2017-2018 Books for VaASL
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57 BusDashka SlaterAs the title says, this is a nonfiction book. In 2013 a non-binary teen named Sasha was riding home from school when an African-American boy named Richard set fire to Sasha's skirt resulting in second and third burns. Richard was charged with a hate crime and faced being tried as an adult. This book tells the stories of both teens up to the point of the crime and the effects on both of them afterwards. Although the two sentence description of what happened seems clear cut, there is much more to be known about both Sasha and Richard and their families than you think at first.Jenny Janice10/17/2017narrative non-fictionLGBTQ8th grade booktalk list
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7th Grade RevolutionLiana GardnerDennis has just started at Washington Academy Middle School and expects it to be just as bad as all the other schools from which he was expelled. One day the teachers tell the students that in response to some complaints they had the previous week, 7th grade is now in charge of everything at school. They have two days to restructure their classes and school rules. As the class flounders a bit with the many options now open to them, Dennis keeps quiet and studies the other students. He notices that Rhonda has a lot of ideas but doesn't want to say them in case the cool kids make fun of her but slowly she becomes one of the leaders. After spending a couple of hours in a basement room, some students emerge to find that the rest of the school has been evacuated. Using a scanner app, Dennis overhears the FBI talking outside the school about taking over, shutting down the school, and finding a valuable artifact hidden somewhere within the building. Determined to save their school the 7th graders decide to locate the artifact themselves so they have some bargaining power.Jenny10/24/2017realistic fiction
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Academy, TheKatie SiseFrankie loves fashion and has applied to a Fashion Academy without telling her parents. She is very surprised when, out of the blue, her parents send her to a military academy instead. Okay, so she did a few things she shouldn't have, but their reaction seems extreme. Once Frankie gets to the Academy, it's worse than she thought. There is almost no time to maintain her fashion blog, the classes are much more difficult than her former high school, and forget about the physical training! But after a few weeks Frankie begins to see the value of some things she is learning at her new school and wonders if she could actually make a go of it there.5/22/2018realistic fiction8th grade booktalk list
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After the Shot DropsRandy RibayGifted basketball player Bunny has accepted a scholarship to a private school across town to increase his chances of getting noticed by colleges. His best friend Nasir is mad because Bunny left without even talking to Nas about his decision AND now Bunny is dating the girl Nasir has always liked. Since the two are not talking, Nas is spending more time with his cousin Wallace who is in danger of being evicted along with his grandmother. In need of some quick money, Wallace starts betting against Bunny's team which is on its way to a state championship. But when it seems like Bunny is unstoppable, Wallace pressures Nasir to step up the campaign against Bunny with some questionable actions. This book has some pretty strong language.Jenny Janice3/6/2018realistic fictionAfrican-American charactersstrong language
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After ZeroChristina CollinsElise has a self-imposed challenge to utter the least amount of words possible every day. I don't know much about selective mutism, but I know I've had a couple students with it. I wonder if this book would help them understand they are not alone. And maybe even be able to ask for help? The book is solid, yet I am left with a feeling of not loving Elise as much as I wanted to. Something was missing but I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it was the mystery with her older brothers and father? Maybe it was her cold (traumatized) mother's interactions with her? Maybe it was the little bit of fantasy woven throughout the story? I don't know exactly. It's like she wasn't on anyone's radar for too long. A product of homeschooling and then starting a new school, Elise spent the whole book (not) crying out for help, except that her mutism WAS a cry for help, and no adult recognized it until the very end of the book. Step up, people! Take care of the quiet ones!Janice9/4/2018realistic fictionMental health: selective mutismMS
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Afterlife of Holly Chase, TheCynthia HandHolly is your typical spoiled rich teen who doesn't care about anyone. So it's no surprise when she is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve to try to change her Scrooge-ish attitude and redeem her soul. Unfortunately for her, she refuses to see the light and dies when she is hit by a car just a few days later. She's given a second chance - or at least she is not doomed to misery - when she joins Project Scrooge. Each year the organization chooses a new "Scrooge" to save and Holly is the current Ghost of Christmas Past. She has been doing her job for five years while still feeling sorry for herself when this year's Scrooge shakes up her afterlife.Jenny Janice10/24/2017fantasy
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Alan Cole is Not a CowardEric BellAlan is bullied by his older brother, Nathan. Nathan always has some new way to make it clear he is in charge between the two brothers and he has just suggested they play one of his favorite games, Cole vs. Cole. Both brothers think up things for the other brother to accomplish and whomever gets his list done is the winner. The problem is that Nathan's tasks for Alan are always humiliating but if Alan doesn't do them, the consequences are worse. In Nathan's new proposal he sets seven nearly impossible tasks for Alan to do with the last one being "stand up to Dad". As bad as Nathan is, their father is even more controlling. If Alan doesn't complete the list, Nathan promises to tell everyone a secret Alan has been keeping from everyone - he's gay. In a stroke of genius, Alan challenges Nathan to complete the exact same list and the race between the two brothers is on.Jenny9/5/2017realistic fictionLGBTQ8th grade booktalk list
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All's Faire in Middle SchoolVictoria JamiesonImpy is about to begin middle school which is scary enough, but Impy has been homeschooled her entire life and doesn't know what to expect. Her parents work at the local Renaissance Faire which is where Impy spends all her free time. She is thrilled when the queen gives Impy her first real role as a squire for the upcoming season. Things continue to look up when she is befriended by a group of girls at school who are popular and nice. But another girl from school who comes to the Faire each weekend warns Impy to be careful around her new friends and the warning seems founded as the group begins to tease Impy about her clothes and her attempts to fit in.Jenny9/5/2017graphic novel
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Amal UnboundAisha SaeedAmal loves school and dreams of becoming a teacher when she grows up. She has to put her education on hold for several weeks after her mother has a hard time recovering after giving birth. Amal takes over the running of the household while trying to keep up with her studies. One day at the market she has a run-in with the village landlord, a man known for his vile temper and crooked business practices. As punishment, all her father's debts are called in and Amal is forced to go work as an indentured servant in Khan's house until she has worked off the family bill.Jenny Janice5/8/2018realistic fictionMiddle Eastern characters
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Ambrose Deception, TheEmily EctonThree teens, strangers to each other and unnoticed by most of the people in their schools, are chosen to compete for a $10,000 scholarship. Melissa, Bondi and Wilf are each given three riddle clues to solve along with a cell phone and personal driver. The first to figure out what their clues mean and snap pictures of the places or items will win the scholarship. The rules stipulate that the three must work independently but it becomes clear that the contest sponsor, Mr. Smith, is not telling them the whole story and that the scholarship itself may not even exist so the teens begin working together.Jenny Janice2/13/2018mysteryAfrican-American charactersCafe Book
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Apocalypse of Elena MendozaShaun David HutchinsonOn the day Elena finally manages to get up the courage to talk to the girl she has had a crush on, that girl is shot right in front of her. Elena has always heard voices from inanimate objects so when the Starbucks logo tells her to heal Freddie's gunshot wound, Elena does. Freddie heals as if she had never been shot and then her killer disappears in a flash of light. Very few people believe Elena but this is not her first miracle. In fact, she is already somewhat famous because she is the product of a virgin birth. It turns out there is a scientific explanation for this, but it is still a miracle. After the healing Elena hears from several other objects all of which tell her she is the key to saving humans from some unnamed problem and that she is to heal as many people as possible. The issue is that every time she heals one person, lots of others are "raptured" away, leaving behind devastated friends and families. She has also attracted the attention of the local police and some secretive government agents. With the help of her best friend, her former boyfriend, and Freddie, Elena is struggling to figure out what she should do.Jenny Janice2/6/2018fantasyLGBTQ / strong language, Hispanic character
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As You WishChelsea SedotiEldon's job is to keep people from spending time in his hometown of Madison. See, the people of Madison have a big secret and they don't want anyone hanging around too long so Eldon's job at the gas station is to make sure Madison sounds way too boring to visit. The town secret is that everyone is granted one wish that magically comes true on his or her 18th birthday. Most people know exactly what they want to wish for but Eldon's birthday is just a couple of months away and he isn't sure. In an effort to figure it out Eldon starts asking others about their wishes and finds that most of them didn't turn out as expected. Wishing almost seems to be more of a curse. As his day draws nearer he has the hopes and expectations of several people weighing on him without any clear idea of what he plans to do.Jenny1/2/2018fantasy
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Ash PrincessLaura SebastianIt was fine. FINE. Nothing extra special, nothing I haven't already read before. A solid fantasy/romance where the protagonist has been wrongfully removed from her position of royalty yet falls for the son of the man who killed her mother.Janice4/24/2018fantasy, romance
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Auma's Long RunEucabeth A. Odhiambo While most of the girls in her small African village are thinking about boys and marriage, Auma dreams of winning a track scholarship and going to school to become a doctor. She ignores the boys to stay focused on her goals because she has seen too many girls get tied down with children and chores. She also sees that many more people than usual are dying and she hears whispers that they are dying from Slim, or, as her teacher calls it, AIDS. When her father comes home from his job in the city and begins to waste away, Auma wonders if he might have AIDS and what that means for her mother and their family's future.Jenny 9/1/2017historical fictionAfrican characters
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Ban this BookGratz, AlanAmy Anne's family is chaotic and a lot of the responsibility for her sisters falls onto Amy Anne's shoulders. That's why she loves to spend time after school reading quietly in the library. But one day she tries to check out her favorite book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and Mrs. Jones tells her the book has been banned from their library. One parent has protested a list of 12 books in the school library and is asking to have them removed permanently. Amy Anne goes to the school board meeting to talk about how much the books mean to her but she finds herself mute when it is time for her to speak, and the board votes to remove all the books from the library. When Amy Anne loans her personal copy of one of the books to a friend at school, she gets an idea and is soon running a private library of all the banned books out of her locker. But as the list of challenged books continues to grow, her locker isn't big enough to keep up and it's only a matter of time until someone finds out about what she's doing.Jenny Janice8/29/2017realistic fiction/school storyAfrican -American characters8th grade booktalk list
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Be Mindful & Stress Less: 50 Ways to Deal with Your (Crazy) LifeGina M. BiegelLots of acronyms and exercises to help teens deal with stress through mindfulness and Buddhist philosophy (although Buddhism is not mentioned)Jenny2/6/2018nonfiction
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Being FishkillRuth LehrerI love realistic fiction! These characters destroyed me. They each broke my heart over and over again. I loved Fishkill, and Duck-Duck, Molly, and even Worm. And the bad characters, well, I loved hating them.
