The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This instant YA classic was on my TBR long before its release date of February 2017. Since my book club wasn’t scheduled to read it until November of 2017, I decided I would wait until then (now) to read it. I’ve been waiting, wanting, and excited to read this book for a long time. To say it was worth the wait is the understatement of the year. My wait was serendipitous. My book club meets today, November 19, the day that author, Angie Thomas, is speaking at one of our local libraries and we will be there. I cannot wait to hear from and meet the woman that wrote this book. I know it’s all been said before, but The Hate U Give is a master work, the most important YA book of our time (y

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

I appreciate the boldness of an author who will straight up tell the reader what to expect from his book right on the cover - They Both Die at the End. Guess what? Both main characters, Mateo and Rufus do, indeed, die at the end of this book. But they do a lot of living before that end. When both Mateo and Rufus get the call from Death-Cast telling them they will die before the day is over, for different reasons, they both decide to reach out to the Last Friend app. Rufus gathered his “family” together at their shared home they call Pluto and held a funeral for himself. It was everything he wanted until the cops showed up. Now, Rufus is on the run after a rushed goodbye to those closes

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

* update* Far From the Tree just won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Congratulations, Robin Benway! I can’t imagine being forced with the decision to give up my baby at age sixteen, especially while said baby is being delivered the night the father is being crowned Prom King. But that is exactly what Grace has to do. She’s cared for Peach for nine months, carefully picked out a loving couple for her, and gave her up to them. Just like that. She’s not emotionally prepared for the hole this leaves in her heart, nor the emotion it stirs up about her own adoption. Why did her mother give her up? Was she just like Peach or was it something else? Her adoptive family has been

Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee by Mary G. Thompson

I love saying to students, “You’ll love this book! It’s about this girl who gets kidnapped.” And, then we both look at each other, feeling awkward about getting book nerd excited about someone who was kidnapped. But they truly make for some tension-filled and compelling stories that they love. Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee gives you that plus some added creepy factor. The story begins with Amy showing up at her childhood home after being kidnapped six years ago. She’s not sure this is the right thing to do, but she doesn’t have a choice. Her reunion with her mom, her home, and her old bedroom are tainted with the memories she wants to escape but can’t. Even though her family, including her Aunt

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Although this book is perfectly appropriate for middle-grade readers, no matter your age, if you love superhero stories, you are going to love Renegades. Is it predictable? Yep. Are the themes familiar? You bet. Is the story original? Not even a little bit. But you’re still gonna love it. When the Renegades (a syndicate of prodigies) promised to but then failed to protect her family from an evil gang which ended in the deaths of her father, mother, and baby sister, seven-year-old Nova vows to bring them down. Lucky for her, her uncle (who does rescue her from the apartment where her family lay murdered) is the head of the Anarchists so she’ll have no problem finding like-minded acco

Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

A quick story of two very different sisters who live in a run-down Seattle apartment with their late-night working, sometimes drug-using mom, who are basically expected to raise themselves. When their absent dad (who hasn’t paid child support in years) unexpectedly shows up and hides a backpack filled with over $30,000 under Gem’s bed, Gem sees it as an opportunity. Gem (the older sister - she is a Senior, Dixie is a Freshman) believes her life has been harder than Dixie’s. Gem is plain. Dixie is cute. Gem has no friends. Dixie has lots of friends. Gem has no confidence. Dixie might be too confident. Dad keeps in touch with Dixie. He never mentions Gem. Mom talks to Dixie and acts

In a Perfect World by Trish Doller

When her mother’s dream of opening an eye clinic for the underprivileged in Cairo, Egypt, comes true, Caroline is forced to give up her fun summer plans with her boyfriend and best friend. Not to mention her senior year in the only place she’s ever called home. She’s moving to Cairo with Mom and Dad. Summer in Cairo is going to be weird. Mom will be super busy with work and Dad travels for his job so Caroline will be on her own. Because safety for women in the Middle East is notoriously iffy, Caroline’s parents arrange for a driver to take her wherever she wants to go, every day. They are hoping she gets to know the city, sees the sites, and will maybe meet some people her age. When h

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

I was drawn to this book by the gorgeous cover (I love that shade of green) and eye-catching font announcing the intriguing title. When I saw Jodi Lynn Anderson was the author, I knew I wanted to read it. I read Anderson’s Tiger Lily back in 2012, but it’s a book I still think about (Time magazine included it in its list of the 100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time: http://time.com/100-best-young-adult-books/). I will have the privilege of listening to Anderson speak at the ALAN Workshop in St. Louis in a couple of weeks so I was excited to get a chance to read her latest book before then. I was even more wowed by her writing in Midnight at the Electric than I was with Tiger Lily (and tha

Great Falls by Steve Watkins

In the year 2017, we will have been engaged in a war that has lasted almost sixteen years. That’s almost half of my adult life. Technically, it ended in 2014 but let’s not pretend otherwise. I crumble every time a video montage of families welcoming home their soldiers shows up on my feed. I seriously can’t handle it. Just this week, the reminder of PTSD and mental health in the military is present as I witness an active shooter who is formal military. Suicide rates for soldiers are rampant. I could go on and on. The bottom line is this is a problem, it’s not going away, and it needs to be discussed not as a taboo topic but as a real one. In the author notes, Watkins says, “Great Falls is fo

