by Carl Hiaasen
Summary: Ms. Starch is the most feared teacher at the Truman School. But, when she disappears after a school field trip, two of her students quickly realize that something strange is going on. Nick & Marta don’t buy the headmaster’s story that Ms. Starch is away on a family emergency and start investigating the teacher’s disappearance on their own.
Thoughts: Scat contains all of the classic “Hiaasen” elements – environmentalists, greedy corporations, endangered animals, clever kids, and a Florida setting. As in his other novels, the author mixes these together to create a fun, suspenseful adventure full of humor and passion for the environment.
The Stolen One
by Suzanne Crowley
Summary: Kat has grown up in an English country cottage with her adoptive mother and sister. When her mother dies, Kat sets off for London looking for answers about her real parents. Her bright red hair and expert embroidery skills catch the attention of Queen Elizabeth herself! Kat then finds herself in the queen’s court trying to unravel the secrets of her past and also make decisions about her future and whom she truly loves.
Thoughts: This is an engrossing historical novel with a strong, determined heroine. The author did a beautiful job of creating authentic characters and bringing both the English countryside and the royal court to life. I also liked the way she intertwined excerpts from Kat’s adoptive mother’s diary between chapters about Kat’s experiences in London. I love books about this time period and particularly enjoyed this one with a young adult heroine. I hope Ms. Crowley will continue to explore this historical world in her writings.
Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress
by Maria Padian
Summary: Brett is pretty sure of who she is: soccer star, vocabulary expert, only child, beloved granddaughter, and Diane’s best friend. But, her world is turned upside down her 8th grade year when she & Diane have a fight; overnight Brett goes from Diane’s best friend to social outcast. She is forced to redefine herself and figure out where she truly belongs.
Thoughts: I was interested in this book for a while, but was was always turned off by the cover. (Our copy is solid red with a gold outline of the Brett drawing :/ ). But, I asked one of my students (a soccer star herself!) to read it, and she loved it! So, finally I got to it, and I loved it too. I thought Brett was hilarious and very authentic. I think so many readers could relate to her and the friendship challenges she is experiencing. So, ignore the cover and give it a try. (At least the paperback cover is better!)
The Year of the Swallows Came Early
by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Summary: When Groovy’s father is taken away to jail, she can’t believe it. There must be some mistake! But, she quickly learns that there is no mistake, and that what her father has done may compromise her whole future.
Thoughts: I loved this book! The setting, the tone, the pace, the word pictures …. everything pulled me into this gentle story. Groovy was such a loveable character, and I couldn’t help but pull for her. I also really liked her mom; she wasn’t perfect, but she was caring and strong. This is a great story about life’s disappointments, forgiveness, and love.
All the Broken Pieces
by Ann E. Burg
Summary: Matt was airlifted out of Vietnam at the end of the war. He was adopted by a loving American family but is still haunted by memories of war-torn Vietnam and the mother and brother he left behind. Matt is the star pitcher of his baseball team, but not all of his teammates accept him; they blame him for the deaths of the young American soldiers sent to fight in his home country. This free-verse novel tells the story of Matt’s struggle with guilt, discrimination, acceptance, and healing.
Thoughts: I love free-verse novels, and this one did not disappoint. I found the writing of this first-time novelist to be beautifully simple yet powerful. The story pulls the reader into the horrors and pain of war through the eyes of a young victim. I am thankful for quality historical fiction that illuminates an event or time period like All the Broken Pieces. I look forward to more from this novelist!
North of Beautiful
by Justina Chen Headley
Summary: Terra is beautiful – blonde, thin, fit – perfect in every way except ….. for a large, wine-colored birthmark on her face. Instead of accepting her uniqueness, her father constantly belittles her and makes her feel ugly and flawed. After undergoing yet another procedure to remove the mark, Terra meets Jacob. He is a handsome, confident Goth guy (not her type at all!) whom she is drawn to immediately. Jacob has a cleft lip, but, unlike Terra, he doesn’t care if people stare at his flaw. He challenges Terra to think differently about herself and her thoughts of beauty and perfection.
Thoughts: North of Beautiful is a lovely, emotional novel. I loved the use of map metaphors (from Terra’s father’s profession) throughout the story. Also, I felt the entire novel worked as a collage, similar to Terra’s art; the author created layers of thoughts, feelings, and experiences that came together into a beautiful piece of writing. The characters are realistic; they felt like friends I hated to leave at the end of the story!
Trivia: The girl pictured on the cover is on two other young adult novels. Can you find the other two in the library or bookstore?
The Juvie Three
by Gordon Korman
Summary: Three juvenile delinquents, Terence, Arjay & Gecko, have been selected by social worker Doug for an alternative detention program allowing them to leave jail and move with him to a halfway house in New York City. When Doug has an accident and ends up in the hospital with amnesia, the boys hatch a plan to cover for him until he can regain his memory. This dangerous escapade might work…..or it might land the three boys right back in juvie.
Thoughts: This is a great book! It’s a little more intense than some of Korman’s other works, but I really enjoyed it. The characters are genuine, and the plot wais creative. I’d recommend this novel to anyone looking for a realistic story with drama and intrigue.
The Chosen One
by Carol Lynch Williams
Summary: Lyra lives with her father, three mothers, and twenty siblings in an isolated community. After the Prophet declares that Lyra has been chosen to marry her 60-year-old uncle, she just doesn’t think she can accept this fate. But if she finds the courage to attempt an escape, can she actually leave the family she loves and the only life she’s ever known?
Thoughts: This is a truly captivating book. The storyline is “ripped from the headlines” and pulled me in from the very first page. I loved Lyra and was on the edge of my seat as she contemplated her grim situation and the stakes steadily intensified. This rivoting novel allows the reader a rare view into this extreme lifestyle and an understanding of how people can get trapped in these dangerous situations.
by Carrie Jones
Summary: After the sudden death of her stepfather, Zara goes to Maine to spend some time with her grandmother. But, when she sees the same man in her grandmother’s small town that she saw following her at home, Zara wonders what is really going on.
Thoughts: This is a captivating supernatural novel. It has a lot of similarities to the Twilight storyline, so fans of the series might want to give this one a try.
The Girl Who Threw Butterflies
by Mick Cochrane
Summary: After her father passes away, Molly and her mother have a very difficult time dealing with their grief and with each other. Molly and her father shared a love for baseball and he taught her to throw a wicked knuckleball (a “butterfly”). She decides that this year instead of playing softball with the girls, she is going to try out for the boy’s baseball team.
Thoughts: I really enjoyed this endearing story. Molly and the other characters were real and honest. You do not have to be a sports fan to relate to this story of grief, strength, friendship, and learning to be yourself.
The Beef Princess of Practical County
by Michelle Houts
Summary: Libby, the daughter of a cattle farmer, is excited to finally get to show a steer at the county fair. After watching her older brother show for years, she is excited to finally get to try it herself. She picks two calves, gives them names (against her family’s advice), and immediately falls in love with the young animals. Libby wonders how she will possibly be able to part with the calves when it comes time to seel them to the highest bidder.
Thoughts: The Beef Princess of Practical County is a gentle coming-of-age story. I liked Libby’s relationship with her family and the rural setting (I’m a cowgirl at heart!). I look forward to the next book from this first time novelist.