The storyline was a little all-over-the-place, though. There were deadly serious moments, like when we learn of Fishkill's grandfather's repeated sexual abuse against his daughter. And then there were completely juvenile moments, like when Duck-Duck and Fishkill use tomato juice as a substitute for human blood.
This is a book I'd recommend to my more mature readers, as the themes are pretty heavy. I feel like maybe the reviewer at SLJ marked it a little low (gr. 6-10)--for something that level, we could do without the sexual abuse, the intimacy between Duck-Duck and Fishkill, and the strong language. For a true YA book, we'd need an older protagonist, not a seventh grader.These characters and their fates will stay with me a long time, though, and that's how I measure a good book.
Janice11/14/2017realistic fictionstrong language
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Belles, TheDhonielle ClaytonCamellia is excited that she is finally part of the group being sent to the palace to take over Belle duties. In Orleans, everyone other than a Belle is born with grey skin and red eyes. The Belles have the special abilities and talents to alter a person's appearance in any way to make him or her beautiful. During the upcoming ceremony, one of the Belles will be chosen as the Favorite. Camellia is so sure she will be the Favorite that it is a huge shock when her closest friend is chosen instead. Camellia is sent to a nearby teahouse where she learns that the life of a Belle is not as glamorous as she had imagined and that there are some secrets being kept from her. She is further surprised when she receives an invitation to come back to the palace and finds out she is replacing Amber as the Favorite. No one can give her an explanation of what happened to her friend but the more time she spends with the princess, the more she begins to suspect that something nefarious has taken place. And when the queen makes a proposal to her, Camellia finds herself stuck in a dangerous position.Jenny Janice2/6/2018fantasyAfrican-American characters????8th grade booktalk list
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BlinkSasha DawnJoshua first meets Chatham while playing with his twin baby sisters at the beach one day. Chatham immediately fascinates him with her story of just being in town trying to find her sister who believes she witnessed a kidnapping there many years before. The kidnapped girl, Rachel, has been a local mystery for over a decade and Joshua has been obsessed with her nearly all that time so he is further drawn to Chatham as they investigate both her sister's and Rachel's disappearance and how the two might be connected.Jenny5/1/2018mystery
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Blood, Water, PaintJoy McColloughHistorical fiction, this story introduces us to Artemisia Gentileschi, a young woman living in Rome in the early 1600s with her father (her mother is long dead). Her father is a famous artist and sells many paintings, even though it is Artemisia who does all the work. Artemisia is raped by a man brought to tutor her and work with her father, and she prosecutes him for his crime, virutally unheard of at that time. The book is told partially in verse and part regular prose. Incredibly powerful. Haunting and provocative. As soon as I finished it, I had to find out more about this incredible woman. Perhaps a litle too intense for young middle schoolers, but my mature readers would love it.Janice3/6/2018historical fictionrape
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Body SwapSylvia McNicollHallie is walking through a parking lot, dreaming of running into the boy she hopes will be her first kiss, when she is hit by an SUV driven by an elderly woman. Both Hallie and the driver, Susan, end up in the afterlife and they argue about who's to blame. God - posing as a man named Eli - gives them the opportunity to return to Earth but when they get there, they find they have swapped bodies. Now Hallie has to feel the pains of old age while Susan is living it up in her young body. Both of them find they have things to learn from the other.Jenny9/15/2018fantasyAfrican-American character, eldery character
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Brave Svetlana ChmakovaJensen has big plans for his future. He wants to be an astronaut and has already begun researching sunspots, something that makes everyone around him roll their eyes. In his daydreams Jensen is the hero of every situation and he is happily unaware that his real life is not as great. His "friends" call him names and say rude things to him. But they're just joking, right? It's not until Jensen gets involved with the newspaper crew who wants to interview him for a project on bullying that he even realizes he is a victim of some of that behavior.Jenny5/23/2017graphic novelMuslim character6th grade reading list
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BreakoutKate MessnerI REALLY wanted to like this one. I'd heard some buzz about it, I pre-ordered it from Amazon, I even got a bunch of free teacher stuff for doing that. But UGH, the lessons we are supposed to learn from reading this book HIT. ME. OVER. THE. HEAD. Time and time again.
At times, the dialog was completely unbelievable. The characters would quote their teachers, like, "My social studies teacher said that the racial makeup of prisoners is way out of whack with the racial..." So over the top. I know for a fact that kids constantly misquote their teachers--there is no way in hell these kids got it right and then schooled their parents on everything. If you want to read the most egregious passages, check out my goodreads review. It was too much. Just too much. It's a message we need to hear, but not in this way. So disappointed.
