The Penderwick family splits up for the summer. The father travels to England while Rosalind, the oldest sister, heads to New Jersey for a few weeks. Skye is, for the first time, the OAP (the Oldest Available Penderwick). She feels the weight of responsibility for her two younger sisters as they head to Maine with their Aunt Claire and their dog, Hound.
Why I picked it up: My daughter and I loved the first book in the series, which I picked up on the recommendation of a bookseller at Seattle’s University Bookstore, and we’re going to keep reading them together as they’re published.
Why I finished it: Watching Skye try to ensure everyone’s safety and utterly failing, though the injuries sustained don’t amount to much more than a sprained ankle and a few cuts and bruises. And Jane, while trying to write about love in her new Sabrina Star novel, accidentally falls for a boy who doesn’t deserve her attention.
I'd give it to: My no-longer-long lost sister KC, who would enjoy finding out who Jeffry’s father is. And for Candice, who would enjoy Batty’s newfound love for the harmonica despite everyone’s certainty that Penderwicks are not musical.
Gritty, powerful, and unapologetic, Tap Out explores what it takes to stay true to one’s self and the consequences of doing so.
Seventeen-year-old Tony, who calls a trailer park home and his mother’s boyfriends abusive, is coerced into joining a Mixed Martial Arts class, only to be surprised by his natural talent. With a vicious cycle of poverty and violence preceding him, Tony must rely on more than actual blood and guts to find a way out.
“Starting with the first page, Devine instantly captures your attention and holds it until the very end... the storyline, the drama and the characters were all thoroughly put together. Personally, I would recommend this book to any of my friends.” — School Library Journal Teen
“A boy who knows only grinding despair finds hope within the walls of a gym. …This is bound to have huge appeal to kids whose lives are being mirrored, and it may prompt luckier readers to take some positive action.” — Kirkus Reviews
Kelsey and her four friends are about to enter high school. They hold a closed-door strategy meeting to map out their plans for a fabulous freshman year. But things go awry. Kelsey is photographed in a bright red discount blazer with a dragonfly pin her mother insisted she wear. The photo is published in the school paper, and it is just the first of several embarrassing and personal pictures of her that appear there. The main rival for her longtime crush moved out of town, but then her rival’s cousin moves in, and unfortunately this girl is even hotter. Her first kiss has way too much tongue. And, of course, prom is a disaster.
Why I picked it up: I am always on the lookout for quality chick-lit books about high school.
Why I finished it: Kelsey feels very persecuted by her loving parents, who have reasonable rules for her but which of course make her feel like she’s in prison. I loved that her parents were interested adults playing a role in her life. Also, there is a hilarious scene where Kelsey’s school play aspirations don’t come to fruition, and she ends up playing Lazar Wolf in Fiddler on the Roof in a fat suit and beard.
I'd give it to: My thirteen-year-old daughter Grace, because the book shows some tensions that break young girls apart (boys, competition, jealousy) and ends with a redeeming message, all while respecting its audience.
Author Ken Baker, E! Channel’s Chief News Correspondent, uses his inside knowledge to craft a novel authentic to the teen pop idol experience with sincere heart and humor.
When Josie finds out her best friend has won a contest to sing and record with Peter by stealing one of Josie’s songs, Josie is overwhelmingly shocked and upset—some of which flies out the window when she is given the opportunity to meet her longtime crush. And suddenly, in a whirlwind of Tweets, IMs, texts, and phone calls, Josie finds herself in the middle of a flirtatious friendship that has the potential for complete harmony. But just when everything seems pitch-perfect, the paparazzi flashbulbs explode, along with any notion of a fairy-tale romance.
“A great view of life inside the Hollywood fishbowl and [Baker] does a fabulous job of opening up that world to our view. I’m pretty sure this one will be shared by tweens and young teens all over. And it’s coming out in paperback, so make sure you buy two.” —Cindy Mitchell, kissthebook.blogspot.com
Joey Crouch was a quiet, focused, straight-A student with a controlling mother who made him practice the trumpet every day. His life changed when his mother died in an accident. He had to move to his father's house in rural Iowa, despite the fact that they had never met.
The town residents call Joey’s dad Garbage Man. He doesn’t seem to care at all about Joey, and Joey gets picked on at school because of his father's nickname and the way his father smells. His dad doesn’t stink because of garbage, though; his father is a grave robber. And Joey decides he wants to be one, too.
Why I picked it up: I’m training a friend for her first half-marathon, so I’m spending a lot of time running. I needed a story to listen to, and Gene, my husband and personal librarian, thought I’d like this.
Why I finished it: Joey needs an adult in his life. His father doesn’t seem to be able to fill the hole his mother left, but some part of me said his father would eventually become the person Joey needed him to be.
I loved this audiobook so much I looked for excuses to get outside with my iPod. I'd water the flowers or cut the lawn despite having just come home from a run. (My family thought I was nuts.) It sometimes seemed a bit dark for me -- it’s full of graves, yucky smells, and grotesque incidents involving rats. I hate rats. But somehow, listening, this kept my curiosity higher than my level of revulsion.
I'd give it to: K.C., who is in school to become a funeral director and is going to have to learn how to pretty-up dead people. She could learn some tricks from this book, like what chemicals to put on a body to decrease the speed of rotting.
