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!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who
Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill
From the publisher:
"Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule--but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her--even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.
The acclaimed author of The Witch’s Boy has created another epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to become a modern classic."

I loved this book! I could take everything I said about Kelly Barnhill's The Witch's Boy and use it for this book as well (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...).   The Girl Who Drank the Moon is also a magical, lyrical fairy tale that promotes love, family, courage and forgiveness. There were parts of this book that sang, there were parts that wept, and there were parts that made my heart pound with excitement. I want to turn around and start reading it all over again. 

The characters were all so alive and real. There are quite a few that are intrinsically important to the story, but we don't know why until things all get wrapped up in the end. I loved them all so much and for such differing reasons. Fyrian was hysterical; Xan was loving and kind and good; Luna was adorably mischievous but spread such love; Antain was wise beyond his years; the poor, mad mother was so tortured; Glerk, the wise poet of the swamp, reminded me of Aslan. Around all of these characters were magic, sorrow, love and hope, all swirled together in a delicious way.

As with  The Witch's Boy, this one would make a wonderful read-aloud as a family or classroom. I highly, highly recommend it for middle grade on up through adults. 

Areas of concern:
*Babies are taken away from their families and "sacrificed" to the witch (nothing bad actually happens to the babies - they are given to good families who love them).
*There is a villain who is quite evil, but masks it with supposed goodness.
*A character is disfigured during an attack by magical creatures.

Suggested Ages:
Booklist - Grades 5-8
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 10+

Friday, December 16, 2016


by Gordon Korman
From the publisher:
"From bestselling author Gordon Korman comes a thrilling new middle grade trilogy about a group of kids living in a Pleasantville-type town who discover a dark secret that connects them to some of the greatest criminal masterminds of their time.

Eli Frieden lives in the most boring town in the world: Serenity, New Mexico. Only thirty kids live in the idyllic town, where every lawn is perfectly manicured and everyone has a pool and a basketball hoop. Honesty and kindness are the backbone of the community. There is no crime in this utopia.

Eli has never left town…. Why would he ever want to? But everything changes the day he and his friend Randy bike to the edge of the city limits. Eli is suddenly struck with a paralyzing headache and collapses. Almost instantly, a crew of security—or “Purple People Eaters,” as the kids call them—descend via helicopter. Eli awakens in the hospital, and the next day, Randy and his family are gone.

As Eli convinces his friends Tori and Malik to help him investigate Randy’s disappearance, it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems in Serenity. As the clues mount to reveal a shocking discovery, the kids realize they can trust no one—least of all their own parents. So they hatch a plan for what could be the greatest breakout in history—but will they survive? And if they do, where do they go from there?

This first book in a thrilling new series from the middle grade “mastermind” Gordon Korman is sure to be a hit with his myriad fans..

This is a very fun and exciting book. It is told from the different perspectives of five 13 year olds who live in the most perfect town in all of the land. They discover some terrible secrets about their perfect little town and their perfect lives that changes everything for them. It has a very gripping story line, and makes you want to grab the next book as quickly as you can the second you finish. The characters are all likable, but more than that they are interesting . Once you know their secret, it is fascinating to look at them in a different light. I can definitely see why my students love this one. I will be recommending it to everyone.

Areas of concern:
*Possible death of a main character.
*Parents and all adults end up being the enemy. (One of my pet peeves, however in this one it is very understandable and necessary.)\

Suggested Ages:
Booklist - Grades 5-8
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 8-12
*I think 8 and 9 are a little young for this one.  I would say at least 10 and up.*

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Six of Crows

Six of Crows
by Leigh Bardugo
From the publisher:
"Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first."

Whew, this one is quite the roller coaster ride! My breathlessness may have been accentuated by the abrupt ending. I read it on my Kindle, and I was only at 87% and something VERY BIG had just happened, I scrolled to the next page and it said, "Acknowledgments". What?! There was a big excerpt from Shadow and Bone after the acknowledgments - thus the 87% ending. If you read the large hard copy of this book, the ending won't be quite as much of a shock as it was for me. 
I loved these characters! They had all been through SO much at such a young age. I liked hearing their stories from their own point of view, you could feel their pain and anger and so many other emotions. The plot was ridiculously intricate and intriguing, and the action intense. This book can be read without reading the author's other Grisha series, but I think I would have understood some things better if I had re-read Shadow and Bone (I read it years ago) and the rest of the series (which I never read). However, I still loved it and took what I read at face value instead of having back stories for things. 
One of my 8th graders told me last year that this had become her favorite book. I hesitated ordering it for our middle school library because some of the reviewers were recommending it for 9th grade and up. There are definitely areas of concern, but it is really good and I think our 8th graders will love it.