Janice6/5/2018historical fiction
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Camp ValorScott McEwenWyatt has landed in prison facing serious time after he is framed for a crime committed by his friend. When a man names Hallsy shows up and offers him a chance to leave the jail and wipe his record clean, Wyatt takes it. He is taken to a top secret summer camp where he will be trained to become an elite military operative along with many other children and teens. Assuming, that is, that he doesn't quit first. The people who make it through the exhausting training at Camp Valor are sent to infiltrate situations that would impossible for adults. In fact, in 1984 a Camp Valor graduate killed a central American despot by befriending his son. Unfortunately, that son turned his father's death into a reason to track down his killer and has become one of the most powerful underground figures on the Dark Web. Now his revenge mission and Wyatt's training are about to collide.Jenny7/10/2018adventure
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Chaos of Standing Still, TheJessica BrodyRyn is anxious to get home but finds herself stranded at the Denver airport on New Year's Eve. She needs to get home before 10:05 AM the next day because that is the anniversary of her best friend's death at the hands of a drunk driver. Ryn has been in counseling to deal with her grief but hasn't told her counselor some things including the fact that she has conversations with Lottie and that she hasn't opened Lottie's last text to her because as long as she has that, there's still some hope. At the airport she (literally) runs into a boy named Xander and they end up mixing up their phones because they have the same cases. Ryn only cares about somehow defying the storm and getting home, but fate - and Lottie - seem to keep putting her together with Xander who has his own secrets.Jenny11/28/2017realistic fiction/romance
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Children of Blood and BoneTomi AdeyemiZelie can remember a time when her people had magic, a time before the Raid where magic was taken away and all the maji, including Zelie's mother, were murdered by order of the king. Now the powerless diviners are oppressed by King Saran and his guards who demand higher payments and take liberties with the girls while looking down on them. In an effort to make enough money to pay their latest debt, Zelie and her brother Tzain go to town to sell a rare fish. While there, a fugitive on the run from the palace guards begs for assistance and Zelie helps her escape from the city walls. Only later do the brother and sister realize they have helped the princess who has stolen a sacred scroll that helps ignite long lost powers in the diviners. With some of her magic awakened, Zelie learns that she is chosen to take three artifacts to a sacred place on the solstice to reconnect with the goddess and return magic to everyone. But the king and his son will do anything to make sure that doesn't happen, even while the prince discovers he has powers of his own.Jenny3/6/2018fantasyAfrican charactersCafe Book
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Count All Her BonesApril HenryThe third of three sequels I read this year: I'd read Girl, Stolen several years ago and since April Henry is here at our conference, I thought I'd show support and dive into the sequel. I needed to re-acquaint myself with the characters, particularly the bad guys. I could not remember who was related to who and how, so that was a little bit of a challenge. This sequel was not as compelling as the first book: the main character, Cheyenne, thinks she's messaging her kidnapper (now boyfriend), Griffin, on Facebook (what kids are using FB, I don't know), but she's actually texting one of his nefarious relatives who, once again, kidnaps her and holds her for ransom. Using the miracle of a piece of metal, she escapes from her captors and frees Griffin.
I can only hope this is the end of this series, because if Cheyenne manages to get kidnapped a third time, it will be bordering on a soap-opera-like world.
Janice5/2/2017thriller
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CourageBarbara BinnsAfter their father died T'Shawn's older brother Lamont took his place as T'Shawn's biggest influence. All that changed when Lamont became the leader of a local gang and left home, eventually ending up pointing a gun at T'Shawn. Now T is happy to have Lamont out of his life and is looking forward to joining a local diving team. The life he is trying to live comes crashing down when his mother tells him Lamont is getting out of prison early and will be moving back home with them.Jenny7/31/2018realistic fictionAfrican-American characters
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Cruel Prince, TheHolly BlackJude and her twin sister Taryn are mortals living in the Faerie world. They were taken there as children when Madoc came to retrieve his biological daughter and killed both their parents. Now, ten years later, they are under Madoc's protection but picked on constantly by the Folk around them, especially by Prince Carden and his friends. Jude dreams of becoming a knight for the High King so she will not be at anyone's mercy anymore while Taryn plans to marry to become more a part of the Faerie world. As her tormentors grow more bold Jude hones her skills and takes more chances. And then when news breaks that the current High King is planning to turn over his crown to one of his children, the gamesmanship really begins among his heirs with Jude drawn into the complex politics with dire consequences.Jenny Janice1/2/2018fantasyCafe Book
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DamselflyChandra PrasadOn their way to a competition the plane carrying all the members of a high school fencing team crashes on an island. Samantha survives the crash and finds that several of her teammates did as well, including her best friend Mel and the most popular girl in school. At first the teens are just trying to make it until they are rescued. But as days pass it becomes clear that any rescue could be a long ways off so they need to learn to survive indefinitely. Even with all the dangers of their new home hanging over them, old cliques surface and threaten their society. The group is also being menaced by an unknown island resident who wants the teens gone.Jenny3/27/2018adventure
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Darius the Great is Not OkayAdib KhorranAbsolutely lovely. Because it is told in first person, we have an intimate knowledge of all Darius’s painful, awkward teenage thoughts. This book is like a how-to guide for making (and being) friends for young men. Seeing Darius make a genuine friend in Iran was so touching. Darius learned how to open up to a friend, even though the path wasn’t without complications.
Another aspect of the book I loved was Darius’s relationship with his dad. Again, it was painful, yet so satisfying when the dad finally explained his emotions to Darius.
I did not want this story to end.
Janice8/28/2018realistic fictionMiddle Eastern characters
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Dash of Trouble, A (Love Sugar Magic #1)Anna MerianoLeonora - Leo - is excited about Halloween but she gets mad about being left out when all her older sisters get to skip school for the day to help out at the family bakery in order to prepare for the Dia de los Muertos festival the next day. Leo feels like she's old enough to help out as well so she sneaks out of school to see what's happening at the bakery. When she gets there, she is stunned to see her mother and sisters performing a spell. At the festival the next day she spies on her older sisters channeling the spirits of the dead and now she knows that she is part of a family of brujas. Anxious to see if she can perform magic as well, Leo steals a family spell book. When her friend has a problem, Leo tries to solve it with magic but things don't go quite as she expected.Jenny1/2/2018fantasyHispanic characters
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Dear Evan HansenVal EmmichI was so excited I got to read this book from NetGalley before it was published. Now I’m really looking forward to seeing the show when it comes to DC next year. It stands alone quite well, but I’m also sure it will help explain the characters more fully than a musical can. If you’ve already seen the musical, I wonder if it would be redundant?Janice10/9/2018realistic fictionthe book of the Broadway musical
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Dear Rachel MaddowAdrienne KisnerBrynn's teacher has assigned his students to write a letter to a hero. Brynn chooses Rachel Maddow mainly because her ex-girlfriend was a fan. After she writes her initial letter, writing to Rachel becomes a habit and all of her future writings for class are addressed to Maddow even though they remain in her drafts folder. Brynn used to be an all-star student but after her brother's death from an overdose, her parents' divorce, and a break-up with her girlfriend, her grades have slipped and she is now in the basement of the school with other underachieving students. Along with those issues she is also dealing with and overbearing stepfather and her mother who does nothing to help Brynn. Despite these problems, Brynn is working on her grades so she can rejoin her beloved school newspaper and possibly break a big story that would take her over-privileged, arrogant nemesis down several pegs.Jenny Janice6/5/2018realistic fictionLGBTQ/strong language
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DisappearedFrancisco X. StorkSara's best friend disappeared one day just like many other young women in Mexico. Now working as an investigative reporter, Sara has been trying to find her friend as well as all the other girls who have gone missing. When she receives a threat against herself and her family, as well as a clue as to where the girls might be, Sara knows her time is running out and that someone she trusts is actually working against her.Jenny Janice9/26/2017mysteryhuman trafficking, Hispanic characters
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Disturbed Girl's Dictionary, TheRamos, No'NiqueMacy is a problem student at school. Students and teachers are afraid of her because of her outbursts. The only people who aren't frightened of Macy are her best friend Alma, who is so smart and kind that everyone loves her, and George who is ignored by most of the school because he wears a helmet and seems to have mental issues. Her home life is worse. Her father is in prison and her mom has a series of male "guests" who spend the night and use drugs with her mother. Finally, her younger brother Zach has been taken from the home by Child Protective Services and it feels like Macy is the only one trying to get him back. Things only get worse from there and Macy chronicles her life in a dictionary she writes herself.Jenny2/1/2018realistic fictiondrug abuse, human trafficking, Hispanic characters8th grade booktalk list
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Dividing EdenJoelle CharbonneauWhen twins Carys and Andreus were born the seer predicted that one of them would be cursed and would lead the kingdom down a dark path. Although Andreus was born sickly and struggling to breathe, the queen hid his curse and has relied on Carys to help shield her brother from prying eyes all their lives. Whenever Dreus shows signs of an attack coming on, Carys distracts those around them, even sometimes taking lashings for her disobedient behavior. Carys will not be able to help Dreus hide, however, when the king and their older brother are killed in battle and the Elders decree that the only way to determine who will be the next ruler is for the twins to compete against each other in a series of trials. To the death, if need be. Carys has no desire to rule and the two agree to throw the matches to Dreus but his mind is quickly poisoned by the current Seer who convinces him that Carys is secretly working against him. Now Dreus is willing to anything to ensure he becomes the next monarch.Jenny Janice6/6/2017fantasy
