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!

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. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You

I'd Tell You I Love You, But
Then I'd Have To Kill You
by Ally Carter
From the publisher:
"Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it's really a school for spies. Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real "pavement artist"-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her? 

Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she's on her most dangerous mission-falling in love."

This book was adorable and hilarious. I was sucked in from page 1. It is one of those books where I will let the quotes do the reviewing, so here are some of my favorites (and they start right at the very beginning).

I loved that there was no bad language in it. In fact, the main character had this to say,
"MTV will lead us to believe that the B word has become a term of endearment or slang among equals, but I still mainly think of it as the insult of choice for the inarticulate." 

The main character, Cammie, always has insightful thoughts:
"I’m not sure why I hate Jessica Boden, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the fact that her posture is way too up-and-down, and I don’t trust someone who doesn’t know how to properly slouch." 

She also knows when to compromise:
"If the Communists and the Capitalists could fight together to take down the Nazis… I told myself. If Spike could fight alongside Buffy to rid the world of demons… If lemon could join forces with lime to create something as delicious and refreshing as Sprite, then surely I can work alongside Macey McHenry for the cause of true love!" 

And, when she was trying to figure out what to eat on her first movie date with a boy, she became my soul sister:
"Junior Mints— of course! Minty chocolate fun with none of the dangerous side effects." 
(The dangerous side effects being, of course, Milk Duds stuck in your teeth and popcorn kernels stuck in your teeth.)

This book is filled with thoughts like this. I'm so glad I read it. It has been a staple in my library for years and my students love it. I'm happy to be able to recommend it highly to them all now that I have read it. 

Areas of concern:
*Girls learning to be spies and coming from families of spies. One girl's father disappeared while on assignment. 
*A teenage girl sneaking out of her school to go meet a boy in town.
(I'm really stretching here, there isn't really anything I would be concerned about.)

Suggested Ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 12+
School Library Journal - Grades 7-10