Areas of concern:
*A lot of fighting and violence, but nothing terribly graphic (although there is talk of main characters slitting throats and breaking necks).
*A main character is captured by slavers at a young age and sold into prostitution. She manages to escape the brothel after a few years, but is naturally very traumatized by that experience. Nothing graphic is described.
*There are only about 6 or 9 instances of bad language, but one of those is the "f" word. 
*Intense situations abound.
*A drug that is being given to a certain group of people is one of the main story lines.

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Lie Tree

The Lie Tree
by Frances Hardinge
From the publisher:
"Winner of the Costa Book of the Year 2015, The Lie Tree is a dark and powerful novel from universally acclaimed author, Frances Hardinge. 

It was not enough. All knowledge- any knowledge - called to Faith, and there was a delicious, poisonous pleasure in stealing it unseen.

Faith has a thirst for science and secrets that the rigid confines of her class cannot supress. And so it is that she discovers her disgraced father's journals, filled with the scribbled notes and theories of a man driven close to madness. Tales of a strange tree which, when told a lie, will uncover a truth: the greater the lie, the greater the truth revealed to the liar. Faith's search for the tree leads her into great danger - for where lies seduce, truths shatter . . ."

I'm at a loss as to what to say about this book. It was weird, it was dark, it was beautiful, it was enthralling. It gave me a Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children kind of vibe, but don't ask me to explain why. Maybe the wonderful weirdness of both. This is not a feel-good book. It is uncomfortable, maddening, and bewitching. I didn't really like any of the characters, but I was drawn into Faith's descent. I don't know that this is actually a children's book - possibly more young adult. I'm not sure how many of my students will be drawn into it, even though it is quite gripping. Overall it is beautifully written and magically crafted.

Areas of concern:
*Murder of an important character.
*A young girl placing herself in very dangerous situations.
*An overarching darkness.

Suggested Ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 13+
School Library Journal - Grades 7+

Friday, November 18, 2016

with their eyes: September 11th: The View From a High School at Ground Zero

with their eyes:
September 11th:
The View From a High
School at Ground Zero
by Anna Thoms
From the publisher:
"Tuesday, September 11, started off like any other day at Stuyvesant High School, located only a few blocks away from the World Trade Center. The semester was just beginning, and the students, faculty, and staff were ready to begin a new year.

But within a few hours on that Tuesday morning, they would all share an experience that transformed their lives.

Now, on the tenth anniversary of September 11th, we remember those who were lost and those who were forced to witness this tragedy. Here, in their own words, are the firsthand stories of a day we will never forget."

Very different perspective on the events of September 11th. Here are some random ramblings on what I read:
*I think it would be interesting to do some sort of follow-up on the people in the book. Have they been affected by PTSD, or health issues due to the particles in the air? 
*I recently visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum and saw the flag that was put on the fallen towers. I wish I would have known the story behind it when I was there. 
*I was struck by the thoughts of one of the high school students who was so angry with the out-of-town visitors who were taking pictures and treating it as a tourist attraction. He wanted to tell them that when something that meant a lot to them was blown up in their backyard, that he would make sure to come and take pictures there.
*The story of the young man whose family had left their windows open that day and when they were finally allowed to return to their home, the dust and debris were everywhere. 
*The resiliency of youth was very apparent. Some of them hardly seemed affected at all, aside from the trial of having to go to another school for a few weeks.
There were many more things that touched me or made me think. I just did a genre book talk with a 7th grade student. She had read Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story, and was using it for her historical fiction genre book. Wow. Something that we lived through and changed our world is now history for my students. That is why it is important to have these kind of books available for them to read. And I loved that is wasn't just from the students' perspective, but custodians, teachers, administrators and even a lunch lady. Fascinating, traumatic, and touching stories!