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Down and AcrossArvin AhmadiBack when I taught first grade, our students would write these crazy-elaborate stories we called Home-Adventure-Home stories. That's exactly what Down and Across is, without too much more excitement than a first grader's story. Scott Ferdowski is left on his own for a few weeks one summer because his parents travel to Iran to visit his ill grandfather. If you are looking to beef up the diversity of your collection, this would be a viable option.Janice2/6/2018realistic fiction
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DryNeal ShustermanSouthern California has been rationing water for quite awhile but no one was expecting the Tap Out - the day that water stopped flowing entirely. At first Alyssa's parents and neighbors assume the water will come back on in just a couple of days, but before too long people are starting to act a little crazed and her formerly peaceful neighborhood is turning into a war zone. A lot of the frustration is aimed at Alyssa's survivalist next door neighbors, and their son Kelton, who have supplies and electricity when everyone else is without and that frustration turns violent as time goes on. With Alyssa's parents missing and no relief in sight, she goes with Kelton and a strange girl to find Kelton's family's Bug out where they hope to survive until conditions improve. But getting there is not all that straightforward either.Jenny Janice10/2/2018dystopian
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Elephant Thief, The Jane KerrBoy is a street urchin who stays alive picking pockets while trying to keep away from the head of the local gang. Boy is caught during an auction for a menagerie of exotic animals left behind after their keeper's death. From his high perch where he is awaiting his punishment, he helps Mr. Jameson place the winning bid for an elephant named Maharajah and in gratitude, Jameson hires Boy on the spot and gives him the name Danny. After Maharajah destroys his train carriage it is decided that Danny and the elephant will walk the 200 miles to Mr. Jameson's zoo with Danny disguised as Indian prince Dandip. What's more, Jameson makes a bet with another menagerie owner that Danny and the elephant can make the trip in just one week and if he loses, the consequences for both will be dire.Jenny3/2/2017historical fictionIndian character
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Epic Crush of Genie Lo, TheF.C. YeeOn her way to school one day Genie gets involved in helping a new boy escape from the beating he is taking from a group of others. Imagine her surprise when that same boy, Quentin, shows up in her class and proceeds to tell the class that she is the one for him. Genie's mainly concerned with getting into an ivy league school and getting as far away from home as possible so she has no time for Quentin, particularly when he tells her he is the Monkey King from Chinese folklore. What's more, Quentin claims that Genie is the reincarnation of his favorite weapon and the two of them are reunited to defeat over 100 demons who have been released from Hell. Although his claim is crazy, it turns out to be true and Genie now has to rediscover her powers while balancing the rest of her life.Jenny Janice8/8/2017fantasy/ strong languageAsian characters
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EverlessSara HollandJules and her father are barely scraping by and they still owe so much more currency to the debt collector. In their world, time is currency and it can be earned or extracted from your blood which then shortens your lifespan. Jules is seeing signs that her father has been giving too much of his time away and might be close to death so when the opportunity to work at Everless, the nearby castle, arrives, Jules decides to go. She doesn't tell her father because he has forbidden her to ever return to the place they had to flee when she was young. Jules remembers playing with the two princes and an "accident" with fire that nearly killed one of them but they need to money so she goes anyway. After a last, dire warning from her father to never be in the same room as the queen, Jules knows there is more happening than she has been told and decides that the only way to get answers is to do exactly that. She takes a position as handmaiden to the queen's adopted daughter who will soon marry Jules' childhood playmate, hoping to find some answers about her own birth and family.Jenny Janice1/2/2018fantasyCafe Book
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Every Shiny ThingCordelia Jensen and Laurie MorrisonLauren is mad at her parents who sent her beloved brother to a boarding school for autistic students because she believes she could help Ryan out more at home. She's also starting to feel estranged from her best friend who doesn't seem to get how upset Lauren is. To top it off, one of the tenets of her Quaker school is simplicity and Lauren is suddenly aware of how much money her parents and friends throw around without a second thought. When Sierra moves in next door she and Lauren become fast friends. Sierra is living with Lauren's neighbors because he own mother is an alcoholic who has been arrested and is trying to get sober. Sierra is used to being a caretaker so when Lauren comes to her with a Robin Hood-like plan to raise money to help autistic kids, Sierra agrees to help. But Lauren's behavior continues to grow and soon has Sierra worried and trying to keep their situation under control.Jenny Janice4/17/2018realistic fictionCafe Book
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Exact Location of Home, TheKate MessnerZig is fascinated by electronics and can fix almost anything. If only his father were as easy to figure out. He has seemingly dropped off the face of the Earth and Zig's mom won't tell him anything about where his dad might be only saying that it is up to his dad to share his situation with Zig. Things at home aren't going well either. With his mom not able to pay all their bills, they soon find themselves evicted and living in a homeless shelter - a secret Zig keeps from his two closest friends. While geocaching, Zig runs into notes from another explorer who calls himself "Senior Searcher". Convinced that is his dad, Zig becomes focused on finding all of Senior's caches, sure they will eventually lead him to his father.Jenny9/12/2017realistic fiction
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Far from the TreeRobin BenwayI LOVED THIS BOOK! The characters were all beautiful, complex humans. The main characters, three teenage half-siblings who have recently discovered each other, make the usual teenage mistakes. The adults in the book are mostly good, but all flawed in some way. As someone who prefers realistic fiction, this book was right up my alley, but I don't think it's a good fit for a middle school library--the themes were just a little more adult than middle schoolers think about. Definitely a HS library, though!Janice12/5/2017realistic fictionYA
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For Every OneJason ReynoldsFor everyone who has a dream but also has doubts about achieving that dream, this book is for you. As always, Jason Reynolds has crafted words into something lovely and meaningful in this poem. It spoke to me at age 50 when he talks about the plans we have throughout life, imagining that we'll get there by age 13 or 18 or 25. I think that will also resonate with teens who are still so sure they are destined for greatness sooner rather than later. But Reynolds also talks about the fear of trying for your dream which I think might be more relevant to kids today than for my generation. I think teens are more aware of roadblocks for them in society which is not a great thing. There is plenty of time for cynicism later in life. :-) I think that addressing that nagging doubt is what makes this book more powerful than if it was just an "I believe I can fly" message. A great title to hand to anyone just setting out on a journey as well as anyone who is lagging a bit in their journey.Jenny Janice4/10/2018poetry
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From Twinkle with LoveSandhya MenonAn enjoyable middle grades realistic fiction book. I love realistic fiction and strong girl characters and all things having to do with Indian culture, so this was a good quick read. One thing that struck me as odd was that this book was about a teenage movie director--this movie was a major part of the plot--yet there were hardly any scenes about her directing the movie itself. If you picked this book up because you have an interest in directing movies or an interest in old movies, let's say, you will be extremely disappointed. The movie-making thing was just what moved the plot forward; very little of the action had to do with the actual creation of her movie, which was apparently good enough to garner the attention of film festivals world-wide. That was just odd to me. Janice5/22/2018realistic fictionIndian charactersMG
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From You to MeK. A. HoltThree years after her sister Clare drowned, Amelia is still grieving. She is determined to take 8th grade by storm and not be the girl who cries about her dead sister all the time. Her plan takes a serious hit when she is accidentally given a letter Clare wrote to herself on the first day of sixth grade. Faced with a list of Clare's plans for the future, Amelia allows her best friend to convince her to complete the list on Clare's behalf. Now Amelia is committed to doing things she would never have considered on her own.Jenny Janice5/29/2018realistic fictionMG
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Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virture, TheMackenzi LeeIt is expected that Monty will settle down and join his father in business, a plan in which Monty has no interest. In order to push off the inevitable, he plans a Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend (and secret crush) Percy. Monty's plans for a year long party throughout Europe are dashed when his father insists on sending along a chaperone as well as Monty's stuffy sister Felicity who is to be dropped off at finishing school. After a dreary month touring museums and listening to recitals, the two boys and Felicity manage to attend a party where Monty quickly runs afoul of an important man and subsequently steals something from his room. The stolen item is more than a souvenir, however, and the man will stop at nothing to get it back for it could hold the secret to eternal life. Now the adventure, and danger, really starts.Jenny Janice6/27/2017historical fictionLGBTQYA
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Gone Away Place, TheChristopher BarzakEllie wasn't at her school the day of the tornado outbreak. She left after a big fight with her boyfriend, Noah, and was in the lighthouse when the storm started. From there she saw the massive tornadoes destroy most of her town and she saw the explosion when a gas truck fell from the sky onto her school, killing Noah and her three best friends. After the storm the entire town is grieving and trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. Ellie keeps telling her parents that she's "fine" but she begins to question that when she starts seeing her next door neighbor - one of the kids killed at school - playing basketball in his yard. When Ellie talks to him and records him telling his story, she finds that she can help free the souls of the dead who are now appearing to many others in town.Jenny Janice5/15/2018fantasyCafe Book
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Greetings from Witness ProtectionJake BurtThe premise of this book is a little (at least to me) far-fetched. A street-savvy foster kid from the city is placed with a family entering the witness protection program. Once I got past that, I thought all thecharacters were well-developed. It is mostly humorous, but there are a couple terrifying moments near the end of the book that gave it a little drama. I like that the author is a full-time teacher still... I know we'll be seeing more from him.Janice10/3/2017realistic fiction
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Harbor MeJacqueline WoodsonWith all the hype associated with this book, I expected something more. It was fine. For me, there was a little too much back story. I think the book would've been more effective if the characters' younger lives were revealed through their group experience in ARTT.
