um... correct? And yet his nickname is Call. I'm sorry, is that supposed to be pronounced the way it is spelled, or the way a nickname for Callum should be said? It drove me crazy because I can not read the word Call as Cal. Actually, though, I didn't feel connected to any of the characters. The plot was interesting, and there was a big twist at the end that I didn't see coming. I thought the world-building was cool - an underground magic school where the lichens and fungus taste like all your favorite foods, but believe me I would much prefer my magic school to be in beautiful Scotland next to a mysterious loch. I'm going to tepidly recommend this one for adults, but strongly recommend it for middle schoolers. 

Areas of concern: (Actually a pretty clean read, which is surprising coming from these two authors.)
*A mother's violent death and her instructions to "Kill the Child"
*A scary wolf-attack scene (I put that in because I had a daughter who was scared silly of wolves :) )
*Death of a student
*Several instances of bullying

Suggested Ages:
Kirkus Reviews - Ages 9-13
School Library Journal - Grades 5-8

The Paladin Prophecy

The Paladin Prophecy
by Mark Frost
From the publisher:
"Will West is careful to live life under the radar. At his parents' insistence, he's made sure to get mediocre grades and to stay in the middle of the pack on his cross-country team. Then Will slips up, accidentally scoring off the charts on a nationwide exam.

Now Will is being courted by an exclusive prep school . . . and is being followed by men driving black sedans. When Will suddenly loses his parents, he must flee to the school. There he begins to explore all that he's capable of--physical and mental feats that should be impossible--and learns that his abilities are connected to a struggle between titanic forces that has lasted for millennia.

Co-creator of the groundbreaking television series Twin Peaks, Mark Frost brings his unique vision to this sophisticated adventure, which combines mystery, heart-pounding action, and the supernatural"

This is a fun ride of a book that hooks you from the very beginning and doesn't ever let up. The action is continuous, the characters are incredibly fun, the plot lines are a little confusing, but all in all it is a very entertaining book. The characters were my favorite part. The main character, Will, is a good young man who loves his parents and tries to do his best without drawing attention to some of his extraordinary skills. When strange things begin happening and he has to run away, he meets Nando, a taxi-driver who immediately becomes a friend that goes to many great lengths to help Will. I loved Nando for his good heart, his courage, and his smart-alecky remarks. When Will arrives at his new school, I fell in love with his roommates - especially the hysterical Nick. Why oh why did I not mark some of his quotes?! And why has a movie not been made of this yet? It would definitely make a good one. Fun, fun, fun.

Areas of concern:
*Quite a bit of bad language. Around 30 uses each of the "d" word and the "h" word. 8 uses of the "a" word, and 1 use of the "s" word. 
*This is nit-picky, but a group of male and female teenagers share a sort of apartment with a common kitchen and living area with their bedrooms jutting off from the common areas and no supervision aside from a creepy evil guy who makes surprise inspections.

Suggested Ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 12+
School Library Journal - Grades 7+