Areas of concern:
*There is some language as they interviewed people and used their exact words - even the uh's, um's, like's... So the "s" word was used a handful of times, and the "f" word appears 3 times. I was actually pretty impressed that was all that was in it considering the circumstances.
*There is nothing graphic mentioned, but there were disturbing allusions to the events of September 11th. 

Suggested Ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 13+
School Library Journal - Grades 7+

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home 
for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs
From the publisher:
"A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows."

This book always looked way too creepy for me. However, many of my students love this series, so I thought I would see what I was missing. It was not that creepy - it was gory and violent at times, but not necessarily weird or creepy. Okay, maybe it was weird and a little creepy. All in all it was reasonably gripping and exciting. I thought it was an interesting premise, but sometimes it felt very disjointed. When I got to the end of the book and saw the pictures from the movie, I couldn't remember anything about the twins. I remembered their picture, but couldn't remember their names or what they did. Sometimes it felt like the author just wanted to use one of his old, creepy pictures so he threw in a character and then forgot about them. (And speaking of the movie..... Emma is the levitating girl and Olive has the fire?! Why?) 
There were other things that bothered me about this one as well. The whole romance-with-your-grandfather's-soul-mate thing was kind of yucky. You'll have to read it to understand, but I was disturbed by it. There was some pretty gruesome violence. And I never felt completely connected to the characters. I thought Jacob was obnoxious at the beginning, and it never really explained the reasons for that. And why did he have no friends? I didn't feel like that was explained either, just used and made necessary so he wouldn't care about leaving. 
However, it is imaginative, I loved the setting and I loved the time-loop concept. I can see why the kids seem to love it.

Areas of concern:
*Around 50 uses of cussing and/or vulgarities (depending on whether you're a Yank or a Brit).
*Already stated gruesome violence (disgusting monsters who eviscerate and eat sheep and a couple of the characters in the book - among other things).
*Weird romance which involves kissing. (The boy is 16 and the girl is something like 83 but is stuck in a time-loop at age 16. When she was really 16, she was in love with the boy's grandfather.)
*Trusted adults either acting like idiots or villains. 

Suggested Ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 12+
School Library Journal - Grades 8+

Monday, November 7, 2016


by Kay Honeyman
From the publisher:
"I will not get involved…I will not get involved…I will not get involved…

As a congressman’s daughter in Washington, DC, Kate Hamilton always pushes to make things right. But when a scandal sends her family to Red Dirt, Texas, she decides to step back for a while. She’ll take pictures for her portfolio. She’ll volunteer at her aunt’s animal shelter. And most of all, she’ll stay out of politics (including her father’s latest election) and away from guys (especially after her ex’s betrayal).


If Kate’s political skills can be useful in Red Dirt, should she really let them go to waste? After all, her friend Ana Gomez and quarterback Kyle Stone would be a perfect match. Her dad’s campaign could benefit from a teenage perspective. The irritatingly handsome Hunter Price should learn he doesn’t know everything…When Kate’s plans backfire, she must find the soul beneath her DC spin, and risk her heart—the biggest involvement of all."

The front cover of this book says, " Friday Night Lights meets Jane Austen's Emma ...", and that is a pretty perfect description. This is a very fun book that I read in practically one sitting. Even though the main character does a lot of stupid things, she is still likeable (so reminiscent of Emma ). It is interesting to see her progression and growth throughout the story. 
One of the questions I ask my students when they are book talking with me is, "Does the setting enhance the story, and is it important to the plot?". The answers for this book are yes and yes. I could feel the West Texas sun and dirt, and nowhere on earth is high school football as important as West Texas. 
I also enjoyed seeing the growth of the family as they came together after some hard times. The political aspect was intriguing and added to the tension of the storyline. 
I loved the secondary characters from Hunter (the slow buildup to a romance), Ana (the nice girl who helps the main character become a better person), the new campaign manager (who adds a lot of humor), to the protagonists who were spot-on.
I thought this was a really fun book, and I appreciated the lack of bad language (even from the jocks!) .