The plot is timely, yet somewhat unrealistic. I do not know of any school that would allow students to be together in a room weekly without an adult present. I love the idea of what happens when kids can be real with each other, but as a teacher, I don't think this would ever fly at my school.
Janice8/28/2018realistic fictionLots of diverse characters
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Hazel Wood, TheMelissa AlbertAlice and her mother have moved every few months, usually after someone creepy shows up or something odd occurs. Although they don't talk about it much, Alice knows that some of these weird things relate to her grandmother who authored a book of dark fairy tales with a cultish fallowing. The one time Alice got her hands on a copy of Tales of the Hinterland, her mother snatched it away from her with unusually sharp words. When they get word that her grandmother has died, Alice's mother believes their lives will change but things take a turn for the worse when she is kidnapped by people who say they are from the Hinterland. With the help of one of her grandmother's fans, Alice has to find her way to her grandmother's secret home, the Hazel Wood, and possibly enter a Story herself.Jenny Janice1/30/2018fantasy
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Heart of IronAshley PostonAna and Di were taken aboard a pirate spaceship several years ago when they were adrift in an escape pod. Ana doesn't remember anything about her life before arriving on the ship but she has been trained to be great at what she does. Di is her closest friend but he has been glitching because his memory core is damaged but Ana is hopeful they will be able to restore him if she can get the coordinates to a mysterious ship. Unfortunately, someone else buys them just before she has a chance but she is so determined to fix Di that they chase the buyer down and become entangled in an interstellar adventure with killer robots, romance, evil rulers, and a prophesized return of the Goddess.Jenny Janice2/27/2018science fictionCafe Book
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Hearts We Sold, TheEmily Lloyd-JonesNo one knows what the demons do with the arms, legs and other body parts they take in exchange for granting wishes, but it's clear that a lot of people have been taking advantage of their presence ever since the demons announced they are here. Dee has never considered a deal until she learns that she won't be able to stay at her boarding school unless she is able to raise a lot of money, fast. The thought of living back at home with her parents is untenable given their alcoholism and her father's temper so she finally approaches a demon she has seen at the hospital where she volunteers. To her surprise, he asks for her heart which he will keep for two years while she doesn't age. Dee is also dismayed to learn that she will be joining a group of other heartless teens in performing dangerous tasks for their Daemon. Together, they have to enter randomly occurring voids and set off explosions to close them before whatever is inside the void finds a way into our world. But what is in the void? And if the demons are worried about it, does that mean that Dee is now fighting on the side of evil?Jenny8/8/2017fantasy
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Hole in the MiddleKendra FortmeyerMorgan Stone was born with a literal hole through her body--straight through. In utero, her organs just settled themselves around this hole, but after hiding it for her entire life, she decided to "liberate" it as a teenager. She becomes a viral sensation once her hole is discovered. Through her doctor, Morgan is introduced to Howie, a perfect match to her (and her hole). But life is messy, and Morgan has to fight for her happiness when all the outside forces are trying to split her in different directions. The book has flaws: one thing I could not get past was that Morgan and her BFF Caro live in an apartment by themselves, as in no parents... In whose world is it okay for two teenage girls to live on their own? I just couldn't get past this convention. Cuz it's not one. I would not have this in my middle school library because of the numerous F-bombs and a(n almost) sex scene.Janice9/4/2018realistic fictionstrong language
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Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of InspirationRose Brock, ed.Pretty uplifting, mostly first-person stories from popular YA authors. Many of them reference the 2016 Presidential election and the feelings many of us had after that. It kind of makes me think of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, but a more modern version. Janice2/27/2018short stories
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How We RollNatasha FriendQuinn's family has just moved to a new town which might actually work out well for her. She developed alopecia which caused her to lose all her hair. Rather than being supportive, her friends abandoned her. Now she can start school with a wig on and no one will know her any other way. She is quickly adopted by a group of girls but she starts off on the wrong foot with Jake who is confined to a wheelchair after an accident and is still dealing with his bitter feelings. Slowly the two of them form a friendship and possibly more as they each deal with their own losses.Jenny6/5/2018realistic fiction
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How You Ruined My LifeJeff StrandWhen Rod finds out his rich cousin Blake is coming to live with them for three months he isn't thrilled but he doesn't expect it ruin his life either. When Blake shows up he refuses to do any work for himself, takes over Rod's room, and uses mindgames that leave Rod not sure what's happening. Worse, Blake is a perfectly nice boy to everyone else so it looks like Rod is the one causing problems. Before long Blake is causing Rod to have problems at school, with his girlfriend and with his band.Jenny4/3/2018comedy
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I am Still AliveKate Alice MarshallAfter her mom is killed in a car crash Jess has to live with her dad whom she hasn't seen in years. When she arrives at the airport in Alaska, she is met by someone she doesn't know who then flies her into the Canadian wilderness where her dad is living off the grid in a tiny cabin. Already grieving for her mom and dealing with her own injuries from the accident, Jess is not equipped to take on yet another challenge. And then things get even worse when men arrive and kill her father and burn down his cabin. Now Jess has to survive with just her father's dog to help her and no hope of anyone else showing up to rescue her until spring.Jenny7/24/2018adventure
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Insignificant Events in the Life of a CactusDusti BowlingAven Green likes to shock people who ask why she doesn't have arms. She likes making up stories that either horrify them or cause them to be embarrassed about asking in the first place. Since she's been at the same school all her life, her friends are used to her and how she accomplishes things with no arms. That is, until her parents move her from Kansas to Arizona at the beginning of her eighth grade year. Suddenly, Aven is the new kid again, being stared at and pitied by everyone she meets. Aven's parents have taken over running the Stage Coach Pass, a ramshackle theme park with more than a few secrets tucked away in the seventeen unused buildings. Aven and her two quirky friends Connor and Zion, both with their own hangups, work on solving a mystery and figuring out how not to be the freaks of the eighth grade.Janice Jenny9/5/2017realistic fictionCharacters with physical impairments, Tourette's SyndromeCafe Book
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Isle of Blood and StoneMakiia LucierMapmaker and explorer Elias has just returned from his latest journey when he is drawn into a mystery. Two identical maps that contain a riddle have been found and the style seems like that of Elias' father, except that his father has been dead for years. While on a picnic with the two young princes of the kingdom all the guards were poisoned and the princes were kidnapped along with Elias' dad. The boat on which they were taken was lost at sea and now the only remaining royal son, and Elias' close friend, is the king. But these maps hint that the tragic story everyone knows might not be correct. If Elias' father lived long enough to draw these maps, perhaps the princes are still alive as well. But someone wanted them out of the way in the first place and as Elias and the Lady Mercedes begin secretly trying to solve the riddle of the maps, it's clear that someone is still trying to keep the secret.Jenny Janice4/10/2018historical fiction
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Kiss Me In New YorkCatherine RiderI read this book because I'd ordered it for my MS library but I was a little nervous in case it turned out to be too YA. It is FINE for middle school. It's not all that compelling a story, which maybe contributed to why it took me two month to finish. But it is a cute Christmas-time story of two people, simultaneously dumped by their significant others, falling in love over the course of 18 hours (which is another reason it should not have taken me two months to finish).Janice10/3/2017romancenothing inappropriate for MS, but of more interest to YA
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Last (Endling), TheKatherine ApplegateByx is a young dairne - a creature that resembles a dog and one of the ruling species in the world. When she wanders away from her pack for just a minute she finds herself being hunted by poachers and helping to rescue a wobbyx. Although she is only away for a short time, it is long enough for her entire pack to be massacred by a band of soldiers. Now it appears that Byx is an endling, the last of her species. But Byx's pack was actually in the process of migrating north to a place where rumor has it there is another dairne pack so is it possible she might not be alone? With the help of a human girl, the wobbyx, and a panther-esque felivet, Byx sets off on a quest, pursued by several bloodthirsty enemies.Jenny5/1/2018fantasy
