Six Crimson Cranesby Elizabeth Lim Year Published: 2021
Six Crimson Cranes is a solid fantasy novel.
Shiori and her brothers are cursed by their step mother—the boys are turned into cranes, she is forbidden to speak (a brother will die for every word she says) and she has a walnut bowl on her head. The walnut bowl is a really clever situation!
Shiori must figure out how to free her brothers and herself from these curses…and also save the kingdom from the demons who threaten it.
Oh. And she may just come across her betrothed that she didn’t want to marry…before.
When the World Was Oursby Liz Kessler Year Published: 2021
Five-Alarm Snot Bomb here!
I think I put the book down no less than 8 times and just shook my head saying, “This is so sad”.
It is the story of three best friends who live in Vienna in 1936. What we come to find out is that two of them are Jewish and one is the son of a high ranking SS officer.
I will not give spoilers.
This is sad.
The Dire Days of Willowweep Manorby Shaenon K. Gerrity Year Published: 2021
So much fun! And smart.
Our protagonist is a high school student who loves to read old, gothic romance novels. You know the ones--old manor house, tragic love story, supernatural elements, your English teacher (like this one!!!) loves them...
And the one day she falls into a tear in the time/space continuum (or something like that) and she is in a gothic place...full of all of the tropes. But they are also broken tropes. Like the maiden is a heroine. And the grumpy maid is...well, I won't spoil it!
Blackoutby A Ton of Amazing Black Ladies Year Published: 2021
I mean, with a lineup like this…how could you go wrong really???
This is a series of short stories, each by one of these amazing black women. They all take place in the same world, NYC during a blackout. All of the characters are dealing with the same blackout…and a relationship issue.
I appreciated them all. I thought that Jackson’s story being split up and put in as installments between each of the other stories was good. I liked the way they were separate stories, but they were connected.
I liked…I liked…l loved…
It was just really good. I’ve been looking for a short story collection I could really sell to students, and I think I have finally found it!
Love In Englishby Maria E. Andreau Year Published: 2021
This novel tells the story of a girl, Ana, who has just moved to the United States from Argentina. She does not speak English, despite having taken it in high school in Argentina.
When she starts at her American high school, her first class is math. It’s there that she sees Harrison, the all-American boy with the good looks, the friendly personality, and a potential crush on her! It’s just like the movies she watched back home.
And then, in ESL class, there’s Neo, a boy from Greece who is also new to the United States and learning English. He is thoughtful and understands what she’s going through in this new country, missing home and feeling lost. And he might have a crush on her, too.
Whatever is Ana to do???
I Must Betray Youby Ruta Sepetya Year Published: 2022
This is an historic fiction novel about a boy living in communist Romania. The government is corrupt and treats its citizens cruelly, to put it mildly. This is a time period I knew very little about, and the part I found the most hard to imagine living in is the web of informers that the government wove. Everyone, it seemed, was being blackmailed to inform on others, and there was double and triple crossing. So crazy.
Anyone who likes historic fiction would like this, and anyone who loved Gratz and is perhaps outgrowing him would like this author.
Incredible Doomby Matthew Bogart Year Published: 2021
The plot came together at the end nicely, but nope. Not for me.
This follows some teenagers who are having some tough times at home, one of the parents is even abusive.
They connect over the early internet.
It was a gritty graphic novel, and just not my style.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and Youby Jason Reynolds & Ibram X Kendi Year Published: 2020
Reynolds. Seriously? The man is a genius when it comes to how to write something that the YA audience can relate to.
This book, a “cover” of Kendi’s book by the same name, was rewritten so that a younger audience could get into it. There is an attitude in the voice which is wonderful. And the history of this—as Reynolds puts it—not history history book is clear and deep without being too much.
I am hoping to buy a copy of this for every high school student in my school this year and do a school-wide read.
We Ride Upon Sticksby Quan Barry Year Published: 2020
If you were at all aware of the world in the late ‘80s, then you’ll think this novel is hilarious!
The Danvers, MA field hockey team wants to win states this year. And they’re terrible. So what do they do? They make a pact with darkness and sign their names to a notebook with Emilio Estevez’s picture on the cover. Of course.
My favorite part of the book? One girl had bangs like only we did (or at least tried to) in the ‘80s. And these bangs have a name: the Claw! And it’s a sentient Claw. And it’s angry.
My least favorite part? I thought that the ‘80s references were a little much. They lent to the comedy of the situation, but I felt like it went a little too far.
The Testamentsby Margaret Atwood Year Published: 2019
Actually, 3.5 stars.
I listened to this one on audio.
I think the thing I liked most about this was the continuation of the world. I do enjoy hearing more about worlds that I know well. I’m a finisher; I like being lost in a place and hearing the whole story. So, for that, I’m happy.