Areas of concern:
*The main character's ex-boyfriend causes a scandal by posting pictures of her on the internet. In one of the pictures she appears drunk, but in reality she was just imitating a fellow party-goer who WAS drunk. 
*At a party after a football game, a drunk player tries to force his attentions on a character. She gets away.
*An ex-boyfriend spreads ugly rumors about a girl and how far she went (the rumors aren't true) and she is bullied throughout the book.
***I thought it was a pretty clean read. No bad language and just a couple of sweet kisses***

Suggested Ages:
Kirkus Reviews - Ages 13-17
School Library Journal - Grades 9+
*Mrs. Duke thinks that because of the absence of bad language and the very light, slow-building romance, it is okay for older middle schoolers.*

Friday, November 4, 2016

Loki's Wolves

Loki's Wolves
by K.L. Armstrong
From the publisher:
"In Viking times, Norse myths predicted the end of the world, an event called Ragnarok, that only the gods can stop. When this apocalypse happens, the gods must battle the monsters--wolves the size of the sun, serpents that span the seabeds, all bent on destroying the world.

The gods died a long time ago.

Matt Thorsen knows every Norse myth, saga, and god as if it was family history--because it is family history. Most people in the modern-day town of Blackwell, South Dakota, in fact, are direct descendants of either Thor or Loki, including Matt's classmates Fen and Laurie Brekke.

However, knowing the legends and completely believing them are two different things. When the rune readers reveal that Ragnarok is coming and kids--led by Matt--will stand in for the gods in the final battle, he can hardly believe it. Matt, Laurie, and Fen's lives will never be the same as they race to put together an unstoppable team to prevent the end of the world."

This is one of those books where I have to set my feelings aside and try to think like a middle school boy. I didn't particularly enjoy it - but then I didn't like Percy Jackson, either. Percy Jackson is much better than this one, though. I didn't like the characters very much and the writing didn't impress me. And how do all of these children just strike off on their own without more repercussions?! However, I know several middle school age kids who love this series, and this is one I recommend for kids who ask me what they can read after Percy Jackson. There is plenty of action, Norse gods are very popular right now, it ends with a huge cliffhanger, and it moves at a fast pace. Win, win, win, win for middle schoolers. 

Areas of concern:
*Complete and total lack of parental concern.
*Scary situations
*Sudden death of a main character.

Suggested Ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 8-12
School Library Journal - Grades 4-6

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Black Widow: Forever Red

Black Widow: Forever Red
by Margaret Stohl
From the publisher:
"Enter the world of the Avengers’ iconic master spy…

Natasha Romanoff is one of the world’s most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow’s infamous academy for operatives.

Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments—until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious savior, but Black Widow isn’t really the big sister type.

Until now.

When children all over Eastern Europe begin to go missing, and rumors of smuggled Red Room tech light up the dark net, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned—and that Ava Orlova might be the only one who can stop him. To defeat the madman who threatens their future, Natasha and Ava must unravel their pasts. Only then will they discover the truth about the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava’s dreams…

Black Widow: Forever Red features all the heart-pounding adventure readers expect from Marvel, written by #1 New York Times best-selling author Margaret Stohl. Uncover a new side of the Marvel Universe that will thrill loyal fans and newcomers alike, as Stohl reveals the untold story of Black Widow for the very first time.

I've never read a comic book before, but I do enjoy the Avenger movies, so I thought this would be a fun thing to read. I was right. And did I picture Scarlett Johansson the entire time I was reading? Yes, I did. It made it even that more fun. The story was gripping, the characters were awesome, but I was NOT prepared for the ending. Still, it was a very fun ride. I will definitely be getting the next book for our library. 

Areas of concern:
*I only noticed 2 uses of the "a" word and no other language.
*There is an evil antagonist who abuses children horribly. None of the abuse is described very graphically, but it is central to the plot.
*Tense and sometimes violent action scenes similar to the Avenger movies.

Suggested Ages:
Kirkus Reviews - Ages 11+
School Library Journal - Grades 8+

Thursday, September 29, 2016

52 Reasons to Hate My Father

52 Reasons to Hate My 
by Jessica Brody
From the publisher:
"Being America’s favorite heiress is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. 