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Last Wish of Sasha CadeCheyanne YoungRaquel and her best friend Sasha have been preparing for Sasha's death from cancer for a long time. Even though she knew Sasha was dying, Rocki is still devastated. Then she gets a letter from Sasha telling her to go to the cemetery and to bring her laptop. Once there Rocki meets a boy with the exact same piercing blue eyes as Sasha. Before she died Sasha tried to locate her biological parents and in the process she discovered her brother, Elijah. Sasha refers to them as her "favorites" and promises that she will be sending them on adventures together so Elijah can get to know her even though she has died. The one condition Sasha sets is that they cannot tell her adoptive parents about Elijah. That's a condition that bothers Raquel because she knows Sasha's parents have lots of money while Elijah, who has aged out of foster care, is barely getting by. Even though she's sure Mr. and Mrs. Cade would love to help out, she is determined to follow Sasha's request. But she's not feeling as sure she will be able to follow another request: not to get involved with Elijah.Jenny10/2/2018realistic fictionAfrican-American characters
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Length of a String, TheElissa Brent WeissmanImani is preparing for her bat mitzvah alongside her friends. Imani knows what she wants for the big gift her parents have promised her - to meet her birth parents - but she doesn't know how to tell her mom and dad about her wish. While she works on a way to ask without hurting them too much, she spends time with her best friend reading her great-grandmother's diary. Imani's great-grandmother Anna wrote about her life in 1941 when her Jewish family bought her passage to the United States to escape Nazis in her home country of Luxembourg. Anna's large family, including her twin sister, planned to join her as soon as they had the money to escape but they never did. Imani is drawn into Anna's story and finds it reflecting her own desire to find out about her roots while also reinforcing her love for her adoptive family.Jenny5/1/2018historical fictionJewish characters
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List, TheFordeLetta is an apprentice wordsmith in Ark, a community of people who survived the Melting thanks to their leader John Noa. Noa believes that many of the problems in the world before the Melting came about because of how people used words to manipulate others so people in Ark are only allowed to speak using the List of 700 words. Letta and her master are the ones who distribute the words to the rest of Ark. When a strange boy stumbles into her shop one day, on the run from the gavvers who police Ark, Letta nurses him back to help and learns that he doesn't believe Noa is the savior she has always believed. And then when her master is found dead and Letta becomes the head wordsmith, she starts to learn secrets and begins to doubt much of what she has believed her entire life.Jenny Janice8/1/2017dystopian
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Little & LionBrandy ColbertI absolutely love realistic fiction for helping us cope with situations like Lionel's bipolar disorder. Really well done story of two step-siblings with a good relationship, even though one of them has bipolar disorder and one is trying to figure out her sexuality AND they are falling for the same girl. Lots of empowering diversity here.Janice8/8/2017realistic fictionMental health: bipolar disorder
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Love Letters of Abelard and LilyLaura CreedleThanks to Lily's lack of impulse control due to her ADHD she ends up in detention when she accidentally breaks a room divider. Her companions in detention are Abelard, a boy she scarred with her lunchbox when they were seven, and Richard, a talented artist who sketches a picture of Abelard that Lily takes. Looking at the sketch of Abelard, Lily notices for the first time how handsome he is and she writes a passage from the old book The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise on it. When the picture gets posted online and attracts a lot of attention, the two teens begin a texting relationship and then start dating in real life. Lily is always battling the impulse control monster that arises within her whenever she is off her medication (medication that leaves her with no emotions whatsoever when she IS taking it) while Abelard fights his own social issues thanks to his Asperger's syndrome. Yet the two are perfect together until Abelard leaves to go to an exclusive school designed especially for him and others who are brilliant, and Lily decides to try an experimental brain surgery meant to help her focus.Jenny Janice12/26/2017realistic fictionsome language, characters with ADHD and autismCafe Book
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Love, Hate, and Other FiltersSamira AhmedI read this book in one day. The first 3/4 of the book was very enjoyable. There was a great romance between Maya and a boy her parents picked out for her, who turned out to be not "the one." But I liked him way better than Phil, who was just sort of blah. At about 75% of the way through the book, I felt like there was a big shift in the tone of the writing. I'm not sure why this happened, as it was after the terrorist bombing event that could have triggered that.
For a while, I wasn't even sure if this book would be going onto the shelves in my middle school library, but I think it can. While the characters think and talk about sex constantly, none of them took things that far.
The MC and her family are Indian and Muslim, and while there is a lot of Indian culture in the book, there is very little Muslim anything, except "Don't eat pork!" The book started off very strong but was not able to sustain it all the way through.
Janice1/16/2018realistic fictionIndian characters, Talk of sex
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Lovely, Dark and DeepJustina ChenViola has become allergic to the sun. Not just the sun, now Viola doesn't seem to be able to tolerate any light source at all. Her entire world comes crashing down as she can no longer do anything she loves and must spend most of her time in her basement. Most importantly, this new condition means she will have to rethink her entire future in which she had planned to be a journalist, starting with earning her college degree in Abu Dabi, possibly the sunniest place on Earth. She is helped along in coping with all this by her devoted parents, dedicated friends, and Josh, a gorgeous boy she met on the same day she developed her condition. But how can she have anything resembling a normal life and why would anyone want to be part of her life now?Jenny7/31/2018realistic fiction
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Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein Lita JudgeThe popular story of Mary Shelley creating Frankenstein is that a group of writers spending time at a lodge were challenged to write a scary story and Shelley's was chosen as the most disturbing. Beyond that, I don't think I've ever heard much about Shelley's life. I certainly never heard that she was an unwed mother or that the poet Shelley was married when he met Mary and they ran away together. Mary Shelley's life was full of tragic events, many of which originated with her tumultuous relationship with Shelley. Although her father wrote rhapsodic about free love, he was not supportive when Mary decided to pursue her own relationship so the two young lovers were banished and found themselves wandering Europe. Shelley's reputation as a cad resulted in a lack of money for the pair in addition to the many deaths that surrounded them.Jenny1/30/2018historical fiction
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Mask of ShadowsLinsey MillerSal is stuck being a thief for a crime boss who takes most of what is stolen. When Sal robs a carriage there is a flyer that offers the chance to become a member of The Left Hand, a group of four who work as assassins for the Queen. Sal admires the queen who ended a war and banished the bloodthirsty Shadows out of the land, but not before the Shadows attacked Sal's home and killed everyone by skinning them alive. If Sal can win the role of Opal and join The Left Hand, they can get away from the life of being a thief while also having access to the very people against whom Sal has vowed revenge.Jenny Janice8/29/2017fantasyLGBTQ - gender fluidCafe Book
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MirageSomaiya DaudAmani is ripped from her family by the alien race that has taken over her star system, the Vathek. She finds out why she was singled out when she meets Princess Maram and sees that they could be twins. Amani is trained, sometimes violently, to be exactly like Maram in order to be her body double at events where Maram might be in danger. The princess's father is Vath and Maram seems to be just like the cruel overlords so people are not looking forward to her ascension to the throne. But after a rough start, Amani begins to see that Maram might be more understanding and could possibly be turned into a good ruler. In the meantime, Amani is sent into many situations along with Maram's politically convenient fiance, Idris, and soon the two find themselves growing close.Jenny8/28/2018fantasyMiddle Eastern-esque characters
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Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, TheStacy McAnultyBeing struck by lightning turned Lucy into a math savant. She can solve any math problem put before her, even things that stump geniuses. Her grandmother has been homeschooling her since then and Lucy has passed enough classes that she can now apply for college at age 12. But then Lucy's grandmother springs a surprise on her: she's going to go to middle school, at least for one year. Although she is active in an online room for math fanatics, Lucy doesn't have any experience with real people other than her grandmother and uncle so this will be a real test! Step one is to make sure no one knows about her math abilities.Jenny5/1/2018realistic fictionMG