Willa knows she is lucky. She is part of a happy, normal family: her mom, a stepdad, and two stepsisters who love her. Then an old friend of her mother’s leaves a frantic series of phone messages. Willa’s biological dad, whom she barely remembers, has killed his wife and daughters in Texas, and may be coming for Willa and her mom. After they head to a motel to hide, Willa’s father is killed by police.
Willa is suddenly the daughter of a mass murderer, and has three dead sisters. She only vaguely remembers her father and the life of abuse that forced her mom to flee. Willa is drawn to the small Texas town to mourn the dead and revisit her past, forcing her to examine her feelings about family and her secret method for coping with it all.
Why I picked it up: The author. I loved Life As We Knew It and I’m a fan of her simple yet powerful style of writing.
Why I finished it: Willa is a cutter. She keeps a ‘kit’ in the cellar at home and uses it when stressed, but she doesn’t take it with her to Texas. Seeing how she copes with each traumatic event -- visiting the murder scene, the funeral, discovering she has a half-brother who is also there to mourn -- heightens the already tense experiences.
I'd give it to: Jon, a cousin who just very recently discovered he has an older stepsister from a previously unknown marriage of his father’s. I expect he is experiencing many of the same jumbled emotions as Willa, and this book may help him work through those feelings.
Cecily’s privileged life is over. Her English father has announced that not only will they not be returning to their ancestral home, but will be moving to Caernarvon in Wales. Her father will become a burgess, one of the Englishmen charged with pacifying the Welsh countryside after it was conquered. After a few years of work making sure the Welsh are not cheating on their taxes, they will be both wealthy and respected again.
Cecily will take lessons from a local lady to learn manners. Her rebellious Welsh servant, Gwenhwyfar (Gwen) often provokes her beyond her training. But after the Welsh are pushed beyond their patience by cruelty, taxation, and unfair laws, Cecily’s and Gwen’s roles are reversed, and Cecily is happy to receive even a little charity from Gwen.
Why I picked it up: I didn’t know much about the British subjugation of the Welsh, and I prefer to learn history from fiction. (There’s a section at the end that tells which parts are real and which are not.)
Why I finished it: The interplay between Cecily and Gwen is intricate and difficult. They alternately feel hate and sympathy for each other. At one point, Cecily succeeds in having Gwen horse-whipped and revels in the lesson Gwen must learn. But seeing the the marks on Gwen’s back changes her thinking. Gwen considers Cecily one of the invaders who hung her father, but wonders at Cecily’s kindness in feeding the poor or taking care of a lost child. Watching them interact was a high point in the book.
I'd give it to: K.T., who liked Donna Jo Napoli's Alligator Bayou because both take place in historical settings, with accurate speech patterns and mannerisms, yet manage to feel like modern stories.
It’s Maggie’s first day of high school. She’s been homeschooled her entire life. Her three older brothers (twins Zander and Lloyd, and the oldest, Daniel) survived the transition to public school. They offer her encouragement but she has to face this rite of passage alone.
Maggie soon has a new friend, the punk-styled Lucy. Daniel warns Maggie about Lucy’s brother Alistair, who is always hanging around. But Lucy, Alistair, and Maggie bond during lunch and trips to the graveyard where Maggie is haunted by the ghost of a sad looking woman.
Why I picked it up: Great cover design, and I enjoyed Hicks’ The War at Ellsmere.
Why I finished it: Maggie’s brothers are great: Daniel stars in a high school musical about zombies and Zander seems determined (and unable) to free himself from society’s expectations about him and his twin being similar. I also loved the way the book defied my expectations, both in terms of Alistair trying to make up for the way he treated Daniel in the past, and what happens after Maggie learns more about the ghost.
I'd give it to: Jenni’s husband Jonathan, who’d love the scene where Maggie, Lucy, and Alistair go to see Alien. He and I both saw it in the theater as young kids (during it’s original theatrical run), and we’re scarred for life.
Everett Singh's dad is kidnapped. The police dismiss what he saw and cover up the evidence. He finds a mathematical program and videos his father made that show how the program can be used to travel between dimensions.
Everett leaps to another Earth to rescue his dad, only one step ahead of evil pan-dimensional bureaucrats!
Why I finished it: McDonald keeps the action zipping along while he describes a gorgeous alternate world where blimp-like airships rule the skies. (The Airish crews speak their own argot and live far above the city.) I'd call it steampunk if it didn’t belong in its own new genre.
I'd give it to: Cherie, because she will adore the gorgeous fabrics and fashions of both the Airish and the upper classes. It adds incredible depth to the world, and she'll want to start sewing!
A bitter, cranky high school senior nearly alienates everyone who ever cared about her as she struggles to decide who she wants to be and where she is going.
Why I picked it up: It was on YALSA's 2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list.
Why I finished it: There are plenty of graphic novelists out there writing nostalgic comics with themselves as a thinly veiled, misunderstood teenager. Ivy goes beyond that, delivering a raw and complicated anti-hero who is unlikable at times, yet I still wanted to know what happened to her. Oleksyk's ability to capture Ivy’s emotions and make me feel her suffering elevated this comic above other tales of teen angst.
(Check out this 30 page preview of the book.)
I'd give it to: Carissa, who is also an aspiring art student and would relate to Ivy’s struggle to express what is in her heart and her difficulties in dealing with the expectations of her frustrated mother.