Lexington Larrabee has never to work a day in her life. After all, she’s the heiress to the multi-billion-dollar Larrabee Media empire. And heiresses are not supposed to work. But then again, they’re not supposed to crash brand new Mercedes convertibles into convenience stores on Sunset Blvd either.

Which is why, on Lexi’s eighteen birthday, her ever-absent, tycoon father decides to take a more proactive approach to her wayward life. Every week for the next year, she will have to take on a different low-wage job if she ever wants to receive her beloved trust fund. But if there’s anything worse than working as a maid, a dishwasher, and a fast-food restaurant employee, it’s dealing with Luke, the arrogant, albeit moderately attractive, college intern her father has assigned to keep tabs on her.

In a hilarious “comedy of heiress” about family, forgiveness, good intentions, and best of all, second chances, Lexi learns that love can be unconditional, money can be immaterial, and, regardless of age, everyone needs a little saving. And although she might have 52 reasons to hate her father, she only needs one reason to love him."

The concept and plot of this book reminded me very strongly of The Ultimate Gift, except way fluffier, more annoying and none of the depth that was in that book. However, I had fun reading it, and it is popular with my 7th and 8th grade girls. I had a really hard time caring about the spoiled heiress, and the intern who was supposed to be the love interest was so one dimensional it was ridiculous. I much preferred the happy Don Juan's taco friend who taught Lexi and thing or two. So it was fluffy, it was fun, but there was no depth or heart. The ending wrapped up way too quickly and conveniently and, quite frankly, wasn't even very believable.
On another note, this book has the most awesome book trailer!

Areas of concern:
*Quite a bit of underage drinking and clubbing.
*Drunk driving.
*Rich people paying off people to keep bad behavior out of court.
*Drunk spoiled heiress making horrible choices including making out with someone she doesn't even like.
*A father on his 6th engagement. The daughter recognizes that this "stepmother" will only last about 2 years. 

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


by Elly Blake
From the publisher:
"Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a fireblood who must hide her powers of heat and flame from the cruel frostblood ruling class that wants to destroy all that are left of her kind. So when her mother is killed for protecting her and rebel frostbloods demand her help to kill their rampaging king, she agrees. But Ruby's powers are unpredictable, and she's not sure she's willing to let the rebels and an infuriating (yet irresistible) young man called Arcus use her as their weapon.

All she wants is revenge, but before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to take part in the king's tournaments that pit fireblood prisoners against frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Fast-paced and compelling, Frostblood is the first in a page-turning new young adult three-book series about a world where flame and ice are mortal enemies—but together create a power that could change everything."

Well let's just say that I was reading 3 other books when I started this one, but this is the one I raced through and finished without even looking at the others. One of the things I love most about this book is the author's amazing world building. I could see everything in my mind - it was like watching a movie in my head. The language is beautiful, there is a kind of lilting flow to it like poetry or music. I really like the main character, Ruby. She is strong and weak, loving and hate-filled, determined and unsure. She is very human and flawed, which makes the reader very empathetic towards her. 
The powers were very cool! The mythology behind them all was very well-explained. Are there correlations that can be made between this book and books like Red Queen or Snow Like Ashes? Certainly. But that doesn't mean that all of those books aren't awesome. This story is uniquely its own and I really enjoyed it. I also really loved that although it is obvious there is much left to accomplish, there was a resolution to the main story line. It reminded me of Harry Potter. We had resolution at the end of the books, but we always knew Voldemort was still out there ready to pounce. The ending was incredibly intense but satisfying. I read an ARC (courtesy of Netgalley), the book doesn't actually come out until January 17th, 2017, but I will definitely be buying it for my middle school library. I'm extremely interested, and worried, to see what comes next for this protagonist. 

Areas of concern:
*Maybe 2 uses of the d-word.
*A lot of violence - some of it pretty grisly. The main character is fighting for her life and her very soul.
*There is talk of her passion making her power stronger, and there is an instance where she loses herself and does some things she regrets.

Suggested Ages: 
None available from publishers at this time.  I will be buying it for my school.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Young Elites

The Young Elites
by Marie Lu
From the publisher:
"I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all. 

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen. 

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt."