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Murder, Magic, and What We WoreKelly JonesAnnis lives comfortable life in London with her aunt acting as chaperone while her father is constantly away on business. Despite his cover story, Annis is sure that her father is a spy so when his solicitor shows up to say he has died in an accident, Annis believes it was murder and decides she will help solve the crime. Taking along a clue she found in his trunk, she visits the war office to try to get hired on as a spy herself but no one has any interest in what she reveals. Not even when she tells them that she has the magical ability to sew glamours: clothes that she can shape into whatever she wants just by thinking about it. Running out of money fast, the two women and their maid Millie - who reveals a new talent daily - move to a small town where Annis opens a modiste's shop and begins making gowns for the local ladies while continuing to work on her father's murder.Jenny9/19/2017historical fiction
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Neverworld WakeMarisha PesslBeatrice used to be part of close-knit group of friends but things changed after her boyfriend, Jim, died, apparently by suicide. The group never discussed Jim's death and Bea left town after graduation. On a night back at home, she meets up with her former friends and they all go to a party. But on the way home they are in a car accident that leaves them in limbo between life and death. They're told that time is essentially frozen until they come to a unanimous decision - only one of them can live. They will repeat the same Wake until the vote is unanimous, letting one of them live and the rest die. After hundreds of Wakes, the group decides that the answer must have something to do with Jim's death and they begin trying to answer the questions they have about that.Jenny Janice6/5/2018fantasy
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Nice Try, Jane SinnerLianne OelkeA sarcastic and funny main character, Jane Sinner, goes to community college (to get her GED) and gets on a reality show called House of Orange,a show produced by students at the community college. Jane has clinical depression and tried to commit suicide (before the book begins), then somehow convinces her parents to let her live away from home while she finished up the credits needed for high school. I know it all sounds far-fetched, but it really is an enjoyable read.Janice1/9/2018realistic fictiondepression
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NightbooksJ. A. WhiteAlex is on his way to the incinerator when he is lured into and imprisoned in a witch's apartment. Natacha plans a horrible fate for Alex but another captive tells him that the witch loves stories. As it happens, Alex has his "nightbooks" - journals in which he he writes scary stories. Day by day he buys himself a little more time while he searches for an escape.Jenny7/24/2018fantasyMG
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NyxiaScott ReintgenEmmett knows he has been given a one in a million chance when he is selected by The Babel Corporation to travel to Eden, a planet many light years away. On the one year journey to Eden he is competing against nine other teens to be one of the top eight point-getters who will be allowed to go down to the planet and mine nyxia, a substance that can do almost anything. The eight winners will be set up for life with money, health care, and status. With his background and his mom's illness, Emmett needs to be a winner, but so do his opponents. Babel only chose teens who all have hard luck stories and all of them want to win, at any cost.Jenny Janice9/12/2017science fictionAfrican-American, Asian, Middle Eastern charactersCafe Book
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Once You Know ThisEmily BlejwasBrittany's teacher wants his students to dream big and imagine a bright future but Brittany can't see past her life right now. Her grandmother doesn't talk anymore, there's no money, someone needs to take care of her younger brother, and her mom can't seem to get out of her abusive relationship. Brittany decides she needs to make a plan to turn her family's future around but she can't imagine what steps she could take to make that happen. When a letter arrives for her grandmother, signed by "Fuzzy", Brittany begins investigating who that is and if it might be the opening she needs.Jenny9/19/2017realistic fiction
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Opposite of Here, TheTara AltabrandoSince her boyfriend died in a car accident several months ago Natalie has been struggling to work through her grief. Her parents arrange to take Natalie and her three best friends on a cruise for her 17th birthday to help her move on. On the first night of the cruise Natalie meets an intriguing boy who invites her to join him at the hot tub. When she returns with her swimsuit, the boy is gone. And then when she hears a rumor that someone might've fallen overboard and the ship's crew does a passenger head count, Natalie begins to wonder if her mystery boy might have had an accident. As she begins looking for him she uncovers more secrets than she could've imagined.Jenny6/5/2018mystery
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Orphan IslandLaurel SnyderEach year is marked on Orphan Island with the arrival of a boat bringing a young child. At the same time, the eldest member of the island must board the boat, not knowing what they are returning to. This year, Jinny says goodbye to her best friend Deen, the eldest of the island, and welcomes Ess, her new young charge. Jinny's year is spent teaching Ess everything she needs to know and also preparing the next oldest to take over as the island's new Elder. The following year, when the mysterious boat arrives again with a new child, Jinny refuses to leave the island, upsetting decades of tradition and superstition. She ignores the ominous signs that staying on the island was the wrong decision until a terrible event causes her to realize she must fulfill her destiny as the Eldest. I'd heard lots of good stuff about this book, but it did not resonate with me.Janice5/30/2017fantasy
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P.S. I Miss YouJen Petro-RoyEvie is writing to her beloved older sister Cilla who was sent away by their parents after she became pregnant. Evie's parents are strict Catholics who are trying to cover up Cilla's teen pregnancy by sending her to live with an aunt until the baby is born, then to boarding school afterwards. Evie misses her sister terribly and writes to her almost daily talking about her life and hoping for big sister advice about her parents, religion, and her friendship with new girl June. But Cilla never writes back, not even when Evie reveals more about how her feelings for June are developing into something more and how their parents seem to be breaking down.Jenny3/6/2018realistic fictionLGBTQ8th grade booktalk list
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PiperJay AsherMaggie lives in the small town of Hameln where she is ostracized because she is deaf. She observes things in town and embellishes what she sees, turning them into fanciful stories. Hameln is plagued by rats who are destroying everything as well as making people sick. When a new man comes into town promising he will get rid of all the rats once and for all, the town elders agree to his terms for payment. As the Piper spends more time in the town preparing to exterminate the rats, he meets Maggie and the two become very close, envisioning a future together. But the longer the Piper takes to do his job, the angrier the townspeople become.Jenny Janice10/31/2017graphic novel
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Pitch DarkCourtney AlamedaLaura's mother is the captain of the Conquistador, a spaceship that has just located a treasure. The USS John Muir left Earth over 400 years ago and has been lost all this time but the Muir contains soil that will help to regrow life back on Earth. Laura's excitement is tempered by the device implanted in her throat that forces her to submit to the will of her enemies. In an attempt to hack into the ship's computer to free herself from the device, Laura discovers that another group of hackers have already taken control of the ship and put it on a collision course with the John Muir. When Laura comes to after the crash she discovers that the Muir is infested with zombie-esque creatures who destroy infrastructure and kill people with their piercing voices. Luckily, she runs into Tuck, a survivor on the Muir, who is able to help her survive and work with her to defeat all their enemies.Jenny2/2/2018science fictionHispanic characters
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Poet X, TheElizabeth AcevedoXiomara keeps her feelings to herself and in her journal. She knows her strict Catholic mother wouldn't understand her emotions about how she's treated in the neighborhood or her doubts about the church or the way she expresses herself in poetry or especially the way she's starting to feel about her science partner, Aman. As a teen, Xiomara's mother had planned to be a nun so she has strict expectations for ladylike, pious behavior for her family. Xiomara and her twin brother have even greater expectations placed on them for their lives because their conception was an unexpected miracle, happening after their parents had been told it was impossible. Xiomara has already put off her confirmation by two years and knows she has to complete it now, so she can't join her teacher's poetry club which meets on the same night regardless of how much she wants to be a part of it. But as her doubts and issues grow, so does her resistance to remaining silent about her life.Jenny Janice3/6/2018realistic fictionHispanic characters
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Pretty in PunxsutawneyLaurie Boyle CromptonAndie has been spending the summer hanging around the local movie theater, crushing on Colton and helping him do his job. She is convinced that they will live happily ever after as soon as she can get him to kiss her. But disaster strikes on the first day of school when she wears a weird retro dress and finds Colton distracted by a hot girl. She gets a new chance to make it perfect when she keeps reliving the first day of school over and over, trying different tactics each time. Could it be that the lessons she has learned from her mom's beloved 1980's movies "Pretty in Pink" and "Groundhog Day" won't help her in real life?Jenny1/22/2019fantasy
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Price of DutyTodd StrasserWe need this voice--we need to hear from a young man who has been through some pretty horrific stuff at war to come back and tell us civilians what it was really like. I wonder if this book will change anyone's minds about joining the military.