One Dark Throne (Book #2) by Kendare Blake

Originally intended as a duology, the success of Three Dark Crowns has prompted Kendare Blake to write two more books in this series, but she is quick to say that she ends One Dark Throne as intended, she just gets to write more! I’m still on the fence as to how I feel about it because, dang that ending! But you better believe I will be reading the next two. A short amount of time has passed when the story opens after the craziness of the Ascension, and all three Queens are still alive. With each faction struggling to keep their Queen in the lead, so to speak, this book quickly turns pretty dark. Katharine is the most changed since the Ascension, no more the weakest of the three, she isn’t

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

4.5 I’ll be honest with you; I can’t identify that one thing that made me love this book, especially since it was a mere 210 pages long (or less than a five-hour audio). Usually, this leaves a lot to be desired in the way of character development and story, but Nic Stone just might be a genius. She managed to pack one hell of a story in those few pages without sacrificing quality. This story can easily be compared to Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, in fact, there is mention of the “thug life” in Stone’s book and a shout out from her on the cover, but this can easily stand on its own two feet, no comparison needed. Justyce McAllister is doing everything he’s been told he needs to to be su

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds is at his most powerful in Long Way Down. In sparse, potent verse, Reynolds tells the story of Will and his plan to get revenge on the guy who shot and killed his brother, Shawn. Will knows the rules. Shawn’s the one who taught them to him: 1) No crying, 2) No snitching, 3) Get revenge (“If someone you love / gets killed, / find the person / who killed / them and / kill them.) I couldn’t help thinking of the 10 Duel Commandments from Hamilton . . . Once Will decides to kill Shawn’s murderer, (“but if the blood / inside you is on the inside / of someone else / you never want to / see it on the outside of / them”) he gets in the elevator to get downstairs and out to the str

Spinning by Tillie Walden

I have definitely decided that my favorite way to read a memoir is in graphic novel format. Tillie Walden’s memoir is about her childhood spent at the ice skating rink and an exploration of feelings she remembers from that time. So many feelings. Stress about skating and the relentless practice schedule (4AM practices - omg), resentment against the sport and against her parents for being uninvolved and seemingly uninterested, fear of falling on the ice and of coming out of the closet, uncertainty about wanting to quit skating and whether or not to go to college. Although many readers won’t have had her experience on the ice, all will empathize with Tillie’s growing pains. The art is wel

Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis by Jeannine Atkins

When writing reviews, I frequently mention how much I learn from reading fiction. In the case of Stone Mirrors: the Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis, I learned about an artist of whom I had never heard. Edmonia Lewis was a teen during the Civil War. Her mother was a Cherokee and her father was African American. She was orphaned early and spent time at Oberlin College & Conservatory - one of the first schools to fully integrate white, black, male, and female students. After tragic circumstances, she left school and moved to Boston where fate led her on the path to becoming a successful sculptor, earning her way to Rome to further her education in sculpting and continue her art. Th

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

“Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not. Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own. Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother Of the stranger. I am uneasy of heart when I have to leave My accustomed shelter; I forgot that there abides the old In the new, and that there also thou abidest.” -Rabindranath Tagore, from “Poems” I just loved this book; I only wish I would have read it before hearing Mitali Perkins discuss it at an author event I attended last month! This YA tale of three generations of women from the same family does something I’ve only seen done well in books written for adults - cover a time span of nearly 50 years in 300 pages. Impressive. The story

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

When Rachel’s brother, Cal, drowns in the ocean, she fails her last year of school and is lost. Worried for her, Rachel’s mother insists she spend a year in Gracetown, where they moved from three years ago, and live with Mom’s sister, Rachel’s aunt, Rose. Rachel agrees and is glad Rose has secured her a job at the hospital where she works so Rachel might not run into anyone that she used to know. Like Henry. Henry, who ignored the letter she left in the Prufrock in the Howling Books’ Letter Library. Henry, who chose to spend the last night of the world with Amy instead of Rachel. Henry, with whom Rachel was desperately in love but that love was, apparently, unreciprocated. Because fate is cr

The Wood by Chelsea Bobulski

This cover is just too perfect for Fall. I had to Instagram it. The back cover is pretty epic, too; it also serves as foreshadowing as to what’s about to happen to the wood . . . Winter Parish’s ancestors have lived in their ancient home at the edge of the wood since the 1700s. In all of that time, one person from each generation has been responsible for serving as guardian. The guardianship stays in the bloodline and is passed down from generation to generation. A guardian’s job is to usher unsuspecting time travelers who wander into the wood back to their own time through various portals in the trees (it reminded me of the forest in The Nightmare Before Christmas where Jack found Chris

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Nina O'Daniels

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Shannon Grieshaber

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Created in 2017