I pre-ordered this book from Amazon to get it for my library as quickly as possible because this author's Legend series is hugely popular. Because I pre-ordered it, I had no reviews to read so I had no idea it would be dramatically different from the Legend series. This is a dark, dark book. It makes you feel horrid inside when you read it, and I don't like to feel like that, and I'm positive no middle schoolers need to feel like that. Don't get me wrong, it is gripping and the writing flows, but it has no soul. I only remember 1 cuss word, and there is not a lot of sexual content, but the whole feel of the book is soul-less, violent, and darkly sensual. I can't think of a better word to describe it than dark - not bleak, not gloomy, not despairing, just a deep darkness. Parents - watch out for this one.

Areas of concern:
*Tremendous amounts of violence.
*The characters live in a bordello to try to remain hidden and it gets too descriptive about what is going on there.  One of the main characters services clients there.
*A character who glories in violence and draws power from other people's fear.
*An incredibly abusive father.
*Just darkness everywhere (if I didn't make that clear above).

Suggested Ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 12+
School Library Journal - Grades 8+
*There are many people who love this book - it was a starred review from Publisher's Weekly.  My recommendations for ages would be much higher.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Since You've Been Gone

Since You've Been Gone
by Morgan Matson
From the publisher:
"It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Um...

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane's list. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go skinny-dipping? Wait...what?

This was a really fun, sweet book. It came out in 2014 and I never purchased it for my library because I thought it would be a little too old for my middle school students (re: the list with things like skinny dipping , stealing, and kissing strangers). Then I read another review that said it was "too tame", and I thought - perfect! That's what I like and what I get for my middle schoolers who love romance. I'm really glad I saw that and decided to purchase this one. 

I loved the main character, Emily. It was inspiring to see her growth throughout the course of the book. I hope it will be eye opening to some of my middle schoolers who are in kind of toxic friendships where one person is so clearly dominant and the other person feels like they only have an identity because of their friend.

“It just gets hard, always being someone's second choice” 

I was so glad to see Emily come out of her shell, make new friends, have fun adventures and ultimately change her relationship with Sloane. Quite frankly, I was not a huge Sloane fan. I'm glad things were somewhat resolved with their friendship at the end. However, I did love Frank, Collins and Dawn. What an awesome group of friends! I was saddened by something that happened at the end with the group and wish we could have gotten some resolution on that. But I still really liked the book. Here are a couple more of my favorite quotes:

“In a well-ordered universe...camping would take place indoors.” 
(Obviously a kindred spirit!) And:

“Do you not like The Beatles?" Frank asked, sounding shocked. "Do you also not like sunshine and laughter and puppies?” 

Fun, witty, heart-warming and eye-opening are all ways I would describe this book. 

Areas of concern:
*Maybe 2 or 3 mild cuss words.
*Boy and girl sleep in a tent together sharing a pillow. Nothing happens.
*A skinny-dipping scene where towels were (of course) stolen. 
*A couple of heavy-duty kissing scenes. Nothing graphic.

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

Monday, September 12, 2016

Going Vintage

Going Vintage
by Lindsey Leavitt
From the publisher:
"When Mallory’s boyfriend, Jeremy, cheats on her with an online girlfriend, Mallory decides the best way to de-Jeremy her life is to de-modernize things too. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in1962, Mallory swears off technology and returns to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn’t cheat with computer avatars). The List:
1. Run for pep club secretary
2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
3. Sew a dress for Homecoming
4. Find a steady
5. Do something dangerous
But simple proves to be crazy-complicated, and the details of the past begin to change Mallory’s present. Add in a too-busy grandmother, a sassy sister, and the cute pep-club president–who just happens to be her ex’s cousin–and soon Mallory begins to wonder if going vintage is going too far.

A fun, albeit slightly forgettable book about one girl's decision to go offline after catching her boyfriend cheating on her with a "cyberwife". The main character, Mallory, is a normal high school girl who has kind of lost herself because of her complete involvement with her boyfriend. After discovering he was cheating on her, she decides that life was way easier for teenagers in her grandmother's time so she decides to give up all electronics and starts to live by a list her grandmother wrote back in 1962. Mallory is very close to her sister, Ginnie -  my favorite character - who is 2 years younger than her. After an argument, Ginnie takes away everything pre-1962 from Mallory's room so she can't cheat. It was pretty amusing to think about all of the things in our rooms that post-date 1962 :) . I really loved their relationship. 