Strasser is pretty heavy-handed with the anti-ROTC stuff and anti-recruiting tactics. But it's stuff I didn't know before and I'm glad I now know. I think this book might also be valuable to anyone who has had an older sibling serve in our military and come back as a different person.
Janice7/17/2018realistic fictionPTSD
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PrideIbi ZoboiZuri and her younger sisters have placed bets on who will be moving into the newly renovated house across the street in their Brooklyn neighborhood. With all the lavish updates they've seen, a couple of the sisters were betting that a white family was moving in so they are all surprised to see a black family - with two gorgeous boys - arrive. The older of the two boys immediately hits it off with Janae, Zuri's older sister who has just come home from college. The younger neighbor, Darius, annoys Zuri right off the bat with his arrogant attitude. She much prefers cute and flirtatious Warren who gets her and the pride she has in her neighborhood. And when Darius makes it clear he has an issue with Warren, well that just gives her even more reason to like him. Despite their mutual dislike, Zuri and Darius seem to keep being thrown together and they slowly learn that first impressions aren't always reliable.Jenny9/18/2018realistic fictionAfrican-American characters
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Prince in DisguiseStephanie Kate StrohmDylan has a lot to live up to when compared to her big sister Dusty. Dusty is a former Miss Mississippi, is now engaged to a Scottish lord, AND is the star of reality show Prince in Disguise which is tracing her relationship with her fiance Ronan. Although she is constantly compared to her big sister, Dylan has no taste for fame so she is not happy when she finds out she will be part of the show as it travels to Scotland to prepare for the big wedding. Almost immediately she meets charming, geeky Jamie and the two become fast friends, and more, which is just what Dylan needs to help her cope with all the reality show twists the producers have in store for her family.Jenny12/19/2017realistic fiction8th grade booktalk list
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Puddin'Julie MurphyMillie dreams of being a serious journalist someday even though she doesn't see women who look like her on TV. She plans to jump start her dream by attending a selective summer program for aspiring newscasters but first, she has to tell her mom that she won't be going to the fat camp she has attended every year since she was younger. Millie's mom believes this will be the year Millie will lose the weight and begin her life while Millie feels like she can achieve her dreams regardless of her weight.Callie is a pretty girl for whom things come easy. She knows she's going to be the next captain of the dance team and that this will be the year their team finally wins a national championship. But when one of the team's sponsors drops out, Callie joins the rest of the team on a revenge mission that leads to Callie taking the fall for everyone and doing community service at the gym they vandalized. That's where Callie and Millie begin to discover that they might be more alike than they thought.Jenny5/8/2018realistic fiction
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Queen's Rising, TheRebecca RossAfter several false starts, Brienna is just about to become a passion of knowledge - someone who is recognized as a master of his or her field. As she nears the date when all the passions in her school hope to find a patron who will support them Brienna senses a change in her relationship with Master Cartier, her knowledge teacher. Before they have a chance to investigate their feelings further, Brienna finds herself without a patron and remaining behind at school while Cartier leaves for the summer. Brienna has been experiencing memories from an ancestor that indicate the location of a missing relic that would help regain the throne of the neighboring country for its rightful ruler. When she mentions these visions to her headmistress she becomes a key player in a secret, dangerous plot to unseat the king on the throne.Jenny2/6/2018historical fiction
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ReboundKwame AlexanderOK, we all know Kwame Alexander's The Crossover. This companion book take us back a generation to Charlie Bell's youth, when his own father died suddenly. Charlie and his mother were not coping with their grief, and she sent him to live with his grandparents for a summer in DC. Even though we know how it all ends (if you've read Crossover, that is) this book still packs a punch.Janice4/2/2018realistic fiction / novel in verse
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S.T.A.G.S.M.A. BennettGreer is having a difficult time fitting in at her new private school, St. Aidan the Great otherwise known as S.T.A.G.S. Her roommate refuses to even speak to her until Greer receives an invitation to a weekend house party at the manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the popular leader of the most exclusive group at school who call themselves The Medievals. The invitation promises a long weekend of "huntin', shootin', and fishin'". Surprised to be noticed by the group, Greer accepts the invite despite a warning from another girl at school who attended the previous year. When she arrives at the house she finds that there are no adults present except for a bevy of servants who are there to do whatever is commanded by the teens. Other than herself and the popular Medievals, there are two other misfits from school. As the "huntin'" portion of the weekend begins it becomes clear that the Medievals have their own idea of what will happening for the next three days.Jenny1/30/2018mystery8th grade booktalk list
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Sacrifice Box, TheMartin StewartOne summer, five unlikely friends gathered around a box in the forest and put in items to cement their friendship. Now, four years later, the group is drawn back together when they begin experiencing horrors related to the items they put into the box. Sep is the loner of the group and is just marking time until he can get off the island where he has lived all his life and go to the mainland on a scholarship. He is skeptical when his former friends approach him but it soon becomes clear that someone broke the rules of the sacrifice box and now they are being targeted in the order in which they made their sacrifices. As they work to close the box again, it becomes clear that they were not the first group of friends in town to be drawn to the box and that this time the box might not be satisfied until it gets a much bigger sacrifice.Jenny1/11/2018horror8th grade booktalk list
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ScreenshotDonna CoonerSkye has her life carefully planned out and the next step is to secure an internship with a senator in her town. While at a sleepover with her two best friends Skye is pressured into dancing around in a nighty. Without asking, Asha films her and posts the video to the latest social media platform, Chitchat, where nothing can be edited or removed for 15 minutes. Skye panics about who might've seen the video but Asha takes it down as soon as she can and it seems like everything's okay. Until a few days later when Skye receives an anonymous text threatening to post the video again unless she does whatever her blackmailer asks.Jenny5/29/2018realistic fictionAfrican-American character8th grade booktalk list
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Serpent's SecretSayantani DasGuptaJust once Kiranmala would like to dress as something other than an Indian princess for Halloween. All her life her parents have told her Indian stories full of demons and magical creatures and they have insisted that she is a princess and dressed her accordingly for Halloween. On her twelfth birthday Kiranmala arrives home to find that her parents have vanished and there is a rakkhosh demon in her house, sent to eat her. Two boys on flying horses arrive and whisk her away and Kiranmala now realizes that her parents' stories were true and she actually IS a real Indian princess. With the help of the two brothers, their horses, a magical map, and an annoying, talking bird, Kiranmala sets out to find and rescue her parents.Jenny2/27/2018fantasyIndian characters6th grade reading list
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Seventh WishKate MessnerCharlie is wishing for a few things to make her life run more smoothly. She has an Irish dance competition coming up and she wants to place in all her dances so she can move up a level. She wants her parents to be a little more focused on her problems because her older sister seems to eat up a lot of their time. And she misses her sister who is away at college and seems to be too busy to respond to texts anymore. When a neighbor invites her to go ice-fishing to raise a few dollars, that seems to be the answer to one of her problems: buying a new, expensive dress for her dance competitions. And then when Charlie catches an unusual fish that speaks to her and offers to grant a wish in exchange for being released, Charlie knows that she has the chance to fix a lot of her problems. But the wishes she makes often seem to have some unexpected twist that makes them go awry. But still, she hopes the fish might be the answer when she finds out that her sister isn't just sick, she is a heroin addict.Jenny6/7/2016realistic fictiondrug abuse8th grade booktalk list
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