Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Well, I don’t think I could have picked a better book to read during this time than Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe. It’s not my first Preston Norton novel (Where I End and You Begin is equally wonderful), and both stories have that “something.” I can’t quite put my finger on it, but despite the challenges his characters face, I’m always reading about it with a smile. Actually, I’ve listened to both and LOVED them. In this particular case, Cliff, or Neanderthal as his non-friends call him because of his 6 foot 6 frame, is having a rough go at life right now. He’s picked on at his school, his dad is the WORST, and his mom does nothing about it, and he’s still dealing with the suici

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Turning pain into art and an unintentional mission. SHOUT is the story of a girl who lost her voice so she wrote herself a new one. I am in awe of anyone who can write a memoir. To be able to look at the events of your life and select the ones that shaped you? I honestly cannot imagine. My life has been pretty much idyllic yet the thought of examining it so closely makes me shudder. I am not brave; I’m a Hufflepuff (no shade to you brave Puffs!). Just let me remember the good stuff and blindly appreciate the life I live. Someone who can write a memoir poetically? Well, that just blows my mind. But Laurie Halse Anderson has done just that. Anderson begins her memoir with her unstable childhoo

Camp Valor by Scott McEwen and Hof Williams

Did you finish Netflix while on quarantine? Need something to wake you up? Camp Valor will do just that and it's on the Gateway list for the next school year (hint: get a head start on the list!). The premise is simple: pluck smart but slightly shady kids out of the juvenile system and send them to Camp Valor. They spend the summer learning the skills of bomb-building and defusing, shooting, surviving an attack, computer hacking, and jumping out of a helicopter all to help the United States Government take out the bad guys. The goal is to have these teens infiltrate and possibly assassinate targets who won’t be looking for someone so young to be an enemy. It’s intense, both mentally and phys

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black

I read The Cruel Prince way back in 2018 when it was first released. Spoiler alert (not really), it ends on a cliffhanger. I then had to wait ONE YEAR for book two, The Wicked King. Spoiler alert (not really), it also ends on a cliffhanger. I then had to wait ANOTHER year for book three, The Queen of Nothing. And the wait was worth it!!! I am so envious of those of you picking up The Cruel Prince for the first time because you can read all three books, one after the other. Lucky you! The Cruel Prince was recently named a nominee for the 2020-2021 Missouri Gateway Readers Award so it's the perfect time to dive in. When Jude was seven years old, a tall man in a dark coat walked into her hom

The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson

May survived the day she hid in the closet of her band room at school. Seven other people didn’t, including her twin brother, Jordan. Her brother, the one with almost perfect SAT scores, the genius of the family, the one her father pinned all his hopes on, gone in seconds, and she hid like a coward. It’s a day May relives over and over again, and the guilt she has for being a survivor, one of the Lucky Ones, is too much to handle. Her guilt has morphed into pure anger- she’s been kicked out of school and homeschooled for a bit. Now she’s starting a new one where she’ll see old classmates from Carter. Her school closed after the shooting, and the students were distributed to other high school

The Loop by Ben Oliver

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read a book and kept asking myself what is happening the whole time. The Loop reminds me that there are authors out there not afraid to write those books. The future in this bleak dystopian is quite frankly frightening. Luka Kane, along with all the other prisoners in the Loop, has been sentenced to death for his crimes. Waiting out your execution date is like a nightmare version of the movie Groundhog’s Day. Each day starts with a morning greeting from the automated system, Happy, followed by breakfast. After an hour of outside time, there is free time. Then the nightmare really gets going at 5:30 with The Harvest. Why the Harvest? Because the government t

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Ever is the daughter of first generation American Taiwanese parents. Their love and expectations for her are high and their respect for her dreams is low. According to them, Ever WILL attend Northwestern and become a doctor. They have given up everything specifically so that could happen. Ever has been dancing since she was four (after all, you need more on your med school apps than academics). She is a gifted dancer and choreographer and is passionate about both. She secretly applied to the dance school at NYU and got in. She can’t afford it and her parents wouldn’t allow her to go anyway but SHE GOT IN. When her parents find the acceptance letter (the parents ALWAYS find the acceptance

Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed

Khayyam's summer is off to a bad start. Her boyfriend Zaid is back in Chicago, posing up a storm with beautiful girls in precarious positions on Insta, and her academic career is over even before it even started. Fresh off the humiliation of trying to prove an art theory correct for an essay at her dream college (spoiler alert- she doesn't), she and her family are in Paris for the month. It's a tradition. Her parents are academics who have the month of August off, and her father is French, which makes her more than just a Muslim American girl with brown skin. Discouraged by her lackluster introduction into the academia of art and the possibility of her boyfriend cheating on her, she's immedi

Just Breathe by Cammie McGovern

Just Breathe is gonna be the easiest book to sell. Did you like Five Feet Apart? Then here ya go. Yes, it’s more “sick lit”. Yep, like FFA, it’s Cystic Fibrosis. But that’s where the differences end. David has CF but his parents have always assured him that he has a “mild case” so he has always assured his friends (and himself) that it’s no big deal. He’s President of the Senior Class. He has a longtime girlfriend. He’s well-liked and charismatic. He’s got no time for CF. But he can’t pretend any longer. Turns out, there’s no such thing as a “mild case” of Cystic Fibrosis. When David finds it increasingly difficult to breathe, his doctor encourages him to get on the waitlist for a lung trans

The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer

When Dani’s father invites her to the jungles of South America with the world’s hottest teen actor, it’s a no-brainer. She hasn’t seen her dad in years, and this will be her chance to impress him. Dani’s parent’s divorced years ago, and she can’t help but feel like it was somewhat her fault. After an accident that left her with one real eye and one fake one, it was her mom who stayed with her in the hospital, who nursed her when she was sick, and woke up with her nightmares. Her dad was off fulfilling his life long dream of adventure and becoming a star. His show is a hit with celebrities willing to risk their life eating questionable food, swatting at dangerous insects, and trading in their

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Space Race 2.0 plus Gen Z’s thirst for reliable news. Internet fame. Young love. Debut author (debut author?!) Phil Stamper brings it all together in a YA novel that’s original and so, so readable. Cal is a social media journalist living in and reporting from NYC. He gained most of his half million followers from an election story and some coverage of NASA’s highly publicized upcoming mission to Mars. The NASA updates had some of Cal’s highest view numbers ever, so why has he stopped reporting on it? In a word? Dad. Much to Cal and his mother’s surprise and displeasure, Cal’s airline pilot father applied to be part of the Mars mission. Not long after, it is confirmed that Cal Senior and

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

This was fun. Like watching Investigation Discovery and listening to True Crime podcasts fun. Like the first season of Serial fun. There are some similarities, for sure, to that first season but this story has a very different ending. Five years ago, Andie Bell was supposed to pick up her parents from a party but she never made it there. Just a few days later, her boyfriend Sal Singh is accused of her murder and found dead of suicide in the woods. Case closed, even though Andie’s body is never found. But student Pippa Fitz-Amobi (Pip) isn’t so sure about Sal committing the murder, so what better project to investigate for her senior capstone that this? She’s not sure if she’ll actually fin

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

Warning: This book is a COVID-19 doctor’s nightmare, and that’s precisely why it hit the spot. There’s no social distancing. Instead, it’s centered around a huge Italian family crammed into one house during the holidays and one incredible Nonna. Set during one of my favorite holidays, Christmas, 10 Blind Dates will scratch that itch you might have if you are missing people or family. The story follows Sophie, a high school senior who is excited about the possibility of getting some time alone with her boyfriend while her parents visit her pregnant sister, who happens to be on bed rest. Unfortunately, her long term boyfriend isn’t on the same page and they end up breaking up. She drives to Sh

Start Here by Trish Doller

I absolutely adored this book. Don’t get distracted or misled by this gorgeous cover. It IS a book about summer and sailing and two gorgeous girls. But what it is NOT is fluff. It is NOT the story of friends having an easy, breezy summer filled with boys and silly adventures. It’s the story of two girls, maybe more frenemies than friends, grieving over the death of their shared best friend, fulfilling her dying wish by taking a summer-long sailing trip. The actual sailing is extremely difficult. The tension between Willa and Taylor is taut. The impact of this trip on their lives is unquestionable. Start Here is a road trip story that takes place on the water. And what a trip it is! I had n

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