“My mother makes up for all shortcomings because she birthed Ginnie. I might not have loads of friends, but Ginnie is enough. More than enough.”

One of the things I really liked about the book was the close family connections. Mallory and Ginnie are the best of friends and sisters, they have kind of weird, but united parents and a greatly loved and admired grandmother who unknowingly provides the catalyst for Mallory's decision to "go vintage". It was good to see Mallory find herself while working through her list of things to accomplish during her junior year. And I totally approved of the new boy interest. He was a great character and their interactions were always entertaining.

"“Because I like being around you.” He’s still looking out the window, and I wonder if he’s focusing on one object when he says this and what that object is. “I probably shouldn’t, but I do. And I can’t say why. I mean, I can think of a bunch of reasons why.”
Like? Like?
“But given … the obvious roadblock, I’m not sure how much we can get to know each other.” He rushes on. “As people, because you’re an interesting person and I value that in friendship. That’s seriously what I’m after, not that I’m after you and I’m not talking about, you know, ‘knowing’ each other. Like in a biblical way or anything, although you’re obviously pretty. I mean, very pretty and totally worth knowing both ways … Okay, shut it, Oliver. Shut it.”

And finally, I liked how it all came together at the end and culminated with another list - this time one that she made for herself. I don't want to spoil anything, but I appreciated where the author took the characters at the conclusion of the book. All in all, it was a fun book to read.

Areas of concern:
*I don't remember any cussing, there may have been one or two mild words.
*There was a lot of talk of making out and hooking up. Teenagers were seriously kissing in one of the characters bedrooms - nothing else happened.
*While there wasn't anything too graphic in this, I wouldn't call it a squeakly clean read. 

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

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Slow Dance in Purgatory

Slow Dance in Purgatory
by Amy Harmon
From the publisher:
"The hallways are empty, the school day long over, the din of lockers and youthful laughter have dissolved into silence. It's as if the very walls are waiting. And then through the intercom a song starts to crackle, the soundtrack of a forgotten life. And the band begins to sing - "Lovely Maggie falls for Johnny, a boy no one else can see. Heartthrob Johnny, 50s bad boy, trapped for eternity. Lonely boy and lonely girl, unsolved mystery. Maggie and Johnny, only high school sweethearts, because Johnny can't ever leave. Do wop, Do wop.." 

In 1958, a rumble goes down outside the brand new highschool in Honeyville, Texas. Chaos ensues, a life is lost, and Johnny Kinross disappears. But in 2010, someone finds him. Orphaned at the age of ten, 17-year-old Maggie O'Bannon finally finds a permanent home with her elderly aunt in a small Texas town. Working part-time as a school janitor, she becomes enmeshed in a fifty-year-old tragedy where nothing is as it seems and the boy of her dreams might vanish when the bell rings. 

This volatile and mismatched romance is doomed from its start, as Maggie struggles to hold on to yet another person she is destined to lose. Secret love and hushed affection are threatened by outside forces, resulting in a desperate race to keep a secret no one would understand. Deeply romantic, funny and tender, Slow Dance in Purgatory captures the heartache of a love story where a happy ending might be decades too late."

It's official. Amy Harmon could write the phone book and I would read it and love it. 
This one is very different from some of her others, being more Young Adult and paranormal-y, but it was still intense and addictive. Be warned, it ends on a huge cliffhanger so you'll want to have the next book on hand. And it is really hard for me to review because I read Prom Night in Purgatoryimmediately after I finished, so I'm afraid I'll give something away and say too much. Suffice it to say, I really liked it, it held my interest, it was unique and different, the writing is superb, I cared about the characters, and I ordered it for my middle school library.

Areas of concern:
*There is some cussing, it didn't seem overdone or gratuitous.
*There is talk of a mom who is sleeping around.
*Some kissing.
*A very violent story is underlying the whole book. There is talk of blood and staring eyes, gunshots and fighting.
*Ghosts are talked about and seen.