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, May 3, 2016

Don't Look Back

Don't Look Back
by Jennifer L. Armentrout
From the publisher:
"Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend. 

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash. 

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?"

Don't Look Back was amazingly gripping - I read it in one day because I literally couldn't put it down. There was intensity of emotion, there was heart-pounding intrigue, there was pathos and sympathy inducing drama. My heart was wrenched by the main character and her situation. I loved to see the changes she made in her life and I cheered her on in her progress. This could have been an absolutely fabulous book.
(Takes a deep breath)
There was awful teenage behavior throughout this book. Intense bullying, horrible language, drinking, partying, hooking up with one person and then another, posting of pornographic pictures of a girlfriend on social media, parents who are encouraging bad behavior. Guh - why, why, why?! This book could have been so amazing without all of the disgusting-ness. Granted, the plot needed the main character to make a big change, but much of what was in this is so inappropriate for middle school, let alone for me. 
I also felt like we were left with some major plot holes. I never did understand why Del was acting the way he was. What was driving his great desire to stay with Samantha? It certainly wasn't love. I also never felt like I understood why Cassie had such a hold on Samantha to begin with. 
(Big sigh)
Oh how I wish all of the bad content had been left out of this or perhaps not described so graphically. I can't recommend it because of that.

Suggested Ages:
Booklist - Grades 7-10
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 14+
School Library Journal - Grades 7-10
(Those grades 7-10 suggestions are the reason I purchased this one for the library.  However, I very much disagree with that suggestion.)

Monday, May 2, 2016


by Julia Golding
From the publisher:
"Princess Taoshira of the Blue Crescent Islands is appalled when she is ordered to marry Prince Ramil of Gerfal. And he's not too pleased, either. She is used to a life of discipline, ritual, and splendor. He is used to hunting and carousing. They hate each other on sight. But both of their countries are under threat from a fearsome warlord, and the only chance of peace is to form an alliance. 

When Tashi and Ram are kidnapped, they fear there's no escape--from their kidnappers or from each other. Can they put aside their differences long enough to survive ambush, unarmed combat, brainwashing, and imprisonment? And will the people they meet on their adventure--including a circus strongman, a daring rebel leader, a sinister master of spies, and the best female fighter they have ever seen--help them or betray them to the enemy?

I was very surprised by this one. I've had it in the library for 3 years, and available on my Kindle for quite some time, but I just was never very interested. I finally decided to read it and actually loved it! I think it might have been the cover -it never really reached out and grabbed me. But the dragonfly IS a very important part of the book (obviously, since that is the title), so I can see why they used this cover.   And oh my goodness, while writing this I have just noticed that besides the dragonfly, there is the shadow of a girl's face in the background.  So it IS a great cover!  How have I never noticed that before?!

Dragonfly is a fantasy in the manner of The Princess Bride , but without all the tongue-in-cheek humor. Not that there isn't humor in this one, but it is more of a natural humor rather than the wink-wink, nudge-nudge kind of humor. (That makes it sound like I am disparaging The Princess Bride , but I love that book!) In this one we have a princess with very formal etiquette and a strict code of behavior unwillingly betrothed to a prince with very different ways. The two take an instant dislike to each other, and when forced to spend time together away from the palace they are kidnapped by circus performers (including a giant). That is when the action really begins. There are many intense moments where one or both are tortured and their lives are threatened. Through these experiences they grow to appreciate each other and eventually realize they are in love. Then of course they are separated, with each of them thinking the other either dead or enslaved (with an awesome Lord of the Rings-ish cliff jump involved). The road back to each other is also full of intense action and drama. 

One other thing I loved about this one is how the author dealt with the different cultures and religions in the story. It was all done very respectfully and we were just kind of shown the differences. There was good and bad, and faith wavered and then was reaffirmed. The main characters made tremendous growth throughout their ordeal. 

I loved the secondary characters as well, and thought they were drawn very thoughtfully. Gordoc, the giant, was such a loyal friend and companion - I loved him. All of the friends they made along the way were well-drawn. The villain, Fergox Spearthrower, is incredibly evil and narcissisitic, but hugely entertaining. Really, this book has it all! I'm not sure why it has remained so low-key in my library, but I will definitely be recommending it to one and all. Even recommended for grandpas to read to sick grandsons (although there is some very mild kissing :) ). I really loved it and may have to purchase my own copy just for fun. 

Areas of concern: 
*Quite a bit of violence, but nothing really graphic. 
*I don't remember any bad language.
*Intense life or death moments.
*A couple of characters talk of "bedding".
*Sweet, mild romance with a little kissing and then a honeymoon that ends with a husband suggesting his wife return his shirt to him (she's wearing it at the time).

Suggested Ages (really varied on this one... I think it is fine for 6th graders):
Booklist - Grades 6-9
Kirkus Reviews - Ages 11-13
School Library Journal - Grades 8+