But, I will say that I have a hard time with Aunt Lydia. I won’t give away anything here, but just say that I’m not super interested in why the bad guy is bad. I have very little sympathy right now for the argument of doing bad things for the right reasons...that playing the long game thing.
Did I enjoy listening? Yes. Do I think it was necessary? No.
Ghost Boysby Jewell Parker Rhodes Year Published: 2018
This story goes back and forth between Jerome while he is alive and after he is dead.
It doesn’t spoil anything to say that Jerome dies in this book by police bias and violence; it happens on the first page. What would spoil is if I told you what happens to him as he wanders the Earth afterward.
Some can hear and see him. But why? Why these people? And who are the other ghost boys? Why can they not rest?
There is historic accuracy in the stories that are told by one of the ghost boys.
I believe that this is an important book that would bring good conversation to a classroom.
It will make you think about the state of the world we're living in today.
Loveboat Taipeiby Abigail Heng Wen Year Published: 2020
This is about a Chinese-American girl whose parents want her to go to med school. She wants to dance.
Ever, this strong girl, is torn between doing what will make her parents proud and doing what will make her happy.
As a surprise, Ever’s parents are sending her to Chinese school in Taiwan. She knows she’s going to hate it.
But what happens there surprises everyone!
This is the story of finding who you are, friendship, and—because YA—love.
Look Both Waysby Jason Reynolds Year Published: 2019
This quick read is a Corretta Scott King award winner, and rightfully so.
The book is set up at a group of 10 interconnected short stories, each focusing on a person or a group of people all leaving school at the end of the day. Each story shows the diversity of worry, trauma, happiness, fear, caring...the gammit...that a young person feels as they leave their last class of the day.
The stories do have brief glimpses of characters from other stories, but the people focused on are not friends with the people from the other stories, and even if you didn't pick up on the overlap, it wouldn't matter. It's not important to the understanding of the story.
Reynolds is masterful. He truly understands the mind of a young person and captures their voices in such an authentic way. Fatima, who I suspect is on the autism spectrum, is a character I haven't seen Reynolds depict before, but he captures her with such respect that she is just her. Perhaps she is a person living with autism, perhaps not. She's just her, and that's good enough.
That's how Reynolds depicts all of his characters. They are people, and they deserve our love and attention for that fact only.
Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Libraryby Chris Grabenstein Year Published: 2013
I read this because it is one of my son's favorite series. It was good. I can see why it is so popular with the 5-8 graders. The puzzles are tough, but not too. And the characters are good—they are very Breakfast Club stereotypes without being too predictable.
It was a nice chance to escape from quarantine!
The Cruel Princeby Holly Black Year Published: 2018
This is the first in a trilogy.
The book begins with Jude's parents being murdered by her mother's former husband...who just happens to be a redcap from Faerie.
He brings Jude, her twin sister Taryn, and their older sister (and his daughter) Vivi to Faerie where he loves them and raises them all as his own daughters among the faye gentry.
Jude is a fighter, so when she is challenged by none other than one of Faerie's own princes simply because she is mortal, she finds it hard to back down.
And of course, nothing is what it seems!
The Stars Beneath Our Feetby David Barclay Moore Year Published: 2017
I’m giving this book three stars, not because it wasn’t good-it was. Not because it didn’t get to big issues-it did. And not even because I didn’t like it-I did. I’m giving it the “it was okay” three stars.
Wallace and his moms had an interesting dynamic, and I liked the ending—no spoilers!
That said, it was a little too neat for me. The event at the end by the river... The relationship between Wallace and Rose... I guess I just thought some things were not super realistic.
I don’t know. I don’t mean to complain about the book because it was good. Just not super good, in my opinion.
The Murderer's Apeby Jakob Wegelius Year Published: 2017
Sally Jones, an engineering-minded gorilla, narrates this fast-paced novel. Our story opens with Sally Jones and her captain, Chief, coming into port in Lisbon. They are looking for work, but when they find it, they find themselves in a pickle that brings the reader to India and back.
This is a great read for those students who want something with short, action-packed chapters. It keeps you turning pages quickly and despite it being a 600+page book, it feels much shorter.
I enjoyed Sally Jones’ voice very much.
Patinaby Jason Reynolds Year Published: 2017
Another great one, Jason Reynolds!
Patina is another one of the newbies on the track team. She can come off kind of icky, but she’s got a lot of stuff going on!
I really liked her voice—it captured the way a teenage girl would talk. A great sophomore point to this four part series!
The Magicianby Michael Scott Year Published: 2009
It’s so fun. This is a series that is simply fun to read. I like the way the mythology is weaved into the story, ancient dirties coming back to play with the humani.
I also appreciate that it seems like anything could happen. Sophie and Josh are the twins we want to be on the good side, but what the good side is or where they’ll end up can be at times ambiguous.
This is a series for your middle school readers and your high school readers who are looking for something other than Percy Jackson or Harry Potter.
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the Worldby Pénélope Bagieu Year Published: 2018
I liked this.
A graphic novel which spends about ten pages on a woman who did things differently than those around her expected her to. I learned about amazing women, most of whom I had never heard of, Afghani rappers, black astronauts, and early modern-art collectors to name just a few.
I was happy to spend brief periods of time with these women.
Boots on the Groundby Elizabeth Partridge Year Published: 2018
A history of the Vietnam war.
It was an interesting read-a series of interviews with people who served in Vietnam in different capacities. Interspersed were brief histories of the presidents and what they were thinking or going through. Then, there was the story of the woman who designed the Wall.
I definitely learned more about the war than I knew before. I would have preferred a more narrative story format, but enjoyed it nonetheless.
Sam and Ilsa's Last Hurrahby Rachel Cohn and David Levithan Year Published: 2018
A mad story about twins, Sam and Ilsa, who have always visited their grandmother at her fancy New York City apartment and had dinner parties there. Well, now their grandmother is moving to Paris and the twins are having their last dinner party and the apartment.
There are zany characters who are invited, KK who is the quintessential bitch, Ceaser who is a sock puppet, and Johan who had a fiddle case full of doll-Dolly Partons.
While on the surface this is just a crazy, mad book, it does get to deeper issues of where one belongs, physically and spiritually, and also if one is destined to fulfill the roles that have been set out for them.
Behind the Beautiful Foreversby Katherine Boo Year Published: 2012
This is one of those narrative non-fiction books that I’ve been really enjoying recently. I never knew I’d like non-fiction, but when it’s written as a story to be told-and it’s that what history and life is really?—I do enjoy it.
I found this one harder than others. Perhaps it was the “unfathomability” of the poverty and injustice. I think it was more so that I kept wondering how Boo knew some of the things she wrote happened. Yes, there had to be interviews, there was observation, but still...
I don’t doubt that there were events that happened as she said, I just found myself wondering if they happened when and how she said they did.
Down Among the Sticks & Bonesby Seanan McGuire Year Published: 2017
Dang. I'm liking this series! It's so creepy and unusual and at the same time reminiscent of classics like Narnia and Wonderland...but messed up versions.
I enjoyed that this was a prequel to the first in the series and am looking forward to the next! Definitely on my to read list!
Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruinedby Danielle Younge-Ullman Year Published: 2017
I listened to this one on audio.
It was a slow start for me. Ingrid was not my favorite character, and I knew early on that she was not a reliable narrator. That said, as the novel progressed, I found that I was more and more drawn to her story. Her interactions with the other campers became more believable.
I'm not sure how I felt about the ending. Without giving anything away, I felt sad that there had still been things that she wasn't able to deal with on the trip. Perhaps the point was that she needed to be able to deal with them on her own terms still--she is her mother's daughter. I guess I'm just not sure how I feel about it.
The Prince and the Dressmakerby Jen Wang Year Published: 2018
Wang has produced a wonderful graphic novel about acceptance of others, but even more so, acceptance of yourself.
Prince Sebastian believes that in order to become the king, he must give up a part of who he is--a boy who likes to wear dresses. But, his seamstress, Frances, sees beyond the stereotypes of what that "means" about him, and sees that it's just a part of who he is, like she likes to make dresses, he likes to wear them.
It's not a big deal.
But, when Prince Sebastian's secret gets out, will others think it's a big deal?
Dread Nationby Justina Ireland Year Published: 2018
An alternate history, where the United States stopped fighting the Civil War because they had more pressing issues...the dead of Gettysburg began to walk.
Now, Native and African American youths are being put into combat schools to fight the "shamblers".
Issues of racism are well addressed. Jane is a strong woman. I agree with other who have said that some aspects of the story were a bit too "neat". I never downright feared for our characters. That said, I thought the story line was solid and am looking forward to the sequel.
All Systems Redby Martha Wells Year Published: 2017
This was a quick read, and I can see the appeal for some readers, but I didn’t find the story compelling. I found the story hard to follow at first. The world buildings just wasn’t there. I didn’t find the characters very well developed either.
Children of Blood and Boneby Tomi Adeyemi Year Published: 2018
Yup. Really good.
Zelie and her brother Tzain work with the princess Amari to bring magic back to their world.
Obviously there are some setbacks.
I really liked the lessons on prejudice and the use of the word maggot as a current day social commentary. I’m not sure that younger audiences will catch on, but I got it loud and clear.
I really enjoyed it.
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